I almost agree wholeheartedly with Laura Poitras on this:
What I find disturbing and frightening about Obama is the extent to which he's advanced, normalized and institutionalized Bush policies. You have the expansion of surveillance, of course. Guantanamo's still open. We're bombing other countries. It's not that Bush responded in an emergency situation by overreaching and then we sort of dialed it back. As we know, in the second World War, we put in camps a lot of Japanese-Americans, but they were let out. We didn't keep those camps open. Yet Guantanamo's still open. There are some things that Bush put in motion that are really frightening in terms of executive power, which Obama hasn't dialed back. If he doesn't do it, that makes it harder for the next person because it becomes institutionalized.
A good question from Marco d'Eramo:
The question is, how has it come about that young Europeans are no longer prepared to sacrifice themselves for humanitarian, patriotic or socialist reasons, but are for religious ones? What have we done to them to bring them to this point? What’s infuriating about the dominant discourse on Islamic fundamentalism, especially in Europe, is that it glides over structural causes and social alienation, and reduces everything to the implausible and useless category of ‘insanity and fanaticism’.
That Isis are far from insane is demonstrated by the fact that, with two public beheadings, this motley crew managed to get itself recognised as the main enemy of the world’s biggest superpower.
(...) it is somehow odd for a Western politician to be telling anybody, however horrible and unworthy of respect: "You don't understand your own religion, but I do..."
It is absurd to have a coalition against Isis that largely excludes those actually fighting Isis, such as the Syrian army, Iran, Hizbullah and the Syrian Kurds. Curious also that there was so little mention of Libya, where air intervention, supposedly used on humanitarian grounds, has led to a country torn apart by contending militias.
I agree partly with Juan Cole on this:
The US was very good in the Cold War at containing Stalinism but very bad at defeating a guerrilla group like the Vietcong. It was the former that mattered in the end.
Unfortunately, the logic in Washington usually ratchets toward the macho and the simplistic. Obama at first admitted that the US could only degrade ISIL, not destroy it. But then on Wednesday the chorus of critics pushed him to say that his goal is eradication of the organization. But the tools he announced for his effort, including Yemen-style drone and fighter-jet attacks, were not sufficient to the task of eradication. Containment is doable. It isn’t clear that an air war is.
Obama wasn't pushed, he jumped!
From West Africa to Central Asia, American money has been poured into funding, training and equipping counter-terrorist special forces. This in turn has contributed to corruption, conflict, the growth of police states—and a more complicated and deeply-entrenched terrorist threat.
Money isn't going to solve the terrorism issue!
This is the way it started in Mali, too. (...)The Islamists overran the army, and then younger officers who refused to accept the humiliations staged a coup. (...) [Mali] is a warning sign for Nigeria. "Our military reflects the rotten state of the entire country.
Merci Hollande et Sarkozy!
Good stuff from Chris Dillow:
(...)terrorists are disproportionately drawn from engineering backgrounds in part because they think that "if only people were rational, remedies would be simple."
From Ayaan Hirsi Ali :
I am often told that the average Muslim wholeheartedly rejects the use of violence and terror, does not share the radicals' belief that a degenerate and corrupt Western culture needs to be replaced with an Islamic one, and abhors the denigration of women's most basic rights. Well, it is time for those peace-loving Muslims to do more, much more, to resist those in their midst who engage in this type of proselytizing before they proceed to the phase of holy war.
It is also time for Western liberals to wake up. If they choose to regard Boko Haram as an aberration, they do so at their peril. The kidnapping of these schoolgirls is not an isolated tragedy; their fate reflects a new wave of jihadism that extends far beyond Nigeria and poses a mortal threat to the rights of women and girls. If my pointing this out offends some people more than the odious acts of Boko Haram, then so be it.
I find Ali's predictability scary for it shows that she has stopped growing and thinking. Oh well, she is adapting very well to the American Western modern contemporary intellectual terrain.
