black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.


"Unlike other terrorist groups, ISIS has grown into a sophisticated military force and is estimated to have between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters. The group now firmly controls large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq.”

"The threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated. This is the most vicious, well-funded and militant terrorist organization we have ever seen, and it is very quickly consolidating its power. "

"In total, the U.N. reports at least 693 child casualties at the hands of ISIS this year. And at least 2,250 women and children are currently detained by the group.

ISIS has killedenslaved and captured thousands in its efforts at ethnic cleansing, including the Yazidis in Sinjar and the Turkmen in Amerli. Overall, more than a million Iraqis have been displaced.”

"There is an extremely high level of organization in ISIS operations and ISIS-controlled territory, almost reminiscent of a military dictatorship. ISIS controls extensive resources, military vehicles, heavy weapons and border crossings between Iraq and Syria. It has become a de facto terrorist state. Experts estimate that ISIS now has cash and assets worth $2 billion. ISIS adds as much as $1 million per day through extortion, crime, ransom and even the sale of oil on the black market from the several oil fields it controls. …

I understand that many Americans don’t want to become mired in another war. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have claimed thousands of American lives and cost more than $1 trillion. But Americans need to understand ISIS’ degree of viciousness as well as what will happen in the absence of U.S. leadership and action.

If the United States fails to unite and lead the world against ISIS’ horrific goals, we could suffer the consequences for decades to come.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein: Confront ISIS Now

There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries. 

Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.

Adding to this difficulty has been the Soviet legacy, which in Ukraine as everywhere else is always and everywhere visible. The Ukrainian historian Giorgy Kasianov has written that Ukrainians are forced to exist in several historical and semantic fields simultaneously: the roads they drive on, the factories they work at, the social relations they engage in—all are part of the Soviet heritage. As in the rest of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, this heritage is crumbling, but in Ukraine in particular it remains formidable. As a result, Ukraine has essentially been frozen in time since independence.”

Read on: Ukraine, Putin, and the West

[photos: NYT]

©2011 Kateoplis