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December 22, 2015

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This might be awesome though.

This is awful.

This makes me want to punch people in the face. Makes an interesting legal issue though.

Ugh's last link has this

The lawsuit is “typical of our culture,” said Jonathan Darnel of Northern Virginia, another protester included in the lawsuit. “We blame the messenger instead of the message. They should be filing a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood for moving in there and building this place next to their school.”

People who deliberately use children as pawns in their protests are beneath contempt. And the way the protesters are doing so (shoving graphic images in the faces of little kids) is especially so. I have to wonder what their reaction would be to people shoving graphic images (say of children dying of starvation) in the faces of their kids>

A restraining order, requiring the protesters to cease and desist, seems like the least that should happen.

Or shoving graphic images of gunshot wounds...


But to change the subject to self-aggrandizement: I wrote a book which I submitted to Kirkus Review for a Review. I was hoping to get a mildly positive review, but got instead a starred review, Indy Book of the Month, and ,y book is now on the list of best of 2015 (of books reviewed by Kirkus),]

Not bad for someone who never learned to type!

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/search/?q=the+dog+thief&t=all

Thank you for letting me brag here.

right on wonkie!!!

Solid 5 stars on Amazon, too, wonkie. Congrats!

Well that's five stars from the five friends and relatives who have read it!

The longest journey begins with a single step.

Justified brag, I think.

I note from the link that the Carl the Rottweiler books still seem to be going strong.
Quite charming, but one of the more surreal experiences visiting US bookstores with young kids; Rottweilers being seen as notoriously dangerous dogs in the UK, particularly around infants...

five stars from the five friends and relatives who have read it!
We should all be so lucky in the judgment of our relatives and friends.
:-)

I am still waiting for Hollywood to beat down my door to get the movie rights for my own Viking age epic (although I think a miniseries would be more suitable). ;-)

Congrats, Wonkie!

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/world/middleeast/saudi-led-war-in-yemen-frays-ties-with-the-us.html?ref=world&_r=0

So now the US government is starting to express open discomfort for how the Saudis are blowing up children in a US-supported war in Yemen. Does this mean that Saudi child-killing can be considered morally equivalent to the acts of some other child killers in the region, or do we have to wait for our government to go further?

Sarcasm aside, the US is actively and knowingly engaged in supporting war criminals and yet this is a page 10 issue in the NYT, which reflects the fact that in our political culture there is almost no interest in our responsibility for war crimes. We might as well be stepping on ants.

Note in the link how a man at the Council on Foreign Relations says the US is worried about being linked to the atrocities--he clearly isn't talking about the US political scene.

Interesting NYT article on nuclear war target lists and attitudes about carpet bombing. In the cellulose edition it is right next to the article about war crimes n Yemen.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/us/politics/1950s-us-nuclear-target-list-offers-chilling-insight.html?ref=world

That out of the way--congratulations wonkie.

Liberal democracies such as the United States face an acute dilemma in the conduct of foreign relations. Many states around the world are repressive or corrupt to varying degrees. Unfortunately, American national interests require cooperation with such regimes from time to time. To defeat Nazi Germany during World War II, the United States even allied with the Soviet Union, despite the barbarity of Josef Stalin's regime.
[...]

Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America's Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes

wonkie, congrats!

Sometime you come across stuff of universal application in the most esoteric of discussions...

http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2015/12/sigma-35mm-f1-4-dg-hsm-art-lens-teardown
Knowledgeable people always explain stuff I don't understand in the comments section. Less knowledgeable people explain stuff they don't understand in the comments section. Sometimes it's hard to tell which is which, though...

Less knowledgeable people explain stuff they don't understand...

Every once in a while we get lucky.

I( hope everyone enjoys their holiday season, what ever you celebrate. I just realized that I have been reading this blog for twelve years. I don't know if I should be depressed about that or not.

Congrats wonkie!

And God Bless us each and everyone:

http://news.yahoo.com/beatles-songs-set-streaming-christmas-001819448.html

a US-supported war in Yemen

DJ, are we actually supporting that war? That is, actively doing something to help?

Or are we just not criticizing it? Or even, until now, the way it is being waged?

