The Atlantic Politics Daily: The Contractors Fighting America’s Wars

They’re ubiquitous but largely unseen; they’re indispensable but under-acknowledged. And presidents usually ignore the thousands who have died. Plus: Andrew Yang is not a joke.

It’s Friday, January 17. In today’s newsletter: The American war machine runs on contractors. Plus: Can Andrew Yang make the leap from “$1,000-a-month guy” to “Situation Room guy?”


(Mike Segar / Reuters)

The American war machine runs on contractors.

In 1991, at the time of the Persian Gulf war, one in 50 people fighting the war was an American civilian contractor; that proportion crept to one in 10 by 1996, during Bosnia, according to a 2002 New York Times story.

The latest figures from last fall show that that ratio is now nearly 1 to 1. And that’s just American contractors. Kathy Gilsinan tells their story.

Mike Jabbar never met his replacement. But when Nawres Hamid died in a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq after Christmas, Jabbar saw photos of the wreckage and recognized the American flag he himself had helped paint on the door of a room now mangled. That was his old room, on his old base. It could have been him.

“Imagine something like that happens, knowing that you were supposed to be there and you weren’t there, and the person that replaced you is gone,” Jabbar, who like Hamid served as a translator for the U.S. military, told me in an interview. “It absolutely feels horrible.”

Jabbar was one of the lucky ones. He left his home country of Iraq last fall, at age 23, for the United States, where he’s now a permanent resident living with a friend in North Carolina.

Read the rest.


(Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty)

1. “Bureaucrats are not viewed by most people as terribly sympathetic victims, but if you shoot these messengers, you end up wounding citizens.”

The Government Accountability Office released a decision on whether the Trump administration violated the law by freezing millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine: “We conclude that OMB violated the ICA,” the report stated.

“In a reality-based world, this would at least be embarrassing for the president,” David Graham writes. That, of course, doesn’t appear to be the case.

+ Did President Trump unwittingly stumble into a foreign-policy … triumph? Read our London-based writer Tom McTague’s analysis.

2. “There’s only one deal, and that is the California deal.”

That’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, to our campaign reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere, when asked about the Green New Deal.

Listen to their full interview on the latest episode of Radio Atlantic.

3. “Twitter is both leaderless and influential, little used and widely reviled.”

When #NeverWarren began to trend, others using the hashtag to denounce the hashtag merely ended up contributing to its popularity. How the episode unfolded online is yet another example of how Twitter may be ruinous for the American left, Robinson Meyer writes.

4. “To fully escape his fringe status, Yang needs to make voters comfortable with the idea of him as commander in chief.”

Andrew Yang isn’t looking so fringe anymore. But how is his campaign plotting to push him from “$1,000-a-month guy” to “Situation Room guy?” Isaac reports from Burlington, Iowa:

The Yang doctrine, as he spelled it out for me, consists of a basic three-point test for military intervention: “first, a clear, vital national interest at stake or the ability to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Second, a defined timeline for our troops to be there, so we can look them in the eye and say, ‘You will be brought home at this date.’ And No. 3 is that we have buy-in from our allies and partners.”

Read the rest.


(David Kasnic)

The Effort to Rehabilitate Domestic Abusers

The “Duluth model” of rehabilitation for domestic batterers is based on the idea that abuse isn’t an individual problem—it’s a societal one, stemming from the patriarchy. Does it work?

Matt Wolfe reported on one man’s journey through the program:

Andrew Lisdahl was mad. His wife, Gretchen, had smoked a cigarette, a habit he detested. They fought, and Gretchen spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day, Andrew drank a bottle of tequila and hitched a ride to the stained-glass studio where Gretchen, an artist, gave lessons. When Andrew found her, he grabbed her left hand and tried to remove her wedding ring, but Gretchen fought him off. As Andrew stumbled away, he took Gretchen’s car keys and phone.

After work, Gretchen’s father drove her back home to retrieve her things. Inside, Andrew had been passed out on the couch, but he woke up and yelled at Gretchen, “Get the fuck out!” When she didn’t, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her into the living room, threw her on the carpet, kicked her in the chest, and pinned her to the ground. As Gretchen’s father approached the house, Andrew let her go and she was able to escape.

Read the rest.


Today’s newsletter was written by Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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