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 […]

Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers, and Themselves by Matthew Sweet

The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers, and Themselves

A JAPANESE FISHING boat, moving north to Soviet waters. Six Americans in the forward hold below the captain’s cabin. Trying to stay warm. Trying to keep their nerve. Trying not to vomit too loudly. One is too drunk to feel seasick. He’s up on his feet, swigging from a bottle of sake, peering into the moonless night, swearing he can see dolphins in the water and helicopters in the sky. The others don’t bother to look. But when the beam of a searchlight streams through the crack in the door, all six scramble to the porthole, jostling to catch sight of the ship that has come down from the ice floes to meet them. “It’s them, man,” says one. “The Russians are coming. We gonna be free now, baby.” Most of us would find it hard to pinpoint the single act that determined the course of our lives. Mark Shapiro […]

The Race for What's Left

How Donald Trump Plans to Enlist Fossil Fuels in the Struggle for Global Dominance

The new U.S. energy policy of the Trump era is, in some ways, the oldest energy policy on Earth. Every great power has sought to mobilize the energy resources at its command, whether those be slaves, wind-power, coal, or oil, to further its hegemonic ambitions. What makes the Trumpian variant — the unfettered exploitation of America’s fossil-fuel reserves — unique lies only in the moment it’s being applied and the likely devastation that will result, thanks not only to the 1950s-style polluting of America’s air, waters, and urban environment, but to the devastating hand it will lend to a globally warming world. Last month, if you listened to the chatter among elite power brokers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, you would have heard a lot of bragging about the immense progress being made in renewable energy.  “My government has planned a major campaign,” said Indian Prime Minister […]

Kill Anything That Moves

Pentagon Watchdog Calls Out Two Commands for Financial Malfeasance

2017 was a year of investigations for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).  There was the investigation of the two-star commander of U.S. Army Africa who allegedly sent racy texts to an enlisted man’s wife.  There was the investigation into the alleged killing of a Special Forces soldier by Navy SEALs in Mali. There was the inquiry into reports of torture and killings on a remote base in Cameroon that was also used by American forces.  There was the investigation of an alleged massacre of civilians by American special operators in Somalia.  And don’t forget the inquiry into the killing of four Special Forces soldiers by Islamic State militants in Niger. And then there was the investigation that hardly anyone heard about, that didn’t spark a single headline.  And still, the question remains: Whatever became of that $500 million? To be fair, this particular scandal isn’t AFRICOM’s alone, nor did that sizeable […]

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

(And How We Might Have Avoided Him)

The present arrives out of a past that we are too quick to forget, misremember, or enshroud in myth.  Yet like it or not, the present is the product of past choices.  Different decisions back then might have yielded very different outcomes in the here-and-now.  Donald Trump ascended to the presidency as a consequence of myriad choices that Americans made (or had made for them) over the course of decades. Although few of those were made with Trump in mind, he is the result. Where exactly did Trump come from?  How are we to account for his noxious presence as commander-in-chief and putative Leader of the Free World?  The explanations currently on offer are legion.  Some blame the nefarious Steve Bannon, others Hillary Clinton and her lackluster campaign.  Or perhaps the fault lies with the Bernie Sanders insurgency, which robbed Clinton of the momentum she needed to win, or with […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

At the Circus with Donald Trump

Recently, a memory of my son as a small boy came back to me. He was, in those days, terrified of clowns. Something about their strange, mask-like, painted faces unnerved him utterly, chilled him to the bone. To the rest of us, they were comic, but to him — or so I came to imagine anyway — they were emanations from hell.  Those circus memories of long ago seem relevant to me today because, in November 2016, the American electorate, or a near majority of them anyway, chose to send in the clowns.  They voted willingly, knowingly, for the man with that strange orange thing on his head, the result — we now know, thanks to his daughter — of voluntary “scalp reduction surgery.”  They voted for the man with the eerily red face, an unearthly shade seldom seen since the perfection of Technicolor.  They voted for the overweight man […]

War Is Not Over When It's Over by Ann Jones

Should We Build a Wall to Keep Them Out?

In the past couple of weeks, thanks to the president’s racist comments about Haiti and African countries he can’t even name — remember “Nambia”? — as well as the stamp of approval he awarded future immigrants from Norway, we’ve seen a surprising amount of commentary about that fortunate country. Let me just say: those Norwegians he’s so eager to invite over are my ancestral people and, thanks to years I’ve spent in that country, my friends.  Donald Trump should understand one thing: if he and his Republican backers really knew the truth about life in Norway, they would be clamoring to build a second “big, fat, beautiful” wall, this time right along our Eastern seaboard. One thing is incontestable: a mass of Norwegian immigrants (however improbable the thought) would pose a genuine threat to Donald Trump’s America.  They would bring to our shores their progressive values, advanced ideas, and illustrious […]

The Wall and the Gate by Michael Sfard

Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights

The legal struggle for human rights, like any legal dispute, takes place mostly (though not only) in the courtroom. The swords wielded in this battle are the legal norms—that is, the rules—of any given legal system; these determine what is permitted, what is prohibited, and what powers, rights, and obligations are allowed to people, corporations, and public authorities. Without these two conditions—a law and a court—there is no legal battle. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are not part of the State of Israel. Other territories occupied in 1967, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, were put under Israeli law and administration by the legislature (an act that is not recognized by the international community as it defies international law that prohibits the annexation of a territory seized by force).1 Therefore, from Israel’s perspective, its courts have jurisdiction to hear any dispute that arises in the Golan Heights and East […]