Dear Sen. Sanders,
Congratulations on your strong showing in Iowa and your victory in New Hampshire.
It’s exciting to see Democratic primary voters—especially younger ones—choosing your program of social democracy over the unfettered liberal capitalism to which they’ve always been told there’s no alternative. They’re making that choice even though you call yourself a “socialist” and refuse to disavow the label amid the corporate media’s sneers. Imagine that—voters think they should decide who’s electable.
It’s tax season again. How about a little accounting?
Every year, Washington sends $3.1 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to Israel. It’s only fair to ask what Americans are getting in return.
That seems especially appropriate now.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is busy badmouthing the tentative nuclear deal with Iran, a major diplomatic achievement for the United States. And a few weeks ago, he declared his opposition to a Palestinian state, a long-standing US priority.
Latin American solidarity movements with Palestine are starting to win important political battles.
For the past 18 months the Israeli government has gradually raised the stakes in its campaign to pressure Palestinian Christians to serve in the Israeli military. In April, Israel upped the ante once again, announcing it would henceforth be issuing enlistment notices to Christians who have graduated from secondary school. This time, the Greek Orthodox patriarch responded, sacking a senior Nazareth priest, Jibril Nadaf, who had styled himself the spiritual leader of a small but vociferous group of Palestinian Christians who back the government campaign.
“Will China dominate the twenty-first century?” So asks the title of a short book by Jonathan Fenby, a British journalist who was editor of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post during the period when that bustling entrepôt was being transferred from British control to the sovereignty of the People’s Republic.
I recently came across a document in the archives, a reminder that the march of “progress” in Afghanistan sometimes seems more reminiscent of a never-ending marching band reliably circling a parade ground. The martial metaphor here isn’t accidental: As elsewhere, security forces have been central to nearly every attempt to make Afghanistan a “modern” nation-state, a pattern echoed in today’s Beltway anxieties over how many local troops are deemed “ready” to take over in the event of a US withdrawal.
President Barack Obama plans an overnight stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 28-29 for a rendezvous with King ‘Abdallah. The enduring but always strange bedfellows have been quarreling of late over Saudi Arabia’s belligerent relations with neighbors Iran and Syria. Both sides hope during this visit to kiss and make up.
Raise the subject of Arab military-industrial production and the country that springs to mind is Egypt. A historian might recall Iraq’s early arms industry; a Gulf analyst might think of the weapons development projects being financed by the United Arab Emirates. Few would think of Jordan. But according to promotional literature, Jordan’s armed forces have entered joint venture partnerships with at least 26 foreign defense companies,  to produce everything from pre-packaged field rations and boots to backpack-portable drones and armored vehicles.
One of the more regrettable things that Uncle Sam does with your tax dollars is sending $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel every year. He’ll be doing that until 2018 — and probably after, unless Americans decide enough is enough.
When President Barack Obama traveled to Israel in March, he was keen to “reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations” and “to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” Over the years, Washington has displayed this resolve in several ways. One of the most consequential has been the continuous stream of taxpayer dollars that has kept Israel armed to the teeth and reduced the prospects for Middle East peace.
Within hours of the onset of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s latest military campaign in the Gaza Strip, global news outlets had already turned their spotlight on social media. A raft of stories led with the Israel Defense Forces’ use of the popular networking platforms to advance their public relations message, pointing to their use of Twitter to announce the army’s assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad al-Ja‘bari and their slickly produced Facebook posts justifying the ongoing aerial bombardment.
The concept of “culture” took on new life in US military strategy in 2006. At the time of the US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, cultural knowledge and training played no role in US military calculations; it was simply not part of the vocabulary of war. Culture became an official element of the US military’s arsenal with the 2006 publication of Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, referred to colloquially as “the COIN manual.” Under the COIN rubric, cultural knowledge functions as a tactical asset for troops and military strategists.
After drones became the American weapon of choice in Pakistan sometime toward the end of the 2000s, a number of US counterinsurgency experts expressed their discomfort with the killer robots in various military-related forums. For these writers, the non-human nature of drones, their blunt force and their distance from the enemy were something of an affront to counterinsurgency dictums about “hearts and minds” and “calibrated force.” The military characterizes counterinsurgency as a series of battlefield tactics (clear, hold, build) and developmental activities intended to persuade or coerce enemy civilians into supporting the counterinsurgent force.
“In the last decade,” wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the November 2011 Foreign Policy, “our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities” — namely, the growing strategic importance of Asia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Drones are President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice in the war on terror.
Since taking office, he has ordered over 280 drone strikes in Pakistan alone. That’s more than eight times as many as George W. Bush authorized and doesn’t even count the scores of other unmanned attacks in Somalia and Yemen. When the mainstream media reports these operations, it claims that almost all the people killed are “militants” — members of al-Qaeda or affiliated radical groups.
In waging war on Iraq, one of the points the Bush administration sought to prove was that President Bill Clinton’s policy of dual containment had failed — that despite a decade of threats, sanctions, military action and UN-led disarmament, Iraq had continued to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Iraq, of course, was not the only target of dual containment. So was neighboring Iran, which likewise was suspected of having secret programs for building weapons of mass destruction and was seen as a destabilizing force hostile to US interests.
While not as great as it had been in the recent past, the role of arms and military spending in the societies and economies of the Gulf states is still much larger than in any other area of the world. It was not until after the Iran-Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf war that these states felt that they could make reductions, necessitated by the 1980s fall in world oil prices, in their very large levels of military spending. Only in Kuwait, for understandable reasons, did military spending in 1995, measured in current dollars, exceed that of 1985. Excepting Kuwait, military expenditures per capita are down across the region, as is the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on the military.
Foreign policy insiders in Washington are fond of describing France as a uniquely amoral weapons-trafficking nation that will sell anything to anyone. This harsh judgement seemed to be confirmed last August, when the latest Congressional Research Service report on arms transfers revealed that France had replaced the United States as the leading exporter of arms to the Third World, and in a decisive fashion had grabbed 45 percent of all new arms agreements with developing nations in 1994, nearly twice the level of sales registered by the outgoing titleholder.