Archive for April, 2012


April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

From Recent lecture on Hopkins Drone Warfare connection.


Are drones disproportionately bad, or would the US just have sent some manned fighter to do the bombing instead. Three reasons why they are in fact changing the face of war.


Drones are the most civilian discriminatory weapon at a rate of 50:1 : While I doubt the statistics are accurate, aerial warfare in general has disproportionate effects on civilians (increase in ration of civilians to combatants since WW2): It does seem that drones are far less discriminatory.

According to David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum (New York Times, 5/19/09), the United States kills 50 unintended targets for each intended target of a drone attack. As one intelligence source told The Nation: “If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That’s the mentality.… They’re not accountable to anybody and they know that.”

Drones lower the threshold on which action is taken: If we imagine a strategist sitting in an office deciding on whether to call for a bombing run, the absence of any risk to human life lowers the threshold on which this action is taken significantly. If no one dies, no families find out, it is easier to hide the mission until the bombs actually fall, and the disposable drones are almost too easy to send in to do the job. Drones are particularly oriented towards assassination and de-link the weight of decision making from the lives of those targeted. That is it truly does dehumanize because there is no human risk involved for the attacker. Yes all Aerial bombardment does this, but because the cost of drones is so low this makes it a particularly easy weapon to deploy and furthers the assured self confidence of aggressive US policy (and soon other countries)

Legal loopholes: Because Humans are indirectly and perhaps soon eve not at all, linked to the drone action, there are legal loopholes about whether mobilizing them is an act of war (in the US). Thus drones can be used covertly by the CIA and officially in countries where the US isn’t at war (obviously weak states as well). It is not clear how the drone program can get around geneva conventions but it is being done.

Other problems that are resolvable to my mind are the technical difficulties, software problems, proliferation problems, the plain creepiness of them.

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The novelty of the contemporary era

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve stubbornly resisted it so far, but I think it is time to finally admit it, we are living in uniquely novel times that are historically unprecedented. There I said it, now can we get back to looking at how things are the same. From the perspective of Lebanon and the intervention of foreign powers. That is because even the economic base of production, technology, and the state are all recent, it seems that history is merely one long invasion and dispossession after the other, one foreign ruler after another, one massacre after another. The comforting monotony and drudgery of tragedy and the normality that this lends life is enough to hold on to this view. I think I agree with the Realist cyclical vision of power, regardless who holds it and how they justify it they act the same with respect ot foreign policy. The strong do as the want and the weak suffer as they must. Thus While I finally do yield that the economic foundations of production, distribution, and consumption are unprecedented, I maintain that the influence of political power on any political actor with respect to out groups is always unfair and abusive, and with respect to ingroups is mostly abusive and exploitative. Some things are new, others, particularly political discrimination and power politics, the rise of great powers, those are eternal. Then it must be because they are not found in the means of production, nor technology, it must be something else. Perhaps Waltz’s structural anarchy, perhaps human nature, perhaps the existence of multiple units in the same system.

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The Black Book of Capitalism/Liberalism

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

In reaction to comments that Marxism put into practice has led to gulags and the deaths of millions, Gro responded that the liberals forget their own atrocities.  IF we associate an ideology with a state like the USSR with communism, then is it fair to associate Colonial Britain with liberalism. I think it is. And if so then are all actions by Britain a result of liberal ideology in practice. I don’t know but if we want to retort to the black book of communism logic, then it is only comparable to include all British actions in the same way we include the Gulags or Chinese reeducation. Now Gro gave the example of East Timur and  American silence and complicity, and the Bengal Famine in which the British actively withheld food. If we count these as products of liberal ideology, then it is not clear at all whether liberalism counted in the same way as communism is less lethal. Perhaps at the home fronts in England and the United States (discounting slavery and Native American slaughter which probably wouldn’t be discounted) were more peaceful than the home fronts of communist countries, but the foreign policy of liberalism and its engagement with the world has a far larger body count. It is perhaps that which explains why the receiving end of foreign policy, in war and diplomacy, that only sees the anonymous bureaucracy in motion in all its sinister and hypocritical yet very real effects realizes that liberalism is perhaps even worse than communism.

Though ultimately I would dispute that either USSR or Britain embody liberalism and if they did Britain is a much better fit, but rather both  movements are a result of ideologies of civilization and modernity and it is those combined ideologies which have the potential for liberation and destruction that can more properly be said to be responsible.

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Discourse Analysis: Theory

April 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Joan Scott: Language Gender and Working Class History:

On discourse analysis: “What counts as experience cannot be established by collecting empirical data but by analyzing the terms of definition offered in political discourse.” There is nothing outside of language and articulation, no reality that is not conceptualized in language. Categories in which we think and experience are not objective, they are linguistic, origins of class is not in objective material conditions, nor in consciousness but in the language of political struggle.

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Religious extremism and status quo

April 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Just thinking… It seems like religious extremism is associated with status quo challenging powers, and moderation is associated with dominant powers. This could be because of hegemony (cultural Gramscian) The dominant norms seem to be neutral and natural whereas the subordinate ones become abnormal and  extreme. But it could also be a strategy to displace power imbalances. Thinking of Spain under Islam as having a very tolerant regime with the Christians coming in with inquisition at the heel. Today Christianity seems to be them ore tolerant religion.

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Is this still true?

April 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Reading a paper on victorian england and its prudishness in gender perspective. I ask myself, is this still ture. It was once true but no longer so. Interesting way of expressing the variability and relativity of truth over time.


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