Chosen Country: A Rebellion in the West by James Pogue

A Rebellion in the West

The Best People You Could Possibly Imagine It was snowing the night I got to the refuge. It had snowed for almost the entire drive from Portland, and it was only with some difficulty and by the use of tire chains that I’d made it over Mount Hood and through the desert. The drive to Burns, where I checked into what the clerk told me was the last room at the local Days Inn, had taken eight hours, which is not so much longer than it takes to drive in any direction from the town to a city of any size—by measure of distance from an interstate it is the remotest corner of the lower forty-eight. The snow was six inches deep on the streets and falling fast, and there were hardly any cars on the road aside from deputies’ cruisers, bearing the markings of counties from all across Oregon. […]

A Nation Unmade by War by Tom Engelhardt

The U.S. Military Takes Us Through the Gates of Hell

As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into America’s war on terror from September 12, 2001, through fiscal year 2018. That figure: a cool $5.6 trillion (including the future costs of caring for our war vets). On average, that’s at least $23,386 per taxpayer. Keep in mind that such figures, however eye-popping, are only the dollar costs of our wars. They don’t, for instance, include the psychic costs to the Americans mangled in one way or another in those never-ending conflicts. They don’t include the costs to this country’s infrastructure, which has been crumbling while taxpayer dollars flow copiously and in a remarkably — in these years, almost uniquely — bipartisan fashion into what’s still laughably called “national security.” That’s not, of course, what would […]

The Race for What's Left

Will Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Tehran Face Off in a Future Cataclysm?

With Donald Trump’s decision to shred the Iran nuclear agreement, announced last Tuesday, it’s time for the rest of us to start thinking about what a Third Gulf War would mean. The answer, based on the last 16 years of American experience in the Greater Middle East, is that it won’t be pretty. The New York Times recently reported that U.S. Army Special Forces were secretly aiding the Saudi Arabian military against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. It was only the latest sign preceding President Trump’s Iran announcement that Washington was gearing up for the possibility of another interstate war in the Persian Gulf region. The first two Gulf wars — Operation Desert Storm (the 1990 campaign to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait) and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq — ended in American “victories” that unleashed virulent strains of terrorism like ISIS, uprooted millions, and unsettled the Greater […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

And a Planet in Ruins

They are the extremists. If you need proof, look no further than the Afghan capital, Kabul, where the latest wave of suicide bombings has proven devastating. Recently, for instance, a fanatic set off his explosives among a group of citizens lining up outside a government office to register to vote in upcoming elections. At least 57 people died, including 22 women and eight children. ISIS’s branch in Afghanistan proudly took responsibility for that callous act — but one not perhaps quite as callous as the ISIS suicide bomber who, in August 2016, took out a Kurdish wedding in Turkey, missing the bride and groom but killing at least 54 people and wounding another 66. Twenty-two of the dead or injured were children and the bomber may even have been a child himself. Such acts are extreme, which by definition makes the people who commit them extremists.  The same is true […]

Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change

Dare to Want More I sit in the living room, a cozy space, warm in the early summer. I am perched on the edge of the sofa next to Valerie, the home’s owner, a lovely black woman in her late forties. Across from us, seated close together on a wide settee meant for one, are her two children, a son and a daughter. Politicians rarely visit their streets, which are nestled in a poorer community in south Georgia. Valerie beams with pride that both her children are headed to college in the fall. David, seventeen, plans to study criminology. Maya, eighteen, her belly round with her first child, intends to become a middle school teacher. Both newly graduated from high school, Maya will give birth in mere weeks and begin college months later, an unwed teen mother. Her intended school is more than three hours north of her home, so […]

Class Matters

Class Conflict in Red State America

Teachers in red-state America are hard at work teaching us all a lesson. The American mythos has always rested on a belief that this country was born out of a kind of immaculate conception, that the New World came into being and has forever after been preserved as a land without the class hierarchies and conflicts that so disfigured Europe. The strikes, rallies, and walkouts of public school teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, soon perhaps Arizona, and elsewhere are a stunning reminder that class has always mattered far more in our public and private lives than our origin story would allow. Insurgent teachers are instructing us all about a tale of denial for which we’ve paid a heavy price. Professionals or Proletarians? Are teachers professionals, proletarians, or both? One symptom of our pathological denial of class realities is that we are accustomed to thinking of teachers as “middle class.” […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Or Five Lessons in the History of American Defeat

The lessons of history? Who needs them? Certainly not Washington’s present cast of characters, a crew in flight from history, the past, or knowledge of more or less any sort. Still, just for the hell of it, let’s take a few moments to think about what some of the lessons of the last years of the previous century and the first years of this one might be for the world’s most exceptional and indispensable nation, the planet’s sole superpower, the globe’s only sheriff. Those were, of course, commonplace descriptions from the pre-Trump era and yet, in the age of MAGA, already as moldy and cold as the dust in some pharaonic tomb. Let’s start this way: you could think of the post-Cold War era, the years after the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the moment of America’s first opioid crisis. The country’s politicians and would-be politicians were, then, […]

