Security

Just What Is Trump Trying to Do in Syria?

April 14, 2017  |  POLITICO MAGAZINE

Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin, writing in POLITICO Magazine with co-author Steven Simon, asks what foreign policy objective President Trump's limited raid on the Syrian air base on April 6, 2017, was meant to deliver. 

Let’s start with the the scale of the air raid itself. In the annals of pinprick strikes, Trump’s Tomahawk attack now stands as the pinprickiest. 

Read the entire article in POLITICO.

Why Steve Bannon Wants You to Believe in the Deep State

March 21, 2017  |  POLITICO Magazine

Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin writes in POLITICO Magazine online that the so-called Deep State does not exist. It is merely in the imagination of President Trump and his allies, "the convenient enemy from within that they blame for their frustrations."

As Trump takes a wrecking ball to the federal bureaucracy—what Steve Bannon has called “the administrative state”—an illusory enemy like the Deep State is exactly what is needed to justify the destruction. 

Read the article in POLITICO by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, who was National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa from 2011 to 2012, is the John J. McCloy ’16 visiting professor at Amherst College. 

The Feud that Sank Saigon

March 3, 2017  |  The New York Times

In a New York Times op-ed, U.S. Foreign Policy and International Security Postdoctoral Fellow Sean Fear explains the showdown between two rival generals -- Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu -- that ended the hope of democratic stability in South Vietnam.

Both men were young and ambitious, and both were shrewd navigators of the internecine schemes and coups plaguing South Vietnam’s ruling military. And after years of jousting and coalition building, they were headed for a confrontation in South Vietnam’s 1967 presidential election. At stake was the political legitimacy of the South Vietnamese state itself, critical to turning the tide in the protracted struggle against the Communists.

Read the entire op-ed. 

Donald Trump Changed His Tone But Not His Message: Be Afraid

March 2, 2017  |  Time

Following President Trump's address to Congress on February 28, 2017, Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin writes in Time magazine that Trump "gave a ray of hope that even the most incorrigible might have their moments of presentability."

Through the Trumpian lens, you would have to count the speech a success of sorts. A spot poll by CNN after the speech found 70% of viewers said that it made them more optimistic about the direction of the country. TV commentators, desperate to find something to praise after months of exasperated head-shaking and slack-jawed incomprehension, were only too glad to retrieve forgotten adjectives and hail a “presidential” president.

Meanwhile, Benjamin says, Trump ignored issues that should have been addresse: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and terrorism. 

Read more at Time

The Islamophobic Huckster in the White House

February 24, 2017  |  The New York Times

The following story, written by Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin and Stephen Simon, a professor at Amherst College, appeared in The New York Times on February 24, 2017.

The Islamophobic Huckster in the White House

The new point man for the Trump administration’s counter-jihadist team is Sebastian Gorka, an itinerant instructor in the doctrine of irregular warfare and former national security editor at Breitbart. Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the chief commissars of the Trump White House, have framed Islam as an enemy ideology and predicted a historic clash of civilizations. Mr. Gorka, who has been appointed deputy assistant to the president, is the expert they have empowered to translate their prediction into national strategy.

Who Told Michael Flynn to Call Russia?

February 14, 2017  |  POLITICO

Writing in POLITICO online, Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin says, "Let’s stop focusing on the resignation, and start focusing on the real issue here: The mystery of Trump’s Russia ties."

Hours after national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned amid reports that he misled top officials about his pre-inauguration talks with the Russian ambassador, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to encourage everyone to move on. “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” he tweeted out Tuesday morning.

In a sense, Trump is right: The real story is not Flynn. But it isn’t government leaks, either. No, the “real story here” is Trump himself—and the continuing mystery of his ties to Russia.

Read the entire article in POLITICO

Trump Is Spreading Racism — Not Fighting Terrorism

February 3, 2017  |  Time

Writing in Time magazine, Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin enumerates the basic precepts of counterterrorism, and identifies ways the Trump White House has not followed them. 

In composing and implementing its executive order “Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Entry into the United States,” Donald Trump’s White House has shown a disregard for — or ignorance of — these precepts that is breathtaking.... To put it bluntly: Trump’s Executive Order has nothing to do with counterterrorism.

Read the entire article

The Disastrous Consequences of Trump’s New Immigration Rules

January 27, 2017  |  POLITICO

"With the stroke of a pen, the president has seriously jeopardized America’s safety and standing," writes Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin in POLITICO, referring to the order calling for a temporary ban on visas for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia; a 120-day suspension of the resettlemetn of all refugees; and a ban on resettlement of Syrian refugees. 

With his executive action suspending the admission of refugees to the United States and temporarily halting the entry of citizens from a variety of Muslim countries, President Donald Trump made a quick down payment on a key campaign promise. He also set the U.S. on a disastrous course—one that threatens to weaken our national security and diminish American global leadership.

Read the entire article

Russia Is a Terrible Ally Against Terrorism

January 23, 2017  |  The New York Times

Since early in his campaign, President Trump has made counterterrorism cooperation a pillar of his argument for improving relations with Russia. On the face of it, that idea might seem attractive: two of the world’s largest militaries and intelligence communities working together against the Islamic State and other jihadist networks to achieve progress that neither could alone.

But it’s a bad idea. A partnership with Russia of the kind Mr. Trump proposes has the potential to profoundly undermine the United States’ counterterrorism progress and shred our relationships with Sunni Muslims around the world. Moreover, it’s doubtful such an alliance could actually be forged.

How Trump’s Attacks on U.S. Intelligence Will Come Back to Haunt Him

January 11, 2017  |  POLITICO

Dickey Center Director Daniel Benjamin has published a piece for POLITICO, "How Trump’s Attacks on U.S. Intelligence Will Come Back to Haunt Him." 

This kind of trash talking diminishes public respect for the intelligence community, which relies on government officials to defend its reputation because so much of its work is never heard of outside the Executive Branch. This might work for Trump in the short run, as he scrambles to defend the legitimacy of the 2016 election. Eventually, it will backfire. At some point during his presidency, Trump is going to want to act on intelligence he receives. And what will happen when he tries to justify to the nation that he is deploying troops or firing missiles on the basis of information brought to him by agencies he has so thoroughly denigrated? Trump seems not to understand that governing is a team sport, and that his credibility will ultimately depend on those who serve the administration.

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