Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Clash of Civilizations on the Fault Line.

The map of Armenia after the 44 day Azeri victory over the Armenians in 2020. Today there is basically no Norgorn-Karabakh. Ii has ben subsumed into irredentist Azerbaijan.

Samuel Huntington in his epochal  book, The Clash of Civilizations explained what should have been obvious to  modern historians but were rarely touched upon, i.e.- that the most intractable wars are intercultural wars, civilizational wars. Before the era of post modernism, the old historians did in fact depict cultural factors as a primary cause of war.  ( think of the Persian-Greek wars- now the Greek  Turkic conflict). In this era, primarily since WWII, the more recent historians, engulfed in a tidal wave of leftist ideologies, have bitterly assailed Huntington’s book. It violated their most precious assumptions, among them that all wars have some economic, ideological sociological, perhaps racist basis for conflict.  ( Given that the Cultural wars do contain an element of Racism).Western colonialism, imperialism, was and continues to be a favorite.  Their theme, perhaps somewhat more tactfully put, is that wars  are explainable and have remedies if only the people would listen to the enlighten intellectuals, – the modern historian. Ambitious dictators, poverty, racial discrimination, populist causes, the evils of capitalism, etc are at the top of the list. To be sure these have been and still are, factors at times, but these wars usually have an ending, a conclusion. Revolutionary wars end when the revolutionaries take over, nationalist wars end when one side is vanquished or the leaders chose to call it quits, usually with some great power intervention.

Armenian troops


Azeri victory parade 2020

Basically with the demise of  religious faith  in the West, particularly Christianity, Western historians are unable to grasp the fact that the loss of religious fervor in the West has not occurred in the East.   The Eastern elites may be total atheists but they are smart enough to use religion to control the masses.  So according to these modernists,  the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks was some manifestation of ultra nationalist feeling, not religion. ( Even the preeminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis declines  to call it genocide, because it was not centrally directed by the state.) The forever  war  between the Jews of Israel and the Muslims of the Arab world, are simply a nationalist contest between Palestinian nationalists and Jewish Zionists. So goes the conventional story embedded in scholarship by the likes of Edward Said, the ersatz Palestinian, who has probably done more to destroy Middle Eastern scholarship than anyone I can conjure up.

The confused ethnicity of the Azeris.religiously tied to the Iranians but ethnically Turkish. Politically Azerbaijan and Iran at odds as Iran frets about the loyalty of their Azeri population

But cultural, civilizational, wars are often interminable. They can only end when one side is obliterated or rendered helpless and the people evicted or subjugated. They have truces for sure, but do not end unless the condition above is met.The truces are usually on the basis of some greater power, interposing themselves, but as soon as the Great Power influence fades, the war resumes, perhaps on a low intensity basis until one side decides the Gods of War favor them and the war is resumed.

It should be pointed out that the territorial demands of the Azeris also include a corridor -or much more- to their cut off piece of Azerbaijan called Nakhchivan on the border with political rival Iran. Now that the Azeris are feeling their oats they will push the corridor demand and Armenia is too weak to resist if they continue to be abandoned by Russian and the West

Armenian refugees 2015 trying to escape  death rape and servitude of the Turks.Many Armenian women ended up as indentured slaves to wealthy  Turks and Arabs

One such war has just occurred and is now in a truce hiatus- the Armenian-Azerbaijan war- A war between Christian Western oriented Armenians  and Islamist Azerbaijan. A truce has been declared because an Armenian enclave of Nogorno- Karabakh has been obliterated. Any Armenian  who values his life and that of his/her family is leaving or being evicted. The fact that the  street smart president of Azerbaijan has enlisted Western help, particularly Israeli,  is of no lasting impact. The wars of  Mohammed and his successors against the Christians in the Arab world saw both sides enlist some opposing religionists  at times. Same with Zoroastrian Persians and  Muslim Arabs.

The strong Orthodox faith of the ordinary Armenians

Today there is no Armenian enclave known as Nagorno -Karabakh.  It now belongs to the Azeris.No matter the historic, moral, diplomatic or humanitarian concerns. Oil rich Azerbaijan,  cozy with the West and international oil CEOs, new friend of Israel, enemy of Iran,  succeeded in a blitz short war  against the orphaned  irregular forces of the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh.   Feebly supported supported by  friendless and poor Armenia. they had no chance of survival, so they  unconditionally surrendered. As long as history records can be ascertained , this region was always part of the Armenian land, but in a twisted history engineered by the  duplicity of the former USSR, of which Armenia was once an important principality, the ownership of the land was never completely settled. The Soviets left it as a self governing enclave  with a clouded right of self -determination.

Armenian Refugees from NaGorno Karabakh


Armenian share some blame if we only look at the secular factors, the 6-year war which “ended” in 1994, with a resounding Armenian victory. The Armenians, enthused by their   win over the Azeris, refused to negotiate a peaceful settlement. But no matter.  Even if they had the war would have resumed war at some point. Now the Armenians thirst for revenge. They have clout. Not in Armenia  but in the outside world. Only 20% of the Armenian diaspora live in Armenia.  Many more live in Russia or the West. The Armenians, like the Jews, are a very ingenious, smart, cohesive people  who are usually good loyal citizens of the country they happen to live in but their historical anger  against their eternal enemy the Turks continue. Not longer in violence- as it was right through the seventies- but now using their influence in the Western countries to irritate the Turks. For instance it was the  American Armenian community who pushed through  congress the official recognition of  the Turkish  genocide of the Armenians  of Turkey- a people who lived there long before the mongol hordes overran their land.It is no coincidence that the Azeris are in fact a Turkic people,( despite their Shi’a Islam) and constantly  profess their kinship to Turkey.

Armenians trekking to Armenia proper.


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Americans are No Good at War?

The conservative icon, Robert Nisbet wrote in his book The Present Age that Americans “are no good at war.” As an American soldier I took immediate umbrage at that, but after thinking about it a while and reviewing our recent military history I did see his point.

To be sure the American soldier, properly trained and equipped, has no peer. From my own experience and  a buff of military  history I am sure of that, but then why our rather dismal record in this and the last century, even in the ones we “won?” I see a number of possible reasons. Almost always we are unprepared initially, living in a dreamworld of “everything is going to be ok,” we feel mule – like secure and untouchable behind our oceans. Our hubris, sometimes confused with  optimism, is a cultural attribute of long standing. Most would admit we know very little and care less about the outside world, but few would admit we really don’t know much about ourselves, especially, and most critically, our serious limitations. We tend to see war as as a  temporary, irrational act of human folly and not the habitual state of human endeavor punctuated by short periods of peace. We also tend to think we value human life more than others— but that  our military history does not bear that out. Since the time of the  war between the States, our military leaders have been profligate with the lives of our soldiers.

Troops in Vietnam  after the rot had set in in the latter stages

But most of all our most serious problem has always been the lack of true  understanding of human  nature and the the season that men fight well or poorly. It is always leadership and for my money we have a history of  mediocre military leadership, particularly at higher levels,  which has degenerated further in the past decades.  As General Franz  Halder, the German  General opined, it is character, not intellect that produces the best leaders.  Today  at the helm we endure politicized military leadership  who  care most about satisfying the whims of inept and corrupted  civilian political  animals.  The most disgraceful part of this is the way we have misused our most precious asset, the American soldier.

The  historical American military system is somewhat akin to  the industrial productive systems know as Taylorism, which basically seeks to turn the worker into a machine. From WWII  until now, despite all the right words and glittering phraseology incorporated into Field Manuals  and speeches, the American soldier is seen as a digit, a cog, a number, a particle of a omnivorous machine, important but infinitely replaceable.  Nothing can be more indicative of this than the replacement system of soldiers in WWII in which the impersonal system fed soldiers into an abattoir. Replacement soldiers were sent to a unit and killed before the platoon sergeants even knew their names. This system continued through the Korean War and Vietnam. General Vinegar Joe Stillwell tried to introduce a platoon or squad replacement system but it died an early death.

Seemingly more recently, the short term deployments of units to Iraq and Afghanistan have ameliorated this problem, but it exists in different forms. I am told that many units on their second deployment went with almost all new officers and  NCO’s. Schools and special training courses accounted for much of the changes but the officers and NCO’s seldom return to the unit they left. Since then, the post modernist military, sometimes referred to to as the “Woke” military, has injected all sorts of disfunctionality into the military system limiting the cohesiveness  and feeling of brotherhood in combat units.  but it is not a recent problem. In the late seventies, my battalion deploying to Germany had to incorporate  over 50 replacements in just a few weeks. Those replaced  had  suddenly become non deployable. This  was during the  President   Carter years and his total oblivious nature to the world around him, allowed the army to harbor many who were simply criminals or undesirables. Today pregnancy, transgenderism, gender confusion, and other fashionable social issues, especially in combat service support units,  laboring under the exigencies of wokism,  has exacerbated the  problem.  Granted that the few truly elite unit units we have today,  mostly- not completely- avoid these problems, but Wars are not won  by elite units. They are won by ordinary soldiers, who given proper leadership, do most of the killing and unfortunately are those whom suffer the most casualties.

Anyway here is the “rest of the story.”

On 9/11 we honor the heroism of those who gave their lives trying to save lives. As usual Americans lament the tragedy and the victims but ignore the reasons it came about. I have always been interested in the perennial unpreparedness of the nation for war and why we always seem to be surprised by the initial debacles. In World War I President Wilson, in his ultimately idealistic and pacifist attitude toward war,  and despite the increasing inevitability of American involvement, actively resisted any significant preparation of the nation for war, i.e. continually maintaining his popularity by being the man “who kept us out of war.” No administration ever seems to remember the best prevention of war is to be perpetually prepared for one. In World War I it was almost a year from the date of the declaration of war by  President Wilson that American forces were significantly involved in combat against the Germans. It should be remembered that it was a close thing. The German offensive  in the last phase of the war came close to a breakthrough. No, we did not win the war, as some suggested, but the psychological boost it gave the British and French, gave them the spirit to do so. We were basically unarmed when we entered the war. Our soldiers enthusiasm made up for the lack of training…against a  war weary German army. We had to borrow all out all heavy equipment from the French.

Like President Wilson, President Delano Roosevelt was elected partially on a “he kept us  out of war’’ platform.  In the interim period, as he allegedly tried to keep us out of war, his policies made it inevitable that we would be at war. Denying oil and vital strategic supplies  to the Japanese, and massive escalating war equipment assistance to the British- in retrospect- seems an obvious path to war. But we were not ready, embarrassingly so.

Sergt. Alvin C. York, 328th Infantry, who with aid of 17 men, captured 132 German prisoners; shows hill on which raid took place (October 8, 1918). Argonne Forest, near Cornay, France. February 7, 1919. Pfc. F.C. Phillips. (Army)
I wonder why in renaming some army posts they did n touse Sgt York.? Bragg was not a good confederate general but renaming Ft Bragg to Ft Liberty? Named  after an Insurance company?

Reading The Joint Committee on the Investigation the Pearl Harbor attack, and a much more trenchant analysis of the reason for Am But the leadership erican failure , Henry Clausen’s Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement details the compendium of stupid human errors of Judgement and commonsense that led to that disaster.  Its was unbelievable that the Japanese , whom most Americans saw as In World War Two as “being a people, who according to the general American view at the time, as bucktoothed,  bespectacled little yellow men, forever photographing things with their omnipresent cameras so they could copy them.” The same attitude was held at the top levels of military intelligence in more erudite language. See Knowing One’s Enemies, by Earnest R. May. No one could believe that the Japanese would dare attack the United States. The debacle at Pearl Harbor  was repeated in the Philippines as  vividly described by Louis Morton in the surprisingly candid, The Fall of the Philippines. “The Battling Bastards of Bataan”were indeed heroic American troops, attempting to shake off the deleterious effects of peacetime Pacific colonial life, while trying to stave off superior trained, equipped, and better led Japanese. But their leadership was  not ready for war. It some cases pathetic.

