Saturday, 30 January 2010

Militarism and Resistance in South Korea 한국 군사주의와 저항

South Korea has more citizens imprisoned for conscientious objection to military service than any other nation in the world. Over 700 are currently serving 18 month terms. Every year, men face the brutal choice to join the military complex or follow their conscience, facing social ostracism and imprisonment. A history of Japanese imperialism, a civil war sparked by the United States and Soviet jousting. Three decades of military dictatorship. Pervasive United States military presence. Violent destruction of farming villages for the expansion of U.S. bases. A National Security Act that restricts freedom of speech and opposition to military duty. Korea has recently begun to openly face its own contradictions of "democracy" and a deeply ingrained militarization.
in korean -

From Japan: "ANPO"

ANPO Kamishibai (SD, English) from Scott Burgess on Vimeo.

Details here

VIRTUOUS WAR 2.0: Mapping the MIME-NET

Technology in the service of virtue has given rise to a global form of virtual violence: Virtuous War. In the 21st century, The MIME-NET has become the 'fifth-dimension' of U.S. hegemony. Fought in the same manner they are represented through real-time global surveillance, media dissimulation, and network-centric warfare, virtuous war deters, disciplines and destroys the "enemy" at a distance. An all-too-real matrix MIME-NET, seamlessly merges the production, representation, and execution of war. We learn how to kill but not take responsibility for it; we encounter 'death' but not its tragic consequences; we now face not just the confusion but the pixilation of war and game on the same screen.

This is a video trailer for 'Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial Media Entertainment Network' by James Der Derian. Updating the first edition published in June, 2001 with four new chapters chronicling the events after 9/11, Virtuous War traces the rise of parallel dreams of a "Revolution in Military Affairs" and a virtual inter-war that converged, like tracks in the distance, into nightmares in Iraq and Afghanistan. Virtuous War takes the reader on a journey through deserts real and virtual to find the ghosts in the 21st century war-machine: The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network MIME-NET.

Buy a copy and learn more at:

"In times of terror, when everyone is something of a conspirator, everybody will be in a position where he has to play detective."
-Walter Benjamin

Human Terrain

Human Terrain is two stories in one. The first exposes the U.S. effort to enlist the best and the brightest of American universities in a struggle for the hearts and minds of its enemies. Facing long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military adopts a controversial new program, 'Human Terrain Systems', to make cultural awareness a key element of its counterinsurgency strategy. Designed to embed social scientists with combat troops, the program swiftly comes under attack by academic critics who consider it misguided and unethical to gather intelligence and target potential enemies for the military. Gaining rare access to wargames in the Mojave Desert and training exercises at Quantico and Fort Leavenworth, 'Human Terrain' takes the viewer into the heart of the war machine and the shadowy collaboration between American academics and the armed services.

The other story is about a brilliant young scholar who leaves the university to join a Human Terrain team. After working as a humanitarian activist and winning a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford, Michael Bhatia returned to Brown University to conduct research on military cultural awareness. A year later, he left to embed as a Human Terrain member with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. On May 7, 2008, en route to mediate an intertribal dispute, his humvee hit a roadside bomb and Bhatia was killed along with two other soldiers.

Asking what happens when war becomes academic and academics go to war, the two stories merge in tragedy.

James Der Derian talks about the film in this next clip. What he has to say is very worrisome, not least his observation of the association between Christian fundamentalism and certain military bases- in addition to the highlighting of the shortcomings of this new military strategy of "human terrain":

Thursday, 28 January 2010

"Welcome fool, you have come.....

...of your own free will to the appointed place.The game is over.The game of the hunted leading the is we who have found you and brought you here and controlled your every thought and action since you arrived......."

This is a quotation from the final scene of The Wicker Man, where at last Sergeant Howie learns the terrible truth from Lord Summerisle about what is to happen to him at the hands of a remote community of pagans. I've mentioned it before, and hope to post again on the cultural significance of this film more specifically, but here I want to use it in relation to "knowledge politics" (just as I did in one of my first ever posts, which quoted Tyrell's speech to Roy Batty from Blade Runner, as mirroring the academic supervisor/student relationship...and also The Matrix as an allegory of the kinds of theory favoured in the blogosphere). So this is the most recent part of an occasional series, on my part.

