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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

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Putin, Trump and the Endgame for Syria

A  couple of years back I stopped writing about Syria. It wasn’t a deliberate decision. It just seemed to happen. The routine nature of the horrific atrocities committed with relative abandon by both sides, with advantage seeming to swing first one way and then the other and then the other and then the other yet again seemed endless and wearisome. Everything that could be said seemed to have been said…and yet still it went on. Meanwhile, the Crimea, the Ukraine, the Scottish independence referendum, the Peshawar Massacre, Charlie Hebdo and other UnIsamic State atrocities, Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexit referendum, Jeremy Corbyn (again!), Donald Trump…. So many other things have happened in those 2-3 years and so many of them ‘closer to home’…and, as the apocryphal ‘McClurg’s Law’ postulates: the more something is closer to you (racially, nationalistically, culturally), the more newsworthy it is (Stephen Moore, Steve Chapman & Dave Aiken, 2009). Thus, it is understandable (in some senses, at least) that Syria went ‘off the radar’ at times not only for myself but for many other ‘thinkers’ and much of the Western media. Now, though, as what seems to be the final, heartbreaking agonies of Aleppo are so grim and apparently so decisive, they actually break through the news barrier and Syria becomes… Read More

Muslims, take back Your Religion from the Psychopaths of UnIslamic State!

It’s time the world turned on ‘UnIslamic State’ (ISIS) and destroyed it. It’s time every Muslim who upholds the 5 Pillars of Islam not only said  “not in our name” and “not for our faith” but took action, directly or indirectly, to stop these psychopathic arseholes. Thursday on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, there was a debate about which was the more serious challenge: the Russian-backed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine and the effect that is having on relations between Russia and the West or UnIslamic State. (Much of the media still insist on referring to them as ‘Islamic State’ in spite of multiple requests from leading Islamic thinkers to use alternative terms such as ‘UnIslamic State’ which do not confer on them a sheen of validity.) Personally, for all that Eastern Ukraine looks like an era-defining crisis in West-Russia relations, I have no doubt that UnIslamic State is by far the greater threat. It’s not just the gut-wrenching video of a young man being burned alive…it’s not even the trail of beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions and other atrocities which came before it (and undoubtedly are still being carried out as I write)…it’s the potential for catastrophe that UnIslamic State seem determined to pursue. The self-styled ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi doesn’t do… Read More

Israeli Stupidity in Gaza! #2

How ironic that, around the same time President Barrack Obama authorises American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq to prevent ‘genocide’ of Christians and Yazidis, senior and influential figures in Israel are reported to be advocating ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, if not outright genocide…? Ostensibly this looks as though the US will take decisive action to protect minorities in northern Iraq but will ignore butchery of the Palestinians. On 4 August Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, was reported by some media – eg: the Daily Mail’s Jill Reilly – to have posted on Facebook a detailed plan for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters”. The survivors from “maximum fire power” would be put in what are effectively concentration camps, prior to being shipped out of the remains of Gaza to “relevant emigration destinations”. In other words, ethnic cleansing. An influential rabbi, Levi Brackman, has used the Torah to justify such a course: “Some 3,500 years ago, as our ancestors, the ancient Israelites, prepared to enter into the Land of Israel, Moses warns: ‘If you do not… Read More

2 Presidents, 2 Crises

In the past I’ve doubted Barack Obama does 2nd Tier thinking – Obama a 2nd Tier Thinker? –  and wondered if maybe Vladimir Putin does – Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? The latest state of play in world crises seems only to confirm my view of Obama. As for Putin, he’s certainly had a few wobbles in the last month or so and it may be he’s not as in control of Russia as he is usually portrayed to be…but his denunciations of president Petro Poroshenko’s renewed assault on ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, as reported by the BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev, have made him seem reasonable and Poroshenko the aggressor. A 4-way teleconference on Monday (30 June) between Poroshenko, Putin, French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel had raised hopes the fragile truce of the previous week could be renewed – but Poroshenko’s ordering of fierce shelling of Kramatorsk dashed such hopes. Even in late Wednesday’s announcement that the foreign ministers of the 4 countries were working on steps for a new ceasefire, the Russians appeared more reasonable than the Ukrainians. As reported by BBC News (2014b), Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin, was all demands, including the release of hostages and security of its… Read More

Afghanistan: Job not done!

There have been a lot of stories crowding the headlines the first quarter of this year. Currently, of course, the news media is dominated by the Russian annexation of Crimea and the disturbing disappearance of flight MH370 – which is generating a number of conspiracy theories, some of them potentially credible. Earlier in the year the news was full of devastating weather conditions – ice storms in North America, floods in the UK and bush fires in Australia, just for starters! Then we had a new prime minister in Italy, yet more civil war in central Africa, the highs and lows of the Winter Olympics gracing our TV screens, the truly-dreadful slaughter in Syria grinding on relentlessly while its peace talks foundered incongruously, the Scots independence debate beginning to get decidedly rough, bankers continuing to get found out – with the US regulator now suing 16 major banks for alleged Libor rate rigging…and even – wait for it! – a ban on women wearing lacy underwear in Kazakhstan. (A true Borat moment, if ever there was one!) So, in and amongst, it’s not entirely surprising that Afghanistan seems to have slipped below the radar for many. The murder of at least 15 people… Read More

What Kind of Endgame? What Kind of Syria?

