Tag Archives: Politics

The Brilliant Foresight of Huntington

Samuel P. Huntington’s seminal book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, is a foundational text for any student of international relations, globalization, and contemporary history. I have the fortune of hindsight and I have to say – this book might in fact be my favorite book I’ve ever read. It’s certainly one of the most important I’ve ever read re: my field of study, political science. It’s not that often that a book stands up like this one does. It’s not only useful as a period piece or a “hot take” but rather as a paradigm piece. My opinion is certainly twenty years late and most students do consider this a paradigm book; I’m simply expressing my gratitude that I experienced this read for myself. I can concur what others have said before.

Honestly, I can’t think of a more magisterial IR text that explains the current zeitgeist than this one. Jihad vs McWorld does a good job; not an IR text but Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature is great too; Joseph S. Nye’s work is, of course, canonical as well. For what it’s worth, however, this text is paradigm-capturing and worthy of Kissinger calling it “one of the most important books to have emerged since the end of the Cold War.” This is my favorite.

I will try and capture just why I think it predicted so much of what we are living through right now. Counting the essay, Huntington conceived of this understanding more than 23 years ago. It was the end of the Cold War, Fukuyama thought it was “The End of History”, and 9/11 and the Arab Spring were a decade, and two decades away, respectively. Yet, if I would have read this book before the turn of the century, I would have had a framework to understand it quicker than it has taken me.

Huntington Predicted the Russian annexation of Crimea
Just shortly into the first chapter and I was already enraptured by his definition of civilizations, for example, and then s.m.a.c.k – I thought, “what?! He basically just predicted Putin’s capture of Crimea. Damn.” In a paragraph where Huntington is testing the validity of statism, or neorealism, such as that exposed by John Mearsheimer, who foresaw a Russia-Ukraine “security competition,” he lays out precisely what happened 18 years later. “A civilizational approach emphasizes the close cultural, personal, and historical links between Russia and Ukraine and the intermingling of Russians and Ukrainians in both countries, and focuses instead of the civilizational fault line that divides Orthodox eastern Ukraine from Uniate western Ukraine, a central historical fact of long standing which, in keeping with the “realist” concept of states as unified and self-identified entities, Meirsheimer totally ignores.” He continues: “While a statist approach minimizes that and instead highlights the possibility of Ukraine splitting in half, a separation which cultural factors would lead one to predict might be more violent than that of Czechoslovakia but far less bloody than that of Yugoslavia.”

Huntington was sage-like here. Not only did he foreshadow the Russian annexation of Crimea, but he was correct regarding the comparisons as well. Casualties from the Ukrainian crisis are more than 9,000. The “Velvet Divorce” in 1993 of Czechoslovakia was bloodless; Slovakia has since become a quiet success of Europe. The breakup up of Yugoslavia was protracted, genocidal, and devastating.  Huntington was right: what was to transpire in Ukraine was somewhere in the middle, and it was about identity and culture, or to use his parlance, “civilizations.”

His framework based on understanding that culture is Real and that culture is tremendously powerful and binding, especially in a modernizing world that is cold, fast, and spiraling out of control, has predictive power. No good theory leaves home without predictive power. Ukraine effectively split, with 65% of Crimean’s being ethnically Russian. Under the civilizational paradigm, this break up makes since and those who studied this work, should have anticipated this. Huntington even argued that “contingency planning for the possible breakup of Ukraine,” should have been in the works.

“In the long run, Muhammed wins out”: Religious revivalism and Islamic Renewal
For those like myself who read science websites, and who know the ins-and-outs of and have read all of the New Atheist tracts published early in this new century, it’s easy to think that, or hope for depending on your worldview, religion is on the ropes. That, in fact, would be horribly wrong. Religion, a steady and reliable form of culture/identity like no other, is on the rise. Huntington really hammers the point home that the future of conflict will be about culture. And when wars are fought over cultures, culture loses. Huntington, again, was correct. “The Cold war division of humanity is over. The more fundamental divisions of humanity in terms of ethnicity, religions, and civilizations remain and spawn new conflicts. There is a subsection titled La Revanche De Dieu, or “The revenge of God” that I am jealous of. Great analysis with zero fluff or wasted words. If you have the book, this section starts at the middle of p.95 and ends at the end of p.97.

