Paul Pillar

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.

Shaking the Foundations of Loyalty

An ingredient that, in works of fiction such as spy novels and other international thrillers, makes for an intriguing and mind-bending story is uncertainty about the loyalties of those senior enough to have loyal public servants working under them.  What do those public servants do in such a situation, and to whom can they turn?  The very habits of discipline and loyalty that may have been drilled into them prove insufficient for dealing with what they face.  When does a response that ordinarily would be considered insubordination become, in an extraordinary situation, a higher act of loyal

Ukraine Buffeted from East and West

A visit to Kiev reveals a Ukrainian national identity that has come a long way for a corner of Eurasia that once was known as Little Russia.  Ukraine was a large part of the USSR and a major contributor to its economy and military strength, but now, conflict with Russia is a defining characteristic of Ukrainian national consciousness.  Parliamentarians of various partisan affiliations, as well as other politically engaged people in the capital both inside and outside government, share a sense of unfair treatment at the hands of Russia.  This involves not only the happenings in recent years

The Impulsive Approach to Managing Alliances

Donald Trump has gone so far beyond the bounds of what once was considered presidential, or decorous (without even getting into what is, from a policy point of view, wise or prudent) that criticisms that were once aimed at past presidents, including Trump’s immediate predecessor, now seem like something that must have been said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Remember how Barack Obama’s political opponents on the right, such as those found in the pages of the Weekly S

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