In my last post, I described some of the reasons why Mideast Christians face persecution today. Historical factors explain much. Christians face social discrimination, informed by centuries of treatment as dhimmis, which makes them easy targets for violence. This is so even though, as a formal matter, the dhimma no longer applies and Christians enjoy equal rights as citizens in most Mideast countries.
The West bears blame for the current crisis as well, however, including the United States.
During the 1990s, victory in the Cold War seemed more than just a triumph over the Soviet Union.
Andrew Bacevich, a graduate of West Point and a Vietnam Veteran who later earned a Ph.D. in history at Princeton and taught at Boston University, has already written two critiques of American defense policy and strategy that have made the New York Times best seller list. This book seems likely to become a third. Its thesis is simple: the disparate theaters of American military engagement in the Greater Middle East, extending as far as Pakistan and Afghanistan in the East and toward Libya and beyond in the West, reveal a consistent pattern of strategic incoherence on the part of the…
Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper tells the story of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills. The film opens in Fallujah with Kyle confronting what will be his first two kills, a woman and a young boy who advance with a grenade toward a column of Marines. Kyle’s juvenile Marine escort states the obvious: “If you’re wrong, they’ll send your ass to Leavenworth.” Kyle shoots the boy and then the woman when she picks up his dropped grenade and attempts to throw it.
Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle here and throughout the film might be called the “inward turn.” Kyle isn’t overwhelmed by the event, but we sense that it is merely the first of many dramatic killings whose troubled imprint on Kyle will emerge in due course. After their deaths, he breathes in, closes his eyes, and then prepares for the next shot.
The New York Times’ account of Washington’s embarrassed secrecy about the U.S. military’s encounter with several thousand chemical weapons in Iraq, and the often callous medical treatment provided to the troops who dealt with them during the 2003-20011 occupation, is incomplete.
Not mentioned by the Times is that our special operations forces had run into these weapons in 2002 during secret, pre-invasion reconnaissance missions under CIA operational command. At least one U.S. officer suffered kidney failure after coming upon a suspect site, ordering his men to stand back as he entered to check it out and collapsing upon exiting. Discharged on medical disability, he has been on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant since 2004. He and other special forces were warned—more categorically than the occupying troops discussed by the Times—that divulging what happened to them would be treated as a serious breach of “top secret” security.
“Tell me how this ends?” The rhetorical question General David Petraeus posed during the march on Baghdad in 2003 points to the challenge of defining realistic goals and securing them effectively. Without clear ends, even the most lavish means cannot succeed. Upheaval now unfolding in Iraq leaves in ruins the post-9/11 project of reconstructing the Middle East to drain the swamps that enabled terrorism to operate. The Iraq War divided opinion in the United States. A feverish tone echoing the Vietnam era entered public discourse. The increased sound and fury of policy debates signified very little for real issues at…
Sunni fighters from around the Muslim world, having failed to conquer all of Syria from the Assad regime’s Alewites (a branch of Shia Islam) have been pushed eastward into majority-Sunni areas. These extend from east-central Syria into north-central Iraq. A wholly artificial border divides them. In recent days, they have established control over Sunni-majority areas of Iraq, from Fallujah and Mosul to the edges of Tikrit and Samarra. Our foreign policy establishment’s illusion that world events are principally about the United States, and its reflexive commitment to existing international borders, has led it to misunderstand that the region’s wars have been about re-drawing the unnatural borders imposed by the Wilsonians who subdivided the Ottoman Empire in 1919.
Our establishment, having neither ideas nor means for stopping this re-drawing, has reacted by hand-wringing (e.g. “the fall of Mosul” WSJ 6/11). Herewith, some suggestions for understanding these events’ implications for U.S. interests.
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country…” That is the oath every Boy Scout pledges at every meeting. It also seems to be the spirit with which Robert Gates, former Eagle Scout and currently president of the Boy Scouts Of America, approached the job of Secretary of Defense between 2006 and 2011 and wrote a memoir that shows the scout spirit’s nobility – as well as limitations in positions of leadership. Since that spirit combines individual responsibility with teamwork, the higher the position the more problematic is the spirit.
Statesmen’s memoirs serve as records of events and, most importantly, as sources of insights into them. Incidentally, they tell us about the author’s character. This book’s comments on the character of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and lesser folk have drawn attention, but are of no enduring interest.