National Security

FP's Situation Report: The retreat of the ISF; Hellfires to Baghdad; Lukman Faily: help us or else; Dobbins retiring; Bergdahl's restless path; Mabus' pinning trouble; the Pentagon gets Fresh; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

After a retreat, Iraqi soldiers blame Iraqi officers. President Barack Obama's read-my-lips moment on not putting boots-on-the-ground in Iraq means the growing number of American military personnel now flowing into Iraq won't be serving in combat roles. They are there to assess and advise the Iraqi security forces who must take the fight. But the White House's faith in the ISF that the U.S. left to fend for itself in 2011 is a risky gamble and the coming weeks may show the degree to which Iraq's military won't be up to the task - at least not alone. The NYT's C.J. Chivers on Page One: "The forlorn scenes in the ancient Al-Ukhaidir fortress tell of a government force in deep disarray. Flies circle beneath its high ceilings, above dozens of demoralized men who pass the day sleeping on dusty stone floors. Until late June, this eighth-century redoubt in the Shiite south of Iraq had been a tourist and heritage site. Now the remnants of the Ninth Brigade find shelter within its walls. These men have no pressing duties, even at a time of Iraq's grave need.

"...The account of the Ninth Brigade of Iraq's border guards, confirmed by an official who witnessed many of the events, is a portrait of generals unfit to lead in war and of mismanagement, incompetence and ultimately treachery under the patronage of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki." More here.

Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., says the Washington better help Baghdad - or else. FP's John Hudson: "The Iraqi ambassador to the United States pleaded for more military assistance to combat Sunni militants on Tuesday and issued a blunt warning to the White House: If America doesn't provide the help Iraq needs, it will reach out to U.S. adversaries such as Iran, Russia, and Syria instead.

Iraqi Ambassador Faily told Carnegie, referring to Iran and Russia: "Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger... We have always tried to resist that but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s]." More here.

The U.S. is planning to sell as many as 4,000 Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "...Sale of the laser-guided missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. would be in addition to 500 previously purchased, of which about 400 have been delivered." More here.

As the Iraqis fumble to create a new, inclusive government, a lot of bickering. Washington's approach is to force the Maliki government to fix its governance problems with the idea that the political problems in Baghdad are the source of the violence and fixing them would go a long way to addressing the problems that's tearing the country apart. But that's not going particularly well. The WaPo's Liz Sly and Loveday Morris: "The inaugural session of Iraq's parliament collapsed Tuesday after heated exchanges and a walkout, dampening hopes that the country's fractious politicians will rise to the challenge presented by the insurgency tearing their nation apart. Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers left the at times chaotic meeting after less than two hours, with no progress made on forming a new government. After their exit, Mahdi Hafidh, the acting speaker of the newly elected parliament, adjourned the session until next week, citing the lack of a quorum in the 328-member chamber." More here.

The discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager sparks an investigation to see if it is in retaliation of the three Israeli boys who were killed. USA Today, here.

Not a surprise: Muslims hate terrorism, too. A new Pew study, here.

In the wake of the revelations about the State Department and Blackwater, a look at "Blackwater's Children" on FP the descendants of Blackwater are still raking it in from the U.S. government believe it or not - Our own Kate Brannen's first story for FP, here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. 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. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Meantime, violence is escalating in Ukraine as the cease-fire there expires. The WaPo's Michael Birnbaum in Moscow: "...Both sides appeared to be readying for a protracted battle after days in which the fighting diminished but did not disappear. It remained unclear whether the Ukrainian military, which has battled pro-Russian separatists since mid-April, would be able strike a decisive blow against the rebels, who have seized territory in eastern Ukraine. The longer a conflict drags on, the greater the risk of further civilian casualties and the harder it will be for Ukraine's new government to stitch the society back together." More here.

BTW, Russia totally vetoed the idea that House of Cards could use the UN. FP's Colum Lynch with this exclusive: " Russia's United Nations delegation on Tuesday blocked a request by the producers of the popular Netflix political drama to film two episodes in the U.N. Security Council, citing the need to keep the world's leading security chamber available for unanticipated crises, according to a series of confidential email exchanges between a Russian diplomat and his Security Council counterparts. The emails were obtained by Foreign Policy." More here.

And in Asia, Japan's Abe declares a major policy shift: a change to the military pacificism that characterized its approach since WWII. Time's Kirk Spitzer: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a major revision to Japan's pacifist postwar defense policy amid wide public protests Tuesday - but don't expect to see Japanese troops sweeping across foreign battlefields anytime soon. Under the new policy, Japan's powerful but low-profile military would be allowed to defend friends and allies under attack for the first time, even overseas. It's part of a new interpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution that Abe has pushed since taking office 18 months ago." More here.

Jeepers, keepers: Tim Howard for SecDef. The U.S. ended its emotional bid to snag the World Cup without getting it. But Keeper Tim Howard was still a hero - making 16 saves against Belgium yesterday. Someone thought he needed recognition and so changed the Wikipedia citation for Secretary of Defense for the United States of America from "Chuck Hagel" to "Tim Howard" - incumbent since July 1, 2014. It was quickly changed back, but still. Click bait here.

A lot of "Gooooooooaaaaallllllls." Naturally, there wasn't a lot of work getting done while the U.S. played Belgium. The cable carrier that serves the Pentagon doesn't carry ESPN for whatever reason, so defense types were stuck watching it on Univision, denying them the play-by-plays in English and yet we figure they got the idea overall.

Who's Where When today - Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, is in Boston today for a series of meetings with organizations who support wounded warriors and then he'll participate in a discussion at the Fletcher School of Tufts University - now led by Jim Stavridis, the retired Navy admiral and Supreme Allied Commander - that will be focused on one of Mabus' favorite topics: energy and its importance to our national security... otherwise, it's a quite week for Pentagon principals in terms of public events.

But speaking of Mabus, he attended the promotion of the Navy's first female four-star ever, Michelle Howard, as we reported yesterday he would. But he had a little trouble actually pinning her new rank insignia on.  The WaPo's Dan Lamothe, who can spot SitRep "candy" a mile away, has the story: "At one point Tuesday, Mabus struggled to put Howard's new four-star shoulder boards on her uniform. With good nature, however, he refused to give up, drawing laughter from the crowd. In her remarks on stage, Howard joked about it...'It is a remarkable sign of leadership,' Howard said, 'to be persistent in your goals and to achieve them.'

"...Howard is perhaps best known for leading Task Force 151, which oversaw counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. After Somali pirates attacked the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama and captured its top officer, Capt. Richard Phillips, in April 2009, she devised a plan with others to get him back, dispatching the USS Bainbridge, a destroyer, to help. Navy SEAL snipers eventually opened fire on a small lifeboat carrying Phillips and three pirates, killing the bandits and freeing him." More here.

FP's John Hudson went Hollywood yesterday. Hudson appeared on CNN's Jake Tapper to talk about his Blackwater story from FP yesterday. Watch him here.

State's James Dobbins, 72, to retire this month from being the SRAP. The NYT's Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt: Mr. Dobbins, 72, will be succeeded by his deputy, Daniel F. Feldman, whose ties to Secretary of State John Kerry date back to Mr. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In an interview, Mr. Dobbins took a hopeful, if somewhat guarded, view of the troubled political situation in Afghanistan."

