It is tough to know what do to with the passing of a man who was an architect of the Vietnam War — and who later expressed remorse for it. Three million Vietnamese died, and 60,000 Americans were killed in combat.
Jonathan Schell’s piece in The Nation on former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is worth reading in its entirety. A snippet:
“As the decades of the twentieth century rolled by, the heaps of corpses towered, ever higher, up to the skies, and now they pile up again in the new century, but how many of those in high office who have made these things happen have ever said, “I made a mistake,” or “I was terribly wrong,” or shed a tear over their actions? I come up with: one, Robert McNamara. I deduce that such acts of repentance are very hard to perform.”
The Nation magazine (U.S.) has an interesting short read by Richard Pollak on the market incentives for just letting ocean piracy happen. As it turns out, it is far cheaper for shipping companies to do nothing than to protect their crews:
No reliable statistics measure the annual cost of piracy, but one likely high estimate of $16 billion represents only .001 percent of the more than $14 trillion in world trade that moved by ship last year…
…for years Maersk and most other shipping firms, large and small, have refused to spend the money it would take to make each vessel more secure. Few, for example, have invested in Secure-Ship, an electrified wire fence that delivers a 9,000-volt nonlethal shock to anyone attempting to climb aboard.
Good reporting on U.S. foreign policy requires good reporting, period. As newspapers shrink and reporters get laid off, accurate American discourse about our actions in the world becomes less likely.
The best (worst) example is Iraq. Even before the Obama Administration began, flagging public interest intersected with shrinking media budgets to result in Baghdad reporting cutbacks.
In less expensive parts of the world, we can expect more of the same. As newspapers go belly-up, the pool of funds available to hire foreign correspondents is declining as well. Citizens of the Superpower who depend on mainstream media are going to have even less information about America’s global footprint.
But instead of watching our for-profit media institutions go out of business, maybe we should stop thinking of them in business terms. Liberal media critic Eric Alterman just published a fine column on a topic getting increasing play in some circles: the nonprofit newspaper.
Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation
Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.
Last Wednesday, U.S. Senator John McCain gave a tough talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.
His topic was Afghanistan. His message was that the U.S. is losing the war.
The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago … But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.
Fine. Let’s not be paralyzed. But there is a way in which Sen. McCain managed to avoid discussing the same realities on the ground that everyone else seems to be avoiding.
Let’s just take one issue in particular: there is no such thing as “the” Taliban. It might make for easy reporting, but the notion of a single opposition force serves to obscure more than it reveals.