Stability!

Paul Wolfowitz in 2003:

There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias.

Where we stand right now.

* Nouri al-Maliki runs Iraq basically as a moderate Shiite islamic state aligned with Iran. He seems comfortable with the marginalization of Sunni minorities that we started when we disbanded the Iraqi army and de-Baathified its government.

* Both Maliki and Iran generally support the allawite Assad family that runs Syria, largely for geopolitical reasons (e.g., Hezbollah) and because they all have problems with Sunni groups.

* Bashar al-Assad needs support from Iraq and Iran (and from Russia, a traditional ally) to fight a bunch of groups trying to kick him out. In particular,

* The most effective resistance fighters in Syria are a Sunni group called Islamic State of whatever. ISIL/ISIS/whatever broke ties with al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s next in command decided they were too extreme. We can try to find ‘nice’ groups to arm and train in Syria but ISIS/ISIL/whatever has the manpower, the organization and the fanatical motivation that no other group has.

* More or less everyone thinks the Sunni Sauds are fat kleptocrats who barely pretend to care about anything past their gold plated stretch hummers. The Saudis therefore borrow credibility by letting extreme religious groups go hog wild anywhere they’re not parking a Ferrari or drilling for oil. Syrian resistance groups benefit from their basically indiscriminate support.

* Nobody gives a crap about Palestinians.

* Turkey really does not want to deal with this sh*t. Yes Erdogan wins elections on an islamist ticket but he sees his destiny in Europe. Mostly Turkey wants the refugees from Syria and Iraq to go away.

* ISIL/ISIS/whatever got sick of losing in Syria so they jumped the border to try their luck against Iraq‘s army. The Sunni hinterlands don’t necessarily want to live in an Afghanistan with internet cafes but they hate Maliki and his Shiite posse enough to step aside and let ISIS/ISIL/whatever go nuts. In Sunni territory the Iraqi forces are simply not ready to deal with a motivated bunch of hardcore believers who fought a hardened modern(ish) army more or less to a standstill. Non-Sunni lands are another story. Shiite militias would love more practice killing foreigners in a bloody war of attrition in their home neighborhood. See also:

* Kurds. The Basques of the middle east. Aligned no one but themselves and sometimes Israel, Kurds want to carve their own country out of contiguous high ground they occupy in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Organized Kurdish resistance forms an effective barrier against ISIS/ISIL/whoever moving any farther north. However the Kurds’ effectiveness is inextricably tied with their independence.

* Kurdish independence is a problem for everyone. At least Turkey and Iran are willing to go to war and/or kill a lot of people to keep their Kurdish lands. The oil-rich region around the Iraqi town of Kirkuk borders Kurdish territory and any attempt to settle whether Kurds or the Iraqi government ‘own’ that patch will almost certainly end in violence.

* ISIL/ISIS/whatever just declared their current piece of land a new caliphate and named their leader Caliph, fake genealogic link to Muhammad and everything. This is roughly as provocative as group of Christian fundamentalists declaring that Jesus has come back and their leader is Him. Not a great way to build coalitions. Islamic groups already kill each other over obscure interpretations of old lore so this could realign the chess board very much not in favor of “Islamic State”. Everyone outside their club now has a potent incentive to see “Islamic State” proved wrong through political irrelevance and/or a painful death.

* Pakistan borders Iran and Afghanistan, harbors (read ‘tolerates’) al Qaeda and the Taliban, in part to bother India, and has nuclear weapons. Security forces have been extremist-friendly to a troubling degree though recent terrorism against Pakistani society at large could change that.

* America wants to leave Afghanistan something other than a burning wreck. Afghanistan’s own ethnic – slash – religious divisions constantly threatened to dash that hope even before the crazy provocation from Islamic State.

* America has a fun choice of allies: on the Syrian side of Iraq/Syria Islamic State will step in if the Assad clan falls. On the Iraq side our chief alternative is Maliki, a corrupt partisan Shiite who answers to Iran. As for a viable alternative to him, America has settled on…Ahmad Chalabi. Yes, our top pick is embezzling con artist Ahmad f*cking Chalabi, the one guy everyone in Iraq agreed to hate the last time we tried to parachute him into Saddam’s palace.

* Both America and Iran have advisors in Iraq to help fight Islamic State. Iran has invested more including a lot of equipment, but America looks like it wants to catch up. Iran would probably not support Prime Minister Chalabi (assuming for a second that anyone in Iraq would), potentially strengthening Islamic State if we go that way and creating a greater need for American troops on, over and under the ground in Iraq.

* Syria keeps bombing targets inside Iraq. This puts the two countries technically at war even though the bombings are sort of on Iraq’s behalf. Similar carelessness at the Turkish border might invoke the NATO charter.

* This just happened.

Iraq’s Kurds will hold an independence referendum within months, their leader Massud Barzani said on Tuesday, as the region reels under a brutal offensive by Sunni jihadists who have declared an Islamic caliphate.

A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK.

140 replies
  1. 1
    aimai says:

    A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK.

    One for the ages. Needs to be repeated until it becomes a meme.

  2. 2
    Belafon says:

    I always liked Diplomacy.

  3. 3
    Botsplainer says:

    The folks I know from that part of the world (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, a mix of Orthodox Christians, Maronite Catholics and moderate-to-apostate Muslims) all say that the big fuckup was in trying to run out the Ba’athists. Sure, Ba’athists are thieves who’d rob their mothers, but they were genuinely non ideological.

  4. 4
    ed_finnerty says:

    @Botsplainer:

    That is why they were run out.

  5. 5
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @ed_finnerty:

    Bad belief is better than no belief, yadda yadda yadda.

  6. 6
    Mike in NC says:

    There was another old board game called “Stratego” that John McCain probably also used to play (and cheat on) during boring deployments.

  7. 7
    Hawes says:

    The trope that ISIS/ISIL was “too extreme” for Al Qaeda was laid to rest, I think. It was not a question of ideology but rather political infighting. They got booted because they refused to follow orders from Al Zawahiri not because they are even crazier than Al Qaeda.

    If we have a rump Sunni state, a smaller Syria and Iraq and a Kurdistan (that doesn’t include Turkish or Iranian lands), maybe the region can collapse into an exhausted peace for a few years, similar to Europe from 1814-1830s.

  8. 8
    chopper says:

    also, ISIS/ISIL/whatever is actually part of a broader coalition of groups. it’s just the most notorious one.

  9. 9
    ed_finnerty says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik:

    Chaos is dangerous but is a better option than an organized opponent. Also, so far the oil has been protected.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    C.V. Danes says:

    More drama and sub-plots than an episode of Dallas, to be sure.

    These people have been fighting each other off and on for millennia without resolution. It was the height of foolishness to think we could magically swoop in and make all those ancient hates just POOF disappear because they love our freedom so much. Or whatever.

  12. 12
    Paul in KY says:

    Excellent rundown of the players, Tim.

  13. 13
    MattF says:

    @Hawes: On the other hand, maybe one would first need a Middle Eastern version of Napoleon. Then, in the aftermath, most of the world would be a smoking ruin, but quieter.

  14. 14
    smintheus says:

    The only reason Baghdad is not aflame now is that the earlier sectarian cleansing of the city was so sweeping there are almost no embers left to bother over.

  15. 15
    Roger Moore says:

    Nobody gives a crap about Palestinians.

    Except as a way of distracting the proles. They’re great whenever the local dictator wants to distract attention away from his own wrongdoing.

  16. 16
    Tim F. says:

    @MattF: Iran is working on that.

  17. 17
    Suffern ACE says:

    Chalabi. Hehehehe. 11 years in, and we still haven’t made any new friends.

  18. 18
    srv says:

    So much foreign news! Why no coverage of Ukraine and Snowden?

    This ISIS video is a riot, guy declares and end to Sykes-Picot (yay!) as he strides across the Iraq/Syria non-border and then proceeds to covet his US supplied vehicles via Iraqi surrender monkey allies.

    Whole thing is worth watching, but I skipped to the “Thanks America for all these trucks!” part.

  19. 19
    Roger Moore says:

    @MattF:

    On the other hand, maybe one would first need a Middle Eastern version of Napoleon.

    I think they really need an Islamic Louis XI.

  20. 20
    Ecks says:

    who let George R. R. Martin write our geopolitics?

  21. 21
    srv says:

    @Ecks: Except a white woman is saving all the brown people.

    1% or 99% wrong?

  22. 22
    Tim F. says:

    @Ecks: Nah, this is too civilized for Martin. Not nearly enough betrayal, incest or major character deaths yet.

  23. 23
    Morbo says:

    @Hawes: Correct, and for a more complete account of the split, see here.

  24. 24
    taylormattd says:

    A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK

    Omg, so fantastic.

  25. 25
    NonyNony says:

    @Hawes:

    The trope that ISIS/ISIL was “too extreme” for Al Qaeda was laid to rest, I think. It was not a question of ideology but rather political infighting. They got booted because they refused to follow orders from Al Zawahiri not because they are even crazier than Al Qaeda.

    Yeah, um, I think that the words “too crazy” got morphed into “too extreme” by some journalist or pundit who didn’t realize what was going on because this?

    ISIL/ISIS/whatever just declared their current piece of land a new caliphate and named their leader Caliph, fake genealogic link to Muhammad and everything.

    This is literally crazytown. Not just delusional (thought it might be that) but bugfuck nuts if you’re trying to build up a coalition of allies. Tim likens it to a religious leader declaring Jesus to be the leader of their militia movement, but it’s several orders of magnitude crazier than that given the politics of the Middle East right now. It’s basically a declaration of religious war on EVERYONE outside of your little cult. People who might have been allies have to back the fuck away from you because either “holy shit you’re a nutbar” or “holy shit you’re a heretic – die scum!”

    I had been worried about ISIS building up a true Sunni extremist coalition, but if the reports about this are true (and it’s still early – it may be that people on the ground are reporting speculation or rumors or something and we don’t have the full picture yet) this is a pretty crazy-ass thing for them to do and I doubt that long-term coalition building is in the cards.

  26. 26

    Thanks, Tim, for the program lay-out. This has all the makings of a summer series on TNT or FX, complete with bombs and everything.

  27. 27
    Sly says:

    ThinkProgress published this handy chart showing various allegiances and rivalries in the region.

    @Hawes: Its not just political infighting. The split happened after ISIS attacked the Al-Tawhid Brigade in February. Shortly before that Al-Tawhid had broken with the Free Syrian Army and began fighting alongside the Al-Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda’s “branch” in Syria. Al Qaeda and ISIS aren’t in direct conflict, but Al-Nusra and ISIS have been fighting each other since that attack.

    As for who is crazier; both sides have resorted to mass executions, followed by mutilating and, in some cases, eating parts of the corpses. “Crazier” has been a pretty fucking relative concept in Iraq/Syria.

  28. 28
    Sherparick says:

    @aimai: Brilliant! Just Brilliant! as Ron Weasley would say. Basically, this is a variation of SNAFU that the Middle East has been in since 1914 (talk about 100 yeasr wars), ramped up to a total FUBAR thanks to 90% Dubya administration and 10% Obama (not the getting out Iraq part; rather it was the rhetorical intervention and encouragement of uprising in Syria in 2011 without realizing what an ethnic powder keg the situation was at the time that was ill advised. Of course you would have had McCain, Graham, Neocons, and Fred Hiatt’s editorial page condemning his silence, but as we have since learned nothing but lots of bombs dropping and John Boehner as president after impeaching Obama and Biden will satisfy this lot.)

    Besides the proximate causes, the fact that Syria has suffered a terrible drought since 2005, the Syrian Government’s mishandling of that drought, and the world’s failure to respond to a drought that is probably another current climate change event to alleviate distress probably was the primary cause of a war of all against all. The Assad regime may be horrible, but for Syrian Shiites, Allawites, Christians (10% of the population), and Druze, they are certainly the lesser of two evils when compared to the Sunni militants, and the only “moderates” exist in John McCain’s imagination.i.

  29. 29
    Tim F. says:

    @Sly: Why does that sound to me like a rap rivalry.

  30. 30
    kindness says:

    Love that end line:

    A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK.

    Risk was summer time fun during rainy weeks as a kid. As an adult it isn’t as fun. Neocons on the other hand are an abomination but sometimes huge fun (to mock).

  31. 31
    liberal says:

    Turkey really does not want to deal with this sh*t. Yes Erdogan wins elections on an islamist ticket but he sees his destiny in Europe. Mostly Turkey wants the refugees from Syria and Iraq to go away.

    That’s LOL funny, given the role Turkey’s played in Syria’s civil war.

  32. 32
    Paul in KY says:

    @NonyNony: Thinking more & more that T.E. Lawrence’s great work was in persuading the individual tribes not to murder each other, while they were allies.

    It is shown a bit in the movie.

  33. 33
    liberal says:

    This puts the two countries technically at war even though the bombings are sort of on Iraq’s behalf.

    By that standard, we’re at war with Pakistan, aren’t we?

  34. 34
    Sly says:

    @Tim F.:
    I could be wrong, but I don’t think Biggie ever posed for a selfie with the severed head of Tupac after he ate one of his lungs.

  35. 35
    srv says:

    @liberal: There’s no evidence Erdogan has been acting rationally. Cannot fathom what he thinks he’s up to. All those refugees are headed to Europe, who he must assume appreciate his efforts.

  36. 36
    some guy says:

    Saudi and Turkish intelligence have been funding, arming, and supporting jihadist groups in Syria FOR 3 YEARS. Pretending othereise is to misinform your readers.

  37. 37
    some guy says:

    @liberal:

    LOL funny because he actually believes it.

  38. 38
    Paul in KY says:

    @Sly: That would have been one badass video!

  39. 39
    jc says:

    Hard to keep the Middle East players straight without a scorecard. My bet is that most Americans don’t have a clue.

    Syria (Sunni), Saudi Arabia (Sunni), ISIS (Sunni), Hamas (Sunni), Jordan (Sunni)

    Iraq (Shia), Iran (Shia), Lebanon, Hezbola (Shia)

    Israel (Jewish)

  40. 40
    C.V. Danes says:

    @MattF:

    On the other hand, maybe one would first need a Middle Eastern version of Napoleon. Then, in the aftermath, most of the world would be a smoking ruin, but quieter.

    It took 2 world wars and 50+ million dead for Europe to want to put its differences behind it. Not sure we want to have to go through that again for the Middle East, but it may come to that at the rate things are going.

  41. 41
    srv says:

    @jc: These should clear things right up:

    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/images/maps/mapMErel.jpg

    http://www.baghdadmuseum.org/dq02.htm

    Except I don’t think Alawites even register, and that’s Assad’s group.

    Also, too, these maps were probably made by white people.

  42. 42
    Belafon says:

    OT: The Supreme Court clarified that it’s all contraceptives, not just the ones talked about (DK link) in the case. When I have access to twitter, I’ll have to go reply to the woman yesterday who tried to claim it was only four.

  43. 43
    Spike says:

    Has Wolfowitz ever been right about anything? Would it be possible to construct a coherent foreign policy based solely upon the opposite of whatever he says or thinks about everything?

  44. 44
    danielx says:

    Ahmad fucking Chalabi??!???

    How many do overs do neocons get, anyway? I’m looking for joke material here….

    Q – How many neocons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A – Only one, but it takes hundreds for the force of their awesomely awesome positive thinking to lift up the house and turn it while the one holds the light bulb and even then it takes centuries. But eventually, bigod, that light bulb will be screwed in!

  45. 45
    Trollhattan says:

    @Sherparick:
    Hadn’t thought of the climate aspect, but have long suspected that our most likely site for a climate-triggered war will be in South Asia. We think we have an enormous refugee problem today….

  46. 46
    Suffern ACE says:

    @srv: Yep. I don’t get Turkey at all. Did he think that by supporting the overthrow of undemocratic Assad, his own Arab Spring protesters were going to go away?

  47. 47
    The Dangerman says:

    Don’t forget that Israel decided to drop a few on Gaza today. Fun (End) times.

    ETA: Can’t we contract someone to go grab Chalabi and shoot him for us?

    ETA2: Hell, Wolfowicz too, while we are at it…

  48. 48
    Trollhattan says:

    @danielx:
    That had better be a gen-you-wine hundred-watt incandescent Freedom bulb, mister!

  49. 49
    WaterGirl says:

    @aimai:

    A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK

    Maybe if we all repeat it in this thread, we can get that at the top of google results for “neocon”.

  50. 50
    Cervantes says:

    @Spike:

    Would it be possible to construct a coherent foreign policy based solely upon the opposite of whatever [Wolfowitz] says or thinks about everything?

    I doubt it.

    As they say, he’s not even wrong.

  51. 51
    Gene108 says:

    @srv:

    Is the guy aware Iraq and Syria tried to unify in the 50’s and 60′, when the Ba’ath party came to power in both countries?

    It did not last long and both countries agreed to separate along their current borders.

  52. 52

    I saw Ahmad Chalabi above the fold on NYT site. What is this? A bad rerun of the early aughts?
    BTW What is the subject of Paul Wolfowitz’s PhD thesis?

  53. 53
    Trollhattan says:

    @WaterGirl:
    Between this and “ammosexual” it’s been a good couple months for the BJ meme-generator.

  54. 54

    There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias.

    Right. That Saddam used chemical weapons on said populations with the slightest provocation had nothing to do with it.

    That the GOP reliably can’t tell the difference between a society in balance through rights and one held in place through brute force is revealing.

    @C.V. Danes: The first world war is why the middle east is carved up in the way it is, and the 2nd world war is why so much of eastern Europe is tatters over how those borders were drawn. Yeah, they got western Europe sorted out pretty well, but left all of the colonial states across the middle east and Africa as ticking time bombs because borders were set based on what the english and french and dutch and spanish wanted rather than what the people living there wanted.

    Of course they knew best because they were the whitest. White supremacy didn’t end at the US border. It conquered India and Africa and Mesopotamia and south-east Asia just as effectively.

  55. 55
    D58826 says:

    OT but SCOTUS won’t leave bad enough alone

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling.

    The war on women continues. And so much for there won’t be a slippery slope because this is a very narrow decision.

  56. 56
    Paul in KY says:

    @Belafon: Even condoms & stuff like that?!

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    The US doesn’t want to deal with this shit, and we started it, so I don’t see why it’s beyond the realm of possibility for Turkey to stir shit up and then want it to go away when it goes south.

  58. 58
    Trollhattan says:

    @D58826:
    Am informed the SCOTUS ruling leaves intact a California law mandating contraceptive coverage in all employee-provided health insurance.

    Suck it, Hobby Lobby et al.

  59. 59
    srv says:

    @danielx:

    Ahmad fucking Chalabi??!???

    Edit the defintion above. Redone:

    A neocon: someone who thinks he can conquer the world because he learned how to cheat at RISK, got caught, and will never stop arguing about it

  60. 60
  61. 61
    danielx says:

    @Trollhattan:

    That had better be a gen-you-wine hundred-watt incandescent Freedom bulb, mister!

    Is there any other kind? Of course it is!

  62. 62
    Trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    BTW What is the subject of Paul Wolfowitz’s PhD thesis?

    “Fvcking Magnets: How do they work?”
    by: Little Paulie “Walnuts” Wolfowitz

  63. 63
    D58826 says:

    @Paul in KY: Don’t be ridiculous. The Taliban 5 only worry about lady parts and slut pills not products for REAL men.

  64. 64
    srv says:

    @Gene108: I think he thinks like today’s conservatives – all the problems go back to the War of Northern Aggression (England’s in this case).

  65. 65
    Cervantes says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    What is the subject of Paul Wolfowitz’s PhD thesis?

    Proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. (I feel I should point out he was against it.)

  66. 66
    pluege says:

    clearly with the US out of Iraq and getting out of Afghanistan the MIC supply replacement lines were slowing so it was time for the US to “engage” anew to keep the US’ plutocrat slop-trough full. .

  67. 67
    NonyNony says:

    @Trollhattan:

    Am informed the SCOTUS ruling leaves intact a California law mandating contraceptive coverage in all employee-provided health insurance.

    My understanding – and I could be off on this, IANAL, and all that – is that since this whole lawsuit was argued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and since the SCOTUS previously ruled that that law had no bearing on state law (for whatever reason), this ruling doesn’t impact states that have laws on the books regarding contraception even if their law was exactly the same as the Federal one.

    I may be completely wrong on this because it makes zero sense for this to work this way. But the ruling Alito gave yesterday makes zero sense to me as well so I’m taking this as par for the course.

  68. 68
    Cervantes says:

    @NonyNony: That’s right. The Supreme Court held in 1997 that RFRA cannot affect state laws.

  69. 69
    Paul in KY says:

    @D58826: How about the female version of condom & IUD & Foam & other great stuff?

  70. 70
    Belafon says:

    @Paul in KY: If I read it correctly, where the judges say all 20 forms of contraception covered by the ACA, it’s any form of contraception that the “company” dislikes on religious grounds.

  71. 71
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @NonyNony:

    and since the SCOTUS previously ruled that that law had no bearing on state law (for whatever reason)

    There’s a majority on the Court with a very tendentious reading of the Eleventh Amendment: Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 inter alia.

  72. 72
    Elie says:

    Tim F:

    Great job on the summary — funny too (in an un-funny way)

    The world is undergoing great upheaval right now — lots of drivers — economic: haves vs. have nots; environmental and related disasters — drought, famine; the increasing irrelevance of the west in “managing” those brown people sitting on all those resources but without a dime — they aren’t afraid of us anymore; the continuing war on women – everywhere — and the impact on birth rates, education, famine and the previously mentioned list. Hold on to your hats, folks…

    Going back to the old Chinese blessing /curse: “May you live in interesting times”

  73. 73
    D58826 says:

    @Paul in KY: IUD is covered by the decision since it was specifically mentioned. In fact the IUD was one of the original four.. Not sure about the rest.

  74. 74
    Elie says:

    @Belafon:

    But hey, no messing with Viagra or any of the other hard-on making drugs… After all, men use them!

  75. 75

    @D58826: Sounds like it applies to anything. I’m not sure exactly where that line gets drawn. Tubal ligations are ‘contraception’. I would assume they are excluded as well.

  76. 76
    C.V. Danes says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    That the GOP reliably can’t tell the difference between a society in balance through rights and one held in place through brute force is revealing.

    That’s because conservatism is fundamentally an authoritative power structure that requires brute force to perpetuate itself when the lies stop working.

    Yeah, they got western Europe sorted out pretty well, but left all of the colonial states across the middle east and Africa as ticking time bombs because borders were set based on what the english and french and dutch and spanish wanted rather than what the people living there wanted.

    There’s more than a little truth to that statement. I believe that the majority of the unrest occurring right now in the Middle East and, to some extent, Eastern Europe, is due to the region attempting to restore national/tribal lines back to the way they once were, or something similar. It may take another regional (if not world) war to do that, with maybe a nuke or two tossed in for good measure. Or maybe it will go back to simmering for a while once the current madness shakes itself out. Who knows.

  77. 77
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    To quote Charlie Pierce re the neocons, “Shut up, all of you. Go away.”

  78. 78
    Chris says:

    * More or less everyone thinks the Sunni Sauds are fat kleptocrats who barely pretend to care about anything past their gold plated stretch hummers. The Saudis therefore borrow credibility by letting extreme religious groups go hog wild anywhere they’re not parking a Ferrari or drilling for oil. Syrian resistance groups benefit from their basically indiscriminate support.

    Equally important, funding these jihads means their homegrown radicals have a place overseas to direct their energies and hopefully get killed, and while they’re doing that, they’re not sitting at home plotting against the Saudi throne. The Saudis have been at this since Afghanistan in the eighties, at least.

    * Kurds. The Basques of the middle east. Aligned no one but themselves and sometimes Israel

    A hated minority getting its own state in a neighborhood full of war and people who hate them, with only one ally but a powerful one… holy shit, the Kurds are Israel’s Israel.

    * ISIL/ISIS/whatever just declared their current piece of land a new caliphate and named their leader Caliph, fake genealogic link to Muhammad and everything. This is roughly as provocative as group of Christian fundamentalists declaring that Jesus has come back and their leader is Him.

    ISIS, the Moonies of the Middle East! … oh, I have a bad feeling about this.

    As for a viable alternative to him, America has settled on…Ahmad Chalabi.

    … I… I…

    I’ve been following this, but apparently not closely enough because that one slipped by me, so I’m going to blissfully assume that you’re just trolling all of us with this because there’s no possible way we could be that dumb twice in a decade… no, really, you ARE shitting us, right? Please tell me you’re shitting us.

  79. 79
    chopper says:

    @smintheus:

    The only reason Baghdad is not aflame now is that the earlier sectarian cleansing of the city was so sweeping there are almost no embers left to bother over.

    actually, the sectarian cleansing of baghdad left it a primarily shia city. you know ISIS is salivating over coming through and wiping the place out. the reason it isn’t aflame now is that the city isn’t an easy target. ISIS needs more men.

  80. 80
    Tommy says:

    Wish my dad was here. He literally wrote the text book on the use of air power. Taught at the Army War College. When he is over at my house and war hawks are on TV he often mocks them. Says things like “I had that guy in class, he really wasn’t that bright.” My dad will never be confused as a liberal. And this might be strange, but he tends to think we shouldn’t fight wars if we don’t have to. A war of choice isn’t something you should do. You fight when you have NO other option.

  81. 81
    Paul in KY says:

    @Belafon: What a fucked up country I live in…

  82. 82
    D58826 says:

    @⚽️ Martin: Yep. There was a lot of talk yesterday about the narrow decision and that the left was being foolish to see a slippery slope. Well it didn’t take long to find that slope.

    Given some of the other cases working their way thru the federal courts, I suspect that this is just the first of the 1000 cuts that will make Obamacare unusable for most people. No single decision will invalidate the law and no objection will be to frivolous to uphold. But if you erect enough procedural obstacles it will have the same effect as overturning the law. Just look at what the court is allowing to happen with Roe.

  83. 83
    Paul in KY says:

    @Tommy: What a whackjob!

  84. 84
    chopper says:

    @NonyNony:

    I had been worried about ISIS building up a true Sunni extremist coalition, but if the reports about this are true (and it’s still early – it may be that people on the ground are reporting speculation or rumors or something and we don’t have the full picture yet) this is a pretty crazy-ass thing for them to do and I doubt that long-term coalition building is in the cards.

    when i first heard of it, i thought it was some other group (maybe iran) spreading a rumor to turn the rest of the muslim world against ISIS. but then i waited a few days and there was no denial from them, so that shit is bananas.

  85. 85
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    BTW What is the subject of Paul Wolfowitz’s PhD thesis?

    Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

  86. 86
    Chris says:

    @Hawes:

    The trope that ISIS/ISIL was “too extreme” for Al Qaeda was laid to rest, I think. It was not a question of ideology but rather political infighting. They got booted because they refused to follow orders from Al Zawahiri not because they are even crazier than Al Qaeda.

    Back when ISIS was the AQI, wasn’t there already a tiff that was, in fact, about being “too extreme,” with Zawahiri telling Zarqawi to dial it down because his methods were so brutal they risked alienating people (as did in fact happen)?

  87. 87
    NonyNony says:

    @Chris:

    so I’m going to blissfully assume that you’re just trolling all of us with this because there’s no possible way we could be that dumb twice in a decade… no, really, you ARE shitting us, right? Please tell me you’re shitting us.

    So, um, no:

    As Iraq’s political parties held round-the-clock meetings the past three days to try to agree on the shape of a new government in time to convene Parliament on Tuesday and begin choosing new leaders, Mr. Chalabi’s name was one of two being prominently mentioned to replace the incumbent prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

    “Our candidates for prime minister are Adel Abdul Mahdi or Ahmad Chalabi,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a prominent leader in the parliamentary bloc of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, which in turn is part of the National Alliance, a coalition of all Shiite groups.

    The alliance is trying to persuade the State of Law party of Mr. Maliki, also a Shiite, to stand aside for another Shiite. “If State of Law refuses to accept any other candidate, we will ally with the Kurds and the Sunnis to form a government,” said Mr. Zamili

    So yeah – somehow Chalabi has wormed his way into a coalition government and is looking like the only hope for a stable Iraq.

    I honestly do not know how this kind of shit happens. If I understood this kind of politics, I’d probably be rich and own a few Senators by now.

  88. 88
    D58826 says:

    @C.V. Danes: How long and how much blood was shed in order to straighten out Western Europe – 1500 years or so from the time of the fall of the western Roman empire?. Germany and Italy as we know them today only came into being in the 1860-1870 time frame

  89. 89
    chopper says:

    @Trollhattan:

    heh. i was going to go with “Yee-ouch! Them Pins is Pointy”, by Paul “P-Dubs” Wolfowitz.

  90. 90
    Chris says:

    @danielx:

    Q – How many neocons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    None! If the lights are out, you can’t see the neocons cheating at Risk.

  91. 91
    Tommy says:

    @Paul in KY: Yes it is messed up. I often joke, but am actually serious, I have a penis and not a uterus. Just not my business what you do with your uterus. If I ran a company I couldn’t even fathom how I would remotely care, much less tinker with the options a women had through the health plan I offered. Again, not my business. I don’t get why this seems to be such a foreign idea to folks like Hobby Lobby.

  92. 92

    @C.V. Danes: Right. Once those lines were put in place, the US and Britain and other nations propped up various rulers during the larger cold war fight, trying to maintain favor for NATO/USSR. Now that the cold war is over, that battle isn’t nearly as important and we’re happy to see those dictators fall away and local governance take over. Some of that is an indictment of how we behaved up through the 90s, some of how we’ve behaved since.

    I think the big lesson here is that when we impose our will on other nations (which we continue to do, though with a somewhat softer hand) that we need to have a mechanism to end that gracefully, which we never bothered to think about. The act of doing it is unavoidably going to generate discontent within the nation, but we never show up when the act is over, the dictator toppled, the elections happening, and now you have populations that were harmed, disfavored, discriminated against, and so on. We never have support for them, we never really help them toward local control. Sure, we’ll sell them tanks or give them money to buy tanks, but never anything terribly productive, because whatever money we saved by being able to buy cheap goods from them under favored trading partner status and not having to pay for missiles to guard against their borders we blow on abstinence programs and tax cuts rather than returning it to the people that suffered on our behalf.

    I understand why we did what we did, and don’t even quibble with it too much. But a generation later we just forgot them, and then bitch and complain when they can’t roll out a democracy in 6 months that rivals the one we’ve been tinkering with for 240 years, and best of all, suggest bombing them will speed up that path to equality and democracy.

  93. 93
    chopper says:

    @danielx:

    Q – How many neocons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A — None, the room will be able to finance its own lighting. Besides, we’ll be in the room for 1, 2 seconds tops.

  94. 94
    Chris says:

    @NonyNony:

    You said it.

    Fuck. Add to Tim F’s list of explanations: “Ahmed Chalabi, the Richard Nixon of the Middle East.” As if yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions hadn’t depressed me enough already.

  95. 95
    Calouste says:

    @C.V. Danes:

    The two World Wars were just the (for the moment at least) end game of more or less continuous warfare in Europe from about Charlemagne to Napoleon.

  96. 96
    PurpleGirl says:

    Paul Wolfowitz is an idiot. (In a loud, Keith Olberman voice!)

  97. 97
    Alex S. says:

    Yes, the NeoCons were right, We should have invaded Iran, because…Iran! We should have occupied Iraq (again) because…? We should have invaded Syria to topple Assad. Israel should have conquered Palestine (again), because….?

  98. 98
    Belafon says:

    @chopper: Won’t lightbulbs allow women to get out of having sex, or to know when they should stop?

  99. 99
    Trollhattan says:

    @chopper:
    Heh, me likie. Section 1–“Ouchie!”

    That might could have been his masters thesis.

  100. 100
    JPL says:

    @Chris: Judith Miller, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush must be so proud to spend, trillions of dollars, to have Chalabi as PM>.

  101. 101
    Roger Moore says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Even condoms & stuff like that?!

    Why not? The Catholic Church opposes all forms of artificial birth control, so there’s clearly an important religious constituency that doesn’t want to pay for any of it. One that just happens to be the religion of all of the judges on the Supreme Court who signed off on that ruling.

  102. 102
    Tommy says:

    @chopper: Shouldn’t somebody ask what type of light bulb we are talking about? I love to tell this story. My dad isn’t remotely a liberal. We are in Lowes and they have this end cap of the newer bulbs for next to nothing. We stand there trying to ponder how many we’d need for each of our houses. We filled up an entire shopping cart.

    Changed them all out. It is a running conversation where we mock those against these things. That was about eight years ago. Only one of them has burned out. On my father’s front porch, and it is on a timer. On like 8 hours a day. Funny thing, I don’t buy light bulbs anymore.

  103. 103
    JPL says:

    @Belafon: I’m making one minor correction
    Won’t lightbulbs allow women to get out of having sex, or to know when they stop?

  104. 104
    D58826 says:

    @Chris: OT and not sure if this is depressing, frightening, laughable or all of the above

    Lobsters aren’t the only ones getting put to the heat in Maine. Bangor Daily News reporter Mike Tipping reveals that Gov. Paul LePage met with members of a group that state law enforcement and the FBI recognize as “a domestic terrorist movement.” LePage has denied meeting with members of the Constitutional Coalition, but office records prove otherwise. Two members of the Constitutional Coalition claim that LePage specifically discussed with them arresting and executing Democratic political opponents. “We also discussed this there: The penalty for high treason hasn’t changed in a hundred years, and I didn’t say it, but the governor said it,” Jack McCarthy said on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show. “I never opened my mouth and said the word—the governor looked at us and looked at his buddy and said, ‘They’re talking about hanging them.’” LePage has denied this, too.
    Read it at Bangor Daily News››

  105. 105
    smintheus says:

    @chopper: That was my point; the sectarian cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad was nearly complete.

  106. 106
    catclub says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Chalabi. Hehehehe. 11 years in, and we still haven’t made any new friends.

    All I can figure is that Chalabi must have the best American English, and we continue to swoon for it.
    (Wasn’t he already outed as an Iranian spy? Didn’t he send them some crypto suff round about 2005?)

    While the Iraqi who does not speak english is the one who should be pushed by us, but that will never happen.

    I am not sure if it is Juan Cole or someone else who points out that the, for example, Pakistanis understand our culture far better than we understand theirs, and our understanding is generally curated by Pakistanis who speak english. Not universally, but enough to matter.

  107. 107
    Tommy says:

    Can I ask a stupid question of the ladies here. How much does an IUD cost? Monthly birth control with the pill? Reading detailed analysis of the Hobby Lobby case and that is what I want to know. It seems it is “cheap,” what the right is saying, just go buy it. I am thinking it isn’t close to cheap.

  108. 108
    dmbeaster says:

    The thing to remember about neocons and the current anti-Obama outrage for not resuming endless war is that it is all for domestic political consumption, and was never based on an understanding of the reality in the middle east or what might actually make sense there. Wolfowitz’ nonsense was never intended as some reasoned analysis of the reality there, but an expression of what he felt needed to be said for political purposes here. He even admitted that in another context — that the focus on bogus WMD in the Iraq war run-up was based on domestic political needs.

    The same logic explains the current over-exaggeration of the Sunni threat in Iraq (they are going to take Baghdad!). And the press is shamelessly flogging the same war hysteria propaganda from the neocons for the same reasons.

  109. 109
    Seanly says:

    @NonyNony:

    Juan Cole was on NPR this morning. Renee Montagne was trying to ask stupid questions, but he pretty adroitly kept the answers short & that ISIS is a bunch of fools. I think she would’ve taken it to the “How soon will ISIS be marching on Atlanta” level but Juan was having none of that.

  110. 110
    Trollhattan says:

    @Tommy:
    “Always Wrong”(tm) Megan McArdle says “About $25 a month” for “generic.”

    Which means either at least a hundred bucks, or about seventy-five cents per month. Your guess as to which.

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblo.....uxury-good

  111. 111
    catclub says:

    @⚽️ Martin:

    Sounds like it applies to anything

    Yep, it has already expanded (overnight!) from 4 types of contraception objected to by HL, to all types of contraception approved by FDA. The real jump is likely to be some non-contraception treatment, then it is everything.

  112. 112
    Cervantes says:

    @Tommy: For IUD: $500-1000 for 5 years (hormonal) to 12 years (copper), including exam, device, follow-ups. Exact cost to patient depends on insurance coverage, of course.

  113. 113
    Chris says:

    @D58826:

    “Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood, and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of nationalist militants, in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
    /Robert Paxon

    Oh shit. I’ve sinned against Godwin again, haven’t I?

  114. 114
    Roger Moore says:

    @C.V. Danes:
    The parts of Eastern Europe where they carried out mass deportations to make the ethnic boundaries line up with the political ones have been a lot quieter than the places where they left the people in place. The human cost was terrible, but perhaps there’s something to be said for moving people rather than borders; it’s certainly more effective at making sure there aren’t disputed regions where each side can claim to be protecting co-ethnics.

  115. 115
    NonyNony says:

    @catclub:

    Yep, it has already expanded (overnight!) from 4 types of contraception objected to by HL, to all types of contraception approved by FDA.

    To be fair – I’m convinced by the argument that Alito is a seriously shitty opinion writer and that the intent was to cover all contraception in his opinion. It hasn’t really expanded yet – it’s just that Alito is a craptastic writer.

  116. 116
    Belafon says:

    @Tommy: Cheap is relative. An extra $25/month can mean having to forgo something else.

  117. 117
    D58826 says:

    @catclub: The majority suggested that the workaround was for the government to pick up the tab so no harm no foul. No aside from the irony of conservatives arguing in favor of a government subsidy there are a number of cases from mostly Catholic organizations that argue the workaround violates their religious freedom. As far as the Church is concerned the existence of contraception is a sin no matter how far removed they are from it. I’m sure the 5 conservative old Catholic men will follow church doctrine and ban the workaround next. The Church has found that they can’t scare, browbeat or otherwise harass Catholic women into not using contraception so the next alternative is to make the items unaffordable

  118. 118
    Trollhattan says:

    @Belafon:
    Since McArdle said $25 it must necessarily be a different sum, shifted two magnitudes in either direction.

    Has vasectomy coverage been determined?

  119. 119
    JPL says:

    @Tommy: I’m to old to remember.

    Does anyone know whether the ruling will allow companies to pick and choose what they think is appropriate birth control for the little lady?

  120. 120
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Belafon: At another level, the cost isn’t even the point. The concept that an entire area of healthcare is carved out is the point. It is healthcare; it should be covered by insurance. End of fucking story.

  121. 121
    Richard Mayhew says:

    @Tommy: Hormonal birthcontrol pills at retail range from $25 to $100/month depending on type and whether or not they are generic or on-brand. IUD is a single outpatient surgical visit for $1,000 to $2,000 and it is good for about 5 years with a far lower oopsie rate.

  122. 122
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Roger Moore:

    It’s an ancient strategy that dates back to the Romans, if not further. The Russians and Ottoman Turks both picked it up from the (Byzantine) Romans.

    The problem is that the forced removals often lead to death marches. In my childhood I had next-door neighbors who survived one of those marches, which was instigated by the Ottomans.

  123. 123
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): Armenian?

  124. 124
    ET says:

    And if they wear sparkly red shoes and click their heels three times while chanting their sound bite, they will get what they want.

  125. 125
    NonyNony says:

    @D58826:

    I’m sure the 5 conservative old Catholic men will follow church doctrine and ban the workaround next.

    I’m actually betting that they won’t be able to get Kennedy on board for that one after this ruling.

    Because he took the effort to rebut Ginsberg’s dissent on how stupid the ruling was. If the 5 of them turn around and say that the workaround that HHS used was un-constitutional after using its existence as the foundation for why forcing all insurance plans to cover birth control was a burden on religious objectors, Ginsberg will probably physically march down to his office and literally kick his ass up one side of the court and down the other.

    Three of them will go for it outright – Thomas, Alito and Scalia. Roberts would join in if he thought it would get a 5 vote majority. But Kennedy thinks he’s a reasonable moderate conservative – and that disappears if he plays the two-step with these two rulings.

  126. 126
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    Yep. Survived thje forced march through the Syrian desert.

  127. 127
    John says:

    I’m fairly certain that border violations do not constitute being “technically at war” with someone. They’re a casus belli, certainly, but “technically” being at war requires, I believe, a declaration of war. Nobody’s technically been at war since World War II, as far as I’m aware.

  128. 128
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Tommy: I’ve been out of that market for a while so I don’t know current prices. BUT, and it’s a big but, both involve seeing a doctor. A doctor has to insert the IUD and periodically check that it is still in place. Hormonel BC pills require a prescription from a doctor and periodic revisits to get a current prescription. Whatever the price of the IUD or the monthly pills, the doctor visits are not cheap.

  129. 129
    stickler says:

    @Roger Moore: Yeah, some pretty terrible human cost, all right. About 15 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe (including territory which had been Germany before 1945) by 1950. About 12 million of them survived the process. Silesia and Pomerania, and parts of East Prussia, were re-settled by ethnic Poles who had themselves been kicked out of what had been eastern Poland. And on, and on. Germany’s still cheesed about still-on-the-books Czech laws which prohibit Germans from owning property in the Czech Republic.

    (ETA: not that the Germans, at least those who sided with the Nazis, didn’t have it coming after what had happened between 1939-45.)

  130. 130
    Trollhattan says:

    @NonyNony:
    Read that as “the reacharound” and wondered how the heck Kennedy fit in. At least that Kennedy.

  131. 131

    @PurpleGirl: Yeah, that’s about it. Ms Martin has an IUD but not for birth control. Out of pocket it would probably be a few hundred dollars a year. There’s at least one visit per year related to the IUD, plus the cost of the IUD, and she’s needed few dedicated visits due to it.

    The pill would probably cost about the same in the end, but you have the side effects of the pill vs the side effects of the IUD. Both cover other and different non-reproductive cases. Condoms are hands down the cheapest option at $.25 a pop, even if you’re going at it a couple times per day. Obviously cost is not the point, even if you’re paying out of pocket.

  132. 132
    Visceral says:

    RE: domestic terrorism in Pakistan

    Domestic terrorism in Pakistan is invariably the Pashtun, the time-warped barbarian hill tribe of the region, overlapping into Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan’s minorities – the Baluch, the Hazaras, the Sindhi, the Turkmens, etc. – from a combination of radical Deobandi Islam (which invites comparisons to Saudi Wahhabism) and Pashtun ethno-nationalism: the Pashtun are the largest single ethnic group in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The absolutely soulless people who run Pakistan’s “security” apparatus, most of whom are actually descended from Indian Muslims who left during the Partition of 1948 – could care less about Pakistan’s minorities. They could care less about the Pashtun too, but find them very useful the same way our Republicans find evangelical Christians or poor Southern whites to be very useful.

  133. 133
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cervantes:
    Is that a retail rate or a negotiated insurance rate? (I’m assuming, maybe incorrectly, that a negotiated rate with 0% reimbursement would be just as “offensive” as full coverage to the Hobby Lobby owners.)

  134. 134
    Roger Moore says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):
    The WWII forced relocations were different from previous mass displacements because they were an attempt to force people back into their nominal homeland, rather than to move people away from their homeland so they couldn’t cause as much trouble. Moving all the Germans into Germany is very different in practice than pushing all the Armenians out of Armenia.

  135. 135
    bruceJ says:

    @Belafon: Diplomacy: Henry the K’s favorite game after having military dictators throw troublesome civilians out of airplanes for him.

  136. 136
    Cervantes says:

    @Bill Arnold:

    Is that a retail rate or a negotiated insurance rate? (I’m assuming, maybe incorrectly, that a negotiated rate with 0% reimbursement would be just as “offensive” as full coverage to the Hobby Lobby owners.)

    The dollar amounts owed by the patient really vary from provider to provider and depend also on location and insurance coverage.

    For example, in Massachusetts, IUDs are available from Planned Parenthood: Self-paying patients currently see the following numbers (for an appointment, the device, and insertion): hormone version (Mirena, good for 5 years), $670; and copper version (ParaGard, 12 years), $560. Follow-up visits (some people need them annually) can run from $90 to $200. Uninsured adults are charged on a sliding scale depending on need and what state resources are available. Unaccompanied minors are often treated for free if need be.

  137. 137
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bill Arnold:

    Those would be the retail rates. The rate if you have insurance is zero, because contraception is a covered preventative care benefit under PPACA.

    (Though I’m sure some doctors try to hit you with various additional fees, even though they’re not supposed to, because they don’t want to wait around for the insurance company to finally pay 6 or 12 months later.)

  138. 138
    low-tech cyclist says:

    On the Iraq side our chief alternative is Maliki, a corrupt partisan Shiite who answers to Iran. As for a viable alternative to him, America has settled on…Ahmad Chalabi.

    Chalabi? Oh. My. God.

    Please, please tell me you’re making this up.

    Given that even the Bushies got a clue and ultimately realized they couldn’t successfully foist him on Iraq back in 2003 (no matter how badly they’d wanted to), surely nobody now could be so dumb as to get behind this turkey.

  139. 139
    stonedstats says:

    Epic post, TF. Will use this for years to come. Thank you. How are Max et al.?

  140. 140
    chopper says:

    @NonyNony:

    Because he took the effort to rebut Ginsberg’s dissent on how stupid the ruling was. If the 5 of them turn around and say that the workaround that HHS used was un-constitutional after using its existence as the foundation for why forcing all insurance plans to cover birth control was a burden on religious objectors, Ginsberg will probably physically march down to his office and literally kick his ass up one side of the court and down the other.

    exactly. they’re stuck now. if the workaround is found unconstitutional, then the whole basis of HL falls apart. what happens then i have no idea, but on its face it would look like said corporations would once again be subject to the contraception mandate.

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