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

Washington’s New Agenda Dredges Up Old Opponents

Featured Profiles

Independent Women’s Forum

The Independent Women’s Forum has a history of opposing virtually every “women’s rights” initiative and supporting a right-wing “pro-Israel” agenda for U.S. Middle East policy. The group attracted headlines recently when one of its senior fellows testified before the Senate that guns, particularly those that can accommodate high-capacity magazines, “make women safer”—a claim that is directly at odds with independent research on the subject.

Progressive Policy Institute

Since its founding in 1989, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has advocated “market-friendly” economic policies and a hawkish line on foreign policy from within the Democratic Party. Closely associated with the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, the group has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocated a “get-tough” line on Iran, and backed aggressive Israeli military actions towards the Palestinians. More recently, Politico included the group among a list of think tanks that could “hamstring” President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense. PPI president Will Marshall, a long-time ally of the “Israel Lobby,” has criticized what he calls Hagel’s “instinctual recoiling from intervention.”

Immigration Reform Caucus

The House Immigration Reform Caucus is a mostly Republican coalition of House members that has promoted restrictive immigration policies, sometimes by linking immigration crackdowns to the “war on terror.” Some high-profile members of the caucus, which has been linked to “white nationalist” and “nativist” groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, have evoked anti-Islamic themes regarding Muslim and Arab immigrants to justify cracking down on “illegals.” Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), for example, have warned about “Muslim Brotherhood infiltration” in the U.S. government and promoted the widely ridiculed idea that immigrants are having “terror babies” on U.S. soil to secure U.S. citizenship for their “terrorist” offspring.

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal “Global View” columnist Bret Stephens has long trumpeted a hawkish right-wing line on the Middle East and Israel. Having suggested in the past that criticism of Israel is not “morally acceptable,” Stephens recently added his voice to the growing chorus of “pro-Israel” figures to accuse secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel of anti-Semitism for his past remarks on the influence of the Israel lobby in Washington.

Bipartisan Policy Center

The ostensibly centrist Bipartisan Policy Center has played an important role in shifting Beltway rhetoric on Iran to the hawkish right. In late 2012, for example, BPC “Iran Task Force” members Dennis Ross, Michael Makovsky, and Charles Robb took to the Wall Street Journal to argue that the economic impact of a hypothetical “nuclear Iran” would be more detrimental than an actual U.S. strike on the country. The argument, which was disputed by critics, essentially aimed to provide an economic case for going to war. The report came on the tail end of a year in which the center published a slew of documents devoted to pressuring the United States to “stop the clock” on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Jamie Fly

In early 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, hired Jamie Fly, head of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative and a vocal proponent of bombing Iran, to be his “counselor for foreign and national security affairs.” The appointment prompted one blogger to write: “Despite the neoconservative movement’s ideas being thoroughly out of the mainstream, the neocons remain with us, shaping the U.S. foreign policy debate.”

John Nagl

In late 2012, John Nagl, an important promoter of counterinsurgency strategy (COIN), apparently left behind his career in military policy to become headmaster at a wealthy prep school, prompting one writer to quip: “Today, there is no better symbol for the dramatic failure of COIN, the fading of the COINdinistas and the loss that is U.S war policy in Afghanistan than this week’s news that Nagl is leaving Washington to be the headmaster of The Haverford School, a rich preparatory school (grades k-12) for boys on Philadelphia’s Main Line.”


From the Wires

Israel Votes for More of the Same – And Seeks Change

If reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays true to his political survivalism, he’ll take his coalition toward the center—but to what end?

Landmark U.S. Immigration Framework Heavy on Border Security

Shifting political winds in the United States have brought immigration reform to the forefront of Washington’s agenda, but some observers worry that a right-wing insistence on more robust “border security” could stymie the deal.

Oh, Snap, George Shultz Backs Hagel

A letter backing Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, signed by 13 former cabinet-level officials from both parties, highlights the marginalization of the beltway neoconservatives who have opposed Hagel’s nomination.

Devil Is in the Details for Iran Nuclear Deal

A letter from seven exiled Iranian parliamentarians urges a nuclear deal between Iran and the West based on Iran’s right to peaceful enrichment.

The viral campaign to set a “red line” for Iran

A video calling for unspecified parties to set a “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program has gone viral thanks to the promotional efforts of right-wing, “pro-Israel” interest groups.

Victory Close to Defeat for Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has won another term as Israel’s prime minister even as his support base seems more tenuous than ever.

Early Reaction: Winners and Losers in Israel’s 2013 Elections

Israel’s centrist parties gained ground in the country’s recent elections, but it’s unlikely to result in any progress on the stalled peace process.

U.S. Public Supports UNESCO, Despite Funding Cuts

A recent poll reveals widespread U.S. support for various UN agencies—including UNESCO, which the U.S. has withheld its support from ever since the agency agreed to recognize the “state” of Palestine.

Obama to Accelerate Handover to Afghan Army

Hinting at the possibility of a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Obama announced recently that U.S. forces would shift into a strictly training and support role by the spring, leaving primary security responsibilities to the Afghan army.


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Featured Profiles

Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


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.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


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.


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From the Wires

Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


Falsely demonizing all Muslims, their beliefs, and their institutions is exactly the wrong way to make Americans safer, because the more we scare ourselves with imaginary enemies, the harder it will be to find and protect ourselves from real ones.


Division in the ranks of the conservative movement is a critical sign that a war with Iran isn’t inevitable.


Donald Trump stole the headlines, but the declaration from the recent NATO summit suggests the odds of an unnecessary conflict are rising. Instead of inviting a dialogue, the document boasts that the Alliance has “suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia.” The fact is, NATO was a child of the Cold War, when the West believed that the Soviets were a threat. But Russia today is not the Soviet Union, and there’s no way Moscow would be stupid enough to attack a superior military force.


War with Iran may not be imminent, but neither was war with Iraq in late 2001.


Donald Trump was one of the many bets the Russians routinely place, recognizing that while most such bets will never pay off a few will, often in unpredictable ways. Trump’s actions since taking office provide the strongest evidence that this one bet is paying off handsomely for the Russians. Putin could hardly have made the script for Trump’s conduct at the recent NATO meeting any more to his liking—and any better designed to foment division and distrust within the Western alliance—than the way Trump actually behaved.


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