Right Web

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

Dick Cheney’s Laundry List of Threats Enthralls AEI

LobeLog

Fear was the word of the day at the American Enterprise Institute as former Vice President Dick Cheney talked about the nearly infinite number of grave threats he sees confronting the United States. Greeted by a standing ovation from the attendees, Cheney spent the bulk of his roughly 30-minute remarks listing those threats and championing a much more hawkish American response to all of them.

Regarding the most immediate threat, the Islamic State or ISIS (“the situation is dire,” he commented), Cheney had suggestions for President Barack Obama—if you consider “recognize ISIS as a strategic threat” a suggestion. Cheney supported a commitment of additional arms, troops, advisors and trainers to Iraq, as well as “immediate, sustained action” in Syria. What form that action should take, and how it should be implemented without helping Bashar al-Assad (who Cheney also cited as a significant threat) or Iran (ditto), was not addressed in Cheney’s remarks. It probably goes without saying that the former vice president ignored the role his own administration’s ill-fated war on Iraq played in creating the ISIS threat in the first place. Nor did he spend any time engaging the reasoned argument that the Islamic State currently represents only a potential threat to the United States—not a realized, let alone “dire,” one.

If you’re trying to keep score at home, Cheney suggested at various points in his speech that America ought to commit substantial military forces toward countering threats in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, with no particular sense about which of these should take priority over the others. Oh, and maybe in Ukraine as well; that part wasn’t as clear.

At this point, Cheney is effectively the living, breathing embodiment of Maslow’s Hammer, only instead of a hammer his tool is an overwhelming commitment of American military forces—so to him every problem looks like an existential threat to the United States. Again and again he leveled harsh criticism at the Obama administration, particularly Obama himself, for failing to appreciate the magnitude of the many dangers America faces. He chided Obama for declaring in a 2012 speech that “the tide of war is receding,” a quote that must seem almost as untimely as Cheney’s 2005 declaration that the Iraqi insurgency was “in the last throes, if you will.” We were, but they weren’t.

Cheney also criticized the administration’s treatment of America’s Middle Eastern allies, noting in particular a perception in the region that the United States is working with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a popular conspiracy theory in military-led Egypt and other regional anti-MB countries, and is rooted in a deliberate misreading of the administration’s initial response to the Arab Spring, when it tentatively supported democratization efforts even if they meant that moderate Islamist political parties would be the immediate winners. In reality, the US made a decision to accept the results of whatever elections the Arab Spring produced, not ally itself with the Muslim Brotherhood—but don’t try and tell that to Egyptian state-controlled media.

This is a policy, by the way, that regional experts now say the administration has dropped, and not for the better; the Arab Spring’s failure to bring about widespread democratic change in the region has actually empowered both Islamic extremists like ISIS and the authoritarian regimes opposing them.

Cheney characterized the Muslim Brotherhood as “the ideological source for most of the radical Islamist terrorists around the globe,” particularly Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and through it, al-Qaeda. This reading of history glosses over the fact that EIJ broke off from the Muslim Brotherhood over the latter’s commitment to nonviolence and to gaining power through peaceful means. Moderate Islamist political parties like the Brotherhood may not be ideal conduits for American interests in the region, and they can govern in anti-democratic ways, but when they are outlawed or suppressed those among them who support peaceful political change are only driven into extremist camps and potentially more violent organizations. And no matter how much the Muslim Brotherhood has been suppressed, it has always found a way back.

Speaking of Egypt, Cheney especially zeroed in on the administration’s response to the 2013 coup that toppled Egypt’s nascent democracy and brought back Mukbarak-era deep state governance, contending that America should have ignored the coup (which it pretty much did) and worked to strengthen ties with coup leader and now elected (well, sort of) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. This, Cheney said, would have strengthened security in the region and diminished any talk that the US and Muslim Brotherhood were in cahoots. Cheney also remarked that he was “very impressed” with Sisi, which seems odd given that he was talking about a man who is responsible for the deaths of over a thousand of his fellow Egyptians, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Cheney also spent a considerable portion of his speech railing against cuts to the Defense budget, which is understandable given that he’s backing military commitments in at least ten different countries. He noted, for example, that “other major powers are seriously adding to their military capabilities” (maybe someday one of them will spend as much as half of America’s annual defense budget) while the US is making “irrational budget cuts” to its capabilities. Of course, it’s hard to take this argument seriously when the US is prepared, for example, to throw $1.5 trillion at an aircraft system that may be needed but definitely doesn’t work). Then again, if all you have is a hammer, it makes sense to seek the biggest hammer money can buy.

Derek Davison is a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

On August 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG). It would “be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to me,” he stated. Amid speculation that the Donald Trump administration was focused on…


Norm Coleman is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and former senator from Minnesota, known for hawkish, pro-Likud, and anti-Iran foreign policy views.


The millionaire pastor of the Cornerstone Church in Texas, John Hagee argues that U.S. support for Israel will play a “a pivotal role in the second coming” of Jesus. He has also risen to new prominence during the Trump administration.


Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who served as a chief aide and speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House, is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics on the right, calling him an “unhinged president.”


Robert Kagan, a cofounder of the Project for the New American Century, is a neoconservative policy pundit and historian based at the Brookings Institution.


Mira Ricardel, former weapons marketer for Boeing, is the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk who has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush and, earlier, in the office of former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).


Fred Fleitz left his role as chief of staff at the National Security Council under John Bolton to succeed notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Although a widespread movement has developed to fight climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster — yet.


U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


Eminent U.S. foreign policy expert Stephen Walt’s new book critique’s the “liberal hegemony” grand strategy that has dominated U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.


RightWeb
share