Posted tagged ‘Foreign policy establishment’

Unsolicited Advice for the Trump Transition Team on National Security Intelligence

November 10, 2016

Unsolicited Advice for the Trump Transition Team on National Security Intelligence, PJ Media, Andrew C. McCarthy, November 10, 2016

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It was encouraging Wednesday to hear that President Obama intends to emulate President Bush, who generously provided Obama with a highly informative and smooth transition process.

Running the Executive Branch is a daunting task, so there is no aspect of the transition to a new administration that is unimportant. But obviously, the most crucial focus for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is heading up President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, must be national security.

That transition is going to be more complicated than it should be, but there are things Gov. Christie can do – better to say, people he ought to consult — to make sure his team is getting accurate information.

The Bush National Security Council was very good about putting together briefing books so their successors could hit the ground running. The problem now, however, is the trustworthiness of what is in those books.

As PJ Media has reported, a highly disturbing report by a congressional task force this summer found that the Obama administration had politicized its intelligence product.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who has been stellar on national security issues and was among the leaders of the task force (comprised of the Intelligence, Armed Services, and Appropriations Committees), put it this way when the report was issued:

After months of investigation, this much is very clear: from the middle of 2014 to the middle of 2015, the United States Central Command’s most senior intelligence leaders manipulated the command’s intelligence products to downplay the threat from ISIS in Iraq.The result: consumers of those intelligence products were provided a consistently “rosy” view of U.S. operational success against ISIS. That may well have resulted in putting American troops at risk as policymakers relied on this intelligence when formulating policy and allocating resources for the fight.

The intelligence manipulation became a controversy in 2015, when 50 intelligence-community whistleblowers complained that their reports on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terror networks were being altered.

The manipulation, driven by Obama’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and carried out in the Defense Department by senior Central Command (CENTCOM) officers, aimed to downplay the jihadist threat.

This is a reckless practice I have written about several times over the last eight years (see, e.g., here). The Obama administration has made a concerted effort to miniaturize the terrorist threat in order to project a mirage of policy success.

Intelligence has routinely been distorted — portraying the networks as atomized, largely detached cells that are not unified by any overarching ideology — in an attempt to make them appear smaller and less threatening. Basically, a nuisance to be managed rather than an enemy to be defeated.

Even when the terrorists are on the march, the administration claims they are in retreat. Indeed, less than 24 hours after four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya, were killed by al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in the 2012 siege of Benghazi, President Obama stated this in a political fundraising speech:

A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead.

Intel manipulation ran rampant after Obama fired Marine General James Mattis, CENTCOM’s commander, in 2013. General Mattis had the irksome habits of demanding clear-eyed assessments of America’s enemies and forcing administration policymakers to confront the potential consequences of their ludicrously optimistic assumptions, particularly regarding Iran’s behavior. Obama officials replaced him with Army General Lloyd Austin.

Meanwhile, it was made clear to the Pentagon that because the president made campaign commitments to end the U.S. mission in Iraq, he did not want to hear information contradictory to his narrative that withdrawing our forces was the right thing to do. After retiring, Army General Anthony Tata confirmed that an ODNI official instructed the Defense Department not to put in writing assessments that portrayed al-Qaeda and ISIS as fortified and threatening.

The result, of course, was that the president was told what wanted to hear.

This eventually led to Obama’s infamous assertion that ISIS was merely a “JV” terrorist team. Naturally, when the JV team rampaging through Iraq and Syria rendered that judgment embarrassing, the White House shifted the blame to General Austin, pushing him out the CENTCOM door.

The administration has done more to sculpt the narrative than quell the enemy. So Gov. Christie and his team will need to regard with skepticism any briefing books Obama’s transition coordinators supply.

