Politics, Moderate



The star-crossed history of CIA paramilitary action

ASPEN, Colo. -- What did the CIA's covert assistance program for Syrian rebels accomplish? Bizarrely, the biggest consequence may be that it helped trigger the Russian military intervention in 2015 that rescued President Bashar Assad -- achieving the opposite of what the program intended.

Syria adds another chapter to the star-crossed history ...Read more

Is quiet persuasion more effective than shouting?

WASHINGTON -- The Chinese government, subtle masters of propaganda, seem to have discovered a Sun Tzu formula for taming dissent on the internet: The best strategy may not be to confront critics directly, but to lull or distract them with a tide of good news.

This intriguing argument is suggested by a recent article in the American Political ...Read more

Is there a role for political Islam in modern times?

WASHINGTON -- The diplomatic machinations that have enveloped Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar may seem like a membership feud in a Persian Gulf club for the wealthy. But their quarrel highlights battles that have been roiling the Middle East since the Arab Spring began nearly seven years ago.

The boycott against Qatar announced...Read more

Key to US success against ISIS has been a warriors' kinship with local fighters

WASHINGTON -- What lessons can we take from the Islamic State's defeat in Mosul and its coming eviction from Raqqa? The collapse of the caliphate tells us that the U.S. can succeed militarily in the Middle East if -- and probably only if -- it works with local forces who are prepared to do the fighting and dying.

Where the massive U.S. ground ...Read more

With the curtain set to rise at the G-20 summit, big egos take the stage

EDITORS -- This column is written to be published by Friday, July 7.

WASHINGTON -- President Trump has been moving inexorably toward Friday's high-stakes summit meeting since Election Day. He campaigned on a pledge to seek better relations with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. And since November, his aides have assumed that Trump's first real...Read more

Cooperation with Russia could be the right step toward peace in Syria

TABQA, Syria -- When Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin this Friday in Hamburg, Germany, the two presidents should have in the back of their minds the insignia worn by the Syrian Democratic Forces militia, which is America's main ally here. The patch shows a map of Syria bisected by the sharp blue line of the Euphrates River.

The Euphrates marks...Read more

Be grateful for these brave Americans in Syria

TABQA, Syria -- For this Independence Day, at a moment when the tone of our political life would probably shame our Founders, here are snapshots of some brave American soldiers and civilians I met inside Syria last week who should make us all proud.

Let's start with a bearded sergeant major from Oklahoma. He's driving an armored SUV down a ...Read more

The crumbling ISIS caliphate

TABQA, Syria -- The Islamic State's headquarters in this city at the western gateway to Raqqah has been crushed like a sand castle by American bombs. At a dam complex on the Euphrates River where ISIS until May was torturing prisoners and hurling alleged homosexuals from a giant concrete tower, all that's left of the extremists are militant ...Read more

Is war between a rising China and a dominant America inevitable?

WASHINGTON -- Let's imagine a Chinese "applied history" project, similar to the one at Harvard's Belfer Center that helped spawn Professor Graham Allison's widely discussed book "Destined for War."

Allison's historical analysis led him to posit a "Thucydides Trap" and the danger (if not inevitability) of war between a rising China and a ...Read more

The global politics of selfishness

ERBIL, Iraq -- Here in the capital of Iraqi Kuridstan, the mood is "Kurdistan First" with the announcement of a referendum on independence in September. In neighboring Saudi Arabia, it's "Saudi First," as a brash young crown prince steers the kingdom toward a more assertive role in the region. In Moscow, where I visited a few weeks ago, it's "...Read more

When there's a family quarrel in the Middle East, 'let Rex handle it'

WASHINGTON -- The sudden embargo on Qatar pushed this month by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has peeved the State Department and Pentagon, drawing sharp criticism of those two close Gulf allies.

The Qatar flap has also opened a fascinating window on the inner workings of the Trump administration's foreign policy. It's a rare ...Read more

Trump would be wise to ignore his friends and leave Mueller in place

WASHINGTON -- Forewarned is forearmed. So perhaps the country is lucky that President Trump's allies have floated the possibility that he might fire special counsel Robert Mueller. This speculation allows citizens to reflect on the consequences of such an action.

Trump has already taken the country to a darker place than even his sharpest ...Read more

The moralist vs. the dealmaker

WASHINGTON -- What does the FBI director do when he suspects the president is a manipulative liar? The answer in James Comey's case is that he writes memos, tries to evade demands for loyalty -- and anguishes about protecting himself and the FBI.

But by Comey's own admission, perhaps he should have done more.

The big news had already surfaced ...Read more

The Russia investigation, as seen through Moscow's lens

MOSCOW -- At a cafe a few blocks from the old KGB headquarters at Lubyanka Square, investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov tries to explain the murky world of Russian intelligence that's now the focus of a U.S. criminal investigation into the hacking of the 2016 campaign.

Big events in today's Russia often aren't the product of broad strategy,...Read more

Are we 'present at the destruction'?

EDITORS NOTE -- This column is adapted from a speech David Ignatius gave Monday at a symposium on the Marshall Plan, held at Marshall's home in Leesburg, Va.

WASHINGTON - Seventy years ago Monday, Secretary of State George Marshall delivered a Harvard commencement day address that became the framework for what we call the "Marshall Plan"...Read more

As Trump disrupts, Moscow celebrates

MOSCOW -- When Russian officials and analysts here talk about the U.S. investigation of their alleged hacking of the 2016 campaign, two themes predominate: They're flattered that their country is seen as such a powerful threat, and also amazed that America is so preoccupied with the scandal.

This is the official line, to be sure, but it was ...Read more

Brzezinski was an intrepid advocate of the 'liberal international order'

MOSCOW -- When thinking about the abstract foreign policy framework known as the "liberal international order," it helps to personalize it by remembering the career of one of its strongest exponents, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Brzezinski, who died Friday, devoted most of his career to explaining and enhancing this ...Read more

A path forward in Syria and Iraq, post-Islamic State

WASHINGTON -- The Manchester terror attack by an alleged Islamic State "soldier" will accelerate the push by the U.S. and its allies to capture the terror group's strongholds in Mosul and Raqqah. But it should also focus some urgent discussions about a post-ISIS strategy for stabilizing Iraq and Syria.

For all President Trump's bombast about ...Read more

The midterms might become the 'impeachment election'

WASHINGTON -- President Nixon was heading for a big re-election victory in November that would confound his critics. He had just returned from a pathbreaking visit to China and had big transformative ideas for foreign policy. Yet he felt hounded by his enemies and a media elite that opposed him at every turn.

And there was that pesky FBI ...Read more

Trump's domestic scandals cast a cloud over his first overseas trip

WASHINGTON -- As President Trump embarks on his first overseas trip, he's embracing the same defiant strategy adopted over a generation ago by an embattled predecessor, Richard Nixon. As scandal talks grow at home, Trump is licking his wounds, spurning his critics, and looking for approval from foreign leaders who admire him for being a tough ...Read more

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