Archive for the 'Middle East' Category
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th March 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.
Even the New York Times sees it.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.
The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.
The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Russia, War and Peace | 19 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 25th March 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
Never before has a country repeatedly declared its goal was “death to America,” taken clear actions to achieve that aim, and suffered no serious consequences for its actions. The reason for this is Iran’s diplomatic brilliance. They have conditioned successive administrations as easily as Pavlov: They hint at diplomacy, and get a free pass for abusing and murdering Americans.
Rubin is spot-on, and his critique applies to US administrations of both parties, from Carter’s to Obama’s. The Iranian regime has never paid a significant price for its numerous attacks against Americans and American interests. We may pay a high price for this failure.
Posted in Current Events, Iran, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 8 Comments »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 24th March 2015 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ Reposted from Zenpundit ICYMI there — on conveying the experience of the eschatological — on the way to better understanding the allure of IS ]
And the fifth Angel sounded the trumpet: and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit
WE ARE ENTERING PHASE TWO:
I think we’re entering Phase Two of our conversations about Islamist eschatology.
In Phase One, the task was to point out that apocalyptic scriptures and scriptural interpretations were a feature of Al-Qaida discourse, and specifically used in recruitment, and this phase was necessary because apocalyptic movements, in general, are all too easily dismissed by the secular mind until “too late” — think Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo, the Branch Davidians in Waco, Heaven’s Gate in Rancho Santa Fe.
With GEN Dempsey declaring that IS holds an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision”, with Graeme Wood describing that vision in a breakthrough article in The Atlantic, with Jessica Stern and JM Berger making the same point forcefully in their ISIS: The State of Terror, and with Will McCants promising us a book specifically about the eschatological dimension of IS, that need may now have passed.
In my view, the salient points to be made in Phase Two are:
that the apocalyptic ideology of IS has strategic implications
that there’s a largely and unwisely ignored area of religious studies dealing specifically with eschatological violence, and
that the sense of living in eschatological time is viscerally different — I’ve termed it a “force multiplier”
In particular, IS strategy is likely to draw in part on the specifically eschatological last hundred pages in Abu Musab al-Suri‘s 1600-page Call to Global Islamic Resistance. As I noted in my review of Jean-Pierre Filiu’s Apocalypse in Islam, Filiu himself states there is “nothing in the least rhetorical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action”. While Filiu devotes several pages to it, Jim Lacey ignores it completely in his A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto, commenting only, “Where appropriate, we have also removed most of the repetitive theological justifications undergirding these beliefs” — see my review of Lacey for the Air force Research Institute.
I’ll deal with the religious studies literature on violent apocalyptic movements in a future post.
This post is my first attempt at addressing the feeling engendered by being swept up in an “end times’ movement. I foresee this as my major upcoming area of interest and future contributions.
There’s an extraordinary paragraph in Seduction of the Spirit by Harvey Cox, the prominent Harvard theologian, in which he tells us what the world’s next great encyclopedic work on religion might be like — using the analogy of Thomas Aquinas‘ Summa Theologica in a decidedly post-psychedelic age:
Thus the next Summa might consist not of a thousand chapters but of a thousand alternative states of being, held together not by a glued binding but by the fact that all thousand are equally real.
Imagine what kind of world it would be if instead of merely tolerating or studying them, one could actually be, temporarily at least, a Sioux brave seeing an ordeal vision, a neolithic hunter prostrate before the sacred fire, a Krishna lovingly ravishing a woodsful of goat girls, a sixteenth-century Carmelite nun caught up in ecstatic prayer, a prophet touched by flame to go release a captive people…
Religious experience is as wide, and in fact as wild as that, and the lives and world views of a Black Elk, a Teresa of Avila, an incarnation of Vishnu and an Isaiah are as different as cultures can be, united only in the degree of their focus. Cox can list them, he can invite us to consider their experiences in turn, but he cannot entirely bring us into each of their lives. Between them and his readers is a distance not only of cultural imagination, but of conviction, of tremendous passion.
