David Ignatius

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Latest by David Ignatius


Toward a US diplomatic firewall strategy in Iraq

The Bush administration is groping toward a diplomatic firewall strategy that might help keep the inferno in Iraq from spreading in the Middle East. This approach has two basic components: pushing harder for negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, and creating a standing “Iraq neighbors’ conference to prevent states in the region from taking advantage …

David Ignatius

A sustainable US policy can avert an Iraqi bloodbath

The last time I remember Ambassador Ryan Crocker warning about a possible bloodbath, it was in September 1982 as the Sabra-Shatila massacre was taking place in Beirut. So when Crocker tells The New York Times that a rapid US withdrawal from Iraq could produce a human tragedy on a far larger scale, people should take …

David Ignatius

As privacy fritters away, normal life becomes impossible

Is life “on the record ? Seriously, should someone going out on a date clarify whether the evening’s events are on “background ? In conversations with our neighbors, should we specify that we are operating under “Chatham House rules, in which our comments may be used but not attributed to us by name? These are …

David Ignatius

Accountability is what the spies need

Here’s an example of the kind of accountability the CIA needs in order to get out of the doldrums and become a truly effective intelligence service: It is 1985, and the CIA team assigned to stop the TWA 847 hijacking has returned home after an embarrassing failure. Despite a standing order from President Ronald Reagan …

David Ignatius

The US must get serious, and ready, for an attack

How would America react to a future terrorist attack? Would the country come together to combat its adversaries, or would it pull further apart? Perhaps we will never have to confront the question, you say. Perhaps our good luck will hold, or our intelligence will detect all the plots and plotters, or the terrorists will …

David Ignatius

Let Iraq burn, but don't leave the fire scene

“Sometimes you just have to let a fire burn. George Shultz, a former secretary of state who was trained as an industrial economist, is said to have made that remark about labor negotiations that have reached an impasse. It applies with ever-greater clarity to Iraq. But how far should we let the Iraqi fire burn, …

David Ignatius

Three old men still reflect on the game of nations

When foreign-policy gurus Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft all start saying the same thing, it’s time to pay attention. That happened this month in a joint appearance broadcast on “The Charlie Rose Show, and their comments ought to be required reading for presidential candidates in both parties – not to mention the current …

David Ignatius

Bush in trouble, or West Bank on the Potomac

Sailors have a colorful phrase to describe a boat that is so close to the wind that it has stopped dead in the water – unable to fill its sails and make any headway. They say the boat is “in irons. The Bush presidency is perilously close to being in irons, at least as seen …

David Ignatius

America looks for ways to fight its worst enemy: IEDs

The photographs gathered by The Washington Post each month in a gallery called “Faces of the Fallen are haunting. The soldiers are so young, enlisted men and women mostly, usually dressed in the uniforms they wore in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s striking is that most of them were killed by the roadside bombs known as …

David Ignatius

What Arizona can say about conducting the Iraq war

Listening to the parade of presidential candidates repeating safe bromides about how to fix what’s broken in America, I wish I could charter a bus and bring them all to Phoenix to meet a man who is actually fixing things: Michael Crow, the iconoclastic president of Arizona State University. Politicians talk about being change agents, …

David Ignatius

A country hobbled by a zero-defect political culture

Technology is about taking risks. Government bureaucracy is about avoiding mistakes. The mismatch between the two is creating a funding squeeze that could undermine America’s dominance of the new technologies that will be crucial to the nation’s security in the 21st century. That was the disturbing consensus among a group of the nation’s top scientists …

David Ignatius

Look, yet another 'new' American policy in Iraq

President George W. Bush and his senior military and foreign-policy advisers are beginning to discuss a “post-surge strategy for Iraq which they hope could gain bipartisan political support. The new policy would focus on training and advising Iraqi troops rather than the broader goal of achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq, which senior officials recognize …

David Ignatius

An army against the clock

America set a long clock ticking when it decided to spend $300 million to rebuild the sprawling military base here in Taji, Iraq, as a logistical center for the new Iraqi army. This was to be the soldier s version of nation-building – maintenance depots, orderly barracks and professional schools for Iraqi officers and NCOs. …

David Ignatius

In Somalia, shock and awe, followed by stalemate

“Get it done quickly and get out. That, says a senior US diplomat in Addis Ababa, was the goal of the little-noticed war that Ethiopia has been fighting, with American support, against Islamic extremists in Somalia. But this in-and-out strategy encounters the same real-world obstacles that America is facing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conflict is …

David Ignatius

An exhausted US looks for multipolar exit strategy

After the Iraq debacle, nearly everyone seems to agree that “unilateralism in foreign policy is a bad thing. Leading the march of born-again multilateralists is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has been meeting with representatives of Syria, Iran and several dozen other nations in the hope that they can apply a collective tourniquet to …

