Provocations

Fools Rush Out? The Flawed Logic of Offshore Balancing

by Hal Brands
The allure of offshore balancing is largely an illusion. Because it has such wide support as a grand strategy, discussions have remained one-sided and incomplete. Yet upon closer scrutiny, the purported dividends are oversold while the probable costs and risks are badly understated.

Escaping the Civil War Trap in the Middle East

by Kenneth M. Pollack and Barbara F. Walter
U.S. strategy for the Middle East must start with its civil wars in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Thankfully, a well-developed body of historically-grounded scholarly work on civil wars tells us much about what causes them to break out, spread, and what helps end them. It is a widely assumed myth to argue that outside powers can’t help. Here’s how they can...

Seizing the Diplomatic Initiative to Control Cyber Conflict

by Paul Meyer
The former Canadian ambassador warns that, in recent years, China and Russia have seized the initiative to develop a set of global norms to govern state behavior in cyberspace. It is time for Western states to initiate a more focused diplomatic process to negotiate the content of these new norms.

Pulling the Plug: Can There Be a Deal with China on Korean Unification?

by Andrew H. Kydd
North Korea is a failed state waiting to happen, but waiting for it to happen is dangerous. Is there a bargain involving both unification and a reduction of the U.S. role in Korea that the United States, South Korea, and China would prefer to the status quo? If so, what are the obstacles to pursuing it, and can they be overcome?

Japan’s Defense Policy: Abe the Evolutionary

by Adam P. Liff
Despite concerns that Prime Minister Abe is transformative and polarizing, recent adopted measures to a large extent continue long-term trends initiated by previous governments and have stretched, but not removed, at least five core principles that for decades have defined Japan’s self-restraint.

Obama’s Faltering Nuclear Legacy: the 3 R’s

by Steven Pifer
While President Obama achieved early success in reducing nuclear arms, he is not only falling short of the lofty transformative goals that he laid down at the outset of his presidency, but the scale of nuclear weapons reductions on Obama’s watch pales in comparison to his three predecessors. Three factors (3 R’s) explain why: Russians, Republicans, and reluctance.

After ISIS: Fully Reappraising U.S. Policy in Afghanistan

by Thomas F. Lynch III
The promised level of military commitment in Afghanistan remains short of barely serious, failing to reasonably safeguard the most basic U.S. and Western security requirements in mid-2015, much less beyond 2016. In the last year, however, ISIS has changed the U.S. political landscape, making a much-needed restructuring of the residual presence in Afghanistan feasible.

The Kurdish Quasi-State: Leveraging Political Limbo

by Denise Natali
Dramatic swings in the Kurdistan Region’s behavior underline its condition as a quasi-state, a political entity with no external sovereignty but large internal sovereignty. How does it benefit from political stalemate and the extent to which it can leverage political processes in Iraq?

IS PUTIN THE PROBLEM?

Summer 2015  |  Volume 38  |  Number 2

Who Lost Russia (This Time)? Vladimir Putin

by Kathryn Stoner and Michael McFaul
Neither a ‘‘too soft’’ nor ‘‘too hard’’ U.S. approach to Russia explains the recent return to a bilateral Cold War confrontation, nor was it an inevitable Russian policy. Instead, it is Vladimir Putin’s unique response to Russian domestic political and economic upheaval.

Putin’s Choices: Explaining Russian Foreign Policy and Intervention in Ukraine

by Kimberly Marten
The upshot of the Russian system under Putin’s reign is that a new version of the Cold War in Europe--this time without ideology--will stay with us for the foreseeable future. But what is it about Putin, the man, and/or the overall nature of the Russian system that makes Moscow’s moves so unpredictable?

Toward a ‘‘Reaganov’’ Russia: Russian Security Policy after Putin

by Clifford Gaddy and Michael O’Hanlon
What are Russia’s long-term foreign policy ambitions and military grand strategy? The authors identify eight conceivable future courses for the Russian state into the 2020s, five of which are feasible, and identify the most likely, their consequences, and how the outside world might try to influence Russia’s choice.

 

Behind the Headlines

Afghanistan’s Legacy: Emerging Lessons of an Ongoing War

by Stephen Biddle
In an important sense, emerging debates on the war’s lessons are premature. The war in Afghanistan is not over; nor is it ending anytime soon. Nevertheless, before conventional wisdom consolidates, two observations on counterinsurgency are worth considering now: whether it can work and how to approach governance reform.

Nuclear Strategies of Emerging Nuclear Powers: North Korea and Iran

by Vipin Narang
Regional nuclear powers have made very different nuclear strategy choices than the Cold War superpowers did. Historically, these different strategies have been associated with distinct types of risk. Which nuclear strategies might North Korea and Iran adopt? The answer should affect the policy choices we make.

China: The Post-Responsible Power

by Yong Deng
Something profound has occurred in Chinese foreign policy. For the last decade or so, Beijing has abandoned the global frame of reference of being a ‘‘responsible power.’’ And therein lies the challenge: if not as a responsible power, on what terms will China seek to engage the international community and redistribute global power and authority?

Uncharted Waters: Extended Deterrence and Maritime Disputes

by Mira Rapp Hooper
The U.S. nuclear umbrella is predominantly designed to deter attacks against treaty allies, but may not be finely tuned enough to engage either potential conflicts around island disputes or a potential challenger who is not a full-blown adversary. Here’s why and what can be done about it.

The Rise and Fall of the Unipolar Concert

by Thomas Wright
For a generation, U.S. strategic thinking has been shaped by a Unipolar Concert—the accumulation of U.S. power and remarkable absence of major power counter-balancing or revisionism. Unfortunately, many U.S. strategists have failed to recognize that the Unipolar Concert has ended, along with the return of geopolitical competition and a significant U.S. strategic challenge.

U.S. Strategy after the Arab Uprisings: Toward Progressive Engagement

by Colin H. Kahl and Marc Lynch
The time has come to articulate a more coherent, overarching, and positive agenda for the new Middle East, focusing on encouraging political reform and broad-based engagement with emerging actors while "right-sizing" America’s military presence in the region.

Drawing Red Lines Right

by Bruno Tertrais
In the past two years, ‘‘red lines’’ have risked becoming punch lines, having been invoked so frequently in places like Iran, Syria, and Ukraine. Yet, they remain powerful policy instruments if used properly. Here’s how...