• The Folly of Designating the Muslim Brotherhood

    The Folly of Designating the Muslim Brotherhood

    President Donald Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Monday, April 3, 2017, at the West Wing entrance of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    The New York Times reports on Trump’s interest in designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO):

    The Trump administration has resurrected the proposal to brand the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, prompting a fierce debate between the government’s political appointees and its career experts.

    The designation would impose wide-ranging American economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the loose-knit Islamist movement that was founded in Egypt and is recognized as a legitimate political entity in many Muslim-majority governments.

  • When Is a Coup Not a Coup? When We Don’t Want It To Be One

    When Is a Coup Not a Coup? When We Don’t Want It To Be One

    The editorial pages are filled with complaints about describing yesterday’s attempt to get the military to overthrow the current Venezuelan government as a “coup.” The Washington Post doesn’t like that language:

    Therefore, whatever its ultimate outcome or, indeed, its strategic wisdom, Tuesday’s uprising is not a “coup attempt,” as the Maduro regime, echoed by too many people abroad, calls it. Rather, it is the latest in a series of legitimate and, for the most part, nonviolent efforts by Venezuelans, both civilian and military, to throw off an oppressive, toxic regime so that they can freely elect a legitimate government.

    The Wall Street Journal agrees:

    This isn’t a “coup” despite the U.S.

  • Ben Sasse’s Failure of Imagination

    Ben Sasse’s Failure of Imagination

    Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has written a foreign policy essay in which he says we need a “foreign-policy imagination that is broader, more adaptive, and more creative,” and then proceeds to regurgitate many of the same stale hawkish talking points we have heard for decades. For instance, he recites this litany of unfounded assertions as if he were chanting a cultish mantra:

    I am an unstinting advocate for American engagement in the world, and I think the impulse to withdraw from America’s important, longstanding commitments is a very bad thing. U.S. global leadership is indispensable, not only for the security of America’s friends and partners, but for protecting America’s own interests.

  • Sanctions Devastate the People, But They Strengthen the Regime

    Sanctions Devastate the People, But They Strengthen the Regime

    Yesterday the head of the Trump administration’s Iran Action Group, Brian Hook, gave a celebratory press briefing in which he boasted about the “success” that the U.S. has had in wrecking Iran’s economy:

    Administration officials like to cite the economic damage that sanctions have caused, but at the same time they don’t want to accept responsibility for the adverse effects this has on the civilian population. They want to emphasize the impact that U.S. policy is having, but they don’t want the blame that inevitably goes with it.

  • 110,000 Affected by New Cholera Outbreak in Yemen

    110,000 Affected by New Cholera Outbreak in Yemen

    Yemen continues to suffer from a lack of clean drinking water on account of the war, and in the first three months of this year there has been a sharp increase in the number of suspected cholera cases:

    Nearly 110,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in war-hit Yemen since the beginning of January, including 190 related deaths, the UN said on Monday.

    The UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said children under the age of five make up nearly a third of 108,889 cases which were reported between January 1 and March 17 [bold mine-DL].

    OCHA said the spike, which comes two years after Yemen suffered its worst cholera outbreak, was concentrated in six governorates including in the Red Sea port of Hodeida and the Sanaa province home to the capital.

  • Endorsing Illegal Annexation and the ‘Rules-Based Order’

    Endorsing Illegal Annexation and the ‘Rules-Based Order’

    Surprising no one, The Wall Street Journal is all in favor of Trump’s terrible decision to recognize the Israeli claim to the Golan Heights:

    Recognizing the Golan sends a message to Russia, Syria’s patron, that the U.S. recognizes that the civil war has changed Syrian reality. There is no returning to a nonexistent status quo ante. It also tells the Palestinians that a return to pre-1967 borders is no longer realistic. They will have to allow some Israeli security presence in what they call the “occupied territories” if they want a two-state solution in Palestine.

    Trump’s recognition does send a message to Russia, but it is not the one that the hawkish editors think is being sent.

  • O’Rourke’s Presidential Campaign Makes No Sense

    O’Rourke’s Presidential Campaign Makes No Sense

    Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination today. This passage from his Vanity Fair profile sums up why I think most Democratic voters aren’t going to rally behind him:

    O’Rourke is careful to pay homage to progressive icons, crediting Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with advancing the national conversation on health care and consumer protections, but sells himself as something slightly different: a youthful uniter, willing to listen and learn from the most recalcitrant right-wing voters and work with Republicans [bold mine-DL]. “If I bring something to this,” he says, “I think it is my ability to listen to people, to help bring people together to do something that is thought to be impossible.

  • Washington’s Continuing Failure to Understand Our Adversaries

    Steven Metz identifies the administration’s misunderstanding of Kim Jong-un’s goals and interests as the main cause for the failure of the Hanoi summit:

    But Kim is not a normal political leader. Having learned from his father and grandfather, he knows that personalist dictators die when they weaken their grip, allow the dependence on them to erode, or fail to deter or distract an adversary like the United States. He does not want the kind of prosperity that would make North Korea “an economic powerhouse,” as Trump offered, and does not need a true partnership with the United States. All he needs is a modest easing of economic pressure, particularly by China and South Korea.

