National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Panetta revealed info to filmmaker; A budget deal might give Penty money it needs; FP hosts Kerry, Donilon and Blinken today; Google to give wreaths to Arlington; Obama to vets: keep your job (JK!) and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Defense hawks shaped the budget deal. Defense News' John Bennett: "Two senior US lawmakers have struck a deal on a budget blueprint that would restore to the Pentagon's annual budget more than $30 billion over the next two years set to meet sequestration's meat axe. The bipartisan budget resolution is a major victory for congressional defense hawks, who lobbied for years against sequestration - and made an impression with the special committee's primary negotiators. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced a plan Tuesday evening that would ease pending across-the-board cuts while shrinking the federal deficit more than existing law. The compromise budget resolution, if adopted by both chambers, would provide $63 billion in sequestration relief in 2014 and 2015, which would be split evenly among defense and non-defense discretionary accounts. The 2014 relief would total $45 billion, meaning the Defense Department would get back about $22.5 billion. In 2015, the relief amount would be around $18 billion total, and $9 billion for the Pentagon." More here.

The WaPo's Ezra Klein's "what you need to know" on the budget deal, point #5: "The deal replaces about half of sequestration's cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending in 2014. It replaces about a fourth of them in 2015. That means most of sequestration will go into effect in both years." More here.

A "doable deal on Defense," says the WaPo's ed board: "With the end of 2013 rapidly approaching, Congress has an opportunity to rise above a year of massive dysfunction and prevent major disruptions in U.S. defense operations. The leaders of the Senate and House armed services committees have managed to fashion a bipartisan version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which became stuck on the Senate floor before the Thanksgiving recess. It's a decent compromise that the leaders of both chambers ought to embrace and bring to a vote in the coming days... Other measures in the bill ought to attract broad bipartisan support. The effects on defense of the so-called sequester would be eased by transferring money to operations and training from less essential accounts, such as construction and staffing in office headquarters. The Pentagon is still vulnerable to a $50 billion sequester cut in January unless a separate budget deal can head it off. But passage of the authorization act would prevent the worst disruptions of ongoing operations."  More here.

Gordon Adams says the deal represents "business as usual in a statement to Situation Report and others:" "It's an insider's bill in an outsider's world.  They nearly didn't have any bill at all, reflective of the dysfunctionality at work in the Congress. Authorizing defense funding at a level that bears no relationship to the budget reality around them reflects that they continue to play inside baseball when the crowd has left the stadium.  The budget negotiators, appropriators, or, conceivably, sequester, will determine the funding level for defense. By pretending there would be more money, the authorizers managed to evade tough choices, and even left themselves room to push for special interests that will make the Pentagon's planning problems even worse: preventing the retirement of cruisers and amphibious ships, preventing the sensible consolidation of the military's basing infrastructure, blocking the decision to order no more block 30 Global Hawks, adding funds to an already excessive missile defense budget, additional funding for Guard and Reserve equipment."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report where our bottom line when it comes to all that will always be: bring it. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Turns out, Panetta did unwittingly reveal top secret information to ‘Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker at an awards ceremony in June 2011. Judicial Watch: Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained more than 200 pages of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency, including a previously unreleased CIA internal report confirming that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed classified information at a June 24, 2011, bin Laden assault awards ceremony attended by ‘Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker Mark Boal. The documents were produced in response to a June 21, 2013, Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency... Significantly, the entire transcript of the Panetta speech provided to Judicial Watch by the CIA is classified "Top Secret."  More than 90 lines are redacted for security reasons, further confirming that significant portions of the speech should not have been made in front of the filmmaker who lacked top security clearance.

