Vladimir Putin, the Strong Horse

 

horse_1456083iOsama Bin Laden said, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally want to side with the strong horse.” Understanding that fact of human nature and geopolitics, Vladimir Putin galloped into Syria to show the Middle East that Russia rides high while the US flees from the world stage.

While President Obama busies himself making silly faces toward a selfie stick, many beleaguered residents of Syria and Iraq are more than happy to welcome a new sheriff to town.

Amid the ornate walls of Damascus’ famed Omayyad Mosque, preacher Maamoun Rahmeh stood before worshippers last week, declaring Russian President Vladimir Putin a “giant and beloved leader” who has “destroyed the myth of the self-aggrandizing America.”

Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region.

The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria, who see Russian airstrikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the U.S.-led coalition to dislodge the Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries.

The reactions underscore that while the West may criticize Putin for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, there is some relief in the region at the emergence of a player with a coherent – if controversial – strategy.

Most people who have watched chaos reign for years will welcome even a bloody ruler if he enforces some semblance of order. And, for all his myriad faults, Putin’s investment of blood and treasure in the region has given hope to residents. One Damascene marveled that “Putin does more than just speak.”

A professor from Homs agreed. “The (Russian) intervention has raised the morale of the Syrian army and the Syrian people alike,” said Dr. Samir Haddad. “President Putin has a distinguished personality and charisma, and it has become clear that world leaders have gradually started approving, openly or secretly, of this intervention.”

Iraqis are joining in the praise for Moscow, embittered from years of war followed by sudden US abandonment:

“Russia does not play games. They are problem solvers, and they do it quietly and efficiently, not like the Americans who prefer to do everything in front of the cameras,” said Hussein Karim, a 21-year-old medical student from Baghdad.

In one cartoon widely distributed among Iraqis on Facebook and Twitter, U.S. President Barack Obama is dressed as a Sunni sheikh, while Putin as a Shiite imam, suggesting the two are taking sides.

Another cartoon shows a bare-chested Putin holding IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the collar of his jalabaya, looking very intimidating. He says to al-Baghdadi: “Where do you think you’re going? I’ll flatten you like flour,” a popular Iraqi expression.

Al-Baghdadi, holding a cellphone, shouts: “Obama, save me!”

The New York Times also noticed Putin’s growing fan club in Iraq.

At a seminar of journalists and civic leaders last week, Faris Hammam, the leader of the local writers union, asked how many attendees were glad the Russian military was carrying out airstrikes in Syria. Most shot up their hands.

“The Russian intervention is welcomed, not because they like intervention but because of the American failure,” Hammam said.

“In the Middle East, what often counts is strength — or at least the illusion of it,” said Hayder al-Khoei, an associate fellow at Chatham House, a London-based international-affairs research group.

Under Obama’s feckless foreign policy, America has revealed herself as a nation not to be trusted. The President repeatedly promised that he would take the fight to ISIS and help protect the Yazidis, Kurds, and other oppressed peoples suffering under their boots and blades. But after more than a year of talk and dithering, the people of the Middle East have come to a different conclusion: Obama lied.

In a region of centuries-long memories and grievances, America’s betrayal will not be forgotten.

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  1. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Roadrunner: Sure maybe Iran and Iraq might have worked together but there are reasons why that was very hard especially if we weren’t involved.

    They were reasonably successful at it in the past. What are the reasons for it being hard? There was a huge bump after the revolution when Iran thought that it could topple Saddam. After the Iraq Iran war, though, that really quietened down. Even when Saddam was killing Shia by the hundreds of thousands, Iran was able to work with him.

    Roadrunner:  Sooner or later the Shia would have caused the division in Iraq.  We made that happen in the worst possible way.

    Iraq has centuries of that not happening. There is, so far as I know, no reason to believe that if Saddam had remained in place and the sanctions had lifted, as scheduled, in 2004, that there would have been particular problems with Shia uprisings.

    Roadrunner:  We made that happen in the worst possible way.

    You mean in 1990, or that after we toppled Saddam we encouraged the worst sort of Shia uprising?

    Roadrunner:  There is something about your thinking that makes me think that we would have had significant military strength in Iraq for a long time.  An American election decided that that wasn’t going to happen.  Once we are out then we get to see the true relationship between the new Iraq and Iran.

