Five random thoughts

I’m in New York right now, delivering my kids to summer camps and such, and then I’m going to take a couple of days off from blogging. Here are a few random musings of mine that you can ponder until I’m back at the keyboard. My bedtime book right now is Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

I'm in New York right now, delivering my kids to summer camps and such, and then I'm going to take a couple of days off from blogging. Here are a few random musings of mine that you can ponder until I'm back at the keyboard.

My bedtime book right now is Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It is a great read, if not quite as elegantly argued as his prize-winner Guns, Germs and Steel. I'm learning a lot about a host of primitive cultures (some of which I'd never even heard of), and finding about the modern science of forensic archaeology. It's sorta like CSI meets Margaret Mead ... I'm hoping to glean some larger lessons for how societies respond to setbacks, as part of a larger research project I'm pursuing. If I do get any brainwaves, I'll pass them along. I flew to DC last week, and when I checked in at the airport the United Airlines self-service kiosk gave me three different options for "upgrades," including two that would have helped me get through the security line faster. I declined them all, and then discovered that the TSA checkpoint was a mob scene that took over twenty minutes to get through. This made me wonder: do airlines have an increasing incentive to make regular economy class travel as miserable as possible, so that they can sell us marginal improvements at marginal cost? And does that mean they'd prefer it if the TSA process were as inefficient as possible, so that more of us are tempted to buy our way out? New York Times reporter Deborah Solomon apparently thinks terrorism used to be "romantic,"  at least when it was being done on behalf of Zionism  (h/t to Phil Weiss and Matt Duss).    Given how much it apparently costs to hold a G20 summit (i.e., more than $1 billion), and given that the member governments have all pledged to cut budgets, maybe they should consider doing the next one via videoconference. Not as many nice photo-ops, perhaps, but they could save a bundle. And I'll bet the carbon footprint of that summit wasn't exactly trivial either. I was disappointed when the United States got eliminated in the soccer World Cup, but also relieved. Having the world's most powerful country eliminate the last team from the host continent would not have endeared the United States to anyone. Plus, the United States got outplayed and didn't deserve the win.  

That's all, folks. I'll be back in a few days, unless I just can't resist.

I’m in New York right now, delivering my kids to summer camps and such, and then I’m going to take a couple of days off from blogging. Here are a few random musings of mine that you can ponder until I’m back at the keyboard.

  1. My bedtime book right now is Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It is a great read, if not quite as elegantly argued as his prize-winner Guns, Germs and Steel. I’m learning a lot about a host of primitive cultures (some of which I’d never even heard of), and finding about the modern science of forensic archaeology. It’s sorta like CSI meets Margaret Mead … I’m hoping to glean some larger lessons for how societies respond to setbacks, as part of a larger research project I’m pursuing. If I do get any brainwaves, I’ll pass them along.
  2. I flew to DC last week, and when I checked in at the airport the United Airlines self-service kiosk gave me three different options for "upgrades," including two that would have helped me get through the security line faster. I declined them all, and then discovered that the TSA checkpoint was a mob scene that took over twenty minutes to get through. This made me wonder: do airlines have an increasing incentive to make regular economy class travel as miserable as possible, so that they can sell us marginal improvements at marginal cost? And does that mean they’d prefer it if the TSA process were as inefficient as possible, so that more of us are tempted to buy our way out?
  3. New York Times reporter Deborah Solomon apparently thinks terrorism used to be "romantic,"  at least when it was being done on behalf of Zionism  (h/t to Phil Weiss and Matt Duss).   
  4. Given how much it apparently costs to hold a G20 summit (i.e., more than $1 billion), and given that the member governments have all pledged to cut budgets, maybe they should consider doing the next one via videoconference. Not as many nice photo-ops, perhaps, but they could save a bundle. And I’ll bet the carbon footprint of that summit wasn’t exactly trivial either.
  5. I was disappointed when the United States got eliminated in the soccer World Cup, but also relieved. Having the world’s most powerful country eliminate the last team from the host continent would not have endeared the United States to anyone. Plus, the United States got outplayed and didn’t deserve the win.  

That’s all, folks. I’ll be back in a few days, unless I just can’t resist.

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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