From David Cole:
On Monday, The New York Times reported that “the Senate has quietly stripped a provision from an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to make public each year the number of people killed or injured in targeted killing operations in Pakistan and other countries where the United States uses lethal force.” National security officials in the Obama administration objected strongly to having to notify the public of the results and scope of their dirty work, and the Senate acceded. So much for what President Obama has called “the most transparent administration in history.”
Quelle surprise !
Sentence of the day from William Easterly:
Today, there is yet again a U.S. technocratic embrace of autocratic allies in Africa and elsewhere, this time for the "war on terror," still fueled by World Bank loans.
This is a country that likes trials of the century—a couple of them a year, if possible. We’ve also, as politicians remind us, been convulsed as a nation by the September 11th attacks, which are supposed to have changed our expectations of everything from Presidents to airplane rides and privacy. The one thing that the memory of 9/11 hasn’t had the power to do, strangely, is get us engrossed in the actual judicial proceedings involving members of Al Qaeda. When it comes to bringing terrorists to justice in a courtroom, we seem to get bored.
<div><iframe width="480" height="270" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="http://player.canalplus.fr/embed/?param=cplus&vid=1023017"></iframe></div><div style="width:472px;font-size:11px; background:#EBEBEB; border:1px solid #D6D6D6; margin-top:5px; padding:4px 0 4px 6px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; -moz-border-radius:3px; -webkit-border-radius:3px;"><a target="_blank" style="text-decoration:none; color:#666;" href="http://www.canalplus.fr/c-divertissement/c-le-grand-journal/pid6298-les-extraits.html?vid=1023017&sc_cmpid=SharePlayerEmbed"><span style="color:#000; font-weight:bold;">Appel de BHL sur la situation en Ukraine</span> - Le Grand Journal du 18/02</a></div>
In particular, given our capacity and willingness to spy on virtually everyone, you'd think that American diplomats would be entering foreign policy contests and diplomatic negotiations with an enormous advantage over their counterparts. If we're as good at extracting private information from other countries' networks, cell phones, emails, and the like, you'd think U.S. officials would usually have a good idea of our antagonists' bottom line and would be really skilled at manipulating them to our advantage. We now know that the Allies in World War II got big strategic benefits from cracking German and Japanese codes; I want to know if we're getting similar benefits today.
It is hard to believe we are, given that America's foreign policy record since the end of the Cold War is mostly one of failure. And that leads me to suspect that one of two things is true. Either 1) the NSA is good at collecting gazilla-bytes of stuff but not very good at deciding what to collect or figuring out what it means, or 2) the rest of our foreign policy establishment is not very good at taking advantage of the information the NSA has worked so hard to acquire. In other words, either the NSA is not worth the money we're paying for it, or the rest of our foreign policy establishment is less competent than we thought. To be frank, I'm not sure which possibility I prefer.
Sugary excerpt of the week from Albert Wong and Valerie Belair-Gagnon :
Consciously or not, Western journalists and media outlets may still (even more than a decade after 9/11) be wary of appearing to be “soft on terror,” much as they once were about appearing to be soft on Communism. President George W. Bush’s September 2001 admonition that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” appears to have an enduring legacy in media bias.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Malise Ruthven:
Drones, for all their horror, are just the latest instruments by which powers based in urban centers (and not just those linked to the United States) beat into submission the peripheries—what Morocco’s rulers used to call the “Land of Insolence.”
Poignant question from Sandy Levinson:
Why has "surveillance state" apparently become so widely accepted as a "neutral" term describing the present United States (and, no doubt, other countries as well, and perhaps all that have the technological capacity), while "police state," even if modified by "soft" or "pink" or, to adopt an adjective from the 18th century referring to one type of despot, "benevolent," still presumably raises all sorts of hackles and undoubtedly would generate accusations of ideological shrillness (perhaps like using "constitutional dictatorship" to refer to at least aspects of the American system, even if most of it these days is dysfunctional and incapable of any cogent action regarding many of our most crucial challenges)?
What happened? Well, my guess that something died in America when the change we could believed in ended up being nothing more than remixed Bushism.
I agree with Alex Massie on this:
All jihadists may be muslim; it is grotesque to suppose all muslims are potential jihadists. But treating them as though they may be is one way to increase sympathy for the real jihadists. Denigrating someone’s sense of identity is one sure way of ensuring they will have less time for your point of view.
Just the facrs from Chris Dillow:
The fact that a terrorist is likely to be a Muslim does not mean a Muslim is likely to be a terrorist. Even if we assume that there are ten terrorists walking the streets for every one inside, then 99.988% of Muslims are not terrorists. To put this another way, there's only around a one in 8000 chance of a Muslim being a terrorist; it's 16 times more likely that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will name their child Wayne. Given all this, why does anyone think terrorism is a Muslim problem?
Best thing I read last week from Muhammad Idrees Ahmad's bit in the London Review of Books on the recent presidential election in Pakistan:
Terrorism may be foremost in the minds of Western observers; Pakistanis are more worried about the economy, education and corruption. Opinion polls showed that people’s biggest concerns are inflation and unemployment, as well as power outages and high energy costs, which have stunted economic growth and caused much misery: 20-hour blackouts are not unknown. Not all Pakistanis are exposed to terrorist violence; everyone has to buy bread.
Foreseeable crap from Eugene Kontorovich:
Russia only succeeded in suprresing the Chechen Islamists with extremely brutal tactics that would never find support in the U.S – essentially leveling the Chechen capital. Yet dealing with such a threat would also be impossible with a politically correct approach to counter-terror that, for example, turns away from talking frankly about the terrorists profiles and motives.
Yeah let's transform America into Russia, it won't be too difficult for Obama has at least one thing in common with Putin.
Is it possible to wait to now more facts before advocating ideological measures in the name of security?
Drone technology has made it possible to use lethal force in many situations where we could not or would not have even considered it in the past. Unlike conventional military operations, drone attacks require no “boots on the ground,” and therefore do not pose a risk to American lives. Unlike bombings, they have pinpoint accuracy; they therefore reduce the collateral costs of killing and may be easier to disavow. Because drones can effectively travel the world while being controlled remotely from home, they permit the “war” to move far beyond the battlefield. And drones have made it possible for the US government to do something that was unthinkable before, and should be unthinkable still—to kill its own citizens in secret. In short, drones radically reduce the disincentives to killing. And that may well make a nation prone to use military force before it is truly a last resort. That certainly seems to be what has happened here.
Kenneth Anderson has a interesting take on the subject.
I agree with Tim Black on this:
Under Cameron’s gaze, the problems in Mali are simply collapsed into a grand narrative in which good people fight bad people, just as Blair, alongside President George W Bush, proceeded to view world affairs through the prism of the ‘war on terror’.
The narcissism of this essentially Blairite approach to foreign policy is as incredible as it is reckless. In each case, they really do think this conflict is about them. Arbitrarily chosen, far-flung trouble spots act as ad hoc stages on which a Western leader can show the people back at home just what a good person he is. For Cameron, it was Libya and now neighbouring African states. For Blair, it was the Former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and, of course, Iraq.
It was a grisly irony, then, that while Blair spoke of the necessity of intervention in north Africa, of trying to do the right thing, the stage of his most infamous display of doing the right thing – Iraq – appeared once more on the fringes of the world’s news bulletins: a suicide bomber, aided by several others, had attacked a police headquarters in the northern city of Kirkuk. At least 36 people were killed and 105 were injured.
At some point, there has to be the recognition that as Camus would say détruire n'est pas créer and that destroying monsters ( which is more often than not about seeking them desperately) isn't the same as fixing problems that are so complex that they require something more than the use of force.
