Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan
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Was America’s Longest War Doomed From the Start?

Was America’s Longest War Doomed From the Start?

AdvertisementAdvertisementNow that our 20-year war in Afghanistan is , it’s time to ask the question: Was it ever winnable? The answer: Probably not, in part because, over the years, “victory” was defined either not at all or in terms implausibly grandiose.At the very beginning, there was a chance of a decent way out for the U.S. Initially, as President Biden noted earlier this week, the war was launched to overthrow of the Taliban government—which had harbored al-Qaida—and to crush al-Qaida as well, killing or capturing its leader, Osama bin Laden.AdvertisementThe first part—the ouster of...

Apr 16
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Biden Now Has an Opening to Save the Iran Deal

Biden Now Has an Opening to Save the Iran Deal

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementSometime in the next week or so, either the United States and Iran will once again start abiding by the Obama-era nuclear deal or both countries will commit a diplomatic blunder of astonishing magnitude.President Joe Biden and his Cabinet will conduct interagency reviews of various foreign policy questions over the next few months—how to deal with China and Russia, whether to pull out of Afghanistan, how to integrate national security interests with domestic economic interests without veering into protectionism. These are all complicated...

Feb 17
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Today’s GOP Establishment Has Some Alarming Similarities to Russia Before the Bolshevik Revolution

Today’s GOP Establishment Has Some Alarming Similarities to Russia Before the Bolshevik Revolution

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementThe Republican Party’s tolerance and embrace of far-right extremists bring to mind the case of Alexander Kerensky, Russia’s first and last prime minister before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Kerensky, the leader of a relatively moderate socialist party, proclaimed a policy of “no enemies to the left” and, as a result, released Vladimir Lenin from prison, where he’d been interned for his failed attempt to overthrow Kerensky’s own government in July of that year. And so, three months later, an emboldened Lenin tried again and succeeded, with...

Feb 3
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Should the U.S. Retaliate for Russia’s Big Hack?

Should the U.S. Retaliate for Russia’s Big Hack?

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementThe Russian hack of —which affected at least 18,000 of the firm’s customers, including several federal agencies—has revived a long, unsettled debate in national security circles: When Americans are hit with a massive cyberattack, should the U.S. government strike back?At first glance, the answer seems obvious: Of course, we should strike back—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—or how else will we deter the hackers, and others like them, from striking again?AdvertisementOn reflection, though, the question turns more complicated. Compared with the...

Dec 23
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The Government Has Known About the Vulnerabilities That Allowed Russia’s Latest Hack for Decades—and Chose Not to Fix Them

The Government Has Known About the Vulnerabilities That Allowed Russia’s Latest Hack for Decades—and Chose Not to Fix Them

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementThe most stunning thing about of 18,000 computer networks—including those of at least six federal agencies, including the State Department, the Homeland Security Department, and the —is not how sophisticated the attack was.* It’s that these sorts of attacks are still happening—are still possible, in some cases easy—and that months can go by with nobody noticing them.It’s ; it’s been going on—its scope and possible fixes have been known—for a very long time.AdvertisementAs far back as 1997, a concluded that the “information networks” controlling much of...

Dec 18
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Why Hasn’t Biden Named a Secretary of Defense Yet?

Why Hasn’t Biden Named a Secretary of Defense Yet?

The biggest mystery surrounding the Biden transition this week: Who will be the next secretary of defense?For months, the odds-makers tagged Michèle Flournoy as a shoo-in for the job. Smart, experienced, strategically minded, a popular boss among those who have worked for her, she served as undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration; she would almost certainly have been Hillary Clinton’s secretary of defense if the 2016 election had gone differently; Trump’s first secretary, Jim Mattis, even wanted to hire her as his deputy, but Flournoy turned him down because she...

December 1, 2020
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Trump Comes Off Even Worse in Woodward’s Rage Than You’ve Heard

Trump Comes Off Even Worse in Woodward’s Rage Than You’ve Heard

If books can still have political impact (a big if), then , Bob Woodward’s latest in his series of presidential profiles, should wind up an election-shaping blockbuster. He doesn’t merely quote anonymous sources dissing the policies and character of Donald Trump. He catches Trump himself in self-incriminating blather—17 interviews’ worth, from January to July of 2020—on the record, on tape. We’ve all been waiting for someone to leak secretly recorded tapes of Trump saying ghastly things. Who would have predicted that he’d say them to one of the world’s most famous reporters with a tape...

September 14, 2020
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Defunding the Pentagon Will Be Harder Than Bernie Sanders Thinks

Defunding the Pentagon Will Be Harder Than Bernie Sanders Thinks

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, a serious movement is afoot in Congress to cut the military budget. And for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, the thrust of the movement is to shift funds from weapons to social programs—or, as they used to say, “from guns to butter.”Sen. Bernie Sanders is the sponsor of an amendment to the defense bill, scheduled for a vote next week, to slash the Pentagon’s budget by 10 percent and to transfer the savings—about $74 billion—to health care, education, and other investments in areas, , “ravaged by extreme poverty, mass...

July 17, 2020
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Trump Made West Point Cadets Return to Campus During a Pandemic to Listen to His Dull Platitudes

Trump Made West Point Cadets Return to Campus During a Pandemic to Listen to His Dull Platitudes

It could have been worse.President Trump’s at West Point was merely dull rather than abhorrent, incendiary, or flagrantly self-aggrandizing, except for a couple of passages and—significantly—the fact of the speech itself, which was designed entirely as a video clip for an upcoming reelection campaign commercial.Other military academies, like every other college in the country, have had virtual graduation ceremonies this year, with speakers delivering—and the class members watching—their addresses in safety online.But Trump demanded, against the wishes of Army leaders, that the cadets of...

June 13, 2020
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Keep Audiences Out of Debates—Forever

Keep Audiences Out of Debates—Forever

Sunday night’s crowd-free Biden-Sanders showdown was the most serious and substantive yet. Sunday night showed that restaurants, clubs, bars, and theaters aren’t the only venues that should be closed to the public. The rule should also apply to presidential debates— and for reasons having nothing to do with the coronavirus. The debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was more focused than usual not just because the match was one-on-one, but also because the format—a small network studio with no live audience, meaning no campaign staffers or other partisans egging their candidate...

March 16, 2020
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