Belmont Club

Belmont Club

Displaced Persons

April 21st, 2015 - 12:21 am

According to EU’s border chief, up to one million refugees are waiting on the Libyan beach waiting to board ship for Europe. “Up to one million migrants could reach Europe from Libya amid collapsing security in the northern African country, the European Union’s border agency chief has warned.”

Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri said he expects asylum seekers’ crossings to skyrocket in 2015 and urged EU governments to ready themselves to “face a way more difficult situation than last year”.

“We are told there are between 500,000 and one million migrants ready to leave from Libya,” Leggeri told Italian news agency Ansa. “We have to be aware of the risks”.

One of the more interesting aspects of this flood of human misery is that it is not entirely spontaneous.  Jihadi groups are doing their best to encourage it.

With the country now locked in a three-way power-struggle pitting government troops against different Islamist groups including Islamic State (Isis) affiliates, fears have been raised that extremists could mingle with the hundreds of migrants crossing by boat every week or drastically increase the number of crossings to strain EU border forces.

“We have evidence that migrants have been forcibly boarded on vessels at gunpoint,” Leggeri said. “I do not have elements to say they were terrorists but there are worries among states.”

That would not be surprising. In 2004 Europe agreed to pay Muhammar Khadaffy four billion pounds a year in exchange for a promise to halt people smuggling to Europe.

Experts have also drawn links between the massive rise in would-be migrants and a so-called ‘deal in the desert’ struck by Tony Blair in 2004 – which saw the late Muammar Gaddafi agree to crack down on human traffickers as well as renouncing Libya’s possession of WMDs and decommissioning the country’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

In 2008 Gaddafi sought to stiff the European Union for £4.1 billion a year in return for halting the flows of migrants in and out of Libya. …

As Blair’s much touted ‘deal in the desert’ turned sour, Gaddafi gave people smugglers in Zuwara the green light to resume their trade and the migrant routes have flourished ever since.

The people smuggling networks once controlled by the Duck of Death have almost certainly been taken over by the Jihadis who have turned them to their own purposes. This view is not yet widely shared. The general perception is that the refugee flood is a “humanitarian crisis”. The Washington Post for example, exhorts the Europeans to take more migrants to solve the problem. “Europe needs to take a lead role in solving the African migrant crisis”.

Only the European Union can help these migrants, especially once they take to the sea. Shamefully, however, governments under pressure from domestic anti-immigrant parties have shrunk from the task. Last year Italy undertook its own, much-praised operation to rescue people from boats, saving many; but it was scaled back in October after other governments declined to join in and some complained, wrongheadedly, that the effort itself might be attracting migrants. In recent months a much smaller E.U. search-and-rescue mission has been limited to Italy’s territorial waters, making it far more likely that sinkings and other accidents will lead to mass deaths.

Thankfully, the weekend disaster appears to have galvanized — or maybe shamed — E.U. governments, who agreed to hold a summit meeting Thursday to consider solutions. The starting point should be obvious: the resumption of a large-scale search-and-rescue operation like that abandoned by Italy. But European leaders should also consider providing more legal ways for African refugees to seek refuge in their countries, without having to board smuggling boats; and they should consider more forceful steps to combat the smugglers and to help restore order in Libya. What shouldn’t be an option is continuing to ignore the humanitarian crisis spilling into the Mediterranean.

While the refugee flood is most certainly a humanitarian tragedy, it is very probably a deliberate component of the rapid advance of Islamist forces through North Africa, Arabia and the Levant.  The probable reason why the establishment can’t see this is because they’ve willed themselves not to see the war.  The constant mantra is that there is no war on terror; that the enemy is nothing to do with Islam.  See the war and you can see the tactic. In fact it is reminiscent of the old Nazi 1940 method of driving refugees onto the roads before them to tie up the French while the Panzers advanced behind them.


Escape From Humanity

April 20th, 2015 - 5:28 am

Drownings in the Mediterranean now account for 75% of all illegal immigrant deaths worldwide, the waterways filled with a constant stream of people from Africa and the Middle East fleeing their culture in the hope of re-establishing it again on the European shore.  In 2014 the number topped 200,000, twenty times greater than number than four years before.  The numbers for 2015 are on track to equal 2014.

The overwhelming majority now come from Syria, which is largely destroyed.  ”The civil war, which began in 2011, has left over 220,000 dead so far. Over half the 22 million people of Syria have fled their homes since 2011. … Even many Assad supporters, living in the parts of the country largely untouched by the war, are fleeing.”

Under this enormous weight, the normal mechanisms of relief and compassion are breaking down. “Foreign donors are spending over $8 billion a year to keep these refugees outside Syria alive. Turkey and Lebanon have taken most of the refugees and Turkey is spending nearly $4 billion a year to support their portion.” As in wars past, people smugglers are profiting from the desperation and shipping boatloads packed like sardines to Europe, many of whom drown at sea.  The Mediterranean, says Time, is becoming a “mass grave”.

Italy is constantly pulling people out of the water or from foundering vessels, dumped by people smugglers who are sure the Europeans will rescue them. Over 13,500 have been rescued in the last 7 days. Italian PM Matteo Renzi, whose coastguard is overstretched, has denounced the tide as “21st Century slavery” and “singled out Libya as the key problem, saying it was the starting point for about 90% of the migrants reaching Italy by sea.”  There is a sense of hopelessness in the task, because the more rescued, the more come. “Some Italian politicians had called for a naval blockade but Mr Renzi said this would only help the smugglers as there would be more ships to rescue migrants.”

Blockades only attract refugee boats. The Telegraph says the smugglers actually make for the European navy and then sink the ship when close enough.  They know the Europeans have orders to save them.

Trafficking gangs dispatching migrants on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean are tipping off Italian officials in advance so that their boats can be picked up by coastguard and naval vessels.

The gangs have become so confident that their boats will be picked up that they even reduce the amount of fuel each vessel has before it sets out from north Africa, a former manager in the UK Immigration Service has revealed.

The disclosure from Graham Leese, who was also a special advisor to Frontex, the European Union’s border control force, will add to concerns that “search and rescue” operations in the Mediterranean are encouraging traffickers by making their deadly trade easier. …

The EU-funded Operation Mare Nostrum was launched in October 2013, in response to a previous tragedy in which 350 migrants drowned within sight of the Italian island of Lampedusa. It rescued more than 100,000 refugees from the sea, but was discontinued last September amid concerns about the £6m-a-month cost, and fears that it was simply encouraging illegal immigration into Europe. The replacement service, Operation Triton, has fewer vessels and limits itself to European territorial waters rather than ranging out to near the Libyan coast.

Efforts by the Italians to stay away are falling to a new tactic by people-smugglers who are locking hundreds down below decks, thus guaranteeing gigantic death tolls if naval units are not around to effect a rescue. Some 950 people are believed to have drowned in the latest sinking where “hundreds of terrified migrants including women and children drowned ‘like rats in a cage’ on a smuggler boat because they were locked in the hold .”


The Thirty One Years

April 19th, 2015 - 2:08 am

George Friedman’s book, Flashpoints: the emerging crisis in Europe is tour d’horizon of European civilization. The main question it tries to answer is whether European history, with its tragedy and glory, has fundamentally changed.  He begins his inquiry by describing the incredible arc of European achievement and disaster. It was on Europe that the Enlightenment was born. It was from the shores of Portugal that the world first became aware of itself; when separate isolated civilizations were drawn together by sailing ships into one globe. Here modern science and technology was born. And here it all came crashing down in the most destructive”thirty one years” (1914-1945) in human history.

It was as if some Faustian fire took Europe in one fell swoop from barbarism, “a time when people believe the laws of their own village are the laws of nature”, to civilization “where people continue to believe in the justice of their ways but harbor openness to the idea they might be in error”, straight to final and fatal phase: decadence “in which people come to believe there is no truth, or that all lies are equally true.”

For Friedman the question of Europe’s fate is personal. His own birth came at the end of the European catastrophe and so he wants to know how it will turn out. His father survived Hitler, then Stalin.  We read about the elder Friedman bringing the infant author and the rest of the family with him to America. The Europe from which they escaped was the incredible cauldron described by Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, a vast killing field of unimaginable proportions. Or if you prefer, it was a flight from the universe of Alan Furst, whose evocative novels of Europe in convulsion can be read almost as fantasy by moderns who cannot believe that such a place ever existed or could ever exist.

What the refugee Friedman family sought as it made its way by rubber boat across the Danube was ordinary life: a place without “lists”, the land without the knock on the door and streets empty of marching armies of idealists. His father had lost faith in politics, causes, civilization, perhaps even in humanity itself.  All he wanted was somewhere to hide and America looked like a good place to start.

My father never forgave the Russians for perpetuating the terror the Nazis had begun. He never forgave the French for being weak and corrupt and losing a war in six weeks. He never forgave the Poles for counting on the French instead of themselves. And above all he never forgave the Germans. My father never forgave Europe for being monstrous, and he never forgave Europeans for how easily they forgave themselves. For him, Europe was a place of monsters, collaborators, and victims. He never returned to Hungary, or to Europe. He had no interest in going there. When I was in college I asked him why he refused to recognize that Europe had changed. His answer was simple: Europe will never change. It will just act as if nothing happened.

When I look at the European Union now, I think of my father’s words. It is an institution that acts as if nothing happened. I don’t mean by this that it doesn’t know what happened or isn’t revolted by it. I mean that the European Union — as an institution and an idea — is utterly certain that all is behind it, that it has willed its demons to depart and they have listened.


Creative Workspaces

April 16th, 2015 - 9:22 pm

If you could pick your own workspace, what would it look like?  A friend of mine, a  writer by occupation, works from a tower in southern European village and recently shared a picture of his study. It’s quiet, with inspiring views on every side, without obvious distractions but with every necessity near to hand. It is exactly the kind of place that comes to mind when one thinks of a place to write. However, what constitutes a “perfect” work environment appears to vary widely.

Buzzfeed has a photo collection of the studies used by famous writers and designers from the 19th and 20th centuries.  Mark Twain’s had a pool table. Some, like EB White’s are monastic in their austereness, as if White deliberately chose to remove anything that might get between him and his typewriter.  Others, like Bill Buckley’s, look like a bomb had detonated in it.  They are strewn with a profusion of papers and devices. There was probably a hidden order to the apparent disorder but only Buckley’s mind held the key.

Software developers are a somewhat newer type of intellectual and the Business Insider has a collection of pictures posted by people who work in Silicon Valley.  What is instantly evident is the almost universal minimalism of their environments.  One person works from a laptop while apparently lying on a crummy mattress. Another works out of a shed.  A few choose what one might rationally predict a developer’s workspace to look like, a quiet room with a wrap around desk and multiple monitors linked to host a single virtual screen, or perhaps to split up to provide separate portals into distant machines located who knows where.

Many developers have a highly developed awareness of being at once disembodied and central; and so would feel that one really haven’t arrived as a serious developer if you have actually be somewhere physical, as in punching a card to go into a building.  They might regard with horror people who are actually required to put on a suit to program. Thus, many work out of laptops despite the limitations of a cramped screen and rotten keyboard because that’s the badge of freedom.  An example of status is one featured workspace consisting of a laptop on table somewhere in Mexico implying that next week its owner will be in some other town, in some other country.

