When will Congress finally debate our strategy in Middle East?

Whitney Hunter mourns the loss of her husband. Army Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was killed in Afghanistan during an attack on a NATO convoy. | Chris Bergin | AP Images

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, Sept. 14, 2017:

The only thing worse than not having a strategy in the Middle East is sending our troops into harm’s way indefinitely without a strategy or even an understanding of who we are fighting and who we are supporting. The lack of concrete guidance from Congress has allowed the war on terror to drift and self-immolate.

Over the past few decades, our foreign policy has operated much like our domestic policy — it has been an utter failure. Much like domestic government programs, our foreign policy is completely backward and harms our national interests, but we continue to perpetuate the same policies because of the incumbent powers and special interests in charge.

Moreover, we are called upon to further bail out and treat the endless symptoms of those policies, rather than reviewing the source of the problem. Much like federal intervention in housing, education, and health care, our nation-building in Baghdad and Kabul have become too big to fail, even though the region has changed completely since the original mission.

It is in this vein that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill (NDAA), in order to inject a much-needed debate over our involvement in the Middle East after 15-16 years of failure. Sen Paul’s amendment would sunset the twin authorizations of military force (AUMF) Congress originally granted the president for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The amendment was defeated 61-36.

Some conservatives might not want to carte blanche remove reauthorization without proposing a new one refocusing our military’s priorities. However, even those who opposed Rand’s tactic or are concerned that he might not be tough enough on the true threats of Iran and North Korea, must agree that the time has come to update the AUMF and finally force a national debate on what we are doing in the Middle East.

The world has changed immensely over the past 15 years — Iraq and Afghanistan in particular

Let’s put the original debate over our investment in those two theaters on the shelf for a moment. The authorization of military force in those two countries was clear: kicking out the Taliban in Afghanistan and removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Fifteen years later, we have a muddled mess in Afghanistan and a complete opposite dynamic in Iraq than the one that originally involved our military.

While the 2001 AUMF also tasked the president with destroying the terrorists behind 9/11, between regime changes, changes in terrorist organizations, and multiple civil wars between various groups (all enemies to the U.S. but not all posing equal strategic threats) the entire geo-political structure has changed so much. The time has come to properly articulate on paper what and who we are fighting or supporting, as well as a strategy to place our interests first.

The notion that a 15-year-old AUMF for the removal of Saddam would now suddenly authorize the endless use of the military to prop up an Iranian-puppet government in Baghdad is unconscionable. The Pentagon has no understanding of who we are fighting for, who we are fighting against, how the ground will be held, and why it is in our interests (and not harming our interests).

Afghanistan is no better. Trump recently announced a mini troop surge, but as we noted at the time there is still no clear strategy as to how we put the country together after 16 years of failure with just 4,000 more troops (when 150,000 coalition troops and others have failed for 1,300 years).

If anyone has answers to these questions, now is the time to air them out through a national debate. We have spent several trillion dollars in those two countries only to hand over the Middle East to Iran and waste our time in the mud huts of the Hindu Kush while Iran, Turkey, and Qatar pose greater threats and North Korea can hit U.S. soil with nukes. This debate must not be off limits.

Also of importance is the fact we stand at a crossroads in both theaters. The Taliban controls more territory than ever and the Afghani government is more corrupt (and Islamist) than ever. Ironically, they are already negotiating with the Taliban.

This is no longer about 9/11, and while technically any fight against the Taliban is covered by the 2001 AUMF, shouldn’t Congress have a new debate with so many changes on the ground?

In Iraq, we are now at the point where ISIS (which, for argument’s sake, let’s say is covered by the AUMF against terrorism) is on its last legs. And almost all of the territory vacated by them has been handed over to Iranian proxies on the tab of our military.

So yes, we are following the 2001 AUMF to fight terrorists, but doing so is arguably only benefitting the bigger threat — Iranian hegemony and Hezbollah (which has a vastly greater network in the Western Hemisphere than any other jihadist organization). Iran was certainly more behind 9/11 than Saddam Hussein and also harbored terrorists.

Mattis and McMaster have prevented our soldiers from fighting Iranian proxies and downright view them as allies in the theater, just like Obama did. Thus, we are now fighting in Iraq on behalf of a government that should be an enemy under the first AUMF, in order to fight a new enemy that is on the decline and not included in the 2002 AUMF.

Furthermore, the Kurds may very soon declare independence, but our government is declining to support the only ally in Iraq and is kowtowing to the Iranian puppets in Baghdad. Are we going to continue supporting the Iranian-backed government that is not only an enemy of the U.S. in its own right but whose hegemony over Sunni areas will continue fueling Sunni insurgencies that we will continue refereeing with our military?

Shouldn’t we just support the Kurds and allow them to take as much land as possible while leaving our military out of the Iranian-Sunni fight? I have my views on this issue, but we at least need a robust debate to air out these concerns as we stand at a critical crossroads.