LTG Masaharu Homma. Executed after the war for war crimes, particularly the Bataan death march, but some observers say simply an act of vengeance by General Douglas MacArthur

General MacArthur’s inadequate preparation for for the Japanese attack and General Wainwrights loss of will were heavily criticized after the war.  Fourteen American generals surrendered in the Philippines. None were killed. Most honest assessments agree General Masaharu Homma, the Japanese commander, outgeneraled the American commanders.

At least Admiral Kimmel and General Short paid for their lack of caution and foresight with their careers, but an equally humiliating defeat and exit from Afghanistan was an act of God?


On the other side of the world, against the war machine of the Germans, the poor state of training for our troops was humiliatingly exposed at Kasserine Pass in North Africa. The veteran, arrogant, and triumphant German troops  put poorly trained American troops to wild panicky flight. The American generals in command were far behind the action and knew nothing of the burgeoning panic. Two infantry battalions, two armored battalions, two artillery battalions plus many other smaller units were obliterated.  See  Rick Atkinson, An Army  at Dawn. We did not underestimate  the the war potential of the Germans, but we did mock their individual  culture. They were first rate warriors, the story went, but they were robotic, follow the leader sorts,  unable to initiate much individually. …. Sort of like Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes. After the war  analysts  such as Colonel Trevor Dupuy,  (USA retired) and Martin Van Crevald (Fighting Power) concluded the opposite. German small unit commanders had more initiative and used it better than the Americans and  British.  Their aufragtaktik  (mission command) system gave small unit commanders more latitude to use their initiative.

Krieg in Nordafrika März 1943 (WK II; Südfront); Ganze Figur gehend (Zivilist m.Kamel; am Straßenrand zerstörter US-amerikanischer Panzer)Our tanks a were inferior to those of the Germans. Some of our troops saw them as simply death traps.



Much has been written about the “butcher generals” of the British and French in WWI but we had them as well in WWII. The awful carnage of the Huertgen Forest in 1944 in which the American Commanders sent  American troops, many poorly trained replacements, into a forested difficult terrain against  veteran German troops who were superior to the Americans in small unit tactics.  The American leaders chose to fight on terrain which gave the Germans all the advantages.The American General “Lightening” Joe Collins, apparently  believing in his own press releases,  pushed for continued American  offensive action when many other of the commanders asked for a supply pause. The results were 33000 casualties in a battle that has had few write about. In fact the historian Charles B. MacDonald ( The Battle of Huertgen Forest) questioned why the battle had to be fought at all.  There were many questionable strategic decisions made by the political-military American leadership that cost immense casualties, the insistence on Operation Overlord in deference to a”soft underbelly” Mediterranean  invasion, the useless southern France invasion, Operation Dragoon, ( Churchill called it a”pure waste.”),   chasing unicorn nazis in the fictitious “national redoubt,”allowing the Russians to push further into Germany and Austria, and Eisenhower’s broad front offensive strategy in lieu of a single powerful axis attack. Russell Weigley in his excellent book, Eisenhower’s Lieutenants, summed it up,.” the victory in Europe in World War II-was more expensive and more postponed that it might have been, because American military skills were not as formidable,  as they should have been.”

General Walter Model. He outgeneraled our commanders in the Huertgen Forest . A fanatic Nazi but a solid professional soldier.

The Korean War saw the same sort of  military unpreparedness that has constantly bedeviled us, along with our buoyant hubris. Our troops boarding the trains at Pusan Korea, going forth confidently to rout the North Koreans “…generally agreed that the North Koreans, when they found out who they were fighting, would turn around and go back.” The term “Task Force Smith,” has become a term for unpreparedness  and humiliating defeat, despite the heroism of many of the  poorly equipped and trained soldiers sacrificed in the name of peace and political expediency. On the Korean War, read one of the best books, This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach. Another is Korea the First War we Lost by  Bevin Alexander. Compared to the massive amount of books available on Vietnam, there are not that many on Korea.  With a bit of cynicism  my thought is that Korea did not offer the  journalists the amenities of Saigon, the nightclubs, and restaurants etc.   Korean women could not  compete with the beauty of the Vietnamese girls of  Saigon either.

Summarizing the war, Fehrenbach wrote, “A nation that does  not prepare for all forms of war should then renounce of the  use of war in national policy. A people that does not prepare to fight should then be morally prepared to surrender. To fail to prepare soldiers and citizens for limited, bloody ground action, and then engage in it, is folly, bordering on criminal.”


Again in Korean a we ran up against a ruthless, brutal enemy who gave no quarter. Web were not prepared for this kind of war

Then came our greatest humiliation –until Afghanistan –Vietnam. I went to war in Vietnam early 1965 with an  Infantry Division. I, like the troops,  troops knew nothing of the country or the people.We did have an operations officer who had spent a year previously advising Vietnamese troops but his stories were primarily about the  beauty of the Vietnamese  women of Saigon, and his conquests of the daughters of the Frenchified Vietnamese elite.  We did kn0w- vaguely – something of the French being beaten by the Viet Minh but we also assumed that being French they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and we Americans would do what the French could not.

General Westmoreland, frequently pointed out as one of the tensions for our defeat in Vietnam. But there plenty of blame to go around, starting with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A good book on the near criminal execution of the war is H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty

So we went on these massive search and destroy missions, fell into ambushes, punji pits–(traps with sharpened stakes),  got hit by road side bombs, snipers, stepped  on mines, wandered around flooded rice fields, expended massive amounts of artillery on “harassing and interdiction fire,” Etc.  As Colonel Harry Summers, an old Korean War veteran and consummate writer on Vietnam, told my class at Ft Bragg , Americans are culturally incapable of fighting a  successful counter-insurgency war.    Despite howls of protest from the COIN aficionados the record certainly bears this out. Reading the enemy analyses of our war fighting capabilities, especially in COIN, are always a bit disheartening, and often infuriating,  and no doubt exaggerated,  but always important  to read. One North Vietnamese analysis commented  on the American soldiers walking “like ducks” through a rice field totally unprepared for  a possible  ambush. Our  Fire discipline was not good,  with too many troops firing on full automatic. I certainly remember going on a couple of defensive  patrols, in which, while we lay in ambush,  soldiers fell asleep, loudly snored, and made all sorts of noise.  We were artilleryman but General DePuy, our division commander directed these these patrols be set up to  catch Viet Cong creeping up close to the  artillery fire base wire. Luckily we never encountered the enemy on those ambush  missions.

As in WWII, and to a certain extent in the Korean War, we fed  half -trained draftees into combat they were not trained nor psychologically prepared for brutal warfare with people that apparently cared little for their lives or anyone else’s. That was particularly true as the Vietnam war ground  on. It was hard on the professionals as well, with some NCO’s and officers  returning for three and four tours. Professional NCO’s were particularly scarce requiring what became known as “shake and bake” NCO’s who were often not up to the job.  Green horn junior officers were even worse. A really good book to get the flavor of the war in Vietnam is one by Max Hastings, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy 1945-1975.   My shelves are loaded with books on Vietnam. Other  than the Hastings book very good ones are the series by the US Army Center of History, especially the one on our advisory effort.

Towed 155 Howitzers bringing the sound of music to my ears and panic to the Cong.

But for the most part, even in the latter stages of the war, the American soldier,  often with  mediocre leadership, did his best.   Hastings in his book writes that there came a time when in many units, the leadership was not just disrespected,  but  actually hated. Much had to do with fact that too many commanders led from the rear or from hovering helicopters.   Nevertheless, despite all the stories  (some  true) about fragging, dope, and evasion of combat, the vast majority of soldiers  did their duties quite  professionally, if not enthusiastically. I was proud of the soldiers I served with. They were professional soldiers.  This was before the  draft,  and the ensuing  rot within the army that set in- perpetrated by college kids, afraid of the draft, and cheered on by liberal politicians assuaging the fears of the ruling elite.  This was despite the fact that the corrupted selective  service system allowed many of elitist families or  students in prestigious universities to dodge the draft, including President Clinton. The Woodstock culture of unfettered license  and our  stupid  celebrities, like Jane Fonda, and traitors like John Kerry, polluted and degraded the heroism of the individual troops fighting an unwinnable  war.

Advising the Vietnamese. The south Vietnamese deserved better then. they got from our higher political and military leadership

Since that time tons of books have been written on how we should have instituted the glories of Counterinsurgency ( COIN) war suggesting that had we done so the war  would have turned out differently.  It would have prolonged the war  with some successes–but winning..?I do not think so.  Unless we had instituted total war methods there was not a chance in hell of winning.That would entail  mass resettlement, draconian round up of suspects, and a scorched  earth policy, plus  continuous massive destructive attacks on  north Vietnam, and their more powerful allies, I.E., the Russians and Chinese, who were supporting the North Vietnamese featuring continuous bombing on the ports and shipping.

I have found that the books written by the South Vietnamese  commanders are particularly interesting in that they cast a different light on our advisory missions and the fight, often courageous, by South Vietnamese troops, who ultimately felt abandoned…something experienced later by our Afghan allies. The books I think well of include, Lam Qiang Chi, The Twenty Five year War Century, Tran Van Soon, Our Endless War Inside Vietnam,General Cat Van Vien, The Final Collapse, and a particularly poignant one, The Tragedy of the Vietnam War by Van Nguyen Dung. Vietnam vets who have returned to Vietnam for visits relate the sad sight of the run down, deliberately trashed cemeteries where the soldiers of the South Vietnamese are buried. Perhaps some of our diplomats while glad handing with our former enemy should go visit these sites. I suppose- like here in America – the erasure of history with the removal of memorials to Confederate soldiers should serve as an example.

South Vietnamese Military cemetery. For many years families were not permitted to visit the graves. Now they are permitted to do so and repair the graves at their own expense


Moving to the first Gulf war, operation Desert Storm,   we received a welcome shot in the arm, redressing somewhat our ignominious retreat from Vietnam as we routed the half-hearted and the poorly trained Iraqi army. But given the ineptness of Iraqi military leadership,  the fractured state of Iraqi society, and  an army in a pathetic state of readiness  for war, the overall consequence of the war was to give us a somewhat unwarranted sense of military prowess. Overall  however, it was a very beneficial massive logistic exercise and as we usually do, we  performed magnificently. It appeared our army had basically recovered from the Vietnam malaise and poisoning.   It proved that our army- with favorable  social and political factors- can recover.  For example, , one can go back to the  German assessment of the French army based on the war of 1870, in which the French were disgracefully routed, leading to a German   fatal dependance on ludicrous depictions of an effete French military.  They were surprised at the Marne. The French had recovered their elan. (Too bad it once again disappeared in WWII).

The follow on war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, seemed initially as a repeat of the rout of Desert Storm. But within a few months that I was there, June to August, and October 2003 to January 2004, the second phase of the war began and our luster as a conquering monolith began to erode. Again the Counterinsurgency myth became the paramount  military intellectual  exercise  with “military intellectuals” and journalists writing  books ruminating on how we had forgotten the lessons of  Vietnam-which we had.  To remedy this we  employed   bright young colonels and an Australian journalist, with general officer supervision, to write a PHD thesis type manual FM 3-24. It was well written with much good information, but few of the people who needed to read and digest it did so. By this time the liberal social engineers has seized control of the military educational system and spurious, non essential, basically useless classes and themes dominated  troop training time.

