The Great Debate

Hunting for scapegoats, Obama bagged the wrong guy in Hagel

By Lawrence Korb
November 24, 2014

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel listens as President Obama announces Hagel's resignation at the White House in Washington

The timing of Chuck Hagel’s resignation as secretary of defense may have been a surprise, but the fact that he was on his way out has been rumored for weeks. The real issue is why he either stepped down or was forced to leave after such a comparatively short time in office.

Seven unlikely events in the fight against Islamic State, and their likely outcomes

By Aki Peritz and Tara Maller
November 17, 2014

Shi'ite fighters, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), take part in field training in the desert in the province of Najaf

It’s easy to get depressed about the Middle East these days. The bloodshed continues unabated in Syria. Islamic State advances across Iraq, sacking towns and slaughtering innocents. Millions are refugees. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems well ensconced in Damascus, on track to outlasting President Barack Obama in office.

from John Lloyd:

Should the West withdraw from the world to win its love?

By John Lloyd
November 6, 2014

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st rest as they wait to pack their weapons for shipment back to the United States at Camp Virginia, Kuwait

In his original and argumentative history of the Anglo-American domination of the past three or more centuries, Walter Russell Mead writes that both the UK and the United States believed their imposition of a world order served the highest interests of humanity. From Oliver Cromwell’s denunciation of Spanish cruelty in the 1650s to Ronald Reagan’s characterisation of the Soviet Union as an evil empire in the 1980s, the two main Anglophone states have seen their global expansionism as a blessing for the world: what’s good for us is good for everyone.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Did Islamic State really call a convention of nuts and have 15,000 people show up?

By Steven Brill
November 4, 2014

Islamic State fighter gestures from a vehicle in the countryside of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, after the Islamic State fighters took control of the area

Last week, the Guardian reported, “The United Nations has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into the twin conflicts in Iraq and Syria on ‘an unprecedented scale’ and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism.”

The U.S.-Iran non-alliance alliance against Islamic State

By Aki Peritz and Faris Alikhan
October 29, 2014

Smoke rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border

One irony about the fight against Islamic State is that the nations now striking the extremist group the hardest also dislike each other the most.

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)

By Sam Hardy
October 27, 2014

1“Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like Islamic State, ” Michel van Rijn, one of the most successful smugglers of antique artifacts in the past century, told German broadcaster Das Erste this month.

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.

Islamic State’s rules of attraction, and why U.S. countermoves are doomed

By Peter Van Buren
October 21, 2014

Demonstrators hold placards outside the U.S. embassy near to where a 9/11 anniversary memorial was being held in central London

The U.S. State Department is producing anti-Islamic State propaganda to persuade American and other would-be jihadis not to join the extremist group. It’s ham-handed, and often sarcastic, and unlikely to have the intended effect.

Under assault by U.S.-led coalition, Islamic State may shift tactics

By David Axe
October 14, 2014

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province

This summer, Islamic State fighters swept into the expanse of desert straddling the Iraq-Syria border. Riding in pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, supported by skilled snipers and at least one tank, the Islamists captured the town of Rabia on the Syrian side of the border.

Five questions for America on Syria

By Aki Peritz
October 3, 2014

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

When the United States began bombing Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra positions in Syria last month, it entered into a conflict that has been grinding on for more than three years. Here are five major questions America needs to answer as the fighting unfolds in the weeks ahead: