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26 December 2013


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Babak Makkinejad

Does anyone know the actual the religious affiliations of these tribes?

Seems to me that describing South Sudan as a "Christian Country" is a form of propaganda.

I thought majority of the Southern Sudanese are animist/pagans.

Am I wrong?

Hank Foresman

Babak: Good question, a quick check of states that:

"The most recent Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life report from December 2012 estimated that in 2010, there were 6.010 million Christians (60.46%), 3.270 million followers of African Traditional Religion (32.9%), 610,000 Muslims (6.2%) and 50,000 unaffiliated (no known religion) of a total 9,940,000 people in South Sudan.[14]" Quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_South_Sudan

Perhaps I should have said a majority Christian nation.

Alba Etie

Mr Foresman
Do you see any evidence that the BHO administration is recalibrating its foreign policy away from the neocons & RP2 's goals & policies ? It seems we are hearing less and less about removing Assad in Syria. And it looks like Iran will still be at the table this round of Syrian talks in Geneva . I believe the realist are winning the argument with the neocons . Sec of Defense Hagel & JSC Dempsey seem to be carrying more weight in policy debates these days. I also believe that President Obama would veto any new Senate Bill that would add new sanctions against Tehran . Setting aside that the Senate legislation could be passed by our American Likud coalition with a veto proof majority I still think President Obama is not getting enough credit for course corrections in foreign policy . A verifiable deal with Iran concerning its nuclear weapons program would be one that former Secretary of States Kissinger , Baker & Brezinski could very well support . Meanwhile the Yahoos in both parties in the Senate in my opinion would bomb Nantanz today if they could ...


One gives in finally to the temptation of saying:
Same shit, different Rice.

Hank Foresman

Mr. Etie: I believe we are seeing a more restrained Foreign Policy but one that is still heavily influenced by the likes of Slaughter, Rice, and Power. The Neo-cons are still a prominent force in the loyal opposition but they are increasingly being challenged by neo-isolationists such as Rand Paul and his father and Wyden and others on the left side of the Senate aisle. I am not very optimistic that realism will see the light of day in the near term.

The beaver

"Ms. Powers of course will want the United States to intervene, she is a useful idiot who idealism clouds common sense."

Q: Makes one wonder as to why was a US military aircraft heading to Bor?
The official response : to protect property and evacuate American citizens. However once the plan was shot at and 4 servicemen were injured, after "receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission".

BTW: Power is more concerned about child soldiers in Chad and the US is siding with Salva Kiir, against former vice president Riek Machar.
One observation: This is what France is doing in CAR (asking the elected President to leave) and what was done in Ivory Coast



the Dinka and the Nuer have been heavily proselyted for christianity since the time of "Gordoun"
Pasha but I don't know how many of them remain animists. pl

Hank Foresman

The French despite what many Americans think are merciless when they intervene. The forces I observed going into CAR were from the Legion Airborne element.

Alba Etie

But at least perhaps the Senate will not derail the Iranian deal to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations .

The Twisted Genius

I would not be surprised if many in South Sudan would call themselves Christians while still retaining much of their earlier beliefs. It was that way in Lithuania for quite some time. My father still refers to some forest spirits from time to time and I'm not fully convinced they're not out there.


In Okinawa in the mid-70's I was assigned to an aircraft accident investigation team. My tasks included taking the statements of numerous Okinawan eyewitnesses. I was assigned a US employed Japanese interpreter. During our weeks of driving around the countryside he informed me that he was a Christian. When I asked about his prior religion, he explained that he was still Shinto, but he had become a Christian to improve his chances for promotion in his American office.

The interpreter shared one of my favorite religious stories. In the 1800's a New England missionary arrived in Naha and began loudly preaching in English on street corners. Word spread across Okinawa that there was a crazy, shouting foreigner in Naha and people came from all over the island to see this oddity. The missionary sent word back to the States that thousands of Okinawans were accepting his Gospel and that the church should send more missionaries.


At the risk of getting off track and possibly incurring the displeasure of our host and several posters, I have to protest a bit about the parting shot at the "seminar rooms." Very few "serious" academics spend much if any time concocting plans for transforming the world in promotion of some high-falutin' ideals. The main goal of the "real" academic exercise remains understanding the complexity of the world we have, not how to break it. Many well meaning, delusional, or cynical (or all three) politicians do, however, and they engage the services of the "academics" seeking to be "relevant" who have little interest in actually understanding the world but extolling their own righteousness and basking in publicity to justify their pet causes.

While the latter are often charlatans or dupes who are usually deserving of condemnation, I've found that, when academics are subject to blanket slamming, it is usually the "serious" academics who wind up getting shunted aside, for their work seems overly obtuse and theoretical, while the world-transforming variety wind up prospering because what they are doing is "relevant"--even though, in many cases, their "work" seems to be a horrible perversion. This, in turn, forces even serious academics to pretend their work somehow has more immediate "relevance" than it does. It takes a lot of prestige and job-security for serious social science academics to be honest that they have as much to say about the "real" world as theoretical mathematicians about making trains run more efficiently (that theoretical math has nothing immediate to say about making better trains, hopefully, is not an argument that mathematics is useless). I'd like to draw attention to the somewhat tongue-in-cheek editorial by one of best game theorists that showed up in Frankfurter Zeitung some months ago, which basically makes this point: http://arielrubinstein.tau.ac.il/articles/FRANKFURTER_ALLGEMEINE_eng.pdf The best way to stop the charlatans is to advance better academics (and better, more "serious" seminars), not to slam them, I'd like to suggest.

Hank Foresman

I do not take offense as someone who has participated in his share of seminars. The point I was not making very well, too often those who espouse their theories lack real world experience outside academia.


Realism in American politics -- in American life, actually -- left around the time of Reagan.

It must come back but I do not know when and how it will.

The bad thing is that if you're not middle aged or older, you've never lived in a time in which beloved political narratives, wishful thinking, the desires of politicians' supporters, the big money interests, etc., etc., didn't rule. Of course all those things existed before 1980. It's the takeover of the peddlars of nonsense and the disappearance of the truthtellers with power that's been so damaging.

Nobody wants to admit our future is one in which many if not most people's share of the American pie will be smaller than their grandparents' and parents' were.

It is also terrifically frustating in this area of much greater knowledge of what goes on in the world not to try to do something. Do we still have any real foreign policy guiding principles anymore? Everything seems ad hoc, with the exception of the things that we keep doing, whether they work or not, because we have always done them and we feel we have to meet other people's expectations.


The first step towards "realism" in any endeavor (or any kind of "science") is trying to understand the world as it is, not the way one wishes it were. I've found that this is actually very hard for people to grasp, when it comes to the matters of society and politics, and to a lesser degree, economy. People who are shilling for someone's mad delusions about how the the world should be, nevermind what it really is seem to find audiences far more readily than those who accept the world as it is.

I tend to think this is not just a matter of foreign policy, but domestic politics also: while I can't put a finger on a hard proof, politics in US seem rather more contentious than in, say, Western Europe, even though our politicians are generally far more "moderate" than theirs. I wonder if this is due to the blinkered, myopic attitude that seems to pervade in our domestic politics too. In any society, people disagree for all manner of reasons, mostly the ones relevant to themselves and their backgrounds, if you bother to understand why whether you agree with them or not--and whether you agree with them or not is irrelevant. Yet, those in power (both Dems and Reps) seem to believe that either their opponents can be persuaded to abandon their views simply by being thrown the litany of why they are "wrong," or be simply shouted down and ignored without consequence, and that making an effort to understand why they hold the views that they do is unnecessary--since "the other" is "obviously" wrong and irrational if only because they don't buy into the "obviously right theories of the universe." I suspect this willful and arrogant ignorance of "the other," more than extremism of political views themselves, is really what's poisoning the political culture in this country.


We are so tangled up that it is hard to see the threads to untangle them.

That is true in Washington and the rest of government. That also seems to be true for many people at work and in their private lives as well.

On the one hand, in groups and as individuals, at times we clearly feel free to do the stupidest things without worrying about the consequences. On the other hand, it is also evident that we feel very helpless and unable to take charge of other things.

It is as if there's a wheel marked "Reckless" and "Passive" and we spin it to see which response we'll make.

Within the realm of party politics, the two parties no longer each contain liberals, moderates and conservatives. That's been true for a long time. There's tens of millions of voters -- who knows, maybe even over 100 million -- who don't feel either party really represents them, their views or their interest.

Under the circumstances, we probably should have had a third or even a fourth party of substantial size develop after all these years, but that has not happened.

In many ways, the politically connected and the rich get their way and the rest of us are just invisible.

As the number of poor and near poor people increases, as prices go up significantly for things like housing and education while wages stay the same or decrease, as the demands on government increase while the number of people able and willing to pay our bills grows smaller, clearly we are heading for a showdown of some kind.

I would think it can't be delayed much longer, but who knows. I sure don't.

The people who think we have the time, money or resources to volunteer for another optional lengthly campaign like Iraq or Afghanistan in our lifetimes are just crazy.

Alba Etie

IMO we should all be encouraged that the Syrian AUMF was voted down by our Congress. I believe most American's now understand that we are all out of resources for lengthy optional campaigns .

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