last updated: October 10, 2012
The ongoing crisis in Syria has become a litmus test for Bush-era neoconservatives, as well as the larger interventionist coalition that pushed for the Iraq War under the banner of the Project for the New American Century. Just as we saw during the years preceding the invasion of Iraq, the emergence of a pro-intervention coalition is occurring in the absence of a serious discussion about the complexity of the circumstances surrounding Syria’s spiraling civil war, the challenges inherent in any outside military engagement, and the dangers of a zero-sum approach to the conflict.
last updated: July 01, 2012
Although he has developed a reputation for ideological flexibility, Mitt Romney’s campaign rhetoric on foreign policy seems calibrated to allow him the least possible amount of breathing room if he were to become president—a trend that is buttressed by a slate of hawkish advisers who have apparently marginalized the more moderate voices in the candidate’s circle. Romney obviously believes that a hawkish approach provides the best antidote to President Obama’s foreign policy record. If he’s right, it may prove difficult to tack back to a more responsible foreign policy once he’s in the Oval Office.
last updated: May 03, 2012
Tensions have been reaching near fevered pitch over Iran’s nuclear program as Israeli leaders and their supporters in the United States have pressed for military action to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. However, a number of factors have been working against the hawks, including recent progress at the P5+1 talks and the lack of enthusiasm for another conflict among a war-weary U.S. public. In recent weeks, a new force has emerged that seems to have made the threat of war even less imminent—the unprecedented wave of dissent from current and former top Israeli officials.
last updated: April 18, 2012
As pressure mounts to arm rebels in Syria, there is need for a sober assessment of the costs and consequences of the increasing militarization of the conflict there. If history is any guide, a foreign-backed armed rebellion will likely not produce the kind of victory—or engender the kind of support—that the anti-Assad fighters will require to usher in a new Syria. Additionally, there is the very real possibility that many of the rebels—as we’ve seen in Libya—will turn out to be little better than the regime they seek to replace.
last updated: March 05, 2012
Before a skeptical audience of delegates from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, President Obama affirmed U.S-Israeli ties and challenged detractors to impugn his administration’s record of support for the Jewish state. However, while insisting that that the United States would consider military options in the event of Iran’s developing a nuclear weapon, he also warned Israeli allies of “loose talk” about war, which Obama said only empowers the Iranian regime and decreases prospects for a diplomatic solution.
last updated: January 31, 2012
Tehran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, coupled with mounting threats from hawks in Israel and the United States, has brought the possibility of war sharply into view. But a number of influential members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment—including several prominent liberal interventionists who supported the invasion of Iraq—are warning against further escalation.
last updated: December 19, 2011
The purported “end of the neocon consensus” has hardly meant an end to hawkishness in the GOP fold. With the Republican candidates virtually all gunning for Iran, backing right-wing Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, and stabling a passel of neoconservative advisers (Ron Paul excepted), voters have plenty of clues about what the foreign policy of a new GOP administration would look like. And while some of the candidates have expressed wariness with neoconservative notions of armed democracy promotion, all the signs indicate that if a Republican wins next year, we will likely be in for a bit if George W. redux.
last updated: December 13, 2011
With key members of the "Israel Lobby" acknowledging the importance of providing a broader space to Israel’s critics, the indelibly beltway Politico recognizing the influence of such critics in a full-length feature, and core Democratic organizations showing an increasing sensitivity to inappropriate uses of the anti-Semite charge, is the United States finally willing to undertake a real debate on what are the best U.S. interests in the Middle East?
last updated: November 08, 2011
The issue of whither U.S. relations with China is an important test case for observing the divide between the free market and neoconservative wings of the Republican Party. Thus far, the GOP presidential candidates have largely failed to articulate a vision of China that comes anywhere close to reflecting the complexity of U.S.-Chinese relations. Among the leading candidates, Mitt Romney has arguably been the most aggressive in his discussion of China policy. Yet, his embrace of a hawkish line towards Beijing would appear to indicate that President Obama’s would-be challengers have not yet found an alternative vocabulary for talking and thinking about one of the critical foreign policy issues of the 2012 election. It seems clear that even though neoconservatives lack grassroots support, they offer what is effectively the only option for an “establishment” GOP candidate, a fact that could have lasting impact both on the viability of any Republican Party foreign policy platform as well as future U.S. decision-making vis-à-vis other hotspots like Iran, Israel, and North Korea.
last updated: October 31, 2011
Since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for an independent Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September, the mood in Washington towards the Palestinians has turned increasingly hostile. Led by the likes of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), hawkish “pro-Israel” policymakers and pundits have been pushing for an end to U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority in an effort to punish it. But the steady erosion of Israel’s international legitimacy, combined with diminishing U.S. influence in the region, could well lead to an eventual solution, particularly if this situation forces Israel to loosen its iron grip on the Palestinian territories and participate in meaningful dialogue.
last updated: September 22, 2011
President Obama’s decision to come out against the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly this week might have spelled an end to four-decades of U.S. leadership on Middle East peace. Boxed in by the Palestinians and the surging international support for their cause, Obama is also facing tremendous pressure at home, where presidential-election politics threaten to further drive the United States into isolation in its one-sided support for Israel. Leading the charge is Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Republican presidential candidate who claimed at a press conference earlier in the week that “help is on the way” and that his Christian faith gives him “clear directive to support Israel.” Such faith apparently does not include giving moral support to the Palestinians, whom Perry equated with “orchestrators of terrorism.”
last updated: August 28, 2011
In a ground-breaking new report, the Center for American Progress reveals the small group of inter-connected foundations, think tanks, pundits, and bloggers that has been behind a decades-long campaign to promote fear of Islam and Muslims in the United States. The report, "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America," identifies seven foundations that have quietly provided a total of more than $42 million to individuals and organisations that have spearheaded the anti-Islam campaign. They include funders that have long been associated with the extreme right, as well as several family foundations that have supported right-wing and settler groups in Israel. The network also includes what the report calls "misinformation experts," such as Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum, Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence, and Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America--all of whom often appear on national TV news networks and right-wing radio shows to comment on Islam and its alleged threat to U.S. national security.
last updated: August 23, 2011
Tunisia, Egypt, now Libya. Each of these revolutions have occurred under the watchful eye of the House of Saud, which has sought to stifle change and suffocate democratic aspirations in the Arab world. While the United States appears to have viewed Saudi machinations as serving its interests in the short term, there can be little doubt that U.S. acquiescence to Saudi interests will have serious implications down the road. At a watershed political moment, the United States has failed to act in accordance with its own principles, and thus could lose the respect and cooperation of yet another generation of Arabs. The potential fallout from these mistakes could haunt U.S. policy for decades to come.
last updated: August 02, 2011
Anders Behring Breivik’s hateful rhetoric is part of a larger right-wing trend demonizing Islam. This kind of discourse, as Richard Hofstadter pointed out in his classic The Paranoid Style in American Politics, views the purported enemy as “being totally evil and totally unappeasable,” thus requiring its utter elimination, “if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention.” America has seen this kind of phenomenon before, with McCarthyism and the Ku Klux Klan, both of which emerged at times during which the United States was confronted with the limits of its power. To understand the likes of Anders Breivik, we must look beyond the American anti-Muslim bloggers who schooled him, and begin to ask what in U.S. politics and society has nurtured these purveyors of hate and paranoia in the first place.
last updated: June 30, 2011
Despite vocal efforts by some foreign policy hawks to view the war on drugs as an extension of the war on terror, the emerging consensus—even among the political establishment—is that the war on drugs has been a dismal failure. Drug production—and body counts—surge in Latin America, opium is a staple crop in Afghanistan despite the presence of tens of thousands of occupying troops, and anti-drug policies that have helped put hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders behind bars have had no discernible impact on usage. But for much of the rightwing establishment, drug prohibition is just like any other war: deserving of uncritical support even in the face of defeat.
last updated: June 08, 2011
A number of conservatives and security hawks have used the death of Osama bin Laden as a prop in their public relations war on behalf of torture. Despite evidence to the contrary, these pundits and “experts”—led by a passel of former Bush administration officials—allege that without “enhanced interrogation techniques” bin Laden would still be living and that Barack Obama’s efforts to stop the use of torture have endangered the United States. But their claims have amounted to little more than an embellishment of the historical record and a distortion of the real impact of torture on U.S. policy and security.
last updated: May 31, 2011
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Israel be recognized as a “Jewish state” is unprecedented in the history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Rooted in a nineteenth century European-nationalist worldview, the concept has been officially opposed by the United States, and with good reason—it goes against basic principles of international law and has served to undermine efforts to negotiate a lasting Middle East peace.
last updated: May 17, 2011
Just as they did in their effort to push for war in Iraq, hawks are assiduously laying the groundwork for their campaign to push for a U.S. attack on Iran. Although taking cues from the same playbook they used after 9/11, thus far the war campaigners have yet to see all the necessary pieces fall into place for a successful crusade. But theirs is a long game, and we would be severely remiss if we failed to acknowledge that the hawks are preparing themselves to take advantage of any crisis or significant political change to push through their agenda.
last updated: April 26, 2011
As the Arab Spring confronts increasing resistance from entrenched interests in the region, the Palestinian cause appears to be at best a fading concern of demonstrators—or so “pro-Israel” ideologues would have us believe. But this myth of a divide between Arab demonstrators and Palestinians does not stand up to the evidence. And just as importantly, it fails to take into account that what we are witnessing across the Arab world is a broad-based movement aimed at asserting democratic rights and undermining the grip of hegemonic forces in the region, and that nowhere is the need for this movement more acute than in Palestine.
last updated: April 05, 2011
The Palestinian people — and the rest of the world — have begun to realize that even an iron fist can only maintain its grip for so long. And yet, despite the widespread anger that led to the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, western powers are busily building its counterpart in the West Bank. Palestinian anger has become larger and more coordinated than many expected, and its “Mubarak moment” may be very close at hand. If the Arab revolutions empower Palestinians to build a mass movement for independence, and if the new Arab governments push Israel’s neighbors to play a more active role in the Palestinian struggle, then Israeli regional hegemony could be significantly compromised.
Since its founding in 2011, the right-wing advocacy group Secure America Now has made a name for itself by publishing biased, wildly inaccurate “push polls” and running over-the-top ads criticizing the Obama administration’s security policies. “This might be the only ad you'll ever see that complains aloud, 'He shut down the black sites!’” quipped one commentator about an ad the group ran in 2012. The organization recently produced a remake of the infamous Lyndon Johnson ad “Daisy,” which wildly accuses the Obama administration of “failing” to stop “the jihadist government of Iran” from getting “a nuclear bomb.” Noting the many factual errors in a website linked to the video, one observer noted, “It’s not surprising, then, that this group would revive an attack ad that sought to portray a presidential contender as dangerously eager for confrontation to attack a president for being too soft.”
Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz, son of the trailblazing neoconservative ideologue Norman Podhoretz, has been a strident critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, charging the president with “setting the world on a course for nihilistic chaos” and calling him an implacable “antagonist” of Israel. He has also been a staunch critic of Hillary Clinton, once penning a book urging right-wing activists to mobilize against her. However, has recently joined other neoconservatives in taking a more conciliatory approach towards Clinton, praising her for supporting “more aggressive efforts” on Syria and Russia than Obama and separating herself from what he terms “the administration’s disdainful treatment of Israel.”
Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who oversaw reconstruction efforts in Iraq for less than a month before being replaced by George W. Bush loyalist Paul Bremer, has broken sharply with his successor over how to respond to the latest ISIS offensive in Iraq. While Bremer has called for boots on the ground, Garner said recently, “The Iranians should solve this problem, not us.” Instead, Garner advocates sending arms to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he served during the first Gulf War and later invested in oil interests.
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a bipartisan pressure group that targets corporations that allegedly do business with Tehran in violation of sanctions. A defamation suit filed by the target of one such attack has prompted scrutiny of UANI’s political connections. In a surprise move described by the New York Times as “highly unusual,” the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened to block subpoenas for UANI’s donor list, claiming that it could contain information the U.S. government considered sensitive. Although “American intelligence agencies are prohibited from secretly working with organizations to influence American public opinion and media,” noted the Times, “the court filings indicated close ties between the American government and a group that has proved adept at pressuring the government and corporations to isolate Iran economically.” The news prompted one investigative reporter to uncover ties between UANI’s CEO, Mark Wallace, and billionaire investor Thomas S. Kaplan, both of whom have heavily invested in precious metals mining ventures, which they say could prove extremely profitable in unstable geopolitical environments like the one UANI seems intent on encouraging in the Middle East.
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August, 18 2014
Recent polling reveals a degree of public support for the recent U.S. intervention in Iraq, though a majority of respondents also worried that the U.S. would go "too far" in responding to the threat posed by ISIS.
August, 12 2014
Political settlements in Iraq and Syria—preferably ones that depose Nouri al-Maliki and Bashar al-Assad, respectively—would go much further toward stopping ISIS than airstrikes.
August, 12 2014
Despite repeated insistences that it urged Israel to reduce civilian casualties, the U.S. government has systematically played down Israeli abuses and recited Israeli government talking points about the latest war in Gaza.
August, 09 2014
Inside the Beltway, President Obama’s decision to launch a limited military action in northern Iraq has garnered qualified support from across the political spectrum.
July, 27 2014
The extremist group ISIS has used a Saudi tactic—monopolizing oil revenues—to fund its brutal execution of a Saudi goal: the repression of the Middle East’s Shiites.
July, 23 2014
The latest conflict between Israel and Hamas brings to bear the vast technological superiority of Israeli’s U.S.-backed and U.S.-supplied military.
July, 22 2014
The influence of the International Criminal Court has grown steadily over the years, but the organization remains hampered by opposition from the United States, China, and Russia, as well as by charges that it chiefly prosecutes African leaders at the expense of human rights abusers elsewhere.