1. Enlightenment and the Capitalist Crisis Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
  2. The Wall is the Wall: Why Fortresses Fail Jack Anderson, War on the Rocks
  3. Topiary in the land of al-Qaeda Nicolas Pelham, 1843
  4. Why Ketchup in Mexico Tastes So Good Jeffrey Tucker, Daily Economy

Guantanamo: A Conservative Moral Blind Spot

A current Guantanamo detainee, Mohamedou Slahi, just published a book about his ordeal. The book is redacted of course but it still tells an arresting story.

M. Slahi was captured in 2000. He has been held in detention, mostly at Guantanamo prison since 2002 but in other places too . The motive was that he supposedly helped recruit three of the 9/11 hijackers and that he was involved in other terror plots in the US and Canada (unidentified plots.).

According to CNN:

Slahi admits to traveling to Afghanistan to fight in the early 1990s, when the US. was supporting the mujahedin in their fight against the Soviet Union. He pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in 1991 but claims he broke ties with the group shortly after.

He was in fact never convicted. He was not even formally charged with anything. Slahi has spent 13 years in custody, most of his young adulthood. If he is indeed a terrorist, I say, Bravo and let’s keep him there until the current conflict between violent jihadists and the US comes to an end. Terror jihadists can’t plant bombs in hotels while they are in Guantanamo. And, by the way, I am not squeamish about what those who protect us must do to people we suspect of having information important to our safety. I sometimes even deplore that we do to them is not imaginative enough. And, I think that the recent allegations to the effect that torture produces nothing of interest are absurd on their face.

But what if the guy is an innocent shepherd, or fisherman, or traveling salesman found in the wrong place? What if he is a victim of a vendetta by the corrupt police of his own country who delivered him over? What if he was simply sold to our intelligence services? What if, in short, he is has no more been involved in terrorism than I have? The question arises in Slahi’s case because the authorities had thirteen years to produce enough information, from him and from others, to charge him. They can’t even give good reasons why they think he is a terrorist in some way, shape or form. It shouldn’t be that hard. If he so much as lend his cellphone to a terrorist I am for giving him the longest sentence available. or simply to keep him until the end of hostilities (perhaps one century).

And if having fought in Afghanistan and having pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda at some point are his crimes, charge him, try him promptly even by a military commission, or declare formally, publicly that he is a prisoner not protected by the Geneva Conventions, because he was caught engaged in hostile action against the US while out of uniform and fighting for no constituted government. How difficult can this be?

I am concerned, because, as a libertarian conservative, I am quite certain that any government bureaucracy will usually cover its ass in preference to doing the morally right thing. (The American Revolution was largely fought against precisely this kind of abuse.) Is it possible that the Pentagon or some other government agency wants to keep this man imprisoned in order to hide their mistakes of thirteen years ago? I believe that to ask the question is to answer it.

This kind of issue is becoming more pressing instead of vanishing little by little because it looks like 9/11 what just the opening course. It looks like we are in this struggle against violent jihadism for the long run. Again, I am not proposing we go soft on terrorism. I worry that we are becoming used to government arbitrariness and mindless cruelty. I suspect that conservatives are often conflating their dislike of the president’s soft touch and indecision about terrorism with neglect of fairness and humanity. I fear we are becoming less American.

Let me ask again: What if this man, and some others in Guantanamo, have done absolutely nothing against us?

Of course, I hope the US will keep Guantanamo prison open as long as necessary. In fact, I expect fresh planeloads of real terrorist from Syria and Iraq to come in soon. I really hope that Congress will have the intestinal fortitude to call President Obama’s bluff on closing the prison. Congress has the means to stop it if it wants to.

Turn the Page; New Bombings in Russia

[Editor’s note: the following is a short essay by Payam Ghorbanian. Payam was born in Tehran, Iran. He got his bachelor of science in Engineering from Zanjan University in Zanjan, Iran. He has been participating in liberal political activities and he was involved with some think tanks in Iran. He is doing research in the field of international relations and Iran’s foreign policy as an independent activist. He is now living in San Jose, California.

