Blog No. 140 North Korea: As the Drums of War Continue To Beat, Silence On Capitol Hill

On Monday, President Trump said that he would be willing to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances,” adding the somewhat bizarre comment that he would be “honored” to do so. What he meant by that pronouncement was anyone’s guess and it may be assumed that considerable guessing is going on[…]

Blog No. 136. Missiles on Syria: What Now?

As a fairly relentless critic of President Trump, it comes as something of a relief to have an occasion on which one can offer at least qualified support for our President. Support for the Syrian missile attack is warranted because the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Air Force had created a situation that[…]

Blog No. 87. The President, the Contenders and ISIS

The President’s recent address from the Oval Office was clearly intended to reassure the nation. Whether anyone in fact felt reassured is highly questionable. As many observers noted, he offered nothing new to a strategy that has shown little sign of success thus far and gives little reason to believe that it will be more successful going forward. In fairness to the President, however, none of the current candidates for the presidency have offered a particularly persuasive path to a successful outcome for our struggle with ISIS and related elements of radical Islam.

The most detailed and comprehensive proposal for combating ISIS was provided by Hillary Clinton in a speech on November 14. Clinton’s proposal was similar to Obama’s existing policy, notably in prescribing a highly restricted role for American ground troops and hopeful reliance on the “65 country coalition.” It differed principally in a tone of greater urgency and a recognition, even before the San Bernardino shooting, that the past and present levels of effort were insufficient: […]

Blog No 69. Surprise: Republicans May Know How to Govern After All

It is still early days, but there are some encouraging signs that Republican leaders in the Senate and House have found the ability to get things done—actually legislate—despite Democratic opposition and the Oozlums of the right gnawing at their ankles.

The first major milestone came two months ago when Republicans abandoned the quixotic attempt to block the President’s executive actions with respect to immigration. While we had disapproved of those actions, the response of holding up funding for Homeland Security seemed to us to make as much sense as treating a toothache by hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. […]

Blog No. 61 The National Security Strategy, the Islamic State and Ukraine

Part I. The National Security Strategy and The Islamic State

We believe that the assaults by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and by Russia and its proxies in Ukraine, represent clear and present dangers to the national security of the United States. The circumstances in each area of conflict are obviously quite different, but they have in common the absence of any clear strategy on the part of the Administration for dealing with them. Indeed, despite routine expressions of disapproval, and sometimes condemnation, the concern of the Administration more often seems to be one of almost studied nonchalance. That is clearly the tone of the National Security Strategy (NSS) issued on February 6. Apart from vague references to coalitions and partnerships, the emphasis seems more on what we will not do than what we will do. The NSS received relatively little attention in the media when it appeared, and the members of the public who have actually read it could probably fit without crowding into a rather small stadium. Yet it is an important document that should be read, if not in its full 28 pages, at least for the 2 page personal Introduction by the President. It is available here. […]

SECOND UPDATE to Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis

Back on July 30, we posted Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis. In that post we observed that on June 13 President Obama had belatedly acknowledged for the first time the existence of an threat by ISIS that demanded his attention. The action he had announced, however, was conspicuously limited—dispatching 300 military advisers to assess the situation—and he insisted the problem was a regional one posing a threat to “American interests” that was at most remote and contingent. For our part, we quoted current and former government officials who saw a far more serious and immediate danger to the United States, and we urged Republicans “ to press for the articulation of some coherent and realistic strategy” to meet that danger. […]

Blog No. 5 Whither the War on Terror? Part II. Of Drones and Guantanamo

Drone Strikes. President Obama’s May 23 speech announced new criteria for drone strikes. Although the previous criteria had not been disclosed, he made it clear that the new criteria were significantly narrower. According to the President, a targeted terrorist must now pose “a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” Taken literally and applied conscientiously, those are narrow criteria indeed. But as The New York Times reported, “Even as [Obama] set new standards, a debate broke out about what they actually meant and what would actually change.” […]