In Fiction as the Essence of War, George Vlachonikolis wrote on War on the Rocks recently:
Coker reveals the struggle of many a veteran by asking: “how can someone who was there tell others what it was like? Especially if they can’t find a moral?” This is a thought that will resonate with anybody with a wartime experience. As for me, my 6 years in the Army has now all but been reduced to a handful of dinnerpartyfriendly anecdotes as a consequence of this plight.
Stern & Berger, on page 2 of their book, ISIS: The State of Terrorism, write:
It is difficult to properly convey the magnitude of the sadistic violence shown in these videos. Some featured multiple beheadings, men and women toether, with the later victims force to watch the irst die. In one video, the insurgents drove out into the streets of Iraq cities, pile out of the vehicle, and beheaded a prisoner in full view of pedestrians, capturing the whole thing on video and then driving ogg scot-free.
Some things are just hard to explain in a way that viscerally grips the reader, engendering rich and deep understanding.
The power of religion is one of them, and that’s true a fortiori of the power of its extreme form, that of those who are “semiotically aroused” — in Richard Landes‘ very useful term — by the power of an “end times” vision.
I have quoted the first paragraph of Tim Furnish‘s book, Holiest Wars, often enough already, and I’ll quote it again for shock value — I don’t think it’s the sort of analogy that can be “proven” or “refuted”, but it gives a visceral sense of the importance of identifying an Islamist jihadist apocalyptic movement as such, and understanding what that implies:
Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones: triggered by the same detonating agents, but far more powerful in scope and effect.
And Richard Landes in Fatal Attraction: The Shared Antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad gives us a sense of how an apocalyptic undercurrent works:
It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and halfeducated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history.
A FIRST APPROXIMATION:
Let me take a first stab at indicating — by analogy — the level of passion involved:
Cox writes of prophecy, Sylvia Plath of electroshock treatment. In her poem, The Hanging Man:
By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.
I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.
And her description of the same experience in her novel The Bell Jar is no less, perhaps even more powerful — note also the “end times” reference:
I shut my eyes.
There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.
Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.
Let me suggest to you:
Many IS members feel they have been shaken “like the end of the world” and live and breathe in “an air crackling with blue light”.
The illustration at the head of this post is one of many from The Beatus of Facundus, itself one of many brilliantly illustrated versions of Beatus of Liebana‘s commentary on Revelation. I was first exposed to Beatus by an article Umberto Eco wrote for FMR magazine. Eco also mentions the Beatus in Name of the Rose, and indeed wrote a most desirable book on the topic.
Posted in Book Notes, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Uncategorized | 11 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st March 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Obama Administration is close to announcing a deal with the government of Iran on their nuclear program. The deal will include some weak language on delay in the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran and the dropping of all sanctions against the regime by the US and its European allies. This will be a disaster, in my opinion. The New York Times has another editorial today which includes delighted anticipation of the deal and more invective against Prime Minister Netanyahu who opposes the deal.
“In a way, the administration has already won,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to Democratic and Republican administrations. “If you get agreement by the end of March, it will be historic in nature, it will have demonstrated that the administration is prepared to willfully stand up to Republican opposition in Congress and to deal with members of its own party who have doubts, and has withstood Israeli pressure.”
The “historic agreement” will fulfill the ambitions of the allegedly “moderate” Iranian president Rouhani. The Weekly Standard has a nice biography of Rouhani ( which means “pious” or “a cleric” in Arabic.) by some people who know the story and who can use Persian language sources.
Yet since 1979, throughout his entire political career, he has systematically violated what even hard-nosed Islamic jurists might consider sacred obligations that rulers owe their subjects.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Current Events, History, Iran, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Terrorism | 12 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 9th March 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
J. E. Dyer: Like it never even happened: Tikrit and the unwriting of modern history
This is an excellent long discussion of the historical background of today’s struggle for Iraq between ISIS and the modern Persian empire:
The eschatology of revolution and Western decline
All of this history is recent, in Persian terms. The ancient Persian Empire was old by the time Herodotus the Greek, father of Western history, walked the earth, 2,400 years ago. There are much older ghosts in the plain of Zahab – but the Islamic conquest of the 630s is the “break” that counts: the one that set Persia and modern Iran on course for their rendezvous with 2015.
