Archive for the 'War' Category

Another series of impressively depressing writings

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

WRM. VDH. Spectator. Had enough?

Today’s depressing news

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Krauthammer:

For the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs, this is a nightmare. They’re engaged in a titanic regional struggle with Iran. And they are losing — losing Yemen, losing Lebanon, losing Syria, and watching post-U.S.-withdrawal Iraq come under increasing Iranian domination. The nightmare would be hugely compounded by Iran going nuclear. The Saudis were already stupefied that the U.S. conducted secret negotiations with Tehran behind their backs. And they can see where the current talks are headed

Now look at this chart, and remember how old the hostilities are. Is there any way for this to end well?

Iacta alea est

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Via CFR:

Dr. Leslie H. Gelb is among America’s most prominent foreign policy experts. A Pulitzer Prize winner, former correspondent for the New York Times, and senior official in state and defense departments, he is currently president emeritus and board senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He served as president of the organization from 1993 to 2003. Prior to his tenure as president of CFR, Dr. Gelb established a distinguished career at the New York Times, where he was a columnist from 1991 to 1993, deputy editorial page editor from 1986 to 1990, and editor of the op-ed page from 1988 to 1990. He was national security correspondent for the Times from 1981 to 1986, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1986. He was diplomatic correspondent at the Times from 1973 to 1977. Dr. Gelb was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1980 to 1981, where he was a consultant to the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. From 1977 to 1979, he was an assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration, serving as director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, where he received the State Department’s highest award: the Distinguished Honor Award. He was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1969 to 1973, during which time he was also a visiting professor at Georgetown University. He was director of Policy Planning and Arms Control for International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense from 1967 to 1969, where he also served as director of the Pentagon Papers Project. While at the Defense Department, Dr. Gelb won the Pentagon’s highest award, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award. He was executive assistant to U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits from 1966 to 1967, and an assistant professor at Wesleyan University from 1964 to 1966. Dr. Gelb currently serves on the Center for National Interest Board of Directors, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Board of Directors, the Diplomacy Center Foundation Board of Directors, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Board of Advisors, and the Truman National Security Project Board of Advisors. He is a former trustee for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, trustee emeritus for Tufts University, and the former Chairman of the National Security Network Advisory Board. He formerly served on the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University Dean’s Council, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University Board of Advisors, the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University Board of Overseers, and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Advisory Board. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Gelb received his BA from Tufts University in 1959 and his MA in 1961 and PhD in 1964 from Harvard University. He is the author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (2009) and Anglo-American Relations, 1945–1950: Toward a Theory of Alliances (1988). He is also co-author of The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked (1980), which won him the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Award; Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy (1984), and Claiming the Heavens: The New York Times Complete Guide to the Star Wars Debate (1988). He is the recipient of an Emmy Award and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award.

It’s pretty hard to get much nearer the peak of the media-government-university establishment than this. That’s why his list of things that are beyond-urgent-and-vital-but-are-never-gonna-happen is so tragicomic. And you know that things are only going to get worse from here. HT: PL

Oddly enough

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Oddly enough we’ve been in Berlin and Dresden while these demonstrations have been going on during the last few days, and we saw one at the Brandenburg Gate. We’ve also seen CNN at least in Germany return to form, that is the form of two weeks ago. This segment is typical: guess what’s missing from this segment. Yup, you guessed it. More later.

How come the obvious isn’t obvious to everyone?

Monday, January 12th, 2015

VDH discusses multiculturalism:

there is a clear pathway to economic prosperity and a secure lifestyle; countries as diverse as South Korea, Japan, and Chile are proof of it. Within wide parameters, success only asks adherence to a mostly free market, some sort of freedom of expression, religious tolerance, a separation of science from orthodoxy, the rule of law, and consensual constitutional government — along with a cultural ethos of rough parity between the sexes, merit-based evaluation instead of tribal favors, and tolerance for ethnic and religious minorities. Fail that, and human misery follows of the now familiar Middle East sort, in turn followed by the tired blame that the Jews, the Americans, the Europeans, or the West caused these self-generated pathologies. If the Western establishment were truly moral, it would reject multiculturalism as a deductive, anti-empirical, and illiberal creed. It would demand that critics abroad first put their own house in order before blaming others for their own failures, and remind Western elites that their multicultural fantasies are cheap nostrums designed to deal with their own neuroses.

