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Dennis Ross’ coherent way of understanding the Mideast — and a strong counter argument

This post will make a sharp turn in the middle because something unexpected and cool happened during a University of Minnesota forum Thursday starring Dennis Ross, who has worked on Middle East issues under every recent president, of both parties, starting with Reagan.

Ross spoke at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the question: “Is a coherent policy in the Middle East possible?”

It is extremely difficult for average Americans to understand the Mideast turmoil or to tell, in effect, the good guys from the bad guys. Is it fundamentally a Sunni-Shiite conflict? Is it about Iran (which is populated by Persians) seeking dominance over Arabs? Those divides are in play, but Ross wanted to suggest a coherent way of understanding the conflict, which he believes suggests coherent goal for U.S. policy.

Mideast dichotomy

The dichotomy Ross suggests is that the warring parties can be divided into two groups: the radical Islamists, some of whom are Sunni and some Shia, and the non-Islamists, which also include Sunnis and Shiites. The goal of U.S. policy, he said, should be to weaken the Islamists and strengthen the non-Islamists.

The Islamists he named were Iran (a predominantly Shiite nation), the Islamic State or ISIS (Sunni) and Hezbollah (Shia). Hezbollah and Iran are allied but they oppose ISIS. As Ross said: “They aren’t all on the same side, and sometimes they fight each other, but they share certain attributes,” which he listed:

“Number one, they want Sharia law to govern all parts of life and to shape all institutions, but even further, they don’t believe in civil authority. The supreme authority is not a civil authority, it is a religious authority.

“Two, they don’t accept the legitimacy of the individual states in the region. This is obvious in the case of ISIS, which proposes to form a caliphate that would replace all the existing states. But militias controlled by Iran are operated in several Mideast states and in all cases, their goal is to break down those state structures.

“Three, they want to remake the region in their image.

“Four, they view terror as a legitimate instrument for remaking the region.

“Five, they don’t accept the principle of pluralism.

“Six, they don’t want the U.S. there. They want us out.

“And seven, they reject Israel’s right to exist.”

Who are the Mideast players that Ross rates as non-Islamists? He listed Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates and then “there comes a point at which I’m going to say Saudi Arabia, and you’re going to say ‘huh?’ Saudi Arabia that is more responsible than anyone for the Salafi ideology that ISIS embodies?

Dennis Ross
Dennis Ross

“But I put Saudi Arabia into that category which begins to highlight that this isn’t such a simple distinction. Why do I put Saudi Arabia on the list? First, there’s been some evolution on the part of Saudi Arabia, for example, of the effect of their funding of madrassas around the world, which they now realize has come back to become a threat against them. They are appointing a different kind of clergy.

“They have become more mindful of the dangers to themselves of an ideology that they themselves produced. They’re not trying to remake the region. They accept the existing state structure. They are not desirous of seeing the United States out of the region. They are interested in preserving the state system. America does need to preserve the state system.”

If he was currently advising the Obama administration, he would say that “every decision we make between now and January 2015 should be to make the Islamists weaker than they are today and to make the non-Islamists stronger than they are today.”

I kind of liked Ross’ list of the attributes of Islamism, and I can see why he condemns many of those qualities. But I couldn’t help noticing that his lists consisted of first, the leading states and non-state groups that are most hostile to the United States, and second, a list of states that already provide extensive military and economic cooperation with Washington.

Surprising turn

But it was during the question-and-answer period after Ross’ opening remarks that things took a surprisingly interesting turn, at least for me.

Dean Eric Schwartz of the Humphrey School, who also has extensive experience in diplomatic and national security posts, although more associated with Democratic administrations, was the moderator. Schwartz, noting that Ross’s approach sounded like it called for more U.S. activism in the region to tilt the playing field in favor of the designated good actors, asked Ross about how this desire to manage the balance of power would square with President Obama’s fairly famous determination to “not do stupid stuff.”

Ross said yes, the policy he advocates would require the United States to be engaged and to do what it could to strengthen the non-Islamists and weaken the Islamists. Sometimes, Ross said, the lack of doing something for fear that it might be stupid stuff turns out to be the worst policy of all. He then suggested that Obama had stayed out of the Syrian conflict too long and allowed that situation to become chaos.

“What drove the president to stay away was that he saw the situation as a potential quagmire,” Ross said. The legacy of [U.S. military involvement] in Afghanistan and Iraq made him exceedingly reluctant, and he focused on the cost of action rather than the cost of inaction.”

