Marvin Ott

  • 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

  • Fidel Castro: unique and flawed

    It’s a cliché, but in this case it’s true.  The death of Fidel Castro marks the end of an era.  That is obvious when it comes to Cuba, itself, and to U.S.-Cuban relations.  But it is also true in a broader historical sense.  Castro was the last of a very distinctive and (for a while)

  • The Russia factor

    The presidential election of 2016 is shaping up as the most consequential in several generations. When this whole process started with the first primaries, most observers expected it to shake out as a contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. If that were the case, this election would be a pretty ordinary affair. But it

  • The Battle for Mosul

    The military campaign to retake Iraq’s second largest city from the Islamic State has begun. This a big deal. Mosul is the centerpiece of what the IS claim to be a state and a caliphate. — an entity that holds and governs an expanding territory. Without territory under its control, IS is just another terrorist

  • Syria without end

    Syria has become a case study of a dark dictum: “No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse — and probably will.” Ten years ago, Syria was a stable, reasonably prosperous Arab country ruled by an autocrat with a modern style. Bashar al-Assad had been educated as an ophthalmologist in Britain. His

  • The oil curse

    In the 20th century, petroleum (oil and natural gas) emerged as an absolutely vital component of any modern economy. You simply can’t run a modern transportation system (vehicles, ships, planes) without it — not to mention power plants and petrochemicals (plastics). Those countries that by accident of geography were sitting on large petroleum deposits were

  • Decoding China

    From the earliest times world history has been shaped by contests for primacy between and among the great powers of the era — from Carthage and Rome to England, Prussia, and France to the United States and the Soviet Union. It is increasingly clear that the international politics of this century will be characterized by