America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

The American Military System Dissected

The purpose of all wars, is peace. So observed St. Augustine early in the first millennium A.D. Far be it from me to disagree with the esteemed Bishop of Hippo, but his crisply formulated aphorism just might require a bit of updating. I’m not a saint or even a bishop, merely an interested observer of this nation’s ongoing military misadventures early in the third millennium A.D. From my vantage point, I might suggest the following amendment to Augustine’s dictum: Any war failing to yield peace is purposeless and, if purposeless, both wrong and stupid. War is evil. Large-scale, state-sanctioned violence is justified only when all other means of achieving genuinely essential objectives have been exhausted or are otherwise unavailable. A nation should go to war only when it has to — and even then, ending the conflict as expeditiously as possible should be an imperative. Some might take issue with […]

Or How China and the U.S. Are Spawning a New Great Power Naval Rivalry

Amid the intense coverage of Russian cyber-maneuvering and North Korean missile threats, another kind of great-power rivalry has been playing out quietly in the Indian and Pacific oceans. The U.S. and Chinese navies have been repositioning warships and establishing naval bases as if they were so many pawns on a geopolitical chessboard. To some it might seem curious, even quaint, that gunboats and naval bastions, once emblematic of the Victorian age, remain even remotely relevant in our own era of cyber-threats and space warfare. Yet if you examine, even briefly, the central role that naval power has played and still plays in the fate of empires, the deadly serious nature of this new naval competition makes more sense. Indeed, if war were to break out among the major powers today, don’t discount the possibility that it might come from a naval clash over Chinese bases in the South China Sea […]

The Race for What's Left

The Pentagon Plans for a Perpetual Three-Front “Long War” Against China and Russia

Think of it as the most momentous military planning on Earth right now. Who’s even paying attention, given the eternal changing of the guard at the White House, as well as the latest in tweets, sexual revelations, and investigations of every sort? And yet it increasingly looks as if, thanks to current Pentagon planning, a twenty-first-century version of the Cold War (with dangerous new twists) has begun and hardly anyone has even noticed. In 2006, when the Department of Defense spelled out its future security role, it saw only one overriding mission: its “Long War” against international terrorism. “With its allies and partners, the United States must be prepared to wage this war in many locations simultaneously and for some years to come,” the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review explained that year.  Twelve years later, the Pentagon has officially announced that that long war is drawing to a close — even […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

You’re Watching Him!

A record? Come on! Don’t minimize what’s happening. It’s far too unique, too unprecedented even to be classified as “historic.” Call it mega-historic, if you wish. Never from Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to Soviet despot Joseph Stalin, from the Sun King Louis the XIV to President Ronald Reagan, from George Washington to Barack Obama, has anyone — star, icon, personality, president, autocrat, emperor — been covered in anything like this fashion. In our American world, the only comparison might be to a few days of media coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan or, in more recent times, a terror attack like the one in San Bernardino. Keep in mind, though, that such coverage has been going on for more than two and a half years now.  So here’s another possible point of comparison, though it only lasted a couple of hours almost […]

America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

Six Questions for A.G. Sulzberger

March 20, 2018 Dear Mr. Sulzberger: Congratulations on assuming the reins of this nation’s — and arguably, the world’s — most influential publication. It’s the family business, of course, so your appointment to succeed your father doesn’t exactly qualify as a surprise.  Even so, the responsibility for guiding the fortunes of a great institution must weigh heavily on you, especially when the media landscape is changing so rapidly and radically. Undoubtedly, you’re already getting plenty of advice on how to run the paper, probably more than you want or need.  Still, with your indulgence, I’d like to offer an outsider’s perspective on “the news that’s fit to print.”  The famous motto of the Times insists that the paper is committed to publishing “all” such news — an admirable aspiration even if an impossibility.  In practice, what readers like me get on a daily basis is “all the news that Times […]

Crusade by James Carroll

The War on Terror as the Launching of an American Crusade


The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy by Daniel Kalder

On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy

An excerpt from The Infernal Library by Daniel Kalder. This is a book about dictator literature—that is to say, it is a book about the canon of works written by or attributed to dictators. As such, it is a book about some of the worst books ever written, and so was excruciatingly painful to research. This is why I did it. Since the days of the Roman Empire, dictators1 have written books, but in the twentieth century there was a Krakatoa-like eruption of despotic verbiage, which continues flowing to this day. Many dictators write theoretical works, others produce spiritual manifestos, while still others write poetry, memoirs or even the occasional romance novel. Indeed, the best-selling book of all time attributed to a man rather than a deity is the work of a dictator: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. However most of these books are entirely unread today, or are treated […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

A Planet Boiling With Unintended Consequences

You want to see “blowback” in action? That’s easy enough. All you need is a vague sense of how Google Search works. Then type into it phrases like “warmest years,” “rising sea levels,” “melting ice,” “lengthening wildfire season,” or “future climate refugees,” and you’ll find yourself immersed in the grimmest of blowback universes.  It’s a world which should give that CIA term of tradecraft a meaning even the Agency never imagined for it.  But before I put you on this blowback planet of ours and introduce you to the blowback president presiding over it, I want to take a moment to remember Mr. Blowback himself. And what a guy he was!  Here’s how he described himself in the last piece he wrote for TomDispatch just months before his death in November 2010: “My own role these past 20 years has been that of Cassandra, whom the gods gave the gift […]