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  #61  
Old 08-23-2016, 01:00 PM
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Nah, the mistaken belief is that you'll get a lesser evil, instead of at most a differently wrapped one. Then again, the idea is not wholly wrong, sometimes it even works, which is why democracy is less bad than any of the alternatives.
Care to make a full list of all alternatives and prove that each of them is even at its best worse than the worst democracy? Oh and do it for all possible definitions of "worst" and "best".
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  #62  
Old 08-23-2016, 04:13 PM
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Frankly, I think that it does not matter all that much what precise flavor of dictator there is. Just about any dictator is bad. And that is what "the West" thinks as well, if it suits the powers that be to say so, at least.
After all, Stalin was a secular dictator too, and our governments didn't like him at all. Except when they needed him to survive, of course. The Saudi monarchs, on the other hand, are thoroughly religious dictators, and we (our governments) have always gotten along with them very well and been quite willing to look away from any inconvenient human rights violations.
No, the other Allies did not like Stalin. By all reports, they tolerated him. Even during the height of the war. It was an alliance of convenience. That's pretty much it.
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  #63  
Old 08-23-2016, 04:53 PM
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Care to make a full list of all alternatives and prove that each of them is even at its best worse than the worst democracy? Oh and do it for all possible definitions of "worst" and "best".
Have you ever read Aristotle's Politics? Aristotle argued that there are three basic forms of govt. Kingship, which can be subverted into Tyranny. Aristocracy, which can be corrupted into Oligarchy. Polity (Constitutional Govt) which can devolve into Democracy.

Politics IV.1289
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And inasmuch as in our first inquiry2 about the forms of the constitution we classified the right constitutions as three, kingship, aristocracy and constitutional government, and the deviations from these as three, tyranny from kingship, oligarchy from aristocracy and democracy from constitutional government, and about aristocracy and kingship we have spoken (for to study the best constitution is the same thing as to speak about the forms that bear those names, since each of them means a system based on the qualification of virtue equipped with means), and as also the question what constitutes the difference between aristocracy and kingship and when a royal government is to be adopted has been decided before, it remains to discuss the form of constitution designated by the name3 common to them all, and the other forms, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. Now it is manifest also which of these deviations4 is the worst and which the second worst. For necessarily the deviation from the first and most divine must be the worst,5 and kingship must of necessity either possess the name only, without really being kingship, [1289b] [1] or be based on the outstanding superiority of the man who is king; so that tyranny being the worst form must be the one farthest removed from constitutional government, and oligarchy must be the second farthest (for aristocracy is widely separated from that constitution), while democracy must be the most moderate. An account of their relative merits has indeed already been given also by one of the former writers,1 though not on the same principle as ours; for he inclined to judge that there were good varieties of all the forms, for instance a good sort of oligarchy and so on, and that democracy was the worst among these, but the best among the bad varieties, whereas we say that the deviations are wholly wrong, and that it is not right to speak of one form of oligarchy as better than another, but only as less bad.
He then goes into a lot of detail describing various forms of oligarchies, democracies, and tyrannies, before finally getting back to what he considers a Polity to be...

