Yes, America should come first in its foreign policy

If Twitter is useful for one thing, it’s keeping your finger on the dying pulse of American intellectual debate. There was a point in the most recent Republican debate — was it the 42nd or 43rd such event? — when Ted Cruz mentioned that he wanted an “America-first foreign policy.” I’m late commenting about this, but it’s amazing what’s controversial these days: Cruz’s critics seized on the remark as evidence of some alleged “isolationism.” Their trick was to link Cruz to the America First Committee of the early 1940s, designed to keep the United States out of the Second World War and backed by genuine isolationists like Charles Lindbergh.

Of course, anyone who pays attention to what his opponents actually say, as opposed to what he wants them to have said so he can wage reputational warfare on them, knows that this is not what Cruz or his like-minded contemporaries believe. (more…)

Will Putin Save Christians in the Middle East?


I have written the cover story for the December 11, 2015, issue of The Catholic Herald on whether Vladimir Putin can save Middle Eastern Christians. More broadly, I consider some of the religious and strategic dimensions of Russian foreign policy:

If there’s one mistake any analyst can make, however, it is to assume that a group or person has only one goal.

To ask whether Putin is interested in helping Christians or enhancing Russia’s power in the Middle East is to offer a false choice. It is entirely possible that he is interested in both. It is also possible that he sees the enhancement of Russian power in the Middle East as synonymous with the protection of Christianity.


Are “Hawks” Responsible for ISIS?

At PJ Media, I take issue with Rand Paul’s assertion that the rise of ISIS is due to U.S. policy in the Middle East:

ISIS is so potently barbaric that to speak of a cause other than its members’ own depravity is distasteful. Even if it’s true that the war in Iraq created a “vacuum” for the group’s rise, to speak only in the most vague, mechanistic terms—as if the US and ISIS were mere billiard balls, to use the old “realist” analogy—ignores the essence of why ISIS is a problem for the civilized world: it is a destructive gang that runs on its own twisted logic. In this sense it operates outside our notions of cause and effect; its actions stand so far beyond moral norms that their only cause is the perpetrators themselves. If you have it in you to burn people alive, you will do so eventually, regardless of what the United States does.

Documents Highlight Former Soviet Foreign Minister’s Role Toward End of Cold War

A bit of news for Cold War junkies. The non-profit National Security Archive has posted declassified U.S. government documents clarifying the role of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet Foreign Minister, in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union toward the end of the two nations’ seventy-year stand-off.

The Georgian-born Shevardnadze died recently, on July 7, at age 86. He served as the Soviet Union’s last foreign minister, a post he held from 1985 to 1991. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, the general secretary, Shevardnadze became an instantly recognizable figure to those interested in diplomacy between the two superpowers. (more…)