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  • Israel frets about "Iran as Neighbor" if Aleppo falls & al-Assad Regime Wins
    • How ridiculous. The worst that would happen would be the establishment of the status quo ante bellum. Like US neocons, they peddle and survive on instilling fear in their population.

  • 5 Worst Foreign Policy Moments of GOP New Hampshire Debate
    • While you are correct in that the first use was in Vietnam, I recall seeing the figure of 10% of the bombs dropped in that war were "smart" bombs, 90% weren't. Also, laser guided bombs were hampered by clouds and dust. With GPS and other methods, bomb technology has advanced greatly since 1972 so that a bomb can literally be put through a window in a large multi-story building from 10,000 feet.

    • Perhaps the Jordanians have the good sense to not get involved in a bloody civil war in another country. I think they are to be congratulated for that, not criticized.

    • And let's not forget that the Pershing raids were basically a failure which also had the effect of turning the Mexicans against us, even those who didn't like Villa. The raids did, however, give Patton (I think he was a major then) a chance to brandish his pearl handled revolver. so there is that.

  • Syria Rebels face Collapse as Thousands flee North Aleppo
    • More delusion. When was the last time that diplomacy stopped a civil war? Didn't happen in Nigeria, Spain, the US, Russia/Soviet Union, England, or anywhere else I can think of. In case of warfare, diplomacy works when both sides are exhausted and accept that a stalemate has been reached and their side cannot win. That has never been the case to this point in Syria.

    • Haven't you learned anything from history? I think the last time the US was able to impose its will on another country was the island of Grenada.

    • I expected that with Russian help the Syrian forces would eventually win. Even so, Syria will probably face guerrilla war and terrorism for some time. As I have maintained from the beginning, the best course for the US is to stay completely out. Fortunately our involvement has been relatively limited and late to arrive. There are no winners here and it was unlikely that there would have been once the Assad regime survived the first year and the defections from the army.

  • Syria: The Mother of all Battles for Aleppo is Joined
    • during WWII the US bombed Germany during the day and attempted to hit military targets. A lot of civilians were also killed, but there was no attempt to kill civilians. The British bombed at night and did area bombing, aiming at cities with little to no attempt to hit military targets. That is the difference between indiscriminate and non-indiscriminate bombing. As for Cameron, are you really that dense? He formed his government by allying with the Liberal Democrats under Clegg. Together they had about 60% of the vote; that's a majority where I come from. I doubt either Assad, father or son, has ever had a representative election which comes anywhere close to being democratic.

  • Foreign Policy Winners and Losers in Iowa
    • That just didn't sound possible, so I have tried to do some research. There are almost 1700 precincts, so there had to be way more than 1,402 Democrats voting. I think maybe you are reporting on the number of precincts that had reported in when you last saw it. Unfortunately, after checking about a half dozen different web sites, I have found only the % of precincts won and the number of delegates awarded. I have not been able to find the number of votes actually cast. But, obviously it must have been many more than you report. I saw a picture from one precinct that showed about 40 to 50 Democrats caucusing.

    • Democrats are historically pretty good at governing, but not so good in organizing the party. I think it was Will Rogers who famously said, I don't belong to an organized political party--I'm a Democrat.

  • Exasperated by Netanyahu, France Prepares to Recognize Palestinian State
    • Obama is very politically savvy most of the time. I think it would be best if the French wait until after our November elections when, hopefully, a Democrat wins the White House. Then President Obama can look the other way when these type of resolutions go before the UN and this would not damage the party's election chances. Given the strength of the Israeli lobby, although I feel certain the President wants these resolutions to be approved, he doesn't want to do anything to damage the Democrats chances of winning.

  • Rhetorical Terror: GOP Candidates Pledge War Crimes, Carpet-Bombing, Asian Land Wars
    • It's a little more complicated than that and Hitler never won more than 32% of the vote.

    • It is my understanding that the Whigs were torn apart by the slavery issue. Their policies were not necessarily far out of the mainstream of politics of the time. The current Republican nominees are a radical departure from any candidates from the GOP since about forever. While Bush turned out to be very right wing, he campaigned as a centrist. Only Kasich among this group comes close to being a centrist. This is what I am talking about.

    • Wow, this may be the densest thing (not dense as the slang meaning of dumb, but in crowding a lot of complex ideas together in a long narrative) I've read since I read an article many years ago by sociologist Robert K. Merton. Some of your generalizations need work.

    • Thank you Professor Cole for doing the dirty job of actually listening to this parade of fools and idiots. Whenever I try I can't take it for more than a few minutes or I would be running out of the room screaming. Having followed politics closely since about 1960 and studied it extensively, I cannot think of a time when our country has been so off the rails politically with a major party. It is truly scary that a party nominee will actually come from this group of nincompoops and that millions of people actually support them. If a Republican wins I may have to look into moving to Australia since it is far, far away. Any one of them could do a great job of ruining this country, finishing the job that Bush started. God help us all.

  • Top 5 Ways Putin has won big in Syria and why Europe is embracing him
    • This is one of my favorite websites, so I kind of hate being so contrary at times, but Professor Cole here is guilty of missing the forest by concentrating too much on the trees. The positive or negative effects of foreign policy decisions cannot be discerned after a few months, or even after a few years. Often a decade or more is required before one can see for sure if a certain foreign policy initiative works out well or not. We can rely on historical precedent and look at international trends to make an initial judgment, but foreign policy must be looked at strategically and long term. Was the alliance with Cuba a good thing for the Soviet Union? Well, at first it looked like it because it gave the USSR a chance to tweak the US and provided a base for Soviet ships and then military advisers, and then missiles. However, it eventually turned out to be a millstone, first with the missile crisis and after that the USSR had to send hundreds of millions of dollars every year to keep the Castro regime afloat. Many other examples could be cited. Russia has been allied with Syria for several decades. What benefit has that given them? While they have kept Assad from falling, what comes after that? So, if Assad survives and the rebellion is defeated, you will then have a country that is almost totally prostrate that will requires tens of billions of dollars to reconstruct. Where is that going to come from? They have very little oil or other natural resources. Iran can help some, but will Russia then be required to take on that burden, all for a decent naval base in the Mediterranean? Remember that Russian ships can always be shut out of the Mediterranean during conflict by the Turks at the Dardanelles. I say if the Russians want a Syrian alliance, let them have it; it is of little value to the US or the West.

  • Tahrir 5 Years Later: The Hurdles to Democratization & Arab Youth Revolts
    • With friends like the Saudis, who needs enemies. George W. Bush needed them to bankroll him in business, but ordinary Americans, not so much.

