american power &amp; the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/178/0 cached version 18/07/2018 23:23:12 en Trumpism in Europe's mainstream https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/federico-finchelstein-andrea-mammone/trumpism-in-europes-mainstream <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>European elites criticise Trump yet echo his extremist agenda. As well as hypocritical, this is perilous to democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36995330.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36995330.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Axis of the willing': Seehofer and Kurz in a press conference at the Interior Ministry in Berlin, Germany on June 13, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Donald Trump’s first visit to the United Kingdom since he became United States president was met with a wave of protests whose sights, across the weekend of 13-15 July, included a six-metre tall "Trump baby" floating high above central London and a hand-glider flying close to the president's entourage as he surveyed one of his Scottish golf courses. <br /><br />Trump's comments in an interview with the tabloid Sun on the eve of his arrival – harshly criticising his host, prime minister Theresa May, attacking her policy over Brexit, and denouncing the European Union itself&nbsp; – fuelled domestic political divisions. A fair number of British MPs, such as <a href="https://twitter.com/sarahwollaston">Sarah Wollaston</a> of the governing Conservative Party, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/13/mps-voice-outrage-at-repulsive-donald-trump-broadside-against-theresa-may">described</a> his rhetoric as "divisive, "repulsive", and “determined to insult". “If signing up to the Trump world view is the price of a [free trade] deal, it’s not worth paying”, she said.)<br /><br />This was but the latest of many disruptive episodes, both domestic and foreign, in Trump's presidency. But the two parts are linked by the way that Trump embodies the current expansion of racist and nationalist policies on a global scale precisely by presenting himself as the antithesis of Europe. In fact, his separation of immigrant children from their parents and then their caging, while talking of “infestation”, were presented in tandem with his ominous warning about the threatening example of European “openness” towards migrants coming to America.<br /><br />Such instances of racism in the age of Trumpism are clearly a real threat to democracy. Yet the further problem is that even in reacting to them, hypocrisy has become a guiding principle. Thus some European politicians criticise Trump and implicitly project a sense of their moral superiority even as they too get tougher on border controls and migrants' conditions. Britain's official "hostile environment", for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/12/ucl-row-email-immigration-check-fine-draconian-discriminatory">requires</a> landlords,&nbsp; doctors, public servants, and even universities to act as border guards and ID checkers. <br /><br />This is not an isolated case. Interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy – a self-described “axis of the willing” – met <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-austria-germany/germany-and-austria-plan-talks-with-italy-to-shut-southern-migrant-route-idUKKBN1JV1WN">ahead</a> of an EU ministerial summit on 12-13 July to reinforce their anti-immigrant bloc. Their radical proposals to the EU, under Austria's aegis as current holder of its council <a href="http://www.austria.org/eupresidency-2018/">presidency</a>, did not find favour, leading the EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to <a href="https://twitter.com/EU2018AT">say</a> that “unity, solidarity, wisdom, responsibility and common sense have prevailed.” <br /><br />But in truth, solidarity is losing its meaning, not only on the Mexican border but across the Atlantic. Many EU member-states refuse any relocation of refugees from outside Europe, an approach <span></span><a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/viktor-orban-migration-eu-has-won-the-argument/">pioneered</a> by Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Even Germany's government, leaning more to the right since the September election, has been virulently <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-government-agrees-on-migration-compromise/a-44546969">divided</a> on the issue. Italy's interior minister in its new government, Matteo Salvini, has banned charity rescue boats from docking in Italian ports, leaving migrants (including those with children) stranded in vessels for days in the Mediterranean Sea. Most recently, Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš has refused a <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-italy-germany/italy-to-take-some-migrants-after-eu-countries-offer-to-help-idUKKBN1K50K0">request</a> from Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte to accept some of a group of asylum-seekers in Italian waters; only five EU member-states out of twenty-seven have responded positively to Conte’s appeal. <span class="mag-quote-center">The reality is that the establishment critique of anti-system forces, including the far right and populism, has become full of selective double standards.</span>The reality is that the establishment critique of anti-system forces, including the far right and populism, has become full of selective double standards. Many European governments and and neo-liberal pundits embrace a tough immigration stance even as they scorn the harsh treatment and extreme rhetoric of Italy's new coalition government. At the same time, many from these elites are almost silent about the far-right nationalism of leaders such as Orbán, whom alt-right champion Steve Bannon has <a href="https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/orban-is-the-original-trump-says-bannon-in-budapest-1.733756">hailed</a> as the "Trump before Trump”. <br /><br />Why is this? An easy answer is that populists and far-right leaders are more acceptable when and if they belong to the same party family or political group. Many EU conservative politicians who are critical of the Italian government are members of the centre-right European People’s Party (<a href="http://www.epp.eu/about-us/history/">EPP</a>) which, born of post-1945 strands of Christian democracy and allied forces, has long exerted strong influence over the main EU institutions. But in practice the boundaries between such moderate conservatives and the far right are often porous. </p><p>For example, when former neo-fascists of the <em>Movimento Sociale Italiano</em>/<em>Alleanza Nazionale</em> merged with Silvio Berlusconi’s EPP-affiliated <em>Forza Italia</em> in the tycoon’s new party movement, <em>Il Popolo della Libertà</em> (PdL), they were accepted among centre-right moderates in the European parliament. Some are still there. Orbán’s own party, <em>Fidesz</em> (Hungarian Civic Alliance) is an <a href="http://www.epp.eu/about-us/leaders/">affiliate</a> of the EPP, as is the <a href="https://www.oevp.at/English">ÖVP</a> (Austrian People’s Party) of Austria’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz.<br /><br />In the US too, fellow centre-right politicians support Hungary's right-wing government. In January, the Republican congressman Andy Harris urged his colleagues to sign a <a href="http://dearcolleague.us/2018/01/sign-letter-to-support-hungarian-american-relations/) ">letter</a> to “Overturn Obama Era Policy to Fund Media to Interfere in Hungarian Elections”, on the basis that Orbán is “an outspoken defender of Western civilization … against mass immigration and the hegemony of Brussels. … [and] a vocal supporter of President Trump.” <br /><br />In fact, there is an important overlap between the US and the selective European legitimation of populist and extreme right-wingers. A notable case is Venezuela, whose turn to incipient dictatorship has been condemned across the political spectrum in the US, including by the Republican Party. At the same time, most Republicans have in essence tolerated and even supported the repressive, racist nature of Trumpism. After Nicolás Maduro’s triumph, the Trump administration was <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-moves-to-tighten-squeeze-on-venezuelan-government/2018/05/21/174930e8-5d26-11e8-b2b8-08a538d9dbd6_story.html?utm_term=.7836caab5608">unable</a> to explain why it considered Venezuela's election undemocratic, when the president had congratulated “other elected authoritarian presidents, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” <br /><br />The Italian coalition government of <em>Lega</em> and<em> Movimento 5 Stelle</em> (5 Star) is, like Maduro, close to Putin; but unlike the Venezuelan dictator, Italy’s anti-system movements are also becoming closer to Trumpism and its close partners. They back each other, as when Salvini met Raymond Burke, a powerful Trump-supporting US cardinal. Just as Trump's slogan is "America First", so the Italian interior minister states his guiding principle to be “Italians First”. Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjártó, referring to the migration emergency, similarly <a href="http://fidesz-eu.hu/en/migration-neither-human-right-desirable-process">declares</a> that "the security of our own citizens must come first.” Like Trump, these European politicians use the idea of being anti-political as a camouflage for their racism.<br /><br />Within governmental institutions and moderate parties, in other words, there has been a gradual legitimising and accepting of ultra-right wing culture. In the process, the pervasive impact of this culture on western constitutional democracies has been overlooked. The result is less democracy and more extremist policies.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Federico Finchelstein, <a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520295193"><em>From Fascism to Populism in History</em></a> (University of California Press, 2017)</p><p>Andrea Mammone, <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/transnational-neofascism-in-france-and-italy/B31418CB9C7068E94E78E1DA1F117ECD"><em>Transnational Neofascism in France and Italy</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2015)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/pablo-piccato-federico-finchelstein/resisting-trumpism">Resisting Trumpism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/westminster/andrea-mammone/european-democracies-and-far-right">Does calling far-right parties &#039;populist&#039; legitimise them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/as-europe-looks-fearfully-outside-its-liberal-democracy-is-under-attack">As Europe looks fearfully outside, its liberal democracy is under attack from within</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? american power & the world Andrea Mammone Federico Finchelstein Mon, 16 Jul 2018 08:12:24 +0000 Federico Finchelstein and Andrea Mammone 118888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump’s folly with Iran means Europe must show what it stands for https://www.opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/trump-s-folly-with-iran-means-europe-must-show-what-it-stands-for <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A collapse of the Iran nuclear agreement could spark catastrophic, global conflict. Time for Europeans to close the gap between words and action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-36391214_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-36391214_460.jpg" alt="United States President Donald J. Trump makes a statement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran " title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Criminal folly with global implications" Image: Martin H. Simon/CNP/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>In 2003, as United States troops arrived “at the gates of Baghdad”, openDemocracy’s prescient columnist Paul Rogers <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1127.jsp">predicted a 30 years’ war</a>. He warned that “the US’s current global ambitions guarantee bitter and prolonged conflict in the Middle East and beyond”. Along with Rogers, the late Fred Halliday&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/globalization/again_3267.jsp">emphasised that Iran</a> was bound to be the strategic victor of the United States’ conquest of Iraq. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">For Trump to abandon rather than build on the deal is a criminal folly with global implications</p> <p>At least our writers expected the war to be fought and ended in the Middle East. President Donald Trump’s catastrophic decision, announced yesterday, to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal makes their predictions not nearly pessimistic enough. Trump means the opposite of what he says: he claims he is blocking an Iranian road to war, but in fact he and his allies in Israel are sparking a new, potentially global, round of conflict. </p> <p>Using remote-control murder by drone as his shield, President Barack Obama attempted to limit the United States’ Iraq defeat and to rebuild the global alliance that had supported his country when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Obama’s expansion of drone warfare to achieve this end was a cynical calculation. It had devastating consequences for some of the world’s most powerless people and has set a dangerous precedent. But Obama had one outstanding success: the 2015 Iran deal. Washington brought Russia, China and the European Union together to oblige Iran to relinquish its nuclear weapons programme, in an unprecedented, practical and enforced worldwide agreement. </p> <p>For Trump to abandon rather than build on the deal is a criminal folly with global implications. The least of it is that the United States will be seen in the Middle East as a patsy for Israeli-inspired regime change and inhumane expansion into Palestinian territories. Washington is already becoming increasingly isolated in this respect: this is what lies behind the vow of its United Nations ambassador, <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/20/politics/nikki-haley-taking-names-on-jerusalem/index.html">Nikki Haley, to “take names”</a> of countries that vote in favour of a motion criticising the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. </p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 18pt; margin-bottom: 6pt;">Provoking China</h2> <p>But beyond the Middle East the situation is graver still. Last week the United States demanded <a href="http://xqdoc.imedao.com/16329fa0c8b2da913fc9058b.pdf">a new trade relationship</a> with China. The provocation is vividly summarised by Martin Wolf in the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/dd2af6b0-4fc1-11e8-9471-a083af05aea7"><em>Financial Times</em></a>, who concludes, “No great sovereign power could accept such a humiliation. For China, it would be a modern version of the ‘unequal treaties’ of the 19th century.” </p> <p>As if an all-out trade war with Beijing were not enough, Trump has announced there will be far-reaching sanctions on those who continue to do business with Iran. The European Union has vowed a “united approach” in opposition to this, and Germany, France and Britain have issued a statement <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/08/europe-denounces-trumps-us-withdrawal-from-iran-nuclear-deal?CMP=twt_gu">reaffirming their commitment to the Iran deal</a>, which they see as essential to preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. A destruction of the international economic system, even without the likely economic crash, could follow from a stand-off between the United States, China and the European Union as oil prices rise. That’s before an open conflict across the Middle East that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to relish. If those already fighting the proxy war that has devastated Syria attack each other directly, it could close the Straits of Hormuz, throttling the world supply of oil whatever the price.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The president will have consulted with Rupert Murdoch before making his final call</p> <p>When Trump amplified his rhetoric against North Korea he prevailed on China to force it to the negotiating table. No such way out seems likely now with respect to Iran. His folly is possibly unsurpassed by any previous United States president. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mehrdad-khonsari/europe-must-honour-its-commitments-and-protect-nuclear-deal">Mehrdad Konsari, a former Iranian diplomat</a>, writing for openDemocracy’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia">North Africa West Asia project</a> just a few days ago, noted the irony of “the rise of ‘Iran Hawks’ in the US… when ideological radicals are but a minority in Iran’s ruling establishment with very little public support”. Trump’s threats to renege on the deal have been, he added, a “god-sent gift for reviving the fortunes of Iranian hard-liners”.</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 18pt; margin-bottom: 6pt;">Dreamers of the left</h2><p>The results will be felt far beyond Iran. Every act of unilateral, international aggression, such as the one the United States has just perpetrated, has immense domestic consequences. This is something the Trump team perhaps understands well, and the president will have consulted with Rupert Murdoch and other United States oligarchs skilled at public manipulation before making his final call. With few exceptions, across the United States and Britain, the democratic and liberal centre and left have been largely paralysed since the surprise of Brexit and the election of Trump, hoping that these horrors will somehow be foiled by impeachment or a parliamentary vote, as if they are nightmares from which their countries can awake if they try hard enough. In fact, it is the opponents of Trump and Brexit who have been dreaming rather than getting to grips with reality, as the political philosopher <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">Michael Sandel has argued</a> in a powerful lecture which we are publishing today. </p> <p>As Trump demonstrates, the hard right prefers to up the stakes rather than embrace a more moderate approach, which the president’s allies and some advisors pressed him towards. This means we have to prepare ourselves for worse to come. The first popular test will be the upcoming midterm elections in the United States, when voters might well drum out Republican candidates. But international confrontation is always used to rally people to the flag and legitimate the suppression of opposition. Trump will bring the war home. </p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 18pt; margin-bottom: 6pt;">What Europe can do</h2> <p>And yet Trump’s leap into the unknown provides an opportunity for the divided continent of Europe to find common ground and to play a constructive role in the world. Progressive democrats in Europe are mired in problems on their own doorstep: Brexit is less of a threat than Hungary’s slide into xenophobic autocracy (read Anthony Barnett’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/anthony-barnett/orb-n-get-lost-to-tulipy-cunt-hungary-threatens-european-union-photo-essay-from-buda">recent dispatch from Budapest</a>), historic victories for the far right in Austria, and Poland’s rapid de-democratisation, all swelled by a surge in anti-immigrant and racist propaganda. There is certainly a risk, compounded by Brexit, that Britain will buckle on the Iran deal in an attempt to curry favour with the Trump regime; the free-trade-at-all-cost, buccaneering Atlanticists who hold sway over the weak government of Prime Minister Theresa May will push in that direction.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Remember, too, the hypocrisy on view in dealings with Saudi Arabia</p> <p>However, Britain is still scarred by its last experience of following a United States president who promised a crusade of good against evil; the French president, Emmanuel Macron, despite warm personal relations with Trump, has described the United States’ <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/macron-goes-against-trump-on-paris-climate-deal-and-iran-nuclear-accord">flip-flopping on international agreements as “insane”</a>; and the continued commitment of Russia and China to the Iran deal offers European leaders an opportunity to follow a different path, both in style and substance. </p><p>It will require bravery and vision, given the United States’ economic muscle. Europe badly needs to reassert a shared narrative, but the gap between the words and actions of Europe’s so-called leaders can be wide indeed: witness their anodyne press releases about ‘shared values’, while cutting cynical deals with Turkey in order to keep out the migrant “swarms” – to use the racist language of a former British prime minister, David Cameron. Remember, too, the hypocrisy on view – particularly from Britain – in dealings with Saudi Arabia, another regime which exports regional chaos and abuses citizens at home. It was remarkable that the British press seemed to swallow and parrot wholesale the official narrative of last year’s Saudi ‘anti-corruption’ purge by the new ‘reforming’ Crown Prince, as if allowing women to drive could counterbalance the direction of a brutal war in Yemen and countless other human rights outrages.</p> <p>But standing up to Trump, a bully who represents the very antithesis of what it <i>should </i>mean to be European right now, might just help to start closing the gap between words and action in Europe. An epochal fight for democracy, liberty and human rights for all, of every race, gender and religion, is under way. It is time for all who can to stand together, demonstrating the wisdom, solidarity and imagination that Trump’s toxic, polarising project lacks. There is no margin for error.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Conflict International politics north america europe american power & the world Mary Fitzgerald Wed, 09 May 2018 10:59:48 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 117766 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to make America great again? Bully Mexico. https://www.opendemocracy.net/piers-purdy/how-to-make-america-great-again-bully-mexico <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">As President Trump concludes his first week in the White House with extremely protectionist policies, there will be no sigh of relief in Latin America.&nbsp;<strong><em>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/piers-purdy/c-mo-hacer-que-am-rica-vuelva-grande-otra-vez-atacando-m-xico">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-29866506.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-29866506.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A ''No Trespassing'' sign marks the U.S./Mexico border wall. PAimages/Graham Charles Hunt Zuma. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The inauguration of the new US President, Donald Trump, certainly carried some jingoistic overtones. His electoral success was to a great extent built on his promise to put America first and protect the interests of ‘our people’ and in doing so, he has organised a line-up of usual suspects: the political establishment, the CIA, radical Islam, the press, women’s rights, China, and of course, Mexico. As central points in his campaign, his short-term popularity as a president will be measured on his ability to get visible results in these areas. And anyone unconvinced by the President’s ability to put his words into action should only see his performance during his first week in office.</p> <p>On Mexico, Trump will continue the policy trend set by his two previous incumbents of heightened security on the US-Mexico border and deportations. “We’re going to build that wall” brought Trump’s controversial character into the international spotlight during the Republican primaries. Yet this is a symbolic policy, radical and controversial for the unacceptable prejudice and slurs against Mexicans with which it was delivered, rather than offering a new solution to the challenges of migration.</p> <p>In 2006, both Republicans and Democrats, including Obama, <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/house-bill/6061">voted to fund President Bush’s 1100km double-layer reinforced fencing and enhanced security</a> along parts of its 3,200km southern border with Mexico. Obama further strengthened this policy of securitisation, and was later described as having <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/house-bill/6061">“the most border patrols and border security deployed at the border of any pervious president”</a>. This was the very same president who in 2014 came to earn the nickname <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/mar/17/janet-murguia/activist-janet-murguia-calls-obama-deporter-chief-/">‘deporter-in-chief’</a>, having deported over 2.5 million immigrants during his two terms in office. US policy on immigration from the South has typically confronted symptoms with force, rather than tackling the root causes – and while Trump will throw a little more fuel on the fire, in doing so he is reinforcing the trend set by his predecessors with added vengeance.</p> <p>Then perhaps it is the new President’s promises to bring factories home and the renegotiation of trade deals that present the biggest threat to Mexico. On a platform of protectionist trade policies, Trump has blamed unfavourable trade deals (namely NAFTA) and transnational supply chains for economic woes back home: job losses, factory closures and wage depression. He has failed, however, to address the real impact of technological change in the US’ post-industrial economy job market. Nevertheless, he has managed to convince much of America and his promise to bring back jobs and dignity to the Midwest - particularly the Rustbelt states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana – is the reason why so many of his supporters have been able to look past his <em>unpresidential</em> persona.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">No matter how fearless he is of controversy, there is only so far Trump will be able to push his agenda.</p> <p>And before even sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, Trump claimed credit via Twitter for persuading Ford to retain a factory and 700 jobs in Kentucky, instead of moving them to Mexico. (<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/us/politics/donald-trump-takes-credit-for-helping-to-save-a-ford-plant-that-wasnt-closing.html?_r=0">The fact that Ford’s planned changes would have resulted in 0 job losses is by the by</a>).</p> <p>Yet Trump will soon come face to face with the real implications of his promises. Let’s take Ohio for example, a state in which he narrowly beat Hilary Clinton with 51.2% and had claimed “manufacturing is down by 30%, 40% sometimes 50%” as a result of NAFTA (again, <a href="http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Donald_Trump_Free_Trade.htm">the real impact is actually closer to 1%</a>). This is a state for which Mexico represents its <a href="https://development.ohio.gov/files/research/B2004.pdf">second largest export market</a>, mainly in the form of vehicle parts, plastics, iron and steel products. Mexico – as the US’ 3rd largest supplier of import goods – uses these resources to return vehicles ($74m), electrical machinery ($63m), machinery ($49m) and optical/medical instruments ($12m) back into the US market.</p> <p>The agreement has certainly faced just scrutiny, with <a href="http://www.cgdev.org/blog/us-mexico-wage-gap-has-grown-not-shrunk-under-nafta-awkward">a Center for Global Development report</a> showing the US-Mexico wage gap having grown, <em>not </em>shrunk since 1994, and <a href="https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42965.pdf">only modest benefits</a> on both sides of the border. But, echoing current post-Brexit discussions in Europe, the solution is not hostility between countries, or the cessation of economic agreements, but more cooperation and better economic integration. </p> <p>Any move to attack the agreement, increase trade restrictions on Mexican imports and disrupt the inter-state supply chain would likely trigger a retaliation from Mexico in equal measure. Prices would rise, as would social tensions, and there is no guarantee that the result would be a net increase in US job opportunities. This impact would be immediate and detrimental for American families in the communities Donald Trump promised to protect. Furthermore, the President would have to pull off a constitutional coup to do so, and this in itself carries political consequences. For short term credit, Trump is more than capable of enacting his executive powers to see this happen and as the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/us/politics/mexico-wall-tax-trump.html">potential move to impose 20% tax on Mexican goods</a> to fund the construction of the border wall suggests, he is more than willing to take US-Mexico relations to an all-time low. But in shooting America in the foot, he risks destabilising a popular support base and losing political allies. And no matter how fearless he is of controversy, there is only so far Trump will be able to push his agenda.</p> <p>So, Mexico is likely to face more than political posturing from Trump – but at a price. And, “so long as Raul Castro doesn’t go too heavy on the Che Guevara and treat the US like it’s the 1950s” (in the words of <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/01/17/in-latin-america-mexico-the-only-real-loser-under-trump/#40e0b4765cf1">Forbes</a>), the rest of Latin America is expected to remain with the status quo. But there’s a problem here: the status quo isn’t good enough and Trump’s presidency is likely to produce the political and economic conditions for things to deteriorate.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;The Chinese factor in Latin America</strong></p> <p>But if the US turns its back to Mexico and Latin America, is the region ready to stand up on its own? The expanding role of China in Latin America has provided an alternative to the unpopular Cold War narrative of <em>American imperialism</em>. Seen by some as the strengthening of South-South cooperation – and a direct challenge to the Northern hegemony – the extractive industries of Latin America were central to fulfilling high levels of Chinese demand, and consequential growth, from the 1990s on. So much so that between the period of 1975 and 2006, bilateral trade grew from $200m to $70bn. And while the recent commodity slump dampened Chinese trade in the region, it has not curbed its activity.