References for 100 Ways America is Screwing Up the World

Chapters 51-60


51 Empty (Headed) Threats of War

The quotation from the Indian political party spokesman comes from George Perkovich, “Think Again: Nuclear Proliferation,” Foreign Policy (Fall 1998).  Perkovich wrote an excellent book, India's Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (University of California Press, 2001).  The National Security Archive has plenty on this 1971 episode.  None of this is a secret, though it’s my speculation—buttressed by comments like the one I quote—suggesting how the policy backfired. 

Castro’s ability to take advantage of American bluster is well known and needs no references.  On Iran, a more recent target—well, 27 years now—the facts are also well known.  The tilt toward Iraq, the talk and action toward toppling the regime, the embargoes and sanctions, the relentlessly tough talk.  Admadinejad’s election was in part a reaction to the belligerency toward Iran from the White House.  His approval ratings are soaring there. From the somber Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University: “The tragedy of a misguided and inflexible American policy toward Iran is not only that it may result in real violence, let alone the further escalation of rhetorical violence between the two sides; more importantly, and from a long-term perspective, it will only strengthen the most rigidly conservative groups within the Iranian ruling elite at the expense of all other voices inside Iran.” (Naghmeh Sohrabi)

Here was Juan Cole’s reaction at the time of the election in his indispensable Informed Comment web site. “It is likely that the Iranian electorate's swing to the Right reflects in part a deep unease about being surrounded by the United States, which has troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Post-revolutionary Iranians are nationalistic and determined to maintain their national independence, and all the talk by the Bush administration about regime change, aggressive action against Iran over its nuclear research program [which so far appears to have been conducted within the limits set by the Non-Proliferation Treaty], and the illegitimacy of the Iranian elections themselves, appears to have contributed to the greater success of the hardliners.” Iran is a specialty of Cole, a University of Michigan professor and respected scholar.

52  America as Victim

It’s actually gotten worse since I penned (okay, typed) those words in January 2006.  The drumbeat of blame against the MSM (mainstream media) as the cause of our demise in Iraq is relentless.  Do you think Al Qaeda is feeding off those Paul Krugman columns in the New York Times?  Military morale is supposedly the dependent variable here, but just about everyone who looks at it—including the likes of G. Gordon Liddy, for Christ sakes—says morale is fine.  And the attacks on Murtha!  What the right won’t acknowledge is that many field commanders are speaking through Murtha.  That’s a morale problem. Pace quotation is interesting because he knows it’s his own colleagues who are doing the talking.  And Pace went on to say the morale of the troops was fine. 

Enough with the allusions to Vietnam. Yes, they’re hard to resist. But the deep sense of shame that most Americans feel about Vietnam (for different reasons) simply clouds the issue of Iraq.  The same with the war on terrorism and the Cold War, or World War II. 

Immigration politics has taken an even uglier turn.  It’s about displaced anger as far as I can tell. Look at my piece and the references for a dispassionate treatment of this.  There is a special kind of mean-spirited lunacy to the depths of disinformation and alarmism about what amounts to a non-threat—in fact, a net plus for America.  I’ll take this up again later.  

53  The Imperialism of Knowledge

Remarkably little is written on this subject, although it is imbedded in much historical work in particular, and insider critiques of international development.  For one brilliant and accessible essay, see “The Imperialism of Categories: Situating Knowledge in a Globalizing World,” by Susanne Hoeber Rudolph in her 2004 presidential address at the American Political Science Association meeting.  Well worth reading.  It has insights for many of the topics I take up. 

The academic dimensions are taken up by Frederick Cooper and Randall Packard, editors, International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays on the History and Politics of Knowledge (California, 1998).  Anything by Cooper is something to take seriously.  See his Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (California, 2005), and the volume he coedited with my old friends at the Social Science Research Council, Craig Calhoun and Kevin Moore, Lessons of Empire: Imperial Histories and American Power (The New Press, 2006). 

