A podcast where politics, history, and culture are examined from perspectives you may not have considered before. Call it a parallax view.
The Spoils of War: Power, Profit, & the American War Machine w/ Andrew Cockburn/U.S.-Russia Tensions, Ukraine, & Strategic Empathy w/ Nicolai Petro
On this edition of Parallax Views, Andrew Cockburn, Washington, D.C., editor of Harper's Magazine, joins us to discuss his book The Spoils of War: Power, Profit, and the American War Machine. Cockburn argues that talk of "foreign policy", "defense", and even Left criticisms concerning imperialism and Empire camouflage the true nature of the military-industrial complex: keeping the money flow going. In other word, making profits. Andrew and I discuss a number of issues including the military-industrial complex as something akin to a "living, insatiable, creature" or amoeba "dedicated only to its own defense and power", the question of ideology and idealogues as it relates to the American war machine, Bill Clinton and NATO expansion after the Cold War, threat inflation, the absence of long-term peace dividends when wars end, the rise of the neoconservatives, Russiagate, profits of war outside of U.S. actors (military-industrial complexes in other countries), the so-called missile gap of the Cold War era, hypersonic weapons, the human cost of the war machine (Cockburn discusses the Korean War in this regard), and much, much more!
Then, in the second half of the program Nicolai Petro, Silvia-Chandley Professor of Peace Studies and Nonviolence and Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island and the US State Department's special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union under President George HW Bush, stops by for a discussion about U.S.-Russia tensions, Ukranian nationalism, and the need for strategic empathy in foreign policy. Nicolai explains the roots of the Russia/Ukraine crisis going back to 2013 as well as telling us a little bit about the history of Ukranian nationalism, his thoughts on the Azov Battalion, and related matters. We then shift focus slightly to discuss the value of the 20th century diplomat Hans Morgenthau in these times of tension. In this regard we talk about the problem of strategic narcissism and the need for strategic empathy. Are we reading Russia right? How can we read Russia and Putin better? What are the primary problems with the discourse around Russia/Ukraine tensions, NATO, and the U.S. today? Hopefully this conversation will shed light on the answers to some of those questions.
The Steele Dossier & Private Spies w/ Barry Meier/The 1930s Coup Attempt Against FDR w/ Sally Denton/Russia and NATO w/ Paul Robinson
On this edition of Parallax Views, we have another "Triple Feature" for listeners. First up, former New York Times journalist Barry Meier joins us to discuss the saga of the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS, former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele of Orbis Business Intelligence, and the media coverage of the infamous Steele Dossier (which purported, among other things, that Vladimir Putin and Russia had "kompromat" on President Donald J. Trump vis-a-vis an alleged "pee tape" with prostitutes that was then used to blackmail Trump) as outlined in his book Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies. We delve into the hidden billion-dollar industry of corporate investigative firms, Jules Kroll, the mercenary nature of these firms, the connection between "vulture capitalist" Paul Singer and the saga that would come to be known as the Steele Dossier, oppo research in the world of politics, Fusion GPS's connection to a Russian oligarch, and much, much more.
"Ping!! How Those Trump/Russia Stories Got Shopped to the Media" by Barry Meier - The Nation -11/2/21
Then in our second segment, prolific author Sally Denton joins us for a short conversation about her 2008 book The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right in light of the Janury 6th Capitol breach anniversary. Denton explains how powerful Wall Street forces, allied with various right-wing elements including Christian evangelicals, Nazi sympathizers, and militias, plotted a coup against President Franklin Delano Roosevelt due to the path he wanted to take the United States on vis-a-vis the New Deal. The plotters approached the "Maverick Marine" Gen. Smedley Butler, known for his seminal antiwar book War is a Racket, in the hopes that he would assist them. Instead of taking up their offer, Butler notified J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. The plot was then eventually investigated by Congress. Know alternately as the Business Plot or Wall Street Putsch, this extent of the plans and how close they were to being executed have been a matter of heated historical debate over the decades. Media at the time denounced it as a hoax, but since then the question, again, has become how close the plot was to being carried out. Denton and I talk about all of this as well as the relevance of this story to our current times.
