National Security

The Perils of Privatization

When a public function is privatized, the result is a muddled middle ground.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . O ne November morning in 2004, three U.S. military men boarded a small turboprop plane at Bagram Air Base near Kabul for a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Farah, a base in western Afghanistan. They were Lieutenant Colonel Michael McMahon, Chief Warrant Officer Travis Grogan, and Specialist Harley Miller, the only passengers on Flight 61. The flight was operated by an affiliate of Blackwater, the private military company under U.S. contract for air transport of mail, supplies, and troops. Forty minutes after takeoff, flying far north of the customary route from Bagram to Farah, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain. McMahon, Grogan, the pilot, co-pilot, and the mechanic apparently died instantly. At the time, McMahon was the highest-ranking U.S. soldier to die in the war. Miller, though he suffered internal injuries, may...

CPAC: Is Carly Fiorina the GOP's Anti-Hillary?

Will the former CEO be the designated nemesis to the presumed Democratic presidential candidate? The optics couldn't be better.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 26, 2015. C arly Fiorina is almost certainly running for president. At first glance, Fiorina doesn’t seem like much of a 2016 presidential contender. Despite that, organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference gave her a desirable speaking slot on February 26, the conference's opening day—just after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and before right-wing favorite Ted Cruz. If elected, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard would not only be the first woman president; she’d be the first not to have held an elected post. She lost her only political race—by double digits—to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer in a 2010 U.S. Senate race. Her only other politics foray was as a surrogate for John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008. In a series of faux pas, she embarrassed the Republican nominee . As the first female CEO...

He Whose Name Shall Not Be Written

Israel's prime minister is the main issue in the upcoming election. That's just what he wants.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) The Israeli prime minister speaks to his Likud party members during a campaign event near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, February 9, 2015. T he French author Georges Perec earned peculiar literary distinction by writing a 300-page novel called La Disparition ( A Void ) without once using the letter "e." His countryman, Michel Dansel, published Le Train de Nulle Part ( The Train from Nowhere ), a novel in which he managed to avoid the use of a single verb. I envy these writers, whose lives were apparently so graced with calm that the only thing they want to exclude from their thoughts was a letter of the alphabet or a part of speech. I live a less blessed life. As an Israeli and a journalist, my aspirations are more limited, yet less within my own power to achieve. I aspire to be able to write about my country's politics without using the name of the current prime minister . I'd like to write my next 300 articles without the N-word. I'd like to think of him, if I...

National Security and the 2016 Election

(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv) Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel in November 2012. This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post . Y ou may recall a campus slogan from another era, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Western civ. has got to go." That was at Stanford University in 1987, part of a wave of demands to limit traditional courses featuring dead white males, in favor of cultural pluralism. Sure enough, many colleges a generation later have more varied courses. Today, however, there are people out there who feel that western civilization really does have to go — not the courses but the thing itself. And they seem to be gaining. Call me sentimental, call me privileged, but I have a certain fondness for western civilization. Let me count the ways. I like the rule of law. I like the Enlightenment sensibility that a wide variety of religions and viewpoints must be accommodated. I like the connection of free speech and free inquiry to the scientific...

Netanyahu’s Curious GOP Connection

The Israeli prime minister's alliance with U.S. Republicans defies the politics of most American Jews.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29, 2012, during the U.S. presidential campaign. This article originally appeared in the Washington Post. I sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving chutzpah a bad name. Over the past several weeks, Netanyahu has aligned himself and his cause with the Republican Party, which an overwhelming majority of American Jews reject , and many actively despise; he has told European Jews to pull up stakes and come to Israel; and, according to a report just released by Israel’s comptroller , he has spent large amounts of Israelis’ tax dollars (well, actually, shekels) on cleaning his private home (to the tune of $2,000 a month) and his wife’s makeup and hairstyling ($68,000 over a two-year period). Like every world leader and, for that matter, nearly everybody else, Netanyahu is fully aware that the...

A Talent for Storytelling

Rick Perlstein tells how Reagan imagined his way into the American psyche.

