ISIS and Horror


We all laugh at The New York Times, but Rukmini Callimachi’s reporting reminds me of its ability to be a great newspaper. Her story today on the front page is so sickening that even the Times’ loyal readers — to judge by the comments — are beginning to grasp that some problems in the world are morally more important than others:

The Islamic State’s formal introduction of systematic sexual slavery dates to Aug. 3, 2014, when its fighters invaded the villages on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, a craggy massif of dun-colored rock in northern Iraq.

Marco Rubio on the Iran Deal


A few days ago, Jeffrey Goldberg published the transcript of his interview with Marco Rubio in the Atlantic. I won’t try to summarize it, because I found the whole thing interesting — which is noteworthy in itself. It isn’t easily reduced to a soundbite, because he’s actually making arguments.

I don’t want to prejudice your views unduly, but there’s no reason for me not to say that Rubio seems to me in much better touch with reality than the other candidates have so far. He’s not saying things that make him (and by implication America) sound insane. He’s not scoring cheap points. He’s not talking about himself. He’s answering the questions directly. He’s obviously aware what he would inherit if he were elected.

One Year Later: Still No Vote


WarIn case you missed it, this past weekend marked one year of America’s latest war. The intervention in Syria/Iraq began a year ago.

It’s not a real war, right? Sure, America’s military is killing people. Sure, it’s cost more than $3 billion. Sure, we spend $10 million every day. Sure, seven Americans have died so far. But it’s not really a war, right?

Of course it’s a war. It’s denying reality to say otherwise. The Third Iraq War. The War Against ISIS. Operation Inherent Resolve. (That we don’t even have a name for this war is very telling). The collective agreement among the press, the political class, and people on the both left and right, to refuse to even acknowledge that we’re at war does not change that fact.

Colombians Have Lost Hope in Peace Process


desaparecidosThe chances of a historic peace accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist guerilla group with which it has been in a state of armed conflict since 1964, have never looked bleaker since the Havana negotiations commenced in October 2012.

As talks continued outside the country, the recent escalation of warfare within it is exhausting a nation that has seen its armed forces, infrastructure, and environment attacked by the FARC on 145 separate occasions since last May. After more than 1,000 days at the negotiating table, Colombians have lost hope in reaching a peace agreement.

In July, in a national televised address to the nation, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the FARC had again agreed to a unilateral ceasefire. This marked the FARC’s sixth attempt at a truce; they violated the most recent one in April when their guerrillas ambushed a Colombian squadron in Cauca, leaving 10 soldiers dead. Santos also, for the first, time announced orders to “de-escalate” military action by Colombian armed forces for a period of four months, subject to the FARC’s meeting the government’s conditions.

The Attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul


n_86718_1This was the most minor of the day’s terrorist attacks in Turkey. Today alone, a car bomb exploded in front of a police station in Istanbul. One police officer and two assailants were killed. A recently founded, far-left organization called the People’s Defense Unit claimed the attack. The PKK killed four police officers with a mine attack on an armored police vehicle in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Silopi district. PKK militants opened fire on a military helicopter in Şırnak’s Beytüşşebap district, killing one soldier. It has been a very violent day, in a violent month.

The attack on the US consulate has been attributed — almost certainly correctly — to the DHKP-C. The assailants were two middle-aged women, perhaps brain-damaged — as many of their members are — from years of prison hunger strikes. The DHKP-C is one of Turkey’s weirder terrorist groups. Hardcore Marxist-Leninists. I wrote about their last attack on the US Embassy in Istanbul here:

Americans seem surprised that the February 1 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was carried out not by Islamists but by a Marxist—specifically, by a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, or DHKP/C. But no one in Turkey was remotely surprised. This diagram suggests why Turks recoil when asked about the hard-left militant groups here.

The Classicist Podcast, with Victor Davis Hanson: “Iran, Israel, and the Coming War”


If you’re looking for an optimist’s take on the pending nuclear deal with Iran … yeah, this podcast isn’t for you. In this week’s installment of The Classicist, VDH looks at whether the Vienna agreement deserves comparisons to Munich, dissects President Obama’s bizarre sales campaign on behalf of the deal, and examines the strategic calculus for Israel and other countries throughout the Middle East if this agreement takes effect.

Want to listen on the go? You can subscribe to The Classicist via iTunes or your favorite podcast app. Can’t be bothered to spend 10 seconds setting that up? Listen in below, after the jump.

What Would it Take to Repair our Cyber-Security?


This picture taken December 26, 2011 shoThe news of the latest disaster for American intelligence broke shortly before yesterday’s Republican debate:

Officials are calling the recent hack of an unclassified email system used by the Joint Staff, which apparently from Russia, “the most sophisticated in U.S. history,” executing a kind of smash-and-grab of massive amounts of data, according to reports.

NBC News quotes unidentified U.S. officials saying the attack, which started sometime around July 25, used an automated system that collected huge amounts of data and, within a minute, sent it to thousands of locations across the Internet. Officials have said from the beginning that no classified information was exposed.