The founders had great wisdom in vesting war powers with Congress

This is not about tying the hands of the commander in chief, this is about empowering him with clarity of mission and the united resolve of the people.

Our founders vested the power to declare war in the hands of the legislature, not only to preempt an imperial presidency but as part of the social contract of consent-based governance — that such an important decision should have the buy-in of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.

In the words of James Madison, they wanted “strict adherence” to the “fundamental doctrine” that the power of “judging the causes of war” (not the actual execution) be “fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”

A declaration of war, or at least the crafting of an AUMF, allows the entire representative body of the people to raise the important questions about all aspects and strategy of the mission. If Congress votes to pass a resolution, it serves as a definitive guide for what success looks like. This further serves the purpose of rallying the country behind a defined mission, because public support is always needed to achieve such victory.

Yet, we are stuck with a dynamic — much like with failed domestic programs — where the rent-seekers in government and failed military leadership are perpetuating the failing and rudderless status quo.

Clearly, the president himself doesn’t feel comfortable with what we are doing in the Middle East, but nonetheless feels compelled to simply “stay the course” because of the endless threats and arguments regarding “destabilization.”

The American people are left out in the cold while their representatives, and even the president, aren’t controlling the priorities of our military engagements. This is not consent-based governance. This is why it’s so important for the administration to send Congress a new request updating the AUMF.

Some have criticized Sen. Paul for trying to yank the AUMF without a new replacement. Fine, let’s propose one, but propose one we must. In the meantime, pursuant to the War Powers Act, the president can always act swiftly to respond to an immediate short-term threat.

Does this make me a pacifist? Just the opposite. We have certainly laid out a list of priorities and DOs and DON’Ts that should guide a new AUMF.

PJ MEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah

H.R. McMaster (Rex Features via AP Images)

PJ MEDIA, BY DAVID STEINBERG, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017:

During the week of August 27, an Israeli delegation met with members of the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House to discuss the current threat to Israel by the terror group Hezbollah.

Israel believes this threat is currently dire. This meeting preceded a two-week long Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) exercise to rehearse for possible war with Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post described this exercise, which commenced on September 4 and is ongoing, as the IDF’s largest in 20 years.

Hezbollah has been a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997. However, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Ali, a McMaster appointee, is described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.”

What then transpired at the meeting has been confirmed to PJ Media by several administration sources, by members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and by a source within the Israeli government.

The Israeli delegation demanded that Mustafa Javed Ali leave the room.

This demand was made despite the clear likelihood that Ali would later be privy to the meeting’s materials and discussion. As such, sources speculated that Israel intended the demand to serve as a message to President Trump that McMaster’s behavior has constituted a subversion of Trump’s stated Middle East policy.

Mustafa Javed Ali, second from right, attending West Point’s 2015 Senior Conference. The conference was described as having focused on “unconventional approaches to counterterrorism.”

None of the several sources were aware if Trump had been made aware of the incident.

As has been widely reported, Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly has instituted tight restrictions on information and contacts reaching the president. Additionally, Kelly has been said to be working closely with General McMaster on issues related to the flow of information within the administration.

Friction between General McMaster and the Israeli delegation did not end with Israel’s demand that Ali leave the room.

Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah.

In particular, the Israelis expressed concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria — an idea that had been vociferously supported by Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran — would immediately become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate.

McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting.

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For months, General McMaster has been under fire regarding his personnel decisions from Trump voters and the large majority of Americans who support Israel. McMaster has fired or otherwise removed all NSC appointees who strongly supported President Trump’s Middle East campaign platform.

Trump had repeatedly promised that his administration would reject the Bush/Obama policy of denying the doctrinal Islamic roots of terror, most notably expressed by Trump’s willingness to declare jihadist attacks to be “radical Islamic terrorism.” Indeed, Trump honored this pledge early in his term via the many appointees to the NSC brought on by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and others.

Under McMaster, however, all of these voices have been removed from the NSC in what has been described as a “purge.”

In their stead, McMaster has astonishingly welcomed figures such as Kris Baumanand Robert Malley to his NSC. Bauman’s and Malley’s careers have been so objectively subversive to the Trump agenda on Israel that McMaster might as well have appointed Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

Mustafa Javed Ali in attendance at former President Obama’s 2010 White House Iftar Dinner. Ali worked within the FBI at the time. Per a source: “No Muslim reformers or liberals were welcome at those events.” (List of expected attendees available at link.)

Little information has previously been public about McMaster appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. Regarding Israel’s demand that he leave the meeting, a source claimed:

Israel possibly knows more about Javed Ali than [the Trump administration] does.

Earlier this year, Ali was rumored to have caused the cancellation of a scheduled talk to the NSC by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on account of her “Islamophobia.” Mrs. Ali, who escaped to the Netherlands from Kenya after fleeing a forced marriage, violence, and being a victim of female genital mutilation, is now an activist exposing Islamic doctrine. She has lived under 24/7 protection since 2004, when a Muslim murdered Dutch film director Theo van Gogh for making a film with Mrs. Ali that criticized Islam. A five-page note threatening the same fate for Ali was left pinned to van Gogh’s chest with a knife.

