Adonis Diaries

Notes and tidbits on FB and Twitter. Part 55

La joie de vivre est liée a un sentiment d’avoir réussi. Si seulement on pouvait abaisser la barre de ce qu’on considére “Réussir”

Pourquoi écrire si on se croit supérieur aux romans qu’on écrit?

It is Not worth reading the fundamentally “rootless” authors: They cannot worry about any society. Worst, those “rootlessly” living in their own country

Si on sent que le roman envoie des signes de prévisibilité de l’avenir de l’histoire, alors on avance difficilement dans la lecture, on s’ennui.

Les characters et les passions doivent etre décrite comme des entités Libre, pretes a tout moment d’actes imprévisibles.

Le romancier n’a pas le droit d’abandonner le terrain de la bataille.

Considerer la “conscience” comme un Black Hole qui rejette tout ce qui ne tient pas debout et essaie de s’introduire dedans. Question: comment les premieres idees furent introduites? A t-on cree notre Black Hole par nous meme?

L’intentionalité est la conscience qui ne peut exister que relier a d’autre chose que soi.

“Toute conscience est consciente de quelque chose” de la haine, la crainte, sympathie, ce qui parait amiable,  les reactions subjectives

Ces maniaques intelligents et raides, digne et toujours humiliés dans l’enfer du raisonnement, se moquent de tout et ne cessent de se justifier dans des confessions truquées qui laissent apparaitre des désarrois sans recours.

Day 28. Palestinian prisoners, 1,700 of them, on hunger strike. Israel again detained administratively 8 Palestinian youths. Intimidation tactics

C’était mathematique: les enfants de USA faisaient trembler leurs méres, les méres terrorisaient leurs maris.

L’infantilism de la politique Americaine s’expliquait de ces liens: les hauts placés exhibaient leurs familles et leurs rejetons pour obtenir plus de voix. (Observations of Louise Weiss on her 3-month tour sponsored by Foreign Affairs association in 1925)

Senator Borah de l’Idaho, USA (in 1925), á peine débarassé de ses Indiens, commencait a dénombrer ses interets communs avec l’ensemble du pays

Comme la harangue du sénateur Borah de l’Idaho (1925) valait á peine pour un sheriff de Western, il me parut plus raisonable de ne point lui répondre (Louise Weiss)

An age difference of 24 years among couples is problematic for many when the woman is the older one, as with new French President Macron. In the USA, Macron would have been defeated for just this factor.

Soon, all sciences will fall in desuetude because of AI robots. Psychology will survive: everyone thinks he is a psychologist

Nothing but this daily repetition of parents to their growing ups children “Come visit me for 5 min every day” may make a difference to your loneliness in old age

When the other children come to visit the old mother once a month for 5 min, ho,ho, ho ka2anno ejo min al safar. Bte7taar keef tashteshon

Par definition, toute énigme a sa solution. Pourquoi les solutions se font si rares aux milles énigmes qui nous tracassent? Même ces rares solutions paraissent subjectives

Avant le début et après la fin, nous ne savons rien.

Life of total work? How to care less about this trend?

“If I’m not just a worker, then who am I?”

Olivia Goldhill, June 11, 2016

We live in an age of “total work.” It’s a term coined by the German philosopher Josef Pieper just after World War II—describing the process by which human beings are transformed into workers, and the entirety of life is then transformed into work.

Work becomes total when all of human life is centered around it; when everything else is not just subordinate to, but in the service of work. Leisure, festivity, and play come to resemble work—and then straight-up become it.

Even our co-circular habits play into total work.

People work out, rest and relax, eat well, and remain in good health for the sake of being more productive. (In my case, just to stay healthy and have enough hope for a better tomorrow, or a better luck in life)

We believe in working on ourselves as well as on our relationships. We think of our days off in terms of getting things done. And we take a good day to be a day in which we were productive. (Does that include being passionate about a hobby?)

But caring as much as we do about work is causing us needless suffering.

In my role as a practical philosopher, I speak daily with individuals from Silicon Valley to Scandinavia about their obsessions with work—obsessions that, by their own accounts, are making them miserable. (Many young people are losing their head hair out from the stress of finishing a project on schedule)

Nevertheless, they assume that work is worth caring a lot about because of the fulfillments and rewards it supplies, so much so that it should be the center of life.

I think this is an unsound foundation to base our lives upon. The solution to our over-worked state isn’t to do less work; it’s to care less about it.

There are many ways to train yourself to care less about work.

Sure, you could become completely indifferent to life and not care about anything, or develop a distaste for working that reveals itself in extreme procrastination.

However, both approaches leave us stuck in a cycle of aversion and feeling deep dissatisfaction. The better option is to care less about work because we care more about other things.

Most of us have had meaningful experiences—finding love unexpectedly, feeling awe when asked an intriguing question—that we quickly dismiss as being no more than passing moments, or which turn into nostalgic episodes to be recalled wistfully now and again.

But these experiences are clues that reveal a different lens through which we can see life: The more important things take us out of the endless pursuit of “being useful” while enabling us to lose ourselves in the flow of time.

By caring less about work, we open ourselves up to caring more about other dimensions to life—about what matters more. But that’s easier said—or written on a to-do list—than done.

How to care less about work

To get started, we need to become less attached to our notions of work.

The Buddha helpfully suggests that there are “3 poisons” at the root of our attachments: attraction, aversion, and indifference.

In this case, to become less attracted to, and therefore less hung up on, notions of career success, you should pay close attention to how those occupying positions of power are often over-extended, run ragged by infinite demands and herculean ambitions.

They are rarely leading well-rounded or well-ordered lives. The cost of their single-minded striving for success is unvoiced suffering, loneliness, and the loss of other things worth caring about. If career success too often brings misery, then should it be esteemed as highly as it usually is?

Once you’ve detached the notion of success from that of happiness, you need to work out how else to find that satisfaction—but without actually achieving anything.