That said power, faith and money have pierced Blair's eyes and ears, which explains why he isn't just irrelevant, but the epitome of what political success can do to the people who are more ambitious and self-righteous than anything else.
From the great Stephen W. Smith:
The bigger question is not why France decided to intervene but why America has held off. Is it simply imperial overstretch and war-weariness? That seems a little thin, given the hue and cry in Washington about ‘ungoverned spaces’ and ‘terrorist safe havens’. After all, the Sahara is six times as big as Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. And why sink money into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership – more than $1 billion since 2005 – or foot the bill for Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara, if at the end of it all al-Qaida is allowed to march on Bamako? Why would Obama order more drone strikes than his predecessor against the leaders of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, a group with relatively weak links to international terrorism, but not lift a finger to stop AQIM from taking over Mali? Unless, of course, in addition to a division of labour with the French, the point is to ‘disaggregate’ the multiple terrorist threats in Africa, tackling each individually rather than addressing any common denominator, and so deny jihadism a chance to coalesce. In this regard, even if the French were drawn into the quicksand in Mali, Nigeria would most likely remain the region’s focal point for the US: with 150 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state as well as the biggest oil producer south of the Sahara, and has an active homegrown salafist-jihadist group, Boko Haram (‘Westernisation Is Sinful’). When I put these thoughts to a US military staffer involved in anti-terrorism in Africa, he replied tersely: ‘What we’re doing in Africa is a sort of Whac-A-Mole’ – a reference to an arcade game in which players force moles back into their burrows by hitting them on the head with a mallet. He went on to quote the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams: ‘America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’ Well, not any longer perhaps. But France has done precisely that.
THIS can't end well!
From Brendan O'Neill:
What the current instability in north Africa really reveals is not that Islamists are taking over the world, but rather that Western governments are utterly incapable of acting in their own interests on the international stage these days. The chasm that now separates what is in the West’s interests and what the West actually does in global politics is enormous. So determined were the British and French to score some PR points by bombing Libya in 2011 that they didn’t give a moment’s thought to the potential consequences – and now the French military, backed by Britain, is getting stuck into the Libyan fallout in Mali, and both governments are panicked by what is happening in Algeria. The true danger on the world stage today is not a global Islamist conspiracy to demolish Western values, but rather the fact that international affairs is now overseen by immature, narcissistic showboaters who know nothing of realpolitik, nothing of diplomacy, nothing of blowback, and nothing of history.
The trouble with hubris and incompetence is that they lead to a stubborn blindness that makes results inconsequential for the emphasis is placed on feeling good rather than on doing what works.
From Daniel Drezner:
Foreign policy pundits are just like the rest of the monkey-brain population -- we like to put things in clear conceptual boxes -- particularly when we lack specific knowledge of the particulars, as is the case with Mali. It will be easy, in the coming days, to put Mali into the "Afghanistan" box (bad) or the "Libya" box (good or bad depending on your partisan affiliation) or what have you. Given that France and the West African countries are willing to shoulder the primary military burden of this engagement, however, it would seem that the U.S. could ramp up some humanitartian assistance for the affected areas.
Ah haven't we seen all of 'THIS' before and has fixing it ever worked?
This from Gregory Mann is worrisome:
Mali differs from Afghanistan in important ways.
Mali is not (yet) a deeply militarized society — although in the months since Tuareg fighters returned from Qadaffi’s Libya that is changing rapidly.
Mali is not (yet) a narco-state. Northern Mali has become a lucrative zone for drug smuggling, which finances al Qaeda franchises worldwide. Yet none of those drugs are produced in Mali, where Afghanistan’s poppy growers have no parallel. Faced with stiffer surveillance and interdiction, smugglers will go elsewhere.
Finally, Mali is not (yet) a failed state. True, it is grievously weakened, and its army is in disarray. But the government continues to function in the territory it holds. Children go to school, civil servants go to work, and people go about their business.
