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The Contested Landscape Of Jerusalem

The Review

John Matthew Barlow discusses University of Tel Aviv archeologist Raphael Greenberg's new research on the dig at Wadi Hilweh, and its political and cultural ramifications for Israelis and Palestinians.


  • Contested Jerusalem


    John Matthew Barlow discusses University of Tel Aviv archeologist Raphael Greenberg's new research on the dig at Wadi Hilweh, and its political and cultural ramifications for Israelis and Palestinians.


  • The Occidental Guerrilla

    Book Review

    Michael A. Innes reviews David Kilcullen's new book The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. A timely and astute synthesis of experience, research and analysis, the author pinpoints the political shear between minority existential threats to US interests and the majority of the world's locally invested guerrillas who just want to be left alone.


  • Architecture & Biopolitics


    Berlin-based writer Daniel Miller's October 2008 interview with Swedish philosopher and SITE Magazine Editor-In-Chief Sven-Olov Wallenstein, on his new book Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).


  • Wired For War


    The second symposium in CTlab's 2009 series, focused on Peter Singer's new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009), ran from 30 March to 2 April. Singer and half a dozen scholars from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria debated the use and ethics of robots in war.


  • The Limits Of "Security"

    Current Intelligence

    Kenneth Anderson explores the link between international financial instability and global security in response to Judy Shelton's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.


Current Intelligence

EDITOR: Michael A. Innes
PEERLESS: John Matthew Barlow 
CONTRIBUTOR: Eric Randolph

« Guard Of Key Terror Witness Killed In Greece | Main | The Green on the Football Field »

Where Do Security Concerns Stop?

At what point does "security" concerns stop being a useful point of reference for policy? It's a question that has been raised in the war on terror, but long predates it as a justification for public policy, legislation, government spending, etc. After all, the US interstate highway system - a magnificent achievement, yes, in providing uniform road transport links across a continental country, but surely mostly about economic development? - was justified as a tax expenditure partly in Cold War terms of national security. The list of fundamentally economic issues being justified in terms of security is of course a long one, particularly for the US in the Cold War.

One recent iteration of this ever-elastic rationale has popped up in national security analyses of the global financial crisis. At one level, it is not simply rationalization: global financial crisis leading to global recession can easily lead to instability, crisis, and all sorts of security concerns. Once that is duly noted, however - and it gets the headline for "Global Recession Vital Security Threat" - it is not very clear what comparative advantage the Pentagon, or the NSC, or the CIA, or any national security agency has in analyzing the actual facts and workings of the global economy. The CIA's decades-long inability to assess the basic economic conditions of various places, starting with the Soviet Union should give pause to any other security agency undertaking such analysis. After all, if these analysts were in fact good at it, they would be unlikely to be doing it for CIA wages.

I raise this on account of Judy Shelton's op-ed today in the WSJ (June 17, 2009, possibly subscriber wall) on the Obama administration pushing through plans to up the capital of the IMF. Might be a good idea - my substantive view is that the IMF should be the lender to smaller underwater economies, particularly in Eastern Europe, though the remark by a recent UK finance minister that Britain could tap the IMF seems particularly shameless, given where the funding comes from and who it is intended for - but the idea of the IMF having a longer and longer monetary leash via its special drawing rights is a fantastically bad one. More to the point of this post, Shelton notes that the national security heavyweights of the Obama administration lined up in a letter to Congress:

Last week, congressional leaders received a letter that made a firm connection between global economics and global security. "We know from the 1930s that a protracted global economic slump can foster undesirable and unforeseeable reactions to hardship and adversity," it stated. "Financial hardship and poverty breed desperation, which helps terrorist networks to attract new recruits with messages of hate, violence and intolerance."

The letter then urged Republicans and Democrats to support the president's request for IMF funding. "We believe that the current instability poses a significant risk to the long-term prosperity and security of the United States." It was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones, and, most notably, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Whoa! Clearly the implication was that a vote against the IMF funds would be a vote against national security. But does such a claim make sense? To answer that we must first seriously consider: 1) the impact of international financial instability on global security, and 2) whether the IMF is a force for good in establishing a stable financial foundation for economic prosperity.

But I'd say it goes a step further - even if there is such a link between international financial instability and global security, on what basis are these signers and their agencies competent to analyze the consequences for policy, including a declaration that IMF funding is required to these ends?  There's a long way between the abstract proposition and this highly contentious funding for the IMF.

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