Marvin Ott

  • Can the center hold?

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. — W.B. Yeats Yeats’ iconic lines were penned in the context of World War I as the relatively stable and predictable international order of the 19th century gave way to chaos, carnage — to lethal disorder. Barely two decades later, Europe

  • The Vietnam War: A hard legacy

    The Vietnam War was a watershed event in U.S. history; one that reverberates powerfully down to the present. We have been vividly reintroduced to that awful epic struggle by the public television documentary — at once riveting and repellant — that has been playing over recent days. A friend who, like me, came of age

  • Climate insecurity

    The term “national security” has long had a pretty settled meaning — defense against threats to the safety, prosperity and institutions of the United States. The government entities that have this responsibility are familiar, notably the armed forces, the intelligence agencies and domestic law enforcement. Their collective mission is to identify, assess and react to

  • Afghanistan again

    Last week Donald Trump gave his first serious address to the nation as President. The subject was Afghanistan and he stuck to his script — none of the bombast, braggadocio and falsehoods that have characterized his political pronouncements. The speech was important because it brought some clarity to U.S. strategy in what has become this

  • Korea on the front burner

    In very short order, North Korea has gone from side show to main event, when it comes to international crises. This is particularly striking because the hostile face-off on the Korean peninsula has been in place since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Most of the protagonists — South Korea, the United States

  • The China challenge

    While the daily headlines are consumed with conflict and carnage in the Middle East and Afghanistan — plus Oval Office ties to Russia — a far more profound challenge to America is rapidly taking shape in East Asia. Conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and beyond represent state failure and societal breakdown. The rise of

  • A question of loyalties

    The Trump administration is at the six-month mark and the President has already made several consequential trips abroad — the latest being last week’s travel to the G-20 meetings in Germany hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The G-20 comprises the 20 most important countries in economic terms. These annual gatherings aren’t usually very exciting, but

  • Britain at the end of an era

    For a very long time Great Britain has been a cornerstone of what we have come to call “the West” (Europe and North America). In the post-World War II period, the West has comprised — in very broad brush — a security community led by the United States and institutionalized in the NATO alliance and

  • Making America second-rate

    You are an intelligent, patriotic American. You have a reasonably sophisticated understanding of U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world. Your political preferences are unimportant because you know that U.S. foreign policy formulated under Truman and Eisenhower has exhibited remarkable bipartisan continuity (and, yes, success) through multiple administrations from Nixon to Reagan to

  • The “Russia thing”

    This month marks the centenary of John Kennedy’s birth. For someone who was lucky enough to have been in Washington during JFK’s brief, incandescent administration, the contrast between what we had then and what we have now is searing. Kennedy held regular news conferences using an auditorium at the State Department. As a young intern,