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TN: Wrong Assumptions About Middle East

TN: Wrong Assumptions About Middle East

The following claims have attained quasi-canonical status in Washington: The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances US influence; the Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies; the interests of the United States and Israel align; and, terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. Subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.

MDC: Hagel Was To Cut Military

MDC: Hagel Was To Cut Military

As the Pentagon absorbed the shock of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s unexpected resignation Monday, another realization set in: Neither Hagel’s departure, just like those of his two predecessors, nor the arrival of his successor promises major changes in the administration’s approach to national security policy. The U.S. military still will be tasked with degrading and destroying the Islamic State with minimal involvement of ground troops.

DS: Interview with Kissinger

DS: Interview with Kissinger

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and most divisive secretary of state the US has ever had. In an interview, he discusses his new book exploring the crises of our time, from Syria to Ukraine, and the limits of American power. He says he acted in accordance with his convictions in Vietnam.

FA: Executive Disorder

FA: Executive Disorder

Criticism of Obama’s forthcoming executive order has centered around the idea that Obama plans an unconstitutional power grab, but his action is within the bounds of the law because it focuses on changes to the administration’s enforcement priorities. That doesn’t mean that Obama’s executive order deserves no criticism – it will do nothing for the unaccompanied minors and families whose desperate flight to the United States last summer may have finally pushed the White House to act.

BI: Drones and Aerial Surveillance

BI: Drones and Aerial Surveillance

The campaigns mounted by privacy advocates oftentimes make a compelling case about the threat of pervasive surveillance, but the legislation is rarely tailored in such a way to prevent the harm that advocates fear. In fact, the new laws are focused on the technology (drones) not the harm (pervasive surveillance) and have been aimed at restricting the government’s use of drone technology, while allowing the government to conduct identical surveillance when not using drone technology. This absurd anachronism is intentional.

FA: Pentagon Adapting to Globalization

FA: Pentagon Adapting to Globalization

In late 2013, Google announced that it had acquired Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics company best known for creating BigDog, a four-legged robot that can accompany soldiers into rough terrain. Much of the resulting hype focused on the Internet giant and when it might start making various types of robots. What was good news for Google, however, represented a major loss for the U.S. Department of Defense.

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

Palestinian youth have dug a hole in Israel’s separation wall with the Palestinian territories, as a symbolic gesture to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians refer to the current wall separating the West Bank from Israel as the “apartheid wall”. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

We have entered the fourth official month of the latest war without end in the Middle East, and the Obama administration has suddenly doubled America’s troop presence in Iraq – yet there is no approved declaration of war in sight. The so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels receiving millions in weapons are now being defeated, and those same weapons are ending up in the hands of al-Qaida – yet there is no public sign of dialing back in the fight against the Islamic State.

TD: Do Nothing, Repeat

TD: Do Nothing, Repeat

The crisis in our political system is less about party than about horizon. Somehow, we seem to have lost the capacity for long-range planning and execution—at a time when, arguably, foresight and patience are more essential than ever before. Iit is hard to imagine how our system can possibly implement policies that would be effective in the long run—or how, if we managed to take the right course, we could possibly stick to it.

BI: Watch Elections Like a Pro

BI: Watch Elections Like a Pro

Many races are called as soon as the polls close, but the ones that matter most—that spell the difference between majority and minority status for a political party—usually aren’t. Commentators typically focus on large, well-known counties, overlooking smaller counties that may be more reliable bell-weathers. To test conventional wisdom and to develop a guide for people who don’t analyze politics for a living, we looked at all the contested Senate races this year.

BBC: Judges For Sale?

BBC: Judges For Sale?

Citizen’s United is back in America’s courtrooms. But, this time, the famous US Supreme Court case isn’t facing scrutiny, it’s deciding who’s sitting on the bench in the first place. States pick their judges in a variety of ways. In states where elections are taking place, they are starting to remind voters more of congressional elections, with the same money and harsh rhetoric.

WP: Justice for Snowden

WP: Justice for Snowden

It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous U.S. citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as the New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”

DS: Freedom vs Stability

DS: Freedom vs Stability

There are many reasons to be gratified by the end of a dictatorship. It means that a criminal is no longer in a position of power, and there’s the prospect that democracy could take root in its stead. Some people also believe that anything is better than despotism. But the last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos.

