Quotulatiousness

February 10, 2016

Andrew Coyne re-phrases Justin Trudeau on our Iraq commitments

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s all a bit confusing, so Mr. Coyne has thoughtfully straightened out and recast the Prime Minister’s statement:

Still, in any mission, you need to make choices, even false ones. We can’t do everything. Rather, in the fight against ISIL we have chosen to do everything except the one thing our allies have asked us to do: fight ISIL. While Canadians have always been prepared to fight, we believe that in this campaign there are better ways we can contribute that build upon our uniquely Canadian expertise. Thus, rather than actually fly the planes ourselves, we will rely on our uniquely Canadian expertise in refuelling planes for others to fly.

Let me be clear. There is a role for bombing — just not by Canadian pilots. After all, combat is not what Canada is all about. Rather, what Canada is all about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf. Think of the consequences, if in the course of an airstrike aimed at ISIL one of our brave and talented Canadian pilots were to inadvertently kill a great number of innocent civilians. Whereas merely providing the fuel for the plane that does — along with aerial surveillance, and of course the essential work of identifying targets by our special forces, er, training advisers working on the ground — leaves us wholly uninvolved.

A word about those trainers. It is true that we are tripling their number, while increasing the total number of our military personnel in the region by a fifth. Here again I would caution people not to think this meant we were somehow engaged in combat. Yes, it is true that they will be installed near the front line, and yes, training will often involve taking Iraqi and Kurdish troops out on patrol, and yes, this will sometimes mean that our troops are fired upon, and yes, they will sometimes be obliged to fire back. But merely because our troops will be firing upon the enemy in a war zone or calling in airstrikes from above does not mean they will be in combat. I mean, it says right there in the platform: “We will end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq.”

January 26, 2016

Inventing ISIS

Filed under: Middle East, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page looks at some of the prevailing beliefs about the origins of ISIS among refugees:

Interviews with refugees from the fighting in Iraq and Syria as well as people still in those countries shows that over 80 percent believe the Islamic terrorists in general and ISIL and al Qaeda in particular are creations of the West (particularly the United States) and Israel as a means to destroy their countries and Islam. This is nothing new and while all this is unbelievable to most Westerners and largely ignored by Western media and politicians it is very real and has been for a long time. Media in these countries is full of even more fanciful (to Westerners) inventions. This has caused problems for Western troops operating in those countries, although some have figured out how to take advantage of it.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed because “sorcery” is a capital crime under Islamic law. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts and this is often found useful in countries that are hostile to other forms of sorcery.

For example back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when Moslems, particularly women and children are among the victims. In response many Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Moslems again blamed Israel for staging those attacks. A favorite variation of this is that, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, a secret message went out to all Jews in the area to stay away. Another variation has it that the 19 attackers (all of them Arab, 15 from Saudi Arabia) were really not Arabs but falsely identified as part of the Israeli deception. In the United States some Americans insist that the attack was the work of the U.S. government, complete with the World Trade Center towers being brought down by prepositioned explosive charges. While few Americans accept this, the CIA and Mossad fantasies are widely accepted in the Moslem world. Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks, in an effort to trick the U.S. into attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are shocked at this, but the Moslems expressing these beliefs just shrug when confronted with contradictory evidence.

January 22, 2016

The Fight for Montenegro & The Disaster Of Kut I THE GREAT WAR Week 78

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 21 Jan 2016

The Russians try to take Czernowitz, the Capital of Austrian Bukovina but thousands upon thousands of Russians were killed in action. While in Montenegro, Austro-Hungarian troops under commander in chief Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf take control of the Balkan state of Montenegro. A relief force led by Lieutenant-General Fenton Aylmer had to return to base after a big loss against the Turks, while in South Cameroon, so the Germans retire into Spanish territory.

December 14, 2015

David Warren’s “On welcoming Muslims”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren’s essay on the pending influx of tens of thousands of Muslim refugees from the Middle East and other areas covers a lot of territory, including the current stance of “The Donald”:

In fact, Trump is a typical liberal, and his “moratorium” a typical expression of asinine liberal thinking. That is to say: “Let us call a time out, while we find a way to fix this cock-up in our social engineering.”