AP's Kim Dozier: "Newly declassified documents show Tuesday that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed secret information to ‘Zero Dark Thirty' scriptwriter Mark Boal when Panetta gave a speech at CIA headquarters marking the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Panetta said through a spokesman that he didn't know Boal was in the room. Judicial Watch filed a request for the more than 200 pages of documents, which the CIA released Tuesday. The documents concerned the internal investigation of its role in the film about the bin Laden raid... Panetta spokesman Jeremy Bash said Panetta assumed everyone in the audience had the proper clearance to hear the speech. The documents refer to Panetta revealing the name of the ground commander of the unit that carried out the raid. Parts of the speech transcript released in the documents Tuesday are still blacked out." Panetta, in a statement: "I had no idea that individual was in the audience... To this day, I wouldn't know him if he walked into the room." Read the rest of the AP here. Read the documents Judicial Watch obtained though FOIA, here. Judicial Watch story here. 

Read FP's interview with Panetta pub'ed Dec. 9, "Epiphanies from Leon Panetta," including his views on Syria, Iran and the most dysfunctional Congress in recent memory, here.

Foreign Policy hosts John Kerry (on his 70th birthday!) and a whole bunch of other amazing folks are on the marquee today for FP's "Transformational Trends 2014." In conjunction with the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department, FP will host a day-long discussion on diplomacy and national security at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown that culminates with remarks by John Kerry this afternoon. The day will include panel discussions from the likes of Tony Blinken, President Obama's deputy national security adviser, former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Anne Patterson, the former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt (and Pakistan), Mark Lippert, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's chief of staff, Michele Flournoy, the Pentagon's former No. 3 and a slew of others, including: David McKean, Tom Shannon, Jack Gerard, Jim Baker, David Burwell, FP's Peter Scoblic and Noah Shachtman, Noura al-Kaabi, Miriam Sapiro, Frederick Kempe, Danny Russel, Fred Hochberg and David Sandalow.

There will be spirited discussions that include "2014: Flashpoints and Emerging Trends of the Year Ahead" led by McKean; a keynote discussion by Donilon on "Shaping a Strategic Framework for a Secure America," followed by a panel discussion led by Shachtman on "Rethinking the Greater Middle East: Finding Opportunity Amid Unprecedented Upheaval" with Patterson, Nasr and al-Kaabi; Another discussion in the afternoon, "The Changing Nature of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance" will be followed by another one with Russel, Lippert, Hochberg, Flournoy and Sandalow on "America in Asia: Remaking the Map of the Center of the 21st Century World."

Kerry, who celebrates 70 years today, will speak in the late afternoon on "Restoring Diplomacy to the Center of the U.S. Foreign Policy: Reflections on the Past Year and What's Next."

That will be followed by a huge party tonight at the Four Seasons to celebrate FP's Global Thinkers, including people like Edward Snowden, Hassan Rouhani, Keith Alexander, Ron Wyden and Kevin Mandia and a bunch of incredible people you may have never heard of, too. Aminata Toure, Xie Zhenhua, Mary Jennings, Colleen Farrell and Joshua Oppenheimer, Malala Yousafzai and dozens of others are on the list and many of them will be at the party tonight.

The list and the Global Thinkers issue online, here.

Follow it all today on the Tweeter machine: #FPTrends and #FPThinkers. And for a list of the Twitter handles of FP's Global Thinkers, click here.

Btw, Foreign Policy magazine isn't at the top of Julian Assange's Christmas list. FP's Elias Groll: "Julian Assange and a huge number of Mexicans on Twitter look to have something in common: Neither are particularly happy about Foreign Policy's Global Thinkers issue. On Monday, FP launched the fifth annual iteration of that issue, which selected a range of thinkers from the worlds of surveillance and privacy, statesmen and activists, innovators and artists in attempt to distill some of the most important and consequential individuals of 2013. Among them is the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda during his first year in office... But his selection provoked a virulent response on Twitter, with an outpouring of disdain for a man many Mexicans view as little more than a figurehead -- and a stupid one at that... This year, Julian Assange joined the Mexican Twitterati in denouncing FP. On Monday night, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, which Assange has a key hand in running, criticized FP for what it saw as a long-running marginalization of Assange." Read the rest here.

