November 9, 2018
by Max Wilbert
Deep Green Resistance
Current atmospheric CO2 level: 406 PPM
A free monthly newsletter providing analysis and commentary on ecology, global capitalism, empire, and revolution.
For back issues, to read this issue online, or to subscribe via email or RSS, visit the Resistance News web page.
These essays also appear on the DGR News Service, which also includes an active comment section.
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In this issue:
- Underground action calendar
- Honduran Migrant March: A Refugee Crisis Caused by US Policy and US Partners
- Run for Sacred Water
- Oppression and Subordination
- Guiding Principles of Deep Green Resistance
- Evaluating Strategy
- Capitalism is Killing the World’s Wildlife Populations, not ‘Humanity’
- Submit your material to the Deep Green Resistance News Service
- Abovegound tactics and operations
- Further news and recommended reading / podcasts
- How to support DGR or get involved
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“We’ve got to stop thinking like vandals and start thinking like field generals.”
– Lierre Keith
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Underground Action Calendar
[Link] The Underground Action Calendar exists to publicize and normalize the use of militant and underground tactics in the fight for justice and sustainability. We include below a wide variety of actions from struggles around the world, especially those in which militants target infrastructure, because we believe this sort of action is necessary to dismantle civilization. Listing an action does not necessarily mean we support or stand behind the goals, strategies, or tactics of those actionists.
This page highlights specific actions. See also our Resistance Profiles for broader information on the strategies, tactics, goals, and effectiveness of various historic and contemporary resistance groups.
If you know of a published action appropriate to add to the Calendar, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: We ONLY accept communications about actions that are already publicly known in one form or another. DO NOT send original communiques directly to this email address. THIS IS NOT A SECURE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION.
Several recent entries on the Underground Action Calendar:
|June 2018||Pennsylvania, US||Liquidation system of excavator on pipeline construction site sabotaged, in such a way as to inflict permanent damage||Vehicle||Monkey
|May 24, 2018||Birima, Kirkuk, Iraq||Two power lines destroyed simultaneously, triggering blackouts in two cities||Powerline, Towers|
|May 2018||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US||Cable housing of cell tower torched||Telecomms||Arson|
|April 3, 2018||Exton, Pennsylvania, US||Tractors for pipeline construction sabotaged||Vehicle||Monkey
View the full Underground Action Calendar database, which contains hundreds of actions dating back more than 50 years, here.
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Honduran Migrant March: A Refugee Crisis Caused by US Policy and US Partners
[Link] by Honduras Solidarity Network
On October 12, 2018, hundreds of women, men, children, youth and the elderly decided to leave Honduras as a desperate response to survive. The massive exodus that began in the city of San Pedro Sula, reached more than 3 thousand people by the time the group crossed to Guatemala. The caravan, which is headed north to Mexico first, and to the United States as the goal- is the only alternative this people have to reach a bit of the dignity that has been taken from them. They are not alone in their journey. Various waves of Hondurans, whose numbers increase every hour, are being contained by Honduran security forces on their border with El Salvador and Guatemala.
The Honduras Solidarity Network in North America condemns any threats and acts of repression against the refugee caravan, human rights activists and journalists that accompany their journey. The conditions of violence, marginalization and exploitation in which this refugee crisis find its origins, have been created, maintained and reproduced by US-backed social, economic and military interventionist policies, with the support of its Canadian and regional allies. We call on people in the US to reject the criminalization, prosecution, detention, deportation and family separation that threaten the members of this march and the lives of all those refugees forced from their homes in the same way. We urge a change of US policy in Honduras and to cut off security aid to stop human rights abuses and government violence against Hondurans.
This refugee crisis has been exacerbated by the governments of Guatemala and Mexico, who subservient to Donald Trump’s administration, have chosen the path of repression. Bartolo Fuentes, a Honduran journalist and spokesperson for the refugees, has been detained in Guatemala. Meanwhile the Mexican government has sent two planeloads of its National Police to the border with Guatemala. Irineo Mujica, a migrant rights activist and photojournalist, was arrested in Chiapas by agents of the Mexican National Institute of Migration when he was getting ready to support the Honduran migrant march. Today (Friday) in the afternoon, tear gas was fired into the group as they tried to come into Mexico on the border bridge. Honduran human rights organizations report that a 7 month old baby was killed.
The massive forced flight of people from Honduras is not new; it is the legacy of US intervention in the country. Since the 2009 US-backed coup in Honduras, the post-coup regime has perpetuated a system based on disregard for human rights, impunity, corruption, repression and the influence of organized crime groups in the government and in the economic power elite. Since the coup, we have seen the destruction of public education and health services through privatization. The imposition of mining, hydro-electric mega-projects and the concentration of land in agro-industry has plunged 66 percent of the Honduran population into poverty and extreme poverty. In the last 9 years, we have witnessed how the murder of Berta Cáceres and many other activists, indigenous leaders, lawyers, journalists, LGBTQ community members and students has triggered a humanitarian crisis. This crisis is reflected in the internal displacement and the unprecedented exodus of the Honduran people that has caught the public’s eye during recent days.
The fraudulent November 2017 elections, in which Juan Orlando Hernández -president since questionable elections in 2013- was re-elected for a second term in violation of the Honduran constitution, sparked a national outrage. The people’s outrage was confronted by an extremely violent government campaign with military and US-trained security forces to suppress the protests against the fraud. The result of the repression was more than 30 people killed by government forces, more than a thousand arrested and there are currently 20 political prisoners being held in pre-trial prison.
To the repression, intimidation and criminalization faced by the members of the refugee caravan, we respond with a call for solidarity from all the corners of the world. In the face of the violence that has led to the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, we demand an end to US military and security aid to Juan Orlando’s regime, not as the blackmail tool used by Donald Trump, but as a way to guarantee the protection of the human rights of the Honduran people. We demand justice for Berta Cáceres, for all the victims of political violence as a consequence of the post coup regime, and the approval of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act H.R. 1299. We demand freedom for all the political prisoners in Honduras. We demand the US end the criminalization, imprisonment, separation, deportation and killing of migrants and refugees.
Today we fight so that every step, from Honduras to the north of the Americas, is dignified and free.