Politics IV.1293b
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Having then stated the reason for this mode of classification, we have now to set forth our view about constitutional government. For its meaning is clearer now that the characteristics of oligarchy and democracy have been defined; since constitutional government is, to put it simply, a mixture of oligarchy and democracy. But people customarily give the name of constitutional government only to those among such mixed constitutions that incline towards democracy, and entitle those that incline more towards oligarchy aristocracies, because education and good birth go more with the wealthier classes, and also the wealthy are thought to have already the things to get which wrongdoers commit wrong; owing to which people apply the terms ‘gentry’ and ‘notabilities’ to the rich. Since therefore aristocracy means the assignment of the highest place to the best of the citizens, oligarchies also are said to be drawn rather from the gentry. [1294a] [1] And it seems an impossibility for a city governed not by the aristocracy but by the base to have well-ordered government, and similarly also for a city that has not a well-ordered government to be governed aristocratically. But to have good laws enacted but not obey them does not constitute well-ordered government. Hence one form of good government must be understood to consist in the laws enacted being obeyed, and another form in the laws which the citizens keep being well enacted (for it is possible to obey badly enacted laws). And for laws to be well enacted is possible in two ways: they must either be the best laws possible for the given people or the best absolutely. But aristocracy in the fullest sense seems to consist in the distribution of the honors according to virtue; for virtue is the defining factor of aristocracy, as wealth is of oligarchy, and freedom of democracy (while the principle that a decision of the majority is supreme is found in them all: for in both oligarchy and aristocracy and democracies whatever the larger part of those who have a share in the government decides is supreme). In most states1 then the name of aristocracy is given to that form of constitutional government,2 for the combination aims only at the well-off and the poor, wealth and freedom (since in almost the largest number of states the rich seem to occupy the place of the gentry); but as there are three things that claim equal participation [20] in the constitution, freedom, wealth and virtue (for the fourth, what is called nobility, accompanies the two latter—nobility means ancient wealth and virtue), it is manifest that the mixture of the two factors, the rich and the poor,3 ought to be termed constitutional government, while the mixture of the three factors deserves the name of aristocracy most of all the various forms of aristocracy beside the true and best form.
He goes into a lot more detail. Essentially he thinks that aristocracy and the constitutional polity, forms which overlap are essentially the best (the philosopher king still being the actual best possibility, but rarest, and likely to devolve into the worst variant), or at least the safest, but that democracy is far better, and safer, than oligarchy and tyranny. He also thinks that govt is safest when left in the grasp of the middle class...

Politics IV.1296a
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That the middle form of constitution is the best is evident; for it alone is free from faction, since where the middle class is numerous, factions and party divisions among the citizens are least likely to occur. And the great states are more free from faction for the same reason, because the middle class is numerous, whereas in the small states it is easy to divide the whole people into two parties leaving nothing in between, and also almost everybody is needy or wealthy. Also democracies are more secure and more long-lived than oligarchies owing to the citizens of the middle class (for they are more numerous and have a larger share of the honors in democracies than in oligarchies), since when the poor are in a majority without the middle class, adversity sets in and they are soon ruined. And it must be deemed a significant fact that the best lawgivers are from among the middle citizens; for Solon was of that class, [20] as appears from his poetry, and so was Lycurgus (for he was not a king) and Charondas and almost the greatest number of the other lawgivers.
And these considerations also show the reason why the constitutions of most states are either democratic or oligarchical; owing to the middle class in these states being often a small one, the classes diverging from the middle status—whichever of the two, the owners of the estates or the people, from time to time has the upper hand—conduct the government on their own lines, so that it becomes either a democracy or an oligarchy. And in addition to this, because factions occur and fights between the people and the wealthy, whichever party happens to gain the upper hand over its opponents does not establish a common or equal government, but takes the superior share in the government as a prize of victory, and makes it a democracy in the one case and an oligarchy in the other.
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Old 08-23-2016, 07:47 PM
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No I haven't read that one. How does he define each type exactly? Which would communism be for example? Also I'm not sure what he means by "virtue". Does he recognize it as a variable or not?
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  #65  
Old 08-23-2016, 08:20 PM
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No I haven't read that one. How does he define each type exactly? Which would communism be for example? Also I'm not sure what he means by "virtue". Does he recognize it as a variable or not?
The word translated here as virtue is "ἀρετή". It has a range of meanings, but basically just means things like goodness, merit, or excellence. When translated into Latin, one would typically use as the most equivalent synonym "virtus", hence the use of "virtue" as a translation. It's pretty long, but if you're interested I grabbed the translated bits from Perseus, which provides both the original Greek and the translation into English.