Sources within the Trump administration have confirmed to PJMedia that this rumor about Mustafa Javed Ali was correct: Mrs. Ali had been invited to speak to the NSC. She was later disinvited due to Javed Ali’s interference.

On August 11, Mrs. Ali published a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Trump for “losing focus” on his terrorism campaign pledges. Within the op-ed, she chose to mention only the “most charitable” criticism being floated about General McMaster:

Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of military problems.

But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest.

Yet senior administration sources are far less charitable about McMaster and his appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. As mentioned above, they described Ali as taking the breathtaking position that Hezbollah should not be a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. They described Ali as holding the same view regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.

They claimed Ali’s work within the NSC essentially amounts to him attempting to prevent the Trump administration from using any of the means at its disposal to target Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as organizations. They claimed Ali advocates only targeting such groups’ identifiably “violent” members, and ignoring all other elements of their activities that may be subversive of U.S. interests.

These are recognizable as Obama-era policies — the “smart set” foreign policy strategies behind the Obama administration’s disastrous “Countering Violent Extremism” programs. This is the thinking that marched the Middle East to bloody catastrophe: a half-million dead in Syria.

Yet General McMaster appointed Ali as NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism, and purged the NSC of voices supporting President Trump’s Mideast agenda. Then McMaster reportedly sat Ali in front of an Israeli delegation visiting the White House to share its concerns about Hezbollah.

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I have previously reported here at PJMedia of an extensive public relations push — coordinated by administration supporters of General McMaster — to encourage conservative outlets and think-tanks to reject claims that McMaster is antagonistic to Trump’s foreign policy and to the State of Israel in general. That push was remarkably successful: an online search for critical McMaster stories from the right will reveal such articles virtually halted in mid-August.

The broader questions of President Trump’s continued silence are more difficult to read. None of the sources contacted for this article believe the president has fundamentally shifted his thinking.

Trump likely understands he would not have defeated Hillary Clinton without stating “radical Islamic terrorism.” Yet sources could offer only speculation as to how Trump intends to win his Middle East agenda while saddled with a National Security Council subversive to those goals.

Administration Sources: Creepy Tweet Was a Coded Message to General McMaster About Leakers

National security adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the news briefing at the White House, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

PJ Media, by David Steinburg, Sept. 6, 2017:

A story fantastically strange, dancing between lowbrow and stupid, and it matters: this masterwork of a news item belongs in a time capsule, one day making the case to our descendants that we were, at least, blessed to live in interesting times.

Because this sort of thing happens in 2017, an alt-right crank who hasn’t won anyone’s trust beyond that of his loyal travelers seems to have become the white-whale obsession of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

Also, a multi-national public relations campaign which occupied much of August — a campaign seemingly intended to repair General McMaster’s reputation with the President of the United States, to sully the reputation of Trump loyalists whom McMaster had removed from the National Security Council, and to drive out Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, all in one shot — may have been unintentionally destroyed by said alt-Right crank tweeting the words …

“Spirit Animal” :

Mike Cernovich posted this tweet on August 11. To an objective observer, that’s inscrutable nonsense. And — also objectively — it’s creepy.

But when considered with its actual context, and pivotally, its timing, that rational observer should be driven to conclude that, ahem, the “McMaster what’s your spirit animal” tweet is a political thunderbolt with ramifications much beyond what Cernovich appears to have intended.

Here goes:

Sources within the Trump Administration claim that the “spirit animal” tweet is a reference to a small meeting that McMaster and select others within the National Security Council held in the days prior to August 11.

At that meeting, attendees reportedly joked about each other’s “spirit animals.” Indeed, as of this writing, I cannot neither confirm nor deny that a prominent member of the NSC is imbued with the soul of a platypus.

Since August 11, Cernovich has offered other information that also points to him having sourcing within the NSC. However, the “spirit animal” tweet reportedly represented a more concerning breach. Yet even so, the breach itself is of less evident concern to McMaster and his supporters than is the fact of its August 11 publication.

Why?

Because if Cernovich still had a source leaking to him on that date or in the days immediately prior, then the tweet necessarily deconstructs much of the past month’s administration-orchestrated media defense of General McMaster’s personnel decisions.

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In early August, General McMaster came under enormous pressure — spearheaded by the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick and the Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein — for having seemingly purged the NSC of all members who aligned with candidate Trump’s Mideast policy. “Radical Islamic terror” and the destruction of the Iran nuclear deal was out; the continuance of Obama-era policies behind the “Arab Spring” catastrophe had apparently returned.

Wrote Glick on August 2:

McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump’s agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda. He fires all of Trump’s loyalists and replaces them with Trump’s opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk.

He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben (reporters know nothing about foreign policy and I lied to sell them the Iran deal) Rhodes’ and Valerie Jarrett’s people in place.

