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Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — sudden reversal in Korea, synchronicity in Israel ]
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Whiplash alert

Whiplash alert is a sharp, neat way to announce a sudden and powerful instance of boustrophedon — taking hairpin bends at racing speeds. Anna Fyfield nails it.,

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The swuitchback whiplash is between a Triumphalist Trump suggesting that North Korea is both willing and implicitly eager to come to the table to discuss the total abandonment of its entire nuclear program, and an adamant, almost adamantine N Korean regime response that such total abandonment is not even on the table.

In terms of goal posts:

Various Trump aides, including Bolton and Pompeo, have repeatedly said that that what they want from the summit is “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Of course, Pyongyang would love it if they could move the goal posts before the meeting, making the U.S. back off on this demand.

then this:

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting that the North “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The problem is:

Denuclearization’ may be the goal of U.S.-North Korean summit, but each side defines it differently

But the diplomatic buzzword can mean different things to different players on the world stage. The success of Trump’s gambit probably hangs on whether he and Kim can agree on what it means for them and whether it’s worthwhile to keep fudging the details of a term that U.S. and Asian diplomats have been fudging for years.

Different interpretations of a word, differing perceptions — what seems at one moment to be a problem in foreign affairs seems on another to be a linguistic or even a perceptual— at the very least, an internal, not an external, issue.

Internal maybe, but external in it’s implications:

If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement published by the North’s state-run media.

Subtlety:

King Jung-Un may be under the imprression that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” involves, gasp, the withdrawal of the American nuclear air umbrella protecting the SOuth..

So: a sudden 180° change, the opposites here being presented as sequential.

And the Nobel Peace Prize which Republican governors had wishes for President Trumo, sadly recedes..

**

From my POV, the interesting difference here between the Korean situation and that in Israel is that the former is inherently sequential, while the latter is synchronic — the furious and grief-stricken rioting in Gaza happens as official Israel, with Trumpian support, joyously celebrates the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; the Isreli Independence Day is naturally considered the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians — and hey, to add to the tensions, Ramadan is about to begin, with its intensification of fasting and spiritual intensity.

Synchrony, verbally presented:

The fact that riots in Gaza and rejoicing in Israel happen simultaneously is so stark that while Israel — and Trump — might prefer triumphalist headlines, news souces have played up the double-edged nature of the situiation:

and visually:

This title is accompaniedd by a verbal explanation:

The scenes were barely 40 miles apart: in Gaza, a chaotic panorama of smoke, fleeing figures and tear gas on the deadliest day since mass protests at the border fence with Israel began; in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrating President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv.

and a visual double graphic (to see the images fully, click through to the original page):

Various TV stations offered similar double images — the effect is to undercut the apparent joyfulness of the Jerusalem celebrations with simultaneous disturbing images of the Gaza rioting.

If Trump, or Jared perhaps, or Ivanka, had made any slightest acknowledgement that the Palestinians, too, had hopes of an eventual capital of their own in the existing Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the celebrations might have been more widely shared and less easiky discounted.

**

If you come to your front door to conduct a press conference, it’s always wise to know what’s happening at the same time at the back door.

Oh, oh, but I have to leave for a medical proceduerre, and there is so much more to be said..

The new bad boy in girls’ lives, & other complex natsec issues

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Trump hits Iran-ball hoping to put N-Korea-ball in the pocket? ]
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Bad boy?

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Consider this:

The drivers of various significant natsec behaviors from a natsec perspective, can be pretty hard to characterize, pin down, and model. To take just today’s example (well, yesterday’s):

  • WaPo, MS-13 is the new bad boy in girls’ lives
  • Think about it, just skim the surface, and it’s obvious. Of course, MS-13 would be the new bad boy in girls’ lives. But what does that mean? Who has mapped the way in which girl’s lives might require or enjoy bad boys, and how gang identity, and thus by entension the game itself, might fulfill that requirement, that need.

    How true was it that ISIS or AQ was in its day the bad boy in girls’ lives?

    It seems pretty obvious Mick Jagger was bad boy in girls’ lives, back when Paul McCartney was the boy those same girls could bring home to meet the parents.

    Is extremism always the bad boy in girls’ lives?

    And once we’ve wondered about a few exmples, we need to reflect on the ornery nature of individual human psychology.

    **

    God says, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” — and what’s the very next thing the fledgling humans do?

    Or as Wallace Black Elk said to me, “stolen watermelon tastes best.”

    Those two are fairly straightforward, the message is simply “humans are liable to do the exact opposite of what might be intended or predicted. But then there’s this, anecdotal to be sure, but I can voich for it myself:

    In my early thirties, I made my way cross-country to Inia along the hippie trail, and in the midst of majestic mountains in Iran, I got out of the van, did a headstand, and made a vow to give up smoking. I climbed back into the van, and ten minutes later had another cigarette. Ah, but I didn’t bite my nails — up to that time a long-established habit — for almost a decade..

