The End of Bellum

August 29th, 2012

Ordering Chaos

After more than three years of thought pieces, random asides, fun interviews, and general blogging, Bellum is closing up shop. Our “proceedings” are available on in the form of a Kindle book, Ordering Chaos. Mission Accomplished!

The site will remain fully functional. It has been a pleasure. We thank you for reading.

Staff Articles

Condi Rice: The Next Kissinger, Not Romney’s Vice President

July 27th, 2012
Rice = Kissinger (Photo: WEF)

Rice = Kissinger (Photo: WEF)

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and when it’s the season for vice presidential running mates, everybody looks like a vice presidential running mate. There is some evidence Condoleezza Rice could get the nod from Mitt Romney, but it’s pretty thin, and there’s a much stronger case to be made that she has something else in mind for her retirement: statesmanship.

Staff Articles

Special Guest: Ambassador Ryan Crocker

November 7th, 2010
Ambassador Ryan Crocker

Ambassador Ryan Crocker

As the “surge” unfolded in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, two men became the public face of the counterinsurgency campaign: General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. While the former has remained in the spotlight, the latter has quietly retired from a distinguished diplomatic career to Texas A&M University, where he now serves as dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Bellum was lucky enough to catch up with him over the phone.

Tristan Abbey Q&A

Special Guest: Brent Scowcroft

February 18th, 2011

General Brent Scowcroft

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein called him Yoda. Having served in high-level national security-related advisory positions in every single Republican administration since Richard Nixon, General Brent Scowcroft anthropomorphically embodies the concept of “national defense” like no other. Today he joins Bellum for a lengthy interview covering a variety of topics, including:

  • American exceptionalism
  • whether we are like the British Empire
  • preparing for future wars
  • the difference between national problems (e.g., education) and national security threats
  • and the future of the international system.

NOTE: The full transcript can be downloaded here: Transcript of Bellum Interview with Brent Scowcroft.

A sampling is available below:

You are a hero to many people in the national security community.

I doubt that.

Tristan Abbey Q&A

Bellum at Doublethink: The Myth of Britain’s “Managed” Decline

February 14th, 2012

Just up at Doublethink, Bellum senior editor Tristan Abbey skewers the myth that Britain’s imperial decline was anything but disorganized:

Far from “abrupt,” Britain’s retreat from empire unfolded over the course of some three decades. Because the national leadership did not have a consistent or coherent plan for its imperial commitments, a cycle emerged: Britain would reaffirm a determination to maintain its military presence in a certain country and then reverse itself within a few years or even a few months after the political conditions changed or military risks became too great. This happened in Palestine, Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere.

Staff Articles

Interview with Turkish Ambassador — Published in The American Interest

February 14th, 2012

Bellum senior editor Tristan Abbey has a new piece in The American Interest — a conversation with Namik Tan, the ambassador from Turkey to the United States. A sampling:

“We can talk to anyone and everyone you can think of”, he said proudly. “We can talk to everyone in our region. When you go into Iraq, we can, for instance, talk to every single individual group”, regardless of race and ethnicity. “Even if they don’t talk to each other, they talk to us.” Turkey has relations with the Israelis and with the Palestinians, and even within the Palestinian construction, between those in the West Bank and those in Gaza. “This gives us some special unique ability, really, to make our own contribution to regional peace and stability.”

Staff Articles

Bellum at Ricochet

January 31st, 2012

Just up at, a response to the latest chatter about the supposedly impending Israeli airstrike on Iran. Bellum senior editor Tristan Abbey writes:

Everybody assumes it’s just a question of Israeli political will. There is something to that, since any operation would be extremely high-risk and we know that the Israelis value their servicemen’s lives extremely highly; after all, they traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for a single IDF soldier.

Staff Articles

Bellum in The American Interest

December 13th, 2011

Just published today by The American Interest, Bellum senior editor Tristan Abbey’s piece on David Petraeus and the George C. Marshall tradition:

The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s decision in 1983 to grant their own Marshall Award to a young captain named David Petraeus has since proven remarkably prescient. The Washington Post’s resident sage, Walter Pincus, asked this past summer, “Which Petraeus will arrive at the CIA: The officer or the gentleman?” Like so many others, Pincus missed the real heart of the story. Langley and the Pentagon will always be joined at the hip, regardless of who is in charge at the CIA. The better question is whether the Petraeus is the last of Marshall’s generation or the first member of a new generation. If the latter, what fundamental belief about America’s role in the world will bind that new generation?

Staff Articles

Commentary: Why We Cannot Leave

July 21st, 2011
Afghan commandos, a budding force. (Defenselink: Sgt. Daniel P. Shook)

Afghan commandos, a budding force. (Defenselink)

The death of Osama bin Laden has given those against the war in Afghanistan renewed vigor in their push to withdraw all American forces from the country. In addition to driving al-Qaeda and their Taliban hosts into Pakistan, the United States has knocked off their heretofore invincible leader and financial patron.

Having sufficiently crippled al-Qaeda, the Americans can load up the MRAPS and leave the future of the country to be fought over in the snake pit of Afghan politics. These two reasons (the relocation of al-Qaeda and the internal character of the conflict) are sufficient cause for, as Leslie Gelb puts it in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal , the United States to declare “Mission Accomplished” and head home.

Leonardo Gomez Articles

Special Guest: Mitchell Reiss on Thinking Big

June 14th, 2011
Dr. Mitchell Reiss

Dr. Mitchell Reiss

Mitchell Reiss has worked in foreign policy for decades. He served as the director of policy planning at the State Department under Colin Powell, as Special Envoy for the Northern Ireland Peace Process from 2003 to 2007, and as an advisor to Governor Mitt Romney on national security issues during the 2008 campaign. Now the president of Washington College, situated comfortably in small-town Maryland just over an hour from the nation’s capital, Dr. Reiss granted Bellum an interview in his office in late April.

“This is a more difficult job than the ones I’ve held in government,” he said without hesitation. He described a jam-packed day that included several on-campus events — the first at 7 o’clock in the morning, the last at 5 o’clock in the evening — and then a panel discussion in Washington. The students, faculty, donors, parents, and local community present a formidable “array of constituencies that you have to be mindful of,” he explained, and unlike in government, where very few positions don’t have you reporting directly up a chain of command, as a college president “you are the final line of authority.”

Tristan Abbey Q&A

Note from Admin: Amina Arraf

June 10th, 2011


In April of this year, Bellum posted a series of “dispatches” from a woman allegedly named Amina Arraf, who we believed was living in Damascus. It increasingly appears that this was not the case. In fact, there are serious doubts as to her location and even identity, and many are suggesting her entire persona as an American-born Syrian blogging live from the revolution was an elaborate hoax. I apologize that she was not more thoroughly vetted. It will not happen again.

Tristan Abbey, Senior Editor

Tristan Abbey Articles

Special Guest: Michael Mukasey on Law, Terror & America

May 9th, 2011
The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey

The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey

Few can claim as much knowledge and experience in the intersection of national security and the law as Michael Mukasey. He served as Attorney General from November 2007 to January 2009 after spending 18 years on the bench as a federal judge in New York. Cases over which he presided included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the trial of Jose Padilla. He is now a partner at the Manhattan law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and joined Bellum for an interview last March.

National security issues once consumed “easily thirty percent” of his job. Mukasey received a security briefing every day and once a week followed up that briefing with a meeting with President Bush on related matters. In addition, there were applications to the FISA Court, dealing with surveillance and wiretapping of suspected terrorists.

Tristan Abbey Q&A