Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Syria — Trump and Putin

People have complained about President Trump being impetuous when he and his team ordered cruise missiles to strike the air base from which the planes flew to drop sarin bombs on innocent children. Still shaking in my boots, I began to reflect. I came up with this:

Yes, but impetuosity has had its effects, some quite beneficial and others not so much.

I am not convinced the matter will turn out to be a big deal.  An understanding will be reached, conscious or unconscious.  And it will be between people who have played in the same sandbox together – the oil box of the Middle East. I think they are growing weary of the Middle East and are beginning to understand the various wars taking place in the area are the product of clashes of instinctual expressions. The deathly confrontations will continue until everyone is simply worn out.

There is no real answer to problem of the Middle East. Everything is overdetermined, unfathomable. I think of what Sigmund Freud said in his response to Albert Einstein on “Why War.” Why War Correspondence.

The two players, Russia and the United States, will find a way to put the action in a proper place and get on with things.  Beyond that, I think there is a beneficial way much more could happen.  I think of this:  for there to be real world order in our the next 20 – 30 years or so we need at least three major powers, each an actual power, to be the grounds a dialectic which had good chances of producing from time to time,  of a balance of power.

Such balance would work well for some years. Think of the Peace of Westfalia.

April 8, 2017, The Vinson Cruiser Group Sails for Korea

A U.S. aircraft carrier (USS  Vinson) is sailing for Korea tonight.  This is happening in conjunction with the US cruise missile strike in Syria yesterday and the launch of 50 plus missiles into Syria.  North Korea has been forewarned, and yet it continues to provoke with its most-recent missiles.  The US is moving to prevent further efforts.  The action will be a warning if possible?  Nevertheless, I do not think so.  It will just be a “surgical,” limited, action.  An action which allows for adjustments in the affairs of the nations involved.  Let us hope the adjustments will be based on reason and not war.

North Korea has been forewarned, yet it continues to provoke with its most-recent missiles.  The US is moving to prevent further efforts.  The action will be a warning if possible?  It will just be a “surgical,” limited, action.  An action which allows for adjustments in the affairs of the nations involved.  Let us hope the adjustments will be based on reason and not war.

Brexit – Trump – Clinton: What really may be happening . . . continued –

After the publication of my post Brexit – Trump – Clinton: What really may be happening . . . ,  one of my readers chastised me for including the Freud – Einstein Why War Letters at the end of the post. “Who in their right mind would read such a long-winded letter” the reader said.

Here is my response:

“I think you would know who would read such a letter.  It is full of wisdom and a way of looking at what is truly happening to us.  We think we know what we are doing as human beings.  In reality, what we are doing is an expression of forces within the human psychic which we have little desire to understand and control.  Were we to understand this we would be better able to create a better world; in fact, a much better world.  We live in an illusion we have won over bin Laden.  In fact, the evil of bin Laden has become the basis for our own destruction and the destruction of America and the West.  We have acted on revenge, and the horror of revenge has been redirected on ourselves and our allies in Europe.”

“Bin Laden said he wanted to bring down the West, bring down America.  In response, President W. Bush and his janissaries told us to go shopping.  And, then he told us we should go to war in Iraq to rid ourselves of something.  Our response to bin Laden and its aftermath has brought about the destabilization of the Middle East and is rapidly bringing about an even greater destabilization, the destabilization of the world.  We should have turned our back on bin Laden.  ‘Vengeance is mine, thus sayeth the Lord.'”

Brexit – Trump – Clinton: What really may be happening . . .

Suddenly,  Candidate Trump has overcome his June Swoon.  Why would I say that?
Today, Great Britain voted to withdraw from the Economic Union.  And, today, Candidate Trump has landed by helicopter at his Scotland golf course near Aberdeen – a renovated par three [that’s what the newscasters were saying it was; it is not a par three course]  which is beloved by many people and has been for decades.

