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Archive for the 'Military Studies' Category

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Joseph Cirincione talks Iran with Fareed Zakaria

Nuclear Nightmares

This week our featured book is Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late by Joseph Cirincione. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have a video from Joseph Cirincione’s recent interview with Fareed Zakaria

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Nuclear Nightmares!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The Nuclear Nightmares Still Lurking in Our World

Nuclear Nightmares

This week our featured book is Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late by Joseph Cirincione. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have a guest post from Joseph Cirincione in which he discusses the ongoing and worldwide danger from nuclear weapons.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Nuclear Nightmares!

The Nuclear Nightmares Still Lurking in Our World

Joe Cirincione

Most people think that the threat of nuclear weapons ended with the Cold War. They are dead wrong. Nuclear weapons still pose a clear and present danger, in the Middle East, in South Asia, on the Korean Peninsula and here in the United States.

My new book, Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It’s Too Late, takes us on a journey through today’s nuclear challenges, and lays out a clear path for how we can make the world safer, one step at a time.
(more…)

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Joseph Cirincione on Nuclear Policy in the Obama Administration

Nuclear Nightmares

This week our featured book is Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late by Joseph Cirincione. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have an excerpt from the introduction to Joseph Cirincione’s introduction to Nuclear Nightmares, in which Cirincione discusses the gripping and important story of nuclear policy under the Obama administration.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Nuclear Nightmares!

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late, by Joseph Cirincione

Nuclear Nightmares

This week our featured book is Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late by Joseph Cirincione. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Nuclear Nightmares. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on November 15th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Laura Sjoberg — What’s Wrong with FETs? Thoughts from Gendering Global Conflict

The following is a post by Laura Sjoberg, author of Gendering Global Conflict: Toward a Feminist Theory of War.

“The deployment of Female Engagement Teams seems ridiculous to me as a feminist scholar—women are not to be essentialized or instrumentalized; the idea that men are masculine and women are feminine is oversimple; this is a move to reify the gendered nature of war rather than to relieve it.”—Laura Sjoberg

Laura Sjoberg, Gendering Global ConflictOver the last couple of years, the US military has begun to employ FETs (Female Engagement Teams) in Afghanistan, characterizing their purpose as “to engage the female populace” of the country. The mission of these groups of female soldiers seems to be divided between victim services, trust building, influence seeking, and intelligence gathering. Many feminist scholars (e.g., Keally McBride and Annick T. R. Wibben) have expressed their deep concerns about both the effectiveness of FETs and the ideas about sex, gender, and warfare that their deployments suggest the US military holds.

My recent book, Gendering Global Conflict: Toward a Feminist Theory of War, is not about FETs specifically, but it does provide insight into this (and hopefully a number of other) problems of sex, gender, and war. It argues that, in order to understand fully how something like an FET became possible, we have to be able to see gender subordination and war-fighting as mutually constituted. Understanding that, it argues, provides insight into a number of other policy choices and theoretical assumptions in the security sector that might initially appear paradoxical when approached from a feminist perspective. The rest of this post discusses that with regard to FETs.

(more…)

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Interview with James Pettifer, author of The Kosova Liberation Army

The following is an interview with James Pettifer, author of The Kosova Liberation Army: Underground War to Balkan Insurgency, 1948-2001 :
The Kosova Liberation Army

Question: Some years have passed now since the main conflicts in the Balkans, and interest in them has been overtaken by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. What motivated you to write a book about the ethnic Albanian Kosova Liberation Army and its role in the conflict there in the late 1990’s?

James Pettifer: I had been very involved in the region for many years, as a foreign correspondent and as an academic. The war in Kosova was a success for NATO, in my opinion, and it was in danger of being forgotten as the later and much larger conflicts in the Middle East and with their much more problematic outcomes occupied public attention. And I felt the Kosova Liberation Army was a very interesting organisation, a rare example of a successful insurgency in the Balkans that had attracted outside support. I wanted to try to explore why this was, and above all why a tiny group of people with what many people would regard as an antiquated nationalist ideology were able to be so successful in modern Europe.

Q: You write a good deal about the support the Kosova Liberation Army received from different outside émigré groups, particularly in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. Why was this so important?

JP: The ethnic Albanians in Kosova were (and are still) in a poor landlocked country that few people have visited. Many of them had family members who had been forced to emigrate in order to find work, often after they were thrown out of their normal occupations in the Milosevic martial law period in Kosova after 1989. These people took away with them a strong resentment of Serbian rule, and a determination to help rescue their homeland from it. Switzerland was particularly important. Over 400,000 people of Albanian descent(mostly from Kosova) live there, and Swiss traditions of respect of the rights of political refugees are very important if you are conducting underground political activity that seeks to change the state you have come from in the first place. The United States Albanian Diaspora was also essential to the KLA. These émigrés had long nationalist traditions, and were very active in the wartime period.