</p> <p>Chinese loans in the region <a href="https://www.bu.edu/pardeeschool/files/2015/02/Economic-Bulletin-2015.pdf">rose sharply in 2013 and 2014</a>, with $22.1bn of new Chinese loans in 2014 representing more than the combined value of loans from the region’s two traditional multilateral lenders (the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) – particularly in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. And while the global financial institutions of the liberal world order attach strict economic and political conditionality to lending, China offers ‘no strings attached’. However this approach can be misleading, and with loans more often than not tied to resource and infrastructure deals, the region is certainly not free from the foreboding figure of imperialism.</p> <p>But how does this all relate to a Trump presidency? Well, aside from its economic objectives in the region, a key pillar of Chinese economic growth is maintaining stability within the regions it trades in. But this stability can come at a cost to democracy. <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1943-0787.2009.01100.x/full">Asked in an interview</a> whether China had an interest in changing Latin American politics, a Communist Party of China leader replied:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“No. Why should we? We are perfectly happy with a democratic system controlled by elites that keeps real popular involvement to a minimum, so long as they continue to enforce the agreements made with us.”</em></p> <p>This is a welcome alternative to the countless covert (or not so covert) US interventions of the past, with their intrusion into Latin American nations’ popular sovereignty and a disregard for their self-determination. However, it is also an absolute withdrawal of responsibility for protecting the quality of democracy and civil liberties in the countries China is engaging with. The objective of stability is therefore an <em>end</em>, but the rule book for the <em>means</em> is thrown out of the window.</p> <p>President Trump’s catch-phrase ‘America first’ echoes this non-interventionist approach, but has wider implications. “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone”, he said in his inauguration speech. And yes, again, there might be a justified wave of approving nods from the many who are fed up of ‘Western’ interventions in the name of democracy, but this also gives world leaders a clear message: the rules of the game have changed, and the red-line of <em>shoulds </em>and <em>should nots</em> has just been taken down several notches.</p> <p><strong>A reaction in Latin America</strong></p> <p>There are few places where this will be a more dangerous message than in Latin America. We have already seen China’s ‘no string attached’ approach threaten the rise of inequality, as power and wealth is consolidated by those at the top, at the expense of popular involvement in politics. Donald Trump’s disregard for democracy standards or civil liberties and his war on the media only gives these political elites more tools at their disposal to maintain their preferred status quo and quell the civil societies that have been flourishing in the region over recent years.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Many politicians, civil society organisations and engaged citizens have shown their capacity of mobilisation in recent years and will fight to ensure the red-line of democratic and civil standards is not forgotten by their country’s leaders.</p> <p>Latin America is a region of relatively young, and rather fragile democracies. Through increasing citizen participation, and expanding civil societies, countries are finding ways to cultivate their own interpretations of a just and vibrant democracy. But in the face of Trump, a reaction could come: many politicians, civil society organisations and engaged citizens have shown their capacity of mobilisation in recent years and will fight to ensure the red-line of democratic and civil standards is not forgotten by their country’s leaders. Without these standards, countries in the region could quickly slide into a right-wing populism that will erode the decades of hard work put into achieving democracy.</p> <p>As the new President enters the White House, there is no sigh of relief in Latin America. But there is hope in Ecuador’s President Correa's words when he says:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“[Trump] is so crude that he will generate a reaction in Latin America which will build more support for progressive governments“.</em></p> <p>The upcoming elections in his country, on 19th February, will prove him right or wrong.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta china & the world american power & the world us & the world democracy & power mexico latin america Trump Piers Purdy Fri, 27 Jan 2017 11:19:21 +0000 Piers Purdy 108394 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the Democrats left the door wide open for Donald Trump https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-barnett/dnc-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-thomas-frank <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Democrats ditched the working class in favour of a professional elite leaving Trump&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">–</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;a master of 'resentment politics'&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">–</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;to hoover up their votes. An interview with&nbsp;</span><em>Listen Liberal! </em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">author Thomas Frank.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-28161956.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560649/PA-28161956.jpg" alt=" Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in July 2016. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP/Press Asso" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in July 2016. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Now that the Republican Party has chosen a </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/l-k-sharma/trump-diminishes-democracy">coiffured gargoyle</a><span> as its nominee for president, the panicked eyes of the world turn to the Democrats, who have just selected&nbsp;Hillary Clinton at their national convention in Philadelphia.&nbsp;Author and historian </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/thomas-frank">Thomas Frank</a><span> has seen his fair share of party conventions, having covered US politics for over 25 years. I spoke to him recently about his new book&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Listen-Liberal-Happened-Party-People/dp/1627795391?ie=UTF8&amp;*Version*=1&amp;*entries*=0"><em>Listen, Liberal</em></a><span> and the state of the union ahead of November’s election.</span></p> <p>“The Democrats are not a Left party,” he tells me. “In fact there really isn’t one in the US.” Frank’s book is no broadside against liberals by a weary defector, but a Left critique of the Democratic Party. He charts its mutation over recent decades from being a workers party into the party of the 'professional class' – the experts, bankers, academics and tech-masters, who imagine themselves the natural winners of the great American lottery. </p> <p>Frank names Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as typical specimens – and since we spoke, the president has expressed an interest in working with <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-obama-anti-business-president/">“Silicon Valley and venture capital”</a> after leaving office…</p> <p>How is this reflected in the country’s two-party system? “They represent two different hierarchies of power,” Frank explains. “One, the Republicans, who represent business and the hierarchy of money – the Koch brothers and the 1% – and the Democrats, who represent the hierarchy of status, the professional class. One is the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, the other is the <em>New York Times</em>.”</p> <p>Does this mean there’s little to choose between the two parties? “They tend to have similar views on economic matters, but they come from different places. And they’re very different on the cultural issues&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;the abortion issue for example, the guns, for god’s sake. Some of these things are enormously important.”</span></p> <p>He adds: “I would also say the Democrats are of course marginally better on things like the welfare state. But then again, as soon as I say that, as soon as those words passed my lips, Bill Clinton and welfare reform – a Republican could probably have never got that done, because the Democrats would have fought him to the death to stop something like that. But with Clinton doing it, it suddenly becomes okay.”</p> <p>Frank’s book demolishes Bill Clinton’s presidency, the legacy of which is key to understanding the anger of this year’s campaign, from Donald Trump to Black Lives Matter, to Bernie Sanders supporters booing at the Democrats convention. Clinton’s dismantling of welfare, draconian criminal justice laws, job-exporting trade deals, and deregulation of Wall Street, have resurfaced as major issues in this year’s campaign – and not just because his wife is running for president.</p> <p>“People look back on those years with such fondness now,” Frank says. "The things that he actually got done were awful things. I thought it was really important to go back and correct the record.” </p> <p>Is Frank apprehensive about the prospect of Bill Clinton being back in the White House? “Well, unlike nearly everybody I know, I think I like Hillary more than I like Bill. I think she’ll be better than he was. But yes, of course I’m apprehensive about it.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening</p> <p>“This is the sort of quintessentially American situation that we’re in here, where it’s a two party system, and given that, you have to constantly choose someone who’s not optimal for the situation, in order to avoid something that’s really dreadful. People like me are going to be voting for Hillary because Donald Trump is so frightening.”</p> <p>Trump seems to have walked out of the pages of Frank’s earlier books, <em>Pity the Billionaire</em> and <em>What’s the Matter with Kansas? </em>– a silver-spoon demagogue railing against the 'rigged system' he has profited from and the 'elite' of which he is a member. His ability to hoover up votes from the Democrats' natural constituency is partly explained in those books – Trump has mastered the resentment politics of the 'culture wars' – but as <em>Listen, Liberal </em>makes clear, the door was left open to him by the Democrats themselves. </p> <p>This is even reflected in the way liberals have responded to the book. “There’s deep suspicion of working class people among the kind of liberals I’m describing,” he says. “They don’t like working class people. They just don’t like them.” Surely that’s a bit harsh? “That’s the sense that I get from these people. That’s not the kind of party they want to be in.”</p> <p>“Trump has brought everything to a head,” he adds, “the fact that he’s got these working-class supporters. There’s a lot of contempt for these people. The Trump supporters are generally thought to be figures of idiocy.”</p> <p>Given this, I asked Frank about the subject of those earlier books, the conservative ‘backlash’ critique of liberalism, which portrayed liberals as snobbish, well-educated, rich, and uncaring about working-class people. Was there more truth in that critique than he might have previously allowed? </p> <p>“Conservatives have been saying this about Democrats for years,” he said, “but it’s never rigorous, they don’t really follow through, they don’t do their research. And their intention is always to show that liberals are in fact socialists, and that’s just completely wrong. </p> <p>“So yes, there’s some validity to the conservative critique, but it’s so scattershot and wild, and it really misses the sociological reality of who these people are.”</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country</p><p>One thing conservatives paper over – or did pre-Tea Party-and-successor-Donald Trump – is how economic forces, rather than a ‘liberal elite’, are kicking people in the rump every day.</p><p> “Things are getting worse and worse for working people, and have been for quite a while in this country,” says Frank. “We call it inequality, but it’s a much bigger problem than that implies. It’s the middle class coming apart, it’s working class people being unable to afford a middle class standard of living any longer.”</p> <p>“A big part of the American population is in a state of decline,” he adds. “And they know it.</p> <p>“People know that the standard of living they had in 2007 is never coming back, and they are upset about it – they’re very angry. But the impulse among liberals is to deny it. To say, look, everything is fine, the sky is blue, it’s a wonderful world out there. On paper, America is doing great. So turn that frown upside down.”</p> <p>Frank is merciless about the 'Let them eat cake' brigade, and takes a scalpel to the self-serving idea of America as a meritocracy. “What you discover when you write about the professional class is that it is profoundly unaware of itself as a class,” he says. "They act like a class, and they do all these things that social classes do, but they don’t think of themselves as a class. They think of themselves as ‘the best’. We are who we are because we’re the smartest.”</p> <p>A punk rocker at heart, (he wrote this book listening to Joy Division and Iggy Pop), Frank delights in blasting those living high on the hog – an instinct that gives him, as a Kansan who went on to get a History PhD at the University of Chicago, an edge over his liberal fraternity. <em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>“I feel much more at home mocking professional class liberals than writing about people in Kansas,” he says. “I’m describing highly educated and prosperous people, people with every advantage, and people who are very familiar with ideas, and who nevertheless go through this pantomime with themselves. I had no trouble switching on the inner HL Mencken when I went to Martha’s Vineyard. I was completely at home mocking those people.”</p> <p>As the gala of self-congratulation among Democrats continues, and will likely continue up to November and beyond, it’s worth recalling that their conceit – they who, having ditched working people, now use the threat of a President Trump to discipline those same people into voting ‘correctly’– is not just about place and position, but about moral superiority too. </p> <p>“One of the rewards of being a liberal is you think you’re very virtuous,” Frank says. “Once you start digging though, this is a movement that is profoundly self-interested. They love to look in that mirror and think about how fine and noble they are. My objective is to put a crack in that mirror.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-lent/centrists-must-embrace-anti-elitism-or-face-extinction">Centrists must embrace anti-elitism or face extinction.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariano-aguirre/why-donald-trump-could-be-president">Why Donald Trump could be president</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jim-sleeper/not-hitler-or-augustus-but-hybrid-that-shows-what-american-polity-is-becoming">Not Hitler or Augustus, but a hybrid that shows what the American polity is becoming</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Democracy and government International politics us & the world north america democracy & power american power & the world Adam Barnett Wed, 27 Jul 2016 17:37:00 +0000 Adam Barnett 104340 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran nuclear deal: keeping hope of peace alive https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/majid-siadat/iran-nuclear-deal-keeping-hope-of-peace-alive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conservatives in the US, Israel and Iran itself are all opposed to the outline nuclear accord. So it looks like progress.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/mogherini.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/mogherini.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Tense talks: the European Union high representative, Federica Mogherini, during the negotiations in Lausanne. Flickr / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eeas/">EU External Action Service</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>Finally we can breathe a little easier. With the achievement of the provisional, ‘in-principle’ accord between Iran and the US (and the other <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P5+1">P5+1 group</a> members), the hope of peace has been kept alive. </p> <p>There is still a long way to go. We must get through the next three months of negotiations, with all the attendant risks, large and small, before this initial, tentative agreement can be turned into a permanent accord. </p> <p>Its opponents are many. On one side we find Israel and the war-mongering military adventurists of the American right, in <em>de facto</em> alliance with the right-wing within Iran’s governing forces. On the other, America’s moderates, led by the president, Barack Obama, and supported by Israeli realist factions, stand together with the reformists within the Iranian regime. </p> <p>But, despite all the threats and ranting of American senators and their Iranian counterparts, the footholds of peace between Iran and the US have been established.</p> <h2><strong>Stark choice</strong></h2> <p>President Obama has left his opponents in an exposed position. Despite being subjected to many long decades of intense pressure, Iran succeeded in developing its own independent nuclear programme. Obama says this leaves America with a stark choice: finalise an accord which limits and controls Iran’s nuclear programme or go to war with the Islamic Republic. There is little appetite among the American public for the latter: the latest polls show most Americans oppose war with Iran.</p> <p>Under this agreement, Iran will see its nuclear programme severely cut back and subjected to rigorous controls. For the first time, however, Iran gains formal recognition by the international community of its rights to the peaceful development and use of nuclear power. And, after 10-15 years, the accord and its restrictions will be up for renegotiation. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Those who have thrived on the fear of war will have the cutting edge of their arguments blunted by the prospects of peace.</span></p><p><span></span>Iran has paid a steep price to reach this juncture. In addition to the enormous direct costs of establishing its nuclear industry, to date Iran’s economy has had to cope with more than $100 billion in damages under the current, back-breaking economic sanctions. Iranians hope that this accord will bring to an end the decades of deprivation and isolation they’ve suffered, and that living standards finally will start to improve. </p> <p>On the Iran side, this accord has been made possible only through the dogged determination of Iran’s reformists. This time around, they’ve acted with more courage and tenacity than during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and they’re reaping the reward. If the regime’s right-wing factions do not succeed in sabotaging the negotiations, the current president, Hassan Rouhani, will receive the credit for this supreme, highly tangible triumph.</p> <h2>Far-reaching</h2> <p>But a final accord would have two ramifications of even greater potential significance. Inside Iran, the most far-reaching consequence of such an agreement is the increased possibility of positive change in the public sphere. The spectre of threats by the conspiratorial ‘Big Satan’ against the Islamic Republic has been the Iranian regime’s most important tool in repressing its own people’s rights. The deal under negotiation would weaken this instrument, giving the struggle for increased freedom greater opportunity. Those who have thrived on the fear of war will have the cutting edge of their arguments blunted by the prospects of peace. </p> <p>And from an international perspective the most important consequence of the prospective agreement is the new order it will bring about in the Middle East. Any such agreement will undoubtedly include ‘understandings’ or even formal accords, far beyond nuclear issues, which will remain undisclosed for the time being. Details of these unacknowledged understandings aside, it’s clear that they include recognition of the important changes that have already occurred in the balance of forces in the region. </p> <p>The existing order in the Middle East, established in the aftermath of the first world war, is giving way. Perhaps it’s best to say that this accord signals the beginning of the end of the old order and the start of a transition which, through copious blood and fire, anguish and pain, will certainly issue in a new one.</p> <p><em>Translated by Linda Heiden, in collaboration with the author, from </em>‘Tavafogh-e Iran va Amrika: Ruzaneye Solh’<em>, an article </em><em>which appeared simultaneously on 4 April 2015 in the Persian online publications <a href="http://www.asre-nou.net/php/view.php?objnr=34289">Asre Now</a>, <a href="http://iranma.us/150405/">Irane Ma</a>, <a href="http://www.akhbar-rooz.com/news.jsp?essayId=66239">Akhbare Ruz</a> and <a href="http://www.kar-online.com/node/9139">Kar-Online</a>.</em> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammed-ayoob/implications-of-preliminary-iranian-nuclear-deal">Implications of the preliminary Iranian nuclear deal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/scott-lucas/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal%E2%80%94all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader">Iran celebrates historic nuclear deal—all eyes now on supreme leader</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Conflict International politics iran: how to avoid war? global security democracy & iran american power & the world middle east Majid Siadat Diplomacy Nuclear politics Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:17:37 +0000 Majid Siadat 91832 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Universal rights, double standards https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/universal-rights-double-standards <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is the difference between the human-rights shortfalls of Venezuela and Mexico? Objectively, not much, but Washington has a different perspective.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Barack_Obama_and_Enrique_Peña_Nieto.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Barack_Obama_and_Enrique_Peña_Nieto.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Here's to you: Barack Obama shares a toast with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, before a working dinner in Mexico City in May 2013. Wikimedia / White House. Public domain.</p><p>The US president, Barack Obama, has issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a threat to US national security, sanctioning several officials and publicly accusing them of human-rights violations. The White House spokesperson, Josh Earnest, told reporters that “Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here”. And he said that “we are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalising dissent.”</p> <p>There is little doubt that the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, has been responsible for a crackdown on political opposition and decreeing additional powers that have increased state control of the country. But if the Obama administration is so concerned with violence against political dissent and injustice inflicted on the population by a corrupt government, how is it that Mexico, its neighbour country, does not represent a similar threat?</p> <p>According to President Obama, the Venezuelan government’s “erosion of human-rights guarantees … constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. Yet Mexico, where more than 100,000 have been killed and over 22,000 have disappeared since the start of the ‘war on drugs’, does not seem to constitute such a national emergency.</p> <p>How is it that a country where, according to the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, “torture and ill treatment during detention are generalised … and occur in a context of impunity” does not raise the same alarm in Washington? The US and its allies are quick to condemn the corruption in Venezuela when, just south of its border, 43 students in Ayotzinapa were carried off by security forces and handed over to criminal groups who specialise in torturing, mutilating, and beheading those who oppose them. </p> <h2><strong>Unpunished</strong></h2> <p>The US has spent at least $2.35 billion on security assistance to Mexico under the Plan Merida, which is supposed to curb drug trafficking and organised crime. Mexico’s security services receive US financing, training and armament, at the same time acting with impunity and committing hundreds of human-rights violations which go unpunished—as Amnesty International and other human-rights organisations around the world have brought to light.</p> <p>The White House says the new sanctions will target a finite number of Venezuelan officials, not the wider public or trade relations. But in a country with a rising crime rate, a slumping economy and a crisis which has left basic goods and services in short supply, the enmity between the US and the Venezuelan government will most certainly hit an already suffering population the hardest. The measures by the US only serve to give Maduro an excuse to exploit the conflict to enhance his already-growing powers and reiterate his claim of a ‘Yankee imperialist’ agenda. Indeed, the Venezuelan parliament has just approved ‘anti-imperialist’ laws, which will enable Maduro to rule by decree for the next nine months. </p> <p>Whatever about elevated institutionalised corruption, impunity, human-rights violations, crime and murder, It would appear that the main difference between Mexico and Venezuela is that, while Mexico is willing to do almost whatever the White House dictates, Venezuela does not co-operate so readily. The US is evidently unhappy with Maduro’s presidency, especially Venezuela’s role in the coming to power of the ‘Bolivarian socialist governments’ of South America publicly opposed to ‘imperialist US interests’. The new sanctions and, especially, declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat only serve to confirm this view among Obama’s Latin American detractors.</p> <p>It seems that corruption and human-rights violations only represent a threat to US national security when the government in questions is not a political and commercial ally of the US. Applying such double standards only shows that the main concern of the US lies in implementing its political and economic agenda and imposing its will worldwide. It is a worrying precedent, spanning not only US-Venezuela relations but with implications for how a human-rights crisis comes to be defined worldwide, and by whom.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/jeremy-fox/state-of-violence">State of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/mexico-active-civil-society-key-to-ending-culture-of-impun">Mexico: active civil society key to ending culture of impunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/ivan-briscoe/venezuela-taking-counter-out-of-revolution">Venezuela: taking the counter- out of revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/benjamin-james-waddell/linking-mass-emigration-violence-and-human-rights-violations">Linking mass emigration, violence and human rights violations in Mexico</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/karina-ansolabehere/mexico%E2%80%99s-crisis-is-rare-opportunity-for-domestic-rights-groups">Mexico’s crisis is a rare opportunity for domestic rights groups</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mexico </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Mexico International politics rule of law inside washington human rights american power & the world us & the world mexico latin america Alejandro Garcia de la Garza Organised crime State violence Mon, 16 Mar 2015 18:52:20 +0000 Alejandro Garcia de la Garza 91308 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Obama's human-rights lacuna in struggle against ‘extremism’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/obama%27s-humanrights-lacuna-in-struggle-against-%E2%80%98extremism%E2%80%99 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The US president went on the front foot against fundamentalist violence in the Middle East at a summit in Washington. But he was hobbled by his failure to place human rights in the region front and centre.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/6935341.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/6935341.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Limited appeal? Obama's pitch would have been stronger if human rights had been a focus. <a href="http://www.demotix.com/users/demotix-live-news/profile">Demotix Live News</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>Barack Obama’s <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2015/02/18/president-obama-speaks-summit-countering-violent-extremism">call last week</a> for a global effort to combat “violent extremism” appeared to signal a shift in US foreign policy towards the Middle East. As many experts have suggested, the president sought to distance himself from the discourse of his predecessor, George W. Bush, avoiding terms like ‘Islamic terrorism’ in speaking out against al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS). But merely altering the official rhetoric, so that the US is no longer “at war with Islam”, addresses neither the phenomenon of non-state violence nor its determinants.</p> <p>Obama did urge countries to “break the cycles of conflict” and address its root causes. But only if the US shows it is in earnest about human rights in addressing authoritarian governments in the region, as well as political and economic concerns, will his new paradigm of global security take shape. </p> <h2><strong>Criticised</strong></h2> <p>Obama is conventionally criticised from the right, domestically and internationally, for refusing to adopt an ‘iron fist’ policy or to label the IS threat as radical Islam. But it is his silence on many rights infringements in recent months which many human-rights activists have questioned. </p> <p>In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last autumn, he urged governments and communities across the Muslim world to provide more opportunities for young people who might be attracted to violent organisations. He sustained this line of argument at last week’s summit and went on to insist that “when people are oppressed and human rights are denied and when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism”. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Indeed, recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International indicate human rights are sharply deteriorating all over the Middle East.