“Anti-empirical” — nice touch. As for us, we’re going to continue reading The Looming Tower on our very long flight today. Victimhood plus religion can be a deadly combination; we’re reminded of what Spengler wrote a decade ago.

Why?

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Fareed Zakaria: “Why no US leader at Paris rally? Isn’t this why God invented Vice Presidents?” This was a fairly big deal, with 1 million in Paris and almost 4 million overall in France. Zakaria’s comments and many others from the MSM seem on point. What explains the strange decision to skip the event? These guys are all about PR, so there was obviously discussion about departing from the normal default position in a situation like this. Why?

Clarity

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Choudary in USA Today of all places:

Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people’s desires.

Although Muslims may not agree about the idea of freedom of expression, even non-Muslims who espouse it say it comes with responsibilities. In an increasingly unstable and insecure world, the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.”

However, because the honor of the Prophet is something which all Muslims want to defend, many will take the law into their own hands, as we often see. Within liberal democracies, freedom of expression has curtailments, such as laws against incitement and hatred.

The truth is that Western governments are content to sacrifice liberties and freedoms when being complicit to torture and rendition — or when restricting the freedom of movement of Muslims, under the guise of protecting national security.

So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk? It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.

Gosh this has taken a long time, and still there are fools who refuse to take such simplicity and clarity seriously. We live in Dar Al-Harb. It’s a long war and sharia is on the other side, as we pointed out a decade ago. (We have another oldie but goodie on art, statuary, and guess-who at the Supreme Court.)

The usual suspects 2

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Departures from the pattern by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a brave guy it seems, and, surprisingly in The New Yorker. Enough of this: here’s a piece on a fun kind of criminal.

The usual suspects

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

CNN: the motive behind Wednesday’s massacre is not yet clear. We won’t even quote Howard Dean. On the other hand, Mr. Choudary is clear as a bell. So are these old-timers. And a helpful hint from Inspire Magazine: “It’s not necessary to do what Muhammad Atta did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hassan did.” Hassan? Wait a sec, wasn’t that just workplace violence and not something else? Finally, Andy McCarthy provides an update from al Azhar University.

Though many of the usual suspects are still saying the usual things, the toleration for BS seems to have gone way down. It does seem different this time.

School marm

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Foreign Policy:

the top 10 countries for whom “unacceptable” was most often used in conjunction with since the start of the administration: Syria (147), Iran (118), North Korea (115), Israel (87), Pakistan (83), Russia (78), Egypt (77), China (74), Afghanistan (66), and Iraq (63).

Now behave of we’ll rap you knuckles with a ruler or open an embassy in your country or something really really bad! HT: PL

Victims, yes, but of whom?

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Check out this depressing piece on the cop assassinations by Tom Maguire, along with the YouTube video it links to. No doubt Uncle Murda feels he is expressing justified outrage. However, the statistics in the video are a version of lying with numbers, as this study from Columbia tediously makes clear. Yes, the subjects of Uncle Murda’s video are victims, but they are the victims of fatherless homes; read the rare and honest exchange between Larry Elder and Kweisi Mfume in this long piece. Such honesty is never heard these days, bad for business for the Sharptons of the world, anathema to the media because they viscerally can’t stand to look at the real problem either. And so a culture of victocracy is enabled, with utterly predictable results when the wingnuts act out. Similarly, if you are taught that one book, over a thousand years old, is not only necessary but sufficient for life, you’re a victim — just not the victim of modernizers and kafirs that you’ve been taught. (Gosh we’ve been at this a long time, but the establishment still is silent or worse.) Sadly, in both the cases of race and religion, there really are a lot of victims in these self-perpetuating tragedies, which will go on and on until the core falsehoods are confronted.

Trifecta, etc.

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Conrad Black:

a Saudi move on this scale, with the resulting self-inflicted reduction in their income, makes no sense for the marginal impact it will have on American future production and imports; it is a geopolitical move targeted much closer to home.

Al-Badri’s flimflam, for which there is much precedent in the history of OPEC (essentially, the cartel is a perpetual quarrel among thieves pretending to be price-fixing), naturally seeks to disguise the fact that Saudi Arabia is trying to discourage the use of Iranian and Russian oil revenues to prop up the blood-stained and beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus, to finance Iran’s nuclear military program, and to incite the continuing outrages of Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories against Israel. The exotic community of interest that has suddenly arisen between the historically Jew-baiting Saudis and the Jewish state is because the countries in the area fear, with good reason as far as can be discerned, that the UN Security Council members, plus Germany, may be on the verge of acquiescing in Iran’s arrival as a threshold nuclear military power. The oil-price weapon, in the face of the terminal enfeeblement of the US administration, is the last recourse before the Saudis and Turks, whatever their autocues of racist rhetoric, invite Israel to smash the Iranian nuclear program from the air.

It is perfectly indicative of the scramble that ensues when a mighty power like the United States withdraws, fatigued but undefeated, from much of the world, that Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between the nomadic and medieval House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment that propagates jihadism with Saudi oil revenues, makes common cause with Israel in a way that inadvertently relieves much of the Russian pressure on Ukraine, which was not an objective in Saudi calculations at all. From the Western standpoint, this is a lucky bounce of the political football. But it is Saudi judgment of its self-interest opposite the contending factions in Syria and the hideous prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran that is discommoding the Saudi leaders, not the ineluctable exploitation by the United States of its own oil resources

It’s commonest for people to see ambiguous things through an internal prism that shapes the picture into something to which their internal, unconscious, self-regard can relate. (In the two examples linked here, for example, the first self-relating was to victimhood, and the second self-relating was the desire to be adored by hundreds of millions; in that regard the stories are not at all contradictory.) Anyway, back on planet earth, E&P CEO’s see the oil price plunge as about shale, and some geopolitical pundits see Iran as the prime target. As for us, we’ve always thought that shale, Iran and Russia were all in the mix, and that it must have seemed elegant to the price plungers that launching the only weapon Saudi Arabia has in its arsenal could produce a trifecta.

Bonus fun: we saw the Decatur plant of Caterpillar on CNBC yesterday, and is that a hoot! Reminds us of our favorite TV series, Industry on Parade, writ very very large. A GMW of 1.4 MM lb? Are you kidding? Man, we’d love to visit that place!

Yes, but what’s the timing?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Spengler hits the nail on the head; can’t say it better, so let him say it. JOM pokes fun at the misplaced hauteur of the bien-pensants. WRM adds to the mix, as does Harvey Mansfield. As for us, we see things coming to a head too, but what about the timing of some new preference cascade? Hard to say, since we were totally surprised when oil went to $147 a barrel, and were just as surprised that it’s now down to $50 or so. Suffice it to say that we will probably be shocked by the particulars of some nasty events that make the “micro-aggression” meme a crumbling thing, but we won’t be surprised if it happens in the next 24 months or so…

Promotion, flagellation — lather, rinse, repeat

Monday, December 15th, 2014

SMH:

How should we feel for the perpetrator so far witnessed and his family? While we do not know his story or his motivation, we know he was once someone just like those people whose lives he has now treated with such disdain. He must have loved ones, too. Forgiving him will be very difficult, and it will take time. Without forgiveness, though, we have to live with destructive hate. The next test is to ensure we see this sad event for what it is – and what it is not. While there were a number of instances on Monday when Sydneysiders and the media jumped to conclusions about the link between this event and other incidents around the city, in most cases people were rightfully reluctant to jump to conclusions about the motivations of the gunman or the extent of his plans. Nonetheless, a temptation lingers in the community to catastrophise about such criminal behaviour; to believe that because we have endured one siege from at least one deranged individual, we are at risk of many more. Rationally, that is highly unlikely. The Martin Place siege may well be an isolated criminal action in a city whose crime rate has fallen for the first time in decades. A very small minority of people feel compelled to commit acts of deplorable violence, whether they be linked to terrorist groups or drugs syndicates

We wondered what was up with the instantaneous worldwide promotion of a criminal event in far away Sydney. The answer of course is that the gaudy coverage is good for ratings, but in our unprecedented Age of Foolishness, you have to be seen as pretending that things are not as obvious as they really are.

