Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war




Residents of Syria’s Idlib province examine building damaged in air strikes on September 24. The United States and its Arab allies have opened a new front in the battle against Islamic State militants. (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)

Andrew J. Bacevich, the George McGovern fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, is writing a history of U. S. military involvement in the Greater Middle East.

As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.

Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement.

At the time, oil — not freedom, democracy or human rights — defined the principal American interest, and stability was the goal. Military power offered the means by which the United States hoped to attain that goal. Armed might would keep a lid on things. The pot might simmer, but it wouldn’t boil over.

In practice, however, whether putting boots on the ground or relying on missiles from above, subsequent U.S. efforts to promote stability have tended to produce just the opposite. Part of the problem is that American policymakers have repeatedly given in to the temptation to unleash a bit of near-term chaos, betting that longer-term order will emerge on the other end.

Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable — “regime change” as a prelude to “nation building.” Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.

Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.

In place of governing arrangements that Washington judged objectionable, the United States has found itself coping with the absence of any effective governments whatsoever. Instead of curbing bad behavior, spanking induced all sorts of pathologies.

By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order with something more to their liking. This is the so-called caliphate that Osama bin Laden yearned to create and that now exists in embryonic form in the portions of Iraq and Syria that Islamic State radicals control.

Want to measure what America’s war for the Middle East has accomplished through its first 13 iterations? The Islamic State has to rank prominently on any list of achievements. If Iraq possessed minimally effective security forces, Islamic State militants wouldn’t have a chance. But the Iraqi army we created won’t fight, in considerable measure because the Iraqi government we created doesn’t govern.

Kurdish fighters defending Kobane warn of a likely massacre by Islamic State insurgents, while Turkey says it will do whatever it can to prevent the Syrian border town from falling. (Reuters)

President Obama did not initiate the long and varied sequence of military actions that has produced this situation. Yet he finds himself caught in a dilemma. To give the Islamic State a free hand is to allow proponents of the caliphate to exploit the instability that U.S. efforts, some involving Obama himself, have fostered. But to make Syria the latest free-fire zone in America’s never-ending Middle East misadventure will almost surely prolong and exacerbate the agonies that country is experiencing, with little ability to predict what consequences will ensue.

Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group, there is little reason to expect that the results for Syrians will be pretty — or that the prospects of regional harmony will improve. Suppress the symptoms, and the disease simply manifests itself in other ways. There is always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.

Obama’s bet — the same bet made by each of his predecessors, going back to Carter — is that the skillful application of U.S. military might can somehow provide a way out of this dilemma. They were wrong, and so is he.

We may be grateful that Obama has learned from his predecessor that invading and occupying countries in this region of the world just doesn’t work. The lesson he will bequeath to his successor is that drone strikes and commando raids don’t solve the problem, either.

We must hope for victory over the Islamic State. But even if achieved, that victory will not redeem but merely prolong a decades-long military undertaking that was flawed from the outset. When the 14th campaign runs its course, the 15th will no doubt be waiting, perhaps in Jordan or in a return visit to some unfinished battleground such as Libya or Somalia or Yemen.

Yet even as the United States persists in its determination to pacify the Greater Middle East, the final verdict is already in. U.S. military power has never offered an appropriate response to whatever ails the Islamic world. We’ve committed our troops to a fool’s errand.

And worse, the errand is also proving unnecessary. With abundant North American energy reserves now accessible — all that shale oil and fracked gas — we don’t need the Persian Gulf oil that ostensibly made our post-1980 military exertions imperative. For whatever reasons, Washington’s national security elites seem oblivious to the implications these resources have for policy in the Middle East.

No matter how long it lasts, America’s war for the Greater Middle East will end in failure. And when it does, Americans will discover that it was also superfluous.

12 Bands Who Sadly Split Up In 2014

As 2014 clocked out, it’s not just another calendar year that’s had its time called and come to an end. Throughout the last 12 months, we’ve also seen an array of bands bow out for good – from fiery splits to those who’d simply done what they came here to do. Here are 12 band break-ups from 2014
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Police Officer And Young Demonstrator Share Hug At Ferguson Rally In Portland

Nov. 25: Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum, left, and Devonte Hart, 12, hug at a rally in Portland, Ore., where people had gathered in support of the protests in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Johnny Huu Nguyen)

Nov. 25: Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum, left, and Devonte Hart, 12, hug at a rally in Portland, Ore., where people had gathered in support of the protests in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Johnny Huu Nguyen)

Fri Nov 28, 2014 at 03:57 PM PST
Police Officer And Young Demonstrator Share Hug At Ferguson Rally In Portland

This image, shot by freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen, shows Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugging 12-year-old Devonte Hart during the Ferguson demonstration in Portland on Nov. 25, 2014.According to Sgt. Barnum, the interaction took place at the beginning of the rally. With emotions running high as speakers were addressing the crowd, he noticed a young man with tears in his eyes holding a “Free Hugs” sign among a group of people.

Sgt. Barnum motioned him over and the two started talking about the demonstration, school, art and life. As the conversation ended, Sgt. Barnum pointed to his sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?” The moment following his question was captured in the photo above, which shows Devonte’s eyes welling up with tears once again as he embraces the officer.

Perhaps, a few more hugs and a lot fewer shootings (by police officers) would be more appropriate, responsible, constructive, and helpful. What are your thoughts?

