Trump’s No Good Very Bad Arms Deal

Tomorrow Congress will vote on resolutions of disapproval in response to Trump’s recent arms deal with Saudi Arabia. If passed, Senate Resolution 42 and House Resolution 102 would effectively block the sale of precision guided munitions kits, which the Saudis want in order to upgrade their “dumb bombs” to “smart bombs.” A similar effort was defeated last year in the Senate. How should we feel about this vote?

Before the ink was dry President Trump was busy bragging about his arms deal with Saudi Arabia, a deal that he claimed would reach $350 billion and would create “hundreds of thousands of jobs.” The sale bore all the hallmarks of Trump’s operating style. It was huge. It was a family deal—brokered by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It was signed with pomp and circumstance during the president’s first international trip. But most importantly, as with so many of his deals, the deal was all sizzle and no Trump Steak.™

Read the full thing at

Was the Rise of ISIS Inevitable?

In the latest issue of Survival, Hal Brands and Peter Feaver address an important debate in American foreign policy circles. Was the rise of ISIS inevitable, or was it the result of misguided U.S. policies? Most agree it is the latter, but the dispute gets fraught on the question of whether it was U.S. military interventionism or inaction that deserves the blame. Some say it was the invasion of Iraq that led to the rise of ISIS. Others insist it was Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.

Read the full blog post at Cato @ Liberty.

Time for a (different) kind of change in Afghanistan

With the dust still settling from Wednesday’s horrific car bombing in Kabul, the plan for America’s new strategy in Afghanistan now sits on Trump’s desk. The National Security Council has proposed a plan that calls for more troops, who will operate with fewer restrictions, accompanied by an expanded drone campaign and increased support for Afghanistan’s police and military forces. The goals for the new strategy include driving the Taliban to the negotiating tableeliminating the terror threat and getting America to “start winning” again.

Unfortunately, the past 16 years strongly suggest these changes will fail to accomplish any of the administration’s goals. From August 2009 through August 2013, the U.S. had between 60,000 and 100,000 service members fighting in Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s “surge.”

Read the whole commentary at The Hill.

The Saudi Deal Shows Just How Broken the Arms Export Process Has Become

A system meant to keep weapons sales from undermining U.S. national security has become a sham.

The Trump administration made headlines last week when it announced a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, signed with pomp and circumstance during the president’s first international trip. But even though Donald Trump’s team was thrilled, this record-setting deal is in fact another sign that the American arms sales process is broken.


Read the whole thing at DefenseOne

Is Trump’s Saudi Arms Deal the Worst Arms Deal Ever?

Over the weekend, President Trump inked an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $110 billion — the largest single arms sale in United States history. Trump’s rationale is that arming Saudi Arabia will help in the fight against terrorism and help contain Iran’s negative influence in the Middle East. The deal also fits Trump’s “America First” vision of a transactional foreign policy centered on U.S. economic interests.

Sadly, although Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner helped negotiate the Saudis a great deal, the agreement will come with a significantly higher price tag for the region and for the U.S.

Read the full piece at the Washington Examiner.

Iran offers lessons on North Korea

While running for office, Donald Trump repeatedly blasted the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Recently, however, his administration reluctantly acknowledged that Iran is complying with its obligations under the deal, which require it to halt its development of nuclear weapons in order to avoid further international economic sanctions.

As the Trump administration struggles to find a plan for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program, it can take several important lessons from the success of the Iran deal.

Read the whole thing at

All Options on the Table for North Korea?

On Wednesday, President Trump will host all 100 members of the Senate at the White House for an extraordinary briefing on North Korea’s nuclear program. Given all the saber rattling so far, it would not be surprising to hear Trump issue more warnings to North Korea. In just the past week National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Vice President Mike Pence have both warned that “all of our options are on the table” regarding North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear program.

Stern sounding words, certainly, but in fact their statements were in keeping with an American foreign policy tradition. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that “all options were on the table” to keep Gaddafi from using military force against civilians in Libya. And in 2008 while running for office, Barack Obama said he would “take no options off the table” to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The years of repetition by both political parties makes it pretty clear that the United States wants its adversaries to know that, well, all options are on the table. Unfortunately, they aren’t.

Read my piece at The Hill.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy

Trump’s convention-violating rhetoric on foreign policy has exacerbated an already ingrained frustration among many hawks that President Obama was too reluctant to intervene on the world stage. Indeed, one of the most widely believed myths in Washington foreign policy circles is that Obama betrayed the longstanding grand strategy of primacy in favor of withdrawal. Former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden criticized “the Obama administration’s retrenchment” on national television. Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, wrote in January that Obama presided over “restraint and retrenchment” and “focused mostly on limiting the exercise of America’s military power.” Thanks to Obama’s “inaction,” he claimed, “vacuums emerged and were then filled in ways that damaged American interests.”


Hawkish critiques of Obama’s foreign policy, however, miss the mark. Obama’s foreign policy record was certainly far from perfect, but not for the reasons hawks provide. In fact, a close analysis suggests that Obama’s greatest foreign policy failures resulted from an embrace of the grand strategy of primacy, rather than from restraint.

Read the working paper at

Why More Military Action in Syria Is (Still) a Bad Idea

Buoyed by President Trump’s airstrike on the Assad regime, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have called on Trump to ramp up military action in Syria. Nor are they alone in calling for more aggressive action. From Hillary Clinton and Tom Friedman to a host of former Obama officials, a large bipartisan swath of the foreign policy community favors more assertive U.S. action in Syria.

But no matter how frustrated Washington is about the mess in Syria, and no matter how satisfying it may have been to see the U.S. finally land a blow against Assad, more military action in Syria is still a bad idea

Read the full piece at the Washington Examiner.

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