The decision to withdraw from the Economic Union was based (I surmise) on “reasons” like “can’t stand the immigrants,” “can’t stand those pointy headed Bilderberg people who have a lock on Brussels,” “can’t stand losing our country to the ‘world economic system’,” and so on, and so on.  As my grandfather used to say (he was all Swiss) “ja ja, so so” .

I would like to think there is another way to try to understand people and their motivations.  I am convinced these days that what people say tells us only what might be hidden in the unconscious of the people, including those who vote.  The way to appreciate the possibilities of this very basic thought is this:  To speculate about the motives of the voters – of the collectively known, unknown, denied, and suppressed instinctual drives.  If we would look deep into the human psychic, we might be better able to manage the future of the human race. If we were to understand, would not all relations between peoples, national, ideological or whatever become much more satisfying?

In writing these words I think of a letter Sigmund Freud sent to Albert Einstein about war. It was called “Why War?”  The Einstein-Freud Correspondence (1931-1932).

Here is the full exchange:

“Dear Mr. Einstein:

When I learned of your intention to invite me to a mutual exchange of views upon a
subject which not only interested you personally but seemed deserving, too, of public interest, I cordially assented. I expected you to choose a problem lying on the borderland of the knowable, as it stands today, a theme which each of us, physicist and psychologist, might approach from his own angle, to meet at last on common ground, though setting out from different premises. Thus the question which you put me–what is to be done to rid mankind of the war menace?–took me by surprise. And, next, I was dumbfounded by the thought of my (of our, I almost wrote) incompetence; for this struck me as being a matter of practical politics, the statesman’s proper study. But then I realized that you did not raise the question in your capacity of scientist or physicist, but as a lover of his fellow men, who responded to the call of the League of Nations much as Fridtjof Nansen, the polar explorer, took on himself the task of succoring homeless and starving victims of the World War. And, next, I reminded myself that I was not being called on to formulate practical proposals but, rather, to explain how this question of preventing wars strikes a psychologist.

But here, too, you have stated the gist of the matter in your letter–and taken the wind out of my sails! Still, I will gladly follow in your wake and content myself with endorsing your conclusions, which, however, I propose to amplify to the best of my knowledge or surmise.

You begin with the relations between might and right, and this is assuredly the proper starting point for our inquiry. But, for the term might, I would substitute a tougher and more telling word: violence. In right and violence we have today an obvious antinomy. It is easy to prove that one has evolved from the other and, when we go back to origins and examine primitive conditions, the solution of the problem follows easily enough. I must crave your indulgence if in what follows I speak of well-known, admitted facts as though they were new data; the context necessitates this method.

Conflicts of interest between man and man are resolved, in principle, by the recourse to violence. It is the same in the animal kingdom, from which man cannot claim exclusion; nevertheless, men are also prone to conflicts of opinion, touching, on occasion, the loftiest peaks of abstract thought, which seem to call for settlement by quite another method. This refinement is, however, a late development. To start with, group force was the factor which, in small communities, decided points of ownership and the question which man’s will was to prevail. Very soon physical force was implemented, then replaced, by the use of various adjuncts; he proved the victor whose weapon was the better, or handled the more skillfully. Now, for the first time, with the coming of weapons, superior brains began to oust brute force, but the object of the conflict remained the same: one party was to be constrained, by the injury done him or impairment of his strength, to retract a claim or a refusal. This end is most effectively gained when the opponent is definitely put out of action–in other words, is killed. This procedure has two advantages: the enemy cannot renew hostilities, and, secondly, his fate deters others from following his example. Moreover, the slaughter of a foe gratifies an instinctive craving–a point to which we shall revert hereafter. However, another consideration may be set off against this will to kill: the possibility of using an enemy for servile tasks if< his spirit be broken and his life spared. Here violence finds an outlet not in slaughter but in subjugation. Hence springs the practice of giving quarter; but the victor, having from now on to reckon with the craving for revenge that rankles in his victim, forfeits to some extent his personal security.