Three and a half centuries after the Treaty of Zahab, a revolutionary Iran, sensitized to eschatological signs, found herself facing serious danger from an independent and radical Iraq. The pathway to Baghdad suddenly had geo-military significance again.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Current Events, History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, War and Peace | 38 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 5th March 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
How they must have laughed as they watched Susan Rice go on all the talk shows blaming it on some Los Angeles film-maker. They were probably in stitches while viewing the paid advertisements shown in Pakistan blaming the whole thing on amateurs posting on YouTube. It must have opened their eyes to see how the Washington press corps swallowed it hook, line and sinker, like hayseeds from the sticks. That forced a re-evaluation of everything.
And then they knew: they had his number. They had the administration dialed in. They understood exactly what they were dealing with. The Iranians too must have been watching from the sidelines and concluded what Nemetsov understood. As did Putin. Here was a man with no core; whose only value was to protect the precious image of himself, because image was all there was.
And at that moment the wolves, heretofore only circling on the periphery, as if by mutual consent advanced. They understood. They knew. And the man at the center of the closing circle has been busy throwing ever larger pieces of raw meat them to keep them away. But the wolves are no longer to be denied and the circle is tightening.
Posted in Middle East, National Security, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 12 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 3rd March 2015 (All posts by T. Greer)
This essay was originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 27 February 2015. It has been re-posted here without alteration.
Perhaps the most predictable fall-out of Graeme Wood’s influential cover article for The Atlantic, “What the Islamic State Really Wants,” is another round of debate over whether or not the atrocities committed by ISIS and other armed fundamentalist terrorist outfits are sanctioned by the Qur’an, Hadith, and other Islamic texts, and if not, whether these groups and the evils they inflict upon the world should be called “Islamic” at all. Michael Lotus, co-author of the excellent America 3.0 and a generally sharp political observer all around, suggests that American policy makers shouldn’t bother themselves with the question:
Fortunately for non-Muslims, who have neither the time nor the inclination nor the scholarly competence to get into intra-Muslim theological disputes, we do not need to figure out whether ISIS or [their theological opponents] more properly interpret these passages. We just need to know that ISIS reads the texts the way it does, believe them to be divine commands, and acts accordingly. Knowing this, we are better able to plan whatever military response is necessary to defeat them, and hopefully destroy them entirely. This is both theoretically and practically an easier task than debating them.
There are two separate issues at play here that need to be clearly distinguished from each other before the United States crafts any strategy to defeat ISIS. The first is what, if anything, the United States should do over the short term to stop and then reverse ISIS’s advance. The second is how the United States should approach the long term threat posed by Salafi-Jihadist terrorism and the ideology that inspires it. Inasmuch as the goal of American policy is grounding ISIS into the dust, then Michael is entirely correct. Conquerors the world over have shown that one does not need a nuanced understanding of an enemy’s belief system in order to obliterate him. But ISIS is only one head of the hydra. If the goal of American policy is to permanently defeat “global extremism” or “global terror” or whatever the folks in Washington have decided to call Salafi-Jihadist barbarism this month, then this view is insufficient.
I should be clear here. I am not advocating a perpetual, open-ended war declared against some nebulous concept like “poverty,” or “drugs,” or “terror.” James Madison once declared that war is the “most dreadful” of “all public enemies to liberty,“ and I take his warning seriously. We cannot continue on an indefinite war footing without permanently damaging the integrity of the America’s republican institutions.
But there is more to this conflict than America’s internal politics. It is worth it to step back and remind ourselves of exactly what is at stake in the global contest against Jihadist extremism.
