National Security

Honor Our War Dead On Memorial Day -- They Won't Be the Last

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana Visitors look at the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 24, 2015. T his Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor those who died in America's many wars, we find ourselves still debating the last war we fought, arguing over what the nation consented to in 2003 and what its leaders delivered. Just imagine if George W. Bush had come before the American people then and said, "I want to invade Iraq, and here's what's going to happen. The war will last over eight years, during which time just short of 4,500 American servicemembers will die. It'll cost us a couple of trillion dollars, and the justifications I'm offering for the war will all turn out to be false. It will result in a huge wave of anti-Americanism, and it will greatly increase Iran's influence in the Middle East. After my successor finally gets us out, Iraq's government will be so fragile and riven by corruption and sectarianism that it won't be...

Why Everyone Wants the Military Budget to Be Bigger

It's not about "defense." 

Vito Palmisano/Getty
Vito Palmisano/Getty N ow that we've finally ( almost ) clarified who would have invaded Iraq and who wouldn't have, it's time for a little perspective. Yes, it's a good thing that elite Republicans are moving toward agreeing with the rest of us that invading Iraq was a mistake, even if they base their argument on the myth of "faulty intelligence." But there's another consensus in Washington, one that says that our military should never be anything short of gargantuan, ready to start more wars whenever a future George W. Bush wants to. At the end of last week, the House passed a defense authorization bill worth $612 billion, a number that was possible to reach only with some budgetary hocus-pocus involving classifying $89 billion of it as "emergency" spending, thereby avoiding the cuts mandated by sequestration. While the White House has objected to the way the bill moves money around, that $612 billion number is exactly what President Obama asked for. Even the guy who's supposedly...

Should We Relitigate the Iraq War in the 2016 Campaign? You Bet We Should

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images News)
View image | gettyimages.com I f all goes well, in the 2016 campaign we'll be rehashing the arguments we had about the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003. You may be thinking, "Jeez, do we really have to go through that again?" But we do—in fact, we must. If we're going to make sense of where the next president is going to take the United States on foreign policy, there are few more important discussions to have. On Sunday, Fox News posted an excerpt of an interview Megyn Kelly did with Jeb Bush in which she asked him whether he too would have invaded Iraq, and here's how that went : Kelly : Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion? Bush : I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got. Kelly : You don't think it was a mistake? Bush : In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. And in...

Netanyahu's New Government: Weak, Extreme, and Unpredictable

To stay in power, Israel's prime minister created a government even further right than he is.

(Photo: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
(Photo: AP/Sebastian Scheiner) A s the minutes and seconds left for Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government flashed on my screen Wednesday night, I passed the time by reading Daniel Kahneman on the futility of political predictions. "Reality emerges from many different agents and forces. ... Short-term trends can be forecast with fair accuracy from previous behaviors," writes the Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate in economics. "You should not expect much from making long-term forecasts." Kahneman seems overly optimistic about even short-term predictions when it comes to the politics of his native land—though he could fairly answer that in Israel seven weeks is long-term. That's how long it's been since the Israeli election, when Netanyahu defeated both his left-wing challenger and all of the country's pollsters. Immediately after the vote, the impression among the public and most of the expert class was that his way was paved to a new coalition, stronger than the one...

The West's Regard for Charlie Hedbo Victims Not Extended to African Targets of Extremist Violence

Massacres in Nigeria and Garissa, Kenya, did not draw nearly as much worldwide attention or grief as Charlie Hebdo. What does that say about how we value African lives?

(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
(Photo: AP/Lionel Cironneau) People in Nice, France, hold "I am Charlie" signs while participating in a silent march on January 10, commemorating the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. O n May 5, the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will receive the PEN American Center’s annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. As of May 1, 145 writers have signed a letter of protest, on the grounds that the award would endorse the Islamophobia many associate with the magazine. Yet beyond a criticism like this, the fact that the Charlie Hebdo attack still occupies so much worldwide attention speaks to a selective memory of human rights abuses. In the months since, atrocities elsewhere have not inspired the same humanitarian response. And this is cause for concern. As it should be, the savage attack on Charlie Hebdo ’s Paris headquarters in January in which 12 were killed threw many of us into a deep stupor. The world stopped. Then, the world moved immediately to demonstrate...

Pity the Purist in the GOP Primaries (A Tear for Bobby Jindal)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
I t's the season for pandering to the base, which is as good a time as any to ask whether the glorious, fascinating mess that is today's Republican Party can ever unify enough to win back the White House—or whether unity is something they should even be after. Because it may well be that a fractured, contentious GOP is the only kind that can prevail next November. You probably missed it, but over the weekend nearly all the Republican presidential candidates (with the notable exception of Jeb Bush) hotfooted it back to Iowa to participate in the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Forum, where they testified to the depths of their love for the Lord and their hatred for His enemies, particularly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The entreaties to this band of the base—important in primaries everywhere, but critically so in Iowa, where 57 percent of the attendees at the Republican caucuses in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christian—are a good reminder of the internal and...

The Sensible, Risky Option

The Iran deal is a gamble, but the best one available. 

(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
(AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader) In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of religious performers in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 9, 2015. "There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one." "You don't have a better bad idea than this?" "This is the best bad idea we have, sir." T hat snippet of dialogue is from the film Argo , set just after the Iranian revolution in 1979. It's the scene in which CIA Director Stansfield Turner is listening to the out-of-any-box scheme of two CIA men for smuggling six American diplomats out of Teh e ran. Turner is sensible. Since this is the best bad plan available, he approves it. Risky as it is, it even turns out to be a good plan. Thirty-six years later, the same script would be appropriate for calmly discussing the framework agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear program. Calm, though, has been in...

How Schumer's Iran Gamble Threatens Democrats' Chances in 2016

If enough senators in the minority party follow the lead of their next likely leader, the minority may be where they stay.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, left, has pledged support to Republican Senator Bob Corker, right, for a bill designed to scuttle the Obama administration's agreement with Iran over the development of nuclear technology. Here, the two are pictured in the House chamber before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015. A week and a half ago, Chuck Schumer, currently third in the leadership of the minority party in the U.S. Senate, moved quickly to solidify his position as the next leader of Democrats, securing the support of his caucus. This week he endorsed Republican Senator Bob Corker’s bill, which, on paper, gives Congress the right to approve the nuclear agreement hammered out with Iran by the U.S. and its allies (collectively known as the P5+1). In reality, this bill is yet another carefully crafted attempt to thwart a negotiated end to this nuclear...

This Is No Time for Liberals to Give Up on Israel

Because of Netanyahu's bellicosity—and Republican support for it—it's now possible in Washington to argue about Israel. With so much at stake, liberals must.

(Photo: EdoM via Wikimedia Commons)
T onight most American Jews will sit down with family and friends for the Passover Seder. Whether they tell the story of redemption from slavery according to the Hebrew traditional text, a radical rewriting, or not at all, they'll eventually get to a sumptuous holiday meal and to conversation, often including politics. Judging from the reaction of some of my close friends and respected colleagues to the Israeli election, one subject that liberal Jews—that is, most American Jews—won't want on the menu is Israel. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu has spoiled the taste beyond redemption. The manner of his victory—a lurch rightward, an unholy alliance with the GOP, a last-minute scare video about "droves" of Arab voters "advancing" on the polling places—has made talk of Israel even more bitter to the tongue. The tension in American Jewry between being liberal and being Zionist has been growing for years. But the election on March 17, 2015, may have been a breaking point. Believe me, I...