This exercise opens us up to Oscar Wilde’s famous dictum, “All art is quite useless.” We can refute total work’s claim that only useful things are valuable by taking Wilde at his word, and considering how we can perform fascinating but totally useless artistic experiments in our own lives.

For example, we could partake in the “art of roaming” without an aim or plan. This is an idea advanced by French theorist Guy Debord, who proposed that we let ourselves “be drawn by the attractions of the terrain” and the encounters we discover.

Alternatively, we could write a haiku, walk through the woods in the spirit of “forest bathing” (shinrin-yoku), or lie perfectly still in a moving rowboat, as 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau reports having done in Reveries of the Solitary Walker.

We could take part with others in breaking out of an escape room, immerse ourselves in sensory deprivation tanks, or practice calligraphy, an art that master calligrapher Kazuaki Tanahashi calls “brush mind.

By these means, we can plunge into life, engaging our senses while suspending our buzzing, noisy workaday concerns.

Once we’ve gotten the knack for embracing the idea that certain things in life are wondrous because they’re not focused on getting through, onto, or ahead of something, we can turn our attention to ourselves, inquiring into our own lives.

Socrates’ great insight involved showing his conversation partners that they thought they knew themselves, but it turns out that they didn’t.

Following Socrates’ lead, we can ask ourselves, “If I’m not just a worker, then who am I?”

Let this question sit in the back of your mind for a few weeks before you try to answer it.

“Who am I?” you might ask while getting bogged down at work. “Who am I?” you might think while you notice your thoughts inclining once again toward completing tasks, planning, strategy setting, and making insurmountable to-do lists.

“Is this who I am? Is this all I am?” This philosophical question, posed over and over again, is intended to arouse great doubt in you, inviting you to prod your deepest ambitions, why you’re here, and what it’s all about.

If your destiny is not to be a total worker, then what could it be?

Exasperated, a character in Voltaire’s Candide says, “Let’s stop all this philosophizing and get down to work.” What a waste of time, he seems to be saying—and maybe you’re thinking the same thing.

We could, of course, follow his advice and just keep our heads down. Or we could insist upon working less without caring less about work.

Or we could try to find a time-management guru who would allow us to continue a regime of total work by plying time-saving techniques. But aren’t these approaches just more of the same: total work in action?

If the solution to your anxiety is keeping your head down, easing up a bit, or working more efficiently, you’ll someday regret the awakened life that will have ultimately, tragically passed you by.

Exercises like these shepherd us beyond the world of total work, helping us to remember why we’re here. They allow us to shed our worries, anxieties, irritations, and busynesses.

By caring about work a little less, we can afford ourselves experiences of what is truly meaningful, and let us rest for a while in the unfolding present.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter. Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

Note: How to behave once you retire? I say: Etre a la retraite veut dire: j’ ai le matin jusqu’a 1 pm pour mediter, lire et ecrire, et toute la nuit pour tout autre chose. Sleep my fill and sleep when I feel like to or when just bored. C’ est comme ca qu’on change une vie de labeur pour survivre.

ISRAEL’S NEW LEGALIZATION LAW

Cathy Sultan blog

Israel’s new Legalization Law legitimizes under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” that were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but were tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments as part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land as possible.

This new law follows Israel’s approval of 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks and the announcement that Israel plans to build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian land in more than two decades.

According to Jonathan Cook writing in The National on February 8, 2017, the Legalization Law was the right’s forceful response to the eviction in early February of 40 families from a settlement “outpost” called Amona.

The eviction of these families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing an estimated $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated.

As the evicted families clashed with police, sending several dozen to the hospital, Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and leader of the settler party Jewish Home called Amona’s families “heroes.” Netanyahu added: “We all understand the extent of their pain,” and promised them an enlarged replacement settlement along with monetary compensation.

The real prize for Bennett and his far right party was the legalization law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s and designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers. International law is clear that an occupying force can take land only for military needs.

Israel committed a war crime in transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the Occupied Territories. (Millions of Palestinians were forced transferred after each war)

Israel’s Attorney General has refused to defend the law should it be brought before Israel’s Supreme Court. Very belatedly the lower courts drew the line in land confiscation in Amona and demanded that the land be returned to its Palestinian owners.

This new law overrules the judges in the lower courts, allowing private land stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as Israeli state property.

In practice there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land but now government support for the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be impossible to blame the outposts on “rogue” settlers or claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian property rights.

I saw this injustice for the first time in March 2002 when my Palestinian guide, Naim, on our way to Bethlehem, stopped his car and pointed off to the left.

“My family used to live here,” he said, and began to tell me his story. One of the things which upset me was the part about the ancient olive grove. No one knew how old the hundreds of trees really were. Some of the old-timers swore the olive grove was 300 years old or perhaps even older. The trees probably didn’t need irrigation because they’d been there so long. Their roots intermingled with the rich, dark dirt and delved deeply into the earth. A small village nearby had an olive press and every day during the season the villagers brought their freshly-picked crop to be pressed for oil.

Naim still remembered the exact location of his house, what time the sun shone through the kitchen window, and where each tree was planted. He remembered because he was the one who scurried up the trees and shook the branches at harvest time, carefully aiming for the sheet spread around the base of each tree to catch the olives as they fell.

Now there is no sign of a Palestinian presence. The villagers, if not already dead, have been dispersed to one of the many refugee camps. As for the ancient olive grove, it was uprooted to make way for Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement. It sits atop Abu Ghnaim Mountain, once a forest of some 60,000 pine trees and a refuge for wild animals and plants.

One the southwest edge of Bethlehem, this entire area was stripped bare to build 7,000 identical red-roofed, multi-storied square housing units, arranged in layers some two kilometers in circumference. When completed, the project looked from afar like asymmetrical Lego blocks. Gilo, another Israeli settlement, dominates the eastern perimeter of Bethlehem, sandwiching the Christian village between these two Israeli colossi. These and other stories can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

As opposition leader Isaac Herzog said: “The train departing from here has only one stop–the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. If ICC judges take their duties seriously, we could see Prime Minister Netanyahu tried for complicity in the war crime of establishing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

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A DEADLY DELUSION: WERE SYRIA’S REBELS EVER GOING TO DEFEAT THE JIHADISTS?

AUGUST 10, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision last month to shutter America’s covert program to arm and train Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad was likely inevitable, and in any case overdue.

The program was premised on applying proxy military pressure to realize an unworkable political outcome – a negotiated resolution that removed Assad. And particularly in its late stages, it was feeding al-Qaeda-type jihadists who had infiltrated and co-opted large sections of the opposition.

The end of America’s “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad” — in Trump’s own words — has sparked sharp debate over whether the move will benefit jihadists in al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

It will not. But the decision has also provoked a second, derivative argument over whether and how much Syria’s rebels were ever willing and able, historically, to stand up to the jihadists who hijacked Syria’s revolutionary insurgency.

This debate has policy implications — at least counterfactual ones — insofar as U.S.-backed rebels were apparently meant to out-compete and counterbalance jihadists. With a few exceptions, they proved unable to do so. (No exceptions so far)

As Syria’s war dragged on, America’s other policy priorities in the war were gradually subsumed by “counter-terrorism” — a shorthand term for the defeat of the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Arguments for backing the array of nationalist and Islamist rebel factions collectively termed the “Free Syrian Army” were increasingly recast in those interests-based terms.

Into 2017, some were still retailing U.S.-backed rebels as “an already extremely vetted, truly indigenous, potential counter-terrorism force.” (Vetted by whom? Those Not on the ground for long terms?)

This did not comport with the historical record.

The fact of rebel cooperation with jihadists was consistently excused away as a tactical necessity, or as a function of insufficient U.S. support.

But there were only so many times U.S.-backed rebels could function as jihadists’ battlefield auxiliaries, sit and watch as jihadists liquidated other rebel factions, or prove generally unmotivated to fight jihadists before it became impossible to take them seriously as a counter-terrorism force.

(Actually, the extremist factions waited for the weapons to arrive to the “moderate” and launch an attack and take them away)

Rebels were more interested in going at the Assad regime – even if that meant fighting alongside jihadists, or under their command – than standing up to jihadists.

The factional dysfunction and personal entanglements of the rebels meant that jihadists were more central and powerful within the armed opposition than Washington and other rebel backers appreciated or acknowledged.

In the end, that not only meant that rebels were useless for counter-terrorism, but also that they couldn’t serve as a viable tool of pressure on the Assad regime or represent a realistic alternative to Assad’s rule. The whole logical edifice of U.S. support for Syria’s insurgency was wormy and rotten.

The counter-terrorism case for backing Syria’s rebels was bogus — an implausible claim by the Syrian opposition that was uncritically and irresponsibly repeated by opposition backers. Policymakers and analysts should have taken jihadist entanglement with Syria’s insurgency more seriously, much earlier. Instead, the policy debate was, for years, built on mythology and tall tales.

The Crux: January 2014 and Rebels’ Fight Against ISIL

The historical argument over the rebel fight against jihadists played out recently in an acrid Twitter back-and-forth between University of Oklahoma professor and longtime Syria expert Joshua Landis and the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister.

The former argued rebels mostly refused to fight al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and more often fought alongside them. Lister called Landis’s arguments “misinformation” and “lies,” minimizing rebels’ ties with the Islamic State and other jihadists and pointing to their collective fight against the Islamic State in January 2014. (The jihadists had strong backing, financially, in weapons and in logistics through Turkey from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, with tacit support of the western States, particularly France and Britain and USA)

The case for the armed opposition as a counterterrorism force hinges, to a large extent, on this single episode in January 2014. Yet a more critical reading of that one event, especially in the context of rebels’ subsequent fight against the Islamic State, tends to reframe rebels’ utility as a U.S. partner against the Islamic State. Landis’s arguments are an oversimplification, in parts, and occasionally unfair. But the reality sides more with Landis than Lister.

In April 2013, ISIL’s Iraqi predecessor announced it would re-absorb its advance team in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusrah, and expand into Syria.

ISIL quickly got to work abducting opposition activistseliminating smaller, ill-reputed rebel factions, and seizing effective control of border crossings and other sources of revenue. Finally, after months of shocking, brutal provocations and escalating clashes with other rebels, open war erupted in January 2014 between rebels and ISIL in the west Aleppo countryside and then spread across the opposition-held north.

This has been spun, uncritically, into a legend of how rebels expelled ISIL from the northwest. Lister has been among those retailing a fairy-tale version of January 2014. In his 2016 paper, The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand, Lister acknowledges some of the complications in this episode, but nonetheless casts it in hagiographic terms:

The scale of [the opposition’s] success in forcing [ISIL] out of four provinces in 12 weeks is incomparably more significant than what the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have achieved in northeastern Syria in over two years of operations backed by U.S. air support. (Does he means Al Nusra of Al Qaeda faction?)

Yet the reality of January 2014 was substantially more complicated than Lister would have us believe. In retrospect, ISIL’s withdrawal from the northwest now seems less a rout at rebel hands than a decision by an overstretched, exposed ISIL to regroup in Syria’s desert east. From its new strongholds in the east, ISIL consolidated its forces and resurged in all directions, including into Iraq.

Though brigades in some sections of the north such as Jeish al-Mujahideen and Jamal Ma’rouf’s Syrian Revolutionaries Front launched pitched battles against ISIL in January 2014, elsewhere in the northwest, ISIL departed with a mix of local handshake deals and deliberate, tactical retreats.

Other powerful brigades — including Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham — absorbed or sheltered ISIL membersand facilitated their passage to safe areas in Syria’s east. The horrific death-by-torture of Ahrar commander Hussein “Abu Rayyan” al-Suleiman at ISIL’s hands had been one of the most proximate sparks for the January fighting, but much of Ahrar still couldn’t accept the idea of fighting fellow Islamist militants.