The Rise of the East, Latin America and Africa(?)
“The West is overwhelmingly dominant now and will remain number one in terms of power and influence well into the twenty-first century,” asserts the author. Although one can (and often does) split hairs regarding this statement, as of Dec. 2016 this is still true. In the context of this book, where Huntington paints the rise of the East, it’s particularly still relevant because he did predict what was on the horizon. This entire section is less spectacular than, in my opinion, his analysis about culture being central to our identities and the Islamic Resurgence, for example, this still is worth mentioning.

Latin America and Africa – sub-Saharan Africa – lack a “core” state that would allow them to rise to the level of say, the West (America is the core state), or the Sinic world (China, core), or the Orthodox world (Russia). The consequence isn’t necessarily given much thought but the analysis and prediction is true. Huntington puts a question mark after Africa (like he did at the end of the title when this was first published as an essay, which most people seemed to forget; “The Clash of Civilizations?,” is was the title of the essay iteration.) in this book since it was hard to envision a core emerging African power. The contenders were South Africa and Nigeria. Interesting. Latin America, Brazil and Argentina, and Mexico, also don’t seem to be likely leaders of a civilizational world. Mexico, has one foot in the West and one foot in Latin America. The future is up in the air and going to be determined by much contingency in the future. The reason: “Throughout history the expansion of the power of a civilization has usually occurred simultaneously with the flowering of its culture and has almost always involved its using that power to extend its values, practices, and institutions to other societies.” Pan-Africanism is a fiction that never materialized. Latin America is very diverse and just in the split of languages alone, makes it hard to foresee any one country becoming the “core” state of Latin America.

The rise of Asia, including India as the “core” state of the Hindu world, Japan (Japanese is  a civilization on it’s own according to Huntington’s paradigm), and China (the Sinic core) is an unstoppable historical force. The “blip” of Western dominance of 200 years will come to an end, and China, once again will be the leading power of the world by the middle of the next century. I can’t recall where I learned or who I learned this from, but a scholar has mapped the trend line of power and it is now sitting in Persia, working it’s way towards the East. 3 billion people all industrializing and modernizing is unstoppable. Well, at least by other people. Mother nature is a force to be reckoned with.

Conclusion
All-but-predicting the Crimea annexation by Russia; the rise of cultural and identity politics and the antidote of religion and community; and the likely power-shift from the West to Asia has come to pass, make The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of Global Order a must read. Impossibly relevant. Satisfying. Groundbreaking. The book, itself, is a paradigm. Huntington, in the last sentence, argues that a global order must be based on civilizations – regionalism (though he wouldn’t use that word), and bi- and tri-lateral regimes; globalization is only for the Davos World and global government seems like a 22-century utopian idea that we have yet to figure out. Until then: we must understand that culture and meaning and metaphysics matter tremendously.

Everyone should go out and pick up, and highlight, and annotate and devour this book. Certainly one of the best books I’ve ever read regarding international relations and the future of the global order.

*Bonus: Here’s a link to me reading this essay, basically, on my Foran Policy: Book Reviews & Miscellany podcast.*

US-Pakistan: Magnificent Delusions: Part 2

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, The United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding
by Husain Haggani. PublicAffairs. 413 pp.

Part 1 covered the years 1947-1951. Part 2, below, covers 1951-1959.
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The early beginnings of Pakistan were tumultuous and ripe with realpolitik, propaganda, and every side, whether it was the US, India, Pakistan, the Soviet Union, were playing all sides. We begin this part 2 where I left off: it’s the Korean War and it’s a time where the future of Pakistan is up for grabs, in all ways imaginable.

