America’s Original Sin
Slavery and the Legacy of White Supremacy
The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony
Trump’s Surprising Grand Strategy
The China Reckoning
How Beijing Defied American Expectations
Autocracy With Chinese Characteristics
Beijing's Behind-the-Scenes Reforms
The End of the Democratic Century
Autocracy's Global Ascendance
Perception and Misperception on the Korean Peninsula
How Unwanted Wars Begin
The Myth of the Liberal Order
From Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom
When China Rules the Web
Technology in Service of the State
The New Arab Order
Power and Violence in Today’s Middle East
Lessons From a Failed State
Has a New Cold War Really Begun?
Why the Term Shouldn't Apply to Today's Great-Power Tensions
The United States’ Perpetual War in Afghanistan
Why Long Wars No Longer Generate a Backlash at Home
Reeducation Returns to China
Will the Repression in Xinjiang Influence Beijing's Social Credit System?
How Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape the Global Order
The Coming Competition Between Digital Authoritarianism and Liberal Democracy
The Remarkable Scale of Turkey's "Global Purge"
How It Became a Threat to the Rule of Law Everywhere
The Pentagon's Transparency Problem
Why Accurate Troop Levels Are So Hard to Find
Stop Obsessing About China
Why Beijing Will Not Imperil U.S. Hegemony
Is Trump a Normal Foreign-Policy President?
What We Know After One Year
How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power
The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Authoritarian Influence
Is Going It Alone the Best Way Forward for Europe?
Why Strategic Autonomy Should Be the Continent’s Goal
With the war in Afghanistan now in its 17th year, the U.S. military is engaged in the longest stretch of armed conflict in its history. And yet its leaders are keeping the American public in the dark about its operations around the world, while seeking to obscure what little information is available.
Secrecy surrounding the U.S. military isn’t new: under President Barack Obama, the Department of Defense (DOD) used creative accounting strategies, such as excluding temporary deployments from official tallies, to keep reported troop levels beneath caps set by the White House. And no president has been capable of publicly confirming the total number and cost of military personnel, civilians, and contractors necessary to support U.S. operations overseas. Still, recent administrations have understood that the public relies on troop levels as an imperfect marker of American strategy, commitment, and even success, and have shared force management levels as planning tools and contributions to public dialogue.
But President Donald Trump has stepped back from this precedent, making evasiveness a focal point of his administration’s security strategy. “We no longer tell our enemies our plans,” the president bragged during his January State of the Union, recalling his campaign promise to keep his strategy to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) a secret so that no enemies could benefit from it.
Trump’s commitment to secrecy, once a punchline among policy elites, has been widely embraced throughout the national security establishment. The secrets, moreover, are kept not only from Washington’s enemies but also from the American public. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, for instance, has carefully curtailed his public communication (partly to avoid contradicting his boss) and has held very few on-camera press conferences. Both Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a point to reduce the number of journalists accompanying them on trips abroad. And the DOD has issued severe warnings to its staff about dealing with the press—in the most recent case, the Air
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