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On the Tower of Babel as a National Security issue

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — bilingual politics and forked tongues, also the KJV ]

SPEC languages


  • Husain Haqqani, upper panel
  • Itamar Marcus, lower panel
  • If you watch the two videos linked above, from which these quotes were taken, you will glimpse the stunning degree to which the use of native languages other than English permits the transmission of messages to local populations to which we are not privy, and which indeed may dangerously contradict the messages emanating from those same sources for international consumption in English.

    Flashback to 1979:

    On October 15, 1979 the members of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies submitted their report to President Jimmy Carter. This multifaceted document of 150 pages presented 65 recommendations directed toward ameliorating what the report described as “America’s scandalous incompetence in foreign languages.” Woven into these recommendations and their supporting texts were no fewer than 70 references to study abroad, international exchanges and/or overseas experiences. The frequency with which these references appeared suggests that the members of the commission were convinced that such experiences, in and of themselves, would play a major role in altering the sorry state of affairs in which the United States found itself with respect to the learning of second languages.

    How are we doing, thirty-five years on, and how will we be doing five, ten years from now?


    On a lighter note:

    The English language is supreme — God speaks it. As one writer on the internet notes with regard to translations of the Bible other than the King James Version:

    The new versions have been translated in America, which is not a monarchy. God’s form of government is a theocratic monarchy, not a democracy. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that His word would be translated for the English speaking people under a monarchy with an English king. I know the King James Bible is the word of God because it was translated under a king.

    I kid you not / just kidding.

    Armageddon: if you can’t hasten it, maybe you can dodge it?

    Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — plus a date-setting video, awaiting The End in 2031! ]

    Armageddon. Even if you can’t hotwire it..

    SPEC Paz Schindler

    you may still be able to dodge it..


    From the late Israeli analyst, Reuven Paz:

    Jihadi apocalyptic discourse, either by Jihadi-Salafi scholars, clerics, or supporters of global Jihad is one of the main innovations of the Jihadi-Salafi discourse that followed the September 11 attacks. Waves of what may be termed apocalyptic discourse are not new in the modern Arab Islamic world. They accompanied almost every major war or disaster that occurred in the Arab World in modern times. Such major events were the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the last Muslim Caliphate in 1922-24; The 1948 war with Israel — the “catastrophe” (Nakbah) in Arab and Palestinian eyes — which resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel; The 1967 war — the calamity (Naksah) in Arab and Muslim eyes — which resulted in Israeli occupation all over Palestine, Jerusalem, and Al-Aqsa mosque, and marked a humiliating Arab defeat; and the first Gulf war in 1991, following the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which marked the first round of America’s massive military involvement in the Middle East. These wars, and some additional minor events such as the “Triple aggression” in the Suez canal in October 1956; “Black September” and the sudden death of the most admired Egyptian President Gamal Abd al-Nasser in September 1970, The Islamic revolution in Iran in February 1979; The Israeli-Egyptian peace// agreement the same time; The Iran-Iraq war between 1980-88, or the Soviet collapse in 1990-91, created waves of apocalyptic discourse.

    From John Schindler:

    Fifteen years ago I authored a piece for Cryptologic Quarterly, the National Security Agency’s in-house classified journal, about how close the world actually came to World War III in the early 1950s. Although this was little understood at the time, the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was a dry-run for the Kremlin, which was obsessed with silencing Tito’s renegade Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Had the United States not strongly resisted Pyongyang’s aggression, a Soviet bloc invasion of Yugoslavia would have followed soon after.

    Of course, President Harry Truman did send U.S. forces to defend South Korea in the summer 1950, resulting in a conflict that has never formally ended. More importantly, he saved the world from nuclear Armageddon, as my CQ piece laid out in detail. Lacking much Western conventional defenses in Europe, any Soviet move on Yugoslavia would have resulted in rapid nuclear release by a hard-pressed NATO. I cited numerous still-secret files and as a result my article was classified TOPSECRET//SCI.

    However, NSA has seen fit to declassify and release my article, minus some redactions, and even post it on the Agency’s open website. They have omitted my name, perhaps out of fear UDBA assassins will track me down decades after Tito’s death, but I’ll take my chances.

    You can read the article here — enjoy!


  • Reuven Paz, Hotwiring the Apocalypse: Jihadi Salafi Attitude towards Hizballah and Iran
  • John Schindler, Dodging Armageddon: The Third World War That Almost Was, 1950
  • **

    None of which precludes date-setting — something that both Christian and Islamic scriptures suggest is futile.

    I can’t embed MI7 Agency‘s Passage Through the Veil of Time, but it’s an intriguing entry into the prediction stakes, and the first I’ve seen that confirms Richard Landes‘ contention that Christian millennial movements will be with us at least until the second millennial anniversary of the death and resurrection of Christ in the 2030s — and no doubt through the start of the next Islamic century in 2076 AD since, as Tim Furnish has also reminded us, “Mahdist expectations increase at the turn of every Islamic century.”

    Animal sacrifice here and there

    Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — thinking of human, animal and symbolic sacrifice — also of “the lamb that was slain” ]

    In Nepal:

    Nepal temple bans mass animal slaughter at festival

    Nepal buffalo

    In a victory for activists, Nepalese temple authorities have announced they will end a centuries-old Hindu tradition of mass animal slaughter that attracts hundreds of thousands of worshippers.

    The festival, held once every five years, sees hordes of devotees from Nepal and India flock to a temple in the Himalayan nation’s southern plains to sacrifice thousands of animals in the hope of appeasing the Hindu goddess of power, Gadhimai.


    From Brooklyn to Tel Aviv:

    Jewish chicken-slaughter ritual gets OK from judge

    All’s fair when it comes to slaughtering fowl on the streets of Brooklyn, a judge ruled Monday, clearing the way for thousands of chickens to be killed next week in a 2,000-year-old ritual.

    Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James ruled that the Orthodox practice of Kaporos, during which chickens are slaughtered before the high holy day of Yom Kippur to atone for sins, can proceed, knocking down a challenge by a Brooklyn animal-rights group.


    Sacrifice may be one of the most profound values that we are losing in our rush to reductionism — and by this I wish to imply also that we are not sacrificing it, but simply forgetting it, permitting it to fade..

    And yet I would be hard-pressed to define it.

    We’re a legacy industry in a world of start-up competitors

    Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]

    chautauqua haqqani daveed


    From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”

    I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:

    Amb. Haqqani:

    None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.

    You’ll see how neatly this fits with my recent post on borders, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream?

    And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.

    Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..


    If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.

    Daveed G-R:

    In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.

    Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.


    The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us

    a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities

    — down to our own times.

    Amb. Haqqani:

    What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.

    The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:

    Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.

    Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.


    Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.

    Daveed G-R:

    The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.

    And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being real – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.


    Amb. Haqqani:

    The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.

    This makes a nice DoubleQuote with Gabriel Marcel‘s more general aphorism:

    Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.


    Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..

    Daveed G-R:

    Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?

    He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:

    Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.

    — and had the final, pointed word:

    We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.


    Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:

    Seen through the fog of war..

    Thursday, August 20th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — truth is always the first causality casualty ]

    SPEC dolphin robot


    The big question these days is no longer Nature or Nurture, it’s Nature and Nurture — or Tech?

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