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Total number of comments: 63 (since 2013-11-28 14:43:00)


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  • Iraq: al-Anbar's Cities are ISIL-Free, But Can they be kept that Way?
    • This seems quite odd to me. Desert camps would be completely vulnerable to attack from the air, and U.S. satellites would spot them easily.

  • The Final Breakup of Iraq? Barzani calls for Kurdistan Referendum
    • Actually there have been signs that Ankara is willing to tolerate Kurdish independence. Recall there was a brief rapprochement between Ankara and the PKK; when that fell apart Irbil renounced the PKK and has tolerated Turkish attacks on their positions in Kurdistan. Turkey also allowed peshmerga to transit its territory to reach Kobani. Finally, Barzani would not do this if he didn't think Turkey would tolerate it, because Kurdistan is landlocked and they need Turkey to export their oil and otherwise have access to the world. I suspect that Erdogan has come to see this as inevitable and is working with the KRG and a framework for co-existence.

  • Learning the Wrong Lessons from Tahrir Square: Erdogan Assaults Taksim in bid to break up Protests
    • Hey Perfesser, I'm finding this analysis a little bit muddled, I'm hoping you can clarify. Erdogan is in fact democratically elected. I really don't see an analogy with Iran, where the protesters were demanding real democracy. You seem to be implying that his enforcement of civilian control of the military was somehow an illegitimate consolidation of power, whereas most small d democrats would view that as a very positive accomplishment.

      If some of these demonstrators really do have as their objective overturning the elected government, and if it is even plausible that the movement could succeed, then it would seem his repressive tactics are justifiable. If the demonstrations are hurting tourism and the economy more broadly, then a lot of ordinary folks would presumably want them to stop or at least be greatly toned down. It's true that as a secularist (in fact an atheist) I would be happier if the Turkish people had elected somebody else, but they didn't.

      What I would say about this is that it would be preferable to be tolerant of dissent and to limit policing of demonstrations to what is necessary to protect public safety and the basic rights of abutters, including merchants and travelers on the public way. That's why we have permitting systems for demonstrations in the U.S. But it's unclear what the protesters are demanding other than disliking the rhetoric and some (rather minor) policies of the government, which has majority support. So where is this supposed to be going? If they don't like the current moderate Islamist rule, they can vote against it, but it seems most Turks do like it. So we're kind of stuck with it, no?

  • The Coming Israeli-Russian War?
    • I don't see why they necessarily need Assad to hold on to that. They can make a deal with somebody else if need be. Anyway how important is it? Is having to sail through the Straits of Gilbraltar if they want ships in the Med that big of a deal?

    • It's a bit of a mystery to me why the Russians are so committed to Assad. I don't see Syria, even when it was an intact state, had all that much to offer on behalf of Russian interests. Going forward, the best the Assad regime can hope for is to survive in shaky control of part of Syrian territory, as an international pariah, with a crippled economy. Why it's so important to Putin to hold on to such wreckage as an ally seems to me entirely unclear. I would think the Russians had much more important matters on which to stake their geopolitical capital.

      Any thoughts on this?

  • President Obama and Counter-Terrorism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    • Well, granted everything else you say, it isn't fair to blame Obama for Republican intransigence. It isn't wrong for him to say what Congress ought to do, even though we know they won't. You make it sound as though that's his fault.

  • America's 'Mission Accomplished' Legacy to Iraq: Sectarian Violence Mounts with 95 Dead
    • Well, I think it should be added that there are growing calls for federalism -- an autonomous Sunni Arab region a la Kurdistan. This may not be particularly realistic -- what do you do with Baghdad and they wouldn't have much fossil fuel resources and they'd be landlocked. But it is being bandied about. (OTOH a balkanized Syria might give them an opportunity for federation.) For sure, the Sunni minority will not again rule Iraq, but many are looking to get out from under their current second class citizenship through effective secession. I know Prof. Cole was a strong opponent of that idea when some American leaders (e.g. Joe Biden) were bandying it about as a solution, but it now has some indigenous support. This deserves notice and comment, I think.

