War Crimes are Inevitable in the Forever War State

By Lawrence Philby

The anti-democratic nature of the US national security apparatus is why we’re in this mess, and preventing future escalation spirals requires changing not just who is in power, but how power works at the highest levels.

To be clear – and don’t let the reams of ex post facto justification distract you – this is fucking nuts.

It would be nuts even if it were President Cool Hand Luke at the helm to give the go-ahead for the assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani and not President 10-Flush Toilets.

It would be nuts even if it were the result of careful consideration and not Donald Trump picking “D – all of the above” on a hastily prepared multiple-choice policy planning document.

If would be nuts even if the Trump administration had a follow-up plan beyond talking shit on Twitter and dragooning government communications accounts to extoll the litanies of hate.

The United States should not be in the business of assassinating foreign leaders abroad on the flimsy pretext of undefined “terrorist” threats.

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The Petty Profiteers of Iraq’s Reconstruction

By Zack Kopplin

Pete Buttigieg, Democratic candidate for president, has refused to share meaningful details of his work for McKinsey & Company. He said the consultancy won’t release him from a nondisclosure agreement, although McKinsey did clear him to release the names of his clients. So far, Buttigieg has only provided the names of his clients empty summaries of his assignments, like grocery pricing in Canada and economic development in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I served a US government department in a project focused on increasing employment and entrepreneurship in those countries’ economies,” he said about the latter project. But client names and summaries aren’t enough.

These projects, especially the ones in built on war profiteering in low-oversight environments like the Middle East and Central Asia, require real transparency.

Internationally, McKinsey is known for serving dictators and advising clients to pay bribes, but Buttigieg believes the public should trust he avoided conflicts of interests and corruption. “I never worked on a project inconsistent with my values,” he said in a statement. That may be, but his work in Iraq put him a few connections away from deals with sketchy oligarchs. Voters shouldn’t have to take his word that he kept his hands clean.

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A Trade Policy for the Workers Begins from Within

By Yong Kwon

After decades of pushing back against free trade agreements that advanced corporate interests, labor advocates in the United States have developed a reflexive disdain for treaties that expand commercial ties with other countries. As a consequence, the left has shied away from criticizing the Trump administration’s imposition of trade barriers.

This is a mistake. Privileged classes throughout history have employed protectionism and trade liberalization interchangeably to safeguard their economic dominance. Labor must be similarly flexible to counter the malign influence of capital.

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The United States Must Support a Non-American World Bank President

By Daniel Remler

After seven years at the helm of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim announced in January that he would be resigning as president. Since the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were first established after World War II, the United States and Europe have had an informal agreement whereby an American would run the World Bank and a European would run the IMF. True to this pact, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Treasury official David Malpass as the US nominee. As happened when President Obama nominated Kim in 2012, there were calls for the US to abandon its stranglehold on the World Bank’s top job.

Though Malpass managed to gain enough support from other stakeholders to become president, progressive policymakers can take the opportunity of this transition to make clear that ending the US monopoly on World Bank leadership and supporting leadership for the organization from the developing world must be a priority for the next progressive US president. This policy shift would not only recognize fundamental shifts in the global economy toward developing countries, but also begin to address the institution’s significant shortcomings and help advance progressive economic policy.

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No Universal Prescription for the Universal Condition

By Caleb Weaver

For many viewers, a photograph of Venezuelan protesters preparing to hand out flowers during the February confrontation on the Tienditas Bridge likely evoked the iconic photographs taken during the 1967 March on the Pentagon. For students of social movements, it also provided unmistakable confirmation of the scholarly literature and political playbook from which the Venezuelan opposition is drawing. The eternal return of the flower gesture speaks to the influence that Gene Sharp, Erica Chenoweth, and other political scientists studying civil resistance have gained in the human rights, democracy-promotion, and foreign policy fields. Drawing upon a seemingly bottomless reserve of case studies on Serbia’s Otpor movement, civil resistance literature emphasizes activist strategies and civil society organizations rather than armed struggle or class dynamics as the driver of political change.

Backed by an impressive dataset, Chenoweth and Maria Stephan find that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent ones to achieve independence, regime change, or an end to occupation. The core argument of their 2011 book Why Civil Resistance Works is that nonviolent resistance efforts present lower barriers to entry than do armed struggles and can therefore generate much higher levels of mass participation. This mass mobilization offers protestors a variety of levers with which to force capitulation. Civil resistance scholars argue that whatever benefits movements derive from violence tend to be outweighed by the repression and public disapproval that it invites. They push back, therefore, against studies such as This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed and We Will Shoot Back which argue the presence of an armed wing or violent flank can increase a movement’s chance of success

While leftists energized by the examples of the Russian Revolution, the Black Panther Party, or the Zapatista uprising may bristle at its rejection of ‘violent flanks,’ civil resistance scholarship often overlaps with leftist analysis. To give one example, Sharp, Chenoweth, and others correct the hagiographies that credit mass movements with appealing to their opponents’ conscience or forging moral consensus. Participation is valuable, they argue, for the coercive power that it lends protestors. This conclusion should resonate with leftist observers of the labor movement, who know from the tradition of dockworker militancy that a small group exercising control over a chokepoint in production has a clearer path to success than a universalist effort to convert class antagonists into friends.

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Can the Next President Dismantle an Inherited Drone War?

By David Sterman

Since he took office, President Donald Trump has overseen unprecedented escalations in America’s counterterrorism and drone wars in Yemen and Somalia while simultaneously ramping up secrecy around the drone strike program. In some ways the escalations are no surprise, as Trump campaigned in part on extreme violence as a counterterrorism strategy, including arguing for killing terrorists’ families – an act which would be a war crime. Some reports have suggested this attitude found expression within the policy process.

Yet careful tracking of the America’s counterterrorism wars by New America shows that the violent rhetoric is hardly a prerequisite for widespread use of drone strikes by presidents of either party. The Trump administration’s counterterrorism strategy has substantial commonalities with the Obama administration’s approach, and the Obama strategy took many of its cues from the Bush administration. Different administrations have talked about drones and airstrikes in different ways, but such strikes have become a key part of a bipartisan counterterrorism consensus. As a new crop of presidential candidates pledge progressive approaches to foreign policy problems, voters are owed answers about whether and how candidates will meaningfully change American counterterrorism policy.   

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