Gordon Adams

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

While John Kerry Is on a Plane…

There's a gaping hole at the State Department that needs fixing. Here's how to do it.

John Kerry is on a plane, seemingly every day, trying to put out the surge in global military and diplomatic wildfires. Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian separatists have bullied and murdered their way onto the front of the foreign-policy agenda. Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas are busy proving how badly each needs the hostility of the other to stay in power; peace talks have vanished in the rearview mirror. The Islamic State is on the verge of consolidating an extremist Sunni nation (or at least some version of a "look-alike") between Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict grinds on and on, with a toll that has now reached 170,000. Libya is in flames. China and Vietnam are nearly at sword's point. U.S. forces are slowly exiting Afghanistan, leaving corruption and insecurity behind. And Boko Haram spreads like an evil oil slick in Nigeria. It reminds me of the Tom Lehrer song "They're Rioting in Africa."

Continue Reading

Magic Money and Budgetary Malpractice

There's something fishy about the U.S. Navy wanting to create a new fund to pay for nuclear submarines -- so it can also pay for other ships.

Everybody fiddles with their budget from time to time. How will we pay for the new car? Or that summer spike in the gas bill? What about that unanticipated bail expense, from before Colorado legalized pot? Even federal agencies do the same thing. What about that extra expense for the unplanned long stay in Iraq? Or how to help citizens deal with an unexpected tsunami when no one planned for it in the budget?

Continue Reading