National Security

A Bright Spot In Obama's Foreign Policy: Iran. Yes, Iran

With a glimmer of success on the horizon, Obama's critics are predicting the apocalypse.

U.S. State Department
U.S. State Department Photo U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane after traveling from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Vienna, Austria, on July 13, 2014 for allied talks with Iran about its nuclear program. W ho would’ve ever thought that the Iranian nuclear program—that’s the Iranian nuclear program —would be the bright spot in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, the place where things were looking up? But that’s the situation we find ourselves in, with talks between Iran and the U.S. and it partners in the p5+1 (the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council—U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China, plus Germany) having achieved serious progress. This past Sunday was the end of the six-month interim period laid out in the agreement last November in Geneva. The parties agreed to a four-month extension of the talks in order to try and reach a comprehensive agreement. The State Department released a fact sheet on the extension’s terms, noting that Iran had...

Hillary for Liberals: A Conversation With Walter Shapiro

AP Photo/Randy Snyder
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth Campaign buttons are ready for distribution at an Iowa kickoff event for the national Ready for Hillary group led by Craig Smith, senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary group, in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Ready for Hillary is a so-called super PAC building a national network to benefit Clinton if she decides to seek the presidency in 2016. The gathering of Iowa Democrats included the state chairs of both Clinton and President Barack Obama's 2008 campaigns. A s a reporter and columnist for Time , Newsweek , the Washington Post , USA Today , Esquire , Salon , and other publications, Walter Shapiro has covered nine presidential elections and the nation’s politics for four decades. He is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and a lecturer in political science at Yale while he finishes a book about his great-uncle, a vaudevillian and con man who once swindled Hitler. Shapiro is also an accomplished Hillary-...

Alabama Steelworkers Fight for Their Jobs, Threatened By Korea Trade Ruling

The steel industry is under attack by the selling or “dumping” of foreign steel, says the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing
Alliance for American Manufacturing Approximately 1,000 supporters of steelworker jobs turned out Monday, June 16 at a rally at the U.S. Steel facilities in Fairfield. The author works for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which works in partnership with the United Steelworkers and other petitioners to the Department of Commerce for an appeal of the department's February ruling in favor of South Korea's steel industry. S tanding high atop Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham, Alabama, is a statue known as the Vulcan. It is the symbol of this scrappy southern city, reminding people of Birmingham’s roots in the iron and steel industries. A depiction of the ancient Roman god of the fire and forge, it is, at fifty-six feet tall, the largest iron statue in the world, and the seventh-tallest, free-standing statue in the United States. While it may not dominate the landscape the way the 125-foot “Christ the Redeemer” statue does in Rio de Janeiro, it is a similar symbolic,...

Netanyahu's Dangerous Posture on Kidnapped Israelis Could Lead to Conflagration

Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images
Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images A mass prayer for the release of three Jewish teenagers, believed to have been snatched from an area between the Israeli occupied West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 15, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Islamist Hamas movement of kidnapping three teenagers on the third day of a massive West Bank manhunt for the missing youths. Update, July 1, 1:30 p.m. Israel time (6:30 a.m. EDT): Israeli troops and security agents yesterday afternoon found the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens buried in open country north of Hebron in the West Bank. The manhunt for the two alleged murderers, Hamas activists from Hebron, continues. From the information released so far, it appears that the kidnappers did intend to keep live hostages. But when one of the boys dialed the police and whispered, "We've been kidnapped," their abductors killed them...

Can the U.S. Stop Drones From Creating a More Dangerous World?

A drone launches from the USS Lassen (U.S. Navy photo)
In an op-ed in today's Washington Post , retired Army general John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official, warn that "[t]he United States' drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent—one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit." Their argument, which comes from a report they produced for the Stimson Center together with a task force of former defense and intelligence officials, is essentially that unmanned aerial vehicles make the use of lethal force across borders too easy, and we need to establish strict policies limiting their use. True enough. But the question I'm left with is, how much will the United States' policies really determine the worldwide future of drones and their use? Before we get to that, we should acknowledge that President Obama has declared his intention to establish rules restraining his own and future presidents' use of drones. In...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Should We Listen to Those Who Were Wrong on Iraq in 2002?

Dick and Liz Cheney announcing their new pro-strength organization.
Last week, I wrote a post over at the Washington Post expressing amazement that so many of the people who were so spectacularly wrong on Iraq in 2002 are now returning to tell us what we should do about Iraq in 2014. While it went out under the headline "On Iraq, let's ignore those who got it all wrong," I didn't actually argue specifically that they should be ignored, just that we shouldn't forget their track records when we hear them now (although I did allow that seeking out John McCain's opinion on Iraq is like getting lost and deciding that Mr. Magoo is the person you need to ask for directions). Then yesterday, after Dick Cheney popped up with a predictably tendentious criticism of Barack Obama, I wrote another post on the topic of our former vice president, and here I did get a little more explicit about how his opinions should be greeted, after running through some of his more appalling howlers: There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz,...

Weak Weakling Continues Weak Policies of Weakness

Flickr/National Guard
Conservatives are struggling to get over their disappointment that the Obama administration captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, but don't think they can't come up with another way to argue that Barack Obama is screwing everything up. If there's one thing they're certain of, it's that Obama is weak, and while until this weekend he was too weak to nab Khattala, now he's too weak to do what needs to be done with him. I'm pretty sure many on the right really wish we could torture Khattala, even if you can't say that in polite company anymore. In the absence of that, they'll demand that we take Khattala to Guantanamo, where presumably he will spill what he knows forthwith. Marco Rubio demanded that we "immediately" transfer him to Guantanamo. " In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence," said the senator, apparently under the impression that...

Beware Simple Solutions On Iraq

The aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad. (Flickr/Salam Pax)
With the situation in Iraq growing more grave by the hour, we're going to be hearing a lot from the gang of cretins who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who will now be emerging to tell us that it was all a splendid American victory until Barack Obama came along and screwed the whole thing up. (I can't wait to see what Bill Kristol has to say when he appears on ABC's This Week on Sunday.) More than anyone else, we'll be hearing endlessly from President McCain, a man so uninformed he is unaware that ISIS, the group now controlling large parts of the country, is not actually the same thing as Al Qaeda. ("Al Qaeda is now the richest terrorist organization in history," he said after ISIS raided the bank in Mosul.) But reporters and TV bookers are beating a path to his door, so important is it that the American people hear his wise counsel. If there's one thing you should keep in mind as this develops, it's that anyone who says there's a simple solution to the problem of Iraq is...

Twelve Years Later, Hillary Clinton Still Struggles to Explain Her Iraq War Vote

Flickr/Marc Nozell
Back in 2002, many liberals (myself included) thought that all the Democrats who voted for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq did so out of a simple craven fear of being tarred as soft on terror, not because they actually believed Iraq was a terrible threat to the United States. Whether that is true of Hillary Clinton is something we'll never know, but when she ran for president in 2008, she struggled mightily to explain her vote in favor of the war. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was pure in voters' eyes on this question—not only hadn't he been in Congress to vote on it, he had opposed it as a state senator. I'm guessing that Clinton didn't expect she'd have to revisit this question over and over as she approached a 2016 presidential run, but with Iraq now mired in a new civil war (can we call it that yet?), it's coming up again. And yesterday, she gave this answer to a question about when she decided to finally declare her vote for the war to be a mistake: I...

The Bowe Bergdahl Situation Is Complicated. Let's Not Pretend Otherwise.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong A "Bring Bowe Back" sign honoring captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is seen through a POW-MIA flag in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. B efore long, we'll surely be hearing that Barack Obama arranged for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to distract the country from Benghazi. Or maybe the theory is already making the rounds on talk radio; I'm not sure. But this messy episode reminds us of how little the people who fetishize "toughness" and want desperately for the War on Terrorism to extend into eternity actually grasp about where we find ourselves in 2014. But before we get to that, if you go to any conservative site today, you'll see one piece after another attacking Bergdahl, with the implied or stated conclusion that we should have just left him there. Some of the people with whom Bergdahl served say he was a deserter. And they may turn out to be right. But there was enough uncertainty about what he did, and why, to make the idea of just...

Facial Recognition and the Loss of Anonymity

You're not fooling anyone, kid. We know who you are. (Flickr/Glen)
With all the attention given to the Obama administration's new regulations on carbon emissions, you may have missed the latest revelation from the documents obtained by Edward Snowden, which came out over the weekend. The latest news is that the NSA is now increasingly relying on facial recognition in its surveillance, and gathers millions of images a day from emails, social media, and other sources, and it isn't alone. Here's an excerpt from a report that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday : State and local law enforcement agencies are relying on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its "next generation identification" project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data. The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing...

Does Obama Have a Foreign Policy Doctrine? (Let's Hope Not)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama delivers a major foreign policy address at the United States Military Academy at West Point commencement ceremony at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014. O n Wednesday, President Barack Obama outlined his foreign policy principles in a speech at West Point, giving rise to a round of commentary on the "Obama Doctrine." Opinions fell into three camps: those who thought the Obama Doctrine sounded quite sensible (for example, Fareed Zakaria ), those who were underwhelmed by its lack of clarity and vision (for example, the New York Times ), and those who were horrified by its insufficient testosterone (pretty much any conservative you could name). But the truth is that foreign policy doctrines are overrated. It's no coincidence that the only presidents in the last half-century who had clear doctrines, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, were the most simplistic of thinkers (there have been doctrines attributed to...

Who's Hacking Your Phone?

They can definitely hear you now. (Flickr/Esther Vargas)
NBC aired its interview with Edward Snowden on Wednesday night, and there were lots of interesting things about it, particularly how confident and articulate Snowden was. One of the details that stood out for people was when Brian Williams asked Snowden about the NSA's ability to infiltrate your phone. I think the real lesson here isn't the one most people are taking, but to start, here's an excerpt from NBC's write-up : "The NSA, the Russian Intelligence Service, the Chinese Intelligence Service, any intelligence service in the world that has significant funding and a real technological research team, can own that phone the minute it connects to their network. As soon as you turn it on, it can be theirs. They can turn it into a microphone, they can take pictures from it, they can take the data off of it." Snowden described how the simple pattern of his phone calls—not the content of the calls but the time and location of those calls—could be invaluable to a security service. And how...

Where Terrorists and Assassins Don't Hide

Flickr/Wyn Van Devanter
At the end of last week, I wrote about a report showing how law enforcement authorities reacted to Occupy protests as if they were the advance guard for an al Qaeda invasion of America, on the apparent assumption that unlike non-violent right-wing dissent, non-violent left-wing dissent is likely a prelude to violence and thus must be met with surveillance, infiltration, and ultimately force. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a decision on a case involving the Secret Service that seems to grow from a similar assumption about the connection between dissent and violence. The case was about an incident in 2004 when President George W. Bush stopped at an outdoor restaurant in Oregon. A crowd quickly formed, with some people cheering Bush and some jeering him. The Secret Service forced both groups away from the location, but let the pro-Bush citizens stay closer than the anti-Bush citizens; the plaintiffs charged that this was impermissible viewpoint discrimination. The Court ruled 9-0...

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