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home : columnists : michael g. roskin
July 12, 2020

Michael G. Roskin: How the GOP Embraced Israel
Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee's fuming denunciation of the Iran nuclear deal as marching Israel to the oven's door - to many, an offensive misuse of the Holocaust - raises the question of how one of the more anti-Semitic sectors of the American polity became fanatically pro-Israel. It's complicated, part natural . . .
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Michael G. Roskin: A China Cascade
Has the China Cascade finally started? Predictions of one layer of China's economic imbalances cascading down onto others leading to major upheaval have been building for years. Beijing's clever rulers have thus far prevented it, but over the last month they have shoveled billions into a plunging stock market . . .
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Trump Trumps Himself
This time, Donald Trump trumped even his "birther" and "Mexican rapists" claims. His charge that Sen. John McCain was no war hero may have cut short his rapid rise among Republican hopefuls. His spontaneous, intemperate accusations attract some voters but turn off his party's mainstream. . . .
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: An Iran Nuclear Bet
Hooray, I was wrong! In my June 24 column I supposed that the Iran nuclear deal would fall through, either withdrawn by Obama or knocked out by Congress. Now it looks like it's going into effect, not, to be sure, without controversy. And I'm for it. To those opposed who swear Iran will cheat and soon have a nuclear . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Simply Shocked in Cyberspace
Why doesn't Washington blow its collective stack at Chinese hack attacks? Because we do it too and want to hold down chatter about it so that we can keep doing it. Washington's tardy and mild reaction: "Hacking in cyberspace? We are shocked, simply shocked!" Almost comic is the way every form of contestation . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Same Old Russia
Russian/Soviet foreign policy shows more continuity than change. Russia will be hostile for a long time for reasons far deeper than personalities or its faux-democratic regime. No button can reset a thousand years of Russian history. Cold War tit-for-tat military tensions have returned. Putin reassembles old Soviet . . .
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Nuclear Non-Deal with Iran
U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations due to conclude June 30 will likely fall through. Either Congress will vote the deal down or the administration will announce the failure without even submitting an agreement to Congress. I hope I'm wrong, but we'll soon know.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Trans-Pacific Questions
Asia/Pacific faces a choice between a U.S.-led and a Chinese-led free-trade pact. But the U.S. deal was just badly wounded, mostly by congressional Democrats who refused to follow President Obama by passing "fast-track authority" for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Unless reversed, this is more than a setback for . . .
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: The Fiery Cross Bet
The Chinese navy eight times warned a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft to leave the vicinity of the military base they are making out of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Instead, the Poseidon lingered and delivered images of the Chinese dredging operation by which Beijing aims to firm up its sovereignty over . . .
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Iraq War 4.0
The first Iraq War, also called the Iran-Iraq War, started in 1980 when Saddam Hussein invaded revolutionary Iran. The U.S., still enraged at Tehran for holding American diplomats, sided with Baghdad even as it used poison gas on Iran and its own Kurds. Iraq War 1.0 ended in 1988 when both sides accepted the old . . .
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Drifting to War?
For a couple of years, learned books and articles see a drift into serious conflict between the U.S. and both Russia and China. Many use the analogies of the coming of World Wars I and II. Analogies, unfortunately, often suggest inevitability. The question is, do the elements of analogy outweigh the elements . . .
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Back to Bricker
A final Iran accord, if one is reached in June, would likely be implemented by executive agreement under the president's authority, but Congress, especially the Republicans, oppose this. The fracas recalls Sen. John Bricker's (R-Ohio) 1953 attempt to put congressional limits on overseas presidential actions. . . .
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: The Administration Factor
Public administration is normally the least-zippy subfield of political science. The organization of bureaucracies and their budgets win few professors fame and followers. I certainly never paid it great attention, but those who do make interesting contributions. I first encountered the administration factor in the . . .

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Bomb Iran?
Two prominent Republicans advocate the U.S. bombing of Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities. The Republicans as a whole seem to be leaning that way, making war with Iran a major issue in the 2016 election. Former U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who hates the UN, now at the American . . .
