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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Real Nature of Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
As Far As The Eye Can See
by Moshe Dann
Threats of Pain and Ruin
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky
















Sunday, 23 November 2014
Karen Armstrong Is "Filled With Despair" At The Kind Of Talk "That Led To The Concentration Camps"
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The kind of talk she has in mind is not that of Muslim fanatics all over the place, calling for the killing of every last Jew in the world -- the kind of thing you can see posted at www.MEMRITV.org every day of the weeki, or find being said in mosques all over the place. 

No, the kind of talk Karen Armstrong has in mind is the studied criticism of Islamic doctrine, by Sam Harris and Bill Maher, that is, by those who in the West refuse to refrain from criticizing Islam and its adherents. This is what alarms and "fills with despair" the endlessly mendacious, vicious Karen Armstrong, whose books and talks are a guide to nothing and to nowhere, and  who always makes time to add her mite to the store of dangerous fictions about Israel, for her a child of "colonialism." 

The story of what has prompted her current "despair" here.

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Posted on 11/23/2014 9:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Fitzgerald: Karen Armstrong -- The Coherence Of Her Incoherence
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Re-posting. Comments thread may be of interest.

Here.

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Posted on 11/23/2014 9:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Paul Weston Luton 22 November 2014
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Posted on 11/23/2014 8:28 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Ahmed Vanya Has A Dream-Vision Of An Imagined Future Islam
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Here.

The skeptical comments about the "impossible dream" are also worth looking at. 

Why, one wonders, do the ahmed-vanyas of this world not follow the path of their understanding to the very end, in order to obtain inner freedom, as Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina, and others have done? What prevents this? What holds him back? What is the saving grace of Islam, that escapes the notice of all the rest of us? 

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Posted on 11/23/2014 6:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
When Not A Muslim,But A Turbaned Turk, Discovered America
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Kemalism is the name given to the legislation, and the attitudes, promoted by Ataturk and his many followers, in order to systematically constrain and weaken Islam. The cult of "the Turk" was meant to replace that of "the Muslim," and after Ataturk's death, the Cult of Personality, or quasi-deification of Ataturk, was a replacement for worship of Muhammad. 

Under Erdogan, "the Turk" is no longer the center of self-adoration, and "the Muslims" are back as "the best of peoples." A Turkish writer finds amusing that Erdogan's insistence that "Muslims discovered America" has a Kemalist precedent -- a more modest attempt, in the 1930s, to claim that "a Turk" did not arrive prior to Columbus, but was a member of Columbus' expedition and helped "discover America." 

The report here.

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Posted on 11/23/2014 6:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
The Truth about Evil
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John Gray writes in ABC Religion and Ethics:

When Barack Obama vows to destroy Islamic State's "brand of evil" and David Cameron declares that Islamic State (ISIS) is an "evil organisation" that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair's judgment of Saddam Hussein: "But the man's uniquely evil, isn't he?"

Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over thirty-five years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war.

These dangers left the Prime Minister unmoved. What mattered was Saddam's moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.

If Saddam was uniquely evil twelve years ago, we have it on the authority of our leaders that ISIS is uniquely evil today. Until it swept into Iraq a few months ago, the jihadist group was just one of several that had benefited from the campaign being waged by Western governments and their authoritarian allies in the Gulf in support of the Syrian opposition's struggle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Since then ISIS has been denounced continuously and with increasing intensity; but there has been no change in the ruthless ferocity of the group, which has always practised what a radical Islamist theorist writing under the name Abu Bakr Naji described in an internet handbook in 2006 as "the management of savagery."

Ever since it was spun off from al-Qaida some ten years ago, ISIS has made clear its commitment to beheading apostates and unbelievers, enslaving women and wiping out communities that will not submit to its ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In its carefully crafted internet videos, it has advertised these crimes itself. There has never been any doubt that ISIS practises methodical savagery as an integral part of its strategy of war. This did not prevent an abortive attempt on the part of the American and British governments in August of last year to give military support to the Syrian rebels - a move that could have left ISIS the most powerful force in the country. ISIS became the prime enemy of Western governments only when it took advantage of the anarchy these same governments had created when they broke the state of Iraq with their grandiose scheme of regime change.

I

Against this background, it would be easy to conclude that talk of evil in international conflicts is no more than a cynical technique for shaping public perceptions. That would be a mistake. Blair's secret - which is the key to much in contemporary politics - is not cynicism. A cynic is someone who knowingly acts against what he or she knows to be true. Too morally stunted to be capable of the mendacity of which he is often accused, Blair thinks and acts on the premise that whatever furthers the triumph of what he believes to be good must be true. Imagining that he can deliver the Middle East and the world from evil, he cannot help having a delusional view of the impact of his policies.

Here Blair is at one with most Western leaders. It's not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don't really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of Western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away.

No view of things could be more alien at the present time. Whatever their position on the political spectrum, almost all of those who govern us hold to some version of the melioristic liberalism that is the West's default creed, which teaches that human civilisation is advancing - however falteringly - to a point at which the worst forms of human destructiveness can be left behind. According to this view, evil, if any such thing exists, is not an inbuilt human flaw, but a product of defective social institutions, which can over time be permanently improved.

Paradoxically, this belief in the evanescence of evil is what underlies the hysterical invocation of evil that has lately become so prominent. There are many bad and lamentable forces in the world today, but it is those that undermine the belief in human improvement that are demonised as "evil." So what disturbs the West about Vladimir Putin, for example, is not so much the persecution of gay people over which he has presided, or the threat posed to Russia's neighbours by his attempt to reassert its imperial power. It is the fact that he has no place in the liberal scheme of continuing human advance. As a result, the Russian leader can only be evil. When George W. Bush looked into Putin's eyes at a Moscow summit in May 2002, he reported, "I was able to get a sense of his soul." When Joe Biden visited the Kremlin in 2011, he had a very different impression, telling Putin: "Mr Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul." According to Biden, Putin smiled and replied, "We understand each other." The religious language is telling: nine years earlier, Putin had been a pragmatic leader with whom the West could work; now he was a soulless devil.

It's in the Middle East, however, that the prevailing liberal worldview has proved most consistently misguided. At bottom, it may be Western leaders' inability to think outside this melioristic creed that accounts for their failure to learn from experience. After more than a decade of intensive bombing, backed up by massive ground force, the Taliban continue to control much of Afghanistan and appear to be regaining ground as the American-led mission is run down. Libya - through which a beaming David Cameron processed in triumph only three years ago, after the use of Western air power to help topple Gaddafi - is now an anarchic hell-hole that no Western leader could safely visit.

One might think such experiences would be enough to deter governments from further exercises in regime change. But our leaders cannot admit the narrow limits of their power. They cannot accept that by removing one kind of evil they may succeed only in bringing about another - anarchy instead of tyranny, Islamist popular theocracy instead of secular dictatorship. They need a narrative of continuing advance if they are to preserve their sense of being able to act meaningfully in the world, so they are driven again and again to re-enact their past failures.

Many view these Western interventions as no more than exercises in geopolitics. But a type of moral infantilism is no less important in explaining the persisting folly of Western governments. Though it is clear that ISIS cannot be permanently weakened as long as the war against Assad continues, this fact is ignored - and not only because a Western-brokered peace deal that left Assad in power would be opposed by the Gulf states that have sided with jihadist forces in Syria. More fundamentally, any such deal would mean giving legitimacy to a regime that Western governments have condemned as more evil than any conceivable alternative. In Syria, the actual alternatives are the survival in some form of Assad's secular despotism, a radical Islamist regime or continuing war and anarchy. In the liberal political culture that prevails in the West, a public choice among these options is impossible.

II

There are some who think the very idea of evil is an obsolete relic of religion. For most secular thinkers, what has been defined as evil in the past is the expression of social ills that can in principle be remedied. But these same thinkers very often invoke evil forces to account for humankind's failure to advance. The secularisation of the modern moral vocabulary that many believed was under way has not occurred: public discourse about good and evil continues to be rooted in religion. Yet the idea of evil that is invoked is not one that features in the central religious traditions of the West. The belief that evil can be finally overcome has more in common with the dualistic heresies of ancient and medieval times than it does with any Western religious orthodoxy.

