• India under the gun

    The uneasy relationship between Asia’s two giants, India and China, took a sudden turn for the worse earlier his month. With no apparent warning, a violent clash broke out between Indian and Chinese troops manning a remote section of disputed border in the high Himalayas. Because a prior agreement barred firearms, the fighting was conducted

  • The sword and the state

    One of the most remarkable aspects of American constitutional democracy is the role of the armed forces within it. Consider what an extraordinary thing it is that this country has long maintained a vast military establishment without the slightest concern that this same military might pose a threat to civilian rule and democracy itself. This

  • America in crisis

    It is a truism in international affairs that we live in an era of rapid, often destabilizing, change. That said, the global situation just a few months ago actually looked relatively stable and predictable. A lot that was going on was not pretty. The war in Afghanistan kept grinding on with Afghans dying by the

  • A (brave?) new era

    Ever since the rise and consolidation of nation-states in the late 17th century, international affairs have been dominated by rivalries among the great powers of the day. For much of this era that competition was between European powers, notably Britain, France, Germany and Russia. By the mid-20th century, contests between the United States and Russia

  • China: sunlight and shadow

    Following Nixon’s surprise trip to Beijing in 1972, U.S. attitudes toward China shifted suddenly and dramatically. After 20-plus years of deep hostility that included the Korean and Vietnam wars, China reclaimed the prominent place it had held in the American imagination from the mid-19th century through World War II. In the early 20th century, American

  • Pandemic economics: knowns and unknowns

    It risks stating the obvious to assert that the COVID-19 pandemic is a calamity beyond the experience of all but the oldest Americans. Only those who lived through the Great Depression can recall something comparable — and that was without a pandemic. Current indicators paint a dire picture. Deaths from the virus are expected to

  • National security in the shadow of COVID-19

    The United States has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic. Americans are necessarily preoccupied/obsessed with the challenges of surviving — economically and physically — here and now. At the same time, the epidemic is a true global pandemic with profound implications for U.S. foreign and defense policy. The pandemic also challenges our established notion

  • Lethal incompetence

    “I didn’t know people died from the flu.” -Donald Trump   Every schoolchild in America knew that the flu killed people. But Donald Trump did not know — even though his own grandfather died of the virus. But never mind. The president is a “genius” — “a very stable genius.” He has reminded us of

  • Afghanistan: Vietnam redux?

    Afghanistan, America’s longest war (almost 19 years and counting), may be nearing a conclusion. What that conclusion will actually look like is still deeply uncertain. But for those with a long memory, what is taking shape bears an eerie similarity to what happened 45 years ago in Vietnam. The origins of the current war go

  • China and the virus

    The coronavirus outbreak that began in mid-December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province) has already exacted a serious human toll with tens of thousands of cases and well over a thousand deaths. In a globalized world with ubiquitous international travel it was inevitable that cases would emerge outside China – most of

  • Brexit and unintended consequences

    For a remarkably long time, Great Britain has exerted an outsized influence on the rest of the world. As early as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Britain was influencing events far from its shores. By 1760, Britain’s imperial domain already included much of North America and large parts of the Indian subcontinent. The

  • Burma in China’s embrace

    China’s challenge to America and its drive for global primacy will dominate international politics for the foreseeable future. This contest will play out across the full spectrum of international affairs: economics, politics, science and technology, ideology and geographic/territorial control. A quick glance at the map will suggest where China’s initial territorial ambitions are focused. China