The Truman Administration was hesitant to make many promises to Pakistan. The next administration, under Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during WWII, was more likely to help Pakistan due to Eisenhower being “tougher” about geopolitics. Eisenhower viewed Pakistan strategically and has “a more aggressive anticommunism stance throughout the world.” His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles thought the same way. Dulles thought that Hindus were susceptible to communist ideology; he thought Muslims were inherently the opposite. Of course, this is nonsense but it’s illustrative of the type of thinking that prevailed, even (some would say especially) from Very Smart People, during the Cold War. Almost 60 pages into this book, and Haqqanis words on the great Secretary of State, are his most critical yet. The combination of hawkish Red Scare anticommunism Ideology and the rising political class in Pakistan, desperate for external help to build their military and economy, provides fragile ingredients prone to delusional thinking and this is also an example of what political scientists call path-dependency.

A brief note: *Some of these name here are considered some of the most important US officials of all time. The same can be said for the Pakistani names. This was a crucial time for the world.*

Food For Support in This Ideological Age
Pakistan faced an impending grain shortage and the US sent “seven hundred thousand tons of wheat” under the Wheat Aid Act. This, Haqqani writes, “marked the first major success in Pakistan’s wooing of America.” The Pakistani ambassador to the United States Muhammad Ali Bogra succeeded where Liaquat – one of the “Founding Fathers” of Pakistan failed. However, Pakistan wanted military aid and Iskander Mirza, Pakistani Defense Secretary and army commander General Muhammad Ayub Khan (Ayub from here on out.) had bigger plans. A common them in Pakistan is for their leaders to say one thing publically while simultaneously doing the exact opposite in real life. “Reports that my government is negotiating with the U.S. Government for military assistance in return for American bases in Pakistan are absolutely unfounded and baseless,” declared Ghulam Muhammad, who was now the governor-general. Haqqani points out that this “was a blatant lie.”

Richard Nixon
Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice president and he traveled to a dozen countries in the East and had an outsized influence in foreign policy in Eisenhower’s Administration. Nixon did not like the Prime Minister of India, Nehru, very much. However, he did think Pakistan deserved our help. “Pakistan is a country I would like to do everything for,” remarked Nixon. Nixon only visited Pakistan for three days and even though “he met only people who had carefully choreographed what to say to him,” according to Haqqani, he believed that their anticommunist views were real. Admiral Arthur Radford was charmed, himself, by Ayub.

*Richard Nixon’s name will be seen in this space in subsequent parts; albeit with a little detour to really explain a bit about this horrendous man, and how we are still facing consequences from his 30 + years in public office.*

Coincidence or Conspiracy
US Ambassador Hildreth, a former Republican governor of Maine, also supported giving military aid to Pakistan as he viewed this as in Americas best interest. Hildreth became friends with Mirza. Mirza’s son, Humayun actually “married Hildreth’s daughter Jospehine.” Let the speculation begin. If you read part 1 you read that after 1951, Pakistan had a internal political mess. This opened up many positions and gave power to unelected nonpoliticians. Mirza, who had many roles, became president later on in 1956, was now the Defense Secretary and Pakistan got what they wanted, more or less.

“The US and Pakistan signed a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement on May 19, 1954,” lays out Haqqani. This assured that Pakistan would assist the US in their anticommunist mission. Also: “Pakistan affirmed that it ‘would not undertake any act of aggression against any other nation.” Pakistani leftists were not happy. This gave the US more reason to support Mirza and Ayub and the elites because the alternative could certainly be an anti-American government rising to power. The US government was not concerned that the Pakistani parliament was ineffectual and the new nation-state had no constitution. America was considered about anticommunism support, and that is basically it. In fact, there wouldn’t be direct elections in Pakistan until 1970.

