The Atlantic »

Why Trump Can’t Handle the Cost of War

October 20, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

When White House Chief of Staff—and Gold Star parent—John Kelly, on Thursday defended Donald Trump’s call to the newly widowed Myeshia Johnson, he was somber and sincere, which is refreshing. But he was wrong.

Context matters. From another person, at another time, observing that Sergeant La David Johnson “knew what he signed up for” by joining the Army wouldn’t have sparked outrage. But consider what else Representative Frederica Wilson—with the backing of Johnson’s mother—has alleged: that Trump didn’t know Johnson’s name; he repeatedly called him “your guy.” And that Trump’s tone was oddly jovial: “He was almost, like, joking.” Read more…

The Atlantic »

What John McCain Gets Wrong About Trump’s Nationalism

October 17, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Being a liberal in the Donald Trump era is tricky. On the one hand, you’re grateful for any conservative who denounces the president’s authoritarian lies. On the other, you can’t help but notice that many of the conservatives who condemn Trump most passionately—Bill Kristol, Bret Stephens, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin—remain wedded to the foreign policy legacy of George W. Bush. And in criticizing Trump’s amoral “isolationism,” they backhandedly defend the disastrous interventionism that helped produce his presidency in the first place.

The godfather of this brand of hawkish, anti-Trump conservatism is John McCain. Sure, McCain—being a Republican Senator—doesn’t condemn Trump as forthrightly as his “neoconservative” allies in the press. But the terms of his critique are similar. Read more…

The Forward »

On the Jewish Community’s Shameful Silence About Israel’s Arms to Myanmar

October 11, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Three weeks ago, an organization called J.A.C.O.B. — the Jewish Alliance of Concern over Burma — cosponsored a rally in front of the United Nations. The reason: the government of Myanmar (Burma’s current name) is slaughtering its Muslim minority, the Rohingya, on a vast scale. As many as 400,000 Rohingya have fled their homes. Forty percent of Rohingya villages are now depopulated. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Read more…

The Atlantic »

What Bob Corker Really Fears

October 10, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

It doesn’t matter all that much that Bob Corker and Donald Trump are insulting each other via Twitter. Sooner or later, Trump insults almost everyone. What matters is that Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a confidant of the secretary of state, is warning publicly that “we could be heading towards World War III,” presumably with North Korea. The crucial question is why. Read more…

The Atlantic »

Why Trump Humiliated His Own Secretary of State

October 2, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Why, on Sunday morning, did Donald Trump humiliate his secretary of state by tweeting that Rex Tillerson “is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”? In policy terms, it makes no sense. If Trump wants to break off diplomatic discussions with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (which is in itself lunatic, but that’s a different column), why not inform Tillerson privately? Why destroy Tillerson’s already meager credibility and thus render him useless as a negotiator in the future? Read more…

The Atlantic »

The Muted GOP Response to Roy Moore’s Anti-Muslim Prejudice

September 28, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Historians will record that for about half a decade, between the presidential campaigns of 2012 and 2016, Republicans tussled over whether to welcome anti-Muslim bigotry into their party. The response to Roy Moore’s nomination on Tuesday as the GOP’s Senate candidate in Alabama shows—even more clearly than Donald Trump’s election—that the fight is over. In today’s GOP, claiming that American Muslims don’t deserve equal rights has become so normal that prominent Republicans no longer object. They barely even notice. Read more…

The Forward »

Bernie Sanders Should Just Keep His Mouth Shut On The High Holidays

September 27, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last week, Bernie Sanders gave a much-touted foreign policy speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, the same location where Winston Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” address in 1946. The contents of the speech were intriguing. So was its timing.

Sanders delivered it on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Read more…

The Atlantic »

The Dangerous Misunderstanding at the Core of the North Korea Debate

September 26, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Donald Trump lies so frequently and so brazenly that it’s easy to forget that there are political untruths he did not invent. Sometimes, he builds on falsehoods that predated his election, and that enjoy currency among the very institutions that generally restrain his power.

That’s the case in the debate over North Korea. On Monday, The New York Times declared that “the United States has repeatedly suggested in recent months” that it “could threaten pre-emptive military action” against North Korea. On Sunday, The Washington Post—after asking Americans whether they would “support or oppose the U.S. bombing North Korean military targets” in order “to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons”—announced that “Two-thirds of Americans oppose launching a preemptive military strike.” Citing the Post’s findings, The New York Times the same day reported that Americans are “deeply opposed to the kind of pre-emptive military strike” that Trump “has seemed eager to threaten.” Read more…

The Forward »

What Bibi Said At The UN Was True — And That’s Horrifying

September 20, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

It’s easy to throw darts at the speech Benjamin Netanyahu delivered on Tuesday at the United Nations. He bashed the Iranian nuclear deal while depicting himself as a champion of the Iranian people. “My Iranian friends,” he declared, “you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you.” But ordinary Iranians greeted the nuclear deal by dancing in the streets because it offered a potential easing of the economic sanctions that had impoverished them. Read more…

The Atlantic »

A Radical Rebuke of Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy

September 19, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Donald Trump’s first speech to the United Nations can best be understood as a response to his predecessor’s final one. On September 20, 2016, Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly that “at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.” Read more…