The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Bruce Levine's picture

    Tough Choices -- Facing Genocide in the Levant

    There has been more debate among dagbloggers discussing ISIS, Syria, Iraq -- the Middle East -- than there has been in the Congress over the past couple of weeks.  It is election season and folks are back home raising money and kissing babies.  

    The president is on the job still but today, with commendable candor, stated that the United States did not yet have a strategy for dealing with ISIS.  Commendable yes, but not entirely reassuring when you hear it from the commander in chief.  That is not the point of this piece.

    I'm focused on two things right now: (1) our obligation to protect ethnic minorities in Iraq from wanton slaughter and potential genocide; and (2) the several hundred or more ISIS fighters from the US and Europe, and what that might mean right here on the American mainland.  I've not really digested the second point about the western fighters, but I have spent quite a bit of the last couple of months thinking about whether  the prevention of genocide is an American core value and a reason for employing our military assets.

    I've been wading through Samantha Power's book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. It's a fascinating account of the efforts, led by a man named Raphael Lemkin, to  almost single-handedly persuade the United Nations to pass an international treaty on the prevention of  "genocide" (a term Lemkin himself came up with and then spent years working on forging a consensus with respect to what distinguishes genocide from other mass killings.  Power also reminds us of the tireless efforts of the late Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin to convince his fellow Senators to adopt and by bound by the UN Treaty.  Senator Proxmire made a speech on the Senate floor to promote the genocide treaty on every single day the Senate was in session for nineteen consecutive years.   It is a remarkable story of legislative persistence that we so rarely get to see anymore.

    The bulk of Power's book surveys the consistent failure of the United States and other world powers to take any meaningful steps to prevent repeated genocides that have occurred around the world since the First World War.  Beginning with the tepid response of the international community to the Armenian genocide that began  in1915 (about which Hitler famously remarked that "nobody remembers the Armenians"), Power reviews the Holocaust in Europe, the mass starvation and slaughter of Biafarans in the Nigerian civil war, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the gassing of Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Congo, and Kosovo.  Power's principal point in reviewing all of these events is that America failed to lift a finger to prevent any of these atrocities.

    In short, Power rejects the notion that it is not our responsibility to police the world in order to prevent and respond to attempted genocide.  But, of course, Power's view is hardly a universal one, and significantly, as much as we abhor the slaughter of innocents, many of us rest on solid moral ground in resisting the urge to become mired once again in another futile military campaign half-way around the world.  For all intents and purposes, it would appear that the Obama Administration, in which Power serves as UN Ambassador, similarly subscribes to the view that it is not the responsibility of our military to respond to threats of genocide, wherever they may occur around the world.   

    I was reminded of another interesting bit of trivia in Power's book while reading Leon Wieselthier's most recent article in the New Republic.  Wieselthier takes note of the series of caveats surrounding the president's various justifications for his authorization of limited air strikes in Iraq, and states that such statements are not consistent with the more aggressive posture that we have taken in fact.  As stated by Wieselthier, "the president's actions have already exceeded the president's reasons."

    Wieselthier, who supports a more active role to protect ethnic minorities in Iraq (and Syria) reminds us that the issue of America's role in preventing genocide has not been an issue that has divided the American people along party lines.  Proxmire, for example, was no war hawk.  And, as both Power and Wieselthier remind us, there was a time in the late 1970s when none other than the late-great Senator George McGovern, in the wake of the travesty that was Viet Nam, took a leading role in urging American military intervention in Cambodia to put an end to Pol Pot's slaughter of millions of Cambodians.

    I fully agree with Wieselthier that McGovern's position is both instructive and worthy of our consideration presently, as we cannot avoid the reality that the ancient ethnic minorities in the Levant face extermination.  Here's Wieselthier on McGovern (my bolds):

    In recent weeks a number of anxious friends have reminded me, or maybe themselves, that no less an isolationist god than George McGovern proposed Western military action against the Khmer Rouge. I looked up his remarks, and found this splendid retort to the current imprisonment of American policy in the memory of the Iraq war: “To hate a needless and foolish intervention that served no good purpose does not give us the excuse to do nothing to stop mass murder in another time and place under vastly different circumstances.”  or all I know, Country Joe and the Fish agreed with him, too. Anyway, who cares? We must do what is right even if it is not what is left.

    That, my friends, is a quote from George McGovern, a man whose consistent opposition to the Viet Nam war is the way we remember and cherish him still.  

    I have reservations but have come to conclude, on humanitarian grounds alone, that we must prevent the slaughter of the ancient ethnic minorities in the Levant.  I support this for a number of reasons, but in this piece I am purposely attempting to isolate the issue of genocide as a reason for action. I cannot help believing that, absent intervention, we will bear witness to yet another wholesale slaughter of populations, i.e. Genocide 101.  I agree that we need to pressure our allies in Europe and the Middle East to pitch in and hopefully take the lead from us.  I also am fully aware and I know that the lines between friend and enemy are ambiguous at best, and that such a reality makes it extraordinarily difficult to define what our ultimate objectives should be -- beyond preventing another genocide.

    Were Samantha Power free to speak on her own behalf right now, I submit she would, without hesitation, use every waking moment to promote whatever intervention is needed to stop the ISIS slaughter.  I understand the need to consider other factors surrounding any decision to step up our role.  Still, it is my firm belief and conviction that it is both fair and just to ask ourselves whether we as human beings living in the most powerful nation in the world can stand by yet again and do nothing -- as thousands or tens of thousands of innocent human beings  are slaughtered -- and right before our very eyes.

    Congress won't discuss this because there is an election and most of our representatives, left and right, are political cowards and fundraisers, and nothing more.  We, the People, should ponder where we stand on preventing genocide.

    Bruce S. Levine

    New York, New York



    Please excuse typos.  Will fix. Unplanned visit to vet.  Lacey is fine with small cut.  Spouse will get over sight of blood.  

    MIchael, Thanks for posting this and again I apologize for the typos, which I really became aware of when I was waiting at the vet's office.  I've changed the title because I think it fits better, and I've made quite a few edits in the text, but there is no change in substance.  

    P.S. Great thing about Manhattan is that vets are right around block.  Not so great thing about Manhattan is that my little Lacey's cut was worth 173 dollars. But she's worth every penny, my little rescue from the great state of Tennessee.

    It's a great piece. Thanks for posting. I've spend the last few days floating down the Delaware River, so I apologize for not participating in the fascinating discussion you provoked. Will try to comment tomorrow, though I feel too conflicted to be coherent.

