Friday, September 12, 2014

If you are confused about the Middle East....

......and who isn't, you could do a lot worse than read Adam Garfinkle's essays.  Here is his latest, written after President Obama's speech Wednesday evening.   Here are a few of the many passages I found interesting:

"It was a pretty good speech. It was clear, brief, and it had the rousing patriotic and optimistic finish such speeches need, with not one but two invocations of the Deity. It also branched orthogonally in a delicate but unmistakable way to punch the Ukraine and other emotional buttons. The President neither stumbled nor lost his place, he made camera-eye contact, and looked more or less confident. All that makes for a good presentation, and, as a recovering speechwriter, I am sensitive to such framing issues."

"The second minor screw-up was the tossed off remark that ISIS (ISIL, IS, Daash) was not Islamist. And this screw-up was a double screw up. First, he should have said that ISIL is not Islamic, not Islamist, since, as he put it, no religion condones the killing of innocents. The former adjective is a just a modifier of the noun Islam, but the latter one denotes a political ideology that uses Islam as a legitimating device—that is the universal usage of the words as they have become integrated into our vocabulary over the past three or so decades. In that sense, ISIS, like al-Qaeda from which it originally sprang, is about as Islamist as it can be."

"No armed religious movement is peaceful by nature. Looking at the actual history of the matter, there are lots of examples of jihadis killing innocents in droves, very much including other Muslims. From the Almohads in Spain to the Hausa-Fulani in Africa, examples abound. Of course Christians have butchered innocents too, as any depiction of the 1099 Crusader massacres in Jerusalem will attest. Does that make Christianity not a religion of peace? Not necessarily: What it shows is that statements of such platitudinous generality are meaningless except as speechwriter offerings on the altar of political correctness."

"In a sense, then, the President announced only half a strategy last night. A half strategy is useful in the same way that half a brick is useful: It can be thrown about twice as far for purposes of partisan politics and propaganda, but otherwise it will not get the job done."

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