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“Strategic Patience” has One Virtue

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

“Alas, poor Clausewitz….”

The Obama administration released its National Security Strategy last Friday, shepherded by the National Security Courtier, Susan Rice. Even by the increasingly mediocre standards for this exercise the administration managed to hit a new low for vapid superficiality, muddled thought and brazen political appeals to Democratic Party special interest groups, notably the gay lobby and environmental activists.

While it is normal for an administration’s political opposition to deride the NSS (and often there is much to deride; let’s be honest, the Bush administration NSS papers will not be shelved next to The Art of War either) it is atypical for the administration’s own recently retired top officials to blast it right out of the gate:

Former Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn blasted the Obama administration’s national security strategy on Sunday, describing it as too narrowly focused on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

 “We need a much broader strategy that recognizes that we’re facing not just this tactical problem of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” Flynn, who retired last year as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We’re facing a growing, expanding threat around the world,” Flynn said, noting that terrorist threats have doubled in the Middle East and Africa. 

“I think what the American public is they’re looking for moral and intellectual courage and clarity,” Flynn said, adding the public didn’t want “passivity and confusion.”

“There’s confusion about what it is that we’re facing,” he added.

Flynn, who led the DIA for two years under Obama, previously served as assistant Director of National Intelligence and director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Central Command and Joint Special Operations Command.

Flynn used an analogy of a quarterback leading a football team down the field.

“I feel like when we say ‘ready, break,’ every player on the team is going off into other stadiums, playing different sports,” he said.

Flynn said it was a “good question” when asked who in the Obama administration is in charge of leading the U.S. counterterrorism strategy. “If everybody’s in charge, nobody’s in charge.”

Top tier center-left think tank, The Brookings Institution, is similarly unimpressed.

Flynn is right. No one is in charge. Which is why Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations called on the president to fire his entire senior White House staff and replace them with officials with at least average competence in national security. Gelb, it must be said, is a Democrat.

It is highly unlikely the president will fire any of his second term team regardless of the consistently poor foreign policy results they are delivering for him. If he cared at all, they would be gone already.  The NSC is broken and is unable to formulate strategy because the truth is the President likes it that way and does not want a strategy. Strategies abroad force constraints on the domestic political freedom of action of politicians at home.

There is a silver lining however.

The administration is describing their approach now as one of “strategic patience” – signaling quite clearly that they intend to avoid any substantial foreign policy commitments for the next two years. This has foreign policy and national security community experts (and our allies) very nervous because our adversaries might read that as license for their own regional aggression, or at least substantially reduced risks and costs for ignoring American security interests. This is a valid concern, but there is a flip side.

If the people steering the ship of state have demonstrated – repeatedly- that they are not up to even the basics of the job, that they cannot read the horizon, operate the bridge or navigate successfully, do you really want this team going full steam ahead? In any direction? We are better off with the ship at anchor.

The real strategic patience will be the American people waiting out this dead in the water  administration.

DoubleQuote: “forgoes a headscarf and sparks a backlash”

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — diplomacy and dispute.. ]
.

One of the simplest uses of the DoubleQuotes format is to take the sting out of an accusation. Michelle Obama was recently criticized for not wearing a headscarf during the Obamas’ recent visit to Saudia Arabia:

SPEC DQ 1st ladies Saudi

Barbara Bush did the same…

**

But of course, the gander can be cooked as easily as the goose, so a DoubleQuote can also be used to put the sting into the accusation — as when the complaint is made that the First Lady did indeed wear a headscarf in Indonesia — so why not in Saudi Arabia?

SPEC DQ Michelle O x 2

Maybe the fact that she was visiting a mosque in Indonesia has something to do with it?

**

On the subject of diplomatic protocol, there’s a terrific quote about Queen Elizabeth II and the late Crown Prince Abdullah going the rounds. You’ve probably seen it, but I’m thinking of making it the opening anecdote of my upcoming book on coronation and monarchy — yup, I have an agent nibbling at the idea — so here it is, as I first encountered it in tweet form from Shashank Joshi:

**

Sources:

  • White House photograph, Michelle Obama without scarf
  • GW Bush White House archive, Laura Bush
  • USA Today, Michelle Obama with scarf
  • Mother Jones, Badass Feminist Queen Elizabeth II
  • **

    And for extra points, Her Majesty the Badass Feminist in her Range Rover:

    queen over drive

    Sorry, no headscarf — you’ve already seen HM in hijab in my post Birmingham, a little light relief in tough times.

    A not-so-brief brief: Adnan Oktar to President Obama

    Thursday, December 4th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — a highly personalized and peaceable account of the awaited Mahdi, who may according to Oktar himself already be among us ]
    .

    I thought you might want to know the advice Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya, has for President Obama:

    Yahya advises Obama re Mahdi

    That’s it. But there’s more to it that that single phrase.

    **

    So who is the Mahdi, and how would Obama know what the system of the Mahdi was, so that he could do a reasonably good job at explaining it to the rest of us?

    Should he, for instance, be reading the Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr, who is reported to have said:

    The Mahdi is not an embodiment of the Islamic belief but he is also the symbol of an aspiration cherished by mankind irrespective of its divergent religious doctrines. He is also the crystallization of an instructive inspiration through which all people, regardless of their religious affiliations, have learnt to await a day when heavenly missions, with all their implications, will achieve their final goal and the tiring march of humanity across history will culminate satisfactory in peace and tranquility. This consciousness of the expected future has not been confined to those who believe in the supernatural phenomenon but has also been reflected in the ideologies and cult which totally deny the existence of what is imperceptible. For example, the dialectical materialism which interprets history on the basis of contradiction believes that a day will come when all contradictions will disappear and complete peace and tranquility will prevail.

    Somehow, I don’t think the Turkish Yahya was suggesting the President take his understanding of the Mahdi from an Ayatollah from Najaf..

    **

    Yahya / Oktar himself has written extensively on the Mahdi, his companion the returning Prophet, Christ, and the end times in general. Anne Ross Solberg, in her thesis The Mahdi Wears Armani: An Analysis of the Harun Yahya Enterprise, writes:

    In 1987, Yahya published a brief pamphlet titled Is AIDS the Beast mentioned in the Qur’an? The first book published by Yahya on the subject of the Mahdi and the End Times was Mahdi and the Golden Age: The World Supremacy of Islam.

    Solberg then lists other books subsequently published by Yahya on eschatological topics, including (in order of publication — I have omitted the Turkish titles & publication details for brevity) Jesus Will Return; Death, Resurrection, Hell: The Golden Age; The Last Days and the Beast; Signs of the End Times in Surat al-Kahf; The Glad Tidings of the Messiah; Signs of the Last Day; The Signs of Jesus’ Second Coming; The Day of Judgment; The End Times and the Mahdi; Portents and Features of the Mahdi’s Coming; The Prophet Jesus (as) and Hazrat Mahdi (as) Will Come This Century; Hazrat Mahdi (PBUH) Is a Descendant Of The Prophet Abraham (PBUH); How Did the Dajjal Die?; and The Prophet Jesus (as), Hazrat Mahdi (as) and the Islamic Union.

    Solberg then writes:

    Based on these publications, the Harun Yahya enterprise has made a number of documentaries that are available both as DVDs and online video files for download and streaming, as well as a vast number of websites devoted to the Mahdi and the End Times.

    **

    So putting it mildly, the arrival and “system” of the Mahdi is a major topic for Harun Yahya – pen-name of the Turkish preacher and writer Adnan Oktar — and as Solberg suggests in the title of her thesis, he may in fact understand himself as acting in that role.

    Al Jazeera put the question to Yahya / Oktar directly in an interview:

    Sir, from your books and speeches it appears that you believe in the Mahdi. Do you really believe in the Mahdi? And is it certain when he will appear? Around what time will he appear on Earth?

    Adnan Oktar: The Mahdi should already have appeared according to the writings of Said Nursi, and according to the accounts in reliable hadith and signs have already taken place. For example, we are told that Afghanistan will be occupied at the time of the appearance of the Mahdi. That has happened. There is also the fact that Iraq will be occupied, which has also taken place. An attack on the Kaaba was predicted, and that has happened as well. The waters of the Euphrates would be cut off. And the dam has done so. We are told that during the month of Ramadhan in the year of his appearance both the Sun and Moon will be eclipsed in a space of 15 days, and that has happened as well. Approximately a hundred portents like this have already taken place. For that reason, I am convinced that the Mahdi has appeared.

    Al Jazeera: Could you be the Mahdi?

