Marvin Ott

  • 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,

  • A gift from France

    May 8 was VE Day, the anniversary of the unconditional Nazi surrender to the Allied powers. That seminal event ended the war in Europe and confirmed the survival of Western civilization in the face of a revanchist barbarism that sought to destroy it. It was fitting that 24 hours earlier French electoral officials announced the

  • France votes

    The French electorate went to the polls on Sunday in a presidential election of more than normal significance. These are perilous times for a Western civilization that rests on democracy and an informed citizenry as its political foundation. That civilization has long been centered in Western Europe and North America — and from there it

  • The Syrian airstrike

    It has been another busy week on the foreign policy front. In rapid fire, the White House hosted visits by the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and China. All of them were upstaged — even the meetings with China’s Xi Jinping — when President Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase. This was

  • A question of competence

    U.S. presidential campaigns are impossibly long, but their one presumed virtue is they assure that a capable winner will emerge. Anyone not up to the heavy demands of the presidency will get winnowed out — or so the thinking goes. Against this backdrop the sheer incompetence on display by the current administration is both breathtaking

  • The end of Europe?

    Over the last several decades there has been no shortage of alarming international news — terrorism, wars, political and societal breakdown, melting icecaps — and more. One major good news story has been Europe. In the post-Cold War era Europe has become, in the words of President George H.W. Bush, “whole and free.” It has

  • Korea as a reality check

    We live in a complicated, rapidly evolving, and genuinely dangerous world. Every administration has been tested (usually sooner rather than later) by international events — most of them unanticipated. Consider the roll call of just our most recent Presidents. Jimmy Carter had the Iran hostage crisis, which came as a bolt out of the blue.

  • Trump: Early indicators

    During the election campaign some of us succumbed to a bit of wishful thinking — that the bombast and flimflam of the Trump campaign was all a charade. If Trump actually became president, he would be revealed as a serious, reasonable leader who would set aside the campaign con game and get down to the

  • Trump presents “alternative facts”

    The Trump administration got under way last week and the initial 72 hours were bizarre.  Actually, they were disastrous.  We all knew that this presidency would be unlike any other but what we saw was breathtaking – and terrifying. The first events, of course, were the Oath of Office and the Inaugural Address.  In January

  • The Obama record on the world stage

    It’s time for the report card on the Obama administration’s eight years of engagement with the world. Barack Obama brought a very distinctive style and approach to U.S. foreign policy. Whereas his predecessor seemed impulsive, emotive and action-oriented, President Obama was careful, reflective and often seemed more inclined to think than act. If George Bush

  • The state of the world

    2016 was not a quiet year on the international stage. As the calendar winds down, it’s worth taking a moment to assess what we have been through and where it leaves us. This will require some standard of judgment, i.e. what are the measures of success or failure? What do we want/require from the international

  • And the winner is …

    During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly and loudly asserted that “the election is rigged.”  Many of us scoffed at the time, but it turns out he was absolutely right.  Consider what we now know to be facts.  Hillary Clinton received over 2.8 million more votes than Trump.  Some of us still cling to the