Gordon Adams

Budget Blunders and Funding Follies

Hagel's push from the Pentagon was about more than just ISIS and White House politics.

The secretary of defense is resigning midstream. It was not expected, but perhaps it is not surprising. While the bulk of the press coverage of his departure focuses on disagreements between the White House and the Pentagon on foreign-policy issues, notably options for dealing with the Islamic State (IS), there may be much more to the story than that. The Pentagon is at a critical turning point with respect to its budget and its internal management. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had not succeeded in dealing with either challenge, which may have contributed to his premature departure.

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The Midterm's Mantra of Fear and Loathing

Don’t kid yourselves; from the Islamic State to Ukraine to Iran, foreign policy mattered in Tuesday's elections.

"They" say elections rarely turn on foreign policy. And mid-term elections, "they" say, are almost never a referendum on the president. Well, take that, whoever "they" are. This election turned on foreign policy big time. But not the way you might think. Foreign policy was not on the ballot; nor is the United States losing a war or in a titanic struggle somewhere.

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The Varnish of Vietnam

The United States still hasn't stopped trying to win unwinnable wars.

The Pentagon's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American victory in Vietnam is about to descend on us. This miscast, colored, and distorted Pentagon remembrance should remind us of the dangers of imagining war outcomes in an illusory way, and of letting domestic politics dictate national security decisions that feed the illusion. As the Sorcerer knew in Goethe's poem about the Apprentice, cutting the broom of war in half has a way of creating even more war brooms to come, carrying buckets full of adversaries, drowning our security.

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Ties That Bind

From Afghanistan to Mali to Iraq, training and equipping other countries' militaries has a terrible track record. Why would we want to make it a permanent part of U.S. strategy?

This is an urgent memo to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees: Making Section 1206, a DoD program that trains and equips militaries around the world, a part of permanent law is a bad idea. Stop now, before it is too late.

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Sharks in the Desert

President Obama means well. But the Middle East is where America's good intentions go to die.

I was going to call this column "here we go again," but Charles Blow at the New York Times beat me to the punch. The president may feel he has to do what he is doing, pressed by public opinion polls and the incessant demand to "do something" that seems to come from everywhere. But the policy he announced Wednesday night is yet another example of what Charles Lindblom, now an emeritus professor at Yale University, called in an article he wrote 55 years ago, "Muddling Through."

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