Who is Paul R. Pillar?

Robert Novak reports on a secret dinner meeting on the west coast with Paul Pillar of the CIA telling a group of private citizens just how dreadfully things are going in Iraq. Who is Paul Pillar and what is he up to?

Pillar is a graduate of Dartmouth (Deacon of Powerline’s roommate) who holds a B. Phil from Oxford and a Ph. D. from Princeton. He joined the CIA in 1977, and in 1983 authored Negotiating Peace, which was reviewed in Foreign Affairs as follows:

Most modern wars have ended not in the surrender of one side but through a bargaining process establishing the terms of armistice or peace. The process has been studied, but never so fully as in this book, which draws on many wars from 1812 on and takes most of its illustrations from the recent conflicts in Korea, Algeria and Vietnam.

See also Barbara Walter’s Committing to Peace (p. 13).

His view of terrorism was summed up in an article he wrote for Security Management online in May 2001, called “Is the Terrorist Threat Misunderstood?,” which argues that most terrorist acts are nickel and dime affairs: Terrorism, especially anti-American terrorism, is here to stay.

Pillar’s 2001/2003 Book

Pillar wrote Terrorism and US Foreign Policy in 2001, and gave it an updated preface in 2003. The description of the book remains unchanged, however:

Paul R. Pillar identifies the necessary elements of counterterrorist policy, he examines why the United States is a prime terrorist target, and he reveals why the counterterrorist policies that seem strongest are not always the most effective. Chapter 5 examines the widely varying nature of terrorist groups and the policy tools most appropriately applied to them. Chapter 6 focuses on states that sponsor terrorism (including Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba), along with those that enable it to occur (particularly Greece and Pakistan). Pillar examines ways in which the American public’s perspective toward terrorism can actually constrain counterterrorist policy, and he concludes that terrorism cannot be “defeated” only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled.

One of his Amazon reviewers had this to say:

Mr. Pillar explains the methods for answering the terrorist threat and -contrary to what many may think- he relegates military actions to the last place of the list. This book was written before September 11, 2001, but certainly it helps explain why the attacks took place and sets the path to prevent such acts in the future.

Pillar’s Views in Summer 2004

Pillar’s most recent views, outlined in his article “Counterterrorism after Al Qaeda,” in The Washington Quarterly, are illuminating. I will cite three examples.

(1) Pillar apparently believes that we must alter our policy on Israel to succeed with the Muslim world:

Muslims’ attitudes will be shaped more by deeds than by words, however, which means that U.S. policies toward Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular will be especially influential.

(2) Pillar thinks that Iraq is a failure from a counter-terrorism point of view, whether the reconstruction and democratization go well or not. Here’s the damned if you do, damned if you don’t bit:

Even if the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq go well, the fact that this campaign will not bring an end to anti-U.S. terrorist attacks elsewhere might lead many in the United States to question whether the sacrifices made in the name of fighting terrorists had been worthwhile. With so much attention having been paid to state sponsorship of terrorists, and to one (now eliminated) state sponsor in particular, further appeals to make still more sacrifices to defeat disparate and often nameless groups are apt to confuse many U.S. citizens.

More specifically, an unfavorable outcome in Iraq would mean that the Bush administration could face an increase in skepticism about the credibility of warnings concerning threats to U.S. security, including terrorist threats.

(3) I include this last bit because of its oddness, and the fact that it may be revealing of Pillar’s mindset. He argues that counter-terrorism efforts face a budget squeeze in the years ahead, because of the substantial increases in defense and intelligence spending in recent years. This is not a fellow with a positive fram of mind:

The resources devoted to counterterrorist operations may decline not because of a specific decision to reduce them but because any further reductions in spending for national security would reduce funds available for counterterrorism. Recent surges in both defense spending and budget deficits make some such reductions likely during the next several years. Departmental comptrollers seeking to spread the pain of those budget cuts will inflict pain on counterterrorist programs…

Conclusion: stay out of my foxhole

Paul Pillar has a career interest and preference for negotiations as the way to solve conflicts. From his earliest book, he focused on situations where the outcome was not victory. Time and again, he has said that military solutions are not solutions. With regard to Iraq, whether it goes well or poorly, it goes poorly — if terrorism is the question. Clearly Mr. Pillar is not on board with George Bush’s fundamental premises in the Global War on Terror, so it should be no surprise that he is having secret meetings around the country criticizing US policy. Why does this fellow have a job at the CIA?

