May 22, 2010

Weekend Reading (Continuously Updated)

GOOD GRIEF: So Dennis Blair is out as director of national intelligence, which is fine, but now President Obama says he has "more confidence" in John Brennan? This is the man who wants to go looking for moderates in Hezbollah, who do not exist, and promote them within the organization, which he could not do even if they were real. We can't monkey with Hezbollah's org chart any more than we can Al Qaeda's or the Iranian government's.

I'd have a little more faith in the Obama Administration's foreign policy officials if they demonstrated more consistent knowledge of Middle East 101.

WONDERFUL. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Hugo Chavez vows to continue financial crackdown in Venezuela.

HELL ON THE MEDITERRANEAN: "An iron curtain of a strict theocracy is slowly descending on Gaza, but many human rights proponents still prefer to depict it as the embattled bastion of freedom fighters."

DARIUSZ TOLCZYK AT THE NEW CRITERION on Russia's persistent unwillingness to fully face up to the mass murder of tens of thousands of Polish military officers and intellectuals in the Katyn forest by Stalin's NKVD in 1940.

BEWARE OF BORDERS: Three American hikers arrested last summer for crossing into Iran from Iraq are now being called spies by the Iranian government. They aren't, of course. Our intelligence agencies are too sophisticated to send people in country that way, but Tehran finds them useful and is now proposing a prisoner swap.

Years ago I walked right up to the Iranian border from the Iraqi side with a colleague, and we retreated the instant we sensed we were within grabbing distance of Iranian border guards. In hindsight, getting even that close may have been a little too daring.

I SURE HOPE HE'S WRONG: Christopher Booker says of the Euro crisis, "We have still scarcely begun to wake up to the gravity of the crisis now upon us, not just for the eurozone but also for us here in Britain and for the entire global economy."

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: We are not done with Goldstone.

IT'S A HAZARD OF THE PROFESSION: Al Qaeda big shot in Yemen blows himself up while tinkering with a bomb.

THE FOOL ON HIS ERRAND: John Kerry returns to Syria hoping Bashar Assad and his Baath Party regime will work toward a pan-Arab peace treaty with Israel. He'll fail.

GORDON CHANG on Obama, the sinking of the Cheonan, and the failure of nuclear deterrence.

MICHAEL YON is still in Thailand and posting updates on his Facebook page. Things seem to have quieted down, at least for now. He has a few words of warning, though, about war tourism. "During the recent troubles some tourists came to the danger zone to see the action. This is incredibly dangerous. I read that a total of 85 people were killed and about 1,900 injured. If you've never been in combat you'll probably have a very bad surprise if it kicks off. It's not fun and it's not a thrill ride and you literally can get your guts shot out."


RUSSIA will sell an advanced missile system to Iran despite sanctions.

THE ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY says thirty five tons of weapons seized last year on a plane from North Korea were bound for Hezbollah.

BENJAMIN KERSTEIN on liberalism and Zionism.


LEE SMITH says Lebanese-American Rima Fakih, this year's Miss America winner, isn't necessarily a fully Westernized Muslim just because she wore a bathing suit. She may well be what her admirers say she is, but to know for certain you'd have to look into her head and her heart, not at her body or clothes. The same is true for any other beauty pageant contestant, but there's something else, too: Some bikini-clad women in Lebanon, believe it or not, support Hezbollah, just as a small number of Middle Eastern doctors perversely become terrorists.

I have already strongly recommended Smith's book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, but I want to plug it one last time because everyone who wants to understand how the Middle East works needs to read this.

IMPERIALIST RUNNING DOG Joshua Stanton on how to overthrow North Korea's Kim dynasty: A Capitalist Manifesto, Part One and Part Two.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:52 PM | Permalink | 138 Comments »

May 21, 2010

Thursday Linkage

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The Fruits of Weakness.

WE'D BETTER HOPE THIS IS JUST BOMBAST: "North Korea said on Friday the peninsula was heading toward war and it was ready to tear up all agreements with the South after it accused the reclusive state of torpedoing a navy ship near their disputed border."

HEZBOLLAH IS INTERESTING IN THE WAY FREDDY KRUGER IS INTERESTING: Michael Ledeen has more on why searching for Hezbollah "moderates" is such a half-baked idea, and retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona wonders why John Brennan, who hatched this idea in the first place, still has a job.

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE: The cyborg insects are coming.

MICHAEL RUBIN reviews Lebanese-American author Michael Young's new book The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, which I strongly recommend to anyone who wants to understand what has happened to that tortured country since the Syrians were evicted in 2005.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SYRIA. Evelyn Gordon understands what the White House does not. "As long as Assad can get everything he wants from the West without a peace deal, Israeli-Syrian peace will be unattainable. Only when the West starts punishing 'resistance' rather than rewarding it will Assad’s strategic calculation change."

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Don't let Iran blackmail the world.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD'S CHIEF OF STAFF says Iran can destroy Israel in a week.

SEARCHING FOR MODERATE TERRORISTS is a complete waste of time.

SIGH: Pakistan blocks access to Facebook and YouTube, apparently to protect its people from Mohammad cartoons.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:24 AM | Permalink | 29 Comments »

May 20, 2010

The Great Hezbollah Snipe Hunt

John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security, has come up with a new way to waste the foreign-policy establishment’s time — locate the so-called “moderate elements” within Hezbollah and somehow promote them.

“There is [sic] certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what [sic] they’re doing,” he said. “And what we need to do is to [sic] find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”

There are no moderates within Hezbollah, at least not any who stand a chance of changing Hezbollah’s behavior. Sure, the terrorist militia has sent a handful of its members to parliament, as Brennan says, and once in a while they sound more reasonable than its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, but these people are employees. They don’t make policy.

If you want to catch a glimpse of Hezbollah’s org chart, just rent a car in Beirut and drive south. You’ll see billboards and posters all over the place in the areas Hezbollah controls. Some show the portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel. Others show the mug shots of Hezbollah’s leadership, most prominently Nasrallah and his deceased military commander, truck bomber, and airplane hijacker Imad Mugniyeh. Alongside the pictures of Hezbollah’s leaders, you’ll also see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two “supreme guides” of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:31 AM | Permalink | 116 Comments »

A Short Wednesday Roundup

I spent almost the entire day fixing my computer which was attacked by a particularly virulent strain of malware, so I hardly had time to get any work done. Here, though, are a handful of links to stories elsewhere. (Cross-posted at Instapundit.)


IT’S NOT OVER IN THAILAND: Some of the Red Shirt leaders may have surrendered in Bangkok, but violence is spreading. Michael Yon is posting updates on his Facebook page and is getting picked up by Thai media, while Joshua Kurlantzick publishes a piece in Foreign Policy explaining what led to all this.

ROUGH RIDE IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Michael Young at Reason reviews Lee Smith's book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. If you want to know what ails the Arab world, Smith is your man and this is your book.

EVEN CRIPPLING OR BITING sanctions would most likely fail to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, but Marty Peretz says what's on offer right now is feeble and flaccid. "This will only encourage Tehran to be more and more truculent in its nuclear pursuits. This faces the United States and the West with the option of force. Or Israel with the imperative of force."

THE OTHER IRAQ: It has been a while since I've been to Iraqi Kurdistan, but Abe Greenwald is there now and wrote a strong piece for Commentary.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:18 AM | Permalink | 15 Comments »

May 18, 2010

Around the Internets

Below are some links I posted to Instapundit as a guest-blogger on Tuesday. I'll have some more of my own original material soon, but I'm in tech hell right now and need to dig myself out.


YIKES: Reuters reports that South Korea plans to officially blame North Korea for sinking its warship in March.

OUTSTANDING PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST Khaled Abu Toameh explains why an imposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a terrible idea. Meanwhile, former PLO ambassador Ali Kazak accuses him of being a traitor for exposing corruption in the West Bank and Gaza.

YESTERDAY I posted a link to an article by Claire Berlinski about the Soviet archives, an article Ron Radosh takes issue with. Berlinski and Radosh are both terrific authors, and I hate getting caught in the middle of a dispute between them, but I'll let readers interested in this topic read both and decide for themselves.

UPDATE: Claire Berlinski responds to Ron Radosh here.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS' new book Hitch-22: A Memoir wasn't supposed to be released until June, but my copy from arrived today. He sent me an uncorrected advance reader copy a few weeks ago, and it's terrific.

MAX BOOT on the ongoing Korean war.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Left, right, and wrong.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:37 PM | Permalink | 23 Comments »

May 17, 2010

I Posted the Following at Instapundit Today

CLAIRE BERLINSKI at City Journal wonders why hardly anyone cares about the unread Soviet archives.

PATRICK WINN at the Atlantic says Bangkok looks, smells, and sounds like war.

TONY BADRAN on the shape of things to come with Iran.

AFTER SWEDISH CARTOONIST LARS VILKS was attacked in a theater last week for showing ten seconds of a provocative film offensive to Muslims, his house was set ablaze over the weekend.

MIDDLE EAST democracy advocates are fed up with Obama. If he didn't see that coming, he certainly should have.

REQUIRED READING: My colleague Rick Richman at Commentary agrees with me that Paul Berman's terrific new book The Flight of the Intellectuals should be considered required reading, and he adds two more to the list: Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England by Anthony Julius and The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism by Pascal Bruckner.

TERRORISTS KILL MUSLIMS AGAINST TERRORISM: Two Sunni Arab imams in Iraq were savagely murdered today after preaching against Al Qaeda in their mosques.

MAOIST REBELS destroy a bus in India with a roadside bomb and kill dozens, including civilians and police officers. It's hard to believe communist insurgency is back so many years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but at least it doesn't have much of a cheering section this time.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:42 PM | Permalink | 49 Comments »

Guest Blogging at Instapundit

I'm filling in for Glenn Reynolds this week, along with a number of others, while he's on vacation at an undisclosed location. I'll cross-post my material here at the end of the day, and you can look for me there in the meantime.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:22 PM | Permalink | 2 Comments »

May 16, 2010

Mob Rule in Sweden

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was attacked a few days ago during the screening of a short film he made depicting Islamic religious figures in homoerotic positions. He wasn't hurt badly, but he was surely shaken up when a dozen or so enraged Muslims in the audience exploded out of their seats and rioted in the theater.

The police were on hand as though they expected something like this, just as Vilks himself must have expected it. His film is rude and provocative and could be considered offensive even to people who are not Muslims, which of course doesn't excuse the reaction.

The reaction could have been even worse. Two people in the United States and seven people in Ireland were arrested in March for conspiring to kill him after he drew a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad with his head on a dog's body. Vilks is an equal-opportunity offender who also enjoys tweaking the noses of Christians and Jews, none of whom, to my knowledge anyway, have ever rioted or tried to hunt him down with a death squad.

Someone posted a video clip to YouTube, which shows the entire incident in the Swedish theater from beginning to end, including the opening shots of Vilks's film. What stands out more than anything else, aside from the dismal spectacle of a hysterical mob behaving atrociously for 10 minutes, is how the Muslims in the audience cheer when the screening is canceled for security reasons.

They cheered because they won. Censoring the film was the point. It's almost certainly what they intended to do when they showed up.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:00 PM | Permalink | 56 Comments »

May 15, 2010

Trouble in Paradise

Civil war now hangs over Thailand, of all places.

Michael Yon is there and posting updates on his Facebook page.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:48 PM | Permalink | 12 Comments »
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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