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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 ]
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chautauqua haqqani daveed

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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:
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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..

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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.

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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 rea – 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.

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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.

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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:

Our ZP blog-friends on the Iran deal

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — waiting for the other shoe to drop — or be thrown, i suppose — or if a sandal, for the sand to be shaken off it if need be ]
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**

Which leaves us with:

AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site

Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press. [ .. ]

The Parchin agreement was worked out between the IAEA and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers were not party to it but were briefed by the IAEA and endorsed it as part of the larger package.

On Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the Obama administration was “confident in the agency’s technical plans for investigating the possible military dimensions of Iran’s former program. … The IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated.”

All IAEA member countries must give the agency some insight into their nuclear programs. Some are required to do no more than give a yearly accounting of the nuclear material they possess. But nations- like Iran – suspected of possible proliferation are under greater scrutiny that can include stringent inspections.

The agreement in question diverges from normal procedures by allowing Tehran to employ its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence of activities it has consistently denied – trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Olli Heinonen, who was in charge of the Iran probe as deputy IAEA director general from 2005 to 2010, said he could think of no similar concession with any other country.

The White House has repeatedly denied claims of a secret side deal favorable to Tehran. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told Republican senators last week that he was obligated to keep the document confidential.

and:

IAEA Director General’s Statement and Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program

IAEA Director General’s Statement:

I have just signed the Road-map between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. The text has been signed on behalf of Iran by the country’s Vice-President, and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mr Ali Akbar Salehi. This is a significant step forward towards clarifying outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. [ .. ]

Joint Statement

by the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi [ .. ]

Road-map for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) agree, in continuation of their cooperation under the Framework for Cooperation, to accelerate and strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at the resolution, by the end of 2015, of all past and present outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA and Iran.

In this context, Iran and the Agency agreed on the following: [ .. ]

5. Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.

It appears to me that the other shoe is still up in the air — and must feel much the same way Schrödinger’s Cat feels.

As opposed to carnivores, militarily speaking

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — discussing the Iran deal, Gershom Gorenberg introduces me to some Israeli slang ]
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quote-everyone-s-a-pacifist-between-wars-it-s-like-being-a-vegetarian-between-meals-colman-mccarthy
Source: izquotes.com

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Gershom Gorenberg is a friendly acquaintance from Center for Millennial Studies days, and his book The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount is one I admire, and one that is becoming more and more relevant as the days and years pass. In an article for Prospect, What a No Vote on the Iran Deal Would Mean, he cites “veterans of [Israel’s] military and intelligence agencies” as “the most prominent dissenters from Netanyahu’s position” on the Iran agreement, detailing:

There’s Shlomo Brom, ex-head of strategic planning in the Israeli general staff, who has debunked precisely the myths about the Vienna accord that fill Schumer and Sherman’s statements. Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli Navy and ex-head of the Shin Bet security service, has stated that “when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option.” Yuval Diskin, another former Shin Bet director, this week tweeted in Hebrew that he “identifies absolutely” with Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column on why Israelis should support the accord.

He then admits bias — an unusual but welcome touch..

Yes, I’m picking my experts (though if space and patience allowed, I could list many more).

and gets to the remark that triggered my writing this post:

What Ayalon, Brom, Diskin, and colleagues who have expressed similar views have in common is that — to use Hebrew slang — they’re not “vegetarians.” They know there’s sometimes no choice but to use military force.

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There’s a ratio here that would please my fellow designer/explorer of a Glass Bead Game variant, Paul Pilkington, author of three lovely small books on the Glass Bead Game [1, 2, 3] with a fourth in the works:

carnivore : vegetarian :: militarist : pacifist

— or something along those lines.

**

Ron Hale-Evans, another GBG variant designer and the founder of the Ludism site, in his Kennexions variant on the Bead Game would take just such a ratio, and apply to it the rules by which the Norse poets derived their “kennings” — cunning sleights-of-phrase by which they applied poetic epithets in place of common nouns.

As cantuse‘s post Dragonsilver: The True Nature and Purpose of Lightbringer tells us:

A kenning is a phrase that generally refers to any compound word that describes in figurative language something which could be expressed in a single-word. The principle derives from Old Norse epic traditions.

