Christopher Caldwell

Friction between patricians and populists

The Republican Party appears to be going through dire straits. However, what on the surface may look like a full-on implosion is actually more of a rift within an already existing coalition of interests.

Checkpoint Europe
The huddled masses at Europe’s gates

The EU is struggling find common ground on how to deal with the growing migrant crisis. A strategy for accommodating the new arrivals should begin by acknowledging that they may never assimilate and thus will risk transforming Europe irrevocably.

What Trump really means

He may be just a political flash in the pan, but Donald Trump’s rise in the wake of his many politically incorrect comments speaks volumes about the current identity crisis afflicting the Republican Party.

L’Americain le petit

France’s conservatives are trying to rebrand. While the new name might strike some as aping the Americans, the French see it more as a re-appropriation of their historic ideals.

Europe’s boat people
Human traffickers as liberators

It’s convenient and politically safe to blame the disastrous recent wave of migrants on unscrupulous human traffickers. But in doing so we ignore the real strategic problem of migration as such.

Congressional interference, a time-honored tradition

As the Obama administration works toward a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the US Congress is clamoring about its constitutional mandate to approve the treaty – though not loudly enough for some.

United States
Democratic dynasties

The next presidential elections in the United States may bring either a Bush or a Clinton into the White House. What that says about the democratic process is disheartening at best.

Islam’s Thirty Years’ War
Permission to fight the unmentionable enemy

While the Obama administration asks permission for what it already has the power to do, it spends an inordinate amount of political capital insisting the Islamic State is not Islamic.

Cuba libre
The fine art of non-enforcement

With Obama’s move to open to Havana, he has again shown his penchant for circumventing recalcitrant legislators and opposition.

Bye-bye superbanks
Another shock in the making

A new analysis about the subprime crisis points the finger at legislation based on misguided goals. If this is accurate, then we can expect more trouble to come. 

The right tune
From lame duck to anti-democrat

After taking a drubbing at the midterm election, Obama has decided, in the absence of congressional consensus, to enact immigration reform through executive action. There is a big chance it will backfire.

The sanctions boomerang

In order to contain Russia, the US and Europe have imposed economic sanctions. But such punishment risks undermining the very ground upon which US power is based.

Outrage-based strategy

Obama’s balking at strategy is worrisome enough. But even more dangerous might be a tendency to build a strategy that merely reacts to a wave of moral outrage – a wave that may pass much more quickly than the difficulties on the ground.

Jeff Bezos tracing new directions
Playing with Fire

Rather than “reach out and touch someone,” the new Amazon Fire Phone is urging its potential owners to reach out and buy something – cheaper. Retail may never be same again.

High-tech search and seizure

Recent blowback from breaches in privacy have led many global internet companies to suddenly champion national sovereignty. Their concerns aim more to protect bottom lines than ensure customers’ privacy.

World war
Hey, big spender

Alarms are ringing in NATO countries, but not loud enough for any of them to raise their defense budgets. As the rest of the world grows in economic and military might, the West’s ability to influence and defend will diminish.

­­­The battle for Europe
Obama’s grand theory

Ignoring the complicated reality of history in favor of vague ideas is a dangerous approach to foreign policy. The US president seems to be undermining America’s status in Europe and the rest of the world.

Full throttle Putin
The Facebook foreign policy

It is easy to “like” the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine. But such a preference cannot substitute a coherent American foreign policy based on clear objectives and, most importantly, an understanding of others’ fears and goals.

World economy
Ketchup aspirations

Argentina’s economy seems to always be a step behind the ideas meant to either get it humming or out of a hole. The latest devaluation of the peso will again force policy-makers to catch up to events.

Business and ethics
An expensive windfall

Despite their legal troubles – or perhaps because of how those troubles have played out – JPMorgan and other big banks have shown that they are now inextricably intertwined with the mechanics of government.

The year of Europe
Xenophobia at the polls
It may not be politically correct to complain too loudly about immigration getting out of control, but the parties that do are gaining ground, and it looks as if Europeans have had enough.  



Holy glasnost
Glasnost without perestroika

The Catholic Church is bracing itself for a new era of openness initiated by Pope Francis. But will the openness lead to structural reform? And if so, at what risk?

Angela the Great
The familiar statesman

Fresh off her landslide win in the German elections, Angela Merkel begins her third term as both a familiar face and a figure with a track record of unpredictability.

De-globalized manufacturing
Get used to cheap labor

What many refer to as de-globalization is more accurately the next stage of globalization carried to its logical conclusion: labor will either be re-priced so manufacturing can return, or it will continue to flee to cheaper markets.

Cold War redux
Bama and Vova chilling out

Disagreements between Russia and the US may smack of a renewed Cold War, but the reality is that neither country has the inclination or wherewithal to resume such gelid relations.

Big Data
Big Data does it better

There are certain tasks, such as national security, that the government is expected to do best. In the age of internet, however, some elements of those tasks can be done more efficiently by private entities. No wonder the government is looking for collaborators.

Why the economy needs fat ducks
 on complexity


Lending money for profit used to be simple business. Things get complicated when banks need to circumvent certain restrictions. In the wake of the financial crisis, this is clearer than ever.

The evolution of big pharma

Obama’s healthcare policy, new government research programs and a general trend toward outsourcing research have all contributed to a shift in how the pharmaceutical industry conducts business.

The people’s pastor

Catholic popes have always been heavyweight political figures. With the choice of a non-European pontiff, who embraces humility and poverty, the Church is performing a delicate balancing act as its demographic center of gravity shifts south and west.

The graying of the great powers
Migration economics

Demographic changes through migration from country to country have usually been driven by the poor seeking opportunities in wealthier lands. Now there is a trend toward piloting demography by treating residency as an exchangeable good.

Laying out a legacy
In his own image

President Obama’s new cabinet reflects his insular tendencies and paradoxical ideology – or lack thereof. Can his team serve to crystallize a cohesive doctrine as historic as his own presidency?

Looking for stability
Morsi’s case

What many Egypt-watchers see as a stab at authoritarianism, may upon closer inspection be merely an attempt to get around a political impasse in the best of Western democratic traditions.

Realigning a divided America
Closer to compromise

Although the balance of power in Washington seems the same as before the elections, a combination of momentum and genuine peril should force concessions in the deadlocked debt negotiations.

Swimming upstream
The night the Western lights went out in Georgia

With the defeat of Mikheil Saakashvili – the hero of the Rose Revolution – Georgia has turned away from the West and accepted the need for better relations with Russia.

Choosing heads
In need of a GPS

Both candidates in the US presidential elections seem lost as they try to navigate the globalized economy. The absence of new ideas only adds to the high level of electoral frustration.

Global crisis
When creditors get burned

When the economy in Iceland collapsed, the response was brazen: leave investors in the lurch and renege on all obligations. While cynics may see the benefits of such an approach, one can be thankful that most troubled governments are loath to emulate such a model.­

The Constitution: a safeguard and spoke in the wheel

No politician wants to be accused of undermining the US Constitution. But much of the wheeling and dealing needed to let corporations grow often comes at the cost of running counter to its spirit.

Why the aerospace industry matters
Attack of the drones

Despite Obama’s pledge to hold America’s military to higher moral standards, his secret drone war may be opening an ethical Pandora’s box, especially as other countries acquire the technology.

Conservatives groping in the twilight
Growing pains

For all the talk of Republicans in crisis, one mustn’t ignore a deep vein of conservatism in America. The GOP is currently in a transition phase that may have negative repercussions – but only in the short term.

The other side of the German question

Most non-German commentators have portrayed Berlin as inflexible and obsessed with imposing austerity on its partners. The view from Germany, however, is much more nuanced.

Buffing up American cities
Riding the Latino wave

The rapidly growing Hispanic population may be troubling to some in the US, but ultimately this new wave is one of the main forces keeping the country competitive and full of youthful energy.

Putin on the defensive
Still waiting for the thaw

Russia’s relationship with the US has soured since the legislative elections. Whatever happens, it is important to remember that “becoming Western” may not necessarily be what Russians need or want.

­­The geopolitics of religion
Europe’s problematic freedom of religion

In Europe the most ardently practiced faith is now a foreign one. With too much freedom, Europeans feel threatened. Too much regulation, and the freedom rings hollow.

Watching Europe sink

From the other side of the Atlantic, Europe’s travails hark back to Americans’ own loss of state identification. But the sheer weight of the Old Continent’s history risks taking the world under with it.

Debt’s children
Between nurseries and nursing homes

Democracies are held hostage by demography. In the US, the aging Baby Boomers may need to impose their will on a freshly assimilated wave of newcomers.

The West still schools the world
The souring of homogenized education

For decades an American or British university education was a prerequisite for entrée into the world’s elite. But the emerging economies have caught up and are about to dispense with the West’s approval and train themselves.

After the fall who will pick up the pieces?
A relic of the past

Gaddafi has been in power for longer than most leaders in contemporary history. An icon of stability and tyranny, as well as the double face of international relations, he has now been swept away. What replaces him will condition the West’s agenda.

America’s friendly neighborhood pariah

The US embargo on Cuba is still in effect, and few who count are clamoring for it to be lifted. Either it will wither away gradually, or the discovery of oil will expedite matters.

Security handover in Afghanistan
Trusting your enemy

The world has changed since plans of rebuilding Afghanistan were put in place. Now strategic thinking needs to address the economic shortfalls of the military commitment. Yet a balance must be achieved so as not to give the impression of defeat.

Yes he did
But for a miracle of loaves and fish

Despite a modest upswing in popularity, Obama still has to deal with the reality of not just a lame recovery, but a weary and disabused electoral base no longer prone to euphoric slogans.

State of the Union
Obama’s problem with Europe

For a man anchored in the Pacific region, it might seem odd that the US President is so appreciated across the Atlantic. An overview of some of his approaches toward Europe and its leaders gives a picture of nonchalance, which may betray a lack of empathy.