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Total number of comments: 565 (since 2014-07-13 17:53:33)

Nicholas Wibberley

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  • 4 Nations twist Qatar's arm, to close down Aljazeera
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/23/2017 at 6:15 am

      I cannot imagine they will get away with this. Ayman Mohyeldin ducking shellfire day and night as he covered the 2008-2009 Israeli carnage from within Gaza was in my view one of the greatest pieces of journalism in the history of media. Surely its international audience is too large and its global respect too great. It may be Qatari but in a meaningful sense it belongs to us all. I hope its supporters get organised and make that clear to the despots otherwise the world comes under their yoke.

  • In Apocalyptic Vandalism, ISIL blows up 800-year-old Nuri Mosque in Mosul
    • A significant difference between the destruction the Nuri Mosque by Daesh, and the Iraqi National Archives by the US is that the mosque, like the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan, was destroyed with malignant deliberation whereas the library was bombed out of sheer ignorance and could well have been avoided had anyone in the command line considered for a moment Iraqi heritage rather than just oil installations. Were Trump to decide to go for Iran we would see unimaginable cultural destruction and the owls would be calling again from the towers of Afrasaid.

  • Putin's End Game in Syria
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/19/2017 at 4:38 am

      Putin agreed to this unprecedented interview because it presented a golden PR opportunity and he's an expert at that kind of thing. In it, inter alia he proposes a statesmanlike solution to the Syrian bloodbath. We can decide each for ourselves whether he means it or not but either way it remains only an aspiration for the reason I mentioned. Obviously he knows that but his proposal has credibility and will go stone skipping, as it has here, and lodge favourably in many minds which is as good a reason as any for undertaking the interview. He's a chess player.

    • Putin's policy aspirations are all very rational, noble even, as suits the image he seeks to project to the global audiences Stone's interview will reach. But they are pie in the sky since there is no way on earth the US would agree to join Iran, Egypt, and Turkey to negotiate in “constructive cooperation”. As for the valuable experience Russian forces have gained in Syria, it would be very odd indeed if that were not so, but there is no suggestion this was in any way a motive for entering the fray. Nor, I imagine, does he intend the triumphs of his involvement to serve in a sales pitch for Russian weaponry. Isn't any nation justified in regarding foreign armed rebels as terrorists and responding to them as such? However, if such a conference were to take place, they should indeed be on hand since they would be required to lay down their arms and surrender.

  • Putin offers Comey Asylum, likens him to Snowden
    • Isn't spreading largely false and damning stories par for the course in politics? Two wrongs don't make a right is, of course, a truism but the meaning laid upon it surely depends on the legality or moral validity of what is under consideration. The Israelis employ that defence when confronted with accusations of brutality against Palestinians but it is quite different because brutality, genocide, apartheid, and so on are by broad consensus 'wrong' in the literal sense that they are contrary to conscience, morality, or law regardless of who perpetrates them. But according to what such consensus might a 'cascade of disinformation' directed from Moscow at a US election be 'wrong'? Of course, just because something isn't wrong doesn't necessarily make it right, (the view that it does is one of the most unfortunate contributions to modern behaviour, summed up by the oft voiced claim that this or that action is 'not against the law', and by extension therefore OK to do). Putin's asylum comment was a joke, not maybe a very good one but worth a smile on a dull day; much of the world regards Washington's current obsession with this issue joke worthy. Better perhaps than finding it sad.

  • Why Saudi Extremism, Instability is an Argument for EVs, Wind and Solar Energy
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/15/2017 at 6:39 am

      Bill, I entirely agree with you. Cars normally pass through several hands before they get to the scrap yard, diminishing in value and presumably increasing in pollution potential as they go along. I bought my first car in 1957 and have never bought a new one; you lose money driving them out of the showroom; a fool's game. Doubtless there are those who could afford an electric car and don't buy one but that is a different issue altogether. A prohibitive premium levied on the sale of new non-electric vehicles might see electric ones entering the second hand market more swiftly. The whole thing badly needs some imaginative input. As for solar panels, they should be a facility like street lighting, it makes little sense to have individual households installing them when it could be so much more economically and efficiently done by the community.

    • So much is invested in the carbon fuel way of life that there is potential for confrontation between carbon fuel producers and nations headed urgently towards renewable energy. If there is some broad purpose to Trump's foreign policy manoeuvres it could be a desire to build a powerful US, Russia, Saudi Arabia coalition and coerce or bomb other producers into line. That might explain his sword dance and why he was so eager to mend bridges with Russia. It must be frustrating to be blocked by all these investigations and anti-Russian overkill, particularly as they do Putin no harm locally or internationally, even provide him and Lavrov opportunities to be quizzical and appear super cool.

  • Tillerson-Trump Rumble over Qatar shows White House Divisions
  • UK hung Parliament: Is Trumpism pushing Europe Left?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/09/2017 at 4:13 am

      It wasn't Trump himself, so much as similar socio-economic forces; the conflicting priorities of those who favour globalisation and those who perceive themselves victims of it. And it isn't just globalisation in the modern sense, similar forces were bubbling in the UK before the outbreak of WWII. The war put them on the back burner but they came right off it with the 1945 election of Clement Attlee over Churchill. There were heads shaking in the US and much of the rest of the world then just as there are this morning. Plus, in this case, the perceived arrogance of May, her over confident assumption all she need do is call an election and she'd be handed a bigger majority on bended knee; just like Cameron assuming the British would troop meekly into the Remain queue because 'obviously it was the right thing'. You can't treat the British like that, they don't think like that, they'll respond with two fingers even if they suffer for it.