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Michael G, Roskin: Wars & Fights
Northern opponents of the Civil War muttered that "it ain't our war and it ain't our fight," as did Americans against entering World War I. Could the phrase revive for the Saudi-Iranian conflict now brewing in Yemen? We sigh for the 1940s through the 1970s when Iran and Saudi Arabia were our "twin pillars" of . . .
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Xi Tipping?
In early 2013 Columbia political scientist Andrew Nathan argued that China was accumulating so many intractable problems that it was reaching a "tipping point" into systemic upheaval. Recently another top Sinologist, David Shambaugh of George Washington, earlier optimistic about China, agreed, writing in the Wall . . .
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: U.S.-Israel Peace Talks
Benjamin Netanyahu has changed Israeli politics little; they are back essentially where they were before the prime minister called elections early - a similar coalition and the same policies. The U.S. and Israel, however, are estranged. One almost expects a headline: "U.S.-Israel Peace Talks to Begin." . . .
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: From Kirov to Nemtsov
Kirov. We should be thinking of Sergei Kirov, whose 1934 assassination Stalin used to start his Great Purge of Party comrades suspected of disloyalty. Last month's assassination of Boris Nemtsov resembles Kirov's and suggests that President Putin shares Stalin's paranoia that tolerates no rivals. . . .
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Unbundling ISIS
The real nature of the Islamic State, or ISIS, is now hotly debated. Some criticize President Obama for political correctness in not condemning it as an Islamic movement; he calls it "terrorism" to avoid alienating Muslims. His critics say we're at war with Islam; any other expression is weak. Both "terrorism" and . . .
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Direct or Indirect in Ukraine?
As Washington ponders how to respond to Russia's aggressive moves in Ukraine, we should note that the Russian economy is looking like its Soviet predecessor - corrupt, inefficient and unsustainable. That being the case, should we intervene by military means? Or do it indirectly? . . .
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Crooks Are the Crux
U.S. dollars for defense, security and foreign aid are limited, so we have to pick and choose our involvements. Where would be the best places to spend our finite dollars? One criterion - which we never use but should - is corruption. Let's make crooks the crux of our decisions to intervene. Corruption warns of . . .
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Getting Putin to Think Strategically
The war in Ukraine is heating up, with no sign that President Putin will back down. But global oil at under $50 a barrel - and Russia needing $100 a barrel to balance its budget - is putting severe pressure on Russia. A letter offering both sticks and carrots from President Obama . . .
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Middle East Tar Baby
In one classic Uncle Remus tale, Br'er Rabbit is trapped by a "tar baby"; the more he touches it, the worse he gets stuck. That's us in the Middle East. Two recent events underscore this: the fracturing of Yemen and the death of the Saudi king. In addition to the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to destroy the backers of . . .
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: Cuba Libre?
Lenin, who spent 17 years in Swiss exile, wisecracked that after communism had triumphed worldwide, they would preserve Switzerland as a museum of capitalism. Instead, communism collapsed, and Cuba looked ready to become a shabby museum of socialism. But no longer. In a few years, probably only . . .
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: China's Aims; Regional or Global?
Two jolting articles - well, they jolted me - in the current National Interest show how hard it is to evaluate China's growing power. Will a rising China demand regional hegemony or go for global dominance? If the former, we might be able to negotiate a mutual accommodation; if the latter, we must prepare . . .
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: New Low in U.S.-Israel Ties?
Some politicians and media claim relations between the U.S. and Israel have reached a "new low." Not really. Clearly, Democratic President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu dislike each other, but relations overall are still warm. They were downright chilly under Republican Eisenhower. The U.S. may now be an . . .
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Michael G. Roskin: A Tale of Two Economies
This column has referred several times to how Nashville's economic vitality has given it an influx of people from away, a construction boom and rising home prices. All right, you might ask, how does midcoast Maine grab some growth like that? The solution is a major medical school. Okay, midcoast Maine is not about . . .