24 Responses to “Who is Paul R. Pillar?”

  1. John Weidner Says:

    Thanks for giving us the scoop on this guy!

  2. Random Jottings Says:

    “on board”
    Jack Risko, the Dinocrat, has the dope on Paul Pillar. Worth reading: …Paul Pillar has a career interest and preference for negotiations as the way to solve conflicts. From his earliest book, he focused on situations where the outcome was…

  3. David Dacy Says:

    Having just heard about Pillar, it appears to me that hes a traitor. Why can’t the Bush administration fire his sorry butt, then prosecute him as a traitor?
    I get pretty tired of reading about people like him who waste lives, resources, and time with their egomaniacal actions, all the while living in a great country that gives them the ability to shoot off their mouths and compromise my freedom. Who the hell does he think he is?

  4. Rusty R Says:

    Unlike the rest of you, I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Pillar speak on the subject of terrorism, and based on your ignorant comments, I can guess that none of you have had any formal training or education on the topic. That’s unfortunate, as Dr. Pillar is a leading scholar on the subject, and when he talks, many (important) people listen. What many of you fail to realize is that terrorism have been around for a long time (the term dates back to the French Revolution, although as a concept, it have been around longer than that) and will continue to be around for a long time. It’s the way that the weak strike against the strong. I’m sure that everyone remembers the Soviets losing to the Afgan resistance, right? How about the attack on the olympics in 1972? The terrorist were killed, but it accomplished the mission of getting the PLO worldwide recognition. How about the Jews blowing up the King David Hotel, and killing British soldiers to win their independence?

    The fact of the matter is that he is right: “terrorism cannot be “defeated” only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled.” Most plots, like the one to bomb the LA airport in 2000 were only stopped because of luck. But they will try again, and again. We can stop them 99 times, but if they just get one, no one will remember the 99 stopped, just the one they got us with.

    In case you missed it, he is a combat vet of the Vietnam confict, so he has first hand experience with the military. He protected your rights here at home, and through his work at CIA has continued to fight for you. It’s sad when people like David (up above) have to criticize someone that has done more for freedom than most people will do in 10 lifetimes.

    Just for the record, I’m a conservative that voted for Bush both times.

  5. Silent Running » Blog Archive » Bogus Bush lied claims again Says:

    [...] easily find out what a person has previously written about you can find thier biases. The Dinocrat is all over Paul R. Pillar with this post. Even before I found the Din [...]

  6. mike bloxham Says:

    Thank you for quotations from Paul Pillar. His views seem to be cautiously and intelligently expressed, and he just couldl be right. I bellieve he has recently written a piece for Foreign Affairs, which could be worth looking at.

  7. Paul from Florida Says:

    Rusty R Says:

    Unlike the rest of you, I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Pillar speak on the subject of terrorism,..

    Well, that settles it.

    ”..and based on your ignorant comments,”

    Ad homonym, very impressive.

    ”.. I can guess that none of you have had any formal training or education on the topic. That’s unfortunate,”

    Gratuitous assertion. In my case false, but babble on dear, babble on.

    ” Dr. Pillar is a leading scholar on the subject, and when he talks, many (important) people listen. “

    I’ll let you in on a secret. He’s not the only one with a decoder ring.

    ”What many of you fail to realize is that terrorism have been around for a long time (the term dates back to the French Revolution, although as a concept, it have been around longer than that) and “

    Do tell!

    ”..will continue to be around for a long time.
    That too? Heavens to Betsy!

    ”It’s the way that the weak strike against the strong.
    Tell that to the Jews that got scooped up by the weak little Nazis, or dissidents in the loving, albeit wimpy arms, of the People’s Collective. Pol Pot, you’re forgiven.

    ”I’m sure that everyone remembers the Soviets losing to the Afgan (sic) resistance, right?
    Classical Resistance.

    ”How about the attack on the olympics in 1972? The terrorist were killed, but it accomplished the mission of getting the PLO worldwide recognition.
    How about the Jews blowing up the King David Hotel, and killing British soldiers to win their independence?

