RIP: Mark Perry, an Extraordinary Journalist in Extraordinary Times

Our colleague and friend Mark Perry passed away today after a battle with lung cancer, his son Cal Perry announced on Twitter earlier this morning. It is devastating news to so many because Perry had been a staple in Washington foreign policy/military journalism and activism circles for decades and had fostered quite a collection of friends, compatriots, sources, and colleagues over the years. If you put them all in a room right now it would likely be a motley assemblage, ranging from active duty and retired Pentagon officers, to Arab-American friends from his time in Beirut, to peace activists, watchdogs, mavericks, and journalists – all shaking their heads in shock and regretting they hadn’t had just one more conversation with him.

We were lucky at the Quincy Institute to have him on our side, if even just for a short while, working as a military analyst for the last year. He penned some of our best stories at Responsible Statecraft. He was “part time” but he put in full-time work because this was his milieu – researching, cultivating sources, and getting under the surface (and skin) of the Pentagon world, whether it be budgets and strategy, or meta stories like U.S. wars in the Middle East or the advancing Cold War with China. He was absolutely a stickler for facts and loved history, and learning from it. He took nothing at face value and was a true skeptic and iconoclast – no one got respect until they earned it.

His career trajectory was nothing but colorful – he was the director of Conflicts Forum, which brought him to Beirut, where he lived for some time. He worked with Vietnam Veterans of America and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. He was an unofficial advisor to PLO Chairman and Palestinian PresidentYasser Arafat from 1989 to 2004. He was a prolific writer, publishing several books, including “Four Stars: The Inside Story of the Forty-Year Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America’s Civilian Leaders,” “Partners In Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace,” “The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur,” “Grant and Twain: The Story of an American Friendship,” and the latest, “The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents,” which he published in 2017.

It was about that time that I met Mark and soon had him writing for The American Conservative, where he was a regular contributor on military/war issues for the next two years. He not only elevated our national security coverage but he helped me behind the scenes, editing and fact checking. I trusted his judgment, and basked in his encouragement. Long after we both came to QI/RS, I continued to consult with him on stories and authors – we called him my “BS meter.”

Mark’s truth-telling spirit, journalistic integrity, and views on non-interventionism brought him right into the orbit of the left-right coalition on realism and restraint, and his experience and wisdom were a good fit in a Washington arena where memories can be long or short depending on political convenience. He reminded folks of mistakes in hopes that they may not happen again. He tore open wounds so that we would remember the blood. He tried to heal with the facts in hopes that they would win over hyperbole and demagoguery.

His work, unfortunately, is not finished. He leaves a hole, in our hearts and in our project. Again, we have only benefitted from the short time he was here. Please take the time to read his work, here and here. Our condolences go out to his wife and children and grandchildren, who he spoke about often (otherwise he was quite private, and humble), and to all of the comrades he collected, along the way.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft and Senior Advisor at the Quincy Institute. She was formerly an editor at and The American Conservative. Reprinted from Responsible Statecraft with permission.

Panel: What’s a State-Sponsored Assassination Between Friends? Reckoning With the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi (video)

On the eve of the second anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, QI and Showtime Documentary Films hosted a discussion about the implications of the assassination for U.S.-Saudi relations past, present, and future.

The discussion also offered a sneak peak at Showtime’s Kingdom of Silence, the upcoming documentary that provides an in-depth look into the Washington Post journalist’s life, work, and murder against the backdrop of complex U.S.-Saudi relations.

Journalist Lawrence Wright and Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, both featured in the film, joined with Quincy Institute’s Annelle Sheline, in a conversation moderated by Responsible Statecraft’s Kelley Vlahos about the important questions the film raises – the future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship in the era of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s consolidation of power.

Debate ‘Train Wreck’ Shows US in No Position To Lecture the World

Reprinted from Responsible Statecraft (Quincy Institute) with permission.

It was called ‘“the worst debate in American history” by more than one pundit and cable news anchor.

The graphic descriptions of Tuesday night’s presidential debate between incumbent Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden began mounting on social media and spilling over into Wednesday’s headline stories. The most used: “train wreck” and “dumpster fire.” CNN’s Dana Bash figured it was the night to break protocol: “I’m just going to say it like it is. That was a shit show.”

The highly anticipated event devolved early into bickering and interruptions, with moderator, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, having to reprimand the president several times to wait his turn, reminding him at one point that his campaign had agreed to the terms for letting his opponent speak for two minutes, uninterrupted, during responses.

