Friday, October 9, 2015

The Psychopathy Defense

Russian airstrikes benefit the Islamic State
DDGD – October 10, 2015

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Editorial Comment

When your intentions are truly good your chosen methods for expressing them tend to reflect that. If this observation sounds like a condemnation of everything we do, it’s because having pure intentions is harder than we think. But this is no excuse for giving up the struggle.

Articles & Commentary

According to my friend, Lee Smith, Obama’s policy in the Middle East sought to end “36 years of hostility” with Iran, and “to relieve the United States of its overwhelming burden to ensure Middle East stability and compel other stakeholders to shoulder some of the burden.” From the perspective, the Russian intervention in Syria is welcome news.

If this is so, then the Administration’s decision to cancel the Syrian opposition training program and to weigh in a potential retreat from Syria altogether seem to come as a natural next step. The problem with this interpretation lies in the hidden assumption that the Administration has been willing all along to see Syria turn into a quagmire that can suck in Iran and Russia, among other regional players, and to use the conflict as a means towards an end, irrespective of the human toll involved. There is something psychopathic and not simply cold-hearted in this calculation.

So, are Obama and his advisers merely incompetent or are they psychopaths?

To do such a public about-face on the established red line regarding the use of chemical weapons back in September of 2013, then, to go ahead create such a haphazard training program for rebels only to pronounce it a failure and cancel it so unceremoniously comes as a clear admission of incompetence, no matter how coyly it was made, and even if the President seem to shift the blame on a butterfly fluttering its wings in the North Pole.

On the other hand, to quietly suggest that these developments come as a result of a well-considered strategy on part of the administration does bolster the impression that it is made up of psychopaths.

However, impressions are not necessarily true, especially when seem within the administration seem keen on quietly reinforcing them.

To me, a dangerous combination of ideology, psychopathy and incompetence was needed to get us where we are today, albeit ideology seems to have been the more primary factor. Still, no politician would put up with appearing so incompetent if he could help it, even if this politician is stoic old Obama – a man who is about to end his political, though not necessarily public, career.

It must be hard for someone like Obama to accept appearing so incompetent. Indeed, it’s far better for the ego of a politician if he were to appear more of a psychopath than buffoon who confused book smarts with street smarts. But buffoon is not the correct term either. Obama is more like a Grinch in reverse, a man who intentionally chose to shrink the size of his heart specifically to avoid saving the inhabitants of Whoville. This, to say the least, is unwise.  

Whatever the case maybe, through carelessness or by design, the Obama Administration did lead our way to the Great Devolution, and they are not likely to do anything about it at this stage, except point the finger elsewhere (that is, do the Shirk ‘N’ Shift: shirk the responsibility and shift the blame), or quietly revel in it in the hope of getting people to believe in your psychopathic intelligence.

Indeed, the Obama and the Obamacolytes are perhaps hoping that history will one day see them as selfless geniuses who put up with the appearance of incompetence for the sake of creating a better world based on intricately constructed balances of power where each major power plays its fair role in upholding the system because it is already invested in it.

But the more one thinks about it, the more this idea looks like the web one weaves to deceive oneself, and lull oneself into sleep, inaction, irrelevance and infamy.  

For the reality is not that we live in an “ugly” world where “the people are sad,” as Lee Smith noted, quoting the Cold War poet Wallace Stevens, but that we as people will always disagree on what certain terms mean, terms like balance, abuse or misappropriation of power, right, wrong, fairness etc. People like Putin, Khamenei and Assad can be quite rational and still have different perceptions of the same notions and phenomena informed mostly by their political ideology, how they lived and how they came to hold and project power.

Nothing will fall in place, neatly or otherwise, unless we agree on common definitions for some terms. Then, we need to establish monitoring and accountability systems. Then, we also have to come to terms that with some, agreement on common definitions and, therefore, durable arrangements, may be impossible, leading to unavoidable conflicts.

So, unless the Obama Administration has already reached such common definitions and arrangements with Russia and Iran, which by the way, make them knee-deep in Syrian blood,

Whatever the case, the Administration is responsible in great measure for the continually deteriorating quagmire in Syria. Ethically, and unless we are dealing with true psychopaths, it needs to do something about it, at least on the humanitarian level.

This brings to my friend Benjamin Wittes’ call for protecting Syria’s civilians, in an article on the Lawfare Blog, that makes kind mention of our friendship and our family struggle that brought us to the United States so many years ago.

“Let me humbly submit that the place for US policy—and military exertion—should lie in civilian protection.

On the ground, we should be defining safe areas where neither ISIS nor Assad can kill people and where Russian planes won't bomb them.

We should be helping refugees get to the countries that want to take them. Why are people dying in small boats and trekking over land to Germany? We could airlift large numbers of people quickly and safely to a country that has—with a remarkable generosity of spirit we have not ourselves shown—offered to shield people in large numbers. 

And no, we should not just be Germany's taxi service: we should be taking more Syrian refugees—many, many more of them—ourselves. These are people fleeing Assad. These are people fleeing ISIS. One is entitled to ask what exactly America is for if we do not open our doors to them. They are people like Mouhanad, who will love this country with the special fervor of people who have experienced real tyranny.

Will there be bad apples among them? Of course—just as every significant migration brings with it people who, individually, should have been left behind. But we should not be afraid. America would benefit hugely from an influx of Syrians.” 


Meanwhile, capitalizing on Russian strikes that were supposed to target her, the Islamic State pushed against rebel and pro-Assad loyalists positions in north Aleppo, and managed to kill a ranking Iranian general in the process. The ingrates! You give them an air-force and they turn on you. But at least we just solved the mystery of where they get their Toyota trucks from. It turns out that everybody loves ISIS, especially those busy fighting her.

Quote of the Day

"The jihadi elements in Syria were a distinct minority in the Syrian armed opposition in late 2012 and going into 2013. My concern now is that we no longer have any good options." Robert Ford, former US Ambassador to Syria – September 29, 2015

The No-Fly Zone: comments, statements and policies that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

"I want to live a safe and clean life, eat gourmet food, go out, wear pretty things, and live a luxurious life… all at the expense of someone else," reads the text on the illustration above. "I have an idea. I'll become a refugee." The image and caption were posted by a right-wing Japanese artist, Toshiko Hasumi, last month.

Video(s) of the Day

By way of change: Syrian Sufi Music

Artistic Delirium

"The Great Leader" by Ammar Abdulhamid from "Reflections on Liberty and Revolution Series - a digital deconstruction of Delacroix's famous Oeuvre "Liberty leading the people."


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