To be sure, I mentioned before in "Loneliness As a Way of Life" that The Wicker Man holds some appeal to me as part of a fantasy of what my funeral could consist of. Just imagine Lord Summerisle's words I've quoted here opening the service, turning to address the casket. I know that some people may not share my sense of humour, so it is hardly a practical proposal, just as I am only too well aware that the sections of the blogosphere I've referred to before are not inclined to critically apply the science fiction tropes they favour to their own practices.

But rather than talk about them specifically again here, I'd like to consider what else appeals to me about Lord Summerisle's speech. I can't help thinking that part of the appeal of horror as a genre is that it can act as a catalyst to paradoxically heal cognitive dissonance. The epiphany, the horrific moment of revelation, concentrates the senses, so that the scales fall away from your eyes. At last you can see the truth for what it really is. Danger can then sometimes become a prelude to escape (although not in The Wicker Man of course). There is some appeal then in escaping the mundane contingency constitutive of modernity. A special characteristic of this contingency is the institutionalisation of formal democratic equality, which is undercut by the commodification of social relationships. This contradiction in turn has a corrosive effect on intimate communication, thereby generating cognitive dissonance.

The best explanation I've read is Pixley and Bittman's sociological approach to the communication patterns characteristic of modern family life. Referring to Bateson's work on the inability of schizophrenic patients to metacommunicate, they reference how it becomes difficult to distinguish play from serious intent: i.e. a nip is not a bite. Hence, ways and means have been devised to manage the contradiction between the recognition of formal equality and its actual realisation. The discrepancy between the two is discernible in the way that a command can be disguised as a query: a husband who asks his wife, "where is my tie?", is actually issuing a command, "go and find my tie, and bring it to me". Psychotherapists describe this common scenario in terms of "pseudomutuality". It is played out and replicated in many institutional settings, and not surprisingly, this can include the relationship between student and supervisor, in which the former can be made to feel like an anxious child attempting to please a capricious parent. A variation of this theme can be found in the management technique of "remote control" described by Richard Sennett in his Authority.

These are powerful social forces, so it is to be expected that they conspire against the realisation of the Habermasian "ideal speech situation" advocated by Pixley and Bittman. The university may offer access to esoteric knowledge, but it is not the norm for the institution to be forthright about the discrepancy between subjective experience and the ideals it supposedly represents, which can prove disenchanting for students. The student life can prove to be a trial by ideal, just as it was for religious novices who had to suffer horrendous deprivations to emphasize the point that accessing the esoteric knowledge was no easy thing (for films on this topic, check Martyrs and A Man Called Horse).....with the important difference that the liberal student environment helps ensure meaning is always "deferred". "Rites of passage" are perhaps not what they once used to be, because there are two [deeper] forces undermining each other. The horrific moment of revelation, should it ever arrive in the university context, is something like The Necrosocial I posted about earlier. Indeed, the reference to a "cult" in this context makes my The Wicker Man parallels seem even more apposite:

What almost no prospective graduate students can understand is the extent to which doctoral education in the humanities socializes idealistic, naïve, and psychologically vulnerable people into a profession with a very clear set of values. It teaches them that life outside of academe means failure, which explains the large numbers of graduates who labor for decades as adjuncts, just so they can stay on the periphery of academe. (That's another topic I've written about before; see "Is Graduate School a Cult?" (The Chronicle, July 2, 2004.).

And for those who "make it" as tenured faculty, is there any circulation of a timeless devil's dictionary to help prepare them for the otherwise unspoken assumptions that will govern their work practices?

In either case, it is difficult to say how much, and what kind, of consolation exists, for those who somehow feel cheated. That's not for me to decide. All I'm saying is that there should be complete disclosure about the benefits and hazards of the respective available courses of action. The risk, as I see it, is that contrary forces can sometimes send the naive to their doom. Too late, they catch a glimpse of a wicker man over Lord Summerisle's shoulder (resplendent in his formal academic gown, in my scenario). And these are the last words they ever hear, a horrific moment of clarity, before they are sacrificed in an act of altruistic suicide, by the lighting of the wicker man: you will die, so that others may live!:

You are the fool, -

Punch, one of the great fool-victims of history,

for you have accepted the role of king for a day,

and who but a fool would do that?

But you will be revered and anointed as a king.

You will undergo death and rebirth -

resurrection, if you like.

The rebirth, sadly, will not be yours,

"Don't be an asshole, Deckard. I've got four skin-jobs walking the streets".

