Dennis Praeger on the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
Archive for the 'Middle East' Category
Dennis Praeger on the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
Chicago Boyz community member Robert Schwartz has some thoughts about the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
By now I think everybody, who is not sunk into Obama idolatry, agrees that Obama’s deal with the Iranian Regime fails in numerous dimensions. Some day it will be used in business school classes as an object lesson in poor negotiating technique.
Be that as it may, The Deal has been set, and the only remaining issue is whether the Congress of the United States will vote to disapprove it, and be able to override a veto of that resolution. The announcement of opposition by three prominent Congressmen, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and the very negative polling results for the Deal, show that this is a possibility.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th July 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Why is this man laughing ?
UPDATE: John Kerry is now threatening Israel if Congress votes against the deal.
“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” Kerry said.
A good column today by David Gelernter makes a strong case that Obama will be remembered for what he is doing with Iran.
Obama will be remembered ultimately for the Iran treaty, as Johnson is remembered for Vietnam. Like Johnson, Obama is wrapped in a warm blanket of advisers who flatter his earnest, high-school views of world politics. Like Johnson, he lives in his own delusional world in which he’s commander-in-chief not merely of the military but of the whole blessed nation. Like Johnson, he has been destroyed by the arrogance of power; and his blindness has endangered America. Unlike Johnson, he was never big enough for the job in the first place.
His comparison with Lyndon Johnson is excellent. I read HR McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” and the resemblance to Obama’s policies is astonishing. I recently read another book that points out the consequences of Obama’s decision to abandon Iraq. It is written by a young British woman named Emma Sky and is called “The Unraveling.”
The future is still to be written but we see a few hints. The Iranians are already celebrating and by “Iranians” I do not mean the oppressed citizens of that sad country. They are passengers on a runaway train driven by lunatics. We have now given those lunatics the keys to the atomic bomb.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th July 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Obama has gotten his Iran deal. He announced the deal with great fanfare.
In each case, the country’s top official decided to reverse a long-standing policy, taking significant risk to open space for negotiations. In gambling that the time had come to seek a deal, President Obama and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei broke a stalemate that had made the years of on-and-off negotiations an exercise in frustration.
Yes, Iran has agreed to all our concessions.
It begins when Obama came to office in 2009 and signaled his interest in reviving negotiations, sending a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Khamenei, and Nowruz holiday greetings to the Iranian public. Although Obama insisted that he did not trust Iran’s mullahs, the first principle of his foreign policy was that contact — “engagement,” as he refers to it — was better than past administrations’ efforts to isolate adversary governments.
That might have been because they considered them adversaries. “Death to America” is not exactly the expression of friendship.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th June 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The saying is “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”
I have a gun in my bedside table but do not carry one when I go out. At one time, about the time of the Rodney King riots, I had to go to LA to give a lecture and I put a gun in my car center console. This week I am thinking about terrorism and whether we will see an example next weekend.
Richard Fernandez has more to say about this today and, as usual, what he says is worthwhile. The photo above is of the ISIS murderer at Tunisia where he killed 30 people, all tourists, and walked along as though he was out for a stroll.
The staff of the hotel wash the blood from the site of the massacre.
Why did this happen ? Aside from the foolishness of British tourists going to a country where there was another attack recently. A previous attack killed 19 in March.
One commenter wondered what Someone was doing while this ‘tragedy’ occurred. “How come there was an alarm raised, carrying that machine gun, it was obvious to the onlookers in the picture. Somebody could have prevented another tragedy in the name of this perverse and ancient religion.”
Yes, where was that Someone ?
The West is filled with millions of people like Alex, all of them waiting for Someone.
Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.
For months, she had been growing closer to a new group of friends online — the most attentive she had ever had — who were teaching her what it meant to be a Muslim. Increasingly, they were telling her about the Islamic State and how the group was building a homeland in Syria and Iraq where the holy could live according to God’s law.They are the product of a multi-decade campaign to deliberately empty people of their culture; to actually make them ashamed of it. They were purposely drained of God, country, family like chickens so they could be stuffed with the latest narrative of the progressive meme machine. The Gramscian idea was to produce a blank slate upon which the Marxist narrative could be written.