The Pakistan Problem: Path Dependency
All in all Pakistan received over $1 billion from the US between 1954-1959. Eisenhower became suspicious of how expensive, for so little promise in return from Pakistan, this bilateral relationship had become. “…[This] tendency to rush out and seek allies was not very sensible,” remarked President Eisenhower. At the beginning of Eisenhower’s second term, his new ambassador to Pakistan Jim Langley also saw how much of a mess this whole thing was. Did it matter? No because Pakistan allowed for an NSA-CIA listening post and interception facility to intercept Soviet radar. Thus, the money kept pouring in.

Ayub Rises
Back to Ayub: The Pakistani Commander-in-Chief had many tricks up his sleeves. Ayub convinced US leaders that not only is India a threat but so is China, and Afghanistan, claiming that these countries were “getting enormous quantities of aid.” The pace of this book is a middling one; many details and with no rush to get anywhere in particular. However, towards the end of this chapter, Haqqani speads up some of the story: President Eisenhower “realized that he had disagreed with Ayub on all substantive issues.” This, however, did not stop the US from supporting Pakistan and Ayub, who grabbed power through a coup in which Ayub was the chief martial law administrator and prime minister. Later, Ayub consolidated power even more by combining the offices of president and prime minister. Eisenhower might have realized that Pakistan faced no immediate threats he still decided to bolster their military and to continue the status quo. “By the end of Eisenhower’s term as president the United States had helped Pakistan’s army equip 4 infantry divisions and one and a half armored divisions, including M-47 Patton tanks,” writes Haqqani. Moreover, the Pakistan navy received “12 vessels including destroyers and minesweepers.” The air force “received 6 squadrons of aircraft.”

I will pause here even though the chapter is not over. I think a clean break here before the Kennedy/Johnson Administration is necessary.
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This was a review/summary of the first decade or so of Pakistan-US relations, mostly focusing on the Ayub-Eisenhower exchange parts of Magnificent Delusions. The years discussed were 1951-1959. Part 3 should be up in a few days.

on the First Republican Primary Debate of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

I watched the Fox News-hosted first Republican primary debate of the 2016 season and it was….alright. It was about what I expected only the candidates dialed down the crazy; at least rhetorically that is. And remember this is relative to past Republican primaries. Before I give my complete rundown, I’m gonna go over what some prominent thinkers and publications had to say, too.

The senior editor of the New Republic Jeet Heer tweeted: 

Heer also thought that the big losers were Bush and Walker. The editors of The Atlantic wrote that Rubio “gave one of the best performances of the night,” but they also thought that Jeb Bush made a strong impression. I have to agree with Chris Hayes, however, who tweeted: 

The impression I got from Bush was that of a stiff who literally was terrified of saying the wrong thing. He looked nervous and does not do well in the spotlight.

D.D. Guttenplan, for The Nation, opined that “…unless Trump self-destructs, the rich seam of anger opened by his campaign might well bring him back here next year as the GOP nominee. Because on the basis of their performance tonight no one on that stage is capable of stopping him.”

Chris Cillizza, on his “The Fix” column on The Washington Post online, trumpeted Marco Rubio and Donald Trump as the winners. His losers? Rand Paul and Scott Walker. The takeaway from his piece is that he never mentioned the words ‘Jeb’ or ‘Bush’. This brings me to my thoughts regarding last nights first Republican primary debate.

Winners

Donald Trump. The id and the base of the GOP loves him because he sounds just like them. Simply put, this is why I think he won because his xenophobic, misogynistic and hateful remarks are appealing to Republican primary voters. Moreover, he has to be a winner because many questions were based on responding to remarks that Trump made earlier. When your name is mentioned in as many questions as the Democratic frontrunner, you are doing well.

Chris Christie. He throws out numbers that are ostensibly true and he is viewed as a straight-shooter who at least has plans, policies, and is not afraid to get dirty. Looks like he is going for the 9/11 vote constituency which I didn’t realize was a thing anymore. I could have just wrote: see Trump above. I think this guy is one to worry about.

