Dithering Toward Brutality



Of all the aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation classes and discussions I’ve had — with one teaching or concept yielding beautifully to the next as though a flower were opening to reveal succeeding layers of transcendent wonder — very little has captivated me like the quest for a patron saint. My admittedly rudimentary understanding of Catholic doctrine and history tells me that the saints are not mere corpses whose visage here and there adorn stained glass. On the contrary, they are intercessors on our behalf, whose devotion offers an example to emulate, and whose wisdom offers guidance to those who will listen.

Very well then. I’ve been invited to choose one who will be, upon confirmation, my Patron Saint. The Catechism describes the term, “communion of saints,” as “…the communion of ‘holy persons’ (sancti) in Christ who ‘died for all,’ so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.” In that regard, during my quest I’ve been struck by the writing and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas who, among other things, further developed Just War Theory as espoused by St. Augustine.

Victor Davis Hanson: Obama Is Not Incompetent


As President Obama’s foreign police seems to be falling apart, many conservative critics and commentators wring their hands and wonder why he seems blind to the horrors that fill the newspapers. National Security Agencies are today analyzing an internet video that appears to show the Jordanian fighter pilot shot down by ISIL being burned alive. Why, Obama’s critics ask, doesn’t Mr. Obama see the dangers in Islamic extremism? Why won’t he call it what is: Islamic terrorism?

For many, Obama seems hapless. They thus attribute his policy to incompetence. We often hear that his lack of experience and accomplishment is coming home to roost. That he is just in over his head.

When In Riyadh


Drudge is making a big deal of Michelle Obama’s decision not to hide her hair while in Riyadh with the President. Kudos to the First Lady? 

Pretend, for a moment, that the story does not concern two vile people who would sooner spit on you than respect you as a political opponent. What should be the general rule in regard to diplomatic presentation, as opposed to diplomatic content? When in Riyadh, do as the Saudis do? Or dress and behave like an American, always and everywhere?

The Kurdish Question


KurdsI knew nothing about the Kurds prior to last summer. But — as whole Iraqi divisions fled in panic in the face of the ISIS onslaught, ditching their uniforms and weapons as they fled — there was an overlooked people who didn’t disgrace themselves: the Kurds.

The most startling images that came out of Iraqi Kurdistan were of beautiful, young women in fatigues, smiling with AKs on their backs and going into battle alongside men as equals. In fact, there are whole Kurdish militia units of women. These militias have been integral in repelling ISIS from Kobane, where a genocide would surely occur if it fell.

The Kurds, while majority Muslim, bear little resemblance to their demoralized Iraqi neighbors. Nor do they share in the misogyny, fundamentalism, or cruelty of their jihadist foes. On the contrary, there is a level of liberty, enlightened equality of sexes, and pluralism absent everywhere around them save for Israel.

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Does anyone perchance still recall long ago in the mists of antiquity when the Sony hack was considered a big deal? Good times, eh? Anywho, for those still of the mind that this incident may be of some pertinence to themselves or their org I would invite you to review the following presentation by John […]

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Why Putin Is Less Dangerous Now


shutterstock_96507811Many commentators have expressed the belief that Russia is more dangerous now that their economy has collapsed because Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has his back against the wall and may react unpredictably. Perhaps. But I have one question for these prognosticators: with what soldiers will he react?

I ask this question because one of the great sources of Russia’s recent military revival has been the comprehensive military reforms begun in 2008, transforming the Russian military from a large and ponderous conscript army to a modern professional army, like those of the United States or United Kingdom. Because of these reforms, the number of soldiers in the Russian army has dropped to 300,000. For the first time ever, the Russian Army is smaller than its American counterpart.

Though smaller, it is much more capable than before. A large conscript army may be good for repelling a general invasion, but it a poor tool for fighting an expeditionary war such as an invasion of Ukraine. This is because long-serving professionals are more competent and motivated at warcraft than are two-year conscripts,  something the US discovered in Vietnam. The proportion of conscripts in the Russian military is at an all-time low. In addition, the period of conscription has been reduced to one year from the traditional two.

Expert: ‘Havana Has Succeeded Beyond Its Wildest Dreams’


While I have not thought hard about U.S. policy toward Cuba, I have friends who do. The below comes from a former government official with long experience in the region. What he says does not give much reason to welcome the normalization of relations with Havana:

The Cuban government runs one of the most efficient and important intelligence organizations in the Western Hemisphere. For decades the Cuban government has run intelligence agents in the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency and other U.S. government agencies. They maintain an extensive organization of academic, political operatives and agents of influence throughout the United States. Today they succeeded in their long term goal of freeing the Cuban Five (now three) and upgrading U.S. diplomatic relations and access.

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but the issue of the dollar losing its status as the worlds reserve currency is always in the back of my mind, which is why this Press.TV article caught my attention. I follow it on Facebook and that’s how I came across it. From the article: Preview Open

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No Easy Answers For Syrian Refugees in Turkey


640px-Aleppians_waiting_in_a_bread_line_during_the_Syrian_civil_warI have a lot of problems to overcome in trying to convince readers to think and — more meaningfully — to do something about this.

The first is convincing people that another country’s problems with immigration, legal and illegal, are worth attention when ours are severe, pressing, real, and tearing us apart.

The second is convincing people that Turkey’s problems, in particular, are worth attention: not much of a secret that Turkey’s gone, in the public mind, from “most excellent ally” to “utterly screwed up and no friend of ours.” (Neither are quite right, but the upshot is that I’m trying to get people to be interested in something they’re not, naturally, going to think of as “our problem.”)



shutterstock_216268729I’m late in coming to it — although Paul Rahe has yet to persuade me to give up the New York Times entirely, I’ve quit reading it first thing every morning — but here’s the very first paragraph of a column, entitled “Obama in Winter,” that David Brooks published on Monday:

They say failure can be a good teacher, but, so far, the Obama administration is opting out of the course. The post-midterm period has been one of the most bizarre of the Obama presidency. President Obama has racked up some impressive foreign-policy accomplishments, but, domestically and politically, things are off the rails.

As you will already have guessed, what caught my eye was the first clause of the third sentence. David apparently considers it so widely understood that the President has “racked up some impressive foreign-policy accomplishments” that he needn’t name them. My own response? What foreign policy accomplishments?

How to Solve the China Problem? Look Towards India


Like many Ricochet members, I’m just back from the National Review cruise. One of the hot topics of the week — along with the 2014 elections, the 2016 race, and President Obama’s immigration order — was what to do about China.

Here is one positive step we could take. Let’s start containing the rise of China by entering into an alliance with India. It’s the world’s largest democracy and is steadily opening its economy to the free market. It has the land power to check China and is gradually improving its air and sea forces. It makes just as much sense — perhaps even more — as Nixon’s opening to China to balance the U.S.S.R. in the Cold War.

Might I Have A Few Answers About Foreign Policy?


shutterstock_114359815Let’s start with one observation and one question:

The Observation: To the extent democracy works, it works best at the local level. It’s reasonable to expect that people will see, know, and care what their government does in the cities they live in. It’s reasonable to hope that people will exercise some oversight and discipline — by means of the vote — over these governments when they are manifestly failing to serve them.

But it is not reasonable to expect an average American citizen to have a specialist understanding of US foreign policy in every region of the globe; that’s utterly unreasonable and inconsistent with all common sense and experience. No normal person could really grasp whether — day-to-day — our policies toward Russia, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East make perfect sense, separately or together, particularly given the languages one would have to master to do so, and particularly given that so much of our policy is not transparent, by design.

Do We Even Have A Foreign Policy?


imageEven The New York Times is piling on Susan Rice for this — so perhaps it’s unnecessary to pose the question — but her comments strike me as so wondrously stupid and terrifying that I’ve got to wonder whether there could be any charitable or vaguely reassuring way of reading it:

[Rice] was peppered with critiques of the president’s Syria and China policies, as well as the White House’s delays in releasing a national security strategy, a congressionally mandated document that sets out foreign policy goals. On that last point, Ms. Rice had a sardonic reply.

“If we had put it out in February or April or July,” she said, according to two people who were in the room, “it would have been overtaken by events two weeks later, in any one of those months.”

The Letter Obama Should Write to Putin


Over at Forbes, I’ve just penned a version of the letter that Barack Obama would send Vladimir Putin if he was serious about stopping Russian expansionism and wanted to salvage the final two years of his presidency. A taste:

Despite your pledges to recognize the May 25 Ukraine presidential election, you continue to the present day to characterize the Kiev government as an illegitimate, extremist, and neo-Nazi regime intent on genocide of ethnic Russians. (This criticism from a country that allows a Miss Hitler contest). Ukraine has no history of Ukrainian-on-Russian ethnic violence, and credible public opinion polls show that the residents of the rebellious Donbas, even to the present day, do not wish to secede from Ukraine. On the basis of your illegitimacy claims, you make the bizarre argument that the sovereign Ukrainian government has no right to deploy its forces in its own country. Using the same logic, Ukraine could argue that Russia has no right to station troops in break-away Chechnya.