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U.S. foreign policy is full of those kinds of devils, policies that sound good on paper but are practically impossible to translate into a concrete success. And yet the policies survive regardless, taking on a life of their own. Take a look at these three examples.


The foreign policy business can be an unsatisfying line of work. The ideal is very often out of reach, and many times the best result is staving off the worst from happening. The world has a funny way of making the most thought-out and fully-vetted policy look foolish and turning some of the most experienced government officials into amateurs.


Yet five years after the sanctions were put into effect, it has become abundantly obvious over time that financial penalties will not compel the Russians to hand over the Black Sea peninsula back to Ukraine. To do so would be unthinkable for Russian President Vladimir Putin, both because he is the godfather of the annexation and because doing so would likely encourage U.S. presidents in the future to double down on economic pressure. U.S. policy, however, is the same as it ever was: sanctions will remain as long as Moscow doesn’t reverse its annexation. U.S.-Russia relations are therefore stuck in limbo and weighed down by a fantasy obxtive. Whether we like it or not, Crimea is now a part of Mother Russia—and it will remain that way as long as Washington and its European allies aren’t creative in their search for a diplomatic resolution.

这样做对俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔 · 普京来说是不可想象的,一方面因为他是吞并克里米亚始作俑者,另一方面因为这样做可能会鼓励美国总统在未来加倍施加经济压力。


2. North Korea’s Denuclearization: U.S. policy with respect to North Korea has been the same for decades: if Pyongyang wants full political and economic normalization with the United States and its neighbors, it needs to relinquish its nuclear weapons program and provide the international community with full, uninterrupted transparency. Until such a time as the Kim regime makes that strategic decision, the sanctions will continue and indeed tighten as necessary.

2. 朝鲜无核化:

This policy was set in stone in the early 1990’s, when North Korea’s nuclear program was at an infantile stage. At that time, Pyongyang didn’t have a single nuclear weapon in its inventory. But if denuclearization was a feasible prospect three decades ago, it’s about as likely today as a man climbing Mt. Everest with nothing on but his underpants. 2019 is not 1991; with every year that has passed, the Kim regime has made additional advancements in its plutonium and enrichment capabilities and increased its knowledge base. In 2006, Pyongyang conducted its first underground nuclear test, a symbolic milestone solidifying the North as a nuclear weapons state. Five nuclear weapons tests and 13 years later, North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile could be as high as 60 warheads. And yet the U.S. position remains fixed to the past as if the world was stuck in a bygone era.

现在是2019年,不是1991了, 随着时间的推移,金政权在钚和浓缩能力方面取得了进一步的进展,并增加了其知识基础。


And yet Washington’s policy in Syria continues to be geared towards regime change in Damascus. U.S. reconstruction assistance is tied directly to Assad’s willingness to reform politically. U.S. troops have been rerouted to Deir ez-Zor in order to keep Syria’s oil fields out of the regime’s control, the theory being that Assad will eventually become so desperate for these resources that he will either cooperate in a political transition or vacate the scene for a happy retirement. Washington is still wedded to the possibility of a Syrian parliamentary democracy emerging from the ashes. Reality will have to wait another day.



Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities, a foreign policy organization focused on promoting a realistic grand strategy to ensure American security and prosperity.

作者丹尼尔 · 德佩特里斯 ( Daniel DePetris) 是国防优先组织 Defense Priorities) 的一名成员,该外交政策组织致力于推动一项现实的宏大战略,以确保美国的安全和繁荣。