I cannot endorse this essay, but I am excited to post it because of its potential as a conduit for intercultural dialogue and exchange. I have left his essay largely intact, but did break up some of his longer paragraphs for clarity’s sake. Thanks to Payam for taking the time to write this.]

There is a narrow line between acting and having a reason and acting because of reason, reason is not merely the cause of the one’s acting. As Brain Fay said the having of this reason is the cause of agent’s acting and the reason does not explain the act, the act doesn’t occurred because of the one’s specified reason. After Boston bombing in the United States, Piers Morgan in his live show asked one of the Boston bomber’s friends to find out whether or not the bomber guy had any accent when he was speaking English. He probably wanted to give us a hint that the bomber might got involved in this disaster because of being teased by others around him. Morgan wanted to downgrade the threat of sinister ideology to personal reasons of bomber, which he was unsuccessful because of the friend responded: “no, not at all.”

Islamic fundamentalism has the holy goal to build or revive the Islamic nation the same as thousands years ago and to be able to run that nation with extremist religious rules in order to build the distinguished nation in order to beat the westernized nation in the judgment day.  I have to mention that it is not actually only about Islam, all historical religions because of consequences of compacting with modernism and being frequently defeated have this potential ambition to draw the utopia for their followers, although now we are facing with Islamic fundamentalism which is the great threat for all modernized countries. Even though they are fighting with modernism, they constantly use the modern stuffs for getting to the final step like weapons, electronic connections, chemical bombs, internet, computer and etc. This battle would not end up if we just want to focus on a single aspect of it. On the other hand, if we are going to say that they are only a threat when they attack us or our allies, so we might be able to divide them into the good and bad and take an advantage of them for stopping the threat of wicked (but modernized) countries like Russia, China or even Bashar Al-Asad’s regime in Syria. It should be drawn by us as a red line.

Dokka Umarov is the person who is known for several attacks in Russia with the goal of reviving the Islamic State in Caucasus; being so closed to Al-Qaeda. Getting involved in Syrian war made him the one of the most dangerous rebel leaders for Russian nation. He also said he will prepare the maximum force to disturb the security of the Winter Olympics on February 7 in Sochi and now he has this ability to challenge president Putin. The last operation of terrorist group in Volgograd’s bombing killed 34 people on December 31, 2013. It is just the beginning of the wrong way, retaliation of rolling in Syria with the hands of terrorist group inside the Russia.

This upcoming Olympic is not just a regular event for Russia. It is a pose of pride, especially for Mr. Putin and maybe for all Russians to get their confidence back and show off the 40 billion dollar which has been spent for preparing of this event till now and it could be seen as a heritage of Putin’s presidency. After these recent attacks Mr. Putin said: we will tough and consistently continue to fight. He also has pointed his finger at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and call up for retaliation, which I think it is just more a threat, rather than a real action in order to prevent upcoming attacks.

When someone threatens you with an attack and at the same time someone else tries to blackmail you and offers you that if you want to prevent this attack you have to do something for me, it means that there is a connection between the person who threatens you and the person who wants to prevent the attack.

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan is the director general of Saudi Arabia intelligence agency from July 2012 until now and he was the KSA ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. He was known for helping Bin Laden’s family to leave US after September 11. He consistently tried to get involve his country in Syrian crises and after found out that United States is not interested in taking military action in Syria, he prominently criticized Obama’s policy regarding the Arabian countries. He said: KSA would shift away from United States over Syria. He has been using millions of dollars of his country in Syrian’s war without getting anywhere and now this war is getting more predominated by dragging inside the Iraq as we have seen during the last month.

Bin Sultan has also tried to convince Russia to give up Al-Asad’s regime by offering them to control and stop Chechen terrorist groups during the winter Olympics and also by purchasing weapons from Russia worth of billions of dollars, as the news said. However, he was ultimately unsuccessful.  Mr. Putin knows this rule that if you take just one step back as a result of being frightened by terrorist groups, finally you will be totally turned away. I am into every activity which stops Mr. Putin and China’s government and their ambitions to build the new evil empire but I never ever think about using terrorist groups in order to push them back. They are modernized countries which means they can be backed off by modern means.

The Saudi Arabia with the eternal sick king and hundreds of princes with the lack of any discipline over them seems like an oligarchy. Increasing oil price and powerful armies which has been supplied by United States would really inflate their egos without any financial structure. They really think they can get involved in the games of power. They are in the same path where the last king of Iran was which is going directly to the land of darkness and being unaware of what their people really want and finally overthrowing by them but in this case of Saudi Arabia it takes a long time because of the unfortified middle class but it will ultimately happen. Just take a glance to the Mohammad Reza Shah’s interview in 1974 with BBC he said: “I think our country in the next 10 years will be what you are today. In next 25 years; according to other people, I am not saying that, will be among 5 most prosperous countries of the world.” Several years after this interview, all these bubbles just busted and he could not or would not realize what his people, especially the middle class, are looking for maybe just a little bit of freedom.

Unfortunately the Saudi Arabia and several countries in the Middle East can be called as the ‘necessary dictatorship’. I just made up this word to explain my thought. At this time these regimes surpass far their people, any effort to change the regime will invite the extremists to the party so we obviously prefer to face with dictators instead of terrorists but these sorts of countries should be pushed forward by international union to start reforms. I really like the way that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has followed by opening the gates of the country to the foreign investors with the useful rule of “51 percent of a business must be owned by a UAE national.” This means involving the local people in the business and helping them to lift up instead of putting them down by giving them money occasionally. A person who owns a business will be much more conservative about the definition of Jihad. Now in KSA by the sinister ideology, minds are polluted. Hostility and animosity just spread out so we can tell it will be prolonged but it should start right now otherwise allowing these countries to use the extremists as a political weapon or even helping them in Syrian War will just ignite the worst catastrophe. Remember Al-Qaeda was supposed to fight with Soviet Union but now it fights with the free world and all aspects of that.

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

This is starting to feel a lot like shooting fish in a barrel Dr Delacroix. Since we both know exactly how Leftists argue, I think it would be pertinent to over your rebuttals point-by-point.

I am glad we agree on the US intervention in Afghanistan based on the fact that the Taliban hosted and refused to deliver the terrorist Al Qaida.

And it would have been nice if we had focused our resources and our energy on staying there and hunting down al-Qaeda. There is also something amiss here: Osama bin Laden was shot dead in a shootout involving our special forces underneath the nose of Pakistan’s version of West Point. As we both know very well, the Taliban and Islamabad have never been on friendly terms, yet both sides gave refuge to bin Laden.

My suspicion is that both factions harbored bin Laden because of his immense wealth, not because of ideological solidarity. Also, I am not sure that the Taliban would have even been able to retrieve bin Laden if they wanted to. Rule by the Taliban was no doubt cruel, but for the most part they relied heavily on regional strongmen and political alliances to maintain control of the state.

With all this being said, I don’t think we ever declared war on Afghanistan. I may be wrong, but I think we focused our efforts on toppling the Taliban regime and hunting bin laden rather than fighting the Afghan state. This is actually a logical outcome, if you think about it, because al-Qaeda was not sponsored by Kabul, and it most certainly was not sponsored by the impoverished warlords of the Afghan regions, either. I’m willing to bet that the Taliban were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Remember, al-Qaeda, or whatever is left of it after President Obama gets finished with them, is not the same thing as the Taliban. I would even say, with some confidence, that the Taliban knew nothing of the attacks being planned against the United States.

Either way, both factions are finished, and it’s time to bring our troops home after a job well done (thanks to President Obama’s strategy).

The “some press reports” statement regarding the Taliban blinding of little girls with acid shows what might be deliberate ignorance. The assertion was made by several responsible neutral sources, including National Geographic, not exactly a hawkish extremist publication. I suspect the Libertarian pacifist stance cannot be maintained without a broad practice of tactical ignorance such as you just demonstrated: Iran’s nuclear weapons? No problem.

My point wasn’t to discredit the press reports, it was to suggest that going to war with a state because a regime sometimes sponsors the throwing of acid into little schoolgirls’ eyes is a little bit silly. And where did the statement on Iran’s nuclear weapons come from?

Pulling stuff out of thin air to legitimate a point that was used to purposefully misconstrue the argument of your opponent is something only Leftists do, usually.  When are you going to come out of the closet, Dr Delacroix?  We’re all dying to know!

Your disquisition on the French Revolution simply ignores my question: Is the American revolution any the less valid because ti was helped by the intervention of a foreign power, France? When you seem to relate the Terror to this intervention, you are going out on a very thin limb. There is a conventional belief that the French intervention hastened the revolution in France by aggravating the public debt.

Ah. Here I think there is a miscommunication between us. If a revolution happens, it is valid regardless of who is involved and who it affects. Pretending otherwise is a waste of time. I brought in the French angle because today the United States IS France playing the role of interventionist in the Middle East.

How is relating the social, political, and economic upheaval of the Terror – which was aggravated by French intervention in the Anglo-American war – going out on a very thin limb? I did not suggest that we are on a crash course for violent revolution. I only drew some (quite pertinent) parallels between the two situations: supporting revolutions that have nothing to do with national security has never bode well for the states that do the intervening.

If you negative feelings, your apprehensions about the Arab Spring were all well-founded (were) should we then, as a country, continue to favor tyranny in those countries as we did for thirty years?

Ah. I have never said that I do not support the revolutions going on in the Middle East. Ever. What I have done is raise a flag of caution in the face of bellicose calls for more bombing, more involvement, and more intrigue on the part of Washington in the revolutions going on in the Middle East. Given that we have been supporting brutal regimes in that part of the world for the last half century, I don’t think our involvement will be looked upon with graciousness by the peoples we are inevitably trying to help.

Of course I support the revolutions going on in the Middle East, I just don’t support our government getting involved with them. When the dust clears, I think we should be the first state to stick out our hand and offer our friendship to the new governments.  I think the people of the Middle East would be inclined to agree with me.

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

Brandon: I am glad we agree on the US intervention in Afghanistan based on the fact that the Taliban hosted and refused to deliver the terrorist Al Qaida.

The “some press reports” statement regarding the Taliban blinding of little girls with acid shows what might be deliberate ignorance. The assertion was made by several responsible neutral sources, including National Geographic, not exactly a hawkish extremist publication. I suspect the Libertarian pacifist stance cannot be maintained without a broad practice of tactical ignorance such as you just demonstrated: Iran’s nuclear weapons? No problem.

Your disquisition on the French Revolution simply ignores my question: Is the American revolution any the less valid because ti was helped by the intervention of a foreign power, France? When you seem to relate the Terror to this intervention, you are going out on a very thin limb. There is a conventional belief that the French intervention hastened the revolution in France by aggravating the public debt. It’s not much and isn’t there a chance it’s a little out of your area of expertise? All the same, I admire your gumption! Next thing you know, you are going to offer to continue this discussion in French and you will correct my grammar in that language! (OK, that last statement wasn’t fair. I couldn’t resist. I am deeply ashamed!)

Reply Part II: You sidestepped my main question by taking advantage of my advanced age to distract me with ancillary issues:

If your negative feelings, your apprehensions about the Arab Spring were all well-founded (were) should we then, as a country, continue to favor tyranny in those countries as we did for thirty years?

Same question: How about individually, as human beings?

The Decline of the State?

From the Atlantic:

Health care for the world’s poorest and human rights for the oppressed as private-sector businesses? Where there’s money to be made, a commercial alternative will emerge. But core state enterprises are subject to increasing non-commercial competition, as well. Many in southern Lebanon willingly receive social services and other incidents of modern government from the terrorist group Hezbollah rather than from the official government. Al-Qaeda presents many Islamic radicals with an even more extreme — and arguably more effective — non-territorial alternative to the nation-state for purposes of waging war.

The whole thing is interesting throughout, though I don’t agree with the author that virtual states are somehow replacing traditional states. I don’t think we’ll see the disappearance of the state anytime soon either. What will happen, I think, is that governments will become more minarchist in nature as markets simply overwhelm the crummy services that governments essentially force on people using their own extracted money.

President Obama Wins War on Terror

President Obama chooses to give an important speech on peace the week before the day when Americans remember those who died to save their freedom-loving society, and to save many others (including me). President Obama declares in a recent speech that the war on terror, like all wars, must end. Then he ends it by declaring it ended. This happens about a month after two terrorists who happen to be Muslims blow up a bomb killing children at a public even in Boston. (The act was denounced by representatives of the Boston Muslim community.)

President Obama’s announcement also takes place one day after two men shouting something in Arabic comprising the word “Allah” assassinate a young man in full daylight in London. They use knives and ask passers-by to film the event. The speech happens also one or two days before a similar assassination attempt is carried out in Paris on a French soldier. (The attempt fails because French -grown terrorists are not a so competent.) London Muslim authorities condemn the first attack loudly and clearly. I am awaiting the French Muslim response as I write.

(In the same speech, President Obama also orders restrictions on the use of killer drones. I welcome some of the announced changes. The president is no always wrong, just most of the time.) Continue reading

Blissful Ignorance and the Conservative Worldview

I have been mulling over the recent foreign policy debate I had with Dr. Delacroix and have come to a couple of conclusions. The first conclusion is that conservatives have absolutely no evidence to support their foreign policy proposition of world hegemony, so they instead rely on that old faithful tactic of demagoguery.

Dr. Delacroix was once a prestigious scholar and an expert in international affairs, so his arguments are ones that we can use to ensure that no straw man is being built for the purpose of winning the fight. Libertarians maintain that the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not come out of anywhere and that the United States is not an innocent actor overseas. This causes many people on both the Left and Right to ruffle their feathers and denounce libertarians as unpatriotic or worse.

Yet just consider the two points that libertarians do make in regards to the 9/11 terrorist attacks (again, I wanted to pick out the strongest example so that no straw man may be built for the crass purpose of “winning” the argument):

  1. The 9/11 terrorist attacks did not come out of nowhere.
  2. The United States is not an innocent actor overseas.

I don’t see how any sane, rational individual good skeptic can avoid these two arguments. Just look at the evidence in support of both. Al-Qaeda has been around since the Cold War and the CIA had actually worked with them in their operations against the Soviets in Afghanistan. When the first Bush administration (daddy) decided to keep troops in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and Al Qaeda became an instant enemy of the republic. The bin Laden family is a rival of the Saudi family in the Arabian peninsula, and Osama bin Laden did not like the fact that Washington was now in bed with his hated enemies.

Policymakers in Washington knew that they had irked a potentially dangerous faction in the Muslim world, and the Clinton administration attacked Al Qaeda operations in both Sudan and Afghanistan with precision missile strikes during his presidency. Conservatives and liberals often pretend that the United States was an innocent bystander in the world up until the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and public ignorance is something that cannot be discounted, but intellectuals like Dr. Delacroix have resorted to demagoguery and myths instead of confronting the facts on this issue. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Imperialists cannot even acknowledge that the US had troops in Saudi Arabia at the time of the 9/11 attacks. They cannot admit this because it destroys almost every myth that the God of War depends upon to flourish in the minds of the hoi polloi. Just look at Dr. Delacroix’s images within the cave. Continue reading