FM newswire for May 25, interesting articles about geopolitics

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis. If you find this useful, please pass it to a friend or colleague.

  1. U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast“, New York Times, 24 May 2010 — More blurring the border between spies and soldiers.
  2. America’s Muslims: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?“, CBS News, 24 May 2010
  3. Here’s the story CBS mentions about the Sengaleses Muslim vendor who spotted the Times Square bomb van.
  4. Slowly I realize that he might be right:  “Can We Please Shut the Washington Post Down Today? I Really Can’t See It Doing Anybody Any Good… Why oh why can’t we have a better press corps?, Brad Delong (Prof Economics, Berkeley), 24 May 2010 — Answer:  because we’re their audience, and we’re fools.
  5. Inspector General’s Inquiry Faults Regulators“, New York Times, 24 May 2010 — “Federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency”
  6. Lack of prosecution poses challenge for foreign navies that catch Somali pirates“, Washington Post, 24 May 2010

Today’s good news:  The system does work in some organizations, sometime

13 booted for cheating on TBS test“, Marine Corps Times, 31 May 2010 — Excerpt:

Thirteen second lieutenants, including two former football players from the Naval Academy, have been kicked out of the Corps after officials uncovered cheating at The Basic School here.  The officers, eight men and five women assigned to the school’s Echo and Charlie companies, were administratively discharged May 20 for allegedly using cheat sheets on their final land navigation exercise last fall, Marine officials said. Two of the officers were prior-enlisted Marines. 

“The commandant has made it clear that we can tolerate many things, but not integrity violations,” said Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin, a Marine spokesman based at the Pentagon. “Personal integrity is the heart of Marine Corps leadership.”

Quote of the Day

From “The absence of debate over war“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 24 May 2010:

But the most significant factor in understanding this lack of debate is the fact that “war” is not some aberrational, temporary state of affairs for the country.  It’s the opposite.  Thanks to Fred Hiatt and his friends, war is basically the permanent American condition:  war is who we are and what we do as a nation.  We’re essentially a war fighting state.  We have been at “war” the entire last decade (as well as largley non-stop for the decades which preceded it), and continue now to be at “war” with no end in sight. 

That’s clearly true of our specific wars (in Afghanistan).  And, worse, the way in which The War, more broadly, has been defined (i.e., against Islamic extremism/those who wish to harm Americans) makes it highly likely that it will never end in our lifetime.  The decree that we are “at war” has been repeated over and over for a full decade, drumbed into our heads from all directions without pause, sanctified as one of those Bipartisan Orthodoxies that nobody can dispute upon pain of having one’s Seriousness credentials immediately and irrevocably revoked.  With war this normalized, is it really surprising that nobody debates it any longer?  It’d be like debating the color of the sky.

That’s why I always find the War Excuse for anything the Government does so baffling and nonsensical.  Any objections one voices to what the Executive Branch does — indefinite detentions, presidential assassinations of citizens, extreme secrecy, etc. — will be met with the justification that such actions are permissible “during wartime,” as though “wartime” is some special, temporary, fleeting state of affairs which necessitates vesting powers in the government which, during “normal” times, would be impermissible.  But the contrast between “war and “normal times” is totally illusory.  For the United States, war is normalcy.  The “war” we’re fighting has been defined and designed to be virtually endless.  Political leaders from both parties have been explicit about that.  Here’s how Obama put it last May in his “civil liberties” speech:

“Now this generation faces a great test in the specter of terrorism. And unlike the Civil War or World War II, we can’t count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end. Right now, in distant training camps and in crowded cities, there are people plotting to take American lives. That will be the case a year from now, five years from now, and — in all probability — 10 years from now. “

All the way back in September, 2001, with the World Trade Center still smoldering, George Bush said basically the same thing:  “Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. . . . Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.”  Thus:  to justify new and unaccountable powers based on the fact that we are “at war” is, in essence, to change the American political system permanently, because the “war,” and the accompanying powers that it justifies, are not going anywhere for many, many years to come.

 With both political parties affirming over and over that we are going to be at “war” for years, indeed decades, it’s unsurprising that so few people are interested in debating “war.”  That’s true even for the limited question of Afghanistan, where most Republicans won’t question a war their President began and most Democrats won’t question a war their President has vigorously embraced as his own.  From the perspective of the permanent factions that rule Washington — from Wall Street and AIPAC to the intelligence and military “communities” — therein lies the beauty of the two-party system:  as long as both party establishments support a particular policy, any meaningful debate over it comes to a grinding halt.

Afterword

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