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October 13, 2019

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So US forces are retreating in the face of an attack by a NATO ally...
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-50034802

Their regional ally in the fight against IS, having now been abandoned by Trump, is seeking alliance with the Syrians and the Russian regime.

The US military apparently has little idea of what is going on, other than that the extent of the attack is a surprise.

Numerous atrocities against civilians are reported.

The likelihood of IS regrouping increases.

And the president congratulates himself on being “very smart”.

Trump is going to leave quite the lasting mark on US foreign policy - if only because his entire term has been about finding agreements and alliances he can discard. i'm sure he knows that.

periodic reminder: this is what "burning it down" looks like.

A remarkably dignified statement from the Kurdish CinC:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/13/kurds-assad-syria-russia-putin-turkey-genocide/
...When the whole world failed to support us, the United States extended its hands. We shook hands and appreciated its generous support. At Washington’s request, we agreed to withdraw our heavy weapons from the border area with Turkey, destroy our defensive fortifications, and pull back our most seasoned fighters. Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us.

We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives.

President Donald Trump has been promising for a long time to withdraw U.S. troops. We understand and sympathize. Fathers want to see their children laughing on their laps, lovers want to hear the voices of their partners whispering to them, everyone wants to go back to their homes.

We, however, are not asking for American soldiers to be in combat. We know that the United States is not the world police. But we do want the United States to acknowledge its important role in achieving a political solution for Syria. We are sure that Washington has sufficient leverage to mediate a sustainable peace between us and Turkey....

Turkey has taken initial delivery of parts of the Russian S-400 systems they're spending a billion dollars or so on. If that equipment "calls home" the way everyone thinks, it will eventually give the Russians a look at how it responds to an F-22 or F-35. What are the Kurds going to offer?

THIS what you get, when you put an objective traitor to the USA in the presidency.

Thanks, GOP.

A succinct summary:

This is the most unwise, inept, incompetent diplomatic team I’ve ever seen at work in Washington, and that’s saying something.

What are the Kurds going to offer?

They've laid their own lives down. One would think that would be persuasive.

From the Wash Post link—

“The militias, known as the Free Syrian Army, “are crazy and not reliable.””

Golly, who would have guessed? We only spent years arming them and often they fought side by side with Al Nusra. They’re moderate.

This is a freaking disaster, but, and yes there is a “but”, our entire policy in Syria has been largely a disaster for many years. The support for the Kurds was possibly the only part that wasn’t a freaking war crime and of course in pulling out in this precipitous manner Trump has managed to wreck even that.

To paraphrase a quote (likely mis-) attributed to Churchill: Given the choice between war and shame, he chose shame and will get war.
And the best case scenario is that it will be his successor that will have to deal with it, not He The Donald himself.

The people who support a sociopath because he gives them goodies (tax cut, radical reactionary judiciary) won't stop supporting him as long as he keeps giving them goodies (tax cuts, radical reactionary judges).

Their ethos, like his, is entirely transactional.

To which one can do no better than quote cleek:

You’ve come a long way from pretending to be the moral standard bearers of the world, you despicable frauds.

A warning from Poland:

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/why-polands-election-matters-beyond-its-borders/599992/
As the example of many other populist governments, from nearby Hungary to faraway Venezuela, show, it is often in their second term in office that populist leaders manage to take full control, intimidating critics and eliminating rival power centers. ...

Trump: mastermind™ of the ISIS resurgence.
https://mobile.twitter.com/richardengel/status/1183080487243407361

First, the YPG is a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group that is part of the PPK terrorist group in Turkey. Their goal is the partition of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia to create a Kurdistan. The destruction of the YPG is in the Turkish national interest. It is a high priority, probably existential, goal for the Turks.

Second, Turkey is our third oldest ally going back to February, 1945. It is essential to our strategic position in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. If allied with Russia, Russia will control the Black and Aegean Seas and the Eastern Mediterranean. Russia will have turned the southern flank of NATO in Romania, Hungary, and Poland. Selling out the Kurds to the Turks is in our national interest.

Third, unification of Syria under Assad is preferable to unification under the Syrian Democratic Force. Assad's government is non-sectarian and generally tolerant of Christians, Jews, Sunnis and Shias. The forces we have been supporting, like al-Nusra (and likely ISIS, also), are aligned with al-Qaeda. They are Sunni extremists of the worst kind, and they would purge Syria of all other groups via genocide. Our support for al-Qaeda in Syria is sheer lunacy, but it derives from the Obama support for the so-called "Arab Spring," which was populated by terrorists like the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Kurds have now made peace with Assad, and are submitting to rule from Damascus. Syrian troops are now moving into the Kobane-Raqqa region where they will be confronting Turkish troops and clients. Whether there will actual fighting between Turks and Syrians remains to be seen. Russia and the US will not join the fighting, but what Iran, Hezbollah, and possibly Israel, will do is anyone's guess.

heh. i was just going to say that the justification du jour over at Breitbart is that the Kurds are "Marxists".

If allied with Russia...

say, who just sold Turkey a bunch of AA missiles?

Selling out the Kurds to the Turks is in our national interest.

ghoulish.

So, Mr Sykes, are you buying Erdogan's bullsh*t that the Syrian Kurds are somehow allies/proxies for Kurdish terrorists in Turkey? Because other than also being Kurdish, it is far from clear that there is any real reason to think so.

Erdogan has domestic political reasons to gin up paranoia over Turkish domestic Kurdish terrorists. And has worked hard to repress Turkey's Kurdish citizens, in order to motivate such terrorists. But even so, his claims are ludicrous. About as plausible as Putin's claims that the insurgents in southeast Ukraine are Ukrainians, rather than Russian military wearing civvies.

Yes, the YPG is linked to the PKK. I will leave aside the word terrorist, which could have a real objective meaning, but in practice does not. Ocalan stopped being an orthodox Marxist Leninist and became libertarian socialist. Some people on the far left have been in love with the YPG for this reason.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/magazine/a-dream-of-utopia-in-hell.html

I have no idea how democratic the Syrian Kurds are in actuality. The funny thing is that these Chomsky types have been allied with the Green Berets.
Normally you would expect the left to be romanticizing them and the msm to be calling them communist totalitarians but since they were our temporary allies ( now shooting our other allies) the usual ideological lineups have gotten all confused.

Because other than also being Kurdish, it is far from clear that there is any real reason to think so.

So far as I have read, the Syrian Kurds are splintered so many ways that some group is affiliated with/supports almost anyone you can name. No one seems to deny that the YPG is an offshoot of the PKK, with the same goals in Syria that the PKK has in Turkey (ie, an independent Kurdish state). But there are other Syrian Kurds fighting with the Turkish troops against the YPG because they view the YPG as terrorist fanatics oppressing the civilian population.

If the Kurdish areas in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey were somehow carved off and delivered to the Kurds, it seems the likely outcome would be a 8- or 10-way civil war.

Btw, this moral outrage about the US helping Turkey kill Kurds should sound familiar, but notice the date. February 2016

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-feminist-democratic-leftists-our-military-is-obliterating/


Note that the YPG is mentioned.

One could go further back, to the 90’s, when the US supplied weapons to Turkey to bomb Kurdish villages in Turkey.

To be clear, I am not sure I fully believe these stories of democratic leftists because the far left is always finding groups like this to romanticize. Usually the mainstream then demonizes them. What has been different with the Syrian Kurds is that by geopolitical accident we’ve been on the same side, so Chomsky and Lindsay Graham are supporters of what had been a libertarian socialist mini state.

If the Kurdish areas in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey were somehow carved off and delivered to the Kurds, it seems the likely outcome would be a 8- or 10-way civil war.

I'm not so sure. One of the features of the Kurdish area of Syria (Rojava), in addition to having better women's rights than anywhere in the Middle East bar Israel, was that it had 3 regions. Each with their own government, flag, etc., etc. Which is to say, they seemed to be managing something resembling federalism amongst their various sub-groups.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/world/middleeast/trump-turkey-syria.html

And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.

Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week."

No one consulted the "Deep State" regarding preparing to secure/remove the weapons before the decision was made by the gastrointestinal microbiota in the roiling gut of an ignorant psychopath steered by his reptilian brain stem.

Rant appended here detailing the savage killing that is about to descend upon all Americans deleted for my self-protection.

Btw, this moral outrage about the US helping Turkey kill Kurds

no, not "the US", Trump.

pretty much everyone except Trump's sycophant army is aghast.

I'm not so sure.

Yeah, I'm getting more pessimistic about the world every year.

I'm experiencing some cognitive dissonance with the concept of "libertarian socialist".

More background.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/j5yajg/trumps-betrayal-of-the-kurds-is-as-incoherent-as-it-is-dangerous

Chomsky always talked about libertarian socialism. They tend to think the right hijacked the term libertarian. LeGuin’s SF novel The Dispossessed depicts a libertarian socialist society and I gather the Spanish anarchists are in this tradition.

Personally I never spent too much time on it. Sanders style social democracy is about as far left as I can imagine for the US.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_socialism

so, kind of anarcho-syndicalist, but not specifically focused on labor?

Russell— probably. I think of one of those guys in the Monty Python movie. There were anarchists ( Mahkno) in the Russian civil war who fought both Whites and Reds. There were the Spanish anarchists. I think the Zapatista are in this group and most recently the PKK / YPG.

It has been decades since I read much about this. I used to subscribe to Z magazine. The editor and a leftwing economist tried to work out a model for how a large country could become libertarian socialist. They called it participatory economics or parecon for short. To most people it seemed to involve a lot of meetings.

I fell back to just reading Chomsky for the account of US human rights violations ( Larison now fills that niche) and wishing for social democracy.

I'm experiencing some cognitive dissonance with the concept of "libertarian socialist".

Me too.

The spectre of genuine fascism:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-treason-his-fans-invoke-violence-how-attacks-against-schiff-are-escalating-online/2019/10/14/9f613974-ec4c-11e9-9306-47cb0324fd44_story.html

At least, unlike Germany in the 1930s, nobody is going to say "Oh the Americans are too civilized for anything like that to happen there." People say lots of things about us. But "too civilized" has never, to my knowledge, been an accusation hurled at us.

To the OT,
Sometimes it's just not possible to say it better:

Vladimir Putin has won so much these past three years that he may get tired of winning.

Carving up 4 neighbouring countries in the Middke East to create a new state for a perpetually divided and inherently heterogeneous minority sounds like a really, really great idea - like something Graham Greene's 'Quiet Man' would come up with. God help us.

what if the minority did the 'carving' on its own, and that's just where they lived?

Drawing arbitrary lines on maps is a time honored tradition of the powerful...sprinkle in a little Wilsonian nationalism...and you have a recipe for ceaseless conflict. Maybe we need the return of the Ottoman Empire.

It's not entirely clear to me why the Kurds should be less entitled to self-determination than, say, the Palestinians.

It's not entirely clear to me why the Kurds should be less entitled to self-determination than, say, the Palestinians.

Sounds so simple when you say it that way.

To me it sounds something like this, regarding the border between Serbia and Kosovo.

Unlike Donald and others, I'm not well-informed about these issues. But you don't have to study much to understand that there's nothing simple about the intersection of how people identify themselves (Irish, Northern Irish, British-in-NI, e.g.) with where they live, with how far back we'd like to go to identify "their" territory, and probably in a lot of cases with their religious and political identities. (See Northern Ireland.)

A visit to Romania some ten years ago underscored for me the difficulty of achieving a sense of shared citizenship between groups of people with a long-slumbering history of mutual hostility. As I casually mentioned to my Romanian Orthodox Church companion the fact that I had German immigrant ancestors who came to Philadelphia in 1688, he commented that the Germans in Western Romania were now migrating back to the land of their ancestors in great numbers. "I think they should all go back to Germany," he mused. "They hvae been here only 500 years." At first I thought he was joking. Not so; "real" Romanians trace their ancestry back to the first century C.E., when the Romans settled Dacia. For him a 2,000-year-old ethnic identity defined rights of membership in his political community. And if sheer ethnic history were not enough to justify sending the Germans back "home," there were plenty of sins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to throw into the brew of reasons for doing so.

-- from "An Ethic for Enemies," by Donald W. Shriver, Jr.

If I had Shriver in the room right now, I'd ask him when that Romanian identity tying itself to a 2000-year-old "settlement" (one might assume conquest...?) by the Romans was concocted as an rationale for claiming the territory as belonging to one group and not another. It carries more than a faint echo of Confederate statues.

I don't think it sounds simple however one says it.

I'm puzzled by the fact that "Germans" who have been in Romania for 500 years (what's the secret to their longevity?!) would have any reason to "go back" to Germany in particular.

Maybe it's the perspective of an American mutt. I don't know how many different countries (on at least 3 continents) I would have to choose from to "go back" to where my ancestors lived 500 years ago.