Clearly the programmer’s universe is in some internal space, either in the virtual world or in his own mind to which the workspace is incidental.  But that was true even of writers in the past. Emily Dickson almost never left Amherst, Massachusetts and was bedridden in her later years.  Yet she wrote of her ability to roam the wide spaces of the universe from the confines of her room:


Avoiding the Unthinkable

April 14th, 2015 - 11:48 pm

Rarely has there been such a mismatch in raw talent, creativity and energy as between the opposing sides going into the 2016 election.  The Republican side — whether one approves of them or not — has a new generation of leaders: Jindal, Paul, Fiorina, Rubio, Cruz, Walker to name some.  Even their supporting cast can boast of the likes of Paul Ryan and Tom Cotton.  By contrast the Democratic Party only has tired old Hillary Clinton and perhaps Elizabeth Warren.

Yet Jamelle Bouie of Slate believes Clinton is the Democrat’s “indispensable candidate” — “more vital to the future of the Democratic Party than even Democrats realize”.  They need her and they need her bad. He advances two reasons in support of this conclusion.  Hillary alone has a chance of winning and she must win in order to preserve the gains of the Obama era and second, only Hillary the figurehead can hold together a Democratic party seriously split by Obama’s shift to the Left.

while his legislative agenda has long since stalled, he’s made ample use of executive authority to protect his core accomplishment—the Affordable Care Act—and advance priorities in immigration, climate change, and civil rights. But none of that will stand if Democratic Party can’t win in 2016. … their national strength could collapse as the country swings to the Republican Party. …

the president [Obama] presides over a divided party. One wing, personified by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is furious with Obama’s relationship to Wall Street, his penchant for compromise, and his willingness to always take a half loaf—to rarely take a stand against his ideological opponents.

The other wing is the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s content with the progress of the Obama administration and more interested in protecting its gains from a radical-minded Republican Party than expanding the possible of liberal politics.

They wanted a president who would speak to their concerns, who would reverse the Bush years and usher in a new progressive era. …

Clinton’s strength—her influence across the breadth of the Democratic Party—is a unifying force. Polls make it clear that almost every constituency in the party, from liberals and blue dogs to black Americans and working-class whites, is ready for her candidacy. The ideological divide in the Democratic coalition—the fight between Wall Street–friendly Democrats in the center and populist Democrats on the left—is dampened by her presence, not because of any sudden love or affection, but because the various factions see Clinton as the key to keeping the White House and saving the gains of the Obama administration from a far right—and come 2016, restless—Republican Party. It’s no surprise that the bulk of the Democratic Party machinery has fallen behind Clinton. Given the stakes, no one wants open warfare.

I will add a third reason for the necessity of a Clinton victory, which Bouie diplomatically fails to mention. Hillary must win the Oval Office to sign the pardons which will be required and stall the investigations that are sure to crop up if a Republican wave engulfs both the White House and Capitol Hill.

But in any case Hillary has become the last remaining hope that Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. The degree to which her healing presence is required is underscored by a Haaretz article, which argues that Hillary is needed to bring Jewish voters back into the Democratic fold.   She must haul back Jewish voters who have been tossed overboard by the incumbent. “American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat, except when the presidential candidate is viewed as unsympathetic to Israel.”  That means a face from the good old Clinton years.

She must function like a monarch, a unifying figurehead who will keep all the Big Tent’s identity groups from ripping each other’s guts out over the last remaining piles of other people’s money. The Slate article concludes, “to underscore the Democrats’ plight, as a thought experiment, imagine if Clinton didn’t run.” Bouie then describes a scene of apocalyptic desolation, concluding in the critical observation that for some unaccountable reason the party “has a shocking lack of new talent”, making Hillary the last hope.

Then the Democrats would have a problem. Well, two problems. First, as previously mentioned, the ideological fights in the party would spill out into the open. The unity created by Clinton would fall apart, as centrist Democrats fought to retain their influence and liberal Democrats fought to displace it. In this world, you might see a Warren candidacy, and you’d certainly see efforts from the handful of Democratic politicians with ambitions in 2016….

One of the real problems of the Democratic Party, both for 2016 and looking forward, is the extent to which it lacks a bench of nationally viable leaders. It’s not just that, if Clinton didn’t run, Democrats would have to choose from a group of unknown and unfamiliar faces. It’s also that—across all offices—the party has a shocking lack of new talent.

