Compendium #1

This site is not the only place to find my writing; I have been published at numerous other outlets across the web. In this recurring series, I’ll post some choice passages from these outside pieces and show you where to find the rest. Think of this as a mere tasting of the full smorgasbord. Without further ado, here’s Compendium #1, covering late March through mid-April 2023.

Biden Administration’s Actions Undermine Its Tough Talk on Iran, The Federalist, March 30, 2023

In this piece for The Federalist, I detailed the Biden administration’s mismatch between rhetoric and action on Iran, especially since the key midterm elections.

In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm election, the administration castigated Iran for its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, applied sanctions to Iranian entities for supplying Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, and privately declared that the Iran nuclear deal was “dead.” Although this response was unrelated to the continuing Iranian support for regional terrorism or its rapidly expanding nuclear program, it was a welcome change from the previous policy of naïve optimism. Publicly supporting the courageous dissidents against the Iranian theocracy was morally righteous, while opposing Iranian material aid to Russia’s imperial invasion of Ukraine was strategically useful.

Unfortunately, this rhetorical turn was short-lived, if it was ever meant at all.

Read the rest HERE.

Africa Shows How Biden Is Losing the World to China, National Review, April 10, 2023

My most recent piece for National Review discussed the US approach to diplomacy in Africa as compared to that of China. The distinctions between the two are stark, and show a great deal about the broader geopolitical competition.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been the biggest and most active player in global diplomacy, brokering peace deals, providing development assistance, and directing international institutions. Over the past decade, however, that paradigm has changed dramatically. Since the beginning of the Xi Jinping era, the Chinese Communist Party has significantly expanded its diplomatic efforts across the globe and its influence within multilateral institutions. At the same time, the United States has taken a secondary role on the world stage, first with President Obama’s “leading from behind” and then under the “America First” Trump administration. Biden’s term has seen a more assertive United States, but in precisely the wrong ways, privileging progressive ideology over American national interests. This process is seen most clearly in the diplomatic competition over Africa.

Since coming into office, one of the Biden administration’s top overseas priorities has been engagement with Africa, its rising populations and largely untapped resources making it a potential driver of 21st-century economic development. The White House hosted a United States–Africa Leaders Summit late last year, First Lady Jill Biden has traveled to the continent, and Vice President Kamala Harris recently toured various African nations. This focus is meant to bring the U.S. back into the forefront of African development after a decade of relative diplomatic neglect. Unfortunately, the approach taken by the current administration has left much to be desired.

Read the rest HERE.

10 Things The U.S. Can Start Doing Right Now To Counter China’s Dominance, The Federalist, April 11, 2023

In this Federalist article, I reviewed the new Heritage Foundation plan for countering a rising China, titled ‘Winning the New Cold War’. The plan is an excellent start on the path to victory and is chock full of detailed policy recommendations. I highlighted 10 of these which I saw as the plan’s low-hanging fruit & easiest quick wins. (Disclaimer: I was previously affiliated with the Heritage Foundation through their Academy program.)

For decades, America has followed a bipartisan and naïve policy of unfettered engagement with China, which has allowed the Chinese Communist Party to entrench and enrich itself within the international system while facing no consequences for its aggression abroad or totalitarianism at home. China now uses its wealth and technology to supercharge a policy of civil-military fusion, linking economics and military strategy.

One of the biggest challenges presented by China as compared to the USSR is the depth of the Chinese penetration of America’s economy, politics, culture, and society. The Heritage plan leaves no stone unturned when discussing these malign activities, advocating a “whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort” to counter them. 

Read the rest HERE.

Tilting at the Windmill of Strategic Autonomy, Providence Magazine, April 19, 2023

In my first ever piece over at Providence Magazine, I analyzed French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent trip to China as part of his broader push for “strategic autonomy.” I traced France’s quixotic quest for that strategic freedom back through 200 years of its history, from Napoleon III to Jules Ferry to Charles de Gaulle.

One of the primary takeaways from Macron’s visit and his subsequent interviews is his promotion of strategic autonomy. In his post-visit interview, Macron stated that he had already “won the ideological battle on [European] strategic autonomy,” and that the concept was enthusiastically embraced by the Chinese. The concept of “strategic autonomy” is the French President’s geopolitical catchphrase; he has been pushing the idea alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for years now. In short, Macron hopes to elevate the EU – led by France, now the only nuclear-armed member after Brexit – into a geostrategic power that can operate independently in the international arena without undue outside influence. He sees France as the indispensable nation in ensuring that the EU is not a “vassal” of the United States, instead becoming a third bloc in the Great Power competition between the U.S. and China.

This search for strategic autonomy is not a novelty in French geopolitics but has been around for the past two centuries. In part, it is a response to the destruction of France as the primary European power after Waterloo, but it also has deeper roots in the French vision of itself as a truly unique nation. Since 1815, this quest has been quixotic at best, mostly either backfiring spectacularly or playing into the hands of the nation’s strategic rivals.

Read the rest HERE.

The Fatal Logic of Encirclement, Providence Magazine, April 21, 2023

My debut week at Providence was a two-fer. In this second essay, I delve into the strategic anxiety of ‘encirclement’: the fear of being surrounded and contained by one’s enemies. America’s two greatest modern rivals, Russia and China, both exhibit this fear. Understanding the historical antecedents of these contemporary anxieties can aid us in planning to deal with their repercussions. This piece is close to my heart, as the idea was generated from my graduate research and is essentially what I got into this career for.

Surrounded. Contained. Encircled. These feelings are often evoked at a national level by leaders who view their country as being unfairly targeted by its neighbors. This fear of encirclement has long been a part of international affairs, but it is just one of myriad strategic anxieties that a state may face. These grand strategic worries – sometimes legitimate, sometimes irrational – skew perceptions about geopolitical reality. They can be leveraged to achieve foreign policy goals, but can also propel government action in unintended directions.

The strategic anxiety of encirclement is particularly pernicious as it comes with a vicious cycle of actions and reactions which exemplify the security dilemma. The power fearing encirclement will act to expand its reach so as to break out; its neighbors will see these aggressive actions and react by banding together for defense; the anxious power will see this as confirmation of encirclement and increase aggression. This self-reinforcing process significantly impacts a nation’s foreign policy outlook and harms national security. Nations are particularly susceptible to encirclement paranoia based on geography and history, with modern China and Russia fitting that bill. We can learn about the potential impact of their strategic anxieties through an understanding of historical analogs.

Read the rest HERE.

That’s it for this first edition of the Compendium, rounding up my other writing over the past few weeks. I’ll be back in mid-May with more snippets from my work around the web. If you just can’t sate your curiosity for that long, check out my Twitter, where I post all of my work (and a bunch of other blatherskite besides) as soon as it comes out.


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