    Adnan Oktar: There is a rumor that has been going round for a long while that I have claimed to be the Mahdi. The reason for that is that I have written a book on that subject. I have cited all the relevant hadith in that book. They said that I had described myself, that the information about the Mahdi in the hadith was the same. As a result, [they said] you are claiming to be the Mahdi. They say that his forehead is broad, and your forehead is broad, too. That his brow is curved, and your brow is also curved. They say that the Mahdi has a small nose, and a big body. He is a Sayyid of medium height, they say. He has a mole on his cheek, and one on his back. Because you have all these characteristics, you are probably claiming to be the Mahdi.

    I have borrowed those paragraphs from Tim Furnish, who quoted them in 2008 — the Al Jazeera interview is no longer available on the original website.

    **

    Oktar / Yahya declines to answer the question with a “yes” or “no” – but the comparisons he makes are nonetheless striking…

    In a Reuters interview he makes it clear why he won’t answer that question:

    Because of parallels in what I have written and the hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Mohammad, some people have thought I could be him… but in Islam it is forbidden for me to make such a claim.

    Furnish has a more detailed quote from Yahya:

    No claims can be made regarding the Mahdi. Nobody can claim to be the Mahdi. Nobody can say I am the Mahdi. Identification with the Mahdi can only be measured in terms of success. In other words, a figure will emerge and will be successful. From his success the conclusion may be drawn that he is the Mahdi. Even if the Mahdi were to appear, we could never say for certain that he was the Mahdi. We can only have a good perception of him. We can only say that he is probably the Mahdi. The Mahdi himself will never claim to be the Mahdi. He cannot say that. He will not say that. That is haram [not permissible]. He would be apostatized if he were to say such a thing.

    **

    So President Obama will necessarily have to guess the Mahdi’s identity, if he is to follow Yahya / Oktar’s advice.

    Let us suppose the President comes to the conclusion that Yahya is indeed the Mahdi – what could he then deduce about the “system of the Mahdi”? For an answer, we return to Solberg’s thesis:

    Yahya sums up the Mahdi’s crucial and redemptive role as follows:

    During the terrible chaos of the final times, Allah will use a servant having superior morality known as the Mahdi (the guide to the truth), to invite humanity back to the right path. The Mahdi’s first task will be to wage a war of ideas within the Islamic world and to turn those Muslims who have moved away from Islam’s true essence back to true belief and morality. At this point, the Mahdi has three basic tasks:

    1. Tearing down all philosophical systems that deny Allah’s Existence and support atheism.

    2. Fighting superstition by freeing Islam from the yoke of those hypocritical individuals who have corrupted it, and then revealing and implementing true Islamic morality based on the rules of the Qur’an.

    3. Strengthening the entire Islamic world, both politically and socially, and then bringing about peace, security and well-being in addition to solving societal problems.

    These three tasks are Yahya’s interpretation of the three tasks of the Mahdi as taught by Said Nursi. Nursi’s teachings thus serve as a template for the da‘wa of the Harun Yahya enterprise. Since the late 1990s, the Harun Yahya enterprise has focused on trying to demolish thought systems of materialism, targeting in particular Darwinism, which Yahya regards as the most serious threat to faith.

    **

    There’s one really interesting reference in Solberg’s text that bears implications in many other realms than that of Islamic apocalyptic:

    According to Snow and Benford (1988), the three core framing tasks of a movement are to identify a problem and identify who is to blame (diagnostic framing), articulate solutions (prognostic framing) and urge others to act (motivational framing).

    I think those distinctions will likely serve us very well in thinking through the entire complex issue of terrorism and counterterrorism.

    And here are two key points, rephrased by Solberg from Yahya’s writings, which give us Yahya’s perspective on both the caliphate and the possibility that the Mahdi will be a warrior in the literal as well as the spiritual or ideological sense:

  • According to the hadiths, claims Yahya, the Mahdi will assume leadership of the Islamic world as a caliph and rule the whole world both politically and religiously.
  • Yahya is careful to emphasize that the struggle is an ideological one, and that the Mahdi will never shed blood.
  • Those are two fascinating points at this juncture in history.

    **

    In closing..

