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Archive for September, 2011

What’s with the need to “understand” ?

September 30, 2011 4 comments

Robin Wright’s new book (Rock the Casbah, Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic world; Deckle Edge) is, as one would expect from this long-time observer of the Islamic world, informative and well researched. Readers will heave a collective sigh of relief at seeing confirmed the general impression that extremist Islam and jihadism are definitely losing steam.

It is a fact that the world could allow itself some measure of cautious optimism, starting with the manifestations in Iran in June 2009 and continuing with the turmoil in the Arab world this year. We all saw that the people out in the streets were no longer wild-eyed fanatics like Khomeini’s foot soldiers of 1979 but civil and civilized crowds intent on obtaining from their governments some kind of social contract—which is not to say that they will obtain it. So far, Tunisia seems to be the only country quietly putting in place ways of governing and being governed different from those of the Ben Ali era. Everywhere else, optimism may not be warranted as various degrees of chaos reign, from the unknown forces engaged in a tug-of-war in Egypt to Libyans unfortunately bent on revenge to bloodbaths in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in Yemen. Read more…

Thank you Mr. Putin, I am so relieved

September 26, 2011 7 comments

For a while there, you had me worried. I’d been reading about your plans to retire from politics, to ponder more essential questions such as the importance of spirituality, our relation to nature, our place in the universe. I’d heard your interview about your modest datcha recently acquired near Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana. You said, if the translation served you right, that you wanted to spend your remaining days in meditation and among books in the shadow of the writer of “War and Peace,” deriving inspiration from his moral thinking and asceticism. You hadn’t lost your sense of humor, though, nor your justly celebrated manliness, when you added that you would also spend much time outdoors, riding horses as well as your beloved motorcycles, wrestling bears, chopping wood and rowing on a nearby lake. Read more…

Israel’s right to exist , Palestinians’ right to live

September 21, 2011 8 comments

The thing about an either/or worldview is that it puts people squarely in one camp or the other. Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East question, that festering boil in a world where there are enough vexing problem spots. It’s almost redundant to ask people where they stand. Enough to know their geopolitical background and their religious faith, if any, and there’s your answer. Any Middle Easterner, any Muslim, including non-Arabs such as Iranians and Turks, will say unequivocally that Israel has to disappear and disappear now rather than later. European and American intellectuals, human rights organizations and activists of all stripes will deplore Israel’s inflexible stance, its harsh retaliatory tactics, and the constant humiliation to which it subjects Palestinians. On the other side, you have Western governments, pro-Israel organizations, the Jews that are part of demographics in almost every country, much of the media, and analysts who try to keep a semblance of reason in political discourse. Read more…

Wars: Vietnam versus Iraq and Afghanistan

September 16, 2011 4 comments

Watching John Frankenheimer’s excellent 2002 film “Path to War” about the escalation of the Vietnam conflict brings back the familiar heartbreak. Once again I wonder why our perception of that war, the one that defined a generation, evokes sentiments so different from the present two in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why does one war cause grief and sorrow and hallowed remembrance and the two others aversion and anger at the loss of life caused by a government gone rogue?  Is it that the sheer numbers in the Vietnam war are staggering (more than 58,000 American soldiers killed, between one and two million Vietnamese)? Read more…

September 11, 2001, of course

September 10, 2011 1 comment

That Day

Oh, that day was different
one of those before/after days
that tint an instant in molten lead,
that suck the words out of their shell, that
shred verities you always accepted,
that hit your soul like a clap of thunder
out of a clear blue sky
and wasn’t the sky blue
that day? Read more…

Categories: World events Tags: ,

Ahmadinejad, that great champion of individual freedoms

September 8, 2011 2 comments

I was going to post some thoughts on the ever fascinating subject of headscarves when I remembered the Thomas Erdbrink article of a few weeks ago.

I’m sure this journalist did not set out to write a humorous piece but the fact is I hadn’t laughed out this loud in a long time. I’ll admit to feeling quite remorseful, given the plight of my Iranian sisters, but looking at the general picture from several thousands of miles, it is hard not to see the discussion in Tehran as grotesque and the reasoning behind dress code and restrictions as over-the-top hilarious. Read more…

Categories: Iran Tags: , , , ,
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