But again in  retrospect  there was no way- even with the scholarly excellence of FM 3-24 and perfectly trained troops immersed  in cultural awareness- that the war would have had a different outcome…i.e.. a friendly and democratic Iraq.  The Iraqis are decades away from understanding the onerous requirements of a democracy and suffer from a society in which Islam and the totalitarian cultural impulse are often interchangeable.  Moreover we ( and they) see today the difficulty within Western democracies of maintaining democracy under assault from a global ruling elites owning almost all the sources of sources of information, castrating the possibility of an informed citizen.  Freedom is a fragile commodity and can erode just a quickly under an “democratic” out of control bureaucracy and law enforcement departments.. Judicial and bureaucratic control measures can be just as terrifying  as the physical extermination methods of the KGB or the Amin al Amn of the Saddam regime.

But back to the theme. Then came 9/11.  From the exhaustive documentation contained in the 9/11  Commission Report we know that almost every  misjudgment, inefficiency, human error, criminal lassitude among our law enforcement and security apparatus  that could be made -was made.  However the Report was very light on  blame  however, not naming names, nor castigating lazy lethargic officials and politicians, but producing some excellent recommendations that for the most part have never been fully implemented. The creation of the Homeland security department was a typical bureaucratic solution to the problem of bureaucrats not doing their job- create another useless government appendage. Their ignominious part in the unimpeded  invasion of illegal immigrants on our borders  is graphic proof of their  abject uselessness.


Finally came the penultimate disgrace, the flight from Afghanistan.  Again the conduct of the war brought the topic of counterinsurgency back with a vengeance, and it was on the lips of every  intellectual  guru or journalist– and of course- politicians and academics.. Social scientists became an instrument war, like the ill-considered  Human  Terrain innovation with anthropologists tagging along with American  patrols.    A war that began shortly after the 9/11 attack has only ended a year ago and despite the egregious failure on the part of military leadership, intelligence officials,  and political leaders, no one has been fired or even officially  admonished. Failure has become the  the norm. Apparently this has become part and parcel of the American way of war. We pass out bushels of medals- some deserved-many not -and  celebrate our efficiency in airlifting  thousands of friendly  (hopefully) Afghans out of the country. It was an impressive achievement, but as Churchill remarked on the Dunkirk “miracle” evacuations do not win wars.

Taking down the flag. We have had to do this more often in the last few decades

So what is the bottom line for an old cranky soldier like me?  Well first that we suffer from from a severe case of hubris, self-centeredness,, and forgetfulness.  Understanding cultures, including our own, we are adrift. Not only do  we not understand  the people we war against, and  we really don’t understand ourselves, especially our limitations.  There are many things we are very good at and quite a few we are not.We play at the idea of war as if it were another Sylvester Stallone action movie Heroically dying for our country is not the answer. As Patton put it making the other bastard die for his country is the answer. Good intentions are a path to hell: platitudes,  stern warnings to our adversaries, the audacity of hope, verbose operations orders, etc. are not the answer. Cogent, cautious assessments,  accompanied by bold well considered operations are the answer. Good book on the Afghan  debacle? Andrew Quilty, August in Kabul.

The answer to our lack  superior generalship? I don’t have one. Some might say we need to follow the Pre-WWII German training and military education system, as described in Jorg Muth, Command Culture, but  people have  to fight within their cultural parameters and we are not Germans.






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Continuing Instability in the Middle East. Why?







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The Cross and the Crescent

An article I wrote 22 Years ago for  the Crisis Magazine, a Catholic periodical. It has worn well and, except for a few names and places,  it is still  true with modifications.

I do believe, however that the excesses of the Radical Islamists have created a substantial number of  educated Muslims who will tell you they are “essential Muslims.” I am always a little confused about what that means  exactly but it entails a cherry picking of those passages and teachings of the Qur’an that seem acceptable in the modern world or  enables their  more Westernized life style, specifically ignoring the “sword” versions., and emphasizing the pen verses, just as many Christians who have a problem with the  “blood and guts “ passages of the old Testament avoid dwelling on them. Also the radicalization of too many of the Islamic religious clerics has diminished their authority.  However The continuing problems of Muslims  in Europe foretold by Bat Ye’or ( Islam and Dhimmitude)  and  Michael Radu ( The Ghost of Europe)  seems to be a continuing reality.  First of all a note here…the work of Bat Ye’or is described in  wikipedia as a “far right conspiracy theory,”  which is one reason I often describe Wikipedia as a pronounced left wing source of information.  I do not agree with some of Ye’or’s   characterizations of Islam but her concerns are legitimate. The recent mass riots in France are only one indicator of that. A book and a very good one,  Nazis, Islamism, Anti-Semitism and the Middle East by Mattias Kunzel, A German non-Jew, lays out the case  for the rationale of my previous  blog, i.e., the easy and wrong answer of the continuing Arab hatred of the Jews  is not Palestine. It is far deeper and psychosomatic for that. His research is very convincing.

The question keeps recurring– despite the cowardice of most Western media to bring it up — can Islam in its current idelogized form -be assimilated into the Western world?  The coverage of the riots by the Western main stream media followed the usual pattern –obfuscation, minimization, and misinformation. The same reasons espoused by the media-  have become standard fare- advancing poverty, intolerance of native Frenchmen, refusal  to accept Muslims as fellow citizens, etc. No doubt some truth in all those factors. But why are the many Asians, such as the Vietnamese , and so many other other minorities  able to live peacefully in France, and not the Muslims. Has this ever been explored in detail? Why the reticence to  explore this issue…fear, intimidation, the desire to uber tolerant ( except to conservatives), fear  of violating  the woke fashions of the day? Perhaps some of all these factors. It is apparent to me – and hopefully to others- that hypocrisy and dishonesty have become a bed rock of what used to be termed the “Quality Press.” This disease is rampant in American press and social media.

Sayyid al Qutb ideological father of the Muslim Brotherhood. He wrote the piece “Our Struggle with the Jews.“ he wrote “Our struggle between Islam and the the Jews continue in force and will continue because the Jews will only be satisfied with the Destruction of this religion. (Islam)In this pic he is in an Egyptian jail. Nasser feared his political power not his sentiments toward Jews. Nasser had him executed.

Anyway my article from the magazine Crisis

Cross and Crescent


Christianity in the Islamic World

When I first arrived in the Middle East in 1967 to attend the American University of Beirut, I was told by a number of faculty advisers that between a course in Islam and one in Arab Communism, the course in Communism would be more beneficial. It’s hard to see the wisdom in that advice today.

In the late ’60s, Islam was seen as a religion of peasants. With the accelerating urbanization of the Middle East and the cosmopolitan culture that tends to come with it, Islam was viewed as an irrelevant force in the future of the region. Needless to say, since that time changes in the political landscape have been dramatic. More to the point, the present state of affairs is largely dictated by the resurgence of a revitalized Islamic movement that has continued for some thirty years now.

Islam and Islamism

To the people of the region, all the ism’s of the post-World War II era were Western imports that failed not only to improve the quality of their lives, but also presided over their continuing humiliation at the hands of Western powers or their perceived surrogate, Israel. Arabism failed, Marxism failed, secular-Palestinian nationalism failed, and Western democracy was seen simply as another cultural assault on the Islamic world. It was into this void of bitterness and frustration that a resurgent Islam misnamed “Islamic fundamentalism” again surfaced and quickly became the primary ideological movement in the East.

One often hears of a worldwide fundamentalist revival with Islam simply being the Middle Eastern variety complementing a revival of Christian fundamentalism in the Americas. This is not so. Although the perceived cultural invasion of the East by the West is a continuing source of genuine resentment, the driving force behind Islamism has always been political rather than religious. While the leaders of this movement parade images of a golden historical past for political reasons, in reality theirs is a conglomeration of half-baked Western ideas with an oriental packaging. The fact that various muftis and sheiks continually quote selective passages of the Qu’ran only provides the fig leaf for what is little more than the same old Middle Eastern obsession with power, and not infrequently, ethnocentric bigotry, resulting in a virulent form of racism in such places as Sudan and Mauritania.

For this ideological form of Islam, scholars use the term “Islamism” in order to differentiate it from traditional Islam. Islam and Islamism are not interchangeable terms. Neither is Islamic fundamentalism synonymous with Islamism. The fundamentalists are of many varieties, but in general they are simply devout Muslims who adhere to traditional rules of conduct.

The Islamists are a different breed altogether. Many have had Western educations, and draw upon postmodernist thinking to arrive at an ideology that approximates the Leninist emphasis on an elitist intelligentsia. They speak the Marxist language of mobilizing the masses and so attract many of the urban poor. The Hamas of Palestine and the radicals of Algeria, Sudan, and Afghanistan are all the visible creation of Islamists.

One must takes pains to separate Islam as a religion from the political ideology of the Islamists. Nonetheless there is embedded within the practice and traditions of Islam an animus toward non-Muslims in which the excesses of Islamism are nurtured. Its scriptural denigration of Christianity and Judaism, its insistence on the primacy of Islam, and its assumed intellectual and spiritual superiority create an environment amenable to demagogues with a gift for oratory and rhetoric—an ability long prized in the oral traditions of the Middle East.

But this denigrating view of Christians and Jews, evident in a number of Qu’ranic passages (Surah II: 113, 120, 135, 140, and especially Surah V:51), has been stripped of its historical context and transmitted to a politicized generation in a number of ways. It can be seen, for example, in textbooks published for use by American Muslim school children. In one high school text, Jews are depicted as treacherous: “The Muslims had asked the Jews for cooperation and peace. What they got was [sic] stabs in the back, conspiracies, and plots to kill the Prophet.” In fact it is very difficult in these presentations to draw a distinction between the seventh century Jews of Arabia and those of Israel today—Jews of Arabia were simply Arab tribes that adopted Judaism.

Another disquieting facet of such Islamic literature is a tendency not just to promote Islam, but to belittle Christianity at the same time. One has to remember that the Prophet Mohammed was given the task of redressing the “corrupted” texts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. As such the “truth” of Islam rests, in part, upon a refutation of the Judaic law and the central doctrines of Christianity.

Middle East: Yesterday and Today

My years in the Middle East reaffirmed for me the political good of separating church and state: not on account of the corrupting influence of the church on the body politic, but rather because of the corrupting influence of secular power on religion. A great religion—Islam—is being corrupted by those who cynically use it as a path to power. The Hassan Turabis, with their cultivated English and French, polished manners, and classical Western education, charm the same Western intellectual class that Friedrich Hayek described as so easily moving from socialism to fascism in the 1930s. It is the all-encompassing aspects of Islam that captivate the intellectual elite—not as a spiritual religion, of course, but more as a totalitarian ideology through which man and society fit into their concept of utopia.

In the ’60s the compatibility of Islam and Marxism was fiercely debated. Some saw the two as having many common elements, not the least of which was a tendency toward absolutism and millenarianism.

Islam is a way of life: an all-pervasive moral and ethical system based on an uncompromising system of beliefs. Apologists for Islam, therefore, maintain that imbedding Islam into the written constitutions of various nations is appropriate because in Islam there can be no separation of church and state. This is true. And it is precisely for this reason that an Islamic-dominated government is institutionally prejudicial to the non-Muslims within its borders. As a Jordanian Christian friend of mine told me a few years ago, “I’m too old to leave, but my children must go because there is no life for Christians anymore.” This in one of the more enlightened Muslim nations!

In my visits to the Middle East in the past few years I have observed that while political freedom (only granted at the pleasure of the various national leaders) has expanded, social freedoms have greatly narrowed. There is a certain tension in the air. For Christians and other non-Muslims it means living one’s life in perpetual constraint. The bargain is simply that in exchange for Muslim tolerance, non-Muslims must exercise their faith in private and with due deference to easily aroused Muslim sensibilities. In fact, invisibility would be better.

The history of the Middle East is replete with massive atrocities perpetrated against non-Muslims, but more recent history seems even more ominous for its evidence of governmental or political opposition strategy. From the exodus of the Armenians from Turkey, to the massacre of the Assyrians in Iraq, to the problems in Egypt, major upheavals in the Middle East carry anti-Christian overtones throughout. Christians are seen as a fifth column of the Western world—a perception unfortunately exacerbated by the Western powers’ use of minority communities, especially Christians, as levers to maintain rule in the colonial era.

The Christian Reaction

Perhaps the saddest Christian story of our era is that of Lebanon. Once a paradise combining the best in Western sophistication and Eastern hospitality, it is fast becoming just another Middle Eastern satrapy. Despite the attempts of Western writers on the Lebanese war to reduce that savage conflict to a socio-ideological war in terms of economic class, it was at its core a religious war. Against the combined weight of the Muslim world—as the Lebanese Christians see it—without any Western support, the Christians were ground down. Now demoralized and weakened, they are pessimistic about their future. Lebanese expatriates say the Christians who remain are resigned, dispirited, and bitter about what they perceive as their abandonment by the West, particularly pointing to the Syrian takeover of the last Christian enclave following the 1991 Gulf War. They are angry about the inequities in the Western reporting of that war and refer to the torrent of press coverage given the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps by Christian militia in 1982, compared with the lack of Western media attention given the earlier but equally horrendous butchery of Christians in the port city of Damon.

For these reasons not only is stability the fervent wish of the minorities in the Middle East, but along with it they also encourage any form of government that is not Islamic. As an example, one might be puzzled by the support given a thug such as Saddam Hussein by a large percentage of the Christian population in Iraq. There is a very simple answer: The brutality of Saddam is secular. Fingernails are pulled and executions carried out without regard to religion. Most Christians prefer Saddam to a government of mullahs. If you have doubts, check with the many Iraqi Chaldean Christians who live in that country.

It is no accident that almost all the secularist ideologies and political movements of the Middle East have been initiated or sustained by minorities, particularly Christians. Even among the Palestinian guerrilla movement, the Christians comprise the most secular and Marxist elements, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by a Greek Orthodox George Habash, or another even more radical organization led by another Greek Orthodox, Nayif Hawatmeh. Despite their antipathy to one another, the tacit alliance of the Lebanese Maronite Christians and the Israelis in Lebanon against all forms of Islamist rule is only one other example of the very real fears that an Islamist government instills in non-Muslims.

Petty Persecutions

Perhaps a more pernicious sort of discrimination against Christians is the Kafka-like rules inhibiting their ability to expand, proselytize, or build new churches. This is particularly true in Egypt, where the government, in an attempt to appease the more radical Muslim element, imposes all sorts of restrictions on any new church construction.

Within Islamic tradition there is a school of thought that allows Christians to keep existing churches but forbids the building of new ones. These limitations extend to repairing churches as well. Any repair, no matter how minor, must await presidential approval—a process that can take several years. In the meantime, a church may deteriorate and require further repairs, thus entailing a whole new permission process. If in repairing a church damage is found to require more than the repairs originally authorized, it will also entail a new authorization process. These rules date back to an 1856 Ottoman decree and, despite some appeals, have not been repealed.

A particularly sad result of the increasing intolerance for non-Muslims within the Islamic Middle East is the accelerating exodus of Christians from the lands of their origin. There is an economic component to this emigration, but an increased sense of alienation from their own lands is its primary cause. A steady stream of emigrants has diminished the Christian communities of Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine. The once-Christian town of Bethlehem is now Muslim and the minority of Christians remaining may have to steer between Scylla and Charybdis in living with continued Israeli occupation or the installation of an Islamist government. With the continued erosion of support for an increasingly moribund Palestinian Liberation Organization, Islamist rule has become a distinct possibility.

When I was in Bethlehem several years ago, Christian shopkeepers were worried about an Israeli withdrawal, not because they saw the Israelis as their protectors, but because they believed that the common enmity toward the Israelis produced a welcome bond between Christians and Muslims. With an Israeli withdrawal, the Muslims might turn on them. Christians in the region give credence to a rumored Muslim slogan, “Today Saturday and tomorrow Sunday”: after the Jews are driven out, the Christians are next. But these matters are not simple. To be sure, the policies of the Israeli military government, the anti-Christian attitudes of some of the Jewish fundamentalist settlers, and the early support of the Israeli government for the radical Muslim organization Hamas all greatly exacerbated the Christian’s problems.

Wider Christian Persecution

The politicization of religion has led to a paucity of purely religious Islamic leadership in the Middle East. It has become difficult to separate the politicians from the spiritual leaders. Of course, many would say this is integral to Islam and its doctrine of the indivisibility of religion and politics, but the result has been to represent Islam as a religion lacking any moral or spiritual base. At the national and international level we hear the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood advocating the removal of Christians from the army in Egypt while reinstating the jizya—a sort of poll tax levied on non-Muslims in lieu of military service—a tax that apologists have tried to defend as a humane gift to the non-Muslim communities.

The Islamic government of Iran in earlier years demonstrated a thirst for savage brutality both in the suppression of Kurds and other minorities within Iran and in the relentless persecution of Bahais for being apostates, a transgression in traditional Islam that warrants the death penalty. The murder of several Christian ministers in recent years would seem to undercut the view of a kinder, gentler Iran. Iranians who have visited Iran in recent years tell of corruption within the clerical leadership that extends well beyond the levels tolerated in the era of the shah. The overwhelming election of a more moderate president, Mohammed Khatami (himself a cleric), was based in part on public revulsion to the rule of the mullahs.

All of this has distorted the international face of Islam. Doubtless there are thousands of village sheiks, mullahs, and Imams who lead their followers in the simple devotions of the faith, but they do not presume to speak to the world. In this era of mass communication, the demagogues have the playing field practically all to themselves.

In the face of increased Islamic militancy, the timidity of Western Christian leadership is typified by the World Council of Churches as it grovels before every third-world demand, so as long as it is presented in some suitably anti-Western rhetoric. In some sixty press releases issued in 1997 and this year, the WCC has weighed in on land mine issues, environmental issues, handguns in Great Britain, offered condolences to the Islamic world on the tragic fire in Mecca, and attacked the Shell Oil company as well as the Nigerian government for destroying the land of the Ogoni people, but not a word on the plight of the non-Muslim people of Sudan or any other Muslim nation.

This timidity is matched by national leaders who grate fully accept large cash donations originating in nations busily engaged in eliminating Christian communities—Indonesia and China especially. The Department of State, inhibited by the exigencies of national interests, seems able to manage only the most tepid criticism of Christian persecution around the world. The response to the blatant and well-documented repression of Christians in Sudan was: “U.S. Government led efforts to pass tough resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” In essence the policy is clear enough: make perfunctory complaints to low-level officials and deflect domestic demands for greater U.S. involvement.

Nothing I have written here obviates my admiration for Islam as a faith, immovable, self-confident, pervasive, and demanding of its adherents. Compared with the mush emanating from the pulpits of so many mainstream Christian churches, I find a great deal to admire in Islam and in the simple devotion of its faithful. But at some point it must be made clear that Christianity cannot accept a condition of vassalage, or defer to any Islamic practice that denigrates Christianity or its followers. We cannot remain silent in the face of Muslim intellectuals who claim that Christianity is a fraudulent religion that celebrates its two central rites by “rolling eggs down a hill and tying gifts to a fir tree.”

It is just this kind of arrogance—and Western acquiescence to it—that underscores the dangers envisioned by Samuel Huntington in Clash of Civilizations. He quotes the eminent historian Bernard Lewis in describing the traditionalist Islamic concept of a house of war (populated by non-Muslims) and a house of peace (populated by Muslims) is very much alive. What is more, the world will not have tranquility until the house of war is absorbed by the house of peace. For those who choose not to convert, this peace may carry a very heavy price.

It is a particularly sad fact that at today’s rate of Christian emigration from the Middle East, the faith will soon be nearly devoid of adherents in its birthplace. This is unlikely to change so long as Islam remains so politically charged. The demagogues of the Middle East need scapegoats, and minorities of any form are increasingly vulnerable. Further, the insecurity of Christian communities reflects a larger erosion of the social fabric of the Middle Eastern mosaic of diverse communities. The elaborate social conventions and economic interdependence that held together ethnic and religious communities have unraveled in the face of accelerating urbanization. The movement from rural to urban results in increased identification with radical religious movements.

The present leadership of the Middle East is aging, and massive changes in regime are likely in the next decade. This transition of power is not likely to be peaceful, and the resulting instability will put the Christian communities in further jeopardy. Those who advocate a more tolerant, secular society are intimidated by an all pervasive religiously correct environment in which dissent can be dangerous. Although some Muslim scholars do believe a modernized Islam and a secular state can coexist, it is hard to see how this is so. The few who advocate secularization rarely do so from a forum in the Middle East. Even Anwar Sadat, a man of vision and courage, knew that any move against the Muslim radicals required a public move against Christians, which, in my time there, usually resulted in Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church being put in internal exile. As many Lebanese Christians will tell you, compromise and the search for a modus vivendi with the Muslim community are resulting in institutionalized inferiority.

During my travels of the past nine years in the Middle East, my observations are of a society and people in a state of near-constant tension. Despite the political upheavals of the ’60s, there was a certain love of life, a determination to live life to the fullest, despite the turmoil and danger. I do not see or feel that now. There is a grim resignation, and especially among Christians, a desire to be as unobtrusive as possible. And as the old Arab adage has it, blessed is the man with a beautiful wife and whom the sultan does not know.

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The legacy of Nazi Propaganda to the Middle East

Grand Mufti Muhammed Amin al-Husseini a charismatic and manipulative figure who remains a hero to many Arabs..and a forced of ubiquitous evil to most Westerners and all Jews. He was appointed as the Grand Mufti by Lord Samuels, first commissioner of Palestine and a Jewish zionist. Go figure!

Putting the bottom line up front. The collision of Zionist aims and Arab Nationalism was -to a large degree- a by product of the highly effective and continuous propaganda of the Nazi regime beginning in 1939 and right up till the last days of the Hitler regime.  The clash between Jewish immigrants  and Arab residents of Palestine began in the 1920’s. During this time right up till beginning of World War Two  the conflict was confined to Palestine. The ceaseless and omnipresent Nazi propaganda turned the issue from one of an Arab Palestinian issue to one of the entire Arab and Islamic world.  The legacy of this continues to this day.

The Mufti of Jerusalem , Emir Husseini was a key element in the widening of the Nazi racial warfare   horizons. His nefarious career, particularly became diabolical when he became involved with the Nazi war effort in the Middle East. In fact Barry Rubin, in his book, Nazis, Islamists, and The Making of the Modern Middle East, makes the assertion thaHitler’s turn to the “final solution”-the extermination of European Jewish population- was in part based on Husseini’s exhortations to Hitler during  his face to face meeting with him not to allow Jewish emigration to Palestine. Previously among other ideas floating around Berlin at that time  were proposals  to simply banish all the Jews from Germany and the subsequent areas to be conquered. This would entail a flood of refugees fleeing to Palestine from Germany. It was the Emir’s objective to stop this Jewish immigration- by whatever means.  Rubin notes that a couple of weeks after Hitler’s meeting with the Emir, the “final solution” at the Wannsee conference, became the official doctrine. The Emir, blue eyed, light skinned, with a magnetic and forceful personality, had a magnetic effect on many people, and apparently so with Hitler.  George Antonius, the Greek Orthodox literary father of Arab nationalism (The Arab Awakening) described him as a great Arab patriot, and  was positively entranced by the Emir. See To War With Whitaker by Hermione Ranfurly.  ( Madame Ranfurly, the young wife of of a British officer captured by the  Germans,  traveled all over the Middle East during WWII and apparently met almost anyone of note in the entire region,  quoting a long passage of Antonius’s hagiographic description of the Emir.) His popularity with the Germans was undoubtedly  enhanced by his teutonic appearance as it was with Arabs in general.