    The Mahdi wears Armani

    Solberg’s book is subtitled An Analysis of the Harun Yahya Enterprise — is the Harun Yahya Enterprise in fact another name for the System of the Mahdi? If so, these words from her closing paragraphs give an idea of the scope of the Mahdi’s intent:

    The magnitude and span of the Harun Yahya enterprise operation suggests that this is an enterprise with very high ambitions in terms of having a major impact both in Turkey and globally. As indicated in the introduction chapter, the Harun Yahya enterprise does appear to have a considerable impact with regards to its promotion of creationism. As I have attempted to show, however, the purpose of the creationist activism of Harun Yahya is not only to convince the audience that the theory of evolution is wrong, but also to promote Adnan Oktar himself. This aspect of the Harun Yahya enterprise has, as we have seen, become more pronounced especially after 2009, with the publication of books that appear to be designed to create the impression that Adnan Oktar might be the Mahdi. One might speculate that the reason for this increasingly insistent and explicit approach is the recognition that Adnan Oktar, contrary to expectations, has not been widely recognized and affirmed as neither a Muslim authority, nor a Mahdi.

    We shall see..

    Serpent logics: the marathon

    Sunday, November 24th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh, the sheer delightful drudgery of finding patterns everywhere ]
    .

    I’ll start this post, as I did the previous one to which this is a sort of appendix, with a (deeply strange, tell me about it) example of the…

    Matrioshka pattern:


    That’s a piece of jewelry made out of disembodied pieces of Barbies from the extraordinary designer’s mind of Margaux Lange, FWIW.

    **

    This post is the hard core follow up to my earlier piece today, Serpent logics: a ramble, and offers you the chance to laugh and groan your way through all the other “patterns” I’ve been collecting over the last few months. My hope is that repeated (over)exposure to these patterns will make the same patterns leap out at you when you encounter them in “real life”.

    Most of the examples you run across may prove humorous — but if you’re monitoring news feeds for serious matters, my hunch is that you’ll find some of them helpful in grasping “big pictures” or gestalts, noting analomalies and seeing parallels you might otherwise have missed.

    Have at it!

    **

    Here’s another Matrioshka, from the structural end of lit crit that my friend Wm. Benzon attacks with gusto over at New Savannah:

    **

    Enantiodromia:

    You’ll recall this is the pattern where something turns into its opposite… as described in this quote from the movie Prozac Nation:

    I dream about all the things I wish I’d said.
    The opposite of what came out of my mouth.
    I wish I’d said
    “Please forgive me. Please help me.
    I know I have no right to behave this way?”

    Here are a few examples…

    Ahmed Akkari Repents Violent Opposition to Danish Cartoons Lampooning Islam:

    After a Danish newspaper published cartoons satirizing the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, Ahmed Akkari spearheaded protests that ultimately cost the lives of 200 people. Now he says he’s sorry. Michael Moynihan on what changed Akkari’s mind.

    That’s impressive!

    That one’s run of the media mill…

    And this one’s from my delightful, delicious boss, Danielle LaPorte:

    **

    A friend sent me this:

    **

    Let’s just plough ahead…

    Nominalism:

    Nominalism is the category where the distinction between a word and what it represents gets blurry — a very significant distinction in some cases —

    How’s this for naming your donkey after your President?

    Consider this one, another instance of nominalism in action, from the French justice system:

    A mother who sent her three-year-old son Jihad to school wearing a sweater with the words “I am a bomb” on the front, along with his name and ‘Born on September 11th’ on the back, was handed a suspended jail sentence on Friday for “glorifying a crime”. A court of appeal in the city of Nimes, southern France, convicted Jihad’s mother Bouchra Bagour and his uncle Zeyad for “glorifying a crime” in relation to the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11th 2001.

    The classic nominalist image — with which I’d compare and contrast the French three-year-old with the unfortunate name and tsee-shirt — is Magritte’s cdelebrated “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”:

    And here’s one final nominalist example:

    **

    The spiral:

    Here’s a potential downwards spiral, for those watching India:

    **

    Straight parallelism:

    This one’s from Jonathan Franzen:

    And meanwhile the overheating of the atmosphere, meanwhile the calamitous overuse of antibiotics by agribusiness, meanwhile the widespread tinkering with cell nucleii, which may well prove to be as disastrous as tinkering with atomic nucleii. And, yes, the thermonuclear warheads are still in their silos and subs.

    **

    Simple Opposition:

    **

    Some of these categories seem pretty fluid — or to put that another way, some of these examples might fit with equal ease into several doifferent categories. Here’s another oppositional class:

    Arms crossed:

    From Ezra Klein and Evan Solta blogging at WaPo’s Wonkbook: The Republican Party’s problem, in two sentences:

    It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it’s good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down the government over Obamacare.

