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JWT BLOG Archives: 200620052004

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JWT BLOG (News, Uncatalogued Links, & Editorial Reflections):

4/8/2014: Oakland University's 2014 Burke Lecture featuring Michael Walzer on biblical conceptions of peace is this Thursday evening, 7:00, April 10, at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, MI.

9/12/2012: "The Haqqani History: Bin Ladin's Advocate Inside the Taliban," National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 389, edited by Barbara Elias-Sanborn, September 11, 2012, includes "a confession from Haqqani that he had enjoyed very amicable relations with U.S. officials during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, but that the friendship soured after the 1998 U.S. bombing of a Haqqani-linked terrorist camp in Khost, Afghanistan, undertaken by President Bill Clinton in retaliation for al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."

8/5/2011: In "War and the Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt," New York Times, July 3, 2011, Nancy Sherman argues (rightly, I think) that survivor guilt " is fitting because it gets right certain moral (or evaluative) features of a soldier’s world — that good soldiers depend on each other, come to love each other, and have duties to care and bring each other safely home. Philosophers, at least since the time of Kant, have called these “imperfect duties”: even in the best circumstances, we can’t perfectly fulfill them. And so, what duties to others need to make room for, even in a soldier’s life of service and sacrifice, are duties to self, of self-forgiveness and self-empathy. These are a part of full moral repair." For her further reflections on this topic, see the follow up piece, "Shame and Responsibility," New York Times, July 25, 2011.

8/5/2011: Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute offers a critical assessment of Military Spending and the [U.S.] Budget Deal. Last fall Preble and Benjamin H. Friedman advocate much greater "Budgetary Savings from Military Restraint."

8/3/2011: "Washington, D.C., August 1, 2011 - Pursuant to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive on the 50th anniversary of the infamous CIA-led invasion of Cuba, the CIA has released four volumes of its Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation. The Archive today posted volume 2, "Participation in the Conduct of Foreign Policy" (Part 1 | Part 2), classified top secret, which contains detailed information on the CIA's negotiations with Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama on support for the invasion.
'These are among the last remaining secret records of this act of U.S. aggression against Cuba,' noted Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Cuba Documentation Project at the Archive. 'The CIA has finally seen the wisdom of letting the public scrutinize this major debacle in the covert history of U.S. foreign policy.'..."

5/2/11: For informed commentary of last night's news, check out "Notes on the Death of Osama bin Laden," by Steve Coll in The New Yorker.

4/3/11: International Community Must Pull Côte d’Ivoire from the Abyss, International Crisis Group: "Mass killings and extreme violence are unfolding in Abidjan. Côte d’Ivoire’s civil war between forces supporting president elect Alassane Ouattara and those loyal to Laurent Gbagbo has deteriorated into major urban warfare in the commercial capital. In other parts of the country, particularly in the western city of Duékoué, where large-scale massacres have already occurred, the death toll could reach thousands within days..."

12/17/10: Check out the graphic behind the speakers in this C-SPAN state department briefing: afghanistan and pakistan strategy review 12/16/10. The fact that the new State Department URL does not invoke the United States and the associated "global" graphic does not highlight the US is both good rhetorical strategy for a presumptive leader of shared global governance and something that is bound to fuel Glenn Beck and Tea Party paranoia.

12/15/10: When a career politician talks about starting a war, you can bet that he’s serious; but when he talks about ending a war, he must be joking. R.I.P. Richard Holbrook and your famous last words.

11/8/10: Military responses are the chief means of enforcing the principle of non-aggression within the international society of states. Are the existing legal permissions for such enforcement responses adequate or inadequate? In "Justice & Deterrence in International Law: Improper Limitations on Responses to Unlawful Aggression, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-03; Rutgers School of Law-Newark Research Papers No. 64, January 12, 2010, Paul H. Robinson and Adil Ahmad Haque argue that "in order to effectively control unlawful aggression, international law needs to have fewer limitations on responses to aggression."

11/8/10: The emergence of cyberwarfare challenges conventional conceptions of the right to self-defense. In "Cyberwarfare and the Use of Force Giving Rise to the Right of Self-Defense," Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, Vol. 32, 2009, Matthew Hoisington argues that "international law should afford protection for states who initiate a good-faith response to a cyber-attack, especially when the attack targets critical national infrastructure."

9/13/10: Stephen Walt gives the top ten reasons why wars of choice last too long.

9/7/10:The Media Education Foundation says, "Militainment, Inc. offers a fascinating, disturbing, and timely glimpse into the militarization of American popular culture, examining how U.S. news coverage has come to resemble Hollywood film, video games, and 'reality television' in its glamorization of war. Mobilizing an astonishing range of media examples – from news anchors’ idolatry of military machinery to the impact of government propaganda on war reporting – the film asks: How has war taken its place in the culture as an entertainment spectacle?" It's good. Watch it here:

9/7/10: In the following video lecture, Peter Mantello analyzes the ways in which first person shooter (FPS) video games simplify, legitimate and motivate 4th generation warfare:

Death Counts versus Polygon Counts: The Aesthetics and Politics of The ‘Special Ops’ First Person Shooter Games' from UQ POLSIS on Vimeo.

9/3/10: Benjamin Wites, Jack Goldsmith and Robert Chesney have started a new blog, Lawfare: Hard National Security Choices. Here's how they describe it: "We mean to devote this blog to that nebulous zone in which actions taken or contemplated to protect the nation interact with the nation’s laws and legal institutions. We will, I am sure, construe this subject broadly to include subjects as far-flung as cybersecurity, Guantánamo habeas litigation, targeted killing, biosecurity, universal jurisdiction, the Alien Tort Statute, the state secrets privilege and countless other related and not-so-related matters... The name Lawfare refers both to the use of law as a weapon of conflict and, perhaps more importantly, to the depressing reality that America remains at war with itself over the law governing its warfare with others."

12/25/09: "Et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis!" Peace on Earth, Good Will toward All! This is an ancient and noble hope. It expresses a common human desire that no innocents should suffer from arbitrary forms of political violence, whether it be from terrorist bombings, errant airstrikes, forced disappearances, torture, or political detention. This list includes the sad fate today of Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to eleven years in prison (plus the one just served before trial) merely for giving voice to his political opinions and for helping to author the (rather sensible) Charter 08. If there are any human rights, the most basic of these may be what James Bohman calls (in Democracy Across Borders) the "right to initiate deliberation." Sadly there can be no peace on earth until the citizens of the world are free to speak their minds in peace. Let freedom reign. Free Liu Xiaobo!

12/21/09: "US launches cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen" By Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal (whose reports about U.S. counterterrorism efforts are consistently more thorough than what is found in the mainstream press), December 19, 2009: "The US military carried out cruise missile attacks against two al Qaeda camps in Yemen, killing several terrorist commanders and fighters as well as civilians. . . . The Yemeni government claimed 34 al Qaeda fighters were killed and 17 more were captured in the joint air and ground strikes. Muhammad Salih al Awlaqi, al Qaeda's leader in Abyan province, and commanders Muhammad al Amburi and Munir al Amburi were also reported killed in the Abyan strikes, according to reports in Quds Press and Al . . . Leaders in Abyan disputed the government's claims that only al Qaeda fighters were killed, and claimed more than 60 civilians have died in the strikes. Ali Husayn Ashal, a member of Parliament and a leader in the opposition Islah Party, accused President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government of intentionally targeting civilians. . . ."

11/27/09: Lieber Society Military Prize: Call for Papers: The Lieber Society, an Interest Group of the American Society of International Law, bestows each year, without regard to nationality, a prize for an exceptional writing that enhances understanding of the law of war by a person serving in the regular or reserve armed forces of any nation. The Prize. The winner will receive a certificate confirming that he or she has won the 2010 Lieber Society Military Prize, $500.00, and a one-year membership to the American Society of International Law (ASIL). The judges may also select two additional persons to receive Lieber Society Certificates of Merit. Request for Assistance. Any person receiving this Call for Papers who is aware of an exceptional writing that meets the qualifications of this competition is requested to nominate the paper directly to the Lieber Society and forward this Call to the author of that paper. Definition of the Law of War. For this competition, the Law of War is that part of international law that regulates the conduct of armed hostilities. Papers may address any aspect of the law of war, including, but not limited to: the use of force in international law, the conduct of hostilities during international and non-international armed conflicts, protected persons and protected objects, the law of weapons, rules of engagement, treatment of detainees, to include interrogation procedures, and occupation law. Papers addressing practical problems confronting members of armed forces are preferred. Qualifications for entering the competition. Persons submitting papers do not have to be ASIL members. They may be citizens of any nation, but they must be a member of their nation�s regular or reserve armed forces. Papers that may be entered. Papers submitted in this competition must be in English (or translated into English if written in another language) and not more than 35 pages long if printed with single line spacing or 70 pages if written with double line spacing. Both papers that have been published and papers that have not been published will be considered for the Prize. Required Contact Data. All submissions must contain the following data on the author of the paper: full name and rank or rating, current postal and e-mail addresses, current telephone and fax numbers. If a person other than the author is making the submission, it must also contain the above data for the person submitting the paper. Deadline for submitting papers. Papers for the 2010 competition must be received no later than Friday, January 2, 2010. Use of email to submit papers. Electronic submissions in Adobe format (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc) will be accepted. They should be sent to Use of the postal system to submit papers. Submissions by postal mail must be sent to: Eric Talbot Jensen, 6322 Hillsborough Drive, Falls Church, VA 22044. If the postal system is used, two copies of the paper must be submitted. Acknowledgement of submissions. All submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail. Announcement of winner. The winner and any persons receiving Certificates of Merit will be announced at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington, DC, March 2010.

11/11/09: It's Veterans Day here in the U.S., and the occasion has prompted me to revisit this long-neglected blog. For those of us who question the wisdom and the justice of at least some of the military campaigns that our government has elected to pursue, this national holiday is bound to raise mixed feelings. On one hand, we respect the courage and self-sacrifice of those who have served honorably in the U.S. military, and we feel a debt of gratitude for the extent to which their service has enhanced our security. Yet, we are also understandably saddened and angered by the tremendous loss of life that results from unnecessary military adventures, and we are therefore extremely wary of the rise of blinkered militarism in American life. So, as we pay tribute to honorable soldiers, we should also reflect on the weight of our responsibility to make sure that we don't hazard their lives, or the lives of foreign nationals abroad, upon thin pretexts or for narrow interests. And we should also hope that soldiers, or would-be soldiers, might be sufficiently reflective and well-informed to consider the weight of their responsibilities for questioning blatantly unjust or criminal orders, and for approaching the prospect of military duty with due moral caution. For a philosophical examination of this last point, I recommend David R. Mapel's "Coerced Moral Agents? Individual Responsibility for Military Service," The Journal of Political Philosophy, Volume 6, Number 2, 1998. Mapel's article presents a careful critical examination of the responsibilities of soldiers, and would-be soldiers, for their participation in various forms of warfare.

As we think about what is required of soldiers and would-be soldiers, we should also consider what we should do to make sure that their sacrifices are not ignored or repaid too cheaply. We might therefore wonder whether we provide sufficient health care -- for both body and mind -- for disabled veterans. Recent news -- from the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital to the alarming rate of suicides in the army -- suggests that we do not. So, it's disturbing to note that as I write this, legislation that might address the issue has stalled in the U.S. Senate's Committee on Veterans Affairs. "Lone senator holds up veterans bill," writes Rick Maze for the Navy Times: "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is trying to bring pressure on the Senate to ignore tradition and bring a veterans health care bill up for debate despite the anonymous hold on the bill placed by a senator. The bill in question is S 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, which includes three top priorities of the veterans group. It contains a package of improvements for female veterans, including more training for mental health providers in treating sexual trauma, a pilot program to offer child care so that veterans who have children find it easier make appointments, and a trial counseling program in which newly separated female veterans would be treated in retreat-like settings. It also would expand mental health programs for veterans in rural areas by contracting with local community mental health centers, and expand mental health services for the immediate families of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Improvement programs for homeless veterans also are included � a high priority for the Obama administration. Although it is not one of the priority items for IAVA, another key part of the bill is a precedent-setting program that would pay stipends to family members who provide care to severely disabled veterans, rather than having the veteran institutionalized or receive regular at-home nursing care..." (Follow the link above to read more.)

Here also is yesterday's press conference held by the bill's sponsors:

Care to support your disabled veterans this Veteran's Day? If so, you can go to the Disabled American Veterans website to learn more about bill S 1963 and offer support for it, if you think it's an appropriate way to honor our veterans.

4/14/09: The legal counsel for Guantanamo detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed Al-Nashiri, have submitted a request to the CIA that further evidence of torture should not be destroyed as the Obama administration decommissions "black site" detention facilities. In my opinion, not only should these sites not be destroyed, they should be preserved and turned into museums that people can visit to learn about past horrors, just like Dachau, etc.

4/1/09: Click here to listen to Peter Singer's NPR interview about the topic of his new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, Penguin Press, 2009.

3/28/09: Thanks to Robert Greenwald et. al. at Brave New Films, we can watch online for free the emerging segments of the documentary film, Rethinking Afghanistan. Watch part one on Afghanistan here, and part two on the importance of understanding the role of the Pashtun community and Pakistan here.

3/27/09: In "Suspension as an Emergency Power," The Yale Law Journal, Volume 118, 2009, Amanda Tyler "explores in detail" how the executive power to suspend habeas corpus "fits into our larger constitutional scheme." Her conclusion: "in the narrow circumstances believed by the Framers to justify suspending the privilege -- times of 'Rebellion or Invasion' -- a suspension offers the government some measure of latitude in its efforts to restore order and preserve its very existence. The idea is hardly new. Indeed, Blackstone articulated it long ago. As he both explained and cautioned, '[T]his experiment ought only to be tried in cases of extreme emergency; and in these the nation parts with its liberty for a while, in order to preserve it forever.'"

2/10/09: In "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities," Institute for Policy Studies, October 2007, Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier demonstrate empirically that "spending on personal consumption, health care, education, mass transit, and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure repair all create more jobs per $1 billon in expenditures relative to military spending."

2/7/09: Another area of inquiry that recent just war theory has sorely neglected is the political economy of military appropriations. In a nation that credits WWII with the defeat of the last Great Depression, it is often uncritically assumed that it's always beneficial to a nation to expand its war economy. Thus, Ollie North laments the fact that increased military spending is not part of the economic stimulus package that is now moving through the Senate. Is he right? Not according to Winslow Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project, who argues that the bloated Pentagon budget is a source and not a solution to our economic woes.

2/7/09: In "Repudiate the Carter Doctrine," Foreign Policy in Focus, January 22, 2009, Michael Klare blames Carter and adjures Obama: "Twenty-nine years ago, President Jimmy Carter adopted the radical and dangerous policy of using military force to ensure U.S. access to Middle Eastern oil... It's time to repudiate this doctrine and satisfy U.S. energy needs without reliance on military intervention." It's strange that Klare hangs blood-for-oil military policy on Carter given that his own documentary Blood and Oil traces this policy back to FDR, following Winston Churchill's example. It's no matter. The article touches upon an important issue that has been largely neglected in recent just war theory. Is it ethically justifiable to use organized armed forces to protect markets for key natural resources? If so, how do we draw and walk the line between protecting open markets and trying to dominate them (and our dependent allies) through political strategies of hegemonic resource control?

1/20/09: The National Institute of Military Justice & American University's Washington College of Law will hold its 2009 Founders Celebration conference on "Jurisprudence of the Military Commissions" this Friday, Jan. 23rd. Panelists include the following: Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Law Library of Congress; Colonel Lawrence Morris, Chief Prosecutor, Office of Military Commissions; and Colonel Peter R. Masciola, Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions; Lieutenant Colonel Stevenson, Prosecutor, Office of Military Commissions; Major Jon Jackson, Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions; Adam Thurschwell, Civilian Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions; Professor Madeline Morris, Duke University; Frank Rangoussis , Prosecutor, Office of Military Commissions; Major David Frakt, Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions; and Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer, Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions; Hina Shamsi, Staff Attorney, National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union and Charles "Cully" Stimson, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Senior Legal Fellow Heritage Foundation. Follow this link for more information and to register.

1/20/09: In case you missed the story last week, it's worth noting here that retired judge Susan J. Crawford has stepped forward to become "the first senior bush Administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured." As Bob Woodward reports, "The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a 'life-threatening condition.' 'We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,' said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. 'His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case' for prosecution.'..." Given the depth of Crawford's service under republican administrations, her frank acknowledgment of torture at Guantanamo Bay and her evident disgust at the proceedings seems like a pretty good indicator that we may eventually see one of two possibilities: future legal action against responsible officials, or applicable Presidential pardons. To be continued...

1/10/09: In this mp3 audio file, David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton of PhilosophyBites interview Chandran Kukathas on the topic of genocide. Kukathas argues that the commonly accepted understanding of genocide, as shaped by international convention, is inadequate and in need of revision.

1/5/09: As an aid to reflection about the Gaza conflict I've recently read numerous analyses and commentaries, almost all of which have been remarkably one-sided and unconstructive. Lots of fingers pointing and tongues wagging, but very little vision. A noteworthy exception to the prevailing dearth of constructive and even-handed realism about this conflict is today's International Crisis Group briefing on "Ending The War in Gaza." I hope that it will be read by every diplomat and every military commander with an opportunity to influence events in that troubled part of the (not so) human world.

11/21/08: The Center for Defense Information has posted an online advanced preview of its report on America's Defense Meltdown. In separate chapters, the 13 contributing defense experts "seek to inform the new president and the new Congress of the pervasive nature of serious, decades-long problems that are corroding not just our military power, but our national strength." It's a hard-hitting call for sweeping and detailed reforms of the U.S. military.

11/10/08: On November 18th, a public symposium "On Torture" will be held at George Washington University in Washington, DC at Jack Morton Auditorium (805 21st Street NW) from 9am to 6:30pm. The symposium is generously sponsored by the Heinrich Boell Foundation and GWU. The keynote speakers are Santiago Canton (head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and Aryeh Neier (President of the Open Society Institute, a founder of Human Rights Watch, and author of several books). The program also includes David Luban (Georgetown University Law School) and other contributors to the book On Torture, Thomas C. Hilde ed., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. The symposium will be structured so as to be truly discussion-oriented.

Also, the following day, November 19th, is the opening of the exhibit, "Los Desaparecidos," at the Museum of the Americas (of the OAS) on the National Mall (a review of the exhibit is here) in Washington, DC, which will include discussions with the artists and symposium participants.

11/2/08: I gave another interview yesterday to Ferhad Hassan of Gulan Weekly Magazine, a publication of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. Here's the original English version...

Hassan: "The major problem between USA and Iraq�s government is about the SOFA (status of force agreement) in which Iraq�s government is putting obstacles in front of signing it, so here according to your opinion what do you think of Iraqi government�s position and do you think if the agreement will be signed?

Rigstad: "At this point the contradictions of democratic military occupation have become so glaring that I would be surprised to see the current U.S. administration and the Iraqi government reach a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Effective occupation requires that military forces maintain a position of strategic dominance over the occupied population. That is what the Bush administrations' March 7 draft of the SOFA would have ensured. In contradistinction, democratic national sovereignty requires that the people of a nation have decisive legal control over security forces operating within their territory. That's what the Iraqi government's October 13 draft of the SOFA demands. The two positions are clear, mutually incompatible, and not readily amenable to legal compromise. The US-led coalition forces claim to be in Iraq as liberators. But if it makes sense to speak of the democratic will of the nation of Iraq -- setting aside at this point the question of Kurdistan -- it quite evidently repudiates this claim. A public opinion poll that published more than two years ago found that overwhelming majorities of Iraqi people approved of armed insurgency and wanted to see a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces before the end of 2007. So, the Iraqi people, if we imagine them speaking in a single voice, clearly reject the U.S.-led coalition's military presence as an unwelcome occupation force. Are U.S. troops in Iraq a liberation force? Or are they an occupation force? If we ask this question about Iraq as a unified whole, the answer is obvious. Liberation forces tend to return home once their work is done, because liberty is the kind of thing that does not need a massive military presence for its maintenance. Indeed, the presence of a large standing army is arguably inimical to the maintenance of liberty, as those profound republican thinkers who inspired the American Revolution would attest, if they weren't too busy turning over in their graves. Unlike liberation forces, occupation forces tend to stick around, whether they are invited to stay or not. Thus, Iraq as a whole has not been liberated; it has been occupied. Recent demonstrations against the SOFA, the statements of both Sunni and Shiite clerics, and the new provisions of the October 13 draft are all "obstacles" (as you put it) not only to the Bush administration's version of the SOFA, but to the prospect of perpetual occupation, because such an occupation is itself an obstacle to democratic national self-governance. So, it's only natural and rational that the nation of Iraq should want to control its own destiny, exert its own jurisdiction over the lives of its citizens, and remove foreign troops from its soil. Of course, the U.S. has never in its history subjected its troops to the terms laid out in the latest SOFA draft, and agreement on those terms would be a wildly improbable outcome. Indeed, if passed in the Iraqi Parliament, such terms would amount to a declaration of legal insurgency whereby an occupied people attempt to rule their occupiers. The Bush administration's unwillingness to even discuss these terms is evident from the fact that it is now using threats -- of withholding security, logistics, air traffic control, construction projects, educational support, etc. -- in its latest efforts to push through its version of the SOFA. The U.S. appeared willing to compromise on some SOFA language with the August 6th draft, but this appearance was deceiving. The August 6th version of the SOFA reads like in incoherent attempt to conjoin occupation and democratic self-governance. For example, it sought to overcome the contradiction between the presence and the absence of specific deadlines for withdrawal by inserting ambiguous references to "targeted times" and "time targets." What is a "time target"? Out of context, it almost sounds like another word for "deadline"; but read in the context of U.S.-Iraqi tensions, it looks more like a term of art designed to mask the absence of a deadline. If the Iraqi people are opposed to perpetual occupation, any government that claims to represents them should be wary of embracing such inherently deceptive terms. So, to my mind, it looks like the Iraqi government is doing its job.

Hassan: Mr. Barzany the president of Iraqi Kurdistan region visited USA and met Mr. President Bush there so as to confirm the friendship between Kurdistan region and America and also confirming the agreement on SOFA which it�s a positive point for the Kurdish case, here how do you rate this meeting?

Rigstad: In the weeks leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, I didn't believe that the Bush administration was actually serious about replacing Baathist rule with a democratic national government. I didn't imagine that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators anywhere other than in the Kurdish region. And hadn't Condoleezza Rice argued during the Clinton administration that nation-building was a fool's errand? So, I suspected that such talk was cover for a very different U.S. strategy: Cripple the Baathists, partition the country into three parts, secure a newly independent Kurdistan, let the British try to secure a newly independent and theocratic South Iraq, and exploit the Kurdish oil fields. Unlike the grander project of subduing all of Iraq and turning it into a shining beacon of democracy in the Middle East, this idea of a Kurdish gambit at least seemed practicable -- devilish but practicable. By 2008, I figured that Kurdistan would be the only part of the former Iraq where U.S. troops would remain. To be sure, Turkey wouldn't like the idea of living next door to a new Kurdish nation, but I imagined that they could be placated with adequate security guarantees and active cooperation in fighting the PKK. It turns out that I was completely wrong about the Bush administration, its surprising streak of misplaced idealism, and its incredibly unrealistic ambitions. And it turns out that the Kurdish region is the part of Iraq where U.S. troops are most scarce. So much for prognostication. As Yogi Berra once said, "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future." But now it's starting to look as though something like what I anticipated could possibly unfold. Joseph Biden, Barak Obama's pick for Vice President, is on record as favoring the partition of Iraq into a loose confederacy of independent states. And Barzani's meeting with Bush, together with the increasingly tense relationship between Washington and Baghdad, also suggests that the notion of a sovereign Kurdish nation may be on the bargaining table. Barzani told the Washington Post that he would welcome the Bush administration's SOFA terms in Kurdistan. Since the Iraqi constitution places authority for acceptance of such arrangements in the central government, the only way Kurdistan could independently and legally adopt them would be through secession from Iraq. I won't brave a prediction of this outcome, but it does seem more likely now than at any time since the invasion.

Hassan: We have heard that Barack O'bama the candidate for the US's coming presidential elections says if he won the election he is going to hold a summit between Kurdish and Turkish leadership, so according to your opinion are there any expectations that the Current USA's administration will think about this before transferring power to O'bama?"

Rigstad: Both the Bush administration and the Republican candidate for President, John McCain, remain committed to "winning" in Iraq as a whole. So, I'd be surprised to see them hold a summit between Kurdish and Turkish leadership without including central Iraqi leadership. Much of U.S. domestic politics is driven by mutual recriminations and blame between the two dominant political parties. If Obama wins the election next week, as seems likely, Republicans will want to be able to blame him for the failure of nation-building in Iraq. So, they won't want to associate themselves with any talks that might lead to devolution and partition. Kurdish secession and increasingly close ties with the U.S. would arguably be good for the Kurdish people (not to mention the overstretched U.S. military), but disastrous for central Iraq."

10/20/08: In "Military Industrial Complex 2.0: Cubicle Mercenaries, Subcontracting Warriors, and Other Phenomena of a Privatizing Pentagon," Frida Berrigan critically examines recent trends in the privatization of the U.S. military. It's a detailed and harrowing account of waste, corruption, unaccountability, slavery, etc.

8/24/08: "According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul." This suggests that Americans who want to support the troops should vote for the candidate most likely to bring them home.

8/8/08: There's a shocking new attraction just down the street from sultry Serpentina, revolting Donny Vomit, and the rest of the Coney Island Circus Side Show wonders, freaks and geeks. What could be more twisted than a contortionist in a box of blades, and more horrifying than a blockhead on a bed of nails?

Try this: "Waterboarding an Attraction at New York Amusement Park," by Ritsuko Ando (Reuters) - "A man with a black hood pours water on the face of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit strapped to a table: no, it's not Guantanamo Bay naval base, but New York's Coney Island amusement park.

The scene using robotic dolls is an installation built by artist Steve Powers to criticize waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique the United States has admitted using on terrorism suspects, but that rights group say is torture.

'Waterboard Thrill Ride' beckons a sign along with cartoon character 'SpongeBob SquarePants' who appears tied down and exclaiming: 'It don't Gitmo better!'..." Read more...

Apparently some people think the Waterboard Thrill Ride is offensive or in poor taste. Really? Hmm. If so, then I wonder what that says about the real thing?

7/17/08: I gave an interview June 26, 2008 to Ferhad M. Hassan, deputy editor in chief of Gulan Weekly Magazine, which is published in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. Click here for the Gulan online version, which is available in Arabic and in Kurdish. For the English version, read on...

Hassan: "Thanks for giving me the chance to speak with you. . . The Iraqi Constitution is the roadmap for Iraq's future, that is to say if we want Iraq to stay unified, this constitution should be implemented. But we've seen the central government ignoring implementation of the constitution. So, don't you think this ignoring is going to endanger Iraq's future?

Rigstad: "Yes and no. Let's first consider the negative. I'm struck by the extent to which certain provisions of the Iraqi Constitution make long term, sustainable Iraqi national unity an exceedingly difficult project. When the Constitution was ratified in October 2005, my initial impression was that it looked like a recipe for slow civil war and political devolution. The powers of the Presidential Council present a remarkably high hurdle for any national legislative process to overcome, and this increases the likelihood and the potential severity of deadlock in the central government. Moreover, the provision for the creation of large regional governates adds to the constitutional mix a powerful centrifugal force. Given the history of political strife between different religious and ethno-cultural identities within Iraq, this highly unusual provision (unusual as compared with other, successful federal constitutions) makes national unity under the existing Iraqi Constitution very difficult to achieve. So, if national unity is the goal, the trick might not be so much to "implement" the existing Constitution as to reform it. But of course (and here's the positive side), at this point for purposes of effective and legitimate political progress, Iraqis need to work as much as possible within the Constitutional framework that they have. So, yes, as your question suggests, stonewalling in the central government will need to give way to good faith negotiations that truly have the common good of the Iraqi people in mind.

Hassan: The Iraqi oil and gas law is the most important law for dividing the Iraqi revenues among different parts of Iraq. Yet, it hasn't been approved yet, and the reason for its non-approval is related to the problems that are produced by the central government in this law. So, what is the dangerousness of delaying the approval of this law?

Rigstad: This issue appears to be coming to a head, and I think it is exceedingly dangerous for Iraq not to have in place a national oil law that provides for equitable sharing of revenues among the different provinces and regions. Certainly the goal of national unity can only be frustrated if the recent KRG production deals go forward without the approval of the central government. Unfortunately, there have been drastic upheavals in the demographics that, according to the Iraqi Constitution, are supposed to guide oil revenue sharing, and accurate demographic data are not available for settling proportional shares empirically. It will have to be settled politically. Right now relations between the KRG and the central government do not appear to bode well for purposes of achieving pragmatic compromises. But my pessimism on this point could be misplaced, and for the sake of the people of Iraq I hope that it is.

Hassan: Iraq's problems are not just the problems of war and violence. This year there is also the problem of having a droughty year, which has resulted in endangering a large portion of Iraq�s agriculture. So, while having the political problems of Iraq, how can we face this problem too?

Rigstad: Revenue from oil contracts could surely help. So, there you have another reason for wanting to get a national oil law in place as soon as possible. But surely the U.S. should bear the lion's share of responsibility for food aid if shortages become a serious problem in Iraq, as they are in so many parts of the world this summer.

Hassan: The Iraqi Kurdistan region, which is the safe part of Iraq, has usually tried to cooperate with the central government, but the central government is not cooperating with Kurdistan's regional government, and the authorities that have been given to the Kurdish state through constitution are not approved by central government. So, what will be the future of Iraq if there will be no cooperation between the central government and the Kurdistan regional government?

Rigstad: Cooperation is a two-way street. The key issue that must be resolved, and resolved quickly, is the question of Kirkuk. You won't get a national oil law until agreement can also be reached on governance-sharing in this important city. Ideally an arrangement that is satisfactory for all interested parties might be reached on schedule in the next few days. [Note: Iraqi legislators were supposed to vote on this issue at the end of June, but the political process still has not reached a stage where there's sufficient agreement about exactly what proposals should be put to a vote.] That is a tall order. It requires serious compromise, and especially the kind of trust between the KRG and Baghdad that is currently in short supply.

Hassan: According to Iraq's constitution, every region has rights to protect itself, now in Kurdistan there is a legal force which is called Peshmerga. Peshmerga is that force which used to be a part of the coalition force in changing Saddam�s regime, but now the central government is trying to represent it as a militia force. So here my Question is: why is the central government trying to change this legal force into a militia one?

Rigstad: Maliki has at least recognized that the peshmerga have 'the cover of legitimacy' within the Kurdish region. That's an ambiguous recognition, to be sure. But it opens the door to full legitimacy insofar as the peshmerga can be incorporated within regular national Iraqi army divisions. Outside the Kurdish region, of course, the central government is not likely to see the peshmerga as having even the 'cover' of legitimacy. Here again the question of Kirkuk is crucial. Will local peshmerga be organized under an Iraqi army command in Kirkuk? Can leadership of municipal security forces be found that will be trusted both by the KRG and Baghdad? Responding to the situation as I am from the remote location of Detroit, I cannot say that I know enough about Kirkuk politics to venture a guess about the likelihood that this situation can be amicably resolved. But it's pretty clear even from this distance that the central Iraqi government's support of the peshmerga will turn upon satisfaction of its constitutionally guaranteed power over such security forces. Part of the difficulty here is that the idea of 'governance-sharing' that is necessary for settling the question of Kirkuk does not mesh will with traditional notions of military command, which tend to require centralized, hierarchical command structures.

Hassan: There are talks about the agreement between US and Iraq, in which the Iraqi government is asking for US forces withdrawal from Iraq's land; but most observers think that Iraqi forces are not capable of providing Iraq a peaceful and secure situation. So, if the US retreated its forces from Iraq, don't you think that Iraq is going to turn into a violent situation again?

Rigstad: That is toughest question of all. We're only forced to ask it now, of course, as a result of what I believe was an ill-conceived invasion. I don't believe that the U.S.-led coalition had a right to invade and occupy Iraq in the first place. So, as I see it, other things being equal, the sooner U.S. troops can withdraw the better. But as your question suggests, it must be a responsible withdrawal that does not make matters worse for the Iraqi people. Arguably, having a firm schedule for U.S. troop withdrawal, tied to the implementation of specific security guarantees (for Kirkuk, for example), is the best means of ensuring that Iraqis can achieve peaceful self-governance. Since most Iraqi's do not want to live under a permanent occupation force, such a schedule should have been adopted long ago. If there is electoral regime change in the U.S. this November, as I hope (go Obama!), then we're likely to see serious negotiations of troop withdrawal. If not, then we're likely too see at least another four years in which withdrawal is, for all intents and purposes, off the table. Since the occupation remains a chief catalyst for political violence in much of Iraq, I think that outcome would on balance be unfortunate.

Hassan: Implementing the federalism principles in Iraq requires a strong connection between the central government and Kurdistan region's government, that is not to let Iraqis to be hopeless about federalism and democracy. So what are the mechanisms of having a strong relation between regional governments and central government based on?

Rigstad: Again, I think that 'governance-sharing' is the key concept that must take root in order for the existing Iraqi Constitutional framework to provide sustainable political stability. Positive economic development also has a way of making political conflicts between contending interests seem less urgent. So, for example, achieving reasonable compromise on oil laws could turn out to be as important as any other 'mechanism' for making Iraqi federalism work. Ordinarily the important mechanisms for making federalism work also involve not only the formal structures of institutional decision-making but also the informal and, as it were, more organic developments that belong to the public sphere of a nation's political culture, such as its public media. The maintenance of a shared national political culture is, of course, especially difficult under conditions of occupation and conflictual political transition. I wish Gulan political weekly magazine good luck in bringing about the kind of national political culture that will benefit the future of Iraq.

Hassan: Thanks for your time and your precious word."

Rigstad: Thank you for the opportunity to share my views."

7/2/08: To hear the stories of war that soldiers have to tell, tune in every Wednesday evening to In Their Boots, a new series from Brave New Films. The website also has a terrific list of links to agencies that offer solutions to a wide range of problems that veterans may encounter upon returning home.

6/19/08: Call for papers: "Ethics in Intelligence, Security, and Immigration: The Moral and Social Significance of Gathering and Managing Information and Borders in the Global Community" ... The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas will be hosting a conference on �Ethics in Intelligence and Immigration� November 20-22, 2008. Papers are invited on any subject related to ethical issues in the fields of intelligence gathering, global security and immigration. Abstracts should be no more than 500 words. Presenters will be notified of their acceptance by September 15, 2008. Send electronic submissions to:

Topics include, but are not limited to: Ethical issues in global intelligence; Ethical issues in competitive intelligence; Ethical issues in immigration; Ethical issues related to the collection, storage, and retrieval of intelligence; Ethical issues in privacy and global and national security; Codes of ethics in private and public intelligence; Open vs. closed borders; Ethical implications of a border wall. ---Submission deadline: 1 September 2008--- Acceptance notification by 15 September 2008. Conference dates: 20-22 November 2008... There is a strong possibility that some or all conference papers will be published in a volume of conference proceedings... Sponsored by the Pan American Collaboration for Ethics in the Professions (PACE), the Integrated Global Knowledge and Understanding Collaboration (IGkNU), and the Office of International Programs at UTPA

6/5/08: In this interesting examination of The Clash of Civilisations from The Philosophers' Magazine, Jeremy Stangroom "tests celebrated Iranian dissident Ramin Jahanbegloo�s commitment to peaceful, constructive dialogue."

5/30/08: Americans adored the late Princess Diana, and many will tell you that they admired her. If you ask why, they will immediately tell you without fail of her humane efforts to rid the world of landmines. Yet, the government of this same American people continues to use cluster munitions, which present the same longstanding threat of harm to innocent civilians. Indeed, our government is amassing a stockpile of more than a billion of these inherently indiscriminate weapons. Meanwhile, as reported yesterday in the NY Times, a group of 111 nations that includes Britain has signed a treaty to ban cluster munitions. It's about time. Not surprisingly, the current U.S. administration's position on the ban is one of "outright opposition." Other rogue regimes joining this opposition include China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and Brazil. Decent and humane Americans across the land should demand the kind of regime change at home that rectifies this grave moral failing. On that point, it's worth noting that "Among the presidential contenders, only Senator Barack Obama has supported a ban on cluster munitions. In a Senate vote in 2006, both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain voted against it, while Senator Obama was one of only four senators to support the motion." Who would the good Princess endorse?

3/17/08 Locals Only: (1) Oakland University�s Student Life Lecture Board will host author and activist Naomi Wolf on Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms. Wolf is the author of �The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, which is an impassioned warning about the erosion of democracy and security from arbitrary government in the homeland. (2) The Third Annual Global Security Forum at Oakland University will feature Doris Tennant, an attorney and pro bono co-representative of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Tennant's lecture, "Behind the Scenes at Guantanamo Bay: A Lawyer�s Story," will raise awareness of the detainees who have served for many years without any charges being brought against them. The forum will be held Friday, April 4 from 2-4 p.m. in the Oakland Center Banquet Room A. Both events are free and open to the public.

3/17/08: Thanks to Juan Cole for a lively lecture at Oakland last Wednesday evening and an informative roundtable discussion Thursday morning. And thanks to Peter Bertocci for organizing it. The discussion got me thinking about both the wisdom and the likelihood of "soft partition" in Iraq. Cole thinks it's both unwise and unlikely because (a) Iraqi's don't want it, (b) Turkey would never stand for it, and (c) big oil needs uniform Iraqi oil laws. I don't know about (c). Anyone's guess is as good as mine, and Cole's is probably a lot better. As for (a) and (b), I'd say that they explain the public statements of the Bush administration, but add that these statements seem to belie different patterns of apportioning U.S. support in Iraq. There's some reason to think, as I'm stubbornly inclined to do, that at least part of the Bush administration secretly favors gradual partition, notwithstanding the wisdom or folly of it. On that score, check out Reidar Visser's "Debating Devolution in Iraq," Middle East Report, March 10, 2008. For arguments defending the wisdom of it, see The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq," by Edward P. Joseph and Michael E. O'Hanlon for the Brookings Institution, June 2007. Although my crystal ball tells me that eventual partition of Iraq looks increasingly likely, I still don't see much wisdom (or humanity) in anything but an immediate drawdown of our occupation forces, as a step towards total withdrawal. Here's a "Responsible Plan."

3/17/08: Volume 4 of the International Political Theory Beacon is now out, and it includes David Estlund's article, "On Following Orders in an Unjust War," The Journal of Political Philosophy, Volume 15, Issue 2, 2007, pp. 213-234. This is a timely issue of concern to many students of just war theory. I'm placing the link here because it doesn't fit in any of the categories on my main page (which I've been threatening idly to overhaul for several years now).

2/15/08 Locals Only: The Philosophy Department at Oakland University will host guest speaker, Dr. Jeff Noonan of the University of Windsor, Wednesday February 20th from 4:00-6:00 in the Oakland Center, Heritage Room. Noonan's talk on "Religion and Human Solidarity" will present a critique of, and an alternative to, the approach to global governance set forth in Richard Falk's The Declining World Order. The talk is free and open to the public.

2/7/08: Although I don't know of anyone working in this area, it seems to me that just war theory might be usefully developed as a special subfield of internet ethics. See Johnny Ryan's "iWar: pirates, states and the internet," openDemocracy 2/6/2008: "The internet-dependence of governments, businesses and authorities around the world invites a proliferation of net-based assaults... The availability of online instructional material, relevant software and ubiquitous internet connectivity empowers virtually any proficient and dedicated actor to attack distant enemies... A new age of anarchy and piracy that will both serve and undermine the interests of power is in prospect. The need both for security counter-measures and adequate legal frameworks to meet this threat is pressing."

1/5/08: CALL FOR PAPERS: The Association for Political Theory (APT) invites proposals for its sixth annual conference to be held October 9-12, 2008 at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. More...

1/4/08: There's a new large group blog on the www dedicated to political philosophy/theory. It's called Public Reason, and it's administered by Simon May of Virginia Tech. It looks like a very promising site. readers may be especially interested in checking out the papers page, which includes "Rethinking Revolution" by Matthew Noah Smith.

12/21/07: Over here Alan Johnson of Democratiya interviews Mary Caldor, author of Human Security: Reflections on Globalisation and Intervention.

12/11/07: Carl Conetta with the Project on Defense Alternatives questions the U.S. investment in its military primacy: "Our distinct military superiority exists only in the conventional realm. Facing an unconventional foe in a complex contingency is another matter..."

12/05/07: It's my birthday, and my Congressional Representative, John Conyers, is talking about presidential impeachment. I wanted a pony, but I'll settle for that. I post a link to Jack Lessenberry's account of his conversation with Conyers here because it's about the politics of war, in part. Warm thanks to Karl Gregory of MCHR for sending me the article.

10/18/07: Conference announcement: Torture and Terror Conference at University of Hull, Council Room, Venn Building, November 15 & 16, 2007.

10/17/07: UK Conference announcement: The University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre and the Methods and Data Institute, in association with the Cross-Disciplinary Research Group present: "The International Criminal Court and the State" on Friday, November 9, 2007.

8/27/07: Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post today about counter-insurgency in Iraq and what may be "A Potentially Winning Tactic, With a Warning." The winning tactic involves supporting and arming Sunni tribal leaders who represent factions unsympathetic to al-Queda elements. The warning concerns the fact that these tribal leaders support neither the occupation nor the Shia dominated government in Iraq. So, whatever success this tactic can be expected to have is likely to be limited and short lived. A further qualification is in order. As Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review notes, since the successes of constructive engagement with Anbar province Sunni leaders predate the Troop Surge, it is misleading for Pincus to characterize it as "one of the few successes from the U.S. troop increase this year." Rather, the troop increase is designed to capitalize on and further develop this tactic. In the long run, the tactic may help to ensure that Sunnis will be as well armed as Shiites when U.S. troops begin their withdrawal. There's a chance that this could serve to make the civil war even more bloody than it would be without the arming of Sunni tribes. But a balance-of-power theory of Iraqi stability might see it as a recipe for rapprochement. It's pretty hard to make confident predictions either way.

8/25/07: Scott Horton reports in the latest edition of Harper's Magazine that a recent JAG Corps memorandum has announced that the Army does not consider its conventional standards for handling prisoners to have been altered by President Bush's July 20 Executive Order authorizing "highly coercive, non-Geneva compliant interrogation techniques."

8/25/07: Technorati is a useful tool for searching the blogosphere for breaking news and commentary. So, I'm adding a Technorati Profile by means of this entry.

8/22/07: In "Guant�namo in Germany," Tuesday August 21, 2007, The Guardian, Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen describe how "In the name of the war on terror, our colleagues are being persecuted - for the crime of sociology." I'd say more about this chilling tale here, but perhaps my time would be better spent removing any references to "inequality" or "gentrification" from this website...

8/20/07: There are several articles of interest to just war theorists in the June issue of Middle East Policy, which is available online free of charge.

8/15/07: Announcement of interest: "Seminar on 'Ethics and the 'War on Terror'' on Monday 10th September 2007, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. 1. Aim: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the prevalence of terrorism raise many ethical issues. When, if ever, may states wage war? May states ever wage preventive war? May they use military force to intervene on humanitarian grounds? How should states seek to combat terrorism? How should war be waged? What are the responsibilities of warring parties after war has ceased? These issues will be explored in a one day seminar held at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. 2. Speakers: * Professor Henry Shue (Oxford University): 'Pre-empting Terrorism' * Professor Norman Geras (Emeritus, University of Manchester) 'Crimes against Humanity, the Duty to Protect and the Right of Intervention' * Dr David Rodin (Oxford University) 'Four Problems in Just War Theory' * Professor Darrel Moellendorf (San Diego State University) 'Jus Ex Bello' * Professor Jennifer Welsh (Oxford University) 'The Imperative to Rebuild' 3. Venue: Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford. Click here for directions, and here to register. Registration is free but places are limited. 6. Queries: Please direct any queries to Simon Caney. 7. Acknowledgement: This seminar is funded by an ESRC Seminar Series Grant awarded to Dr Gillian Youngs (University of Leicester), Professor Simon Caney (University of Oxford) and Dr Heather Widdows (University of Birmingham).

8/10/07: I haven't read The New Republic for years, not least because they actually want people to pay for what they publish, and there's too much of equal or greater value available online for free. But back in the day when I did regularly read it (my roomate's copy) I was struck by how poor the more "literary" pieces were in comparison with the quality of the strategic political analysis. Must be something about inside-the-beltway political analysis that deadens finer sensibilities. Now this shortcoming has become the undoing of TNR in the "Baghdad Diarist" scandal. I thought I'd add my two bits. The initially anonymous "Diarist" is Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an aspiring writer who saw the war as a potential opportunity for literary fame. He revealed his identity after his accounts of shocking troop behavior in Iraq were challenged in the press and the blogosphere. Given that some of this shocking behavior was his own, it's surprising, not courageous, that he would show his face in public. In one tale, for example, he recounts how "in the chow hall at my base in Iraq" he mocked a woman whose face was disfigured by an IED. Beauchamp said loudly to his friends, "I love chicks that have been intimate -- with IEDs. It really turns me on -- melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses." More sordid details here. Why on earth would TNR publish this? Not, as some would have it, to turn the tide of public opinion against the war. TNR supported the war in the spring of 2003, and they support the troop surge and continued occupation today. More likely they published Beauchamp because the shock-jock model of journalism sells, and because they persistently misidentify bad literature when they see it. In response to questions about his veracity Beauchamp now claims that he made an "error," and that this episode took place at a base in Kuwait before his assignment in Iraq. An "error"? Hmm. Even this confession sounds like a piece of bad fiction. Kathleen Parker of the San Francisco Chronicle still thinks that "Beauchamp succeeded in revealing the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war he set out to illuminate." How so? The negative effects of war are well known. And there are too many serious accounts of the horrors of occupation and fear to ascribe any weight to Beauchamp's sophomoric tales of troop buffoonery. If this scandal teaches us anything, it's as an object lesson for writers and editors with more ambition than integrity, and more greed than good taste.

8/7/07: This much neglected "blog" is where I put links that defy the cumbersome (but hopefully useful) categories of the main page. Joseph Margolis' "Intimations of Moral Philosophy, By Way of War and Terrorism," Ars Disputandi Volume 6, 2006, presents reflections too wide ranging to fit into a sub-topic of JWT. It explores certain general connections between understanding the problems of philosophy and understanding the problems of violent political conflict.

7/1/07: How should the U.S. government respond in the hypothetical event that Pakistani President Musharraf is shot (either killed or seriously wounded) and a Pakistani Nuclear facility is simultaneously taken over by an unknown militant group? This is the scenario discussed in an engaging Mock National Security Council Meeting entitled "Collapse of a Nuclear Regime" (RealPlayer video), which was held at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, September 30, 2005. Participants include Steven Simon as National Security Advisor, Suzanne Nossel as Secretary of State, Michael O'Hanlon as Secretary of Defense, Mike Froman as Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Gordon III as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Richard A. Falkenrath as Director of National Intelligence.

6/2/07: Someone who goes by the name of "China Hand" and whose blog is called China Matters writes with the following question: "A hardliner talking point is that one nation counterfeiting another nation's currency is a casus belli, usually coupled to the statement that the last time it happened before (allegedly) North Korea did it to us was when Hitler counterfeited the English pound. I've poked around the Internet but haven't found any precedent for this claim. Have you ever heard of the 'counterfeiting as casus belli for a just war' idea?" Good question. Counterfeit has a storied history as a stratagem in warfare at least since WWI. But I can't think of any cases in which counterfeit alone was successfully presented as a sufficient just cause for war (help me out here if I'm neglecting some important moment in the history of warfare). Whether such a case could in principle be cogently made is, of course, largely a separate matter. According to Michael Walzer's approach to just war theory, which still remains the most influential approach in Anglo-American academic circles, just cause requires actual or imminent military aggression, and this stricture would clearly preclude a military response to a counterfeiting foreign government. But if a more Grotian, international law-enforcement approach to just war theory is adopted, a case for a just military response could in principle be made. Hugo Grotius (who is often called "the father of modern international law") includes defense of property among just causes in his classic work De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), albeit with the qualification of too many constraints to enumerate here. I can't recall off the top of my head any passages in which he explicitly discusses counterfeit. But monetary currency is a form of property closely tied to the public interest, and as such it would better qualify according ot the logic of Grotius' theory than, say, the property of a private person or corporation. In more recent legal history, there is also the 1929 International Convention for the Suppression of Counterfeiting Currency, which, although most applicable under courts of universal jurisdiction (not recognized by the U.S.), could conceivably be invoked to build a legal case for a just military response. So, a normative case, both ethical and legal, might be cogently made under the right circumstances, which would include the absence of any effective non-military means of regress (an exceedingly unlikely but conceivable circumstance). For a fairly recent account of punitive just cause in JWT that includes the possibility of a legitimate military response to counterfeit, see Kenneth W. Kemp's "Punishment as Just Cause," JSCOPE, 1995. Not every just war theorist will be convinced that the question of principle should be resolved in favor of the possibility of just counter-counterfeit warfare. In fact, I'd venture to guess that most would probably demur. Consensus aside, the question of principle is a big can of worms, one which someone with more time than I have at the moment would do well to research thoroughly. All that being said, even supposing that a normative case can be made for some range of exigent circumstances constituting grounds for just counter-counterfeiting warfare, the key question in this case would then become the factual one about whether the North Korean government is guilty of counterfeiting U.S. currency. The answer to this question appears to be "no," according to last week's report of the Swiss police. If not, then where are the "supernotes" coming from? The leading candidates would appear to be China, Russia and the CIA, though not necessarily in that order.

5/28/07: Memorial Day: "The Iraq Veterans Memorial is an online war memorial that honors the members of the U.S. armed forces who have lost their lives serving in the Iraq War. The Memorial is a collection of video memories from family, friends, military colleagues, and co-workers of those that have fallen."

5/15/07: Upcoming event announcement: Conference on the Economics of Peace and Security: "War and Poverty, Peace and Prosperity." May 30 - June 1, 2007 at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Annandale on Hudson, NY.

4/22/07: Last week the United Nations Security Council held its first-ever debate on the impact of climate change on peace and security. Details of the debate are presented here.

4/22/07: The Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) will host a symposium on "Law and Liberty in the War on Terror," July 4, 5 & 6, 2007.

4/22/07: The Centre for the Study of Social Justice and the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxfor University wil be holding a two-day conference on "Transitional Justice and International Law: Cooperation or Competition?", June 22 & 23, 2007, Lecture Theatre, Manor Road Building.

4/12/07: In Breaking the Army," Inter Press Service News 4/12/07, Jim Lobe reports in detail on the "growing concern, particularly among the military brass, that the U.S. army is overstretched and fast becoming 'broken'."

3/14/07: Locals only... Oakland University's Global Security Forum will convene on 4/9/07 in the Banquet Rooms of the Oakland Center. Schedule: 6:00-7:00 p.m. - Panel presentations by Jodi Nachtwey of Wayne State Political Science (on "What Iraqis Think") & Peter Shields of Eastern Washington Media Studies (on "Proliferation of Surveillance"). 7:00-7:15 p.m. - Break/dessert reception. 7:15-10:00 p.m. - Screening and discussion of "Iraq for Sale" with producer/director Robert Greenwald of This forum is free and open to the public. RSVP for reserved seating here.

3/10/07: In "On Michael Walzer, Gaza, and the Lebanon War," Dissent, Winter 2007, Jerome Slater argues that "Walzer�s recent arguments defending (in however qualified a manner) Israeli policies in Gaza and Lebanon are harmful to Israel�s best interests." Walzer deftly responds.

2/24/07: Now available online are numerous papers presented at the International Symposium for Military Ethics (formerly the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics), January 25-26, 2007. The central themes of the ISME 2007 were "Religion and the Military and The Military and Code of Ethics"

2/23/07: Jonathan Moreno's Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense, raises numerous important issues about the connections between neuroscience and the national defense industry. Here is a 11/2006 article by Moreno, and here is an excerpt from the book. Also available from Neurophilosophy is a Podcast interview with Moreno.

2/20/07: In a Foreign Policy in Focus Q&A, Noam Chomsky offers an explanation of why the U.S. government is willing to negotiate directly with Korea, but not with Iran. The reason, he maintains, is not oil, but the "mafia complex" of American geopolitics.

2/19/07: In a Real Clear Politics Q&A, Ian Bremmer, author of The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall, offers an explanation of why sanctions are ineffective against authoritarian "rogue" regimes, and more.

2/2/07: "Experts Give Poor Grades to Expected Defense Budget Proposal," by Bipasha Ray, Project on Defense Alternatives, February 1, 2007: "In the FY 2008 Defense Budget Report Card released by the Security Policy Working Group, four analysts gave the government low and failing grades on every criterion except for an 'A+' in advertising -- for the Pentagon managing to convince Congress that the world's largest defense budget is too small. 'We have the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, but we are losing to an opponent in Iraq that spends less over an entire year than what we spend in one day' on defense -- more than $1 billion, said Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information." Read all about it...

2/1/07: Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, seeks candidates for a PHD-studentship in International Law and Political Theory relating to the topic of "The Safest Plan: International Law, Global Justice and the Anticipatory Use of Force." Find out more here.

1/29/07: The U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, was vehemently upbraided yesterday by Senator Patrick Leahy for one of his many crimes against humanity, the "extraordinary" rendition of Canadian citizen, Maher Arar. Gonzales promised to produce within one week's time some evidence against Arar, though it is unlikely to impress Leahy any more than it impressed the Canadian commission that cleared Arar of any terrorist ties.

1/26/07: In "Blood Oil," Sebastian Junger reports for Vanity Fair on how the battle for Nigerian oil is heating up: "Because Nigerian oil is so vital to the American economy, President Bush's State Department declared in 2002 that�along with all other African oil imports�it was to be considered a 'strategic national interest.' That essentially meant that the president could send in the U.S. military to protect our access to it." Enter MEND, an Islamist militatant group committed to fighting the notoriously oppressive conditions of corruption and poverty that plague the Nigerian oil industry. Their message: "Leave our land while you can or die in it... Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil." Read more...

1/25/07: "Afghanistan Needs More than Reinforcements," by Carl Robichaud, The Century Foundation, 1/19/2007:

"As the administration prepares to send another 20,000 soldiers to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Afghanistan. There he met U.S. and NATO commanders that find themselves shorthanded against a renewed insurgency. In 2006, armed attacks tripled, to over twelve per day. With only 20,000 U.S. soldiers in all of Afghanistan, split between the NATO command and the U.S.-led coalition, there are not enough troops to go around.

The mission in Iraq, insatiable and interminable, has left Afghanistan in a state of chronic neglect. General David Richards, the NATO commander, estimates that he is 4,000 to 5,000 troops short; coalition commander General Karl Eikenberry is also calling for reinforcements. Unlike in Iraq, where troop increases have been tried before and failed, a few thousand additional soldiers in Afghanistan could go a long way, allowing international forces to hold towns that have been cleared of Taliban and to be proactive rather than reactive. That�s why the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden, has said, 'If we�re surging troops anywhere, it should be in Afghanistan'." Read more...

1/23/07: "Say Hello to the Goodbye Weapon: The crowd is getting ugly. Soldiers roll up in a Hummer. Suddenly, the whole right half of your body is screaming in agony. You feel like you've been dipped in molten lava. You almost faint from shock and pain, but instead you stumble backwards -- and then start running. To your surprise, everyone else is running too. In a few seconds, the street is completely empty. You've just been hit with a new nonlethal weapon that has been certified for use in Iraq -- even though critics argue there may be unforeseen effects..." Read more from Wired...

1/8/07: Americans don't like to spend money without getting something in return. Hence, consenting taxpayers who have been willing to pay for wars in oil rich Afghanistan and Iraq have probably been hoping for a war dividend of cheap oil. Dissenters like me see this expectation and the way it helps to fuel the war machine as something much worse than foolish. But it is arguably foolish as well. According to Milton R. Copulos' testimony before U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "The 'hidden costs' of gasoline imports in 2005 ... include $780 billion in military costs, a figure that, if acknowledged and spread over all imports, would add $4.05 to the price of each gallon of gasoline." Oil wars increase the real costs of the resource. You pay more at the pump, and then you pay again on 4/15. Larry Goldstein of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation demurs (it's his job), arguing that increasing demand from China and India are driving up the cost of oil. Don't be fooled by the shill. While Asian demand has been increasing steadily for quite some time, the price of oil went up precipitously after the invasion of Iraq.

1/7/07: The very idea that we might be approaching "the end of history" always struck me as woefully dubious, if not patently absurd. I confess that I cannot attach any sense to the following: "Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again." Say what? Predictably, geopolitical experience appears either to have disconfirmed the end of history hypothesis, if it ever was a hypothesis, or, more likely, to have revealed the proposition to be nonsensical. Those who were drawn in by the idea may now be open to a gestalt shift resulting in rediscovery of the fact that we inhabit the same human world as Thucydides, Livy, Hume, Gibbon, etc. In this vein, several online commentators (here and here, for example) have been impressed with the extent to which recent history has witnessed some strikingly Thucydidean moments:

"And people altered, at their pleasure, the customary significance of words to suit their deeds: irrational daring came to be considered the 'manly courage of one loyal to his party'; prudent delay was thought a fair-seeming cowardice; a moderate attitude was deemed a mere shield for lack of virility, and a reasoned understanding with regard to all sides of an issue meant that one was indolent and of no use for anything. Rash enthusiasm for one's cause was deemed the part of a true man; to attempt to employ reason in plotting a safe course of action, a specious excuse for desertion. One who displayed violent anger was 'eternally faithful,' whereas any who spoke against such a person was viewed with suspicion... The cause of all of these things was the pursuit of political power, motivated by greed and ambition... People were ranged against one another in opposite ideological camps, with the result that distrust and suspicion became rampant. For there was no means that could hope to bring an end to the strife � no speech that could be trusted as reliable, no oath that evoked any dread should it be broken... And, for the most part, those of more limited intelligence were the ones to survive: in their fear regarding their own deficiencies and their opponents' cleverness, lest they might be defeated in debate (e.g. in a political trial) or be forestalled in laying some plot by their opponents' cunning, they turned to action right away with a boldness born of desperation..." -- The Peloponnesian War, 3.82-8.83. Porter trans.

(Porter's translation is clearer than Hobbes', though the latter gets the award for best frontispiece.)


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