September 16, 2015

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According to The Guardian, UK, the administration had a chance to dump Assad in 2012 and turned it down because the president and his crackerjack national security team figured Assad would fall anyway. Walter Russell Mead comments;

… If true, this was a staggering missed opportunity. The President’s string of misjudgments on the Middle East—on the peace process, Erdogan, withdrawal from Iraq, Libya, ISIS as the “J.V. team”, and Syria—is one of the most striking examples of serial failure in the annals of American foreign policy.Generally speaking, what the President seems worst at is estimating the direction in which events are flowing. He thought Erdogan was taking Turkey in one direction; Erdogan was going somewhere else. He thought there was a transition to democracy in Egypt; there never was a prospect of that. He has repeatedly been caught flatfooted by events in Syria. And Putin keeps running rings around him.

Understanding the intentions and estimating the capabilities of people who don’t share his worldview are not our President’s strong suits.




The Pope is coming to town. The Weekly Standard’s Irwin Stelzer greets him.

In eleven days the much-travelled Pope Francis will set foot on American soil for the first time: Unlike his two immediate predecessors, he did not visit this country before rising to the papacy. His baggage will include the mind-set typical of Latin American anti-U.S. populists, in his case the Argentine variety, numerous vitriolic attacks on our economic system, and support for many of the positions being taken by the Democrats’ left wing. And he will be unpacking that baggage before a joint session of Congress, the UN, a school in East Harlem (NYC), a prison, and a variety of other groups, as well as before television cameras covering his visit on channels devoted to it on a 24/7 schedule. …

… Pope Francis, or the more egalitarian “Bishop of Rome,” as he prefers to be called, is unambiguously opposed to the American system of “savage capitalism”. He has famously quoted a fourth century Doctor of the Church, St. Basil of Caesarea, who called money “the devil’s dung”, has railed against the “anonymous influences of mammon” and a “new colonialism” that includes “free trade treaties … [and] imposition of austerity,” and stated a preference for “cooperatives.” Throw in Francis’ views that we are witnessing “a disturbing warming of the climatic system … due to the great concentration of greenhouse gasses”, and that “there is an urgent need of a true world political authority”, and you have positions that it will take more than a spoonful of the Pontiff’s charm to make go down the throats of many Americans. Including rich, philanthropic Catholics. Politico reports that donors such as billionaire Ken Langone, working to raise $180 million for the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, are so upset by the Pope’s attacks on capitalism, and on the rich, that they might just stop giving to the Church. …

… Final on the list of ironies is that there is a sense in which Pope Francis is the world’s über capitalist. The church he heads and controls owns 20 percent of Italy’s real estate, 25 percent of all the real estate in Rome, and has worldwide real estate assets that, counting no other assets, are valued at $2 trillion. The English-speaking MBAs hired by Francis to sort out the Church’s finances (pre-Francis, Italian was the official language in the Vatican counting house, limiting the available labor pool) told New Yorker magazine’s Alexander Stille that they recently discovered $1.2 billion in financial assets not previously on the Vatican’s balance sheet. Financial manager Danny Casey and fellow Australian, Cardinal George Pell, Francis’ appointee to the job of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told Stille that assets not devoted to the Church’s central mission – helping the poor and elderly, for example — “should be considered commercial assets, from which the Vatican should try to gain the best possible monetary return.” Oh.



Ed Driscoll of Instapundit spotted this Thomas Sowell nod to Eric Hoffer’s explanation of the psychological underpinnings of the left’s urge to control others. 

But as Thomas Sowell once told an interviewer:

“There’s something Eric Hoffer said: “Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature.” There always has to be a crisis — some terrible reason why their superior wisdom and virtue must be imposed on the unthinking masses. It doesn’t matter what the crisis is. A hundred years ago it was eugenics. At the time of the first Earth Day a generation ago, the big scare was global cooling, a big ice age. They go from one to the other. It meets their psychological needs and gives them a reason for exercising their power.”




