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
If you think the past week or so has not gone well for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, then what to say about the U.S. position in the Middle East? Washington’s attempt to remake or at least manage the region has suffered a string of blows that suggests the end is nigh. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: The American Project in the Middle East: The End Is Nigh!
One reason for the U.S. failure in the Middle East seems obvious. The Bush administration embraced empire long after empire’s expiration date had passed. The American project faced potent opposition in Iraq and Afghanistan that could be contained only by making deals with shrewd collaborators with their own interests to serve. The international hostility to the Iraq invasion was intense, and even in the United States the Iraq adventure fell into disfavor. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Ryan Crocker and the Imperial Reckoning
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
Turning our backs on the grim prospects for Afghanistan is part of a long tradition. We drew a veil over the struggle against insurgents in the Philippines. A combination of amnesia and speculative might-have-beens disposed of the Korean stalemate and the Vietnam defeat, and it seems likely the Iraq invasion and occupation will suffer the same fate. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Afghanistan and an unkind God
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
Regional issues continue to tie politicians in knots. Michael Hunt responds to the GOP debate on foreign policy, as both an historian and as a citizen. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Republicans on foreign policy: Regional powers and regional problems
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
Polanyi’s classic suggests we should ignore the profoundly false choice between markets and the state. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Polanyi’s ‘Great Transformation’: A classic for our hard times
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
Michael Hunt on how the United States’ exit from Afghanistan might seem similar to some past tricky military retreats. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Out of Afghanistan: Tragedy or Farce?
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?