Military & Security

Is the ‘Deep State’ Out to Get Trump? We’re Not There Yet

Doyle McManus: “In a country controlled by the deep state, members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies can overthrow presidents they don’t like; that’s what happened in Egypt in 2013. They hold veto power over major decisions. They often run large parts of the economy, or at least enough government contracts to make their families rich. And they’re rarely held accountable for their actions. They act with impunity.”

“U.S. intelligence agencies, on the other hand, are restrained by law. Sometimes they overstep, but eventually they are reined in. The officials who leaked the details of Flynn’s conversations knew that Trump would order the FBI to track them down. They put themselves at risk.”

“Trump’s problem isn’t the deep state; it’s the broad state. He’s facing pushback not only from intelligence agencies, but from civilian bureaucracies, too.”

The Need for a Digital Geneva Convention

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writes.

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organization that can address cyber threats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.  This organization should consist of technical experts from across governments, the private sector, academia and civil society with the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation-state.  Only then will nation-states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

Trump’s Travel Ban Is Not Recruiting More Terrorists

“The argument goes like this: Jihadists believe there is a Manichaean struggle between Islam and the West. An alleged ‘Muslim ban’ plays directly into this worldview, telling Muslims that they are not safe in the un-Islamic world. No wonder they are calling the executive order a ‘blessed ban’ on Islamic State web forums… If only jihadi recruitment were so easily disrupted. Sadly it’s much more complicated,” Eli Lake writes for Bloomberg.

“A far better argument against Trump’s executive order is that it undermines our own recruitment efforts to counter the jihadists. At first the travel ban applied to translators who helped the U.S. military in Iraq, not to mention leading advocates for the Islamic State’s victims like the Yazidi-Iraqi legislator Vian Dakhil. Fortunately the Trump administration has reversed these elements of the travel ban in the last week. But the perception that America would close its doors to the people who helped us makes it harder to recruit allies against the Islamic State going forward.”

Handling North Korea Is a Team Sport and We Need China

Admiral James Stavridis: “We have to recognize that all roads lead to Pyongyang through Beijing. Despite the Trump Administration’s desire to get tough with China, we will need political capital with President Xi Jinping to enlist his help. Without China, further sanctions are meaningless. An open dialogue and the outline of a plan are critical. We may have to moderate our approach on Taiwan (falling back to the ‘one China’ policy, which Trump has questioned) and ease our opposition to China in the South China Sea. Geopolitics, like life, is full of choices.”

“North Korea is a team sport. Our allies and friends — South Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and others — all agree on the challenges. We should leverage their participation in diplomatic and economic initiatives to deal with the North. And we’ll need to conduct frequent allied exercises to leverage joint operational capability in things like missile defense.”

Can Trump Harness the Private Sector to Stop Violent Extremism?

Eric Rosand and Alistair Millar: “Donald Trump campaigned on the promise that he would use his legendary business experience to solve the most pressing problems facing the United States and its interests abroad; stocking his cabinet with CEOs from corporate America has only raised expectations that he can deliver on this promise. As commander-in-chief, how will President Trump use his commercial know-how to tackle the problem of violent extremism? Will he—complemented by the wealthiest, most pro-business cabinet in U.S. history—do what his predecessors have failed to do and get the private sector to really step up?”

We Are Still Living With Eisenhower’s Biggest Mistake

Michael Totten: “Historians are tasked with delivering us from George Santayana’s curse, where those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but historians can only save those who take the time to study the historical record, and even then it only works if the historical record is accurate.”

“Thank goodness, then, for Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Doran’s valiant attempt to save us from ignorance and bad history in his bracing new book, Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East. He expertly walks us through the Suez Crisis of 1956 and its ghastly aftermath when Republican President Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower learned the hard way that Israel, not Egypt or any other Arab state, should be the foundation of America’s security architecture in the Middle East.”

“Why does any of this matter today? Because two of Eisenhower’s wrongheaded ideas are as hard to kill as the Terminator—that the Arab world is a homogenous monolith and the related notion that an American alliance with Israel harms our relationships with Arabs everywhere. Neither of these things are true, and they never have been. America’s natural allies in the Middle East either tolerate our friendship with Israel or secretly hate Israel less than they let on in public, and Israel’s most vicious enemies will never side with the United States anyway.”

Trump’s Immigration Order Lays Out a Way to Turn the Temporary Ban into a Permanent One

Vox: “The current blacklist is temporary — it’s supposed to last 90 days. But the executive order lays out a process — which, coincidentally, is also supposed to take about 90 days — for replacing the temporary blacklist with a permanent one.”

  • In the next 30 days: The State Department and Department of Homeland Security conduct a review of all procedures for letting people into the US, and determine what information they will need to collect from everyone entering the US to prove an applicant ‘is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public safety threat.’ The departments then submit a report to the White House listing all the information it will need from applicants, as well as the countries that don’t yet provide that information.
  • When the report is submitted: The secretary of state puts all countries that don’t yet provide all needed information about applicants on notice: They have 60 days to start complying, or they’ll get added to the ban list. (Some reports have indicated that new countries will be added within 60 days of the order; this step in the process appears to be what they’re talking about.)
  • 60 days after the report is submitted: Any countries that haven’t yet given the US all the information it wants will be added to the ban list.”

NATO in the Crosshairs: Who’s Not Paying Their Bills

CNN: “Getting more NATO members to pay their way will be something Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May can agree on when they meet Friday at the White House.”

“According to NATO statistics, the U.S. spent an estimated $664 billion on defense in 2016. That’s more than double the amount all the other 27 NATO countries spent between them, even though their combined GDP tops that of the U.S. NATO is now pushing hard for the 2% guideline to be taken more seriously.”

Ethics Rules Are National Security Rules

Susan Hennessey: “Readers may be wondering what federal ethics law and policy has to do with national security. The answer is a whole lot. Fundamentally, ethics policies governing the Executive and his cabinet are national security protections. As such, it is important that we recognize the national security implications of the incoming Administration’s positions on ethics.”

“The demand for adequate ethics disclosure and vetting reflects the national security strategy of—as Reagan put it—’Trust, but verify.’ We ask for verification that our government officials are free from undue influence because it goes to the core of basic democratic legitimacy. There should be no questions regarding the purity of the motives of individuals we authorize to place our soldiers, foreign service officers, or intelligence agents in harm’s way. Because of the necessary secrecy that surrounds a great many of these decisions, full vetting and transparency at the outset are critical to ensuring the Executive branch is, in fact, placing country first and also to maintaining basic integrity and legitimacy in the eyes of the people.”

“America First” and Global Conflict Next

Nouriel Roubini: “Trump… may pursue populist, anti-globalization, and protectionist policies that hinder trade and restrict the movement of labor and capital. And he has cast doubt on existing US security guarantees by suggesting that he will force America’s allies to pay for more of their own defense. If Trump is serious about putting ‘America first,’ his administration will shift US geopolitical strategy toward isolationism and unilateralism, pursuing only the national interests of the homeland.”

“When the US pursued similar policies in the 1920s and 1930s, it helped sow the seeds of World War II. Protectionism – starting with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which affected thousands of imported goods – triggered retaliatory trade and currency wars that worsened the Great Depression. More important, American isolationism – based on a false belief that the US was safely protected by two oceans – allowed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to wage aggressive war and threaten the entire world. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US was finally forced to take its head out of the sand.”

“Today, too, a US turn to isolationism and the pursuit of strictly US national interests may eventually lead to a global conflict.”