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Total number of comments: 1481 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:38)


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  • Top Ten Things Bob Gates was Wrong about, Some Criminal
    • "I think you confuse humility with neglect."

      I don't think "Observer" was confusing humility with neglect. But I don't think either "humility" or "neglect" describe Obama's view of the United States' position in the world either. The term I would use is "naive." He has displayed a naivete about international relations from the beginning that demonstrate his lack of experience and knowledge. Why should anyone be surprised? In international affairs Obama has acted just as one would expect a "community organizer" to act.

      I am convinced Obama was genuinely convinced that his 2009 speech to the Muslim World in Cairo would get Islam on "our side." If they only "understood us." He and his team really thought they had hit a home run. His demand that Israel cease building settlements in the West Bank was noble, but crumbled when Netanyahu called his bluff and Obama was forced to back down. (showing he was no different than any other president in that respect.) Obama's (and Kerry's) bumbling approach to the Syrian crisis (Assad must go; lob missiles; don't lob missiles; take it to Congress; fumble everything so badly that the Russians intervene with a plan, etc.) demonstrated nothing so much as indecisiveness and irresolution, and has left Assad stronger than ever. There are other examples too numerous to mention in a short comment.

      One does not have to be a supporter of the Bush/Cheney strategy to recognize that Obama lacks a strategy. Perhaps Obama's "humility," (if one wishes to call it that) appeals to some, but he comes off as a president close to "humbling" himself into irrelevance in the international arena.

    • "At the end of the day he’s just another Republican wanting to cash in and his book advance probably dictated that he dish."

      Much like those other "Republicans" who have written books, such as Jimmy Carter (25 books at last count), Bill Clinton (three books) Hillary Clinton (two or three, in addition to the one she is writing now), Zbigniev Brzezinski, Rahm Emanuel, and a host of other Democrats who served in the Carter and Clinton administrations. Some Republicans! And all wanting to cash in!

  • The Failure of the Trillion Dollar National Security State
    • "Yeah, that’s the UK, but how much distance does there appear to be between their Stasi and OURS?"

      Your loose use of the term "Stasi" as applying to US and UK security organizations betrays an appalling lack of understanding of what the East German Stasi really was. Tell us, Mr. McPhee, when was the last time your neighborhood Stasi informer turned you in? When was the last time you got the midnight knock on the door and were hauled to prison because you spoke with a dissenter? How many times have you been prevented from leaving your home to visit other parts of the US because you lacked your internal passport and couldn't convince your Block Committee Chairman to issue you one?

      I know it must be terribly frustrating to want so badly to think that you are being treated in the US as the Stasi treated East Germans, and then have it brought to your attention that you suffer none of those ills. It must be a terrible thing to want to feel "oppressed" when one is not.

    • "Engelhardt never said the whole out-of-control, over-the-top Church Of The Sacred Security-tization Of Everything is just about “stopping al Quaeda,”

      Engelhardt in his own words, Mr. McPhee: "Al-Qaeda is, of course, the system’s Devil, whose evil seed is known to land and breed anywhere on the planet from Sana’a, Yemen, to Boston, Massachusetts, if we are not eternally and ever more on guard. In the name of the epic global struggle against it and the need to protect the homeland, nothing is too much, no step taken a point too far."

    • Unfortunately, Joe, this piece is par for the course for Mr. Engelhardt. His overheated rhetoric masks a lack of careful analysis and context. Of course, since he appears to think the $1 trillion per year "National Security State" is almost wholly directed at Al-Qaeda, I guess he doesn't see the need to supply analysis and context.

      Mr. Engelhardt aims to open our eyes with the following quote (among others):

      "The U.S. national defense budget is estimated to be larger than those of the next 13 countries combined — that is, simply off-the-charts more expensive. The U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carrier strike groups when no other country has more than two."

      After (mistakenly) attempting to establish that all this is directed at suppressing Al-Qaeda, Mr. Engelhardt thinks he has clinched the deal with this quote. If he actually had some idea of United States defense responsibilities around the world that have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda (e.g., NATO and Europe, Japan, South Korea, the ASEAN countries, all of which want the U.S. to remain a presence in the area as a counter-balance to Chinese influence, and others) he might have used that as context and advised how many carrier strike groups the U.S. should have--nine? three? seven? In other words, Mr. Engelhardt would have had to put some thought into matching U.S. military and naval assets with U.S. responsibilities. Judging from this and past pieces, that is something we probably will not see.

  • John McCain and Lindsey Graham Want to invade Falluja Yet Again
    • I don't disagree with Mr. Jerrerys and Mr. Bodden about the relative magnanimity shown a defeated Germany after World War II, as opposed to the vindictiveness (particularly the French insistence on unrealistic reparations) after World War I, resulting in the difference in outcomes. My point is that the allies could not have accomplished the re-making of Germany (and it was a complete re-making) without unconditional surrender and occupation. The same can be said for the re-making of Japan from a militaristic aggressor to a responsible member of the global community. Unconditional surrender and occupation enabled the allies in both cases to have complete control over the levers of power in government and social policy, and thus set the course that led to a happy outcome.

    • "However, a more generous peace at the end of the First World War might have avoided the Second by preventing the punitive measures that led to an impossible political situation in Germany in the 1920s, which in turn led to the rise of the Nazis."

      Actually, one might draw the exact opposite conclusion. At the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, except for the Battles of Tannenberg and Marsurian Lakes on the Eastern Front, not one square inch of German territory had experienced fighting or allied troops. This was one of the reasons the "stab in the back" theory" gained credence, that the politicians had "sold out" the Germans.

      World War II in Europe ended, however, with the unconditional surrender and occupation of Germany, which in turn resulted in a peaceful Germany becoming a member of the international community. Perhaps the lesson to be drawn when comparing how the two wars ended is that unconditional surrender and allied occupation resulted in the better outcome.

  • Iraq: Government assault as Sunni Extremists Take al-Anbar City Quarters
    • This is not news, Brian. If you recall Professor Cole's piece on December 27, it was widely reported that the U.S. was sending surveillance drones and Hellfire missiles to Iraq. The first line of his piece is quoted below.

      "The Obama administration is sending hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to the Shiite Islamic Mission Party-dominated government of Iraq to help in the latter’s struggle against radical Sunni rebels who have increased their bombings and attacks this year."

      My chagrin is that we did not extract a price from al-Maliki for provision of these weapons: to stop working on behalf of Iran's interests in the region and begin considering U.S. interests.

  • GOP isn't Getting more Ignorant on Evolution, it is Just getting Older
    • The most accurate figure I have seen pegs the Christian population of South Korea at 30 percent, and not all are evangelicals.

  • America's Foreign Policy Challenges in the Middle East, 2014
    • "What would those international standards be like? Lobbing missiles from drones to get people on a Tuesday kill list? Accessing the electronic communication systems of everyone on the planet? Condoning, if not supporting, right-wing coups, as in Honduras? Shredding the UN Charter and Geneva Conventions..."

      First, we shall dispense with your attempt to continue riding your pet hobby horses listed above. All of those issues cited above have been dealt with and refuted in many previous posts, and I do not intend to go over it all once more here and bore our readers. That you disagree is part of the give and take of debate, but your disagreement and alternative vision does not necessarily equate with ground truth.

      Regarding Iran conducting itself according to international standards, a good start would be to cease supporting, funding, and supplying Hezbollah's terrorist activities. No more blowing up Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, no more blowing up tourist buses in Bulgaria, for just a couple of examples. Moreover, it would cease referring to the United States and others it does not like as the "Great Satan" and acting to undermine those with whom it disagrees, instead of "unclinching" its fist, as Obama said.

      Iran appears to be veering in the direction of such conduct. Let's hope it is sincere and follows through. If it does, Iran, the Near East, the United States, and indeed the world will be a better place.

