Trump, the Truth, and Terrorism

When President Trump rails against the news media and decries reports as “fake news,” he is beating a dead horse. American trust in the news media is already at a historic low point, with a September 2016 Gallup poll finding that just 32% of the public (and just 14% of Republicans) have a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of trust in the mass media.

What’s more disturbing is how loose with the facts Trump has been when it comes to talking about terrorism. In recent weeks, as his immigration, refugee, and travel ban foundered in the courts, Trump turned to Twitter to proclaim that “THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” Speaking at a law enforcement conference, he stated that terrorism is “a far greater threat than people in our country understand. Believe me.”

Trump’s claims, however, are unsubstantiated, strongly refuted by the data, and even contradicted by his own administration.

Read the whole piece at the New York Daily News

Early Returns on President Trump

During Trump’s surprising presidential campaign, pundits became fond of pointing out that Trump’s supporters took his often-shocking rhetoric seriously, but not literally, whereas his opponents took his rhetoric literally, but not seriously. Today, however, it is obvious that one should take Trump’s words both seriously and literally.

For those who voted for Trump this first month must surely be a heady viewing experience. For much of the country, however, Trump’s efforts are taking things in the wrong direction, as even his most extreme campaign proposals become reality. From the perspective of the polls, Trump’s first month has met decidedly mixed reviews.

Read the full post at Cato@Liberty.

The Tug of War on ISIS Inside Trump’s Head

Now in office, it’s time for President Trump to deliver on his campaign promises. A critical one will be his promise to destroy the Islamic State. CNN recently reported that the Pentagon has already developed a set of options for Trump to review, purportedly including significantly increased American military forces and the deployment of thousands of ground troops.

The question is: What plan of attack is likely to appeal most to Trump? As the President evaluates the options, his operating style and his worldview will pull him in distinctly different directions.

Read the full post at the New York Daily News.

Divining the Emerging Trump Doctrine

Donald Trump has now officially taken over the reins of American foreign policy, after having done so less officially (mostly via Twitter) during the transition. Prediction is a dangerous game, and, as many observers have noted, Trump’s comments on foreign policy have been anything but consistent thus far.

Even so, I think we can discern the broad outlines of an emerging Trump Doctrine. Three key themes, in particular, will shape Trump’s decision-making on foreign policy.

Read the whole thing at The Orange County Register.

Pulling Back in Yemen…?

Roughly two weeks ago, the Obama administration announced it was planning to block certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia as a rebuke to the Kingdom’s over 20 month long war in Yemen. The Saudi air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has already displaced millions, claimed thousands of civilian lives, and cut the country off from its food supply, prompting the United Nations to ask whether the Saudis’ indiscriminate bombing constitutes war crimes. Despite the carnage—and a lack of a pressing national security justification—the United States has continued to provide arms, refuel coalition planes, share intelligence, and assist with targeting for the Saudis. Given our involvement to this point, it is high time for the United States to stop enabling Saudi Arabia’s campaign.

Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to dial back its support is too little, too late.

Read the full piece at The National Interest.

Trump Towers or Trump Targets?

Donald Trump’s election ushers in a new challenge for homeland security and counterterrorism both at home and abroad. Trump owns, has a stake in, or has lent his name to scores of properties all over the United States and the world. A terrorist could decide to target a Trump Tower in Stuttgart, a Trump hotel in South Korea, or a Trump golf resort in Dubai. A terrorist might even decide to target the famous carousel in Central Park, which Trump also owns. The attraction to the terrorist is obvious: Trump’s hotels, resorts, and condominiums are vulnerable “soft targets,” without any of the serious security measures surrounding American embassies or other government buildings. Even better, most of these targets have the president’s name on them in huge letters. Clearly the symbolic damage of such an attack would be immense.

What is not clear, however, is just how great a threat this exposure represents and how the United States should deal with it.

Read the full post at Cato@Liberty.

Trump’s Generals Can’t Fix America

For a man who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, President-elect Donald Trump seems awfully gung-ho to appoint generals to top positions. Trump’s nominations might reflect a desire to surround himself with expertise and inoculate himself against criticism. I suspect, however, that Trump’s infatuation with the generals stems from something deeper and more dangerous: America’s broader crisis of confidence — in itself, in its institutions, in its role in the world.

Read the whole thing at USA Today.

The Myth of American Indispensability

In November Cato held a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled “Fall Fables and Fallacies: The Truth about U.S. Foreign Policy.”

In my presentation I challenge the pervasive myth that the United States is somehow an indispensable nation, required from keeping the world from falling apart at the seams. Though the United States is clearly a very important player in world politics – perhaps the most important – the belief that the United States should try to solve every problem and end every conflict has seriously negative consequences for American foreign policy and national security.

Watch the video here at Cato.

Read my complete presentation here on Medium.

Trump’s War on the Media

Throughout his presidential campaign Donald Trump complained extensively about biased news coverage, singled out individualjournalists for criticism, challenged the very foundations of freedom of the press, and called for loosening of the libel laws.

The danger is that Trump’s war will undermine the media as an effective forum for debate and deliberation.

Read the full post at Reason.com

Obama’s Legacy: Murder.gov

In the waning days of his second term, a president’s thoughts turn to his legacy. His focus the last few weeks and months often tells us a great deal about how he wants to be remembered by the American people. It is, therefore, surprising and disappointing to see that President Obama is busy institutionalizing the targeted killing apparatus constructed piece by piece after the 9/11 attacks.  Obama’s last-minute efforts to ensure that the costly and counterproductive war on terror continues will certainly help cement his legacy – as the president who authorized hundreds of secret drone strikes that killed thousands of people, many of them civilians. But they also serve as a terrible reminder of just how far off course American national security policy has gotten.

Read the post at RealClear Defense