    Go figure. There’s a logic there, but it involves a sidestep. Or, as they say, some wires got crossed.

    And it gets worse.

    **

    Blaise Pascal‘s observation in his Pensées (1623-1662) opens the possibility that any number of undertows may suddenly erupt and sweep us off in unforeseen directions:

    Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing

    **

    Or to give you a vivid example of the same pattern of process torn from this day’s news — and threatening thousands of Hawaiian householdsL

    On April 30, the floor of a crater on top of the Kilauea volcano collapsed, sending its pool of lava back underground and causing small earthquakes. Scientists predicted the magma would travel elsewhere and push its way back to the surface somewhere in the East Rift Zone.

    They were correct.

    Days later, the ground split open on the east end of Leilani Estates, exposing an angry red beneath the lush landscape. From the widening gash, molten rock burbled and splashed, then shot dozens of feet in the air.

    The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency called it “active volcanic fountaining.” Some residents said it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, coming to reclaim her land. About 1,700 Leilani Estates residents were ordered to evacuate amid threats of fires and “extremely high levels of dangerous” sulfur dioxide gas.

    Soon, another such fissure had formed a few streets to the west. Then another, and another. For days, hot steam and noxious gases rose from the vents, before magma broke through, with some lava fountains shooting as high as 330 feet into the air — taller than the tip of the Statue of Liberty torch.

    At least 12 fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estates, according to the county civil defense agency. Lava spouted along the vents and oozed through the neighborhood, leaving lines of smoldering trees in its wake and igniting cars and buildings.

    So far, lava has destroyed at least 35 structures, 26 of which were homes, the agency said Monday night.

    The world, like the min, is full of surprises.

    **

    King Canute, I was taught as a young boy, set his throne on the beach at low tide and forbade the waters to come in. This Hawaii resident had much the same idea..

    **

    And we would like to know how Iran will respond to Trump withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. And China. what Admiral Stavdridis calls “the knock-on effect with North Korea”. Saudi Arabia.The game is one of recriprocal Nuclear Dominoes, and exactly how they’ll fall is..

    Well, here are a few headlines to chew on:

  • Ha’aretz, From Doomsday to Delay: 5 Scenarios Ahead of Trump’s Decision on the Iran Nuclear Deal
  • Independent, Donald Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal could have a disastrous ripple effect on the fight against terrorism
  • Atlantic, The Three Crises Sparked by Trump’s Withdrawal From the Iran Deal
  • Toss a coin, Roll the dice. Or maybe pray to Pele for a favorable outcome for you and yours, no guarantees..

    Who would you trust more at CIA?

    Monday, May 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — seeking to emphasize what may be at base a spiritual / psychological question ]
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    First, the context, courtesy Washington Post:

    Trump had signaled as a presidential candidate that he would consider reestablishing agency prisons and resuming interrogation methods that President Barack Obama had banned. Trump never followed through on that plan, which was opposed by senior members of his administration including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured while imprisoned in Vietnam, said Haspel’s Senate confirmation should be conditioned on securing a pledge to block any plan to reintroduce harsh interrogations. “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program,” ­McCain said.

    Haspel ran one of the first CIA black sites, a compound in Thailand code-named “Cat’s Eye,” where al-Qaeda suspects Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in 2002.

    An exhaustive Senate report on the program described the frightening toll inflicted. At one point, the report said, Zubaida was left “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

    Internal CIA memos cited in a Senate report on the agency’s interrogation program described agency officials who witnessed the treatment as distraught and concerned about its legality. “Several on the team [were] profoundly affected,” one agency employee wrote, “.?.?. some to the point of tears and choking up.”

    Haspel later served as chief of staff to the head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, when he ordered the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the Thailand site.

    Rodriguez wrote in his memoir that Haspel “drafted a cable” ordering the tapes’ destruction in 2005 as the program came under mounting public scrutiny and that he then “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.

    **

    In light of the above, who would you trust more?

    Someone who has overseen torture, deeply regretted / repented of it (metanoia), and wouldn’t repeat the crime / error / sin / shame / pick your word and its accompanying implications under any circumstances — or someone who was against torture from the first?

    As I understand it, Gina Haspel claims to fall in the former class, thought I’m not sure whether she views her earlier actions with regret and / or remorse — and these /// differences are important.

    There’s little doubt that as an administrator of Agency business, she’d more than qualified, so our “only remaining question” is whether someone who once oversaw a black site (and destroyed potentially incriminating evidence) can be trusted never to permit CIA to practice torture, under whatever name or cover it may hide, ever again.

    Does she regret / repent, or does she feign regret / repentance?

    And would you expect a newspaper reporter or cable news pundit — indeed, anyone short of her confessor or Haspel herself — would know?

    **

    Once again, mortals must decide, and quickly — our continuing koan or paradox — while the most relevant information of all is tangled up in the knots of human psychology / hidden deep in the heart of God..

    New category: Extremier than Extreme

    Monday, May 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — possibly simple-minded, but offered to our mentor JM Berger — includes a horseshoe & a neat paradox, too ]
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    Today’s example:

    Trumpier than Trump. Okay..

    **

    Let’s generalize from here, and diagam this:

    Extremier than the Extreme.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. I’m pretty sure ISIS was AQier than AQ in the day, and that even earlier, there was a splinter group within AQ that was “more extrem”. Might have been Zarqawi, in which case our two examples collapse into one..

    “Extremier than the Extreme” — within its own extreme context, it can be one helluva claim to make!

    **

    While we’re on the subject..

    There’s also the oft-noted Horseshoe effect, whereby opposite expremes come to resemble one another:

    This one, Revolutionary > Dictator > Dictator is well known because of the frequency with which Revolutionaries come to resemble the Dictators they overthrew.

    A concatenation of horseshoes of this sort would give you Revolution > Dictatorship > Dictatorship > Dictatorship ad nauseam, with a Dictatorship currently in power, and a Revolution constantly brewing.

    **

    Oh, and by the way, an intriguing paradox:

    Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere

    Monday, May 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — suggesting a lessening of TV Trumpery and its critiques ]
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    In a tweet earliee today, I suggested that the close reading of a text can be highly rewarding, a point I made most forcefully in Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns.

    Key to a close reading is the “language” in which a given writer or speaker clothes their words.. “language” here being used both in the sense of their metaphors and forms (which is why I’ve been collecting sports and other metaphors, ouroboroi and other forms) and in the sense formulated by Witty Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations (PI).

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers us a list of regular language games as Wittgenstein uses the term in PI:

    reporting an event, speculating about an event, forming and testing a hypothesis, making up a story, reading it, play-acting, singing catches, guessing riddles, making a joke, translating, asking, thanking

    I want to suggest that we could usefully think of language games in terms of the philosophical, ideological, partisan, religious or psychological drivers that propel them.

    Further, in the case of Trump, we might observe that the language game he is playing is not the one his critics on, say, MSNBC, are basing their own critiques on.

    And here’s the great advantage: once we’ve analyzed the differences between Trump’s language game and aims and those of his critics, we could close shop. We wouldn’t need this constant barrage of Fox and MSNBC news on the topic — any new utterance of his or Giulianis of note could simply be indexed to the sub-para describing that particular disjunction in language game, and basta! — the rest of the news “oxygen” would be available for the discussion of other topics.

    As a subset of that para — I don’t suppose Mueller xxwill want to take every piece of “off the cuff” Trumpery as intended as real “truth” — “all that is the case” –he’ll surely see it as entertainment and distraction — chuff and chaff — and zero in on the key statements of the President’s worldview, viewing them as exemplars not of “truth” but of a language game to be analyzed and evaluated as such. Having zeroed in on these relatively few key phrases, many of the many critiques offered by Trump’s accusers.

    **

    Wittgenstein asks what all that we consider to be games have in common, and decides they share a family resemblance but — in my words, here — the cousins on one side of the family have little (a polite word for “nothing”) in common with the cousins at the other end of thr spectrum.

    If the Olympic Games included language games in their list of sports, Giuliani‘s reference to FBI agents as stormtroopers wight win long jump gold.

    Here’s Jonathan Chait in Giuliani’s FBI ‘Stormtroopers’ Smear Is the Key to Trump’s Authoritarian Mind-set”>:

    In 1995, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre signed his name to a fundraising letter referring to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents as “tjack-booted government thugs.” The implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascists provoked a furor. Former president George H. W. Bush publicly resigned his NRA membership in protest; LaPierre had to apologize.

    Last night, in the midst of a long, deeply incriminating interview, Rudy Giuliani called FBI agents “stormtroopers.” Here was the president’s lawyer, not an outside lobbyist, comparing federal law enforcement to Nazis directly, rather than indirectly.

    Stormtrooper vs jack-booted government thugs is an interesting comparison (& makes a fine DoubleQuote), and Chait’s “implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascist” in hth cases exemplify just the kind of language extremism we should be avoiding in our policy debates.

    Chait’s continuing half-paragraph illminates the arcane workings of the media machine in processing such things:

    The Washington Post’s account of Giuliani’s interview noted the remark in a single sentence, in the 30th paragraph of its story. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Politico accounts of Giuliani’s interview did not even mention the stormtrooper remark at all.

    There are times I wish for sanity.

    **

    Okay, that was third and last in this series.. Previously:

  • On negative space in the painting..
  • On negative space, private morality in the public square
  • This:

  • Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere

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