ISIS again

I promise, sometime I will blog more frequently and it will be about something other than ISIS… but for now: read.

Saudi Arabia is not the source of ISIS, it’s the group’s primary target.

ISIS’ core objective is to restore the caliphate (an Islamic empire led by a supreme leader), and because Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of Islam and the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, ISIS’ road to the caliphate lies through the kingdom and its monarchy. Indeed, ISIS has even launched a campaign against Saudi Arabia, called qadimun, or “we are coming” to take over the country.

Here is a piece discussing what I mentioned many months (I think) ago. I believe that ISIS is run by some men who are at least canny and clever and sly. Perhaps they are brilliant too, but they don’t really need to be brilliant. It doesn’t take a brilliant leader to smash things. We should absolutely be taking ISIS at its word when it says that it is restoring the caliphate. THe article above points out the massive refugee recruiting pool, but not as clearly as Spengler at PJ Media:

There are always lunatics lurking in the crevices of Muslim politics prepared to proclaim a new caliphate; there isn’t always a recruiting pool in the form of nearly 14 million displaced people (11 million Syrians, or half the country’s population, and 2.8 million Iraqis, or a tenth of the country’s population). When I wrote about the region’s refugee disaster at Tablet in July (“Between the Settlers and Unsettlers, the One State Solution is On Our Doorstep“) the going estimate was only 10 million. A new UN study, though, claims that half of Syrians are displaced. Many of them will have nothing to go back to. When people have nothing to lose, they fight to the death and inflict horrors on others.

With this  recruiting tool: the water and food crisis makes these men realize that even if everyone has 10% of the food that one man needs in a day, he only has to kill (or displace) 10 people and take their food…  Its a snowball. And that is what ISIS wants. To be a caliphate, they need Mecca and Medina and money (three M’s). It seems to me that the best strategy to get these three things is to intentionally inflame the Sunni-Shia tension to add nucleating points for the regional chaos. The Saudi’s may be able to stand at their borders and keep ISIS out, but if they are dealing with a Shia insurgency in their east (over their oil fields, see last post) then, maybe, ISIS can come in too. They figure that if the whole region goes up in flames and slaughter, the Saudi’s will fall eventually. Then, they just have to be in the best position to pick up the pieces (Mecca, Medina, and the oil fields). If they keep up winning battles, holding territory and attracting the angry, hungry, and violent young men in the region, they might just manage.

What should we do about it? Well you should go read the Spengler piece. There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done, given the fundamental issues of food, water, population and violent tribal heritage. I’d say start arming the Kurds in earnest, and arm Israel even more (two stable and genuinely friendly societies on the edges of the coming insanity) and don’t pick one set of evil people to support… Playing favorites among a morass of evil and capricious potential allies seems to be insanity. (Like thinking ‘Hey, lets help Assad… he will massacre the ISIS folks if he can…) I’d also add, stand strong with our long time (though not nice at all…) allies the Saudis: mostly because they are sitting on the caliph-maker and have no interest in being caliphs. Its better if they have it than Al-Baghdadi.

A Map to Think About

Someday I may take up blogging more regularly again, but for now here is an interesting map. Bonus points to whoever can guess why I think it is important in the comments.  It is from a site with lots and lots of awesome maps: The Gulf/2000 Project that I came across looking for the information needed to make (poorly) my own version of this map. But they made it, so I don’t have to.

MidEast_Religion_and_Oil_sm

ISIS and the Caliphate

Warning: a non-expert, speculative discussion follows… although given the given the nature of prognostication, I have as good of a chance predicting the future as anyone.

The current turmoil in the middle-east, essentially a region wide war of different Muslim countries, entities and groups against each other, was, I suspect, inevitable. I think this would have been the case even if America had not invaded Iraq. While discussing that ISIS wants to build a caliphate, no one seems to be interested in the fact that the conquest of richer and weaker and non-Muslim neighbors is how the first caliphate was built. The problem now for ISIS is that if you look at the edges of the Islamic world, all of its neighbors are either dirt poor or much more powerful than an organization like ISIS.

From Wikipedia

There is pretty much nothing to loot in the Congo, and who in their right mind would invade China? Sure Europe is getting weaker and weaker, but it still wouldn’t be very easy to wreak up the place and steal millions of dollars of cash like ISIS just did in Mosul. But there is this convenient catch for barbarians like ISIS. All they need is an ‘apostate’ Muslim (the definition of which is fungible) to attack and they can claim legitimacy to their members. And, behold, there are numerous weak, fractured and unspeakably oil rich areas that ISIS can attack. Places so fractured that the army just leaves when ISIS attacks its second largest city. And conveniently, Iraq is run by ‘apostates’ and can therefore be pillaged. Iraq has oil, which is a tyrant’s dream. Every kingdom and petty tyrant in that region is fabulously wealthy based on a resource that they did not invent how to refine or use, did not mine, and do not have to exert any effort or risk to gain. They have this money because they were ruling their areas at the right moment. Now, ISIS simply wants in on the money and the power.

I will venture to predict events based on how I would write a novel from this point. I think that Europe and the US (though certainly hated and on their hit list) are back-burner hatreds. I suspect very much that ISIS has its eyes on the Saudis. I suspect that what ISIS wants is not really to conquer the Shi’a areas of Iraq, but rather to light the fuse to the Sunni-Shi’a bomb, and taking advantage of the chaos eat up Medina and Mecca. The Saudi’s main source of Islamic clout comes from controlling who gets to go to Mecca on the Hajj, and their main source of international clout is their oil. Without those, no one would care about them. If ISIS really wants a caliphate, they need Mecca. If the Shi’a in Saudi Arabia and the Shia’ in Iraq and Iran help explode the Sunni-Shi’a bomb, the Saudi’s would probably half-fall like Assad, and now Maliki, clinging to power in regions of their territory. They would be fighting Shi’a separatists and ISIS on opposite sides of their country. Now, if and when ISIS takes Mecca and Medina, while controlling some of the oil in Iraq, they will only be short a Caliph and in all other respects they could count as a Caliphate.

If I were an Intelligence official (or even someone who had/wanted the credentials of an expert on the region) I’d be looking out for which person(s) the leaders of ISIS could install as Caliph and control as a puppet. (Perhaps their current leaders (strange that in the news stories there never seems to be a named leader) could choose among themselves, but that would most likely lead to ISIS factions fighting each other.) I think what they need is someone who’s lineage would give them broader Sunni credibility. I havn’t the faintest idea of who that might be, but there must be some candidates out there. Once they have oil money, Mecca and a Caliph: that is when the Western world is in trouble.

There, that’s my fanciful prediction, now back to the salt mines of my dissertation.

The Swansong of SciFi

It has been a very long time since I have posted. I have been ridiculously busy writing my dissertation etc, in preparation of defending in July and graduating in August. Therefore, I will likely not post much in the next few months either. That doesn’t mean that I wont be back when life settles down a bit.

Meantime, contemplate with me on the death of Science Fiction. SciFi  is fundamentally humanist. It is the glorification of human achievement and technology – it is a monument to the human spirit. But it is (almost always) without God… and therefore SciFi is dead (or at least mostly – dead). It died upon the birth of post-modernism. Recently I re-watched the scene that I think cut the heart out of SciFi, and I thought I’d share it.  The pointlessness of human innovation, summed up in the Replicants, and yet the only character with a poet’s soul is a replicant. Yes, its Blade Runner. Dark and nihilistic Blade Runner. Here, watch the scene and try to tell me how anyone in and of the world could write quality SciFi afterwords.

It is the most abandoned parts of Ecclesiastics, taken for life’s governing philosophy. Meaningless and chasing after the wind in SciFi speak is ‘lost in time, like tears, in rain.’

Well, if you haven’t read my short story where I try to have SciFi be something meaningful again, do give it a try: The Final Crate

Hawthorne the Sage

Originally posted on Aquila et Infans:

I recently picked up my collected works of Nathanial Hawthorn, only to be reminded of how brilliant he was, and how sad it is that top ten lists can only have ten items on them. In particular, I was reading ‘The Celestial Railroad’ which is available from Gutenberg Press.

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The story was written in 1843 (according to the date on the website for the story… I didn’t look it up anywhere J ). It is almost shocking how all of the roots of postmodern life are on full display in this story. I would say that the real humanistic modernism was already plunging headlong off the cliff, they just hadn’t hit the pavement yet (that would the World Wars in this brief but hopefully apt analogy.

Anyway, I will copy a few passages here so that you know what I was talking about.