It would really help if people stopped talking about "the Kurds" - this is just ignorant. And there is no way Iran and Turkey would ever give up any territory to form a Kurdish state, why should they?

But is it ignorant when "the Kurds" do it? Which is to say, when Kurds from different current nations talk about the Kurds, and their aspiration for an independent state?

If I had Shriver in the room right now, I'd ask him when that Romanian identity tying itself to a 2000-year-old "settlement" (one might assume conquest...?) by the Romans was concocted as an rationale for claiming the territory as belonging to one group and not another. It carries more than a faint echo of Confederate statues.

To address the elephant in the room, to me it carries more than a faint echo of the justification for the State of Israel. The tenacity of the jews mourning and hankering after an ancestral home for so many thousand years, while unusual in duration, and perpetuated by ritual repetition ("Next year in Jerusalem"), is surely the prime example of how this sort of thing spills down the ages without losing potency.

I believe the Kurds recognised they weren’t going to get an independent state, and were trying for a measure of independence within a federated Syria.
An impossible dream ? Looks that way now.

In Turkey for many years it was a crime to acknowledge the very existence of a people called Kurds. In official terms those people were 'mountain Turks".
Btw, Xenophon had to deal with people we today assume were Kurds in his Anabasis. That was centuries before any Turk showed up in that part of the world (except maybe as a foreign tradesman who left no traces in the records).

GftNC: I get what you're saying, and I'm the one who speculated about a justification being invented sort of after the fact, but I think with the Romanians in Romania there was no "return" like there was with the Jews to Israel. The Romanians were never driven out, so there was no need to return. (Again, not well versed in this history.)

But the core of my point is that one group or another will find one justification or another for land being "theirs" -- 2000 years, 4000 years, 500 years...as hsh hints, where do all of us mongrel Americans go if someone makes us go "back"? (Where do ALL the mongrels go back to, as far as that goes?)

And for that matter, I'm pretty sure some of the peoples that were on this continent when the Europeans came had driven out others, besides driving the big mammals to extinction.

It's the human story. "An Ethic for Enemies" is all about how to find a way beyond these never-ending bloody fights. Great book, pie in the sky I'm afraid for the foreseeable future and beyond.

P.S. not going to try to find it, but I believe there have been DNA links traced between current residents of Northern Ireland and bones from 5000 years ago. Or maybe I'm getting it mixed up with dwellings. Again, how far back do our ties have to go to justify a link to a specific bit of real estate? And what about us mongrels, hey?

P.S. not going to try to find it, but I believe there have been DNA links traced between current residents of Northern Ireland and bones from 5000 years ago.

I don't know about that, but I remember this newspaper story a few years ago:

Adrian Targett visited the home of a close relative yesterday. He had to put on Wellington boots because the floor is muddy. The relative was not in. Hardly surprising: he died 9,000 years ago.

But there is no doubt: Mr Targett, a 42-year-old history teacher in Cheddar, Somerset, has been shown by DNA tests to be a direct descendant, by his mother's line, of "Cheddar Man", the oldest complete skeleton ever found in Britain, and now also the world's most distant confirmed relative.

And Janie, you're right about the "return" aspect, but I brought it up because I have always been made very uneasy by this basis for the existence of modern Israel (while completely understanding how, after the holocaust, establishing some kind of Jewish homeland was necessary - and if not there, where? I have no answers, just the profound conviction that you cannot house one people by dispossessing another.)

Most likely somebody who was around 9,000 years ago is either related to almost nobody living today, or to a whole lot of people living today, more or less any and everywhere.

That's something like 350 generations. People move around.

Not saying it isn't a remarkable thing to be able to make the association, just saying it may not be grounds for saying "I belong in this particular place". It's kind of a crap shoot, at that kind of time scale.

I have no answers, just the profound conviction that you cannot house one people by dispossessing another.

Agree. And since we've now crawled into every habitable square inch on the planet, it sure would be nice if we could figure out how to share it without shooting each other.

Also, wrs.

I keep coming back to the Clickbait-and-Miller enhanced hysteria about immigrants in the US right now. As someone on here once said (maybe Davis X. Machina), "We stole it fair and square" -- so now I guess some of us think we have a right never to have it "stolen" from us. Never mind that having new neighbors isn't quite the same as being conquered and displaced.

It would really help if people stopped talking about "the Kurds" - this is just ignorant.

