Despite a media campaign trying to offload neoconservative Elliott Abrams onto the Trump administration, and considerable pressure from within the cabinet to appoint him Deputy Secretary of State, President Trump has decided against including the controversial interventionist and Iraq war supporter in his administration.
Like virtually all of his fellow neoconservatives, Abrams disdained Trump’s unwillingness to kowtow to our alleged “allies” and sneered at him for his supposed “ignorance.”
Media accounts – see here and here – attribute this to Trump being “thin-skinned” – Abrams was highly critical of Trump during the presidential campaign, as I pointed out on Twitter. But this is a remarkably superficial analysis of what really went on, for Abrams’ critique of Trump was that of a globalist who is unalterably opposed to Trump’s “America First” foreign policy views.
Abrams’ name had been mentioned before, but it seemed hard to believe that Trump would want one of his most vehement critics in his administration. The “good” news is that Bolton won’t be getting the job after all, but in his place will be someone with an equally awful foreign policy record and similarly warped judgment. Abrams is a Bush administration veteran and one of the most committed Iraq war dead-enders. He has the added distinction of having been involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, and withheld information from Congress when they were investigating it. Putting him in an important foreign policy position gives us strong evidence that Trump and Tillerson both have poor judgment, and it tells us that we should expect that the administration’s foreign policy will become even more aggressive and meddlesome than it already has been.
We already know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.
All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.
Speculation is unnecessary. All that’s required is a little knowledge of recent history. Ten years ago, I published “The Shock Doctrine,” a history of the ways in which crises have been systematically exploited over the last half century to further a radical pro-corporate agenda. The book begins and ends with the response to Hurricane Katrina, because it stands as such a harrowing blueprint for disaster capitalism.
[…] Even though Trump never used the term “neocon” in the course of bashing U.S. foreign policy, his fanbase likely assumed that part of “draining the swamp” consisted of kicking the “crazies” out of Washington. Unfortunately, this was merely a fantasy on par with Obama’s “Hope” and “Change,” but on the opposite end of the spectrum.
While most Trump supporters had their attention turned to Clinton’s brash hawkishness, they failed to notice that some of the craziest of the neoconservative Bush-era war hawks in Washington had split off from the pro-Clinton neocon consensus and favored Trump. Some examples of this include Michael Ledeen, Bill Bennett, Frank Gaffney, John Bolton, and James Woolsey, signatories to the Project for the New American Century, a think tank co-founded by Kagan during the Clinton administration. PNAC is widely known for developing the roadmap for George W. Bush’s foreign policy agenda that led to the illegal Iraq War and the invasion of Afghanistan. A total of 17 PNAC signatories assumed official positions in the Bush administration.
After Trump’s shocking win on Election Day, the media started heavily focusing on the more cartoonish side of Trump’s rumored transition team leaders, like Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee. It became clear almost immediately that while the people generally known as the “crazies” might be gone, the “even-craziers” — specifically, Bolton, Gaffney, and Woolsey — were waiting in line for their Trump Cabinet appointments.
Neoconservatives spent months attacking Donald Trump, arguing that he has been insufficiently supportive of overseas military intervention. But the news that he is considering a former Bush administration superhawk to lead the State Department is persuading some that Trump is willing to give war a chance.
It is heavily rumored that former Bush U.N. Ambassador John Bolton — a man who has been a vocal advocate of attacking Iran — may be picked as Trump’s nominee to head the State Department. Bolton was critical of some of Trump’s remarks earlier in the campaign, but later came to his side.
Some of Trump’s loyal supporters reacted to the rumor with outrage. Longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone Jr., who has in the past served as a sort of confidante for Trump, noted that the candidate defeated the neoconservatives and thus advised him to repel them from their attempts to join the team.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who supported Trump as part of his pledge to support the GOP nominee, wrote an opinion piece on Rare headlined “Will Donald Trump betray voters by hiring John Bolton?” that “one of the things I occasionally liked about the President-elect was his opposition to the Iraq war and regime change.” But, Paul wrote, “At a time when Americans thirst for change and new thinking, Bolton is an old hand at failed foreign policy. The man is a menace.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, has joined Donald Trump’s transition team to work on national security issues. Trump’s campaign has denied that Gaffney is officially part of the transition, and the New York Times is reporting that Trump is merely relying on “advice” from Gaffney.
Either way, this is an extremely bad sign. Every society has people like Gaffney, but in healthy, functioning democracies they live quietly in their parents’ basements, free to play with action figures and construct intricate fantasy worlds without hurting anyone else.
In 2016 America, however, Gaffney is now sitting at the right hand of the president-elect.
Despite his professed opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, President-elect Donald Trump is considering several of the major advocates of that war for top national security posts in his administration, according to Republican officials.
Among those who could find places on Trump’s team are former top State Department official John Bolton and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey. Both men championed the Iraq invasion, which many analysts have called one of the major U.S. foreign policy debacles of modern times.
Also involved in transition planning for Trump’s presidency is Frederick Fleitz, a top aide to Bolton who earlier worked at the CIA unit that validated much of the flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Although it is impossible to predict how a Trump foreign policy might evolve, one U.S. official who has served in Iraq said advocates of the 2003 invasion might be more inclined to commit additional U.S. forces to the fight against Islamic State there, despite the absence of a status of forces agreement that protects Americans from Iraqi legal action.
Like no other part of the Republican establishment, the party’s foreign policy luminaries joined in opposition to the idea of a Donald J. Trump presidency.
Loyal Republicans who served in the two Bush administrations, they appeared on television and wrote op-eds blasting him. They aligned under a “Never Trump” banner and signed a letter saying they were “convinced that he would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
For his part, President-elect Trump has maligned them as bumbling and myopic, architects of “a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.”
The coming weeks will determine whether both sides decide they need each other.
On the establishment side, the opposition is now softening for some — driven either by a stated sense of patriotic duty to advise a new president with no foreign policy expertise, or a somewhat less noble motive to avoid years of being excluded from Washington power circles.
“Never Trump” has become “Maybe Trump.” But whether he would have them is another matter.
Founding editor of Jacobin Magazine Bhaskar Sunkara and Paul Jay discuss what could happen during a Trump presidency, the consequences of the election for the Democrats and the possibility of a reinvigorated Sanders-like insurgency in 2018. (The Real News)
In a little over two months, Donald Trump – after his shocking victory last night – will control a vast, unaccountable national security and military apparatus unparalleled in world history. The nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalised it – and it will soon be in the hands of a maniac.
It will go down in history as perhaps President Obama’s most catastrophic mistake.
The Obama administration could have prosecuted torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration and sent an unmistakable message to the world: torture is illegal and unconscionable. Instead the president said they would “look forward, not backward”, basically turning a clear felony into a policy dispute. Trump has bragged that he will bring back torture – waterboarding and “much worse”. He has talked about killing the innocent family members of terrorists, openly telling the world he will commit war crimes.
Now that Trump will take the reins of our various Middle East wars in January, who’s going to stop him from following through on his heinous proposals?
Neocon war hawk and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton previews the foreign policy of a Donald Trump administration. (Fox News)
Paul Jay speaks to news reporter from Indiana Amber Stearns and investigative journalist Allan Nairn. Stearns says that Pence is allied with the religious right in Indiana and is a climate change denier, while Nairn says that Trump’s VP Pence was a close ally of Cheney in Congress and holds the same foreign policy views. (The Real News)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said his vice-presidential role model would be Dick Cheney.
“I frankly hold Dick Cheney in very high regard in his role as vice president,” Pence said when asked in an interview with ABC that aired on Sunday who his vice-presidential role model would be.
Donald Trump‘s running mate asserted that he would be “a very active vice president” like Cheney, who served under President George W. bush.
[…] Cheney is largely regarded as one of the more powerful vice presidents in recent history. He played a prominent role in reshaping America’s national-security apparatus and foreign-policy vision following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but also fleshed out the details of many of Bush’s domestic-policy initiatives, occasionally without his knowledge.
The former George W. Bush administration official who is often referred to as the “architect” of the Iraq War says he will likely end up voting for Hillary Clinton for president this fall.
Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense under President Bush from 2001-2005, told the English-language version of the German newspaper Der Spiegel that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump represents a security risk for the U.S. and that his praise for strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is “pretty disturbing.”
“The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says. That’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be in,” Wolfowitz said. “Our security depends on having good relationships with our allies. Trump mainly shows contempt for them.”
Because he is so uncomfortable with Trump, Wolfowitz said he would likely vote for Clinton, albeit grudgingly.
In a seemingly full-throated promise to voters in Scranton, Pa. on Monday, Hillary Clinton said adding “American ground troops” in the war against ISIS in Syria “is off the table.”
But every message coming from her surrogates in the media and in the Washington defense establishment has been that she will “lean in” harder in Syria, and whether you want to call it “added ground troops” or something else, everyone in her orbit is calling for expanded U.S. intervention—including personnel and firepower—in the region, even at the risk of confrontation with Russia.
For weeks, a parade of high-stepping national-security officials—some barely out of government service—have been rattling their sabers passionately for a Hillary Clinton presidency. From Michael Vickers, a former intelligence official most celebrated for his promotion of hunt-to-kill operations in the War on Terror, to (Ret.) Gen. John Allen and ex-CIA Chief Mike Morrell, there is a growing backbench of Washington establishment macho men—and women—who testify to Clinton’s “run it up the gut” security chops, and more than one has noted her well-publicized break with President Obama on Syria. She, of course, having been more hawkish than the other from the start.
Her advisors say Syria will take top priority in her first days in office, and, in addition to ISIS, President Bashar Assad must go. So it is important to examine what a real Clinton Syria policy might look like despite her rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Bill Kristol is downright despondent after his failed search for an alternative to Donald Trump. Max Boot is indignant about his “stupid” party’s willingness to ride a bragging bull into a delicate China policy shop. And the leading light of the first family of military interventionism – Robert Kagan – is actually lining up Neoconservatives behind the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
At the same time, the Democrats have become the party of bare-knuckled, full-throated American Exceptionalism. That transformation was announced with a vein-popping zeal by retired general and wannabe motivational screamer John Allen at the Democratic convention in the City of Brotherly Love. During his “speech,” a few plaintive protests of “no more war” were actually drowned-out by Democrats chanting “USA-USA-USA!”
This is the same Democratic Party often criticized by Kagan & Co. as the purveyors of timidity, flaccidity, and moral perfidy. It’s not that Democrats haven’t dropped bombs, dealt arms, and overturned regimes. They have. And they’ve even got the Peace Prize-winning Obama-dropper to prove it. But unlike enthusiastically belligerent Republicans, the Dems are supposed to be the party that does it, but doesn’t really like to do it.
But now, they’ve got Hillary Clinton. And she’s weaponized the State Department. She really likes regime change. And her nominating convention not only embraced the military, but it sanctified the very Gold Star families that Neocon-style interventionism creates. It certainly created the pain of the Khan family who lost their son in the illegal war in Iraq. But the Dems didn’t mention that sad fact as they grabbed the flag away from the Republicans.
As Hillary Clinton puts together what she hopes will be a winning coalition in November, many progressives remain wary — but she has the war-hawks firmly behind her.
“I would say all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump,” leading neoconservative Robert Kagan told a group gathered around him, groupie-style, at a “foreign policy professionals for Hillary” fundraiser I attended last week. “I would say that a majority of people in my circle will vote for Hillary.”
As the co-founder of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century, Kagan played a leading role in pushing for America’s unilateral invasion of Iraq, and insisted for years afterwards that it had turned out great.
Despite the catastrophic effects of that war, Kagan insisted at last week’s fundraiser that U.S. foreign policy over the last 25 years has been “an extraordinary success.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s know-nothing isolationism has led many neocons to flee the Republican ticket. And some,like Kagan, are actively helping Clinton, whose hawkishness in many ways resembles their own.
Sharmini Peries speaks to economist Michael Hudson who says Donald Trump’s divergence from the conventional Republican platform is generating indignant punditry from neocons and neoliberals alike. (The Real News)
- Trump’s NATO remarks ‘put him on the same page with Mr.Putin’
- Donald Trump angers NATO allies and GOP foreign policy establishment
- Does Trump Have a Subversive Partnership With Putin’s Propaganda Machine?
- U.S. Media Blames Putin Conspiracy for Homegrown Trump Phenomenon
- Paul Krugmann: Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate
- Anne Applebaum: How a Trump presidency could destabilize Europe
- Lindsey Graham Slams Trump’s NATO Policy: Putin Is ‘A Very Happy Man’
- Garry Kasparov: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin’s enabler
- Pravda: Will Trump become Russia’s best friend?
