Ahaa

Alternative Media

US Weapons Exporters Lead World in War Profiteering

New study finds booming business driven by ‘an escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia Pacific’

The United States is behind one-third of all equipment and weapons exports world-wide, finds new study by IHS Inc. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Shannon Collins/Public Domain)
The United States is behind one-third of all equipment and weapons exports world-wide, finds new study by IHS Inc. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Shannon Collins/Public Domain)U.S. weapons manufacturers lead the world in profits from the booming military arms and equipment business, driven by rising tensions and conflict around the world, according to anew report from London-based analysts.

The annual study by IHS Inc.—which looks at military markets in 65 nations, excluding small arms, munitions, and surveillance programs—finds that the United States is behind one-third of all equipment and weapons exports world-wide.

This is no small amount: in 2014, global “defense” trade surpassed $64.4 billion, the report finds.

“Defense trade rose by a landmark 13.4 percent over the past year,” said Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defense and Security, in a press statement. “This record figure has been driven by unparalleled demand from the emerging economies for military aircraft and an escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.”

The U.S., further, is the top profiteer from rising conflict across the Middle East, accounting for $8.4 billion in exports to this region in 2014, compared to $6 billion the previous year.

Meanwhile, U.S. allies in the expanding war against ISIS are boosting their weapons imports significantly.

Saudi Arabia blew past India to become the number one weapons importer in the world. Analysts predict that, in 2015, Saudi Arabia will account for one of every seven dollars spent on such imports.

Furthermore, United Arab Emirates was included in the top five weapons exporters in the world.

Employing a cold business calculus, Moores said the 2014 track record forecasts more military conflict—and profits—to come.

“When we look at the likely export addressable opportunities at a global level for the defense industry, five of the 10 leading countries are from the Middle East,” Moores said. “The Middle East is the biggest regional market and there are $110 billion in opportunities in coming decade.”

Advertisements

High-Level US Intelligence Officials Slam Brennan’s Restructuring Plan for CIA

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: John Brennan’s Restructuring Plan for CIA

Mr. President, the CIA reorganization plan announced by Director John Brennan on Friday is a potentially deadly blow to the objective, fact-based intelligence needed to support fully informed decisions on foreign policy.  We suggest turning this danger into an opportunity to create an independent entity for CIA intelligence analysis immune from the operational demands of the “war on terror.”

On Feb. 5, 2003, immediately after Colin Powell’s address to the UN, members of VIPS sent our first VIPS memorandum, urging President George W. Bush to widen the policy debate “beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

CIA seal in lobby of the spy agency's headquarters. (U.S. government photo)

The “former senior officers” whom Brennan asked for input on the restructuring plan are a similar closed, blinkered circle, as is the “outstanding group of officers from across the Agency” picked by Brennan to look at the Agency’s mission and future. He did not include any of the intelligence community dissidents and alumni who fought against the disastrous politicization of intelligence before the attack on Iraq. Nor does Brennan’s plan reflect the lessons learned from that debacle.

You have continued to express confidence in Brennan despite the CIA’s mediocre record under his leadership. We urge you to weigh Brennan’s plan against the backdrop of Harry Truman’s prophetic vision for the CIA. We need to stop wasting time and energy trying to prevent the baby Truman never wanted from being thrown out with the bathwater. Let the bathwater run off, with the baby high and dry.

An independent group for intelligence analysis would be free to produce for you and your National Security Council the medium- and long-term strategic intelligence analysis that can help our country steer clear of future strategic disasters. And we offer ourselves as advisers as to how this might be accomplished.

Our concern over what we see as the likely consequences stemming from what Brennan intends, together with our many years of experience in intelligence work, have prompted this memo, which we believe can profit from some historical perspective.

President Harry Truman wanted an agency structure able to meet a president’s need for “the most accurate … information on what’s going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots.” In an op-ed appearing in the Washington Post exactly one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Truman added, “I have been disturbed by …  the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment … and has become an operational and at times policy-making arm of the Government.”

Truman added that the “most important thing” was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or lead the President into unwise decisions. His warning is equally relevant now – 52 years later.

Bay of Pigs

Truman was referring to how CIA Director Allen Dulles tried to mousetrap President Kennedy into committing U.S. armed forces to finish what a rag-tag band of CIA-trained invaders of Cuba began by landing at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, a few months before you were born. Kennedy had repeatedly warned the CIA brass and covert action planners that under no circumstances would he commit U.S. forces. But they were old hands; they knew better; they thought the young President could be had.

Allen Dulles’s handwritten notes discovered after his death show how he drew Kennedy into a plan that was virtually certain to require the support of U.S. forces. Dulles wrote that Kennedy would be compelled by “the realities of the situation” to give whatever military support was necessary “rather than permit the enterprise to fail.”

Kennedy fired Dulles, a quintessential Washington Establishment figure – something one does only at one’s own peril. As young CIA officers at the time, some of us experienced first-hand the deep reservoir of hate in which many a CIA covert action operator swam. Many could not resist venting their spleen, calling Kennedy a “coward” and even “traitor.”

Analysis Also Corrupted

You are fully aware, we trust, that our analysts’ vaunted ethos of speaking unvarnished truth to power was corrupted by Director George Tenet and Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who outdid themselves in carrying out the instructions of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The new ethos boiled down to this: If the President wants to paint Iraq as a strategic threat, it is our job to come up with the “evidence” – even if it needs to be manufactured out of whole cloth (or forged, as in “yellowcake uranium from Africa” caper).

