Monthly Archives: September 2013

Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis

We picked this essay up from Stratfor because it helps wind down the coverage of the Syrian situation, particularly by explaining the US position.

By George Friedman

It is said that when famed Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich heard of the death of the Turkish ambassador, he said, “I wonder what he meant by that?” True or not, serious or a joke, it points out a problem of diplomacy. In searching for the meaning behind every gesture, diplomats start to regard every action merely as a gesture. In the past month, the president of the United States treated the act of bombing Syria as a gesture intended to convey meaning rather than as a military action intended to achieve some specific end. This is the key to understanding the tale that unfolded over the past month.

When President Barack Obama threatened military action in retaliation for what he claimed was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he intended a limited strike that would not destroy the weapons. Destroying them all from the air would require widespread air attacks over an extensive period of time, and would risk releasing the chemicals into the atmosphere. The action also was not intended to destroy Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. That, too, would be difficult to do from the air, and would risk creating a power vacuum that the United States was unwilling to manage. Instead, the intention was to signal to the Syrian government that the United States was displeased.

The threat of war is useful only when the threat is real and significant. This threat, however, was intended to be insignificant. Something would be destroyed, but it would not be the chemical weapons or the regime. As a gesture, therefore, what it signaled was not that it was dangerous to incur American displeasure, but rather that American displeasure did not carry significant consequences. The United States is enormously powerful militarily and its threats to make war ought to be daunting, but instead, the president chose to frame the threat such that it would be safe to disregard it.

Geopolitical Journey: The U.S.-European Relationship, Then and Now

By George Friedman

I am writing this from Greece, having spent the past week in Europe and having moved among various capitals. Most discussions I’ve had in my travels concern U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to move decisively against Syria and how Russian President Vladimir Putin outmatched him. Of course, the Syrian intervention had many aspects, and one of the most important ones, which was not fully examined, was what it told us about the state of U.S.-European relations and of relations among European countries. This is perhaps the most important question on the table.

We have spoken of the Russians, but for all the flash in their Syria performance, they are economically and militarily weak — something they would change if they had the means to do so. It is Europe, taken as a whole, that is the competitor for the United States. Its economy is still slightly larger than the United States’, and its military is weak, though unlike Russia this is partly by design.

When Europeans Were Slaves: Research Suggests White Slavery Was Much More Common Than Previously Believed

The following is an in-house book review by Jeff Grabmeier of a new book by professor Robert Davis  published at Ohio State University and reprinted by permission of the author. More of Robert’s work can be found on Amazon.

A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 – a far greater number than had ever been estimated before.

In a new book, Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, developed a unique methodology to calculate the number of white Christians who were enslaved along Africa’s Barbary Coast, arriving at much higher slave population estimates than any previous studies had found.

Politicized Muslim Brotherhood Could Unite the Islamic World

By Felix Imonti. Reprinted by permission from

A new politicized Islamic force is emerging from Egypt.  If it can survive these early days, the Middle East and beyond will have to deal with a new ideology.

Islam is the solution; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for Allah is the highest of our aspirations, is the philosophical foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood that Hassan Al-banna gave to the movement that he founded in Egypt in 1928.  This is not the credo of an organization prepared to compromise or to promote democracy.  Considering that Morsi has been conditioned within this philosophical school, it is easier to understand his unyielding stand towards the opposition.

Like any secretive organization, it has been structured to prevent infiltration by authorities and allows no internal dissention that would threaten the solidarity of the movement.  Cells (Families) with five to ten members have been established throughout the country with an estimated three hundred thousand members.

They spread the Brotherhood message and the Families recruit candidates from among young men attending mosques or studying in the universities.  They have built an elitist movement of the religious and educated.  Piety and loyalty are the measures that determined whether or not a candidate will be permitted to become a full member after five or eight years of mentoring.

The Imperial Dream of the Muslim Brotherhood

By Felix Imonti. Reprinted by permission from

Members of the movement come from the upper levels of Egyptian society.  They are the businessmen, doctors, university professors, military officers, and other professionals.  Over their eighty four year history, they have infiltrated every area of government, education, and industry.

If its economic policies are all there is about the movement, it would pose no threat in the public mind.  What does frighten so many is the secrecy that shields the organization from scrutiny and the negative propaganda spread by worried authoritarian regimes.  Under such circumstances, it is understandable that the attacks by various governments would have forced the Brotherhood to protect itself beneath a cloak of secrecy.

They have grown in societies that are authoritarian, corrupt, and have shown little inclination to invest in the development of the society.  Saudi Arabia has a quarter of its youth unemployed in spite of the wealth generated by the vast oil resources.  Beyond the petroleum industry, the Kingdom has done little to expand its economy in order to absorb the coming generation: and that is true of most of the region where sixty-five percent of the population is under the age of twenty-nine years.

Islam and Terrorism

By David A. Noebel and Peter Hammond

“Indeed it is evident that Christianity must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever.  But the Mohammedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance.  It was originally propagated by the sword…Civilization is confronted with militant Mohammedanism.”  Winston Churchill, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898)

“The persecution of Christians by Muslims has become a taboo subject in Western circles.  Over thirteen centuries of religious discrimination and persecutions, causing the suffering oppression, murder and enslavement of countless millions has been buried under a thick whitewash of myths of ‘Islamic tolerance.’”  Peter Hammond, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam…210

How Christian Communities Die in the Middle East: Lessons from the Sorry History of the Assyrians

Here is Part B of essay Three in the series: The Suffocation of Christian Communities in the Middle East from Paul Merkley, reprinted by permission of Paul and from The Bayview Review. See the links at the end for direct access to the rest of Paul’s work.

The Assyrians

Armenians were not the only victims of the massacres that took place in the northeastern part of Anatolia during the First World War (described in my previous essay, “How Christian Communities Die in the Middle East: The Sorry History of Armenia,” June 10, 2013) There are estimates that 750,000 Assyrians and 500,000 Greeks and many others were exterminated during the campaign of 1915 that also took the lives of a million and a half Armenians.

Like the Armenians, the Assyrian Christians had lived as a distinct population in the Middle East since the very beginning of the history of the Church – that is, for at least four centuries before Muhammad. Their story began in one of the Christian kingdom that on today’s map would be located partly in Syria, partly in Iraq. They were among several distinct national minorities still governed by the Ottoman Empire  at the opening of the Twentieth Century and then set loose from that regime when the Allies dismantled the Ottoman Empire after 1919. Because the Assyrians were Christians, they were despised by all of the other national communities who competed with them for the privilege of founding a separate nation – among whom were the Arabs and the Kurds.

Syria: Keeping the Debate Honest

The report of the UN Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic has been out now for a few days. The report concludes:

  • That chemical weapons have been used … on a relatively large scale. Based on the small number of samples taken, not all of which tested positive for a CW agent, and the small number of sites – five – an assessment of “large scale” is unwarranted let alone supported in any way.
  • It also identifies the agent used – sarin – and the delivery system 140mm and 330mm rockets. It further says that trajectories for two of the five examined sights are calculable. We will show this is in fact not possible.

It does not attempt to assign blame for the attacks (up to five munitions were involved). However, the US, Great  Britain and France immediately claimed the report indicates the regime carried out the attacks. In fact it does no such thing. We have given the report a cursory read, and have read several sections many times to extract precise detail and nuance. Our read and comments from others (included at the end) suggest a more thoughtful analysis is required.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being … American?

We have been so focused on the doom and gloom side of things we thought a little humour might be a good change (ht: Zero Hedge).

Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff

Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff

Monday, September 9, 2013 – 17:15 Print Text Size


By George Friedman

In recent weeks I’ve written about U.S. President Barack Obama’s bluff on Syria and the tightrope he is now walking on military intervention. There is another bluff going on that has to be understood, this one from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin is bluffing that Russia has emerged as a major world power. In reality, Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that that he doesn’t have, and he has done it well. For him, Syria poses a problem because the United States is about to call his bluff, and he is not holding strong cards. To understand his game we need to start with the recent G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Putin and Obama held a 20-minute meeting there that appeared to be cold and inconclusive. The United States seems to be committed to some undefined military action in Syria, and the Russians are vehemently opposed. The tensions showcased at the G-20 between Washington and Moscow rekindled memories of the Cold War, a time when Russia was a global power. And that is precisely the mood Putin wanted to create. That’s where Putin’s bluff begins.

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