June 16, 2008

Back from L.A.

I spent much of last week visiting my wife’s family in Southern California, so I’m behind schedule. Feel free to use the comments section as an open thread. Have you read anything interesting lately? What did I miss while I was offline?

I’m back now and will have more material as soon as I can write some. Don’t go away.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 16, 2008 11:33 AM
Comments

Glad you're back. What are your thoughts on the Presidential campaign and how each of the candidates would affect the Middle East were they to be elected in November?

Posted by: Jamon51 Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 12:50 PM

Spring Offensive:
It seems to me that the recent surge of Taliban attacks is turning into the spring offensive that we have so long dreaded and predicted. Is the freedom of movement that they so enjoy across the border in Pakistan along with the dwindling commitments from our "allies" finally catching up with us? now that the "Taliban Tet" is in full swing it is time to call some of our so called allies (including Pakistan)to the table and demand a larger commitment, or I fear like tet even though they might not have much military success, just the effort of our enemies will be enough to break the spirits of so many of our supporters.

Posted by: ramsis Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 1:01 PM

The Balkans and the Levant were part of the Ottoman Empire for roughly the same amount of time. How would you say attitudes toward history, esp. Ottoman history are the same or different in the different countries?

As a person who taught for some time at American University in Bulgaria and is moving to American University of Beirut, I'm curious what you have to say about this.

Posted by: scott Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 1:48 PM

As I wrote down the books I had just finished or am finishing I noticed a trend in that they all are basically about hacking someone or shooting someone or making the decision to go hack and shoot someone. And I figured my Porsche manual on troubleshooting the suspension doesn't count, so here's the list;

House to House by David Bellavia
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
War and Decision by Douglas Feith

And for the nightstand;
Orphan's Journey by Robert Buettner. Which is also about hacking and shooting, but aliens this time!

Plus question for Michael. Fatburger or In-N-Out?

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 5:20 PM

Pat Patterson: Fatburger or In-N-Out?

Wendy's!

(I've never had Fatburger or In-N-Out.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 5:31 PM

Scott: How would you say attitudes toward history, esp. Ottoman history are the same or different in the different countries?

I'm not sure what to say. Can you narrow that question down a bit?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 5:32 PM

Jamon51: What are your thoughts on the Presidential campaign and how each of the candidates would affect the Middle East were they to be elected in November?<?i>

The short answer to your question is that I can't vote for Barack Obama.

I don't know a single person in the March 14 camp in Lebanon who supports him. There might be someone out there who does, but I don't know who that would be. And I think withdrawing from Iraq right now would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and I can't get behind that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 5:35 PM

Michael;

How often do you check your P.O.Box?

Posted by: Tom in Texas Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 7:03 PM

Tom,

I check it every few weeks, but I haven't since I got back. Thanks for reminding me! I'll go there tomorrow (Tuesday).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 7:10 PM

Michael;

"How often do you check your P.O.Box?" - Kind of an odd question, don't you think?

If you had checked it, you would have realized why I asked.

If you hadn't, I expected the response
"Why the F*** do you ask?"

Anyway, I sent you a 32-page booklet. When you get a chance, let me know what you think - I'd appreciate it mucho.

Posted by: Tom in Texas Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 7:58 PM

I recently stumbled upon your site and have enjoyed your thoughts. My question is this, If Israel and Syria actually have a serious dialogue would Israel really consider giving up the Golan Heights?

Posted by: Chris in Tulsa Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 8:10 PM

"If Israel and Syria actually have a serious dialogue would Israel really consider giving up the Golan Heights?"

Sure, if the Syrians were really serious about making peace. But if they were, this conflict would have been setteled decades ago. Not even a remote possibility while the Assad thugs still rule Syria.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 10:20 PM

Chris,

I agree with Gary Rosen above.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 16, 2008 10:23 PM

Scott: How would you say attitudes toward history, esp. Ottoman history are the same or different in the different countries?

I'm not sure what to say. Can you narrow that question down a bit?

***

I meant, do they view the Ottoman period as generally negative or positive? What things did they view as positive.

Or you could consider this. When I taught at American University in Bulgaria, about 2/3 of the students were from Bulgaria and the rest were from various post-communist countries, mostly the Balkans, but also the central Asian countries and Mongolia. One of my students from Kosovo told me that she learned very early in her freshman year that it is not a good idea to discuss history.

Or you could consider this story http://flashnews.org/content/view/156/58/
in which a Bulgarian historian denies there was forced Islamization in the Balkans. The rather strong student comments give some idea of just how high feelings about the issue run among students in the Balkans. (And remember that most of these students come from relatively prosperous families.)

I would be curious to see how you think people in the Levant would respond to these issues.

Does this narrow the issue enough for you?

Posted by: scott Author Profile Page at June 17, 2008 7:10 AM

Can't believe you were in Southern California and didn't eat at In-N-Out! Best fast food burger I ever had. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: Richard Lamondin Author Profile Page at June 17, 2008 9:33 AM

Michael,

I just finished reading "Why We Won't talk to Sudan's Islamo-Fascists" by Abdel Wahhid Al-Nur in the WSJ. He wrote something that struck a cord with me, "Did the world ever attempt to 'reform' the Nazi regime?"

Israel is beginning discussions with Hezbollah (sp?), Syria and has entered into a "ceasefire" with Hamas. Besides political grandstanding, what is the point? Are they attempting to reform groups that can't be reformed?

Posted by: Chris in Tulsa Author Profile Page at June 18, 2008 7:16 AM

You missed Iraqi political resistance to long-term basing agreements with the U.S. of A.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at June 18, 2008 9:13 PM

Glad you're safe in the USA, but I think your foto could still be better.

How do your Oregon friends and family feel about Obama?
What do they think about Nov.?
(Feelings different than thoughts.)

I'm 90% sure that by Nov., Obama will have pivoted such that he'll say he would be willing to stay in Iraq if the elected Iraqis want the US to continue supporting the success.
I'm 60% you'll then support him (over a pro-life McCain).
I'm 100% sure that, if he's elected, US taxes will go up! (and 95% sure that the economy won't improve because of that, although oil prices might come down allowing the effects of tax increases to be hidden.)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at June 19, 2008 8:25 AM

Tom: How do your Oregon friends and family feel about Obama?

At least half my liberal friends in Oregon -- including my wife -- are voting for John McCain, and not because of an ounce of pressure from me. I don't give anyone a hard time about politics, and they likewise don't give me a hard time about politics. My crowd just isn't going for Barack Obama. There is a huge shift toward the Republicans, at least this year. I doubt it will be permanent for most of them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 19, 2008 11:34 AM

Welcome back!

This new pic makes you look a bit like Chuck Norris.

And I think withdrawing from Iraq right now would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and I can't get behind that.

Based on today's FNS, the Obama camp looks to be moving as fast as they can away from that unconditional withdrawal. Now the line is "leave as carefully as we got in carelessly."

Plus, the new funding bill keeps things going for a year. At the rate Maliki's government is progressing and security is improving, by then it may be a moot point anyway.

Posted by: TallDave Author Profile Page at June 22, 2008 4:09 PM

I'm 100% sure that, if he's elected, US taxes will go up!

They're saying only for people making $250k+. We'll see if that lasts, but overall I'm not too worried about a President Obama. He strikes me as another Clinton, but even more Clintonesque than Cluinton himself. He'll do wahetever appears to be best for Barack Obama.

Personally, I'd prefer McCain, but will probably be voting for the Libertarian candidate as I'm in IL and it's a foregone Obama state.

Posted by: TallDave Author Profile Page at June 22, 2008 4:13 PM
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Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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