Michael Doran, a Middle East expert with the Brookings Institution who served on the National Security Council during the George W Bush administration, said relations were at an all-time low. ‘I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I’ve studied the history. I know of no analogous period. I’ve never seen so many disagreements on so many key fronts all at once. And I’ve never seen such a willingness on the part of the Saudis to publicly express their frustration. Iran is the number one issue — the only issue for Saudi policy makers. When you add up the whole Middle Eastern map — Syria, Iraq, Iran — it looks to the Saudis as if the US is throwing Sunni allies under the bus by trying to cut a deal with Iran and its allies.”
Archive for the 'Religion' Category
An author in the 1940′s:
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines — being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
Bit by bit we’re losing the Enlightenment. But we’ve been in such situations before. The generation that wakes up and discovers that they’ve largely been taught rubbish will not look kindly on the current generation of thought leaders. HT: CF
Eh and Eh, foreign and domestic dysfunction. And finally, a case can be made either way for shutdown. We happen to think it was good theater, the evidence for which is that is the rhetoric of the other side. But reasonable people can differ. This is not reasonable, however. Anyway, none of this matters because the country can’t be saved until it stops its practice of 40-70% of children in its various communities being born to unwed mothers.
The U.S. can lay the blame for its current political mess at the feet of my generation…It isn’t hard to locate the immediate cause of the shutdown and impending debt-ceiling debacle: the radical nihilist minority of the Republican Party and the GOP’s craven leadership. Words should not be minced here. These radicals — it is wildly inaccurate to call them conservatives — are a pestilence feeding on ignorance and cynicism, preying on fear as a period of unprecedented prosperity wanes. They are not the apocalypse but represent the desperate last gasp of the white majority and of an era. My generation’s era…
My generation has done wonderful things — increased equality across racial, gender and orientation lines; rock ‘n’ roll; The Sopranos; Whole Foods — but we have made a hash of government. We failed to bring our democracy into the information age; instead we brought it to a precipice. We allowed lobbyists to fester, turning every major piece of legislation into an encyclopedia of contradictions. There is some polling evidence that the millennial generation will be different, more collegial. I certainly hope so. Our sell-by date has passed.
It’s funny. If we’re among the “radicals” that Klein describes, it’s only because our views remain roughly the same as JFK’s in 1961. The boomers have done many awful things, the awfullest of which is legitimizing illegitimacy: 40-70% of children are now born to unmarried women, a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Then they take these children and ruin them and ruin them and ruin them and then really ruin them. No wonder that we’ve now got an America whose values are upside down, as Andrew McCarthy describes. Is this fixable? Fortunately, that’s beyond the reach of the boomers.
The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos. “She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said. The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door…As the bus made its 2.5-hour journey out of Yellowstone, the tour guide made arrangements to stop at a full-service bathroom at an in-park dude ranch he had done business with in the past. Though the bus had its own small bathroom, Vaillancourt said seniors were looking for a more comfortable place to stop. But no stop was made — Vaillancourt said the dude ranch had been warned that its license to operate would be revoked if it allowed the bus to stop.
There’s a pattern of contempt to what’s been shut and what’s been not. If you haven’t figured it out yet, read this piece by David Horowitz. He says: “they regard the past, which is real, with contempt, and are focused exclusively on a future, which is imaginary.” QED.
Insurers are getting bad data. Jon Stewart realizes he’s being played. The house of the future is at your command. There’s actually a website devoted to bad real estate photos. A liberal figures out that he’s been lied to about Iran. Two observers (here and here) note that the actual IPCC study may be adjusted to conform to the executive summary and hilarity ensues. It’s hard to believe that the feds doing this actually like the country. Finally, here’s a very strange but weirdly entertaining piece on a video game we never heard of. Enjoy!
For years now, foreign policy insiders have pointed to North Korea as the ultimate nightmare, the ongoing worst-case scenario for an international crisis: a closed, hostile and paranoid dictatorship with an aggressive nuclear weapons program. Very few people could envision a successful outcome. And yet North Korea agreed in principle this week to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, abide by the treaty’s safeguards and admit international inspectors.
Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all.
The agreement signed yesterday, if all the details can be satisfactorily filled in and then carried out, is a huge win for the United States as well as a fair deal for North Korea. Its achievement became possible when Washington abandoned the confrontational tactics and name-calling associated with its former top antiproliferation official, John Bolton
North Korea may be a starving, friendless, authoritarian nation of 23 million people, but its apparently successful explosion of a small nuclear device in the mountains above the town of Kilju on Monday represents a defiant bid for survival and respect.
Now the NYT is tut-tutting about the prime minister of Israel’s combative speech at the UN, which pointed out the previous foolishness of the NYT on North Korea. VDH has some thoughts on Iran. What do you suppose Ali Khamenei thinks about the NYT and the government-media-academy complex in the US?
Global warming has been MIA for a while. MIT’s Richard Lindzen is having a good laugh at the new IPCC report. Also, the alleged Iranian fatwa against nuclear weapons is apparently MIA as well. Quite a world we have. Not MIA is Michael J. Totten, who understands the Iranian situation better than the US government apparently does.
On June 14, Mr. Gray, Hassan Rouhani, won by a landslide, garnering nearly 51 percent of the votes, with the second place finisher, the mayor of Tehran, getting about 16 percent. Clearly, many Iranians are fed up and used the sliver of openness they had to stampede toward the most liberal candidate…I had a chat with Rouhani’s very sharp chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian, and asked about his background. He is an economist, earned his Ph.D. at George Washington University, and recently led the Iran Chamber of Commerce and Iran’s negotiating team to join the World Trade Organization. He’s Rouhani’s closest aide. Interesting…We should offer Iranians a deal that accedes to their desire for civilian nuclear power and thus affirms their scientific prowess — remember that Iran’s 1979 revolution was as much a nationalist rebellion against a regime installed by the West as a religious revolution, so having a nuclear program has broad nationalist appeal there — while insisting on a foolproof inspection regime.
Flashback: “to be in Tahrir Square tonight, to feel the energy and pride of a people taking back the keys to their country and their future from a tired old dictator, was a privilege.” Seriously, if you were Khamenei, what are the chances you’d give up getting the bomb? HT: AT
5500 more words. Can anyone possibly care at this point? Elliott Abrams cares enough to point out that many of the words are awful, and many are clueless. At least the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce are getting along. That’s nice. Geraghty looks at 4 train wrecks set to happen next week. And finally, there’s this piece that must come from some spin-off from the Onion that we had never heard of. Ugh.
Authorities in Kenya appeared close to ending a deadly siege Monday at an upscale Nairobi mall, where attackers have killed at least 68 people, injured 175, and are believed to still be holding about 10 people hostage. “All efforts are underway to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion,” the Kenyan military announced on Twitter. It said that “most of the hostages have been rescued and security forces have taken control of most parts of the building.” Earlier, police had tweeted that a “MAJOR assault” by security forces was ongoing. The developments come some two days after Al-Shabaab militants first stormed the shopping center, spraying bullets and unleashing chaos. There are believed to be between 10-15 gunmen involved in the attack, officials said. Sources within Al-Shabaab told CNN that nine names listed on a Twitter site — now suspended — were people who were among the alleged hostage-takers. Three of the alleged attackers are from the United States, two are from Somalia and there is one each from Canada, Finland, Kenya and the United Kingdom, according to the list. The FBI is looking into the claim that American citizens were involved the attack, but have not confirmed that. Similarly, a senior State Department official said that the United States is trying to determine whether any of the alleged attackers are American. But, the official said, authorities are becoming more confident American citizens were involved. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed Sunday to hold those responsible for the violence, accountable. The tragedy is personal for the president; one of his nephews and his fiancee were among the dead. “They shall not get away with their despicable, beastly acts. Like the cowardly perpetrators now cornered in the building, we will punish the masterminds swiftly and indeed very painfully,” Kenyatta said. Sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the day Sunday, and at least one explosion. Those sounds were followed by periods of tense silence. Soldiers kept vigil outside the mall, guns dangling from their shoulders. Later in the day, helicopters approached. The Kenyan Red Cross tweeted that nine bodies were recovered Sunday night, bringing the death toll to 68. More than 175 were injured in the attack, Kenyatta said. He and other Kenyan officials visited hospitals Sunday morning. “No one should lose their life so needlessly, so senselessly and no family should have to receive news that their loved ones have been killed by a criminal bunch of cowards,” the president said.
Hmmm. What’s missing in the first 400 words in the CNN story? (The Daily Mail picks up the slack, which itself is interesting in a variety of ways.) Ever since George Bush decided to distort history and pretend that the proud history of Islamic conquests and conversions was no longer operative, the American people have had to listen to rubbish like the CNN story above. This disconnect from reality has served no one well. However, the PC reporting of CNN does help explain the overwhelming opposition to US involvement in the Syrian civil war, which came as a surprise to official Washington. The left is anti-war, and the right has figured out that there’s no point in meddling in a pre-Reformation version of what the West went through in the 16th century and that Sarah Palin had a point.
Finally, Roger Simon has some observations that are not PC but absolutely necessary if this madness is to stop.
Three months ago, my platform of “prudence and hope” gained a broad, popular mandate. Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue. I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world. The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously…
We must pay attention to the complexities of the issues at hand to solve them. Enter my definition of constructive engagement. In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss…
We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East. At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world.
The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.
I am committed to confronting our common challenges via a two-pronged approach. First, we must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. Second, we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions. A key aspect of my commitment to constructive interaction entails a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions.
So Putin was the bad cop and this guy is the good cop. Get a load of him — “multi-dimensional arena,” “win-win,” “join hands,” and who came up with “peaceful nuclear energy” being a matter of “identity”? To us this reads like the Onion, but not in a totally funny way of course. What are the chances that our government will act like they believe this? Worse still, what are the chances that the faculty lounge will in fact actually believe the soft and soothing rubbish to be true?
Strange times these. Without getting into the substance of most of the following, here are some interesting pieces. Daniel Henninger‘s shows why even MoDo is using the word “weird.” Jeremy Rabkin raises both historical and legal questions about Syria. J.R. Dunn dives right in, and the more controversy the better as far as he’s concerned.
Finally, wrt Karl Rove’s taking issue with the ACA defunding tactic, we wonder why the hawks don’t settle for this: yes, we are going through some motions, and no, there’s not going to be a government shutdown, which would be a PR nightmare. But we want the other guys to own the ACA, and so we’re going through this kabuki so you will remember in 2014 that it wasn’t us who sold you the fantasies that the ACA would generate $2500 savings per family, while you keep your doc, and will create 4 million jobs while saving $1.3 trillion dollars. Perhaps you’ll know better next time not to believe rubbish. BTW, how are those 30 hours a week jobs working out for you young voters? We’re with the crew that says, don’t stand in front of an impending train wreck, photograph it from every angle as it happens and replay it, over and over again in slow motion.
Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination. He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran. At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972. The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.
VDH has more. Syria has 2,000,000 pounds of chemical weapons scattered among 40-50 locations in the country, some of those locations also being contested areas. The idea of securing all of these sites and these chemicals is absurd. The words “absurd” and “farce” seem to be used a lot these days, don’t they?
Not a good week if you’ve lost Joe Klein (however, Nick Kristof is still on board!). And what about Vlad the Impaler? — “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation…We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” Brass.
Change the channel while you can; any mischief the US’s adversaries want to do will get done in the next 40 months or so. So here’s a nice piece on the Fantasticks, and one of ours at the passing of Jerry Orbach. And this trailer for Monty Python is excellent. Much better than the blah blah, which was evident five years ago to anyone who cared to see.
While most Americans shudder at the news that 400 children have been killed by a monster, they recoil at the Middle East now; they’ve had it with Shiites vs. Sunnis, with Alawites and all the ancient hatreds. Kerry can bluster that “we’re not waiting for long” for Assad to cough up the weapons, but it will be hard for him to back it up, given that a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that Joe Sixpack is now a peacenik; in 2005, 60 percent of Republicans agreed with W. that America should foster democracy in the world; now only 19 percent of Republicans believe it.