Of course, Team Trump already has a tremendous resource to rely on: retired Army General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (and the author, along with PJ Media columnist Michael Ledeen, of The Field of Fight, which pleads for a desperately needed strategy for fighting the global war against jihadists and their allies). Like General Mattis, General Flynn (in 2014) was pushed out of his job because he rejected the politicization of our intelligence product for purposes of low-balling the terrorist threat. He knows his stuff, knows what we are up against, and will be a major asset not only to the transition, but to the Trump administration.

I would also respectfully suggest that Gov. Christie consult with General Mattis and General Jack Keane: smart, experienced former commanders who have given a great deal of thought to, and sound advice to Congress regarding, the current administration’s strategic and intelligence voids.

In understanding global jihadist networks — who the players are, how the organizations collude and compete — Tom Joscelyn, editor of The Long War Journal, is the best expert in the United States, bar none. While his value would be limitless, Tom is especially knowledgeable about the jihadists released from Guantanamo Bay, many of whom have gone back to the jihad.

Yet again, this is a context in which briefings from the Obama administration would be suspect. The president adheres to another narrative driven by foolish campaign promises, namely: the cost of Gitmo as a “recruiting tool” for the enemy outweighs the benefit of detaining committed, capable, anti-American jihadists. To justify both this absurd premise and the release of the terrorists, the administration watered down intelligence that supported holding the terrorists as enemy combatants who posed continuing danger to the United States.

The new administration needs accurate information for purposes of grasping the threat and formulating sound detention policy.

Finally, it is vital to understand “Countering Violent Extremism,” the Obama administration’s strategic guidance — their playbook for military, intelligence, and law-enforcement officials on how to approach and respond to terrorism. CVE is where the dereliction that I have labeled “willful blindness” has devolved into compulsory blindness.

Under CVE guidelines, the fact that Islamic-supremacist ideology spurs the jihadist threat and knits together terrorists and their sponsors is no longer just consciously avoided; taking notice of it is verboten.

The most thoroughgoing critique of this lunacy is Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad. Its author is Stephen Coughlin, a trained military intelligence officer and an attorney who has made a point of learning how Islamic law principles inform the goals and tactics of our enemies. Steve is extraordinarily informed about the administration’s wayward assumptions. If the Trump transition team wants to check the premises on which their work is based, he’s the guy.

Let’s welcome President Obama’s assurances of a seamless transition to the Trump administration. But my best unsolicited advice to Gov. Christie: When it comes to briefing books, don’t believe everything you read.

Bad Ideas Created Benghazi

July 5, 2016

Bad Ideas Created Benghazi, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, July 5, 2016

Witch of Benghazi

The House Select Committee on Benghazi report confirms what we pretty much already knew. The Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completely politicized this country’s foreign policy in order to ensure the reelection of Obama and to serve the future presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton. Along the way Obama, Clinton et al. made dangerous decisions, such as establishing the consular outpost in Benghazi, and ignoring the consul’s pleas for more security. They also ignored the many warning signs of incipient attacks, bungled the response to the attack on September 11, 2012, and then obfuscated, spun, and outright lied in the aftermath. The House report adds new details that flesh out the story, but enough had already been leaked to confirm Clinton’s despicable sacrifice of American lives on the altar of her obsessive ambition.

Toxic ambition, sheer incompetence, and the self-serving politics of the individuals involved mean they bear the primary responsibility for this disaster. But Benghazi illustrates as well the climate of bad ideas that make such decisions possible. Bad politicians eventually go away, but malignant ideas and received wisdom are deeply rooted in our institutions, transcending individuals. The Benghazi fiasco illustrates two particularly tenacious ones.

The military intervention in Libya, the origin of the Benghazi tragedy, was another act of Western wishful thinking about “democratizing” and “reforming” the Muslim world. Despite the failure of George W. Bush’s efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions encouraged the Wilsonian “freedom and democracy” promoters in 2011 to make Libya yet another poster-child for this doomed project. Moreover, intervention seemingly could be done on the cheap. No troops need be deployed, since jets and missiles could topple the psychotic Muammar Gaddafi––an autocrat straight out of central casting, whose genocidal bluster gave the West a pretext for intervention.

For Hillary and Obama, this was the perfect opportunity to show those neocon militarists what “smart power” was all about, and strike a contrast with the “cowboy” Bush’s “unilateralist” bumbling in Iraq. A UN resolution was secured, and a NATO-led coalition of 19 states assembled for enforcing a no-fly zone. The mission soon escalated into bringing about regime change and the death of Gaddafi.

For a while, this was a perfect, low-cost, quick little war that would illustrate the various shibboleths of moralizing internationalism: international diplomatic approval for the use of force, multilateral coalition building, a reliance on air power that minimized casualties among participating militaries, and a smaller role for the US, which would be “leading from behind,” as an Obama advisor said. This last idea reflected Obama’s belief that the US needed to diminish its role in world affairs and avoid the arrogant overreach that stained its history abroad, most recently in Iraq. This notion of America’s global sins is another bad idea reflecting ideology, not historical fact.

For Secretary of State Clinton, the Libya intervention would be the showcase of her tenure at State and proof of her superior foreign policy skills and presidential potential. Of course, we all know that the toppling of Gaddafi has been a disastrous mistake. Gaddafi was a brutal creep, but he kept in check the jihadists from Libya eager to kill Americans in Iraq and foment terror throughout the region. His departure created a vacuum that has been filled with legions of jihadist outfits across North Africa, including ISIS franchises. They are armed in part with weapons plundered from Gaddafi’s arsenals such as surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, machine guns, mines, grenades, antitank missiles, and rocket-propelled grenades. Yet eager to protect her defining foreign policy achievement, Hillary kept open the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi even as other nations pulled out their personnel because of the increasing danger caused by the new Libyan government’s inability to control and secure its territory.

Four dead Americans were the cost of political ambition and adherence to the bankrupt idea that liberal democracy can be created on the cheap in a culture lacking all of the philosophical and institutional infrastructure necessary for its success: inalienable rights, equality under the law, transparent government, accountability to the people, separation of church and state, fair and honest elections, and the freedom of speech and assembly. The folly of expecting democracy in a culture alien to it became clear in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s downfall, when the Libyan National Transitional Council’s Draft Constitutional Charter proclaimed, “Islam is the religion of the state, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” The idea of exporting democracy, however, still has a tight hold on many in the West both on the left and the right, which means we have not seen the last of its bloody and costly failures.

Equally bipartisan has been the next bad idea: that al Qaeda, ISIS, et al. are fringe “extremists” who have “hijacked” Islam, and that the vast majority of Muslims are “moderates” grieved by this tarnishing of their noble faith. It was George W. Bush who said in his first address after 9/11 that Islam’s “teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah,” establishing the model for his administration’s policy of “outreach” to Muslims. Obama has taken this delusion to surreal extremes, refusing in the face of mountains of evidence to link the numerous ISIS attacks of the last few years to Islam, and proscribing “jihad” and “radical Islamist” from the government’s communications and training manuals.

It was this imperative to sever Islamic terrorism from its roots in traditional Islamic doctrine that in part accounted for the lies that Hillary, Obama, and their minions like National Security Advisor Susan Rice told in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. They peddled the narrative that a spontaneous protest against an obscure Internet video insulting Mohammed had morphed into a violent attack. This lie traded in the delusional belief that despite its 14-century-long record of invasion, murder, slaving, colonization, and occupation­­––all in fulfillment of the divine commands “to slay the idolaters wherever you find them” and “to fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah” –– Islamic doctrine could not possibly justify the actions of modern terrorists. So powerful was the need to protect this belief and, of course, her political future that Clinton lied to the faces of the parents of the four dead Americans, promising to “get” the hapless filmmaker, even as she knew on the very night of the attacks that there was no protest against the video near the consular outpost.

Nor are the various pretexts for this evasion of historical fact convincing. The worst is that making explicit the link between jihadism and Islam will endanger innocent Muslims and stoke “Islamophobia.” There is no evidence that this is the case, and hate crimes against Jews still vastly outnumber those against Muslims. Not much better is the notion that pious Muslims, supposedly offended by “blasphemers” like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, will not cooperate with police and the FBI if we state simple facts about their faith and its history.

This idea is psychologically preposterous. It assumes that Muslim pique at infidel statements about their religion trumps their assumed desire to stop the violent “distorters” of their beloved faith. It also assumes that to Muslims, such insults justify keeping quiet about the planned murders of innocents––a damning indictment of the very people whom the “nothing to do with Islam” crowd are so anxious to mollify. Worse, it confirms the unique triumphalism of Islam, whose adherents expect from non-believers deference to their faith, even as Muslims across the globe are slaughtering and torturing people simply because they are non-believers. Such careful monitoring of our discourse about Islam, at the same time Muslim intellectuals routinely attack the West for its alleged historical sins against Islam, is a sign of weakness and fear that encourages our enemies to hit us again.

We’ve been operating by this double standard for decades, and terrorist groups have expanded across the globe, while jihadist violence has murdered Americans in Boston, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando, to name just the deadliest attacks. It’s safe to say that the tactic of flattering Muslims and confirming their sense of superiority to infidels has failed to keep us safe.

But if we really want to be honest, we won’t just rely on the weasel-word “Islamist,” which still suggests that the beliefs of the jihadists are somehow a doctrinal aberration. Those of both parties who continually talk about “moderate Muslims” and use the word “Islamist” to distinguish them from jihadists should heed Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan: “The term ‘Moderate Islam’ is ugly and offensive; there is no moderate Islam; Islam is Islam.” Using “Islamic” rather than “Islamist” will recognize the continuity of modern jihadism with traditional Islamic doctrines. Whitewashing that fact has done nothing to stop jihadist violence, and it is an enabler of those ordinary Muslims who refuse to acknowledge Islam’s illiberal and violent doctrines.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton deserve the opprobrium history will inflict on them for sacrificing our security and interests to their personal ambition and ideological obsessions. But bad ideas had a hand in the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, and those bad ideas will continue to cripple us until we discard them and start facing reality.

Hillary’s ‘Serious Lack of Competence’ Cost lives at Benghazi

June 29, 2016

Hillary’s ‘Serious Lack of Competence’ Cost lives at Benghazi, Front Page MagazineRobert Spencer, June 29, 2016

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Hillary’s actions in Libya were an implementation of the policy called for by foreign policy professionals for years: to ignore whatever a study of Islamic doctrine and law might reveal about the thought processes and motivations of Islamic jihadis, and to assume that they’re motivated by the same mix of pragmatism and self-interest that motivates secular Western urban cosmopolites, i.e., people just like themselves.

The foreign policy establishment that is irrevocably committed to these politically correct fantasies must be swept out. And to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States would be, in D. W. Wilber’s words, “lunacy on a grand scale.”

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Former CIA officer D. W. Wilber noted in The Hill Monday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions leading up to the Benghazi attack, and the Obama administration’s foreign policy in Libya as a whole were “lunacy on a grand scale”: “Additional security was denied even though intelligence reports clearly indicated the presence in Libya of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups hostile to the United States.” Hillary’s “trust in the various militia factions to set aside their longstanding differences and establish a governing body in the war torn country illustrates another amateur mistake.” But it wasn’t. It was a professional mistake.

In reality, Hillary’s actions in Libya were an implementation of the policy called for by foreign policy professionals for years: to ignore whatever a study of Islamic doctrine and law might reveal about the thought processes and motivations of Islamic jihadis, and to assume that they’re motivated by the same mix of pragmatism and self-interest that motivates secular Western urban cosmopolites, i.e., people just like themselves.

This is the kind of disastrous miscalculation preached by establishment foreign policy wonks including the likes of the puerile and silly Will McCants (and the Qatar-funded Brookings Institution in general), Max Abrahms (and the Council on Foreign Relations in general), and a host of others that the State Department and other foreign policy entities hire by the pound.

The foreign policy establishment is a bipartisan creation, and both parties refuse to challenge its hegemony. The Republicans, as the House Select Committee on Benghazi hearings showed Tuesday, continue instead to let Hillary and Obama off the hook, and don’t even come close to challenging the entrenched foreign policy bureaucracy. Breitbart News noted that the final report from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)’s committee refused “to blame President Obama or then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as refus[ed] to say directly if Clinton lied to the American people regarding the Benghazi attacks.”

The Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell said of Gowdy after the Tuesday hearing: “It was up to him to get to the truth, and he punted. Just as with the IRS investigation, the Republicans lacked the fortitude to confront those responsible.”

Bozell detailed the many failures of Gowdy’s inquiry: “The causes, events and circumstances regarding the attacks on the American personnel and facilities at Benghazi are still a mystery to the American people. Who denied the multiple requests for additional security for the compound? No answer. Who is being held responsible for the deaths of these men? No answer. Why did this administration deliberately lie about the video? No answer. Should the Commander-in-Chief be held responsible for the multiple failures of the military? Should the Secretary of State be held responsible for the disastrous consequences of State Department decisions? Not according to this report. They wouldn’t even state that Hillary Clinton lied about the video though her own emails, read by committee members, prove she had! But they did blame a ‘rusty bureaucratic process.’”

That “rusty bureaucratic process” is a product of the foreign policy establishment that led us into this mess. Hillary Clinton is just their most prominent exponent — which does not in the least exonerate her. It’s just to say that not only does Hillary Clinton’s influence over the U.S. government in whatever capacity need to be decisively rejected; the whole foreign policy establishment needs to be swept out, cherished and unquestioned assumptions rejected, and the edifice remade by people who are more realistic and unafraid to base policy on unpleasant realities rather than upon politically correct wishful thinking.

Even worse, right after the Benghazi massacre, the father of one of those slain there recounted that Secretary of State Clinton spoke to him at a memorial service about the Muhammad filmmaker, saying, “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted.” And she did. The filmmaker, who went by several different names, had a record full of run-ins with the law, and at the time of the Benghazi attacks was out on parole. A condition of his parole, however, was that he not go on the Internet – which he apparently did in order to upload the notorious video to YouTube.

For that, he was arrested and imprisoned for several months, thereby becoming the first political prisoner in the U.S. for Obama’s war on free speech and enforcement of Sharia blasphemy laws. There can be no doubt that he was imprisoned not for the technicality of the probation violation (while thousands of more serious probation violators walked the streets), but for insulting Muhammad. His arrest was a symbol of America’s capitulation to the Sharia. He was nothing more than the fall guy who became the first offender against the new de facto federal crime of blasphemy against Islam.

That, too, was a reflection of the foreign policy establishment’s determination to compel Americans to stop doing anything and everything that any Muslim might construe as offensive to Islam. Reflecting the establishment policy also were Hillary’s fatuous words: “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” In response to that, Donald Trump recently opined that Hillary was “in total denial, and her continuing reluctance to ever name the enemy broadcasts weakness across the entire world — true weakness.” Clinton wants, he said, “to take away American’s guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country, we don’t have guns. Let them come in, let them have all the fun they want….The bottom line is that Hillary supports policies that bring the threat of radical Islam into American and allow it to grow overseas, and it is growing.”

Trump’s point was sound. In what way was it not? Combining unrestricted immigration and a massive influx of Muslim migrants, among whom the Islamic State has promised to embed jihadis, with a disarmed American population is simply an invitation to jihad massacres on a frequency never hitherto imagined. Could there be an Orlando-style attack every day? Why not, in the America of the near future that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are busy preparing for us?