Dobbins, to the NYT: "I think this election impasse at the moment is serious and could present a real danger of a division in the country... It is not unusual for countries at this level of development. They don't tend to have a tradition of good losers." The NYT story here. Pakistan's Dawn piece by AP, here

Want to know more about the Pentagon's new restaurant by celebrity chef Robert Irvine and opening in "early 2015?" Read the memo distributed this week by Washington Headquarters Services, the facilities manager for the Pentagon and provided to SitRep, that went to Defense Department employees, DIA and NSA: Turns out it's going to have three concepts: "Fresh Express, Fresh Kitchen and Fresh catering.  FRESH Express: This concept will open at 6 A.M. serving espressos, crafted coffee drinks, pre-prepared breakfast sandwiches, hot cereals, fruits, yogurts, and more. The Express offerings continue throughout the rest of the day with an array of to-go offerings, including soups, salads, sandwiches, and healthy snacks. FRESH Kitchen: This full-service dining room concept serves breakfast options in the morning and freshly made soups, salads, and sandwiches, along with Neapolitan-style pizzas and build-your-own burgers for lunch. Chef Irvine's Fit and signature recipes will round out the menu with an in-house bakery for breakfast and dessert items. To expedite service for busy Pentagon employees, take-out from the dining room is available in-person, via a Self Tablet selector. FRESH Catering: The catering program concept offers a creative selection of FRESH favorites packaged in large formal platters for meetings or group gatherings. They are available for delivery or pick up.

Listen to Kool and the Gang's "Fresh," here.

Restless energy and fanciful plans: Bowe Bergdahl's path to the Army, on Page One in the NYT, here.

The U.S. military is going to be way smaller than you think. CSIS' Clark Murdock and others have a new report out tomorrow, provided to Situation Report early, that explains how the "double whammy" of the topline drawdown and the decreasing purchasing power of defense dollars will create a smaller force in 2021 than anyone realizes. From the Exec Sum of the report by Murdock, Ryan Crotty and Angela Weaver: "...The question is whether [that force] will be effective as well. To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, DoD needs to adopt a dramatically different approach to force planning- one that is grounded in the acceptance of budgetary caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). By adopting the 'cost-capped' methodological approach described in this report, DoD can minimize the impact of deep budgetary cuts and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2021 and beyond (2020+).

"To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, the CSIS study team developed over the course of two years a methodological approach for how DoD could minimize the impact of a deep budgetary reduction and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2020+. The CSIS study team also built cost calculators for making trade-off decisions in 2021 with respect to force structure and weapons systems. In this report, the study team uses "cost-capped" methodology and the 2021 cost calculators to generate a set of 2021 alternative militaries, each of which reflects a different strategy, and recommends one. That said, possibly the most important aspect of this report is that it demonstrates the cost-capped methodology in action." The group's "cost-capped methodology" consists of five steps. Go here to read more.

As the Army downsizes, an Army officer is let go after he is ordered to move. Military.com's Brendan McGarry: "...Even officers who escaped the current round of dismissals criticized the move, saying it encourages talented leaders to leave the service. 'It really is disheartening to see the Army engaging in force shaping in the manner that it is,' one said. 'I've seen many of my fellow company-grade officers decide to get out because of the uncertainty over pay and future promotions. We're losing those who can get jobs, which means the Army is losing the talent it should be retaining.'" More here.

Washingtonian magazine did a great profile of CBS' Cami McCormick, injured in Afghanistan in 2009. " Alex Horton: "...McCormick, 52, has spent countless months reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. War zones have become her natural environment. Landing in Kabul with Panetta, she was less worried about mortar strikes or suicide attacks-though on Panetta's previous arrival in Afghanistan, an insurgent set himself on fire and drove a truck toward a line of officers waiting to greet the plane-than about the seas of gravel outside official buildings and the steep ramps of military aircraft. McCormick's difficulties with terrain the rest of us consider manageable is one more thing she shares with battlefield veterans from the past decade. Like many of them, she took a ride in a convoy in Afghanistan and woke up in the United States with a piece of her body missing." More of the Washingtonian piece here.

