Thursday, September 28, 2017

America in the Middle East

America's Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, by Hugh Wilford

Wilford continues the story with the Americans moving into Cairo; there was a need to coordinate Lend-Lease activities in the region.  It turns out that Lend-Lease was useful for purposes other than sending Jeeps to Europe.  From the time of his transfer from the State Department to the OSS in April 1944…

…Kim [Roosevelt] was a key player in Project SOPHIA, a secret program for spreading OSS officers throughout the region under cover of [Lend-Lease.]

Bill Donovan had been looking into setting up a Cairo office for the OSS as early as 1942; the office was established in May 1943.  With this now in place, the office would be charged with collecting intelligence, spreading propaganda, and conduct a massive campaign of political warfare.

The Americans were blessed with a unique asset – the tremendous goodwill developed and earned by American Missionaries and educators in the decades prior.  While the British and French were looked at with suspicion and even despised for their colonial attitudes in the region, the Americans were seen, rightly until this point, as benevolent.  This goodwill was the currency that the Americans would exploit to gain their advantage. 

Stephen Penrose, Jr. was the first American assigned to the Cairo office.  He was the son of the president of Whitman College, a small college in Washington founded by New England missionaries.  He would spend time teaching at the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he would later return as president.

This background brought him connections in the Arab world; he brought in several former colleagues from AUB to staff the Cairo office – including David Dodge, the great-grandson of AUB founder Daniel Bliss.  Penrose leveraged his contacts on several missionary boards, obtaining street maps and other detailed information of the various cities and locales in the region. 

Kim Roosevelt would travel to Allied-occupied Iran, under cover of the Lend-Lease program.  He would meet with Joseph Upton, a Harvard-educated expert on Persian antiquities, apparently in Tehran overseeing the archeological work by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He was, in reality, an OSS field agent.

Another agent in Tehran was specialist in Persian language and history at Princeton University; a third majored in art and archeology at Princeton before pursuing a scholarly career.

By this time, Kim’s cousin Archie had returned to the Middle East, and they met upon Kim’s return to Cairo.  Tours of Palestine and Lebanon would follow, including meetings with Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  But still, this was a time for Arabists, not Zionists, in the United States government.

When Kim departed and with the war over, he wrote in his final report that the entire US effort in the Middle East was a waste of time and money.  Archie remained in the region, now in Iraq.  Despite being married, Archie found the happiest moments of his life when assigned to the Middle East. 

The end of the war brought on the Cold War and the continuation of the Great Game – with Britain hanging on but with visible signs of the transition to America in taking the lead Anglo role.  Communists were to be found in every corner; the Soviets were assumed to be behind every antagonistic action aimed at the colonialist British.

Archie was in an interesting spot – several years earlier he had learned that communists were involved in running the American Youth Congress (AYC), a national youth group prominently supported by his cousin, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  He would publicly criticize her for this role.


At the end of the war, Archie returned home for a short time; to his wife’s disappointment, he quickly took an assignment to Iran.

Iran – long a plaything in the Great Game between Great Britain and Russia; soon to be the plaything of the United States and the Soviet Union.  And soon to be home for the first – and perhaps most well-known – major CIA intervention in the region.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Moment of Peace

I have the pleasure of visiting a friend a few times a year.  He lives in a quiet neighborhood, one with few cars and many trees.  I especially enjoy taking walks in the neighborhood and watching the very tall eucalyptus trees moving slowly in the breeze.

When I have trouble sleeping, I clear my mind and picture the tops of these trees, slowly moving in the breeze, sixty feet in the air.  If I keep my mind focused on the trees, I am able to keep it clear of the daily grind and then am able to fall asleep.

While I take the walk, I listen to music.  As you know my musical taste, few people would describe any of it as relaxing.  While my window for relaxing music is wider than most, I fully understand this sentiment.

The other day, while on the walk and listening to music, a truly relaxing song came on: Truth: An Evening With John Petrucci & Jordan Rudess.

The entire song is beautiful, but if you don’t want to listen to ten minutes worth…I came up to the trees at about the 5:55 mark.  While watching the tops of the trees I enjoyed this beautiful piano.

I hope I am able to incorporate the piano into my nighttime-trying-to-fall-asleep routine!

