Tag: national security

Unreality and Nihilism


shutterstock_273465104George Kennan’s classic 1947 “X” article, published anonymously in Foreign Affairs under the title The Sources of Soviet Conduct, laid the foundation for more than 40 years of American Cold War policy toward its Soviet adversary. Kennan’s article is a model of analytical clarity and grand-strategic vision, best known for formulating the strategy of “containment”. But while containment was Kennan’s famous – and famously successful – policy prescription for the challenge facing the United States in 1947, what is often forgotten is his thesis, which is hiding in plain sight within the article’s title: if you want to prevail over your adversary, you must first understand what motivates him. What are the sources of his conduct? What is his “political personality”?

In the case of the Soviet Union, Kennan identifies the basic source in Marxist-Leninist ideology, and in particular, two of its key postulates: the innate and irreconcilable antagonism between capitalism and socialism; and the infallibility of Soviet political leadership. All Soviet conduct in foreign affairs flows from these two elements. In light of which, Kennan deduces that “Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence.”

Secretary of State George Marshall and President Truman were persuaded by Kennan’s analysis and, with much public debate, committed the United States to a costly, long-term national effort to contain Soviet Communism. The precise meaning and form of this effort were subject to some disagreement around the edges, but its main contours remained firm and constant for over 40 years. This massive commitment was made while the smoking ruins of World War II still smoldered, and with the catastrophic failure of the major democracies to understand and confront the sources of Nazi conduct still fresh in the minds of America’s leadership class.

On Constitutional Law and the Storage Costs of Paper Mache Effigies


What do you do when you have an interview with your former boss’s wife?! Answer tough questions with deep imponderables.  For example, I ask: how much rent do protesters pay to store my giant paper-mache effigy? I talk with the Daily Caller’s Ginni Lamp Thomas (wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) about what it’s like for a conservative to live in Berkeley, President Obama’s attack on the separation of powers, and the rising dangers to our national security.

Do We Still Need Aircraft Carriers?


08_uss_nimitz_cvn_68Have you seen Mr. Jerry Hendrix’s writing against aircraft carriers in National Review? I’m a sucker for speeches against the sophisticated, so I took the time to read the 2,700-word piece. Then I found this reply by Mr. Seth Cropsey, whose work I read as often as I can, and Mr. Hendrix’s rejoinder.

These capable, honored men are quarrelling about the status of the aircraft carrier in American strategy. World War II, the Cold War, and the coming Chinese war are the past and imagined political conflicts in which the aircraft carrier features prominently.

The argument against the dominance of the aircraft carrier among American arms is this: The technology is becoming outdated; the use of the weapon is thus reduced; and it is politically compromised–Americans could not deal with the news that one or two were sunk with some ten thousand men returning in ten thousand coffins decorated with flags. War around China makes carriers next to useless, in short. Taiwan is lost.

The Conceptual Difficulties of the NSA Case


shutterstock_160092761Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an exhaustive opinion in which Judge Gerard Lynch held that the bulk collection of metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA) was not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That provision provides in so many words that the Director of the FBI or his designated agent may:

…make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

At issue in this decision was whether this language was sufficiently broad to permit the vast collection of the metadata and, further, whether and when the individuals who claim grievances for those collection activities are in a position to challenge the standard practice of the NSA under these sections.

What the Second Circuit Got Right


1154px-National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_MarylandI agree with much of what John Yoo says in his recent post about “the blindness of the left… to the dire threat of foreign terrorism that has appeared again on our shores.” Although I disagree with his conclusions, John does an excellent job of laying out the policy reasons why he thinks the federal government should engage in bulk data collection.

But the policy arguments should be irrelevant to our analysis of the Second Circuit’s decision in ACLU v. Clapper. The question before the Court was simply whether the bulk data collection program is authorized under statutory and constitutional provisions. Surely, conservatives don’t want judges substituting their own policy preferences for the plain language of the law. And on the basic legal question before it, the Second Circuit got it right.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows the government to seize “any tangible things” but only when the FBI can establish that the “things” sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The bulk data collection, however, is not connected to any ongoing investigation: it is data that is collected in the event that it may come in useful in some future investigation (and, in the meantime, is shared with other law enforcement officials to make arrests that they couldn’t make if they had to get warrants). So, on the plain language of the statute, the government’s program fails, as has been argued by Randy Barnett and Jim Harper, not exactly wild-eyed liberals.

Jihadi Vampires, Jihadi Zombies


GarlandThe attack in Garland appears to confirm the observation that there are two kinds of terrorist attacks. The first kind – which we saw on 9/11, the London Tube and Madrid train attacks, the Mumbai attack, and in the Charlie Hebdo massacre – are made by hardened, patient, and well-trained semi-professionals, whose activities are funded (and often directed) from overseas. In contrast, the second kind — think of the Tsarnaevs or Major Hasan — is typified by amateurishness, lack of planning, and poor impulse control. Moreover, it seems that failure to join the ranks of the former often leads to the latter.

As if their nearly complete failure wasn’t evidence enough, the news in this New York Times piece should confirm that the Garland attack was a strong instance of the latter:

But any secret ties that officials might find may be less important than the public exchanges of messages on Twitter by one of the gunmen, Elton Simpson, in the weeks before the attack. Mr. Simpson, a convert to Islam with a long history of extremism, regularly traded calls for violence on Twitter with Islamic State fighters and supporters, as well as avowed enemies of Pamela Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest.

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Have you seen Mr. Jerry Hendrix writing against aircraft carriers in National Review? I’m a sucker for speeches against the sophisticated, so I spent the time reading the 2700-word piece. Then I found this reply by Mr. Seth Cropsey, whose work I read as often as I can, & the reply to it. Preview Open

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Uncommon Knowledge: Tom Cotton on Whether He Still Thinks the Editors of the New York Times Should be Behind Bars


The first time that most Americans heard of now-Senator Tom Cotton was in 2006, when, while serving as a lieutenant in Iraq, he wrote a famous letter to the New York Times upbraiding them for publishing the secret details of the federal government’s anti-terrorist financing program. The conclusion of that letter: “By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.” In this final clip from our recent conversation on Uncommon Knowledge, I ask him, at the remove of nearly a decade, if he still stands by those words:

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By now, you might have read that there is an “imminent” terrorist threat originating from the Texas-Mexico border. It was first reported by Judicial Watch and then confirmed (and yet an “exclusive”) by Breitbart. (h/t Cornelius) Is it ISIS or Al Qaeda? Same garbage, different day. (h/t Annika) Preview Open

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Not a Good Week for Hillary Clinton


HillFirst, there was this. Then, there was the fact that Diane Sawyer of all people laid into Clinton over Benghazi (which, lest you forget, is not a scandal, so don’t worry your pretty little heads about it, darlings). And then, there is the fact that her book . . . well . . . isn’t so good:

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choices” officially launches Tuesday morning, but it’s already being savaged by critics for being overly cautious and, as a result, uninteresting.

“TRUTH BOMB 1: ‘Hard Choices’ is a newsless snore,” Politico’s Mike Allen wrote in his Monday-morning newsletter. He went on to describe the book “written so carefully not to offend that it will fuel the notion that politics infuses every part of her life.”

NSA Surveillance: What We Should All Agree On


I’ve received several requests to respond to Tom Meyer’s very thoughtful post about how national security hawks should respond to criticisms of the NSA surveillance program. The piece is mostly about political argument and the art of rhetoric — I’m not quite sure from the post what Tom himself thinks is the best policy — so I’ll have to respond broadly.

What makes this issue difficult is that the war is covert, against a network of non-state fighters who disguise their communications and movements as innocent, but have great destructive power aimed at civilians. We are pursuing the wartime goal of stopping enemy attacks before they happen.

Some Friendly Advice For National Security Hawks


Since Edward Snowden’s leaks and subsequent defection, there’s been a raging debate on the Right about the proper role of our nation’s intelligence services. Those who favor broader powers and a more active role for these services have been on the defensive.

nrol-39-nothing-beyond-our-reachWhile I count myself as among the critics of such programs – as much because I believe they’re ineffective as that they’re dangerous – I share the hawks’ concern for my fellow citizens’s safety: I don’t want my loved ones or countrymen blown up by Islamic fanatics any more than the next guy.* Keeping us safe and in peace requires a lot of work, including some degree of surveillance. As national security is one of the core responsibilities of the Federal Government, our intelligence services bear an incredible burden.

Space Invaders — Rob Long


This either bothers you or it doesn’t. From Yahoo News:

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

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Alternate-Side Parking is a semi-regular, once or twice a week, podcast. Each episode lasts approximately as long as it takes for me to find a new alternate-side parking space in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, plus however long I feel like sitting in the driver’s seat. In today’s special Sunday going-to-Pep-Boys-oops-it’s-closed-I-guess-I’ll-go-to-Autozone episode I talk […]

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Podcast: Implementing a Coherent Foreign Policy, with (Ret.) Admiral Gary Roughead


How are America’s military leaders constrained by the political process and institutional factors? It’s a question we don’t ask very often, but one that’s key to understanding how American foreign policy actually gets implemented.

In a recent conversation for the Hoover Institution, I talked to retired Admiral Gary Roughead — the 29th Chief of Naval Operations and one of only two officers in the Navy’s history to have commanded both the Atlantic and the Pacific fleets — about precisely this set of issues. What he had to say was fascinating. Have a listen:

The Nation’s False and Dishonest Crimea Narrative


For those who believe that the recent annexation of Crimea by Russia might actually unite Americans of all ideological stripes in opposition to the thuggishness of the Putin regime, I give you this piece by editors of the Nation. It shows that even now, in the immediate aftermath of the annexation, while historical memories are still fresh, there are those who are willing to rewrite current events in order to advance a narrative filled with desperate attempts to explain away unjustified Russian bellicosity. And of course, it ought to surprise no one that the editors are willing to put forth false attempts at establishing moral equivalence in order to leave readers with the idea that the United States is really at fault in this story.

The urgent issue today is to stop the drift toward hot war. Yes, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea trespasses on international law, though it is difficult to bear US officials’ invocation of a principle that Washington itself has often violated (see, most recently, Kosovo and Iraq, the latter now marking the eleventh anniversary of an illegal US invasion and occupation). Financial and visa sanctions, while inflicting a cost on Russia, will not deter Moscow. As Putin argued in his March 18 speech before the Russian Federal Assembly, Russia feels “cornered” and has been repeatedly “deceived” by the West—particularly Washington—since the Soviet Union broke apart more than two decades ago, especially in light of the expansion of NATO to its borders.