Keep the arms trade out of fandom

Back to Raytheon and the Hugo Awards briefly.

There’s a long connection between the arms trade, space technology and fandom. I’m going to detail some of that next month in a coda to Debarkle looking at some of those connections that I touched on in the main text (such as why Newt Gingrich kept making guest spots). However, I didn’t want January to pass without returning to the strange, upsetting and alarming sponsorship role of Raytheon in the 2021 Hugo Award ceremony.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s apology was creditable in many ways but it left lots of lingering questions. I suspect at this point we aren’t going to get any answers to those any time soon. That lack of further detail has meant that the initial discussion fizzled away, aided by the proximity of the scandal with the holiday period in many countries between Christmas Day and New Year.

Even without those further details, I think there’s a clear ethical line that we can draw: science fiction conventions and fandom and professional authors shouldn’t be taking money from the arms trade. Further, we shouldn’t be helping arms companies launder their reputations — that includes letting them have booths or if you are a notable author, taking speaking engagements with arms companies or closely related events.

Why?

  • Simply, every major arms companies is involved with conflicts that even by quite moderate, centrist, liberal values are deeply unethical. With Raytheon the obvious example was the civil war in Yemen — that is not a “good” or “just” war by any standards except the most reactionary.
  • More broadly the arms trade is instrumental in aiding anti-democratic authoritarian regimes around the world.
  • Most perniciously, the lobbying of arms companies such as Raytheon on national governments has been shown to be pressurising decisions favourable to both those outcomes.

In short, the arms trade profits from and encourages authoritarian regimes to go to war and embroils democratic governments in that process. I could document each of those points and I did illustrate several of them on social media during the height of the Raytheon arguments in late December. I won’t do that here to keep this post fairly short.

Put simply: even if you aren’t very left-wing, even if you are at the centre leaning-right, it should be clear that arms companies currently have a negative impact that goes far beyond the needs of national defence.

Let me anticipate some counter-arguments:

  • Such a boycott is demonising people in the [US] military“. No, that’s not the point. People join the military for lots of reasons, including a lack of other decent options. Many do so with a genuine belief that they are defending their country. Programs such as sending books to military personnel stationed overseas is not somehow the same as taking sponsorship from a missile manufacturer.
  • Many people work for divisions of these companies that are involved in other kinds of work, in particular space technology“. True and I know there’s an overlap there with fandom. I’m not telling people to quit their jobs — there’s ethical questions there obviously but those ethical questions aren’t the same or as simple as the ethical question I’m raising above.
  • This is an attack on MilSF!” No, nor is it a call to cut out hi-tech weapons from science-fiction books. I’m not calling for a aesthetic puritanism that culls out all the explosions and cunning missiles from science-ficition. Aside from anything else, that isn’t going to happen.
  • You can’t boycott everything that’s morally compromised, what about Amazon (et al.)!” True we can’t boycott everything and there’s no point engaging with ineffectual boycotts. However, WE CAN DO THIS (boycott the arms trade). We really can cut these kinds of ties with the arms trade.
  • It is just superficial posturing“. Maybe, but clearly a company like Raytheon wanted SOMETHING from fandom. No, this won’t usher in world peace but within what power we do have, we can achieve a small but significant thing.
  • [eta] “You are saying that somebody can’t have a stall selling knives or swords!” No, I think from the context it is obvious that I’m not talking about a small metal working business selling sharp things to collectors. Not sure what the best way to say “arms trade” to make that clear but I’m not coming for your knife collection.

The issue is that science-fiction as a genre and fandom more generally should not be helping these companies launder their reputations. We shouldn’t help the arms trade do that and that is an achievable objective.


78 responses to “Keep the arms trade out of fandom”

  1. I completely agree. Sometimes you can’t boycott something because you need what they’re selling. E.g. I boycott Nestle for several reasons (child slavery, for one), but people have to eat and if one of their products is the only thing you can easily eat, you should just buy the thing and eat it.

    But nobody needs what they’re selling. There are other sponsors. We can really afford to just say no.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tyop, I assume.

    “This is an attack on MilSF. ” Is there a missing ‘not’ there?

    Like

  3. Amusing hypocrisy from a citizen of a country that would’ve been conquered and oppressed long ago by either the Japanese or the Chinese were it not for American strength. Strength that depends in large part upon the work of companies such as Raytheon. I do not deny that since they are in the arms business they have a direct financial incentive for conflict; that being said, their mere presence, their endorsement or backing of a convention is not necessarily a bad thing. Call for the end of Australian membership in NATO and declare that Australia should never ask for American military assistance regardless of anything and the hypocrisy disappears.