Of course, you can find a steady drip of news from Syria if you look for it; but there haven’t been that many front page headlines about the Syrian conflict since the US stepped back from the brink of a missile attack in the Summer. Under tentative Russian protection, the Syrian Government appears to have co-operated fully with the United Nations weapons inspectors who are reported to be making good progress (BBC News, 2013b) While no one should underestimate how dangerous the inspectors’ task is – and they haven’t yet been able to access some sites which are in highly-contested areas – their success has been without the kind of nightmare casualties I envisaged in Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker. (The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus (2013b) was just one expert who foresaw similar scenarios.) So far the weapons inspectors have done remarkably well, the Syrian Government is credited with meeting its obligations to the UN Security Council and Vladimir Putin with getting them to do that…and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Given the commercial media’s RED/ORANGE rapacious appetite for new and exciting events to draw in the audience, it’s not too surprising the media’s attention has largely gone elsewhere.… Read More

Could the Increased Islamist Presence provide a Way Out of the Syrian Impasse?

In the wake of the Russo-American agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons, the war rumbles on, with a daily litany of shelling of civilians, torture, rape, murder and summary executions beyond the normal carnage of government soldiers and rebels butchering each other on whatever street, field or town square is their latest battlefield. Especially given the short timeframe for the identification, acquisition and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United Nations’ weapons inspectors have a truly daunting task ahead of them. A task the diplomats and the politicians may not appreciate the difficulty of. Paradoxically, given the Americans’ apparent readiness to resume the threat of missile strikes, it may be ‘their side’ – the rebels – which most jeopardises the inspectors’ mission. As Bashar al-Assad’s military have pretty much held together as a disciplined military force, the Russians will be able to lean heavily on the Syrian Government to let the inspectors get on with their job. However, the rebels are said to have fragmented so much that there may be up to 1,000 different groups now ranged against Assad. How on earth is any kind of centralised control going to be exerted on them to stop them hindering the inspectors? Without sufficient… Read More

Chemical Weapons: escaping Obama’s Trap

Chemical weapons use in Syria is Barrack Obama’s trap – the trap he laid for himself ever since he laid down their use as a red line which, if crossed, would oblige the United States to act. However, chemical weapons may also be his way out of the trap. We may not know for months – possibly years…possibly never! – who was responsible for the dreadful gas attack in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday (21st). One argument, explored by the renowned philosopher Howard Bloom on Facebook, has it that, when the Syrian military is slowly but surely winning its vicious and dirty war and the “UN [chemical weapons] team had just entered Syria when the attack occurred. Would Assad really be so dumb?” The Syrian Government alleges that rebels used chemical weapons armaments stolen from military depots to try to stop the Syrian Army’s advance in Ghouta. Al-Arabiya, amongst others, has covered the Syrian TV networks’ reporting of the Army finding rebel tunnels in Ghouta stocked full of chemical weapon cannisters, gas masks, and other equipment for waging and surviving chemical warfare. Thus, the Syrian Government blames the rebels for the civilian deaths in Ghouta. A dark extension of this theory… Read More

Wanted: Suitable Latvian Men for Latvian Women

This article on the BBC News the other day (13 October) really caught my eye…about there being a shortage of suitable men for the women of Latvia. Of course, there have been many shortages of men before. Usually after wars there are shortages of men since men do most of the fighting. Even in the one and only truly ‘total war’ of World War II, far more men were killed than women. Eg: the Germans lost over 5 million men and the Soviet Union an estimate of upto 10 million. (If just some of the anecdotes I’ve heard are true, British and American soldiers in the ruins of Berlin in 1945 could have almost any German woman they wanted, especially if they had chocolate, cigarettes, nylons, etc, to give away.) However, a significant shortage in peace time is unusual. Paradoxically statistics show that more male babies are born in Latvia than girls. However, a high early male mortality rate means there are 8% more women than men in the country. Among the under-30s, there are almost 9,000 more men than women. However, this is inverted between the ages of 30-39 so that there are almost 3,000 more women than men. This… Read More

‘Radical Islam’ and the Return of Tony Blair

Wow, Tony Blair sure is back in the news in a BIG way! First the Gordon Brown-bashing memoirs, then having eggs and shoes thrown at him in Dublin on Saturday and being a star guest yesterday on the inaugural showing of the new breakfast programme, Daybreak. And, of course, in the Sunday Telegraph both he and Brown were bashed by former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt for failing to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq adequately. (Dannatt was in uncompromising mood, blaming Blair and Brown explicitly and personally for needless deaths.) Perhaps the most interesting set of comments to emerge from the seemingly endless round of interviews the former prime minister has conducted were those to do with ‘radical Islam’ and the threat that would be posed by a nuclear Iran. Talking about radical Islam in general, he described it to ABC News as “…the religious or cultural equivalent of [Communism] and its roots are deep, its tentacles are long and its narrative about Islam stretches far further than we think into even parts of mainstream opinion who abhor the extremism but sort of buy some of the rhetoric that goes with it.” Blair told the… Read More