At the turn of the twentieth century, China, Japan, and Korea saw vast changes in the shape of their society because the old Neo-Confucian world view that had upheld the old order had been discredited. In Europe both communism and fascism rose to horrific heights because the old ideology of classical liberalism that had hitherto held sway was discredited. As a global revolutionary force communism itself withered away because the events that closed the 20th century left it discredited. If Americans do not worry about communist revolutionaries anymore it is because communism was so thoroughly discredited that there is no one left in the world who is willing to pick up arms in its name. 
We cannot “win” this fight, in the long term, unless we can discredit the ideology that gives this fight teeth.
Luckily for us, this does not require discrediting a fourteen hundred year old religion held by one fifth of the world’s population. It is worth reminding ourselves that the ideology we seek to discredit is a comparatively new one. It was born in the sands of Najd shortly before Arabia became “Saudi,” crystallized in its present form only in the 1960s, and was not exported abroad until the late 1980s. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict excepted, almost all “Islamist” terrorist attacks can be linked directly to this new Salafi-Jihadist ideology and the madrassas and proselytizing media used to spread it. It is an ideology that directly threatens the sovereign rulers of every country in the Near East, and one whose interpretations are not only opposed by the majority of Islamic theologians, but have little relation to the way Islam was practiced in most places a mere 30 years ago.
That an ideology is new or rebels against established world views does not make it less dangerous. Novelty also says little about a movement’s future success–once upon a time Protestantism was a novel ideology. I encourage people to use this analogy. Think of these Salafi reformers as you do the first wave of Protestant reformers back in the 16th century. The comparison is apt not only because the goal of the Salafi-Jihadists is, like the original Protestants, to bring religious practice back to a pure and original form, or because the savagery displayed by many of the Protestant reformers was quite comparable to ISIS at its worst, but because this comparison gives you a sense of the stakes that are at play. This is a game where the shape of entire civilizations are on the table. The Salafi-Jihadists want to change the way billions of people worship, think, and live out their daily lives. ISIS’s success in the Near East gives us a clear picture of exactly what kind of society the Salafi-Jihadists envision for the Ummah.
I will not mince words: humankind faces few catastrophes more terrible than allowing Salafi-Jihadist reformers to hijack Islamic civilization. Theirs is an ideology utterly hostile to human progress and prosperity, and their victory, if attained, will come at great human cost. The Protestants secured their Reformation with one of the most destructive wars of European history; there is little reason to think Salafi-Jihadist victories will be any less disastrous. Not every ‘great game’ of international power politics is played for civilization-level stakes. But that is exactly what is at stake here. We must plan accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 48 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th February 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Another excellent post from The Belmont Club, Which I read every day.
The barbarians of ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, in an outrage like those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s rejection this month of international appeals to halt the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage — their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar termed them idols — indicates that those most determined to impose their vision of a perfect Islamic state are firmly in control.
That article was from the period before the US invasion. Many artifacts were repaired but that will stop and the destruction will resume after we leave.
The Mosul destruction is to be expected everywhere the Takfiri tide rises enough to control an entity.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, History, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Science | 19 Comments »
Posted by Zenpundit on 23rd February 2015 (All posts by Zenpundit)
Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
Karl Marx once said history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. The United States, on the other hand, has in a short quarter-century moved from parody to farce:
SNL Desert Storm Press Conf (3 34) from Wendy Hall on Vimeo.
Only the outcomes are likely to be tragic.
Barring a Bugs Bunny-level reverse-psychology Information Operation in progress, we have a highly centralized White House whose micromanagement of military campaigns by amateur staffers includes briefing the enemy:
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Posted in International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Video, War and Peace | 2 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 21st February 2015 (All posts by TM Lutas)
The Kharijites were a faction inside of early Islam that heavily invested in the concept of takfir (excommunication) and had other differences with both Sunni and Shia to the point where they were themselves considered no longer muslim and ended up mostly being killed off. ISIS, by its extreme actions, seems to have some significant points of congruence with the Kharijites. Foremost among them seems to be this shared belief in takfirism. It is not a perfect fit, ISIS’ ideology includes the idea that the Caliph should be a Quryash tribe member, something the ancient Kharijites rejected at the time.