    I hope you enjoy the book, and I look forward to the review. Cool La Follette connection. I don't know anything about the family after Bob Jr.

    Thanks Michael, not sure if it's a great piece, but I am really happy with hearing from so many different folks in the comments.  Whatever our views, I think it's an important discussion.  More importantly, hard to understand how anyone thinking about these things could not be conflicted.  Pretty clear we can stipulate that genocide is a horrible thing.  

    On the book, I, um, didn't quite finish because I sort of burnt out last night after a lovely but busy weekend.  But I am up in Candidate Taft's hotel room right now as his nomination at the GOP convention is 1908 is coming through on the ticker tape, and I just sense that things aren't going to work out the way this new TR you introduce to us -- this practical man -- anticipates.  Something tells me things are going to get a little bit stressful among the coalition of reasonable and unreasonable folks!.  What a wonderful read Michael.  Lots of stuff I want to say when I'm done, but really nice work.  

    On the La Follette thing in law school, Madison as you know is not big like DC and it wasn't unusual for anyone to see a politician or someone like La Follette around the Capitol.  But I loved working as a law clerk in the AG's office. I worked with some wonderful people, and I think I can say that one of the reasons I chose to study in Madison so many years ago was because I just knew I would sense the spirit of the progressive pioneers who used Madison as their base.

    The story you are about to read is true and just took place:

    Spouse: Oh, I finally read that article you wrote last week.  

    Me: Really, what did you think?

    Spouse: It was OK but I'm so pissed about that vet bill! 173 dollars?  That's insane!

    One is put in mind of the story (perhaps apocryphal...) wherein Joseph Smith, having informed his wife that in order to decipher the sacred golden tablets of the Angel Moroni, he was required to place them in a hat.

    Wife: Joseph, that was my father's hat, and now it's all dirty inside!

    Does saying 'deploying our military assets' mean you would sacrifice the lives of your children or grandchildren to keep Muslims from killing other Muslims Bruce?

    In an endeavor which by no means has any guarantee, and perhaps not even a shred of a chance of success? 10 years, thousands of dead and a couple of trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan proved the US cannot make Muslims live in peace, democracy and freedom with Muslims.

    We made things worse when we intervened in Iraq. The US and other nations have pledged support for the Kurds, the only Muslims providing refuge to other groups of Muslims (and Christians), and they deserve support, which they are not getting from the Shiite procrastinators and corrupt politicians in Baghdad. We should provide visas for Christians to leave the Middle East, as they have no future there.

    The Muslim world must heal itself. Any further action by the US other than helping the Kurds is war against Jihad, religious war. Infidels cannot win that war in the Levant.

    Only the Muslim nations of Saudi Arabia with 1/2 million under arms, Turkey, with 40 million men of military age, or the rich Emirates of the Gulf along with regional powers like Iran can stem the violence, and force or convince their co-religionists to stop the killing.

    NCD, funny you should ask me about sacrificing my own family in the hope of preventing genocide.  I answered the same basic question with all my heart and with absolute sincerity last week.  That question was posed to me by lulu.  You can look for it if you'd like.  Seems to be a lot of interest in the blood of my kids around these parts.  

    I want grandchildren some day and I want them each to live to be 120 (like Moses).  I want my four children to each live to be 120 as well, G-d willing.  I'm not sure if you've raised kids, but I have three of them in their 20s.  I raised three independent kids.  If they  wish to choose military service i might try to discourage them, but my children think for themselves, and again, respectfully, thank G-d.

    Do you want to know how I would feel, please G-d forbid, if one of my children . . . I can't even say it.  Does that disqualify me from discourse?  I addressed that with lulu too.  Tried to be as honest and open as I could be.

    I've come to the conclusion that I am entitled to participate in the political process, regardless of whether my children may some day choose not to serve.  They have their own views, each of them and of course I love them each unconditionally.

    Moving from my family and their blood, G-d forbid and forgive me for responding to that which I cannot even visualize, I wrote an article hoping to isolate the issue of genocide.  I understand, I think I wrote, that logistical issues follow of course.  I will say, and I've written it before, that IMO the fact that we the People authorized and re-elected George Bush with respect to Iraq provides us with an even greater responsibility to prevent the slaughter of the Iraqi people rendered defenseless by our actions.

    NCD, you are an asset here with expertise on matters that others do not share.  Please understand that I genuinely respect that.  In turn, I hope you are satisfied in knowing about my family.  My seven year old remains in my control and supervision. I just want her to keep smiling; she rocks my world.

    Please let me know if you'd like to know anything else about how I raise my children, but the question I posed here is whether the prevention  of genocide is an American core value which justifies the use of our military assets.  Perhaps that sounded too neutral.  Point taken on that. 

    Should anyone else seek to frame this in terms of my family, kindly refer to this response, or my prior response of last week to lulu. 


    Edited to add that this hopefully links to a rather extensive colloquy that Lulu and I had which addresses the issue of family in this realm.  I don't mean to be fully dismissive of the question, and I think the colloquy between Lulu and I confirms that I have thought much about the issue over the years.  I just would like to feel that one is not disqualified from debate unless his own blood had direct skin in the game.  Democracy is far more complicated than that.

    NCD, I forget to address your comment to the extent it focused on muslims killing muslims.  My position (as novice as it might be) does not distinguish between muslims, christians, or any other peoples on this shrinking planet.  Blood bleeds red.

    Frankly your 'lawyering' training may be peeking through here. Saying 'your children have a mind of their own' evades the question.

    Military age kids may often ask for advice from their parents about career choices. I suppose if one of yours said they wanted fatherly advice as to signing up to fight genocidal Jihadists in the Levant you would say you would 'not influence' their decision in any way? 

    What would you say if one of your kids 'spreading freedom' had died in the Battle of the Najaf cemetery against Mullah Moqtada al Sadr's militia (the US later let the Mullah be a top member of the Iraqi government), like Cindy Sheehan son?

    No lawyerly prevaricating?

    The usual response for those parents of young men and women who died in Iraq is 'they died doing what they loved'. Friends and family who are frank may say more honestly their deaths gained nothing positive, a life wasted.

    And as to 'we all bleed red', I have little compassion for those with no respect or compassion for others themselves.  The 'others' who they ruthlessly kill or attack without remorse or guilt, being of different religions, or even neighbors of the same religion.

    Well, I think I understand the lawyering stuff, but I want to prove that we can disagree on a very serious issue and not do this.  I posted an article from the Times in the News section above basically saying that you and I and other folks who disagree never see each other on social media.  

    Anyway, I understand that you think I've been lawyering because I evaded the question you posed to me.  I will try to answer as best as I can, lest you assess me with "lawyerly prevaricating".  I understand that I will be lawyerly prevaricating if I fail to answer the following question you posed to me and which I'll quote here for convenience.   That question, my bolds is this:

    What would you say if one of your kids 'spreading freedom' had died in the Battle of the Najaf cemetery against Mullah Moqtada al Sadr's militia (the US later let the Mullah be a top member of the Iraqi government), like Cindy Sheehan son?

    Every death of a child is like the end of the world to a parent.  I would not be excepted.  Heaven forgive me for not trying to avoid what I consider to be a totally offensive challenge, but I will answer you.  I don't know how I could go on living NCD if that happened to one of my kids.

    I'm disappointed with myself.  In fact, you have lawyered me NCD, by making it difficult and possibly thread-eroding if I did not answer your question.  I hope you're impressed with yourself.  The lawyer stuff is so stupid really.  I don't claim to be any smarter or less intelligent than anyone. You can do better; I've seen it so many times.

    Finally, if you choose to make my argument about genocide to be no different than our invasion in 2003, then NCD we have nothing to discuss.  And, honestly, I feel badly about that.

    Be well.

    Poor Bruce, let me be the cold brutal bitch for you with no need for lawyerly finessing:

    The guilt tactic being used on you here is bullshit in any society that has a 100% volunteer military. You pay for a professional military and you have not just the right but the duty to think about how and when they should be used even if you have zero skin in the game. I'll go further: as if you had  no skin the game. The whole chicken hawk argument is really pretty bogus when nobody is forcing anyone to sign up.

    Those are not "kids", those that sign up for military service along the lines of army, Marines or special services. They are grown ups. And they know they will be taught to kill and could be killed when they sign up. And they even know they won't get to chose who to try to kill, and that they may not even like the idea of who has been chosen to be killed, but they still know they will have to try to kill who they are told to try to kill by politicians and that those people in turn will be trying to kill them and they might come home in a body bag if they are not vicious enough.

    Yes, they are someone's "kids." But those parents really should have started mourning about them being killed the minute they signed up to be professional soldiers. Especially in a democracy where the winds can shift like crazy in an American minute. I don't think the political legitimacy of any operation has anything to do with it, they already signed up to be professional soldiers and agreed to do anything their political bosses decide to do, whether right, left, center, hawk or dove at the time, they already decided to be amoral about that.

    End of story.

    On the other hand, if someone wanted to guilt you into thinking about kids being lost, I would say it's extremely legit to guilt you about non-combatant children and civilians being killed because of any military operation. And, of course, one can include military draftees here.

    "I don't think the political legitimacy of any operation has anything to do with it"

    That pretty much sums you up AA. Some would disagree.


    Not to bring up Lulu sans permission, but it's interesting that he had the same fairly strong reaction that you seem to have about the distinction between kids and young adults and its importance in how we perceive our volunteer armed services.  Lulu has seen more of his share of service, and as anti-war as that experience helped shape him to the core, he admonished me for my long-standing habit (and purely for emphasis of a point more often than not) of referring to military personnel as "boys" and "girls".  I hear you.

    Of course, neither of you is saying that we the people don't owe our volunteer armed forces a duty of care (too lawyerly but I think it fits) to all them to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  

    In any event, I appreciate the distinction, and see below for some quick thoughts I have on a busy day.

    P.S. I don't want to get into your personal stuff bc you know what I'm thinking, but I have a simple process question. A couple of us have been trying to keep up with news, particularly in the international realm, as only you do best.  As a matter of protocol, because I think folks have to and really want to express themselves about fast-moving events, should we at some point replace the Foley thread with a new thread (perhaps with one or more of the newer pieces that you have found coming out of the Arab press)?  Anyway, penny for your thoughts. Happy weekend.

    on the process thingie--I think it's gotten to the point where I am just falling for Peter's trolling there and doing it back a little myself--which isn't bad in some ways--with others chiming in here and there with their thoughts--but it ain't going nowhere, it's going to die down now. But I also think you don't have to go out of your way to replace it, it will happen naturally when someone posts the next article that ends up inspiring lengthy discussion, perhaps that's you, me or perhaps that someone else. you can't predict these things, that's why they call it "news."

    I am choosing to say that we may have precipitated this genocide by our actions in 'regime change', and cannot undo it with more US military involvement, except for aiding the Kurds. Obama said today he is seeking regional Muslim nation involvement to stop the ongoing violence. I hope it works.

    I didn't mean to imply a guilt trip on lawyering, it is an esteemed and respected profession, and we all do some of it in our daily lives.

    I appreciate the passion behind your question NCD.  I am hoping to isolate the genocide issue as a base for making tough choices.  I don't want to cede that discussion to nation builders.   It might be easier to consider this question under better circumstances.   But we don't thave that luxury. 


    Is it really possible/practical to wall off genocide as invoking a special, super energized R2P, that is different in nature from what is otherwise enunciated when we propose to interfere with the "normal" rights of a sovereign nation to enforce it's internal policies, even when they extend to imposing death or internal displacement (leading to death) on some disfavored fraction of it's own populace?


    Other than pointing to the underlying motivation, viz, ethnic or religious or some other group "hate crime", how do we distinguish politically motivated savagery (cf, eg , Stalin during the collectivisation, or Mao during the great leap forward) from genocidal savagery.?

    Good question.  Lemnick wrestled with genocide definition for years.  Do you think that if what we are hearing about IS is true, are we witness to genocide?

    Well, I would venture that one component of the definition might be the completeness of the threatened extinction (vs. a behaviorally defined threat, although I am given to understand that IS spared those yezidis who converted, so that sort of undermines my point from the start).  That is to say, that if we take, for instance, the Nazi murders at Lidice, which focused on the military age men, we might want to distinguish that (as a war crime) from a genocide, where children are included in the category of victims.


    Assuming, arguendo, the truth of the stories that IS has murdered children because of their religion or ethnicity, I would call them genociders.

    I agree with you on the merits, the distinction you recognize in the Lidice case, for example, as not falling within the definition of genocide.  And, as you'll see below, you've identified both a shortcoming in my presentation (i.e. a basic summary of genocide defined is missing), and the importance of circumstance in identifying a genocide under the norms established almost single-handedly by Mr. Lemkin.  So, in short, many thinks my teacher and friend.  

