Blogs: Paul Pillar

The Impulsive Approach to Managing Alliances

Anti-Iranism in the Trump Administration

Leninist Foreign Policy Comes to Washington

Paul Pillar

The one instance in U.S. foreign policymaking since World War II that involved a major redirection that was run out of a White House vest pocket and excluded the normal policymaking machinery, and that in retrospect was successful, was Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to China in the early 1970s.  One look at the personnel in corresponding positions in the current administration makes it immediately clear that this experience cannot be taken as a model.  Mr. Bannon, you’re no Henry Kissinger.  Neither are you, Mr. Flynn.  (And Mr. Trump, you’re no Nixon, at least as far as acumen about foreign affairs is concerned.)  Even Kissinger himself later said that his method of running foreign policy and gaming the bureaucracy was so bizarre and so dependent on his own unusual skill set that no one else should ever try to run foreign policy the same way.

There was one other big decision in recent times for which there was no policy process and no opportunity for the relevant departments and bureaucracies to weigh in.  There never were, in this case, any meetings in the Situation Room or any options papers that ever considered whether the decision to be taken was a good idea.  This was the decision to launch the Iraq War of 2003.  The deputy secretary of state at the time, Richard Armitage, later commented, “There was never any policy process to break, by Condi [Rice] or anyone else.  There never was one from the start.  Bush didn’t want one, for whatever reason.”

And we all know how well that one worked out. 

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An Order That Will Increase Terrorism

Paul Pillar

The one instance in U.S. foreign policymaking since World War II that involved a major redirection that was run out of a White House vest pocket and excluded the normal policymaking machinery, and that in retrospect was successful, was Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to China in the early 1970s.  One look at the personnel in corresponding positions in the current administration makes it immediately clear that this experience cannot be taken as a model.  Mr. Bannon, you’re no Henry Kissinger.  Neither are you, Mr. Flynn.  (And Mr. Trump, you’re no Nixon, at least as far as acumen about foreign affairs is concerned.)  Even Kissinger himself later said that his method of running foreign policy and gaming the bureaucracy was so bizarre and so dependent on his own unusual skill set that no one else should ever try to run foreign policy the same way.

There was one other big decision in recent times for which there was no policy process and no opportunity for the relevant departments and bureaucracies to weigh in.  There never were, in this case, any meetings in the Situation Room or any options papers that ever considered whether the decision to be taken was a good idea.  This was the decision to launch the Iraq War of 2003.  The deputy secretary of state at the time, Richard Armitage, later commented, “There was never any policy process to break, by Condi [Rice] or anyone else.  There never was one from the start.  Bush didn’t want one, for whatever reason.”

And we all know how well that one worked out. 

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The Big Lie and Foreign Policy

Paul Pillar

The one instance in U.S. foreign policymaking since World War II that involved a major redirection that was run out of a White House vest pocket and excluded the normal policymaking machinery, and that in retrospect was successful, was Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to China in the early 1970s.  One look at the personnel in corresponding positions in the current administration makes it immediately clear that this experience cannot be taken as a model.  Mr. Bannon, you’re no Henry Kissinger.  Neither are you, Mr. Flynn.  (And Mr. Trump, you’re no Nixon, at least as far as acumen about foreign affairs is concerned.)  Even Kissinger himself later said that his method of running foreign policy and gaming the bureaucracy was so bizarre and so dependent on his own unusual skill set that no one else should ever try to run foreign policy the same way.

There was one other big decision in recent times for which there was no policy process and no opportunity for the relevant departments and bureaucracies to weigh in.  There never were, in this case, any meetings in the Situation Room or any options papers that ever considered whether the decision to be taken was a good idea.  This was the decision to launch the Iraq War of 2003.  The deputy secretary of state at the time, Richard Armitage, later commented, “There was never any policy process to break, by Condi [Rice] or anyone else.  There never was one from the start.  Bush didn’t want one, for whatever reason.”

And we all know how well that one worked out. 

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