Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

The Next World War

Sunday, December 29th, 2013


This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany was trading partners with Britain and France. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ? Here is a discussion of the same topic. I am concerned that the spark will be in the middle east but this is another area to think about.

The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.


Spengler on Obama and Iran.

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

A columnist for the Asia Times, who has called himself Spengler, has for years written insightful articles about world events. His latest column is no exception.

He considers Iran’s obsession with Israel and the Jews.

Iran’s motive for proposing to annihilate the Jewish State is the same as Hitler’s, and the world’s indifference to the prospect of another Holocaust is no different today than it was in 1938. It is the dead’s envy for the living.

Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, the same level as Western Europe, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran’s present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe’s in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.

There is good evidence that the people of Iran have no enthusiasm for the regime and some of this concerns religion. There is also the matter of fertility and Iranian women have been voting with their uterus.

“Iran’s low fertility rate has produced a rapidly aging population, according to a new U.N. report. The rate has declined from 2.2 births per woman in 2000 to 1.6 in 2012. This has pushed the median age of Iranians to 27.1 years in 2010, up from 20.8 years in 2000. The median age could reach 40 years by 2030, according to the U.N. Population Division. An elderly and dependent population may heavily tax Iran’s public health infrastructure and social security network.”

In 2005 and 2006, I was the first Western analyst to draw strategic conclusions from this trend, the steepest decline in fertility in the history of the world. Iran must break out and establish a Shiite zone of power, or it will break down.

Further evidence is the precipitous fall in religious observance.

In recent years Iran has spent millions of dollars building new mosques and refurbishing old ones, but attendance has declined sharply. Leading religious leaders are now suggesting that they should show feature films in order to attract more people to prayers.
In the other hand religious authorities of Iran have acknowledged that the young generation is becoming more and more interesting in Christianity. They also announced that the Bible have penetrated into the most of the Iranian houses.

Here is a prior Spengler column on the topic.

Iran resembles the Soviet Union just before the collapse of communism. It turned out that there were no communists in Russia outside the upper echelons of the party. There are very few Muslims in Iran outside of the predatory mullahcracy. According to Zohreh Soleimani of the BBC, Iran has the lowest mosque attendance of any Muslim country; only 2% of adults attend Friday services, a gauge of disaffection comparable to church attendance in Western Europe. Iran’s fertility rate of about 1.6 children per women, coincidentally, is about the same as Western Europe’s. Iran has a huge contingent of young people, but they have ceased to have children. They have faith neither in the national religion nor in the future of their nation.

What drives Obama’s desire to placate America’s enemies ?

He deeply identifies with the fragile, unraveling cultures of the Third World against the depredations of the globalizing Metropole. So, I suspect, does his mentor and chief advisor, the Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett, and most of his inner circle. This goes beyond the famous declaration of Jimmy Carter’s advisor Hamilton Jordan—“the Palestinians are the n****ers of the Middle East”—and Carter’s own mainline-Protestant reverence for the “holy men” of Iran’s 1979 Iranian revolution. It goes beyond the post-colonial theory of liberal academia. For Obama, it is a matter of personal experience. His father and stepfather were Third World Muslims, his mother was an anthropologist who dedicated her life to protecting the traditional culture of Indonesia against the scourge of globalization, and four years of his childhood were spent at an Indonesian school. The same point has been made by Dinesh d’Souza, among others.

He does not identify with America and its history.

Obama’s commitment to rapprochement with Iran arises from deep personal identification with the supposed victims of imperialism. That is incongruous, to be sure. Persia spent most of its history as one of the nastier imperial powers, and its present rulers are no less ambitious in their pursuit of a pocket empire in the Shi’ite world. The roots of his policy transcend rationality. Israel can present all the evidence in the world of Iran’s plans to build nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and the Iranians can cut the Geneva accord into confetti. Obama will remain unmoved. His heart, like his late mother’s, beats for the putatively oppressed peoples of the so-called Third World.

