• ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 25

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Speculation grows that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement.

    The current Court year ends Monday, and any announcement would come soon after.

    Kennedy is 80, was appointed by a Republican, and has served 29 years on the Court, recently as a crucial swing vote.

    There are several elderly Democrats on the court, but they want to hang on (if health permits) in hopes of another Democratic president.

    Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have lawyered up to defend against allegations of bank fraud(CBS)

    When Jane was president of Burlington (VT) College, she got big bank loans for an expansion project that ultimately failed and bankrupted the college.

    The investigation is (1) whether the loans were based on Jane’s false representations about the college’s fundraising and (2) whether Bernie used his office to pressure the bank to make the loan.

     The battle for post-ISIS Syria is shaping up

    The background: the Obama Administration did nothing in Syria and pulled out of Iraq, opening the door wide for Iran to control Baghdad and Damascus (the Assad government) and providing political space for ISIS to build its “caliphate” for Sunnis.

    The change: Trump dramatically altered US policy, and, under the leadership of Mattis at DOD and McMaster at NSC, the US has been taking the fight to ISIS.

    The result: Iran is closing in on ISIS from one direction, the US from the other.

    There are three big issues in this end-game:

    1. Will ISIS turn to move civilian attacks in Europe (and possibly America)?
    2. Will US and Iranian forces be able to avoid direct military confrontation as they converge on ISIS’ last strongholds
    3. Who controls what territory in post-ISIS Syria?

    An excellent primer on the emerging issues is Udi Dekel’s “East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State” from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS, Israel)

    The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria. –Udi Dekel

    ◆ Political correctness to stop free speech in Arkansas? Yep.

    But the University stepped in and did the right thing.

    The Univ. of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies decided to hold a symposium on honor killings.

    The Center’s director, a geosciences professor named Tom Paradise, included Prof. Phyllis Chesler (from CUNY) on one panel since she has published widely on the subject, arguing that scholars have underplayed the role of Islam in these killings.

    Three Arkansas professors raised holy hell about it, saying the could never “countenance” Chesler’s participation, even though it would simply be a Skype call.

    The Center caved and disinvited Chesler, according to an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

    Now, the University has done the right thing.

    They removed Prof. Paradise from the center’s leadership, saying “The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution.”

    Comment: The university did the right thing.

     Palestinians “disappointed” after “tense meeting” with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special emissary (The Hill)

    Key disagreement: US wants Palestinians to stop paying terrorists for killing Jews.

    Palestinian Authority likes paying them. Abbas told Trump it would stop and simply assumed the president knew he was lying.

    Trump held him to account.

    The PA has also been adamant about keeping incendiary, anti-Semitic materials in their school textbooks.

    The larger problems for Abbas: no succession lined up, and the Middle East is moving forward without them.

    Comment: My guess: Trump will look at Kushner’s report of the meetings and decide this is not a good time to push forward with negotiations.

    Trump has always understood something about these negotiations that most presidents don’t: the US can help if both parties want an agreement. But it cannot force an agreement on parties that don’t want one and aren’t prepared to make serious concessions.

     Oklahoma doctor prescribed so many painkillers, she’s being charged with murder in one patient’s death  (Washington Post)

    The patient, Sheila Bartels, received

    what drug addicts call “the holy trinity” of prescription drugs: the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant known as Soma.

    In total, pharmacists handed her 510 pills that day — all legal, because she had a prescription with the signature of her doctor, Regan Ganoung Nichols, scrawled at the bottom, according to a probable cause affidavit. –Washington Post

    Comment: Cracking down on excessive prescriptions is crucial in this fight.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Sam Stubbs
     for the Sanders bank fraud story
    ◆ Gregg Roman for the University of Arkansas speech-suppression story

     

  • Important new book: How Pakistan and Iran supported Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

     Documenting how some states helped Al Qaeda

    Pakistan has long been known to have supported the Taliban and to have had links with al-Qaeda.  A new book by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, and reviewed here by one of America’s premier terrorism experts, Bruce Hoffman, documents not only how extensive the ties were, but also the important complicity of Iran.

