National Security Network

From the War Room

Building a Strong Progressive National Security ... and Countering Conservative Spin

Military

NSN Daily Update: Ten Years is Enough: National Security Leaders on Guantanamo

Report 9 January 2012
Ten years after the opening of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, political debate rages on. But the military who run it and security officials who tracked its inmates have a surprisingly united view: the facility should be closed and as many of its inmates as possible tried in U.S. courts.  With David Petraeus pointing out that "the enemy continues to beat you with them [Guantanamo conditions] like a stick," and retired officers from four-star Marine generals to the prison's first warden calling for it to be closed, it is time for Congress and the administration to work together to craft a solution based on effective counterterrorism, not fear-mongering. 
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Military

NSN Daily Update: 21st-Century Strategy, with Budget to Match

Report 5 January 2012
Today, President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will roll out the results of a nine-month strategy review, aimed at modernizing U.S. military strategy to reflect a strategic pivot toward Asia, the end of a decade of 9/11-inspired invasions and occupations, and a tight fiscal environment. The spending shifts and reductions to be announced with the new budget will be focused on creating a flexible, effective 21st-century military - reflecting strategic changes and moving away from outdated systems and priorities. The shifts are more modest than heated rhetoric about "cuts" would imply:  the headline changes have all been under discussion in the Pentagon for years, if not decades, and the Pentagon budget will still grow over the next five years.
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Iran

NSN Daily Update: Pressure and Possibility

Report 4 January 2012

Facing intense political pressure, with elections due in March, and economic and currency collapse brought on by sanctions, Iran has ratcheted up its military bluster in the Straits of Hormuz and sent conciliatory messages looking toward new talks on its nuclear program. Meanwhile, Iran’s regional support is dwindling as Syria’s travails continue and its former clients look for other supporters. Military and diplomatic leaders seek to balance a firm line in response to threats to the economically vital strait while avoiding escalation that aids only extremists in Iran. They have gone out of their way as well to debunk a shoddy case for war that overstates Iran’s regional power and understates the costs of force to the U.S., our economy and our allies.

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Terrorism & National Security

A Resilient National Spirit

Report 21 December 2011
The color-coded alerts are gone, but terror plot warnings are now seen as an inevitable part of the holiday season. With al Qaeda on its heels, the U.S. faces a real but weakened threat, experts say. Counterterrorism and law enforcement officials work tirelessly and have scored important successes over the last year. Since the very purpose of terrorism is to instill fear and provoke overreaction among the public, an America that refuses to overreact, rush to judgment or give in to fear is an America that defeats terrorism - at the holidays and throughout the year.
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Diplomacy

Politics Follow Success on National Security

Report 20 December 2011
Political attitudes are beginning to catch up to a quiet sea change in American foreign policy: progressive policy success is earning public trust, while conservative overreach is facing a backlash from voters and our military leadership. As The Washington Post's David Ignatius notes, among other things, alliances are stronger, Iran is weaker and al Qaeda is on the run. Lacking a substantive counterattack, conservatives have resorted to undermining the ideal of civilian leadership enshrined in our Constitution -- attacks that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey calls "offensive." Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke commented that conservative candidates' attacks "are telling voters in advance that there is an important part of the president's job that they are unwilling to perform."
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Diplomacy

North Korea After Kim Jong-il: Keep Calm and Carry On

Report 19 December 2011

Yesterday, North Korea's official state news agency reported the death of the country's leader, Kim Jong-il. He apparently died of heart failure, leaving behind his twenty-something son, Kim Jong-un, as his chosen successor. While experts expect some turbulence as Kim Jong-un takes power, they also note that the transition to the younger Kim has been underway for nearly three years. The leadership change carries the possibility of destabilization but also the possibility for a renewed diplomatic engagement as North Korea's leadership looks for ways to reinvigorate the country's failing economy. Veterans of both Republican and Democratic administrations are speaking out today to insist that negotiating with North Korea may be unpleasant, but it is also essential. The U.S. response demands a steady hand, calm instead of hyperbole and close coordination with regional partners - most importantly China and ally South Korea.

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Diplomacy

NSN Middle East Update

Report 15 December 2011

 

As Iraq and the United States mark the departure of American forces, this weekend marks one year since Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire, launching protests that took down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the region-wide political movement known as the Arab Spring. After a year of tragedy, triumph, peaceful change and bloodshed, it seems the region's biggest changes may yet be to come. Egypt has begun its first post-Mubarak election and faces challenges in civil-military and sectarian relations and economic and political reform - even as Israel returned its ambassador, marking an improvement in relations.  Conflict in Syria, which has already claimed 5,000 civilian lives, continues. President Saleh is stepping down in Yemen, yet the situation on the ground remains tense.  Libya's new government is bringing oil production back online while dealing with the difficulty of transitioning and dismantling militias. One year later, the Middle East's transition is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

As Iraq and the United States mark the departure of American forces, this weekend marks one year since Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire, launching protests that took down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the region-wide political movement known as the Arab Spring. After a year of tragedy, triumph, peaceful change and bloodshed, it seems the region's biggest changes may yet be to come. Egypt has begun its first post-Mubarak election and faces challenges in civil-military and sectarian relations and economic and political reform - even as Israel returned its ambassador, marking an improvement in relations.  Conflict in Syria, which has already claimed 5,000 civilian lives, continues. President Saleh is stepping down in Yemen, yet the situation on the ground remains tense.  Libya's new government is bringing oil production back online while dealing with the difficulty of transitioning and dismantling militias. One year later, the Middle East's transition is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

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Iraq

Dispelling Myths Surrounding the End of the Iraq War

Report 14 December 2011

Today President Obama spoke at Fort Bragg in North Carolina on the end of the Iraq war. He focused on the sacrifices made, and courage shown, by American troops in the war and noted that they leave Iraq with "heads held high." As the last U.S. troops leave Iraq this month - a move that commands significant expert, popular and international support - proponents of continuing the war have resorted to faulty and highly political responses. Below are several myths about the end of the Iraq war, followed by facts that dispel those myths. Taken together, they underscore a central point: Ending the war will make America safer and is the best way to honor the sacrifices of those who have served.

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Terrorism & National Security

“National Security Leaders Reject Militarization of the Justice System”

Report 13 December 2011
Late yesterday, the Senate and House of Representatives completed their conference on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), leaving fundamentally unchanged provisions that mandate military detention of terrorism suspects, authorize indefinite military detention and harden restrictions on transfers of terror suspects.  In the words of Major General Paul Eaton (ret), military and national security leaders "reject the militarization of the American judicial system," and this has led to unprecedented and widespread opposition from former military leaders, civil libertarians, former intelligence officials, current national security leadership, former Bush administration officials and editorial boards across the country. The growing chorus includes, today, two retired four-star generals using the pages of the New York Times to indicate that they would support a White House veto of the bill.
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Iraq

The Iraq War is Over

Report 12 December 2011
Today, President Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki at the White House. The two leaders will discuss the next phase of U.S.-Iraqi relations following the full withdrawal of American troops by the end of the year. That meeting, part of a series of events this week, underscores a larger milestone: After more than eight years, the Iraq war is over. Credit for this success belongs to U.S. troops and civilians who served there, as well as the Iraqi people. Their dedication and sacrifice leaves Iraq fully sovereign, a democracy and a U.S. partner. This is a promise kept for President Obama, who has been at the forefront of the movement to end the war since he was an Illinois state senator. Ending the war will make America safer by allowing us to shift resources and attention towards a broader set of priorities -- specifically Asia, fighting terror and rebuilding the U.S. economy.
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