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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.

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Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


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From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


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