Not having a dividing line between those who want to kill us in the name of Islam and those who we can live with underneath the big tent of american tolerance makes war difficult. Is neo-kharjitism a dividing criteria that would work both within Islam and without? It’s something to keep an eye on and a great tool if it can be relied on.
Posted in Islam, Middle East, Religion, War and Peace | 16 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th February 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The recent ridiculous antics of Obama and his administration spokesidiots have been been somewhat amusing but still dangerous. Ms Harf is is the object of ridicule around the world.
Marie Harf, the embattled State Department deputy spokeswoman who insisted this week that helping ISIS jihadis find gainful employment was a better strategy than killing them, is not in line for a promotion when her boss moves to the White House on April 1, a State Department official said Thursday.
Harf said Monday night on MSNBC that ‘lack of opportunity for jobs’ in the Middle East should be America’s focus in the war against the ISIS terror army.
She refused to back down Tuesday night on CNN, insisting that the Obama administration should ‘get at the root causes’ of terrorism. ‘It might be too nuanced an argument for some,’ she sniped at her legions of critics.
Those mockworthy moments, a State Department official said Thursday, ‘are going to keep her from the top job.
Well, we are grateful for small favors. Obama shows in his ridiculous “summit” that she was describing his real policy.
A recent piece in the Atlantic does a pretty good job of explaining what they are all about.
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
The entire article is well worth reading.
Today, CNN has a good piece on the nonsense about jobs and economic opportunity.
Kepel researched the 300 Islamist militants who were tried in the wake of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Around one in five were professionals such as engineers, a quarter worked as government employees, just under half were artisans or merchants, one in 10 were in the military or police, and only one in 10 were farmers or were unemployed. Of those who were students, around a third were studying in the elite fields of medicine and engineering.
This has been pretty typical of terror leaders since World War II and beyond. The Bolsheviks were middle class, even Stalin who had been a divinity student.
Religious motivation is denied at our own peril as we may think that educated people can’t be stupid enough to believe the medieval theology of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
The book, The Looming Tower is a first primer on what is going on. It has been out for years and should be a first step in understanding these people.
I am reading In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland which is about the origins of Islam and has gotten the author into some trouble with fanatics.
Austin Bay has some thoughts about their strategy, which are of value.
IS videos leverage al-Qaida’s dark psychological insight. Al-Qaida connected the Muslim world’s angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy seeks to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline.
Which leads to purpose two. Murdering helpless captives shocks, insults and angers civilized human beings. IS leaders, however, love to shock and insult. To shock and insult means to defy restrictions. In its war against infidels, IS recognizes no restrictions. If this sounds a bit like a 19th-century European anarchist political trope, indeed it is.
The ISIS leadership includes some experienced officers from Saddam’s army. That army was officered by Sunni Muslims and the soldiers were largely Shia. That is why it fell apart so quickly.
IS forces are probing Baghdad. Several IS leaders are Iraqi Sunnis with ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime; they definitely want to seize control of Iraq. Two former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonels hold high positions in the IS military hierarchy. Al-Baghdadi met them when they were imprisoned at the old Camp Bucca detention complex.
IS leaders have goals beyond Iraq. Civilized people may dismiss their goals as sociopathic delusions, but men like al-Baghdadi believe control of Iraq and Libya will position them to seize Egypt (population resources) and Saudi Arabia (dominating energy resources). This regional caliphate then goes global.
Nonsense about jobs and denying the religious ideology just adds danger. There are a few things here to read this weekend.
Posted in Book Notes, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism | 3 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There has been considerable curiosity about Obama’s foreign policy goals in the middle east. He has picked a major fight with Israel and the PM, Netanyahu. It has been known for years that Obama and Netanyahu loathe each other. Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq while American military leaders kept silent but were disapproving. The CIA Director, General Petraeus, was removed after a scandal that had administration fingerprints all over it. Senior generals who opposed Obama’s plans and let it be known, were relieved like like General McChrystal, who had permitted other officers in his commend to talk disrespectfully about the administration in front of a reporter.
