The Categorical Imperative And Some Links On Saudi Arabia and Iran

Via Edward Feser via BBC Radio 4–Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason…

Kantian metaphysics can lead to problems in the public square, or at least something of an aesthetic retreat, by individuals, from the public square.  Part of the Anglo-talent for governance has roots in the Humean empiricism Kant was to synthesize within his own platform, and I’d argue this empiricism is culturally much deeper within the Anglo-sphere.  There is often more deference to the uniqueness of each of our experiences and the uniqueness each that case can bring within common-law jurisprudence.

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Inside every Iranian is a Western peace activist waiting to get out…Via Mick Hartley via The National-Iran’s long-cherished Tehran to Beirut land-bridge moves closer to reality.

From Intelligence Squared: Two people on either side debating whether ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Is A Failure‘ (some rather unsurprising anti-Trump sentiment is expressed by the panelists at the outset, to some applause by the audience in NYC).

What just happened in Saudi Arabia?  Adam Garfinkle: ‘The 1002nd Arabian Night?

‘Contrary to what the vast majority of Americans seem to think, Saudi Arabia is not a traditional Muslim country. Saudi Arabia is an attenuated neo-fundamentalist country from having been taken over, by force of arms in the early 20th century, by a “revitalization movement”—to use Anthony F.C. Wallace’s classic 1956 description of the type. The Wahhabi movement’


The Trump Administration, just possibly, had one sensible idea in foreign policy: stop playing footsie with the Iranians and organize the Sunnis to confront the real threat—creeping Iranian imperial recidivism—and to whack ISIS at the same time. But having a decent idea and knowing how to make it happen are two different things. The Saudis did not whack ISIS; if any locals did, it was the Kurds, and look where their efforts have got them.

And more broadly: It’s quite possible to bring the problems of other parts of the world into your own neighborhood along with the people you are bringing in.  This can, and and unfortunately, sometimes does, include the worst elements.

Right now, service members and special forces are acting in your name as a U.S. citizen abroad, and local and federal law enforcement officials here at home, and there are many good reasons why.

When we focus on these harsh truths and bear some of the burden they carry, the conversations about freedom and responsibility tend to go better.

Wahhabism in the Balkans?:

With whom can we do business against these worst elements?


Previously on this site: Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

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. ‘


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


Michael Totten: ‘The Saudis Team Up With Israel’



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.


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.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘The Coalition That Isn’t’

Full piece here.

The options were never good in Syria, they were bad and protracted Civil War worse. Now that IS has sprung-up from that protracted Civil War worse, and spilled over into Iraq, we’ve got a national security threat similar, or greater to, that in Afpak.  Most recently, after withdrawing our leadership, and having severely lowered our profile in the region and fumbled around incoherently, it’s unlikely we can field a coalition of willing partners.

Would you join a U.S. coalition in an act of war under such leadership, given past redlines, even if your national interests were at stake, and even if you happened to ally with many U.S. interests on this issue?

The logic of the threat compels us forward, dragging, apparently, this President along.


‘If we have no Sunni state allies willing to do the military scut work, and if we are not willing to attack Assad regime and Hizballah targets in Syria to show that we are not acting as a regional Shi‘a air force, then we have not acquired the means to accomplish the end: the extirpation of ISIS.’

For my part, hopefully it’s clearer now that the wages of community activism include having a President who constantly thinks in terms of politics, the base, and well, activism and ideology, even in matters of national security.  Some of this is political and has to do with the midterms and ‘optics.’

‘It is all well and good to point out that the President is largely to blame for his paucity of decent options—and it happens also to be true. It is true that, had he acted with a judicious use of U.S. power in the early stages in the Syrian civil war, he very well might have avoided the mess that he, and the nation with him, are in now. Plenty of people urged him, and plenty of people warned him—both inside his own Administration and out—that passivity would exact the highest price of all. He ignored them all.’

So, here we are.  Deja vu.

I keep putting this Kissinger quote up:

Book here.

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.


When does reality enter into it?

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’

Keeping An Eye On Syria-From Vice: ‘Rojava-Syria’s Unknown War’

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’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

From Claudia Rosett: ‘Who Should Replace The Saudis At The U.N. Security Council’

Full piece here.

‘As UN moments go, this is a classic — if only for its sheer absurdity. It is precisely because of the UN’s double standards that a country such as Saudi Arabia can win a seat on the Security Council in the first place — with 176 of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly voting yes. As as friend of mine puts it, the Saudi move smacks of Groucho Marx’s joke that he would never join any club that would accept him as a member.’

I’m guessing changing oil circumstances, but also our current experiment in creating a power vacuum in the region may be motivating Saudi actions.  Our policy is confused at best and maybe it’s time to think about alliances with better friends.

Rosett makes a modest proposal:

‘Any prospect of Israel replacing Saudi Arabia in a Security Council seat these next two years would probably send the UN into terminal shock (which, in itself, might do wonders for world peace). But if anyone really cares about ending those double standards, reforming the UN and giving peace and security a chance, this is the obvious move.’

Related On This Site:  From Claudia Rosett At The Rosett Report: ‘The UN File: Let Us Now Thank Sudan’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Free Syrian Army Threatens Hezbollah In Lebanon’

Full post here.

‘Hezbollah is scary good at insurgency, but counterinsurgency is emphatically not a skill in its toolbox. That’s one of the many reasons the organization has never tried to conquer the rest of the country. It can’t. It can only push people around from its own corner’

Syria, of course, has devolved into a long, bloody conflict, and the greatest danger is continued destabilization in the region.  America’s commitments are governed by a policy which defers to international law and institutions by design, and sits back otherwise (Libya, yes-Syria, no).  We’re no doubt helping logistically and behind the scenes with some SpecOps, but we’re also questionably losing important leverage and influence in the region.

Shia Iran has close ties with Hezbollah, and is backing the Assad regime.  Sunni Saudi Arabia is funneling arms to the Free Syrian Army, as it sits next to now Shia majority Iraq and is still upset after Saddam’s Sunni-majority ruling coalition.

Joshua Landis’ blog here.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.

Adam Garfinkle:  Map humor.

AdditionVia the NY Times:  John Kerry announced $60 million in U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition, food rations for the military front, and is trying to bet on the political horses, so that the worst elements, if and when Assad falls, aren’t holding the guns.

Related On This Site: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’

From Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Egypt’s President Imitates Ayatollah Khomeini’

Full post here.

This might be worth noting, as it was very likely that U.S.-Egyptian relations were going to get worse, but current events could be expediting that process:

‘David Frum at the Daily Beast thinks Morsi is “fabricating an international incident to mobilize religious passions as a weapon for his political grouping against more secular blocs in Egyptian society.” It’s hard to say for sure, but that’s probably right.

Morsi might stop framing the United States when he needs to mobilize his authoritarian shock troops if President Obama threatens to cut off his funding (which, at this point, we might want to consider doing regardless). Otherwise, Morsi will have no incentive whatsoever to stop. It would then be just a matter of time before more people get killed and Egyptian-American relations deteriorate anyway.’

Addition:  Totten has more here:  ‘Enough Appeasement Already.‘  I can envision what the Obama administration might be trying to do, after the policies it has laid down:  Appeal to a broader muslim group against extremists and Islamists, try to find a sweet spot of public sentiment in the Muslim world for a better path, and to make the Islamists look like the violent, dangerous, thugs they are and push them to irrelevance.  But you don’t appease.  You protect your own.  You let every field agent know that you’re working as hard, or even harder, for their safety and our interests.  You carry a big stick and you don’t meet incensed, fact derived crowds and planned attacks with weakness.

My two cents.

Another Addition:  NY Times piece on a conversation between Obama and Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.  It’s ‘optimistic.’ There is a lot of pent-up anger, a lot of mobs, and a lot of it being directed all too easily at the American embassy in Egypt out of righteous indignation  according to the piece.  Will the Brotherhood use it as fuel and build what is fundamentally an anti-Mubarak, anti-military, anti-Jewish, anti-Western Muslim bloc…rounding up the furies unleashed into political expedience and necessary ties with other, often more extreme, groups in and outside of Egypt as well as the rest of the Islamist revival?  My guess is yes, it will.  That’s a matter of time.

In the meantime, I should hope there aren’t any more murders of our citizens, nor our diplomats.

Another Addition:  The Independent has more on who may have known what, when.  The Atlantic links to a world map displaying every current protest across the Muslim world, including London.

Related On This Site:  From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

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

Full post here.

The Iran terror plot on American soil in Corpus Christi has the air of a ‘caper,’ but is still another attempt inside America to spread terror.

Here’s Mead on Iran and Saudi Arabia, and is worth pointing out:

‘Losing Syria would be Iran’s biggest setback since 1979, not only driving it out of the Mediterranean but threatening its influence in Iraq — a Sunni Syria would be a new channel to help Sunni tribes limit Shi’a and Iranian power there as what could be a new civil war ramps up as the Americans step down.’

Related On This Site:  Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘French Secularism Dies In the Middle East’From The National Interest Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rawls Visits the Pyramids’…The Hamas Charter is pretty scary:  Repost: A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’

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