Time to Stop and Think

OK, we had our fun counting coup, if felt good alright, I like it when the US has a muscular foreign policy. But maybe it’s time to be serious. Unless we’re stupid, there’s no real reason to fight a war against Iran. I have no doubt that we would defeat them. probably fairly easily but why? Because they talk nasty about us? Really? And you know, there must be some saner heads in Teheran as well. The best I’ve seen on this is from Seraphim Hanisch in The Duran.

Life often imitates Art, and Art often imitates Life. If this is held to be true, then one can deduce that the recent “fury” of Iran’s blustery rhetoric is an indication of futility for that nation’s leadership. While it is possible that this is wrong, here are some reasons that in many ways the world community views this latest situation with Iran and the United States as just another day at the office.

News outlets in the US, both liberal and conservative are beating the war drums with extraordinary irresponsibility.

Remember how it was before Iraq? Just like this. They attacked our embassy, we killed a high general of theirs. That should be the end of it. We do not need to fight a war for this nonsense.

As far as reporting real news goes, the story is far more and far less.

It is far less because while the leaderships of Iran and the United States are verbally posturing to show strength (with the media acting as accomplices in this for both sides, mostly), the drama and attention are stirred up, but at the same time, that is sufficient. There does not need to be a shooting war.

That is a good thing for both sides, because the United States will not attack Iran unless Iran attacks first. Since there has been an agreement in place in Iraq for US troops to be there, this makes the relationship very dicey. The killing (some say murder, and I cannot entirely disagree here) of General Soleimani is certainly a massive provocation. But while the US forces were being left alone by Iranian military in the region there was no cause for hostility. The attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad was an attack on sovereign US soil. This was an increase in hostility from the Iranian side that the American forces have not done, and in fact, have been very restrained from doing.

However, since the embassy is surrounded by Iraq and Iran is welcome, apparently the lines seemed fuzzy enough to the Iranian side to go ahead and try this. And for that they lost their top general.

Now, I write this as pragmatically as possible. I have no beef with the Iranian people or its government, but I cannot help notice that their governmet definitely has a gripe with the US. The most recent direct grievance I have received from sources in Iran suggest that the anger is over the severe sanctions and departure from the 5+1 deal known as the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), put in force by President Obama, which allows Iran to effectively mark time in their nuclear development programs. The conservative side in American politics strongly believes that Iran intends to produce a viable nuclear weapon, and the JCPoA was a miserable failure at preventing this; all it did was slow the process slightly and open a lot of financial pathways to Iran.

From the Iranian side the sanctions do appear to be very harsh, and unlike Russia, which has turned US sanctions against it to its own advantage, Iran’s government seems more interested in trying to get its way through bluster and rage, rather than negotiations. It is understandable that with America’s foreign policy record being severely dominated by the interests of globalists and the military-industrial complex, Iran has every right to be quite reticent to just go and try negotiations with the nation that has personified “indian giving” in so many ways. We get this.

But at the same time, President Trump has shown the world that he means business when he says he wants America out of foreign wars. Granted, his advisers are full of people that think wars are for fun and profit. But he demonstrated first with Kim Jong-un, later in Syria with the amazing rocket attack that hurt nothing, more recently with the pullout in norther Syria and with the present boiling crisis in his warning:

That is obviously true. Trump is doing his best (against a lot of resistance in Washington) to disentangle us from all this garbage in the middle east. Perhaps it made sense when we had to import oil (although I’m not very sure of that) but it surely does not make a scintilla of sense now. Time to come home, refit and have a look at the Chinese.

Another piece of the puzzle is Russia. Russia has maintained good relations with Iran for decades, and it still does. However, just in the last week, the Kremlin released their “readout” of a phone call initiated by President Vladimir Putin to President Trump, thanking the American president for his country’s help in thwarting terrorist attacks in Russia. The terror attacks are from ISIS or related groups, and ostensibly we are dealing with Islamism. Iran has a problem when it relates its fury against the United States to Islam, because Russia, while having very peaceful interrelations between Muslims and Christians in its own territory, is committed to preserving Christianity everywhere. If Iran tries to make a serious move against the United States, it creates a real problem for Russia, which has been quietly working together with the US to improve relations, if only painfully slowly.

Read the rest, I think he makes a good case.

Think about that. I’ve been saying for years that I don’t see Russia as an enemy (any more). The Soviet Union is gone and buried. What is there is a Russia that wants to compete. No, it’s not a recognizable democracy, it never has been. For many years before 1917, we considered Russia a friend. I wouldn’ go that far, but at worst they are a competitor.