And he not only is remaining at his desk. He is given the freedom to fire Trump’s most loyal foreign policy advisers from the National Security Council.

On August 9, Morton Klein released a statement on behalf of the ZOA which included this passage:

The duties of the National Security Council (NSC) include “coordinat[ing] and direct[ing] the activities of the United States Government relating to combating transnational threats.” 50 U.S.C. § 3021(i). It is thus alarming that National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster purged from the NSC those officials who were carrying out President Trump’s policies of combating Iranian and radical Islamist transnational threats, and purged from the NSC those officials who support the U.S.-Israel alliance — an alliance that is vital to America’s ability to combat radical Islamist terrorism.

Instead, General McMaster has appointed officials who are holdovers from the Obama administration, who favor the Iran nuclear deal and are hostile to Israel — officials who are diametrically opposed to President Trump’s policies. Moreover, new revelations demonstrate that General McMaster’s ideology is antagonistic to the President’s policies on these vital issues.

Since then, McMaster and a large contingent of administration and media allies have chosen to defend his behavior primarily as the restoration of Executive Branch decorum and as the necessary removal of “alt-Right” thinkers. These defenses included implications that the purged members had been leaking to the disreputable Mike Cernovich.

With “spirit animal,” however, Cernovich managed the improbable feat of wiping out several weeks of PR crafted by some of the administration’s most powerful figures, because the fact of his tweet’s August 11 publication date establishes the following truth:

On the date of the “spirit animal” meeting, NO ONE with fealty to Trump’s aggressively pro-Israel, anti-Obama/Iran nuclear deal campaign platform — without which, he likely loses to Hillary — remained at the NSC.

Yet Cernovich’s source was still in the room.

So we now have a strong repudiation of the narrative component of the purge which — with the later resignation of Sebastian Gorka (who had long been unwelcome at the NSC) and his public resignation note confirming that such a purge had indeed been afoot — successfully removed every Trump Administration official aligned with Trump’s campaign promises regarding national security.

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On August 11, I published a story at PJ Media identifying the National Security Council officials whom administration sources claim had been coordinating August’s public relations defense of McMaster. My concern at that time was the apparent dishonesty in how McMaster’s defenders have attacked both his critics and the members of NSC whom McMaster has fired or otherwise helped remove:

Deputy National Security Adviser Rick Waddell, Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Gulf States Joel Rayburn, and Yll Bajraktari, a former special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense during the Obama administration, have been coordinating an extensive public relations campaign in support of embattled National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, according to multiple sources.

Members of the national security community who spoke with PJ Media describe the talking points used during this effort to defend McMaster’s tenure as NSA as “absurd,” “dishonest,” and “comically inaccurate.” But sources primarily expressed anger regarding insinuations that NSC members fired by McMaster or otherwise no longer in their positions — such as K.T. McFarland, Rich Higgins, Adam Lovinger, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and Derek Harvey — are gone for reasons other than ideology.

Over the past week, several media accounts have painted them as “conspiratorial” members of the “alt-right,” possibly leaking information to the controversial Mike Cernovich, and possibly working in tandem with Russian social media accounts. Such claims, which have been picked up by several outlets, are reportedly doing lasting damage to reputations and careers.

Further, multiple sources believe McMaster and his allies within the administration are using such “career-ending” “swamp” tactics with the knowledge that the fired members and supportive colleagues — due to the nature of their careers within the national security realm — do not necessarily have the option of defending themselves in the public sphere.

Yes, Mike Cernovich does indeed have sourcing within the administration. And apparently he has occasionally released accurate information regarding the workings of the NSC. However, I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who was aware of this situation prior to reading of it in this August 4 piece in The Atlantic. And that should lead our objective observer towards identifying cynical motives behind Cernovich receiving unwarranted attention from McMaster.

In that article, the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray revealed that — among the myriad leaks to various outlets that are assumed to have originated from the NSC, including the Washington Post’s atrocious decision to publish transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with two foreign statesmen — McMaster had seemingly prioritized plugging the leak to the popular-within-the-alt-Right-but-otherwise-irrelevant Cernovich. Sources could only speculate as to why McMaster has been so concerned with the one voice that could be most simply dispatched as a purveyor of false information. Indeed, Cernovich — recall “Pizzagate”? — has otherwise carried out that mission on his own.

But it’s clear that, as August came, Cernovich was a useful foil for defending McMaster against charges of purging the NSC of conservatives.

Suddenly, America was being told that McMaster had not been systematically removing those who questioned his embrace of the Obama-era policy of discounting the Islamic roots of terror and jihad. Instead, as we were told, McMaster was indeed tough on Iran and Mahmoud Abbas, and had actually been doing Trump’s bidding by removing “alt-Right” liabilities suspected of leaking to a man with the reputation of a conspiracist kook.

Throughout August, elements of this narrative were spread by influential outlets and think tanks, by Sunday morning talk shows, by Senator John McCain, by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and even by a friendly in the Netanyahu administration.