(more…)

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Jennifer Morrison Taw on economic trade-offs and the military

“[Cost-benefit] analyses can be skewed and the resulting resource distributions out of whack if policymakers determine their objectives on the basis of the instruments at hand rather than determining which instruments they need on the basis of their objectives.” — Jennifer Morrison Taw

Mission RevolutionDefense spending is an important issue, particularly with discussion of the national debt and balancing the budget driving this year’s presidential election. In her post today, Jennifer Morrison Taw addresses defense spending from an unusual angle, asking how our defense budget impacts our foreign policy choices. Professor Taw, an assistant professor at Claremont McKenna College and former policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where she focused on counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and peacekeeping, is the author of Mission Revolution: The U.S. Military and Stability Operations.

The city of San Bernardino, California, recently went bankrupt. Now the citizens are debating where to make cuts that will allow for the town’s healthy future. One vocal faction led by a charismatic Dutch ex-patriot is calling for cuts to all non-essential services – including parks and libraries – so that resources can go to boosting police presence. The logic is: increasing policing reduces crime, which entices the middle class back into town, thus promoting growth. Several other groups of residents have put forward a very different approach. They want to scale back police and firefighters’ salaries to free up funds to put into paying for other public services. These people would prefer to emphasize quality of life over security, believing that the latter will follow the former.

This debate is replicated time and again on a much larger scale. It is at the foundation of competing counterinsurgency strategies, represents a crucial decision for nation builders, and underlies most countries’ allocation of their domestic resources, including our own. It is also at the heart of the question of how the U.S. can best promote its interests internationally. In this context, the question becomes: to what extent do we invest in the future over the long-term, hoping to divert crises with development programs and diplomacy, and to what extent do we prepare our defense capabilities to respond to contingencies when they do arise? It is pretty obvious how this equation has been worked out to date: in a very typical division of resources, the 2012 U.S. defense budget accounts for about 20 percent of the total annual budget and about 4 percent of the overall GDP; the spending on the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development together account for only 1 percent of the total 2012 budget.
(more…)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Aaron Belkin — Gay Marines, but No Gay Scouts

Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men

“Gay troops can fight for the country and be maimed or killed, but they can’t be scouts?”—Aaron Belkin

In a recent contribution to the New York Times‘s Room for Debate, Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, weighs in on the recent controversy regarding the Boy Scouts’ decision to affirm it policy of excluding gays.

In light of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in the military, Belkin finds the Boy Scouts’ policy “shocking”. The Scouts’ exclusionary tradition toward gays is sustained, Belkin argues, by the fantasy of militarized masculinity. In part, the creation of the Scouts was motivated by fears that the United States was becoming too feminine. It was believed that the Scouts would help prepare boys for military service. Aaron Belkin suggests that military values continue to shape the organization:

The Boy Scouts of America has always taken pride in its promotion of military values like hierarchy, conformity and bravery to prepare boys for manhood, and its Web site exalts that, “Boy Scouts prove themselves in an environment that challenges their courage and tests their nerve.” Understood from this perspective, the intimate, longstanding partnership between the military and scouting is not just about recruiting, but reflects a more profound effort to inculcate boys with martial priorities.

(more…)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Aaron Belkin on Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military

Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men

“Respect for the troops is important. But when respect turns into uncritical idealization, that can easily slip into a mode of thinking in which people assume that what’s good for the military is good for America.”—Aaron Belkin

In a recent interview with Time‘s blog Battleland , Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, discusses a range of issues including sexual violence in the U.S. military, the dangers of idealizing the armed forces and soldiers, and .

He begins the interview by discussing how his own efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) led to him writing Bring Me Men. He wrote the book, in part, to apologize for his activism to end DADT required him to glorify the military and U.S. foreign policy. Belkin argues that an unthinking glorification of the troops leads to a greater militarization of U.S. society. He worries that an assumption that what is good for the military is good for the country leads to a militarization of society, greater spending on defense, and a greater willingness to go to war.

In terms of sexual violence in the U.S. military, Belkin conservatively estimates that there are 2,200 incidents of male-male each year. The military’s hierarchical structure creates a slave/master dynamic and when combined with its emphasis on violence, the likelihood of rape increases. Belkin argues that the emphasis on masculine culture leads to a silencing of this issue:

The male warrior is supposed to have a completely impermeable, sealed-up body that cannot be penetrated by anything. But at the same time, male warriors are often expected to endure rape, to “take it like a man.” And, these opposing expectations illustrate the broader range of contradictions associated with military masculinity, in that troops are expected to be masculine and feminine, civilized and barbaric, dirty and clean, and so on.

(more…)

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Aaron Belkin – “This Is Not Who We Are”: Contradictory Expectations in the US Military

“American warrior identities are contradictory, in that service members are expected to be civilized and barbaric, dominant and subordinate, rapist and rape victim. They are told to be paragons of virtue, and we express shock when they misbehave.” — Aaron Belkin

Today we are re-posting an earlier essay from Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001.

Reminder you can still win a FREE copy of Bring Me Men. For more on the book, you can also read an excerpt .