We need more rationality and less saber-rattling, especially from the Iranians, but from Washington as well.

What’s Going On in Iran?

Have you been following the (mostly non-) news from Iran? Interesting isn’t it? China and Hong Kong, Iran and the Iranian people, plus the Iraqis and the Lebanese, it’s almost like people like being free. The best I’ve seen is Michael Ledeen in FrontPage Magazine.

The country is on fire. All classes, all tribes from the Persians to the Kurds are fighting the security forces and the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, and an increasingly divided Hezbollah. The leaders of the regime are unrestrained in their crackdown. In order to keep their actions as far as possible from public view, the leaders have killed off the internet links with the outside world, and despite American boasts that Washington can turn on the internet at will, the regime has kept communications with Iranians at historic minima.

The proximate cause of these demonstrations was an overnight increase in the cost of gasoline. I say “proximate cause” because the anti-regime outbursts had been ongoing for months, if not years. The increased price for gasoline was significant, but not decisive. So far as I can determine, the crowds of demonstrators chanted political slogans, not economic ones. They wanted an end to the Islamic Republic, not lower prices for gas.

The Iranian eruption is only one of many in the region, as Lebanese and Iraqis also joined the protest against Tehran. Iraqis, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called for an end to the Hezbollah domination of the country as part of a general demand for a thoroughgoing political transformation.

The most radical demand is the downfall of the whole sectarian, political Islamist system. This is the first and most important demand in Tahrir Square — they want a separation of religion and politics. This demand includes the government resigning, especially Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the prime minister.

Now mind, these guys aren’t asking for American boots, they want to be free, but on their terms, which are unlikely to be anything acceptable to Washington, let alone the heartland. But it’s their countries and their people. We can, perhaps, aid and abet a bit, but it’s up to them, to structure their lives as they see fit.

Because make no mistake, Iran under its present rulers is an implacable foe of the United States and keeps us from doing other things in the region that we should be doing. But this isn’t something, like Hong Kong, where one side is demanding democracy on the Anglo-American model.

Why that warning? Morris Ayek witing in en.qantara.de may have that answer.

Here, too, the distinctiveness of Arabic – although it has the same meaning in other languages – is useful in looking at Arab civil wars as wars between social entities. Non-Arab civil wars such as the Russian, the French, the Spanish, the Greek and so forth were between citizens. Groups that identify themselves through modern ideologies and institutions aim at the triumph of these ideologies. Indeed, they may be seen as a concomitant struggle in transition.

Arab civil wars, on the other hand, are wars between kinsfolk, however they may appear in their early stages. The social group becomes partisan, whether sectarian, tribal, party political or ethnic. The key difference between the two types of conflicts is that Arab civil wars have no end. In the non-Arab world, it is the ideology which is defeated, whilst with us Arabs, there can be no end. The Sunni, the Shia, the Alawite and the Christian will remain, like the Arab, the Kurd and the South Sudanese.

Social ties are the true driver

The only point of Arab civil wars is dominion, which is characterised by warlords who live by perpetuating war as a source of wealth, subjugating and plundering. They differ from other civil wars, in which each warring party has sought to build an economy with which to replenish resources and to guarantee victory. Ironically, this revenue-generating model is similar to the normal workings of an Arab economy.

Quite a lot more at the link, and I think it summarized pretty well why Anglo-American style democracy is not going to break out any time soon in the Middle East.

 

In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

Arms of the Portuguese Prince Henry, the Navig...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Columbus Day has come. And again we celebrate the (re)discovery of the New World. And look what has been erected on that discovery! If you didn’t know; Columbus was a student of Prince Henry the Navigator’s school.

Those students made almost all of the voyages of discovery from the Iberian Peninsula. By the way, Prince Henry of  Portugal was the Grandson of John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster. The English always make it into these stories of the sea, don’t they?

So we know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But why? His crews were afraid of starving or falling off the edge of the world. His ships were ridiculously small. What exactly was the point? Nobody in Portugal had even heard of Brazil, nor were they all that enthused about an overseas empire. So, why?

Trade, that’s why. Everybody knew where India and China were (at least all the cool cats that knew the world was round). They had since Marco Polo made that remarkable trip, if not before. They liked the silk and other good things that came from China. But there was a problem.

You see there were pirates in the Mediterranean, then one had to get through the totalitarian Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Persians, and various and sundry other Islamic States. If you remember Spain had just managed to reconquer Spain from the Moslems and just plain didn’t want anything to do with them. So they decided to take a shortcut and sail west to go east. Yeah, their calculations were off a bit about the size of the world, but that’s why.

