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.
Academi LLC is a controversial private military contractor that was formerly called Blackwater Worldwide and later Xe Services LLC. The firm has been notorious for various high-profile scandals, including allegations of fraud and death threats, weapons trafficking, and involvement in the massacre of civilians in Iraq. Four former Blackwater employees were recently found guilty by a U.S. federal jury on murder, manslaughter, and weapons charges for the 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Marc Thiessen is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and currently a Washington Post columnist and American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow. Known for his defense of controversial U.S. security and defense policies—including “enhanced interrogation techniques”—Theissen recently joined the neoconservative chorus calling for U.S. ground forces to be sent into Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS. Thiessen has also attempted to whip up fear about the Ebola crisis, arguing that “Suicide bombers infected with Ebola could blow themselves up in a crowded place … spreading infected tissue and bodily fluids.”
Mitchel Reiss, a former U.S. diplomat who held numerous posts in the George W. Bush administration, is concerned that the United States may be getting “suckered” by Iran. He has criticized the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, calling for broadening the “scope of negotiations” with Iran to “include Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its systemic violation of human rights.” Experts at Harvard’s Belfer Center for International Affairs have referred to Reiss’ position as “mindless maximalism.”
Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and a former official in the Obama State Department who has been called Washington’s “go-to” Iran analyst. He has for years taken a stridently alarmist tone with respect to Iran’s nuclear program and has been critical of the Obama administrations nuclear negotiations with Iran. In July 2014, Takeyh co-authored a report by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs that called for increasing “pressure” on Iran during the on-going negotiations.
James Woolsey, the former CIA director and chairman of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argues that President Obama is "heading in the right direction" in his approach to the Islamic State but he insists that the president must make a declaration of war. Woolsey also thinks thatNSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should to be “hanged” if convicted of treason.
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October, 21 2014
Obama’s decision to airdrop new weapons and supplies to Kurdish fighters in the besieged town of Kobani has been praised by Republican hawks, who have called for much stronger action, including no-fly zones and attacks on Syrian military targets.
October, 21 2014
Democrats and Republicans in Washington have been swift in their efforts to discredit human rights groups who have criticized the Israeli government’s talking points on Gaza.
October, 15 2014
The crumbling Levant poses a greater danger than ISIL and must be addressed first and foremost by the states of the region.
October, 15 2014
America’s Cold-War era Middle East policy of relying on a cast of autocratic states plus Israel must change.
October, 14 2014
The longstanding U.S. policy of not engaging Iran and working to contain its influence in the Middle East has in fact contributed to rising sectarian tensions and extremism in the region.
October, 09 2014
The U.S. track record of using military force in the Middle East has tended to make things worse rather than better, and there is no reason to believe things will be different in the campaign against ISIS.
October, 07 2014
The Obama administration has announced that the strict standards it set-out last year to prevent civilian deaths in U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military actions in Iraq and Syria.