Perhaps Senator McCain’s contribution most shamelessly embraced the smear tactic. McCain released a statement declaring that the outside pressure to have General McMaster removed from the NSC — which, as all of D.C. knew at the timepresumably including McCain, had been spearheaded by former IDF captain Caroline Glick and Morton Klein, child of Holocaust survivors and president of the Zionist Organization of America — instead arose “from the same purveyors of hatred and ignorance who precipitated the recent violence in Charlottesville.”

Yes — Senator McCain employed shameless expediency to turn “Glick and Klein” into … the Klan.

And until now, that disingenuous campaign had been remarkably successful.

“McMaster is purging the alt-Right leakers” soon became “McMaster can’t work with alt-Right leaker Steve Bannon and alt-Right leaker Sebastian Gorka.” Both are out. Truly, everyone who had been brought on as complementary to Trump’s Mideast campaign promises is now out, as Sebastian Gorka summarized in his public resignation letter.

But Cernovich’s leaker is still there.

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So America is now presented with two options to consider regarding what has transpired throughout 2017 at the NSC under National Security Adviser McMaster:

A. Either McMaster has chosen to restaff the NSC only with people loyal to Mideast policy he has embraced throughout his recent career, even though his policy preferences are in intractable opposition to those of the current Commander-in-Chief; or —

B. Several career intelligence officials of high regard, all of whom shared the distinction of having been selected for duty at the NSC because they were loyalists to Trump’s Mideast platform, somehow became Trump antagonists once McMaster, the real Trump loyalist, was appointed to lead them.

Then some of these officials, concerned about McMaster’s leadership, decided to risk their careers by leaking private, even confidential, information to the media.

Having made this decision, they then considered which outlet was the wisest choice for disseminating their concerns, and lo, they went with … Pizzagate guy.

So August’s narrative needs to end now, and wondrously, it’s all due to a creepy tweet from an apparent conspiracist who may or may not have realized what he was doing. While normal, everyday Americans hopefully get a kick out of that, the media needs to return to demanding McMaster answer everyone’s initial questions:

  1.  Why did you purge the NSC of every official loyal to Trump’s Middle East campaign platform?
  2. Why have you instead placed Obama administration holdovers in key positions?

Obama’s 3rd term: 7 ways Trump admin has foreign policy backward

Manakin | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, Aug. 29, 2017:

The Trump administration is operating within the confines of the perverse alliances and investments Obama made in the Middle East, contradicting everything the president said during the campaign.

The adage of “personnel is policy” is one of the few political bromides that actually holds true. And because Trump does not have a single constitutional conservative advising him or overseeing national security and foreign policy issues, it’s not surprising that many of Obama’s appallingly backward priorities are continuing.

The end goal of foreign policy is protecting our nation first and then protecting strategic assets and interests abroad second. If we actually understood those strategic interests, the nature of Islam, and what can and cannot be redressed in the Middle East, we could improve our security outlook. Using soft power against adversaries, making the right alliances and foreign aid choices, and preserving our resolve and resources for military action when there is actually a threat that must and be redressed with hard force would go much farther than sending our troops into endless Islamic civil wars. Sadly, the latter approach is continuing under this administration.

Here are seven recent developments that demonstrate the wrongheadedness of Trump’s foreign policy and how it is a continuation of Obama’s presidency:

    1. Cutting off aid to … Sisi in Egypt! The Trump administration has finally cut foreign aid, except this time it’s to the one Arab regime in the Middle East we should be supporting. Because the State Department has “humanitarian concerns” with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s administration, it is now withholding $290 million in aid to the regime that is killing more terrorists than anyone else. While we continue to arm our enemies or unreliable and infiltrated Afghani military, we won’t help the one regime that has stabilized a country post-Arab Spring and is pro-West. It’s hard to come any conclusion other than that Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers, who still run this administration, want to punish Sisi for fighting their compatriots in Egypt.

      What message does this send to other potential allies or regimes that are on the fence? This would be an easy use of soft power to demonstrate to the Middle East that we will stand behind those who truly fight Islamic supremacism. But we reject it and instead plunge head-first into Islamic civil wars.

    1. Keeping aid for PLO and UNRWA: While Sisi and the Egyptian military, the only stabilizing Arab force in the region, see their aid diminish, Tillerson has refused to suspend any aid to the PLO. In fact, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are in the region this week, continuing to promote the discredited peace process. As Kyle Shideler from the Center for Security Policy points out, Greenblatt met with Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian involved with the Islamic Jihad, a group stained with blood of Israelis from the intifada of last decade. At a meeting with Kushner, Abbas pledged to continue paying pensions to families of terrorists until his “dying day.”

      Meanwhile, Nikki Haley is lobbying to keep all the $300 million in aid to UNWRA, which has served as a front group for Hamas. Thus, while we are sticking it to Sisi, who is fighting terrorists, we are funding Iran’s terrorist allies and promoting their agenda of a Palestinian state. Hamas is now boasting about its relationship with Iran in preparation for war with Israel.

