Friday, 29 August 2014

Rotherham sex abuse: the PC factor

Angela Jay’s inquiry into sexual abuse in Rotherham reported its findings this week. It has ignited a fierce debate on ethnicity and crime. 

The report concluded that between 1997-2013, at least 1 400 children were victims of sexual abuse – including systemic rape and trafficking – in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham. The report amounted to a damning indictment on South Yorkshire’s police force, care system and ultimately its politicians.

The ethnic dimension comes into play as the offenders were predominantly men of Pakistani heritage and the victims white vulnerable girls. This is a pattern we have seen in other recent cases in the Midlands and the North: Derby (2011)Rochdale (2012), Oxford (2013), Peterborough (2014).

The explanations are of course complex and multifarious. Yesterday Lola Okosie made an admirable attempt at analysing how class, race and gender might have interacted to bring all of this about. It was a fine piece, based on a complex analysis which did however not address – but neither questioned – the factor that has taken priority in the raging vitriolic debate. Namely, whether officials and politicians turned a blind eye to the abuse out of fear of being accused of racism. In other terms, did so-called political correctness (PC) contribute to making people responsible for protecting the children shrink from their responsibilities? Clear indications of this can be found in Jay’s report, which amongst other things describes how staff in the children’s social care service were:

nervous[…] about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.
However, as a contrast, Hugh Muir had an article in todays Guardian titled “Blaming the Rotherham abuse on a fear of being branded a racist is ludicrous”. The title says it all. Muir is undoubtedly a good writer who usually brings important perspectives to the debating table. In this case, however, he disappoints. He has taken the tiresome, simplistic left-wing approach to the matter, concluding that PC: 

never, ever required anyone to turn a blind eye to the mass abuse of the vulnerable by criminals. And anyway, to do so on grounds of political correctness would never have made sense.
Oh, who's being naïve, Kay?
I do side with Hugh in his general animosity vis-à-vis the tabloid right. I am further certain that political correctness is benign in principle, and benign on average when applied. Surely, few will oppose political correctness when faced with Hugh's definition of its purpose – to make:

members of a diverse society […] accord to others the level of dignity they would want for themselves.
Benign outcomes of PC's application have e.g. been that no longer can you go electioneering under the slogan: "If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour".

But Hugh’s definition is a theoretical, panglossian one. All medicines’ come with side-effects. When applied in real life, the side-effects of PC include e.g. minority individuals disingenuously ‘playing the race card’ – whereby they undermine the fight against and the people who are actual victims of racism. 

Another side-effect is that officials and politicians can refrain from addressing specific problems in specific communities. Perhaps in the misguided belief that by keeping a lid on it they discourage racism (which of course tends to have the opposite effect  people aren’t stupid), but another reason for their silence is, I fear, to safeguard their own careers. 

In a feeble attempt to strengthen his position, Hugh tries to compare and equate black gun crime in London with Muslim Asian sexual crime in relatively small regional towns. It is of course a false analogy. Both the crimes and the communities are different in character. The black community in London is diverse, is not centred round one hegemonic cultural line – and it does not carry a heavy punch in the overall running of London. 

In contrast, the Pakistani communities in certain regional towns aren't particularly diverse (usually from rural areas in Pakistan), they are centred round one hegemonic cultural line with 'accredited' community leaders (conservative men) – and they do carry a heavy punch in the overall running of the area. 

In relation to the Derby case (2011), Jack Straw said that there were in certain areas of the country: 

a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men [who target] white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care ... who they think are easy meat.
Perhaps Straw dared to say it because he wouldn’t be seeking re-election 2015. But he was of course scolded by various politicians and officials for saying it (hello, Mr Vaz!). 

Watching Question Time afterwards, where Straw’s comments were discussed, the whole panel of politicians and journalists – including moderator Dimbleby – tip toed nervously around the matter, arguably more worried about their careers than the victims. 

Even Barnardo's chief executive, although careful not to single out the Pakistani community, confirmed that there was a specific problem with men from certain geographical-cultural areas. He said:

I certainly don't think this is a Pakistani thing. My staff would say that there is an over-representation of people from minority ethnic groups – Afghans, people from Arabic nations – but it's not just one nation
Further, that racial sensitiveness is a significant factor could arguably be confirmed in the Rochdale case (2012) by the fact that it needed a Muslim of Pakistani origin – chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal – to finally prosecute the Rochdale gang.