She is looking for Someone.
Too bad for the Gramscians that the Islamists are beating them to the empty sheets of paper. And they are better at it too.
George Orwell observed the takeover of hardcore Bolshevism by the periphery in the 1930s.
The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years’ time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting.
This is so typical of the gay marriage crowd who ignore the world while focusing on minutiae.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration ignores ISIS hostages.
The White House did not do enough to rescue the four Americans. During Steve’s imprisonment, it rarely worked with the hostages’ families, kept them in the dark, and was essentially passive, rather than discussing ways to secure their release.During Steve’s imprisonment, it rarely worked with the hostages’ families, kept them in the dark, and was essentially passive, rather than discussing ways to secure their release. And though the White House finally authorized an extraction attempt in late June 2014, it waited far too long to do so.
Whether this is a good idea is another matter but the Administration is doing nothing and worse than nothing,
The FBI was useless. Its tasks were alternately to extract information and to comfort the family. It never shared intelligence. One European hostage, who was incarcerated with the Americans and subsequently released, told me he was shocked that the FBI seemed more interested in gathering evidence to prosecute the hostage-takers than it was in locating the Americans. Our lead agent misled me on several occasions,
Fernandez’ advice is simple.
That Someone’s busy with transfat, transgender and alternative marriage issues. He can’t bother with protecting borders. Just leave your number and the time you called, and he’ll get back to you. The state has finally achieved both universal jurisdiction and total impotence at one and the same moment.
What is to be done? The first task is to start gathering a circle of friends who live within walking distance of your home. Four people — a handyman, a nurse or doctor, an ex-cop or soldier and a strongback for preference — will do. Your second task is to support the causes you care about. Volunteer at your church or club. If you have no club, start one. Donate to your favorite website. If you don’t have a favorite, find one or go online yourself. Buy the book of an author you admire. And switch off the damned telescreen.
I am not into conspiracy theories. I don’t think Obama wants to take our guns away to leave us helpless in the face of terrorists. On the other hand, what would he doing differently if that was what he wanted ?
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th June 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Hugh Hewitt interviewed General Stanley McCrystal on his radio show yesterday and the interview is pretty interesting. McCrystal has a memoir out called My Share of the Task and a new book on leadership called, Team of Teams.
The discussion is pretty interesting. First of all, McCrystal was fired by Obama after a reporter printed a story about McCrystal’s officers disrespecting Obama.
In a statement expressing praise for McChrystal yet certainty he had to go, Obama said he did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or “out of any sense of personal insult.” Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Rose Garden, he said: “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”
Of course, it was Obama’s petulance and sense of outrage that anyone would think him less than competent.
In the magazine article, McChrystal called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops “painful” and said the president appeared ready to hand him an “unsellable” position. McChrystal also said he was “betrayed” by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan.
He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so,'” McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.
McCrystal has emerged looking better and better and is obviously a great leader and general. Some of the interview’s insights into his leadership are worth repeating. I plan to read both books.
It seems clear that many Americans are less concerned than they should be about the threat of radical aggressive Islam…ranging from intimidation of cartoonists in the US and Europe to direct military aggression in the Middle East. This seems to be particularly true among the well-educated (or at least well-credentialed) and affluent. I’ve commented on this situation in several previous posts, for example, The Perfect Enemy; today I’d like to throw out for discussion some of the factors that I think are largely driving this head-in-the-sand phenomenon. They range from fairly rational (but flawed, IMO) thought processes to ignorance to obvious logical errors to malevolence and outright crazy thinking.
1) Some people really don’t understand the full range of what’s going on. Those of us who follow politics and international affairs pretty closely can easily lose sight of just what an information desert exists for those whose only info source is the mainstream media…it is very unlikely, for example, that the NBC and CNN-watcher is aware of the full range of anti-free-speech intimidation conducted under the banner of Islam, in the US as well as in Europe.
