Military & Security

Turkey Coup Attempt Leaves America With Stark Choice

Bipartisan Policy Center: “In the aftermath of Turkey’s attempted, and failed, coup, Washington is primarily concerned about the future of the U.S.-Turkish alliance and its central objective these days: the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). In particular, U.S. policymakers are concerned about the fate of U.S. access to the Turkish airbase at Incirlik, from which assets used in the campaign against ISIS currently operate. Even though U.S. operations at Incirlik have resumed after being briefly suspended this weekend, there are good reasons to believe that the bases’ final status still hangs in the balance.”

“Erdoğan has already proven he is happy to manufacture evidence to achieve his political goals… And those political goals are increasingly authoritarian. The coup’s aftermath—with thousands of judges and police officers arrested—is evidence enough of that. Which puts the United States in a difficult position, after having stood up for Turkey’s democratically elected government, should it also stand up for other hallmarks of democracy, like rule of law, freedom of press and expression, checks and balances?”

“The United States did little as Erdoğan consolidated power and silenced critical voices prior to the attempted coup, but it should now have plenty of evidence of the dangers of ignoring Turkey’s declining democracy. Erdoğan’s abuses of power are directly linked to spiraling instability in this critical country, not only in the form of the coup attempt, but also a spate of ISIS attacks that has gone nearly unaddressed while the government wages an ethnic civil conflict against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”

“The choice facing U.S. policymakers is thus whether to pursue more of the same—access to Incirlik while Erdoğan grows stronger and Turkey weaker—or to risk the one thing the United States has cared most about thus far—Incirlik—in order to take a stand against the destabilizing forces Erdoğan is unleashing.”

The Iran Deal, One Year Out

Brookings Institution experts gave their takes on the performance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed one year ago.

Strobe Talbott: “At the one-year mark, it’s clear that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers has substantially restricted Tehran’s ability to produce the fissile material necessary to build a bomb. That’s a net positive—for the United States and the broader region.”

Robert Einhorn: “A real threat to the JCPOA is that Iran will blame the slow recovery of its economy on U.S. failure to conscientiously fulfill its sanctions relief commitments and, using that as a pretext, will curtail or even end its own implementation of the deal.”

Suzanne Maloney: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has fulfilled neither the worst fears of its detractors nor the most soaring ambitions of its proponents. All of the concerns that have shaped U.S. policy toward Tehran for more than a generation—terrorism, human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction, regional destabilization—remain as relevant, and as alarming, as they have ever been.”

Bruce Riedel: “As I explain more fully here, one unintended but very important consequence of the Iran nuclear deal has been to aggravate and intensify Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iran’s regional goals and intentions. This fueling of Saudi fears has in turn fanned sectarian tensions in the region to unprecedented levels, and the results are likely to haunt the region for years to come.”


ISIS Loses Another 12 Percent of Territory

The Hill: “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lost 12 percent of its territory in the last six months, according to a new analysis from research firm IHS. Coupled with last year’s 14 percent loss, the terror group’s territory in Iraq and Syria is now roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia.”

“In addition to losing territory, ISIS has continued to lose revenue, according to IHS. The firm estimates ISIS has likely lost at least 35 percent of its $56 million revenue since March.”

Progress in the ground war could create new dangers.

“As the Islamic State’s caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency. As a result, we unfortunately expect an increase in mass casualty attacks and sabotage of economic infrastructure, across Iraq and Syria, and further afield, including Europe,” Columb Strack, senior analyst at IHS and lead analyst for the IHS Conflict Monitor, said in a statement.


8,400 American Troops to Remain In Afghanistan

New York Times: “President Obama said on Wednesday that he planned to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan, deferring a decision to cut the deployment to 5,500, and underlining that the United States will remain militarily entangled there for the foreseeable future.”









“The Taliban have a significant footprint in Afghanistan, according to Bill Roggio, the editor of The Long War Journal, an online publication that is tracking Taliban control. Mr. Roggio has been able to confirm that about one-fifth of the country is controlled or contested by the Taliban, but he emphasized that this was a conservative estimate. ‘They probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country,’ he said.”

How Terrorism Suspects Buy Guns — and How They Still Could, Even With a Ban

New York Times: “According to a study by the Government Accountability Office using data collected by the F.B.I., the vast majority of those on the watchlist who attempted to buy a gun from 2004 to 2015 were allowed to proceed, because they were not stopped by a disqualifying factor like a history of criminal or mental health problems.”

“Even if the Orlando gunman had been denied the purchase of guns from a licensed dealer because of his connections to terrorism, he could have still obtained weapons legally from a private seller at a gun show or online, because federal law does not require a background check for private purchases.”

Paul Ryan Breaks with Trump on Muslim Immigrant Ban

Politico: “[Paul Ryan] said Tuesday that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigrants runs counter to the nation’s principles — a day after the presumptive GOP nominee reiterated his support for the idea.”

“‘I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest,’ Ryan said at a press conference at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Capitol Hill. ‘I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party, but as a country. And I think the smarter way to go in all respects is to have a security test, not a religious test.'”


Paul Ryan Lays Out GOP’s National Security Agenda

Washington Post: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Thursday introduced his national security blueprint — and it often reads like an attempt to soften the sharp edges of some of Donald Trump’s more controversial proposals.”

“Where Trump has proposed building a wall along the southern border and getting Mexico to pay for it, Ryan’s blueprint stresses that ‘we need more than just fencing’ to keep undocumented immigrants and illegal weapons from crossing the border.”

“Where Trump has dismissed NATO as obsolete, Ryan urged ‘modernizing and solidifying NATO’ – while at the same time encouraging NATO allies to spend more on defense so the alliance does not ‘fall into disrepair, or worse, irrelevance.'”

