Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIS, Scotland and The Politics of Mimicry

Is the fact that half of the Scots want to split from Britain and the news that hundreds of young Muslim Brits are fighting with Jihadi militant groups in Syria connected?

Of course they are. These two social phenomena are intrinsically linked, yet in the intellectual desert in which we live, no one dares to address the subject. The boundaries of our curiosity are limited by our deference to political correctness and Zionist sensitivities.

From a political perspective, Jihadi enthusiasm amongst young Western Muslims is an outcome of the emergence of tribalism in the West; but isn’t the call for Scottish independence driven by a similar tribal urge? From both a philosophical and dialectic perspective, Jihadi identification and the Scottish call for independence are the antithesis of the New Left and its corrosive Identity (ID) politics that have been spread in our midst for too long.

In the last five decades we have witnessed a relentless attack on nationalism and patriotic values. These attacks are commonly associated with the ‘New Left’ and have been led in large part by the Jewish intelligencia. It was the Frankfurt School’s thesis on Authoritarian Personality (Adorno & co) and Wilhelm Reich’s take on ‘Mass Conservatism’ that suggested that there was something wrong, dangerous and even vile to be found among the masses and their ‘reactionist’ political orientation.  Contemporary Left cosmopolitan icon Noam Chomsky has been calling for the abolishment of borders and states (except, of course, the Jewish State* for many years. Chomsky is proudly hostile to patriotism and nationalism. Yet we must examine the alternative offered by Chomsky, The Frankfurt School, The New Left and The Guardian – the media outlet that enthusiastically disseminates these ideas.

For reasons that I have discussed numerous times, the New ‘Left’ and the Jewish intelligencia have vigorously advocated the replacement of the national patriotic discourse with ID politics. In practice, this was intended to break the cohesiveness of the working class and the national bond and replace it with a score of marginal and sectarian discourses. The Left that once claimed to be a universal voice for the working people was hijacked. It became the mouthpiece of ID groups, most of them defined by biology (gender, skin color and race), sexual preferences (LGBT) and even religion (Jews only).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Christians Are Criticizing Ted Cruz—and Israel

What is there to add to the extremely rich vein of commentary elicited by Ted Cruz’s  shameless Israel lobby pandering at a Washington forum intended to call attention to the plight of Mideast Christians in the age of ISIS? The pieces by Ross Douthat, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and the several posts by Rod Dreher say a great deal of what needs to be said, making many points I would likely never have thought of.

One takeaway from the controversy, which continues to reverberate around the conservative blogosphere, is how many socially conservative/Christian/Republican-leaning thinkers have sensed, perhaps for the first time in their relatively young careers, how morally flawed is the entire Christian Zionist/McCainist/Commentary/Washington Free Beacon/Likudnik group, whose views have long driven “mainstream” conservative foreign-policy opinion in Congress and the GOP presidential primaries. I think this may grow into an important schism on the right, one that weakens neoconservatism, to the Republican Party’s long-term benefit. I don’t want to ascribe views to people who don’t necessarily have them, but when I see young conservatives reacting viscerally against the tweets from the Breitbart site and other movement conservatives, tweets putting scare quotes around the word “Christian” in order to denigrate the Mideast patriarchs and bishops and other figures who attended the gathering, attacking them because they failed some sort of “stand with Israel” litmus test, it feels like a kind of Kronstadt moment. This sentiment also comes when I see the disgust felt when Weekly Standard editor Lee Smith implies that Mideast Christians are simply a kind of ISIS lite. I witnessed personally a comparable repulsion a year or so ago, when an old friend, long a prudently neocon-friendly author and Wall Street Journal writer, reacted to the smearing of Chuck Hagel by the same group. It’s as if the Israel lobby has grown so accustomed to the deference accorded it by everyone else in the American political system, it has lost any sense of its own limits.

Still there are other points to be made. Several of Cruz’s critics responded as if the Mideast Christians who came to the gathering deserved a sort of indulgent understanding for their lack of enthusiasm for Cruz’s admonition that Israel is their greatest friend. It was sometimes noted as historical fact that most Palestinian Christians live under Israeli occupation, and that others were ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948; that the Lebanese Christians had once been Israel’s allies, which had not worked out well for them: in other words, all these groups had understandable excuses for their chilliness towards Israel. These Christians are, according to this discourse, genuinely vulnerable—they can be forgiven for not loving Israel. But this argument—and there are elements of it in most of the conservative pieces which chastized Cruz—scants the fact that Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestine is also opposed, often quite publicly and with increasing energy, by ever growing numbers of non-Mideast Christians.

I wonder if Cruz would similarly walk out and denounce Pope Francis as an anti-Semite, considering the new Pope visited the Holy Land and expressed his wishes for dignity and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and said a prayer outside the Israeli wall that severs Bethlehem from neighboring Jerusalem and has largely rendered the town of Jesus’s birth a walled off ghetto. (The Israeli right went into conniptions about the Pope’s visit, with the incomparable Caroline Glick accusing the Pope of licensing “Holocaust denial” by his prayer at the Bethlehem separation wall.) If there is an argument that the Pope, with his stand in support of peace and dignity for both peoples in the Holy Land, is some kind of outlier among Catholics, I have not yet heard it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Obama Got Trolled by ISIS

President Obama’s reaction to the videos of two American freelance journalists getting beheaded by Islamist militants gives me the uncomfortable feeling that the American people are getting punk’d — again.

