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Antoine de St-Exupery, writer and pioneering airmail pilot, was based for a time in the then-French-colonial territory of North Africa. He recorded his observations about the people and their culture in his essay Men of the Desert, which is one of the chapters in his book Wind, Sand and Stars. I previously excerpted part of this essay in my post the French aviators and the slave. Several recent events in which American soldiers were murdered by Afghan and Iraqi men who they thought were their comrades have again called it to mind.
But we were not always in the air, and our idle hours were spent taming the Moors. They would come out of their forbidden regions (those regions we crossed in our flights and where they would shoot at us the whole length of our crossing), would venture to the stockade in the hope of buying loaves of sugar, cotton cloth, tea, and then would sink back again into their mystery. Whenever they turned up we would try to tame a few of them in order to establish little nuclei of friendship in the desert; thus if we were forced clown among them there would be at any rate a few who might be persuaded to sell us into slavery rather than massacre us.Now and then an influential chief came up, and him, with the approval of the Line, we would load into the plane and carry off to see something of the world. The aim was to soften their pride, for, repositories of the truth, defenders of Allah, the only God, it was more in contempt than in hatred that he and his kind murdered their prisoners.
When they met us in the region of Juby or Cisneros, they never troubled to shout abuse at us. They would merely turn away and spit; and this not by way of personal insult but out of sincere disgust at having crossed the path of a Christian. Their pride was born of the illusion of their power. Allah renders a believer invincible. Many a time a chief has said to me, pointing to his army of three hundred rifles, “Lucky it is for France that she lies more than a hundred days’ march from here.”
And so we would take them up for a little spin. Three of them even visited France in our planes. I happened to be present when they returned. I met them when they landed, went with them to their tents, and waited in infinite curiosity to hear their first words. They were of the same race as those who, having once been flown by me to the Senegal, had burst into tears at the sight of trees. What a revelation Europe must have been for them! And yet their first replies astonished me by their coolness.
“Paris? Very big.” Everything was “very big” – Paris, the Trocadero, the automobiles. What with everyone in Paris asking if the Louvre was not “very big” they had gradually learned that this was the answer that flattered us. And with a sort of, vague contempt, as if pacifying a lot of children, they would grant that the Louvre was “very big.”
These Moors took very little trouble to dissemble the freezing indifference they felt for the Eiffel Tower, the steamships, and the locomotives. They were ready to agree once and for always that we knew how to build things out of iron. We also knew how to fling a bridge from one continent to another. The plain fact was that they did not know enough to admire our technical progress. The wireless astonished them less than the telephone, since the mystery of the telephone resided in the very fact of the wire.
It took a little time for me to understand that my questions were on the wrong track. For what they thought admirable was not the locomotive, but the tree. When you think of it, a tree does possess a perfection that a locomotive cannot know. And then I remembered the Moors who had wept at the sight of trees.
Yes, France was in some sense admirable, but it was not because of those stupid things made of iron. They had seen pastures in France in which all the camels of Er-Reguibat could have grazed! There were forests in France! The French had cows, cows filled with milk! And of course my three Moors were amazed by the incredible customs of the people. “In Paris,” they said, “you walk through a crowd of a thousand people. You stare at them. And nobody carries a rifle!” But there were better things in France than this inconceivable friendliness between men. There was the circus, for example.
“Frenchwomen,” they said, “can jump standing from one galloping horse to another.”
Thereupon they would stop and reflect. “You take one Moor from each tribe,” they went on. “You take him to the circus. And nevermore will the tribes of Er-Reguibat make war on the French.” I remember my chiefs sitting among the crowding tribesmen in the opening of their tents, savoring the pleasure of reciting this new series of Arabian Nights, extolling the music halls in which naked women dance on carpets of flowers.
Here were men who had never seen a tree, a river, a rose ; who knew only through the Koran of the existence of gardens where streams run, which is their name for Paradise. In their desert, Paradise -and its beautiful captives could be won only by bitter death from an infidel’s rifle-shot, after thirty years of a miserable existence. But God had tricked them, since from the Frenchmen to whom he grants these treasures he exacts payment neither by thirst nor by death. And it was upon this that the chiefs now mused. This was why, gazing out at the Sahara surrounding their tents, at that desert with its barren promise of such thin pleasures, they let themselves go in murmured confidences.