Now let’s think about this a little, Spain went way out of its way to avoid the clowns and founded both the New World and New Spain in the process: and got themselves into a shooting war with England that would eventually cost them their world power status. See A Cloud Smaller Than a Fist.

A few hundred years later, the United States won its Independence from Great Britain. The United States’ very first war was a regime change in Tripoli. There are still Islamic pirates, they still hold slaves and all in all they are still living in the 7th Century. And still today, Iran threatens war on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Some things never change.

Only now with their oil wealth, instead of modernizing and improving their people’s lives and such, they seem intent on conquering the world and seem to believe the world will use its modernity to help

They have found some fellow travelers, who had best hope they lose because they aren’t going to enjoy winning for long. Ask the survivors of the Kingdom of the Visigoths in about 1000 AD.

So there you have it. The cause of Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue.

In Other News:

  • General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry) and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.

  • On the morning of October 12, 1915, the 49-year-old British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels, Belgium.

Before World War I began in 1914, Cavell served for a number of years as the matron of a nurse’s training school in Brussels. After the city was captured and occupied by the Germans in the first month of the war, Cavell chose to remain at her post, tending to German soldiers and Belgians alike. In August 1915, German authorities arrested her and accused her of helping British and French prisoners-of-war, as well as Belgians hoping to serve with the Allied armies, to escape Belgium for neutral Holland. As I wrote on the centenary of her execution, here, there was no doubt at all of her guilt. And you can watch (no sound BTW) the procession for her state funeral at Norwich Cathedral in 1919 here.

  • On this day in 1776, British Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe lead a force of 4,000 troops aboard some 90 flat-boats up New York’s East River toward Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in Westchester County, in an effort to encircle General George Washington and the Patriot force stationed at Harlem Heights.

This was the largest British amphibious attack before Normandy.

After hearing of the British landing at Throg’s Neck, Washington ordered a contingent of troops from the Pennsylvania regiment to destroy the bridge leading from the peninsula to the Westchester mainland. The destruction of the bridge stranded Clinton and his men at Throg’s Neck for six days before they were loaded back onto their vessels and continued up the East River toward Pell Point.

  • On this day in 1946, Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63.

All courtesy of This Day In History.

 

Juneteenth

Click to enlarge

Robert Maranto, writing in Frontpage magazine reminds us of one of the holidays that we don’t celebrate much (but maybe should). It’s called Juneteenth, as fits neatly between Memorial Day and Independence Day, both of which it is related to. It’s the day the last slave in America was freed, in Texas, on 16 June 1865. It only cost more than 300,000 American casualties (Union only) and 4 years of total war on ourselves.

A nation with substantial economic ties with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, only got around to ending slavery in 1962. Yet I would never define Saudi Arabia by its history of slavery, and I bristle when people define America that way. Virtually all peoples have histories of enslaving and brutalizing others, so obsessing over America’s sins while ignoring everyone else’s is anti-American in the purest sense. Alas, such views proliferate in the media, academia, and politics.

Remember that, the next time some fool starts denigrating America.

For that reason, I commemorate Juneteenth by re-reading Thomas Sowell’s classic essay, “The Real History of Slavery,” written in part to debunk popular misconceptions spread by the likes of Alex Haley’s Roots. A part of his collection of mainly original essays in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Sowell’s essay teaches politically incorrect lessons no longer taught in higher education or pop culture.

First, slavery impoverished rather than built societies, by stigmatizing work and thrift while exalting as role models a slave-owning leisure class. In some respects, slave owners were like Hollywood stars, widely envied, and notorious for their conspicuous consumption and reckless disregard of others. Within places as distinct as China, Brazil, the Middle East, and America, locales with high concentrations of slaves were the poorest and most backward.

More important was the evolution and spread of Western ideas about individual worth and self-determination. As Sowell writes, slavery pitted “Western civilization against the world” at a time when the West had the power to prevail. Non-Western people generally did not end slavery on their own; indeed, most fiercely resisted abolition. Great Britain played the indispensable role in ending slavery, choosing ideals over interests in the process.

18th century Britain was the world’s largest slave trader, with powerful interests profiting from human trafficking. Yet under religious pressure, 19th Century British parliaments abolished slavery and increasingly employed the Royal Navy and colonial governance to erode the global slave trade, at enormous cost in blood and treasure.

In Sudan, for example, British General G.C. Gordon fought slavery, imposing the death penalty on those convicted of castrating enslaved men to market them as eunuchs. After Mohammad Mahad defeated Gordon at Khartoum, human trafficking again went untroubled until British soldiers returned, among them a young Winston Churchill. Under British pressure, Sudan eventually formally abolished slavery, though informally it exists there to this day.

