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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”*…


… In the meantime, let us remember that, as history repeats itself, so does the call on us all to do what we can to help.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East, which put these posters in circulation in the last years of World War I, began in 1915 as the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief and was formed as a humanitarian response to the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. As World War I developed, the group began to offer food and shelter to displaced people in Syria, Persia (now Iran), and Greece.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East’s posters often used the image of a child, or a young woman, to appeal to passers-by. Throughout the war, Americans also donated to relief campaigns for Belgian and French children, and the image of hungry young people and frightened mothers came to symbolize the plight of civilians caught up in the war.

In Syria, after the war, shelters run by Near East Relief (which was renamed and granted a Congressional charter after the end of the war) housed 45,000 orphans. The organization operated these facilities until 1930, when the last war orphans aged out of the need for care…

More at “The Heartbreaking Posters That Convinced Americans to Help Displaced Syrians During WWI.”

* Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah


As we reach deep, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1659 that Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” was shipwrecked and marooned on the desert island that was his home for the next 28 years.  Defoe called his novel, based in part on the true story of shipwrecked sailor Alexander SelkirkThe Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

Title page of the first edition


Written by LW

September 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Life in the Middle East is quite different from other places”*…


Confused about what’s happening in the Middle East? No need to worry—our research team at the Institute of Internet Diagrams has come up with the ultimate explainer in the shape of an interactive diagram that sums up the geopolitical alliances traversing this ancient region, which dates back to the Mesozoic Era…

While it is common to hear people describe the Middle East as a complex and obscure place, the diagram plainly illustrates that this is not the case. The relationships follow logical patterns reflecting geopolitical interests, partnerships, and conflicts. For example, the United States is evidently on friendly terms with Iran. In Iraq. But America is on the opposite side of the conflict in Yemen. In Syria, the U.S. and Iran are both against and with each other, depending on the outcome of the nuclear talks.

This partially reflects President Obama’s breakthrough system of decision-making, which goes beyond outdated binary oppositions. Forced to choose between confronting and appeasing Iran, Obama has chosen to do both, arguing that at least one of those policies is the right one. Despite critiques from conservatives who are still clinging to old-fashioned ideas, this way of thinking is quite popular in the Middle East, as reflected in the old proverb, “You can have your cake and eat it.”

By carefully following the lines one by one, you can see that Egypt and Qatar are against each other, except in Yemen where they are now allies; Saudi Arabia is both supporting and bombing ISIS; and Libya is its own worst enemy. But it’s best if you draw your own conclusions; the diagram only takes about three minutes to understand fully. After which, you will be qualified to advise President Obama on Middle East policy.

More at: “The Confused Person’s Guide to Middle East Conflicts.”

Colonel Brighton: Look, sir, we can’t just do nothing.

General Allenby: Why not? It’s usually best.

Lawrence of Arabia


Zaha Hadid


As we search for lines in the sand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1991 that General H Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr– Stormin’ Norman, the Commander of Operation Desert Storm– publicly apologized to President George H.W. Bush for having criticized the Commander in Chief’s decision to call a cease fire to end the (first) Gulf War.

General Schwarzkopf and President Bush in a HUMVEE during the President’s visit with troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990




Written by LW

March 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

In a flash (mob)…

Over 27 million YouTube viewers have watched Saatchi & Saatchi’s “T-Mobile Dance,” a (supposed) flash mob that comes together at London’s Liverpool Station in terpsichorean tribute to the wireless carrier– and winner of “Commercial of the Year” at 2010’s  British Television Advertising Awards.

Rival agency M&C Saatchi took the same concept and used it in Beirut…

It’s no more a genuinely-spontaneous gathering than the British “mob” on which it riffs.  But this testament to social media, shot (earlier this month,on March 5th) in a Middle Eastern airport in promotional service of international travel and commerce (Duty Free), coexists with the regional reality of spontaneous social and political unrest– unrest that actually has been abetted by social media, unrest that actually has the emergent character of flash mobs…

The ironies abound.

[via VSL]

As we monitor our Twitter feeds more closely, we might celebrate another example of “art-in-the-service-of-commerce imitating life– only more so”:  on this date (April Fool’s Day) in 1963 that the ABC television network aired the premiere episode of General Hospital, the daytime drama that became the network’s (and television’s) most enduring soap opera– and the longest-running serial program produced in Hollywood.  (The world’s longest-running soap opera currently airing on television is the British series Coronation Street, on air since December 9, 1960.)


Lest one think it’s anything new…

click on image above, or here

As we remind ourselves of Mark Twain’s observation that, while history never repeats itself, it rhymes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1764 that then-twenty-seven-year-old Edward Gibbon, on a Grand Tour of Europe, was inspired by a group of chanting clerics to begin work on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

It was at Rome, on the [fifteenth] of October[,] 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare[-]footed fryars were singing [V]espers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the [C]ity first started to my mind.
– Gibbon, Memoirs

Gibbons “Capitoline vision” (as historians now call it) expanded from Rome to the entire empire, and resulted in a magnum opus that was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Gibbon (source)


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