Honest analysts were admonished not to rock the boat. A concrete example might help to show this in all its ugliness. When the only U.S. intelligence officer to interview “Curve Ball” before the war saw a draft of Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 speech citing “first-hand descriptions” by an Iraqi defector of a fleet of mobile bioweapons laboratories, he strongly questioned the “validity of the information.” The interviewer had, from the outset, expressed deep reservations about Curveball’s reliability.

Here’s what the interviewer’s supervisor, the Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Iraqi Task Force, wrote in an email responding to his misgivings:

“Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn’t say, and that the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he’s talking about. However, in the interest of Truth, we owe somebody a sentence or two of warning, if you honestly have reservations.”

This was not an isolated occurrence. Commenting on the results of a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee five-year study of pre-Iraq-war intelligence, Chairman Jay Rockefeller described it as “unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent.” He was alluding to information (in)famously described as a “slam dunk” by then-CIA Director George Tenet who was singularly responsible for advancing the career of John Brennan.

In a departure from customary diplomatic parlance, then-Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Carl Ford, speaking to the authors of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, had harsh words for Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin. Ford said that the evidence and analysis they gave policy makers was “not just wrong, they lied … they should have been shot.”

It is unfortunately true that – short of quitting and blowing the whistle – there is little one can do to prevent the skewing of “intelligence” when it is directed from the top – whether by the Bush-Tenet-McLaughlin consequential deceit on the threat from Iraq, or the ideological/careerist conceit of William Casey-Robert Gates in insisting up until the very end of the Soviet regime that the Soviet Communist Party would never relinquish power and that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was merely cleverer than his predecessors.

Thankfully, Not All Gave Up

There is hope to be drawn from those occasions where senior intelligence officials with integrity can step in, show courageous example, and – despite multiple indignities and pitfalls in the system – can force the truth to the surface. We hope that you have been made aware that, after the no-WMD-anywhere debacle on Iraq, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar did precisely that during 2007, supervising a watershed National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that concluded unanimously, “with high confidence,” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

President Bush concedes in his memoir that this put the kibosh on his and Dick Cheney’s earlier plan to attack Iran during their last year in office. So, character (as in Fingar) counts, and people of integrity can make a difference – and even help thwart plans for war – even in the most politicized of circumstances.

Restructuring

Accordingly, the primary objective in any restructuring should be to make it easier for people of integrity, like Thomas Fingar, to create an atmosphere in which analysts feel free to tell it like it is without worry about possible harm to their careers, should they come up with a politically “incorrect” conclusion – as the one on Iran clearly was.

The problem is that the Brennan restructuring effort does just the opposite. It puts the politicization on steroids. Placing intelligence analysts and operations officers together fosters a quite different kind of atmosphere – the kind that increases the likelihood of what Truman called the “most important thing” to guard against – leading “the President into unwise decisions.”

Truman saw the general problem and went even further, saying he “would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President … and its operational duties terminated or properly used elsewhere.” We think Truman was right then; and he is right now.

Decades of experience show that Truman’s fears were well founded. Indeed, from the outset, putting analysis and covert action operations together in the same agency was the first structural fault, so to speak, when it was created in 1947.

It was occasioned primarily by insistence that WWII OSS operatives who could match the KGB in what is now called “regime change” remain in government, and then a myopic choice to place them with the analysts in the newly created CIA. As Melvin Goodman points out in his The Failure of Intelligence: the Decline and Fall of the CIA, the early “CIA leadership itself was opposed to having responsibility for covert action, believing that the clandestine function would ultimately taint the intelligence product, a prescient observation.”

During the 1980s, President Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, correctly accused CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates, of slanting intelligence, charging that their operational involvement “colored” the Agency’s analysis. Shultz openly charged William Casey with giving President Reagan “faulty intelligence” to bolster Casey’s own policy preferences, including the ill-conceived arms-for-hostages-swap with Iran.

Shultz added that, because he had a sense of this analysis-operations toxic mix, he harbored “grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting.” Shultz was a strong advocate of separating the analysis from operations, likening the need to that of separating investment from commercial banking.

“War on Terrorism” as Business Model

The business model chosen by Brennan is fashioned to the “War on Terrorism,” and he holds up the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) as a model to emulate. There the analysts and operations officers sit side by side charged primarily with hunting, targeting, and killing in that war.

But truth, it has been pointed out, is the first casualty of war. This can be seen right off the bat in the exaggerated way the supposed “successes” of the Center are advertised. Some of us have worked in or closely with these CIA Centers, after which ten new “Mission Centers” are patterned. And we are taken aback by the hyperbolic plaudits being given them – and especially to the CTC.

That a quintessential politicizer, and big Curve Ball promoter, like former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin is reported to have advised Brennan on the restructuring, and lauds the benefits of “putting analysts and operators together” adds to our concern.

Very much in step, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, for instance, claims that existing Centers have “proven to be a very powerful combination” and that the Counterterrorism Center is “the most successful agency component over the last decade.”

Morell remains focused on the business model of war. Just days ago he conceded that he did not think he would live to see the end of al-Qaeda: “My children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation will still be fighting this fight,” said Morell.

Does it occur to Morell or others who have played senior intelligence roles that there ought to be a different kind of center, like what used to exist in parts of the Directorate of Intelligence, where analyst talent might be used not simply for targeting terrorists, but for figuring out what their grievances are, and whether there may be more promising ways to address them?