“You know . . . the God of the French . . . He is more generous to the French than the God of the Moors is to the Moors.”
Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.
As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.
Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.
Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.
After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.
This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.
Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.
This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.
Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.
We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.
Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.
Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.
In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.
These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.
Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney were F-16 pilots with an Air National Guard squadron. Their order was to bring down Flight 93 before the terrorists in control of it could create another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center…but their aircraft were configured for training, with no live ammunition and no missiles. A video interview with Major Penney here
Joseph Fouché writes about how the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, and the murder of Ahmed Shah Masood on September 9 of that year, prefigured the 9/11 attacks.
The Diplomad posts a speech he gave on 9/14/01, when he was charge d’affaires at a U.S. embassy. You will not hear speeches like that being given by diplomats under the administration of Barack Obama.
On September 11, 2005, Rare Kate didn’t go to church. Follow the link to find out why. In my original post linking this, I said “What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy? Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany (executed in 1945), wrote the following:
Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.
The refusal on the part of many individuals to face the seriousness of the radical Islamist threat to out civilization stems in significant part, I feel certain, from a desire to avoid the uncomfortable and even dangerous kind of clarity that Bonhoeffer was talking about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »
I remember as a kid watching “Lawrence of Arabia” where he led Arab raiding parties against the Turkish train lines in WW1. Per this PBS article about Lawrence:
With the Ottoman army spread thinly across the empty vastness of the Arabian Peninsula, the Hejaz Arabs found it relatively easy to strike and sabotage Turkish lines of communication and supply. With the Red Sea firmly in British hands, the Turks had no option but to use the Hejaz railway to move their men, supplies and munitions.
Lawrence and the Arabs spent much of their two years on the road to Damascus destroying sections of the railway. Small units of men laid charges on the track. Then as the Turks defended the track, Lawrence’s men formed large moving columns capable of rapid hit-and-run operations.
In the recent train crash in the East Coast there are discussions of a “projectile” hitting the train and distracting the conductor. While this hasn’t been confirmed, it is relevant to consider how difficult it would be to secure train lines from attack or sabotage.
This discussion is much more relevant in the context of “high speed trains”. There is a broad theme among many that the US is behind because we have not invested large sums of public money in high speed trains, that we are “falling behind”. Per wikipedia the Japanese high speed trains (similar to the Chinese high speed trains) typically have more than 1000 passengers on each of their trains.
The USA has far larger distances than the Japanese trains. If you built a train from Chicago to New York, for example, it would be almost 800 miles long. This is for a single rail line. Obviously to connect the major cities of the USA you’d have thousands of miles of train lines.
How would these train lines be defended? It would be easy for a terrorist to just cut through the fence somewhere and park a cement truck on the tracks, for instance. The ensuing carnage would easily accomplish what 5-10 hijackings could accomplish.
If you think that the Homeland Security plans are over-reaching, just wait to see what it would take to defend hundreds or thousands of miles of track. Instead of having a bottleneck at the airport, the entire line would be a potential point of attack. Even if defenses were erected, they would only have to overwhelm them at a single weak link in order to assault the train.
No one is incorporating this into their cost estimates for high speed trains; they likely have fences and barriers but are not contemplating stopping a determined, armed attack by terrorists. They should, because after one such attack a giant post-haste effort would emerge kind of like our early days of the TSA. They should contemplate and include a giant, armed, unionized Federal bureaucracy in their midst and add this into their cost estimates and see how it compares against highways and aircraft. The numbers, already dubious, would then be far, far in the red.
(I originally posted this in 2009 and reran it in 2013. The plague of atrocities carried out by those who justify them under the banner of Islamhas continued and expanded, as has the tendency of many American and Europeans to downplay the significance of Islamic radicalism and terrorism. Indeed, the effective justification of terror attacks by attacking the victims–be those victims French cartoonists or Israeli Jews–is disturbingly common. And I am sensing an almost frantic desire, on the part of many commentators and even ordinary people, to deny that Islamic terrorism is any more of a threat than, say, Presbyterian terrorism or Baptist terrorism.)
Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.
To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.
Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.
You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particuarly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.
Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.
Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.
So it seems that Baltimore (or maybe I should call it Balti-less) has decided to go all out, screw their civic courage to the sticking-point, and prosecute the police officers involved in the curious and to date unexplained death of Freddy Grey while in custody of those aforementioned officers for murder. Well, yay them, I suppose, although the fearless public prosecutor certainly may have overcharged in general and overcharged regarding the officers in charge, not to mention releasing the wrong personal details regarding two of those charged. Apparently, those details – age, middle initials, occupation, addresses, etc. are those of two completely different people with the same first and last name. This does not bode well, making a goof like this right off the bat. Read the rest of this entry »
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.”
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.
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 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.”
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 GraemeWood’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 »
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Original meditation on this subject here.)So, now the social-political-confection of a peculiar sort of Islam have put one of their captives/hostages into an iron cage, publically and horrifically, burning him alive, making certain to video this, broadcast it locally, and to post it on the world-wide internet media; also to post materiel purporting to provide justification for this on the usual media channels. I presume the national Islamic media sycophants are breaking the sound barrier in rushing to assure us that those peculiar practitioners are not truly Islamic, and that this has been the actions of just a tiny and marginalized minority, not truly representative of the really-oh-and-truly-oh tolerant Muslim world, and who are we to judge because … Crusades and Inquisition. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Thursday, I mentioned the administration’s 2012 criticism of Charlie Hedbo’s decision to publish “offensive” cartoons. Comes now presidential spokesman Josh Earnest, defending that administration position and asserting that there will be more such presidential critiques directed toward noncompliant media in the future.
This reminds me of something. Oh, yes…
In the late 1930s, Winston Churchill spoke of the “unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. “Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.” (excerpt is from The Last Lion: Alone, by William Manchester.)
Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended. (same source as above.)
Obama’s desire to ensure that the media avoids antagonizing jihadis is of a piece with Chamberlain and Dawson’s desire to avoid antagonizing the Nazis.
And I’m reminded of something else Churchill said. In March 1938, he spoke of Britain and its allies descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
Last year I reviewed quite a few books, including several that IMO are extremely important and well-written. Here’s the list:
The Caine Mutiny. The movie, which just about everyone has seen, is very good. The book is even better. I cited the 1952 Commentary review, which has interesting thoughts on intellectuals and the responsibilities of power.
To the Last Salute. Captain von Trapp, best known as the father in “The Sound of Music,” wrote this memoir of his service as an Austrian submarine commander in the First World War–Austria of course being one of the Central Powers and hence an enemy to Britain, France, and the United States. An interesting and pretty well-written book, and a useful reminder that there are enemies, and then there are enemies.
That Hideous Strength. An important and intriguing novel by C S Lewis. As I said in the review, there is something in this book to offend almost everybody. So, by the standards now becoming current in most American universities, the book–and even my review of it–should by read by no one at all.
The Cruel Coast. A German submarine, damaged after an encounter with a British destroyer, puts in at a remote Irish island for repairs. Most of the islanders, with inherited anti-British attitudes, tend toward sympathy with the German: one woman, though, has a clearer understanding of the real issues in the war.
Nice Work. At Chicago Boyz, we’ve often discussed the shortage of novels that deal realistically with work. This is such a novel: an expert in 19th-century British industrial novels–who is a professor, a feminist, and a deconstructionist–finds herself in an actual factory. Very well done.
Menace in Europe. Now more than ever, Claire Berlinski’s analysis of the problems in today’s Europe needs to be widely read.
A Time of Gifts. In late 1933, Patrick Fermor–then 18 years old–undertook to travel from the Holland to Istanbul, on foot. The story of his journey is told in three books, of which this is the first. This is not just travel writing, it is the record of what was still to a considerable extent the Old Europe–with horsedrawn wagons, woodcutters, barons and castles, Gypsies and Jews in considerable numbers–shortly before it was to largely disappear.
The Year of the French. The writer, commentator, and former soldier Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century.”
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.
“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.
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.