As for McChrystal: In a press conference on June 24 of this year, Adm. Mike Mullen said, succinctly, “It was clear that … in its totality, it challenged civilian control … .”
Mullen’s “it” refers to the disrespect for civilian authority by now-former U.S. Afghanistan commander McChrystal’s staff, as portrayed in an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine. President Obama, whose wife until his candidacy was never proud of her country, relieved McChrystal for this disrespect — not so much for what McChrystal had said, but for his staff’s biting criticism of other members of the administration, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Not long after this, General Petraeus resigned from the CIA but is still being harassed by the FBI.
“All of us who know him and are close to him are mystified by the fact there is still this investigation into him,” Jack Keane, a retired four-star U.S. Army General said in an interview. Keane has been both an adviser to and mentor of Petraeus since he saved Petraeus’s life during a live-fire training exercise in 1991.
It may be as simple as an effort, so far successful, to keep Petraeus from talking about the Obama Administration’s most important foreign policy initiative.
How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.”
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama | 21 Comments »
Posted by TM Lutas on 2nd February 2015 (All posts by TM Lutas)
Israel, if it is farsighted and wise, has a grim opportunity in the emergence of Islamic State Sinai Province. It can sign a defense treaty with Egypt to ensure the territorial integrity of Egypt. Israel’s gain would be the undertaking of Egypt to grant palestinians on Egyptian territory Egyptian citizenship, removing the malign influence that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is having over the Palestinian situation the only sure way possible, by removing its reason for being in a decent, humanitarian way by settling Palestinian refugees into a normal status, in this case as citizens of Egypt.
This line of thinking does assume that Egypt’s military will be unsuccessful in stopping IS Sinai Province from controlling territory, either part or all of Sinai. It further assumes that the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza/Hamas will be assisting ISSP in its efforts, justifying an Egyptian takeover of Gaza to root them out. Now is the time for the negotiations to start, if they haven’t already started.
Without refugee status, and the unique UN agency to support Palestinians in their grievances, Palestinians will tend to disperse, tend to get jobs, and as they get more invested into the existing legal system, tend to reduce their jihad to lawfare seeking reparations for their losses in both properties and suffering. Eventually Israel will write a big check and be happy to end this chapter in their history.
Posted in Islam, Israel, Middle East, Tradeoffs, War and Peace | 11 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 31st January 2015 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
(I am informed that the DoD is soliciting memorial essays for the recently-departed monarch of the House of Saud. My entry, somewhat inspired by a Facebook post by Robert Zubrin, is below. Other ChicagoBoyz contributors are encouraged to compose entries as well.)
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Posted in Anglosphere, Anti-Americanism, Christianity, Current Events, History, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam, Libertarianism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Religion, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th January 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Some commentators talk about the threat of “terrorism” but it is coming from one source; radical Islam or “takfiri Islam” if you prefer.
However, a growing number of splinter Wahhabist/Salafist groups, labeled by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris, have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the Sharia law, and have reserved the right to declare apostasy themselves against any Muslim in addition to non-Muslims.
These people are the threat although the fact that most Muslims are unwilling to speak out against this group is worrisome. Today, the new Chairman of the Homeland Security said he expects more attacks like that in Paris last week.
“I believe… larger scale, 9/11-style [attacks] are more difficult to pull off – a bigger cell we can detect, a small cell like this one, very difficult to detect, deter and disrupt which is really our goal. I think we’ll see more and more of these taking place, whether it be foreign fighters going to the warfare in return or whether it be someone getting on the internet as John Miller talked about, very sophisticated social media program then radicalizing over the internet,” McCaul said.
Some of these are “lone wolf attacks” like the the 2002 LAX attack by a limousine driver from Irvine, near my home.
The assailant was identified as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national who immigrated to the United States in 1992. Hadayet arrived in the United States from Egypt as a tourist.
Hadayet had a green card which allowed him to work as a limousine driver. He was married, and had at least one child. At the time of the shooting, Hadayet was living in Irvine, California.
