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Belmont Club

The Trail of Lies

February 17th, 2015 - 1:02 am

Imagine a ceasefire in First Indochinese War where the battle of Dien Bien Phu was allowed to continue.  Could it still be called a ceasefire? Could you call the suspension of hostilities between Ukraine and Russian a truce except for the continued reduction of the Debaltseve pocket? The New York Times’ Andrew Kramer reports that a force of 8,000 Ukrainian troops, three fourths as large as the doomed French garrison, is surrounded and being ground down.  He speaks of the last road into the garrison.

The status of this stretch of potholed asphalt has become a sticking point in the cease-fire and threatens to unravel the deal. The separatists say their control of the road means they have the Ukrainians surrounded. President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine has denied their claim, because conceding the point would force him either to negotiate for the release of the trapped soldiers or resume fighting to extricate them.

A dozen or so soldiers escaped on Sunday, and on Friday a small group reportedly managed to walk out through the fields. Otherwise, nobody has left the town since Thursday. …

Ilkka Kanerva, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, issued a statement welcoming the general success of the cease-fire but deploring “the illegal separatists’ false and counterproductive insistence that the deal does not apply to Debaltseve, a government-held town.”

Still it’s a “ceasefire”. Words don’t change facts, except in politics. The facts are that Putin is winning the round and not about to stop punching simply because the Europeans have rung the bell. The physical reality is that he’s going for a knockout, stomping on his foe lying on the canvas.  The political problem for the West is how to keep calling it a truce.

Having apparently lost on the battlefield, Ukraine now will appeal for diplomatic pressure on Russia to prevail upon the separatists to open the road. But European leaders and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia were unable to solve the Debaltseve riddle during intense negotiations in Minsk last week, and it remains an open question whether they can now.

The Europeans have protested the military operations but the Russian forces have been unyielding. According to Reuters the “rebels” have turned back European monitors trying to reach the pocket. Why are the Europeans desperately clinging to an empty phrase? Because words are important and nowhere more than in politics. Charles Krauthammer observed that the Obama administration was similarly performing rhetorical somersaults in an effort to avoid describing ISIS as an ideologically — or if you prefer, religiously — motivated group.  Call them just folks; call them random guys.  Call them anything but who they are.

“The ideology of ISIS is clearly supremacist,” said Krauthammer on Monday’s Special Report, “in the sense that anybody who is not Islamic in their understanding is to be either enslaved or eradicated. This is a genocidal movement. You kill Christians, you kill Jews, you kill Yazidis (but you may in certain circumstances enslave them). That’s what we’re up against, and we have an administration that will not even admit that there’s a religious basis underlying what’s going on.”

That refusal is alarming, said Krauthammer: “Churchill saved England and civilization because in 1940 he was able to enlist the English language, and he put it to work on behalf of civilization. What this administration is doing is precisely the opposite. It’s sort of deconstructing any resistance with its refusal to acknowledge the obvious.”

But in fairness to both the Obama administration and the Franco-Germans, their spokesmen are torturing the language for a reason.  They are doing it to maintain a facade as long as they are able; to avoid the use of certain terms, which once uttered, would imply the need for action. Words like “war” or “invasion” for instance, must be eschewed at all costs.  For these dread phrases, once officially spoken, would make even the dumbest voter sit up and realize that something was wrong. Using the right words would force the politicians to admit to the actual situation and compel them to act — which is precisely what they don’t to do.

Both Obama and Merkel are in the position of a cuckolded husband who pauses at a bedroom door, knowing what he will find on the other side and yet reluctant to cross the threshold for fear of having to do something once the situation becomes undeniable. To avoid conflict he pauses at the doorway to give himself the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately the sounds emanating from within grow ever more unmistakable and the only question is not if, but when the truth must be faced.

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The Odds Against

February 16th, 2015 - 4:40 am

Max Fisher tweeted, “people who think Christian sectarian militias are the solution to Iraq’s problems could stand to read a history of the Lebanese civil war.”  I did, and the history of the Lebanese civil war reports that the Christian communities survived. That’s probably not what Fisher meant with the phrase “solution to Iraq’s problems” but survival is no mean feat.  Militias aren’t usually formed to do good or noble things.  They largely exist to maximize the chances that their members will wake to see tomorrow.

Most people in the West are accustomed to the idea that survival is a given, that the continuation of our civilization is a given and the sole remaining problems are ones of refinement.  Francis Fukuyama even spoke of the End of History, but in fact extinction is the normal fate of a species.  “Ninety-nine percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are estimated to be extinct”.  Cultures within a species are even shorter lived. Egyptian hieroglyphics, Mayan script and classical Latin — once the tongues of mighty empires of the human species — are now all dead languages.  Who knows but NBC might even stop broadcasting someday.  Look what happened to Newsweek.

Survival may look easy, but ask yourself if you’ve seen any Roman Legions lately? If Christians — or anyone — don’t fight to survive in the Middle East the likely result is no more of them. One of the virtues of the Cold War was it made people sit up and realize that survival was by no means assured.  In those days presidents and premiers were serious and careful when they talked about nuclear weapons.  For 13 days in 1962 it actually seemed like there might not be a human species if things took the wrong turn.

Since the Wall fell we’ve hardly given it a thought.  You might think our only remaining problems are where to buy a selfie-stick.  But the press today is full of the man-bites-dog story that Christians in Iraq are forming militias to fight ISIS. It has the same novelty value as accounts of extremist Buddhist monks in Burma.  People in their twenties probably think there is something unnatural about having to fight for one’s existence, like living in a world before computers. But except for the short and rapidly dwindling period of the Pax Americana, staying alive was a perfectly normal occupation.

What’s old is new again.  Lately we get a new snuff film for each day of the week from a bunch of masked guys we don’t even want to name. The subliminal message of each Islamist atrocity, whether it is burning people alive in cages or beheading them by the beach; the essential content of attacking schoolchildren in Peshawar or flying airliners into buildings in New York City; the inner punch line of “lone wolf” gunmen showing up at newspaper offices, cafes or synagogues is that the Great Father in Washington can’t protect you.  It’s every man for himself.

That’s the most subversive message in the world. The Emperor has no clothes.  The edicts of Brussels can be ignored. Gasp. Say this and Chris Matthews may think you’re an ignoramus. Yet each ISIS atrocity is designed to de-legitimize the current international order and spread the rumor that the emperor is dead, or at least, out to lunch. Ironically, each militia that forms to fill the power vacuum broadcasts the same message.  For both declare in their respective way that the writ of the West has come to an end; that the only security left is that provided by your own hand. Each time the Great Father refuses to restore order; each time he is reduced to crafting a hashtag in impotence or farming out the effort to a proxy power, he reaffirms the message of the men in the mask: the emperor is afraid of us.

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Rotten in Denmark

February 15th, 2015 - 2:51 am

Although the news cycle today will be dominated by accounts of the “lone wolf” attacks on a cafe and a synagogue in Copenhagen, it’s at least worth noting similar events happening all over the world.  For example, elements of the “bad Taliban” recently attacked a Shi’ite mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing at least 22 people.

“The same Umar Mansoor group had also carried out the massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar.” … The official said three police and four private guards were deployed at the mosque at the time of the attack, but the terrorists scaled the wall of an adjacent under-construction building to enter the mosque. The terrorists first entered the house of the prayer leader on the mosque premises and killed his son and nephew before heading for the main prayer hall.

In magnitude the the attacks were far worse than Copenhagen, and were duly denounced by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. The United Nations has been doing a lot of denouncing lately. Just today the UN Security Council “condemned ‘in the strongest terms’ the continued escalation of attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists. In a press statement, the Security Council noted the attacks in Chad, Cameroon and Niger in recent days were ‘heinous.’ The actions of Boko Haram constituted one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, it said.”

Statements of regret in the wake of attacks have become so routine it seems like they’ve delegated the task to an NSC functionary.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Shooting in Copenhagen

The United States condemns today’s deplorable shooting in Copenhagen. We offer our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased victim, and our thoughts are with those wounded in this attack. We have been in close contact with our Danish counterparts and stand ready to lend any assistance necessary to the investigation.