Well ok, not quite yet. But everytime I read something about the military sponsorship of regenerative medicine, I start to imagine the Tyrell Corporation doing subcontracting work for Weyland Yutani. Remember though, the thesis of the cyborganisation of the human is not just about the militarisation of our hearts and minds, but rather a more general commodification. According to this logic, capitalism will solve its accumulation crisis by colonising the inner frontier (our bodies), in tandem with the colonisation of outer space (spearheaded by the colonial marines, who may be private mercenaries, in contrast to the armies of nation states we are more familiar with). I'm very eager then to follow up Carl Abbott and William H Katerberg's work concerning sci fi's envisioning of capitalism's "spatial fix" (to use Marxist geographer David Harvey's term).

I realise there is an air of familiarity to these musings, not only because I've alluded to these issues before, but rather because they basically rework the familiar frontier thesis. But if this just sounds like "back to the future" syndrome (i.e. the more things change, the more they stay the same), this is true only up to a point. Privatisation will probably be of a different economy of scale than the mass conscript armies that were once mobilised by nation states. Its logic dictates instead that individual entrepreneurs' sense of entitlement, risk and adventure, will be the most likely means of realising Manifest Destiny- sorry, ahem- benefitting "all humanity".

The representation of heads of state in such a light can appear antiquated by comparison. Growing awareness of this cultural shift might explain the choice of the "steam punk" style in this series to convey an alternative "nostalgia for the future" (where allies can transcend narrow self interest in a war against fascism):

I referred earlier to the "colonial marines", and it reminds me of Ziauddin Sardar's point in his introduction to Aliens R Us about how the genre of sci fi has served the western, imperial imagination. Hence I'm always on the lookout for anything that can show in a critical light the developmental logics I've tried to highlight in this post. I'd recommend anything from Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia to, say, Ian MacDonald's River of Gods. Even if someone reads such works and takes issue with them for whatever reason, the fact remains that they are clear evidence of how sci fi is a much broader church than it's sometimes given credit for by critics.

In this spirit then, looking ahead, I'm hoping to catch up with the Kenyan sci fi film, Pumzi. The movie takes place 35 years after World War III, the "Water War":
Nature is extinct. The outside is dead. Asha lives and works as a museum curator in one of the indoor communities set up by the Maitu Council [in East Africa]. When she receives a box in the mail containing soil, she plants an old seed in it and the seed starts to germinate instantly. Asha appeals to the Council to grant her permission to investigate the possibility of life on the outside but the Council denies her exit visa. Asha breaks out of the inside community to go into the dead and derelict outside to plant the growing seedling and possibly find life on the outside.
It's certainly worth reading the filmmaker's response to the question of whether science fiction is new to Africa, in addition to watching the trailer:

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Outlaw Biology

If you're interested, like me, in how public participation in the biological sciences can extend beyond the older pedagogical model of PUS (Public Understandings of Science), and the juridical function of science courts, then you should probably read this.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Necrosocial

"In the university we prostrate ourselves before a value of separation, which in reality translates to a value of domination. We spend money and energy trying to convince ourselves we’re brighter than everyone else. Somehow, we think, we possess some trait that means we deserve more than everyone else. We have measured ourselves and we have measured others. It should never feel terrible ordering others around, right? It should never feel terrible to diagnose people as an expert, manage them as a bureaucrat, test them as a professor, extract value from them their capital as a businessman. It should feel good, gratifying, completing. It is our private wet dream for the future; everywhere, in everyone this same dream of domination. After all, we are intelligent, studious, young. We worked hard to be here, we deserve this.

We are convinced, owned, broken. We know their values better than they do: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. This triumvirate of sacred values are ours of course, and in this moment of practiced theater—the fight between the university and its own students—we have used their words on their stages: Save public education!

When those values are violated by the very institutions which are created to protect them, the veneer fades, the tired set collapses: and we call it injustice, we get indignant. We demand justice from them, for them to adhere to their values. What many have learned again and again is that these institutions don’t care for those values, not at all, not for all. And we are only beginning to understand that those values are not even our own.

The values create popular images and ideals (healthcare, democracy, equality, happiness, individuality, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, public education) while they mean in practice the selling of commodified identities, the state’s monopoly on violence, the expansion of markets and capital accumulation, the rule of property, the rule of exclusions based on race, gender, class, and domination and humiliation in general. They sell the practice through the image. We’re taught we’ll live the images once we accept the practice".

Read the full text: The Necrosocial.

–>Here are some further resources, after the really amazing events of Nov 18-19 including serious face-offs with the cops at Berkeley and UCLA, which may radicalize a huge student/faculty/staff movement.

