‘Beautiful Military Equipment’ Can’t Buy Middle East Peace – By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF – NYT

“Tehran — As President Trump was being feted in the palaces of the Saudi royal family after concluding a historic arms deal, Iranians were celebrating the outcome of a hard-fought election. The vote manifested the determination of Iran’s electorate to continue on the path of moderation and constructive engagement based on mutual respect that brought the world the nuclear deal in 2015.

If past performance is an indicator of future success, another $110 billion worth of weapons will neither reduce “the burden” on the American military nor support “the long-term security of Saudi Arabia,” as the State Department argues. The last time the Saudis spent that kind of money was when they provided billions to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to arm his war of aggression against Iran. Look what that bought them and the world.”

Powerful piece. Trump has gone zombie in the middle east.

Here is a comment I mostly agree with. I always supported the work of John Kerry as our Secretary of State, and understood, or at least trusted, in his enormous wisdom.


New York, NY 1 day ago

A powerful opinion, one that demands respect not just for its erudite and convincing prose, but also the immense rationale within. One may disagree with minister Zarif, but one cannot deny he represents the very best in Iranian foreign affairs to the outside world, a messenger more important than the message. Finally, a clear explanation why John Kerry always so readily flew to Geneva on moment’s notice to what to most seemed a peace mission doomed to fail. Now finally, we know it wasn’t the biking trails along Lake Geneva, but rather a once in lifetime chance to deal with an academic scholar, mullah, and foreign policy statesman all rolled into one that spurred him on. All is forgiven John.

Now for the bad news for minister Zarif, delivered in style Geneva definitely not used to. The new US policy is no longer about peace, but peace divided where possible and rule elsewhere. Hence Saudi.


Here is comment I completely support:

Anne-Marie Hislop

is a trusted commenter Chicago 1 day ago

All nations, including Iran, have good and bad about them. Plainly from the comments many feel that we should 100% distrust Iran, but treat the Saudis as our allies. However, Iran has a highly educated segment to its society. Many of those folks were educated in and/or have lived in the west, with which they desire better relations. The recent election in Iran was a ray of hope as the people chose a moderate and the possibility of more relations on the world stage over a hard-liner.

Through the maintenance of the nuclear deal we both nudge Iran in a more acceptable direction and encourage/support the moderating segments of their population. Isolation of any nation encourages hard-liners and broods xenophobia in its population and leadership. At some point, re-engagement and opening are the only productive answer. It is self-defeating to label a nation, any nation, as a permanent enemy with whom we can never work.

Colin Powell: American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free – The New York Times

“”Today, the world is witnessing some of the most significant humanitarian crises in living memory. With more than 65 million people displaced, there have never been more people fleeing war and instability since World War II. The famines engulfing families in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia put more than 20 million people at risk of starvation — further destabilizing regions already under threat from the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.”

A Road Trip Through Rusting and Rising America – by Tom Friedman – NYT

“Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.”

Mitch Landrieu Reminds Us That Eloquence Still Exists – by Frank Bruni – NYT

Mitch Landrieu has made an important speech. I recommend that you read the speech before reading further into Bruni’s lovely accolades, as I did.

I loved the speech, and what Bruni wrote, and many of the comments, such as:

Roger Paine

Boulder, CO 11 hours ago

Here’s a true story about Robert E. Lee: Not long after the Civil War ended, he went to church in Richmond, Virginia. On that morning, a black man made his way to the communion rail where he knelt to take communion. The congregation was shocked – in that time and place, this simply was not done. No one moved. An uncomfortable silence settled over everyone in the sanctuary, and no one came forward to join the black man. The priest, standing at the communion rail, was unable to decide how to proceed.

And then Robert E. Lee rose to his feet, came forward, and knelt right beside the black man — to participate with him in the key sacrament of his faith. Slowly, other members of the congregation began to make their way toward the communion rail to kneel together with a former slave and their former military commander.

On that long-ago Sunday morning, there were two openings. One made possible by the black man, who had the courage to go to the communion rail. And one made possible by a white man, who had the courage to join him there.

I’m glad all those statues of Confederate soldiers, including Lee, are coming down. It’s way past time to move on. It’s also good to remember that we are all more complicated than a broad brush allows us to see.


Mitch Landrieu’s Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans – The New York Times

“This is the full text of the remarks delivered last week by the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, upon his removal of the last of the city’s several Confederate monuments.

“Thank you for coming.The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way — for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans — the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando De Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see — New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling caldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.”

Thank you Frank Bruni for bringing this to our attention.
To read the entire speech, click on the title in the box at top.

Mapping 50 Years of Melting Ice in Glacier National Park – The New York Times

“Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers.The flowing sheets of ice scattered throughout the Montana park shrank by more than a third between 1966 and 2015, according to new data from the United States Geological Survey and Portland State University.

Using aerial and satellite imagery, researchers traced the footprints of 39 named glaciers in the park and surrounding national forest. They found that 10 had lost more than half their area over 50 years.”

