Mackubin Thomas Owens

Mackubin Thomas Owens is currently professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and also editor of Orbis, the quarterly journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Principle and Prudence in American Foreign Policy

There is much with which to agree in Angelo Codevilla’s thoughtful essay. To the extent that he and I differ, it is with regard to means and not ends. We both agree that U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The result is a weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the…

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Finding Fault in Our National Insecurity

Angelo Codevilla has been a legend in our house since the 1980s when my wife and I first encountered this Renaissance force of nature radiating virtú. Somehow Angelo manages a vineyard in California, a horse ranch in Wyoming, a large, loving family, a prolific academic career, and world travel without strain, indeed with unfailing ebullience.…

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A Trenchant Yet Flawed Analysis of American Foreign Policy

Angelo Codevilla’s analysis of the many problems associated with U.S. foreign policy provides an abundance of important insights. He is devastatingly on the mark when he contends that since the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. officials have transformed the Founders’ emphasis on shielding the American people against external dangers into an arrogant, unattainable objective…

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Benevolent Hegemon, Illiberal, or Too Far Gone Already?

Walter McDougall writes: “Congress and the American people…want to believe their ‘indispensable nation’ can be a ‘benevolent hegemon’ doing good on the cheap and doing well by doing good.” As a description of how Americans view our role among nations, this is arguable. But it is a fair summation of our foreign policy establishment‘s view…

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The South Was Right, the Historians Are Wrong: Taking the Antislavery Origins of the Civil War Seriously

Why did the Southern states choose to secede when Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November of 1860? At the time, Southerners attributed “secession winter” to the fear that Lincoln and the Republicans fully intended to make war on slavery, bypassing the Constitution, which left the issue of slavery to the states. Thus, they believed, their only option was to separate from the Union.

Northern Democrats agreed, contending that Republicans intended to circumvent the Constitution’s prohibition against direct federal action against slavery. Agitation by the “Black Republicans” was responsible for the crisis. The Democrats felt vindicated when Republicans refused to compromise on the extension of slavery into the territories. In addition, the Democrats charged, the Republicans intended to refuse to enforce the fugitive slave law that had been passed in 1850 as part of the Great Compromise.

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The American Rules of War

Lincoln's Code

America’s conflicts since 9/11 have thrust the question of the conduct of war into the public consciousness in a way not seen since Vietnam. What is the difference between a soldier and an unlawful combatant? Is the latter protected by such international agreements as the Geneva Conventions? Can an unlawful combatant claim the protections of the US Constitution, especially the writ of habeas corpus? What limits may be placed on the interrogation of detainees? Most Americans seem to believe that such issues are new and that the laws of war were much once simpler than they are today. But as John…

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