    • Excellent rundown of the U.S. foreign policy challenges in the Near East, Professor. If Iran is sincere about reining in its nuclear enrichment program and agrees to a strict inspection regime, and if as a result the U.S. and Iran can eventually establish something approaching normal relations, the Saudis will come around as well. (The notion that the Saudis might replace their long-standing relationship with the U.S. for one with China is farcical.) I hasten to add it probably will take us beyond 2014 before reaching that level of agreement, but better to nail all corners down with a good agreement rather than accept a bad agreement for the sake of just having an "agreement." The optimal U.S. position would be to have normal, productive relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, favoring neither, and certainly not diminishing our relationship with the Saudis and others by establishing a formal "alliance" with Iran, as some have suggested.

      There will always be tensions in the Near East--Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc.--but if Iran comes in from the cold and conducts itself in accordance with internationally accepted standards, it will be easier for the U.S. to manage its interests in the area. Above all, we should not alienate the Egyptian military. We have more to gain by working with the Egyptians and using quiet diplomacy to try and steer them toward eventual elections; we have much to lose by openly and publicly hectoring them about democracy and human rights.

      Now, as you have noted, if the United States could screw up its guts and stop running interference for Netahyahu and Israel in the United Nations; and above all, if the U.S. would actually punish Israel for continuing to build settlements on the West Bank against official U.S. policy...."


  • Iraq Gov't Collapsing as 44 Sunni MPs Withdraw from Parliament
    • I wouldn't place much credibility in and the author of the article Jurriaan Maessen. Mr. Maessen commits a howler right out of the chute with his first sentence that begins, "Former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski...." Brzezinski was President Carter's National Security Advisor, but he was never Secretary of State. From which matchbook cover trade school did Mr. Maessen obtain his degree in journalism and international affairs?

  • A Delegation of Congressional Christian Zionists to Israel
    • "It is also banal to add that one can find what one wants in the bible. For example, “Hatred of Jews and other non-Christians pervades the Gospel of John…Jews, he wrote, are children of the devil…”

      As Brian has already requested, please provide the citation in the Gospel of John to substantiate your quoted statement above. It is not enough to reference a "political quiz." You have made a categorical statement about the Gospel of John and should be able to substantiate it.

  • Israel plans 1400 New Squatter Homes in Palestinian West Bank
    • "Palestinians have warned repeatedly that settlement building undermines the fragile peace process which US Secretary of State John Kerry struggled to revive after a three-year hiatus."

      Palestinians are not the only ones expressing the view that settlement building on the West Bank undermines the peace process. That has been the official position of the United States from the beginning. The problem has been that neither Republican nor Democratic Administrations over the past 45 years have been willing to implement the tough measures against Israel that would be necessary to stop it.

  • Iraqi Troops sent by Shiite PM al-Maliki arrest Sunni Parliamentarian, kill his Brother
    • This is what comes of "nation-building." When Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, it was an authoritarian government with Sunnis in charge, but at least it was secular in nature and everyone knew their place. When the United States invaded, deposed Saddam, and began forcing Western-style elections on them, the majority Shiites naturally won power. Having upset the old order, we midwifed an Iraq that is now unstable with sectarian violence at every turn.

      This is precisely why it was wise for President Clinton to stay out of the Rwanda mess in 1994, when Hutus slaughtered some 800,000 Tutsis. Clinton apologized for not intervening, and many on Obama's foreign policy team today (including Samantha Power and Susan Rice) condemned the United States at the time for not intervening. They would have sent the US on another fool's errand. We did not have a dog in that fight. And we rarely, if ever, have an interest in any of the "humanitarian" interventions that Power, Rice and others of their ilk are constantly flogging. There is simply no US national interest that is advanced by getting bogged down in other people's inability to cooperate. Nations are built, and democracies emerge only when the people themselves reach a certain level of "critical mass." We cannot do it for them, and it is not our job to see that various groups treat each other like ladies and gentlemen.

      We should intervene militarily (and with great force if necessary) only when vital United States national interests and security are threatened.

  • Increasingly, all Roads run through Iran (Damascus, Baghdad, Asia)
    • " The notion that, say, the Cheney/Bush administration would have happen to make friends is without basis. Have you not read about their decision to slap away the olive branch Iran offered in 2002?"

      You are placing way too much emphasis on the Bush/Cheney Administration. For one thing, there were good reasons to believe that the so-called "olive branch" was much less than met the eye at the time. But the much larger issue is that Iran had not only behaved (and continued to behave) outside international norms with regard to the United States, it had done so with regard to Europe and the international community at large as well, touting its idiosyncratic revolutionary credentials and supporting terrorist groups and activities.

      Do you not remember the prolonged talks between Iran and the British, French, and Germans that got nowhere in the early 2000s? Do you not remember how Iran drew out those talks to stall and then ditched them altogether? Don't let your antipathy toward Bush and Cheney color your view of the history of Iran's relations with the West since 1979.

      That Iran appears to be in a more conciliatory mood for discussions now is all to the good, assuming they eventually bear fruit. But that is a function of the bite that a strict sanctions regime is having. And Iran could have attempted to come in from the cold at any time during the past 30 years if it had made a genuine effort to do so.

    • "Perhaps this has been the plan all along with the nuclear program: to exchange it for an opportunity to come in out of the cold."

      Assuming there is a nuclear program, it would have been a very expensive and circuitous route to develop it as a chip to be used in exchange for coming in out of the cold. And totally unnecessary. Iran could have come in from the cold at any time during the past 30 years if it had simply adhered to accepted international standards of conduct and indicated a willingness to join the international community.

      Iran has its own idiosyncratic revolutionary ideology that placed it at odds with so many in the international community to thank for its isolation. That was Iran's choice, but it did not have to go in that direction. If there is a nuclear weapons program, I seriously doubt it was engineered to exchange for coming in from the cold.

    • As an additional thought regarding Ms. Charountaki's piece about "All Roads Run Through Iran...To Asia," geography might lead one to think Iran will wield great influence in Central Asia. I doubt this will be the case. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and independence of the 'Stans of Central Asia, Turkey tried to wield influence in the region. Turkey, far more than Iran, would appear to potentially have more influence in the region due to historical, religious, and linguistic reasons. The region is primarily Sunni Muslim and Turkic-speaking and Sunni. Yet Turkey got nowhere in its attempt to wield influence.

    • "So far, the road to Damascus, Baghdad and Asia go through Iran."

      Ms. Charoutaki should have restricted her "road" analogy to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Clearly, that is where Iran's influence radiates. She undermines (what I take to be) her thesis when she adds that the road to "Asia" goes through Iran. Really? Asia? Is she writing about that region that runs from Pakistan, through India, into China, up to Mongolia, down to Mainland and Maritime Southeast Asia, and on to Japan?

      The roads to all of the above regions of Asia are already well-traveled by the United States, the Europeans, and other international players without reference to Iran. And they will continue to do so whether or not Iran's regional influence increases in the Near East. I fear Ms. Charoutaki has bitten off a bit more than she can chew with her "all roads lead through Tehran" thesis.

  • US Arms Shiite Iraqi Gov't to Kill Sunni Rebels, Arms Syrian Sunni Rebels to overthrow Shiite Gov't
    • Not "Imperial Arrogance" at all. Al-Maliki rejected the Status of Forces Agreement, and we departed Iraq. But now that al-Maliki comes to us as a mendicant requesting security assistance, surely we have a right to place conditions on that assistance.

    • "As for Iraq, the price tag for the hellfires should include al-Maliki’s agreement to stop excluding the Iraqi Sunnis politically."

      Even more important, the price tag should ensure that al-Maliki cease acting in Iran's interests and begin respecting U.S. interests in the region. No more overflights as a bridge to Syria. No more conduit of Iranian arms and fighters to Syria. And no more support for Iran when that support would conflict with U.S. interests.