I have the sinking feeling that most people are guessing when it comes to Mali just as they were about Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and that more often than not their guesses are not even educated, but based on hubris and wishful thinking.
From Robert Fox:
Once more we are hearing of the need to combat an international threat from global Islamist extremism. No one dares use the term ‘war against terror' any longer, but the West faces many of the same questions as in the campaigns launched by President George W Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq.
France is in danger of finding that it owns the Mali problem, so weak is the Mali government and its forces. A long and uncertain ground campaign awaits them.
It's always dangerous to own a country one doesn't understand, isn't willing to allow to grow up and to thus make its own decisions.
Pertinent stuff from James Blitz:
In May 2011, many believed the global jihadist movement had been dealt a decisive blow with the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Now, jihadist threats have emerged on two new and significant fronts. Whether AQIM in Mali and Jabhat al Nusra in Syria turn out to be movements with broad ambitions and which challenge western interests remains to be seen. What cannot be doubted, however, is that the toppling of Gaddafi, who was ultimately the west’s ally in the fight against regional jihadist groups, is a factor in their rise to prominence.
Unfortunately thoughtfulness and patience are not essential qualities in the elaboration and enactment of foreign policy of countries too worried about their power to focus on results instead of actions and reactions.
I don't know if it is possible to have a quagmire in a desert, but Mali may offer an example.
The problem is that wars nowadays are won on TV especially when the victims are more than likely going to be people with no media access and to whom most, especially journalists, will have a hard time relating to!
Quote of the early morning from Karen J. Greenberg:
Hollywood, that one-time bastion of liberalism, has provided the final piece in the perfect blueprint for the whitewashing of torture policy. If that isn’t a happily-ever-after ending, what is?
Hollywood has never really been about liberalism as much as it has always been about triumphalism. It embraces torture through Zero Dark Thirty because it has no memory (it gets in the way of good and fluffy stories and of the romanticization of history) and believes that everything did indeed changed after 9/11 including what is permissible and forbidden.
Obviously, I agree with Glenn Greenwald on this:
t is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush's most radical policies is not only Obama's choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus.
The dumbest statement I have read this week so far from Francois Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research via the Washington Post:
This is like Afghanistan 1996. This is like when Bin Laden found a place that was larger than France in which he could organize training camps, in which he could provide stable preparations for organizing far-flung terror attacks.
Comparaison n'est pas raison. Comparing Mali to Afghanistan is as smart and as appropriate as comparing Cap-Vert to Monaco. Wrong similes and metaphors in international politics are always signs of impending doom.
Best comment on last night's debate from Gregor Peter Schmitz over at Spiegel:
Romney and Obama exchanged carefully prepared platitudes as though they were trapped in a world order created for them by White House predecessor George W. Bush.(...) Indeed, it appears as though Stevens' death in election year 2012 has been enough to overshadow the killing of Osama bin Laden and several other top terrorists from al-Qaida and other networks. It has been enough to keep America fixated on the war on terror and preoccupied with the Middle East.
The paradox of this fixation shown by both candidates is that neither Obama nor Romney have shown a real interest in the Muslim world. Despite overtures early in his term, the president did little thereafter to ensure that progress was made. The only regional issue that appears to be high on his priority list is Iran's nuclear program. Romney's plan for the region appears to consist almost entirely of unconditional support for Israel. Both candidates want to continue using drones unhindered.
There is so much cause for concern and the scariest thing is the paralysis of the American media.
From Glenn Greenwald:
One of the primary reasons war - especially protracted war - is so destructive is not merely that it kills the populations at whom it is aimed, but it also radically degrades the character of the citizenry that wages it. That's what enables one of America's most celebrated pundits to go on the most mainstream of TV programs and coldly justify the killing of 4-year-olds, without so much as batting an eyelash or even paying lip service to the heinous tragedy of that, and have it be barely noticed. Joe Klein is the face not only of the Obama legacy, but also mainstream US political culture.