</span></p><p><span></span>Yet what is striking is the passive and negligent policy of the White House towards human-rights issues among its regional allies. Many of these regimes are considered the most oppressive by international human-rights agencies and the UN. While, in other words, Obama implicitly rejected Bush’s legacy and called on all nations to “put an end to the cycle of hate”, he failed to step out on the path of pursuing human rights in the administration’s dialogues with the governments in the region.</p> <p>One barrier is that among not only western politicians but also Middle Eastern rulers there remains profound disagreement as to whether the best way to counter fundamentalist violence is indeed through human rights and civil society or rather by military action. If he is to map out his policy shift from Bush’s ‘war on terror’ and attain a global security, Obama must prioritise human rights in what will be a long and profound discussion with Middle Eastern governments. </p> <p>Another blurring of the issues was the president’s assertion that Muslim clerics and their governments had a “responsibility” to push back on “twisted interpretations of Islam”—as if all religions did not contain the potential for fundamentalism and as if violence in its name should be treated as other than crimes against the rule of law. Among the hundreds of foreign officials so addressed in the conference were those from countries with what was thus only passingly referred to as a “spotty record” on human rights and democracy—like Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Egypt.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Association</strong></h2> <p>Obama urged religious, civic and political leaders to stop feeding the notion that the US was the “cause of every ill in the Middle East”. But it cannot dispel this association while it fails to press authoritarian governments in the region to tolerate political opponents and provide basic rights for members of minorities. </p> <p>Indeed, recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International indicate human rights are sharply deteriorating all over the Middle East. The HRW <a href="http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015">World Report 2015</a> highlights, for instance, how Saudi authorities have sentenced several leading human-rights activists and other reform advocates to long jail terms for their peaceful activism, while some minority leaders have been tortured while others are on death row. In Egypt, meanwhile, the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, recently announced that the struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood would be “long-lasting” and two weeks ago a court sentenced 183 supporters of the outlawed brotherhood to death—in a process which Amnesty said took less than an hour. In January &nbsp;in Iran at least 70 executions were <a href="http://iranhr.net/">reported</a> and at least 11 activists and seven journalists arrested. And in general the climate facing human-rights activists and moderate political opponents among US allies in the region, such as Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, has worsened in the past few months.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, while the main disagreement among some US political figures, like the Republican senators Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham—and even a few Democrats, such as Tulsi Gabbard—is with Obama’s “careful language” and his refusal to accept that terrorist groups “somehow represent Islam”, urging world leaders and governments in the region to confront the ideologies of groups like IS and al-Qaeda demands that the White House take human rights seriously. Only if Obama recognises the connection between human-rights violators and the ideologies of non-state violent groups can a genuine policy shift be effected. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/kenneth-roth/two-big-holes-in-strategy-against-is">The two big holes in the strategy against IS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/bob-rigg/obama%27s-dysfunctional-coalition-of-unwilling">Obama&#039;s dysfunctional coalition of the unwilling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fawaz-gerges/obama-and-middle-east-lessons-of-iraq">Obama and the Middle East: the lessons of Iraq?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Conflict International politics iraq - the war & after human rights global security american power & the world middle east Arash Falasiri International Law Non-state violence Wed, 25 Feb 2015 15:31:44 +0000 Arash Falasiri 90828 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Frankly, I don’t think we know who we killed” https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/jack-serle/%E2%80%9Cfrankly-i-don%E2%80%99t-think-we-know-who-we-killed%E2%80%9D-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A drone strike in Somalia highlights how the US is increasingly pursuing a strategy of remote-control warfare.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A US drone strike which killed a senior al-Shabaab leader in Somalia a week ago&nbsp;appears to have been part of a change of tactics by the Americans since they started targeting the militant group in 2007. It was the fifth consecutive such strike against al-Shabaab’s leadership, with drones now appearing to have superseded other, manned aircraft and cruise missiles in the seven years since attacks began in Somalia.</p> <p>Such unmanned systems are now&nbsp;widely seen as the US weapon of choice in its ‘war on terror’, as they can “strike their targets with astonishing precision”, according to John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But despite their&nbsp;vaunted precision, there are reports the latest strike in Somalia, on 31 January, killed or injured civilians.</p> <h2><strong>Senior figure</strong></h2> <p>The attack killed at least five people, all reportedly members of al-Shabaab and one identified as Yusef Dheeq, a senior figure. It reportedly hit an al-Shabaab convoy at about 9am local time. </p> <p>The US admitted the attack. “This was done with Hellfire missiles fired from UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles],” the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, subsequently told reporters. “There were no US boots on the ground.”</p> <p>The Somali government and an unnamed US official both said Dheeq had been killed.</p> <p>Kirby however told reporters: “He has not been officially declared dead. I’m not in a position now to confirm the results of the strike but if successful, if he no longer breathes, then this is a significant, another significant blow to al-Shabaab. It goes to show how long our reach can be when it comes to counter-terrorism.” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism understand the US will confirm Dheeq’s death in the coming days.</p> <p>It is not clear exactly what role Dheeq played within al-Shabaab. Kirby said he was the group’s “intelligence and security chief, and director of external planning”. The Somali intelligence services said Dheeq—also known as Abdi Nur Mahdi—was a bomb-making expert.</p> <p>At least four other people were reportedly killed with him—all described as al-Shabaab fighters. A local resident told Agence France Presse there had been four civilian casualties in the strike but it was not clear if they were injured or killed.</p> <p>An official told the bureau the US was “looking into” reports of civilian casualties. But echoing Kirby he said that “we don’t assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties as a result of the strike”.</p> <p>This is the third consecutive drone strike in Somalia that has been publicly acknowledged by a US spokesman from a podium in the Pentagon press room. This is very rare.</p> <p>The military is also responsible for some of the at least 88 drone strikes in Yemen but the US has never gone on the record about specific drone strikes there. The Pentagon would not be drawn on why there appeared to be greater transparency about strikes in Somalia, telling the bureau: “We are as transparent as we can be on all strikes, regardless of location.”</p> <h2><strong>Departure</strong></h2> <p>The recent glut of drone strikes in Somalia is a departure from how the US covert war began in the country in 2007. The first confirmed drone strike hit al-Shabaab in June 2011 and there have been eight such&nbsp;strikes since, killing at least 23 people.</p> <p>Eight other confirmed US attacks, killing at least 40, have been recorded by the bureau. Two included cruise missiles launched from ships off the Somali coast. There was also one naval bombardment, when a US warship, the Chafee, used its deck gun on 1 June 2007&nbsp;to fire shells on to the shoreline, supporting US commandos taking fire from al-Shabaab fighters. </p> <p>Most of the other US attacks were by AC-130s—formidable gunships, resembling Hercules transport aircraft, which bristle with weapons. Five of the first six confirmed US attacks in Somalia reportedly involved AC-130s. They killed at least 30 people. There has not been a reported AC-130 attack since the end of 2008.</p> <p>The first AC-130 strikes, on 7 and 9 January 2007, hit as Ethiopian ground forces invaded Somalia, reportedly with secret US backing. The targets of these strikes were reportedly suspects in the 1998 east African embassy bombings, who appeared to have been pushed out of their bases in Somalia by the advancing Ethiopian troops.</p> <h2><strong>Considerable growth</strong></h2> <p>The recent US reliance on drones to kill leading al-Shabaab fighters could stem from the considerable growth in its fleet of armed drones. The US Air Force had funding in the 2007 budget to run 37 Reaper drones from 2005 to 2011. By 2012, this had risen to 401 aircraft, according to a Pentagon inspector-general report released this year. This increase was in response to the US recognising how useful drones were in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency battles it was fighting around the world.</p><p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/reaper_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/reaper_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="208" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Angel of death: a US Reaper drone. Flickr / USAF. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p><span> The first strike in Somalia demonstrates how arming drones has helped the US fight its global ‘war on terror’. While the 7 January 2007 strike used an AC-130, the gunship was guided to its target by an unarmed Predator drone, which had been following the al-Shabaab convoy. The Predator is an older, smaller, less powerful and less well-armed version of the Reaper.</span></p> <p>Its ability to stay aloft above the battlefield for hours on end helped it stay on the target. But the strike had to wait until the gunship could arrive. The US would have been able to fire at will at its target in this strike, if the drone were armed. However the strike would have been reportedly hamstrung by shaky intelligence, even if carried out using the Predator’s apparently surgical accuracy.</p> <p>A Pentagon spokesperson said the US based the strike on intelligence “that led us to believe we had principal al-Qaeda leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them.” But another US official told the <em>Washington Post</em>: “Frankly, I don’t think we know who we killed.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/chris-abbott/blowback-failure-of-remotecontrol-warfare">Blowback: the failure of remote-control warfare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-new-way-of-war">Remote control, a new way of war</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Somalia </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Somalia rule of law global security american power & the world africa Jack Serle International Law Non-state violence State violence Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:25:23 +0000 Jack Serle 90405 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The two big holes in the strategy against IS https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/kenneth-roth/two-big-holes-in-strategy-against-is <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The US-led campaign against Islamic State isn’t working. It won’t unless it addresses Shia sectarianism in Iraq and Assad’s atrocities in Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/aleppo_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/aleppo_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The deadly impact of one of the barrel bombs Assad denies he uses. Demotix /&nbsp;<a href="http://www.demotix.com/users/mildsevenlights">Jacob Simkin</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>The extraordinary brutality of the organisation which calls itself Islamic State (IS) has sparked utter revulsion around the world. Its mass executions, sexual enslavement, videotaped beheadings and now the burning to death of the Jordanian pilot have created an uncommon determination among governments of all political and religious stripes to end this scourge on the people of Iraq and Syria and the threat it poses elsewhere. But after sitting through a weekend of discussions at the Munich Security Conference, I am left with the sad conclusion that the anti-IS endeavour betrays more activity than strategy.</p> <p>To understand what must be done about IS, it is helpful to remember the background to its rise. In Iraq, in addition to the chaos after the US invasion, the emergence of IS owes much to the abusive sectarian rule of the former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the resulting radicalisation of Sunnis. With Iranian backing, Maliki took personal control of Iraqi security forces and supported the formation of Shia militias. Many of those militias brutally persecuted the minority Sunni population. They rounded up and arbitrarily detained Sunnis under vague laws and, along with government counter-terrorism units, summarily executed many. Meanwhile, the Iraqi air force indiscriminately bombed predominately Sunni cities, beginning in Anbar in January 2014. <strong></strong></p> <p>The severity of these abuses played perfectly into IS plans: one rationale for IS atrocities appears to be to spark precisely such reactions, which in turn bolster its standing among the Sunni population. The group’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, was largely defeated by a combination of US military pressure and a military coalition of Sunni tribes in western Iraq, known as the Awakening Councils. But under Maliki many of the tribes which defeated the organisation became so fearful of slaughter and persecution by pro-government forces that, when conflict resumed in 2014, they felt safer fighting those forces than IS. Western governments, eager to put their own military involvement in Iraq behind them, largely shut their eyes to the worsening sectarian abuses overseen by Baghdad—and continued to ply it with arms.</p> <h2><strong>‘No less dangerous’</strong></h2> <p>Today, there is broad recognition among policy-makers and the public that this indifference to atrocities under Maliki was a mistake. Maliki’s replacement as premier, Haider al-Abadi, has pledged more inclusive governance. I recently met him, and he largely acknowledged the problems of sectarian abuse—though lamented limits to his power to address them. He has taken some positive steps, dropping charges against the media, vowing to release prisoners held without warrant and making some effort to stop the indiscriminate bombing. Just last week, he publicly said he had “zero” tolerance for summary executions by the Shia militias, calling them “no less dangerous” than IS “terrorism” and ordering a public investigation into the alleged massacre of 72 civilians by militias and security forces in Diyala province.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">One of Kerry’s aides described to me a three-part strategy for Syria: degrading IS through the bombing campaign, training the armed opposition and “trying to get something going politically”.</span></p><p><span></span>These are important steps but abusive sectarianism in Iraq has not ended, even as Western military aid continues to flow. Maliki still serves as one of Iraq’s three vice-presidents, without any investigation of his role in past abuses. Meanwhile, the weak government, its army a shambles, has vastly increased its reliance on the Shia militias. They remain the lead ground forces fighting IS, even as they kill and cleanse Sunnis from entire villages and neighbourhoods. Until these atrocities end, the Shia militias are likely to do more to aid IS recruitment than to defeat the jihadist group on the battlefield. </p> <p>Yet in Munich there was barely a word about Shia militia abuse. In lieu of a comprehensive strategy, one US official spoke of five “lines of effort” in Iraq: degrading IS militarily, cutting the flows to it of fighters and of funds, addressing the humanitarian catastrophe it has left and fighting its ideology. He volunteered nothing about stopping Shia militia atrocities.</p> <p>When I suggested the US government condition its military assistance on an end to these atrocities, he insisted the US lacked leverage because Iran’s military assistance was supposedly unconditional. But that approach makes the US look like it lacks both principles and an effective strategy. There is no way to win the trust of Sunnis needed to oppose IS while the Iraqi government condones their murder and forced displacement by the Shia militias.</p> <p>It ought to be possible to work with Iran as well. Iran should have no interest in the slaughter by the militias it supports, if not for principled reasons then on the pragmatic basis that this is bolstering IS. In addition, Abadi should be encouraged to follow the call of the European Union for Iraq to join the International Criminal Court—hardly a panacea but at least a threat of international prosecution, at a time when domestic courts are too weak and intimidated to extend the rule of law to the Shia militias. The US government has supported empowering the ICC to address atrocities in Syria but has yet to broach the issue with regard to Iraq.</p> <h2>Extraordinary brutality</h2> <p>Incomplete as Western strategy is in Iraq, it is even worse in Syria. There, IS portrays itself as the force most capable of standing up to the deliberate attacks on the civilian population by the president, Bashar al-Assad, in areas held by rebel groups. There is no denying Assad’s extraordinary brutality: since the Syrian government turned over its chemical weapons, its most notorious weapon has been the barrel bomb—an oil drum or similar container filled with high explosives and metal fragments. The air force typically drops these bombs from a helicopter hovering at high altitudes to avoid anti-aircraft fire. From that height, they are impossible to target with any precision. Barrel bombs simply tumble to earth, killing far more Syrian civilians than IS.</p> <p>Barrel bombs are so inaccurate that the Syrian military does not dare use them near the front lines, for fear of hitting its own troops. Rather, it drops them on areas held by rebel groups, knowing that they will destroy apartment buildings, hospitals, schools and other institutions of civilian life. In Aleppo, some civilians who have not fled the country have moved their families nearer the front line, preferring snipers and artillery to the horror of the barrel bombs.</p> <p>When the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons, the United Nations Security Council pressed Assad to stop and to surrender his weapons. But while the Syrian government kills countless more civilians by indiscriminate attacks with conventional weapons such as barrel bombs, the Security Council, blocked by Russia, has largely stood on the sidelines. It called for a halt to indiscriminate attacks but has applied no pressure actually to end them.</p> <p>This partial approach to Syria was on full display in Munich. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, waxed eloquent about the horrors of IS and trumpeted the US-led coalition’s response but when it came to Assad simply called him “a brutal dictator” and moved on. Kerry never mentioned the barrel bombs or the need for pressure on Assad to end his attacks on civilians. </p> <p>One of Kerry’s aides described to me a three-part strategy for Syria: degrading IS through the bombing campaign, training the armed opposition and “trying to get something going politically”. But no one thinks the increasingly elusive moderate opposition that the US has committed to train will be capable anytime soon of serious military action—and, in any event, the US undertaking is focused on IS, not Assad. As for the sporadic efforts to achieve a peace accord, nationwide talks are going nowhere and efforts by the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to craft local ‘freezes’ have yet to produce results. <strong></strong></p> <p>The inattention to Assad’s atrocities is a gift to extremist recruiters who portray themselves as the only ones willing to stand up to him. Asking Syrians to address only IS atrocities, not Assad’s, is not a winning strategy. A broader concern with protecting Syrian civilians from depredations on all sides is required. </p> <p>Part of Kerry’s relative silence about Assad’s atrocities may have been fear that the next step would require a broader US military effort, such as establishing a no-fly zone for the helicopters that deliver the barrel bombs. But there are also diplomatic steps that, judging by the conversations in Munich, do not seem to have been seriously tried. Russia and Iran have more clout with the Syrian government than anyone else but the US continues to hedge on Syria to avoid detracting from its primary concerns: Ukraine in the case of Russia and the nuclear question <em>vis-à-vis</em> Iran. Given the stakes, one would hope that US diplomats could walk and chew gum at the same time.</p> <p>Another element of Western reluctance to address the barrel bombs may be fear of doing anything which might impede Assad’s capacity to prevent an IS takeover of the country. But because of their inaccuracy, barrel bombs have little if any military significance. They have been used almost exclusively for killing civilians. Ending their use is unlikely to have an appreciable effect on the balance of power between the Syrian government, the rebels and IS.</p> <p>It’s time to move beyond ‘lines of effort’. Western governments need a strategy to address IS in both Iraq and Syria. And no strategy is realistic unless it addresses the atrocities that enable IS to grow. Reining in Iraq’s Shia militias and stopping Assad’s barrel-bombing of civilians are essential elements of any successful anti-IS strategy.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>BBC's Middle-East veteran Jeremy Bowen <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31327153">interviews Assad</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-unknown-war">Islamic State: the unknown war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">Islamic State vs its far enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-from-inside">Islamic State: from the inside</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Conflict iraq - the war & after insurgency human rights global security american power & the world us & the world middle east Kenneth Roth Syria's peace: what, how, when? Non-state violence State violence Tue, 10 Feb 2015 09:31:20 +0000 Kenneth Roth 90399 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Blowback: the failure of remote-control warfare https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/chris-abbott/blowback-failure-of-remotecontrol-warfare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It all seemed so convenient: remote-control warfare would minimise military casualties while rendering the civilian dead invisible. But the battlefield has come home.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>As Europe still reels from the </span><em>Charlie Hebdo </em><span>and Hyper Cacher attacks in Paris, something far more profound to Western security is happening largely unnoticed—the failure of remote-control warfare. Open Briefing’s </span><a href="http://www.openbriefing.org/issuedesks/remote-control-warfare-briefing-8-january-2015/">remote-control warfare briefing</a><span> for January, commissioned by the </span><a href="http://remotecontrolproject.org/">Remote Control</a><span> project, identified and analysed several trends, which taken together indicate the tactics and technologies deployed are coming back to haunt those Western powers that have embraced them in recent years.</span></p> <h2><strong>‘Slain dragon’</strong></h2> <p>To fully understand remote-control warfare, one must first go back to the aftermath of the cold war. In characterising the security situation at that time, James Woolsey, the nominee for CIA director of the US president, Bill Clinton, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 2 February 1993: “We have slain a large dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. And in many ways
 the dragon was easier to keep track of.”</p> <p>As the ‘dragon’ of the Soviet Union lay dead, the US and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation applied their military resources to maintaining the <em>status quo</em> through a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/security_vision_4520.jsp">control paradigm</a>, which attempted to keep the lid on insecurity and contain it ‘over there’. This appeared to work for a time through the 1990s, with wars in Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo allowing the US and NATO to demonstrate their military might. </p> <p>So when the attacks of 11 September 2001 brought the US momentarily to its knees, the president, George W. Bush, and the neoconservatives in his administration attempted to mould al-Qaeda, together with the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and even Iran, into a new dragon. Its guise was global Islamo-fascism<span>—</span><span>crudely drawing an analogy between extremist Islamist movements and the ultimate 20th-century evil. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>As its tanks and infantry successfully moved through Afghanistan and then Iraq, it seemed the US might once more be victorious in this so-called clash of good and evil. But the dragon turned out to be snakes after all and ‘mission accomplished’ quickly became the Long War, with the US and its allies bogged down in insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast-forward 10 years and what they were willing to consider victory had morphed into anything that could be made not to look like defeat. </p> <h2><strong>New way of war</strong></h2> <p>With its fingers burnt by the cost in lives, resources and political capital of being an occupying power, the US developed a new way of conceptualising and executing war. Although its origins lay in Bush’s armed drone campaign in Afghanistan and the rise of private military contractors in Iraq, this emerging framework was embraced and expanded by the administration of Barack Obama. </p> <p>The US led the way in effecting warfare at a distance, relying on smart technologies and light-footprint deployments rather than more traditional military approaches. With the rise of austerity in Europe, other Western states have adopted part or all of the remote-control approach. The strategy remains the same—maintain the <em>status quo</em> by controlling insecurity ‘over there’—but the arm’s length means are radically different. </p> <p>Policy-makers and military planners have promoted tactics and technologies deemed to have worked during the ‘war on terror’ and associated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The five key aspects of remote-control warfare developed by the US are: special-operations forces; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; unmanned vehicles and autonomous weapons systems; private military and security companies, and cyber warfare. </p> <p>While in some respects more attractive than large-scale military operations, remote-control warfare has two significant disadvantages. It allows actions to be approved that would never be considered if conventional military means were to be used, yet the risks and consequences of these actions are not adequately considered. And it removes policy-makers and military planners a step further from the realities of war-fighting experienced by military operators and civilian victims. </p> <p>The danger is that actions are undertaken more readily and at the very limits of—if not outside—international law, as policy-makers struggle to respond to multiple security threats and conflicts around the world. Moreover, the remote-control approach may not even be working.</p> <h2><strong>Special forces</strong></h2> <p>The recent attacks in Paris, Sydney and Ottawa by individuals alleging inspiration from or direction by transnational extremist Islamist groups have raised the issue of whether and how to deploy special forces to respond to such incidents in Western cities. In an extension of the deferential preference of policy-makers and military planners for special forces in foreign operations, the counter-terrorism experience such soldiers have gained in Afghanistan and Iraq is increasingly seeing them called upon to respond to attacks at home. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">The US led the way in effecting warfare at a distance, relying on smart technologies and light-footprint deployments rather than more traditional military approaches.</span></p><p><span></span>The National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, a special-operations unit of the French armed forces, was deployed to track down Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the suspects in the <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> attack. In the following days the UK prime minister, David Cameron, placed special forces on high alert, and the Special Air Services reportedly re-enacted the Paris attacks in preparation for similar incidents. </p> <p>The predisposition of decision-makers to deploy or stand by special forces in response to attacks in Western cities is likely to continue, given the increased threat of ‘blowback’ from Western military actions in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and north Africa. Yet a military, as opposed to a law-enforcement, response only gives weight to notions that the battlefields of the Middle East and North Africa can be transposed to the streets of those Western countries involved in military operations against extremist Islamist groups overseas. It risks moving the battlefield much closer to home—at odds with the preferred remote-control approach.