Do we really believe that terrorists slip out of the womb screaming “I hate America”?  And is there a cost to drone-killing them as the preferred method of eliminating terrorists (together with others who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time)?

Brennan has announced that the new Centers will “bring the full range of operational, analytic, support, technical, and digital personnel and capabilities to bear on the nation’s most pressing security issues and interests.”

We need to learn more of the specifics, but the integrated Mission Centers sound very much like fertile field for politicization and centralized control under which subordinates will feel pressure to fall in line with prosecuting the war de jour and to sign on to politically correct solutions dictated from the 7thfloor under guidance from your staff in the White House.

Is this the kind of CIA we need — everyone marching in step, as major parts of the Agency are transformed into a private army at your disposal, with virtually no Congressional oversight? We don’t think so.

A Watershed

With the present restructuring plan we see little promise for the kind of agenda-free, substantive intelligence that you and other senior policy makers need. But the train seems to have left the station headed toward Brennan’s restructuring plan. The sweeping reorganization scheme is of such importance that it should be the subject of hearings in the intelligence committees of House and Senate, but there is no indication that either committee intends to do so.

Let the analysts inclined toward targeting terrorists and providing other direct operational support to war sign up for these war-on-terror and like Centers. You and your successors will still need an agency devoted to unfettered intelligence analysis able to critique honestly the likely medium- and long-term consequences of the methods used to wage the “war on terror” and other wars.

We can assure you it is far better for those analysts doing this demanding substantive work NOT to be simultaneously “part of the team” implementing that policy.

It is time to revert to what Truman envisaged for the CIA. We are ready to make ourselves available to assist you and your staff in thinking through how this might be done. That it needs to be done is clear to us, and this would seem an opportune time.

In our view, we need to stop wasting time and energy trying to prevent the baby from being thrown out with the bathwater. Let the bathwater run off. Save the baby, even if that means a separate institution in which analysts of the kind that completed that NIE on Iran in 2007 can flourish. This just might help stop a new unnecessary war, as the combat support officers try to bring an end to old ones.

In sum, we are convinced that a separate entity for intelligence analysis – the kind of agency Truman envisaged for his CIA – would be an invaluable asset to you and your successors as president.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Fulton Armstrong, National Intelligence Officer for Latin America (ret.)

Larry Johnson, CIA analyst & State Department/counterterrorism, (ret.)

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer

David MacMichael, USMC & National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, Army Infantry/Intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Torin Nelson, former HUMINT Officer, Department of the Army

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel

Peter Van Buren, former diplomat, Department of State (associate VIPS)

Kirk Wiebe, Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA (ret.)

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and former US diplomat (resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War)

Wittgenstein’s Masterpiece, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is Turned into Beautiful Music

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (available in our collection of 130 Free Philosophy eBooks has surely set a fair few of its readers on the path to philosophy. But how much music has it inspired? Improbable as it may sound, the German-Austrian philosopher of mathematics, language, and mind’s ultra-terse 1922 masterpiece has brought about at least two pieces. We’ve previously featured Finnish composer M.A. Numminen adapting the Tractatus into an avant-garde comic opera. Today, we have Tibor Szemző’s Tractatus.

You can download the whole piece as a single MP3 on Ubuweb, or hear it above. According to UBU’s page about it, the work, first composed for Szemző and Péter Forgács’ video Wittgenstein Tractatus, “took six months of hard work in the studio to produce, yet it is only 30 minutes and 30 seconds long.” And not only has Szemző set to music Wittgenstein’s statement after statement on the relationship of language to reality, he’s done so in seven different languages, combining readings recorded in English, Spanish, and Hungarian in Budapest, Japanese in Tokyo, Czech in Prague, the original German in Vienna, and Slovak in Bratislava.

Though I can only really follow three of those (assuming I really grasp Wittgenstein in the first place), Szemző’s Tractatus makes me appreciate how well Wittgenstein’s Tractatus — with its simple yet complex lines like “Everything we see could also be otherwise” and “The light that work sheds is a beautiful light, which, however, only shines with real beauty if it is illuminated by yet another light” — functions not just as a set of lyrics, but as an exercise in foreign-language comprehension. And didn’t Wittgenstein want to get us thinking about language in the first place?

Related Content:

Wittgenstein Day-by-Day: Facebook Page Tracks the Philosopher’s Wartime Experience 100 Years Ago

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Gets Adapted Into an Avant-Garde Comic Opera

Wittgenstein: Watch Derek Jarman’s Tribute to the Philosopher, Featuring Tilda Swinton (1993)

See the Homes and Studies of Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche & Other Philosophers

Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Fast Track to Disaster

The U.S. is at the tail end of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade deal with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam and seven other countries. The negotiations have been conducted in secret. Now Congress will soon decide whether to grant the Obama administration “fast track” authority to have the “final” pact approved as is—meaning strict limits on Congressional debate and no amendments. That’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons—not least of which is that the TPP could sabotage the ability of the U.S. (and other nations) to respond to the climate crisis.

tppbrune650

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the problem in an op-ed for the Washington Post “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?” Here’s a hint: The answer is definitely not “all of the above.”

Multinational corporations—including some of the planet’s biggest polluters—could use the TPP to sue governments, in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits. The implications of this are profound: Corporate profits are more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability, workers’ rights and more.

