Democracy Arsenal

February 05, 2007

Defense, Intelligence, Iraq, Middle East, Potpourri, Terrorism

Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Edward Luttwak of CSIS has a piece in this month's Harper's called "Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice." Luttwak begins with a critical analysis of the Army's new counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24 DRAFT, written by David Petraeus, among others, then moves on apply this to Iraq. He concludes that the new counterinsrgency manual's "prescriptions are in the end of little or no use and amount to a kind of malpractice. All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principles and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents...."

Read it (it's not available online-- you'll have to buy the magazine! Sorry).

February 02, 2007


Global Warming, coming soon to a theater near you.
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Speaking of grim reports that the Administration probably won't listen to, I urge everyone to curl up for a few minutes with the report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Remember all those horrifying sci-fi movies about the end of the world as we know it? Or maybe you once read The Drowned World, a 1962 novel by J.G. Ballard? If you can get through the scientific bureaucratese, this report will send similar chills down your spine (and you might as well cherish those chills, because chills are going to be few and far between in the warmer global future coming inexorably our way). But the Bush Administration is still resisting mandatory emissions caps, and proposing instead that we combat global warming by putting giant mirrors into outer space.

In addition to the environmental and economic imoact of global warming, we should all be getting nervous about the national security implications of climate change. For one take on that, this 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report is worth a look.

February 01, 2007


Satellites and Space Junk
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Finally! Someone (in Switzerland!) created a blog  for civil military issues. Its got some  good article links, too. Switzerland is also the home of D-CAF   (I know what you’re thinking, but it is not something to drink with marzipan) it is the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

Okay, I digressed.  Really what I wanted to talk about was last week’s shoot down of an old weather satellite by China.  It’s a big problem—but not so much for the alarming “they’re comin; for us!” reasons that were in the news. No, its actually not that exciting: It is one of those pernicious global public sector problems that will get us in the end if we don't figure out a way to regulate it cooperatively. Remember that homeless garbage barge from Long Island? The one that floated around for months and thousands of miles in 1987…trying to get rid of its refuse that nobody wanted?  The satellite explosion is a bit like that.

According to this article , the satellite was a nasty oozing old thing. And now that is has been blown up, our planet has a toxic-space necklace of orbiting garbage made up of a barge worth of lethal shards. This nasty junk will now circle Earth—each piece a zillion times heavier in space than it would be in your Hazmat glove--and could possible wreak all sorts of havoc. Suppose it hit a super expensive new satellite, one that provides early warning, research data or even couch potato fare?  China’s space ambitions are nothing compared to a bunch of angry Direct TV addicts who don’t get to watch CSI.

When the Little Prince visits a planet inhabited by a geographer, he asks him “What place would you advise me to visit now?”  The geographer says “The planet Earth.  It has a good reputation”  Well, not anymore, apparently. 

January 31, 2007


RIP, Molly Ivins and Bob Drinan
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Two people I knew and admired died this week: Father Bob Drinan, the first Roman Catholic priest to be elected to Congress and a dedicated human rights activist, and Molly Ivins, syndicated columnist and dedicated Texan progressive. Both were outspoken, brave, and funny, their toughness exceeded only by their kindness and their deep commitment to justice. We need more people like them.

January 30, 2007


Global to Local: "It Ain't You, Babe"
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Sometimes my progressive intellectual friends wonder why "the heartland" doesn't get it about the wonders of globalization.  Sometimes you even hear them doubt the intellects of folks who live out here, or down there, or wherever it is. 

Well, this January has been one hell of a month for globalization here in linked-in, tuned-in, high-tech and higher-ed Southeastern Michigan.  My neighbors, the ones without college degrees and the ones with PhDs, understand perfectly well that events far away have direct and unpredictable impact on our quiet lives here.  And aside from some of the great immigrants now playing baseball in Detroit, it's not really doing much for us.  Globalization giveth, and this month it's been taking away with a vengeance.

The quick summary:  "globalization" has pushed the ill-managed Big Three to the wall, along with many smaller firms that supply them with parts and services.  Now it's taking PhD. research and white-collar banking jobs, too.  And somehow, the remedies from Washington involve taxing our health insurance.

Jamal Simmons of DC and Detroit calls Michigan a "canary in the coalmine" for the country, and I think he is right.  It's no good being complacent about how all Michigan's woes were brought on by SUVs and auto company mismanagement, etc.  If we can't figure out how to even out some of globalization's ups and downs, and offer citizens a hopeful outlook on the job market here, where Henry Ford's assembly line practically invented the industrial middle class, we may need to kiss the post-industrial middle class good-bye.  And that means a lot more trouble for folks who want to see the US engaged in trade and economic openness, whether for profit motives or to help open our markets to countries and producers who are much worse off, I know well, than what we face here in the land of the wolverine.

