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.)