  • Congress Obsessed with American Muslims, Neglects real threat of White Supremacists
    • Can you imagine the mass hysterical freakout that would be going on right now if a gang of Muslim terrorists was suspected of murdering law enforcement officials? The networks would be doing 24 hour coverage. Instead this is item 9 on the nightly news and page 12 of the newspaper.

  • Kerry Cajoles Afghanistan and Iraq, as Bush's former colonies decline to Toe the Line
    • Also should note that Saddam Hussein was quite ill-disposed toward the Assad regime. Saddam was Donald Rumsfeld's best friend (Rumsfeld once presented him with a gold-handled cane) when he was considered useful as an enemy of Iran. He became more annoying than useful when he invaded Kuwait and then tried to build up his street cred via hostility toward Israel, which was when the neocons decided to make Iraq their showpiece project (long before 9/11 or even the selection of GW Bush as president). Alliances and hostilities in the Middle East are complicated and quite often seem contradictory from our own parochial point of view -- you're generally asking for trouble by messing around with them.

  • Why Wasn't the Higgs Boson Discovered in the US? Neal DeGrasse Tyson explains congressional stupidity
    • Well, okay, but I personally don't care where it was discovered. And there were plenty of U.S. scientists involved in the project. I say, we've been paying for the (ostensible if in fact unnecessary) defense of Europe since 1945, and we have also invested the most in biomedical research. (We need to keep it up, to be sure.) Let them pay for the SSC.

  • Karzai accuses Taliban of Serving US Interests, Slams (Non-Existent) US-Taliban Talks
    • OTOH, whatever the intentions of the Obama administration, it is plausible that the Taliban want the U.S. to stick around a while longer. The ISAF presence does give them credibility as a nationalist movement against the foreign invaders and their lackey government. The chance to kill the occasional foreigner helps obfuscate their unpopular actions and attributes.

      And I doubt Karzai is actually crazy. Inept maybe -- but trying to seed the idea that the Taliban aren't really nationalists and he is guy who is truly confronting the imperialists seems to be rationally motivated, however strained.

  • The Syrian Civil War comes to Iraq, as 8 Iraqi and 48 Syrian Troops are Killed on Iraqi Soil
    • This has been my fear all along, as I've said here a few times: that the Syrian civil war will metastasize as a sectarian conflict, and help to pull Iraq apart along sectarian lines. And yes, it does imperil Jordan and could cause trouble in the Gulf states. Meanwhile it's also a proxy war between SA and Iran. The Saudis are making an alliance of convenience with Israel, in fact, to confront Iran, and seem to be encouraging Israeli belligerence. It's all very discomfiting.

  • Israel Spy Scandal and Press Censorship
    • The NYT story on this intimated that he had cooperated with the Dubai investigation, which was considered treason. They didn't suggest he was planning to go public, which hardly seems to matter since the events in Dubai are common knowledge anyway.

  • Egypt: Canal Provinces Defy Morsi, Weakening his Authority
    • Professor, I'm not asking you to get out your crystal ball, but you might want to comment on how worried we all should be. The Syrian state has already collapsed, the Egyptian transition seems to be rapidly losing legitimacy, Iraq is coming apart at the seems (Kurdistan is selling oil independently, Sunni Arabs are renouncing the legitimacy of the state), the Jordanian regime is under considerable pressure, Libya has yet to come together -- and that's only the beginning, what with the Saudi-Iranian proxy confrontation happening across the entire mess, I mean we could go on and on. I'm seeing metastasizing chaos.

      Where is all this going?

  • How Zero Dark Thirty Taught us to Stop Worrying and Love Torture (Greenberg)
    • Hey Karen, I haven't seen the film so I can't adjudicate the comment by Paul Weimer, but some people do see it that way. Whatever the intent or effect of the film on its viewers, it has at least gotten us talking about this historic horror once again. While it is probably too late for any official accountability, at least the sadistic psychopaths around GW Bush will be held accountable by history. Your contribution will help to make this happen.