Gory details below. 

Continue reading "Global to Local: "It Ain't You, Babe"" »

January 26, 2007


One Speechwriter's Point of View
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

My friend and fellow ex-White House speechwriter Vinca LaFleur has written a thoughtful and elegant piece about the damp squib that was this year's State of the Union:

As someone who has labored to meet tough deadlines and satisfy tough audiences myself, I sympathize with the task the White House speechwriters faced with this year's State of the Union.  Drafting this annual address to Congress is rarely an enjoyable exercise; my former Clinton administration colleague Michael Waldman once described it as boiling down gallons of advice into a few tablespoons of intense sauce, while former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson reportedly dubbed the process the seven-day death march.

Continue reading "One Speechwriter's Point of View" »


In Which I Waste Time Searching for the Deeper Meaning of the State of the Union Address
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Those of you who spent too much time enjoying the New York Times' State of the Union word frequency calculator may understand the compulsion that led to this:

The Dubya Vinci Code:

-Picking apart Bush's words to decipher the State of the Union message.

January 24, 2007


Is Obama's Muslim "Problem" a Problem?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The whole Obama madrasa story turns out to be nothing more than an empty right-wing smear-attack. But even if it was true - so what if Obama went to a madrasa? Maybe that's actually a plus. Madrasa reform is (or should be) on the US foreign policy agenda. Maybe someone who actually knows what a madrasa is - or, even better, has attended one - might be able to suggest some useful policy prescriptions for this very serious problem.

Problem #2: Apparently, some people are worried that Obama's father was Muslim. Why is this a bad thing? Wouldn't you think that a president who actually knew something about Muslims (or had one as a father) would do a better job convincing the world's 1.4 billion Muslims that we're not out to get them? George W. Bush probably hadn't met one Muslim before he ran for governor and look where that's got us. One of the prerequisites for becoming "leader of free world" should be knowing the difference between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. I hate to state the obvious (or is it?) but knowing about other religions and cultures is not a bad thing. Moreover, it's especially not a bad thing when we're trying to fight Islamic radicalism, understand Muslim grievances, and win the hearts and minds of what happens to be 1/5 of the world's population.

January 21, 2007


Stripping for Democracy
Posted by Shadi Hamid

If you claim you care about democracy, why not show you really mean it? How, you ask? Well, by taking your clothes off of course! It appears that Egypt's "democratization process" may have just reached its turning point/incipient moment, also known in Condoleezza Rice-speak as "Wei-Ji":

In a debate on the amendments, details of which have not been released, member of parliament Mohamed Hussein objected to the article which gives the president the right to dissolve parliament.

“Enough of that, enough. Should I take my clothes off?” he added, using a sarcastic popular expression used in response to someone’s excessive expectations. When Hussein unbuttoned the waistcoat of his suit, speaker Fathi Sorour threatened to have him thrown out of the chamber.

Via the Arabist.

January 18, 2007


Discovering Chris Hedges in Granada
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Have you ever agreed with Michael Ledeen before? I bet you haven't. That's why I was just as surprised as anyone that I actually agreed with one of his Corner posts:

I see that Chris Hedges, the long-time NY Times journalist, has come out with a book entitled American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, in which he in essence says that the likes of Falwell and Robertson are Christian fascists...I wonder if all those people who hammered Bush and Santorum for talking about Islamic fascism will similarly excoriate Hedges for unfairly branding an entire religion (that would be Christianity in this case) with a scarlet "f".

I was someone who did "hammer" Bush and Santorum for their incredibly inane usage of the term "Islamic fascist," and so yes, I think Hedges is similarly wrong to use the term "Christian fascists." In fact, I think the we should declare a moratorium on using the word "fascist," which has become just another way of saying "I don't like you." In a perhaps amusing aside on the topic of Chris Hedges, I was in Granada two weeks ago (Granada, if you recall, was once the heart of Muslim Spain. Apparently, Bin Laden wants it back). I visited the city's only operating mosque and was sifting through their book collection right by the entrance. There were a bunch of books and pamphlets about the usual topics - the Prophet Muhammad, Zakat, heaven, God, how to become a better Muslim, etc. And then there was Chris Hedges' War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning Img_2152(click on photo). It was one of the most bizarre things I've seen, heard, or read, since, well, Michael Ledeen declared Rumseld "the best Defense Secretary the U.S. has ever had."

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