    • Here's how old I am. I think it was 1968 when a book came out (I remember the authors were Textor and Banks) that was the first real accumulation of data on various economic and social factors for, I think, close to 100 countries. So my graduate class in political development was tasked with punching out IBM cards and running regression analyses on two or three of these data sets (there must have been about 50 different variables, so we all picked different combinations) to try and find out any correlation between them. Anyone remember IBM punch cards? This was even before there were computer monitors. I mention this to show that this gives you an idea of how long political scientists have tried using social science to find out the main factors in political development. Professor Cole gives a pretty good summary of the major factors here. The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington had two excellent contributions to this discussion, in my opinion. One, The Soldier and the State, was a good treatise on the role of the military and what factors were most likely to lead to military interventions, and if memory serves, Political Development in Changing Society. In this latter book he concluded that well developed political parties were the key to developing stable democracies. Ironically our Founding Fathers didn't really foresee political parties, didn't favor them, and in the case of Washington, were actually hostile toward their development. To that I would add professional bureaucracy since that is key to having an effective government. Other social scientists have pointed out the importance of a middle class. It's kind of a truism that you care more about political freedom if you aren't starving, but well fed. The major problems of developing countries, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, is there is often a serious lack of stable political and social institutions. Thus, when the dictatorship falls, there is often nothing to fill in the breech. The history shows that in all countries democracy when first established rarely remains stable continuously. People tend to forget how strong sectionalism was in the early US. People for a long time identified themselves first by what state they lived in rather than being a US citizen. And then there was that little thing called the Civil War, the effects of which are still felt today. I guess you could say that the failure of democracy to take root is not only unsurprising, it's maybe surprising how widespread democracy has finally become. 50 years ago in South America it was rare. Now it has become, although with hiccups, much more common.

  • No, Gov. Snyder, Flint's water wasn't poisoned by "Government": It was by your Appointee
    • I used to work in city government and am aware of the supremacy of state law. However, this is an altogether difference in nature than what is usually adjudicated regarding the state's legal supremacy. The situations you cite are very old and the law evolves, often to fit the times. The Supreme Court used to rule that because of the supremacy of contracts government could not regulate working conditions. Well, that started changing in the 30's and now the view is completely different. There are other instances where the constitutional interpretation has changed greatly over the years.

    • Just today the news is that a couple of top EPA administrators have been forced to resign. At least there is some accoluntability in the EPA. Will there be any in the Michigan state government? I'm not holding my breath.

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    • I have read quite a bit of Cold War history, as well as have lived through that period. My conclusion reached maybe 20 years ago is that through stupid policies and decisions, our own leaders have damaged our country much more than all our enemies combined. And many of these stupid decisions involve allowing private enterprise to ride roughshod over the public good.

    • While NAFTA has been really bad for the country, it took extra steps and further ideological implementation of laws which have been incredibly damaging to get to this point. In short, I hope no one thinks that NAFTA is wholly or even mostly to blame. This is the result of radical reactionaries having taken control of large parts of the GOP and implementing their disastrous policies. This is way beyond NAFTA.

    • I am glad is someone is challenging the legality of the emergency manager law. I don't see how you can overturn the will of the people like that. The US Constitution guarantees that all states will have a republican form of government. Hopefully some smart attorney will be able to form a nexus to show that this means a republican form of government cannot be abrogated by the state government. And as far as abrogating collective bargaining agreements, from what i have read, this is hardly settled law and abrogating them unilaterally through this law may also be illegal. A contract is a contract.

  • Palin for Trump: 'Political Correctness' (anti-racism) is a Suicide Bomb Vest
    • According to a report on MSNBC, an official who was in the campaign of George Wallace has said that Trump is basically using the same play book and using the same approach as George Wallace did. Early in his career Wallace lost a race to an extreme racist and he vowed he would never be out-ni**ered again. and he wasn't. This is the heritage followed by Trump, Palin, and too many in the GOP these days.

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu Still trying to derail Iran Nuclear Deal
    • I just got through reading a bunch of garbage from conservatives who are all upset that the 10 US sailors were released! They so want war. I am getting so sick of these war mongering idiots. These people border on insane. Apparently they have learned nothing from Iraq. I don't know what those of us who are sane can do about this, but I thank Professor Cole for keeping us informed about the Middle East. Unfortunately facts and good sense have little effect on people such as this.

  • Triumph of Diplomacy: Iran, on cusp of Sanctions relief, releases 5 Iranian-American Detainees
    • One of the problems that US public opinion and US political leaders share is that large majorities of them lack patience and expect problems to be solved yesterday. And, if they aren't, you are not doing the right thing. Good diplomacy is patient diplomacy. It usually takes longer, but it also usually lasts a lot longer. I don't know why so many people fail to realize that an agreement that is mutually agreed on is much more stable than one that is imposed by one side on the other. Our Republican friends (as Bernie would say) have failed to grasp this essential point. While it is early yet, this nuclear deal could be a harbinger to significant change in the Persian Gulf.

  • War Talk, Jingoism and White Supremacy at GOP Debate
    • Maybe I'm nitpicking a bit, but in foreign policy and diplomacy, choice of words is very important. So, while the article may have understated Chinese actions, it doesn't approach what is considered to be aggression in the way that term is used. It is not any kind of attack on another nation's people, territory, or property not taken in self defense, which I think is a decent definition of aggression. I would call what they are doing an aggressive initiative in that they are taking specific actions to stake a claim over a disputed area.

    • I think the term chickenhawk is much more pertinent. Of all the present candidates (hasn't Lindsay Graham dropped out, I'm assuming he has), I don't think one of them has spent any time in the military. Their ignorance about both military affairs and foreign policy is so incredible that one is left shaking one's head in disbelief.

  • Obama: Islamophobia harms US Interests; Daesh/ISIL a dangerous Fringe
    • It was WWI and the total failure at arms by the Czarist government that led to its downfall. And the first successful revolution against the Czar was not the Bolsheviks, but a government led by Socialist Revolutionaries who made the fatal mistake of continuing the war. Same thing with China. Before Japan invaded, the Chinese Communist Party had lost about 90% of its membership and was holed up in the mountains in the southwest. In Cuba, Castro never had much more than about 100 members when the Batista government basically collapsed and Castro was about the only organized group that was ready to take over. I can't think of any instance where terrorism has overthrown a government or won a war. Can anyone else? And please don't confuse terrorism with guerrilla warfare; they are two different things.

    • For the same reason I make that argument with Trump supporters and their ilk. They don't care about wrong or bigoted and you can't move them that way. I think your best shot at changing the opinions of those types is by showing them that it is stupid and hurts us rather than helps us. There are still a lot of bigots in this country.

    • While it is easy to nitpick (criticizing his remark about remaking the Middle East system which was later contradicted by what he had to say about getting involved in nation building), when compared to the rhetoric of present and even past politicians , this was the most realistic appraisal of foreign affairs and international relations I can remember by a President or even leading politician in the US. In US history, our government has tended to vacillate between isolationist and idealistic, total non-interventionist to way too interventionist. President Obama is realistic in the vein of Hans Morgenthau and it is a breath of fresh air. I think he understands international politics better than any leader since FDR and TR before him. I think that President Obama realizes that we cannot count on a uni-polar world with the US at the top and we need to work to establish a system based on combinations of nations led by the US, in which combinations shift according to the issue. This is our most realistic future.

  • How the fate of Syria's al-Assad divides the GOP Field: Cruz, Trump, Rubio
    • Wow, Ted Cruz's foreign policy adviser is an art historian?!! As for Jeanne Kirkpatrick, she also believed the US should support Argentina instead of Britain in the Falklands War. As quoted in Wikipedia, as a result of Kirkpatrick's position, the British Ambassador to the US said the following: The British ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson described her as "more fool than fascist ... she appears to be one of America's own-goal scorers, tactless, wrong-headed, ineffective, and a dubious tribute to the academic profession to which she [expresses] her allegiance".[10] Kirkpatrick also supported aid to the Nicaraguan contras. Like most neoconservatives, she had a consistent record of being wrong on policy. And yet Cruz is not nearly as bad as Rubio or Jeb Bush. The Republicans seem like a combination of the ignorant and the foolish.

  • Russian Strike on al-Qaeda Lair kills 51 at Prison, as US hypocritically slams Moscow
    • It is my understanding that while Syria provided a conduit for the transfer of arms, it is Iran that has been the major supplier of Hezbollah. The Israeli government couldn't stop the Iran arms deal. I think Obama is much less pro-Israeli than any president ;since Carter.

    • Would Chechen insurrection be better? I have read a couple different accounts that were written fairly recently and the impression I got is that the Chechen conflict was fairly widely supported by Chechens in Chechniya and was not at all solely a jihadist movement--that is Russian propaganda. Do you know any Russian history? The Soviet Union had minority problems for quite some time. For example, it wasn't until 1923 that the Ukrainians were conquered and forced to remain in the USSR, the Georgians gained independence after 1990 and so on. The USSR was made up of a polyglot of ethnic groups and different cultures. And most of them did not like being under Russian rule. As both an undergrad and graduate student I took a lot of course work on the Soviet Union and its political system. Putin is basically a despot without the communist trappings. We shouldn't expect him to behave any differently than previous Russian despotic rulers.

    • Well, I have read hundreds of books on WWII, so I can't remember the source. I looked it up just now via
      Google and found what is probably more recent data that wasn't available before, as I suspect I was reading estimates. that were made before the fall of the Soviet Union. Here is the quote from a google search: "On June 20, 1990, academics and Red Cross officials from the Soviet Union convened a panel and found that the U.S.S.R. detained more than 594, 000 Japanese for forced labor after WWII, among this number, 546, 000 were taken to camps within the Soviet Union and forced into labor. Most of these camps were in Siberia, but some were sent to Soviet Europe and the Caucasus for railroad construction, factory work, and other types of labor. They found that in the course of the dentition, 46, 082 died." The Japanese had claimed about 10 times more were missing. link to gwu.edu

    • The Russian response to the Chechen revolution is indicative of how few moral scruples the Russians/Soviets have in warfare. While the US has had many sins in warfare, they pale when compared to those of the Russians since at least 1919. Here's one historical factoid which I have always found interesting. The Soviet Army was involved with the Japanese in WWII for only about 2 weeks, but captured approximately 2 million prisoners at the end of the war. When they repatriated their Japanese prisoners a couple of years later, only 1 million returned.

    • What evidence do you have that the US and Syria could have reached a deal that would have prevented a civil war? The civil war began when Assad's security forces fired on peaceful protesters and engaged in a massacre. In the early days, many regular army forces deserted to the rebel side, as I remember the news reports. The idea that the US, which has never been closely involved in Syria before, could have stopped a civil war from breaking out seems very fanciful to me. Probably the only way a civil war could have been prevented is if Assad had been willing to share power and I have never seen any indication of his willingness to do that.

  • Iraqi Shiites up in Arms, claim Saudi "Spying on behalf of ISIL/Daesh"
    • Conservatives have criticized Obama for the Iran deal and charge that he wants to see Iran as the power in the Persian Gulf. I wonder how much benefit the US gets from our putative alliance with Saudi Arabia. We sell them a lot of weapons and they have kept the price of oil lower than it could be, but now there is an oil glut, so is this alliance worth saving? If Iran moderates, we actually have much more in common with Iran than with SA. The Saudi regime is autocratic, much more so than the Iranian, it supports Wahabism and radical schools throughout the Muslim world, is stridently anti-woman, and is terribly corrupt. Its actions in Yemen show it to be also imperialistic. We should be open to re-orienting our relationships in the Persian Gulf.

  • The Question isn't of Saving the World via Renewables but of how Much can be Saved
    • 40 and even 50 years ago scientists were saying that nuclear fusion was the way to go and we would have it in about 25 years. They are still saying it is at least 25 years away. One of the benefits of being older is I have heard a lot of this b.s. before. If the process you describe were feasible and economic, some power company would have produced it. The fact that nothing further has happened should tell you something. There are probably difficult engineering problems that haven't yet been solved. As it is now, nuclear fission plants not only take 10 years or more to build at a cost of billions of dollars, decommissioning one takes almost as long and costs about as much, something proponents usually leave out. A quick off the cuff calculation tells me that for the cost of one nuclear power plant you could probably provide solar power for several hundred thousand homes without the same problems and create more jobs. When you figure in the cost of decommissioning, double that number of homes.

    • I have already advised my younger relatives and acquaintances that they will live in interesting times. We are now at 400 ppm of CO2 and CO2 remains in the atmosphere for something like 100 years. So, even if we freeze the level at its present state we will probably see the raise of 3.6 degrees F. The problem is that we could get to a situation where the climate goes into a self-reinforcing cycle. For example, if much of the ice melts, that means less reflection of the sun back into space (the albedo effect) which increases temperatures more. What happens, for example, if it becomes too hot in the Midwest to grow the grain crops traditionally grown there? There are so many possible negative results and many which we may not even foresee at this point, that I fear things will get really bad. I think that the only hope is if some technology advance allows humanity to take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

  • Top 7 Middle East Foreign Policy Challenges in 2016
    • A correction I want to make. I wrote that Obama is probably the best US president on the Middle East since Eisenhower. I forgot Carter who managed the Peace Treaty. In his post presidential career Carter has also shown a good awareness of the reality of Palestinian oppression.

    • I would hope that we continue to have enlightened leadership. Despite your criticism, it should be clear that Obama has been the best President regarding the Middle East since at least Eisenhower. It is my hope that we are able to withdraw in 10 years, and not 20 as you predict. As far as improving our image, to withdraw and stop meddling in Middle Eastern domestic policies would be the best thing we could do for our image. Good PR is nice, but actions are what count. Regarding Syria, I think it is ironic that we probably have more leverage with Russia and Iran over Syria than with our supposed allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Our best bet may be to just cut them out. As for Iraq and Libya, I fear you make the common mistake of over estimating just how much the US can accomplish. Had we become more involved in Libya, would it have turned out better? Well, the evidence in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places suggest the answer is a resounding NO. Likewise, we can encourage the Iraqi government, or the Afghani government, to do things like be more inclusive and reduce corruption and all those good government things, and it may make no difference at all. My favorite riddle is, How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is one, but the light bulb has to want to change. We cannot force good government and good decisions on the Iraqis or anyone else. They have to learn and accept that it is a bad idea to exclude Sunnis, etc. As for Israel and Palestine, the problem goes way beyond the White House. Congress is totally captured by the pro-Israeli lobby. If any president in the near future were to do something like withhold funds because of Israeli building of new settlements in the West Bank, Congress would probably immediately pass a veto proof law overturning that action. And to not veto a UN resolution would probably cause any president's party money and votes in the next election, off year or presidential election year. Every politician knows this, so any change in this area has to be slow and incremental. As for the xenophobia and racism sweeping the country, this is almost exclusively on the Republicans and conservatives and their media allies who have chosen to politicize this issue. Their total and unreasoning opposition to Obama has led to their embrace of racists and xenophobes and, like a tar baby, they cannot unentangle themselves once caught in that embrace. Because this section of the population has attained a prominent position among the base of the party, party leaders are hesitant to criticize Trump and any others who tout these attitudes and attendant policies. Consider that almost half of the Republicans believe that Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim. If the GOP survives as a viable party, this will almost certainly be the most shameful period in their history. This has always been a strain in Amer5ican society and politics and nothing Obama or the Democrats can do will change this unless and until the Republicans repudiate these issues and the leaders who stoke them. A white racist in Mississippi is not going to change his or her attitude because of what a Democrat says.

  • The Regime Strikes Back: Syrian Gov't advances, Bolstered by Russia
    • I think it is mostly Republican neocons who think we can waltz into Syria. Liberals have more sense I would like to think.

    • I think it is a proclivity of people to want to reduce conflicts to good guys and bad guys. There are very few, if any, "good guys" in the Syrian conflict. Assad's forces have engaged in any number of war crimes. The fact that many of the opposition are no better does not erase his culpability or responsibility for these crimes. Some people want to forget that this conflict started after Assad's security forces fired on and massacred PEACEFUL protesters.

  • Would Syrian Refugee Baby Jesus be allowed to immigrate to the US?
    • Merry Christmas and thank you for the reminder about the sheep and goats story in Matthew. Too many people call themselves Christians today while ignoring the example of Christ.

  • Ghoul's Glossary: A Donald Trump Translation Dictionary
    • My wife, who is from China, is totally non-political and uninterested in politics. She came into the family room the other day and said, "Who's this Donald Trump guy? He's totally disgusting. If he becomes President, I may have to go back to China." I think that kind of says it all.

  • Obama: Is the Media Hyping the threat from Daesh/ ISIL?
    • We already fell for it once after 9/11 and have wasted from $3 to $5 trillion as a result. Some people never learn.

    • Your historical analogies about Stalin and Mao are weak and inapplicable. If it wasn't for WWI, the Bolsheviks would have probably been a footnote in history and the same for the Chinese Communists if the Japanese hadn't invaded China. ISIS success to date is due to a power vacuum and their only real threat is to parts of Iraq and Syria.

    • Very few people are informed about the history of warfare, political development, the over throw of governments, etc. Both terrorism and guerrilla warfare are signs of weakness, not strength. Groups or nations engage in those tactics because they lack the military or economic strength to gain their ends through other means. Even with strong guerrilla armies, they become victorious only if the established state collapses or the guerrilla forces become strong enough to form a regular army and defeat the established state in open battle (Communists defeating the Nationalists in China, which was really a combination of both). Terrorism against soft targets succeeds, as Professor Cole points out, only when the victim population over reacts. I was in high school at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since we were no more than 5 miles from a major military base, we went to school not knowing if we would come home or be vaporized by a nuclear attack. That was a real threat. I currently live only about 20 miles from the San Bernardino attack. ISIS is nothing compared to the threats of the Cold War.

  • Is Clinton right that Trump is Helping ISIL?
    • I don't see Clinton as a neocon by any means. Is she too hawkish? In my view, definitely. But a neocon who sees everything in black and white and who relies almost exclusively on military power? No. I fear that those on the left may adopt the view of many in 2000 who said there was no real difference between Gore and Bush. As a result, Ralph Nader got 90,000 votes in Florida. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the better.

    • Good point. Before Trump there was the invasion of Iraq, the torture regime, Abu Ghraib, and many other US actions that set the stage for ISIS.

  • Clinton: Trump chief recruiter for ISIL; Sanders: Take out Daesh First, Assad Later
    • Best, of course, would be if the Republicans nominate some semi-nut case other than Trump and then Trump runs as a third party candidate.

    • Clinton's main problem is that she shares the general arrogant outlook that it is the job of the US to do something about such and such leader or nation. Our job is to protect the United States. In the case of Syria, what happens to Assad is not a vital national interest of the United States. It would be nice to see him go, but that is not important to the US. The only important thing about Syria is that the refugee crisis is negatively impacting Europe and that is a problem for many of our allies. Our interest in the region is to neutralize, not necessarily defeat, ISIS. We can do that by helping local forces get them out of Iraq. That should be our main and really only concern and the onus has to be on the local forces. As for Syria itself, let the countries most affected work out something; there is really no need for us to be involved. Our long term involvement in the Middle East has not gotten us much of anything positive. When conducting foreign policy one has to be clinically realistic, with allowances for reducing mass suffering when that does not conflict with our national interests.

  • 41% of Trump Supporters want to bomb Aladdin and Jasmine
    • To answer your question, H.L. Mencken, who was a popular columnist in the 1920's, once said that no one ever went broke by under estimating the intelligence of the American people. Albert Einstein, speaking more generally, said that there are 2 things that are infinite--the universe and human stupidity and he wasn't sure about the universe. P.T. Barnum once famously said that there's a sucker born every minute. Richard Hofstader back in the 1950's wrote a history of anti-intellectualism in the United States. I think that now there is a widespread xenophobia and fear, stoked by right wing politicians and their media supporters that is stronger than is usually the case. I also think that the rise of various media outlets that cater to particular viewpoints and the feeling that "mainstream media" can't be trusted leads many people to follow only those media outlets that support their weltanshaung (sp?) or world view. This leads to many people being willfully ignorant. A recent poll found that when Donald Trump is fact checked and supporters are shown that he is making inaccurate statement, his supporters back him even more strongly. That I find particularly troubling.

  • Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
    • A Pew Research Survey poll found that 51% of scientists say they believe in God. I think it is a definitional issue. You can define god in ways that are pretty difficult to refute. For example, where did the matter come from for the Big Bang? You can say it was put there by God and there is no evidence to the contrary. I am an agnostic myself.

  • No, GOP, you can't win by Carpet-bombing
    • It is a sad state of affairs. I would estimate that from one fourth to one third of Americans have become irrational to the point of delusion. And at least half of the population has become scared by the propaganda from the right wing about the over hyped supposed terrorist threat. The good news is that it is still more than 10 months until the election. I think it is very likely that by the next election ISIS will have been so degraded that it will have faded into obscurity as a right wing talking point, similar to the Ebola scare. When will people finally figure out that they are being manipulated by one phony scare after another? We have become a nation of wimps, frightened to death of our own shadows.

  • Top 5 Ways Saudi Arabia really could fight Terrorism, & not by a Vague Coalition
    • "It is time the Sunni and Shiite realized they are basically all Muslims, and accept whatever differences there may be." Yeah, just like the Christians where Protestants and Catholics always got along, err, oops.

  • Is Corporate Media a danger to Society? Coverage of Trump v. Sanders
    • I have read a fair amount of modern European history, especially the 1930's, and I found the Vox article persuasive. Among the experts consulted was Stanley Payne, perhaps the foremost expert on Franco. Check it out. I would say Trump has fascistic tendencies.

    • I think it was H.L. Mencken who once said that nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

    • Ideologues, of whatever stripe, don't do nuance.

    • I am going to nitpick in order to include a good quote, paraphrased. The experts agree, Donald Trump is not a Fascist. Vox ran an interesting article where they contacted a number of academics who have studied and written about Fascism and asked them if Trump is a Fascist. I like what one said. To paraphrase, he said that you can be an arrogant, xenophobic, racist, hateful asshole and not be a Fascist. Chris Hayes put it well last week in commenting on reporting about the San Bernardino massacre. The news does not report on planes that land safely. So, even with a balanced media, which we don't have, the nature of journalism is that the ignorant, over the top guy gets more coverage than the measured, learned guy with all the facts. So, it is a two pronged problem--unbalanced media and a journalistic ethos that puts selling papers, or getting internet clicks, above getting to the truth and doing in depth research and reporting.

    • The root of the problem goes back to the Supreme Court decision in Buckley vs. Vallejo, where the Court ruled that spending money and political speech are equivalent. I sincerely doubt the Framers intended this reading of the First Amendment, so we need a progressive court to over turn this decision and Citizens United.

    • While the other candidates are worse and I love Bernie, he has been a bit squishy about US Mideast policy, being too pro-Israel for those of us who have a balanced view. So, you may want to hold off anyway.

  • After the COP21 Paris Climate Accord, what we need is an Int'l Climate Court
    • Too often so-called free trade pacts reward nations that practice environmental degradation and worker exploitation. The WTO should have its rules changed so that trade policies do not reward environmental degradation, including, especially, the wanton use of fossil fuels. Nations should be allowed to impose tariffs on those products produced via the use of an inordinate amount of fossil fuels. This would be a good step forward. The first step is only that, laying the foundation for further development. Further important steps need to be taken within the next 5 years to set actual goals and impose real teeth into regulations on an international scale. People need to remember that the amount of CO2 in the air has increased 45% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. What nations have been talking about so far is a reduction in the amount of new, higher levels of CO2 introduced into the air, which does not solve the problem. Because CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for up to a century (methane for about 20 years as I recall), just maintaining the worldwide amount of CO2 and methane being released into the atmosphere will not go anywhere near solving the problem. At the present level of 400 ppm, just retaining that level will probably produce serious deleterious environmental affects within the next 20 years or so, so this level needs to be reduced. That will require a massive and coordinated international effort.

  • Should an al-Qaeda Ally have a seat at the Syrian Table? Al-Assad rejects talks w/ any armed Group
    • I saw a Syrian expert a year or two ago on TV (his name escapes me) talking about his relationship with Assad. He had visited him several times and had another meeting scheduled about 6 months before the protests broke out that led to the Civil War. He told about how he was detained and badly handled while entering the country, despite the fact that he was scheduled to meet with Assad and they were on friendly terms. He finally got a chance to call Assad's office and was then immediately treated well. He concluded that Assad's security forces often operated independently. He was at a bit of a loss to understand the regime's vicious reaction against the protesters, assuming that at least some of that was done without Assad's direction. Nevertheless, given events since then, he held Assad ultimately responsible for the depredations visited upon his citizens. And so should anyone else, regardless of the independence of the security services, which Assad could have overruled, had he so chosen. Assad is a war criminal. War criminals should not be in charge of nation states. Some people are quick to criticize US leaders for violations of international norms, but then give a break to others. Bush was a war criminal, Obama has taken actions that are war crimes, and Assad is a war criminal. Standards are standards and should be upheld.

  • If Defeating ISIL/ Daesh is so imp't, why isn't Ramadi Campaign all we're talking about?
    • Thanks for bringing us up to date since few others bother. This shows once again that the rhetoric is all about politics and is divorced from reality, as is so often the case with Republicans.

  • Trump vs. the Founding Fathers on Muslims Coming to US
    • How sad that this even needs to be repeated. This should be common knowledge in this country. Since I was too young to remember McCarthy, this is the worst intolerance i can remember in my life and I'm 70. The fact that 30% or more of one of our major parties accepts this rhetoric is truly frightening. BTW, regarding Franklin, he was born and raised in Boston, but left for Philadelphia at a relatively early age largely because he couldn't stand the intolerant Puritan preachers who dominated Boston society at the time.

  • Obama vs. Daesh/ISIL: Freedom is more powerful than Fear & We Refuse to take the Bait
    • Most citizens don't want to take the time or trouble to learn. Despite the fact that with the internet people can find the answer to any question within seconds, I think the populace is probably as uninformed as ever. When I read histories of the US 100 and 150 years ago, (e.g., 10,000 people and up turned out for each Lincoln--Douglas debate when the population was much smaller) I think the average citizen then was actually more informed than they are now, because they cared more. Thus, right wing propaganda, especially when propounded by media sources like Fox News, is easier to propagate because people want their information spoon fed and don't want to bother to learn things for themselves. So, while the plutocracy is a huge problem, so is the intellectual laziness of the American people.

    • One definition of politics is "the art of the possible." Try actually studying foreign policy. Especially instructive is FDR's foreign policy in the second half of the 1930's. Remember that FDR had a majority in both houses of Congress and recognized the danger of Hitler and Japan and remember that the first selective service act barely passed and then was renewed by 1 vote in the House. I have actually worked in the political sphere before and it doesn't matter much what you want, what matters is what you can get done. Sigh, ideologues.

    • The problem is not President Obama. 70% of Americans favored the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A brand new poll shows 70% of Americans now favor sending ground troops to fight ISIS. Right wing politicians , especially neocons, are relentless in pushing the war mentality and far too many in the US public buy their message. Obama is way out ahead of the American public and has to throw a sop about being tough. This is the political REALITY.

  • How Turkish President Erdogan went Wrong: Dividing and Not Ruling
    • From the article, Does Putin Have A Plan For
      Syria in Foreign Policy, 9/16/15, you will see the following: "The Assad regime has been Moscow’s closest ally in the Arab world for over 40 years because Syria had been key to the Soviet Union’s influence in the Middle East. During the Cold War, tens of thousands of Russians moved to Syria while Syrian elites studied at top Russian schools. Intermarriage was common, and, at the time of the Syrian uprising, an estimated 100,000 Russian citizens were living there. Moscow had also emerged as Syria’s primary weapon supplier in the years before the Syrian uprising broke out in March 2011. Russian companies have reportedly invested approximately $20 billion; giving up Assad would also entail giving up these investments. It’s hard to imagine any new government that might come in Syria being as friendly to Russia."

    • Counting the Ottoman Empire as the same as Turkey, there have been 9 wars between Russia and Turkey, the most famous perhaps being the Crimean War. During the 19th Century, the Ottoman Empire was called the "sick man of Europe" and Russia and others couldn't wait for it to collapse so that they could pick up the pieces. This history highlights how foolish it was for Erdogan to tweak the nose of the Russian bear.

    • The US has stated that they want a diplomatic solution. The sticking point is that Russia wants a diplomatic solution that ensures Assad stays in power, while the US wants a diplomatic solution that has Assad leaving, to be replaced through democratic elections. Hopefully, they can compromise on some solution that involves a post Assad government that is relatively reflective of the popular will while being friendly to Russia. Quite frankly, if Russia wants a naval base in Syria, it makes no real difference in the balance of power in the Mediterranean so the US shouldn't let that be an obstacle.

    • I think many people misread Putin and give him too much credit. He has blundered many times in the past few years and having Erdogan disposed is not necessarily in Russia's best interest. In case you have forgotten, in the past the Turkish military has been quick to intervene with a coup when they thought civilian leadership was going astray. If Erdogan puts Turkey at great risk, does anyone think the Turkish military will not step in if they think the national security is at stake? A military Turkish government is likely to be much more pro-West and more integrated into NATO than the Erdogan government. This would not be in Russia's interest.

    • Erdogan and Putin are similar in that they are both strong men with little domestic opposition to check them. They have both over reached--Putin in Ukraine and now Erdogan with the plane shoot down. They are like two bulls in a china shop, blundering about and putting a lot of others at risk. The fact that Turkey is a NATO member and NATO was and still mostly is an anti-Russian alliance, increases the danger of the clash between these two. NATO should distance itself and let Erdogan suffer the consequences for his rashness.

    • In 1956, Britain, France, and Israel, perhaps our 3 closest allies, attacked Egypt in order to take over the Suez Canal. Not only did they not inform NATO, they kept it a secret from the US. Eisenhower was taken by surprise and totally shocked. Through financial measures and other threats he forced them to withdraw. So, your assumption that Turkey must have informed NATO is only an assumption and not something which has been shown to be true all the time in the past.

  • Putin: Turkey was protecting ISIL oil Smuggling; Russia urges Assad-Kurdish Alliance
    • I have been saying for some time that the best US policy is to withdraw from the area. However, I don't see Erdogan outmaneuvering Putin. I see both leaders floundering and making big mistakes by their interventions. This whole area is such a mess with all the conflicting and convoluted alliances, basically arising from the Sykes-Picot Treaty and the Treaty of Versailles which set up national boundaries which bear no reality to ethnic and cultural divisions. The Middle East really needs to have a grand bargain where states and boundaries are revised to better reflect the actual ethnic and cultural groups and their desire for self governance. However, that is close to a political impossibility. This mean that we will be seeing substantial political instability for at least 20 years, and probably longer. The best bet for the US is to stay as far away as possible and hope the local states can work out something that reflects reality on the ground.

  • Abortion Clinics, White Christian Terrorism and GOP Candidates
    • I hope you are wrong, but I fear you are correct. Today's conservative movement has a very large and strong faction of people who are real extremists who live in a delusional world and ignore facts and cling to beliefs, no matter how illogical and counter-factual they may be. You cannot reason with them. I live in a senior community, among many of these type and most are old white men, so the best hope is that in 20 years most of them will have died off.

    • I read that the security guard at the stadium where the France--German soccer match was being played who didn't allow the suicide bomber in and died when he set his vest off, was a Muslim of ethnic North African ancestry.

    • They were aided by European diseases like small pox which decimated their societies. I have seen an estimate that after the Pilgrims landed many tribes in the Northeast lost up to 90% of their populations to small pox. It was sort of an unintentional biological warfare.

    • You wrote, "there has never been a claim by such abortionist killers that they are attempting a societal-wide form of “christian sharia”. " Right wing fundamentalists want to impose the very thing you say is missing from anti-abortion killers. Just because the violent extremists don't mouth that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. From that wing of the conservative movement you see all the time statements like our government is founded on Christianity, how God's law must be supreme, and similar. The Hobby Lobby case is an excellent example of how, in the name of religious freedom, the right wing has been successful in allowing right wing business owners to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. There is a coherent and unified theory among right wing evangelicals and it gives cover or justification to extremists who want to use violence to achieve those ends.

  • Did Turkey send a deliberate message to Russia & was the US involved?
    • It is my theory of politics that when you have a government controlled by one man or one party/movement, those in control are more likely to identify the national interest as being the same as their own, personal interest. I don't think Russia has been well served by its policies in the Ukraine, either, but Putin seems intent on trying to regain past glory, so he chooses policies that fill that goal rather than a long term view of what is in the national interest of Russia. Erdogan is more firmly in control since the recent election than before, so I think that leads to more adventurism in foreign policy, and more poor choices in foreign policy.

  • Why did Turkey dare shoot down a Russian Plane? The Proxy War in Syria
    • If nothing else Turkey should have been able to tell what the plane was by its radar signature. Secondly, almost certainly they have some SIGINT (signals intelligence) capability monitoring Russian planes and ground control. Anyone who believes the Turks didn't know what they were doing or who they were shooting down, please see me about buying a bridge, cheap.

    • There is little to nothing the US can do about this. Nor should we even try. Putin is stupid if he thinks he can control events there. Has everyone forgotten what has happened with foreign involvement in the Middle East for the last 60 years? Continuing and total failure to control events by the outside intervenor

    • Syria is of no importance to the United States. It's only importance arises from the fact that Assad has become a war criminal for his attacks on civilians and his policies have led to the advent of a civil war which ISIS has taken over as the main rebel fighters.

    • Kurds also assisted the Ottoman Empire in their ethnic cleansing of the Armenians during WWI. Robert Fisk, the British journalist, interviewed some survivors some years ago and brought their shameful involvement to light.

    • What evidence do you have that the US had a major hand in allowing militants to go from Syria to Turkey? Did the US also have a hand in Turkey attacking Kurds in both Turkey and Iraq? People who see US hands everywhere are as delusional as those who used to see communistic involvement everywhere. Nations act in what they see are their own self interest. Turkey's self interest is to not have a Kurdistan. Also, in the past they have been averse to their Armenian minority because they fear their desire for autonomy. In what way is it in the US self interest to allow terrorists to infiltrate from Syria? Your conjecture makes no sense.

    • This is a very dangerous situation. Once again as you examine the murky alliances it is clear there are no clean hands and no clear good guys and bad guys, only degrees of evil at work. The best US response is to not get pulled any further into Syria and try to back out of this mess. We absolutely should not back Turkey in this and let them fend for themselves. Neither Syria, nor Turkish recklessness is worth going to war over.

    • So, the Germans had a right to protect the Sudetenland Germans from the Czech government? Given the arbitrary boundaries of so many post WWI states, this is a very slippery slope.

    • To call Putin an honest player is so incredibly mind boggling to me that it makes me suspect you are a shill for Putin. Ex-KGB autocrat who has sought to reclaim Georgia and large parts of the Ukraine, I doubt he has been honest a day in his life.

    • Turkey is not exactly a US lackey. It seems that both neocons and now leftist critics of US foreign policy greatly over estimate US power. Turkey has shown in the recent past that it does what it wants to do, regardless of what the US wants. Plus, as someone has already pointed out, it makes no sense for the US to create a confrontation with Russia over Syria.

  • 'Very Soon' US forces will Arrive in Syria; Russia bombs near Turkey
    • Maybe Erdogan will do what so many leaders in countries do. Influence peddling and embezzlement to see that his heirs get a large inheritance.

  • Trump's call for Spying on US Muslims recalls FBI bugging of MLK, Black Churches
    • All too often we see the Nazi or fascist analogy misused. However, Trump is the closest thing to a fascist I can think of in American history among major political figures. Maybe Father Coughlin in the 30's, but he never ran for office. And while there were prominent sympathizers during the 30's, they weren't candidates for high office. Trump has gone from being a buffoon to being a real danger to the Republic.

  • If Trump can track Muslims, close Mosques, what can he do to You?
    • Donald Trump reminds me of Dusty Roads, the character played so well by Andy Griffith in the movie A Face In The Crowd. Even if Trump self-destructs as that character does, it is frightening how easily people fall for this con man and his fall could just end up bringing about a Ben Carson candidacy, not much of an improvement. From one-third to 40% of our population has gone over to irrationality and/or delusion in politics. We are living in a difficult and frightening time and that is due more to our reaction to the terrorists than the terrorists themselves.

    • The US is devolving politically. The US has a long history of persecution of people based on their ethnicity, race, and/or religion and we are "going back to our roots." Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine is coming to pass. The elites who control the media are ensuring that fear is being spread widely so that people will accept the unacceptable. Your prescription to outlaw the GOP as a party is as abhorrent as those things you object to. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment. You don't fight unconstitutional acts with other unconstitutional acts. The fact that you choose the same methods as the right wing shows that they are winning.

    • Some, such as a mayor in Virginia, have already suggested that as a good idea.

  • Top 10 Reasons Governors are Wrong to Exclude Syrian Refugees
    • I saw on Facebook someone pointed out that if we let in these refugees, who knows but that they might do things like shooting down little children in schools, or shooting up movie theaters, or, oops, wait a minute we manage to do that without any help. To which I would add, it wasn't any refugee who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring 600. Thank you Professor Cole. This article needs to be shared widely.

  • Whether Jewish Refugees in '30s or Syrians today, USA Falls Short of own Ideals
    • Thanks for that link, that's dynamite information I hadn't seen before. As regards the general subject, the State Department was incredibly anti-Semitic at that time. FDR himself was not. Henry Morgenthau, a Jew, was not only his long time Secretary of the Treasury he was also a neighbor in New York and a good friend.

  • Dem Candidates reject War Talk, Islamophobia in wake of Paris Attacks
    • The Courts have recently ruled in cases involving states trying to enforce immigration laws that this is solely the purview of the Federal government and states cannot enforce their own laws regarding immigration. Back in the 30's California passed a law to try and stop people moving into California from the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma and Texas. The Court ruled that states cannot interfere with the movement of people across state lines. So, any such restriction by governors are illegal and unconstitutional.

  • Paris at Midnight: Attempt to push France out of anti ISIL coalition in Syria?
    • People also need to remember that only about 1 in 1000 Muslims identify with the extreme radicals.

    • I join millions of others in being horrified at what happened. However, we should not lose perspective. Timothy McViegh in the Oklahoma City bombing, with very little help, killed 168 people and injured 600. Was he the result of any policies? There will always be extreme ideologues and some of them will be motivated enough to engage in terrorism. Even authoritarian dictatorships cannot stop all determined terrorists, especially those who don't care if they die. Yes we need to stop meddling in the Middle East, but we also need to try and reduce ISIS. Hopefully that will be done mostly by those in the region. And no matter what we do, the danger of terrorism will still exist, from many different sources.

  • How a Web of Lies hoodwinked the American Public and delivered Iraq to ISIL
  • Bush Sr. Blames Neocons for Ruining W.'s Presidency: Is he Warning Jeb?
    • I don't know that there are words strong enough for public consumption that properly condemn these neocon war criminals. And Professor Cole didn't even mention the torture regime which will forever be a stain on US history. Stupid, hateful, immoral and disastrous only begin to describe the pernicious results of their policies.

  • With Ahmad Chalabi's Death, Passing of an Age of Lies
    • And the Germans gave plenty of warnings to the US, too. I strongly suspect there were those in the Administration who had a strong suspicion, if not outright knowledge, that Curveball was a fake, but he was useful in promoting their false narrative. The fact that Chalabi stooped to such efforts shows just how corrupt he was.

    • Well, we are arguing at the fringes here, but while the motives were certainly nefarious, I think that they really did believe that they could invade and occupy Iraq with a small force, we would be greeted as liberators, many thought we would find WMD's, and they had no understanding of the complex factional politics that would be unleashed post invasion. So many decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi Army without pay, were just so stupid that I can't believe anyone would do it if they had any idea of the chaos that would follow. Do you really believe that the Bush Administration wanted the occupation to fail? That makes no sense. One of the hallmarks of conservatism these days is that they live in a delusional bubble, ignoring facts in favor of belief. One of my favorite sayings is that none are so blind as those who will not see. That describes neocons and conservatives in the US generally the last couple of decades.

    • While i did miss a couple whom you mention, the others were not scholars who studied intelligence per se. I'm thinking of people like David Wise, Bamford, Christopher Andrew and David Kahn, all who specialized in the study of intelligence gathering and spycraft.

    • I never saw any news organization , with maybe one exception, consult non-governmental experts on intelligence to give their opinion on the reliability of the so-called intelligence that was being peddled by the Administration. The exception was that I once saw James Bamford, an expert on NSA, cast doubt on what was being peddled.
      While in the service I was in intelligence and I have an educational background in international relations and foreign policy. I knew immediately that their claims were doubtful and almost certainly bogus. But the media accepted everything uncritically. It was truly a time of profiles in docility and cowardice.

    • One thing I think could have been included was that the notorious Curveball, who fed lots of false intelligence to US intelligence via Germany, was a Chalabi plant. Chalabi was a snake oil salesman, a fraud, a con man. I normally don't want to celebrate anyone's death, but to this I say good riddance.

    • I disagree in that I think ignorance abounded among the neocons. As devoted ideologues, they believed what they wanted to believe and ignored any evidence to the contrary. They deliberately appointed people to Iraq who had no knowledge of the Middle East. Bush famously didn't know that Iraq consisted of Sunni, Shiites and Kurds; in fact he had no idea of what any of them were. Condi Rice's specialty was the Soviet Union. While Wolfowitz had studied the Middle East, he was very pro-Israel and wrote his Phd. on the desalination of water in the Middle East. He studied under Wohlstetter, a Cold Warrior whose specialty was nuclear deterrence. A good book is Rise of the Vulcans by James Mann, which goes into the background of the chief Bush advisers.

    • While in the Foreign Service, among his jobs was as a special assistant to Kissinger. After he retired from the Foreign Service in 1989 he became a managing director of Kissinger and Associates. So, if anything, he was a Kissinger guy.

  • Shimon Peres doubts Israel can win Permanent war or Survive Annexation of West Bank
    • Well, at least one leader in Israel recognizes reality.

    • While this may be a bit of nit picking, while I agree with your main point, I disagree that the Israelis have not had better leadership and better soldiers. To date, Israel has had, in general, better generalship, a better trained military, and often better weapons than the Arab armies it has fought. Its integration of tactical air with its army has been especially outstanding and often the difference. Trevor Dupuy has written a good book on this subject. This has often been aided by Arab disunity and cannot last forever..

  • Why ISIL is a Vast Exaggeration: & No, it can't Shoot down Planes
    • People confuse control with power. ISIS or ISIL has very little power. Their power comes mostly from fear. If all their military forces were concentrated and put into open battle with a modern military force, such as the US Army, one armored brigade would probably be enough to destroy them. Most people don't understand that asymmetrical warfare is employed when and because one side knows it cannot defeat its foe in open battle. It is a sign of military weakness, not military power. Their success is ultimately determined by their popular support of lack thereof and the popular support of their enemies. Because ISIS seem to lack widespread popular support, they will ultimately fail and their opponents need only to contain them and cut off their economic support.

  • Syria: US Boots on Ground risks Conflict with Turkey, not Russia
    • Every time Professor Cole describes the various alliances and relationships among all the groups within a particular country or area, it just illustrates how convoluted and messed up things are. If we support one ally we get in trouble with another. Oppose one faction and you are on the side of another that is equally odious. I fear that Obama has gotten involved in Syria because of pressure from conservatives in Congress and is doing just enough, he hopes, to appease them. This is a terrible way to make policy. There are no good options in Syria, it is not in our national interest and we should get out. I think Obama really wants to disengage from the Middle East, but feels like domestic opposition and events in the region are forcing him to do more than he wants. We need to cut the cord. It was painful to do that from Vietnam and adjoining states, but we are better off for doing it.

  • Syria: On eve of Vienna Summit, Has Russia changed the facts on the Ground?
    • I've been around too long and read enough history to be skeptical of any claims that Russia or any outside power can impose its will on a situation like Syria. The statement that Russia does not want a long drawn out war and is ready for a negotiated settlement is, I think, an irrelevancy. Look what happened when they invaded Afghanistan. Or the US in Afghanistan and then Iraq. Israel can't get rid of Hezbollah no matter how many times it invades Lebanon. Vietnam, civil war in China pre-1949, and on and on. Russia can probably prevent Assad from losing, but I really doubt they can bring about his victory. It will probably require something like a negotiated settlement that results in a coalition government. And that will happen only if the rebels decide to give up fighting. I don't see that happening any time soon.

    • A nice theory, but it has a major flaw. The vast majority of US court cases, both civil and criminal, are settled out of court, through pre-trial negotiations. Going to trial is really a pretty uncommon event, despite what you may see on TV.

    • You are assuming that the US can force Saudi Arabia to do something that Saudi Arabia may not want to do. Whether it is this or invading countries and changing their political systems, too many people believe that the US is capable of bringing about whatever change it wants when history shows that often is not the case. Even when we had a lot of troops in the country and have poured hundreds of billions into that country, we find that leaders like Karzai in Afghanistan and Maliki in Iraq would defy the US.

  • Iran's Attendance at Syria talks in Vienna marks its Emergence as Regional Power
    • Here I thought the main point of the article was Iran's emergence as a regional power, but reading these posts shows that's not important to other readers. When Obama said Iran would be a regional power, conservatives had a cow. He was just recognizing reality. It's not a question of if they will become one, just a matter of when. If their leadership has decided to change course and embrace that role while downgrading other pernicious aspects of their foreign policy, this is a positive development in my view. With power comes responsibility and I think as Iran becomes more active on the world stage it will take its responsibilities more seriously.

    • Hardly comparable. While Obama is culpable for things like drone strikes on civilians, failing to prosecute war criminals and some other things, he has banned the use of torture and greatly reduced the use of the military while negotiating a settlement with Iran. Assad deliberately gunned down peaceful protesters and used poison gas and barrel bombs on his own civilians. Assad's crimes have now exceeded those of his father. These false moral equivalencies are specious and show a real lack of thinking and analysis.

    • Perhaps the posters here need to read more military history and study international law. Some seem incapable of discerning between deliberately targeting civilians and accidentally killing them.

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