I have the feeling (long before this, actually) that we tend to see any military activity by an ally as somehow something that we are supporting. But a lot of the time we seem to be uninvolved.** So I'm never sure what kind of "support" we are seen as providing.

** Granted, we aren't necessarily in a position to see everything. For example, I have seen something about the US having made (secret) plans to lend/give the UK a replacement ship if they lost one in the Falklands War. In which we were, officially, neutral. But that's still a ways from actually taking action in support.

You go, wonkie!

Something I hadn't realized about Evenwel v. Abbott (the Supreme Court case from Texas about who gets counted for redistricting). If the plaintiffs win, Texas will be able to only count those who are eligible to vote (i.e. adult citizens) when drawing districts.

But suppose that same rule gets used for allocating Congressional representatives between the states? Would states which have lots of children in their population (for example, Texas) be subject to losing a representative or two? Does anyone happen to know if that issue was even raised in the case at hand?

wj,
See Art. 1, Section 2 of US Constitution (as amended).

And merry Christmas to all.

Bobby, I thought of that. But I don't see a way to square counting "all free persons" (i.e. including children, illegal aliens, etc.) for that purpose and then not counting all of them when allocating representatives.

Perhaps the Justices will manage to come up with something. But it seems to me that it would have to be d*mn convoluted reasoning.

If a Court can come up with a concept such as "equal sovereignty of the states" it can come up with anything.

Therefore "convoluted" does not enter in to it because the underlying concept of "reasoning" has lost all meaning.

Sure, the Court (or at least some of the Justices) can come up with anything. But it will be interesting to see how those who do justify their position. Whether they are the majority or the minority (or even just a concurring opinion or a seperate dissent).

The dude shot and killed an armed intruder (yay!) as well as his brother and housemate (boo!). Extrapolate from this to a lecture hall full of armed students in an active-shooter scenario.

14th Amendment, Section 2:

But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Never used, although absolutely justified in Jim Crow states, probably because congressional action was required. While it might be a valid basis for a lawsuit, I'd expect that John "lawless" Roberts would give it the same careful analysis that he did for the VRA and 15th Amendment.

Keeping an open mind on this, but getting the nagging feeling that the election of Trump might not even be necessary...
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/23/uk-imam-ajmal-masroor-us-business-visa-revoked-without-explanation

Nigel, in this sort of situation, I'm always inclined to blame incompetence** rather than malice. Certainly we have had long-standing problems with entries on the (secret) No Fly list.

But this is beginning to sound like someone has gotten seriously and deliberately carried away. Especially if it was someone from the embassy.

** And if TSA is involved, that is a really really safe assumption.

Re Evenwel, I predict that the ruling won't require states to use something other than total population (allow, yes, but not require). The four liberals won't vote for that, and I believe that Kennedy won't vote to toss the current districting plans in all 50 states (especially in an election year). For that matter, I don't think Roberts would vote to toss them all.

That said, a friend in Texas suggests that the plaintiffs are as eager to take power away from suburban Republicans as they are from urban Democrats. She thinks this is all due to the new water bank Texas established. The purpose of the bank is to fund large water infrastructure projects -- with a heavy emphasis on diverting water from rural East Texas to the major urban/suburban centers. The bank legislation was passed by the urban Ds and suburban Rs over the loud objections of the rural Rs.

Water wars: So California! (Which will doubtless irritate the Texans if it is pointed out....)

Texas's water laws are peculiar (which is saying a lot when you consider western water law generally). All surface water is owned by the state, which can allocate as it sees fit. IIRC, during the last drought, the water authorities were putting irrigation-dependent cotton and rice farmers along the lower Colorado River (no, not that Colorado River, the other one) out of business in order to guarantee water for coastal power plants and industrial users in Austin.

Water wars: So California! (Which will doubtless irritate the Texans if it is pointed out....)

Texas in court with Oklahoma and New Mexico over water, and trying to force the federal government to lean on Mexico to honor Texas's interpretation of the water provisions in a treaty. Alabama/Florida/Georgia fighting over the Apalachicola River. Georgia in federal court trying to overturn an erroneous state boundary (acknowledged way back when by the surveyor as being inaccurate)so that they can get access to the Tennessee River and divert significant amounts to Atlanta.

