Thomas Donnelly Articles


An Existential Threat

4:10 PM, Nov 19, 2015

One of the most durable arguments for not responding as forcefully as possible to al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and jihadi groups in general is that they do not pose an “existential” threat to America.  Indeed, this lies at the core of the Obama administration’s strategy for the Middle East.  As the president told

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Not the Hour for Nimble Power

4:04 PM, Nov 16, 2015

Like the Bourbons, Barack Obama and his national security advisers have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  They have not forgotten that they were first elected in 2008 to “end” Middle East wars, and the administration’s response to the attacks in Paris last week reveals that they have yet to learn any different.

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‘It Could Have Been Worse’

3:21 PM, Oct 27, 2015

That’s what many defense experts are saying about the two-year budget deal that’s being cut by congressional leaders and the White House.  Byron Callan, longtime analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, which provides research to financial firms, rates the prospective deal as “defense positive.”

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Putting Defense First

Oct 05, 2015

With the new fiscal year for the federal government rapidly approaching, the irresponsible and dangerous game of chicken being played with national defense continues. For most of the year, the White House and Democrats have made it clear that they will block passage of defense authorization and appropriations bills that contain some $38 billion in new defense resources unless the Republican majority in Congress agrees to boost domestic discretionary spending by an equal amount.

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He Who Dares Wins

Syria 2015 is not Afghanistan 1979.
6:31 AM, Oct 03, 2015

You have to give Barack Obama credit for consistency.

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Fleeting Raptor

12:14 PM, Sep 01, 2015

For the last several weeks, Air Force Secretary Deborah James has been touting the deployment of F-22 Raptor fighters – the best plane America owns – to Germany as “the strong side of the coin” in an effort to reassure Eastern Europeans who have seen their air space increasingly violated by Russian jets. “Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and our European allies,” she said.

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Mullahs’ Military Shopping List

12:53 PM, Jul 21, 2015

What will Iran do with the big “signing bonus” – perhaps as much as $150 billion – coming its way thanks to the nuclear pact negotiated by the Obama administration?

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For the Want of a Budget Gimmick, the Kingdom Was Lost

11:09 AM, Jul 09, 2015

In at last announcing in detail that it would reduce the size of its active-duty force, currently 490,000, by 40,000 soldiers over the next two years, the U.S. Army seems finally and for a day to have captured the attention of the political class.  In fact this is not news, but the long-anticipated result of the defense budget cuts agreed to under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

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They Only Say No

Reforming the Pentagon testing office.
Jun 08, 2015

Buried deep in the House version of this year’s defense authorization is a brief provision that has great potential to improve and accelerate the way the armed services buy weapons​—​yes, an actual reform of Pentagon procurement. The irony is that this reform would mark a reversal of past “reforms” that helped make the current acquisition system such a mess.

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Bring Back CENTO?

8:02 AM, May 13, 2015

The early Cold War period might be called the Age of the Treaty Organization. The United States, scrambling furiously to respond to the fact that it had become the guarantor of the “Free World,” had discovered a surprising interest in entangling alliances of all sorts and in all parts of the world. NATO, of course, was the biggest pact of them all, but in 1954 the “Manilla Pact” created the Southeast Asian Treaty Organiz

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America's Collapsing Alliances

2:30 PM, May 11, 2015

It was a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away: In July 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made big, bold news by travelling to Berlin to – as The New York Times triumphantly recorded – “restore the world’s faith in strong American leadership and idealism.” With 200,000 Berliners waving

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A Semper-Fi Guy Takes the JCS Chair

12:03 PM, May 05, 2015

President Obama’s decision to nominate Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a very good move. It’s also a little bit of a surprise: Even though it’s been clear for a while that Dunford was going to be the last man standing in the competition to succeed the outgoing chairman, Army Gen.

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Retaking Mosul

It won’t be easy.
Mar 09, 2015

In late 2001, when initial military operations in Afghanistan produced surprising successes, the opening skit on Saturday Night Live was a send-up of the daily press conference given by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Actor Darrell Hammond made a perfect Rummy, complete with rimless spectacles and prune-face squint. But the real target of the sketch was the inanity of the media.

  “Mr. Secretary, do you plan to halt bombing during Ramadan?”

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Breaking Trust

Feb 16, 2015

At what point do we—the institution and our nation—lose our soldiers’ trust? The trust that we will provide them the right resources—the training and equipment—to properly prepare them and lead them into harm’s way. Trust that we will appropriately take care of our soldiers, our civilians, and their families, who so selflessly sacrifice so much.

