Starting to feel a little borderlandy...

Saturday, December 17, 2011 

Up here at the Borderlands Lodge, this week has provided a welcome respite. This semester has been a busy one, of course. As many of you know, I spent the spring semester and summer in DC, and ever since my return to the land of the mountains in August I've been working hard on the "book," and hoping very much to one day remove those quotation marks for good.

Something had to give, so between classes and research, I've been scaling back my time in the Borderlands. But then again, as they say up here at the Lodge: you're always in the Borderlands somewhere.

Today was fun because I skied for the first time since the Borderland New Year's Blowout Party, held last year at Big Sky last year (I didn't bother skiing while in DC). I had a great time skiing today, even if the snow has been a bit of a disappointment so far this season.

Big Sky is the greatest


Turkey Week coming to Montana State

Thursday, November 11, 2010 

Guess what, everybody--Turkey week is coming to Bozeman!

Yes, it's true: for one glorious week, this university will be spangled and bedangled with all things Turkish.

In previous years MSU's Office of International Programs would devote a week every Fall semester to the principle of international study more generally. Starting a couple of years ago, however, the OIP decided instead to focus upon just one country each year.

And this year, that country is Turkey!

So all sorts of exciting things are taking place. As you can tell from the list of events below, there will be plenty of food, frolicking, fanfare, and fun for everybody. There will also be several speakers, including Stephen Kinzer and myself.

The choice to focus on Turkey is in some ways a natural for MSU. In recent years, the school has done a lot to promote exchange programs with Turkish universities. This year, there are approximately 40 Turkish undergrads studying here as part of joint-degree programs between MSU, Istanbul Technical University, and Selcuk University in Konya.

All in all, it should be a pretty good show. Almost all of the events are free and open to the public, so anyone in the neighborhood is encouraged to stop by.


Monday, September 12, 2011 

Amid all of the commentary that has come out over the past week or so about remembering the 9/11 attacks, I thought I'd write about 9/12.

Why write about 9/12? Because, while Americans have tended to remember 9/11 in terms of American victimization and American loss, a lot of the rest of the world remembers 9/11 for what came later.

Yes, we lost 3,000 people in an unspeakable act of violence. But, in our grief, we allowed our military to be used to attack and occupy a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. Estimates at Iraqi casualties stemming from our invasion range between the low hundreds of thousands to over one million.

Americans remembered 9/11 at football games and elsewhere this weekend, but how selective was this memory? 

And now what happens in Libya?

Thursday, August 25, 2011 

Well, it looks like the moment folks have been waiting for has finally arrived: Muammar Qadaffi appears to have left Tripoli, and perhaps right now is hiding in a spider-hole somewhere. Who knows?

It wasn't long ago that the US government was trumpeting Qadaffi as a success story in the war on terrorism

In a post put up yesterday, Juan Cole--someone whose views I have a lot of respect for despite Cole's consistent support for the Libya war--discusses how to avoid the mistakes of Iraq in Libya.

Obama's Afghanistan Speech

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 

I was driving through southern Pennsylvania, watching the sun set over West Virginia to my right, while I listened to President Obama's speech on Afghanistan over the radio.

The speech appealed to me in some ways but bothered me in others. On the one hand, I appreciate Obama's efforts to place emphasis upon the theme of withdrawal. He's setting expectations for continued withdrawal, rather than continued occupation, and that's a good thing.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
Okay, good. No one expects the US to leave tomorrow. Personally, I was upset by the surge and wished, at the time it was announced, that Obama had instead focused on withdrawal. But what's done is done. While it's too bad that so many Americans seem to think that Osama bin Laden's death is the difference-maker with regard to whether or not the US should be occupying Afghanistan, at this point I welcome any pressure that Obama might put on his administration to get 'combat troops' out of there.

NATO money and the Libya war

Monday, June 13, 2011

I saw an interesting piece in Juan Cole's Informed Comment yesterday. Cole wrote a really sensible response to Robert Gates' recent speech, in which Gates criticized NATO allies for not emulating the United States in spending lavish sums on defense. 

This is part of what Gates said:
"The blunt reality," he continued, "is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense - nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets."
The funny part of this, of course, is that the money that NATO countries have been spending lately has absolutely nothing to do with "their own defense," but rather has gone towards a seemingly endless occupation of Afghanistan and a war against Libya, a country which had attacked no one. So yeah, it does seem strange that American officials would seriously expect anyone to follow their lead.

Pass the Kleenex...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The AKP and Today's Zaman sound like spurned lovers the way they're griping over recent editorials criticizing the AKP in the Economist, New York Times, and elsewhere.

Here is an excerpt from a recent piece in Today's Zaman:
...the style and the content of these reports and pieces gives a repugnant impression and the feeling that they do not even consider these priorities and benefits. The authors of these pieces are either unaware of the realities of the country they are reviewing or they are governed by the same center. The second option seems to be more relevant and valid, given that they are repeating the same arguments. It is impossible to conclude that these articles do not have any prior concerns, considering that they are written as if Turkey is not witnessing a bitter struggle against gangs, military juntas and deep state structures whose extensions can be found in politics, civil society and the media.

The other side of Turkey's economic boom...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I saw a semi-interesting Reuters story a couple of days ago (Facebook Borderlanders may have already seen it) about the apparently growing wealth gap in Turkey. 

Much of the article is made up of rather empty fluff about a couple of individuals the journalist happens to talk to, but there were some statistics thrown out which surprised me a bit. This is what the Reuters piece sez:
The gulf between Turkey's rich and poor regions is vast, with its western provinces, Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines enjoying a per capita income more than twice that of the interior and the east.
The ruling AK Party, poised to win a third term in an election on June 12, has presided over an unprecedented period of economic prosperity for Turkey. Per capita income rose from $3,492 (2,124 pounds) in 2002, the year it took power, to $10,079 in 2010.
But according to a 2008 study Turkey's rich-poor divide is the highest among OECD countries after Mexico, and looks likely to remain so.
Latest Turkish data from 2009 showed income inequality rose that year and that the richest 20 percent of the population had a household income 8.5 times higher than the bottom 20 percent, up from 8.1 times in 2007.
I'll be honest, I should know a lot more about the Turkish economy than I do. But one thing I do know is that, since so much of the Turkish economy is under the table, economic statistics like this should probably be taken with a very large grain of salt.

Long NYT piece on Gulen schools in USA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There was a quite long piece in the New York Times a couple of days ago on American charter schools, particularly in Texas, that are associated with the Turkish religious figure Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, who was forced out of Turkey in 1999, is the center of a large network of schools, businesses, and media holdings (including Today's Zaman) located in Turkey and in other countries.

Fethullah Gulen


Turkey's 1980 coup leaders feeling some heat...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Former coup leader and Turkish president Kenan Evren gave testimony to a prosecutor yesterday regarding, apparently, the 1980 coup. Claiming ill health, Evren managed to have the interview take place at his house, rather than at the prosecutor's office. (Here is Today's Zaman take on the story).

Kenan Evren in 1980


Islamic finance coming to Russia?

Monday, June 6, 2011

According to this Agence France-Presse piece, Russia is to "enter the world of Islamic finance."

Actually what appears to be happening is that the Republic of Tatarstan, which is a republic within the Russian Federation, will guarantee sukuk bonds for the construction of a new finance center. Sukuk don't pay interest, but rather give the owner a share of the enterprise.

Here's what the article says:
"Russia will show that it can be interesting for Muslim countries," one of the project's backers, Linar Yakupov told AFP.
"Right now Islamic banks cannot work in Russia, because our legislation does not take into account the Koran's restrictions."
Islam forbids borrowing or paying with interest, and sukuk (the plural of the Arabic word for a financial deed) are not based on debt like traditional bonds.
Instead, buying the bonds secures partial ownership in a concrete asset like land or a building, and investors are guaranteed a part of the profits generated by this asset.
The first sukuk to be issued in Tatarstan's capital Kazan on June 20 will be going toward financing a major business centre in the city whose construction will cost $200 million.
"Sukuk are guaranteed by the Tatarstan government, the operator will be based in Luxembourg, and we know that the international market is ready to buy," Yakupov said.
Rustam Minikhanov

According to the article, Tatar president Rustam Minikhanov has called bringing Islamic banks to Russia "possible and even necessary."

On the upcoming Turkish elections

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Don't vote for the best government in 66 years."

This is how Taraf newspaper sarcastically sums up the logic of recent editorial in the Economist on the upcoming Turkish elections.

