“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Second Machine Age Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

W.W. NORTON -2014

In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies—with hardware, software, and networks at their core—will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.
In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee—two thinkers at the forefront of their field—reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives.
Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds—from lawyers to truck drivers—will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar.
Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.
A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Books on US Military Bases

Gulf Security and the U.S. Military Regime Survival and the Politics of Basing

Geoffrey F. Gresh

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS - 2015

The U.S. military maintains a significant presence across the Arabian Peninsula but it must now confront a new and emerging dynamic as most Gulf Cooperation Council countries have begun to diversify their political, economic, and security partnerships with countries other than the United States—with many turning to ascending powers such as China, Russia, and India. For Gulf Arab monarchies, the choice of security partner is made more complicated by increased domestic and regional instability stemming in part from Iraq, Syria, and a menacing Iran: factors that threaten to alter totally the Middle East security dynamic.  Understanding the dynamics of base politicization in a Gulf host nation—or any other—is therefore vitally important for the U.S. today. Gulf National Security and the U.S. Military examines both Gulf Arab national security and U.S. military basing relations with Gulf Arab monarchy hosts from the Second World War to the present day. Three in-depth country cases—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman—help explain the important questions posed by the author regarding when and why a host nation either terminated a U.S. military basing presence or granted U.S. military basing access.  The analysis of the cases offers a fresh perspective on how the United States has adapted to sometimes rapidly shifting Middle East security dynamics and factors that influence a host nation's preference for eviction or renegotiation, based on its perception of internal versus external threats.

Base Nation How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World American Empire Project 

David Vine 

Metropolitan Books - 2015

From a hilltop at the Guantánamo Bay naval station, you can look down on a secluded part of the base bordered by the Caribbean Sea. There you'll see thick coils of razor wire, guard towers, search lights, and concrete barriers. This is the U.S. prison that has garnered so much international attention and controversy, with so many prisoners held for years without trial. But the prison facilities take up only a few acres of the forty-five-square-mile naval station. Most of the base looks nothing like the detention center. Instead, the landscape features suburban-style housing developments, a golf course, and recreational boating facilities. This part of the base has received much less attention than the prison. Yet in its own way, it is far more important for understanding who we are as a country and how we relate to the rest of the world.  What makes most of the naval station so remarkable is just how unremarkable it is. Looking out on Guantánamo Bay, a U.S. flag flies outside base headquarters. Nearby, an outdoor movie theater has a regular schedule of Hollywood blockbusters. Next door, there are bright-green artificial turf fields for football and soccer, at a new sports facility that also features two baseball diamonds, volleyball and basketball courts, and an outdoor roller-skating rink. In the air-conditioned gym, ESPN's Sportscenter plays on TV. Across the main road there's a large chapel, a post office, and a sun-bleached set of McDonald's golden arches. Neighborhoods with names like Deer Point and Villamar have looping drives and spacious lawns with barbecue grills and children's toys. There's a high school, a middle and elementary school, and a childcare facility. There are pools and playgrounds, several public beaches, a bowling center, barber and beauty shops, a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, a KFC, and a Subway.  From the hilltop you can also faintly see two nearby Cuban towns, but most everywhere else on base it's easy to forget you're in Cuba. What base residents call "downtown," for example, could be almost anywhere in the United States-or at another of the hundreds of U.S. military bases spread around the globe, which often resemble self-contained American towns. The downtown is where you find the commissary and the Navy's version of the post exchange, or PX-the shopping facility present on U.S. military bases worldwide. Surrounded by plentiful parking, the commissary and exchange feel like a Walmart, full of clothing and consumer electronics, furniture, automotive products, and groceries. At Guantánamo, the base souvenir shop is one of the few reminders of where you really are. There, along with U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay postcards and mugs, you can buy a T-shirt bearing the words DETAINEE OPERATIONS.  During years of debates over the closure of Guantánamo Bay's prison, few have asked why the United States has such a large base on Cuban territory in the first place, and whether we should have one there at all. This is unsurprising.  Most Americans rarely think about U.S. military bases overseas. Since the end of World War II and the early days of the Cold War, when the United States built or acquired most of its overseas bases, Americans have considered it normal to have U.S. military installations in other countries, on other people's land. The presence of our bases overseas has long been accepted unquestioningly and treated as an obvious good, essential to national security and global peace. Perhaps these bases register in our consciousness when there's an antibase protest in Okinawa or an accident in Germany. Quickly, however, they're forgotten.  Of course, people living near U.S. bases in countries worldwide pay them more attention. For many, U.S. bases are one of the most prominent symbols of the United States, along with Hollywood movies, pop music, and fast food. Indeed, the prevalence of Burger Kings and Taco Bells on many of our bases abroad is telling: ours is a supersized collection of bases with franchises the world over. While there are no freestanding foreign bases on U.S. soil, today there are around eight hundred U.S. bases in foreign countries, occupied by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops.  Although the United States has long had some bases in foreign lands, this massive global deployment of military force was unknown in U.S. history before World War II. Now, seventy years after that war, there are still, according to the Pentagon, 174 U.S. bases in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. There are hundreds more dotting the planet in Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, to name just a few. Worldwide, we have bases in more than seventy countries. Although few U.S. citizens realize it, we probably have more bases in other people's lands than any other people, nation, or empire in world history.  And yet the subject is barely discussed in the media. Rarely does anyone ask whether we need hundreds of bases overseas, or whether we can afford them. Rarely does anyone consider how we would feel with a foreign base on U.S. soil, or how we would react if China, Russia, or Iran built even a single base somewhere near our borders today. For most in the United States, the idea of even the nicest, most benign foreign troops arriving with their tanks, planes, and high-powered weaponry and making themselves at home in our country-occupying and fencing off hundreds or thousands of acres of our land-is unthinkable.  Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, highlighted this rarely considered truth in 2009 when he refused to renew the lease for a U.S. base in his country. Correa told reporters that he would approve the lease renewal on one condition: "They let us put a base in Miami-an Ecuadorian base."  "If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil," Correa quipped, "surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorian base in the United States.

Social Unrest and American Military Bases in Turkey and Germany since 1945

Amy Austin Holmes

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS - 2014

Over the past century, the United States has created a global network of military bases. While the force structure offers protection to U.S. allies, it maintains the threat of violence toward others, both creating and undermining security. Amy Austin Holmes argues that the relationship between the U.S. military presence and the non-U.S. citizens under its security umbrella is inherently contradictory. She suggests that the while the host population may be fully enfranchised citizens of their own government, they are at the same time disenfranchised vis-à-vis the U.S. presence. This study introduces the concept of the “protectariat” as they are defined not by their relationship to the means of production, but rather by their relationship to the means of violence. Focusing on Germany and Turkey, Holmes finds remarkable parallels in the types of social protest that occurred in both countries, particularly non-violent civil disobedience, labor strikes of base workers, violent attacks and kidnappings, and opposition parties in the parliaments.