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NSS Nuggets

"Highlights" from the president's new National Security Strategy.
2:17 PM, Feb 06, 2015

At this point, not even the self-styled Wonk Class was staying up late in anticipation of the Obama Administration’s release of its long-overdue National Security Strategy (NSS), which has

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Paris Attacks: An Al Qaeda, Islamic State Combined Operation

12:20 PM, Jan 12, 2015

The terrorist attacks in Paris were nightmarish in many ways, but perhaps the most worrisome news to come out of the Charlie Hebdo affair is that followers of a “pure” al Qaeda affiliate – al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula – and of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – worked together.

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The Pathetic Pacific Pivot

11:06 AM, Dec 22, 2014

As the historically minded will recall, back in 2012 the Obama administration declared that the United States “will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific.” That was the guidance the commander in chief gave to the U.S. military, the idea being that since, the peace of Europe was eternal and self-sustaining, and the Middle East was a mess made by George Bush, that the most important mission for the 21st century was to keep an eye on the Chinese, the “rising” great power.

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The Hagel Opportunity

1:35 PM, Nov 24, 2014

The resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel creates a golden opportunity for the new Republican majority in the Congress: not only will the hearings on Hagel’s replacement be a natural venue for reviewing the defense reductions and many retreats of the Obama years, but they provide a forum for Republicans to begin to chart a positive alternative.

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More Strikes in Syria Expected?

4:35 PM, Sep 23, 2014

“Last night’s strikes were only the beginning,” Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told the Pentagon press corps.  More strikes can be “expected.”

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Anything But Great

8:16 AM, Sep 18, 2014

In the late 17th century, times were tough in Scotland.  The Stuarts, the Scots’ royal family, had been tossed off the throne of England for a second time, and the country had been excluded from the burgeoning English system of international trade regulated by the Navigation Acts.  Even the climate was more miserable than usual: these were the worst years of northern Europe’s “little ice age.”

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A Foreseeable Failure

6:05 AM, Sep 17, 2014

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the most that could be done by way of creating an effective Free Syrian Army – that is, the forces of the moderate opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad – was to train a force of 5,000 over the next year.

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Wasting Time

1:45 PM, Sep 15, 2014

The Obama administration is behaving like a prisoner under interrogation: eventually, if unintentionally, it ends up talking most about the subjects it least wishes to discuss.

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What Kind of Coalition?

2:06 PM, Sep 10, 2014

Stories on President Obama’s strategy-for-the-Islamic-State speech this evening have made it plain that the military approach is going to be a combination of U.S. airpower and various Iraqi and Syrian proxies on the ground.  “Obama’s ISIL Strategy to Emphasize Coalition Effort,” headlines RealClearPolitics.

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Degrading, Defeating, and Destroying the Islamic State

2:01 PM, Sep 08, 2014

On Wednesday, the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Obama will speak to the American people about his strategy for dealing with the rise of the Islamic State, the would-be caliphate bestriding Iraq and Syria, the most palpable and present threat to the region since Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and, later, Kuwait.

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Seize the Jacksonian Day

2:45 PM, Sep 05, 2014

“They should know we will follow them to the gates of hell.”

The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS.”

“The president should have weaponized the moderate Syrian rebels earlier.”

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Yes, We Do Have a Strategy: Keep Out

4:01 PM, Sep 02, 2014

Say what you will about Barack Obama, but his approach to the Middle East has been ruthlessly consistent.  He was elected on the promise to end America’s involvement in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He didn’t fulfill those promises as rapidly as his supporters wished – he preferred what his advisers thought would be a “responsible” retreat rather than a full-fledged bug-out, and in Afghanistan masked his withdrawal timetable behind a tempo

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Obama’s General Order

11:34 AM, Aug 11, 2014

On July 4, 1863, as he stared across the fields near Gettysburg at Robert E.

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Boots on the Ground? Yes!

Mar 31, 2014

The failures of American will exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are numerous and mounting. Coming on top of the tepid response to China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over Japanese waters and the withdrawals from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the “red line” in Syria, they have revealed Barack Obama as a man who not only “leads from behind” but marches to the rear.

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Testing Time for Republicans

2:02 PM, Mar 27, 2014

As Vladimir Putin reminds us that hard power, military power – not “soft” or “smart” power – is the ultima ratio in international affairs, who speaks for the Republican party?

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Deeply Unsettling

Mar 10, 2014

America’s chattering classes seem at last to have awoken to the fact that the U.S. military ain’t what it used to be. Even the New York Times allows that “the Pentagon’s proposals to reduce the Army to pre-World War II levels” could “seem unsettling to a nation that prides itself on having the world’s most capable military.” It could also unsettle the world, and most of all those allies who rely on the United States to keep a variety of dangers at bay.

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