The New Phonebook is Here…

…and I’m somebody!

Perhaps one of the funniest movies I have ever watched is The Jerk, starring Steve Martin.  One of several movies that would be impossible to make today due to all of the sensitivities we must now accommodate (Blazing Saddles would be another).

There are a dozen memorable scenes in The Jerk.  One is captured in the title of this post, and the 40-second video is here.  If you know the scene, no need to watch; if you don’t know the scene – well, the rest of this post will make not-quite-as-much sense and it will be nowhere near as funny.

You will recall the list of websites supposedly tools of Russian propaganda.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make the list; it was a little upsetting, but I got over it quickly.  To bring it closer to home: the mainstream libertarian mouthpieces – they always pick on Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell (and almost as often, Ron Paul), but never bionic mosquito. 

Oh, sure, I have been able to get Jeffrey Tucker to notice (see the comments section), and once even had a long comment from Nicholas Sarwark; even many exchanges with Jacob Hornberger.  But nothing by the big hitters – Reason or Cato, for example.

Well, that all changed recently…

In a piece taking the obligatory knife to Rothbard and Rockwell, Matt Welch decides that bionic mosquito is worth a mention, when he writes “(or even "Bionic Mosquito" vs. "Libertarian Neocons for McCain"!).

Matt Welch is the libertarian neocon to whom I referred in the subject post; he gushes over McCain’s “honor and integrity.”  It’s enough to make an actual libertarian puke.

It is interesting: Welch finds reason to mention this post but makes no mention of its content; to my knowledge he never has.

But I don’t care: let’s just say that the new phonebook is here, and I am somebody!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Half Full or Half Empty?

The president, the NFL, the flag, the national anthem and kneeling.  You all know the story. 
When Colin Kaepernick did it a year ago, he was a pariah.  But the president lit a match, and now it is applauded that all the players do it.
Each team’s reaction is slightly different, but kneeling is a common theme.  The players are kneeling because of the president’s “divisive” comments.  I am good with anything that decreases the respect for the office, so I am good with this.
The commentary is slightly varied, except on one point: This is not about the military!
On this, there is unity.
So, is the glass half-full or half-empty?  I can’t decide.  Decreasing respect for the office is half-full, but Trump is doing a great job of this without the help of kneeling NFL players.  But this insistence from all four corners that it isn’t about the military?  This is the half-empty.

The Libertarian Forum

The Libertarian Forum, edited by Murray N. Rothbard from 1969 to 1984, had a small — even tiny — circulation but it forged the intellectual edifice known as libertarianism.

Month after month, the newsletter thrilled, enlightened, shocked, and awed its subscribers. Everything was on the table.

The Mises Institute has compiled and published every issue of this obscure journal, in a two-volume book of 1200 pages in total.  It offers a glimpse into the world as Rothbard saw it – real time, during some of the most dramatic events in US history. 

Think about the Vietnam War and the protests (Kent State as one example) and the last helicopter out of Saigon; Nixon closing the gold window; Nixon resigning; raging inflation and high unemployment at the same time – something that all mainstream economists thought an impossibility; the Iran hostage crisis.  I suspect each of these is covered with gusto, and I look forward to the treatment.

The volumes also offer a glimpse into the libertarian world in what must be described as its infancy.  Who were the early pioneers?  What gave any of them any hope?

At 1200 pages, this will be a long-term commitment on my part.  Unlike most of my book projects, I will not run through this one uninterrupted; my intent is to touch on it from time to time while continuing with the various other books and topics as I have in the past.

Unless an author is specifically noted, my assumption is that Rothbard wrote the referenced item.  I might be wrong, but my guess is not very often.  And with this, I will begin with the introductory issue, dated March 1, 1969:

Why The Libertarian?

The libertarian movement is growing at a remarkable pace throughout the country.  Yet the organizational forms, the means of communication, among libertarians are not only miniscule, but actually suffered a considerable blow during 1968.

It remains remarkable to me that those few libertarians that could fit in a phone booth could even find each other before the internet.  Heck, it is remarkable to me that I found anything “libertarian” before the internet.

Talk about Isaiah’s Job and preaching to the remnant!  Making the commitment to write a twice-monthly newsletter during a time when Rothbard probably knew every “libertarian” personally, and could count them on one hand – I cannot describe this in any way other than a huge leap of faith.

Rothbard goes on to list some of the early institutions that “suffered a considerable blow”:

Freedom School-Ramparts College: was a libertarian educational institution established by Robert LeFevre in Colorado, United States in 1956. The college was an unaccredited four-year school for classical liberals and individualist anarchists. Teachers at the college included Butler Shaffer and Sy Leon, who ran the college after it moved to Southern California in 1966.

Forgive the length of this next one; the list of names is worth review:

New Individualist Review: Ralph Raico, editor.  Initially sponsored by the University of Chicago Chapter of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, the New Individualist Review was more than the usual “campus magazine.” It declared itself “founded in a commitment to human liberty.” Between 1961 and 1968, seventeen issues were published which attracted a national audience of readers. Its contributors spanned the libertarian-conservative spectrum, from F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises to Richard M. Weaver and William F. Buckley, Jr. The associate editors were John P. McCarthy, Robert Schuettinger, and John Weicher. The book review editor was Ronald Hamowy. Other authors included Milton Friedman, Murray N. Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, Russell Kirk, Eugene Miller, Wilhelm Roepke, Harry Elmer Barnes, Sam Peltzman, George Stigler, Benjamin Rogge, Ludwig von Mises, Bruno Leoni, Israel Kirzner, Richard Weaver, Yale Brozen, Gordon Tullock, Warren Nutter, W.H. Hutt, E.G. West, Henry Hazlitt, Arthur A. Ekirch, Ljubo Sirc, and Armen Alcjian.

He also lists Pine Tree Press, but I find nothing on line on this entity.

Regarding the then-new Nixon administration, Rothbard notes that only perhaps 90 of the top jobs have been filled out of the thousands available:

How much clearer can it be that the much vaunted free elections in the United States are a sham and a fraud, designed to lull the public into believing that their voices really count?

It certainly was clear to clear thinkers such as Rothbard.  I suspect that the recent election of Trump is making it clear to the tens of millions of those who voted for him; what Rothbard saw almost 50 years ago may be finally entering a broader consciousness.

Next comes an idea of a “People’s Court,” proposed by Gerald Gottlieb in the January 1969 issue of The Center Magazine.  Given the failings of institutions such as the World Court, the idea is for private citizens to create a court “independent of nations and able to render judgement upon those who misuse sovereign power.”

Rothbard asks: How would such a body enforce its jurisdiction and decisions?  He points to successes of the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal in arousing European sentiment against the Vietnam War and other similar private efforts.

The last report in this edition regards the city of San Francisco and a new law that prohibits sitting on the sidewalk.  Rothbard’s complaint sounds almost quaint given how far and how quickly the totalitarian American state has grown:

…we must note one more step on the road to a totalitarian America.


Murray, one can only wonder what you have been writing regarding this totalitarian America since September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 25, 2017

War is a Racket

The subject is North Korea.  An interesting conversation at the John Batchelor Show: Gordon Chang, in discussing a piece he wrote at the Daily Beast regarding North Korea and the seeming inevitability of war; I paraphrase the concluding remarks:

Thaddaeus McCotter: let me be sure I understand you: there are means at our disposal to pressure communist China to stop their client state from developing nuclear weapons and generally being a rogue state, but there seems to be a lack of political will [within the US] to do that so instead they are willing to risk American soldiers’ lives to stop him?

I will interject – the number of “American soldiers’ lives” at risk will be a rounding error in this one.  More numerous will be the lives of millions, if not tens of millions of Koreans, potentially Japanese, and depending on how far things go, all of us.

Gordon Chang: that is 100% accurate description of my feelings right now.  The threshold for war is lower than the threshold for taking effective non-kinetic actions in stopping North Korea.

He speaks of taking on the Bank of China, etc.  But American business interests are not supportive of such steps.

McCotter sums it up: from the Leninist / communist China point of view, they believe that greedy capitalists care more about money than the lives of their soldiers, and “God forbid we prove them right!”

The last part, a direct quote, with disdain in his voice.

But he is right. It has always been true. Ask General Smedley Butler.