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Very Unfunny Online Invasion
A sort of black comedy emerges from Sony Pictures' "The Interview," which grew into a very unfunny online invasion. The real comedy could be a movie about Sony's bumbling. In the meantime, the incident gives us plenty to think about. First, since when do murder and comedy go together? And it was set for release . . .
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A New "War Without End"?
The end of The New Republic, co-founded by Walter Lippmann 100 years ago, reminded me of an essay I first read in TNR in 1968, Hans Morgenthau's "The Doctrine of War Without End." Our current wars lack such minds and such journals. Morgenthau's article blasted his old nemesis, McGeorge Bundy, chief . . .
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Tale of Two Governors
Both Maine and Tennessee just re-elected Republican governors. Their careers are oddly parallel - both became mayors in 2003, elected governors in 2010 - but they stand in sharp contrast, reflections of their personalities and the problems they face. Tennessee's Bill Haslam, now enjoying 70-percent approval . . .
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Real Estate; A Tale of Two Cities
Some say that America is all about real estate, which has shaped much of the country's settlement, growth and individual fortunes.There is a sharp contrast in real estate between my two retirement homes, Nashville, Tennessee, and Rockland, Maine. How did I come to split my retirement years? . . .
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Slippery Middle Paths
Intrigued by Yugoslavia's image as middle path between market and socialist economies, as a naïve graduate student I got a scholarship to Belgrade in 1963-64 to see how such middle ways work. I left doubting the Yugoslav experiment - plagued by instability and corruption - but China's rise raises the question . . .
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: The Jerusalem Passport Trap
The spring of 1961, I got my passport renewed at the U.S. Consulate General on the Israeli side of then-divided Jerusalem. It came back stamped renewed in "Jerusalem, Palestine." Why did Washington then and now refuse to designate it "Israel"? The question is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. It looks a trivial . . .
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Back to Iraq
The White House recently announced a doubling of U.S. forces in Iraq, to some 3,000. Trainers, mind you; not to engage in combat. We trained the Iraqi army for eight years to little discernible effect. A new minor training mission will not do the trick this time, either; it is likely the opening wedge for the far greater . . .
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Broken "Western Model"?
Indian writer Pankaj Mishra unleashes a bitter, angry blast against the "Western model" of capitalism and democracy for the developing countries, especially when that model no longer even works for the West. "The Western Model Is Broken," his title in The Guardian of Oct. 14, argues that the developing areas . . .
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Gonna Happen Anyway
I propose two new words, 'tigha' and 'twagha.' They sound like archaic Arabic but are my inventions, short for "That Is Gonna Happen Anyway," and its past tense, "That Was Gonna Happen Anyway." Their purpose: to fight the illusion that U.S. intervention can settle most problems. Often, we can only delay what was . . .
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: The Ebola Panic
If you like fear-mongering, try this not-too-fanciful scenario: Boko Haram of Northern Nigeria (remember the 2009 Detroit underwear bomber) sends fanatics to nearby Sierra Leone or Liberia to volunteer to help Ebola victims and deliberately get infected. Then, before symptoms appear, they fly from Nigeria to . . .
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Bring on the Gaffes
Vice President Joe Biden has recently attracted much media attention for committing serial gaffes, speaking bluntly about our feckless allies and then apologizing for it. Biden may have a foot-in-mouth tendency, but he's really just presenting some unusually blunt truths. (Mainers might call him "gaffe-rigged.") . . .
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: China's New Silk Roads
Geopolitical commentators urge us to practice a naval "offshore counterbalancing" to keep China from making the China Seas its exclusive territory. China aims to keep the U.S. Navy distant in what the Pentagon calls an "anti-access/area denial" strategy that includes shore-to-ship missiles. . . .
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: The "Umbrella Revolution" Dilemma
For Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong offers three basic choices, all of which could blow up in his face. His preference is probably to let Hong Kong authorities wait out the current "Occupy Central," as they have done before. Second is to send mainland police into Hong Kong, a desperate measure never . . .
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Kingdom Still United
The good news is, the polls were wrong, something that's getting to be the refrain after recent elections. The bad news is, it ain't over in Scotland. Several observers comment that the Scottish referendum has opened questions that will linger and grow in many countries. Last week's referendum raises two big . . .
