Joshua Kurlantzick

Joshua Kurlantzick is a senior correspondent at The American Prospect and a special correspondent at The New Republic. He is also a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World.

Recent Articles

Shots in the Dark

On a frigid day in Alaska last winter, a rocket, designed to simulate an incoming missile launched at the United States, blasted out of the ground. Fifteen minutes later, an interceptor rocket was to be deployed from a site in the Marshall Islands, knock down the deadly missile, and save America. That was the early February 2005 flight test of the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Ground-based Midcourse Defense, a program at the heart of the Pentagon's vaunted national missile defense that President Bush had promised would be operational by the fall of 2004. If this had been real life, some U.S. city would have been incinerated: The interceptor rocket never made it off the launch pad. It was the second test failure of the system in three months. In a December test, which cost more than $80 million, the interceptor rocket had failed to launch because of what the Pentagon called “an unknown anomaly” that it insisted was “a very rare occurrence.” Only days prior to the February launch, the...

Man-Made Disasters

BANGKOK, THAILAND -- On December 26, when the tsunamis struck Asia, I was in Thailand. Like nearly everyone in Bangkok, I turned to any television I could find. The local Thai channels captured the breadth of the devastation, showing grim photos of southern beaches that looked like someone had swept away all the vegetation and human life with a fine comb. Clearly stunned by the magnitude, Thai and foreign newscasters called the giant waves a once-in-a-lifetime event. In many ways, they were -- a catastrophe of biblical scale unmatched by any recent natural disaster. When I flew down to southern Thailand to see for myself, I found an entire region in mourning, Thais rushing to the beaches to search for loved ones or following the news, shocked and dazed, like Americans in the wake of September 11 or John F. Kennedy's assassination. But in some respects, the event seemed familiar to me. Shortly after the tsunamis hit, conflicting rumors swirled throughout Thailand about the extent of the...

2000, The Sequel

Sam Heyward thought he'd paid his debt. A tall, soft-spoken 45-year-old man from Tallahassee, Florida, Heyward was convicted in 1981 of a felony for buying furniture he knew was stolen. He spent a year in a prison work camp and then tried to rebuild his life. He got a steady job at a Tallahassee church that involved overseeing after-school programs for kids. And he tried to become a conscientious citizen: He got his voting rights restored in 1986 -- felons lose the right in most states -- and cast ballots in nearly every subsequent election. It was many years later that Heyward learned from Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum that he, an African American, and others could be purged from Florida's voting rolls before the upcoming presidential election. Across Florida, the purge list included nearly 48,000 eligible voters who were supposed to be prevented from voting because they were felons who'd not had their civil rights restored by petitioning for them. Heyward was shocked...

The Rice Capades

Between May and July 2001, the National Security Agency intercepted more than 30 private communications suggesting an imminent terrorist attack. In June, U.S. intelligence discovered that leading al-Qaeda operatives were vanishing from sight, possibly in preparation for a strike. By August, the CIA was reporting that Khalid al-Mindhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and other associates of Osama bin Laden had entered the United States. A month later, these men would participate in the September 11 hijackings. U.S. counterterrorism specialists prepared a briefing in July 2001 for top government officials, warning, "We believe that [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties." Richard Clarke, then the White House's top counterterrorism official, made many requests to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for urgent cabinet-level meetings. Several top...

Outsourcing the Dirty Work

The war in Iraq could not have taken place without a network of for-profit contractors upon which the U.S. military has come to depend. Some 20,000 employees of private military companies (PMCs) and of more traditional military contractors accompanied the U.S. forces in the buildup to war in the Middle East. They maintained computers and communications systems in Kuwait, Qatar and other locations, handled many aspects of logistics as the military's supply lines moved through Iraq and helped the Pentagon identify key targets in Iraq. As hostilities began, many of these PMC employees were integral to the American effort, keeping communications secure, assisting with the reopening of Iraq's southern oil fields and performing many other crucial tasks, often right behind the front lines. Brookings Institution fellow Peter W. Singer, author of the forthcoming Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry , believes that the number of contract employees used by the...

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