Perils of Polarization for U.S. Foreign Policy

by Kenneth A. Schultz
A source of the decline of U.S. standing in the world comes from within: a long-term trend of partisan polarization in American politics which has made it harder for the United States to conduct foreign policy and to wield its diplomatic and military power in the world in four ways. Recognizing these problems may help mitigate their worst effects.

Rise of the Reactionaries: The American Far Right and U.S. Foreign Policy

by Iskander Rehman
Many of Trump’s core foreign policy beliefs are less unique than they seem at first, stemming from a longstanding reactionary tradition in American politics. The future of this foreign policy is
closely tied to an intense ideological battle currently being waged within the Republican Party.

Return of the Clash: Operationalizing a Tainted Worldview

by M. Arsalan Suleman
The former U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) warns that the “clash of civilizations” comeback distorts decision making, reinforces terrorist narratives, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of discrimination, and undermines U.S. foreign policy goals–and that it is an underappreciated, bipartisan U.S. weakness which can and must be exposed.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty: Recasting a Normative Framework for Disarmament

by Ramesh Thakur
The former UN Assistant Secretary-General argues that insufficient progress has delegitimized the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as the dominant normative framework for nuclear disarmament and led to this summer’s nuclear ban treaty as an alternative mobilizing states and civil society to the cause.

A New U.S. Economic Strategy toward China?

by Aaron L. Friedberg
Over the last decade, a growing sense of the challenge posed by China began to drive shifts in U.S. military doctrine, force posture, and diplomacy, but not economic policy...until now, with debate and options coalescing around four schools of thought for a comprehensive economic strategy toward China.

Unusual Lessons from an Unusual War: Boko Haram and Modern Insurgency

by Nathaniel D. F. Allen
Boko Haram, now in retreat but likely to remain a persistent terrorist menace, is one of the world’s most poorly understood and frequently mischaracterized groups. Though distinct from most insurgencies as popularly understood, it also offers lessons relevant to confronting insurgencies today.

Decapitation in Libya: Winning the Conflict and Losing the Peace

by Arash Heydarian Pashakhanlou
Extending the debate about decapitation strategy to its consequences on peace and adding empirical insights from new evidence in Libya lead to the conclusion that decapitation enabled NATO to win the conflict, but also lose the peace, and is likely to fare even worse if pursued against North Korea, Syria or terrorist organizations.


WINTER 2018  |  Volume 40  |  Number 4

America’s North Korean Nuclear Trilemma

by Nicholas D. Anderson
The United States faces a fundamental trilemma in its North Korea policy: it aims to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea, maintain its forward-deployed position and the U.S.-ROK alliance, and avoid the costs associated with counterproliferation by force–but the way these objectives interact in practice means the U.S. can only achieve two simultaneously.

No More Sunshine: The Limits of Engagement with North Korea

by Inhan Kim
President Moon Jae-in appears to be reviving Seoul’s 1998-2008 “sunshine policy” toward Pyongyang. Yet that experience and the policy’s underlying assumptions–which actually violate well-established theories of economic interdependence, engagement, and aid–make economic engagement with North Korea a false promise today.

The Strategic Rationale for Maritime Tension Reduction in the Yellow Sea

by Darcie Draudt and John K. Warden
As fatigue and uncertainty contribute to increased risk, the maritime territorial dispute in the Yellow Sea is one of the most pressing security challenges North Korea presents. While also improving deterrence and tightening sanctions, tension-reduction measures like these are the best bet for reducing the risk of provocation, conflict, and nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.

Behind the Headlines

U.S. Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress America and its Alternatives

by Hal Brands
American grand strategy will clearly have a more nationalistic flavor in years to come, but what might that entail? One model is "Fortress America," which represents a path to superpower suicide and a disordered world, but there is a more benign and constructive version, asserting U.S. interests without dismantling the post-war order. It looks like this...

Inside the Iran Deal: a French Perspective

by Laurent Fabius
The then-French Foreign Minister (2012–2016) provides a fascinating insider’s account of the monumental effort from experts, diplomats, scientists, and other leaders to successfully negotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran—including France’s reaction upon discovering the existence and substance of the secret U.S.–Iran talks in Oman—and draws his lessons learned, including the vigilance still required to ensure implementation.

Salman’s Succession: Challenges to Stability in Saudi Arabia

by Stig Stenslie
In January 2015, King Abdullah died and his half-brother, Salman, became king. Three months later, King Salman sparked an apparent succession crisis, reshuffling his own son, Muhammad bin Salman, to be deputy crown prince. In a country that does not follow primogeniture, is the battle among “third-generation princes” for the House of Saud’s future already on?

Whither ISIS? Insights from Insurgent Responses to Decline

by Paul Staniland
How will ISIS respond to recent setbacks? By examining fifteen other major insurgent organizations that faced decline, this study suggests that ISIS will likely survive even devastating territorial losses, and identifies three potential trajectories for the organization, and the conditions likely to lead to each.

Contemplating China’s Future

by David Shambaugh
As diminishing economic returns have set in, China is approaching a series of turning points on its transformative path. If China stays on its current road, atrophy and the protracted political decline of the CCP would result, although not its collapse. There are, however, three alternative paths for China.

Belligerent Minimalism: the Trump Administration and the Middle East

by Marc Lynch
As has been true for decades, the structural realities of the Middle East are likely to defeat any efforts by the Trump administration to transform the U.S. role in the region. But the greatest question of all will not be about strategy, but whether Trump rethinks any of the five U.S. interests that have remained stable for 60 years.