    The authors detail Pakistan’s harboring of Osama bin-Laden. 

    Yet, due to the Afghan War and its difficult logistics requirements, the Bush administration was ineffective in pressuring the Pakistani regime to take a firmer line toward its own ISI military intelligence service and the refuge they provided.

    In turn the Obama administration walked a delicate line with Iran in the hope not only of reaching the nuclear agreement, but of establishing rapport with Tehran.

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    Bruce Hoffman’s Very Positive Review of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s The Exile

     Hoffman reviews the book at the War on the Rocks blog (link)

    The book’s main argument is that neither bin Laden nor the movement he created could have survived without the active support of persons at the apex of both Pakistan’s and especially Iran’s intelligence services. The critical roles played by both countries in sheltering and protecting key al-Qaeda leaders and their families has of course long been known. But no other publicly available source comes as close to The Exile in presenting this familiar story either in as much detail or from the first-hand perspective of the key dramatis personae. New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall’s 2014 book, The Wrong Enemy, for example, had forcefully advanced the same claim regarding Pakistan’s complicity. The Exile goes considerably further: both in fleshing out the story and providing additional substantiation through the new information from multiple first-hand perspectives that Scott-Clark and Levy rely on. –Bruce Hoffman review of Scott-Clark and Levy’s The Exile

    Hoffman concludes

    The Exile’s main value . . . is in the new light that it sheds on the day-to-day Herculean efforts required simultaneously to protect bin Laden and his family while maintaining open lines of communications to his deputies, acolytes, financiers, and factotums dispersed across Pakistan, Iran, and more distant battlefields.

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    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • D-Day remembered: Eisenhower walking with Walter Cronkite through an American cemetery in Normandy

    It is unbelievably moving.

    Remember, Cronkite himself was one of “Ed Murrow’s boys,” the people Ed hired to report the war in Europe.

    (Below the Eisenhower clip is another of Murrow’s boys reporting from Normandy on D-Day itself, 73 years ago today.)

    One personal connection: my neighbor down the street, Courtney Wright, a Brit and a retired physicist, was navigator on the ship that took Eisenhower ashore the next day.

    And this is another of Murrow’s boys, Charles Collingwood, giving his radio report from Normandy on D-Day itself.

    It’s a live recording, introduced by Murrow.

     

  • Why the Six Day War Remains So Important . . . and Why the Media Get it Wrong. Remembering Israel’s victory on its 50th Anniversary

     A War for Survival

    Fifty years ago this week, Israel, with its survival at stake, overcame daunting odds to defeat its Arab adversaries in the Six Day War.

    The consequences of that epic victory can be found in Israel’s continuing control of the West Bank with its largely Palestinian population. 

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    Getting It Wrong

    For the MSM, it’s all about the “Occupation”

     To mark the anniversary, The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Economist have all published multi-page sections on the “Occupation,” primarily from the standpoint of the Palestinians.

    In the process, they gloss over the reasons why, after half a century, it has been impossible to achieve a peaceful end to the conflict.

    These news outlets–and many more–consistently portray Israel as the dominant and more intransigent partner.

    Although the Palestinians are not held blameless, the analyses pin the blame mainly on Israel, particularly its settlements. The Jewish State, they say, is the primary obstacle to peace.

    Their proposed solution follows from that perspective.

    To break this impasse Israel, as the stronger party, must make far-sighted concessions to achieve peace.

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    Getting It Right

    Valuable Essays by Bret Stephens and Michael Mandelbaum

     The most fitting corrective to this reductive treatment can be found in concise, instructive essays by Bret Stephens and Michael Mandelbaum.

    Stephens, writing in the New York Times, criticizes widespread “ahistoric nonsense” and fittingly summarizes the record of Arab intransigence which in the Palestinian case has no end in sight.