John Kerry pitched the Iranian deal to Congress and beat back more sanctions - for now. FP's own Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson: "When it comes to the Obama administration's controversial nuclear pact with Iran, it's White House 1, Congress 0. Lawmakers from both parties teed off on the agreement Tuesday, deriding it as naïve, misguided, and the beginning of the end for the punishing economic sanctions that have forced Tehran to the negotiating table. Rhetoric aside, though, the administration seems to have blunted -- at least for now -- a Senate Banking Committee push to impose new sanctions on Iran while the talks continue. That's a major win for the White House, which has repeatedly warned that putting new punitive measures in place now would derail the current negotiations with Tehran and scuttle the interim deal that was signed in Geneva late last month. 

‘The president and Secretary Kerry have made a strong case for a pause in Congressional action on new Iran sanctions, so I am inclined to support their request and hold off on Committee action for now,' said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, whose panel has been weighing legislation designed to choke off Iran's remaining oil sales. The House overwhelmingly passed its own version of the bill earlier this year." More here.

Two French paratroopers die in unrest in Central African Republic, CNN here.

Jim Dobbins: security deal with Afghanistan not impossible. The WaPo's Joby Warrick: The Obama administration believes it can still finalize a security agreement with Afghanistan to keep a U.S. military presence in the country after 2014, despite threats by President Hamid Karzai to walk away from the deal, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday. But Ambassador James F. Dobbins also warned that delays in signing the proposed deal could further undermine stability in the country as it prepares to assume full control of its security for the first time since the arrival of U.S. troops in 2001." Read the rest here.

The U.S. focuses on training special Afghan teams before they leave. The WSJ's Michael Phillips in Mehtar Lam: U.S. commanders are turning to elite Afghan police and military units to pursue insurgents deep into their sanctuaries, in an echo of tactics that American troops considered effective during the Vietnam War.

The military hopes the elite units, trained by U.S. Green Berets and other allied special-operations troops, will keep Taliban and other militants on their heels as April's national elections approach and the bulk of American conventional forces-perhaps even all of them-withdraw over the coming year. ‘You literally have to make [the insurgents] feel insecure in their own areas,' said U.S. Special Forces Lt. Col. Marc LaRoche, whose teams advise Afghan police strike forces, called Provincial Response Companies. Such police units operate in 19 of 34 Afghan provinces, with six more companies planned.

"... Elite units still suffer serious shortcomings. The Laghman operation showed the value of U.S. air power in bolstering police; such close-air support will likely be available in diminishing amounts as the American withdrawal proceeds. U.S. efforts to build the Afghan air force have been slow, leaving the Afghan special units faced with the prospect of doing more-hazardous ground insertions. The police units also depend heavily upon high-tech coalition intelligence intercepts to supplement Afghan government spy networks."

Donde esta the meaning of the handshake: it may elude grasp.  The NYT's Michael Shear: President Obama shook hands with President Raúl Castro of Cuba on Tuesday, offering a friendly gesture freighted with symbolism to one of America's most enduring Cold War foes... The president's aides would have known in advance which world leaders would be at the podium when the president approached for his own remarks. But White House officials declined to offer any explanation of the handshake or confirm that there had been a discussion about whether to offer one. Still, Mr. Obama's own remarks, delivered just moments afterward, offer tantalizing possibilities about what was going through the president's mind when he approached Mr. Castro. Mr. Obama talked about the need for trust and reconciliation and forgiveness. He was talking about Mr. Mandela - widely known by his clan name, Madiba - but his remarks might also apply to the diplomatically frozen relationship between the United States and Cuba. Read the rest here.

Google donates the money needed to adorn 120,000 gravestones at Arlington with wreaths. The WaPo's Patricia Sullivan: "A major donation by Google and smaller donations from a number of individuals will assure that nearly 120,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery will be decorated with holiday wreaths this season. Google, which is mapping the cemetery with cameras mounted on people and cars, donated $250,000 to Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that has been laying wreaths there since 1992. Others also contributed smaller amounts after a reading a story in last week's Washington Post that reported that the effort was falling short this year... Wreaths Across America, which puts wreaths on graves in 900 cemeteries nationwide, had about 12 percent more donations this year than last, but many corporate sponsors who previously had supported the Arlington effort decided this year to split their contributions between Arlington and other military cemeteries around the nation." Read the rest here.

