National Security

You Want to Kill Bad Guys? Prove That They’re Bad.

Last week, I took a break from my regularly scheduled gender beat to be grieved, as a citizen, about the Obama administration’s newly announced policy that asserted, as Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times:

… that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible.

The Difference a Different Decider Makes

Two different guys.

As the bleating of the Republican war caucus gets louder and louder, it's beginning to sound a lot like 2002, when the Bush administration was treating us to daily news about the terrifying threat posed by Saddam Hussein's vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, ready to incinerate us all in weeks if we didn't launch a war. Some of the same people who made the case then are making the case now that we need to start bombing Iran. As you're watching them, it's hard not to shake your head and say, "Are these people insane? Do they actually believe that it's a good idea for America to start another war in the Middle East? My god, are we getting on this train to disaster again?!?"

But before we all get too frustrated, it's important to remember one thing: now matter how loud people like Liz Cheney may shout (and somebody please remind me why anyone should give a crap what she thinks), no matter how much infantile chest-beating we get from the Republican candidates (sample Mitt Romney quote: "I will station multiple aircraft carriers and warships at Iran's door"), this will be a very different debate from the one we had back then. The reason is simple: We've got a different Decider...

Holder Says Killing Citizens Is Okay If You're The Government

I know my “beat” is gender & sexuality. But I’m also an American citizen who loves, and is therefore regularly grieved by, my country. And so today I’m going to talk about something that weighs heavily on my heart: the latest in American “national security” policy, announced by Eric Holder under cover of the Super Tuesday media frenzy.

Dirty Tactics in Fight for Prison Privatization


A couple weeks ago, the Florida Senate rejected a measure that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 corrections officers. Nine Republicans voted against the measure, giving the bill's opponents a narrow 21-19 win.

It was an impressive victory at the time, but now we're discovering just how hard-fought it was. A senator who's suffered five heart attacks became the focal point of the debate, where advocates hoped to pressure her into changing positions on the bill. Things got so bad, she actually had to have protection.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Congressional Battle Ready

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is making her second run for Congress, lost both her legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004. Duckworth first ran for Congress in 2006, but lost to Republican Peter Roskam. Now, the EMILY’s List candidate looks poised to win her primary in the Illinois 8th, and the seat in November. A 48-year-old Iraq War veteran, Duckworth has based much of her platform on veterans’ advocacy—a cause that was sparked by her first-hand experience recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Iran Is Not Cuba

In the face-off with the country, the best lesson from the past is that diplomatic compromise doesn't require appeasement.

(AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Scrolling through news, especially news posted in America, I could think that it's time for me to stock up on canned food and check that my family's Israeli government-issue gas masks are working. The news suggests that Israel's air force is sure to attack Iran's nuclear facilities this year, perhaps this spring, possibly sparking a rain of retaliatory missiles from Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Syria, despite or because of its current turmoil, might join in.

The Fall of the House of Assad?

If and when the Syrian regime crumbles, an American administration will have to seize opportunities.

AP Photos

Bashar al-Assad has not yet fallen. I note this only because of the tone of inevitability in some news reports on Syria's civil war. The downfall of Tunisia's Ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi may be no more predictive than a roulette ball falling on red in the last three spins. Arguably, the popular convulsion in the Middle East began not in Tunisia in late 2010 but in Teheran in mid-2009, when the Iranian regime—Assad's patron—crushed a popular revolution and erased the immense hopes it had raised.

Why the Republicans Won't Benefit From Being the War Party

If there was a single moment in this campaign in which a candidate declared, "Here's a position that almost every American will find completely insane, but I'm taking it because Barack Obama sucks," it would have to be the time in one of the debates when Rick Perry declared that not only was he bummed that the Iraq war was over, but "I would send troops back to Iraq." Even his Republican opponents obviously thought that was crazy.

Best New York Times Caption Ever

Isn’t that how wars start? Someone tells a story about what happened to them. Another person tells a different story. And so a fissure forms and widens. Fiction between ostensible allies leads to disasters. Honesty is the best policy.

Women, War, & Peace

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

I'm not a gender essentialist. I don't believe that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. I suspect strongly, in fact, that women and men are the same species and might even be able to reproduce. 

At the same time, it's true that women and men—on average, in general—tend to behave differently. You can't predict any individual woman's or man's behavior based on sex; as we've discussed here before, some boys want to be princesses, and some girls are hard-core jocks with a fabulous swagger.

What Can Replace Social Security?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Manchester, New Hampshire—Last night, some of Ron Paul’s younger supporters—and Ron Paul supporters are disproportionately young—held a pub crawl through the bars of downtown Manchester. During the first two hours (after which time I crawled away), about 50 largely male Paulists, behaving far too decorously for serious pub crawlers, drank and munched and yacked.

Occupying Grand Central Station

OWS rings in the new year with a fight against NDAA.

Sargeant Shamar Thomas protests against NDAA Tuesday at Grand Central Station.

Five hundred people returned to Zuccotti Park on New Year's Eve, with drums, chants of "Whose Year?  Our Year!", and a tent, which they say they gave to police in exchange for entrance to the park.  An hour before midnight, police and occupiers attempting to remove metal barricades around Zuccotti had a violent confrontation and, by 1:30 a.m., police had cleared activists from the park.

The Last King of the Iron Curtain

Socialism was supposed to create a new socialist man—a fellow or gal whose labor was unalienated, who was freed from want, who had time off to read, to fish, to play, to parent. He would be healthier, longer-lived, better educated and wiser than his counterpart under capitalism. To a considerable degree, social democracy (or even its attenuated American cousin, New Deal liberalism) has accomplished some of those goals (higher pay, more time off, widespread education) if not all of them (unalienated labor, widespread wisdom).

The War on Terror Comes Home

Passage of the NDAA brings issues of indefinite detention and military trials to American shores.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

It is usually difficult to find an issue, particularly in the form of current legislation, that unites retired generals and admirals, civil libertarians, Tea Party activists, retired intelligence officers, current Obama administration national-security officials, and former Bush administration officials. But this year's defense authorization bill, which passed both houses of Congress this week, did just that.

The 666-page bill is a vast document that authorizes $662 billion in defense spending for the fiscal year. Nestled in in this overarching bill are a series of controversial provisions that authorize the president to indefinitely detain terror suspects and require the military to take custody of anyone deemed to be a member of al-Qaeda.