A more devastating “personal jihad” attack was the Egyptair Flight 990 attack in 1999.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in France, History, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 23 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 6th January 2015 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …
– Neil Peart, Distant Early Warning
But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.
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Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, China, Christianity, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Libertarianism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Space, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 31 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th January 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
A speech by the new President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is a huge break with the usual rhetoric coming from public figures in Islam.
The full speech is here, but the key phrases are:
Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”; that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”; and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
This is pretty strong stuff and might get him the fate of Anwar Sadat, at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Making peace with Israel was a bridge too far for the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state.” The movement officially renounced political violence in 1949, after a period of considerable political tension which ended in the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha by a young veterinary student who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The renunciation obviously did not apply to Sadat who was assassinated in 1981.
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Posted in Current Events, History, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 56 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th December 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Washington Post is worried that the “Islamic State is failing as a state.”
Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the “caliphate” proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, residents say, belying the group’s boasts that it is delivering a model form of governance for Muslims.
The Muslims have never been much at governing. In the early days after Muhammed and his nomadic warriors conquered much of the Middle East, the people pretty much governed themselves as the Arabs were better at fighting than governing.
The “Golden Age of Islam” was from the rule of Harun al Rashid to the Mongol conquest, in 1260 to 1300. The Sack of Baghdad, which ended the “Golden Age”, occurred in 1258.
Although the Abbasids had failed to prepare for the invasion, the Caliph believed that Baghdad could not fall to invading forces and refused to surrender. Hulagu subsequently besieged the city, which surrendered after 12 days. During the next week, the Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and destroying the Abbasids’ vast libraries, including the House of Wisdom. The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated.
The Golden Age of Islam had been chiefly carried out by Christians and recent converts (mostly involuntary) who translated Greek classics into Arabic. It was mostly a fiction created in the 19th century.
The metaphor of a golden age begins to be applied in 19th-century literature about Islamic history, in the context of the western cultural fashion of Orientalism. The author of a Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine in 1868 observed that the most beautiful mosques of Damascus were “like Mohammedanism itself, now rapidly decaying” and relics of “the golden age of Islam”
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Posted in Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism | 39 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th November 2014 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.
– Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage
[Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test.]
Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th October 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Roger L Simon has an interesting column on the consequences of a GOP win this fall.
Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.
When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace.
Obama’s style of governing seems to be quite unusual for modern presidents. He does not have a circle of “Wise Men” as most presidents have done, including Bill Clinton, who had Robert Rubin advising him on economics and the bond market.
Obama, instead, relys on a small circle of advisors with little or no experience in national affairs.
Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.
His closest advisor appears to be Valerie Jarrett who has no policy experience and who seems to be a Chicago insider.
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Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Elections, Human Behavior, Iraq, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 10th October 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Richard Fernandez notes that Turkey is watching ISIS destroy the Kurds, in much the same way that the Soviets stood back and let the Nazis crush the Warsaw uprising of 1944:
Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain’s Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Polish Air Force under British High Command. Later, after gaining Soviet air clearance, the US Army Air Force sent one high-level mass airdrop as part of Operation Frantic. The Soviet Union refused to allow American bombers from Western Europe to land on Soviet airfields after dropping supplies to the Poles.
While the US has apparently sent some weapons to the Kurds, the aid so far seems rather desultory. Meanwhile, ISIS has fifty-two American-made 155mm howitzers. “The Kurds of Kobani feel let down by the Europeans, by the Americans, and particularly by their Muslim neighbors…Everybody here is ready to fight ISIS: old men, pubescent children, young women. They’re all waiting in line in front of the YPG recruiting station. It looks as if they are waiting to vote, but actually it is to register for the war.” link
Meanwhile, the US air campaign does not seem to be of a sufficient level to destroy ISIS or even to stop its advance.
If the US strategy is to fight ISIS by arming intermediaries, rather than directly with US troops, then why is heavy support not being provided to the Kurds? Almost certainly, the main reason is a reluctance on Obama’s part…and maybe on the part of certain people in the State Department…to do anything that would anger Turkey. (In 2012, Obama named Erdogan as one of the world leaders he feels personally closest to.) The result of this attitude will very likely be further ISIS advances, and mass slaughters of Kurds.
