...When I published my 'Tragedy of the American Military' article last month, some people said:
No, it's an exaggeration to claim that war is an easy abstraction that people throw around without thinking through the consequences.'
Maybe. But I give you [Josh Muravchik] on the [Fred Hiatt-run] Op-Ed page of our capital city's main newspaper [The Washington Post]....
Kept Simple watches John Podhoretz star in the clown show:
Here is JPod saying that explicit racism is cool as long as you're using it just to get votes. https://t.co/80ACvgXBBH— kept_simple (@kept_simple) March 17, 2015
So this is a measure of Bibi's commitment to Israeli democracy: He just warned his supporters that Arabs are voting in large numbers.— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) March 17, 2015
@JeffreyGoldberg why don't you just tweet "Bibi stinks" every 45 seconds? It's about the same.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 17, 2015
@jpodhoretz Because I'm running on battery and have other things to do. Btw, what do you think about Bibi's warning about Arabs voting?— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) March 17, 2015
@JeffreyGoldberg gee, what a shocker he'd try to scare right wingers to the polls. Whoever heard of such a thing. Get me my smelling salts.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 17, 2015
Monday Smackdown Watch: Perhaps the most urgent question of the day is: nature or nurture. Is the absence of empathy for the human condition on the part of writers for the pre-Gabriel Snyder Old New Republic a result of their nature--that the New Republic of Marty Peretz and those willing to go the extra mile to cater to his bigotries were predisposed to hire such people--or of their nurture--that their discussions while at the Old New Republic trained them to make arguments like this one?
The estimable Patrick Nielsen Hayden, widely-envied by many not least for his office in the Flatiron Building, administers today's Monday Smackdown:
As ex-senator and current lobbyist Evan Bayh beats the drum for the U.S. to launch an attack on Iran, Duncan Black reminds me of what may be the best thing Ezra Klein has ever written:
...but got his revenge as well as he could. Now it's more war all the time. It's the greatest grift of all, really. War breaks out, and 'everyone' gets rich.
...'There are better ways to serve my fellow citizens,' Bayh said. 'I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress.
Over at Equitable Growth: Excellent work from David Frum--reviewing even more excellent work from Adam Tooze.
Let's give David the floor:
The feel-bad piece from the month of October, 2005 on this weblog: the scale of the sacrifice made by the Red Army to defeat the Nazis:
I read the Economist, and I shake my head in confusion:
...and Mr Putin is winning... the Kremlin’s undisputed master... a throttlehold on Ukraine.... His overarching aim is to divide and neuter [the western] alliance.... Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated.... To him, Western institutions and values are more threatening than armies. He wants.... supplant them with his own model... [in which] nation-states trump alliances, states are dominated by elites, and those elites can be bought.... The biggest target is NATO’s commitment to mutual self-defence. Discredit that—by, for example, staging a pro-Russian uprising in Estonia or Latvia, which other NATO members decline to help quell--and the alliance crumbles....
...defending the Crusades and the Inquisition. This example, on the Crusades, by First Things, is their most liked/shared article on their Facebook page by far. I mean, look, I get it. That’s the environment I grew up in. I read young adult novels about the noble Leper King Baldwin and entertained the nostalgia about the Crusader Dream. And yes, fair enough, the Crusades were envisioned as wars of self-defense to reopen Christianity’s holy sites to pilgrims. That’s true. But also, all historical accounts agree that when the Crusaders took Jerusalem, they massacred almost everyone in the city, Christian, Jew and Muslim. Is that something you want to defend, really?
130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that 'the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction.' Liberals, they argued, 'consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West.' Unless that changed, 'In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ... it is the right--the very extreme right--which is most likely to gain victory.'
This one starts with Claire Berlinski's much-warrented dismay at who the Washington Post opens its op-ed pages to--without proper vetting or context. The net effect is to subtract from rather than add to most Washington Post readers' understanding of what is going wrong in Turkey right now:
Initial tweet I first saw at: https://twitter.com/ClaireBerlinski/status/551358577366282240:
@bb1mm1: I don't expect freedom of expression in TR to be an American problem, but what sections of the US press is doing w/ the cemaat is obscene.
In which I once again fail to understand where Niall Ferguson is coming from...
