Jan 13

(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2015: Police Shootings", check out the articles below...

- Learnings from Kunar: Police Shootings and the Lessons of Counterinsurgency

- Winning the Battle but Losing the Crime War: Three More Connections to COIN and Police Shootings

- Wolves, Sheepdogs and the Cops I Know

Starting today, we’ll be writing about our most thought-provoking event of the year. Judging by media coverage, three issues dominated 2015: ISIS, mass shootings and police shootings. And the winner is...

Police shootings.

(Yeah, it’s not really a singular event, though our choices rarely are, like the Green Revolution in Iran (2009), Wikileaks (2010), the Arab Spring (2011), Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks (2013), and Iraq re-descending into chaos (2014) last year. Our 2012 picks (Petraeus and Benghazi) were singular events, then we paired them together.)

First off, focusing on terrorism or mass shootings would be, in some ways, a disservice to our readers. Both events remain incredibly rare, statistically. Gun violence, overall, is down in America and your chances of dying from a terrorist attack remain infinitesimally small. In short, you can’t decry buying a ticket for the Powerball and worry about terrorism...they have the same likelihood. Yet both will probably remain a part of society for a long time. Crazy people will keep using guns or bombs to scare the rest of society for political purposes (terrorists) or gain fame (mass shooters).

Ironically, as well, if we focus on those events, though we’d be telling people not to be scared, it may still have the opposite effect. On the Media explains:

“Scholarship has made more than clear, that even when the media try to debunk a rumor, that the very process of debunking tends to cement the misinformation in the minds of people who don't necessarily want the debunkitude.”

More importantly, for the “Most thought-provoking event of the year”, neither ISIS nor mass shootings inspired a lot of fresh ideas. Hence, the “thought-provoking” part. Here’s our take on the Paris attacks:

- 138 people is a very small number, statistically. That may sound cold, but it’s true. France has a population of over 60 million, and Paris over 2 million. The chances of being killed by terrorism is tiny.

- Disagree with what I wrote above? Am I being hyperbolic? Not as hyperbolic as conservatives who say, citing the deaths of 138 people out of 60 million, that ISIS is an existential threat to America.

- Our (America’s, Europe’s) reaction to this attack was a massive over-reaction. France suspended their Constitution (including a free press) and issued mass arrests.

- Then, of course, ironically, this over-reaction alienates more Muslims. Did you know that Muslims make up 70% of French prisons, but only 8% of the population?

Yeah. Covered that issue. Here’s our take mass shootings: get rid of guns. Sure, we could write a lot more proving this, but reading all the studies, more guns equals more gun deaths. Here’s our only original take: when terrorists start using lax American gun laws to attack Americans, well, that’s probably the end of gun rights. (Unless we make laws that selectively target Muslims for gun control, and well, that’s the end of religious liberty.)

But with police shootings, we have tons to say and write about. They represent something bigger, the way the state--which should have a monopoly on violence--uses that monopoly. But no other thoughts are more important than this one:

The coverage of police shootings actually represents a positive step forward for America.

The issue around police shootings (and really this goes back to 2014 with the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown) isn’t that police are shooting civilians at a higher rate. We actually don’t know if unjustified police shootings are going up or down. Law enforcement doesn’t keep good records. But what we do know, thanks to the rise in cell phone cameras, is that they’re being filmed and broadcast to the world. Technology is holding police officers accountable. It is no longer one man’s word against the dead.

And this publicity is leading to all sorts of smart, long-term positive changes to law enforcement, including body cameras for police, a rise in the prosecution of bad cops, the push to document police shootings, and the release of personnel records in police departments across America. This will change the country for the better.

And we have a lot more ideas. We’ll hit on long-running On V themes, like whether cops are wolves or sheepdogs. We’ll relate this discussion to counter-insurgency. We’ll talk about the ironies of race and gun rights. We’ll write about the philosophy of violence. Most importantly, we’ll offer solutions.

So stay tuned.

Jan 11

On Wednesday, Michael C wrote about the best news stories of 2015, highlighting the great news from last year. (Especially the story people didn’t hear about, the success of the Millennium Development Goals and the ratification of the new Sustainable Development Goals.) The world is getting better, even if most people don’t realize it.

But we weren’t the only writers with this hot (but needed) take. Here’s a collection of some other people who wrote on this same theme:

John Cassidy in the New Yorker

John Cassidy opens his collection of six good news stories basically explaining our thesis about the media and pessimism:

“But 2015, believe it or not, was also a year of positive developments, many of which were underreported. Generally speaking, good-news stories aren’t as dramatic or as salient as bad news, so journalists and news organizations tend to give them short shrift. I’m as guilty of this as anybody else. So here, as penance for my sins of omission, are some thoughts on six uplifting developments from the past twelve months.”

Agreed on all point, except we could do with a resolution trying to change going forward. He cited many of the same good news stories we did, but also hit on the successful eradications efforts of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We’ll be using this example in the coming weeks of a news story that grabbed headlines when things were going bad, then was ignored when the problem was solved.

Charles Kenny in the Atlantic

To close the year, Charles Kenny added another collection of the massively good news for humanity, compared to the past. For example, did you know, in spite of the mass shootings...

“The latest FBI statistics, reported this September, suggested that the trend toward lower rates of violent crime in the United States that began in the early 1990s continued at least through 2014: There were nearly 3,000 fewer violent crimes that year than the year before and more than 600,000 fewer than in 1995—that’s a 35 percent decline over the period. The latest data from the UN suggests that this is part of a global trend—to take one category of violent crime, homicide rates have dropped by an estimated 6 percent in the countries for which data was available between 2000 and 2012.”

And he points out how unlikely terrorism is. We love articles that collect good news like this one. It is an especially good addition to the small “World is getting better” canon, because it rebuts the terrifying headlines that dominated the news in 2015.

Slate’s Year of Good News

Not to be out done, Slate collected a good news story for every day last year. While many of their good news stories are less substantial than Cassidy’s or not focused on long-term trends like Charles Kenny, they do reaffirm that good things happen everyday. We just don’t hear about them.

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe

Jeff Jacoby pushes back against the notion that the world is getting worse, citing an especially silly AP article from 2008 with the headline, “Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control.” Jacoby hits many of the same issues as we did, including Ebola and the decline of crime in America. He, for instance, pointed out the rise in female literacy from the 1970s (40% globally) to 2015 (93%). He also called out all the peaceful democratic transfers of power last year:

"Thugs with weapons wrought undisputed horrors in places like Syria and Libya, yet there were democratic elections and peaceful transfers of power too — in countries ranging from Nigeria to Argentina to Myanmar to Burkina Faso. And Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet received the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for proving that democracy and pluralism could be nurtured even in the Arab world’s stony soil."

Lesley Hazleton in The Accidental Theologist

Finally, friend of the blog Don Gomez of Carrying the Gun sent this post on Twitter which has the wonderful thesis:

“In end-of-the-year phone calls from friends near and far, many express despair at the state of the world. I fully understand why, but I don’t accept their despair. In fact I can make a strong argument against it. Because what has changed is not so much the world itself, but our awareness of it.”

In 2016, let’s try to remember that thesis every day, not just at the end.

Jan 06

Usually we start the new year with our “Most Thought-Provoking Event”. And next week we will. On Violence is going to get into some very dark, ugly subject matter. Upsetting territory. Spoiler alert: the most thought-provoking event of the year will be police shootings. But before we dive into the muck, let’s make one thing very clear:

2015 was a GREAT year.

Not just a good year. A great year. Possibly the best year in human history. We live longer than ever. We live better than ever. We live safer than ever. We’re the most educated society in human history producing more (and better) art than at any time in human history. Literally, if I asked you to pick a better year than 2015, you would either pick 2015, or some other year in the past five. This isn’t our opinion; it is math.

So we need to celebrate this. In a new tradition, here is our list of the best news stories you probably heard about...just not as much as mass shootings or ISIS.

Best News Story of 2015: The Iran Nuclear Deal

Our winner for the best news story of 2015 was the Iran and P5+1 deal over Iranian nuclear enrichment. By the end of 2015, Iran shipped the remainder of its low-enriched uranium to Russia as part of the deal.

This single story averted more loss of life than ISIS, terrorism and Syria combined. A war with Iran that would have involved Israel, Europe, the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia could have caused millions of casualties. The political and economic instability would have been even more catastrophic. The US casualties alone, as we’ve written about, could have dwarfed the Iraq war in a matter of months.

Beyond just averting a terrible outcome, the Iranian nuclear deal represents a chance to bring a country the size of Afghanistan and Iraq combined back into the global fold. We can turn an adversary into an ally. The nuclear deal was the first step.

(As a bonus, when Iranian oil comes online oil prices will fall further, hurting OPEC’s cartel.)

Second Best: Sustainable Development Goals

This is really a two part accomplishment. Fifteen years ago, nations around the world agreed to try to end global poverty and child mortality, as a part of the Millennium Development Goals. In large part, the world succeeded. The number of people living on less than a $1.25 a day decreased from 47% to 14%. The number of maternal deaths in childbirth fell by nearly 50%. The deaths of kids under 5 fell nearly 50% as well.

So earlier this year, the nations of the world reconvened after years of deliberation to create a new set of goals for 2030. You might not have heard because most of the news coverage during the signing was about Pope Francis visiting the US. (He visited to speak at the SDG conference.) And let me get this out of the way: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are more convoluted and will be harder to achieve than their forerunners. These new goals are definitely more bureaucratic than the last round, but still an important tool in human advancement.

Final thought: Did you hear about this terrific news story? Probably not. Did you hear about ISIS? Our point exactly. The Millennium Development Goals did more good than ISIS could ever do evil.

Third Best: Paris Climate Accord

Perhaps you’ve noticed a trend in these good news stories. They all feature massive deals by bureaucracies to change policy. Nothing about that previous sentence is sexy, but the truth is, these sorts of agreements will change the world in ways private organizations just can’t. It’s like charity. Private groups can donate millions of dollars, but one change by the federal government can allocate more money than them combined ever could.

If you want to go in a different direction, just look at China choosing to fight global warming or the rise in green energy in America. These changes can do more than the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation and NRDC combined.

And similar to the SDGs, the Paris Accord has its own problems. On its own, it won’t reduce CO2 emissions enough to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius worldwide. But the accord got pledges from nearly every nation and it has mechanisms to increase commitments over time. This political agreement combined with technological advancement is our best hope to stop global warming.

Fourth Best: Renewing Diplomatic Relationships between America and Cuba

We like allies. We especially like making allies when there’s no reason to not be allies with someone, like say a country just off the coast of Florida that we’re enemies with due to a conflict that ended 25 years earlier, in which the majority of Americans (even young Cubans) supports easing tensions.

Yeah, good call.

Jul 08

This article is a quick addendum to last week’s post about terrorism and self-driving cars (referred to here often as Google cars) where I wrote about the already-burgeoning fears of terrorists using self-driving cars as a weapon. But I should point out:

People are already afraid of self-driving cars.

Thanks Ultron, T-1000, HAL 9000 and whatever-the-robot’s-name-is in Ex Machina. Yes, people inherently distrust machines and computers. More importantly, they question their competence. Anecdotally, at our last family get together, I had a long discussion with someone who just couldn’t accept the idea that cars could drive better than humans.

The media isn’t helping. While I was writing up last week’s post, the AP released a “stunning” report about Google cars. They’re getting into accidents! Here’s a sampling of Google News (ironic, right?) headlines about the story:

USA TODAY: Google says its self-driving cars have had 11 crashes

San Jose Mercury News: Google reveals 11 self-driving car accidents in 6 years

MarketWatch: Google's self-driving cars are getting into accidents

Los Angeles Times: Google acknowledges 11 accidents with its self-driving cars

Business Insider: Google's self-driving cars have been getting in accidents in California

The Hill: Google: Self-driving cars had 11 'minor' accidents

Quartz: Google's driverless cars have been involved in four car accidents

Sounds bad, right? 11 accidents! That’s higher the national average!

For my grammar nerds, though, you’ll notice the oddly-shaped sentence structure, leaning on passive voice, “have been involved” being the best example. So how bad are Google cars? A quote from The Verge’s accurately titled article, “Google's self-driving cars have been in 11 accidents, but none were the car's fault”:

“First, the raw numbers: there have been 11 accidents in total, all minor, which Google asserts were never the fault of the car. Seven involved another vehicle rear-ending the Google car, two were sideswipes, and one involved another car traveling through a red light.”

Yes, Google cars “were involved” in 11 accidents--no injuries, all minor crashes--but in each case, humans were at fault. And these fender-bender accidents, it turns out, are the same type of accident most people don’t report to federal authorities. (They don’t want their insurance rates to go up.)

