Noah Millman

Play It Again, Sam

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I have no idea what prompted Ross Douthat to tweet about a two-year-old piece on fivethirtyeight.com, but I’m glad he did, because it lets me pontificate on two of my favorite subjects: movies, and my superior taste. And it gives me an opportunity to avoid the work I really should be doing.

So: what are the most re-watchable movies?

Well, if I look at what movies I have watched most often, there’s a pronounced skew in the direction of films that my son, when he was younger, wanted to watch over and over again. So: a lot of Pixar films, a lot of Studio Ghibli films. But there are also the classics we introduced him to that he couldn’t get enough of. “The Court Jester.” “Duck Soup.” “Singin’ In the Rain.” “Return of the Jedi” was the Star Wars flick he returned to most-often. “The Return of the King” was his favorite from the LOTR cycle. He’s a teenager now, but there are still movies that he is happy to return to over and over again. Movies like “Caddyshack.” Or “Avatar.”

What are films that I myself return to? They aren’t necessarily the best movies of all time,  but they are all very good ones, and the ones that deliver a particular experience: one in which familiarity is an enhancement to the experience. “Casablanca” has that quality for me. Also “The Philadelphia Story.” “The Princess Bride.” “Tampopo.” “The Big Lebowski.” “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “Some Like It Hot.” “Flirting With Disaster.” “Taxi Driver” is on my list. So is “Network.” “Barton Fink.” “Withnail and I.”

What do these movies have in common? Well, in part there’s a question of period. There are more movies from the 1980s than a proper cross-section of film history — much less great film history — would deliver. That’s because I’m a child of the 1980s, which means not only that some of these movies I saw at an impressionable age, but also that the sensibility of the period speaks to me even when I encountered the film for the first time later (as is the case with, for example, “After Hours,” another one for my list).

Then there’s the question of genre. The bulk of the films above are properly classified as comedies of one sort or another, and the ones that can’t be are frequently comedies reflected in a broken mirror. There’s a reason why the recut trailer of “Taxi Driver” as a romantic comedy works: because Paul Schrader’s cracked hero thinks in his twisted way that he’s in a rom-com. I don’t know if that’s a personal thing, or if it says something more universal, but I’m inclined to a position somewhere in between those two poles.

It seems to me that the experience of rewatching is first and foremost the experience of returning to the familiar, and that, if this isn’t a neurotically addictive behavior, that should be in some way connected to an experience of comfort from the familiar, both in terms of companions — these are people I know — and in terms of a journey you want to go on over and over even though — in fact, in part because — you know where it ends. Comedy and epic seem particularly suited to deliver this experience — epic because of its origins in pre-literate cultures of storytelling, the sense that you belong to the story as much as the story belongs to you, and comedy because the comic is all about the shock of recognition, the estrangement and reencounter with the familiar. Sitcoms are all about the comfort of the familiar — the place where everybody knows your name — and our favorite jokes are the ones that only get funnier the more times you tell them. And if I incline more to comedy, including dark and cracked comedy, than to epic in my own personal rewatching, well, that probably says more about me than about any universal.

Regardless, if any of the above is true, then Groundhog Day has got to be the paradigmatic rewatchable movie, given that the movie is both a comedy and an epic quest, and the movie itself is about learning to experience eternal recurrence as a source of comedy rather than of horror.

But if the movie you keep watching over and over is “Last Year At Marienbad,” well . . .

 

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Oh, Canada

There’s an old joke that when Moses was on Mt. Sinai, God asked him where he wanted to take the Israelites, what would be their home. So Moses, glancing at the world, picked what he thought was the best spot imaginable — abundant natural resources, plenty of room, no enemies. “Canada,” he tried to say. But Moses, of course, had a stutter, so what came out was “Ca-ca-ca-” — and God interrupted him to say, “oh, Canaan? Well, I dunno, that wouldn’t be my first choice — but if that’s what you want.” And that’s how a narrow arid strip sandwiched between mighty Egypt and Babylon became the promised land.

Well, I go to Canada pretty regularly with my family, and have to say, from where I sit, the country’s promise only looks brighter. They’ve got their problems, of course. But it really is hard to beat abundant natural resources, plenty of room and no enemies to speak of. Not to mention a really impressive theater festival.