People on the ground, however, have long known that statements, resolutions, hashtags and candlelight vigils are mostly a waste of time. The Voice of America reports that local tribesmen beset by the Boko Haram have more or less taken matters into their own hands and formed militias, often armed with makeshift weapons. “Vigilantes have long provided security in Gombi. But when Boko Haram overran the town last November, they turned their guns, bows and knives against the insurgents, said Babuka Jimeta, a vigilante commander.”

“Boko Haram is a new group,” he said. “Before, we didn’t know them. But we usually heard that they would attack this village, sack that village, do this, do that. We didn’t know what they wanted. We didn’t know that they attack any religion. We cannot sit down at home and hold down our arms and leave them to do their atrocities.”

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A World Without Dragons

February 14th, 2015 - 5:09 am

Sharon Waxman of the Wrap leads her story about the dire events in the American media with the heading: “David Carr, Jon Stewart, Brian Williams and Journalism’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week”.  The question is why what happens to journalists should be important to us is interesting to consider. The death of Carr, the retirement of Stewart and the disgrace of Brian Williams no doubt had a profound effect on persons close to them.  But why should they affect us?

Perhaps the ancient Babylonians had the answer. They had a clay map called the “image of the world” or the imago mundi. “The map as reconstructed by Eckhard Unger shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Urartu and several cities, in turn surrounded by a ‘bitter river’ (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it so as to form a seven-pointed star. The accompanying text mentions seven outer regions beyond the encircling ocean.”

The people who lived on the banks of the Euphrates were farmers and most probably never traveled more than a few miles from home.  Few could hope to get as far as the First Island.  The best they could do is consult their Image of the World and travel in their mind.

Like the ancient Babylonians, we don’t know our world.  It’s too big.  We have in its place an imago mundi of our own, the media,  to represent it.  Though no longer made of clay it serves the same purpose. Through it we see into distant lands, peer into the decision making processes of politicans and peep into the private lives of celebrities.  We go where we could otherwise never go. That is how we get to our seventh island. We see the imago and believe we see the mundi.

But for any image to be useful it must incorporate an element of simplification or reduction.  Maps, for example, are rarely faithful to scale, since a map as big as the world would be too unwieldy to use. Jose Luis Borges wrote a story titled On Exactitude in Science about a fictional empire making this very point .

in that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Any image in one to one correspondence with the world would be superfluous because we may as well consult the original rather than the copy. Only an unfaithful representation is of any use. The same must be true of the media.  In order to fulfill their function they have to simplify — though we hope not to distort.  Their viewers rely on those simplifications.

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Everyman as the Usual Suspect

February 13th, 2015 - 2:54 am

“Cybersecurity legislation was supposed to be an easy get for the president. But the shadow of Snowden has tech companies and privacy groups still worried about sharing more data with the government,” writes Dustin Volz of the National Journal.   That worry was so great that Silicon Valley’s biggest names did what Republican politicians would never do: they snubbed the president’s invitation to attend his cybersecurity summit according to the Hill.

The CEOs of Google, Yahoo and Facebook have declined invitations to attend President Obama’s tech summit Friday at Stanford University.

Though Apple CEO Tim Cook will be present, along with the top executives from firms like Mastercard and Bank of America, the absence of leaders like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo is notable.

Zuckerberg and Mayer were invited along with Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, but none will attend. Bloomberg News first reported the story late Wednesday.

Facebook, Yahoo and Google and Microsoft will send their top information security executives to the conference instead, Bloomberg reported.

Obama was set to propose something  potentially toxic to the industry: increased government access to Silicon Valley’s databases, information that their users and clients had entrusted to firms.  Government needed the information, or so the argument went, to protect America from its enemies.

In particular, Obama was going to define the standards for sharing data in exchange for a grant of legal immunity to companies from lawsuits arising from the compromise of privacy. By getting Silicon Valley onboard Obama hoped to have smoother sailing when selling the proposal to Congress.  Unable to digest the entire length of salami, he was going to reduce it by slices.

