Author and academic C.S. Lewis coined the term “chronological snobbery” to describe the logical fallacy of dismissing that which is old because it is old and embracing that which is new because it is new. Barry Posen, writing in Politico about American foreign policy, avoids this fallacy by avoiding history all together. Not dismissive of the past, he fails to acknowledge a geopolitical world before the Cold War at all, reducing his examination of evidence to basically his own professional lifetime.
The deterioration of Iraq into sectarian violence demands the same strategy espoused by Treebeard the Ent in Tolkien's The Two Towers: "Don't be hasty."
The al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS added the strategic Iraqi city of Tal Afar to its prizes Monday, and took another step towards its stated goal of establishing a Sunni Islamic state across Syria and Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Washington is "open to discussions" for cooperation with arch-enemy Iran to return power to Iraq's Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the AP.
The loss of Iraqi cities that Americans died to gain is painful, but that pain must not send us staggering into our next disaster. If we learned nothing else from the first encounter in Iraq, let us at least remember to make a plan before we go in—preferably a plan that considers the millennium-old forces of sectarianism that define so much of Middle Eastern politics.
As Sunni ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, marches on Baghdad, Shiite Iran has promised to aid the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government in defending the capital and southern Iraq. In the sectarian Middle East, it has always been Iran and Iraq against the world.
The only majority Shiite countries on the planet alongside the tiny island nation of Bahrain, Iraq and Iran have been virtual islands in the sea of Sunni Muslim nations that is the Middle East. They have only each other, and as religious and ethnic violence grows in the Fertile Crescent, a conflict that began nearly 1,400 years ago is threatening to engulf the region.
The demographics of the Middle East have long clashed with the region's geography. Nowhere is this clearer than in Iraq, where the arbitrarily drawn borders enclose three distinct ethnic groups. Now, with violence from Syria spilling into Iraq, the region, and the world, are learning a tough geography lesson.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS, is demonstrating the power of a good mission statement. As even the group's name suggests, ISIS plans to establish a state of extremist Sunni Islam from Syria—where the group gained infamy fighting Bashar al-Assad—into Iraq. Their efforts so far have been alarmingly successful.
With the capture of Mosul, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, or ISIS, gained American weapons and 500 billion Iraqi dinars, which at $429 million, reportedly makes the organization the most well-funded terrorist network in the world. Gold bullion reserves were also raided, adding an as yet uncalculated amount of wealth to the group’s funding, which now exceeds the operating budget of even al Qaeda. Additionally, ISIS freed about 1,000 inmates from Mosul’s central prison, and many joined its militia.
"We are waiting to die," Mahmoud al Taie, an Iraqi dentist, told the Wall Street Journal as he prepared to flee Mosul. If he does, a country that desperately needs every upright citizen it has will have lost yet another health professional.
Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, which at least 125 American soldiers died liberating from Saddam Hussein's forces, fell on Wednesday. Half a million Iraqis are fleeing to the Kurds, who have set up their own government and army.
Mosul is now in the well-armed hands of a militant group known as ISIS or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The radical group's expansion from Syria into Iraq now poses even more of a threat, especially because it will have access to supplies and manpower from Mosul, according to Reuters.
A relationship may be sown by the seeds of spontaneity, but sooner or later it comes to a DTR—the new small-talk meaning "define the relationship."
It might be time to have a DTR with Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday:
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for attacking Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, which left at least 28 people dead, saying it was seeking revenge for recent Pakistani military airstrikes against them. ...Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for Karachi's Jinnah hospital, where the dead and injured were brought, said 18 airport employees and security personnel were killed by the attackers. In addition, 24 were injured, she said. Security officials said that 10 militants were also killed—seven were shot dead, and three blew themselves up with suicide vests.
The climate change police have been rounding up the usual suspects this week, and states are starting to pull apart the new EPA regulations that aim to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S.
At most, these plans are expected to reduce global carbon emissions by a grand total of 4 percent by 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. Experts admit that American efforts will be completely eclipsed by the developing world, but others counter that the ultimate goal of this complex regulatory mountain is to set an example for poorer countries, especially China. Reported the Journal:
"No matter what your view of climate change, these [U.S.] reductions will be dwarfed by increased emissions in other parts of the world," said Stephen Eule, a vice president at the Institute for 21st Century Energy, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
If you need a break from the congressional primaries, turn your attention to the Middle East, where the fifth Arab country is holding a major election since mid-April. Elections are already complete in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt, and Palestine had a new unity government sworn in earlier this week.
The democratic spirit has touched down even in Syria, where dictator Bashar al-Assad is running his most persuasive get-out-the-vote campaign ever among the remaining citizens who have not fled the country, taken up arms against him, or been killed. All the elective activity has led Paul Salem of the non-partisan Middle East Institute to reflect:
The reunion was highly unexpected, but governments can form quickly in the Middle East. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are back together for now, at least politically speaking. According to the AP:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a national unity government Monday, formally ending a crippling seven-year split with his Islamic militant Hamas rivals but drawing Israeli threats of retaliation.
The formation of the unity government and Israel's tough response are part of a wider competition between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for international support since the collapse of U.S.-led peace talks between them in April.