The Washingtonian piece begins with an anecdote about how McCormick returned to Afghanistan on a trip with SecDef Panetta in December 2012 - her first trip back there since her injury - and how she was mistreated at the Presidential Palace of Hamid Karzai. SitRep was on that trip, and we told her tale in Situation Report at the time. Afghan security officials asked her to remove her prosthetic leg so it could be put before bomb-sniffing dogs in yet another indignity. But McCormick remembers it with a grin: "That was the second time an Afghan took my leg." Our story of hers at the Presidential Palace, at the time in SitRep, here.

Sebastian Junger's new movie, the sequel to Restrepo, isn't about war necessarily, and it's not about Afghanistan or Afghans. It's about Americans. Doug Ollivant's review of Korengal for FP, and his BLUF:  "In this sequel to Restrepo, Junger turns his cameras inside to look less at the interaction between the American soldiers and the Afghans and more -- through this sampling of middle class America -- at ourselves. While transplanted to the remote wilderness of the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, these soldiers remain deeply, unalterably American. The stripping away of many layers of veneer -- through isolation, boredom, terror, and loss -- help us better understand them. And, by extension, us." Read the whole thing here.

 

 

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: More American troops to Iraq; Is Patrick Kennedy in trouble? A quadruple amputee does pull-ups; Saying good-bye to Todd Breasseale; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Less than two weeks after announcing it would send 300 troops into Iraq to conduct assessments and advise the Iraqi forces, the Pentagon sends more troops in. The Pentagon is sending an additional 300 troops into Iraq, on top of the "up to" 300 announced June 19 as the threat to Baghdad grows amid the scramble to stem the impact that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is having across northern Iraq and the Maliki government grows desperate. Pentagon officials said there was no "triggering event" that led to them announcing the additional forces late yesterday, but officials recognized they needed more forces to conduct security for the American forces already there, as well as additional capabilities - including a detachment of helicopters and drones. This may raise alarm bells for those for whom intervention seems like a very bad idea, while at the same time raise questions if the U.S. military shouldn't be doing more much more quickly.

The numbers can get confusing in a hurry, but suffice to say there are nearly 1,000 troops total now serving in Baghdad - including about 470 conducting security around the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as "airport road," the route between Baghdad International and downtown; another 90 troops are assigned to the new "Joint Operations Command" in Baghdad, and another 90 advisers working to conduct an assessment of Iraqi forces and their capabilities. In addition, there are roughly 100 troops who were serving in what's called the Office of Security Cooperation at the embassy. That's all for a total of about 750.

And in addition to those troops, there are a number of special operations forces that the Pentagon has not acknowledged publicly operating across the city of Baghdad and the rest of the country. And in addition to that, officials tell Situation Report that there are more civilians from other government agencies, including the FBI and others, headed into Iraq. All told, the contribution of troops and civilians to a new war that President Barack Obama had sought to end three years ago appears to be growing and quickly.

Iraqi lawmakers want to form a government to counter the new Caliphate formed by ISIL. Amid the reality that there are very real threats to Baghdad - even if many experts think it's unlikely to really fall to Sunni militants anytime soon - the Iraqi government is scrambling to show it can respond to the reality around it. But it's increasingly likely that it's too little too late for the Maliki government. Reuters this morning: "Iraq's new parliament convened on Tuesday under pressure to name a unity government to prevent the country splitting apart after an onslaught by Sunni militants who have declared a "caliphate" to rule over all the world's Muslims. The session in Baghdad's fortified "green zone" could end the eight-year rule of Shi'ite Islamist Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, with foes determined to unseat him and even some allies saying he could be replaced by a less polarising figure. Iraqi troops have been battling for three weeks against fighters led by the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Fighting has raged in recent days in former dictator Saddam Hussein's home city, Tikrit." Read more here.

Kaine, a Democrat, and McCain, a Republican, propose a change to the legal underpinning for the U.S. fight against Islamic groups. Defense News' John Bennett: "...For years, lawmakers in both parties and both chambers have advocated rescinding the September 2001 authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) or updating it, especially as al-Qaida has been weakened in Pakistan and Afghanistan but gained strength elsewhere. Experts and some pro-reform lawmakers contend the 2001 measure is outdated, and should at least be updated to reflect a changed fight against al-Qaida and similar forces in places beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Now, the possibility of US military action in Iraq and the threat posed by groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have members like Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., saying a new force-authorization measure is needed to provide an adequate legal basis." More here.

