David Cortright is director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in Indiana. His books include Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Ending Obama’s War: Responsible Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Paradigm Publishers, 2011).
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Donald Trump's Nuclear Tweets
DONALD TRUMP HAS released many bizarre and disturbing tweets in recent months, none more alarming than his statements in December that the “U.S. must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” and “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
Commentators were dumfounded by the messages, which seemed to come out of nowhere, and dismissed them as bluster not to be taken seriously. The tweets were deeply troubling, however, and indicate that the new president is ignorant of nuclear realities and intent on ratcheting up nuclear spending and challenging others to keep up.
Thankfully, the potential competitors in such a contest seem uninterested. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced during his annual press conference the day after Trump’s messages that Russia will reduce military spending next year as it adjusts to economic recession at home. China has indicated no change in its longstanding policy of maintaining a small but capable nuclear force. Trump may be ready for an arms race, but as of now his rivals seem to have no interest in running.
Nuclear bravado can change these calculations, however, especially if it is accompanied by substantial increases in spending for new weapons. Trump has promised to give more money to the military and bolster nuclear capability. U.S. weapons makers Boeing and Lockheed are competing for multibillion-dollar contracts to replace and upgrade the U.S. land-based missile force. Former Defense Secretary William Perry has argued that the plan to rebuild nuclear missiles is wasteful, unnecessary, and dangerous.
ADD LIBYA TO the growing list of countries where the United States is conducting military operations in the name of fighting terrorism.
In February, a U.S. airstrike in the town of Sabratha in western Libya killed more than 40 people. The intended target was said to be Noureddine Chouchane, a senior commander of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) from nearby Tunisia, but there has been no independent confirmation that he was at the site. Among those killed in the attack were two Serbian embassy staff who were being held hostage by ISIS.
Since the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime in 2011, Libya has been engulfed by chaos. There are now two competing governments—one in the eastern city of Tobruk (recognized by the United Nations) and the other in Tripoli—neither with much power or public support. Real power in the country is in the hands of hundreds of militia groups that rule local areas and often support rival government factions. Many of the militias oppose the presence of foreign forces, and the Tripoli-based government vigorously criticized the U.S. attack on Sabratha.
Pentagon commanders believe that bombing and commando operations can reduce the terrorist threat in Libya, but the experience of military intervention in other countries during the past 14 years suggests otherwise. U.S. military attacks have not brought stability and peace to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, or Syria. Why do we think they will solve the problems now in Libya?
The United States fought a major war in Iraq to suppress al Qaeda, but that organization morphed into the even-more-dangerous menace of ISIS. The U.S. has conducted more than 10,000 military strikes against extremist targets in Syria and Iraq during the past 18 months, but the threat from ISIS in the region remains formidable and is now spreading to Libya.
A Good Deal Worth Protecting
The Iran Framework could be one of the most significant nuclear nonproliferation achievements in history.
The battle for hearts and minds continues, 50 years later.
The Power of Peacebuilding
A military-only strategy won't defeat ISIS, and may even make things worse.
Needed: An International Strategy in Iraq
The crisis in Iraq poses two challenges — a humanitarian effort to rescue persecuted minorities, and a security mission to suppress the extremist threat posed by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The U.S. is right to play a leading role in aiding the Yazidis, Christians, and other threatened minorities in Iraq. The immediate threat against the Yazidis has eased, but minority groups in the region remain endangered by violent extremism. The Obama administration should work through the United Nations to turn this into a genuine international rescue effort. The greater the degree of international participation and support for the aid mission, the more beneficial and legitimate it will be for the recipients.
The U.S. is also right to call attention to the threat posed by ISIS, but we need to do more to mobilize international pressure against the group. The Islamic State is in many respects more dangerous than al Qaeda. It has conquered Mosul and other major cities, taken control of dams and oil facilities, and is steadily expanding its sphere of influence in Syria and Iraq. It has formed a terrorist army with an estimated 10,000 fighters and is now armed with tanks and advanced U.S. weapons stolen from the Iraqi army. The group poses a significant threat to the security of the region and the world.
Between Iraq and a Hard Place
U.S. intervention has been the problem in Iraq, not the solution.
A Good Deal With Iran
The nuclear agreement with Iran is a triumph of diplomacy. It stops the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program, rolls back some of its most worrisome elements, establishes more rigorous monitoring to guard against cheating, and suspends some sanctions on the Iranian people.
If implemented, this agreement will significantly reduce the potential nuclear threat from Iran and enhance the security of Israel and other states in the region. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama deserve credit for supporting the diplomatic effort.
The agreement includes a commitment from the U.S. and its allies to “not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months.” This means that the U.S. Senate must defer any further sanctions measures to allow compliance to proceed.
Bridging the Persian Gulf
Diplomatic talks with Iran could end the nuclear standoff—and more.
Seeking Nonviolent Solutions in Syria
Working with the U.N. for a negotiated settlement has a greater chance of success than military involvement.
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