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Total number of comments: 43 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:11)

Richard F. Miller

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  • Morsi's Second Coup Provokes Mass Protest in Egypt
    • Dictators may fail; but not necessarily dictatorships. One may easily succeed another, and often do.

      This should put paid the neocon romance (shared in many left-wing circles but long dead among those who knew better) with notions of "democracy" in Egypt. One shouldn't generalize about the "Arab Spring"--different locales with different histories are still working their destinies out--but Morsi's move augurs very poorly.

      But the Shah, Papa Assad, Saddam, Qadaffi and a host of lesser fry would have understood.

  • Ballen: Terrorism Can't be Taken out and Shot
    • Agree and Disagree with Mr. Ballen. Counterterrorism (CT) is the flip to COIN but it will be necessary (and thus rationalized) for other reasons--budgetary. It's simply a cheaper "continuation of diplomacy by other means." If Yemen can't and Pakistan's ISI won't give up their transnational jihadis, then "Death from Above" is a bigger bang for the buck than nation building. In a world where long-term benefits are covered by mist, unintended consequences and assorted blowbacks, then short-term may be as good as it gets.

      It's not either/or: CT or the VOA. It's both. But Ballen is absolutely correct, as much by default as design--the U.S. inevitably will take a backseat to the Muslim discourse on modernity. That discourse is impenetrable from the outside, save what dissonant information the participants themselves choose to admit.

      I would add one other thing--Ballen's point illuminates great diversity in this Muslim discourse, and I think it's as important for Westerners to grasp the details of this conversation (especially the inescapable cognitive dissonance inherent in ideas that elevate the murder of civilians as the "true way" to a God described as just and merciful) as it is for Muslims to grasp notions of Renaissance, Revolution and Higher Criticism.

  • Lindsey "Dr. Strangelove" Graham & War with Pakistan
    • Don't overlook the possibility that Graham's "startling suggestion" is in fact a well-established minuet between the White House, State, and the loyal opposition, in this case, Republicans.

      It is not unusual for the White House and/or State to use cut outs in conveying "bad cop" narratives to adversaries, potential or current. For example, in the past, presidents have used senators to convey tough messages to China about currency manipulation, the Saudis about lack of cooperation with various criminal probes, the Japanese about import restrictions and the UN about budget mismanagement--all the while, the White House makes smiley-face.

      It's win-win. Obama and/or Clinton delivers a message while a Schumer (the usual cut out for complaints about China) gets an assist from his trade union constituents or Graham gets to pose as hawk for his more hawkish South Carolina voters.

  • Muslim Brotherhood Rebukes Erdogan for Advocacy of Secularism
    • Fascinating.

      It was clear that in making his tour, Erdogan was likely to sketch Turkey's position as a ME leader. Some of his positions--for example, opposition to Israeli policies--are predictable crowd pleasers. But in offering this rebuke to the MB, it is fair to wonder exactly what audience Erdogan was pitching.

      Cui bono would suggest the West. Erdogan's speech could be understood as an answer (true or not) to the growing chorus of Western analysts and media who lately have been more aggressive in categorizing Turkey as Islamist, (true or not.)

      Much of this analysis has focused on the AK's efforts to degrade secularism within the law; on Erdogan's imprisonment of dissenting media; on Erdogan's stepped up war against Kurdish separatists, the resignation of senior Turkish commanders, the packing of the Turkish Supreme Court, and various nationalist rhetorical interventions to the Turkish diaspora, especially in Europe.

      It should be understood that despite Turkey's growing trade relations with other ME countries (and the financing of its short term deficits with Saudi money), Turkey cannot undo its half-century economic ties with the West, which still overpower its commerce with other Arab states. Nor can it afford to alienate its Western military suppliers, which still provide the bulk of Turkish arms and accouterments.

      This last item matters, because at bottom, Turkey still has problems that (it believes) are only amenable to military solutions (the Kurds.) And if Turkey intends to challenge Iran for regional hegemony (which may serve Western interests as well), it can't afford to be one more mouth to feed in the nest of countries increasingly reliant on Russian and Chinese arms.

  • Turkey, Egypt and Israel
    • Richard F. Miller 09/13/2011 at 7:15 am

      Professor: A few points. First, to say that "the Turkish government does not define itself primarily in ethnic terms" ignores its failure to deal with the past murders of 1,000,000 Armenians as well as its intensifying wars against the Kurds, including incursions into Iraq. The body count is up and increasing.

      Second, while your piece correctly--and this is an aspect of Turkish policy since '03 that has not been sufficiently emphasized--makes the case that Turkey's eastern turn has produced great economic benefits--you ignore the "dark side" of this reorientation by simplistically blaming Israeli intransigence.

      The argument gets nuanced here because of Israel's very stupid response to the first Gaza flotilla, which, in the absence of context, might appear as an anti-Turkish act. But here, the context may be more important than the act, because it involves the whole arc of Turkish foreign policy since AK's ascension: the turn east has required Turkey to get "street cred" with fellow Sunnis "the old fashioned way"--rattling sabers at the Jews. Thus, Israel's principal value to Turkey is as a foil. (And it's not just Netanyahu: remember when Erdogan stormed off the stage at Davos, his target was Shimon Peres, no Likudnik.)

      Professor, at present, Turkey is very much in motion: it retains its democratic voting system but has turned its back on civil rights: Erdogan, wisely, or coincidentally, saw the future years ago: there would be no EU to join (which didn't want Turkey in any event), there would be a western withdrawal from the ME, and a gutting of the old Sunni-state power system, leaving a weakened Iraq and Egypt and a Saudi Arabia searching for new patrons to replace an increasingly unreliable US.

      It was time for a new Sunni sheriff in town.

      As you know, whether this portends some form of "Neo-Ottomanism" (whatever that means) is hotly debated among area specialists right now. But it will mean Turkish swagger, and I would submit that Turkey will not be friends with Israel no matter the government in Jerusalem. However, it behooves area watchers not to be fooled by the headline de jour. Turkey has real enemies ("Kurdistan") and real rivals (ultimately, Tehran.) Here, the Turks have a role to play as area hegemon on behalf of Sunni interests against Iranian ambitions.

  • Obama demands Regime Change in Syria
    • Richard F. Miller 08/20/2011 at 8:52 pm

      Joe, allow me to express my violent agreement here.

    • Well, Joe, based on the newspaper accounts of Bachmann's rationale, its basis was (as is typical of politicians of every stripe) so enthymematic as to allow an audience to insert the rationale of their choosing. She speaks of "compelling national interest" but never fills the basket with particulars.

      Thus, everybody gets to choose what Bachmann's "compelling national interest" really means. I choose military bungling plus, given U.S. mistakes in Somalia, et al, a general reluctance (not dogmatic, incidentally) to mount humanitarian interventions. Prof. Cole appears to assume another definition of "national interest" and then points out Bachmann's hypocrisy. Most Americans probably choose a variety of reasons (too many wars, distrust of Obama's internationalism, lack of confidence in the president, another complication in the middle of what is, for many, a real depression) but whatever their definitions, in polls, most agree with Bachmann.

      Professor Cole lands a clean punch but it's against a target of his own choosing. Regarding the rest of Bachmann's criticism, if you are advising Obama's '12 campaign to run on the slogan, "Leading from Behind," I wish you good luck.

      Joe from Lowell, here's the deal: if you can specify what "compelling national interests" Bachmann was talking about, in return, I'll give you the several thousand missing premises in "Yes, We Can!"

    • To oppose the misguided and abysmally executed Libyan intervention while criticizing Obama for not being more diplomatically aggressive in Syria are not mutually exclusive positions. There are excellent reasons for criticizing the Libyan venture on purely military grounds (as well as other grounds, professor, a case you have made on this site); moreover, Obama's coinage of "leading from behind" was, as is often the case with this president, a gratuitously self-inflicted rhetorical wound, as well as catnip to his political opponents.

      Obama is late in calling for this murderer to step aside; nevertheless, he deserves credit for doing it at all. Aside from humanitarian interests, there is also a purely American interest--decapitating this snake will choke off Iran's bridge to Lebanon and who knows? Maybe one day Nasrallah's minions will be tried for the murder of Hariri.

  • Top Ten Reasons Radical Jihadis shouldn't have Threatened David Letterman
  • Paul, Santorum and the Sixth War (on Iran)
    • Richard F. Miller 08/12/2011 at 6:59 pm


      I've argued here on several occasions that the Republican Party contains several strains of foreign policy perspective, not all in harmony. Last night's debate only confirmed what's already "old hat" to many observers.

      I would like to identify a third perspective, inchoate, but emerging among some Tea Party conservatives: a neo-isolationism based mostly on financial considerations, not Washington's Farewell Address.

      The bottom line is, frankly, the bottom line--many of the post WWII foreign policy excursions are no longer affordable. Here, I'm not only including wars but also foreign subventions, and plenty of them.

      If you think this is La-La, I would remind you to look at the Super Committee's default if no agreement is reached on budget cuts: it will include somewhere between $800-$900 billion of DoD reductions. (And given both party's appointees, a betting person would wager against any agreement.) Remember that Obama, Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, and Boehner--with the support of many Tea Party MCs, agreed to this default.

      To the discomfit of many, if foreign policy adventurism ends for this reason, it also will be the end of domestic policy adventurism--everything from tax breaks to rich people (including, I might add, tax subsidies to 501c3s--perhaps your favorite universities and foundations) as well as no-longer-affordable programs like ObamaCare, home mortgage deductions, and the like.

      If you want see what the future really looks like on this score, read Simpson-Bowles. They booed it a year ago, but very soon, and with no end of kicking and screaming, it will emerge as the law of the land. Social theory is nice, but at the end of the day, it's all about the bond market.

  • Zakaria: Tea Party Tactics Immoral, Dictatorial
    • Richard F. Miller 08/03/2011 at 8:17 am

      Your website notwithstanding, I still would suggest expanding your CW knowledge.

      First, you err in conflating the broad spectrum of antebellum Southern opinion with the Fire-eaters. Many championed the Lecompton constitution including quite a few reluctant secessionists (Davis, Slidel, Benjamin) as well as not few Northern doughface, beginning with James Buchanan, who staked his presidency on the issue. That likewise was true for Kansas-Nebraska (championed by Douglas and signed into law by Pierce).

      I strongly recommend you look at the Senate votes for both measures.

      Regarding the 1860 walkout at Charleston, again, you conflate the timeline. Southern opinion was not static between 1850 and 1860. The Harper's Ferry Raid, occurring just six months before the Baltimore Convention forced those who had counseled moderation for a generation to move towards secession. (The election of Lincoln clinched this.) But they were not fire-eaters.

      Look a bit more carefully. Fire-eaters were characterized by Southern intellectuals and writers (Ruffin, DeBow, Tucker) and relatively minor state and federal politicians (Yancey, Miles, Barksdale.) A few served in the Senate but for very brief terms (e.g., Rhett.) Lecompton, and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act could not have passed without unanimous moderate Southern and sufficient Northern votes. To assign these measure to fire-eaters is incorrect.

      Again, anathematizing Tea Party (or anyone else, for that matter) as "spoiled children" expresses your passion but is not an argument. In politics, getting "your way" is isn't always possible or wise but as long as it's within legal and moral bounds, is surely acceptable.

      Odd, but those who now challenge the Tea Party on various grounds have been strangely silent over the Senate's illegal refusal to produce a budget for over 800 days--one that might have avoided this mess had Harry Reid been more focused taking political responsibility rather than avoiding it.

    • Mr. Epperson:

      With respect, you need to expand your Civil War studies. The Tea Partiers and Fire-eaters differ in one important respect: the Tea Party is exclusively committed to constitutional means to carry out their agenda.

      In contrast, the Fire-Eaters--Yancey, Ruffin, Lowndes, Barksdale and many others--were not committed to constitutional means, never had any intention of remaining in the Union, and used Lincoln's 1860 election to accomplish what they had been seeking since 1850--outright secession. (Only the Missouri Compromise of that year stymied them.)

      This is not a minor point. As one expects from partisans (less so from historians) the rhetoric has been flying. People who have never met any genuine secessionists or Taliban and have never experienced first hand the consequences of terrorism seem to have little difficulty labeling Tea Partiers as such. Heaven forbid that such critics should ever meet a real terrorist or be forced to cover their noses in the aftermath of a mass suicide attack in marketplace somewhere.

      As for the Tea Party, Professor Cole himself, a sharp critic, has on occasion found reason to compliment Rand Paul. I would add that while most posters on this site probably vehemently disagree with the Tea Party's domestic agenda, their foreign policy objectives might be found somewhat more to their liking. By and large, they oppose the Neocon project, some from isolationism, others for financial reasons. Nevertheless, they have opened major fault lines in the Republican Party on matters of foreign policy and military policy that bears watching.

  • Anthony Case Index
    • The numbers for Western Europe change when you factor in WWI and WWII, Bosnia, etc.

      This is not being snarky. Tribal cleansing has been an ongoing European project at least since the Thirty Years' War. Such forced homogeneousness tends to reduce daily social frictions among disparate groups (that can lead to individual acts of violence.) But in Europe, when the profile of disparate groups begins to increase, "suddenly" the likes of the BNP, Marie Le Pen, Geert Wilders, or Vlaams Belang "suddenly" appear. It's like clockwork.

      Except for sporadic violence by say, the BNP, the foregoing groups have (so far) played by the rules. But given Europe's very recent past (e.g., the 1990s in former Yugoslavia), it's not too difficult to imagine that some combination of factors--growing economic hardships, a collapse of the EU from withdrawing members or bankruptcy of the Euro--just might replicate conditions that some Europeans find irresistible in rationalizing mass killings.

      Humans murdering humans has been around since Cain and Abel, and different countries can reach the same bloodlust by different routes.

  • Notar: Syria and the Palestine Card
    • Richard F. Miller 06/27/2011 at 1:51 pm

      This article strikes me as wishful thinking by those who see the Israel-Palestine issue as central to every Middle East conflict.

      As the doctors like to say when it comes to differential diagnostics, when you hear the sound of hoofs, think horses and not zebras.

      The horses here are pretty visible: only Middle East regimes willing to murder their own citizens with abandon, who are unconstrained by "international" bluster and empty sanctions, have, so far, survived. Exhibit A is Iran. Exhibit B is Syria. Exhibit C is the exception--Bahrain had the Saudi "cavalry" ride to the rescue.

      Of course, Baby Assad didn't need to watch "Arab Spring" in order to figure out the rules by which some died (those reliant on Western countries for military and economic support) and some lived (those who could care less or had other friends)--Baby learned everything he needed to know from Daddy long before Tahir Square was being toasted in salons across Georgetown.

      Assad recently played his Israel card at the Golan border--and still, the demonstrations in Syria continue.

  • Top Ten Mistakes in the Libya War
    • Richard F. Miller 06/20/2011 at 10:29 pm

      Transferred American control to Nato? You mean, we've been using a Nato spokesperson to announce what American drones, cruise missiles, satellite recon and CIA ground spotters are doing? Nato runs this war? Or is the war being run by U.S. carrier task force in the Med?

      We were supposed to have washed our hands of this in "days not weeks." But now we're dirtier than ever. Personally, that might not be the worst thing in the world. Qadaffi should have been whacked after Lockerbie. But I wonder Joe, how do you win a war with no coherent war aims?

      If I were to limit your knowledge of Libya to the public declarations from Hillary, Obama, Sarkozy and an assortment of Nato also-rans, and then asked you to square what they've said with what's actually on the ground, could you do it?

      Look, Joe, only the public announcements were handed off to Nato. It's still our war.

    • Professor:

      You omitted what should have been mistake number one: the failure of the U.S. to take the lead in this operation. Nato has shown an embarrassing failure at effective military operations. To paraphrase the old "by jingo" line, they apparently don't have the men, the ships or the money too. We may not either, but we do have the technology to fight this.

      Mistake number two: mission creep from day one. Only the naive believed that this war was to put a temporary force barrier around a few civilian areas. All that promised is what it in fact it has delivered: "days not weeks' has turned into months. Without decapitating Qaddafi, this war will go on and on.

