Skip to content

The Bin Laden Prism

Spiegel Online has an interview up with US author Steve Coll on his new book: 'The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century'. Steve Coll, who is currently Director of the New America Foundation, states the reasons for his interest in the Bin Laden family in the following way:
I believe that Osama bin Laden and the broad contradictions among religion, tradition and modernity in the Middle East, with enmity toward the West on one side and the attractiveness of our ideas and way of life on the other, is best understood through the prism of this clan.
There are some intriguing 'did you know that...?' facts in the interview. For instance, both Bin Laden's father and Bin Laden's elder brother Salem died in airplane crashes. The general arguments on the contradictions of modernity in the Middle East, and the conceptualisation of fundamentalist Islam as an essentially modern phenomenon itself are perhaps more familiar.

What Coll's angle does enlighten is the extent to which Osama Bin Laden and his family have a personal connection to the various conflicts and contradictions in the recent history of the Middle East, showing that history in an overarching frame.

Spiegel Online: 'Osama bin Laden is Planning Something for the US Election'

Bismarck on America

Secretary Rice quoted Otto von Bismarck, first chancellor of Germany (1871 - 1890), at the World Economic Forum Meeting (via Transatlantic Forum) in January 2008:

God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America.

Walter Russell Mead used this quote for the title of his 2001 book, published by the Council on Foreign Relations. In another version of this alleged Bismarck quote "children" are included in the list...

A Check for Osama

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is right this time (via: Andrew Sullivan):

None of us would write a check to Osama bin Laden, slip it in a Hallmark card and send it off to him. But that's what we're doing every time we pull into a gas station.

The same is true for Europe, which is even more dependent on oil from the Middle East than the United States. Related posts in the Atlantic Review: The US-Saudi Relationship: Oil Supply at the Expense of US Security and Moral Values and Chicago Tribune: "Germany says 9/11 hijackers called Syria, Saudi Arabia"

SuperFrenchie presents the picture that says all about President Bush's latest Middle East tour. I am not aware of any European head of government having kissed Saudi princes. Bush does not just kiss the Saudis in their own country as a gesture to cultural customs, but even kisses the Saudis, when they visit him in the US. He also holds hands with them. And yet, Europeans are supposed to be the softy weasels from Venus that do anything to get cheap oil.

US Policy on Iran: Deterrence versus Pre-Emption

Fareed Zakaria and Norman Podhoretz debate on PBS whether Iran would be a rational nuclear power and what US policy should be: Deterrence or pre-emption? Zakaria is concerned about yet another US invasion of Muslim country, and made this interesting quote on deterrence:

It used to be that one had to explain deterrence to the Left; it has now become something the Right does not understand.

The transcript is available at The Australian and a video is posted below and available at Youtube. HT: Jeb Koogler, who also writes in Foreign Policy Watch that deterrence is not enough.

Fischer: "One day we'll be the ones asking for help, and no one will help us"

Spiegel International has interviewed former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer about "opposition against the Iraq war that threatened to put Berlin in the same camp as Syria, the threat of a Tehran-led arms race in one of the world's most unstable regions and the mixed legacy of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder."

The quote in the headline is from Fischer's response to a question on Afghanistan:
I believe that the current German government missed an opportunity a year ago when the Canadians and other allies were under great pressure in the south and asked us for help. Despite the many risks, Germany should have stepped up to the plate. One day we'll be the ones asking for help, and no one will help us.
UPDATE: Consul-At-Arms considers Fischer's criticism odd and comments on his blog: "It would seem equally applicable to the regime of which Herr Fischer was part." Indeed.

Ret. U.S. General Would Accept a Nuclear-Armed Iran

John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said according to Yahoo! News:

"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States. "There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."
Totally unrelated: Gainesville Sun reports about a shrewed journalism student and the incompetent and brutal security service at the University of Florida. Many US universities are better than German universities, but here students don't get tasered, not even obnoxious self-promoters.

"America's Gay Fixation"

Dialog International quotes the author Susan Jacoby from the Washington Post:
Why do you think Americans care so much about an issue that ignites so little controversy in Europe? Why are we alone in the developed world in our intense distress about the fact that a minority of people are erotically attracted to members of their own their own sex rather than to the opposite sex?