  • Trump's Ally: Saudi Arabia's drive for Aristocratic Hegemony in the Middle East
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/07/2017 at 6:38 am

      It seems unlikely Trump would be aware of any of this, or indeed endowed with sufficient patience to take it in. There's an interesting piece in the Brookings Institution publication proposing, pretty convincingly, that the $350 billion, wham bang thank you armament deal with Saudi Arabia is another Trump fantasy link to . Assuming this to be true brings again to the fore the question, what exactly was he up to there aside from his inelegant effort at a sword dance. The fixed point is perhaps his extensive demonisation of Iran, repeated again with Netanyahu. Considering his campaign trail insistence he was not intending to get involved in foreign adventures, it could be he left the Saudis confident that if they choose, alone or with others, to have a go at Iran he would regard it as a local matter and leave them to it. That would remove their US ankle monitor and vastly increase their local stature regardless of whether or not they do actually attack Iran. Meanwhile Trump comes home waving 'the biggest arms deal ever'. The next episode will be screened on Sunday at 9 pm.

  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan uninvites Trump as opposed to Humane British Values
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/06/2017 at 10:34 am

      Trump simply hadn't read what the mayor said. That is actually more troubling than his senseless comment. He also completely underestimates the selfless solidarity that comes naturally to Londoners under stress, and which I knew first hand as a child in the blitz. He's in for a tough time when he turns up for his bit of bunting and ride in a carriage. In some ways Trump seems a putative Netanyahu, the same unprincipled single-mindedness, with the main difference that Trump has had less time at it politically, but he's learning. So far the main beneficiary of his ascendency is the media which earned large sums salaciously promoting him and more now self-righteously hounding him. The free media is also almost entirely responsible for parading Sadiq Khan as Muslim, something I would not have given a thought to but for it being so aggressively thrust into one's face. It's an old media trick to insist something isn't true or doesn't matter when nobody thought it was, or did.

  • Did Trump's Climate Disavowal just kill Capitalism?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/03/2017 at 10:09 am

      Trump's back turned on the Paris Accords seems to have stirred a global anti-Trump consensus. The practical potential for such consensus was already with us but until now if has lacked a focus. It is always easier to get disparate groups to unite against rather than for an issue, a phenomenon vividly illustrated by Egyptian unity against Mubarak where his departure having been celebrated with wild enthusiasm and lacking any follow through has led full circle to where it all began. However, this is profoundly different since while there is unity in opposing Trumpism there is also purpose in the Paris Accords. I have a fragile hunch it may it may still turn out for the best.

  • Trump, Paris Accords and the End of the American Century
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/01/2017 at 9:35 am

      What is here called the American Century has been been slipping from the eye for some time. There has been a lot written about it. It may have accelerated under Obama but that wasn't really his fault, the international effort required to reach the Iran agreement and the Paris accords show how the US unipolar dream is no longer realisable. The US has been continuing at the board when checkmate was inevitable within a number of moves whatever happens. Many were not able to see it, others refused to believe it, some still do. A number thought one last untried gamble might succeed and that's probably where Trump came in but his walk away from Paris drops the final veil.

  • Allies Furious as Trump w/draws from G7 Climate Commitment, May leave Paris Accord
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/28/2017 at 5:56 am

      A supplementary aspect of this is that Trump particularly, but US leaders generally, don't like to be involved in activities that are not their initiative and which they can't be seen to lead. They are not team minded. We see it all the time in the UN, and it was very apparent in the Iran Nuclear deal which was a European initiative but which was presented as an Obama achievement to the extent that Trump can talk about tearing it up. Also, of course, Syria. It's a problem.

      Off topic but a highly readable account of Trump's recent global peregrinations. link to

  • Top 5 Questions about Kushner's back channel to Moscow
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/27/2017 at 6:13 am

      We can only speculate. Here's mine.

      Leak undoubtedly from the security services who seem to have become a fourth arm of government Why would they leak it? They're out to get Trump.

      Kislyak would only reveal the request that way under instructions from Moscow who could hardly have been in the dark about it. Why? Whether they aided his campaign or not he has proved less than useful, and since the growing anti Trump movements are gaining traction and pulling Russia into the mire it's a way to step back from the fray since requesting is one thing and granting quite another. Russia would never anyway have agreed to such a request.

      The request itself could have been more of a gesture. Trump may have thought doing everything to appear buddy buddy with Putin would strengthen his hand when it came to dealing with China which he was going on a lot about at the time.

      Trump may not have expected any quid pro quo, appearing to be that close to Putin would be enough.

      Feeding fake news to media is standard practice in modern political campaigning. Kushner was probably sending such stuff all over, and RT has a significant US following among the less cerebrally inert.

