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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Featured Profiles

William Barr

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William Barr, President Donald Trump’s choice as his second attorney general, may provide the president’s efforts to expand executive power and clamp down on the investigations of the Justice Department. As one critic writes, it is “notable that Barr seems to believe it isn’t so necessary to erect a wall between the presidency and the nation’s top law enforcement official—a wall that Trump has long desired to demolish.” Barr’s nomination, which came after he repeatedly expressed criticism of the investigations into Trump’s activities, raised eyebrows across the political landscape. With his history of undercutting a special investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal when he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush, many share the view with Sen. Chuck Schumer that Barr “is fatally conflicted from being able to oversee the Special Counsel’s investigation and he should not be nominated to be Attorney General.”

Charles Krauthammer

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Charles Krauthammer, who died in mid-2018, called Donald Trump’s response to violent white supremacists in Virginia “a moral disgrace,” But Krauthammer’s intense distaste for Trump never translated into opposition to many of his policies. He supported Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate change accord and the Iran nuclear deal, among other decisions, while repeatedly attacking Trump’s character and outbursts. Krauthammer was a long-time fellow traveler of the neoconservative movement although he rejected the label. Like many of this ilk, he began as a Democrat and drifted to the right in the 1970s and 80s.

William Kristol

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“The goal of freedom with its noble simplicity and even quiet grandeur. … gives meaning and elevation to the American experiment.” This is how Bill Kristol—the son of the trailblazing neoconservative, Irving Kristol, and notorious war-hawk who promoted the invasion of Iraq —summed up what he thinks U.S. foreign policy should be. Kristol was the founder of the recently shuttered neoconservative periodical, The Weekly Standard. Although once chief of staff to Vice President dan Quayle, Kristol’s contributions to right-wing politics have been more prominent as a pundit. He was a key supporter of the “war on terror” and is known to have been influential in many Republican Party decisions, including the selection of Sarah Palin as VP in 2008. Kristol is widely seen as a leader of the “Never Trump” movement and has been vociferous in his opposition to first Trump’s candidacy and, later, many of his administration’s policies.

Jon Kyl

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Jon Kyl says of Donald Trump, “I don’t like his style. Much of it is boorish. I think he’s his own worst enemy.” Kyl, the outgoing senator from Arizona—having retired after three months as John McCain’s replacement—stood by those comments even after he was appointed to the Senate in September 2018. He had previously served in the Senate from 1995 through 2013. Prior to being re-appointed to the Senate, Kyl was assigned to guide Judge Brett Kavanaugh through the confirmation process to join the U.S. Supreme Court. During his time in the Senate, Kyl established himself as a staunch conservative on domestic policy and an interventionist hawk in foreign policy.

Paul Ryan

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In one of his final acts as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—set to retire from Congress in January 2019—used a procedural maneuver to prevent the House from interfering with U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Said one observer, “Under his aegis, there was no oversight either of corruption or misdeeds by Trump, his family, his staff and his Cabinet. … no hearings on the Puerto Rico hurricane disaster, child separation, budget cuts to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] leaving us more vulnerable to pandemics, or any other examples of failures in governance.”

Iran Action Group

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“Tehran is intent on increasing the lethality and reach of [Iran’s] weapons to deepen its presence throughout the region. We are one missile attack away from a regional conflict,”said Brian Hook, the head of the newly-created Iran Action Group (IAG) in November 2018. The IAG, created in mid-2018 to coordinate State Department policy on Iran in the wake of the U.S. departure from Iran nuclear agreement, is widely viewed as a vehicle for promoting regime change in the Islamic Republic. “The Iran Action Group (IAG) is a manifestation of what policy-makers such as [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] are trying to do in stepping up pressure on, and hostility toward, Iran,” says former C.I.A. analyst Paul Pillar.

Norm Coleman

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Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) is the chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government. A longtime hawk who fervently supported the invasion of Iraq, Coleman has similarly supported President Trump’s hardline approach on Iran, including his decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Norm Coleman sits at the hub of some of the House GOP’s biggest sources of campaign spending. And Coleman isn’t shy about saying what his Saudi employers are expecting from him,” observes one writer. “Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.”

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From the Wires

Had Washington made an effort after the last time President Trump promised to quit Syria to pursue diplomatic and military channels and prepare the ground for a U.S. departure, we have had something to celebrate.


Although a widespread movement has developed to fight climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster — yet.


U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


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Militarism News Feed

Trump's Foreign Policy Isn't the Problem - Boston ReviewBook Review: Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism by Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall - USAPP American Politics and Policy (blog)Syria Policy: The Hawks' Talons Sink Deeper into Trump - The National Interest OnlineWith Syria announcement, Trump confronts his own militarist cabal - The Boston GlobeThe 'Adults' in the Room Are the Problem - The Nation.ARIA: Congress Makes Its Mark on US Asia Policy - The DiplomatAs Democratic Elites Reunite With Neocons, the Party’s Voters Are Becoming Far More Militaristic and Pro-War Than Republicans - The InterceptNew Pentagon Boss Doubles Down on the Hard Line Against China - National ReviewOpposing the Israeli Defense Forces in Our Classrooms - The Chicago MaroonVeteran NBC/MSNBC Journalist Blasts Network in Resignation - The InterceptWhy 'Overmatch' Is Overkill - The Nation.Trump seeking border wall funds from other agencies' budgets - Washington Examiner2018: A Year of War in Review According to the “Adults in the Room” - Mintpress NewsTrump may be acting insane but ending America's 'forever war' not a crazy idea | Will Bunch - Philly.comWant to Win the Midterms? Spend Less on War - Foreign PolicyThe World According to the “Adults in the Room” - LobeLogLong Live the Armed Struggle! - Dissident VoiceUS ratchets up threats against Iran, Turkey amid Syria withdrawal plans - World Socialist Web SiteTrump’s Militaristic Africa Policy Will Backfire - Foreign PolicyHow a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media - Mintpress News

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