Fundamentally, all of this comes down to how the general discourse in society is fashioned. Which in turn influences everyone, not least officials. As stated, the concept of PC is in principle benign but its applications come with certain side-effects that can ultimately undermine the concept as a whole. It is thus vital that the applications are judiciously and continuously scrutinised in the pursuit of locating and confronting such counterproductive effects.

The columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in relation to the Rochdale case that in such cases she "as a Muslim Asian woman" is "warned not to write on them because it encourages racism against us." But, Alibhai-Brown continued: 

“Keeping the lid on dreadful crimes committed by Britons of colour only increases the number of racists. And these young lives [the victims] matter much more than any sensitivities about racism.
And how right she was. Instead of dealing with the problem from the outset it was allowed to continue and fester, to become systemic and corrupt the institutions of politics, police and social care. Thus, when it finally exploded, it had become so malign and massive that it will probably do more good for racism and the discrediting of PC than any Islamophobic stooge could have dreamt of.

And we are all worse off for it. In particular Muslim Asians.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Richard Dawkins’ dim utilitarianism: Down’s tweet

Hmm, well, I guess so. I mean, they don't live that long, and they laugh all the time

Thus spoke my friend Gustav when asked if he'd still want the baby should the amniotic fluid test on his (highly hypothetical) girlfriend show that the foetus had Down's Syndrome.

Richard Dawkins would not have approved of Gustav's stance. The professional basher of God(s) caused a storm in a tweet-cup yesterday as he via Twitter recommended a woman to abort her foetus if it was diagnosed with Down's. 

Dawkins has an unfortunate — or is it fortunate (all publicity is...)?  ability to create storms via tweets around this time of year. Last August, as Ramadan had drawn to a close, the Oxford professor slammed the whole Islamic world for having produced fewer Nobel Prize winners than Trinity College Cambridge. Although factually true, the churlish tweet seemed primarily intent on mocking Eid-celebrating Muslims.

Richard Dawkins. The tweeting atheist.

As for the Down'tweet this year, there is really nothing new to see here. Dawkins is just echoing that (early) 20th century tradition of extreme utilitarianism that made so-called ‘progressive’ intellectuals support eugenics — for the general good of society.

As Dawkins explained:

If your morality is based, as is mine, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down's baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral

Be it George B. Shaw, John M. Keynes, Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, they all walked on that less edifying side of social engineering in the modernist age. The side that lauded eugenics as a way to improve public health and reduce public expenditure by stopping so-called non-viable individuals” — with undesirable characteristics and traits  from either reproducing or coming into being. All in the pursuit of decreasing the burden on society and creating a more sound demographic material (folkmaterial” in Myrdal's Swedish).

Even my beloved The Guardian was part of this strand. As David Kynaston writes in Austerity Britan 1945-1951, the then Manchester Guardian had doubts in the 1940’s about the setting up of the NHS since it: 

feared that the state provision of healthcare would eliminate selective elimination’ and thus lead to an increase of congenitally deformed and feckless people.

Today, The Guardian knows better. Dawkins should too.

       Stephen Green. Elected parish councillor 
       in Nuthall 2012, aged 47.
As someone who has worked closely with adults with Down's, I fully reject the validity of Dawkins' utilitarianism in this area. The joy that these peeps accord their surroundings is far more happiness-inducing than, dare I say, many a middle-aged Oxford professors'. Further, the insalubrious and facile argument that their existence is a pecuniary burden on society can easily be countered by the fact that (a) many adults with Down's have ordinary jobs and (b) the care they need obviously generates jobs for society.

What I told my dear friend Gustav? That, yes, people with Down's might laugh more than people with one less chromosome (hello, Mr Bentham!) — but reducing them to something as simplistic as that would be doing not only them but everyone in society a huge disservice.

People with Down’s are human beings who possesses and displays the whole panoply of human emotions and individual complexities that members of the so-called normal cohort of the population does (what is normal, anyway?) 

And today they can live a very full, happy and long life well into their 50's and 60's. The only prerequisite for achieving such a life is, as it is for all human beings, a lot of love and support.

Utilitarianism, move on and tell Dawkins the news.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Peace in our time – appeasing radical Islam

In today's Guardian, the Australian Yassir Morsi writes an obtuse article on tackling radical Islam and how moderate Muslims in the west are failing in this task. As a backdrop, Morsi uses the infamous picture of a smiling seven year old boy holding a severed head in Syria (the boy is the son of a wanted Australian jihadist).
What Morsi has produced is a loquacious, long-winded excuse for an article that does excuse radical Islam, only that it does so in an intentionally meandering and surreptitious way.

