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On humility: Clinton, Bush — and Trump

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — another “life imitates art” and a Trumpian ouroboros ]
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In my view, humility shaves ckoser than Occam’s Razor — Occam tends not to shave our assumptions, while humility invites us to consider even our thoughts, even our certainties, as uncertain, as open to question.

Did I mention I’m the proud owner of the domain name, Church of the Open Question?

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Life imitates art:

Upper panel: George W Bush and Bill Clinton on humility:

Lower panel: from Madam Secretary, season 3..

Trumpian Ouroboros:

That’s actually brilliant, IMO. And Trump relishes and repeats it:

Hey, Pope Francis is a close second..

And then there’s this — delicious — from a WaPo piece titled Donald Trump’s Secret Service code name is less humble, more mogul:

During a lightning round of a debate, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump picked a potential Secret Service code name that was truly coded: HUMBLE. When the braggadocious billionaire starts to receive actual Secret Service protection Wednesday morning, agents plan to call him something a bit more fitting: MOGUL.

Okay. Mebbe that’s a bit more modest.

Hm. MOGUL as in magnate, tycoon? Or MOGUL as in speed-bump on the ski slopes?

Traveling Trump, minor issues

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — media keeps wildly guessing re matters of protocol ]
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For example..

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Ah, well, no one can say Trump is not sensitive:

Oops:

And then again:

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Oops again:

Nope, he was bending to receive a medal around his neck.

So far so good — nobody seems to know what’s what, but ni disasters have been spotted. . The first major test is yet to come. As the Washington Post puts it, Trump campaigned against Muslims, but will preach tolerance in Saudi speech.

That will be quite a trick — but not impossible if his speech writer has been reading Will McCants.

And I suspect Melania is the President’s trump card in all this..

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Oh, and now this, for good measure:

I’m reminded of roulette..

Addendum requested: McCants on Gesture

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — vexed questions — to bow or not to bow, hold hands, smooch, that funny handshake, dance moves, veil ]
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WIll McCants has lined up his “friendly advice for the poor speechwriter tasked with crafting Trump’s upcoming speech on Islam” in a Politico piece titled Trump Is Giving a Speech About Islam. What Could Go Wrong? The next word, opening McCants’ sub-head? Plenty.

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Thing is, gestures speak loud as words. Here are some of the slippery issues McCants might like to address in terms of gesture.

Bow:

There’s the question of bowing. President Obama may or may not have bowed, or leaned over to give a double-handed handshake. It’s a founding principle that America doesn’t feel deferential to monarchy, and Obama reportedly didn’t bow to Queen Elizabeth when he met her..

Here’s Bill O’Reilly:

If it were me, I wouldn’t hold his hand, I wouldn’t smooch him, I wouldn’t bow, I’d say “Hey, how ya doin’, King..”

Holding hands:

George W Bush holds hands, Chris Matthews and Jon Stweart riff..

Kiss-kiss, aka smooch:

Wolf Blitzer has this one:

Dancing with drawn sword:

Whoda thunkit? This one is truly remarkable, from my Eurocentric perspective…

That no less remarkable handshake:

Veil:

And then there’s one for the women in Trump’s entourage, Melania and Ivanka to be precise. To veil or not to veil?

Here’s Michelle Obama:

If there is humor in much of the above, it is the humor of contrast with expectation..

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Salaam:

Without getting into the details of who greets whom, who goes first and who responds, and in what words, all of which is proper for a Muslim to discuss, I can at least say that the Quran is deeply invested in courtesy of a kind that diplomats would file under “protocol” — as we see in Sura 4 verse 86:

When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.

New Book- The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House

Friday, March 25th, 2016

[by Mark Safranski / a.k.a  “zen“]

The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House […] by Zalmay Khalilzad

Just received a courtesy review copy of The Envoy, the memoir of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, from Christine at St. Martin’s Press.

