Paul Pillar

The Security Hole in the White House

As anyone who has not been in a sensory deprivation tank for the past two years knows, quite a big deal was made of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.  President Trump has continued to refer from time to time to Mrs. Clinton’s emails.  The highlighting of this matter has been a big partisan game, of course, played for electoral purposes all out of proportion to the offense in question. 

The Complicated War in Yemen

No matter how much some in the United States try to apply to the war in Yemen a Manichean template for seeing the conflict as a simple contest between good guys and bad guys, the complexities of the war keep intruding.  Long overlooked has been how the supposedly good side—that is, the one on behalf of which Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have intervened—has been where some genuinely bad guys belonging to al-Qaeda have resided.  Similarly overlooked is how the Houthi movement seen as the bad side—because the Houthis have accepted some Iranian aid—has been among al-Qaeda’s staunch

The Damaging Decline of HPSCI

The most frequent and regular interaction that I, as a then-serving intelligence officer, had with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI—referred to orally as “hip-see”) was in the 1980s.  Part of my duties involved preparation of weekly classified briefings, presented to the committee by a senior CIA official, on current developments in world hot spots.  The briefings aided the committee’s discharge of its responsibilities not only as an overseer of intelligence but as a consumer of it, and as an interface between the world of classified intelligence and the rest of t

Lessons From the Tet Offensive, A Half Century Later

Fifty years ago this Tuesday, communist forces launched the assaults across South Vietnam known as the Tet Offensive.  The offensive marked an inflection point in the Vietnam War.  President Lyndon Johnson denied a request the following month from his military commander in Vietnam, William Westmoreland, for 206,000 more U.S.

Pence Goes Over the Water's Edge

As recently as a generation or two ago, the mainstream of American politics observed an important limit whereby domestic politics did not operate beyond the nation’s boundaries.  This did not mean there weren’t sharp differences and vigorous debate about foreign policy, often along party lines.  There always have been those, going back to differing Federalist and Democratic-Republican sentiments toward Britain and France in the early days of the republic.  The limit was nonetheless based on recognizing a common national interest in America’s encounter with the rest of the world, and on beli

A New Decision to Go to War in Syria

Behind a façade of continuity, the deployment of U.S. armed forces in Syria for the purposes that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described in a speech this week represents a departure from what such forces were originally sent to Syria to do.  The Trump administration is having U.S.

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