...Having annexed Crimea to Russia, President Putin still has forces camped out in eastern Ukraine. And all over the Muslim world, myriad Islamist organizations, from Islamic State to the Taliban, are using violence to pursue their atavistic goals. In practice, the Obama administration has had little choice but to keep using hard power, from the airstrikes on Islamic State to the economic sanctions on Russia...
And I think: Of course hard power can be decisive--but one needs to have a lot of it, and be willing not just to threaten to use it but to actually use it, and not care that one's use of it may lead the abyss to look into you, and turn you into something you did not want to be, and so cause you to lose even as you "win".
Everything that happened in this damning report is because of Americans. But the report itself is a function of other Americans determined to push back against evil done in this country’s name. Those Americans have been heroes in exposing this horror from the get-go, and they include many CIA agents who knew full well what this foul program was doing to their and America’s reputation. But they also include the dogged staff of the Select Committee....
I continue to get great value from my $60 two-year subscription to Spencer Ackerman weekly (http://toohotfortnr.blogspot.com/).
Here are this week's highlights:
(1) Never fire your best polemicist:
Dear Mr. President:
I have received your letter of October 25.(1) From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and a sense of responsibility. I value this.
Now we have already publicly exchanged our evaluations of the events around Cuba and each of us has set forth his explanation and his understanding of these events. Consequently, I would think that, apparently, a continuation of an exchange of opinions at such a distance, even in the form of secret letters, will hardly add anything to that which one side has already said to the other.
Daniel Davies again:
Daniel Davies: D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA - Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101: "Literally people have been asking me...
..."How is it that you were so amazingly prescient about Iraq? Why is it that you were right about everything at precisely the same moment when we were wrong?" No honestly, they have. I'd love to show you the emails I've received, there were dozens of them, honest. Honest. Anyway, I note that "errors of prewar planning" is now pretty much a mainstream stylised fact, so I suspect that it might make some small contribution to the commonweal if I were to explain how it was that I was able to spot so early that this dog wasn't going to hunt. I will struggle manfully with the savage burden of boasting, self-aggrandisement and ego-stroking that this will necessarily involve. It's been done before, although admittedly by a madman in the process of dying of syphilis of the brain.
Sorry, where was I?
I really hope that there is nothing here. Zalmay Khalilzad was the only member of the Bush Administration who struck me as likable, competent, realistic, and not-evil...
Associated Press: Khalilzad, ex-top US diplomat, in laundering probe: "Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations...
...under President George W. Bush, is being investigated by American authorities for suspected money laundering, Austrian officials said Monday. State prosecutor Thomas Vecsey confirmed a report in the Austrian weekly Profil about the investigation of Khalilzad, who played a key role in the political transition in Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and the fall of the Taliban.
During the 1990s I used to say that after the "End of History" there would be smooth sailing as long as we avoided the creation of four things:
The Islamic Reformation (i.e., another outburst of wars of religion like those that happened in 16th and 17th century Europe when a Holy Book met growing mass literacy and political and economic development).
National Hinduist India (i.e., India replaying the "national unification via aggressive nationalism directed at an internal other", with India's Muslims cast in the role traditionally reserved for Europe's Jews).
Wilhelmine China (i.e., a social caste that has lost both its practical role and its ideological legitimation still somehow dominating the fastest-growing industrial economy in the world and attempting to hang on to power the aggressive nationalism directed at external others).
Weimar Russia (i.e., a superpower that regards itself as not just defeated but humiliated, and not welcomed and assisted with its reforms but rather kicked to keep it down, and that then reacts in unpredictable and very dangerous ways).
Well.. National Hinduist India is still only a threat rather than a reality--albeit a threat that is much more visible than it was a decade ago...
Martin Wolf reviews the creation of Weimar Russia:
Martin Wolf: Russia is our most dangerous neighbour: "Russia is both a tragedy and a menace...
...the blend of self-pity and braggadocio currently at work in Moscow... is as depressing as it is disturbing.... For Europe and, I believe, the US, there is no greater foreign policy question than how to deal with today’s Russia.... A defensive alliance defeated the Soviet Union because it offered a better way of life.... Yet President Vladimir Putin, the latest in a long line of Russian autocrats, has stated, instead: 'The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century'. It was, in fact, an opportunity, one that many in central and eastern Europe seized with both hands. The transition to a new way of life proved unavoidably difficult. The world they now inhabit is highly imperfect. But they have mostly joined the world of civilised modernity. What does this mean? It means intellectual and economic freedom. It means the right to engage freely in public life. It means governments subject to the rule of law and accountable to their people. The west has too often failed to live up to these ideals. But they remain beacons.
