The Irony of the Mattis Appointment

800px-james_mattisThe easy confirmation of James N. Mattis as President Trump’s Defense Secretary entails no small amount of irony.  Senate Democrats perceive the retired Marine general as someone who will speak unvarnished truth to a new White House team they fear will try to insulate Mr. Trump from unpalatable news and disagreeable perspectives.  But left unremarked upon is that his earlier tenure as the head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, was cut short by the Obama administration for doing precisely that.

Read the full essay at Fair Observer.

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Connecting the Dots in Obama’s Intelligence Scandal

According to the Daily Beast (here and here) and the New York Times, some 50 intelligence analysts posted with the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, have formally complained that their superiors altered assessments about the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in order to adhere more closely with the Obama administration’s public line that the military campaign against these groups is progressing well.

There is, of course, a sad irony that a White House filled with people who frequently charge the George W. Bush administration with manipulating intelligence on the region now stand accused of the same thing.  Beyond this, however, the emerging scandal exemplifies a long-running critique about Mr. Obama’s approach to foreign policy – that his national security inner team is excessively focused on the dictates of domestic politics and is not above squelching dissenting views or insulating him from unpalatable news.

Instead of tearing down the walls of the echo chamber in Washington, the default tendency with Mr. Obama and his administration has been to build them up higher, to the detriment of this nation’s foreign policy.

Read the rest of the essay at The Diplomat.

It’s worth noting that retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who formerly served as director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (2012-2014) and the CENTCOM intelligence chief (2007-2008), has corroborated the views of the Obama administration’s critics on these points.  Speaking earlier this month to CNN’s Jake Tapper, he stated that the White House ignored intelligence reports about the global jihadist revival in 2011 and 2012 because they contradicted the president’s re-election narrative.

UPDATE, February 15, 2016: The Daily Beast reports today that Central Command intelligence analysts complained of altered assessments not just to the Defense Department inspector general but also to the Office of the National Director of Intelligence.

On the broader topic of the White House’s politicization of national security, it’s worth noting that, according to one report, President Obama pressured the FBI to downplay the terrorism angle of last December’s shootings in San Bernardino.

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