  • Pope to Trump: Climate Change is Real and we have to act in Solidarity
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/25/2017 at 10:52 am

      There is an attitude of mind that I began to notice changing sixty years ago, and over the intervening years it has become almost its direct opposite. In essence it is the principle of economy, it used to be a virtue and now it's almost a joke. One bought things to last and maintained and looked after them. I still wear suits, trousers and a couple of overcoats bought in the 70's. Kids' clothes were handed down from older to younger siblings, socks were darned; when I was first called up into the army in 1955 we were issued needles, thread, and buttons with which to keep our kit mended. We didn't throw away wrapping paper or string; I still can't. If you needed to buy something, you saved for it, you saved for marriage and a home. Things were only discarded after serious consideration and if they could not be put to further use, I suspect that may be the practical origin of the patchwork quilt. Although my childhood was passed in the war and its immediate aftermath, that was not the reason for such economies, people had always been economical, it was natural and in a sense virtuous, waste was sort of sinful, waste not, want not, was the oft repeated mantra. Looking back it seems to me such attitudes of mind and their resulting behaviour patterns need to be reinvigorated, and the concepts of 'want' and 'need' separated again; this is surely not impossible in the era of social media. By the way, even four years ago the UN estimated that a third of the world's food is wasted link to . I really do believe that if we could rediscover the virtues of economy, the rest would follow.

  • Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shi'ism
    • On further reflection, it seems to me there could be something brewing behind the curtains here. We have this 'I am not your enemy' speech accompanied by a vast military deal ($350 billion over 10 years with 110 now) the elements of which the KSA cannot possibly need and which would under present economic circumstances seem to represent a level of irresponsible extravagance, all this woven along with aggressive demonisation of Iran, swiftly followed by similar levels of anti-Iran invective in Israel. Could Trump, in exchange for the arms deal, after all he's a deal maker, be winking the offer to let them attack Iran while he turns a blind eye, or even covers their backs? I wouldn't put it passed him.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/22/2017 at 7:11 am

      He could hardly have expounded such truths, even if he was aware of them. More likely he was just trying to appear amiable. He joined a ceremonial sword dance in the same spirit, think of it like his daughter's ditty for Xi Jinping.

  • Trump in Absolute Monarchy during Iran's Election
    • Surely Iranians don't have to be stuck in 1979 to chant ‘Death to America’ and demonize the US. What has the US done to Iran since 1979 to ameliorate Iranian attitudes? The US has consistently interfered in Iran for decades, demonising it, suborning its citizens, funding opposition groups, and threatening it with everything on the table. All that plus surviving memories of the assassination of Mossadegh, the bloody Shah, the Iraq war, sanctions, and unbridled support for Israel as it assassinates their scientists, and persecutes their Arab brethren while gorging on their land. Quite enough surely to justify some corresponding response, Iranians, after all, are not masochists. Correct me if I am wrong, but these Iranian outbursts are periodic and normally confined to certain anniversaries or particularly egregious US provocations, quite unlike the all but ceaseless venom sputtering in their direction from the US. I would suggest that negative Iranian attitudes towards the US are entirely responsive and would be reversible with a meaningful change in US. But such a change is not on the menu as the US particularly does not want a nation with such vibrant human potential and so prestigious a culture to stand up and be counted among the world's great powers; any more than it wants an independent Palestine blocking Israel's sun.

  • Trump calls Special Counsel a "Witch Hunt": But what is his relation to Russia?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/20/2017 at 7:04 am

      There's no reason why the US should regard Russia as an enemy unless as a threat to its global leadership aspiration. I call it an aspiration because it doesn't exist. If it did exist and the US was reacting to what would be rebellion, then in Machiavellian terms that would justify putting it down ruthlessly, but Russia, China, Iran etc. are phantom threats to a phantom dream. I imagine Trump didn't, maybe still doesn't, see Russia as an enemy. From outside the US media firewall this obsessive pursuit of potsherds of Russian influence in this or that aspect of US political life is largely viewed with wry amusement. US global leadership looked real once, but it was a cloud illusion now morphing into something else; while one can hold the old image in the mind's eye for a while as it fades, it cannot be called back.

      It's all very well rejoicing in 'values shared with Israel' but perhaps it's time to take a more realistic look at some of them.

  • GOP not the party of 'Security' as Intel Allies Flee Trump
    • If the media had ignored the incident none of this would have come out, no retirees dragged from their ease to pontificate, no endless speculations from soi-disant experts. Any damage, if there was any, could have been quietly handled in the background. Anyone with eyes half open already knew there was a potential threat from laptops on passenger flights, which had to have come from some source or other. A different order of damage is done to the US image by the media harping on in a transparent effort to further besmirch Trump. It's scarcely a wonder Erdogan et al prefer to keep a tight lid on them. The UK has what's called DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) notices which indicate to editors the reason the government considers certain things best left unreported. The decision is then up to the Editor. It's a peculiarly British way of balancing a free press and the national interest that probably wouldn't work in the US where one imagines Editors scouring such notices for front page material.

  • "Can you believe the World we Live in?" Trump doesn't understand "Classified"
  • Is China Now the Adult in the Room? Xi and Macron Consult
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/15/2017 at 5:55 am

      Leadership of one would be macro dictatorship, two is inevitable confrontation, and more than three dissolves into factions. Three is best, and may be emerging from the mist?

    • You refer to the US 'returning to its leadership role' as if such a role were somehow US property or a divine entitlement. But it isn't. The role was self-awarded, flourished in a vacuum, and is now morphing into something to be shared with others. What distorts the process is the notion that China and Russia, for instance, are somehow bent on acquiring the role for themselves. This is unrealistic and unnecessarily combative when the world is crying out for cooperation. A dispassionate look at the disorder, and ecological and moral decay seeping into our lives from areas where the US seeks to maintain the trappings of that role should be enough to give us pause. There is no reason why Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping, or whoever sits on their seats, should not get together and devise a new age of global order. It wouldn't even be that difficult since initially it would be a question of agreeing what not to do, and only then what to undertake. Of course it would not be perfect, but it could hardly be worse than what we are stuck with today. The underlying reality is that this is occurring as an inexorable process, consider how it has evolved just over the last 50 years. The ancients attributed such a processes to Fate, and the thing about Fate is that while you may cooperate with her, resistance only leaves you battered and bleeding, and consider how much of the world is already in that state.