Duffel Blog: Obama on military cuts: if you like your job, you can keep it. Duffel Blog's (it's satire!) Dick Scuttlebutt: "In a speech at the United States Naval Academy on Tuesday, President Obama pledged to the assembled naval and Marine cadets that despite serious drawdowns, no service member would be forced to leave his or her job if they like it. After acknowledging the Naval Academy's hallowed history of producing the finest Naval and Marine officers in the world, the President first addressed assertions leveled by critics that the budget cuts will have a negative impact on readiness and morale. Some are claiming that the cuts are political, intended to fund the President's pet projects. More here.

National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Congress may be nearing a budget deal; Are gamers terrorists?; Kerry sells Iran pact to the Hill today; Mabus broadens corruption review; Was Chuck Hagel right?; is new! And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Is Congress nearing a deal on the defense spending bill? Defense News' Paul McLeary: "A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both houses of Congress has come together to bash out a compromise $607 billion defense funding bill - which includes $527 billion in base funding and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan - which they will try to pass before current funds run out on Jan. 1. With the House of Representatives preparing to wrap up business for the year on Dec. 13 and the Senate a week later, Congress is in danger of breaking its 51-year string of passing national security bills on time. To get that done, a bipartisan group convened last week to hammer out a National Defense Authorization Act that includes 79 amendments aimed at everything from sexual assault to building infrastructure in Afghanistan to funding for new platforms, like nuclear aircraft carriers and a long-range bomber. There also are provisions for Pentagon-run anti-narcotics programs, assisting the Jordanian armed forces in securing their border with Syria, and cash aimed at the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons stocks." More here.

Ray Mabus wants to look at all Navy contracts in the wake of the one with Fat Leonard. NYT's Christopher Drew and Danielle Ivory: "Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has expanded an internal review of the Navy's ship-supply contracts, in a new sign that overbilling practices discovered in the Pacific could be occurring worldwide. In a memorandum released Monday, the secretary ordered a high-ranking Navy official to examine how the service awards hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business around the globe. Mr. Mabus also asked auditors to look at how the Navy could better police contractors providing food, tugboats and port security for its vessels.

Mr. Mabus's action comes after the service suspended two of its biggest supply contractors. Both are under investigation by the Justice Department for inflating their billings by millions of dollars through various schemes, and the Navy has had to scramble to find replacements in some regions." Navy memo here. NYT story here. 

Page One: Spies infiltrate online gaming to collect data on terrorism. The NYT's Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliott: "Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents. Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

"The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games - fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions - American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers." Read the rest here. Making Mandela Proud: Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro shook hands at Mandela's giant funeral in Soweto, here.

Why is Ted Cruz in Soweto? FP's John Hudson explains here.

Welcome to Tuesday's "snowfall is expected to be disruptive" edition of Situation Report where our bottom line when it comes to all that will always be: bring it. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Kerry takes his show to the Hill today to sell the landmark nuclear pact with Iran. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "...It won't be easy. President Obama and his top aides have spent weeks making the public case for the agreement in speeches, TV interviews and addresses to influential think tanks. Kerry's appearance before the House Foreign Relations Committee will mark the first time a senior administration official faces lawmakers who have been harshly critical of the pact since it was announced in Geneva on November 24th  - and who are now looking for ways of rewriting it. The White House says that the pact freezes or rolls back the key elements of Iran's nuclear effort in exchange for roughly $7 billion in temporary relief from the punishing Western sanctions on Iran. Congressional critics, including the leadership of the House committee that will question Kerry today, argue that the deal allows Iran gives Iran a significant economic boost without requiring Tehran to halt uranium enrichment or dismantle all of the key components of its nuclear infrastructure... In a strange bedfellows alliance, both the administration and the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani argue that any new punitive measures would scuttle the current deal and end the negotiations towards a final pact before they even really got underway." Go to for this story this morning.