A radically dualistic view of the world, in which good and evil are separate forces that have coexisted since the beginning of time, was held by the ancient Zoroastrians and Manicheans. These religions did not face the problem with which Christian apologists have struggled so painfully and for so long - how to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful and wholly good God with the fact of evil in the world. The worldview of George W. Bush and Tony Blair is commonly described as Manichean, but this is unfair to the ancient religion. Mani, the third-century prophet who founded the faith, appears to have believed the outcome of the struggle was uncertain, whereas for Bush and Blair there could never be any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of good. In refusing to accept the permanency of evil they are no different from most Western leaders.

The West owes its ideas of evil to Christianity, though whether these ideas would be recognised by Jesus - the dissident Jewish prophet from whose life and sayings St. Paul conjured the Christian religion - is an open question. The personification of evil as a demonic presence is not a feature of biblical Judaism, where the figure of Satan appears chiefly as a messenger or accuser sent by God to challenge wrongdoers. Despite the claims of believers and advances in scholarship, not enough is known to pronounce with any confidence on what Jesus may himself have believed. What is clear is that Christianity has harboured a number of quite different understandings of evil.

A convert from Manicheism, St. Augustine established a powerful orthodoxy in the fourth century when he tried to distance Christianity from dualism and maintained that evil was not an independent force coeval with good but came into the world when human beings misused the gift of free will. Reflecting Augustine's own conflicts, the idea of original sin that he developed would play a part in the unhealthy preoccupation with sexuality that appears throughout most of Christianity's history. Yet in placing the source of evil within human beings, Augustine's account is more humane than myths in which evil is a sinister force that acts to subvert human goodness. Those who believe that evil can be eradicated tend to identify themselves with the good and attack anyone they believe stands in the way of its triumph.

Augustine had an immense influence, but dualistic views in which evil exists as an independent force have erupted repeatedly as heretical traditions within Christianity. The Cathar movement that developed in parts of Europe in the thirteenth century revived a Manichean cosmogony in which the world is the work not of a good God but instead of a malevolent angel or demi-urge. A rival heresy was promoted by the fourth century theologian Pelagius, an opponent of Augustine who denied original sin while strongly affirming free will, and believed that human beings could be good without divine intervention. More than any of the ancient Greek philosophers, Pelagius put an idea of human autonomy at the centre of his thinking. Though he is now almost forgotten, this heretical Christian theologian has a good claim to be seen as the true father of modern liberal humanism.

In its official forms, secular liberalism rejects the idea of evil. Many liberals would like to see the idea of evil replaced by a discourse of harm: we should talk instead about how people do damage to each other and themselves. But this view poses a problem of evil remarkably similar to that which has troubled Christian believers. If every human being is born a liberal - as these latter-day disciples of Pelagius appear to believe - why have so many, seemingly of their own free will, given their lives to regimes and movements that are essentially repressive, cruel and violent? Why do human beings knowingly harm others and themselves? Unable to account for these facts, liberals have resorted to a language of dark and evil forces much like that of dualistic religions.

The efforts of believers to explain why God permits abominable suffering and injustice have produced nothing that is convincing; but at least believers have admitted that the ways of the Deity are mysterious. Even though he ended up accepting the divine will, the questions that Job put to God were never answered. Despite all his efforts to find a solution, Augustine confessed that human reason was not equal to the task. In contrast, when secular liberals try to account for evil in rational terms, the result is a more primitive version of Manichean myth. When humankind proves resistant to improvement, it is because forces of darkness - wicked priests, demagogic politicians, predatory corporations and the like - are working to thwart the universal struggle for freedom and enlightenment.

There is a lesson here. Sooner or later anyone who believes in innate human goodness is bound to reinvent the idea of evil in a cruder form. Aiming to exorcise evil from the modern mind, secular liberals have ended up constructing another version of demonology, in which anything that stands out against what is believed to be the rational course of human development is anathematised.

III

The view that evil is essentially banal, presented by Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, is another version of the modern evasion of evil. Arendt suggested that human beings commit atrocities from a kind of stupidity, falling into a condition of thoughtlessness in which they collude in practices that inflict atrocious suffering on other human beings. It was some such moral inertia, Arendt maintained, that enabled Eichmann to take a leading part in perpetrating the Holocaust. Arendt's theory of the banality of evil tends to support the defence of his actions that Eichmann presented at his trial: he had no choice in doing what he did. She represented Eichmann as a colourless bureaucrat performing a well-defined function in an impersonal bureaucratic machine; but the Nazi state was in fact largely chaotic, with different institutions, departments of government and individuals competing for Hitler's favour. Careful historical research of the kind that David Cesarani undertook in his book Eichmann: His Life and Crimes suggests that Eichmann was not a passive tool of the state, but chose to serve it. When he organised the deportation and mass murder of Jews, he wasn't simply furthering his career in the Nazi hierarchy. What he did reflected his deep-seated antisemitism. Eichmann took part in the Holocaust because he wanted to do so. In this he was no different from many others, though his crimes were larger in scale.

No doubt something like the type of evil that Arendt identified is real enough. Large parts of the population in Germany went along with Nazi policies of racial persecution and genocide from motives that included social conformity and obedience to authority. The number of doctors, teachers and lawyers who refused to implement Nazi policies was vanishingly small. But again, this wasn't only passive obedience. Until it became clear that Hitler's war might be lost, Nazism was extremely popular. As the great American journalist William Shirer reported in his eyewitness account of the rise of Hitler, The Nightmare Years:

"Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation ... On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm."

When large populations of human beings collude with repressive regimes it need not be from thoughtlessness or inertia. Liberal meliorists like to think that human life contains many things that are bad, some of which may never be entirely eliminated; but there is nothing that is intrinsically destructive or malevolent in human beings themselves - nothing, in other words, that corresponds to a traditional idea of evil. But another view is possible, and one that need make no call on theology.

What has been described as evil in the past can be understood as a natural tendency to animosity and destruction, co-existing in human beings alongside tendencies to sympathy and cooperation. This was the view put forward by Sigmund Freud in a celebrated exchange of letters with Albert Einstein in 1931-32. Einstein had asked: "Is it possible to control man's mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychosis of hate and destructiveness?" Freud replied that "there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity's aggressive tendencies."

Freud suggested that human beings were ruled by impulses or instincts, eros and thanatos, impelling them towards life and creation or destruction and death. He cautioned against thinking that these forces embodied good and evil in any simple way. Whether they worked together or in opposition, both were necessary. Even so, Freud was clear that a major threat to anything that might be called a good life came from within human beings. The fragility of civilisation reflected the divided nature of the human animal itself.

One need not subscribe to Freud's theory (which in the same letter he describes as a type of mythology) to think he was on to something here. Rather than psychoanalysis, it may be some version of evolutionary psychology that can best illuminate the human proclivity to hatred and destruction. The point is that destructive behaviour of this kind flows from inherent human flaws. Crucially, these defects are not only or even mainly intellectual. No advance in human knowledge can stop humans attacking and persecuting others. Poisonous ideologies like Nazi "scientific racism" justify such behaviour. But these ideologies are not just erroneous theories that can be discarded when their falsehood has been demonstrated. Ideas of similar kinds recur whenever societies are threatened by severe and continuing hardship. At present, antisemitism and ethnic nationalism, along with hatred of gay people, immigrants and other minorities, are re-emerging across much of the continent. Toxic ideologies express and reinforce responses to social conflict that are generically human.

Mass support for despotic regimes has many sources. Without the economic upheavals that ruined much of the German middle class, the Nazis might well have remained a fringe movement. Undoubtedly there were many who looked to the Nazi regime for protection against economic insecurity. But it is a mistake to suppose that when people turn to tyrants, they do so despite the crimes that tyrants commit. Large numbers have admired tyrannical regimes and actively endorsed their crimes. If Nazism had not existed, something like it would surely have been invented in the chaos of interwar Europe.

IV

When the West aligned itself with the U.S.S.R. in the Second World War, it was choosing the lesser of two evils - both of them evils of a radical kind. This was the view of Winston Churchill, who famously said he would "sup with the devil" if doing so would help destroy "that evil man" Hitler. Churchill's candid recognition of the nature of the choice he made is testimony to how shallow the discourse of evil has since become. Today, no Western politician could admit to making such a decision.

