Paul Pillar

The CIA and the Cult of Reorganization

Re-arranging bureaucracies has long been a favorite Washington way of pretending to make improvements. It is a handy recourse in the absence of good ideas to make real improvement. Revising a wiring diagram is the sort of change that can be made visible to the outside world. It does not require reaching consensus about significant increases or decreases in the priority given particular programs or their budgets.

An Agreement That Is Good for Israel, Bad for Netanyahu

One of the strangest aspects of the frantic crying of alarm over Iran's nuclear program—with the crying having reached its most publicized peak in Benjamin Netanyahu's Republican/Likud campaign rally in the House chamber—is that the chief crier is the government of a country that not only has the most advanced nuclear program in the Middle East but has kept that program completely out of the reach and scrutiny of any international control and inspection regime.

The Real Subject of Netanyahu's Congressional Spectacle (It Isn't Nukes)

Benjamin Netanyahu will talk next week, as he has innumerable times before, about how an Iranian nuclear weapon is supposedly an extremely grave and imminent (he has been saying for years that it is just around the corner) threat to world peace and to his nation. There has been genuine concern in Israel about this subject, but Netanyahu's own behavior and posture indicate this is not the concern that is driving his conduct and in particular his diplomacy-wrecking efforts.

Are Americans Sliding Into Another War?

The current U.S. administration has wrapped up U.S. involvement in a mistaken war in Iraq (albeit on a schedule set by the previous administration, and with subsequent reintroduction of some U.S. military personnel into Iraq), has wound down U.S. involvement in a war in Afghanistan that had metamorphosed from a counterterrorist operation into a nation-building attempt (albeit only after an Obama-era “surge” and now with apparent second thoughts about how much longer the 13-year-old U.S. military involvement will continue), and has resisted pressure to throw U.S.

Jeb Wishes the Bush War Away

Jeb Bush's foreign policy speech at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs has received generally poor reviews, and it not hard to see why. The slips of the tongue and of facts did not help, but more fundamental was the substance, or a lack thereof, that entitled people to ask, “where's the beef?” W.

The Declining Respect for the Search for Truth

It is unusual for a political leader to disavow truth-seeking as explicitly as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin did when he tried to expunge from the longstanding mission statement of the University of Wisconsin a reference to “the search for truth” being a core purpose of the university.

Why Authorizations of Force Against Terrorists Are Inevitably Troubled

The draft that the Obama administration submitted to Congress to authorize the use of military force against ISIS seems to be pleasing almost no one, and that was bound to be. Some of the strongest early criticism is coming from doves, including people who support Mr. Obama on most other issues, but hawks are complaining as well. One can see why this tardy submission of a draft resolution was preceded by months of an Alphonse-and-Gaston routine in which both the administration and the Congress were looking to the other to offer a proposal first.

America's Slide Into Sectarianism

President Obama gave a speech last week at the National Prayer Breakfast that was instructive, reasonable, accurate, and fair. It also contained messages that are all the more important to hear and heed in light of some of reactions to the speech itself. I'm not talking about the usual reflexive Obama-bashing, which happens all the time and is not worth paying attention to.

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