We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

On the continued disasters in the Middle East

“It is striking, however, that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. You have the vacuum that has been created by the relentless assault by Assad on his own population, an assault that has bred these extremist groups, the most well-known of which, ISIS—or ISIL—is now literally expanding its territory inside Syria and inside Iraq. You have Russia massing battalions — Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides, not counting the [Malaysia Airlines] plane, and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV… And what you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel. …”

These comments are from a very senior US politician with close connections to a recent occupant of the White House. There are pretty close to my own thinking on all this. Which, assuming the quotes are accurate, is quite perplexing. I do, however, wonder how sincere the author of these words is about all this. Can you guess who I am talking about?

Is it not heartwarming to see democratic institutions flourishing?

Ok, so a third of the country has been over run by blood thirsty Sunni Einsatzgruppen, but you know what? The Really Important Thing is not getting the national shit together, it is holding onto personal power in Baghdad! Forming pragmatic coalitions in wartime is for sissies!

Thank goodness for all those years of democratic nation building!

Quelle surprise!

As I expected, the usual suspects are happy to take to the streets of western cities to protest against Israel and the USA, ostensibly for killing or being a party to killing people, but I have yet to see large scale demos in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin on behalf of the Yazidis and Chaldean Christians being murdered by Islamists.

I look forward to this changing but I will not be holding my breath in the meantime.

Obama gets it right

I expect many afflicted with Obama Derangement Syndrome will be dismayed to see Obama praised for anything, but the actions in Iraq seem to be pretty much correct, at least so far.

My views on Iraq (and Afghanistan) are well know and can be summarised thus: it was right to go in and topple the governments, whereupon the US (and its allies should have) should have declared victory and got the hell out many many years ago, saying only “now that you have seen what will happen to any government who annoys us enough, keep that in mind when you sort it out amongst yourselves who will be your subsequent rulers. Our armies have gone home now but we own your sky any time we wish to, so you need to realise we will not tolerate any jihadi lunatics running the country.” No futile democratic nation building.

So Obama is right to not put any substantive forces on the ground beyond the barest advisers who are there now (and perhaps some forward air controllers). And he is right to strike this most deranged lunatic strain of jihadis yet seen from the air. If I have any criticism, it is that as the IS nutters are currently exposed targets out in the open, having transitioned from guerilla war to out-in-the-open war, the intensity of strikes should be increased rapidly whilst the opportunity presents itself. Kill as many of these islamo-fascist barbarians as possible as quickly as possible.

Just as Kabul was actually taken by the Northern Alliance with US air support, so too can people like the Peshmerga do the ground work with US assistance from the air.

But so far at least, well done Obama. That is the first time I have ever said that particular combination of words.

How is one to know which horrors outrank which?

The rage metre has been in the red for a while now, with Baroness Warsi, a Muslim in case you did not know (or Baroness Token as she is known in some parts), quitting over the UK’s policies towards Israel (yes it is said the UK actually has a policy on the subject). Strangely she did not quit the government in protest over UK support of Pakistan, at a time when several hundred thousand people have been displaced by strikes against the Taliban in Waziristan. Go figure! I wonder why? Actually, no I don’t.

So what will be the reactions and suggestions from within the BBC/Guardian Bubble to the rapidly building catastrophe in Iraq amongst the Yazidi and Christian communities, I wonder? I realise these communities are being ethnically cleansed (i.e. murdered and dispossessed) but as it is not being done by Jews or Westerners, does it really matter? Indeed can it even be said to be truly happening? It will be interesting to see and contrast I think, in a nightmarish kind of way.

My question is… why were these communities not armed to the teeth?

Thousands of Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority’s biggest town in Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. An international Christian organisation said at least a quarter of Iraq’s Christians were leaving Qaraqosh and other surrounding towns.

So my question is why were rifles and RPGs and a few truckloads of ammunition not deposited in these communities weeks ago? The Yazidi and Christian communities should have been armed to the teeth by now. If 100,000 people from the region have been displaced, at least 10,000 of them should be viable militia, no? Why leave such things to various state armies?

Samizdata quote of the day

Warsi dismissively described Osborne as “a good friend of the Israeli government”. The more subtle truth is that Osborne, along with a handful of other senior politicians, is prepared to step back historically and geographically, and to remember that the state of Israel was founded by a people that had heard the approaching silence of absolute extinction, and resolved never again to face that void.

Israel is bigger than Gaza and the West Bank, but it is smaller than almost everywhere else. Less than a century old, it is a democracy surrounded by hostile nations and under permanent attack by terrorists who wish to see it wiped from the surface of the Earth. What is a “proportionate” response to a hydra-like enemy who sees the Final Solution as work in progress? All terrorism aimed at Israel is genocidal in spirit. What would a “proportionate” response to that ambition look like?

- Matthew d’Ancona

Am I misunderstanding something here?

From a couple days ago, I just noticed a story from Breitbart Network claiming the government of Israel was being criticised for not sharing Iron Dome technology with Gaza’s government (i.e. Hamas) so that Hamas could defend its population from bombardment… presumably by Israeli attacks.

Please read the article and then tell me if I have misunderstood this. It seems rather like criticising the government of the United Kingdom in the 1943 for not sharing centimetric radar technology with the German government so that the German government could better protect their population from bombardment… by the RAF.

Either Breitbart Network have got the story wrong or the world is an even more absurd place than even cynical old me realised.

Game, Set and Match Erbil?

I have been arguing since 2005 that propping up the Iraqi state was never a good idea. ‘Nation building’ was always a preposterous delusion, as if Iraq and Afghanistan could be turned into an Islamic version of Arkansas, if only enough schools were built and wells were dug. Ludicrous.

Also if an independent Kurdistan gives Syria, Turkey and Iran the vapours, I fail to see why from a western perspective that should change anything at all. I mean seriously, well ain’t that too damn bad. Moreover, there already is an independent Kurdistan in all but name, and it has the only viable army in Iraq, which now even controls Kirkuk. Game, Set and Match Erbil… and if Baghdad thinks that is ever going to change, well if they reckon ISIS is rough, good luck taking on the Peshmerga. Even politically, it is clear the Kurdish leaders have consistently outclassed the other players, be they Arabs, Turks or Iranians.

It is by no means clear the current festivities are inevitably heading somewhere undesirable, as it might end up producing something far more stable than a unitary Iraqi state. Yes, ISIS must not be allowed to take over all of Iraq’s oil producing areas, but frankly it is hard to see how they would manage to take and hold anything in the areas that are not overwhelmingly Sunni… they sure as hell will not be taking Kirkuk this side of hell freezing over, that much seems certain.

A dissenting view on Iraq and intervention

I recognize that some of the other contributors to this blog believe that military intervention in Iraq was justified.

However, it appears that, after expending literal trillions of dollars, and after countless deaths, Al Qaeda, which had not even a slight foothold in the country before the U.S. led invasion, is in a position to take over the bulk of the country. Certainly it is a real risk in coming days, even if it does not actually happen.

Iraq had no involvement in 9/11. Trained weapons inspectors said that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction, and that claim proved to be correct, while the claims of politicians that they were actively developing WMDs proved to be wrong. Today, however, Iraq stands on the threshold of being a location actually controlled by Al Qaeda, an outcome that would have been unimaginable if Saddam Hussein had remained in control.

Some might ask, “who could have predicted that the U.S. would leave the country with a corrupt, ineffectual government capable only of looting foreign aid and oil revenues?”

I would argue that anyone with an understanding of what government programs are like could have predicted that.

One might have a beautiful, seemingly airtight argument for why an ideal intervention into Iraq might have been of enormous benefit both to the Iraqis and to the world. This is not very different from the beautiful, seemingly airtight arguments made by Statists for why the government should run health care, or why it should help train the unemployed for new jobs, or a raft of other claims.

However, in the end, your beautiful idea will not be executed by angels, or even by you. It will executed by bureaucrats.

Perhaps (and I say at most “perhaps”) if angels had invaded Iraq they would have produced a wonderful outcome. However, the nation was invaded by the same keen minds responsible for such disasters as the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration hospitals, the Internal Revenue Service, and other organs that are hardly paragons of good management and reliable execution.

Libertarians are (correctly) fond of telling collectivists in debates that utopia is not an option. One cannot compare one’s idealized government program against the alternative, one must compare what will realistically happen under state control with the alternative.

The current disaster is simply another example of this. Iraq was not, in fact, invaded by angels, it was invaded by the U.S. government, the occupation was run like any government program, and the resulting disaster was entirely predictable.

The lesson to us all is that it is all fine and well to muse “if I ran the world”, but in reality no one person can run the world. Even if a leader actually has the best of intentions (which is rare in itself), they plan as men do, not as gods do, and they rely upon men, not gods, to execute their plans. Dreaming about what might be accomplished by gods is insufficient. One must instead discuss what is actually achievable by men.

Blame Bush and Blair like it’s 2003 forever

Forces of an offshoot of Al-Qaeda advance on Baghdad

“Blame Bush!” “Blame Blair!”

Can anyone explain to me why the starting point for anything newsworthy that Muslims do is eternally set at 2003?

Why not September 11th 2001 – one might have thought that was the big day this century for violent beginnings connected with Islam? Or why not date it from 1988, with the formation of Al-Qaeda? Or from the year 622, first year of the Hijra – if you take a long view of history, as ISIS themselves undoubtedly do? Or why not start the count later? How about late 2011 when President Obama took the last American troops out of what he called a “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” just “in time for the holidays”?

Not that it is likely, as Muslim Iraqi fights Muslim Iraqi in a land from which the infidel was so delighted to absent himself, that comabatants on either side think much about American presidents at all.

Islam has no truly moderate wing

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in the course of being interviewed by Sam Harris:

The reason the so-called Muslim “extremists” are so successful at recruiting, keeping, inspiring, and mobilizing people – and then finally getting them to wage jihad – is that what they’re saying is fully consistent with the teachings of Muhammad.

My thanks to the ever alert Mick Hartley to alerting me to this interview. Hartley entitles his posting “The faith has no truly moderate wing”. That is certainly how Islam seems to me when I read its scriptures.

It may of course just be wishful thinking on my part, but I predict that, some time within the next hundred years or so, there will be a mass-abandonment of this horrible religion, by all those who find themselves being raised as Muslims but who just want to be human beings, rather than in a state of perpetual war – at best mere ceasefire – with all non-Muslims, and constantly at the mercy of lunatic preachers nagging them to actually do what they still go through the motions of saying they believe. The only truly effective way of shaking free from such influences is to say that the lunatic preachers are wrong about everything – about Allah, about the obligation to submit to Allah, about the whole damn thing. It is because they fear what I hope for that devout Muslims have always threatened such mayhem if anyone now proclaims themselves in public to have abandoned Islam, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The effort to establish the right to abandon Islam unmolested is a key locus in the righteous struggle to reduce Islam to insignificance and political impotence.

Christians often complain that atheists only complain about Christianity, rather than about Islam. This criticism does not apply to Sam Harris.