Hagel urges Pakistani PM Sharif to reopen the supply routes for Afg. WSJ's Julian Barnes, traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: "...For his part, Mr. Sharif pushed Mr. Hagel on the issues of drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, counterterrorism operations which Pakistan wants ended. Washington is keen to get the often difficult relationship with Pakistan back on track and American officials repeatedly insisted that despite the difficult issues on the table the talks were amicable. Defense officials said Mr. Hagel didn't threaten to cut off aid, but instead explained to Pakistanis that it would be politically difficult to reimburse them for military expenses if Islamabad can't reopen the highway linking Kabul to the port of Karachi." More here.

Speaking of the WSJ: "Chuck Hagel was Right," writes WSJ columnist Bret Stephens, from the right: "...The Obama administration's policy on Iran's nuclearization is containment, not prevention. The secretary of defense let that one slip at his confirmation hearings in January, and the media played it as a stumble by an intellectually overmatched nominee. But it wasn't a stumble. It was a gaffe-an accidental, embarrassing act of Washington truth telling-by a guy who doesn't do insincerity nearly as well as his boss. This much was apparent from the revealing performance Barack Obama delivered last week at the Brookings Institution, where he was interviewed by Israeli-American entertainment mogul Haim Saban on the subject of the Iranian nuclear deal." More here.

And one more from the Journal: an op-ed from former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who points out that more than half of the DoD's active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs: "...There is one great numerical advantage the U.S. has against potential adversaries, however. That is the size of our defense bureaucracy. While the fighting forces have steadily shrunk by more than half since the early 1990s, the civilian and uniformed bureaucracy has more than doubled. According to the latest figures, there are currently more than 1,500,000 full-time civilian employees in the Defense Department-800,000 civil servants and 700,000 contract employees. Today, more than half of our active-duty servicemen and women serve in offices on staffs. The number of various Joint Task Force staffs, for instance, has grown since 1987 from seven to more than 250, according to the Defense Business Board.

"...The way forward for Republicans is not to default to their traditional solution, which is simply to fight sequester cuts and increase the defense budget. Instead, Republicans should concentrate on slashing and restructuring our dysfunctional and bloated defense bureaucracy. With strong defense chairmen on House and Senate committees already sympathetic to the overhead issue, and a willing secretary of defense, this Congress can do it. That will place the blame for the consequences of sequester and the earlier $500 billion Obama cuts squarely where it belongs, on the president and the Democrats." Read the rest here.

Noting: All of this makes Hagel's announcement last week that he would cut 200 people - over five years - was, as a cut to headquarters, a bit underwhelming to a lot of observers looking for true shrinkage at the Pentagon.

Smaller IS better: Tom Ricks says make the military better by making it smaller. Preparedness is about adaptability, not readiness in the conventional sense. Ricks: "Want a better U.S. military? Make it smaller. The bigger the military, the more time it must spend taking care of itself and maintaining its structure as it is, instead of changing with the times. And changing is what the U.S. military must begin to do as it recovers from the past decade's two wars." Read more here.

In the weeds: why are $486 American-paid-for planes sitting in the grass on the side of the tarmac in Afghanistan? Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio with this exclusive: Sixteen broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million are languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force. The special inspector general for Afghanistan is investigating why the refurbished G222 turboprop aircraft from Finmeccanica SpA's Alenia Aermacchi North America unit no longer can be flown after logging only 200 of 4,500 hours of U.S.-led training flights and missions required from January to September 2012 under a U.S Air Force contract because of persistent maintenance issues... Asked about the planes after they were photographed at the airport in Afghanistan by a Bloomberg News reporter, Sopko said he also saw them ‘sitting in the weeds' during a recent visit." More here.

And as long as we're talking defense industry, there's this: EADS to cut 5,800 jobs under a restructuring plan, here.

New-and-Improved: FP's new website, bolder, smoother and mas fun. And our favorite from the FP press release: "visually-arresting content." FP unveiled its redesigned and expanded website yesterday, "built to satisfy the needs of its three million monthly readers worldwide." From the boss: "Our expanded and modernized website presents FP's readers with a dramatically expanded array of editorial features and tools to help them get the information they want with the least amount of effort," said David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor-at-Large of The FP Group. "Our new site ensures that our readers have access to precisely the content that is of greatest interest to each of them while supporting our advertisers goals of identifying and reaching the audiences they seek in a beautiful, state-of-the-art web environment." The metrics on 200 million annual pageviews, 3.5 million online monthly readers and 600,000 newsletter subscribers. And so many of them are you! Situation Report is happy to report that we have 52,680 readers every day. We thank you for that and try always to meet your fascinating, enthusiastic and varied expectations. Check out our site - dubya dubya dubya dot foreignpolicy-dot-com ( and enjoy.

