Ex-US Intelligence Chief on Islamic State’s Rise: ‘We Were Too Dumb’


Thinking of Michael Hastings writing about Flynn in The Operators. Wonder how exactly Hastings died.

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Blair and Bush went to war in Iraq despite South Africa’s WMD assurances

God, Spies and Lies, by South African journalist John Matisonn, describes how then president Thabo Mbeki tried in vain to convince both Blair and President George W Bush that toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003 would be a terrible mistake.

Mbeki’s predecessor, Nelson Mandela, also tried to convince the American leader, but was left fuming that “President Bush doesn’t know how to think”.


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Act of Rhetoric

The near-simultaneous attacks in Paris that killed at least 128 people were an “act of war” organised by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, French President Francois Hollande says. I’m weighing the truth value of that proposition this morning. An act of war involves an act of aggression, normally by military forces, by one country against another country with which it is nominally at peace.

Were the attacks in Paris yesterday carried out by military forces? News reports so far describe eight attackers, all of whom are now dead. While I’ve seen reports of Egyptian and Syrian passports found, there has as of yet been no suggestion the attackers were an Egyptian or Syrian military unit. Were the attackers the vanguard of an attacking ISIS military force?

Is ISIS a country? It seems more accurately described as an armed group which at the moment controls a great deal of territory in the countries of Iraq and Syria.

Is France nominally at peace with ISIS? France has in fact been bombing ISIS in Iraq and in Syria (though one does not read of France bombing the “country of ISIS”).

While ISIS shooting people at bars, restaurants, a concert, and a football match in France is terrible, I don’t believe the event is accurately described as an “act of war.” As the US “war on terror” grinds through its second decade the terms we use to describe violence matter. Perhaps France must respond to an attack by criminals, or terrorists, yes, but to an attack by another state? This seems hyperbole more useful for political posturing than an accurate imagining of present circumstances.

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“Das schien damals möglich”

Hubert Menzel, OKW, explaining the thinking behind Unternehmen Barbarossa. I am ruminating on this this evening.

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Down with expectations!

Read in The Guardian today that “The secret to happiness is low expectations.” Later read something on Twitter which I liked better:

The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.

—Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, 32-33.

Just pulled Essays of Schopenhauer V off the shelf. My grandfather who did war relief in Minsk after The Great War cited this in his book.

Today I say “Down with expectations! Up with romantic era Danish and German philosophers!”

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There is no doubt about it: Tony Blair was on the warpath from early 2002

Today’s Guardian:

If anybody still seriously doubted that Tony Blair assured George W Bush, up to a year before the war began, that Britain’s Labour government would support a US invasion of Iraq, then the March 2002 internal memo from Colin Powell published on Sunday should finally lay such doubts to rest.

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Theory of the Leisure Class

Thinking about Thorstein Veblen this morning, as headlines blare warnings about the Chinese stock market’s ripple effect on western exchanges. There’s very little discussion of political economy in the office.

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Inside the Third Reich

Sometimes I asked myself: Why can’t I call Hitler my friend? What is missing? … When [Dietrich] Eckart died in 1923 there remained four men with whom Hitler used the Du of close friendship: Hermann Esser, Christian Weber, Julius Streicher, and Ernst Roehm.

Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1970), 100-101.

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Saw Teorema for the first time last night. The seductions were all much more matter-of-fact than I’d expected and I was surprised that the real substance of the film seemed to lie in their aftermath. Once the middle class is enlightened by the truth of communism we can never return to the banality of bourgeois life? Having tasted the apple of the tree of knowledge we will be driven mad by the promise of that which we can never experience again?

I liked some thought-provoking touches: the replacement domestic is largely interchangeable with the revolutionary first, complete with the same name. The enlightened servant doesn’t successfully organize a mass of workers, but rather dies a martyred saint. The enlightened bourgeoisie likewise suffer alienation from their class, cut off from what had been seemingly fulfilling albeit perhaps empty bonds.

In other news I just learned that Baldur von Schirach’s mother was from Philadelphia. Puts a new spin on Vonnegut and Pynchon for me. After finishing Speer’s memoirs I think I’ll have a look at von Schirach.

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The End

The disaster on the eastern front in summer 1944 was in terms of human loss by far the worst military catastrophe in German history, worse than the First World War slaughterhouse at Verdun, way beyond the losses at Stalingrad.

Ian Kershaw, The End, (New York, Penguin, 2011), 92.

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