For anyone keeping track on the humans versus self-driving cars scoreboard: Google cars: 0, Humans: 11. These numbers come from Google, so we have to take their word for it. That said, regulators are going to come down hard on Google to prove their cars are safe, so I trust them. Google also plans to release monthly accident reports. And you better believe if Google hits someone, that someone would go to the media if Google didn’t report it.

Google, in response to the news stories and headlines, wrote up an article on their self-driving cars. Instead of disputing the accidents--they didn’t--they explained how terrible humans are at driving.

Discussing this issue--just to put it out there, we love self-driving cars--Michael C and I determined that this news story actually works in Google’s favor. Google is already tracking how bad humans are at driving. They’re not just going to figure out if their cars are safer than industry standard accidents; they’re going to prove that humans are actually worse. And the next wave of headlines, in early June when Google released its first monthly report, were more in the self-driving car/Google’s favor.

In other words, reporters and editors love “shocking” headlines, but our fears about self-driving cars are woefully misplaced.

(Unless you are a taxi cab, uber or truck driver.)

May 11

(Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here.)

We had so many links about the world getting safer, that we had to split last week’s post into two. Here’s the second set of updates...

Steven Pinker, Yet Again, Makes the Case the World is Getting Safer

Stephen Pinker’s first TED talk on the decreasing likelihood of war turned us on to this topic, and helped make it a passion. (Same with John Horgan’s research from a Radiolab episode.) But it never hurts to re-review the evidence.

And Pinker does this in this Slate article published in December, “The World is Not Falling Apart”. Most relevantly, Pinker and co-writer Andrew Mack admonish us to ignore the headlines. They explain that headlines, especially in a cable news and Twitter world, focus on violent events much more than non-violent events. They point out that homicides in the US, UK and worldwide have dropped, violence against women is at historic lows, and wars are increasingly less likely.

Here’s our favorite quote (from the conclusion):

Too much of our impression of the world comes from a misleading formula of journalistic narration. Reporters give lavish coverage to gun bursts, explosions, and viral videos, oblivious to how representative they are and apparently innocent of the fact that many were contrived as journalist bait. Then come sound bites from “experts” with vested interests in maximizing the impression of mayhem: generals, politicians, security officials, moral activists. The talking heads on cable news filibuster about the event, desperately hoping to avoid dead air. Newspaper columnists instruct their readers on what emotions to feel.

"There is a better way to understand the world. Commentators can brush up their history—not by rummaging through Bartlett’s for a quote from Clausewitz, but by recounting the events of the recent past that put the events of the present in an intelligible context. And they could consult the analyses of quantitative data sets on violence that are now just a few clicks away.

John Horgan responded to Pinker, arguing that America needs to do more to make the world safer. (This may have inspired a debate between Eric C and myself. Coming soon.)

And Vox Also Makes the Case

Not much more to say than this, but Vox has a article “26 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better” that, like other posts, pretty convincingly makes the argument that the world is, indeed, getting much, much better.

My personal favorite graphs are:

1. The worldwide deaths from war per capita. It’s down to almost nothing.

2. Comparing European homicide rates through the ages.

And the World is More Democratic

And here’s another compilation of evidence that the world is getting better. It relates to the comments section of one of our last posts on the world getting safer. A reader pushed back, citing North Korea as an example of a violent nation, because it isn’t democratic. The people of North Korea, he argued, live under a constant threat of violence from the state.

We actually agree. Dictatorships are inherently violent. A peaceful world that consists of only dictatorships? That’s not progress. But it turns out this is the world is getting more democratic as well.

If you want to debunk the world is getting safer argument, you need to avoid obvious logical fallacies. Don’t cite anecdotes, cite statistics. You can’t say, “The world isn’t getting safer because X event happened.” (In this case, North Korea being undemocratic.) You have to research whether the world is becoming less democratic overall.

Will Global Warming Cause More War?

Indeed, some have even blamed the conflict in Syria on global warming. As the climate changes, this will disturb populations, the thinking goes, spreading conflict. A paper even came out showing a causal link! Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer says not so fast, the evidence isn’t all quite in.