    I wasn’t in favor of a permanent military settlement in Iraq, and after the US left Iraq continued to enforce sanctions. I do think that we needed to continue to supply them with air cover and naval support, but that was doable from other bases in the region. It was important to be clear that we weren’t operating as a colonial power. We should have provided a lot more aid, though, and exerted more influence. We should also have responded to the Syrian conflict in 2011, 2012, 2013, or early 2014, which would have spare Iraq the trouble.

    Roadrunner: The real question is how do you like that balance of power now?  Another question is what can we do about it?  Neocons can dream of soldiers on the ground while brave male refugees pour into the West but both those ideas are not palatable to most of the people that live in the West.

    This is pretty terrible. It’s almost exactly what people, neocon and not, who supported intervention in Syria predicted way back in 2011. Our intervention would have been cheap, not needing boots on the ground. Now, intervention will be expensive, but is still necessary. It might not need boots on the ground, but it will need Russians to be killed.

    Roadrunner: All the meddling that was encouraged by neocons has been to the advantage of the Iranians, the Russians and ISIS.  I know that wasn’t the intent so that should lead to some kind of reflection.  Instead even more meddling is imagined.

    Which bit of meddling encouraged by the neo-cons? Saddam, a Soviet and Russian client, was toppled and replaced by an administration with very weak ties to Russia indeed. It’s possible that the Afghan war has supported Russian interests, but I’d like to hear the case made. Abstention in Syria has massively empowered Russian interests.

    The meddling with Iran brought a worldwide level of sanctions that does appear to have had some effect, although, obviously, more intervention would have been helpful. Bomb attacks on Iranian scientists and Stuxnet also seem to have helped.  With the end of the sanctions, more robust intervention seems to be necessary, but we may be able to do most of it in Syria and Iraq; the murder of Shia abroad is the regime’s chief source of legitimacy, and defeating Assad and ISIS would remove a key Iranian client regime and that source of authority.

    Roadrunner: Finally it is amazing that you think Islam will be bought off with air conditioners and phones.

    I don’t think that “Islam will be bought off” with improved lives. I think that Iraqis have better lives because they have better lives. I’m not even sure what Islam being bought off would look like.

    Roadrunner: It is important to remember that the fellows that brought so much sorrow on 9/11 had phones, air conditioning, many had good educations and all the pleasures of the West.  They chose a suicidal path instead.   Around our country and the world there were celebrations on 9/12 by Muslims.  These are the people that dominate Islam.  The ones we want to back are sheep.

    The sheep seem to have fought ISIS to a standstill in Iraq and, until Putin’s intervention, were prevailing against the butchers in Syria. The sheep are running Tunisia reasonably well, although terrorism is affecting tourism and the economy, as it did in Northern Ireland. The sheep run Malaysia, Indonesia outside Aceh, large chunks of India, etc. etc. etc. in ways that promote American values and support the American economy without producing significant numbers of terrorists. There’s a lot of sheep out there.

    • #31
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Roadrunner:

    Zafar:

    Roadrunner:

    it is amazing that you think Islam will be bought off with air conditioners and phones…

    This New Republic article on the subject concurs:

    And this website has the money quote:

    Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate when mad dog killers are motivated but I still think they are mad dog killers. Wherever there are Muslims there is a sizable subset that meet the criteria you listed and they commit violent acts against their neighbors. The larger the population the larger the subset and the more violence. Nobody should have to live around Islam but for Muslims I don’t know what the alternative would be.

    I think you believe Malaysian and Bangladeshi violence to be much more widespread than it is.

    • #32
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Cat III:Part of me thinks it may not be so bad for Russia to get directly involved in Syria. Let them spend a decade fighting a fruitless war in a country for unclear reasons and after a trillion plus dollars and thousands of dead Russian soldiers, maybe Putin will have the worldwide reputation of George W. Bush.

    But Russia has a some very clear objectives in Syria. Among them:

    1. Secure that Russian base on the Mediterranean in Tartus; and
    2. Stabilise Assad’s rule (related to point number one, and possibly achievable in a rump Syria).

    .

    They are supporting a viable local force, supported by another regional country which is willing to put in soldiers to fight on the ground. It’s looking like a pretty low risk decision on their part, to be honest.

