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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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Featured Profiles

Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and has deep connections to the Republican Party and the neoconservative movement.


The Washington-based American Enterprise Institute is a rightist think tank with a broad mandate covering a range of foreign and domestic policy issues that is known for its strong connections to neoconservatism and overseas debacles like the Iraq War.


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.”


Since taking office Donald Trump has revealed an erratic and extremely hawkish approach to U.S. foreign affairs, which has been marked by controversial actions like dropping out of the Iran nuclear agreement that have raised tensions across much of the world and threatened relations with key allies.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a far-right pundit known for his hawkish policies and opposition to an Israeli peace deal with the Palestinians.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and considered by some to be a future presidential candidate.


Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


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From the Wires

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


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