As a westerner where water storage and diversion has always been a life-or-death matter, I find them all amusing.

From the linked article, it sounds like State Dept. people that were doing the visa-cancellation & "no you can't get on the plane".

Since it was in the UK, I don't think TSA was involved...and if it was 'no-fly list' stuff, it would have happened at check-in, rather than at the gate.

Sounds like a last-minute panic by State, or CIA.

This is why 2016 - and beyond - is going to suck no matter who gets elected:

https://theintercept.com/2015/12/18/beacon-global-strategies/

http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20130903/DEFREG02/309030006/Clinton-Allies-Join-Bush-Alum-Form-New-Consulting-Group

At least the new Star Wars movie was decent.....

all hail the great J.J. Abrams!

he has restored balance to the franchise!

Some thought it was a Lost cause.

Yes, I walked out of the theater Saturday quite thoroughly happy just to have seen my great childhood love treated with respect. Plus the faint hope of an interracial romance -- in Star Wars!

And mucho congratulations wonkie!

And, a Merry Christmas (or other holiday of your choosing) to all!

The last scene couldn't have been more perfect.

A rather different perspective on the War on Christmas.

I've got to say that it makes more sense than the usual rants.

http://www.vox.com/2015/12/24/10660766/star-wars-franchise-reboot-the-prequels

i thought i was looking at Alton Brown, in that last scene

No spoilers, please - haven't managed to see it yet.

hooray, i'm off to play the glockenspiel!

these are the things that happy holidays are made of.

merry christmas everyone, i hope everybody gets everything they're dreaming of.

There is a War on Christmas—In the History Books: The holiday has been surprisingly strife-torn since America's beginning. But today's controversies don't begin to compare to the colonial-era ban.

Who invented Christmas? Californians.: The modern holiday was conceived and popularized under swaying palm trees.

Not to be too politically incorrect or anything, but does anyone else find Christ's War on War blatantly unAmerican, given current standards?

Those Christmas truces need to go. Nixon had it right (not), according to conservative pagan doctrine, vividly with us today.

Kill. Carpet bomb.

Makes you want to upchuckabee your huckabees.

I'd like David Barton to sit down with the Puritans and see who ended up in the stocks or being burned to death.

Charles, you are a font of found stuff.

A merry and a happy to all.

Just because The Count's comment reminded me of it.

Happy holidays! Isn't it great that the days are getting longer? (At least for us northern hemispherics.)

Janie,

Boreocentrist!

Who invented Christmas? Californians

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it's December the 24th
And I'm longing to be up North...

And we all know the rest.

Penned by a Russian Jewish resident of NYC, apparently longing for the dirty snow of home.

We contain multitudes.

My mind is currently on the duet between (IIRC) Melchior and Amahl's mother.

Do you know a child the color of earth, the color of thorn?

Amahl et al is, I think, my favorite of the holiday favorites.

Good night all, and best holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, and however you celebrate them.

Wj, I believe we're actually doing stuff to help the Saudis in Yemen. Providing targeting info, refueling jets with our tankers, resupplying the Saudi air force, as well as running interference to prevent accountability for war crimes.

Larison at American Conservative has been very good on this war.

A perspective on 2016, and beyond, to which the west is paying insufficient attention:
http://www.wired.com/2015/11/climate-change-in-india/

With about 2,400 coal fired power plants being built or in the planning stages around the world, coal is going to be a major energy source for some decades yet.


A happier, more peaceful, and more prosperous New Year to all of you, and all of us, and all the world.

Amahl

Coming, mother.

Nigel, that's a really fascinating article. Thank you for pointing it out. But I was a bit surprised that it doesn't even mention one enormous reason for India to pay a lot of attention to climate change.

India borders Bangladesh -- a country with some 156 million peole (which may be only a percent or two of India's population, but is still a non-trivial number). Almost half of them live within 10 meters of sea level. Which means that, as the sea level rises due to climate change, there will be a lot of people who lose what little land they have. And that's before we consider the impact of climate change on the flow of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.

At least some of those people, quite possibly most of them, are likely to decide that, rather than try to wedge themselves into somewhere else in their already over-crowded country, the prospects look better over the border in India.

That kind of mass immigration, all desperately poor, is something that India is not going to be able to handle easily . . . or at all. And the only way to head it off is to minimize the amount of sea level rise, and the amount of climate change generally.

wj -- because it strengthens your point, I will nerdily point out that 156 million people is more like 12.5% of India's population, not "a percent or two."

Bangladesh has its own plans for its indigenous coal reserves...
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/opinion/bangladeshs-coal-delusion.html

Drat! Dropped a decimal point. Thanks, Janie.

And yes, it not only reinforces the point, it makes it even more suprising that it wasn't mentioned.

On the mark, Nigel. The developing world needs massive increases in energy, and electricity in particular, to accomplish their goal. Coal has the advantages that power plants burning it are reasonably simple, transporting it requires nothing more complicated than big flat-bottomed ships and trains, and there's a hell of a lot of it. The developed world has, quite literally, nothing to offer in place of coal in a timely fashion except "stay poor".

The developing world needs massive increases in energy, and electricity in particular, to accomplish their goal.

And the developed world should assist in a substantial way to attain that goal.

But most likely it will not.

drat....


Thanks, Nigel.

Something some defense people I know are sagely rubbing their chins and nodding thoughtfully about:

Business Insider: Stratfor has 11 chilling predictions for what the world will look like in 10 years

To me it (even the underlying analysis, not just the summary linked above) reads like someone took a group of foreign area experts, had each one make a projection for ten years exclusively for their area, and then pasted them all together into a single report with no overarching analysis or even synthesis between projections. But I'm not an interested amateur when it comes to foreign policy and suchlike, while the chin rubbers do this for a living, so what do I know?

*I'm only an interested amateur...

The last one seems less "chilling" to me than simply inevitable. Forward-deployed offensive weapons systems are getting more expensive. Defensive weapons for use against those are getting cheaper. Heck, at the rate the F-35 price keeps going up, the bloody things are going to be too expensive to risk in combat.

Wj, yes, we are supporting Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. This was explained in the NYT link I provided above-- it was also explained in the link I remember providing in an earlier thread when you asked the same question. We aren't standing by--we are helping the Saudis as they bomb schools.


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/world/middleeast/saudi-led-war-in-yemen-frays-ties-with-the-us.html?ref=topics

There was a brief period under Bush when people in the mainstream spoke about US war crimes as a serious issue, but we are back to normal now, where we either commit them or help others commit them and there is a bipartisan consensus that it doesn't matter.

More on the US-supported war crimes in Yemen--

http://www.salon.com/2015/12/27/saudi_arabia_is_obliterating_yemen_with_the_help_of_the_u_s_partner/

More on the US-supported war crimes in Yemen

Not an expert on Yemen or what is going on there, but I did read that the Houthis are interested in cutting off shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait, which would rupture the world economy. I get it that such a concern sounds very corporate, but economic collapse affects a lot of people, and often supports right-wing political dictators.

So maybe we should be more assertive in directing the anti-Houthi operations so that listed civilian casualties could be avoided? Maybe we should stay out of it and let the Saudis do the dirty work by themselves (doing what they're doing now) but we'd have our hands clean, and maybe our interests wouldn't be successfully served? Nice work avoiding the blame. Or maybe we should do what we're doing, trying to exert influence, but also trying to make things happen for the good?

What's your RX, Doctor Donald?

Um, "what we're doing" is selling arms, providing operational intelligence and support, and sharing targeting information while consulting on target selection - all of which is being used by the dear old House of Saud to commit unambiguous warcrimes alongside old-fashioned merely-ambiguously-criminal indiscriminate strategic bombing.

I do like that - as per usual - the first defense raised is a tu quoque, though. And better still, it's one invoking a second or fourth-hand assertion about what someone says the Houthis are interested in doing, which obviously serves as a moral counterweight to what our client-state - with our tactical, logistical, and operational support - has been doing, currently is doing, and by all appearances and certainly most ominously, are interested in doing.

Nombrilisme Vide, what we support seems, in your opinion, always to be the greater of the evils. I'm not sure that's true. What I'm asking is that you suggest what the alternative would look like. It's a counterfactual perhaps, and if we let it lie, the blood would be on someone else's hands. Perfect for us to then absolve ourselves, no matter what was wrought.

And likewise, whoever we happen to be supporting at the moment seems to be the lesser of evils, or an understandably forgivable/tragically inevitable evil, in your opinion. So the implicit "you don't think things through, you just have one response to everything" undercurrent is rather toothless coming from you. Especially, again, in this case it's a matter of your "greater evil" being a hypothetical one versus a well-documented ongoing "lesser evil" by a government with an awful human rights record and the kind of history of exporting, financing, and supporting terrorism that would get it denounced and sanctioned were it not so cozy with us - well, and let's be honest, also swimming in oil.

In this case, as in most of my simple-minded one-size-fits-all intemperate and ill-considered hypotheticals, what we should do is treat human rights abuses consistently, and not provide diplomatic cover for the perpetrators at the UN and in other venues. We should denounce them, and certainly not continue to provide support for their operations. Again, we're not just sitting back avoiding censuring the Saudis for their crimes. We're not just conveniently having other things to do when others try to hold them accountable. We're providing ongoing logistical and operational support for their military campaign.

You're portraying this as a well-meaning and tragic choice between greater and lesser evil. It's not. It's realpolitik; it's hypocritical moralizing for a domestic audience to sustain a myth of a city on a hill which has little credibility outside the US, and essentially none outside the global north. Actions like this are not about attacking evils, they're about maintaining power and influence. So please, save the hand-wringing, tormented moralizing about our noble intentions for the masses who keep their eyes fixed firmly on our domestic navel...

So please, save the hand-wringing, tormented moralizing about our noble intentions for the masses who keep their eyes fixed firmly on our domestic navel...

I'm not the one who's handwringing, or engaging in tormented moralizing. We elect people, and I've never trusted an executive branch in my lifetime as much as the one we currently have. The people who are working on our foreign policy are more knowledgeable than people commenting here, and as high-minded. The scope of foreign policy is huge; our treaty commitments, negotiations for alliances, economic interests, etc. etc. etc. are infinite. It's difficult to imagine a morally perfect alliance. If we're isolationists, we can say goodbye to all that. I don't think that would make the world better, although we could give ourselves a great moral pat on the back.

Saudi Arabia has caused the United States boatloads of trouble (and, at the moment, we could live without its oil). Israel seems nothing but a headache. I'm not a fan of either nation. I trust Obama, John Kerry, Ashon Carter, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice - these aren't people who have turned a blind eye to human rights. You might better explain what their purpose is if you believe that it is so nefarious. I think that the policy is a lesser of evils.

Oh, and by the way, when we become morally upright isolationists, who will fill the vacuum? China. Russia. Please explain how that will improve human rights.

I did read that the Houthis are interested in cutting off shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait, which would rupture the world economy.

I seem to have missed that report on the Houthis' goals. Can you point me to a source?

Thanks.

Just to clarify, a Houthis victory might well have a negative effect, albeit indirectly, on the world economy. But not because they might cut off shipping -- of oil or anthing else.

The Houthis are a tribe in Yemen which happens to be Shia. Their biggest complaint, at least originally, was the way that they were being treated by the (Sunni) government.

The major motivation for the Saudi intervention (regardless of the official rationale) is this: If the Houthis manage to set up a seperate statelet, it might well motivate the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia (also not well treated by their government) to try the same. And that Shia population happen to be concentrated in the south-east of the Kingdom . . . that is, where the oil fields are.

If the Saudi oil fields are disrupted, the price of oil worldwide jumps. Which predictable impact on the economies of all the countries which import oil. It's an indirect impact of a possible Houthis success. But no more than that.

To be fair to sapient, I more or less get where he's coming from. Foreign policy is difficult, and avowedly moralistic foreign policy doesn't necessarily result it better outcomes than the realpolitik alternative (one only has to look at how the 'Arab Spring' has turned out so far).
A policy which supports order over chaos is at least arguable (not that I'm arguing the Yemen policy is any such thing).