    Even if they don’t entirely knock out ISIS, and they may not, they’re still in a good position wrt: Tartus, Assad, the Govt of Iraq and Iran. Oh and they’ve also established themselves immediately South of a NATO border (okay, Turkey is not really Europe but it’s still de jure NATO) not to mention embarrassed the United States. Unless there’s severe blowback in the Caucasus (possible) this is unlikely to be another Afghanistan for them.

    I’d add that Russia is likely to increase its diplomatic efforts elsewhere when it reminds those it negotiates with that it is willing and able to succcessfully invade its neighbors, but other than omissions, I agree with this completely. I have no idea why people would think that Russia was not able to achieve its war aims, on the assumption that those war aims are destroying the moderate opposition in Syria and thus preserving and entrenching a client regime. It seems to be doing pretty fantastically so far, with both ISIS and Assad making advances.

    • #33
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Roadrunner:

    it is amazing that you think Islam will be bought off with air conditioners and phones…

    This New Republic article on the subject concurs:

    And this website has the money quote:

    All terrorist acts are motivated by two things:

    • Social and political injustice: People choose terrorism when they are trying to right what they perceive to be a social or political or historical wrong—when they have been stripped of their land or rights, or denied these.

    • The belief that violence or its threat will be effective, and usher in change. Another way of saying this is: the belief that violent means justify the ends. Many terrorists in history said sincerely that they chose violence after long deliberation, because they felt they had no choice.

    The first of these claims is pretty meaningless; it’s not possible to present a world so free of injustice that OBL and his ilk will not be able to find complaints.

    The second, though, is the key to victory. Terrorism mostly dies out when victory becomes implausible. We don’t have a lot of anarchist terrorism in the US after the Palmer raids. We don’t have a lot of Communist terrorism after the Cold War.

    The reason that Israeli death goes on is because Israel’s position is not secure. Establishing democracies and having them survive for a little while and entrench is a pretty good way to minimize terrorism. Refusing to give terrorists victories is more important.

    • #34
  5. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Zafar:Xennady, from your link:

    Yes, the LTTE was annihilated – but the Tamils remain. And from the Guardian:

    Six years after the end of Sri Lanka’s long and bloody civil war, a “silent” conflict is being waged across the island, with tens of thousands of government troops continuing to occupy the north and east and the army expanding its property developments on land belonging to displaced Tamils, a new report claims.

    Although the26-year-long conflictbetween the majority Sinhalese government and Tamil separatists finally ended in 2009 with the defeat of theLiberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), the study by the US-based thinktank theOakland Institutefinds little meaningful evidence of reconciliation.

    What’s the likely outcome? Depressing, imho. Deeply sad, and all for what?

    For what? For the end of terrorism and war on Sri Lanka.

    The Tamils were defeated, and they are reaping the consequences. This is much more typical of the aftermath of war than the silly idea that there will “reconciliation” or war crimes trials targeting both the victors and the vanquished.

    The silly and fatuous people of the West don’t understand this at all. Someone should tell the Oakland Institute about World War II, for example.

    I suspect that in a generation there may be not a single Tamil left on Sri Lanka to restart the war- and the people of Sri Lanka will be fine with this, enjoying their  terrorism free lives.

    • #35
  6. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Xennady: I suspect that in a generation there may be not a single Tamil left on Sri Lanka to restart the war- and the people of Sri Lanka will be fine with this, enjoying their  terrorism free lives.

    You think the Sri Lankan government is committing genocide or sterilizing the Tamils? Or do you think the Tamils will convert? I’ll admit to a mild bias (Tamil was the first language my Grandfather spoke), but I’m pretty sure that Tamil culture will survive and flourish.  The Sinhalese are Buddhists, and Buddhists are evil, but these specific Buddhists are not that evil. Even if they wanted to, really massive aggression without massive provocation would almost certainly lead to Indian intervention.

    • #36
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    The first of these claims is pretty meaningless; it’s not possible to present a world so free of injustice that OBL and his ilk will not be able to find complaints.

    Their complaints only matter because a critical mass of people find them valid.  Prabhakaran may have yearned to be a Supreme Leader (or whatever), but that would have had zero impact if Sri Lankan Tamils were not being discriminated against by a Government dominated by Sinhala parties.  But in fact they were, and so…

    I would have thought it uncontroversial to say that reducing social and political injustice reduces the propensity for a population to support terrorism.

    The second, though, is the key to victory. Terrorism mostly dies out when victory becomes implausible.

