Haiti, Disaster Sociology, Elite Panic, and Looting
Gary Peterson. Resilience Science. 2010 January 30.
This is one of the more compelling defenses of decentralization to be found under 2,000 words. Looking at disaster situations, Mr. Peterson does not find the disorder and chaos of the movies, nor the violence and looting of the news reports. People in distress are not selfish and panicked, but altruistic and steady minded. It is not until elites step in to provide protection and “restore” order that the true chaos begins.
The BP/Government Police State
Glenn Greenwald. Salon. 5 July 2010.
It is saddening that this has not caused more outrage. Equally disturbing is the following report:
Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police
Ray Sanchez. ABC News. 19 July 2010.
An ACLU lawyer interviewed by ABC says it best:
“Police and governmental recording of citizens is becoming more pervasive and to say that government can record you but you can’t record, it speaks volumes about the mentality of people in government…. It’s supposed to be the other way around: They work for us; we don’t work for them.”
Mr. Raman is one of the sharpest Asia-hands on the web. His reports on the geopolitical developments in China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are always worth reading. Here he sketches out the probable future of an Afghanistan absent the ISAF.
‘Bringing On The Army Against The Naxals Will Be A Disaster’
Interview with EN Rommohan. Tehelka Magazine. 12 June 2010
One of the most insightful commentaries on the Naxal insurgency. Mr. Rommohan’s thoughts on the differing motivations of the insurgents in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are particularly interesting.
Writing in response to Niall Ferguson’s recent op-ed on the coming collapse of American hegemony, Matt Eckel muses:
I’m reminded of a great line in John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy where Connie, a former Research Chief at British Intelligence, sardonically reflects on the sorry fate of her service: “Poor loves. Trained to Empire, trained to rule the waves. All gone. All taken away.” British leaders, in other words, were prepared for and accustomed to a world of Pax Britannica, having internalized all the customs, heuristics, habits of thought and patterns of behavior that stemmed from growing up in a London-centric world. Such customs hadn’t been consistent with material reality for several decades, but everyone in Britain (and many around the world) continued to behave as though they were until finally the center could not hold. Thus, one saw events like the 1956 Suez Crisis in which British (and French) officials behaved as though they led first-rank great powers, when in fact both nations had long since relinquished that status.
In the American context, it will be very interesting to watch the interplay between generational understandings of American power and the material reality of its limitations. Steven Walt, for example, notes that “the Cold War got the United States in the habit of going everywhere and doing everything,” and that this habit has remained ingrained in post-Cold War thought. Young-ish President aside, American foreign policy is still run by elites whose views on America’s role in the world were shaped by the launch of Sputnik, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and the 1973 Oil Embargo, all in the context of a manichaean global struggle against Soviet power. I wonder if this hasn’t habituated key people to thinking about the world in such black and white terms, rendering them, for example, more susceptible to narratives of civilizational clash, or less likely to question far-flung foreign interventions. Likewise, I wonder how (or if) American foreign policy will change once it’s run by people whose historical touchstones are the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
It is an interesting topic. I would point my readers towards Raphel Cohen’s essay for World Affairs, “War Games: Civil-Military Realtions c. 2030″, for an unusually intelligent perspective on the matter. However, I suspect that any prediction made now will prove to be a half measure. There is much time between now and 2030 for new “historical touchstones” to emerge.
Lt. Shrader has sparked a fascinating debate with a remarkable claim: the end of surface war fleets is nigh. Satellite and missile technology, says he, threaten to make the American surface fleet obsolete. In the future, all combat vessels, not just strategic nuclear forces, will be submersible. The discussion that has followed Lt. Shrader’s piece is worth reading in full.
Joseph Fouche reviews anthropologist Joseph Tainter‘s much discussed The Collapse of Complex Societies. If you ever doubted Fouche’s ability to tie Clausewitz into any topic and still make a lucid point, you will doubt no more.