Member Profile

Total number of comments: 19 (since 2013-11-28 15:55:15)

Jim Reilly

Lived and studied in Beirut and Damascus at various times. Professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of Toronto since 1987.


Showing comments 19 - 1

  • Turkey descends into civil war as conflict in southeast escalates
    • What are "natural borders"? Most borders are arbitrary, the products of wars, partitions and the like. What has been missing in Turkey, Syria, Iraq etc. is "good governance," an ability to integrate populations who live there into a representative state system where all feel they have an ownership stake. Easy to say, hard to do.

  • 3 Years War? Obama to Bomb Syria in fight against ISIL
    • Apart from the quixotic idea of using air power to rebuild two collapsed states (one of whom is ruled by a tyrant whom "we don't like"), another depressing aspect to this whole thing is Obama's conviction that he can make a decision for open-ended war unilaterally, without any constitutional constraints. We seem to have stumbled into a world of permanent warfare, with no political accountability at all. And we did this to ourselves.

  • Rep. Cathy Rodgers Exemplifies GOP: Benefit from Gov't yourself, Deny Benefits to Others
    • Rodgers typifies a widespread American phenomenon, or so I observe from extended family: people who have a deep practical dependence on federal spending, and who benefit from federal programs, nonetheless express strong philosophical hostility to federal spending that does not benefit them personally and directly. This hostility is typically described in apoplectic and apocalyptic terms, driven by religious and/or cultural anxieties linked to ethnicity and language.

  • Thank You for Your Support
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Kerry in Cairo
    • "The US has therefore become unpopular in Egypt." Actually the US has been "unpopular" for a long time. During Morsi's tenure both he and the opposition tried to discredit each other by claiming that their opponents were in league with the US (with imperialism and Zionism often thrown in for good measure). It's a mug's game, and if Obama/Kerry can manage an orderly political withdrawal from this rancid political environment, perhaps the better we'll all be.

  • Top Ten Problems in South Carolina Lindsey Graham should worry more about than Benghazi
    • Deeply embedded once again in Redstateland, as I am, within earshot of relatives who hail from said regions, I realize that Juan's arguments are doomed to fall on deaf ears. The politics that fuel the energies of Lindsay Graham and even worse exemplars like Ted Cruz are built on resentments and prejudices that are impervious to reasoned argument. It is a Foxnewsworld of permanent Kulturkampf and political paranoia, dressed up as American patriotism.

  • Steven Spielberg's "Obama," with Tracy Morgan as Joe Biden
  • Terrorism and the other Religions
    • What Juan has written needs to be said, but in the current North American environment he is swimming upstream. (I imagine he is used to it by now.)

      Look at Asra Nomani's hand-wringing piece about "we, the Muslims" published April 23 at the Daily Beast. Look at the group of imams who were invited to be present at the April 22 Toronto press conference announcing the exposure of a foiled terrorist plot ("linked to al-Qaeda in Iran" [?]).

      Is there some middle ground for North American Muslims between denial and internalization of a pathologizing discourse? Of course, visible Muslims in the US and Canada will do what they must to protect themselves. Buying into the self-pathologizing approach may be necessary at this juncture ("immigrant anxiety", etc.). But the net result is further to feed the discourse of "what's wrong with the Muslims?" that Juan's post tries to debunk.

  • CNN Fail: Imaginary "Dark Males," "Accents," and "Arrests" Haunt Reporters
    • The paragraph that begins "Streams of consciousness throw up streams of the unconscious" is worthy of framing. I'm currently visiting one of the reddest of red states on personal business, well out of my Southern Ontario/US NE comfort zone, and it's been a challenge adjusting with equanimity to the world-view of those around me here. As Juan notes, we are dealing with deeply embedded cultural and psychological currents that go back to the settler-colonial history of this continent, including assumptions about race, culture, belonging, civilization and "barbarism." As others have noted elsewhere, if the Boston bomber turns out to be a native-born white male his case will be treated as an individual pathology. But if the Boston bomber turns out to be a (nominal?) Muslim (God forbid), entire communities and categories of people will be pathologized.

  • Palestinians Alarmed at Obama's New Christian Zionism, Failure to Push for Settlement Freeze
    • Obama's visit is probably best seen as an extension of US domestic politics. Palestinians were incidental, and the visit to Ramallah was window-dressing. Obama and the US generally will not do anything "for" Palestinian interests unless forced to.

  • Obama slights Palestinians, who stage Tent Protests
    • From the context, Juan probably meant that Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (not Jordan) roughly equal the number of Jews in Israel and the occupied territories. But the Jordan reference reminds us that Palestinians live in large numbers in neighboring countries, too. It's hard to imagine how the present status quo can be maintained over the medium term without increasing use of force and repression.

  • Karzai accuses Taliban of Serving US Interests, Slams (Non-Existent) US-Taliban Talks
    • Does anyone find it odd that Karzai -- who owes his position to the US -- feels free to indulge in careless rhetoric that lumps the US with his enemies? (And this on the very day, as it happens, when more US soldiers were killed in a "rogue" insider attack.) I can't imagine that these latest developments will do anything but accelerate the US military drawdown and withdrawal. When that happens, Karzai's goose is cooked. What is he up to?

  • "Argo" as Orientalism and why it Upsets Iranians
    • I like Lawrence of Arabia as a movie. As history, though, it has serious problems. First, in the movie Lawrence becomes the principal protagonist of the "Arab revolt." Second, the famous scene set in Damascus where the assembled Arab chieftains have a falling out never happened. In fact, political differences within the Arab movement notwithstanding, the Arab nationalists assembled in Damascus (the "General Syrian Congress") agreed to a set of principles that were not that much different from those adopted by Turkish nationalists at about the same time. So we can use the "Lawrence" movie to open up a discussion about these historical issues.

    • I should add that I come at this as a university teacher in Canada. Something like "Argo" (or earlier, "Lawrence of Arabia") provides an entree to a historical subject, and in the best circumstances opens up the opportunities for discussion and critique.

      Just like the discussion we're having here, now.

    • As mass-market entertainment, "Argo" isn't that bad. It begins with the narrative about Mosaddeq -- probably the first time many Americans will have heard of him -- and it ends by giving Jimmy Carter (vilified and lampooned by the American Right) the last word. As an American mass-market product, and seen in American terms, "Argo" is OK. A more earnest and historically nuanced presentation of the story would probably not have found an audience outside of art houses.

  • Four Middle East crises will face the next President Immediately
    • Interesting that Palestine isn't one of them. I wonder how long it will be before that one blows up again. Seems that blow-ups are the only way it merits sustained official US attention.

  • Romney's Five Wars
    • The new polls say Romney is likely to win in November. ("Thanks for abdicating, Obama.") If Romney means what he says -- and with him, one never knows -- we will witness the Hubris Doctrine at work with predictably calamitous consequences. Can you imagine Walid Phares, Dan Senor and John Bolton setting the tone for American MIddle East and foreign policies? Yikes.

  • Romney on Jerusalem: A World of Hurt for America
    • At the fundraising meeting in Jerusalem, Romney also contrasted Israeli prosperity with Palestinian penury, attributing the contrast to "cultural differences" (presumably he meant Jewish vs. Arab cultures, as if these are internally homogeneous). Quite a remarkable statement, subconsciously borrowed from the playbook of colonial governors and white supremacists of days gone by.

  • Ret'd. CIA Official Alleges Bush White House Used Agency to "Get" Cole
    • Your surveillance is a badge of honor, Juan. But it's also a frightening demonstration of how much Washington's policies of permanent war have eroded what remains of the American Republic's constitutional liberties.

Showing comments 19 - 1