Category Archives: Debate

It’s never too late

“I think I wasted my first 50 years of my life. It is a great loss to me as a human being. I want to spend the rest of my life meaningfully.”

— Thae Jong Ho


High-ranking North Korean defector says ‘Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered’

The diplomat’s decision to defect from a regime he had spent his whole life defending didn’t happen overnight. Instead, his misgivings had been simmering for two decades, even as he went around Europe espousing the superiority of the North Korean system.


Does terrorism work?

No, not really, the book review below asserts. One reason, in my view, that terrorism does not work is that there are free nations with citizens who are willing to fight and to die for the cause of order over anarchy, for a national culture that celebrates the positivism of religiosity, be it humanist or spiritual in origin, over the nihilism of religious extremism and antitheism of totalitarianism. Absent such freedom, such noble citizens, terror could mesmerize a population, instill the fear it intends, and achieve the political aims of its authors.

Is Terrorism Effective?

There might well be thousands of books on terrorism, which means that it is extremely difficult to imagine something new. But Richard English’s Does Terrorism Work? A History , due to be released next month, differs from most discussions of the terror phenomenon.

— Marcus

Blood money?

While selling arms may be good business, Senator Paul asks if it may also be immoral, illegal, and strategically dubious:

Senator Chris Murphy adds that, inside Yemen, citizens think they are being targeted by a US bombing campaign, and this action is helping radicalize the Yemeni people against the West.

Despite objections from 27 senators, the sale passed the Senate. The other side of the debate argues that the sale was necessary because Saudi Arabia is fighting a militia backed by the Iranian government. For years Iran has conducted actions that destabilize the region, including support for terrorism and the pursuit of nuclear technology.

The Hill praises the senators who forced the vote for reasserting Congress’s proper role with respect to conducting war and overseeing foreign policy:


Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales

This week, Sens. (R-Ky.), (D-Conn.), (R-Utah) and (D-Minn.) managed to singlehandedly do something that the rest of their colleagues would much rather avoid or ignore: They forced the Senate to debate the wisdom of continuing to provide Saudi Arabia with some of America’s best weaponry, no questions asked.


Secrecy and scrutiny

Know this:

  1. Military secrecy matters, yes, but only insofar as it protects our soldiers and citizens from harm, helps us to win the day, to defeat our enemies.
  2. Secrecy does not exist to protect bureaucracies, bureaucratic procedures, or provide “top people” with special knowledge as a privilege of power.

The officer discussed in the article following, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, appeared to be trying to help his fellow Marines survive, and when some didn’t make it home, help loved ones of the fallen get through a difficult grieving process. If the story is true, then we’re lucky to have leaders like him.

I will defer to General Stanley McChrystal:

Wasn’t this young man just trying to do the right thing?

A U.S. Marine Tried To Warn A Comrade, Now He Faces A Discharge

Enlarge this image Four years ago, Jason Brezler sent an urgent message to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, warning him about a threat. The warning wasn’t heeded, and two weeks later, three U.S. troops were dead. Now the Marine Corps is trying to kick out Maj. Brezler because the warning used classified information.


— Marcus

The business of war


The Man Who Made Millions off the Afghan War

America’s war in Afghanistan, which is now in its fifteenth year, presents a mystery: how could so much money, power, and good will have achieved so little? Congress has appropriated almost eight hundred billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan; a hundred and thirteen billion has gone to reconstruction, more than was spent on the Marshall Plan, in postwar Europe.

One perspective… forgiveness

How To Forgive Your Torturer

How To Forgive Your Torturer 7/3/2014 1:25:00 PM By Ariel Dorfman Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch. What a way to celebrate Torture Awareness Month! According to an Amnesty International Poll released in May, 45 percent of Americans believe that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable” in order to “gain information that may protect the public.”



The real winners in post 9/11 America?

Failure begets an angry electorate, contributing to the populist appeal of candidates like Sanders and Trump. Since 9/11, despite years of helping orchestrate trillions of dollars worth of strategic missteps, leaders of the political-military-industrial complex in Washington continue to enrich themselves without shame and with little accountability. Perhaps one of the populist candidates will hold America’s government-funded gilded class up as a subject for the electorate to consider in November.

To be sure, there are many politicians and leaders who earn every bit of their pay; and there are subordinates in the security forces who serve with a sacrifice few in the private sector are willing to make. But if the claim is correct — that our capital has become part of what is driving income inequality in America — then it’s time to take a hard look at the governing system in D.C., and make the right adjustments so that the business of America works for everyone.

— Marcus

How Wartime Washington Lives in Luxury

In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade after 9/11, it has grown into a sprawling, pretentious representation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.




Pardon the torturers?

“What? Do what?” …I can almost hear the chorus of disbelief humming over the electrons. The National Catholic Reporter puts forward the modest proposal below. It’s an intriguing idea, actually: President Obama could do this on his way out of office.

The political realities of our age mean that it will likely be impossible to hold accountable our foolish leaders who concocted the torture policies. A senate report is not accountability. If we have no political will to punish, a pardon at least allows American leaders who say they oppose torture to send a strong, legally relevant message of repudiation.

— Marcus

Prosecution or pardon of torturers?

In her confirmation hearing, Loretta Lynch, the nominee for attorney general, stated mater-of-factly that waterboarding is torture. Some of the senators on the Judiciary Committee holding the hearing disagree with her, but they gave her no argument. They asked where she stood, and she said waterboarding is torture.


One more book on diplomacy

“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

— Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Diplomacy (Touchstone Book)

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Though a controversial figure, Mr. Kissinger’s observations are intriguing and relevant in an age that has witnessed America squander trillions idealistically attempting to democratize two minor states, without considering the possibility that this effort could erode regional stability, or that it might not serve our national interests.

It is as if we Americans had in our wealth (or the wealth of some of us, at least) become a Gatsby nation led by unaccountable elites who create trouble and sow chaos, then retreat to the security of a well-paid gig — think tank, lobbying firm, academic leadership — leaving the mess for the military and diplomatic corps to clean up. Nations around the world endure our careless majesty in the same way ordinary Americans look upon the lives of these rich and powerful people: with envy, bafflement and a little bit of contempt.

Given the mistakes of recent past, it is welcoming to see Sec. Kerry’s inroads in Iran and Cuba as efforts that, while ambitious, nonetheless directly serve our interests, a diplomacy Kissinger would have favored. Critically, these efforts could lead to successes that restore the faith of Americans in their political class, while assuring the rest of world that we are returning to a time when we think before we act.

— Marcus