      Mistake number three: if we didn't have the sanction to do number 2, then initiating this war was an error. As you know, in warfare, time = death. The longer this baby drags on, the uglier it becomes.

      Mistake number four, which you have noted, deserves an additional comment. Whether one likes it or not (I'm probably one of the few on the right that likes it) the War Powers Resolution was one of great liberal foreign policy achievements of the post-Vietnam era. Obama is trashing it, and for no good reason. The longer he waits, the messier for him it will become. As a wing nut, perhaps I'm not overly troubled by the opportunity it presents for the loyal opposition, but as an American, I'm appalled.

      Mistake number five: we--the Nato coalition--have lacked transparency. If we weren't candid about our objectives from the get-go, the war increasingly looks like its being waged "for something else." In an earlier column, you dismissed the idea that the Euros were fighting for oil, and I agree. However, public skepticism has been rising, and it's being fed by the lack of transparency. Particularly in this country (other than Farrakhan) Qadaffi doesn't have any constituency, but Obama's lack of candor in articulating and defending (and continuing to articulate and defend) the war's objectives does nothing but invite dissent. This is especially true in the midst of a very cruel recession.

      Mistake number six: over the years, you've been very articulate about our lack of post-invasion planning in Iraq and in sketching the consequences of that particular piece of incompetence. What about Libya? I've heard nothing other than repeated assertions (even by supporters of this war) that we don't know who the rebels are or what type of regime will follow.

      Mistake number seven: in the midst of "Arab Spring," or whatever the metaphor de jure amy be, relying on the Arab League for support was fantasy from the start. There are few regimes secure enough domestically to allow themselves to be depicted as teaming up with ex-colonial regimes to take down Libya.

  • Top Ten Myths about Bin Laden's Death
    • Richard F. Miller 05/04/2011 at 12:47 pm


      Regarding your points 4, 5 & 7--which offer trench-view details on Bin Laden's death, you might wish to place nearby a large asterisk.

      First, (and famously) the White House has not yet settled on its own narrative. Probably nothing nefarious about this--since the real time transmission from the ground followed unfolding events (versus a constructed narrative), it's hard to know what the audience heard or what they thought they heard. At worst, it's Obama-administration message mismanagement--frankly, not unprecedented.

      Of course, the only guys who know were the ones present--and we may never hear from them.

      Too bad. Nothing should subtract from Obama's terrific decision on the raid, but this post-event blundering (Gun? No gun? Wife-as-shield? No wife-as-shield?) only serves as a minor if self-inflicted distraction from an otherwise great event.

  • The Muslim World Sounds off on Bin Laden's Demise
    • Richard F. Miller 05/03/2011 at 9:12 am

      Professor Cole:

      Why did you omit the reactions of the two Palestinian factions? They are rather telling.

      The PA declared that, "Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods -- the violent methods -- that were created and encouraged by bin Laden and others in the world."

      On the other hand, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh declared that, "We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood."

      If Obama intends to announce a new peace initiative in connection with Bibi's upcoming visit, the PA has done itself no harm while Hamas has done itself no good.

  • Top Ten Ways that Libya 2011 is Not Iraq 2003
    • Prof. Cole:

      You neglected to add several other ways in which this mission differs from that of OIF.

      1. The Libyan war/peace issue was not presented to Congress. At least Bush went through the motions on Iraq.

      2. Bush/Rumsfeld might have played "footsie" with WMDs, but before Coalition forces stepped off from Kuwait, the mission was clear: regime change. In Libya, the leadership of the Coalition (beginning with Obama) is playing footsie with the objective, which has assumed an almost de jour quality: No Fly Zone to protect civilians? No Fly or Drive Zone? Topple Ghaddaffi? They're all true, it only depends on whose talking!

      Here's how Iraq and Libya are similar:

      1. Promises of a "quick war."
      2. Ennobling an opposition about which we know almost nothing.
      3. Overselling air power.
      4. No realistic post-war plans. Nothing, except denial--no "boots on the ground, is it? Rumsfeld sold us on a "too few boots on the ground" in Iraq and the result was a disaster. The rebels don't have sufficient forces to confront Gaddaffi, let alone provide stabilization--and as we learned in Iraq, that creates a vacuum that invites insurgency.

  • Olbermann Departs, as Media Consolidate Further
    • Prof. Cole:

      Your article may not be "about" Keith---but it is likely that his departure was all about Keith, and his rocky relations with management. While evidence of bad blood became widely known after he was suspended for making political contributions (even Bill Kristol defended him on that one), in fact, his problems have been deep, personal, and of many years' duration.

      Given Maddow, Schultz and O'donnell''s place on the Rossiter Spectrum it's hard to argue that Comcast is purging anyone. As the doctors like to say when you hear hoofs think horses and not zebras.

  • Iran's Oily Revenge on US Drivers, US Troops
    • Richard F. Miller 01/06/2011 at 10:25 pm


      You are absolutely correct. I would add that the price of oil must be considered as part of a "commodities basket" that is inseparable from U.S. monetary policy. One need only consider what has happened to all commodities--oil, industrial and precious metals as well as food--to understand that these loosely track fluctuations in the dollar.

      The dollar matters because of its status as the reserve currency. Oil producers are understandably intent on not permitting the Fed to export inflation into their domestic economies. It should be understood that commodity prices can serve as leading indicators of inflation, as I believe they now do.

