Thursday, November 20, 2008

Forget a bailout, how 'bout a war?

While researching a story last week, I came across a rather unusual press release from the RAND Corporation that I caught my attention for what I think are reasons that will be readily apparent:
Claims RAND Advocates War Against China are False

Contrary to various online accounts, RAND is not advocating war against China or any nation to advance recovery of the U.S. economy. The notion that RAND has generated such an analysis is simply a rumor, with no foundation in fact. We do not know how those who generated the rumor arrived at their conclusion.
Wondering why RAND would feel the need to issue such a release, I did some Googling and found a few rather poorly sourced articles from the tinfoil hat crowd claiming the Pentagon-founded think tank was advocating a hefty dose of military Keynesianism in order to boost the struggling U.S. economy. 

But as an article, "The RAND Corporation: America's University of Imperialism," by noted imperial critic Chalmers Johnson indicates, RAND would be just the type of place to coldly advocate war as a way to jump-start the economy -- after all, World War II supposedly ended the Great Depression, right?

Indeed,  the article notes that RAND researcher Herman Kahn was apparently the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove in his classic film of the same name. And, as Johnson writes, RAND hasn't suffered since from a lack of militaristic sociopaths:
The RAND Corporation is surely one of the world's most unusual, Cold War-bred private organizations in the field of international relations. While it has attracted and supported some of the most distinguished analysts of war and weaponry, it has not stood for the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and debate. While RAND has an unparalleled record of providing unbiased, unblinking analyses of technical and carefully limited problems involved in waging contemporary war, its record of advice on cardinal policies involving war and peace, the protection of civilians in wartime, arms races, and decisions to resort to armed force has been abysmal.

For example, Abella credits RAND with "creating the discipline of terrorist studies," but its analysts seem never to have noticed the phenomenon of state terrorism as it was practiced in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America by American-backed military dictatorships. Similarly, admirers of Albert Wohlstetter's reformulations of nuclear war ignore the fact that that these led to a "constant escalation of the nuclear arms race." By 1967, the U.S. possessed a stockpile of 32,500 atomic and hydrogen bombs.

In Vietnam, RAND invented the theories that led two administrations to military escalation against North Vietnam -- and even after the think tank's strategy had obviously failed and the secretary of defense had disowned it, RAND never publicly acknowledged that it had been wrong. Abella comments, "RAND found itself bound by the power of the purse wielded by its patron, whether it be the Air Force or the Office of the Secretary of Defense." And it has always relied on classifying its research to protect itself, even when no military secrets were involved.
While I don't think war with China is in the offing anytime soon -- U.S. political leaders are notorious for their hubris and willful disregard for reality, but they surely can't be that insane, right? -- just to be safe, one might want to get in touch with those cousins in rural Idaho that you haven't talked to in a couple of years . . .

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