In the early 1990s they were beacons to many Russians. As a great admirer of Russian culture and Russian courage, I hoped, fondly perhaps, that the country would find a way.... The alternative of continuing the cycle of despotism was too depressing. With the selection of Mr Putin, a former KGB colonel, as his successor, Boris Yeltsin delivered that outcome.... The west is partly responsible for this tragic outcome. It failed to offer the support Russia needed quickly enough in the early 1990s. Instead it focused, ludicrously, on who would pay the Soviet debt. It acquiesced in the larceny of Russian wealth for the benefit of a few. But more important was the refusal of Russia’s elite to address the reasons for the collapse, then to start afresh.... Today’s Russia feels it is the victim of a historic injustice and rejects core western values. It also feels strong enough to act. Today’s Russian leader also sees these potent emotions as a way to secure power. He is not the first such ruler. His Russia is a perilous neighbour. The west must shed its last post-cold war illusions.
Over at Equitable Growth: John Mearsheimer is only one of a surprising number claiming that the current crisis in Ukraine is predominantly the U.S.'s, and NATO's, and the Ukraine's fault:
John Mearsheimer: How the West Caused the Ukraine Crisis: Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: "The United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility...
...The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement.... For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president--which he rightly labeled a “coup”--was the final straw.... Realpolitik remains relevant--and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border....
Soviet leaders... and their Russian successors did not want NATO to grow any larger and assumed that Western diplomats understood their concerns. The Clinton administration evidently thought otherwise.... The first round of enlargement... 1999... the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The second... 2004... Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Moscow complained bitterly.... The alliance considered admitting Georgia and Ukraine.... Putin maintained that admitting those two countries to NATO would represent a “direct threat” to Russia.... READ MOAR
Ariel Rubenstein: Four Comments on the Situation: Obedience, Embracing, Normalcy and Failure: Obedience: Contempt for obedience...
...I take pride in the fact that when the sirens go off, I demonstratively refrain from heading to a protected space. It's not because I'm courageous. I have my fears. But rationality is not necessarily a dirty word. The chance of being injured by the “flying pipes” in Gush Dan are immeasurably lower than the chances of being hurt on the sidewalks of Tel Aviv during times of calm, not to speak of the risk of catching a fatal virus when entering a hospital. The chances are so low that the fact that Israelis are responding en masse to the directives of the Home Front Command does not reflect a reasonable means of protection; rather, it is primarily an expression of participation in a national carnival.
So what does he talk about? This:
Michael Walzer: On Proportionality: "'Disproportionate' is the favorite critical term...
...in current discussions of the morality of war. But most of the people who use it don’t know what it means in international law or in just war theory....
Proportionality doesn’t mean “tit for tat,” as in the family feud. The Hatfields kill three McCoys, so the McCoys must kill three Hatfields.... Proportionality implies a measure, and the measure here is the value of the end-in-view.... Because proportionality arguments are forward-looking... speculative... we need to be very cautious.... The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all.... “Disproportionate” violence for them is simply violence they don’t like, or it is violence committed by people they don’t like.
Over at Equitable Growth: Attention Conservation:
John Henley (2008): Henley Everywhere 2008: "The following appeared this week in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate and The New Yorker in a parallel universe . . .
How I Got It Right: Looking Back at a Time of Justified Opposition to a Mad, Violent Enterprise:
So many publications have expressed such overwhelming interest in the perspectives of those of us who opposed the Iraq War when it had a chance of doing good that I have had to permit mutliple publication of this article in most of the nation’s elite media venues – collecting, I am almost embarrassed to admit, a separate fee from each. Everyone recognizes that the opinions of those of us who were right about Iraq then are crucial to formulating sane, just policy now. It’s a lot of pressure, so please forgive anything glib or short you read herein: between articles, interviews, think-tank panels and presentations before government agencies and policy organs I’m not permitted to mention, I’m a little frazzled.>On the bright side, and I can confirm that my experience has been similar to those of my fellow prophets, being the object of so much attention, being repeatedly quizzed by eager interlocutors on the same basic points, encourages one to distill one’s thinking to its essence. As Kenneth Pollack asked me the other day, “What the fuck was so special about you, anyway?”