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[Link] by Boris Forkel / Deep Green Resistance Germany
It is very difficult for me to live in this culture.
I just can’t psychologically survive in the high performance society, where everyone is passionately exploiting themselves, while all life on this planet is being destroyed.
I have severe depression and anxiety disorders, and I have to take good care of myself to be able to take care of my son.
It is very difficult for people who have never experienced poverty to understand what poverty means. The constant nagging fear. The permanent stress and psychological terror of state authorities on which you are dependent, that harass you and try to keep you small and oppressed.
Now they want me to work underpaid, shitty jobs again. I already had a stroke not long ago. I can’t do these jobs and I can‘t stand the pressure.
I live in the age of the greatest mass extinction in 65 million years. And the cause of this mass extinction is our glorious western civilization.
Indeed, almost all imperial forces have joined into one: The West.
“In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier…The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers,” writes John Pilger.
Looks like the West is encircling the strongest probable future enemies, preparing for war.
Full spectrum dominance.
The understanding of the fact that this culture is always at war, and will indeed kill all life on planet earth made me shift my loyalty and become an activist.
My loyalty does not belong to empire and industrial capitalism. My loyalty belongs to the suppressed, the poor, the dying planet.
Where are you when we need people to take responsibility for our fellow creatures, human and nonhuman, and defend them? Always working on your professional self-fulfillment, performing until you burn out.
Do you distract yourself so manically with your work, so you don’t have to see what is happening around us? That the insects disappear, the songbirds disappear, the masses impoverish?
That the West is already bombing the near and middle east to ashes and dust and prepares for more, while you try to overtake yourself, become faster and better, without even stopping once to understand the obvious fact that this system is heading for collapse?
Instead you wonder where all the refugees come from. (Of course they come for a share of the cake of our western wealth, they might even try to take your precious job! You better join one of the aspiring right-wing movements.)
Imperialism creates the illusion of wealth as far as the masses are concerned. It usually serves to hide the fact that the ruling classes are gobbling up the natural resources of the home territory in an improvident manner and are otherwise utilizing the national wealth largely for their own purposes. Eventually the general public is called upon to pay for all of this, frequently after the military machine can no longer maintain external aggression.
Capitalism 2.0 comes with a like-button and a smiling emoji, and it will always tell you that everything is fine.
Capitalism is exploitation, but neoliberalism is the smart self-exploitation of the alienated and indoctrinated individual. Exploitation on steroids.
Indoctrination is cheaper and more efficient than violence. It is thus called “soft power.” It works with research-based psycho-politics, and the smart manipulation of human feelings and desires.
Capitalism creates an exploited class of workers that will probably organize and resist (as it did many times).
Neoliberalism creates a population of totally alienated and indoctrinated machine-like zombies, who suppress their own humanity. Each individual a perfect slave, with a software programmed in its brain. Owner Inside®.
You might already be a zombie, living in your middle class-bubble or your digital hallucination, but I am still a human being, sensitive as a frightened child, with a healthy portion of empathy and love. I‘m trying to live awake and conscious in this real, physical world, and what I see is mass extinction, ecological catastrophe and imperialist wars. Trauma.
Facing the truth isn’t easy.
I carry a trauma with me from reading A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome de Las Casas.
I carry a trauma with me from reading Jack Forbes’ Only Approved Indians. He writes: “If a creature learns to completely accept captivity or slavery, if they erase all thoughts of freedom, they can suppress the pain. But if one wants to be free, one has to face the pain; one has to agonize, to suffer, through all of the terror.”
That’s where you are. Completely accepting captivity and slavery, driving out the pain.
That‘s where I am. Going through all the terror. Trying to free myself (and the world) of this culture.
I carry a trauma with me from reading Derrick Jensen‘s Endgame.
And I carry a deep trauma with me from seeing that he is right, from seeing my fellow beings and relatives disappear, the insects, the birds, the amphibians, all of my beloved nature, in rapid decline.
I most certainly carry a lot of trauma with me from my parents and grandparents, since I was born only 34 years after World War II. I certainly carry a trauma from watching all the documentaries and from visiting the concentration camp in Dachau.
You do not understand my language. I can say what I want, but you don‘t understand. You do not even understand the language “stroke” (red alert; Individual doesn’t function anymore within this insane culture).
Government to medical complex: Repair individual and re-integrate into the machine.
Sorry, doesn’t work for me. I’m out.
I need a lot of quiet and peaceful time to deal with all the trauma. I can’t just rush through my life and work ever harder to help to accomplish the neoliberal agenda and make Europe more competitive for the global economy (that’s how the politicians sold it to us; in fact, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, as always).
Mental illnesses such as depression or burnout are the expression of a deep crisis of freedom. They are a pathological sign that today freedom often turns into coercion. We think we are free today. But in reality we exploit ourselves passionately until we collapse…Neoliberalism is even capable of exploiting freedom itself. The performance society creates more productivity than the disciplinary society, because it makes excessive use of freedom. It doesn’t exploit against freedom, but it exploits freedom itself. Everything that belongs to practices and expressions of freedom, such as emotion, play and communication, is now exploited. It is not efficient to exploit someone against his or her will. With the external exploitation, the yield is very small. Only self-exploitation, as the exploitation of freedom, produces the greatest yield. The first stage of burnout syndrome is, paradoxically, euphoria. Euphorically I plunge into the work. In the end I collapse and slide into depression.
What will you do when the next economic collapse hits?
What will you do when you loose your job and can‘t numb yourself anymore with your work?
Alcohol, drugs, suicide?
Better to face the truth, go through all the terror, declare your loyalty to justice and life on planet earth and become a revolutionary.
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Run for Sacred Water
[Story] by Max Wilbert / Deep Green Resistance
Last week, I was invited to join a Sacred Water Run-Walk in Nevada by Chief Johnnie Bobb of the Western Shoshone National Council. Chief Bobb attended the Sacred Water, Sacred Forests gathering back in May, and we exchanged contact information.
I decided to attend last minute after his phone call, and gathered my supplies and energies. It is a 14 hour drive from my home in Oregon to the area the walk was to take place, so I took two days to make the drive. I stopped along the way and purchased as much food and supplies as I could afford, although I didn’t know exactly what was needed.
I slept on the night of October 1st in my car at the Swamp Cedars, where we were supposed to meet. The Swamp Cedars are an ecologically unique stand of Rocky Mountain Junipers on the bottom of Spring Valley. Pure water coming out of the ground, shade from the trees, and rich grasses that brought in game animals made this area a gathering place for Newé (Western Shoshone/Goshute) people for thousands of years. It is also why the people were gathered here when they were massacred by the U.S. Calvary, one of several massacres here.
I was awoken before the dawn the next morning when Rupert Steele, the chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, pulled in next to me. We spoke for a while, and then others started to arrive. The others included about 15 or 20 other people from 12 different indigenous nations.
Mr. Steele and Chief Johnnie Bobb both said prayers and burned sage as the sun rose over Spring Valley. I introduced myself to various people, including the woman who organized the run (Beverly Harry). I told her about the food, which she was happy about. Then the runners started out. I stuck around for a while and made some coffee for the elders. One of them asked me to join them in the run-walk, a great honor. I ended up doing 10 miles that day. We did it relay style, so at least one person from the group ran or walked every mile.
We covered 100 miles that first day, then stayed at Cathedral Gorge State Park. We had a nice night around the fire and got to know each other a bit better. I was able to stay through the second day. We covered another 75 miles the second day, and then I had to leave. The runners continued down to the Moapa Paiute reservation.
Our network against the water grab is growing. There were some solid people there. In the event SNWA begins to build the pipeline, there will be serious resistance.
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Oppression and Subordination
[Story] by Lierre Keith / Deep Green Resistance.
At this moment, the liberal basis of most progressive movements is impeding our ability, individually and collectively, to take action. The individualism of liberalism, and of American society generally, renders too many of us unable to think clearly about our dire situation. Individual action is not an effective response to power because human society is political; by definition it is built from groups, not from individuals. That is not to say that individual acts of physical and intellectual courage can’t spearhead movements. But Rosa Parks didn’t end segregation on the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system. Rosa Parks plus the stalwart determination and strategic savvy of the entire black community did.
Liberalism also diverges from a radical analysis on the question of the nature of social reality. Liberalism is idealist. This is the belief that reality is a mental activity. Oppression, therefore, consists of attitudes and ideas, and social change happens through rational argument and education. Materialism, in contrast, is the understanding that society is organized by concrete systems of power, not by thoughts and ideas, and that the solution to oppression is to take those systems apart brick by brick. This in no way implies that individuals are exempt from examining their privilege and behaving honorably. It does mean that antiracism workshops will never end racism: only political struggle to rearrange the fundamentals of power will.
There are three other key differences between liberals and radicals. Because liberalism erases power, it can only explain the subordinate position of oppressed groups through biology or some other claim to naturalism. A radical analysis of race understands that differences in skin tone are a continuum, not a distinction: race as biology doesn’t exist. Writes Audrey Smedley in Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview,
Race originated as the imposition of an arbitrary value system on the facts of biological (phenotypic) variations in the human species.… The meanings had social value but no intrinsic relationship to the biological diversity itself. Race … was fabricated as an existential reality out of a combination of recognizable physical differences and some incontrovertible social facts: the conquest of indigenous peoples, their domination and exploitation, and the importation of a vulnerable and controllable population from Africa to service the insatiable greed of some European entrepreneurs. The physical differences were a major tool by which the dominant whites constructed and maintained social barriers and economic inequalities; that is, they consciously sought to create social stratification based on these visible differences.3
Her point is that race is about power, not physical differences. Racializing ideology was a tool of the English against the Irish and the Nazis against the Jews, groups that could not be distinguished by phenotypic differences—indeed, that was why the Jews were forced to wear yellow stars.
Conservatives actively embrace biological explanations for race and gender oppression. White liberals usually know better than to claim that people of color are naturally inferior, but without the systematic analysis of radicalism, they are stuck with vaguely uncomfortable notions that people of color are just … different, a difference that is often fetishized or sexualized, or that results in patronizing attitudes.
Gender is probably the ultimate example of power disguised as biology. There are sociobiological explanations for everything from male spending patterns to rape, all based on the idea that differences between men and women are biological, not, as radicals believe, socially created. This naturalizing of political categories makes them almost impossible to question; there’s no point in challenging nature or four million years of evolution. It’s as useless as confronting God, the right-wing bulwark of misogyny and social stratification.
The primary purpose of all this rationalization is to try to remove power from the equation. If God ordained slavery or rape, then this is what shall happen. Victimization becomes naturalized. When these forms of “naturalization” are shown to be self-serving rationalizations the fall-back position is often that the victimization somehow is a benefit to the victims. Today, many of capitalism’s most vocal defenders argue that indigenous people and subsistence farmers want to “develop” (oddly enough, at the point of a gun); many men argue that women “want it” (oddly enough, at the point of a gun); foresters argue that forests (who existed on their own for thousands of years) benefit from their management.
With power removed from the equation, victimization looks voluntary, which erases the fact that it is, in fact, social subordination. What liberals don’t understand is that 90 percent of oppression is consensual. As Florynce Kennedy wrote, “There can be no really pervasive system of oppression … without the consent of the oppressed.”4 This does not mean that it is our fault, that the system will crumble if we withdraw consent, or that the oppressed are responsible for their oppression. All it means is that the powerful—capitalists, white supremacists, colonialists, masculinists—can’t stand over vast numbers of people twenty-four hours a day with guns. Luckily for them and depressingly for the rest of us, they don’t have to.
People withstand oppression using three psychological methods: denial, accommodation, and consent. Anyone on the receiving end of domination learns early in life to stay in line or risk the consequences. Those consequences only have to be applied once in a while to be effective: the traumatized psyche will then police itself. In the battered women’s movement, it’s generally acknowledged that one beating a year will keep a woman down.