In his profound study On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, the Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit distinguishes between regimes that rest on cruelty and humiliation, as many have done throughout history, and those that go further by excluding some human beings altogether from moral concern. Describing the latter as radically evil, he argues that Nazi Germany falls into this category. The distinction Margalit draws is not a quantitative one based on the numbers of victims, but categorical: Nazi racism created an immutable hierarchy in which there could be no common moral bonds. Margalit goes on to argue - surely rightly - that in allying itself with the Soviet Union in the struggle against Nazism, the West was making a necessary and justified moral compromise. But this was not because the Nazis were the greater evil, he suggests. For all its oppression, the Soviet Union offered a vision of the future that included all of humankind. Viewing most of the species as less than human, Nazism rejected morality itself.

There should be no doubt that the Nazis are in a class by themselves. No other regime has launched a project of systematic extermination that is comparable. From the beginning of the Soviet system there were some camps from which it was difficult to emerge alive. Yet at no time was there anything in the Soviet gulag akin to the Nazi death camps that operated at Sobibor and Treblinka. Contrary to some in post-communist countries who try to deny the fact, the Holocaust remains a unique crime. Judged by Margalit's formula, however, the Soviet Union was also implicated in radical evil. The Soviet state implemented a policy of exclusion from society of "former persons" - a group that included those who lived off unearned income, clergy of all religions and tsarist functionaries - who were denied civic rights, prohibited from seeking public office and restricted in their access to the rationing system. Many died of starvation or were consigned to camps where they perished from overwork, undernourishment and brutal treatment.

Considered as a broad moral category, what Margalit defines as radical evil is not uncommon. The colonial genocide of the Herero people in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) at the start of the twentieth century was implemented against a background of ersatz-scientific racist ideology that denied the humanity of Africans. (The genocide included the use of Hereros as subjects of medical experiments, conducted by doctors some of whom returned to Germany to teach physicians later implicated in experiments on prisoners in Nazi camps.) The institution of slavery in antebellum America and South African apartheid rested on a similar denial. A refusal of moral standing to some of those they rule is a feature of societies of widely different varieties in many times and places. In one form or another, denying the shared humanity of others seems to be a universal human trait.

V

Describing ISIS's behaviour as "psychopathic," as David Cameron has done, represents the group as being more humanly aberrant than the record allows. Aside from the fact that it publicises them on the internet, ISIS's atrocities are not greatly different from those that have been committed in many other situations of acute conflict. To cite only a few of the more recent examples, murder of hostages, mass killings and systematic rape have been used as methods of warfare in the former Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Rwanda and the Congo.

A campaign of mass murder is never simply an expression of psychopathic aggression. In the case of ISIS, the ideology of Wahhabism has played an important role. Ever since the 1920s, the rulers of the Saudi kingdom have promoted this eighteenth-century brand of highly repressive and exclusionary Sunni Islam as part of the project of legitimating the Saudi state. More recently, Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabi ideology has been a response to the threat posed by the rise of Shia Iran. If the ungoverned space in which ISIS operates has been created by the West's exercises in regime change, the group's advances are also a byproduct of the struggle for hegemony between Iran and the Saudis. In such conditions of intense geopolitical rivalry there can be no effective government in Iraq, no end to the Syrian civil war and no meaningful regional coalition against the self-styled caliphate.

But the rise of ISIS is also part of a war of religion. Nothing is more commonplace than the assertion that religion is a tool of power, which ruling elites use to control the people. No doubt that's often true. But a contrary view is also true: politics may be a continuation of religion by other means. In Europe religion was a primary force in politics for many centuries. When religion seemed to be in retreat, it renewed itself in political creeds - Jacobinism, nationalism and varieties of totalitarianism - that were partly religious in nature. Something similar is happening in the Middle East. Fuelled by movements that combine radical fundamentalism with elements borrowed from secular ideologies such as Leninism and fascism, conflict between Shia and Sunni communities looks set to continue for generations to come. Even if ISIS is defeated, it will not be the last movement of its kind. Along with war, religion is not declining, but continuously mutating into hybrid forms.

Western intervention in the Middle East has been guided by a view of the world that itself has some of the functions of religion. There is no factual basis for thinking that something like the democratic nation-state provides a model on which the region could be remade. States of this kind emerged in modern Europe, after much bloodshed, but their future is far from assured and they are not the goal or end-point of modern political development. From an empirical viewpoint, any endpoint can only be an act of faith. All that can be observed is a succession of political experiments whose outcomes are highly contingent. Launched in circumstances in which states constructed under the aegis of Western colonialism have broken down under the impact of more recent Western intervention, the gruesome tyranny established by ISIS will go down in history as one of these experiments.

The weakness of faith-based liberalism is that it contains nothing that helps in the choices that must be made between different kinds and degrees of evil. Given the West's role in bringing about the anarchy in which the Yazidis, the Kurds and other communities face a deadly threat, non-intervention is a morally compromised option. If sufficient resources are available - something that cannot be taken for granted - military action may be justified. But it is hard to see how there can be lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state. Our leaders have helped create a situation that their view of the world claims cannot exist: an intractable conflict in which there are no good outcomes.

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Posted on 11/23/2014 6:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Why Rand Paul Is Hillary Clinton's Worst Nightmare
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Posted on 11/23/2014 5:49 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Martin Sherman: Changing Israeli Attitudes
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Excellent article here.

He describes the unappeasable and without-end Arab hostility toward Israel, but refrains from finding the source of that enmity, and the impossibility of ever satisfying Arab demands, in Islam itself. I assume this was deliberate, just as Israelis once, in order to foster alliances with a still-Kemalist Turkish military and with the Shah's regime, "secular" but Muslim, refrained from discussing Islam. But now, with the entire non-Muslim world having to deal with an internal and external Muslim threat, why hold back? Why not make clear that the war on Israel is a Jihad. Why let Mahmoud Abbas try to prevent the obvious link from being made, in his nonsense about preventing this "from becoming a religious war"? It is a religious war, but not a war between two religions. It's a war of Islam against all the rest, all those who have other faiths, all those who have no faith at all. The war on Israel, the Jihad against Israel, though given so much attention for so many decades, has been wilfully misunderstood. 

That too is a task for the Israelis. To make clear to themselves, and then to others, not just that Arab hostility has no end, cannot be assuaged with further retreats, and that applies to the Arabs within Israel as without, but must be, because it comes from the immutable texts of Islam, and the atttiudes that in Muslims naturally form, and it is an effort to avoid sharing, given the clear texts and teachings of Islam.

 The war on Israel appears to be a special case. It is not. It is a specific example of a general problem. 

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Posted on 11/23/2014 5:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
At UC Berkeley: A Tale of Two Flags
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Posted on 11/23/2014 5:34 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
More Muslim Nunc Pro Tunc Backdating And General Fantasy
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From an article at Al Jazeera on the refusal of the heroic Hamas "resistance" to give up weapons, the weapons it uses, and will always use, to conduct Jihad:

"The place of armed resistance in the Palestinian struggle dates back to the Palestinian revolution in 1918, when the British Mandate started, and subsequently the 1936 general strike. It developed further after the 1968 revolution."

There was no "Palestinian struggle" until the Arabs, with advice from outside (including an American P.R. firm), renamed themselves the "Palestinians." And the "Palestinian revolution in 1918" is a fantasy. 

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Posted on 11/23/2014 4:47 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State
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As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed. Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region. “The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.” 

Evidence from one posting on a social networking site last week suggested that as many as 20 British jihadists have been joining Isil forces every day. And on Saturday it emerged that two more Britons – Abu Abdullah al Habashi, 21, and Abu Dharda, 20, both from London – had died fighting in Syria.

It was reported that Dharda, who grew up in west London, had been questioned by counter-terrorism police at a British airport and allowed to travel because they were “satisfied with the explanation he gave” for the trip. 

The Government has refused to say how many Britons had been arrested at UK borders in connection with terrorism in Syria, adding to concern the figure is very small and that the borders are worryingly porous. 

But Mr Mahmood said the Home Office had so far failed to do enough to crack down on British jihadists coming and going through UK ports.

