The Great Debate

Metaphor meets reality: U.S. and China are clearing the air

By Elizabeth A. Cobbs
November 17, 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama arrive for a group photo at the G20 summit in Brisbane

History has no on-off buttons. Change is never instantaneous. But President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent accord on greenhouse gases may allow the world to start dialing down dangerous carbon emissions.

Is the U.S. really against torture? It can be hard to tell

By Elisa Massimino
November 14, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Organizing for Action's "National Organizing Summit" in Washington

President Barack Obama brought the U.S. commitment against torture into sharper focus on Wednesday. For a president who prohibited torture as one of his first official acts, this shouldn’t be news. But it is.

The U.S. military is good, but nobody is THAT good

By Neal Gabler
November 10, 2014

bourne-ultimatum

When an angry electorate headed for the polls Tuesday, the questions on their minds probably included: Why did a Liberian man with Ebola get into this country, and how did the authorities so botch his treatment that two American nurses were infected with the virus? How did a convoy of Islamic State fighters cross a desert in plain daylight without being blasted to smithereens by the U.S. Air Force? How could U.S. automobile companies commit one gaffe after another without being called to account after Washington bailed them out?

A quick guide to the smartest midterm election analysis

By Allison Silver
November 5, 2014

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addresses supporters with his wife Elaine Chao at his midterm election night rally in Louisville

Early Election Night, there was a lot of parsing of the term “wave election.” It sure quacks like one. The Washington Post had no trouble declaring a GOP wave well before midnight Tuesday. (The piece posted at 11:33 p.m., but pulls together too many stats to have been written on the spot.)

Obama’s ‘crisis of competence’ drags down the Democrats

By Bill Schneider
October 31, 2014

Obama holds a meeting with Ebola Response Coordinator Klain (not pictured) at the White House in Washington

Once upon a time, a candidate ran for president on the issue of competence. “This election isn’t about ideology,” he told the 1988 Democratic National Convention. “It’s about competence.”

Obama learns LBJ’s tough lesson: You can have guns or butter, not both

By Robert Dallek
October 22, 2014

lbj-obama-combo(1)

President Barack Obama has lost his hold on a majority of Americans, according to recent polls. Though more than two years remain in his term, the popular appeal that propelled him to win the 2008 and 2012 elections may be beyond recovery.

Being the ‘indispensable nation’ is killing American democracy

By Robert L. Borosage
October 20, 2014

U.S. military personnel take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks during visit to Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad

America — proudly dubbed the “indispensable nation” by its national-security managers — is now the entangled nation enmeshed in conflicts across the globe.

from Compass:

To build a coalition against Islamic State, U.S. must try a little humility

By Nader Mousavizadeh
September 25, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama chairs the U.N. Security Council summit in New York

When President Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday, he summoned the full weight of U.S. power to a cause with seeming universal appeal: defeating the barbarism of Islamic State -- or, as Obama calls the militant group, Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).

To beat Islamic State, Obama needs Iran

By William B. Quandt
September 11, 2014

Masked Sunni gunmen pray during a patrol outside the city of Falluja

President Barack Obama delivered a speech Wednesday night designed for an American public that has been losing confidence in its commander in chief.  Much of his address was about attitude — we are tough, we will act, we will prevail, but we will do all this with airpower, not boots on the ground (or not many) and in cooperation with friends and allies. This mission will not be a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq (President George W. Bush’s wars), Obama promised, but will be more like Obama’s campaigns against al Qaeda — don’t forget he killed Osama bin Laden! — and the continuing strikes against radical Islamists in Somalia and Yemen.

Obama is picking his targets in Iraq and Syria while missing the point

By Andrew J. Bacevich
September 10, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria, in Washington

“We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq,” New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks recently wrote.  There, in the Land of the Two Rivers, he continued, the United States confronts the “core problem” of our era — “the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.”