Paul Pillar

Political Discipline and a Strategic Void

Recent press reports have described the Trump White House shaping its relationships with federal departments and agencies, especially the Department of Defense, in two different directions.  On one hand, the administration reportedly is giving freer rein to the Pentagon to decide on its own about changes in, including expansion of, military operations.  An example of this method of decision was the insertion of Marine artillery and an Army Ranger unit into fightin

Evolution, Not a New Revolution, in Iran

Some hardline myths about Iran never seem to die.  One myth especially pertinent to U.S. policy is that revolutionary regime change in Iran is a significant possibility in the near future and that with a bit more of a push from the outside, the Islamic Republic will collapse and be replaced by something much more to our liking.  This illusion was prevalent in much of the George W.

Anti-Semitism in the U.S.: Its Foundations and Recent Surge

There is an upsurge in anti-Jewish hatred in America.  It has manifested itself in criminal and violent acts and threats of still more violence.  Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized, and Jewish educational and cultural institutions have received death threats.  The obvious increase in such incidents leaves no doubt about the existence of intense anti-Semitism, and about how it persists in the United States and not just elsewhere.  This hatred and prejudice should be vigorously condemned.  All Americans should realize that while Jewish citizens are those most directly vulnerable to harm,

Kim Jong-Donald

Donald Trump is well practiced in the technique of saying or doing something outrageous to attract attention, or to distract attention from something else to which he does not want public attention.  Which of these two specific motivations has been most in play has varied during his career, but Trump undoubtedly believes the technique has served him well.  It helped to gain him prominence during the early stages of what was then considered a long-shot presidential bid.  Later during the campaign, it helped to divert attention from what should have been candidacy-killing revelations such as

Deep-Six the Notion of a "Deep State"

Different interests, at different times and for different purposes, have promoted the idea of a “deep state” in the United States that supposedly affects American politics and policy.  That notion does not correspond to reality, it has no value in helping to understand American politics and policy, and it ought to be discarded.

Leak-Shopping and the Politicization of Intelligence

Consistency has not been a hallmark of the Trump Administration’s posture regarding the divulging to the press and the public of information that had been the stuff of behind-closed-doors deliberations inside government.  Members of the press have noticed how on the same day that President Trump fulminated in a speech to a conservative conference about reporters’ use of anonymous sources, the White House invited reporters to a briefing on condition that the briefers remain anonymous.  This was in a

Slower May Be Better in Going at ISIS

A couple of tendencies that are all too common in policymaking and policy debate tend to make for unwise foreign commitments or overextended foreign expeditions.  One is to treat a goal that is at most an intermediate objective as if it were an end in itself.  Doing so obfuscates clear analysis of means and ends, overlooks other ways to achieve the same ends, and distorts perception of the costs and benefits associated with achieving the immediate objective.

Foreign Policy and Trump's Conflicts of Interest

With the turmoil of the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency providing a cascade of headlines and things to be alarmed or outraged about, it is easy to lose sight of any one of those things.  It also is hard to sustain an appropriate level of outrage, amid ever more attention-grabbing headlines about the latest turns in the turmoil.  One of the things worthy of outrage is Trump’s flouting of ethical standards, with almost no effort made to separate his private financial and business interests from the public interest.  This is a major problem even just as far as Trump’s own holdings are

Israel-Palestine: The Deal-Maker Deals Himself Out

Donald Trump had already moved a long way backward since uttering a few remarks last year raising hopes that he would break out of the straitjacket that binds American politicians on all things involving Israel and the Palestinians and that he would try to be an impartial peace-maker.  He later made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, adopted AIPAC’s talking points as his own, and appointed to be U.S.

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