That Trump is risking his own substantial business interests in the Middle East, is an indication that he sincerely intends to become President. It is this very sincerity that is making his “connexion” to the American masses. So note: he is not just a Clinton plant. Vice versa, when Hillary says that she fears him, she is not kidding, either. Any emotional connexion between Trump and voters endangers her own presidential prospects. The media say otherwise, but one must remember they are usually wrong; and always, when they are certain.

I think the chances Trump will become the next President are not high, but rising. He climbed another eight points after his “moratorium” suggestion. About ten more like that, and his bid is clinched.

Or put this another way. The “mainstream” politicians think the voters will swing back to them, when they realize how scary the “alternatives” are. One might describe this as the optimism of despair.

And the similarities and differences of Christians and Muslims in their religious observances:

The great majority of Muslims, like the great majority of Christians today, do not take their religion that seriously. They prefer it watered down, often to homaeopathic doses. And yet there will always be revivals and, contrary to the hopes of liberals, the “core teaching” of each religion remains, ever awaiting rediscovery.

At the Reformation, Christianity was not “reformed.” It was jarred and split, but then it reassembled. The Catholic teaching did not go away. With time, even the most radically schismatic sects returned to something like the Catholic teaching, or left Christianity altogether. By comparison, Islam was apparently shattered, when it came into collision with European modernity. But it has been reassembling, ever since.

The idea of spreading Islam through violence is not a deviation. Indeed, the founder of that religion preached violence against all “infidels,” and set a personal example in spreading Islam through Arabia, by the sword. His successors continued thus, spreading the new religion from Morocco to India. Later Caliphs have honoured this precedent through fourteen centuries. Islam is not and has never been a “religion of peace.” It is a religion of war, and peace through conquest. Liberals may deny that anything in history really happened, but this is what did.

They may on the contrary insist, like the delusional Barack Hussein Obama Soebarkah, that Christians were sometimes violent, too. Darn right, but if he ever gets around to consulting his New Testament, he will find that this is not doctrinal. A Christian could remain doctrinally sound, and go through his whole life without killing, or even promising to kill should the opportunity arise, a single person. He might even proselytize, without uttering mortal threats. So could a Jew, for that matter, a Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian — so far as I can see from my (admittedly modest) forays into comparative religion. The criticism is Islam-specific.

Which leads to the third liberal argument: that we are prejudiced against Islam. This is quite true in my own case, and that of every other observant Christian. But we also observe the Christian distinction between sin and sinner.

Muslims, as all other humans, should be loved (which is not the same thing as “tolerated”). It is the religion, Islam, that we have always condemned, so fulsomely. I have met many fine Muslims, especially in those countries where I lived or travelled among them. I have heard or read many noble attempts to interpret Islam in a Sufi, spiritual way. I have observed that, “We have a religion that is better than we are, while they are often better than their religion.” I have admired the many, extraordinary feats in science, philosophy, and the arts, done by great Muslims in centuries gone by. I have also noticed that these accomplishments were sooner or later disowned, within the civilization itself, as being in conflict with Islamic teaching.

December 11, 2015

Britain On The Run – The Siege of Kut Al Amara I THE GREAT WAR – Week 72

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 10 Dec 2015

Serbia is breaking under the pressure of the Central Power invasion and the last troops and civilians flee through the Alps. The final decision to evacuate Gallipoli is made and the British Indian Army gets under siege in the town of Kut Al Amara in Mesopotamia. The end of 1915 certainly looked grim for the Entente. The morale in Italy was also at a low point after the Fourth Battle of the Isonzo river ended like the three before.

December 8, 2015

Born On The Shores Of Gallipoli – ANZAC in WW1I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: History, Middle East, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 7 Dec 2015

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC fought in Gallipoli, on the Western Front and in the Middle East during World War 1. Even though the Gallipoli campaign was an ultimate failure, it was the birth hour of the New Zealand and Australian national consciousness. Find out how the Great War shaped Australia and New Zealand in our special episode.

