Chalmers Johnson has died. I read Sorrows of Empire in college, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge of him. This is a pretty good overview of his work.
I remember not being impressed with Sorrows. That’s probably a function of what I wanted out of it: a good argument that there was such a thing as an American empire. His definition was looser than mine was, so I wasn’t happy. Plus, he ventured awfully close to 9/11 conspiracy theory. Thinking back, though, it was a better book than I gave it credit for. The extent to which we have military bases around the world is really astonishing and it does us little good. His warnings about what our foreign policy will lead us to resonate with me more now, as I’m less focused on intentionality and more on consequences. I also didn’t realize that Johnson was Right wing, which is a nice commentary on how Left and Right foreign policy critiques can sound pretty similar.
At this point, I think of him more like Andrew Bacevich: probably correct, but I wish he wasn’t.
I’m just going to say that while closing Guantanamo and ending the Iraq war will indeed help against al Qaeda, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 9/11 happened before all that and as long as we still have troops in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, we’re not dealing with the core of the problem. And since Obama has made no noises to that end, his impact will probably be limited. Positive, but limited.
Obama’s been in office almost a week. We seem to be on the march towards some sort of Marxist utopia where government is more transparent, we don’t run secret prisons, and we don’t torture people. Craziness.
Of course, we still have destructive policies regarding Afghanistan and Israel and a terrible economy. Which Obama won’t and can’t fix (respectively).
Could be worse.
I recently finished Andrew Bacevich’s The Limits of Power, which is an excellent book. I’ve been meaning to write a review, as Bacevich is a conservative and there are a couple points that I disagree with, but are interesting to mull over. I still may, but I have to say that this Bloggingheads discussion with Bacevich is much better than my review would be. It hits some of my issues and it’s just really interesting. So if you have an hour, go watch it.
(via Daniel Larison)
We don’t torture people, though.
Also, curse you, overzealous defenders of copyright! I wanted to link to a video of Baltar denying the occupational government tortures people. But no…
According to this guy:
Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique – without a doubt. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch.
What a pansy that guy is. We all know it’s just like dunking someone in a bucket of water. Our television characters do it all the time and they’re awesome.
Religious scholar Karen Armstrong is offended by ignorance of Islam:
RELIGIOUS scholar Karen Armstrong says she is defending Islam as it has been portrayed inaccurately in many ways, particularly in western countries.
She said when Islam, a religion professed throughout the world, is portrayed inaccurately and misrepresented, it offended her intellectually.
“When Islam is projected incorrectly, inaccurately and distorted, it also gives rise to fundamentalism among certain people.
Let’s just back up here. Islamic fundamentalism was quite strong before 9/11, which was before Islam became an issue to most people. After 9/11, our fuck up in Iraq has done a solid job of keeping fundamentalism strong. Inaccurate criticism of Islam is hardly something to worry about with regard to creating fundamentalists.
Armstrong, a well-known author on world religions, said owing to prejudice and hatred, millions of Jews were killed due to Germany’s Nazi atrocities during the Second World War.
This dark history happened in Germany, a western country which prides itself as being very enlightened.
“But we (the western world) seem to learn nothing (from this) as after that there were concentration camps in Yugoslavia. We seem to be heading for greater darkness,” she said.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re particularly close to tossing Muslims in ovens. In fact, it looks to me like Islamic regimes are far closer to that point. Of course, it would be unfair of me to conflate radical Islamic fundamentalists and your average Muslim.
On the other hand, Armstrong has her priorities out of whack here. The fundamental barrier to a good relationship between the West and Islam is Islamic fundamentalism. What does Armstrong’s hand-wringing do to help that situation? Absolutely nothing. She’s whining about the symptoms when she should be working on defeating the cause.