  • Obama Recognizes Syrian Opposition as Government, as Fighters advance in Aleppo, Damascus
    • NYT reports today that ethnic Armenians are fleeing Syria. I definitely worry about a descent into chaos. Many observers do not believe the opposition can effectively form an inclusive national movement leading to a viable government. I don't personally have a crystal ball but the overall trajectory seems to have been toward greater ethnic/sectarian/ideological balkanization as the conflict continues. This really should concentrate the attention of the world much more strongly than it has.

  • As Rebels close in on Damascus, Obama warns he'll Intervene if Chemicals are Used
    • Hmm. Interesting that the Kurdish towns remain loyal. I might have thought they would see this as an opportunity for secession and joining Iraqi Kurdistan. Obviously, that's been one of Turkey's worries, and doesn't make Iran feel any better about the whole situation. If Syria breaks up, that could happen, no?

  • Tom Ricks finally Tells Fox News ("GOP TV") off on the Phony Benghazi "Issue"
    • Nah, the Fox audience is in a self-contained universe. They're incapable of changing their minds, although they will slowly die out.

  • Egypt: Judiciary, Political Rivals, Crowds Mobilize against Pres. Morsi
    • Yes, that's how I see it. The judges are of course Mubarak holdovers and they have already intervened anti-democratically on multiple occasions. There is a defensible argument for making sure they don't block the new constitution. However, Morsi acted unilaterally, and abruptly, and he is essentially asking people to trust him. Obviously not everyone is inclined to do that. (Personally, I have no way of reading his intentions.)

  • Gaza's Health Crisis and Israel's Crimes Against Humanity
    • Some sliver of hope -- there are noises that a settlement might include easing the blockade. I expect that if Bibi wants to keep the peace with Egypt, that will be the price.

  • Live report from Gaza, attacks on Journalists (Democracy Now!)
    • Come now, I was extremely careful to avoid false equivalence. I heard Rashid Khalidi on NPR yesterday saying essentially what I did. He does contend that the Hamas leadership has been more or less dragged into condoning the rocket attacks by militant hotheads. But in the past, when they were determined to prevent it, they did.

    • I do have to say, although we must always honor the bedrock underlying context of dispossession, oppression, and a gross differential in power, clearly the Hamas leadership knew full well that this would be the consequence of continuing to launch rockets into Israel. They felt they could benefit politically by creating this confrontation, but it accomplishes nothing positive for the people of Gaza or the Palestinians generally. The Israeli establishment is immune to shame, and it's hard to imagine anything they could do that would cost them the unequivocal support of the United States. I truly have nothing but contempt for the leaders on both sides of this awful fight, and both are responsible for the fate of the innocents caught in the middle.

  • Romney's Major Flip-Flops in the Third Debate
    • Well, as far as I know he's been entirely consistent on the point that Syria constitutes Iran's outlet to the sea. There's that.

  • Air Massacre in Maaret al-Numan, Syria as Fighting Intensifies
    • I wonder what, exactly, Assad is trying to accomplish?

      The NYT's piece today essentially argues that government forces don't have the resources to hold on to re-occupied territory, so they're just destroying rebel-held towns.

      Suppose that works. If he destroys the country, there won't be anything left for him to rule over, no? The prospect in Syria is simply terrifying. The only good news is that it has yet to become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, because it's ugly to contemplate where a serious by Romney to bait the administration on this issue could lead us. On the other hand I sure wish somebody could think of something useful to do. Does Lebanon go next? It's starting to look like it might.


  • A Post-Mortem on Muslim Rage: What did the reaction to the Islamophobic Trailer Really Tell Us? (Abootalebi)
    • Let's get a grip here - there was actually not much violence connected with the reaction to the film. A lot of energetic demonstrations and some situations that looked like they might turn ugly, but mostly just peaceful protest. A few people here and there threw stuff, or clashed with police, and IIRC some people tried to break into the Cairo embassy, but that's about it. It turns out the assault on the Benghazi consulate was unrelated.