What's ignorant about it? You've got a self-identified ethnic group which even has a distinct language. One that differs from those of other groups in the region. (That is, it's neither Arabic nor Turkish nor Farsi -- those being the other major languages in the neighborhood. Nor Georgian or Armenian either, which I mention because the Armenian alphabet is one of those used for writing Kurdish.)

Certainly it's inconvenient for the Turks, the Iraqis, the Syrians, and even the Iranians that they exist. Tough.

Never mind that having new neighbors isn't quite the same as being conquered and displaced.

Ah, yes, the "invasion." The people who use that term for immigrants are lucky not to know what living through a real invasion is like. Perhaps some of their recent ancestors did - from the side of the invaders, of course.

so now I guess some of us think we have a right never to have it "stolen" from us.

Something of a challenge to warp the meaning of words to the point that someone peacefully moving in and buying land constitutes invading and "stealing" it. Not that the Millers of the world don't manage it.

they're stealing our precious cultural identity, which is %%INSERT_SELF_IMAGE_HERE%% !

Property (land): If it has never been stolen it's because nobody has ever wanted it.

If we had One World Government under (something approaching) pure communism, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

"Property is Theft, my friend," said somebody.

"Property is Theft"

It has been my observation, over the years, that this gets hauled out almost exclusively by people who have never been willing to save money in order to buy something resembling property. But still think that the world should make them a gift of it, or at least the use of it. "Something for nothing" at its finest.

Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude, but a certain very persistent, shall we say, naiveté regarding the ME just drives me up the wall - and it is actually dangerous when decision makers in Washington and elsewhere display it.

Treating the Kurds as a homogenous group with a common goal is such an extreme simplification that it is just wrong. Cf. e.g.:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/05/19/kurds-syria-iraq-divided-future/

Well wj, since the actual way the world works seems to be, whether overtly or deep down, "Whatever I can grab and hold is mine," I think there's more to be said for the "property is theft" POV than you're allowing for.

I have a neighbor who just loves to go on about social service programs in terms of, "What, we should just give people stuff?" A very well off older white guy, who associates mostly with more of the same. His definition of "we" is obvious. The sick, the infirm, the unemployed -- well, they're mostly faking it, so there.

Well wj, since the actual way the world works seems to be, whether overtly or deep down, "Whatever I can grab and hold is mine," I think there's more to be said for the "property is theft" POV than you're allowing for.

I'm willing to grant that much of relations between nations have historically worked that way. Much, but not all. Consider, for example, that the US could unquestionably have held western Germany indefinitely after WW II. We could have, but we didn't. Ditto Japan. Sure, we had reasons for what we did, but our ability to hold that area was never really in question.

However the "if I can grab and hold it, it's mine" approach is rather less routine in private dealings between individuals. Trump (and others like him) do take that approach. But most people don't consider it an acceptable way to treat others. At least in my experience. To the point that we actually craft laws to try to constrain the minority who think that way.

People coming to the US, and other first world countries, makes the world, as a whole, wealthier.

(PQ: Does my propensity for commas make for difficult reading?)

Don't see a handy open thread. But can't resist sharing >this:

Not only is the Trump administration profoundly crooked, but it is also so hopelessly inept that it’s unable to keep its machinations secret. It’s as if the Three Stooges starred in a sequel to “Breaking Bad.”

However the "if I can grab and hold it, it's mine" approach is rather less routine in private dealings between individuals.

It's deeply obscured by the complexity of modern life, but it's still very much alive, even routine, in the way our culture works. It's not so much property-as-land directly (although Clickbait's career, as you say, illustrates the point in that realm). But sorry, how does a greedy, arrogant, strutting little asshole (I've read that he manipulates public and video appearances to make himself appear taller than he is) like Zuckerberg end up a multi-gazillionaire while other people are still starving? Grab grab grab, manipulate, grab.

(PQ: Does my propensity for commas make for difficult reading?)

It's very Victorian of you. ;=)

Putting on my amateur copy editor hat, I'd say your commas are all well-placed, but it would also have been fine, and maybe smoother to the modern mind's ear, to leave them all out. But in that case I might have suggested reordering the sentence to put the singular subject nearer to the verb, given that there are plural entities intervening.

Or you could have left one pair of commas out. If I had to choose which one, I'd choose the second, since "the world as a whole" is a perfectly familiar idiomatic usage.

The Trump administration has inadvertently accomplished what his predecessors only promised: transparency.

JanieM, thanks for the advice.

