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

The “Freedom” Faction

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FreedomWorks, a key backer of the Tea Party movement that originally emerged from a neoconservative-aligned advocacy group called Empower America, has been rocked by an explosive internal scandal that saw the ouster of its board chair, former Rep. Dick Armey. The subsequent investigation has seen the disclosure of numerous potentially embarrassing revelations, including that the organization paid conservative radio hosts for favorable coverage and once filmed two interns depicting sex acts between Hillary Clinton and a panda.

Condoleezza Rice
Is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presidential material? According to a recent Fox News public opinion survey, George W. Bush’s one-time adviser trails closely behind Hillary Clinton as a leading contender for the presidency in 2016. If her advocacy on behalf of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is any indication, Rice remains enthralled by the idea that the U.S. military is the most effective tool for imposing peace in the world.

Stephen Cambone
Appointed by the George W. Bush administration as the Pentagon’s first-ever “defense intelligence czar,” Stephen Cambone was closely involved in Pentagon efforts to loosen interrogation guidelines for “war on terror” detainees, which entangled him in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Now a fellow at Villanova University, Cambone raised eyebrows during last year’s Aspen Security Forum when he described the decision to go to war in Iraq as “one of the great strategic decisions of the first half of the 21st century.”

Richard Cheney
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, arguably one of the leading voices advocating U.S. military intervention overseas and the use of torture, has been a vocal critic of many of the Obama administration’s national security policies. He recently attacked the president for nominating “second-rate” appointees like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan. Cheney did, however, have kind words for the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, which he called “a good policy” that should not require legislative checks and balances.

Will Marshall
Will Marshall, cofounder of the Democratic Leadership Council and head of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), has been a leading advocate of a more hawkish and “market-friendly” Democratic Party for decades. A mainstay of Democratic support for the Bush administration’s so-called “freedom agenda,” Marshall continues to support military interventions and a “pro-Israel” U.S. posture from his perch at PPI.

Ted Cruz
Despite his domestic platform promoting “limited” government, newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has expressed strong sympathies for projecting U.S. military power abroad. In opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense, for example, Cruz charged the former Senator and military veteran with being “soft” toward America’s enemies and accused him of holding anti-Israel views. Noting that many of Cruz’s charges against Hagel rested on out-of-context quotes and willful misrepresentations, one observer described Cruz’s performance during Hagel’s confirmation hearings as “aggressively inaccurate” and “mendacious demagoguery at its finest.”

Elliott Abrams
Despite his checkered track record—which includes a criminal conviction for lying to Congress during the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair—Elliott Abrams manages to retain a post at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His antics, however, tend to place CFR under an uncomfortable media spotlight. Most recently, Abrams directed unsubstantiated accusations of anti-Semitism at former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Obama administration’s nominee for secretary of defense. Such was the outcry over the accusation that CFR president Richard Haas was compelled to declare it “over the line.”

From the Wires

Political Violence Grips Egypt From All Sides
With its frequent and sometimes violent protests, Egypt’s secular opposition may be alienating potential supporters ahead of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Obama Administration Reveals Deep Divisions on Syria Policy
Despite the Obama administration’s apparent skepticism about the wisdom of providing U.S. arms to Syrian rebels, recent reports have indicated support for a more militarized U.S. role among key administration advisers.

U.S. Urged to Lean Harder on Bahrain’s Ruling Family
An array of policy experts are urging the Obama administration to press the Bahraini royal family to make genuine compromises with the predominantly Shi’a opposition.

Few Hopes for Iran Breakthrough
Many analysts are skeptical that Iran’s Supreme Leader is prepared to deal with the West at February’s P5+1 talks in Kazakhstan, even as many in Washington have come to doubt the long-term efficacy of sanctions.

Israeli Activists Invite Palestinian Vote
During the recent Israeli election, a group of Israeli activists called attention to Palestinian statelessness by offering their votes to Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

It’s All About Israel
Israel dominated the Senate hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary.

Setbacks Push Mideast Peace to Back Burner
Although Obama administration officials have expressed optimism about progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, experts suspect that the political climates in Washington and Tel Aviv will preclude it.


Re: Reuel Marc Gerecht

I caught Mr. Gerecht's performanceon PBS Newshour several weeks ago. Somebody should inform him that he might be more interesting if he'd ditch his arrogant, supercilious manner. BTW, Ms. Mathews [Jessica Tuchman Mathews]was correct to insinuate that Gerecht's same-old tired and failed neoconservative snake oil was just that. Now that I think about it, almost all neoconservatives are arrogant and supercilious. That's why they advocate an arrogant, dictatorial foreign policy that usually gets a lot of American military personnel and innocent civilians killed in ill-advised and futile attempts to maintain the American Empire.

Lou Candell
Williamsburg, VA

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Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, is a “tea party” Republican who previously served as director of the CIA.

Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served as a foreign policy aide to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been advocating regime change in Iran since even before 9/11.

John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, is now a leading advocate for regime change in both Iran and Syria based at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Dennis Ross, a U.S. diplomat who served in the Obama administration, is a fellow at the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Sheldon Adelson is a wealthy casino magnate known for his large, influential political contributions, his efforts to impact U.S. foreign policy discourse particularly among Republicans, and his ownership and ideological direction of media outlets.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.

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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.