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners penned an open letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to release a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture. The laureates spoke out sharply against any use of torture, but said that the U.S.’ tactics were particularly troubling. Advocates have been urging the White House for months to no avail to make the report public.

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

In taking office during two overseas wars and the Great Recession, President Obama set out to restore society’s frayed faith in its public institutions, saying that the question was not whether government was too big or small, “but whether it works.” Six years later, Americans seem more dubious than ever that it really does.

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

Elizabeth Warren is not running for president apparently because everyone assumes the nomination is Clinton’s. But everyone was making that same assumption eight years ago, and we know what happened. If the choice is between inspiration and inevitability, Warren may be forced to change her plans.

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

Participation in the body politic is widely considered to be both a privilege and an imperative to the enlightened urban citizen. To choose otherwise is quite literally heresy – and heretics by and large have a difficult time of it in society. The platitudes I face as a non-voter are known to everyone, precisely because they are platitudes – People have marched for miles! or Immigrants crossed oceans! Understanding the Soviet Union and North Korea gives a bit of insight into human social psychology. No matter how absurd the state line, a huge majority of the populace can be found to promulgate it. Frankly I am baffled that those of us who were nerds in high school now defer to the winners of popularity contests.

FP: Much Ado About the Islamic State

FP: Much Ado About the Islamic State

Let’s take a step back from today’s lurid headlines and try to see the bigger picture. There’s a lot of nasty and vivid trouble out there in the world today, but not all of it is likely to matter very much beyond the immediate confines of the troubled region itself. Now, as always, the real challenge is figuring out which of today’s headlines really matter, which can be left to others, and which can be mostly ignored.

AJA: Europe’s Biggest Disappointment

AJA: Europe’s Biggest Disappointment

It is worth considering how the once giddy European love affair with Obama will come to a close. It might not be in an acrimonious George W. Bush–style divorce, but it is likely to end in disappointment and regret. Poll numbers indicate a status quo Obama presidency. But that is not what Europe expected and not, for that matter, what Obama promised. President Obama may have smoothed US politics’ tone and rhetoric, but, in the end, he played the same game.

DS: The Extremist Trap

DS: The Extremist Trap

Among terrorists’ strategic goals is the unmasking of a state’s alleged evil side, which they purport to be fighting. This is the exactly the trap into which US President George W. Bush and his government stumbled. The US of today is not safer as a result — it is poorer. Liberal America, which was long a beacon for democracies around the world, including Germany’s, no longer exists. It is not a path we should follow.

BBC: A Republican Senate?

BBC: A Republican Senate?

It’s simple electoral maths that the Republican Party has a good chance to control a majority in the US Senate after November’s mid-term elections. As most experts predict conservatives will easily maintain their edge in the House of Representatives, the “battle for the Senate” has dominated discussion. As election day draws near, however, a quiet debate is simmering over what Republican control of Congress actually would mean.

NYT: ISIS Ammunition from US and China

NYT: ISIS Ammunition from US and China

In its campaign across northern Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group Islamic State has been using ammunition from the United States and other countries that have been supporting the regional security forces fighting the group, according to new field data gathered by a private arms-tracking organization. The data suggest that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power.

RE: War Without End

RE: War Without End

The usual markers of military victory don’t apply to the Syria war. The borders, combatants, allegiances, and military objectives in the Syrian war are too fluid to conform to our usual expectations. In bombing Syria, President Obama, who inherited this war, has made this war his war, the next president’s war, and our war. Today, tomorrow, and for as far as the eye can see. Perpetual war for perpetual peace.

WP: Details About Drones

WP: Details About Drones

The White House is preparing a directive that would require federal agencies to publicly disclose for the first time where they fly drones in the United States and what they do with the torrents of data collected from aerial surveillance. Until now, the armed forces and federal law enforcement agencies have been reflexively secretive about drone flights and even less forthcoming about how often they use the aircraft to conduct domestic surveillance.

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

Considered in its totality, Holder’s time as attorney general maintained the Bush administration’s legal philosophy on the largest issues, and in a style that Bush’s attorneys general must have admired. Trained to detect and amplify Washington’s marginal political differences, the press sometimes overlooks the obvious continuity of the permanent government.

PS: America’s Never-Ending War

PS: America’s Never-Ending War

It is official: US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is at war again. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was so controversial that it fractured the global consensus to fight terror. After Obama took office, he sought to introduce a gentler, subtler tone. But the rhetorical shift did not translate into a change in strategy. America’s war on terror now risks becoming a permanent war against an expanding list of enemies – often inadvertently created by its own policies. It is time for the US to recognize that since it launched its war on terror, the scourge has only spread.

WP: Congress Rarely Works Full Week

WP: Congress Rarely Works Full Week

Of the 13,000-plus days since Jan. 1, 1978, both chambers of Congress have been in session at the same time for about 4,700 of them — about a third of the total time and a little fewer than half of all weekdays. The Senate has worked more than the House, having been in session about 42 percent of the time to the House’s 39 percent. A look at the the past 37 years of Congressional activity reveals that your likely stereotypes about the amount of time Congress spends doing the people’s work is probably about right.

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

For the past few weeks, as Scotland debated the wisdom of independence, Reuters has been asking Americans how they would feel about declaring independence today, not from the United Kingdom, but from the mother country they left England to create. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were strongly or provisionally inclined to leave the United States, and take their states with them. The sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt. This should be more than disconcerting; it’s a situation that could get dangerous.

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

How large-scale US surveillance is harming journalism, law, and American democracy. The 120-page report documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions.

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said that “there’s no credible information” that ISIS is planning an attack on America and that there’s “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”? Probably not, because as the nation barrels towards yet another war in the Middle East and President Obama addresses the nation on the “offensive phase” of his military plan, mainstream media pundits and the usual uber-hawk politicians are busy trying to out-hyperbole each other over the threat ISIS poses to Americans. Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public is now terrified. The administration openly admits it has no idea how long it will take, only that it won’t be quick. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years,” John Kerry said. He didn’t add, “it might take another 13”, but he might as well have.

NYT: Paths to War Haunt Obama

NYT: Paths to War Haunt Obama

Just hours before announcing an escalated campaign against Islamic extremists last week, the president invited a group of foreign policy experts and former government officials to dinner on Monday, and a separate group of columnists and magazine writers for a discussion on Wednesday afternoon. He reflected on the frenzied weeks leading up to the American invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

After decades of cynical and often secret interventions by the US, Britain, France, Russia, and other outside powers, the Middle East’s political institutions are based largely on corruption, sectarian politics, and brute force. The damage in Libya, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq demands that a political solution be found within the region, not imposed from the outside.

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

As President Obama prepares to announce his strategy on Wednesday for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there is no shortage of condemnation from Republicans like Mr. Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Jindal, who are considering running for president in 2016. Yet they, like almost every Republican who might try to succeed Mr. Obama, have a common résumé gap: foreign policy experience.

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. If we get the rules of the game right, we might be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century.

TG: ISIS and Modern Western Philosophy

TG: ISIS and Modern Western Philosophy

Over recent weeks there has been a constant background noise suggesting that Islamic State (Isis) and its ideology are some sort of throwback to a distant past.It needs to be said very clearly: contemporary jihadism is not a return to the past. It is a modern, anti-traditional ideology with a very significant debt to western political history and culture. Central to ISIS’s programme is its claim to Muslim heritage. Part of countering this requires understanding the contemporary sources of its ideology and its violence.

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington and it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom. The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments and have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, perhaps in violation of federal law.

FA: Ukraine Crisis Is West’s Fault

FA: Ukraine Crisis Is West’s Fault

The United States and its European allies now face a choice on Ukraine. They can continue their current policy, which will exacerbate hostilities with Russia and devastate Ukraine in the process — a scenario in which everyone would come out a loser. Or they can switch gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow.

