History matters: Juan Cole on religious conflict in Iraq


Juan Cole's "Who are Iraq's Sunni Arabs and what did we do to them?" is a very helpful short read of the long view. It's a good summary of the history of sectarian strife between Sunnism and Shiism, and Iraq's long history of being stuck in the middle of that conflict. Sunnism and Shiism as we know them have evolved over nearly a millennium and a half. But the difference between them begins after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD (CE) in western Arabia. Muhammad, the son of Abdallah, … [Read more...]

Celebrating Krauthammer’s credibility problem


Charles Krauthammer, April 22, 2003, reassuring us that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, justifying the invasion and occupation his party chose: Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem. It's been five months, so I'm coming back to this. It's been five months 23 times.Charles Krauthammer, by his own admission, has a credibility pro … [Read more...]

Theodicy and foreign policy: The U.S. is not omnipotent


God was finally going to believe in a man both good and strong, but good and strong are still two different men. -- Wislawa Szymborska, "The Century's Decline"Yesterday, National Public Radio's All Things Considered had a segment debating U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war: "Analysts Divided on U.S. Arming Syrian Rebels."The guests were two people I wasn't familiar with: Andrew Tabler, "senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy," and Joshua Landis, "who d … [Read more...]

Dover and Just Wars

Mark Benjamin of Salon points out that former Vice President Dick Cheney and retired Gen. Tommy Franks just aren't that bright.Benjamin didn't put it that starkly himself, but that's the inescapable conclusion. He recently spoke with Bob Garfield of NPR's On the Media about what Franks called the "Dover effect" (see "The True Cost of War"). The occasion for this conversation was the Obama administration's reversal of the policy, in place since 1991, … [Read more...]

Band of outlaws

“To abolish God!” said Gregory, opening the eyes of a fanatic. “We do not only want to upset a few despotisms and police regulations; that sort of anarchism does exist, but it is a mere branch of the Nonconformists. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to deny all those arbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour and treachery, upon which mere rebels base themselves. The silly sentimentalists of the French Revolution talked of the Rights of Man! We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We … [Read more...]


On Monday in London, appearing at a press conference with President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown endorsed Bush's strategy for the ongoing occupation of Iraq. And Brown did so using one of Bush's signature absurdities. Here is Brown from the official transcript: Can I just say that in Iraq there is a job to be done and we will continue to do the job, and there's going to be no artificial timetable. "Artificial timetable" is one of Bush's favorite phrases when discussing the … [Read more...]

A third possibility

"Attempts to confront or wake up patients during the events frequently lengthens the parasomnia episode and may induce resistance or violence from the patient."-- WebMD's emedicine entry on Somnambulism In comments for the previous entry, Doctor Science points us to an insightful post from Kit Whitfield (aka Praline) that suggests a possible third explanation for the insane popularity of the Munich Analogy -- an explanation other than the obvious ones of unbelievable stupidity or willful … [Read more...]

Look at their shoes

Matthew Yglesias recommends Jeffrey Record's monograph, "Appeasement Reconsidered: Investigating the Mythology of the 1930s." I realize no one is going to read that and think, "Ooooh, a monograph! How exciting!" But if you've got a crazy uncle/co-worker/president who makes a habit of invoking Neville Chamberlain to dismiss any hesitation to invade Iraq/bomb Iran/annihilate Fredonia, then Record's thoughtful separation of reality and myth may come in handy. Record can't be dismissed as a dirty … [Read more...]