At a White House cybersecurity summit on Friday, President Obama will sign an executive order structuring the information centers it wants companies to eventually use when sharing cyber threat data with the government. Officials believe it will make their cyber proposals more enticing to lawmakers….

These industry organizations — known as Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs) — don’t yet exist and the White House’s legislative proposal was short on details. It left some wondering what exactly the administration was suggesting. …

Companies will be given legal liability protection when sharing data with ISAOs. Explicitly tying legal liability to the information centers will hopefully make the overall plan “more acceptable to the public sector and privacy and civil liberties advocates,” [White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael] Daniel said.

Obama planned to put the Department of Homeland Security in charge of the entire edifice in order to gain the trust of the tech giants. USA Today reports, “most importantly to Silicon Valley, the president’s proposal is expected to cement the role of the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the National Security Agency, as the government lead for information-sharing with the private sector.”

By doing this, Obama hoped to overcome Silicon Valley’s reluctance to trust government to keep secrets.  They’ve been burned before. Steven Levy of Wired wrote that the indiscretions of the NSA — Snowden in particular — “almost killed the Internet”. It is perhaps hyperbole, but not by much. The Snowden fiasco basically destroyed Silicon Valley’s trust relationship with its users.  The revelations:

would be the start of a chain reaction that threatened the foundations of the industry. The subject would dominate headlines for months and become the prime topic of conversation in tech circles. For years, the tech companies’ key policy issue had been negotiating the delicate balance between maintaining customers’ privacy and providing them benefits based on their personal data. It was new and contro­versial territory, sometimes eclipsing the substance of current law, but over time the companies had achieved a rough equilibrium that allowed them to push forward. The instant those phone calls from reporters came in, that balance was destabilized, as the tech world found itself ensnared in a fight far bigger than the ones involving oversharing on Facebook or ads on Gmail. Over the coming months, they would find themselves at war with their own government, in a fight for the very future of the Internet. …

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Winning By Losing Is A Bad Idea

February 11th, 2015 - 11:48 pm

A brace of news links capture the fabulous nature of recent Western statecraft.  This Feb 11 transcript from the State Department shows spokesman Jen Psaki vainly spinning the eviction of the US embassy from Yemen as some sort of victory for the Obama administration.  Psaki gamely starts the briefing by talking about Singapore, ignoring the biggest news item of the day, the loss of the US embassy in Yemen, until she is brought up short by questioners.

QUESTION: Got it. So you didn’t begin with the suspension of operations of the Embassy in Yemen because you figured it wasn’t that big a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a statement last night –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — to all of you, and I’m happy to certainly discuss in more detail.

QUESTION: Can you – okay. Can you? What can you tell us about it? Is everyone who is leaving gone? Where do they go? What’s the status of the Embassy and its property? And what is your understanding of the actual situation on the ground with the Houthis and – who is in charge?

Psaki tries to make the loss of the embassy appear as if it were some routine administrative move.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me try to address all of your questions here. So let me just reiterate for all of you who may not have seen it or didn’t – were not clicking refresh on your email last evening. We put out a travel warning and a statement last night announcing our decision to suspend our Embassy operations and the fact that our Embassy staff have been temporarily relocated out of Sana’a. We remain strongly committed to supporting the Yemeni people and will explore options for a return to Sana’a as soon as the situation on the ground improves. We also are grateful for the role the Government of Oman played and the Sultan’s leadership in our efforts to secure a swift departure and safe passage for our U.S. Embassy personnel. We deeply appreciate His Majesty’s concern for the safety of our personnel and unwavering friendship. We also thank the UN Special Envoy for his diplomatic engagement and the Government of Qatar for their willingness to facilitate our safe departure from Yemen.

Recent – as this was noted in here, I’m just reiterating it for all of you – or noted in our statement, I should say – recent unilateral military and political actions taken by the Houthis disrupted the political transition in Yemen, as all of you know and have been watching closely, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sana’a. As you know, the safety and security of our men and women serving is one of our top priorities, and we’ve been constantly evaluating.

