Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Brace Yourself For A New Cold War’

Full piece here

Well, we’ll see about that, I suppose…:

‘There’s a lot more going on, though, than a cooling of the Trump euphoria in Moscow. The Russians have plenty of reasons to fear the emergence, if not sooner then at least later, of a sustained bipartisan American hostility to Russia and Putin, with Donald Trump himself as its champion, that dwarfs anything the world has seen since Ronald Reagan engaged with détente with the Soviet Union’s last premier Mikhail Gorbachev.’

Things I’ve noticed:  The activist model now ushered out of power in America has riled the liberal and Left-liberal base to all manner of anti-Russian, anti-Trump speculation and projection.  The world is ending!  The Russians are coming! Trump is Putin’s boyfriend! We lost the election, the ‘reset’ was mostly a failure, and our ideas are suddenly out of power!

Other things I’ve noticed: Further over on the reactionary right, a weirdly pro-Putin sentiment has emerged, partially in response to the Left, I’m guessing, but not entirely (yes, Putin’s running an authoritarian kleptocracy and often solidifying power around anti-American sentiment and propaganda).

Maybe this means I agree with the underlying logic of Totten’s piece:  There sure are a lot of incentives now leading to the potential for heightened tensions and confrontation.

As previously posted.  Some links on Russia with love:

Masha Gessen at The New Yorker: ‘Putin’s Russia: Don’t Walk, Don’t Eat, Don’t Drink

‘Indeed, the larger message of the Nemtsov assassination and the apparent attempted assassination of Kara-Murza is that no one is safe. Both men are sufficiently well-known to attract the attention of Russia’s dwindling oppositional minority, but neither has the superstar status that would preclude identifying with him.’

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

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

I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul and its sentimental ties to Moscow:

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Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

From The Atlantic Photo: Vladimir Putin-Action Man

‘Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.’

Vladimir Putin

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”

Two Monday Links On Syria And Iran

Michael Totten interviews Lee Smith, who has spent time looking at Syria in his new book:

The Syria policy is likely part of the Iran policy to negotiate with people we probably can’t do business with in order to withdraw from the region. There are few if any scenarios in which a nuclear-armed Iran is a good outcome.

Smith:

‘When people worry that Sunni Islamists want to create a caliphate in the Middle East they seem to forget that we already have a clerical regime in Iran. What they’re afraid might happen has already happened. And the concern coming out of Tehran isn’t sharia, but the fact that a nuclear weapons program in the hands of an expansionist regime gives them a dangerous say in the flow of energy resources through the Persian Gulf. They don’t have to actually use a bomb to destabilize the region and raise the price of energy around the world. That’s the danger—that Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf will affect how Americans, and our trading partners, live.’

To help understand a different point of view, I recommend this interesting piece by Najat Fawzy Alsaeid:

‘If one were to ask an Arab what has happened to the Arab countries, and why the terrorism and extremism we see today did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s, the answer would probably point to the frustrations and struggles of dual identities: Arab nationalism and Islamism.’

Our foreign policy will have its hands full these coming decades, whether we want to or not.  She goes on:

‘Moreover, books by Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), Sayyid Qutb and others, which reject pluralism and promote extremism, should be studied in context, alongside works by Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Ali Abderraziq, and other, more modern and open-minded commentators. The Shias in Sunni-majority countries should also be given more equal opportunities and should have the right to study moderate Shia scholars such as the Iraqis Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-80) and Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei (1899-1982), who favor separation of clerical and state authority.’

The old faultlines are wide open, and American interests are still in retreat, often times without much more of a strategy than that.

Related On This Site: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

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

Two Tuesday Links-Check Out This Pure Science And One More Revolution

It’d be so boring to talk about the popularization of the sciences and also keep politics and ideology out of the title of your piece: Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: ‘How Can You Explain ‘Color’ To An 11 Yr Old?:’

Alan Alda, boomer establishment voice of reason and secular humanitarian of M.A.S.H. fame, is involved in an interesting project:

‘I ask whether he has to translate himself when he talks to a roomful of scientists. He replies: “I love science. But I am very aware that I am not a scientist. So I make it clear that my contribution is to ask questions rather than translate. One of the things I am working on in the center is to help scientists communicate in their own voice and not have to be translated at all. I know something about communicating; I spent my life communicating. So this is what we do.”

This blog appreciates the time and effort put-in to helping inspire young minds and possibly changing the the course of lives for the better. That could be good work.  As for Slate, however, more political pissing-matches ensue in the comment section, hardly surprising when the ‘personal is political‘ is likely a starting point for discussion.

It’s almost like some people have formed a Cargo Cult, still looking for their ‘Big Man.’  As has been my experience, it doesn’t seem very ‘scientific’ to signal the feelings one has or ought to have, in order to reinforce the beliefs one has or ought to have, in order to show loyalty to the ideology and worldview one is hoping to share and push upon everyone else.