The Warp-Speed Presidency – by Gail Collins and Brett Stevens – NYT

“Gail Collins: Bret, it’s been a while since I had a chance to converse with a fellow Times columnist. Welcome! And in honor of your arrival, you get to choose our first subject.

Bret Stephens: Thanks, Gail. It’s flattering to step into David Brooks’s shoes. Kinda daunting, too.Here’s my topic: Acceleration. The pace of news, of scandal, of Trump. It’s like a hot dog-eating contest. We’re shoveling in the Trump news with little time to chew it over and even less time to digest it.

I know this is a little dated but the other week I noticed someone on Twitter trying to summarize five days’ worth of Trump news. I can’t find the tweet but here is how I remember it. On Monday it was 18 Days of Flynn. On Tuesday we had the Comey Firing. Wednesday brought the full flowering of the Rosenstein Defense. With Thursday came the Holt Admission. Friday featured the Comey Threatening.”

Nice column. Good comments. This one inspired my to post the op-ed.

Historian Aggieland, TX 13 hours ago

“Conservatives always point out that U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world, but they don’t tell the rest of the story. There are so many loopholes that 26 firms, among the Citigroup and AT&T, paid more to their CEO alone than they paid in corporate taxes in 2011. In fact, our corporate tax revenue, 1.8 percent of GNP, is tied with Turkey for the lowest in the developed world. If libertarian models are correct, our current corporate tax structure manages to achieve the worst of all possible worlds: the least revenue and the most economic distortion from attempts to dodge it. We need to lower the nominal rate, but also to devise policies that assure it is actually paid. For starters, restore the old rule on offshoring that requires any corporation with less than 50 percent foreign ownership to be taxed as American.”

Reply 156 Recommended

Charlie Company and the Small-Unit War – The New York Times

“The rest of the squad returned fire as best they could, but they were trapped. And Don knew it. Maybe Jacque’s parting words rang in his ears; maybe it was sheer instinct. But Don acted to save his friends. Shouting, “You guys run like hell, and I’ll cover you,” Don waited an instant before springing to his feet and opening up on the enemy bunkers with his M-16 on full automatic. The men of the Second Squad who could still move started their dash to safety, but only a few seconds later bullets hit Don’s midsection. He yelled, “My chest! My chest!” and toppled back into the rice.

For the rest of the day, the Vietcong and the remainder of Charlie Company fought over, around and through the battered remnants of the Second Squad. Charlie Company had a total of 14 wounded and one dead that day, while dead Vietcong littered the landscape, perhaps 100 in all — the fearsome cost of standing against American firepower. By any measure it was a clear victory for the Americans.”

President Trump’s Mideast Contradictions – The New York Times

“Given President Trump’s appetite for spectacle, Saudi Arabia could not have been a more fitting opening for his first overseas trip. The palaces, the fancy robes of King Salman and his court, the sword dance, even the creepy glowing orb used to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism center, seemed just the right props for a former television celebrity. His hosts went out of their way to indulge his weakness for flattery and deal-making. Mr. Trump tried hard to make amends to the Muslim world he had spent many months insulting.

This was necessary and long overdue. Mr. Trump’s indictment of an entire religion had disfigured his campaign and his presidency, undermined America’s long commitment to freedom of religion and gave fresh ammunition to the extremists Mr. Trump cannot defeat without the support of Muslim leaders.

Much of the rest of his message was more problematic. He said nothing about the need to advance the cause of human rights in Muslim societies that discriminate against women and minorities. He sketched an unsettling path forward in which the United States and the Sunni Muslims would join in common cause against not only the extremists but against Iran, a position that could come back to haunt him.”

Good editorial. Here is a comment that helps me think clearly about what Trump is getting wrong, while he makes progress in learning about the middle east.


Cincinnati, Ohio 4 hours ago

There is no doubt that Iran poses one of America’s most vexing foreign policy challenges. Yet there is within Iran a swelling, albeit constrained desire by a majority of its citizens for a moderate path to rejoining the family of nations. The nuclear accord between Iran and the U.S. (and other allies) is based upon encouraging this movement.

To date, as even the Trump Administration has conceded, Iran is holding up its end of the bargain in exchange for the loosening of strict and damaging economic sanctions. There is a long way to go, and Iranian President Rouhani serves at the pleasure of the ruling, and very conservative mullahs. The fact that Iran has mothballed its nuclear program for at least a decade, has to be a major relief for Israel, no matter how loudly the Israelis criticize the accord.

Trump seems poised to stymie this promising development by placing all his bets with Saudi Arabia, a cesspool of radical Muslim ideology, a center of global human trafficking, and a nation strapped with a despicable monarchy that wishes, with American help, to establish Sunni hegemony in the region.

Iran’s people just voted overwhelmingly for progress and moderation. Saudis, by contrast, will likely never have the chance to vote on anything. From this perspective, Trump’s sudden embrace of all things Sunni is both jarring and all-too predictable of a man whose temperament is focused on riches and adulation at the expense of a rational, sustainable ME foreign policy.