When bootstrapping doesn't work: John Podesta is joining the Obama White House in need of some help from the outside. The NYT's Jackie Calmes: Mr. Podesta, who has agreed to serve as counselor for a year, led Mr. Obama's presidential transition in 2008 and has been an outside adviser since then. He also has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration. Word that Mr. Podesta would for the first time join Mr. Obama's official staff, from people familiar with the discussions, comes as the president is seeking to recover public support and credibility after the flawed introduction in October of the insurance marketplaces that are a key part of his signature Affordable Care Act."

And: "Mr. Podesta, who was Mr. Clinton's chief of staff during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment of Mr. Clinton, also has been at the center of foreign policy and national security debates. In 2009, he accompanied Mr. Clinton to North Korea for negotiations that won the release of two American journalists who had been jailed on spy charges." Read the rest here.

Police are moving on the protesters in Ukraine. BBC: "Ukrainian police have begun moving against protesters in central Kiev, with some protest camps in front of government buildings dismantled. An opposition party said security forces had raided its headquarters. Officials gave protesters until Tuesday to leave. No clashes were reported. Opposition leaders urged supporters to defend Independence Square, the main protest site. The stand-off follows weeks of unrest after a U-turn on a free-trade deal with the EU. The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Kiev says there are far more police in the city centre than on Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of people came out onto the streets." More here.

The WaPo's Max Fisher uses a map to show you everything you need to know about the protests in Kiev, here.

Former Romney forpol aide Rich Williamson dies at 64. The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: The DC foreign policy community reacted with shock and sadness Monday to the unexpected death of Rich Williamson, a long time American diplomat and Republican foreign policy operative, who died Sunday due to complications from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 64. Williamson most recently served as a top foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney and helped shape the 2012 GOP nominee's policies on international affairs. But Williamson's resume also included stints as a diplomat, political candidate, academic, lawyer, human rights activist, and key figure in the foreign policy staffs of leading Republican politicians including Sen. John McCain. Williamson also worked on two presidential campaigns for Ronald Reagan and was a junior staffer in the Reagan White House."

Former U.S. Rep to UNGA Robert O'Brien on Williamson: "The first thing you think about Rich was that they guy was an ardent believer in American exceptionalism. He was also a partisan Republican. He believed in the party... As tough as Rich was, he always did it with a smile, enjoyed the game, and respected his adversaries." The rest of Rogin's bit here.

The Foreign Policy-U.S. Institute of Peace PeaceGame kicked off yesterday, but what's a peacegame look like? FP's Dana Stuster: In policy planning, there's a lot of effort involved when planning for conflict. Research papers and briefings, certainly, but also "war games" -- simulations of conflicts with experts on the various parties to the conflict acting out their roles. If Group A invades and takes this military base, how does Group B respond (or Group C, D, or E)? What if policymakers put as much thought into thinking through diplomatic scenarios as they do war scenarios? That was the question posed by PeaceGame, a simulation of diplomatic efforts around the Syrian civil war organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace and Foreign Policy Monday. The discussion brought together 45 experts, including former ambassadors and State Department officials, academics, and Arab activists, all together representing 19 groups influencing the war. It's the first of what is planned as a series of similar events. The next one is scheduled for Spring 2014 in the United Arab Emirates. If you're trying to envision what it was like, imagine a high-level roleplaying game -- something akin to Model United Nations or Dungeons & Dragons (with FP CEO David Rothkopf as dungeonmaster). But the level of expertise was something else entirely. Former Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley and Casimir Yost, recently returned from the National Intelligence Council, represented the United States. Read the rest here.