Last Tango in Kabul

This is a beautiful, horrible piece.

The invasion of Afghanistan, in the long run, put barely a dent in the Taliban. It just made them more determined.

(cough because you can’t kill an ideology with bullets cough)

(and efforts to actually change the social structure of Afghanistan, from healing the sick to educating girls, are being slowly but surely picked off by both the Taliban and ordinary Afghans who are sick of chaos and death and have found a new outlet as the soldiers pack their bags)

Adam “dancing”

All your hurt sticks on me and I keep it warm.

(Source: Spotify)


Exhibit A: You don’t have to worry when the escalator breaks in the metro station, because your neighborhood is full of rich, white, “important” people, so it’ll be fixed in no time.

Exhibit B: The air conditioner in the metro station breaks and you get huffy after two weeks, completely forgetting that Columbia Heights hasn’t had two working escalators in almost a year. 

From all of the crying/screaming, my neighbors are now convinced that there is a very sad person named Wesley living in my apartment and that I am failing miserably at comforting him.


"To all the women who silently made history."


A sample of tweets on #Ferguson tonight, 8/13/14

Let’s talk about the treatment of realism in Captain America and how this is related to Otto von Bismarck.

(This is not as ridiculous as it sounds, promise.)

(Also, here be minor Winter Soldier spoilers.)

So, in Winter Soldier, both Fury and Pierce cast themselves as “realists.” To Fury and Pierce, this means that diplomacy is a nice, rosy thought, but it is force that minimizes threats and keeps countries safe.

This is a dangerous assertion to put forth, because realism is not force, or at least not always. That force is an option—but not the only option—is the entire point of realism. One of the biggest realists in history, Otto von Bismarck, was an infamous proponent of force; it was indeed “iron and blood” that unified Germany, not a roundtable discussion over tea. But after unification, it was an intricate network of alliances and counteralliances—not force—that held Germany and the rest of Europe together. 

Hawkishness is the advocating of force. Neoconservatism, especially, is the advocating of preemptive force (taken to its extreme in Winter Soldier with HYDRA’s targeting system). Realism is not the advocating of force. Realism is leaving all options on the table.

But this casting of realism as bad, if not evil, is not at all surprising. The U.S. national security establishment has been doing it since World War I, when Woodrow Wilson took the deeply rooted U.S. idea of exceptionalism to its logical conclusion. The U.S. (so propagandized Wilson), already a beacon of good, had a moral obligation to also be a bringer of good. This is simply an Americanized version of the international relations theory of idealism—all countries want the same things, so ceterus paribus, all countries will act the same way. But all isn’t equal in the real world, so countries will certainly welcome freedom and democracy (never mind the incredibly Western, white, heteronormative way that those terms are defined), right? 

The enemy of that idea is pragmatism, which reminds us that the only interest that all countries share is security—and there will be plenty of conflicts of interest and moral shortcuts in the pursuit thereof. This, the crux of realism, tells us that we can’t apply a panacea to every country or every threat. It tells us that, while we naturally think that our way is the best way, other countries will not, and short of obliterating everyone else in the world (see: All My Friends Are Dead), compromises will have to be reached. Deals will have to be struck. And, if you’re really committed to having your way in a world of so many conflicting interests, you’re going to need to use every trick in the book. 

In short, assuming that everyone wants what you want—in this scenario, electoral democracy and freedom fries—is naive at best and deadly at worst. So how do we paint the other side, the pragmatist-realist side? By coloring everything in shades of war. By making it seem like obliteration is the only alternative to messianism. 

Behold, I give you U.S. foreign policy discourse over the past 100 years. 

But, aside from my brief example above, what does Bismarck have to do with any of this? Well, where does realism come from?

In the U.S., we (we being academics/nerds) often use Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon as examples of realists. The Nixon example necessarily includes Henry Kissinger, who, as Secretary of State, was the real architect of Nixon’s realist foreign policy. People like to use Kissinger, who fits the “idealism good, realism bad” narrative quite well: Kissinger is German. If he propagates ideas that the U.S. doesn’t like, it’s at least partially because he’s not “one of us.” Exceptionalism makes people jealous, y’know? (Gag.)

Who else is German? Why, Hans Morgenthau, the academic father of realism. Who else? Why, Otto von Bismarck, a realist if there ever was one.

Realism is such a German idea, and it makes a lot of sense why: when you’re a new country stuck in the middle of a continent where everyone either hates or fears you, you’ve got to use every tool that you have just to stay alive.

The U.S., one of the most naturally secure countries in the world, founded not by politicians out of economic interests but (ostensibly) by ordinary people fighting for freedom, has no need for this type of reasoning. 

Hence why the U.S. doesn’t understand realism and perhaps never will. Perpetrating the narrative of “realism=evil” in mass-budget films certainly doesn’t help.

Here endeth the lesson.

I know there’s someone out there feeling just how I feel.