As Klaus Gensicke ( The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis: The Berlin Years) wrote, “The eliminatory kind of power politics which Amin al Husseini pursued throughout the Arab region against both Jews and Arabs is the recurrent theme of Palestinian politics  and is still unambiguously reflected in the Hamas Covenant requiring the destruction of Israel, and in the infamous phraseology Protocols of the Elders of Zion, inveighing  against all Jews irrespective of their nationality.”

This hate doctrine was perpetuated by the very effective German propaganda machine which broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, portraying Jews as the eternal enemies of Islam, and more graphic depictions as monkeys, emphasizing historical pictures of the Jews as genetically disposed to usury, cheating, immorality, and depravity. Jeffrey Herf, In his book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World  throughly covers this subject, and the many ways in print, radio, and word of mouth, through the Mosques, the German Nazis cultivated this depiction of the Jews.

Not that this depiction was new. In fact European anti -semitism was always more virulent and that in the Arab world. Some has written that there was no real anti-semitism until the advent of Zionism but that is patently untrue. Reading  the preeminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, (Semites and anti-Semites) or Bat Ye’or (Islam and Dhimmitude) the Western style anti-semitism was different than the Middle Eastern/Islamic variety.   Lewis wrote , “For Christian anti- semites the Palestine problem is a pretext and  an outlet for their hatred. For Muslims it is the cause.”  However this is not the total picture. In the Islamic world the Jewish people were seen as mostly disreputable and powerless people, devoid of martial qualities, filling a required place in the Islamic economic scheme as financial lenders, and small shop keepers.  They were in powerless in a  world that venerates powerl.  They were a People to be mostly ignored or pitied rather than hated. One hates those above him, not below.The European hatred was one of jealousy, envy, and an engrained hatred blaming the Jews for the death of Christ. As Ibn Khaldun, the great Arab historian, wrote, the Jewish  “depravity” was an  acquired consequence of their subject status in life, as second class citizens in the Islamic world.   In fact, Arab/Islamic history  is replete with blood libel and genocidal episodes against Jews who were often blamed for  any event of domestic  unrest. They were convenient targets of the mobs.

It was the Nazi propaganda that turned the  Arab/Islamic intolerance for the Jews into a more European style hatred. One example being the Farhud in Baghdad against the Jews. In June 1941, as the British army closed in on the ragtag  revolting Iraqi army,  supported by the Nazi regime a mass  mob rampage broke out in the City.Hundreds of Jews were murdered and their properties destroyed. Baghdad had, at that time, the most populous Jewish population in the Middle East. They had survived centuries with only  minor anti-Jewish riots in the past, and generally  lived tolerably peaceful, fruitful lives.  Even today one can find many web sites of exiled Baghdadi Jews  reminiscing about their enjoyable live style in Baghdad. Of course the immediate answer of the neo-Arabists is to a say this was all the fault of Zionism. No doubt the Palestine problem was a factor but it was the Nazi and Italian propaganda that engrained and perpetuated the Palestinian issue in the minds of Arabs and Muslims all the way to India.

Bosnian SS troops

All this was a consequence of the Nazi propaganda linking the Jews to the Jewish immigration to Palestine-despite the British infamous “White Paper’” effectively ending Jewish immigration to Palestine.  The ambivalent and often anti-Jewish of attitude of the British general officers was the example of the Commander of the British forces pursuing  the retreating Iraqis, General Archibald  Wavell, kept his troops waiting outside Baghdad, while the anti-Jewish rampage continued– supposedly he was fearful a British army entering famed Baghdad would set off a general Islamic insurrection.

Emir Hussein having fled Palestine during the Arab revolt in Palestine in 1936-1938 – which he helped incite- he fled to Iraq. During his stay there  he assisted in fomenting the Iraqi rebellion.  Chased out of Iraq he eventually wound up in Berlin where he managed to ingratiate himself with the Nazis. He received a substantial amount of money from the German as well as the Italians, with whom he adroitly played against one another. Awe promised to raise an army of  100,000 Arab volunteers to fight with the Axis, but other than a few hundred, he failed to do so. However he had much  better luck with the Islamic population of the Balkans were he raised a considerable amount of troops, mostly Bosnian Muslims, to fight against the Yugoslavian  Partisan leader Tito’s  Christian Slavs.  An excellent book on this phase of the Mufti’s career is George  Lepre’s, Himmlers Bosnian Division:  The Waffen SS Handschar Division, 1943-1945.  The Bosnian Muslims  were pretty much useless in conventional warfare, even mutinying against its German officers in France, murdering some of them,  but had some effectiveness in anti -insurgent warfare, notorious for atrocities against the Slavic people. Even their German officers were turned off.

reading propaganda on Judaism


The British propaganda to counter  the Nazis  in the Middle East was generally inept.  Although Charles Cruickshank, ( The Fourth Arm)  A British official in the Ministry of Supply, who read the daily reports, wrote that “The most important of PWE’s overseas mission was in the Middle East,” their efforts to counter the Germans was totally( arguably perhaps) ineffective. Freya Stark, the intrepid lady adventurer, and Arabist, a latter day Gertrude Bell, blamed the ineffectiveness-indirectly- on the Palestine problem, In her books, East is West, and The Arab Island, she constantly laments the problem of Palestine.  She wrote,“ Here too, was confirmed the immense emotional influence  of Palestine, spread out so far beyond its geographic boundaries. Practically every expression of antagonism would centre on that small country, whose power for trouble, like that of  Cleopatra, age cannot whither or stale.” She mentioned that even in the wilderness of Yemen the isolated villagers had Palestine on their minds. Having spent some time in Yemen about 30 years later I found that hard to believe.

Freya Stark. great writer on the Middle east. Courageous adventurer. Very unhappy with Zionism but unlike Gertrude Bell she was not anti-semitic .


Being an Anglophile, especially WWII  era, I have read quite a bit about British ( and some American) propaganda efforts in the Arab/Islamic world, including  Ranfurly’s, Crucikshank’s books but also Gershom Gorenburg, War in The Shadows, Youssef Aboul -Enein and Basil Aboul-Enein, The Secret War for the Middle East, Duff Cooper, Old Men Forget, and the best one, Comes the Reckoning by R.H. Bruce Lockhart. My opinion is that the British screwed up their propaganda produce with petty squabbles, infighting, lack of leadership, and fragmented psychological branches, most fighting one another. ( Blaming the Zionists were lame excuses.

Harold MacMillan, the future British PM wrote ( The Blast of War), “The Germans are conducting a very active propaganda among the Arabs. They have seized a large quantity of goods of all kinds for distribution to the natives ( Tunisians).  And by every possible possible means, with the active cooperation of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem influencing  them against us. I have already done my best to expedite the formation of a proper Arab section 0f the psychological Warfare Department. ”

He went on to express his frustration with Allied psychological warfare  in another book, War Diaries: The War in the Mediterranean, writing “ All the people concerned with propaganda and publicity and political warfare are a neurotic, feminine type, and quarrel with each other a great deal. They are much more difficult to handle than anyone else in A.F.H.Q, ( Allied Force HQ)or indeed in the theatre generally.”

Be as it may , the malevolence of The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was happily in accord with the Nazi plans to continue its “final solution” to the Middle East. As the German army pincer operations continued in North Africa  and the Caucasus, seemingly on an axes  to meet in Palestine, the German  had Walter Rauff, an expert on the use of mobile gas vans to use on the Arab world Jews.  He did manage to kill about 2000 Tunisian Jews before   the Germans were evicted from North Africa. Rauff managed to escape after the war and went to world  for Syrian intelligence. In fact many of the more notorious German Nazi propagandists found work and hospitality, especially in Egypt and  Syria continuing their vitriol after the war ended for a new employer.

The Grand Mufti a happy guest of Abdul Nasser, appointed Nasir Arafat as the leader of the PLO.



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Israel Fights a Two Front War

I would suppose that most people seeing the above headline-if they are moderately aware of the Arab-Israel forever war  would assume I am writing about the Attacks on Israel from the West Bank and Gaza. I’m not. I’m talking about the Israel internal war and the on-going struggle with the Palestinians. The internal war is a cultural war and it is far more critical and dangerous for the survival of Israel as a Jewish state.

Israeli woke doing what they do best

The Zionists, Jews who wanted a Jewish homeland, had no doubt in their minds what they ultimately envisioned- …a Jewish state. Having been painfully aware-at least in their minds – that ultimately there was no safe  place for Jews anywhere in the world. The founders of Israel, the Zionists, were adamant that they wanted a Jewish state- a state of the Jews, for the Jews , and by the Jews, but as more waves of Jews arrived from all parts of the world, that clear cut vision has become watered down. Many Jews have arrived in Israel basically because they had no place else to go, or were made  unwelcome where they were, and lived in countries  in which Judaism was suppressed. In recent times Some came from European democratic countries, where the modern culture created a sort of civil religion, in which cultural Jewishness has become paramount over Judaism. From the beginning there was tension between those- the Zionists- who emphasized an Israeli nation, emphasizing Jewish nationality over  those who emphasized a homeland for Jews  based on Judaism. The gradations were many and intricate but the fissure remains  immense- and I am over my  head in explaining this. So perhaps one way to describe this is a personal example.

My father was an Ashkenazi  Jew from Russia who immigrated to the US as a young person. He married my mom, a southern Baptist  Christian and was totally secular. I knew nothing about his Jewish heritage, only his Russian.  My mom  told me dad was Jewish but in those days she might as well have said he was Nepalese. It meant nothing to me  and my father never spoke of it. But in thinking about it in later years, my father fit the mold of a modern cultural Jew, except that out of the ordinary for most American Jews he was a career soldier, fought in WWI and served as an interrogator of German prisoners in Ft Stewart Georgia during World War II.  Perhaps he hid his Jewish heritage because in those days being Jewish in the American army, especially as a combat enlisted man was very rare.  ( The movie From Here to Eternity pretty well depicts that army)The Pre war WWII American army was a  hard drinking, rowdy bunch.  No love your neighbor classes back then and certain no woke foolishness.

He was very liberal in politics, having views on policies that were very leftist for that era.(Today, of course he would be aghast at with the “woke” movement and Marxist ideas prevalent among the elitist  young.)   When the Israeli state was proclaimed he was  happy about it-and proud of the Israelis—but he made it clear he spoke as an American liberal not as a Jew.