</p><p><span></span>The attacks in Paris highlight another failing. The three gunmen had all been on intelligence watchlists for many years. The Kouachi brothers were placed under closer surveillance by the French security services after they were determined to have received training in Yemen from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2011. But in the absence of any suspicious activity other targets were prioritised, as the authorities struggled to monitor hundreds of individuals returning to France having fought with extremist Islamist groups across the Middle East and North Africa. The ever-widening surveillance nets intelligence agencies cast as part of remote-control warfare only risk intensifying the ‘noise’ amongst which the next ‘lone-wolf’ attacker becomes increasingly difficult to identify.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2>Armed drones</h2> <p>That the deployment of two key pillars of remote-control warfare, special-operations forces and extended surveillance, is placing Western cities at risk is even more worrying in light of a third significant trend—the potential use of armed drones by violent groups. France depends heavily on nuclear power, and since last October at least 19 <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-government-on-high-alert-after-unexplained-drone-flights-over-nuclear-power-stations-9850138.html">unidentified drone flights have been reported over French nuclear-power stations</a>. Five were recorded over separate stations many hundreds of miles apart on the same night, which suggests co-ordination. An attack by multiple drones on a nuclear-power station could cause major damage, forcing prolonged closure for inspection and repairs.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/3313448.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/3313448.jpg" alt="Protester at anti-drone demo in London with graphic image of how drones kill" title="" width="230" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Remote concern? A Pakistani protester with a message for the US embassy in London. Demotix / Paul Davey. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Police in London have reported <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11327001/Police-warn-that-flying-drones-near-landmarks-is-illegal.html">increasing numbers of unidentified drone flights around key locations</a>, such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, shopping centres, sports stadiums and airports. And the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently detailed <a href="http://o.canada.com/news/national/rcmp-worried-about-possible-terrorism-threat-from-drones-documents-show">foiled plots to use drones armed with improvised explosive devices</a> to target the Pentagon, the US Capitol, the UK Houses of Parliament and the military headquarters in Pakistan.</p> <p>In a mirror of US drone use in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a drone fitted with a remote-controlled improvised explosive device could be used against a high-value target, such as a politician—turning a key tactic of remote-control warfare back on the West. This threat was highlighted by the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/us/white-house-drone.html?_r=0">drone that evaded radar and crashed into the grounds of the White House</a> on 27 January. More worryingly, in September 2013, the German Pirate Party flew a camera-equipped drone over a crowd in Dresden listening to a speech by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422327029&amp;x-yt-cl=84838260&amp;v=qKV6g47hgRs">crash-landed it in front of the dais</a>. These stunts demonstrated what non-state groups could easily attempt with a weaponised drone—to say nothing of the <a href="http://www.openbriefing.org/thinktank/publications/remote-control-war/">spread of armed drones to states such as Iran, China and Russia</a>.</p> <h2>Relinquishing control</h2> <p>If the proliferation of armed drones signifies the US and its allies losing control of a key technology, resort to private military and security companies represents the state relinquishing control over its monopoly of force. Such companies became ubiquitous in Afghanistan and Iraq, while <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28951324">mercenaries and volunteers from Serbia and elsewhere are fighting on both sides in Ukraine</a>. </p> <p>With more private military forces and more governments willing to deploy them, the possibility opens up of wealthy groups and individuals financing and undertaking private military endeavours as the international order descends into a state of neomedievalism. And the very distance from the state that first prompted the widespread use of mercenaries by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq is an advantage others, such as Russia, can just as easily exploit in pursuit of ‘plausible deniability’ in their own operations.</p> <p>The problem of attribution to any particular state or non-state actor is also a key feature of the final element of remote-control warfare—cyber attacks. Given that justifiable responses to cyber attacks need to be based on accurate attribution, there are thus significant risks of miscalculation in cyber conflict. </p> <p>President Obama labelled the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30512032">Sony Pictures hack</a> last November ‘cyber vandalism’, to emphasise that there had been no loss of life or damage to infrastructure, but treating data loss and damage to information systems as less significant is naïve in the 21st century. The latest <a href="http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2015/"><em>Global Risks </em>report</a> from the World Economic forum places cyber attacks among the top ten most likely risks and breakdown of critical information infrastructure among the top ten in terms of impact—while listing both as the risks for which North America is the least prepared. </p> <p>As with the proliferation of armed drones, the US has contributed significantly to the very threat it is now facing. It opened the floodgates with the Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities discovered in June 2010, and its National Security Agency has <a href="http://www.wired.com/2013/09/nsa-backdoored-and-stole-keys/">systematically undermined encryption standards</a>. While cyber offensives may have been considered by many decision-makers preferable to kinetic options, such methods are now being used on the West, which finds itself particularly vulnerable because of the highly-networked nature of its military, political and corporate communication systems and critical infrastructures. </p> <h2><strong>New dragon?</strong></h2> <p>Taken together, these trends indicate that the unrestricted use of remote-control warfare is provoking unintended consequences, with its tactics and technologies being turned back against the US and its allies by violent groups and hostile governments. And this is happening as a new dragon has emerged from the snakes with twisted irony. </p> <p>What started with extremist Islamist insurgencies gaining control of territories in Africa, such as Ansar Dine in Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria, has realised greater potential in the form of Islamic State (IS) claiming a ‘caliphate’ in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls. Yet Western powers find they no longer have the heart (or resources) for full-scale military intervention in the Middle East. They have so far limited their responses to air strikes, weapons supply and intelligence-gathering, leaving the bulk of the fighting to local armies and militias. </p> <p>Of course, remote-control warfare is in full effect, with special forces supplying intelligence in support of drone strikes. But while this has checked the expansion of IS, it shows little sign of defeating the group. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, boasted at the recent London summit of countries fighting IS of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/scott-lucas/why-fight-against-islamic-state-is-not-success-we&#039;re-told-it-is">several thousand fighters being killed</a>, but the containment of Islamic State owes more to Tehran than Washington (which in itself must be considered a failure of remote-control warfare by even its staunchest supporters).</p> <p>Whether the US, British, Canadian and Australian special-forces teams on the ground in Iraq will one day grow into a full ground force remains to be seen but is unlikely as things currently stand. The blowback the West is facing from the failure of remote-control warfare means military and political leaders in Washington, London and elsewhere will likely be preoccupied with threats far closer to home. </p> <p><em>Open Briefing produces </em><em>monthly remote-control warfare intelligence briefings</em><em>, commissioned by the Remote Control project, available </em><a href="http://openbriefing.us2.list-manage2.com/subscribe?u=49ab40a295890a59545026375&amp;id=7cdaf4e67c"><em>free on subscription</em></a><em> or through </em><a href="http://www.openbriefing.org/tag/remote-control-warfare-monthly-briefing/"><em>the Open Briefing website</em></a><em>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-new-way-of-war">Remote control, a new way of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/mali-and-remote-control-war">Mali, and remote-control war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-light-on-new-war">Remote control: light on new war </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Conflict rule of law global security american power & the world accountability 9/11 : the 'war on terror' us & the world Chris Abbott International Law State violence Wed, 04 Feb 2015 20:05:19 +0000 Chris Abbott 90270 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Obama, Netanyahu, Iran, Congress and the Republican Party https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/bob-rigg/obama-netanyahu-iran-congress-and-republican-party <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An intense political battle is going on over Iran on Capitol Hill. Insular Republicans underestimate at their peril international pressures driven by global security concerns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>A State of the Union speech by an American president can normally be compared to a Speech from the Throne by the Queen of England. In each case the executive takes advantage of an opportunity, in a ritualised public context, to outline its legislative and political programme for the coming year.&nbsp;The opposition responds as predictably, the public barely notices and political life rolls on.</span></p> <p>Last week’s State of the Union by Barack Obama blew this tradition out of the water, advocating a range of domestic proposals anathema to the Republican establishment. Obama inflamed the Republican right by reaffirming the historic importance of opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba and by declaring his willingness to use his veto to block any move by the Republican-majority Senate to torpedo the nuclear negotiations with Iran, in a decisive final phase.</p> <p>Obama, initially elected with behind him a wave of international hope that he would bid farewell to the grim US power politics of intimidation and the threat of military strikes, sadly morphed into an advocate of extra-legal drone strikes, black operations, mass surveillance and US-led military interventions in Libya, Iraq and Syria. He ceased to be a symbol of hope, and became a creature of the political establishment. Almost for the first time since first elected in November 2008, in this State of the Union he unexpectedly re-emerged as the fighter he once was, refreshingly advocating change.</p> <p>Before Obama had completed his speech Republican senators were texting their rejections. He had touched on a raw nerve. The visceral hatred which has led many Republicans to strenuously oppose everything Obama has tried to achieve since he became America’s first black president burst out into the open.</p> <p>It is no longer a closely-guarded secret that, on the night of Obama’s first inauguration, Republicans met to discuss how they could stymie his congressional initiatives. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, the Republican response would undoubtedly have been different.</p> <p>After this State of the Union Republican leaders appeared on TV, declaring with great self-satisfaction that almost all Obama’s domestic initiatives were “dead”.&nbsp;One US report described John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, as throwing a fit and a tantrum. Emboldened by their majority in Congress, Republicans had expected Obama to dance to their tune.</p> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/netanyahu boehner.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/netanyahu boehner.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On the same wavelength: Boehner with Netanyahu when he visited Washington just four months into Obama's first term. Flickr /<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/talkradionews/">Talk Radio News Service</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p><span></span>Republicans have lost sight of the fact that US public opinion has already shifted significantly since their crushing mid-term victory in November 2014. They have also failed to acknowledge the turnout in that election—at 34% the lowest since 1942.</p> <p>Obama’s initiatives on immigration and Cuba in particular have been welcomed by America at large. According to the latest Rasmussen opinion poll, his approval rating since the State of the Union is at its highest since mid-April 2013.</p> <p>The Republicans and their Fox News media managers, who perceive themselves as opinion-shapers <em>par excellence</em>, are already out of step with public opinion.&nbsp;Their bellicose fulminations reflect their increasing isolation from the mainstream. Instead of enhancing Republicans’ 2016 election prospects, they may run the risk of undercutting them.</p> <h2><strong>‘Doing the right thing’</strong></h2> <p>The core issue at the heart of Obama’s <em>contretemps</em> with the Republicans is the possible deal over Iran’s nuclear programme.&nbsp;Whereas until now Republican spokespersons have hidden their anti-Iran agenda by pretending to be open to a decision on the outcome of the negotiations, their leader, Boehner, has declared: “No White House threat will stop us from doing the right thing to protect the US and its allies.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Boehner proceeded to say—in the immediate aftermath of <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>—that Islam and Iran posed “grave threats to our security and very way of life”. Republican support for any deal endorsed by Obama’s negotiators is all but ruled out.&nbsp;Because their campaign is co-led by a leading Democrat, the Republicans falsely claim it is bipartisan. It is not supported by the Democratic Party, whose leadership is strenuously supporting the negotiations.</p> <p>Boehner’s statement came with his announcement that he had invited Israel’s increasingly controversial prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to critique the ‘P5+1’ Iran negotiations (involving the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union) before Congress and an international audience. Indeed Netanyahu accepted Boehner’s invitation—issued following consultation with the Republican caucus but not the White House—before Obama delivered his speech. </p> <p>The White House press secretary diplomatically noted that the Republicans had departed from protocol. But an unattributed White House source spoke volumes: “He spat in our face publicly … Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.” According to&nbsp;the liberal Israeli newspaper <em>Haaretz</em>,&nbsp;Obama has warned Netanyahu to stop urging Congress to back laws imposing new sanctions on Iran.</p> <p>Nancy Pelosi, the house minority Leader, aptly described Boehner’s actions as evidence of hubris. The same could be said of Netanyahu, who also neglected to consult Obama at any stage and could possibly be defeated in the forthcoming Israeli elections—being far less popular in Israel than in Congress.&nbsp;</p> <p>His obsessive concern to grandstand was never more evident than during the recent <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> demonstration in Paris. Although the French president, François Hollande, had requested him not to attend, Netanyahu did, forcing himself into the front row—almost next to Hollande—where his security guard apparently manhandled a French cabinet minister. </p> <p>France may now be tempted not to support Israel in forthcoming votes on the UN Security Council and elsewhere. Two members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have warned that, if he does address Congress, he may be compromising Israel’s ties with the US for the sake of his campaign.</p> <h2><strong>‘Throwing a grenade’</strong></h2> <p>With the EU’s new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, at his side, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, entered the fray by saying that “top intelligence personnel” in Israel had advised a visiting congressional delegation that if additional sanctions were announced “It would be like throwing a grenade into the process”. Although the Israeli government made an unconvincing attempt at damage control, it is generally understood that the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, has added his name to those of successive heads of the intelligence agency who have publicly challenged Netanyahu’s policies on Iran. Mossad can see that, if the negotiations were derailed, an already dangerously unstable region would be further destabilised. </p> <p>Kerry also stressed that the US position on the Iran negotiations reflected the view of key EU allies: France, Germany and the UK. If Congress were to pull the plug on arduous negotiations backed by the US president, the international political fallout would be far-reaching. The US would lose not just face but international credibility.</p> <p>Meantime, it went almost unnoticed on Capitol Hill that, in its most recent Joint Programme of Action report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found Iran had complied with its obligations under the Non-proliferation Treaty and honoured its commitment not to expand its nuclear activities. Indeed, successive National Intelligence Estimates by US agencies have found that, since 1994, Iran has not aimed to develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, has also weighed in, saying new sanctions would “kill” a nuclear deal, with Iran’s <em>Majlis</em> (parliament) taking counter-action.</p> <p>Before his State of the Union, Obama unsettled some leading Republicans by encouraging the UK prime minister, David Cameron, to approach key congressional players in support of the P5+1. Now Republicans have invited Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress, they cannot object to further intense lobbying by governments supporting the negotiations.&nbsp;Mogherini recently circulated to all members of Congress a letter on behalf of EU foreign ministers: “We have a real chance to resolve one of the world’s long-standing security threats—and the chance to do it peacefully … We have a historic opportunity that may not come again.”</p> <h2><strong>Narcissistic microcosm</strong></h2> <p>If the bubble of US exceptionalism can be pricked through unaccustomed exposure to the views of the international community, this will undoubtedly stir some rethinking in Republican and Democratic ranks. Congress is a narcissistic microcosm of an insular society startlingly ignorant of the outside world. Most American adults have never left the United States.&nbsp;Their elected representatives can only benefit from discovering that, whether they like it or not, they are also part of a global community—and now lack the capacity to ride roughshod over its interests and wishes.&nbsp; </p> <p>The political heat is on and Congress has become a crucible, with all kinds of resolutions being crafted by Republicans and their few Democratic allies to achieve the 67 Senate votes required to override Obama’s presidential veto.&nbsp;Although Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was originally set down for early February, it is now scheduled to take place on 3 March, which happens to be the last day of the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Mossad can see that, if the negotiations were derailed, an already dangerously unstable region would be further destabilised.</span></p><p><span></span>By addressing two very different audiences within three days, amid heightened international media attention, Netanyahu can pose as a polished diplomat before Congress and an articulate street-fighter before AIPAC, which attracts about 14,000 delegates—including as many as two-thirds of members of Congress. At least some may however absent themselves from the conference this time. They can give Netanyahu a hearing on their own turf and if they brave TV cameras and an international audience for a second bite of his poisoned cherry it could be to their political disadvantage.&nbsp;</p> <p>Netanyahu could still decide to address only AIPAC. He could get his message across to his key target audience without infuriating almost everyone on whom Israel depends for support. If not, his decision to postpone his US visit for the publicity value of two headline-grabbing speeches, just two weeks before the Israeli elections, could rebound on him and his congressional supporters. </p> <p>Obama’s team has a golden opportunity to pull out all the stops in lobbying members of Congress. Any inhibitions key overseas supporters of a deal might otherwise have had about interfering in US domestic processes will be swept aside. Members will be hit from all sides by intense lobbying, including from abroad. This is likely to encourage Democratic waverers to play it safe and may encourage some Republicans to vote with their conscience rather than their party. In recent days two key Fox News pundits have sharply criticised Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress, revealing splits at the heart of the Republican camp.</p> <p>The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, now controlled by the Republicans, will in the interim hear submissions from two conservative think tanks. But it will also hear from the Republican godfather Henry Kissinger, who has in advanced old age upset Republican apple-carts over Ukraine. Quite unexpectedly, Kissinger will once again find himself in the eye of a major political storm, with nothing to lose.</p> <p>By inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, the Republicans are encouraging an internationally unpopular leader to undermine a key foreign-policy objective of the US government, humiliate an elected president and undo two years of hard political labour by the P5+1. This may well anger Americans on both sides of the political fence. AIPAC’s teflon façade will be indelibly scratched.</p> <h2><strong>Beginning of the end</strong></h2> <p>If the Republicans are unable to achieve their aim of torpedoing the nuclear negotiations, this will be a massive defeat and a huge loss of political credibility, domestically and internationally. It could even mark the beginning of the end of their presidential campaign for 2016.</p> <p>But what if they were to succeed in torpedoing the nuclear negotiations? Until now the Israeli/US mantra has been that if Iran does not arrive at a negotiated settlement all options, especially war, are on the table.&nbsp;When the negotiations began, war may have appeared a feasible option, at least to hardliners in Israel and the Pentagon. Mossad has however consistently been opposed.</p> <p>But now, in the Islamic State (IS) environment, a conventional or nuclear attack on Iran would trigger unpredictable eruptions throughout the Middle East, in the West and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Iran’s hardliners would seize the initiative and its political leadership would be neutralised or thrown out. The Iraqi and Syrian governments would attack any such intervention. The Saudi and Bahraini governments would be as fearful of public opinion at home as they would be of the US and would try to straddle barbed-wire fences. As for Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt, who knows? If the US were associated with an attack on Iran, any Middle Eastern government which allowed US or Israeli aircraft to overfly its airspace or use airbases on its territory would be risking its neck. </p> <p>IS and al-Qaeda would be immeasurably strengthened and would seize a golden opportunity to profile themselves and their work. In the absence of a friendly understanding between Iran and the US, the fragile anti-IS coalition would disintegrate. Public rage at Israel and Netanyahu would trigger a wave of anti-Israeli activity, including from within Israel and the occupied territories. Hizbullah would have nothing to lose by attacking Israel with its new generation of long-range rockets.&nbsp;</p> <p>War with Iran would thus appear to be off the table for the foreseeable future. The lesser option of a diplomatic rupture would almost ensure that international moves to put the genie of Islamist militancy back into the bottle will be stillborn. Given a choice between a negotiated agreement with Iran and a variation on the above scenarios, the international community is likely to favour keeping the lid on the Middle East, at least for the time being.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open-security/paul-ingram/will-america%27s-political-discord-torpedo-iran-talks">Will America&#039;s political discord torpedo the Iran talks? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-ayoob/endgame-united-states-and-iran">Endgame: the United States and Iran</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Washington DC </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Washington DC United States Conflict International politics iran: how to avoid war? inside washington global security american power & the world us & the world north america Bob Rigg Diplomacy Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:20:16 +0000 Bob Rigg 89998 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the fight against Islamic State is not the success we're told it is https://www.opendemocracy.net/open-security/scott-lucas/why-fight-against-islamic-state-is-not-success-we%27re-told-it-is <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is John Kerry right to be so gung-ho about military successes against Islamic State? Not really<span style="font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-ascii-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">—</span>as the fundamental political challenges in Iraq and Syria remain unaddressed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/kerry.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/kerry.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Eye of the tiger? John Kerry at the London conference.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/diplomacy-photos/global-coalition-coalition-against-the-islamic-state-is--photos-51753689">EPA/Andy Rain</a></span></span><span class="image-caption">. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Ministers from 21 countries <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/isils-advance-has-been-halted-kerry-tells-coalition">gathered in London on 22 January</a>&nbsp;to discuss the fight against <a href="https://theconversation.com/uk/topics/islamic-state">Islamic State</a> (IS). They had their photo-opportunity and issued their statements. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, told them that <a href="http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/190376">almost 6,000</a> jihadists had been killed, and almost 700 square kilometres of Iraqi territory retaken.&nbsp;<span>But at the end of the day, all of this had precious little to do with the issue of how to confront IS’ political, military and social expansion.</span></p> <p>None of the officials from the 21 countries would state the obvious: without a determined strategy to challenge IS on the ground as well as from the air in Syria and in Iraq, the best that can be achieved is 'containment' of the jihadists.&nbsp;<span>And none acknowledged that, without a long-term approach to deal with deep-set political grievances in both countries, IS will continue to appeal to</span><span>—</span><span>and recruit</span><span>—</span><span>many more people.</span></p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">it’s far easier for the West to tell tales of 'foreign fighters' and 'jihadology' than to work hard on the deeper causes and broader consequences of the Iraqi and Syrian disasters</span></p><p><span></span>The US-led aerial intervention in Iraq, which <a href="https://theconversation.com/air-strikes-could-keep-hope-alive-for-syria-and-middle-east-17660">began</a> in August 2014, has certainly checked IS’ advance. It bolstered Kurdish forces as IS neared the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil; it has helped those same forces retake some key positions, such as the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/18/iraqi-kurdish-forces-recapture-mosul-dam-isis">Mosul Dam</a>, and <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/12/kurds-retake-ground-from-isil-iraq-20141218171223624837.html">recaptur</a>e&nbsp;some areas of north-west Iraq. But<span>&nbsp;the Iraqi military’s success in the east, west and south, after its </span><a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2014/6/28/how-did-iraq-s-armycollapsesoquickly.html">near-collapse</a><span> in summer 2014, owes more to Iranian support and the rise of Shia militias than to any American efforts.</span></p> <p>At best, Washington has tacitly accepted that Baghdad’s security depends more on Tehran and the Shia groups than on US strategy. Kerry’s boast about the thousands of IS bodies<span>—</span><span>almost half of the estimated jihadist force</span><span>—</span><span>was a simple attempt to kick dust over this reality. Indeed, even before the statement was made, the former US defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, was </span><a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/22/politics/us-officials-say-6000-isis-fighters-killed-in-battles/">trying to temper it</a><span>: “I was in a war [in Vietnam] where we did body counts and we lost that one.”</span></p> <p>Nor did Kerry admit that his proclamation had little to do with the prospects for long-term stability in Iraq. There is still no sign of a truly stable government which could deal with rampant <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/iraq-corruption-impunity-goes-unpunished.html">corruption</a> and the Sunni minority’s suspicions of a Shia-led system. And, if anything, the rise of the anti-IS militias Kerry credits the US with helping<span>—</span><span>themselves accused of perpetrating abuses against the population</span><span>—</span><span>is likely only to add to the real challenge.</span></p> <h2>Grasp the nettle</h2> <p><span>Meanwhile, the situation in Syria is even more fraught.