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Michael Brenner
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Entries by Michael Brenner

Religion, War and Atrocity

(16) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 11:54 AM

The grisly deeds of IS in Iraq and Syria evoke once again the question as to the connection between religion and organized violence. Its companion question asks if Islam has a special affinity to such acts. Since the militants of IS, like their al-Qaeda counterparts, proclaim themselves to be Salafists,...

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Does America Have a Foreign Policy?

(18) Comments | Posted October 13, 2014 | 11:37 AM

Sadly, the answer is "no." We have not had one since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office six years ago. That does not mean that his actions have been worse than his Bush predecessor's or that he has made more mistakes. That depends in good part on one's preferences and...

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Who 'Lost' Iraq? The Panetta Fantasy

(2) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 10:53 AM

A growing number of high officials in American foreign policy engage in two all-consuming pastimes. One is the relentless pursuit of power, status and acclaim. The other is striving mightily, upon leaving office, to doctor the historical record so as to airbrush their misdeeds while striking a pose of statesmanlike...

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2016 Run for the Roses

(3) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 11:23 AM

As autumn leaves begin to fall, the electoral countdown begins. Not just this year's but also the presidential contest in 2016 The tempo already has quickened as the could-be candidates skittishly begin to flex and caper in preparation for the big race: the run for the White House. This is...

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The Islamic State Is Obama's Rubik's Cube

(1) Comments | Posted September 18, 2014 | 1:21 PM

There is no greater challenge than prognostication about the multi-layered conflicts in Syria and Iraq. A diverse array of players, the involvement of external parties, crosscutting interests and allegiances, and few if any stable elements make this turbulent scene susceptible to rapid, unpredictable developments. Stable resolution of any kind is...

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Emulating 'Exceptional' America

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 3:08 PM

Emulation is the highest form of flattery -- or so it is claimed. The truth of that assertion, though, depends on what form the emulation takes and, indeed, how the initial action originally was construed. Those ambiguities become evident when we consider how American actions in the GWOT has helped...

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Terror -- America's Archetypes

(0) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 10:48 AM

We relate to the world as much by image and symbol as by its tangible qualities. The more distant the reality, the greater the tendency to rely on myth and stereotype. These are rooted in our subconscious as archetypes -- a culturally derived idea or concept that resides deep in...

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NSA Close Up

(3) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 10:29 AM

A few months ago a high-powered contingent from the electronic surveillance world gathered for a semi-public talk fest about "The National Security Agency At The Crossroads." The crossroads, as it emerged, is formed by the intersection of accelerating technological innovation, the offensive/defense dynamic, the proliferation of interested parties, and the...

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The Islamic State Panic

(34) Comments | Posted August 25, 2014 | 10:21 AM

The grotesque beheading of James Foley is stirring passions in Washington policy circles. From the highest levels of the Obama administration to the media pundits, emotions are flaring over what the United States should/could do. The act in itself has changed nothing insofar as IS' threat to the United States...

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As Time Goes By -- Hillary & Barack

(2) Comments | Posted August 18, 2014 | 10:21 AM

Of all the book fairs, in all the beach towns in all the world, she sashays into mine. Wellfleet, Provincetown, Nantucket, East Hampton, La Jolla --no! Martha's vineyard. I had the audacious hope that she'd take her campaign safari some place that's "too close to call" -- like Missouri or...

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Back Into Iraq

(19) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 12:20 PM

President Obama's approval of airstrikes against the Islamic State and the first limited action around Irbil trail question marks. They pertain to aims, military effectiveness, and political consequences for dealings with all parties with a stake in the conflict.

Purpose. The first thing to say is that we should not...

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The Democrats' Defeatism

(61) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 11:35 AM

Defeatism infects the Democratic Party's bloodstream. This affliction is systemic and chronic. It has spread through every limb and organ of the party from the White House to towns across America. The ulterior source is a political lifestyle dating back to the Reagan years of passivity as the Republicans aggressively...

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The Afghan Delusion

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2014 | 10:11 AM

Counter insurgency has been at the heart of the "war on terror." It has failed -- in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The main reasons are readily identifiable. Some are generic; others specific to time and place. War kills a lot of civilians as well as combatants. That holds for "precision"...

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The Fruits of Delusion

(2) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 11:04 AM

Many people live in worlds of delusion -- at least part of the time in regard to part of the reality they inhabit. Self-conscious awareness of what we are doing and why we are doing it is a relative rarity. Habitual behavior is the norm. The natural discrepancy between the...

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What the US Should Do in the Middle East

(16) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 2:25 PM

American foreign policy is stymied everywhere in the Middle East. On Palestine, U.S. subservience to Israel's radical nationalist leadership registers mounting costs to the United States' credibility and standing while perpetuating a conflict that reverberates throughout the region. On democracy promotion, its hopes of reconciling political Islam with liberal constitutionalism...

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Europe and Its Discontents

(2) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 1:03 PM

The European Union is suffering from a malaise. A mood of disquiet pervades the continent's political elites. Its symptoms are flagging confidence and anxiety about its future viability. The apprehension has taken a sharp edge with the shock outcome of the European Parliamentary elections that saw a breakout by fringe...

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Packaging Sport

(0) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 11:42 AM

Sport can be spectacular. Sport also can be dramatic, inspiring or dispiriting. Every sports fan over the decades has known that in his soul. These days, though, sports are being promoted as a series of "happenings" -- celebrations. Athletes and the games they compete in are being primed, packaged and...

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Intelligence Failure in Iraq

(5) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 1:14 PM

The big unreported story of the Iraqi crisis is the failure of American intelligence agencies to foresee the ISIS campaign. Indeed, the ISIS phenomenon from its emergence two years ago until now has largely passed under the radar of the CIA, NSA et al. Officials are quoted as admitting that...

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To Untie the Gordian Knot

(2) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 10:51 AM

Crises are not conducive to long-term thinking. That is doubly so when a conflict involves multiple parties of varied hues - some with mixed allegiances. We need to get an intellectual fix on the main ingredients of the present situation that at least provides some reference marks for appraising what...

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Obama and the Iraqi Gordian Knot

(26) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 9:08 AM

We all are acutely aware that Washington is in a serious jam because of the mounting threat to the Baghdad regime amidst signs of military and political unraveling. The United States is reaping the whirlwind from its 12 years of reckless "War On Terror" in the Middle East. The disastrous...

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