  • Russians Troll Trump, release Photos of Meeting
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/13/2017 at 7:27 am

      Human Rights is part of Western, and broader, ideology and remains so. I think Tillerson meant that it will no longer necessarily underlie US foreign policy. Since it never really did with any remarkable consistency it's perhaps more like a lady removing her make-up before getting down to business.

    • It is surely disingenuous to expect a Foreign Minister, particularly one with Lavrov's experience, to comment on Comey's firing. Further, the question was loaded since it more or less implied a connection between the firing and the investigation. Defining it as an internal matter is exactly what any experienced minister would do, and what the US always does when much more egregious issues are raised about actions in Israel, Turkey, etc.

      The second response about interference in US politics is sound advice. It cannot be helpful to promote the idea that Russia or any other nation can influence, and by extension determine, the result of the election. Even if Russia was somehow implicated in the release of DOC emails to Wikileaks there was no necessity for the media to make such a breakfast of them since they contained nothing of any great moment, and if the argument is that the purpose was to undermine confidence in US democracy, that it seems to me was done when the result of all those months of campaigning and expenditure of grotesque sums resulted in a choice between two such candidates.

      The comment about ideology is again a diplomatic way of saying that at least they are no longer subject to lectures about human rights and democracy. Tillerson himself the other day said they were giving up that particular ritual flagellation with a feather duster, which must indeed have been a great relief for everyone dealing with the US, making it possible as, Lavrov is quoted, maintain a dialogue not as a means of demonstrating what they can achieve in the area of ideological preferences, but rather as a means of solving particular issues…

  • The Sadism of creeping Dictatorship
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/11/2017 at 10:54 am

      It looks like someone intellectually weak and with a short temper provoked by Comey's confident performance before Congress with its detailed, even colourful, account of his reasoning in the Clinton affair, a performance Trump couldn't match in a month of Sundays. I have faith the American constitution and people are strong enough to counter him move by move at home but his potentially destabilising impact internationally is deeply worrying, with first its threat of further overly assertive military adventures, and beyond that on the global economy where his brand of self-preserving financial finesse could do inestimable damage to whole nations and millions of Western people almost entirely dependant on stable supply infrastructures. It's a bit like watching a child carrying a cup of nitro.

  • Which Middle East Authoritarian Leader is Trump most Like?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/10/2017 at 11:13 am

      Netanyahu? They are all much of a muchness. Better perhaps to ask which is he least like.

      1600 Palestinian prisoners are well into their third week of hunger strike in Israel. Sad how little coverage it gets.

  • Uh, oh: French Left can't bring itself to Vote for Macron
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/05/2017 at 8:54 am

      Just as was the case with Trump/Clinton, there are potentially influential elements that have little to do with traditional politics. Le Pen is under investigation for misuse of funds intended for paying administrative costs, similar to Fillon except that he supposedly misapplied French government funds which cuts deep, whereas in her case they are EU funds link to , and 61% of the French view Brussels unfavourably link to . The media harping on this, and her father's employment of similar funds for the purchase of vintage wine and champagne, is a bit like attacking candidate Trump for minimising his tax burden which Instead of the expected shock horror reaction, evoked something closer to envy from many who would do the same if they had half a chance.

      Another is the anti-establishment sentiment expressed by Olivier Tonneau in the Guardian article.

      A few weeks before the election, something important happened that was largely unnoticed: an opinion poll showed that the main concern of the people was neither unemployment nor immigration, but the reform of state institutions (institutional issues are rarely brought up in polls). There is a deep resentment towards a state they perceive as oppressive, corrupt and violent.

      link to

      To the extent that there could well be Le Pen voters out there who regard their intentions as their own business the polls may have larger margins of error than normal. One thing I would bet on is that if Le pen does win, the public response will echo that of Trump in the US and within 100 days her popularity will fall to unprecedented levels.

  • Dear Marine Le Pen: Only a Fascist would Praise Colonialism . . . Oh Wait
  • For First Time, a US President backs a Fascist France
    • These are your definitions of fascism, fair enough, but others have different definitions, particularly those who have lived under its heel, and respected dictionaries like Merriam Webster.

      A way of organising a country in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of people and in which the people are not allowed to disagree with the government.

      The word itself is a 20th century construct derived from the Latin word fasces, the rods of authority born before Roman high officials

    • Le Pen's platform is scarcely fascist. It is more like France for the French and in that sense it is arguably more a preference for the local over the global, vide Brexit. Generally speaking the US does pretty much all the invading these days but has never itself been subject to invasion and occupation, or even the threat of it. Tides of armies from time immemorial have swept this way and that across the fields of France, pillaging, murdering, destroying. I have lived in the Limousin where most communities, even small villages, possess a well maintained monument to Les Déportés, those who were taken away by the Nazis and often never heard of again. Massive immigration or even the threat of it can awaken dark memories, particularly in rural areas where I understand Le Pen's support is strong. Fascism, first of all, involves dictatorship, and France is nowhere near such a thing. Fascist is a pejorative term, you can call her many uncomplimentary things and you can abjure her platform, as with Trump, but fascist is a word with a significance all its own in much of Europe. There is an unfortunate tendency these days to ignore cultural differences, seeing all the world as either in harmony with the US or alien in some deeply suspect way, that and attendant efforts to regularise the discrepancy is one reason for declining US popularity,and the perceived need to balance that with exhibitions of military might. As Kipling put it, The wildest dreams of Kew, are facts in Kathmandu.

