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Your Top Secret Post of the day!! Very exciting (yawn) stuff

Question:  what do Top Secret America and Wikileaks have in common? 

Answer:  they both pretty much put me to sleep. 

Call me shallow, call me jaded, call me cynical, but there's not that much there there in either effort.  Day 1 of the Top Secret story was the most informative of the bunch, no doubt -- but even that story was frustratingly short on detail.  Day 2 and Day 3 were worse, in that they didn't tell me anything I already know.  Day 2 of Top Secret America told me that  outsourcing to private contractors is bad, bad, bad, and very expensive.  Day 3 was kind of like your local news teasers: "Are NSA employees living RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO YOU?!"  If you live in the vicinity of BWI, it turns out the answer is, "yes, but it's not a big deal." Again... yawn. 

If Top Secret America actually prompts hearings/reform efforts, then yay, dead tree journalism.  Otherwise, the reveal was far less than the hype. 

As for Wikileaks, Blake Hounshell and Andrew Exum sum up my feelings on the matter.  So it turns out that the war in Afghanistan is not going well and Pakistan is playing a double game?  Well, knock me down with a feather!! 

In essence, neither story provides much in the way of new information -- they merely serve as news pegs through which intractable policy issues can be debated anew.  If those debates prove fruitful, that's great -- but during a summer in which I've seen the Stupidest Topics Ever become cable show fodder, I ain't getting my hopes up. 

This might be my own subfield prejudice at work.  Every once in a while someone from security studies tells me that international political economy is really, really boring and that they can't understand how I could find it interesting.  I think today is one of those days in which I would tell them the same thing. 

Am I missing anything?  Seriously, anything? 

Daniel W. Drezner

Let's be fair to the Jedi

In a funny blog post, Reason's Jesse Kline riffs on the rising number of Jedi knights in Canada, but concludes with the following assessment of the Jedi contribution to liberty: 

Although the Jedis did assist the Rebel Alliance in overthrowing a tyrannical emperor, it's clear that the Knights were originally setup to enforce the Galactic Senate's big government agenda.

I must say, I find Jesse's lack of faith disturbing.  Based on the Star Wars films, we know very little about the Galactic Senate's pre-Phantom Menace agenda, but we do know that Chancellor Valorum is a pretty weak leader.  We also know Palpatine's designs.  Upon becoming chancellor, he vows to put down the separatists, raises a Grand Army of the Republic, stays in power well beyond the expected number of years/terms, and finally reorganizes the Republic into the First Galactic Empire.  That's as big of a big government agenda as you're going to get. 

Are the Jedi big government advocates?  That's unclear.  I think it would be more accurate to describe them as cartelistic --  they refuse to permit a free market in learning the ways of the Force.  After all, the Jedi Council's initial inclination is not to train Anakin Skywalker despite his obvious talents, using some BS about fear as a cover.  Only when Qui-Gon threatens to go rogue do they relent.  The Council  does not inform the Senate that their ability to detect the force has been compromised.  They're reluctant to expand their assigned tasks -- they're keepers of the peace, not soldiers.  Just as clearly, their anti-competitive policies weakened their own productivity, given the fact that they were unable to detect a Sith Lord walking around right under their noses for over a decade

So, were the Jedi perfect agents of liberty?  No, probably not.  But neither were they handmaidens to the greatest concentration of state power in galactic history. 

P.S.  Beyond George Lucas' rather bigoted portrayal of anything involving commerce, another source of libertarian resentment against the Jedi might be their lack of respect for property rights.  If the Force is an energy field created by all living things, then why the hell to the Jedi get to exploit it without compensating the creatures who create it in the first place?  If you think about the Jedi as the Guardians of the Republic, this might sound absurd.  Replace "Guardians of the Republic" with "rapacious strip-miners of primordial energy," however, and suddenly they don't look so good.  At least the Sith stay small in number, so the externality problem is kept to a minimum.