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The “War on ISIS” has not managed to turn around Obama’s problems with the public (h/t Political Wire):

As Mr. Obama broadens the military offensive against Islamic extremists, the survey finds broad support for United States airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but it also demonstrates how torn Americans are about wading back into battle in the Middle East. A majority is opposed to committing ground forces there, amid sweeping concern that increased American participation will lead to a long and costly mission.

With midterm elections approaching, Americans’ fears about a terrorist attack on United States soil are on the rise, and the public is questioning Mr. Obama’s strategy for combating the militant organization calling itself the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Most respondents say the president has no clear plan for confronting the group, and that he has not been tough enough in dealing with it.

Yes, the airstrikes are popular, at least for the moment. But the reason they are–the ISIS beheadings of journalists–were themselves a reaction to Obama’s initial decision to widen his initial “protect the Yazidis” bombing to strike directly at ISIS. Given the mumbly/incoherent PR work from the Admin. immediately after those murders, it really does seem as though they expected no response, as though it would always turn out like Libya did, with no reprisals or meaningful resistance, and they were not prepared. And these new bombs will undoubtedly produce even more similar responses, followed by more bombs. Khadaffy was a little occupied to send America a message, but ISIS has no such problems. This is going to create a vicious cycle for sure, and whatever else happens Obama will only take shit from it. Democrats, for reasons of partisanship as well as personality, will pretend this is not happening, as they have whenever Obama’s done one of these, so any successes against ISIS will not be amplified. They will probably not turn violently against Obama unless ground troops are actually deployed–one reason I believe he does truly want to avoid them, though post-2011 he’s often found himself “forced” into hawkish action by his own bureaucracy–but the right-wing faction will amplify any failures and at best mumble congratulations over successes, meaning there’s only political downside in this for Obama. Once again, the absolute dumbest thing a Democratic president can do is to escalate a conflict in the Middle East, the politics line up firmly against it. Best I can figure is that Obama and his top staffers are desperate to avoid something like Rwanda happening again, which is understandable, though the notion that freedom bombs could have played any positive role there is mistaken.

I can’t say I predicted this exact thing once the freedom bombs started dropping. But I knew as soon as I read about this particular war that it would not solve anything for Obama, and indeed it has not. He stupidly got himself into this by listening to the Clinton JV team he has advising him, and it’s the predictable escalation that these things often are. Unfortunately, while this seems to me like a clear-cut argument to avoid “humanitarian” intervention, future Democratic pols will probably only take from this the need to be more hawkish. It’s goddamn depressing.

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Why do they so frequently suck? The Dissolve asks the question. In theory, there’s no reason why a prequel couldn’t be good, even great. Sure, you know where the story ultimately goes, but people watch movies and read books and watch TV shows all the time where they know what will happen. Any well-made work will have plenty of other surprises along the way, aside from the ending. I think the real issue is indeed that they tend to revolve around generating origin stories that nobody asked for and are, indeed, quite dull.

Take one of my favorite examples, Star Trek Enterprise. Like its namesake vessel in the show, it was rushed onto television without all the aspects really having been thought through, and if you add in the inevitable creative drain of the same crew having produced Star Trek for (by that time) about fifteen years, the end result was a lot of episodes of television that felt a lot like what you’d seen on VoyagerDeep Space Nine, or The Next Generation. The show also wanted to have it both ways with the prequel concept: by setting it well before any prior Trek series*, the show wanted to make the show different from the rest so it would stand out, but they also wanted to showcase all the aliens that fans had come to associate with the series, which led to origin stories that actually superseded the original origin stories. Could anything be more superfluous? Guess what? Captain Picard didn’t first encounter the Borg, the crew of the first-ever Enterprise did. And the Klingons, and the Romulans, the Nausicaans, etc. We get another whack at the story about how Klingons got their forehead ridges. And did anyone truly want another origin story about the Ferengi? The question answers itself:

Again, it’s not so much that the concept of the series was unworkable (though it had a lot of shaky characterization and silly subplots, like the “temporal cold war” stuff). And indeed, the series did manage to find something interesting to do right before it was cancelled. But all too many prequels simply lack imagination and resort to telling boring origin stories, with enough in-jokes to try to fool fans of the original thing that there’s any point to this existing. Say what you like about the misbegotten Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica, which certainly had its share of flaws, it at least had ambition. It still told an origin story (of the cylons), but it staked out a different tone, theme, look and feel, etc. Honestly, given how the network bumped and moved its time slot–and the much, much worse computer-generated effects relative to its parent series–it’s not surprising that BSG fans didn’t stick around for it. But it is the only even modestly successful prequel I can think of**, because it took care to use the familiar to create something new.

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If there’s one constant to multinational states, it is that the dominant faction sees the state as one big happy family that is just fantastic and wonderful and everybody else just must feel that way. The elites of the USSR certainly did, and it cost them their empire because to many in the Soviet Republics, the situation was much more like an extended home invasion than a leisurely family dinner. The fact that the UK’s political elite dogged their campaign to keep Scotland a part of the UK reeks of this same tendency, which made the pro-independence case much better than any argument they themselves could make.

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I, like most Democrats, am generally mildly annoyed by the continued Benghazi! buzz on the right that never seems to go away. Well, it won’t until January 20 2017, anyway. Nevertheless, I find it very difficult to believe that the recent revelations are in any way legitimate. A bunch of guys who didn’t say anything under oath where they could be questioned by both friend and foe, but much later “remembered” massively damaging things about the story (especially when pecuniary interest is involved, as it is for the guys releasing a book) when confrontation with questioning people could easily be avoided, in the face of massive right-wing interest and therefore great ability to acquire money and attention? It doesn’t really pass the smell test, though I suppose the theory is that they were too intimidated to speak out (until they got a book contract, anyway). I suppose it’s not impossible it’s real, but the feel of it is much more “unscrupulous guys trying to cash in” than brave patriots doing their civic duty.
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All I can say about this kind of stuff is that, whenever one party starts to adopt softer, more moderate stances that are closer to the other party’s, it means the party is losing on that issue. It’s really not complicated.
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So once again it’s freedom bombs and training “vetted” insurgents for us. I would make a joke about how foreign policy elites have no new ideas but this is so pret-a-porter that it’s hardly necessary.

So I’ll just ask these questions:

  1. Does anyone think this actually “fixes” Iraq?
  2. Does anyone actually think ISIS actually has any sort of staying power? The Nazis could never have ruled a multinational empire with their ideology for any length of time, but they posed a real threat to the West. ISIS does not.
  3. If not 1 and 2, what’s really at stake here? More “missionaries with machine guns” type shit, or is it just about oil? Both? It’s likely Obama sees this in legacy terms but to my mind he’s effectively blown his by getting back into the vicious cycle.
Lev filed this under: ,  

I’m traveling for the next couple days, so posting will be light. From what I can tell, the main things going on are panicking over November with little new information and escalating the ISIS thing to ridiculous proportions, in a move that would make W and LBJ proud. Stuff that does annoy me, for sure. But I have to hold off for now.