Marco Rubio. He scares me. I don’t wanna overstate this because it looks like people are but this guy can talk. Rubio is quick on his feet; he gives details; and he comes across as serious. He is probably one gaffe away from all of this following down but as of right now, he definitely comes across as someone who knows what’s going on. This is a true plus.

Losers

Jeb Bush. I think Jeb Bush lost because, in my opinion, any debate where he doesn’t steal the show and really reflect a serious candidate who can lead the country, is a loss for Bush. Bush said that we could grow our economy by “lift[ing] our spirits and hav[ing] high, lofty expectations for this great country of ours.” You think this type of performance against Hillary Clinton will amount to a win? Not a chance. Bush also comes across as one tough question away from basically throwing up his hands and saying: well, that’s all I got, folks. Take it or leave it. On a serious note: Bush proudly claiming that he defunded Planned Parenthood while Governor of Florida is going to seriously hurt him in the general election. Hillary will not let this slip. Also, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Florida ranks among the very bottom of all 50 states regarding women’s health.

Ben Carson. Carson knows his audience and he literally seemed like he memorized cultural warrior and right wing talking points and relied on the fact that this would be enough. Again, it might be what his audience wants to here (a co-worker FBed that she was voting for that guy and that she didn’t care what anyone thought) but he came across to the rest of us as someone stuck in a weird delusional twilight zone. Speaking of delusional:

Rand Paul. I don’t take most of these candidates seriously; I think they have no chance of winning a national election. Paul who, while still in those aforementioned camps, is someone who palpably makes my blood boil. He is dumb; proud of it; and is everyone’s libertarian uncle while simultaneously wanting to be the cool kid at the table so badly. He’s a charlatan and I’m glad that he did so poorly.

The United States of America. Need I say more? OK, I will. All of these candidates except for a few exceptions sound. the. exact. same. and. what. they. are. saying. is. horrifying.

Better luck next time

Mike Huckabee (who delivered the most gross line of the night: “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”).
John Kasich.
Scott Walker.
Ted Cruz (I think Cruz might be a sociopath.).

On Bernie – and Trump- as Third Party Candidates

People who want Bernie Sanders to run as an Independent do not understand political dynamics and even the fundamental and intrinsic qualities of our first-past-the-post electoral system. If Bernie ran as an Independent he would certainly take votes away from the Democrat – Hillary Clinton, let’s be honest – and this would increase the chances that a Republican would win. For this same reason, I certainly hope Donald Trump runs as an Independent because he would strictly take votes away from the Republican – Scott Walker/Jeb Bush, let’s be frank. Chris Hedges, who I read and who I admire, is one prominent voice calling for Sanders to run as an independent. Hedges says to vote for the Green party candidate, Jill Stein. This is why the left loses. Jill Stein literally has no chance of winning as a third party candidate and “protest votes” are basically votes for the candidate that ends up winning the election.

You aren’t “pure” or staying above the mud when you vote for a third party; you are throwing away your vote and allowing everyone else to play politics for you. We are all complicit in the laws and elected officials we get. Even if you do not believe in voting, since voting happens, neglecting this responsibility is a bad move. In Sanders’ own words: “I won’t be a spoiler.” Sanders is running to win and he also is running because we “need a political revolution;” again his words. Before I go, a brief paragraph or two about the last time a third party candidate had a shot

In 1992, Ross Perot received 19% of the vote (by the way: only 55% of registered voters came to the polls) and many blamed him for the George H. W. Bush loss. Perot definitely took more votes from the Republican than the Democrat. This scared the two major parties. What happened afterwards? The Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.), created in 1975 (as a response to Watergate) to formalize campaign procedures, and staffed by Democrats and Republicans “raised ballot access requirements” which effectively shut third party candidates out of debates. The current chair commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, has even called the F.E.C. “worse than dysfunctional,” in an recent interview. She came to the F.E.C. with hopes of reform; she has now publicly given that up for 2016.