Science, indeed.

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Lefty Meltdown Leads Latin Revival

One more revolution?:

‘Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage. As The Atlantic points out, not all the credit goes to the underdogs’

It’s way too early to make those kinds of predictions, mind you, but more trade, market liberalization and neo-liberal strains willing to stand up against further Left strains are good signs.  The Economist had a piece on Argentina’s troubles.

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.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

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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”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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

Michael Totten In Cuba: ‘The Lost World, Part II’

Full piece here.

Totten visits Trinidad, in central Cuba, and finds 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.

———————-

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.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

——————

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”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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

From Michael Totten: ‘From Tehran To Cairo’

Full interview here with Lee Smith.

Two Americans who’ve spent time on the ground in the Middle-East try and assess what’s going on:

Totten:

‘The Middle East is as trashed right now as I’ve ever seen it. The Syrian conflict has killed more people than the Bosnian war. Iran is moving ahead on its nuclear weapons program while convincing fools in the West that it’s playing nice and reforming. Egypt is in its worst shape since the Nasserist era, and the Saudis are pitching the biggest fit since the Arab oil embargo in the 70s.’

Smith:

‘Turkey can’t dictate terms. It isn’t a superpower. It’s a regional power. It’s not the United States. The bizarre thing, however, is that under this administration the United States seems to be shri[n]king. Indeed, Obama seems to be shrinking us out of the Middle East. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I’d like to hear the rationale for it.’

We’ve been creating a power vacuum in the region, but don’t seem to thinking about what we’d like to fill it.

Some of this correction may be necessary to align our budget with our capabilities, and perhaps address the failures of the last 20 years.  However, the strategic failures in Syria and Iran with this administration are serious.  We’re neither respected nor feared at the moment, and our policy is adrift.

There’s still a strong current of isolationism in the American public mind, and a deep partisan divide and lots of dysfunction to be taken into account.

Did we miss a chance to carve out a bold, new, Truman-esque path in the region last election?

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Related On This Site:  From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

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

I just received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

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

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Looming Strike Against Syria’

Full piece here.

Does it come down to the ‘red line’ comment, backing himself into fewer options with Iran?

If Obama doesn’t enforce this, he’ll also lose credibility on the other red line he’s drawn in the Middle East—the one against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

He desperately wants to convince Iran to abandon that program without going to war. The only way that’s even remotely possible, however unlikely, is if the Iranian government believes he’ll declare war if it doesn’t stop at some point. So if Assad gets to step over his red line, Tehran’s rulers will have every reason to believe they can step over theirs.

The regime in Iran is using Syria as a proxy, trying to create a Shia crescent (constantly meddling in Iraq), and trying to become the big-dog in the region.  They State-sponsor terrorism, through Hizbollah and other outlets, and are still aiming to arrive at deliverable nuclear weapons.   Very little the Iranian regime says or does can be remotely trusted, and a nuclear Iran greatly destabilizes a region roiled by an Islamist resurgence (Russia sees Iran as a proxy-ally, which is why the Russians are arming Assad).

Very little economically or politically is likely going to stop the Iranians from getting what they want, including technological warfare.

Obama seems willing to use our military, and the threat of force, for his favored ideals, which are liberal internationalist, and human-rights based.  Obama’s stick is still our military, but he’s very reluctant to use it except for those ideals.  In the case of Iran and Iran via Syria, he may have committed himself to using it to some extent, while he’s still trying to form a coalition based on those ideals, which does not seem forthcoming.

Aren’t you glad Saddam’s gone?  Gadhafi?  bin-Laden?

At what cost?

How do we best protect, promote and pursue our interests going forward?

Addition: Cameron loses war vote.  Not much of a coalition here.

Another Addition:  Don’t worry, Obama’s got this.

From Walter Russell Mead who has been watching for quite some time, and still supports some kind of American action:

‘This kind of decision is exactly the kind of split the difference thinking that has gotten the President into trouble in the past. Surge in Afghanistan—but pre-announce your withdrawal. Attack Syria, but make it clear to everyone that you don’t mean anything serious by it.

That kind of thinking will not impress America’s wavering Middle East allies. It will likely not impress Butcher Assad or his friends in the Kremlin and Teheran. It will not strengthen the moderates in the Syrian opposition. It will not stop or even slow the killing. It will not bolster the President’s credibility at home. King Tarquin got a better deal.’

Many Americans may not have the stomach for it, but he finishes with:

‘The situation in Syria demands a serious response from the United States. Let’s hope that President Obama has realized at long last just how dangerous the horror in Syria has become, and that whatever steps he announces in the coming days will be only the first pieces of a coherent and hard headed approach to the steadily deteriorating situation in a region of vital interest to the United States and its allies around the world.’

Related On This Site: …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

I just received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

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

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Benghazi Circles The Drain’

Full post here.

It was a mess when Ambassador Stevens was there, and was killed, but is it getting worse?:

‘As Westerners evacuate Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, Islamist militias—whose fighters apparently number in the thousands—are moving in.’

The destabilization of Libya post-Gadhafi has also added to the destabilization of Algeria, and Mali as well.  Our policies and the assumptions behind them are not lining up well with conditions on the ground.  This can help create the vacuum that invites the real radicals in.

What difference does it make?  Well, quite a bit actually, for troop morale, for protecting our interests, pursuing our interests, and making and executing good policy with enough realism to not put ourselves in worse positions.

***Comments are very much worth a read.

Want to understand Islamism better and the forces in the region which will require much better policy out of us?  Totten mentions checking out Sayyid Qutb. A must read.

Totten’s new book: Where The West Ends.

Do you have a few minutes? Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’…Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad…Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’…From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’…Repost-’”The Rebellion Within” At The New Yorker: Dr. Fadl and Al Qaeda’

Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’…Lara Logan On Afghanistan Via Youtube: ’2012 BGA Annual Luncheon Keynote Speech’

See related pieces on this site: Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘U.S. Officials Knew Libya Attacks Were Work of Al Qaeda Affiliates’ From The BBC Via Michael Totten: ‘Libya: Islamist Militia Bases Stormed In Benghazi’

Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Morsi In His Own Words’

Full post here.

Discouraging, but unsurprising, quotes from two years ago at the link:

‘He’s a Muslim Brotherhood man, and this aggressively bigoted and warmongering attitude is de rigueur for that crowd.’

Morsi was probably deploying some political rhetoric as he is a politician, but there’s a lot to be worried about.

Our current administration understandably sat on the fence regarding whether or not to continue supporting Mubarrak and his regime.  There was a larger movement afoot in the Middle East and it was roiling Egypt as well.   Stability is always an attractive option for us, especially regarding Israel, and the Suez Canal.  It’s arguably worth many of billions of dollars.

But change did come, Mubarrak fell, and the deep poverty, the oppressed Brotherhood members and other Islamists, the smaller groups of liberals and the more Western-influenced and well-educated, the many reformers denied access to politics; all of them suddenly faced a vacuum.  The immediate prospect was the SCAF filling that vacuum and carrying on as before, installing another leader in Mubarrak’s wake.

There has since been a power struggle for control of the deep state and typically, the longer a power vacuum exists, the worse people there are to fill it.  Egyptians came and went from Tahrir Square, tensions rose and fell.  We took a hands-off approach, and tried to encourage an orderly process with free and fair elections, all based upon an ideal of democracy that is presumed to be universal.

Nevertheless, we are running into the realities of the Middle-East.

As I see it, the Muslim Brotherhood is better viewed as a member of a broader Islamic resurgence throughout the Levant.  They are the most stable front of this resurgence, but there is a revolutionary and ideological quality to their thinking akin to the patchwork of similar interests and neighbors who are generally anti-Western, anti-Israel, and pro-Islam.  Following the money, the guns, and the political power isn’t a bad rule of thumb to figure out what the future may hold.

As for Morsi, his political coalition is made up of Salafists and other Islamists in Egypt, and they’re taking over the old, corrupt and oppressive bureaucracy and controlling the public square with a rather narrow Constitution.

Islam has prescriptions not just for the religious and personal spheres, but for politics and the public square as well. Many Westerners can call Al-Qaeda the violent edge of a radical, impossibly purist, interpretation of Islam, trying to lay the blanket of Western humanism, idealism and multiculturalism over the Muslim world in order to blunt this sharp edge, but it will only cover so much.   Many Westerners can blame the West first for its colonial adventures, oil and money interests, trade and education interests, but that’s not tenable for the long-haul either.  Obama is continuing most of our government’s bureaucratic aims set up in the wake of 9/11: using our military, security agencies, special-ops, and drone-strikes in order to hunt out those who would do us harm.

The broader humanist approach sold as neoconservatism lite or a move away from “empire-building” should be held to some account, no matter the practicality of its realpolitik.

Where do we go from here?

My two cents.

Related On This Site:  From Al Jazeera: ‘Egypt Cracks Down On Satirists And Media’

Nancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’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?’

From The NY Times: ‘U.S. Adds Forces In Persian Gulf, A Signal To Iran’

Full piece here.

‘The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates.’

The U.S. position is to not allow Iran to get a delivery system for its nuclear program.

Related On This Site:  From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Are Airstrikes Imminent In Iran?’From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Will Israel Attack Iran This Spring?’

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 IranMichael Totten Interviews Rick Francona At World Affairs: ‘From Saigon to Baghdad’

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