Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our next mess

I have a hard time believing that the U.S. will be able to resist intervening in this brewing foreign intervention disaster.

This country loves disastrous foreign interventions! It's practically our hobby. We just have to wait until the conflict takes its inevitable disastrous turn before the usual gang of chickenhawks starts crowing for the U.S. to help the "good guys" (i.e. side most closely allied with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and to stop the "bad guys" (i.e. the side that everyone assumes is Iran by proxy, because non-Persian Shia cannot possibly do anything on their own)

(first link via Booman)

The Walrus thirsts for blood

We must bomb Iran because Iranians cannot be trusted to honor any nuclear agreements! says the guy who argued that the U.S. should back out of its nuclear agreements.

The fact that this clownish warmonger is one of Ted Cruz's main foreign policy experts is probably the biggest strike against the argument that Cruz is a serious candidate for president.

See also, Charlie Pierce.


Yikes time flies.

(The way back: Бес! Төрт! Үш! (жоқ жазу) Бір!)


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GCC (except Oman) will intervene in the Yemeni civil war

Yikes. I can't see how this can possibly make things any better.

It also highlights the Gulfis anti-Shia/anti-Iran paranoia. When al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula was taking control of towns in Yemen a few years ago, the Gulf monarchies didn't think it warranted intervention. But when a shia group starts gaining ground, in they go.

Not expecting any consistency here

It will be fascinating to watch how Senators assert their authority to review international agreements when it comes to a nuclear deal with Iran versus the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The prospect of lower oil prices if there is a deal with Iran is another reason the deal probably won't happen

I think this is another strike against the prospect that a nuclear deal with Iran will be finalized. Sure, even lower oil prices will benefit most Americans (not the ones in the oil domestic oil industry, but just about everyone else), but it would be another nail in the coffin for Russia's economy. So that means that Russia, a member of the P5+1 that is currently trying to hammer out a deal with Iran, would have a major incentive for a deal not to happen.

The people opposed to an Iran deal in the U.S. are going to ignore the benefits of lower oil prices because their opposition is about decades of both legitimate grievances and demonizations of Iran that have piled up since the 1979 revolution, as well as, about perceived threats to Israel. I do not think that most of the opposition is based on serious consideration of the costs versus the benefits of a deal. So while the people who might benefit from low oil prices won't take that into consideration, Russia, a party at the bargaining table, will be well aware of the harm that a deal would cause itself.

So throw that tidbit on the enormous pile of reasons that I deal with Iran on its nuclear program and sanctions will be finalized.

Why Canada, Y?!?!?!?!?

When I saw the headline to this article, I was hoping it would finally resolve the mystery of why Canadian airport codes all start with the letter "Y." But no. All the Vox piece says about the issue is that Vancouver airport is YVR because "Canadian airport codes start with a 'Y', which is why Vancouver has one before the more predictable VR." Yes, but why do Canadian airports all start with Y?

As far as I can tell, no other country has a letter that begins all of its airport codes. London Heathrow is LHR. Pick another airport in the UK and its code does not necessarily begin with the letter L. (Birmingham Airport, for example, is BHX). Why does Canada have a designated first letter? Riddle me that, Vox!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

تيد كروز يحب الجزيرة

This is funny to the extent it might get a rise out of Ted Cruz supporters. But the Al Jazeera logo is really just one of the more familiar (in the U.S.) examples of the Diwani style of Arabic calligraphy. Also the Al Jazeera logo is supposed to resemble a drop of water, not a flame. Maybe that's what Cruz was going for and not a burning American flag.

At worst, Peter King jumps off a bridge

Ted Cruz may be a nut and he would be a disastrous president. But I don't think he has any real chance of getting elected, and his candidacy in the Republican really is looking like a win-win.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The only bad fascists are Ukrainian fascists

One of the strange things about the pro-Russian narrative about the conflict in Ukraine is the idea that government in Kiev is linked to and/or controlled by neo-Nazis. It's a pretty common line, which some kernel of truth because far right groups participated in the Euromaidan protests (although they were far from the dominant group), and when the Yanukovych government fell, the former opposition cooperated with far right candidates to cobble together a transitional government.

It still is extremely misleading to dismiss the entire 2014 Ukrainian Revolution as a neo-Nazi takeover of the government sponsored by Western governments, but that seems to be the official Russian government's position. Which is odd when you consider how openly the Putin Regime is itself courting neo-Nazis for its own purposes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

If you are not in Mesopotamia, you probably don't have to fear the Islamic State

This is what I have been saying for a while. The Islamic State poses no real threat to the United States. Or, for that matter, most countries in the world. It is a real threat to people in Syria and Iraq, and probably also Lebanon and Jordan. You can also argue it threatens Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. If you buy that all of the claimed affiliates really are part of the same Islamic State, then it also threatens Libya, Egypt, and maybe Tunisia.

But I think that is about it. Every other country in the world does not face a serious threat from ISIS. I don't even think there is a good case that it is a serious threat to Israel.

I also think that the Islamic State, as an entity that holds and governs actual territory, is pretty much doomed. They can do a lot of damage in the short-term, but I don't think they can even sustain what they have for much longer. The only people who think ISIS is going to conquer the world or even just the Arab world are members of ISIS and people who are trying to use the ISIS bogeyman to scare others into supporting some policy.

UPDATE: Okay, add Yemen to the "claimed affiliates" list  Sheesh, I picked the wrong day to make that point.

Some walk backs don't work

Why does it even matter that Netanyahu has flipped back from his flip-flop on the Palestinian state issue? Why would anyone who wants him to endorse a Palestinian state believe him? Why would anyone who did not want a Palestinian state trust him either? Why would this chance Abbas' conclusion that Bibi is not willing to negotiate in good faith and so the PA should pursue a state unilaterally with the international community?

It doesn't seem like Bibi's latest is going to make anyone happy. It does make him look like an opportunistic buffoon though.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Will this change much?

Since Netanyahu managed to win the Israeli election by disavowing the two state solution and appealing to outright bigotry, there have been a lot of speculation about whether this will finally end the U.S.'s practice as Israel's biggest defender in international institutions. The Obama administration will probably find ways to make their displeasure clear. But I doubt it will cause any lasting change.

I also doubt whether Netanyahu's partisan shenanigans will cause any immediate change in how American Jews view Israel. American Jews are overwhelmingly democrats. Bibi's overt alignment with Republicans seems like a bad move if he wants to maintain support of the American diaspora. (Meanwhile it makes perfect sense for the Republicans, who are making a play for Jewish support through the partisan exploits of the current Israeli government). Loyalty to Israel within the Jewish community, especially among the older generation, is not really rational. It's about an ideal of Israel, not the place in practice. There is a slow fading of support for Israel among American Jews, but that is really generational. The recent election might have accelerate that trend by a little bit, as young liberal Jews see little in an Netanyahu-led Israel that speaks to their values, but it was already a trend, so it will be hard to say what would have happened if things had turned out differently.

(links via MatthewB on FB)


In a lot of ways the world is correct. The U.S. has the largest nuclear arsenal, the largest military overall. Its military spending completely dwarfs the spending of any other country on the planet. (The American military budget is more than the next 8 biggest military spenders' budgets combined. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries with military bases scattered across the globe (and the other two with a significant number of offshore bases, Britain and France, are both close U.S. allies). The U.S. reserves the right to attack any other country in the world without consulting the international community, and it has initiated military action in over a dozen countries in the recent past. The U.S. has felt free to break international norms, back out of treaties and otherwise act like less of a global citizen than any other nation in the world, without any serious consequences because of its economic and military might.

I'm sure a lot of Americans would argue that Iran or North Korea are the biggest threat. But neither of those countries are capable of destroying all life on the planet, or causing vast numbers of people to descend into poverty. The U.S. can do both of those things.