We have never had a president like this. Many of us sensed this in 2008 as this unvetted and mysterious candidate was pushed by the news media and the white guilt of American elites. It will not end well. Perhaps the coming catastrophe of health care collapse will get the attention of American voters, if nothing else will. I hope it does not take the form of a nuclear device going off in New York harbor or a suicidal war with Israel. How this came to be will be a topic for history books, assuming history will still be written 50 years from now.

Iran wins. We lose

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

The announced “six month” agreement between the European nations negotiating with Iran, with the US included, and the Mullahs of Iran is an complete surrender to the Mullahs. I say the Mullahs since it appears that the people of Iran are no more part of the government than were the people of the Soviet Union.

I am not an expert on Iran so I will quote one:

This interim agreement is badly skewed from America’s perspective. Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its “right” to enrichment in any “final” agreement. Indeed, the interim agreement itself acknowledges that a “comprehensive solution” will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program.”

There’s more:

Tehran correctly assessed that a mere six-months’ easing of sanctions will make it extraordinarily hard for the West to reverse direction, even faced with systematic violations of Iran’s nuclear pledges. Major oil-importing countries (China, India, South Korea, and others) were already chafing under U.S. sanctions, sensing President Obama had no stomach either to impose sanctions on them, or pay the domestic political price of granting further waivers.

We are now in a position where we must trust the rationality of the Iranian Mullahs who have previously declared their willingness to die if they can eliminate the state of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu is not impressed.

“What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”

“For years the international community has demanded that Iran cease all uranium enrichment. Now, for the first time, the international community has formally consented that Iran continue its enrichment of uranium.”

What will happen now ?

We should be eager to see fracking decrease our reliance on middle east oil. The Democrat repudiation of the filibuster will allow anti-fracking regulations to be enacted by extreme Obama appointees who have been held up by the threat of filibuster. One example is this EPA official.

Confirming what many in the industry long suspected, a video surfaced Wednesday in which Al Armendariz, an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, promotes the idea of crucifying oil companies. Armendariz heads up the EPA’s region 6 office, which is based in Dallas and responsible for oversight of Texas and surrounding states. The former professor at Southern Methodist University was appointed by President Obama in November 2009.

He will be joined by others.

On Thursday, after five years of Republican filibusters holding back progress on environmental regulation, Senate Democrats began the process of restoring democratic accountability to their broken institution and eliminated the filibuster on presidential appointments (excluding the Supreme Court). The final straw for the Democrats, who’d been reluctant to invoke the so-called nuclear option: Republicans had refused to allow votes on three qualified, ideologically mainstream nominees to vacancies on the D.C. District Court of Appeals.

The “ideologically mainstream” nominees are closer to the above example than to mainstream as the rest of us understand it. The truth is better explained as:

“Many of us believe the D.C. Circuit is the most important court in the country for environmental health and safety protections,” says John D. Walke, director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at NRDC. “In 90 to 95 percent of Clean Air Act regulatory challenges, they are the only court to rule.”

We can only hope that an Iran-Iraeli war would find us with adequate energy sources in spite of Obama.

What is coming ?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The attacks on American embassies across the middle east, but especially Egypt and Libya, are the harbinger of a new era in that area. With the assistance of the US, including force in Libya, we have brought forces to power that have been disguised by our leftist president and administration as peaceful democrats seeking freedom. They are not. They represent the Muslim Brotherhood and worse. These organizations are radical islamists who seek to return Muslim society to the 7th century of Muhammed in law and policy. There is no precedent in Muslim society for peaceful coexistence with Christian or other religious believers. Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries was spread by conquest. It was stopped France by Charles Martel at Tours in 732, This stopped the northward invasion of Europe from north Africa that surged into Spain and held part of that country for another five hundred years.