This isn’t a hypothetical threat. Similar rules in other free trade deals have allowed corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum to bring approximately 600 cases against nearly 100 governments. Increasingly, corporations are using these perverse rules to challenge energy and climate policies, including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec; a nuclear energy phase out and coal-fired power plant standards in Germany; and a pollution cleanup in Peru. TransCanada has even intimated that it would use similar rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge a U.S. decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Remember how scientists and experts have warned that at least three-quarters of knownfossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground in order to stabilize our climate? A new study published in the journal Nature even spells out in detail which reserves must stay untapped, including almost all of Canada’s tar sands, all of the oil and gas in the Arctic, nearly half of global natural gas reserves, and 82 percent of global coal reserves. But do trade pacts like the TPP take that into account?

Not a chance. In fact, as a result of the TPP, the U.S. Department of Energy would actually be required to approve more fossil fuel exports. The deal would greenlight fracked gas exports to countries in the pact—including Japan, which is the world’s biggest importer of natural gas. A consequence would be more fracking, more pipelines, more export terminals and more climate pollution.

It has never been more urgent for countries to tackle the climate crisis. Now is the time to ensure that the rules of the global economy support climate action. Now is not the time to be rubber-stamping trade deals that could undermine our prospects for a better future and safer climate. Congress has a responsibility to do its job and ensure that trade pacts protect workers, communities, and our climate.

A fast track bill could be introduced any day—so it’s time to speak out now. Join me and write to your representative and senators and ask them to oppose fast track legislation for trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We can win this fight for a fair economy and a safe climate, but we need all of your help.

Stephen Harper’s anti-Muslim politics are crass and dangerous

Image: Flickr/PMWebphotos

Meet Zunera Ishaq. I’m sure you’ve heard about her already though you may not place the name.

Zunera Ishaq hails from Pakistan where she was a high school teacher, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, is 29 and has three kids. She came to Canada in 2008, passed her citizenship test five years later with flying colours, and is now ready to take the oath of citizenship. She’s been “imagining [this moment] for so long” because she’s anxious to be a full and active member of Canadian society. She and her husband chose Canada over other countries, she says, because “It is especially important to me to live in a country of religious freedoms since I am a devout Muslim.”

She’s already a volunteer at her eldest child’s school — a public school — and at a local women’s shelter, and once she becomes a citizen she is determined to have an active say in her country’s future. Her lawyers, Lorne Waldman and Naseem Mithoowani, have been impressed by her feistiness, independence and determination. Zunera Ishaq would be, from all accounts, a model Canadian.

Yet if it were up to the Prime Minister of Canada, Ms. Ishaq would have to settle for “imagining” her citizenship until hell freezes over. Why? Because she wears a niqab, which covers her entire face except her eyes. Ms. Ishaq says in a court affidavit that “I first started wearing the niqab when I was approximately 15 years old….After I had done research….I came to the conclusion that the niqab is mandatory to my faith.” While many Muslims disagree, each is free to make these decisions for herself.

It’s perfectly legal, harms no one, but is providing ammunition for Stephen Harper’s election campaign.

The story begins in 2011, when then-immigration minister Jason Kenney arbitrarily decreed that faces couldn’t be covered at citizenship oath-taking ceremonies. This was a direct blow to Ms. Ishaq. She is prepared to unveil herself in private to an official before taking the oath, but will not appear unveiled at the public ceremony. She approached the University of Toronto’s legal aid clinic who put her in touch with Lorne Waldman, one of Canada’s top-notch immigration lawyers. Mr. Waldman went to court to challenge the government and won. In his words, “The Court found that the policy of requiring a woman to remove her facial covering, where there is no question of identity or security, was illegal. The government is required to follow the law.”

Well, not so fast. Never mind the law. We’re talking about politics here. The government has decided to appeal the ruling against them, as just one of their battery of pre-election attacks against Muslims here and abroad. For what I believe are crassly political motives, they are deliberately inflaming Canadians against each others. Now we know what Conservatives mean by “Canadian values.”

Ms. Ishaq has been personally singled out for the national spotlight by no less than Stephen Harper himself. In fact the entire government of Canada seems obsessed by this one woman, while the Conservative Party of Canada actually rushed out a fund-raising appeal based on Ms. Ishaq’s apparently mortal threat to the Canadian Way of Life.

Quite simply, the Conservatives have decided that she is a useful weapon in their re-election campaign. By scapegoating her while introducing their much-criticized new anti-terrorism bill, they hope to convince frightened voters that the Conservatives are their best hope against dangers of all kinds. But in doing so, they are instead actually jeopardizing the country’s security. Stephen Harper and his minions are actually subverting the work of our security forces by alienating much of the Muslim community.

CSIS and the Mounties badly need the co-operation of the Muslim community to provide information about security risks among them. Yet even moderate Muslims — the large majority — are outraged by the way the government has, among other things, been picking on this one harmless Muslim woman, and in the process mocking the right of all Muslims to follow their religion in the way they want. Out of sheer political opportunism, Stephen Harper is undermining that community’s trust in official Canada while very likely estranging and radicalizing some Muslims, perhaps dangerously. How can he possibly not understand this?

Other Canadians are also guilty of this reckless behaviour, further angering all Muslims and in particular alienating younger ones. Far too many of these provocateurs are from Quebec, people with responsible positions as political, community and judicial leaders. They are not merely bigoted and intolerant. They are also divisive and destructive. They are playing into the hands of ISIS. As they surely must understand, they are sending an unmistakable message to every Muslim in the land: You are not one of us and we don’t trust any of you. And that message is being heard loud and clear by Muslims everywhere, with predictable repercussions.

Is it really too much to expect the Prime Minister of Canada to act responsibly at a time like this? It seems it is. Politics trumps all, even if it means turning other Canadians against Muslims and turning Muslims against official Canada. The consequences of both remain to be seen.

Image: Flickr/PMWebphotos

Israeli FM calls for beheading of Arab citizens disloyal to Israel

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The Israeli foreign minister and head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman suggested during a campaign event that Arab citizens of Israel, who are disloyal to the state, deserve to be decapitated.

“Whoever is with us should get everything,” Lieberman said in a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in the western city of Herzliya on Sunday. “Whoever is against us, there’s nothing else to do. We have to lift up an axe and remove his head, otherwise we won’t survive here.”

During the rally, the nationalist leader declared those who raise the black flag on Nakba Day, the day Israeli Arabs and Palestinians commemorate the creation of Israel as a tragedy, do not belong in the state of Israel.

“Those who raise the black flag on ‘Nakba Day’ in mourning over the establishment of Israel do not belong here, as far as I am concerned,” he said. “I am quite willing to donate them to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas. It would be my pleasure.”

When an Israeli-Arab student expressed unease and asked what the minister proposes to do with her under this plan, Lieberman responded that he expects all people regardless of religion to respect Israel and to serve in Israel’s military.

“I have no problem with your being a citizen,” he told her. “I expect all Arabs, Christians and Jews to be loyal to the state, regardless of religious affiliation, and to serve in the IDF.”

Lieberman also reiterated his party’s platform to integrate parts of Israel populated by Arabs into the Palestinian state, in exchange for areas of Judea and Samaria.

“There is no reason for Umm el-Fahm [a large Arab-populated city in the north of the country] to be a part of Israel,” Lieberman said. Israel took control of Umm el-Fahm in 1949 after an armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan.

Lieberman made these remarks ahead of Israel’s March 17 general election.

Several officials have spoken out against Lieberman’s comments. Former ambassador to South Africa and Foreign Minister Director-General Alon Liel, as well as former ambassador to France Daniel Shek, pointed out the hypocrisy of Lieberman’s words, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Israel’s number-one diplomat is waving an axe over the heads of citizens of the country that he represents, and in the same breath, he preaches to the whole world about fighting anti-Semitism,” they said.

The Intellectual as Servant of the State

People who specialized in thinking about national insecurity came to be known as "defense intellectuals."  Pioneers in this endeavor back in the 1950s were as likely to collect their paychecks from think tanks like the prototypical RAND Corporation as from more traditional academic institutions. (Photo via Shutterstock)People who specialized in thinking about national insecurity came to be known as “defense intellectuals.” Pioneers in this endeavor back in the 1950s were as likely to collect their paychecks from think tanks like the prototypical RAND Corporation as from more traditional academic institutions. (Image: Thinking Leader via Shutterstock)

Policy intellectuals — eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office — are a blight on the republic. Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality. A benign appearance — well-dressed types testifying before Congress, pontificating in print and on TV, or even filling key positions in the executive branch — belies a malign impact. They are like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes.

It all began innocently enough.  Back in 1933, with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first imported a handful of eager academics to join the ranks of his New Deal.  An unprecedented economic crisis required some fresh thinking, FDR believed. Whether the contributions of this “Brains Trust” made a positive impact or served to retard economic recovery (or ended up being a wash) remains a subject for debate even today.   At the very least, however, the arrival of Adolph Berle, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and others elevated Washington’s bourbon-and-cigars social scene. As bona fide members of the intelligentsia, they possessed a sort of cachet.

Then came World War II, followed in short order by the onset of the Cold War. These events brought to Washington a second wave of deep thinkers, their agenda now focused on “national security.”  This eminently elastic concept — more properly, “national insecurity” — encompassed just about anything related to preparing for, fighting, or surviving wars, including economics, technology, weapons design, decision-making, the structure of the armed forces, and other matters said to be of vital importance to the nation’s survival.  National insecurity became, and remains today, the policy world’s equivalent of the gift that just keeps on giving.

People who specialized in thinking about national insecurity came to be known as “defense intellectuals.”  Pioneers in this endeavor back in the 1950s were as likely to collect their paychecks from think tanks like the prototypical RAND Corporation as from more traditional academic institutions. Their ranks included creepy figures like Herman Kahn, who took pride in “thinking about the unthinkable,” and Albert Wohlstetter, who tutored Washington in the complexities of maintaining “the delicate balance of terror.”

In this wonky world, the coin of the realm has been and remains “policy relevance.”  This means devising products that convey a sense of novelty, while serving chiefly to perpetuate the ongoing enterprise. The ultimate example of a policy-relevant insight isDr. Strangelove‘s discovery of a “mineshaft gap” — successor to the “bomber gap” and the “missile gap” that, in the 1950s, had found America allegedly lagging behind the Soviets in weaponry and desperately needing to catch up.  Now, with a thermonuclear exchange about to destroy the planet, the United States is once more falling behind, Strangelove claims, this time in digging underground shelters enabling some small proportion of the population to survive.

In a single, brilliant stroke, Strangelove posits a new raison d’être for the entire national insecurity apparatus, thereby ensuring that the game will continue more or less forever.  A sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s movie would have shown General “Buck” Turgidson and the other brass huddled in the War Room, developing plans to close the mineshaft gap as if nothing untoward had occurred.

The Rise of the National Insecurity State

Yet only in the 1960s, right around the time that Dr. Strangelove first appeared in movie theaters, did policy intellectuals really come into their own.  The press now referred to them as “action intellectuals,” suggesting energy and impatience.  Action intellectuals were thinkers, but also doers, members of a “large and growing body of men who choose to leave their quiet and secure niches on the university campus and involve themselves instead in the perplexing problems that face the nation,” as LIFE Magazine put it in 1967. Among the most perplexing of those problems was what to do about Vietnam, just the sort of challenge an action intellectual could sink his teeth into.

Over the previous century-and-a-half, the United States had gone to war for many reasons, including greed, fear, panic, righteous anger, and legitimate self-defense.  On various occasions, each of these, alone or in combination, had prompted Americans to fight.  Vietnam marked the first time that the United States went to war, at least in considerable part, in response to a bunch of really dumb ideas floated by ostensibly smart people occupying positions of influence.  More surprising still, action intellectuals persisted in waging that war well past the point where it had become self-evident, even to members of Congress, that the cause was a misbegotten one doomed to end in failure.

In his fine new book American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity, Christian Appy, a historian who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, reminds us of just how dumb those ideas were.

As Exhibit A, Professor Appy presents McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser first for President John F. Kennedy and then for Lyndon Johnson.  Bundy was a product of Groton and Yale, who famously became the youngest-ever dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, having gained tenure there without even bothering to get a graduate degree.

For Exhibit B, there is Walt Whitman Rostow, Bundy’s successor as national security adviser.  Rostow was another Yalie, earning his undergraduate degree there along with a PhD.  While taking a break of sorts, he spent two years at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.  As a professor of economic history at MIT, Rostow captured JFK’s attention with his modestly subtitled 1960 book The Stages of Economic Growth:  A Non-Communist Manifesto, which offered a grand theory of development with ostensibly universal applicability.  Kennedy brought Rostow to Washington to test his theories of “modernization” in places like Southeast Asia.

Finally, as Exhibit C, Appy briefly discusses Professor Samuel P. Huntington’s contributions to the Vietnam War.  Huntington also attended Yale, before earning his PhD at Harvard and then returning to teach there, becoming one of the most renowned political scientists of the post-World War II era.

What the three shared in common, apart from a suspect education acquired in New Haven, was an unwavering commitment to the reigning verities of the Cold War.  Foremost among those verities was this: that a monolith called Communism, controlled by a small group of fanatic ideologues hidden behind the walls of the Kremlin, posed an existential threat not simply to America and its allies, but to the very idea of freedom itself.  The claim came with this essential corollary: the only hope of avoiding such a cataclysmic outcome was for the United States to vigorously resist the Communist threat wherever it reared its ugly head.

Buy those twin propositions and you accept the imperative of the U.S. preventing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, a.k.a. North Vietnam, from absorbing the Republic of Vietnam, a.k.a. South Vietnam, into a single unified country; in other words, that South Vietnam was a cause worth fighting and dying for.  Bundy, Rostow, and Huntington not only bought that argument hook, line, and sinker, but then exerted themselves mightily to persuade others in Washington to buy it as well.

Yet even as he was urging the “Americanization” of the Vietnam War in 1965, Bundy already entertained doubts about whether it was winnable.  But not to worry:  even if the effort ended in failure, he counseled President Johnson, “the policy will be worth it.”

How so?  “At a minimum,” Bundy wrote, “it will damp down the charge that we did not do all that we could have done, and this charge will be important in many countries, including our own.”  If the United States ultimately lost South Vietnam, at least Americans would have died trying to prevent that result — and through some perverted logic this, in the estimation of Harvard’s youngest-ever dean, was a redeeming prospect.  The essential point, Bundy believed, was to prevent others from seeing the United States as a “paper tiger.”  To avoid a fight, even a losing one, was to forfeit credibility.  “Not to have it thought that when we commit ourselves we really mean no major risk” — that was the problem to be avoided at all cost.

Rostow outdid even Bundy in hawkishness.  Apart from his relentless advocacy of coercive bombing to influence North Vietnamese policymakers, Rostow was a chief architect of something called the Strategic Hamlet Program.  The idea was to jumpstart the Rostovian process of modernization by forcibly relocating Vietnamese peasants from their ancestral villages into armed camps where the Saigon government would provide security, education, medical care, and agricultural assistance.  By winning hearts-and-minds in this manner, the defeat of the communist insurgency was sure to follow, with the people of South Vietnam vaulted into the “age of high mass consumption,” where Rostow believed all humankind was destined to end up.

That was the theory.  Reality differed somewhat.  Actual Strategic Hamlets were indistinguishable from concentration camps.  The government in Saigon proved too weak, too incompetent, and too corrupt to hold up its end of the bargain.  Rather than winning hearts-and-minds, the program induced alienation, even as it essentially destabilized peasant society.  One result: an increasingly rootless rural population flooded into South Vietnam’s cities where there was little work apart from servicing the needs of the ever-growing U.S. military population — hardly the sort of activity conducive to self-sustaining development.

