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The Early Edition: May 25, 2017

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.


Intelligence showing senior Russian officials discussing how to exert influence over President Trump using his advisers was collected by U.S.  continue »

Norms Watch: Tracking the Erosion of Democratic Traditions (May 12-19)

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A memo allegedly written by former FBI Director James Comey suggests that President Trump pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, providing some of the strongest evidence yet that Trump improperly attempted to directly influence the investigation into his campaign’s alleged illicit contacts with Russia.  continue »

UAE, a Key US Partner in Yemen, Implicated in Detainee Abuse


One of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s regrettable statements during the Iraq war was his infamous response to an Army specialist asking about the lack of armor for military vehicles. Rumsfeld replied:

“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

A similar sentiment may be floating around the Pentagon and White House this time with respect to partner forces in Yemen, who do not appear motivated or capable of handling the effort with the professionalism and respect for even the most basic humanitarian interests of the population on the ground.…   continue »

A Misplaced Focus on “Collusion”

Public discussion of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election is dominated by the question of collusion: Were senior members of the Trump campaign knowing collaborators in the Russian government’s campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy?  My own view is that we’re unlikely to get any truly conclusive evidence of this—but also that it’s a mistake to treat it as the only important question for an investigation to answer.…   continue »

U.S. Military Justice and “Operational Mishaps”: A Primer

As the tempo and intensity of United States military operations increases, the likelihood of operational mishaps increases as well. These mishaps – an anodyne term that cannot capture the reality experienced by those on the receiving end – can have devastating effects on innocent civilians and are highly likely to erode existing support and, indeed, to inflame passions both locally and around the globe.…   continue »

U.S.-Supported Government in Yemen Has Ties to Al-Qaeda


Defense secretary Jim Mattis has described Syria as “the most complex civil war probably raging on the planet at this time,” but Yemen is giving it a run for its money. In both places, the line between adversary and ally is not easily drawn, which puts the United States at risk of unintentionally furthering the cause of some of its worst enemies.  continue »

Making Sense of the Allegations that U.S. Military Struck a Mosque in Syria

There are now two very different competing pictures about whether the United States mistakenly struck a mosque in Syria on the night of March 16, 2017. On one view, based on  three independent reports—by Human Rights Watch, Bellingcat, and the University of London’s Forensic Architecture—along with some supplemental information from AirWars and White Helmets, the U.S.…   continue »

Humanitarian Military Options for Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack: “Illegal but Not Unprecedented”


Without Security Council authorization, any U.S. military force to respond to Assad’s chemical weapons attack would be a violation of international law, but …

Policymakers would be well advised to know the relatively long list of cases in which states have engaged in humanitarian intervention without Security Council approval, and not paid the same political costs that would come with predatory uses of force.…   continue »

Questions Raised by Syria’s Chemical Weapons Attack


Details are still emerging about Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria, but the US, France and Britain have already condemned the Syrian government for gassing its own people. On Wednesday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, threatened the US may take unilateral action if the Security Council fails to respond.  continue »