Follow us on social


Responsible Statecraft 2021: Top 5 most-read articles of the year

This was a see-saw year with major headlines emphasizing the volatility of US relationships with the world. Our most popular stories reflect that.

Analysis | Washington Politics

The year 2021 was a see-saw in the classic sense: the Biden Administration accomplished the incredible feat of withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

Yet on many other fronts, stasis: the new president has failed to return the United States to the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal; tensions with Russia and China remain the same or are in many cases worse, and the crippling war in Yemen continues. Promises by the administration to stop assistance to the Saudi coalition in order to help bring about an end to that war, have gone unfulfilled.

In many ways the most-read articles on Responsible Statecraft tin 2021 mirror those major foreign policy issues and audience interest in them, with the added bonus that they provide analysis not usually found in mainstream, establishment outlets. Below are the Top 5.

Other popular pieces not on that list nonetheless reflect the concerns and outrages of the day, as well as some of the best reporting RS had on offer. This included Eli Clifton (#6) uncovering the defense industry ties held by a majority of task force members advising the president to stay in Afghanistan, and Nick Turse (#13), who found a surprising number of U.S. commandos stationed in Europe today. Annelle Sheline (#14) explored some interesting connections between American Exceptionalism in Iraq and this year's Hollywood blockbuster, "Dune," and Rachel Odell slammed Washington rhetoric painting China as a threat to the "world order" (#17). On the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, John Mueller started a big debate suggesting the U.S. should have never invaded Afghanistan in the first place (#20).

Check out our five most read articles of 2021:

#1 Trita Parsi : Revealed: How Biden rejected a reasonable way forward in Iran Deal talks (Aug. 20)

The White House reportedly wouldn’t commit to staying in the deal for the remainder of the president’s term.

#2 Jim Lobe : Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 (Oct. 20)

It should be no surprise then that Americans were shocked at the speed at which the U.S.-backed Afghan army and government collapsed and the Taliban returned to power in Kabul in a rout.

#3 Anatol Lieven: What war with Russia over Ukraine would really look like (Nov. 24)

In recent statements, Moscow seems much more realistic about the consequences of actual conflict with Kiev and Western powers.

#4 Anatol Lieven: The generals lied and the fantasy died(Aug. 16)

H.R. McMaster and other apologists for the failed policy in Afghanistan would like us to focus on anything but their complicity in it today.

#5 Alex de Waal: Ethiopia: Salvaging a failing state(Nov. 10)

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has lost the war; the time has come for a ceasefire to negotiate the country’s future. (A more recent update by de Waal explores how Abiy was able to turn the tide in a matter of weeks.)

An Afghan man rests in his shop as he sell U.S. second hand materials outside Bagram U.S. air base, after American troops vacated it, in Parwan province, Afghanistan July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo
Analysis | Washington Politics
Ukraine-Poland row exposes history, limits of devotion
Credit: Polish President Andrzej Duda (Shutterstock/BikerBarakuss) and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (Shutterstock/Oleksandr Osipov)

Ukraine-Poland row exposes history, limits of devotion


The vitriolic dispute between Poland and Ukraine brings out some aspects of the West’s approach to the war in Ukraine that the Ukrainian government would do well to study carefully.

The dispute originated in charges by Poland and other central European governments that Ukraine’s greatly increased grain exports to Europe — a consequence of the Russian closure of the Black Sea to Ukrainian maritime trade — were flooding European markets and depressing prices for Polish and other farmers.

keep readingShow less
Rep. Gerry Connolly

Rep. Gerry Connolly, screengrab via

How members of Congress can take on Iran hawks

Middle East

During a recent House hearing on “Iran’s escalating threats,” a Democratic lawmaker completely dismantled all the myths opponents of diplomacy peddle about Iran and its nuclear program.

The hearing was dominated by hawkish voices on Iran, who urged for increasing pressure and spurned any diplomatic engagement. The only exception was Suzanne Maloney from the Brookings Institute, who took a more moderate stance.

keep readingShow less
Brazil is showing us how to avoid a new cold war

President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Lula. photo: White House

Brazil is showing us how to avoid a new cold war

Latin America

When the BRICS grouping held its annual summit in late August, it was widely covered as a portentous affair that signaled a ripening challenge to the U.S.-led global order.

For the first time, the group expanded considerably, reflecting a growing ambition not necessarily shared by each original member. It was reasonable to wonder whether a robust challenge to U.S. hegemony was imminent.

keep readingShow less

Ukraine War Crisis