The dreamer sets out in…

View original 698 more words

Books for Non-Readers (and a small rant)

Go look at this list and before you go I’ll give you my opinion: this list is mostly BS. It always strikes me as strange how it seems always to be women giving advice on ‘reading-reluctant boys’ or ‘how to be a gentleman’ I sometimes wonder if this isn’t because men don’t care; but rather because a lot of women are nosey-parkers who don’t feel right unless they are giving advice to males… Whew! that wasn’t very nice of me, was it…

Let me continue complaining for a bit: ‘reading reluctant boys’ is actually fairly offensive. To make up a euphemism for someone who doesn’t like to read, and then talk about it only for boys is, well, forgetting that girls don’t read anything either. (…and thrill-loving girls, says the sub-title.) It is also a bit dumb to imply that boys need anything other than a well written, interesting story which is the exact same thing that a girl who doesn’t read needs. How about instead: books for children who haven’t learned to like reading? Or, books for anyone who doesn’t like to read but might want to give it a whirl… I guarantee that a large number of adults don’t read either.

As for books recommended for those who don’t like to read, The Woman in White is NOT one of them. The Woman in White made me almost want to give up reading as a pastime it was so boring and irritating. Also, the Horatio Hornblower books are formulaic and badly written. The only winner in the bunch is Dracula by Bram Stoker, and perhaps A Princess of Mars, which was entertaining, though perhaps neither are what I would recommend for someone who doesn’t really like reading yet.

So I will make two lists, one more tailored to young-ish audiences and one for adults who say ‘Oh, I don’t read…’ The criteria are very simple. In fact they are so simple that I have the same criteria for both lists.

1: Interesting 2: Well-written 3: Worth the time

That’s it.

Young-ish

#5 Farmer Giles of Ham

Dragons, common folk doing uncommon things… an intelligent horse… and a dog that talks vernacular (while the people talk Latin… :) )

#4 Sure, let’s leave Dracula on the list

The original bloodsucker. Who 1) tolerates sunlight just fine and 2) is indisputably evil. None of the anti-hero BS.

#3 Ender’s Game

The movie misses the book entirely in pacing. I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but the movie should have been less accurate to the book. The pacing and the moving around works for the book, but the movie is mostly a jumble.

#2 Nightmare City

Perhaps one of the best YA fiction. I read it without knowing for sure that is what it was intended for.

#1 A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)

Jules Verne is the best. After this one, and 20,00 Leagues Under the Sea, you should definitely pick up The Mysterious Island

‘Oh, I don’t read-ers’
Well, maybe sometime, when you wonder what do do with a tad bit of leisure, pick up one of these and try reading again: not for school, not because someone told you to read it, but because it will actually be fun. and worth the time. (As opposed to TV which may be fun, and is almost never worth the time.)

#5 Hey let’s put Dracula here too!

Yay! Dracula.

#4 The Scarlet Letter

I included this one because so many people think they know the story. So many people think its about sin and unjust societal retribution. In fact, it is about forgiveness and the human condition. And it is well written, and it is interesting… and obviously worth the time :) This is, in fact, the first book I ever sacrificed sleep to read. I read the entire book starting just before bedtime, and (not wanting to sleep) I read it after bedtime until around 2 am to finish it. I think I was 12(ish).

#3 Just after sunset

A collection of short stories/ novellas that are fast paced, interesting. I especially recommend ‘N’.

#2 A Killer in the Wind

This book is also a fast paced thriller (duh, read the title) but it is also perceptive and philosophically deep without ever losing the thriller pacing. quite an accomplishment.

#1 Out of the Silent Planet

C.S. Lewis has to make every list at some point… (perhaps we can leave him off the ‘brilliant physicist list… :) ) Read this one, then read Perelandra, then you will be ready for That Hideous Strength.

UN vs. Catholic Church

Here is a very brief list in response to this Drudge headline:

UN tells Catholic church to change teachings on abortion...

  • Roman Empire
  • Byzantine Empire
  • The Caliphate
  • The Ottoman Empire
  • The First, Second, and Third Reichs
  • The Mongolian Empire
  • The Holy Roman Empire
  • The Tang Dynasty
  • The Ming Dynasty
  • The Qing Dynasty
  • The British Empire
  • The Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258)
  • The Sharif of Mecca (967-1925)
  • The U.S.S.R

Et cetera….

What is that a list of? Five minutes of double checking dates of empires of institutions that the Catholic Church has outlived…. Rome is sort of cheating since it pre-dates the Pope, but still…

Anyway, I don’t think anyone (I suspect this includes the current Pope) believes that the Catholic Church doesn’t need cleaning up; however, the hubris of the UN is almost hilarious.