      One explanation for why dollar weakness gets sparse treatment outside of the financial press is a function of internal U.S. policy. If the Fed is simply doing what it thinks it must in order to fund the explosion in various entitlements, then is likely to be little complaint from those who also support those entitlements. As you know, U.S debt hit $14 trillion this week.

      Frankly, the reason why OPEC is "back" has less to do with U.S. foreign policy and everything to do with the similarity of circumstances that prompted the original OPEC price binge (1970s)--inflation, or its prospect. While Prof. Cole is absolutely correct--Iran's various hostile acts constitute, well, hostile acts, the main game--pricing oil to maintain margins against a devaluing currency--is one that would persist no matter who governed Iran.

  • Wrong Again, Sen. Graham: Cole in Truthdig
    • Richard F. Miller 01/05/2011 at 12:43 pm

      Really? Graham, only one of one hundred senators, is the most powerful gentile supporting Israel?

      I think you're forgetting about the 63% of Americans, who, according to Gallup, support Israel:

      link to

      I suspect Graham listens to them more than they listen to him.

    • You mean like Ron and Rand Paul?

      I'm afraid that liberals and conservatives now have one more thing in common: they're out of cash. In case you missed the forest for the trees, the federal deficit hit $14 trillion this week. The Chinese and Near Easterns are financing Obamacare, Afghanistan, Wall Street Reform, and just about everything else the government does.

      Wingnuts and Moonbats can dream about the next war, the next entitlement, in fact, anything they want.

      But the dough has run out for expensive wars and occupations.

    • Prof. Cole:

      Your wrong about this. I recall reading in this and other spaces the certainty that the Bush administration intended to keep permanent bases in Iraq. That unfalsifiable assertion was finally rendered false when Bush signed the SOF Agreement--which Obama has (thus far) admirably executed.

      It will be the same in Afghanistan and not just for the valid reasons that you've cited. Circumstances will either compel our leaving or--if Petraeus' gambit is successful--a half-decent Afghan government will insist that we leave for the very reasons that Maliki wants us gone (and which you've cited.)

      You should also remember that so-dreaded Tea Party has a strong enough isolationist element to threaten real unity problems if the Republicans embark on more deficit swelling foreign adventures.

  • Saudi Arabia, Distribution of Annual Rainfall
    • Richard F Miller 12/24/2010 at 8:37 am

      Many thanks!

    • Richard F. Miller 12/22/2010 at 11:05 am


      Query: Do you have an overlay of the distribution of the Sunni-Shia population of Saudi Arabia?

      For years, it's been a given that the Shia population of Saudi is concentrated around the oil producing regions--but I've never seen any proof of this.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger Moderated Opposition to Turkey Joining Europe on Becoming Pope: Wikileaks
    • Richard F. Miller 12/12/2010 at 10:20 am

      Turkey will never become "an interlocutor for largely Christian Europe with the Muslim world" until it acknowledges its responsibility--and performs some reparative act--for the 1915 Armenian genocide.

      This is partly because the Armenians were Christians but there is also a higher issue involved: as Europe has proved in the aftermath of WWII, there can't be any genuine evolution in the area of human rights until a nation's past crimes have been openly acknowledged and dealt with. And without advancement in human rights, the other economic advancements rest on very precarious grounds indeed: old hatreds fester and lie in wait for some future opportunity for destabilizing revenge or revanchism.

      In the US, Turkey's responsibility for the Armenian genocide has always been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. American and EU leaders and US and EU commercial interests don't like it because it complicates current relations with Ankara; pro-Israel opinion has supported Turkish denials for fear of losing a Muslim country once its friend; and so insecure is Ankara about this issue that one can actually speak of a "Turkish Lobby" that comes alive each time the US Congress considers resolutions acknowledging Turkey's responsibilities here. Meanwhile, Turkey's ongoing denials feed the paranoia and hatreds of those prejudiced against Muslims or who worry about the treatment of minorities in Muslim dominated countries.

  • Cole in Truthdig: Iran is Winning, Israel Losing
    • Richard F. Miller 12/07/2010 at 3:45 pm

      Israel's hope of separating Syria from Iran?

      I don't think the Israelis ever had any such illusions. Only the United States was stupid enough to believe--and act towards--that fairy tale objective. As long as the Iranians remain a major player in Lebanon ("Greater Syria"), Syria will be their faithful ally.

      Syria may want the Golan but not as much as they desire hegemony (or more) in Lebanon. The West dangles the prospect of a return of the Golan but offers Syria the certainty of expulsion, or greatly diminished influence in Lebanon. Iran offers Syria a partnership, and then a blind eye in Lebanon and will back them in any future conflict to retrieve the Golan.

      Baby Assad may be unlucky but he's not stupid.

  • Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government
    • Richard F. Miller 12/05/2010 at 8:02 am

      Professor Cole:

      I agree that these leaks are not "the end of the world." In 1982 the Iranians released some 54 volumes of embarrassing CIA and State cables that were stolen during the embassy takeover in 1979. Few remember them now. Regarding Wikileaks, Gates has it right.

      Regarding Amazon and "freedom of speech," I would remind you that the First Amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." Amazon is privately owned, and thus, may censor what it pleases and for any reason.

      Remember that the sword swings both ways: Amazon may also carry/publish what it pleases and for any reason (subject only to restrictions imposed by the laws of liable, defamation, invasion of privacy and the products of espionage which, as you rightly point out, do not now lay in this matter.)

