Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker-‘ISIS Vs. The Kurds: The Fight Of Their Lives’

Full piece here.

Arguably, there isn’t an American journalist observing Iraq like Filkins. This is writing that ought to be awarded.

The Kurds are clearly our strongest allies against ISIS, and have been the best of an Iraq/Syria situation that may see a long-term redrawing of boundaries. Independent Kurdistan would threaten the interests of what’s left of the idea of unified Iraq, as well as Turkish and Iranian interests among others (Obama’s still pinning hopes on that tentative p5 + 1 deal with Rouhani).

Filkins does a deeper dive on the Kurds:

‘Obama has spoken carefully in public, but it is plain that the Administration wants the Kurds to do two potentially incompatible things. The first is to serve as a crucial ally in the campaign to destroy ISIS, with all the military funding and equipment that such a role entails. The second is to resist seceding from the Iraqi state.’

The Obama administration went so far as to block the sale of Kurdish oil against what’s left of Baghdad’s control of oil resources. Check-out this New Republic piece of a few months ago.

As to ISIS, these are clearly people with whom we can’t do business:

‘Alhashimi estimated that Baghdadi has about ten thousand fighters under his command in Iraq and twelve thousand in Syria, with tens of thousands of active supporters in both countries. In Iraq, the advance force, called the House of Islam, is dominated by foreigners, including several hundred Europeans, Australians, and Americans. Many of them are suicide bombers. Alhashimi says that the group is increasingly well funded; he estimated that it takes in ten million dollars a month from kidnapping, and more than a hundred and fifty million dollars a month from smuggling oil into Turkey and other neighboring countries, often selling it at the bargain price of about a dollar a gallon.’

Previous VICE coverage of the Islamic State, which highlights just some of what we’re dealing with:

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Filkins finishes with:

‘At a lectern draped with a Kurdish flag, Barzani apologized for the heat and urged the fighters to hold on a little longer. “Be patient,” he said. “Our day is near.” 

There aren’t friends, only alliances, as they say, and this alliance would be based on the past mutual interest against Saddam and his Sunni Ba’ath thuggery, and now ISIS aligning with some of those disgruntled Sunnis, and a new, broad platform for terrorism.

A few Kurdish fighting families could become oligarchic petro-leaders should they achieve independence, but nowhere in the region do we have such alignment of interests at the moment, and do we find people who might align with our longer-term interests.

Now that missile strikes and American involvement are ramping-up against ISIS, it’s worth examining. The Iraq invasion achieved certain objectives, but at great cost, and upon many failed assumptions of what could be achieved. Now we’re cleaning-up from an ineptly managed withdrawal based on failing and I believe, a deeply flawed and oft failed set of assumptions.

Islamism, and this particularly radical brand of Islam, with its patchwork of local politics and guerilla ideological warriors, united under global and universalist claims to supremacy, will be around for a while.

It’s thriving amidst such chaos and anarchy, and if you were President, you’d be dealing with it too.

See Also:  Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’

During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):

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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: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Dexter Filkins Via HotAir: ‘Audio: Iraq War Critic Says Iraq Withdrawal May Have Been The Worst Strategic Mistake Of All’

Full piece with audio here.

Must be tough to have watched the whole Iraq war unfold, and been relatively powerless but to witness and try and put pieces together, but so it is:

‘Dexter Filkins has long been a skeptic and critic of the Iraq war, from his tenure at the New York Times to his current assignment at the New Yorker. Still, that hasn’t kept Filkins from reporting honestly on developments in the theater; in 2008, while at the NYT, he wrote extensively about the success of the surge just a few months before the presidential election. A month later, Filkins wrote again about the “literally unrecognizable” and peaceful Iraq produced by the surge. Six years later, Filkins was among the skeptics reminding people that the Iraqis’ insistence on negotiating the immunity clause for American troops was more of a welcome excuse for Obama to choose total withdrawal — and claim credit for it until this year — rather than the deal-breaker Obama now declares that it was.’

Related On This Site:   Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker: ‘What We Don’t Know About Drones’

Dexter Filkins On Iraq & Some Quotes On Postmodernism

Will the U.S. Help The Kurds Fight ISIS?:

Filkins:

‘This week, fighters from Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, captured the town of Sinjar and, the next day, Mosul Dam, the biggest dam on the Tigris River. These victories offer two terrifying prospects, one for humanitarian reasons, the other for strategic reasons.’

A cautious administration guided by Left-liberal idealism and activism, stuck in withdrawal mode and unable to adapt to conditions and recognize and advance interests particularly well?

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There’s a lot more going on in English Departments, to be sure, but still worth pointing out.

Quote found here at friesian.com:

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

John M. Ellis, Literature Lost [Yale University Press, 1997, p. 214]

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

Another pomo quote from Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

More Or Less On The Bergdahl Trade-Some Links

Folks at Blackfive are keeping an eye on things, but it’s still early on:

‘As someone who worked the Sgt Bergdahl issue for 4 years, I have a long, sordid history with this issue. And I WAS going to come out on the topic this week- I had mentioned to several people that I wanted to post up about it. But I’ve been advised not to, by some people who understand the ‘why’.’

The issue has gotten quite political now, largely due to that strange Rose Garden press conference where we got to see some of how the sausage is made. Like Benghazi, the Bergdhal affair offers a lot to be concerned about, but it’s also partially become a proxy to argue larger political and policy directions, and dissatisfaction with this President’s commitments (closing Guantanamo, offering a timeline and negotiations for AfPak withdrawal etc., dealing with bad people for questionable gains).

Many gatherers around similar ideals are trying to protect the President and their commitments, while many opponents are on the attack.

From a linked-to piece by Brad Thor:

‘It is important to note that the Haqqanis are not the same thing as the Afghan Taliban. The two are different groups…The Haqqanis are a heavily criminal enterprise sowing and feeding off of the chaos in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. Envision Al Qaeda crossed with the Sopranos and you begin to get the picture of what these thugs are like.’

Dexter Filkins at the New Yorker takes a look at the Haqqani-ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) connection. I recall that even as Pervez Musharraf signed on the partnership in the War on Terror, he was playing us on both ends, partly because of the political realities of Pakistan.  You can’t ask a leader to be too far ahead of his people.

Bergdahl was probably hustled over into Pakistan through the Haqqanis:

Given the close connections that the I.S.I. maintains with the network, it seems inconceivable that the organization wasn’t well aware of Bergdahl’s condition, status, and whereabouts. Did the I.S.I. try, over the years, to free him? We don’t know. Could Pakistani intelligence officials have done more to help him? Did they do nothing? Likewise, we don’t know. Were they involved, and perhaps even instrumental in, gaining his final release? We don’t know. But, given the amount of American money that flows into Pakistan, we’re entitled to ask.’

Lots of questions in the air…

George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Full piece here.

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

We need to make sure they’re not just buying time on our dime:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

The next six months of diplomacy will be decisive in determining whether the Geneva agreement opens the door to a potential diplomatic breakthrough or to ratifying a major strategic setback. We should be open to the possibility of pursing an agenda of long-term cooperation. But not without Iran dismantling or mothballing a strategically significant portion of its nuclear infrastructure.’

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Previously on this site:

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On June 15th, 2007, Charlie Rose sat down with Henry KissingerZbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy and geo-strategy.  That’s over six years ago!

I was surprised to find that Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, described very nearly what the Obama administration’s current Iran policy seems to be.  Runs from 32:52 to 35:10 (Sorry I couldn’t embed with the exact time-stamp).

A few minutes can explain a lot.  Well worth your time.

Addition:  Here’s a brief summary of that argument:

1.  The Iranians and the Iranian regime, despite what their intentions may be, have a right to enrich uranium up to 5% according to international law.   They’re doing this.

2. We’re asking them to abandon this right as a precondition to any negotiations, creating an asymmetry.  We should offer to lift sanctions first in return just to get them to swallow their pride and sit down for talks.  This pride may extend beyond the mullahs and regime, and go into the cultural and national psyche of Iranians.

3.  Whatever their intentions may be, unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime isn’t out and proud about nuclear enrichment and weaponization.  They’re at least claiming to follow international law which gives us some leverage.

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Addition: The synopsis above makes a lot of claims, and on reflection, the more they look as expedient as they do true, as does this comments upon them.

Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

Via The New Yorker: Negotiations With Iran

Podcast here.

‘On this week’s Political Scene podcast, Dexter Filkins and Hooman Majd join host Dorothy Wickenden to talk about the ongoing negotiations between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China—and Germany (known as the P5-plus-1) and Iran.’

Have a listen.

Bilal Saab at Foreign Policy: ‘Hezbollah Under Fire’-That’s Iranian regime-backed terrorist group Hezbollah fanning the flames in Syria.

Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

On this site, see the best I’ve been able to round-up: ‘Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’

 Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker: ‘The Shadow Commander’

Full piece here.

Filkins takes a look at Iran’s Qassem Suleimani:

‘Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq’

Related On This Site:   Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker: ‘What We Don’t Know About Drones’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’…Materialism and Leftism Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

Friday Quotation From Samuel Huntington

Dexter Filkins on the chemical weapons likely used by al-Assad against his own people in the Eastern suburbs of Damascus 

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.”

I’ll keep putting it up, as it’s so relevant. A few central quotes from this article here:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”

and:

“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity.”

Too late to act with lower risk and higher gain? Ralph Peters At The NY Post: ‘Too Late For Syria’Fareed Zakaria On Youtube: ‘Stay Out Of Syria’

Joshua Landis’ blog here.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.

Interesting paper here.

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.  Reihan Salam has a short piece here.

Also On This Site: Francis Fukuyama, a neconservative up until the Iraq War or so, student of Huntington’s, and author off The End Of History, has a view that modernization and Westernization are more closely united.  Yet Fukuyama envisions a Western State which has an endpoint that the minds of men might be able to know.   This breaks with Karl Marx’s end point of Communism rising from the ashes of capitalism, is more Hegelian via Alexander Kojeve in Paris, and advocates for a State that ought to be bigger than it is now in the U.S.  This requires a more moral bureaucratic class to lead us here at home and perhaps an almost one worlder-ish type Super-Government for all.  Can you see limited government, life, liberty and property from here?:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker: ‘From Kurdistan To New York’

Full post here.

The Kurds already wanted their freedom and a certain amount of modernity.  I’m sure the picture is more complex, however:

‘Kurdistan, a self-governing region, has a decadelong head start on the rest of Iraq, and it has peace, too. For that, it can thank—and Kurds do thank—the United States, and especially for the no-fly zone, erected in 1991, that kept Saddam’s armies at bay, until the U.S. took him and his government down, twelve years later. The Kurds are reaping the fruits.’

In his new book Where The West EndsMichael 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: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker: ‘What We Don’t Know About Drones’

Full piece here.

‘You will hear a lot of claims about militants killed and civilians killed and civilians spared. Most likely, neither side will be entitled to its shrillness. If the Al Majalah strike has any value now, it should be to remind us not just of our knowledge but also of our ignorance.’

Related On This Site:   From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanRepost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘Drone Wars’