As a frequent observer of foreign elections, I’m an even more frequent recipient of quips to the effect that “They should send observers over here.” It started in earnest following Florida’s 2000 presidential election hanging chad fiasco and has never really let up. And each time I explain to the quipster that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — a group in which the U.S. plays a leading role, despite its name — does actually send observers to our elections. It’s just that no one here pays much attention to what they say (not, mind you, that…


The San Francisco School Board and the public’s trust

A recent arrival to my email inbox urged support for members of the San Francisco School Board currently facing threat of recall. The Board has been the object of substantial, mostly unwelcome national attention over the past few years. Having previously voted to remove a WPA-era mural of George Washington from the high school bearing his name, it more recently opted to rename that school and 43 others, including Abraham Lincoln High School — at a time when students were not physically attending any of those schools. …


The first public notice of Joe Biden’s era of the war he inherited as commander-in-chief came nine days into his presidency. The New York Times headline read, “U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq.” Mind you, this notice was nothing major, the headline appearing on page nine — on a Saturday. We might think that the paper of record was doing the Defense Department or the new administration a bit of a favor in burying the story, but the fact is that it’s been years since the Iraq War has been much more than background noise for most Americans…


The January 6 failure of the Capitol police to block the entry of a mob bent on reversing the result of the presidential election altered many perceptions. Some Americans were seeing QAnoners in the light of day for the first time. Some scattered newly woke Republicans even decided they now wanted to give Donald Trump the bum’s rush. Outside the country, there are entire nations that will never take the U.S. quite so seriously again. …


There’ll be a lot fewer cranberries and culture clashes at this year’s virtual/zoom/quarantined Thanksgiving dinners — the loss of something that’s become tradition over a wide swath of households on this most American of holidays. Among the clashes, that especially volatile variant — the first encounters between newly radicalized college freshmen and their as yet unradicalized relatives. There will, then, be far fewer discussions about the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and George Floyd’s nationally witnessed killing by a Minneapolis police officer, than there would have been in a normal year.

We can, nonetheless, easily imagine various tracks for such conversations…


Before he is extracted from the White House, it appears that Donald Trump may try to implement all of the bad ideas he didn’t get around to in the past four years — attacking Iran, drilling in the Arctic, with others no doubt to come. There is one of his lame duck proposals, however, that is a good idea. In fact, his plan to cut the number of American troops in Afghanistan is actually a very good idea.

Anyone who wants to call Donald Trump the most unqualified person to ever serve as president, along with the most personally despicable…


In Donald Trump, the dove and the hawk closely intertwine, sometimes appearing simultaneously. On a recent day the San Francisco Chronicle noted “his plan to withdraw all troops from Iraq as soon as possible,” only inches away from reporting his administration’s “demand for all U.N. sanctions on Iran to be restored.” The latter story concluded by noting that “Joe Biden has said he would try to revive the [no Iran nuclear weapons] agreement.” The Democratic presidential candidate went unmentioned in the first story, however. Joe Biden should do something about that.

That should not actually be all that difficult, since…


The Russian hackers are coming! Again! They’re about as bad as capitalists as they were as communists, ain’t they? What now? There it was in the headline: Russia accused of a plot to steal vaccine research. Britain’s National Cyber Security Center director denounced the “despicable acts” and a Silicon Valley intelligence analyst warned, “The whole pandemic is absolutely riddled with spies.” Any surprise that China and Iran are also accused of the like? The motive behind this hacking of Britain, Canada, and of course the U.S.? Apparently the Russians are trying improve their own Covid-19 vaccine research and avoid vaccine…


May as well get right to the point — so far as the matter of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Germany goes, Donald Trump is right. The House Armed Services Committee is wrong — its Democratic members even more so than its Republicans. So there, I’ve said it. Elections tend to make absolutists of us all, maybe none more so than presidential elections, and perhaps none of them more than this one. In the heat of a campaign, siding with the opposition on a controversial question can seem a form of political treason. I expect there’s already people who’ve…


Dig deep into the June issue of National Geographic magazine and you might just find something that will cast a major aspect of American foreign policy — our economic sanctions regimes — in a new light. The issue’s cover story, “The Last Voices of World War II,” includes a graphic showing the death tolls of the various nations in that war’s European and Pacific Theaters. Unfold that graphic and you’ll find an even more interesting one within — “Peaks of Brutality,” which displays the “100 deadliest events of the past 2,500 years.” World War II’s 66 million deaths (an estimate…

Tom Gallagher

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