      As you know, the net result is an Amazon "library" which is freer, more diverse, and which "shelves" more points of view than any public or private library in history.

  • Gaza as Israel's Gimp
    • Richard F. Miller 12/02/2010 at 5:11 pm


      Thanks for your comment.

      I don't know that Amsalem is a "moderate" as defined by any of our fellow posters--or even by me.

      I do know that one particular duty of posters--on any site--is to be critical of broad generalizations, particularly those statements that purport to claim a one-size-fits-all-humanity, or any particular segment thereof. There is no thinner intellectual ice than this. Indeed, most of what I learn that's genuinely knew represent challenges to generalizations I thought were true.

      Generalizations about "Jewish ethics" (or any other large group) require a lot more deliberation, research and nuanced understanding than is generally available when hitting the "Post Comment" key on a blog.

      For these reasons (and in answer to Madrid), to point this out is not a distraction, but a necessity; to take his bait in order to prove that other groups have similar miscreants prepared to enslave, devalue, exploit or kill "the other" is an easy exercise but one that requires patrolling a five millennia old sewer. Alas, in my dotage, I am no longer inclined to do so.

    • Richard F. Miller 12/01/2010 at 12:32 am


      You make a good point. However, as you may know, Rabbi Yosef as "spiritual leader" of Shas (and not a MK) does not actually speak for Shas's MKs. The differences are legion, and here's a rather controversial one that came as a shock to those who assume that Shas (or most other political parties) act as unit:

      link to

      If you have the time, read the article. Defiance of Rabbi Yosef on core issues by senior Shas leaders is not unheard of--and the above article describes a real doozy.

    • Madrid:

      You omitted the most important part of the Haaretz story, the headline: "ADL Slams Shas Spiritual Leader for Saying Non-Jews were Born to Serve Jews." Both in the U.S, and abroad, the ADL has a much stronger following that Shas' spiritual leader. Quoting the late radical Meir Kahane doesn't do much to advance your argument, any more than insisting that Osama bin Laden represents Muslim Ethics.

      It's a clever trick, this--pick a crank, radical, or somebody who is simply disturbed and make him/her the representative of an entire group. Thus are Muslims slimed each time radical Islamism turns violent; Jews get it when Bernie Madoff steals billions; well-meaning Christian evangelicals got when Rev. Terry Jones decided to burn a Koran.

      Madrid, it's tiresome. But if you want to make a real contribution to discourse, here's a problem to consider: identify a large faith group that has existed longer than fifteen minutes and who also can boast that not one of its members has ever said or done something really stupid.

  • Wikileaks on Israel, Iraq and the Iranian Specter
    • Richard F. Miller 11/29/2010 at 12:05 pm

      Professor Cole:

      Your analysis omits what is clearly one of the biggest stories (thus far) culled from the WikiLeaks dump: the lobbying to stop Iran's nuclear program, not just from Israel but from major Sunni Arab states. This included the King of Bahrain, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the military establishment in Oman, and the UAE.

      That Israel lobbied against Iran is dog bites man; a succession of Israeli governments have long been on the record here. But that Arab states were also lobbying the U.S. to consider attacking, or at the very least, somehow stopping Iran's nuclear program has been suspected but never documented.

      This becomes a major story, not just because it's been documented, but also how that documentation strengthens what heretofore had been merely speculative. You focus on Israel as a player, which I would argue is rather old, and going forward, far less relevant news than how the Sunni states might react to a nuclear tipped Iran. Consider:

      Will some or all of these states (collectively, perhaps) along the southern Persian Gulf develop nuclear weapons? Even if not, will they insist on publicly hosting Western nukes on their territory? (If these seems far fetched, consider South Korea's request along those very lines made several days ago.)

      Putting nukes aside, consider the prospects for a catastrophic regional conventional war. The recently announced $60 billion arms sale from the U.S. to the Saudis suggests that the latter is less concerned about Israeli aggression and very concerned about Iran.

      Perhaps the Sunni states would take another approach: might they conclude that appeasing a nuclear-tipped Iran--perhaps cooperating in some future export restriction of Gulf oil--be more in their interest than their current relations with the large number of American, European and Asian customers of their oil?

      Even the world's (in my opinion) red herring focus on Israel vs. Iran of the last several years, the truth is that without active Sunni-state cooperation, there can be no Israeli (conventional) strike on Iranian facilities. First, there's the matter of overflight permission. Such permission could not be "one-time" deal, because unlike Iraq's vulnerable Osirik facility, degrading Iran's program will require many sorties: first to disable communications and air defenses, and next, to degrade the nuclear facilities themselves. As you know, that likely would require not just overflight but permission to pre-position fuel and ordnance in airbases located in Sunni-state territory.

      (As I know you're aware, rumors have been rife over the past several years of covert Israeli-Saudi cooperation along these lines as well as Israeli-Egyptian cooperation in allowing Israeli submarines to transit the Suez.)

      My main point is this--without discounting at all the importance of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the real "story" (no, not just a narrative, but actual facts on the ground) may be not what Israel does but what the Sunni states decide to do.

  • Bush-Cheney Use of Torture Derails Ghailani Prosecution
    • Richard F. Miller 11/18/2010 at 11:41 am


      I agree with your take on torture, but AG Holder cannot be excused for his foolishness in bringing this case in civilian court. First, he should have known that information obtained by suspect methods would be disallowed into evidence; worse, he should have known that any secondary information flowing from suspect methods would be disallowed (I'm referring to the arrest and confession of Ghailani's source for the explosives.) Either proposition is black letter law.