Everything old is new again

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Tufts:

In the fifth year of the Peloponnesian war (427 BCE), Athens’ ally Corcyra fell victim to internal strife, a vicious struggle between the commons, allies of Athens, and the oligarchs, who were eager to enlist the support of the Spartans. The revolution began when Corinth, an ally of Sparta, released Corcyraean prisoners with the promise that the former prisoners would work to convince Corcyra to abandon its ally Athens and join the Peloponnesian side. These men brought Peithias, a pro-Athenian civic leader, to trial on charges of “enslaving Corcyra to Athens”. He was acquitted and took revenge by charging five of them in turn. However, these men burst in upon the senate and killed Peithias and sixty other people.

Shortly after this, skirmishes broke out in the city, between the commons, who enlisted the aid of the slaves, and the oligarchs, who hired mercenaries, which ended with the oligarchs being routed. The Athenian general, Nicostratus, tried to bring about a peaceful settlement and ensure an offensive and defensive alliance between Corcyra and Athens. Nicostratus agreed to leave five Athenian ships to defend Corcyra while five Corcyraean ships accompanied him. The commons tried to get their enemies to serve upon these ships that were departing with Nicostratus. Their enemies, fearing for their lives, seated themselves as suppliants to the goddess Hera, and eventually were convinced to stay on the island in front of the temple.

Four or five days after these events, Peloponnesian ships approached Corcyra and engaged the smaller number of Athenian vessels, while the Corcyraean vessels were ineffective due to disorganization. The Peloponnesians drove off the Athenian and Corcyraean ships, laid waste to the surrounding country, but chose not to attack the city itself . Disorder and panic were rampant through the city, as rumors reached the population.

The Peloponnesians eventual departed under fear of the approach of a larger Athenian fleet. The commons took this opportunity to slay as many of their enemies as they could get their hands upon. The managed to slay some of the men who had appealed to Hera as suppliants. The others committed suicide or killed each other. This was the beginning of the chaos in Corcyra and “the Corcyraeans were engaged in butchering those of their fellow-citizens whom they regarded as their enemies: and although the crime imputed was that of attempting to put down the democracy, some were slain also for private hatred, others by their debtors because of the monies owed to them.”

What’s up with this? Angelo Codevilla explains.

That’s a nice country you’ve got there

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Wretchard et al, with some minor edits:

No one knows if the administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of all time: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the administration has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, it will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it. Sneak it in the back door and declare victory. Nothing warms the cockles of his heart more than “it is so ordered”. But that has been the pattern for the administration. It claimed al-Qaeda decimated, maintained the attack on the Benghazi consulate was caused by a video, swore that the mandates were not taxes, that you could keep your doctor or health plan; it celebrated the fresh wind of an Arab spring that blew through Libya, Egypt and Syria. It claimed the doorman Putin has been put in his place. Which of these is true? But there are many who still believe. Unfortunately they may be surprised one day when all the dreams of grand bargains, resets, pivots, springs and a World Without Nuclear Weapons don’t actually come true. The disappointment may be a bitter one.

That’s a nice country you’ve got there; be a pity if anything happened to it. Also, Roger Kimball is upset for some reason.

Everything old is new again

Monday, November 17th, 2014

So poor Peter Kassig apparently changed his name to Abdul Rahman, which did him no good in remaining capitated. Bizarro World immediately said that “ISIL’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul Rahman adopted as his own.” Well, what’s in a name? There was another Abdul Rahman a decade ago, and lo and behold, guess who was calling for him to be sent to the great beyond? BTW, even the NYT reported back than that our fine allies in Saudi Arabia did 100 or more cranial liberations a year for many offenses, particularly apostasy. We forget what apostasy means, something about getting a speeding ticket perhaps…

More chaos

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

France’s foreign minister in the WaPo:

Syria’s second-largest city and part of humanity’s ancient heritage, Aleppo is the martyred center of the resistance to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, having been under constant bombardment by his forces since 2012. Now Aleppo is caught between the regime’s “barrel bombs” and Daesh’s cutthroats.

The city is almost entirely encircled, connected to the outside world by a single road to Turkey. The regime is seeking to destroy the resistance through cold and hunger. While 1 million people have left to join the flood of Syrian refugees, some 300,000 Aleppans are holding on, threatened with the same death and destruction that the regime has inflicted on Homs and the suburbs of Damascus.

The dictator prefers to deliver Aleppo to terrorist atrocities, even if that means allowing Daesh to flourish…the terrorist group known in the Arab world as Daesh — we do not use Islamic State, because the group is neither truly Islamic nor a state — is dispatching its murderers to…Aleppo

(Politically correct flourish as usual.) Meanwhile, one report says the oil business for ISIS is good: “ISIS can make over $1 million a day from the trade” on the Turkish-Syrian border.

What’s up (or down) with oil?

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

BI:

advances in hydraulic fracturing have fueled what some call the Great American Shale Boom. Oil and natural gas extracted from shale basins have left the US flush with energy. It’s been a boon for US energy-related jobs and equipment suppliers. But it’s not cheap to tap these so-called unconventional plays. In other words, crashing oil prices will soon make many of these energy sources money-losing projects. Morgan Stanley estimates the average breakeven oil price for these US plays to be about $76 to $77 per barrel. Goldman Sachs puts that number at closer to $75. If the price of oil can’t cover production expenses and these companies are forced to idle their operations, then you could expect spending to drop, jobs to get cut, and delinquencies and defaults to rise. To make matters more complicated, many of these energy companies are financing their operations by borrowing in the junk-bond market

Oil closed at below $79 today. We certainly remember the bad old days when oil was twice that price. It’s hard to believe that the recent plunge in oil prices is an considered attack on US fracking, but these are strange times and the strangest things have become unsurprising.

Truth and Consequences

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

VDH:

Do bothersome facts matter anymore? Not really. This is an age when Americans were assured that the Affordable Care Act lowered our premiums. It…allowed us to keep our doctors and health plans, and lowered the deficit. Those fantasies were both demonstrably untrue and did not matter, given the supposedly noble aims of health care reform. The Islamic State is at times dubbed jayvee, a manageable problem, and a dangerous enemy — or anything the administration wishes it to be, depending on the political climate of any given week.

Some days Americans are told there is no reason to restrict connecting flights from Ebola-ravaged countries. Then, suddenly, entry from those countries is curtailed to five designated U.S. airports. Quarantines are both necessary and not so critical, as the administration weighs public concern versus politically correct worries over isolating a Third World African country. Ebola is so hard to catch that there is no reason to worry about causal exposures to those without clear symptoms. But then why do health authorities still try to hunt down anyone who had even a brief encounter with supposedly asymptomatic carriers?

The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi were caused by a video that sparked a riot, and then apparently not. Various narratives about corruption and incompetence at the VA, IRS, NSA, GSA and Secret Service are raised and then dropped. The larger truth is that these scandals must be quarantined from infecting the president’s progressive agenda…The Tawana Brawley case, the Duke men’s lacrosse team accusations, and the O. J. Simpson verdict were constructed fantasies. No one cared much about the inconvenient facts or the lies that destroyed people’s lives — given that myths were deemed useful facts for achieving larger racial justice.

It no longer really matters much what the grand jury will find in the Michael Brown fatal-shooting case. Whether he had just robbed a store, was high on drugs, was walking down the middle of the road and prompted a violent confrontation with a police officer, or whether the officer was the aggressor in the confrontation, these have become mere competing narratives. The facts pale in comparison with the higher truth that Brown was black and unarmed, while Officer Darren Wilson white and armed. The latter scenario is all that matters.

Language is useful for inventing new realities. “Illegal alien” is a time-tested noun denoting foreign citizens who crossed a national border contrary to law. “Undocumented immigrant” is now used to diminish the bothersome fact that millions have broken and continue to break the law. To play down the dangers of radical Islam, an entire array of circumlocutions — “workplace violence” (in the case of the Fort Hood shooting) “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters” — were the euphemisms evoked by members of the Obama administration to construct an alternate reality in which radical jihadists are no more dangerous than disgruntled office workers or gale-force winds.

Many of the current campus poster icons are abject myths. Che Guevara, for all his hipster appearance, was no revolutionary hero, but a murderer who enjoyed personally executing his political opponents. Communist leader Angela Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the totalitarian Soviet Union.

We keep wondering how much energy it takes to live in this fantasy world where made-up things are real enough as long as they are politically useful. Can it be that these people believe the things they say at the moment they say them, or they just don’t care?

Bonus fun: let’s ban argon! What a world, what a government…