–First, a great segment of Democracy Now, which includes the audio of the statement read from within occupied Campbell Hall, as well as a good interview with Bob Samuels.

Occupy California, from Santa Cruz, has links to all the radical and confrontational groups, whose work has been very successful (no confrontation, no movement!).

Bob Samuels’ blog is worth a read.

–A very interesting post by a UCSB professor, R. Flack, written in advance of Nov. 18-19, where he shows all the conditions that are coming together for a major social movement. This is actually pretty thoughtful stuff.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Crazy Like Us

Thanks for the great posting on Haiti, Derridata. It got me thinking about the management of disaster capitalism on the micropolitical level, and this line of inquiry brought me to Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. I don't believe that globalization can be reduced to Americanization, but I feel the book is still useful as a sensitising device to frame how the discipline of psychology functions as a normalizing agent for risk managers. Psychologists are basically just glorified administrative researchers with little reflexive capacity for understanding how their scientism is the handmaiden of instrumental rationality. Sociologists refer to this phenomenon as "psychologism".

There's an eeriness then in how the army of trauma counsellors and NGOs arrive on the scene after the disaster to smooth the way for neocolonialism, as was previously the case with anthropologists. As someone trained in the social sciences, I'm always greatly appreciative of any book that uses a lot of case studies to ground its arguments. Here's the blurb:

"It is well known that American culture is a dominant force at home and abroad; our exportation of everything from our movies to our junk food is a well documented phenomenon. But is it possible America’s most troubling impact on the globalizing world has yet to be accounted for? In Crazy Like Us, Ethan Watters reveals the most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself: We are in the process of homogenizing the way the world goes mad.
America has been the world leader in generating new mental health treatments and modern theories of the human psyche. We export our psychopharmaceuticals packaged with the certainty that our bio-medical knowledge will relieve the suffering and stigma of mental illness. We categorize disorders, defining mental illness and health, and then parade these seemingly scientific certainties in front of the world. The blowback from these efforts is just now coming to light: It turns out that we have not only been changing the way the world talks about and treats mental illness – we have been changing the mental illnesses themselves.
Local beliefs in different cultures have for millennia shaped the experience of mental illness into endless varieties. Crazy Like Us documents how American interventions have discounted and worked to change those indigenous beliefs, often with dizzying speed. Over the last decades, mental illnesses popularized in America have been spreading across the globe with the speed of contagious diseases. Watters travels from China to Tanzania to bring home the unsettling conclusion that the virus is us; as we introduce Americanized ways of treating mental illnesses, we are in fact spreading the diseases themselves.
In post-tsunami Sri Lanka, he reports on the western trauma counselors who, in their rush to help, inadvertently trampled local expressions of grief, suffering and healing. In Hong Kong he retraces the last steps of the teenager whose death sparked an epidemic of the American version of anorexia. He reveals the truth about a multi-million dollar campaign by one of the world’s biggest drug companies to change the Japanese experience of depression – literally marketing the disease along with the drug.
But this book is not just about the damage we’ve caused in far away places. Looking at our impact on the psyches of people in other cultures is a gut check – a way of forcing ourselves to take a fresh look at our own beliefs about mental health and healing. Examining our own assumptions from a farther shore, we can begin to understand how our own culture constantly shapes and sometimes creates the mental illnesses of our time. If we can set aside our role as the world’s therapist, we may come to accept that we have as much to learn from other cultures’ beliefs about the mind as we have to teach".

Saturday, 16 January 2010

"This is a catastrophe beyond our worst imagination"

"Unfortunately the team of State University of Haiti students found that of the list of some sixty neighborhood associations provided by the Haitian government (Minister of Social Affairs), only 2 still existed. Upon closer examination the researchers found that NGOs and donors created the local associations when they wanted to complete a project. The stated priorities in the neighborhood differed from the projects coming from the NGOs, that no fool would turn away if it spells resources for the neighborhood. Since the re-instatement of the constitutional, democratic order with Préval’s election in 2006, NGOs have started to come back to popular neighborhoods. The results are mixed. Good projects can be completed (and maybe maintained) like trash cleanup, water taps, recycling, etc. But the top-down, project logic (sa ou fè pou mwen? What are you doing for me?) may be replacing the collectivist konbit. New NGOs may be in conflict with more established youth leaders, popular organizations and churches.