Land of Canaan

So today what is happening in Israel is continuing drift toward a non religious state, still Jewish for sure, but less interested in Judaism as lodestar of Israel. Of course one will always  point out- quite rightly-that the early Zionists  were mostly more secular socialists  and not disciples of Judaism.  So they ask-why is new? Most obviously the early Jewish pioneer spirit has dissipated midst the good life enjoyed by most in Israel today. Some will dispute my following opinion-  as almost anything one writes about Israel will be disputed by someone- but my reading of the history of Israel, its travails and endless wars against surrounding neighbors who want to destroy them, has convinced  me -absolutely -that that the backbone of Israel’s survival has been the transcendental spirit of Judaism. The  waves of immigrants coming into Israel, some with only faint ties to Judaism, is beginning to create a society, which in the turn of the century might might have been  called a Canaanite state.( The term“Canaanite”  is not to be confused with the modern  witchcraft  worship of Malloch here in the West) . The Canaanite were a Hebrew speaking people evicted  or subsumed by the invading Israelites  about 1250 BCE.  Many of the existing Israeli culture of today dates from the Canaan era. The irony is of course that they were bitter enemies. No conflict isa as bitter as that of cousins- witness the Arab-Israeli   conflict of today. In early 20th century there were scholarly discussion among Jewish scholars and clerics whether  Palestine should be Jewish or Canaanite i.e.  that it would become more Hebrew and less Jewish –a return to a Hebrew speaking Israel with semitic culture but not a religious Jewish state.This is best explained by one scholar this way.

“It  is cultural-political movement of the “Young Hebrews” created by Yonatan Ratosh in the twentieth century. It looks at the case of Jews called “Canaanites” by their adversaries, who then retained the name as a self-designation. They considered themselves “Hebrews” rather than Jews, connected first and foremost with the land of Canaan/Israel, not with Judaism; and they wanted to go back to the original relationship between the ancient people of Israel, the land of Canaan, and the Hebrew language. As part of the revival of the Hebrew nation, “Canaanism” also aimed at the Hebraization of the entire Middle East.”

To understand the confusion one has to read “The Looming war over Israel’s Law of Return”by Rafa  DeMogge at

The Looming War Over Israel’s Law of Return

It is a long  and not so easy to understand, but it is critical defining who can come to Israel as a legal citizen under the law of return. It is all so murky that many are confused –but the bottom line  is that more and more people living in Israel see it as simply another  nation, a very  industrious and special one, but not one in which  rests the fate of Judaism as one of the world’s great religions.

Some scholars have defined  Israel as a centrifugal society, likely to fly apart, but ironically they will say that this society is held together by the unceasing enmity  of their Arab neighbors. As the saying goes, where there are three Jews there will be conflict, one left, one right, and one to conciliate.

As I see it the greatest internal threat to Israel is the “new American imperialism” in the form of the so-called woke cultural pestilence. Despite the fact that it  is mostly a cultural phenomena, arising from a coddled,  elitist Western youth, mostly ignorant but arrogant,  , it, like marxism and fascism, can result in untold suffering for millions before it recedes. It has invaded Israeli society severely severely hampers the fight against terrorism in which every single day there is a terrorist act. Holding out the the hand with an olive branch will be bitten– as history keeps showing time and again.

Both sides bury their dead as the eternal war goes on

Israel cannot afford the luxury of believing in the end of history,- a la Francis Fukuyama- the ultimate triumph of democracy and the creation of some leftist utopia is at hand. The mass “woke”stupidity politically and socially afflicting the United States can be tolerated for some period of time( not too much time) before the ship of America rights itself, but Israel does not enjoy that luxury. Their enemies are all around them  and their Western “supporters” are feckless and irresolute.

I believe at one point in recent history, the Israelis came to  believe that the external  Islamic/Arab threat was contained, and that the West was their eternal friend and supporter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Safe within their borders ( whatever they are) they could then begin to squabble among themselves, locked  into interminable cultural wars. Sad to say the only feature common to  both extreme right and Left ideologies in the West is anti-semitism.  Moreover The Arab/Islamic threat has not quieted. It has  actually grown more virulent.

Biden has recently given security assurances to Israel. To believe they have any validity is a sure sign of quixotic ( or more to the point–stupid) thinking.


The Israelis, to survive, have to understand that they must be a fortress state, with resolute firm domestic unity.  Camp David, Oslo peace, etc.  plans are chimeras. Putting faith in them will validate the  prediction of so many British and Arab historians, forecasting the ‘ultimate”demise of Israel. A view espoused by none other that the indomitable Arabist Freya Stark  and many others in the Western governments.




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The Ukraine, Taiwan and the East-West Confrontation

The Wall Street Journal recently had two articles which peaked my interest in writing about the connection between the war in Ukraine and the shift in centers  of  world power…at  least the impression  of it happening. Insofar as the Middle East is concerned they are increasingly putting their money for security on a China-Russian power bloc at the expense of the Western Powers. The long standing weakness of Western Europe in military power has been extant since WWII, but that was redressed by American military prowess. But the  idea of omnipotent and omnipresent American military power providing a security umbrella for those who chose to ally with it, has been severely eroded by two lost wars, the grinding and unsuccessful counterinsurgency in Iraq, and the debacle in Afghanistan.  Perhaps even more importantly the demonstrable weakness and incompetence of current American political and military leadership is palpably obvious to any one who cares to look beyond White House press releases. As has become obvious, Middle Eastern rulers have no confidence whatsoever in American security guarantees. American implied threats and or promises are simply brushed aside, and that includes Israel, which increasingly is going its own way. The Chinese leadership sees the United States as a power in rapid decline and their attitude is shared by what use to b e called the  the Third World, developing countries, emergent nations, etc. Many of them were former colonies or long dependent on  Western largesse, which they accepted with ill-concealed ingratitude and contempt. This is the crux of the East-West divide and the Ukrainian war has defined it as the epitome of  the perennial East-West struggle.


In the WSJ an article on the progress of the Ukrainian offensive ( Saturday 17-18 June 2023)  admits the going for the Ukrainians is “hard.” For the WSJ, like almost all big dailies in the US, has been panglossian over the Ukrainian prospects in the war. Certainly  The gallant Ukrainian soldiers  deserve the kudos they get, but in a strategic sense the Ukrainians stated goal of  restoring pre-2014 borders, especially Crimea, is not feasible. Reading the well- researched book by Walter Dunn, Stalin’s Keys to Victory was very informative. Stalin lost two complete armies against the Germans in WWII, but he was able to put out a third army which was well trained, armed and led, eventually overwhelming the  German army, without doubt the most effective  fighting machine of the 20th century, possible of all times.  The optimist will say– quite rightly—- The Russians of today are not the Russians of WWII,  but neither are the Germans, British and Americans, being eaten from within by marxist, and inchoate “woke” ideologies.   The Russians  still have the centralized control and a strongman in charge using omnipresent propaganda of “mother Russia” reclaiming their historic heartland  which works well with the  susceptible Russian people.

The  despotic and  authoritarian leadership of the third world, intuitively alert to changes in wind direction,  sense the way the war in the Ukraine is going and they see it not as a resolute united  Western  alliance  against Russia but as a epic battle of the East against Western arrogance and hubris.  Yaroslav Trofimov, a top notch journalist, wrote in the WSJ noted above, that ….”Western strategists hope that Russia’s failure and the strong response  from the West will give Beijing second thoughts about tracking Taiwan.”  But as he wrote The Chinese leaders see the Taiwan issue in a different light that the Ukraine issue. But missing from Trofimov’s article is my assessment that the Chinese along with most of the “East” do not see the Western support of Ukraine as particularly resolute and they do share the Western confidence ( perhaps contrived) in a Ukrainian victory.

The point- to reiterate -is that Russia has been able to exploit ( or invent) the East-West age old conflict to depict  the Ukrainian struggle as  the embodiment of this struggle.

How the Russians view the West I wrote as part of my presentation at the 2022 ASMEA  conference, detailing  the Russian military failure in the Middle East and how it has affected their military effectiveness in Ukraine.  it is at

A portion continues below;

The conventional view sees the Russian   interests centering on Europe, but the intensity of the Russian interest in the Greater Middle East has been surfaced more recently by historians using new information. They have concluded that the Soviets were willing to risk nuclear war to support Egypt in their war against Israel.  In fact, the great Russian thinkers have always evidenced a fascination with the Islamic world from Tolstoy to the present. The entire paper is at

One factor usually missed in assessing the Russian interest in the Middle East are the congruities in Russian and Middle eastern culture. The one that stands out is the historical animosity and /or indifference to the West. Bernard Lewis in the Crisis of Islam captured the Middle Eastern ignorance of the West, by an indifferent Islamic civilization, and Isaiah Berlin described  the  Russian xenophobia, writing, “with the possible exception of Turgenev, there is no great Russian writer, who did not suffer from Xenophobia, amounting at times to acute hatred of the West.”  Tolstoy believed the West was in rapid decline and rotting.  Pushkin , the father of the Russian soul   was adamantly anti -Western in his writings. I believe this factor played out in the general reluctance of Islamic Middle Eastern nations  to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.  As always, The secular West’s ignorance of the power of religion and culture in world events is intrinsic to many our miscalculations.

In the paper I identify a number of other cultural congruities, particularly fatalism, that affect, or in fact afflict, both Russian and Arab militaries,  such as the absence of a professional Non Commissioned officer corps, and a mediocre junior officer corps. Like the Middle Eastern armies, The Russian senior officers are largely politically vetted for regime loyalty with widely varying degrees of competence. Both Middle Eastern and Russian armies are guardians of the regime but at the same time pose a  threat.  This requires top heavy centralized command  resulting in a loss of individual initiative at division or corps training levels.

Russians in Afghanistan

Stalin lost two armies to the Germans as in the early stages of Ukraine due to incompetence of his leadership, but the third one drove the Germans out and reached Berlin

The West and the American people need to know…what next? To what degree is the West willing to support Ukraine? When one reads of the thousands of tanks involved in the Eastern Ukrainian front in WWII, the paltry numbers being given to the Ukrainians and then ballyhooed by the press as a decisive event would be laughable if not so tragic. More importantly we must look more closely at the human element. How long  can the Ukrainians continue to maintain their ardor and effectiveness  with the losses they are sustaining? What next for the Western powers? When the numbers of troops available to fight  begin to be the main factor what is the next step for the West–direct involvement? The East , Third world etc. does not think so and they are betting on Russia . In the Middle East the Islamist radical clerics have long harangued their followers describing  the Western civilization as effete and cowardly. They may be proven correct unless there is some sort of moral rearmament in the West to protect and courageously defend its civilization.

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Freedom No: Totalitarianism yes

The axiom of all political and societal studies is  the embedded belief that all human beings desire freedom, including the postulant that many are prepared to die to obtain it for their fellow humans. As I was brought up to believe freedom and liberty is a God-given natural right, not a whim of those who govern. The first amendment to the American constitution prohibits the government promoting specific  religious beliefs, prohibiting or abridging  free speech, or the Press, and curtailing the right of the people to assemble and address grievances.The Declaration of Independence declared that all men are created equal, the they are endowed by their  Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….”

But as we see today, the ideology of individual rights and freedom enshrined in the political structure of democracy is either  waning …as in the West… or never seeing the light of day in much of the East. The Middle East, according to the latest Freedom House Report, ( see once again has the unenviable status of one of the most egregiously  captive regions of the world and getting worse.

After he came to power Khomeini announced ”from now on all men and women will be free unless they want to do something against the country’s interests.” Of course since he believed he was God’s shadow on earth he solely determined the interests of Iran, including the deaths of thousands of people.