BTW, Devonte Hart has an amazing story. You can read it here.

Bryan Adams “The Bare Bones” ongoing tour of North America and Canada

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Bryan Guy Adams, OC OBC (born 5 November 1959) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, producer, actor, social activist, and photographer. Adams has been one of the most successful figures of the world of rock music during last three decades. He’s known for his strong husky vocals and energetic live performances, and he has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the world’s best-selling music artists and the best-selling Canadian rock artist of all time.

Adams rose to fame in North America with his album Cuts Like a Knife and turned into a global star with his 1984 album Reckless. In 1991, he released his popular Waking Up the Neighbours album which included “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, one of the best-selling singles of all time.

For his contributions to music, Adams has garnered many awards and nominations, including 20 Juno Awards among 56 nominations, 15 Grammy Award nominations including a win for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television in 1992. He has also won MTV, ASCAP, American Music awards, two Ivor Novello Awards for song composition and has been nominated five times for Golden Globe Awards and three times for Academy Awards for his songwriting for films.

Adams and Alicia Grimaldi, who is also a trustee and co-founder of his namesake foundation, had their first daughter, Mirabella Bunny Grimaldi Adams on 22 April 2011. They announced the birth of their second daughter Lula Rosylea Grimaldi Adams, via People Magazine on 15 February 2013.

Adams has been vegan since the age of 29, originally for health reasons, but is also an advocate for animal rights.

Adams has homes in Chelsea, London and Paris.

Bryan Adams concert at Madison Square Garden Theater

Oct 25th

A fan who kept yelling “Summer of ’69!” started to annoy Bryan Adams during his concert on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. “Have you ever been to a rock concert before?” Mr. Adams asked patiently. “As the show progresses, the songs come that you recognize.”

Mr. Adams doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done at a rock concert before. He strums his electric guitar, strolls around the stage, embraces his band mates and jumps off a drum riser; he belts the words in an earnest rasp of a voice. The audience, filled with teen-age girls, happily does its part by singing choruses, holding up the flames of cigarette lighters during ballads and squealing when he approaches the edge of the stage. On Sunday, as the fan continued to shout, Mr. Adams brought him on stage; Seth from Long Island sang a few lines of “The Best Is Yet To Come,” doing his best Bryan Adams impression.

Mr. Adams raises generic rock from a job to a vocation. He and his collaborators, primarily Jim Vallance and Robert (Mutt) Lange, thrive on commonplace sentiments, stripped of specific details: “I just can’t stand another lonely night” or “All I want is you” or “You’re the only one I’ve ever loved” or “I’ve got to feel your touch.” Mr. Adams makes million-selling songs by portraying a virile nice guy. He might make noise at a party in “House Arrest” or let lust carry him away in “Run to Me,” but he’ll also promise undying devotion and sound like he means it, as in “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” which sold 15 million copies worldwide.

The words arrive in three-chord rockers or hymnlike power ballads that draw almost all their ideas from a small group of English and Midwestern rockers: the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, the Who, Bob Seger and John Cougar Mellencamp, with a touch of Bruce Springsteen. The songs are well-made, from opening guitar hook to sing-along chorus. And after more than a decade of Top 10 hits, Mr. Adams has made a trademark of his own facelessness; he is heroically ordinary.






President Obama Post-Election News Conference

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

November 5, 2014

President Obama Post-Election News Conference

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Free People Presents ‘The Letter’ – Video [ Vimeo Staff Pick ]


“It’s ok to hold on tight…and to let go.” Sarah, played by Dree Hemingway, reads a letter from her deceased mother as she rides through the sweeping mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a personal journey, but one she doesn’t have to make alone. With her love, played by Joel Danielsson, alongside her, she retraces her mother’s steps by following the words scribbled on the page of an old weathered journal. The letters weave a story that will ultimately connect the mother and daughter across time, will bring Sarah closer to herself, and ultimately lead her into the future that lies ahead.


Best watch in couch mode:

Creative Direction: Free People
Actors: Dree Hemingway, Angela Lindvall, Joel Danielsson
Film Director: CMCM and Duncan Winecoff @ All:Expanded
Director of Photography: Stuart Winecoff @ All:Expanded
Written By: CMCM and Free People
Editor: Ryan McKenna @ The Mill
Producer: Carl Walters @ The Mill
Color: Michael Rossiter @ The Mill
Special Thanks: Dornan’s, Moose WY

Remembering Gustavo Cerati With The Artists He Influenced

Argentine rock star musician Gustavo Cerati died on Sept. 4.

Argentine rock star musician Gustavo Cerati died on Sept. 4. Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images


Last week we received word that Argentinian music legend Gustavo Cerati had died. We were shocked. In the ’80s and ’90s, as frontman for the band Soda Estereo, Cerati became the first pan-Latin American rock star — and he was only 55 when he died on Sept. 4.

A good friend of those who sought refuge in Buenos Aires, Gustavo was one of the many Argentinians that welcomed entire families with open arms.

Soda Estereo was the first rock band to tour throughout the entire continent, and it proved that being a rocker could be profitable. Record labels took note and opened their doors to rock in your language

We are planning a tribute show celebrating Gustavo Cerati’s life and his legacy.  Please feel free to tell us what is your favorite Cerati song, live concert, or memory? You can leave your suggestions in the comments section.