The Road to Damascus

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Hugh Akston
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The Road to Damascus

Post by Hugh Akston » 22 Feb 2012, 03:27

For all your Syria-related facepalming, head-desking, and liver-damaging.

Question 1: If Russia continues to arm Assad's government, and the US decides to arm the rebels, will they play the game of RISK out to the end, or will they call it quits after a couple hours and watch the Big Lebowski instead?

EDIT: Question 2: If they had made a film of the Road to Damascus, after the scene where they spook Dorothy Lamour's horse, causing it to buck her, causing her to hit her head, causing her personality to change from the wicked, spiteful Saulina to the generous, caring Paulina, would she have ended up in the arms of Bob Hope or Bing Crosby at the end?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Aresen » 22 Feb 2012, 15:54

Hugh Akston wrote:For all your Syria-related facepalming, head-desking, and liver-damaging.

Question 1: If Russia continues to arm Assad's government, and the US decides to arm the rebels, will they play the game of RISK out to the end, or will they call it quits after a couple hours and watch the Big Lebowski instead?

EDIT: Question 2: If they had made a film of the Road to Damascus, after the scene where they spook Dorothy Lamour's horse, causing it to buck her, causing her to hit her head, causing her personality to change from the wicked, spiteful Saulina to the generous, caring Paulina, would she have ended up in the arms of Bob Hope or Bing Crosby at the end?
Depends whether Hope plays Putin or Obama while Crosby plays the other.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Kolohe » 22 Feb 2012, 15:58

There's an interesting factoid I read today that the Russia Czars were the (self-declared but still occasionally effective) defenders of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire, and Putin and the larger Russian political establishment may still see themselves in this role.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by thoreau » 22 Feb 2012, 16:32

Kolohe wrote:There's an interesting factoid I read today that the Russia Czars were the (self-declared but still occasionally effective) defenders of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire, and Putin and the larger Russian political establishment may still see themselves in this role.
Did any of that carry over into the Communist era, in terms of the people, governments, or groups that Russia worked with? I know that no Communist leader would declare themselves the defenders of any sort of religion, but was there some degree of continuity in the groups that Russia worked with? e.g. Did they have a tendency to work with leftist movements that had their base in Christian minority groups, or at least had their base in Christian-heavy areas where Russian intelligence might have some institutional memory?

I've been meaning to pull together some musings on minorities and central authority and put up a blog post. Many people believe that local autonomy is the best way to protect minority rights. This view is held by advocates for ethnic separatist movements abroad, it's held by various types of conservatives and libertarians in the US, and it's even held by a certain number of "think globally, act locally" granola lefty types in the US. OTOH, Christians in the Middle East have gotten protection from secular central governments. And, at least since the middle of the 20th century, black people in the US have, overall, gotten more explicit protection from the federal government than from local and state governments.

OTOH, the Drug War, while not (usually) explicitly racist on the surface, is very racist in its operation and in the Original Intent of some of its founders. And the strongest pushes for reform have come from local and state groups and have been opposed at the federal level. Gays are an interesting case, with state-level action on marriage mostly being ahead of the feds (i.e. DOMA, but DADT is an obvious exception). OTOH, if I were a gay person facing discrimination at the hands of a school district or city police department, my best legal course of action would probably be a federal civil rights lawsuit.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Kolohe » 22 Feb 2012, 16:59

The Russians generally supportted any sort of secular left-wing anti-western movement all over the world. Part the of the problem nowadays (particularly in that part of the world,) is that with the collapse of Russian power in the 90's, the *non*-secular anti-Western movements have gained a lot of traction. (i.e. Hamas vs Fatah, Al-Qaeda vs all the various 'People's Fronts') (and not only in that part of the world - in Asia Pacific, for instance, MILF & Abu Sayyaf vs the various Marxist/Maoist groups whom used to be the buggabears of our propped up our dictators like Marcos and Suharto)

In Syria, the convential wisdom (as I understand it) is that most of the Christian community tolerates the current (Shia, and mildly heretical at that) regime because although their slightly second class citizens, they're really worried about the potential of a Sunni dominated county. (and likely elevated by what happened in Iraq to the Christian community when that regime was upended). But I have no idea how that fits into legacy or current Russian involvment within their community. Russian involvment in Syria has a very overt aspect (arms sales and a naval base) so there's a lot of easy vectors to spread out from.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Sandy » 22 Feb 2012, 23:28

So the Russians have long held that Moscow is the "Third Rome." This shows up A LOT in works by the intelligentsia, even in the Communist days. The idea being that the True Church, and later True Civilization, moved from Rome to Constantinople (2nd Rome) and then to Moscow when that fell to the "black-assed Muslims." Sycretism a thing even in state socialism, brah.

