Saturday, December 19, 2009
I give it the highest recommendation for seeing; not exactly the highest marks on plot, reality and overall respect for traditional cultures. I am profoundly curious as to how this movie will be received in Kabul--by Americans/Westerners and Afghans.
Update: Just saw Body of Lies. A great movie if your a Middle East junkie.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Arab/Israeli conflict makes smart people dumb, sensitive people brutal, and open-minded people pig-headed fanatics.Indeed, I couldn't agree more.
Update: Others are publishing on surfing the Med. This time it's in Sardinia. Damn those corporate cats with their pro photographers and deep pockets. I have neither. Surfing Israel to Lebanon comes out in the April/May issue of The Surfers Journal.
For a lot of reasons, Westerners have been better writing on Iraq than Afghanistan. A few reasons might be:
1. Iraq is an Arab country and you don't necessarily need to have spent time in Iraq to understand parts of Arab society.
2. The US, at least, has prior experience in the place.
3. Iraq is much more of a modern state than Afghanistan. In previous years it has been easier to get around.
4. Since 9/11, loads of youngsters have been graduating in Arabic language classes. Not so many study Afghan languages.
For all these reasons and more, Western blogs, Op-Eds and "experts" seem to be better on Iraq. They seem more able to use concrete analysis and primary research, than vague theory and historical clichés.
Apparently, those guys over at Ghosts of Alexander agree. I strongly encourage the readership to browse though their 29 Tips for Bad Writing on Afghanistan. (This blogger is probably guilty of at least half.)
And if you get tired with their condescending criticisms, here is a new blog I found that gives some fairly classic comedic writing advice. They call it Top Tens.
Update: Not that anyone gives a Casbah hoot, but my latest radio recording from south Lebanon has been edited. Click here to listen to it online.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Israeli Defense Forces and Border Police have taken the next step in making travel to the occupied
Ma’an News reports that Israeli authorities have now banned foreign passport-holders from traveling to
According to Ma’an and this writer’s memory, prior to this week’s ban we foreigners had the option of traveling to
Now, just in time for
The new Israeli action comes on the heels of this summer’s institution of a new passport stamp for foreigners suspected of wanting to travel to occupied
With the new stamp, Border Police can now label any foreigner they suspect will visit
Such restrictions are a shame, as many of these travelers plan to top off their Holy Land vacation with a trip to Tel Aviv or
As time goes by, each year brings travel to the area closer to a bureaucratic impossibility. These days, you can even find your laptop arbitrarily shot by the IDF.
What are Palestinian Christians doing this holiday season to bring attention to the deteriorating situation? Stay tuned to the Casbah for analysis.
UPDATE: Rather than just a chain of actions easily perceivable as constituting a war against the holiday, one Israeli group has launched an actual war on Christmas. Truly a responsible campaign in a country which controls the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
We have said on this blog before that one of the biggest problems with the Obama escalation in Afghanistan is going to be resupplying the troops. Roughly, it costs twice as much as it did in Iraq. Just look at the map, Pakistan is risky, Iran is not an option and the other Stans' are a pain as is.
So that being said, I think it is worthy to look into some of the road construction that is going on in this country. Or moreover, the kind of infrastructure projects being done to help connect a country that is already famous for being disconnected. If I've ever learned anything about traveling through an underdeveloped country it is that to develop the rural place you need:
1. A decent and maintained road with gasoline available.
2. Security along that road.
3. A willing population to take advantage of the reason to be out there in the first place.
Watch this clip... What's missing? Keep in mind that the Taliban--the people Obama and Co. are trying to fight--are based in the rural places in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What policy recommendation might you suggest for securing the civilian population?
Update: And if you really don't care about any of this, read why the world's smallest republic, whose main industry is a "bird dropping" kind of mining, has now recognized Abkhazia.
Monday, December 14, 2009
In the parts I've read, this "new Political Manifesto" seems be focused on a civilizationist rejection of American/Western power. It does a good job of breezing over Saudi-Syrian tensions, Saudi-Iranian tensions, and of course, Sunni-Shia tensions. It clearly has the markings of Nasrallah’s leadership all over it.
Much like when Nasrallah took over as Secretary General of Hezbollah and focused on resisting Israel as a way to diffuse Palestinian-Shia tensions, Hezbollah is using the same strategy, only this time it's directed towards the region. I mean claiming that American/Western power is in decline 1) suggests a weaker Israel, 2) hints at victory in the occupations of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan, and 3) helps unite the "other" factions of the Islamic and Arab world under the Iranian/Hezbollah appeal.
As for Lebanon, I don't think it matters much. Everyone already knows that Hezbollah has backed off its Islamic revolutionary plans for the Levantine state; it is a party with parliamentarians, and it is honestly here to stay.
Well, my dear Casbah readership, I've officially moved into my new office, where I shall soon start work on my book. Surfing with Nasrallah is the working title. Just thought I'd throw out the update.
In other news, did anyone see President Obama on 60 Minutes last night? I thought he has grown tremendously as a president. He was calm, composed and Obama-like. What seems new, however, is that he has become more "on edge" from the monumental decisions that face his presidency--he seemed more willing to confront issues head on, and I like that. If you've missed the interview, I suggest you watch it.
And if you’re lookin’ for more, Riz Khan, of Al Jazeera, did an excellent job grillin' General Stanley McChrystal on Afghanistan. Great questions were asked:
1. What role has Iran played in Afghanistan?
2. Why is Osama still out there?
3. Why aren't more Muslim troops (Turkey etc.) helping in the coalition?
I highly recommend watching this interview.
Lastly, one other things caught my eye this morning: Joshua Landis has done an exceptional post over at Syrian Comment on the mukhabarat, or secret police, of the Middle East. Indeed, the mukhabarat keeps most Middle Eastern Casbahs calm--a Syrian guy down the street tells me that they check up on him whenever he goes back to Syria, making sure Islamists aren’t intimidating him for having a job in the U.S.--but still, this kind of clandestine security has a tendency to frighten the living daylights out of people. A great post Joshua.