Here's the link to this particular section, though you can access the whole work, either in English or Greek, on Perseus. You can jump between the sections by using the book and section markers located above the English text. To switch the text to Greek you'd need to click on the "focus" option next to Greek on the left side of the page, or to see both the English and Greek on the same page, click on "load" instead.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/...ection%3D1293b

It's hard to get an exact equivalence for communism from ancient Greece, but Sparta is close. It was more of an aristocratic oligarchy, but still formed upon that basis of egalitarianism, albeit solely for the Spartans, and maintained only due to the subjugation of their neighbors the Helots (of Messenia in the Peloponnese, but significantly for the justification of their enslavement, they were considered to be Pelasgians rather than Dorians like the Spartans, and so were treated like barbarians). This society, not Athens, nor really any other Classical Greek city-state, was the only one that had levels of slave-labor anywhere near to what we see later amongst the Romans, and like the Romans, it was slave labor force that had been won through warfare. When the Thebans defeated Sparta at Leuctra in 371 BCE, it led to the freeing of the Helots, which led to the almost immediate collapse of Spartan power. It's why a generation later Philip and then Alexander could ignore Sparta, because the city no longer mattered. The Spartan system was essentially an oligarchy, so a corrupted form of aristocracy. Athenian aristocrats often praised the Spartan system, and longed for it - including such luminaries as Socrates and Plato. After the occupation, when Sparta installed a friendly oligarchy drawn from those same aristocratic Athenians, what quickly emerged was a brief reign of terror, the so-called 30 Tyrants. After Thrasyboulos, the only surviving democratic general who had escaped the purge, returned to Athens and liberated his city, Socrates was famously put on trial for corrupting the youth (since the 30 were almost all his students), and Plato fled to Syracuse to train another tyrant, Dion. What the Soviets had was similar, though one could also well call it, especially under Stalin, instead a tyranny, which is to say a bastardized form of monarchy rather than a corrupted aristocracy. Certainly the Soviet form of communism was in no way either a polity or a democracy.

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Old 08-23-2016, 08:44 PM
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I wonder if oligarchy could be avoided if you defined the aristocracy based on wisdom rather than the more ambiguous virtue. Of course the problem would be that while wisdom is harder to fake it might not be possible to find enough people who fit the minimum requirements. And of course defining those minimum requirements would be a tough task in itself.
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Old 08-23-2016, 08:53 PM
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I wonder if oligarchy could be avoided if you defined the aristocracy based on wisdom rather than the more ambiguous virtue. Of course the problem would be that while wisdom is harder to fake it might not be possible to find enough people who fit the minimum requirements. And of course defining those minimum requirements would be a tough task in itself.
Naz, this is what he is trying to point out as the problem with Plato. Plato is an idealist, and why he notes that while one might try to equate wealth with merit and wisdom, that it is still wealth that is being treated as the sign of virtue often in an oligarchy. Sure you can write about some idealistic vision of what you think a utopic society and government should be, but in practice, these systems tend to more often take the three corrupted forms (tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy), and as such, that while not the ideal form, nonetheless, the safest of those three typical real-world variants is democracy. But then, that type of thinking does tend to be the dividing line between idealism and pragmatism...

Out of curiosity Naz, does the word that you would use as a typical replacement for our English word virtue in Finnish have a much more narrow range of meanings than does the English? I'm somewhat confused by why you are bothered by the concept, as it does not have a negative connotation in English, but you seem to have a negative opinion of it. I can't help but wonder if this is perhaps a cultural or linguistic issue.

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Old 08-23-2016, 09:53 PM
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Naz, this is what he is trying to point out as the problem with Plato. Plato is an idealist, and why he notes that while one might try to equate wealth with merit and wisdom, that it is still wealth that is being treated as the sign of virtue often in an oligarchy. Sure you can write about some idealistic vision of what you think a utopic society and government should be, but in practice, these systems tend to more often take the three corrupted forms (tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy), and as such, that while not the ideal form, nonetheless, the safest of those three typical real-world variants is democracy. But then, that type of thinking does tend to be the dividing line between idealism and pragmatism...

