Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Morning Twitter Links -- August 27

At this writing US intervention in the Syrian civil war appears inevitable. While we wait to find out exactly what that means, here is a sampling of what's being linked in my little part of the Twitterverse.
Mr. Obama may instead bypass the U.N. and, as in the case of the 1999 NATO air war in Kosovo, assemble an ad hoc international coalition to support military action that would provide legitimacy, if not strict legal justification, for intervening to protect Syrian civilians. American officials are discussing the possibility that states like Turkey and Jordan may make a collective self-defense argument because they could be victims of Syrian chemical weapons.

If Mr. Obama does forgo the U.N., he will need strong endorsements from the Arab League and the European Union, and more countries than just Turkey, Britain and France should join the effort. And if he does proceed with military action, it should be carefully targeted at Syrian air assets and military units involved in chemical weapons use. This, too, will not be easy, but the aim is to punish Mr. Assad for slaughtering his people with chemical arms, not to be drawn into another civil war.

A political agreement is still the best solution to this deadly conflict, and every effort must be made to find one. President Obama has resisted demands that he intervene militarily and in force. Though Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind, the arguments against deep American involvement remain as compelling as ever.

These next two messages (and RT by Queen Nour) are interesting.
King Abdullah appears to be doing everything possible to manage the flood of Syrian refugees pouring into Jordan, already awash with those from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.

==► Highly recommended reading...
Islamism is the illusion
By Khaled Diab
17 August 2013

But does centuries-old Islam, the world’s second largest religion, really need self-appointed defenders to shield it from “insult”, when the Qur’an itself welcomes doubt, questioning and even ridicule? 
And why do these self-appointed defenders of the faith contradict the example of the prophet they claim to emulate? For instance, Muhammad pardoned one of his scribes, Abdullah Ibn Saad, even after he claimed that the Qur’an was invented and Muhammad was a false prophet.
These examples highlight how Islamism, rather than providing the solution, as it claims, is actually built on an illusion. 
Islamist discourse, on the whole, holds that the reason for the Muslim world’s decline is its deviation from Islamic law and values. That explains why Hassan al-Banna, despite his attempts to inject some elements of modernity into traditional Islamic thought, fixated on questions of morality and Shari’a. One of his ideological descendants, Sayyid Qutb, went so far as to invent the dangerous idea that Muslims were living a period of modern “Jahiliyyah” (pre-Islamic ignorance).
Muhammad himself never established anything resembling what we would call an “Islamic state” today. His secular-sounding Constitution of Medina actually defines Jews, Christians and pagans – i.e. every member of Medina’s society – as being full and equal members of the Ummah. 
During what is widely regarded as Islam’s “golden age”, the political and social mechanisms governing the lives of Muslims were generally secular. Though the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs derived their claim to legitimacy from Islam, they were essentially secular rulers, presiding over secular governments. They were autocratic, not theocratic. 
In fact, their honorific title “commanders of the faithful”suggests that caliphs derived their authority from their Muslim (and other) subjects and not from Islam itself. Moreover, most enlightened caliphs were derided by conservatives and traditionalists as immoral and decadent.

Greg Mitchell's list...

Some liberals in the media have resisted, however. Then there's the issue of the country that still defends killing 100,000 women and children with a new radiation bomb in 1945 lecturing others on what's a "moral obscenity.'

I’ll begin collecting commentary, return for more.

Eugene Robinson joins liberal hawks tonight in calling for strike on Assad at Washington Post.Admits history argues against it but we have to do it. “Must be punished.”

Dexter Filkins joins liberal hawks in calling for attack in new piece at The New Yorker. After recounting a moving talk with journalist/witness to last week’s bombing, he admits our attack now could make things worse (and no rebel leader to trust)—but have got to try something. David Frum at Twitter, on the other hand, outlined several good reasons to resist this impulse.