The Arabs regrouped and next attacked Byzantium, which fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, This followed a period of turmoil within the world of Islam. The Arabs conquered Palestine but lost it to the Seljuk Turks in 1071. They, in turn, were defeated by the Ottomon turks after being defeated by the Christian crusaders trying to reclaim the Holy Land from the infidel. There was a Mameluke empire for a time composed of Mamelukes, soldier slaves who had been taken from often Christian families of Georgia and other smaller countries to the northwest of the Turks. The entire middle east was involved in chaos for hundreds of years as various factions maneuvered for power.

The Ottomans revived the aggressive instincts of the Muslims and attacked Vienna in 1529, beginning with a siege, the usual tactic against fortified strongholds. They had already conquered most of Hungary and the Danube Valley. They were finally defeated by inadequate logistical support and most of Europe remained Christian.

There is no period in early Islam when advancing the religion by force was not the policy, Peace with Europe after Vienna followed exhaustion of the Muslim armies. They did not stoop fighting but moved on to the Siege of Malta after Vienna. The Knights Hospitalers of Jerusalem had been expelled from the Holy Lands and settled in Rhodes. There, they were expelled by the Siege of Rhodes in 1522 and settled in Malta. Here, they faced another siege by the Turks but prevailed. The Batle of Lepanto, in 1571, ended the Turks invasion of the eastern Mediterranean.

The last attempt at Vienna ended in 1683 and the next encounter between Ottomans and Europeans came with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt.

The present era of conflict between Islam and the west began with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s. The appearance of Sayyid Qutb, who spent time teaching school in 1950s America where he acquired a hatred of western values, even those of a quiet midwestern town in Greeley, Colorado. His influence on the Muslim Brotherhood has been baleful.

The present Obama/Clinton policy toward the middle east has been disastrous. Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 set the tone, as did Clinton’s use of the “reset button” as her approach to Russia. These people are unqualified for their positions in government and the amateurism is leading us into a very dangerous phase of history. Our best course, in my opinion, is to develop out energy sources as quickly as possible to free us from the coming turmoil, phase out aid to Islamist regimes and strengthen Israel for the coming test. We will be fortunate if this decade does not end with another Holocaust. I fear we will not be fortunate.

No explanation is necessary

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Another underground video is now available. It was a sting, of course, but the length of the video pretty much explains itself.

Here is NPR. No explanation is necessary.

Yes, it is quite clear what they believe.

Maybe I was hasty about Egypt

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Two weeks ago, I posted a pessimistic piece about Egypt post Mubarak. Now, Austin Bay has posted a pretty optimistic piece that may be better informed than mine. I hope so.

My fear was stated here:

“One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.”

I went on to say:

Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

Austin Bay has the advantage of two more weeks of observation of the rapidly evolving situation. He quotes Haaretz, a rather left wing Israeli newspaper that is more hopeful. Hope is not a policy but Israelis are far more interested in the situation in Egypt than we are. They have to be as they share a border.

The revolution in Egypt is far from over. The popular uprising may have succeeded in ousting president Hosni Mubarak and most of his top associates, but the young people who led the protests at Tahrir Square are certainly not resting on their laurels.

Tens of thousands returned to the square on Friday, this time demanding to shut down the internal security authority, Amn al-Dawla. By yesterday, dozens of young people had already taken over the headquarters of the organization, notorious for terrorizing Egyptian citizens under Mubarak’s rule. The takeover was prompted by fears that organization officials were destroying evidence of their involvement in torture and other human rights violations.

This may be good news but I keep going back to the French Revolution, which set the standards for all revolutions to come.

Until the election, both Israeli and international observers agree Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, remains the key authority in Cairo. The mission facing Tantawi and his generals is to take Egypt safely through a transition period that will culminate with the establishment of civilian and democratic rule. The army is maneuvering between the establishment it knows well and the street, a new and not yet entirely familiar player.