  • ISIL Terror-Trolls French Election, Supporting far Right; Will French Fall for It?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/22/2017 at 9:29 am

      The French, like the English, are hesitant about foreigners collectively but can readily accept them individually. I doubt many entertain a meaningful association between immigration and terrorist acts which are largely a consequence of foreign policy decisions. It is the current level of immigration that is unnerving to many and would be so were there no terrorist acts. The French press uniformly condemns acts like this as have all the candidates in the campaign. To attempt to make political capital out of this act would be massively counterproductive. The French view is that there isn’t a religious problem, there is a problem linked to Islam but it has nothing to do with law-abiding Muslims, only with fundamentalism, and this is an attitude held by the vast majority, unlike the US where, correct me if I'm wrong, it is more of a minority view.

  • The Coming Muslim Century: Bad news for President Bannon
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/20/2017 at 11:17 am

      Christianity has become somewhat like the Roman religion in the period prior to Constantine, that is it has largely lost its true believers although many still subscribe to the formalities, attending baptisms, weddings and funerals with reverential faces, listening quietly to exhortations from the pulpit, and being relieved when the whole thing is over. My hunch is that as the percentage of Muslims rises for the reasons outlined here, it will be further increased by young white converts who will be attracted to the greater spiritual vigour of its rituals, and what will strike them as the absence of hypocrisy among its faithful.

  • As Leftist Turks Protest, Trump congratulates Erdogan on Authoritarian Turn
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/19/2017 at 3:23 am

      You think Turkey's internal political convulsions would be better served if the US provided millions of dollars, or sent in marines and Tomahawks to support one side or the other?

    • It's so much easier to define what democracy is not than what it is. Actions determined by a majority can only be meaningful with broad cultural accord and economic stability, else you get one group seeking to impose its notions on others which do not share them, and that leads to an aggravation of the differences beyond reason, as one sees perhaps in the bizarre intensity with which subjects like abortion, same sex marriage, and even transgender bathrooms can be in heady dispute. Turkey, like Iran and many other nations with traditional agricultural life in some areas and urban concentrations in others, is not suited to too much democracy, and works better with a leader who understands and can balance and accommodate the needs of all within a meaningful uniformity. In some cases this can be achieved by a respected monarchy that has undergone progressive modifications from being absolute to what it is today. The important lesson from history is that a nation's constitution, whatever it may, be needs regular adjustment to ensure it maintains the relationship it had to all citizens when they first brought it into being. Such adaptations are never achieved without a degree of disruption and often bloodshed as was the case in the English Civil war, French Revolution, and the Russian and Chinese revolutions, but if they come about intrinsically, as in those cases, they are far less destructive than when they are extrinsic. Not so long ago it took decades for extrinsic interference, such as Sykes Picot, to show its weaknesses, but today they unfold before our eyes in levels of disturbance and destruction that could never have occurred if left to work through by themselves. Oddly enough Turkey is being left alone and in time its disorders will either settle down or erupt some more which is deeply frustrating for many, but whatever happens will surely be less horrific than a Western alliance invasion.

  • In 3 months, Trump has Charged into 4 Mideast Wars, to no Avail
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/15/2017 at 7:48 am

      It's not just Trump. He may simply represent the unvarnished reality that Man is not a peaceable species. What is conceivable, however, is a degree of fluctuating equilibrium dominated by three spheres of influence. It is the background to Orwell's 1984 and makes sense because a situation where any two are able to combine to out face the third has inherent, though fluctuating, stability. Three can survive like that, whereas two will inevitably face off in a determination to reduce to one which could indeed be Armageddon. If such a arrangement does come about it will not be because people have sat down and decided upon it, but because evolving circumstances will lead inexorably towards it, and I suspect we may be living through precisely such circumstances; the spheres of influence are not yet fully defined but the basic tripartite structure could be forming. It's not a question of the US, Russia, and China, they may simply be like the grain of sand round which the pearl is formed. The alluring prospect of such an evolution is that the human survival instinct could become species rather than group driven.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/14/2017 at 9:03 am

      There's no reason to imagine this will be the end of it. The interviewee in the video talking of underground sites describes them as like 'where Iranians are developing nuclear weapons' and it passes unquestioned.

  • Can we survive simultaneous Trump, Ahmadinejad Presidencies?
    • I confess I somewhat miss Ahmadinejad's colourful Netanyahu challenging appearances at the UN General Assembly, specially that moment when the Israelis and others rose to their feet and waddled from the chamber like a line of penguins.

  • Russia's not Leaving: Syria is about old-Fashioned Sphere of Influence, not Oil
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/12/2017 at 5:39 am

      China would move to cover Russia if the situation looked like getting out of hand, and vice versa. The last thing either wants is to find itself face to face, one to one, with the US.

    • One tends to forget that the US and Russia have been pawing the ground either side of Syria for a long time. Wikileaks has pulled a 1986 memo from the recently declassified CIA documents which puts the present situation into a broader perspective. link to . It's revealing how much has remained unchanged over the last 30 years. Trump, however, may break the mould since he appears to have no interest in diplomacy but simply seeks clear decks and peace and quiet to forge one to one trade deals, and while much of the diplomatic world is selecting its cutlery, he just uses he hands.