    It’s like having hot and cold water taps.  You really can use both – in fact you probably should.

    We don’t have a lot of anarchist terrorism in the US after the Palmer raids. We don’t have a lot of Communist terrorism after the Cold War.

    Do you think that the belief by most Americans that they live in a fair society which provides them political mechanisms to effect real change has anything to do with that?

    The reason that Israeli death goes on is because Israel’s position is not secure. 

    And because they’re unjust to the Palestinians.  I get that they may feel that they have no choice but to be unjust, but injustice is injustice.

    • #37
  8. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Xennady:

    Zafar:

    What’s the likely outcome? Depressing, imho. Deeply sad, and all for what?

    For what? For the end of terrorism and war on Sri Lanka.

    The Tamils were defeated, and they are reaping the consequences.

    Sure, but take a step back and see that the Sinhala parties established a racist, ethnocentric polity after independence and the consequences of that included  26 years of bloody civil war and its current thuggish political aftermath.

    If Sinhala parties are maintaining a racist, ethnocentric polity today why won’t that result in similar outcomes in the next few generations?  

    All actions have consequences – one can’t cherry pick and be serious.

    I suspect that in a generation there may be not a single Tamil left on Sri Lanka to restart the war

    That seems very unlikely.

    • #38
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Roadrunner:

    Nobody should have to live around Islam but for Muslims I don’t know what the alternative would be.

    Barsoom!!!!  No, I don’t know either.

    • #39
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar: Their complaints only matter because a critical mass of people find them valid.  Prabhakaran may have yearned to be a Supreme Leader (or whatever), but that would have had zero impact if Sri Lankan Tamils were not being discriminated against by a Government dominated by Sinhala parties.  But in fact they were, and so…

    I agree that the strength of motivation matters, but complaints along the lines of “there are Americans in Saudi” and “America did not intervene quickly enough in Bosnia” were highly persuasive.

    I agree that the Tigers had more of a point than most, and think that this was important to their longevity.

    Zafar: I would have thought it uncontroversial to say that reducing social and political injustice reduces the propensity for a population to support terrorism.

    I agree that this is true, but only in crowds that have not read the academic literature. Support was strong for the IRA among the Boston Irish. Life was pretty good to them. Through the 1990s, support for terrorism was strong among Saudi and Emirati men, who, again, are pretty far from getting the short end of the political and social stick. There are astonishingly unjustly treated and oppressed populations with essentially zero support for terrorism (eg. Burmese Muslims) as well as deeply privileged communities with strong support for it (students in a lot of Western countries in the 1970s and 1980s). You can go up and down the gini index and find support and opposition to terrorism at all points.

    There are a lot of people being radicalized by Syria at the moment, but in 2013 AQ was still prioritizing the far smaller numbers of deaths in Burma. Stalin’s stuff about one death being a tragedy and a million a statistic was somewhat true for terrorist motivation; you need stories that hit home and those aren’t strongly correlated with actual harm.

    I was at a Mormon service on Sunday where the guy listed off awful things that Christ had internalized at Gethsemene. He talked about people in the stake (diocese, ish) who were coming close to eviction and were skipping meals to eat. He talked about people being bereaved and people nearing painful death. And he talked about people who had suffered the shame of being picked last for a sports team (there were maybe a dozen examples, but those were representative). He was teary throughout it, but he was no less genuinely emotional with the last than the first. As with people’s much greater shock and outrage at the destruction of antiquities than the rape and murder of children, the stuff that gets us emotional is genuinely eccentric.

    • #40
  11. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Roadrunner:

    Nobody should have to live around Islam but for Muslims I don’t know what the alternative would be.

    Barsoom!!!!  No, I don’t know either.

    Isn’t your personal answer “Australia”? That seems like a pretty good approximation of your suggestion of “a desert planet populated by monstrous beasts and barbarous people”, so I guess you’re consistent.

    • #41
  12. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

     Support was strong for the IRA among the Boston Irish. Life was pretty good to them…. There are astonishingly unjustly treated and oppressed populations with essentially zero support for terrorism (eg. Burmese Muslims) as well as deeply privileged communities with strong support for it (students in a lot of Western countries in the 1970s and 1980s). You can go up and down the gini index and find support and opposition to terrorism at all points.

