Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tom Hayden on Iraq War issues

Tom Hayden has far more perceptive observations most of the time than conservatives and even many liberals give him credit for. Some California liberals still haven't forgiven him for running in the Democratic primary against Sen. John Tunney back 31 years ago in 1976; they blame his unsucessful primary challenge for making Tunney vulnerable enough to allow rightwing Republican H.I. Hayakawa win his seat that November.

In a recent blog post, he raises an important question about the collaboration of universities with military counterinsurgency (Harvard's Collaboration with Counter-Insurgency in Iraq Huffington Post 07/14/07). It's not entirely clear to me what he might think of as the alternative, though. He raises some valid concerns. But on the other hand, is it either necessary or desirable to keep universities out of work on military problems?

He writes specifically about the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard and they active collaboration with the military on developing counterinsurgency doctrines. He writes, "They believe that the exposure of the generals to a civilian academic atmosphere may humanize the process of warmaking, not worrying that the actual danger may be the militarizing of the university."

But he didn't convince me that this collaboration is inherently bad. My concern would be on the quality and ethics of specific work. And Hayden does bring up the issue of death squads. But it's not at all clear to me from his article that the Carr Center is promoting such a thing.

Samantha Power, executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights, 1998-2002

Maybe there are more substantial concerns than come through clearly in Hayden's article. He does mention one thing in particular in connection with a former executive director of the Carr Center that does give us something to which we should pay attention in Barack Obama's foreign policy proposals:

[T]here is the formidable Samantha Power [author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide], an Irish-born humanitarian who strongly supported the US-NATO Balkans war and campaigned for Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004. Power is a close adviser to Sen. Barack Obama who supports a withdrawal of US combat troops by next year with exceptions for "advisers" and special units to battle al-Qaeda. Power, who worked last year in Obama's Washington DC office, writes that even the proposed combat troop withdrawal can be reversed if Iraq's condition continues to worsen. Intentionally or not, the cautious, complicated Obama proposal as described by Power leaves open the likelihood of thousands of American troops remaining in counter-insurgency roles for years ahead. (my emphasis)
I also supported the Kosovo War and favored Wesley Clark for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2004. But supporting a war doesn't mean that you have to be a simple cheerleader for it, even during it or in retrospect. In fact, the Kosovo War raised some important questions about prevailing military assumptions that I hope to post more about one of these days.

In a brief post the previous day, Hayden looks more directly at the issue of death squads in Iraq, Sunnis Targeted for Death, According to White House Report Huffington Post 07/13/04.

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"It is the logic of our times
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-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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