Anyway, my latest column at The Week is about my promised land, the gentle giant to the north, which celebrates its 150th birthday tomorrow:

Canada may deserve to be examined as more than just a liberal fantasy object. Canada, after all, is a real place, with its own history and culture and way of doing things, and a strong if peculiar nationalism of its own. And yet it is also one of the most diverse countries in the world, with nearly twice the percentage of foreign-born residents that America has. If Canada has figured out how to construct a workable liberal nationalism in the age of mass-migration and populist backlash, maybe America has something to learn from it?

Celebrating its 150th birthday this weekend, the gentle giant to the north may finally be ready for its close up. But a close look reveals that it might be harder for Americans to copy it than our own liberals might wish.

Read the whole thing there.

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The Senate Health Care Bill In Two Tweets

Ross Douthat on Yuval Levin’s semi-defense of the BRCA:

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That’s really by far the most important thing you need to know. The ACA imposed a new regulatory framework on the individual insurance market, raised taxes and provided more funds to subsidize low-income individuals’ access to health insurance via both the insurance exchanges and Medicaid. The Senate bill makes a variety of changes to the regulatory scheme of the ACA that can be debated on the merits. But it also cuts taxes and cuts spending while claiming — in the face of a brutal CBO score and criticism from a variety of independent parties like the AMA — that it will improve rather than worsening access to care. Why should any observer not fully committed to conservative dogma choose to believe them?

If the GOP wanted people to take their reforms seriously as a matter health care policy, they would have focused on those reforms rather than on cutting taxes and cutting spending to keep the budgetary result neutral. They didn’t, so I don’t. This bill is first and foremost about reversing the redistributive effects of the ACA, and only secondarily about a conservative vision for providing health insurance.

Of course, you can argue that this was true of the ACA as well: that the main objective of the Democrats was to provide health insurance to those who previously couldn’t afford it, and only secondarily to reform how that insurance was provided. The thing is, there are far more Democrats who are willing to cop to that charge than there are Republicans willing to admit the primary purpose of their own bill is the opposite.

Meanwhile, probably the most important paragraph in Levin’s article is the following:

[A]nother thing Republicans have learned in these six months is that Donald Trump is an exceptionally weak president, probably the weakest of their lifetimes, and he is likely to accept whatever they do. He’ll celebrate it, sitting himself front and center while they stand around him awkwardly. He’ll praise it wildly and inaccurately. And he’ll sign it—even if pretty soon thereafter, in the wake of bad press, he tries to distance himself from it on Twitter and calls them names.

The GOP saw its entirely leadership overthrown by a novice interloper running explicitly against the traditional movement conservative agenda. Now they are exploiting the personal and political weakness of their novice president to pass as much of that traditional movement conservative agenda as possible, counting on precisely the division between his brand and theirs to obscure any proper accountability.

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Bad Apps and Liability

A commenter on my last post points me to this article, from July, 2016, about Jeronimo Yanez’s training:

The seminar was called “The Bulletproof Warrior,” and the instructors urged the law enforcement officers in the hotel conference room to make the decision to shoot if they ever feel their lives are threatened.

Videos of bloody shootouts between police and civilians emphasized a key point: Hesitation can kill you.

In the audience at the May 2014 seminar was a young St. Anthony police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, city records show. He’s now known around the world as the officer who killed Philando Castile minutes after making a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last week.

Amid intensifying demands for changes in police training in the wake of the shooting deaths of Castile and others, such “survival” courses for officers are flourishing nationally. But some in law enforcement are distancing themselves from the approach.

The Houston Police Department, for example, won’t pay for its officers to attend the Bulletproof Warrior seminar, which is put on by an Illinois for-profit company called Calibre Press.

And the leader of an international police training association said he thinks some seminars like those offered by Calibre and other firms foster a sense of paranoia among officers.

“Police training became very militaristic and it caused a lot of the problems that are going on in the nation,” said Michael Becar, executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, with offices in Idaho and Washington, D.C.

Calibre recently changed the name of its Bulletproof Warrior course after complaints from police departments about the implication of the word “warrior.”

But owners of the company accuse the media of routinely distorting its message, twisting it to say the company’s programs train officers to kill.

“Our mission is to save everyone’s lives,” said Calibre CEO Lisa Gitchell. “We go to bed every night knowing that we did the right thing. We train officers to treat people with dignity and respect.”

Jim Glennon, a co-owner of Calibre who co-taught the seminar Yanez attended, said it’s wrong to link the course to the officer’s actions last week. “Everybody’s going after this kid,” Glennon said Wednesday. “Nobody should be judging what he did yet without the evidence.”