Khalilzad was part of a small group of diplomatic troubleshooters and heavy hitters for the second Bush administration, whose numbers included John Negroponte, Ryan Crocker and John Bolton who were heavily engaged during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like the others, Khalilzad had held a variety of important policy posts at State, the NSC and the Department of Defense before assuming ambassadorial duties; the bureaucratic experience, ties to senior White House officials and the exigencies of counterinsurgency warfare would make these posts more actively proconsular than was typical for an American ambassador.   Indeed, the endorsements on the book jacket, which include two former Secretaries of State, a former Secretary of Defense and a former CIA Director testify to the author’s political weight in Khalilzad’s years of government service.

It’s been a while since I have read a diplomatic memoir, so I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how Khalilzad treats Afghanistan’s early post-Taliban years, given that he personally is a bridge from the Reagan policy of supporting the anti-Soviet mujahedin to the toppling of the Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11 and helping to organize the new Afghan state. Khalilzad is also, of course, an Afghan by birth, giving him greater insight into that country’s complex political and social divisions than most American diplomats could muster.

I will give The Envoy a formal review in the future but Khalizad has given a synopsis of where he thinks American policy went awry in Afghanistan over at Thomas E. Rick’s Best Defense blog.

Islamic State — hanging by a chad?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — light-hearted, almost science-fictional “butterfly-hurricane” question in geopolitics, with an Elkus follow-up ]
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chad bolton
A scene from the 2000 Florida recount: Palm Beach County’s canvassing board chairman eyes a questionable ballot as Republican attorney John Bolton looks on. Image: Greg Lovett/AP

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Is the Islamic State an “unanticipated consequence” of Bush v Gore?

Donald Trump, as quoted in Vox’s America’s unlearned lesson: the forgotten truth about why we invaded Iraq:

You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.

Without getting too far into the weeds, my question is this:

Is it fair to say that the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL) was born in 2006 in response to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, which in turn was initiated by President George W Bush, who became Commander in Chief in 2000 in a disputed election only resolved by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)? And if so, looking back at the branching possibilities and eventualities that led to the creation of IS, might I plausibly suggest the Islamic State owes its very existence to a “hanging chad”?

If the Florida electoral votes hadn’t been disputed on account of flaws in the mechanical method by which they were registered, in other words, might there have been no invasion of Iraq, and hence no IS as such?

I know: this is hugely simplistic, both in terms of the election and of the drives behind Zarqawi and company — but I’m looking for an illustration of a very small digfference in “initial conditions” giving rise to a notable difference in a “later state” of a related aspect of the world system, Lorenz’s butterfly effect.

I understand that “dimpled chads” were also part of the “initial conditions” in question, but “hanging by a chad” works better as a phrase than “dimpled by a chad” — although “hanging by a dimple” has a certain charm.

Srsly, though — to what extent is our current timeline, in which IS may reasonably be viewed as a notable threat, causally connected to the resolution of a mechanical flaw in voting machine design?

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And more seriously:

I very much appreciated Adam Elkus‘ post, Trump: The Explanation of No Explanation, and the great quote from Charles Kurzman on the Iranian Revolution from which Adam kicks off:

All of [the Iran] analyses are wrong, even if events unfold the way they predict. After all, if you make enough predictions, some are bound to look accurate. They are wrong because the outcome of this week’s events is simply unpredictable. Unpredictable means that no matter how well-informed you may be, it is impossible to know what will happen next. Moments of turmoil make a mockery of accumulated knowledge. Routine behavior, on the other hand, can be predicted. It is likely to occur tomorrow the way it occurred yesterday, with adjustments for shifts over time. But breaks from routine are a different beast altogether. The more that people feel that normal rules of behavior no longer hold, the more they search around for new rules, surveying their neighbors, collecting rumors, checking their text messages in a frantic attempt to figure out what everyone else is planning to do. Very few people are willing to be the only ones out in the street when the security forces start to advance. If people expect millions of their compatriots to demonstrate, many will want to help make history…. Such moments of mass confusion are unsettling and rare. They usually fade back into routine. Occasionally, however, they create their own new routines, even new regimes, as they did in 1978-1979. In later retelling of these episodes, especially by experts, confusion is often downplayed, as though the outcomes might have been known in advance. But that is not how Iranians are experiencing current events. Their experience, and their response to their experience, will determine the outcome.


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