It Doesn’t Add Up

The future of the president’s new strategy is fraught. Let’s see what the analysts say, but three first thoughts:

  • I’d like to think the president wouldn’t allow himself to escalate “just 475 soldiers at a time.” We know how that ends. But eventually an American pilot will be shot out of the sky. Mr. Obama was mocked about his toughness after the Syrian red line debacle and now, after these beheadings, goaded into trotting out America’s old air campaign trick that even he flatly acknowledges won’t be sufficient.
  • He has now declared a new American goal – to ultimately ‘defeat’ ISIS  – but plans to rely on untrusting and untrusted allies to accomplish it. After the U.S.-built Iraqi army version 1.0 turned and ran from ISIS, we now propose to push in front of us version 2.0, made up in significant part of Iranian-backed Shiite troops. These may be the only people northern Iraqi Sunnis detest more than ISIS.
  • Shame on the usual suspects for inciting Americans into another air campaign in the same part of the world where we seem incapable of remembering even recently learned lessons.

It doesn’t add up. There are too many needles that won’t be threaded here. More later.

Recommended Reading: Where the West Ends

WherethewestendscoverFun new book from Michael J. Totten. Fun, that is, if your idea of thrills is a drive from Turkey into Iraq for lunch.


Where the West Ends expands on Mr. Totten's Dispatches blog for World Affairs Journal. There are sections roughly grouped as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Many authors seem to believe they won't be taken seriously unless their work is laden with ponderous history. When well written, like in some of my suggestions below, that's  worthwhile. When it's not, it's the reason tons of books are returned to the shelf half-finished.

In Where the West Ends, Mr. Totten mostly allows a cursory sketch of the past to suffice. I suspect that satisfies armchair travelers. Then he gets on with the travel writing I like best, what it feels like to get up from that chair and actually go to a place, and what it's like, personally, to be there.

Should Mr. Totten's book pique your interest, here are some suggestions for deeper reading:


Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War by Thomas de Waal


Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz


Georgia Diary by Thomas Goltz


Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech Jagielski


Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson


Rebel Land: Unravelling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town by Christopher de Bellaigue


In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue


Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue


Black Sea by Neil Ascherson


The Black Sea: A History by Charles King


Republicofgeorgia

Along the Georgia Military Highway, Republic of Georgia

And here, in five installments, are excerpts from Common Sense and Whiskey, the book,  about our trip through the southern Caucasus:

1: Getting to Armenia
2: Yerevan to Tbilisi
3: Tbilisi and the Georgian Military Highway
4: The High Caucasus & the Russian Border
5: Baku

Order the entire book for $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or the Kindle version (just $4.99).

See many more photos of the South Caucasus in the Armenia,
Georgia
and Azerbaijan
Galleries at EarthPhotos.com.

 

Extreme Travel: Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, More

Hinterland

"If something happens to them, I'm very sorry—I do my best to make sure it doesn't. But if it does, then that's what happened. Anyone who says they didn't know is an idiot. It's on television every day." – Geoff Hann

Hinterland Travel organizes trips to the places on its web site masthead, above, and some more. Sample prices: Afghanistan, 24 days from £2560, Iraq, nine day tour £1780. There's a long article here in Outside Magazine about a Hinterland trip through Afghanistan.