      The whole thing blew over in a few days. It really was not a big deal.

  • Romney's Five Wars
    • I'm going to be less cynical than some -- for once -- and predict that this won't help Romney. The voters do not want more wars.

  • On How Despite the Currency Crisis Iran's State Revenues are not Collapsing
    • Well okay but the Iranian regime has little legitimacy and has had to repeatedly crush popular unrest. Does Prof. Cole think there is any possibility they will lose control of the populace? However cynical and morally depraved (i.e., using the suffering of the people as a means to an end), could the sanctions succeed in weakening the regime due to internal unrest? That seems to be the objective of the policy.

  • Did Bashar al-Assad Betray Qaddafi?
    • Hmm. I doubt the majority of people -- including those who are reasonably well informed about these matters -- will think this reflects badly on Assad or proves anything about the nature of his regime. At that point, capturing Qadaffi (or however you want to spell it - I've counted 16 different spellings that have appeared in English media) was necessary to hasten the end of a brutal conflict and give the Libyan people at least a chance at a decent society. Note that the denouement, in which Qadaffi was murdered, was not the intention or predicted outcome.

      I'm not sure why you think this was evil. There was an international warrant for his arrest, and Assad was therefore assisting the international community in carrying out a legitimate arrest. Or is there some point I'm missing?

  • Top Ten Mitt Romney Solutions to our Problems
    • I have always known that the Mittster is a narcissistic, entitled prick. It's actually news, however, that he is a dolt. Obviously knowing your ass from a hole in the ground is not a prerequisite for obtaining boatloads of money.

  • A Tale of Two Insurrections: Syria, Iraq, and American Security
    • My default position is to credit what Prof. Cole says, but I have seen a fair amount of reporting that claims the Syrian conflict didn't start out with a sectarian basis, but that sectarian resentments are becoming more and more important. The sectarian character of the conflict has spilled over into Lebanon and is also drawing jihadists into Syria.

      Many observers seem more concerned than you are about the Syrian conflict metastasizing to Lebanon and Iraq because of its sectarian character. Note that Maliki's support for Assad only increases the resentment of Iraqi Sunni Arabs, and that Iran and the Gulf monarchies are backing the opposing sides in Syria. Given the willingness of the Gulf monarchies to continue to back rebellion in Syria, it's hard for me to envision an Algeria outcome. Partition seems more likely, actually, with ongoing instability.

      As for the violent insurgency in Iraq, I agree it isn't going anywhere fast, but on the other hand broad-based rejection of the current government and constitution by Sunni Arabs could certainly emerge, with unpredictable consequences. And as I say, the conflict in Syria does contribute to this prospect.

  • Dear Democrats: If you do That you have to do This
    • Alas, in the case of Gabby Giffords, Loughner (the assailant) had no publicly documented evidence of mental illness or other patent reasons to deny him a gun, and he used a handgun, not an assault rifle, nor a high capacity magazine. So, given the recent Supreme Court ruling, it's hard to think of any possible legal innovation that would have made a difference in this case.

      Not to say the issue should be ignored, but there isn't really any logical connection between gun control as it can be conceived now and her appearance at the convention. The more apropos issue is the availability of mental health services and whether Loughner's community college could have and should have been more proactive, given that they were well aware of his disturbing behavior. Ditto with Holmes, BTW, although in his case it could have also been made more difficult for him to acquire his arsenal. Whether that really would have mattered, however, is not clear.

  • Top Ten Repeated Paul Ryan Lies
    • The term "big lie" was coined by Adolf Hitler, not Karl Rove. From Mein Kampf:

      "[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."

  • Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing
    • It seems to me there is a great deal more you could say about the possible denouement here, and complications. First of all, the collapse of the regime won't necessarily lead to any sort of clear outcome or replacement state in Syria, not any time soon. It seems to me that you could in fact end up with a praetorian situation, perhaps an extended period of conflict with different powers based in territorial enclaves. You might see a Kurdish irredentist movement, an Allawite enclave on the coast - maybe even with Assad surviving there even though he's lost his grip on much of the country. The Iranians will invest whatever they can in helping him hold out, I should think. These divides obviously spill over into Iraq, and could energize Shiite minorities in the Gulf monarchies -- the potential regional consequences are quite disturbing, in my view, if this can't get settled. And I'm not quite sure I see how it can be.

      Your thoughts?

  • Satellite Images Show Syrian Army Siege of Houla (BBC)
    • That JP article is rather odd. Isn't it well known that Iran has been supplying weapons to Hezbollah through Syria since forever? Where else does Hezbollah get its weapons? Why would the IDF suddenly feel compelled to try to sever this connection now, and why are they talking about needing new intelligence to prove it? Of course it's going on. But so what? Hezbollah already has a huge inventory of rockets.

      Not intending any implication about who ought to do what or who is or is not evil, just pointing out what as far as I know are the facts.

  • Syria: Famine and Civil War
    • I meant to say "fighting breaking out in Lebanon," not "Syria," obviously.

    • I am quite concerned not only about the fate of Syria and Syrians, but about the possibility of the conflict metastasizing along its religio-ethnic fault lines. We are already seeing fighting break out in Syria, and support for the Assad regime by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government is a substantial irritant in an already grim situation in that country. Iraqi Kurdistan could also be drawn in over any threat that might emerge to the Kurdish population, which would annoy Turkey and Iraq. The Syrian conflict also sharpens hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure there's any hope of the U.S. discouraging SA from supporting the rebellion, nor could the U.S. succeed anyway -- and pragmatically, seeing the rebellion crushed would be as dangerous as seeing it continue.

      I really don't see any good options. Does Prof. Cole have an idea?

  • Romney wants to Fight Whole Muslim World, not Concentrate on Bin Laden
    • Unfortunately, 99% of voters, and reporters for the corporate media, understand the Muslim world just as crudely as Romney does. He can babble this idiotic nonsense all he wants and it will only benefit him. A politician who addresses Islam with understanding and nuance will just commit self-injury.

      Don't know what is to be done, just sayin'.

  • Rubio Calls for War on Iran, Syria-- as Israeli Army Rejects Strike
  • Dear CNN: This is not News; *This* is News
  • Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?
    • There is a really awful worst case scenario here. The Syria conflict directly engages the Sunni-Shiite tension in the region, threatening to a) ramp up confrontation between the Sunni-dominated Arab states (notably SA) and Iran, and b) to help pull Iraq apart, which would feed back very strongly into (a). The extent and horrors of what might ensue can scarcely bear contemplation. That does not, however, provide any evident suggestion as to what to do about the whole mess. Any serious outside intervention could just make matters worse. I doubt Turkey wants to see NATO start bombing the Syrian army.

  • Why Romney is Lying about the Causes of high Prices at the Pump
    • Excuse me -- you're shocked, shocked to find dishonesty and inconsistency from W.M. Romney?

      Dealing with his lies and hypocrisy is like sweeping the beach. This is a man who can contradict himself in the same paragraph without even blinking.

  • Iraq Slams Saudis, Qataris for Plans to Arm Syrian Rebels
    • What you might add is that Maliki's support for the Assad regime is exacerbating sectarian tensions in Iraq, where obviously the Sunni Arabs don't feel the same way. (The Kurds are more ambivalent, they don't care for Assad but they fear the Syrian Kurds could be worse off in who-knows-what would be the future Syria or pieces thereof.) In fact arms are already being smuggled into Syria from Anbar, which the Maliki government has been trying to stop.

  • 2010 Hottest Year Yet, 70 ft. Sea Rise Virtually Assured
    • Soot basically has very little to do with it. The issue is C02.

      "2010 Hottest Year Yet, 70 ft. Sea Rise Virtually Assured

      Posted on 03/20/2012 by Juan

      The hottest year on record is 2010, not 1998, according to new calculations of the major British climate study unit.

      The findings have just been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, which means that they have been subjected to searching scrutiny by other climate specialists. The UK Meteorological Office’s Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit (Cru) at the University of East Anglia was able to recalculate climate change data so as to incorporate large numbers of observations from the arctic, which had earlier been sparsely recorded.

      Since 1900, the average surface temperature of the earth has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, about .75 degrees C., because of the enormous amount of carbon dioxide and soot that industrial society is spewing into the atmosphere. Because of increasing carbon emissions, the earth is likely headed toward a 3-5 degree C. increase (5-7 degrees F.), which will over centuries melt all the surface ice, produce tropical conditions over the entire planet, and cause a sea level rise of dozens of meters/ yards. In the worst case scenario, a third of all land will be submerged.

      New research on the Pliocine era has shown that even a 2 degree C. increase will likely cause a sea level rise of as much as 60-70 feet (20-23 meters). That would affect 70% of the earth’s inhabitants, hundreds of years down the road. Typically in past geologic eras, a 1 degree increase in average surface temperature produces a sea level rise of 10-20 meters (roughly 30-60 feet). But note that in the Pliocene, a couple of million years ago, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was only what it is presently (about 390 parts per million), whereas we are moving rapidly toward much higher levels before emissions level off.

      For a list of 100 good recent documentaries on sustainability, see this site

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      Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | 3 Comments | Print

      § 3 Responses to “2010 Hottest Year Yet, 70 ft. Sea Rise Virtually Assured”

      03/20/2012 at 4:54 am

      I think you have the wrong numbers in projected sea level rise.
      Nathan Jonson
      03/20/2012 at 5:09 am

      I’m certainly open to new evidence, but there is a serious problem here. When doing an experiment it’s important to set out what measurements you are going to use before you collect the data. If you choose your measurement afterwards it’s too easy to cherry pick and manipulate.

      " It’s really discouraging that sites defending global
      warming are blacking out the data from accepted sources that shows a decade long halt in warming. (See article published in 2010, with data only through 2000
      link to

      Considerable data suggests that about 0.5 C has occurred. But by many measurements accepted by scientist, this warming trend is abating rather than accelerating. "

      This is completely false. The temperature record has inherent volatility but the long-term trend is absolutely clear. If you cherry pick a starting point that happened to be an unusually warm year you can make it look like the trend since has been relatively flat -- but in fact the oughts included 4 of the warmest years on record and 2010 was the warmest year on record. Here is the truth.

  • McCain: Bomb Syria; But Iraq and Russia oppose Intervention
    • You fail to point out that Maliki is a supporter of the Assad regime and that Iraq did not support the Arab League resolution calling for him to step down. Iraq just last week (or maybe two weeks ago, don't remember exactly) signed an agreement with Syria giving free transport of goods bound for Syria across its territory -- a clear effort to circumvent any blockade. Maliki's security forces are attempting to prevent smuggling of weapons from Anbar to Syrian rebels. This, of course, is only exacerbating sectarian tensions within Iraq as Sunni Arabs support the uprising.

  • World's Stupidest Guerrillas Kill over 70 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq
    • It is true that these tactics cannot overturn the Shiite-dominated government. However, there is a fairly serious -- and growing -- movement to create a Sunni Arab autonomous region. (Maliki has been cracking down on federalists, even people who are entirely peaceful.) Some form of secession, beginning perhaps as simple defiance of government authority, is far more plausible than a Sunni Arab coup regaining power over all of Arab Iraq. I agree these terror attacks don't advance that cause either, but it is a prospect worth thinking about.

  • Turkey Warns against Sunni-Shiite Civil War in Mideast
    • It seems to me that Iraq is where this fault line is likely to break. If Iraq comes apart at the seams -- as appears to be happening -- the situation could easily draw in Saudi Arabia -- the Sunni Arab population will be in desperate need of protection with the Shiite government controlling the armed forces -- and then Iran. It would also mean that Kurdistan's nominal independence will become official (with no Iraq to be a part of), creating a second border war with the Sunni Arab rump Iraq and ratcheting up tensions with Turkey and Iran. I can imagine all sorts of mess.

  • Fox Viewers think Mubarak Still runs Egypt
    • Well, that makes perfect sense to me. When they threw Mubarak out, he just moved Egypt to Iraq and kept his presidency. Fox just has more of the story.

  • Pakistan and the US: Quarrel or Divorce?
    • I think the shortcoming in this analysis is that you assume that Pakistani leaders, and the popular currents to which they respond, share your basically materialist framework for assessing interests. Unfortunately, Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment is rife with religious extremists whose concerns are as much mystical and tribal as they are about selling textiles to infidels. These sorts of bases for nationalism have driven many nations in directions that appear "irrational" from the standpoint of peace and prosperity, including our own. Did it make any sense from a rational assessment of the national interest for the U.S. to invade Iraq?

      I would not count on what seems like good sense to Juan Cole (and to me) to prevail.

  • Iran Alleges Saudi Plot Story is MEK Sting
    • Well, the Iranians' story is certainly more plausible than the U.S. version.

      It it turns out to be true, and the FBI thought they were nailing Quds but it was actually a frame job by the MEK, it will be much too embarrassing for the Obama administration ever to admit it.

  • Greater Middle East Turns More Dangerous for US
  • Strange Satellite Craze
    • Okay, how's this? I'm worried about the Pakistani nukes, given that there is no civilian control of the military, the military is full of religious fanatics, and the country generally is not very stable.

      Not necessarily speaking for myself with the above, but do you think people should be worried?

  • Libyan Transitional Troops enter Sabha
    • It is difficult to understand why the holdouts continue to resist so fiercely. Surely they know that their cause is doomed, and the cause of the continued rule of the ridiculous psychopath Khadaffi (or however you prefer to spell his name) hardly seems the sort that would inspire martyrdom. To be sure the sons and the rest of the remaining inner circle have little hope of amnesty if they surrender now, but what reason do the rank and file troops have to fight on? I keep expecting mass surrender, or just mass fading away, can't see why at this point it doesn't happen.

  • Qaddafi was a CIA Asset
  • Is Qaddafi Really going to Flee to Tunisia?
    • I should think they would be far more likely to slip some bullets into the bodies of the Qaddafis (or Khadafys or Gadaffis or however you want to spell it) than to anesthetize them and ship them off to Venezuela. Much simpler.

  • Boycott Beck! Brands Child Victims Hitler Youth
    • I think it's highly unlikely that Beck knows anything at all about the Norwegian Labor Party. He just figures that if kindred spirit Breivik hates them, he probably should too.

  • Repeal the PATRIOT Act is the Lesson of Bush White House Spying
    • Prof. Cole, I am sure this disturbing news about the Cheney Administration trying to get the CIA to find dirt on you affects you emotionally in ways that are hard to express. There's something about the mere threat that just has to creep you out.

      I'm probably paranoid, but during that same era, when Today in Iraq, to which I contribute (now called Iraq Today) was getting a lot of traffic, I suddenly found that every time I flew, I got pulled aside for extra screening and a hand search through my carry-on. As an academic who goes to conferences I fly quit a lot, so I had a decent sample. This happened 4 or 5 times in a row -- the agent would look at my boarding pass and announce, "The carrier has selected you for additional screening." It could not have been a coincidence. Once I went to Mexico and I got a major search and interrogation before I could get on the flight back to the U.S.

      It makes you wonder.

  • The Muslim World Sounds off on Bin Laden's Demise
    • Well, you know that's not going to happen. The military-industrial complex needs an enemy. So does the right, which feeds on paranoia and fear of The Other. Obama needs to prove his toughness and virility to the Daddy-craving electorate. The Existential Threat of Global Terror is just too necessary to too many powerful people to declare it a minor problem.

      But you knew that.

  • Fighting Rages in Misrata despite Withdrawal Pledge
  • Free Libyan fighters exult in small Victories, as US begins Drone Strikes
    • I don't have a crystal ball, but Prof. Cole doesn't either. While it looked earlier on as though GKQ[h/~h]ad[d][h/!h]af[f][i/y]'s* inner circle was going to disintegrate, there ended up being only a few defections and they seem to have stopped. The remaining military is acting loyally, competently, ruthlessly and even courageously, for whatever reason. Q (or whatever) undoubtedly has plenty of liquid billions left, even if his foreign assets are now inaccessible, and the rebel armed forces are, frankly, pathetic. He certainly isn't going anywhere voluntarily. (What are his sons gonna do, get jobs?) The prospect of this going on for years is most definitely not out of the question, as far as I'm concerned.

      *We need a consistent system for transliterating Arabic to Latin letters -- counting Muamar/Moamar I calculate 192 ways to spell his name, all of which have probably appeared in print.

  • Libya Threatens Mediterranean Planes, Ships if Attacked
    • "I think the threat launched by the ministry of defense, of essentially turning to large-scale terrorism in the Mediterranean, has sealed the fate of the regime. No government that speaks that way will be allowed by the powers of the Greater Mediterranean."

      I can't believe I am saying this to the estimable Juan Cole, but I think that may be naive. If he manages to hold on to power and he's still sitting on all that oil, they'll kiss and make up just as they always have. He has already ordered the destruction of a civilian airliner and the mass murder of U.S. troops in Germany, and the western powers, including the U.S., chose to look the other way. I don't think a few provocative words will matter more.

  • Libya Skirmishes as Saudi Quivers and Iran, Iraq under Pressure
    • While I agree that NATO or U.S. military intervention would be inappropriate and unwise, it seems to me there could be actions labeled as humanitarian relief in insurgent-held regions that would be helpful. I don't know about Brian's suggestion of sending weapons, however.

      Beyond that, it does not seem helpful at this time for Hillary and others to be threatening Qaddafi with prosecution for Lockerbie. Yes it would probably be justice, but obviously that leaves him with no way out. What they ought to be doing is trying to peel off his generals with suggestions of amnesty for defectors. But I haven't heard anything of that nature, just condemnation and threats against Qaddafi, and obviously he doesn't give a shit about that, except maybe to dig in harder. The imperative right now has to be to maneuver him out of power. Deal with his sorry ass later.

  • Qaddafi's Bombardments Recall Mussolini's
    • BTW, I'm not getting wild and crazy about what he might have been doing. This is from ABC News:

      According to the intelligence consultant, Blackwater personnel have worked for the CIA in Pakistan since at least 2004, most as security guards, but some as paramilitary operatives working to target militants in the country's tribal regions.

      (By "security guards" they mean people who act as clandestine bodyguards for CIA ops while they meet with contacts. The CIA fired Blackwater and then rehired all their personnel as independent contractors, Davis among them.)

    • Off topic but noteworthy:

      Let us suppose there were Pakistani mercenaries, employed by that country's secret intelligence service, driving around the United States armed with semi-automatic pistols, with diplomatic immunity, hunting down extremist militants, or maybe calling in air strikes on them. That would mean, in the U.S., Christian dominionists, minutmen, the Michigan Militia, that sort of thing -- people who don't have a lot of support per se but who have ideological sympathy from a significant constituency.

      Or perhaps acting as agents provocateurs, or spying on the U.S. military?

      Suppose this was happening with the knowledge and tacit approval of the United States government? Suppose one of them shot and killed two U.S. citizens, and a vehicle from the Pakistani embassy, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, struck and killed a third citizen on the way to rescue him?

      Obviously, we would think that was perfectly normal and acceptable. What's wrong with those wacky Pakistanis that they are upset about the identical situation? The Asiatic mind is sure obscure.

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