"Why is so little known about the 1930s coup attempt against FDR?" by Sally Denton - The Guardian - 1/11/22
And finally in our third segment, Paul Robinson, professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and a scholar on issues related to Russia and its history, joins us to discuss Russia, Ukraine, and NATO. In particular we discuss his Irrussianality blog post "Why Russia Fears NATO".
Samantha Power and the Cosmopolitan Crusaders w/ Christopher Mott
On this edition of Parallax Views, Christopher Mott, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy and author The Formless Empire: A Short History of Diplomacy and Warfare in Central Asia, joins Parallax Views to discuss his recent CovertAction Magazine piece "Samantha Power and the Cosmopolitan Crusaders". Applying his knowledge as someone who has worked inside the U.S. State Department, Chris explains the foreign policy thought of the diplomat and government official Samantha Power, whose influential book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide was foundational to R2P (Responsible to Protect) doctrine. R2P, Mott explains, holds that powerful nations (ie: the U.S. and NATO-aligned states) have a duty to stop human rights abuses around the world. Although a noble cause in theory, Mott argues that R2P in practice has not always worked perfectly in practice. In this regard Mott examines the Obama-era intervention into Libya on humanitarian grounds and how Libya has turned into a chaotic failed state that's led to the return of the slave trade to North Africa. In addition to all of this Mott and I also discuss:
- Fear of another Weimar moment haunting beltway foreign policy circles and the role that plays in driving interventionist policymaking
- The question of isolationism, the specter of WWII, and Stephen Wertheim's Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy
- Foreign policy realism and its variations including offensive realism and defensive realism
- Sun Tzu, the risks of war, diplomacy vs. military force, and the question of grand strategy
- The role of ideological, systemic, and economic factors in U.S. foreign policy
- Democratic Peace Theory, American exceptionalism, and Kantian liberal cosmopolitanism
- Sanctions, the potential critique of their effectiveness in achieving state policy goals, and the Iran deal/JCPOA; sanctions as a form of economic warfare
- Jihadism, cosmopolitanism, and state collapse
- U.S.-China relations, human rights rhetoric, and whataboutisms
- American exceptionalism as having a right, left, and center form
- U.S. foreign policy, puritanical morality plays, and protagonist syndrome
- Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg op-ed arguing for using "Wokeism" (a very vague term removed from its original context on Black Twitter) to rebrand American exceptionalism
- And much, much more!
The Ukraine-Russia Crisis and NATO w/ Katrina vanden Heuvel/Vaccine Insubordination in the Military w/ Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich/Wars for Oil? w/ David R. Henderson
On this edition of Parallax Views, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editorial Director and Publisher of The Nation, joins Parallax Views in the first half of the show to discuss the Ukraine-Russia crisis, the U.S., and NATO. Then, in the second half of the show Ret. Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich, author of Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots, joins the show to discuss the Military Times op-ed he co-wrote with Ret. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson on vaccination insubordination in the all-voluntary military force and its implications. And finally, libertarian economist David R. Henderson offers an argument for why the U.S. doesn't need to fight wars for oil and gives his perspective on the cause of high gas prices.
