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Friday, September 26, 2014

PRAY, LEARN, ACT: Congregations Need to Stay Engaged on Palestine

Israel / Palestine: satellite view
I attended a panel discussion at Grace Place in Chicago last night entitled, "Forum with Ali Abunimah: The lessons of Gaza and the Tasks of the Movement Here," sponsored by Anti-War Committee – Chicago; Freedom Road Socialist Organization; U.S. Palestinian Community Network; Students for a Democratic Society - College of DuPage, Chicago Area Peace Action; American Party of Labor, American Friends Service Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine - UIC.

The panelists included:

The big takeaway for me was the message conveyed by Ali Abunimah: people in Gaza say now that there is a ceasefire, and the summer 2014 massacre in Gaza is behind us, please don't let up on your advocacy. Don't drop it!

I left convinced that Christian congregations -- including congregations of the ELCA, of which I'm a member, as well as others -- are one of the key places that continued faithful attention to issues of peace and justice in Israel / Palestine must be carried out.

Several of the areas of conflict discussed last night are exactly the kinds of ethical and spiritual issues that congregations and their members need to confront and deal with.

Boeing Corporation headquarters, Chicago
The campaign to bring about an end to Boeing Corporation material support for Israeli violence was discussed. In fact, in a well-known October, 2012, letter to Congress, "the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and other U.S. Christian leaders are urging Congress to conduct an investigation into possible human rights and weapon violations by the government of Israel." (See "ELCA, other US churches call for examination of aid to Israel") Earlier this year, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) voted to divest from firms complicit in the occupation. So there is an ongoing obligation of members of faith communities to engage with these issues -- to pray on them, learn about them, and figure out how to take effective action. Congregations in the Chicago area -- the home of Boeing -- bear a special responsibility.

The controversy over the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois points up a profound problem: there is a strong currency of intimidation in academics and other fields, in which people feel that they are not free to criticize Israel. This is an issue of particular concern for the faith community, which depends on the idea that we can "speak openly" about what is really happening in God's kingdom.

In addition to these two aspects of the struggle for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine, there are two others that I believe also strongly demand congregational engagement.

"Christian Orthodox worshippers hold up candles lit from the
'Holy Fire' as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre in Jerusalem's old city on the eve of the Orthodox
Easter."(AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)
The occupation of and oppression in the very towns that Christians hear about every Sunday is a reason that Christian congregations need to attend to the current political situation week in, week out. I think in particular of scenes of the Easter celebration in Jerusalem in the film The Stones Cry Out - it reminds me that if we claim this history as our own, we also have to be concerned about what is happening on the ground there today.

And our concern should not end at the borders of Israel / Palestine. The civil wars in Iraq and Syria have brought to our attention the situation of Christian brothers and sisters in those countries. As the Lutheran bishop in Jordan and the Holy land, Dr. Munib A. Younan, has pointed out, this is a time when Christians need to be talking with each other and working in unity. Moreover, Bishop Younan points out that,

"As I speak, the United States is building a global coalition to fight against Da’esh, which calls itself the Islamic State. In the course of one week, President Obama said that there was no clear strategy against Da’esh; one week later, he said that the goal was degrading and destroying it. When paired with the inability of the United States and other western countries to limit the actions of the State of Israel, such efforts reinforce the impression that NATO countries are engaged in a global war not just against religiously-sanctioned extremism but against Islam itself. Arab Christians know that the US-led efforts in Syria and Iraq has almost nothing to do with us. They are engaging in strikes for their own interests alone. It is for oil, not for the protection of vulnerable groups. All of this makes us weaker. Here, I am concerned not just about Christians but about all groups in the Middle East. Christians cannot be used as an excuse to promote military strikes against Muslims!" (emphasis added) (See "Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis - by Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, ELCJHL")


Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land


For these and many other reasons, Christian congregations have real work to do, on an ongoing basis, for peace and justice in Israel / Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

In the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), there is a very active Working Group on the Middle East (WGME). Among other initiatives, we provide a brief update to synod congregations each week -- urging members to "pray, learn, act" n issues affecting Middle East peace and justice.

I hope that congregations everywhere -- ELCA and other -- will treat work for peace and justice in Israel / Palestine and throughout the Middle East a regular faith practice.


Related posts

When Chicagoans fully succeed in fully connecting the dots -- especially to the crimes being committed in their name with their tax dollars and the weapons produced by their favored corporate citizen, Boeing -- I think there will be some new and different phone calls taking place . . .