The Army is the best hope for Egypt, as it has been for Turkey. A key factor in our failure to do better in Afghanistan is the fact that a crude and stupid Congressional reaction to the news that Pakistan had a nuclear bomb was to cut off all contact between Pakistan’s army and ours. That was nearly fatal as there are few ties between Pakistani officers and the US army, which are usually established as junior officers. These contacts were abolished by a Congress that knows little about foreign relations, especially those not published in the New York Times.

If we finally have to leave Afghanistan under unsatisfactory conditions, much of the failure should be attributed to Congress and its crude attempts to manage US policy it knows little about.

The following is good news, if true.

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is seen as the opposition body most prepared for a general election, but the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.

Just keep remembering that the Kerensky government thought it had the Bolsheviks under control in 1917. Bay is still optimistic for another unusual reason.

The article argues that “the real power belongs to the young people [in Egypt] who managed to change political reality.” Media in Israel are missing “the generational shift taking place in Egypt and perhaps the entire Arab world.”

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll– now that’s a universal language. Al Qaeda doesn’t rock and roll. A burka is not sexy. On the twitter-connected Arab street, these may be Al Qaeda’s fatal social flaws. I don’t know what Al Qaeda’s drug policy is (probably pro-hashish), but I know its alcohol policy. Hence one of the most important socio-cultural quips of the first decade of the 21st century: “Democracy, whiskey, sexy.”

But once again back to Haaretz, this time on the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, it will be a factor but “the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.” Interesting analogy. Remember, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is factionalized — but so are ultra-Orthodox Israeli parties.

We will see. I hope he is right. Unfortunately, Turkey is slipping into Islamist hands as the AKP party continues to arrest army officers on phony charges.

Here are Annie and her mother in an Istanbul restaurant. Everybody spoke English and were more than courteous.

I have tried to explain to my daughter Annie how the friendly Turks, who did so much to make her visit to Istanbul pleasant, want to arrest large numbers of Army officers, like the one who gave her a tour of the Scutari Barracks, a major Army headquarters.

This officer is a major, spoke English perfectly and gave her a tour.

I guess I will have to do a post on the history of Turkey for her. She certainly wouldn’t learn anything about it in college. She was 14 when those photos were taken. I wonder if the Turks would be as friendly now. I suspect they are because we were in Istanbul, the westernized and secular part of Turkey.

I hope Egypt will learn a lesson from Ataturk, who is still revered in Turkey, at least modern Turkey.

The Battle for Egypt Begins

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

There has been much jubilation over the ouster of President Mubarak and much ridicule at the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over. Well, the Egyptian Revolution ended a week ago with Mubarak’s resignation. Yesterday, the second revolution began with the return from exile of a radical Imam. Sound familiar ?

As I posted yesterday, over a million Egyptians turned out in Tahrir Square last Friday to cheer the vile anti-Semitic Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been exiled by Mubarek, and who espouses the fundamentalist Islamic view that Jews must live as Dhimmis under Islamic control. Instead of accurately reporting the significance of this event, The New York Times whitewashed the cleric as someone who supports a “a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.”

His version ?

Based in Qatar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam. He currently serves as president of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFW), and is a highly influential spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has twice (in 1976 and 2004) turned down opportunities to serve as the Brotherhood’s highest-ranking leader. His preference, he explains, is to avoid tying himself to “any movement which might constrain my actions, even if this is the Muslim Brotherhood under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended.

It’s OK, though, because they are secular.

Here is the video of the rally (in Arabic, via Israel Matzav) with the crowd chanting:

“To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs? of the Millions.”

Here is the transcript.

We demand that the Egyptian army liberate us from the government, which was formed by Mubarak in the days of his soon-to-be-erased rule. We want a new government, without a single one of the faces that people cannot tolerate anymore. Whenever people see these faces, they remember the injustice, the killing, they remember the invasion of the camels, mules, and horses, as well as the snipers who killed the people.