Mr Mahmood, England’s first Muslim MP and a former member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: “The Government does not have significant people at border control. The fact is these jihadists are coming in and going out without almost ever being arrested. We have had hardly any arrests. We have had people coming back in after six months in Syria and they are not being picked up.”

The official figure of 500 jihadists was released by the authorities six months ago and has not been revised. Isil has since stepped up its recruitment drive by issuing gruesome videos of the murder of Western hostages.

Evidence gathered by The Telegraph suggests at least four Muslims, who had their passports confiscated either by the authorities or concerned parents, had still managed to leave Britain in recent months. It is estimated that at least 250 British fighters have returned from Syria and Iraq – about 30 of whom have been arrested – raising the prospect of a growing number of hardened jihadists on the streets. 

The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents the UK’s 2.8 million Muslims, accused the Government of not doing enough to stop would-be jihadists from leaving the country. The Home Office has refused to disclose how many jihadists have been picked up at Britain’s borders. 

I heard the news about the two jihandist killed while in a small art gallery in rural Suffolk. The lady proprietor was reading the news on her laptop and called to her husband 'Good news - another two of them jihadists dead!'  The general opinion amongst people I speak to while out and about (hardly a scientific sample I admit) is that as many as wish should be allowed to go, but none allowed re-entry.

On Saturday, police said a 19-year-old man from Coventry had been arrested at Heathrow airport on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism. He was detained by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit on Thursday afternoon as he got off a plane from Jordan. In February, three teenagers, including Mohamed Hadi, nicknamed “Bin Bieber” because of his youthful looks, left Coventry to fight for Isil. Police refused to confirm the identity of the arrested man.

The police on Monday will call on the public “to be prepared to play their part in keeping the country safe”.

The new appeal comes ahead of a “very substantial” report to be published on Tuesday by Parliament’s intelligence and security committee into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May last year.

The report will examine the security and intelligence agencies’ prior knowledge of his murderers.

It is expected to highlight the basic and random nature of the attack and is likely to stop short of saying his death was preventable. 

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Posted on 11/23/2014 2:21 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 23 November 2014
Are the P5+1 Negotiations with Iran an “Unmitigated Disaster” ?
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Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

The deadline is looming Monday, November 24, 2014 for a proposed final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Don’t count on it. The British, French and even the US say that “huge gaps remain”. If any alternative remains it is likely to be an extension given major problems that have arisen including the P5+1 caving to Iranian refusal to disclose information to the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. As of yet, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif hasn't decamped to confer with Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani about the terms of a deal.    At best there might be a statement of principles or a so-called Framework Agreement necessitating another interminable round of negotiations to complete. Iran is alleged to be in possession of enough fissile material to achieve nuclear breakout within months, if not weeks.   Secretary Kerry has engaged in debriefing sessions with querulous allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates  endeavoring  to mollify them regarding the terms of an accord, which sources say has already been hammered out save for resolution of gap issues.  Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said in a Washington, DC Capitol Hill briefing on November 20, 2014 suggesting that Saudi Arabia might prevail on Pakistan, the repository of the Islamic bomb, to provide it with some nukes.   The Kingdom may have underwritten the costs of development of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.  This hypothetical action by the Kingdom could trigger dangerous proliferation in the Middle East with Sunni Salafist Islamic State lurking in the background.

Among those gaps that were objectives in the original P5+1 plan of action that Iran has refused to budge on are:

  • Dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment and plutonium development facilities;
  • Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium that can be quickly converted to fissile material for a bomb;
  • Disclosure by former IAEA Deputy Director Ollie Heinonen that Iran has more than five times the advanced IR2m centrifuges capable of creating fissile materials for a bomb from 3.5 % enriched uranium;
  • Iran refusal to reveal extent of nuclear trigger warhead research;
  • Iran refusal  at stand down from completion of the Arak plutonium reactor;
  • The P5+1 passing on ballistic missile development investigations;
  • President Obama’s letter to Ayatollah Khamenei entreating the Supreme Ruler to conclude a nuclear agreement seeking assistance for the war against Sunni extremist ISIS from  Shiite Iran, a major sponsor of state sponsored terrorism;
  • Iran’s  atrocious human rights record under  so-called ‘moderate’ President Rouhani and the unlawful detention of American citizens;
  • Lifting of economic and financial sanctions that have enable Iran to evade a punishing economic recession, save for the recent 25% drop in oil prices impacting the country’s revenues and hard currency reserves.

In the words of veteran Iran watcher Ken Timmerman, the P5+1 negotiations with the Islamic Republic have been “an unmitigated disaster”?

To assess the extent of that looming ‘disaster” and significant gaps, the following are expert panel; discussions and interviews that were conducted in Washington and Vienna in the closing days of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. This is an expanded version of an earlier post by this writer at Dr. Rich Swier’s eMagazine, Expert Panel on Negotiations with Iran Over Nuclear Program

Looming Deadline and Unanswered Questions- Washington, DC Capitol Hill Expert Panel

 On November 20, 2014  there was a 2.5 hour panel discussion on Capitol Hill  in Washington, DC co-sponsored by the B-National Policy Center, Foreign Policy Initiative and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies that was both highly informative with acknowledged experts and both Democrat and Republican Members of the House and Senate.

You can listen to the discussion on-line at YouTube:

 

Cliff May, President of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies sent out this digest of the high points of Capitol Hill panel discussion:

In advance of the November 24 nuclear negotiation deadline between the P5+1, and consistent with FDD’s ongoing assistance to members of Congress, FDD’s Mark Dubowitz took part this morning in an expert briefing on Capitol Hill followed by a testimony in the afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

Mark noted that while administration officials have said they are looking for an agreement that would “dismantle a lot” or “significant” portions of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the terms of a deal could fall short of that. “The more flawed the deal, the more important it will be for Congress to defend the sanctions architecture to maintain economic leverage,” he said.

FDD joined with the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Foreign Policy Initiative to hold a briefing with members of Congress and their staff regarding next Monday’s nuclear negotiation deadline. Mark was joined by Ambassador Eric Edelman, who most recently served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Dr. Ray Takeyh, and a former senior advisor on Iran at the State Department, and Olli Heinonen, the former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Blaise Misztal the director of the Foreign Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center moderated the discussion.

· Ambassador Eric Edelman on the current state of negotiations: The US team is talking about the diplomatic acrobatics they are trying to come up with in order to meet Iranian demands. Given its successful track record, why should Iran believe that it should abandon its hardline demands?

· Dr. Ray Takeyh on the White House’s strategy: I believe that the US administration will advocate for a multistage agreement with Iran. In the first stage, sanctions relief comes in the form of presidential waivers. In future stages – if the agreement is being abided by Iran – the administration will then ask Congress for more permanent sanctions relief. Thus, if Congress does not agree to relief, the administration will be able to point to Congress for breaking a successful agreement.

· Olli Heinonen on Iran’s lack of nuclear compliance: Per the latest IAEA report, Iran is already in violation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). Before we even have gotten to the comprehensive agreement, we have Iran violating the interim agreement. Iran is in noncompliance with UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA safeguards agreements. Regardless of a good deal or a bad deal, we are rewarding Iran for its ongoing violations. This is a playbook for future proliferators.

· Mark Dubowitz on the false illusion of sanctions “snapbacks”: If an agreement is eventually reached, what happens after we detect that Iran is in noncompliance? The White House says, we can – in law – “snap-back” the sanctions that were temporary lifted on Iran. However, this may in fact prove virtually ineffective due to the economic realities on the ground and market psychology that will change when sanctions are temporarily lifted in the first place.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), the leading architect of many of the sanctions that Congress has built against Iran, joined our briefing and offered comments:

· Rep. Ted Deutch: Any comprehensive deal or framework agreement with Iran must: (1) close off of all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb; (2) must address Fordo and Natanz; (3) resolve Iran’s history of nuclear work; (4) dismantle [Iran’s] nuclear program; (5) include a robust verification and monitoring regime; (6) restrict Iran’s ability to obtain material used to develop its nuclear program; and (7) be long enough that Iran will not simply “wait it out” until all restrictions are dropped.

· Sen. Mark Kirk: As long as Iran has a nuclear program, we should continue our sanctions regime which would improve the chances for monitoring and verification. Congress needs to see the deal that is being negotiated to determine whether it meets the necessary requirements.

