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

Washington’s New Agenda Dredges Up Old Opponents

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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.


Letters

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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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