I'm not sure this is just an American 'thing' for it has to do with power and the complacency that comes with a sense of entitlement.
I agree totally with Tony Junod on this:
We have been told, many times, that each killing carried out by the administration is accompanied by vigorous and even agonized debate about its legality, advisability, efficacy, and morality. That debate, however has remained staunchly internal — has remained secret — and it has become clear that the only way to find out what our two presidential candidates think about the implications of the Lethal Presidency is to ask them, tonight, at the debate in Florida. President Obama has limited his comments to all but the most self-serving circumstance, and Governor Romney has spoken only through inference and through the often confounding comments of his foreign-policy surrogates. Bob Schieffer should know that if he does not ask a question about targeted killing tonight, he is — we are — unlikely to get another chance.
Unfortunately,the main concern of most journalists and of most Americans is to protect America by whichever means necessary. Thus, until Americans feel secure, they are going to be willing to let the president do whatever it takes to keep them safe even if they sense that the means used are wrong and will mean apologizing and regretting them in the future.
From Blake Hounshell on Hillary Clinton taking responsibility for the increasingly Benghazi political hot potato:
(...)Clinton's comments are obviously going to get wide play and will of course be instantly politicized -- regardless of whether she's merely doing the right thing, or whether she's actually just shielding Obama from scrutiny ahead of Tuesday night's debate, as some are already suggesting, or whether, as the conspiracy-minded would have it, she's pulling some Machiavellian maneuver to appear like she's taking responsibility only to make the president look bad and set herself up for 2016. (Clinton may have unintentionally set Obama up to be more directly attacked, by the way: Three Repubublican senators already have issued a press release saying that the president himself needs to take responsibility.)
I never thought that the way the Obama administration handled the 9/11 Benghazi attack was a political issue until it started reacting too defensively against Republicans' attacks as if it didn't have the excuse of known unknowns and unknown knows as Rumsfeld would said. That said, Clinton's latest statement now makes it a symbolic political issue at least in one way (which may be insignificant for more people than not may be happy to see her political wounded): how are Clintonites going to react if Obama doesn't at the very come to her bed side now that she has fallen on her sword? How much does Bill still enthusiastically help the One?
I agree wholeheartedly with Alex Massie on this:
Perhaps it wasn’t sufficiently appreciated at the time but Rushdie was the victim of a terrorist campaign. Not just Rushdie either. Anyone associated with The Satanic Verses was a target too. That meant publishers, translators, even bookshops and libraries. All these were targeted and people were murdered.
Rushdie was a test. In the west, your claim to be a decent liberal in a decent liberal society was at stake. In the east, the stakes were very much higher. Those people who pusillanimously suggested Rushdie must carry some responsibility for violence for which he bore no responsibility at all betrayed would-be modernisers in the Arab world and those Imams and other muslim “community leaders” who had the courage to say Iranian politics should reach no further than the Straits of Hormuz. Some of those people were murdered too.
All this, however, was the beginning of a time in which taking offence would be elevated to an art form. Not all such faux-outraged, manipulated, foolishness would be as consequential or as violent as the Rushdie affair but, viewed retrospectively, I think you can see The Satanic Verses as the unhappy opening to The Age of Hurt Feelings.
I am amazed that I live in an age when people can do whatever they want and can get away with unreason, stupidity and violence by asserting that their feelings are hurt as if being hurt means being right.
Two quotes on Obama's kill list and assassination powers.
The first from Glenn Greenwald:
In fairness to Obama, he did campaign on a promise of change, and vesting the President with the power to order the execution of citizens in secret and with no oversight certainly qualifies as that. (...)to summarize the Obama campaign’s apparent argument: it’s absolutely vital that we know all about the GOP nominee’s tax shelters and financial transactions over the last decade (and indeed, we should know about that), but we need not bother ourselves with how the Democratic nominee is deciding which Americans should die, his claimed legal authority for ordering those hits, the alleged evidence for believing the target deserves to be executed, or the criteria used to target them. So low are one’s expectations for an American Election Year that there are very few spectacles so absurd as to be painful to behold, but the Obama campaign’s waving of the transparency flag definitely qualifies.
