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Total number of comments: 9 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:56)

Greg Panfile

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  • President Obama and Counter-Terrorism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    • While I agree that providing material about American political writers of the past is a good thing, there are more things 'we' could do that would be more effective and less expensive than much of what we are currently doing monetarily. We could for example provide materials written by American Muslims about what their life really is like here, the religious freedom and so forth. We could cite Islamic traditions to point out that the Prophet and companions would never have countenanced, never mind performed, such acts as throwing acid in girls' faces for learning how to read... the tradition is to seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China to find it. The case previously made here against terrorism, based on the Koran and traditions, should be more widely promulgated. Lastly it could be pointed out that the West, despite its obvious problems and shortcomings, did solve the two real problems that have vexed Islam forever... that of succession, and of clerical involvement in politics. It is certainly not impossible that much of the Islamic world could, if it would, democratize and throw the mullahs and ayatollahs out of office, and still have societies that respected their traditions and avoided Western excesses.

  • Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism
    • Regardless of all possible nits that can be picked here, I think this is a valuable piece of scholarship with real value. All of our servicepeople and State Department personnel who interact with the Muslim world should know this. In addition it should be widely distributed in multilingual versions (at least three at once... English/Arabic/Persian, English/Dari/Urdu etc.) in areas where we have the ability to do so. Even if it just starts a discussion in those areas, or prevents a single atrocity, it would be worth it. The West needs to realize the value of communicating with people on their own terms, using materials they already value. This is, or could be, a major step towards doing so. Cheers to Juan for that.

  • UN to look into US Drone Program, but the Biggest Victim is Democracy
    • Juan,what I would find more productive here is an exploration of the alternatives, given the situation of criminal elements that directly attack civilians with modern methods. How other than with drones do you propose to address the situation, and how would you amend the Constitution to do so?

      The situation is not defined in the Constitution since you cannot declare war against something that is not a country. The alternatives would be to use the Elastic Clause to leave the matter to the states or the people, since it is not an enumerated federal power. That would mean the battle with al-Qaeda would be properly constitutionally conducted by civilian vigilante groups or the states, for example, of Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, with others free to join in, presumably. Is this what you propose?

      There are few if any precedents to what we currently face, in that prior governments with which we have warred have not used unprovoked sneak attacks on civilians as a tactic. Even the most violent organized criminals generally attack only one another, or informants. I assert that if they did engage in mass murder, there would soon be preemptive attacks upon them, using any means necessary including drones.

      Historically, the best analogy domestically would probably be the activities, for examples, of Native American tribes from the time of the Revolution onward. Some allied with the British attacked rebellious settlers during the Revolutionary War. George Washington sent troops to eliminate them and their sanctuaries ruthlessly. And of course in World War II, the Allies targeted Yamamoto for assassination and bombed cities full of civilians. All were war crimes, as Robert McNamara himself admitted.

      The alternatives to drone strikes are as follows: 1. doing nothing, 2. leaving the matter to local police and military forces, 3. sending in our own troops. One can almost certainly assume that in some cases, we are already exercising the first option at times; if we always do that, eventually we will spare someone who does murder civilians. So this remains an option but not an alternative. The second option, too, happens at times, and has its own issues. Such forces are sometimes corrupt, sometimes brutal, and sometimes operate in error. In those cases as well, civilians die, innocents are victims. Many Pakistanis, for example, perhaps a majority, prefer occasional drones to their own Army coming through.

      The third alternative also, like the first two, has a non-zero error rate. Live strikes sometimes hit the wrong place, or hit innocents along with the guilty, plus of course they incur casualties on our side. This too remains an option to be used, and was in the case of bin Laden.

      I think that the drone option in certain cases is better than any of the other three alternatives, and should not be excluded under Constitutional grounds (if the matter is one to be handled by the armed forces, the President is the constitutional commander in chief and thus authorized to act executively). The parameters would be those in which there was a clear reason to act as opposed to doing nothing, and local forces were unavailable or unreliable, and the risk of casualties on our side was not worth taking.

      With all due respect, I don't see any better way of managing things. If you do, it is I think incumbent upon you to address the specifics and propose better alternatives, and back those up with facts and reasonable probabilities. The world abounds, unfortunately, with situations that were not anticipated by our founders in the 18th century, and that involve choosing the least undesirable of a limited number of unpleasant alternatives. Ideal solutions are available only in ideal worlds, and the only difficulty is that the latter do not exist, nor are they likely to anytime soon.

      gp

  • Dear Mr. Romney: Palestinians are Poor Because You Stole from them and Kept them Stateless
    • Juan, with all due respect and not to pick nits here, it seems to me that using a term like 'evil' here is clearly suboptimal in a number of directions. Having no objective definition, it can be applied by anyone to anything they don't like. Also, it is clear that in some ways Romney is not that bad a person, given that he appears to be a competent parent and to support various charitable causes and so forth. So it is also easily if only partially refuted.