Morsi is basically suggesting appeasement. That in order to stop children holding severed heads, liberal society should contemplate giving up on the moderate Muslims who denounce – and instead strike a deal with the radicals who laud – children holding severed heads.

The gist of the deal is: stop using violence and we will accommodate you. A bit like asking Hitler to get rid of the SA in exchange for your loyalty, in the hope that it will temper his movement. 
         Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf with his sons. He recently tweeted a picture
         of one of the sons holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier.

Morsi is suggesting to the majority in liberal society to give the extreme strands of political Islam a chance and not so much challenge their outlook. By extension it becomes a suggestion to abandon any hope of a wholesale integration of Muslims into liberal society, and instead focus on accommodating the wishes of fringe Muslims – which bears with it the possibility to ultimately set up parallel societies.
The key paragraph is this one, in which the key line is emboldened:
"Throwing more money and labour at this task, to fight a 'radical' Islam, is not working. Investing in a dissenting Islam that defeats its violent streak through its own political evolution might be more productive. Many Muslims in Australia retain political ambitions: to resist, and win back their religion, which they feel they keep losing."
Note that Morsi places radical in quotation marks; he would rather label it dissenting, the Islamist strand that can sufferance decapitating dissenters. As long as it could just pretty-pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top stop being violent (evolve), it should be accepted into the mainstream political fold.
Of course, Morsi puts the onus on the liberal society to do this, by “investing in” – “throwing more money” at – the political Islam that denounces that very same society.
My opinion is that if these peeps who want to “win back their religion” feel that their religious inclinations can’t be channeled trough a moderate prism, then that says a lot about their religious outlook and I can’t see why it should be invested in.
There are mainstream parties which politically aspiring Muslims can enter to realize their ambitions. For the ones who feel that none of those parties can help them “win back their religion”, then they should set up their own party. But it should not be subsidized and invested in by liberal society. It will have to win support like all other parties – in a traditional western democratic way, respecting the rule of law.
If it incites hatred, if its manifesto contains opinions and ambitions that are anathema to liberal society’s basic pillars, then it should not be tolerated. Liberal society’s tolerance does not extend into Cloud Cuckoo land (although Morsi might think so, seeing as he is funded by liberal society to produce these ideas).
And, if it’s only through such illiberal parties and organizations that the ones who want to “win back their religion” feel that they can channel their ambitions, well, hey, tough luck. If you espouse ideas incompatible with liberal society’s core universal principles, society must draw an intolerant line. There’s no accommodation to be made here, no possibility for you to e.g. set up a parallel society with separate laws and institutions. You will either have to give up those ideas or society must do all in its power to counter you – and most certainly not invest labour and money in you to forward your ideas.
Yes, tolerance is integral to a liberal society. But this must not be misinterpreted as if liberal society should be tolerant towards everything. Fact of the matter is that at its very core the progressive liberal society is bigoted, as the tolerance it extols is ultimately based on intolerance towards extreme forms of illiberal politics and culture. Such intolerance has been extensively applied when protecting multiculturalism from racist phenomena, e.g. laws against incitement to racial hatred. But similar progressive intolerance should be applied when certain extreme phenomena within multicultural minorities are fundamentally incompatible with pillars of liberal society and threatens the multicultural concept on the whole, not least the public’s trust in it.
In my opinion, the only viable long-term solution is tough secularism and more integration, accompanied by a militant intolerance to parallel societies.
Whether political Islam can accept tough secularism in the same constructive way that western political Christianity has – see e.g. the European Christian democratic movement – is another matter. But it will have to.
And it is in those constructive, moderate currents that the majority society should invest. Not in the “dissenting”, “radical” ones – regardless if they advocate violence or not.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Seumas Milne – the eternal adolescent Marxist: ISIS and US

Guardian is my favourite paper. And among its many formidable writers I have a particular penchant for Jonathan Freedland, Nick Cohen and Alex Andreou. Not that I always agree with them, but they write beautifully and tend to offer alternative perspectives combined with acknowledging the unbearable relativistic complexity of being.

Then there are writers like Simon Jenkins whose prose is admittedly sublime, but only harps on about the utter miserability of things. It’s commendable to be critical of societal phenomena, but if that’s all you can be – critical and moanful – you come across as being as unconstructive as the phenomena you condemn.

Then there’s Seumas Milne, a Guardian pontiff who persistently pontificates about the perpetual evil that is the west, particularly the pernicious US. Milne too can churn out some fine passages, being in possession of an enviable ability to summarize complex aspects on a few laconic lines. This quality is however consistently compromised by his unrestrained dogmatism.

If Jenkins is the eternal miserabilist, Milne is the eternal adolescent Marxist. I like reading him, but mainly because it soothes my ego as it confirms how far I’ve come from the socialist – and omniscient – 20 year old with a big heart, to the current social liberal 40 year old whose heart is still big but now complemented with a humble, pragmatic brain.

The quinquagenarian Milne hasn’t come that far. Yet.

And so it happened again this week, when Milne wrote a piece on the current crisis in Iraq, primarily on the US military intervening to reportedly save tens of thousands of refugees from the brutal onslaught of the Islamic state (ISIS); a jihadist army who has vowed to systematically destroy peoples’ not adhering to its interpretation of Islam. 

Since overrunning northern Iraq in June, there have been much horrific evidence of ISIS putting its money where its mouth is. This is an army that even al-Qaeda has disowned for being too brutal – reminiscent of that cartoon in which Hitler is refused entry into hell by a disgusted and terrified Devil (who suggests Hitler go start his own Hell instead).

Seumas Milne. The immutable adolescent Marxist

In Milne’s article, all the events were filtered through that blinkered prism of his –  a prism embossed with names such as Pilger and Chomsky – with the end result amounting to such a disingenuous selection and presentation of ‘facts’ it would have impressed the (detestable) likes of David Irving and Robert Faurisson.

That politics in general – and perhaps US foreign policy in particular – is hypocritical is hardly a revelation. But hypocrisies’ are not by default malign. As long as one acknowledges that pragmatic cynicism is part and parcel of the political game, such hypocrisies’ can even turn out to be predominantly true, even benign, in a broader perspective.

Milne however does not do broad perspectives. He’s of that leftist ilk that denounces the US no matter what. If Washington hadn’t intervened, he’d be on his ivory tower barricade scorning the US for not taking responsibility for once. As long as he can paint the US as the Great Satan (and Britain as the Little Satan), he doesn’t care how many thousands of people who die. And he shouldn’t feign that he does.

In the article Milne has tried to force all the worms into that black & white box labelled 'US-always-bad' (a box any self-respecting dogmatic Marxist must keep). And he does it magnificently bad. Any reader who swallows his piece must be immensely ill-informed. Reality is a tad more complex and nuanced than Milne (always) portrays it. How about assessing each individual case on its own merits? Just like I personally opposed US intervention in Syria last year, I support US intervention in this specific case and context. US military force has been wrong many times, but that doesn’t make it wrong all times. It’s just lazy loony leftism to refuse to see that.

So let’s dissect the contents of the article. We’ll start with the United Nations (UN), seeing as Milne claims that:

“after decades of lawless unilateralism, any armed intervention for genuine humanitarian protection clearly has to be authorised by the United Nations to have any credibility

Decades of unilateralism? UN e.g. authorized the humanitarian intervention in Lybia 2011. That is, the legal multilateral intervention that Milne denounces on the grounds that it:

“ratcheted up the death toll by a factor of about 10 and gave cover for rampant ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate killing”

So seeing that it was UN sanctioned, shouldn’t Milne blame the UN? Legal multilateralism no good either? What is it, Milne, make up your mind? Perhaps you’re bitter because by the UN giving the US the right to stop Gaddafi from committing genocide on his own people – which he had sworn to do – you lost an opportunity to lambaste the US for not stopping Gaddafi from committing genocide on his own people.

Milne writes that:

“In 1999, Nato’s air campaign in Kosovo, also without UN authorisation, triggered a massive increase in the ethnic cleansing it was meant to halt

It is sad that Guardian can allow a writer to employ techniques normally used by revisionists like aforesaid Irving and Faurisson. The fact of the matter is that Nato’s intervention 1999 did not only halt but it put a final stop to the cleansing. Would Milne have preferred if the cleansing had continued, only in a slower pace? Also, remember that in this case the US were saving a Muslim population from being terrorized by Christians.