Thus, under primitive conditions, it is superior force–brute violence, or violence backed by arms– that lords it everywhere. We know that in the course of evolution this state of things was modified, a path was traced that led away from violence to law. But what was this path? Surely it issued from a single verity: that the superiority of one strong man can be overborne by an alliance of many weaklings, that l’union fait la force. Brute force is overcome by union; the allied might of scattered units makes good its right against the isolated giant. Thus we may define “right”  (i.e., law) as the might of a community. Yet it, too, is nothing else than violence, quick to  attack whatever individual stands in its path, and it employs the selfsame methods, follows like ends, with but one difference: it is the communal, not individual, violence that has its way. But, for the transition from crude violence to the reign of law, a certain psychological condition must first obtain. The union of the majority must be stable and enduring. If its sole raison d’etre be the discomfiture of some overweening individual and, after his downfall, it be dissolved, it leads to nothing. Some other man, trusting to his superior power, will seek to reinstate the rule of violence, and the cycle will repeat itself unendingly. Thus the union of the people must be  permanent and well organized; it must enact rules to meet the risk of possible revolts; must set up machinery insuring that its rules–the laws–are observed and that such acts of violence as the laws demand are duly carried out. This recognition of a community of interests engenders among the  members of the group a sentiment of unity and fraternal solidarity which constitutes its real strength.

So far I have set out what seems to me the kernel of the matter: the suppression of brute force by the transfer of power to a larger combination, founded on the community of sentiments linking up  its members. All the rest is mere tautology and glosses. Now the position is simple enough so long as the community consists of a number of equipollent individuals. The laws of such a group can determine to what extent the individual must forfeit his personal freedom, the right of using  personal force as an instrument of violence, to insure the safety of the group. But such a combination is only theoretically possible; in practice the situation is always complicated by the fact that, from the outset, the group includes elements of unequal power, men and women, elders and children, and, very soon, as a result of war and conquest, victors and the vanquished–i.e., masters and slaves–as well. From this time on the common law takes notice of these inequalities of power, laws are made by and for the rulers, giving the servile classes fewer rights. Thenceforward there exist within the state two factors making for legal instability, but legislative evolution, too: first, the attempts by members of the ruling class to set themselves above the law’s restrictions and, secondly, the constant struggle of the ruled to extend their rights and see each gain embodied in the code, replacing legal disabilities by equal laws for all.
The second of these tendencies will be particularly marked when theretakes place a positive mutation of the balance of power within the community, the frequent outcome  of certain historical conditions. In such cases the laws may gradually be adjusted to the changed conditions or (as more usually ensues) the ruling class is loath to rush in with the new developments, the result being insurrections and civil wars, a period when law is in abeyance and force once more the arbiter, followed by a new regime of law. There is another factor of constitutional change, which operates in a wholly pacific manner, viz.: the cultural evolution of the mass of the community; this factor, however, is of a different order and an only be dealt with later.

Thus we see that, even within the group itself, the exercise of violence cannot be avoided when  conflicting interests are at stake. But the common needs and habits of men who live in fellowship under the same sky favor a speedy issue of such conflicts and, this being so, the possibilities of peaceful solutions make steady progress. Yet the most casual glance at world history will show an unending series of conflicts between one community and another or a group of others, between large and smaller units, between cities, countries, races, tribes and kingdoms, almost all of which were settled by the ordeal of war. Such war ends either in pillage or in conquest and its fruits, the downfall of the loser. No single all-embracing judgment can be passed on these wars of aggrandizement. Some, like the war between the Mongols and the Turks, have led to unmitigated misery; others, however, have furthered the transition from violence to law, since they brought larger units into being, within whose limits a recourse to violence was banned and a new regime determined all disputes. Thus the Roman conquest brought that boon, the pax Romana, to the Mediterranean lands. The French kings’ lust for aggrandizement created a new France, flourishing in peace and unity. Paradoxical as its sounds, we must admit that warfare well might serve to pave the way to that unbroken peace we so desire, for it is war that brings vast empires into being, within whose frontiers all warfare is proscribed by a strong central power. In practice, however, this end is not attained, for as a rule the fruits of victory are but short-lived, the new-created unit falls asunder once again, generally because there can be no true cohesion between the parts that violence has welded. Hitherto, moreover, such conquests have only led to aggregations which, for all their magnitude, had limits, and disputes between these units could be resolved only by recourse to arms. For humanity at large the sole result of all these military enterprises was that, instead of frequent, not to say incessant, little wars, they had now to face great wars which, for all they came less often, were so much the more destructive.

Regarding the world of today the same conclusion holds good, and you, too, have reached it, though by a shorter path. There is but one sure way of ending war and that is the establishment, by common consent, of a central control which shall have the last word in every conflict of interests. For this, two things are needed: first, the creation of such a supreme court of judicature; secondly, its investment with adequate executive force. Unless this second requirement be fulfilled, the first is unavailing. Obviously the League of  Nations, acting as a Supreme Court, fulfills the first condition; it does not fulfill the second. It has no force at its disposal and can only get it if the members of the new body, its constituent nations, furnish it. And, as things are, this is a forlorn hope. Still we should be taking a very shortsighted view of the League of Nations were we to ignore the fact that here is an experiment the like of which has rarely–never before, perhaps, on such a scale–been attempted in the course of history. It is an attempt to acquire the authority (in other words, coercive influence), which hitherto reposed exclusively in the possession of power, by calling into play certain idealistic attitudes of mind. We have seen that there are two factors of cohesion in a community: violent compulsion and ties of sentiment “identifications,” in technical parlance) between the members of the group. If one of these factors becomes inoperative, the other may still suffice to hold the group together. Obviously such notions as these can only be significant when they are the expression of a deeply rooted sense of unity, shared by all. It is necessary, therefore, to gauge the efficacy of such sentiments. History tells us that, on occasion,  they have been effective. For example, the Panhellenic conception, the Greeks’ awareness of superiority over their barbarian neighbors, which found expression in the Amphictyonies, the Oracles and Games, was strong enough to humanize the methods of warfare as between Greeks, though inevitably it failed to prevent conflicts between different elements of the Hellenic race or even to deter a city or group of cities from joining forces with their racial foe, the Persians, for the discomfiture of a rival. The solidarity of Christendom in the Renaissance age was no more effective, despite its vast authority, in hindering Christian nations, large and small alike, from calling in the Sultan to their aid. And, in our times, we look in vain for some such unifying notion whose authority would be unquestioned. It is all too clear that the nationalistic ideas, paramount today in every country, operate in quite a contrary direction. Some there are who hold that the Bolshevist conceptions may make an end
of war, but, as things are, that goal lies very far away and, perhaps, could only be attained after a spell of brutal internecine warfare. Thus it would seem that any effort to replace brute force by the might of an ideal is, under present conditions, doomed to fail. Our logic is at fault if we ignore the fact that right is founded on brute force and even today needs violence to maintain it.

I now can comment on another of your statements. You are amazed that it is so easy to infect men with the war fever, and you surmise that man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction, amenable to such stimulations. I entirely agree with you. I believe in the existence of this instinct and have been recently at pains to study its manifestations. In this connection may I set out a fragment of that knowledge of the instincts, which we psychoanalysts, after so many tentative essays and gropings in the dark, have compassed? We assume that human instincts are of two kinds: those that conserve and unify, which we call “erotic” (in the meaning Plato gives to Eros in his Symposium), or else “sexual” (explicitly extending the popular connotation of “sex”); and, secondly, the instincts to destroy and kill, which we assimilate as the aggressive or destructive instincts. These are, as you perceive, the well known opposites, Love and Hate, transformed into theoretical entities; they are, perhaps, another aspect of those eternal polarities, attraction and repulsion, which fall within your province. But we must be chary of passing overhastily to the notions of good and evil. Each of these instincts is every whit as indispensable as its opposite, and all the phenomena of life derive from their activity, whether they work in concert or in opposition. It seems that an instinct of either category can operate but rarely in isolation; it is always blended (“alloyed,” as we say) with a certain dosage of its opposite, which modifies its aim or even, in certain circumstances, is a prime condition of its attainment. Thus the instinct of self-preservation is certainly of an erotic nature, but to gain its end this very instinct necessitates aggressive action. In the same way the loveinstinct, when directed to a specific object, calls for an admixture of the acquisitive instinct if it is to enter into effective possession of that object. It is the difficulty of isolating the two kinds of instinct in their manifestations that has so long prevented us from recognizing them.