In Raqqa, Ahrar al-Sham fighters confused by ISIL’s religious slogans left local rebels to face ISIL reinforcements alone, only for those same Ahrar fighters to be executed in the dozens at an ISIL checkpoint north of the city. In the Aleppo countryside, gullible local rebel commanders agreed to parlay with ISIL representatives to halt the bloodshed.

An ISIL negotiator set off his suicide belt in time with a car bomb, killing the local commander and more than a dozen others. Local rebel resistance folded. ISIL captured and held east Aleppo until Turkey launched its Operation Euphrates Shield intervention more than two years later.

In eastern Deir al-Zour province, Jabhat al-Nusrah and other rebels fought a fierce, losing battle from February to July 2014 as the Islamic State closed in around them. Then ISIL overran Mosul and, swollen with new weapons and materiel it had taken from the Iraqi military, turned west towards Deir al-Zour. Faced with an overwhelming ISIL force, the Deiri opposition split and collapsed. Critically — and characteristically — rebels in Syria’s west left Deir al-Zour alone to lose against ISIL.

After summer 2014, and with the exception of some stubborn Deiris who tried to claw their way back, most of Syria’s rebels gave up on the east.

To be fair, rebels in  west Syria’s were trying to fend off the Assad regime and, from 2015, hold out against an overwhelming Russian intervention. But the longer the Islamic State occupied Syria’s east, the clearer it became that western rebels were not sufficiently motivated to liberate what had been revolutionary, opposition-held areas from the Islamic State’s brutality and terror, and the less immediate and compelling the example of January 2014 became.

The whole reason the United States opportunistically struck up a tactical partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — including, as Lister noted in his paper, providing U.S. air support — was because the SDF’s core Kurdish elements were motivated and able to kill the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

This set them apart in a way that Lister and other rebel boosters have yet to fully acknowledge. Helpfully, the SDF also was not infiltrated by jihadists, which meant it was possible safely deploy combat advisors and forward air controllers alongside them.

Attempts by the U.S. Department of Defense to build a similar partner force out of Syria’s Arab rebels mostly failed. The most capable rebels were already participating in the CIA’s covert arms program and committed to fighting the Assad regime rather than the Islamic State. Many of the remaining rebels available and willing to partner with the United States were refugees who had fled the battlefield.

Deir al-Zour rebels could not be recruited in more than paltry numbers or unified under a single commander. In Syria’s north, the first batch of U.S.-trained rebels to enter the country in 2015 was almost immediately torn apart by Jabhat al-Nusrah. Notably, no other rebel factions intervened to protect them – it was Kurdish-led forces that came to their defense and then sheltered them.

The second batch surrendered its U.S.-supplied weapons to Jabhat al-Nusrah. The Department of Defense counter-Islamic State program was amended to integrate small, Pentagon-trained units capable of calling in U.S. airstrikes into a larger mass of CIA-armed rebels, but even with substantial U.S. air support, rebels proved unable to do more than ping-pong back and forth across the Aleppo countryside until Turkey invaded.

Turkey’s own role inside Aleppo progressively scaled up over the course of Operation Euphrates Shield, until it had committed thousands of regular forces and taken the lead in the battle for the city of al-Bab.

Even then, American and Western officials told me, the Turkish-led capture of al-Bab went poorly enough to push U.S. planners towards alternatives in the battle for al-Raqqa. By the time rebels who had already lost in Syria’s west were appealing for a role in the battles against the Islamic State in Raqqa and Deir al-Zour in 2017, it was too late.

The Long Black Thread, Before and After the Islamic State

The politically convenient timeline for the Islamic State’s incubation inside the Syrian opposition is short. It starts with the Islamic State’s announced entry in April 2013 and ends with its rupture with Syria’s rebels in January 2014, roughly nine months. But this too is a false narrative.

The reality is that the Syrian opposition’s entanglement with the Islamic State and jihadists broadly didn’t start in April 2013, and it didn’t end in January 2014. It’s not a single, bracketed episode. Rather, it is a black thread that’s run through the opposition almost from the start until the present day.

The Islamic State did not just appear from nothing in April 2013. Though it announced itself in 2013, its advance force — Jabhat al-Nusrah — and other future constituent parts were inside Syria and playing an active, leading role in the insurgency from the start of 2012.

And even after the break with the Islamic State, its jihadist derivatives continued to poison the opposition. Again and again, the opposition — and the armed opposition in particular — proved unable to recognize the jihadist threat in their own ranks until it was too late.

From Jabhat al-Nusrah’s first acknowledged operation in Syria — a January 2012 car bomb in Damascus’s al-Meidan neighborhood — and the group’s video debut later that month, it should have been clear that it was either a manifestation of al-Qaeda or something al-Qaeda-like. But as Nusrah pivoted from terrorist bombings to a vanguard role on the battlefield alongside other rebels, it was accepted, only months after its terrorist opening act, as an integral part of the opposition. Important segments of the opposition went from denying al-Qaeda was even in Syria and claiming Nusrah’s early bombings were false flag attacks to closing ranks around an obvious al-Qaeda derivative.

In July of that year, the opposition stormed Aleppo, in their boldest, most ambitious blow against the regime to date. In the aftermath, Jabhat al-Nusrah was one of the four leading Islamist factions that came together in December 2012 to establish the Aleppo Shari’ah Commission, a joint judicial-administrative body to govern the city’s rebel-held east.

When the United States designated Jabhat al-Nusrah a terrorist organization and identified it, correctly, as an alias for al-Qaeda in Iraq, leading voices in Syria’s opposition loudly refused to acknowledge reality. The then-head of the opposition’s political leadership-in-exile said the decision “had to be reconsidered.” The following Friday, opposition activists organized protests across the country under the slogan, “There Is No Terrorism in Syria Except Assad’s.”

