Eye on the Watcher’s Council

As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here.

Soccer Dad, “Why Does Jewish Come Before Democrat?”

Soccer Dad critiques the behavior of the National Jewish Democratic Council. I think there’s a point for activists when pursuit of the goals that inspired their activism is overwhelmed by the pursuit of power for its own sake. I don’t know precisely when or why this is but it’s apparent in the actions of feminist activists who supported Bill Clinton or environmental activists who make excuses for the environmentally-unsound behavior of Democratic politicians or business organizations that make excuses for George Bush.

The Glittering Eye, “Securing the Food Supply”

My interest in the continuing story of the pet food recall isn’t solely motivated by my being a committed dog owner although, obviously, it’s a major component. I also think the story has major implications for trade and homeland security policies and in my submission for this week I try to explain how we’re missing an opportunity for improving our security by not treating the pet food recall as an opportunity.

Eternity Road, “Strangers”

Francis Porretto’s submission for this week, too, is about activists and in his post he wonders on the transition between activism and dogmatic belief and how activists, whether political or religious, with conflicting dogmas can coexist peacefully in the same country.

Done With Mirrors, “Who’d a Thunk It?”

Callimachus dwells on the sad practical reality that much of U. S. foreign aid is an extension of business interests.

The Colossus of Rhodey, “Minority Super Heroes”

Hube ruminates on comic book heroes (from Marvel comics) who aren’t white Americans. I should point out that Marvel didn’t invent the idea: Superman (although he fights for the Red, White, and Blue) wasn’t an American nor was Hawkman nor Wonder Woman. And Black Panther wasn’t the earliest minority Marvel superhero: I think that Daredevil was.

Bookworm Room, “Heart-rending Stories”

Bookworm posts on stories that dwell on the sad human consequences of war.

The Education Wonks, “Hypocrite Alert: That Romney Don’t Hunt”

EdWonk makes a rare departure from the education beat to comment on Mitt Romney’s foibles as a presidential aspirant. I’m sure Romney’s bid will be an educational experience for him so perhaps it isn’t that much of a departure after all.

Cheat Seeking Missiles, “Don’t Know Your Enemy”

Laer comments on Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Saudi Arabia during her Middle East tour. I think that, like most Americans under similar circumstances, Speaker Pelosi made an idiot out of herself but I also think that altogether too much is being made of the Speaker’s travels. Laer does make a couple of very interesting points, however.

Joshuapundit, “The Black Flag Flying: Arabs and Iran Ally Against the West”

I agree with Freedom Fighter that the Riyadh summit of a week or so ago was historic but I think we’d probably disagree on why. Like many Western commenters he’s focussed on Saudi King Abdullah’s characterization of the U. S. military presence in iraq as an “illegitimate occupation”. IMO that was to establish his bona fides for the meat of his comments which were an indictment of the leadership, particularly Arab leadership, in the Middle East. I made this observation at the time which a commenter here, in a rude and expletive-laden comment, obtusely failed to recognize.

Will Arab Gulf nations be able to come to a peaceful accommodation with Iran? I hope so because the alternative would be quite horrible for all of us. But there will need to be some accommodation because they all must live in the same, dangerous neighborhood. It depends, I suppose, on how much the parties genuinely desire peace.

Big Lizards, “Al Qaeda in Iraq Committing Institutional Suicide”

Dafydd ab Hugh presents a status report on Iraq, noting particularly the Anbar Province conflicts between foreign Al Qaeda and Iraqis there and the increasing Shi’a militia activity in the south of Iraq. The Sunni-on-Sunni and Shi’a-on-Shi’a conflicts provide IMO prima facie evidence of the need for our military to remain in Iraq. If we leave, they won’t stop fighting, they’ll just stop fighting us.

Rhymes With Right, “Some Thoughts on Mockingbird”

Greg comments on reading and teaching the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. IMO much of the criticism of Harper Lee’s novel is an instance of Romanticism vs. Realism vs. Surrealism. Like her mentor and collaborator’s, Truman Capote’s, works, To Kill a Mockingbird, despite its realistic overtones, belongs to a Romantic tradition. De gustibus, etc.

Right Wing Nut House, “AP Hopes for More Iran ‘Compromises’ and That Unicorns Are Real”

Rick Moran comments on the release by Iran of 15 British service personnel. I agree with Rick that there’s little reason to see hope of compromise on Iran’s part in the outcome of the situation but it certainly appears that I’m in a very small minority in believing that the entire affair consists of Iran’s, perhaps, gaining a short term political (and, maybe, tactical) advantage while taking a longer-term strategic loss. Right, Left, and Rejkjavik seem to believe that the Iranians triumphed completely in this.

Well, I’ve decided which posts I’ll vote for. Which would get your votes?

5 comments… add one
  • Hi Dave,
    Hope you had a great Easter.

    Respectfully, I think you may have missed the point of my essay.

    The Bush Administration has devoted an enormous amount of effort(and money) to placating the Saudis and the other Sunni autocracies with the idea of forming a Sunni `coalition’ against Shiite Iran.

    This has been a colossal failure.

    The Riyadh Summit ( along with Ahmadinejad’s meeting with King Abdullah) is historic, IMO, because it signals the growing alignment between Sunni and Shiite against the West.

