Michael Totten At The Tower: ‘Why Arming The Kurds Is Worth Angering The Turks’

Full piece here.

‘Two years ago, Eli Lake published a quickly-forgotten Bloomberg View column about a U.S. weapons airdrop in Syria supposedly intended for the Syrian Arab Coalition. The problem is, the Syrian Arab Coalition isn’t real. It’s a made-up front group that exists solely on paper so the Obama administration could say it was arming Arabs when it was really arming Kurds. An unnamed U.S. official admitted to Lake that the group is a “ploy,” and Syrian Kurds confirmed that they received weapons and ammunition.’

Hmmm…so far restoring old alliances seems high on Trump’s list, at least on the surface:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Incentivized Otherwise-A Few Thoughts On The Manchester Bombing

Pretty tough to watch those videos.

If one’s political and social institutions, with the authority they wield, aren’t able to protect some of the most innocent they serve (pre-teen and teen girls at a pop concert), then such a basic, underlying truth, I suspect, will manifest itself in other ways.

Some people may not change their thinking much at all, while others will curtail their own behavior to some degree (maybe I won’t go out tonight).  Others still will probably start thinking about bigger picture issues differently.  Maybe security becomes a hot button issue next election, or maybe alternative personal and political arrangements are re-examined, seriously and unseriously.  Respect and trust for the authorities currently on watch, and authority more generally, must probably ebb away.

This blog has been watching the terrorism threat enough, for long enough, to not be very surprised at the Manchester attack (even the savagery and the targets), but is still shocked and saddened nonetheless at the loss of life and innocence.

These issues are hard to think about and harder to confront, but the more honestly they are dealt with now, the better the likely outcomes.  A lot of people in authority are incentivized otherwise.

Also On This Site:  What map are you using to understand this conflict:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Ayan Hirsi Ali at the New Criterion: ‘In Defense Of Dissidence:’

‘In many ways I think it’s comical that I’m being recognized for saying men and women should be equal before the law. That’s what I’m being recognized for, pretty much. That’s what it amounts to. And that idea that men and women are equal before the law is blasphemic to Islamic law.’

As posted: Here’s a debate from Intelligence Squared with Ayan Hirsi Ali on one side, arguing that Islam is the problem (the same absolutism in Islam that will not tolerate questioning of its tenets, its many violent passages, and its unreformed worldview which has a prescription for pretty much all aspects of the culture and public square). A member of the opposing side suggests that Muslim alienation in British life, combined with a European influenced fascist inspired-Islamism is the problem, not Islam itself (yes, it’s colonialist Europe’s fault).

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Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’

Free speech and Muslims From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’


Is Islam incompatibile with freedom as we define it here in the West:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

-Yes, terrorism’s still a thing: 12 dead in Berlin after a truck drives through a mall

Why I Focus This Blog On Islamic Terrorism, Among Other Things-A Few Links And Thoughts In Response To A Friend

A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”And: Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Michael Totten-Russia Is Arming the Taliban

Full piece here.

So we shouldn’t even aim to be allies on that whole terrorism problem, not even over on the minimalist end of the realist spectrum (no friends, no foes, just interests)?

‘Now that communism has collapsed everywhere outside North Korea, Cuba and Laos, and now that radical Islamist terrorists menace much of the world—especially Muslim lands, but also the United States and Russia—an alliance at least against that particular threat between Moscow and Washington makes perfect sense. Americans who yearn for it and who are willing to let a certain amount of Vladimir Putin’s nefarious behavior slide to bring it about are entirely reasonable.

Putin, though, isn’t interested.’

Well, Putin does seem to be interested in consolidating the kleptocratic, post-Soviet State, which apparently involves putting out anti-Western propaganda through State-controlled media while making himself the indispensable heart of a grander national project. It seems to mean dividing and conquering Georgia and Ukraine, letting the Baltics know who’s in charge, gaining leverage over Europe with Gazprom and uniting the old Damascus-Tehran-Moscow alliance against American interests in the Levant (hey, we stopped being the bouncer in the club).

According to Totten, it now includes running some guns to the Taliban.

Just a few years ago, there was supposed to be something like a raft of World Nations banding together with enough ‘common will’ to carrot-and-stick Putin into international arrangements while resetting the post WWII arrangement.

Ah, well.

A reader passed along a video of Bill Browder, who made a billion, lost much of it, and got a look at Russian politics, money, and power up close.  The way he describes it:  Corruption all the way to the top.

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What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’,,,Eric Postner back in 2008: The Bear Is Back

Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Written over two years ago, now.  I think it holds up decently:

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed:  Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Some Thursday Links

From Middle East Perspectives-Syrian Air Force Moves Its Remaining Fighter Jets To Russian-Controlled Air Base

Claudia Rosett-Why be a member of the U.N. if it’s not in our best interests? (Which kinds of incentives and which requirements for entry in a new club?).

A 5pointz update via Althouse-Maybe one lesson is don’t let people use your property

Edward Feser on the problem of Hume’s problem of induction

Chinese characters are beautiful.  Full post here.

What’s The Plan, Here, Exactly?-Theodore Dalrymple On Immigration In Europe

Dalrymple:

‘This seems to me a time when several European governments act specifically and deliberately against the most patent and obvious national interests of their country, often with the support of the intelligentsia…’

It’s baffling to me that one of the most basic and visceral obligations leaders have to the people they represent (safety and security) isn’t really being met in many cases.  Heck, it appears just pointing these problems out makes one unwelcome in polite society; the issue not yet the stuff of pandering political promise.

Most of us know right away, in fact, we feel it all around us when there’s danger afoot: ‘I’m not safe here. I’ve got to stay alert.

Let’s just say it’s a priority for most people, whether standing outside a seedy bar, living in a rough part of town, or being anywhere near a war-zone.

What worries me is that many European societies are only generating political will enough for consensus around ideas which can’t even get this most basic of obligations….basically right.

What’s the plan, here, exactly?

Via a reader, Dr Tino Sanandaji, a Kurdish-Swede discusses Kurds, Kurds in Europe, European immigration and Swedish immigration in particular, via the Rubin Report, which pursues a new form of anti-Left liberalism:

Christopher Caldwell At The Claremont Review Of Books: ‘The Hidden Costs Of Immigration’…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

The Same Old Quote From Samuel Huntington While Watching Current Events In Syria

Perhaps now, after eight years, we’ve returned towards some semblance of what came before, but now with many changes in the American cultural/political landscape duly reflected in foreign policy.

The more liberal internationalist and humanitarian discontents (neo-neo-conservatives?) seem ok using American military force to draw clear lines against the use of chemical weapons.

Or perhaps better said: Some liberal internationalists are ok using American military force and patriotism right now for these aims if the international institutional authority to which they are predisposed isn’t forthcoming.

While Donald Trump has triggered many into foaming domestic mistrust, weirdly, he may end-up uniting many humanitarian realpolitikers and pro-military, anti-terrorist, anti-Islamist types with this strike.

Subject to change.

Syria, you’ll recall, was teetering early-on during Obama’s tenure (when Libya involvement was chosen instead), and soon devolved into the horrendous civil conflict we see today:

Many in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are paying pretty close attention and strategizing accordingly.

In other words, we’ve gone from Peace-Activist-In-Chief back towards the center with a more pro-union, pro-military and socially liberal New York excutive-in-chief making strange bedfellows while also shaping and seeking public sentiment.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

Are we back here again or someplace like it?

My two cents, dear reader.

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure…Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire