Belmont Club

Hope vs Experience

Samuel Johnson once observed that second marriages were the “triumph of hope over experience”.  Johnson might just as well have been talking about life in general.  The two conflicting impulses at the start of each morning are a) the desire to begin a happy day; and b) the regrettable habit of reading the news which ruins it all. You may start the toast on “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, but by the time you get to the news with the last of the coffee your down to Alanis Morissette’s “It Figures”. For example, here is a survey of today’s news.

President Obama has warned himself advances by ISIS in Iraq could spill over into other countries, almost validating that political theory advanced on this site yesterday about the stovetop espresso theory of insurgency diffusion. “Gunmen fighting Iraqi forces seized more territory along the country’s borders with Jordan and Syria, as President Barack Obama warned that advances by militants could spill over into neighboring countries,” says Bloomberg.

In order to prevent this castastrophe, Lee Smith notes the administration is hoping against hope to enlist Iran to stabilize Iraq. They’ve identified an Iranian miracle worker just right for the job. “Because Obama will not devote sufficient assets to stopping Sunni jihadists fighting from Beirut to Baghdad, the administration believes it has little choice but to work with the only actor with men on the ground that shares an interest in stopping groups like ISIS. Who else but Qassem Suleimani?”

Qassem Suleimani, in case you hadn’t heard, is Iran’s clandestine super-agent. He was once in the crosshairs of the Coalition, which luckily didn’t pull the trigger. This is fortunate, because Washington now regards Suleimani, in Smith’s words, as the “most interesting man in the world”, a combination of James Bond, Dr. Evil and Lex Luthor — it’s potential savior.

He’s considered a hero in Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies…. “I’m sure Suleimani enjoys the fact that the United States government, which has formally designated him a terrorist, now depends on his help to restore security in Iraq and save Baghdad from ISIS.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht warns the administration not to get its hopes up too high; because even though the Shi’ite Islamic militants are much smoother and vastly more intelligent version than their Sunni head-chopping counterparts, it’s wise to remember that Muslims of any stripe tend to regard America as the infidel enemy.

Sunni jihadists are certainly scarier now than their Shiite counterparts: Public decapitation with swords and knives is, at least in modern times, more Saudi than Persian, and suicide bombing, which Sunni radicals now relish, has passed into desuetude among Shiites. …

However, this loss isn’t going to moderate the clerical regime’s anti-American calling​—​the hope of those who now see an Iranian opportunity for America in Iraq … The Iranians will probably double down on their militant Sunni outreach, even as they fan the flames of sectarian war in both Syria and Iraq. They will reflexively try to find common ground with jihadists in anti-American rhetoric. …

whenever Islam is superheated, infidels fare poorly. While both sides of this old and bitter divide kill each other, Sunni and Shiite radicals will surely try to outbid each other over who is the staunchest enemy of the United States. In this ugly contest, the Iranians will be the more fascinating to watch: They are highbrow Islamic revolutionaries, which means, among other things, that they can esteem risqué Persian verse as much as they do nuclear physics. Qassem Suleimani, my Shiite Iraqi friends swear, can even be an entertaining dinner guest.

The “most interesting man in the world” will in any case be an anti-American one. But it’s all Obama has. Not only that, but the administration is dusting off all the contacts it once denounced. The Daily Beast says, “resident Obama isn’t just sending in the Green Berets as he begins to re-enter the war in Iraq. U.S. diplomats and military officers are also reaching out to discarded tribal allies and even the Iraqi who progressives blame for tricking George W. Bush into invading Iraq in the first place.”

The triumph of hope over experience.

However it looks like Gerecht will be right about Iran’s ultimate contempt for infidels. Reuters reports that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has just told president Obama to get lost. “We are strongly opposed to U.S. and other intervention in Iraq,” IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. “We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition.”

So it looks like Suleimani is going to work for Tehran — and not for Obama — after all.

More’s the pity, since Obama needs all the help he can get. The Washington Post notes the Ukraine, is acting up again.  There’s another stovetop espresso on the boil in eastern Europe threatening to send coffee westward. Carol Morello writes, “DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine — As government troops and insurgents were locked in heavy battles in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, NATO’s chief said a new Russian military buildup was underway near the border.”

These “heavy battles” and troop buildups have caused Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel to plead with Putin for a ceasefire. They are apparently carrying the load in Europe while Obama figures out a way to catch the attention of the Iranians.

In the discussion, Mr. Hollande and Ms. Merkel asked Mr. Putin to make “every necessary effort” to convince armed groups to stop fighting. “Otherwise, new measures will be adopted by the international community that will impact its relationship with Russia,” they added.

Earlier Thursday, the civilian head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said the alliance was seeing a buildup of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine, a development he described as “a very regrettable step backward.”

But it’s not as if Obama has forgotten Russia. He’s apparently come up with a sure-fire scheme for reducing tensions with Moscow. “U.S. Eliminates Multi-Warheads on All Ground-Based Nuclear Missiles,” says the Global Security Newswire. That should mollify Putin and signal that America has no aggressive intentions.

That’s his style. Obama likes to telegraph inaction.  He ruled out military action in Ukraine, ruled out ground troops in Iraq and is now ruling out MIRVs on land based nuclear missiles.

Crews carried out the final modification of an intercontinental ballistic missile at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. The service implemented the alterations under a nuclear-arms pact with Russia.

The New START strategic arms-control treaty called for the change to the nation’s Minuteman 3 ICBMs, which were previously able to carry three “Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles.” The United States maintains roughly 450 of the missiles, deployed at the Montana facility and at bases in North Dakota and Wyoming.

Obama has also decided to unilaterally divest America of land mines on the DMZ border with North Korea. “Obama to Overrule Military on Landmines?”, writes Real Clear Defense. Apparently, the president is just waiting for the right time to announce it.

The Obama administration may be moving closer to banning landmines that U.S. military officials have said are critical to deterring aggression from North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama is set next week to approve the Ottawa Treaty, an international treaty banning landmines, and position the Department of Defense to comply with the treaty.

However, a congressional source tells RealClearDefense that the timing of such an announcement is unclear and may be put off in the face of potential criticism from Congress, concerns from the South Korean government, and lingering reservations at the Pentagon.

Richard Cook made two observations about failure. The first is that “human operators are both defenders and producers of failure”. Their fixes often only make things worse. Obama thinks he’s got a winning formula for peace and sticking with it. Obama, according to Shadow Foreign Policy, is so certain that withdrawing from Iraq was a good idea he wants to duplicate its success in Afghanistan. “The president appears to be sticking to his position that removing all troops from Iraq was not only necessary but also wise. He has committed to doing the same in Afghanistan, promising that all US troops will be out by the end of 2016.” This time he may be right. The only problem is to get them out before they are trapped.

India apparently, is not very sanguine about the future. Reuters says New Delhi may be stockpiling material for H-bombs. “India is expanding a covert uranium enrichment plant that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, a defense research group said on Friday, raising the stakes in a regional arms race with China and Pakistan.”

Not exactly a great endorsement in Obama’s vision of a “world without nuclear weapons”, but it’s not all bad news. The Washington Times says that the Iraqi crisis has not boosted oil prices as much as expected because of the gushers in America’s heartland.

The Iraq crisis follows Russia’s takeover of Crimea and its backing of rebels fighting the Kiev government in eastern Ukraine, prompting the U.S. and Europe to threaten broad sanctions on Russia’s economy, including its vital oil sector. Such sanctions have the potential to throttle oil exports from the world’s top producer and deprive much of Europe of a critical source of oil.

In the past, either of these two major threats to oil supplies — and certainly both of them together — would have sent world oil prices soaring and pushed prices at U.S. gas pumps to uncomfortable and possibly unprecedented levels. But that is not happening, and analysts are attributing the relative calm, with premium crude prices having risen moderately to a range around $106 a barrel in New York so far this week, to the gusher of oil coming out of America’s heartland, which is holding down prices.

Ironically, the one factor Obama has going for him is the very thing he did his utmost to oppose. Operators often cause failure because what they perceive to be “solutions” actually aggravate matters.  Therefore they zig when they should zag. The controls work in the opposite of what they believe.

Which brings us to the second thing Richard Cook observed about failure: that “complex failed systems can run in degraded mode” for a long time. Gushers appear out of nowhere to partially save us. That means that however bad things seem, the sun will probably rise tomorrow.  There’s a lot of ruin in a country, and sometimes what are perceived as mistakes (like drilling) can turn out to be our salvation. You can always hope for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” each day, becomes sometimes it happens.

Francis Fukuyama speculated in 2012 about the Future of History, by which he meant, not Einstein’s inexorable time-line, as much as the fulfillment of ideology. Fukuyama wondered whether we could still say that any of the great 20th century visions shall find fulfillment in the 21st? The probable answer to that is “no”, at least not in their original forms.

But the future of the future is assured notwithstanding. The calendar turns over however hard you work to prevent it. Some vision will find fulfillment in the coming years, though we won’t know which it is or even what it is. Perhaps faith does not consist in hoping you’ll get what you want, but in hoping you’ll want what you get.

Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

Chemical Magic (Dover Books on Chemistry)
Luther: Man Between God and the Devil
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality
Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science)
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
The Day the Bubble Burst
Is Islam a Religion of Peace? The Areopagus Journal of the Apologetics Resource Center. Volume 10, Number 1.
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
The Anatomy of the State (LvMI)

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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