RE: US v ISIS Better Right Than Fast

RE: US v ISIS Better Right Than Fast

In the aftermath of IS’s many outrages against Americans, Iraqis and Syrians alike, the urge to action is natural and proper, as it was after 9/11. Some experts plausibly argue that U.S. policies toward Iraq and Syria contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. The greatest care is needed in developing strategy for a region that has been so consistently defiant of U.S. intentions and is now in so fluid a state.

DS: NATO Hardliners

DS: NATO Hardliners

Merkel’s relations with Putin are considered to be closer than those enjoyed by most other Western leader with the Russian president. Yet positive outcomes from those ties have been nonexistent. The crisis has reached the point the chancellor wanted to avoid all costs — the point where military logic replaces diplomatic efforts. Within NATO, pressure is growing on Merkel to change her approach.

FA: America in Decay

FA: America in Decay

The creation of the U.S. Forest Service at the turn of the twentieth century was the premier example of American state building during the Progressive Era, the prototype of a new model of merit-based bureaucracy. Today, however, many regard the Forest Service as a highly dysfunctional bureaucracy performing an outmoded mission with the wrong tools. The story of the U.S. Forest Service is not an isolated case but representative of a broader trend of political decay.

RE: Fear Not German Hegemony

RE: Fear Not German Hegemony

Angela Merkel is the most important leader in Europe. She tries to duck it by exhibiting a modest demeanor, presenting no charisma, no grand pronouncements, no apparent ambition to stamp her views on history. Germany’s popular, publicly modest chancellor is the de facto leader of a grouping that famously had no number to call when the U.S. president needed to talk to his closest allies. Now it does: it’s Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. She carries much on her back – luckily for the rest of us.

WP: The Rise of Putinism

WP: The Rise of Putinism

When the Cold War ended, Hungary occupied a special place in the story of the revolutions of 1989. It was one of the first countries in the Soviet orbit to abandon communism and embrace liberal democracy. Today it is again a trendsetter, becoming the first European country to denounce and distance itself from liberal democracy. It is adopting a new system and set of values that are best exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia but are finding echoes in other countries as well.

PS: Fragmentation of Bretton Woods

PS: Fragmentation of Bretton Woods

The world has changed considerably since political leaders from the 44 Allied countries met in 1944 in Bretton Woods to create the institutional framework for the post-World War II economic and monetary order. What has not changed in the last 70 years is the need for strong multilateral institutions. Yet national political support for the Bretton Woods institutions seems to have reached an all-time low, undermining the global economy’s ability to meet its potential and contributing to geopolitical insecurity.

NYT: Why We Fight Wars

NYT: Why We Fight Wars

A century has passed since the start of World War I, which many people at the time declared was “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, wars just kept happening. And with the headlines from Ukraine getting scarier by the day, this seems like a good time to ask why. One answer is that leaders may not understand the arithmetic. The larger problem, however, is that governments all too often gain politically from war, even if the war in question makes no sense in terms of national interests.

AJ: School Nutrition Association

AJ: School Nutrition Association

A bitter fight erupted when the School Nutrition Association decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Why did the SNA reverse its earlier position supporting healthier school meals?

MJ: Six Year Itch Doom for Obama?

MJ: Six Year Itch Doom for Obama?

The theory of the six-year itch is well-known phenomenon: American presidents suffer all too often during their second terms from an onslaught of scandals that hobble their ability to act. if you accept the general proposition that scandals tend to pile up over time, that means you’re likely to have a fairly impotent president by year six. And maybe that means a single six-year term would be for the best. The problem with this is that there’s not much evidence for it.

TN: Clinton Echoes Neocons

TN: Clinton Echoes Neocons

For months, Christie Watch has chronicled Hillary Clinton’s hawkish, even neoconservative-influenced views on foreign policy. During her tenure as secretary of state, from the inside, she argued consistently—usually in alliance with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—for polices that were almost universally more hawkish than President Obama seemed to favor, sometimes succeeding in getting her way and sometimes not.

FA: Consequences of Air Strikes in Iraq

FA: Consequences of Air Strikes in Iraq

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized limited air strikes on militants in Iraq to stop their advance toward Erbil, where a number of U.S. diplomats, civilians, and military personnel reside. He also promised to send aid to refugees fleeing the militants’ advance. Air strikes are undoubtedly necessary for the narrow purposes stipulated by Obama. But they will have a wide range of unintended consequences — some relatively manageable, others less so.