The Bulletproof Warrior is one of 15 sessions offered by Calibre and its parent company, LifeLine Training. The courses are well-known and popular in law enforcement circles. Facebook photos show conference rooms and auditoriums filled with officers to hear the Bulletproof Warrior message.

Fans say it provides a valuable “wake-up call” in police safety tactics for the street: how to read the body language of someone preparing to attack, for instance. Training professionals note that Calibre was a pioneer decades ago in teaching basic police safety.

Yanez took the 20-hour seminar on May 21-22, 2014, according to a summary of Yanez’s training that the city of St. Anthony provided after a public records request. A year earlier he attended “Street Survival,” another of the company’s seminars, records show.

Yanez also took 20 hours of training in 2012 in “Officer Survival” from a different organization. In May of this year, he took two hours of training titled “de-escalation,” the only instruction in his four years with the department that appears to focus on that approach, the records show.

So it’s not just a matter of what’s in the cultural air. The specific training Yanez received might have contributed to his panicky response, rather than helping him keep his cool.

That’s a huge problem, and I doubt it will be solved merely by bad press and handwringing. I’m thinking about the incentives here. Police departments have an incentive to contract training out to private entities, if only because plug-and-play is undoubtedly a whole lot more feasible — particularly for small departments — than building a program in-house, and I would guess there are state-imposed bureaucratic requirements for such training for officers to advance in the ranks. But private entities have every incentive to design such programs to appeal to their customers — that is to say: to the officers themselves. And those individuals are not necessarily the best judges of either the quality or the orientation of the programs in question. If you’re a bit green and nervous, “bulletproof warrior” training might sound like exactly what you feel you need, even if what you actually need is precisely the opposite.

You might say the solution is for the departments themselves to police the program selection — but this, again, depends on those departments’ ability to make an adequate assessment, something which is surely more difficult for smaller departments, even assuming a good faith interest in doing so.

My instinctive response is to say that there ought to be a tort liability applicable to the private entities providing training in instances where a clear link can be drawn between that training and fatal errors in policing. It’s well and good to say the municipality is liable — as they should be — because someone they hired caused a wrongful death. But it’s not clear to me that a small municipality is going to be in a position to do very much in response, if only because of limited resources. If you want private entities to follow a best-practices approach, you need to make it expensive for them to follow a crappy-practices approach.

I don’t know enough about tort law to know if there are precedents that make my suggestion plausible. But I return to my robot analogy: if robo-Yanez’s programming were at fault for a malfunction, the manufacturer would clearly be liable.

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Officer Yanez’s Panic, And Ours

Around the time of the Philando Castile shooting, I wrote the following:

The deep roots of the problem of police brutality and unjustified killings are complex. But some of the shallow reasons are relatively simple. Police are, increasingly, trained to treat suspects as a threat first, and as members of the citizenry they are bound to serve and protect second.

This week, in the wake of Jeronimo Yanez’s incredible but frankly unsurprising acquittal, I wrote a follow-up:

St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez is clearly responsible for his actions on July 6, 2016, in both a moral and a legal sense. But from watching the footage of the shooting, it’s plain that his actions sprang not from malice or cruelty but from pure, blind panic — a panic that his partner did not participate in, and for which no adequate justification has been provided.

As David French has argued in a pointed criticism of the verdict in the case, irrational panic is not supposed to be a legal defense against culpability. But by the same token, it’s not hard to understand why it’s hard to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer’s fear was unreasonable, which is the standard for criminal conviction. In a strict sense, juries are reluctant to acknowledge themselves the peers of an accused officer in such a circumstance, and so to pass judgment on that officer’s judgment, however fatally poor.

But what if officer Yanez were a robot?

In that case, there would be no question of morally identifying with the officer, or a juror questioning whether he or she could really know what it’s like to be in that situation. The case would likely be open and shut. It just wouldn’t be a case against the robot, but against the manufacturer, who put an incredibly dangerous machine on the street without properly testing whether it functioned properly.

Bluntly, if officer Yanez were a robot, the corporation responsible for building him would be staring at a massive lawsuit, and a very expensive product recall. Why isn’t the same thing true of the St. Anthony Police Department?

Just as my pieces on the shooting advocate deescalation, I tend to practice deescalation in my writing, which is to say, I try to get outside of my own feelings to understand them, and the feelings of those on the other “side” (presuming I have a “side”), and to think about practical solutions not only in technical terms but in terms of navigating that minefield of emotion. But I have to admit, sometimes that feels inadequate.

My colleague Rod Dreher asks whether there’s a relationship between our state of permanent war and our apparent acceptance of the use of extreme force by the police, even in cases where it was clearly inappropriate. Another colleague, Pratik Chougule, asks whether America’s childrearing practices are raising up a generation of instinctive authoritarians, both deferential to those with power and demanding that that power be used regularly to demonstrate that authority’s care and concern.

I think they are both on to something. We live in an age, and a society, where individuals increasingly feel powerless, and are turning to authority to salve that feeling, vesting it with ever greater scope and power, but receiving no salve, both because external authority can never substitute for self-assurance, and because the same forces that leave individuals feeling powerless — from social media to mass migration to the proliferation of powerful weapons to finance capitalism — also hamstring authority.

So a productive politics for our time has got to fight a two-front war: against the causes of our pervasive social anxiety, and against the false salves for that anxiety that have already proved far too appealing.

And it still has to advocate for productive reforms — like better deescalation training for police — that presume a politics that cares more about results, and an authority that is more confident in its position, than is generally the case.

 

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Scalise, Sanders, Caesar and Me

In light of yesterday’s act of political terrorism, the attempted massacre of a chunk of the Republican congressional leadership, it behooves me to say something about my last post.

I hope I don’t have to join the chorus expressing unequivocal horror at Hodgkinson’s actions, but of course I freely do so. His actions were monstrous, and anyone who sympathizes with them or thinks they were a good way to achieve political goals is embracing monstrosity. I hope and pray that Representative Steve Scalise and everyone else who was injured in the attack makes a full recovery and is able to return to their positions and pursue their political objectives with as much fervor as they had before they were shot.

As for the implications of the attack, I associate myself unequivocally with this piece by David French lauding Representative Mo Brooks’s intellectual courage while literally under fire, standing his ground in defense of both the First and Second Amendments. And I associate myself with equal lack of equivocation with this tweet from Ross Douthat analogizing yesterday’s attacks to the attack on Representative Giffords several years ago:

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Our society is a violent one. And sometimes, as in this case, that violence takes a clear political form. But that does not imply that our political disagreements are the cause of the violence. There is no evidence that Bernie Sanders (whom Hodgkinson supported) or any other mainstream Democratic leader has condoned, supported or incited violence or insurrection, and plenty of evidence that they do not. That’s all that should need to be said to exonerate them. For that matter, it is all that should need to be said to exonerate one of the men who could have been killed yesterday, Senator Rand Paul, who has argued that the Second Amendment’s primary purpose is to allow the citizens to take up arms against their government, because saying that in no way implies that now, today, at this baseball field, is the time and place to shoot.

But there is more to say. Our acute politico-tribal polarization does bear some blame, if not for the crime itself then for our inability to heed Anthony L. Fisher’s pleas not to politicize it, whether by calling for gun control or by blaming the other side (always the other side, never one’s own) for excessively violent political rhetoric. I don’t know if political violence is actually growing, but it certainly feels like empathy for it is growing. That empathy is the product of a bi-partisan despair at the possibility of politics. And despair is turn is horribly destructive of our politics, feeding an increasingly vicious cycle.

Violence is the opposite of communication; it is, in fact, an expression of the belief that communication is impossible. So responding to violence by calling for self-censorship has it precisely backwards. We cannot speak as if we are always worried that a madman will misconstrue what we say. What we can do is speak as if we know those who disagree with us, even fervently, are also listening, and as if we want them, and not only those who already agree with us, to hear. And we can reasonably demand in return that if they hear, they will listen to what we actually say.

The Public Theater in New York has come under a lot of criticism for depicting the murder of a Julius Caesar clearly intended to be read as Donald Trump. I defended the production unequivocally before I attended, but now that I’ve seen the show I can defend it on the merits and not just on principle. In particular, I can say that the show is explicitly about that despairing empathy for violence, leading an audience that might well share that empathy to see that it is a manifestation of despair rather than a cure for it. If you want to know more detail of what I thought of it, you can read my write-up at The Week. And if you want to form your own opinion, you can go see the show.

But you can’t know anything about what the show is saying without seeing it, or at least interacting with those who saw it.

Which brings me to my last post.

Anyone who actually read the post knows that it is was not a post advocating shooting anybody. Anyone who actually read the post also knows that the title is a reference to the quote from the movie, “Unforgiven,” which I thought was singularly apropos to the post’s topic.

Most people won’t bother to read it, which is entirely their prerogative. Many people will react to it notwithstanding not having read it, or having engaged with it, which, while equally their prerogative, is also their responsibility, and not mine. So to say that someone who chooses words with care should take ever greater care because a mob of others will fail to do similarly is cracked logic that I will not support. Let those who make it their practice to throw stones take up residence in glass houses first.

The title of the post was pretty spectacularly ill-timed, and if it caused any anguish to the victims of the shooting or their loved ones, I am deeply sorry for my part in causing that anguish. But the post itself was, in my view, timed about as well as it could possibly be.

I will close my quoting myself, from my review of the Public Theater production of Julius Caesar:

As for those who cry that it is irresponsible to depict the assassination of President Trump, I could reiterate, as my betters have already done, the manifold instances of such depictions in the past, and the litany of far more noble leaders who shrugged at the offense in much more dire circumstances. Instead, I will merely note that if there is one thing we should have learned from the rise of Donald Trump, it is that telling people there is something they cannot say, or think, or feel, is the surest way to give those feelings, thoughts, and words greater power, and those who voice them greater chance of achieving power, than they had had before.

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The English Bob Question: “Why Not Shoot a President?”

There’s a dignity in royalty, a majesty that precludes the likelihood of assassination. Now, if you were to point a pistol at a king or a queen, your hand would shake as though palsied . . . the sight of royalty would cause you to dismiss all thoughts of bloodshed, and you would stand — how should I put it? — in awe.

Now: a president? Well, I mean: why not shoot a president?

                                                                           Unforgiven (1992)

In 1595 or thereabouts, Shakespeare wrote a play, Richard II, that depicted a rightful monarch being deposed. It was an extremely dangerous thing to do in Elizabethan England — indeed, Elizabeth I is supposed to have responded to a production by saying, “I am Richard II, know you not that?” — and wondering what could have compelled Shakespeare to take such a risk was part of what impelled me to about the question of legitimacy in the Henriad cycle of plays, and their relationship to the ideology of divinely-sanctioned kingship as articulated in the Hebrew bible, which was a TAC cover story a few months ago.

If (in my view) Shakespeare’s later plays depicting English kings complicate and ultimately undermine a theory in which politics derives from a transcendent source, his Roman plays take place in a world where no such derivation is even posited — that is to say: a small-r republican world. For better or worse, this is our world, where our leaders are just the people who are granted power for a time, and serve at our sufferance.

Opening tonight, in Central Park, is a production of Julius Caesar that depicts the Roman dictator as a transparently Trump-like figure. This has, unsurprisingly, caused a bit of a stir, including the abandonment of the production by two major corporate sponsors.

I have no opinion about the production, as I have not yet had the chance to see it. I hope to  do so this week, and will write about it after. But I do have opinions about depicting assassination of presidents on stage: I am absolutely fine with it. Indeed, I saw a production of Julius Caesar five years ago that depicted the assassination of a pretty transparent Obama stand-in by figures who clearly recalled Republican congressional leaders, and I mostly thought the play did an excellent job of revealing the intellectual roots of some of the more over-the-top Tea Party fury, which most assuredly included depictions of the murder of President Obama.

The last place one should expect courage is in America’s corporate boardrooms, so I can’t honestly say I’m either surprised or alarmed at Delta Airlines and Bank of America for turning tail. No one should assume that their cowardice proves the folks at the Public Theater were courageous for putting on their play; it might be genuinely in bad taste and little more, shallow and self-indulgent and not worth the price of admission (free). But I’ve seen plenty of plays that were all that, and corporations don’t pull their sponsorship because art is bad. They pull their sponsorship because of controversy, and this controversy as such tells us nothing about either the quality or importance of the work in question, but everything about the parlous state of our republic, and its desperate desire to be rid of the burden of self-government.

The president is not a king, and he does not deserve the dignities of royalty, most especially the fatuous fantasy of invulnerability that, because it is so fragile, must be preserved by treating the depiction of its violation a blasphemy. Caesar was killed by men who feared he would arrogate those dignities to himself, and feared a populace that they believed were all too ready to give him the crown. Those calling for Oskar Eustis’s head are providing excellent evidence that at a portion of our populace sufficient to make the hands of the CEOs of Delta Airlines and Bank of America shake as though palsied is all too ready to do the same.