That said, the Saudis are not only morally bankrupt, but have shown a tendency to screw the west since the oil shock they engineered in the 70s. If your interests don't coincide, why back an obnoxious regime ?

People are actually worried about the strait, wj. The concerns you've stated are legitimate as well.

Trying to figure out how not to deal with Saudis is a great plan, but their oil and strategic location are important to the world's economy and security. We can't just take our ball and go home. I would be interested to read how people think things would work if we did.

I'm not the one who's handwringing, or engaging in tormented moralizing.

Perhaps you weren't before, but that comment certainly rises to that level.

Snark aside, the problem is that while we may deal in lesser evils elsewhere, you show nothing to demonstrate that's the case here. As wj and Nigel more succinctly point out. You merely admonish us to trust in the goodness of the administration, and make vague suggestions that the forces that the administration is opposing might be wanting to do bad things, maybe, so we need to pipe down. You've not made any case that this instance is either moral or necessary; you just made vague general statements about the difficulty of international policy in general, coupled with vague (and somewhat-reeking-of-virtue-ethics) appeals to authority. There's very little to suggest the Kingdom is doing anything outside of its normal anti-Shi'a agenda, and there's very little to suggest we're doing anything here other than turning a blind eye to evil in the interest of maintaining regional influence.

Sapient, the article you cite doesn't say anything about the Houthis shutting down shipping or even wanting to do so. It says that coalition forces wanted to seize strategic terrain and infrastructure. And there's a rather more cynical (and telling) angle suggested as well, if I may do something so gauche as to listen to what the Houthis say themselves rather than trusting the objective and reliable Saudis on the subject of Houthi motives:

"[The attack] aims to arouse concern in the international community over the safety of the shipping lane," a spokesman for the media office of Houthi leader Abdel-Malek Badruddin al-Houthi said on Facebook.

Hmm. Sounds like the attack - by the Saudi-led coalition, mind - succeeded in THAT regard.

Nombrilisme Vide, would you mind addressing the issue of the Bab al-Mandab strait since we're supposedly trying to keep our focus on the actual issues behind the war?

The Houthis held the strait for awhile. They admitted that their aim was to raise concern. Sounds like they succeeded.

If the US were run by people I wholeheartedly supported I am positive we would still be supporting lesser of two evil governments and groups and would get our hands dirty. In Syria, for instance, there are no good choices if we wish to be involved at all, and not being involved is not a choice--even urging peace talks involves making choices on which nauseating groups should have a voice at the table. If we don't topple him, then Assad or his regime will be a part of the solution and it hardly matters if Assad left, since he didn't personally kill tens of thousands of civilians or do all the torturing himself. And no doubt the "moderates" we've armed have done some nasty things as well.

But we ought to be honest about who and what we are supporting and why we are supporting such groups and we almost never have honest discussions about such things in the US, because we are too busy praising our own inherent nobility and goodness and contrasting ourselves with our evil enemies who commit atrocities. Conversations are conducted on an incredibly childish level. You don't like my handwringing, though you certainly are no slouch at it when you can blame Islamists or Republicans. You are the world champion hand wringer in those cases. In a mature society where people were honest about these things everyone would know that the US government is supporting Saudi Arabia as they bomb schools, we'd all agree this was awful, and then there would be discussions and heated arguments about what we should be doing. There wouldn't be any reason for me to contribute, because what the information in the links I provided would be common knowledge and there would be no room for hypocrisy on the subject. A murdered civilian is just as murdered when our allies do it as when our enemies do it, and everyone would begin the conversation on that basis. I don't happen to think there is a good reason for us to be giving military and diplomatic support to Saudi Arabia and am baffled by the argument that we have to support war crimes to make the world a better place. We aren't going to go to war with Saudi Arabia or for that matter Israel to stop their crimes, but we don't have to give them cover. We might be able to pull them back if we openly criticized them and stopped giving them weapons knowing how those weapons will be used. That won't happen and not simply because the Bestest President Ever has decided on exactly the right policy, but in large part because of domestic politics. Or if you want to assume Obama has the best of intentions, and maybe he does, his policies are in large part determined right here at home and are not by any stretch of the imagination the ones he would follow if those domestic pressures didn't exist.

Many Americans believe in American exceptionalism and it is convenient for our politicians to encourage this belief, because then that is one factor they don't have to worry about when they support war criminals or have the US commit war crimes. In the case of Israel there are influential factions in both parties which think Israel can do no wrong, so we don't have honest discussions about what they do.
Saudi Arabia is a weird case--most ordinary people in both p
arties despise the Saudi government, but yet here we are helping them bomb civilians and the NYT prints its story on page 10, because that's about the level of interest it gets. Which is weird, if you just came here from Neptune and listened to all the passionate hand wringing against terrorism. How could we possibly be serious and then not even care about what our allies do in Yemen and have done to Gaza?

Incidentally, supporting Israel in Gaza has led to a situation where ISIS is starting to get a foothold there. Hamas--those are the moderates.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/01/14/isis-in-gaza/

I did read that the Houthis are interested in cutting off shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait

Is that feasible? Do they have a navy of any kind, or missiles or other weapon systems capable of interfering with shipping?

If I'm not mistaken, the Bab al-Mandab is already patrolled by navies from a number of countries - US, Russia, UK, France - to defend against Somalian and other pirates.

I did read that the Houthis are interested in cutting off shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait

Is that feasible? Do they have a navy of any kind, or missiles or other weapon systems capable of interfering with shipping?

If I'm not mistaken, the Bab al-Mandab is already patrolled by navies from a number of countries - US, Russia, UK, France - to defend against Somalian and other pirates.

The Houthis held the strait for awhile. They admitted that their aim was to raise concern. Sounds like they succeeded.

Hmm. They held it a while, yet nothing happened. Hmm. Interesting, that.

...still no cite showing them to have threatened to block the Straits, let alone, as russel points out, a capability of doing so. So I'm gonna say it's not me who's failing to address the matter of the Straits, though I would point out that keeping to the subject of the actual war at hand would be focusing on the war, rather than the one peripheral aspect which appears to be of international interest (though again, nothing has been presented to demonstrate that this interest is grounded in reality, or anything but a convenient justification to excuse any and all "excesses" by the dear House of Saud).

But feel free to ignore me and address DJ. He's done a better and more succinct job articulating what's wrong with your objections than I have.

We can't just take our ball and go home.

It may not be wise to do so, but this is an option. Your assertion is an attempt to define the acceptable parameters of the debate.

I would be interested to read how people think things would work if we did.

We don't really know what would happen.

Perhaps we should start with the basics: Define our 'national interests' in the Middle East.

Is that feasible? Do they have a navy of any kind, or missiles or other weapon systems capable of interfering with shipping?

The Houthis are allied with Iran. Is it safe to assume that the Yemen war is a proxy war against Iranian/Russian interests?

But we ought to be honest about who and what we are supporting and why we are supporting such groups and we almost never have honest discussions about such things in the US, because we are too busy praising our own inherent nobility and goodness and contrasting ourselves with our evil enemies who commit atrocities.

I agree with the first clause of that sentence completely, although I don't think our lack of conversation is because "we are too busy praising" ourselves. I think our lack of conversation has to do with the fact that many people are ignorant of what's happening in the world, much less why people are fighting each other in complicated religious and economic rivalries where both sides are supported by historic alliances. Many of the people who do focus on those things work in government, trying to understand situations pretty much 24/7.

Your article, Donald, illustrated that whatever our interest in supporting the Saudis is, we are becoming more intolerant of abuses. Rather than applauding that tendency, you deride the people who are trying to balance our political interest with the desire to mitigate the suffering.

So, sure, let's talk about why we're involved, and what the situation would look like if we weren't. My guess is that it wouldn't look better.


I get both sides of the argument, either of which and/or in combination seem thinkable any because the alternatives are unthinkable.

Here's a third view.

We, typically, as control-freak Americans who somewhere along the line conjured a ridiculously confident delusion, enhanced by the presence of vast oceans on either side of us (the saltwater of one of which is now seeping up through the porous limestone in south Florida, including the streets of Miami; one piece of destiny now illegal to mention in the government that "thinks" it controls that particular land mass's destiny) ... and until 1989 by the overbearing control calculus and hegemony that we and the Soviet Union exercised over world events during the Cold War, that we are somehow in charge of not only our destiny, but the world's as well.

Oh, there's a ball. It may be round or not. It might be "ours" ... sometimes, meaning we might have possession of it on third down and four to go (choose what game you like). It can be thrown, it can be passed, it can be inflated or deflated to affect imaginary results, but take a close look at the ball, maybe sniff it, maybe listen for ticking, and think about all of the bad passes, fumbles, and errant kicks we've made of it over the past epoch in that part of the world.

I think it has a fuse. Probably nuclear.

Maybe there is more than one ball. Others have balls too.


Is it safe to assume that the Yemen war is a proxy war against Iranian/Russian interests?

Sapient, how did the Russians sneak into this discussion?

I can see the Iranian interest: they tend to support their co-religionists. Not surprising in an environment where Shias are often repressed, even when they constitute a majority of the population. But beyond that, there is no obvious (at least to me) Iranian interest in Yemen.

And why the Russians would care is even less obvious. Beyond a fondness for stirring the pot wherever they can, in tribute to the memory of the USSR's foreign policy, what would involvement get them?

The Houthis are allied with Iran. Is it safe to assume that the Yemen war is a proxy war against Iranian/Russian interests?

Was that an answer to my question?

Are the Russians aligned with Iran now?

Does the idea that our support of Saudi Arabia's fight with the Houthis is really a proxy war with either Iran or Russia, independently or in combination, make the whole package more attractive, or less?

I second bobbyp's comment about articulating what, exactly, or interests actually are in the region. Absent that, there is no sense to anything we're doing there.

Are the Russians aligned with Iran now? Yes. You could say that Russian alliance with Assad is also part of that equation.

Does the idea that our support of Saudi Arabia's fight with the Houthis is really a proxy war with either Iran or Russia, independently or in combination, make the whole package more attractive, or less?

To me? I'm not "attracted" to any of it.

Preserving the balance of power in the world is important, and it's the main interest we have in the region. Is it attractive? It's attractive to maintain oil supplies to parts of the world that are dependent on them. Is it our job to do it? I don't our allies complaining. Take a look at this article for a clue on Germany's take on the situation.

It's attractive to maintain oil supplies to parts of the world that are dependent on them.

Yes, I think our interest in the area generally was articulated by the Carter Doctrine. We don't want anyone interfering with a reliable global supply of oil.

If I understand it correctly, Donald's issue was with Saudi targeting of schools, hospitals, and other civilian targets as part of their fight with the Houthis.

Does the balance of power in the middle east depend upon Saudis bombing hospitals and schools? Are our national interests served by being associated with that?

It's attractive to maintain oil supplies to parts of the world that are dependent on them.

Yes, I think our interest in the area generally was articulated by the Carter Doctrine. We don't want anyone interfering with a reliable global supply of oil.

If I understand it correctly, Donald's issue was with Saudi targeting of schools, hospitals, and other civilian targets as part of their fight with the Houthis.

Does the balance of power in the middle east depend upon Saudis bombing hospitals and schools? Are our national interests served by being associated with that?

Does the balance of power in the middle east depend upon Saudis bombing hospitals and schools? Are our national interests served by being associated with that?

Of course not. To my knowledge, we haven't endorsed the Saudis bombing of hospitals and schools.

Sapient,

You write:

It's attractive to maintain oil supplies to parts of the world that are dependent on them

This appears to be your line of reasoning:
1. It is vital to maintain the flow of oil from the ME to international markets.
2. If we do not "maintain the balance of power" in the ME, this flow will be disrupted and/or halted.

Is my understanding correct? If it is, I simply do not agree based upon the simple fact that whomever "controls" the flow of ME oil, it will reach world markets regardless.

So again. What are our "vital national interests" in the ME?

I simply do not agree based upon the simple fact that whomever "controls" the flow of ME oil, it will reach world markets regardless.

You are welcome to your opinion. You'll find very few policymakers in Western nations who would be willing to roll the dice.

By the way, I think that the balance of power issue and the oil issue are two separate, but interwoven, matters of national interest to the United States and its allies.

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