Wednesday, August 18, 2010

People in the defense/security world that I'd like to punch in the face (UPDATED)

Occasioned by a Ralph Peters quote in this survey on think tanks and influence by Brookings' Peter Singer (who is awesome, and who wrote a good paper, so read it), I tweeted an impromptu list of "people whose tone and ideas make me want to punch them in the face." Peters' quote -- "Think tanks are simply welfare agencies for intellectuals who can’t survive in the marketplace" -- is just one of several that could've vaulted him to the top of the list. Here's the rest:

Now as I said on Twitter, this is just an off-the-top-of-my-head thing; the real list could extend into the dozens. I have NO IDEA how I managed to leave off Bill Gertz, who really should be 1a. along with Peters. (Lee Smith and Totten could really be combined into one, as they seem to subscribe to essentially the same noxious worldview.)

So go to the comments and give me your top five. Yeah, I know, this is in bad taste, but it's raining outside and the Tweeps demand it!

NOTE (because someone will probably make a big thing out of it if I don't post this disclaimer): I don't actually want to punch any of these people in the face, just give them a stern talking-to. So I'm not threatening or entertaining physical violence against anyone. Unlike Ralph Peters, who wants to execute an American soldier who is MIA.

UPDATE: Damnit, I'm an a-hole. Punch me in the face. First Daveed Gartenstein-Ross very reasonably points out that my attempted irony just fuels the negative trends I'm highlighting (of unelaborated know-it-all-ism and ideological hostility), and then Matt Duss links to a very reasonable piece by Lee Smith on what sharia is and isn't. LIST FAIL. (But I still think Smith's "strong horse" theory sucks.)


  1. Frank Gaffney and his entire team.

  2. Frank Gaffney and his entire team.

    Oh, man, this is a good one. I should also add Loren Thompson and Elaine Donnelly, if she counts as being in the "defense/security world" because of all of her anti-gays in the military jackassery.

  3. Not so security-themed, but Thomas Friedman. Any time my blood pressure drops, I just read his latest column.

  4. Ok, so anonymous commenting is cool and all, but I think in this instance, you could at least come up with some kind of a catchy handle!

  5. 1. Tom Ricks
    2. Elena Kagan
    3. The other Kagan
    4. Michael Gerson
    5. Tom Ricks

  6. Double appearance of Ricks lets me know who this is!

    Gerson, for whatever it's worth, was excellent on the Ground Zero Mosque thing this week.

  7. Michael O'Hanlon anyone!?!

  8. 1. Ralph Peters
    2. Lee Smith
    3. Charles Krauthammer
    4. Thomas Friedman
    5. Robert Kaplan

    Special mention: Paulo Coelho. He may not be anywhere near the defense establishment but I'm sure people in the defense establishment read him... and I'm pretty sure he's therefore responsible for all the wars of the world. His is a special brand of mind-numbing bullshit that needs to be excised from the world once and for all.

  9. "Frank Gaffney and his entire team." Nice. Sometimes wonder if they are on our side. Love the dual Tom Ricks entry.

    Thomas Friedman has done some good work. Especially on economic issues and climate change. Economics, business and climate need to be fused with security policy a lot more than they are. So please lay off him.

    Why bash Michael Totten. Been a fan of his for many years, so maybe I am biased. What about Michael Totten do you not like? I disagree with MJT a whole bunch, especially on Israel/Palestine/Hezbollah. But don't understand you you dislike him.

  10. I'm not really sure what good work Thomas Friedman has done on economic issues and climate change. If you're referring to "The World is Flat" and "Hot, Flat and Crowded" then I strongly challenge your assertion that this is 'good work'. I could wax lyrical for hours on why it isn't but Matt Taibbi says it best on both: and respectively.

  11. Alex, I haven't read your two links. But I couldn't disagree more with you regarding Friedman's research on the global economy and climate change.

    Both of these topics are closely linked to global security policy. The fact that so many in the global security establishment don't understand the reasons and subtleties of why and how they matter, is very troubling.

    Joint whole of government coalition operations [that mostly focus on local capacity building] will a major way the global system deals with global challenges and global public goods in the future.

    All of us need to do a lot better job in improving how all the parts of government collaborate together for joint operations across functionality and nation.

    To take one example, a nuclear attack from Pakistan based militants on Europe, Russia, China, India, or North America could cause a global financial panic and deep global recession. This reality drives risk premiums across asset classes around the world and disrupts capital formation, innovation and product development. All of which lead to lower living standards around the world. This is why terrorism and global economic growth and stability are closely linked.

    The solution is a global coalition nation building operation in Pakistan. The international community is far from ready to deal with these types of challenges in a joint whole of government fashion.