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

NYT: What Science Says About Marijuana

NYT: What Science Says About Marijuana

Marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco. That doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless; but, on balance, its downsides are not reasons to impose criminal penalties on its possession, particularly not in a society that permits nicotine use and celebrates drinking. Marijuana’s negative health effects are arguments for the same strong regulation that has been effective in curbing abuse of legal substances.

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

WP: Young Americans’ Dim View of Israel’s Actions

WP: Young Americans’ Dim View of Israel’s Actions

A new Pew Research Center poll is the second in the past week to show a huge generational split on the current conflict in Gaza. Just because young Americans are more suspect of what Israel is doing today doesn’t mean they will be as suspect in a decade or two. Young people are paying the least attention to what’s happening in Gaza. And even as young Americans question Israel in this instance, they are still much more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.

CIGI: West Watching the World Burn

CIGI: West Watching the World Burn

Putin has fanned the flames of war in Ukraine, first by invading and annexing the Crimean peninsula, and then by supporting Donetsk and Luhansk separatists by directly providing them with weapons and military advisers at worst, or, at best, letting Russian “war tourists” cross the Russian-Ukrainian border. While the Kremlin provoked the war in Ukraine, and threw fuel on the fire, the rest of the world gave Vladimir Putin very little reason to change his course of action.

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

Over the last decade, the United States has provided hundreds of thousands of small arms to the Afghan security forces. But the US and its Afghan counterparts are doing an inadequate job of tracking these weapons increasing the likelihood that they could wind up in the hands of the resurgent Taliban, which has recently made key military advances that are threatening Afghanistan’s fragile stability.

RE: World Cup and US-German Relations

RE: World Cup and US-German Relations

As Germany basks in its World Cup victory, it’s easy to forget that one of the most telling geopolitical moments of the tournament came during the Germany-U.S. game. As American fans chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” the Germans countered with, “N-S-A! N-S-A! N-S-A!”. All the “friendly spying” scandals are just one piece of the puzzle. There are even deeper fissures causing a lot of the bad blood — and suggesting more of it to come.

PEW: Global Attitudes Towards US

PEW: Global Attitudes Towards US

Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world over the past year. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and a decline in the view that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its people. But in most countries there is little evidence this opposition has severely harmed America’s overall image.

CIGI: US Losing Friends It Needs Most

CIGI: US Losing Friends It Needs Most

Foreign policy is like gardening, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, more than once remarked. And it begins, he pointed out, by making sure that relations with America’s neighbors, key allies, and friends remain regularly and well-tended. It is an axiom of foreign policy that the Obama administration is ignoring to its own detriment. U.S. relations with Germany – Europe’s economic and political juggernaut – have sunk to an all-time low. The health of U.S. relations with key allies is not much better across the Pacific.

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

Most Americans don’t think of their government as particularly successful. Some of this mistrust reflects a healthy skepticism that Americans have always had toward centralized authority. But much of the mistrust really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures. And yet there is some good news in this area, too – a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

FA: The State of the State

FA: The State of the State

In today’s established and emerging democracies, few people regard government as precious. This cynicism has become commonplace and yet it is actually rather odd. It assumes that the public sector will remain immune from the technological advances and forces of globalization that have ripped apart the private sector. It also ignores the lessons of history: government has changed dramatically over the past few centuries, usually because committed people possessed by big ideas have worked hard to change it.

AJA: Germany and the US

AJA: Germany and the US

On July 10, the German government demanded the immediate departure of the head of the CIA mission in Berlin. Such demands are not unusual, even between ostensible allies. What is unusual is that it was publicly announced and with much fanfare. What accounts for what some are already calling an unprecedented breach in relations between the US and Germany? The problem is structural and is not due to the passing mistakes and stupidity of those in power in the United States.

WP: Progressives Turn From Obama to Warren

WP: Progressives Turn From Obama to Warren

Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally in West Virginia, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests. It was the latest in a string of recent Warren appearances where Democratic base voters have embraced her fiery message as an envoy to working-class voters frustrated with both Wall Street and the Obama administration.