      What is stunning is how predictable--and predicted--this trial result was. In my view the issue of torture has long been incorporated into the government's legal strategy---by using military commissions. I may not always agree with the government's modus here, but as a lawyer, I get it. But the question stands: Why would Holder bring this case? I don't know him, but there are several possibilities:

      1. Incompetence
      2. Partisanship-by-Lawsuit: if the U.S. had prevailed, the administration talking point would be that military commissions were unnecessary; if the U.S. failed, it would further highlight Bush era malfeasance.

      Professor, in cases like these, civilian trials look better on paper than they do in practice. Consider this case: if Ghailani (or KSM for that matter) had been found innocent, do you think the US simply would release him?

      Unlikely, to say the least. (Indeed, Holder has acknowledged as much in response to questions about what would happen if KSM were found innocent in a civilian trial.)

      What's in it for the defendant other than the chance to make a speech? If he loses, it's prison for life; if he wins, it's back to indefinite detention as an enemy combatant (the judge in Ghailani noted that the US still retained this option), or a subsequent trial by military tribunal. I'm committed to rule of law, but exposing the civilian process as a sham is not the way to get there.

      Excoriate Bush for torture; excoriate him for military tribunals; but in these cases you have to leave the dance with the one that brought you--i.e., either you start the prosecution committed to civilian process (and obtain your evidence accordingly) or you proceed with a military tribunal--and obtain your evidence accordingly.

      There ain't much in between.

  • Saudi Arabia Saves Chicago Synagogue from al-Qaeda Bomb Plot
    • Professor Cole:

      Let me get this straight. By "Jews" AQ doesn't really mean Jews but Israelis. So instead of hitting Israeli targets in the US or elsewhere, they hit Jewish places of worship in the US and elsewhere. By "Crusaders" they must mean Christians. But I don't recall AQ hitting any Christian places of worship in the US. Do you?

      Having read Raymond Ibrahim's Al Qaeda Reader, (whatever its deficiencies in translation) neither UBL nor Zawahiri struck me as modest or excessive "code talkers."

      Plain text, common sense, and most importantly, AQ's track record in synagogue destruction (remember Istanbul, among others) all suggest that if AQ is not antisemitic, then the adjective can have no meaning.

  • Top Ten Questions about Chile Mine Collapse: Was it Nixon-Kissinger's Fault?
  • Iraqi Soldier Kills 2 Americans, Wounds 9
    • Richard F. Miller 09/08/2010 at 1:09 pm

      President Obama has now adopted the mantle of "Bush Lied, People Died." How else to interpret his Oval Office speech? Anyone who has examined the actual unit composition of the 50,000 troops remaining Iraq knows that there is some serious US firepower left.

      Frankly, I am puzzled by Obama's handling of this entire matter. First, why announce an "end to combat operations" when he knows full well that casualties will continue? Moreover, by making this sort of announcement, he has invited AQ types, affiliates, nationalists, criminals and crazies to prove him wrong--which lessons will be administered in American blood.

      I can only conclude that the implosion of his political prospects in the midterms have made him too eager to claim something--anything--as an achievement.

  • 'Burn the Qur'an Day' Endangers US Troops: Petraeus
    • Sorry, JtMcPhee but the generals don't "drag" us anywhere. I'm afraid that's the task of the National Command Authority, which is (currently led by) President Obama and his politically appointed cohorts. In case you've forgotten, we are in Afghanistan (only more so) because of Obama's choices, not that of our generals.

      No, I won't bother defining "Freedom"--I'll leave that you and Janis Joplin. I do know that since the Newburgh Address, we've had an admirable policy of keeping soldiers on the active list out of domestic politics. Have past figures transgressed? You bet. But the examples you cite only prove my point. McClellan was relieved by Lincoln, MacArthur by Truman and McChrystal by Obama. Incidentally, Curtis LeMay was forced into retirement by LBJ over various policy disagreements.

      Debating the merits of COIN is another conversation; like amphibious landings at Normandy, Meade's defenses at Gettysburg, and Smith's breakout at Chosin, COIN is undoubtedly "full of holes." That's a given with any plan. The question about holes is what kind and how large. At the moment, the biggest hole is Obama's self-sabotaging 7/11 drawdown. Self-sabotaging, that is, if he's serious about progress. After all, it's not a war that he has to wage. But you'll have to take that up with him.

      To borrow Mr. Lincoln's words, Afghanistan's fate all depends on the "progress of our arms;" although there are good reasons to doubt the outcome, the last patrol hasn't reported back quite yet, and I'll wait a while before drawing any final conclusions about a war in which final conclusions are likely to remain unsettled for a long time.

    • Stunt it is, and hateful too. In a nation of 315,000,000 it is not terribly surprising to find such a church, whose membership does not exceed 50 persons, that has toppled over the abyss into behavior that can only be characterized as viciously anti-Christian and anti-American.

      That having been said, a few points. First, US media is to criticized for according these nut jobs any publicity. I understand that the MSM, whose sympathies lie with building the GZM, would like to highlight American "Islamophobia;" I'm not sure publicizing these marginals accomplishes that feat. Few Americans look at these characters and see much to identify with. While some might argue that this is "news," I would point out that far larger gatherings of neo-Nazis and the Klan occur regularly without receiving a fraction of this publicity.