Sowell attacks the hypocrisy of criticizing the 19th century West for falling short of modern standards, while far more culpable non-Western societies get a free pass. Today, universities rebrand buildings named after long dead slave owners, while courting wealthy sheiks who may have owned people in their youths. President Obama, who removed a bust (in fairness, one of two) of Winston Churchill from the White House, probably never learned at Harvard that Churchill fought slavery in traditional Sudan, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.

Always remember that there are two countries in the world that paid most of the price for ending slavery in the west, they are Great Britain and the United States. Britain mostly but not completely in Gold, and the US mostly but not completely in (its own) blood. Does that carry a lesson about why the US and UK are still hated all over the world?

Yes, yes it does.

Simple really, Evil always has and always will hate good.

Monday Videos

Has Britain already Brexited? According to some lawyers, yes. Here’s how they lay it out.

My opinion? According to the law, I think they are right. I also think that will make no difference to the case. Britain’s politicians have been hanging about in Brussels too much to understand that all are under the law. Washington could use a few demonstrations as well, Mr. President.

Bolton on Brexit, Brazil, Venezuela, and other stuff. From Sky News, because American networks have no time for news.

Remember when these were a staple for us all? Now we don’t see them nearly as often. A good thing, they were overused. But this is pretty good.

An agnostic Jew on the war on American Christianity. I just found this yesterday, and I’ll be watching with you. It’s outstanding

And this, from Katie Hopkins

The Ottoman Legacy

Ottoman_Empire_Coat_of_Arms_by_TurkForce

As Bookworm said the other day, the news, while there is a fair amount of it, just kind of feels stale. Maybe a bit of ennui has set in, we’ll cover most of it soon, but it’ll probably keep till the first of the week.

This is the second in the series of articles from 2013 that I promised you, giving some background on the Ottoman Empire mostly and why you should care. 

Once again, this was published by Jessica, but as she acknowledged it is the work of her co-author Chalcedon451, who is a professional historian. So enjoy, it’s not often we get this good an insight on much of anything.

Bosnia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia, the trouble spots of the last half century or so, and what do they have in common? They all used to be part of the Ottoman Empire which existed from the 1200s until its demise in the aftermath of what we call World War I, but which was, for the Turks, a war which began in 1911 and did not end until 1923. Oh, yes, and they are all, also, Muslim in religion.

The Ottomans ruled over one of the world’s great empires, and they did so by following a simple model: they conquered a place and then they identified a section of the former rulers who could be trusted to run the place for them at a price; if that tended to produce a policy of divide and rule, so much the better, after all if the head of one clan proved to be unreliable, you could transfer your support to his rival, and as long as, in the final analysis, your army was the best in the region, you won. It led to a lot of local graft, of course, but as long as the Ottomans collected enough money, like in most protection rackets, the locals were left alone once they paid up. Now and then a ruler would get greedy, but if he caused unrest locally, that often provided an excuse to cut him down to size.

The Ottomans lacked much of an interest in ruling. They were warriors and they liked the things warriors liked. They were Muslims, but they did not go overboard; Christians, Jews, and others were all tolerable provided they paid up and kept their noses clean; indeed many of the Grand Viziers of the Ottoman Empire were of Greek race who, once they had turned Muslim, were allowed a pretty free reign. Non-Turks were segregated according to ‘Millets’ – so there would be an Orthodox Christian one, a Maronite Christian one, a Catholic Christians one, and so on and so forth. Underneath the Muslim banner others were welcome to co-exist – as long as they knew their place. Such was the violence of the Ottoman reaction to disobedience, people seldom needed telling twice; indeed few of them lived long enough for that to be able to happen.

This method served the Ottomans well, but it left behind it much flammable material, and what we have tended to see in the aftermath of the Ottomans is the same pattern. Unrest followed by the imposition of a strong man. We saw it in the former Yugoslavia with Tito; we saw it in Syria with the Assads; we saw it in Iraq with the Hamehsemites and then Saddam; we saw it in Libya with Gaddafi, and we have seen it in Egypt with Nasser and Musbarak; we see it in Saudi Arabia with the House of Saud.  Remove the strong men – the successor of the Ottoman viceroy if you like – and the ethnic and religious hatreds break out and chaos ensues.

Our strange belief that in these parts of the world, with their type of history, we can somehow build democratic states is a product of such ignorance it is hard to credit it exists; but it does.

[This post is by my editor, Chalcedon 451, and originally appeared on All along the Watchtower.

 

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