Opinion: What a sensible Ukraine policy would look like - Katrina vanden Heuvel - The Washington Post - Jan 4, 2022
Opinion: Stop the stumble toward war with Russia - Katrina vanden Heuvel - The Washington Post - Jan 18, 2022
Toward a Global Realignment - Zbigniew Brzezinski - The National Interest - April 17, 2016
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire - Mike Whitney - Counterpunch - Aug, 25, 2016
A Year After 1/6, Ukraine's War Draws U.S. Far-Right to Fight Russia, Train for Violence at Home - Tom O'Connor and Naveed Jamali - Newsweek - Jan 5, 2022
CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take central role if Russia invades - Zach Dorfman - Yahoo! News - Jan 13, 2022
American Commitee for U.S.-Russia Accord
U.S.-Russia Relations: Can ‘Strategic Empathy’ Be A Way Forward? - Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft Panel Discussion
Insurrection has led to dereliction of duty - Ret. Gen Maj. Dennis Laich and Ret. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson - Military Times - Jan 7, 2022
Do We Need to Go to War for Oil? - David R. Henderson - Independent Institute Policy Paper
Free the Press: The Death of American Journalism and How to Revive It w/ Brian Karem
On this edition of Parallax Views, Brian Karem, renowned journalist. National Press Club Freedom of the Press Award recipient, host of the "Just Ask the Question" podcast, and White House correspondent for Playboy (who made waves for questioning the Trump administration quite pointedly at White House pressers), joins Parallax Views to discuss his new book Free the Press: The Death of American Journalism and How to Revive It and his career as a journalist from questioning George H.W. Bush about the failure of the War on Drugs to working on America's Most Wanted. We begin the conversation with Brian explaining how he got into reporting and being mentored legendary White House Correspondents as Sam Donaldson of ABC News and Helen Thomas (whose advice to Brian to "Just Ask the Question" has stuck with Brian over the years. From there we delve into the problems facing journalism today and its decline. Part of this decline, Brian argues is a lack of "diversity of ownership" in media. In other words, the corporate monopoly on news media today. Brian explains how government, especially since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, has contributed to the decline of the press in the United States. This leads us to exploring a number of different issues related to the problems of the press today and their historical origins including the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the impact of Fox News and its late Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, lack of experience amongst many young journalists just out of university, the tethering of news media outlets to capitalism and profit demands, "Combat TV" and infotainment, Ronald Reagan and his allies' planting of fake journalists in the press in the 1980s, the fall of community news outlets with a local focus, access journalism, the early 20th century journalistic gadfly H.L. Mencken's adage about how members of the press are easy to fool and the reason why journalists get dupped at times, and more. Additionally, Brian and I talk about some of his experiences as a journalist such as his infamous confrontations with the Trump administration (ie: being called "that Playboy reporter" by Kayla McEnany; Brian's infamous run-in with Sebastian Gorka in which Gorka refered to Brian as a "punk" and "not a journalist), grilling George H.W. Bush over the failure of the War on Drugs (and a primer on the ways in which the Drug War has contributed to many social problems today, especially south of the U.S. border), his personal memories of Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, working with grieving families and taking an ethical approach to speaking with them during his time with America's Most Wanted, and various other recollections form his storied career. The conversation even manages to get in some reference and/or remember such figures and events of years past to the noted antiwar "Maverick Marine" Gen. Smedley Butler and his seminal short book War is a Racket, the Iraq War and Judith Miller, the problems with the way some elements of the press covered the Steele Dossier (aka the "Trump pee-tape" story), the Capitol breach of January 6th, 2021 (Brian was in Washington, D.C. as it happened), covering an Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) scandal, the concept of the "Fourth Estate" and the need for it, and much, much more!
Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical w/ Shaul Magid
On this edition of Parallax Views, Shaul Magid, Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, joins Parallax Views to discuss his book Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical. Kahane was one of the most divisive figures in Jewish American political/cultural life. The founder of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), Kahane was a man of the Right who sought to utilize the tactics of militancy often associated with the countercultural New Left of the 60s and 70s to achieve his aims. Kahane was a fierce proponent of Jewish pride and anti-antisemitism as well as a reactionary critic of the American Jewish liberal establishment in the 20th century. Today, Kahane name has returned in discussions of his followers in Israel (referred to by Magid Shaul as neo-Kahanists). Magid, in contrast to this trend, attempts to understand Kahane within the context of his impact on Jewish American life and argues that it has been overlooked in ways that actually strengthen rather than dampen Kahane's influence.
In this conversation Magid Shaul and I discuss a number of topics including:
- Kahane as both Zionist and counter-Zionist; the subtle differences between the neo-Kahanists in Israel today and Kahane; the relationship of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook to those aforementioned differences; Kahane as a profoundly American figure and a "fish out of water" character in Israel
- Kahane and black nationalism including a discussion of figures like Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan as well as Magid's thoughts on the nature of radicalism and revolutionary politics from both the right and left; Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman's comments about Rabbi Kahane; Kahane and black antisemitism
- Neoconservatism, Bari Weiss, Ben Shapiro, Dennis Praeger and other thinkers/movements and whether aspects of Kahane can be seen in them
- The founding of the Jewish Defense League and Kahane's eventual break from the JDL
- The role of violence in Kahane's thought and why he could not leave violence behind in his thought
- Kahane as a critic of hypocrisy while being a profoundly hypocritical man himself
- Kahane's distrust and criticism of American liberalism; fear of assimilation and erasure of Jewish identity
And much, much more!