David Ignatius

Time for someone else to repair Wolfowitz's damage

Reading some of the shrill comments posted online by World Bank staffers expressing (anonymously) their loathing for Paul Wolfowitz, you can understand why the bank president feels he has been the victim of a “smear campaign. But in taking the role of wounded victim, Wolfowitz seems blind to his own mistakes, which have had ruinous …

David Ignatius

The US and Iran are near a dialogue

Sometimes big developments are hidden in plain sight, and that appears to be the case with Iran and the United States. The two countries have moved over the past year from mutual isolation to the edge of serious diplomatic discussions. The Bush administration is aggressively signaling that it wants such a dialogue. But the Iranians, …

David Ignatius

The US breaks out of its Middle Eastern isolation

For the past few years, the United States has been in a self-imposed diplomatic isolation in the Middle East. But two paths out of that wilderness are becoming visible, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is moving cautiously down each one. The first path leads toward a regional solution to the nightmare problem of Iraq. …

David Ignatius

Trouble is brewing for the US in Iraqi Kurdistan

While the Bush administration struggles to stabilize Baghdad, a major new threat is emerging in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. If it isn’t defused, this crisis could further erode US goals in Iraq – drawing foreign military intervention, splintering the country further apart and undermining American hopes for long-term military bases in Kurdistan. The …

David Ignatius

Iraq distracts Bush from issues needing attention

Iraq distracts Bush from issues needing attention David Ignatius As political power ebbs away from the Bush presidency, a number of changes are becoming visible around the world-most of them unwelcome. Simply put, the White House is losing its ability to shape events. President George W. Bush’s relentless focus on Iraq magnifies this problem. His …

David Ignatius

Has a Soviet spy been brought in from the dark?

Roll back the tape to January 1964: America is still reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and investigators don’t know what to make of the fact that the apparent assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, lived for three years in the Soviet Union. Did the Russians have any role in JFK’s death? At that …

David Ignatius

Congress and the White House are on a collision course

Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman who is a one-man bipartisan commission, recently suggested a simple test for evaluating political leaders. The best choice, he told a Washington gathering, is the person who can build consensus around difficult policy issues. By that measure, we are seeing a long list of would-be dividers but not many …

David Ignatius

Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards getting jittery?

We are in a season of skullduggery in the Middle East, with a strange series of disappearances that all involve the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The murky saga is a reminder that the real power in Iran may lie with this secretive organization, which spawned Iran’s firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Revolutionary Guards orchestrated …

David Ignatius

France's losing battle to control the onset of globalization

When President Jacques Chirac bid farewell to politics this month, he summed up what is known here as French “exceptionalism by insisting that “France is not a country like the rest. “Vive la difference, as the French like to say. But the presidential elections that will take place here over the next six weeks are …

David Ignatius

Rice steps into the maelstrom of peace in Palestine

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is crossing a modest threshold in her efforts to mediate in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: She is signaling her willingness to meet with some members of the Hamas-backed “national unity government,” even though the Israelis have publicly opposed such a move. Rice doesn’t do anything impulsively, least of all jump …

David Ignatius

Don't expect a soldier like John Abizaid to just fade away

An enduring image of Gen. John Abizaid is of him bounding from an armored Humvee in one of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods last summer and conversing with shopkeepers and imams who were dumbfounded to encounter a four-star general chatting with them in Arabic. Abizaid, who retires Friday as commander of US Central Command, brought something special …

David Ignatius

Brzezinski gets a second chance, offering Obama his first

Zbigniew Brzezinski has written a new book that might be a foreign-policy manifesto for Barack Obama. Its message is that America can recover from what Brzezinski calls the “catastrophic mistakes of the Bush administration, but only if the next president makes a clean break from those policies and aligns the country with a world in …

David Ignatius

Universities: American 'smart bombs' that actually work

When people think about American power in the world, they usually list the country’s forbidding arsenal of bombers, aircraft carriers and troops. Yet America’s greatest strategic asset these days might not be its guns, but its universities. Higher education is arguably the last area in which the United States dominates the world. We’re discovering the …

David Ignatius

The US shouldn't hold its nose and talk

A caustic former US ambassador named Chas Freeman compiled a volume he called “The Diplomat’s Dictionary. It included several memorable definitions, including “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ till you can find a rock, and “Diplomacy is letting someone else have your way. The Bush administration, which has generally favored the “find a …

David Ignatius

From Baghdad to New Orleans, climate at chaos' edge

The scientific debate about whether there is a global warming problem is pretty much over. A leading international group of climate scientists reported last month that the evidence of global warming is “unequivocal and that the likelihood it is caused by humans is more than 90 percent. Skeptical researchers will continue to question the data, …

David Ignatius