Later in the afternoon, Mark Dubowitz was invited by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa to testify alongside General Michael Hayden, the former Director of the CIA (and an advisor to FDD) and Karim Sadjadpour, a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

· General Michael Hayden on US intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program: Our knowledge of the Iranian nuclear program is incomplete. As Mark [Dubowitz] points out, we have a lack of knowledge about Iran’s covert nuclear program and its capabilities. Absent an invasive inspection regime, American intelligence cannot provide adequate warning of Iranian nuclear developments.

· Mark Dubowitz on the necessary role of Congress: Regardless of the post-November 24 scenario, Congress has a vital role to play to protect and enhance US economic leverage. The more flawed the nuclear deal, the more important it will be to maintain sanctions as an instrument for Iranian non-compliance. If a comprehensive agreement falls short of important parameters, Congress needs to defend the sanctions architecture in a way that is not overly reliant on mechanisms to re-impose sanctions.

Lisa Daftari Fox News Contributor Interview with Sen. Mark Kirk.

On the same day of the Capitol Hill expert Panel, Lisa Daftari sat down for an interview with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) the pioneer developer of sanctions legislation from his days as a Representative and member of the Iran Study Group in 2005-2006. See our NER interview with him, A Wide Ranging Interview with US Rep. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois   (Sep. 2008). Here were some excerpts:

Sen. Kirk has steadfastly opposed a deal with the Tehran and has worked together with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to push forward sanctions legislation, believing that economic leverage still remains the best approach to curbing the Iranian government’s actions.

“My biggest fear is the President condemning the next generation of Americans to witnessing a nuclear war in the Middle East, which he should not pass on to his successors. We should make sure we execute policies so that Americans never have to witness that,” Kirk said.

[…]

The Obama administration doesn’t get the Iranian regime, Kirk said, adding, “They want a deal very badly and are willing to surrender the security of the American people up in the future, to get a deal.”

I asked the Senator about the people of Iran, and how a policy of sanctions against the government, ultimately is affecting the people’s economy.

The Senator agreed, but argued that the Iranian people also must understand that “nuclear weapons will make them less secure. Already we’ve seen 800 or more people executed (under President Rouhani). Iran is now at the fastest ever rate of executing people. It’s a very bloody, suppressing regime.”

            […]

 Kirk also pointed out that a nuclear arms race in the region will bring about global repercussions, reasoning that “the Iranian government has been so hostile to so many of its neighbors, that once they get a nuclear weapon, all of their neighbors will too. That means the day to day security of each Iranian family will then depend on the goodwill of Saudi Arabia, who will likely have nuclear weapons.”

We talked about President Obama’s recently exposed letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei regarding collaboration against the Islamic State.

“Thinking that Iran, the biggest state sponsor of terror can help fight terror, is a fundamentally flawed strategy,” Kirk said, arguing that this administration is a “pacifist administration,” believing that by “sheer force of its personality, it can make people like them more.”

I asked the Senator why the President has not attempted to demand the release of Americans Pastor Saeed Abedini and Marine Amir Hekmati as a pre-condition to negotiating with the Iranian government.  I asked him if we would see a last-minute demand.

I think there should be, but I fear that the President will be too politically correct, not wanting to raise this point. This is no way to lose against the Iranians, to forget our fundamental values of freedom and dignity of the individual, and in the case of the President, he doesn’t fully realize that we are the most powerful country in the world, not because of our economy, but because of our values.”

And lastly, I asked Kirk to make a prediction regarding Monday’s deadline:

“I’m expecting an extension. Because the one thing the Iranians want now is time to build a bomb. The President keeps surrendering time.”

The Israel Project Conference Call with Executive Director Josh Block in Vienna

On November 21, 2014 Josh Block of The Israel Project held a briefing from Vienna on the current status of the P5+1 Iran negotiations and prospects for any possible agreement, or form of agreement that might be announced on Monday. As you will hear, Block, a veteran Democratic political operative, is not only dour about the prospects but seriously questioned the objectives of the Administration that appear to diverge from the problems raised by both the UK and France. Moreover, he opined, in response to my question below, Iran implacably resisted all of the commitments in the Plan of Action, continued enrichment and research on advanced centrifuges, has benefited economically from the lifting of sanctions in the interim agreement and may have in the interim produced enough enriched material to readily achieve nuclear breakout.

This writer’s question was:

Given evidence of Iran’s bad behavior seen in violations of the Safeguards Agreement, UN Sanctions and evidence of Advanced Centrifuge Research, do you realistically believe that anything substantive will be agreed upon between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic’s negotiators by Monday’s deadline other than a set of guiding principles and/or Framework Agreement, if any?

Listen to The Israel Project Conference Call with Executive Director Josh Block.

 

 

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Posted on 11/23/2014 1:07 AM by Jerry Gordon
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Moncef Marzouki Shows His New, True, Terrible Colors
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Marzzouki was once a "secularist." I thought him so, but see that I was wrong, or rather, he's revealed himself  more fully now that he's running. He's a "secularist" but one willing to work with, not oppose, Rachid Ghannouchi and his sinister Ennahda party. He's no "secularist" in the line of adamant Bourguiba, or those who were always in his camp, like the formidable  88-year-old hope Beji Caid Essebsi, who were never enthusiastic about, and preferred to dampen the enthusiasm of other Tunisians for, the Jihad against Israel. If Essebsi is elected, there is at least a chance of sanity prevailing, and some foreign investment. If Marzouki does, Tunisia will suffer. Oh, women won't be hijabbed, of course, but the cancer of Israel-hatred will do its damage, and both potential investors in the West (including  a considerable group of Tunisian Jews in France, some of whom have sentimental affection for Tunisia) and those Arabs who see Hamas -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- as a threat to themselves, will be much less interested in aiding Tunisia. But Marzouki may be thinking: "We'll always have Qatar." Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  

Marzouki's expression of pride and delight in meeting the leader of the terrorist group Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, can be seen here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 9:15 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Listen to Lisa Benson Show, Sunday 3PM & 8PM EST 10 PM Israel - Israel Update/ Immigration Reform Executive Order /House Intelligence Committee Benghazi Report
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Dr. Raphael Israeli is Hebrew U (ret.) renowned expert in Islamic, Middle East  and East Asian History, author of  books , including Islamikaze:  Manifestations of Islamic Martryology

 

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Washington, DC-based Center for Immigration Studies and  nationally recognized  expert on immigration policy and issues.

Col. Dick Brauer, USAF (ret.) is a Founder of Special Operations Speaks, Member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, and  former Commandant of the United States Air Force Special Operations School (Hurlburt Field, FL)

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Posted on 11/22/2014 10:45 PM by Jerry Gordon
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Islamic State Finds Muslim Admirers Everywhere
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In Pakistan, for example,as reported here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 4:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
A Musical Interlude: Oriental Swing (Liz Hardin)
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Listen here.

The version by Parov Stelar is here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 4:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
The Rise of Neuroscience and the Decline of Thinking
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Arthur Krystal writes in Chronical Review:

When, in 1942, Lionel Trilling remarked, "What gods were to the ancients at war, ideas are to us," he suggested a great deal in a dozen words. Ideas were not only higher forms of existence, they, like the gods, could be invoked and brandished in one’s cause. And, like the gods, they could mess with us. In the last century, Marxism, Freudianism, alienation, symbolism, modernism, existentialism, nihilism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism enflamed the very air that bookish people breathed. To one degree or another, they lit up, as Trilling put it, "the dark and bloody crossroads where literature and politics meet."

Trilling belonged to a culture dominated by New York Intellectuals, French writers, and British critics and philosophers, most of whom had been marked by the Second World War and the charged political atmosphere of the burgeoning Cold War. Nothing seemed more crucial than weighing the importance of individual freedom against the importance of the collective good, or of deciding which books best reflected the social consciousness of an age when intellectual choices could mean life or death. And because of this overarching concern, the interpretation of poetry, fiction, history, and philosophy wasn’t just an exercise in analysis but testified to one’s moral view of the world.

"It was as if we didn’t know where we ended and books began," Anatole Broyard wrote about living in Greenwich Village around midcentury. "Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn’t simply read books; we became them." Although Broyard doesn’t specify which books, it’s a good bet that he was referring mainly to novels, for in those days to read a novel by Eliot, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Lawrence, Mann, Kafka, Gide, Orwell, or Camus was to be reminded that ideas ruled both our emotions and our destinies.

