“In the past decade or so, some of the best legal minds in the country, working for the Bush and Obama administrations, have reshaped a shadow system of court hearings and court orders that was originally created to serve as a check on the executive branch, but which, in practice, serves to justify its ever-expanding reach,” writes John Cassidy in the New Yorker.“Built upon repeated amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, the system is so secretive it is virtually impossible for the American public, journalists included, to know how it operates. About all we can say is that it rubber-stamps a large number of requests from the intelligence agencies, including one, revealed to us by Snowden, that enables them to sweep up the telephone records of anybody who has service provided by a Verizon subsidiary.”“A group of Chinese scholars, analysts and military officials convened on a recent morning in a spartan schoolroom to draw attention to China’s simmering territorial dispute with Japan. Participants spoke in urgent tones. Reporters took notes. A spirit of solidarity reigned,” reports Jane Perlez in the New York Times.

“But the deliberations were not about the barren rocks in the East China Sea that are known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan and that the two nations have been sparring over with competing naval patrols. Instead, the group that gathered at Renmin University was focused on a more enticing prize — Japan’s southernmost island chain, which includes the strategic linchpin of Okinawa, home to 1.3 million Japanese citizens, not to mention 27,000 American troops.”An article written under the pseudonym Mr. Y. grabbed my attention this week. The article has a bold thesis, even more surprising given who the mysterious Mr. Y turns out to be.It argues that the United States has embraced an entirely wrong set of priorities, particularly with regard to its federal budget. We have overreacted to Islamic extremism. We have pursued military solutions instead of political ones.

Y says we are underinvesting in the real sources of national power – our youth, our infrastructure and our economy. The United States sees the world through the lens of threats, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world. Y says that above all we must invest in our children.  Only by educating them properly will we ensure our ability to compete in the future.Y also argues that we need to move from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence.Y goes on to say that we shouldn’t even talk about national security as we have for the past 60 years; we should be talking about national prosperity and security.Now, I think this is very smart stuff for the new world we’re entering in, but it’s important and influential in particular, given the source. This article arguing we need to rely less on our military comes, in fact, from the highest echelons of the Pentagon.