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No Mandate For Britain

I have to get on the road this morning, so this will be briefer than I would like. But my initial take on the British elections is that it is further proof that nobody knows what to do about the forces that are motivating the political ructions of the contemporary West.

Commentators have pointed to any number of precipitate factors for the Tories’ monumental failure, including public anger at Theresa May’s call for an early election in the first place, her poor skills on the stump and avoidance of debates, the fiasco of the “dementia tax,” Corbyn’s unexpectedly strong campaign skills, and so forth. But I am always inclined to look deeper.

It strikes me as wildly implausible that the British people were, as of a few weeks ago, solidly behind Red Toryism, and are now suddenly enamored of 1980s-vintage Socialism. These wild swings are evidence, rather, of how shallowly held any such beliefs are, and how restless the public is for someone who can speak to their anxieties in a language of confidence. In that sense, I suspect May’s original theme was pretty correct as an expression of what the British people want, and the problem is that confidence collapsed that she could deliver it. But a few slips and mistakes would not cause a collapse of confidence of this magnitude and rapidity if that confidence were not itself shallow in the first place.

That lack of confidence is pervasive, and it’s due to the fact that nobody, left, right or center, really has an answer for the deep forces ripping apart the fabric of Western societies. The rise of hundreds of millions of Asians into the middle class, the huge increase in migration from South to North, the severing of cultural and economic ties between city and countryside — these trends are stronger than individual states, and simply declaring yourself against them or their effects is not the same as having a response.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t useful meliorist responses on offer — and perhaps the left, or the right, or the center is right about what those responses ought to be in this or that case. Nor are the deeper philosophical differences between left and right irrelevant. But debates take place on the grounds of meliorism when confidence is generally high, and debates take place on the grounds of deep philosophical differences when society is divided on what direction to go, and neither case, it seems to me, describes our moment particularly well, when we are not so much divided in opinion as in allegiance, and when we have very little confidence that anybody really knows what course to set.

And so: a million mutinies now — and likely another election far too soon.

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Those Amazing Saudis

Meanwhile, in the department of background, I’ve got a column at The Week about the incredible ability of the U.S.-Saudi alliance to get ever-stronger even as our interests and values diverge further and further:

How do the Saudis do it?

The “it” is managing to get successive American administrations to offer ever-greater support even as the political context that once justified that support changes beyond recognition. . . .

The robust endurance of the Saudi-American relationship is the perfect case for illustrating the perversities of geopolitics, but it is far from the only case. Why does the United States continue to maintain close ties with Pakistan, which has been more overtly hostile to American interests than Saudi Arabia has, and who has a regional rival in India of far more potential value to America than Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, could ever plausibly be? In part, because imposing sanctions on Pakistan failed to prevent it from going nuclear, but damaged America’s influence within the country, while we were willing to pay for even fitful cooperation against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

So, too, with Saudi Arabia. We no longer need their oil; we are no longer trying to keep their oil out of Soviet hands; our cultures and values have almost nothing in common. But inasmuch as we have interests in their region — and we do — we have a profound interest in them being less-hostile, less-threatening, than we imagine they might be if given their full druthers.

Read the whole thing there.

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The First Troll War

If you want a good backgrounder on the current crisis in the Gulf, this piece by Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy will do nicely. But I want to highlight the precipitate causes instead:

  • The inciting incident was a news story transmitted by the Qatar News Agency quoting the Emir saying that “There is no reason behind Arabs’ hostility to Iran” and touting Qatar’s good relations with both the Muslim Brotherhood and with Israel.
  • Qatar claimed this was “fake news” placed on its station by hackers (possibly Iranian hackers looking to make trouble in the Gulf).
  • The Saudis and Emiratis drummed up popular outrage, blocked access to Qatari disavowals to prevent that outrage from dissipating, and then used the story as an excuse for actions — like a blockade — that can only be described as acts of war.

In other words: the Middle East is on the brink of war over a possibly fake news item that sparked outrage by being too supportive of peaceful relations with entities on the official hate list.

Trump’s twitter account didn’t come out of nowhere. This insanity is a global phenomenon. And we are on the brink of the first troll war.

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