"The bigger, more hidden, side-effect of the NGOization of Haiti’s society is that it can undermine the elected government’s ability to coordinate and plan. NGO salaries are on average three times that of their government counterparts – in a country with about one percent of people with a college degree. Commentators – particularly within the mainstream media and donor agencies – quickly point to the failures of Haiti’s state. With the priorities set abroad and funds not even passing through the state, too many NGOs have become fiefdoms, cut off from both the people and the elected government. In his book Haïti: l’Invasion des ONG (Haiti: the Invasion of NGOs), Sauveur Pierre Étienne said that NGOs have become the 'iron of the spear of foreign governments,' in effect tools of implementing foreign policy agendas. This is classic neoliberalism (known as Reaganomics in the U.S.) – belief that the state should step aside and let the free market take care of everything."

"Starfish and Seawalls: Responding to Haiti’s Earthquake, Now and Long-Term" by Mark Schuller, January 15, 2009

"But what has really left Haiti in such a state today, what makes the country a constant and heart-rending site of ­recurring catastrophe, is its history. In Haiti, the last five centuries have combined to produce a people so poor, an infrastructure so nonexistent and a state so hopelessly ineffectual that whatever natural disaster chooses to strike next, its impact on the population will be magnified many, many times over. Every single factor that international experts look for when trying to measure a nation's vulnerability to natural disasters is, in Haiti, at the very top of the scale. Countries, when it comes to dealing with disaster, do not get worse.

"'Haiti has had slavery, revolution, debt, deforestation, corruption, exploitation and violence,' says Alex von Tunzelmann, a historian and writer currently working on a book about the country and its near neighbours, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. 'Now it has poverty, illiteracy, overcrowding, no infrastructure, environmental disaster and large areas without the rule of law. And that was before the earthquake. It sounds a terrible cliche, but it really is a perfect storm. This is a catastrophe beyond our worst imagination.'

"It needn't, though, have been like this. In the 18th century, under French rule, Haiti – then called Saint-Domingue – was the Pearl of the Antilles, one of the richest islands in France's empire (though 800,000-odd African slaves who produced that wealth saw precious little of it). In the 1780s, Haiti exported 60% of all the coffee and 40% of all the sugar consumed in Europe: more than all of Britain's West Indian colonies combined. It subsequently became the first independent nation in Latin America, and remains the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the western hemisphere after the United States. So what went wrong?"

"Haiti: a long descent to hell"
Jon Henley, Thursday 14 January 2010 19.00 GMT

"Just why is Haiti in such a dire situation, so much worse than any other country in the Americas, and as bad as anywhere on Earth? Some blame the United Nations. Some blame the Americans. Some have theories about the collision of global warming with global capitalism. All are careful to point out that the Haitian elite deserves its reputation for being greedy, negligent and kleptocratic. 'I think the Haitian people have been made to suffer by God,' Wilbert, a teacher, tells me, 'but the time will come soon when we will be rewarded with Heaven.'

"History tells a different story. The appalling state of the country is a direct result of having offended a quite different celestial authority — the French. France gained the western third of the island of Hispaniola — the territory that is now Haiti — in 1697. It planted sugar and coffee, supported by an unprecedented increase in the importation of African slaves. Economically, the result was a success, but life as a slave was intolerable. Living conditions were squalid, disease was rife, and beatings and abuses were universal. The slaves’ life expectancy was 21 years. After a dramatic slave uprising that shook the western world, and 12 years of war, Haiti finally defeated Napoleon’s forces in 1804 and declared independence. But France demanded reparations: 150m francs, in gold.

"For Haiti, this debt did not signify the beginning of freedom, but the end of hope. Even after it was reduced to 60m francs in the 1830s, it was still far more than the war-ravaged country could afford. Haiti was the only country in which the ex-slaves themselves were expected to pay a foreign government for their liberty. By 1900, it was spending 80% of its national budget on repayments. In order to manage the original reparations, further loans were taken out — mostly from the United States, Germany and France. Instead of developing its potential, this deformed state produced a parade of nefarious leaders, most of whom gave up the insurmountable task of trying to fix the country and looted it instead. In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. Doing so left it destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile. Haiti was trapped in a downward spiral, from which it is still impossible to escape. It remains hopelessly in debt to this day."

"Haiti: the land where children eat mud"
Alex von Tunzelmann
From The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009

"Justice. Verite. Independance."


June 4 - 10, 2008
Vol. 1, No. 46


Mike Davis is the author of several books; the best known deal with U.S. urban issues, particularly in Southern California where he grew up. They include Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class (1986), City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990), and Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (2000).

