The Cold War, far from an aberration, built on a pattern that had become well established earlier in the century. Elected governments, Washington feared, might be swayed by popular passions or betrayed by their own immaturity. Coups whether in Iran in 1953 or in Egypt in 2013 paved the way for strongmen promising stability and accommodating U.S. interests. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Obama’s Cairo, Then and Now
Language is in its potency a trap—in this case an inducement to action even when careful consideration warns of potentially dire consequences. Put differently, the axioms handed down from earlier policy practice have demonstrated their capacity to overrule prudent calculation. That insight leaves us with a set of genuine questions. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Obama and Syria: Trapped in a Web of Words
Reading the address delivered 23 May at the National Defense University surprised me not just because it went well beyond the drone issue to address the conduct of the war on terror. More than that, Obama took some significant steps toward dealing with the war in terms of classical realism. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Obama and the War on Terror: Toward Greater Realism
The new consensus has been confirmed since Obama’s victory. His inaugural address announced the end of a decade of war and the start of a process of national reinvention meant to address challenges on the home front. However sensible this new consensus may be, it suffers from a major flaw: its profound vulnerability. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: The New Foreign Policy Concensus: A Word of Caution
Panetta’s formal comments and casual remarks reveal little interest in this rich past, no insights that would be instructive, and some generalizations that are distinctly misleading if not wrongheaded. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Panetta on tour in an Asia without history
What is China going to do? Now that our Middle East wars are winding down, this question has fixated the U.S. policy community and policy commentators. Even aspirants for high political office feel compelled to have an answer. A substantial historical literature offers solidly grounded insight on how Chinese officials and commentators have viewed the United States from the nineteenth century to the 1970s. Let me suggest three conclusions drawn from my reading of that literature. Each is pertinent to any attempt to interpret recent developments and predict the future. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: How Beijing Sees Us: Policy Insights from the Past
U.S. politics threatens to become an endless, self-defeating round of missions impossible with each failure pushing public frustration ever higher. Yet for the historian, there is hope. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: American prospects: Confessions of a conflicted historian
Revisiting Henry Luce’s essay on American ascendancy, Michael H. Hunt considers the current era of American decline. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: How to think about the end of the “American Century”
The notion of isolationism belongs to a time of U.S. dominance now passed. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Isolationism: Behind the myth, a usable past
Obama’s presentation lacks the first element of good policy. It fails to honestly confront the main trends and defining features of the problem confronting us. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Obama on the Middle East: Let’s Pretend
To pretend that the U.S. is not caught in the grip of nationalism is to misunderstand ourselves and to open ourselves to the very excesses we condemn in others. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: The Bin Laden Killing and American Exceptionalism
It’s ok to feel conflicted over the Libyan intervention. You’re not alone — and you have good reason. The U.S. response to the uprising against the Gaddafi regime raises a welter of issues. Is oil driving decisions? Why the inconsistency if not hypocrisy of acting in Libya but not Gaza? Is Libya just another case… Continue Reading Michael Hunt: Questions that the Libya Intervention Begs
The popular uprisings of the sort now spreading across North Africa to the Persian Gulf were hard to anticipate—but the American response wasn’t. U.S. history is filled with moments like the present one when upheavals abroad generated great hopes for the advance of freedom. Those moments have also evoked deep anxieties rooted in a suspicion… Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Caught in Contradictions: The United States and the Middle East
Update 4/21/2011:The lamentable news of Tim Hetherington’s death covering the civil conflict in Libya reached us yesterday (20 April 2011). Restrepo is one of this fine and courageous documentarian’s major achievements. His record of what it meant for U.S. soldiers to fight in the Afghan War will stand the test of time.—MHH Ignore all the… Continue Reading Michael Hunt: Restrepo: An Oscar for Afghanistan?
Think of the Wikileaks’ release of State Department cables as one of your holiday gifts that will keep on giving . . . and giving and giving. Julian Assange and Company got generous just before Thanksgiving. A steady dribble from the quarter-million purloined documents should keep us happily diverted well into the new year and… Continue Reading Wikileaks is a gift – but what is it worth?
America is driven by 3 competing versions of nationalism, each suffering from its own mounting internal contradictions & an uneasy relationship with the others. Continue Reading Electoral Angst and Nationalist Troubles
Today is the 42nd anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, certainly not a happy memory—in fact , the opposite of that—but one well worth stopping to ponder. On this day in 1968, during the Vietnam War, the massacre was carried out by United States troops. Under the direction of Lt. William L. Calley Jr., a… Continue Reading Remembering My Lai in the year of Calley’s apology
In a follow-up to his article on Obama and Afghanistan, Michael Hunt responds to President Obama’s speech at West Point last night, in which the President laid out his plan for additional troops and a timeline for withdrawal.–ellen [author photo by Dan Sears] Barack Obama has an impressive intellect, and he has given the decision… Continue Reading Obama Pronounces on Afghanistan: Deja Vu All Over Again!
Before we close up shop for the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to highlight some excellent commentary on President Obama’s impending decision about how to proceed with the war in Afghanistan. The President is scheduled to make an announcement next Tuesday, December 1, about his intentions for America’s next steps. Between now and then, we would… Continue Reading Obama and Afghanistan
Today we welcome a guest post from Michael H. Hunt, author of The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance, a new paperback edition of which has just been published. In the book, Hunt gives a long historical view of what factors enabled the United States to evolve from colonial outpost… Continue Reading Obama’s foreign policy in light of ‘The American Ascendancy’