David Ignatius

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Latest by David Ignatius


The US puts a financial chokehold on Iranian banks

Everybody knows that economic sanctions don’t work. Just look at the decades of fruitless pressure on Cuba. If you Google the phrase “economic sanctions don’t work, you get nearly 1.2 million hits. But guess what? In the recent cases of North Korea and Iran, a new variety of United States Treasury sanctions is having a …

David Ignatius

In the Middle East, the US is off the road and in the ditch

“Are you on the road, or in the ditch? Back when I covered labor negotiations 30 years ago, that was the question reporters would ask to get a sense of how contract talks were going. The phrase came back to me last weekend as I listened to a series of relentlessly negative presentations at a …

David Ignatius

Once on the left, Russia now drives in the middle

Think of the new Russia as a highway: People used to drive on the left side of the road; now, officially, they are supposed to drive on the right, but the changeover has been uncomfortable (especially for the authorities). So the country straddles the middle – which is understandable, but also dangerous. That’s a paradox …

David Ignatius

Under Putin, Russia is no longer ready to be pushed around

Vladimir Putin made headlines last weekend when he blasted the Bush administration for its “almost uncontained hyper-use of force that has created a world where “no one feels safe. If he had been a Democratic presidential candidate, it would have been a standard stump speech. But coming from a Russian president, his remarks had pundits …

David Ignatius

How not to lose your soul in American journalism

Last month, a group gathered in New York City to celebrate the 80th birthday of Charles Peters, one of the true revolutionaries in modern journalism. For more than 30 years, Peters edited The Washington Monthly – a liberal magazine with a small circulation but a huge impact on American political culture. The usual measure of …

David Ignatius

At best, the US is able to contain the Iraq mess

Somehow, four years on, the debate about Iraq is still animated by wishful thinking. The White House talks as if a surge of 20,000 troops is going to stop a civil war. Democrats argue that when America withdraws its troops, Iraqis will finally take responsibility for their own security. But we all need to face …

David Ignatius

Libby's trial is about a cover-up that failed.

Why was the White House so nervous in the summer of 2003 about the CIA’s reporting on alleged Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger to build a nuclear bomb? That’s the big question that runs through the many little details that have emerged in the perjury trial of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top …

David Ignatius

America's new Middle East strategy: containing Iran

What’s America’s strategy in the Middle East? US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week sketched a new framework based on what she calls the “realignment of states that want to contain Iran and its radical Muslim proxies. In an interview Tuesday, Rice summarized the new strategy that has been coming together over the last …

David Ignatius

We'll soon see if it's Mission Impossible for Petraeus

For a nation bitterly divided over Iraq, the one point of agreement seems to be that Lt. Gen. David Petraeus is the right commander for American forces in Baghdad. That gives Petraeus a surge of the most important strategic asset in this war- which is time. But it also locks him into an awkward role …

David Ignatius

Bush is piling up the chips on a losing Iraqi bet

It was axiomatic during the Cold War that presidents should not gamble with matters of national security. The stakes were too high. The Bush administration’s Iraq policy has long suffered from a lack of that prudence – and the misplaced gambler’s instinct is especially evident now in the administration’s plan to send more troops to …

David Ignatius

Democrats wait to pick up the pieces of Bush's war

Representative Rahm Emanuel, the architect of the Democratic victory in November’s congressional elections, watched President George W. Bush’s Iraq speech Wednesday night like the coach of an opposing debate team: “Tired, he said. “Too wooden. “Doesn’t fill the screen. The military consequences of Bush’s new policy in Baghdad aren’t knowable. But politically in Washington, it …

David Ignatius

Victory in Iraq by manual, the David Petraeus way

What makes sense in Iraq? The political debate is becoming sharply polarized again, as President George W. Bush campaigns for a new “surge strategy. But some useful military guideposts can be found in a new field manual of counterinsurgency warfare prepared by the general who is about to take command of US forces in Baghdad. …

David Ignatius

Can the Democrats avoid an economic crack-up?

Now that the Democrats have taken control of the United States Congress, President George W. Bush has decided it’s time for fiscal discipline and a balanced budget. That’s shameless, even by local standards. Who does Bush think was in power when the big deficits of the last six years were created? A good way for …

David Ignatius

Three walking into a tightrope of a future

As the new year approaches, I think of three people who symbolize for me some of the difficulties of the year we have just lived through, and also the promise and potential of the one that is ahead. Each of them reminds me that we are walking into the future balanced on a tightrope. The …

David Ignatius

The reality show of George W. Bush's struggle

Watching US President George W. Bush in recent weeks has become a grim kind of reality TV show. In almost every news conference, speech and photo opportunity, the topic is the same: What to do about the grinding war in Iraq. Bush has let the facade crack open- admitting that his strategy for victory isn’t …