BI: Government Failures

BI: Government Failures

In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?

DS: National Security Is US State Religion

DS: National Security Is US State Religion

For more than a year now, the revelations disclosed by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden have fueled an at times fierce debate over the sense and legality of the NSAs sheer greed for data. Der Spiegel conducted two interviews. The first is with two major critics of the NSA’s work — human rights activist and lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, and former spy Thomas Drake. The second interview is with John Podesta, a special advisor to United States President Barack Obama.

NYT: Reining in the Drones

NYT: Reining in the Drones

For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. The material, provided by Snowden to The Washington Post spans President Obama’s first term, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

AJA: Clintons’ Web of Wealth

AJA: Clintons’ Web of Wealth

Given their immense wealth and how they got it — politicized kickbacks from the most powerful political forces in Washington, on Wall Street and around the globe — the Clintons would do well to admit that they are unusually wealthy and stop trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks. If they don’t, their fate may very well resemble Romney’s.

NYT: Drone War Without End

NYT: Drone War Without End

The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.

NYT: Don’t Ignore Syria for Iraq

NYT: Don’t Ignore Syria for Iraq

President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?

DS: Syria Another Somalia

DS: Syria Another Somalia

Interview with UN Peace Envoy Brahimi: ‘Syria Will Become Another Somalia’ – For almost two years, Lakhdar Brahimi sought to bring peace to Syria. But in May, the United Nations special envoy stepped down. He speaks with SPIEGEL about the stubbornness of Syrian President Assad, the mistakes of the West and the dangers presented by Islamic radicals.

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

The UK government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored by the security services because they are deemed to be “external communications”. It is the first time that the government has admitted that UK citizens, talking via supposedly private channels in social media such as Twitter direct messages, are deemed by the British government to be legitimate legal targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting.

AJA: Trickle Down Surveillance

AJA: Trickle Down Surveillance

Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. This sort of invasive surveillance raises serious questions about whether our tax dollars are funding violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

With its virtual monopoly on search, Google has the power to flip the outcomes of close elections easily – and without anyone knowing. Over time, they could change the face of parliaments and congresses worldwide to suit their business needs – keeping regulators at bay, getting favorable tax deals and so on. And because their business is unregulated in most countries at this point, flipping elections in this way would be legal.

TG: UK’s First Secret Court

TG: UK’s First Secret Court

A major terrorism trial is set to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice. The unnamed defendants were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and have been charged with serious terrorism offences.

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.

NYT: Press Freedom Infringed

NYT: Press Freedom Infringed

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source. The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said was an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said was an intolerable infringement of press freedom.

AN: US Surveillance State

AN: US Surveillance State

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.

AJ: The Information Wars

AJ: The Information Wars

The Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote that in wartime “truth” is the first casualty, an observation that was later repeated by Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, and isolationist US Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. Modern governments do indeed like to control information, partly to shape the narrative of their activities to influence world opinion, but mostly for the domestic audience to generate popular support for policies that might otherwise prove unsustainable.

PS: Russia Looks East

PS: Russia Looks East

In the quarter-century since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, relations among the “great powers” have never been worse. Their ability to work together on regional or global issues has deteriorated substantially in the last decade. Now Putin seems to want to double down on these trends and create a new Sino-Soviet axis. China, for all of its current problems, will be not interested. The compass for China’s journey still points clearly to international integration.

FA: Treacherous Triangle

FA: Treacherous Triangle

Putin’s trip to China could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.

TG: Greenwald Distrusts UK

TG: Greenwald Distrusts UK

There’s only one country that has been consciously excluded from Glenn Greenwald’s tour – in fact, only one country in the world that he says he absolutely will not visit. It is the UK. The wounds left by the detention under the Terrorism Act of his partner, Miranda, at Heathrow airport last August, are still open and deep.

FA: Killer Robots

FA: Killer Robots

Offensive “Terminator-style” autonomous robots that are programmed to kill could soon escape Hollywood science fiction and become reality. This actual rise of the machines raises important strategic, moral, and legal questions about whether the international community should empower robots to kill.