Milne goes on to suggest that “there are several regional powers that could deliver” air cover for the Iraqi refugees instead of the US. One wonders if Milne is aware that those powers would ultimately have needed US backing anyway (military infrastructure, equipment, service, intelligence). I think it safe to assume that if any of those powers had intervened Milne would have condemned them as US stooges.

Milne writes that: 

“It might be said that the latest US bombing campaign in Iraq has greater legitimacy because the Iraqi government appealed for support”

Indeed, and not only has the Iraqi government appealed to the US, so too have several of those “regional powers”. But, Milne continues, the Iraqi government appealed for air support:

“back in June, after which Obama stayed his hand until the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, could be replaced with someone more acceptable to the US”

So Milne would’ve supported US bombings in June? To buffer up that beacon of non-sectarianism and creator of stability al-Maliki (there’s not a hint of criticism towards Maliki in Milne’s piece)? Who would’ve funk it, Seumas Milne siding with hawkish right-wingers in denouncing a US president who refuses to use military means unless there is a possibility of a long-term political solution. Who would’ve funk it, indeed.

I know that to your dogmatic ilk, Milne, all US presidents look alike, but please try to understand that Obama – despite many flaws – is not a Bush, Nixon or LBJ. He opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and put a final end to that war. He has been opposed to intervene again, and although the humanitarian situation has forced him to act now – combined with strategic concerns for the Kurdish enclave – he concurrently and consistently stresses that there must be prospects for a long-lasting political solution if the US is to get involved any deeper. Hence, Obama is obviously of the same opinion as you, Milne, that to ultimately defeat ISIS, to use your words:

“demands a decisive break with the sectarian and ethnic politics bequeathed by a decade of war and intervention”

For any such break to stand a smidgeon of a chance Maliki had to go, and you know it. And I’m also sure you know that the new Iraqi PM is not only “someone more acceptable to the US”, but also to that Washington poodle – the Grand Ayatollah of Iran – who has been pivotal in fanning the flames of pro-Shia sectarianism in Iraq and buffering up Maliki, only to see it now blow back in his face in the form of ISIS (who is e.g. financed by Saudi Arabia; that is, Iran’s main regional foe against whom Iran is fighting proxy wars in Iraq and Syria). It was more Tehran than Washington that was exerting its influence when Maliki finally stepped down earlier this week.

Milne writes:

“If the aim were solely to provide air cover for the evacuation of [the refugees], there are several regional powers that could deliver it. The Iraqi government itself could be given the means to do the job

To a certain extent it was. But it failed. Abysmally. And if it had been successful Milne would nonetheless have condemned it as a US stooge, just like with the regional powers.

Milne writes:

“In fact, the force that has done most so far to rescue [refugees] has been the Kurdish PKK, regarded as a terrorist organisation by the US, EU and Turkey”

Qualified drivel! PKK has undoubtedly provided important reinforcements, but the Peshmerga is the one and only Kurdish force of importance, not only in rescuing and defending refugee corridors but also – obviously – in consistently protecting the relative safe haven that is Irbil with surrounding Kurdish areas.

And in any case, Milne hereby admits that Kurds with weapons can rescue the refugees. So why does he complain about supplying them with arms, be they PKK or Peshmerga? If you lambaste the US (wrongly) for not giving the Iraqi government the military “means to do the job”, why complain when Kurds are given the means?

Milne writes about:

“The danger of the US, Britain and others being drawn again into the morass of a disintegrating state”

Here I agree. It is very dangerous. There is a significant risk of a blow-back. But in this extreme situation, the moral imperative supersedes much of the realpolitik. Also, as Colin Powell once put it: “If you break it, you own it”. Thus, the US has a particular responsibility towards Iraq.

And this is a US with a president wary of deploying military force. A president who was elected to end wars. A president who is of the judicious opinion that any deeper US involvement in Iraq should be conditioned to support the creation of an inclusive government in Baghdad – primarily appealing to disenfranchised Sunnis. This is the only viable long term solution if Iraq is to stay together and ISIS not gain support.

An inclusive Iraqi government who in turn can invigorate the Iraqi military, where commanders are not selected on basis of sectarian monopoly and nepotism (like with Maliki), but on a combination of meritocracy and ethnic quotas; an able military that reflects Iraq’s groups and is supported with infrastructure and intelligence by the west. This is the only chance of consolidating Iraq and fighting down ISIS without the latter gaining more support.