The war on Iraq won’t be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.
To understand the Iraq war you don’t need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.
Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair’s plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student’s website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister’s bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair’s speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?
Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.
The American diplomat tasked with leading the occupation of Iraq in 2003 has backed several key criticisms made by Britain’s Chilcot inquiry despite a defiant response to its report from former president George W Bush and other Republicans.
Writing in the Guardian, Paul Bremer – who administered the coalition provisional authority (CPA) in the months after the war – agreed that prewar planning by both US and UK governments was “inadequate” and accused political leaders of ignoring internal warnings.
“The [Chilcot] commission noted that that ‘bad tidings’ tended not to be heard in London,” he said. “The same was true in Washington. Before the war, a few American military officers suggested the need for a substantial post-conflict military presence. They were not heard.”
Bremer also sharply criticised the failure of western forces to prevent looting in Iraq after the invasion and unrealistic troop commitments made by political leaders in Washington and London.
- Paul Bremer: Washington hadn’t prepared for the aftermath of war
- ‘Better off overthrowing Saddam’ says former American administrator of Iraq
- Report Cites Americans for Purging Baath Party Members
- UK foreign secretary: US decision on Iraqi army led to rise of Isis
- Chilcot report: key points from the Iraq inquiry
Could the War in Iraq Have Been Averted? Interview with Nafeez Ahmend, Piers Robinson and Frank Ledwidge
Presenter Martine Dennis discusses the Chilcot report and its conclusions with Nafeez Ahmed, investigative journalist and author, Piers Robinson, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester, and Frank Ledwidge, Senior Fellow at the Royal Air Force College at the University of Portsmouth and former Military Intelligence Officer who served in Iraq. (Al Jazeera English)
Two weeks before he hopes to consolidate his party at the Republican convention in Cleveland, Donald Trump is driving Republican foreign policy elites into the arms of Hillary Clinton, as several more Reagan and Bush administration veterans say they not only oppose Trump but will likely vote for Clinton this fall.
Two former senior officials from the George W. Bush administration tell POLITICO that they will cast a ballot for Clinton over Trump. They are Stephen Krasner, a Stanford University professor who served as the State Department’s director of policy planning from 2005 to 2007, and David Gordon, a senior advisor at the Eurasia Group who was Krasner’s successor in that post, which provides strategic thinking.
Also saying he would choose Clinton over Trump is Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer and influential neoconservative writer for The Weekly Standard. Gerecht, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been a harsh critic of Obama’s foreign policy, opposing last summer’s nuclear deal with Iran and arguing for “war” in Syria. But given a choice between her and Trump, Gerecht said in an email, “I will vote for Clinton.”
Those three were among more than 100 Republican foreign policy elites who signed a March open letter opposing Trump on the grounds that he is unqualified to oversee American national security — a searing concern that Trump has not assuaged with his shifting statements on foreign policy and unfamiliarity with basic issues. In a sign that Trump has largely failed since the end of primary season to win over reluctant critics within his party, at least a dozen of those people now say they expect to cast a ballot for Clinton.
Chilcot report: The demonisation of Tony Blair distracts from where things really went wrong in Iraq
Denunciations of Tony Blair as the evil architect of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War often dominate discussions of what happened there and many will look to the Chilcot inquiry to provide further evidence of his guilt. But the demonisation of Mr Blair is excessive and simple-minded and diverts attention from what really happened in Iraq and how such mistakes can be avoided in future.
He may have unwisely followed the US into the quagmire of Iraq, but British government policy since 1941 has been to position itself as America’s most loyal and effective ally in peace and war.
There have been significant exceptions to this rule, such as the Suez Crisis and the Vietnam War, but during the last 70 years the UK has generally sought to influence US policy in its formulation and then support it unequivocally once adopted.
As the UK parliament released its long-awaited Chilcot report on the country’s role in the Iraq war on Wednesday, there have been renewed calls all over Britain to try former prime minister Tony Blair for war crimes. This brings up another question: what about George W Bush?
