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Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Jeremy Scahill. Dirty Wars follows the consequences of the declaration that “the world is a battlefield,” as Scahill uncovers the most important foreign policy story of our time. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond, Scahill reports from the frontlines in this high-stakes investigation and explores the depths of America’s global killing machine.
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. Rachel Maddow. Selected as among the best non-fiction books of 2012 by the Washington Post and Kirkus Review, Drift examines the period from Vietnam through Afghanistan during which the USA seems to have become comfortable with “perpetual war” in part because so relatively few of us participate or suffer. Maddow holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford, and hosts a show on MSNBC.
The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Steven Pinker. He is a well- known evolutionary physiologist at Harvard who argues that over time homicide and other forms of violence have been dramatically reduced because our nature has inclined “to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control.” He sees many factors – the rise of civilization and its ground rules, literacy which allows “bad ideas” to be driven out, and even the increase of women in positions of power. An optimistic book for those who pursue peace.
The Emergency State. David Unger. This is an argument that the United States has tried to build an “impenetrable” society that is largely futile. Real threats exist, but the government has “overreached” with undeclared wars, too many classified documents, little debate about the budget and role of the CIA, etc. The author is an Editorial Page Writer for the NY Times, who admits that he has tried to be deliberately provocative in his book.
The Generals: American Military Commanders from World War II to Today. Thomas E. Ricks. This is a lament for the personnel policies of Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshal before and during World War II. His philosophy of “swift relief, with the option of forgiveness” meant that generals were quickly fired for perceived incompetence, but often later given a second chance. In contrast, Ricks describes a policy that today is quite different. Poorly performing generals are rarely relieved (in part because they are expected to rotate often), but when occasionally they are, almost inevitably they are forced to resign from the military. Ricks is the author of multiple books, including Fiasco, the well received story (2006) of the American invasion of Iraq. He is a Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post and contributor to a blog – The Best Defense.
The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Featuring fifteen explosive new chapters, this expanded edition of a classic New York Times million-copy bestseller brings the story of economic hit men up to date and, chillingly, home to the United States. It also gives us hope and the tools to fight back. In this astonishing tell-all book, former economic hit man (EHM) John Perkins shares new details about the ways he and others cheated countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Then he reveals how the deadly EHM cancer he helped create has spread far more widely and deeply than ever in the United States and everywhere else—to become the dominant system of business, government, and society today. Finally, he gives an insider view of what we each can do to change it. The material in the new section ranges across the planet, including the Seychelles, Honduras, Ecuador, Libya, Turkey, Western Europe , Vietnam, and China. Perhaps most surprisingly, in the decade since the original book, EHMs and jackals have come home to the United States — in the form of bankers, lobbyists, corporate executives and others “whose job…is to con governments and the public into submitting to policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Read our review here.
The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb. Philip Taubman. This is the story of five men who have decided to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons. They are not ordinary individuals: George Shultz and Henry Kissinger are former republican secretaries of state, William Perry, former democratic secretary of defense, Sam Nunn, former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sidney Droll, a physicist at Stanford. A former reporter, Taubman notes that some progress has been made, and that the dangers of so many nuclear weapons is intense. However, he is skeptical about the likelihood of major progress, given the realities of Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, the middle east and other sensitive parts of the world.
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. Chalmers Johnson. This is the third in a series of books about American militarism by Mr. Johnson, succeeding Blowback ( CIA clandestine activities) and The Sorrows of Empire (America’s “garrisoning” of the planet). With references to the Roman and British empires, Nemesis explores many facets of American imperialism – domestic spying, CIA prisons, deficit financing, and more. Chalmers Johnson died in November 2010.
Winning the War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, Joshua Goldstein. This and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s book note that both large scale wars (e.g. more than 1000 deaths) between countries and civil wars have killed fewer people in recent years. Battle deaths during World War II amounted to 300 per 100,000 of world population. By contrast the Korean war was around 30 death, Vietnam was in the “low teens” and more recent wars have been in the single digits. Growing world trade and prosperity, international institutions (e.g. UN peace keepers) and “repugnance against institutionalized violence” help explain this trend.
Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. P.W. Singer. A fascinating picture of what is happening, and likely to happen, to the way that wars are fought. The diversity of drones and robots under develop is astounding, and frightening, especially with the prospect that, in some cases, humans may be removed from the trigger. Singer is director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institute.
Documentaries and Video
The Empire Files. From inside history’s biggest empire: files logged by Abby Martin recording a world shaped by war and inequality. This investigative TV show airs weekly on teleSUR, and new episodes are posted on YouTube the day after they air. The show has covered topics such as the militarization of the border, the U.S.’ pillaging of Africa’s resources, the School of the Americas and our role in the Syrian conflict.
PBS Frontline. Frontline is investigative journalism that questions, explains and changes our world. It offers an unflinching and compelling look at complex, vital and often-controversial topics. The documentary specials cover war and the U.S. military regularly, including their recent coverage of the war in Yemen and Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for Israel.
Congressional Dish. Congressional Dish is a weekly podcast about what the U.S. government is doing. It’s not about campaigns or politicking but the bills our elected representatives are passing, writing and voting upon in Washington. Not every single episode is about militarization, but this podcast is a must-listen for any American who wants to hold his/her Senators and Representatives accountable. Two recent episodes about war include “The Costs of For-Profit War” and “Authorization for Limitless War.”