A very detailed and thorough piece on Bin Laden’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri; his childhood in Cairo, the Islamist movement in Egypt…the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan…how he got where he was going:
“This great victory was possible only by the grace of God,” he says with quiet pride. “This was not just a human achievement—it was a holy act. These nineteen brave men who gave their lives for the cause of God will be well taken care of. God granted them the strength to do what they did. There’s no comparison between the power of these nineteen men and the power of America, and there’s no comparison between the destruction these nineteen men caused and the destruction America cause.’
The rocky nook with hilltops three Looked eastward from the farms, And twice each day the flowing sea Took Boston in its arms; The men of yore were stout and poor, And sailed for bread to every shore.
And where they went on trade intent They did what freeman can, Their dauntless ways did all men praise, The merchant was a man. The world was made for honest trade,- To plant and eat be none afraid.
The waves that rocked them on the deep To them their secret told; Said the winds that sung the lads to sleep, ‘Like us be free and bold!’ The honest waves refuse to slaves The empire of the ocean caves.
Old Europe groans with palaces, Has lords enough and more;- We plant and build by foaming seas A city of the poor;- For day by day could Boston Bay Their honest labor overpay.
We grant no dukedoms to the few, We hold like rights and shall;- Equal on Sunday in the pew, On Monday in the mall. For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?
The noble craftsmen we promote, Disown the knave and fool; Each honest man shall have his vote, Each child shall have his school. A union then of honest men, Or union nevermore again.
The wild rose and the barberry thorn Hung out their summer pride Where now on heated pavements worn The feet of millions stride.
Fair rose the planted hills behind The good town on the bay, And where the western hills declined The prairie stretched away.
What care though rival cities soar Along the stormy coast: Penn’s town, New York, and Baltimore, If Boston knew the most!
They laughed to know the world so wide; The mountains said: ‘Good-day! We greet you well, you Saxon men, Up with your towns and stay!’ The world was made for honest trade,- To plant and eat be none afraid.
‘For you,’ they said, ‘no barriers be, For you no sluggard rest; Each street leads downward to the sea, Or landward to the West.’
O happy town beside the sea, Whose roads lead everywhere to all; Than thine no deeper moat can be, No stouter fence, no steeper wall!
Bad news from George on the English throne: ‘You are thriving well,’ said he; ‘Now by these presents be it known, You shall pay us a tax on tea; ‘Tis very small,-no load at all,- Honor enough that we send the call.’
‘Not so,’ said Boston, ‘good my lord, We pay your governors here Abundant for their bed and board, Six thousand pounds a year. (Your highness knows our homely word,) Millions for self-government, But for tribute never a cent.’
The cargo came! and who could blame If Indians seized the tea, And, chest by chest, let down the same Into the laughing sea? For what avail the plough or sail Or land or life, if freedom fail?
The townsmen braved the English king, Found friendship in the French, And Honor joined the patriot ring Low on their wooden bench.
O bounteous seas that never fail! O day remembered yet! O happy port that spied the sail Which wafted Lafayette! Pole-star of light in Europe’s night, That never faltered from the right.
Kings shook with fear, old empires crave The secret force to find Which fired the little State to save The rights of all mankind.
But right is might through all the world; Province to province faithful clung, Through good and ill the war-bolt hurled, Till Freedom cheered and the joy-bells rung.
The sea returning day by day Restores the world-wide mart; So let each dweller on the Bay Fold Boston in his heart, Till these echoes be choked with snows, Or over the town blue ocean flows.
‘Trump appeals to all those who think that the American Establishment, the Great and the Good of both parties, has worked its way into a dead end of ideas that don’t work and values that can’t save us. He is the candidate of Control-Alt-Delete. His election would sweep away the smug generational certainties that Clinton embodies, the Boomer Progressive Synthesis that hasn’t solved the problems of the world or of the United States, but which nevertheless persists in regarding itself as the highest and only form of truth.’
‘If one had to choose where to invest at the time, the smart money would have been on Venezuela. It had a small middle class and a great deal of poverty, but that was hardly unique in South and Central America. What set it apart was its vast oil reserves—more than any other country on earth—and its relative political stability.
The current United Socialist Party government led by Nicolás Maduro, and formerly Hugo Chávez, could have done amazing things for the country with that vast oil wealth. Instead, the party has done its damndest to import Fidel Castro’s Cuban model of socialism— Chávez called Castro his mentor—and turn Venezuela into a totalitarian anthill.’
‘It is difficult to summarize the set of ideological concepts with which the Soviet leaders came into power. Marxian ideology, in its Russian-Communist projection, has always been in process of subtle evolution’
‘On this blog, I have defended a Darwinian classical liberalism in which social order arises best through a largely spontaneous evolution in which individuals are free to pursue the satisfaction of their natural desires. Adam Smith described this as the “natural system of liberty,” which allows “every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.” ‘
and he finishes with:
‘Here is a clear illustration of Christian liberalism. Christians can fervently affirm the beliefs and practices of Biblical Christianity, and they can organize their lives–in their homes, their churches, and their schools–to manifest this Christian way of being. But they can do this without demeaning the lives of those individuals who disagree, without violating religious liberty and toleration, and yet still firmly and clearly affirming their faith.
Christian liberals can thus be graciously unapologetic.’
As previously posted, The Critic Laughs, by Hamilton:
Do you long for the days of unabashed American consumerism? Are you nostalgic for nights lit only by a soft, neon glow on the underbellies of clouds? Return to a time when America broadcast its brash, unironic call to the heavens.
‘As a matter of abstract principle, the judge’s ruling seems right to me. The administration’s argument is essentially “Well, the law’s really not all that well written, so YOLO, we’re just going to do this.” Congress’s argument is: “Under the separation of powers, we’re in charge of the purse, we didn’t give you the money, so you can’t just go and spend it anyway.”
I tend to agree with the below, that the ACA will further remove health care decisions from many consumers.
‘One ray of sunshine might be an involuntary heightening of the contradictions: The structure of the Affordable Care Act, by removing health care decisions even further from consumers, all but ensures that costs will escalate even faster. At some point, most employers in America will only be able to afford catastrophic health insurance for their employees. If and when that irony busts onto the scene, perhaps real consumer dynamics will emerge, and perhaps America will stumble backward into a Singapore-style system.’
Many people have been brought onto Medicaid rolls under the ACA, and some onto the exchanges, but many incentives are simply backwards, such as inducing young people in their prime to buy-in with carrots and sticks. Under this law, you, me and everyone (in theory) will eventually be forced to join the government-run exchanges.
I could easily see a massive, health-care bureaucratic complex on the time horizon of a few decades; sprawling, good for the politically and culturally well-connected along with a large swathe of people who have enough money and freedom to access it and who would often have other options available, if necessary. They would be accessing near the top, too, where there would be higher-end facilities and better points of access, and this is also where the choice jobs and opportunities would be on the bureaucratic side, as I envision a generational conveyor belt moving through the suburbs, universities and on down to Washington (a permanent coalition of majority Democrats, if other bureaucracies offer any example). People with enough money always tend to have other options, and there would be winners and losers in this set-up just like any other.
Clearly, many poor and working poor would get more care than they got before, early childhood vaccinations and urgent care, some basic access and routine checkups, but again, in a world of limited resources, they would get promises but not always delivery. There would definitely be more availability for some and lots of brochures and ‘nudges’ that usually don’t work as advertised.
Of course, paying for these folks would be many others who are working poor and non-poor who could very easily be getting the short-end of the stick: Paying for all of this and perhaps getting very little in return and having no other options and virtually no political recourse. Such people would be paying for an immovable bureaucracy and more politicians controlling more of the money supply. They would be paying for more union control through the activists who benefit from the law along with the standard corruption and inefficiencies inherent in such systems. Such folks would sometimes be working against their own interests, disincentivized and unfree.
‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily’
‘Setting aside for the moment the credulous hubris of that last remark, I wrote (again, two years ago), as follows:
Rhodes’s highly articulate intelligence matches the President’s tastes in repartee–and … sitting together pouring over language in speech texts can have a deeply influential impact on a principal who has little prior experience in the subject. They both believe deeply in the independent power of words. And it probably helps the relationship that Rhodes, because of his youth, is not a threat to the President’s ego.’
A few points I’d like to make:
One explanation for bypassing much experience and wisdom of many establishment foreign-policy figures, is that many of the President’s views do not align with most establishment figures. Thus, a quite logical strategy to pursue lies in attracting the younger and often less experienced to fill the gap. Similar strategies have been a hallmark of this Presidency, especially during the initial campaign: Images, messaging, social media, data and words; all have been deployed in order to generate populist appeal and to leverage real political power.
These views, rather than being particularly realist, can be just as well explained as those of a peace-activist, and at times; a pretty standard Western anti-war secular humanist/idealist. This is a President who has consistently advertised his moral center to be closer to Nelson Mandela’s cooled Communist radicalism into rock-hard moral resistance to apartheid, or MLK’s non-violent resistance. The liberation theology of the church he attended for 20 years, perhaps aptly described as advocating a form of ‘baptized Marxism,’ seems a reasonable source informing the views the President might actually hold.
Whether or not these principles have led to policies with consequences advantageous to American interests is a better question to ask. Regarding Iran, this blog has not found ‘Iran-deal or War’ rhetoric a necessary framing of the issue. Reaching out to Tehran is a seriously risky (possibly fruitful) business, but leaving a vacuum in Damascus and leaning on Moscow to exert its historical influence over both Damascus and Tehran demonstrates a serious myopia. The goal, as I see it, is preventing the people who’ve been running the Iranian government since 1979 from getting deliverable nukes, while also balancing the region’s powers in a way most advantageous to American interests. While some real world gains and real world success have been made on this front (bringing the shadowy networks of nuclear tech intelligence sharing and underground Iranian nuclear activity out under some sunlight), the instability of the deal made, the lack of serious threat and bite in dealing with such people, and the kinds of rhetoric, inexperience and amateurishness demonstrated by this administration are deeply troubling.
Thanks for hanging in there, dear reader. It’s pretty obvious where some of my sympathies lie:
‘I’m not going to lie — whenever Ben Rhodes starts talking to the press, I get worried about the Obama administration’s foreign policy trajectory. Rhodes tends to have a few simple international relations memes that he likes to get out into the public square’
He finishes with:
‘So if this speech says: a) military action is risky; but b) we have no positive economic agenda; and c) no plan for what to do if matters get even worse — then this is not going to be a very good speech at all.
Am I missing anything?’
Well, having read Obama’s speech, I don’t think he’s missed much.
‘You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it is taking place’
Does leading by example involve waiting on the U.N in Syria, emboldening Putin and Tehran’s interests by hedging on a redline, and sitting back while terrorists fill in the opposition? Does leading by example involve avoiding hard decisions and watching a long, protracted Civil War unfold, with Assad still hunkered down in power, using chemical weapons, while over a hundred thousands Syrian are dead? Does leading by example involve a humanitarian crisis in full bloom, destabilizing the region many times over, and posing new security threats for all of us?
Is that the kind example we want to set, even for ourselves?
Rhodes is the main one, I believe, who either convinced or strongly reinforced the President’s intuition that the United States is vastly overinvested in the Middle East, that we need to pivot to Asia at the expense of our investments in the Middle East and Europe, that in the absence of traditional American “Cold War-era” leadership benign regional balances will form to keep the peace, and that the world is deep in normative liberalism and well beyond the grubby power politics of earlier eras.
All of this is very trendy and sounds “progressive” and smart, but, of course, it is mostly wrong.
What am I missing?
Addition: More from David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy here.
‘Further, as Obama has shown, the problems we face today cannot simply be addressed by undoing the mistakes of past American presidents. Genuine new thinking is needed. Precious little, unfortunately, was offered in the president’s West Point remarks.’
I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be. In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.