Tuesday Linkage

by on 2014-04-22- Leave a reply

Editor's note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog. I've been doing links posts on Tuesdays over there for a while now, so I guess I might as well start cross-listing them.

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Belated Thanksgiving Linkage – Iran Nuclear Deal Edition

Belated Thanksgiving Linkage – Iran Nuclear Deal Edition

by on 2013-11-29- Leave a reply

This was a momentous week with the announcement of an interim deal on Iran's nuclear program. There were some critics to be sure of this effort, but I for one am hopeful that the six month effort to halt or at least pause some aspects of Iran's nuclear program will eventually lead to a permanent reduction of tensions between Iran and the West.

It's obviously too soon to say but as we give thanks this holiday season for our families and friends, we can only hope that the diplomatic overtures will ultimately bear fruit. With the past decade plus having yielded relentless military campaigns (some of them necessary but wars without seeming end nonetheless), we can only wish for pragmatic leaders to seize moments of opportunity to avoid yet another war. I know some people don't see it that way, so here's a set of links describing the deal, providing some links and commentary from critics, and some links to defenders of the agreement.
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Avoiding the Joint Security Trap (and Countering Conventional Wisdom)

by on 2013-11-16- 1 Comment


The diplomatic dustup over Syria brought Russia in from the cold but simultaneously froze any notion that western allies were getting their strategic act together. Nonetheless, although the mistakes in the U.S. and UK’s approach to building support at home and abroad for an intervention in Syria confused leaders and citizens alike, these mistakes should not be interpreted as an abrupt turn-around in their and their allies' strategic thinking.

In fact the Europeans, even under a prolonged condition of austerity, are making progress filling in the capability gaps made clear in the course of the Libyan operation. Recent history has demonstrated that arguing the U.S. should keep its security blanket in place despite the end of the Cold War—out of fear that Europeans would not increase their own defense capabilities in kind—was mistaken. Still, austerity has prevented sufficient progress to avoid the joint security trap.

Were the Arab Awakening to go awry and were an al-Qaeda affiliate to begin setting up training camps and operating somewhere such as Yemen, the U.S. or possibly NATO would no doubt heed the call once more to deal with the threat.  But any future crisis in Europe’s direct neighborhood, somewhere like Tunisia, will require Europe to take the lead as the U.S. is likely to take a pass.  It is therefore in the joint interests of the U.S. and Europe not to reduce their mutual security at this critical juncture.

However Europe has yet to develop its own integrated, deployable, expeditionary military capability; instead a number of European allies à la the U.S. have been slashing their defense budgets under austerity.  But akin to the classic prisoner’s dilemma, if the U.S. and European allies do not coordinate their cuts and agree to begin “combining” what is left, both will become worse off and experience a mutual loss of security in lieu of cooperating.  In fact, at this juncture western allies are actually on the verge of becoming ensnared in the joint security trap.
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Desecuritization and Iran

by on 2013-11-07- 5 Comments

nuclear_donald_duckIt is shocking how little attention Iran’s recent efforts to satisfy the international community’s demands on nuclear question have received in the news media and academic discourse.  As I write this, there are 1182 related news stories on related to Rob Ford’s struggles with the crack cocaine and only 85 related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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What if Iran Did Get the Bomb?

by on 2013-09-19- 3 Comments

Casual observation suggests that the two most common answers to the question above are: 1) there's a very good chance that they'd start a nuclear war with Israel; and 2) there's no real reason to think any other state would be impacted in any significant way. I find both unpersuasive for reasons I'll discuss below.


Before I do, though, let me get something out of the way---in this post, I will argue neither for nor against the use of force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. To answer questions of what should be done, one must not only draw upon some set of beliefs about the likely consequences of the available options, but one's value judgments about the outcomes and the costs likely to be incurred along the way to producing them. I'm willing to try to persuade you to change your views about the likely consequences of certain outcomes, but I'm going to keep my value judgments to myself.

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Syria: Intervening Not Now But Later

by on 2013-08-03- 1 Comment

Syria2 A full-scale US military intervention in Syria is off the table, as is a no-fly zone. The US decision to provide arms to Syrian opposition forces is nonetheless intended to shift the military initiative away from Assad regime. But the opposition is splintered, which has allowed the Hezbollah-backed government forces to level the playing field. Although the outcome remains unclear, it may be time for Western governments to begin serious planning for potential post-conflict stabilization operations.

