News and Propaganda: Snowy Summer Fun Edition

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It's been a while since I've done an N & P, but I couldn't help doing so this week amid all of time that I seem to have now. 

Hang on a second, something seems somehow different these days? What is it? Oh wait--now I remember: school's out.

Things change in Bozeman pretty quickly in the wake of graduation and the end of the school year. There's still a fair bit going on downtown, but the area around the university (which is on  the opposite side of a large residential area) is so quiet these days. There's hardly any traffic, so the biking is a lot easier. That is, it's a lot easier to bike these days so long as you're not pedaling in the midst of a snowstorm. 

The "Obama Doctrine," part II

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whoa! Three JMB posts in one week? I guess it must be spring break at the Borderlands Lodge. 

The snow has been a tad light up here lately

Earlier this week I put up a post detailing what I see as the bright side of the "Obama Doctrine" discussed in a recent article in the Atlantic. In this post, by contrast, I'd like to discuss some of the disadvantages of Obama's approach to foreign policy. 

As was discussed a fair bit in the Atlantic piece, Obama is seeking to disengage--as much as possible--from the Middle East. And frankly, I think that this could end up being good for the region. At the same time, however, I think that relative US disengagement from the region has also contributed to some issues which, over the long term, may end up being more problematic for both the US and the region more generally.  

Looking at the Bright Side of the "Obama Doctrine"

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Like a lot of people, I was interested to read the Atlantic piece on President Obama's emerging approach to foreign policy

While I have often been critical of some aspects of Obama's foreign policy, the Atlantic piece serves as a reminder, I think, of how much worse things would like be now had voters made different choices during the elections--both primary and general--of 2008. In particular, I liked the manner in which he usually avoided the sort of empty and counter-productive bluster that American politicians are often so fond of. 

So here are some of the occasions references by the article in which I think that Obama's words and/or actions have made sense to me. If I get the chance, I hope to put up a second part to this post later on this week in which I explore some of the disadvantages that I associate with Obama's approach to foreign policy. 

Musings of a Montana State University Story Highbrow

Friday, March 11, 2016

Things have been pretty lately up at the Borderlands Lodge, and I hope the same has been the case for you. Over winter break I was in Bozeman, mostly, and the spring semester began at MSU in mid-January. 

This semester I'm teaching an upper-division class in Soviet History as well as the senior capstone seminar, and much of the rest of my time has been spent reading, writing, and submitting grant applications for a new research project that I'm proposing

Trying to stay human in a world gone mad...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Amid all of the horrible events that have been taking place recently, it's hard to feel good about the general direction of the world. The events of last weekend, and the response to it, are so sad, sickening, and predictable.

I hope people can retain their cool. 

 Let's not cave in to fear.


Really, though, the events of the past few weeks--and especially since the San Bernardino shootings and people's responses to them--have been particularly revealing with respect to who among our politicians can remain calm in an emergency, and who would freak out and panic. The folks who are crapping their pants and demonizing immigrants--especially Muslim ones lately--are the absolute last people that I would trust to run the country during a moment of peril. If this is how they respond to a mass shooting--something that is horrible for so many reasons but which, after all, happens on a regular basis in this country--how are they going to react during a genuine case of national emergency?

Other People's Countries: Partition Talk re Syria & Iraq

Monday, November 30, 2015

In recent days, I've seen a fair bit of talk relating to the idea of partitioning Syria. John Bolton, who was the US Ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, made the argument for partition recently in a NY Times editorial. Observing that "Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone,"  Bolton wrote the following:
The Islamic State has carved out a new entity from the post-Ottoman Empire settlement, mobilizing Sunni opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iran-dominated government of Iraq. Also emerging, after years of effort, is a de facto independent Kurdistan.
Notice how Bolton uses the term that an "independent Kurdistan" is "emerging?" Phrased this way, this process sounds very natural and organic--and not at all like the result of political decisions made in places like Washington, DC, London, and elsewhere--decisions that influence the lives of millions of people.

Anyway, here's more from Bolton:

Erdoğan vs. Putin: The Streetfighter and the Agent Face Off

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Man, I woke up feeling stuffed this morning. For the third straight year, I cooked my own Turkey this Thanksgiving. It was good fun, with good company, but with lots of food left over, course. 

Erdoğan and Putin have been cooking up conflict, but we've got bird at the BL. 

Slowly, I've been making my way through at least some of the leftovers. For example, today and yesterday I started my day off with the Borderlands Breakfast of Champions: coffee, croissants, and stuffing.  

All in all, it's been an easy and relaxing holiday. 

More on Turkey-Russia conflict

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
I went out shopping last night for Thanksgiving. I'd already picked up the Turkey, but there were a few more things that I needed. Despite the snowfall and the rather cold temperatures, it seemed like a good idea to go get the extra ingredients now, rather than later. One reason was to help walk off the pizza that we'd ordered and eaten. The other was a hedge against recent events. If Tayyip Erdoğan was going to drag my country into World War III, I figured, I at least wanted to make sure that I had an extra bottle of prosecco on hand

All we're trying 2 do is party like it's 1999


Turkey Shoots Down Russian Warplane

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I woke up this morning at the Borderlands Lodge to be greeted by the news that the Turkish Air Force had shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Bad times. Very bad times. 

According to reports, at least one of the Russian pilots is dead, while the other is still unaccounted for. Some Turkish sites, meanwhile, have been reporting that both of the Russian pilots were killed by Turkmen Syrians as they descended in their parachutes. 

Thoughts and Questions re France & ISIS

Friday, November 20, 2015

Re the events of the past week, I have some points and questions--both rhetorical & genuine.

1) Jeb Bush and others have commented on how ISIS is waging war on "western civilization and freedom." Meanwhile, one of the closest allies of the United States in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, has already beheaded dozens of its own citizens this year for crimes including adultery, 'sorcery,' and drug possession. A recent guest opinion piece in the New York Times describes Saudi Arabia as the "white Daesh."

It seems like the main reason why the US and other countries are against ISIS is not necessarily because of the group's brutality, but rather because they are revolutionary. If that is indeed the case, why should we assume that conflict with ISIS is going to be any more permanent than it has been with any other revolutionary movement (such as in post-1979 Iran) that eventually becomes part of the established order of things?   

Thinking about Paris: Let's not compound tragedy with stupidity

Sunday, November 15, 2015

While the past week has been a bloody one in a number of places, most of the world's attention has been fixed on Paris.  All I can say is that I hope that people in France react to last Friday's attacks in a much smarter way than Americans did after 9/11

It's a point worth keeping in mind. I realize that it's popular in some circles to blame the Iraq debacle solely upon the administration of George W. Bush and the numerous falsehoods that the president, vice-president and other high-ranking officials made when leading the US into war in the months and years following the 9/11 attacks. But it was also the case that Americans were ready to believe the lies they were told. The idea of starting a war in someone else's country based upon what was, at best, quite ambiguous evidence, wasn't a very large point of concern for most Americans in the wake of the attacks. I think that what a lot of people thought was that, even if the evidence linking Iraq to 9/11 turned out to be wrong, an American invasion and US-sponsored regime change in Baghdad would still be salubrious to Iraq and the Middle East more generally. 

Well, we all know how well that worked out. 

Feeling Autumnal at the Borderlands Lodge

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some people have written in, asking what's going on in the Borderlands. A lot, to tell you the truth, or at least it seems that way. I've been officially given tenure and promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, for one thing. This is a multi-step process at Montana State which began with my department submitting my research file for external review in May of 2014. 

Getting tenure isn't something that takes place overnight. After sending out my file to external reviewers, the next big step--in September of 2014--was to submit my tenure file, followed by my department's vote the next month. From my department my case went up the food chain to a college committee, then a university one, then the provost, and then the university president. 

There was even a big dinner held at one of the university ballrooms in the spring of 2015. We were each handed a "certificate of recognition" that nevertheless could not explicitly tell us that we were getting tenure or being promoted. But even after getting my letter from MSU's president in April of this year informing me that I'd made it through all of the votes (without a single vote against) at the university level, and even after the nice dinner, the decision wasn't official until the board of regents of MSU could confirm it at their meeting in the middle of September. This vote, which was apparently retroactive to the beginning of this 2015-2016 school year, is mainly a formality--the regents vote on all of the cases for tenure and promotion as a bloc, as far as I understand it. That's the vote that makes everything official here, and then only in November of this year do I actually see my raise (back-dated, I've been told, to August of this year), a year and a half after first sending out my file to the external reviewers.  

So, I guess you could say that it's been something of a drawn-out process.  

More Thoughts on Russia and Syria

Friday, October 2, 2015 

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times the other day about Russia's involvement in Syria. Loyal readers of the Borderlands know what I think about this. Nevertheless, I couldn't help chiming in a bit more in response to this article. 

Something that Vladimir Putin said, which is quoted in this piece, struck my interest.  
In his Monday address at the United Nations, Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, alluded to reports that thousands of volunteers had left Russia to join the Islamic State. “We cannot allow these criminals who have already felt the smell of blood to return home and continue their evil doings,” Mr. Putin said.
Does that remind you of anything? 

Russia, Syria, and the Not-So-Great Game

Friday, September 11, 2015

This past week there's been a lot of hand-wringing in the US media regarding the Kremlin's recent efforts to get more involved on the ground in Syria. Here's a typical take on the situation from the Washington Post's editorial board:

The US, Turkey, ISIS and the Kurds: What's Going On?

Friday, July 31, 2015

The big story this week has been the deal that the US and Turkey worked out regarding US use of the Incirlik NATO base in the southern Turkish city of Adana. Officials on both sides insist there's no secret deal, but from the outside it looks like Turkey has given the US a free hand in bombing ISIS targets while the US has given Turkey a free hand in bombing Kurdish ones. 

On the face of it all, the story goes like this: a bomb set off by ISIS in the city of Suruç convinced the Turkish government to play a more active role in the anti-ISIS coalition. So, as a result, the Turkish government has decided to allow the United States to bomb ISIS positions from the Incirlik air base located outside Adana, in southern Turkey. Oh, and while we're bombing ISIS, Turkey will be carrying out attacks against Kurdish-held positions in Iraq and, perhaps, northern Syria as well.

But there is, of course, more to the story than this. 

The Home Stretch: Bodrum-Budapest-Cluj-Istanbul-Salt Lake City-Bozeman

Friday, July 24, 2015

Back in the days when I was working as an English teacher in Istanbul, I used to spend 6-8 weeks traveling every summer. One year I made my way through Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Israel before flying back to Istanbul from Tel Aviv. On another occasion I flew one-way up to Moscow, then made my way back to Istanbul overland through eastern Europe and the Balkans. The trips got longer and more grandiose with each passing year up to 1999, when I flew from Istanbul to New Delhi, then traveled overland--albeit skipping over Burma--to Beijing before flying to Budapest and traveling back down to Istanbul. 

Macedonia was one of the places I enjoyed visiting in the 90s