A few interesting tidbits from several periodicals of note.
First, a reminder that U.S. intervention in Iraq helped create ISIS, via The New Yorker:
ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals, according to Hisham Alhashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government and an expert on ISIS. Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.
Then, a thorough debunking of the plan to arm and back a “moderate” opposition in Syria from The New York Times:
The persistent belief in Western policy circles that there is a “moderate opposition” in Syria…warrants serious scrutiny. The very notion of a “vetted” opposition has an absurd ring to it. It assumes that moderation is an identifiable, fixed element that can be sorted out from other, tainted characteristics. It further presumes that the vetting process will not stain those being vetted. It takes as a given that Western-backed opposition will prevail and in turn provide the basis for a happier and better Syria.
There is little to support any of these beliefs. The most effective forces on the ground today — and for the foreseeable future — are decidedly nonmoderate.
… The alleged moderates have never put together a convincing national program or offered a viable alternative to Mr. Assad. The truth is that there are no “armed moderates” (or “moderate terrorists”) in the Arab world — and precious few beyond. The genuine “moderates” won’t take up arms, and those who do are not truly moderates.
And finally, evidence that almost every instance of U.S. intervention in the Middle East has unexpected and/or dangerous consequences, via Haaretz:
The Islamic State jihadist organization has recruited more than 6,000 new fighters since America began targeting the group with air strikes last month, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At least 1,300 of the new recruits are said to be foreigners, who have joined IS from outside the swathes of Syria and Iraq that it controls.
So we helped create ISIS in the first place and we’ve made it bigger and our strategy for destroying it might be doomed. Other than that, we’re doing just fine.
No cardboard, no cellophane, no throwaway plastic trays, and no brands: Berlin’s newest supermarket is certainly a step away from the usual neighborhood grocery store.
Opened last Saturday, Original Unverpackt (the name translates to “Original Unpackaged”) is a novel shop in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood that has dispensed entirely with disposable packaging. Granted, the term “supermarket” might be a little grandiose for this small but tightly packed store, but the concept’s legs are as long as the store’s frontage is narrow.
Not only is a minimum-waste grocery store a canny business idea in a country that’s packed with green-conscious consumers, it’s also an interesting pilot project relevant to any city trying to cut their landfill and recycling burden.
Pretty interesting concept which I’d definitely try if we had it here in the States. Of course, presumably there is packaging used to get the products to the store, which means it’s less waste-free than appearances suggest. It’s definitely awesome that the products cost less, though—I mean, who wants to pay for packaging you just throw away, right?
The police went after a Twitter account holder who had violated no laws and netted themselves a drug bust. The fact is, the police had no right to enter the premises in the first place and certainly shouldn’t benefit from items seized that had nothing to do with the electronics (or other items) specified in the warrant application.
I’m pretty jaded about surveillance stuff at this point—I just figure the government is probably already doing the worst thing it can get away with—but this is super creepy:
The U.S. Navy recently completed a test flight of a surveillance drone whose route began in California, crossed the Southwest and the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately landed in Maryland. The drone, which has a wingspan of 130 feet, is the first cross-country flight in preparation for “near worldwide coverage through a network of airborne orbits operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week” by 2017.
The drones will use ”radar, infrared sensors, and advanced cameras to provide full-motion video and photographs to the military” during their constant patrol. They are manufactured by Northrop Grumman, which spent more money lobbying the government than any other single corporation in 2013. --Bonnie Kristian
This week’s column is about the way the President apparently micromanages drone strikes and now bombing in Syria—and how that’s just a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Remember the “kill list”? In 2012, the New York Timesbroke the shocking story that President Obama hand selects the targets for drone bombing campaigns in Middle Eastern countries like Pakistan and Yemen. The irony was sharp and the ethical concerns sharper:
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
Now, as air strikes begin in Syria in an attempt to stop the advance of ISIS, it seems Obama’s extremely hands-on war management style continues: The Wall Street Journalreports that “Obama plans to tightly control strikes in Syria.”
Just how tight will that control be? Well, I’ll give you a hint: It sounds a lot like the control he exercises over drone strikes:
The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said. […] By demanding the Pentagon gets his signoff on any strikes in Syria, Mr. Obama can better ensure the operation remain focused on his main goal for that part of the campaign: weakening the militants’ hold on territory in neighboring Iraq.
Sounds familiar, right?
Obama has been accused of micromanaging in the past. Back in 2009 the charge came up regarding economic policy. In 2006 he reportedly said, “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it. It’s hard to give up control when that’s all I’ve known.” In 2011, the First Lady emphasized how detail-focused her husband tends to be, saying he “reads every word, every memo, so he is better prepared than the people briefing him.”
There’s an extent to which that diligence is a good thing, and a welcome contrast to Obama’s more recent reputation for claiming ignorance of all kinds of important things. So I’m not interested in attempting some sort of pop psychology analysis of Obama’s plan to handpick the targets and people he bombs.
Maybe, as some have suggested, it’s a guilt thing. Or maybe, as others have posited, Obama is attempting to take the role of restrainer of the dogs of war. Or maybe, as the President himself supposedly said, he’s just “really good at killing people.”
I don’t know which, if any, of these, is the reason behind the President’s decision to micromanage these wars. Again, I’m not a psychologist.
No, what I see here is a much bigger problem—namely an out-of-control presidency which would have too much authority whether the President were Republican or Democrat, smart or dumb, a micromanager or an easygoing delegator.
It’s been super busy these last two months what with buying our first house, and traveling for work, and starting a new semester of classes, and all that good stuff. Mega first world problems, I know XD
BUT I did manage to get out an email newsletter today, which you can see here. It includes a house photo, so that’s exciting. (Also, obligatory subscribe link promo if you want to actually receive my very inconsistently scheduled updates.)
Anywho, thanks for your patience, and I’ll hopefully be posting again for regularly soon. And in conclusion:
(I ate it for breakfast.)