Trey Gowdy's Bad Benghazi Hand

He can’t bring himself to fold and toss his cards into the muck.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Why won't the chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee show his cards? E very poker player has experienced this moment. The hand is over. You show a winning hand and your opponent sits still. They grimace, while looking down at their cards hoping somehow they will change. Maybe they let out an annoyed sigh. All this whiny display accomplishes is wasting the time of every other player at the table. The dealer is frozen, unable deliver the pot to the winner until your opponent shows his cards or folds. As chairman of the Benghazi Select Committee, Trey Gowdy has become that poker player. Earlier this week the Democratic staff of the committee put out a press release comparing the time spent by the Gowdy committee— 10 months and 15 days— to that taken by other historic high-profile Congressional committees and commissions to complete their investigations: Hurricane Katrina Entity: Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response...

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

Fear Wins: Israeli Elections, the Morning After

Netanyahu sacrificed Israel’s democratic principles and its relations with the U.S. to win another term as prime minister.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) An Orthodox Jewish man walks past a billboard of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 16, 2015, a day ahead of legislative elections. Netanyahu won his fourth term as prime minister on March 17. I f there is any credibility left in Israeli polls—a highly questionable proposition—Benjamin Netanyahu won a come-from-behind victory in yesterday’s election. The final opinion surveys of the campaign, published Friday, showed the prime minister’s Likud Party trailing challenger Isaac Herzog’s left-of-center Zionist Union by as many as four seats in parliament, which has 120 members. Exit polls shocked the country by showing a virtual tie. This morning, those of us in Israel who dared to hope for a change in direction awoke with a pounding political hangover. The nearly complete vote count showed the Likud winning 30 seats in Israel’s parliament to the Zionist Union’s 24. The right-wing bloc of parties as a whole...

At National Gathering, Firefighters Not Impressed By Potential GOP Candidates

Ted Cruz elicited more grumbles than laughs with jokes about Hillary Clinton and the IRS. The rest of the Republican presidential field didn't fare much better.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. I t only took one observation for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, appearing before 700 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters union on Tuesday to eclipse the five Republicans who spoke before him. “There are two very important things that you did not hear from any of today’s Republican speakers,” O’Malley said to the firefighters who were in attendance for the IAFF’s Presidential Forum. “One is a commitment to collective bargaining, and the second is a commitment to increasing funding for public safety.” His comments prompted whistles and a standing ovation, an enthusiastic response from an audience that had remained largely unmoved by the conservative speakers. The GOP’s half-hearted attempt to embrace labor but avoid divisive economic issues at the...

Are You Ready for War With Iran? Here's How It Could Happen

If 2016 lands a Republican in the White House, with a Republican Congress behind him, the war will be all but begun.

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
I t's been a while, so you may have forgotten just what a great time it was for the national security hawks widely known as neoconservatives back in 2002 and 2003. With the memory of September 11 still fresh and Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, there was little to stand in the way of the dream of remaking the map of the Middle East, the region that had so vexed us for so long. Democrats sure weren't going to—most of them were only too eager to show that they weren't lily-livered pacifists, so they provided barely any impediment at all to a new war. Sure, when it came to justifying an invasion of Iraq, the hawks had to exaggerate a little here, twist the facts a little there, spin out ridiculous scenarios everywhere. But it would all be worth it once victory was won. Saddam Hussein would fall, we'd quickly set up a new government, and democracy would spread through the region as a glorious new age dawned, brought forth by the beneficent power of American arms. Then...

Republicans Hankering for Ground War Against ISIS. What Could Go Wrong?

We're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for a re-invasion of Iraq. And how 'bout a strike on Iran while we're at it?

(Sipa via AP Images)
View image | gettyimages.com I t's been an entire 12 years since we started a war, and apparently the American people are getting a little antsy. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 62 percent of Americans, including 72 percent of Republicans, favors the use of ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We should be careful about over-interpreting that, because the question was preceded by another question talking about limited, but not long-term operations for ground troops. But there's no doubt that the public's interest in getting some boots back on the ground is gaining momentum; in Pew polls , support for ground troops went up from 39 percent in October to 47 percent in February; in the same poll, 67 percent of Republicans said they supported ground troops. The reason I focus on the number of Republicans is that I suspect with this increase in support from their constituents, we're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for what we might call a re-invasion...

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