Robert Gates: Mr. Indispensable

The Obama administration is entering a crucial phase of its existence. President Barack Obama is about to determine his new strategy governing the Afghan war. He has a lot at stake because wars have a bizarre way of making heroes and villains out of presidents and prime ministers.

Continue reading “Robert Gates: Mr. Indispensable”

Different Meanings of Nuclear Deterrence

The United States is number one in the realms of nuclear and conventional weapons.  Its conventional superiority is so awesome that no nation-state would dare challenge it.  Yet it has no intention of reducing the size of its huge nuclear arsenal. 

Continue reading “Different Meanings of Nuclear Deterrence”

Tidibits and Morsels (3)



The Cold War in its old form disappeared when the Soviet Union imploded.  But the U.S.-Russian competition did not.  The United States continued a strange policy of expanding the NATO membership and bringing that Alliance all the way to the Russian borders, despite strong and continued protestations from Mosow.  It was highly irrational on the part of the United States to think that Russia should only listen to its rhetoric–which went along the lines that “we are no longer adversaries”–and totally ignore its near obsession with the NATO enlargement.


Continue reading “Tidibits and Morsels (3)”

What the Asians See in Obama and McCain

While Barack Obama is fully focused on winning the hearts and minds of Americans overwhelmingly enough to become the next U.S. President, Asians are focused on him and are rooting for his success.  Obama carries ample charm, goodwill, and positive feelings among Asians.  In a recent public discussion, a former Singaporean diplomat and a prominent strategic thinker, Kishore Mahbubani, underscored that fact.


Continue reading “What the Asians See in Obama and McCain”

Last Call: Denuclearizing Iran and North Korea

The Bush administration has thus far failed to resolve the nuclear conflict with two so-called “rogue states”–Iran and North Korea.  In the final three months of his tenure, George W. Bush is making last-ditch deals with Russia and China to put pressure on Tehran and Pyongyang, respectively.  The focus of those deals is to persuade North Korea, through China, to unravel its nuclear weapons program and dismantle its nuclear weapons.  Though the Six-Party Talks–involving the U.S., China, South and North Korea, Russia and Japan–have been helpful, they have not succeeded in extracting a political solution to the conflict.  In the case of Iran, Washington is persuading Russia to cooperate in passing tough U.N. sanctions unless Iran agrees to abandon its nuclear program.  Even though Iran has been insisting that it has no aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, the Bush administration continues to pooh-pooh that explanation and states that Iran’s real intentions are to do just that. 


Continue reading “Last Call: Denuclearizing Iran and North Korea”

The “End” or The “Return” of History: When Will History Make Up Its Mind?

There is something imprudent about strategic thinkers when it comes to history.  For some reason, for some of them, it has to come to an end when an idea experiences a temporary–but significant–success.  But when that idea appears to fail, they make an equally rash extrapolation, and start talking about the “return” of history.  Francis Fukuyama became ebullient regarding the “end” of history when the Soviet Union–the archetype of communist totalitarianism–collapsed.  For him, the triumph of liberal democracy in a dialectical sense was an end of history, where no idea emerged as a superior one.  Robert Kagan, in his new book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, argues that history did not come to end when the Soviet Union imploded or when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.  The triumph of liberal democracy–which then appeared as a shining example of success–proved illusory.  In this sense, he sees a “return” of history.  The end of dreams might be another hasty conclusion regarding the sustained survival of autocratic regimes.


Continue reading “The “End” or The “Return” of History: When Will History Make Up Its Mind?”

Staying With Robert Gates


President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to keep Robert Gates at the helm of the U.S. Department of Defense is an excellent choice.  As a successor to the highly controversial (almost “radioactive”) Donald Rumsfeld, Gates brought a refreshing sense of professionalism and calculated detachment and distance from George W. Bush’s controversial defense policies.  That was difficult, but he pulled it off. 


Continue reading “Staying With Robert Gates”

Iraq: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

If either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton wins the net presidential election, there is going to be a radical change at least in the current size of American troop presence in Iraq.  But if John McCain were to win, the present U.S. commitment would remain the same or would even increase.  But the bottom line regarding Iraq is that making a clean break from there is well nigh impossible for America.  At least three explanations are being offered for not getting out of Iraq.  The first one is that the terrorist-extremists would takeover Iraq.  The second one is that America’s withdrawal means its defeat and soiling of its reputation as hegemon (not used pejoratively here).  And that such an eventuality would permanently damage its presence and interests in that region.  Finally, it is argued that America’s withdrawal from Iraq would lead to an immense boosting of Iran’s clout and influence in the Middle East.  A closer look at these explanations is in order.


    Continue reading “Iraq: Breaking Up is Hard to Do”