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from Jack Shafer:

Keep your frenemies list short and your enemies list shorter

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Compiling an enemies list was a cinch for the United States during the Cold War, what with most of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal targeted its way. Friends of the Soviets immediately became America’s enemies, and Soviet enemies became U.S. friends. That made China a U.S. enemy of the highest order, a ranking sharked by the Soviet client-states of Cuba, North Korea, and North Vietnam, against which the United States fought. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya rose to high-enemy status under President Ronald Reagan, a position it maintained until he surrendered its nuclear program.

The enemy-allies partition had a few anomalies, notably the non-aligned nations and double-dealers like the Indians and the Romanians, who exploited frenemy relations with the United States. But it drove U.S. foreign policy for more than two generations until the Soviets sloughed off both communism and empire, laid down their ICBMs, and exited the enemy business. 

China's reversal was more dramatic: It became the United States' business partner in the 1990s and almost a friend. For most of the 1990s, the United States had no real rivals, a period of coasting that ended with 9/11 and its aftermath. Ever since, enemies-list has been a brain-bruising task for the U.S. government as such violent non-state actors as al Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and many others have emerged, breaking — at the knuckles — the rules of thumb that once governed enemy identification.

Islamic State didn't earn its certified U.S. enemy status until it attacked U.S. ally Iraq and issued a promise to destroy America. But the organization hadn't gone ignored. The CIA has already trained 4,000 of its foes in the Free Syrian Army, which isn't a friendly gesture. Complicating Islamic State's enemy status is its recent threat to topple Russia, whose revived imperialism has put it back on the U.S. enemy list. So the enemy of the United States' enemy is an enemy, too. The rules of thumb are so broken that the United States is cooperating with Iran, previously U.S. Enemy No. 1, to punish the Islamic State.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

U.S. power: Waging cold wars without end

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Base in Kabul

Suddenly, it seems, the world is at war.

In Iraq, armed and angry militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are at the gates of Baghdad. In Pakistan, government forces are mounting a ferocious campaign against the Taliban in North Waziristan. In Syria, the civil war drags on. These are “hot wars” involving the clashing of troops and weapons. Having escaped such “hot” conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, these are the sort of war Americans have made it plain they are not prepared to fight.

But there are other wars going on. In Yemen, a forgotten war against an al Qaeda outcrop continues, largely fought with lethal U.S. drones. In Ukraine, Moscow is undermining the Kiev government by stealth. Russian President Vladimir Putin, anxious not to press his luck after successfully snatching Crimea from Kiev, is like a fox sliding through the hen coop, careful not to set off the alarm. He is being countered by targeted sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. These are “cold wars” -- a contemporary variation on the 40-plus years of  Cold War fought to a standstill by the United States and the Soviet Union.

from The Great Debate:

Post Iraq, U.S. must rely on covert action

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Covert actions are now crucial to U.S. foreign policy. After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington should rely more on CIA-driven covert operations and less on military force in the world’s hotspots.

Ukraine could be a case in point. For covert action means not just collecting information (espionage), but also political or paramilitary efforts that help support political organizations, local media and on occasion, insurgents. Under the CIA’s charter, the government maintains plausible deniability for all these actions.

from The Great Debate:

Brown v. Board of Ed: Key Cold War weapon

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, issued on May 17, 1954, is probably the most important judicial decision in American history.

This week, on its 60th anniversary, the landmark ruling is being celebrated for its historic role in committing the United States to ending legal racial segregation and establishing the courts as a forum in which to secure enhanced protection of rights. All subsequent court decisions advancing the rights of those who have suffered discrimination are built on Brown.

from The Great Debate:

Cold War warmed over

Can we have a new Cold War without a communist threat?  Some important political players seem to think so.

One of them is Russian President Vladimir Putin. At his surreal press conference, Putin depicted the protest that overthrew the pro-Russian government in Ukraine as a plot by the West to undermine Russia. He even accused the United States of training the Kiev protesters: “I have a feeling that they sit somewhere in a lab in America . . . and conduct experiments, as if with rats, without understanding the consequences of what they are doing.”

from The Great Debate:

Ukraine: Obama must escape the ‘Cold War syndrome’

When it comes to the mounting crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama is stuck playing an old role. Since World War Two, U.S. presidents have steadfastly held to the same course when it comes to Russia.

Obama is but the latest interpreter of the Truman Doctrine, which pledged the United States “to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.”

from The Great Debate:

America’s long search for Mr. Right

What’s wrong with central casting? It’s a virtual truism: The United States always seems to pick the wrong guy to star as George Washington in some faraway civil war. We sell him weapons for self-defense against his despicable foes -- and then, sometimes before the end of the first battle, we find we are committed to a bad actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to Genghis Khan.

President Barack Obama just approved the sale of 24 Apache helicopters to the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- despite well-founded concerns that Maliki may use them against people we do like as well as those we don’t.

from The Great Debate UK:

The Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Double-Curse?

Vadislav Zubok--Professor Vladislav Zubok is Head of the Russia in Global Affairs Programme at LSE IDEAS. The opinions expressed are his own.--

As athletes and sport fans travel to the Black-sea resort of Sochi, an old observer may have a sense of déjà vu. Thirty-three years ago, Western countries boycotted the 1980 Olympic games after Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan.

from The Great Debate:

Is there a ‘right’ path for the U.S. in Syria?

Key parties to the conflict in Syria are meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. The participants have been downplaying expectations that the “Geneva II” peace conference -- which will bring together for the first time representatives from the Assad government and various rebel groups along with major international players -- will resolve the conflict, or even bring about a ceasefire.

For the U.S. government, the crucial issue at this meeting and beyond is determining if and how to intervene and provide support in a conflict where there may no longer be real “good guys,” or supporters of U.S. national interests, to back. This is particularly important given Washington’s interwoven interests throughout the region -- not only in Syria, but in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond.

from Full Focus:

Inside a German bunker

Buried in the forests of Thuringia lies a Cold War bunker offering guests an experience they won't soon forget: a spartan night as a soldier in the former communist East Germany's People's Army. Photographer Ina Fassbender spent one night in the bunker. Read her personal account here.

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