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

The “Freedom” Faction

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FreedomWorks
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.


Letters

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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Featured Profiles

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


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.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


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From the Wires

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Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


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The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


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An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


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The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


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Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


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As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


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We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


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