(See What's New in Chicago: Connecting the Dots - US Aid, Boeing Weapons, Gaza Massacre, Chicago Complicity )








When someone asks you, "Does it really matter whether you sign up for those Facebook events?" or "Why go out and participate in those rallies and marches?" this is what you can tell them . . .

(See Stand Up and Be Counted )













"Inhumane treatment of young men and boys, arrests under cover of night, unjust torture while in police custody, missing husbands and brothers and sons, children stripped of internationally agreed upon human rights. For these Palestinian boys and men, we weep with the women."

(See Palestine: The Women Weep (34th Annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk) )



"Jesus Christ says to us today, “Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you.” (Acts 26.16–17)  Today, as I come before you to discuss the crisis facing the Middle East and especially the crisis facing Arab and Middle Eastern Christians, these words of the risen Christ to the Saul resonate for us and for the communities we represent. “Get up and stand on your feet!” “I will rescue you!” There is work to be done in my name"

(See "Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis - by Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, ELCJHL")

Thursday, September 25, 2014

AMERICANS: Happy As Long As They're Blowing Something Up

U.S. missile launch
I can't seem to get over the fact that exactly a year ago at this time, the antiwar community was striving to prevent the Obama administration from attacking Syria -- the forces of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, that is. That move to attack Syria was thwarted, thanks to the American public raising its voice and members of Congress forcefully resisting the aggression. But now the Obama administration has succeeded in carrying out attacks on Syria -- only by now the attacks are against the opponents of the Assad regime, and are being done in cooperation with Assad.

This has led me to two conclusions:

(1) It's way too easy to launch U.S. missiles. (Maybe if it were a little more costly, challenging, or painful to carry out these attacks, they would at least require someone to give an explanation that makes sense first.)

(2) Americans are happy as long as they're blowing something up. (At least this is how it must look to the rest of the world.)

"ALERT: Pentagon update on new U.S. military operations in Syria"
(Gen. William Mayville shown in screen capture of Fox broadcast.)

Some of us spend so much time going to Federal Plaza in Chicago to protest, I've begun to think we could just set up a generic protest in advance ("Protest U.S. Attack Against __________") and then fill in the blank closer to the time of the actual event.


Chicago, September 23, 2014:
"No More U.S. Criminal Attacks on SYRIA OR Iraq!"
"No More Wars for US Empire"
(Photo courtesy FJJ.)

I am shocked by the glee with which the Chicago Tribune pronounced yesterday "We're at war!" -- as if that were a wonderful thing.  ("Why America Is At War")

Given the reach of mainstream media like the Tribune, that's why it's especially important that we get out in public and deliver a counter-message. Federal Plaza and the corner of State and Jackson is a good place to do it.


Nick Egnatz, NW Indiana Veterans for Peace, speaking against US attacks
on Syria (and more). (Photo courtesy FJJ.)


How else are we going to get the message out?


(Additional photos at Emergency Rally to oppose Bombing of Syria courtesy Roger Beltrami.)


More resources

"U.S. military leaders: Strikes in Syria are just the start of a prolonged campaign" by Craig Whitlock in the Washington Post


Related posts

September 10, 2014 in Chicago - Andy Thayer introduces speakers from 8th Day Center for Justice, Anti-War Committee of Chicago, Gay Liberation Network, No Drones Network, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and World Can't Wait, all speaking against the Obama administration's latest war escalation.

(See Obama Didn't Invent Permawar. He Just Perfected It.)


It's reasonable to ask what the titans of media who sit high atop the Tribune Tower think of the rest of us. Sometimes they let us know loud and clear.

Everybody needs to read the editorial that appeared in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. The editorial appears online under the title "America's drone program needs to keep flying."

(See DRONE LOVE: If the Chicago Tribune Represents American Public Opinion, the Republic is in Trouble )


In other words, pretty much anybody and everybody gets lumped together with "terrorists"; the vaunted "precision" of U.S. military strikes isn't precise at all.

(See U.S. "Precision Strikes" in a Nutshell )






Many people will argue that it was only because the U.S. made a threat of force that Syria offered to enter into an agreement on chemical weapons. The sequence of events certainly suggests some relationship between the two.