So a lot of the repressed religion came back and was a source of legitimized Russian opposition to the USSR state. Since it naturally plays to the special place Russians view themselves as having (they think of themselves as Oriental, not Western, for example, even though they hate and fear Asian peoples and are as white as any British royalty), it's been an easy thing for them to adopt.

Don't overlook the macho culture, though fortunately there's no honor component to it, so dhex can relax. But that's why you see Putin doing wacky things, because he proves he's strong enough to bring the Russian people to heel.

Did I mention I started studying Central Europe because of the hopeless case that is the Russian mentality?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Warren » 22 Feb 2012, 23:46

Sandy wrote:Since it naturally plays to the special place Russians view themselves as having (they think of themselves as Oriental, not Western, for example, even though they hate and fear Asian peoples and are as white as any British royalty), it's been an easy thing for them to adopt.
I remember watching a program on the Mongols. They rode out of the Asian steppe and concurred pretty much all of Asian at one time or another, usually retreating back to Mongolia. But in Russia things went so well they just stayed and went native. So the Russian Gentry did have some Asian ancestry.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Sandy » 22 Feb 2012, 23:52

Warren wrote:
Sandy wrote:Since it naturally plays to the special place Russians view themselves as having (they think of themselves as Oriental, not Western, for example, even though they hate and fear Asian peoples and are as white as any British royalty), it's been an easy thing for them to adopt.
I remember watching a program on the Mongols. They rode out of the Asian steppe and concurred pretty much all of Asian at one time or another, usually retreating back to Mongolia. But in Russia things went so well they just stayed and went native. So the Russian Gentry did have some Asian ancestry.
Except that most of that is somewhat recent colonization. Historic Rus is firmly European, and the name actually comes from the Swedish tribe they invited in to rule because they couldn't govern themselves. Most of the territory actually goes from Ukraine to Novgorod and finally over to Moscow. Opening up the East was a Tsarist project of the 19th century, much like opening the West was here.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Dangerman » 23 Feb 2012, 00:36

thoreau wrote:OTOH, the Drug War, while not (usually) explicitly racist on the surface, is very racist in its operation and in the Original Intent of some of its founders. And the strongest pushes for reform have come from local and state groups and have been opposed at the federal level. Gays are an interesting case, with state-level action on marriage mostly being ahead of the feds (i.e. DOMA, but DADT is an obvious exception).
OTOH The Gripping Hand is, if I were a gay person facing discrimination at the hands of a school district or city police department, my best legal course of action would probably be a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Larry Niven wrote:FTFY

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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Sandy » 23 Feb 2012, 09:58

Dangerman wrote:
Larry Niven wrote:FTFY
Win.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Hugh Akston » 23 Feb 2012, 20:40

CNN on why the pile of bodies in Syria is totes different from the pile of bodies in Libya.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by thoreau » 23 Feb 2012, 20:55

Hugh Akston wrote:CNN on why the pile of bodies in Syria is totes different from the pile of bodies in Libya.
If we add to the pile of dead bodies in Syria, um, I mean, bravely fight for the freedom of Syrians, we won't get to steal any oil.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by the innominate one » 24 Feb 2012, 15:49

I'm not saying this justifies the invasion of Iraq, but doesn't the "Arab Spring" seem to be a prediction of the neocons' arguments for the Iraq invasion coming true - a flowering of pro-freedom and pro-democracy movements across the middle east?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Warren » 24 Feb 2012, 15:55

the innominate one wrote:I'm not saying this justifies the invasion of Iraq, but doesn't the "Arab Spring" seem to be a prediction of the neocons' arguments for the Iraq invasion coming true - a flowering of pro-freedom and pro-democracy movements across the middle east?
The Arab Spring has been pro-freedom and pro-democracy the way Republicans are for balanced-budgets and small-government.

And what's up with "piles" of dead bodies. What ever happened to pyramids of skulls?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by the innominate one » 24 Feb 2012, 16:17

So the Egyptian protests against Mubarak weren't part of a pro-freedom movement?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Aresen » 24 Feb 2012, 16:23

The protesters in Tahir Square and elsewhere definitely wanted freedom. But, like a lot of people arguing for "freedom", they had their own definition in mind.