The former US president most responsible for the foreign policy catastrophe has led a peaceful existence since he left office. Not only has he avoided any post-administration inquiries into his conduct, he has inexplicably seen his approval ratings rise (despite the carnage left in his wake only getting worse). He is an in-demand fundraiser for Republicans not named Donald Trump, and he gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at corporate events. The chances of him ever saying in public, “I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever believe,” as Blair did on Wednesday, are virtually non-existent.
The only thing close to the Chilcot report in the US was the Senate intelligence committee’s long-delayed investigation on intelligence failures in the lead-up to Iraq, released in 2008. The Democratic-led committee faulted the CIA for massive intelligence failures and the Bush administration for purposefully manipulating intelligence for public consumption. It led to a couple days of headlines, denunciations from the Bush White House (still in office at the time) and that was it.
Here we go again. Earlier this year, some were surprised to see Project For The New American Century (PNAC) co-founder and longtime DC fixture Robert Kagan endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president.
They shouldn’t have been. As is now clear from a policy paper [PDF] published last month, the neoconservatives are going all-in on Hillary Clinton being the best vessel for American power in the years ahead.
The paper, titled “Expanding American Power,” was published by the Center for a New American Security, a Democratic Party-friendly think tank co-founded and led by former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy. Flournoy served in the Obama Administration under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the next secretary of defense, should Hillary Clinton become president.
The introduction to Expanding American Power is written by the aforementioned Robert Kagan and former Clinton Administration State Department official James Rubin. The paper itself was prepared in consultation with various defense and national security intellectuals over the course of six dinners. Among the officials includes those who signed on to PNAC letters calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, such as Elliot Abrams, Robert Zoellick, Craig Kennedy, Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Flournoy herself, who signed on to a PNAC letter in 2005 calling for more ground troops in Iraq.
The European Parliament on Wednesday condemned the “apathy shown by member states and EU institutions” over torture in secret CIA prisons in Europe.
A non-binding resolution, which passed 329-299, urged member states to “investigate, insuring full transparency, the allegations that there were secret prisons on their territory in which people were held under the CIA programme.” It also called on the European Union to undertake fact-finding missions into countries that were known to house American black sites.
The resolution named Lithuania, Poland, Italy, and the United Kingdom as countries complicit in CIA operations.
The Parliament also expressed “regret” that none of the architects of the U.S. torture program faced criminal charges, and that the U.S. has failed to cooperate with European criminal probes.
Despite banning torture when he came into office, President Obama has fought all attempts to hold Bush administration officials accountable, including by invoking the state secrets privilege to block lawsuits and delaying the release of the Senate Torture Report.
Late last month, I published a post entitled “Hillary’s Foreign Policy: A Liberal-Neoconservative Convergence?” that featured the announcement of a new report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) to be rolled out May 16. I was traveling that day, so I missed the formal launch and only got around to reading the report this past weekend.
It was even worse than what I had anticipated.
The report, entitled “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand U.S. Engagement in a Competitive World Order,” is based on the deliberations of a bipartisan task force of 10 senior members of the foreign policy establishment augmented by six dinner discussions with invited issue and regional “experts.” The task force was co-chaired by former Assistant Secretary of State (under Madeleine Albright) Jamie Rubin and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Bob Kagan, who also apparently doubled as the principal co-authors.
Others, far more expert and experienced in grand strategy, will no doubt comment about the report’s overall analysis and implications. (Indeed, Daniel Davis, who characterized the report as “neoconservative,” despite the participation of Clintonite liberal interventionists like Rubin, Julianne Smith, Michele Flournoy, and former top Clinton aide, James Steinberg, has already done so at theNational Interest website, and I am expecting Steve Walt to eviscerate it at his Foreign Policy blog. [It appeared Thursday here.) But both the liberal super-interventionist Washington Post editorial board (“It will demand courage and difficult decisions to save the liberal international order”) and the thoroughly neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), which sent out key excerpts to its followers Monday morning, have endorsed the report. So, this bears out my prediction that the report will effect a convergence between those two parts of the foreign-policy establishment.
The question, of course, is whether this convergence is where Hillary Clinton would put herself if she were elected president. I suspect so; she just can’t afford to say so given the electorate’s persistent war-weariness and its increasingly negative views on international trade agreements. As I pointed out in the earlier report, Flournoy may have a lock on the Pentagon, and Steinberg was one of Clinton’s closest advisers when she was secretary of state.