QotD: Politics, ideology, tribalism, and religion in the Middle East

Filed under: Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Western media and intelligentsia don’t seem to have a clue that the issues in the Middle East are not related to competing political ideologies, but to competing religious tribalism.

The ongoing conflicts throughout the region, and in other parts of the world, are not about democracy versus monarchy; or fascism versus communism; or imperialism versus freedom. Or indeed any of the other childish ideologies Western journalists fell in love with during their undergraduate post modernist deconstructionalist courses by failed ex-[Trotskyites], who simply can’t accept that the last century has proven how appalling and basically evil their over-simplistic ideologies are. (Yes Comrade Corbyn, that’s you and your gushing twitteratti I am slamming!)

In fact the problem in the Muslim world is that they are entering the third decade of the Muslim Civil War.

The Sunni and Shia are at about the point that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were at in Europe in the 1620s to 30s, and it is only going to get worse. That war was ideological, and paid very little attention to national boundaries. This one is the same. The Christian 30 Years War is about to be repeated in a Muslim civil war, and 30 years might be an optimistic number.

Interestingly the Christians split over three or four centuries into Orthodox and Roman, then split again into Albigensian and Protestant, etc. Eventually it got to the point, after 14 or 15 centuries of slow development, that major conflict broke out. Is it co-incidence that the Muslims have followed a similar path? Is it inevitable that after 14 or 15 centuries of existence, they too are having a major internal conflict? Or is it just that a century of renewed prosperity and development (largely brought on by Western intrusion into their secular affairs) has given them the semi-educated proto-middle-class who traditionally stir up revolutionary stuff they don’t understand?

Whatever the reasons, stupid Westerners are eventually going to have to admit to a few of realities.

  1. No matter how much you fantasise about the functionality of republics and democracy, you can’t impose systems that don’t work in places that don’t have the necessary pre-requisites.
  2. No matter how much literacy or free press you do manage to push in, you can’t impose rule of law and understanding of natural law on societies that have very specifically rejected such concepts for eight or nine centuries.
  3. No matter how much your secularist ideologies (developed from safely behind two millennia of Christian teaching that accepts rule of law and natural law) is offended, you cannot expect a similar acceptance from people whose cultural development of such beliefs is several centuries behind the West.
  4. No matter what you want to believe, the Muslim civil war is happening.

Let’s hope we really are at least half way through the 30 years…

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s”, Rethinking History, 2015-09-19.

December 7, 2015

Saudi women can now vote, but are still far from having equal rights with men

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ian Geldard linked to this article at The Week. It was posted in August, but the situation is still pretty much identical:

Women in Saudi Arabia are registering to vote for the first time in history, more than four years after King Abdullah granted equal voting rights.

They will be allowed to vote in municipal elections due to take place in December and can also stand as candidates.

“[Voting is] a dream for us,” Jamal Al-Saadi, the first woman to register in Medina told the Saudi Gazette. “[It] will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of decision-making.”

Human rights campaigners have welcomed the move, but warn there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality in the conservative Muslim nation.

Saudi Arabia has an abysmal human rights record, particularly with regards to protecting women. Although in recent years the rights of women have been incrementally extended, their actions are still severely restricted.

“This long overdue move is welcome but it’s only a tiny fraction of what needs to be addressed over gender inequality in Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty International’s Karen Middleton told The Independent.

“Let’s not forget that Saudi Arabian women won’t actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they’re still completely banned from driving,” she says.

Rescuing Yazidi captives from ISIS

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Middle East — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Hannah James reports on Montreal’s “Jewish Schindler”:

From his office at The Prancing Horse — a high-end car and motorcycle dealership in Montreal — Steve Maman is scrolling through picture after picture of Yazidi women and girls he’s helped liberate. They were held as slaves in northern Iraq by fighters with the Islamic State group.

“You relive the emotions,” Maman explains as he looks through his files of dozens of women and children. “It’s anger. Right now I’m getting angry. That’s all it is. It builds anger. You get angry.”

