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

David Brooks, “Jihadist Wildfires,” and Other Oddities

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David Brooks 
New York Times columnist David Brooks is known for his at times moderate views on social issues. On foreign policy, however, Brooks has steadily embraced hawkish ”pro-Israel” views; unapologetically supported the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; and agitated for U.S. intervention in Syria. Recently, Brooks stoked controversy by endorsing the military coup that toppled Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, arguing that Egyptians “lack even the basic mental ingredients” for democracy. Quipped one critic, “You were hoping for informed, nuanced commentary on the politics of a Middle Eastern society? David Brooks lacks the mental equipment.”

Rachel Ehrenfeld
Rachel Ehrenfeld is a controversial writer who claims that drug traffickers, leftist regimes, and Islamic terrorists are collaborating in Latin America to finance operations to undermine the United States. Although her research has resulted in libel lawsuits, Ehrenfeld continues to make controversial—even bizarre—claims, including that "jihadists," "Mexican gangs," or "other illegals" may have been responsible for setting wildfires plaguing the state of Colorado.

Richard Pipes 
U.S.-Russian relations continue to cool, but for Richard Pipes, a professor emeritus at Harvard who was a notorious anti-Soviet hardliner during the Cold War, now is the time to cajole Russia into the “Western” fold. Instead of antagonizing the country, writes Pipes, the West should consider dissolving NATO and patiently “convince Russians that they belong to the West and should adopt Western institutions and values.” On the other hand, Pipes has rejected Russian opposition to U.S. efforts to place anti-missile systems close to its borders and has recently supported the work of a host of neoconservative groups, whose scholars have pressed a hard line on Russia.

David Makovsky 
David Makovsky, head of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has urged moderation between Israel and Palestine even while making military threats against Iran. In a recent op-ed, he wrote that the Obama administration should take steps to once and for all settle the question of whether Iran is hoping to develop nuclear weapons, while making clear that “it is not afraid of talks failing." He failed, however, to assess whether military action could backfire.

Dennis Ross 
Dennis Ross, a controversial former diplomat who served in the Obama administration before retreating to a “pro-Israel” think tank, has apparently grown tired of diplomacy with Iran—although he has also warmed to the idea of an Iranian civilian nuclear program. Ross now advocates that the United States offer Iran's leaders an "endgame," or ultimatum: Iran can have its peaceful nuclear enrichment with strict limits and oversight on Washington's terms, Ross says, or else face imminent war with the United States. Critics say that Ross' ideas "suffer most from their own premises" and could sully any opening for engagement with Iran's moderate new president-elect.

American Enterprise Institute 
Writers based at the American Enterprise Institute, an important source of neoconservative advocacy on U.S. foreign policy, have steadfastly promoted U.S. support for Taiwan. As one reporter discovered recently, this should come as little surprise. Taiwan appears to have been a generous funder to AEI. In 2009, the Taiwanese government gave more than half a million dollars to the think tank, even as some AEI employees were agitating for U.S. arms sales to the country. This fact led one transparency expert to conclude that the organization should be obliged to register as a foreign agent.

From the Wires

New Bid for Mideast Talks after Five-Year Hiatus
Some observers—including former President Jimmy Carter—are optimistic that a referendum could provide popular legitimacy to a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Advocates of Iran Engagement Get Unexpected Boost
Prospects for new unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran have appeared to dim after the release of a letter, signed by 131 House members, urging renewed engagement with Tehran.

Syria: Rebel In-Fighting Weakens Uprising
Fierce infighting among moderate and Islamist rebel groups, as well as Hezbollah's entry into the war, have boosted the Assad regime in Syria.

Israel Resumes Threats Against Iran as Experts Urge Patience
Intelligence experts and diplomats are urging patience with Iran's new president-elect, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of his supporters in the U.S. Congress agitate for new threats.

Obama’s Many Middle East Miseries Multiply
From a tightrope act in Egypt to new obstacles in Syria, events in the Middle East have put the Obama administration in a precarious position.

New Iranian President; Same Old US Approach 
By reflexively calling to maintain or increase sanctions on Iran, Washington commentators are helping to sully any opportunity to open a dialogue with Iran's newly elected president, even as the U.S. faces regional challenges in Syria and Afghanistan that could be mitigated by cooperation with Tehran.

Egyptian Army’s Firepower Overwhelmingly US-Supplied 
Military coup and the violent repression of demonstrations notwithstanding, the Egyptian army continues to receive arms and assistance from the United States.

Afghanistan Faces Slim Chance of Post-Occupation Peace Deal 
A new report argues that because of disarray in Washington and decentralization in the Taliban, efforts to broker an agreement between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal in 2014 are likely to fail.

Pro-Israel Advocates Push for Continued Aid to Egypt 
Some neoconservatives and other "pro-Israel" advocates in the United States are insisting that Washington maintain its close ties with the Egyptian military, despite the latter's involvement in toppling Egypt's democratically elected Islamist government.

The Meaning of Rouhani 
The surprise landside victory of Iranian moderate Hassan Rouhani restored the faith of many Iranians in their electoral system, but it also spoke to disillusion across the political spectrum with the country's isolated status and stagnant economy.

Letters

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John Yoo is a former deputy assistant attorney general known for his extreme views on executive wartime powers and for helping author the George W. Bush administration’s infamous “torture memos.”


Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is a leading ”pro-Israel” hawk in Congress.


Brigette Gabriel, an anti-Islamic author and activist, is the founder of the right-wing group ACT! for America.


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy, is a longtime advocate of aggressive U.S. foreign policies, bloated military budgets, and confrontation with the Islamic world.


Shmuley Boteach is a “celebrity rabbi” known for his controversial “pro-Israel” advocacy.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


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From the Wires

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Contrary to some wishful thinking following the Trump administration’s decision to “put Iran on notice” and seemingly restore U.S.-Saudi ties, there are little signs of apprehension in Tehran.


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“The fundamental conflict at the heart of Israeli-Russian views on Syria is that Israel’s redline is the establishment of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria and Russia’s redline is the elimination of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.”


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AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.


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It would have been hard for Trump to find someone with more extreme positions than David Friedman for U.S. ambassador to Israel.


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Just as the “bogeyman” of the Mexican rapist and drug dealer is used to justify the Wall and mass immigration detention, the specter of Muslim terrorists is being used to validate gutting the refugee program and limiting admission from North Africa, and Southwest and South Asia.


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Although the mainstream media narrative about Trump’s Russia ties has been fairly linear, in reality the situation appears to be anything but.


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Reagan’s military buildup had little justification, though the military was rebuilding after the Vietnam disaster. Today, there is almost no case at all for a defense budget increase as big as the $54 billion that the Trump administration wants.


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