Archive | 4:10 pm

A New Consensus On The Bomb

11 Mar

Atomic bombing of JapanI just finished watching Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s Untold History of the United States, and amid the five hypotheticals Stone and Kuznick present, is an alternative theory, that the United States didn’t need to drop the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. The other four hypothetical cases are also very provocative, but it’s a relief to hear this particular account on mainstream television, because it’s a much more helpful explanation for why the Korean peninsula is such a mess than the standard version.

If there are no conspiracy theories here, Stone also eschews another line of argument that many might expect from him: that the ruling class is all-powerful, that Wall Street—the subject of one of his most memorable films—controls everything, along with bankers and the corporate elite, leaving ordinary people helpless. The thesis of the Showtime series, as well as its companion volume, is different: that history is not an iron cage, the keys to which are held by the ruling class. At many pivotal moments, Stone argues, history could have taken a radically different course. The missed opportunities, the roads not taken—these are Stone’s central themes, which he argues with energy, passion and a mountain of evidence (the companion volume has eighty-nine pages of footnotes).

In the third episode, Stone and Kuznick argue, that both theater commanders, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower, opposed the use of the atomic bombs. Furthermore, the president, Harry Truman, used the Bomb, to warn the Soviets about postwar aggression, not to compel Japan to surrender. Alex Wellerstein encapsulates both versions in the work of J. Samuel Walker, a retired historian from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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What’s Next With U.S. Drones Policy

11 Mar

Drone Attack on the US ConstitutionActually, too much. Dan Drezner makes a good point: what is it about drones that makes me cringe. Is it, as Heather Hurlburt argues, the assassinations? Not specifically. The executive branch needs to do some explaining.

This is where a presidential speech could make a difference, as Singer says. The fact that Paul’s filibuster happened at all was a direct indictment of the administration’s own unwillingness to be forthcoming about many of the issues surrounding its counterterror policies. A direct response would allow the administration to move the conversation away from hypotheticals and explain what it is actually doing and where it sees the drone program and the broader “long war” going over the next several years.

Moreover, it would also play to Obama’s strengths as a speaker. He has often been at his best when critically examining specific issues in depth, as he did in his 2008 speech on race in Philadelphia and his 2009 Nobel Prize speech. After the Philadelphia speech, Jon Stewart noted in a rare moment of sincerity that the reason it was significant was that Obama “spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults.” It is time for a president to speak to us about drones, targeted killings and counterterrorism as though we were adults as well.

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Chavez Was The Left’s Fullback

11 Mar

Chavez and Mr. DangerAs American attention shifts for a brief media second to Venezuela, it’s Latin America’s time to take a bow on the world stage.

Firstly, there’s the intersection of growth and social equity that is so different than the austerity that characterizes Europe’s and America’s response to the 2008 banking crisis.

Secondly, Latin American grievances against North American arrogance are deep, and the interests that are derived from those resentments are not merely rhetorical, even if problematic. Then there’s this embarrassing fact for American foreign policy about “benign neglect”..

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