While liberals consider it an insult to be identified with a class or group, they further believe that such an identity renders one a victim. I realize that identity is a complex experience. It’s certainly possible to claim membership in an oppressed group but still hold a liberal perspective on one’s experience. This was brought home to me while I was stuck watching television in a doctor’s waiting room. The show was (supposedly) a comedy about people working in an office. One of the black characters found out that he might have been hired because of an affirmative action policy. He was so depressed and humiliated that he quit. Then the female manager found out that she also might have been ultimately advanced to her position because of affirmative action. She collapsed into depression as well. The emotional narrative was almost impossible for me to follow. Considering what men of color and all women are up against—violence, poverty, daily social derision—affirmative action is the least this society can do to rectify systematic injustice. But the fact that these middle-class professionals got where they were because of the successful strategy of social justice movements was self-evidently understood broadly by the audience to be an insult, rather than an instance of both individual and movement success.
Note that within this liberal mind-set it’s not the actual material conditions that victimize—it’s naming those unjust conditions in an attempt to do something about them that brings the charge of victimization. But radicals are not the victimizers. We are the people who believe that unjust systems can change—that the oppressed can have real agency and fight to gain control of the material conditions of their lives. We don’t accept versions of God or nature that defend our domination, and we insist on naming the man behind the curtain, on analyzing who is doing what to whom as the first step to resistance.
The final difference between liberals and radicals is in their approaches to justice. Since power is rendered invisible in the liberal schema, justice is served by adhering to abstract principles. For instance, in the United States, First Amendment absolutism means that hate groups can actively recruit and organize since hate speech is perfectly legal. The principle of free speech outweighs the material reality of what hate groups do to real human people.
For the radicals, justice cannot be blind; concrete conditions must be recognized and addressed for anything to change. Domination will only be dismantled by taking away the rights of the powerful and redistributing social power to the rest of us. People sometimes say that we will know feminism has done its job when half the CEOs are women. That’s not feminism; to quote Catharine MacKinnon, it’s liberalism applied to women. Feminism will have won not when a few women get an equal piece of the oppression pie, served up in our sisters’ sweat, but when all dominating hierarchies—including economic ones—are dismantled.
There is no better definition of oppression than Marilyn Frye’s, from her book The Politics of Reality. She writes, “Oppression is a system of interrelated barriers and forces which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group.”5 This is radicalism in one elegant sentence. Oppression is not an attitude, it’s about systems of power. One of the harms of subordination is that it creates not only injustice, exploitation, and abuse, but also consent.
Subordination has also been defined for us. Andrea Dworkin lists its four elements:6
Hierarchy means there is “a group on top and a group on the bottom.” The “bottom” group has fewer rights, fewer resources, and is “held to be inferior.”7
“Objectification occurs when a human being, through social means, is made less than human, turned into a thing or commodity, bought and sold … those who can be used as if they are not fully human are no longer fully human in social terms.”8
“In a condition of inferiority and objectification, submission is usually essential for survival … The submission forced on inferior, objectified groups precisely by hierarchy and objectification is taken to be the proof of inherent inferiority and subhuman capacities.”9
Committed by members of the group on top, violence is “systematic, endemic enough to be unremarkable and normative, usually taken as an implicit right of the one committing the violence.”10
All four of these elements work together to create an almost hermetically sealed world, psychologically and politically, where oppression is as normal and necessary as air. Any show of resistance is met with a continuum that starts with derision and ends in violent force. Yet resistance happens, somehow. Despite everything, people will insist on their humanity.
Coming to a political consciousness is not a painless task. To overcome denial means facing the everyday, normative cruelty of a whole society, a society made up of millions of people who are participating in that cruelty, and if not directly, then as bystanders with benefits. A friend of mine who grew up in extreme poverty recalled becoming politicized during her first year in college, a year of anguish over the simple fact that “there were rich people and there were poor people, and there was a relationship between the two.” You may have to face full-on the painful experiences you denied in order to survive, and even the humiliation of your own collusion. But knowledge of oppression starts from the bedrock that subordination is wrong and resistance is possible. The acquired skill of analysis can be psychologically and even spiritually freeing.
Once some understanding of oppression is gained, most people are called to action.
Read more from the Deep Green Resistance book online.
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Guiding Principles of Deep Green Resistance
[Link] Statement of Principles
The soil, the air, the water, the climate, and the food we eat are created by complex communities of living creatures. The needs of those living communities are primary; individual and social morality must emerge from a humble relationship with the web of life.
Civilization, especially industrial civilization, is fundamentally destructive to life on earth. Our task is to create a life-centered resistance movement that will dismantle industrial civilization by any means necessary. Organized political resistance is the only hope for our planet.
Deep Green Resistance works to end abuse at the personal, organizational, and cultural levels. We also strive to eradicate domination and subordination from our private lives and sexual practices. Deep Green Resistance aligns itself with feminists and others who seek to eradicate all social domination and to promote solidarity between oppressed peoples.
When civilization ends, the living world will rejoice. We must be biophilic people in order to survive. Those of us who have forgotten how must learn again to live with the land and air and water and creatures around us in communities built on respect and thanksgiving. We welcome this future.
Deep Green Resistance is a radical feminist organization. Men as a class are waging a war against women. Rape, battering, incest, prostitution, pornography, poverty, and gynocide are both the main weapons in this war and the conditions that create the sex-class women. Gender is not natural, not a choice, and not a feeling: it is the structure of women’s oppression. Attempts to create more “choices” within the sex-caste system only serve to reinforce the brutal realities of male power. As radicals, we intend to dismantle gender and the entire system of patriarchy which it embodies. The freedom of women as a class cannot be separated from the resistance to the dominant culture as a whole.
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[Link] Editor’s note: The following is from the chapter “Introduction to Strategy” of the book Deep Green Resistance: A Strategy to Save the Planet. This book is now available for free online.
Resistance is not one-sided. For any strategy resisters can come up with, those in power will do whatever they can to disrupt and undermine it. Any strategic process—for either side—will change the context of the strategy. A strategic objective is a moving target, and there is an intrinsic delay in implementing any strategy. The way to hit a moving target is by “leading” it—by looking slightly ahead of the target. Don’t aim for where the target is; aim for where it’s going to be.
Too often we as activists of whatever stripe don’t do this. We often follow the target, and end up missing badly. This is especially clear when dealing with issues of global ecology, which often involve tremendous lag time. We’re worried about the global warming that’s happening now, but to avert current climate change, we should have acted thirty years ago. Mainstream environmentalism in particular is decades behind the target, and the movement’s priorities show it. The most serious mainstream environmental efforts are for tiny changes that don’t reflect the seriousness of our current situation, let alone the situation thirty years from now. They’ve got us worried about hybrid cars and changing lightbulbs, when we should be trying to head off runaway global warming, cascading ecological collapses, the creation of hundreds of millions of ecological refugees or billions of human casualties, and the social justice disasters that accompany such phenomena. If we can’t avert global ecological collapse, then centuries of social justice gains will go down the toilet.
It’s worth spelling this out. There have been substantial improvements in humans rights in recent decades, along with major social justice concessions in many parts of the world. Much of this progress can be rightly attributed to the tireless work of social justice advocates and extensive organized resistance. But look at, for example, the worsening ratio between the income of the average employee and the average CEO. The economy has become less equitable, even though the middle rungs of income now have a higher “standard of living.” And all of this is based on a system that systematically destroys natural biomes and rapidly draws down finite resources. It’s not that everyone is getting an equal slice of the pie, or even that the pie is bigger now. If we’re getting more pie, it’s largely because we’re eating tomorrow’s pie today. And next week’s pie, and next month’s pie.
For example, the only reason large-scale agriculture even functions is because of cheap oil; without that, large-scale agriculture goes back to depending on slavery and serfdom, as in most of the history of civilization. In the year 1800, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, close to 80 percent of the human population of this planet was in some form of serfdom or slavery.51 And that was with a fraction of the current human population of seven billion. That was with oceans still relatively full of fish, global forests still relatively intact, with prairie and agricultural lands in far better condition than they are now, with water tables practically brimming by modern standards. What do you think is going to happen to social justice concessions when cheap oil—and hence, almost everything else—runs out? Without a broad-based and militant resistance movement that can focus on these urgent threats, the year 1800 is going to look downright cheerful.
If we want to be effective strategists, we must be capable of planning for the long term. We must anticipate changes and trends that affect our struggle. We must plan and prepare for the changing nature of our fight six months down the road, two years down the road, ten years down the road, and beyond.
We need to look ahead of the target, but we also need to plan for setbacks and disruptions. That’s one of the reasons that the strategy of protracted popular warfare was so effective for revolutionaries in China and Vietnam. That strategy consisted of three stages: the first was based on survival and the expansion of revolutionary networks; the second was guerrilla warfare; and the third was a transition to conventional engagements to decisively destroy enemy forces. The intrinsic flexibility of this strategy meant that revolutionaries could seamlessly move along that continuum as necessary to deal with a changing balance of power. It was almost impossible to derail the strategy, since even if the revolutionaries faced massive setbacks, they could simply return to a strategy of survival.
How does anyone evaluate a particular strategy? There are several key characteristics to check, based on everything we’ve covered in this chapter.
Objective. Does the strategy have a well-defined and attainable objective? If there is no clear objective there is no strategy. The objective doesn’t have to be a static end point—it can be a progressive change or a process. However, it should not be a “blank or unrepresentable utopia.”
Feasibility. Can the organization get from A to B? Does the strategy have a clear path from the current context to the desired objective? Does the plan include contingencies to deal with setbacks or upsets? Does the strategy make use of appropriate strategic precepts like the nine principles of war? Is the strategy consonant with the nature of asymmetric conflict?
Resource Limitations. Does the movement or organization have the number of people with adequate skills and competencies required to carry out the strategy? Does it have the organizational capacity? If not, can it scale up in a reasonable time?
Tactics. Are the required tactics available? Are the tactics and operations called for by the plan adequate to the scale, scope, and seriousness of the objective? If the required tactics are not available or not being implemented currently, why not? Is the obstacle organizational or ideological in nature? What would need to happen to make the required tactics available, and how feasible are those requirements?
Risk. Is the level of risk required to carry out the plan acceptable given the importance of the objective? Remember, this goes both ways. It is important to ask, what is the risk of acting? as well as what is the risk of not acting? A strategy that overreaches based on available resources and tactics might be risky. And, although it may seem counterintuitive at first, a strategy that is too hesitant or conservative may be even more risky, because it may be unable to achieve the objective. If the objective of the strategy is to prevent catastrophic global warming, taking serious action may indeed seem risky—but the consequences of insufficient action are far more severe.
Timeliness. Can the plan accomplish its objective within a suitable time frame? Are events to happen in a reasonable sequence? A strategy that takes too long may be completely useless. Indeed, it may be worse than useless, and become actively harmful by drawing people or resources from more effective and timely strategic alternatives.
Simplicity and Consistency. Is the plan simple and consistent? The plan should not depend on a large number of prerequisites or complex chains of events. Only simple plans work in emergencies. The plan itself must be explained in a straightforward manner without the use of weasel words or vague or mystical concepts. The plan must also be internally consistent—it must make sense and be free of serious internal contradictions.
Consequences. What are the other consequences or effects of this strategy beyond the immediate objective and operations? Might there be unintended consequences, reprisals, or effects on bystanders? Can such undesirable effects be limited by adjusting the strategy? Does the value of the objective outweigh the cost of those consequences?
A solid grand strategy is essential, but it’s not enough. Any strategy is made out of smaller tactical building blocks. In the next chapter, “Tactics and Targets,” I outline the tactics that an effective resistance movement to stop this culture from killing the planet might use, and discuss how such a movement might select targets and plan effective actions.
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Capitalism is Killing the World’s Wildlife Populations, not ‘Humanity’
[Link] by Anna Pigott, Swansea University / The Conversation
The latest Living Planet report from the WWF makes for grim reading: a 60% decline in wild animal populations since 1970, collapsing ecosystems, and a distinct possibility that the human species will not be far behind. The report repeatedly stresses that humanity’s consumption is to blame for this mass extinction, and journalists have been quick to amplify the message. The Guardian headline reads “Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations”, while the BBC runs with “Mass wildlife loss caused by human consumption”. No wonder: in the 148-page report, the word “humanity” appears 14 times, and “consumption” an impressive 54 times.
