Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In 2019-2021, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, executive secretary of the department's Commission on Unalienable Rights, and senior adviser to the...
James Comey is a legend in his own mind. He expressed part of the legend to Donald Trump when, according to one his memos, he told the president on January 27, 2017: He could count on me to always tell him the truth. I said I don’t do sneaky things, I don’t leak, I don’t do weasel moves.
In mid-May, freelance journalist Ahmed Abu Artema, an organizer of "Gaza’s Great Return March," emphasized in a New York Times op-ed the peaceful intentions of a movement that has sparked violence since late-March and led to dozens of Palestinians killed and thousands injured by Israel in defense of its border.
In mid-July, by a vote of 62-55, with two abstentions, the Knesset passed the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. The legislation — Basic Laws in Israel enjoy constitutional status although only a simple parliamentary majority is needed to pass or repeal them — reaffirmed principles set forth in the country’s May 1948 Declaration of Independence.
“The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967,” according to “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion.” The report, published by a coalition of non-government organizations, describes an alarming shortage of humanitarian and commercial supplies in Gaza. Drinking water and electricity fall well below demand. Sewage flows into the Mediterranean Sea. With unemployment around 40 percent, the economy is collapsing.
The first decade of the 21st century called into question the United States’ capacity to advance freedom and democracy abroad. The century’s second decade has provoked controversy about the relation between nationalism and liberal democracy. Greater attention to the preconditions for and impact of freedom and democracy, and to the persistence and varieties of nationalism, would contribute to the formulation of a foreign policy for the third decade of the 21st century that would be more suitable to U.S. interests and principles.
In the United States, conservatism and liberalism — often to the consternation of conservatives and liberals — are ineluctably intertwined. This turns out to be true of foreign affairs as well as of domestic affairs. Attention to this entwinement helps bring into focus the key question concerning the contemporary dispute about the post-World War II international order and the United States’ role in maintaining it: What policies best advance America’s interest in conserving freedom?
“While in Beijing, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom [Ghebreyesus] extolled China as a model in the war against SARS-CoV-2, better known as ‘coronavirus,’” reports Josef Joffe in The American Interest. “According to China’s state media, he [the director-general] gushed that ‘China’s speed . . . and efficiency . . . is the advantage of China’s system.’”
In Book I of “Plato’s Republic,” Socrates observes that master doctors serve as our guardians against the most dangerous diseases while possessing the greatest skills for surreptitiously producing them. The quality of doctors’ character makes all the difference.
The yearlong controversy over the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights illustrates the potency of the intolerant and uncivil passions afflicting the nation. It also underscores the urgency of the commission’s report, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented to the public last Thursday in a speech in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center and in a Washington Post op-ed.
Between June 24 and July 22, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a series of speeches on the China challenge. In mid-July -- after the national security adviser’s and FBI director’s speeches but before the attorney general’s and secretary of state’s speeches -- the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights released a draft report.
Communism is back in the news. That’s in part because the Trump administration has made a national priority of informing the public about the China challenge. Earlier this summer four senior officials -- National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- gave a series of speeches highlighting the communist roots of China’s autocratic conduct and of its ambitions to reconfigure world order.
Foreign policy, it is said, seldom determines U.S. elections. Nevertheless, external threats – and the measures adopted to counter them -- often carry far-reaching implications for America’s ability to secure freedom at home. That is one reason Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made a priority of explaining the scope and urgency of the China challenge to fellow Americans and of traveling the world to discuss the challenge with friends and partners.
Recently, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff published an analysis of 21st-century Chinese conduct meant to provide the underpinnings for a new American approach to contending with Beijing’s growing might. Did they get it right? What is the nature of our competition with China? And what should we be aiming for? A recent panel examined these questions.
In mid-November, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff -- I serve as the director -- published “The Elements of the China Challenge.” The paper argues that the core of the challenge consists of the concerted efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to reconfigure world order to serve the CCP’s authoritarian interests and aims. It explains the errors that nourished the hope on both the right and the left that economic liberalization in China, coupled with Western engagement and incorporation of Beijing into international organizations, would bring about China’s political liberalization.
On Feb. 4, in his first foreign-policy speech as president of the United States, Joe Biden caricatured Trump administration diplomacy as an abject failure—destructive of American interests and contrary to American ideals. At the same time, Biden gave unwitting recognition to former secretary of state Mike Pompeo's signature achievement, which was to reorient American foreign policy toward the challenge presented by the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Last September, energetic Trump administration diplomacy brought Bahrain’s foreign minister, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, and Israel’s prime minister to the White House to sign and to celebrate the Abraham Accords. The agreements offer unprecedented opportunities for the parties to the accords, for the broader region, and for the international order. Over the last seven months, the focus has been on cooperation in national security and commerce. That’s understandable.
U.S. foreign policy -- from the founding era to the present moment -- revolves around a recurring debate about the diplomatic means for securing freedom. As the nation grew and the world changed, it was necessary to revise and refine the understanding of America’s role in international affairs and the character and extent of the nation’s alliances.
In mid-August, owing to shoddy planning and execution, the Biden administration’s frenetic troop withdrawal paved the way to the Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan. The United States left stranded behind enemy lines “at least hundreds of U.S. citizens” and tens of thousands of Afghans who supported American efforts.
Although laden with former Obama administration officials—starting with President Biden himself, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan—the Biden administration foreign policy team has embraced a decidedly harder line than the previous Democratic White House on the nation’s top foreign policy challenge. They could lead more effectively by expanding their circle of partners at home.
One might quarrel with Sun Tzu’s numbers in this famous formulation from the approximately 2,500-year-old Chinese classic “The Art of War.” But Western authorities on war starting with Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz agree with Sun Tzu that knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses and knowledge of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses are essential to sound strategy.