Syria And Russia, Michael Totten On Cuba-Some Links

-Rick Francona at Middle East Perspectives: ‘American-Russian Cooperation-What Could Go Wrong?

‘In that case, Russia and Iran will have achieved their foreign policy objective, that being the survival of the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Asad; we will have failed in ours.

That’s what can go wrong.’

-Lilia Shevtskova at the American Interest ‘The Kremlin’s Triad As The Means Of Survival

‘Let me reiterate: We are dealing with the logic of a particular civilization—one whose survival resources are dwindling and whose political class is powerless to transform the system—that will continue to reenergize itself through the enemy search (even as it cooperates with this enemy).’

-Michael Totten ‘Cuba’s Walled Garden:’

‘Cuban citizens, of course, yearn for the Czech model where communism collapsed in spectacular fashion and was replaced all at once with political liberalism and a market economy. It’s what those of us in the free world should hope to see down there, too.

If you want to visit Cuba before it changes, fine. Go. I did. It’s interesting. Just understand that change is a good thing, and the more change the better. Doubt it? Ask yourself if anyone but a political psychopath thinks abolishing communism destroyed Prague.’


As previously posted: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.

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Some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

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The true time-warp and bizzaro-land is likely still North Korea, however:

Some Foreign Policy Links & Michael Totten At World Affairs Journal-‘Moscow On The Tigris: Russia Joins The Terror Nexus’

Full piece here.

Totten:

‘Look at a map again. Iran is a powerful state in the middle of the same Eurasia where Putin is building his union. An alliance of some sort with Iran isn’t strictly required, but it’s certainly helpful. At the very least, Putin wants good relations with the Iranians. And he wants America and American-friendly regimes away from his underbelly for the same reason he wants them off his western flank in Europe, where he fears the West and its economic and military alliances might encroach.

There’s no better way to win favor in Tehran than by co-sponsoring Iran’s own Middle Eastern proxies, Assad and Hezbollah. And there’s no better way to keep the West from breathing up his pant legs in the Middle East than by making himself the new power broker in a region long influenced by the United States, which he clearly sees as his biggest geopolitical foe.’

Without American involvement in stabilizing competing interests in many parts of the world, those interests which have their own reasons for defending and extending their own spheres of influence…will generally do so (from Russia in Syria, Ukraine & The Baltics…to China in the South and East China Seas).

Robert Kaplan doesn’t assert that geography explains everything, but rather that it can provide deeper contextual understanding as to what’s going on in the world today.

Look for increased nationalism and potential for conflict over shipping lanes and naval power in East Asia, for which America can provide much in the way of stability and the promotion of our interests, as well as that of a global liberal order (which can and will be challenged):

 

Short and long-term consequences to the Iran deal?  Podcast from the at the American Interest here.

A nuclear-armed Iran with the deal in place seems quite likely. It’s certainly risky business.

ISIS thrives in the lawless places:

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Some Russian links…as previously posted:

More on the Nemtsov killing: Don’t speak out.

Julia Ioffe at her site: ‘The Bizarre End To Vladimir Putin’s Bizarre Marriage:

‘An odd moment in the announcement came when Putin mentioned his confirmed children, two adult daughters whom we’ve never really seen, though there were reports in 2010 that one of them was marrying the son of a South Korean admiral.’

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

Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

Samantha, Powerless: Obama’s Problem From Hell In Syria

Totten applies Power’s logic to Syria:

‘No ideology in the world right now is more inherently genocidal than that of ISIS.

It began its life as Al Qaeda in Iraq under the Jordanian jihadi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also known as the Sheikh of the Slaughterers. He hated no one on his planet—not Christians, not Jews, not atheists—as much as he despised Shia Muslims. The Shia, he wrote, are “the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom.”

Food for thought: Not only did the current administration pull-back from Hilary Clinton’s more hawkish interventionist logic that helped get ‘kinetic military action’ approved in Libya, but even the humanitarian-cum-policy maker Samantha Power’s logic could reasonably be applied, a person who made a case for the use of force only once the genocide starts, as it has in Syria (who still recognizes her ideals depend on men willing to fight).

A very important conversation needs to be had about the Islamic State meaning what they say:  Bombing the Russian airliner in Egypt, planning and carrying-out the massacre in Paris, and potentially having involvement (inspiration) in the San Bernardino murders here at home.

Instead, as I see it, American citizens got a speech trying to leverage the nation into another tired debate about gun control; dragging us all into the same ideological box, while offering no real new information, ideas, nor leadership.

So, is there more peace in the world now?

As previously posted:  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.’


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.”

What happens when you try and go ‘full peace’?

My two cents: We should figure out a good way to destabilize and destroy IS, depriving them of territory, revenue, clout and murdering capacity.  Then, we should go forward; enacting and reacting to events (by proxy if necessary).

Let me know if you disagree, and why.

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’

 

Some Monday Links-No Doubt A Peaceful World Order Awaits

From Darwinian Conservatism:

‘This sounds a lot like John Locke’s argument for natural rights and social order constituted by a social contract.  But, oddly, Searle rejects Locke and social contract reasoning, without realizing that his thinking largely coincides with that reasoning.  Searle doesn’t see that in explaining how status functions arise from “collective intentionality” or “collective acceptance or recognition of the object or person as having that status” (8), he is adopting the Lockean argument for social authority as arising from the consent of human individuals.’

Another piece here.

‘A fundamental claim of my argument for Darwinian conservatism–as combining traditionalist conservatism and classical liberalism–is that Darwinian science supports the constrained or realist view of human nature as fixed that is embraced by conservatism, as opposed to the unconstrained or utopian view of human nature as malleable that is embraced by the Left. ‘

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Via Lapham’s:  Four College Mascot Casualties and the reasons for their demise.

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Michael Totten: ‘The Saudis Team Up With Israel’

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What happens when you mix feminist ideals, equality and anthropology into a worldview?  I’m not sure but the NY Times thinks it’s very important.

No tribalism and ignorance on display here.  No sir.

Skepticism At Home And Abroad-Two Friday Links

Michael Totten at The City Journal: ‘A Real Downside To Any Deal With Iran

Will the relatively weakened Sunni coalition try and use ISIS fighters as a proxy against Tehran, Damascus, Hizbollah and the government in Baghdad?

‘The U.S. hardly supports the malignant Assad, but all of Washington’s air strikes have landed on Sunni jihadist targets even after President Obama accused Damascus of deploying chemical weapons in civilian population centers. Like the government in Baghdad, the House of Assad is firmly in the Iranian camp. The state, along with the ruling family, is heavily packed with members of the Alawite minority, adherents of a heterodox religion that fuses Shia Islam, Christianity, and Gnosticism.’

Well, it’s nearly impossible to do deals with Sunni Ba’ath fascism, nor Saudi funded Wahhabism, but you can do deals with the mullahs in Tehran and the post-1979 crowd, desirous of deliverable nukes and working alongside Damascus, Hizbollah etc?

If there’s any one place on Earth right now where a nuclear arms race would be a bad idea, this is it.

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Ross Douthat at the NY Times: ‘Caesarism Without Apology

‘…A given move is a success if the opposition fails to find a way to block it, the hemmers and hawers are proven wrong if the president isn’t impeached, and the state of your party doesn’t really matter because an unbound presidency is all that progressivism really needs.’

If, as this blog does, you don’t see too many limiting principles on much of modern liberalism, (i.e. how does one ever know how much equality, economic regulation, central planning, tolerance, democracy etc. is enough?), then progressivism and activism is a much trickier beast: Ideologically predisposed towards vast expansions of federal and executive power through activism and majoritiarian populism.  This, quite aside from the executive-heavy trends we’ve been seeing in Washington the last generation or so.

Politicians aiming for the White House love controlling messages, and images, and Obama is no exception.  In fact, being a relative unknown in 2008, he was particularly reliant on analytics, social media, and the promotion of an image of himself.

All those promises of transparency, hipness, coolness and pop culture work against many realities of politics, and the job itself.

Trying To Keep Up With Events-A Few Middle-East Links

Michael Totten at World Affairs:

‘Hezbollah is fighting against Sunni jihadists in Syria on behalf of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, but that doesn’t mean it has abandoned its war against Israel. If the Syrian regime doesn’t survive, Hezbollah won’t be able to receive high-grade weapon systems from Iran anymore. It already has a formidable missile arsenal and can now—unlike during the 2006 war—inflict significant damage on Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem if it dares’

Eli Lake at Bloomberg-There’s diplomacy involved:

‘All of this gets to a paradox of the war on terror. It has never been a war on the tactic of terrorism, and it has always been a war against networks of radical Islamists. But in order to wage that war, the U.S. has had to ally with Muslim countries and people, many of whom believe the state should punish apostates, adulterers and blasphemers.’

Adam Garfinkle plays the mug’s game and makes some prognostications:

But, who really knows?  Here’s a reasonable one:

‘The P5/Iranian nuclear negotiations will not produce a deal, because no deal the Obama Administration can get would pass muster in Congress. The superficial thawing of U.S.-Iranian relations will refreeze; marginal violence in a new U.S.-Iranian shadow war will occur as Iran draws ever closer to breakout capacity. Israel will not strike Iran; the Obama Administration will try to buy time via a selected extension of the interim deal as the sanctions regime continues to fray.’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Cuba: To Embargo Or Not’

Full piece here.

‘In a non-communist country where such a basic product is in short supply, somebody would mass-produce it and sell it. Soap-making doesn’t require nuclear physics. You can make it at home. Google “soap recipe” and you’ll see how easy it is. But Cuba is a communist country where private commerce is banned. If you make stuff and sell stuff, you might become “rich” and “bourgeois,” and the authorities will send you to prison.

That’s why Cuba is poor. Lifting the embargo would have little or no effect on such tyrannical imbecility.’

Related On This Site: Sandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Free Speech Requires Backbone-Michael Totten In Cuba: ‘The Lost World, Part II’

Full piece here.

Why do so many in the American media choose not focus on the immiseration of the Cuban people under Communism?

Well, I’ve often heard: ‘True communism was never tried’ as though that were some kind of deep wisdom.

Let’s just say old dreams die hard.

Totten visited Trinidad, in central Cuba, and found well-maintained Spanish colonial architecture:

‘The streets are made of stone, the roofs beautifully tiled. All the buildings and houses are colorfully painted. Every visible structure in every direction pre-dates the Industrial Revolution. The city is a living museum piece, not just of Cuba before communist rule, but of Latin America during the Conquistador era, of the world before industry and machines, before globalization and standardization and the mass society changed politics and culture for everybody forever.’

The Cuban people, like all others unfortunate enough to have undergone Communist revolution, live in a time-warp, frozen-in-place by a failed industrial-age theory of history, frozen further still to year-zero of their own revolution. Most Cubans live not only without basic modern conveniences like cars, cell-phones, and computers, but also without the health-care and education promised them but never delivered.  Many also live without much vision for the future, Cuban leaders strolling the deck of a rotten, totalitarian police-state above them, everyone listing to and fro on unforgiving Caribbean currents.

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.

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Some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

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The true time-warp and bizzaro-land is likely still North Korea, however:

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What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: 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”

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Related On This Site:  What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Two Monday Links: ‘Victimology And Forming Alliances In Asia’

Michael Totten on Vietnam: ‘Will The U.S. Foster A Natural Ally‘:

This recent conflict may well blow over, but the tension that sparked it in the first place is not going anywhere. Vietnam and China both claim the Paracel Islands, and the Spratly Islands farther south are claimed by yet four more countries in Southeast Asia, but China claims almost the entire sea, more than a thousand miles from its own mainland, well south of Vietnam, and nearly all the way down to the coast of Malaysia.’

This will be tougher to navigate.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The Microagression Farce:

‘Any student who believes that the university is an “unsafe,” racially hostile environment is unlikely to take full advantage of its resources and will likely bear a permanent racial chip on his shoulder. Becoming an adult means learning the difference between a real problem and a trivial one.’

Ideologues are attracted to existing bureaucratic and institutional structures, like college campuses, where they aim to have permanent impact.

Victimhood is a state of mind, incentivizing people to deal with genuine and perceived injustices through the lens of ideology, where they are expected to form a permanent class of the oppressed.

More broadly speaking, life still ain’t fair.

Some Links-ISIS And Protest

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Twisted Appeal Of ISIS:”

‘Don’t discount this sort of impulse. You may not be able to relate to it at all, but it’s real. War is hell–that’s for damn sure–but it’s also an incredible antitode to alienation and boredom.’

Henri Barker at The American Interest ‘The Meaning Of Kobani

‘Fall or survive, Kobani has assumed an importance few could have anticipated, becoming the rallying cry for Syrian and Turkish Kurds as much as Halabja was for their Iraqi brethren. Moreover, Kobani’s plight has once again drawn the whole international community’s attention to the region’s Kurdish question.’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker-‘ISIS Vs. The Kurds: The Fight Of Their Lives’Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

Theodore Dalrymple: ‘Your Dad Is Not Hitler

‘If you have to protest that you’re not something, that only goes to show that really, underneath it all, you are that something: for if you were not, you wouldn’t have to proclaim it. After all, a bear doesn’t have to go round proclaiming it’s a bear, that it partakes of ursitude; it just is a bear and everyone knows it.’

That Generation of ’68 is still with us. Christopher Hitchens & William F Buckley On Anglo-American Relations

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘What The New Atheists Don’t See’Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain…From The WSJ Weekend Journal-Theodore Dalrymple: “Man Vs. Mutt”Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com