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

Whose Democracy Agenda? Wattenberg, Dobriansky, and Fort

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Whither the "Global Democratic Revolution"?
By Tom Barry

Promoting democratic change is a worthy foreign policy goal that has deep roots in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The challenge is to promote that policy in the post-Bush era so that the ideal is not tainted by narrow national interests or ideological agendas. Read full story.

SEE ALSO: The Democracy Vanguard

Right Web Profile: National Endowment for Democracy

Right Web Profile: International Republican Institute

Right Web Profile: Freedom House


Ben Wattenberg
An early neocon trailblazer, Wattenberg, host of PBS’s Think Tank and an AEI fellow, thinks America should let in more immigrants, in part to support a larger military, which he envisions chasing down terrorists across the globe.

Paula Dobriansky
A vocal proponent of the Bush administration’s democracy agenda within the State Department, among Dobriansky’s more recent assignments has been tackling the growing refugee crisis created by the war she helped promote.

Randall Fort
A former director at Goldman Sachs and TRW, Randall Fort heads the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, one of the few intel agencies that challenged the Bush administration’s assertions about pre-war Iraq.


Base Politics
By Daniel Luban

A congressional bill to prevent the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq is symbolic and little else, say critics. Read full article.

An Unwitting War Machine?
By Khody Akhavi

A little help from the media went a long way in helping the Bush administration edge America into the Iraq War, says a new documentary film. Read full article.


Re: Right Web Profile: Freedom House

Right Web’s profile of Freedom House quotes an article from the Financial Times that mischaracterizes the work of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and its founding chair Peter Ackerman.

First of all, despite implications to the contrary, ICNC is not Peter Ackerman’s personal entity, but is a legally chartered private operating foundation. In fact, since becoming chair of the board for Freedom House, he has stepped down as chair for ICNC. ICNC’s tax returns—including its sources of funding—are fully public and no funding comes from any government, corporation, or other foundation. Its independence from the U.S. government is not merely what Dr. Ackerman "says," but is a well-documented fact.

Secondly, ICNC arranged only one workshop in Dubai, and it was not on "lessons learned from east European movements," but about the core ideas and strategic aspects of many nonviolent struggles in history. It was also not "discreet" but was publicly advertised through flyers given openly to Iranian participants before they chose to attend.

Thirdly, the implication that ICNC’s work is focused on regimes opposed by the U.S. government is untrue. In addition to the workshop for Iranians, ICNC has done more than 20 workshops for other nationalities, including Palestinians, Maldivians, Sahrawis, Eritreans, Egyptians, Papuans, Fijians, Tongans, Guatemalans, and many other peoples engaged in various kinds of struggles for justice and against oppression, including peoples opposing regimes supported by the U.S. government.

Fourthly, the fact that Ackerman happened to introduce President Bush when he spoke at Freedom House should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the administration’s policies but the normal courtesy expected of any board chair when an organization is hosting an honored guest. Indeed, Ackerman happens to oppose a number of policies of the current administration.

Finally, I happen to serve as chair of the ICNC’s academic advisory board and have co-led a number of their workshops overseas on strategic nonviolent action. Not only would I refuse to serve in either capacity for an organization that receives government funding or advances the Bush administration’s agenda, but—given my reputation as highly visible critic of U.S. foreign policy (such as serving as an advisory board member and Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus)—there is no way a group supportive of the Bush agenda would ever include someone like me in an influential position.

—Stephen Zunes

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Featured Profiles

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has been an outspoken proponent of militarist U.S. foreign polices and the use of torture, aping the views of her father, Dick Cheney.

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.

John Bolton, senior fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and the controversial former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has been considered for a variety of positions in the Trump administration, including most recently as national security adviser.

Gina Haspel is a CIA officer who was nominated to head the agency by President Donald Trump in March 2018. She first came to prominence because of accusations that she oversaw the torture of prisoners and later destroyed video evidence of that torture.

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.

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From the Wires

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Hardliners at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies are working overtime to convince the Trump administration to “fix” the nuclear agreement with Iran on the pretext that it will give the US leverage in negotiations with North Korea.

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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.