Michael Totten

Weekend Reading (Continuously Updated)

GOOD GRIEF: So Dennis Blair is out as director of national intelligence, which is fine, but now President Obama says he has “more confidence” in John Brennan? This is the man who wants to go looking for moderates in Hezbollah, who do not exist, and promote them within the organization, which he could not do even if they were real. We can’t monkey with Hezbollah’s org chart any more than we can Al Qaeda’s or the Iranian government’s.

I’d have a little more faith in the Obama Administration’s foreign policy officials if they demonstrated more consistent knowledge of Middle East 101.

WONDERFUL. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Hugo Chavez vows to continue financial crackdown in Venezuela.

HELL ON THE MEDITERRANEAN: “An iron curtain of a strict theocracy is slowly descending on Gaza, but many human rights proponents still prefer to depict it as the embattled bastion of freedom fighters.”

DARIUSZ TOLCZYK AT THE NEW CRITERION on Russia’s persistent unwillingness to fully face up to the mass murder of tens of thousands of Polish military officers and intellectuals in the Katyn forest by Stalin’s NKVD in 1940.

BEWARE OF BORDERS: Three American hikers arrested last summer for crossing into Iran from Iraq are now being called spies by the Iranian government. They aren’t, of course. Our intelligence agencies are too sophisticated to send people in country that way, but Tehran finds them useful and is now proposing a prisoner swap.

Years ago I walked right up to the Iranian border from the Iraqi side with a colleague, and we retreated the instant we sensed we were within grabbing distance of Iranian border guards. In hindsight, getting even that close may have been a little too daring.

I SURE HOPE HE’S WRONG: Christopher Booker says of the Euro crisis, “We have still scarcely begun to wake up to the gravity of the crisis now upon us, not just for the eurozone but also for us here in Britain and for the entire global economy.”

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: We are not done with Goldstone.

IT’S A HAZARD OF THE PROFESSION: Al Qaeda big shot in Yemen blows himself up while tinkering with a bomb.

THE FOOL ON HIS ERRAND: John Kerry returns to Syria hoping Bashar Assad and his Baath Party regime will work toward a pan-Arab peace treaty with Israel. He’ll fail.

GORDON CHANG on Obama, the sinking of the Cheonan, and the failure of nuclear deterrence.

MICHAEL YON is still in Thailand and posting updates on his Facebook page. Things seem to have quieted down, at least for now. He has a few words of warning, though, about war tourism. “During the recent troubles some tourists came to the danger zone to see the action. This is incredibly dangerous. I read that a total of 85 people were killed and about 1,900 injured. If you’ve never been in combat you’ll probably have a very bad surprise if it kicks off. It’s not fun and it’s not a thrill ride and you literally can get your guts shot out.”


RUSSIA will sell an advanced missile system to Iran despite sanctions.

THE ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY says thirty five tons of weapons seized last year on a plane from North Korea were bound for Hezbollah.

BENJAMIN KERSTEIN on liberalism and Zionism.


LEE SMITH says Lebanese-American Rima Fakih, this year’s Miss America winner, isn’t necessarily a fully Westernized Muslim just because she wore a bathing suit. She may well be what her admirers say she is, but to know for certain you’d have to look into her head and her heart, not at her body or clothes. The same is true for any other beauty pageant contestant, but there’s something else, too: Some bikini-clad women in Lebanon, believe it or not, support Hezbollah, just as a small number of Middle Eastern doctors perversely become terrorists.

I have already strongly recommended Smith’s book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, but I want to plug it one last time because everyone who wants to understand how the Middle East works needs to read this.

IMPERIALIST RUNNING DOG Joshua Stanton on how to overthrow North Korea’s Kim dynasty: A Capitalist Manifesto, Part One and Part Two.