Category Archives: Topical

This we’ll defend


America will no doubt survive the election of a celebrity with dubious qualifications and temperament to her highest office, but if our experiment in self-rule is to continue unblemished, if not humbled, let us keep our eyes wide open to the effects of Mr. Trump’s ascendancy, and make every effort to stand up for the rights his unexamined impulses threaten.

With respect to Trump’s support for tortureleaders who want to return to a dark era must be convinced that such a path is unwise. Remember, sirs, we tried torture already. It did not lead to the end of Al Qaeda, but did convince fence sitters to join the jihad, creating additional death and chaos. America is tougher, “greater”, when we rebuke the calculated savagery of Islamic extremism. They aren’t like us. Let’s not be like them.

With respect to unconstitutional police actions, while we must keep secrets secret, we must not spy on ourselves. The 4th amendment exists because of state overreach.  Our forefathers fought and died for this right. Let’s honor that sacrifice and reject the surveillance state.

We must be vigilant. We must reward competence. We must be purposeful when we have information about a threat, act on leads, and crucially, hold trials where judges, weighing evidence, condemn the worst of the worst, imprison enablers, and, with courage, free the innocent. Let’s remember: Trials and systems are what civilization does, cruelty and caprice are the manners of savagery. When we are the model for other states to follow, cooperation will improve with our neighbors. Such cooperation is the key to our security.

Let us hope that thoughtful citizens now come forward to assist Mr. Trump, help him understand that his primary role is to defend what really matters about AmericaBrave men and women can advise Mr. Trump to think beyond impulse and instinct, and to uphold the principles that have already made America great, namely:

Amendment I

Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

Right to bear arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


Amendment III

Quartering of soldiers

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Amendment IV

Search and arrest

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Amendment V

Rights in criminal cases

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Amendment VI

Right to a fair trial

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


Amendment VII

Rights in civil cases

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Amendment VIII

Bail, fines, punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


Amendment IX

Rights retained by the People

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


Amendment X

States’ rights

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

— Marcus

An interesting question…

“Some were fed watermelon to fill their bladders, they said, and then had their penises tied.”

Besides the Kingdom’s uncomfortable taste for torture, the article below reveals that some tolerance for diversity, however limited, also reflects the modern Saudi state. Such tolerance suggests that pluralistic political reform, while surely distant, may one day come to America’s long-standing gulf ally:

In Saudi Arabia: Can It Really Change?

Thirty-five years after Wahhabi forces saved the Saudi monarchy, foreign descriptions of Saudi Arabia remain for the most part remarkably bleak. The writers of the four books under review examine the domination of the al-Saud dynasty with the fascination with which a zoologist might regard a black widow snaring its prey.

— Marcus


The blogger and the bully

The article below explores how a networked citizenry can hold state officials to account, even in regimes that do not honor human rights.

Making Chinese Officials Accountable, Blog by Blog

Despite the risks, Chinese social media users are beating online censorship. Ai Weiwei, He Xie, an installation of 3,000 porcelain crabs / Photo: glasseyes view China sent its first email in 1987. It read, “Across the Great Wall, we can reach every corner in the world.”

In a sense, this man is no longer alone:

(Separately, an interesting discussion with Charlie Rose and Jeff Widener, the award-winning photojournalist who snapped the above “Tank man” photo that famously captured the spirit of Tiananmen ’89.)

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.


Escaping the cult…

A nation-sized cult attacks a member who braves leaving.

North Korea calls UK-based defector ‘human scum’ – BBC News

North Korea has branded a UK-based diplomat who defected to South Korea as “human scum”. Thae Yong-ho, deputy envoy in London, and his family are now under the protection of the South. Without listing his name, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said the envoy had been accused of leaking secrets, embezzlement and child rape.

Conflict and cooperation

SWJ suggests that a systematic, analytical, game-theory-based approach to battlefield interrogations may be effective:

Small Wars Journal

Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog. We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

Defense, Inc.

One of the more curious experiences I had after signing up to serve was being offered large sums (for a poor kid from North Carolina, mind you) to work as a defense contractor. Contractors take on the same tasks as soldiers, but earn pay that can be very high compared to the set military scale. The result of the DoD’s contracting focus is that America ends up with a surplus of contractors who hold positions that could be done by uniformed personnel for less expense. Veteran Special Forces operator Lloyd Sparks has written an insider’s account of working life in America’s defense industry, outlining its curious culture and contradictions; his views add weight to calls for reform.

— Marcus

Boondoggle: My Unexpected Career as a Military Defense Contractor

Buy Boondoggle: My Unexpected Career as a Military Defense Contractor on ✓ FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders