Belgian Queen Mathilde and King Philippe attend a ceremony outside the Brussels International airport following bomb attacks in Brussels metro and Belgium's airport of Zaventem, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Frederic Sierakowski
The deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels this week shook the world. In their wake, a renewed sense of insecurity and fear has swept across the United States and Europe—and with it, an urgent call for national leaders to take action. But whether the response to these attacks is borne out of emotion or wisdom is still an open question. We are already seeing some of the effects of Brussels: on the treatment of Syrian refugees, on the closure of European borders, and on the national security debate at home and abroad. Still, many questions remain. What comes next for the fight against ISIS? Will Russia’s recent posturing in Syria strengthen or weaken the terrorist group? This week’s recommended reads help to shed light on some of these important questions:
Rukmini Callimachi, Alissa J. Rubin, and Laure Fourquet/The New York Times
In a preview of what we were to see in Brussels, a recent report compiled by the French antiterrorism police following the Paris attacks details the scale and sophistication of the Islamic State’s abilities and network in France, Belgium, and Europe. In a summary of the 55-page document, The New York Times
team explains how ISIS evolved over several years to establish a consistent protocol for bomb production, avoiding detection by international authorities, and providing advanced logistics that continue to stump authorities. The document chronologically examines the events in Paris and just how well-planned the carnage was
PUTIN'S WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA
Neil MacFarquhar/The New York Times
MacFarquhar argues that Putin’s inclination to shock and surprise is a calculated decision to both demonstrate Russia’s independence to the world and provide a public relations stunt. By withdrawing Russian military forces almost as suddenly as it inserted them, Putin is simultaneously reasserting his country’s role in the Middle East, positioning Russia for renewed peace talks, and distracting attention from both the war in Ukraine and the economic costs of sanctions on Russia.
Sam Jones/Financial Times
While it may seem Russia is conceding the battle in Syria by partially withdrawing its military, Putin’s decision still places him in a powerful position. By successfully securing al-Assad’s regime, the Russian campaign achieved the very least of its expectations, according to Jones. In the long run, Putin has asserted Russian military influence in the region with an air base facility in Syria that provides him with what Jones refers to as a permanent trump card.
Russian state media manipulation has allowed Putin to remain the idol of a resurgent nation despite a long-term economic degradation, according to The Economist
. By focusing on the restoration of Russia’s political prowess abroad against America and the West, state television sensationalizes so-called foreign adventures and brushes past domestic news that would undermine the country’s self-image.
OBAMA DOCTRINE COMMENTARY
Jeffrey Goldberg’s extraordinary article
in The Atlantic
on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, which I highlighted in last week’s reads, generated significant commentary. The following—including several follow-up pieces in The Atlantic
—are the best I’ve read this week.
Philip Stephens/Financial Times
US power does not stem from an ability to solve every global problem, but Stephens argues the Obama doctrine fails to recognize that American influence is being eroded with inaction.
Stephen Sestanovich/The Atlantic
Sestanovich explains Obama’s definition of credibility—of acting even without direct threats to self-interest—and the accompanying removal of the United States from defending the interests of its friends and allies runs the risk of lessening American influence in the world.
Niall Ferguson/The Atlantic
Ferguson argues that Obama’s disinclination to follow traditional foreign policy guidelines has led to a revolution that has had more consequences than solutions.
Julia Ioffe/The Atlantic
While Obama is criticized domestically for backing away from Syria in 2013 and letting Putin take the lead in both Damascus and Ukraine, Ioffe explains that Russian analysts disassociate the two events and even praise Obama for his strength.
Derek Chollet/The Atlantic
Chollet compares how Washington traditionally rewards quicker rather than permanent foreign policy solutions with what Obama envisions strength and leadership to be.
Josef Joffe/The Atlantic
Joffe argues that by preferring the price of inaction to action, the Obama administration opened a power vacuum that has invited its historical adversaries to edge America out of the top spot in foreign policy.
Andrew J. Bacevich/The Atlantic
Obama’s strategy of bringing Iran back into the fold will either make or break his legacy, according to Bacevich.
Martin Indyk/The Atlantic
The refocus of American foreign policy from a regional to a global agenda, Indyk explains, has critics condemning Obama for permitting a power vacuum in the Middle East and betraying American moral values.
Kori Schake/The Atlantic
Schake argues inaction has more costs than Obama recognizes, both to American foreign policy and the international order that has seemingly eroded since he began enforcing the Obama doctrine.