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23 April 2015

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russ

Hi Pat,
The quality of the newshour has dropped off so dramatically that we no longer watch it regularly (fortunately there is BBC America). So we have not noticed her hostility to Iran. However, she is not the brightest bulb on the circuit and her miscues are frequently unintentionally entertaining. My favorite is when she asks a question of a guest who then answers it appropriately and Judy, not realizing its was answered, asks the question again. OTOH she may just have lost he place on the prepared list of questions she has been given....
Russ

Margaret Steinfels

Last evening (4/22), her body and smile froze up when Thomas Erdbrink, who has been reporting from Teheran for the NYTimes, politely but firmly kept moving her away from her insistence that Iran was behind the Houthis and supplying weapons.

Abu Sinan

It is amazing how the talking heads in the media and the post 9/11 "experts" keep on insisting on this tight connection between Iran and the Houthis. Almost none of the area analysts with real expertise on Yemen concur.

Charles I

Seems to me objectivity about Iran would per force require objectivity about its foreign policy threats - including the other religious state, the one with nuclear weapons. Be interesting to see if she get as respectively receptive to Israeli issues as she appears to be troubled by Iranian ones, what with two sides to every story and all.

Sadly, I have seen even Charlie Rose, whom I often respect and enjoy - big kudos for his Assad interviews - display the same reflexive posture when the daily orthodoxy is challenged in similar contexts.

grizziz

Col.
Thanks for speaking up about Ms. Woodruff. Its always hard to know what is her actual intent. Has she personally suffered by the actions of Iranians, has she been subsumed by the Hasbara which has swallowed our capital, was she selected by her producers to cover Iran knowing her behavior or has PBS caught the Fox Effect. Anyway its weird. To pile on, linked below she is interviewing Hosain Mousavian, former Iranian Nuclear Negotiating team on a Jan. 28, 2015 segment, with the steely eyed suspicion of a prosecutor. This is opposed to the kindly demeanor of a grade school teacher looking to help with an answer when she talks with Ron Dermer or Richard Haass.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/time-open-door-better-relations-iran/

Charles I

Gareth Porter has an article on outright bias debunking fabrication by USA today and Reuters, noting Houthi arms acquisition from their alliance with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as over-running existing stocks on their way into Sanaa last year.

Awash in weapons - indeed. " A United Nations Experts’ report earlier this year cites estimates that Yemen is awash with 40 to 60 million weapons. The Houthis were also getting a continuing stream of modern arms directly from corrupt Yemeni military commanders from 2004 through 2010."

https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/23/citing-iran-to-justify-yemen-slaughter/

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Iranians are aspirant to more that just a minor kingdom on a minor planet.

No, they aim for nothing less than the status of Camazotz; for a start.

Babak Makkinejad

You wrote: "...Iran was behind the Houthis and supplying weapons."

Sadly, we are not about to witness anything approximating the intervention of Khosrau I on behalf of the King of Yemen in 576.

Patrick Bahzad

Just for the record, there are two religious states with nuclear weapons in the wider region. At least in my view :-)

FB Ali

It's not just Iran. And it's not just Judy Woodruff.

For quite some time now, the NewsHour has become part of the US MSM. Ever ready to jump on whatever bandwagon is currently being pushed by them. Anything to do with Iran or Russia is presented in so skewed a manner as to be laughable. I suppose there is an audience for that sort of thing. But it is a sad fall for a news show that had a certain standing once upon a time.

As for Iran supplying weapons to the Houthis, as Charles says above, they don't need any, having acquired enough of them locally.

Speaking of laughable, I find particularly amusing the open hostility shown in the MSM, and by official spokespersons, to Iranian assistance to the Iraqis in their war against the IS. It seems they would prefer the continuation of that state rather than have it destroyed with Iranian help. (It is things like this, and the US assistance to the Saudis in their Yemen campaign that has greatly strengthened the local AQ, which give rise to, and boost, conspiracy theories that the US is behind the creation and fostering of the Islamist jihadis).

JerseyJeffersonian

Babak Makkinejad,

Any guesses on whose head they plan to snatch from their body?

And then, what follows after that? Heh.

Charles I

That we know of.

And now its oops, maybe North Korea has 20 weapons, and stockpiles for 20 more cores this year:

North Korea expands nuclear arsenal, Chinese experts say

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/23/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-increased-estimate/26226981/

Of course this is the same USA Today that Gareth Porter shreds in my comment above . . .

confusedponderer

Yes, that is indeed quite striking. US reporters if put in such situations behave in a way that verbalising their facial and body language suggests exclamations like:

'I know you lie, but I can't prove it yet!'

'Just wait, I will catch you in a lie ... liar.'

'What you say may sound reasonable but I know it's a trick!'

'No one shall be able to say I was being soft on you, evil one!'

'What, no brimstone and sulphur? What is this, a trap?'

It's as if Stephen Colbert's caricature of a character has come to life and became mainstream. Colbert the actor and comedian sure knew what he parodied - not just Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly is but a particularly stark and buffoonish example of an entire breed of idiot media creatures (TV employing the worst).

In my impression they're mostly 'team players' heeding their respective editorial line. In addition to this there is an American consensus on a gut level about hostility towards the enemies de jour - be it Assad, Putin or whoever is next. They know who the enemy is and want to help to get him.

Anatol Lieven's recounted instances in which Western reporters suppressed facts about the second Chehchen wars - like the extent of kidnappings, or the presence of foreign jihadis - in order to not help Russia, which said all these things. To confirm that would help Russia and they wouldn't do that. It if a reporter takes sides, it is no longer objective journalism.

In a sense, US media in particular buit also Western media in general censor themselves more zealously and more thoroughly and effictively than an official censor ever could.

Matthew

FB Ali: The hostility is not mysterious. A central part of our mythology is that we "redeem" our enemies after defeating them. Once we tame the natives--like Germany of Japan--we blather on about the wonders of their culture.

Do you recall historian Stephen Ambrose observing that American GI's supposedly like German civilians more than any other Europeans they encountered in WWII? (Think of a primitive hunter extolling the virtues of the fallen mammoth.) This (fictive) redemption is important to us. It enables us to avoid the hard moral questions about why we went to war in the first place.

The Iraqis committed a cardinal sin. They were not grateful. And they asked us to leave.

Matthew

CP: Or they print stories like this which preen moral outrage on long-ago sins. See http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/21/turkey-100-years-genocide-denial-armenia

I personally think the Turkish denial of this genocide is hateful, but the psycho-babble about "healing" and "justice" is just silly. Defeated nations undergo soul-searching. And Modern Turkey is not a defeated nation.

I know Indians who blame Churchill for millions of death by famine. I don't think English people have every gone through "soul-searching" over their crimes in India--or their crimes in Kenya in the 1950's. Does anyone in London loose sleep over what their ancestors have done?

Croesus

off topic but on point -- Tsarnaev's finger

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/23/power-dzhokhar-tsarnaevs-middle-finger/

Greenwald starts with a prosecutor's cheap trick, explores how US justice works -- the seeming need of Americans that miscreants suffer.

He also explores US penal system.

since this is off topic anyway, I suggest that Tsarnaev's finger leads directly to an endorsement of Jim Webb for president. Webb has a special interest in prison reform. It might indicate a broader interest in a reformation of those elements of the American psyche that are/have become deformed.

since we're off topic anyway -- one more connection -- re: hostility to the enemy du jour and how it is embedded in the American psyche via MSM (since WWI, I submit), and further, the compulsion discussed by Greenwald regarding Tsarnaev and evidenced by, for example, Morgenthau, to reduce the convicted/defeated to self-loathing dust: in a Munk debate where Stephen Cohen and Anne Applebaum argued on opposite sides of "West should engage, not isolate Russia," http://munkdebates.com/debates/munk-debate-on-russia Applebaum said "Russia should be humiliated. . . ." just wow.

one more step off topic: The compulsion to humiliate is, apparently, one of the hallmarks of neoconservatism's erroneous interpretation of Leo Strauss. In this very interesting discussion, http://www.c-span.org/video/?322797-1/book-discussion-leo-strauss
Robert Howse begins with the example of the then-newly elected Tom Cotton "who, as a 19-year old Harvard student was quoting Strauss," to argue that neoconservatives totally and egregiously misinterpret Strauss. Among other things, Howse claims that Strauss held that "VINDICTIVE JUSTICE CANNOT BE PART OF FOREIGN POLICY . . . GENUINE WISDOM ALWAYS ISSUES IN GENTLENESS."

Howse concluded his prepared comments by noting that public intellectuals bear obligations and responsibilities to their audience.

People like Woodruff cannot hide behind their editors; their responsibility to speak the truth is co-equal with the range of the microphone they use.

different clue

confusedponderer,

An American gut-level consensus on who the enemy is and how to help get him?

But the American public showed a near-enough consensus about how Assad was NOT the enemy, or at least not eNOUGH of an enemy to need getting. And the public made it too painful for Congress to give Obama his splendid little war. So how predictively strong is this theory of American gut-level consensus, really?

Babak Makkinejad

I need to consult my good friend, Emperor Palpatin for that.

Will get back to you.

confusedponderer

I correct myself: gut level consensus in 'inside circles', or the 'inside circus', or the 'talkshow circuit'. I can't ever quite remember that one correctly.

Had Obama not heeded the polls you refer to and pushed through that unpopular bombing of Syria, he wouldn't have gotten any flak from these people. They were cheering for it after having gotten themselves worked up over Assad's evils, real and imagined.

Maybe my formulation just isn't right. Croesus formulated something in the same direction better than me yesterday when he wrote of "the seeming need of Americans that miscreants suffer".

I will grossly generalise now:

Maybe Americans simply are by tendency a vengeful, petty bunch, if their extravagant penal system and the prevalence of prison rape jokes are any indication? In foreign policy add to that trait an inordinate amount self rightousness. Of course, there is always dissent in all of this, but still.

Croesus quoted Anne Applebaum having said in a debate with Stephen Cohen that "Russia should be humiliated". Note that in the debate she won over people to her side with that sort of 'argument'. I suggest that her message must appeal to something in her audience.

I think Croesus may be up to something in his post. Link below:

http://tinyurl.com/mfnyruo

confusedponderer

different clue,
I just noticed that I referred to the two following posts, by Matthew and Croesus.

Ryan

All,

This is slightly off topic but still is in keeping with the overall level of stupidity and ignorance the country faces manifested by hosts who dont't have a clue of what they are talking about.

I'm no fan of Geraldo Rivera but he has a far better grasp on what is going on and who the players than Bolling. They are "discussing" the "Iranian Threat". Bolling throws out the usual neocon talking points about Iran. It funds all terrorism including Sunni terrorism. Rivera throws him a curve back and exposes Bolling as someone who is easily routed once forced away from the talking points by pointing out the Iranians hate these people. This five minute clip is somewhat degraded by Bolling's constant interrupitions whereas, if he were to shut up he might learn something.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND3fe7aEil8

What is scary is that cable tv hosts like Bolling and the neocon talk radio clowns have sizable followings who assume these people actually do their own research. It would appear it is confined to the WSJ editorial page, The Weekly Standard and NRO. Ignorance like this gets people killed and nations destroyed.

David Habakkuk

Croesus, CP and all,

Unfortunately I haven't had time to view the two fascinating discussions to which 'Croesus' links. However, if the suggestion made by Anne Applebaum that 'Russia should be humiliated' really means what it appears to, all I can say – as an Englishman – is 'been there, done that'.

One of the reasons why some of us have thought the approach to post-Soviet Russia advocated by Applebaum and her fellow neo-cons ill-advised is that it reminds us of the approach to Germany taken by the Allied powers at the Treaty of Versailles.

As to the quote attributed to Strauss, it seems to me that the claim that 'genuine wisdom always issues in gentleness' is ambiguous. If it is supposed to mean that 'Carthago delenda est' is never a 'wise' strategy, I would disagree.

If however it simply means that to allow one's strategic calculations to be guided by vindictiveness is commonly not 'wise', I think the experience of the Treaty of Versailles bears the judgement out. It would certainly be 'wise' – although it may be very difficult – if ruthless Machiavellian calculation was conducted in a spirit of 'gentleness'.

In thinking about politics, and international politics in particular, it is certainly extremely unwise to underrate the importance of power – and also the many other darker less benevolent impulses one finds in human beings, apart from will to power, of which the lust for revenge is one.

But equally, human beings have conceptions of justice – and sometimes, it is precisely the belief that these have been violated which unleashes resentment, and accordingly vindictiveness, and the lust for revenge.

A figure who has reiterated this point time and again is the most significant post-war British analyst of Soviet security policy, Commander Michael MccGwire (to give him his Royal Navy title).

Following a twenty-five year career which began as a midshipman in May 1942, and in which he went on to become the Navy's principal expert on its Soviet counterpart, MccGwire had gone to college, and encountered 'realist' international relations theory.

An argument that MccGwire has repeatedly made is that those who assert that conceptions of fairness are irrelevant to a 'realistic' view of international relations ignore the correlate of the concept – which is resentment. Time and again he he has suggested that it was German resentment over Versailles that led to the rise of Hitler – and a war which, like most people in this country, he would have much preferred to have avoided.

In a 1998 essay entitled 'NATO expansion: a policy error of historic importance' MccGwire pointed up the analogy with recent events by quoting some remarks of the American scholar Michael Mandelbaum in his 1996 study 'Dawn of Peace.'

In Mandelbaum's assessment, 'NATO expansion is, in the eyes of Russians in the 1990s, what the war guilt clause was for Germans in the 1930s: It reneges on the terms on which they believe the conflict with the West ended. It is a betrayal of the understanding they thought they had with their former enemies.'

It is perhaps of interest that in the introduction to a popular edition of 'Twenty-Five Years', the memoir in which he defended his critical role as Foreign Secretary in taking Britain into the First World War, Sir Edward Grey argued at length that the 'war guilt' clause had been a very major error.

In particular, he argued that although without it one might hardly have expected Germans to 'take as stern a view of Prussian militarism as we ourselves hold', one could have expected a serious discussion of the problems with pre-war German policy, which the clause had made impossible.

Such a discussion, he suggested, would have been likely both to produce more sensible German policies, and also to reassure the country's erstwhile enemies.

This brings me back full circle. After Putin's speech in March last year announcing the reincorporation of Crimea in Russia, an article appeared in the 'Washington Post' under the title 'We treat him like he's mad, but Vladimir Putin’s popularity has just hit a 3-year high'.

It quoted among other things, a 'tweet' from Anne Applebaum about the speech, in which she suggested that 'we may have reached the weird moment when the dictator believes his own propaganda.'

(See http://tinyurl.com/pko62c .)

Back in the mid-Eighties, when I first came across MccGwire, he was a colleague and collaborator at the Brookings Institution of Ambassador Raymond Garthoff. Educated at Princeton and Yale, Garthoff had pioneered the academic study of Soviet military strategy in the early Fifties, before joining the CIA in 1957 and moving over into the Foreign Service in 1961.

Both MccGwire and Garthoff had spent much of their adult lifetimes trying to sort out what, in the claims the Soviets made, was 'propaganda', and what corresponded to what they actually thought. In both cases, this had led to the conclusion that, while a good deal of what the Soviets claimed might be disingenuous, on important questions the truth lay on the surface.

Moreover, not all the claims which the Soviets made about Western policy could be dismissed as false – and not all their professed concerns about our approaches to 'security' treated as simply stupid.

What MccGwire and Garthoff demonstrated, between them, was that the tradition of interpretation of the Soviet Union out of which 'neoconservatism' came had been wrong all along – right back to the NSC 68 paper of April 1950, masterminded by Paul Nitze.

But this represented a change of view on both their parts, and was certainly not the result of pro-Soviet sympathies, although in some measure it may have created them, in MccGwire's case in particular. I remember him telling me that he had greatly admired Nitze, but simply thought the evidence had shown he was wrong, and he should have acknowledged the fact.

In the event, however, the 'neoconservatives' were able to claim that the retreat and collapse of Soviet power were a vindication of their analyses and the strategies based on them. In my view, many of our problems today are the results of this success.

What however facilitated this catastrophe was that different arguments became intertwined. Because of the crypto-theological mentality of the 'neoconservatives', they were unable to understand the implications of the extraordinary success of the post-war 'Pax Americana' in Western Europe and crucial parts of East Asia.

