Monday, July 15, 2013

Before the Jihad

Countrycommandos, Again, something of a delay. By spring this year the shingles on the Mother Ship were shearing off with every ice storm. This meant a new roof, with three layers of shingle, down to the ancient green hexagonals, landing for several weeks on the surrounding lawns and fields. Almost under control at this point. Memories of my trip across Turkey in the fifties kept recurring after the last blog. Turkey is a venerable crossroads of civilization; Istanbul itself has nourished thousands of years of civilization, including -- as Constantinople -- an era as the Alternate Papacy. The Turks are traditionally hard-bitten -- their performance with UN Forces during the Korean War left our commanders breathless. Islamic but oriented toward contemporary political thinking, NATO members, the Turks function as a kind of bridge between Europe and the faction-ridden Middle East. Many of the Ben-Gurion generation of Israeli founders picked up their law degrees in Istanbul. Throughout most of Israel's besieged existence Turkey has been a closet ally. Turkey came to mind recently at a small dinner party in Florida with a couple of retired, high-level State Department professionals. Syria came up -- should we get involved in the rebellion? These were seasoned policy-makers; they both came down hard: No! Even among the Cold-War generation, conditioned to alarm bells around the world, enough U.S. Excepionalism is enough. "The Turks are sitting right along the Syrian border, refugees are pouring in, they have some of the best military in the world and even the Islamist general elected president of Turkey is obviously hesitant. Uneasy as his government remains about the Kurds in Turkey, why would he add the Kurds in Syria to his sleepless nights? Why should we?" Perhaps we can learn. For all our claims to sophistication we are still meat-eating primates, easily tricked into picking up our clubs and storming across the river to commit genocide against the next village. If anybody doubts this, review the vote in the Senate in 2003 approving the resolution to invade Iraq. The WMD evidence was clear, and still Senators Kerry, Clinton and Biden went along with this march into quicksand. Even Ted Kennedy -- I had a hand in his decision -- wavered before he cast what he later called the best vote of his life and opposed the invasion. This would become important for his legacy -- see my book Edward Kennedy -- An Intimate Biography. Thoughts in a torrid July. Burton Hersh

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