Fighting America’s Forgotten Wars, in the New Foreign Affairs

“As Washington obsesses over soap operas and scandals, the actual work of maintaining global order continues under the radar,” observes Editor Gideon Rose in his introduction to the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs. “The result is a national security discourse that looks like a mullet: business at the front, party in the back.”

The issue’s lead package, “America’s Forgotten Wars,” features expert analysis of those U.S. interventions meriting greater attention.

“U.S. foreign policy is apparently taking a gap year. Inexperienced, understaffed, and lacking a coherent grand strategy, the Trump administration has generally reacted to global events rather than driven them, engaging the world episodically and idiosyncratically. Some issues, however—like the ones covered here—are simply too important to be pushed to a back burner or delegated to staff wearing uniforms,” writes Rose.

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Highlights from the cover package include:

“As satisfying as it might be to declare ‘game over’ and move on, a post-American Afghanistan is not a pretty picture,” write retired U.S. Army General Stan McChrystal and former Afghan Special Operations Forces Lieutenant Colonel Kosh Sadat. “Withdrawing would risk turning the country back into the terrorist safe haven it was before 9/11, and drastically ramping up the U.S. presence would be a political nonstarter. . . . Stuck with doing more of the same, Washington must try to do it better.”

“ISIS is not the cause of Iraq’s problems but a symptom of failed governance. And if the United States disengages now, Trump’s successor may have to put American boots on the ground yet again, to fight the son of ISIS,” argues Yale University’s Emma Sky, former gover­norate coordinator of Kirkuk and political advisor to U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno. “The collapse of Iraq was instrumental in the unraveling of regional order; its stability is key to restoring a balance of power.”

In Syria, the United States faces an array of disheartening options. “By now, hopes of getting rid of [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad or securing a reformed government are far-fetched fantasies, and so support for antigovernment factions should be off the table,” advises Middle East Institute Senior Fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford. But there is “one way in which the United States can still do good: easing the suffering of the millions of Syrian refugees outside the country.” By focusing on their plight, he argues, “Washington would help some of the most vulnerable Syrians, reduce the burden on the countries that host them, and curb opportunities for jihadist recruitment in refugee communities.”

“To date, the United States’ strategy has succeeded in preventing another 9/11-type attack, largely because it built a net designed to do just that. But for the next phase in the war on terrorism, the country will need a new net,” observes Lisa Monaco, who served as homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama and is currently distinguished senior fellow at New York University School of Law and a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. Washington must confront “physical safe havens from which terrorists continue to plot attacks, virtual safe havens through which ISIS and other groups mobilize individuals to commit violence, and a global and domestic environment increasingly hospitable to terrorists.”

Chicago Council on Global Affairs President Ivo H. Daalder finds that “Russia poses a threat unlike any the United States and its allies have faced since the end of the Cold War. It is a challenge the United States and its European allies can meet only through unity and strength. If they fail to unite and bolster NATO’s defense capabilities, Europe’s future stability and security may well be imperiled.”

Reviewing three important new books on cybersecurity, Lawfare Managing Editor Susan Hennessey concludes “the United States must clearly delineate what constitutes unacceptable behavior in cyberspace and embrace a broader range of retaliatory measures so that it can deter attacks that are certain to come harder and faster than ever before.”

Additional highlights from the issue include:

Stanford University Professor Scott D. Sagan argues “It is time for the U.S. government to admit that it has failed to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. North Korea no longer poses a nonproliferation problem; it poses a nuclear deterrence problem. The gravest danger now is that North Korea, South Korea, and the United States will stumble into a catastrophic war that none of them wants.”

Historian Stephen Kotkin examines how Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler and led their countries into a titanic confrontation that became one of the most important turning points in World War II, in an exclusive adaption from Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, the forthcoming second volume in Kotkin’s acclaimed three-part biography of the Soviet leader.

“Sanctions have been Washington’s foreign policy tool of choice throughout the post–Cold War period,” but Atlantic Council Fellow Edward Fishman warns “the United States must prepare itself for the coming economic battles by overhauling its sanctions apparatus. Although sanctions have some record of success in persuading adversaries to reverse troublesome steps they’ve already taken—such as in the Iran nuclear negotiations—it remains far easier to prevent future actions . . . the goal should be to establish sanctions as the United States’ most potent deterrent in the gray zone between war and peace.”

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