(See "OR ELSE!" (What the U.S. threat of force against Syria teaches us) )










How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CHINA: Where Minority Nostalgia is One Thing, Minority POLITICS Quite Another

A very European-looking
Uighur woman.
(Source: Robert Lindsay)
I heard her voice -- crystal clear, idiomatic Mandarin Chinese -- but when I turned to look at her I was in for a surprise. She had blue eyes and looked like she might be from Hungary. "No European speaks Chinese that well!" I thought. I glanced at the sign over the booth and saw Xinjiang Province Animal By-Products Import/Export Corporation. "Ah!" I thought. "Uighur . . . !"

(As I discovered in searching on the Internet -- particularly on the website of Robert Lindsay -- Uighur people can have a range of appearances, including but not limited to some looking like Europeans.)

It was a little thing, but that moment during one of my many trips to the Canton Trade Fair helped me remember the special status of Xinjiang, in Western China, and the people who live there -- the Uighurs.


What territory is "integral" to China?

Manchu (Qing) Conquest (Source: Lasalle.edu )
One of the lessons I remember from studying Chinese history in college is that the core area of China has remained pretty constant for the past several thousand years, but the control of the periphery has fluctuated from dynasty to dynasty, and from period to period within dynasties.

The final imperial dynasty -- the Qing -- marks its start from 1644, and the decades surrounding the founding of the Qing focused was on gaining control of the periphery -- including what we now call Xinjiang ("New Territory").

I also remember that Xinjiang was contested territory during the Republican period in China, e.g. during the 1930s. (See the article on the Xinjiang Wars on Wikipedia.)


Minorities in China

China has a minorities situation that is only slightly less complicated than that of the U.S. (And Americans need to approach any discussion of minorities in China with some humility, considering that we live on occupied land and that our society remains characterized by a high degree of institutionalized racism.)

China has a land mass roughly comparable to that of the U.S. Like the U.S., it has large areas in the west that consist of desert, grassland, and mountain; like the U.S., the Eastern portion of the country has the greatest concentration of the populace.

The peculiar feature of China is that its inland periphery -- west and north -- consists of land that has traditionally been inhabited by a relatively small number of people who are from a diverse set of ethnic groups, all of which are themselves distinct from the so-called Han Chinese. Han people constitute about 94% of China's population; traditionally they hail from the eastern 50% or so of the land.


"The sunlight of Mao Zedong Thought illuminates the road of the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution." (Note members of diverse ethnic
minorities in characteristic dress.) (Source:  Chineseposters.net)


At the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the leadership sought to institute a policy toward non-Han minorities that essentially recognized that (a) the country had to obtain the loyalty of its minorities, many/most of whom predominated in strategically important border areas; and (b) wherever possible, an accomodationist posture could be used to win people over.

Uighur ethnic minority:
Characteristic dress,
dance, and music
(Postage stamp, PRC)
The leading anthropologist in the country, Fei Xiaotong, was invited to lead a Central Institute for Nationalities, and guide policy that would indicate respect for minority cultures.

The Central Institute for Nationalities is one of a network of institutions and enterprises in China devoted to celebrating and shoring up the nation's ethnic minorities. Language, dress, customs, crafts, dance, music -- everything is to be studied, preserved, sustained.

(See the PRC postage stamp at right, illustrating Uighur culture, and the beautiful and extensive series of all 56 ethnic minorities of China on PRC postage stamps shown on the Windwing website.)

In short, ethnic minorities in China are supposed to be celebrated -- provided, that is, that the cardinal sin of challenging national territorial integrity never occurs.

Nostalgia, yes; culture, maybe. Sentiment? That gets touchy. And politics is off limits

I recall being at a presentation in Washington, D.C., about 20 years ago by the China scholar and policy analyst, Harry Harding. "Not to put too fine a point on it," he said, "but one suggests that a part of the sovereign territory of China is actually entitled to independence, it is perceived as a hostile act."


Violent conflict

In recent years, China has experienced numerous violent incidents that are linked to conflict with the Uighur community, including violent confrontations between police and ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, and violent attacks (bombings, people being struck by automobiles, stabbings, shootings) alleged to involve Uighurs and occurring in Xinjiang as well as other locations in China.


"Rioting breaks out after police confront an anti-discrimination protest by ethnic
Uighur Muslims in Urumqi, capital of China’s Xinjiang region. This screen grab
is from video footage aired by CCTV, China's state television broadcaster.
(Source: FT.com)


We are reminded that there are now many Han Chinese living in the Xinjiang capital, Urumuqi -- as there are in the other main minority areas, such as Tibet -- and that there are also many Han Chinese police and soldiers in these places. It seems like a recipe for confrontation, misunderstanding, and anger, if not violence.

