Northern Virginia and Cold War Covert Capital

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The covert actions of the US government abroad, and their domestic ramifications, have drawn an increasing amount of attention from journalists and the general public. Yet for decades historians like Thomas Bender and Amy Kaplan have mined similar territory in an effort to debunk the rhetoric of American exceptionalism and to demonstrate how US foreign policy reshape demographics, national culture, and local politics.[1] In Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia, Andrew Friedman demonstrates how CIA skullduggery in Vietnam, Central America, and Iran intersected with burgeoning post-World War II suburbanization in Northern … [Read more...]

“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia

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“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

An Ex-Intelligence Analyst’s Take on the Mess in Syria

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"All that is very well,” replied Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden." — François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Candide: Ou, L’optimisme I teach Latin American history in Colorado, and write about the history of economic thought in hopes of one day claiming a hard-won doctoral degree from Columbia University. The crisis in Syria, it would seem, and the President’s call for intervention there, could hardly be farther from my daily concerns. But most of my professional life was very different. In fact this week’s events have seen the turbid confluence of almost everything I worked on from the time I finished college until the time I started graduate school. It’s been an unexpected and … [Read more...]

Constructing Constructivist Change in the Iranian-U.S. Relationship

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Despite the recent myopic attention paid by the media and the Obama administration to Syria, the Iranian nuclear program remains one of the most important issues in U.S. foreign policy—or so we are told. The challenge presented by the Iranians' putative quest to acquire nuclear weapons has been portrayed as the most important security challenge facing the United States, particularly this millennium. Torn asunder by the 1979 revolution, the relationship between Iran and the United has been consistently adversarial for over 30 years. While in the West commentators and government officials accuse Iran of nefarious meddling and intransigence, the Iranian leadership views, or at least publicly … [Read more...]

Into Darkness Iron Man!: Drone Strikes and Terrorism in the Post-9/11 Era

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[Editor's note: For those of you who have seen neither Iron Man 3 or Star Trek: Into Darkness, there are spoilers below.] Few action films of recent years have built their origin story so thoroughly on the psychological wreckage of 9/11 America than the Iron Man series.  True, its source material remains the popular Marvel comic, but its reboot in 2008 waded deeply into the morass of terrorism, the military industrial complex, and corporate malfeasance without really addressing any them in any meaningful way.  The franchise’s third installment, the cleverly titled Iron Man 3, shrouds Tony Stark and his mechanized self in post traumatic stress disorder while invoking a nebulous debate … [Read more...]

Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century

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The first book by ToM's own Alex Cummings, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright recently dropped from Oxford University Press.  Based on his dissertation at Columbia, the book traces the winding history of technology, property rights, and music since the invention of sound recording in the 1870s.  From sheet music  to piano rolls, and from reel-to-reel tape to CD-burners, new technologies have constantly raised the question of how sound and music ought to be regulated.  Composers didn't want their songs to be used to make player piano rolls or wax cylinder recordings in the early twentieth century--unless, of course, they were getting paid for the … [Read more...]

How Do We Know an Intervention Has Succeeded?

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We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. – President Obama Back in late August of 2012, President Obama uttered words these in an impromptu press conference. At the time, it represented the most concrete and coherent statement of policy regarding the conflict in Syria. With the latest revelation that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on a small scale, calls for … [Read more...]

Syriana: Responsibility to Protect or Someone Else’s Problem?

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If you’ve ever taken an International Relations Theory course then it’s likely that you’ve encountered the ubiquitous naysayer or two of IR Theory. “Why does this even matter in the study of foreign policy?” “Who cares what the Athenians told the Melians (FYI: 'The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must')?” “Leaders don’t think about this stuff when formulating foreign policy!” Now, the last accusation may in fact be true. Sure, foreign policy elites are not necessarily thumbing through volumes of Morgenthau, Grotius, Kant, Wendt, and/or Waltz when deciding what to do about North Korea. But, these authors and the IR theories they construct provide useful analytical … [Read more...]

Steel Towns, Motor Cities, and Cuban Refugees: Part III of the 2012 UHA Conference

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Welcome to the third installment of ToM's four part coverage of the 2012 UHAs.  You'll detect a clear bias in favor of aged/renewed rust belt cities with a flourish of transnationalism at the end via the Cuban Revolution and post WWII Miami.  If you missed Part I click here and for Part II here. Panel – Rust Belt Cosmopolitanism Joshua Akers – Settling the City: Urban Homesteading and the Construction of Markets in Detroit “It stands out on the highway like a creature from another time/ It inspires the babies’ questions for their mothers as they ride/ But no one stopped to think about the babies or how they would survive/ We almost lost Detroit, this time.” - Dale … [Read more...]

A Fool Such as Biden: Point Break, Wayward Teeth, and Man Love in the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate

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“This is a bunch of stuff!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself…. Wait, of course I could have. So the good people at ToM (I use both terms loosely) asked me what I thought of last night’s hellacious, knockdown, by-the-book, paint-by-the-numbers, firecracker-of-a-parent-teacher-conference. Let me tell you, this couple has fire! The way the one pretended to dismiss his younger (and better looking, mind you) partner with that scenery eating grin and broad armed expressions of dismay, while the fit one blinked those pale blue-green eyes like the emo-loving student-government-vice-president he always strived to be.  The passion between these two feels like Point Break-era Patrick Swayze (“I … [Read more...]

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