Richard Beck

All articles by this author

Why Are We in Niger?

Why Are We in Niger?

It has become safer to assume that the American military has a presence in a given country in Africa than not.

Faced with political instability in the developing world—often a region of the developing world in which the US and its allies have at least some interest in resource extraction—the US advises weak governments to fight “terrorism,” providing training and material assistance as needed. When the government proves unable to stand on its own two feet, the US sends in troops of its own.

The Origin of Endless War

The Origin of Endless War

On Barbara Lee and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

The AUMF is the War on Terror’s key piece of legislation. The text of the law is brief, beginning with, “Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens,” and ending with an assurance that nothing in it would supersede “any requirement of the War Powers Resolution,” the 1973 law passed (over Nixon’s veto) to prevent any more Presidents from waging undeclared war, as they had for years in Korea and Vietnam.

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

The US has no prospects for improving the stability of Afghan politics through military force.

The US army, through a combination of historical ignorance and disastrous blundering, failed to populate Afghanistan’s post-invasion government with the people who could have given it a chance at real stability. The US pretended as though the Afghan civil war had never occurred, and allowed mujahedeen and warlords who had terrorized the country throughout the 1990s to assume positions of political power, which did not endear Afghans to their new rulers.

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Potentially Endless

Potentially Endless

I could sit in front of my laptop all night, into Thursday afternoon, maybe into next week.

Some teams are built around a talented pitching staff, some around canny base-running, some around brilliant defense. With the Cubs it’s more straightforward—they’re built around being great at playing baseball.

Why Are We in the Middle East?

Why Are We in the Middle East?

America’s devotion to the Middle East did not make much sense in 2003, Bacevich argues; but it did in 1980, and the reason was oil.

Unlike many journalists and historians who see the wars in the Middle East as a series of isolated conflicts that happen to have taken place in a single region over several decades, Andrew Bacevich, a career Army officer turned military historian and foreign policy critic, sees a sustained military campaign that began with Jimmy Carter and continues today. “From the end of World War II to 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in [the Greater Middle East],” Bacevich writes. “Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere except the Greater Middle East.”

So Naïve in Retrospect

So Naïve in Retrospect

Laura Poitras at the Whitney

Bed Down Location projects images of several night skies—over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—onto the ceiling of a dimly lit square space. There is a platform in the middle of the room on which you lie down and then look up at the skies. The title refers to the sleeping place of a military or intelligence target, and so what you’re supposed to do while lying on the platform and looking up is imagine that you are the potential target, that a drone might be circling far overhead and preparing to end your life.

We Can Keep the American People Safe

We Can Keep the American People Safe

David Foster Wallace was not especially interested in politics over the course of his life, and what interest he did exhibit was not driven by much of a political intelligence. He supported both Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot, although the absence of politics from his correspondence suggests that neither position was strongly held or carefully thought out. In a Rolling Stone cover story on the 2000 John McCain campaign that has since become a fixture of his anthologies, he describes American politics as a sentimental battle between cynicism and real feeling, political gamesmanship and public-spiritedness, the last of which Wallace yokes McCain into symbolizing. (He also says that McCain could be the country’s first “real leader” since JFK.) Wallace had a lifelong suspicion of cable news, but the textures of his political thought could sometimes appear to be drawn from that medium.

Toward an Index of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture

Toward an Index of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture

In September 2004, the editors of n+1 noticed that the recently published 9/11 Commission Report, though “admirably lucid” and bearing “115 pages of endnotes,” did not include an index. They and a crack team of indexers set out to remedy this oversight. Just over a decade later, The Senate Select Committee Report on Torture committed the very same oversight, which we correct below.

The Friedmans

Jesse pled guilty. He spent thirteen years in prison, he was paroled as a Level 3 sex offender, and then he filed an appeal to vacate his conviction. He said he was innocent, that he had only submitted the guilty plea because of the impossibility of receiving a fair trial. A lower court had rejected this appeal, and on the second page of its ruling, the circuit court concurred. “We affirm the judgment of the United States Court for the Eastern District of New York,” the judges wrote, “because we conclude that the grounds asserted in the petition would not justify habeas corpus relief.” Jesse had waited too long to file his appeal.

Threat Level

Threat Level

Homeland, now in its second season on premium cable, suggests that liberals may have been fooling themselves. What they really wanted was not to eradicate Republican paranoia, but to overcome what made Republican paranoia so potent: the widespread impression that Democrats were too weak and too plagued by self-loathing to defend us from our enemies.

Why Are We in Niger?

Why Are We in Niger?

It has become safer to assume that the American military has a presence in a given country in Africa than not.

Faced with political instability in the developing world—often a region of the developing world in which the US and its allies have at least some interest in resource extraction—the US advises weak governments to fight “terrorism,” providing training and material assistance as needed. When the government proves unable to stand on its own two feet, the US sends in troops of its own.

The Origin of Endless War

The Origin of Endless War

On Barbara Lee and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

The AUMF is the War on Terror’s key piece of legislation. The text of the law is brief, beginning with, “Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens,” and ending with an assurance that nothing in it would supersede “any requirement of the War Powers Resolution,” the 1973 law passed (over Nixon’s veto) to prevent any more Presidents from waging undeclared war, as they had for years in Korea and Vietnam.

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

A Combination of Historical Ignorance and Disastrous Blundering

The US has no prospects for improving the stability of Afghan politics through military force.

The US army, through a combination of historical ignorance and disastrous blundering, failed to populate Afghanistan’s post-invasion government with the people who could have given it a chance at real stability. The US pretended as though the Afghan civil war had never occurred, and allowed mujahedeen and warlords who had terrorized the country throughout the 1990s to assume positions of political power, which did not endear Afghans to their new rulers.

Lobby Day in Albany

Lobby Day in Albany

Single payer’s moment has arrived in New York.

There are many good reasons for citizens to understand the finer points of policymaking. But in this room, we were at our most powerful and effective when we put aside the urges to be experts (we are not) and to show off our sophisticated political analysis (we didn’t have one). The organization that had put together the lobbying meetings needed us to be warm bodies who live in the right districts, people willing to simply show up and say what we want.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

The Syria Catastrophe

The Syria Catastrophe

The response required at this late, desperate stage is neither anti-Assad nor anti-ISIS nor even anti-imperialist — it is antiwar.

Again and again, countries across and outside the Middle East have decided that escalating the war by military means is justified by whatever little sliver of national interest they feel is at stake. The US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, China, France, and Britain have all pumped military resources into the conflict, increasing not only the war’s capacity for destructive violence but also its duration.

Potentially Endless

Potentially Endless

I could sit in front of my laptop all night, into Thursday afternoon, maybe into next week.

Some teams are built around a talented pitching staff, some around canny base-running, some around brilliant defense. With the Cubs it’s more straightforward—they’re built around being great at playing baseball.

Why Are We in the Middle East?

Why Are We in the Middle East?

America’s devotion to the Middle East did not make much sense in 2003, Bacevich argues; but it did in 1980, and the reason was oil.

Unlike many journalists and historians who see the wars in the Middle East as a series of isolated conflicts that happen to have taken place in a single region over several decades, Andrew Bacevich, a career Army officer turned military historian and foreign policy critic, sees a sustained military campaign that began with Jimmy Carter and continues today. “From the end of World War II to 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in [the Greater Middle East],” Bacevich writes. “Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere except the Greater Middle East.”

So Naïve in Retrospect

So Naïve in Retrospect

Laura Poitras at the Whitney

Bed Down Location projects images of several night skies—over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—onto the ceiling of a dimly lit square space. There is a platform in the middle of the room on which you lie down and then look up at the skies. The title refers to the sleeping place of a military or intelligence target, and so what you’re supposed to do while lying on the platform and looking up is imagine that you are the potential target, that a drone might be circling far overhead and preparing to end your life.