Bouie is exactly right except for the modifier “new”. The Democratic Party has a shocking lack of any talent period. And that includes the incumbent president, most of his principal officers and Hillary herself. As Carly Fiorina has repeatedly asked, what has Hillary Clinton ever accomplished? It’s a question to which no satisfactory answer can be found. It is as elusive as the president’s school transcripts. The depth of Hillary’s ineptitude was underscored in a book by former British diplomat Emma Sky.


The Future of Identity Politics

April 13th, 2015 - 8:11 pm

As a child I saw an ad for movie — which I never watched — titled “Japanese Tank Versus American Armored Car”.  All these years I’ve wondered what I missed by not viewing that extraordinary confrontation. But there was no need to worry as more bizarre spectacles awaited. Decades later Twitter is alive with matchups for the next presidential like “Two White Histpanics Versus One Elderly Woman” or “Elderly White Woman Versus White-Looking Native American”.

If it sounds weirder than Nipponese Tank vs Detroit Armored Car it is because identity politics is being driven by the American kaleidoscope of identities into a kind of reductio ad absurdum. One Tweet captures how strange things look through the traditional liberal identity politics viewport now that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have declared their candidacy for president.

Really The GOP is just “old men”hmmm two Republican hopefuls are in their early 40s still while #Hillary is almost 70.

Who’s a minority? In 2003 the New York Times noted that “Hispanics have edged past blacks as the nation’s largest minority group”.   Pew Research notes that in California whites are now minority in California because Hispanics are in the majority.  NBC reports that by 2043, whites will no longer be the majority overall. So are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio “minorities” (being Hispanic) or in the majority?  Or are they in either category only sometimes?

Matt Walsh says its time to call identity politics off.  ”No, it isn’t ‘time for a woman to be president.’”, he says. “It’s time for a competent adult of either gender to be president.”  But describing the possibility of a world without identity politics to the Left, a world in which only individuals matter, is like suggesting life after death. The “progressive” site South Lawn looks at one proposal to save identity politics by redefining “whiteness” as an ideology.  It is “a specific and foundational origin of violence … an intentional and specifically curated identity, culture institution and strategy of domination created by white people themselves to keep Black, indigenous and other racialized pepole down”. In that world, anyone can be “white” as long as they think the wrong thoughts.  But South Lawn’s authors object, if skin color is invisible how will we recognize it?  After all, Thomas Sowell is “white”, appearances to the contrary, but how can anyone tell this up front?

There is nothing in this critique that one can use to organize or build community around; rather it is simply one more scold in an atmosphere full of them. I challenged the person who posted it to find me something similar on how you can build bridges or educate the mass of people that we will actually need in order to build a coalition for change. She replied that she was not necessarily using it to exclude folks from spaces; fine, I said. I do not understand how one can post something like that and say with a straight face that they “are not trying to exclude”, but I was ready to let it go.

In a situation where “identity” is no longer physically evident, the only solution to the problem of identity assignment is credentialing.  After the Left decided to add the sexual identity product line to their traditional list of offerings they were faced with the nettlesome problem of transgenders. Recently a woman walked into a change room in Fitness Planet gym to find a biological male in it.  The biological woman complained and was thrown out of the club.

Imagine walking into a women’s locker room at your local gym and you see someone disrobing only to reveal they have male private parts. According to Planet Fitness, that’s no problem at all, if the male sincerely thinks he is a female with male parts.

McCall Gosselin, director of public relations at Planet Fitness Corporate, provided this statement to Health in an email: ‘Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity. The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.

You can sympathize with the club. If they had thrown the biological man out of the biological ladies’ room the lawyers of the Left would have descended on it.  When it is no longer possible to determine identity by inspection it will have to be defined by assignment. Some bureaucrat or certificate authority has to issue a token of Hispanic-ness or female-ness, otherwise identity is indefinite.


