Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Absolutely a MUST READ!

A new Vox video (7/17/17) is the latest addition to a media onslaught that propagates numerous misleading talking points to demonize Iran—just as the US government, under Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-Iran administration, is ratcheting up aggression against that country.

Source: How Media Spread CIA’s Sectarian, Anti-Iran ‘Mideast Cold War’ Narrative | By Ben Norton | Common Dreams


Speech to this year’s J Street conference

So let me be very clear: to oppose the policies of a right-wing government in Israel does not make one anti-Israel or an anti-Semite. We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American. We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel. We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremism without being anti-Muslim.

Source: On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians | Common Dreams

By Danny Sjursen, TomDispatch | News Analysis

US Air Force members prep for an in-air refueling mission over Iraq, August 11, 2014. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr. / US Air Force)

The United States has already lost — its war for the Middle East, that is.

The United States has already lost — its war for the Middle East, that is. Having taken my own crack at combat soldiering in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that couldn’t be clearer to me. Unfortunately, it’s evidently still not clear in Washington. Bush’s neo-imperial triumphalism failed. Obama’s quiet shift to drones, Special Forces, and clandestine executive actions didn’t turn the tide either. For all President Trump’s bluster, boasting, and threats, rest assured that, at best, he’ll barely move the needle and, at worst… but why even go there?

At this point, it’s at least reasonable to look back and ask yet again: Why the failure? Explanations abound, of course. Perhaps Americans were simply never tough enough and still need to take off the kid gloves. Maybe there just weren’t ever enough troops. (Bring back the draft!) Maybe all those hundreds of thousands of bombs and missiles just came up short. (So how about lots more of them, maybe even a nuke?)

Lead from the front. Lead from behind. Surge yet again… The list goes on — and on and on.

And by now all of it, including Donald Trump’s recent tough talk, represents such a familiar set of tunes. But what if the problem is far deeper and more fundamental than any of that?

Here our nation stands, 15-plus years after 9/11, engaged militarily in half a dozen countries across the Greater Middle East, with no end in sight. Perhaps a more critical, factual reading of our recent past would illuminate the futility of America’s tragic, ongoing project to somehow “destroy” terrorism in the Muslim world.

The standard triumphalist version of the last 100 or so years of our history might go something like this: in the twentieth century, the United States repeatedly intervened, just in the nick of time, to save the feeble Old World from militarism, fascism, and then, in the Cold War, communism.  It did indeed save the day in three global wars and might have lived happily ever after as the world’s “sole superpower” if not for the sudden emergence of a new menace.  Seemingly out of nowhere, “Islamo-fascists” shattered American complacence with a sneak attack reminiscent of Pearl Harbor.  Collectively the people asked: Why do they hate us?  Of course, there was no time to really reflect, so the government simply got to work, taking the fight to our new “medieval” enemies on their own turf.  It’s admittedly been a long, hard slog, but what choice did our leaders have?  Better, after all, to fight them in Baghdad than Brooklyn.

What if, however, this foundational narrative is not just flawed but little short of delusional? Alternative accounts lead to wholly divergent conclusions and are more likely to inform prudent policy in the Middle East.

Let’s reconsider just two key years for the United States in that region: 1979 and 2003.  America’s leadership learned all the wrong “lessons” from those pivotal moments and has intervened there ever since on the basis of some perverse version of them with results that have been little short of disastrous.  A more honest narrative of those moments would lead to a far more modest, minimalist approach to a messy and tragic region.  The problem is that there seems to be something inherently un-American about entertaining such thoughts…

Source: The Misuse of US Power Has Left the Middle East in Chaos

Danny Sjursen

Major Danny Sjursen is a US Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons near Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Given the linguistic, geographic, and cultural diversity of the Muslim world, it is facile to suggest that Islam is the source of all these problems. There is after all very little relationship between the Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and that practiced in Egypt, Malaysia, or the United States. To the extent that there are problems in Muslim-majority countries, it is far more likely that they arise from a shared history of colonialism, oppressive governance, poverty, disease, and war—especially over natural re-sources—than a common religious underpinning.


Source: Reclaiming Tradition: Islamic Law in a Modern World | International Affairs Review

Logging the best lines lodged by Jason Kenney in the debate on BDS.

Source: Nine things Jason Kenney said during the BDS debate that should make you rage |

Of all the presidential candidates of either party, Bernie is actually the most sober and clear-eyed.

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks out against the Iraq War during a news conference on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo / Lauren Victoria Burke)

By Robert English

Senator Bernie Sanders is the candidate for a stronger America of enhanced global influence. He is a sober, clear-eyed, foreign-policy realist. Yet few recognize this, mainly because of his impassioned focus on broad domestic reforms. Most view Sanders as anything but a realist—more like a utopian idealistand concede the foreign-policy advantage to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or any of the tough-talking Republican candidates. But they are wrong, and the liberal Sanders is paradoxically the only foreign-policy realist in the presidential field.

This comes as a surprise because realism in the popular mind has grown synonymous with overweening might and unilateral assertion of US objectives; think “shock and awe” and “regime change.” Sanders is none of those, and most equate him instead with foreign-policy idealism: allergic to the use of force, and naively trusting in multilateral diplomacy. But these are not Sanders either. Moreover, such simplistic definitions have diverged very far from their original, nuanced meanings, which it behooves us to recall at this most troubled time in international affairs.

Realism as a foreign-policy concept is at least as old as the great-power rivalries detailed in The History of the Peloponnesian War, by the Greek historian Thucydides. The term came into widespread use with E.H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis, where he contrasted realism with the utopianism that failed to understand—much less manage—shifts in the interwar balance of power. The balance of power was also a central concern of Hans Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations, the classic of postwar realism.

Like all realists, Morgenthau emphasized states’ overriding need to guard their security in a “self-help” world—we must always be powerful enough to defend ourselves. But Morgenthau also cautioned against squandering that power, against stumbling into costly conflicts by overestimating threats or underestimating local backlash against our military incursions. Morgenthau’s immediate concern was Vietnam, as America was drawn into a quagmire in part thanks to a false narrative foisted on the public—one that portrayed a long-running conflict in a deeply divided country as a simple matter of communist aggression. Neither did it help that our “nation building” in Vietnam depended on a client who was deeply unpopular in his own country. Substitute Iraq and WMD for Vietnam and Gulf of Tonkin (and perhaps Ahmed Chalabi for Ngo Dinh Diem), and you know what Morgenthau would have said about the crusade to create a “new Middle East.” And you can guess who he’d have judged the better realist: Sanders, who opposed the Iraq War, or Clinton, who supported it as well as promoting the “regime change” that has failed so spectacularly in Libya?

Morgenthau faulted the tendency of great powers to “clothe their own particular aspirations” in arrogant assumptions of moral universality. Hubris is what the ancient Greeks termed it—and Donald Trump is only its loudest devotee among presidential aspirants—as Thucydides chronicled its role in the downfall of Athens, when a reckless overseas adventure, the invasion of Sicily, turned into a military-political disaster. But the Athenians’ larger mistake lay in failing to see how their aggressive rise caused allies to defect and neutrals to rally against them. This is a core realist concept, seen in so many conflicts through history: that states seek to balance against perceived threats…

Source: Bernie Sanders, the Foreign-Policy Realist of 2016