At this stage it appears the Assad regime has the momentum, aided in particular by Hezbollah but also Iran and Russia.  US and European efforts to provide direct military aid to the Syrian opposition have been slow to take shape, which in combination with regime gains on the ground have fed the new conventional wisdom that Assad is on course to hold on to power.

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Friday Anti-Nerd Blogging: Matthew Kroenig Meme

by on 2013-05-10- 1 Comment


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Monday Linkage

by on 2013-02-25- Leave a reply

Photo by Hamed Saber

Mornin' ducks... In anticipation of the P5+1 talks in Kazakhstan this week, let's start the week  in...


  • Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, urges the West to make Iran a serious offer.  But Patrick Clawson argues that the Islamic Republic is just too dysfunctional to cut a nuclear deal.  Farhang Jahanpour at Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog argues that talks with Iran might just work this time.  Whose argument should we believe?
  • In other news... For the first time since Iran and the US cooperated in overthrowing the Taliban, they have joined forces again to save ... wrestling.  Wait ... does this mean the Iron Sheik is coming out of retirement?!?  Hulkster, are you hearin' this? Oh, wait it's not the kind of wrestling where the Americans always win in the end... it's the other kind.
  • There's another area where Iran clobbers the US: Iran is apparently much better than the US at providing maternity leave.  But to be fair, almost everyone in the world is better than the US on this indicator (Notably, Iran also has obligatory two-week paternity leave).  Now on the issue of abortion rights in Iran it's a rather different story... (h/t Robin Dougherty)

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On the “Reality of Nations”

by on 2012-09-13- 10 Comments

This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant.
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The Triumph of Liberal Internationalism?

by on 2012-09-09- Leave a reply

Robert Golan-Viella reflects on a tectonic shift in partisan foreign-policy debate, i.e., the fact that the Democrats have the upper hand. He chalks this up to campaign
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Why worry about an Iranian bomb?

by on 2012-08-05- Leave a reply

With sanctions and talks – and a big stick in the background – the United States and its allies are trying to curtail Tehran’s nuclear
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Kahl et al. on Iran and US Options

by on 2012-06-15- Leave a reply

Colin Kahl sent me a list of recent work he's done on the US-Iran standoff. The first is a CNAS report, Risk and Rivalry: Iran,
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Primary Politics and Foreign Policy: Super Tuesday Edition

by on 2012-03-06- Leave a reply

This is cross-posted from the University of Texas website.As the March 6 Super Tuesday Republican primary looms, foreign policy issues understandably are likely to play
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Reading Schelling in Iran

by on 2012-03-05- 3 Comments

The CFR public-relations office certainly thinks they've got a winner in the "attack Iran debate." Here's a video of the recent "live" debate between Colin
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Iran Attack: National Journal #Fail

by on 2012-01-18- Leave a reply

UPDATE: Deazen has made significant corrections to the article. It still implies, I think, more than is warranted, but the egregious misrepresentations in his article
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Colin Kahl responds to Matt Kroenig

by on 2012-01-17- Leave a reply

Foreign Affairs has gone live with Colin Kahl's explanation of why we shouldn't commence bombing in five minutes. A sample:In arguing for a six-month horizon,
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Scholarship and Advocacy: Bomb Iran Edition (UPDATED)

by on 2011-12-22- Leave a reply

My colleague, Matt Kroenig, has generated a ton of buzz (and not a little vitriol) for his Foreign Affairs piece in which he advocates imminent US
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Comprehending Gingrich

by on 2011-11-30- Leave a reply

Born Newton Leroy McPherson, the man now simply known as "Newt Gingrich" has been surging in the latest opinion polls asking Republican voters to identify
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India: Choosing between America and Iran

by on 2011-04-21- Leave a reply

India appears to be continuing to shift its West Asia policy away from a once budding partnership with Iran, which aimed among other things to
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Anti-Iran Protests in Afghanistan

by on 2011-01-13- Leave a reply

In 1991, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, the rump regime of Mohammad Najibullah finally cut a deal with Iran. The Iranians
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