&nbsp;</span>Kerry could brag that US-led bombing has helped the Kurdish town of Kobanê, near Syria’s border with Turkey, hold out against three months of IS attacks. But at the same time, IS has expanded its hold on territory in much of northern and eastern Syria, taking on both the Assad regime and Syrian opposition forces. It is still secure in its Syrian centre, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/30/raqqa-isis-capital-crucifixions-civilians-suffer-jihadis-red-bull">Raqqa</a>, the largest city outside the Damascus regime’s control; it has established a local government and economy, and from that base it now controls most of Syria’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/19/-sp-islamic-state-oil-empire-iraq-isis">oil</a> and <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/11/03/mideast-crisis-homs-idINKBN0IN0ET20141103">gas</a> fields.</p><p> <img src="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/69892/width668/image-20150123-24549-ko0xaz.jpg" alt="" width="460" /> <span class="image-caption">An air strike in Kobanê.<a class="source" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.epa.eu/war-photos/armed-conflict-photos/mortar-shells-from-kurdish-islamic-state-conflict-land-in-turkey-photos-51706375">EPA/Sedat Suna</a>.&nbsp;All rights reserved.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The blunt reality is that, with the exception of Kobanê, there can be no effective campaign against IS without the <a href="http://eaworldview.com/2014/12/syria-special-proposal-crisis-safe-havens-internal-containment/">support of a local ground force</a>.&nbsp;<span>But the US administration has stopped short of giving that support. Aside from air strikes, it has done little more than drip-feed limited supplies to a handful of 'moderate' insurgents, refusing to take essential measures even after the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks of August 2013 (President Obama’s initial '</span><a href="https://theconversation.com/syrias-chemical-weapons-have-become-a-smokescreen-amid-wider-bloody-conflict-33998">red line</a>'<span>).</span></p> <p>Instead of grasping the nettle, Washington <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/26/obama-seeking-500m-training-moderate-syrian-rebels">authorised $500m</a> to fund a token program to train and equip 5,000 'moderate' fighters to face IS on the ground. The training will not begin until late March at the earliest, and the first batch of fighters will not be ready for the battlefield before the end of the year.</p> <p>Indeed, the biggest recent shift in US Syria policy has more to do with the Assad regime than IS: Kerry has at last <a href="http://eaworldview.com/2015/01/syria-daily-russias-peace-proposal-failed-us-government-embraces-assads-stay-power/">reneged</a> on America’s long-held position that Assad must eventually give up power to a transitional government.&nbsp;<span>With that retraction, the dim prospect of any allied ground effort</span><span>—</span><span>unless the US decides to ally with the regime’s forces</span><span>—</span><span>has all but vanished.</span></p> <h2>The war at home</h2> <p>Meanwhile, instead of confronting the difficulties in Iraq and Syria without reservation, the Euro-American allies are fixating on the problem of '<a href="https://theconversation.com/a-very-french-jihad-hundreds-head-to-syria-and-paris-fears-their-return-26077">jihadists over here</a>'. Instead of focusing on dealing with the political, economic and social situation that has fostered the rise of IS and taking the measures that are really needed to deal with it, Western governments are preocuppied with their own extremists, who will supposedly return from fighting in the Middle East to wreak havoc in Europe and the US.</p> <p>To be sure, the threat of attacks 'over here' is serious and not to be dismissed, as events in <a href="https://theconversation.com/uk/topics/charlie-hebdo-attack">France</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/much-soul-searching-as-belgium-confronts-terror-at-home-36406">Belgium</a> have shown. But those attacks cannot be separated from the turmoil in areas such as (<a href="https://theconversation.com/al-qaedas-yemen-branch-adds-paris-attacks-to-list-of-successes-36308">but not limited to</a>) Iraq and Syria<span>—</span><span>and, by extension, the West’s failure to help put a stop to it.</span></p> <p>This is not just testament to the dangers of Islamic extremism around the world. It also proves it’s far easier for the West to tell tales of 'foreign fighters' and 'jihadology' than to work hard on the deeper causes and broader consequences of the Iraqi and Syrian disasters.</p> <p>There are alternatives that could really challenge IS: an Iraqi Kurdistan with real international recognition and support, an Iraqi government answering to all communities, a Syrian opposition supported in a political vision that overcomes not only the jihadists but the Assad regime.&nbsp;<span>But the London summit proved these things are still out of reach</span><span>—</span><span>or at least too much for the allies to openly contemplate.</span></p><p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.edu.au/content/36619/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="http://theconversation.com/why-the-fight-against-islamic-state-is-not-the-success-were-told-it-is-36619">original article</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Maps show <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/exclusive-isis-gaining-ground-in-syria-despite-u-s-strikes.html?via=desktop&amp;source=twitter">extent of gains</a> for IS in Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-vs-its-far-enemy">Islamic State vs its far enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-from-inside">Islamic State: from the inside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/isis-spreading-cancer">ISIS: the spreading cancer</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Conflict iraq - the war & after insurgency global security american power & the world mexico Scott Lucas International Law Non-state violence Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:14:43 +0000 Scott Lucas 89864 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After the torture report—rebalancing the scales of justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/daniele-rumolo/after-torture-report%E2%80%94rebalancing-scales-of-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the voluminous responses to the long-awaited US Senate committee report on torture by the CIA, the essence of what must follow—prosecutions, not pardons—has been buried.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/placard_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/placard_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>That is the question—a placard at an anti-Guantanamo demonstration outside the White House earlier this year. Flickr / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/">Stephen Melkisethian</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>The release of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence <a href="http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf">report</a> on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Detention and Interrogation Programme during the George W. Bush ‘war on terror’ is, first and foremost, an extraordinary example of democracy. The very fact that one state institution can investigate actions by another and publicly report its findings—albeit only through a heavily redacted summary—is significant evidence of a functioning balance of powers. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">This simple truth was ignored by the Bush administration.</span></p><p><span></span>This is unknown in the vast majority of countries where <a href="http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=103">torture</a> demonstrably occurs or where there is substantial evidence as to its use. Italy is a case in point: such is the state of denial by national authorities that this <a href="http://www.osservatorioantigone.it/new/campagne">crime</a> is not included in the criminal code, in violation of Italy’s international legal obligations. Failure to criminalise torture guarantees impunity for the officials responsible for the deaths of persons under <a href="http://strugglesinitaly.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/en-aldrovandi-killers-to-return-to-uniform/">arrest</a> or in <a href="http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/acquittals-in-death-of-detained-man">detention</a>. The absence of prosecution and of compliance with the rule of law is of particular concern, since these represent the foundation of non-dictatorial political systems. &nbsp;</p> <p>Democracy is not a static point but a continuous flux, a perpetual movement, which is not complete until and unless decisive actions are taken. Simple release of such a report is not indicative of, nor sufficient to demonstrate, democracy. It needs to be followed by another essential, non-negotiable element, <a href="http://www.unesco.org/cpp/uk/declarations/democracy.pdf">accountability</a>, lack of which would represent an absolute negation of the principles upheld by the report’s publication. </p> <h2>Non-derogable</h2> <p><a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx">Freedom from torture</a>, which was exhaustively defined by the United Nations 30 years ago this week, is a non-derogable right, subject to universal jurisdiction, whose prosecution is not affected by the limitations of domestic statutes. If national laws do not comply, they are in violation of international law. </p> <p>Torture is a heinous crime, which does not produce demonstrable advantages. Affirming that it had “produced little useful intelligence”, the Republican senator John McCain <a href="http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=1a15e343-66b0-473f-b0c1-a58f984db996">said</a>: “[V]ictims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say.”</p> <p>This simple truth was ignored by the Bush administration. It resulted in further radicalisation around the world—at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives of civilian men, women, boys, and girls in an unfortunately long list of countries, including <a href="http://costsofwar.org/article/afghan-civilians">Afghanistan</a>, <a href="https://www.iraqbodycount.org/">Iraq</a>, <a href="http://syriahr.com/en/">Syria</a>, <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/">Yemen</a>, <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/15/nigeria-boko-haram-kills-2053-civilians-6-months">Nigeria</a>, <a href="http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/somalia">Somalia</a> and <a href="http://unsmil.unmissions.org/Portals/unsmil/Human%20Rights%20Report%20on%20Libya%2004.09.14%20English.pdf">Libya</a>. The use of torture during decade-long wars also cost the US, and the states who fought or still fight alongside it, the lives of thousands of soldiers—and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302200.html">trillions of dollars</a> which could have been used to foster peace and dialogue.</p> <h2>Accountability</h2> <p>Democracy is based, among other things, on the principle of the accountability of elected representatives to the citizenry. Democratic politicians, by accruing the honour and responsibility of taking decisions on behalf of a country, also accept that they must be accountable to judicial institutions, at national and international levels. </p> <p>Therefore, on the basis of the information provided in the report, the US attorney general, Eric Holder, has to open investigations of, and prosecute, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George J. Tenet, Donald H. Rumsfeld, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and any other official or person who took part in the initiation, development, oversight and implementation of policies authorising the use of torture. As clearly adumbrated after its release by Ben Emmerson, the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15397&amp;LangID=E">United Nations special rapporteur</a> on counter-terrorism and human rights, “the individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. </p> <p>Emmerson continued: “The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”</p> <h2>Example</h2> <p>In that context, ensuring the prosecution of those responsible is the only possible legal outcome. If the US wants to continue to promote democracy and strengthen respect for the rule of law at the <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/27/statement-president-parliamentary-elections-ukraine">global level</a>, there is no other solution than making an example of itself in holding accountable those responsible for massive violations of human-rights and international law.</p> <p>Any other outcome, including a presidential pardon based on alleged security concerns—as some <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/opinion/pardon-bush-and-those-who-tortured.html?_r=0">authors</a> have suggested—would not only comprise another violation of national and international law but would also present a further risk for global security. The denial of justice would represent the annihilation of the fundamental legal principles on which the current system is based. </p> <p>One could paraphrase the <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/63562.pdf">2002 National Security Strategy</a> of George W. Bush, which is the cause and origin of all this: either you are with international law or you are against it.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A&nbsp;<span>report</span><span>&nbsp;facing up to historic torture in</span><span>&nbsp;Brazil is not just contemporaneous--it raises <a href="http://theconversation.com/brazil-torture-report-adds-to-global-shame-and-highlights-need-for-accountability-35389?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+12+December+2014+-+2220&amp;utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+12+December+2014+-+2220+CID_17c69ce9cef30525b7e4dbfc470a3813&amp;utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&amp;utm_term=Brazil%20torture%20report%20adds%20to%20global%20shame%20and%20highlights%20need%20for%20accountability">many of the same issues</a>.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/rory-o%27connell/secret-prisons-disappearances-and-torture">Secret prisons, disappearances and torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/benjamin-ward/truth-still-eludes-on-uk-involvement-in-rendition-and-torture">Truth still eludes on UK involvement in rendition and torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open-security/crofton-black/cia-torture-programme-cast-wide-net">CIA torture programme cast a wide net</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrightsopenpage/juan-francisco-lobo/exposing-torture-virtue-of-american-hypocrisy">Exposing torture - the virtue of American hypocrisy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Democracy and government rule of law human rights global security democracy & terror bush doctrine: right or wrong? american power & the world accountability 9/11: politics of global justice 9/11 : the 'war on terror' us & the world Daniele Rumolo International Law State violence Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:10:23 +0000 Daniele Rumolo 88775 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey, Kobane and the Kurdish question https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/sinan-ekim/turkey-kobane-and-kurdish-question <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The US wants Turkey to join the military effort against Islamic State at Kurdish-dominated Kobane, across the Syrian border—but Ankara’s focus is the Kurds within its own.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Kobane, a Kurdish enclave along the Syrian-Turkish border since July 2012, now stands at the epicentre of the international struggle against the al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State (IS). </p> <p>For more than a month now, the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been waging a fierce struggle to prevent the city from slipping under Islamist control. YPG is tenacious in its defence but lacks the resources to bring the battle to a successful conclusion. Until late October, outside ammunition came only via US-led airstrikes and airdrops, insufficient to release the IS grip on Kobane. The fighters need additional boots on the ground—preferably from the neighbouring states of Turkey, which has chosen to stand on the sidelines, and Iraq, which has only recently sent <em>peshmerga</em> forces into the conflict zone, despite the battle raging just across the border. </p> <p>Why is the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, unwilling to “do what it takes” in Kobane—steering clear of the US-led military coalition against IS despite his country’s proximity?</p> <p>The argument that runs through Western media and the opposition to the AKP is that Turkey actually supports IS. The leader of the German Greens, Claudia Roth, alleges that there are IS training facilities and recruitment centres across the country. And the chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has claimed that Ankara has supplied arms and munitions to the militants opposing the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad—albeit without reliable evidence. </p> <p>Some developments, however, suggest a working relationship. Despite its fanatical iconoclasm, IS has not destroyed the tomb of Suleiman Shah, the progenitor in Syria of the Ottoman dynasty. Its release of 46 Turkish hostages in September has also raised new questions about Ankara’s relations with IS. </p> <p>Erdoğan had presented the hostages as the reason behind Turkey’s reluctance to play too active a role, fearing retribution. But even after their release he remains wary and expresses disquietude with the military alliance led by the US president, Barack Obama. </p> <p>Late last month, Erdoğan said that Washington had not yet clarified what role it expected Turkey to play. But Tolga Tanıș, an investigative journalist based in Istanbul, reported via Pentagon sources that Washington had specifically requested access to two airbases, one in İncirlik for airstrikes against IS, as well as the naval base in İskenderun (“Erdoğan’in yüksek riskli oyun planı”, <em>Hürriyet</em>, 26 October). It is unlikely Erdoğan has been kept in the dark.</p> <h2><strong>Preconditions</strong></h2> <p>It is not difficult to see why the US wants Turkey to come on board: not only does it have the second largest army in NATO but it has already deployed tanks to the border and could easily tip the balance by firing its first shot. And Ankara <em>is</em> a part of the anti-IS coalition; its membership, though, has several preconditions attached, including the stipulation that the US commit itself to bringing Assad’s time in office to an end.</p> <p>Whereas Washington is focused on “degrading and ultimately destroying” IS at Kobane, regime change in Syria is Turkey’s main objective. It maintains that the conflict in Kobane is directly connected to the war against Assad, claiming that the disenfranchisement of the Sunni majority in Syria will continue to generate fundamentalism even after the military defeat of IS. Unlike Obama, Erdoğan is adamant that pushing IS out of the region will provide but temporary relief, and that a permanent resolution is dependent on dislodging the Syrian president.</p> <p>These concerns about the Assad regime carry weight—but not quite enough. Erdoğan’s disinclination to have “Turkish boots on the ground” has more to do with the long-simmering question of Kurdish autonomy. </p> <p>The battle for Kobane is being led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which shares the ideology of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), embroiled for three decades in a conflict with the Turkish state over the fate of the Kurdish-dominated south-east. Should the PYD walk away victorious from the battlefield, it might embolden Kurds in Turkey to seek greater autonomy and could engender a united Kurdish front spanning south-eastern Turkey, western Iraq and northern Syria. </p> <h2><strong>Ultimatum</strong></h2> <p>Erdoğan has taken precautions against just such a scenario. At a secret meeting on 5 October with Saleh Muslim, leader of the PYD, his ministers stipulated that Turkish support would be contingent on several factors: PYD forces would become part of Turkey’s buffer-zone project, they would join the Sunni coalition against the Syrian government and they would dissolve their autonomous enclaves. It is easy to decipher this ultimatum: either surrender to Ankara at the negotiating table and join Turkey in the struggle against Assad, or face defeat at the hands of IS militants on the battlefield.</p> <p>As days passed Turkey’s position changed, closely related to Kurdish dynamics. Ankara had refused passage to Iraqi Kurds <em>en route</em> to the battle, blocking the only land channel for fighters and ammunition to reach anti-IS forces in Kobane. In a remarkable reconfiguration on 20 October, the foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, announced that Turkey would open up its territory for the <em>peshmerga</em> to reach Kobane. </p> <p>Some optimists have interpreted this as a harbinger of Turkish willingness to co-operate, yet the international community should be wary. It could as well be a tactical move by Erdoğan to relieve some of the criticism of his handling of the crisis: if examined carefully, the announcement contained more empty rhetoric than substantial promises. Çavuşoğlu even held back on how the <em>peshmerga</em> units would make their way into Syrian territory and whether they would receive any logistical support from Turkish forces at the border. Allocation of Massoud Barzani’s <em>peshmerga</em> could also supplement, even reinforce, Ankara’s strategy, as the president of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq maintains a close working relationship with Erdoğan. The leader of the PYD has already expressed scepticism as to the motives behind deploying these fighters, who might disrupt the Kurdish gains at Kobane.</p> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/berlin kurdish demo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/berlin kurdish demo.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A "Berlin ist Kobane" demonstration in the German capital in September. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/libertinus/">Montecruz Foto</a> / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</p><p>The lack of activism in Ankara runs the risk of derailing the peace process initiated roughly two years ago between the PKK and the Erdoğan government. The PKK’s operational commander, Cemal Bayik, as well as its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, have made clear that it would be automatically terminated by the fall of the besieged town. Kurds are already angry: violent protests have erupted in past weeks in Istanbul and Ankara and in Germany. The overwhelmingly Kurdish towns of Batman, Diyarbakir, Muș and Siirt in Turkey have witnessed clashes between IS sympathisers and Kurds, causing severe casualties and several deaths—and prompting the administration to impose curfews on Kurdish cities along the south-eastern border.</p> <h2><strong><em>Realpolitik</em></strong></h2> <p>Yet the question is: does Erdoğan care? What does he hope to gain? His reluctance does not stem from mere stubbornness but <em>Realpolitik</em>, as his main objective is to weaken the PKK. As the hub of the Kurdish region, Kobane lies between a swathe of Kurdish-controlled towns, collectively known as the canton of Jazeera, and the town and district of Afrin; if IS were pushed out of Kobane, these two cantons would be linked in a chain bringing the Kurdish ideal of an autonomous state into the realm of the possible—or, at least, furnishing Turkish Kurds with enough leverage to demand the quasi-independence Syrian Kurds snatched from Assad in northern Syria in the summer of 2012.</p> <p>Kobane’s fall to IS could trigger the successive collapse of Kurdish strongholds, enabling it to move westwards towards the region north of Aleppo and even to cement its grip on a broader strip, roughly stretching from the Syrian border in the west to the outskirts of greater Baghdad in the east and from Babel province in the south to Mosul in the north. The fighting at Kobane has already weakened the Kurdish rebels and, if weakened further to the verge of neutralisation, they will be less able to resist the political demands of Ankara at the negotiating table. By contrast, should the Kurds win at Kobane it would be more difficult to achieve the disarming of the PKK. More than anything else, the Turkish president is motivated by opportunism, treating the peace process as a bargaining chip for his other political goals. Perhaps his support will arrive, when the Kurds have realised that quasi-independence is not a viable option.</p> <p>Erdoğan also faces mounting internal pressure. With upcoming elections the president has to watch his electorate, an overwhelming portion of which would not support aiding an entity already perceived as linked too closely with the PKK. Ankara will not extract any political or territorial gains from becoming involved in the conflict; only the Turkish-Kurdish peace process runs the risk of being derailed and it is far from certain whether aiding the Kurds would set the conditions for lasting peace with Ankara. In this sense, “doing what it takes” at Kobane becomes above all a humanitarian concern—and, according to Erdoğan, one not worth the risk of opening the borders to retaliatory attacks or stiffening the morale of the Kurds.</p> <p>If the struggle against Assad is Ankara’s official motivation to remain idly on the sidelines, the Kurdish problem is then the real driver. Erdoğan clearly has his own vision for the region and the conflict offers him an unconventional opportunity to see it unfurl.</p> <h2><strong>Splintered</strong></h2> <p>In addition to their disagreement as to whether Assad is the root cause of regional radicalism, Erdoğan finds Obama’s thinking devoid of any operational logic. Granted, the Western response may achieve the short-term objective of curbing IS’ military capacity, but what about the state-building measures to follow? Obama has said NATO forces will be working with the Syrian opposition—an opposition splintered into 1,500 groups of various leanings, with Washington providing arms and funds to 14 militias in south Syria and 60 groups in the north. The Free Syrian Army is furthermore experiencing a power struggle in its top echelons, where three military commanders have professed to be the “rightful supreme leader”. The fact that none of these opposition forces is secular or democratic posits another problem: which will assume a leadership role, after IS has retreated?</p> <p>Unlike the US, Turkey is looking at the mess that will remain in the post-conflict Levant. For instance, what if Assad regains control over the northern territories? There is no guarantee that he will not follow an aggressive policy against Syria’s neighbours, especially having secured the backing of Russia and Iran. In this regard, Erdoğan and the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, are not entirely at fault in their preferred international solution: a no-fly zone over Syria and a humanitarian corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border, providing a “safe haven” to accommodate the refugees fleeing Syria, now numbered at nearly 1.5 million. Turkey wants a clear indication that the border will be safe—and that means Assad toppled and Kurds disarmed.</p> <p>As Akın Ünver has eloquently <a href="http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=90160">put it</a>, intensifying the air campaign will provide only a “band-aid solution” for wounds that in reality run far deeper and wider. Resolving this conflict requires rather a political commitment to a post-IS settlement, drafted and agreed by the key players in the region. Obama will then have to factor in the interests of the local powers if he is to avoid another failure after the debacle in Iraq. Turkey may be committing a humanitarian <em>faux pas</em> through its non-involvement, but its concerns about the future of the Kurdish problem and fate of the region cannot be dismissed as unreasonable. </p> <p>In this sense, Erdoğan is doing “what it takes” at Kobane. It’s just not what Obama wants him to do.</p> <p><em>This is an edited version of a commentary which originally appeared in the </em><a href="http://www.iai.it/content.asp?langid=2&amp;contentid=778"><em>Global Turkey in Europe</em></a><em> series.</em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/bashdar-pusho-ismaeel/kobane-transforming-regional-dynamic">Kobane, transforming the regional dynamic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kanar-talabani/what-does-kobane-mean-for-international-community">What does Kobane mean for the international community?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity North-Africa West-Asia openSecurity Turkey International politics the future of turkey global security american power & the world middle east Remember Kobane? Turkish Dawn Sinan Ekim Syria's peace: what, how, when? Diplomacy Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:32:01 +0000 Sinan Ekim 87608 at https://www.opendemocracy.net IS: is Jordan next? https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alaa-alfazza/is-is-jordan-next <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Islamic State has already taken over significant areas of Iraq and Syria. Jordan abuts both—and could be the next target.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>“Is Jordan going to be next?” That question has been asked many times during the Arab revolutions. It is asked now, though in a different context: is Jordan the next target for Islamic State? Yet when IS decides to target Jordan—and it is “when”, not “if”—it will do so from inside the country, not across the borders. </p> <p>Recent statistics published by the <em>Economist</em> show that Jordan contributes the highest percentage of jihadists going to Syria. The magazine reported that more than 2,000 fighters had left Jordan to fight with the extremists, yet Jordanian experts think the number exceeds 3,500.</p> <p>A few weeks ago a pilot and officer, drawn from one of the most powerful Jordanian tribes, died during the seizure by IS of a Syrian military airport. His acquaintances and young male peers of his tribe consider him a martyr. Some may never have been interested in politics, yet his courage and dedication to what he believed in have given them an example. That is how IS and salafists more broadly recruit all that support in Jordan. </p> <p>Three years ago experts and Jordanian intelligence estimated that about 3,000 salafists were active in the country. Now they are talking about 7,000, excluding those in Syria and Iraq—not to mention the tens of thousands of unorganised supporters or the rapidly swelling pool of hundreds of thousands of potential sympathisers evidenced by Jordanian social media. Even some writers and public figures say that IS is the only vehicle to remove the regime in Amman.