CharlesWT: you're welcome. It was given very lightheartedly, and only because you asked, and even then I wasn't sure if you were serious or just kidding around. If you hadn't added the PQ, I wouldn't have noticed the commas particularly, but I actually *did* notice the subject-verb issue. IMHO -- and I'm not a pro but I've done a *lot* of editing -- it's better not to offer readers opportunities to stumble and have to reread. It slows them down.

But hey, it's a blog comment! But we have a lot of very competent writers here. I almost never notice grammatical glitches that aren't pretty obviously the product of haste or goofy auto-corrections.

The Trump administration has inadvertently accomplished what his predecessors only promised: transparency.

inadvertently ?

i think you misspelled "unintentionally"

i think you misspelled "unintentionally"

Yes, that's a better fit.

Okay, not to pick on CharlesWT (SRSLY!), but our earlier exchange made me think of something else.

"World as a whole" is redundant. Does "makes the world as a whole wealthier" meaning something other than "makes the world wealthier"?

What else does "world" mean other than the whole thing?

I bring it up because it's a variation on one of my current pet usage peeves: the unnecessary use of "separate," or "different."

For instance,

"He called me five separate times."

"We went to two different restaurants last week."

Then there's may for might, assist for help...a long list.

Then there's the perennial "levy" vs "level" malapropism.

You "levy" a tax. You "level" a charge.

Persons looking for any equivalence they can find between, say, MSNBC and Fox News need look no farther than the propensity of both to get this bit of usage wrong on the air.

--TP

What else does "world" mean other than the whole thing?

English has quite a bit of syntactical sugar that all too many people, including myself, are prone to use.

“ It's not entirely clear to me why the Kurds should be less entitled to self-determination than, say, the Palestinians.”

The Palestinians don’t have self determination.

Personally, and they aren’t asking me, it is overrated anyway. One man one vote is the way to go. I think nationalism was a bad idea. Understandable as a reaction to colonialism, but often the imperialists are thrown out and then new forms of oppression kick in. People in the Mideast ( and a few other places) need to learn to live in multi- ethnic democracies giving equal rights for everyone. Not that I am suggesting we force this on them. We aren’t doing that great ourselves.

As for Kurdistan, I tend to agree with novakant. Trump of course handled things in the worst way possible, but were we supposed to occupy part of Syria forever? And what would Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria think about that? I gather that part of Syria has oil, btw.

"World as a whole" is redundant. Does "makes the world as a whole wealthier" meaning something other than "makes the world wealthier"?

What else does "world" mean other than the whole thing?

I think the distinction being drawn is that, while overall the world is wealthier, particular individuals or groups may well not be. May, indeed, be less well off.

Whereas just saying "makes the world wealthier" somehow implies that all the pieces are wealthier as well. It's about unstated (and quite possibly counter-intuitive when you stop and parse it out) assumptions which are being addressed.

Thus, at least, my take on why we say things that are repetitively redundant.

As for Kurdistan, I tend to agree with novakant. Trump of course handled things in the worst way possible, but were we supposed to occupy part of Syria forever?

The thing is, we weren't occupying part of Syria. We had a handful of troops on site, whose primary function (obviously in hindsight, for those too dense to understand it initially) was to provide a trip wire which would deter the particular bit of ethnic cleansing that Turkey is now engaged in.

And, as a side benefit, allow the Kurds to expend resources keeping ISIS fighters (and dependents) in custody. That is, not running around Syria (and the rest of the Middle East, and the rest of the world), engaging in the kind of religious-based terrorism that they embrace with such enthusiasm. On any conceivable cost/benefit analysis, some of the best use of funds we have managed in the Middle East in ages.

Treating the Kurds as a homogenous group with a common goal is such an extreme simplification that it is just wrong

Would that not also be the case for Americans, or Iranians, or Syrians ?

I may be being obtuse, but I don’t really get the point you are making, other than there is no Kurdish nation state - which is perhaps part of the problem.

novakant-good and informative article from NYRB. Thanks.

wj - What Janie said. You really need to expand your intellectual horizons.

More on the theme: "Behind all great wealth is a crime."

@Donald: I think nationalism was a bad idea. Understandable as a reaction to colonialism, but often the imperialists are thrown out and then new forms of oppression kick in. People in the Mideast ( and a few other places) need to learn to live in multi- ethnic democracies giving equal rights for everyone. Not that I am suggesting we force this on them. We aren’t doing that great ourselves.

I was trying to get at something like this with my ramblings about ethnicity vs land. This is much clearer.

*****

@CharlesWT: syntactical sugar

A great phrase! And I don't think it's exclusive to English. My son spent five years in China, mostly teaching English, and sometimes he was asked to help people prepare for contests where people made speeches in English. He occasionally showed me drafts, and it was interesting to see whole sentences and paragraphs that were more or less "correct" English, but very different from anything a native speaker would have written: more flowery, more lyrical, more reliant on vivid images...or something. It's hard to explain. Language is so fascinating!

Back to people taking other people's property, it isn't always all that deeply buried in complexity, either.

There was a housing bubble within very recent mamory. How many people made fortunes out of a process, much of it deliberately predatory, where a lot of other people lost their homes?

..., and it was interesting to see whole sentences and paragraphs that were more or less "correct" English, but very different from anything a native speaker would have written: more flowery, more lyrical, more reliant on vivid images...or something.

The subtitles in a Chinese drama I was once trying to watch was something like that. Perhaps the translation was too literal. I had to switch to watching the drama on a different streaming service to have any idea what the characters were saying.

A great phrase! And I don't think it's exclusive to English.

Wikipedia credits the first use of "syntactic sugar" to Peter J. Landin in 1964 for computer languages. I first heard it with respect to the C language at Bell Labs in the late 70s, where subscript notation -- eg, a[i] -- was syntactic sugar for more cumbersome pointer arithmetic.

I think usages like "the world as a whole" are intended to emphasize a particular one of the possible things that plain old "the world" could mean.

Phrases can go in a lot of directions. Sometimes folks need a clue as to which direction was intended.

"the world as a whole" as opposed to "the world" emphasizes inclusion - the general application of whatever is under consideration to the broadest possible range of humanity.

And, specifically, humanity - plants minerals and non-human animals are on their own.

Likewise, "property is theft" is generally less a statement that all forms of private property are criminal, and more a statement that when a very few people have all or nearly all the cookies, or at least all the cookies worth having, some kind of fnckery is probably afoot.

And yeah, Zuckerberg is a putz.

it was interesting to see whole sentences and paragraphs that were more or less "correct" English, but very different from anything a native speaker would have written

And thus, the endless delights of reading instruction manuals translated from other languages into English.

And, no doubt, vice versa

For the record: I think what Trump did was terrible and my heart bleeds for the victims.

But, a romantic, uniformed view of "the Kurds" and Kurdish separatism isn't helping anyone - actually it has the potential to do great harm.

"Property is Theft"

It has been my observation, over the years, that this gets hauled out almost exclusively by people who have never been willing to save money in order to buy something resembling property.

Proudhon himself was all in favour of workers enjoying the fruits of their labours. What he was against was the ownership of land for rent.

a certain very persistent, shall we say, naiveté regarding the ME just drives me up the wall

Who is entitled to self-determination, and who is not? And how long ago must a people have been displaced to forfeit all right of return?

I don't know the answers to these questions. If you do, please tell me.

"Who is entitled to self-determination, and who is not?"

Please include the specific cases of Kashmir, Tibet, Brittany, Scotland, Palestine, Greenland, Kurdistan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Catalonia, Hong Kong, Northern Cyprus, Åland, and Texas.

Then there's may for might, assist for help...a long list.

Speaking (probably only) for myself, I would welcome a tutorial on this! I'm not at all sure I can properly differentiate may from might, or assist from help, although I'm good on flaunt from flout, uninterested from disinterested and levy from level.

I think I can figure out may from might, though I would never have thought about it without it being pointed out. But I need some help with help. Or assistance. Whatever.

I first heard it with respect to the C language at Bell Labs in the late 70s...

In NJ? You might have known some of my profs at Rutgers. Michael Caggiano? Thomas Papathomas? There were probably others. Bell Labs guys were pretty common in the EE department.

"I think I can figure out may from might"

Worst of the worst: "due to" vs. "because of"

Yes, there's a persnickety real difference, have to look it up every time the memory fades.

It's easier to keep track of the infield-fly rule, also, too.

which v that
good v well
lie v lay (Dylan should have wrote 'lie lady lie', but that sucks)

Comprise and compose drive me nuts. Not because I don't know the difference, but because so many people use comprise when they should use compose. I think it bothers me because they are almost mathematical in a set-element sort of way, so it hurts my brain when comprise is used for compose.

