If time hangs lightly on your shoulders this weekend, here are a few of the week’s best reads.
Pierce went over this, but you aren’t going to read a more gripping an enraging story this weekend, and maybe not all year, than the story of the Senate’s CIA torture report, by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian. This is part 1 of 3. It’s a story of betrayed ideals, malevolent ass-covering, personal courage, and a political system that, since 9/11, became more and more insidiously militaristic and that erred nearly unquestioningly on the side of “Security”. It’s in quotes because it isn’t actual security, as in a discussion of what policies would make us the most safe, but a genuflection to whomever seemed to be the toughest actor. It’s fear and its politics and it is people who want to live out their sick fantasies, unconcerned with the real danger it does to our democracy, and to the actual humans involved. We haven’t come close to understanding the internal ways that day changed our country, and how everything about our political and personal lives has been mutated.
Speaking of that, the Combatting Terrorism Center has a retrospective on what we’ve learned in the last 15 years. It’s the 100th issue of this now-venerable journal, which has produced some great insights and attracts some of the sharpest minds in counter-terrorism (as well as this author). While Brian Michael Jenkins’ look at the last 15 years is the centerpiece, of particular interest is “The Political Economy of the Decline of the Islamic State“, by Jacob Shapiro. It’s a nice reminder that while they seem like beasts out of a storybook, holding territory means being part of the real world, and being beset by real world concerns, which they haven’t been able to handle (unlike, say, Hezbollah).
Hala al-Dosari has a good piece in the Sada Journal on how Saudi Arabia is struggling for control over the Sunni world, even while it clashes with Iran over power politics and religion. Its internal politics are influencing the way it exports religion. It is good to remember that, despite its historical and current importance, the region wasn’t always central. During the Ottoman years, it was a broken backwater. Leaders paid tribute to the hajj, but the heart of the Muslim world was Istanbul. Saudi preeminence isn’t permanent. (There’s also an article today on what Saudi Arabia wants in Yemen, which I haven’t had a chance to read, but will maybe write about next week. Stay tuned!)
Charles Mahron at Strong Towns has sort of an election-based clarion call to action about the real infrastructure crisis, and how it relates to the American penchant for quick fixes instead of long-term goals, which seems to be the heart of our economy.
In a nation that has spent more than seven decades frantically spreading out, there are trillions of dollars of unproductive infrastructure already in the ground today waiting for us to make better use of. Every city has long stretches of road and street, curb and sidewalk, pipes, pumps and valves that have nothing on them. Even more have something of low value, something that needs to be improved to a higher order of community wealth. There are an endless number of parks that have parking lots but aren’t designed to radiate value to surrounding properties. There are tens of thousands of downtowns that are cut off from their surrounding neighborhoods by nasty stroads. Neighborhoods in decline where there is an unnecessary bank run on confidence. Libraries, schools and community centers in fields on the edge of town. The list is endless….
Happy weekend, everyone!