(AP Photo)
This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. Simon & Schuster The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan By Rick Perlstein 880 pp. Simon & Schuster $37.50 I n 1959, as the Cold War heated up and the economy cooled down, President Dwight Eisenhower received a letter from World War II veteran Robert J. Biggs. Tired of hearing the president explain the complexities of the modern world, Biggs begged Eisenhower to lead the nation with firm assertions rather than “hedging” and “uncertainty.” The former general responded that such guidance by authority was imperative in a military operation but fatal in a democracy. Self-government demanded that men reject easy answers and instead carefully weigh the often contradictory facts about great issues facing the nation. Just as Eisenhower did, Rick Perlstein’s new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan , illuminates the deadly attraction of...

Silence of American Jewish Leaders on Boehner-Netanyahu Ploy is Unacceptable

The Israeli prime minister has worked assiduously to transform Israel into an American partisan issue since his first term—never mind the harm to the Jewish state.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio looks on at right as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. M eir Dagan, former head of Israel's Mossad espionage agency, says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress is an "excessive provocation" of America and "the gravest blow to [Israel's] security." Dov Weisglass, the closest adviser of late prime minister Ariel Sharon, said on Israel's prime-time version of Meet the Press, that the speech will cause "terrible damage" to Israel. Speaking of talk shows, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a Democratic retreat on Friday that if Netanyahu wants to tell Americans his views on Iran, a Sunday morning interview program would be a better venue. Netanyahu is a fixture on such shows, she said. Pelosi didn't say that Democratic lawmakers would stay away from Netanyahu's address on March 3—but she wouldn't...

Under Pressure From the Right, Gowdy Renews Benghazi Shenanigans

Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the Benghazi Select Committee, says the Republicans are keeping information from them and limiting access to witnesses.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) House Select Committee on Benghazi chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left and House Select Committee on Benghazi ranking member Elijah Cummings, D- Md., talk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, before a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing on the implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations. T he Benghazi Select Committee shed the bipartisan cloak it had worn in public , as Republican members used Tuesday’s hearing to bully Joel Rubin, deputy undersecretary of state for legislative affairs. For more than two hours they badgered their witness, apparently haven taken cues from Eric Cartman (a petulant child portrayed in the cartoon South Park) demanding the State Department respect their “ authoritah .” The Central Intelligence Agency’s Neil Higgins, director of the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs, for the most part sat silently at the witness table, happy to allow his State Department counterpart take the...

Netanyahu's Gambit: Is Israel's Latest Military Move Designed to Bolster His Re-election Campaign?

A risky attack in Syria could be the prime minister's electoral strategy—whatever the cost to Israel.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) An Israeli soldier works on a tank near the Israel-Lebanon Border, northern Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Israel is on high alert for possible attacks from the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah following an airstrike on Hezbollah fighters in Syria, Israeli defense officials said Tuesday. Israel has boosted deployment of its "Iron Dome" anti-missile aerial defense system along its northern frontier, which borders Lebanon and Syria, and has increased surveillance activities in the area, the officials said. Israel's Security Cabinet is scheduled to meet to discuss a potential escalation in violence, they said. T his much is clear: On Sunday afternoon, a helicopter gunship fired two missiles at a Hezbollah convoy in southwestern Syria, near the de facto border with Israel. The dozen dead included three of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement's senior military figures and an Iranian general. Since none of the rebel groups that Hezbollah is fighting in Syria—the...

Terrorists Will Never Limit Our Free Speech, But Government Can

“Lone wolf” nutjobs and small bands of extremists can't threaten our values, but our own institutions can.

(Photo by Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Photo by: Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images The front pages of international newspapers show the January 11, 2015, memorial march for the victims of the Paris terror attacks. Millions of people demonstrated on January 11 in a march through the French capital for the preservation of democratic values. T errorists can't limit our speech. They can murder and maim, and cause widespread panic, but they don't have the capacity to threaten to our democratic values. They never have, and they never will. The real threat is that we might voluntarily surrender some of our rights in order to defend ourselves against terrorism. In that sense, suggesting that a handful of bloodthirsty wackos have the capacity to prevent us from drawing offensive cartoons or mocking a religion gives them far more power than they actually posses. It's true that armed extremists can shape the way society operates in fragile or failed states, where they can sometimes wield something approaching real...

