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

Bush’s Messes in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; Plus NGOWatch, Richard Perle, and more

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Somalia in the Crosshairs
By Najum Mushtaq | February 1, 2007

The Bush administration’s Somalia policy has been consistently dictated by an exaggerated fear of al-Qaida’s strength in Somalia, leading it to equate the indigenous Somali Islamic courts with the global network of terrorism. Read full story.


Afghanistan: Upping the Ante
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

Despite widespread opposition to the Iraq “surge” plan, few seem to oppose U.S. efforts to increase its troop levels in Afghanistan. Read full story.

Iraq: Who’s the Enemy?
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

January has proved a bewildering month for U.S. forces, under attack from various armed factions whose loyalties are often far from clear. Read full story.


Regarded by some as a “McCarthyite blacklist,” NGOWatch is a joint project between the neoconservative-affiliated American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, a powerful right-wing judicial group.

Richard Perle
The onetime “Prince of Darkness” and current neocon black sheep, Perle has turned into a prince of pessimism when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Iran Policy Committee
This group of retired military brass and rightist policy wonks hopes the president will add regime change in Iran to his call for a “surge” in Iraq.

Richard Allen
The Defense Policy Board member and former national security adviser guesses that Reagan would have done a better job than Bush when it comes to Iraq.


“Scoop” Jackson Lives

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the latest recipient of the Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Distinguished Service Award, which is presented annually by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative-aligned policy center that fosters military-to-military relations between Israel and the United States. The award honors Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a hardline, pro-Israel Democratic senator from Washington State whose office in the 1970s served as a rallying point for a host of nascent neoconservatives in their efforts to rollback the “appeasement” policies of the post-Vietnam War Democratic Party.

Speaking at the JINSA award dinner on December 5 in Washington, DC, McCain said that the United States has moral and strategic ties with Israel, and that “we will stand with Israel as she fights the same enemy.” McCain said that “American support for Israel should intensify—to include providing needed military equipment and technology.” McCain, who traveled to Israel with Senator Jackson in 1979, joins a long line of hawks from both parties who have received JINSA’s Jackson Award, including Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Paul Wolfowitz, Curt Weldon, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Dick Cheney, Max Kampelman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Duncan Hunter.

McCain warned that “Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly poses an unacceptable risk” and noted that Iran is flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, he neglected to mention Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and refusal to join the nonproliferation accord.

Freedom’s Just Another Word …

In a January 26 Financial Times op-ed, Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation takes Freedom House and the U.S. government to task for making an overly facile connection between freedom and elections. He writes: “In recent years … U.S. official and semi-official rhetoric has too often reduced Freedom with a capital ‘F’ chiefly to the right to vote. Even freedom of expression is usually taken to mean little more than unrestricted private media ownership, even if this leads to oligarchic or monopolistic control of the sources of mass information. This attitude has survived what should have been the sobering experience of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Loudly touted at the time as critically important signs of these countries’ progress, two years later they appear to have achieved precisely nothing in terms of the creation of national polities or working states, let alone of peace, progress, and security.”

Lieven notes that in the new “Freedom in the World” country index compiled by Freedom House, “China’s freedom rating today is—grotesquely—barely different from its score in 1972, when China was undergoing the murderous Cultural Revolution.” Lieven contrasts Freedom House’s “simplistic” freedom benchmarks, whose activities are partially funded by the U.S. government, with the broader view offered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, in which FDR highlighted America’s international commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Lieven points out that Roosevelt defined freedom from fear “in terms of the permanent abolition of aggressive war.”

In the Freedom House rating system, Lieven observes, “The United States, of course, invariably gets top marks for political rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, the ‘Freedom’ ratings of other countries show a marked tendency to move up and down according to the degree of their alliance with the United States and their commitment to a U.S. version of unrestricted capitalism.”

Adds Lieven, “What will create real freedom for people in such countries will not be a simplistic version of ‘democracy’ based on meaningless elections and a pro-U.S. policy, but economic development leading to education and a real sense of individual rights and personal dignity, accompanied by the development of working state institutions.”

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From the Wires

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North Korea and Iran both understand the lesson of Libya: Muammar Qaddafi, a horrifyingly brutal dictator, gave up his nuclear weapons, was eventually ousted from power with large-scale US assistance, and was killed. However, while Iran has a long and bitter history with the United States, North Korea’s outlook is shaped by its near-total destruction by forces led by the United States in the Korean War.

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Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road, trying to please both parties by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

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Key members of Trump’s cabinet should recognize the realism behind encouraging a Saudi- and Iranian-backed regional security agreement because the success of such an agreement would not only serve long-term U.S. interests, it could also have a positive impact on numerous conflicts in the Middle East.

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Given that Israel failed to defeat Hezbollah in its war in Lebanon in 2006, it’s difficult to imagine Israel succeeding in a war against both Hezbollah and its newfound regional network of Shiite allies. And at the same time not only is Hezbollah’s missile arsenal a lot larger and more dangerous than it was in 2006, but it has also gained vast experience alongside its allies in offensive operations against IS and similar groups.

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Donald Trump should never be excused of responsibility for tearing down the respect for truth, but a foundation for his flagrant falsifying is the fact that many people would rather be entertained, no matter how false is the source of their entertainment, than to confront truth that is boring or unsatisfying or that requires effort to understand.

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It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy.

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President Trump and his advisers ought to ask themselves whether it is in the U.S. interest to run the risk of Iranian withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Seen from the other side of the Atlantic, running that risk looks dumb.