A message to our brothers in Palestine: I harbor the hope that just like Allah allowed me to witness the triumph of Egypt, He will allow me to witness the conquest of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and will enable me to preach in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Oh Allah, allow us to preach in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

There is a peaceful sentiment. The Al Aqsa Mosque sits atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Another helpful statement:

Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: The Rafah border crossing will be opened for you. This is what I demand from the Egyptian army and from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

That will open the border to Gaza. Frankly, that makes sense as Gaza was part of Egypt before the 1967 war. It has nothing to do with Palestine. The only problem is with the Hamas terrorists who rule Gaza. This may well be Obama’s Khomeini moment.

One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.

Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

UPDATE: Here is a more optimistic view.

Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11? from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as it’s most attractive face.

Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

In another passage:

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

UPDATE: The situation in Egypt festers with an ambiguous statement by Obama no help. Here is an example of how Reagan handled the Philippine overthrow of Marcos. A very different approach.

UPDATE #2: A column by Charles Krauthammer is indispensable reading today.

Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months.

El Baradei also attempted to intervene in the 2004 US elections by releasing a letter that alleged US forces had allowed radicals to steal hundreds of pounds of explosives in Iraq by failing to guard the facility. After the election, it was proven that the letter was not true. The man is anti-American and a liar.


Sunday, September 26th, 2010

We may be entering an era when cyberwar is a real threat, at least to some. I was a computer programmer in 1958-59 but that is the stone age of computing. The machine I programmed was An IBM 650 which was so primitive that it did not use hexadecimal code. This was even before FORTRAN was written so I claim no current expertise. Later, after medical school, I took some computer science courses and learned to program in Pascal and C. Still later, I learned Visual Basic but never got very far in C++ so I am pretty much a neophyte in Object Oriented Programming. The term, often abbreviated to OOP, is a way of creating small pieces of code that can be reused over and over without rewriting it and the attendant risk of error. It is also faster. This also applies to modular programming and the differences are explained in the wiki entry.

It now appears that a new “worm” has been created by someone that is capable of attacking the Iranian nuclear program. Roger Simon is the only one I have seen so far discussing it and its implications. This involves small devices called PLCs, or “Programmable Logic Controllers” some of which run your washing machine. They are the heart of computer controlled machinery, such as the 30,000 Iranian centrifuges that are purifying Uranium 235. What if all those 30,000 centrifuges went crazy, spinning so fast that they self destructed ?

This brings up the subject of Stuxnet, a computer “worm.” It attacks one specific system, the Siemens company’s SCADA systems. It happens that Siemens designed and built the SCADA systems that run its nuclear program. What a coincidence !

Has the war with Iran already begun ? Maybe.

But just as television news was transformed by technology before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and politics was transformed by social networking before it appeared that Twitter would bring about a second Iranian Revolution, process and progress need crystallizing events, where the political and cultural significance of technological innovation becomes indisputable.

Such a moment came in July with the discovery of a worm known as Stuxnet, which sought out a particular version of the Siemens’ SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that control power grids and industrial plants. According to Ralph Langner, an expert in industrial control systems who published a study of the worm last week, Stuxnet was capable of taking over SCADA controls in order to deliver a kinetic attack by causing critical systems to physically malfunction. The systems infected weren’t randomly targeted: a majority are in Iran.

It’s an interesting idea. A lot of Windows 7 code was written by Israeli engineers. Maybe their target is more than the nuclear program.

Stuxnet is an even more dramatic transformational event: warfare is never going to be the same, at least while the underlying protocols governing the Internet create these kinds of systemic vulnerabilities. But even if there was agreement to rewrite these protocols starting tomorrow, such a project would take a decade. So, let the damage assessment begin. Who knows? By demonstrating how Iran could so very easily experience a Chernobyl-like catastrophe, or the entire destruction of its conventional energy grid, the first round of the “war” may have already been won.

Unfortunately, the Chinese have been working very hard at the same sort of thing and we had a determined cyberattack on the Pentagon e-mail system two years ago. This may be what war looks like in the future.

