Al-Atrak

America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.

It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Turkey is a prime example. Without significant support of this once loyal ally, it was unwise to engage in conflicts in her former Ottoman territories at the start of this century. Turkey’s border is now the main conduit for human traffic, including jihadists, into and out of in Syria, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. These developments are arguably more significant than the troubles brought about by our adventures further to the south.

The Trouble with Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, and the Kurds

Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.

 

— Marcus

“I proceed from the assumption that every human being is guilty.”

Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

Marcel Ophuls’s The Memory of Justice never suggests that Auschwitz and the My Lai massacre, or French torture prisons in Algiers, are equivalent, let alone that the Vietnam War was a criminal enterprise on the same level as the Holocaust. Nor does Ophuls doubt that the judgment on Göring and his gang at Nuremberg was justified.

Hybrid threat

I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.

— Marcus

Al-Amlaqa

War fever

Scholar Andrew Bacevich lectures Googlers in 2013 about what he considers an uncomfortable, new characteristic of American political culture: the rise of militarism and the unquestioned worship of soldiers as the standard bearers of American virtue. Bacevich argues that this new feature of our lives is not only unrealistic, but also permits folly. We’re spending lavishly on the military in a way that is not commiserate with the threats we face, and we’re giving military tools primacy over diplomatic channels as a means to exert influence.  Bacevich displays his deft capabilities for historical analysis and his intellectual honesty when asked around minute 27 to argue the counterpoint to his own assertions.

 

The 51st state

15 years ago, it was predicted…

The Fifty-First State?

Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq's borders-and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?

 

— Marcus

What comes next…

Iraq: The Battle to Come

ISIS’s military defeat, which Western officials believe will come sometime later this year or early next, will hardly put an end to the conflicts that gave rise to the group. For much of the battle against ISIS has taken place in a region that has been fought over ever since oil was found in Kirkuk in the 1930s.

The subversive

Chinese Nobel Laureate Released From Prison

Liu Xiaobo was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for criticizing China’s one-party Communist system. It was during this time that he married his wife, Liu Xia, who was placed on house arrest in 2010 after informing Liu of his Nobel Prize win.

 

‘The Songs of Birds’

Every month, the Chinese poet, photographer, and artist Liu Xia boards a train bound for the country’s north. Carrying food and books and escorted by four plainclothes police officers, she heads for a prison in the city of Jinzhou where her husband, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, is serving a sentence for subversion of state power.

A perfect setup for authoritarians

Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states — algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole of extreme ideas.

Persuasion and Control

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.

— Marcus