The evening rolled over the broad domestic issues that only emphasized today’s domestic divide: Trump’s Supreme Court nomination, the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, racial strife. Rather than leading to a substantive discussion on the candidates’ records or plans, each question immediately gave way to squabbling and sharp personal attacks. Biden called Trump a “racist” and a “clown.” Trump repeatedly and aggressively demanded Biden talk about his son Hunter’s business in Ukraine; at one point he sneered that Hunter was “kicked out of the military” for “cocaine use.”

Continue reading “Debate ‘Train Wreck’ Shows US in No Position To Lecture the World”

10 Foreign Policy Questions That Should Be Asked at the Presidential Debate (But Probably Won’t)

Reprinted from Responsible Statecraft (Quincy Institute) with permission.

Tuesday’s highly anticipated debate between President Trump and Democratic challenger Vice President Joe Biden is expected to delve into several broad topics critical to today’s political environment: the Supreme Court, COVID, the economy, race and violence in cities, the integrity of the election, and the candidates’ records.

Of course the discussion may or may not touch upon salient foreign policy and national security issues that often spill over from these more domestic concerns — like the U.S. relationship with China, Russia, or the continuing wars abroad.

So we canvassed the Quincy Institute staff and asked them what questions should be asked tomorrow night (but probably won’t):

Andrew Bacevich, President: In its recently published official history of the Iraq War, the US Army acknowledges “the failure of the United States to attain its strategic objectives in Iraq.” Do you agree with that judgment? If so, what are the implications of that failure for US policy going forward?  If not – if you think that the war ended in something other than failure – how would you characterize the outcome? In either case, what lessons should the United States take from its war in Iraq?”

Continue reading “10 Foreign Policy Questions That Should Be Asked at the Presidential Debate (But Probably Won’t)”

Let’s Do the Pentagon Time Warp Again

From The American Conservative:

The Pentagon building just over the river from Washington D.C. is really an architectural marvel, and if there was any federal office space that reflected the true nature of its purpose, this 6.6 million square foot labyrinth, made up of concentric rings spanning over 7 miles, housing 3.6 million square feet of offices with nearly 30,000 employees coming in and out everyday like bees to the hive, this is it. Like the institution it represents, it is a planet onto itself – with six zip codes, Metro station, a shopping mall, food courts and gyms. It is connected underground to adjacent Pentagon City, which offers access to off-site housing and not surprisingly, satellite HQs of the world’s top defense contractors. Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon all have digs here, along with a host of other mid-range beltway bandits.

Looking across the Potomac you can make out the U.S. Capitol and from a certain vantage, the White House, rounding out the primary points of Military Industrial Complex in the Imperial City. On the western side of the Pentagon is the sprawling Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of so many who served this national security state: at least 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their family members are buried here today.

But back to the Pentagon. For the literal nucleus of the most powerful military in the world, it is, according to its own denizens, like walking into a time warp. Think Kirk Douglas in black-n-white Seven Days in May, as he crisply enters the wing for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So says retired Marine John Kroger, who was chief learning officer of the Navy and Marine Corps in the building from 2019 to 2020, in a recent Wired article:

There are no laptops at meetings in the Pentagon. There are no whiteboards, either. No connectivity, and almost no diversity. I love the Navy and Marine Corps, but as a civilian executive, this 1950s environment is what exasperated me most about working there. These problems damage the speed and quality of our military planning and decision­making. If we don’t correct them soon, we will jeopardize our national security.

One of the biggest complaints is there is very little cell phone service in the building, which, aside from the super long underground stretch to Pentagon City, is pretty isolated. There is a strict ban on mobile devices in classified areas, but apparently most can’t get a signal where the phones are allowed. He goes on:

During the pandemic, I’ve had much greater connectivity working at home on my civilian network than I did when in the building that controls the most powerful and technologically advanced armed force in the world.

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Navy Will Dump Beloved Capt. Crozier After All

From The American Conservative:

Maybe the Navy was just buying time or maybe they got more information, but according to reports the service is not going to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier to his command of the USS Roosevelt.

It also looks like, in order to take politics out of the picture, the Navy is blaming Crozier and his Admiral Stuart Baker, whose promotion is now on hold, for bad leadership and for not following COVID guidelines – and not for Crozier’s controversial April email pleading for help, which got him in trouble (and made him a hero) in the first place. This is a new twist.

From a press briefing by the investigating officers Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations and Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite on Friday:

“While I previously believed Captain Crozier should be reinstated, following his relief in April, after conducting an initial investigation, the much broader, deeper investigation that we conducted in the weeks following that had a much deeper scope,”(Gilday) said.

Both Gilday and Braithwaite said the Navy failed to investigate the matter properly during its preliminary review. More:

The deeper investigation concluded that Crozier and the Strike Group Commander, Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, “did not do enough, soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation … and they did not effectively carry out our guidelines for events spread of the virus,” according to Gilday.

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