  • Al-Sadr: Russia, America and al-Assad should all get out of Syria!
    • There is a lot in there makes more sense than anything else on the table.

      “I find it fair that President Bashar al-Assad should tender his resignation and step down from power out of love for beloved Syria, so as to spare it the horrors of war and its domination by terrorists. He should give the reins of power to some popular and effective individuals who can stand against terrorism, so as to save Syrian territory as quickly as possible”.

      I've been reading about Manaf Tlass* who might be someone Assad could be persuaded to hand the reins to until something more lasting comes about. Such a solution could also serve to reduce general loss of face.

      * link to

  • Trump intervenes in the Great Mideast Civil War in Syria
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/07/2017 at 6:22 am

      Comforting to have the spontaneous approval of such paragons of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. If Trump hoped the attack would serve to turn Syrian supporters of the regime against Assad he probably misjudged by 180 degrees. In a perverse way it could increase the risks to US citizens postulated by the Daesh spokesman on Tuesday by diminishing any semblance of order in favour of free for all. Russia might well respond by upping its provision to Syria of the S-300 defence system. As the dust settles the illegal unilateral nature of the attack will increasingly bother many outsiders, looking as it does so like Iraq all over again. It can't appeal to Congress to be sidelined in an area in which they should have been involved. It could also serve to ratchet up the relationship between China and Russia when Xi Jinping gets home. Not bad for a day's work.

  • Washington's Supreme Hypocrisy on Chemical Weapons and Civilian Deaths
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/06/2017 at 11:23 am

      The fact that hypocrisy, obfuscation, and outright lies abound in these situations surely means that all parties should reserve their accusations until a proper investigation can take place when the facts will no longer be subject to dispute. Taking that view, the most important thing right now must be to launch such an investigation, preferably under UN supervision. Accusations levelled without evidence have a shorter shelf life.

      Jerry Smith, the operations chief of the UN-led team that supervised the removal of Syria’s sarin stockpiles….said the recovery of samples would be pivotal to the investigation of the Idlib strike. “It is one of the most important things now to get biological samples, interviews and environmental samples, ideally from witnesses who can also give statements,” he said.

      link to

  • Has Trump deferred to Russia in Syria?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/03/2017 at 9:20 am

      The US desire to remove Assad has never had anything to do with eliminating Daesh, and attempts to combine them in a common purpose make both tasks all but impossible. One cannot accept that the demonisation of Assad derives solely from the offence his regime's approach to activist political opposition gives to US sensibilities. Suffice it to say that such methods are widely employed and ever have been. Those hostile to a regime, be it commonwealth or dictatorship, invite severe punishment or total elimination. That is and has always been the black and white of it, enshrined in Brutus' post-regicide condemnation of his sons. If a democracy overthrows a dictatorship then it will adopt that approach to any person or group that seeks to re-establish dictatorship, and vice versa for a dictatorship. Ignoring that is hypocritical, look at Egypt, and all those other States where the US turns a blind eye while reserving opprobrium for the Syrian regime. Trump, who lacks a capacity for perspective thought and its associated deceits (otherwise known as diplomacy) appears to see this intuitively. Many more cerebral analysts have reached the conclusion that Assad is more popular than the US etc. would like. To effect those purposes concealed behind the labarum of humanitarianism the US must eliminate Assad and manipulate a consequential election. I much doubt Putin has any particular personal affection for Assad but he works with him because he is the current legitimate president and he has the army. Had the majority of Syrian people really hated him, the population would have abandoned him for the rebel cause and so would the army, and he would be gone. Claiming he has lost his legitimacy is delusional nonsense, there is an age old distinction between an office and the behaviour of its current occupant. That is why Trump still gets up and retires as the US President. Putin's approach to Daesh is commonsense, and so is Trump's if this 'change' is real. In those terms it is perhaps a coincidence that Iran is largely in same line, but were a constitutional change unsympathetic to Iran's interests to be adopted that would become another matter.

  • Mosul: ISIL Deploys Ideological Booby Trap As It Retreats
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/02/2017 at 7:31 am

      Safeguarding civilian life is considered a necessary guiding moral principle for any army. I would suggest that it has never been a consideration except for practical or PR reasons. Practical as in Wellington's invasion of Southern France when a prime consideration was to avoid alienating the general population as his army pursued Napoleon northwards. Today the like problem is civilian deaths supporting terrorist recruitment and individual acts of mayhem. PR is a relatively modern consideration and certainly didn't feature in WWII when civilian deaths were imposed precisely to bring populations to heel. Hiroshima? Defeated towns and cities were ever given over to rape and pillage, and survivors slaughtered or sold into slavery. Such accounts are part of our heritage, from Jericho, Troy to WWII and Hiroshima, Dubrovnik, and all those civilian deaths today in the Fertile Crescent. No, safeguarding civilian life may be a moral principle, but a 'guiding' one it is not. One may pretend it is, wish it was, or believe it should be. But it isn't.

  • Are Progressives Suffering from Trump Fatigue?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/30/2017 at 7:47 pm

      It may hurt even to entertain such a thought, but it seems to an outsider that Trump is a symptom of a much deeper malaise and if his lumpen activities serve to unite citizens to address that then he will have proved a timely wake-up call for the renewal of founding values.

  • Mosul: "Some" US Responsibility for Civilian deaths; but Iraqi PM lashes out at Critics
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/29/2017 at 6:14 am

      There can also be an area where responsibility is not quite Iraqi and not quite American, as when an Iraqi on the ground calls for US bombardment support from a distant contact point, which is what happened on March 14 when an Iraqi colonel anxious to get on to his objective 600 meters away called for such support to eliminate a machine gunner holding him up from the roof of a building which contained non combatants 26 of who were blasted away.

      link to

  • True, Trump hasn't Criticized Putin for Navalny Arrest; but Navalny is more like Trump
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/27/2017 at 6:01 am

      To be fair, there is also 'welcome,' reserved for occasions when countries like Afghanistan or Iraq manage to cobble together a government.

    • ...there is no particular point in demanding that Trump swing around and blindly support Navalny just because he isn’t Putin. Not least perhaps because that sort of thing is what Putin is accused of doing in the US and elsewhere. Does Trump's silence really signal double standards? He may simply be disinterested in Russia's internal politics and consider that whether Medvedev and others are corrupt is not an issue on which the President of the US need have a public opinion since it is of no advantage or disadvantage to the US one way or another. Statements from the DOS seem picked out of a list from 'strongly condemn', through just 'condemn', and 'be concerned', on to 'find unhelpful'. Doubtless the same box which has other things like 'expressing condolences', 'thoughts (or prayers) going out', and 'praying for victims'. I once started to count the occurrence of these in one Press Briefing as the questions swept around the world but gave up when it got well passed twenty.

  • After Trump Massacres in Mosul, Campaign against ISIL Halted
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/26/2017 at 10:28 pm

      You are so right. Again and again, in an almost Newtonion Third Law manner, US actions result in a contrary reaction. The Brexit vote might very well have gone the other way but for Obama's arrogant threat to put the UK at the back of the queue for trade negotion. in Russian demonstrations on Sunday Alexei Navalny the opposition leader was arrested and the US government has called for his immediate release. Putin has a high popularity rating, not only in Russia, and such interference in Russian political life only hardens anti-American attitudes, making it more likely he will be re-elected next year

    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/26/2017 at 6:01 am

      This kind of warfare cultivates a deadening level of casualness. Mediapart had a man in Mosul on March 14 and he filed a detailed report of 26 deaths, mostly members of a family sheltering in their home in the Mahatta quarter of Mosul. Apparently Daesh had installed a man on the roof with a heavy PKC machine gun which was holding up a squad of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Special Forces. The Iraqis tried to dislodge him but he drove them away. They then called a strike and a F16 bomber appeared followed by two immense explosions. That house was destroyed and the neighbouring one left just a hole. Survivors were evacuated by the Iraqi forces. There's no time to bury his dead they were told by a colonel, Omar Ali. "My men are only 600 meters from the Al-Nuri mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself a Caliph!”. The colonel martèle cette distance comme un mantra. The following day they returned and found seven more dead, including a small girl, with two broken legs and a badly wounded head, crying for her mother.

      link to

  • Daesh/ISIL encouraging Loner attacks to Mask its Death Spiral
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/25/2017 at 4:14 pm

      The Pentagon was oñly necessary to complete his symbol; Wealth and War, twin sides of the one coin.

    • The Masood attack in London had no military implications at all and never actually threatened [British] national security. Neither did 9/11. Die Geister, die ich rief .

  • The Russian Job: The Plot Thickens
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/23/2017 at 10:48 am

      Devil's Advocate:

      You've got a guy who was lobbying for a Russian business man with ties to Putin eleven years ago and has undertaken various similar tasks since; obviously someone specialising in the sort of PR nation states and multinationals employ to promote or massage their image among US lawmakers and public, the sort of thing many nations do and which Israel has developed to a fine art. Is it so surprising that Manafort would know Trump or, since he did, that Trump would call on his expertise when faced with the unfamiliar demands of handling a presidential campaign?

      As for Putin's billionaire cronies, that's normal these days when the world is more or less run by billionaires who expect to exert influence. Look at those who support AIPAC. Russia, like most ancient nations, tends, after periods of social upheaval, to revert to a more or less familiar ruling structure; Putin a latter day Tsar, Sisi a Pharaoh, and Xi Jinping an Emperor. None have ever been poor, they couldn't do it if they were, nor is running a nation a task for a those of too fastidious financial integrity. Look at poor Obama, clean as a whistle and totally hopeless. I knew a young priest many years ago, Trevor his name, fastidious he was, wore a biretta. He was also a social worker and one day assigned a household about which his department had some concern. There he found a elderly man living alone in a house filled 3 to 4 feet high with old newspapers he had been collecting since the war, through which were only enough passages left to move about his business. Trevor was appalled, he gathered a group of well-wishers from his church and spent the weekend clearing and cleaning the old man's house. He was totally taken aback when he called a week later to find the old man stone dead in his unfamiliar surroundings.

      Is it yet clear that Putin had even the faintest influence on the US election, or that Trump ever sought such a thing?

  • It is Comey who should be Investigated
    • One may split hairs about this 'till the cows come home but she had done things with her communication arrangements which were felt to demand investigation. That's where it started. Until recently such lapses would likely pass unnoticed, or at any rate unregarded, but today with media and public sniffing sniffing all over like basset hounds, it behooves officials to be more careful, at any rate to keep ever in mind the 11th commandment, Thou shalt not get found out.

    • Wasn't Comey in a Catch 22 and whatever he did was going to look wrong to some. One distinction may have been that there was no question Clinton had used an unauthorised mail address and server so that was an unequivocal No No. He'd have been in even deeper water if he'd found serious security leaks later, particularly if he had found them on Weiner's machine after having told Congress all was clear. On the other hand Trump etc. might or might not have been in contact with Russian officials so there was really no reason to tell anyone...yet. Perhaps the answer is for officials in sensitive positions to go by the book in these matters.

  • Trump picks fights with US Allies: Germany, NATO, EU, Britain etc.
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/20/2017 at 5:57 am

      This is pure Machiavelli. I hadn't thought of him in terms of business but you are right. The curious thing is everyone knows this intuitively, just like The Art of War. Elliot said we can't take too much reality. Perhaps civilisation demands drawing a veil over such truths.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/19/2017 at 4:00 pm

      US European allies will stick around because the US keeps post-colonial nostalgia in play. Besides, alliances are entirely pragmatic and have nothing to do with affection or friendship, both of which, like any teetering Hollywood marriage, are inversely proportional to the intensity of their protestation.

  • Hawaii Judge: Trump's Muslim Ban 2.0 still Violates the Constitution
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/18/2017 at 8:27 am

      I apologize. It was 45/47 favorable/unfavorable

      Pence: 47%/35%
      Trump: 45%/47%
      GOP: 37%/48%
      Media: 37%/50%
      Dem Party: 36%/52%
      Hillary: 35%/55%
      Congress: 26%/52%

      link to

      I still find it troubling for social order that he is viewed more favorably than anyone but Pence

    • One of the difficulties here is the effort to maintain utopian ideals at home while bombing peoples to smithereens abroad, and to seek to do so is a deceit which may stifle the truth but cannot alter the facts. It is not a peculiarly American or even modern deceit, it has been fundamental to the justifications for imperial expansion since the arrival of Christianity; Attila and his predecessors hadn't considered it necessary. Three days ago at 4pm in West Mosul 26 civilians lost their lives in a US bombardment pursued in the spirit of, “Advance at all costs”. I intend no value judgement by mentioning this but simply wish to point to the incompatibility of aspiring to one set of standards at home and their opposite abroad. At the DOS press briefing on Thursday, the Acting Spokesperson, Mark Toner, fielding a question on anticipated State Department cost cuts, in one of his less grammatically distinctive utterances, had this to say: the Secretary absorbs that mandate from the President, he does so with the recognition that we’re going to be having less presence in future conflicts around the world, and acknowledges that that will cost less money. If that turns out to be true it could begin to change the perception Trump's supporters have of Arabs which is largely what feeds his efforts here.

    • I read that well over 40 percent support him, many more than oppose him. He railed against the Federal Judge's decision to howls of support. This phenomenon strikes me as more disturbing tnan the issue itself which one may assume is in the hands of the law.

  • Is Russia trying to take back over Libya from NATO, Radicals?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/14/2017 at 9:35 am

      It seems likely Russia will move into the Libyan mess since the problems in Syria are similar, similar at least in the sense that they are largely the product of the same historical and current Western imperial shenanigans. That area is a long way from the US and separated from it culturally, linguistically, morally, economically, socially, and in almost every conceivable way ordinary people seek to pursue their ordinary lives. There can be no morally viable reason for the US/West to have left such a swathe of devastation through the area unless one finds it in militarily establishing and maintaining subservient despotic rulers and 'spheres of influence' to guarantee access to natural resources. Establishing such arrangements post WWII was one thing, but maintaining them against popular demands arising from increasing literacy and the attendant urge to evolve socio-politically has proved too much; it completely defeated Obama whose efforts simply made matters worse. Socio-political evolution is never without bloody upheaval but it is able to resolve itself within national boundaries if left to do so. What we face now is a godawful mess which cries out for coherent stabilising intervention; enter Russia, stage right. What needs to be understood, however, is that whatever motives Russia may have are not the same as US motives which are similar in spirit and the absolute conviction of rightness, if not in content, to the evangelical motives of Philip II in 16th century Mexico, or even perhaps the convictions fueling USSR motives in the communist era. While Russia may act defensive/reactionary, as in Ukraine, they do not appear blatantly aggressive despite considerable orchestrated effort to make them look so. They can also be viewed as getting somewhere. As far as this particular area is concerned, Russia has reins on the Syrian regime and has even got the conflicting sides to one table, they are balancing the variable moods and interests of Turkey, and they have meaningful influence in Riyadh and Tel Aviv. If their stabilisation does prove to work in Syria, why not in Libya.

  • Do Syria's Kurds hold the Key to the future of the Middle East?
    • Apparently there exists a line of communication between the Syrian Kurds and Damascus, brokered by Russia, which is facilitating the flow of armoured trucks of supposedly humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurds. The Kurds, the regime and Russia are all keen to prevent Turkey taking over Raqqa. The Kurds cannot be overly interested in making substantial sacrifices for an Arab town without seeing some benefit to their aspiration for federal entity. At the same time one imagines current US enthusiasm for them isn't likely to extend to aiding the emergence of such an entity after Raqqa, indeed they may reasonably expect to be abandoned by the US once their service is done and this may encourage them to look further to Russia which they know is keen to contain Turkey. It is clear that Russia's influence over the regime is pretty well unbounded and somewhere in there may be a way for the regime and the Syrian Kurds to reach agreement on a degree of federalism acceptable to both. That could make for a formidable alliance and tidy up a lot of this mess.

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