The Game of Drones

April 12th, 2015 - 7:03 pm

One sign that Democracy is struggling in the world is the runaway success of the HBO series The Game of Thrones. No longer do the public see the world as led by reverend statesmen, but on the contrary as being manipulated by amoral, bloodthirsty and power-mad conspirators. The Independent writes “the Game of Thrones universe is so rich with metaphors that it’s already been used to explain everything from American presidential candidates to English soccer teams”.

The newspaper then proceeds to analyze the Middle East in terms of the TV show. The House of Lannister is Saudi Arabia. House Stark represents the crushed liberals and democrats. House Baratheon is Arab autocrats. House Targaryan the United States. The White Walkers are ISIS. The Night’s Watch are the Kurds. You can make up your own correlatives. Why not?

The Washington Post naturally attempts a comparison with the District, “ever wonder what ‘Game of Thrones’ would look like if it were set in our own nation’s capital?”. Unfortunately the Washington Post comparison only goes as far as simulating the opening credits. It never tells us for example, who in the current roster of politicians ought to stand in for the loathesome King Joffrey, Cersei Lannister or that marvelous dwarf Tyrion, though some obvious candidates come to mind.

While our formal model of governance is still representative democracy, our mental cultural models have migrated to authoritarian elitism.  The world really does believe their betters run affairs along the lines portrayed in the series. Obama was eager to meet the Castros.  Netanyahu not so much. Putin is widely admired throughout the world, as is the dictator of China.  Even in America the wannabe dynasts are trying their luck.

Robert Tracinski, writing in the Federalist, says the fascination with the series is rooted in modern cynicism. “Which is disturbing, because the story line and view of life in “Game of Thrones” is unbelievably grim.”


Malice vs Incompetence

April 10th, 2015 - 5:58 pm

One of today’s man-bites-dog stories is that America cannot evacuate its nationals from war torn Yemen. Rather it hopes countries like India can do it for them. A State Department official said the U.S. government, which is providing logistical support for the Saudi campaign, believes it is too dangerous to risk a military operation to rescue Americans. “There are no current U.S. government-sponsored plans to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Yemen,” the official said. “We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely.”

Fortunately New Delhi will ride to the rescue of Uncle Sam. “India has won many friends by evacuating nearly 1,000 nationals of 41 countries from warring Yemen. … Along with some 4,600 Indians, Singh’s mission rescued citizens of Britain, France and the United States.”  The days of “exceptionalism” are over.  Americans being left on the beach alongside wretched 3rd World nationals is part of the march toward making it a normal country occupying a status considerably below India and perhaps above Nepal.

There was a time of course when claiming American citizenship carried the same weight as the ancient civis romanus sum.  ”I am a Roman citizen.” It conjured images of  grey warships offshore and grim faced Marines poised behind the ramps of landing craft. It implied diplomats who could pound the table as the local warlords quivered.  And even if it didn’t always quiver they sometimes did, for the despots could never be sure the Navy was not actually there.

But today even diplomats have no expectation of being saved from the tender mercies of knife-clattering Jihadis. If local secret agents who risked their lives for America can be left to their grueseome fates then ordinary citizens will have to make their own arrangements. At a State Department press briefing  one journalist actually asked Marie Harf if Americans should swim out of the country.

Swimming might be a better idea than taking the land route, given that Saudi Arabia has bombed refugee camps.  CNN reports that “Bab al-Mandab is one of the busiest waterways in the world, a thoroughfare for oil tankers and cargo ships. It’s now being crossed by desperate Yemenis in rickety fishing boats seeking refuge from the conflict threatening to engulf their country.”

For the other surprise story of the day is that Pakistan is not riding to the rescue of the Kingdom. In a rather shocking vote, Pakistan has refused to send troops to Saudi Arabia’s aid. “ADEN (Reuters) – Pakistan’s parliament voted on Friday not to join the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, dashing Riyadh’s hopes for powerful support from outside of the region in its fight to halt Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.”