Bring Me MenRecently, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta invoked a familiar theme in responding to photographs of U.S. service members posing alongside body parts of Afghan militants when he asserted that, “This is not who we are.” In March, when an American soldier was accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said exactly the same thing. And, more than a century ago, in 1902, Secretary of War Elihu Root reacted to accusations of torture among U.S. troops in the Philippines in a similar manner.

American officials often use the same formula to dismiss accounts of military atrocities, attributing misconduct to rogue service members – “rotten apples” – rather than anything fundamental about the troops or the armed forces. While the military does not avowedly embrace cruelty, and while most service members follow the rules most of the time, a more plausible, if radioactive, explanation for the consistency of stories about misconduct is that U.S. troops sometimes engage in brutal, sadistic behavior because of how they are trained. Official disclaimers notwithstanding, cruelty is a part of “who we are.”

(more…)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Aaron Belkin on Military Masculinity

“Americans have been encouraged to understand military masculinity as an archetypal expression of democracy. But there is something profoundly undemocratic about military masculinity and the way in which public adulation of it is premised on a disavowal of its blemishes.”—Aaron Belkin


Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men
We continue our week-long focus on Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, by Aaron Belkin with an excerpt from the introduction. You can read the full introduction here and you can also win a free copy of Bring Me Men:

Military masculinity is not what it seems to be

Professor George Brown, who has studied and counseled transgender veterans for more than two decades at the Johnson City, Tennessee, Veterans Administration hospital, has found that some pre-operative male-to-female (MTF) transgender service members in the U.S. armed forces have volunteered for dangerous missions to prove their masculinity. Brown says that prior to reaching a stage of acceptance, transgender persons often seek to prove to themselves that they are not transgender, a phenomenon he refers to as the “flight from transgender.” Pre-operative MTF transgender veterans told him that during the Vietnam War, they sought to demonstrate the correctness of their given, biological sex by affirming their masculinity beyond doubt. To do so, they volunteered as “tunnel rats” who infiltrated underground enemy complexes, pistol in hand, to kill as many Vietnamese as possible. They believed that if they lived, they would prove their masculinity, which in turn would confirm their biological status as men and hence not transgender, and that they would not need to go through the painful and stigmatized sex transition from man to woman. And if they died, that would be an acceptable price to pay for achieving the status of a real man. Brown told a journalist that “They’re so uncomfortable with who they are that they’d rather have it beaten out of them or die
trying….”

(more…)

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Book Giveaway: Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001

Our featured book this week is Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, by Aaron Belkin.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a FREE copy of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001 to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book, you can read the first chapter.

Here’s what Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War wrote about

One of the smartest analysts of today’s United States military, Aaron Belkin challenges the too-simple presumption that an uncomplicated militarized masculinity dominates American soldiers’ lives. Instead, through grittily graphic cases, he reveals a dense web of gender confusions and contradictions that foster a culture of obedience inside the military, while nurturing a dangerously undemocratic set of myths among civilians. A timely, significant book.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Stephen Tankel — Afghan War Is Not Over Yet

Storming the World StageYesterday, CNN.com published “Afghan War Is Not Over Yet,” by Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the author of Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba. In this article, Tankel takes a detailed look at the unsettled political situation in Central Asia after President Obama’s announcement of the “irreversible” plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Tankel sees a great deal of uncertainty that must be resolved and a wide variety of challenges that must be be met before any successful withdrawal can be effected.

He first questions the efficacy of the Afghan National Army in maintaining stability:

The Afghan National Army is already taking the lead in regions with roughly 75% of the population, with U.S. and other NATO troops acting as support. However, this does not include the most contested areas in the south and east, where Afghan forces are slated to assume responsibility by next summer. Serious doubts persist about their readiness to do so.

Despite significant training efforts, the army’s level of competence remains in question. It lacks many of the support functions needed for war fighting. The army will remain dependent on international forces for these capabilities and on the international community for financial assistance, expected to cost at least $4 billion a year.

(more…)

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Aaron Belkin – “This Is Not Who We Are”: Contradictory Expectations in the US Military

Today we have a guest post from Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001. Belkin is associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University and director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. In Bring Me Men, Belkin delves into the contradictions inherent in America’s conception of military masculinity.

Bring Me MenRecently, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta invoked a familiar theme in responding to photographs of U.S. service members posing alongside body parts of Afghan militants when he asserted that, “This is not who we are.” In March, when an American soldier was accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said exactly the same thing. And, more than a century ago, in 1902, Secretary of War Elihu Root reacted to accusations of torture among U.S. troops in the Philippines in a similar manner.

American officials often use the same formula to dismiss accounts of military atrocities, attributing misconduct to rogue service members – “rotten apples” – rather than anything fundamental about the troops or the armed forces. While the military does not avowedly embrace cruelty, and while most service members follow the rules most of the time, a more plausible, if radioactive, explanation for the consistency of stories about misconduct is that U.S. troops sometimes engage in brutal, sadistic behavior because of how they are trained. Official disclaimers notwithstanding, cruelty is a part of “who we are.”
(more…)