The New York Times, in an editorial posted late Monday, asked for a measured response after declaring: “This time the use of chemicals was more brazen and the casualties were much greater, suggesting that Mr. Assad did not take Mr. Obama seriously. Presidents should not make a habit of drawing red lines in public, but if they do, they had best follow through. Many countries (including Iran, which Mr. Obama has often said won’t be permitted to have a nuclear weapon) will be watching.”

The Times also collected the mixed views of several experts in a Room for Debate online, including this warning from Stephen Walt: “Even if proven, the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government does not tip the balance in favor of U.S. military intervention. To think otherwise places undue weight on the weapons Assad’s forces may have used and ignores the many reasons that US intervention is still unwise.”

The great Andrew Bacevich raises three reasons to pause. For one: we now aim to hit Syria—but we did little after the Egyptians, who we fund, killed perhaps as many civilians two weeks ago in non-chemical attacks.

The Washington Post editorial: “Mr. Obama should deliver on his vow not to tolerate such crimes—by ordering direct U.S. retaliation against the Syrian military forces responsible and by adopting a plan to protect civilians in southern Syria with a no-fly zone.” Chicago Tribune: “If the Syrian government launched this chemical attack, will it be held accountable, not just by the U.S. but by countries in the Arab world and elsewhere? Will France, Turkey and other countries outraged by the attack impose a no-fly zone in Syria, along the lines of the NATO coalition that helped topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011? Or will world leaders shrug, await Assad’s next outrage, and debate the meaning of ‘red line’?”

* Will be hard to top Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal: "Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar's brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family's power, including all of their official or unofficial residences."
Meantime, down in Yemen... 

...moving right along... 

That's all from me for the moment. 
I have a dental appointment.
Haven't read Nasr's piece yet, but whatever he says is important. 
He really knows his stuff. (pdf) 
He was associated with the Pahlavi family.
From his CV... 
Born in Tehran of a prominent family, his father, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, was sent to an American preparatory school and became the first Iranian undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seyyed Hossein Nasr stayed in this country for graduate studies also, earning a PhD in the history of science and learning at Harvard. But despite a job offer to teach at Harvard, he chose to return to Iran. By age 39, he’d been named president of Aryamehr University by the Shah. A year later, in 1972, another great honor: the Empress appointed him the first president of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy. He built a great library at this important new learning center and engaged the participation of distinguished scholars from both the East and the West.
Vali Nasr's link was written a month ago but remains relevant.
His take on events in Syria is framed in terms of both Egypt and Russia. There is more, but this jumped out at me.
The Kremlin has dismissed talk of democracy in the Arab world as naive, seeing it as an opening for an Islamist power grab that would jeopardize Western and Russian interests alike. Islamist governments in Tunis and Cairo, the surprising popularity of Salafism and the proliferation of violent extremism in Libya or Syria have only confirmed Russia’s worst expectations of the Arab Spring. 
Syria in particular has evoked Moscow’s fear of rising Sunni militancy because of its potential to turn its fury on Russia’s Muslim periphery. President Vladimir Putin sees Syria through the prism of Chechnya — a violent jihadi insurrection that has to be put down at all cost. Just as Russia defeated Islamic radicalism in Chechnya, Assad could do the same in Syria. Putin has lost no opportunity to remind US officials who visit him that the case for ditching Assad is Western folly. He argues that Syria is not about to become a democracy, but a bastion of Islamic extremism if Assad falls. The West is foolishly supporting the very menace that it has been fighting for more than a decade. 
Washington does not like to acknowledge it, but it has been slowly but surely moving in Putin’s direction. The growing influence of extremist forces among the Syrian opposition has been a source of worry in Washington and an important reason why the United States has resisted greater involvement in the conflict. In private, the administration also admittedly fears that if it helps topple Assad, extremists will take over. 
American strategists see two wars in Syria today: the highly visible ghastly one between Assad and the opposition, and the less noticed, but potentially consequential one between the extremist and moderate wings of the opposition. For some time now, the view in the Obama administration has been that it is the second war that matters most to American interests, and if the United States is to intervene, it should do so to deny an extremist victory.
Or, it seems, an Assad victory as well.  

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