Turkey

A Few Saturday Links-War, War Photography & Domestic Politics: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘No, the Syrian Kurds Are Not Terrorists

There are Kurdish Communist militias, but there are still many reasons for America to promote Kurdish interests.  Additionally, there are reasons to help stamp out ISIS and navigate the other players in the region as well…leaving the Kurds to their own fate.  I think this helps explain current American policy in the region:

‘Whatever you think of the “libertarian socialism” of Syrian Kurdistan, it’s not even in the same time zone as the medieval totalitarianism of ISIS, the secular nationalist tyranny of Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath Party regime in Damascus or the Putin-esque rule of the neo-Ottoman Erdogan.

Turkey can call the Kurds terrorists all they want, but that will not make them so.’

Meanwhile, an increasingly authoritarian, populist, Islamic Erdogan has launched a campaign into Syria to battle with Kurdish forces:

and:

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.

Two Sunday Links-Turkey, The Kurds, And Affirmative Consent

Domestic Politics And The Tendency People Have To Seek Transcendence And Naked Self-Interest At The Very Same Time:

Beware offering thoughtful critique of the sacred ‘-Isms’ these days (feminism, environmentalism, racism, sexism), even if it’s just pointing out other ways of thinking about injustice.  God forbid should you hold a conservative position on any matter. Problems come with identity politics and political idealism, after all, just as they do with religious belief and certainty and fixed conservative positions.  Generally, such criticism is not welcomed among radically activated and/or ambitious individuals.

If someone doesn’t recognize the moral legitimacy of the rules governing an institution they claim is oppressing them, maybe you want to ask which rules they recognize as morally legitimate before they go end-up controlling the institution?

Civility and a boring politics aren’t desireable for many, for various reasons, especially those people bringing presumed moral goods for everybody through radical change and radical liberation.

It might be useful to try and hold a mirror to many ambitious people in high towers and positions of authority in addition to one’s Self; a perplexing exercise during a time of The Self and a rather compromised politics of celebrity.

There are a lot of decent people out there, and a lot of good in people, of course, away from the madding crowd.

The Church Of Holy Modern Human Progress Shall Be Built!

The Old Catholic Church Shall Soon Be Rebuilt!

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That’s attributed to Eric Hoffer, here.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) takes a look at war photographers to highlight an underlying truth:  Where there’s courage there is also cowardice. Where there’s moral concern there’s also boredom and self-preservation.

Everyone’s got a pet peeve (what this blog is for, really), but honest self-reflection can be much harder (to come by):

‘That people may love what they hate—or say that they hate—is illustrated in extreme form by war photographers. If you asked war photographers why they risk their lives to take pictures of the most terrible conflicts (rather than, say, of the beauties of nature), they would say that it is to inform or alert the world in the hope of bringing those conflicts to an end. But this is far from the whole truth, psychologically speaking; and as a person who has indulged in a little civil-war tourism myself, I can avow to the fact that there is nothing like a sense of danger for solving, at least temporarily, whatever little troubles are agitating one’s soul. When there might be an ambush round every corner, the minor fluctuations of one’s emotional state are of little concern.’

Some Links On The Kurds And Where Some Moderate U.S. Political Ground Might Be Found

Russia appears a post-ish Communist, revanchist, fairly corrupt petro-State run by a ex-KGB guy. Russian leadership is actively paying individuals, groups and orgs to undermine Western interests and U.S. sovereignty.

If you believe in institutions which promote various conflicting, but often shared, Western-man-on-the-street beliefs in Western secular humanism (democracy promotion, the use of U.S. military force, the use of the U.S. military to preserve liberal world order, expansion of global liberty as residing within individuals, Constitutional and/or Westphalian-style state promotion, working for human rights etc.) then you likely don’t want to see Russian leadership gaining much tactical advantage.

The terrorist-sponsoring, post-1979, expansionist deliverable nuke-seeking gang in Tehran, the clinging, chemical-weapons deploying Assad in Syria, and our ‘friends’ in Moscow all share common interests; undermining U.S. strength and inhibiting Western influence are tops on the list.

Maybe Erdogan, consolidating his power autocratically and riding a deeper wave of Islamic resurgence and sentiment, will keep looking Eastward and continue to play both ends more than he’s doing now.

A lot of moderate political ground is now occupied in the U.S. by people lamenting the major rifts within both U.S. political parties, the celebrification of high office, and the lack of institutional stability, social trust and decently functioning politics. I suspect Trump has become a symptom of, and a lightning rod for, the changes occurring within and without our Republic.

As for the Kurds, well, they have some potential to reflect more of what most Americans would generally like to see out in the world (conveniently found in Israel and in many States having emerged from the Eastern Bloc).

Totten:

‘The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis is poised to emerge victorious in the Syria war, stronger than ever, thanks to military assistance from Russia. Assad is surviving the biggest threat to his family’s rule since it seized power four decades ago. Short of political revolutions in Tehran and Moscow, he’s likely to die an old man in office. And he’ll have no incentive whatsoever to change his ways. He’ll continue exporting terrorism all over the region, and the next war between Israel and a now far-stronger Hezbollah will likely make the last one look like a peace process. The Kurds in Syria—our only true friends in that country—are likely to lose everything they have gained without American backing.’

I suppose we’ll see what happens, as the wise Kurdish position appears to be lobbying the hell out of anyone for support while recognizing they’re still on their own, scrambling to survive…

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.

Some Links On The Move Towards Kurdish Independence

Via Mick Hartley via the NY Times: ‘Israel Endorsed Kurdish Independence. Saladin Would Be Proud

‘Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds — both minorities in an inhospitable region and ever in need of international allies — have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters.’

On the realist vision, there are no true friends, rather alliances, common interests and threats; vectors of forces.  There’s situational logic, and there are very real abstractions which matter (the character of a people, the ideas and core principles which guide them, the leaders that rise to power which can’t be too far in front of the coalitions which got them there…should they be elected).

There are also shared experiences, suffering, sentiment and sacrifices.

Relationships matter.

When the cold winds blow, however, you just may find yourself standing alone.

When survival is at stake, and war a necessity, urgency and expediency come to the fore, as does courage in battle, and cool under fire.

Not only does the Cold War and the backdrop of Russian/American power games still influence this region heavily, but the very split deep within the West itself does as well:  There are Communist Kurdish militias, and there are Kurdish nationalist militias appealing to American patriotism, Constitutional Republicanism, and the liberation of peoples oppressed under unwanted authority.

As posted:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap

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’

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’

Some Tuesday Links-Terrorism Is Still There & A Balloon Dog

-Via the NY Times: The Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated very publicly at an art gallery in Ankara

That’s pretty brazen.

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

-Via the Hoover Institution: You know, a lot of wounded and committed idealists are often the ones who seem to hate Henry Kissinger the most:

Henry Kissinger’s Remarks Reprinted At The New Criterion-‘The Limits Of Universalism’

K.T. McFarland, who worked as part of Kissinger’s staff, is now working for the Trump administration.


And, as seen at Starbucks roastery in Seattle:  Some sort of Jeff Koons balloon dog.

This stuff filters down, you know:

img_0843

Within A Bank Of Modern Fog-Another Link To Robert Hughes On Jeff Koons

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Henry Kissinger’s Remarks Reprinted At The New Criterion-‘The Limits Of Universalism’

Are there dangers of idealism/German idealism that come with a Kantian influence in the political realm?  Are they addressed here?:   From The Internet Encyclopedia Of Knowledge: Immanuel Kant And Utilitarianism.  Kantian Metaphysics and J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism More On Daniel Deudney’s Bounding Power

Organizing For Action?-Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘What Erdogan’s Pivot To Putin Really Means’

Mead here:

‘The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years.’

Assad is still there…

My long-winded, critical take: Many bad actors claim to honor the rules of the ‘international community’ while continuing to pursue their aims, which often work against any such definition of said ‘community’ many in the West would like to see.  The Moscow/Tehran/Damascus alliance has strengthened considerably, while the Syrian conflict has continued.

Of course, acquiring deliverable nukes doesn’t just potentially conflict with American interests, but against the professed ideals of those claiming to currently speak for the ‘international community’ within American leadership. American interests are still primarily bankrolling (blood and treasure) much of the ‘international community’s’ ability to influence bad actors.

It’s not clear to me current American policy will stop the Iranian regime from trying to get where, quite apparently, it wants to be.  In trading the previous negative constraints (sanctions, threat of force), for such weak affirmative restraints (the current deal), this may have simply deleveraged American advantage for little ‘yield’.

It’d be nice to be wrong.  I’m listening.

A potentially useful analogy: The American military could be analogous to the police in Dallas, or St Louis, or Boston:  They still have to protect and serve American citizens but they’ve been brought to heel under the scrutiny of activist logic.

Such logic incentivizes a lot of people, including bad actors, without much in the way of constraints upon behavior, except in joining the activist’s cause or the activist’s definition of ‘community’ in de-legitimizing current traditions and institutions, and in often dehumanizing ‘others’.  The American military, much like the police in Dallas, St Louis, or Boston, are still responsible for dealing with bad actors who wish to do them (and us) harm, but their risk has gone way up, while their legitimacy has gone way down (and our legitimacy wasn’t great before Obama).

***I suspect anti-American interests will keep doing what they can to maximize advantage in the meantime (Putin is a prime example), while interests that could align with American interests may look around for other strong-horses.  Situational logic applies in decisions that could be a matter of life and death for smaller players (you’ve got to cozy up to someone, maybe just to keep ’em off you). More strongly allied nations will likely wait around and quietly diversify their portfolios.

At home, putting an activist at the helm has tacked American policy/politics Leftward, and may well create more hawkish Democrats, neo-conservatives, and conservatives both angry/disconsolate at this state of affairs, looking to carve out a path forward in reaction and response.

Populist anger and political dysfunction don’t tend to make for great foreign policy.

Let me know what/how much I’ve got wrong.

Via A Reader: Walter Russell Mead On The Steve Paikin Show…

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

Some Old Times Square Photos And Nearly Dying In The Desert-Some Links

-Via David Thompson: Some photos of Times Square when it was awfully seedy (one of those one photo per page sites…)

***The Greene Street Project: A Long History of a Short Block-An interactive site that follows, longitudinally, one small section of New York City.

-Light-rail fantasies:

‘What would happen if your city, in the name of progress, started giving poorer residents vouchers for landline telephones rather than smartphones? Or if, rather than stocking public libraries with computers, so that people could write emails, your city installed fax machines?’

It’s like a time-machine back to the future utopia, at $8 a ride…

-What really, really happened to ‘D.B. Cooper,‘ other than that he lives with Bigfoot in a lodge near Johnston Ridge

-Walter Russell Mead: ‘Turkey And The Ruins Of US Foreign Policy

‘Yet America’s relations with both Turkey and Russia are in shambles. ‘

-From a reader, how Jerry Pournelle was on his way back from a hacking conference and nearly died in Death Valley.

From The American Interest-Turkish Coup Live Blog

Link here.

Addition: The military will not take back control of the government:

‘Not all of the rebel soldiers have surrendered yet, but the government seems firmly in control. The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours. The Turkish military, it appears, has lost the role of ‘guardian of the nation’ which it assumed in the interest of making Turkey a modern European country. Atatürk’s Turkey marginalized the pious Anatolian peasants; now their grandchildren and great grandchildren are building a new Turkey.’

Via Twitter:

As previously posted on this site:

Michael Totten at World Affairs Journal (majority of the piece behind a registration wall)-‘The Trouble With Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, And The Kurds.

Erdogan’s coalition and political stability look to be in some trouble, recently, as a bomb kills nearly a hundred at a pro-Kurdish peace rally:

‘Turkey fears and loathes Kurdish independence anywhere in the world more than it fears and loathes anything else. Kurdish independence in Syria, from Ankara’s point of view, could at a minimum escalate a three-decades-long conflict and at worst threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity’

Charles Hill on Islamist movements:

‘The answer to the primary question about political Islam’s compatibility with modernity is that political Islam’s purpose is to not only be incompatible with modernity but also to oppose it, demolish it, and replace it in every regard.’

Some Wednesday Links-Iraq No More?

The threat Turkey faces from the chaos in Syria and Iraq, taken advantage of by ISIS and others, would have to be greater than the threat an independent Kurdistan could pose, least of all by Kurds in Turkey…to Turkish national sovereignty and security.  Erdogan has incentive to ride his own authoritarian impulses along and have some identity with the Islamic resurgence going on, if not for an ISIS-controlled Islamist State/Caliphate.

I’m guessing part of this hinges on whether or not ISIS can hold together, and if so, conceivably put the FATA region of Pakistan to shame in terms of harboring all kinds of terrorists and malcontents.

I always feel put to shame (even as a lowly blogger, no less) when Adam Garfinkle brings out some of his knowledge: ‘Iraq: What A Way To Go

‘We should therefore not attack ISIS formations, either stationary or in motion—at least not yet. We should, on the other hand, rapidly and boldly move to support Jordan, which is dealing with a backbreaking refugee crisis. We should reaffirm our commitments to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait; we should let the nasty Bahraini and mischievous Qatari regimes guess our attitudes toward them.

Above all, we should further tighten relations with the Kurds in what used to be northern Iraq but is now an independent state in everything but name. We probably should try to get on the same sheet of music with them, offering support but counseling prudence—in other words, collecting some leverage so we can influence the behavior of Barzani et al. in future. Personally, I’m fine with the Kurds in Kirkuk, their traditional capital city, so long as they occupy and eventually stabilize the city with genuine justice for all of the city’s communities.’

I’ve got to give counter-culture VICE credit, they are offering dispatches from Iraq:

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The U.S. is seriously lacking in strategy, and that probably won’t change for a few more years, at least.  We helped break it, we can’t buy it, and so many interests are at stake that we ought to come up with a strategy, and soon.

Addition: Via Blackfive: The stability gained in Iraq was lost during the last three years of leaving it to its own devices?

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Kurdistan Exists: Now What?’

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

Rojava is in Syria’s northeast, where Kurdish fighters from the YPG try and control their territory during the chaos.  From Jan 2nd, 2014.  Many Christians have simply fled, while remaining Arabs, Kurds and even some Alawites must figure out how to protect their own, including the threat from non-Syrian militias and radicals from around the Muslim world.

Should they ally with the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army?

A lot of these people are farmers.

How are the Turks and the Iranians influencing events?

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Even the NY Times notes that Western fighters heeding the jihadi call into Syria pose a risk upon return.

All that righteousness and fighting experience with nowhere to go.

Walter Russell Mead notes Obama may be moving towards a more interventionist stance in Syria or at least placating the interventionists (why Libya and not Syria for humanitarian intervention is still a tough case to make, in terms of protecting our interests and the stakes involved):

‘The President’s qualified optimism notwithstanding, there are no guarantees that U.S. efforts to empower moderate rebels will be successful. And even if the United States does pick the right moderates to arm, there are no assurances that those forces will be effective; political “moderates” aren’t always the best warfighters’

The longer these things go on, the worse people and groups tend to fill in.

Even some folks at NPR may be pining for the days of Clintonesque humanitarian intervention, as they bring in some analysts to compare the mess in Syria to the former Yugoslavia.

The activist on the street and the aging liberal boomer must find common ground somewhere under the Left-liberal tent.

Many Kurds are as close to pro-American sentiment as we’re going to get.

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’

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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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.

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore 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

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’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others