Yet even when the Vietnam War ended in complete and utter defeat, Rostow still claimed vindication for his theory.  “We and the Southeast Asians,” he wrote, had used the war years “so well that there wasn’t the panic [when Saigon fell] that there would have been if we had failed to intervene.”  Indeed, regionally Rostow spied plenty of good news, all of it attributable to the American war.

“Since 1975 there has been a general expansion of trade by the other countries of that region with Japan and the West.  In Thailand we have seen the rise of a new class of entrepreneurs.  Malaysia and Singapore have become countries of diverse manufactured exports.  We can see the emergence of a much thicker layer of technocrats in Indonesia.”

So there you have it. If you want to know what 58,000 Americans (not to mention vastly larger numbers of Vietnamese) died for, it was to encourage entrepreneurship, exports, and the emergence of technocrats elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Appy describes Professor Huntington as another action intellectual with an unfailing facility for seeing the upside of catastrophe.  In Huntington’s view, the internal displacement of South Vietnamese caused by the excessive use of American firepower, along with the failure of Rostow’s Strategic Hamlets, was actually good news.  It promised, he insisted, to give the Americans an edge over the insurgents.

The key to final victory, Huntington wrote, was “forced-draft urbanization and modernization which rapidly brings the country in question out of the phase in which a rural revolutionary movement can hope to generate sufficient strength to come to power.”  By emptying out the countryside, the U.S. could win the war in the cities.  “The urban slum, which seems so horrible to middle-class Americans, often becomes for the poor peasant a gateway to a new and better way of life.”  The language may be a tad antiseptic, but the point is clear enough: the challenges of city life in a state of utter immiseration would miraculously transform those same peasants into go-getters more interested in making a buck than in signing up for social revolution.

Revisited decades later, claims once made with a straight face by the likes of Bundy, Rostow, and Huntington — action intellectuals of the very first rank — seem beyond preposterous.  They insult our intelligence, leaving us to wonder how such judgments or the people who promoted them were ever taken seriously.

How was it that during Vietnam bad ideas exerted such a perverse influence?  Why were those ideas so impervious to challenge?  Why, in short, was it so difficult for Americans to recognize bullshit for what it was?

Creating a Twenty-First-Century Slow-Motion Vietnam

These questions are by no means of mere historical interest. They are no less relevant when applied to the handiwork of the twenty-first-century version of policy intellectuals, specializing in national insecurity, whose bullshit underpins policies hardly more coherent than those used to justify and prosecute the Vietnam War.

The present-day successors to Bundy, Rostow, and Huntington subscribe to their own reigning verities.  Chief among them is this: that a phenomenon called terrorism or Islamic radicalism, inspired by a small group of fanatic ideologues hidden away in various quarters of the Greater Middle East, poses an existential threat not simply to America and its allies, but — yes, it’s still with us — to the very idea of freedom itself.  That assertion comes with an essential corollary dusted off and imported from the Cold War: the only hope of avoiding this cataclysmic outcome is for the United States to vigorously resist the terrorist/Islamist threat wherever it rears its ugly head.

At least since September 11, 2001, and arguably for at least two decades prior to that date, U.S. policymakers have taken these propositions for granted.  They have done so at least in part because few of the policy intellectuals specializing in national insecurity have bothered to question them.

Indeed, those specialists insulate the state from having to address such questions.  Think of them as intellectuals devoted to averting genuine intellectual activity.  More or less like Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter (or Dr. Strangelove), their function is to perpetuate the ongoing enterprise.

The fact that the enterprise itself has become utterly amorphous may actually facilitate such efforts.  Once widely known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT, it has been transformed into the War with No Name.  A little bit like the famous Supreme Court opinion on pornography: we can’t define it, we just know it when we see it, with ISIS the latest manifestation to capture Washington’s attention.

All that we can say for sure about this nameless undertaking is that it continues with no end in sight.  It has become a sort of slow-motion Vietnam, stimulating remarkably little honest reflection regarding its course thus far or prospects for the future.  If there is an actual Brains Trust at work in Washington, it operates on autopilot.  Today, the second- and third-generation bastard offspring of RAND that clutter northwest Washington — the Center for this, the Institute for that — spin their wheels debating latter day equivalents of Strategic Hamlets, with nary a thought given to more fundamental concerns.

What prompts these observations is Ashton Carter’s return to the Pentagon as President Obama’s fourth secretary of defense.  Carter himself is an action intellectual in the Bundy, Rostow, Huntington mold, having made a career of rotating between positions at Harvard and in “the Building.”  He, too, is a Yalie and a Rhodes scholar, with a PhD. from Oxford.  “Ash” — in Washington, a first-name-only identifier (“Henry,” “Zbig,” “Hillary”) signifies that you have truly arrived — is the author of books and articles galore, including one op-ed co-written with former Secretary of Defense William Perry back in 2006 calling for preventive war against North Korea.  Military action “undoubtedly carries risk,” he bravely acknowledged at the time. “But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea’s race to threaten this country would be greater” — just the sort of logic periodically trotted out by the likes of Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter.

As Carter has taken the Pentagon’s reins, he also has taken pains to convey the impression of being a big thinker.  As one Wall Street Journal headline enthused, “Ash Carter Seeks Fresh Eyes on Global Threats.”  That multiple global threats exist and that America’s defense secretary has a mandate to address each of them are, of course, givens.  His predecessor Chuck Hagel (no Yale degree) was a bit of a plodder.  By way of contrast, Carter has made clear his intention to shake things up.

