Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias is a senior editor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a former Prospect staff writer, and the author of Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.

Recent Articles

Egypt's Obvious Lesson

The U.S. should stop supporting unpopular but "moderate" regimes in the Middle East just for the sake of stability.

However things turn out in Egypt, the nascent revolution that played out over the past few weeks is a reminder of something that should have been obvious all along: The political status quo in the Middle East is not sustainable and won't be sustained. Egypt, after all, is hardly the only country in the region with an unpopular authoritarian government aligned with and supported by the United States. Nor is it the only state in which American policy-makers fear that the practical alternative to the current leadership is Islamists likely to be unsympathetic to American geopolitical goals. That's Egypt, yes. But it's also Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank, and the small Persian Gulf states. The first problem with the U.S.' foreign-policy approach with these states is that you can't just count on unpopular regimes staying in power forever. And the second problem is that the longer the U.S. government stays in bed with kleptocrats, the more severe popular discontent against the United...

The Constitution in Danger

It's Congress, not the president, that is a threat to democracy.

Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills, Penguin Press, 278 pages, $27.95 The Decline and Fall of the American Republic By Bruce Ackerman, Belknap Press, 270 pages, $25.95 In Bomb Power , the eminent intellectual Garry Wills gives us an entertaining and informative book whose self-proclaimed "basic thesis" is clearly mistaken. The thesis is that the development of nuclear weapons "redefined the presidency as, in all respects, America's 'Commander in Chief'" and "altered our subsequent history down to its deepest constitutional roots." Instead, as the book's own brief history of the Manhattan Project makes plain, nuclear weapons ("the Bomb" as Wills puts it) are a product of the growth of a permanent national-security state and not its cause. Nor is there any mystery about why this national-security state was created. Objective facts of global power politics mandated the creation of a mighty force to defeat Germany and Japan and to face down the...

The Right's Real Problem With ElBaradei

The right hates Mohamed ElBaradei because he was right about Iraq, not because he's wrong for Egypt now.

Mohamed ElBaradei in 2006 (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
It's no surprise that the growing movement for democratic change in Egypt is prompting some mixed feelings on the American right. On the one hand, the conservative movement has gotten deeply invested in rhetorical tropes about "freedom" and "democracy." On the other hand, the conservative movement is deeply hypocritical and mostly likes this rhetoric because it can be used as a club to wield against regimes that stand in the way of our geopolitical aspirations. Hosni Mubarak's Egypt is, on this score, not an anti-American rogue state. It's a client, a lackey, an ideologically and economically exhausted regime eager to do Washington's bidding. Its largest opposition party is the Muslim Brotherhood, one of many religiously inspired, populist, and nationalist movements in the Islamic world with similarities to the religiously inspired, populist, and nationalist movement of the American right. But those similarities are visible only to the American left. Something a bit funny happened on...

The Problem With the Bilateral "Summit"

The United States' long-term interests are much better served by almost any conceivable decision-making process other than so-called G2 summits with China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama after their joint press conference yesterday (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington this week is being widely billed in the media as a "summit" with Barack Obama, and that fact may be more important -- and more disturbing -- than anything that transpires. It's great that Hu is visiting, of course. But the precedent that such visits should be big-time summits in the style of U.S.-Soviet meetings in their heyday and that major issues should be primarily addressed in bilateral fora is a bad one. Embracing "the summit" may seem appealing in the short term, but Sino-American bilateralism is a poor strategy for a world in which China will all but inevitably amass an economy larger than the United States' in the near future. Our long-term interests are much better served by almost any conceivable decision-making process other than so-called G2 summits with China. The short-term frustrations of pursuing a policy of robust multilateralism should not distract attention from the urgent need to do the hard work. The core issue,...

Obama's CEO Problem

The idea that warmer sentiments from CEOs will make the president more popular is ill-conceived.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, whose name has been floated for a possible post in the Obama administration (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
I find it difficult to get worked up about debates over whom the president should pick to succeed Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff or Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council (NEC). These are important jobs, but they're fundamentally staff jobs whose occupants work for the president and have little to no autonomous decision-making authority. Under the circumstances, Barack Obama should pick people he likes, and the only real mystery is what's taking so long. But recent news accounts about the consideration being given to former Commerce Secretary William Daley for the post of chief of staff and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman for the NEC reveal some disturbing things about the White House thought process. In particular, someone or other in the White House keeps telling reporters that these men are appealing options in part because they're former business executives, the sort of thing that "would almost certainly improve icy relations between the Obama...