February 29, 2016 |
We've entered an era in which strongmen are in vogue and democracy is taking a hit worldwide. So it's really depressing in this dismal election season to watch how oblivious the leading GOP candidate is to the threats posed by authoritarian rulers. It's equally depressing to watch the GOP - in the battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia - undermine the institutional protections that shield us from this global trend. In the last, most raucous Republican debate, Donald Trump said the Middle East would be better off "if we had Saddam Hussein and we had [Moammar]
February 12, 2016 |
Vladimir Putin seems to be the only leader who knows what he's doing in Syria. While the Obama team was desperately pursuing a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Putin was busy with more practical matters: cementing his proxy Bashar al-Assad in power by military force. Backed by indiscriminate Russian airpower, Syrian troops and foreign fighters trained by Iran have nearly encircled Syria's second-largest city, Aleppo, a key rebel base. At Thursday's talks in Munich, the United States, Russia and other powers agreed on a vague "cessation of hostilities" - not a formal ceasefire - that supposedly will take place in a week.
January 20, 2016
SYRIA Russian air strikes tipping the balance Russia's military intervention in Syria is finally generating gains on the ground for Syrian forces, tilting the battlefield in favor of President Bashar al-Assad to such an extent that the Obama administration's quest for a negotiated settlement to the war looks a lot less likely to succeed. The gains are small-scale, hard-won and in terms of territory overall don't add up to much, in keeping with the incremental nature of war. But after 31/2 months of air strikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad's rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule.
January 4, 2016 |
After the grim foreign-policy news from the Mideast in 2015, can we hope for anything better in the new year? That would be a relief, after a year in which ISIS thrived amid the Mideast chaos and civil wars that flooded Europe with one million refugees, half of them from Syria. So is there any reason to expect things to improve in 2016? After all, in December the world's major powers agreed on a framework plan for ending the Syrian civil war, right? And the Iraqi army (retrained, yet again, by U.S. officers)
December 18, 2015 |
The most ferocious slugging match at Tuesday's GOP debate didn't feature The bombastic Donald vs. the newly energized Jeb Bush. That, by now, is old stuff. Instead, it pitted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz vs. his fellow Cuban American, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as they sparred over opposing foreign policy visions - and in the process revealed the growing rift within the GOP over the role America should play in the Middle East. This is big stuff, even though the candidates' errors of fact and Mideast misconceptions were distracting (when in doubt, "bomb, bomb, bomb" seemed to be the common theme.)
December 3, 2015
ISSUE | OBAMA AND THE ISLAMIC STATE Restraint isn't 'cowardice' I've never met a military man who didn't think the answer to most world conflicts was more military action by the United States. Retired Marine Col. Paul McHale goes beyond the pale by calling President Obama's caution in Syria "cowardice" ("In face of Islamic State, Obama offers cowardice," Sunday). Hardly. The country is exhausted after 14 years of war, most of it derived from the ill-conceived debacle in Iraq.
November 23, 2015 |
How should the United States respond to Islamic State attacks in Paris? The response from the Republican presidential candidates has been to whip up hysteria over Syrian refugees and hostility toward all Muslims - with rhetoric so repulsive that it shames the country. Ben Carson likened refugees to "rabid dogs," while Donald Trump said he would "absolutely" create a database to track Muslims inside the country. Much easier to play the demagogue than to present a detailed plan. To her credit, Hillary Clinton did just that in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
November 20, 2015
I RARELY WRITE about immigration, partly because I spend enough time practicing immigration law, and partly because my words are taken with a grain of salt the size of that dinosaur-killing meteor. My conservative friends raise their eyebrows in that "We love her, but gosh darn, she should get her head checked" kind of way whenever I champion any form of legalization, while the liberals just flare their nostrils and say "Yeah, the chick is only interested in getting rich off of the poor illegals.
November 18, 2015 |
Americans can't help but empathize with France in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack in Paris Friday, which left more than 120 people dead and many more with serious injuries. Even as we shed tears with the French, we are reminded of 9/11 and the compassionate response of the international community, which bolstered this country's resolve to make the murderers pay for their crime. Emotion has its place, and this is a time for expressing feelings. Yet emotion must be set aside to make clearheaded decisions about an appropriate U.S. response to the massacre apparently engineered by Islamic State.
October 2, 2015 |
In 1992, not long after the Soviet Union collapsed, I wandered through the massive Russian Embassy compound in Damascus. As a center of Soviet power off limits to Westerners, it had been a beehive of activity, with about 5,000 civilian and military advisers. Now it was virtually deserted. As news flows in about the new Russian military buildup in Syria, I can't help thinking how delicious this reversal must be to Vladimir Putin, who has openly rued the collapse of the Soviet Union.