1. "Everything is more beautiful
    because we’re doomed.
    You will never be lovelier than you are now.
    We will never be here again."

    The Iliad (via monstersinyourcloset)

    (Source: thefarfromfeed, via hanataiyouame)

  2. Richard PETER, Vue de la tour de l’Hôtel de Ville, vers le sud, Dresde, entre le 17 sept. et le 31 décembre 1945 Epreuve Ancienne © Collection Michael Ruetz

    Vonnegut was there.

    (Source: aprairiehomecomrade, via akio)

  3. Technology, Bureaucracy, and the Future of War

    “Like the rest of Washington, the CIA had fallen in love with technology. The theory was that satellites, the internet, electronic intercepts, even academic publications would tell us all we needed to know about what went on beyond our borders” (Robert Baer). I first read this quote in Robert Baer’s memoir, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism. The book chronicles the former case officer’s career in the Middle East when the area was not yet a priority in US politics. Ultimately, Baer goes on to critique the changes he noticed in the CIA’s infrastructure. He noticed increased federal and military involvement in the civilian organization’s infrastructure, and thus an increase in bureaucracy and a shift from HUMINT (human intelligence) to SIGINT (signal intelligence).

    Baer’s critiques are ones that I have taken to heart when I think about how the US organizes its wars. We have developed a love for bureaucratic systems and technological intelligence. The reality is that wars no longer resemble Clausewitz’s “Trinitarian” model and battles are no longer a matter of who holds the superior technology. These are lessons learned broadly from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to more detailed outlines provided by Roger Trinquier. In order to adapt to the post-Trinitarian model, there must be a return to HUMINT and strategic flexibility that is not provided in bureaucratic systems. Essentially, the United States is stuck in a bureaucratic system that promotes the use of technology, which is what prevents the military from developing creative solutions and thoroughly understanding the enemy.

    First, to explain the problem with the modern military, I’d like to explain how the military and the subsequent branches working for it are bureaucratic. Sociologist Wolf Heydebrand defines bureaucracy as “a formally rational system of administrative control based on technical knowledge [with] a fixed hierarchical structure with long-term career paths and closely guarded borders.” Considering that a top-down hierarchy is the basic structure of militaries with decisions made by a “chain of command,” I would think it’s fair to say that are elements of a bureaucratic system. Rank and promotion dictates everything within the military, top positions given to those with the most experience.

    During the 1970s, the United States underwent a renaissance of liberal thought dubbed neoliberalism. This represented a shift in public desires from organized bureaucracy and stability to dynamic expressionism and individualism. While businesses were taking advantage of this dynamic shift in thought, the government proved slow to change. Michel Foucault noticed that the shift did not completely dismantle bureaucratic systems but brought in a new illusionary liberalism: “Neoliberal governmentality.” As Heydebrand notes: “Neoliberal supply-side policies and practices either transformed the remnants of formal-legal bureaucracy or gave rise to new, imaginative and experimental ways of organizational governance, including subcontracting, outsourcing, project teams, the use of casual, contingent, freelance and temporary labor, and the incipient decline of organized labor.”

    The problem here is that the illusion of absolute freedom and innovation is given, but there still exists bureaucratic systems in place that control many aspects of how work is produced. In the case of the military, innovative thinkers tend to have some say in how warfare is organized, but there still exists remnants of bureaucracy and social rules in place in this hierarchical system that cannot give full freedom of expression. As we enter a “post-Trinitarian” model of warfare, our military thinkers and strategists must be flexible, as Sun Tzu wrote, we must be able to shift through unknown terrain like “water.”

    Tradition and bureaucracy stifles development of thought. Humans have a history of relying upon technology and technological developments to act for us, and to an extent, I think it has been a great motivator for innovation and social progress. However, “Over the past 300 years, people have long since become accustomed to blindly falling in love with the new and discarding the old in the realm of technology, and the endless pursuit of new technology has become a panacea to resolve all the difficult questions of existence” (Unrestricted Warfare).

    Although originating in China, where the communist social structure and different history has created a very different system of thought that my Western-centric thought has difficulty grasping, the question of the limits of technology has stirred my mind. When I look at each new predator drone being built, a new missile system, or a new plane developed for military use, I often think to myself “what’s the point?” If I think about these tools of war being developed from a pragmatic standpoint, I can’t think of any good reason. After entering the “post-Trinitarian” model, the use of planes and tanks are hardly practical. They are extremely inefficient in fighting guerilla adversaries, which as Trinquier proposes, are the future enemies of warfare. An ostentatious presence prevents the homogenized military from winning over the population that terrorist cells embed themselves within.

    However, the development of these technologies makes sense when I think about them in terms of the bureaucracy that the US military is stuck in. There was a time when Keynesian investment in military technology stimulated the economy, providing jobs and endorsing companies. The United States fights asymmetrically because it is still beneficial to these companies. Aside from this economic standpoint, the reliance on technology reinforces the idea of a hierarchical military, legitimizing the bureaucracy of warfare.

    Planes and tanks that will never be put to practical use are very expensive and require a complex system to ensure that they are protected. These are complex technologies that need to be monitored by a chain of command in order to ensure their safety. Training exercises require that they be taken care of by a variety of people, properly shipped to different base locations around the world, and put into training exercises under strict supervision. The maintenance of these tools requires a complex bureaucracy, and thus the military is put into a cycle. Tradition and bureaucracy ensures the manufacturing of these weapons, and the complex nature of the weapons enforces the bureaucratic nature of the system that created them in the first place.

    So now that I’ve explained the traditional hierarchy of bureaucracy in the military, how this bureaucracy develops useless technology, and how this developmental process legitimizes itself, I would like to conclude this essay with how this all prevents what I think is the key to evolving into van Creveld’s “post-Trinitarian” warfare: the acquisition of HUMINT. I began this essay with a quote from Robert Baer, who explains that the primary intelligence gathering arm of the US, the CIA, has been stifled in developing due to a reliance on technology and limitations in innovative thought. In short, what Baer is trying to explain is that the US has rendered itself incapable of truly knowing its enemies. Baer’s critique comes from the fact that it’s easy to justify full-scale military action when a satellite image is placed into the hands of a policy-maker. Either data gathered from the depths of the internet or from a satellite image can provoke aggression. Depending on the scale of the threat, either the military is deployed, as it had been in Afghanistan and Iraq, or we rely further on technology and send drones to “surgically remove” key targets in the war against an idea.

    These tactics are ineffective because we are not opening our ears, we are not listening to others, we are not learning what others want, and we do not attempt to understand a different society. The US seems to operate under the assumption that human beings can easily adapt from a dictatorial social structure to a democratic model with ease. However, when we attempt to make that shift, we forget to listen to the needs and desires of others. For instance, the main source of income for Afghani farmers would be heroin produced from poppy fields, a direct conflict of interest with the US. How would the US ensure the relative economic stability provided by the Taliban without forfeiting American societal mores?

    As professor Corradi explains in The Dream of Sun Tzu or How to Lose a War, “it did not cross their minds to consult sociologists and anthropologists, who could have explained to them that in Iraq, the primary loyalty is to the clan rather than to the nation.” There is no preemptive attempt to understand whom we plan to fight; policy-makers did not listen to sociologists or anthropologists and continue to make this mistake. Eventually, the situation in Iraq became so dire that the US military employed something that I believe to be conceptually brilliant, but too little too late: Human Terrain Teams. Groups of anthropologists go to the battlefield and interact with local populations, attempting to understand their wants and needs. Why did we wait so long to try this? If we are engaged in a nation-building policy, why not attempt to build a nation based on the social structures of the people and not our own standards? If the United States wishes to move forward in the way we think about war, we have to start trying to understand the people. This will require diplomacy, HUMINT gathering by actually deploying personnel on the fields, and academic understanding of who we plan to help or fight, and why.

    I fear that war with Pakistan or Iran could be looming around the corner, always hinted at, and yet again, we have not asked ourselves why Iran pursues a nuclear program or why Pakistan has been supporting the Taliban. In order to fight properly, the US needs to abandon asymmetrical warfare, its reliance on technology, and traditional methods.

  4. Evil Teabagger: Guns N' Roses on Foreign Policy


    Lyrics from Civil War:

    Look at your young men fighting
    Look at your women crying
    Look at your young men dying
    The way they’ve always done before

    Look at the hate we’re breeding
    Look at the fear we’re feeding
    Look at the lives we’re leading
    The way we’ve always done before

    My hands…

    I’d rather listen to Rush.

    (Source: antigovernmentextremist)

  5. Iran Threat Reduction Act Actually Enhances Threat of War

    Section 601, subsection (c) [states]:

    No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that … is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran….

    Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime. If this measure passes, it will establish a dangerous precedent whereby Congress would likely follow with similar legislation effectively forbidding any contact with Palestinians, Cubans, and others. …

    History has shown that governments that refuse to even talk with each other are far more likely to go to war. …

    As veteran CIA analyst and Georgetown University professor Paul Pillar put it, “This legislation is another illustration of the tendency to think of diplomacy as some kind of reward for the other guy, rather than what it really is: a tool for our side.”

    Similarly, veteran diplomats Thomas Pickering and William Luers observed, “Besides raising serious constitutional issues over the separation of powers, this preposterous law would make it illegal for the U.S. to know its enemy,” a principle that has been understood by strategic planners since first articulated by Sun Tzu in The Art of War in the 6th century B.C.

    Another problematic clause in the bill, contained in the same subsection, states that

    No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that … presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.

    Not only could what constitutes a “threat” to the United States or an “affiliate” with a “terrorist organization” be interpreted rather broadly, it could restrict investigation of possible terrorist attacks. It would have made illegal the recent sting operation that foiled the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador, for example.

    (Source: laliberty)

  6. Ron Paul on Obama's Phony Iraq Withdrawal

    It is not too often I am pleased by the foreign policy announcements from this administration, but last week’s announcement that the war in Iraq was in its final stage and all the troops may be home for Christmas did sound promising. I have long said that we should simply declare victory and come home. It should not have taken us nearly a decade to do so, and it was supposed to be a priority for the new administration. Instead, it will be one of the last things done before the critical re-election campaign gets into full swing. Better late than never, but, examining the fine print, is there really much here to get excited about? Are all of our men and women really coming home, and is Iraq now to regain its sovereignty? And in this time of economic crisis, are we going to stop hemorrhaging money in Iraq? Sadly, it doesn’t look that way.

    First and foremost, any form of withdrawal that is happening is not simply because the administration realized it was the right thing to do. This is not the fulfillment of a campaign promise, or because suddenly the training of their police and military is complete and Iraq is now safe and secure, but because of disagreements with the new government over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The current agreement was set up by the previous administration to expire at the end of 2011. Apparently the Iraqis refused to allow continued immunity from prosecution for our forces for any crimes our soldiers might commit on Iraqi soil. Can you imagine having foreign soldiers here, with immunity from our laws and Constitution, with access to your neighborhood?

    Some 39,000 American troops will supposedly be headed home by the end of the year. However, the US embassy in Iraq, which is the largest and most expensive in the world, is not being abandoned. Upwards of 17,000 military personnel and private security contractors will remain in Iraq to guard diplomatic personnel, continue training Iraqi forces, maintain “situational awareness” and other functions. This is still a significant American footprint in the country. And considering that a private security contractor costs the US taxpayer about three times as much as a soldier, we’re not going to see any real cost savings. Sadly, these contractors are covered under diplomatic immunity, meaning the Iraqi people will not get the accountability that they were hoping for.

    While I applaud the spirit of this announcement – since all our troops should come home from overseas – I have strong reservations about any actual improvements in the situation in Iraq, since plans are already being made to increase the number of troops in surrounding regions. What we really need is a new foreign policy and there is no indication that that is what we have gotten. On the contrary, the administration fully intends to keep troops in Iraq, indefinitely, under a new agreement, while the Iraqis are doing their best to assert their sovereignty and kick us out. Neither are we going to be saving any significant amount of money. My greatest fear, however, is that this troop withdrawal from Iraq will simply pave the way for more endless, wasteful, needless wars.

    (Source: laliberty)

  7. wut iz dis nice lil ad????

    (via coeus-deactivated20120628)

  8. "Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again."

    Homer, The Iliad (via labyrintho)

    (Source: serialstranger, via notajukebox)

  9. whiporwill:

    In 1916 an amendment was proposed to the Constitution that all acts of war would be put to a national vote. Anyone voting yes had to register as a volunteer for service in the United States Army.

    One of the enduring features of our Constitution is its flexibility. At the time of its ratification, the population of the United States was around 4 million and today that population exceeds 309 million. Since its adoption the Constitution has only changed 27 times! Actually, since 1791 (with the inclusion of the Bill of Rights) it has only changed 16 times. That is an amazing fact considering the changes in technology, infrastructure, population, etc. in this country in more than 200 years.

    The framers of the Constitution realized that no document could cover all of the changes that would take place to ensure its longevity. In order for an amendment to be passed, a number of steps must be taken as outlined in Article V. The article provides for two methods for the proposal and two methods for the ratification of an amendment. An amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate or a national convention called by Congress at the request of 2/3 of the state legislatures. The latter procedure has never been used. The amendment may then be ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures (38 states) or special conventions called in 3/4 of the states. The 21st amendment was the only one to be adopted in this way. However, it is the power of Congress to decide which method of ratification will be used.

    The time limit for the ratification process of seven years was first applied to the Eighteenth Amendment, and the decision concerning a “reasonable” time period for ratification is determined by Congress according to the Supreme Court case Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939). There have been close to 10,000 amendments proposed in Congress since 1789, and only a fraction of a percentage of those receive enough support to actually go through the constitutional ratification process. The success rate of an amendment to become part of the Constitution is less than 1%.

    (via whipporwill-deactivated20111220)