Jim Sleeper: Brooks, Wieseltier: Cries of American Weakness by the People Who Weakened America: "Cries for American military preparedness are growing louder and louder by the day, rising, circling, and echoing one another...
...in a frenzy that even the awfulness of events in Ukraine and many other places doesn’t quite explain. The reason, according to Leon Wieseltier, David Brooks, and other prophets of American Destiny, is that (as I quoted Wieseltier here on March 10) President Obama “is not raising the country up, he is tutoring it in ruefulness and futility…”
Blogging from the root cellar as he watches the depredations of the cossacks who are the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Gregory Djerejian closes his eyes and desperately repeats the myth that if only the cossacks weren't misleading the Czar, Batiushka, the Little Father, he would do the right thing and all would be well. George W. Bush needs "better advice on the Iraq war than he is currently getting from the civilian leadership of the Pentagon." Well, Gregory, the cossacks work for and always have worked for the Czar: George W. Bush has the advisors and gets the advice he wants:
Memorial Day: Inadequate thanks are the only kind we have to offer those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” in service to the country. We the living, and we civilians, should be mindful that every one of those deaths betokened an awesome act of trust – trust that, when they made themselves into weapons, they would be wielded wisely; trust that, when they lay down their lives, we would use that coin for worthy purchase. As a nation we have only ever fitfully met the standards implicit in those deaths. Let us be humble, and let us try harder.
Brad DeLong (2008) This Is Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality...: Do the Cossacks Work for the Czar?: There is an awful lot in this post by Timothy Burke: John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History. But let me, for now, focus on one issue and one issue only. Tim writes:
Easily Distracted » Blog Archive » One-A-Day: John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History: [I]n Zimbabwe... there is first a disconnect between what imperial leaders did and what actors on the colonial periphery did, and that the actions of the latter sometimes drove the former, and that decisions made at either (or both) levels often were internally contradictory, improvisational as well as pre-determined, based on fragmentary or patchwork kinds of knowledge, and frequently opaque to the actors themselves....
Calum Marsh: Errol Morris, on Donald Rumsfeld and His New Documentary, The Unknown Known: "About midway through Errol Morris’s new film The Unknown Known...
...his feature-length conversation with former U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, Morris asks Rumsfeld point-blank how 9/11 was allowed to happen. “Isn’t it amazing?” Morris wonders, given the safeguards in place, the countermeasures and intelligence and defense mechanisms designed to protect us. Rumsfeld cracks his trademark smile—more of a smirk, really. You can tell he’s got this one covered. “Everything seems amazing in retrospect,” he says.
Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon. Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!
Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms. More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.
Dianne Feinstein: "Over the past week, there have been numerous press articles written about the Intelligence Committee’s oversight review of the Detention and Interrogation Program of the CIA,
specifically press attention has focused on the CIA’s intrusion and search of the Senate Select Committee’s computers as well as the committee’s acquisition of a certain internal CIA document known as the Panetta Review.
I rise today to set the record straight and to provide a full accounting of the facts and history.
Robert Blackwill @ The National Interest: In Defense of Kissinger:
Kissinger judged that if Washington had mounted an all-out private and public human-rights campaign against then president Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan and the Pakistan government, which was correctly convinced that the future of the state was at stake, such a campaign would not have fundamentally altered Islamabad’s policy toward East Pakistan, and the White House’s China initiative could well have collapsed. However, as will be demonstrated at length later in this essay, that hardly meant that he ignored the plight of the Bengali Hindus. Kissinger, both while in office and in his subsequent writings, rejected the proposition that circumstances inevitably force a crude either/or choice between national interests and democratic values, and during this crisis no other nation except India did as much as the United States to directly address the human-rights tragedy in East Pakistan.
One wishes that the chasm between academic and policy-maker perspectives might have produced a certain modesty in Bass’s treatment of these events. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead The Blood Telegram offers a strident, almost willfully biased attack on the personal motives of policy makers whom Bass condemns...
But... But... But...
Colin Powell made his Iraq presentation at the UN ten years ago today, on February 5th, 2003.