Ideas mattered—not because they were interesting but because they had power. Hegel, at Jena, looked at Napoleon at the head of his troops and saw "an idea on horseback"; and just as Hegel mattered to Marx, so Kant had mattered to Coleridge. Indeed, ideas about man, society, and religion suffused the works of many 19th-century writers. Schopenhauer mattered to Tolstoy, and Tolstoy mattered to readers in a way that our best novelists can no longer hope to duplicate. If philosophy, in Goethe’s words, underpinned eras of great cultural accomplishment ("Epoche der forcierten Talente entsprang aus der Philosophischen"), one has to wonder which philosophical ideas inspire the current crop of artists and writers. Or is that too much to ask? Unless I am very much mistaken, the last philosopher to exert wide-ranging influence was Wittgenstein. Although Wittgenstein certainly mattered to every person interested in ideas around midcentury, in the end he was co-opted by portentous art critics of the 1970s and 80s who thought the Tractatus could prop up feeble paintings and shallow conceptual installations.

That Wittgenstein could have been so casually diluted by the art world was a sign that the intellectual weather had changed—perhaps for good. A new set of ideas had begun to assert itself, one that tended to lower the temperature of those grand philosophic and aesthetic credos that for decades had captivated writers and scholars. The new precepts and axioms began their peregrinations in the 20s and 30s when language philosophers were unmooring metaphysics from philosophy, and two French historians, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, were altering approaches to historical thinking. Instead of world-historical individuals bestriding events, as Hegel and Emerson had suggested, the Annales School stipulated that unique configurations of economic, social, and geographic factors determined the customs and behaviors—indeed, the fate—of regional people. Popes and princes may have fomented wars, revolutions, and religious schisms, but subtler, more far-reaching forces were also at work, which could be extrapolated from the quantifiable data found in everything from hospital records to ships’ manifests.

This focus on the endemic components of society soon found its analogue in deconstruction, which elevated the social-semiotic conditions of language over the authors who modulated and teased it into literary art. Whatever the differences among the various poststructuralist schools of thought, the art of inversion, the transferring of significance from the exalted to the unappreciated, was a common feature. To read Barthes, Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, and Kristeva was to realize that everything that was formerly beneath our notice now required a phenomenologically informed second glance. And for theorists of a certain stripe on both sides of the Atlantic, this created a de-familiarized zone of symbols and referents whose meaning lay not below the surface of things, but out in the open. Say what you want about the French, they made us look at what was in front of our noses. Warhol’s soup can didn’t just fall out of the sky; it had begun to take shape in Paris in the 30s; Warhol simply brought the obvious to the attention of museumgoers.

Art and literature survived the onslaught of critical theory, but not without a major derailment. The banal, the ordinary, the popular became both the focus and the conduit of aesthetic expression. This may be something of an exaggeration, but it’s hard not to view the work of John Cage, Andy Warhol, and Alain Robbe-Grillet as compositions less interested in art than in the conceit that anything could be art. And while this attempt to validate the ordinary may have been in step with the intellectual tempo, it also summoned from the academy an exegesis so abstruse, so pumped up with ersatz hermeneutics that, in reality, it showcased the aesthetic void it so desperately attempted to disguise. And this absence was nothing less than the expulsion of those ideas that were formerly part of the humanistic charter to create meaning in verbal, plastic, and aural mediums.

Not that this bothered postmodern theorists whose unabashed mission was to expose Western civilization’s hidden agenda: the doctrinal attitudes and assumptions about art, sex, and race embedded in our linguistic and social codes. For many critics in the 1970s and 80s, the Enlightenment had been responsible for generating ideas about the world that were simply innocent of their own implications. Accordingly, bold new ideas were required that recognized the ideological framework of ideas in general. So Barthes gave us "The Death of the Author," and Foucault concluded that man is nothing more than an Enlightenment invention, while Paul de Man argued that insofar as language is concerned there is "in a very radical sense no such thing as the human."

All of which made for lively, unruly times in the humanities. It also made for the end of ideas as Trilling conceived them. For implicit in the idea that culture embodies physiological and psychological codes is the idea that everything can be reduced to a logocentric perspective, in which case all schools of thought become in the end variant expressions of the mind’s tendencies, and the principles they affirm become less significant than the fact that the mind is constituted to think and signify in particular ways. This may be the reason that there are no more schools of thought in the humanities as we once understood them. Obviously one can still learn about the tenets of the Frankfurt School and Prague School in courses across the country, just as one can study the works of Marxist and psychoanalytic critics (Althusser, Lacan, Deleuze, Lyotard, Marcuse, Norman O. Brown) and the deconstructionist writings of Derrida and de Man—but the frisson is gone, the intellectual energy dissipated as historical memory. Ironically, the last great surge of ideas in the humanities was essentially antihumanist. And because the academy eagerly embraced and paraded these ideas, the humanities themselves began to shrink. For when literature professors began to apply critical theory to the teaching of books they were, in effect, committing suicide by theory.

Continue reading here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 2:37 PM by Geoffrey Clarfield
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Can You "Read And Think Widely Across Fields, Geographical Space, And Historical Time"?
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If so, then you should really think of applying for the position in Pennsylvania announced here. 

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Posted on 11/22/2014 12:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Kenya bus attack: 'non-Muslims singled out and shot'
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From Channel Four News

The Islamist group al-Shabaab claims responsibility for killing 28 non-Muslims on a bus in Kenya. Witnesses said the gunmen spared Muslim passengers but ordered the rest off the bus to their death.The attack happened outside the town Mandera near Kenya's border with Somalia and Ethopia, while the bus was travelling to the capital Nairobi.

Surviving passengers said a group of 10 heavily armed men boarded the bus and separated the Somali and non-Somali passengers.

Passenger Ahmed Mahat told the BBC what happened next. "The non-Somalis were ordered to read some verses of the holy Koran, and those who failed to read were ordered to lie down. One by one they were shot in the head at point blank range."

The Islamist group said it carried out the attack in retaliations for raids on mosques in the port city of Mombasa. "The Mujahideen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders, as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, said in a statement.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 12:41 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Jordanian Sheik: Christians Must Obey The Pact Of Omar, Help Make Jerusalem Judenrein
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A Jordanian indignant at Christians who, he claims, are not obeying the Pact of Omar.

Here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 12:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Fatah Central Committee Member's Calm Exposition Of Property Law
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From the Continuing Legal Education Seminar (Property Law), here.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 12:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Somali Muslims Select, And Kill, Kenyan Christians
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Posted on 11/22/2014 12:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
An Israeli Mayor Takes Steps To Protect His Citizens, Wins Wide Public Support
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By JOSEF FEDERMAN

 (AP) — The mayor of a southern Israeli city sparked a national uproar Thursday by barring Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools, citing security concerns after a rash of attacks by Palestinian assailants elsewhere in the country.

The proposal was condemned as racist by Israeli leaders, but it reflected the tense mood in the country and deepened longstanding divisions between the nation's Jewish majority and Arab minority. An opinion poll showed solid public support for the measure.

Israel has been on edge following a wave of Palestinian attacks that has killed 11 people over the past month, including five this week in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue. Most of the attacks have occurred in Jerusalem — whose population is roughly one-third Palestinian — with deadly stabbings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank as well.

Responding to the unrest, the mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, announced that Israeli Arab laborers renovating bomb shelters in local kindergartens would be barred from their jobs. He also ordered security stepped up at construction sites where Arab laborers are employed.

He said the order was a response to the synagogue attack Tuesday, in which Palestinian assailants killed four rabbis and a Druse Arab policeman with meat cleavers and gunfire.

"Anyone who thinks this is illegal can take me to court," Shimoni said. "At this time, I prefer to be taken to court and not, God forbid, to attend the funeral of one of the children from kindergartens."

The workers in Ashkelon are Arab citizens of Israel, in contrast to the Palestinian attackers from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and it appeared unlikely the order would last for long. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called it illegal and ordered the attorney general to take action.

"We must not generalize about an entire public due to a small and violent minority," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "The vast majority of Israel's Arab citizens are law abiding and whoever breaks the law — we will take determined and vigorous action against him."

