Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Friday, September 24, 2021, 2:45 PM

The Department of Defense has removed its top appointee overseeing nuclear and missile defense policy, a move the Pentagon characterized as a reorganization decision, reports the Washington Post. Some advocates believe Leonar Tomero was ousted from the Nuclear Posture Review because her views challenge current nuclear policy. Jeffrey Lewis, a professor and nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, contended that “Firing her sends a clear message to everyone in the Pentagon that there is no tolerance for new ideas when it comes to our nuclear weapons policies.” President Biden has been a longtime proponent of reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, previously indicating that he favored a “No First Use” policy, and his administration faces critical choices on its nuclear weapons policy and strategy.

Biden is hosting a meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as “the Quad,” with leaders of Japan, Australia and India today to discuss ways to counter China’s growing influence in Asia, reports CNN. All four Quad countries have their own specific gripes with the Chinese government. Deterring further aggression by the Chinese government toward Taiwan and the fallout of AUKUS are expected to be discussed. 

The House on Thursday passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday, setting the stage for $777.9 billion to be appropriated, reports the Wall Street Journal. The bill boosts defense spending by 5 percent over last year’s budget, while also tackling contentious changes to the military justice system intended to mitigate sexual assaults and requiring women to register for the draft. Republicans were able to add an additional $23.9 billion to Biden’s defense budget proposal, which progressive Democrats objected to. The NDAA also included multiple provisions made in response to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, such as the creation of a commission to investigate the war in Afghanistan. The Senate has yet to vote on its bill. Once it does, the two chambers will need to settle any differences between the two versions and approve a finalized package before sending it to the president.

Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned dissident of the Russian government, criticized major tech giants for removing his app designed to defeat members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party before this month’s election, says Reuters. Navalny accused Apple and Google of complying “with the Kremlin’s demands” by removing the tactical voting app, which was created to help people vote against Russia’s ruling party at the start of the parliamentary election. Last weekend’s elections secured Putin’s United Russia party’s majority in the State Duma.

Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa threatened to “usurp” Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut port blast, according to CNN. Bitar’s probe is investigating several politicians who may have been able to prevent the explosion, which devastated Lebanon’s capitol last year. Members of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc have accused Bitar of being “politicized,” and they have petitioned for the case to be transferred over to a “judicial council” that activists and legal experts say would be influenced by the accused. 

A new Pew Research Center poll finds that Biden’s approval ratings have sharply declined in the past two months, with fewer than half of U.S. adults approving of his job performance. Additionally, a slight majority of U.S. adults are not confident in Biden’s ability to make good decisions about foreign, economic or immigration policy. 


ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jeff Horowitz on a series of stories by the Wall Street Journal about Facebook’s failures to mitigate harms on its platform.

Raghav Ahooja and Torsha Sarkar covered internet regulations enacted by the Indian government that could have severe consequences.