Then Schwartz warned explicitly that — notwithstanding his respect and admiration for Ross’s views — he was going to do something “provocative.” That turned out to be suggesting that perhaps Obama had learned the correct lesson from the Iraq war.

Schwartz then brought up the fact that Ross was among those who signed public letters organized by the neo-conservative Project for A New American Century, letters that made the case for invading Iraq in order to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction (which, of course, weren’t there) and that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would produce democracy in Iraq and spread similar blessings across the region. Only that didn’t happen.

I could say more here about how badly the decision to invade Iraq has turned out and how wrong most of the justifications for “Shock and Awe” and the promised benefits of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” turned out to be. But perhaps you have already heard.

The moment was fraught and actually pretty cool. Schwartz seemed to be wondering out loud how his honored guest, as a supporter of a military action that turned out so badly, could be faulting Obama for reluctance to inject the United States into the Syrian civil war.

Ross didn’t get flustered.

“The key is always to learn the right lessons,” he replied. He then told a funny story about talking the Iraq stuff over with Henry Kissinger before the war, the point of which was Kissinger remained skeptical about whether Saddam really had the stockpiles of WMD while Ross believed that the Bush administration couldn’t be saying the things they were saying unless they were absolutely sure.

Then he told another fairly self-serving tale about a lot of really good advice he gave to Condoleezza Rice about things to do to make sure that after the U.S. troops took over Iraq the situation wouldn’t turn into chaos, with a strong implication that if his advice had been followed, the transition to post-Saddam Iraq would have gone a lot better.

He ended with: “We can’t prove what would have happened if we had done nothing in Iraq. We do know that by doing nothing in Syria we’ve seen what has happened. And my point to you would be that we should always be mindful of the cost of action, but we also have to think through the cost of inaction. In Syria, we didn’t think through the cost of inaction. In the case of Bush, they didn’t think through the cost of action. So the right posture is to play chess and not checkers.”

I assumed that Schwartz, having made his point, would let it drop. But he didn’t. He said that even if the United States had done a lot of things better in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the situation wouldn’t be a whole lot better “because the task was just that difficult.”

Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/24/2015 - 10:24 am.

    I agree with everything

    Ross said. Which makes him a right-wing nut, I suppose.

    I’ve always said that Bush’s mistake was not in taking out Saddam, it was in sticking around afterwards in hopes we could manage the aftermath. He took someone’s bad advice. But the dash to Baghdad was a brilliantly executed military operation that will be taught at West Point for generations.

    But then we should have left, with the Iraqi army intact and in control until elections could be held.

    Schwartz’ knee-jerk reaction to the entire historical episode is shallow and shortsighted and given his role in academia, will probably be propagated to generations of kids who deserve to know the truth but won’t get it unless they happen to attend a service academy.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/24/2015 - 11:36 am.

      What made it

      a … brilliantly executed military operation” was our overwhelming military advantage against an enemy who fought conventionally.
      As we have unfortunately discovered, this transfers poorly to the kind of unconventional warfare that we’re fighting now.
      If there’s a lesson to be taught at West Point, it’s ‘choose your enemy carefully’; a luxury we can’t always afford.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 04/24/2015 - 12:12 pm.

      why we lost

      What ought to be taught at West Point about Iraq/Afghanistan is that this nation may not be able to survive another such debacle and military commanders ought to consider resigning before becoming a part of it, and that the initial thrust to Baghdad was as brilliant as Br’er Rabbit punching the tar baby.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/24/2015 - 01:11 pm.

      Knee jerk reactions appear to be fairly common.

      Of course Ross defends the action he advocated, as do you. Suggesting we should have bombed Iraq back into the early 20th century and then left the Iraqi army in charge is ludicrous at best.

      The mistake was invading Iran in the first place, a mistake too many wish to make again, in Iran and elsewhere.

      There was no justification for the invasion. There was no evidence of the existence of WMD. We weren’t prepared to handle the country once Saddam was deposed. We lost our focus on Al Queda and Afghanistan, putting our troops there at greater risk of harm and, arguably, increasing our casualties there. We confirmed the fears of people throughout the Middle East that we would invade who we wanted to, when we wanted to, without regard for international law or the lack of evidence of any circumstances which would have justified the invasion. In fact, we had to bribe and bully our “allies” into adding token forces and funding to the venture, an approach that convinced no one of the validity of our cause.

