Swamp Season

  • Despite proclamations of commitment to good governance made by most elected officials in Washington, the national political dialogue where foreign policy is concerned has been largely driven by the pervasive influence of funders and think tanks for at least half a century. Certain milestones such as the 2010 Citizens United decision and the colloquially-termed forever wars of the 21st century have served to reinforce this reality yet it is far from new and is not limited to one political party or governmental bureaucracy.
  • In practical terms, the revolving door between Massachusetts Avenue and Foggy Bottom as well as between Pentagon City and the Pentagon is often the most impactful in terms of its influence on decisions made in recent years, especially those made by the current President’s administration and that of his two predecessors. Elected officials in Washington have long been reliant on the ostensible expertise of such individuals, as well as that of their political staff, for decisionmaking and this dependence has increased in recent years.
  • In most cases, interests of foreign origin are less influential than those of domestic origin yet their direct and indirect financing of important decisionmaking mechanisms is increasingly relevant. These trends are not new yet have accelerated markedly in the past half decade, appearing to more frequently and more overtly cross ethical and on not infrequent occasions legal lines in the process.
  • The most consequential impact of the decisions made as a result of these situations are those related to defense issues. The decision to tacitly greenlight the UAE’s blockade of Qatar, the decision to maintain a sizable military presence in volatile northeast Syria despite repeated public declarations of intent to withdraw, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, the decision to impose a de facto embargo on all trade with Iran despite substantiated claims regarding impact on humanitarian trade during a pandemic, the decision to publicly greenlight action toward Ethiopia by Egypt and the alleged decision to establish a military presence in the volatile Yemeni city of Al-Ghaydah during a presidential transition without congressional authorization or public notification are among the notable examples of this ethos from the past half decade.

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