    A must-watch 2 1/2 min. news video, NCD; same for anyone else who is interested in what the Gulf States are really up to on the Islamist front:

    Why is the United Arab Emirates secretly bombing Libya? – video, Aug. 29

    The United Arab Emirates, a small wealthy Gulf state, has been secretly bombing targets in Libya, from bases in Egypt without the knowledge of the US. We explain how the raids reflect new rivalries in the region and are likely to trigger new strains between the west and its increasingly assertive Arab allies

    I would like to point out that among many other implications of what is reported in this, it makes clear that one has read behind the lines now even more carefully when using Al Jazeera as a source, as it seems like Qatar doesn't agree with its neighbors on very much at all...and then there's Egypt...

    Edit to add: didja notice there wasn't a single mention of Israel?  I've always argued that it often seems to me that nobody with any real power in the region really cares much any more that Israel is there, they just use her as something to distract the masses.

    Does Ms. Power have any suggestions on how to stop a genocide without possibly committing a reverse one? without completely taking over the territory involved and ruling it, perhaps ruthlessly, for several generations until the old ones die off and the re-educated younger ones learn little or nothing of their own histories and folkways? How else do you stop genocide from flaring up over and over and over again as it has for thousands of years in the Middle East? And wouldn't that be a kind of slow motion genocide itself?


    Excellent questions Emma, with the caveat that I can't speak for her specifically.  I think that her response from what I read would involve a greater commitment to international cooperation with the UN Genocide Treaty as home base, and with consideration of diplomatic, economic, and other actions that might be used to prevent a genocide.  Off the top of my head, with respect to Biafara, for example, you probably remember the pictures of all those starving kids with the bloated bellies.  I'd never seen that before.  She reminds us that we treated the war as an internal matter and we effectively condoned if not endorsed the blockade of the Biafarans, and which led to the mass starvation.  So, I guess, in a general sense, she is not committed to military action as a matter of course.  Her biggest beef is with no action, demonstrated time and again, with at most efforts that were either too little or too late.

    Your point is well-taken about the nature of that which is the Middle East.  I would be a fool to argue that we could best our ancestors of 100 years ago who carved up the Ottoman Empire, and helped create or perpetuate the ethnic divisions there.  

    I will defer to experts, but I've been thinking quite a bit about an enclave in territory controlled by the Kurds, who right now are at least saying how much they love this country for helping them, and I would condition our defense of that enclave on a demonstrated commitment of the Kurds to provide an enclave for the smaller minorities who have depended over the centuries on the good graces of their Sunni overlords in Northern and Central Iraq.  Somebody I'm sure can knock that down, but I just cannot accept that resignation is our only option.

    Emma, the only other thing I want to say is something based on what Beetlejuice wrote to me last week, and that is lots of times we are told things about the number of casualties in a war zone like northern Iraq that turn out not to be true.  I recognize that.  

    As you can see, I'm now speaking for myself, but Ambassador Power did not have very kind things to say about our bipartisan decision in the late 1980s to cuddle up with Sadaam and basically ignore evidence that he was slaughtering Kurdish Iraqis with poison gas.  We made a political calculation that it was more important to prevent an Iranian victory over Iraq than to lead the world in a humane response (not necessarily military back then) to the gassing of the people.

    As the UN has been brought into the discussion (and I know that as to you, Bruce, I am preaching to the choir) I will, (tediously) again make my plea for a seriously empowered and sovereign world government.


    Which brings me to my real question, viz, how much evil will we have to contemplate, coupled with how much futility (see NCD's disquisition, etc( and/or inaction, and/ or, venality, etc. on the part of individual nations, before we (collectively, as world citizens) cry out "enough" and force the creation of a true world policeman, this time acting on behalf of the world?


    I mean this more as a question of political analysis, since I believe the policy is unexceptional (at least here at the Dag--Red Staters and Hot Air afficionados are  presumptively lost to this as a policy prescription).

    No to boots on the ground. That  should only be employed in our own defense.

    No matter how horrible the genocide we should only invade if we are threatened.Not to protect the Kurds or the Christians.Nor the Ukranians  nor the Belarussi.

    Every day ,forever, there'll  always be cases where bad things are happening to good people. We should let them happen if preventing or stopping them would require invading.

    No, means No.

    If we wish to intervene with manned aircraft,OK. .But when the inevitable pilot capture  requires the inevitable  invasion:"Hell no, we won't go".

    A Special Forces response ,in and out, OK. But not any response that requires leaving people behind to assist in the "nation building". We shouldn't do nation building. Except at home.





    IMy question is not whether we put boots on the ground. I really want to explore the genocide issue.  I understand that it is hard to do this  and ignore logistical  considerations and the boots on the ground  red line the president has articulated.   

    I don't like red lines in collective bargaining or international affairs for a number of reasons.  

    Not that polls should have any influence on the discussion you're trying to have here...still...verrry interesting...

    Pew Research Center's current front page lead:

    The share of Americans saying the U.S. does too little to address global problems has nearly doubled since last November. The Islamic militants known as ISIS or ISIL ranks near the top of the list of U.S. security threats.

    Full story, published Aug. 28, 2014:

    As New Dangers Loom, More Think the U.S. Does ‘Too Little’ to Solve World Problems

    54% Say Obama Approach on Foreign Policy Is ‘Not Tough Enough’

    AA, I think this particular poll is useful because it is based on a survey taken last week and it clearly shows, among other things, a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who believe that that we are doing to little to solve the world's problems, i.e 17 percent to 31 percent between November of last year and the present.

    Fascinating stuff about shifts in sentiment among surveyed Republicans:

    Republicans, Democrats and independents all are more likely to say the U.S. does too little to solve world problems, but the shift among Republicans has been striking. Last fall, 52% of Republicans said the U.S. does too much to help solve global problems, while just 18% said it does too little. Today, 46% of Republicans think the U.S. does too little to solve global problems, while 37% say it does too much.

     So what moves people like this? Politics? Something else?  All interesting, er, known unknowns. smiley 

    What I find interesting is that while the "too much" and "too little" groups approach each other in size, the "right amount" group shrunk. Somewhat counter-intuitive, if one expects logical behavior from a collective.

    This chart is the main thing that grabbed me: The new list is a balanced mixture of serious ,thoughtful timely stuff, not just what's being ranted about about most on the talk radio:

    As someone involved in making software safer and more secure, I find it especially curious (and a little disturbing) that the concern about cyber-attacks appear to have fallen off of people's radar.

    Good catch VA, and surprising too because only this week, among other crises, we seem to be hearing quite a bit about cyber security.  

    Benghazi!? Putin!? Those damn  socialist Kenyan immigrant president types don't give a damn what it means to be able to chant U.S.A. ! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!cheeky

      I'm a foe of military intervention, and I'd like to abolish the U.S. military, but I'll concede that our current war in Iraq MIGHT be justified.

     The problem with the "we have to do something" ethos is that doing something with bombs and missiles almost always makes things worse, not better. With the possible exception of this war, there hasn't been a morally justified American war since 1945. Even if a particular intervention can be justified, on balance our military does so much more harm than good that the world would be better off without it.

    Yea, I hear you Aaron, and I think that's the point I was making about what I got from Emma's comment.

    For some reason I just lost a rather detailed summary.  Anyway, I just wanted to say before work a few things that were brought out in comments:

    1. Emma correctly noted immediately that the blog did not adequately describe the specifics of what Power advocates for. I should have at least summarized that in the blog.  Noted.

    2. JR also correctly noted that the blog lacks what should be a brief overview of the definition of genocide, which of course is critical.

    3. NCD, if I were your lawyer :), I would counsel you to tell bslev that it is presumptuous to debate whether genocide is a core consideration, without giving our dismal record and the inherent facts on the ground equal consideration at the core.  I hear you NCD. 

    4. Thanks to management for posting this.  Unlike many of you and the folks who comment, blog or lurk here, there aren't many places for a guy with my particular interests and views to write with comfort.  Aaron Carine can tell you about how folks like us are treated at a place like Elder of Ziyon, or other so-called pro-Israel sites.  And on the other side I wouldn't last a week at a place like the Daily Kos.  Not picking on any blog in particular, but I don't have the time or the inclination to set up my own blog, so basically what I'm saying is that I know I can be a dick but I am kind of stuck here for better or worse. 

    5. Special thanks to Michael W. for being the usual focus of my rants. He knows me a long time and plays and toys with my guilt strings (this time for being a dick to him and OK and some others out there (edited to add I'm kidding!)).  So you know, Mr. Wolraich, I will be spending Labor Day weekend with your book and your book only, and I owe you a review.  Not sure if I told you that when I was in law school I worked for Lafollette's grandson, who was the Wisconsin Attorney General at the time. I was a nerd then too and was awed by that simple fact.  I also studied labor history and sort of majored in it and spent a major portion of my time studying the labor movement during the progressive era.  I'm looking forward to seeing how, if at all, that intersects with what you wrote.  Anyway, book first, review second. Thanks.


    Oh, I know one other thing I definitely don't want to forget to say. I do a reverse commute most days and spend about an hour in the car in the morning. I do a lot of news surfing and it really was amazing how mundane the discussions were among the so-called experts.  Maybe it's different when you listen to the talking heads on the radio, but it seemed that all they cared about was Obama's dumb statement about having no strategy.  Right and left, all they cared about were the political ramifications.  And, we joke about it, but I think that really sucks. It's not about Obama, or Hillary, or whoever might run on the other side and how they're hurt or helped.  There's a friggin' genocide going on.

    Oy, you have pegged a pet peeve of mine so well here. You might even remember me ranting along the same lines in TPMCafe. Politics can be a great diversion, can be stimulating intellectually to role play professional political spinmeister....etc. etc.

    But people, at a certain point once in a while one should wake up and think about the actual realities that politics was invented to handle---smell the roses or realize that you could die tomorrow or that your family could be subjected to war or genocide, too, not just "those people." Too often in this country it gets carried as far as to remind me of Juvenal's "bread and circuses" line (OK, granted, if done well, it's more like a game of chess. which after all is still entertainment and a game, too.) I think a disgrace and a tragedy both: what is spent  in money and emotion and time on U.S. presidential elections and on professional football. What could be done with just a small fraction of that to solve some of the world's--or your particular little town's--problems.

    There it is.

    Didn't know about your labor history background-by any chance did you become acquainted with the history of the  UE and it's travails within (and without) the CIO?


    Their Organizing Secretary, Jim Matles, was my godfather, and is at fault  responsible for my bolshevik tendencies, albeit I am more of a Trotskyite and he was a stomp down Stalinist.

    JR, I am very, very much familiar with the UE and the CIO, and it just incredible that you are so closely linked to royalty!  Among other employers, the UE still represents at least some of the General Electric employees at the GE plant in Schenectady, NY.  And believe it or no I also believe there are vestiges of their radical heritage reflected in their refusal to have no-strike clauses in their contracts with GE, which, generally speaking but fairly unique and particularly in the recent past, permits the union to strike during the term of the contract.  Simply glorius history.

    I just found this link to an autobiography written by a CIO guy named Len DeCaux Labor Radical.  I can't find it for sale anywhere, but this is the book I recall reading when I got up to the Concord Hotel to work as a busboy after my freshman year in college. Decaux started out as a member of the IWW (Wobblies (still around)) and became one of the highest ranking communists in the CIO -- before the purges of the 1950s. It's been a a long time, but I would bet that he wrote quite a bit about the UE and those exciting days.

    Love it, on Labor Day!l  

    Cool, thanks RM, funny I thought I did a correct search on Amazon.  That's the book!

    Thanks, but now you have made me add another book to my reading list. How am I supposed to find time to sleep with all the books I need to read?

    Just think of a world where there were not enough books to read!

    The Horror smiley

    Here's another for your list, as long as you are gonna be buried in reading


    Aw. C'mon.

    JR can autograph this one for you.  And it's still offered in the UE book shop.  Who knew that JR came from such stock, or sort of came from such stock -- good enough for me that's for sure.

    Maybe the "most powerful nation" is that way because of conditions it maintains that sharply restrict other concentrations of power. As the Cold War winds down, the U.S. has moved away from fighting proxy wars through strongmen to creating expanding areas of negative states. The strategy is to break up concentrations of power because such dilution is seen as a benefit in itself. While cultivating tribal warfare certainly restricts the movement of new players in the global system, it also creates vacuums of power of the kind that let outfits like ISIS to emerge.

    Genocide happens in the context of war where one group of people do their best to kill another. If one militates against acts of genocide, one is wrestling with the culture of war itself.