The same thing happened 13 years ago this week, when a dozen and a half Muslim fundamentalists attacked our financial and political capitals using our own planes. The hijackers got exactly the reaction that they wanted: overreaction.You should never underestimate an adversary, least of all when their remarkable success against difficult odds have demonstrated the wisdom of their tactics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, like the 9/11-era Al Qaeda from which it split, is not run by stupid people. Stupid people don’t take half of Syria away from its longtime authoritarian dictator – whose armed forces happen to be better equipped and trained – and half of Iraq away from a puppet regime backed by the world’s most ferocious superpower – in two years.

Considering ISIS through the lens of proper respect for their leaders’ intelligence, what were they thinking when they posted those two gruesome videos? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Suleiman al-Naser and other top officials of the Islamic State had to know they would provoke a political reaction. It has: More Americans (94%) are aware of the ISIS execution videos than any other news event in the last five years.

ISIS’ leaders also must have anticipated a military reaction. After the videos, a war-weary American public’s apathetic stance toward the civil war in Syria flipped toward strong support in favor of the bombing campaign announced by Obama (who paradoxically continues to poll poorly on foreign policy).

Clearly ISIS’ top brass believe they stand more to gain than to lose from the coming onslaught by U.S. drones and fighter jets. This should frighten us.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Waging War

James Madison is commonly referred to as the Father of the Constitution in large measure because, in the secrecy of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, he kept the most complete set of notes. He also had a very keen mind and a modest demeanor and an uncanny ability to solidify consensus around basic principles that are woven into the Constitution.

After he wrote the Constitution and before he became Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state and eventually a two-term president, he was a congressman from Virginia. When he spoke on the floor of the House, the parts of the Constitution he was most adamant about restrained the president. Chief among those restraints, in Madison’s view, was the delegation to Congress, and not to the president, of the power to wage war.

Madison knew that kings became tyrants through war. He fervently believed that by keeping the war-waging power in the hands of the president and the war-making power in the hands of Congress, the Constitution would serve as a bulwark against tyranny. He explained:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Madison is instructive for us today as President Obama decides whether to ask the nation to go to war or to order hostilities on his own.

Under the War Powers Resolution (WPR), the president can deploy U.S. forces anywhere outside the U.S. for 180 days upon his written notifications of congressional leaders. He does not need a declaration of war to deploy forces for 180 days, yet he cannot deploy forces beyond that without express authorization from Congress.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Decades of federal government ‘cost-plus’ contracts increase taxpayer costs 2, 3, 4+ times

The biggest issue with federal government purchasing is the use of cost-plus contracts. This should be an issue that most people agree with regardless of their political leanings.

Cost-plus contracts are a way for government acquisition professionals to pass on research and development risks to the taxpayers. The acquisition professionals cause this risk to taxpayers through two different actions: 1. Writing poor system requirements and 2. Not contracting for the proper lab work, experimentation, and prototyping for new technologies. Essentially, programs are going forward for full funding without the proper engineering and scientific effort being conducted to refine new designs and catch unforeseen problems with new technologies. There are programs funded that contain requirements for technologies that don’t even exist in a proven prototype.

For some programs that are funded by Congress, there are several high risk technology requirements that are rolled into the same project, compounding risk to taxpayers. While the contractors experiment, fail, and experiment again to try and meet those requirements, the bills keep piling up.

The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) – High, which provides infrared sensors in space as part of the missile launch alert system, is an example of what happens when small scale sensor prototypes aren’t developed slowly in a laboratory research and development environment, and then introduced in stages (first as a small test sensor on an operational satellite and later as its own acquisition program for full-scale development). The program experienced massive cost overruns on the order of 400%; see Budget Busters:  The USA’s SBIRS – High Missile Warning Satellites.

Poor system requirements writing continues because in many cases acquisition professionals are just taking various inputs from organizations, consolidating the requirements, and pressing forward with a new program without understanding where to cut and shape requirements in order to bound risks. It’s an ignorance of what’s state-of-the-art practice in industry today versus what isn’t feasible to accomplish in the near-term.

The cost overruns and schedule slips include naval ships and aircraft. The Navy can’t even purchase small ships designed for coastal operations without having costs more than double; see Cost overruns have military facing ‘train wreck,’ McCain says.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Anti-Interventionism and Its Discontents

The ISIS crisis has given the War Party a new lease on life – or so they want us to believe. It seems like only yesterday that they were in the doldrums, and with good reason: their Syrian adventure was aborted after a long propaganda buildup – thanks to a cry of outrage from the American people – and they’ve been chafing at the bit ever since.

This setback, combined with all the polls showing how disgusted the American people are with our foreign policy of global intervention, coincided with the rise of the man Politico magazine recently called the country’s most interesting politician: Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. It was Rand who was one of the leading voices against our disastrous intervention not only in Syria but also in Libya – where, today, jihadists cavort in our former embassy as they decimate that woefully "liberated" land. It was Rand who co-led the fight against the NSA in the Senate, standing with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and libertarian Republican congressman Justin Amash to expose and bring down the Surveillance State. And it was Rand whose filibuster against the droning of American citizens won him the respectful attention of civil libertarians on the left as well as the right – and the utter disdain of war birds on both sides of the aisle.

Polls showing Rand Paul as the frontrunner in the GOP presidential sweepstakes have the neocons in a lather, with their online media phalanx frantically attacking him at every opportunity. It’s kind of funny to watch: the first fusillades were aimed at labeling him an "isolationist," while more recently they’ve pointed out how he deviates from his father’s more angular policy positions. If you can’t smear and marginalize, then there’s always the strategy of cutting him off from his base.

Yet even with all this, the War Party is trying hard to pick itself up off the floor, and the eruption of this latest ISIS "crisis" – accompanied by the most hysterical stream of war propaganda since the dark old days of September, 2001 – is cutting them some slack. The pushback is on with this piece in the Washington Post which sets out to prove the interventionists are riding higher than they actually are. Entitled "Rise of Islamic State Tests GOP Anti-Interventionists," the theme is clear from the get-go:


"A roiling national debate over how to deal with the radical Islamic State and other global hot spots has prompted a sudden shift in Republican politics, putting a halt to the anti-interventionist mood that had been gaining credence in the party."

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

How America Made ISIS

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now.  After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list.  Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S.  Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.”  We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.

What Americans have needed is a little pick-me-up to make us feel better, to make us, in fact, feel distinctly good.  Certainly, what official Washington has needed in tough times is a bona fide enemy so darn evil, so brutal, so barbaric, so inhuman that, by contrast, we might know just how exceptional, how truly necessary to this planet we really are.

In the nick of time, riding to the rescue comes something new under the sun: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), recently renamed Islamic State (IS).  It’s a group so extreme that even al-Qaeda rejected it, so brutal that it’s brought back crucifixion, beheading, waterboarding, and amputation, so fanatical that it’s ready to persecute any religious group within range of its weapons, so grimly beyond morality that it’s made the beheading of an innocent American a global propaganda phenomenon.  If you’ve got a label that’s really, really bad like genocide or ethnic cleansing, you can probably apply it to ISIS's actions.

It has also proven so effective that its relatively modest band of warrior jihadis has routed the Syrian and Iraqi armies, as well as the Kurdish pesh merga militia, taking control of a territory larger than Great Britain in the heart of the Middle East.  Today, it rules over at least four million people, controls its own functioning oil fields and refineries (and so their revenues as well as infusions of money from looted banks, kidnapping ransoms, and Gulf state patrons).  Despite opposition, it still seems to be expanding and claims it has established a caliphate.  

A Force So Evil You’ve Got to Do Something

Monday, September 01, 2014

“Russia Invades Ukraine”, Strategic NATO Public Relations Stunt. Where are the Russian Tanks?

What is at stake is a strategic public relations stunt.

Sixty countries will be represented at the NATO Summit in Wales on 4-5 September including the 28 NATO member states. 

The media lies “fit the military agenda” already formulated by the Pentagon in consultation with NATO and Her Majesty’s Government.

US-NATO requires “evidence” to build a political consensus at the Wales NATO Summit on September 4-5 hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. According to PM David Cameron in a letter addressed to heads of State and heads of government of NATO member states ahead of the Summit:
“Leaders [of NATO countries] must review NATO’s long term relationship with Russia at the summit in response to Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.
“And the PM wants to use the summit to agree on how NATO will sustain a robust presence in Eastern Europe in the coming months to provide reassurance to allies there, building on work already underway in NATO.” (See PM writes to NATO leaders ahead of NATO Summit Wales 2014)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Oil Rules Iraq

There is an oil tanker the size of four football fields representing the full measure of Kurdistan’s independence. And it’s sitting off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

This tanker is just one thread in the emerging story of Iraq’s tumultuous evolution, and oil’s commanding role in it. During the war, critics liked to say “it’s all about the oil,” but that is now truer than ever before. Kurdish sovereignty depends on it. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fueled by it. And all through the violence and political crises of the last summer, the oil has continued to pump, keeping a fragile central government one step from implosion.

“Oil is the central facilitator of all the actors’ ambitions—it is how the Kurds hope to obtain eventual independence, how ISIS can finance the much larger organization it has become, and how the Iraqi state stays afloat,” said Steve LeVine, an energy expert and Future Tense fellow at the New America Foundation, in an interview with TAC.

“Absent oil, we would have a very different situation.”

Kurds Go to Court

The giant tanker United Kalavrvta is carrying 100 million barrels of crude oil pumped in Kurdistan and destined for LyondellBasell Industries, a Dutch-owned company in Texas. It has been anchored off the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico for a month. This week, a federal judge in Texas threw out a seizure order that could have drawn U.S. marshals into the protracted dispute over who owns the oil—Kurdistan or the central government in Baghdad.