Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I'm typing, watching TV, and listening to an entirely extraneous conversation at the same time. If the following sounds paranoid, that may be because you're assuming wrongly that it's coherent. Or it may actually be paranoid.

1. I wonder what's the role of Iran, and I wonder what's the role of the CIA? The latter don't count as "boots on the ground", right? (They wear these little ninja slippers.)

Speechwriter: Gosh, that's a great line, Mr. President!
Obama: Sure, kid. But will it pass the Chuck Todd Test?
Somebody on the tellyvision was wondering how the Allies, or whoever they're going to be, are going to send Iraqi Army troops to occupy Anbar and Nineveh or whatever Sunni-populated provinces they liberate from the Caliphate when the local people hate these Shi'ite troops more than they hate the invaders, or exvaders coming home from Syria. (I've of course suggested that they might soon hate the invaders more, if three-man Salafi committees are running around dipping from their bank accounts.) It seems obvious that they can't and they'll have to have some Sunnis. Who are those? Are they old Awakening members who went somewhere I can't guess at? Are they Kurds? Are they foreigners?

But what I'm more interested in is Iran, and the CIA.

2. Lawrence O'Donnell wonders why no American president in a situation like this ever says "no" to the military option. But Obama did, a year ago, when he suddenly decided he couldn't attack the Assad regime in Syria without a congressional authorization he knew he wasn't going to get—after which the contacts he was cultivating in Iran and Russia suddenly came through with the face-saving deal. I believe he may not exactly have planned that, but did know all along it could happen.

3. One of the prongs of Obama's "strategy" is to attack the Caliphate's financing. That's what the NSA "dragnet" is for. Just saying. It could work better than drones.

4. Obama was careful to put the two video beheadings in the context of all the other masses of mayhem being committed by the wicked Caliphate, but its seems clear that the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff are what has driven American public opinion to the overwhelming certainty that "something" needs to be "done".

It's at least imaginable that without it Obama, too, would not be convinced that he has to "do" "something".

Is Obama's aim to any extent to satisfy the yearnings of American public opinion for the "doing" of "something" in the least violent possible way while at the same time advancing relations with Iran, and Russia and China (he's going to chair a Security Council meeting on September 24 asking the members to agree that they really hate the Caliphate), forcing Iraq to form a coalition government without Maliki (I predicted, apparently wrongly, that that could not be done), and, who knows, maybe even gradually setting up the conditions in which that organization could actually be "degraded" and "destroyed"?

I don't think I'd be against that.

5. Is his speech constrained by his judgment of how much we're able to understand? Does he ask himself, with each sentence, whether Chuck Todd would have a sense of being able to understand it?

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