Trump declared: “The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why she believes immigration from these dangerous countries should be increased without any effective system really to screen.” Again, his point his sound: all those, including Hillary, who are busy excoriating Trump for the “racism” and “bigotry” of his immigration proposal have not bothered to suggest any alternative plan for preventing jihadis from entering the country. Hillary and the rest of the political and media elites would rather see Americans subjected to jihad mass murder on a huge scale than do anything that is politically incorrect.

The foreign policy establishment that is irrevocably committed to these politically correct fantasies must be swept out. And to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States would be, in D. W. Wilber’s words, “lunacy on a grand scale.”

Trump’s approach to North Korea bucks foreign policy elite

May 23, 2016

Trump’s approach to North Korea bucks foreign policy elite, The Hill, Ivan Eland, May 23, 2016

[A]lthough Trump is still putting together his foreign policy, he already has the pieces to create a more coherent and possibly more successful policy toward North Korea than the stodgy U.S. elite, who have sniffed at him.

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Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is at it again, horrifying the U.S. foreign policy elite by saying that he would speak to Kim Jong Un, the erratic North Korean leader, to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program. For example, the standard bearer for this elite, and Trump’s likely Democratic opponent for president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sneered at Trump’s “bizarre fascination with foreign strongmen.”

Imagine actually talking to difficult countries, as Ronald Reagan successfully did with the Soviet Union! Trump knows that it takes a tough and effective leader to use negotiation and diplomacy instead of the reflexive use of military force, which has marked the weak and insecure presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Trump’s high-level negotiation likely would be more successful in limiting or getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear program than past, unsuccessful lower-level U.S. bargaining with the regime over the same issue.

With U.S. forces stationed in South Korea, Kim Jong Un is paranoid of a combined, U.S.-South Korean attack on his country. The main reason that he has likely developed nuclear weapons is to deter such an attack. A President Trump speaking to him personally might ease these fears significantly.

Also dismissed by the foreign policy elite is Trump’s strategy of putting pressure on China, North Korea’s only ally, to prod Kim to negotiate away his nuclear program. Trump said in a recent media interview: “I would put a lot of pressure on China because economically we have tremendous power over China.”

The foreign policy elite notes that despite recent Chinese annoyance with North Korean nuclear and missile tests, and China’s agreement to impose some economic sanctions on the regime, it still props up the always rickety North Korean autocracy with supplies of energy and other vital goods over their common border. Thus, the elite doubts that China will change this behavior.

Yet Trump, a businessman, may be more savvy than politicians and bureaucrats by focusing on negotiating parties’ incentives to do things—that is, Trump likely knows that for a sustainable arrangement on the North Korean nuclear program to be reached and honored, it has to be advantageous for both China and the U.S. Trump is correct that China is the key to moving North Korea on the issue and when pressure on China is combined with other elements of Trump’s foreign policy program, it just might work.

The main reason that China supports the dangerously unpredictable North Korea is that it feels it has no choice: If the North Korean regime collapses, China fears Korea will be unified under a pro-U.S. South Korean government—U.S. military and even U.S. nuclear forces could be right on China’s border.

In other words, China would then have a hostile alliance dominated by a military superpower, the U.S., on its border. Given the collapse of communist governments in Europe at the end of the Cold War and the expansion of a U.S.-led NATO alliance hostile to Russia right on Russian borders, the Chinese believe that their fears are well grounded.

Trump’s solution to this friction is to allow wealthy allies in the region like Japan and South Korea to defend themselves. China would no longer need to fear the U.S. superpower, with its massive arsenal of nuclear weapons, on its border if North Korea collapsed.

Therefore, if Trump implemented this change in U.S. policy, China might have a greater incentive to pressure North Korea to limit or eliminate its nuclear program than it currently does. China has no intrinsic incentive to want an unstable state possessing nuclear weapons as its immediate neighbor.

In sum, although Trump is still putting together his foreign policy, he already has the pieces to create a more coherent and possibly more successful policy toward North Korea than the stodgy U.S. elite, who have sniffed at him.