John J. Tierney Jr. is a Professor Emeritus at IWP and Former Special Assistant and Foreign Affairs Officer for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
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Augusto César Sandino

Nicaragua 1927: Portent for the Future

First, an explanation. The term “portent” is strictly defined as “omen,” or “warning,” “prophetic insight” of something momentous to come, something even larger than the original. This definition should cause either disbelief or anguish that its author (myself) has “wandered off” his “reservation.” Understandable, as anything remotely connected to a tiny Central American nation nearly…

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Pentagon

Early U.S. Foreign Policy, “Big D”

In another essay, I described “motivation” between the offense vs. the defense in foreign policies generally. This time, I will apply the sports expression “Big D” (Defense) as it applies to the beginnings of American foreign policy. From this beginning, one point stands out: that such analogies are far more “circumstantial” than “deliberate” and that…

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Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948

The Berlin Airlift: America’s Finest Moment

For the record, I wanted to submit a “positive” take on American history, having been saturated with the darker side of the subject over the past several years: the country did have slavery and Jim Crow, immigration was restricted, women couldn’t vote until 1920, “whites” had “supremacy,” natives were expelled, slums did exist, there was…

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A depiction of a Napoleonic-era British infantry square at the Battle of Quatre Bras, Belgium, 1815.

Defense vs. Offense in Foreign Policy

Motivation is critical in the formulation of practically everything, but certainly in foreign policy. Much depends on motivation, the “why” of any human activity. It obviously makes a difference as to whether you are doing something for yourself or for others, against something (someone) or for them, for defense (self-protection) or offense (self-expansion). Examples abound…

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Taiwan

Taiwan: The Crisis Nobody Wants

For the near future (two to five years), the issue of Taiwan and its position between China and the U.S. offers the greatest potential in the world for the outbreak of either conventional or nuclear war. Still worse, we may even see such fears realized within weeks or months in what could well be the…

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United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and their advisors in Casablanca, 1943

What “Made” the Twentieth Century?

Above: United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and their advisors in Casablanca, 1943. The verb “made” in the title is meant to describe the main activity or set of related events that were responsible for the chief accomplishments of the time period. The Twentieth Century is almost universally recognized as the “greatest” period…

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Reunion of Confederate and Federal veterans at Gettysburg, 1913

With Enemies Like That Who Needs Friends

The title quotes from the familiar notion but reverses the two expressions. The point of the article is that it doesn’t matter, especially between nation-states. Meaning: that to “label” others into either category might be a terrible mistake. In other words, in the final analysis, there is little distinction between the two, and to make…

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Soviet soldier waving a red flag at a building off the central square in Stalingrad, Russia, Jan-Feb 1943

Circumstance in World Politics

The two expressions in the title, circumstance and politics, are essential in estimating the current (and historic) public acceptance of war vs. peace in the American political culture. The word “circumstance” is formally defined as “state of affairs” or “sum of essential and environmental factors,” while politics is associated with the art of “governing” as…

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Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Washington Got it Right, From the Beginning

While certainly “subjective,” I would like to begin this essay with an assertion: that George Washington’s Farewell Address, September 17, 1796, remains the greatest political document in American history. While the odds against this claim remain large, they are not helped by the notion that the very first document published on this subject (political “behavior”…

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Gettysburg July 1863

Blowin’ in the Wind

The first stanza of Bob Dylan’s historic 1963 song, which ignited a whole generation, is, How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? How many seas must the white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand? Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever…

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