UPDATE: Some body is noticing.

A long and essential discussion of the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I have long read Michael J Totten and he is, in my opinion, the best person to explain the Middle East to Americans. Today, he has a long column on the Middle East which any thinking person should read to understand where we are right now.

If you read nothing else of this column, please read this. It explains so much. It is an interview of a young Israeli PhD scholar of middle east politics.

Jonathan Spyer: And what they have to face up to now—and you know this very well—is that the three most powerful countries in the Middle East are not Arab.

MJT: Yes.

Jonathan Spyer: Israel, Turkey, and Iran. This is difficult for Arabs to deal with.

MJT: Many have a hard time even admitting it. I pointed this out years ago and got all kinds of grief in my inbox from Arabs who said I had no idea what I was talking about.

Jonathan Spyer: I’m sure.

MJT: They said I’m a stupid American who knows nothing of the Middle East, but they’re in denial. The only Arab country calling shots right now is Syria, and that’s only because Bashar Assad is a sidekick of the Persians.

Jonathan Spyer: A Palestinian friend of mine just the other day was telling me how Turkey and Iran are competing with each other to be the standard bearer of the Palestinian cause. Iran, with its sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah, and Turkey, with its flotillas, are the two countries with all the creative ideas. What do the Arab states have next to that? Nothing. Arabism’s flagship cause is championed by two non-Arab states.

How Syria fits into all this is one of the biggest divides here in Israel. There are those in the defense establishment who believe Assad’s championship of the resistance is entirely cynical and instrumental, and they want to pry him away from Iran.

MJT: His foreign policy is just instrumental and cynical, but I don’t believe for a minute he can be pried away from Iran.

Jonathan Spyer: I don’t either. And I’m glad that the people around the prime minister don’t buy it.

MJT: How do you know they don’t buy it?

Jonathan Spyer: Because I know some of them. The people around Netanyahu don’t believe this is possible.

MJT: I’m glad to hear that, because I’ve met lots of Israelis who do. And I think they’re crazy to think that. A lot of Israelis simply do not understand Syria.

Jonathan Spyer: Absolutely. They aren’t naïve people by any means. On the contrary. But they find it very hard to except the irrational and ideological elements in Middle East politics. They themselves are not irrational or ideological. They’re extremely rational, and they assume everyone else is, as well. And so they make massive errors.

MJT: It’s a common problem all over the world. Lots of people assume everyone else is just like themselves. Americans often assume most people in the Arab world want what we have. I’ve met plenty of Arabs who believe the United States is involved in these dark conspiracies like their own governments are.

Jonathan Spyer: Yes. Arabs often think they’re being mature and sophisticated by talking this way, but in order to have a proper, grown-up, three-dimensional understanding of American foreign policy you need to understand that the idea of America is one of the things that informs American foreign policy. If you don’t understand that, you won’t be able to understand what the U.S. is doing and why.

And some of the planners and thinkers here in Israel still believe that everyone at the end of the day wants the same things they want. That isn’t the case, and you will make grave errors if you assume that it is. I’m not a fan of Netanyahu’s prime ministership down the line, but he does have people around him who understand the role ideas play in this region. It stops us from making the kinds of errors that, for example, Ehud Barak made in 2000.

MJT: I thought Barak’s withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon was the right thing to do, and so was offering Arafat a Palestinian state. I supported both, and I still do even in hindsight, but we have to be honest about the results of those policies. War followed both, and Israelis will have to be extremely careful about withdrawing from the West Bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem.

Jonathan Spyer: Absolutely. Many people still say we all know what the final settlement is going to look like, so we just need to get the two sides together and work it out. To that I say, “No. You don’t know what the final status is going to look like. The final status you have in mind is what you came up with by negotiating with yourself.”

I was an early skeptic of the Oslo peace process.

MJT: Why? I wasn’t, but you were right and I was wrong. What did you see then that I didn’t?

