A proposed law with bipartisan support would dramatically weaken the ability of legislators to extricate the United States from perpetual armed conflict. A rising generation of Americans has never known peace.
Acknowledging a mistaken path of retributive justice after an unprecedented attack matters. Having the curiosity to question the wisdom of that path before it is taken matters more. Ms. Haspel must have eyes wide open not only with respect to the unforeseen, tragic outcomes of our choice to torture detainees, but also the negative consequences of subsequent misadventures in the Middle East. It is not enough to have learned these lessons from the chastened perspective. We must not blunder again. We’re too big. Our 800 pound gorilla actions, often good intentions gone awry, sometimes a well-deserved punch back, pave the way for humiliating consequences for ourselves, and for weaker actors, unexpected, hellish outcomes.
The mission of our nation’s intelligence apparatus, principally, is to provide early warning indicators of hostile activity and predictions of second, third and fourth order effects of our countering behavior; this, so our leaders can make the best decisions on behalf of defending the Constitution of the United States, the safety of her land and people. Ms. Haspel has the experience and dedication to duty to qualify for her new role, and has wisely, if not directly, acknowledged the mistaken nature of the choice she helped make reality in the past, but she must also have the wisdom to help prevent the next unforced error by providing the right advice. She must not only present her agency’s assessments honestly, but also aggressively lead opposition when others in power want to risk our nation’s prestige and the safety of the world with the choice of an unwise path. At the minimum, she must push hard against any factions that want to pull America back toward torture, back toward military adventurism in the Middle East. Will she? We shall see.
Gina Haspel was sworn in as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on May 21, 2018
America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.
It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Without receiving significant support from Turkey, a nation that fought side-by-side with NATO in the Korean War and supported the first Gulf War, we were unwise to start conflicts in her Ottoman-era territories. The Turkish border has become a conduit for human traffic into and out of Europe, including refugees and jihadists, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. This situation is arguably more consequential to world affairs than instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so should be reversed.
The good news is that America and her allies have made great strides against the menace of ISIS, lessening the pressures of human traffic. We can seize this opportunity to work wth Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds to map a future for the region that is as stable and peaceable as possible, a political solution that provides dignity and security to the Kurds — who have earned some freedom — without taking those same interests away from the Turks.
Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.
Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states: algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole toward extreme ideas.
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.
“What you have for defense… is the ability to think critically, call out falsehood, press for the facts… unflinchingly pursue the truth.”
A hidden assumption underlies the debate over North Korea. The assumption is that preventive war-war against a country that poses no imminent threat but could pose a threat in the future-is morally legitimate. To be sure, many politicians oppose an attack on practical grounds: They say the costs would be too high.
Below, reporter Bill Moyers’s critical history of the National Security State, told through the lens of the Iran Contra scandal of 1987. What has changed in 30 years under successive administrations? What might President Trump, a man for whom truth is not a huge priority, at least in his public speaking, do differently? The need for open debate and congressional approval of executive branch security action remains critical; conservatives and liberals alike support constitutionally required oversight of war powers.
OLIVER NORTH: And I still, to this day, Counsel, don’t see anything wrong with taking the Ayatollah’s money and sending it to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. [pullquote align=”right”]”Next week, Congress will publish a report on the Iran-Contra scandal. My colleagues and I have been investigating it ourselves.
Or maybe not…
Our new commander-in-chief had the good instincts to appoint a man to lead the Armed Forces who opposes stooping to the values of our enemies, who stood his ground against unexamined impulses and offered wise counsel when asked about torture. The new Secretary of Defense also skillfully assures America’s allies that the crew of the United States ship of state will avoid sailing her into uncharted waters at the whim of her new captain. Below, an internet link said to be former general and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s recommended reading list from his days in command — worth a look for those who wish to understand (and perhaps learn a thing or two from) a key leader in the new administration:
75 books based on 15 votes: Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield, The Rommel Papers by Erwin Rommel, One Bullet…
Another source is here.
Secretary Mattis writes about the value of reading here.