Before the US intervention a couple of days ago, this seemed a complete impossibility. Now, it seems to at least be a distant possibility.

But, I repeat, as long as Milne can paint the US as the Great Satan, he doesn’t care one iota about the people who die and suffer. And he shouldn’t act as if he does. It just makes him look as deceitful as the US foreign policy he condemns.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Robin Williams – the profound clown

I am seldom moved when cultural celebrities die. It’s always sad when someone passes away, sure, but it’s not as if I knew the celebrities in question.

Still, there are some exceptions. Robin Williams’ passing away the other day was one. “Dead Poets Society” was my coming of age film, and I have a deep-seated respect for individuals who are mature enough to be childish. 

Individuals who can laugh at farts whilst contemplating the eternal (un)bearability of being. Individuals who can be profound and infantile, two qualities that have much more in common than people think – together constituting a synthesis rather than polar opposites.

It takes guts and maturity to express such a complex and intelligent persona. A persona that seems in Williams’ case to have been the embodiment of the clown. Laughing whilst crying, tragic whilst jolly. 

If the clown is the appropriate metaphor, to me Williams came across as a most endearing and sage one. A profound humanistic spirit, interlaced with sublime childish humour, lachrymose Greek tragedy and sophisticated British wit. 

Like an amalgamation of Peter Pan and Abraham Lincoln, part of an exceptional and highly exclusive school of actors including the likes of Peter Sellers and Graham Chapman. 

Be it Williams’ acting in Good Morning, Vietnam or Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting or Hook (Peter Pan) – all those qualities shone through.

And so, Williams was someone who could say this: 

”No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." 

As well as this:

”Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they've got nothing to lose."
”You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

As well as this:

”Cricket is basically baseball on valium." 

Rest in peace, o’ Captain, my Captain. You gave us much to laugh to, much to cry at, and much to contemplate. Why, you even managed to satirize your own drug abuse in a tragically humorous way. As you put it:

”Cocaine is God's way of saying you're making too much money." 

Combined with the classic:

”Reality is just a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs."

Heaven’s just become a wittier, warmer and wiser place – and a tad more tragic.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A US bomb campaign worthy of support

A couple of hours ago, Barack Obama declared that the US will use military force to save the 40 000 Iraqis stranded on a mountain, having fled the brutal onslaught of the forces of the Islamic state (ISIS). The refugees are predominantly Yazidis, a non-Abrahamic sect which ISIS has vowed to systematically destroy. 

Based on ISIS previous actions, this vow is to be taken seriously – very seriously. To put ISIS into some perspective, suffice to say that even al-Qaeda think ISIS too brutal. 

ISIS forces are at the foot of the mountain, basically besieging the refugees who are in dire need of water, food and military support.

At least on the surface of it, this looks like a clear-cut case triggering the responsibility to protect clause of international law. Genocide is in the offing. Swift action is of the essence.

As Obama put it in his statement:
“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help - in this case a request from the Iraqi government - and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye.”

These are the times that the US – despite its many, many flaws – shows why it is the least worst superpower we can have. 

Although I’d like to see Iran experience a blow-back from all the havoc and sectarianism it’s helped to create in Iraq, in a situation like this the moral imperative supersedes the realpolitik.

US military force has been wrong many times, but that doesn’t make it wrong all times. When Europe showed its squabbling impotence in dealing with ex-Yugoslavia, the US under Bill Clinton stepped in and managed to pacify the region (not only through military force, but also through diplomatic negotiations). And don’t forget that Clinton’s 1999 bomb campaign aimed to save a Muslim population from being terrorized by a Christian population.

“We need to act, and act now”, Obama said, as US military sprung into action to aid the Yazidis.

Of course, the US will always be damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. But that’s just the banal Catch-22 that fetters all forms of leadership. And the greater the power, the greater the responsibility.

I would've damned the US if it bombed Syria last year, and I would've damned it if it didn't bomb ISIS now.

I should add that I am well aware, living in western Europe, that this right of mine to damn Uncle Sam is a right that Uncle Sam is the ultimate protector of. 

Believe me, all you dogmatic US bashers in the west, when the US – despite its many faults and hypocrisies – finally leaves the hegemonic cup to someone else, you will sorely miss that wretched Uncle Sam as you realize that the ultimate defender of your right to bash the US was the US.

Godspeed to Obama, the US military and the Yazidis.