The Washington Post asks in story redolent with mixed metaphors whether Yemen going to become Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam.  Or — perhaps we can coin the phrase now —  Iraq going to become Iran’s South Korea. Perhaps the phrase the Washington Post was looking for to express its geopolitical perplexity can’t be found in Apocalypse Now but in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy tells Toto ”we’re not in Kansas any more”.

We’re in world where Indians rescue Americans. The Saudis may be in a fight for their lives.  The landscape has turned upside down. One person whose world view changed from black and white to technicolor in an instant is Times of Israel military correspondent Mitch Ginsburg who charts his journey from being an admirer of Barack Obama to being absolutely terrified of what new catastrophe he will cause now.


Iran Pulls the Rug From Under Obama

April 9th, 2015 - 3:38 am

According to the Oxford English dictionary, the proverb “the wish is father to the thought” means “we believe a thing because we wish it to be true.” President Obama wanted a deal with Iran so badly that he thought he actually had one. However, today President Rouhani of Iran spelled it out for him. The deal he had isn’t the one he thought he had. USA Today reports:

Iran’s president on Thursday said Tehran will not sign a final nuclear deal unless world powers lift economic sanctions imposed on the country immediately.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany — the so-called P5 +1 group — reached an understanding with Iran last week on limits to its nuclear program in return for lifting crippling economic sanctions, after extended talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The U.S. has previously said the sanctions would be lifted in phases, but the details have not yet been negotiated.

However, in a televised speech on Thursday, President Hassan Rouhani appeared to rule out a gradual removal of the successive round of sanctions that have hit hard its energy and financial sectors — and crippled its economy.

“We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day,” Rouhani said, according to Reuters. “We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks,” he said.

Rouhani added “the Iranian nation has been and will be the victor in the negotiations.” That’s rubbing it in.

Only yesterday:

Acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Wednesday dismissed a critique of the Iran nuclear agreement from former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, by saying their comments amount to “big words” and that the two secretaries don’t live in the real world. “I heard a lot of, sort of, big words and big thoughts in that piece,” she said.

So for Harf’s benefit, as well as that of her employer, here’s Agence France-Presse:

Iran wants international sanctions lifted on the day of the implementation of an agreement with world powers on its nuclear programme, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday. “We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of the implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day,” Rouhani said.

Or, as CNN puts it: “Iran: No signing final nuclear deal unless economic sanctions are lifted on same day.”

Not that Tehran’s about-face changes anything. In the administration’s words, “a bad deal is better than no deal.” And sure, this is a bad deal, but it’s a “once in a lifetime deal.”

Obama says his doctrine is “we will engage,” but it looks like the actual doctrine is “we will be fooled.” Of course they insist that nobody will make a fool of them, however they reserve the right to make fools of themselves.

It’s painful to watch. It’s hard not to think that Iran is out to humiliate Barack Hussein Obama. With this calculated slight, they not only want to wipe the floor with his reputation, they want to see him crawl. And he probably will. Obama gave them Iraq, allowed Iran into Syria, permitted Hezbollah to take over Lebanon, and let them run him out of Yemen all in the expectation that Rouhani would give him his “game changer,” his “once in a lifetime deal.”

And now, after he’s handed in all that earnest money and proclaimed his purchase to the world, they won’t deliver the merchandise. He’s been had, pure and simple. They gave him a special surprise gift and he’s proudly opened it in front of relatives and friends, only to discover it contains a pile of … .

Iran knows he won’t fight, because he’s already scuttled his position in Iraq and allowed himself to be humiliated in Syria by drawing “red lines” with crayons. His “moderate rebel forces” in Syria have all defected to someone else. Iran watched America flee from Yemen, Obama’s counterinsurgency “model,” leaving a list of local U.S. intelligence agents to fall into their hands. Those men are probably being hunted down or dying in agony. Tehran probably gaped in amusement as he made enemies with their oldest ally in the Middle East, Israel, all for the sake of the agreement they have now thrown in his face.