Jonathan Spyer: We all get things wrong in the Middle East, but that time I was right. I’m not saying I was some kind of genius—I was just a kid—but I did manage to call that one for whatever it’s worth.

All you had to do at the time was be interested enough in Arab political culture to listen carefully to what the other side said. That’s all it took. Once you did that, you’d have to be a moron not to see what was coming. Most people weren’t doing that.

Hezbollah erected a billboard on the border facing south into Israel showing a severed head being held by its hair. Text in Hebrew says, Sharon, don’t forget. Your soldiers are still in Lebanon.

MJT: It’s the same in the U.S. today. Too many people don’t want to listen to what’s being said in the Arab world. A lot of it is deeply disturbing. I could be wrong, and I don’t like to psychoanalyze people, but I think that’s the problem. They’re afraid of the implications of all this crazy talk in the Middle East. So they pretend they don’t hear it, they explain it away, or they say it’s not serious.

Jonathan Spyer: I think that’s right.

MJT: I don’t like what I often hear either, and I don’t know what we should do about it, but I’m aware of it, and it’s there whether I like it or not.

Jonathan Spyer: That’s the bottom line. And from there you have to build a rational policy. You may not like it, but what else can you do?

Israelis were exhausted by a half-century of war before the peace process started. Every family in the country was shaped by it. There was an immense longing in the 1990s for peace, normalcy, and the good life. We had an intense will and longing for that. So when the Oslo crowd came to town and said, “You can be born again, you can have peace with the Arabs,” people bought into it.

They were idealists, and they were rationalists. If a note of triumphalism creeps into my voice, it’s only because I remember how arrogant they were during the 1990s when they thought they were right. They were extremely contemptuous toward everyone at the time who was trying to warn them. We were described as anachronisms from a different century.

MJT: That’s what I thought at the time.

Jonathan Spyer: Okay. Fine. It’s okay.

MJT: I was young. I wasn’t writing about the Middle East then.

Jonathan Spyer: Sure. It’s fine. Everyone gets this place wrong.

MJT: No one has ever been right consistently. I don’t think it’s possible.

Jonathan Spyer: It’s not.

MJT: This place is too weird.

Jonathan Spyer: [Laughs.] Yeah. It is.

MJT: It took me years to understand how this place works just on the most basic level because it’s so different from the part of the world I grew up in. I first had to stop assuming Arabs think like Americans. Then I had to learn how they think differently from Americans. I still don’t fully understand them, and I probably never will.

Jonathan Spyer: It’s hard. I used to try to figure it out by extrapolating from the Jewish experience, but it doesn’t work. Their response to events is totally different. It’s useless. You have to throw this sort of thinking into the trash or you can’t understand anything.

MJT: When the U.S. went into Iraq, I thought Iraqis would react the way I would have if I were Iraqi.

Jonathan Spyer: Sure.

MJT: But they didn’t. But I wasn’t only projecting. I knew they weren’t exactly like me. They’re Iraqis. I guess I expected the Arabs of Iraq to react the way the Kurds of Iraq did, and the Kurds reacted the way I would have reacted. But the Arab world isn’t America, and it is not Kurdistan.

MJT: The Arab world has its own political culture, and it’s not like the political culture I know, or even like other Middle Eastern political cultures.

If the Palestinians had a Western political culture, the problem here could be resolved in ten minutes. If you Israelis were dealing with Canadians instead of Palestinians, you would have had peace a long time ago. And if the Palestinians were dealing with Canadians instead of Israelis, there would still be a conflict.

Jonathan Spyer: That’s exactly right. And that’s why it’s so frustrating sometimes when people say, “If only the two sides could sit down and talk.”

This is why the people who worry that the GZM controversy will affect how Muslims think about Americans, are foolish. The GZM controversy is a pimple on the ass of the issues between Islam and the West. The sooner we understand this, the less chance of catastrophic error.