As much criticism as Powell has received for this—he calls it "painful" and something that will "always be a part of my record"—it hasn't been close to what's justified. Powell was much more than just horribly mistaken: he fabricated "evidence" and ignored repeated warnings that what he was saying was false.
Buce and Juan Cole:
Buce: Underbelly: Slow Boring of Hard Boards: Gates, Shultz, Acheson And the Art of the Political Memoir: "I'm barreling through Robert Gates' much-hyped memoir of his tour as secretary of defense under two Presidents and they are right, it is a delight--one of the very best memoirs of actual governing that I've ever read (although maybe I need to read more such).
It is also, be it said, not remotely that farrago of political gamesmanship that the prince of courtiers, Bob Woodward, described in his first-out-of-the-box Washington Post review a couple of weeks back--why anybody still takes that guy seriously is beyond me.
In my view, there is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace: If the legitimate representatives of two peoples agree to make peace, outsiders have no business condemning the peace as "diabolical". They can say that the peace is unfair, and should be renegotiated. But they should not say that war is preferable--to do so is to use real people who suffer and die as shadow puppets in a play you have scripted to give yourself some kind of emotional satisfaction.
A “framework agreement” will shortly be reached, and a final settlement will probably be signed in the last six months or so of President Obama’s term in office. When the Kerry process was first announced I was virtually alone in predicting that it would actually go somewhere; now, it’s widely assumed. Many respected Israeli commentators now take for granted that an agreement is just a matter of time.
In recent weeks the Kerry talks have apparently focused on Israel’s demands for (i) an enduring military presence in the Jordan Valley and (ii) Palestinian recognition of it as a “Jewish state.” The Palestinians will negotiate some face-saving deal on the Jordan Valley involving a US-Israeli joint presence for a period of time. The Jordan Valley was already essentially resolved at the Annapolis negotiations in 2008. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is raising it now only so he can later claim to be making a “heart-wrenching concession”—Israel is adept at “conceding” things to which it has no title in the first place—by allowing for only a temporary US-Israeli presence along the border. It’s been received wisdom for years—even pro-Israel hack Dennis Ross concedes it in The Missing Peace—that the Jordan Valley has no strategic value.
On the “Jewish state,” the agreement will probably resolve on the formula: Israel as the state of the Jewish people and its citizens, Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people and its citizens. It will afford (legal) protection for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, but will negate the right of return for Palestinian refugees, which is what Israel really cares about. Palestinian President Abbas can then claim it as a victory because he secured the rights of Palestinians in Israel.
The whole thing is diabolical...
Outsourced to Jason Sattler: Bob Woodward Attacks President Obama For Being Right: "Here’s a president who made all the right calls, even though his decisions were often 'opposed by his political advisors' or were 'unpopular with his fellow Democrats'... responsible for 'one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House'.
The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward read about a president who did these things and decided that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir of serving in both the Bush and Obama adminstrations, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, is a “harsh critique of Obama’s leadership.” Woodward... focuses on the rift with the president over the Afghanistan War. But it’s clear that the former secretary ultimately recognized that there was little hope of a successful outcome in the conflict that began in the aftermath of 9/11 — but not because of any decision President Obama made.
The Thirteen-Year-Old got Donald Kagan's (2003) Peloponnesian War (one volume) for Christmas. Now I find that the New Yorker's Daniel Mendelsohn doesn't think much of it:
Kagan... informs us that... he wants his work to "meet the needs of readers in the 21st century"... "an uninterrupted account will better allow readers to draw their own conclusions." Uninterrupted, yes, but not unbiased... you tend to come away from his history with an entirely different view of the war than the one you take away from Thoukydides.... The only way to do this, unfortunately, is [for Kagan] to flatten Thoukydides's presentation... stripping away... [what Thucydides] worked so hard to include.... This is most apparent in [Kagan's] revisionist championing of Kleon and other Athenian hawks, whose policies he consistently presents as the only reasonable choice. "It is tempting to blame Cleon for the breaking off of the negotiations," goes a typical bit of rhetorical strong-arming. "But what, realistically, could have been achieved?" Anyone who hasn't read Thoukydides will be inclined to agree....