2) Some people do have an idea about what’s going on, but tend to repress thinking about the threat because while they on some level perceive its awfulness they do not think anything can really be done about it…probably often, this threat is lumped together with seemingly-unstoppable malign trends, such as an ever-worsening economy and a deteriorating culture.
In Arthur Koestler’s 1950 novel The Age of Longing, a young American woman living in France–who has belatedly come to understand the likelihood of an imminent Soviet invasion–corners a French security official and asks him why so many people are in denial about the forthcoming attack. His response:
“No, Mademoiselle, don’t be misled by appearances. France and what else is left of Europe may look like a huge dormitory to you, but I assure you nobody in it is really asleep. Have you ever spent a night in a mental ward? During the Occupation, a doctor who belonged to our group got me into one when the police were after me. It was a ward of more or less hopeless cases, most of whom were marked down for drastic neurosurgical operations. When the male nurse made his round, I thought everybody was asleep. Later I found out that they were only pretending, and that everybody was busy, behind closed eyes, trying to cope after his own fashion with what was coming to him. Some were pursuing their delusions with a happy smile, like our famous Pontieux (a philosopher modelled on Sartre–ed). Others were working on their pathetic plans of escape, naively hoping that with a little dissimulation, or bribery, or self-abasement, they could get around the tough male nurses, the locked doors, the operating table. Others were busy explaining to themselves that it wouldn’t hurt, and that to have holes drilled into one’s skull and parts of one’s brain taken out was the nicest thing that could happen to one. And still, others, the quiet schizos who were the majority, almost succeede in making themselves believe that nothing would happen, that it was all a matter of exaggerated rumours, and that tomorrow would be like yesterday. These looked as if they were really asleep. Only an occasional nervous twitch of their lips or eyes betrayed the strain of disbelieving what they knew to be inevitable…No, Mademoiselle nobody was really asleep.”
But in our case, as noted above, there are quite a few people who really are asleep.
3) Some people believe that all religions are essentially equivalent…generally they will argue that all religions are basically equally awful and that Evangelical Christians (for example) are as dangerous as radical Muslims and that it is only a matter of time until their dangerous tendencies explode into widespread violence. But sometimes they will argue that religion is inherently good and that hence, acts of terrorism cannot be motivated by religious belief but must be driven by something else.
4) Some argue that terrorism, while deplorable and tragic, isn’t really that dangerous in the scale of things, and that your risk of being killed or crippled from slipping while getting out of the bathtub (for example) is greater than your chance of being killed or crippled in a terrorist attack. This view is often coupled with the view that fear of terrorism is being stoked for political and/or bureaucratic reasons: for example, increased surveillance of citizens. There is great suspicion that the oil industry and the “military-industrial complex” are encouraging warfare for their own economic purposes.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Today, we learn that Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage. A Catholic Church spokesman said something very intelligent.
If the measure is passed, Catholic churches will continue to decide for themselves whether to solemnise a marriage.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, has said the church may look at whether it continues to perform the civil side of solemnisation if the change comes in.
I think this is where all this is going. The alternative is to see the Church attacked for the tax exemption, which may happen anyway. Many mainline Protestant churches are seeing membership collapse as the clergy swings far left and gets into the gay lifestyle.
There is also a very good essay at Ace of Spades today.
First, a jeweler in Canada makes rings for a lesbian wedding, then, after the lesbians find out he doesn’t approve for religious reasons, he is attacked.
Nicole White and Pam Renouf were looking for engagement rings a few months ago and eventually landed at Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl where the couple said they were given excellent service and great price for their rings.
“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” Ms. White told Canada’s CBC news. “I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get good customer service and they had good prices.”
A friend of the couple went in to the store to purchase a ring for his girlfriend and saw a poster that read “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman,” CBC reported May 16.
The friend took a photo of the poster and sent it to Ms. White, who said she had no idea about the poster until that point.
“It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they’re displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Ms. White said, CBC reported.