David Ignatius

US military bloggers ponder another Christmas in Iraq

Thanks to a military blogger who calls himself “Blackfive (“The Paratrooper of Love ), we have a snapshot of what Christmas looks like this year at Camp Taji, just over 30 kilometers north of Baghdad. It’s a man dressed up in a Santa Claus suit, standing behind a “sleigh that is an unmanned aerial vehicle …

David Ignatius

Dreaming of a military victory in Iraq is dangerous

Robert Gates, the new secretary of defense, warned this week that an American failure in Iraq would be a ‘calamity’ that would haunt the United States for decades. Unfortunately, he’s right. But what is a realistic definition of success? If we ‘surge’ tens of thousands more troops into Iraq and march them up the hill, …

David Ignatius

Walid Moallem defends a 'noble peace' with Israel

What positions would Syria take if it entered a dialogue with the United States about Iraq and other Middle East issues? I put that question Thursday to Walid Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, and he offered surprisingly strong support for the recommendations made last week in the Baker-Hamilton report. “We are not against the US, Moallem …

David Ignatius

A serene Seniora continues to hold out

The Lebanese not so long ago liked to refer to their gaudy capital as “the Paris of the Orient. But on Sunday afternoon, with more than a half-million pro-Hezbollah demonstrators chanting “Death to America! and “Death to Israel! in the heart of downtown, the Lebanese capital seemed more like a vision of Tehran. The very …

David Ignatius

Emphatically stating the obvious on Iraq

The Iraq Study Group’s report achieved the goal of any blue-ribbon commission: It stated the obvious, emphatically. “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.” Of various proposals for fixing Iraq, “all have flaws.” A “precipitate” withdrawal would be a mistake, but so would a big increase in US troops. America should set “milestones” for …

David Ignatius

In Iraq, there is no graceful exit for the US

“This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all, President George W. Bush said Thursday after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. And that’s probably the right headline as the administration reviews its options for Iraq: No graceful exit. That doesn’t mean there won’t be significant changes ahead in …

David Ignatius

Pity the Arab nation, for its violence

A disease is eating away at the Middle East. It afflicts the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, even the Israelis. It is the idea that the only political determinant in the Arab world is raw force – the power of physical intimidation. It is politics as assassination. This week saw another sickening instance of this …

David Ignatius

Iraq can learn from the lessons of Saudi Arabia

While the United States debates what to do about the disaster in Iraq, I have been pondering a disaster that hasn’t happened – in Saudi Arabia. There are some lessons in the Saudi story that may help clarify the Bush administration’s choices as it nears crunch time in the region. First, some background: 10 years …

David Ignatius

For Democrats to fly, they must unite the party's wings

The Democrats now have the opportunity the Republicans spurned, which is to build a broad coalition in the center and become once again the nation’s governing party. But to achieve that, the Democrats must stand for values that connect with those of most Americans. The center is meaningless, after all, except as a platform for …

David Ignatius

Iraq claims its most senior casualty

Senior military officers referred to it as “the 7,000-mile screwdriver. That was their way of describing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s penchant for micromanaging aspects of the Iraq War that interested him. And it’s one reason why the military will be happy today that Rumsfeld is leaving – even happier, maybe, than Democrats, who have …

David Ignatius

Does George W. Bush have a surprise up his sleeve?

Following next Tuesday s elections, President Bush will face some of the most difficult decisions of his presidency as he struggles to craft a strategy for dealing with the ruinous mess in Iraq. Bush will have to do what he has sometimes found hardest – which is to make a decisive choice among conflicting recommendations …

David Ignatius

From Baghdad to Beijing, the chaotic world of 2006.10.29

A theory to explain the chaotic world of 2006 – in which people from Baghdad to Beijing seem unable to cooperate on projects that would make them better off – was written in 1965 by an obscure American economist named Mancur Olson Jr. His short book, “The Logic of Collective Action, explained why big groups, …

David Ignatius

US are going to "call it a victory" when they pull out from Iraq

Some months ago, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was explaining to a senior Bush administration official his plan for a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq over 12 months, in consultation with the Iraqis. “We’re going to do the same thing, the senior official confided, “but we’re going to call it victory. This …

David Ignatius

Chances exist for an orderly American Iraq withdrawal

As the security situation in Baghdad has deteriorated over the past month, there has been growing talk among Iraqi politicians about a “government of national salvation –a coup, in effect–that would impose martial law throughout the country. This coup talk is probably unrealistic, but it illustrates the rising desperation among Iraqis as the country slips …

David Ignatius

After North Korea's bomb, present at the unraveling

“Present at the Creation was the title Dean Acheson gave to his memoir about the founding of the post-World War II order. Now, with North Korea claiming to have tested a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community and Iran seemingly on the way, Harvard professor Graham Allison argues that we are present at …

David Ignatius