Marvin Ott

  • Iran: policy disarray

    Foreign policy is not a science; it is a difficult and uncertain craft even in the best of times. But there are certain guidelines and verities. The purpose of foreign policy is to serve the national interest. Its most effective practitioners are strategists — orchestrating the use of economic, political and military assets including the

  • Korea: back to basics

    North Korea moved back into the headlines last week when its leader, Kim Jong-Un, traveled to Vladivostok to meet Russia’s President Putin. At the same time, the possibility of a third Kim-Trump meeting keeps simmering in Washington — for the simple reason that Mr. Trump keeps saying that he wants it. Despite these developments, it

  • Pakistan: The price of strategic folly

    As we inevitably obsess over news close to home, it is worth remembering that profoundly important events are taking place elsewhere. A major political drama will be on view in India over the next several weeks as the world’s largest democracy conducts national elections. Make no mistake; India’s democracy, with 900 million eligible voters across

  • Intelligence: vital and disrespected

    Last year, the budget for the intelligence agencies of the United States (excluding tactical battlefield intelligence) came to $60 billion. It is a big number and looks even bigger against the backdrop of history. Eighty years ago, that number was zero. Historians agree that for most of its history, America saw no need for a

  • Venezuela on the brink

    Venezuela is rapidly becoming the most dramatic political crisis in Latin America since the Cuban revolution. Unlike Cuba, events in Venezuela are being driven by a massive, and totally unnecessary, humanitarian disaster. Venezuela should be the richest country in Latin America, if not the entire Western Hemisphere because it sits on the largest known oil

  • Thai drama

    “And now for something completely different.” — Monty Python Recent news reports from Thailand revealed that a royal princess — a sister of the king — had accepted the nomination of a political party to be its candidate for prime minister in upcoming elections. A few hours later, the candidacy was terminated when the king

  • A failure of leadership

    The world’s two most prominent and venerable democracies, Great Britain and the United States, are both experiencing severe strains in their political fabric and institutions. Two fundamental developments of the last decade or so have profoundly challenged traditional democratic institutions and processes. The first is rooted in the info-tech revolution and the advent of a

  • American policy in disarray

    The strategic incoherence that has been a hallmark of the Trump administration was on vivid display over the last three weeks in Syria and the broader Middle East. In the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, the U.S. put in place a system for orderly, informed decision-making on key national security issues. It was centered on the

  • “The commander-in-chief”

    Two years in, the Trump presidency has become more toxic and dysfunctional by the day. The decline in American standing and influence in the world has been steep. Foreign governments used to looking to the United States for leadership and support see a volatile, narcissistic president whose grasp of reality is often tenuous at best.

  • The China challenge is for real

    China has long occupied a unique place in America’s relations with the world. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, China was a commercial magnet. Chinese products — tea, porcelains, silks — were in huge demand and drew American merchants to Cathay. The clipper ships that plied the Pacific tea trade became as much a

  • George H.W. Bush: The Gold Standard

    George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, has died. He was a Mainer at heart. After losing his wife, Barbara, he told intimates that he wanted to live long enough to have one more summer in Maine. At a minimum, he had one of the most remarkable and consequential careers of anyone

  • North Korea illusions

    For decades, North Korea has been a source of frustration and failure for U.S. foreign policy. The Korean War ended with a ceasefire, a divided peninsula and North Korea as a totalitarian police state determined to one day subjugate the South. The United States has maintained over 30,000 troops in the South ever since to