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A State Dept DoubleQuote

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- countering violent extremism, or the State Department goes Godwin, plus beards, good and evil ]
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I’ve found quite a few examples of people posting what I term DoubleQUotes in the Wild — twinned images that say more when juxtaposed than if presented singly — and argue that this form of pairing is something we do naturally as humans, somethin that can and perhaps should be sharpened into a tool, so that we are more aware of it, more alert to the possibilities of dicovering patterns, impliucations, inverences and questions than we might otherwise be.

It’s my contention, far from original I believe, that human faculties of this kind, when exercised and developed deliberately as tools, have much to teach us, and that the tool of juxtaposition, working as it does with our analogical sense, may offer us a key to the nonlinear, “horizontal” capabilities of the brain to match the highly developed tools of logic and “vertical” linear thinking.

I’m not sure that the juxtaposition the US Department of State makes in this tweet will be very convincing to diehard jihadists, but if it catches just one or two wannabes off-guard at a point where their dislike of Israel has not blossomed into a capacity to approve Hitler, it will have serve its intended purpose —

— albeit by demonstrating that even the State Department, in conversation with the proponents of the IS “caliphate”, can serve as further evidence of Godwin‘s insight.

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Here’s another recent tweet from my feed, in which I’d argue the DoubleQuotes effect is implied rather than used:

This second tweet via Clint Watts / @selectedwisdom.

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An unprecedented, unkind, under-the-radar cut

Friday, May 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- an argument on behalf of the Fulbrights from the words of Muhammad Ali ]
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Muhammad Ali famously described his strategy versus Sonny Liston thus:

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.

I’m not sure if it’s been noted that floating like a butterfly is here, and perhaps must always be, the precursor to stinging like a bee –but I’d like to note it, not for the purpose of making a dent in discussions on strategy which my pay grade doesn’t permit, but to use it as a simle for the non-obvious, non-brute-force side of things, such as knowing your enemy, and showing it to a depth that shows you also know what “knowing” is…

And that doesn’t just go for your enemies, it goes for your friends, your potential enemies, your potential friends, your frenemies… old uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, as we say in the UK.

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Here’s a significant example, as described by Ann Jones in three powerful punches paragraphs:

Will the State Department Torpedo Its Last Great Program?

Often it’s the little things coming out of Washington, obscured by the big, scary headlines, that matter most in the long run. Items that scarcely make the news, or fail to attract your attention, or once noticed seem trivial, may carry consequences that endure long after the latest front-page crisis has passed. They may, in fact, signal fundamental changes in Washington’s priorities and policies that could even face opposition, if only we paid attention.

Take the current case of an unprecedented, unkind, under-the-radar cut in the State Department’s budget for the Fulbright Program, the venerable 68-year-old operation that annually arranges for thousands of educators, students, and researchers to be exchanged between the United States and at least 155 other countries. As Washington increasingly comes to rely on the “forward projection” of military force to maintain its global position, the Fulbright Program may be the last vestige of an earlier, more democratic, equitable, and generous America that enjoyed a certain moral and intellectual standing in the world. Yet, long advertised by the U.S. government as “the flagship international educational exchange program” of American cultural diplomacy, it is now in the path of the State Department’s torpedoes.

Right now, all over the world, former Fulbright scholars like me (Norway, 2012) are raising the alarm, trying to persuade Congress to stand by one of its best creations, passed by unanimous bipartisan consent of the Senate and signed into law by President Truman in 1946. Alumni of the Fulbright Program number more than 325,000, including more than 123,000 Americans. Among Fulbright alums are 53 from 13 different countries who have won a Nobel Prize, 28 MacArthur Foundation fellows, 80 winners of the Pulitzer Prize, 29 who have served as the head of state or government, and at least one, lunar geologist Harrison Schmitt (Norway, 1957), who walked on the moon — not to mention the hundreds of thousands who returned to their countries with greater understanding and respect for others and a desire to get along. Check the roster of any institution working for peace around the world and you’re almost certain to find Fulbright alums whose career choices were shaped by international exchange. What’s not to admire about such a program?

I’d like to repeat a phrase that bears repeating:

  • it’s the little things coming out of Washington, obscured by the big, scary headlines, that matter most in the long run
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    Ms Jones suggests we visit the Save Fulbright site.

    The “little things” she speaks of are the ones that “float like a butterfly” in Muhammad Ali’s terms — and do we really want our foreign policy devised for us by Sonny Liston?

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    Serpent logics: the marathon

    Sunday, November 24th, 2013

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

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    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!

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

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    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:

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    A friend sent me this:

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    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:

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    The spiral:

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

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    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.

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    Simple Opposition:

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    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:

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    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... ]

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    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:

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

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    He must have a long spoon that must eat with the devil

    Sunday, September 1st, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- borrowing my title from Shakespeare, though Chaucer and Erasmus said it first ]
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    You may or may not like John Kerry. You may or may not like Assad. You may or may not like Mother Teresa, or Michèle Duvalier and Papa Doc. Rumsfeld and or Saddam. GW Bush or Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. But paired photos of someone you dislike with someone many of us loathe is a neat visual tactic in which the not-so-bad party of the first part is tarred by association with the way-more-evil party of the second.

    Does it ever work the other way around, though? is the party of the second part ever redeemed through contact with the party of the first? or even relieved of a few tens or hundreds of thousand dollars for authentic, charitable purposes?

    What would I know?

    The simplest way in which the two images above can be seen as similar to one another is that each one features someone named Teresa. But that’s not the point.

    And I do have to say, that restaurant in Damascus looks pleasant enough.

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    Bomb Syria?

    Thursday, August 29th, 2013


    [by Mark Safranski a.k.a. "zen"]

    There is much ado about a prospective Western (i.e. American) aerial campaign to bomb the Iranian allied Alawite-Baathist dictatorship Syria over use of chemical weapons against primarily al Qaida allied Sunni Islamist extremist rebels.

    To what end or how that end will be brought about by a surgical use of American air power, aided by token French and British contributions, well, no one is quite sure.

    The driving insider force behind this astrategic call to arms are Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the three Furies of R2P.  Slaughter writes on military intervention in Syria with her usual combination of moral certainty and operational magical thinking here. Rice angrily pontificates here while an unusually muted UN Ambassador Samantha Power just tweeted about it while on vacation from the emergency UN Security Council meeting on, uh, Syria.

    The strategic argument about Syria is not about the normative qualities of the Assad regime, which is anti-American, brutal, terrorist supporting and fascistic. Or that the regime is committing atrocities. It is. It is about what political objective, if any, the use of military force against Syria can accomplish at what cost and with what probable outcomes. At a grand strategic level, there are also questions about how military intervention in Syria will impact great power relations and the shaping of international law.

    I suspect many R2P advocates like Slaughter, Rice and Power are attracted to the idea of bombing Syria partly to garner a precedent to support doing similar things in the future, whether or not it has any positive effect on the Syrian civil war. That however, if true, is an extremely poor reason for military intervention anywhere. If bombing had some hope of changing the behavior of the Syrian regime or replacing it with something better, I would warm to the prospect but where is the evidence that is a likely outcome? Consider:

    The Syrian rebels include armed groups as violent, lawless and squalid as the Assad regime. You know, the Beheading community of the third jihad international, with fringe support from the occasional cannibal commandos. If these Islamist lunatics come to power in Damascus they will cheerfully engage in ghastly pogroms of mass murder and torture that will make Assad’s goons look like the British Raj at tea time.

    The Assad regime and the Alawite minority from whence it originates have their backs to the wall in a conflict that determines if they continue to rule Syria or are exterminated. Having no margin for maneuver or concession, America bombing them is irrelevant to whether in their calculus they can stop fighting their local enemies. The whole point of combining the threat of force with diplomacy – allegedly the reason given for bombing Syria – is to be able to make Assad an offer that he can’t refuse and not a threat that the Alawites can’t accept. Then, while blustering loudly and ominously we undercut our own bellicose posturing and announce that regime change was off the table. WTF?  Really?

    The President should fire this unholy crew of incompetents and intellectual poseurs and hire some real foreign policy advisers with at least an undergraduate level grasp of how diplomacy, strategy and war have worked for the past 2000 years.

    Failing that, a few poker players who can bluff without showing the entire table their cards.

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