Driscoll’s post also led us to Robert Zubrin’s National Review look at a Yale historian’s inadvertent attempt to explain a rational basis for Hitler’s lebensraum.

In my 2012 book, Merchants of Despair, I exposed the role that Malthusian thought — the belief that the world cannot support a growing human population — has had in motivating most of the worst atrocities of the past two centuries, notably including those of Nazism and more recent antihuman movements operating under the “population control” and “environmentalist” banners. Now prominent Yale historian Timothy Snyder has written Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which also lays out the Malthusian ideology behind the Holocaust.

But instead of forcefully rejecting the axioms of Malthusianism and the claims of its modern adherents, Snyder argues there’s something to them. The world faces catastrophe from the overconsumption of fossil fuels, anthropogenic global warming, and impending food and resource shortages, he says — echoing similar pernicious claims of the 1930s — and for this he blames the U.S. …

… But Snyder has it horribly wrong. Competition for scarce resources (land, food, energy) is effective as a demagogic myth, but it is not reality. There was no ecological crisis in the 1930s, any more than there is today. What there was then, as there is today, was ideological insanity. The Nazis’ war had no rational basis. Germany never needed more “living space.” Germany today has much less land per person, but a far higher living standard, than it had under the Third Reich. The problem was all in their heads.

Similarly, today there is no resource crisis. There are far more resources available per capita today than ever before in human history. That is because resources are defined by human creativity. Thus, contrary to Malthus and all of his followers, the global standard of living has continuously gone up as the world’s population has increased. The more people — especially free and educated people — the more inventors, and inventions are cumulative.

In this respect, America has been the most productive of nations. It is an anti-American — and anti-human — lie to say that we are destroying the world’s resources. The opposite is true. …

… The real lesson of the Holocaust for our time is this: We are not threatened by there being too many people. We are threatened by people who say there are too many people.

… The fundamental question boils down to this: Are humans destroyers or creators? If the idea is accepted that the world’s resources are fixed, with only so much to go around, then each new life is unwelcome, each unregulated act or thought is a menace, every person is fundamentally the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is enemy of every other race or nation. The ultimate outcome of such a worldview can only be enforced stagnation, tyranny, war, and genocide. …





More unintended consequences of the policies of our betters are reported as we learn rural residents in Botswana not only are missing income from trophy hunters, but also are in danger of losing crops and their lives as their villages are invaded by lions, elephants, and the like. NY Times has the story.

SANKUYO, Botswana — Lions have been coming out of the surrounding bush, prowling around homes and a small health clinic, to snatch goats and donkeys from the heart of this village on the edge of one of Africa’s great inland deltas. Elephants, too, are becoming frequent, unwelcome visitors, gobbling up the beans, maize and watermelons that took farmers months to grow.

Since Botswana banned trophy hunting two years ago, remote communities like Sankuyo have been at the mercy of growing numbers of wild animals that are hurting livelihoods and driving terrified villagers into their homes at dusk.

The hunting ban has also meant a precipitous drop in income. Over the years, villagers had used money from trophy hunters, mostly Americans, to install toilets and water pipes, build houses for the poorest, and give scholarships to the young and pensions to the old. …

Zambia recently lifted a two-year-old ban on hunting leopards, and lion hunting is likely to resume next year. In 2013, Zambia curbed trophy hunting and imposed a blanket ban on hunting the big cats, also in an effort to replace trophy hunting with photographic tourism.

But that brought little income compared to hunting, Ms. Kapata said, while lions increasingly stalked villages for livestock. During the hunting ban, a local councilor was killed by a lion, she said.

“We had a lot of complaints from local communities,” Ms. Kapata said. “In Africa, a human being is more important than an animal. I don’t know about the Western world,” she added, echoing a complaint in affected parts of Africa that the West seemed more concerned with the welfare of a lion in Zimbabwe than of Africans themselves. …