By the time Andropov came to power in 1982, the scale of the failure of the Soviet system was clearly apparent to intelligent people, in the Soviet Union, as elsewhere. As a number of writers have brought out – including the late great Moshe Lewin, in his 2005 study 'The Soviet Century' – among those who could see this clearly were elements in the KGB.

But this recognition led on naturally to a question about Western policy. To recognise the failure of the Soviet system did not imply repudiation of the long-standing belief that claims that 'containment' was a purely defensive strategy were propaganda, and concealed the agendas of 'rollback' and 'liberation'.

If however the fundamental Western - which essentially means American - agenda had been 'communism and Marxism-Leninism delenda est', then the admission of the scale of the dead end into which the Soviet Union found itself implied that the West was right. In that case, the agenda for 'rollback' and 'liberation' had been unequivocally justified, all along.

Suppose, however, that behind the putative agenda of 'communism and Marxism-Leninism delenda est', there lurked another agenda: 'Russia delenda est'?

If that possibility was conceded, then the whole picture changed radically. In that case, the claim that the West was interested in 'liberation' was simply disingenuous propaganda, and any Russian who professed to accept it would have to be regarded as either a naïve fool or a 'fifth columnist'.

However, this change in perception would not necessarily legitimise a 'revanchist' strategy. Rather, it could lead to an extremely complex and ambiguous re-evaluation of Russian history, both in Soviet and pre-Soviet times. And this, I suggest, is precisely what one sees with Putin.

Meanwhile, the 'back to Versailles' policies adopted by the West towards post-Soviet Russia may, ironically, open up a rather more of a prospect of dealing with a central problem which afflicts contemporary Russian society, as it has afflicted Russia often in the past: the depth of divisions within the country.

Anyone who has bothered to read what Putin has written should be clear that one of his central projects has been to overcome the legacy of the Civil War, and reconcile the 'Red' and the 'White'.

In this, Western policy towards Ukraine clearly helps him – as it also does in defusing opposition to his 'sistema' among the developing 'Westernised' middle class of the big cities, on which so many hopes have been placed in Washington and London.

Moreover, it also creates a dilemma for Western policymakers which they appear largely incapable of confronting. Some glimpses of understanding are apparent in the recent article by Graham Allison and Dmitri Simes in the 'National Interest'.

As they come close to acknowledging, the notion that Putin is engaged in a desperate effort to suppress the natural pro-Western inclinations of the Russian people by disingenuous propaganda is complete nonsense.

(The article by Allison and Simes is available at http://nationalinterest.org/feature/russia-america-stumbling-war-12662?page=show .)

Accordingly, the problem with the idea of 'regime change' is not simply that it seems unlikely to succeed. What if it were to succeed? Among the spectrum of possible scenarios, two which would seem to merit serious thought are the possibility of a significantly more nationalistic and anti-Western regime, and chaos. Are either of these in Western interests? I think not.

In conclusion, it is perhaps worth quoting a bizarre – and perhaps somewhat sheepish – remark from the article by Allison and Simes. Having explained that 'the most common refrain in Washington when the topic of Russia comes up is that ''Russia doesn’t matter anymore'', they go on to explain that:

'No one in the capital enjoys attempting to humiliate Putin more than President Barack Obama, who repeatedly includes Russia in his list of current scourges alongside the Islamic State and Ebola.'

At this point, I come back to recent discussions on SST about aristocracy. In a situation where, as Allison and Simes point out, escalation to nuclear war is a real possibility, anyone who understands the role of 'vindictiveness' in the catastrophes of twentieth century European history could not be expected to 'enjoy' attempting to 'humiliate' a power with a large nuclear arsenal.

As I have written several times on this blog, Vladimir Putin is a very complex and ambiguous figure. However, as to whom may be 'mad', the evidence I think points to some extremely uncomfortable conclusions.

It is, I think, of some interest to try to imagine what Sir Edward Grey – or indeed Winston Churchill – might think, if they could read the Allison and Simes article – or indeed, the suggestion by Applebaum that Russia should 'humiliated', if indeed she said such a thing.

William R. Cumming

What do we know about Al Hunt? Judy's husband I believe.

Cee

Abu Sinan,

When the 9-11 experts appear most people now know to believe the opposite!

Cee

William,

He is the James Carville (married to GOP screamer Mary Matlin) of Woodruff.

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