It was only the announcement of the Islamic State in April 2013 that obliged Jabhat al-Nusrah — and everyone else — to acknowledge exactly what it was, forcing Nusrah to defensively pledge direct, public allegiance to al-Qaeda (Even then, armed opposition members argued to me, as late as 2016 and 2017, that Jabhat al-Nusrah wasn’t really al-Qaeda).

Between the April 2013 announcement of the Islamic State and the break with ISIL in January 2014, Syria’s rebels coexisted with ISIL and — though it’s true ISIL was never integrated into the mass rebellion the way Jabhat al-Nusrah was — operated alongside them on at least several fronts.

The most prominent instance of rebel-ISIL cooperation was the 2013 capture of Aleppo’s Minagh Airbase, in which an ISIL suicide bomber cleared the way for a joint rebel assault. But rebels also seem to have fought alongside or in parallel with ISIL elsewhere, including in Lattakia, in the northern Damascus countryside, and against Kurdish forces across the Syrian north.

When ISIL began picking off individual half-criminal rebel factions in 2013 — in Aleppo citythe Aleppo countrysideor in Raqqa — other rebels mostly left them to die.

After ISIL was finally run out of Syria’s northwest in 2014 and concentrated in Syria’s east, the northwest became the rebellion’s center of gravity. It also became Jabhat al-Nusrah’s main power base, as the group rallied in the northwest starting in summer 2014.

And when Jabhat al-Nusrah started to eliminate nationalist rivals, not unlike ISIL had, northern rebels again sat on their hands. Northern rebels suffered from the same weaknesses and contradictions that plagued rebels nationwide. They had limited, local horizons. They were divided by faction, geography, and individual personalities. And they had problematic ideological sympathies and interpersonal ties with jihadists.

Altogether, they were incapable of mounting a collective resistance to a predatory Jabhat al-Nusrah. It is unclear how more U.S. support would have fixed that, particularly when the United States started targeting al-Qaeda external operations cells and Nusrah began targeting factions it deemed “Western tools.”

Jabhat al-Nusrah wiped out Jamal Ma’rouf’s ill-reputed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in October 2014, plus an assortment of Ma’rouf-linked factions. Other local factions, including Ahrar al-Sham, either joined in or were quietly complicit.

When CIA-backed Harakat Hazm tried to intervene to slow Nusrah’s campaign on Ma’arouf, Nusrah eliminated Hazm’s Idlib section. After escalating tensions between Nusrah and what was left of Hazm in Aleppo, Hazm defensively joined a larger Islamist faction. But Hazm kept causing problems, so its Islamist patron and other local factions decided Hazm had run its course. In February 2015, they stood aside while Nusrah snuffed it out.

Jabhat al-Nusrah was abetted in liquidating these factions by an ultra-extreme, Islamic State-leaning splinter called Jund al-Aqsa. Nusrah sheltered Jund al-Aqsa as it assassinated other rebels and — as what rebels called “[ISIL’s] Embassy in the North” — ferried would-be foreign fighters from Turkey to the Islamic State’s home base in al-Raqqa.

When Ahrar al-Sham attempted to uproot Jund in late 2016, it suffered heavy losses and accepted a face-saving settlement brokered by Jabhat al-Nusrah. In February 2017, Jabhat al-Nusrah (by then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) finally moved on what was left of Jund al-Aqsa — but, even then, Nusrah “defeated” Jund by giving its fighters safe passage to Islamic State-held Raqqa.

In March 2016, Nusrah broke a locally popular Free Syrian Army faction. In January 2017, it broke several factions that agreed to attend the Astana talks co-sponsored by Turkey, forcing the remaining fragments to join Ahrar al-Sham.

And in July 2017, Nusrah broke Ahrar al-Sham, its sole remaining rival for power in Syria’s northwest. Ahrar had historically been a key ally and enabler of Jabhat al-Nusrah, and it had played a central role in bringing the same extremist foreign fighters into Syria who would later repeatedly betray it.

The dust has yet to fully settle, but it seems as if enough of Ahrar’s local subfactions stuck to their home areas — cutting deals to declare their towns neutral, or only running Nusrah out of their own sectors — that Nusrah was able to overwhelm Ahrar at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Bab al-Hawa had been Ahrar’s stronghold and its main source of revenue and power. No longer.

The next-biggest rebel factions said they’d send a buffer force to interrupt the fighting around Bab al-Hawa, then didn’t, then blamed each other. One has already endorsed Jabhat al-Nusrah’s planned “civil administration” in the Syrian north.

CIA-backed Free Syrian Army factions played no part in the fighting between Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, except as a tame buffer force. The CIA had encouraged them to unite to form a counterweight to Jabhat al-Nusrah months earlier. They refused, recognizing, correctly, that Nusrah would view their unification as a menace and destroy them. Instead, they formed a nonthreatening “operations room” meant solely to fight the regime.

From 2012 to 2017, all these rebels continued to coordinate with and fight alongside Jabhat al-Nusrah. And the intra-rebel power dynamic had been inverted in ways outsiders seem to have misapprehended. By some point — certainly from 2015, but probably earlier — most northern rebels were not operating alongside either Jabhat al-Nusrah or Ahrar al-Sham as autonomous peers, but rather as jihadists’ fire support and force-multiplying auxiliaries. Nusrah was also siphoning off these factions’ U.S. material support, either by taking a regular cut or crushing these factions and pillaging their weapon stocks.

Lister has claimed that “[Free Syrian Army] groups who fought [al-Qaeda] were abandoned to lose.” But there’s only so much the United States could do when fragmented, basically local rebels abandoned each other, over and over again.

Flawed, Nationwide

Syria’s northwest — which, as rebels lost more of Aleppo, became increasingly centered on Islamist- and jihadist-dominated Idlib province — has been the most extreme example nationwide of how jihadists have run roughshod over Syria’s opposition. But rebels nationwide suffered from the same flaws, only to lesser degrees. It’s those flaws that, even when they didn’t leave other rebels vulnerable to outright jihadist control, meant they also couldn’t really expunge pernicious extremist actors and tendencies.