In terms of how they departed, we worked – as you know, we’ve been working to reduce Embassy staff for some time now. Yesterday the remaining staff departed on an Omani private jet to Muscat. Our Embassy staff have since departed en route to Washington. In terms of where they will be – excuse me. That was a tongue-twister for some reason – where they will be based, that is – we’re still determining some of those details and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days on that.

But the questioning was relentless. Step by step Psaki was forced to own up to the fact that like Libya,  the loss of America’s embassy in Yemen was a humiliating event.

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The End of a Dream

February 9th, 2015 - 6:44 pm

Many of us have known someone who after showing signs of illness, has laughed it off as a “bout of the flu”, overwork or worry.  Only when the effects of weight loss, falling hair and lack of energy have become too pronounced to ignore, does he finally consult with doctors to announce the doleful news that ‘either I have my left lung out now with a 30 percent chance of recovery or I am dead in six months’.  That could be a metaphor for the situation the Obama administration finds itself facing in the Ukraine — and to a lesser extent in the Middle East.

After years of similarly claiming that its foreign policy was fine — never better in fact — the administration is facing its own moment of mortality. It has gone from a Reset With Russia, to a slight malaise caused by a “hiccup in relations“, to an urgent need to decide on whether to embark on a proxy war in Eastern Europe against Vladimir Putin.

There was a palpable tone shift in U.S. policy toward Ukraine this week, when the Obama administration signaled that it was ready to consider sending the country lethal military aid. A confluence of factors is pushing President Obama toward this decision. The fragile ceasefire brokered in September between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists has failed, manifested in the series of recent and high-profile separatist advances against the Ukrainian military this week. Bipartisan congressional support for sending weapons to Ukraine, championed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as a newly released report by former senior U.S. and European officials recommending lethal military aid for the embattled country, have also contributed to Obama and his tight inner circle of foreign policy advisers reconsidering the lethal aid option.

Events in Eastern Europe — even the loss of whole countries in the Middle East — were dismissed as only a “flesh wound”, something easily borne with “strategic patience”.  But now the hurts have grown too obvious to hide. Three weeks ago the editorial board of the Washington Post described the fantasy world of the Obama administration as it entered its last phase of  self-deception.

By Tuesday, the Ukrainian government and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine were reporting that fresh Russian army units were crossing the border and attacking Ukrainian positions north of the city of Luhansk and at the Donetsk airport. “The situation,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told us shortly after arriving in Washington, “is not going in the right direction.” Appropriately, the European ministers concluded there were no grounds for altering the existing sanctions on Russia, some of which will come up for renewal at a summit meeting in March — and the plan for detente came under heavy criticism.

The episode illustrates a pervasive disconnect in Western thinking about the regime of Vladi­mir Putin. As Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations pointed out recently , many Western leaders persist in seeing the Ukraine invasion as a hiccup in relations with Russia that can be smoothed over, rather than as a demonstration that Mr. Putin’s agenda is fundamentally at odds with Europe’s security interests and its values. Because of their attachment to the hiccup theory, governments — including the Obama administration — have refused to take steps, such as providing the Ukrainian government with defensive weapons, that could help stop Mr. Putin’s aggression. Instead, they concoct futile schemes for “reengaging” the Russian ruler.

Pervasive disconnect is the Obama administration’s standard operating procedure. The full-moon extent of the Obama world view still survives in his second National Security Strategy which lists among its national security priorities the need to “be a champion for … people with disabilities; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals; displaced persons; and migrant workers”.  It is something that  looks curiously out of place in a national security document — until you read the rest of it.

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High Horses

February 8th, 2015 - 2:52 am

“The Foolish, Historically Illiterate, Incredible Response to Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech,” is how Ta-nehisi Coates characterizes the outcry which greeted president Obama’s remarks at a National Prayer Breakfast at which said in part:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Speaking with the assurance of someone who knows who those they address are, whatever they may think of themselves, Coates reminds Christians of their sins, citing Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens to makes sure you understand what Christianity has historically been all about: apartheid and racism.

[T]he first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society … With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so.