    A great “values” juxtaposition:

    And hey, nice phrasing:

    **

    Here’s an example of one of the central patterns of violence and justice:

    Tit for Tat:

    [ the account this tweet came from, which was a media outlet for Shabaab, has since been closed — hence the less than euqal graphical appearance of this particular tweet… ]

    **

    And here, without too much further ado, is a whole concatenation of…

    Serpents biting their tails:

    [ … and that last one of Nein‘s appears to have been withdrawn from circulation ]

    This one I love for its lesson on biblical pick-and-choose:

    This one is also a DoubleQuote:

    when closely followed by:

    And this one really bites:

    **

    To close the series out with more of a bang than a whimper, here’s Serpent bites Tail with apocalypse & gameplay for additional spice:

    Reprehending Ignorance about Syria

    Thursday, August 29th, 2013

    I’ve had the pleasure of introducing Timothy R. Furnish, PhD, as a guest blogger here before. Today he offers us his timely commentary on factors which should influence US decision-making regarding Syria. Here I would invite you to note especially his comments on the religious factors involved, which he characterizes as “the most salient issue at hand” and details in the long paragraph which begins “Finally…”

    Charles Cameron
    .

    Ottoman Asia (partial map, 1893)

    .
    American intervention in Syria, most likely in the form of air- or cruise missile-strikes against select targets, now seems a certainty, considering that not just the Obama Administration but a whole host of politicians and commentators — ranging across the political spectrum, from Bill O’Reilly to Senator John McCain and to “The New York Times” editorial board — stridently supports military action. The reasons adduced are primarily these:

    1) The usage of chemical weapons is an atrocity and violation of international law and must be punished accordingly
    2) Syria being Iran’s “pawn,” any strike at the Damascus regime is tantamount to one at the Islamic Republic and, thus, ipso facto a good thing
    3) al-Asad is a Hitleresque “monster” — no further discussion required
    4) President Obama’s credibility is at stake, his having previously deemed usage of chemical weapons to be an uncrossable “red line” that would trigger retaliation.

    Those opposed to the US attacking the al-Asad regime invoke, rather, points such as:

    1) Realpolitick-wise, the US has no national security interest in Syria
    2) Any action that degrades the al-Asad regime actually helps the jihadist elements of the Syrian opposition, especially the al-Qa`ida-affiliated, pro-caliphate Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahidin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad (“The Front of Support to the Family of Syria from the Holy Warriors of Syria in the Battlefields of Jihad”). As LTC Ralph Peters put it on “The O’Reilly Factor” (8.27.13), “do we really want to help the jihadists who perpetrated 9/11?”
    3) US bombing — even if attempted “surgically” — will result in collateral damage to Syrian civilians and motivate Syria and its allies (especially Iran and Hizbullah) to activate terrorist cells against Americans, certainly in the larger Middle East, probably in Europe and possibly even in the US homeland.

    Three major areas of ignorance are manifested in these two Manichaean positions (albeit moreso in the pro-bombing camp).

    First, it is not (yet) certain that it was indeed the al-Asad regime that employed chemical weapons. According to a source with whom I am in contact — a former intelligence operative who worked in Syria for a number of years — it is quite possible that Jabhat al-Nusra, or one of the other jihadist opposition groups (Syrian Islamic Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Ansar al-Islam, Ahfad al-Rasul, etc.) pilfered a government chemical weapons stockpile and wielded the lethal bounty in a false flag operation. It is also possible that such jihadist groups were supplied chemical weapons directly by* North Korea.

    Second, it is simply not the case in modern times that use of chemical or nerve agents automatically provokes the international community’s wrath. Libya used such weapons in Chad in 1986, and (more infamously) Saddam Husayn did likewise against Iraqi Kurds in 1987. Neither of those events engendered US or NATO retaliation. Furthermore, Syria is not a signatory to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention prohibiting utilization of chemical or nerve agents; and Damascus signed the similar 1925 Geneva Protocol when it was under the French Mandate—thus having no choice in the matter. This in no wise lessens the horror of chemical weapons, but an American administration headed by a self-styled former law professor would do well to get its international legal ducks in a row before launching the first cruise missile.