      What, exactly, did we achieve in Irag? We toppled a dictator we’d already corraled. At what cost? I can’t say. We’re still paying for it.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/24/2015 - 02:02 pm.

        “At what cost? I can’t say. We’re still paying for it.”

        See for known and estimated costs to date.

        Of course, those are just economic costs.

        The “other” costs – loss of influence, loss of trust, loss of moral compass and direction – are no doubt more substantial and significant, in the long run.

    • Submitted by David Koller on 04/24/2015 - 01:41 pm.

      It started with Afghanistan

      The lesson that should be taught is that a small group of bad men attacked targets in America. For this, we invaded an entire nation. Where they weren’t. Let’s not do that again.

      Bush had the opportunity to be a great leader (if not president) and I thought he was going to do it when he spontaneously told a crowd that he could hear them and the rest of the world could hear them. Unfortunately, he didn’t come through.He invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq.

      It was a time for great leadership and we all lost.

  2. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 04/24/2015 - 10:59 am.

    The ‘question’ is an active verb here yes indeed…

    All I can say at this point is thank you Dean Schwartz for your questions… and to both the ‘Erics’ here, in this article who have the capacity to see the greater picture and the history of errors rolling behind and do question such unacceptable certainties and blind allegiances of Mr Ross…my thanks.

  3. Submitted by Doug Gray on 04/24/2015 - 11:08 am.

    not alone

    I’m sure Amb. Ross was not the only person in the State Dept. offering advice, and even actual plans, about what would need to be done to fulfill the U.S.’s international obligations to maintain order in Iraq after overthrowing its government; and that had the George II administration costed all those out and weighed them carefully against the alternatives, the leading alternative being continued containment of Saddam’s regime, that there would not have been an invasion of Iraq in 2003. In that case the U.S. could have concentrated on Afghanistan, which today would have been in a better position than it actually is.

    Oh well. We all know what actually happened. Back to reality.

    The “right lesson” from Iraq is “don’t start wars of choice to overthrow distasteful though stable governments and then abandon your international obligations to maintain order, as that only leads to endless violence, unpredictable chaos and global economic near-collapse.” Unfortunately I doubt whether any U.S. administration, much less the U.S. electorate, will ever learn that one. And I tremble for my country when I reflect on that.

  4. Submitted by Mark Johnson on 04/24/2015 - 11:37 am.


    Why wasn’t the gorilla in the room (Israel) mentioned?

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/24/2015 - 12:00 pm.

    Can’t speak to

    …right-wing nuttiness, but there seems a decent chance that Mr. Tester’s assertion about the dash to Baghdad being taught at West Point for generations might be true.

    That’s too bad. Unless we’re foolish enough to, once again, engage in a “war of choice” in Iraq at some later date, teaching the lessons of that dash to Baghdad will be a mistake unless several important caveats are added.

    It’s unlikely that we’re going to be engaged in “traditional” mechanized warfare with terrorist groups, so in many instances, the dash to Baghdad is irrelevant from the get-go, but even if some future conflict presents a strategically-similar scenario, my hunch is that that it won’t fit the cavalry vs. Indians parameters of our Iraq adventure. We could see at night. They could not. We had total command of the air. We had technology they could only wish for. And so on. If we end up fighting an established state at some point in the future, I think it likely that, at least technologically, they’ll be a lot closer to our level than the Iraqi army – if for no other reason than that we’ve been busily selling our technology to anyone who asks, and then training the buyers in how to use that technology. Even if we hold back a few secrets in the selling and training, an F-15 vs. another F-15 is a tougher fight than an F-15 vs., literally, nothing. Lots of established armies have, or are acquiring, night-vision capabilities, and so on and so forth. Once the technology genie is out of the bottle, it doesn’t take long for it to spread around the world to anyone with deep enough pockets.

    Among the more genuine and accurate criticisms of high-level military planning and strategy is that “generals/admirals are always fighting the last war.” For what it’s worth, that still seems to be the case. What we’ve proved over the past two decades is that we can overwhelm formal and informal forces in Middle Eastern states that aren’t particularly strong. We’ve also proved that, in doing so, we provide huge amounts of “collateral damage” to institutions and infrastructure that can easily require decades to rebuild, even in the best of circumstances. We also end up killing a lot of people who are, literally, innocent. If someone kills my son in the course of a larger operation, they may forget all about it. I will not. We’re going to be dealing with hostility to the U.S. in that part of the world for generations to come, and virtually all of it is unnecessary. We CHOSE to invade Iraq, which posed no threat to us. We CHOSE to put a big army on the ground in Afghanistan, which likewise posed no threat to us.

