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Oh, those papal mullahs

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — Iranian diplo communiqué on Twitter uses Vatican imagery, huh? ]
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Here’s Seyed Abbas Araghchi‘s tweet announcing the conclusion of the first series of negotiations with Iran:

Here’s the tail end of the Guardian article, Iran seals nuclear deal with west in return for sanctions relief, in which that tweet is translated:

The first announcement that a deal had been reached, by Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann, and the confirmation by Zarif, were both made on Twitter – a first for a major global accord.

“Day five, 3am, it’s white smoke,” tweeted the deputy Iranian foreign minister, Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, referring to the terminology used in Vatican for the announcement of a new pope.

Julian West, dear friend and one-time Telegraph war correspondent covering Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, quoted those two paras with approval, and commented:

Not just a first on Twitter, I’d say the first time an Islamic state has used a papal metaphor, thereby confirming my first impressions while reporting there early 2000s. These aren’t a bunch of woolly mullahs.

Woolly mullahs, Julian? I don’t know — but I too like the reference to white smoke and papal elections.

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For those who don’t like the deal — me, I don’t feel well-enough informed to want to comment — here’s Omer Bar-Lev‘s view, as presented in a Times of Israel piece titled Labor MK: Compared to strike, deal is ‘far superior’:

Considering the achievements such as the dismantling of [Iran’s] stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, reducing the number of centrifuges, halting construction of the heavy water facility [in Arak], all the while the sanctions of Iranian oil and banking industries continue — compared to the alternative of a military strike at this point — it is clear that the agreement reached is far superior…

John Schindler‘s tweeted comment:

Bar-Lev is no softie, he’s the former CO of Sayeret MATKAL, the IDF’s top SOF unit.

and ah, yes, his next tweet:

I think it’s too soon to tell; I have no faith in Tehran.

I’ll buy “too early to tell” — curious, hopeful, wary, that’s me.

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Zen at War on the Rocks on China and Avoiding War

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Chinese Navy

Chinese Navy

[by Mark Safranski, a.k. a. “zen“]

The editors of the excellent War of the Rocks invited me to post a short rebuttal to the op-ed “How Not to Go to War With China”, by Scott Cheney-Peters, which appears in their “Hasty Ambush” section:

UNDERSTANDING CHINA: THE REAL KEY TO AVOIDING WAR

….A place to begin our efforts in avoiding war with China might be avoiding engagement in some of the same incorrect mirror-imaging assumptions we once made about the Soviet Union, not least of which was MAD.  As a doctrine, Soviet leaders never accepted MAD and the Red Army general staff ignored it in drafting war plans to fight and prevail in any nuclear war. While the Soviets had no choice but to tackle the logic of deterrence as we did, the operative Soviet assumptions were predicated on a different strategic calculus, a different force structure and above all, different policy goals from their American counterparts.  A dangerous gap between American assumptions of Soviet intentions and the reality of these intentions came to light when in 1983 the Reagan administrationdiscovered to their alarm that Soviet leaders had interpreted the NATO exercise Abel Archer 83 as preparations for a real, imminent nuclear first strike on the USSR and ordered Soviet nuclear forces on high alert.

The military-to-military confidence-building initiatives outlined by Cheney-Peters intended to construct “habits of cooperation” are not entirely useless. There is some value in ensuring that high-ranking American military officers have personal and limited operational familiarity with their Chinese counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but as potential game-changers, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Such a policy misses the essential strategic and political centers of gravity in the Sino-American relationship.  Namely that for the first time in 600 years, China is building a blue water Navy that will foster power projection as far away as the Indian ocean and Australia.  Secondly, this naval expansion, coupled with a new Chinese foreign policy, aggressively presses grandiose territorial demands on nearly all of its neighbors, including India and Japan.  These are fundamental conflicts with American interests that cannot be explained away or papered over by banquet toasts with visiting delegations of Chinese admirals. […]

Read the rest here.

Also read another WotR  China piece “99 Red Balloons: How War with China would Start” by Matthew Hipple

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The Vietnam War at Fifty

Monday, November 11th, 2013

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day when Americans remember all of those who served, in peace or war.

Originally, this day was called Armistice Day in honor of the cease fire that came in ” the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” and brought the horrific slaughter of  World War I to an end. This was fitting.  The First World War loomed large in the memories of our great grandparents and grandparents the way the Civil War did for earlier generations. It was an ominous touchstone of the nadir of which Mankind was capable until it was thoroughly eclipsed by the subsequent horrors of Nazi barbarism in a Second World War – a conflict that seemed a maturation of the first. In the postwar era, Armistice Day became a national tribute to the sacrifices of all veterans.

This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of American entry into the Vietnam War.

Historians may quibble with this, as American involvement in Vietnam went back to WWII and OSS agents giving advice to Ho Chi Minh in the jungle war against Imperial Japan and Vichy French puppet colonialists, but 1963 is when “American boys” first went to South Vietnam in real numbers.  And many of them were indeed little more than boys. Fifty-eight thousand, two hundred and eighty six of them did not come home.

Those that did are now grown grey with the passage of time.

The Vietnam War caused deeper divisions in the American psyche than any other war except the one that began at Fort Sumter. The wounds have never really healed and they rest inflamed and sore just beneath the scabrous surface of American politics to this day. America has an unenviable historical track record of not treating its veterans very well and those who served in that unpopular war that ended in defeat received on their return home far more than their share of  disdain and abuse.

Even the attempt to build a memorial – the now famously cathartic Wall – roiled at the time in a controversy of unimaginable bitterness. The site eventually became a place of pilgrimage, alive with memory of the dead and compassion for the living. This was a good thing but in truth as a nation we could have done far, far better for the men who served in Vietnam than we did.

The best tribute to these veterans of Vietnam that we can make as a people would be to see that the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan do not repeat the sad experience of their fathers.

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Quick one: Death to America is not in the Quran

Monday, September 30th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a sign of the times? ]
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Definitely of interest, implications to be discovered:

Excellent theology, that, at the very least!

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DoubleQuoting ReTweets

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — of tweets, and telephones, and terminal points with teletype equipment ]
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The White House RTs Rouhani, Rouhani RTs State.

Is this a “sign of the times”?

Was any bookmaker offering odds on this happening?

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Would I have been excited enough to want to write it up if I’d just found out, fifty years ago, that the White House had a “red telephone” that connected directly to the Kremlin?

I doubt it — but this article from the Smithsonian, There Never Was Such a Thing as a Red Phone in the White House informs us that it wasn’t a question of telephones either — it was…

two terminal points with teletype equipment, a full-time duplex wire telegraph circuit and a full-time radiotelegraph circuit.

Now — why am I feeling just a tad saddened by that tidbit of lifelong learning?

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