Weekly Roundup 9/6/2011

Top Secret America: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command
Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, The Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2011

Synopsis: The team of U.S. Navy SEALS who took out Osama bin Laden was part of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command – known by the acronym JSOC – that has grown tenfold over the past decade in near complete obscurity. Priest, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner with the Post, and Arkin, a Post columnist and reporter, detail the expanded role that this elite force has played in capturing, imprisoning or killing suspected terrorists. JSOC has grown, they write, from “a rarely used hostage rescue team into America’s secret army.”

Takeaway: “We’re the dark matter,” an unidentified Navy SEAL is quoted as saying. “We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen.”

Note: The article is excerpted from Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by Priest and Arkin, being published Sept. 6 by Little Brown. A four-part series that formed part of the basis of the book was published by the Post in 2010.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Europeans Talk of Sharp Change in Fiscal Affairs
Louise Story and Matthew Saltmarsh, The New York Times, Sept. 5, 2011

Synopsis: America’s failed early effort to operate as a loose confederation of 13 states appears increasingly relevant for many officials in Europe. They are beginning to realize – as experts suggested in our May 17 CQ Global Researcher -- that the lack of strong central coordination of economic policies in the eurozone’s member states is a major reason why Europe has been unable to resolve its financial crisis.

Takeaway: Europe’s leaders appear to be inching closer to a more centralized approach, with some even saying so publicly. “If today’s policy makers want to successfully stay the course, they will have to press ahead with structural changes and deeper economic integration,” António Borges, director of the International Monetary Fund’s European unit, said in a recent speech. “To put the crisis behind us, we need more Europe, not less. And we need it now.”

See Sarah Glazer, “Future of the Euro,” CQ Global Researcher, May 17, 2011 (subscription required).

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor, CQ Global Researcher


What the Left Doesn't Understand About Obama
Jonathan Chait, The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 4, 2011

Chait pushes back at the consensus view taking hold among members of President Barack Obama's eroding base. Increasingly, Obama's left-wing and liberal supporters argue that he is allowing himself to be overwhelmed by a more determined Republican opposition. Drew Westen, an Emory University psychologist and political consultant, had summed up that embittered position in a widely read piece in The New York Times last month. Now Chait, an editor of The New Republic - a venerable liberal weekly - takes apart the critique, finding it long on indignation and short on reality. Obama has consistently wrung as much economic stimulus and relief as he can from recalcitrant Republican lawmakers, Chait writes. He acknowledges in passing that he too wanted Obama to call Republicans' bluff during the debt-ceiling showdown -- forcing them to confront the risk of pushing the world into financial meltdown. But Obama's compromise did make economic recovery a priority, Chait argues. He does notdirectly address another source of disillusionment: Obama's seeming lack of enthusiasm for political combat. But Chait does insist that unhappy Democrats focus on the nuts and bolts of legislating and policy-making. Still, he concedes that emotion can overwhelm analytical rigor.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer


Letter from Prison: Tim DeChristopher Speaks
Tim DeChristopher, Grist, Aug. 29, 2011

Synopsis: From environmental activist and convicted felon Tim DeChristopher come interesting musings on the power of political protest. DeChristopher was sentenced this summer to two years in federal prison after he disrupted an oil and gas leasing auction in 2009 to protest drilling on public lands.

Takeaway: “As is generally the case with civil disobedience, it was extremely important to the government that I come before the majesty of the court with my head bowed and express regret. So important, in fact, that an apology with proper genuflection is currently fair trade for a couple years in prison…But perhaps we should be asking why the government is willing to make such a deal….By its very nature, civil disobedience is an act whose message is that the government and its laws are not the sole voice of moral authority….Government whose authority depends on an ignorant or apathetic citizenry is threatened by every act of open civil disobedience, no matter how small. To regain that tiny piece of authority, the government either has to respond to the activist’s demands, or get the activist to back down with a public statement of regret. Otherwise, those little challenges to the moral authority of government start to add up.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


The Survivor Who Saw the Future
Susanne Craig, The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2011

Synopsis: When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, three out of every four people who worked for Howard W. Lutnick at the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald died – a total of 658 employees. Lutnick survived; he was taking his son Kyle to his first day of kindergarten. Four days after the attack, Lutnick, who was shown crying on television, cut off payments to the families of his dead and missing employees, before it was known conclusively how many had died. Critics at the time called Lutnick’s actions disgusting and hard-hearted. They scoffed when he promised to give 25 percent of Cantor’s profits over the next five years to employees, and to provide health insurance coverage to families for 10 years. Cantor’s demise was widely predicted.

Takeaway: Lutnick, now 50, defied the critics. Ten years later, he has rebuilt his firm, and enlarged it, in fact. And many of his critics -- especially parents and spouses of employees who had died – now say he did the right thing. And yes, he kept his promises. “By almost any measure,” writes Susanne Craig, “it is a remarkable turnabout.”

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


9/11 in Perspective
Richard N. Haass, Al Jazeera, Sept. 6, 2011

Synopsis: The 9/11 attacks were a tragedy by any measure, writes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, but they were not a historical turning point in which terrorists with a global agenda prevailed. Instead, the most notable developments have between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, globalization and the upheavals in the Middle East.

Takeaway: It would be wrong for responsible governments to make opposition to terrorism the centerpiece of any agenda. Terrorists, as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 shows, remain outliers at best.

--Darrell Dela Rosa, Assistant Editor