Ending The War With Japan

Truman, Marshall, and King

Truman, Marshall, and King

Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. We are already seeing the usual retrospectives about the ending of the war with Japan, and whether the use of the atomic bomb was necessary. Let’s consider a surprising counterfactual: If the A-bombs had not been dropped and had Japan not surrendered in August 1945, the US might not have gone through with the planned invasion of the Japanese homeland.

Dutch King: The Welfare State Is Over


King Willem-AlexanderThe American left regularly points to the social democracies of northern Europe as templates for a better United States. If only our economic policies were more like those in Sweden, Finland, or The Netherlands, there would be no limit to our success. What they haven’t noticed are the ample flaws of those systems in shown in social stagnation, capital flight, and reduced freedom.

But the most important development our progressives miss is that these famously liberal states are rolling back their safety nets. Over the past decade a center-right coalition in Stockholm has eliminated the worst excesses of Sweden’s welfare state, angry Finns are trying to cut up Greece’s credit cards, and the Dutch monarch has now declared the welfare state of the 20th century dead.

King Willem-Alexander, two years into his reign following the abdication of Queen Beatrix, has called for a “participation society” to replace the outdated system of government handouts. In a televised speech Monday, he asked citizens to take an increasing amount of responsibility for their social and financial health as The Hague slowly retracts taxpayer-funded welfare programs.

How to Insult Friends and Not Influence People


Obama PipelinesIf there is a perfect microcosm of President Obama’s foreign policy, it is the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed oil pipeline would stretch from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, essentially duplicating pipelines already in existence or under construction. It would deliver much-needed crude oil in a cost-effective way to the great refineries of Texas and Louisiana and — at a stroke — reduce American dependence on hostile foreign sources while also giving an economic boost to America’s closest ally. All this makes Keystone XL the foreign policy equivalent of a no-brainer. The crude will come into America whether or not Keystone XL is approved, either in existing pipelines or via an overstretched rail system. There would simply be less crude and likely at a significantly higher cost. Even if one accepts the global warming theories peddled by the Obama Administration, the crude that would flow through Keystone XL would have only a marginal impact. In a world where China is building coal power plants at a record pace, a few hundred thousand barrels of Canadian heavy crude is dust in the balance.

So why has the Obama Administration blocked Keystone XL since almost the moment it entered office? While the issue is a minor one in domestic politics, it is of disproportionate importance to a small group of Democratic donors. These wealthy activists have accepted the tenets of the Greenista creed and regard industrial civilization with contempt. They do not view the extraction of resources – or the constructions of great pieces of infrastructure – as tools that allow ordinary people to live richer and better lives. They view industrial civilization as a threat to the goddess Gaia; the common man be damned.

Whether Keystone XL would have much of an impact on global warming is irrelevant to these activists. It is, however, of tremendous symbolic importance. If the construction of a vital and largely harmless piece of infrastructure can be stopped so easily, it will act as a precedent. It will help drive investment away from the pipeline sector and, over time, make fossil fuels more expensive. This is part of a long, slow march to end industrial society. To placate, this small group of rich cranks, the Obama Administration has weakened the American economy and insulted a harmless and valuable ally.

It’s all About the Palace


presidential-palace-Turkey-3Over the weekend, I wrote this piece about what’s happening in Turkey with my friend and colleague Okan Altiparmak, and published it in As a bonus, for Ricochet members, here’s the extended release — I’ve included the parts that woudn’t fit into their space constraints:
In Turkey, it’s all about the palace
Erdoğan’s message to Turks: Vote correctly next time!


Don’t forget what’s really at stake for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Land of the Free and the “Substantially Unmoved” by Genocide


John Mueller, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is, according to his bio, a leading expert on terrorism and particularly on the reactions (or over-reactions) it often inspires. Recently, in The Week, he wrote this rather remarkable essay: Why the ISIS threat is totally overblown. What is wrong with us these days, he wonders?

Americans had remained substantially unmoved by even worse human catastrophes in the past, such as genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s and in Rwanda in 1994, as well as sustained criminal predation in eastern Congo in the years after 1997.

Anything But Cecil: The Franco-American Iran-Nuclear Diplomatic Mystère


Okay, gentle ladies, gentlemen, and wingèd seraphs of Ricochet, today is Anything But Cecil Day. Indeed, it’s Anything But Whatever’s on Drudge Day, because while that’s on the front page, a lot of other stories aren’t being covered. Here’s an item about which, perhaps, you’ve heard, but I figure Cecil might be crowding out everyone’s news feeds to the extent that it might not hurt to bring it up. And I have a bit to add to it.

As Josh Rogan reported for Bloomberg, a senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande seems to be in a bit of a disagreement with John Kerry about the Iran nuclear deal:

“A Significant Intelligence Failure”


Well, this story has finally hit the front page of The New York Times. Rivals of ISIS Attack U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group, says the headline. “Rivals.” Any old rivals? No, Nusra — al Qaeda, in other words. As we were discussing on this thread. But here’s the thing I don’t get:

In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure.

The Classicist Podcast, with Victor Davis Hanson: “America’s Four Great National Security Threats”


In this week’s installment of The Classicist Podcast from the Hoover Institution, VDH takes us on a tour of global hotspots, discussing the threats posed to the United States by the ayatollahs in Iran, a restive China, Putin’s Russia, and ISIS. Along the way, he diagnoses how the Obama Administration has mishandled these threats and what the next president can do about it.

You can subscribe to The Classicist via iTunes or your can listen in below (after the jump).

Will Jewish Democrats Sink the Iran Deal?


shutterstock_197638877“Seven Jewish Lawmakers Could Tilt the Scales on Iran Deal,” headlines The Times of Israel. The members — Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Steven Israel, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Nita Lowey, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Ted Deutch – are all Democrats. They must choose between loyalty to their party’s president, and concern about what the deal portends for Israeli and American security.

There are long and short answers to the question: “Why are Jews liberal?” The long answer traces back to the Enlightenment in Europe when parties of the right were monarchist and anti-Semitic, while parties of the left favored pluralism and religious freedom. I don’t buy the long argument. Tsar Alexander III, who instigated pogroms against the Jews, is long dead. So is Napoleon, who liberated them. In the meantime, Jews have suffered under communists, who proved just as cruel as the monarchists.

Jewish liberals often explain that their views spring from Jewish tradition, which admonishes the Jewish people to engage in “tikkun olam” or “healing the world.” I’m skeptical. Tikkun Olam is traditionally understood as adhering faithfully to the commandments (keeping kosher, visiting the sick, and observing the Sabbath, for example), the better to prepare the world for the messianic age. Many of those who brandish the Hebrew phrase today have commandeered it to bolster support for same sex marriage, government-run health care, and the rest of the progressive agenda — an interpretation that would, to quote the immortal words of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “cross a rabbi’s eyes.”

Seeking: Polish Election Expert


250px-Krakau_MarktSo, a lovely Polish guy works as a housekeeper in a building near mine. We make small talk whenever we run into each other. He’s busting his hump to support his family, enterprising, always cheerful, exactly the kind of immigrant the French fear because he’s willing to work for non-union wages. We bonded immediately over our shared views of communism and Putin. (“What is wrong with you guys? He’s KGB!”)

I ran into him today, and as usual we chatted a bit about the recent perturbation on the Métro — construction work, apparently — and his family, and about how amazing it is that everyone in France goes on vacation for the entire month of August. Then as usual we lamented the state of the world, and as usual griped about Putin. I asked him how people in Poland were feeling about things. He shook his head. There’s a problem in Poland, he said. The elections are coming up, and he doesn’t at all like the looks of the opposition party, which he suspects will win. The incumbant party isn’t perfect, he said, but at least they understand you can’t just make money out of nothing.

Now, usually I can fake my way through any casual conversation about politics, but fact is — I was stumped. I’ve been paying no attention to what’s happening in Poland. None. I have no idea who the main parties or political figures are.

Notes on Turkey, the Kurds, Incirlik, and ISIS


11705352_1005341582823689_7540684201876452080_nI’ve refrained from writing much about this past week’s news for a number of reasons. The first is that I’ve been deeply depressed about it, which doesn’t make for sober analysis. The second is that there are many elements of this story I don’t yet understand. I’ve been hesitant to make a categorical judgment about many of the rumors I’ve been hearing from Turkey, since I’m not there to evaluate any of them myself. The third is that there are so many aspects of this I do understand that I’m tempted to write too much, drowning everyone here in detail that’s essential — yet failing to convey the essence. The fourth, as one (good) journalist in Turkey put it on Twitter, is “[redacted’s] just too complicated. Moving too quick.”

I’m also aware how difficult it is to write about this in a way that makes sense. I remember studying the Spanish Civil War as an undergraduate and feeling so overwhelmed by the number of acronyms that I decided my exam strategy would be to play the odds, skip the Spanish Civil War, and instead master every other topic that might come up on the Modern European History finals. To this day, I could tell you all about Béla Kun, but my knowledge of the Spanish Civil War remains limited to what I learned from reading Homage to Catalonia.

So I’m not going to try to write a definitive update. I’ll just direct you to three articles, open the floor to discussion, and try to answer questions, although I may not know the answers. I’ve extracted key quotes from the articles, but if you read them in full, they’ll make more sense — not least because all these beastly acronyms refer to things that are, in fact, very different.

The Case Against Obama: Why John Yoo is Wrong


Benedict ArnoldJohn Yoo argues that Obama’s executive action on Iran does not violate the law: 

Today, conservatives disagree with President Obama’s use of these constitutional reservoirs of power to reach for the mirage of a rapprochement with Iran. But those same powers have served presidents from Lincoln, who invoked broad executive power to fight the Civil War and free the slaves, to FDR, who brought the nation into the war against the Axis powers, to Truman and Reagan, who, respectively, oversaw the Cold War at its beginning and toward its end. The next president will need those powers again when he or she quickly turns policy toward Iran in the opposite direction.

In the next weeks, conservatives will have ample opportunity to persuade the American people against the Iran deal on its merits. Presidential candidates will explain the steps they will take to undo the damage that Obama has inflicted on our national security. But they will make a serious mistake if they seek the short-term political end of defeating the Iran deal by crippling the Presidency’s long-term powers to defend the nation.