Mission creep? Obama's armed drones in Iraq strikes CFR's Micah Zenko, and FP commentator, as just that. Read that bit here.

Is State's Patrick Kennedy in trouble? FP's John Hudson: "Eye-opening new revelations about the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide and its cozy relationship with the State Department are raising new questions about a senior Foggy Bottom bureaucrat who has found himself in Capitol Hill's crosshairs before -- and seems certain to now do so again. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Patrick Kennedy, the State Department's current under secretary for management, led a review of the private security firm in 2007 after its guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square. Kennedy's review, however, failed to reference a scathing State Department memo on the contractor completed just weeks earlier that found the company had systematically overcharged the government.

"...As under secretary for management, Kennedy holds large sway in the promotion and appointments of officials throughout the State Department. The powerful bureaucrat is responsible for a range of department operations related to human resources, budgets, facilities, consular affairs and security. It's unclear if Kennedy's review in 2007 simply missed the internal memo of Blackwater misconduct or whether it was suppressed. Though the incident is now seven years old, anger remains on Capitol Hill about how the State Department, and in particular, Kennedy, manages relations with government contractors." Read the rest here.

Read about a poll that suggests that ISIL's role in the take over of Mosul is overrated, below.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. 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. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Pakistan begins an assault on militant strongholds, the NYT's Declan Walsh, here.

"Hamas will pay": The bodies of three teenagers are found. It's not clear just where things will go after the three Israeli teens were found after they were abducted some 18 days ago, but it looks grim this morning. CNN: "Vowing that 'Hamas will pay,' Israel stepped up airstrikes on Gaza following the deaths of three teenagers that Israeli authorities blame on the militant group. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the students had been 'murdered in cold blood' by people he described as 'animals.' Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that controls Gaza, denied it was behind the abductions. If Netanyahu 'brings a war on Gaza,' the group warned, 'the gates of hell will open to him.'... The Israeli government, which held an emergency security Cabinet meeting about the issue, already appears to be taking action. The West Bank homes of the two prime suspects Israel has identified in the kidnapping case were destroyed. And Israeli security forces stepped up airstrikes on Gaza.

"Overnight into Tuesday, more than 40 Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza, according to Palestinian security and medical sources. The strikes targeted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups, the sources said. The Israeli military later said that forces had carried out strikes against 34 targets in Gaza, targeting terror infrastructure, after the firing of 18 rockets at Israel since Sunday evening." More here.

Meantime, Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander and head of U.S. European Command briefed the press yesterday on Russia and Ukraine, the ceasefire, what all of this means for the military footprint in Europe and foreign fighters. Read the transcript, here.

This is amazing: A quadruple amputee Iraq vet, the first such wounded warrior to survive the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, now has two transplanted arms tries to heal. The WaPo's Michael Ruane on Page One: "...It has been 18 months since Marrocco, 27, of Staten Island, underwent a rare double arm transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had lost both legs and parts of both arms to a makeshift bomb in Iraq on Easter 2009. At the time of his injury, he was the first service member from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive the loss of four limbs. He then became the first service member to receive a double arm transplant and still is one of only seven people in the United States who have successfully undergone the procedure."

"...Over the past two months, in his first extensive interviews since the announcement of the surgery, he spoke about his recovery, his past and his future and showed how much his arms have progressed. 'I feel great,' he said as he sat in Walter Reed's occupational and physical therapy complex, the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC), in early May. 'Arms feel great,' he said. 'I can't complain about anything with the arms, really.'

"He can do pull-ups, push-ups and drive a car. He produces a robust Twitter feed and has a Facebook page where he describes himself as a 'wounded warrior - very wounded.'" Click here for the story and a video.

Yesterday at the Pentagon, folks bid adieu to Todd Breasseale. He's retiring after a long and storied career in the U.S. Army, finishing up as the Pentagon's public affairs officer for legal affairs, U.S. Southern Command, and the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Breasseale, is funny and animated but is quick to take seriously his role in doing honest public affairs work and telling the story of what the government is doing. At an hourlong-plus ceremony at the Pentagon briefing room yesterday punctuated with belly laughs and poignance, Breasseale was roasted and toasted, with a telling number of officials, former charges and press all in attendance. He was also there with his husband, Mark, to whom he gave a basket of beer as a retirement gift (not flowers!) in what would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

Todd, on working with the press: "I sought only to tell the public about its military and found that along the way, it was possible to establish cordial, respectful relationships with the press, whose protections we fight for. Press empowerment isn't just important, it is uniquely American and I'm damned glad to have been a part of it."

Col. Steve Warren, his boss, yesterday, at his retirement: "The Army will not be as good tomorrow as it is today."

Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon pressec, who, quoting a favorite line of his father's about how people learn: "There are those who read to learn, there are those who observe to learn, and there are those who pee on a lot of electric fences to learn..." Todd, who was responsible for the Pentagon's Gitmo account and had to talk about a number of sensitive and controversial issues, travelled to the highly secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay frequently. Kirby: "Todd peed on a lot of electric fences, but he never stopped learning."

Where's he going now? RUMINT suggests he's going to leverage his press contacts across town to become a "fixer" for former Pentagon head lawyer Jeh Johnson (under whose leadership Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed) who is now of course at the Department of Homeland Security.

Who's Where When today - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work delivers remarks at the Pentagon's Iftar Dinner Celebration of Ramadan... Today, Secretary Mabus will preside over the ceremony promoting Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to the rank of four-star admiral held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Howard is the first female four-star in the 238-year history of the United States Navy. She'll relieve Adm. Ferguson as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations... Mabus then flies to Boston, where he will re-enlist four sailors at Fenway Park during a Red Sox game... Air Force Secretary Debbie James is visiting bases in North Dakota.

Also today: We warmly welcome the addition of Kate Brannen (who started yesterday but we didn't forgot) to the growing team of Foreign Policy awesomeness. Kate comes from Politico, where she was answering the "3am call" and doing another newsletter by another name. She's pumped that she'll have normal hours (but she'll sit in for us occasionally albeit at sane hours) and we're just excited that she's here. Welcome to Kate.

Meantime, the man nom'ed to turn around the troubled VA weathered issues at P&G. The NYT's Richard Oppel: "When Robert A. McDonald took control of Procter & Gamble five years ago, the markets were already shifting beneath his feet. The economic downturn led people who favored the company's premium products, which include Tide and Gillette, to switch to cheaper brands. Other consumer products companies handled the crash better, and some of Procter & Gamble's top talent departed. Analysts said their warnings to trim a bloated cost structure went unheeded until two years ago, when the company announced a $10 billion restructuring plan. It was too little, too late. After the company lowered its earnings guidance several times, pressure from investors, analysts and some board members grew into a public drama that did not end until Mr. McDonald resigned as chief executive last year."

"...Mr. McDonald had critics at Procter & Gamble, but on Monday some analysts, including one who was a harsh judge of his tenure there, said that trying to turn around a government bureaucracy might be more suited to Mr. McDonald's skills. There is little dispute that as the nation's largest health care and workers' compensation and disability system, the V.A. presents a challenge vastly different from selling toothpaste and diapers." Read the rest here.

ICYMI: Frank Underwood to the UN? We saw this on our own site Friday and forgot to pick it up Monday. By FP's own Colum Lynch: "President Frank Underwood, the ruthless, scheming protagonist of the Netflix series House of Cards, murdered his way to the Oval Office. What will he have to do to get a seat at the U.N. Security Council?