    I don’t know that an injustice has to be suffered personally – suffered by people with whom one identifies closely may also be sufficient – though I think personal suffering probably kicks it up a notch.  Somewhat horrifyingly, the most effective terrorists may be the ones with the most social capital – ie the ones who have not suffered the most.

    A thought: terrorism, as a response, also takes time – meaning it isn’t the first “go to” for most people.  There’s a lag between ‘injustice starts’ and ‘the world doesn’t care if this happens to us, there is no other way’.  Usually people start off assuming that the world does care.

    I fear there will be a bitter price for what’s happening in Burma.  I did not know that Saudi and Emirati men were over-represented in groups like Al Qaida – who knew?

    • #42
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    Zafar:

    Roadrunner:

    Nobody should have to live around Islam but for Muslims I don’t know what the alternative would be.

    Barsoom!!!!

    Isn’t your personal answer “Australia”? That seems like a pretty good approximation of your suggestion of “a desert planet populated by monstrous beasts and barbarous people”, so I guess you’re consistent.

    Have you been watching Mad Max unsupervised again?   But yes – Australia is one good option – also Gor.

    • #43
  14. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    My comment about Russia entering a quagmire in Syria was half-joking, emphasis on half. As strong as Russia’s position seems now, it is far from certain that it will remain so. Unintended consequences apply to military actions as well. Is it possible Putin merely looks powerful and determined in contrast to Obama’s ineffectual pusillanimity?

    • #44
  15. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Zafar:

    Have you been watching Mad Max unsupervised again? But yes – Australia is one good option – also Gor.

    Gor? As in that of Tarnsman fame? You’re old school.

    • #45
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I only moved to Sydney after I failed to find Port Ka on the map. Embarrassing but true.

    • #46
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Cat, quagmires are risks when you’re trying to win hearts and minds against a guerilla enemy. If you’re happy to murder and cleanse your way through a conflict and you’re facing state like enemies with superior ethics to you, there’s less of a risk.

    • #47
  18. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    (Quoting Zafar)

    Sure, but take a step back and see that the Sinhala parties established a racist, ethnocentric polity after independence and the consequences of that included  26 years of bloody civil war and its current thuggish political aftermath.

    If Sinhala parties are maintaining a racist, ethnocentric polity today why won’t that result in similar outcomes in the next few generations?

    I know, and I even hazily recall that Dr. Sowell wrote about this.

    But it seems to me that the Sinhalese don’t like the Tamils, and aren’t really interested in treating them fairly or nicely. In my view 26 years of war likely haven’t made them like the Tamils any better. Should they once again take up arms in the future I suspect that the reaction from the Sinhalese won’t be to ponder just where they went wrong. It will be to conclude that their island is just too small to have room for violent extremists like the Tamils.

    That said, I do not expect a resumption of the war in future and hence nor do I expect any sort of genocide or ethnic cleansing aimed at the Tamils.

    Their defeat had consequences. I expect one of them will be that the Tamils won’t resort to violence and terrorism again, which will likely make for a better future for everyone involved.

    • #48
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Xennady:

    But it seems to me that the Sinhalese don’t like the Tamils, and aren’t really interested in treating them fairly or nicely. In my view 26 years of war likely haven’t made them like the Tamils any better.

    Treating all citizens (including Tamil citizens) decently and fairly is in the enlightened self interest of the Sri Lankan State and all its citizens (Tamil, Sinhala, etc.).

    It is not a favour the majority does to a minority.  And not doing so, on the basis of ethnicity, quickly bleeds into treating citizens unfairly and wrongly on the basis of things like religion and political belief or affiliation.  Systemic inequality is corrupting, and that’s a bad thing for all concerned.

    Liking individuals or groups has nothing to do with it.  That’s one thing they all could have learned from the civil war and its aftermath.

    Think: Lebanon.

    • #49
  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar:

    Xennady:

    But it seems to me that the Sinhalese don’t like the Tamils, and aren’t really interested in treating them fairly or nicely. In my view 26 years of war likely haven’t made them like the Tamils any better.

    Treating all citizens (including Tamil citizens) decently and fairly is in the enlightened self interest of the Sri Lankan State and all its citizens (Tamil, Sinhala, etc.).

    It is not a favour the majority does to a minority. And not doing so, on the basis of ethnicity, quickly bleeds into treating citizens unfairly and wrongly on the basis of things like religion and political belief or affiliation. Systemic inequality is corrupting, and that’s a bad thing for all concerned.

    Liking individuals or groups has nothing to do with it. That’s one thing they all could have learned from the civil war and its aftermath.

    Think: Lebanon.

    It’s also somewhat meaningful that Sinhalese bigotry towards Hindus is something more of a problem now that Congress is less dominant than it was in times gone by.

    Edit: The Indian political party, not the US institution.

    • #50
  21. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Zafar:Treating all citizens (including Tamil citizens) decently and fairly is in the enlightened self interest of the Sri Lankan State and all its citizens (Tamil, Sinhala, etc.).

    I agree, but my opinion has no import for the people actually involved.

    • #51
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:It’s also somewhat meaningful that Sinhalese bigotry towards Hindus is something more of a problem now that Congress is less dominant than it was in times gone by.

    Edit: The Indian political party, not the US institution.

    Sinhala right wingery is largely focused on Tamils, as an ethnicity, and on Hinduism only to the extent that most Tamils in Sri Lanka are Hindu. (North Indian Hindus visit Sri Lanka and feel no prejudice, apparently.)

    As such it’s always had a resonance across the Palk Strait, because Tamil Nadu has been ruled since the 1950s (?) by one Dravidian party or the other.  When the Central Govt consists of a coalition that depends on a Dravidian party, that gives the issue more juice at the Centre.  When it doesn’t, it decreases it.

    More broadly the decline of Congress reflects a global trend – the rise of religion linked political ideologies which brought parties like the BJP or AKP to dominance.

    • #52
  23. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar: Sinhala right wingery is largely focused on Tamils, as an ethnicity, and on Hinduism only to the extent that most Tamils in Sri Lanka are Hindu. (North Indian Hindus visit Sri Lanka and feel no prejudice, apparently.)

    Sure, but I get the impression that Modi would see persecution of Indians through religious eyes. Most of the fight in Lebanon in the 1980s was tribal, but from Christian countries it looked pretty religious.

    • #53
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    Zafar: Sinhala right wingery is largely focused on Tamils, as an ethnicity, and on Hinduism only to the extent that most Tamils in Sri Lanka are Hindu. (North Indian Hindus visit Sri Lanka and feel no prejudice, apparently.)

    Sure, but I get the impression that Modi would see persecution of Indians through religious eyes. Most of the fight in Lebanon in the 1980s was tribal, but from Christian countries it looked pretty religious.

    Buddhism is an “Indic Religion” – iow perceived to be a part of the Hindu continuum by the Sangh Parivar. If everything else in the situation was the same but the Sinhala were majority Muslim or Catholic he would totally see it as a religious issue.  As things are, however, the Hindutva world view perceives the Sinhala-Tamil conflict more comfortably as one driven by ethnicity or language.

    (Iow it’s how the tribe is defined.  Buddhism – called Buddh Dharma in Hindutva nomenclature – and Sikhism – called Shishya Dharma – are perceived to be part of the tribe, not outside it. The Sinhala and Tamils may not see it that way, of course, but that’s as relevant to Modi as how the Lebanese perceived themselves was to the West.)

    • #54
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    That’s a good point, Zafar.

    • #55
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Of possibly tangential relevance – as I may have mentioned I’m taking an Arabic class which has a plurality* of ethnic Christian Lebanese children of migrants. One of these just got back from a two week annual holiday with his family in the North of Lebanon – their village is near Tripoli.  Of course we pressed him for local wisdom.  His anecdotal report:

    • People there are a lot more relaxed this year than last year.
    • They’re delighted the Russians are doing what they’re doing.
    • They’re pro Assad.
    • At this point they’re relieved that Hezbollah is there – “protecting Lebanon within and beyond the border”.
    • There’s a serious belief that a lot of the jihadi groups in Syria (including JaN and ISIS) are funded by the Gulf – and that the US is willing to live with that.

    .

    Admittedly it’s completely anecdotal, and this guy’s family was involved in the Qawmiyya movement (fwiw), but how they perceive themselves (as Lebanese and Orthodox Christians) and the situation may not align with how Christians in the West perceive them.

    (* plurality as in three out of six, so a tiny sample, and also self selecting wrt interest in learning Arabic and whatever that might mean about their view of the world.)

    • #56
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