      Second, I must criticize General Petraeus, a man who I much admire and have written about extensively. Nevertheless, it is highly inappropriate for him, as a serving military officer, to publicly criticize what is essentially a domestic political controversy. While the repellent nature of his target will cause some to applaud him, I suspect feelings would be different if Petreaus were to criticize say, opponents of the war as "helping the enemy" or some other such comment. If the general wants to get his point across, he can surely, privately enlist the help of some respected US political figure, from the President on down, to make this case. No matter how attractive today's target, Petreaus' remarks set a nasty precedent at odds with good policy.

  • Obama's MacArthur Moment? McChrystal Disses Biden
    • Richard F. Miller 06/22/2010 at 10:50 am

      In a rare moment of agreement, both thoughtful left-wing and right-wing blogs agree: Gen. McCrystal must go. Success or the lack thereof is not a criterion in enforcing military subordination to the National Command Authority. There are no, "Yes, but" defenses of the general's conduct.

      However, on the completely separate issue of better understanding Obama's conduct of the Afghan War, there is considerable value in not discounting McCrystal's comments. When available in full, the RS interview needs to be read carefully. Based on excerpts, the one conclusion I've drawn is that whatever the merits of a COIN vs. a counterterrorist strategy, this administration is not up to the demands of prosecuting the former. Based on McCrystal's retelling, it seems to lack the constancy and executive experience to oversee this most difficult of strategies.

      Two assets are needed to conduct COIN warfare properly: a COIN strategy that fits the political, demographic and geographic terrain, and COIN operators that are sufficiently unified, expert, and have the will to do it. McCrystal's career-ending gaffe casts doubt on this second set of preconditions.

  • Israel Makes Small Change to Gaza Blockade
    Brands Lebanese Women's Aid Mission 'Hizbullah'
    • Richard F. Miller 06/21/2010 at 7:42 am

      Prof. Cole:

      This is a bit off topic but there is another story (reportedly) developing in connection with these flotillas, which, if true, could either lead to war or avoid it altogether (yes, paradox of power here.): Arutz Sheva (link to is reporting that one Israeli and eleven U.S. warships passed through the Suez Canal "as a fleet" possibly en route to impede the flotilla from Iran. As you know, the Iranian government has declared that it will provide a naval escort for its flotilla.

      I have not seen any of this confirmed--that US/Israeli vessels were joined as a "fleet" or that the Iranians sent warships to accompany their flotilla. Have you?

  • Turkey Shelves Israeli Cooperation,
    Considers breaking off Ties;
    Israel Lobbies in Congress denounce Ankara
    • Richard F. Miller 06/17/2010 at 11:06 pm

      Prof. Cole:

      I certainly agree with you that major American-Jewish organizations have been blatantly hypocritical in their soft peddling of Turkish crimes against the Armenians. I recall that several years ago, one such organization purchased a full-page ad in the New York Times defending their stance that Congress should take no action on a then-pending House bill that would have "front-burnered" recognition of the Armenian genocide.

      However, no matter how obvious are the changes in motives, major Jewish organizations should be welcomed to the fight against the Turkish government's adamant refusal to recognize the crime that reportedly encouraged Adolph Hitler to commit his own. ("Who remembers the Armenians?")

      The centrality to a country's national pathology of a denied history such as genocide is beyond dispute. In a very direct way, Turkey has yet to undergo the national catharsis of recognition that Germany, South Africa, much of the West concerning colonialism and racism, and the still incomplete Japanese confrontation with its crimes in between 1931-1945 all represent.

      Indeed, I would argue that Turkey's brutal response towards its restive Kurdish minority is only made possible by its refusal to confront what it did to the Armenians in 1915. In some respects, Turkey will not find peace, nor any balance between its secular and Muslim identities until it confronts its crimes, any more than the United States could commence its own journey towards racial healing without first having confronted the crimes of slavery and Jim Crow. Until Turkey confronts its past, there will be few individual Turks--politicians, military leaders and ordinary citizens--who will know enough to prevent a similar fate from befalling the Kurds.

      Balzac famously said that behind every great fortune there is a crime. I think the same may be said of nation-states. To some degree, Turkey's prospects as a nation do not lie in facing east or west, or whether to continue lobbying the EU for membership or asserting new leadership in the Levant. The country is badly in need of a national confession whatever may be its cost.

  • Jewish Gaza Aid Flotilla Planned
    • Dear Prof. Cole:

      With respect, you are in error about the pre-war German-Jewish population. It was around 500,000, not 250,000. [Source: link to

      I'm not certain what your point is in noting the pre-war Jewish population or that some Jews prefer Berlin to Beersheva. As a fact, some Muslims prefer Michigan to Mecca; some Japanese prefer London to Tokyo; I was born in Ohio, but prefer the Boston area to the Cleveland suburbs. (My younger brother remains in Cleveland and loves it.) Ah, the benefits of globalization!

      Your argument about "Israel being bad for Jews" is nullified because of too many counter examples of similar expatriation where the same conclusions might not be drawn. For example, there are an estimated 16 million Muslims living in the EU and many whose roots trace to North Africa. By your logic, one could argue that Algeria, Tunisia or Morocco is "bad for Muslims." These nations may well be "bad" for some Muslims, but a more likely explanation is that the EU promises economic opportunities unavailable in the countries of origin. Again, global movements of populations--one can be a loyal Mexican but enter the US, earn a living, and contribute in different ways to both societies.

      In short, expatriation is now globally ubiquitous, and I'd be careful before drawing too many conclusions.

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