There is one word, however, that fails to make a single appearance: capitalism. It might seem, when 83% of the world’s freshwater ecosystems are collapsing (another horrifying statistic from the report), that this is no time to quibble over semantics. And yet, as the ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer has written, “finding the words is another step in learning to see”.
Although the WWF report comes close to finding the words by identifying culture, economics, and unsustainable production models as the key problems, it fails to name capitalism as the crucial (and often causal) link between these things. It therefore prevents us from seeing the true nature of the problem. If we don’t name it, we can’t tackle it: it’s like aiming at an invisible target.
The WWF report is right to highlight “exploding human consumption”, not population growth, as the main cause of mass extinction, and it goes to great lengths to illustrate the link between levels of consumption and biodiversity loss. But it stops short of pointing out that capitalism is what compels such reckless consumption. Capitalism – particularly in its neoliberal form – is an ideology founded on a principle of endless economic growth driven by consumption, a proposition that is simply impossible.
Industrial agriculture, an activity that the report identifies as the biggest single contributor to species loss, is profoundly shaped by capitalism, not least because only a handful of “commodity” species are deemed to have any value, and because, in the sole pursuit of profit and growth, “externalities” such as pollution and biodiversity loss are ignored. And yet instead of calling the irrationality of capitalism out for the ways in which it renders most of life worthless, the WWF report actually extends a capitalist logic by using terms such as “natural assets” and “ecosystem services” to refer to the living world.
By obscuring capitalism with a term that is merely one of its symptoms – “consumption” – there is also a risk that blame and responsibility for species loss is disproportionately shifted onto individual lifestyle choices, while the larger and more powerful systems and institutions that are compelling individuals to consume are, worryingly, let off the hook.
Who is ‘humanity,’ anyway?
The WWF report chooses “humanity” as its unit of analysis, and this totalising language is eagerly picked up by the press. The Guardian, for example, reports that “the global population is destroying the web of life”. This is grossly misleading. The WWF report itself illustrates that it is far from all of humanity doing the consuming, but it does not go as far as revealing that only a small minority of the human population are causing the vast majority of the damage.
Global map of Ecological Footprint of consumption, 2014. Although the WWF report highlights disparity in consumption, it says nothing about the capitalism which produces this pattern. WWF Living Planet
From carbon emissions to ecological footprints, the richest 10% of people are having the greatest impact. Furthermore, there is no recognition that the effects of climate and biodiversity collapse are overwhelming felt by the poorest people first – the very people who are contributing least to the problem. Identifying these inequalities matters because it is this – not “humanity” per se – that is the problem, and because inequality is endemic to, you guessed it, capitalist systems (and particularly their racist and colonial legacies).
The catch-all word “humanity” papers over all of these cracks, preventing us from seeing the situation as it is. It also perpetuates a sense that humans are inherently “bad”, and that it is somehow “in our nature” to consume until there is nothing left. One tweet, posted in response to the WWF publication, retorted that “we are a virus with shoes”, an attitude that hints at growing public apathy.
But what would it mean to redirect such self-loathing towards capitalism? Not only would this be a more accurate target, but it might also empower us to see our humanity as a force for good.
Breaking the story
Words do so much more than simply assign blame to different causes. Words are makers and breakers of the deep stories that we construct about the world, and these stories are especially important for helping us to navigate environmental crises. Using generalised references to “humanity” and “consumption” as drivers of ecological loss is not only inaccurate, it also perpetuates a distorted view of who we are and what we are capable of becoming.
By naming capitalism as a root cause, on the other hand, we identify a particular set of practices and ideas that are by no means permanent nor inherent to the condition of being human. In doing so, we learn to see that things could be otherwise. There is a power to naming something in order to expose it. As the writer and environmentalist Rebecca Solnit puts it:
Calling things by their true names cuts through the lies that excuse, buffer, muddle, disguise, avoid, or encourage inaction, indifference, obliviousness. It’s not all there is to changing the world, but it’s a key step.
The WWF report urges that a “collective voice is crucial if we are to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss”, but a collective voice is useless if it cannot find the right words. As long as we – and influential organisations such as the WWF, in particular – fail to name capitalism as a key cause of mass extinction, we will remain powerless to break its tragic story.
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Aboveground Tactics and Operations
[Link] Editor’s note: The following is from the chapter “Tactics and Targets” of the book Deep Green Resistance: A Strategy to Save the Planet. This book is now available for free online.
For me, nonviolence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.
Deeds, not words!
—Slogan of the Women’s Social and Political Union
Recall that all operations—and hence all tactics—can be divided into three categories:
Decisive operations, which directly accomplish the objective.
Sustaining operations, which directly assist and support those carrying out decisive operations.
Shaping operations, which help to create the conditions necessary for success.
Where tactics fall depends on the strategic goal. If the strategic goal is to be self-sufficient, then planting a garden may very well be a decisive operation, because it directly accomplishes the objective, or part of it. But if the strategic goal is bigger—say, stopping the destruction of the planet—then planting a garden cannot be considered a decisive operation, because it’s not the absence of gardens that is destroying the planet. It’s the presence of an omnicidal capitalist industrial system.
If one’s strategic goal is to dismantle that system, then one’s tactical categories would reflect that. The only decisive actions are those that directly accomplish that goal. Planting a garden—as wonderful and important as that may be—is not a decisive operation. It may be a shaping or sustaining operation under the right circumstances, but nothing about gardening will directly stop this culture from killing the planet, nor dismantle the hierarchical and exploitative systems that are causing this ecocide. Remember, the world used to be filled with indigenous societies which were sustainable and enduring. Their sustainability did not prevent civilization from decimating them again and again.
In this chapter we’ll break down aboveground and underground tactics into the three operational categories. For each class of operations, we’ll further break tactics down by scale for individuals, affinity groups, and larger organizations. This is summarized in Figures 13-1 and 13-2 below. As a rule, any tactic an individual can carry out can also be accomplished by a larger organization. So the tactics for each scale can nest into the next, like Russian matryoshka dolls.
Every resistance movement has certain basic activities it must carry out: things like supporting combatants, recruitment, and public education. These activities may be decisive, sustaining, or shaping, as shown in the illustration. And they may be carried out at different scales. Operations like education, awareness raising, and propaganda (shown under aboveground shaping) may occur across the range from the individual to large organizations. The scope of education may change as larger and larger groups take it on, but the basic activities are the same.
Other operations change as they are undertaken by larger groups and networks. Look in the underground tactics under sustaining. Individuals may use escape and evasion themselves, to start with. Once a cell is formed, they can actually run their own safehouse. And once cells form into networks, they can combine their safehouses to form escape lines or an entire Underground Railroad. The basic operation of escape and evasion evolves into a qualitatively different activity when taken on by larger networks. A similar dynamic is at work in recruitment; individuals are limited to mutual recruitment, but established groups can carry out organizational recruitment and training.
And, of course, some resistance units are too small to take on certain tasks, as we shall discuss. Individuals have few options for decisive action aboveground. Underground, they are limited in their sustaining operations, because secrecy demands that they limit contact with other actionists whom they could support. But once organizations become large enough, they can embrace new operations that would otherwise be out of their reach. Aboveground, large movements can use acts of omission like boycotts or they can occupy and reclaim land. And underground networks can use their spread for coordinated large-scale actions or even guerrilla warfare.
Broadly speaking, aboveground tactics are those that can be carried out openly—in other words, where the gain in publicity or networking outweighs the risk of reprisals. Underground tactics, in contrast, are those where secrecy is needed to carry out the actions to avoid repression or simply to do the actions. The dividing line between underground and aboveground can move. Its position depends on two things: the social and political context, and the audacity of the resisters.
There have been times when sabotage and property destruction have been carried out openly. Conversely, there have been times when even basic education and organizing had to happen underground to avoid repression or reprisals. This means, explicitly, that when we use the term underground we do not necessarily mean acts of sabotage or violence: smuggling Jews out of Nazi Germany was an underground activity, and the Underground Railroad was by definition, er, underground. One of the most important jobs of radicals is to push actions across the line from underground to aboveground. That way, more people and larger organizations are able to use what was once a fringe tactic.1
Provoking open defiance of the laws or rules in question also impairs the ability of elites to exercise their power. The South African government, for example, was terrified that people of color in South Africa would simply stop obeying the law of the apartheid government. In even the most openly fascist state, the police force is still a minority of the population. If enough people disobey as part of their daily activities, then the country becomes ungovernable; there aren’t enough police to force everyone to perform their jobs at gunpoint.
When enough serious people have gathered to push a tactic back into the aboveground arena, those in power have few choices. If they continue to insist that the law be obeyed, resistance sympathizers may increasingly disregard any laws as dissidents begin to view the government as generally illegitimate—often a government’s worst nightmare. Or the government may offer concessions or change the law. Any of the above could be considered a victory. Usually governments strive to retain the image of control through selective concessions or legislation because the other road ends with civil unrest, revolution, or anarchy.
The cases of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X exemplifies how a strong militant faction can enhance the effectiveness of less militant tactics. In his book Pure Fire: Self-Defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era, Christopher B. Strain explains that Martin Luther King Jr. pushed his agenda by using Malcolm X “to illustrate the alternative to legislative reform: chaos.… King would usually present the matter in terms of a choice: ‘We can deal with [the problem of second-class citizenship] now, or we can drive a seething humanity to a desperation it tried, asked, and hoped to avoid.’ … [He] suggested if white leaders failed to heed him ‘millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair’ will ‘seek solace’ in Malcolm X, a development that ‘will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.’ ”2 But Strain emphasizes that King and Malcolm X were by no means enemies. “Despite their differing opinions, both men recognized that their brands of activism were complementary, serving to shore up the other’s weaknesses.”3
Some presume that Malcolm X’s “anger” was ineffective compared to King’s more “reasonable” and conciliatory position. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It was Malcolm X who made King’s demands seem eminently reasonable, by pushing the boundaries of what the status quo would consider extreme.
Pushing boundaries doesn’t have to involve underground property destruction or violence. Breaking antisegregation laws through lunch counter sit-ins, for example, pushed the limits of acceptability during the civil rights struggle. The second generation of suffragists, too, got tired of simply asking for what they wanted and started breaking the law. In both cases, the old guard activists were leery at first.
To be perfectly explicit: it isn’t just militants who can push the boundaries; even nonviolent groups can and should be pushing the envelope for militancy—vocally and through their actions—wherever and whenever possible. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this for any grand strategy of resistance. In this way, and many others, aboveground and underground activists are mutually supportive and work in tandem.
DECISIVE OPERATIONS ABOVEGROUND
Open property destruction is not always decisive. Take the Plowshares Movement activists, who break into military installations and use hammers and other tools to attack everything from soldiers’ personal firearms to live nuclear weapons, after which they wait and accept personal legal responsibility for their actions. There’s no doubt that this involves bravery—obviously it requires a lot of guts to take a sledgehammer to a hydrogen bomb—but these acts are not intended to be decisive. They are chiefly symbolic actions; neither the intent nor the effect of the action is to cause a measurable decrease in the military arsenal. (Presumably they could accomplish this if they really wanted to; anyone with the wherewithal to bypass military security and get within arm’s reach of a live nuclear warhead could probably do it more than once.)
In fact, open property destruction as a decisive aboveground tactic is historically rare. Remember, those in power view their property as being more important than the lives of those below them on civilization’s hierarchy. If large amounts of their property are being destroyed openly, they have few qualms about using violent retaliation. Because of this, situations where property can be destroyed openly tend to be very unstable. If those in power retaliate, the resistance movement either falters, shifts underground, or escalates. The Boston Tea Party is an excellent example. After the dumping of tea in December 1773, a boycott was imposed on British tea imports. In October 1774, the ship Peggy Stewart was caught attempting to breach the boycott while landing in Annapolis, Maryland. Protesters burned the ship to the waterline, a considerable escalation from the earlier dumping of tea. Within a year, mere property destruction segued into armed conflict and the Revolutionary War broke out.
Aboveground acts of omission are the more common tactical choice. An individual’s reduced consumption is not decisive, for reasons already discussed; in a society running short of finite resources like petroleum, well-meaning personal conservation may simply make supplies more available to those who would put them to the worst use, like militaries and corporate industry. But large-scale conservation could reduce the rate of damage slightly, and buy us more time to enact decisive operations, or, at least, when civilization does come down, leave us with slightly more of the world intact.