Ron suggests that “such an analogy provides four kennings possible (or at least permissible)”. In the case of the pacifist / vegetarian analogy, for instance, a carnivore would be kenned as a “vegetarian militarist”, a vegetarian as a “carnivore pacifist”, a militarist as a “pacifist carnivore”, and a pacifist as a “militarist vegetarian”.

The phrasing my seem awkward at first, but the kennings based on the analogy:

sea : whale :: road : horse

gave the Norse poets the poetic turns of phrase “whale road” for the sea, “sea horse” for the whale, “horse sea” for a road, and “road whale” for the horse, all of which make a fair amont of sense. And once you get the hang of it, you can think not just in ratios but in kennings, as the mind adapts to seing the binary oppositions (vegetarian / carnivore) as well as the paralellisms (vegetarian / pacifist) as a matter of course when encountering phrases such as “carnivore pacifist”.

Ron, if you’d care to update or correct me on Kennings / Kennexions, please feel free to do so — Paul, likewise with my use of ratios.

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Since analogy lies at the heart of both cognition and creativity, it would be interesting to see what impact the habit of thinking in Paul’s ratios or Ron’ss kennings, if taught in schools, would have on creative thinking and, frankly, mathematics. I have the suspicion that..

ratios : kennings :: algebra : geometry

— but what do I know?

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And what of the Iran nuclear deal, and all those Israeli natsec experts?

A very bright future

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — an Ahmadinejad revival, and if so a reference to note? ]
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It could be no more than an artifact of translation, but there’s a phrase in this account of a possible Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comeback that catches my attention:

“God willing, victory and a very bright future awaits us. However, there will be bumps and satanic obstacles in our path,” the diminutive former leader, sporting his trademark close-cropped beard and sports coat, told some 400 supporters in Tehran. “One should not forget that the U.S. is our enemy.”

It’s those two words, bright future, that caught my attention.

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I’m reminded of the Bright Future Institute in Qom:

The Bright Future Institute was established in early 2004 by a number of scholars and masters of Islamic seminaries in the holy city of Qom with a view to develop the culture of Intizaror Awaiting Imam Mahdi a.s and to increase the knowledge about him both in iranand abroad by supporting research and cultural works of other scholars. this institute is a non-profit making, independent research centre which promotes efforts to reject wrong ideas about imam Mahdi by holding discussion sessions and also by preparing scientific answers to respond to superstitions surrounding him.

Scott Peterson, in his book Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran, A Journey Behind the Headlines, explains (p. 307):

Launched in 2004, the Bright Future Institute in Qom was the eighth of its kind in Iran designed to study and even speed the Mahdi’s return. It quickly became the largest and most influential. “People are anxious to know: When and how will he rise? And what must they do in order to receive this worldwide salvation?” explained Ali Lari, a keen-eyed cleric at the Bright Future Institute. “The timing is not clear, but the conditions are more specific. There is a saying: ‘Whenever the students are ready, the teacher will come.’”

A Mahdist think tank! This is the outfit that Tim Furnish visited for one of their earler Mahdism conferences.

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Back to the possible Ahmadinejad revival. I don’t know that it will amount to anything, and my guess would not be worth much in any case — but if the ex-President does in fact manage a revival, and if that translated phrase wasn’t in fact just an artifact of translation, then “God willing, victory and a very bright future awaits us” is a Mahdist reference, and wpould be quite clearly such to Ahmadinejad’s supporters.

Not too surprising, but worth this brief note, I think.

Two new collections from Tim Furnish, plus two

Friday, July 31st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a chance to have Tim Furnish’s recent writings in book form, plus a couple of recent apocalyptic issues bcoz apocalypse hasn’t gone away, oh no ]
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Friend, blog friend and colleague Dr Tim Furnish recently tweeted:

I hope to review these two volumes of Tim’s essays here on Zenpundit.

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Plus Two:

While we’re on the topic of apocalypse..

Sara A. Carter of the American Media Institute posted on the 28th on USA Today:

Islamic State recruitment document seeks to provoke ‘end of the world’

An apparent Islamic State recruitment document found in Pakistan’s lawless tribal lands reveals that the extremist group has grand ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and triggering a war in India to provoke an Armageddon-like “end of the world.”

