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Total number of comments: 8 (since 2014-06-20 17:57:42)

Bob Saccamanno

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  • Is Iraq Actually Falling Apart? What Social Science Surveys Show
    • من هذه المجموعة جيرانك is the Arabic phrase used often in this type of question. although I do not have the wording for this specific questionnaire it is no doubt from this family of questions. So yes it is likely using the Arabic word for neighbor, or your neighbors (jayranak).

    • Nonsense. People who conduct survey research generally are clued in when their colleagues are cheating. I don't remember what word is used for the Arabic. I think this is a World Values Survey question that gets at who you like based on whether you would find it acceptable for them to be next door. The literal Arabic word is Jar but I don't recall whether the translation of this question uses that word or a phrase to get at that point. If I remember I'll look it up when I can but no access here. But to your point - the term used is commonplace, benchmarked, understood correctly, etc. in short - not the problem. The problems are as I identify below.

    • Bob Saccamanno 06/20/2014 at 7:19 pm

      I am not sure how much to trust Face to Face surveys in areas like Iraq. It may be that areas with more hardline views are systematically underrepresented because interviewers would be redlined out of going there. Coverage error is so large a factor in conflict zones that it is hard to see the results as anything more than a "plausibility probe."
      Is there an online source of the questionnaire and the methodology? How were households sampled? Was in-house respondent sampling done or only speak to head of household using a male team leader interviewer? Was statistical analysis done on the results to exclude cases that signal likely interviewer cheating (as far as it can be known - interviewers attempt to appear random but are never successful when they do this - there are techniques to uncover this)? The answers to these questions are important.

  • Who are Iraq's Sunni Arabs and What did we Do to them?
    • Bob Saccamanno 06/21/2014 at 1:45 am

      Okay, thanks for the clarification and reference source.

    • Bob Saccamanno 06/20/2014 at 6:37 pm

      There is an important distinction between popular piety and "theology" (`ilm al kalaam) on these matters. Mahmoud Ayoub's Redemptive Suffering book shows the power of the former often to the embarrassment to the practitioners of the latter who would emphasize, contrary to your description, that the Imams are only protected from error on very narrow matters. The underlying basis of the Shi`ite world view is a mu`atazali notion that Allah or God (in the Germanic word) must provide a way for humankind to understand correctly the Guidance of the Qur'an and Hadith when there is dispute. Otherwise, if God does not provide such a means for discerning truth among interpretations over important matters and yet punishes us for this it would violate an essential element of Justice, a attribute that is core to God's Divine nature. But there is a limit on the Imams' ambit of authority to specific religious matters. Of course believers tend to expand this in their mind to all matters of life and even infuse some of the Ayat Allah with a similar capacity. From the Sunni perspective even the narrow definition risks attributing to a human being the attributes of the Divine (participating in God's attributes, i.e. shirk). A similar popular piety/theological division exists in Catholicism with the widespread notion that Popes are infallible when in fact the papacy has only claimed to have spoken without error on two matters in history: the virgin birth of the Nazarene prophet and the assumption of his mother Miriam. But the point is that these divisions can be thought of as greater or lesser depending on how much good will there is between members of each group to understand the motivations and even excesses of the other with the goal a common understanding within our shared "race of virtues."

    • While there are no official statistics, sociologists estimate that nearly a third of Iraqi marriages are unions between members of different sectarian or ethnic communities. In the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Iraqis argued that the prevalence of such unions showed that Iraqis cared more about their Arab or national identity than their sect, which would spare the country a civil war.

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      The Iraqi government estimates that more than two million Iraqi families are based upon a Sunni-Shiite mixed marriage. Iraq is estimated to have more than 6.5 million families.

      Read more: link to

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    • I think the Shi`ite Sunni relationship pre US invasion is a little more complicated. My understanding is that CIA estimates Shi`ites as in fact constituting the numeric majority of the Ba`ath party though certainly not of its leadership. To get any significant job (even teacher positions) you had to be a party member. They were no doubt less loyal. Moreover, sectarian divisions were less pronounced as intermarriage was growing in urban areas. The reversal of such trends started in the economic distress and brutality following the Kuwayt war. But still a more complicated picture than the media fostered "divisions in a pressure cooker merely clamped down by Saddam's oppressive state apparatus" promoted by the media and reflected to a lesser extent in your summary. As for the religious divisions, they are rooted more in tribal or extended family loyalty path dependence than in doctrinal debates. There was no recognition of the 12 imams special status by Sunnis of course (and the imams are only ma3sum - protected from error - on tightly defined religious matters so let's not exaggerate this) but there is general acceptance of the Ja`afari school (grounded on the pronouncements of the sixth Imam - also recognized by Azhar) as a legitimate fifth madhdhab. The tragedy of what we're seeing today in the region is that it entails a reversal of the lessening of divisions that had restarted in the wake of the Lebanese civil war and Taif. Conflict and scarcity bring out the worst in us all.

  • Top 10 Ways to Really Honor our Veterans
    • link to

      Agree with all of the above. However, in fairness and as a former enlisted combat arms service member I might add for my colleagues on the left of the political spectrum a different challenge: Here's what you might consider in return. Mind you, I don't have ten, just one big steaming hot one that will probably annoy your desire to sniff the air and make mouths at the invisible event. But no worries, I'm probably too late and this ship has sailed.

      But for what it's worth, please my fellow travelers on the left would be so kind as to stop trying to make the military an instrument of social engineering? Agreed wholeheartedly that the integration of African Americans and other ethnic minorities into the military was at once successful and a major source of strength for today's combat forces. But let's not over-learn that lesson. In that case doing it eliminated inefficiencies and implemented a process that had been underway already.( Please not that this history is much more complex than the classic comics version you may have seen on tv.)

      By contrast, today's social agenda, which includes putting women and gay Americans into combat arms units, is destructive of morale for one and inefficient to implement for the other (I'll let you guess). Whether you like it or not, people who join combat arms units are among the most conservative members of society. They don't view the world like you do no matter how many times you thank them for their service. Most of them are patriotic and believe in helping others – there are several European and American surveys confirming this personality trait. But anyone who's served in this capacity with a little self-reflection also knows the dirty little secret that about 10-15 percent of our combat soldiers could charitably be described as sociopaths. They enjoy the opportunity to kill people and blow sh*t up. Full stop. Managing them is already a difficult task for the officer corps. It's called the humpty dumpty rule: let things a little out of control and you'll never get unit discipline and morale back together.

      So forcing these folks to accept that they give up some of their liberty to serve their country is one thing. It's manageable. Forcing them to give up some liberty to serve your utopian vision of a better America is quite another. Why not give it a rest a little and let the "times they are a changin" work its will over one or two generations more? And if you want compromise on this point, fine. Happy to meet you part way. Start with the officer corps. Among officers, it's well known that denial of service in combat arms units limits one's promotion track. So a good argument can be made for gay and female officers doing well in that role will meet less resistance and the logistics are simpler.

      As I said, I'm likely too late although I suspect implementing these policies in the combat arms milieu will prove a little more difficult than my social betters imagine. For me, I like to look at the bright side of death and destruction. Contrary to Hegel's "war is the cool breeze that whisks away the fetid air" I agree with Dr. Cole's point number 10. I also believe that implementing these social engineering policies now will lead to attrition of many of our more dedicated and effective combat soldiers. Less of them will join, many more won't re-up. And collectively all of this will weaken our ability to prosecute wars abroad. Well, there you have it. Who knows? Perhaps that was the plan all along. Have a nice day.

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