It is in this context that we learn that the leading scholar and advocate within China on Uighur affairs, Ilham Tohti, after many incidents of detention and harassment by the government of China, has now been tried and sentenced to life in prison. The government is punishing him for talking about and encouraging attention to, and discussion of, Uighur affairs; and it is sending a message to everyone seeking to assert rights for Uighur people and influence the future of politics in the places where the Uighurs live. (See "China sentences prominent Uyghur scholar to life in prison for 'separatism'" by Steven Jiang on CNN.com)

"Kill the chicken to scare the monkey."
According to observers, Tohti is a moderate voice. Doesn't politics and diplomacy call for the deft engagement with such figures, in order to find breakthroughs that accommodate everyone, rather than a scorched earth approach?

One answer that comes to mind: power holders in China are much more familiar with the idea of "killing the chicken to scare the monkey."  An action that may appear futile to people outside China is well-understood by people inside China as a way of "sending a message."

Another insight that comes to mind is from John King Fairbank's memoir, Chinabound: we forget at our peril, says the dean of U.S. scholars of China, that in Chinese political thinking it is always the state that holds a monopoly of political power.


Updates

September 24, 2014 - "Uighur Scholar’s Life Sentence Is Seen as Reining in Debate on Minorities in China" by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times quotes scholar Wang Lixiong on the sentencing of Ilham Tohti: "Now that he’s gone, it will give radicals an example to show to their people that whoever is a moderate and still harbors illusions of improving ethnic ties should look at Ilham’s case for proof that it’s a dead end."


September 27,2014 - "Deadly blasts in China's Xinjiang reported" in Al Jazeera: "Forty 'rioters' were killed in China's Xinjiang region following a series of explosions last Sunday, the regional government has said after a four-day news blackout. . . . Six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary police were also killed in the attacks in Xinjiang's Luntai county, with 54 civilians injured, the regional government's news portal Tianshan said late on Thursday."


Resources

For much greater detail on many of the facts touched on above, see the article on Xinjiang in the China Heritage letter of the China Heritage Project, Australian National University.

June Teufel Dreyer, China's Forty Millions: Minority Nationalities and National Integration in the People's Republic of China, details the history of China's minority policy.


Related posts


Despite the difficulties associated with engaging in effective solidarity with dissidents in China, it is important to make the effort. A fundamental tenet of all peace and justice activism is that if we have the power to speak we can do anything, and if "they" succeed in shutting us up, it's the beginning of the end.

(See What is the US Peace and Justice Movement Doing for Dissidents in China?)











"There's one thing you don't understand," he said. "What you are calling 'the best and the brightest,' the leaders in China call 'troublemakers.; A hundred thousand Ph.D.'s stay behind in the U.S.? Two hundred thousand? A million? Fine! Let them! There's more where that came from! China's got nothing if not people!"

(See Why Beijing Always "Wins")












China's rulers share something in common with the elite in the U.S.: when they get it into their head to undertake a project, nothing stands in their way: not mountains, not deserts . . . and certainly not people.

(See  Cadillac Desert (Don't Try This At Home) )

Monday, September 22, 2014

Channeling Zhong Kui (the Demon Queller)

One of my favorite memories of my time in Taipei was a museum exhibit devoted to a character named Zhong Kui - "the demon queller."

The National Palace Museum is the repository of an enormous treasure trove of art objects transported to Taiwan c. 1949, when the KMT government lost control of the mainland to the Chinese Communist Party. Whatever you think about the morality of that development -- whether you view it as "looting" or "preservation" -- the fact is that it provided hours and hours of exquisite enjoyment for a student living in Taipei in 1979.

I can still close my eyes and remember being inside the Palace Museum - cases containing Song masterpiece after Song masterpiece, in quite, softly-lit, elegantly-outfitted, vaguely aromatic (sandalwood?) galleries. Each of the paintings contained a miniature world, inviting you to enter deeper and deeper in, so that it seemed you would never have the time to explore all of the worlds they offered.  In addition to paintings, there were galleries for all the different types of Chinese artwork - porcelain, bronzes, carvings, etc.


Zhong Kui painted by the Shun Zhi Emperor (detail)
Zhong Kui as a portal

The Zhong Kui exhibit at the Palace Museum had dozens of paintings and other objects, all related to the character Zhong Kui.

I particularly like the way Zhong Kui's eyes were depicted. They were almost always shown enlarged, as if Zhong Kui were in some sort of trance or manic episode.

Sometimes, they seemed to be shown to be directed in 2 different directions, much like those of the comic actor Marty Feldman.

(Why did I find this maniac look so charming?)

I also particularly liked several of the paintings that combined the story of Zhong Kui with some of the other conventions of traditional Chinese painting; it made it seem like a particularly worthwhile invitation to enter into the painting and go on an exploration:


Zhong Kui by Huang Shen


And I was captivated by a long scroll which showed Zhong Kui together with his rather ghoulish minions - each of which as interesting as Zhong Kui himself:


Gong Kai, Zhong Kui Traveling (c. 1304)
Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
(Click to see large-size image.)

Here's a close-up:


Gong Kai, Zhong Kui Traveling
(Click to see large-size image.)

Variations on a theme

Most of all, I think I liked the way there could be so many different genres in which to depict a single character like Zhong Kui, while still remaining within the four walls of "Chinese" culture.

For instance, there's Zhong Kui as character in Peking opera:


Peking Opera: Zhong Kui Marry His Younger Sister Off


Zhong Kui in folk art decoration:


Zhong Kui: Chinese New Year Decoration (stamp)

and folk craft:


Zhong Kui depicted in Chinese-style paper cutting


Objets-d'art such as snuff bottles . . .


Nephrite Jade Zhong Kui snuff bottle


And on and on . . . .

Not surprisingly, as with much else in Chinese culture, the Zhong Kui story has passed into Japanese culture as an object of interest, and he is known there as Shoki. Hence we see a whole panoply of Japanese versions of Shoki the demon queller . . . .

I'm particularly fascinated by the Japanese-style tattoos of Zhong Kui:


Full-back Shoki tattoo


. . . and also Shoki netsuke:


Shoki netsuke


Notably, it fell to a Japanese ukio-e (woodblock print) artist to create a depiction of the first great Chinese artist to paint Zhong Kui:


Totoya Hokkei, Wu Daozi Painting Zhong Kui
(Read the description on the Harvard Art Museums website.)
(Click to see large-size image.)


The Zhong Kui story, and Zhong Kui as metaphor

Of course, the most charming thing about Zhong Kui is his story. His characteristic outfit is the robe and special hat of the scholar, and that is because he only became the demon queller after first successfully passing the imperial examinations, only to be refused admission to the official ranks because the judges found him to be too ugly.  Infuriated and despondent, Zhong Kui took his own life by dashing his head against a wall. At the gates of Hell, the King of Hell recognized Zhong Kui's virtue and so put him to work quelling demons.

I suppose I found this especially appealing because, at the time, I and my fellow students were in a Chinese language program that involved 4 hours a day of class (2 hours 1-on-1 and 2 hours 1-on-2) that often left us feeling like we had been washed up at the gates of Hell. The notion of having one's virtue recognized -- by somebody -- was hard to ignore.

At the time, I, myself, probably paid inadequate attention to the centrality of ghosts and demons to Chinese folk religion. This was not the case with some of my fellow students, notably Buzzy Teiser, author of The Ghost Festival in Medieval China.

Years later, however, in the days when I traveled frequently to China and brought home picture books for my children depicting the adventures of Monkey battling all manner of demons, I began to take seriously the importance of demons and demon-quelling as a metaphor.  (And that includes here and now in our own culture.)


So . . . if perchance you happen to see me 
walking along . . . bearing a wild, bristling beard . . . 
and a dazed expression . . . fear not! 

I'm simply channeling Zhong Kui . . . !


Joe Scarry (photo courtesty Roger Beltrami)

More about Taipei c. 1979 . . . .


Related posts

Ai Weiwei is a fascinating character, and particularly interesting to me because of my years of involvement with China. But at some point I started to wonder if the situation of Ai Weiwei and other dissidents in China isn't just too remote to be relevant to most Americans. Somehow it was only when I saw these re-creations of the detention experience that I saw how directly connected the experience of Ai Weiwei is to that of people the U.S. persecutes.

(See Ai Weiwei: So Far Away, and Yet So Close (Take 1) )


So there are these terrible things called nuclear weapons, and it just turns out that they hover around the Korean peninsula, as if "Korea" and "crazy nuclear terror" belonged together. And I thought to myself, "Where have I heard this before?"