Out of curiosity Naz, does the word that you would use as a typical replacement for our English word virtue in Finnish have a much more narrow range of meanings than does the English? I'm somewhat confused by why you are bothered by the concept, as it does not have a negative connotation in English, but you seem to have a negative opinion of it. I can't help but wonder if this is perhaps a cultural or linguistic issue.
Virtue in Finnish is pretty much the same as English. Funnily enough you very nearly answered your own question. The whole point about virtue is that it is a subtle inner quality yet people insist they can see it on the outside. It's the eternal honour vs glory dilemma. This is of course true about wisdom as a more specific virtue, but it at least is more easily defined and tested than the whole spectrum. Morality, strength, intelligence, experience, honour, humility, patience, discipline, the list of virtues is a long one and many would add things that are more debateble on it like wealth or piety or patriotism or fame. Of course it leads to oligarchy when you try to use something as complicated as that as a basis for the elite class. But if you use a specific virtue it gets simpler. The question is can we define a virtue or a small set that would not lead to oligarchy. I'd say wisdom is such a virtue. Honour and morality would be important too, but I'm pretty sure that wisdom would bring them along by default so it's a moot point. But are there enough people who meet the minimum requirements? A system where only the wise get a vote is easy enough to imagine. It's even fairly simple to think up some safeguards, but the further you go the more requirements pile up and it becomes doubtful that you can find even one person that fits the bill.
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Old 08-23-2016, 10:11 PM
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Virtue in Finnish is pretty much the same as English. Funnily enough you very nearly answered your own question. The whole point about virtue is that it is a subtle inner quality yet people insist they can see it on the outside. It's the eternal honour vs glory dilemma. This is of course true about wisdom as a more specific virtue, but it at least is more easily defined and tested than the whole spectrum. Morality, strength, intelligence, experience, honour, humility, patience, discipline, the list of virtues is a long one and many would add things that are more debateble on it like wealth or piety or patriotism or fame. Of course it leads to oligarchy when you try to use something as complicated as that as a basis for the elite class. But if you use a specific virtue it gets simpler. The question is can we define a virtue or a small set that would not lead to oligarchy. I'd say wisdom is such a virtue. Honour and morality would be important too, but I'm pretty sure that wisdom would bring them along by default so it's a moot point. But are there enough people who meet the minimum requirements? A system where only the wise get a vote is easy enough to imagine. It's even fairly simple to think up some safeguards, but the further you go the more requirements pile up and it becomes doubtful that you can find even one person that fits the bill.
No, this is the point that I was making, that I find it odd that you, seemingly, have an unambiguously positive connotation of wisdom, yet not of virtue. This strikes me as odd, as it is virtue, not wisdom, that really has the closer connection to both ethics and morality. Ask yourself, for instance, this. Would you rather have a leader who is wise and cruel, or one who is naive and kind. Both obviously have a drawback, but the key here is that wisdom and virtue can walk hand in hand, but they need not. One can be wise but lacking in virtue, and one can be virtuous, but lacking in wisdom. Preferably one's leaders would be both, but, to use the Greek words, "sophia" isn't necessarily preferable to "arete". Let's use recent American politics as a guide. Take the two runners-up, would you have preferred Ted Cruz (wise + evil), or Bernie Sanders (naive + virtuous)? Mind you, at present, our real options are Trump (stupid + evil), or Hillary (wise + a bit shady on ethics), so technically that means I, as you seem to insist should be the choice, chose wisdom (Hillary) over virtue (Bernie)...

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Old 08-23-2016, 10:28 PM
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No, this is the point that I was making, that I find it odd that you, seemingly, have an unambiguously positive connotation of wisdom, yet not of virtue. This strikes me as odd, as it is virtue, not wisdom, that really has the closer connection to both ethics and morality. Ask yourself, for instance, this. Would you rather have a leader who is wise and cruel, or one who is naive and kind. Both obviously have a drawback, but the key here is that wisdom and virtue can walk hand in hand, but they need not. One can be wise but lacking in virtue, and one can be virtuous, but lacking in wisdom. Preferably one's leaders would be both, but, to use the Greek words, "sophia" isn't necessarily preferable to "arete". Let's use recent American politics as a guide. Take the two runners-up, would you have preferred Ted Cruz (wise + evil), or Bernie Sanders (naive + virtuous)? Mind you, at present, our real options are Trump (stupid + evil), or Hillary (wise + a bit shady on ethics), so technically that means I, as you seem to insist should be the choice, chose wisdom (Hillary) over virtue (Bernie)...
Ah so the problem is that you have no clear definition of wisdom. None of those reach my standards. Intelligent maybe, but not wise.
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Old 08-23-2016, 10:41 PM
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Ah so the problem is that you have no clear definition of wisdom. None of those reach my standards. Intelligent maybe, but not wise.
This is hardly a clear definition. Nor is it convincing...
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Old 08-23-2016, 11:09 PM
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This is hardly a clear definition. Nor is it convincing...
Did I say that was my definition? I merely stated that I have one not what it is. It's actually fairly simple but understanding it requires a certain humility of mind and I'm not really sure you have that. After all you want to own an argument as if being right was some kind of contest where you can call copyrights. Here you are, more concerned over who is "winning" than whether or not you are wrong or right. You also seem to believe that if a different opinion is wrong then yours must be right as it was opposing it.
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Old 08-23-2016, 11:19 PM
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Did I say that was my definition? I merely stated that I have one not what it is. It's actually fairly simple but understanding it requires a certain humility of mind and I'm not really sure you have that. After all you want to own an argument as if being right was some kind of contest where you can call copyrights. Here you are, more concerned over who is "winning" than whether or not you are wrong or right. You also seem to believe that if a different opinion is wrong then yours must be right as it was opposing it.
Oy vey. Wisdom is simply the application of knowledge, experience, and judgment. And I simply disagree with you that it is necessarily preferable to virtue. And Naz, it's possible to disagree with someone without being rude.
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Old 08-24-2016, 05:13 AM
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Care to make a full list of all alternatives and prove that each of them is even at its best worse than the worst democracy? Oh and do it for all possible definitions of "worst" and "best".
The problem with them all (including democracy) is that they won't stay at their best. They generally don't stay at the absolute worst either, so what you get in reality is "fairly bad, with occasional random fluctuations in either direction".

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Ah so the problem is that you have no clear definition of wisdom.
No one has such a definition. Which makes wisdom a somewhat dodgy criterion to base a government upon.

The Iranians try, though, by combining democracy with a council of wise men (mullahs). Do you think such an arrangement is better than what we have in the West?
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Old 08-24-2016, 07:59 AM
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Oy vey. Wisdom is simply the application of knowledge, experience, and judgment. And I simply disagree with you that it is necessarily preferable to virtue. And Naz, it's possible to disagree with someone without being rude.
You think you aren't being rude? And your definition is vague just as I suspected. Knowledge has a place in the definition but it's not the application that makes someone wise. Experience is just a way of acquiring knowledge. Judgement is something every human does, it doesn't make you wise. This is exactly what I mean Kimon. You focus on the surface, on actions, on results, when you should look deeper at the motives and plans. Any act may turn out to be wise or foolish when compared to the motive and any result might turn out to be unintended when compared to the plan.

The right answer is much simpler.
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The problem with them all (including democracy) is that they won't stay at their best. They generally don't stay at the absolute worst either, so what you get in reality is "fairly bad, with occasional random fluctuations in either direction".
So how do you prove that democracy's fairly bad is the least bad?
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No one has such a definition. Which makes wisdom a somewhat dodgy criterion to base a government upon.
I do.
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Originally Posted by GonzoTheGreat View Post
The Iranians try, though, by combining democracy with a council of wise men (mullahs). Do you think such an arrangement is better than what we have in the West?
If the mullahs actually were wise it might be.
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:46 PM
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Slightly more on topic, the Turks today took Jarablus, one of the border crossing towns, claiming that they were liberating the city from ISIS, but this is a town that ISIS had been in the process of imminently losing to the Syrian Kurds...

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37171995

Quote:
Syrian rebels, backed by the Turkish military and US air cover, say they have taken the town of Jarablus from jihadists of so-called Islamic State.
The assault began at dawn when Turkish warplanes, tanks and special forces personnel crossed the nearby border.
Rebel commanders said most of the IS militants subsequently retreated.
Turkey says its intervention is targeting both IS fighters and a Syrian Kurdish-led alliance that is attempting to advance on Jarablus.
...and we have now officially begun the abandonment of our only reliable ally in the region.

Quote:
US Vice-President Joe Biden said the US had been flying air cover for the operation.
He also warned members of the Syrian Democratic Forces - the most effective opponents of IS on the ground in Syria - that they had to return to the east of the River Euphrates if they wanted to continue receiving its help.
"We have made it absolutely clear... that they must go back across the river," he said. "They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances get American support if they do not keep that commitment."
Quote:
A US official travelling with Mr Biden admitted that some Kurdish fighters had pushed further north than they should have and said Turkey's offensive on IS in Jarablus was probably partly to create a buffer zone against any further Kurdish advance.
But he said the US had "put a lid" on any more such moves, creating a breathing space for the Jarablus operation, which the US supports and to which it is ready to contribute.
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Old 08-31-2016, 11:10 AM
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The proximity of the election obviously hampers Obama's options to radically change policy with Turkey, but the carrot is clearly not working...

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37231760

Quote:
The pursuit of Kurdish forces, whom Ankara considers terrorists, has led to criticism by the United States.
Ankara summoned the US ambassador on Wednesday over comments the foreign ministry called "unacceptable".
A US military spokesman had expressed hopes on Tuesday that, rather than see Turkey pursue Kurdish fighters, "all parties involved are going to stop shooting at each other and focus" on IS.
"Turkey is a sovereign state, it is a legitimate state," said EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik, echoing comment by Turkey's foreign ministry.
"To suggest it is on a par with a terrorist organisation and suggest there are talks between them, that a deal has been reached between them, this is unacceptable."
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that "operations will continue until all terrorist elements have been neutralised, until all threats to our borders, our lands and our citizens are completely over".
This, by the way, is the type of topic that we really should be discussing in the lead up to the election, not how much more racist than usual does the republican candidate need to be before his party abandons him, or how can we pretend that Hillary's emails are a bigger deal than the insignificant issue that any sane person should recognize them as being (of course the same is true of Benghazi, and the republicans are still obsessed with that nonsense too). This, frankly strikes me as far more important than how candidates stand on the ttp and ttip as well. This Turkey-Syria-Kurdistan issue is a powder keg...
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Old 08-31-2016, 11:43 AM
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This Turkey-Syria-Kurdistan issue is a powder keg...
And it has been a powder keg for decades. Suppose that Trump solves this and achieves peace in the Middle East, then what's the next batch of politicians to do?
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Old 08-31-2016, 01:05 PM
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And it has been a powder keg for decades. Suppose that Trump solves this and achieves peace in the Middle East, then what's the next batch of politicians to do?
Kurdish separatism has been a regional issue for decades, but vastly exacerbated recently both by the instability in Syria (and Iraq), and by the heavy-handed despotism of Erdogan in Turkey. I'm not sure I trust Hillary much on dealing with this matter either, certainly Obama hasn't had much success cleaning up the mess that the Younger Bush made of the region, but he at least is a calming influence, and stable enough not to do anything really stupid, like the Younger Bush did in invading Iraq. I trust Hillary to mostly maintain his approach. Trump, on the other hand, makes the Younger Bush look like Winston Churchill...
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Old 09-10-2016, 11:36 AM
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Turkey is at least claiming to accede to the deal that we and the Russians negotiated. Obviously a welcome development, but no one really seems all that optimistic about how long it will hold.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37328945

Quote:
Getting a deal was an achievement, given the sour atmosphere between Moscow and Washington. It offers some fragile hope about stopping the slaughter.
But there is scepticism about its chances. That is because a lot is going to have to go right, quite quickly, if the agreement is to work. One necessity is President Assad's consent. A week-long ceasefire might be possible, but a political deal to end the war is still out of sight.
Assad isn't the problem that will cause this to collapse. He won (due mostly to Putin, along with the fact that we, rightly, don't really care about Assad's fate). The problem isn't him, it's Erdogan and the Kurds.
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