I voted for Jill Stein in 2012 because I live in Missouri and I knew that Mitt Romney was going to win. At that time I told myself that I couldn’t vote for someone who uses drones to kill people halfway across the world. I don’t feel good for that vote because symbolic gestures are simply that; ephemeral, and basically impotent. If Missouri would have been a swing state I would have voted for Barack Obama, regardless. Practicing purity politics has never been and will never be good politics. Those willing to get dirty win; the Right has built their entire apparatus on mud-slinging. The Tea Party decided to run candidates – not as a third party mind you – and Occupiers decided to…well…use the people’s mic and form consensus-circles. We see how that worked out.

Changing the Democratic party from within might be fruitless; changing the party from outside will be an abject failure. Politics don’t work as many think they should; they work as they always have. A third party effort will never succeed unless our political system is completely transformed. That is not happening any time soon.

Bernie Sanders should remain a Democratic candidate and lets all hope that Trump does run as an independent and acts as a spoiler to the Republican  party – because we cannot afford another Republican president. There is a difference and lives are literally at stake.

What to Read on Greece: A Primer; update: From “No” to “Oh” to “WTF?”.

Here is a list of quality books, articles, essays, etc. regarding Greece, the debt referendum, and the future of the European Union. *updated Aug. 9, 2015*
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1. Greece: What is to Be Done? (2013) by Karl Heinz Roth, published be Zero Books.

2. “Greece Referendum,” by Timothy B. Lee, Vox.com

3. “What Comes After Oxi?,” by Nantina Vgontzas, Jacobinmag.com.

4. “End Greece’s Bleeding,” by Paul Krugman, The New York Times.

5. “What Would Happen to Greece If it Leaves the Euro?,” by Jordan Weissman, Slate.com

6. “Greece,” by Steve Randy Waldman, on the blog interfluidity.

The following were written after Greece accepted bailout terms that double down on austerity.

7. “From the Absurd to the Tragic,” by Stathis Kouvelakis, Jacobin.com, July 10, 2015.

8. ” ‘Tsipras Has Just Destroyed Greece,'” by Yves Smith, nakedcapitalism.com, July 10, 2015

Things are not looking good for democracy and the EU:

9. “Killing the European Project,” by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, July 13, 2015

10. “The EU’s Democracy Problem,” by Joshua Keating, Slate.com, July 13, 2015

11. “Greece: The Struggle Continues,” an interview between Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Syriza, and an editor from Verso books, July 14, 2015. This is substantive, learned, and deeply informative.

People often blame the government; it’s – as always – not that simple:

12. “The Myth of the Bloated Greek State,” by Deborah Boucoyannis, Foreign Affairs, Aug 6, 2015

A Brief Primer on: US Drone Strikes

HuffPost going hard: “A Drone Program That Has Killed Hundreds Of Civilians Finally Killed Some That The White House Regrets,” by Jason Linkins and Ryan Grim.

What follows is some of my thoughts and info that I am aware of regarding drones.

American drone strikes are something that we as a nation do not like to really talk about. We have conducted at least five confirmed drone strikes in 2015 alone. In 2014: 22 confirmed drone strikes (New America, 2015). Moreover, according to PEW and Gallup, Americans tend to support an aggressive foreign policy regarding potential terrorists around the world. To many this debate is over: the U.S. can and should do whatever it takes in this ever-expanding power-vacuum-creating War on Terror. So what if this (or these, potentially) “kill list(s)” grows and grows. What’s the worst that could happen?

In the wake of 9/11, fear became – once again – a dominant political and social force. A ontological phenomenon, if I may say so myself. It’s often been said that a scared population tends to value security – or what they’re being sold as security – over civil liberties, or human rights, for example. History abounds this notion. But does the public and the government, even know who we are killing?

“We’re in a new kind of war,” claimed then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice shortly after America’s first drone strike; which was conducted in 2002 in the outskirts of Sana’a, Yemen (Scahill, 2013). Rice would go on to be a persistent vocal supporter of setting us this targeted killing regime. Many critics of drones see them as extra-judicial executions in violation of international human rights law. And by critics I mean everyone from constitutional law scholars, the United Nations, civil liberty and human rights groups, and every day Pakistani, Yemeni, and American citizens. Opponents of drone strikes have well….really good arguments, all around.