The closest thing to an anti-jihadist success story has been the rebel southwest, where Jordan’s tight management of its northern border with Syria and of its local rebel clients seem to have kept Jabhat al-Nusrah from blossoming the way it did in Syria’s north.

“Southern Front” rebels officially renounced cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusrah in 2015, and the group has apparently been kept mostly isolated and small. It also seems to have suffered because of one particularly bloodthirsty, unlikeable Jordanian emir, now since moved elsewhere in the country.

But even in the south, Jabhat al-Nusrah has survived, protected by its members’ local clan ties and their tactical utility to other rebels as shock troops, and it has continued to play a key role on hot fronts. There have been reports that local rebels have told Nusrah to either dissolve itself or leave the south, against the backdrop of the United States and Russia imposing a “de-escalation zone” over the area, but it remains to be seen how convincing rebels are and how willing Nusrah is to be convinced.

Under the de-escalation agreement, southern rebels will likely have to fight the local Islamic State force that stubbornly holds the area’s valley corner and against which they have been unable to mobilize effectively.

The “Euphrates Shield” northern Aleppo countryside is mostly free of Jabhat al-Nusrah because of Nusrah’s 2015 withdrawal from the area, the presence of Turkish forces on the ground, and a geographic accident — this rebel enclave is disconnected from the Nusrah-dominated rebel northwest, and really from anything other than Turkey’s Gaziantep province. Still, there is some reason for concern.

In June, dozens were reportedly killed in intra-rebel clashes that erupted — according to one party to the infighting — after one rogue rebel sub-faction starting chanting Nusrah slogans and then opened fire on residents who objected. And rebels have struggled to deal with continuing Islamic State infiltration. Local rebels told me in interviews that Islamic State cells in this area continue to commit acts of sabotage and carry out bombings.

In the besieged East Ghouta pocket outside Damascus, dominant local Islamist faction Jeish al-Islam eliminated the Islamic State in 2014 and, in 2016, turned its fire on Jabhat al-Nusrah. But that seemed to have as much to do with local factional balancing and economic interests as with anti-jihadist religious doctrine. And the rest of the Ghouta’s factions just balanced back, as Jabhat al-Nusrah opportunistically partnered with a local Free Syrian Army faction against Jeish al-Islam.

In terms of extremist influence and relative moderates’ inability to effectively organize against jihadists, Idlib and the rebel-held northwest have been the worst. But these are not Idlib problems; they are problems with Syria’s revolutionary opposition writ large.

Policy Implosion

This accounting of when Syria’s rebels did and did not resist jihadists is by no means a complete or comprehensive one. If someone wanted to get maximally granular — to dig down to the individual or village level — it’s probably possible to produce unlimited examples of rebels’ tangled-up relationships with jihadists.

The Assad regime itself had a hand in engineering jihadist influence within the opposition. From releasing dangerous jihadist detainees early in the uprising, apparently deliberately, to dumping rebels from elsewhere in the country into jihadist-dominated Idlib, Assad seems to have done everything he could to make his opposition toxic and unpalatable.

But Syria’s rebels themselves never really proved capable of policing themselves and purging their ranks of extremists. And by the time Trump had decided to end the CIA’s covert arms program, the geographic and numerical core of the armed opposition in Syria’s northwest was unsalvageable. It was dominated by factions like Ahrar al-Sham that were problematic, ideologically confused, and incapable of being productive counter-terrorism partners, and by Jabhat al-Nusrah, which is itself a counter-terrorism problem.

That meant rebels were never a really useful implement of U.S. or allied policy. So long as the most powerful factions espoused either Islamist, sectarian-majoritarian chauvinism, or straight black-flag jihadism, rebels could not represent an alternative political vision for a diverse Syria or be used effectively to press for a negotiated end to the conflict. The opposition also could not be a reliable counterterrorism partner, and support for opposition rebels was in fact boosting jihadists militarily and materially.

The conventional wisdom that the Syrian opposition was indispensable for counter-terrorism was a product of sentimentality and addled thinking. In particular, many opposition backers fell into a sort of over-reading of sectarian identity politics. They allowed themselves to be convinced that Syria’s jihadists had to be defeated by a force that looked basically like those jihadists, drawn exclusively from a demographic community defined in jihadists’ own sectarian terms.

One report called for America to stand up “the moderate Sunni Arab resistance needed to defeat the ISIS and al-Qaeda insurgencies,” a “partner by, with, and through which to conduct a population-centric counterinsurgency.” Another set of analysts and activists argued Washington needed to support Syrian opposition “indigenous counter-terrorism forces” in the most simplistic sectarian terms: “This counter-terrorism force needs to be led by moderate Sunni Arab fighters as Syria is a majority Sunni Arab country.”

This uncomplicated sectarian logic meant recommitting to a Syrian opposition force that had demonstrated consistently that it could not challenge jihadists and that, in any case, did not have a monopoly on Sunni Arab representation in Syria. Counting on the Syrian fighting force that, besides the Islamic State itself, was most riddled with jihadists to combat jihadists did not make sense.

And when rebels repeatedly made clear that their priority was fighting the Assad regime instead of jihadists, opposition backers rewrote their own interests and objectives to suit their clients’ needs. They tied themselves up in contortive logical knots to explain how, if they wanted to defeat jihadists, first they had to give the opposition everything it wanted.

These counter-terrorism-appropriate rationales for supporting the opposition should not have been taken seriously. The idea that Free Syrian Army rebels could somehow outcompete jihadists on the battlefield, or that they had to backfill and provide fire support for jihadists just to maintain their own independent relevance, was not real.

The idea that opposition rebels, if delivered to victory or to a negotiated solution on their preferred, victorious terms, would then team with the Syrian military to eliminate their jihadist cousins and comrades-in-arms was similarly unreal. And finally, the idea that if the opposition won, jihadists would just demobilize and rejoin anything like a normal, safe society was also not real.