Actually, Taraf's headline is (predictably) misleading, since the Economist piece (which can be compared to a similar editorial in the New York Times) doesn't call the AKP government the best in 66 years. But the piece does praise Erdogan and his government:

Shameless self-promotion: DC events

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's been a busy time in the imperial metropole lately. On Friday I gave a talk at Georgetown University in front of a small group of DC-based scholars, including much of the Russian history ulema of the region. I presented an article I've been working on lately entitled "Politicizing Islam: Muslim Protesters, Tsarist Officials, and the Crisis of State Sharia in Late Imperial Russia.” Hopefully this piece will emerge somewhere in print before too long and I'll be able to share it with a broader audience.

Looking rough but feeling ready


More thoughts on OBL killing...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 
The WAPO sez: OBL unarmed when shot
In a White House news briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said bin Laden “resisted” when at least one member of the raiding party entered his third-floor room, but he declined to say how the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader had done so. 

A woman described as one of bin Laden’s wives “rushed the assaulter” and was shot and wounded in the leg, Carney said. Bin Laden was killed with shots to the head and chest, leaving him with gory wounds that have made U.S. officials reluctant to release a photograph of the body, Carney said.

“It’s fair to say it’s a gruesome photograph,” he said, adding that “it could be inflammatory.”
In his speech the other night, President Obama said that bin Laden had been "brought to justice." I disagree. Bin Laden wasn't brought to justice, he was shot dead. One can argue that this is what he deserved, but shooting an unarmed person in this way only constitutes bringing someone to justice if you mean cowboy justice, not the sort of justice that is dispensed through a court of law. 

Nothing to celebrate

Monday, May 2, 2011
So the CIA finally managed to kill Osama bin Laden and, predictably, yahoos from across the country are celebrating as if we've won something. Indeed, the fact that thousands of Americans would celebrate the killing of an individual like bin Laden is indicative of the degree to which our country has been weakened over the past ten years. 
This makes us all look stupid

Stanford workshop...

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Bay area Borderlanders were treated to a workshop this week at Stanford University entitled "Muslim Identities and Imperial Spaces: Networks, Mobility, and the Geopolitics of Empire and Nation." It was a really enjoyable workshop, and not only because it had the longest title ever. 
The workshop brought together scholars working on Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and SW Asia to talk about issues cross-secting mobility, human mobility, and transnationalism. On Thursday and Friday we met all day and were treated to presentations from ten scholars coming from as far afield as Pakistan, Holland, Paris, Japan, DC, and other parts of the worldwide borderland community. 
Since it wasn't a public conference I'm unfortunately not at liberty to print the program of speakers and talks, but for those of us who attended it was a marvelous experience. 
Stanford was lots of fun as well, and the workshop organizers took care of our every need. Many thanks to all for the good times and stimulating conversations! 
Here are a couple of shots from my time in Palo Alto. If you're interested in seeing more, check them out on JMB's brand new facebook page.
Stanford has a beautiful campus

Erdogan and Libya

Sunday, March 20, 2011
There's been a fair amount of chatter in the Turkey-related blogosphere lately about Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's allegedly soft line regarding Qaddafi and his reluctance to sign off on force in Libya. Louis Fishman, echoing the sentiments of many people in Turkey, called upon Erdogan to return the "peace prize" (and the money associated with it) that Qaddafi awarded him last year, calling into question Erdogan's integrity in the process. Meanwhile, a couple of days ago in Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog Howard Eissenstat argued that Erdogan is more interested in Turkey's trade and financial dealings with Libya than in the cause of freedom:
With only the barest lip service to democratic values, Turkey has made clear its opposition to international action in support of the revolution in Libya. It used its effective veto to stifle discussions within NATO and Erdoğan publicly and loudly criticized the unanimously approved UN Security Council sanctions on Libya imposed on February 26. It has made its continued opposition to international intervention clear, arguing that sanctions will only bring more pain to the Libyan people. To its credit, Turkey has indeed been at the forefront of sending humanitarian aid to Libya.
True, true, all true, both Fish and Ice make good points here, particularly with respect to the necessity of at least calling on Qaddafi to step down (something that Erdogan has now done). 
But as far as the question of intervention is concerned: is it really necessary for Erdogan to be corrupt, or to only be interested in money or trade, in order to oppose NATO (or non-NATO) air strikes on Libya? Is it not possible that there might be other, less nefarious, reasons behind this opposition?

Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi may well be on his way out--but only if he can take some Jack Daniels with him

March 14 N & P

Monday, March 14, 2011
Awesome times here in the imperial metropole. On Saturday I tested out one of DC's Red Bikes, a public rental system of bicycles that is run by the municipality.
It isn't bad. There are bike stations, each holding several bikes, set up at metro stations around town. You have to buy a membership--lasting one day ($5), five day ($15), a month, or a year ($75)--before you can rent a bike, which is a bit of a drag. I bought a one-day membership at the bike station (anything more than five days you need to buy online). Together with the rental itself everything came out to about ten bucks.

İbrahim Tatlises shot by unknown assailant: full JMB coverage here

Monday, March 14, 2011

Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises has been shot!

Here's the story:
Ibrahim Tatlises, a Turkish singer of Kurdish descent who has millions of fans in Turkey and around the Middle East, was in critical condition in an Istanbul hospital yesterday after being shot in the head by unknown assailants.
Tatlises, 59, was shot as he left a television studio after completing his regular show there around midnight on Sunday. Buket Cakici, an assistant of the singer, was also hurt when at least two people opened fire with automatic weapons and then sped away in a black car.

News & Propaganda: Metro Center Edition

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's a rainy Thursday morning here in the imperial metropole, and I have to head to the office! I love the fact that the name of the metro station near my workplace is "Metro Center," aka the center of the metropole, the center of the very center! It sounds a little like it could have been the subway station Winston Smith used on his way to work. But for me, it's just exciting. It's fun to walk out of that station and then down to Pennsylvania Avenue, and from there to the Reagan building. It's less fun to get the TSA treatment when I enter my building but still, I guess even that can be somewhat exciting.

It's fun taking the metro to work

Anyway, here's some news from the metro center, as well as from other parts of the world. In other words, it's your N & P:

On the upcoming Muslim hearings...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I think Ruth Marcus' take on Congressman (NY-R) Peter King's upcoming hearings regarding "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" is a thoughtful one, but I can't say I agree with it. 
Marcus writes that, on the one hand, we can't hold an entire community or faith responsible for acts that are carried on in its name, but that on the other hand we can't let political correctness prevent us from asking difficult questions.

But the unavoidable fact is that, however much violent terror reflects a distortion of the tenets of Islam, it is not only practiced by adherents of the religion but practiced in its name.
To ignore the religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb to politically correct delusion. To ignore the homegrown religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb even further.
As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified last month before the House Committee on Homeland Security, "One of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens." 
Napolitano wasn't referring to right-wing militias or lone-wolf crazies. She was talking about "terrorist groups inspired by al-Qaeda ideology." And, she pointed out, "This threat of homegrown violent extremism fundamentally changes who is most often in the best position to spot terrorist activity, investigate and respond."
True enough. But there is a difference between investigating political radicalism and investigating an entire community. This difference is spelled out by Congressman Keith Ellison, who is quoted at the end of Marcus' column:

Special Women's Day N & P

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I've been getting mail from readers about the N & P. Where's our N & P?, they ask. Why can't you get us our N & P?

Well folks, it's not like N & P grows on trees. And even if it did, that would mean I'd have to pick it. And who has got time to pick N & P when you're trying to write some B & A?

(Books & articles)

But today is a special day, people. It's International Women's Day. And while this day isn't really observed in the US, it's a big deal in the ex-USSR. It's also observed, to some extent, in Turkey.

So International Women, this N & P is for you!

Turkic Connection Weekend

Monday, February 21, 2011

Well folks, it's been a long time, hasn't it? I didn't mean to leave you all hanging, but what can I say? I've been cutting back on my internet usage big-time lately--an act that, well, has repercussions for blog-keeping.

DC is great, the Wilson Center is awesome, and I'm working hard. Less internet means more pages, at least right now.

The only real news from the B.L.E. (Borderlands Lodge, East) is that this upcoming weekend I'll be taking part in a symposium on the Turkic World at the University of Virginia. It's part of a series of events that together are called Bridging World Regions: the Turkic Connection. It should be a fun weekend--I'm especially looking forward to hearing the band.

For those interested and in the neighborhood, here is a copy of the program and upcoming event schedule. As you can see from the future events schedule, there is a lot going on--even Kamil Pasha is scheduled to make an appearance!

I have lots of DC snaps to post but that will have to wait for another day.