"Netflix producers recently approached the United Nations to see if they can film two episodes of the program, starring Kevin Spacey as the president and Robin Wright as the first lady, in August, according to U.N. officials and diplomats. Shooting would take place in the North Delegates' Lounge and in the U.N. Security Council room itself. Like anything serious happening at the United Nations, that means getting the approval of all 15 members of the Security Council, in particular big powers like Britain, Russia, and China. And it's not at all clear that they'll all be willing to say yes without some Hollywood-style diplomacy.

"The request has been passed along to Britain, which will preside over the council's presidency in August. British diplomats have detailed the request to the rest of council's 15 member states. The issue might be the subject of debate by Security Council diplomats as early as Tuesday." More here.

When the vid of Marines singing along to Let it Go in 'Frozen' and it went viral, everyone thought it was sooo cute. Aaron O'Connell for the Daily Beast explains the darker meaning behind the whole thing and what it means for how the military treats sex and violence (warning, this could be a stretch): "... That most of the Marines' millions of online admirers confused lust with a love of sing-alongs is a comic misunderstanding. But the confusion points to more serious problems with how our society thinks about both sex and soldiering. It reveals just how unaware most Americans are of how their military prepares young people to do violence in defense of the nation." Read the rest here. Here's the original video, ("LOL!") here.

War on the Rocks' Ryan Evans interviewed CNAS' Richard Fontaine and asked him five questions. When it comes to foreign policy, Evans asked if the White House suffers a substance or a process problem - "...In other words, are the ideas and goals the problem or is it how these goals are being pursued by President Obama, his team, and our bureaucracies?

Richard Fontaine: "The administration faces a challenging international environment, to be sure. But the White House at times seems to believe that the United States can choose to step back from global events and that, while the costs of engagement are concrete and vivid, the costs of disengagement will not be... An active United States must do not only nation-building at home but also order-building abroad-and that requires a series of politically difficult choices..." Fontaine's answers to four other questions, including one on Vodka, here.

The silence of the American hawks when it comes to Kiev. In the Nation, by Stephen Cohen. The header: "The regime has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers, creating a humanitarian catastrophe-which is all but ignored by the US political-media establishment." Cohen: "For weeks, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America's reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to 'save our compatriots.'

"The reaction of the Obama administration-as well as the new cold war hawks and establishment media-has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the independent scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that are rising to the level of war crimes, if they have not already done so." More here.

ISIL's role in the takeover of Mosul has been overstated. [From SitRep's Nathaniel Sobel, who is traveling this week] Dr. Munqith Dagher, who heads a leading Baghdad-based public opinion polling and research firm, talked with Situation Report on Friday.  In polls conducted just days after reports spread that the city of Mosul fell to ISIL, fewer than twenty percent of the city's residents said that ISIL was actually in control.  The exact identities of the rebels were largely unknown, but most people said that ex-Ba'athists, tribal leaders and ex-Iraqi Army officials were responsible. And from conversations with former Ba'athist military leaders, Dagher assessed "ISIL is not more than twenty percent of the total power on the ground."

Eighty percent of Mosul residents feel their neighborhoods are safer now than they were under the army.  While more than three quarters of Iraqis hold a negative perception of ISIL, the level of dissatisfaction with the central government measured prior to the uprisings was higher than it was  during the civil war in 2006-2007. In recent polls, more than eighty percent of Iraqis indicated that the country was moving in the wrong direction.

The U.S. needs to "bring to the table the people who are controlling the situation on the ground" was Dagher's message in meetings with administration officials and on the Hill last week.  Pointing to Gen. Petraeus' success in engaging Sunnis against Al-Qaeda, Dagher said fighting extremists in Iraq "isn't reinventing the wheel."  He recommended the creation of a special envoy with the backing of the president to serve as an "honest broker" among the true power brokers in Iraq. For possible candidates who Iraqis would respect, he floated  Gen. Petraeus and former ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.