Finally, a “Quote Behaving Well”

In our post, “The Best Comment On Violence Has Ever Received”, we simply reposted a commenter’s thoughts--”Martin”--verbatim. He spoke about de-escalating a conflict with troublesome students, and we applied it to another future war in the Middle East (Israel, the U.S. and Iran). Stephen Walt echoed a similar theme when he relayed an amazing Churchill quote along these lines. (Not a quote behaving badly because Walt included the link to the actual book passage where Churchill wrote this.)

“In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill."

May 07

(Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here.)

As we promised last week, we’ve got links and links and links arguing that, yes, the world is getting safer. (A second post is coming Monday...)

The Demise of Ares

The article “The Demise of Ares” by Bruno Tertais is so good we had to make it the sub-title for this section.

He, again, shows that long-term war is decreasing in all fronts. I particularly like the opening paragraph as a rejoinder to Frank Hoffman’s “Plato Was Dead Wrong” (who we debunked here) when Hoffman used the example of Prime Minister William Pitt, who predicted peace in Europe and was proved wrong by the Napoleonic wars, as an argument against the world getting safer. Well…

“In 1990, U.S. political scientist John Mearsheimer predicted that we would soon ‘‘miss the Cold War.’’ In the months and years that followed, the eruption of bloody conflicts in the Balkans and in Africa gave birth to fears of a new era of global chaos and anarchy. Authors such as Robert Kaplan and Benjamin Barber spread a pessimistic vision of the world in which new barbarians, liberated from the disciplines of the East — West conflict, would give a free rein to their ancestral hatreds and religious passions. Journalists James Dale Davidson and William Rees - Mogg chimed in that violence would reassert itself as the common condition of life. Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that the planet was about to become a ‘‘pandemonium.’

“These prophets of doom were wrong.”

So well-trained, wise and learned academics, politicians and pundits have both predicted the end of war and the impending epidemic of war. Who should we believe? I say the people with the data.

Sebastian Junger and the Deep Roots of War

John Horgan--who we really don’t link to enough--reviewed Sebastian Junger’s latest documentary, The Last Patrol here. A few On V connections immediately stood out to us. (Check out our reviews of Junger’s previous book and documentary War and Restrepo.)

First, Horgan writes, “[Junger] started traveling to war zones because he hoped war would make him a man, and his hope was fulfilled. ‘I became the man I wanted to be,’ he says.” As we’ve written before, this is a terrible justification for war. Our argument is simple, “...no one should have to prove their self worth by killing someone else.” We’d add, “Or documenting the killing of someone else.”

Next, Horgan takes down the psychological theories behind much of Junger’s work.

“Junger espouses what I call the deep-roots theory of war, which holds that natural selection embedded the urge to wage war in the genes of males. 'The politically incorrect truth,' he once said, 'Is that war is extremely ingrained in us—in our evolution as humans—and we’re hardwired for it.' He expands on this notion in War, citing deep-roots proponents such as chimp researcher Richard Wrangham.

“Ironically, I saw Last Patrol at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in October. Mead, the great anthropologist, rejected the deep-roots theory–and with good reason, because the evidence for the theory is flimsy.”

Horgan’s book The End of War explains why in much greater detail and we highly recommend it.

Are Militaries an “Industry in Decline”?

In a word, yes. The Monkey Cage provides a pretty interesting set of graphs illustrating this phenomena. It turns out that most of the world’s militaries and military populations have shrunk.

Often, pseudo-philosophers caution of World War I, World War II or the Napleonic era to warn that war could break out again. They often ignore that--especially before World War I--Europe had witnessed a multi-decade growth in military spending. A decline in the world’s militaries is only a good thing. (H/T to the now no-longer-blogging Andrew Sullivan.)

It also forces you question those who want us to increase or maintain the size of the American military (especially many of those folks incorrectly believe the world is a dangerous place). As a cautionary note, The Economist wrote in November of last year that spending in Africa on the military had recently spiked.

May 06

Today marks the sixth anniversary of On Violence. Like last year's anniversary, we aren’t really in a reflective mood. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. A lot of post ideas and a lot of series. We’re finishing up some topics and moving forwards on others.

Stay tuned!

Apr 20

As we wait for (hopefully) another guest piece to go up somewhere, enjoy this “On V Update to Old Ideas”.

Ebole Updates!