    1. Bailing out Iran from ISIS and directly handing it western Iraq and Syria: Unlike the Taliban, which really poses no existential threat outside its landlocked borders, Iran is our mortal enemy. The regime has attacked us numerous times over the years and captured our ships and sailors without facing reprisal. Not only have we failed to respond and instead forged the nuclear “deal” with the nation, we are wasting our resources and resolve in Iraq and Syria, essentially bombing ISIS so that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) fighters and Hezbollah Brigades can create an Iranian corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean. Last week, Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones admitted that we were “incidentally” helping the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
    1. Continuing to send weapons to the Lebanese military: Why not just hand over weapons to Iran? That is essentially what we are doing by arming the Lebanese military, which is completely subservient to Hezbollah and the IRGC. Meanwhile, Hezbollah, unlike the Taliban or ISIS, has a vast network inside of the United States.
    1. Directly capitulating to Iran: The administration has become so supportive of the Iran deal, contrary to Trump’s campaign promise to end it, that even John Bolton has publicly said he is persona non grata in the administration.
    1. Kissing up to Qatar: Although Trump has been morally clear about the need to use the Arab state momentum against Qatar to fight terror funding, that memo hasn’t gone out to his secretary of state. Rather than using every diplomatic statecraft tool to pile the pressure on Qatar to end its support for terrorists and the Muslim Brotherhood while terminating its relationship with Iran, Tillerson is pressuring Saudi Arabia to back off! The biggest terror threats are those backed by money. The money is not in Afghanistan; it’s in places like Qatar. Cut off the spigot of funding in Qatar, and we will accomplish more than any military intervention in a civil war in any theater.
    1. Allying with Erdogan instead of holding him accountable: Sitting at the nexus between Iran and Sunni terrorists, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the face of the enemy. He is the biggest threat in the Middle East. He is regarded as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood but is also allied with Iran, especially against the Kurds. Instead of threatening him with expulsion from NATO, Mattis visited him last week and continued Trump’s friendly posture. Rather than fully supporting the Kurds, we are giving in to the demands of Erdogan and also the demands of the Iranian-backed government in Baghdad to oppose Kurdish independence. The Kurds are having a tough time receiving our weapons because we are allowing Baghdad to hold up the shipments.

Furthermore, now that the Kurds have successfully beat back ISIS, they are in position to win back more territory in Northern Iraq, including greater Kirkuk. But rather than support them, we are capitulating to the enemy government in Baghdad and not supporting the Kurdish referendum on independence. Why would we rather Iranian proxies hold the land instead of the Kurds? We support nation-building for Baghdad and for the corrupt Afghani government but won’t do it for the one stable, pro-western, non-jihadist buffer against all our Islamic enemies.

The Afghani government and Shiite militias in Iraq are responsible for thousands of U.S. military casualties over the past decade. Yet we are investing our military resources and resolve to help them while we snub the Kurds and Sisi, the only stable Muslim allies in the region. We are cutting off aid to Egypt while funding the Lebanese military, the PLO, UNRWA, and flushing billions every year in Afghanistan.

Trump is continuing almost every facet of Obama’s perfectly backward foreign policy, in which we support enemies over allies and invest heavily in failure instead of making the right choices that cost us very little. He is nation-building for our enemies in unwinnable theaters while undermining stable allies that could potentially place all our enemies on defense. This has distracted us and weakened our deterrent against North Korea, the one regime that has directly threatened us and has the capability to hit our mainland.

Trump must learn that while he is confronted with a lot of countervailing forces in the political class, he will never succeed by abandoning his base or by repeating the utterly discredited policies of his predecessor.

Also see:

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

National Review, by John Bolton, Aug. 28, 2017:

Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred. But no such options were forthcoming, despite “a sharp series of exchanges” between the president and his advisers, as the New York Times and similar press reports characterized it.

Many outside the administration wondered how this was possible: Was Trump in control, or were his advisers? Defining a compelling rationale to exit Obama’s failed nuclear deal and elaborating a game plan to do so are quite easy. In fact, Steve Bannon asked me in late July to draw up just such a game plan for the president — the option he didn’t have — which I did.

Here it is. It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement. There is no need to wait for the next certification deadline in October. Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity.

I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.

If the president is never to see this option, so be it. But let it never be said that the option didn’t exist.

Read more

— John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Trump’s Afghanistan speech does not match reality. Here’s why

michaelbwatkins | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, Aug. 28, 2017:

There’s a growing trend in this administration in which the president tweets or gives voice to a set of policy guidelines, but the policy outcome from his administration is the exact opposite. This is because the president surrounds himself with political and military leaders who share the swampiest of swamp mentality — the very crowd he campaigned against last year and inveighs against to this very day. This is quite evident as it relates to Afghanistan, especially with all the conservatives fired from the West Wing.

