Must It Always Be Wartime?

Societies often go to great lengths to separate war from peace. Wars are declared, sometimes with elaborate ritual. Soldiers wear uniforms and are part of specialized hierarchical organizations. Battlefields are often delineated. Maintaining this distinction is important because what is permissible in wartime is often prohibited in peacetime. Preventing the rules of war from infecting views of moral conduct in times of peace is essential for preserving civilization.

.. Captured combatants in wars between countries can be detained without charge or trial until the end of the armed conflict. In peacetime, by contrast, law enforcement rules allow the use of lethal force only as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat, and detentions generally can be sustained only after charges have been filed and a trial has taken place.

.. US soldiers now undertake public health programs, agricultural reform efforts, small business development projects, and training in the rule of law. This expanding mandate, as Brooks shows, has enabled the Pentagon to dramatically increase its budget

.. The militarization of these efforts has contributed to the “shrinking of humanitarian space” in which aid workers give assistance; they are increasingly endangered because they are perceived as military assets.

.. Other governments are developing or purchasing this technology as well. Even ISIS reportedly has attacked with simple drones.

.. if targeted killing is permitted under an expansive rationale for the “war against terrorism,” there may be no need for drones at all. Assassinations, poisoning, car bombs, “accidents”—there are plenty of ways to kill an “enemy combatant” once that characterization is accepted.

.. she suggests “recognizing that war and peace are not binary opposites, but lie along a continuum.” The task then, she concludes, is to ask not what the law requires, since the law’s answer depends on the difficult-to-resolve dispute over the definition of war or peace. What matters instead is what is right, based on our values.

.. The opponents of stronger limits on governmental powers to kill or detain are now likely to come from both the White House and the Kremlin. Even Theresa May, the new British prime minister, vowed at the most recent Conservative Party conference “never again” to “let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave—the men and women of [Britain’s] armed forces.”

.. with countries as diverse as Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates today all involved in active efforts against armed or terrorist groups outside their territories, any weakening of the rules would give those countries greater latitude too—a frightening thought.

Newt Gingrich Ad: US Should Suspend Civil Liberties to Combat Terrorism

Gingrich then suggested the United States should consider suspending civil liberties to combat terrorism as former President Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War.

“People should go back and look at how Lincoln dealt with Southern sympathizers during the Civil War,” Gingrich said. “We passed a Sedition Act for example, which changed our ability to control people who were advocating treason.”

KSM: Hey, How Was I Supposed to Know George W. Bush Was a Cowboy?

Do you recall the Obama administration’s “stray voltage” theory? The gist was, “the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy… Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.” Part of it was a cynical calculation to let an argument about a presidential statement ensure a topic stayed front and center in the public’s mind; there’s also the side effect of ensuring that a brouhaha about a presidential statement overshadowed actual policy decisions – decisions that may be more consequential, but are less dramatic and interesting to the news media.

If the incoming Trump administration really is using a variation of the “stray voltage” approach, and Democrats really have an uncontrollable impulse to focus on the controversial statement du jour, the Trump administration could end up being stunningly effective in policymaking. A lot of seemingly dry and boring regulations can be repealed, executive orders withdrawn, rewritten, and issued, legislation passed by GOP majorities in Congress and signed, all while the political world froths at the mouth about the president’s latest Tweet or denunciation of the media, or theater performers, or anything else that comes to mind.

You can enact sweeping, dramatic changes to Americans’ lives under the radar.

.. Could this really happen? Could the next four (eight?) years really turn out to be a golden era for conservative policy?

.. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen — arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.

.. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”

But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”

.. a ban on flag-burning is extremely popular, and most Americans instinctively detest the sight of the flag being burned. That’s the sort of provocation that raging anti-American mobs in foreign countries embrace. Of course, it’s likely that the most passionate – some would say unhinged – activists opposed to Trump are more interested in their own emotional catharsis than persuading the public about policy decisions.

The Lessons of Henry Kissinger

The legendary and controversial statesman criticizes the Obama Doctrine, talks about the main challenges for the next president, and explains how to avoid war with China.