Arthur Koestler wrote that the Soviet non-support of the Warsaw uprising was “one of the major infamies of this war which will rank for the future historian on the same ethical level with Lidice.”
Posted in Iraq, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 18 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th October 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
… I think. My crystal ball is out for re-calibration so I cannot be absolutely certain, but I’ve been expecting a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophes for some time now. There have been murmurings for the last year regarding the probability of Ebola spreading out of Africa. And now it has happened – a person sick with it has exposed lord only knows how many other people on his way back to Dallas from a visit to Africa. Which is horrific enough, but just getting started. Meanwhile, an enterovirus which attacks the respiratory tract and in some instances has an effect very like that of polio has been here for some months, sickening children – especially those who have respiratory difficulties.
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Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Immigration, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Middle East, Politics, Tea Party, Terrorism, Urban Issues, USA | 18 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The growth of the terrorist state ISIS has taken all the attention lately. This is just a resurgence of al Qeada in the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal of all US troops. Maybe, if we had kept a significant force in Iraq, something could be saved of all we bought at such terrible cost. Now, it is too late.
We do have allies worth helping but they are not in the Iraqi government. It is Shia dominated and dependent on Iran for support. They have alienated the Sunnis and the growth of ISIS is the result. We still have the Kurds as allies and they know we were their only hope in 1993. Jay Garner did a great job working with them once we decided to protect them after the First Gulf War. I have never understood why he was dismissed by George W Bush.
The Kurds have been an embarrassment for us for decades in the middle east because they occupy parts of three nations, two of which were at one time our allies.
Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have never had a modern nation and the neighbors are enemies. Only the mountains have protected them. Now, it is time we did something. Iran is certainly no friend. Iraq has dissolved and it is time to allow it to be broken up into the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish provinces it should be. Turkey is increasingly Islamist and has not been an ally at least since 2003 when they blocked our 4th Infantry Division from invading Iraq from the north.
The 4th was initially ordered to deploy in January 2003 before the war began, but did not arrive in Kuwait until late March. The delay was caused by the inability of the United States and Turkey to reach an agreement over using Turkish military bases to gain access to northern Iraq, where the division was originally planned to be located. Units from the division began crossing into Iraq on April 12, 2003.
The Kurds know this is their opportunity and Dexter Filkins’ piece in the New Yorker makes this clear.
The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.
The Kurds were surprised and routed by ISIS mostly due to limited weapons and ammunition. We could supply the deficit but Obama seems to be oblivious to the true situation. The Iraqi Army will not fight, a characteristic of all Arab armies. To the degree that the Iraqi army is Shia led, the Sunni Arabs will not cooperate or will join the enemy.
The present situation in Kurdistan is desperate.
Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a garden restaurant.
A new kind of Middle East city.
What a difference a year makes. Now, Erbil is a city under siege. The closest lines of the Islamic State (IS) forces are 45 kilometers away. At the distant frontlines, IS (formerly ISIS) is dug in, its vehicles visible, waiting and glowering in the desert heat. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are a few hundred meters away in positions hastily cut out of the sand to face the advancing jihadi fighters.
The problem and a solution are both clear. Obama is not serious about doing anything in Iraq or Syria and the Kurds may have to fend for themselves. Interesting enough, there are Jewish Kurds. Israel may have more at stake here than we do.
The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.
Perhaps the Israelis and Kurds can work out an alliance. The US, under Obama, is untrustworthy. We will see what happens.
The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.
Israel might be an answer to the Kurds’ dilemma. I don’t think we are, except for supplying materials which we should have been doing all along.
Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 21 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 21st September 2014 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1”
Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.
As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.
Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.
I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.
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Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Leftism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Systems Analysis, Tech, The Press, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »
Posted by Ginny on 19th September 2014 (All posts by Ginny)
Lancet Letter – City Magazine’s take.
Posted in Israel, Medicine, Middle East | 5 Comments »