(Nothing is comprised of anything. Things can comprise things or be comprised by things. Things can be composed of things, though.)

Heh, my longtime dream, to turn ObWi into a grammar discussion site. ;-)

I will take my own pet peeve items one at a time, as I get time.

First I want to add all the variations of who/whom and whoever/whomever to cleek's 10:18 list.

And I also want to thank everyone for the ruminations on "world" vs "world as a whole." Good points, although I'm not 100% convinced that we wouldn't all have understood CharlesWT's meaning in the simpler formulation. (Yes, Mama, double negatives are okay sometimes. “You’ve got to mean it.”)


help/assist

There's really no difference in meaning. It's on my pet peeve list because during the years when I did a lot of editing at work, people would NEVER EVER EVER EVER use the simple, perfectly good word "help." They insisted on "assist" because -- as far as I could tell -- it sounds more highfalutin, and heaven knows they wanted our clients to think we were highfalutin (especially our European clients, let me make clear ;-).

An even bigger pet peeve, which I run across everywhere now, but which started to drive me crazy at work originally, is "utilize" for “use.” I don't think I ever edited a document at work where someone remembered that perfectly serviceable three-letter English word.

Once I changed a couple of instances of “assist” to “help” in a document I was editing, because the repetition of “assist” got irresistibly tedious. But that requries some attention to context:

“We assist clients in finding housing” becomes “We help clients find housing.”

The author of the document, the absolute worst offender for pretentiousness, changed it back, but without taking care over the details. (That’s why she got the big bucks, I guess. Her mind was on bigger things than details. Except that she could take the time to edit my editing….)

Her version then became: “We assist clients find housing.”

Luckily I caught it on another pass, although that was another bone of contention. I kept trying to insist that everyone else do their thing with documents before I got them, so I only had to edit them once. Inevitably, people couldn’t keep their mitts off stuff I had already worked on, so it was back and forth, back and forth.

Sometimes I used to say, in times of frustration, “They give me money, I give them spreadsheets,” the money being the consolation prize for various kinds of tedium. Other times it was “They give me money, I give them commas.” (Or take commas away.)

my current biggest grammar peeve is "on a __ basis", where __ is an adjective that already means "on a __ basis".

@cleek: Yes!!! I run across that sh!t on a daily -- or even hourly! -- basis!

In NJ?

Yes, but Bell Labs was big (about 26,000 people at its peak). No one knew more than a small fraction of the people. Most of the back-and-forth between the Labs and NJ/NYC universities were people in the Research area, usually from Murray Hill. Research was the "Bell Labs of song and legend" and to a significant extent their own little world.

I was officially a systems guy who did odd inter-disciplinary things. I worked with Research people a few times, when they were interested in actually seeing an idea used, rather than just tossing it over the wall.

I try not to be peevish, since I think grammar should be descriptive not prescriptive. But I do share JanieM's dislike of pretentious language. Such as "myself" for "me", as used by one esteemed commentator higher up the thread.

On the other hand, if one's typist puts "tudor" for "tutor", one just laughs at his incompetence.

Pro Bono -- I think life itself should be more descriptive than prescriptive (I'm thinking of my highly prescriptive Catholic upbringing), but grammar runs smack into my OCD-ish tendencies, which I try to keep in check with only mixed success. The fact that I still do a lot of editing (for a self-published author of my acquaintance, and as a volunteer for a local non-profit) keeps all this stuff fresh in my mind, and the fact that unedited prose is produced in torrents on the internet also contributes. Certain things grammar-wise are like fingernails on a blackboard, and it’s fun to vent about them sometimes.

My sisters and I have grammar discussions via email sometimes and it's funny how different things bother one of us but not the others, and vice versa.

E.g. I utterly can't stand the usage, seen only in business contexts in my experience, where someone sends an email and tells me that the information is in "the below chart."

ARRGGGGGHHHH! No! It's "the chart below" as far as I'm concerned, and always will (should) be. But my administrative assistant sister, who is about as picky as I am overall, uses it all the time.

On the other hand, she hates "send me an invite," which doesn't bother me at all. It's now so common in the US as to rate a "stage 4" (out of 5) on Bryan Garner's language change index -- but he himself still disapproves of it.

I still have to get to may/might, with some addenda on the pronunciation of "candidate" and related items. I think of it as “How the Cool Kids Talk.” ;-)

But later.

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