Take this section of Lister’s policy opus for War on the Rocks, in which he argued for a compulsory ceasefire and political transition imposed at the end of America’s superpower arsenal:

Assuming that the credible introduction of an enforcement mechanism did guarantee a more durable period of calm in Syria, the influence of extremist groups would almost certainly decline after a period of months. As that trend developed, the likelihood for tensions to develop between Syria’s mainstream opposition and extremists alongside them would rise, thereby presenting opportunities to encourage their isolation.

Over an undeterminable period of time, this process could eventually “re-sort” insurgents, whereby all those willing to abide by a continued ceasefire and engage in an eventual political process would become more and more distinguishable from those who would not. It would only be after such a process played out that external military strikes could be considered against those unsalvageable extremists more clearly delineated on the ground.

“An undeterminable period of time” is a Syrian opposition-dictated fantasy, not policy.

There were non-counter-terrorism-related reasons to like and support the Syrian opposition. But as counter-terrorism gradually crowded out America and the West’s other priorities in Syria, the interests of the opposition terminally diverged from those of their Western backers, including the United States.

I don’t blame the opposition for these sorts of rationalizations, although we shouldn’t infantilize them or deny them agency, either. They certainly bear their share of responsibility. Still, as events turned against them, these arguments were all they had left.

I am angry at outsiders who affirmed and repeated these sorts of excuses, and particularly government officials and decision-makers. These people should have known better, and they should have communicated the political realities and consequences of the opposition’s extremist links clearly to their Syrian clients. They did the Syrian opposition, and Syrians broadly, a terrible disservice.

The opposition was not, with time, learning usefully, and its backers were not obliging it to learn. When rebels took Aleppo’s eastern half in summer 2012, lazily disguised Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance. When rebels took Idlib in spring 2015, openly avowed Syrian al-Qaeda and other unacceptably hard factions assumed control of its governance, again.

When rebels broke the siege of Aleppo in summer 2016, it was the same radioactive, jihadist-led coalition that blazed the path. The same patterns kept playing out, only more intense and worse, and still enabled by opposition sponsors.

In retrospect, optimism among rebel backers about the Jeish al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) coalition’s 2015 offensive in Syria’s northwest — channeled by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, for example — seems to be where the opposition’s backers really worked themselves into peak delusion.

It is mind-boggling that anyone was bullish about the political leverage to be gained from a provincial capital’s fall to a force jointly led by Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda, which then blazed a path south into the regime’s sectarian heartlandmassacring Alawite villagersand featuring their children in hostage videos.

The “al-Fateh” in Jeish al-Fateh literally means “open.” Historically, it connotes a Muslim army’s “opening” of new, non-Muslim lands to Islam. A Sunni-supremacist, foreign fighter-laden “Jeish al-Fateh” — reinforced by U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army factions — rampaging through the minority farming villages of Hama’s Ghab Valley should have been deeply alarming. It certainly seems to have alarmed Russia, which directly and decisively intervened in Syria on behalf of the regime months later.

Opposition backers probably should have figured this out. Instead, they repeated their opposition clients’ rationalizations and superstitions, which conveniently flattered those backers’ own policy preferences and analytical misapprehensions.

The opposition’s state backers and friendly analysts did not take the problem of jihadist infiltration of the opposition seriously. And in part because they coddled the opposition instead of forcing a real, corrective reckoning, things got out of hand.

Ultimately, it fell on Trump to kill U.S. support for Syria’s opposition rebels and to state the obvious: “It turns out it’s — a lot of al-Qaida we’re giving these weapons to,” he told The Wall Street Journal last month.

Opposition backers’ magical thinking helped lead their clients into a dead end. But those foreign opposition boosters can at least disengage and walk away, even if they’ll feel some angst about it. It’s mainly the opposition itself — the admirable parts of it, and some good people who made mistakes — who are going to pay.

Sam Heller is a fellow at The Century Foundation and a Beirut-based writer and analyst focused on Syria. Follow Sam on Twitter: @AbuJamajem.

Note1 : Since January 2017, 700,000 Syrians returned to their hometowns, mostly to Aleppo. Hezbollah kicked out Al Nusra from Lebanon eastern mountain chains and over 8,000 Syrians returned to Syria. The fighters were dispatched to Edleb, Al Nusra fiefdom in north west Syria by Turkey, the main supporter of this faction, along with Qatar.

Note 2: ISIS will be done with within a few months, But Al Nusra (backed by Turkey) will be there in north west Syria by the border.

Note 3: The US is still delaying the defeat of ISIS in Syria and obstructing the Syrian army to liberate all the eastern desert. to reach the Iraq borders.

The inventors of democracy would define the US as an oligarchy run by a White elite tyrant?

Olivia Goldhill. July 22, 2017

The United States is not a humble country. Despite widespread voter suppression tactics and a criminal justice system that imprisons a higher percentage of black people than South Africa did during apartheid, Americans have a disconcerting tendency to insist that they live in the greatest democracy in the world.

Not only is this claim to be the world’s best highly disputable, but the United States wouldn’t classify as a democracy at all—from the perspective of the ancient Greeks who invented the term.

Josiah Ober, professor of political science and classics at Stanford University and the author of several books on early democracy, argues that the ancient Greek conception of democracy is widely misunderstood today.

“We tend to mistranslate it as majority rule. For the ancient Greeks, the word didn’t mean majority rule, or majority tyranny. Instead it really means people have the capacity to rule themselves,” he says. “That’s the core idea of democracy, the capacity for self-governance, not power of one part of the population over another part of the population.” (That’s what many localities  and towns in Syria have been practicing during this international and savage civil war)

Ancient Greeks believed in widespread self-governance, and would likely be disturbed by the ignorance, apathy, and lack of political service today.

Ober believes that they would describe the US as a “pseudo-democracy or straight-up oligarchy.”

It is not enough that to have elections to select the officials that then govern the United States; ancient Greeks would still view these disparate levels of power—with one small group of people ruling over the masses—as a form of oligarchy.

