Category Archives: Debate

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

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

 

 

Reason of state

Below, reporter Bill Moyers’s critical history of the National Security State, told through the lens of the Iran Contra scandal of 1987. What has changed in 30 years under successive administrations? What might President Trump, a man for whom truth is not a huge priority, at least in his public speaking, do differently? The need for open debate and congressional approval of executive branch security action remains critical; conservatives and liberals alike support constitutionally required oversight of war powers.

— Marcus

The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis | BillMoyers.com

OLIVER NORTH: And I still, to this day, Counsel, don’t see anything wrong with taking the Ayatollah’s money and sending it to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. [pullquote align=”right”]”Next week, Congress will publish a report on the Iran-Contra scandal. My colleagues and I have been investigating it ourselves.

 

United States Ship

Our new commander-in-chief had the good instincts to appoint a man to lead the Armed Forces who opposes stooping to the values of our enemies, who stood his ground against unexamined impulses and offered wise counsel when asked about torture. The new Secretary of Defense also skillfully assures America’s allies that the crew of the United States ship of state will avoid sailing her into uncharted waters at the whim of her new captain. Below, an internet link said to be former general and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s recommended reading list from his days in command — worth a look for those who wish to understand (and perhaps learn a thing or two from) a key leader in the new administration:

Lt. Gen. James Mattis Professional Reading (75 books)

75 books based on 15 votes: Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield, The Rommel Papers by Erwin Rommel, One Bullet…

 

Another source is here.

Secretary Mattis writes about the value of reading here.

— Marcus

It’s never too late

“I think I wasted my first 50 years of my life. It is a great loss to me as a human being. I want to spend the rest of my life meaningfully.”

— Thae Jong Ho

 

High-ranking North Korean defector says ‘Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered’

The diplomat’s decision to defect from a regime he had spent his whole life defending didn’t happen overnight. Instead, his misgivings had been simmering for two decades, even as he went around Europe espousing the superiority of the North Korean system.

 

Does terrorism work?

No, not really, the book review below asserts. One reason, in my view, that terrorism does not work is that there are free nations with citizens who are willing to fight and to die for the cause of order over anarchy, for a national culture that celebrates the positivism of religiosity, be it humanist or spiritual in origin, over the nihilism of religious extremism and antitheism of totalitarianism. Absent such freedom, such noble citizens, terror could mesmerize a population, instill the fear it intends, and achieve the political aims of its authors.

Is Terrorism Effective?

There might well be thousands of books on terrorism, which means that it is extremely difficult to imagine something new. But Richard English’s Does Terrorism Work? A History , due to be released next month, differs from most discussions of the terror phenomenon.

— Marcus