[…] The Center for a New American Security’s new report, Extending American Power, is a textbook illustration of what this recipe produces. Indeed, it is the latest in a series of similar documents that mainstream foreign-policy institutions have produced over the past decade or more, such as the lengthy Princeton Project in National Security (2006) or the Project for a United and Strong America’s more recent Setting Priorities for American Leadership: A New National Strategy for the United States (2013). These and other reportsare essentially interchangeable, insofar as they all portray the United States as the “indispensable” linchpin of the present world order, they warn that any alteration of America’s role in the world would have catastrophic consequences, and offer up a lengthy “to-do” list of projects that Washington must undertake in far-flung corners of the globe.
The composition and conduct of this latest CNAS study are precisely what one expects, as are its conclusions. The co-chairs were former Clinton-era State Department official James Rubin and the ubiquitous neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan. The team members included boldface foreign-policy names such as Michele Flournoy, Robert Zoellick, Kurt Campbell, Stephen Hadley, James Steinberg, Eric Edelman, and a number of others. The witnesses invited to testify at the group’s working dinners were equally unsurprising: Stephen Sestanovich, Elliot Abrams, Dennis Ross, Victoria Nuland, Martin Indyk, and a few more familiar faces. The only potentially contrarian witnesses were Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group and Vali Nasr of John Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, but even they are hardly outside the mainstream.
Needless to say, this is neither a group nor a process likely to produce a deep or rigorous evaluation of recent U.S. foreign policy. After all, the report’s signatories helped create many of the problems they now seek to fix, so you’d hardly expect them to cast a critical eye on their own handiwork. As a result, the CNAS report is the last place to look for an evenhanded assessment of past successes and failures, much less new ideas about how America should approach today’s world.
Instead, what one reads is a rather tired defense of American liberal hegemony. It begins by lauding the “liberal world order” that has “produced immense benefits” for humankind, and declares “to preserve and strengthen this order will require a renewal of American leadership in the international system.” Never mind that the report neither spells out what that “order” is nor identifies the connection between this supposed order and the policies needed to preserve it. Never mind that much of the planet was not part of that order or that recent U.S. efforts to expand its sway have produced costly quagmires, rising chaos, and deteriorating relations with other major powers. Nor does it ask if there are elements of the existing order that should be rethought. Instead, the report simply posits that a liberal world order exists and that it cannot survive without the energetic use of American power in many places.
To maintain America’s “leadership role,” the report calls for significant increases in national security spending and recommends the United States expand its military activities in three major areas: Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It leaves open the possibility that the United States might have to do more in other places too, so its real agenda may be even more ambitious than the authors admit.
The other day, a question popped up on a Facebook thread I was commenting on: “Where is Victoria Nuland?” The short answer, of course, is that she is still holding down her position as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
But a related question begs for a more expansive response: Where will Victoria Nuland be after January? Nuland is one of Hillary Clinton’s protégés at the State Department, and she is also greatly admired by hardline Republicans. This suggests she would be easily approved by Congress as secretary of state or maybe even national-security adviser—which in turn suggests that her foreign-policy views deserve a closer look.
Nuland comes from what might be called the First Family of Military Interventionists. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a leading neoconservative who co-founded the Project for the New American Century in 1998 around a demand for “regime change” in Iraq. He is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an author, and a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of a number of national newspapers. He has already declared that he will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November, a shift away from the GOP that many have seen as a clever career-enhancing move for both him and his wife.
A federal judge has sharply rebuked the Pentagon for the process by which it concealed hundreds of Bush-era photos showing US military personnel torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting Barack Obama may have to release even more graphic imagery of abuse.
Alvin Hellerstein, the senior judge who has presided over a transparency lawsuit for the photos that has lasted more than 12 years, expressed dissatisfaction over the Pentagon’s compliance with an order he issued last year requiring a case-by-case ruling that release of an estimated 1,800 photographs would endanger US troops.
“We don’t know the methodology, we don’t know what was reviewed, we don’t know the criteria, we don’t know the numbers,” Hellerstein said during an hour-long hearing on Wednesday.
Hellerstein said he would formally rule on the matter in the “near future”, a process that may compel the Pentagon to disclose additional photographs.