The NACLA special issue of Report on the Americas, “Empire and Dissent,” has an essay by one of the leading thinkers on this matter, Ricardo Salvatore.  It requires a registration to access. This was another SSRC project.  Also see this personal account of history in the making.  And here, another analysis from the Pacific, and this, perhaps more immediate for Americans: “Knowledge, Disillusionment, Imperialism: The Peace Corps In the Philippines,” by Rena Diamond. 

See, too, Sheldon Watts, Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism (Yale University Press, 1997); here is a thoughtful review.  Another insightful take on this is Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, editors, Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History (Duke 2005), and this review.


54  Cuba

Much is written about Cuba.  In our political process, little is understood.

On the state of Cuba’s economy and social well being, see the Human Development Report.  On repression, see Human Rights Watch.  On U.S.-Cuba symbiosis and shaping American policy, see Philip Brenner, Patrick J. Haney & Walter Vanderbush, “The Confluence of Domestic and International Interests: U.S. Policy Toward Cuba, 1998–2001,” International Studies Perspectives, 3:2 (May 2002).  And this thoughtful piece from the American Prospect.

Books: Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff, The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke 2004) is serious and variegated.  Louis A. P'erez, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution (Oxford, 1995), is a respected history; see also his acclaimed On Becoming Cuban : Identity, Nationality, and Culture (HarperPerennial, 2001). 

55  Oceans

Here is the Pew Oceans Commission report, which lays out much of what you need to know---including what to do. Another place to go is this highly informative site that is "kids friendly" and has information on a broad variety of environmental topics---Eco-Pros. A coalition site dedicated to these matters, also exceptionally wise, is Save the High Seas.

Here is a quick fact sheet on oceans from Environmental Defense. The indispensable New Scientist has short articles and updates. Interested in ocean leisure? Try this cruise ships explainer from the Ocean Conservancy, or this on coral reefs from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Books: Try the reality-based Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science by Tom S. Garrison (Brooks Cole, 2004), good for you and your teenage and older students. 50 Ways to Save the Ocean
(2006) by David Helvarg looks like a winner, too. And try Heal the Ocean: Solutions for Saving Our Seas by Rod Fujita (New Society Publishers, 2003).

56  Gangsta Rap and the Culture of Violence

Most of this is from my friend and research assistant, Seamus McKiernan, who provided a thoughtful essay to me from which I borrowed heavily. 

While there are no statistics directly linking violent music and video images to sexual assaults, experts say such entertainment nonetheless creates an atmosphere that encourages them. Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center said, "A lot of pop-culture messages reinforce sexual assault as acceptable."

Ice Cube, one of gangsta rap’s founders and most popular artists in decade of the 90s, asks in a song: “Why more niggas in the pen than in college?”  But on the same album, he sings much more about violent gunplay and belittles women as “bitches” and “hoes,” exerting an overbearing masculine identity, and uses darkly humorous and playful lyrics to perpetuate heavy misogynistic behavior. Eazy-E, another west coast rapper, was known for his pimp talk:  “She started talkin' shit, wouldn't you know? / Reached back like a pimp and slapped the hoe.”

The conflation of materialism and violence is striking in 50 Cent’s platinum-selling album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” His newest album, “The Massacre,” released in 2004, sold 4 million copies in its first year.  In his song “Blood Hound,” 50 Cent sings of gunplay (“gats” and “Glocks” and “bust shots”) and drugs:
“I love to pump crack, love to stay strapped
Love to squeeze gats but you don't hear me though
I love to hit the block, I love my two Glocks
Love to bust shots but you don't hear me though.”

There’s lots more like this.  It’s now earning some attention from scholars.  But you don’t need to be a sociologist to see what this is about.

57  Supporting Apartheid

This is another good example of why the historical context of an issue or place is so important to understanding its current dynamics.  America doesn’t “screw up the world” like one makes a cup of instant coffee.  There is a context, a long unraveling, that explains how something got the way it is.  Apartheid and the divisions in Africa and the world that it stirred have had a distorting, psychopathic effect on South Africa and the frontline states, in some ways a heroic story but also one in which a “heroism” can turn into a sad caricature, as in Zimbabwe.  The violence and militancy and ideologies needed to overthrow white racist regimes came to haunt Africa, too.

The National Security Archive texts are available here.  The testimony of Lapsley was on Democracy Now.  The economic plight of blacks in South Africa remains parlous, and crime makes ordinary life insecure throughout the region.   Apartheid left an odious national debt, it devastated the environment, and it created conditions in which the AIDS epidemic could thrive.  South’s Africa income inequality is among the worst in the world.  It will take generations to correct the abuses of apartheid.  Regretably, Ronald Reagan—when the rest of the world understood the ravages of apartheid—sided with the racists, as did the whole of the Reaganite political forces in the U.S.  fortunately, American civil society sided with the black majority and helped pave the way for an end to the system.

Books:  Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela is a must-read (Back Bay Books, 1995).  On the anti-apartheid movement, see Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics
by David Hostetter (Routledge); and Contesting Apartheid: U.S. Activism, 1960-1987 by Donald Culverson (Westview, 1999). 


58  The Very Expensive Fissionable Atom

The growing debate about revitalizing nuclear energy to prevent climate change is a legitimate one and needs to be taken seriously.  Thus far, the pro-nuke forces are not convincing, however, particularly since conservation and enhanced efficiency have not seriously been pursued. 

For some basic data on nuclear-generated electricity, see the Energy Information Administration.  And excellent overview of current issues can be found in The Future of Nuclear Power, from MIT.  And here is a good summary of criticism of nuclear energy from an Illinois watchdog group; there points apply more broadly.  Here is Greenpeace’s response to the nuclear power and climate change debate.  See also the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Friends of the Earth’s rebuttal to pro-nukers. On the possibility that nuclear power would not, even if pursued, help on climate change, see this and its many links.  The leading experts on nuclear safety have long been the Union of Concerned Scientists



The teapot tempest that brewed about the John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt article in the London Review of Books occurred after I finished 100 Ways.  Its argument was not particularly new, and in some places had too much edge, but the reaction was way out of proportion and partially validated their thesis.  The odd thing is, partisans of AIPAC have long boasted about their successes, as this article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker amply demonstrates.

Books:  J. J. Goldberg, Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment (Basic Books 1997); Edward Tivnan, The Lobby: Jewish Political Power and American Foreign Policy (Touchstone Books, 1988); and Paul Findley They Dare to Speak Out : People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby (Lawrence Hill Books, 2003).


60  Wars of Choice

Much, much is written about war, and indeed the pre-emptive kind.  Charles Tilly, a leading social scientist, has written convincingly of how war and state building are connected, and historians like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., among many others, has described how war nourishes state power, and in the U.S. the presidency in particular.  As a result, “wars of choice,” which I explain to be a peculiar locution, are often about other things, too—solidifying the power of a president when other things aren’t going well, for example.

In the case of Vietnam, for example, one theory holds that it was a way for the U.S. to demonstrate its “resolve below the nuclear threshold.”  The Iraq war is difficult to understand unless one sees it as a way to tame an obstreperous part of the world.  The rush to war in Iraq was probably done in part as a demonstration, too; our military machine was built to battle states, not terror networks, and we thought, foolishly, that fighting Iraq was about demolishing an odious state, but what we got were more terror networks instead. 

For a country as large and naturally protected as the United States, the wars we engage in are almost always going to the wars of choice, pre-emptive, preventative, demonstrative, distractions, what have you.  Few will have to do with security per se. 


Chapters 1-10
Chapters 11-19

Chapters 20-35
Chapters 36-50 

Chapters 71-100

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