    What? Answer your own questions.

    ”The fact of the matter is that he is right: “terrorism cannot be “defeated” only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree, controlled.”

    Most plots, like the one to bomb the LA airport in 2000 were only stopped because of luck. But they will try again, and again. We can stop them 99 times, but if they just get one, no one will remember the 99 stopped, just the one they got us with.

    Don’t bet the trailer at Vegas. If it is luck, and you are stopping 99%, well, it isn’t luck.

    ”In case you missed it, he is a combat vet of the Vietnam confict, so he has first hand experience with the military.

    That military has been gone for at least 25 years.

    ”He protected your rights here at home, and through his work at CIA has continued to fight for you. It’s sad when people like David (up above) have to criticize someone that has done more for freedom than most people will do in 10 lifetimes.

    (Insert violins) I sure he’s glad for your shoulder to cry on, but I suspect he can handle some criticism.

    ”Just for the record, I’m a conservative that voted for Bush both times.”

    Do tell, well that make’s all the difference!

  8. Marie Jon' Says:

    What will Paul R. Pillar do when those WMD’S and the real truth comes out from
    2 official in Saddam Hussein’s who says the air force moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed. Gee, these democrats really are hard up. I despise their lies . All they do is try constantly to over ride the truth . I hope that we never see a Democrat as president of these United States. They are the corrupt.
    http://www.TheConsercativeWoman.org/
    Related Link
    http://www.nysun.com/article/26514

  9. Mark A. Kilmer » Aftertale: Friday, February 10, 2006 Says:

    [...] would become a quagmire but that they President discounted his expert analysis. Here is an informative piece on Pillar, including a blurb on his novel Terrorism and U.S. [...]

  10. Lynda Owens Says:

    Wonder if Mary Jon has ever listened to any of the shrub’s speeches? And she has the audacity to rail about the Democrat’s lies….another ‘ostrich’ for the repuklicans. Note: I am neither a Democrat or Republican. IMHO, both parties are rotten to the core.

  11. norwester Says:

    Hmmm, some people on this board with absolutely no expertise in terrorism or foreign policy or military strategy seem to feel free to accuse someone who has served their country under both Republican and Democratic administrations of being a traitor just because he criticizes Bush. Good God, people, get a grip. How many more respected, distinguished, top-level insiders (since John DeIulio, Paul O’Neil, Richard Clarke, and now this guy–to name just a few) is it going to take for you to believe that this emperor really has no clothes? Oh, that’s right, the guys who you let think for you say that the whole bunch of them are traitors. That’s so much easier to believe than to consider even momentarily that you voted for a complete buffoon.

  12. Westcoaster Says:

    “How many more respected, distinguished, top-level insiders (since John DeIulio, Paul O’Neil, Richard Clarke, and now this guy–to name just a few) is it going to take for you to believe that this emperor really has no clothes?”

    Um, these are the folks that got us into this mess to begin with. Their direction led us to being attacked on 9/11/2001.

  13. david barnes Says:

    You guys are all so disgraceful. No one can disagree with your annointed king lest he or she be Swift-Boated. Muleman can see it now: a Democrat wins the 2008 election. It’s Christmas Eve. Suddenly, the president-elect and vice president-elect and their families disappear – taken to some undisclosed secure site. King George declares that the country is in a state of war and proclaims himself president for life. Sound incredible? The spineless American populace won’t give a damn. You win.

  14. John Says:

    Marie Jon,

    It’s unfortunate that you’re still looking for weapons of mass destruction, we have CIA agents in Syria as well, no reports of weapons transfers from Iraq of any kind have been made to date. Why do you assume Saddam had good relations with Syria prior to the war anyway? The simple fact of the matter is that Bush was hell bent on invading Iraq, twisted the intelligence, manipulated the press and even manufactured fake documents from Nigeria to further his agenda. Scooter Libby has even testified that Dick Cheney authorized the attempts to discredit Wilson (by “outing” his wife CIA agent Valerie Plame) for exposing Bush’s self centered quest for war. It’s always been about the oil, wake up and smell the refinery.

  15. USMC forever Says:

    “In case you missed it, he is a combat vet of the Vietnam confict, so he has first hand experience with the military. He protected your rights here at home, and through his work at CIA has continued to fight for you. It’s sad when people like David (up above) have to criticize someone that has done more for freedom than most people will do in 10 lifetimes.”

    This is very funny. Why is it just because someone was in the military they are unassailable to liberals when they espouse their agenda? I don’t care one bit if Pillar was in Vietnam, that doesn’t have a thing to do with what his is doing now. Remember, Benedict Arnold was a decorated war hero, and a distinguished General as well. Now I am not in any way saying that Pillar is a Benedict Arnold, just that they were both in the military.

    Just because he is a persuasive speaker and you are all in thrilled with what he has to say, doesn’t mean that he is right. Remember that Hitler was also a very persuasive speaker, but that doesn’t mean that he was right. Once again, I am not saying that Pillar is a Hitler, just saying that just because a person is a good speaker, doesn’t make them correct.

  16. Yikes. Says:

    This is some depressing stuff to read. Aside from one or two voices of reason all of your arguments are just emotionally rabid expressions of the middle aged equivalent of teenaged angst. Get a grip, take a philosophy course at your local community college, learn how to spot a bad argument, and get a life.

    Oh, and I’d just like to take a moment to consider ‘Paul from Florida’s’ response to ‘Rusty’: “Ad homonym, very impressive…” and then, not 4 lines later “…babble on dear, babble on”

    Two things to consider:

    1. It’s spelled “ad hominem,” and while I tend to think that ad hominem attacks have become a depressing staple of all political discourse in this country, if you’re going to criticize someone for it, at least spell it right.

    2. Hypocracy is not the most moving of rhetorical tactics.

  17. Lardie MacFarland Says:

    Yeah, what does a guy who actually worked these issues for 30 years know compared to a bunch of ignoramuses like most of you? Maybe you should read the Foreign Affairs piece and actually learn something. Oh, wait…wait….lurnin’ ’bout fo-ree-ners is for them sissy libruls.

    Next stop Iran, then North Korea!

  18. Mike Reynolds Says:

    “Um, these are the folks that got us into this mess to begin with. Their direction led us to being attacked on 9/11/2001.”

    It was the FBI that dropped the ball, not the CIA. But I don’t suppose there is any point in trying to reason with die-hard Bush supporters, who are mostly brainwashed fundamentalist religious fanatics. (Not unlike the terrorists we’re breeding in Iraq.)

  19. Carter Says:

    I always feel a chill when I come across even a small flock of brownshirts honking away. I have to give you guys credit, though; you won’t let the facts get in the way of your prejudices. But for the writer who wondered why Adolf, er, Bush didn’t fire Paul Pillar – he had already retired, you moron. Are you too f****ing lazy to do even basic research before firing off a squawk?

  20. Arturo Says:

    David Dacy wrote “Having just heard about Pillar, it appears to me that hes a traitor. Why can’t the Bush administration fire his sorry butt, then prosecute him as a traitor?”

    I’m sorry David but that is a bad comment. I don’t even think you mean it. Even if Pillar had an interest on negotiated outcomes, he has made a career of it. He openly disagrees with you and the current government, and now he should be put in prision for traitor? That is exactly what a Dictator would do, and that is what I would like to think the army is fighting against.

    So where does the hate end? When do we stop making shallow/funny comments just because we can? Do you do it because your buddies do it?

    I just hope people like you were more reasonable because I know you are not going away. The same way Muslims are not going away either.

  21. yoonohoo Says:

    This all is a great distraction from the elephant in the US living room no-one talks about. It’s truly serving it’s purpose.

    First, the world stopped buying stuff made in the US, then the Americans stopped buying it ……. how is the US going to compete globally to the extent it can recover from the budget deficit Bush has run up? This will need to be paid back by the next generations in the US and if the US thinks it can fill it’s shops with stuff made in the US and compete with China and India to the extent US products are being bought by the Indians and Chinese, it’s not in line with most respected economists’ predictions.

    When the Chinese (IBM), Arabs (ports and lots of secret stuff), Japanese (land) and Indians (listen to the news over the next month) start buying bits of your “superpower” country’s industry, you know the writing’s on the wall. It makes sense for the Chinese to buy US companies so Chinese made products can carry an American name.

    No empire on this planet has lasted. It has always collapsed under it’s own weight. Pillar know’s his brief. Forget the war on terror. More Americans are going to die at the hands of their own armed forces putting down civil unrest in the US than by terrorist attacks.

  22. The Conjecturer » Politicizing After the Fact? Says:

    [...] In this, he’s not alone—my personal view, backed by a great number of scholars, is that terrorism only matters as much as we decide it does. In the grand scheme of things, any individual terrorist attack has essentially zero effect on society. While the game is changed slightly by suicide bombers in possession of fissile weapons, almost anything else is a relatively minor threat. All that ignores that terrorism is a tactic, and little more—it is simply a method for propagating or achieving an ideology, and that ideology is the real threat. Pillar has a rather vested interest in negotiated settlement and non-military solutions—he started his career on the subject—so he really can’t be considered an objective, disinterested pundit on the subject. [...]

  23. Claymore Says:

    Seems to me that if Dr. Pillar was the source of the leaks, he’s no friend of this nation. The sad fact of the matter is that to those on the left and within the ranks of the appeasement movement, leakers have become heroes…were we living in the WWII era, these would-be heroes would be called what they really are….traitors….and they’d be executed for their treason. Seems to me that if a few leakers and their accomplices were tried, convicted and shot, we’d probably have a few less NYT articles detailing our national secrets. Just a thought.

  24. Brian Mora Says:

    Lynda Owens Says:
    “Wonder if Mary Jon has ever listened to any of the shrub’s speeches? And she has the audacity to rail about the Democrat’s lies….another ‘ostrich’ for the repuklicans.”

    Sounds like Ms Owens has a case of irrational partisan hatred with no real evidence behind her flawed argument. A more constructive argument is necessary. Let’s see some evidence to support her claims. REAL evidence, of course…

    “Note: I am neither a Democrat or Republican. IMHO, both parties are rotten to the core.”

    OK. I will give her that. As someone who has voted predominantly Republican, and only because the Republican representatives were truly effective when they were in office, I have a problem with Diet Bush battling Diet Clinton. This political cola war is doing NOTHING to address the real problem: Terrorist-appeasing Communist traitors in the controlled media, like the Old Pork Crimes, the Hell-A Crimes, the San FrenchFreako Comicle, the Washington Compost, the Atlanta Urinal and Constipation, the St Louis Compost-Douchebag, Time, Nooseweak, US Snooze and Blurred Report, National Socialist Pubic Radio, the Asinine Broadcast Company, Communist Bolshevik Sayso, and any network containing the NBC that stands for Nuthin’ But Crap, I could go on…who leak classified and top secret programmes in violation of the law, Section 798 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code specifically, as the Old Pork Crimes did…who are the REAL threat to our national security, with complicit allies in the activist judiciary (eg Anna Diggs Taylor, who illegally ruled against the NSA wiretap programme and has now sabotaged the appellate effort by putting an arbitrary seven day time limit on appealing that illegal and flawed ruling) and every treasonous and seditious fringe minority neoliberal neosocialist neocommunist gang of mentally deficient misfits who try to impose their neocommunist and neofascist hegemony upon the vast majority conservatives, the 85 percent of Americans who are going to support the War on Terror and see it through to victory with the complete destruction of every terrorist gang in the world.

    If only the President would simply enact an executive order forbidding “judicial review” of ANY element of ANY programme he deems necessary to eliminate the terrorist threat for once and for all…and if only Congress would make it a federal crime to challenge such laws…and if only WE THE PEOPLE would raise our voices and demand that every ACLUnatics and People for the Un-American Way and National Socialist Lawyers Guild and International ANSWER and Old Pork Crimes and Clinton Noose Nutwork gang of misfits on the face of the earth BE BROKEN UP UNDER THE RICO ACTand TWIST THE LEGISLATORS’ SENSITIVE PARTS UNTIL THEY AGREED TO ACCEDE TO OUR DIRECT COMMANDS TO BREAK THE TERRORIST THREATS FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL…THEN we wouldn’t have to worry about the Old Pork Crimes and the Clinton Noose Nutwork sabotaging our War On Terror OR our national security, eh?

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