February 1 N & P

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The big news this week is Egypt, of course, and now Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has gotten into the game as well, calling on Egyptian President Mubarek to resign (or rather,  to "meet people's demands for change without hesitation").

Meanwhile, in Russia, fallout continues to fall out from last week's bombing.

And here in Washington, DC? Snow, loads of work, and a Girl Talk concert to go to this evening, so I'm tossing you your N & P on the fly this morning. Enjoy! 

N & P: Jan. 31 edition

Monday, January 31, 2011

It was a quiet weekend at the Borderlands Lodge East, spent mostly acquiring new stuff for the apartment but also some new clothes. Time is tight in the imperial metropole, so dig into your N & P while it's still warm.

Attention would-be profilers: The Telegraph is reporting that the man suspected of carrying out last week's bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport is an ethnic Russian convert to Islam.

The evidence suggests they were right - but a photograph of the man suspected of masterminding the deadliest attack on an airport anywhere in the world has nonetheless shocked the nation.
Staring out from the front pages of their newspapers this weekend is not the usual dark-skinned, heavily-bearded Islamist terrorist they have come to expect and fear but an ethnic Russian who looks like millions of Russians' brothers, sons or husbands.

News & Propaganda: Jan. 27 edition

Wednesday, January 27, 2011

Snowy days, people, and busy times here in the imperial metropole. I'm getting increasingly settled, and the Borderlands Lodge in Exile is finally starting to run on its own power. And that's an especially good thing in this wet, cold weather. 

Erdogan's Newsweek editorial & Turkish diplomacy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's a busy week for Turkish diplomats, whose activities in various directions throughout Turkey's Eurasian-Middle Eastern-Mediterranean neighborhood underscore the Erdogan government's ambitious plans for improving relations with (most of) its neighbors.

Here are a few of the things going on:

Washington DC N & P

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yesterday was my first day as a "guest scholar" at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I think it's going to be a nice seven months.

The Woodrow Wilson Center has awesome facilities. I've got good office space, and there are loads of interesting people here--there appear to be about 90 scholars researching at the WWC's various institutes (of which Kennan is the biggest, but not the only one). Every day there are talks, seminars, meetings, and other forms of scholarly extravaganza taking place. I get a research assistant, and even a Woodrow Wilson Center coffee mug with my name written on it.

All in all, it's a pretty sweet deal. I'm very grateful to have the chance to do this--I hope my output lives up to my research facilities.  

Bozeman-DC Trek III

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I made it to Ann Arbor today, and in record time! It took me just three days total, two days less than it took me to drive out to Bozeman from Ann Arbor two years ago (of course, MSU was covering the expenses back then).

The scenery today, from Davenport, Iowa to Ann Arbor, was not nearly as spectacular as that from the first two days of travel. 

Bozeman-DC Trek II

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's been a busy day today. I started in Rapid City, SD, hitting the road around 8:30. I felt bad about starting later than I'd wanted, but I'd slept so soundly Monday night and really felt like going at a comfortable pace in the morning. Either way, I knew it would be a really long day.

I made it across South Dakota fairly easily. There was very little traffic and, just like yesterday, the weather was gorgeous--bluebird skies and very sunny. This part of the trip passed quickly.

At Sioux Falls, SD (on the border with Iowa) I went south, switching from US 90--which I'd taken all the way from Bozeman--to 26 South. This took me down to US 80, which will get me to Chicago. From there, I'm taking 94 back to Ann Arbor.

Bozeman-DC Trek

Monday, January 3, 2011

I began my drive out to DC today. For now, I'm heading to Ann Arbor, where I'll spend a late Christmas with some parts of my family. After a few days, I'll head to DC.

I move a lot (until this year, I hadn't spent two consecutive years in the same abode since 98-99, and even now I'm traveling mid-year), but I always fret and sweat the details when I move. As crazy as this might sound, I've really become attached to my apartment in Bozeman. I love it--it's filled with light all day, I have a great view of the Bridgers, a concrete porch with a grill on it, and my own bar. What's not to like?

Nevertheless, I'm excited about the change of pace DC should offer. But that doesn't mean moving still isn't stressful.

I decided to drive to DC rather than fly for a number of reasons. For one thing, the work that I do requires a shelf-ful of dictionaries--one suitcase of mine is devoted only to books. But also I'll be in DC from winter through summer, so I'll need a change of clothes. And records (only 50 or so, but I suspect there are some record stores in DC), and a record player.