    It may be too idealistic to imagine with Woodrow Wilson that each self identified people can establish themselves as a nation but it would take something like that to silence the guns. As a start.


    Read this last night and was too burnt out to thank you and respond.  But raising Wilson in the context you have here  is important. Among other things it highlights the disconnect between his worthy dreams of promoting the nation state concept and the the status of minority ethno-national groups.  Here, in a nation of minorities where we have always struggled with the need to ensure minority rights (focusing on the smaller states as minorities at the threshold), and we have a mixed record at best.  But in the Middle East, and certainly since Woodrow Wilson's crusade, there really have been very few bright spots to go along with the manner in which the Ottoman Empire was carved up when it comes to the status of minorities.  And in the area of the Levant where things now seethe, we have contributed quite a bit, most recently by invading Iraq in 2003, to put these people in the jaws of an ISIS group that was only recently promoted from the junior varsity, according to what the really smart people have been advising the president apparently.  

    Thanks Moat.  Happy Labor Day weekend.  You know there was a time starting around twenty years ago when I would make an annual sermon at temple on this weekend (always few in attendance for some reason) to promote the thesis that Labor Day was a Jewish holiday.  Don't think that one is going to be revived for Dag this year, I'll spare everyone!   But of course it is true you know. :)


    P.S. Heading out for weekend, but why not add to another book to the pile (sorry RM).  I'm really no expert but I picked up and read David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace after it had been recommended to me.  It's all about the creation of the modern Middle East after WWI out of what was the Ottoman Empire.  Anyone interested in exploring "root causes" should IMO check it out.  Cheers.

    Fromkin's book is good. The deals he described and the demonstration of how deeply those arrangements influenced what happened afterwards points to one serious obstacle confronting a policy based upon reacting to genocide per se in real time: The point where one could have the greatest influence has already been passed.

    The commitment to intervene in an immediate crisis is like cops flooding a scene after a crime. Something worthy of the name of strategy would look like people making deals well beforehand.

    It has been a long time since anybody made a new deal.

    I've been skeptical of the Responsibility to Protect specifically because it asks for sacrifices from Americans who typically have little voice in foreign affairs.  Power does a good job saying where we failed to act but her imagination ends there. She doesn't consider the benefits of not sending young Americans to die in Rwanda or Nigeria. 

    We have a volunteer military. The people who enlisted did so on the premise that they would be sent into combat to defend America. In practice, our politicians have stretched any common sense understanding of that concept so they can do whatever they want. But that's wrong. It should be stopped. Is ISIS a real threat to people living in Colorado? As much as I agree that there are bigger moral questions than that, who am I to answer with the life of somebody, likely poor, who enlisted to serve a specific purpose?

    As a society, we have not shared the sacrifices of our wars for a very long time. We will not prevent genocide in the Middle East any more than we had a better than expected showing in the World Cup. Power identifies some horrible problems but then outsources the dirty work and, if successful, takes credit for the results.


    If people enlist in the military thinking that they will never go into action unless the United States is attacked, then they are quite naive. Of the seven major wars we have fought since 1950, only one involved an attack on the United States. The mini-wars like Grenada weren't defensive either.

    Those mini wars weren't moral either. Let's face it, we have totally abused our volunteer soldiers. Finding new reasons to send them to war just compounds that abuse.


    Thanks again to you and your colleagues for posting this, and for chiming in. Hopefully you've been informed of where I am from my comments and original blog, but I am not arguing the morality of all the wars that the US has fought, and of course I understand that we can't be parachuting our volunteer men and woman anywhere anytime to prevent the latest barbarity.  

    On the folks who would be doing the dirty work, not sure if you were able to read my discussion upthread with NCD and AA, and an earlier far more comprehensive colloquy with lulu, which I link to in my first or second reply to one of NCD's comments.  

    On what the volunteers signed up for, I agree that consideration of their expectations going in, that they are doing so to defend this country, is a critical point that must be addressed.  And I guess that brings me back to whether the prevention of genocide is an American core value such that, standing alone, it could justify American military intervention.  I agree that we can only do what we can do, but my hunch is that most of the men and women who signed up to  serve our country and are involved in Iraq right now are proud of fact that they just saved 12,000 Shia Turkmen from near certain slaughter by ISIS fighters.  

    Finally, I've focused on genocide, but from what I see ISIS is a direct threat to the United States, as I think you and I would both define what that means.  And there will be a hell of lot to talk about and consider in the very near future, whether we like it or not.  We have to talk about this stuff, and thanks more than I can tell you for providing a SANE forum for the discussion to be had.  I'm grateful, really.


    It's still "tough choices". According to the NYTimes report, we've just helped the Iran-backed Shiite militias that the Sunni population fears

    ....Now, the United States has provided air support for several Iranian-backed Shiite militias that are leading the fight against ISIS in Ameril with the help of Kurdish pesh merga forces and Iraqi Army units.

    Both the United States and Iran, while not coordinating operations in Iraq, are nevertheless on the same side in the conflict against ISIS. The United States, though, has been reluctant to pursue military operations with Iraq’s Shiite militias. The militias have taken on a primary role in providing security in Baghdad and responding to the advances of ISIS; the Iraqi Army, which had been financed and trained by the United States, has proved largely ineffective.

    The Obama administration has tried to avoid being seen as taking sides in Iraq’s sectarian war, because the militias are especially feared by Iraq’s Sunni population. The reality on the ground, however — the growing brutality of ISIS, the humanitarian crisis and the threat of a slaughter in Amerli — appeared to override those concerns.....

    There is so often this problem with intervening in sectarian war: you help out with the big weapons which you can't allow that government to have yet because they can't be trusted yet, aren't stable enough yet, not to use them against a segment of their own people.

    So you end up having to do one of two other things:

    1) give them the help over and over again intervening with the big weapons and becoming hated for the collateral damage that does

    2) try nation building with boots on the ground

    This is the story of both Russia and the U.S. in Afghanistan and with the coalition handling Libya and with the French in various places on their own. One could argue Russia is trying it in areas in Ukraine... etc.

    More and more, the U.N. Security Council is trying an alternative: with U.N. troops peacekeeping troops going in after big countries aid with the initial air power, beefing up the U.N.'s military power significantly.

    Where has any of this worked out? Can we all agree that it worked with Kosovo? There were thousand-year hatreds there. To be honest, I didn't follow the post hostility negotiations enough to know who did what. Why did it work out?

    Where else? For example, where does the Northern Ireland story fit in this picture? There were "boots on the ground" there for decades. What finally made things cool?

    I can't imagiine this conundrum isn't addressed in Powers' book. Is it?

    More from the NYTimes article on who we just helped:

    ....Among the militias fighting for Amerli are Asaib Ahl al-Haq, perhaps the most experienced group, as well as Badr Corps, which is led by Hadi al-Ameri, the transportation minister, and a militia linked to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who was one of the United States’ most implacable foes during the long American occupation. All those groups are supported by Iran.

    Many officials on Sunday said it was Asaib, a militia that was a particularly fierce enemy of the United States as it was winding down its military role in Iraq in 2011, that has taken on the most prominent role in the fighting for Amerli, in Salahuddin Province.

    “I would like to thank the jihadists from Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as they are sacrificing their lives to save Amerli,” said Mahdi Taqi, a member of the regional council in Salahuddin Province....

    The more I think on this problem, the more it seems you have to get into definitions of genocide. When do you intervene, after how many people targeted and how targeted? What constitutes the beginning of genocide? I.E., surely if Kristallnacht happened today, we would not do a military intervention. Where in the process of what happened after that do you intervene?

    Furthermore, these days, sectarian groups are smart enough to make false claims, to use that to propaganda effect. We have seen this in Syria and elsewhere. And er, along the same lines--afraid to say this--Israel vs. Gaza, anyone?

    And another thought after writing all of the above:

    It occurs to me that Obama's "red line" about Assad and chemical weapons is something that is part of this whole conundrum. He was trying to stand for a principle where you can't let leaders who have been accepted by the international community in the past as leading stable governments break the rules about armaments. That if you let that happen, with those countries who are allowed major military equipment, the whole world will go to hell on handbasket right quick.

    Of course, this was also the case argued against Saddam Hussein for not one but two wars. And that reminds me, inbetween those two wars we constantly flew over Iraq and were often bombing it. No boots on the ground, but the air power never left.

    Among other reasons, Clinton once bombed Iraq, I seem to recall, just because there was info. of a plot against ex-president Bush. After we Intervened (Gulf War), it was never really over. We took our boots off the ground, but we continued the air power and U.N. inspections in the hopes that that could someday end.  I am sure the continuation of air power wasn't just for UN inspection benefit. Inspections were happening partly so that  the power to use WMD against his own people would be taken away. Had Saddam used WMD against Kurds or Shia, I am sure Clinton and Blair would have bombed.

    Why did it work out?

    There are credible analyses that more or less bring it down to one (dead) man: Holbrooke.  I am not sufficiently informed myself to assess this.

    Edit to add: Also, partition (see below in reply to Bruce)


    Great questions AA.  Powers writes of Kosovo as a mixed-bag I would say.  The NATO campaign, with the kind of red line constraints (air only, no boots), required an air campaign that lasted far longer than NATO expected -- based on "fighting the last war" and the capitulation by the Serbs in Bosnia at that time after 2 weeks of NATO air strikes.  During the several months before the Serbs "surrendered" over Kosovo, they expelled the entire surviving Albanian population from the region.  One million refugees returned to Kosovo after the increasingly intensified NATO strikes.  

    Important point here I think.  The 1995 NATO campaign against the Serbs in Bosnia, came after the population of Muslims and Croats had already been expelled.  During the Kosovo campaign, as brutal as it sounds, the Serbs seemed to have an advantage because they were effectively able to hide within the Albanian population they were cleansing.  

    One final point because I just finished the first chapter in MIchael's book and I promised him I would read it this weekend.  But I think it is unfair to focus on Power and her willingness to resort to the military to prevent genocide.  That doesn't mean that Power believes military action is appropriate in every case.  Her principal point is that, time and again, we should have taken steps that could have helped to eliminate the prospect or scope of the various line of barbarisms she addresses.  Her platform, all things equal, begin with the diplomatic of course, [slight edit here.]

    I take from Power that we haven't moved away from the concept of "Never Again".  I think she believes that, for the most part, we were never there in the first place.  And I think she believes that we must change the culture such that despots who would do that which so often has been done before will begin to think twice.  Don't forget, in the modern age, it is much harder for any of us to say that had we only known. 

    It is perhaps worth a nod in Joe Biden's direction to distinguish the (thus far, with perhaps some reservations) "success" in the Former Yugoslavia from our strategy to date in (the former?) Iraq to the point that supporting peace after partition is far less of a heavy lift than enforcing continued state integrity with centrifugally motivated parties already in rough geographically homogeneous aggregates.

    I fear I can't agree that it worked with Kosovo. We made the ethnic cleansing worse, we killed civilians, and we opened the door to the revenge killing of a thousand Serbs.

      I also don't think the crimes in Kosovo in the period before the NATO bombing were great enough to justify aggressive war by NATO.  If aggression can ever be justified, we should set the bar high, as aggressive war is also an evil.

    Pardon me for stating the obvious, but every time we step into the Middle East, everything goes to hell in a hand basket and we always end up with exact opposite of what we were expecting.


    For example, I was working in the deserts of Saudi Arabia for ARAMCO at the time when Regan directed military action against Kadaffi. The Arabs I was working with knew about it within an hour, not more than two, after the attack ... that's faster that breaking news in the USA ... and they were cheering Kadaffi because he was one of them, being abused and taking a beating by an all powerful US.


    So while the US vented their frustration and made their military statement, they also made Kadaffi a hero in the hearts of Arabs. With that hindsight, any immediate and direct US military action might sate the US public's sense of righteousness against ISIS, but may very well escalate ISIS prestige with Arab's hearts and minds.


    Unless that's exactly what the US intends ... if so, ignore me.


    As for the genocide of the weak and innocent, it's been like that ever since the days of Hammurabi. No matter how civilized people become, some easily revert back to those primordial instincts when they feel the need and the only way out is to let it runs it's course then pick up the pieces after it's all over. Keep in mind too ... there's a lot of money to be made by those on the sidelines supplying the guns and ammo and money talks more than protecting the innocent. Isn't capitalism great !

    Beetlejuice, I agree that we have to consider the realities of history, and we all look at those realities through lenses formed by our own experience.  I suspect my realities influence my feelings about genocide.  But, I really do hear you on the limits of what we can do. It's a very important point.  And, of course, the fact that you've spent time at the epicenter of the region that we're focused on makes the point even more compelling to me.  Thanks.

    My one year in the desert taught me we're not that far removed from their frame of mind .. while we may be civil, all it takes is for the order we all follow to break down and we're no better than a desert bedouin

    In theory ,it's easy to be against patently unjust wars.The trick is to be dispassionate about the one's for which the then administration  -or Bruce- makes a good case.c.f. Tony Blair in 2003. 

    There is a good argument -like his- not to "stand by" while this year's set of bad guys are doing  bad things. But if the proposed action is an invasion, here's a vote for standing by.


    Flavius, thanks so much for taking time out this weekend to reiterate the point that you made earlier, along with others through the thread, which is that you have to keep out ground troops.  I understand that point and certainly don't mean to marginalize it, particularly when someone with your experience and background makes it.  I get it.

    I don't want to see ground troops in Iraq or anywhere either, but I think it's important to consider the issue of the prevention of genocide, and I know it's harder to do that in light of our experience and the realities that ground troop brings.  Right now it looks like the ground troops already in Iraq consisting of Kurdish and Iraqi military, as a result of the limited air strikes we have undertaking, seem to be pushing back and saving lines, and resisting a genocide.   

    Finally, as I wrote in response to your first comment, I really don't believe in red lines.  But that's a whole new topic.

    I'm so glad you joined the discussion.  Hope things are well.


    There is a macabre and ironic twist to the story of the imagined genocide in Amerli. The only verifiable threat of genocide has come from the leaders of the local militias who have threatned to kill all of their families if they were being defeated by the Islamic State forces, so I suppose we can celebrate US intervention to save these people from their own leaders. The Islamic State has shown no inclination to practice genocide, displacement, harsh mandates and some executions are evident but all the reports of mass murder have been unsupported by follow-up or evidence, they do make great propaganda though. The problem with the "humanitarian" Hellfire the hypocritical and cowardly Amerikans are supplying is that it is only a temporary deterent to the IS who are already modifying their tactics. Without this outside help the Iraqi Army and its Shia Death Squads face rout and ruin and even US troops may not be capable of stopping the IS Juggernaut.

     Although I doubt that any evidence will shake Peter's view of ISIS or his enthusiasm for incorporating the Middle East into a new caliphate, here is some evidence.

    Thanks especially for the last link. Turns out the the UN Human Rights council meeting today focused especially on a new targeting of children. The story is the lead on the UN's news site right now:

    Grave crimes committed on 'unimaginable scale' in Iraq, UN Human Rights Council told

    UN News Centre, Sept. 1, 2014

    United Nations officials today urged an immediate end to the acts of violence and abuses committed against civilians in Iraq, particularly against children and people from various ethnic and religious communities, as the Human Rights Council met to discuss the ongoing crisis.

    Excerpt, note the phrase I have marked in bold, the most reported violation by ISIL was the killing and maiming of children:

    Children belonging to ethnic and religious communities targeted by ISIL have endured particularly extensive violations of their rights,” she added.

    Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Kaka'e, Sabaeans and Shi'a communities have been targeted through “particularly brutal persecution,” as ISIL has ruthlessly carried out what she said may amount to ethnic and religious cleansing in areas under its control.

    “The full extent of casualties is difficult to determine. Many have been killed directly; others have been besieged and deprived of food, water or medication,” she stated.

    Ms. Pansieri also voiced concern at the situation of civilians who remain in areas under ISIL control, particularly in cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Tal Afar and Mosul.

    “Their living conditions are intolerable. Medical facilities lack medicine and basic supplies, and health sector employees have not received a salary for months. Reports indicate a near-total breakdown in rule of law and an increase in criminality in Mosul and other cities. This insecurity compounds the difficulty for the civilian populations to access essential services.”

    OHCHR has also received reports that in recent months the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and anti-ISIL armed groups have perpetrated violations of human rights and humanitarian law that may amount to war crimes, the official noted.

    “I am profoundly concerned at the grave impact the current conflict is having on civilians, including children and people from Iraq's ancient and diverse ethnic and religious communities. Systematic and intentional attacks on civilians may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Individuals, including commanders are responsible for these acts.”

    Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told the Council that the most reported violation by ISIL was the killing and maiming of children: 693 child casualties have been reported since the beginning of the year.

    There are also reports – both verified and as-yet unverified – of children, especially young boys, being executed by armed opposition groups, including ISIL; of schools and hospitals being destroyed; and of young girls from minority groups being abducted for the purposes of sexual violence and forced marriage.

    “The images that we see through media reporting of indiscriminate and brutal killings of civilians, including children is deplorable,” she stated.

    “While violations against children have sadly been a consequence of the instability in Iraq over the years, the impact of the armed violence on children has reached unprecedented levels during the current crisis.”

    I came to this piece on the recommendation by Heather Hurlburt  in a conversation with Daniel Drezner on Bloggingheads TV. I think it is well worth reading by anyone interested enough to offer an opinion on the ME situation.

    This is the most important strategic lesson from Iraq: Don’t bullshit the American people into a war with shifting objectives (even if those goals are important) because they will not put up with that commitment long enough for those goals to be achieved.

    The entire BloggingheadsTV interview, also recommended, can be heard here.

    If the most important strategic lesson DD learned from the Iraq and Afghan Wars was not to BS the Amerikan public I think he needs a remedial reality check. All the Ruling Class needs to do is stir up a little xenophobia and fear and the US is ready to bomb almost anyone. Once the mayhem begins there is almost nothing we can do to stop it because no one, in positions of power, actually listens to the public. This little missive reeks of Amerikan exceptionalism, arrogance and the never ending mantra of our indispensability. If only we had been more committed to the program we could have really won in Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan etc. Again we are being conditioned for another "conflict" in the neverending WOT and we may destroy the whole ME this time before we again retreat in defeat.

    This is an Al Jazeera op-ed piece that considers the "responsibility to protect" doctrine in connection with the current plight of the Yazidis.  Certainly aligns with what has been written in many of the comments.  The writer Daniel Solomon concludes: 

    As with many modern institutions charged with preserving the rights of civilians, RtoP seeks to make war more humane. But in the end, the protection of civilians through better violence is a fool’s errand.



    Australian Prime Minister Abbott on Iraq: 'Doing nothing means leaving millions exposed to death'
    By Daniel Hurst,, 1 Sept., 2014

    Prime minister says Australia has no intention to commit combat troops on the ground but ‘is not inclined to stand by’

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