Third Culture Queen vol. 6

Commentary on today's crises of grand strategy and modern thought

I don’t ever want to hear Americans decrying industrial policy when the F–35 exists.

What a monstrosity that program has devolved into.

Conservatives across the country cry foul at the possibility of a Green New Deal – no matter the return on investment to our GPD, infrastructure and global influence – but don’t bat an eye at the gluttony on display in the Department of Defense.

On the plus side, anytime someone tries to come for California HSR – I can point to the F-35 program as an example of a true “boondoggle.” However, it seems the DoD learned a thing or two from the whole debacle. The Pentagon ended a $1 billion Boeing contract ahead of schedule because technological realities had progressed past the project.

That is the type of responsiveness we need. Not kowtowing to lobbyists.

Instead of overspending on weapons systems, we could invest in the actual people who make up our armed forces – rather than privatizing every possible aspect of military life to “cut back costs” – or even update the crumbling infrastructure of our bases. But, if we’re not taking care of things on the domestic front, why would we keep maintain our slices of America abroad?

Something has to give. Our military is experiencing a suicide epidemic and Middle Eastern theater hostilities are ratcheting up. Last week we lost two more soldiers.

With them, 2,421 U.S. service personnel have now died in Afghanistan since 2001.

For what?

Noah Smith 🐇 @Noahpinion
List of world leaders by military power, according to the Global Firepower Index (
globalfirepower.com/countries-list…): 1. Donald Trump 2. Vladimir Putin 3. Xi Jinping 4. Narendra Modi 5. Emmanuel Macron 6. Abe Shinzo 7. Moon Jae-In 8. Boris Johnson 9. Recep Tayyip Erdogan 10. Angela Merkel2019 Military Strength RankingCountries ranked by their potential military strength.globalfirepower.com

American Empire (“The Greater United States”)

  • Inside America’s Dysfunctional Trillion-Dollar Fighter-Jet Program (NYT)

    The Joint Strike Fighter program was conceived in the 1990s as the most ambitious aircraft development effort in the Defense Department’s history. One company would oversee design and production of three different versions of an aircraft that could be operated by the United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as America’s allies, who would help offset the development costs. The project would result in a technologically superior plane that would be manufactured in such large quantities that the jets would cost no more than the older planes it would replace.

    There soon turned out to be an essential flaw in the grand plan for a single plane that could do everything. Design specifications demanded by one branch of the military would adversely impact the F-35’s performance in another area. “It turns out when you combine the requirements of the three services, what you end up with is the F-35, which is an aircraft that is in many ways suboptimal for what each of the services really want,” said Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It is much more expensive than originally envisioned, and the three versions of the plane actually don’t have that much in common.”

    Costs and complications were spiraling. Someone needed to intervene before the Defense Department lost control entirely, Bogdan thought. In September 2012, when he was the program’s second-in-command, he took to the lectern at the Air Force’s largest conference and said something that had not been publicly acknowledged before: The relationship with Lockheed was the worst arrangement he had ever seen between the Pentagon and a defense contractor.

    As with all stories involving the tangled web that is the Pentagon bureaucracy, it’s tempting to try to look for a hidden root behind all the problems — greedy corporate executives, corrupt generals, the military-industrial complex itself. But those closest to the F-35 program, the engineers, software developers and midlevel managers, express the same things over and over. Frustration that the tremendous scope of the program keeps them from being able to do more to fix it; and a wounded sense of pride for the impressive technological advances they have achieved, but that often seem lost in the intractable tangle of complications and setbacks.

    In some ways, that’s a feature of today’s changing battlefield. There will always be new threats to face, new upgrades to develop, new technical problems to solve. Defense Department officials continue to assert that the adaptiveness of the F-35 makes it the best option to stand up to such uncertainties. Which is a good thing if true, given that it’s the only option. Because even if the F-35 doesn’t manage to become the unbeatable plane the Pentagon dreamed of, it has become the unkillable program.

  • The Myth of American Military Dominance (War on the Rocks)

    Instead, an examination of history shows that Americans should acknowledge that the United States has entered conflicts with its ability to defeat its enemy uncertain, and will do so again. This should cause policymakers to ask three questions as they consider future policies:

    Is the concept of military dominance still meaningful in the nuclear age?

    If potential adversaries do not believe in American military superiority, what are the likely results of the United States acting as though it can win any conventional fight?

    If the United States fails to intimidate adversaries with the threat of conventional force, is its population willing to commit the time, money, and lives needed to engage a near-peer or peer adversary?

    In some ways, military dominance is still a valuable concept in the nuclear age. The United States and other countries have and will continue to fight nonnuclear states in limited wars. Within this context, dominance is still a meaningful, if somewhat unrealistic, concept. In other ways, nuclear weapons grossly undermine the concept of military dominance. If the United States cannot guarantee even military victory against adversaries that might use nuclear weapons against American forces and cities, then it cannot claim dominance.

    The United States has an unquestionably powerful military. There is a vast gap, however, between powerful and dominant. As discussions of dominance, loss of dominance, and grand strategy increase, it is essential that we consider on which side of this gap the United States has historically fallen. The military’s budget and training cannot guarantee dominance, and American history does not provide any evidence that it ever existed. If policymakers and the American people want to conduct foreign policy with an accurate assessment of the risks they take, they need to question the assumptions and reasoning that led to their estimation of the United States’ abilities.

    Grand strategy questions how the United States will use its economic, diplomatic, and military tools to protect the national interest in the coming century. If those conversations are to be of value, we must question not just the future of American military dominance, but its past as well.

  • US and Venezuela confirm 'secret' talks (Al Jazeera)

    Aides to one of the world's most unpopular populists, Nicolás Maduro, have been holding talks with the U.S. intended "to push Venezuela’s authoritarian president from power and clear the way for free elections in the economically devastated country,"

    Maduro confirmed the talks on Tuesday, saying that "for months, there has been contact between senior officials of the United States, of Donald Trump, and the Bolivarian government that I preside over," in a message broadcast on radio and television. 

    He followed up his address with a post on Twitter, saying Venezuela was "seeking to normalise the conflict that exists with the US empire," and ending with: "I believe in Dialogue, I believe in Peace!"

    Maduro's comments came a day after Vice President Diosdado Cabello denied allegations that he was in secret talks with members of the US administration.

  • We already have a Greenland. It’s called Alaska. (The Washington Post)

    The discovery of large reserves of rare earth metals is what has probably piqued Chinese economic interest in Greenland. Rare earth elements are essential to a range of smartphones and other devices, but they also have critical applications in the defense, automotive and renewal energy industries, including in wind turbines, hybrid-vehicle motors, missile-guidance systems, rechargeable batteries for consumer products, night-vision goggles, alloys for sonar technology and lasers in weapons systems. The Ilimaussaq complex on the southwestern coast of Greenland holds the largest quantities of rare earth elements in the world, which would meet a great deal of global demand for the next 50 years.

    In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic could hold upwards of 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas resources and 13 percent of the world undiscovered oil resources, with an estimated 84 percent located in offshore areas. While the survey again brought a greater focus on Alaska’s extensive resources, believed to hold the second largest Arctic energy reserves in the world, Greenland also drew attention.

    With all the discussion about the economic importance of Greenland, the ironic part of this tale is that Arctic mineral and energy resources, key shipping infrastructure and fisheries already exist in the United States today ... in Alaska, a strategic purchase the United States made from the Russian empire in 1867 for a mere $7.2 million. Wouldn’t it be better to wisely and sustainably invest in the American Arctic? The American Arctic urgently needs a deepwater port to responsibly manage an increase in shipping traffic through the narrow Bering Strait. (Related: The Guardian)

  • White House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts (The Hill)

    The Office of Management and Budget was expected to release a package this week calling for cuts in $4.3 billion in foreign aid through a process known as rescission. But the plan was taken off the table amid pushback from some top administration officials and lawmakers in Congress, the official said.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) argued in a statement that the plan was "clearly illegal," would have harmed national security and violated the "good faith" of a recent deal to raise spending caps.

    “It is important for us all to recognize first and foremost our national security interests and Congress’s Constitutional power of the purse as was acknowledged in a bipartisan way in the rescission discussion, as we move forward in the upcoming budget negotiations,” she said.

China & the Indo-Pacific

  • A middle-power moment (Lowy Institute)

    Middle-power solidarity is playing out on subtler fronts as well. New data on UN voting patterns tracks how often any two countries are aligned in their votes on resolutions at the UN General Assembly. The data reveals that in 2018, middle powers largely ignored the voting preferences of superpowers US and China in favour of banding together with minor and middle powers. South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the Philippines all failed to register either the US or China as one of their top three voting partners among regional players, preferring to align with smaller Asian players instead. (Related: National Interest)

  • China has risen, and challenges US across a number of military domains (BBC)

    This is the conclusion of a new report from the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in Australia.

    It warns that US defence strategy in the Indo-Pacific region "is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis" and that Washington might struggle to defend its allies against China.

    "America no longer enjoys military primacy in the Indo-Pacific", it notes, "and its capacity to uphold a favourable balance of power is increasingly uncertain."

    The report points to Beijing's extraordinary arsenal of missiles that threaten the key bases of the US and its allies. These installations, it asserts, "could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict".

    China is not a global superpower like the United States. Indeed it is doubtful if its military ambitions extend that far (though this too may be changing as it slowly develops a network of ports and bases abroad).

  • China seeks to flip nations in Pacific Great Game with US (Nikkei Asian Review)

    "China is increasingly viewing the Pacific islands as critically important toward complicating U.S. military intervention in a Taiwan, South China Sea or East China Sea contingency," Grossman said. "As a result, in recent years we have seen Beijing focusing on the Pacific through diplomatic and economic means, mainly through the Belt and Road Initiative, to further ingratiate itself with Pacific island countries."

    Although the U.S. has long held sway over the region, cracks in its dominance may begin to appear soon. Aid is a big part of the deals with the FAS, and their yearly economic assistance components will expire in fiscal 2023 for Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, and fiscal 2024 for Palau. Grossman said this could create an opening for China.

    If Washington cannot find a way to renew the COFAs, or to renew them at the same levels as in the past, he said, Beijing could argue that the Belt and Road can help fill the void.

  • China pushing for world’s largest regional trade deal without US, hailing ‘momentum’ with Asian partners (South China Morning Post)

    The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involves the 10 Asean nations of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

    China is a key promoter of the partnership, which is often seen as a China-led response to the now defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) put forward by the US. Beijing officially insists that it is a deal led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and that China is only playing a supporting role in the plan which mainly focuses on cutting tariffs and improving market access for services and investment across the region.

    The deal, though, has been delayed repeatedly, with members failing to reach final agreements in each of the previous 26 rounds of talks. India, for example, has raised concerns about the risk the pact would pose to its economy if it resulted in the removal of tariffs on Chinese imports.

    There are also widespread calls that better labour and environmental protections are included in the deal. These often controversial issues, as well as the likes of IP free information flow and subsidies to state-owned enterprises, do not feature heavily in the agreement. (Related: Global Times)

  • Japan Is Taking on China in Africa (Foreign Policy)

    Chinese investment may be a challenge, but Japan can still capitalize on its long-standing commitment to Africa.

    For one, it can corner quality infrastructure development, which Japan highlighted during its chairmanship of the G-20 this year. Japan continues to provide high-quality infrastructure, including the building of a geothermal expansion plant in Kenya and also enhancing digital broadcasting infrastructure in Botswana, on the continent that helps African countries move toward sustainable development. Doing so is important as the continent looks to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, a long-term development vision adopted by the African Union in 2013. Japan is also uniquely positioned to support high-tech innovation and manufacturing—it has a long track record in those areas—and to help promote regional integration among African businesses thanks to its existing supply chains there.

    It can also leverage its FOIP vision, something many of its allies have endorsed, to join forces with like-minded players to support Africa’s development. Japan sees the Indo-Pacific as sweeping from East Africa to North America’s western edge, and it would like to promote sustainable infrastructure, protect and uphold free sea lines of communication, and improve connectivity across the entire region.

  • South Korea To Scrap Military Intelligence-Sharing Agreement w/ Japan (NPR)

    South Korea plans to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement — a pact pushed by the Obama administration and signed in 2016 as a way for the two countries to exchange valuable information on potential threats posed by North Korea, China and Russia.

    "We are all stronger — and Northeast Asia is safer — when the United States, Japan, and Korea work together in solidarity and friendship," Eastburn said. "Intel sharing is key to developing our common defense policy and strategy."

    Both Pompeo and special envoy on North Korea Steve Biegun have reportedly nudged America's allies to patch up their differences. But critics accuse Washington of letting the bad blood boil between Tokyo and Seoul for too long before intervening. (Related: Star Tribune)

Europe, Russia & Central Asia

  • EU plans for €100bn investment fund to compete w/ US, China (Independent)

    The existing European Investment Bank also provides finance, but its remit is relatively limited to European integration and economic development.

    Calls from some member states for the EU to take a more active approach and develop European champions have intensified of late.

    The recent decision by the European Commission to to block the merger of French and German train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens was criticised by those countries' governments on this basis. 

    A policy document seen by the newspaper warns that non-EU companies “with unprecedented financial means [have] the potential to obliterate the existing innovation dynamic and industrial position of EU industry in certain sectors”. (Related: Bloomberg | Quint)

  • Is Britain Becoming a Failed State? (Project Syndicate)

    The Johnson government denies the truth about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, and denounces any attempt to point these out as “Project Fear.” The EU is blamed for the failure of negotiations, even though this was almost entirely the result of choices made by the previous British government. To cap it all, the public is told that if Britain can convince the EU it is prepared to damage itself with “no deal,” then France, Germany, and others will surrender and give us what we want. Yet any damage that a no-deal Brexit causes to the EU would be dwarfed by the long-term harm it inflicts on Britain.

    Worse still, the future of the Union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland looks increasingly at risk. The government fails to accept that if Britain leaves the EU’s customs union, the resulting border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will imperil the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which has brought more than 20 years of peace to the island of Ireland.

    Are these the actions of a successful state?

  • It’s High Time for Germany to Fund, and Fix, Its Military (Defense One)

    If present trends continue, Germany will remain far below NATO’s 2 percent defense spending benchmark in 2024, despite a decade of promises by German governments to meet this alliance objective. However, Berlin’s problems go beyond budgets. According to the German Parliament’s own inspector of Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr is plagued by over-management, excessive bureaucracy, poor staffing, training delays, a lack of deployable weapons, and an undersupply of basic equipment like radios and night-vision goggles. As a high-ranking German military officer told Politico Europe earlier this year, “No matter where you look, there’s dysfunction.”  

    What the White House should do … is send a clear, strong, and unambiguous message to Germany that Washington will no longer accept a situation whereby Berlin doesn’t sufficiently contribute monetarily and militarily to its own security. If Germany wants to be treated like a valued member of NATO, it should stop using politics as an excuse to avoid making the investments in readiness, acquisition, training, and recruitment and retention it so desperately needs. This means tapping into the considerable wealth at its disposal and giving the Bundeswehr what it requires: functional, modern military platforms and equipment. The United States can’t care for Germany’s security more than the Germans themselves.

  • Putin says US missile test raises new threats to Russia (AP)

    “The Americans have tested this missile too quickly after having withdrawn from the treaty,” Putin said. “That gives us strong reason to believe that they had started work to adapt the sea-launched missile long before they began looking for excuses to opt out of the treaty.”

    He said that for Russia that means “the emergence of new threats, to which we will react accordingly.”

    The U.S. has explained its withdrawal from the treaty by Russian violations — the claim Moscow has denied.

    The Russian leader said that Russia would also work to design such weapons, but reaffirmed that it wouldn’t deploy the missiles previously banned by the INF Treaty to any area before the U.S. does that first. (Related: NPR)

  • Vladimir the Great: How Putin shaped Russia, the world (The Independent)

    But patriotic education means that trend is set for the long term. “People are tired of Ukraine, and of Syria, but it doesn’t alter the fundamental things. We are still living with 19th century mentalities.” 

    Putin’s Russia will be remembered for its bloody wars – Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria – and a reckless approach to the lives of civilians living there and, occasionally, flying in the skies above. It will be remembered for massive increases in military expenditure, which rose between 4.9 per cent and 16 per cent each year between 2010 and 2016, before tailing off somewhat.  

    Putin’s second successive term is up in 2024, and unless he changes the constitution he will not be able to stay on as president. 

    Already in power longer than Brezhev, the Russian president has denied himself an easy exit. His experiences in the sidelines over 2008-11 were not successful. And even if he were to want to leave, he would likely face opposition from his inner circle, who need him much more than he needs them. 

    Various possibilities have already been discussed: a constitutional change that would see real power transferred to parliament and Putin installed as an emboldened prime minister; a model chosen by Kazakh “father of the nation” Nursultan Nazarbayev, with Putin as head of the country’s security council; or, most riskily of all, Putin installed as head of a new unified super-state with Belarus – this is a challenge unlikely to be welcomed in Minsk. 

The Global South

  • Iran unveils new missile defence system, calls US talks 'useless' (Al Jazeera)

    Iranian officials have previously called Bavar, which means "believe" in Farsi, the country's first domestically produced long-range missile defence system.

    Iran began production after the purchase of Russia's S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions that have barred it from importing many weapons. It installed the stalled S-300 system in March 2016 following several years of delays in the wake of the now-crumbling 2015 nuclear deal.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Rouhani said the mobile surface-to-air system was "better than S-300 and close to [more advanced] S-400." (Related: CNN)

  • Leaders of Rwanda and Uganda sign pact in bid to end tension (Reuters)

    In the deal signed in the Angolan capital, the two sides agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty, refrain from actions that destabilize the other’s territory, and resume “as soon as possible” cross-border activities, according to a copy of the agreement seen by Reuters.

  • Report: There's A Growing Water Crisis In The Global South (KCBX)

    "I would love to say that the Sustainable Development Goals related to water access are gloriously being met, but that would be wrong," he says. "The situation is one where the physical systems are getting worse, and the pace at which urban infrastructure is being developed is being overtaken by demand. Then you get a little drought and the population is out of luck."

    The situation was worst in the African cities, which also included Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda; Maputo, Mozambique; and Mzuzu, Malawi. Overall, fewer than one-quarter of those households had access to piped water. In Lagos, for example, more than 60% of households relied on groundwater wells and captured rainwater; in Kampala, most households relied on public taps. According to United Nations data analyzed in the report, the portion of the continent's total urban population lacking access to piped water has increased from 57% to 67% since 1990.

  • Strikes on Iran-backed militias threaten to destabilize Iraq (AP)

    Two U.S. officials said Israel carried out an attack on the Iranian weapons depot in July that killed two Iranian military commanders. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

    A senior official with the Shiite militias at the time told The Associated Press that the base housed advisers from Iran and Lebanon — a reference to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group. He said the attack targeted the headquarters of the advisers and a weapons depot, causing a huge explosion and fire.

    On Aug. 12, a massive explosion killed one person and wounded 28 at the al-Saqr military base near Baghdad, shaking the capital. The base housed a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the PMF. The most recent of the explosions came Tuesday night, at a munitions depot north of Baghdad.

    It would be the first known Israeli airstrike in Iraq since 1981, when Israeli warplanes destroyed a nuclear reactor being built by Saddam Hussein, and significantly expands Israel’s campaign against Iranian military involvement in the region. (Related: The Jerusalem Post)

  • Turkey Warns Syria After Deadly Air Strike (JPost)

    “The regime needs to not play with fire,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated on Tuesday, according to state media, which described the convoy as a transfer of troops to an observation point in Idlib that has been facing attacks by the Russia-backed Syrian regime. “We will do whatever it takes to secure our troops.”

    The Turkish foreign minister also stated on Tuesday that the observation point, which was meant to protect civilians and maintain supply routes, will not be moved.

    The minister’s comment came one day after his government announced that three civilians were killed and 12 wounded in the airstrike in northwestern Syria. 

Modern Thought

  • America Moved On From Gay-Rights, And Left a Legal Mess (The Atlantic)

    As all of this was happening on the legislative side, the courts were also working through what the law already says about LGBTQ rights. In the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has ruled sexstereotyping illegal; declared sodomy bans unconstitutional; struck down state measures blocking civil-rights protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; and, of course, legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But even as the inevitability of legalized gay marriage was becoming clear in the early 2010s, “the narrative really began to take hold that you could be married on Sunday and fired on Monday and lose your housing on Tuesday,” Sarah McBride, the national press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBTQ-rights advocacy group, told me. “That really brought into starker contrast the absurdity of the lack of explicit protections.”

    In recent years, claims of LGBTQ rights have been repeatedly brought into direct conflict with claims of religious conscience. Just this week, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would allow federal contractors to make hiring and firing decisions based on their religious beliefs and practices; progressive advocates believe the rule will be used to target LGBTQ people. The most notable court cases have involved wedding vendors: conservative, religious cake bakers, photographers, and florists who don’t want to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. The outcomes of these conflicts have been mixed, but they’ve made progressive LGBTQ advocates even more determined to eliminate the “gaping religious exemption,” as McBride put it. The Equality Act specifically bars any group from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, to try to opt out of the bill’s protections.

    For religious groups and institutions that teach that homosexuality is a sin, and that men and women were created as such by God, the prospect of this kind of legislation is worrying. “It would be years of litigation—that’s what we would look forward to under the Equality Act as currently drafted,” Shirley Hoogstra, the president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), told me. For the nearly 140 Christian institutions that are members of her organization, she said, the bill “would put federal funding, it would put accreditation, it would put hiring rights, it would put campus student-life policies all at risk.” Fundamentally, these kinds of groups want to be able to preserve what they see as religious integrity in their own spaces—and they object when that is described as bigotry. “The Equality Act as currently drafted has caused Christian institutions to really wonder about whether their particular educational contribution is valued in America,” Hoogstra said.

  • Population Bust: the End of Capitalism as We Know It (Foreign Affairs)

    As growth grinds to a halt, people may well start demanding a new and different economic system. Add in the effects of automation and artificial intelligence, which are already making millions of jobs redundant, and the result is likely a future in which capitalism is increasingly passé. 

    If population contraction were acknowledged as the most likely future, one could imagine policies that might preserve and even invigorate the basic contours of capitalism by setting much lower expectations of future returns and focusing society on reducing costs (which technology is already doing) rather than maximizing output. But those policies would likely be met in the short term by furious opposition from business interests, policymakers, and governments, all of whom would claim that such attitudes are defeatist and could spell an end not just to growth but to prosperity and high standards of living, too. In the absence of such policies, the danger of the coming shift will be compounded by a complete failure to plan for it. 

    Different countries will reach the breaking point at different times. Right now, the demographic deflation is happening in rich societies that are able to bear the costs of slower or negative growth using the accumulated store of wealth that has been built up over generations. Some societies, such as the United States and Canada, are able to temporarily offset declining population with immigration, although soon, there won’t be enough immigrants left. As for the billions of people in the developing world, the hope is that they become rich before they become old. The alternative is not likely to be pretty: without sufficient per capita affluence, it will be extremely difficult for developing countries to support aging populations.

  • Proposing the Moral Equivalent of War (Lapham’s Quarterly)

    Modern war is so expensive that we feel trade to be a better avenue to plunder; but modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors. Showing war’s irrationality and horror is of no effect upon him. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay, as the budgets of all nations show us.

    Pacifists ought to enter more deeply into the aesthetical and ethical point of view of their opponents. Do that first in any controversy, then move the point, and your opponent will follow. So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war’s disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation. And, as a rule, they do fail. The duties, penalties, and sanctions pictured in the utopias they paint are all too weak and tame to touch the military-minded. 

  • Resist Locally, Renew Globally (Resilience)

    Mayors and local councils are already realizing what higher levels of government have not: that economic and political self-determination go hand in hand. Community rights ordinances, public banks, innovative local food purchasing programs—there are countless models showing how local governments can support local resilience.

    The key to integrating these two “prongs” of resistance and renewal lies therefore in building a sense of civic engagement beyond the ballot box. Consumer culture would have us think of ourselves as discrete individuals driven by self-interest, with no allegiance to anything larger than ourselves. But countless initiatives that are rebuilding community connections and deeper relationships to the natural world are already proving effective in reducing depression, anxiety, friction, and violence. And by revitalizing town squares and main streets and reinvigorating the public sphere, local empowerment gives the lie to the message of separation. We must leverage all the tools and passions of local activists, consumers, producers, and local enterprises, to show what is possible when we act in solidarity with our neighbors. We must demonstrate that local economies work, and work well, and then build from there.

  • The Metaphysics of Revolution (Counter Punch)

    In this Thirtieth year since the publication of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, there are those, like Aaron Bastani, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Peter Frase (young men all) who dare to question the situation of today and dream of another world. If not exactly professional revolutionaries like Lenin, they struggle to keep the revolutionary idea alive. And this is all to the good. Yet the question for today is, I think, are the by now classical concerns and concepts of both socialism and Marxism adequate to the particular historical moment that confronts us today? Does protest, opposition, and, even, yes, political violence have to necessarily emerge from the acute revolutionary observations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to activate a critical mass of activists and revolutionaries today?

    Is capitalism still the enemy, truly? Or is hierarchy, in all spheres of life, the true oppressor? The division between ruled and ruling, not as a class phenomenon but as an existential way of being of man in the world since time immemorial.

Random (interesting) links!