      Perhaps al-Maliki would consider such terms too hard to swallow. Fine. No one is forcing him to take the Hellfires and surveillance drones. He is now facing the consequences of denying the U.S. a continued presence when he refused to agree to the Status of Forces Agreement. Personally I'm glad to see us completely out of Iraq. But there is a certain satisfaction in noting that al-Maliki is now suffering the consequences of his impetuous, short-sighted denial of an agreement that would have made his government more secure against radical Jihadists.

  • Snowden's Christmas Message on Privacy: Does NSA threaten 9th, 14th Amendments, 'Inviolate Personality'?
    • First and foremost, we are not talking about "criminal complicity," as if the Taliban were accessories to knocking off a Seven-Eleven convenience store. We are talking about Acts of War. And, yes, we had every right to do what was necessary to root out Al-Qaeda and the Taliban who, together, were responsible for those Acts of War against the United States.

      You seem unable to understand that I am against the fact that the initial action against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban morphed into a counter-insurgency ground war and "nation-building" exercise. That said, we had every right under the doctrine of self defense to de-fang and root out those responsible for the attacks.

    • "two Muslim countries which had not attacked us on 9/11."

      You are, of course, correct with regard to Iraq, but wrong with regard to Afghanistan. The Afghan rulers, the Taliban under Mullah Omar, were as complicit in the attack against the United States as if they had planned and launched it themselves, having given safe-haven to Al-Qaeda to plan the attacks and set up terrorist training facilities for on-going terrorist activity. We had every right of self-defense to root out the Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Having done that, I think it was a mistake to engage in counter-insurgency "nation-building." We should have stuck with counter-terrorism measures when necessary and let Afghanistan sink back into its tradition of rule by warlords, as long as they did not present a threat to the US.

    • "It is a pity you can’t see the irony of this nation’s alleged priorities...."

      No one has missed your point regarding your view of priorities. To call it "ironic," however, demonstrates an inability to distinguish between the measures required to fight foreign elements committing acts of war against the United States and those required to fight domestic gun violence. Protection of the United States against foreign attacks has always taken priority.

      That not enough has been done about domestic gun violence is a separate issue but not mutually exclusive of counter-terror measures. They both can be accomplished simultaneously, but they are entirely separate issues.

    • "But after a century of dishing it out on other continents from behind our ocean barriers...."

      Yes, it is almost a century since World War I began (and will be exactly a century in August next year), and the United States entry into the war in 1917. That, of course, was to assist the British, French, Belgians, Dutch, and others who had been overrun by the Germans.

      Then there was World War II, when the United States joined the war effort in December1941 after being attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. We allied with the British, Free French, the Soviet Union, and China to fight the most destructive war in history on two fronts and defeat the German and Japanese aggressors.

      And of course we led the United Nations coalition after the North Koreans invaded South Korea in June 1950, fighting a bitter war to a stalemate after re-establishing the line of demarcation at the 38th parallel.

      The United States sure was throwing its weight around and "dishing it out on other continents from behind our ocean barriers."

    • The issue will certainly be settled in the Supreme Court. And it would have been in any case, with or without Judge Pauley's decision.

    • "Without minimizing the dangers of terrorists, it would be a worthwhile diversion to note that the one-time attack of 9/11 killed around 3,000 people but guns in America take out around ten times that every year."

      That the attack against the United States on 9/11 killing 3,000 has not been repeated is no doubt the result of many of the counter-terrorist measures, from telecommunications intercepts to the drone program, that have been put in place since. We know that follow-on attacks have been planned, and even attempted, without success.

      That guns in America kill many more each year than the 9/11 attacks demonstrates the need for more gun control. Nevertheless, it is a non-sequitur as a discussion point regarding counter-terrorist measures and their constitutionality.

    • "To add another knife in Snowden’s back there was the innuendo attached to Snowden taking refuge in Russia. You know what that means, don’t you, fellow neocons and patriots?"

      As someone who is certainly not a neocon, I know that it means Snowden did not have the courage or the conviction to stand on his own two feet and face the consequences of his actions here in the United States. If he had any integrity at all he would have acted and not run away, much as Henry David Thoreau or Daniel Ellsberg and a dozen others who protested against U.S. policy. Snowden has shown himself to be nothing more than a poltroon.

    • Snowden is too full of himself. Today (Friday) U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley in Manhattan dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union Lawsuit contending that the NSA's metadata collection violated the Fourth Amendment. Judge Pauley wrote in his opinion:

      "This blunt tool only works because it collects everything. Technology allowed al Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the government's counter-punch."

      Good to see a judge view the NSA's metadata collection program rationally, as a means to protect against terrorist actions against the United States. This will eventually end up at the Supreme Court, where I am confident the program will be upheld.

  • Wounded by Apartheid Wall, Occupied Bethlehem Hopes for Pilgrimage Revival
    • This seems an appropriate place to wish Professor Cole and all members of the "Informed Comment" Commentariat a very Merry Christmas. And for those who do not celebrate Christmas, I hope you experience some of the joy of the season.

      Cheers to all,


  • War Crime: Syrian Regime Killed Hundreds of Civilians, including Children, with Airstrikes on Aleppo
    • There are good reasons to have been against the Iraq War. My point is that the legality of it with regard to lack of a UNSC authorization should not be in question if the same person now supports action against Syria without a UNSC authorization. You cannot pick and choose military action without UNSC authorization while condemning those with which you disagree because they lack such authorization. It is both inconsistent and hypocritical.

    • "The US and NATO should seek UN authorization to impose a no fly zone over Syria. And when no such authorization is forthcoming due to China and Russia, should proceed to implement it. "

      I hope you did not consider the Iraq War illegal because President Bush proceeded without UNSC authorization. I only mention it because I have friends who were all for the U.S. and its NATO allies waging war on Serba over Kosovo in 1999 without UN authorization, but vehemently protested the Iraq War as illegal because Bush engaged without UN authorization. Their inconsistency was breathtaking. One cannot pick and choose where one is willing to engage militarily without UNSC authorization while condemning actions with which one disagrees as being illegal without such authorization. And, no, a "Responsibility to Protect" is no justification for such hypocrisy.

      On a more fundamental question, the most effective groups among the rebels are the Islamic Front and other Jihadists who would certainly be no asset to the U.S. should they defeat Assad and take power in Syria. Why would we want to level the playing field for what looks more and more likely as an Islamist takeover of Syria should Assad fall? Haven't we learned our lesson from the ineptly named "Arab Spring"?

  • American Public: Invasion of Afghanistan a Mistake, Speed up Withdrawal
    • "At that point, why did we do it? Surely not our need for oil. What else was there unrelated our obsessional connection with Israel?"

      The answer is easy, Mr. Watson, we engaged in the war, counter-insurgency, and "nation-building" because we thought we could establish a bulwark and a presence, as well as prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into a backwater sanctuary for terrorists. As I mentioned earlier, I think it was a "fools errand" for reasons I have already stated.

      Nevertheless, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with Israel. Your obsession with Israel as the reason we invaded Afghanistan is ludicrous. Israel has never considered Afghanistan a threat, existential or otherwise. And with good reason, because it isn't. And, no, our purpose was not to establish a pivot from which to launch attacks against any other perceived Israeli threats that might exist in the area. This is fiction made up out of whole cloth.

    • Mr. McPhee is giving us a guided tour of Lewis Carrol's "Through the Looking Glass," Joe.

      "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
      "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    • "As to those great integrated commands and participation by various services, a cynical observation might be that that was where the money and advancement were flowing — it’s not like the joint operations were actually militarily efficient, let alone “victorious” or “successful,”

      Umm, is this Orwellion double-speak? Or Lewis Carrol's Rabbit Hole, Mr. McPhee? The successful operation that drove the Taliban from Kabul was actually not a "success"? Given that the goal of the operation with the Northern Alliance was to drive the Taliban out of Kabul, and given that the goal was accomplished, are you suggesting that it was a "failure"? Clearly we are now in the realm of Alice down the Rabbit Hole!