  • Facebook Defends Muslim Sharia Law Censorship - Champions Blasphemy Laws

    Americans Want Greater Restraint in Foreign Policy

    The Eurasia Group Foundation recently released a survey of American public opinion on foreign policy. Ian Bremmer comments on the findings:

    No matter what party they claim allegiance to, Americans favor a foreign policy that resists entanglements abroad, the survey found—and it’s not limited to conservative libertarians on the right and liberal pacifists on the left. In every age group polled, respondents exhibited a waning appetite for the obligations and impositions of imperial governance.

    The survey is another piece of evidence that Americans increasingly favor greater restraint in foreign policy after almost two decades of unceasing foreign wars. It also identifies how large the gap is between the public and foreign policy professionals in their views on the proper U.S.

  • The U.S. Will Regret Interfering in Venezuela

    The U.S. Will Regret Interfering in Venezuela

    U.S. policymakers have frequently failed to plan for what comes after the overthrow of a foreign government, but in the case of Venezuela the Trump administration and its allies failed to plan for the beginning:

    Longtime observers, however, say the generals doubt the promises will be kept. This is a major reason why the revolution isn’t moving as quickly as some had hoped when Guaido electrified the world on Jan. 23 with his declaration. This has led to impatience and finger-pointing. U.S. policy makers and those around Guaido — as well as leaders in Brazil and Colombia — are eyeing one another and worrying about failure.

  • U.S. Sanctions Deepen the Misery of Venezuelans

    U.S. Sanctions Deepen the Misery of Venezuelans

    The cruel and unjust sanctions imposed on Venezuela last month are already having the predictable effect of hurting the people most of all:

    When President Trump slapped surprise oil sanctions on Venezuela aimed at toppling President Nicolás Maduro, exports plunged and banking froze as the effects hit harder and faster than expected.

    But in recent days it has become clear that Venezuela’s state oil company, the main target of the sanctions as Mr. Maduro’s bankroller, has found a few ways to survive, with some Russian help.

    Many in Venezuela fear that the sanctions imposed last week will push the already suffering nation of about 30 million people into an even greater humanitarian catastrophe.

  • Venezuela and Our Regime Change Addiction

    Venezuela and Our Regime Change Addiction

    Noah Feldman helpfully rips off the fig leaf that the Trump administration and other governments are using to justify their interference in Venezuela:

    But the constitutional argument that Maduro isn’t really president is nothing more than a fig leaf for regime change. Even as fig leaves go, it’s particularly wispy and minimal. The U.S. policy is, in practice, to seek regime change in Venezuela. It would be better to say so directly.

    It may seem convenient now for the U.S. to hide its objective behind a constitutional argument. In the long run, however, it’s far from clear that President Donald Trump’s administration should be embracing a legal argument that invites foreign countries to rely on doubtful interpretations of the local constitution and declare that they know who the president genuinely is.

  • Misplaced Hope Is Not a Strategy

    Misplaced Hope Is Not a Strategy

    The Venezuelan military is not on board with the effort to remove Maduro:

    The leader of Venezuela’s armed forces declared loyalty to President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday and said the opposition’s effort to replace him with a transitional government amounted to an attempted coup.

    The pronouncement by the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, came a day after an opposition lawmaker proclaimed himself the country’s rightful leader during nationwide antigovernment protests and pleaded with the armed forces to abandon Mr. Maduro.

    If the Venezuelan military won’t accept Guaido as interim president, but instead sees him as a coup plotter, that bodes ill for any chance of a peaceful political transition.

  • The Growing Rift with Europe Over Iran

    The Growing Rift with Europe Over Iran

    The Trump administration is organizing an anti-Iran conference that will meet in Poland next month. Many European governments are planning to snub the administration by staying away:

    A U.S. effort to enlist Europe in its pressure campaign against Iran faced a setback after officials said ministers from several European Union members will likely skip a summit organized by Washington on Iran and the Middle East.

    The summit, which will be co-hosted by Poland and the U.S. and take place in Warsaw, was announced during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour of the Middle East last week. The two governments said it would focus on terror, extremism and missile proliferation in the region and threats posed by proxy groups, activities Washington has accused Iran of engaging in or promoting.

  • The Senate Rejects Rubio’s Attack on Free Speech Again

    The Senate Rejects Rubio’s Attack on Free Speech Again

    Josh Rogin wrote this last week about the “pro-Israel” hawkish attack on the First Amendment:

    McConnell is attempting to show that, on Israel, Republicans are actually largely in agreement, whereas Democrats have a growing problem. The political battle over foreign policy leading up to 2020 has begun, and McConnell just fired the opening salvo.

    Picking a fight over Rubio’s Combating BDS Act does show that the GOP is almost completely in lockstep behind this terrible legislation, but it’s not clear why McConnell thinks this is to his party’s advantage in future elections. Rubio’s bill is such a clear violation of the First Amendment that it makes it extremely easy for even the most hawkish Democratic senators to vote against it without having to endorse the BDS movement.