Gordon Adams

The Varnish of Vietnam

The United States still hasn't stopped trying to win unwinnable wars.

The Pentagon's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American victory in Vietnam is about to descend on us. This miscast, colored, and distorted Pentagon remembrance should remind us of the dangers of imagining war outcomes in an illusory way, and of letting domestic politics dictate national security decisions that feed the illusion. As the Sorcerer knew in Goethe's poem about the Apprentice, cutting the broom of war in half has a way of creating even more war brooms to come, carrying buckets full of adversaries, drowning our security.

Continue Reading

Ties That Bind

From Afghanistan to Mali to Iraq, training and equipping other countries' militaries has a terrible track record. Why would we want to make it a permanent part of U.S. strategy?

This is an urgent memo to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees: Making Section 1206, a DoD program that trains and equips militaries around the world, a part of permanent law is a bad idea. Stop now, before it is too late.

Continue Reading

Sharks in the Desert

President Obama means well. But the Middle East is where America's good intentions go to die.

I was going to call this column "here we go again," but Charles Blow at the New York Times beat me to the punch. The president may feel he has to do what he is doing, pressed by public opinion polls and the incessant demand to "do something" that seems to come from everywhere. But the policy he announced Wednesday night is yet another example of what Charles Lindblom, now an emeritus professor at Yale University, called in an article he wrote 55 years ago, "Muddling Through."

Continue Reading

The Great Defense Spending Distraction

Why you can’t just throw money at problems like the Islamic State and Ukraine.

There's nothing like a good round of international conflict to bring the folks who want to spend more on defense out of the closet. The last few weeks, even months, do not disappoint. A commitment to "spend more" or "spend something" is almost as good as doing something. NATO is in high dudgeon this week, meeting about Vladimir Putin's intrusion into Ukraine (when are folks going to call it the invasion it really is?). And the allies have a side order of the Islamic State (IS) and Syria on the table as well.

Continue Reading

The Great Security Shift

The United States wants to help rid Africa of corruption, coups, and terrorism. And it's going about it all wrong.

The White House is hosting a major summit of African leaders this week. Elected and unelected heads of state and officials from nearly 50 African countries are in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of the U.S. relationship with Africa.

Continue Reading