Navigating the myriad complexities and cross currents of U.S.-Saudi relations since the end of World War II is a daunting process even for experienced foreign policy analysts. That journey is made easier by Bruce Riedel’s masterful new book, Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR. Currently a senior member at the Brookings Institution, Riedel brings decades of government experience from both the policy and intelligence sides to his work. Along the way he has dealt with countless Saudi and U.S. officials with direct responsibility for the bilateral relationship.
It all started simply and with great optimism. The internet’s developers—dubbed cyber dreamers by the author—envisioned a free, accessible, and easy means of global communication. In many ways those hopes have been realized, but in Alexander Klimburg’s The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace, the reader is taken through a darker dream—the myriad ways cyberspace has been corrupted for criminal, terrorist, and political purposes.
For all its salutary outcomes, the end of the Cold War in 1991 also resulted in the end of the organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy: opposition to communism. U.S. policymakers never produced a new, broadly accepted, and soundly constructed alternative to advance the country’s global interests. Instead, in the new age of terrorism, the United States began to rely on military operations, even as the world was changing at a feverish pace.
After nearly eight years in office, most observers would conclude that President Barack Obama has done little to advance, and may well have undermined, American interests in the Middle East. While he would tout the Iran nuclear deal as perhaps his greatest foreign policy achievement, a debatable proposition in itself, the region is embroiled in a series of crises the current administration seems unable to address or understand.
In their masterful new book, Ray Takeyh and Steve Simon contend that in the not too distant past the United States was far more successful in the region.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in early March 2014 and subsequent confrontational policies in the Middle East and parts of Europe have spawned myriad debates assessing Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and their implications for global security. Many of these discussions conclude that Russia seeks little more than a revival of Soviet-era influence in the near abroad–that is, nations bordering Russia.
Agnia Grigas takes a different tack in her informative and well-researched work. Seeing Putin’s Russia as a “challenger rather than partner with the West,” Grigas states that the “central argument of this book is that … there has been an increasing tendency in Russian foreign policy toward reimperialization of the post-Soviet space … to gradually rebuild its historic empire.”
A central pillar of American foreign policy since the end of World War II has been a sometimes underappreciated and overlooked system of alliances. Our membership in NATO is the most prominent example of this, but Jakub Grygiel and A. Weiss Mitchell focus this insightful new study on those smaller and “geographically vulnerable” nations in three strategically important areas, the Baltics and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia.
Since the end of World War II, it has been axiomatic that nuclear weapons are a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, enabling America to resist not only far-flung threats to its security but to advance its interests globally.
Upon entering office and throughout his presidency, President Barack Obama in various pronouncements made clear his intention to overturn this link between foreign and military policy. During a visit to Hiroshima, Japan in May, the president intoned that there needed to be a “moral revolution” to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
The conduct of U.S. foreign policy and the debate it has triggered in this presidential election year form the backdrop for Michael Mandelbaum’s timely and provocative Mission Failure.
Unlike policymakers and practitioners who are immersed in the daily process of advancing America’s interests overseas—some more successfully than others—academics such as Mandelbaum, a Johns Hopkins University professor, have the luxury of observing the policy process without having to defend it.