The gist of the above  article is that, not surprisingly, the Middle East North Africa ( MENA) has declined according to the data that defines a free society. Only one country, Iraq, has moved upward on the scale– and only by two points. All the other countries have declined from the rankings of 10 years ago. Turkey, Egypt, and Libya had the greatest declines while countries like Iran and Syria are already at rock bottom and have no further way to drop further. Tunisia  was once defined as “free,” the only nation in MENA besides Israel, to get that ranking, but recent events under their wannabe dictator Kais Saied- currently their president – has ripped the veneer of democracy off Tunisia, prohibiting any unfavorable mention of himself and instituting various other draconian measures. Once one of the very few places in the MENA tolerant of Jewish inhabitants– who have lived in Tunisia for centuries– Saied has tried to catch up to his fellow dictators in the MENA in Jew Baiting. It fits in well with his radical Islamist views. It was once believed that he, being professor of some note, that his intellectual persona would maintain  a relatively liberal society, but the history of the Middle Eastern society indicates that is a dangerous myth…just as intellectualism in the West is often the enemy of freedom. Read Paul Johnson…Intellectuals  .As he wrote, “intellectuals have the arrogance to believe that that they can use their brains to tell humanity how to conduct its affairs.In so doing they turn their backs natural law, inherited wisdom and the religious background that have traditionally defined the aims of society.”

what do we make of this? First of all as I wrote in the opening, the decline of Freedom  as a natural right to be desired is not a purely MENA trend. It has severely affected the Western nations as well, but is a slightly more deceptive manner. In the West one factor in the decline of freedom is the ubiquitous  “WOKE”  movement… an inchoate societal fashion of a  younger generation, having never experienced hunger, or the prospect of living under a bridge, or fighting in  defense of freedom, or living under a rapacious  tyrant who would incarcerate or kill them. They  confuse freedom with license,   and riot in expression of a rather futile attempt to give some meaning to an otherwise dreary existence.  Their nihilistic destruction reminds me of the upper class revolutionaries of the Russian Czarist era.  Secondly the United States and the  Western Europeans are continually drifting toward  a managerial state as defined by James Burnham in his book The Managerial Revolution written in 1941. We are to a large extent, and an expanding one, being ruled by unelected bureaucrats, and Mega corporate CEO’s  who owe allegiance to no one. Burnham defined them as”production managers, operating executives, superintendents, administrative engineers, supervisory technicians, and of course governmental bureaucrats.

Etienne de la Boetie wrote his classic the Politics of Obedience when he was about twenty. His question….. Why do people willingly submit to tyranny?

The nightmare Burnham foresaw in 1941 has come  to pass with a vengeance  during recent years, with Social media,  radio/television, newsprint  oligarchs, supra corporate octopuses  all working in tandem  conditioning us to be mere cogs in a vast machine. Now we have governmental “Czars” who condition us to accept incremental edicts on climate, energy, medicine, and every aspect of our lives. To whom are they responsible? The cogs we are becoming were wonderfully well- depicted by Yevgeny Zamyatin in his little book We, written in the 1920’s, in which individuals are  called “ciphers” with a number. And the word “I” is forbidden as is all individuality. Children belong to the state, sex is controlled by the state, intermittent partners allowed by state approved selection… the ultimate result of the demise of freedom.  The State says “each cipher has the right to any other citizen.” But the people cheer in unison as  the regulated state Hymns are sung in perfect harmony as evidenced that happiness prevails.

(Yevgeniy Zamyatin, Russian writer, portrait c1935  His book We was thew forerunner of many dystopian writings including Orwell’s Animal Farm and Ayn Rand’s Anthem

So why are these tyrannical regimes in the East and the managerial Juggernauts in the West maintaining or gaining power? The uneasy answer is that the universal desire for freedom is ….alas …. not universal or widespread. Nor is this reticence toward exercising  freedom  located in one  society or region. How can one explain the German society of the thirties, one of the most highly educated societies in the world, eagerly accepting Fascism, or Russia the home of some of the most brilliant writers and philosophers becoming the home base of Marxism and its later manifestation, Stalinism? As Eric From, Escape From Freedom, wrote “modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds or lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man, but an automaton.”

There are two basic reasons  for the slide toward or retention of tyranny throughout the world.  First is the temptation to surrender ones freedom for physical well being…the warm and fuzzy feeling of a “nanny state” such as that seen in Western Europe. Surrender your self, including your soul, to the state and you will be taken care of…such is the siren call of the administrative ( managerial) state.  The second reason is detailed in the works by Etienne de La Boetic, The Politics of Obedience.  La Boetic surfaces a number of reasons for man to surrender his birthright for convenience but one in particular which applies primarily to the MENA region, as an example to Iraq.  As he writes “it Is true that men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to.” Think  about the Republic of Fear by Kenan Makiya writing about Iraq under Saddam and those who succumbed to fear. But after them came many thousands who happily did Saddam’s bidding. Why?

La Boetic explains it this way, How is it that one man despotically rules over millions of resentful people? “ It does not seem credible on first thought but it is nevertheless true that there are only  five  minions who maintain the dictator, who keep the country in bondage to him. …….these five  manage their chief so successfully that he comes to be accountable to not only for his own misdeeds but even for theirs.The five have five hundred who profit under them and the five hundred maintain under them five thousand, whom they promote in rank, upon whom they confer honors  and money. The consequence of all this is fatal. And whoever unwinds the skein will observe that not the six thousand but a hundred  thousand , even millions cling to the tyrant by this cord by which they are attached.” When the tyrant pulls the cord millions obey.  So it has been with so many tyrants, Assad, Saddam,  Khomeini , etc.  From the Iraqi war we were looking for the 52 close confidants of Saddam, but  how many thousands were attached to those 52? Under them were  tribal chiefs appointed by Saddam, minor clogs in the wheel of servitude, and of course the strong bonds of the Ba’ath party through favors, wasta and the sharing of guilt. Becoming complicit in the crimes of the tyrant binds one to him…a tactic Saddam applied very cunningly.Example; Having  his p

It is difficult be too concerned about the lamentable state of democracy in the MENA when I see freedom being steadily eroded in my own country. Of course in the MENA, individual  missteps can land one in jail or even  facing execution while, here in the West, punishment is more benign,  less physical, more attuned to breaking the spirit and moral bearing of  the man, through “legal” procedures, fear of financial and repetitional ruin   instilled by  enforcing selected “laws,” and an array of  policies and directives. Very often being out of sync with  fashionable trends promoted  by the ruling  elites, for example in sexuality, the value of life, climate etc.,  lead to public humiliation, penury and disgrace. Few are willing to stand against that. The sad reality seems to be  as Jean Francois Revel  wrote, ( The Totalitarian Temptation) “…the new World revolution ( democracy) will probably fail….because the world steadily rejects democracy.”








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Iraq: Twenty Years After Disbanding the Iraqi Army – Right or Wrong?

This past week marked the twentieth years since the invasion/liberation’ of Iraq by US and allied forces. As might be expected the “experts” were refurbishing their opinions offered at the time. The usual American Bush administration  villains were resurrected for  further chastisement  and in addition  to President Bush, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator, Jerry Bremer,   Deputy SecDef Paul Wolfowitz, Under SecDef Doug Feith, and others known as NeoCons, which many believed to be a sly reference to the number of Jewish policymakers involved in the decision to go to war against Iraq. In the byzantine corridors of power and influence the higher US government officials were all at each others throats, with jealousies, backbiting, and petty maneuvering by the bureaucrats at fever pitch. Given a mandate by President Bush, Jerry Bremer took the baton and ran with it. The two decisions he made, disbanding the Iraqi army, and purging high-level Ba’ath party members from the new Iraqi government, have been skewered by almost all the writers on the occupation/liberation of Iraq. The only people who seem to defend those decisions are Shi’a Iraqis and the Kurds. But thinking about it those two populations are at least 75% of Iraq’s population –or more.

The conventional war was a story book success enhancing the already high level of hubris  manifested at the  top military and political levels of the United States.  However the  triumphant  success of the conventional war was negated and submerged in the following post-invasion phase which most observers and commentators proclaim as a total failure. After years of reading a ton of books and articles on the second Iraqi war my belief is that the overall  initial mission of the allied forces was accomplished i.e. elimination of Iraq’s aggressive military power.  When the nuclear weapons issue turned out to be mostly mirage carefully nurtured  by Saddam himself  to keep his regional enemies at bay, the fatal mistake was made, i.e. the quest to grow democracy and  begin nation-building, creating a new democratic model for the entire  Middle East, a region mired in authoritarian and corrupt regimes.  The same mistake was made by the arabophiles in 1920 SirPercy  Cox,  Gertrude Bell and T.E. Lawrence. As the old imperialist Lord  George Nathanial Curzon wrote,

“Above all we must remember that the ways of the Orientals are not our ways, nor their thoughts our thoughts…..Satan found it better to reign in hell than serve in heaven; and the normal Asiatic would rather be misgoverned by Asiatics than well governed by Europeans.” He also wrote that he lamented the fact that Western democracies felt it was a cultural and political  imperative to fashion Eastern countries into their own image. This failed in Iraq after WWI despite the best and loving efforts of the greatest and most sympathetic of British Arabists. But without understanding the past ( and probably in many cases not even aware of it) my  countrymen made the same mistake in 2003.  Western nation building in traditional third world countries has never worked. The cultural gap is just too wide. The  mistakes and wrong assessments by the experts are eerily similar in both cases.But this has been explored many times with no real resolution.

In this blog I will concentrate on one particular action by the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority Paul Bremer, who has been routinely trashed as one  a primary villains for the failure of the American nation-building efforts in Iraq. Almost every post-mortem of the American “failure” in Iraq dwells  two actions of Paul Bremer. One was to prohibit the upper levels of the Ba’ath party functionaries  returning to their old managerial and power positions in government and the military. The other was the “disbandment” of the army. This is the one I concentrate on. I do not agree that either one was necessarily a mistake.In reference to the  I wrote about this eight years ago.

“Every article one reads on the abject failure of the Iraqi army starts with the premise that the disbandment of the Iraqi army by the Bush administration  is the major reason for the failure of the present Iraqi army and chaos  that was a feature of the occupation .This premise has become deeply rooted in the conventional thinking on the post-war Iraq. It is never questioned…. like so many other fundamental analyses of the war and the problems of the post war era.”

Lets examine this supposition more closely. First of all, as the late and great Arab expert with the State Department, Hume Horan,  an advisor to Bremer, wrote some years ago, Bremer did not disband the Iraqi army, It disbanded itself.  Bremer wrote so in his book, My Year in Iraq.I was there in November 2003 and that  was the situation. Of course the argument goes that it the troops could have been recalled and the troops would have flocked back to their units.  The lack of the recall left the mostly Sunni officers “embittered.” No doubt it did but what about the enlisted men, of which most were Shi’a and some Kurds? How many would have returned to the draconian brutal environment of the equally corrupt Saddam army? It was an army held together by fear. In captured  documents from the first Gulf war in some battalions of 200-300 men over 20 soldiers had been executed for desertion or some other  infraction of Saddam’s rules.

IZ uday's love palace

The “Love palace” of Uday. Saddam’s son, Just one example opf the endemic corruption under Saddam

How many would have returned? We will never know but the “experts” who created a cottage industry mindlessly repeating the mantras assume they would have. From just the  sample of those I know, many if not most, would not have returned.  Certainly not the Kurds and Shi’a.The new Iraqi army would remain an army of Sunni officers, the senior officers closely tied to the virus called the Ba’ath party, which was deeply embedded in the Iraqi society.  The depth and pervasiveness of the entrenchment of the Ba’ath party has never been fully recognized by most of the writers on the Iraq war. The books by Joseph Sassoon, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, Wendell Steavenson’s The Weight of a Mustard Seed, and Leila Khoury’s Iraq in Wartime  are outstanding exceptions.

How long would this army of Sunni officered army, indoctrinated to believe the Sunnis rule by something akin to divine right, as they had since the time of the Ummayid dynasty, allowed an elected Shi’a  government to  exist? Certainly not longer than the hasty  and unnecessary withdrawal of the American forces.