    • The answer to your question, Mr. Watson, is had it not been for 9/11 we would have had no interest in Afghanistan. After 9/11, however, the U.S. response was not to wreak "vengeance" on Afghanistan; it was to root out Al-Qaeda and the Taliban leaders who granted him a base of operations for his terrorist activities. In granting Al-Qaeda this base, Mullah Omar was fully implicated in Bin Laden's terrorist activities. The attacks on 9/11 were acts of war that fully justified the U.S. response. (Israel, by the way, had nothing to do with our response to the 9/11 attacks.)

      I agree with you about the futility of "nation-building" that followed. Nation-building never works when attempted by outsiders because it requires a certain critical mass consisting of a middle class, a certain standard of living, rule of law, and various other institutions. And most of all, it is accomplished (if it is accomplished at all) once the people themselves engage in it.

    • You are entitled to your own opinion, Mr. Brown, but not to your own facts. The fact is 9/11 was not "concocted in someone's living room." It was Bin Laden's plan, regardless of where flight training occurred. The terrorist training camps Bin Laden ran in Afghanistan were to established to do just that, train terrorists. And Mullah Omar was instrumental in offering Bin Laden sanctuary to run his enterprise out of Afghanistan. All of that was reason enough to militarily root out Al-Qaeda. That it went badly at Tora Bora does not alter the basic justification for the U.S. response.

    • Actually, Mr. McPhee, there is a very real difference between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency (i.e., "nation-building") The bulk of your comment would seem to agree with me that after we rooted out Al-Qaeda, the on-going ground war (counter-insurgency) and millions spent to advance "good governance" and to finance a false economy was a "fools errand." It was blood and treasure wasted and, in the end will have accomplished nothing because Afghanistan lacks the critical mass necessary to build a "nation."

      Glad to see we are in basic agreement on this issue.

    • "The Taliban was driven out of Kabul not by Americans but by the Northern Alliance."

      The Northern Alliance drove the Taliban out of Kabul with the critical assistance of the CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD) units and U.S. military Special Operations Forces, with the U.S. Air Force providing tactical air support.

      John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration, wrote the following in an Op-Ed in the "Washington Post" regarding the defeat of the Taliban.

      "What made the Afghan campaign [the defeat of the Taliban] a landmark in the U.S. Military's history is that it was prosecuted by Special Operations forces from all the services, along with Navy and Air Force tactical power. Operations by the Afghan Northern Alliance and the CIA were equally important and fully integrated."

    • The initial decision to attack Afghanistan and root out Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban who gave Al-Qaeda a privileged sanctuary and training facilities from which to wage war against the United States and the West, was correct and necessary. We had been attacked in an Act of War, and the perpetrators and their enablers had to be dealt with militarily.

      Our problem in Afghanistan was after we had rooted out Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and after Karzai in Kabul and other warlords around the country began asserting power in their fiefdoms (much as had always been the case in Afghanistan), we attempted that fool's errand called "nation-building" in a place that lacked the very concept of, not to mention the critical mass necessary to build, a nation.

      The war on the ground has been "nation-building" under the rubric of counter-insurgency. What we should have been doing all along, and what we should continue doing as necessary, is counter-terrorism. We should put Afghan leaders on notice that the gravy train is ending, and as long as they control anti-US elements that would do us harm, we will stay out. But if anti-US elements gain a foothold again, we will use all means (counter-terrorism, not counter-insurgency), including the continued use of drones and the insertion of Special Operations Forces, to counter such elements. But by all means, let's get out of the counter-insurgency, ground war business. The sooner the better.

  • India Flap derives from America's Gulag Practices and Far-Right Supreme Court
    • "but are actually presumed to be irrationally dangerous. What other presumption can possibly justify a strip search and cavity search?"

      I am the wrong person to whom you should pose that question, Adam, because I am not justifying her treatment. Your question should be directed at the New York City Police Department.

    • "I daresay, Bill, that the people eliding the issue of law enforcement procedures in this country – the ones who can’t bring themselves to squarely discuss what happened here and use euphemisms like “following standard procedure” – are the ones missing the wider picture here."

      No one (certainly not me) is avoiding discussion of law enforcement in this country, Joe. And you are the one who wrote, " we might actually be talking about the exploitation of low-wage workers instead of arrest procedures – but we’re not, and that’s a shame." I, and a few others posting here, are indeed talking about labor exploitation among diplomats and consular personnel.

      It is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an issue of law and human dignity. There is no reason to use Ms. Khobragade's case as a hobby horse solely to flog one's personal views on law enforcement. Why not discuss all facets of her case, including the core issue that led to her arrest? Surely we are capable of looking at all facets of this incident.

    • "The issue is not even her salary but rather the existence of two contracts and the alleged visa statement falsification (note: the counsel has made a ‘not guilty’ plea). The maid was hired in India, and I can attest that including boarding, lodging, food and clothing she was not being short changed by Indian salary standards."

      You are most definitely wrong, Spiral. Law and regulations require foreign diplomatic personnel assigned to the United States to pay a minimum salary in US terms, including room and board and reasonable working hours. The Indian salary structure for maids and nannies does not apply under US law. Ms. Khobragade knew this, which is why she drew up two contracts with contrasting salaries.

    • Some of us actually are talking about foreign diplomats and consular officials committing visa fraud and keeping their maids and nannies in virtual slavery, Joe. Just because law enforcement officers were following standard procedures (even if some of us object to elements of those procedures) does not prevent us from discussing the core issue that led to Ms. Khobragade's arrest. That some cannot focus on anything but the arrest procedures suggests an inability to look at the wider picture.

    • Devyani Khobragade was attached to the Indian Consulate in New York and held a Consular title, as opposed to being assigned to the Indian Embassy in Washington with a Diplomatic title. Thus, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 0f 1963 applies in her case, not the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. Consular immunities are far less extensive than Diplomatic immunities. Under the Consular Convention, Ms. Khobragade was immune from local jurisdiction in New York only in cases directly related to her Consular functions. Otherwise she was subject to local jurisdiction.

      While I do not condone any inappropriate treatment that might have occurred in this case, it appears that Ms. Khobragade definitely lied to the State Department regarding the conditions of employment of her maid/nanny, and that she had no intention of fulfilling the basic requirements of an employer-employee relationship. She had drawn up two contracts: one presented to the State Department to obtain the nanny's visa which stated a salary of $9.75 per hour, and a second just between her and the nanny with a salary of $3.31 per hour. Ms. Khobragade thus not only committed visa fraud in bringing the nanny to the U.S., she also was keeping the nanny in a position of near-indentured servitude.

      This is no minor problem. in the past there have been cases of foreign diplomats and consular personnel keeping their maids and nannys in virtual slavery, holding their passports and threatening to turn them in if they complain about their long hours and, many times, little or no pay. The State Department has been criticized by human rights groups for not being more aggressive in exposing and dealing with these cases. It is ironic (but not surprising) that in a case where the State Department has done the right thing, it has resulted in a diplomatic brouhaha.

  • Federal Judge to NSA: What you did to Verizon Customers was Unconstitutional
    • "Ironically, it appears most, if not all, of Verizon’s customers either don’t know or don’t care. The same seems to go for AT&T."

      As usual, you present the alternatives that fit your Narrative. There is another alternative: It just might be possible that the majority of Verizon and AT&T's customers know and care, and that having weighed the potential for abuse against the purpose of the metadata collection (potentially to thwart terrorist attempts against the US) they decided the balance favors the NSA program. You make a mistake in thinking that just because they don't agree with you they "don't know or don't care."

    • "Can you name anyone on your side who is not a lapdog for the military-industrial-security junta?"

      I make up my own mind on the issues of the day, including Snowden's divulging highly classified information. I do not need to line up supporters of "my" side of the issue against those who support "your" side of the issue. (Shades of "My old man can whip your old man.") It is childish and doesn't add anything to the dialogue.

    • That paragon of liberal virtue, Robert F. Kennedy, was behind much of the vendetta against Jimmy Hoffa, including the wiretaps. A lot of people forget (or don't know) that early on Bobby Kennedy worked for Senator Joe McCarthy as well.

    • "Fifty-some years ago that astute observer of politics, I. F. “Izzy” Stone, said that all governments lie and all governments since have indicated that is probably an immutable law. And you trust the government?"

      Governments do occasionally lie, but it is not an immutable law that governments, particularly the US Government, lie all the time. Often, as in the case of Nixon and Watergate, they are called on it and pay the consequences. If you believe that governments always lie and cannot on any issue be trusted, what is your answer? Anarchism?

      Regarding I.F. "Izzy" Stone, I was a great admirer of Stone and his methods, although I disagreed with most of his sweeping conclusions. I.F. Stone did not rely on only government or "insider" sources for his reporting. He made it a point of only using sources that were in the public domain, connecting the dots of various news reports, journals, and other publicly available sources, including those made available by the government.

      Stone had wide-ranging interests as well. After retiring from writing "I.F. Stone's Weekly" Izzy returned to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a degree in Classical Languages, concentrating on Classical Greek. He researched original sources and in 1988 published a book entitled, "The Trial of Socrates."

      In short, Stone's reporting was usually spot-on, but his conclusions were always filtered through his life-long Leftist lens. Nevertheless, I always thought an evening with Izzy over a good meal and a bottle of wine would be both interesting and great fun.

    • My point obviously was not clear to you, Joe. You may think you know what I thought regarding the Judge's actions, but that simply demonstrates the pitfalls of playing amateur psychologist.

    • "How about some rogue who may not be as altruistic as Edward Snowden and who decides to use information he has access to and decides to blackmail someone."

      The risible statement about Snowden's "altruism" aside, I doubt that an NSA employee who decided to blackmail someone would be able to keep it under cover very long. And when he was exposed, I'm sure he would be dealt with appropriately according to NSA and US government procedures in place. Just as any other inappropriate and illegal workplace behavior would be handled.

    • "The historical precedent of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and his “Secret and Confidential” files gives Americans reason to believe that there are segments of our U.S. intelligence community who may exploit collected data in an illegal or inappropriate manner."

      Any government program or activity has the potential for abuse. that it occasionally occurs is recognized by everyone, but that does not mean that it always and in every instance of government activity--be it intelligence or otherwise--occurs. And when it has occurred, it has usually been corrected.

    • "What has been your experience that leads you to believe that the state is anything other than the looter of the people?"

      What has been your experience that the state is nothing but the "looter of the people"? Evidence for such an all-encompassing statement, please.

    • Now, as in 1979, the US Government can access the content of the calls if it wants to. Nothing has changed with regard to the potential for abuse. But, frankly, every government program that involves US citizens has the potential for abuse. What has to be weighed is the potential for abuse against the stated purpose of metadata collection, i.e., looking through the haystack for the US needle that is being threaded by, say, a terrorist in Yemen.

      It all comes down to, do you trust the government or not? A majority of those on the Left are united with the Tea Party Libertarian Right in not trusting the government (strange bedfellows!). They do not think the stated purpose of uncovering potential plots against the US justifies the perceived loss of privacy. Others (and I include myself here) recognize a certain loss of privacy and the potential for abuse, but trust the government is using the metadata collection for the stated purpose.

      This is a debate that periodically occurs throughout American history. From the very beginning there has been the debate over the Hamiltonian vs. Jeffersonian view of the role of government in the United States.

    • I used the term "pulling punches" metaphorically, Joe. I feared that some might read his decision as categorical.

    • Judge Leon, for all his strong language against the NSA metadata collection program, pulled a couple of important punches in his decision. First, Judge Leon's statements lead to a conclusion that the program is probably (but not conclusively) illegal and in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The judge's opinion states that Klayman's suit has "demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success" on the basis of Fourth Amendment privacy protections against unreasonable searches. A "substantial likelihood of success" is a far cry from a categorical finding of illegality.

      Second, although Judge Leon granted the request for an injunction that blocks the collection of data for Klayman and a co-plaintiff, he stayed action on his ruling pending a US Government appeal. In doing so, he recognized, as he wrote, "the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues."

      There are different opinions regarding whether or not the 1979 Supreme Court case "Smith vs. Maryland" provides legal precedent and justification for NSA's program. Judge Leon claims it does not. On the other hand, Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor, said that Judge Leon is wrong to suggest that "Smith" does not apply. Kerr maintains that "Smith" draws a clear distinction between the collection of data on numbers dialed and on call content. Kerr said that the metadata information NSA is gathering today is the same type of information the court said law enforcement could collect in 1979, adding, "It's up to the Supreme Court to reverse its decision, not trial judges."

      Regardless of how the appellate court rules, this case (or one like it) will no doubt go before the Supreme Court. My guess is the Government's case for NSA's collection of metadata ultimately will be upheld.

  • How Peter O'Toole Saved the Arabs (According to David Lean)
    • "So much detailed and slightly competitive erudition. Kind of diverts from and obscures the bigger picture, the larger human-nature thingie of imperial overlords conquering and manipulating and stirring the pot to keep certain other things from happening."

      No, Mr. McPhee, the erudition you perceive in some of the comments above is neither competitive nor does it "divert from and obscure the bigger picture." It demonstrates that some of us have wider-ranging interests than just sounding the one-note call to alarm and painting the same monochromatic picture you constantly and repeatedly sound and paint.

      It is evident that nothing anyone does or says sets well with you, and instead of trying to do something about it or improving the situation as you see it, all you seem capable of doing is repeating the same rant over and over again. Ranting will not make the world a better place. Have you ever given thought to quietly attempting some good (even as you define it) in the world?

    • There is a famous photograph taken at the Pyramids of Gertrude Bell, Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, and others on camels. they were all attending the 1921 Cairo Conference.

    • I think you are referring to Sir Richard F. Burton. Burton was a Victorian polymath. He spoke 29 languages (including some dialects) and did indeed enter Mecca disguised as an Afghan.

      Burton is perhaps best known for his exploration of the Lake Region of Africa with John Hanning Speke during the period 1857-1859. They discovered Lake Tanganyika, but failed to discover the true source of the Nile, at the northern end of Lake Victoria.

    • Bending history in the service of artistic license is an old Hollywood tradition. That aside, "Lawrence of Arabia" was a great film, perhaps the finest film ever made. I had read Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" before the film came out, and both heavily influenced my budding interest in the Near East.

      Many Lawrence scholars' works (John Mack's "A Prince of Our Disorder" being one of the best) suggest that the rape by the Turkish official in Deraa did not occur. There are too many inconsistencies in Lawrence's account of the event. But if that is true, it is puzzling why he recounts the event in "Seven Pillars." In any case, Lawrence did not try to pass as an Arab so much; rather, when necessary, he often passed himself off as a Circassion.

      Peter O'Toole clearly was the star in the movie, and deservedly so. The film launched Omar Sharif's movie career as well. (Prior to "Lawrence" Sharif had been best known as a world class bridge player.) Nevertheless, my personal favorite in the film was Anthony Quinn in the role of Auda Abu Tayi.

  • Why are Christian Militias never "Christian Extremists"?
    • "As an historian, Bill knows that the winners (and Rulers) write the histories, and get to choose the “facts,” and insinuate the selected themes and labels, that get injected into our thinking and discourse."

      How would you describe the Muslim armies who conquered the Near East segment of the Byzantine Empire, Mr. McPhee. Do you think they had a morally superior right to their conquests that the Crusaders lacked?

    • "Why were the “Christians” who attacked the Muslims in Near East called Crusaders and not barbarians?"

      Because they were attempting to retake the Levant, which Islamic armies had originally taken from Christendom 450 years earlier when they invaded and conquered that part of the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century.

  • US, UK suspend Aid to Syrian "Moderates" as Fundamentalists Grab Western Supplies
    • "You got....any examples of “successful US or UN humanitarian interventions?”