The Politics of Terrorism Lead Desperate Hollande to Embrace Sarkozy

In an effort to marginalize his nation's large far-right party in the wake of attacks by Islamist radicals, the president of France teams up with an old foe.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, poses with current President Francois Hollande prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday, January 8, 2015, in connection with a terrorist attack. Police hunted Thursday for two heavily armed men, one with possible links to al-Qaida, in the methodical killing of 12 people at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that caricatured the Prophet Muhammed. I n recent days France has seen 13 people killed in 2 terrorist attacks. A third attack is underway as I write. What will be the political fallout from these events? Because the alleged attackers have been linked in press reports to a jihadi recruitment organization known as the Buttes-Chaumont network, it is natural to assume that the Front National (FN), a party of the extreme right noted for its hostility to what it sees as growing Islamist influence in the French suburbs, will be the primary beneficiary. Even before the attacks, some polls indicated that...

Don't Starve the Palestinian Authority. Replace It With a Real State

Cutting U.S. aid to the Palestinians would mean heaping one mistake on another.

(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
T he quick storyline is this: The president of Israel has just bashed the prime minister of Israel, which should create a dilemma in Washington—but only if someone is paying attention. President Reuven Rivlin was speaking this week at a briefing for several dozen Israeli ambassadors to European countries—the kind of officially closed session from which leaks are certain, with important comments intended for the media. Three days before, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had retaliated for the Palestinian decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) by freezing the monthly transfer of taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Rivlin said this wasn't smart, and wasn't good for Israel. "With those funds, the Palestinians provide for themselves and the PA functions. It is in Israel's interest that the PA functions," Rivlin said, adding that when he was a working attorney, "I never filed a suit for damages that would end up hurting me." Israel's...

The Bush Doctrine Lives

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements
The process of evaluating presidential candidates always involves a lot of speculation and guesswork, because we can't know what conditions a president is going to confront a few years from now. On domestic policy, however, we can at least look at what the candidate says he wants to do, because candidates keep the vast majority of their campaign promises. Barack Obama said he would enact health care reform, and he did; George W. Bush said he'd cut income taxes, and he did. When it comes to foreign policy, though, it can be a lot tougher to discern. First, candidates tend to be a lot less specific about what they intend to do. And second, much of foreign policy involves reacting to developments no one can foresee. So if you're trying to figure out what, say, Jeb Bush would do in foreign affairs, what do you have to go on? Well, you can ask a question like, "Would he be more like his father, or more like his brother?" Which will tell you very little. But Michael Crowley gives it a shot...

New Day: The Intricate Dance of Being a Cuban American

Too many of the same people who are rightfully upset about attempts at voter suppression in this country look fondly on a regime that has denied the people of Cuba those very same rights.

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Protestors hold Cuban and American flags during a protest against President Barack Obama's plan to normalize relations with Cuba, Saturday, December, 20, 2014, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. I n 1959, the year of revolutionary ferment in Cuba, Celia Cruz, that Queen of Rhythm and an inventor of Salsa music, recorded a song called “Rhumba Quiero Gozar. ” Cruz, arguably the greatest embodiment of 20 th century Afro-Cuban culture, invites the listener to dance with her, for the simplest reason: I want to rejoice with you. I wasn't surprised to hear the song coming from my cell phone on Wednesday afternoon. My 78-year-old mother was calling from Texas; that song has long been her ringtone. Mamá’s first word was “Wau!” I knew she was calling about President Obama's statement announcing a loosening of restrictions on U.S. relations with Cuba , and the opening of diplomatic relations with the island nation she once called home. I imagine there were thousands of similar calls...

More Disturbing Revelations About the CIA Torture Program

Wikimedia Commons
The most important thing to read today is this extraordinary report from Matthew Cole of NBC News about one CIA officer, the agency's top expert on al-Qaeda, and her trail of screw-ups and lies with regard to the torture program. Among other things, she was one of the models for the composite lead character in "Zero Dark Thirty," but this is much more disturbing than what was in that film. She is referred to as "the expert": At one point, she misread intelligence provided by another suspected terrorist, and the faulty information was then used to extract an erroneous admission from Mohammed, often referred to by the acronym KSM, during two days of interrogation in March 2003, the report said. Majid Khan, who was in Pakistani custody, had stated that Mohammed had sought to recruit "two to three unknown Black American Muslim converts who were currently training in Afghanistan" to carry out attacks on gas stations in the U.S. But in a cable describing the intelligence, the expert...

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