He is a history professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an editor of the New Left Review. Defining himself as an international socialist and "Marxist-Environmentalist," he is a frequent contributor to The Nation and the British publications New Statesman and Socialist Review, the organ of the Socialist Workers Party of Great Britain.

This interview, conducted by Haiti journalist and activist Ben Terrall in early February, was first published by the online publication Dissident Voice in March with the title "Toward a Better World: Interview with Mike Davis."


Ben Terrall: I wanted to get in a question about the United Nations in Haiti. In Planet of Slums you talk about the Pentagon's global approach to counter-insurgency being more focused on a kind of urban warfare. Having gone to Haiti and seeing what the UN is doing, I wonder if you see that as a new role for UN peacekeepers, as a kind of counterinsurgency proxy, in areas where politically, after Mogadishu troops in Somalia in the early 1990s -ed.], it's too risky for U.S. forces to be there.

Mike Davis: Well to be honest with you, I'm very disturbed that groups like the Friends and CARE, Save the Children and other NGOs have supported the establishment of this State Department Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization and support the Haitian Stabilization Initiative.

This whole idea of having a "smart" foreign policy is what this stuff really is about. I think it was in the Spring of 2006 when the State Department issued this extraordinary report which found almost everything possible wrong with the U.S. occupation of Iraq and then argued for a new policy that avoided expensive reconstruction and in favor of a combination of imposing law and order and then small-scale economic progress.

It's very clear that's what's still going on Iraq with the surge represents the past, but Haiti is the future. And what the United States is looking for, or at least the State Department and almost certainly an Obama or Clinton administration, would be a form of intervention that can establish a minimum threshold of control and stability in the areas recognized as most potentially volatile or dangerous from the standpoint of U.S. interests.

It's done this in Haiti not only using the UN, including the first Chinese contingent, but it's part of this extraordinary, and I think much overlooked alliance between the Bush Administration and the Workers Party in power in Brazil, which includes consensus about "peacekeeping" in the Caribbean, but also the joint development of biofuels internationally.

What is also extraordinary about Haiti is that the object of intervention isn't just Haiti or Port-au-Prince, but it's specifically Port-au-Prince's largest slum and probably the poorest in all the Americas, Cite Soleil, with a combination of building police stations and paving roads, and setting up a few popular projects.

It's explicitly a strategy to take control from the so-called Chimere gangs to the new government of Haiti, in a context where the democratically elected President of Haiti is in exile, and has been deposed by a combination of French, American and Brazilian intervention. It's quite extraordinary, and I think the program, though relatively small scale, is more the template for the future than the occupation of Iraq.

In a world where a lot of governments have been reduced to a bare minimum after structural adjustment, where huge areas of the cities have been essentially abandoned by the state, how do you re-establish state control, how do you prevent groups of any kind from achieving dual power and sovereignty in the slums?

The experiment in Cite Soleil is supposed to provide a model for that, and a model for future U.S. interventions. In a sense it meets author] Max Boot's demand in a column last year that the United States should basically have a Department of Colonial Affairs - well, that's the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization.

BT: One things that's clear to me, from following what's going on in Haiti since the 2004 coup, which forced out Aristide and his democratically elected government, is the role that NGOs play in taking back democracy from the people. This has been the case since before the coup. I recently heard from a grassroots group that does work with the poor in Cite Soleil. Just to keep people alive they're ready to give over the group to these right-wing funded characters behind the coup.

MD: I think you're absolutely right, and I think the State Department has now made explicit - and indeed even the Bush Administration, by transferring the primary responsibility for stabilization, at least theoretically, from the Pentagon to the State Department - that throughout the world the United States is going to work with these NGOs, and these NGOs are kind of soft-power American intervention.

But what I find very disturbing is that groups like the Friends, who for so long have advocated for peace and nonintervention, would endorse a policy where basically the small-scale job schemes, and free clinics, are part and parcel of strengthening the police and dramatically repressive strategies. For them to buy into this line, I wonder if this is not what a Clinton or Obama administration would give us on an even larger scale. Of course, McCain is more apt to keep using a big stick.

I think people are so focused on the horror of what the American intervention in Iraq has brought that they're not paying attention - and, of course, nobody's being forced to debate - what's happening in Haiti, what's happening in the horn of Africa, U.S. interventions in West Africa. It's just all off the radar screen.

Saturday, 2 January 2010