Israeli leaders proudly boast the country is the only democracy in the Middle East, and say they place great importance on protecting the civil rights of the Arab minority, a diverse group that includes Muslims, Christians, Bedouins and Druse.

But the situation for Israel's Arab citizens is complicated — particularly in the current atmosphere.

Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of 8 million, often complain of being treated as second-class citizens, and suffer from a high poverty rate, job and housing discrimination and poor public services. Many openly identify with the Palestinians, drawing accusations that they are disloyal.

In recent years, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on Israeli Arabs to take a loyalty oath and proposed redrawing Israel's borders under any future peace deal to place large numbers of them on the Palestinian side.

Tziona Koenig-Yair, the equal employment commissioner in Israel's Economy Ministry, said she has seen a jump in claims recently by Arab workers who say they have lost their jobs on racial grounds. She said she planned to fight the mayor of Ashkelon in court if his order is not reversed.

"We have to realize that citizens of this country who want to live here cannot be held accountable for things that are being done by extremists," she said.

In a letter to Shimoni and Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, the Arab civil rights group Adalah called the decision "arbitrary and racist" and urged it be reversed. "There is no doubt that this decision is aimed at the Arab workers because of who they are and their national affiliation," the letter said. Erdan called the order "unacceptable."

In Ashkelon, dozens of people demonstrated late Thursday in support of Shimoni. Channel 10 TV said an opinion poll found that 58 percent of the Jewish public supported the mayor, while only 32 percent opposed him. It said the poll was conducted by the Panels agency, but gave no details on how many people had been questioned or a margin of error.

Liraz Makhlouf, a mother of two young children in Ashkelon, said she supported the mayor's decision "100 percent." She insisted there was no racism behind the move, and that in the current climate of violence, such measures were needed to protect children.

"It's clear that there are good (Arabs) and bad ones, and it's clear there are more good ones than bad ones. But no one can point at them and say who is good and who is bad," she told Channel 10.

The recent unrest has been focused around Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site — the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Muslim leaders fear that Israel is encroaching on the site — a charge that Netanyahu denies — and are furious over Israeli security measures that have restricted access for Muslim worshippers.

Most of the violence has been concentrated in Jerusalem, but the unrest has begun to spread beyond the city.

Earlier this month, an Israeli policeman shot and killed an Arab rioter in northern Israel, apparently as he was walking away from the officer, sparking several days of violent demonstrations. Netanyahu later suggested that protesters who denounce Israel should move to the Palestinian territories.

On Sunday, Netanyahu plans to present a "nationality" law to his Cabinet that he said is meant to solidify Israel's status as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu said the law "will enshrine the full equality" of every citizen. But the legislation has raised fears among Arabs that it will undermine their status.

Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, an Arab advocacy group, said the new law would "deepen the discrimination we face, and the Ashkelon mayor's order is part of the incitement against the Arab community led by the prime minister himself."

He urged government leaders "to work toward calming tensions across the country, instead of fanning the flames of fear and mistrust."

In Jerusalem, Israel pressed forward with a pledge to step up the demolitions of homes belonging to families of Palestinian attackers involved in recent violence.

Israeli police handed demolition notices to the families of four attackers in east Jerusalem, including the two assailants who carried out the synagogue attack. The demolitions are expected to take place after a 48-hour appeal period.

On Wednesday, Israel demolished the east Jerusalem home of an attacker who rammed his car into a crowded train station last month, killing a baby girl and a 22-year-old woman.

On Thursday, Israeli authorities said investigators had concluded a hit-and-run accident that injured three Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Nov. 5 was an intentional attack. The driver, identified as a 23-year-old Hamas operative, turned himself into police, claiming he lost control of his car. But the Shin Bet security agency said he admitted during questioning to targeting the soldiers.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 9:11 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
An Ill-Timed Interfaith Gathering at Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan
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Dr. Burton Visotsky speaks to Jewish Muslim panel at Jewish Theological Seminary

November 18, 2014

Source:  JTA/JTS

16 are dead in Jerusalem, four of them rabbis, the victims of a wave of Islamic anti-Semitic rampage by Arab Muslim residents. But that didn’t cause the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in Manhattan to cancel an interfaith Jewish-Muslim luncheon earlier this week that included a leader of Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 federal Dallas Holy Land Foundation trial that convicted the leaders of the Muslim charity for funneling upwards of $36 million to Hamas for following in the way of Allah, Jihad.  We have learned over several years that the venerable flagship of American Conservative Judaism has been unstinting in promoting the myopia of Jewish – Muslim dialogue under the leadership of Chancellor Arnold Eisen.  See our January 2012 NER article, “Dialogue with Radical Muslims is Dangerous for American Jews”.  

 

 

Rabbi Kalman Levine, Kansas City, z"l   Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Boston, z"l   Aryeh Kupinsky, Detroit, z"l

Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, UK, z"l

The Times of Israel reported the latest ill-timed display of questionable outreach, “Amid religious violence in Israel, American leaders celebrate interfaith success”.  Here are some excerpts:

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 about 30 high-profile Muslim and Jewish scholars and leaders came together for a kosher-halal lunch (arugula salad, salmon with a fried potato on top, tiramisu for dessert) at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) to celebrate their work bridging the gaps between the two communities.

The violence in Israel wasn’t mentioned, specifically. But it was felt, undoubtedly.

“Our work is the work of peace, and yet, as the prophet says, ‘shalom, shalom, v’ein shalom,’ we pray for peace, we work for peace, and yet, we still don’t have peace,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at JTS.

Visotzky is short but not quite stout with a beard that’s black around his chin but begins to gray as it travels up toward his kippah-covered head.

His exuberance couldn’t be clipped by the day’s tragic beginning, and he bounced around from table to table, greeting some with ‘shalom’ and others with ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ the Arabic counterpart.

The escalating conflict in Jerusalem did not dampen Visotzky’s joy about what he feels is a momentous step in advancing Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States. Together with the Hartford Seminary and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), JTS just published “Sharing the Well: A Resource Guide For Jewish-Muslim Engagement.” The guide (available for free PDF download) is the outgrowth of a series of annual conferences titled “Judaism and Islam in America” that began in 2010 under Visotzky’s leadership.

“Sharing the Well” includes guidelines on how to begin and maintain interreligious dialogue, as well as essays on shared values between the two religions and a list of 24 Muslim-Jewish projects around the country, from a Muslim-Jewish “speed dialogue” modeled after speed dating to an interfaith Thanksgiving service. The authors hope the book inspires Jews and Muslims to reach across religious divides at a time when world events are increasingly pitting them against one another.

In a February 2014 Iconoclast/ Dr. Rich Swier eMagazine  post we commented an earlier JTS Jewish Muslim dialogue with Dr. Visotzky, “The Future of Judaism and Islam on America’s Campuses?” that colleague Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein had brought to our attention:

Having written about the dangers of Jewish Muslim Dialogue and the banal cupidity of Jewish communal leadership and in this instance the faculty of the Jewish  Theological Society ( JTS )regarding this and other similar events on college campus with Jewish students threatened by Muslim Student Associations, I find this program naive and dangerous. It is no wonder that most Jews are ill informed about the underlying Qur’anic doctrine of hatred towards Christians, Jews and other unbelievers. Why Chancellor Eisen, Professor Visotzky support such dialogues is appalling, as they neither educate or inform Jewish and non-Jewish audiences of the realities of why Islamic anti-Semitism exists on college campuses and in the West generally. As Dr. Jacobs cogently argued in response to a caller on a Lisa Benson Show on the subject of Jewish Myopia Towards Islam:

The “J” Streeters and the left again want us to think that we Jews have done it to ourselves. It is our behavior that has made the Muslims hate us. That is a very empowering thought because if it’s true, if you could make yourself believe it was true, then you could change the reality. You could just simply change your behavior and the hatred would go away. Unfortunately Islam is a religion, a political and an economic system. In it there is a demand for worldwide supremacy. When Islam conquers the land, the people on the land have a choice. If they are Jews or Christians, they can choose not to be killed if they accept the status of dhimmitude.

