War

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.

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

H.R. McMaster and the tragedy of American empire

H.R. McMaster is one of the United States’ most astute theorists of modern warfare. Unlike so many other military thinkers, he understands that history is complex, contingent, and irrational, and that no amount of technological superiority could tame the real world’s unpredictable dynamism. So how could he have gotten it so wrong? Why, in spite of his sophistication, did his solutions to the American disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately fail to produce even medium-term victory?

Refugee Stasis

Refugee Stasis

The camp is the end of the liberal order, the end of the post–World War II world, the end of human rights.

Refugees are being used to distract from the failures of globalized neoliberalism. The wider European public is subjected to irreconcilable political messaging daily: refugees are both helpless victims and violent sexual predators; they are flooding the borders but the borders are strong; they are children and they are adults posing as children; they are overwhelming our culture, but our culture is indomitable—but it must also be protected.

No Longer a Girl

No Longer a Girl

The hallmarks that would come to characterize the official narrative surrounding the serial murders were already being established.

The discovery was recorded under the charge of “intentional homicide.” Preliminary inquiry 16142/95-1101 indicates the body was found face-down, the head oriented to the north, the right arm bent beneath the abdomen, the left bent alongside the body; the legs were separated. Death by strangulation was confirmed. The hair was held back by a “a brown hairband or hair tie.” The body wore a white T-shirt that read “California. The Golden State” on the front. The shirt was rolled up above the breasts, as was as the white bra. Underneath the body, green jeans were found with blood stains and corpse fauna. To the left, at the top of the thigh, was a shoe without laces and a pair of white underpants. Aside from the shoe, which carried the mark of Tres Hermanos, her clothing showed no labels or visible branding.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

An excess of people and an excess of desert.

Tumbleweeds blow in the wind—saladillos, chemís, voladoras—and the smell of rot arrives in gusts. Residents live in houses made of other people’s trash, discarded scraps of wood, sheets of metal or asbestos, old doors. Here, wire is an indispensable material, used to tie up, to hold together, to separate, to keep in that which would otherwise escape. From Lomas de Poleo, residents can look out upon the well-constructed homes, the green lawns, the technological splendor that surrounds nearby El Paso, Texas.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

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.

Etched into Eternity

Etched into Eternity

Donald Trump’s disdain for heroism has been replaced by a passionate commitment to its exact opposite.

Trump’s florid hero worship represents a new liturgical moment in the political theology of American power—and a major shift in Trump’s rhetorical posture, which has previously made very little room for accomplishments other than his own. Yet it is far from unfamiliar in the world history of demagoguery.

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.”

A Parallel State

A Parallel State

Over the past ten years, the prospect of a coup has been the government’s pretext for suppressing every conceivable opposition.

People I had never seen at a demonstration in Turkey—women in the full face veil, bearded men with hats embroidered with Qur’anic inscriptions and small children in tow—flowed down the broad avenue carrying Turkish flags, a symbol not previously associated with their ultraconservative lifestyle.

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.

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.

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

A Very High Degree of Certainty in Future Military Operations

H.R. McMaster and the tragedy of American empire

H.R. McMaster is one of the United States’ most astute theorists of modern warfare. Unlike so many other military thinkers, he understands that history is complex, contingent, and irrational, and that no amount of technological superiority could tame the real world’s unpredictable dynamism. So how could he have gotten it so wrong? Why, in spite of his sophistication, did his solutions to the American disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately fail to produce even medium-term victory?

Refugee Stasis

Refugee Stasis

The camp is the end of the liberal order, the end of the post–World War II world, the end of human rights.

Refugees are being used to distract from the failures of globalized neoliberalism. The wider European public is subjected to irreconcilable political messaging daily: refugees are both helpless victims and violent sexual predators; they are flooding the borders but the borders are strong; they are children and they are adults posing as children; they are overwhelming our culture, but our culture is indomitable—but it must also be protected.

No Longer a Girl

No Longer a Girl

The hallmarks that would come to characterize the official narrative surrounding the serial murders were already being established.

The discovery was recorded under the charge of “intentional homicide.” Preliminary inquiry 16142/95-1101 indicates the body was found face-down, the head oriented to the north, the right arm bent beneath the abdomen, the left bent alongside the body; the legs were separated. Death by strangulation was confirmed. The hair was held back by a “a brown hairband or hair tie.” The body wore a white T-shirt that read “California. The Golden State” on the front. The shirt was rolled up above the breasts, as was as the white bra. Underneath the body, green jeans were found with blood stains and corpse fauna. To the left, at the top of the thigh, was a shoe without laces and a pair of white underpants. Aside from the shoe, which carried the mark of Tres Hermanos, her clothing showed no labels or visible branding.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

An excess of people and an excess of desert.

Tumbleweeds blow in the wind—saladillos, chemís, voladoras—and the smell of rot arrives in gusts. Residents live in houses made of other people’s trash, discarded scraps of wood, sheets of metal or asbestos, old doors. Here, wire is an indispensable material, used to tie up, to hold together, to separate, to keep in that which would otherwise escape. From Lomas de Poleo, residents can look out upon the well-constructed homes, the green lawns, the technological splendor that surrounds nearby El Paso, Texas.

What We Do Best

What We Do Best

War has become a given in American political life. In the process it has become depoliticized.

It might seem ludicrous that only hours after many of us called Trump a Russian spy, a new Hitler, a feckless idiot, a psychopath, a sun-downing, pill-popping monster, we fell in line and rallied behind him and our troops because, after all, he is our President and Presidents lead and the troops must be supported.

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.

Etched into Eternity

Etched into Eternity

Donald Trump’s disdain for heroism has been replaced by a passionate commitment to its exact opposite.

Trump’s florid hero worship represents a new liturgical moment in the political theology of American power—and a major shift in Trump’s rhetorical posture, which has previously made very little room for accomplishments other than his own. Yet it is far from unfamiliar in the world history of demagoguery.