Politics & Policy

Why Is Russia Providing Air Defense over Raqqa, Syria?

The airspace over Syria is about to get a lot busier and more dangerous.

Step one: Nice shooting, Maverick and Goose:

A U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian regime fighter jet on Sunday that had dropped bombs on Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS in Syria, marking the first time the U.S. has engaged in air-to-air combat there and signaling an escalation of the conflict.

The incident market the first time an American aircraft has shot down another country’s aircraft in air-to-air combat since 1999 during the Kosovo air campaign when a U.S. Air Force F-16 shot down a Serbian Mig-29.

Step two: NPR’s Moscow correspondent reports, “Russia to consider any airborne objects detected west of Euphrates River — including coalition aircraft — as legitimate targets.” A subsequent report said the Ministry of Defense statement indicated “all coalition aircraft & UAVs detected to the West of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM as targets.”

Step three: Agence France-Presse reports, “Russia halts incident-prevention hotline with US in Syria.”

The Russians are threatening to shoot down anything that flies over Raqqa — you know, the headquarters of the Islamic State — and they’re refusing to answer the phone so we can’t even warn them when and where our jets will be flying.

I remember during the campaign, Trump fans assuring us that Russia would help us fight ISIS. Ah, such happy days back then . . . 

Is Running Down Pedestrians ‘an Eye for an Eye’?

Our friends over in the United Kingdom are enduring a brutal stretch: an attempt to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, the bombing at the concert in Manchester, the van and stabbing attacks near London Bridge, the inferno that engulfed the Grenfell Tower public-housing project . . . and now, it seems, another act of brutal violence allegedly committed in the name of opposing terrorism that is indistinguishable from the terror it claimed to oppose.

One man has died and 10 others are injured after a van was rammed into worshippers in a terror attack near a London mosque, before the driver is said to have screamed: “I’m going to kill all Muslims”.

The van driver – described by witnesses as a large white man – was detained by members of the public after the incident in Finsbury Park early on Monday that police said had “all the hallmarks of terrorism”.

The white van ploughed into pedestrians who were helping an elderly worshipper who had collapsed in an area that was busy with people who had attended Ramadan night prayers.

The pensioner they were helping later died. Police said he had already been receiving first aid from members of the public and it is not yet known if his death was caused by the attack.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder over the incident in Seven Sisters Road at 12.20am.

Another said the attacker shouted about killing Muslims as he was held by local people. He his alleged to have said: “I did the job… I done my bit”. Witnesses claimed he added: “I’d do it again, I’d do it again.”

Eight people were taken to hospital and two more were treated for minor injuries at the scene. Police said all the casualties were Muslims.

Perhaps this is relevant in our current moment here in the United States. We’ve been living in an era of escalating political and cultural animosity and provocation. Quite a few politically-active Americans are starting to think, “because the other side has done X; at the very least, they deserve X done to them in response and perhaps even an escalation to Y.”

Radical Islamists have committed several attacks using vans and other vehicles and hitting pedestrians; this hate-filled maniac decided to do the same to Muslims coming out of a mosque. In his mind, it didn’t matter that these were old men and women with no known connection to terrorism or extremism of any kind; all that mattered is that they were a group of “those people.”

He became, quite literally, what he thought he was fighting, the kind of murderous lunatic who tries to kill as many people as possible in the name of a cause.

Since 9/11, there have been many heated debates among non-Muslims about just how much separates radical Islamist jihadist and the average Muslim; some intemperate voices contend there really isn’t that much separating the Muslim family that lives down the street and Osama bin Laden. If you really believe that, then was the driver of the van wrong?

Writing over at Popehat, Ken White considers the protesters disrupting the performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park, contending the play is “normalizing political violence against the Right” because in this production, Caesar resembles President Trump.

The “eye for an eye” theory of respecting free speech is particularly pernicious because it represents the worst sort of collectivism, something the principled Right ought reject. Note that people who say “apply the Liberals’ own rules to the Liberals” aren’t disrupting, say, an Antifa rally or the meeting of some Berkeley student group that advocated shutting down a conservative speaker. They’re disrupting other people entirely, on the theory that everyone they deem part of the nebulous collective “Liberal” deserves to be silenced because someone else in that nebulous collective engaged in silencing behavior. The actors and playgoers in New York, under this theory, deserve to be shut down because they stand responsible for the acts of all “liberals” everywhere. (The suggestion that anyone going to see Julius Ceasar must be a liberal does not reflect a very healthy self-image amongst the Right.) This closely resembles the logic of hecklers on college campuses, who argue that nearly any conservative speaker stands responsible for Klansmen and neo-Nazis and overt bigots everywhere. It’s contemptible and can be used to justify doing nearly anything to nearly anyone. It’s the sentiment behind saying American Muslims may fairly be oppressed because Christians are oppressed in Saudi Arabia — even while celebrating our nation having greater freedoms than Saudi Arabia.