The desire to rehabilitate Kleon inevitably results in a corresponding denigration of the [Athenian] peace party (with its "apparently limitless forbearance") and of the cautious policies recommended first by Perikles and then by Nikias, a figure for whom Kagan has particular disdain. Here Kagan's revisionism borders on being misleading. Nikias had tried to bluff the Athenian Assembly into abandoning the invasion of Sicily, declaring that it would require far greater expense than people realized; but they simply approved the additional ships and troops. This leads Kagan, bizarrely, to characterize the Sicilian Expedition as "the failed stratagem of Nikias." As for the Athenians' massacre of the Melians, Kagan dismisses it as "the outlet they needed for their energy and frustration."....
It becomes hard not to ascribe his revisionism to plain hawkishness, a distaste for compromise and negotiation when armed conflict is possible. His book represents the Ollie North take on the Peloponnesian War: "If we'd only gone in there with more triremes," he seems to be saying, "we would have won that sucker."...
I have always found it very strange that Kagan is not much, much more hesitant than he is to dismiss and overturn Thoukydides's analytical conclusions and moral judgments. Thoukydides, after all, was there. We know next to nothing about the Peloponnesian War that he did not. He knew a great deal about the Peloponnesian War that did not make it into his book.
Actually, we do know one important, big thing about the Classical Greek world that Thoukydides did not know (and that, strangely, Kagan appears not to know). There is a deep, powerful sense in which time was on the side of Athens and its empire.
Each decade that the war between Sparta and Athens remained cold rather than hot was a decade for metics and immigrants to the Geek world to think whether they wanted to live in Spartan-allied oligarchies dominated by a closed guild of landowners, or in Athenian-allied places where the (male, citizen) demos ruled and where there was much more growth, commerce, trade, and opportunity.
Each decade that the war between Sparta and Athens remained cold rather than hot was a decade for rich Spartiates to marry the daughters of other rich Spartiates, and for poor Spartiates to find that they could no longer afford the Spartan lifestyle and so drop out of the citizen body--and of the main line of battle.
By 350 Sparta could--this is a guess--put only one-fifth as many professional hoplite soldiers into the line of battle as it could have two centuries before.
A policy of postponing the showdown--even if one of "apparently limitless forbearance"--was a policy of greatly increasing the relative strength of the Athenian side.
But what is most disappointing to Mendelsohn (and most disappointing to me) is that he finds Kagan's Peloponnesian War to be a very different and much less interesting thing than Thoukydides's Peloponnesian War (or, I would argue, than the Peloponnesian War as it really happened). The lessons from Kagan's Peloponnesian War appear to be that war against Bad Guys calls for Harsh Measures and Total Mobilization.
By contrast, Mendelsohn writes, the lessons from Thucydides's Peloponnesian War:
...are no different from the ones that the tragic playwrights teach: that the arrogant self can become the abject Other; that failure to bend, to negotiate, inevitably results in terrible fracture; that, because we are only human, our knowledge is merely knowingness, our vision partial rather than whole, and we must tread carefully in the world...
But let's give Thoukydides himself the last word:
[W]ar... proves a rough master that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes... the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning.... Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.... The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions... not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation... only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it... thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since... success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence.... The leaders in the cities... on the one side with the cry of political equality... on the other of a moderate aristocracy... [recoiled] from no means in their struggles... in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard.... Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries...
Steve Coll: A New Memoir by John Rizzo, the C.I.A.'s Lawyer: "Company Man, an often revealing and funny memoir by John Rizzo.... Between 1976 and his retirement, in 2009, he helped nine different C.I.A. directors to paper over crises, manage Presidents and White House staffs, and outlast congressional inquiries....
“izzo provides a clear, detailed account of his decision-making and his role in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. It includes how he might have stopped the whole ugly business by objecting forcefully when the techniques were first proposed, in furtive meetings on the C.I.A.’s executive floor, in the spring of 2002; why he decided not to stand in the way; and how he induced (suckered is more like it) the Justice Department into writing the infamous “torture memos” that sought to legally justify the C.I.A.’s activity.