    Finally, and most importantly, neither the pro- nor anti-bombing faction seems aware of the most salient issue at hand: that the ruling regime is composed of Alawis, a heretical Shi`i offshoot sect the adherents of which have long been condemned as murtaddun, “apostates,” in Sunni Islam — first by the (in)famous Sunni cleric Ibn Taymiyah in his early-14th c. AD fatwas, then again just last year by the al-Qa`ida cleric Abd Allah Khalid al-Adm, who said “don’t consult with anyone before killing Alawites.” Alawis have existed for about a millennium, mostly in the mountains of coastal Lebanon and Syria, and have always been persecuted by Sunni rulers, going back to the first days of Ottoman Turkish control of the Levant in the 16th century. Under the French Mandate, post-World War I, and afterwards they insinuated themselves into the military and intelligence service such that, eventually, one of their own, Hafiz al-Asad, took control in 1970. Spurned by Sunni Arab countries, the elder al-Asad cleverly got his Alawi sect officially declared Shi`i by the influential Lebanese Twelver Shi`i cleric Musa al-Sadr (before the latter disappeared in Libya in 1976); and when the ayatollahs took control of Iran in 1979, Damascus and Tehran began, if not a beautiful, certainly a mutually beneficial, friendship — which has existed ever since. Hafiz and his son Bashar al-Asad both ruled largely as secularists — due to their sectarian affiliation, and to their official ideology of Arab socialism, articulated as the Ba`ath Party. (So to be fair to Hillary Clinton — who, in March 2011, referred to Bashar al-Asad as a “reformer” — he was much more modernizing and tolerant than many Sunni leaders of the region, if only out of political necessity.) That meant that the 10% of the Syrian population that is Christian largely supported the leader of the strange Islamic sect (also comprising about 10% of Syrians) over against the 3/4 of the population that is Sunni, fearing what a Muslim Brotherhood/Salafi takoever would portend for them. Such fears have skyrocketed since the “Arab Spring” came to Syria over two years ago — especially as groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and its ilk have trumpeted their hatred of Alawis and their burning desire for a Sunni caliphate that would relegate Christians (and Jews) to their historical, second-class dhimmi status. Thus, it is not totally beyond comprehension why a beleaguered, religiously-heterodox regime might feel it necessary to deploy, and perhaps even use, chemical weapons — as a means of staving off probable extermination at the hands of jihadists.

    All in all, it appears that the pro-bombing position is much weaker than the anti-attack one. As noted previously, chemical weapons’ usage has not automatically resulted in international action in punishment; Syria is not, legally, bound by relevant conventions; and we are not certain which side actually used these arms. The idea that “any strike against the Damascus regime is a blow to Iran” is dubious at best: Iraq is at least as solicitous of the Islamic Republic as is Syria, but no calls for bombing Baghdad have been proffered. Some advance the thesis that striking al-Asad’s forces helps Israel’s geopoliticial position — but one can equally well argue that cutting off Tehran’s access to Lebanese Hizbullah would undercut the ayatollahs’ main conventional warfare outlet, and thus make it more likely they would want to use the nuclear weapons they will very soon possess. Furthermore, why should the Alawi, Druze and Christian minorities of Syria pay the price for US cowardice about attacking Iran directly? As for the “al-Asad = Hitler” trope — how many years will it take before the West, particularly the US, can wage war without “Hitlerizing” the opposition? That’s not a rational argument; it’s an emotional one. And regarding the allegation that President Obama needs to attack Syria in order to resurrect his political credibility, at home and abroad — let us hope that he is not, still, that callow after over five years in the White House. At least Richard III only needed his ignorance, not his political cunning, reprehended.

    On the other side of the equation: the US does have security interests in the region, but not specifically in Syria; it is certainly true that vitiating al-Asad’s military will simultaneously empower the opposition — and not just the ostensibly-Westernized Free Syrian Army but also the jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra; and it’s very likely that extant Iranian-trained terrorist cells will activate in Europe and the US if we intervene in Syria.

    As Gandalf advised in The Fellowship of the Ring: “Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. Even the very Wise cannot see all ends.” The Obama Administration, and its supporters advocating attacking the Syrian regime, may not be able to see all ends; but they could certainly strive to be a bit wiser and consider some relevant data that might just be inconvenient to their position — before meting out yet more American death in the Middle East.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    To view the Ottoman Empire map at the head of the post at full size, see here and click for high resolution.

    FTR, this post was received from Dr Furnish dated, and posted here, 8.28.2013. * indicates an edit made at Dr Furnish’s request upon rereading after publication.


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