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The age of U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended and a new era in the modern history of the region has begun. It will be shaped by new actors and new forces competing for influence, and to master it, Washington will have to rely more on diplomacy than on military might.
This summer, Hezbollah and Israel blundered into a war that neither anticipated, and the costs for Lebanon have been high. But if Beirut and the international community handle the crisis well, the end result might still be surprisingly positive: a more stable Lebanon that could help secure a true regional peace.
The recent fighting in Lebanon may have looked like yet another Arab-Israeli battle, but it also pitted Jerusalem against Tehran for the first time. Why did Israel strike when it did? What did it accomplish? And what should it do now to prepare for the next showdown with Iran?
Damascus did not commission Hezbollah's raid into Israel, but it did see the ensuing crisis as a chance to prove its importance. Western powers should realize that Syria is ready to be part of a regional solution -- as long as its own interests are recognized.
The war in Lebanon presented a fundamental challenge for U.S. policy in the Middle East, but also an opportunity -- if Washington can transform the fragile cease-fire into a lasting and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement.
The United States is far less divided on immigration than the current debate would suggest. An overwhelming majority of Americans want a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Washington's challenge is to translate this consensus into sound legislation that will start to repair the nation's broken immigration system.
Over the past six years, Congress' oversight of the executive branch on foreign and national security policy has virtually collapsed. Compounding the problem, the Bush administration has aggressively asserted executive prerogatives -- sometimes with dire consequences. The oversight problem must be fixed, ideally as part of a more fundamental effort to restore the balance between the two branches.
Reports that U.S. troops may have killed 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last November have renewed fears that the U.S. military routinely violates the laws of war. But is the Haditha incident the exception or the rule? In fact, U.S. compliance with noncombatant immunity in Iraq has been relatively high by historical standards, and it has been improving since the beginning of the war.
Most people think of slavery as a purely historical phenomenon. In fact, the practice thrives around the world today. The same factors that contribute to economic globalization have given rise to a booming international traffic in human beings, often with the connivance of national governments. Fighting this scourge successfully will take more than another UN treaty: Western nations must use their military might.
The recent emergence of nationalist and populist forces in eastern Europe, coupled with the rise of Russia, now threatens to derail efforts toward further EU integration, weaken NATO, erode the continent's stability, and damage U.S. interests. Washington must ensure that the region's new politics do not damage the European project, for a strong and cohesive EU is in everyone's interest.
After 28 years of reform, China now faces accelerating challenges of an unprecedented scale. Of these, none is more critical -- or more daunting -- than nurturing a new generation of leaders who are skilled, honest, committed to public service, and accountable. Without them, Beijing's public promises of a prosperous, democratic future will go unfulfilled.
Reviews & Responses
After dispelling myths about Tehran -- that the regime is unitary, evil, and about to collapse -- Ray Takeyh's skillful book on U.S.-Iranian relations offers pragmatic prescriptions to Washington: against regime change and for more engagement.
In The Best Intentions, James Traub provides an inside view of the UN secretary-general during one of the organization's most tumultuous eras. Annan emerges as a flawed but principled statesman, with a stature his successors are unlikely to achieve.
Letter to the EditorChristopher Layne
Letter to the EditorPhilippe De Schoutheete
Letter to the EditorBill Proctor