If you will travel with me a little further on this road, you will find that human affairs are  complicated in yet another way. Only exceptionally does an action follow on the stimulus of a single instinct, which is per se a blend of Eros and destructiveness. As a rule several motives of similar composition concur to bring about the act. This fact was duly noted by a colleague of yours, Professor G. C. Lichtenberg, sometime Professor of Physics at Gottingen; he was perhaps even more eminent as a psychologist than as a physical scientist. He evolved the notion of a “Compass-card of Motives” and wrote: “The efficient motives impelling man to act can be classified like the thirty-two winds and described in the same manner; e.g., Food-Food-Fame or Fame-Fame-Food.” Thus, when a nation is summoned to engage in war, a whole gamut of human motives may respond to this appeal–high and low motives, some openly avowed, others slurred over. The lust  for aggression and destruction is certainly included; the innumerable cruelties of history and man’s daily life confirm its prevalence and strength. The stimulation of these destructive impulses by appeals to idealism and the erotic instinct naturally facilitate their release. Musing on the atrocities recorded on history’s page, we feel that the ideal motive has often served as a camouflage for the dust of destruction; sometimes, as with the cruelties of the Inquisition, it seems that, while the ideal motives occupied the foreground of consciousness, they drew their strength from the destructive instincts submerged in the unconscious. Both interpretations are feasible.

You are interested, I know, in the prevention of war, not in our theories, and I keep this fact in mind. Yet I would like to dwell a little longer on this destructive instinct which is seldom given the attention that its importance warrants. With the least of speculative efforts we are led to conclude that this instinct functions in every living being, striving to work its ruin and reduce life to its primal state of inert matter. Indeed, it might well be called the “death instinct”; whereas the erotic instincts vouch for the struggle to live on. The death instinct becomes an impulse to destruction when, with the aid of certain organs, it directs its action outward, against external objects. The living being, that is to say, defends its own existence by destroying foreign bodies. But, in one of its activities, the death instinct is operative within the living being and we have sought to trace back a number of normal and pathological phenomena to this introversion of the destructive instinct. We have even committed the heresy of explaining the origin of human conscience by some such “turning inward” of the aggressive impulse. Obviously when this internal tendency operates on too large a scale, it is no trivial matter; rather, a positively morbid state of things; whereas the diversion of the destructive impulse toward the external world must have beneficial effects. Here is then the biological justification for all those vile, pernicious propensities which we are now combating. We can but own that they are really more akin to nature than this our stand against them, which, in fact, remains to be accounted for.

All this may give you the impression that our theories amount to species of mythology and a gloomy one at that! But does not every natural science lead ultimately to this–a sort of mythology? Is it otherwise today with your physical sciences?

The upshot of these observations, as bearing on the subject in hand, is that there is no likelihood  of our being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. In some happy corners of the earth,  they say, where nature brings forth abundantly whatever man desires, there flourish races whose  lives go gently by; unknowing of aggression or constraint. This I can hardly credit; I would like further details about these happy folk. The Bolshevists, too, aspire to do away with human aggressiveness by insuring the satisfaction of material needs and enforcing equality between man and man. To me this hope seems vain. Meanwhile they busily perfect their armaments, and their hatred of outsiders is not the least of the factors of cohesion among themselves. In any case, as you too have observed, complete suppression of man’s aggressive tendencies is not in issue; what we may try is to divert it into a channel other than that of warfare.

From our “mythology” of the instincts we may easily deduce a formula for an indirect method of  eliminating war. If the propensity for war be due to the destructive instinct, we have always its  counter-agent, Eros, to our hand. All that produces ties of sentiment between man and man must  serve us as war’s antidote. These ties are of two kinds. First, such relations as those toward a  beloved object, void though they be of sexual intent. The psychoanalyst need feel no compunction in  mentioning “love” in this connection; religion uses the same language: Love thy neighbor as  thyself. A pious injunction, easy to enounce, but hard to carry out! The other bond of sentiment is by way of identification. All that brings out the significant resemblances between men calls into play this feeling of community, identification, whereon is founded, in large measure, the whole edifice of human  society.

In your strictures on the abuse of authority I find another suggestion for an indirect attack on  the war impulse. That men are divided into the leaders and the led is but another manifestation of  their inborn and irremediable inequality. The second class constitutes the vast majority; they need  a high command to make decisions for them, to which decisions they usually bow without demur. In  this context we would point out that men should be at greater pains than heretofore to form a  superior class of independent thinkers, unamenable to intimidation and fervent in the quest of  truth, whose function it would be to guide the masses dependent on their lead. There is no need to point out how little the rule of politicians and the Church’s ban on liberty of thought encourage such a new creation. The ideal conditions would obviously be found in a community where every man  subordinated his instinctive life to the dictates of reason. Nothing less than this could bring  about so thorough and so durable a union between men, even if this involved the  everance of mutual  ties of sentiment. But surely such a hope is utterly utopian, as things are. The other indirect  methods of preventing war are certainly more feasible, but entail no quick results. They conjure up  an ugly picture of mills that grind so slowly that, before the flour is ready, men are dead of hunger.

As you see, little good comes of consulting a theoretician, aloof from worldly contact, on  practical and urgent problems! Better it were to tackle each successive crisis with means that we have ready to our hands. However, I would like to deal with a question which, though it is not mooted in your letter, interests me greatly. Why do we, you and I and many another, protest so vehemently against war, instead of just accepting it as another of life’s odious importunities? For it seems a natural thing enough, biologically sound and practically unavoidable. I trust you will not be shocked by my raising such a question.  For the better conduct of an inquiry it may be well to don a mask of feigned aloofness. The answer to my query may run as follows: Because every man has a right over his own life and war destroys lives that were full of promise; it forces the individual into situations that shame his manhood, obliging him to murder fellow men, against his will; it ravages material amenities, the fruits of human toil, and much besides. Moreover, wars, as now conducted, afford no scope for acts of heroism according to the old ideals and, given the high perfection of modern arms, war today would mean the sheer extermination of one of the combatants, if not of both. This is so true, so obvious, that we can but wonder why the conduct of war is not banned by general consent. Doubtless either of the points I have just made is open to debate. It may be asked if the community, in its turn, cannot claim a right over the individual lives of its members. Moreover, all forms of war cannot be indiscriminately condemned; so long as there are nations and empires, each prepared callously to exterminate its rival, all alike must be equipped for war. But we will not dwell on any of these problems; they lie outside the debate to which you have invited me. I pass on to another point, the basis, as it strikes me, of our common hatred of war. It is this: We cannot do otherwise than hate it. Pacifists we are, since our organic nature wills us thus to be. Hence it comes easy to us to find arguments that justify our standpoint.

This point, however, calls for elucidation. Here is the way in which I see it. The cultural
development of mankind (some, I know, prefer to call it civilization) has been in progress since immemorial antiquity. To this processus we owe all that is best in our composition, but also much that makes for human suffering. Its origins and causes are obscure, its issue is uncertain, but some of its characteristics are easy to perceive. It well may lead to the extinction of mankind, for it impairs the sexual function in more than one respect, and even today the uncivilized races and the backward classes of all nations are multiplying more rapidly than the cultured elements. This process may, perhaps, be likened to the effects of domestication on certain animals–it clearly involves physical changes of structure–but the view that cultural development is an organic process of this order has not yet become generally familiar. The psychic changes which accompany this process of cultural change are striking, and not to be gainsaid. They consist in the progressive rejection of instinctive ends and a scaling down of instinctive reactions. Sensations which delighted our forefathers have become neutral or unbearable to us; and, if our ethical and  aesthetic ideals have undergone a change, the causes of this are ultimately organic. On the
psychological side two of the most important phenomena of culture are, firstly, a trengthening of the intellect, which tends to master our instinctive life, and, secondly, an introversion of the aggressive impulse, with all its consequent benefits and perils. Now war runs most emphatically counter to the psychic disposition imposed on us by the growth of culture; we are therefore bound to resent war, to find it utterly intolerable. With pacifists like us it is not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion, but a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy in its most drastic form. And it would seem that the aesthetic  ignominies of warfare play almost as large a part in this repugnance as war’s atrocities.