    Liked by 1 person

      • True, but there are other agreements (ANZUS, AUKUS, etc.) that involve both the US and Australia. I wouldn’t like to see Australia leave those agreements. The Australian military is first-rate and I’d hate to see regional powers like China inject their preferences into Australian society.

        The current arrangement makes such incursions much less likely.

        Regards,
        Dann
        Libraries are where books sleep when you’re not reading them.

        Like

    • This was during the time when Australia was a brutal racist power with an open policy of only allowing citizenship to white people. And when US was an apartheid country, murdering activists who fought against racial segregation.

      Let’s not pretend US was the good guys during this war. They were one racist empire among others. They wanted an anglo-saxon alliance and used it to start a genocidal war in South-East asia, killing millions who fought to get free from racist colonialism.

      US military aren’t heroes. They are villains. One hateful empire among others.

      Liked by 2 people

    • And in addition to being British, I’m also Australian, so yes – I’m also complaining about the Australian arms trade such Electro Optics Systems (EOS) implicated in deals with Saudi Arabia. Australia arms trade record is getting worse and more secretive https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/14/blanket-secrecy-surrounds-australian-weapons-sales-to-countries-accused-of-war-crimes

      The idea that this is all just about national defence is nonsense.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Oh hush.
      And? Australia has never been a member of NATO. Please keep telling us that you have no idea what you’re talking about without telling us that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Simply, every major arms companies is involved with conflicts that even by quite moderate, centrist, liberal values are deeply unethical.

    Perhaps some of those conflicts are unethical. A more apt description is that murky situations arise during wars such that there are individual aspects of a conflict that are questionable while our larger objectives remain justifiable and worthwhile.

    You fuss over Yemen. That conflict was begun by the dictatorial Iranian regime injecting their political and religious ideologies into a nation that was formerly at peace (largely) with the rest of the region. Our participation is a response to expanding Iranian authoritarianism; not the proximate cause of it.

    And, yes, the Saudis are not paragons of western political preferences. Their many small steps of progress still leave them a long way from what a western colonial perspective would describe as “civilized”.

    Opposing our support in Yemen supports Iranian authoritarianism and hegemony within the region. These are the men that hang gays from bridges for being gay and stone pregnant rape victims for having the temerity to get pregnant while being raped. Letting them run the Middle East isn’t an option. Or at least it isn’t an option that improves the world or the region.

    Our influence (including defense contractors) may not be universally seen as productive. There are worse options and few better ones.

    People join the military for lots of reasons, including a lack of other decent options.

    Hogwash. At least in the US, the average enlistee is more educated, more intelligent, and more physically fit than the average American (or US resident) of the same age cohort. They don’t lack decent options. Serving in the military is a decent option.

    In your list of pre-defenses, you skipped over the possibility that actual SF/F fans that happen to work for a weapons division of Raytheon might have been behind the offer for the sponsorship. In which case, the message from WorldCon is “your type of fan doesn’t belong here”. (I suggested to Ms. Kowal that a full explanation of the provenance of the donation would have been productive. She obviously declined.)

    I disagree with telling any fan that they don’t belong.

    From my perspective, I have some criticisms about how the sponsorship was executed. The Raytheon photo background was a surprise and didn’t offer individuals any decent/readily available alternatives if they didn’t want to be photographed there.

    But the decision to accept the sponsorship was a perfectly valid choice for which no apology was necessary.

    Regards,
    Dann
    A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright. – The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, apart from that being pure bullshit. US has fought to rule and colonize Iran for a long time now. They are allying with the brutal Saudi dictatorship and helping slaughtering the population of Yemen. They don’t care about democracy or human rights, only about geopolitical domination. They supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, they installed their own dictator in Iran and now they are doing everything to destroy Iran economically as a basis for an invasion and massive bombing campaign, just as they did with Iran.

      US has worked hard to support dictators in crushing the arab spring. US is a plague on the region. Blaming US genocidal policies on Iran can only be done by someone with such deeply ingrained racism and belief in US Supremacism that they believe all other nations should kneel and become slaves for their US overlords.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Come on, Dann, it’s well known that in the US, people enlist in the military to have college tuition paid via the GI Bill. Plus, the military is one of comparably few decently paying jobs with good benefits in the US that don’t require a college degree, which makes it attractive in itself. Also, it’s an observable fact in most countries which have a professional military that the majority of recruits hail from areas where there are few other well paying jobs with good benefits available. Of course, there are other reasons for joining the military such as patriotism, but for many people the reasons are primarily economic and there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There absolutely is something wrong with that, because it means using uneducated as cannon fodder. It also means sending out uneducated people to wage war in countries they know nothing about, don’t care about and come to revile the population of, because they aren’t happy about being occupied.

        And it is also wrong to travel to other countries to conquer them based on economic reasons. Because that is just a continuation of colonialism.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The high college tuition fees in the US are a massive structural problem in itself, but I don’t fault anybody who enlists in the military because they can’t afford to go to college otherwise, even if I would prefer if the situation did not arise. Never mind that the US military (and most other militaries) have minimum requirements for enlisting such as graduating from high school, so the recruits are not uneducated. Of course, we can talk about the quality of high school education in the US, but that’s again another topic.

          Also, the military is an attractive employer, at least in the US. They pay is decent, you get healthcare even after resigning, there are pensions, you get all sorts of training and your college tuition paid, etc… I would prefer if there were other good options, so people who are poor are not forced to join the military, but I don’t blame them for doing so.

          Liked by 2 people

    • //Opposing our support in Yemen supports Iranian authoritarianism and hegemony within the region. These are the men that hang gays from bridges for being gay and stone pregnant rape victims for having the temerity to get pregnant while being raped. //

      I see, so it’s based on principles of tolerance and democracy that the Saudi’s in Yemen are allied with Al-Qaeda?

      Do you honestly not see how absurd your position is? Or do you honestly think Al-Qaeda is now feminist and pro-gay rights?

      Liked by 3 people

  5. It is very easy. You don’t take money directly from companies that deal in lobbying for war, tobacco or fossil fuels. You also don’t take money from the Sackler family that helped cause the opoid crisis nor from Martin Shkreli who raised the prices for vital medicine 50-fold.

    This isn’t hard. Apart from for people who care more about an SF convention than they care about human lives.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I agree that we need guidelines what sort of sponsorships are acceptable, because military contractors are not the only potentially problematic sponsors.

    I think we can all agree that companies that make most or all of their income from the sale and manufacture of weapons are not acceptable as sponsors, but a lot of big corporations also have military divisions. For example, Boeing and Airbus both build military aircraft, even though they’re better known for their civilian aircraft, so would they be acceptable as sponsors? What about Thyssen Krupp (mayor steel manufacturer, which also produces military equipment) or Blohm + Voss (German shipyard which also builds ships for the German Navy)? Would they theoretically be acceptable? Raytheon itself manufacturers a lot of civilian products. Even NASA has developed military satellites and I think no one would have a problem with them.

    Also, I suspect a lot of people are unaware how many companies also work for the military on occasion. Here in Germany a lot of medium-sized family owned companies, the backbone of the German industry, also work for the military. Most of what they produce may be civilian products like trucks, machine parts, ship parts, etc…, but they also build military vehicles, components for drones, etc…

    Besides, weapons manufacturers are not the only potentially problematic sponsors. The Scientologists sponsored a Worldcon back in the 1990s, much to the anger of many members. I think we can agree that they are not an acceptable sponsor. What about tobacco and alcohol manufacturers, cannabis growers and vendors, the fossile fuel industry, the for profit prison industry, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, predatory finance companies, waste disposal companies, the cruise industry, industrial farming, etc…? What about Amazon? What about Disney? There are a lot of potentially unsavoury industries out there. The other sponsor of Worldcon was Google, who are problematic in themselves.

    Finally, we should draw a firm line between “what companies are acceptable as sponsors” and shaming people who work for potentially problematic employers. Because there are a lot of people in our community who work for defence contractors or the military itself as well as people who work for all sorts of other problematic employers. And indeed, some of the people who very noisily complained about Raytheon are hypocrites, because I happen to know who they work for and their employers aren’t much better. Which is okay. People need to eat and no one should be shamed because of issues with their employer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krauss-Maffei is another example. A German company that makes the bulk of its income from building plastic injection molding machines, i.e. perfectly harmless. However, they had a military division (since spun off into its own company) which is one of the biggest manufacturers of tanks in Europe. And a lot of people first associate them with tanks rather than with injection molding equipment.

      Like

        • Personally, I suspect the main reason Krauss-Maffei spun off their military division was because the rest of the company was to a Chinese consortium and the Chinese getting their hands on the military division would probably have blocked the deal.

          Liked by 2 people

    • //People need to eat and no one should be shamed because of issues with their employer.//

      I agree.

      On the broader point. Yes, lots of potentially problematic sponsors. While arms manufacturers includes some household names (Boeing and Airbus) that are involved in the arms trade, it is still a relatively delineated group of companies. Yes, drawing ethical lines is difficult but this is one that it is possible to draw.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gambling is another deeply unsavoury industry that IMO shouldn’t be sponsoring Worldcons and yet there was a Worldcon held in Reno, Nevada, a city whose main industry is gambling, as late as 2011 and I don’t recall anybody complaining.

      Like

      • I’m surprised nobody had any issues. I can see that its different because Las Vegas and Reno are whole towns but they’re not great environments to put people with gambling problems. Not quite the same as a gambling company sponsoring a Worldcon though.

        It’s a good example though, because I don’t have any ethical issues with gambling as such but as an *industry* it is full of ethical hazards.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Eh, I have less of a problem with gambling, which is everywhere and is not negative on its own (unless Arms Dealing). Moreover, there’s nothing in genre fiction where there’s a conflict with gambling or an association – which is presumably why it’s not really big a major issue as a sponsorship mind you, unlike sports, where gambling is now all over in the US.

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      • I just received the quarterly report from a sustainable investment fond and they explicitly exclude weapons manufacturers, tobacco and alcohol companies, gambling and casinos, fossil fuels, fur and leather industry and companies that violate UN standards from their portfolio. That might be a guideline for Worldcon with regard to sponsors.

        Okay, I personally have no issue with leather and fur is barely an industry anymore, but as a general guideline it’s good.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Fur & leather is a good example. I don’t have a problem killing animals for leather but there’s lots of reasonable people who do and for whom it would create an issue to be placed in a position were it looked like they were endorsing it.

          Like

    • …cannabis growers and vendors
      Welcome to 420Mellowcon! Munchies booths 1 – 10 000 are available on the left side of the convention hall!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Duuuude.

        I note that many of the recent-ish Worldcons happened in places where cannabis is legal nowadays: Reno, Spokane, San Jose, DC, Chicago, Denver, Toronto, Boston, L.A., Montreal.

        It was legal in both San Jose and DC (and the upcoming Chicago) before the con.

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        • Heh. For Toronto, I remember a cartoon (drawn by one of the people on the concom) pointing out the fact that the Toronto Worldcon in 2003 was after was after the 1996 Gwen Jacob legal case in Ontario that ruled that a woman going topless was not in itself sufficient cause for indecency charges. That’s still the prevailing interpretation in Ontario, as it was never appealed by the government up to the Supreme Court of Canada (mostly because it was felt they wouldn’t bother taking up the case), and it has been used as precedent in cases since then.

          (The cartoon had the beaver mascot sitting in a chair with a newspaper talking about the topless issue, looking at it with wide eyes, and a thought balloon wondering how that was going to change the Masquerade.)

          (I lived in Toronto and was one of the editors of an APA at the time, so I got a lot of the PR material from the con. For a while I was known to some of the con staff as ‘the fridge magnet guy’ because I had picked up one of the fridge magnets advertising the convention for each of the thirrty-eight members of the APA.)

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  7. I think a line can be drawn between companies which are primarily known for their (arms/fossil fuel/drug pushing/etc.) and companies which sometimes do bits of it because they’re so embedded in the world economy.

    Mr. LT briefly worked for a subsidiary of Boeing that didn’t even do any support of the bits that fly. The small German companies Cora mentioned who make occasional bits and bobs. (Some old people are still annoyed about Toyota and Mercedes due to that dustup in the middle of the last century, but c’mon.)

    Personally, I think the US should take a giant whack of money out of the military budget and put it towards education, but until that happens, I’m not looking down on the choice of some poor kid in a rural area with no jobs who goes into the military so they can get college money, or simply to eat and have medical care. They’re not the ones deciding when and where wars happen.

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  8. @Cora Buhlert

    We do not “all agree” unless you choose to leave out the people who disagree with you from your “all”. I didn’t attend this WorldCon, but I would not have objected to Raytheon’s sponsorship.

    Like

  9. //drawing ethical lines is difficult but this is one that it is possible to draw//

    I completely agree. Insisting that we can’t draw this line because there are so many others that could be drawn is obfuscatory.

    There are other sponsors.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @Cora Buhlert

    I agree that we need guidelines what sort of sponsorships are acceptable, because military contractors are not the only potentially problematic sponsors.

    We don’t agree, but I appreciate the thoughtfulness behind what you have expressed. As Disney is currently not honoring their contractual obligations to pay creators, I’d have a big problem with a WorldCon accepting sponsorship money from them. Heckler & Koch, on the other hand, would be OK.

    Come on, Dann, it’s well known that in the US, people enlist in the military to have college tuition paid via the GI Bill.

    The point is that if you eliminate the US military as an employment option, then the people enlisting in the services would instead be taking jobs that are currently being taken by less qualified applicants. Enlistees (as a group, and on average) are far better choices for employers than the average person in their age cohort. They have good options.

    There are some pretty good benefits that go along with service (lifetime health insurance isn’t one of them, FWIW), but that doesn’t mean that enlistees face the choice of the military or nothing.

    I agree that we need guidelines what sort of sponsorships are acceptable, because military contractors are not the only potentially problematic sponsors.

    I agree, but if there is to be a rule, then the only one I would support is no sponsorships whatsoever. Even limiting it to non-profits, imagine the non-profits that would be acceptable to me but not to you…and vice versa.

    @Camestros

    I see, so it’s based on principles of tolerance and democracy that the Saudi’s in Yemen are allied with Al-Qaeda?

    As I said above, war almost always includes discrete circumstances that are not defensible while the larger objectives remain defensible. Opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan was a defensible choice. Aspects of that choice obviously came back to bite us in the ass.

    I’m not happy with the Saudis working with Al-Qaeda for all the obvious reasons.

    I think my points have been made, so unless there is something new/interesting, I’ll close with this.

    The alternatives are worse. I saw a Twitter meme recently that listed every foreign incursion the US has made since the late 1800s. The comparison was with the foreign incursions of Iran and Syria; which was a blank slate.

    Pre-WWII, the US practiced imperialism alongside all of the other great powers. Few of those choices were good for the world, IMO, including those by European powers. Post-WWII, most of our actions were in response to expansionist communism. Had the Soviets stayed at home, then we could have done the same thing. Too many people carefully elide the fact that there were two competing agendas and that the one pushed (at times at gunpoint) by the Soviets was objectively worse in every dimension.

    The blank slate for Iran and Syria on that meme was another instance of people eliding the fact that both nations have actively intruded in the affairs of other nations; Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, and Yemen for starters. We shouldn’t ignore the objectively worse outcomes that will result if Iran dominates the Middle East.

    Raytheon, objections to some of their activities duly noted, is serving on the better side of these conflicts. As such, their sponsorship is acceptable to me even if I do have criticisms about how that sponsorship was executed.

    Regards,
    Dann
    They say marriages are made in Heaven. But so is thunder and lightning. – Clint Eastwood

    Like

    • //Raytheon, objections to some of their activities duly noted, is serving on the better side of these conflicts.//

      The side supported by the side that did ACTUALLY attack America on American soil and killed Americans?

      All ideology side, even assuming we could make the kind of moral, tactical and political calculus you are suggesting to work out which is the bad side and the good side, you would STILL have the question of whether US/Western intervention was going to be a net good for the people involved.

      An obvious example is the Taliban. Are they bad? Yes. Is it bad if they end up controlling AFghanistan? Absolutely. A much simpler moral/political situation! Has NATO/US intervention in Afghanistan STOPPED them? No – after years and years of conflict, the bad outcome (the Taliban taking over) is the outcome we ended up with. However, we got the bad outcome AND a litany of civilian deaths caused by our armed forces, as well as a the impact on NATO/US troops in terms of death, injury and psychological impact.

      Arguments advancing that ends justify the means (eg civilian deaths at the hands of the forces of our governments) necessarily require the ACHIEVEMENT OF THE ENDS.

      OK, put that aside. Assuming that you are 100% fine with you taking money from Raytheon (and that’s your business) – can you not see that this is at best so ethically murky that many wholly reasonable people who might even be ideologically on your side might not look at that and think “maybe we shouldn’t kill civilians or aid people killing civilians”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Camestros

        You know what, I agree with your criticisms about our foreign policy failure in Afghanistan. We failed.

        I said early on that we would need to be in Afghanistan for at least 30-40 years in order to change the culture to the point that the Taliban wouldn’t be a native force. We lasted maybe 10 years before Presidents of both parties started looking for easy exits. All the Taliban had to do was to wait us out.

        I mean, we’re still in Europe, the UK, Japan, and S. Korea 60-80 years after those conflicts ended acting as both a shield and (to a lesser extent) a stabilizing force. Why wouldn’t Afghanistan need at least 30-40 years just to begin having a polity that isn’t based on theological authoritarianism?

        The American people have demonstrated that they are frustratingly feckless when it comes to standing with our “friends”.

        OK, put that aside. Assuming that you are 100% fine with you taking money from Raytheon (and that’s your business) – can you not see that this is at best so ethically murky that many wholly reasonable people who might even be ideologically on your side might not look at that and think “maybe we shouldn’t kill civilians or aid people killing civilians”.

        Yes. I understand your perspective.

        I also think there is a world of difference between “we shouldn’t kill civilians” and “we shouldn’t actively target civilians”. The Taliban actively targets civilians. We (generally) do not target civilians; although collateral damage does happen despite the best of intentions. The difference between intending to kill civilians and intending to avoid killing civilians is not trivial.

        In any case, Raytheon makes the weapons. Not the policy. Not the tactics. Not the decision to target any specific location/person. Accepting their sponsorship was, for me, an acceptable option. Especially when you consider that Raytheon’s products make it easier to more accurately target discrete enemies and easier to avoid civilian casualties.

        I’ll leave the Iron Man discussion to others. All I have is snark, and I’m not a fan of snark.

        Regards,
        Dann
        If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. – Desmond Tutu

        Like

        • //I also think there is a world of difference between “we shouldn’t kill civilians” and “we shouldn’t actively target civilians”. //

          Saudi forces are actively targeting civilians in Yemen. Again, even accepting lots of grey and consequentialist ethics and broader strategy when it comes to warfare, I think that’s a clear line that should transcend most ideologies beyond the most murderous ones.

          //In any case, Raytheon makes the weapons. Not the policy. Not the tactics. Not the decision to target any specific location/person. //

          Raytheon actively lobbies for policy and in this case providing Raytheon missiles to Saudi Arabia Government for the war in Yemen INCLUDING lobbying against moves to limit weapons to the Saudi Arabia Government as a consequence of it targeting civilians.

          Sure, the ethics of violence can be tricky but this one really is an ethical issue set on Easy mode.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Re: American failure in Afghanistan.

          I remember watching Jack Anderson (political commentator) on Good Morning, America when the Russians were pulling out of Afghanistan. He said in this spot that his sources in the CIA were frantic that we (America) *not* just wash our hands of the country, because of the potential for extremists to take over. And that would come back to bite us in the ass decades down the road.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m inclined to think one senator’s take on the Iraq war applies here too. He said there was zero chance of us building a better Iraq because nobody gave a crap. What Washington would prefer as a Saddam Lite who’ll keep order and do what we tell him, but without Saddam’s blatant brutality and militarism. “And if in twenty years the military has to go back in and drain the swamp, it’ll be somebody else’s problem.”

            Liked by 1 person

    • No, the choice facing young people in areas where there are few decent jobs is not the military or nothing. It’s the military or a minimum wage job with zero propsects flipping burgers or sitting behind the cash register at WalMart. The military is a good option compared to that. I just wish it wasn’t the only good option available to some young people.

      When Ursula von der Leyen, currently EU general secretary, became the German secretary of defence, people laughed at her and said that she’d last maybe a few months, because the military wouldn’t take her seriously, because she didn’t know how to drive a tank and had never served. However, the opposite happened and the military liked her. Why? Because she focussed on making the German military a more desirable employer, which brought in more and better qualified recruits.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Those burger-flipping and WalMart jobs come with no benefits, and aren’t 40 hours a week. You can’t live on them even in poor areas of the US.

        For many young people in deprived areas, the prospect of a few years with guaranteed housing, food, medical care, and training looks pretty darn good. Particularly as it can then lead to either a college education or a leg up in the full-time job market.

        Liked by 2 people

    • “Post-WWII, most of our actions were in response to expansionist communism.” We routinely overthrew democratically elected leftists — Iran, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile — because we didn’t want leftists in charge. Not because they were part of the vast Soviet conspiracy. We divided Vietnam because Ho Chi Minh’s people would have won the country in a landslide.
      The results were never good. Death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. In Chile we made no attempt to protect Americans when the coup went down, and our government didn’t want to draw any lines in the sand, even when Pinochet was assassinating opponents of his regime on American soil.
      Jeanne Kirkpatrick in the Reagan administration summed up what I suspect was the view of many in the government: military dictatorships are fine because they preserve a lot of the status quo, simply with different rulers at the top. Everything stays orderly, the US can do business there. Whereas leftists want to change and improve the system which leads to disruption and instability and important people we host at Washington dinners might be upset (that last bit is my phrasing).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lets note that Ho Chi Minh was very pro-US. In fact, he copied the US declaration of independence and used it when declaring Vietnam an independent nation. The US answer was invasion and genocide.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I apologize for the delay. Busy couple of days.

        @frasersherman

        We routinely overthrew democratically elected leftists — Iran, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile — because we didn’t want leftists in charge. Not because they were part of the vast Soviet conspiracy. We divided Vietnam because Ho Chi Minh’s people would have won the country in a landslide.

        That description elides the engagement of the Soviet Union, either directly or via their client states such as Cuba, with leftists in the region. It elides the violence that leftists used to shape their respective governments to prevent people from voting themselves out of socialism/communism.

        US policy in the region wasn’t perfect. Far from it.

        At the same time, socialist/communist regimes were almost uniformly worse than the dictatorships that they displaced in terms of murdering civilians. The same generally applies to other conflicts where non-US supported regimes were more murderous than the ones they supplanted. (i.e. Iran under the mullahs vs. Iran under the Shah)

        I rarely select a sig on purpose, but this discussion seems to warrant an exception.

        Regards,
        Dann

        I was guilty of judging capitalism by its operations and socialism by its hopes and aspirations; capitalism by its works and socialism by its literature. – Sidney Hook (1987). “Out of step: an unquiet life in the 20th century”

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        • That is a big pile of bullshit. Even when leftists such as Allende won democratically, our government wanted them gone (Nixon’s stated motive to his team was that he didn’t want the left to notch a win on “our” turf). And Pinoceht’s bloodshed was way higher than anything Allende showed signs of committing.
          We supported the French colonial regime in Vietnam, which by definition means we opposed democracy there.
          Death squads in El Salvador butchered people simply for teaching peasants to read. Reagan still backed the government.
          It has never been about democracy or about helping the people. We’ve always been happy with dictatorships that do what we tell them, however murderous.
          So you’re lying. Possibly you’re lying because you’re parroting lies you’ve been told and chose to believe, possibly you’re not arguing in good faith. But a lie it is.

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          • @frasersherman

            I have carefully qualified my perspective. Did the US make mistakes? Yes. In some cases (i.e. Ho Chi Mihn) big ones. Were our motives pure? Far from it.

            At the same time, the full presentation of history is that socialism/communism is something that was being pushed by agents of the USSR or their clients (along with a wing of the Catholic church in Central and South America). Everywhere that it was installed ended up experiencing mass poverty. Almost everywhere that it was installed experienced mass murders.

            Take a look at the democide data at the University of Hawaii. In almost every case that I have examined, the socialists/communists purposefully killed more civilians than the authoritarian regimes they replaced.

            Were there exceptions? Absolutely.

            The larger trend is there. The result (intentions don’t matter, results do) of socialism/communism is, in general, greater poverty (at the least) and more murdered civilians (at the worst) while enriching government apparatchiks along the way.

            Take a good long look at the disaster that is Venezuela in 2022. That is what happens when a country votes itself into a socialist/communist government that then acts to prevent that same country from voting itself out of a socialist/communist government.

            Real socialism has been tried in many places. It failed every time.

            The last word is yours.

            Regards,
            Dann
            * <- After the Hair Club for Tribbles . <- Before hair club

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            • Almost no US-imposed regime change since WW II that has led to a stable democracy. It’s not exceptions, that’s the norm. squealing about “well if we hadn’t done it everything would be so much worse” — counterfactuals are easy, especially when you’re wrong.
              And lots of socialist countries in Europe have astonishingly escaped mass starvation and mass murder.

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              • @frasiersherman

                There are zero socialist nations in the EU. There are posers that have generous public benefits that are funded by a healthy free market (including some trading heavily in oil) and also enjoy the protection offered by their military alliances with the US.

                Putting a beret on a Peruvian cowboy does not make that cowboy French in any meaningful way.

                Regards,
                Dann
                When I was 14, I thought, ‘How wonderful to be a science fiction writer. I’d like to do that.’ I have never lost touch with that ambitious 14-year-old, and I can’t help chuckling and thinking, ‘You did it, and you did it right.’ – Robert Silverberg

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                • Shifting the goalposts there Dann. Mosaddegh was left of centre democratically elected politicians who implemented some policies of nationalisation of resources. Where not talking about Chairman Mao but stuff that the British Labour Party was implementing post war – mainstream stuff in Europe. Arguing that this kind of political position is sufficient reason to justify the US (or anybody else) mounting a coup is not just appalling but explains exactly why people fear the US

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                  • I remember several articles and columns in the first decade of the century arguing that we had to get tough (the exact method varied) because we needed to put the fear of god into our enemies! It was implicit that despite invading Iraq for no good reason and fighting in multiple other nations at the same time, we came off as a wimpy pacifist nation.
                    With the religious right, the obsession with being tough enough is all consuming, as witness Ted Cruz and other freaking out that we have women and gay people in the Army compared to the magnificent ruthless butchness of the Russian forces.

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        • //The same generally applies to other conflicts where non-US supported regimes were more murderous than the ones they supplanted. (i.e. Iran under the mullahs vs. Iran under the Shah)//

          The actually relevant comparison would be Iran under Mosaddegh versus Iran under any of the regimes that followed. The mess in Iran was created by the US and the UK in 1953 because Iran wanted to own its own oil industry.

          Like

          • @Camestros

            Iran Islamic Republic – 1979-1987
            Domestic Democide (x1000)
            low – 35
            mid – 55
            high – 90
            Domestic Democide Rate Annual
            low – 0.009
            mid – 0.015
            high – 0.024

            Iran – Reza Pahlavi – 1954-1979
            Domestic Democide (x1000)
            low – 14
            mid – 16
            high – 19
            Domestic Democide Rate Annual
            low – 0.002
            mid – 0.003
            high – 0.003

            Iran – Reza Shaw – 1925-1941
            Domestic Democide (x1000)
            low – 10
            mid – 10
            high – 10
            Domestic Democide Rate Annual
            low – 0.004
            mid – 0.004
            high – 0.004

            The short/rough definition of “democide” being civilian deaths resulting from purposeful government action. Starving people to death (i.e. the Holodomor) via government policy counts as much as shooting prisoners in a cell deep in a prison.

            Regards,
            Dann
            The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection. – George Orwell

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            • And? Without the coup against Mosaddegh Iran wouldn’t have had the Shah’s incompotent dictatorship or the revolution that overthrew it. ie. ALL of the above is due to UK/US action in the 1950s

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              • You are comparing your aspirations for what might have been to what happened. Again, we made mistakes. That might have been one of them.

                The reality of the history of socialism doesn’t match your aspirations. Either socialism causes mass poverty (at the least) or the nation turns back towards a more free-market solution. Mass poverty is almost always attended by increasing corruption and frequently in close proximity to governments killing those it deems “inconvenient” for one reason or another.

                Your position seems to be that the Mossadegh government would have been an exceedingly rare exception to that history of socialism.

                Regards,
                Dann
                Insert tag filled with wit, wisdom, and humour here…

                Like

                • “Either socialism causes mass poverty (at the least) or the nation turns back towards a more free-market solution. ” Gee, maybe we should have tried a wait-and-see attitude in that case.

                  Like

    • It does seem odd that within popular culture, the arms trade being bad is an almost trite moral stance to make. Iron Man was pre-Disney taking over the MCU but the theme has been repeated since (a Stark missile featured prominently in Wandavision for example) – so it is literally mainstream enough to be Disney-level morality in terms of avoiding controversial stances JUST SO LONG AS IT IS FICTIONAL.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it was very subtle – featuring Tony Stark orchestrating explosions and a missile with the word Stark embossed on the side landing next to him. You can’t expect everybody to get it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And Tony deciding that maybe it isn’t really such a great idea to sell weapons after being blown up by his own missiles then Obadiah Stane chewing the scenery and making an even bigger penis substitute suit wasn’t the most obvious sub-plot either. I mean it’s so easy to miss these things.

        Liked by 4 people

  11. “Accessory to War” might be pretty eye-opening to space-fan fans. Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson is a secret communist. In any case, it may be hard to see space achievements in the same light after reading this book.

    https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=3707306&Entt=RDM3707306

    I’d say the TL;DR is that Raytheon is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a lot more connections between military and neat space stuff than fans know about. So in one sense, those who are upset with Raytheon sponsoring something at Worldcon are only being upset at the low-hanging fruit.

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