Small Wars Journal

foreign policy

Leveraging Incomplete Sovereignty: Building a Peaceful Empire on the Cheap

Why has the United States focused their grand strategy on influencing states and central governments rather than the ungoverned areas within them? Pursuing reluctant authoritarians rather than the accepted rulers who control the land outside the states control has been a failed and misguided strategy.

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Could the United States Leave the Middle East by 2031? - A Reply to Anand Toprani on U.S. Strategy in the Persian Gulf

Failed dreams of a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East were very much on my mind while reading a pair of excellent – if flawed – articles in 'War on the Rocks' by Anand Toprani. In the first essay, published in January, Toprani provides one of the best explanations you’ll find on the vagaries of oil pricing and supply, as well as a cogent case for why oil is unlikely to be “just another commodity” anytime soon. In his second essay, published in May, he further underscores that the Persian Gulf remains an irreplaceable source of oil production and argues, to this end, that the United States needs to continue its Cold War role as the region’s strategic guarantor.

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War With Iran? - Error, Manipulation and President Donald Trump's "Strategy" of Incoherence

To some extent, there is nothing new under the sun. Fabrication and folly are hardly unknown to US presidential policies on war and peace. Before President Donald Trump commits further to any new or expanding military operations against Iran, therefore, it would be prudent to look back at some of this country's previous war policy manipulations and errors.

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President Erdogan is a Threat to U.S. and NATO Security

The truth is, however - as ugly as it may sound - Turkey is not a major world power. President Erdogan is painfully aware that Turkish political and military power is as relevant as the superpower to whom he can hitch his wagon - whether it is the U.S. or Russia. Hence, he continues to play a dangerous game of Russian roulette (pun is definitely intended) to gain more leverage with both countries to get what he wants.

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Don’t Cut Aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala

"To treat Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as Westphalian states where the national government has real authority is to ignore reality. Those countries need “nation-building” in order to become Westphalian states capable of enforcing border control and providing sufficient public security and economic development so that their people are happy and content to live out their lives in their local communities under a viable and just national state political system."

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The Monroe Doctrine in 21st Century Great Power Competition

After a 20-year hiatus since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) identify a new great power competition as the priority security threat to the United States. Although focused on Europe with Russia, and Asia with China, this great power competition is just as applicable in Latin America where China is aggressively using the economic instrument of power.

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Pulling the Plug

Foreign policy in the Trump era is a tug-of-war, a test of wills between national pragmatists and global utopians. Binary equations might be simplistic, but if it has done nothing else, the Trump agenda has exposed the venal politics and pratfalls of “social” democracies, here and in Europe. The contest is a struggle, as irony would have it, between voices arguing for change and the “business as usual” crowd.

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In Case of Emergency - Don’t Panic, Plan

If we want to increase the chances of our missions succeeding, we must first understand the complexity of what we are dealing with and plan accordingly. Moreover, we need to treat planning not as a one-time activity but as an ongoing, iterative affair that is responsive to the continual and multifaceted changes characteristic of complex crises.

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