When Alexander Stephens became an authority on Christianity is something of a mystery. Possibly at the same time Barack Obama did. Politicians seem to know lot about religion these days. They can, like Coates not only inform people of their true beliefs, as opposed to what they believe they believe, but can do something even more remarkable: tell who belong to other faiths. Journalists and politicians with no discernible religious training have the astonishing ability to declare with confident certainty that individual persons are “not Muslims” or that particular acts have “nothing to do with Islam”. They can do this while somehow remaining Christians themselves — if that’s what they are.  You might think the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia might hesitate to say who or who is not a Christian, but evidently the difficulty does not go the other way.

It would not be the first time politicians have ventured into religion. The first chapters of St. Augustine’s City of God are devoted to rebutting the exact opposite of the Coates/Obama thesis. In those days Christianity was accused of making Rome too gentle; of enervating its martial qualities such that the Empire was no longer able to defend itself.  Too bad they didn’t get the memo from Stephens.

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Serenity

February 6th, 2015 - 6:54 pm

Gopal Ratnam in Foreign Policy reports that a soon-to-be-unveiled administration document will solve the enduring mystery of the president’s apparent inaction in foreign affairs.

Even Obama’s own top advisors have criticized his administration’s national security decisions. Late last month, former Defense Intelligence Agency head Mike Flynn, a retired Army three-star general, said many in the administration were “paralyzed” by the complexity of fighting the Islamic State, leading them to “accept a defensive posture, reasoning that passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies.”

In his book Worthy Fights, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta criticized the White House after Obama stepped back from the red line he drew as a warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against using chemical weapons in that nation’s civil war.

Now it can be told:  the president’s non-action is a deliberate, active pursuit of a doctrine known as “strategic patience.” “The White House’s new national security policy, issued Friday, urges a long-term view of confronting conflict in a world awash with urgent crises. … ‘Progress won’t be quick or linear,’ National Security Advisor Susan Rice said, “but we are committed to seizing the future that lies beyond the crisis of the day, and pursuing a vision of the world as it can and should be.’”

A person who has seen the document, and described it to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity, said the strategy document is meant to explain and defend Obama’s reluctance to use military might for crises that are unlikely to be solved quickly or easily. In the document, the administration summarizes its worldview as one of “strategic patience,” this person said.

Asked about the strategy, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the policy document “sets out the principles and priorities to guide the use of American power, and it affirms America’s leadership role within a rules-based international order.” National Security Advisor Susan Rice will unveil the strategy in a speech Friday at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

Russia may be on the verge of even more expansion in Eastern Europe.  ISIS may be expanding unabated. Iran’s proxies  may have just declared themselves the new government in Yemen.  A shallow mind might perceive these as defeats.  But the critics of the administration don’t understand: it’s not the case that anti-American forces have surrounded the administration; it is the administration which is surrounding them.  ”Don’t worry if we’ve been losing all night, baby.  I’ll win it back at the last throw of the dice.”

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The Unimportant Things

February 5th, 2015 - 8:42 am

Twitter was consumed with Brian Williams messages today. News that the journalist had ‘misremembered’ his claim to have been in a helicopter hit by groundfire during the invasion of Iraq seemed to hit the public with an emotional force similar to finding that a beloved church pastor was a fraud. Why? Because people need someone or something to trust and after Williams there’s one less.

Life is so full of deceit and hype that many would find it unendurable without one pillar of belief to support their heavens or a sure stone to stand upon. A totally suspicious public is like a herd of cows that have become convinced there’s no place to go, no reason to move. The ability to convince individuals they are accomplishing something worthwhile is the key to motivation.  Consider that the majority of people who join the armed forces are paid comparatively little.  Clearly, no one in his right mind would risk death and dismemberment for the money paid. They do it instead for “important” things like Patriotism, Loyalty to friends or Honor.

The coin of that realm is the memory of accomplishing these intangible, “important” things.  It is that belief which provides lasting solace so that whatsoever befall a man who possesses it, even if he should be forced to live in a cardboard box following a divorce or reduced to working as a greeter, the memory that “I was once brave” will keep him from a total loss of self-respect. It was to this self-affirmation that Shakespeare referred in Henry V.

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