Stephen M. Walt

Hacks and Hired Guns

Are America’s think tanks in hock to the highest bidder?

Is American foreign policy on sale to the highest bidder? Are wealthy foreign governments buying influence at prominent think tanks, and using it to brainwash gullible Americans and warp our national discourse? A recent article in the New York Times suggests that this problem is serious, focusing its attention primarily (but not exclusively) on the venerable Brookings Institution. The article prompted impassioned affirmations of objectivity from Brookings' president Strobe Talbott, along with assorted "told-you-sos" from a diverse array of critics (including yours truly here) and useful comments from experts who have been studying this issue for some time.

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The Way We Were

Just 20 years ago the United States was a beloved superpower with a solid economy and faced virtually no hostile threats. But that’s all gone to hell.

Is the world is going to hell in a handbasket? There's the Islamic State (IS), of course, which the United States is now going to "degrade and ultimately destroy" (or so we're told). But there's also Ukraine, Libya, Boko Haram, Ebola, another EU recession, trouble in the Caucasus, and continued political wrangling in Baghdad and Kabul. Oh, and the Boston Red Sox are 23 games out of first place.

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NATO Owes Putin a Big Thank-You

Russia's aggression in Ukraine is making it easier for the bloated, aging alliance to pretend that it still matters.

If I were really cynical, I'd suspect some bureaucrats at NATO headquarters in Brussels are secretly glad about the crisis in Ukraine. Why? Because it gives the aging alliance something to do. This motive may also explain why hawkish Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen seems eager to defend Ukraine right down to the last Ukrainian and why the NATO members that lie closest to Russia are both worried by recent events and pleased that the rest of the alliance is finally paying attention to their concerns.

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The Top 10 Questions About the World's Biggest Problems

Will anyone ever outfox Putin? Why are we still using old solutions to solve the same old Middle East Problems? And where exactly are we going in Afghanistan?

I'm in Washington today to attend the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. The timing is fortuitous, because I'm pondering a number of big questions these days and I'll be interested to see what some of the nation's best scholars think about them. So for what they may be worth, here are my Top 10 Foreign Policy Puzzles:

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Is Barack Obama More of a Realist Than I Am?

This president isn't weak and waffling. He's calculating, coldhearted, and decisive when it counts.

I had a strange thought late last week, while chatting with a colleague about the various hot spots that are dominating the news and interfering with U.S. President Barack Obama's vacation. Is it possible, I wondered, that Obama is craftier and more ruthless than I've realized? I've been disappointed by a lot of his foreign-policy decisions, but have I underestimated him? Far from being indecisive or too easily swayed by hawkish advisors, might he be even more of a realist than I am?

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