As I noted last week, I agree with the broad rhetoric in Trump’s Afghanistan speech. We should focus only on our interests, transform from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism, and use soft power to cut off funding and support for terror from Pakistan and other countries rather than trying to own the insufferable political problems of the country. But the policy he actually signed off on, both because of the reality in Afghanistan and the mindset of those championing and implementing it, is precisely the opposite of what he discussed: It’s an open-ended nation-building exercise in social work, endangering our troops in the worst form of combat, which we won’t control but the capricious Afghan government will.

The strategy in Afghanistan doesn’t add up

On the one hand, in order to buy support for indefinite continuation of the status quo, proponents of the plan dramatically downplay the American investment and risk in Afghanistan. They say we are only sending a few thousand soldiers, they are only there to advise, train, and mentor, and that the Afghanis will take control of their own destiny. Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation expressed as much in a column we published and noted that this is not like the combat operations in the Obama-era surges because “today the Afghans are in the lead.”

This is a scenario that doesn’t exist. It is a hypothetical situation in which we defeated the Taliban, we have a stable and trustworthy Afghan government that controls most of the country, and we just need a few thousand troops and a few more years to train up the Afghan security forces so they can retain the gains and we don’t risk throwing 16 years of investment and lives down the drain.

The truth, however, cannot be farther from that scenario, and everyone has admitted it.

Everyone agrees the Taliban control more ground than at any point since 9/11, with the ability to strike anywhere, including well outside the Pashtun areas. Everyone agrees that the Afghan army and government are as corrupt, divided, and infiltrated as ever before. Thus the risk of green-on-blue attacks (attacks on coalition forces by Afghan forces), which decimated our forces during the 2011 surge, is just as potent today. Just in June alone, 11 soldiers were killed or wounded by green-on-blue attacks.

Thus, Afghanistan is worse than ever before. And this is precisely why many feel an urgency to do something in the first place. After all, on June 13, Secretary Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we are not winning in Afghanistan” and warned that “right now … the enemy is surging,” and there is a “need for urgency.”

With this in mind, how can it be that a few thousand “advisors” and “mentors” will change a calculus that 150,000 coalition forces under the same General Mattis, as CENTCOM commander in 2011, couldn’t break through?

Who are we kidding? By default, this will be a continued massive nation-building mission, but one with no understanding of what the Afghan government can do or how they will do it. As Captain Jarrin Jackson, a company commander during the Obama-era surge, told us during a podcast, training Afghan security forces is the most dangerous job imaginable and is nothing but nation-building at every stage. Nothing has changed since then. The Afghan army needs American soldiers to procure basic supplies for it. The Afghans are just as compromised as ever before. Our soldiers are engaged in the most dangerous combat — counterinsurgency patrolling in villages where they are ambushed, often by the very forces they are “mentoring.”

This is why those who are closely involved in the McMaster axis in Washington are so giddy about the announcement. Max Boot, who clearly is in the know about what is actually being implemented, was honest about it. “Back to Nation Building in Afghanistan. Good!” was the title of his New York Times op-ed. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are ecstatic.

Again, if this was a plan involving a mere few thousand soldiers just engaging in counter-terrorism from outside the danger zone and not trying to hold together ground for counterinsurgency, why is the establishment foreign policy crowd so happy? Moreover, by definition, working with Afghans and having them lead the way is the opposite of counterterrorism; its counterinsurgency.

And as I mentioned before, it’s the worse form of combat. Our guys are stuck in the most vulnerable situations attempting to hold unholdable ground with soldiers who can shoot them, compromise their mission, or lead them into an ambush at any moment. And the much-vaunted government we are working with is currently negotiating with and infiltrated by the Taliban.

The problem in 2011 was that the Afghan government knew every operation ahead of time and somehow that information often got out to the enemy. This is likely how we suffered the worst tragedy in modern naval special warfare when we lost 25 special ops personnel, primarily members of Seal Team 6, just a few months after that team killed Bin Laden. A helicopter full of troops, in what later became known as “Extortion 17,” was shot out of the sky by an ambush, in which the enemy clearly knew our location. A similar insider attack occurred when a corrupt Afghani colonel lead an attack at a Kabul airport, which killed 8 U.S. airmen, the greatest loss of life for the air force since 2001.

The generals are the problem, not the solution

The same generals who failed us in Afghanistan for a generation, the same generals who are more political and politically correct than politicians, the same generals who covered up Extortion 17, are now the foxes guarding the henhouse. Mattis was commander of CENTCOM during the failed surge. Votel and Nicholson are part of the same crowd of generals Trump was expected to fire. At some point, we can’t blame everything on Obama when these people went along with it.

Remember, these are the same generals who went along with Obama’s social engineering, not only with women in all areas of infantry but with the transgender agenda. Now they are pushing back against Trump when he wants to end this nonsense. Some of you might feel uncomfortable criticizing generals on military strategy or harboring a thought that they don’t understand or care about our strategic interests or the lives of their troops. But their enthusiastic support, and even insistence on social engineering should put to rest any notion that these people are any different from left-wing politicians in Washington. This is a sad epidemic that has hurt our military leadership over the past generation. It is the reason many of us know flag officers who have left the service because they were so disgusted with the political correctness, social engineering, lack of strategic thinking, and even lack of basic understanding of the threats we face.

