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Losing Control

Global Security in the Twenty-first century

Paul Rogers, Losing Control: Global Security in the Twenty-first Century, 2nd edition, London, Pluto Press, 2002.

This new paperback edition of Losing Control by Paul Rogers, head of Peace Studies at Bradford University in England is one that I will be using in my course at the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. Rogers’ version of peace studies is marvelously hard-headed and uses serious policy analysis and history to analyze why current attempts, led by the United States, to quell global violence, insecurity, and terrorism through over reliance on military power projection are not only likely to fail, they will make matters worse.

This slim, though fairly dense, volume should be required reading for all U.S. policy makers, especially our Commander-in-Chief, who takes a little too much pride in his gentleman’s C’s at Yale. Would that as an undergraduate, he had had Paul Rogers and gotten an A. Losing Control is another of those books that makes you appreciate its ability to stand back and see clear patterns in recent history and especially US military policy. Rogers sees the big picture, but has followed the small, telling details that journalists and the media often miss. In his introduction, he paints quick, vivid pictures of the world of modern Western elites, including intellectuals and analysts like himself, who attend plush conferences such as one in Dhaha, Bangladesh surrounded by barbed wire, guards, and intense poverty and misery. Or he describes Heritage Park in South Africa, a gated community so spectacular as to be practically self-sufficient with 2,000 large homes, a 50 acre park, lakes, birds, shops, schools, a church, hospital and village green. Again, immediately outside are 1,000 squatters whom the owners hope eventually to hire as cheap help. These awful scenes (which I have also witnessed worldwide, including the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg) mark for Rogers the divide in our world between rich and poor, a transnational elite with immense privilege and resources and a huge, impoverished global underclass. Given the overwhelming needs of the global poor, the widening gaps between them and the rich countries of the industrialized countries, and the environmental pressures of unsustainable economic development  Rogers says, attempting to hold back the accompanying crime, disease, despair, violence, and finally terrorism by sheer military force is nonsense.

Why then such obviously shortsighted policies? Here Rogers is brilliant with brief, cogent summaries of the Cold War, its legacies, and the military policies and weapons it spawned as viewed by ideologues of the sort in the Bush Administration. The Bush team, and the Reaganites before them, believe that massive military spending, a preponderance in nuclear weapons and the perceived threat that they might be used, actually won the Cold War and maintained global security. The momentum of these Cold War efforts led in the new age of diffuse threats from smaller nations and subnational groups to the development of counterproliferation doctrine and the desire to project US military force globally without having to rely on allies or too many expensive overseas bases.

Perhaps one instructive piece of Rogers’ narrative will suffice. When the US was frustrated in one of its first attempts to attack a “rogue” state and Colonel Gaddifi of Libya in 1986, new weapons configurations and strategies were quickly developed. Given the obstinance of NATO allies who refused the use of their bases and fueling stations to bomb Libya, the US Air Force was forced to fly its small F-lll stealth fighter bombers on multiple, long, round-about sorties from Great Britain to Libya. The result was extreme pilot fatigue and error causing crashes, civilian deaths, and no harm to one Colonel Gaddify.

This led to the development of a secret USAF project that put conventially-armed, highly accurate stand off ALCMs (air launched cruise missiles originally designed to be part of nuclear attacks on the Soviet Union) aboard long range B-52G bombers. These weapons platforms, known as “Secret Squirrels,” were then used in advance of the Persian Gulf War in secret bombing missions flown from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to the Gulf where they attacked Iraq without ever entering its air space.

It is this sort of “success” and global reach with minimal US casualties that has given rise to the current  Bush national security doctrine of preemptive war  and the attempt to create a global Pax Americana. Such doctrines, as Rogers carefully describes, inexorably lead to new, smaller, usable nuclear weapons, space based lasers and particle beams, stand off missiles and drone aircraft, and the rest of  $400 billion defense budget and threats of continual war we now confront.

I cannot do justice in a review to Rogers’ meticulous analysis or his ability to show how such imperial might is also useless in the face of terrorism or global climate change and other security threats now being ignored. But I can tell you that if you want just one volume to give you the crash course on US (and to a lesser degree Britain’s) global military policy, this is the one. After you read Losing Control (and like most policy books you’ll want to go fairly slowly and take some notes), I suspect you will want to drop multiple copies on the White House, the Congress, and on other legitimate targets.

Purchase this book from Amazon.com

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