Tag Archives: iraq war

Bradley Manning Trial Begins…Finally

4 Jun

Bradley ManningWhether the Obama administration wanted to punish Bradley Manning with three years of pre-trial imprisonment under the worst conditions, or was just incompetent is a small detail, neither of which reflects well on it.

Well, the court-martial of Bradley Manning is really the last ugly chapter of our sordid and ugly Iraq War. A war that we rushed into catastrophically, in no small part because of extreme government secrecy, is now ending in the trial of a truth teller behind a veil of extreme government secrecy. Now, none of the CIA torturers, much less Bush and Cheney, were put on trial, but Washington has finally found a scapegoat in a young Army private who leaked these important documents. Now, to put things in perspective, this is the biggest security breach in U.S. history, but it’s also less than 1 percent of what Washington classifies in a given year. It has not put us on the brink of total transparency. It has not caused diplomatic Armageddon. And there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that any civilian or soldier has been harmed by the leaks. On the other hand, we have a very clear understanding of what the Iraq War was really all about and what our Afghan War is still all about. And the leaks have sparked important debates and even reforms, and in the case of Tunisia, did help spark an uprising that overthrew a hated dictator there. What’s not to like?

Absolutely nothing. But it’s all in the framing. The prosecution had its own perspective.

In an hour-long opening statement for the prosecution on Monday, Captain Joe Morrow told the court martial that the US army private had been motivated by a craving for “notoriety” that had led him to disregard his extensive training and to the “aid of our adversaries”.

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Selective Memory Day

28 May

Hero of WarOn Memorial Day, it’s fitting to recall, that not all Americans considered the day worth celebrating.

In its original incarnation as a product of the Civil War, Memorial Day was divisive and triumphalist, a Northern institution. If it were more widely remembered that the day began with this focus, we might be less enthusiastic about it today. After all, we have mixed feeling about having fallen into civil war in the first place. Perhaps re-purposing is central to our commemorations today.

Progressives have long been uncomfortable with the idea of a day dedicated to soldiers killed in the nation’s wars. Conflicts like James K. Polk’s Mexican War, William McKinley’s Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt’s Philippines War, Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War, and George W. Bush’s Iraq War were wars of aggression, seeking territory or resources or both. No one would want to exalt these seedy episodes in American history, however much we regret the soldiers’ lives expended.

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Kenneth Waltz, IR Theorist, RIP

14 May

Kenneth WaltzKenneth Waltz, a giant among the pantheon of grand theorists in political science and an exponent of structural realism, was an undergrad poli sci major’s best friend. His amazingly-constructed arguments exemplify for me how science is communicated, because they were easy to encapsulate for exams and discussions. Only, in the middle of writing those capsule summaries, those same pithy words often worked themselves into my brain and sparked reflection at the wrong time. But the resulting torrent of paragraphs filled entire exam booklets and essays with borrowed profundity. Here’s an example:

Waltz-Letter

For all the reasons I love this argument, Waltz’s contention that nuclear proliferation promotes stability provokes admiration as well as outrage.

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