Shadi Hamid: The Obama administration might be going through an identity crisis right now trying to decide if it is liberal internationalist or interventionalist. Or realist pragmatist. And there seems to be really a push and pull in the administration over Libya. That’s what’s on a lot of people’s minds. I think there’s a really interesting debate now in Washington, and among Americans in general, about what this type of intervention really means, coming after the Iraq War. The memories of the Iraq War are coming back and that’s the main touch stone that we keep on hearing. It’s really possible sometimes to over-learn the lessons of the last war, and I worry that’s what is happening here. But it seems that the majority of people, especially among commentators and bloggers, are skeptical of this type of intervention; I find myself relatively lonely in this respect perhaps.
Shadi Hamid: The [neoconservatives] are really getting out on this, and being very vocal. This is where we get into a similar dynamic as we did several years ago, where you have this odd alliance. I disagree very strongly with the neocons on a whole range of matters, but I suppose there is some convergence. I doubt that convergence will last a long time, but, at least among American liberals, that’s where you see a lot of skepticism and opposition. Even though there is a phrase for that – “Liberal Interventionst.” Liberals have a proud tradition of advancing human rights and democracy abroad, and humanitarian intervention. But obviously the Iraq War shifted that calculus a little bit.
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Today’s sanctions were predictable after the Mueller indictment, which identified specific Russians involved with the troll factory...However, these individuals are small fish. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the so-called ‘Putin’s chef’ in charge of the Internet Research Agency, was already on the U.S. sanctions list for his activities in Ukraine. The administration deserves credit for following through on their promise to impose new sanctions, but much more still needs to be done to realistically deter Russia.