In August 2014, IS militants raided villages in the Sinjar District of northern Iraq. It’s an area occupied by many Yazidis – a religious minority practicing an ancient religion, pre-dating Islam.

IS considers the Yazidis heretics, and set out to purge the villages of men, and to kidnap thousands of women and children to sell as sexual and domestic slaves.

Not long after the invasion of Sinjar, an IS video surfaced, showing a group of men laughing and joking about buying and selling Yazidi girls.

“Can you prove to her you’re a man?” one of the men asks another.

Maman, a car dealer specializing in luxury vintage automobiles, saw the news coverage of the massacres across Sinjar, and says he felt he had to take action. He calls his mission not a “choice” but “divine providence.” He says he’s inspired by his religious beliefs, and also by Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who rescued 1,200 Jews during the holocaust.

December 4, 2015

The moral wretchedness of BDS

Filed under: Britain, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill talks about the anti-Israeli BDS movement:

There are many weird and angry political movements in the 21st-century West. But it’s hard to think of any as ugly, vindictive and packed with prejudice as the Israel-bashing BDS movement.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Its backers want every institution, retail outlet and right-minded person in Christendom to refuse to have anything to do with Israel and its apparently wicked wares and people.

They want us to stop buying Israeli produce. To refuse to read books written by Israeli academics. Even to refuse to listen to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, lest its beautiful music infect our minds and make us think for a dangerous split second that Israel might just be made up of people like us.

The ugliness of BDS was thrown into sharp relief yesterday, when it was revealed that a former Cambridge academic refused to answer a 13-year-old girl’s curious questions because the girl is an Israeli.

Marsha Levine, a supporter of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, is an expert on horses. Israeli schoolgirl Shachar Rabinovitch emailed her to ask her some questions, saying “I know you are a very important person and I’ve read your articles about horses”.

Ms Levine’s response was like something out of a Grimms’ fairytale: an angry woman barking irrationally at an innocent, inquisitive girl who made the mistake of (virtually) knocking on angry woman’s door.

“I’ll answer your questions when there is peace and justice for Palestinians”, she said. “You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people.”

And that was it. Ms Levine refused to respond to a schoolgirl’s questions about horses because the schoolgirl lives in a part of the world where there is conflict. Actually, scrap that. She refused to answer the girl’s questions because of the girl’s nationality. Nasty stuff.

December 3, 2015

Bombing probably won’t change anything in Syria

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charles Stross looks at the role of Turkey in the fight against ISIS (that is, Turkey’s actions within the theatre of war, not strictly speaking, actions against ISIS):

Turkey was, prior to 1918 and the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the hegemonic imperial power in the middle east, in the form of the Ottoman Empire. Syria was as much a part of Turkey’s “sphere of influence” as the Eastern Ukraine was of Russia’s — incidentally, another zone where the post-1918 settlement is going up in gunsmoke and it’s raining airliners. More to the point, geopolitically Turkey is in a weird position. It was roped into NATO in the wake of the second world war as part of the USA’s policy of encirclement of the USSR—but Turkey’s national aspirations are intrinsically at odds with some of its NATO partners, spiking on occasion to the level of warfare. Let us not forget that Turkey was also the imperial hegemon that ruled Greece and the Balkans. And today Turkey controls a vital regional resource — the tributary rivers that flow into the Euphrates, the main supply of irrigation of water into Syria and northern Iraq. Turkey has been damming the Euphrates and restricting the water flow to Raqqa province, violating international water sharing conventions. Syrian anger over the Güney Doğu Anadolu project was a major reason why the Assad government began providing material support to the PKK insurgency in Turkey. In turn, Turkish control over the Euphrates headwaters is a potent weapon against the Kurdish independence movement.

I’m an outsider and not adequately informed on this area. However, it looks (from here) as if the Turkish centralizing obsession with suppressing the PKK has led to the destabilization of Syria and northern Iraq. Syria’s government encouraging a push towards water-intensive agriculture coincided with the most intense drought on record in Syria, from 2007 to 2010, then ran into the generalized political discord of the Arab Spring: the Ba’ath government badly mishandled the demographic/economic situation during the 00’s and it would be a mistake to lay the blame for the Syrian civil war entirely on Turkey. However, cutting the river water supply to a drought-stricken region in the middle of a period of popular discontent didn’t help.

Today, 4 years after the war began, Syria is a shattered mess. It’s noteworthy that Da’esh controls areas where the water supply has been most badly affected, crippling agriculture, the main support of the poor, mostly conservative Sunni locals. Add in lots of former Iraqi army officers (pushed into fighting by the de-Ba’athication policies imposed by the US occupation and then the anti-Sunni policies of the subsequent Shi’ite government in Baghdad) and a seasoning of Wahhabite fanatics, and you have the recipe for Da’esh to get started, take root, and hold territory.

November 27, 2015

Pride Comes Before The Fall – British Trouble in Mesopotamia I THE GREAT WAR – Week 70

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 26 Nov 2015

Far away from the Western Front, the British Indian Army gets intro trouble in Mesopotamia against the Ottoman Empire. In the Alps, the Fourth Battle of the Isonzo is proving just as disastrous to the Italians the other three before. And in Serbia the situation is getting darker and darker as Nis is falling to the Central Powers. All while the flying aces of World War 1 are fighting it out in the skies over the Western Front.

November 26, 2015

Tom Kratman’s “Dear Russia” letter

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tom Kratman looks at what is known about the Turkish military’s attack on a Russian aircraft earlier this week:

Firstly, my condolences on the recent murder of your two pilots. While one might argue that shooting descending parachutists (as opposed to paratroopers) would be permissible in some circumstances, as when there is no reasonable possibility of capture, in this case there was such a possibility. Obviously, you’ll want revenge. I – and I think most Americans, at least such as are not in favor of a large and viciously fundamentalist Islamic state in the Middle East – understand and, generally speaking, approve of things like that, where called for. The situation, however, is more complex than that. Because of that complexity, I strongly encourage you to dispense with emotion, to the utmost of your ability, and reason carefully before acting.

I can’t offer condolences on the initial shoot down of your Sukhoi-24, because I really don’t know what happened. If it drifted into Turkish airspace, and the Turks shot it down, even if they pursued it out of Turkish airspace…well, you’re in an unenviable moral position to complain about any of that, given the conduct your predecessor in interest, the USSR, with regard to KAL 007. If, however, it never violated Turkish airspace, and the Turks crossed over to attack it, you may well have a casus belli against Turkey.

If the Turks are offering war I strongly advise you to decline the invitation. They are very nearly a peer competitor, having similarly sized armed forces, quite possibly better trained, an economy almost as strong as your own, and likely rather stronger when you count out export of raw materials. They’re not as technologically sophisticated as you are, but they have friends who are more so. And you just wouldn’t believe the long-standing love affair between the US Army and the Turkish Army, based on their performance in Korea in the early fifties.

*****

A little aside is in order at this point. I’m not really so concerned about the incident that just took place, with one of your planes shot down by the Turks, and the ejected pilots murdered on the way down. What’s really bugging me is the almost instantaneous assumption of people over here that this was the first set of shots in World War V, World War III having been the Cold War, and World War IV the on-again, off-again, fiasco with the Islamics. On its own, this should not be capable of doing that. Add in paranoia, self-fulfilling prophecy, idiotic foreign policy on many fronts, from many fonts, a fairly inscrutable Turkey…I’m a little concerned that things might spiral out of control.

*****

Earlier in this missive I said I don’t know what happened. Nonetheless, here’s what I think happened. I think that Sukhoi was on a strike mission against the Turkmen Brigades in Syria. I think you’ve been occasionally bombing the crap out of the Turkmen Brigades in Syria for a while now. That would tend to explain the vindictiveness of the folks on the ground who shot at your descending pilots. I think because of that bombing, the Turks, or at least one of the Turks, north of the border decided to help his or their close cousins in Syria. I think it made not a bit of difference whether or not you crossed the border; the Turks wanted to set an example and instill a little fear and friction on you, so would have crossed themselves even if you hadn’t. I suspect the order to do this came from the highest levels in Turkey, probably Erdogan, himself.

No, that doesn’t mean that whipping out the Polonium 210 dispensers would be a good idea.

November 16, 2015

Accepting the truth in the wake of the Paris attacks

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Douglas Murray on the slow, unwilling movement toward accepting the true reasons for anti-Western violence like the Paris terror attacks:

The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.

In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. It was what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris in January. And it is all that most politicians will be able to come out with again after the latest atrocities in Paris.

All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent.

If politicians are so worried about this secondary ‘backlash’ problem then they would do well to remind us not to blame the jihadists’ actions on our peaceful compatriots and then deal with the primary problem — radical Islam — in order that no secondary, reactionary problem will ever grow.

Yet today our political class fuels both cause and nascent effect. Because the truth is there for all to see. To claim that people who punish people by killing them for blaspheming Islam while shouting ‘Allah is greatest’ has ‘nothing to do with Islam’ is madness. Because the violence of the Islamists is, truthfully, only to do with Islam: the worst version of Islam, certainly, but Islam nonetheless.

Theodore Dalrymple expresses a bit of sympathy for the politicians who must say something in the wake of atrocities:

One has to pity — a little — politicians obliged to react publicly to events such as those on November 13 in Paris. They can’t pass over them in silence: but what can they say that does not sound banal, hollow and obvious? They can only get it wrong, not right.

That does not excuse inexactitude and evasion, however. French president François Hollande called the attacks cowardly, but if there was one thing the attackers were not (alas, if only they had been), it was cowardly. They were evil, their ideas were deeply stupid, and they were brutal: but a man who knows that he is going to die in committing an act, no matter how atrocious, is not a coward. With the accuracy of a drone, the president honed in on the one vice that the attackers did not manifest. This establishes that bravery is not by itself a virtue, that in order for it to be a virtue it has to be exercised in pursuit of a worthwhile goal. To quote an eminent countryman of the president, Pascal: Travaillons, donc, à bien penser: voilà le principe de la morale. Let us labor, then, to think clearly: that is the principle of morality.

President Obama was not much better. He made reference in his statement to “the values we all share.” Either he was using the word “we” in some coded fashion, in spite of having just referred to the whole of humanity, or he failed to notice that the attacks were the direct consequence of the obvious fact that we — that is to say the whole of humanity — do not share the same values. If we shared the same values, politics would be reduced to arguments about administration.

November 13, 2015

“The United States is engaged in a war of ideas — and it’s losing”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

J.M. Berger discusses the challenges of having to overcome an extremist narrative in the struggle with ISIS:

“The United States is engaged in a war of ideas — and it’s losing.”

This refrain feels modern, but it has echoed through most of American history. The argument that the U.S. is losing a war of ideas or narratives to ISIS is only the latest iteration. As Scott Atran recently wrote at The Daily Beast, the various military campaigns against the Islamic State obscure “a central and potentially determining fact about the fight” — namely that it “is, fundamentally, a war of ideas that the West has virtually no idea how to wage, and that is a major reason anti-ISIS policies have been such abysmal failures.”

The myth that America’s narrative is losing to ISIS’s persists despite the fact that millions of people are fleeing ISIS territories, while mere thousands have traveled to join the group. It persists despite the fact that the Islamic State’s ideological sympathizers make up less than 1 percent of the world’s population, even using the most hysterically alarmist estimates, and the fact that active, voluntary participants in its caliphate project certainly make up less than a tenth of a percent.

In the United States, the notion of a “war of ideas” dates almost as far back as the Revolutionary War, according to Google Ngrams, which searches the text of English-language books that have been digitized. The phrase appeared during the Civil War, in the context of slavery, and returned during World War I. References soared as the United States entered World War II, and became a fixture of American political discourse during the Cold War. The Korean War was a war of ideas; so was Vietnam.

And in every era, the same alarm bell has sounded.

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