The second from Joseph Lelyveld:
Just how is a president supposed to take on terrorists thousands of miles away whom he believes to be targeting the country he’s sworn to protect in a constitutional manner? Should he file an extradition request with the government in Islamabad or, as Bill Clinton did before September 11 but after the attacks on the USS Cole and the embassies in East Africa, lob cruise missiles from the Arabian Sea and hope for the best?
To settle this debate, we only have to quote Karl Marx or rather to use a Marx's quote used by Camus in the Rebel:
An end which requires unjustified means is no justifiable end.
Former National Intelligence director Dennis Blair on the use of drones by the Obama administration:
It is the politically advantageous thing to do--low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.
Boy did Obama punk the Norwegian Committee which gave him the Novel Peace Prize believing that he would be a worldly American president because he asserted that he was a citizen of the world!
For all the public statements over the past few days on the need for national unity, France remains a deeply racist country. The threat of Muslim terror has allowed the French to transfer their resentments away from the Jewish population to the Arab one, and to feel the better for it. But the sentiments are exactly the same and made only the worse by rising unemployment and slowing growth.
I disagree with Hamilton because his assertion is as easy as it is stupid. It is always dumb to characterize a country as racist based on the traits of some of its citizens because that would make it possible to argue that Britain is anti-French and that America is an ignorant country. The point is that Hamilton makes critical mistakes because he doesn't know the context and is emboldened to make grand, empty, and mistaken statements by his complex of superiority undoubtedly created by his certainty to be right ad to come from a better/purer country; that might just be called racism for people who are Hamilton is eager to condemn with knowledge and too much self-sastisfying zeal.
Juan Cole on the latest troubling 'incident' in Afghanistan:
An Afghanistan expert asked me, “How was an armed soldier able to leave a well-defended US military base at 3 in the morning without being challenged?” “There is more,” he said darkly, “to this than meets the eye.” Another troubling question is whether it was wise to send this man on 3 Iraq rotations and one Afghan one. Wouldn’t that warp a person, that intensity of years-long combat?
The fairness or unfairness of the contextless collage below is irrelevant to its emotional impact on Afghans whose sense of national sovereignty is being injured by the more-than-a-decade US occupation of their country. Going into homes where there are unveiled women, and exposing them to the gaze of 18 year old strange American men, is always going to anger Afghans. I’ve had US government people almost shout at me that such considerations cannot be allowed to come into play when you are doing counter-terrorism, that the chief thing is to find the weapons caches. But this kind of thing is why the Iraqi parliament voted the US troops right out of their country as soon as they could, and if the Afghan parliament had any real power, it would, too (some parliamentarians have already called for a jihad against the US over the Qur’an burning fiasco).
The disturbing thing is that it is possible to know how that the war in Afghanistan will end and the sole issue is how much the US will lose getting to the end because it cannot admit that it can't win.
One more person, or rather Nathalie Rothschild in this case, has seen the light:
The revelations that the NYPD routinely infiltrates places like schools, dollar stores and Halal restaurants in the name of rooting out terrorism shows – yet again – that civil-rights assaults were not a Bush-era anomaly, but continue under, and are literally sponsored by, the Obama administration.
The trouble with identity politics is that it makes policy and actions secondary and even unimportant for the focus is placed on the persona of the doer and on whether he is 'one of us.'
In short, the main issue that many liberals/democrats had with Bush was that he wasn't one of them. His policies were never really the problem for they were seen as the proof of his otherness, of his stupidity and unculture. Obama is seen as smart and cultured so there is no way for too many people that his policies can be barbaric and simply dumb!
