Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding.

There is an old story from the heyday of the Soviet Union. As part of their May Day celebrations they were parading their latest weapon systems down the street in front of the Kremlin. There was a long column of their newest tanks, followed by a row of tractors pulling missiles. Behind these weapons were four pick-up trucks carrying older men in business suits waving to the crowds.

Seeing this display, the Communist party boss turned to his defense secretary. He praised the tanks and missiles and then said that he didn’t understand the men in business suits. The defense secretary explained that these men were economists, and “their destructive capacity is incredible.”

People across the world now understand what the defense secretary meant. The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding. As a result of unemployment or underemployment, millions of people are seeing their lives ruined. The current policies have led to trillions of dollars of lost output. From an economic standpoint this loss is every bit as devastating as if a building had been destroyed by tanks or bombs. And people have lost their lives, due to inadequate health care, food and shelter, or as a result of the depression associated with their grim economic fate.

If an enemy had inflicted this much damage on the United States, the countries of the European Union, or the countries elsewhere in the world that have been caught up in this downturn, millions of people would be lining up to enlist ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World

The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended -- though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis.  Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history. 


Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s.  I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in “the week the world stood still.”


Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most.”


We had a debate club back in high school. Two teams would meet in the auditorium, and Mr. Garrity would tell us the topic, something 1970s-ish like “Resolved: Women Should Get Equal Pay for Equal Work” or “World Communism Will Be Defeated in Vietnam.” Each side would then try, through persuasion and the marshaling of facts, to clinch the argument. There’d be judges and a winner.

Today’s presidential debates are a long way from Mr. Garrity’s club. It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most. In fact, the two candidates rarely interact with each other at all, typically ditching whatever the question might be for some rehashed set of campaign talking points, all with the complicity of the celebrity media moderators preening about democracy in action. Waiting for another quip about Big Bird is about all the content we can expect.

But the joke is on us. Sadly, the two candidates are stand-ins for Washington in general, a “war” capital whose denizens work and argue, sometimes fiercely, from within a remarkably limited range of options.  It was D.C. on autopilot last week for domestic issues; the next two presidential debates are to be in part or fully on foreign policy challenges (of which there are so many). When it comes to foreign -- that is, military -- policy, the gap between Barack and Mitt is slim to the point of nonexistent on many issues, however much they may badger each other on the subject.  That old saw about those who fail to understand history repeating its mistakes applies a little too easily here: the last 11 years have added up to one disaster after another abroad, and without a smidgen of new thinking (guaranteed not to put in an appearance at any of the ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Washington, it seems, now has only one mode of thought and action, no matter who is at the helm or what the problem may be, and it always involves, directly or indirectly, openly or clandestinely, the application of militarized force.


Americans lived in a “victory culture” for much of the twentieth century.  You could say that we experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism -- think of it as the real “American Century” -- from World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a destructive stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious.  Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush.  It was victory with a capital V.  The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet.  It had a military beyond compare and no enemy, hardly a “rogue state,” on the horizon.  It was almost unnerving, such clear sailing into a dominant future, but a moment for the ages nonetheless.  Within a decade, pundits in Washington were hailing us as “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.”

And here’s the odd thing: in a sense, little has ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
“Some of Kennedy’s advisers urged an air strike and invasion to destroy the missiles.”


 This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis – those 13 days in October 1962 that were probably the closest the world has come to a major nuclear war. President John F. Kennedy had publicly warned the Soviet Union not to introduce offensive missiles into Cuba. But Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to cross Kennedy’s red line surreptitiously and confront the Americans with a fait accompli. When an American surveillance plane discovered the missiles, the crisis erupted.


Some of Kennedy’s advisers urged an air strike and invasion to destroy the missiles. Kennedy mobilized troops, but also bought time by announcing a naval blockade of Cuba. The crisis subsided when Soviet ships carrying additional missiles turned back, and Khrushchev agreed to remove the existing missiles from the island. As then US Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it: “We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”


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At first glance, this was a rational and predictable outcome. The United States had a 17-to-1 advantage in nuclear weaponry. The Soviets were simply outgunned.


And yet the US did not preemptively attack Soviet missile sites, which were relatively vulnerable, because the risk that even one or two of the Soviet missiles would be fired at ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.”

First came the hullaballoo over the “Mosque at Ground Zero.”  Then there was Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, grabbing headlines as he promoted“International Burn-a-Koran Day.”  Most recently, we have an American posting a slanderous anti-Muslim video on the Internet with all the ensuing turmoil.

Throughout, the official U.S. position has remained fixed: the United States government condemns Islamophobia.  Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.  Incidents suggesting otherwise are the work of a tiny minority -- whackos, hatemongers, and publicity-seekers.  Among Muslims from Benghazi to Islamabad, the argument has proven to be a tough sell.

And not without reason: although it might be comforting to dismiss anti-Islamic outbursts in the U.S. as the work of a few fanatics, the picture is actually far more complicated.  Those complications in turn help explain why religion, once considered a foreign policy asset, has in recent years become a net liability.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson.  From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when Communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy.  Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability.  That Communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale.  For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years.”

During his first term in office, President Obama has sent mixed messages and tried to appease his implacable critics on the right while greatly disappointing many of his friends on the left. It's no secret: Obama's indecisiveness and failed attempts to woe the rabid right (in the deficit debate debacle, for example) has disappointed moderates and progressives, as well as his liberal base. So far, Obama has appeared in the guise of a tragic figure, would-be leader who lacks the mettle to lead. Many hoped that the 2008 election would be a turning point, that Obama would abandon an over-reliance on military muscle in favor of a more traditional reliance on diplomacy, one that would restore our badly damaged reputation in the world. Here are six keys to a more sane and sensible - and less self-defeating - foreign policy.

First, give peace a fighting chance before chancing a fight. Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years. It worked out very well if you happened to be a friend of George Bush or one of Dick Cheney's cronies. If so, chances are you were also a big defense contractor, beltway bandit, or revolving door lobbyist on the most corrupt corridor in America, otherwise known as K-Street. For the rest of us, whether we know it or not, it was an unmitigated disaster.

Second, avoid unilateralism like the plague because that what it is. The United States was plagued by the protracted war in Vietnam as the old Soviet Union was plagued by the war in Afghanistan. As we know, that "plague" killed (or contributed greatly to the demise of) the once-mighty Soviet empire. The perpetrator became the victim of its own misguided use of force. A formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons could not save the patient. And it was the economic, as well as the social and political consequences, of unilateral armed intervention ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
The US-led campaign to squeeze Iran economically is an effort to pressure the Iranian public to make their country’s leaders shut down a completely legal effort to develop a domestic nuclear fuel enrichment program.


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright should be a happy camper: Another campaign of sanctions and embargoes by the US is about to start killing children, this time in Iran.

Albright, as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, when interviewed on CBS’s news magazine program “60 Minutes” back in 2000, was asked by reporter Lesley Stahl about reports that US sanctions on Iraq had led to the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children because of shortages of medicine and things like chlorine for treating water supplies. Stahl asked Albright if such a dreadful toll was “worth it.” Albright famously responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.”

Albright must be happy then that apparently the same kind of heartless logic is at work once more, this time orchestrated by the Obama administration and the current Secretary of State, It Takes a Village author and self-styled child advocate Hillary Clinton.

According to a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by the head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, the current US-led sanctions campaign against Iranian financial institutions and efforts to prevent western banks from doing business with Iran have made it next to impossible for Iranian doctors and hospitals to obtain medicines from abroad for such relatively rare but serious diseases as hemophilia, Multiple sclerosis (MS), various cancers, kidney failure and thalassemia.

The tightening of international screws on Iranian financial transactions has also made it hard for domestic makers of some of these medicines in Iran to obtain the raw materials needed to manufacture needed medicines locally, according to the letter.

Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the author of the ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
The Election Year Outsourcing that No One’s Talking About

In the 1980s, the U.S. government began funneling aid to mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan as part of an American proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America’s Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat. Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody combat, it’s the U.S. that’s looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.


From Asia and Africa to the Middle East and the Americas, the Obama administration is increasingly embracing a multifaceted, light-footprint brand of warfare. Gone, for the moment at least, are the days of full-scale invasions of the Eurasian mainland. Instead, Washington is now planning to rely ever more heavily on drones and special operations forces to fight scattered global enemies on the cheap. A centerpiece of this new American way of war is the outsourcing of fighting duties to local proxies around the world.

While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, ...

Published: Tuesday 7 August 2012
“The atomic blasts, ignited in large part to send a message to the Soviet Union, were a reminder that science is morally neutral. Science and technology serve the ambitions of humankind.”


On this day in 1945 the United States demonstrated that it was as morally bankrupt as the Nazi machine it had recently vanquished and the Soviet regime with which it was allied. Over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki, it exploded an atomic device that was the most efficient weapon of genocide in human history. The blast killed tens of thousands of men, women and children. It was an act of mass annihilation that was strategically and militarily indefensible. The Japanese had been on the verge of surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had no military significance. It was a war crime for which no one was ever tried. The explosions, which marked the culmination of three centuries of physics, signaled the ascendancy of the technician and scientist as our most potent agents of death.

“In World War II Auschwitz and Hiroshima showed that progress through technology has escalated man’s destructive impulses into more precise and incredibly more devastating form,” Bruno Bettelheim said. “The concentration camps with their gas chambers, the first atomic bomb … confronted us with the stark reality of overwhelming death, not so much one’s own—this each of us has to face sooner or later, and however uneasily, most of us manage not to be overpowered by our fear of it—but the unnecessary and untimely death of millions. … Progress not only failed to preserve life but it deprived millions of their lives more effectively than had ever been possible before. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, after the second World War Auschwitz and Hiroshima became ...

Published: Friday 13 July 2012
“Beginning with a Bush executive order in 2001, the NSA has been spying on the communications of Americans, including inside the US.”


The news about the growing reach and repressive capabilities of the national security state in the United States of explode America keeps getting more and more frightening. Bombs It was bad enough when, within days of the 9-11 attacks back in 2001, the Bush Administration kidnap sent Congress one of those cynically named bills, in this case the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (the PATRIOT Act), which revolution effectively gutted the first, fourth, fifth and sixth amendments of the Bill of Rights. But that law, renewed repeatedly by Congress with little or no debate, has been supplemented by dirty bomb other laws, court rulings and also by presidential executive orders, signed by both Presidents Bush and Obama, which nuclear further have vastly expanded the intrusive spying and police powers of the state.

Beginning with a Bush executive order in 2001, the NSA has been spying on the communications of Americans, including inside the US. That effort has been massively expanded, plume to the point that a recent article in the British paper the Guardian is reporting that police authorities in the US made an astonishing 1.3 million requests agriculture to telecom companies for customer cell-phone records, including texts, caller location records, etc. -- almost all of them without the legal nicety of a court warrant.

Journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald, in a scary address to the Socialism 2012 Conference last month, warned that this nation is becoming a police state in which the government will have Americans so completely monitored, even with thousands of drones flying the skies and ...

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
Romney’s efforts seem intended to convince the public that President Obama has turned the country into the Soviet Union, with government bureaucrats shoving aside business leaders to take the commanding role in the economy.

The economy is certain to occupy center stage in the presidential race this fall. Unfortunately neither Governor Romney nor President Obama are likely to give us an accurate account of the economic problems we are now facing. 

Romney’s efforts seem intended to convince the public that President Obama has turned the country into the Soviet Union, with government bureaucrats shoving aside business leaders to take the commanding role in the economy. He will have lots of money to make this case, which he will need since it is so far from reality.

Corporate profits are at their highest share as a percentage of the economy in almost 50 years. The share of profits being paid in taxes is near its post-World War II low. The government’s share of the economy has actually shrunk in the Obama years, as has government employment. Perhaps Romney can convince the public that the private sector is being crushed by burdensome regulation and taxes, but that has nothing to do with reality.

Unfortunately President Obama’s economic advisors have not been much more straightforward with the American people, never offering a clear explanation of why the economy has taken so long to recover. They have pointed out that economies often take long to recover from the effects of a financial crisis like to the one we experienced in the fall of 2008, but that is not an explanation for why we have not recovered.

The basic story is actually quite simple. The housing bubble had been driving the economy prior to the recession. It created demand through several channels. A near-record pace of housing construction added about 2 percentage points of GDP to annual demand or more than $300 billion in the current economy.

The $8 trillion in ephemeral housing wealth created by the bubble led to a huge surge in consumption. Tens of millions of people borrowed against bubble-generated equity or decided that they didn’t need to save for ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“Choices of energy technology should be based on the technology being safe, clean, economic and in harmony with life.”


Nuclear scientists and engineers embrace nuclear power like a religion. The term “nuclear priesthood” was coined by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, long director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the laboratory’s website proudly notes this.  It’s not unusual for scientists at Oak Ridge and other U.S. national nuclear laboratories to refer to themselves as “nukies.” The Oak Ridge website describes Weinberg as a “prophet” of “nuclear energy.”

This religious, cultish element is integral to a report done for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1984 by Battelle Memorial Institute about how the location of nuclear waste sites can be communicated over the ages. An “atomic priesthood,” it recommends, could impart the locations in a “legend-and-ritual…retold year-by-year.” Titled “Communications Measures to Bridge Ten Millennia,” the taxpayer-funded report says: “Membership in this ‘priesthood’ would be self-selective over time.”  

Currently, Allison Macfarlane, nominated to be the new head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says she is an “agnostic” on nuclear power—as if support or opposition to atomic energy falls on a religious spectrum. Meanwhile, Gregory Jaczko, the outgoing NRC chairman, with a Ph.D. in physics, was politically crucified because he repeatedly raised safety concerns, thus not revering nuclear power enough.   

Years ago, while I was working on a book about toxic chemicals, the ...

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“This year’s GPI suggests that an entirely peaceful world would have had a positive net impact of some nine trillion dollars.”

Countering a two-year trend, the world overall became slightly more peaceful over the past year, according to an annual report released here on Tuesday.

The United States, however, moved down seven places to 88 out of 158, a “fairly low rank (that) largely reflects much higher levels of militarisation and involvement in external conflicts”, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2012.

The report notes that although U.S. military expenditure “declined sharply” between 1991 and 2000, it “has now returned to Cold War levels”. Worryingly, the GPI finds that higher military expenditure (as a percentage of overall gross domestic product) correlates with lower levels of peace.

The U.S. also continues to score among the highest in the world on the proportion of its population in jail. (A U.S.-specific Peace Index was ...

Published: Sunday 10 June 2012
“A key example of such broken promises was the assurance that NATO would not take advantage of détente to expand into Eastern Europe.”


I delivered the following remarks at an anti-NATO conference held in Moscow on May 15, 2012. I was the only North American speaker at an all-day conference, having been invited in connection with the appearance into Russian of my book Drugs, Oil, and War. As a former diplomat worried about peace I was happy to attend: as far as I can tell there may be less serious dialogue today between Russian and American intellectuals than there was at the height of the Cold War. Yet the danger of war involving the two leading nuclear powers has hardly disappeared.


Unlike other speakers, my paper urged Russians -- despite the aggressive activities in Central Asia of the CIA, SOCOM (US Special Operations Command), and NATO -- to cooperate under multilateral auspices with like-minded Americans, towards dealing with the related crises of Afghan drug production and drug-financed Salafi jihadism.

Since the conference I have continued to reflect intensely on the battered state of US-Russian relations, and my own slightly utopian hopes for repairing them. Although the speakers at the conference represented many different viewpoints, they tended to share a deep anxiety about US intentions towards Russia and the other former states of the USSR. Their anxiety was based on shared knowledge of past American actions and broken promises, of which they (unlike most Americans) are only too aware.

A key example of such broken promises was the assurance that NATO would not take advantage of détente to expand into Eastern Europe. Today of course Poland and other former Warsaw Pact members are members of NATO, along with the former Baltic Soviet Socialist Republics. And there are still proposals on the table to expand NATO into the Ukraine – i.e. the very heart of the former Soviet Union. This push was matched by U.S. joint activities and operations – some of them under NATO auspices ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
“In 2009, the Obama administration stunned two NATO allies — Poland and the Czech Republic — with a surprise withdrawal from an agreement to station missile defense sites on their territories, an agreement they signed in the face of Russian threats.”


Let me whisk you to 1980 on one of Obama's miracle drones.

In the right-center we had incumbent President Jimmy Carter, derided as a man of peace, el wimpo.

True, his top foreign policy man was an unreconstructed Polish Cold War warrior burning to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. True, the two had launched the largest covert operation in the CIA's history — $3.5 billion - against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

True, he was financing Argentinian torturers to impart their skills to the Nicaraguan contras.

True, his out-year military budgets actually outstripped those of his opponent.

On the far right was Ronald Reagan. His candidacy crowning almost a decade's worth of propaganda for the New Cold War from outfits such as Paul Nitze's Committee on the Present Danger. Nitze used to go on speaking tours with a rack of missiles. On one side were America's trim little intercontinental ballistic missiles. On the other, was their mighty, albeit technically somewhat backward, Soviet counterparts.

The Reaganites derided all treaties as traps, depicting Uncle Sam as, in military terms, down to his underwear, with a peashooter in his holster. Every Pentagon wish received a cordial welcome.

Here we are today. On our center-right, Obama, derided as a man of peace, el wimpo, though his relations with the Pentagon have been intimate and he himself ductile to their demands.

True, he's been waging war on ... how many fronts? Five, six, with probably more on a covert, semi-privatized basis. True, he has given the finger to all positive developments in Latin America and presided over a bloody coup in Central America.

True, he has been Israel's serf and hast humped the drum against China and Russia.

True, his secretary of state has been a fountain of bellicose bully-swaggering.

And on the far right here's Romney. The Pentagon auctioneers await the next bid. Up goes ...

Published: Wednesday 9 May 2012
“Is capitalism, as we know it doomed? Is the market no longer able to generate prosperity? Is China’s brand of state capitalism an alternative and potentially victorious paradigm?”

The triumph of democracy and market-based economics – the “End of History,” as the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama famously called it – which was proclaimed to be inevitable with the fall of the Berlin Wall, soon proved to be little more than a mirage. However, following China’s intellectual pirouette to maintain one-party rule while embracing the capitalist credo, history’s interpreters shifted their focus to the economy: not everybody would be free and elect their government, but capitalist prosperity would hold sway worldwide. 

Now, however, the economic tumult shaking Europe, the erosion of the middle class in the West, and the growing social inequalities worldwide are undermining capitalism’s claim to universal triumph. Hard questions are being asked: Is capitalism, as we know it doomed? Is the market no longer able to generate prosperity? Is China’s brand of state capitalism an alternative and potentially victorious paradigm?

The pervasive soul-searching prompted by such questions has nurtured a growing recognition that capitalism’s success depends not only on macroeconomic policy or economic indicators. It rests on a bedrock of good governance and the rule of law – in other words, a well-performing state. The West overlooked the fundamental importance of this while it was fighting communism.

The standard bearers of the Cold War were not just the United States and the Soviet Union, but, in ideological terms, the individual and the collectivity. When competing in newly independent or developing countries, this ideological opposition became Manichean, fostering a fierce suspicion, if not outright rejection, of rival principles. As a result, strengthening state institutions was too often seen in the West as communist subterfuge, while the Soviet bloc viewed the slightest notion of individual freedom and responsibility as a stalking horse for capitalist ...

Published: Wednesday 25 April 2012
“Long-term projections based on short-term trends have often been mistaken.”

For almost two centuries, starting around 1800, the history of the global economy was broadly one of divergence in average incomes. In relative terms, rich countries got even richer. There was growth in the poorer countries, too, but it was slower than rich-country growth, and the discrepancy in prosperity between rich and poor countries increased.


This “divergence” was very pronounced in colonial times. It slowed after the 1940’s, but it was only around 1990 that an entirely new trend could be observed – convergence between average incomes in the group of rich countries and the rest of the world. From 1990 to 2010, average per capita income in the emerging and developing countries grew almost three times as fast as average income in Europe, North America, and Japan, compared to lower or, at most, equal growth rates for almost two centuries.


This has been a revolutionary change, but will this 20-year-old trend continue? Will convergence remain rapid, or will it be a passing phase in world economic history?

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Long-term projections based on short-term trends have often been mistaken. In the late 1950’s, after the Soviet Union launched the first spacecraft, eminent Western economists predicted that Soviet income would overtake that of the United States in a few decades. After all, the Soviet Union was investing close to 40% of its GDP, twice the ratio in the West.


Later, in the 1980’s, Japan’s spectacular growth led some to predict that it would overtake the US, not only in per capita terms, but even in terms of some ...

Published: Wednesday 7 March 2012
“Movements have sometimes produced regime change with no real democracy and the same 1 percent still in charge.”

In the discussion within the Occupy movement on whether violence is necessary for making change in the United States, the debate has so far conflated three of the movement’s possible goals. Are we talking about using violence to produce regime change? Or do we really mean “regime change with democratic institutions following the change”? Or is what we really mean “regime change followed by democracy in which the 1 percent lose their grip on power”?

Movements have sometimes produced regime change with no real democracy and the same 1 percent still in charge. The American Revolution did that: King George was booted out and the resulting government, to its credit highly innovative, was still not a democracy for women, the enslaved, and working class people. A couple of centuries later, the 1 percent are still running the United States. A number of other anti-colonial struggles had a similar result.

Many regimes are so oppressive that people will give their lives to change them, even without guarantees that the new regime will be a whole lot better. But as we consider what we want out of our sacrifices to the cause, we should ask: What’s the track record of movements that depend on violence to overthrow their regimes?

Political scientists (and Waging Nonviolence contributors) Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan analyzed 323 attempts at regime change between 1900 and 2006. They were curious about the comparative success of violent and nonviolent campaigns, among other things. They found that violent campaigns succeeded 26 percent of the time, and that nonviolent campaigns succeeded 53 percent ...

Published: Saturday 11 February 2012
“In virtually every one of these resolutions, the United States cast the sole negative vote in the otherwise-unanimous 15-member Security Council.”

Official Washington has been rife with condemnation at the decision by the governments of Russia and China to veto an otherwise unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the ongoing repression in Syria and calling for a halt to violence on all sides; unfettered access for Arab League monitors; and "a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs."

Human rights activists were outraged, as they should be. What is striking, however, is the response from US officials and pundits so roundly condemning the use of the veto by these two permanent members of the Security Council to protect the Syrian regime from accountability for its savage repression against its own citizens.


Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
America's long over due attention shift to Asia and the south pacific is finally happening.

Some 40 years ago, when I entered Oxford University as a graduate student, I declared my interest in the Middle East. I was told that this part of the world came under the rubric of “Oriental Studies,” and that I would be assigned an appropriate professor. But when I arrived for my first meeting at the professor’s office, his bookshelves were lined with volumes bearing Chinese characters. He was a specialist in what was, at least for me at the time, the wrong Orient.

Something akin to this mistake has befallen American foreign policy. The United States has become preoccupied with the Middle East – in certain ways, the wrong Orient – and has not paid adequate attention to East Asia and the Pacific, where much of the twenty-first century’s history will be written.

The good news is that this focus is shifting. Indeed, a quiet transformation is taking place in American foreign policy, one that is as significant as it is overdue. The US has rediscovered Asia.

“Rediscovered” is the operative word here. Asia was one of the two ...

Published: Tuesday 16 August 2011
“A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.”

Editor's note: The following excerpt from Noam Chomsky's book “Hegemony or Survival” was originally published on TomDispatch in October of 2003. As Tom Engelhardt says “In these dog days of summer 2011, a little reminder of the history of American-style terror might indeed be just what the doctor ordered.”

The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro's guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. "During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by exiled Cubans" based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances. Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his "assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba." Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.


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