Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Take me back to . . . . when I could talk about the Soviets"

Edward Luttwack has an interesting piece in Foreign Policy this month . . . interesting given his Cold War-era publication record. A quick summary so that you don't have to read his collected works yourself: "We're not spending enough money to arm against the Soviets - close all the schools; close all the hospitals; conscript all the males over age 15 and melt down the statue of liberty - we could use the extra copper for munitions."

Luttwack's new article (ironically) argues that the U.S. should adopt a more restrained form of empire - one fashioned on the Byzantine model. He chooses Byzantium over Rome, characterizing the latter as a system based on "ruthless expansion, domination and total war," which he insists bears no resemblance to the U.S. All this without batting a rhetorical eyelash. Does he lack the imagination to picture what "expansion, domination and total war" would resemble in the post-Enlightenment period? Are Alexander's adventures in India really so different from those of Kermit Roosevelt in Iran? Maybe Bush didn't play the fiddle during Hurricane Katrina but the comparisons I've read of Rome and the US have been relatively convincing . . .

Luttwack's 1982 article "Why we need more waste, fraud and mismanagement in the Pentagon" basically bemoaned the 'micro-managers' in the defense community who were arguing that current levels of defense spending might become unsustainable and eventually pose a security risk (which of course is exactly what brought down the Soviets). One might argue (very convincingly) that the over-production of defense materiel by the superpowers contributed to many of the security challenges in the world today. These include the obvious - the black market weapons trade, nuclear proliferation, civil conflicts in the developing world, etc.

But I would argue this over-production also created private industry defense giants, whose mad scramble for self-preservation in the post-Cold War environment of budgetary restraint drove them to offload deadly weapons on oppressive regimes like a drug dealer handing out crack samples. These unscrupulous practices have created a globe of militarized states with regimes so paranoid they threaten to drag their neighbors into major conflict on a fairly regular basis. Had Luttwack gotten his way in 1982 Lichtenstein would probably have invaded Belgium and perusing Orwell's classics would be like curling up with a Jane Austen novel.

Long story short - Luttwack now seems to be arguing for restraint (the sort of traditional realist kind: carry a big stick - preferably one with a nuclear warhead attached to it).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top Ten Ways to Convince Muslims the US is on a Crusade

An unbelievable piece from Chris Rodda at the Huffington Post. Below is just #9 - read the whole post here:

9. Have top U.S. military officers appear in a video showing just how Christian the Pentagon is

In addition to inadvertently providing propaganda material to our enemies, public endorsements of Christianity by U.S. military leaders can also cause concern among our Muslim allies.

When Air Force Maj. Gen. Pete Sutton decided in 2004 to appear in uniform at the Pentagon in the Campus Crusade for Christ Christian Embassy promotional video, a video full of government officials and high ranking military officers saying things like "we're the aroma of Jesus Christ," he probably didn't give any thought to the potential ramifications of publicly endorsing this fundamentalist religious organization. But, not long after appearing in this video, Sutton was assigned to the U.S. European Command, Ankara, Turkey, as Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation. Here's what happened, according to the Department of Defense Inspector General's report on the Christian Embassy video investigation.

"Maj Gen Sutton testified that while in Turkey in his current duty position, his Turkish driver approached him with an article in the Turkish newspaper 'Sabah.' That article featured a photograph of Maj Gen Sutton in uniform and described him as a member of a radical fundamentalist sect. The article in the online edition of Sabah also included still photographs taken from the Christian Embassy video. Maj Gen Sutton's duties in Ankara included establishing good relations with his counterparts on the Turkish General Staff. Maj Gen Sutton testified that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, with religious matters being kept strictly separate from matters of state. He said that when the article was published in Sabah, it caused his Turkish counterparts concern and a number of Turkish general officers asked him to explain his participation in the video."

In addition to the Christian Embassy video, MRFF has uncovered a slew of other videos of uniformed military personnel endorsing fundamentalist Christian organizations and military ministries, many of which have missions that include proselytizing Muslims. These videos are easily found on the internet, providing plenty of potential propaganda material for recruiting by extremists.

Read more at:

Saudi Businessmen and Global Warming . . .

The FT has been really great at covering this long-running Saudi billionaire's feud. Today's article points out just how ridiculous these families really are. In addition to being generally despicable they're also clearly a major source of global warming - is someone saving them a seat at the UN Climate Change Summit?

Here's an excerpt.

"The High Court eased the order to allow the embattled billionaire $4m spending money a year after a colourful hearing in which Mr Sanea rejected fraud allegations and outlined living expenses including a private zoo and utility bills of $800,000 a month."

"He spends $800,000 on electricity, gas, telephone, water and satellite bills every month," Mr Beazley told the judge."

How about not ordering so much pay-per-view porn? There's a start . . .
Here's the whole article.