The expropriation or reclamation of land and materiel can be very effective decisive action when the numbers, strategy, and political situation are right. The Landless Workers Movement in Latin America has been highly successful at reclaiming “underutilized” land. Their large numbers (around two million people), proven strategy of reclaiming land, and political and legal framework in Brazil enable their strategy.
Many indigenous communities around the world engage in direct reoccupation and reclamation of land, especially after prolonged legal land claims, with mixed success. There are enough examples of success to suggest that direct reclamation can be successful, especially with wider support from both indigenous and settler communities. The specifics of conflicts like those at Kanehsatake and Oka, Caledonia, Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash, and Wounded Knee (1973), are too varied to get into here. But it’s clear that indigenous land reclamations attack the root of the legitimacy—even the existence—of colonial states, which is why those in power respond so viciously to them, and why those struggles are so critical and pivotal for broader resistance in general.
SUSTAINING OPERATIONS ABOVEGROUND
Sustaining operations directly support resistance. For individuals aboveground, that means finding comrades through mutual recruitment or offering material or moral support to other groups. But individual mutual recruitment can be difficult (although this is easier if the recruiter in question is strongly driven, charismatic, well organized, persuasive, and so on). Affinity groups, with more people available to prospect, screen, and train new members, are able to recruit and enculturate very effectively. Individual recruiters have personality, but a group, even a small one, has a culture—hopefully a healthy culture of resistance.
Aboveground sustaining operations mostly revolve around solidarity, both moral and material. Legal and prisoner support are important ways of supporting direct action. So are other kinds of material support, fund raising, and logistical aid. The hard part is often building a relationship between supporters and combatants. There can be social and cultural barriers between supporters (say, settler solidarity activists) and those on the front lines (say, indigenous resisters). Indigenous activists may be tired of white people telling them how to defend themselves or perhaps simply wary of people whom they don’t know whether they should trust.
Propaganda and agitation supporting a particular campaign or struggle are other important sustaining actions. Liberation struggles like those in South Africa and Palestine have been defended internationally by vocal activists and organizers over decades. This propaganda has increased support for those struggles (both moral and material) and made it more difficult for those in power to repress resisters.
Larger organizations can undertake sustaining operations like fund raising and recruitment on a larger scale. They may also do a better job of training or enculturation. A single affinity group has many benefits, but can also be a bubble, a cultural fishbowl of people who come together because they believe the same thing. Being part of a larger network can mean that a new member gets a more well-rounded experience. Of course, the opposite can happen—dysfunctional large groups can quash ideological diversity. Often in “legitimate” groups that means quashing more radical, militant, or challenging beliefs in favor of an inoffensive liberal approach.
The converse problem is factionalism. There’s a difference between allowing internal dialogue and dissent, on one hand, and having acrimonious internal conflicts (like in the Black Panthers or the Students for a Democratic Society), on the other. The larger an organization is the harder it is to walk the line between unity and splintering (especially when the COINTELPRO types are trying hard to destroy any effective operation).
Larger organizations have a better capacity for sustaining operations (and decisive operations, for that matter) than individuals and small groups, but they rarely apply it effectively. Internal conflicts limit operations to the lowest common denominator: the lowest risk, the lowest level of internal controversy, and the lowest level of effectiveness. The big green and big leftist organizations will only go as far as holding press conferences and waving signs. Meanwhile, indigenous people who are struggling (often at gunpoint) to defend and reclaim their lands are ignored if they act outside the government land claims process. Tree sitters, even those who are avowedly nonviolent, get ignored by the big green organizations when police and loggers come in to attack them. The big organizations almost always fail to deploy their resources for sustaining operations when and where they are needed most. On a moral level, that’s deeply deplorable. On a strategic level, it’s unspeakably stupid. On a species and planetary level, it’s simply suicidal.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Effective resistance movements in history are usually composed of a cross section of many different organizations on many different scales, performing the different tasks best suited to them, and larger organizations are an important part of that. History has shown that it’s possible for large organizations to operate in solidarity and with foresight. Even if they don’t actually carry out decisive operations themselves, large aboveground organizations can offer incredibly important support.
SHAPING OPERATIONS ABOVEGROUND
Most day-to-day aboveground resistance actions are shaping operations of one kind or another. But many actions could be sustaining or shaping operations, depending on the context. Building a big straw-bale house out in the country would be considered a shaping operation if the house were built simply for the purpose of building a straw-bale house. But if that building were used as a retreat center for resistance training, it might then become part of sustaining operations. Consider the Black Panthers. A free breakfast program for children that was devoid of political content would have been a charity or perhaps mutual aid. A breakfast program integrated within a larger political strategy of education, agitation, and recruitment became a sustaining operation (as well as a threat to the state).
One of the most important shaping operations is building a culture of resistance. On an individual level, this might mean cultivating the revolutionary character—learning from resisters of the past, and turning their lessons into habits to gain the psychological and analytical tools needed for effective action. Building a culture of resistance goes hand in hand with education, awareness raising, and propaganda. It also ties into support work and building alternatives, especially concrete political and social alternatives to the status quo. As always, every action must be tied into the larger resistance strategy.
Most large organizations focus on shaping operations without making sure they are tied to a larger strategy. They try to raise awareness in the hopes that it will lead indirectly to change. This can be a fine choice if made deliberately and intelligently. But I think that most progressive organizations eschew decisive or sustaining operations because they simply don’t consider themselves to be resistance organizations; they identify strongly with those in power and with the culture that is destroying the planet. They keep trying to convince those in power to please change, and it doesn’t work, and they fail to adjust their tactics accordingly. The planet keeps dying, and people drop out of doing progressive work by the thousands, because it so often doesn’t work. We simply don’t have time for that anymore. We need a livable planet, and at this point a livable planet requires a resistance movement.
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Further news and recommended reading / podcasts
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How to support DGR or get involved
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“Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible. In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable.”
– Michael McFaul, Stanford Professor, Rhodes Scholar, former member of the National Security Council
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