Quite a few people like to invoke the slogan “by any means necessary,” because they think it communicates determination; hopefully, they don’t actually mean it. Because running people down in a van is a “means” to stop members of a group you oppose; we reject this option because it’s morally wrong, as well as illegal.

Everyone’s Applauding Megyn Kelly, But . . . 

The general consensus is that Megyn Kelly tore into Alex Jones last night, and that she’s getting applause in the aftermath her profile piece on the talk show host.

Jack Shafer, writing at Politico:

When Kelly’s show finally aired, she took the mendacious Jones apart in such a textbook manner you had to wonder what all the shouting had been about. The Jones pattern, she said at the segment’s top, is making “reckless accusations followed by equivocations and excuses” when questioned. The two best examples of this are his promotion of the “Pizzagate“ lies about a satanic child porn ring and his wild allegation that Chobani was “importing Migrant Rapists,” as InfoWars hyped its report on Twitter. In both cases, lawsuits have forced Jones to retract and apologized for airing these dishonest stories, and yet in conversation with Kelly he still hedges and quibbles like a con artist in an effort to have his conspiracy pizza and keep his yogurt, too. Likewise with the pathetic claims about the Sandy Hook killings. He’s still throwing the see-through drapery of devil’s advocacy to blur the fact that on most subjects he’s talking out of his tinfoil hat.

Short of waterboarding him, I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods.

Michael Grynbaum in the New York Times:

For viewers who had never heard of Alex Jones before Sunday evening, Megyn Kelly’s much-hyped interview with him on NBC did not paint a flattering picture…#

Ms. Kelly’s solemn and scolding tone — “That doesn’t excuse what you did and said about Newtown,” she told Mr. Jones at one point as he tried to explain his views on Sandy Hook — may placate some who objected when the former Fox News anchor announced her feature on Mr. Jones.

Okay, but how many viewers of Kelly’s show thought that Sandy Hook was a hoax? My guess is almost none. Doesn’t this interview represent confronting a crazy person over a crazy belief? Is anyone who bought into the cockamamie hoax theory going to be persuaded by this report? And if everyone has the same viewpoint about Alex Jones after the segment that they had before the segment . . . is the segment’s real appeal seeing Jones confronted and watching him equivocate?

Keep in mind that in order to do this interview that portrays Jones badly, Megyn Kelly had to make effusive promises that she wouldn’t portray Jones badly:

In the tape, Kelly repeatedly reassures Jones she intends to be fair. “You’ll be fine with it,” she can be heard saying. “I’m not looking to portray you as a bogeyman… The craziest thing of all would be if some of the people who have this insane version of you in your heads walk away saying, ‘You know, I see the dad in him. I see the guy who loves those kids and is more complex than I’ve been led to believe.”

The next time Alex Jones screeches that the media is full of liars who are out to get him . . . he’ll have a little evidence to support his paranoia.

ADDENDA: You’re going to want to check out Alvin Felzenberg’s A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.; today the web site features the first part of a two-part excerpt on Buckley and the John Birch Society:

Controversy over [Robert] Welch and the John Birch Society continued into the 1960s, eliciting a response from President John F. Kennedy. During a trip to Los Angeles in 1961, Kennedy spoke of “discordant voices of extremism.” He said the real danger to the nation came from extremist elements within rather than from foreign powers without. The President was referring to the John Birch Society, which had begun to attract considerable press attention. When asked whether he thought it dangerous to the electoral process that large financial contributions were going to “right wing extremist” entities, Kennedy responded, “The only thing we should be concerned about is that it does not represent a diversion of funds which might be taxable for non-taxable purposes. Days after this press conference, IRS Commissioner Mortimer H. Caplin launched a “test audit” of twenty-two organizations the administration considered “extremist.” The agency termed this the Ideological Organizations Audit Project.

I wonder if those alleged “rogue employees in the Cincinnati field office” of the IRS ever heard about the “Ideological Organizations Audit Project.”

Thanks to everyone who checked out this week’s edition of the pop-culture podcast. It figures that right after I air my frustration with the first six episodes of Twin Peaks, the seventh episode finally kicks into higher gear and advances the plot . . . 

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