Being a dhimmi is lower than second class status where you may not have political independence. You may not have freedom. You are subjugated. However, if you allow yourself to be subjugated and you follow their rules you can still be a Jew or a Christian. Now if you don’t, however, if you rebel against that, then the entire theological house of Islam with sword behind it comes after you and that is what happened with Israel. Israel is a rebellious dhimmi state. The Jews were never supposed to have self-rule just like the Christians. South Sudan came about as a Christian state after having defeated a Jihad against it so too the Jews.

The Jews and the Christians in the Middle East are not allowed to have self-rule. A theological Israel is a theological catastrophe for Islam. It is not a border war. If it was that, then, if it were, you could make concessions and you could make compromises with two people living in peace.

Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Unfortunate that is for the sixteen killed in Jerusalem because of Islamic anti-Semitic hate, especially the four rabbis z”l and the valiant Israeli Druze police officer who shot and killed the two Arab Muslim cousins, who entered the Kehillat Yaakov synagogue at 7:00AM in Har Nof on Monday, November 17, 2014.  The two Arab Muslim killers, equipped with guns and knives and a meat cleaver to commit their butchery, disrupted the morning minyan prayers leaving behind them the charnel of dead and wounded in the blood splattered scene.   We wonder if Dr. Visotzky asked the assemblage of Jewish and high profile Muslim leaders to rise for the traditional mourners’ prayer for the rabbis and the Druze police officer who lost their lives? 


 


 

 

 

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Posted on 11/22/2014 5:44 AM by Jerry Gordon
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Saturday, 22 November 2014
Vladimir Putin’s Mindless Cynicism
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s robust words to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Australia were welcome, appropriate and should be supported by all Canadians. They complemented the similarly forthright position taken by the G20 summit host, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Unfortunately, Russia has never in its history paid the slightest attention to any cautionary note from anyone except someone sufficiently strong, militarily or economically, to deter it. The czars and the communist leaders who followed them paid some attention to the strongest German, French, British and Turkish leaders. In current memory, the Kremlin listened rather impatiently to Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping, and to almost all American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.

When our prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King wrote to Stalin, professing continuation of the war-time alliance despite startling evidence of vast Soviet espionage unearthed in the Gouzenko Affair in Ottawa in 1945, he received no reply. (King considered Gouzenko “a manly patriot” who had been won over from communism “by Canadian democracy,” not unreasonable assessments.) Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson, men of proven diplomatic aptitudes, never got a rise from Stalin, who by the late Forties was like a reclusive crocodile straddling Europe and Asia, or from his successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev. Neither did John Diefenbaker when he angrily reproached Khrushchev at the United Nations for the illegal Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Pierre Trudeau was no more successful with Khrushchev’s successor Leonid I. Brezhnev on several bilateral issues, although he claimed to believe (wrongly) that Churchill and Roosevelt had ceded Eastern Europe to Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta conferences. Trudeau also facilitated Cuban intervention in the Angolan Civil War as Soviet mercenaries by giving them transit landing rights in Newfoundland, and he publicly referred to heroic Soviet human rights activists Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Sharansky as “hooligans.”

Russia became a great power under Peter the Great (czar from 1689-1725) when he consolidated Russia’s hold on Ukraine, pushed the Turks southwards, expanded across Asia and founded St. Petersburg as “a window on the West;” beginning the struggle that continues to this day between the Western emulators and the nativists. The latter faction are the reactionary upholders of Holy Mother Russia’s isolationist exceptionalism, much romanticized in Russian literature and familiar to any reader of Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn. This current of opinion and psychology has been largely hijacked by Putin.

Since the apotheosis of the brilliant American strategy of containment of the Soviet Union and of international communism, pursued assiduously by 10 American presidents (five of each party), with the abandonment of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, after the brief, bibulous, near-anarchy of Western emulator Boris Yeltsin, Putin has been playing to great Russian nationalism by mischief-making in almost every corner of the world. Putin has perversely assisted Iran in attaining a nuclear military capacity, and has aided other terrorism-promoting states, especially Syria, although Russia has itself been a victim of Islamist extremism, even in Moscow itself. Putin has played a seminal role in promoting the present impasse in the Middle East, as Stephen Harper has rightly denounced. The beleaguered and blood-stained Syrian leader Bashir Assad is the puppet of the Iranians and the Russians, but is mortally opposed by the Turks, Saudis, and Egyptians.

Those powers are supporting both the moderate reformers and the Islamist opponents of the secularist Assad, but also oppose the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) ultra-extremists, who are at (professedly holy) war with everyone. Islamic State arose from the wreckage of (to take an expression from Balkan politics of a century ago) “the ungrateful volcano” of post-American Iraq. Syria has become the chief recruiting ground for the ISIS and Turkey will not assist in the repulse of ISIS unless the United States resumes its former determination to be rid of Assad. Readers will recall prolonged official American waffling on that subject, from Hillary Clinton’s infamous description of Assad as “a reformer,” to Barack Obama’s complacent decree that Assad “must go,” to his imposition of the violated “red line” when Assad poison-gassed his own citizens, to his abdication to the Congress of the president’s right as commander-in-chief to enforce the red line by military retaliation, to fumbling the matter in anticipation of defeat in the Congress to the ubiquitous Slavonic sorcerer Putin.

While this fiasco has been wrought by former president Jimmy Carter’s complicity in the eviction of the pro-American government of the Shah of Iran and by Europe’s haughty straight-arming of the pro-Western Kemalist leadership of Turkey for decades, Russia has been the chief recent troublemaker. The absurdity of the present affray is highlighted by the fact that after 35 years of U.S. demonizing of the loopy theocrats in Tehran, and after all the threats of “crippling sanctions” and air attack being an “option on the table,” Iran is now a quasi-ally of the U.S. against ISIS.

This may well mean American toleration of Iran becoming a “threshold” nuclear power, and that may entrain an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear program, with whole-hearted Turkish and Arab approval. There remains a chance that Saudi Arabia’s reduction of the oil price could cause the Iranians to come to their arithmetical senses and stall their nuclear program, but unintended consequences have fallen like confetti, from the latest problems with the Keystone XL pipeline because of pricing scenarios, to Putin’s comparative restraint in Ukraine, neither of which was of the least interest to the petro-nomads of the House of Saud. The disintegration of Iraq has already virtually created an independent Kurdistan, which is agitating Turkey’s 20 million Kurds.

The Euro-fantasy of influencing the Middle East is over, and the ineffectuality or failure of American efforts in the region, since the first Gulf War — which at least ejected Saddam from Kuwait, had an exit strategy, and ended quickly and without heavy casualties — and the almost mindless cynicism of Putin, may leave it to the countries and factions, sects and tribes in situ to sort it out, even if it is a sun-drenched version of the Thirty Years War. Bismarck warned against the great powers becoming involved in the quarrels of the Balkan “sheep-stealers;” he was ignored and the hecatomb of The First World War followed. The same advice applies to the Middle East now. The U.S. should leave completely, apart from advancing its allies full anti-missile defences, which it partially withheld in Eastern Europe as part of the fatuous “reset” of relations with Russia, and not come back until it has rediscovered its “containment” era genius for foreign and strategic policy.

A positive thought: It emerges from the newly produced research on the origins of the First World War a century ago that the British, French, Germans and Austro-Hungarians were all convinced in 1914 that Russia was the rising power in Europe and Asia and was putting up such economic growth rates and technological advances that it was thought to be rivalled only by the United States as the land of the future. That is why several of those countries thought a war might not be a bad idea, before the Russians became impossible to contain. So it may not be entirely true that, horrible though it was, the First World War had no purpose, and that the communist victory in Russia was one of its most baleful consequences. The triumph of the Bolsheviks may have spared the West a greater, if somewhat less barbarous Russian challenge. Communism liquidated 20 million Soviet civilians, enabled the Second World War with the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then took over 90% of the casualties in subduing Nazi Germany, while Germany, France, Italy and Japan became prosperous democratic allies of the English-speaking countries. And then the U.S.S.R. fragmented, almost bloodlessly.

Harper is right to call Putin the thug that he is, but perhaps we should be even more grateful than we have been to those who served in the First World War for the fact that Putin’s despotism misgoverns fewer than half the people of the empires ruled by the Romanovs and the Supreme Soviet.

First published in the National Post.

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Posted on 11/22/2014 5:53 AM by Conrad Black
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