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

The paper “Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy” examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.

AJA: Obama’s Clemency Power Unused

AJA: Obama’s Clemency Power Unused

The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down. President Barack Obama, the inheritor of a war on drugs created by his predecessors, has criticized excessive sentences. But he has done little to undo the damage.

TDT: The US is an Oligarchy

TDT: The US is an Oligarchy

Report by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities suggests that US political system serves special interest organisations, instead of voters. Economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

Years of escalating protests by Putin made it clear he believed the West was surrounding him with hostile neighbors. And for centuries, Russian leaders have viewed a friendly Ukraine as vital to Moscow’s defense. Demonizing Putin reflected the continued failure of American officials to recognize Russia’s power, interest and importance. It is vital for Washington and Moscow to end a destructive pattern of careless American action followed by Russian overreaction.

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

The revolution in Ukraine and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea have generated a serious security crisis in Europe. But, with Western leaders testing a new kind of financial warfare, the situation could become even more dangerous. In 1911, instead of being an alternative to war, the financial arms race made war more likely – as it may well be doing with Russia today.

FA: America’s Energy Edge

FA: America’s Energy Edge

The United States is now poised to become an energy superpower. As U.S. production continues to increase, it will put downward pressure on global oil and gas prices, thereby diminishing the geopolitical leverage that some energy suppliers have wielded for decades

BI: McCutcheon Decision Worse Than It Looks

BI: McCutcheon Decision Worse Than It Looks

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon is more radical than modest, increasing the political leverage of the wealthy few and moving us further toward an unregulated political marketplace and away from the democratic republic envisioned by the framers.

PS: Why Are Rich Countries Democratic?

PS: Why Are Rich Countries Democratic?

When Adam Smith was 22, he proclaimed “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines in the recent reform bills, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.

TG: Reforming the NSA

TG: Reforming the NSA

Ten months after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting US telephone records in bulk, three sets of proposals have emerged to change the way the agency operates. All would end the data collection program in its current form, but there are crucial differences between the rival plans. We take a look at how the proposals compare.

DS: Kremlin and the Crimea

DS: Kremlin and the Crimea

The EU and US have come down hard on Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. But from the perspective of the Kremlin, it is the West that has painted Putin into a corner. And the Russian president will do what it takes to free himself.

WP: CIA Abuse

WP: CIA Abuse

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

BI: Putin’s Art of Offensive Defense

BI: Putin’s Art of Offensive Defense

In part one of her series on Vladimir Putin’s thinking, Fiona Hill examines the building blocks of Putin’s political and international thought. In part two she examines the Russian leader’s beliefs about foreign policy and the threats that face Russia. In part three she examines the messages his Ukrainian play is sending to international actors.

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

Without protections for new media and nontraditional journalists, the Freedom Flow of Information Act may very well end up doing little more than anointing a new set of gatekeepers—established traditional media organizations who call the shots about what leaks are published and what aren’t, instead of the relatively open social media and blog spheres.

AJA: Failure to Protect

AJA: Failure to Protect

The FISA court and intelligence committees were supposed to be bulwarks against the dangers of secret spying programs but the shortcomings of these institutions are now clear. It’s troubling to think about all the times the CIA interfered with congressional oversight without so much as a public peep from Feinstein or her colleagues.

NC: US and Ukraine

NC: US and Ukraine

Washington cannot realistically do any more in response to Russian troops seizing Crimea in 2014 in the name of protecting Russian lives and Russian bases than Moscow could do in response to U.S. troops seizing Panama in 1989 in the name of protecting American lives and American bases.

FA: Putin’s Own Goal

FA: Putin’s Own Goal

It would be a mistake to overestimate Putin or Russia, or to underestimate how badly his gambit in Ukraine could turn out for him. Finding a way out of this crisis requires an understanding both of why Putin instigated it and of how it will affect his rule.

AJA: 21st Century Church Committee

AJA: 21st Century Church Committee

A Church Committee for the 21st century, a special congressional investigatory committee that undertakes a significant and public re-examination of intelligence community practices that affect the rights of Americans and the laws governing those actions, is urgently needed.

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