“And where Trump has suggested arming countries like Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons might be a good way to counter North Korea, Ryan favors efforts to ‘shore up our defense arrangements’ in order ‘to bring together’ those countries – but steered clear of mentioning the bomb.

“America First” and Increased Defense Spending Popularity Signal Public Opinion Shift

Pew Research Center released a report on May 5 investigating the American public’s view on the U.S.’s role in the world.

Among the findings were a sharp uptick in support for increased defense spending.

“Most of the increase has come among Republicans. Fully 61% of Republicans favor higher defense spending, up 24 percentage points from 2013. Support for more defense spending has increased much more modestly among other partisan groups. And the gap in support for higher military spending between Republicans and Democrats, which was 25 percentage points three years ago, now stands at 41 points.”

“Still, 57% of Americans want the U.S. to deal with its own problems, while letting other countries get along as best they can. Just 37% say the U.S. should help other countries deal with their problems. And more Americans say the U.S. does too much (41%), rather than too little (27%), to solve world problems, with 28% saying it is doing about the right amount.”

The logical contradiction of growing public support for increased defense spending and a growing desire for subdued international activity may be explained by threat recognition: Americans are far more likely to see non-state actors as a threat than Eastern rivals.

Cruz on Military Spending is Big Government

Daily Kos: Sen. Ted Cruz has “talked about giving our nation’s bloated war budget a big boost if he becomes president. As if spending more than the next 14 countries combined isn’t enough.”

“His proposal to increase the Pentagon’s budget … to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product during his first two years in office would raise the 2017 fiscal year budget to $738 billion, a 26 percent increase from what President Obama has proposed. That compares with the peak war budget of $699 billion in 2011.”

“Cruz doesn’t want to raise taxes to accomplish this—golly, no. Rather, he wants to pay for it by dumping the Internal Revenue Service and four Cabinet-level departments: Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Commerce.”

“Fifty-four percent of federal discretionary spending now flows to the military. But that’s only so when a narrow view is taken regarding what comprises military spending. The overall Veterans Affairs budget including benefits and health care adds another 7 percent in discretionary spending. There is also national security spending for international FBI activities, Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, and other miscellaneous defense-related activities that add another 4 percent. An additional 5 percent goes to Homeland Security functions that are not part of the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. So federal discretionary spending that actually goes for national security purposes is 70 percent.”

No Improvement in Doomsday Clock

Eco Watch: “With ‘utter dismay,’ the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Tuesday that the symbolic Doomsday Clock will hold at three minutes to midnight—at the ‘brink’ of man-made apocalypse—because world leaders have failed to take the necessary steps to protect citizens from the grave threats of nuclear war and runaway climate change.”


“The decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock ‘is not good news,’ it continues, ‘but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.’”

“Since the clock was first introduced in 1947, the hands have moved 22 times. As Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin, explained, the clock represents a ‘summary view of leading experts deeply engaged in the existential issues of our time.’”

States That Have Surrendered to ISIS

Daily Kos: “Recent polls show that not only are Republicans unhappy with Obama’s handling of Daesh … but so are Democrats. The extreme paranoia exhibited by American politicians, pundits, and terrorism ‘experts’ is so overblown as to be ludicrous … Americans are safer today from outside threats than we have been in a long time, maybe ever. The Daesh threat to Americans is miniscule, and the data prove it.”

“But, but, ISIS is in the news all the time, aren’t they killing lots of Americans? Shouldn’t we be really afraid? Well, actually, no. In 2013, all domestic and international terrorists killed exactly 16 Americans. Three died in the Boston Marathon bombing, the rest died in overseas attacks. Sixteen Americans. So if you live in the U.S.A., your odds of being killed by a terrorist were (and are still) one in 20 million (16 deaths out of 330 million Americans). And if you didn’t leave the country, your chances improved to one in 110 million.”

As the CDC mortality tables show, “more people died from TV and appliance tip-overs (based on 2011 data) than from terrorism. Twenty times more people died from appendicitis than from terrorist attacks. Four times as many Americans died from machinery-related carbon monoxide poisoning. And during the same 12-month period, for every single terrorist fatality, more than 200 people STARVED TO DEATH in America.”


What Do You Call White Guys With Guns?

Christopher Ingraham: “A bunch of heavily-armed white guys walk into a federal building, declare that they’re in charge of the place and say they plan to stick around indefinitely. What do you call them, exactly?”

“In the interest of clarity, here’s how 15 major media outlets are referring to the group as of Monday morning. To keep the tally manageable, I’m counting only the first reference to the Oregon group in either the headline or body of the main story on the standoff on the organizations’ websites.”

“Of the 15 outlets I surveyed, six are describing the group as either “armed activists” or “armed protesters.” That includes The Washington Post, along with all three major cable networks and two network news outlets.”

Despite ‘War on Cops,’ 2015 Was One of the Safest Years for Cops

Vox: “For much of 2015, Fox News and the New York Post decried a “war on cops,” specifically blaming the Black Lives Matter movement — and its criticisms of excessive use of force by cops — for enabling a wave of violence against police officers in the US.”

“Yet with the year over, it looks like 2015 was one of the safest years to be a police officer in America. Since 1960, only 2013 had fewer on-duty police officer deaths than 2015.”

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“The Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police officer deaths, estimated 129 police officers died in the line of duty in 2015, down 3 percent from 2014. This continued the long-term trend downward, based on the organization’s statistics going back decades.”

“The single biggest cause of death in 2015 was gunfire. Out of 129 deaths, 39 were gun homicides and two were accidental shootings. But deadly shootings were down from 2014, when 49 cops died to gunfire.”