After all, McMaster refuses to even recognize the problems of Islamic supremacism, and Mattis thinks Israel is an apartheid state. How in the world could we go to battle or even identify an enemy with such a mindset? How can pro-transgender and pro-Muslim Brotherhood generals lead us to victory or even identify what victory looks like or what engagement serves our national interests?

Trump himself recognized this problem during the campaign. One of the boldest statements from Trump during the campaign, one which endeared him to many voters, was when he finally spoke the truth about the politicized generals. Trump declared at the Commander-In-Chief Forum last September that “generals have been reduced to rubble” and that “they have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.” Yet, not only has he failed to fire them, he has elevated some of them to top civilian posts. This is beyond Orwellian.

If Trump really meant to change direction in Afghanistan, he would first have fired those who broke our mission there and those who have turned our military into something that former Marine Jude Eden warned is “more ready for motherhood than for warfare.”

In reality, it would be better to choose the first 10 names in the telephone book to identify strategic interests in the Middle East than the current crop of generals. The only thing worse than not having a winning strategy in the Middle East is sending our troops into harm’s way without such a strategy, without even identifying the enemy and their threat doctrine.

Trump’s Afghanistan policy: D-Day, NOT Vietnam

Evan Vucci | AP Images

Conservative Review, by Jeffrey Lord, Aug. 28, 2017:

The president’s Afghanistan speech was direct and to the point.

All of America, at this point, is well familiar with the president’s oft-stated views on foreign policy. The Trump Doctrine essentially boils down to three points:

1. America should always be focused first and foremost on its own national security interests.

2. No nation-building.

3. Win.

These three points were hammered home repeatedly in his recent address to the nation on Afghanistan, as seen here with these excerpts from the speech(emphasis added):

“But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.

“I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and, most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. […]

“We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again — we are killing terrorists. […]

Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles; they are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. […]

“America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. […] Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.”

In short, this is drawing a line — a bright line — between, as it were, the policy that produced D-Day and the policy that produced Vietnam and (in the Obama era) the losses in Iraq.

There is reason for concern, and it was well expressed by my colleague Daniel Horowitz. To wit:

“The same generals who failed us in Afghanistan for a generation, the same generals who are more political and politically correct than politicians, the same generals who covered up Extortion 17, are now the foxes guarding the henhouse.”

Bingo. That is the caution for sure. History, however, and as always, provides an answer.

One of the lessons of running a winning war is to be found with Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War. Lincoln, as with President Trump, came to office quickly confronting the need for a successful military strategy.

As events turned out the 16th president wound up hiring and firing seven — say again, seven — generals. They were, as noted here, “Irwin McDaniel, George B. McClellan (who was rehired and refired), John Pope, Joe Hooker, Franz Sigal (also fired twice), John C. Fremont (also fired twice), and William Rosecrans.”

Famously, Lincoln finally turned to Ulysses S. Grant,  who, as noted by the Smithsonian, “had gained Lincoln’s confidence after winning crucial victories at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the West. In Grant, Lincoln had finally found a general who would muster the full strength of the Union army against the Confederacy.”

And as the legendary story goes, when Lincoln was told Grant drank too much whiskey the president replied that he wanted to know what Grant was drinking so that he could send a case of it to the rest of his generals.

Skip ahead to Korea. Truman famously fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination. The war became a stalemate, and an issue in the 1952 presidential campaign. The Republican candidate was the hero of D-Day — General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike promised that, if elected, he would go to Korea. He was elected, in a landslide, and soon headed to Korea to make his own assessment of the war with his practiced military eye.

Upon taking office, he had his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, relay to the Indian government and, hence, to the Chinese Communist government of Mao Zedong that the new U.S. president was prepared to use nuclear weapons if negotiations to end the war post-haste failed. The threat worked. The war ended.

The point is clear: In a situation where generals are not getting the job done, it is up to the president to fire them and fire them again and again until he finds the one Ulysses Grant/Dwight Eisenhower guy who will win.

I would suggest here that President Trump is exactly that kind of Lincoln-esque/Eisenhower-esque president. He is famous for his desire to win — and his promises of America “having so much winning, the country would get sick of winning.” If progress is not made in Afghanistan— and pronto — there is no doubt Trump will be looking quickly for a replacement.

Which is to say, Trump’s basic philosophy is akin to that of another president — Franklin D. Roosevelt. Recall the words of FDR the day after Pearl Harbor: “As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

Note well there was nothing in those words that mentioned the words “exit strategy.” FDR — and, across the pond, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill — were about one thing and one thing only: total victory.

So, too, is President Trump. And thank God for that.

Jeffrey Lord is a former White House political director under Reagan and a CNN commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania and is the author of “What America Needs: The Case for Trump.” Email him at jlpa1@aol.com.