.Saddam had to be one would believe he was finished if left alive in some European prison spa like the Serbia SlobodanMilosovich

To the above comments I have some further thoughts to add. Some have said that there were many Shi’a officers  in the Army, and that is true at the lower ranks but most of the Shi’a officers were in non- command positions, e.g., logistics, medical, transportation etc.   For instance the Iraqi intelligence was so lily white Sunni that during the Iran-Iraq war they had problems finding someone to translate Farsi, a language quite a few Shi’a know.There was no way in hell the mostly Shi’a enlisted men would have returned –and one cannot be sure how many of the tribal Sunni recruits would have returned to their units.They were unwilling conscripts and paid a pittance.

Iraq was aptly called  the Republic of Fear by Kanan Makiya. Most Iraqis lived in fear, with the exceptions  being the upper class Ba’ath families, senior Ba’ath officials, and dirt poor fellah ( who had nothing much to lose).   Even senior generals were venerable to the capricious Saddam suspicions and revenge as illustrated in Steavenson’s book.  Many lived in  lived in fear or  a constant  low level dread of the day ahead. Not only were their actions always being scrutinized but  those of their relatives as well. One could live as an  enthusiastic  Saddam supporter and still be vulnerable due to possibility of  anti-Saddam actions of a relative.

nothing useable was left standing at the Government and military buildings

Muhammad Sadr one of the many destructive Iraqi forces

Perhaps more importantly, because of this fear, and the pervasive power of the Saddam persona, the idea of joining an American  created army and incurring the deadly wrath of a returning Saddam would keep anyone with a modicum of sense to stay home. At the time of Bremer’s edicts,  Saddam was still on the loose as were many of the most wanted  Iraqi leaders featured in a “deck of cards. ” Going on the deadly experience of the 1991 Gulf War,  in which the Iraqi army was routed, fleeing  from Kuwait. the Kurds and Shi’a revolted, falsely believing Saddam was finished  and the the Allies would support them. They  remembered the terrible price the rebels paid. George Bush  had -in the minds of the Kurds and Shia- seemingly offered support if they revolted. They were then  left high and dry to fend for themselves. This was a major reason the Coalition forces were not met with flowers and cheers when they arrived. As a matter of fact Saddam had often preached the proclivity of the Americans to cut bait when things went sour- as in Vietnam

at least the little kids liked us …..for a while

I remember at the time  that the fear of a Hussein return was palpable. He had engrained his persona as some sort of Demi God, invulnerable to domestic and foreign enemies. To many Iraqis  his survival within the butchery of Iraqi politics (for 34 years),the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf war gave him an indestructible image. In his presence Iraqis froze in trepidation. His reputation for remorseless revenge was well-known by as Sassoon depicts in his book, many at the top benefitted from his bountiful largesse. Advancement in the Ba’ath party or as one who broke into his “Friends of the President” group the benefits were often very rewarding. His use of the “carrot and the Stick” was brilliant. Every neighborhood had informers and one never could be sure who it was., The ultimate result of this was that no one trusted anyone outside his immediate family…which was exactly the environment  Saddam  wanted. As many Iraqis would testify Saddam had to be killed. Allowing him to live comfortably in some NATO or American cell would not have sufficed. There was always the possibility he would return.

In addition to the question of whether the Iraqi troops would return to their colors there were many other questions of doubtful  solution.

  1. There were no facilities to return to. The  bases and  barracks had been looted and stripped  of all electrical wiring and plumbing. Almost every piece of furniture had been taken. There was no place for them to be assembled,  Nor equipment to provide  them.

2.  An excellent article in the Destsche Welle  periodical written by Dr. Abdul Khlaleq Hussein pointed out that the officer corps was so politicized and top heavy with general officers of mediocre talent drawing pay that there was no need to recall them. They would be a burden. He made the somewhat arguable argument that the Iraqi army did not really fight. Only the Fedayeen Saddam, a militia organization.  fought well. The Iraqi army was not professional  army. Created by the Ottoman Turks, the officer corps absorbed the anti-Shi’a attitude of the Turks, and many of their brutal ways of dealing with civil dissidence.

2.  Almost all analysts emphasized the impact of the demobilization of the army on the officer corps in that their pay was not resumed for a number of months and was not intended to continue after a short period.  But in fact many lof the administration centers and and records were destroyed and reconstituting them was a laborious affair. Moreover Iraqis told me that  quite a few officers would have refused to pay because they feared the return of Saddam. Accepting pay from the invaders would have sealed their Fate.

3.The Ba’ath party apparatus and ideology was so firmly entrenched in the officer corps. Compared to the  preeminent place of the army in Syria ,the Iraqi Army was kept weakened by a suspicious Saddam and was totally controlled by the Ba’ath party.  Saddam created al-Makatib-al ‘Askariya( military bureaus)n which controlled every aspect of military life.

4. The records necessary  to pay the officers were entombed in the many destroyed military buildings  and regenerating them was a long arduous process. Everything was in chaos.

A recent book by Melvyn P. :Leffler, Confronting Saddam Hussein puts the problems  and actions  of the Bremer leadership in amuch better light-As it should be- with the usual suspects viciously attacking the book on the Amazon reviews. The total chaos, backbiting and ignorance of the Iraqi culture at all levels of the political  and military bureaucracy in Washington left Bremer with little top level support, only self serving books after the war. In my mind Bremer, given the task he was given, did his best and I know of no one who would have done better. As Toby Dodge in his book Inventing Iraq avers, the muck up in Iraq was inevitable given the creation of Iraq and nation Building “ by the British after WWI.

But the final point. The Iraqis were given a chance to build a decent  country  and their leaders, avaricious, corrupt, often cowardly, and debauched  lost the chance—for the foreseeable future.

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Iraq evolves toward terrorist State

A series of articles published on line by the Washington Institute of Near east Policy has graphically shown how the Iraqi power structure, manipulated by the Iranian  military  and ideological leaders, has all the earmarks of becoming a total Iranian  vassal state  existing primarily to  promote Iranian interest by military and particularly, terrorist means.

Article one is at

and article two is at

members of the Popular Mobilization Forces. They rule Iraq. More than Afghanistan, Iraq has become a terrorist base.

The gist is this: While the primary military force in Iraq is the Hashd al-Shabi ( Popular Mobilization Forces ( PMF), which is essentially an arm of the Iranian IRGC, they have been somewhat limited by the low military educational status of their leadership. This  is important because by decree, the PMU is supposed to integrate within the Iraqi regular army. Some western “experts” saw this as the answer to the takeover of Iraq by the Iranian enemies of the West, in the always mistaken notion that somehow inserting a militant force into a “moderate” organization will temper the extremists. It never works that  way. Always, through history, the reverse happens….. the radicals transform the “moderates” e.g., their organizations, into extremists.  On an international  level one sees the idiocy of  this liberal shibboleth time and time again.  For instance the  Obama /Biden regime has been begging and conveying cash to the Iranian regime for years,  hoping to entice them into a civilized ( western) world assuming they would suddenly transform into a Middle Eastern Jeffersonian democracy who would play by the rules. It will never happen. Some day they will take more cash and perhaps sign some worthless paper but they will never change…..unless of course the Diarchy of the Iranian clerical and  IRGC power is destroyed from within. That will not happen in the near future…probably not for years.

A gross spectacle which should have made clear the future of Iraq. corruption, no justice, and sectarianism above nationalism.

The question is…….. in an essentially lawless state like Iraq why does the weak and generally useless Iraqi military hierarchy  and their Iranian masters care whether the Iraqi terrorist chieftains have military higher education or not? Certainly they will not  improve their terrorist skills studying the battle of Cannae or Hannibals traverse across the Italian peninsula. Nor for that matter will the higher studies improve their conventional warfare capabilities  by any measurable amount. Certainly the War college level studies of most Arab counties has not improved their military leaders  operational or strategic military acumen… as experience has shown. An example of the way this amalgamation of Iranian and Iraqi  collusion will work has been exemplified by the very recent Iraqi-Iranian agreement in which the real motive is to insure that the Iraqis support Iranian efforts to destroy the Kurdish rebellion against the Iranian regime. The most recent Iranian peoples rebellion against the dark forces of Iran originated and were more intense in the Kurdistan region of Iran.

men of Iraq’s only decent unit the so called Golden Division…Iraqi special forces who were decimated in the urban warfare against the ISIS in Mosul and have not been brought back up to strength. The Iranians have made sure of this. They do not want an a professional nationalist Iraqi force.

The reasons why the leaders of essentially lawless regimes crave some semblance of  order  are apparently embedded  in human nature. One answer is that even in chaos,  humans seek order especially in despotic or third world regimes. An example;  Hitler sending his minions out into the rubble of Berlin to find a magistrate to marry him and Eva Braun shortly before their suicide. Or the security terror institutions of the Soviet regime keeping copious  notes on their victims put to death on Stalin’s whims.  The Moscow show trials were another example. Appearances are always maintained to influence Western leftist apologists for the regimes. These can always be found among the Western “intellectuals.”The military pretensions and legalistic  aspirations of the officers of Hezbollah and PMF  intertwined in obscure Islamist strictures need to be maintained. The Islamic impulse of these terror organizations are critical to their support among the masses.

Hitler and Eva Braun. At the end he made an honest woman of her

Perhaps more importantly  the Arab culture puts great store of educational credentials. Ahmad al Safar , a general in the Iraqi army with a PHD in Philosophy,  would not be happy being known as General Al-Safar. He wants to be announced  as Dr. General  Al Safar. The credentials are far more important than the education received. The joke in the American army is similar to this…being selected to attend  the War College is more important than going there.

So even  meaningless in realist terms, nevertheless obtaining higher military educational credentials  are  important to the appearances and acceptability of Iraqi  clones being fashioned in  Iranian image.

An American Humvee destroyed in Iraq. a great vehicle for wealthy young men who crave attention but a death trap for the soldiers riding in them

However the tragedy of this process, i.e., turning the Iraqi military into a tool of the Iranian mullahs , can be horrendous to the stability of the Middle East, and  extremely likely to the West as  well, particularly in view of the weak nature of the Western leadership at this time. The use of, not only the terrorist threat of the Iraqi/Iranian combined power these  regimes present, but also a new found conventional threat as well to the Gulf and Levant regions. It is  a situation that  must be faced now ( but will not). The oil of Iraq as well as its agricultural products  and water, combined with the manpower of Iran and their clever clandestine methods of undermining governments and Winning hearts and minds  of despotic rulers around the world present a formidable threat. Their insidious blackmail intimidate  a pusillanimous Western leadership and fires the imagination of a third world that exults in the erosion of Western power.

Churchills are no longer among the Western political class. now we have weak parvenus who talk big and hide behind political blather when the consequences of their stupidity and timorous actions arise


As an American old soldier, I cringe at the thought that over 4500 American soldiers  died to eliminate a world  threat only to have it revived and probably in a more venomous form. Having read both volumes of the Iraqi War Study done by the US Army War College, ( very well done) and hundreds  of other  studies, articles, books  etc. the blame can be shared by many in the leadership, both military and civilian of the U.S. and the corrupt inept leadership of Iraqi political leaders, but one stands out way above all others…the absence of will among  American  and Western  leadership..   This is rarely mentioned in all these tomes detailing our mistakes.There were no Churchills  or even Thatchers  to lead us as we floundered and stumbled through years of hesitation, military,  political, and cultural ignorance. It was not a fore ordained failure. For our debacles in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan we will pay the price in blood and treasure for decades.

It has been  twenty years since the invasion/liberation of Iraq. For a couple of days the talking heads will pontificate on the failure. We will probably see the same old answers as to why we  failed so miserably. In my view most are totally wrong but will address that later.





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