With the next round of nuclear negotiations with Iran set to begin on Wednesday, commentators are increasingly optimistic that they will succeed. There has, however, been an alarming lack of discussion about the fact that Washington has been in the habit of constantly shifting down its definition of what a “successful” outcome would consist of. Over the course of the Iranian nuclear crisis—across the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama—one goal has remained consistent: that Iran not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.
When President Obama unveiled his military budget earlier this year, it was clear that he was essentially putting a new defense strategy on the table. The Pentagon’s plan called for the ranks of the active-duty Army to be reduced from 570,000 to 490,000 troops over five years. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was supposed to shrink from 202,000 to 182,000. At the same time, drones were a high priority in the budget—not surprising, given that Obama has ordered about five times as many drone attacks as his predecessor.
If you've passed through a major American airport in the past few months, you may have been subjected to a full-body scan. The new backscatter and millimeter-wave sensing devices that have been deployed across the country check whether people hide forbidden objects under their clothes. Privacy advocates refer to them as "virtual strip-searches." But how worried should one be about these scanners? Are they truly a grave threat to individual privacy, as civil libertarians contend? I come at this issue as a communitarian.
Many good people who have never fought in a war find something appealing in America’s willingness to take more casualties in order to spare innocent civilian lives. For those, like me, who have been in combat, the choices at hand look somewhat different. Consider the following likely scenario. A platoon of Marines is patrolling an area in Afghanistan. To avoid IEDs, the Marines stay off the roads and advance through a field. At the edge of the field is a row of huts. Suddenly, two Marines are hit. The Marines take cover, although there is little to protect them in the open field.