If Obama was going to fight, he would have done so already. And now it’s too late. Who in the region will trust Barack Obama? Israel? The survivors of Yemen? A loyal remnant in Syria?  Maybe someone in Anbar who fought for America and then escaped first from ISIS and then the IRG?

Maybe there’s somebody left who hasn’t been sold out.

So let’s ask Marie Harf: how does it feel to be double-crossed? In a way, this final act of cruelty is not in Iran’s interest. The Hill reports that the Left had gone all out to endorse Obama’s “historic” deal: “Liberal Democrats have mounted a furious offensive to convince Senate Democrats to oppose legislation the White House warns could kill a nuclear deal with Iran.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared that “these negotiations must be allowed to proceed unencumbered.”

But some people are so craven they excite disgust even from those at whose feet they fall. The ayatollahs had to kick at the upturned faces. They just couldn’t help themselves.

It’s not too late for Obama to ask himself: is this how an American behaves? Is this how any self-respecting person behaves? But maybe it is too late. Maybe it’s been too late for a long time.

Recently purchased by readers:
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The Fall of the Ottomans, The Great War in the Middle East
Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Double Paradox, Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China
Cities and Stability, Urbanization, Redistribution, and Regime Survival in China
The Girl on the Train

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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April 8th, 2015 - 8:31 pm

Yesterday after a long period of neglect, I decided to replace the disc brakes on my bike. The store sold me a set of Shimano upgrades and offered to install them for about seventy bucks, but I decided to do them myself on the principle that you are always better off knowing how, rather than paying someone to remain in ignorance. That of course meant considerable grief and repeated returns to the shop to get brake pads they had forgotten to include and later for outrageously expensive aluminum adapters to mate the brakes to the nonstandard frame. Toward the end I was almost stumped by a problem of insufficient clearance, which after some thought I solved with some metal washers. Then finally it was perfect: the wheels turned freely until a touch of brake brought the wheels to an instant halt.  They were done. More important, I knew how to do it again if I had to.

No person’s education is complete without an acquaintance with nuts and bolts. Whether it concerns reassembling a a wheel or mounting a chain over sprockets, you learn there is nothing so fatal as disrespecting reality. Insignificant items like the order in which you tighten bolts or the thickness of little metal circles have an importance you never suspected.  Even the amount of tightening torque is important. The wholeness of your head may depend on a small detail like whether you installed a part the right way around.

Much of the unease which some feel toward the administration comes directly from the cavalier sloppiness of its work. Whether it is ‘forgetting’ to tell a judge that illegal immigrant work permits whose applications are before the court have already been granted or destroying evidence before they remember it had been subpoenaed or hearing Marie Harf cavalierly dismissing a joint letter by two distinguished former secretaries of state on the inadvisability of the Iran deal as “sort of, big words and big thoughts” — you get the sense of an indifferent crew, of people who got a pass for just being there.  Everywhere you look, there are parts left over where there should be none, things eerily rattling around inside the motor that should be silent and a weird kind of shimmy in joints that should have no play.

But worst of all there is the dismissive sense that care and craftsmanship don’t matter, that things will work anyway. The Obama administration’s supporers, like Harf, appear impatient to achieve progress without the encumbrance of old geezers like Kissinger and Schultz pointing out obvious mistakes in the Iran agreement.

Care for detail is regarded as a form of sabotage or obstructionism. Mark Joseph Stern in Slate captured the attitude of many Obama supporters when he wrote, ”why do we still tolerate the Supreme Court?”

Already this term, the conservative justices look poised to strike down an anti-gerrymandering law and a restraint on judicial campaign finance. The court could also strip 8.2 million Americans of their health insurance thanks to a malicious, mendacious lawsuit. … If we want to curb the Supreme Court’s power, all we have to do is ignore it.

Why tolerate it indeed? He points out that “all we have to do is ignore it.”  They are like guys who find a part in the shipping box which has no obvious use to them and whose purpose they are too lazy to look up in the included manual. So they just toss the superfluous item in the trash reasoning it’s probably not important anyway.