The End of the Cold War 1985-1991 by Robert Service: A Book Review Essay

Robert Service’s The End of the Cold War 1985-1991 is foremost a retelling of the nuclear arms control negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era. Service, a long time British scholar at Oxford, is most comfortable and at his best in recounting the details of the rarefied nuclear arms reduction negotiations and does so in admirable English – without a non-specialist forced to consult a glossary of arms control terms. I, however, think that the Soviet Union fell apart as a result of its crumbling economic system brought to a head by the plummeting price of petroleum on the world market upon which the country was far too dependent. This combined with unsustainable military overreach based on decisions by a geriatric leadership that had been dying like flies in the proverbial pot full of honey prior to Gorbachev’s selection as Secretary General in 1985. Read more »

Solo AND Symphony: How to Protect America

Music lovers don’t confine themselves to solo performances or to symphonic programs. They appreciate both. They attend both. Similarly the conduct of a nation’s foreign affairs depends on the ability of its leadership to explore all avenues, working alone or in concert, as appropriate, opening doors and minds to the prospect of a better safer world for all, thus making walls unnecessary. Unfortunately, as this election season has worn on, week after painful week, there has been little room for serious discussion. We can only hope that the upcoming face-to-face debates will be a little more substantive. Read more »

Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

[by J. Scott Shipman]   The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski 2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks Washington The Indispensable […] Read more »

A Diplomacy Problem: World Leaders Who Won’t be Able to Visit the U.S. during a Trump Presidency

Official representatives of all Muslim majority countries would be taboo—and I suppose their embassies would have to be closed, too. That’s Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives, for starters. I hardly need to mention Iran, but we’d also have to sever communications with the entire Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That would seriously complicate the matter of trying to buffer Israel from its Muslim neighbors, including the Palestinians. It gets worse..... Read more »

Lies, Damned lies and non-comparable statistics – reporting diversity at the State Department

Shortly before the Easter weekend, the State Department quietly published a partial breakdown of 2015 diversity statistics on its website. This endeavor was apparently only done at the prodding of a senior Senator. Except for data covering 2009, 2010 and 2011 Foreign Service promotions published in the State Department Magazine in June 2012, these are the only statistics broken down by ethnicity and gender that State has furnished publicly that we have seen in years. And here they are – as minimal an amount of information as could be put out there and still satisfy the Congressional request. But did they and should they be enough to mollify Congress? Read more »

The American Spring and the Arab Spring

In short, instead of aping the take-no-prisoners approach to leadership transition that makes such a mess of so many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, instead of tearing America apart by increasingly militant polarization, we should be out there, busily selling our own miracle potion for stable evolutionary change—and selling it by example, I suggest. A little more emphasis on we the people might be a good start. Read more »

Anne Smedinghoff Didn’t Have to Die Part 2

[ Last week, Zen hosted Pete Turner’s guest post, PRT and State Department Ignorance Fails Us All. Here is part 2 of that article — posted by Charles Cameron for Zen ] . ** Last week I wrote about the tragedy of Anne Smedinghoff, who died on a patrol in Qalat Afghanistan.  This is part […] Read more »

New Book- The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House

[by Mark Safranski / a.k.a  “zen“] The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House […] by Zalmay Khalilzad Just received a courtesy review copy of The Envoy, the memoir of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, from Christine at St. Martin’s Press. Khalilzad was part of a small group of diplomatic troubleshooters and heavy hitters for the second Bush […] Read more »

Guest Post: PRT and State Department Ignorance Fails Us All

[by Mark Safranski / “zen“]             Anne Smedinghoff ZP is pleased to bring you a guest post by Pete Turner, co-host of The Break it Down Show and is an advocate of better, smarter, transition operations. Turner has extensive overseas experience in hazardous conditions in a variety of positions including operations: […] Read more »

The Military Is Only Part of the Story

I am not running down the military. What I am saying is that military men (and women) are specialists, highly trained for one important purpose: to wage war when all else has failed, to be prepared to do so should that happen and to do so only when in possession of orders from the civilian leaders whom U.S. citizens have elected. Naturally, they must be accorded warm public appreciation when the job is well done. Those who have died must be buried with full honors. Those who are wounded or otherwise harmed must receive first rate rehabilitation administered in a timely, ungrudging fashion. While in uniform, service men and women should be protected from loan sharks, and when they need help in transitioning back into civilian society they should not be shunted into for-profit diploma mills that prepare them for nothing at tax payers’ expense. Perhaps a truly thankful bipartisan Congress could do something about ending such entrepreneurial exploitation. Read more »