    Moreover, military strategy and capability is lately being driven by private-sector profits rather than tactical considerations. Vendors and their captives in Congress are doing everything they can to eliminate the A-10, which might be the most effective ground-support aircraft ever produced, in order to sign on with the Lockheed-Martin F-35, which has no combat record, and costs several orders of magnitude more than the A-10, with cost overruns and performance failures ongoing and continuing.

  6. Submitted by Diane Lindgren on 04/24/2015 - 12:43 pm.

    Next time

    So the President follows Mr Ross’ plan in Syria and when things go badly, Mr Ross again will say we learn our lessons and then tell another funny story and on and on and on. I’ll stick with the president.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/24/2015 - 07:35 pm.

    A better approach

    The entire Mr. Ross’ position seems to be that the Middle East may be understood in a rational way but that is a questionable approach considering how quickly things change there (Egypt was non-Islamist, then, with Obama’s help and by popular demand, became Islamist, then again non-Islamist) and how difficult it is to label the parties (which side is Assad on? Who was Kaddafi? What about Turkey?) And of course the other question is who we should consider: governments or people? And Israel may indeed be the gorilla in the room since it obviously doesn’t fit into either category while everyone in the Middle East hates it for its very existence and wishes it out of there (Islamists just say it more openly).

    A much better approach would be to assume that what happens in the Middle East is governed by chance rather than by logic (in other words, specific events there are rather random) and that the only constant there is Israel and how everyone else treats it. If we do that, the strategy becomes simpler to certain degree: at any given moment hit the strongest one that is against America when a reason exists (UN sanctions against WMD in Iraq, chemical weapons in Syria, nuclear facilities in Iran, etc.) to replace the government and thus weaken that party and then get out right away. And if our enemies fight each other, that is a great news.

    From the very beginning I was saying that GOING to Iraq wasn’t a mistake; STAYING there was. But many people keep putting those two separate things together for political reasons. So bringing up Iraq as a reason NOT to use force against another country is like using a case of a muscle pulled during over exercising as a reason to never show up in a gym. Because of course, “don’t do stupid things” approach is very stupid since it is based on one’s understanding of what stupid is and that is based on ideology rather than real world understanding. It is interesting that liberals keep justifying opposing any military use in the Middle East by bringing up Iraq but are appalled when Munich example is used against Iran deal… even though analogy is closer with Munich (as I said, invading Iraq and staying there are different things and that is what we may learn from that for sure).

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/25/2015 - 08:26 pm.


      Well, I’m glad you let the world know where you are coming from. Knowing that America should “hit” the strongest one “that is against against America” certainly explains a certain worldview. Is is fair to assume that you align your views with Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowicz and Michael Ledeen on the Middle East?

      I don’t agree with Mr. Ross entirely but I also don’t entirely disagree with him either. M y disagreement is that he makes the mistake, common tom the neocon mind, of equating “states” in the Middle East with groups of people. I’ve read that Obama’s position on Iran is aimed at trying to strengthen non-Islamist, democratic factions in the populace there and therefore in strengthening the democratic tendencies in that country. The U.S. does not treat a state like Pakistan as a totalitarian state even though it closer to one than Iran for that reason. My perception is that Iran is less totalitarian than Pakistan and it is not a totalitarian state like the Soviet Union of Nazi Germany. There are multiple power centers there that seem at least see the advantage of reaching rapproachment with the West on nuclear power. The policy of the Obama administration at least recognizes that fact, a fact which might as well be on another planet, far from the fantasy, bipolar world of the neocons.

  8. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 04/26/2015 - 09:38 am.

    The terms of the conversation are wrong

    Mssrs Ross and Schwartz, and indeed all polite convention, treat nation-states as the relevant actors, and then it’s pretty much just a question of putting those nation-states into two categories: those we bomb, and those to whom we sell weapons.

    A nation-state is just a modality through which private actors exercise and extend power. Though some of course are worse than others, no nation-state on earth represents its citizens. Ninety percent of folks, in every country, just want a decent life for themselves, their families and their communities. They’re not naturally obsessed with obliterating people they don’t know. Mass delusions like nihilistic and genocidal theologies arise only in the absence of prospects for a decent life and in response to the violence of an external force that rolls over a community on its way to broader goals of coalescing power without any recognition of, let alone concern for, the existence and dignity of its victims.

    Any society must move slowly and painfully thru authoritarianisms before anything like democracy and a stable, dispersed economy can arise. Destroying an authoritarian structure will always only release entropy and violence – Lenin’s inversion of Marx, Cheney’s toppling of Saddam Hussein, and Obama’s dispatch of Ghadafi are peas of the same pod. It is why, perversely, the U.S. should have supported Assad in Syria (though of course in a very particular sense of that term).

    Authoritarianism can be replaced only by the slow development of civil society that leads eventually to a tipping point. Thus the only viable foreign policy of the U.S. is (or, more correctly, would have been – it’s a bit late now) to behave morally as a world actor (to show that there is a moral framework for human organization to which authoritarian and less-developed societies can aspire) and to act steadily, opportunistically and humanely to advance civil society tactically, thus advancing the evolution of, and ultimately tipping, authoritarian societies into democratic ones.

    Again, the U.S. – as the other world powers – acts on behalf of its powerful private interests, not on behalf of its citizens. For a time there was some overlap between the interests of the two, as the former saw the advancing stability of civil society as advantageous. At this time, though, words about advancing democracy and freedom are just rhetoric covering for the chaos-unleashing drive for more power or, at the least, continuing profits by those private interests who drive U.S. policy. It has been true under every president of both parties in my adult life, and will certainly be true under the next. It is why, in Yeats’ phrase, “the center cannot hold.”

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/26/2015 - 09:58 am.


    I don’t know about you guys but I’ve been following this for at least 3 decades and there’s nothing new here. This is the same neo-con mentality that’s always driven US policy, whether practiced by democrats like Kennedy in Vietnam or Bush and Cheney in Iraq. The targets change, but the mentality is the same. Contemporary neo-cons are simply trading out their war with communism for a war on Islamism.

    Once you get beyond the desire for a Caliphate and what not, by and large this has nothing to do with Islamism per se:

    “Three, they want to remake the region in their image.” This is called colonialism, and the worlds biggest practitoners have been Europe and the United States, not Islamists. When Bush and Cheney went into to Iraq to change the regime… do you remember what they wanted to change it into? Have you forgotten the agenda of bringing “democracy” to the region? Who image is that? This may be an Islamist agends, but it’s also been US foreign policy for the last 60 years.

    “Four, they view terror as a legitimate instrument for remaking the region.” Yes, much like Ollie North’s Contra’s, and the graduates we sent out of the School of the America’s for decades. Has everyone the CIA terror manual of the 80’s? Resorting to terror isn’t a unique quality of Islamists.

    “Five, they don’t accept the principle of pluralism.” I didn’t know Bill O’Reilly was an Islamist.

    “Six, they don’t want the U.S. there. They want us out.” They and 90% of the rest of the world.

    “And seven, they reject Israel’s right to exist.” This is true, but the idea that it’s a permanent feature of “Islamism” is obtuse. There was a time when Jordan and Egypt also rejected Israel’s right to exist. Thing’s change. Were the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian’s to be resolved by a two state emergence most of the opposition to Israel’s existence would dissolve in the region.

    Iraq wasn’t just a “little” boo boo, it was a massive error on multiple levels, perhaps the biggest foreign policy fiasco in US history. No one who promoted that war in any way deserves any credibility and they are certainly no policy “star” of any kind.

    Looks to me like Ross is trying to trade up stupid regime change wars for a big stupid religious war on Islam. Religious wars are even less likely to work out well than the regime change wars we’ve been fighting.

    I’m not saying ISIS isn’t a problem, but its a problem of Ross et al’s creation, this whole mess flowed out of the stupid decision to change a regime in Iraq. Following up with more stupid decisions is just plain more stupid. Move along… there’s nothing to see here.

    The problem isn’t that Obama is being smart. The problem is a colonial mentality that keeps advocating stupid military interventions… keep your eye on the ball here. Guys like Ross would have given surface to air missiles to ISIS two years ago because they thought Assad was the problem… remember they gave those missiles to Mujahideen Islamists in Afghanistan because they thought the Communist were the problem. Those Communist NEVER would have flown planes into the Trade Tower’s or the Pentagon.

    Obama is right, we need to be smart. We need to stop pretending that this drivel that flows out of neo-con colonial fantasies is worth considering. We’ve wasted trillions of dollars and gotten millions of people killed trying to impose our “solutions” onto sovereign peoples all over the world in the last 60 years. What we got out of it was the deadliest attack on US soil since the Civil War and world that’s just as messed up as ever.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/27/2015 - 08:11 am.

      60 years? Correction

      “This may be an Islamist agends, but it’s also been US foreign policy for the last 60 years.”

      Sorry about that, little mental glitch. Colonialism’s been US policy since even before the beginning, not just the last 60 years.

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/26/2015 - 01:01 pm.

    My views

    Mr. Kingstad, I do not align my views with anyone – they are my own. But no, they do not correspond to the people you mentioned because they wanted to come in and stay to build democracy there. I, on the other hand, understand the reality of impossibility of such a hope and want to come, see, win, and leave.

    Mr. Holtman, you are absolutely right in your assessment of a path between dictatorship and democracy (except in Russia, Lenin got rid of democratic government of Provisional Government, not authoritarian regime) – that is what I have said above and have been saying all along but you conclusion is wrong: We can’t wait for centuries until conditions get ripe for democracy. It doesn’t mean, of course, that we have to help build that democracy as I noted above but we do need to affect the outcome well beyond “behaving morally” and “acting steadily and opportunistically.” Your example of Syria is a good one: Assad regime is hostile to America and, therefore, should be in trouble which will prevent it from making trouble for us. And if it is gone, that is perfectly fine, too, as the new regime may be either the same or better…

    By the way, don’t you think that “citizens” have their “private interests” and the government is supposed to act on their behalf?

    Mr. Udstrand, are you trying to say that Contras chopped peoples’ heads, hijacked planes, blew up churches, etc.? Just wondering… And acceptance of Israel is a precondition for two-state solution rather than a possible result – without acceptance two-state solution will never materialize.

    How long is it possible to blame the Obama’s world problems on Bush and war in Iraq? Do I need to remind that 9/11 happened before that? And what does giving missiles to Mujahidin have to do with 9/11 – it was plane, not missiles…

    The problem is that advocating never using military is what brings all the troubles now. So yes we need to be smart (I do not see how this thesis may be linked to Obama – has any president ever suggested being stupid) and use power when we need to – meaning against the bad guys (and a bad guy definition is the one against us). 9/11 is not a result of America’s bad policies (and if that were the case, Clinton will take the blame) but the result of bad people and ideology and here Clinton does take the blame of not fighting it. And yes, the world is messed up now, after 6 years of Obama and last 4 years of Bush which were mostly like Obama’s…

    And of course connecting O’Reilly and Islamists is just a cheap shot made just for show.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/26/2015 - 10:33 pm.

      Contra terrorism and blame.

      The atrocities committed by the contras are well documented. And those aren’t the only acts of terrorism that Western governments have supported and funded. I’m not saying that ISIS doesn’t use terrorism, I’m simply pointing out that the idea they are unique actors in this regard is ignorant.

      It’s always funny conservative, the big promoters of personal responsibility, want to know when people are going to stop blaming them for stuff that they do. Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq thereby triggering a the Sunni-Shia civil war that gave rise to ISIS, that’s history. I was wondering just the other day when we’re going to stop blaming Booth for killing Lincoln, Hitler for starting WWII, and KC and the Sunshine Band for recording “Shake Your Booty”? Here’s the the thing about responsibility for stuff you do… it never expires.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/27/2015 - 06:56 pm.

        Comparison (or not)

        Mr. Udstrand, atrocities are not terrorism so please do not compare ISIS and Contras – there is no comparison (scale, type, reach, etc.) and bringing up western governments into this picture is ridiculous. But of course, ISIS is not alone – Hamas, PLO, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, etc. are all there with them.

        The problem with blame is that liberals blame conservatives for things they didn’t do and never blame their fellow liberals for things they do. Conservatives were fed up with Bush at the end of his second term but liberals are happy with Obama and defend him for every stupid thing he does trying to blame Bush for them. Of course, in light of your saying that responsibility never expires, do you blame Carter for today mess with Iran?

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/27/2015 - 08:22 am.

    In other words:

    Ross may be offering a framework for anti- “Islamist” propaganda here, but this isn’t particularly coherent policy analysis. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

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