    The remarks from King Abdullah, the UAE’s pointed refusal to allow its ports or airfields to be used against Iran, and the harsh ultimatum to Israel must be seen in the context of Iran’s growing power and Iran’s offer to the Arabs of mutual defense agreements.

    And if you look at Abdullah’s comments closely, they fall very much in line with the mullah’s basic position – that the US ( and any other non-Muslims) should be forced out of the region, and that the Arabs should disavow any alliance with the West.

    Abdullah’s remarks are no mere window dressing. As Jim Hoagland recentlyrevealed, both the Saudi King Abdullah and Jordan’s King Abdullah – another Sunni `ally’ recently turned down Bush’s invitations to ceremonial meetings the White House…something they would have been eager to accept before.

    The Bush Administration thought they could manipulate the Sunni-Shiite conflict for their own purposes. They forgot that when it comes to jihad against the West, the Sunnis and Shiites have always always been prepared to bury their disagreements temporarily for the benefit of action against the infidel.

    You say that you hope that the Arab Gulf nations come to a peaceful accommodation with Iran. If they do, just whom do you think they will focus on as a target?

    As I said, we face an historic alignment against the West at a time when we seem to be grasping at another isolationist exit from history with both hands.


  • Daredevil’s alter ego is red-headed Matt Murdock. Are you saying that Irish Americans are a minority group? (Or are you referring to his blindness?)

  • Thanks, FF, I did. Quiet. Which is how I like it.

    I think I got the point. I disagree with your premises. First, right or wrong the “placating” of the Saudis has been the policy of the last twelve presidents. Second, did you read the entirety of Abdullah’s statement at the conference? “Illegal occupation” is, basically, a throw-away and it’s conventional wisdom in the audience he was addressing. It’s a debateable point. But the more important part of his address was an indictment of Arab leadership.

    Yes, Iranian power is growing. U. S. actions of the last 25 years have scarcely helped that situation. The Gulf nations need to deal with that prudently and they have only three alternatives in dealing with the Iranians: war, peace, or a tense stand-off. I’d prefer the second but suspect that the third will be the likely outcome. I absolutely don’t believe in what you’re suggesting—that the Sunni Arab states of the Gulf will make common cause in some grand alliance against the West in general, the U. S. in particular. That’s simply not possible for the Sauds in particular. It would undermine their own political position.

    Here’s what I believe. I believe that there definitely some wealthy and influential Arabs in the Gulf who believe just exactly as you suggest. I doubt that Arab governments are in that camp. I believe that those who believe as you suggest are probably a greater threat to Arab governments in the region (particularly the Sauds) than they are to us or than we are to Arab governments in the region. They’re treading a fine line.

    I agree that we’re making a mad dash for isolationism and that it’s an error. We can’t make it stick. The only really viable alternative we have before us is engagement and coming to some kind of acceptable modus vivendi. And that includes the Iranians. All of the other alternatives are really awful.

  • Fair enough, Dave.

    I agree that we are interpreting things somewhat differently, and frankly, I would rather that you be right than I – but I don’t think you are.

    Just because the policies of the last 12 presidents ( I would actually state that it waffled in different administrations, but got really serious with the first Bush Administration and stayed that way) doesn’t mean that it was the correct policy.

    As history tells us, aggression unanswered tends to lead to further aggression.

    With our `eternal friends’ the Saudis, it started with allowing them to steal `nationalize’ millions of dollars worth of American property in the oil fields and unilaterally abrogate their commercial contracts, progressed to them using the `oil weapon’ and forming a cartel hostile to US interests, then morphed into their funding jihad against the West including billions of dollars spent on wahabi mosques and madrassahs, and buying our politicians like oranges at the market.

    Now I see this trend as progressing into active hostilities, as the West continues to show weakness and disunity.

    I also think you, and many others disregard the religious component in all this. Conquering dar harb is not merely a political goal, but a religious imperative explicitly stated by the OG, Mohammed.

    I also think that we have other alternatives aside from the modus vivendi you mention. There is quasi-isolation and immolation ala the Cold War, for instance .

    And there is also the military defeat and humiliation of one or more of the nation-states involved. As we saw in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and the arrest of Saddam, forceful intervention tends to make these people infinitely more reasonable. ( and yes, I’m aware that Bush’s missteps have created a political climate that doesn’t favor that sort of thing – YET – things may change considerably after the next election)

    There is a basic psychology at work here. Remember that the Ottoman Turks ruled the Arabs quite successfully for five centuries by bleeding them white with taxes, consigning them to second class status and ruthlessly suppressing any deviance to their diktats. And had Turkey stayed out of WWI, they would no doubt have ruled the Arabs under the same conditions for an even longer period.

    With honor/shame cultures, it is usually at your throat or at your feet. Islam, with it’s message of submission intensifies this trend in the Muslim world.

    Time, of course, will tell which of us is right. But I think we are in dangerous waters. And with a less than competent captain at the helm.


  • I agree with a hefty proportion of that comment, FF, especially this

    Time, of course, will tell which of us is right. But I think we are in dangerous waters. And with a less than competent captain at the helm

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