      I am the wrong person to ask that question. If you have followed my posts, you will know that I rarely, if ever, support direct United States military intervention for "humanitarian" reasons that have nothing to do with core US national interests, be it in Rwanda in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, Serbia (over Kosovo) in 1999, or Syria during the current civil war. It is best to either let regional actors intervene or let the conflicts play out until one side or the other prevails. Anything short of that just sets up the game for the next round of conflict.

    • Syria had been relatively unstable prior to 1949, and the post-'49 military-controlled governments were equally unstable themselves. Hafez al-Assad and the Baathists took over in 1970, and for all his authoritarian thuggery, at least provided a modicum of stability that had heretofore not been in evidence.

      Syria has provided a conduit for arms and other materiel to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but it has not been the primary provider. That would be Iran, which is one reason why Iran supports Assad.

      No doubt Israel would like to see the Free Syrian Army prevail in Syria, just as John McCain and other dreamers would. They should all beware of what they wish for, as the Islamic Front is the more likely winner should Assad fall.

    • "The human-pain horror you can see in Syria and so many other places apparently just has a value near “zero” in the complicated formulae."

      So what are you driving at in your above-cited statement. Mr. McPhee? Are you suggesting the United States should intervene wherever there is "human pain and horror"? Are you for US intervention as long as it meets your criterion of "humanitarian intervention"?

    • A few of us have been saying since the Syrian civil war began that the United States should stay out of it and not intervene on behalf of any side in the conflict. The US has no interests in Syria that are worth getting involved. Bashar al-Assad is a brutal authoritarian and so was his father Havez al-Assad. Nevertheless, for 40 years we pursued our interests in the Near East while managing to come to terms with the Assad family.

      Regardless of John McCain's "vetting" of the moderate rebels in the Syrian National Council and its Free Syrian Army, I wrote a couple of months ago that the Islamists were far better organized, and are better commanders and fighters. The Islamic Front has been gaining ground since then, with the takeover of the warehouse and Western supplies for the FSA only the latest gain. Weapons and supplies are fungible. Nothing guarantees they will remain in moderate hands. To suggest that we should put more arms in the hands of the moderates would be to invite more instances of them ending up in the hands of the Islamic Front.

      The Syrian civil war is not a simple black-and-white battle between the Assad regime and the rebels. It is every bit as much a multidimensional conflict among the rebels as well. We should have learned a lesson with the outcome in Libya, in Tunisia, and in Egypt under Morsi, that the so-called Arab Spring was a brief triumph of wishful thinking over reality. It is time for some adult thinking about what constitutes US interests in the region. They certainly do not include a strong Islamist influence in Syria. When one hears the "Red Line" voiced that "Assad must go," one should contemplate what would likely take his place.

  • Sec. Hagel threatens to cut $1.6 bn Pakistan aid b/c Drone Protests Blocking NATO Convoys
    • " After that it was ground war phase when US entered the war – but even then it was no cake walk as Normandy Landing on D-Day proved it. Germany was still a formidable fighting force."

      The Brits had not defeated the Luftwaffe. They had prevented it from destroying British cities, but the Luftwaffe was still a formidable force when we began strategic bombing over Germany. the war continued on the ground and in the air. there is no question that the combined forces of the allies were needed to defeat Hitler.

    • "These are folks who are often characterized as grasping to God, guns and fear of Gays, or as low-information voters."

      If those are the only folks you know who support drone strikes, you should get out more, Brian. There are many of a quite different character and persuasion than the crowd you know who support the strikes.

    • "The Russian Army defeated Hitler; we joined the fight in the “mop-up” stage."

      I suggest you read a little more history of World War II, Brian. A good start would be either Max Hastings' "Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945" or, better yet, Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy." I think you will be surprised to learn that the US Army invaded North Africa in 1942, Then Sicily and Italy in 1943, fighting tough German armies commanded by such as Rommel and Kesselring every step of the way. And then, of course, there was Operation Overlord and the invasion of the Continent. These were hardly "mop-up" operations.

      As for your contention that "the Russian army defeated Hitler," no military historian would buy that statement standing alone. Hitler would not have been defeated without the Russian army pressing in on the Eastern Front, but it would not have been defeated without the United States and its allies fighting German forces on the Western Front as well. In short, it took the combined forces of the allies--the United States, Britain, the Free French, and the Soviet Union--to defeat Hitler.

    • Please provide the evidence that led you to reach the very precise conclusion that "99 percent" of Americans are against the drone strikes. I have never seen such a conclusion and would be genuinely interested in learning how you reached your figure.

  • Dear Pres. Obama: Dissent isn't Possible in a Surveillance State
    • I simply pointed out that when Netanyahu egregiously criticized the US, Baker banned him from the State Department. You are the one who framed it in the context of an "interpersonal spat," something I did not suggest at all. Indeed, we have to live with what we write.

    • Netanyahu stated that the US " is building its policy on a foundation of distortion and lies” in response to President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State Baker withholding aid to Israel because of Israel's intransigence on West Bank settlements. Baker's banning of Netanyahu from the State Department was not an interpersonal spat; It was all part of a US strategy to put pressure on Israel.

      Obama did not veto an American military intervention in Syria, unless you call first his threat to lob cruise missiles into Syria and then his abrupt about face to take the issue to Congress a "veto." To everyone else, it appeared to be vacillation and indecision. The Russians, of course, saved the day by pulling his irons out of the fire.

      Regarding a "nuclear agreement" with Iran, it remains to be seen how far that will go. One hopes a satisfactory agreement will be reached, but it is far too early to get excited just because initial talks have occurred.

    • "No President since Jack Kennedy (with his equally courageous brother Robert) has been willing to exert so much pressure on the Israeli Zionists as Barack Obama."

      The presidency of George H. W. Bush exerted pressure on the Israelis far greater than that of Obama. President Bush's Secretary of State James Baker, in his book "The Politics of Diplomacy," recounts how then Deputy Foreign Minister Netanyahu (under Shamir) was quoted as saying, "It is astonishing that a country like the United States, which was supposed to be the symbol of political fairness and international honesty, is building its policy on a foundation of distortion and lies."

      Baker writes: "His {Netanyahu's] language was unacceptable for a senior diplomat from a friendly country. I promptly banned him from the State Department."

      When Obama's State Department bans Israelis who make equally egregious statements, they might reach the level of President Bush's State Department under Baker.

    • "For the 82 or so who have been cleared for release, it is simply a matter of signing a letter in which he takes personal responsibility, if any of them “return” to the fight."

      Why on earth would a US President take "personal responsibility if any of them return to the fight"? Approximately 20 percent of those released to Yemen have returned to the fight. The President certainly should not be expected to vouch for those released.

      "Obama could even legally bring KSM to US soil, if he was willing to spend the political capital and take the consequences."

      Under the NDAA Obama cannot bring KSM to the United States, political capital or no political capital. The House inserted a provision that explicitly forbids bringing any of the Guantanamo detainees to the United States for any reason, including to stand trial or for medical reasons.

  • Top 10 errors in Netanyahu's Speech Demanding Iran give up 'Genocidal' Policies
    • Don't put words in my mouth, Joe. I did not state that there are no political consequences for a President to be seen as "anti-Israel." I did not even come close to using the term "anti-Israel." This is another example of your imprecise use of language.

      If you read my comment carefully you will see that I wrote that it is not manifestly in the political interest of a President to "insist that the US and Israel are on the same page." There is a big difference between being "anti-Israel" and stating that the US and Israel are not necessarily "on the same page" regarding every issue. Your apparent notion that to suggest that US and Israeli interests may diverge at times is equivalent to being "anti-Israel" sounds like you are a spokesman for AIPAC.

      In short, it would be in the political interest of both the President and the United States if we began treating our relationship with Israel as we do any normal ally such as Germany, France, and all other allies with whom we occasionally disagree. That, of course, would take Presidential leadership.

    • "Thank you, Dr. Semantics."

      One of the problems today is the sloppy and loose use of language. The "nuclear deal" you mentioned is anything but, yet you use the phrase to justify your position extolling the virtues of Obama regarding Israel. I was Pointing out the lack of precision in using the phrase. Hurling the epithet "Dr. Semantics" at me does nothing to increase the required precision.

      "I can’t help but notice that, in your entire piece, you fail to address the actual point: whether Obama’s actions are, or are not, consistent with the desires of the Israeli government."

      I pointed out that simply engaging the Iranians against the desires of Israel is hardly "stiff-arming" Netanyahu, and then I expanded the theme to reference instances where Obama has demonstrated weakness and indecisiveness, using his "demands" (and subsequent backtracking) regarding settlements and Assad as examples, with the additional bumbling of the Syrian chemical weapons affair. He has yet to demonstrate that he will counter Israel on the hard issues.

    • "It is manifestly in the domestic political interest of both an Israeli Prime Minister and an American President to insist that the countries are on the same page...."

      President Eisenhower thought otherwise in 1956 when he very strongly condemned and threatened Israel, along with Britain and France, for their joint invasion of Egypt to take over the Suez Canal. It most assuredly is not manifestly in the domestic political interest of an American President to insist that the US and Israel are on the same page. That has been our problem all these years. We would be far better off to show both substantive and rhetorical distance from Israel when our national interests are at odds. A US president's mandate is not just to follow a domestic constituency's desires, it is also, and more importantly, to demonstrate leadership, and justify his position with persuasive arguments.

    • There is no "nuclear deal" as yet. There is simply an interim agreement to later tackle the real issue of Iran's nuclear program. And while the Obama administration is pursuing talks with Iran in the face of Israeli objections, that is hardly "stiff-arming" Netanyahu.

      Your uncritical admiration for Obama is evident in your posts, Joe, but you appear to overlook what a weak and indecisive President he is. Remember Obama's "demand" that Israel dismantle its settlements on the West Bank? Netahyahu did, in fact, stiff-arm Obama on that issue, and Obama backed off. Remember when Obama's primary issue in Syria was "Bashar al-Assad must go"? Today Assad sits in Damascus in a stronger position than when Obama made his threat.

      Obama then made Syrian chemical weapons his issue (having failed to depose Assad). Thanks to Obama's inept sudden reversal from lobbing cruise missiles to requesting Congressional authorization, and thanks to Kerry's inept handling of the issue, Putin and the Russians' entered the breach and laid the groundwork for what appears to be a solution. No thanks, however, to a deliberate plan by Obama.

      Obama makes demands ("settlements must go," "Assad must go") but fails to follow through. He thinks that his interlocutors are as inspired and taken by his rhetoric as he himself is. He tends to violate one of the basic tenets of international (or any other) relations: to make threats and demands that one is not prepared to follow through with simply diminishes one in the eyes of others. Better not to make such threats at all.

    • "And many of (supposedly) our senators and representatives in Congress buy into his propaganda."

      You are spot-on about Congressmen, so many of whom are either true believers or, if not, so cowed that they might as well be true believers. It is not exclusively the province of Congress, however. Both the President and the Secretary of State reflexively parrot the phrase, "There is no daylight between the United States and Israel," thus demonstrating that true belief (or cowardice masquerading as true belief) is alive and well in the Executive branch as well.

  • Does Turkey's PM Erdogan have a GOP-Style "Woman Problem"?
    • "Secularism is worth fighting for, but not at the expense of democracy."

      I agree with your statement in principle. Nevertheless, if secularism is replaced by a religiously-inspired authoritarian government that comes to power via the democratic process and then attempts to subvert and undermine the very democratic process by which it assumed power, as Morsi attempted to do in Egypt, it would be folly not to intervene. Unfortunately, Erdogan is skirting the limits of democratic "reform" and coming close to religiously-inspired authoritarianism. If a government is to be authoritarian, better it be secular than religious in nature.

  • Almost Human: How Robots, Race and Neoliberalism killed Detroit and what it Means for You
    • As suggested, there are several important reasons for Detroit’s decline. Nevertheless, there are two very important, and often overlooked, reasons that led to the precipitous decline of Detroit relative to other cities that were in the “Rust Belt” and came back revitalized, such as Pittsburgh today.

      Detroit’s decline began long before robotics began seriously displacing workers in the auto industry. The 1967 race riots in Detroit were among the worst in the nation and destroyed whole areas, primarily where the Black community was living. Whatever the reasons that sparked the riots, it was not smart to destroy one’s own community and the supporting infrastructure that sustained it. In some sense, Detroit never recovered from that trauma.

      The auto industry itself–both the United Auto Workers union and the automobile companies–were in large part responsible for the decline of the industry in Detroit. In the 1970s and 1980s, they cut “sweetheart” contract deals that resulted in workers receiving a package of salary and benefits that totaled $71.00 per hour. They literally priced themselves out of the market, and the Japanese took advantage of it by outselling Detroit with their reliable and economically-priced Toyotas and Hondas. Later, Japanese companies further undercut Detroit by locating plants in places like Kentucky, creating jobs with a salary and benefits package in the neighborhood of $45.00 per hour, hardly chump change.

      I do not think Detroit represents in microcosm the “dystopia America is becoming.” Former Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh have shown that with planning and foresight, cities can turn themselves around and flourish. It takes both vision and planning, however, and both seem to be lacking in Detroit.

  • The Public Professor: Dissent in Commodified Higher Education
    • "This is true almost by definition, and for everyone."

      It is not true in equal portions for everyone. As I stated in my original comment, it is particularly true of those on the Left and the Right. They view everything through an ideological lens that refracts their perception of "truth" much more than those who have no ideological ax to grind. There are historians and other scholars who come much closer to an accurate depiction of "what actually happened and why" than those wielding ideological axes of both the Left and the Right.

    • "So why bring it up at all? And why in relation to Noam Chomsky?"

      Because so many on the Left consider Chomsky's pronouncements inviolate. For some reason, he has become their lodestar, the touchstone of all that is "true."

    • "In 1967, in a piece entitled The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Noam Chomsky wrote the following: 'It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.'"

      Noam Chomsky's "truth," as well as that of many others (intellectuals and non-intellectuals alike) of both the Left and the Right, is what he deems it to be after it has been filtered through his ideological lens and preconceived Narrative. That is not to say there is no objective "truth"; clearly some things are true: World War I was a historical fact. None but a fool would deny that "truth." But the causes of World War I are still being debated today, with various historians adamant that the primary cause was Germany, or Austria-Hungary, or Serbia, or Russia. So there is much "truth" that is open to interpretation. Chomsky's "truth" regarding any number of issues is just that, his interpretation as filtered through his ideological biases and opinions. In short, he does not have a lock on "truth."

  • Top 10 Ways the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
    • Got it, Joe. Glad to see we agree on this one. It is beyond risible that there are those who call the United States the most corrupt country in the world. It must have something to do with parallel universes that do not intersect.

    • "Transparency international lists the United States as the 158th most corrupt country in the world. Out of 177."

      You are totally off the mark. Take another look at Transparency International's list. the United States comes in tied for 19th with Uruguay. Three countries tie for your fabled 158th: the usual suspects of Burundi, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. The United States is not even close to the level you mistakenly have assigned it.

    • "So it’s down to almost calling you a “Communist sympathizer”. Shades of McCarthyism."

      As usual, you missed the point. My comment about Mr. McPhee's use of the term "awaken the masses" was not to suggest he was a "Communist sympathizer," but to point out how outdated the term is. No one except aging Marxists (and Mr. McPhee) use the term "masses" anymore. It sounds so, well, 1950ish.

    • "The task of awakening the masses...."

      Without commenting on the substance (such as it is!) of your comment, I would point out that the only people who use the term "awakening the masses" are those who used to work for "The Daily Worker" back in the 1950s and today's dwindling, unreconstructed Marxists who still argue the virtues of Stalinism vs. Trotskyism. Back to the Future, Mr. McPhee!

    • No. 7 states, "The National Security Agency’s domestic spying is a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance...."

      Four million US government employees and private contractors are not engaged in NSA "domestic surveillance." There is an approximate total of four million employees who hold US Government security clearances, but they include all sorts of civilian and military personnel engaged in everything from analytical work to diplomats in our embassies. Far from four million employees, the NSA is estimated to have between 30,000 and 40,000 employees, and you can be sure that all of them are not engaged in "domestic surveillance" of the type you describe.

  • Libya Needs UN Forces, National Reconciliation to Resolve its Crisis (Al Ghwell)
    • "Looks to me like “America” fails in each and every one of the categories of nationhood and presumably “Democracy” cited above."

      Viewed from your alternative universe, Mr. McPhee, I imagine it does.

    • Libya needs a lot more than UN forces and a "vision" of its future. Libya is a classic case of a geographic entity unable to coalesce as a nation. There have been quite a few countries that have superbly written constitutions and individuals who articulate a "vision." All of that is meaningless if the populace has no history of the give-and-take and compromise (as well as the critical mass of middle class, standard of living, functioning judicial system, etc.), necessary for a country to become a "nation." Libya has a long way to go before that critical mass is reached. In the meantime, it has taken on the complexion of a classic failed state.

  • Karzai, Pakistan Protests against US Drone Strikes may force US out
    • On the contrary, in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, where there is neither established rule-of-law nor a judicial system worthy of the name, it is more important than ever that US forces not be subject to the whims and vicissitudes of local "justice."

      And don't forget, Karzai had approved the Security Agreement before he moved the goal posts and laid down additional conditions. It is Karzai's erratic, feckless behavior that is leading to a "poison pill," that could well derail the Security Agreement, not the legitimate interest of the US in including the SOFA article rendering US forces immune from Afghan legal and judicial processes. Interestingly, the Loya Jirga reached the same conclusion.

    • "Bill, I think you’d be fascinated to learn who got invited to participate in that Loya Jirga, and how. I think you’d find it interesting to learn how they all got to the venue, where they stayed, and who paid for it."

      I doubt that I would be "fascinated" or surprised at how the Loya Jirga was convened, having a fair knowledge of the history of Afghanistan over the past 47 years. Nevertheless, the implication of your comment, Brian, is that you possess knowledge about the Loya Jirga unavailable to those of us with whom you disagree.

      Please describe how delegates to the Loya Jirga were selected, how they were conveyed to the venue, and where they stayed, Brian. And so we really can have faith that you know what you are talking about, please cite your sources as evidence. As for who paid for it, we all know that the US and European aid support the Afghan economy, such as it is, so that is no revelation and is of little consequence.

      Over to you, Brian.

    • "Maybe the secular Khan can provide some needed leadership for the victims of the US occupation."

      What "victims of US occupation" are you referring to? Would it be the Loya Jirga, that assembly of some 2,000 Afghan leaders and elders from all over Afghanistan who voted to accept the US security pact, and who castigated Karzai for not signing it?

      Would it be Sebghatullah Mujadidi, the head of the Loya Jirga, who said, "Karzai doesn't have the right to say this, he is making a mistake. They (the Americans) have accepted all the conditions set out by him and us. It would hurt Afghanistan if he does not accept it"

      Would it be Amir Mohammad Akhnudzada, a delegate from southern Helmand province,who said: "I think President Karzai should respect the decision of the Afghan elders, and all the delegates want this Bilateral Security Agreement signed as soon as possible."

      Sure doesn't sound like representatives of "victims of US occupation" to me.

    • "What the Pakistani government doesn’t have the will to stop,
      a cricket player could stop – terrorist drone strikes."

      The Pakistani government under Nawaz Sharif will not countenance Imran Khan's PTI stopping the US convoys for long. The US will come to an understanding with Sharif. And stopping the US convoys, in any case, certainly will not have an effect on US drone strikes. It is a pipe dream to think Imran Khan (your aptly described "cricket player") will determine US defense policy in the region.

    • If by "extraterritoriality" you mean that United States forces will not be subject to Afghan courts should they violate Afghan law, that is standard procedure in SOFAs with countries where our troops are deployed, unless the US waives it in individual cases, which does occasionally happen. It is not a "poison pill" designed to elicit a negative response from Karzai, it is a standard clause in SOFAs worldwide.

    • Hamid Karzai has a history of erratic behavior, but he appears even more feckless and unglued as crunch time comes. The United States has SOFAs with every country where US troops are deployed, and we certainly wouldn't operate without one in Afghanistan. If he continues on this course, Afghanistan will lose the security component the US provides with Afghan forces, and it will lose considerable economic aid as well.

      Frankly, the US would be better off withdrawing from the Afghan quagmire, as Afghanistan is nowhere near to developing into a "nation," and we are not going to do it for them. As for the aid funding, it would just be more money following the billions already sent down the rat-hole. Just put the Afghans on notice that while "nation-building" is over, the counter-terrorism program will continue to the extent that they are unable to control anti-US Jihadists within their borders.

  • John F. Kennedy's Thanksgiving Ideals, 1962-- How different they are from Ours
    • Whatever criticisms one has regarding the United States, and I have a few myself, we live in a pretty free and benevolent country compared to most. (If you doubt the US's benevolence, I would be glad to supply figures ranging from US immigration statistics--approximately one million legal immigrants taken in each year--to disaster assistance--Tsunami destruction in Indonesia, Philippine typhoon, Pakistani earthquake, etc.). We have plenty to be thankful for. With that note, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  • The Middle East warmly welcomes Iran Deal, sees it as Step toward Denuclearizing Israel
    • Good Grief, Mr. McPhee! Mr. Attaher simply asked if anyone could confirm if the translation of Khamenei's statement was accurate. He wasn't making a judgment call on the content. Must you turn every comment, even an innocuous question like Mr. Attaher's, into a whetstone upon which to grind your ever-poised ax? Must every comment be turned into a nail upon which to pound your single-issue, editorializing hammer?

    • Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the GCC countries are all less than enthusiastic about this preliminary agreement with Iran. That Saudi Arabia trotted out its (relatively unimportant) Minister of Culture who stated the obvious, that "the preparatory agreement could lead to a resolution of the Iran nuclear problem, assuming that that country acts in good faith," is a pretty lukewarm endorsement.

      The Saudis, GCC countries, and Sunnis generally in the region would be pleased if this preliminary agreement does lead to a follow-on final agreement that ensures Iran will not have nuclear weapons capability. What they object to is the partial lifting of sanctions, as they fear that Iran may view itself as in the driver's seat and on a roll in its quest to, as they see it, become the hegemon in the region. They fear that Iran ultimately will not act in good faith.

      There currently is a not-so-subtle proxy war going on in the region between the Sunnis and Shiites. This is being played out in Iraq, Syria, and to an extent in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Sunnis are, of course, supporting the Sunnis, and Iran is supporting the Shiites. I think there is little doubt that Iran wants to become the major player in the region and will undermine Sunni interests where it sees an opening (such as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon) that it can exploit. That is what drives the regional lack of enthusiasm for this preliminary agreement.

      The United States should not allow either Israel's shrill "The sky is falling!" rhetoric or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the GCC's lack of enthusiasm deter us from going forward in a measured way in attempting a final, iron-clad, fully-verifiable agreement with Iran. Such an agreement would be in everyone's interest, whether they want to believe it or not at this point.

      On the other hand, we should not enmesh ourselves in the proxy war between Shiites and Sunnis for regional dominance by downgrading our relations with the Gulf states in order to curry favor and attempt an "alliance" with Iran. (An alliance, by the way, that Iran may have no interest in pursuing in any case.) The US interest in the region calls for good relations with all (non-hostile) states in the region. A formal "alliance" (other than that with Turkey as a member of NATO) with any state in the region would not advance US interests and would reduce our flexibility. We already have enough problems with Saudi Arabia supporting Islamist Sunni fighters and Iran supporting Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard Forces in the region.

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