They demanded their money back. After much pressure, they got it and the Jeweler paid for his beliefs. So much for “equality.”
Ace goes on…
Almost four years ago I wrote about how the monuments and artifacts of ancient Egypt were possibly in peril from militant Islam – those grim and sternly bearded fanatics devoted to the principal that nothing rightfully exists before or outside of Islam. It was being suggested then that the Pyramids be covered up – certainly a considerable chore, but their fellow coreligionists energetically set about destroying the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas based on the same argument. So, one might have had good cause four years ago to worry about the relics of pre-Islamic Egypt – temples, monuments, ruined cities and tombs. How many thousands of years’ worth of relics, ornaments and paintings might be at risk? Fortunately for Egypt, it seems that soberer heads have prevailed for now: after all, someday they might want the tourists to come back again.
It is written in Psalms, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” We die, kingdoms and empires pass in time, but the earth endures as well as those monuments and ruins left behind. Fragments of the past, of our mutual human history usually aren’t as thick on the ground as they are in Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Italy; if not the cradle of Western civilization, then at the very least the kindergarten playground. So the rest of us have always felt a rather proprietary interest in those relics and places. These were places written of in the Bible, in the Greek and Roman classics, in a thousand epics, poems and legends – Jerusalem, Babylon, Ur of the Chaldees, Ninevah and Tyre, Athens and Sparta … and in travel accounts like Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, and for me – Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels.
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If you’ve flown much in the last few years, you’ve probably seen what I’ve experienced, as well – completely full planes, high prices, and aggravating extra charges for baggage, wi-fi, etc… This is really a symptom of what has actually occurred, which is that airlines have finally moved past an era of competition into an era of oligopoly.
The real indication of their new status isn’t the high prices and full planes – it is in the stock price.
Here you can see the major carriers which have survived and consolidated the US market – Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, and United / Continental. For years and years the stock prices of major airlines have languished – per Warren Buffet
He said that a durable competitive advantage in the airline industry “has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down,” he joked. “The airline industry’s demand for capital ever since that first flight has been insatiable. Investors have poured money into a bottomless pit.”
Each of the major airlines has predominantly broken their strong unions and taken medicine from bankruptcy to mergers in order to restore their finances. Instead of a focus on expansion, they are operationally focused in terms of filling every seat on every plane at the highest price possible, in terms of ticket costs and extra fees. Today they charge you for every sort of upgrade; “economy plus” which is a seat that you can sit in and get work done, costs extra, as well as for checking bags.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a company doing all they can to maximize profits, especially after savaging investors for many years with poor stock prices and a lack of dividends (and the high risk of total financial collapse). The airlines have finally figured out technology as well – if you want to upgrade any element of your flight experience, from business to first class to economy plus to a daily club pass – it is all right there as long as you are willing to give them your credit card number.
The airlines have also figured out that their frequent flyer programs provide benefits but also can be a millstone. Rather than rewarding miles, they are looking at the prices of the tickets paid by each traveler which rewards those that actually provide the greatest benefits to the airlines. If you’ve tried to actually use your benefits (except for Southwest), you’ll find that seats are very limited and you need to plan far in advance to receive benefits from these perks.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There is quite a series of Republican politicians declaring that they would not invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now. JEB Bush is not the only one. Ted Cruz has made Talking Points Memo happy with a similar declaration.
Earlier in the week, Kelly asked Bush if he would have authorized the invasion, and he said he would have. On Tuesday, Bush told Sean Hannity that he hadn’t heard the question correctly and wasn’t sure what he would have done. Cruz, on the other hand, said he knows what he would have done.
“Of course not,” Cruz said in response to Kelly asking if he would have authorized an invasion. “I mean, the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and they might use them.
Of course, the “WMD” argument is a more recent addition to the story. Nobody talks anymore about why Bush was forced to invade in 2003. WMD were a small part of it. That is forgotten, of course.
Mr Speaker, thank you for recalling Parliament to debate the best way to deal with the issue of the present leadership of Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Today we published a 50 page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.
At the end of the Gulf War, the full extent of Saddam’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result, the UN passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.
If mankind is, as has been claimed since ancient days, a species driven by the narrow passions of self interest, what holds human society together as one cohesive whole? How can a community of egoists, each devoted to nothing but his or her own ambition, thrive? Or for that matter, long exist?
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury thought he knew the answer.
|John Michael Wright, Thomas Hobbes (17th c).
Hobbes is famous for his dismal view of human nature. But contrary to the way he is often portrayed, Hobbes did not think man was an inherently evil being, defiled by sin or defined by vileness ingrained in his nature. He preferred instead to dispense with all ideas of good and evil altogether, claiming “these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man.”  Only a superior power, “an arbitrator of judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up” might have the coercive force to make one meaning of right the meaning used by all. Absent such a “common power”, the world is left in a condition that Hobbes famously described as “war of every man against every man” where they can be no right, no law, no justice, and “no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.” 
This description of the wretched State of Nature is familiar to most who have studied in the human sciences at any length. Also well known is Hobbes’s solution to the challenge posed by anarchy:
[Those in this state will] appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. 
What is most striking in Hobbes’ vision of this State of Nature and the path by which humanity escapes it is his complete dismissal of any form of cooperation before sovereign authority is established. Neither love nor religious zeal holds sway in the world Hobbes describes, and he has no more use for ties of blood or oaths of brotherhood than he does for the words right and wrong. He does concede that if faced with large enough of an outside threat fear may drive many “small families” to band together in one body for defense. However, the solidarity created by an attack or invasion is ephemeral–once the threat fades away so will the peace. “When there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other for their particular interests” just as before.  Hobbes allows for either a society dominated by a sovereign state or for a loose collection of isolated individuals pursuing private aims.
Hobbes’ dichotomy is not presented merely as a thought experiment, but as a description of how human society actually works. Herein lies Hobbes’ greatest fault. Today we know a great deal about the inner workings of non-state societies, and they are not as Hobbes described them. The man without a state is not a man without a place; he is almost always part of a village, a tribe, a band, or a large extended family. He has friends, compatriots, and fellows that he trusts and is willing to sacrifice for. His behavior is constrained by the customs and mores of his community; he shares with this community ideas of right and wrong and is often bound quite strictly by the oaths he makes. He does cooperate with others. When he and his fellows have been mobilized in great enough numbers their strength has often shattered the more civilized societies arrayed before them.
The social contract of Hobbes’ imagination was premised on a flawed State of Nature. The truth is that there never has been a time when men and women lived without ties of kin and community to guide their deeds and restrain their excess, and thus there never could be a time when atomized individuals gathered together to surrender their liberty to a sovereign power. Hobbes mistake is understandable; both he and the social contract theorists that followed in his footsteps (as well as the Chinese philosophers who proposed something close to a state of nature several thousand years earlier) lived in an age where Leviathan was not only ascendent but long established. They were centuries removed from societies that thrived and conquered without a state. 
To answer the riddle of how individuals “continually in competition for honour and dignity” could form cohesive communities without a “a visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants,”  or why such communities might eventually create a “common power” nonetheless, we must turn to those observers of mankind more familiar with lives spent outside the confines of the state. Many worthies have attempted to address this question since Hobbes’ say, but there is only one observer of human affairs who can claim to have solved the matter before Hobbes ever put pen to paper. Centuries before Hobbes’s birth he scribbled away, explaining to all who would hear that there was one aspect of humanity that explained not only how barbarians could live proudly without commonwealth and the origin of the kingly authority that ruled civilized climes, but also the rise and fall of peoples, kingdoms, and entire civilizations across the entirety of human history. He would call this asabiyah.
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Posted by Trent Telenko on 28th April 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
…And right in the middle of the U.S. Senate fight over his surrender of nuclear technology to Iran?
That would be both a Democratic political nightmare and a Republican political gift from heaven, and it seems to have just happened.
See the following hotlink to an Ed Morrissey piece at the Hot Air newsblog on why that is–
I wonder if Pres. Obama will treat Marshall Islands regards this Iranian aggression the way he has treated Ukraine to Russia’s Crimean and Donbas aggressions.
Looks like someone in Tehran made a quick decision about which they wanted more, nukes or immediate humiliation of America —
#Iran has released Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris cargo ship according to al-Jazeera
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th April 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have previously expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia was in a fight for its life.
The question is whether the Saudis will fall to their own Shiite population and whether the capture of Aden will allow Iran to block Saudi oil shipments.
“Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.”
Now, the Saudis take this war very seriously.
As for Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is waging the first war in its history. Yet with its small, weak and inexperienced army, it cannot commit ground troops to fight both the Shiite Houthis or the Sunni Jihadists, and is relying mainly on its air power that has, thus far, caused the death of many innocent civilians.
The Saudi-led coalition that’s fighting against Shiite rebels in Yemen said it completed a blockade of the country’s ports and is ready to step up airstrikes.
Bombing missions are seeking to stop the Shiite Houthis from moving forces between Yemen’s cities, Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi military officer, told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. Coalition aircraft and warships targeted the rebels as they advanced toward Aden, the southern port that’s the last stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s ally in Yemen, President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. Shipping routes to and from the ports are under the coalition’s control, Asseri said.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th April 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Does Barack Obama know what he is doing ? There is room for doubt. In foreign affairs he seems to be over his head. In domestic policy, he seems to be accomplishing what he wants to do. Hugh Hewitt asked former Vice President Dick Cheney his opinion.
Cheney said, “I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard. If you had somebody who, as president — who wanted to take America down. Who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world, reduce our capacity to influence events. Turn our back on our allies and encourage our enemies, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama is doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind are those of the worst president we’ve ever had.”
Cheney has been involved in American government since Ford was president and knows a thing or two. What to make of Obama ?
The military correspondent of the Times of Israel has learned a few things since he supported Obama in 2008. Obama benefited from many people who saw him as a symbol and ignored his background and opaque record.
I noted, Bush, with his love of Zion, had been a disaster, inadvertently empowering Iran. Obama, with his cool detachment, was just what we needed.
Lastly, I encouraged her [his sister] to vote Democrat, now, before her Alex P. Keaton-like eldest got the right to vote and cancelled her out.
And she did (I think, maybe). She even wrote to me about the beauty of that cold January day in 2009 when he was sworn into office.
He was encouraging his sister to vote for Obama with the usual arguments made by intelligent people who believed Obama would be a good president. I never bought that argument. I knew the story of where he came from.
Then, reality began to creep in.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 7th April 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I swear I am not trying to be the Cassandra of this blog but some things just jump out at me. A Richard Fernandez column today did that as it agreed with a post of mine on my own blog from several days ago.
A significant number of Somali immigrants’ children have traveled to the middle east as jihadis.
ISIS has been luring thousands of Westerners to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. The number of Americans who have traveled to Syria is still relatively small — in the neighborhood of 150 people — and a thin slice of that group, perhaps as many as two dozen Americans, are thought to have joined ISIS.
In the discussions at the White House this week, one city has focused minds: Minneapolis-St Paul. It had been ground zero for terrorist recruiters in the past, and is fast becoming the center of ISIS’ recruitment effort in the United States.
This is a growing problem with the emergence of “lone wolf” attacks by jihadis.
The young man pictured above is one of many young black men, many recruited in prison, who have committed these actions.
Over the weekend, the FBI announced that it would treat Islamist Alton Nolan’s alleged beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, as a case of workplace violence. That despite the fact that Nolan’s Facebook page contains a picture of Nolan giving the ISIS salute, multiple pictures of Osama Bin Laden, a screenshot of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and a quote reading, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smile ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.”
Then, of course, we have another example of “workplace violence” courtesy of Major Hasan.
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.
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.
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 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 ]
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 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.
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 »
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.
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 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 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.
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:
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:
Read the rest of this entry »