    On June 19, 1967 — nine days after the end of the war — the Israeli cabinet decided it would offer the return of territories conquered from Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace, security and recognition. The Arab League categorically rejected peace with Israel at its summit in Khartoum later that year.

    In 1973 Egypt and Syria unleashed a devastating surprise attack on Israel, puncturing the myth of Israeli invulnerability.

    It took a decade after 1967 for the Egyptian government of Anwar Sadat finally to accept Israel’s legitimacy. When he did he recovered every inch of Sinai — from Menachem Begin, Israel’s right-wing prime minister. Syria remains unreconciled.

    It took another decade for Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to recognize Israel and formally forswear terrorism. But its pledges were insincere. –Bret Stephens, column in the New York Times

    Stephens’ concludes the essay powerfully, with a reference to a true peacemaker, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat:

    In 1967 Israel was forced into a war against enemies who then begrudged it the peace. Egypt, at least, found its Sadat. The drama of the Six-Day War will close when Palestinians find theirs. –Bret Stephens

    Mandelbaum, writing in Commentary, offers an equally insightful analysis:. The whole article is worth reading, but he summarizes his analysis in a single, astute sentence,

    In fact, each side has wanted the conflict to end, but in radically different and indeed incompatible ways that have made a settlement impossible: The Israelis have wanted peace; the Palestinians have wanted the destruction of Israel–Michael Mandelbaum

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    PHOTOGRAPHS: Before and After the Six Day War

    Captions by Charles Lipson

     

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    UPDATE: The article has been updated to correct the publication where Michael Mandelbaum’s analysis and quote appear. His article is in Commentary. magazine, not The American Interest, where he published an article on a related topic. The link has been updated to reflect the change.

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    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 30

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     No more Mr. Nice Guy: America changes tactics on ISIS, don’t make them flee, make them die (Fox News)

    Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday the U.S. has switched to “annihilation tactics” against the Islamic State and is focused on completely surrounding the militants instead of moving them from place to place.

    “Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot,” Mattis said. –Fox News

     Iran to renew funding for Hamas terrorists  (Times of Israel)

    This was actually not an easy negotiation since they two differed over Syria, with Iran backing Assad, Hamas opposing him.

    They also come from different Islamic sects, Shiite for Iran, Sunni for Hamas.

    The deal to restore Hamas’s financial support came after marathon meetings in Lebanon between officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, the report said.

    Relations between Iran and Hamas have been rocky since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, when the Palestinian terror organization came out against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is backed by Tehran. –Times of Israel

    Comment: Despite their differences, these Hamas and Iran do have one thing in common. They love killing Jews.

     Pentagon will test new anti-missile system as North Korean offensive capabilities continue to advance  (CNN)

    Comment: The issue is rapidly coming to a head as Pyongyang speeds up its testing. Intel experts are forecasting North Korea will be able to miniaturize its nuclear missiles and reach the US in as little as 3 years. South Korea and Japan will be in the crosshairs sooner.

    The danger here is profound, not only from a North Korean nuclear attack but from a conventional war. Seoul, South Korea, is a huge city and within easy reach of thousands of North Korean short-range missiles in hardened sites.

    As the US works hard on this system, with millions of lives in multiple countries at stake, the short-sighted politicians who have opposed anti-missile research for decades have a lot to answer for. 

     All Germany’s top politicians agree with Angela Merkel’s criticism of Donald Trump, say Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands” (Washington Post)

    As they campaign against each other ahead of national elections in September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief political rival, Martin Schulz, find themselves united in opposition to President Trump.

    Speaking at a beer hall rally in Munich on Sunday, Merkel suggested that the era when Europe could rely on the United States may be coming to an end and that the continent “really must take our fate into our own hands.” . . .

    Yet rather than criticize his rival or her Christian Democratic Union-led government for the strained relationship with Trump, Schulz has passionately offered support. –Washington Post

    Comment: It is unclear what “taking their fate into their own hands” actually means. If it means a Europe led by Germany, the world order will shake, but not before France and Russia do.