Dennis Perrin: Obit For A Former Contrarian:
Bright spring afternoon. Hitch and I spend it in his fave D.C. pub just down the street from his spacious apartment. At the long polished bar, he sips a martini, I swig Tanqueray on ice offset by pints of ale. The pub's TV is flashing golf highlights while the jukebox blasts classic rock. We're chatting about nothing in particular when the juke begins playing "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens. Hitch stops talking. His face tightens. Eyes narrow. I know this look--I saw it on Crossfire when he nearly slugged a Muslim supporter of the Ayatollah's fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I saw it during a Gulf War panel discussion at Georgetown when he responded to some pro-war hack with a precision barrage of invective, followed by the slamming down of the mike, causing a brief reverb in the speakers. And here it was again.
The Washington Post‘s Barton Gellman gifts us with a year-end Snowden wrap-up:
Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.
This seemed inexplicable at the time, and is even more inexplicable now:
U.S. forces missed chance to get bin Laden: WASHINGTON, Nov 29 - The U.S. military could have captured or killed Osama bin Laden in 2001 if it had launched a concerted attack on his hideout in Afghanistan, according to a report prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The report, written by staff working for the Democratic majority on the committee, said the al Qaeda leader’s escape was a lost opportunity that altered the course of the war and paved the way for insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. ”Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat,” the report said. ”But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide.”
U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the region with supporters after the Taliban government was removed from power. U.S. military leaders allowed Afghan militiamen to spearhead the assault and bin Laden managed to escape. The report said U.S. commanders rejected requests for more troops to launch a rapid assault in the area, relying instead on air strikes and the Afghan militias to lead the attack and Pakistan’s Frontier Corps to seal off escape routes. ”The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines,” it said.
The report was especially critical of military leaders under former President George W. Bush, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top military commander, retired General Tommy Franks. Democratic Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the committee, has argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get bin Laden and his top lieutenants in Tora Bora just months after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States...
James K. Galbraith (2007): Exit Strategy:
A more thorough treatment appeared in 1992, with the publication of John M. Newman’s JFK and Vietnam.... Newman’s argument was not a case of “counterfactual historical reasoning,” as Larry Berman described it in an early response. It was not about what might have happened had Kennedy lived. Newman’s argument was stronger: Kennedy, he claims, had decided to begin a phased withdrawal from Vietnam... [and] had ordered this withdrawal to begin.... (1) On October 2, 1963, Kennedy received the report of a mission to Saigon by McNamara and Maxwell Taylor.... The main recommendations... were that a phased withdrawal be completed by the end of 1965.... (2) On October 5, Kennedy made his formal decision.... (3) On October 11, the White House issued NSAM 263, which states: "The President approved the military recommendations contained in section I B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963."... Newman argues that the secrecy after October 2 can be explained by... a political reason: JFK had not decided whether he could get away with claiming that the withdrawal was a result of progress toward the goal of a self-sufficient South Vietnam.
1:20 PM: Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing "on background as a former senior admin official" Sounds defensive.
1:21 PM: Hayden talking about a famous blackberry now.
1:23 PM: Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago.
1:26 PM: Michael Hayden on Acela giving reporters disparaging quotes about admin. "Remember, just refer as former senior admin" #exNSAneedsadayjob
1:27 PM: On Acela: Michael Hayden was talking to Massimo Calabresi at TIME I am pretty sure. Does he tweet?
1:29 PM: On Acela: former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden just ended last of handful of interviews bashing admin
1:34 PM: On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give "off record" interviews. I feel like I'm in the NSA. Except I'm in public.
1:35 PM: On Acela: phone ringing. I think the jig is up. Maybe somebody is telling him I'm here. Do I hide?
1:40 PM: New call. I am totally busted I think.
1:42 PM: I think I'm safe. Just passed Philly. No rendition yet. Do I have the balls to ask him for a photo? #haydenacela
1:46 PM: There is a faint smell of sulfur on the train. #Haydenacela
1:51 PM: New call just came in.
1:53 PM: On Acela: Hayden's comments to press were clearly about NSA spying on foreign allies. #haydenacela
1:57 PM: Win
Jim McDonald: Making Light: Inaccuracies:
John Kennedy delivered his inaugural address on Friday, 20 January 1961. For those who don’t remember those times, the Cold War was pretty darned cold right then…. Two days after Kennedy asked not, just after midnight on 23 January 1961, a B-52 carrying two thermonuclear devices broke up over North Carolina. We now learn that one of the bombs came close to exploding…. Dr. Ralph Lapp told the story in his book, Kill and Overkill: The Strategy of Annihilation in 1962…. What is new is this: the story has been confirmed. Thanks to the automatic declassification schedule, what was Secret then is unclassified fifty years on. And due to a Freedom of Information Act request, someone has found other documents relating to this event. The Guardian has the original document: It’s commentary by Parker Jones, the gent who was responsible for the mechanical safety of US nuclear bombs.