This all started with Bush and his foolish loose talk. It’s gotten much worse since the PC police prohibited the use of common sense in everyday discourse (see paragraph 2, where jihad is holy struggle). We covered this issue years ago, but people continue to spout feel-good nonsense.
Speaking of nonsense, it’s no surprise that the 26 year old that senators were looking to for wisdom on Syria’s largely secular rebels is herself a fraud. And so are some others that say soothing things to senators, but aren’t quite what they seem. Politicians, those who know everything about BS, should be able to detect it in others, but their wishful thinking apparently gets in the way. As for us, we think that Michael Ledeen has some pretty good ideas — Iran is much more of the problem than Syria ever was:
Iranians want an end to the theocratic regime, and have taken to the streets against it. Unlike so many in the Syrian opposition, the Iranians are pro-Western, experienced in self-government, and eager to separate mosque from state. They don’t need weapons or training; they need political support, probably some money, and good communications gear. If they win, we get a potential ally, Assad joins the mullahs on history’s rubbish heap, and terrorists all over the world are gravely weakened.
Ah well, what are the chances that the faculty lounge will engage in clear thinking and stop toadying to a regime that has shown it nothing but contempt over the last four years? Yeah, we think so too.
Vladimir Putin will offer to supply Iran S-300 air defence missile systems as well as build a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant, the Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday. Putin will renew an old offer to supply Iran with five of the sophisticated ground-to-air missile systems at a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on Friday, Kommersant said, quoting a source close to the Kremlin.
So one day Putin is bailing out his buddy in the US, and the next day he’s letting the world know some of the costs of that bailout, as he strengthens his ties to Iran and sends more firepower towards Syria. So much for the US’s delicate balancing and wishful thinking over the last five years. Russia’s on the Shiite side, which leaves the US with the Sunni monarchies, the Egyptian military, and Israel. Unpleasant world where our allies export jihad, but apparently that’s the world we’ve got. We wonder if the faculty lounge will wake up. Doubtful. They’d be fracking if they did.
“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus,” Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister said. “And we call on the Syrian leadership to not only agree to setting the chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also to their subsequent destruction.” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria welcomed the proposal. The swift endorsement of the idea by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, show how eager the world is to avoid a military showdown when removing the chemical weapons might be a realistic option…Russia and the United States should propose a formal resolution by the United Nations Security Council — of which both are members — to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria, support this plan and put its full authority behind carrying it out, as well as establish consequences if Syria reneged. It would be impossible to destroy the entire stockpile instantly
The NYT’s editorial board has gotten out in front of the WH’s Syria address tonight with a suggested script featuring the “international community” and “smart power.” It was just a week ago that smart power was dead. Perhaps the Times and others will be singing its praises again after tonight. Oops. It’s already started.
Putin threw a life saver to a drowning man. WaPo:
President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a “potentially positive development,” that could represent a “significant breakthrough,” but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record. “Between the statements that we saw from the Russians — the statement today from the Syrians — this represents a potentially positive development,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, according to a transcript provided by the network. “We are going to run this to ground. John Kerry will be talking to his Russian counterpart. We’re going to make sure that we see how serious these proposals are.” In a separate interview with ABC, Obama said that if Assad were to give up his chemical weapons, a military strike would “absolutely” be on pause. The proposal by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov in Moscow offered the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible
With the bombing proposal set to fail in the House, given the lopsided margins of voters against it, the smart political move would be to defer the vote and declare victory for smart diplomacy. The media could go back to its usual narrative, and many Democrats would breathe a sigh of relief. We’ll know whether he takes the bait soon. Ah, but Putin is a clever fellow. We wonder what the price tag is on that life ring.
The Secretary of State:
We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.
“Unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” Amazing. Alienating both hawks and doves simultaneously, while managing to look completely incoherent. Quite the hat trick.
We’d guess that there’s going to be no attack, since all this dithering and incompetence have virtually guaranteed a disproportionate response from Syria’s sponsors. Having said that, it is unwise to underestimate the stupidity and utter absence of both strategic and tactical thinking among this crew.