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27 January 2018


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"Trump has shifted US Foreign Policy in a more hawkish & militarized direction than we have seen in a generation."

So far that does seem to be true, but whether by accident or design FP under Trump, at least in the ME, appears to be a total catastrophe - from the Borg's POV. His naïve focus on clumsy military-oriented FP and threat-based 'diplomacy' is rolling back US soft power at a tremendous rate. The result is pissed off erstwhile allies (Turkey, Pakistan) nations cooperating more closely together against US interests (China & Russia in general and SAG, Russia, Iran & now Turkey in Syria) and even hard power assets like Incirlik and Afghan bases being put at potential risk. If he keeps this up his legacy could be rather different.

Seamus Padraig

It was the swamp that drained Trump!

Babak Makkinejad

That is only the tip of the iceberg, the fundamental struggle is interior, how much Islam, and how much Modernity. Expecting this to be resolved by anything except the force of arms is a fantady; the intellectual foundations for its resolution on the plain of ideas does not exist outside of Iran anywhere among Muslims.

Babak Makkinejad

But Arabs will tell you that the ideal situation is a Pan Arab state; that, Arabs are victims of imperial machinations, thus rendering any existing Arab state only a temporary arrangement.



Do you understand the difference between "emic" and "etic" knowledge? pl

Babak Makkinejad

At the theoretical level, yes.


Jordan can declare neutraily on the issue of Syria which is what they should have done in 2011; none of the other Arab states (all dictatorships) are in any position to lecture the Syrian Government on anything



When the Arabs tell you they want a Pan-Arab state that is "emic" knowledge (i.e. what they say or wish to think) The truth is that collectively they lack the temperament and political sophistication to achieve such a result. The knowledge that this is true is "etic" knowledge. The same thing is true of Wunduk's belief in the ephemeral nature of tribal, ethnic and sectarian identity in Syria. That is based on "emic" knowledge. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you.


Can you please expand on the “ emic “ and the “ etic “ .... ?


I am optimist about Syria. For two reasons.
First all nation ( not countries )were cretaed by war, whatever internal or against another country.War is a melting-pot.
Secondly, you will never after combat interact with another soldier the same way as before.And Syria will have a lot of veterans.
This guy, he was where I was, in the same foxhole, with dust, sand, mud, thirsty like me, starvish like me, full of fear like me, has slept on the ground like me, going over the top like me, and has buried dead comrade like me.
I know that's something difficult to understand for those who have not been in the Army and especially during combat phase, but it is very powerful and above anything else ie tribal, ethnic and sectarian identity.



Thanks Lemur, Wunduk, Henshaw, Babak, and Colonel. (ref: Comments 9, 13, 20, 23, 29, 31, and 32)

This little string is an excellent primer on the core problem in the current iteration of the "Great Game". I actually spent the time to string them together in a single document to begin working through the implications

I think that I will spend some time mulling this over and spend a pleasant afternoon re-reading "The Clash of Civilizations?".


“And, the local people are quick to tell you that this is true because they know it satisfies you and meets their own hope.”

Colonel very true, also true in Iran, based on personal experience, in talking to a taxi driver or a local, in first look of body language, or a word out of you the locals immediately know you are not a local, and most be an expatriate Iranian, most probably from LA (now days they actually ask from LA?). Immediately they assume since you are an expatriate and living away, therefore you must dislike or be against the Iran’s government or system. With that assumption they try to talk in favors of what they assumed your position is. The minute they find they made the wrong assumption they will artistically change the talk to your liking position what ever that is. IMO, this is why most foreign visitors say everybody we visited or talked to in Iran hates the regime, regardless that the international poles show otherwise. Sir you have a very well experienced observation of middle easterners.



Emic knowledge is what people tell you about themselves. Etic knowledge is what you come to know from a variety of sources, experience, emic knowledge and long observation is actually true about them. In other words, don't believe what people tell you about themselves without checking it. pl


Thanks Pat, that’s very helpful indeed. I never came across these definitions before and I am delighted to learn. Thanks again. Appreciate your taking the time.




And yet there are those who refuse to believe this, even though the evidence is right there before their eyes.

Cognitive dissonance.



"Emic knowledge is what people tell you about themselves. Etic knowledge is what you come to know from a variety of sources, experience, emic knowledge and long observation is actually true about them. In other words, don't believe what people tell you about themselves without checking it. pl"

That's a sage advice. IMO, it is true for most people in many cultures.

Keith Harbaugh
The French and British created the state of Syria in pursuit of their imperial interests ...
That is certainly true for the current state bearing the name "Syria".

There is a longer timescale, of course.
I learned world history from Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History,
which made the ancient "Syriac Civilization" one of the 20 or so civilizations that Toynbee discerned in world history.
For a table of those, showing their lifespans and parental relations, see
Naturally, all of Toynbee's structuring is arguable.
But I suspect that, while details may be arguable, the basic idea is sound.
Surely there was a civilization of Western Christianity,
which unfortunately has been being deconstructed over the last 50 years.

By the way, if you read Toynbee's biography,
his experience with the ME, especially the Greek/Turkish questions,
was quite extensive.
He served the British government in both world wars.
It would be interesting to know exactly what he did there
(I have not seen that information published).
Perhaps David Habakkuk has insight on this.

Yeah, Right

I wonder what May's reaction would be if Russia and China got together with a few of their allies and "proposed" that the United Kingdom be decentralized with the role of Prime Minister reduced to that of collecting traffic fines in the City of London?

Or what Macron would say if those same countries suggested that the current French Republic is, well, just all wrong and needs to be rejigged in such a way that his authority within France is reduced to nothing but a strutting peacock in a suit?

I would imagine that both would be outraged - utterly outraged - at such presumptuous interference in the sovereign right of the UK and France to decide their own internal affairs.

But when it comes to Syria then different rules apply. Apparently.



Thanks for your description of Emic and Etic Knowledge. This is true of Americans also. Off topic but as a suburban West Coast draftee in the Army, I had more in common with urban Blacks than rural Southerners who kept playing “Okie from Muskogee” on their tape machines, over and over, again.

I was on the lowest rungs of the Democrat’s meritocracy constituency until they allied with neo-Nazis in Ukraine. As hinted by TTG’s post below, what Russia must do, if it can, is tell the truth and push for Détente with Americans to end the Globalists' new Cold War. The democratic sovereign governments in the West need to be restored. Regime Change ended.

The worst outcome is that outsiders inflame internal tensions. Donald Trump builds his wall. The environment is polluted. Americans continue to die earlier. Infrastructure collapse spreads.

California will split off.



There never was a state of Syria before this one. pl


State building is a lengthy process. Even a relatively moderate sense of identification with “Spain” has taken the better part of two centuries for progression from primary identity being a “patria chica” - Aragón, Galicia or Castilla, for example - to the modern conception of Spain.
The same process is at a very early stage in much of the world, the ME included. And perhaps even the USA?

Babak Makkinejad

France went through the analogous process. But in Spain and in France, tribes had become extinct a millenia earlier. That does not obtain in Afghanistan, or in Libya, or among large segments of Kurds and Arabs. Furthermore, both France and Spain had centuries of centrslized governance behind them.

Jony Kanuck

On twitter this afternoon, Nasim Nicholas Taleb gave a link to Bashar Jaafari discussing Saudi Arabia's qualifications to tell anyone how to run their government. Dripping with sarcasm doesn't do his diatribe justice.

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