.. He told me that he was expecting other nations, particularly the great powers, to enter a period of intense study, in order to understand how they should respond to a Trump presidency. He also said he expected the Islamic State, or other similarly minded jihadist organizations, to test Trump early by launching attacks, in order to provoke a reaction (or, he suggested, an overreaction).

.. “Nonstate groups may make the assessment that Trump will react to a terror attack in a way that suits their purposes,” Kissinger said.

.. JG: Do you think Trump is a Putin apologist?

HK: No. I think he fell into certain rhetoric because Putin said some good words about him—tactically—and he felt he had to respond.

.. I think most of the world’s foreign policy has been in suspense for six to nine months, waiting for the outcome of our election. They have just watched us undergo a domestic revolution. They will want to study it for some period. But at some point, events will necessitate decision making once more. The only exception to this rule may be nonstate groups; they may have an incentive to provoke an American reaction that undermines our global position.

..  JG: Why do you think this happened?

HK: The Trump phenomenon is in large part a reaction of Middle America to attacks on its values by intellectual and academic communities.

THE LESSONS OF HENRY KISSINGER

“ ‘Though Kissinger has been out of government service for several decades, I found his egomania to be undiminished by time.’ ”

.. Finally we came to an agreement. I would record our conversation, and transcribe it, and then show it to him, and he would, he promised, make changes only in order to clarify points or expand upon his arguments

.. I have never met someone as old as Kissinger who is so keen to impress semi-random strangers, including semi-random 19-year-old strangers. Over lunch, he was relentless in his attempt to win my daughter over to his understanding of the world, and his role in it. This quality makes him exasperating and mesmerizing, and it launches him on flights of self-exculpatory analysis. There is no issue—not the bombing of Cambodia, or his activities in Chile or Argentina, or his role in the Pakistani civil war, which gave birth to Bangladesh and resulted in mass death—that he is not eager to relitigate.

.. He laments that history is not taught consecutively, and that historical incidents are often decontextualized beyond recognition. His argument was compelling, but also self-serving: His core contention, when it comes to the greatest controversies in his career, is that postwar American support for anti-Communist allies is impossible to understand or rationalize without both proper historical context and a baseline sympathy for a pro-Western narrative. Universities, he said, “like to teach history as a series of discrete problems. And they above all don’t want to teach Western history. They believe that the West has committed so many crimes that they are not entitled to single it out. That is a thought that would never occur to a Chinese.

.. “A puzzling aspect about Obama is how someone so intelligent could treat his peers with the disdain he did in your article,” he said. “Someone of that stature usually develops a sense of humility.”

.. “The uncertainty of Clinton is whether the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party would permit her to carry out what she believes.”

.. JG: What are America’s perpetual, eternal interests?

HK: I would begin by saying that we have to have faith in ourselves. That is an absolute requirement. We can’t reduce policy to a series of purely tactical decisions or self-recriminations.

.. It seems to me that in the Western world, after the Second World War, we had a vision of a peaceful order. There was no question that we would sacrifice for it. We sent a large army to Europe. We spent a lot of money. We need to rediscover that spirit and adapt it to the realities that have emerged since then.

The Urge to Splurge

Why is it so hard to reduce the Pentagon budget? (Via TomDispatch.)

To put this figure in perspective: despite troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping sharply over the past eight years, the Obama administration has still managed to spend more on the Pentagon than the Bush administration did during its two terms in office.

.. What accounts for the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year?

Pillar one supporting that edifice: ideology. As long as most Americans accept the notion that it is the God-given mission and right of the United States to go anywhere on the planet and do more or less anything it cares to do with its military, you won’t see Pentagon spending brought under real control.

.. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has put together a handy map of how its troubled F-35 fighter jet has created 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The actual figures are, in fact, considerably lower, but the principle holds: having subcontractors in dozens of states makes it harder for members of Congress to consider cutting or slowing down even a failed or failing program. Take as an example the M-1 tank, which the Army actually wanted to stop buying

.. In such periods, getting Americans behind a program of feeding the military machine massive sums of money has generally required a heavy dose of fear.

.. the U.S. aerospace industry produced an astonishing 300,000-plus military aircraft during World War II. Not surprisingly, major weapons producers struggled to survive in a peacetime environment in which government demand for their products threatened to be a tiny fraction of wartime levels.