(See The Cynical American Scapegoating of Korea as a Cover for Nuclear Terror )





One of my other favorite discoveries about Taipei of that time was Cloud Gate Dance Theater

(See Taiwan Kinaesthetics: Cloud Gate Dance Theater )

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

U.S. "Precision Strikes" in a Nutshell

Signe Wilkinson's latest cartoon for the Philadelphia Daily News is brilliant:


Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson


It depicts a U.S. warplane (or drone) coming in for the attack, with the Barack Obama at the controls, saying, "Target is in sight!"

The only problem is that the "target" is really multiple targets:

* good terrorist
* bad terrorist
* despicable terrorist

. . . as well as . . . 

* lives near a terrorist

. . . and . . . 

* deciding whether to be a terrorist

In other words, pretty much anybody and everybody gets lumped together with "terrorists"; the vaunted "precision" of U.S. military strikes isn't precise at all.

And if those people on the ground weren't our enemies before the Hellfire missile strikes, you can be sure they will be afterwards.

My only quibble with this cartoon is that instead of depicting Obama in the driver's seat, it should make it clear that the warplane is controlled by "Americans." ('Cause we all get to share in the responsibility, the blame, and the consequences of our government's killing spree in the Mideast.)


Related posts


The U.S. has a modus operandi for conducting military strikes while slipping past any genuine public accountability. It's worth a look at the Tuesday, October 29, 2013, New York Times account of a drone strike in Somalia the previous day: "Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia." It's a case study in what's wrong with the U.S. drone wars.

(See October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)




A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people - including Sangeen Zadran -- a "senior militant commander" who was "implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier."

(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)







The press announced a flurry of drone killings in Yemen over the April 19/20 weekend -- that is, while the rest of us were observing Easter -- and just as with U.S. drone killings in Pakistan and Somalia, the U.S. modus operandi was on full display.

(See April 19 in Yemen: Another Day, Another Drone Killing )

Cutting Defense: Are We STUCK?

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a study this week based on survey data collected from over 2,000 respondents.

The survey has important data on Americans' attitudes toward foreign affairs and military issues, and includes comparative data from previous surveys stretching back decades. You can access Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment for free on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs website.

I've noticed four findings that are of special interest to me, starting with the following observation about American attitudes toward reducing military spending.

The bar graph reproduced below shows respondents attitudes toward U.S. military budgets, based on surveys conducted between 1974 and 2014.


Source: Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment, Chicago Council on Global Affairs


Here's what's striking to me: between 1990 (the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and 2002 (immediately after 9/11), there was a clear trend toward stronger and stronger support for expanding, and decreasing support for cutting back, defense spending. (Notably, there is always a core of 40% of the public who say "keep it the same.")

That trend was brought to a halt in 2004. By that time, the U.S. was engaged in two wars: in Iraq -- ostensibly to stop the spread of WMD -- and in Afghanistan -- ostensibly to punish the perpetrators of 9/11 and protect the United States.

Where have we ended up?  Right now we're "stuck" -- the portion of the public that wants to cut military spending has hovered in the high 20%s since 2004; it just can't seem to break the 30% barrier. (The percentage of people in favor of expansion is about the same.)

This leads me to two conclusions:

(1) We have had some success in the past decade in publicizing the idea of defense reductions.

(2) We need to do a lot more to move the needle -- and reach a critical mass of supporters who can bring about real reductions.

It also stimulates me to ask: how much of the change in attitudes toward defense spending is stemming from the growth in Tea Party and/or libertarian sentiment, as opposed to traditional antiwar sentiment?

And . . . to the degree that we are stuck . . . is it because we have failed to join the energies of these several strands of sentiment into a single, clearly articulated, impactful movement for defense reduction?


Watch this space for comments on other findings, relating to fighting terrorism, U.S.-conducted assassinations, and protecting American jobs.


Check out Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment for your self and see what conclusions YOU draw!


Related posts

Just like a family that has extra rooms in its house which inevitably become filled with stuff, the U.S. has thousands of bases -- here, there, and everywhere -- that inevitably create the "need" to spend.

(See What Will "Strategic" Mean in Our Children's Lifetime?)






What would happen if every member of Congress "adopted" a foreign military base and demonstrated what would happen if all the money spent there were brought home to local districts? Do you think the constituents would welcome THAT initiative?

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES!












People are talking about cuts to the military. It couldn't happen to a more deserving half of our national budget. HOWEVER . . . we need a lot more people jumping into this debate, because the cuts being talked about are too timid . . . AND because the most dangerous and illegitimate (and frequently illegal) forms of military force are being advocated for the "efficiency" and "cost-effectivneness."

(See Talk of the Town: Shrink the Military )