The Passport for January 2019

This is an online version of the monthly newsletter of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area (WACMB). You may click here to see other online issues or click here to reach the archive of recent issues in PDF format. 

For a number of years, ISIS has been engaged in the illegal antiquities trade, generating millions of dollars by looting priceless cultural artifacts. Jason Blazakis, the Director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) will address this practice in his talk on January 21. He will discuss the overall ways that ISIS finances itself, and will then delve more specifically into its process of exploiting antiquities for profit. He will also address some of the countermeasures employed by the US government to combat this problem.

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From January through March, WACMB presents Great Decisions, an eight-week program produced by the Foreign Policy Association of America (FPA). Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. Each year, the program provides background information and policy options for eight of the most critical issues facing the United States; this information serves as the focal text for discussion groups all across the country, including ones at MPC and OLLI/CSUMB.

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October Program Report

Dr. Thomas Bruneau

At the October luncheon, WACMB was honored to host Dr. Thomas Bruneau, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Naval Postgraduate School. Bruneau spoke on “Patriots for Profit? America’s Experience with Private Military Contractors,” with a particular focus on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Using private military contractors can be an attractive option for decision makers because there are no long term costs committed to a particular job, just a shorter term contract. In addition, such contractors can be quite effective, as they are often retired special forces and other well trained American military personnel. These sorts of contracts provide significant flexibility to decision makers.

Still, according to Bruneau, the use of private military contractors has gotten out of hand. In 2017, the total Department of Defense budget for contractors was $320 billion, or 55% of the total DoD budget. Some people view contractors as mercenaries, a term Bruneau said is loaded. In reality, contractors are used by the DoD for a wide variety of jobs, from cooks to truck drivers to warriors. This kind of outsourcing is quite legal; indeed, it has been strongly encouraged in US law since the 1980s.

Contractors have become so pervasive in the DoD that most DoD contracting officers who write and oversee various contracts, are contractors themselves. At the end of the day, contractors report to the head of the company that employs them, not to the unit commander in whose office they work. Bruneau argued that significant reform is needed in the DoD contracting model in future American wars abroad.

— by Glenn E. Robinson

A Polite Request

Things become complicated when luncheon reservations reach the office after the deadline, and also when people arrive at the luncheons without making reservations beforehand. The luncheon venues charge WACMB a higher rate for meals that are ordered past the deadline. We don’t want to pass those extra costs on to our members, and so we ask that you please respect the deadlines for registration that are listed on the reservation form.

Did you forget to mail your reservation in time to meet the deadline? Don’t worry: you can now register online! Just go to and find the News and Events list on the right sidebar. Click on the link to the next luncheon, then scroll down to Registration. The first paragraph contains options to register by phone or fax, and the second contains a link to register online. Check it out: it’s easy and efficient!

This is the monthly newsletter of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area (WACMB). Founded in 1951, the council is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization established to promote the presentation, discussion, and study of international affairs. WACMB is a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) organization, EIN-770301206. Contributions are tax deductible as permitted by law. WACMB sponsors monthly luncheons, discussion groups, and student scholarships.

Corporate and institutional support for the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area is provided by:

  • California State University Monterey Bay
  • Defense Language Institute
  • Monterey Peninsula College
  • Naval Postgraduate School
  • Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
  • Rancho Canada
  • Horan & Lloyd Law Firm