.. NSC-68, a secret memorandum the National Security Council prepared for President Harry Truman in April 1950, created the template for a policy based on the global “containment” of communism and grounded in a plan to encircle the Soviet Union with U.S. military forces, bases, and alliances.

.. Senator Arthur Vandenberg put the thrust of this new Cold War policy in far simpler terms when he bluntly advised President Truman to “scare the hell out of the American people” to win support for a $400 million aid plan for Greece and Turkey. His suggestion would be put into effect not just for those two countries but to generate support for what President Eisenhower would later describe as “a permanent arms establishment of vast proportions.”

.. the disastrous Vietnam War, which drove many Americans to question the wisdom of a policy of permanent global interventionism. That phenomenon would be dubbed the “Vietnam syndrome” by interventionists ..

.. perhaps the biggest threat since World War II to an “arms establishment of vast proportions” came with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, also in 1991. How to mainline fear into the American public and justify Cold War levels of spending when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, the primary threat of the previous nearly half-a-century

.. General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed up the fears of that moment within the military and the arms complex when he said, “I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il-sung.”

.. but the Pentagon helped staunch the bleeding relatively quickly before a “peace dividend” could be delivered to the American people. Instead, it put a firm floor under the fall by announcing what came to be known as the “rogue state” doctrine. Resources formerly aimed at the Soviet Union would now be focused on “regional hegemons” like Iraq and North Korea.

.. After the 9/11 attacks, the rogue state doctrine morphed into the Global War on Terror (GWOT)

.. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld evensuggested that Saddam was like Hitler, as if a modest-sized Middle Eastern state could somehow muster the resources to conquer the globe.

.. In the context of an increasingly militarized foreign policy, one might call Obama’s approach “politically sustainable warfare,” since it involved fewer (American) casualties and lower costs than Bush-style warfare, which peaked in Iraq at more than 160,000 troops and a comparable number of private contractors.

.. Recent terror attacks against Western targets from Brussels, Paris, and Nice to San Bernardino and Orlando have offered the national security state and the Obama administration the necessary fear factor that makes the case for higher Pentagon spending so palatable. This has been true despite the fact that more tanks, bombers, aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons will be useless in preventing such attacks.

The majority of what the Pentagon spends, of course, has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

.. A Pentagon spokesman admitted as much recently by acknowledging that more than half of the $58.8 billion war budget is being used to pay for non-war costs.

.. That slush fund is also enabling the Pentagon to spend billions of dollars in seed money as a down payment on the department’s proposed $1 trillion plan to buy a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines.

.. The size of a Clinton buildup is less clear, but she has also pledged to work toward lifting the caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget. If that were done and the war fund continued to be stuffed with non-war-related items, one thing is certain: the Pentagon and its contractors will be sitting pretty.

.. fundamental change would require taking on the fear factor, the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, and the way the military-industrial complex is embedded in Washington.

E pluribus unum

Many of us understand and agree that the way you lose to terrorism is to cop to its premises in the way that you react to it. If ISIS or Al Qaeda want to claim that there is a war of civilizations, a religious war between “Muslims” and “The West”, the worst thing we could do is to live up to the role into which the terrorists have cast us by indiscriminately harassing and attacking Muslims. Acts of ostentatious violence are calculated to goad us into reinforcing the enemy’s framing of the conflict.

.. I think that the “war on terror” cannot be won by defeating ISIS or Al Qaeda or any other enemy, but will end when the people of the Middle East have hope of living decent lives in stable countries with legitimate governments. Most problems in the world must be solved, not defeated, however attractive the branding of yet another “war on” may be.

.. But you can’t solve “Trumpism” by defeating racism.

Can We Stop Terror-by-Truck?

Life for millions of young men in the Islamic world — and in Muslim enclaves in the West — is characterized by chronic unemployment, abysmal educational opportunities, social dislocation and widespread governmental corruption or indifference. In its well-produced propaganda, the Islamic State promises the opposite: a life of camaraderie, consequence, adventure, spiritual fulfillment and a chance to create an Islamic utopia. Further marginalizing vulnerable communities — say, by subjecting them to loyalty tests, as some politicians have suggested — would only exacerbate the problem