Berlinski Burrows into Iran

January 14, 2020 at 7:40 pm (By Amba) (, , , )

in its full complexity, which is less about us than we would like (and, insofar as it is about us, in ways we don’t like).

if the Iranian regime falls, it will not be because of Trump. It will be because it is a regime that’s capable of shooting a civilian airliner out of the sky and then trying to bulldoze the evidence. It will be because that regime is rotten to the core. 

If the regime survives, it will not be because of Trump, either. It will be because it is a regime capable of killing as many of its own citizens as it needs to quell these protests. 

As I write this, the news that the Iranian regime has opened fire on the protesters has come across the transom. That is not Trump’s fault—but this point does seem very hard for some to grasp. . . .

Unless we invade and occupy Iran, the future of that regime is in Iranian hands, not ours. 

Read to the end if you have some notion of how to apportion the “blame” for Iran’s enlargement of power between Obama and Trump. Clue: Berlinski says “If you deplore one but not the other, partisanship has taken over your frontal lobe.” But what has ultimately empowered Iran is the wars in Iraq and Syria.

The bottom line:

The issue is not Obama versus Trump, Democrats versus Republicans. It is that we wish for things that cannot both be true. We don’t want to be at war, but we don’t want the world to be overrun by hostile and despotic regimes. We don’t want to go to war to prevent Iran from acquiring the Bomb, but we don’t want Iran to acquire the Bomb. We want to scare Iran. But we don’t want to be scared.

We busily project half of our incompatible desires onto the other political party, rather than acknowledging that our own desires are in conflict. Meanwhile, no one mentions that we have no recognizable strategy for anything and haven’t had one since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Iran: This Isn’t Over.

January 8, 2020 at 6:16 pm (By Amba) (, , )

“President Trump said in a White House address Iranian strikes resulted in no casualties and Iran now ‘appears to be standing down.'” ~ Axios

Just a guess:

Iran, unlike Trump, is focused on results, not optics. And they can wait. They announced that they would take the high road and retaliate proportionately and lawfully on an appropriate, military target. They then immediately launched a strike that proved ineffectual.

That was way too easy. It looked phony, diversionary, like a decoy.

Looking humbled now is good cover if you’re dealing with a fool like Trump plus a whole lot of Americans indulging in wishful thinking about American invincibility. It isn’t even that wily.

Watch them strike hard just pre-election and cut him off at the legs. (Despite the tingle of Schadenfreude, this is not something to look forward to or exult in. Many people will die. So I hope I’m wrong.)

And with that: off to the laundromat. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.

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Doggie Wag

January 3, 2020 at 10:03 pm (By Amba) (, )

In regard to the conversation Tom Strong and I were having in the comments of an earlier post, Peter Nicholas wrote in The Atlantic:

Typically, when the U.S. is threatened—as the Trump administration says it was with an “imminent” Soleimani-planned attack—voters have tended to stand behind the president. George W. Bush’s approval rating jumped about 40 points, reaching 90 percent, in the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to Gallup. (The good feeling didn’t last: As Bush’s Iraq War soured, so did his approval rating, though he won a second term.) His father, George H. W. Bush, enjoyed 74 percent approval in 1990 after he sent troops to the Middle East following the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. (Two years later, Bush lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton.)

Trump, though, is a unique case. His approval rating has never cracked 50 percent in Gallup surveys, and experts on the presidency have rated him the most polarizing chief executive in history. Trump’s handling of the crisis will test the reflexive loyalty Americans show in such fraught times. It’s not at all clear that, outside of Trump’s base, people will trust his motivations, especially when he’s under serious political pressure. He is up for reelection in November, and he’s facing a potential impeachment trial in the Senate. Tweets he sent out years ago show that he’s well aware a president’s popularity spikes in wartime: In 2011, a year before Obama won reelection, Trump claimed, “In order to get elected, Obama will start a war with Iran.”

Trump’s critics suspect that he’s inflaming tensions with Iran to suit his own needs, deliberate preparation be damned. They see a “wag the dog” scenario—the term for presidents who manufacture overseas crises to divert attention from embarrassments at home.

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Love in the valley of the shadow

January 3, 2020 at 7:57 pm (By Amba) (, , )

Prisoners in Auschwitz who both survived by obtaining privileged positions (which she, at least, used to covertly help others), they were lovers in the camp. (The ordinary camp inmate was far beyond caring. Even in the less uniformly fatal Gulag, Jacques told me, the Russians said, “Zhit’ buditsh, no debat’ nye zakhochesh. You’ll live, but you won’t want to fuck.”) He was 17, she was 25; she taught him everything. They promised to meet when it was over if they made it. Shrewd survivors to the end, they both escaped Nazi death marches in the last throes of the war. He stood her up in Warsaw; years later, both of them married to others, she stood him up in New York. She was 98, bedridden, hearing- and sight-impaired, when they were at last reunited. And got to tell each other . . . well, read the story

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