Moving Backwards on Arms Sales

The Trump administration is charting a new direction on arms sales. Unfortunately that direction is backward.

The administration recently notified Congress that it wants to sell a dozen attack aircraft to Nigeria, intends to sell 19 fighter jets to Bahrain, and will likely greenlight the sale of $300 million worth of precision-guided munitions kits to Saudi Arabia. In each case the Trump administration is approving deals the Obama administration blocked based on human rights concerns.

The Trump administration’s primary rationale for the deals is to step up the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the sales won’t do much, if anything, to make Americans safer from terrorism. What selling arms will do is exacerbate existing problems, especially in the Middle East, and lead to unintended consequences down the road.

Read the full post at Huffington Post.

Why Trump’s Words Matter

Words matter. We need them to communicate meaning, and so others will understand the basis for our thoughts and actions. And when it comes to war, words can kill; presidents do not have the luxury of imprecision, carelessness, or dishonesty. In a military context, words must be precise, and their meaning understood. In the aftermath of the Syrian strike and the first combat use of the “Mother of All Bombs,” the President spoke in ways that should concern Americans.

Read the whole thing at Real Clear Defense.

The Dangers of Escalation

The events of recent weeks have made it clear that President Trump is taking a far more aggressive approach in foreign policy than his predecessor. The Tomahawk missile strike on one of Bashar al-Assad’s airbases in Syria two weeks ago was the clearest sign of this. That is, until this past Thursday, when the Air Force used its biggest bomb in combat for the first time ever in a strike on a system of tunnels used by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Meanwhile the U.S. has loosened the rules of engagement for the military and has significantly picked up the pace of drone strikes in both Somalia and Yemen. More troops were deployed to Iraq and Syria to help to roust ISIS from Mosul and Raqqa.

Supporters of these moves will argue that they are necessary to defeat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and to improve the credibility of the United States. But Trump’s sharp escalation of military efforts carries with it a host of serious risks.

Read the full post at Salon.com

Syria and the Danger of Elite Consensus

There was near consensus in Washington, D.C. last week in support of the U.S. strike on Syria. Voices from the left supporting Trump’s action include Hillary Clinton, most of America’s European allies, Tom Friedman, and a large number of former Obama officials. On the right, the usual suspects like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham supported the attack, as did most Republican members of Congress, including some like Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell who opposed exactly such an action when President Obama was considering in back in 2013. Even the mainstream media appear to have decided it was time to strike Assad, at least to judge from much of the breathless “journalism” we’ve seen so far.

Read the full post at Cato@Liberty

Much Ado about Doing Nothing in Syria

The Bashar Assad regime’s most recent chemical weapons attack in Idlib province killed dozens of people and injured many more. It was a cynical and desperate move by a regime that has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the world. But the attack was also our first opportunity to see what the Trump administration would do in response to such a situation.

The answer, as it turned out, was nothing. As strange as it may sound, that is the right answer in this case.

 

Read the whole post at U.S. News & World Report

Lessons from North Korea

In a successful test earlier this month, North Korea fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan, heightening concerns about its nuclear weapons program. As Victor Cha, a former Bush administration adviser, recently said of the missile tests, “This is now a military testing program to acquire a proven capability.”

The tests continue to raise the stakes for President Trump, who indicated before he took office that North Korea acquiring long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles is something that “won’t happen.” Trump’s blunt message and the urgency of the international response are understandable. But although its nuclear weapons present a threat today to its neighbors, and likely down the road to the United States homeland, North Korea also provides two important lessons that the United States could use to reorient its foreign policy in a more useful direction.

Read the full article at The Detroit News.

Obama a Restrainer? Think Again.

As we wait to see what shape President Donald Trump’s foreign policies will take, debate over former President Barack Obama’s legacy continues. Did Obama successfully end the war in Iraq, or did he help create the Islamic State by withdrawing U.S. troops too soon? Was it prudence or poor judgment that kept Obama from intervening in Syria’s civil war? The Obama era will have a deep impact on policy debates for years to come, serving as a template that will shape how decision-makers think about the use of military force. Getting the assessment right is crucial. Unfortunately, many seem to view it through the wrong lens.

Read the full post at War on the Rocks.

Stronger Military, But at What Cost?

THROUGHOUT THE presidential campaign, Donald Trump consistently called for more defense spending to rebuild an American military he characterized as “in shambles” and “a disaster.”

Since taking office, he has said increased military spending is “more important” than balancing the budget. In his address to Congress last week, Trump made it official, promising “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in history.”

Such a path is unwise and ignores the council of military and national security leaders.

Read the whole thing at The Virginian Pilot.

Refugees, Immigration, and the Trolley Problem

During the presidential campaign Donald Trump’s son, Eric Trump, tweeted a picture of a bowl of Skittles candies along with the caption: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

Trump’s tweet generated backlash from many corners but the general logic of this vivid metaphor continues to resonate for many, despite research that demonstrates that the risk of an American dying in a terrorist attack carried out by refugees and immigrants in the United States is astonishingly low. For many Americans, the prospect of just one bad skittle overwhelms a more rational calculation embracing both immigration’s costs and benefits.

But perhaps a different vivid mental picture can help people see the immigration question in a new light.

Read the whole post at Cato @ Liberty.

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

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