      I think it is more accurate and effective to characterize him as ignorant, which he clearly is, and you prove by giving the historical background of the situation. He could also easily be proven corrupt, given that millions of dollars, even tens of millions, are available to him as a result of taking this misguided view. Lastly, he could also arguably be termed as mentally ill, since his opinions are clearly delusional and have no basis in reality.

      In sum, then, I submit that applying pejoratives such as mentally ill, corrupt, and ignorant are at least as, and indeed more, damaging and accurate than saying things like 'evil.' With all due respect;-).

      gp

  • Greek Lessons for the Arab Spring: Majid
    • It seems to me that this problem comes down to two things: one, that there was no defined process in the Koran for political succession, and two, that Mohammed's tradition of 'no monkery in Islam' has not been enforced, or was not articulated well enough or in the proper place.

      The woes of Islam throughout history would appear to all originate from these two facts. Disputes about succession destroyed all the Caliphates, Andalus, and continue to this day. And there have been constant uprisings of the mullahs to interfere with civilian authority, undermining any notion of progress or stability.

      The Islamic world needs some sort of refreshing influence to address these two issues in a way consistent with the Koran, so that its societies stop making the same mistakes over and over.

  • Omar Khayyam (23)
  • Palin was Right About those Government Death Panels
    • I don't know if this is true or not, but it does seem to me that the moral and legal focus that most people take... for solid ethical reasons, of course... may be missing the major point here. We do know, for example, that between 2002-09 all sorts of torture happened by the US, and even more by friendly countries as part of extraordinary rendition. And we know that, most likely for a variety of reasons, the Obama administration subsequently decided not to prosecute that, nor to close Guantanamo, nor to indict people for crimes.

      Now it may be that the cause of this is laziness, or a moral failing, or being just like the Bush administration, or somesuch.

      However, I think it is far more likely that, overall, the Obama administration discovered to its disgust and chagrin what a mess Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo et al had made, and how well they had covered themselves with a paper trail. To such an extent that any attempt at revealing the crimes would burn allies and low level operatives, while letting the big boys walk. To such an extent that many people were so damaged, and knew so much about US and foreign war crimes, that they simply could not be released. To such an extent that even people who were known to be absolutely guilty of serious crimes simply could not be indicted because the evidence against them was so tainted, and they themselves were torture victims who could testify to that.

      I think this is far more likely and elegant than any other explanation. It accounts for all known facts without pretending to read the minds of people whose past track record is not murderous, unconstitutional, amoral and so on. If the witnesses and evidence and accused were as tainted in various ways as described above, there would be very few viable options, and no way to reveal the facts or the underlying reasoning behind what was done.

      What one would do in such a case, it says here, is to identify those truly really dangerous and act on that, simply because not doing so due to the actions of the prior Administration and our allies would be negligent of duty. And in some cases, just keep the people locked up, because the other alternatives... trial or release... are impossible.

      The point being, if you are in a nasty business against nasty people to begin with, and also have to deal with a legacy of nastiness from 'our' side that would have all sorts of negative side effects if revealed... you end up being trapped into just what we seemed to have observed from the current administration.

  • No News is Good News (for Them)
    • What we have here is multiple failures to communicate... that is, the government has failed to communicate that all bandwidth is a public resource that has to be used responsibly by the private entities that license it. As such they should have to keep the public informed, not just amused. The drift toward 'infotainment' has become a deluge due to the particular structure of the human body... the excited, sensitized brain produces adrenalin, which makes people more receptive to messages, in this case commercials. It is all about putting asses in chairs, and inducing some significant irrational reaction... fear, lust, greed, envy... then applying the stimulus in the desired directions... buy this car, this beer, this hackneyed right-wing cliche. In contrast with celebrity high-jinks, nostalgia, semiclad nubile young things... relevant economic and political information is boring, requires thought, takes time, and is often disappointing, challenging, a 'bummer...' in short, not entertaining, not a good platform for commercial messages. Our corrupt political system has permitted this, and we have permitted it, and thus are getting what we want, and deserve, instead of what we need.

  • Israelis Could Expel Thousands of Palestinians from Palestine
    • Almost as appalling as Israeli behavior is Palestinian political ineptitude. A year or two to declare statehood? This should have been done years ago. A real strategy would be:

      1. Educate a bunch of spokespeople without accents, preferably female, to blanket the cable news channels.

      2. Pick a leader and take a Gandhi/King nonviolent approach, lying down in front of the tanks and the like. This not only occupies the moral high ground, but breaks the cycle of atrocity and removes Israeli ability to retaliate and demonize. The disparity in armament means that all violent resistance is a complete waste.

      3. Declare statehood based on the 1948 UN status quo. They won't get this but it will enable them to get as close as possible to 1967. Their international campaign should be based on UN resolutions, and the spokespeople developed in item 1 should know this chapter and verse.

      4. They need to align all US Arabian allies, especially Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia behind this, and find a way to put some teeth in it, politically and economically. There must be something the US wants from them they can make contingent on evenhandedness if the Palestinians implement a viable strategy.

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