I agree with Frank Furedi on this although I would phrase the same point differently and for in my opinion there isn't such a thing as 'Western culture':
In fact, the way that society responds to acts of individual terror represents a far greater threat than the destruction caused by the lone wolf himself. The inflation of the threat empowers the lone wolf, who may conclude that relatively modest acts of terrorism are likely to achieve a disproportionate impact. The best example of this was the Washington sniper in the summer of 2002, who literally managed to terrorise the capital city of the most powerful nation on Earth for some considerable time. Constant live television coverage and political discussion of the shootings unconsciously fuelled a palpable sense of fear and anxiety, and served as an invitation to be terrorised - they empowered the shooter, making him into a mighty threat to the capital of the United States.
From time to time – fortunately very rarely – the lone wolf succeeds in causing great physical damage. But it is not the scale of this damage that endows the lone wolf with such significance. They are not simply a physical but also a cultural threat. They serve as symbols of a society that is not quite at ease with itself, one that feels culturally fragmented and atomised. In the end the lone wolf works as a metaphor, with the emphasis on the sensibility of being isolated and alone. The image of a socially disconnected young man sitting in front of a screen, lost in the world of online confusion, is one with which society is all too familiar. Disconnected from us but not immune to the virus of radicalisation, they become people whose behaviour can easily become unrestrained and uncontained by social norms. That is the threat they pose. It is the insecurity that surrounds Western culture that has encouraged officialdom’s dangerous dramatisation of the lone wolf.
The beginning of Noah Feldman's must-read article on Obama's war on terrorism :
Killing terrorists with drones is great politics. To the question, “Is it legal?” a natural answer might well be, “Who cares?”
But the legal justifications in the war on terrorism do matter -- and not just to people who care about civil liberties. They end up structuring policy. As it turns out, targeted killing, now the hallmark of the Barack Obama administration’s war on terrorism, has its roots in rejection of the legal justifications once offered for waterboarding prisoners.
For some reason, this worries me more than Wall Street's greed and it isn't because I think that greed is good.
Glenn Greenwald on the 'Iranian terrorist plot" to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the US:
[...] why would Iran possibly wake up one day and decide that it wanted to engage in a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil when it could much more easily kill Saudi officials elsewhere? and if Iran and its Quds forces are really behind this inept, hapless, laughable plot, then nothing negates the claim that Iran is some Grave Threat like this does [...]
I, for one, am waiting for something more conclusive and convincing than assertions by Holder and co. about what the facts show for I have learned in the Bush and the Obama years not to take claims about terrorism and national security threats at face value for they have become too influenced by ideology and politics.
Skepticism is required for it cools down things to make the issue facts rather than fears and beliefs. In short, I'm waiting for the Obama to show me the money instead of trying to scare me by appealing to my conviction that Iran is a country with a dangerous government!
Sugary excerpt from David Cole on this Columbus Day
As American citizens we have a right to know when our own government believes it may execute us without a trial. In a democracy the state’s power to take the lives of its own citizens must be subject to democratic deliberation and debate. War of course necessarily involves killing, but it is essential that at a minimum, the lines defining the state’s power to kill its own are clearly stated, and public—particularly when the definition of the enemy and the lines demarcating war and peace are as murky as they are in the current conflict. Leaked accounts to The New York Times are no substitute for legal or democratic process. As long as the Obama administration insists on the power to kill the people it was elected to represent—and to do so in secret, on the basis of secret legal memos—can we really claim that we live in a democracy?
The issue is that the Obama administration is solely focused on protecting Americans by any means necessary for it knows that what would be said if another terrorist attack happens on American soil. It is sad to say but the fact that Obama is a democrat and has been made into an exotic creature by the media, his own supporters and himself condemns him to be dumbly Cheneyan when it comes to national security.
Obama is too good of a politician not to realize that the minute after America is hit on his watch, he will become the other and that notion would become threatening and frightening even to liberals who love to embrace the illusory exoticism of apparent difference.