Tags: Islamic State

Jim Baker: Russia (and Iran) Need to Be Part of Long-Term Solution in Middle East


Longtime White House official James Baker, whose service in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations saw a string of foreign-policy successes that stand in marked contrast to the uninterrupted failures of U.S. statecraft since the start of the 21st century, made clear Sunday that Russia, and by extension its clients such as Iran, will have to be part of the “longer term” solution to the Sunni Islamist rising characterized by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). But he cautioned that Iranian participation “at this point” would alienate potential Sunni Muslim allies.

“Who are our ‘partners on the ground’ that the president referred to in his speech?” Baker asked rhetorically on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I don’t know where they come from.”

Host Chuck Todd pointed out that Baker brought Baathist Syria, then ruled by Hafez al-Assad, into the coalition against Baathist Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. Baker acknowledged that Syria, in exchange for a free hand in occupying Lebanon over the next 15 years, provided troops and “some of those troops fought.”

Baker cautioned against bringing Iran immediately into a coalition against the Islamic State “for this purpose,” however, for fear of creating the perception that the United States is “jumping in on the side of the Shia.” But he added that a coalition “in the long term” would need to include Russia, which acts as a patron to both Iran and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

“Every country in the region, and in the world for that matter, would like to see us take out ISIS,” Baker said. “But after that’s over, there’s going to be more coming if we don’t do this. We need to pull all the nations in the region together. We need to add the EU, Russia, China, and of course ourselves. And have a discussion and a conference and a negotiation over how we empower the moderate forces in the region, how we limit the extremists in the region, and how we do all this without inflaming the Shia-Sunni conflict.”

Baker did not address the fact that of all potential short-term partners against the Islamic State, only Syria, Iran, and Shiite Hezbollah have shown fighting spirit and ability.

Tags: Islamic State , Sunday Shows September 14 2014

Hayden: Air War Really Is Exactly Like Casual Sex


Former CIA director Michael Hayden explained Sunday his simile comparing an air-only campaign against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) to casual sex, and the close reading made the comparison even more persuasive.

Speaking with Fox News Sunday’s John Roberts, the retired four-star United States Air Force general extrapolated that President Obama’s strategy means the commander in chief is promising an immediate positive effect, while strongly signaling to his potential partners (plural in original) that he will not stick around afterward or help with the potential consequences. 

Hayden prefaced his statement with high praise for the power and effectiveness of the U.S. Air Force. He also gave gracious praise to naval aviation, which delivers a fraction of the total air power America rains on its enemies.

Tags: Michael Hayden , Islamic State , Sunday Shows September 14 2014

McDonough: We Didn’t Threaten Families. We Explained the Law.


White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday the Obama administration only terrified families of kidnapped American citizens in order to make “clear what the law is” regarding trying to ransom the life of a loved one.

McDonough, who claimed to be a father himself, disputed reports that the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff were threatened with prosecution by executive-branch officials during an appearance with John Roberts on Fox News Sunday. But he said the alleged threats occurred over “many many” meetings during which administration officials explained the families’ powerlessness to them. “That’s our responsibility,” McDonough said, “to make sure we explain the law and uphold the law.”

McDonough also went into detail about the failed rescue operation the administration publicized after Foley’s murder was made public by the Islamic State. The failed operation, McDonough said, involved “hundreds of people in a multi-unit, multi-platform effort, which is something about which we are all very proud.”

Tags: Islamic State , Barack Obama , Denis McDonough , Divine Right of Kings and Bureaucrats , Sunday Shows September 14 2014

Support Obama’s New ISIS Plan


I know he’s made a million mistakes. And I have opposed nearly all his domestic and international policies. But after watching Obama’s intense ISIS speech Wednesday night, and reading the text several times, I think the president basically — finally — got it right.

I support him. My best advice to Republicans and Democrats is to support the president’s new ISIS campaign.

Read my full column here.

Tags: Islamic State

WashPost Dares to Ask: Why Can’t There Be Tasteful Beheadings?


To the old truth that people who read the tabloids have a better grip on national crises than people who read the destination media, the Washington Post’s Abby Phillip adds a few paragraphs:

The decisions by both tabloids [the Post and Daily News of Nueva York] to feature cover images of [murdered American journalist James] Foley in his orange jumper, knife to his neck, moments before his life came to an end, came without public explanation and no justification . . . 

There’s no book on journalistic ethics that says exactly what to do at moments like this. And these decisions are often made on a case-by-case basis in American newsrooms.

Most news organizations have chosen to use images of Foley that do not clearly lay out the means of his execution.

But the tabloids decided to graphically highlight the horror of Foley’s death at the savage hands of Islamic State militants in the most prominent place in their publications — a decision that has been widely criticized. No other newspaper with print circulations among the top 25 in the country included an image of Foley and his murderer, knife in hand. Both also used the same headline: “SAVAGES.”

Far be it from this reporter/editor to damn front-page (not “cover,” by the way) headlines for having unoriginal wordplay. But this appears to be an instance wherein “Savages” got repeated because the Islamic State is a group of savages. There are many more apt nouns to describe them: headhunters, rapists, lunatics, Muslims, [probable] infanticides, perverts, among many others. But it’s better to move faster when you’re on a print schedule.

In any case, Phillip’s main objection is to showing the means of Foley’s execution. To wit: The English-accented Islamic State murderer in the video did, in a very technical sense, behead Foley. In another, more specific sense, he sawed off Foley’s head.

The unidentified Islamic State killer, who has been speculatively tagged in the gutter press as a type of Sunni Fifth Beatle, shares this preferred style of decapitation with the Muslim murderers of Nick Berg in 2004; and with whoever saws off the head of a man, apparently an Arab Christian forced to convert to Islam prior to his murder, in a video posted by the indispensable Pat Dollard. Dollard has many more such offerings (though, since many of the worst abuses are against Arab Christians, whom Westerners with grand visions for the Middle East generally hold in contempt, the audience for these clips may be limited). Such films have been readily available — butcher-shop beheadings on a nearly daily basis — for years now.

National Review contributor Andrew Klavan recently took to the hallowed opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times to decry reporter squeamishness in reporting on the suicide-by-hanging after a possible attempt at bloodletting through the arms, of Robin Williams. That argument was made to the liberal establishment. But I suggest my fellow travelers extend this good advice to all media — including the footage of Foley’s ghastly death, which was removed by YouTube in an act of self-censorship many conservatives unwisely applauded.

It is said only half in jest that the establishment media are in the business of preventing the dissemination of information. When the scene of Michael Brown’s shooting death is broadcast, but the entire area around the actual location of the deceased is blotted out; when video of the fatal shooting of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police officers ends with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid–era freeze-frame just prior to the first shot (I’ve seen examples of both lately, and so have you); vital information is being withheld from news consumers. The position and condition of Brown’s body is of clear importance to the fourth estate’s biggest August story. The type and direction of fire is vital information for making judgments about Powell’s death.

I don’t know whether Phillip is happy or sad about the lack of a book on journalistic ethics (though in fact there are dozens of such books). From the context, I assume she’s sad about it, which strikes me as a predisposition that this very productive general-assignment reporter should strive to overcome. Any ethical creed (an esthetic creed might differ) that prescribes the withholding of important parts of the story is essentially wrong and potentially evil. If you had been looking at Pat Dollard’s output for the last three years, you would not have been shocked or particularly surprised by Foley’s murder. If you had been looking at the Washington Post’s output, you would have been far less informed about the Sunni rising and the world view of its vanguard. It is the Post, not the right-wing media, that should consider this difference a problem. Apparently they don’t even recognize it as a problem after the public slaughter of a professional journalist. So much for solidarity.

Tags: Iraq , Islamic State , ISIS

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