The U.S. government has used drones strikes that have killed thousands of people in this last decade during our “War on Terror.” This is on top of the millions of total casualties in the Iraq, Pakistani, and Afghanistan military adventures since 2002 in what can properly be called total war. There has been award winning documentaries produced about our expanded global war that two subsequent administrations, the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration, have started and escalated, respectively. Since Obama, we are now conducting military and intelligence operations in over 100 countries and drone strikes are being conducted by the military and by the CIA. The Obama administration has even constructed a secret air base in Saudi Arabia, to conduct drone strikes(Scahill, 2013).

It is terribly important that the public knows that 8 American citizens – confirmed by the state – have been killed in drone strikes so far. It’s also surreal that, as professor Micah Zenko, currently the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) writes: “The United States simply does not know who it is killing” (ForeignPolicy, 2014). Drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with warheads that drop Hell Fire missiles on people in the likes of Pakistan, Somalia (East Africa Al Qaeda cell), Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. Jeremy Scahill writes about how CIA agents, after the aforementioned first strike in Yemen in 2002, “went to examine the aftermath of the strike and to obtain DNA samples from the dead.” Post-mortem is when we really start caring about identifying just who we are killing. Sometimes we drop a bomb on wedding parties. In Somalia, “AC-130 attacks resulted in a shocking number of Somali civilians being killed,” illuminates Scahill. Oxfam warns that the U.S. is ignoring the international mandate to distinguish between military and civilian targets (Scahill, 2013). We don’t know who we are killing, and it honestly doesn’t seem like we really care. Former White House Press Secretary and now MSNBC correspondent, Robert Gibbs is on record saying of one drone victim that he should have had a better father if he didn’t want to be killed by a drone strike in Yemen (Friedersdorf, 2012).

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued many “white papers” with their legal justification for what they do. They often point out that high-level al-Qaeda and affiliate group members are who is targeted. Moreover, the U.S. does not consider drone strikes to be assassinations; they consider them to be “conducted according to the ‘law of war principles’“ (Isikoff, 2013) as well. Media reports paint a different picture: CNN reported on the fact that “a White House evaluation of drone strikes in summer 2011 found that ‘the CIA was primarily killing low-level militants” (Bergen and Rowland, 2012). As “The Civilian Impact Report” issued by the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School in conjunction with the Center for Civilians in Conflict eloquently states: “When the scope of who may be targeted enlarges, the chance that civilians will be caught in the crossfire increases” (2012). The U.S. military and the CIA often do not completely know who they are killing when they issue drone strikes. This has humanitarian implications. This has legal and constitutional implications.

I appreciate the Huffington Post responding this way: A recent drone strike killed two Western hostages, once from Italy and one from the United States, and suddenly we feign concern regarding strikes that have killed thousands of people, including 16 year old Colorado-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of the once moderate turned radical jihadist cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. He, too, was killed in an earlier drone strike. (Samir Khan as well.) I’m not saying these former two aren’t horrible people who wanted to kill American civilians; they are and they did. I’m saying that it’s way more complicated and grey than that. I’m saying that this drone issue is a crisis and we as a country really need to understand what is going on. I’m saying that at least 172 children have been killed

Seriously, if you have devoted little time to our disastrous foreign policy, I highly recommend reading Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill and also watching the documentary version as well. Chomsky has been great on this issue too; Zenko has been critical and informative as well.

Other quality sources to learn about U.S. counter terrorism (CT) policy: Brookings, CATO, Helene Cooper & Mona El-Naggar, Dissent, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been an invaluable source as well. New America has compiled good data. The Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School has studied the issue; “The Civilian Impact of Drones,” is one of their most substantive publications regarding them.

Hope this was kind of informative and I hope the hyperlinks can set you in a good direction to learn more about this.