How long have we to wait before the rest of men turn pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors–man’s cultural disposition and a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take–may serve to put an end to war in the near future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or byways this will come about, we cannot guess. Meanwhile we may rest on the assurance that whatever makes for cultural development is working also against war.

With kindest regards and, should this expose prove a disappointment to you, my sincere regrets,

Yours,
SIGMUND FREUD

Einstein was apparently not disappointed when Freud’s reply was received. He addressed the following letter to Freud on December 3, 1932:

You have made a most gratifying gift to the League of Nations and myself with your truly classic reply. When I wrote you I was thoroughly convinced of the insignificance of my role, which was only meant to document my good will, with me as the bait on the hoof; to tempt the marvelous fish into nibbling. You have given in return something altogether magnificent. We cannot know what may grow from such seed, as the effect upon man of any action or event is always incalculable. This is not within our power and we do not need to worry about it.

You have earned my gratitude and the gratitude of all men for having devoted all your strength to the search for truth and for having shown the rarest courage in professing your convictions all your life. . . .

By the time the exchange between Einstein and Freud was published in 1933, under the title Why War?, Hitler, who was to drive both men into exile, was already in power, and the letters never achieved the wide circulation intended for them. Indeed, the first German edition of the pamphlet is reported to have been limited to only 2,000 copies, as was also the original English edition.”

 

 

Robert and Dayna Baer: The CIA and the Middle East

Over the past few weeks I have been reading (listening to

– Audible) a few books written by Robert Baer and one by him and his wife, Dayna Baer.  The Company We Keep.

The books are about work as CIA employees.

I think the Perfect Kill is the best of the four I have read thus far. It tells much about how the CIA works and what Baer was doing in Lebanon. The book is of more interest because it tells of a “back story” which has connection to the recent New York Times article concerning the assassination of Rajj Radwan (AKA Imad Mughniyah).  There is more about Mughniyah in the NYT this past week or two —  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/the-hezbollah-connection.html. The book is also a bit humorous from time to time.

The next book I liked most is The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.

This book is relevant to an understanding of Iran and thus an understanding of the stakes in the current negotiations between Jon Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif.  (Zarif is a graduate of the University of Denver Korbel School of International Studies. Professor Korbel is the father of Madeleine Albright.)

American Qualities — “Neoliberalism’s Bastard Children”

2015 National Security Strategy (NSS), delivered on February 6 to Congress — Andrew Bacevich includes this in his piece today in Commonweal called Soft Thinking, Hard Problems Is There Any Strategy in the National Security Strategy.

Perhaps more importantly, the NSS catalog of American values omits several qualities, which we might describe as neoliberalism’s bastard children. Anyone who spends an hour paging through an issue of People magazine, an evening watching network television, or a day walking the streets of an American city will identify these as woven into the very fabric of American life: pervasive vulgarity, an obsession with sex, a fascination with celebrity and violence, extraordinary abundance coexisting with abject poverty, and a conception of human happiness keyed to material consumption—with God having long since been consigned to the sidelines.

Andrew J. Bacevich, Soft Thinking, Hard Problems Is There Any Strategy in the National Security StrategyCommonweal, February 10, 2015.

Tomas Young — His last letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

My Last Words to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

by TOMAS YOUNG

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

-Tomas Young