Duncan Black: Eschaton: The Wisdom Of The Center:
Yes we're responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but we've been proved f------ right!!!!
The public focus on Obama’s decision-making has obscured something perhaps more important, which is the breakdown of bipartisan foreign policy. Instead of converging in the center around U.S. leadership, the country seems to be converging at the wings, in a shared left-right rejection of the traditional interventionist role. The public overwhelmingly rejects more “wars of choice” in the Middle East to help nations and people who are seen as feckless and ungrateful. You can think this new American caution is potentially dangerous (as I do), but there’s no arguing that it’s deeply felt and (given the immense cost and almost nonexistent benefits of war in Iraq and Afghanistan) understandable. The question is what a president should do about it.
We must support more wars with immense costs and nonexistent benefits!!! The bipartisan consensus demands it!!!
I, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, am here today to claim that justice which is due to my people, and the assistance promised to it eight months ago, when fifty nations asserted that aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties.
There is no precedent for a Head of State himself speaking in this assembly. But there is also no precedent for a people being victim of such injustice and being at present threatened by abandonment to its aggressor. Also, there has never before been an example of any Government proceeding to the systematic extermination of a nation by barbarous means, in violation of the most solemn promises made by the nations of the earth that there should not be used against innocent human beings the terrible poison of harmful gases. It is to defend a people struggling for its age-old independence that the head of the Ethiopian Empire has come to Geneva to fulfil this supreme duty, after having himself fought at the head of his armies.
The government’s statement claims possession of the documents by Mr Miranda, Mr Greenwald and the Guardian posed a threat to national security, particularly because Mr Miranda was carrying a password alongside a range of electronic devices on which classified documents were stored…. Oliver Robbins… said….
The information that has been accessed consists entirely of misappropriated material in the form of approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents… the disclosure of this information would cause harm to UK national security… among the unencrypted documents… was a piece of paper that included the password for decrypting one of the encypted files on the external hard drive recovered from the claimant… a sign of very poor information security practice…. Even if the claimant were to undertake not to publish or disclose the information that has been detained, the claimant and his associates have demonstrated very poor judgement in their security arrangements with respect to the material rendering the appropriation of the material, or at least access to it by other, non-State actors, a real possibility.
Andrew Sullivan: Cameron Proves Greenwald Right:
When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court… all the checks I supported have been proven illusory…. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position. What has kept me from embracing it entirely has been the absence of any real proof than any deliberate abuse has taken place…. So it is a strange and awful irony that the Coalition government in Britain has today clinched the case for Glenn…. I have met David Miranda…. The thought of his being detained by the British police for nine hours because his partner embarrassed the American government really sickens me at a gut level…. David was detained under an anti-terrorism law… for nine hours--the maximum time under the law, to the minute. He therefore falls into the 3 percent of interviewees particularly, one assumes, likely to be linked to terrorist organizations. My obvious question is: what could possibly lead the British security services to suspect David of such ties to terror groups?… Although David was released, his entire digital library was confiscated--including his laptop and phone. So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is. In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron: Thank you for clearing the air…. You have attacked British democracy itself. What on earth do you have to say for yourself? And were you, in any way, encouraged by the US administration to do such a thing?
Timothy Lee: Watchdogs and Guard Dogs:
We now know that President Obama’s assurances that the NSA wasn’t “actually abusing” its surveillance programs are untrue. A leaked audit shows the NSA violated its own privacy rules, and in some cases the law, thousands of times over a one-year period. A lot of people are assuming this means the president was lying…. But there’s another possibility…. He might not have known about the extent of the NSA’s privacy problems until this week…. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, only learned about the NSA privacy audit when The Washington Post asked her staff about it. And the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has admitted that the court has limited ability to police NSA misconduct. Moreover, an internal NSA document Edward Snowden provided to The Washington Post advises NSA analysts that “while we do want to provide our FAA overseers with the information they need, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information.” The “overseers” are the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice.