We Need a National Rite of Passage That Doesn’t Include War

A recent New York Timesop-ed was perhaps the strangest, most awkward and tentative defense of the military-industrial complex – excuse me, the experiment in democracy called America – I’ve ever encountered, and begs to be addressed.

The writer, Andrew Exum, was an Army Ranger who had deployments in the early 2000s to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and a decade later served for several years as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.

The point he is making amounts to this: The last twenty years of war have been a disaster, with our pullout from Afghanistan sealing history’s final judgment: We lost. And we deserved to lose. But what a crushing blow to the men and women who served with courage, indeed, who sacrificed their lives for their country.

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Conflicts of Interest: The Pentagon Used Movies, Media, & the NFL to Sell War

On COI #162, Scott Spaulding – an Iraq and Afghan combat vet who hosts the ‘Why I’m Antiwar’ podcast – returns to the show to discuss the villains of the Afghan War. Scott explains how American culture was infected with bloodlust by the Pentagon’s post-9/11 PR campaign, while the State Department partnered with Hollywood, the NFL and marketing firms to ensure uncritical support for the War on Terror. The propaganda continues to be very successful in enriching the elites while shielding them from all accountability.

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Looking for Responsible Realism on China

Ross Douthat sums up the thesis of Elbridge Colby’s book, Strategy of Denial:

Only China threatens American interests in a profound way, through a consolidation of economic power in Asia that imperils our prosperity and a military defeat that could shatter our alliance system. Therefore American policy should be organized to deny Beijing regional hegemony and deter any military adventurism – first and foremost through a stronger commitment to defending the island of Taiwan.

Douthat describes this as a “realist’s book,” and in some respects that may be true, but it is hard to ignore how dangerously oblivious to certain realities China hawks like Colby are. As I have mentioned before, he and other advocates of a “stronger commitment” to Taiwan tend to ignore the danger of nuclear escalation that comes with such a commitment. They don’t seem to take seriously how much more important Taiwan is to China than it is to us. They consistently misjudge how the Chinese government perceives U.S. actions in the region, and they don’t appreciate how the policies they support are encouraging China to increase its nuclear arsenal.

The strange story about Gen. Milley’s efforts in the fall of 2020 and again in early 2021 to defuse tensions and reassure China that the US was not going to attack them is relevant here. Last year, the Chinese government was apparently fearful of a possible American attack in the months leading up to the 2020 election, and evidently they were concerned that Trump might also try something during the transition. This shows us how easily Washington’s attempts to send “messages” through displays of military strength can be misinterpreted and create a crisis where none would have existed otherwise. Ethan Paul reviews the evidence and concludes:

Regardless, what this series of events does demonstrate in dramatic and frightening fashion is how easily signals between Washington and Beijing were and can be misinterpreted, and how this could bring us to the brink of conflict at any time. Not only should these revelations spark concerns about the deficiencies in current crisis management and military-to-military dialogue mechanisms – the two militaries spoke for the first time during the Biden presidency only weeks ago – but it should also lead to a rigorous debate about the path the United States and China are currently headed down, and a reconsideration of whether this serves any reasonable definition of American interest.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

A Dangerous Fixation on Denuclearization

A new Chicago Council survey finds that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of negotiating a peace agreement with North Korea, but only if North Korea disarms:

For example, 76 percent of Americans support negotiating a formal peace agreement with North Korea to officially end the Korean War if North Korea suspends its nuclear weapons program. If North Korea is allowed to keep its nuclear weapons, support for such a deal drops to 24 percent.

North Korea isn’t going to give up its nuclear weapons, so making a formal peace agreement contingent on that is a good way to guarantee that there will be no peace agreement. Since North Korean nuclear weapons are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, it would make a lot more sense to stabilize the relationship with a formal peace agreement. The U.S. has spent the last 15 years trying to cajole North Korea into giving up its nuclear deterrent, and this fixation on compelling their disarmament has left us with a much better-armed North Korea and no peace treaty. We have had things in the wrong order all along. The US, North Korea, and South Korea need to agree on peace first, and then it may be possible to have a more productive negotiation on arms control.

Most of the public has internalized the official line that there will be no diplomatic progress with North Korea on other issues until they give up their weapons:

Another possible step is for the two countries to establish diplomatic relations. But only a minority support taking this step if North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons program. And if North Korea does continue to build its nuclear weapons program, 70 percent favor isolating and pressuring North Korea with economic sanctions.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Twenty Years After 9/11, ‘The Only Way To Effectively Counter Terror Is To End War’

As the United States on Saturday commemorates the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks with plenty of patriotic zeal but perhaps too little introspection, peace advocates have marked the occasion by reflecting on the costs and bloody consequences of the so-called “Global War on Terror” as they reaffirmed that the best safeguard against further terrorism – as many warned at the time – is ending war and respecting human rights.

A sobering assessment 20 years after the 9/11 attacks lays bare a never-ending war abroad, an erosion of civil liberties and deadly neglect of dire social needs at home, and the further enrichment of corporations and wealthy investors – perhaps the only winners of perpetual conflict that progressive critics have long deemed unwinnable by design.

Just as it was on 9/11, Afghanistan is again ruled by the Taliban. The U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, opened in 2002, still holds dozens of men, many of them imprisoned without charge or trial for over a decade. Much of Iraq, whose 2003 invasion was sold on a pack of lies, has been destroyed not once, but twice, by U.S.-led wars whose toxic detritus is still killing and poisoning people years later. More than 900,000 – and possibly many more – civilians have been killed in at least seven nations in the name of countering “terrorism” – a tactic, not an enemy.

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