28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for June 2012

The “jet crisis”

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The big news in Turkey in the last few days has been the jet krizi. As far as the story goes, the only thing that everyone can agree on is that a Turkish F-4 Phantom was shot down somewhere close to Syria. Of course, the word on the street in Turkey is that it was the fault of “international Jewry,” the United States, or—as I heard from one ornery fellow—the French.

From what I saw of the initial reports on the incident (even in Turkish papers), there was little apparent distress, and a lot of the word “apology.” Here’s an early example from four days ago:

“At this moment the air force and navy are conducting search and rescue operations in the western Mediterranean and luckily our pilots are alive, we have just lost a plane,” [Erdoğan] told journalists while travelling back from Brazil

There was an apology from Syria, it seemed, and nobody doubted its sincerity. It could have been worse, they seemed to think. But this is from today’s Hürriyet (here):

The Turkish government said that all options against Syria were on the table, including the right to military retaliation, also vowing to keep its rights stemming from international law reserved.

“Turkey will protect itself within international law,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said following a Cabinet meeting, adding that Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet could not be left unpunished.

“Syria shot down our unarmed jet in a cold-blooded and hostile way in international airspace. International law is on our side. Turkey will not hesitate to take its steps to this end,” Arınç told reporters at a press conference.

More from the Hürriyet (here):

Syria has come to constitute a “clear and present danger” for Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, adding that all military elements approaching the Turkish border from Syria would be considered “a threat” from now on. 

The Turkish Armed Forces has changed its rules of engagement in the wake of the crisis, Erdoğan said. “The Turkish military will retaliate against border violations by Syria.”

And the icing on the cake—this is from from the New York Times today (in direct contradiction to several of the early reports—here):

The two crewmen are still missing.

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Written by M. James

June 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Gülen declines invitation

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Gülen says prefers staying longer in US to avoid ‘harming positive things’
Today’s Zaman; Jun. 17th, 2012

Turkish and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said he prefers staying in the US longer to avoid damaging positive developments in Turkey in a first public response to Turkish prime minister’s invitation to Turkey.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

What’s in a street sign?

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Caution: Men dragging women across street.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 3:59 am

Engaging critically with Islamists

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My recent “light reading” hasn’t turned out so well, but something from the cover (as far as I got) of Graham Fuller’s The Future of Political Islam struck me—in a good way.

According to reviewer Professor Fred Halliday:

Fuller argues persuasively that Islamic political movements are, above all, an engagement with the modern world, not a flight from it, and that it is possible to engage critically with their ideas.

I don’t yet know if this is really what Fuller argues—or if he does so persuasively—but if it is, I preemptively applaud him for his effort. As I have expressed previously, it is a common belief that Islam cannot be reasoned with. Or “engaged critically with,” for that matter.

This belief is tantamount to what I have called, in one case, “pleading insanity on behalf of … Islam.” And it may very well be one of the most destructive attitudes in Middle East foreign policy today.

I am not optimistic about reviewing Fuller’s book in the near future, but if the reader has some patience, I’m sure I will get to it eventually

Written by M. James

June 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

The ascendancy of USSOCOM

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Below is an excerpt from an informative article on one of the aforementioned “Solutions to the vulnerability of a globalized world”—imperialism. Specifically, the military aspect of American imperialism.

As we know, someone has to protect the global supply chain, and U.S. special forces apparently won the contract. “Coming to a Third World country near you!”

The Golden Age of Special Operations
Andrew Bacevich; TomDispatch; May 29th, 2012

Since 9/11, USSOCOM’s budget has quadrupled. The special operations order of battle has expanded accordingly.  At present, there are an estimated 66,000 uniformed and civilian personnel on the rolls, a doubling in size since 2001 with further growth projected. Yet this expansion had already begun under Obama’s predecessor.  His essential contribution has been to broaden the special ops mandate.  As one observer put it, the Obama White House let Special Operations Command “off the leash.”

As a consequence, USSOCOM assets today go more places and undertake more missions while enjoying greater freedom of action than ever before.  After a decade in which Iraq and Afghanistan absorbed the lion’s share of the attention, hitherto neglected swaths of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are receiving greater scrutiny. Already operating in dozens of countries around the world — as many as 120 by the end of this year — special operators engage in activities that range from reconnaissance and counterterrorism to humanitarian assistance and “direct action.”

Written by M. James

June 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm

An irony of Islamism

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So to follow up on this post, I read Robert R. Reilly’s Closing of the Muslim Mind in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what Reilly is all about. But before I start criticizing his understanding of Sunni Ash’arite occasionalism—something to be saved for later posts—I’ll say that he wrote a pretty good book. Not only is it an extremely accessible primer on Mu’tazilism and Ash’arism, but it also has an interesting take on modern Islamism as a totalitarian ideology. The only real problem is his thesis—that there is a causal link between Ash’arite ascendancy and modern Islamism.

But, ignoring that for a moment, here’s an interesting bit that relates to a recent post about Turks’ inability to break out of a Western framework, even when criticizing the West. Reilly seems to think that this inability plagues the entire Muslim world (p. 176):

As already stated, the Islamic world was jolted out of its several centuries of torpor only by intrusions from the West. By the early nineteenth century, the West had demonstrated such a decisive superiority over Islamic culture that Islam’s defensive attempts to recover from its influences have been indelibly marked by the very things against which Muslims were reacting. To resist the West, they became, in a way, Western. As Raphael Patai pointed out in The Arab Mind, the very standards by which Muslims measure their own progress are Western. This is amply evident in the UN Arab Human Development Reports, written by Arabs themselves. In a final irony, the most rabid ideological reactions against this state of affairs in the Muslim world are also infused with Western ideology. Islamists practice a perverse kind of homeopathy which uses the very disease from which they are suffering to combat it, but with dosages that are lethal.

Written by M. James

June 1, 2012 at 11:19 am