So on his second day in office, for example, he dinedwith Kenneth Pollack, Michael O’Hanlon, and Robert Kagan, ranking national insecurity intellectuals and old Washington hands one and all.  Besides all being employees of the Brookings Institution, the three share the distinction of having supported the Iraq War back in 2003 and calling for redoubling efforts against ISIS today.  For assurances that the fundamental orientation of U.S. policy is sound — we just need to try harder — who better to consult than Pollack, O’Hanlon, and Kagan (any Kagan)?

Was Carter hoping to gain some fresh insight from his dinner companions?  Or was he letting Washington’s clubby network of fellows, senior fellows, and distinguished fellows know that, on his watch, the prevailing verities of national insecurity would remain sacrosanct?  You decide.

Soon thereafter, Carter’s first trip overseas provided another opportunity to signal his intentions.  In Kuwait, he convened a war council of senior military and civilian officials to take stock of the campaign against ISIS.  In a daring departure from standard practice, the new defense secretary prohibited PowerPoint briefings.  One participant described the ensuing event as “a five-hour-long college seminar” — candid and freewheeling.  “This is reversing the paradigm,” one awed senior Pentagon officialremarked.  Carter was said to be challenging his subordinates to “look at this problem differently.”

Of course, Carter might have said, “Let’s look at a different problem.” That, however, was far too radical to contemplate — the equivalent of suggesting back in the 1960s that assumptions landing the United States in Vietnam should be reexamined.

In any event — and to no one’s surprise — the different look did not produce a different conclusion.  Instead of reversing the paradigm, Carter affirmed it: the existing U.S. approach to dealing with ISIS is sound, he announced.  It only needs a bit of tweaking — just the result to give the Pollacks, O’Hanlons, and Kagans something to write about as they keep up the chatter that substitutes for serious debate.

Do we really need that chatter? Does it enhance the quality of U.S. policy? If policy/defense/action intellectuals fell silent would America be less secure?

Let me propose an experiment. Put them on furlough. Not permanently — just until the last of the winter snow finally melts in New England. Send them back to Yale for reeducation. Let’s see if we are able to make do without them even for a month or two.

In the meantime, invite Iraq and Afghanistan War vets to consider how best to deal with ISIS. Turn the op-ed pages of major newspapers over to high school social studies teachers. Book English majors from the Big Ten on the Sunday talk shows. Who knows what tidbits of wisdom might turn up?

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

ANDREW BACEVICH

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. ATomDispatch regular, he is the author, among other works, of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War and the editor of The Short American Century: A Postmortem,forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

The National Sentinel

Independent. Reliable. Honest.

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

The Get Involved Group at Possability People

A user-led group which aims to ensure disabled peoples’ voices are heard when services are planned and changed in Brighton and Hove.

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Freedom Is Just Another Word...

Rules?? What Are rules? I don't need no stinking rules!!!

Shishjamo

Random Commentary.

riotthill's blog

just sayin' :: wen e scott and warren riley

The Dude With A Blog

Todays News Yesterdays History

Counter Information

Uncovering the mainstream media lies

Humanity777's Blog

The Church of Christ

REMINGTON CENTER FOR MEDICINES MANAGEMENT AND HEALTH TECHNOLOGIES

House No.1 Majwala Estate Kamulegeya Close, Kiwatule, Nakawa. P.O. Box 33081 Kampala Uganda. +256700801063/+256755553201. remingtonhealthtraining@gmail.com| Extraordinary Competency Training [Short Courses 1 – 5 Days] in Health Services Management| EVERYONE IS ELIGIBLE| PUBLIC & CORPORATE TRAINING|

Dreamwalker's Sanctuary

A Sanctuary for Enlightenment and Peace through Poetry and Inspirational Thoughts as we go through Life

PICZLoad pics a la carte

Watchout Loud and Have PICBliss!

Critical Dispatches

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @RichyDispatch

Big Red Carpet Nursing

Fun & Progress!

Steve McSteveface

"just a guy, writing stuff on a blog - hoping people will read it"

The Year of the Dragon

Adventures in a far off land

araneus1

Short Stories, essays, and photos -- on stuff that interests me

In search of Harris

With a little bit of help from Harris and numerous others

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

promisewords

Taking the Promise Giver at His word.

The Creative Mind behind James Creative Arts and Entertainment Company

People who have contributed to society, Social Musings 101

ADHD Made Me Do It

Survive Life with Laughter

The Writer in the Woods

All sorts of thoughts

Ladies Bulletin

Beautiful ladies make beautiful families

tina dunks perceptions

a single unified awareness derived from sensory processes while a stimulus is present

The World according to Dina

Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

Dreaming the World

On the Arts and Healing in Difficult Times

weyfairing

way·far·ing [wey-fair-ing] , noun - traveling, especially on foot.

The Artist and The Dancer

The Dancer, The Artist and their Relationship with Nature

Cardinal Guzman

Encyclopedia Miscellaneous - 'quality' blogging since August 2011

Get It Write

Derek Dubolski: A Writer's Blog:

Uncle Spike's Adventures

Opinion, photography & travel blogging from a small rural farm in Türkiye

Kyopos - 교포

A place for all kyopos

The GOLDEN RULE

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” – George Orwell

MIRAGE

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one. So get a few laughs and do the best you can. Don't have an ideal to work for. That's like riding towards the mirage of a lake.

%d bloggers like this: