Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The truth warrior

My following essay is published in Sydney Ideas Quarterly magazine:

John Mearsheimer, a leading US scholar on international relations, has strong views on political issues from the Middle East to Iraq but until now, the establishment has been slow to listen. He spoke to Antony Loewenstein

During this year’s Iranian uprising, which followed the disputed presidential election result, Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defence during the Bush administration, wrote in the Washington Post: ‘It would be a cruel irony if, in an effort to avoid imposing democracy, the United States were to tip the scale toward dictators who impose their will on people struggling for freedom.’

Leading American blogger and journalist Andrew Sullivan was incredulous. ‘The architect of one of the greatest mistakes in the history of American foreign policy gets to lecture Obama on Iran,’ he fumed. ‘The neoconservative movement refuses to acknowledge error and refuses to take responsibility for the past.’

John Mearsheimer, who had met Wolfowitz a few times before the 2003 Iraq invasion, was not as surprised.

‘Wolfowitz was remarkably idealistic about how easy it would be to topple Saddam and bring democracy to Iraq,’ Mearsheimer said. ‘I think he was foolish in the extreme but his motives were good and he did believe that we would succeed easily. Virtually all neocons believed that America should deal with Iraq first, then Iran and Syria.’

Mearsheimer, unlike Wolfowitz and fellow neoconservatives, knows something about warfare. Before he became a professor of political science and a leading scholar on international relations, Mearsheimer graduated from West Point military academy in 1970 and served five years as an officer in the US Air Force. Today, in foreign policy circles, he is known for his ‘offensive realist’ position, which, according to him, means he argues against human nature being a determinant in global affairs. Rather, he argues that security competition among great powers is the reason behind chaos in the international system.

Mearsheimer, whose book on offensive realism, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, acknowledged in a 2002 interview that ‘there is not much place for human rights and values in the realist story. Realists basically believe that states are interested in gaining power’.

With the death of Samuel Huntington last year, Mearsheimer’s prominence in the field is virtually undisputed. Huntington, the author of the controversial Clash of Civilisations, was a spur to Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s even more controversial book, The Israel Lobby and US Policy. Walt, from Harvard University, explained in the magazine Foreign Policy, that although both of them often disagreed with Huntington, ‘some of his own writings contain similar warnings about the distorting influence that ethnic groups could have on US foreign policy’.

It was this last work that catapulted the conservative academic Mearsheimer to bestseller status. The US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg has called Mearsheimer ‘Sheikh Hassan Mearsheimer’, in reference to the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Critics have labelled him an anti–Semite, a Jew–hater and an Israel basher but Palestinian, Jewish and peace activists have saluted him for daring to write about the power of the Likudniks in the US administration. Mearsheimer says the book caused a storm principally because he and Walt were two establishment figures with authority in the academic and public policy world. ‘It wasn’t so much what we said but who said it.’

The anti–Semite label will not go away, even though Mearsheimer is on the record as consistently supporting a two–state solution for Israel and Palestine, the official position of both President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

‘[It’s] a position I share with Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak,’ he said. ‘Both of them have said in the last year that if there is no two–state solution, Israel will end up in a South African–style situation. I think one could make an argument that Israel is already an apartheid state. This would be a disaster for Israel and I don’t understand for the life of me why Benjamin Netanyahu and his hawkish allies in Israel and the US don’t understand that the two–state solution is the best outcome for Israel.’

In the end, Mearsheimer says, it is virtually impossible to have a serious foreign policy debate in the US these days because the boundaries of discussion are so narrow, especially about Israel.

His comments about China over the years have also caused displeasure. He has criticised the US’s relationship with the world’s most populous nation, worried that short–term policy decisions are undermining Washington’s super–power status. Mearsheimer argues that by openly trading with China and therefore helping its economy, the US is aiding Beijing’s rapid rise. He has prescribed a containment policy against China not unlike the one used against the Soviet Union. In short, Mearsheimer does not see China rising peacefully.

Asked what advice he would give to our Mandarin–speaking prime minister on China, he said, ‘Prime Minister Rudd and his successors should make it clear to Beijing that Australia wants to live in peace with a powerful China, but that means China will have to put limits on its ambitions. And if it does not, an intense security competition will occur in Asia and that will not be good for either Australia or China.

‘If China continues to grow economically at a rapid pace, it will surely build a much more formidable military capability than it has now, and it will probably try to dominate Asia the way that the United States dominates the Western hemisphere. Of course, it would not be in Australia’s interest to allow China or any other country to become a regional hegemon.’

What about Prime Minister Rudd’s proposed Asia–Pacific community as a way of heading off China’s regional ambition and securing long–term US interest in the region?

‘I don’t think there is any need to bind the United States more closely to Asia,’ he said. ‘Most Americans, and certainly their leaders, think that the United States has a moral and strategic responsibility to run the world, which means that Washington is going to be deeply involved in Asia — as well as other places around the globe — for a long time to come.

‘This certainly has some benefits for Australia, but it has a downside as well, since Washington sometimes pursues boneheaded policies, as evidenced by what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. One should be careful what he or she wishes for with regard to the United States, because what you get is not always an unalloyed good.’

These days, the normally conservative Mearsheimer calls himself a radical, one who is largely out of step with many colleagues on the role of government and US military force. He is resigned to the fact that he is unlikely ever to be appointed to a senior government position; criticising Israel ruined those opportunities.

‘There is a belief in the policy politic I don’t share, that America is the indispensable nation and has a moral and strategic responsibility to go into the Middle East and re–order the region. The idea that the US could transform the Mid–East into a sea of democracies at the point of a rifle is harebrained. It’s a radical strategy, not conservative. The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal often get very excited over exporting the American way of life with a gun.’

Mearsheimer remembers a golden age of intellectual life in the US that no longer exists. Now, he says, professional think tanks with strong political agendas have profoundly changed the landscape. He sees overly aggressive positions being pushed by a narrow intellectual base. ‘I am somewhat reluctant to call people who work at think tanks intellectuals because they’re heavily politicised and mainly interested in a particular agenda,’ he said.

In the years of Ronald Reagan, Mearsheimer argues, the conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation were not interested in policy debates. ‘They wanted a solely conservative agenda,’ he said. The American Enterprise Institute, as the mouthpiece of the neoconservative movement in the Bush years, did the same.

Mearsheimer, who has been teaching political science at the University of Chicago since 1982, laments that over time, intellectuals in the academy have had less impact on public life. ‘This is the function of two factors,’ he said. ‘One, with increasing professionalism, intellectuals find themselves talking more and more to each other and to students than to the general public. Second, when the Cold War first started, the US had very little intellectual capital in Washington, so what happened in the academic world had more impact on the policy world. It’s no accident that some of the first national security advisors were from the academic world, such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.’

As a leading opponent of the war, Mearsheimer rarely appears in its pages. It is depressing, he says, adding that those who were right about Iraq remain largely unpublished in the US mainstream media today while the neocons and their backers continue to pollute op-ed pages across the country.

Things are changing, though, in the age of Obama. The number of invitations to events has increased in the last six months, Mearsheimer says. Still, he is sceptical that Obama will reel in real change. He believes in the policy continuity at the top of the US political class — that while the faces may change, the policies do not.

‘America has a long history of supporting terrorist groups when leaders thought it was in America’s national interest,’ he said. President Obama has continued this long–standing policy in Africa and Central Asia.

‘You can’t underestimate the liberal, imperialistic streak inside the elite foreign policy establishment,’ he said. ‘Many liberal Democrats supported the war, along with neocons. Obama opposed the war but he does not have a single foreign policy adviser at the higher levels that opposed it. Think of Richard Holbrooke, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross.

‘There is consensus in this country on what foreign policy should be. It’s no accident that Obama kept Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defence as he’s as comfortable serving Bush as Obama. It’s equally hard to see differences between Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, as they’re trying to do similar things in similar ways.’

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

one comment ↪
  • Enjoyed his cameo with Walt in Yoav Shamir's documentary Defamation at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The film and the issues raised seemed to get lost in all the other controversy.