Stephen Wertheim

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Joining NATO Won’t Keep the Peace in Ukraine

Sometimes the stories we tell to win the war help us lose the peace. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States decided the Taliban government in Afghanistan was as culpable as the Qaeda terrorists who struck America. It then spent 20 years trying to keep the Taliban entirely out of power, only to cede the whole country to them.

The story we are telling ourselves today about the war in Ukraine runs its own risk. Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the debate in Western capitals about the origins of the conflict settled on one leading cause: Russia took up arms exclusively out of aggressive and imperialistic drives, and Western policies, including the yearslong expansion of NATO, were beside the point.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Countries outside the west have an interest in defending the principle that sovereignty should be respected.’ Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Two decades ago, the United States invaded Iraq, sending 130,000 US troops into a sovereign country to overthrow its government. Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, voted to authorize the war, a decision he came to regret.

Today another large, world-shaking invasion is under way. Biden, now the US president, recently traveled to Warsaw to rally international support for Ukraine’s fight to repel Russian aggression. After delivering his remarks, Biden declared: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country – since world war II, nothing like that has happened”.

The president spoke these words on 22 February, within a month of the 20th anniversary of the US military’s opening strike on Baghdad.…  Seguir leyendo »

A U.S soldier walks in Baghdad, April 2003. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Twenty years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. It spent a decade breaking the country and then trying to put it back together again. It spent another decade trying to forget. “We have met our responsibility”, U.S. President Barack Obama told the nation in 2010 while declaring a short-lived end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. “Now, it is time to turn the page”.

For Obama, moving on meant taking the fight to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan through a surge of U.S. troops. Obama’s critics, for their part, soon found another reason to tell Americans to “get over Iraq”: the debacle was, in their view, making the president and the public too reticent to use military force, this time to sort out Syria’s civil war, which erupted in 2011.…  Seguir leyendo »

World War III Begins With Forgetting

In March, as President Biden was facing pressure to intensify U.S. involvement in Ukraine, he responded by invoking the specter of World War III four times in one day.

“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III”, he said, “something we must strive to prevent”. He underscored the point hours later: “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews — just understand, and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say, that’s called World War III, OK?”

More than any other presidential statement since Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »

Joe Biden llegó a la Casa Blanca prometiendo que “América ha vuelto”. Ahora su deseo parece haberse hecho realidad. La perfidia rusa ha vigorizado el liderazgo global estadounidense, sobre todo en Washington, donde los funcionarios se han liberado de su obligación de parecer escarmentados por dos décadas de las llamadas guerras interminables. El Gobierno de Biden ha aumentado la presencia de tropas estadounidenses en Europa hasta 100.000, un nivel no visto en décadas, mientras sigue reforzando la postura militar de Estados Unidos en Asia. Los analistas propugnan abiertamente una nueva guerra fría para contener simultáneamente a China y a Rusia. Ponen a las fuerzas estadounidenses en primera línea de dos posibles conflictos entre grandes potencias durante todo el tiempo que se pueda prever.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is the third time in less than a year that Biden has declared the US would use force to keep Beijing from seizing Taiwan. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Joe Biden made a potentially dangerous statement on Monday. In Tokyo, he gave a flat “yes” to a reporter’s question of whether he was willing to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan”. “That’s the commitment we made”, the president claimed. In fact, the United States scrapped its formal commitment to defend Taiwan in 1979, replacing a treaty of alliance with the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates the United States to help equip Taiwan to defend itself.

This is the third time in less than a year that Biden has publicly declared that the United States would use force to keep Beijing from seizing the island.…  Seguir leyendo »

For three decades, U.S. foreign policy has run on inertia and called it strategy. The Cold War had ended, but the United States nonetheless retained its Cold War alliances. The Soviet Union had disappeared, but the absence of a major threat produced much the same prescription as the presence of a major threat had: just as the U.S. military had defended “the free world”, now it would become the guardian of the whole world. When problems appeared, successive administrations generally took them as reasons to expand U.S. deployments. Even if its bid for primacy had created or exacerbated those problems, Washington had the solution: more and better primacy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn’t Love NATO

Even before today’s NATO summit, President Biden settled the most important question: He affirmed America’s commitment to defend the alliance’s 30 members by force. And despite divisions on many other foreign policy issues, his party stands in lock step behind him. To most Democrats, alliances symbolize international cooperation. Proof positive is that Donald Trump supposedly sought to tear them down.

Yet current progressive enthusiasm for NATO is anomalous. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, depriving NATO of its original reason for being, skeptics of the alliance included liberals as much as conservatives. In 1998, 10 Democratic Senators joined nine Republicans in opposing the first, fateful round of NATO enlargement, which would soon extend the alliance to Russia’s border.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Biden will have to stand fast to the rigorous logic he employed last week, putting long-term consequences ahead of immediate fears’ Photograph: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images

Last Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced he would withdraw all US ground troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the two-decade anniversary of the attacks that brought on the war. Then he visited the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. A reporter asked him whether his decision was hard to make. “No, it wasn’t,” Biden replied. “To me, it was absolutely clear.”

Biden’s clarity shone through in the reasons he gave for terminating the mission in Afghanistan. Criticizing the grandiose and ill-defined objectives pursued by his successors, Biden refused to order US soldiers to engage any longer in a mission they could not achieve.…  Seguir leyendo »