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Are We at War?
ISIS puts out grisly videos of its beheadings to stampede us into overreacting, exactly the aim of the 9/11 hijackers. Before the film clips, Americans were fed up with Mideast wars; now most are willing to reengage. Administration officials last week proclaimed we are at war. A U.S. war to "degrade and destroy" ISIS may . . .
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: The Trouble with NATO
The trouble with NATO is that it simultaneously expanded and hollowed out, making it difficult now to actually apply credible power. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, NATO's eastward enlargement seemed self-evidently good and essentially cost-free. Just signing the treaty guaranteed East European . . .
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Persian Gambit for Iraq
So, President Obama, you still don't have a strategy for ISIS? Then consider a "Persian Gambit" that brings in Iran (you probably already are). Iran is our supposed enemy, but we share some common interests. Such a strategy could be restrained, economical, and benefit both sides. Tehran surely understands the . . .
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: The Geopolitics of a Ukraine War
Russia's piecemeal aggression - always denied and kept below a level that alarms NATO - continues. Putin does not appear to be backing down. Let's hope that he does, because the geopolitical effects of a Ukraine war could be dangerous. Basically, we're looking at the Wars of Soviet Succession . . .
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Fergustan
Suppose a newspaper or TV newscast, to accompany breaking news, runs a photo or video of helmeted paramilitaries firing tear gas and stun grenades into unruly crowds of protesters. But in their haste, they mistakenly use a visual from Cairo, the West Bank, or Pakistan for a story from Ferguson, Missouri. . . .
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Iraq Is a Hard Place
Pun intended. Iraq indeed puts President Obama in an uncomfortable place. Neo-cons and interventionists - now including Hillary - demand sending U.S. forces to crush the vicious Islamic State (IS). Hesitation, they claim, is cowardly indecision. U.S. public opinion, however, says . . .
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: In the Final Analysis, It's Their Peace
Americans don't do despair. We do optimism. Israel/Palestine, however, is enough to make anyone despair. The current Gaza horrors occur because both sides, utterly self-righteous, see themselves as the defensive, aggrieved party, therefore entitled to retaliate by any means. The growing, reciprocal . . .
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: China's New Great Wall
Two years ago, a Chinese political scientist asked me for one of my texts to use in English in an advanced class. I was flattered. In my China visits, I kept hearing that my "Political Science: An Introduction" is widely used in translation, although I search in vain for any royalties from it. . . .
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Pressuring Putin Ain't Easy
Russian President Vladimir Putin, by hiring and arming Russian thugs in Ukraine as his proxies, is caught in a trap of his own making. Instead of the quick, triumphal annexation of eastern Ukraine that he expected, Putin has lost control to the proxies. Now, blamed and isolated, Putin is under severe pressure . . .
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: Not-So-Radical Mearsheimer
Prof. John Mearsheimer argues that the U.S. has been pursuing "global domination," intervening militarily in far too many places, and is "addicted to war." Such charges likely persuade Washington insiders to dismiss him as another radical critic of U.S. foreign policy in the mold of C. Wright Mills . . .
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Question for Mearsheimer
Getting John Mearsheimer to speak at the Midcoast Forum on Foreign Relations this coming Monday is a coup. Controversial for his "Israel lobby" claims, the big question for him now is whether U.S.-China conflict is inevitable. The updated 2014 edition of his "Tragedy of Great Power Politics" . . .
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: A Double-Edged Scimitar
By again intervening in Iraq, the U.S. risks getting slashed with a double-edged scimitar, one that cuts up recently stated policies. If we rescue Baghdad by fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), we keep the autocratic Nuri al-Maliki in power. I thought Maliki had to go. . . .
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Michael G. Roskin: From Saigon to Baghdad
As the Saigon regime collapsed in 1975, GIs joked that a South Vietnamese army rifle "was never fired and only dropped once." Those who trained South Vietnamese soldiers bitterly added, "You can't transplant backbone." The rapid disintegration of the Iraqi army and police in a broad swath north . . .
Thursday, June 19, 2014

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