     Venezuela in chaos: opposition leaders injured (Reuters)

    Two Venezuelan opposition leaders were wounded on Monday by security forces dispersing protests in the capital Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro, according to one of the leaders and an opposition legislator.

    Maduro’s adversaries have for two months been blocking highways and setting up barricades in protests demanding he call early elections and address an increasingly severe economic crisis that has left millions struggling to get enough to eat.

    Fifty-nine people have died in the often violent street melees, which Maduro calls an effort to overthrow his government. –Reuters

     

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  • The PERFECT story for Memorial Day: Lessons from an “Ordinary” Man Who Helped Liberate Europe

    The story, as told by Col. James Moschgat, begins with his daily encounters with the janitor, “an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy.”

    That quiet man, going about his work, was Bill Crawford. He was

    mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.

    Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. –Col. James Moschgat, “A Janitor’s Ten Lessons in Leadership”

    He did his job well, but he was shy and just “blended into the woodwork,”says Moschgat. That’s why few cadets noticed Mr. Crawford, except to exchange a friendly hello.

    That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story. On Sept. 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.

    The words on the page leapt out at me: “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire … with no regard for personal safety … on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States …”

    “Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor winner.”

    Col. Moschgat goes on to underscore the life lessons he learned–none of them earth-shattering but all of them rock-solid, worth taking to heart. Everyone deserves respect. Courtesy makes a difference. Leaders should be humble. Take your time to know your people. No Job is Beneath a Leader. (The last one reminds me of a story I read about General James Mattis, who pulled Christmas duty so one of his Marines could spend the holiday with family.)

    And one lesson that Moschgat surely drew from his story about the janitor: “Anyone can be a hero.”

    Bill Crawford was a janitor.  However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model and one great American hero.   Thanks, Mr. Crawford, for some valuable leadership lessons. –Col. Moschgat

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    The citation for Pvt. Crawford’s Medal of Honor tells of his exceptional courage:

    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943.

    When Company I attacked an enemy-held position on Hill 424, the 3rd Platoon, in which Pvt. Crawford was a squad scout, attacked as base platoon for the company. After reaching the crest of the hill, the platoon was pinned down by intense enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire. Locating 1 of these guns, which was dug in on a terrace on his immediate front, Pvt. Crawford, without orders and on his own initiative, moved over the hill under enemy fire to a point within a few yards of the gun emplacement and single-handedly destroyed the machine-gun and killed 3 of the crew with a hand grenade, thus enabling his platoon to continue its advance.

    When the platoon, after reaching the crest, was once more delayed by enemy fire, Pvt. Crawford again, in the face of intense fire, advanced directly to the front midway between 2 hostile machine-gun nests located on a higher terrace and emplaced in a small ravine. Moving first to the left, with a hand grenade he destroyed 1 gun emplacement and killed the crew; he then worked his way, under continuous fire, to the other and with 1 grenade and the use of his rifle, killed 1 enemy and forced the remainder to flee.

    Seizing the enemy machine gun, he fired on the withdrawing Germans and facilitated his company’s advance.

    –Medal of Honor citation. United States Army Center of Military History

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    With many thanks to Tim Favero, who shared this story with me.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, May 27

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Comment: Trump’s Trip in a Nutshell 

    • Saudi: Completely reverses Obama’s disastrous tilt toward Iran, reorients US policy to fight Iran and terrorism, makes a promising effort to incorporate a large coalition of Muslim states in the fight; good speech, too
    • Israel: Hard to say whether the Palestinian-Israel talks will go anywhere; what Trump did in Saudi does set a positive context, but it is still a stretch; the negatives are that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas will do everything they can to stop it, and the Palestinians have no effective government to make peace with, nor has their population come to grips with the far-reaching and permanent concessions they will have to make; the Israelis have no confidence that a peace deal would be adhered to or give them more security
    • NATO: Telling the Europeans the hard truth that they need to pay up is good. What’s bad is Trump’s failure to restate the core principle of NATO, that an attack on one is an attack on all (Article 5). That omission could send a catastrophic signal to Russia about the vulnerable Baltic states, which are NATO members. The only reasonable explanation is that Trump is signaling the Europeans that, if you don’t pay up, you cannot expect us to treat you as full alliance partners. Very risky business.