And Ober says they would be particularly unimpressed with the current president of the United States.

Ancient Greeks had a definite idea of the characteristics of a tyrant: “A Greek tyrant was a megalomaniac, extremely greedy for material possessions, a sexual aggressor, he sought to block out all of his enemies from any role in politics,” says Ober.

“I think they would look at our current president and say, ‘How doesn’t this fit the view we have of what a tyrant is?’”

The notion that a democracy could remain a democracy while headed by a tyrant simply doesn’t hold up, according to Ober. “If you have a tyrant, and you accept it and say, ‘Oh, that’s too bad, we have a tyrant,’ then you don’t have a democracy.”

There are further problems that prevent the US political system from meeting ancient Greek democratic ideals. Rather than the relentless contemporary focus on elections, under a true self-governing democracy, ordinary citizens would take turns holding the majority of public offices.

Moreover, Ober says any strong democratic nation must first establish shared interests, such as a mutual desire for a basic level of national security or welfare.

And strong civic education—exploring the values of the nation, and the responsibilities that go with being a citizen—is necessary to a functioning democracy. “I think these skills can be learned. It’s not like magic,” says Ober.

“I think the Ancient Greeks would say the US is a failed democracy,” he says. “They’d say the inability of the wealthy and relatively non-wealthy to come to some kind of a common judgment about things like healthcare and public education and so on is an example of a failure.”

Note: America First? In what? Declaring independence in order to maintain slave system that Britain abolished? Exterminating all indigenous tribes and expanding territories for the benefit of its only White people? Detonating the atomic bomb on people, and twice? Letting the Blacks always feel that their body can be demolished in a split second under fabricated excuses?

 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Your Body is ACIDIC.

Very SIMPLE WAYS TO ALKALIZE YOUR BODY–

Many people who are reading this may have a high acidity level in his or her body. This is due to the typical first world diet of processed foods, refined sugars, and GMOs.

However, many people do not know that an acidic body is a breeding ground for cancer, excess weight, pain and many health issues.

Fortunately, making your organism more alkaline is very simple and easy. Making alkaline environment is in fact the opposite of acidic environment.

Here are 10 simple natural ways that you can practice every day and they will alkalize your organism. At same time you will gain more everyday energy and vitality:

1. The most important thing is to start your day with smile and with a large glass of water with the juice of a freshly-squeezed lemon. Lemons actually have the opposite effect on your body even they may seem acidic. Drink first thing in the morning to flush the system.

Another option is to drink one or two glasses of organic apple cider vinegar and water daily. You should only mix one to two tablespoons of vinegar in eight ounces of water.

2. Eat large portion of green salad tossed in lemon juice and quality olive oil. Greens (vegetable or fruit) are among the best sources of alkaline minerals, like calcium. Eat alkaline foods during the day like most fruits and vegetables. They sustain the body’s pH on a daily basis and keep balance in your organism.
3. Your snack should consist on raw, unsalted almonds. Almonds are full with minerals that are natural alkaline like magnesium and calcium, which actually help to balance out acidity and in the same time to balance blood sugar.
4. Drink almond milk and make yourself nice berry smoothie with added green powder like spirulina, or other greens. If you have choice between almond milk and cow’s milk, almond milk is better option.
5. Go for a nice walk or some other exercise. It’s very important to be active. Exercise actually helps move acidic products so your body can better eliminate them.
6. Breathe deeply. Ideally, choose a spot that has fresh, oxygen-rich air and go there whenever you can. While you are there, drink lots of water (and on daily basis as well) to flush the system of waste.
7. Do not eat meat every day. If you can skip few days without meat it will be great because eating meat every day leaves an acid residue behind. We have a lot of vegan or vegetarian recipes for you. Alkalize your body!
8. Skip dessert loaded with sugar and skip drinking soda. Sugar is one of the worst acidic foods we consume and our enemy. If you drink just ONE can of soda, you will actually need more than thirty glasses of neutral water to neutralize the acidity in your body!
9. Add more vegetables to your diet. Be careful, potatoes don’t count. However, sweet potatoes are good choice but don’t make them with butter, use olive oil and Himalayan salt for baking. Peppers, Asparagus, squash, Aubergines, and other vegetables are also great choices.
10. And last but not least: Add more sprouts to your daily diet. They are extremely alkalizing and rich in nutrients and energy-boosting enzymes.

Psychologists recommend children be bored in the summer

Olivia Goldhill. June 11, 2016

Do you entertain your kids with chess camp, art school, cooking classes, or tennis lessons during the unstructured summer months? Or perhaps all of them?

There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children’s time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.

“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy,” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Fry is not the only one to point out the benefits of boredom. Dr. Teresa Belton, visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia with a focus on the connection between boredom and imagination, told the BBC that boredom is crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which then allows true creativity.

And though our capacity for boredom may well have diminished with all the attractions of the internet, experts have been discussing the importance of doing nothing for decades.

In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child.” Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it, he said in his book On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. “It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time,” added Phillips.

Fry suggests that at the the start of the summer, parents sit down with their kids—at least those above the age of four—and collectively write down a list of everything their children might enjoy doing during their break. These can be basic activities, such as playing cards, reading a book, or going for a bicycle ride. They could also be more elaborate ideas such as cooking a fancy dinner, putting on a play, or practicing photography.

Then, if your child comes to you throughout the summer complaining of boredom, tell them to go and look at the list.

“It puts the onus on them to say, ‘This is what I’d like to do’,” says Fry.

While there’s a good chance children might mope around for a while and be bored, it’s important to realize that this isn’t wasted time.

“There’s no problem with being bored,” says Fry. “It’s not a sin, is it? I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.”

This same theory was put forward in 1930 by philosopher Bertrand Russell, who devoted a chapter of his book The Conquest of Happinessto the potential value of boredom. Imagination and capacity to cope with boredom must be learnt as a child, he wrote:

“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”

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