First off, some good news: last year, when we wrote about Ebola--click here and here to read those posts--we repeated a warning from scientists, “Ebola could become more dangerous if it, ironically, becomes less dangerous. If the disease mutates in a way that allows more victims to live and live longer, it could become a pandemic by not burning out too quickly.”

Because the international community took so long to act, we (humanity) increased the risk of making Ebola more dangerous. Turns out, though, we dodged a pathogenic bullet on this one. According to the Los Angeles Times, “...new research published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that the virus is undergoing only limited mutational changes, and is no more virulent than when the outbreak began.”

Just to point it out: we are correcting ourselves. In other words, early reports were too pessimistic. At least the Los Angeles Times corrected the record. Most news outlets, when offered the opportunity to correct the record, don’t. This is also a good warning on general science reporting: early reports are often wrong and inaccurate.

As we mentioned earlier and in our original posts, the international community took way too long to react to Ebola. But the bigger concern is our country’s focus on reactive policies, instead of proactive policies. Julia Belluz at Vox (linking to the New York Times) has great article describing how America’s reaction--impromptu treatment facilities in affected countries--has utterly failed.

Too Many Munich Moments!

The day after we finished writing about Ebola last December, Michael C wrote, “How Do We Stop the Worst Analogy in Foreign Policy?” in which he joined the chorus of pundits asking that the “Munich” analogy be killed. Of course, we failed to convince a few politicians complaining about the new Iran agreement on nuclear weapons, including...

    - Ted Cruz

    - Mark Kirk

    - Tom Cotton

    - John Bolton

    - Victor Davis Hanson (The Washington Times)

    - Michael Markovsky (The Weekly Standard)

    - William Kristol (The Weekly Standard)

    - Roger Simon (PJ Media)

    - Joel Pollak (Breitbart)

    - Thomas Sowell (National Review)

Each of the above pundits and politicians, arguing against a deal with Iran, immediately argued, “This is Munich!” How rhetorically depressing is this? It’s as unsurprising as it is disappointing.

To highlight the good news, some writers pushed back, including Paul Waldmen in The Washington Post, Jim Newell at Salon, Dominic Tierney at The Atlantic, and Amanda Taub at Vox. It’s a point that can’t be remade enough.

Rick Perry Hates Isolationism...and Foreign Aid

Another fun fact, related to rhetoric and foreign policy: as Michael C wrote in “I’m an Isolationist?”, some politicians accuse people who don’t want to invade foreign countries of being isolationists. In July last year, Rick Perry wrote a Washington Post op-ed stating just that, “Isolationist policies make the threat of terrorism even greater”.

But what’s rick Perry’s stance on foreign aid spending?

A quick google search reveals this headline, “Perry: My foreign aid budget starts at zero” from the Republican primary in 2012. So he isn’t an isolationist, but he wants the U.S. to isolate itself from all other countries with zero foreign aid spending. To be fair, Rick Perry’s position was more nuanced than that--after cutting the budget to zero, he wants to re-analyze all foreign aid allocations on a yearly basis, which is beyond impractical--but the overall message is the same: fighting wars abroad is fine, supporting other countries peacefully is not a priority.

Saudi Arabia Sucks Compared to Iran

America does not get along with Iran...because they’re evil. After President Obama wrote a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year, Mitt Romney “...was frankly stunned that the president of the United States would write a letter of that nature and in effect, legitimize a nation and a leadership which is violating international norms and is threatening the world.

As we’ve written before--and discussed in the comments section of our Iran post two weeks ago--these norms are incredibly inconsistent. Take, for example, Saudi Arabia. Did you know they’ve outlawed movie theaters? Did you know saudi Arabia awarded a prize to an Islamic scholar who called 9/11 an inside job? Did you know they still behead people? And they’re beheading people at a faster rate this year than last year.

Speaking of Self-Interest…

In January 2014, Zack Beauchamp had a great article on Henry Kissinger, “The Toxic Cult of Henry Kissinger”. First, Zack breaks down the actual divide in American politics is “not the split between Left and Right, or civil libertarians and security state hawks, or interventionists and non-interventionists. It's between those who buy into the cult of America's national interest and those who don't.”

This is an awesome way to look at American foreign policy, and how to fix it.

More importantly, Zach describes Kissinger’s many war crimes and how that doesn’t seem to affect either his esteem or celebrity. Why? Because the American security establishment supports Kissinger’s actions because they supported America, no matter how shorted or immoral.