Plus the fact that the people who put themselves at the head of the parade often want to turn it around.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by lunchstealer » 24 Feb 2012, 16:27

Aresen wrote:The protesters in Tahir Square and elsewhere definitely wanted freedom. But, like a lot of people arguing for "freedom", they had their own definition in mind.

Plus the fact that the people who put themselves at the head of the parade often want to turn it around.
Yeah, generally, I like the idea of "liberty" much better than "freedom". Somehow 'freedom' typically translates to 'we want one of US telling the rest of us what to do, not one of YOU telling the rest of us what to do!'
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by the innominate one » 24 Feb 2012, 16:38

Aresen wrote:The protesters in Tahir Square and elsewhere definitely wanted freedom. But, like a lot of people arguing for "freedom", they had their own definition in mind.

Plus the fact that the people who put themselves at the head of the parade often want to turn it around.
Like Santorum wanting the freedom to prevent the use of birth control.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Kolohe » 24 Feb 2012, 16:46

the innominate one wrote:I'm not saying this justifies the invasion of Iraq, but doesn't the "Arab Spring" seem to be a prediction of the neocons' arguments for the Iraq invasion coming true - a flowering of pro-freedom and pro-democracy movements across the middle east?
Only as a post-hoc fallacy. There are other opinions that say the Iraq invasion may have delayed the Arab Spring by a half a decade.

It's definitely 20/20 hindsight, but the current events were created by a combination of ossified governments and sclerotic economies which created large level underemployment among the urbanized and educated youth (and a demographic bulge that created a lot of them). Add the proximate pressure of high commodity prices (and increasely interconnected global markets, so 'the law one price' starts to hold more), a somewhat new and cheap communications infrastructure, and it just took a spark to set it all off. (Mohamed Bouazizi acting as this century's Archduke Ferdinand and Gavrilo Princip in one person)
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by the innominate one » 24 Feb 2012, 16:50

So if we hadn't invaded Iraq, the Arab Spring might have started in 2005 or earlier? Interesting. Whose analysis is that?
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Kolohe » 24 Feb 2012, 16:54

I don't remember, I'm pretty sure it was a person or people that first and foremost hated George Bush, but the theory nonetheless seemed to have some validity. I want to say Juan Cole said something like this, but I don't want to put ideas to his name that he doesn't espouse. (at the very least, I'm sure he would and has pushed back against the meme that the Arab Spring is a result of OIF).
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Aresen » 24 Feb 2012, 17:24

Kolohe wrote:I don't remember, I'm pretty sure it was a person or people that first and foremost hated George Bush, but the theory nonetheless seemed to have some validity. I want to say Juan Cole said something like this, but I don't want to put ideas to his name that he doesn't espouse. (at the very least, I'm sure he would and has pushed back against the meme that the Arab Spring is a result of OIF).
I can see an argument that the invasion of Iraq delayed the Arab Spring because the "Pro-Democracy" spin that the US tried to put on the invasion: "Democracy" (or "Freedom") got a bad name in the area because it was associated with the US, which was very unpopular.

Also, to a certain extent, the US Government was more willing to turn a blind eye to the oppressive nature of governments that would quietly acquiese to the invasion.

However, that is merely alternate history. Maybe if the Crusaders had been less of a bunch of ignorant, deceitful oath-breakers, Muslims and Christians would have been at peace for the last 8 centuries and Florida would have been colonized by sailors from Al-Andalus and kids would visit Djini World just outside of Osama.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Mo » 24 Feb 2012, 17:51

the innominate one wrote:So if we hadn't invaded Iraq, the Arab Spring might have started in 2005 or earlier? Interesting. Whose analysis is that?
Only if it brought the global recession in 2005. The economies going in the toilet fomented much discontent.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by the innominate one » 24 Feb 2012, 18:04

Your point is very unclear, Mo, at least to me. The hypothetical hinges on not having invaded Iraq. Are you saying "if not invading Iraq brought the recession" or "if invading Iraq brought the recession"? The latter seems more likely to me. If the Arab Spring is a result of the recession, then the invasion actually did result in the Arab Spring, but as a byproduct of the recession it caused, not, as predicted, inspiration resulting from a successful installation of a functional Iraqi democracy.
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Re: The Road to Damascus

Post by Mo » 24 Feb 2012, 18:30

I'm saying the Arab Spring is a result of the global recession more than Iraq. So I don't buy the theory that invading Iraq either hastened or slowed it*. Much like accounting fraud and Ponzi schemes fall apart during economic strife, so do governments.

* Unless you count as Iraq hastening the global recession.
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