     Jared Kushner’s talk with Russians during transition included possibility of establishing back channel to discuss issues such as Syria  (Washington Post)

    Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. . . .

    The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

    The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

    Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team. –Washington Post

    Comment: Initial public interest has focused on the idea of a “back channel.” That’s not what’s important here; back channel communications are common. What’s important here is two things. First, the idea of using the Russians’ equipment to communicate this is amazingly amateurish and reckless (or at least at seems that way to me, as a non-professional in secret communications with adversaries). This scheme was probably Flynn’s misjudgment and Kushner’s inexperience. Second, it says the Trump team was extremely concerned the Obama administration was monitoring everything they had to figure out a different way to communicate securely.

    A third issue is bound to come up. What did they want to talk about? If they were talking about Syria, you could criticize them for undermining the sitting president. If they were doing anything that affected the business interests of private parties–and there is no indication they were–then that would be corruption.

     Hillary reappears at Wellesley Commencement, bitter, and attacking Trump (Washington Post)

    Comment: This has to be a Republican plot. It has to be.

    Only the Republicans could possibly gain from having Hillary out there hectoring the crowds, her shrill voice and tone-deaf delivery proving she still cannot give a decent speech, despite her having received tens of millions for giving them. (That’s a cruel joke, of course. She was paid because she and Bill provided access to power. It was a corrupt, rent-extraction game on a vast scale.)

    For Democrats, the real problem is that she reminds people of the none-too-glorious past and makes it harder for the party to develop new faces for the future. To recharge things, the Democrats need some new voices. It would help if they were not yet living in a retirement community on Social Security and a Reverse Mortgage.  

     US, worried about North Korea, plans a test shoot-down of ICBM  (ABC)

    Comment: The dangers from North Korean nukes are real and present. Their last test was a solid-fuel rocket (which means it can be launched quickly) and went to a very high altitude (which means it can already hit targets as far away as Guam).

    To kill these intercontinental missiles, which leave the atmosphere, is different from killing shorter-range missiles.

    The US has been working on this incredibly complex technical task since Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). The latest iteration is what they will be testing.

    There is a partisan-political dimension here, too, aside from the need to fund the program. Now that America needs a serious anti-missile defense to protect against a North Korean attack on the continental US, people might want to look back and ask who has opposed, undermined, and underfunded that research at every stage over the past three decades. These political opponents, unlike North Korean missiles, won’t be especially hard to identify.

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  • Arab Development Report: Grim numbers on terror and battle deaths

    ◆ The Arab Human Development Report for 2016 lays out the awful data for millions of innocents living in the region.

    • 5% of the world’s population
    • 45% of the world’s terrorist attacks
    • 68.5% of the world’s battle-related deathsarab-development-report-2015

     

    The report was compiled by the UN Human Development Programme, Regional Bureau for Arab States. A free download is available at their website.

    ♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Martin Kramer
     for this story

  • Churchill’s powerful oratory and his short, strong words

    Short words are best, and the old words when short are best of all.

    Winston Churchill

    “My method is simple,” he once said, “I like to use Anglo-Saxon words with the least number of syllables.”

    Some of his most memorable phrases are crafted exactly that way:

    We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

    Only one word in that entire sentence–surrender–is of Latin origin.

    But he knows when to juxtapose the long and short. Take another iconic line:

    poster-never-was-so-muchNever in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

    Much of its strength comes from the orotund phrasing of the first portion “field of human conflict,” following by the powerful string of short words.