BBC News Hour

My piece on the incoherence of US and Australian policy in the Middle East, suggesting that we should leave the people of the region to sort out their own problems, attracted a fair bit of interest, including a discussion on the BBC. You can listen to it here (about 31:55) for the next few days. I’ll try to replace this with a permanent podcast link.

58 thoughts on “BBC News Hour

  1. We really live in a Murdochracy (and that sadly includes his ABC, SBS and most other establishment media).

    How else to explain the ON/OFF/ON/OFF/ON…..OFF “boots on the ground fixation and the determination to stick it all down the memory hole?

    A few weeks ago our rulers/media (same thing) trumpeted that we were off to war. Then it was mentioned that there was just a bit of paperwork that had to be finalised. Then several times we were told that War PM Abbott was about to announce Boots On The Ground.

    That fizzed, but Abbott said we (Aus) had written to them (Iraq) and they had written back, and we were considering their response. Ludicrous.

    Then Bishop popped into Iraq to twist arms but got no luck. So on Saturday we were told that we never wanted to go there anyway, and the Iraqis hadn’t asked us to.

    Then today we get told it’s a done deal and we’re off to war with Boots On The Ground.


    This is from a few hours ago:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Monday ruled out any foreign ground intervention to assist government forces in retaking territory lost to jihadists and urged Sunnis to give up such hopes.

    Abadi was speaking in the city of Najaf after a rare meeting with the most revered figure among Iraqi Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and before a trip to neighboring Iran.

    “No ground forces from any superpower, international coalition or regional power will fight here,” Abadi told reporters, reiterating previous remarks on the issue.

    “This is my decision, it is the decision of the Iraqi government.”

    Some officials and Sunni tribal leaders in areas most affected by the unrest have argued the world should step up its involvement from air strikes to a ground intervention against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

    “I am telling our brothers in Anbar and Salaheddin (Sunni majority provinces) who asked for foreign ground troops that such an appeal should not be made for two reasons,” Abadi said.

    “We don’t need foreign combat troops. And there is no country in the world which would be willing to fight here and give you back your land even if they were asked to.”

    The prime minister, from Iraq’s Shiite majority, had just met with Sistani, a reclusive Iranian-born cleric who is the highest Shiite religious authority in the country.

    Iraqi state television said it was the first time in four years that Sistani had met a high-ranking Iraqi government official.

    Abadi was due to travel to Iran later Monday for talks on Iraq’s war against the IS, which has since June seized control of swathes of the country and brought it to the brink of collapse.

    IS fighters hold towns just a few miles (kilometers) from the Iranian border, and the Islamic republic has been reported by senior Kurdish officials to have deployed troops inside Iraq.

    Major General Qassem Suleimani, the chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has been spotted in Iraq, where it is believed to play a key role in coordinating Iraqi military operations.

    SourceAgence France Presse.

  2. Gregory Paul argues that there is evidence that societies which exhibit high levels of dysfunction are stressful and religion provides relief from this stress. This would also apply to the US, which has high levels of stress coming from lack of universal healthcare, competitive economic conditions and inequality between income groups.

    The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions

    Click to access EP07398441_c.pdf

    The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors. 

    ..popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments. Popular nontheism is a similarly casual response to superior conditions. 

  3. @rog

    Pew’s 2009 The Global Middle Class paper confirms greater religiosity by lower class for most of the 13 countries polled, but at p17 of full report says that the middle class who say religion is important to their life is still high in India 60% (72% lower income), Malaysia, 60 (86), Brazil 73 (78), Egypt 63 (64), South Africa 78 (79). Interesting that Chile, Venezuela, Argentina much lower than Brazil.

  4. @rog

    I had a look at Paul and read Abstract and Conclusions closely but it is content-rich and I may not have interpreted it correctly, so pls tell me if I am wrong. It concentrates on first world countries so its comment “The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors” seems a stretch. The “revolution of rising expectations” in the context of anti-imperialism in the “improving” world may have a different effect on religiosity. Of course, various countries in Asia and the Arab world are on different trajectories, not all improvement.

    For Indonesia, as a muslim majority country of great importance to Australia, it is my impression that religious adherence is not on the wane, but that doesn’t mean it has becomed “hardened.” The article “Meet Indonesia’s middle class (part 4): Where fashion meets religion” suggests an accommodation between religious and consumerist values, which keeps upwardly mobile segments in the religious “tent”. Despite internal conflicts, it has a high degree of non-fractious pluralism. It needs to be added that everyone is obligated to have a formal religious adherence, but I doubt that is a strong determinant of religiosity.

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