The 32-page Urdu-language document obtained by American Media Institute (AMI) and reviewed by USA TODAY details a plot to attack U.S. soldiers as they withdraw from Afghanistan and target American diplomats and Pakistani officials.

AMI obtained the document from a Pakistani citizen with connections inside the Pakistani Taliban and had it independently translated from Urdu by Harvard researcher and translator Mustafa Samdani. The Pakistani’s identity was shared with USA TODAY, which has agreed not to identify him publicly because of concerns for his safety.
The document was reviewed by three U.S. intelligence officials, who said they believe the document is authentic based on its unique markings and the fact that language used to describe leaders, the writing style and religious wording match other documents from the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. They asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The undated document, titled “A Brief History of the Islamic State Caliphate (ISC), The Caliphate According to the Prophet,” seeks to unite dozens of factions of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban into a single army of terror. It includes a never-before-seen history of the Islamic State, details chilling future battle plans, urges al-Qaeda to join the group and says the Islamic State’s leader should be recognized as the sole ruler of the world’s 1 billion Muslims under a religious empire called a “caliphate.”

“Accept the fact that this caliphate will survive and prosper until it takes over the entire world and beheads every last person that rebels against Allah,” it proclaims. “This is the bitter truth, swallow it.”

Retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who also reviewed the document, said it “represents the Islamic State’s campaign plan and is something, as an intelligence officer, I would not only want to capture, but fully exploit. It lays out their intent, their goals and objectives, a red flag to which we must pay attention.”

That. friends, is the Ghazwa e-Hind, which we’ve been discussing on occasion here on Zenpundit for several years:

  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=4462
  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=12683
  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=12756
  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=20592
  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=31402
  • http://zenpundit.com/?p=44267
  • Look for Tim Furnish to have more to say about this document and its implications

    **

    And…

    from a Jewish source quoted and discussed in the Times of israel on March 11 this year — yes, I’m playing catch up here — comes an apocalyptic call for two nuclear attacks — with a specific reference to the coming of the Messiah in the final paragraph:

    Op-ed calls on Israel to nuke Germany, Iran<

    Right-wing media outlet Israel National News published an opinion piece Tuesday calling on Israel to launch nuclear bombs at Iran and Germany, only days after the outlet came under fire for publishing a piece accusing a war widow of killing her husband over her pro-peace views.

    In the opinion article published Tuesday, the author claims that only through nuclear annihilation of Iran and Germany, with 20 or 30 nuclear bombs each, can Israelis prevent the state’s destruction.

    “If Israel does not walk in the ways of God’s Bible,” author Chen Ben-Eliyahu wrote in Hebrew, “it will receive a heavy punishment of near complete destruction and doom and only a few will be saved.”

    One of Israel’s missions is to remember the crimes of Amalek, a tribe representative of pure evil in the Bible, whom Jews are commanded to obliterate. Among those descended from the band, the author writes, are Iranian leaders Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and current President Hassan Rouhani.

    “They don’t miss an opportunity to discuss the need for the annihilation of Israel,” he wrote.

    To combat this Israel must respond in kind, Ben-Eliyahu declared. “To an existential threat we must respond with an existential threat,” he wrote, “not with speeches in Congress. We must make it clear to the Iranians that Israel will wipe out their nuclear program and Tehran and Isfahan as well.”

    “If [an enemy] rises up to destroy you, rise earlier to destroy him: twenty, thirty nuclear bombs will do to assure the job gets done,” he continued.

    He also called on the Jewish people to remember its near destruction at the hands of the Nazis and exact revenge on Germany, now a staunch ally of Israel.

    When the Messiah comes, Ben-Eliyahu wrote, Israel will reverse the Final Solution. “Twenty, thirty atomic bombs on Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dresden, Dortmund and so on to assure the job gets done. And the land will be quiet for a thousand years,” he wrote.

    Of note here: The phrase rendered here “If [an enemy] rises up to destroy you, rise earlier to destroy him” is not a remark of Ben-Eliyahu — he is quoting the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a:

    Im ba l’hargekha, hashkem l’hargo

    variously translated “If he come to slay thee, forestall by slaying him<" in the Soncino edition and more colloquially "If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him (first)" on the AJC site.


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