</p> <h2><strong>Pakistani comparator</strong></h2> <p>A comparison with Pakistan helps, despite its different historical trajectory. These two close allies of the US face the possibility of becoming failed states because of their corrupt regimes and the violent salafists they contain. </p> <p>The Pakistani state is not able to rule over the tribal areas, where the Taliban are dominant, and the whole country is descending gradually into chaos. This is a cumulative result of years of activity by the jihadists under the eyes of the Pakistani government and army, which supported them and encouraged them to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets. </p> <p>In Jordan the salafists were, one way or another, allowed to work and recruit openly and move to Syria to fight the regime there. It will not be long before there will be tribal lands and cities in Jordan where the government can't control anything. The tribes in Jordan feel a deep despair stemming from years of misery. Some activists in the tribal areas will collaborate with the devil to get rid of a corrupt and inefficient regime.</p> <p>There are, though, some differences. In Afghanistan it was only after beating the Soviets that the US and Pakistan started working against the jihadists. In Syria the US and its allies said they wanted to support the moderate opposition forces to fight both the regime and the extremists. On the ground we saw the remains of the Free Syrian Army collaborating closely with Jabhat al-Nusra, the branch of al-Qaeda, before they both lost land and fighters to ISIS, which became IS. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">IS is just waiting for any kind of unrest, likely to happen anytime due to the accumulated anger and despair, with the leadership of Jordan busy making money for itself rather than solving the country's problems.</span></p><p><span></span>Many Jordanian jihadists began with al-Nusra, already a violent militia, and ended up in IS, a more extreme and brutal organisation. Even Jordanian intelligence long supported a "military council" led by a pro-Jordanian Syrian dissident officer in south Syria, Ahmad al-Ne'meh. The salafists were getting men and weapons through Jordanian borders under the cover of al-Ne'meh. A famous salafist leader, Abu Sayyaf, talked to the press on a near-daily basis about the Jordanians fighting in Syria—where they had fought, what they had achieved, who had died. Many “martyrs” received huge funerals. </p> <p>Today the Jordanian authorities try to use the traditional ideological leaders of al-Qaeda (like Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) against IS but they do not understand that al-Qaeda and its al-Nusra offshoot share roots and an audience with IS. Different formations of the same material, they are both very dangerous.</p> <p>In Pakistan, what started as official support for the jihadists led over the years to the latter exercising strong leverage inside the army and Pakistani intelligence. It is happening again in Jordan. After about 30 years of complex work with these paramilitaries, many intellegence officers have become sympathetic with salafist currents—and maybe more than sympathetic.</p> <h2>Jordanian godfather </h2> <p>Al-Qaeda started with a Jordanian godfather, Abdullah Azzam. He represented the point where the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), salafists and al-Qaeda meet. Azzam, the Egyptian Sayyed Qutub and the Pakistani Abu al-A'la al-Mawdody are the icons for the new generation of jihadists and for a wide range of young people in the MB. </p> <p>Experts say that in times of pressure and despair many young people exit the brotherhood towards the jihadist stream and some continue to al-Qaeda or IS. This is happening in Jordan, albeit still on a small scale. It will also happen in Egypt following the overthrow of the MB from power.</p> <p>So many Jordanians live in miserable conditions. Entire cities, especially in tribal areas, lack investment and employment. Ma'an in the desert south, al-Salt in the middle, Rusayfa and Baq'a near Amman and other cities already appear as if ruled by the jihadists. </p> <p>Another important factor is the doctrinal extremism rallying the whole region. Jordanians are almost pure Sunni and there is no history of any clashes with Shia, yet hostility against the latter is very high, thanks to the Saudi media and widely followed sheiks. This atmosphere is very conducive to recruiting young people for <em>jihad</em> in Syria against the "Alawi" regime. Many young Jordanians talk, through Facebook and chat rooms, about killing “heretic” Shia. </p> <p>During the wave of Arab revolutions, most Jordanians feared for the stability of their state. Demonstrations calling for reform were neither violent nor large. But anger is accumulating because of the corruption of the regime, encapsulated in the luxurious and sybaritic life of the king and queen, in sharp contrast with the very poor lives of ordinary Jordanians. If the anger ever exceeds the fear, the extremists will capitalise.</p> <p>Jordanian officials wanted to sustain the alliance with the US and Saudi Arabia, and that included giving space to the Syrian fighters. They were allowed to gather in Jordan, get training and return to Syria, whether through the Jordanian border with southern Syria or via Turkey and northern Syria. The allies hoped this would strengthen the moderates. </p> <p>Yet the extremists are dominant in Syria and have extended their purview to Iraq. Many trained in Jordan are now fighting with IS. Jordanian intelligence believes it has some control over these salafists, especially Jabhat al-Nusra—but then so did Pakistani intelligence <em>vis-à-vis</em> the Taliban. Jordanian intelligence also seeks to market its role as a security agency. This implies having a (controlled) danger to exploit—except that it has really become uncontrolled. </p> <h2><strong>Complicated calculations</strong></h2> <p>Now, why would IS engage Jordan? In fact it will wait for a time: it does not want to encounter such a relatively strong army as Jordan possesses. Still, it surprised everybody by smashing the Kurdish <em>peshmerga</em> in Iraq. Complicated calculations arise here. IS has usually avoided battles which consume its energy and concentrated on easy captures, especially oil wells and cities which can provide funds, yet it did take al Tabaka military airport, for example. </p> <p>But oil is just a short-term target on the road to the final goal—an “Islamic state” for the whole region. IS will avoid Jordan for some time but eventually will encounter it. Some Jordanian IS fighters have already appeared on YouTube, burning their passports and threatening the king that they are coming!</p> <p>How? Abu Sayyaf said it: IS will not need to move to Jordan. It has supporters all over the country, not only in Ma'an as the media like to simplify. Jordan also has about 1.5 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. They are frustrated and hopeless. So IS is just waiting for any kind of unrest, likely to happen anytime due to the accumulated anger and despair, with the leadership of Jordan busy making money for itself rather than solving the country's problems. </p> <p>IS might change the tactic in Jordan. It might not try to occupy land but rather to weaken control over some important cities, like Azraq, Zarqa, Rusaifa, Irbid, Salt, Tafil and Ma'an. Amid explosions and unrest, with the police and army exhausted over several months, IS could then seize a foothold in one or two cities—more bricks in the wall of the fortress it will try to construct against the counter-offensive by the US president, Barack Obama, and his regional allies.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nikita-malik/syrian-conflict-transforms-security-regulations-in-jordan">Syrian conflict transforms security regulations in Jordan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fadia-faqir/simmering-tensions-behind-fa%C3%A7ade-of-amman">Simmering tensions: Behind the facade of Amman</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jordan </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Jordan global security american power & the world middle east fundamentalisms Alaa Alfazza Non-state violence Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:23:32 +0000 Alaa Alfazza 86016 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Secret prisons, disappearances and torture https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/rory-o%27connell/secret-prisons-disappearances-and-torture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a ruling described by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as “landmark”, the European Court of Human Rights has passed excoriating judgment on the US “war on terror” following the attacks of 2001.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/guantanamo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/guantanamo.jpg" alt="Guantanamo US base by night" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Guantanamo: iconic symbol of the "war on terror". US Army / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 24 July the <a href="http://www.echr.coe.int/">European Court of Human Rights</a> released two important Chamber judgments: <em>Al Nashiri and Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v</em> <em>Poland </em>(applications 28761/11 and 7511/13). While Poland is the respondent state, the focus of the judgments is on detailing the profound abrogation of fundamental human-rights norms during the US-led global “war on terror”, announced in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. </p> <p>Modern human-rights law protects a range of civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights. Most of the rights in the international system are subject to various qualifications: they can be limited to protect a legitimate public interest or subjected to special limits in times of emergency. There are few absolutes in this system but one remains: the prohibition on torture. The language used in international treaties permits no exception, as article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights exemplifies:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. </p> <p>While many rights are subject to exceptions, balancing, proportionate restrictions, such language does not appear in the texts on the prohibition of torture. Yet the unimaginable attacks on “9/11” provoked an unthinkable reaction—a determined effort by some democratic governments, most notably that of the US, to dilute the absolute prohibition on torture.</p> <h2><strong>Still held</strong></h2> <p>In the wake of “9/11”, the US government created a programme for the capture and interrogation of “high-value detainees” (HVD) in the “war on terror”. The applicants in these cases are two such detainees, alleged to be involved with the al-Qaeda network. Both are still held by the US in Guantanamo, more than a decade after their original detention. </p> <p>Abu Zubaydah was alleged to be a leading member al-Qaeda when he was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, during an operation in which he was seriously wounded. His medical condition and mental health are reported to be extremely poor. Al Nashiri was captured in Dubai in 2002. He is accused of involvement in attacks including that on the <em>USS Cole</em>. He is facing trial, and a possible death sentence, in the US. In late 2002 and for most of 2003, the two men were detained at a secret facility in Poland. </p> <p>Both were subjected to the HVD regime of the Central Intelligence Agency, details of which are catalogued in the documents, reports and news media canvassed by the court in its judgments. While much of this was known, as my colleague Fionnuala Ní Aoláin says, there is value in the <a href="http://justsecurity.org/13289/accountability-matrix-widens-torture-black-sites-european-convention/">“judicial articulation”</a> of this process. Much of the often chilling information comes from a CIA background paper detailing the interrogation techniques. </p> <p>The detainees were transported in jets operated by Jeppeson, a subsidiary of Boeing. They were carried shackled, blindfolded and hooded, not knowing where they were going. The detentions were unacknowledged, the details of the prisoners were kept secret (one expert says they were treated as “cargo”), and the flight plans were disguised. The flights criss-crossed a “spider’s web” of destinations including Morocco, Thailand and several European democracies, such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The creation of this network dates to the initial stages of the “war on terror”.</p> <h2><strong>“Black hole”</strong></h2> <p>The aim of the system of secret detention and transport was to maintain these detainees <em>incommunicado</em> in undisclosed locations where the rule of law—be it US law or international law—could not reach. The Guantanamo version of this was labelled a “legal black hole” by the UK judge Lord Steyn but these cases address such a black hole on the territory of a European democracy.</p> <p>A CIA document published in 2009 and discussed in the case (<em>Al Nashiri</em>, paragraph 62) said:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">Effective interrogation is based on the concept of using both physical and psychological pressures in a comprehensive, systematic and cumulative manner to influence HVD behaviour, to overcome a detainee’s resistance posture. The goal of interrogation was to create a state of learned helplessness and dependence. </p> <p>The document described the processes involved clinically. Detention conditions included the use of white noise and constant lighting to disorient the detainee and ensure better security. “Conditioning techniques”—nudity, sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation—were intended to convince the detainee that he had “no control over basic human needs”. Sleep deprivation was achieved by vertically shackling the detainee, provided with a diaper for sanitary purposes. </p> <p>The next stage was the application of “corrective techniques”—described as the insult slap, the abdominal slap, the facial hold and the attention grasp. Finally, the “coercive techniques” consisted of walling (being thrown against a flexible false wall), water-dousing, use of stress positions, wall-standing and cramped confinement in a box. </p> <p>These “enhanced interrogation techniques” were authorised for use by the CIA interrogators. Al Nashiri was also subject to unauthorised techniques: use of a stiff brush to bathe him, blowing of smoke in his face, standing on his shackles and mock execution involving a handgun and a power drill. Both applicants were subjected to waterboarding. </p> <h2><strong>Complicit</strong></h2> <p>The European Court of Human Rights can hear cases brought by persons against a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights. The US is not such a state and so is not the official respondent in these cases. That is Poland—and the European court found that the Polish state was complicit in the system of secret prisons and torture, even if none of its officials had actively participated in the interrogations. </p> <p>The US had operated a secret prison near a Polish airport. The procedures for landing the planes and transporting the prisoners were intended to ensure that no Polish national would be a witness. But they could not have been realised without the co-operation of senior Polish officials and military intelligence (the CIA preferred to work with military-intelligence services, as these were less likely to undergo civilian oversight). </p> <p>The court pulls no punches in its characterisation of the treatment. The administration of George W Bush had notoriously sought to equivocate on the definition of torture. The elaborate detailing of “enhanced interrogation techniques” was meant to create a category of tactics that would not fall within the prohibition on torture. The European court had however little hesitation in finding that the techniques met the level of severity required for a finding of torture and that they were inflicted for definite purposes. </p> <p>The court also found that the Polish authorities had failed to investigate the allegations of torture promptly or effectively. A Polish parliamentary committee had considered the allegations during a closed inquiry, which produced no statement other than a denial of anything “untoward” (<em>Al Nashiri</em>, para 128). A more elaborate inquiry by the prosecutor’s office had been plagued by delay and had not led to any prosecutions—or, indeed, any identification of suspects. The involvement in <em>incommunicado</em> detention was also a breach of the right to liberty (convention article 5) and the right to respect for private and family life (article 8). </p> <p>The transfer of the applicants outside the territory of Poland also violated article 6, the right to a fair trial. A convention state may not permit the removal of a person to another state, where this would result in a flagrant breach of article 6. In the context of the process for trying persons in Guantanamo—before a military commission, itself in breach of US law and where evidence obtained by torture might be admissible—removal to face such a “trial” would constitute such a contravention. </p> <p>The removal of Al Nashiri violated the prohibition on the death penalty. His trial is due to begin in September; the judgment requires Poland to use all its influence to prevent capital punishment were he to face conviction.</p> <p>The court also found that Poland had failed to co-operate with its hearing. It had requested information and offered guarantees of confidentiality. It noted that it had a long history of dealing with sensitive information in cases involving national security and that as a court it was entitled to be master of its own procedures. </p> <p>In light of the numerous, serious violations the court ordered Poland to pay €100,000 to each applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damage. </p> <h2><strong>Rights reaffirmed</strong></h2> <p>The court’s ruling is welcome for many reasons. It unequivocally reaffirms the importance of the rights to freedom from torture, to personal liberty, to a fair trial and privacy. It condemns torture, disappearances and secret prisons. </p> <p>Given the secrecy of the programme, the reluctance of the Polish state to co-operate fully and the isolation of the applicants incarcerated in Guantanamo, the court might have had difficulties in determining the facts. It however rose to this challenge, relying on the wealth of information in a series of reports—US, European (the Marty reports of 2007 and 2011 to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Fava and Flautre reports of the European Parliament), media and NGO—to make reasonable assumptions and to evidence its conclusions. </p> <p>The court has not only restated the absolute prohibition of torture but has also made an important contribution to defending the public’s right to know. And more may yet emerge. This week sees the release of the summary of a <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/01/politics/obama-torture-comments/">US Senate report on the CIA programme</a>. There is a related case before the European court against Romania (application 33234/12). And there are continuing <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-is-the-truth-on-torture-so-long-in-coming-9644512.html">unanswered questions</a><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-is-the-truth-on-torture-so-long-in-coming-9644512.html"></a> about the role of the United Kingdom in the “war on terror”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/benjamin-ward/truth-still-eludes-on-uk-involvement-in-rendition-and-torture">Truth still eludes on UK involvement in rendition and torture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/robert-g-patman/rethinking-origins-of-911">Rethinking the origins of 9/11</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Poland Conflict International politics rule of law human rights global security bush doctrine: right or wrong? american power & the world 9/11 : the 'war on terror' north america europe Rory O'Connell International Law State violence Wed, 06 Aug 2014 09:33:34 +0000 Rory O'Connell 84999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Droning on https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/droning-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Little is clear about the US renewal of drone strikes in Pakistan—except that they won’t be the last.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/karachi%20attack.jpg" width="460" /><em><small><small>Unending cycle: relatives await news after the Karachi attack. ppiimages / Demotix. All rights reserved.</small></small></em></p> After nearly six months, US drone strikes have resumed in Pakistan, with between thirteen and sixteen fresh fatalities reported. The unofficial moratorium had broken an intense, ten-year campaign, the last previous strike taking place on 25 December. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 386 drone strikes have taken place since 2004 and between 2,310 and 3,743 people have been killed&mdash;including hundreds of civilians and children&mdash;with many more injured. <p>Publicly, the Pakistani government usually denounces the strikes, including the latest, claiming a violation of its territorial integrity and sovereignty. But it is suggested that, in some cases, the government has worked with the US and approved or even requested certain operations. </p> <p>The six-month pause followed international criticism of the lack of transparency of the Obama administration over targeted killings and Pakistani demands that the US cease these operations on its territory, linked to an opening of talks with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). But, despite the attempts to broker an end to hostilities and an absence of offensive US operations, attacks by non-state groups continued, followed by military retaliation including air strikes. </p> <p>The peace talks have been largely unsuccessful and the defence minister, Khawaja Asif, frustrated with the lack of progress and continued violence&mdash;in particular, the attack on 8 June on Karachi airport&mdash;called for a full-scale military operation against the TTP in North Waziristan. The airport attack, which also involved members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), lasted for hours and left at least 39 people dead. </p> <p>The drone strikes three days later were seen not only as a response to the Karachi assault and the fruitless talks but also as reflecting tensions between the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the military leadership. </p> <h2><strong>Haqqani network</strong></h2> <p>Pakistani security officials said two strikes took place. The first targeted a compound near Miram Shah in North Waziristan; seven hours later, six missiles were fired at a building and an explosives-filled truck in the vicinity. The strikes are believed to have killed members of the Haqqani network. This group, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, has been responsible for several attacks against US and Afghan security personnel in Afghanistan but it is believed to operate out of North Waziristan. The Haqqani group was responsible for detaining the US sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, released earlier this month in exchange for several Taliban commanders detained in Guantanamo. </p> <p>It has been reported that members of the IMU were killed in the first strike. That Uzbek fighters should be targeted raises further controversies: who becomes a target of drones, how do the strikes take effect and, particularly, how are they approved? One of the few things to have been rendered explicit in this murky area is that targets are purportedly confined to those deemed an imminent threat to the US. Yet this hardly applies to the Uzbek fighters or the hundreds of Yemenis killed in the same way. </p> <p>Indeed, on top of the drone campaign in Yemen, targeting members of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), comes the request from Iraqi officials for drone assistance in the fight against <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/aaron-edwards/is-isis-on-march-in-iraq">ISIS</a>. And, despite the criticism from human-rights groups and international organisations, and the official condemnation from Pakistan, the US has form in ignoring (or secretly working in collusion with) government to target non-state forces. </p> <p>So, amid the disturbing lack of transparency surrounding the programme, it seems like the option of drone strikes will remain on the table.&nbsp;</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/pere-vilanova/drones-who-wants-what-and-why">Drones: who wants what and why?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/alejandro-garcia-de-la-garza/drones-over-world">Drones over the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-warfare-global-danger">Drone warfare: a global danger</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Pakistan Conflict rule of law american power & the world india/pakistan drones fundamentalisms Alejandro Garcia de la Garza Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan International Law Non-state violence State violence Thu, 19 Jun 2014 16:15:35 +0000 Alejandro Garcia de la Garza 83868 at https://www.opendemocracy.net America's chimerical pivot https://www.opendemocracy.net/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/americas-chimerical-pivot <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The United States's shift towards Asia is being tested by global economic realities, say Ernesto Gallo &amp; Giovanni Biava.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The United States announced an important shift of geopolitical focus in late 2011, namely an intention to "pivot to (East) Asia". The process since then has been far from smooth, as the eruption of crises in other parts of the world have demanded attention (Syria and Ukraine, for example). Barack Obama's <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2014/02/obamas-asia-trip-itinerary-released/">visit</a> to four countries in the region in April 2014 (Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea) is a signal that the change of emphasis still occupies a big place in Washington's thinking. The feeling, however, is that the "pivot" idea has lost momentum. Does a United States have a grand strategy in Asia, or indeed elsewhere? It seems difficult to <a href="http://www.cfr.org/grand-strategy/grand-strategy-four-pillars-future/p26785">detect</a> one. <br />&nbsp;<br />The <a href="http://www.asean.org/asean/about-asean">Asean bloc</a> is a case in point. Washington has friends in the <a href="http://www.taiwandocuments.org/map09.htm">region</a>, both old (Philippines, Indonesia) and new (Myanmar, which the US president visited in 2012, and even Vietnam). But Obama has done little to support them so far. The Philippines is waiting for a strong response to its concerns over China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13748349">disputes</a>; Malaysia is interested in trade and investments; <a href="http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en">Vietnam</a> attempts to <a href="http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/10/12/vietnams-foreign-policy-tightrope/">balance</a> American, Chinese, and even Russian influences. None is sure of Washington's long-term position. <br /><br />Most south-east Asian countries host important and wealthy Chinese <a href="http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb138nb08w;NAAN=13030&amp;doc.view=frames&amp;chunk.id=ss1.01&amp;toc.id=ss1.01&amp;brand=oac4">communities</a>. In Malaysia, they produce an estimated 60-70% of GDP, and dominate Indonesia’s (and of course Singapore's) economy. Investments from mainland China are also <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-01/16/c_133050466.htm">booming</a>; Vietnam in 2013 is a notable case. Beijing is interested in establishing an Asean bank, in which it would aim to be the major shareholder. Where capital markets are concerned, the <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/business/how-the-asxsgx-merger-failed-20110421-1dqb2.html">failed merger</a> in 2011 between the stock-exchanges of Sydney and Singapore suggests that China would necessarily be part of any Asian "superbourse". At present, though, national interests make it hard to envisage an east-Asian Wall Street that could be a catalyst for investments in the whole region. <br /><br /><strong>The Tokyo-Seoul axis </strong><br /><br />Japan has promoted its own national interest in permitting the merger of Tokyo and Osaka's stock-exchanges in January 2013 into the <a href="http://www.jpx.co.jp/pre/index-en.html">Japan Exchange Group</a>. The problem here is that Japan’s pursuit of national interests seems to have gone too far. The US might benefit from having a strong regional ally, but Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25414430">pursuing</a> a more nationalistic line that <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-japans-provocative-moves/2014/02/16/142b22e4-9599-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html">worries</a> Washington (and, in the case of his visit to the Yasukuni shrine in December 2013, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25518166">antagonises</a> China and South Korea too). Abe’s plan to raise military expenditure, adopted in December, is a mixed blessing for Washington. At the same time, South Korea is annoyed at the US's apparent leniency towards Tokyo and cannot accept Abe’s provocative visit to the shrine. It will become clear whether Obama’s visit to both countries can put an end to their disputes and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/world/asia/hagel-asia.html">reaffirm</a> America’s control; what can be said at present is that it does not look an easy task. For even apart from historical rivalries, several other issues are at stake. <br /><br />South Korean citizens maintain a positive opinion about US influence (58%, according to a BBC <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22624104">poll</a> in 2013), yet relations between Seoul and Washington might come under strain as well. The US always tries to accommodate both Japan and South Korea, but the difficulties are being increased by the structural problems of America’s economy. There is no clear solution to the North Korean issue, though one is much needed. After all, Kim Jong-un’s <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/north-korea-elite-shame-world-test">rule</a> might still bring short-term advantages to many parties, whereas a united Korea might become a strong competitor of Japan itself. In a sense, Pyongyang still indirectly benefits the military-industrial <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/78920b2e-99ba-11e3-91cd-00144feab7de.html">complexes</a> in both China and the US, and represents a useful target for the latter and the western media. Moreover, South Korea seeks a free-trade agreement (FTA) with <a href="http://fta.mofcom.gov.cn/topic/chinarh.shtml">China</a>, which is by now her largest commercial partner. Disentangling such a complex web of interests is not simple. <br /><br /><strong>The Beijing hub</strong><br /><br />China itself is at the heart of America's dilemma. Beijing is the US’s biggest foreign <a href="http:/http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-15/china-retains-position-as-the-largest-foreign-creditor-of-u-s-.html/www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-15/china-retains-position-as-the-largest-foreign-creditor-of-u-s-.html">creditor,</a> but in 2013 its exposure to US debt contracted. China is also buying gold and gradually planning a key role for the <em>yuan / renmimbi</em>, which is already traded in Chinese <a href="http://www.scmp.com/business/banking-finance/article/1462738/mainland-china-banks-sell-stock-bolster-capital">banks</a> (ICBC, Bank of China, and China Construction Bank, among others) in London and Luxembourg. The evolving relation between the US dollar and the <em>yuan</em> will probably define the future of the relations between the two giants. Considering that the Asia/Pacific is the <a href="http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/355807/economy/business/world-bank-trims-china-east-asia-2014-growth-forecast">major</a> trade and industrial region of the world, all countries would be affected by a US-China confrontation. A power-sharing solution is badly needed, but Washington has to recognise that an FTA (like the <a href="http://tppinfo.org/">Trans-Pacific Partnership</a>, TPP) can hardly exclude China, nor (again) can an Asia-Pacific superbourse be made without China.<br /><br />Negotiations for the TPP are going on, but despite Obama’s promise to fast-track them little has been achieved. The pace is slow, and the US has failed to reach an agreement even with Japan due to disputes on protectionist measures on some agricultural products. Japan might first <a href="http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/403850/japan-australia-to-agree-on-a-bilateral-free-trade-agreement-after-seven-years-of-negotiations">conclude</a> a free-trade agreement with Australia, and other Asia-Pacific <a href="http://www.taiwandocuments.org/map09.htm">countries</a> (including Malaysia) have remained rather sceptical. Does it even make sense to organise a free-trade area which excludes China; and what significance would it have, considering that China is the world’s largest trading country? The US is obliged to manage a number of problematic allies whose interests are often at odds with both Washington and each other. That can only be done with difficulty.<br /><br />Perhaps America thinks it can afford to lag behind, considering that its economy is recovering and in 2013’s last quarter it <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/business/economys-growth-was-slower-in-fourth-quarter.html?_r=0">grew </a>by 2.4%. But the US can barely be satisfied with just a degree of economic recovery and domestic stabilisation, however much that comes as a relief after the damage done by the financial crash. In principle, Obama’s pivot can <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-hagel-asia-20140330,0,3104322.column#axzz2xRgVbcOs">still </a>work if the US truly realises that the Asia-Pacific is the 21st-century’s main economic and political hub. But in <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2014/02/obamas-asia-trip-itinerary-released/">themselves</a>, speeches or visits to the region won’t make the pivot happen; only deeper economic and political links will ultimately do so. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.eastasiaforum.org/">East Asia Forum</a></p><p><a href="http://www.ustr.gov/tpp">Trans-Pacific Partnership</a></p><p><a href="http://thebricspost.com/"><em>The Brics Post</em></a></p><p><em><a href="http://www.bilaterals.org/?-Asia-Pacific-">Bilaterals.org</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ernesto Gallo and <span>Giovanni Biava are </span>scholars of international relations and co-authors of many articles on the subject, many published on <a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/blogs/giovine-europa-now"><em>Giovine Europa Now</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-asian-century">Democracy in the &quot;Asian century&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/western-democracy-decline-and">Western democracy: decline and...</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ernesto-gallo-giovanni-biava/democracy-in-credit-new-agency-new-order">Democracy in credit: new agency, new order</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Democracy and government International politics Globalisation american power & the world democracy & power asia & pacific Giovanni Biava Ernesto Gallo Sun, 30 Mar 2014 16:19:33 +0000 Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava 80700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rethinking the origins of 9/11 https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/robert-g-patman/rethinking-origins-of-911 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As 2013 came to an end ‘9/11’ continued to cast a violent shadow in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the US response betrayed a failure to understand its origin.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/9%2011%20Photo%20-%20CC%20BY%209%2011%20Photos_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="345" /><span class="image-caption">Image: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/911pics/">9/11 Photos</a>. Creative Commons</span></p><p>The initial response of the George W Bush administration was to frame &lsquo;9/11&rsquo; as a transformative event that changed everything. Such a stance assumed that 9/11 came out of a clear blue sky. While this diagnosis helped rally a shell-shocked American people, it had significant consequences for US policy in the post-9/11 era. The Bush leadership felt free to declare &lsquo;war on terror&rsquo; and emphasise the notion of US primacy in this transnational struggle. Bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ensued and these conflicts cost billions of dollars and were financed largely from borrowing, which, in turn, contributed to the global financial crisis of 2008-9.</p> <p>But there was nothing inevitable about this outcome. 9/11 was always a symptom rather than a cause of a new global security environment. In fact, the security environment had been radically changing since the end of the Cold War. At first, the US appeared optimistic about forging a new post-Cold War strategy. The crushing military victory of the US-led coalition over Saddam Hussein&rsquo;s Iraq in the first Gulf War of 1990-91 seemed to affirm a co-operative security approach. President George H W Bush&rsquo;s &lsquo;new world order&rsquo; declaration in 1991 and President Bill Clinton&rsquo;s initial support for &lsquo;assertive multilateralism&rsquo; pointed to this trend.</p> <p>But the new world envisaged by both the Bush (senior) and Clinton administrations did not turn out to be quite the order they expected. In many ways, the disastrous US-UN humanitarian intervention in Somalia in 1992-93 was the defining moment for US post-Cold War security policy and the beginning of a road that ultimately led to 9/11. The catalyst was a savage battle in Mogadishu on October 3 1993 between US forces and armed supporters of the warlord General Aideed, which killed 18 US servicemen and more than 1,000 Somalis.</p> <h2>Somalia Syndrome</h2> <p>Although it was not apparent to Washington at the time, the stiff resistance of General Aideed&rsquo;s militia was linked, in part, to military assistance provided by al Qaeda, and the involvement of some of Osama bin Laden&rsquo;s fighters in the fighting on the ground. The Clinton administration responded by withdrawing all US troops in March 1994, a decision which effectively ended the US-UN operation in Somalia. The loss of American lives in Mogadishu was a deeply shocking event for Washington and, like Vietnam, Somalia generated a new foreign policy disposition or syndrome. The Somalia Syndrome encapsulated a deep scepticism of multilateral intervention in civil conflict situations and led to Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 25 in May 1994, which said the US would only participate in UN peace operations if they were in the national interest.</p> <p>Convinced that most failed or failing states were not vital to American national security interests, the Clinton administration had retreated towards a selective engagement strategy that highlighted a more traditional state-centric approach to international security. For the al Qaeda leadership, however, the central lesson of Somalia was that &lsquo;the Americans will leave if they are attacked&rsquo;. &nbsp;More specifically, because some al Qaeda operatives were involved in the Mogadishu showdown in October 1993, the leadership of the bin Laden network believed it had actually helped created the Somalia Syndrome that made the US so cautious.</p> <p>The international effects of the Somalia Syndrome were truly momentous.&nbsp;On the one hand, there was a fixation in Washington on not &lsquo;crossing the Mogadishu line&rsquo; and allowing involvement in civil conflicts slide into situations that risked US deaths. This thinking shackled President Clinton&rsquo;s decision-making in relation to the political crisis in Haiti in 1993, brutal genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia in the mid-1990s and continuing civil war in Somalia after 1994, and, to a lesser degree, constrained NATO&rsquo;s intervention in Kosovo at the end of 1990s. Moreover, the new administration of George W Bush reinvigorated the selective engagement strategy in the months leading to 9/11 by firmly insisting that global security was still fundamentally determined by the military capabilities of sovereign states.</p> <p>On the other hand, the al Qaeda leadership was emboldened to steadily escalate a campaign of terror against US interests. Washington&rsquo;s semi-detached attitude toward the UN after Somalia and its clear reluctance to get involved in messy civil conflict situations registered with the bin Laden network. American policy gave bin Laden and his associates the time and the space in the 1990s to build and expand a multinational insurgent organisation with links to more than 60 countries. Between 1993 and 2000, American personnel or allies were on the receiving end of violent attacks from al Qaeda or its associates in places such as New York, Addis Ababa, Riyadh, Khobar, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Aden. Meanwhile, bin Laden repeatedly and publicly declared war against America during this period.</p> <h2>Dangerous gap</h2> <p>Thus, the Somalia Syndrome marked the emergence of a dangerous gap between America&rsquo;s state-centred security outlook and the transformed security environment of the post-Cold War era, characterised by the rise of new transnational challengers like al Qaeda. To be sure, the second Clinton administration did come to recognise the looming al Qaeda danger, particularly after the bombing attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, but its increasingly desperate efforts to deal with bin Laden were largely covert in nature. Politically, President Clinton was unwilling to redefine US national security strategy to confront the al Qaeda threat and risk further provoking a hostile Republican Congress, which mainly regarded the threat of terrorism and the problems of failed states as a bit of a strategic sideshow. The fact that Clinton&rsquo;s successor, George W Bush, failed to even recognise the al Qaeda threat, despite repeated high-level warnings, made 9/11 all but inevitable.</p> <p>Ultimately, then, 9/11 was more about a failure of US policy than the limitations of America&rsquo;s intelligence agencies or the laxity of its airport security. The roots of this policy failure lay in the advent of the Somalia Syndrome and the corresponding shift in 1994 to a selective US engagement strategy clearly at odds with a security environment transformed by globalisation.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Reproduced with thanks from <a href="https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/rethinking-origins-9/11">Political Insight</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/911-ten-years-on-reflections">9/11, ten years on: reflections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/faith-islamicworld/article_75.jsp">Radical Islam and 9/11: inside the fundamentalist mind</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Copyright </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Conflict International politics global security don't look back: 9/11 bush doctrine: right or wrong? american power & the world 9/11: us upside down 9/11: politics of global justice 9/11: islamic worlds 9/11 : the 'war on terror' us & the world fundamentalisms Robert G Patman Somali civil war Non-state violence Peacebuilding Mon, 30 Dec 2013 00:00:01 +0000 Robert G Patman 78089 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Washington and Caracas: hegemony vs maturity https://www.opendemocracy.net/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/washington-and-caracas-hegemony-vs-maturity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Venezuela's presidential election presents the United States with a historic choice, says Juan Gabriel Tokatlian.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A wise comment made by Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired from the United States supreme court in 2006, has a certain relevance to Washington's dilemma over its <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/05/201351923939523706.html">attitude</a> to Nicolás Maduro, the new president of Venezuela. The former judge, speaking to the editorial board of the<em> Chicago Tribune</em>, had been asked about the court's role in the notorious controversy in 2000 when the result of the presidential election <a href="http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-949.ZPC.html">depended</a> on the result in Florida. </p><p><a href="http://www.oyez.org/justices/sandra_day_oconnor">O'Connor</a> recalled that the court "took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue…Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’” She went on: “Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision..it turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the supreme court added to the problem at the end of the day” (see "<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-27/news/ct-met-sandra-day-oconnor-edit-board-20130427_1_o-connor-bush-v-high-court">O'Connor question's court's decision to take on Bush v. Gore</a>", <em>Chicago Tribune</em>, 27 April 2013).&nbsp; </p><p>Now, Washington - this time in the form of the Barack Obama administration - is being called on to take a stance on another close presidential election, the one in Venezuela held on 14 April, six weeks after the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21679053">death</a> of Hugo Chávez on 5 March. In the vote, Chávez's nominated successor <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20664349">Nicolás Maduro</a> defeated the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22391980">tight</a> margin of 1.6%. This contested result in an extremely polarised country faces the United States with an important choice: is it willing to <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2013/0517/Venezuela-s-Maduro-still-waiting-on-Washington-s-recognition">recognise</a> the legitimacy of the result (and thus join all Latin America), or is it still inclined to fuel Venezuela's volatility and instability? </p><p>The answer is poised. Washington may follow its cold-war pattern and choose among&nbsp; some combination of hardline containment, political rollback, and attempted regime change. But all these options would be bad - for Venezuelans, for Latin Americans, and even for the US's long-term interests in both Venezuela and the region. </p><p>Washington has a number of other potential initiatives at its disposal. It could engage in some kind of symbolic sanction in response to the absence of an <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/18/world/americas/venezuela-elections">overall</a> vote recount. It could adopt a policy of soft pressure and growing encirclement of Venezuela, while waiting for an extended and uncontrolled crisis. Or it could call openly for a sort of “Venezuelan spring” to be led by Capriles.</p><p>None of these three options is realistic, however. Each would exacerbate the country's internal turmoil, perhaps even provoking a civil war in Venezuela with likely spillover effects in Latin America. The <em>chavista</em> side would depict the domestic opposition to Maduro even more strongly as puppets of Washington; and this would make even harder the creation of a legitimate challenge to Venezuela's <a href="http://www.dw.de/hugo-chavez-a-21st-century-socialist/a-16502149">so-called</a> "21st century socialist revolution". </p><p><strong>A sound strategy</strong></p><p>The only reasonable policy for all the parties involved - in <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/venezula.htm">Venezuela</a>, in the region and the United States - is to develop a US-Latin American collaborative strategy oriented towards a peaceful transition in Venezuela. This should be designed to aid and not assail the country. It may involve the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina. All have key interests in Venezuela, albeit with different intensity and scope; but these could be managed positively, for neither Washington nor Latin America needs a source of disorder, polarisation, and fragmentation in the Americas. A sound strategy of this kind can be implemented if <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/fox_chavez_3070.jsp">dogmatism</a> and parochialism are sidelined. </p><p>The key to a successful political <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/venezuela-legacy-of-populist-revolution">evolution</a> in Venezuela is to avoid extremism; stimulate bargaining among different, key domestic actors; help achieve effective and verifiable compromises; contribute to democratic strengthening; and avoid calls on the military to “do something”. Much of this can be embodied in a mixture of incentives and restraints, planned over a lengthy period of time. </p><p>To a large extent this reasonable strategy depends on Washington and the <a href="http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/130513/maduro-thinks-that-obama-makes-a-serious-mistake">recognition</a> that real consultation with Latin America is not only feasible but also urgently necessary. </p><p>Over six decades ago, on 29 March 1950, <a href="http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/kennan">George F Kennan</a> - then counselor of the US secretary of of state, <a href="http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/acheson-dean-gooderham">Dean Acheson</a> - sent a long memorandum to his boss. Near the end of the document, Kennan <a href="http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781594203121,00.html">asserted</a>: "It is important for us to keep before ourselves and the Latin American peoples at all times the reality of the thesis that we are a great power; that we are by and large much less in need of them than they are in need of us; that we are entirely prepared to leave to themselves those who evince no particular desire for the form of collaboration that we have to offer, that the danger of a failure to exhaust the possibilities of our mutual relationship is always greater to them than to us; that we can afford to wait, patiently and good naturedly; and that we are more concerned to be respected than to be liked or understood". </p><p>This type of argument and approach was congruent with the US's actual hegemony with regard to the region at the <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674064270">beginning</a> of the cold war. Its underlying logic as a mode of thinking (and acting) is today obsolete. Inter-American relations now demand a fresh course. How Washington handles President Maduro's election will reveal either a newfound maturity or the persistence of hegemonic presumption <em>vis-</em><em>á-vis</em> Latin America. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Rory Carroll, <span class="st"><a href="http://www.canongate.tv/comandante.html"><em>Comandante: Inside Hugo Chávez's Venezuela</em></a> (Canongate, 2013)</span></p><p>Richard Gott, <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/ghij/g-titles/gott_hugo_chavez.shtml"><em>Hugo Chàvez and the Bolivarian Revolution</em></a> (Verso, 2006)<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=opendemocracy-21&amp;l=as2&amp;o=2&amp;a=0141184337" alt="" border="0" height="1" width="1" /></p><p><a href="http://caracaschronicles.com/beginners-guide-to-the-chavez-era/"><em>Caracas Chronicles</em></a></p><p>Nikolas Kozloff, <a href="http://www.palgrave-usa.com/catalog/product.aspx?isbn=1403973156"><em>Hugo Chàvez: </em></a><span><a href="http://www.palgrave-usa.com/catalog/product.aspx?isbn=1403973156"><em>Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S</em>.</a> (Palgrave, 2007)</span></p><p> <a href="http://www.embavenez-us.org/index.php?pagina=pag_embassy.php&amp;titulo=Embassy">Venezuelan embassy in US</a></p><p>Greg Grandin, <em><a href="http://us.macmillan.com/empiresworkshop">Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the rise of the New Imperialism</a></em> (Metropolitian Books, 2006)</p> <p>Joseph Smith, <a href="http://www.scarecrowpress.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtml?command=Search&amp;db=%5EDB/CATALOG.db&amp;eqSKUdata=0810855291"><em>Historical Dictionary of United States-Latin American Relations</em></a> (Scarecrow Press, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/www.thedialogue.org/">Inter-American Dialogue</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/www.brookings.edu/">Brookings Institution</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/www.cfr.org/">Council on Foreign Relations</a></p> <p><a href="http://coa.counciloftheamericas.org/">Council of the Americas</a></p><p> <a href="http://www.iamericas.org/">Institute of the Americas </a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Juan Gabriel Tokatlian is director of the department of political science and international studies at the <em><a href="http://www.utdt.edu//">Universidad Torcuato Di Tella</a></em> in Buenos Aires. He was previously professor at the <em>Universidad de San Andrés</em>, also in Argentina. He earned a doctorate in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University school of advanced international studies, and lived, researched and taught in Colombia from 1981-98</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/venezuela-legacy-of-populist-revolution">Venezuela: legacy of populist revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/obama-and-latin-america-curse-of-local">Obama and Latin America: curse of the &#039;local&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/hugo-chavezs-afterlife-three-scenarios">Hugo Chávez&#039;s afterlife: three scenarios</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/drug-war-new-paradigm-vs-old-paradox">The drug war: new paradigm vs old paradox </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/hugo-chavez-and-venezuela-a-leader-s-destiny">Hugo Chávez and Venezuela: a leader’s destiny</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/hugo-chavez-and-venezuela-questions-of-leadership">Hugo Chávez and Venezuela: questions of leadership</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/hugo-chavez-oil-and-venezuela">Hugo Chávez, oil, and Venezuela</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/hugo-chavez-tides-of-victory">Hugo Chávez: tides of victory </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/chavez_supremo_4523.jsp">Hugo Chávez: yo, el supremo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/venezuela_a_complicated_referendum">Venezuela: a complicated referendum </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/venezuela_3255.jsp">Venezuela: a revolution in contraflow</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-protest/bolivarian_4146.jsp">Bolivarian myths and legends</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/silke-pfeiffer/venezuela-violence-and-politics">Venezuela: violence and politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/barack-obamas-drug-policy-time-for-change">Barack Obama&#039;s drug policy: time for change</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Venezuela </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Venezuela Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power latin america Juan Gabriel Tokatlian Mon, 20 May 2013 20:33:40 +0000 Juan Gabriel Tokatlian 72803 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Poland and the US elections: respect for an ally https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-j-chmielewski/poland-and-us-elections-respect-for-ally <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/how-it-looks-from-here"><img style="margin-left: 5px;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/howLooks2-thumbnail.jpeg" alt="" width="140" align="right" /></a>Poland is less engaged with this American election than on previous occasions. But its people and elites are still viewing the contest and its candidates with a wary eye that reflects their domestic political concerns, says Adam J Chmielewski.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Poland is watching the 2012 presidential elections in the United States with markedly lower excitement than former editions of this spectacle. Since Poland enjoys the reputation of being the most pro-American country on the European continent, this change deserves some attention and calls for an explanation. </p> <p>The change is due to several reversals which have occurred&nbsp;both in Poland's domestic politics and in its geopolitical situation. In the past, even without enjoying the benefits of a special relationship with the US, the Poles believed that the result of the American election will affect their lives in some significant way, though few knew how. That does not seem to be the case anymore. </p> <p>The reversal relevant here may be expressed as follows. During the reign of the quasi-communist regime, the Polish government, following the line dictated by the no less quasi-communist regime in Moscow, was staunchly anti-American. At the same time the majority of Poles, precisely because of that, were enthusiastically pro-American, to the point of foolishness. Presently, however, the Polish political class is pro-American to the point of imprudence, whereas the majority of the population has obviously stopped <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/07/polish-american-relations">caring</a> about America altogether. </p> <p>The Polish media are now full of a certain specialist in American matters who, claiming for himself an academic status, manages nevertheless to display a remarkable lack of impartiality in his opinions. One of the latter is that Barack Obama’s presidency has been catastrophic for Poland because he did not take any interest in our country. Another is that Mitt Romney will be better in this regard because he will take an active interest in our country. These opinions do not seem to be shared widely: nowadays the <a href="http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/30/if-poland-was-voting-obama-would-probably-win/">majority</a> of Poles are more for Obama and his complete lack of interest, and against Romney and his declared interest in Poland. </p> <p>There are several factors underlying this stance. One is that during the past two decades or so, the American interest in Poland turned out to be way too expensive for our country. Another and related reason why the Poles have come to see that very little in their lives depends on the tenant of the White House is their realisation that the US dollar has now become dependent on Chinese support. So now they care about more Europe (where for some time the euro has become more easily available to them than the dollar), even though the latter is printed in far greater volumes that the former. </p> <p>There are, though, other reasons for the diminishing Polish interest in the US elections. They have to do with the character of the two candidates and their political record. </p> <p><strong>A president's bungles</strong></p> <p>Barack Obama has failed to ingratiate himself with politically minded people in Poland, largely because he scrapped the project of the anti-missile shield which (as planned by the predecessor administration) was to be partly located in Poland. This led to disappointment among the political class, which continues to embrace an anti-Russian attitude incurred during the struggle for the independence of Poland from Soviet influence. The fear and hatred of Russia, together with veneration for Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, remain an indispensable part of this class's ideological identity.</p> <p>Obama’s blunders when dealing with Polish matters also do not help his reputation among many Poles. For example, the date chosen to announce the abandonment of the anti-imissile shield was 17 September 2009, the seventieth anniversary of the Russian invasion of eastern Poland. Also, when he awarded the presidential Order of Merit to Jan Karski, who brought to America news of the Nazi concentration-camps situated in occupied Poland, Obama used the inappropriate expression "Polish extermination camps". (For both of these gaffes I criticised him: see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/poland-end-of-illusion">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a>" [17 September 2009] and "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-j-chmielewski/barack-obama-and-poland-injurious-ignorance">Barack Obama and Poland: injurious ignorance</a>" [31 May 2012]).</p> <p>For other Poles, Obama has further evident drawbacks. One is the fact of his colour. On the news of the election of the first black US president in 2008, a Polish MP wrote that this heralded the end of Christian civilisation. Even though the unfortunate MP remained isolated in his pronouncement (as well as, subsequently, in virtue of it), the racist sentiment among Poles is rather rampant, so Obama will not fare well with this segment of the Polish nation.</p> <p><strong>A rival's balance-sheet</strong></p> <p>There might, then, be an expectation that Mitt Romney should be closer to the Polish heart than Barack Obama. Three factors could count in his favour. First, Romney actually visited Poland in late July 2012; it does not happen too often that a US presidential candidate pays a visit to our country. Second, during the third electoral <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/elections/presidential-debate-2012/">debate</a> on 22 October, it was Romney, not Obama, who mentioned Poland as an ally of America. Again, this served well to feed the insatiable vanity of the Polish political class. Third, Romney is, well, a Republican. </p> <p>This party identification already wins him the support of a sizeable number of Poles, notably those who have fallen victim of the pro-American false consciousness inculcated by the politically correct Polish media (In Poland, a country of perennial paradoxes, political correctness means the&nbsp;opposite of the same term when it is used in Britain or in the US.) This segment of Polish society is xenophobic, blindly pro-American, as well as rabidly anti-Russian and anti-German. (They call it patriotism.) They owe their political sustenance to Jaroslaw Kaczyński, twin brother of the former Polish president, Lech Kaczyński, who died in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">plane crash</a> on 10 April 2010 in Smolensk. </p> <p>Against these factors, however, three blemishes on Romney’s candidacy also capture the Poles' sensitive attention. First, during the above-mentioned debate Romney said: "We have to also stand by our allies. I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate. I think also that pulling our missile defence program out of Poland in the way we [did] was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us" (see "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/us/politics/transcript-of-the-third-presidential-debate-in-boca-raton-fla.html?pagewanted=all">Transcript of the Third Presidential Debate</a>",&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, 22 October 2012). The Polish media dwelt on this cursory mention to the point of tedium, if only for a day or two; and it was widely noted that Romney referred to Poland not as a genuine partner and ally but rather as a vassal to be used instrumentally when expedient.</p> <p>Second, during his Polish trip, Romney followed stiffly an official and obsolete stereotype of Poland, which included patronisingly <a href="http://www.cnn.co.uk/2012/07/31/politics/romney-poland-freedom/index.html">pushing</a> free-market rhetoric as if believing that Poles have never heard of the global crisis caused by the free market. This approach was accepted well only by Lech Wałęsa, who <a href="http://www.pap.pl/palio/html.run?_Instance=cms_www.pap.pl&amp;_PageID=34&amp;s=infopakiet&amp;dz=en_kraj&amp;idNewsComp=&amp;filename=&amp;idnews=66973&amp;data=infopakiet&amp;_CheckSum=2099932037">said</a> that his reasons for liking Romney very much included the number of Romney’s children ( five; Wałesa, also a family man, has eight) and the "the values which emanate from him". </p> <p>Third, this rather moderate public-relations success was moderated even further by an odd incident involving Romney's staff. While the candidate was about to lay a wreath at a war memorial in Warsaw, the journalists flocking around him caused a row when their access to him was thwarted. In order to contain the unwieldy bunch, Rick Gorka, Romney’s campaign spokesman, first demanded that the journalists should kiss his ass. The demand was <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/79179.html">followed</a> by an another: "This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect".</p> <p>If I were Maureen Dowd, I would conclude this part of the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/opinion/dowd-gadding-of-a-gawky-gowk.html">story</a> by her simple: "Indeed". Not being her, however, I would like to dwell a while on this incident, for which, interestingly, Mr Gorka has not been fired. The question that arises is: for whom was respect demanded in this unusual way - the fallen Polish soldiers, or Mr Romney? It was obvious that it was demanded for Romney for he evidently has not managed to command respect by his own virtues, and had to secure it in a vicarious way via association with the dead Polish heroes.</p> <p><strong>Going with the wind</strong></p> <p>Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's largest <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/krzysztof-bobinski/polands-election-european-lesson">opposition</a> party, Law &amp; Justice, has capitalised on his&nbsp;<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/poland-s-lonely-twin-jaroslaw-kaczynski-loses-his-political-compass-a-788606.html">brother’s</a> death in April 2010 by inventing all sorts of conspiracies about the tragedy. He also tirelessly (though futilely) calls upon the US authorities to take over the investigation of the crash from the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20143486">hands</a> of the Polish government, which he distrusts in the extreme. Recently, on the basis of a bogus interpretation of some vague <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/9643392/Smolensk-plane-crash-explosives-remnants-found-on-aircraft.html">evidence</a> collected from the wreckage of the presidential plane, he more or less accused prime minister Donald Tusk of conspiring to plant explosives (TNT and nitroglycerine) on the plane and then, apparently in collusion with the Russians, of tampering with the evidence to that effect.</p> <p>Law &amp; Justice can still command a greater percentage of followers among Polish émigrés in America than in Poland itself; the latter are also Republican voters. At the same time, the number of Polish supporters of the GOP has been diminishing. On 3 November 2012,<a href="http://www.dziennik.com/"> <em>Nowy Dziennik</em></a>, a Polish-language newspaper published in New York City, brought news which may reduce Polish-American <a href="http://www.theworld.org/2012/09/polish-americans-for-romney/">support</a> for Republicans even further.</p> <p>Polish émigré organisations had sent a letter to Romney asking "what he would do in order to explain the Smolensk tragedy"; disappointingly to them, Romney has responded by saying he was impressed by Poland's ability to cope with the crisis that ensued and to ensure the continuation of democratically elected power. Romney added that the Polish government has conducted the investigation into the causes of the plane crash and it would be improper for him to comment upon an investigation carried out by a longstanding ally of the United States. </p> <p>This reply, worthy of a statesman, has been received as a painful setback to the sentiments of the Polish extreme right. It also puts the unreasonable Polish hopes that had been attached to a future US Republican president (as to so many past ones) in their proper place. </p> <p>Insofar as Romney here expresses a lack of interest in Polish matters that is not dissimilar from Obama’s, this exchange should teach Polish elites an important lesson: that America does not care about Poland in the way and to the extent they would like. The sooner Polish elites grasp this truth, the quicker they will find themselves in tune with the rest of Polish society. </p> <p>They should also understand that they cannot "play the American card" among themselves anymore, nor they can play it as a trump in their dealings with European Union partners. Most of all, that they should not allow themselves to be used by the American ally in its global games at the expense of the Polish taxpayer. And that if they show greater respect to their voters and themselves, they will be more likely to win respect from the American ally as well. </p> <p>This should be the chief lesson for Poland from the imminent US presidential elections, irrespective of their result.</p><p><em>This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/how-it-looks-from-here">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Adam J Chmielewski is <a href="http://www.chmielewski.uni.wroc.pl/"><span><span><span><span>professor</span></span></span></span></a> of philosophy in the <a href="http://www.filozofia.uni.wroc.pl/"><span><span><span><span>Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław</span></span></span></span></a>, Poland. His books include <em>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995); <em>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001); and <em>Psychopathology of Political Life</em> (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw for the title of the <a href="http://www.wro2016.pl/en/wroclaw-2016/institution-of-culture-wroclaw-2016/"><span><span><span><span>European Capital of Culture 2016</span></span></span></span></a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/polands-election-european-lesson">Poland&#039;s election, European lesson </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/poland-and-climate-change">Poland and climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-szostkiewicz/poland-1920-and-all-that">Poland: 1920 and all that</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland-end-of-illusion">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-europe_constitution/europe_2778.jsp">Europe&#039;s missing link</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? United States Poland Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power europe American election 2012 How it looks from here Adam J Chmielewski Mon, 05 Nov 2012 09:45:22 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 69168 at https://www.opendemocracy.net America's military: a far-right threat https://www.opendemocracy.net/matt-kennard/americas-military-far-right-threat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A lax recruitment policy has allowed neo-Nazi and other extremists to enter the United States army. The violent consequences are increasingly being felt in the domestic arena, says Matt Kennard.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A tragic incident in August 2012 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin left six innocent worshippers murdered in cold blood. The killings were hideous and mindless acts of murder <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/wisconsins-sikh-massacre-real-danger">motivated</a> by hate and racism. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been watching and investigating the rise of the far-right in the United States, particularly the mushrooming problem within its armed forces, there was nothing random about it. Many have been predicting for years that something like this would happen. The recent unearthing of a violent militia operating at Fort Stewart in Georgia, which was allegedly planning to assassinate the US president, has emphasised the threat.<br /><br />The Wisconsin shooter, neo-Nazi army <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19167324">veteran</a> Wade Michael Page, was merely one of many far-right radicals who have used the US military over the past two decades to gain access to the highest-grade weaponry in the world, alongside attendant training. The Springfield semi-automatic 9mm handgun used by Page in Oak Creek is very similar to the Beretta M9 which is the civilian version of the pistol issued by the US military. And neo-Nazi veterans, like Page, are explicit about wanting to use their new military skills in the coming race war - often called “Rahowa” in extremist circles - which they believe (and hope) will ignite in the US in the near future. Page’s heavy-metal white-power band, called End Apathy, was itself a call to arms.<br /><br />The most shocking part of Page’s story is that he was completely open about his neo-Nazi views while serving in the army during the 1990s. Page was no rookie army private either - he was assigned to the esteemed psychological operations (“psych-ops”) branch, a kind of offensive intelligence service. &nbsp;But despite this senior status, the independent American military newspaper <a href="http://www.stripes.com/"><em>Stars &amp; Stripes</em></a>, writes that Page was “steeped in white supremacy during his army days and spouted his racist views on the job as a soldier.” <br /><br />This is especially worrying considering Page served from 1992-98. The latter part of this period putatively witnessed the US military taking a strong stand against white supremacism within the ranks after neo-Nazi and active-duty paratrooper James Burmeister <a href="http://www.mdcbowen.org/p2/bh/james.htm">murdered</a> an African-American couple near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1995. It is doubtful that much changed in reality.<br /><br />What is certain, however, is that the impunity afforded to violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists by the US military hit a new high during the “war on terror”. My new book <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror</em></a> (Verso, 2012) includes extensive interviews with neo-Nazi veterans as well and leaders of the far-right movement, all of whom reported to me that the US military was basically running an open-door policy on far-right radicals during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An internal Pentagon report I dug up noted that by 2005, “The military [had] a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy pertaining to extremism.” In reality there was not even any need for secrecy: it could be more accurately described as an “ask, tell” policy. The same report said screening for racist tattoos - ostensibly banned by the US military - was basically non-existent in the same period. Wade himself was covered in white-supremacist<br />tattoos.<br /><br /><strong>The crystal rule </strong><br /><br />In March 2008, I went to Tampa, Florida, to interview Forrest Fogarty. Like Page, he is a neo-Nazi; like Page, he is part of the Hammerskins, probably the most violent skinhead group in the US; like Page, he served in the US military (in Fogarty’s case in Iraq from 2004-05); and like Page, he is the lead singer in a neo-Nazi rock band (Fogarty’s is called Attack). Fogarty had in fact signed up to the US army, complete with racist tattoos, in 1997, around the same time Page was denied re-enlistment.<br /><br />Fogarty told me bluntly how his command as well as his fellow soldiers had been fully aware of his neo-Nazi ideology before and during their deployment in Iraq. while stationed in Iraq. They had done nothing about it. In fact, Fogarty was feted because of his “war-like” attitude. “They all knew in my unit”, he told me. “They would always kid around and say, ‘Hey, you’re that skinhead!’” Did anyone rat on you, I asked. “No, I was hardcore, I would volunteer for all the hardest missions, and they were like: ‘Let Fogarty go’. You know what I mean, they didn’t want to get rid of me.”<br /><br />Fogarty’s story is not singular. The US <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">military</a> have, in fact, always been ambiguous in their regulation concerning enlisted neo-Nazis and white supremacists, precisely so that in times of chronic troops needs, as was the case during the “war on terror” they would have enough leeway to allow these radicals to keep <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">fighting</a> for the flag. <br /><br />For example, in <a href="http://www.part-time-commander.com/ar-600-20-everything-you-need-to-know-about-army-command-policy/"><em>Army Command Policy</em></a> (the rulebook for the army revised in May 2002), the guideline for commanders is that: "Participation in extremist organisations and activities by army personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service." But a word such as "inconsistent" is ambiguous enough to be interpreted in any way a commander chooses. Why not “prohibited”? On the back of this tragedy, the US military must make its regulations very clear: racist <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/06/25/155710570/fbi-checking-100-suspected-extremists-in-military">extremists</a> are not accepted in any form within the armed forces. If connections with or membership of far-right groups is found, that should constitute a lifetime ban from service for that individual. <br /><br />If a racist tattoo is found, that also must unambiguously be a bar to enlistment; there must no longer be an option to have it removed or modified. (I heard of one recruit turning a swastika into a sun-wheel and being sent off to Iraq.) Any individual with a racist tattoo must also have a lifetime ban on service. These are easy regulatory changes to make - if the will is there. In terms of future <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-incidents">attacks</a>, it could already be too late.<br /><br /><strong>The ticking bomb</strong><br /><br />During the “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/past_present_future_3850.jsp">war on terror</a>” even the extant regulatory structure, thin at best, was completely scorched. When the war in Iraq was peaking in the period around 2005, the US military had to all intents and purposes broken. It could no longer recruit the soldiers it needed to populate the war’s frontlines; in fact, in 2005 it missed its recruitment targets by the largest margin since 1979, when the US was still afflicted with so-called “Vietnam syndrome”, which had turned many Americans off military service. <br /><br />In the same period, the US military was also finding it hard to retain the soldiers it serving in the middle east. At a Senate hearing in March 2005, General Richard A Cody <a href="http://www.stripes.com/news/army-vice-chief-of-staff-cody-worried-about-future-of-all-volunteer-military-1.30715">expressed</a> his concerns publicly: “What keeps me awake at night is what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007.” His insomnia, as it turned out, was more than warranted. In reality, the US military needed conscription - but it was too unpopular. Instead, the George W Bush administration <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/bush-to-obama-toxic-legacy">turned</a> the country’s fighting force into a social experiment.<br /><br />To cope with the massive shortfall in troops, the US military (with the express approval of defence secretary, <a href="http://www.defense.gov/specials/secdef_histories/bios/rumsfeld.htm">Donald Rumsfeld</a>) explicitly loosened requirements for enlistment age (pushed up to 42 years-old by 2006), body-weight, high-school diplomas, as well as for other groups that were deemed not too shocking for the American public. More quietly, however, groups which would have caused much more controversy amongst the domestic population (as well as the people occupied by the US military) were granted easier entrance - people convicted of felonies, including assault, rape and other serious crimes; <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/0807/Sikh-temple-shootings-Extremist-groups-recruit-from-US-military-ranks">members</a> of some of the most violent and powerful gangs in the US, like the Gangster Disciples out of Chicago; and, yes, violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists. <br /><br />Even Islamic fundamentalists like Nidal Malik Hasan, who is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/us/fort-hood-shooting-trial-delayed-pending-ruling-on-beard.html">alleged</a> to have killed thirteen&nbsp; of his fellow soldiers at Fort Bragg in November 2009, was allowed to continue serving, even though the FBI and the military’s investigative branch discovered he had sent more than a dozen solicitous emails to the extremist Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (who was eventually <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11658920">assassinated</a> on orders of the Barack Obama administration in 2011). A resulting Senate report <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-7314327.html">found</a> that Hasan had been a “ticking time-bomb” and senator Joe Lieberman said the massacre at Fort Bragg “could have, and should have, been prevented”. Many more ticking time-bombs - unlike Hasan and Wade not yet detonated - are now settling back home after a decade of hard combat-training courtesy of the US military.<br /><br /><strong>The open-door cost </strong><br /><br />A number of groups and individuals implored the US military and politicians in Congress to take this problem seriously during the “war on terror” They included the anti-racist group the <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/?ref=logo">Southern Poverty Law Center,</a> which constantly <a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2006/summer/extremism-and-the-military">warned</a> (in ways that now look prophetic) of what could happen if these radicals were allowed to stay in the military; military <a href="http://ipsnorthamerica.net/news.php?idnews=2344">investigators</a> themselves, such as defence-department gang detective Scott Barfield, who warned of neo-Nazis flourishing in Baghdad; and active duty personnel like Sgt Jeffrey Stoleson, who raised the issue of rampant gang activity in Iraq. <br /><br />Both these men - and many other whistleblowers - were shunned, then forced out of their jobs, after they sounded the alarm. The Pentagon brass, down to the non-commissioned officers on the ground, did not want to be exposed, and protected itself by targeting the messengers every time. I myself contacted the US Senate <a href="http://www.senate.gov/general/committee_membership/committee_memberships_SSAS.htm">committee</a> on the armed forces (when it was headed by senators John McCain and Carl Levin) to ask what they were doing about this burgeoning problem. I was refused an interview and merely told: “The Committee doesn’t have any information that would indicate this is a particular problem.”<br /><br />But the US military over the past twenty years - and particularly so during the “war on terror” when it turned into a free-for-all - has been incubating a monster which is now threatening to grievously harm the domestic population. What has been done to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan since the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-after-iraq-afghanistan">wars</a> there were launched because of this open-door policy on all sorts of unsavoury groups is also painful to contemplate. <br /><br />Many of the worst reported atrocities committed by American troops during the “war on terror” - from the Mahmudiyah <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/02/AR2006070200673_pf.html">massacre </a>to the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-abu_ghraib/article_2145.jsp">Abu Ghraib</a> torture scandal - can be linked directly to loosening regulations on extremists, gangs, and the mentally ill. This is a military that was once the envy of the world, but thanks to the recklessness of the Pentagon - and particularly its implacable<br />ideologue Donald Rumsfeld - it is now a tinderbox waiting to blow.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Matt Kennard, <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror </em></a>(Verso, 2012)</p><p><a href="http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2006/summer/extremism-and-the-military">Southern Poverty Law Center</a></p><p><a href="http://www.stripes.com/"><em>Stars &amp; Stripes</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Matt Kennard is a journalist who has worked for the <em><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ba2792e-d00b-11e0-81e2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1h1Gvyltj">Financial Times</a></em> in London, New York and Washington. He is the author of of <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1111-irregular-army"><em>Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror </em></a>(Verso, 2012)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cas-mudde/wisconsins-sikh-massacre-real-danger">Wisconsin&#039;s Sikh massacre: the real danger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/matt-kennard/haiti-and-shock-doctrine">Haiti and the shock doctrine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">America’s military: failures of success</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">America and the world’s jungle</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity United States Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power conflicts north america Matt Kennard Security sector reform - a global challenge Security in North America Tue, 25 Sep 2012 04:19:40 +0000 Matt Kennard 68259 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Haiti and the shock doctrine https://www.opendemocracy.net/matt-kennard/haiti-and-shock-doctrine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Haiti, an already very poor&nbsp;country, was shattered by the earthquake of January 2010 centred on&nbsp;the capital, Port-au-Prince. In the aftermath,&nbsp;a rigorous economic programme was imposed&nbsp;by rich-world agencies and governments&nbsp;that took no account of&nbsp;Haitians' true needs. A forensic investigation of how&nbsp;this blueprint has overridden the&nbsp;hopes of a new generation of Haitians, by Matt Kennard.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>"In the Western hemisphere, in Haiti and elsewhere, we live under the shadow of your great and prosperous country. Much patience and courage is needed to keep one´s head" - Doctor Maigot to Mrs Smith in Graham Greene's <em>The Comedians</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the middle of Port-au-Prince, along a dusty road and behind some imposing metal gates, sits the E-Power electricity plant. In a capital city where electricity blackouts are a nightly occurrence, E-Power is the kind of company the international financial institutions (IFIs) running Haiti believe will lead "reform" - by taking power away from the state-run company, and running it for profit. The company was founded in 2004 by a group of Haitian venture capitalists excited by the departure of social-democratic president <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/01/20/f-haiti-aristide-bio.html">Jean-Bertrand Aristide</a>. The aim, it said, was to "offer a solution to power generation in Haiti". Sure enough, two years later, in 2006, the new United States-backed president, René Préval, launched an open bid for a contract to provide electricity to <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/haiti.htm">Haiti's</a> capital city. Seven companies took part: E-Power won. </p> <p>For many in the Haitian business elite, such economic liberalisation should now be the model for the new Haiti being built after the devastating <a href="http://www.ifrc.org/what/disasters/response/haiti/index.asp">earthquake</a> of 12 January 2010. "The earthquake created trauma that could have been better exploited", Pierre-Marie Boisson, board director at E-Power, tells me as we sit in the upmarket offices at the plant. "Because of the political process that took place after that, it took too much time." He adds: "Earthquakes should be an opportunity because they destroy. Where earhquakes destroy, we have to build. When we have to build we can create jobs, we can create a lot of changes, we can change a country."</p> <p>However, Mr Boisson’s cynicism about the slow rate of "exploitation" is not quite accurate. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the opportunity afforded by the destruction wreaked on Haiti was, in fact, <a href="http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307371300">pounced </a>on immediately - and to stunning effect.</p> <p>As the dust was still settling in Port-au-Prince, the IFIs and various US agencies - what became the <em>de facto</em> government in the absence of a Haitian alternative - carved up the society’s different sectors and doled them out amongst themselves. The <a href="http://www.iadb.org/en/inter-american-development-bank,2837.html">Inter-American Development Bank</a> (IADB) got education and water; the World Bank bagged energy; the United States Agency for International Development&nbsp; (Usaid) gratefully accepted the planned new industrial parks. Alexandre Abrantes, the World Bank’s special envoy to Haiti, tells me how it worked: "We basically have agreed that where we have each of us the competitive advantage, we then divide … the sectors among ourselves, and add in some sectors which go together." </p> <p>The mass privatisation of state-run assets and the turning of Haiti into a "Caribbean sweatshop" - via an export-led garment-production and cheap-labour model - was something that the US and the IFIs had been pushing forcefully from the mid-1990s through the 2000s. Now its realisation became a distinct possibility. They could enforce it with minimal pushback from a decimated civil society and a denuded government. All the extra-Haitian bodies, particularly the US government, saw the same vision, which made it even easier. "There is a lot of agreement, so I would say one of the unusual and very positive aspects about this project is that it is really done in partnership", Jean-Louis Warnholz, a state-department official <a href="https://www.pmf.opm.gov/RotationsDetail.aspx?num=3902">working</a> on Haiti, tells me. </p> <p>The "partnership" believed that rebuilding the capabilities of the Haitian state should play no role in the reconstruction. The panacea to Haiti’s <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/globalisation/institutions_government/haiti_empty_stomachs_stormy_politics">problems</a> lay in the creation of a flourishing private sector. "What’s really going to change Haiti and make this process different from all the previous ones is [the] development of the private sector, and I think there’s a consensus in that", Agustín Aguerre, the Haiti manager for the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), tells me. The bank disbursed $177bn in grant money in 2010, more than any other multilateral source, to push this agenda. "Private sector is the big difference, it’s what will be creating wealth, creating jobs, not the public sector", Mr Aguerre adds. </p> <p>Even after the election of Michel Martelly as Haiti's president in March-April 2011, things remained easy for this private-sector-led "consensus": the IFIs and US not only had their "<a href="http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307371300">shock event</a>", but also their "shock president". (Aristide - who was&nbsp;<a href="http://www.terra.es/personal2/monolith/haiti.htm">president</a> in 1991, 1993-94, 1994-96, and 2001-04, continues to be the most popular politician in Haiti, but is banned from standing again for the presidency). In the Martelly administration, the US had found their "Chicago boy", a more-than-willing partner for their economic programme. All the major business groupings and IFIs I spoke to in Port-au-Prince were effusive in their support for the president. Carl-Auguste Boisson, general manager at E-Power, says: "I am pleased by what I heard Martelly saying about the importance of private investment, especially when he was campaigning he was talking about things like providing private provision of public services." </p> <p>Kenneth Merten, the <a href="http://haiti.usembassy.gov/ambassador.html">former</a> United States ambassador to Haiti, is similarly excited about the new president’s privatisation agenda. "A few privatisations of flour mills, but aside from that you haven’t had much of anything in past decades," he tells me. "That’s the element that’s been lacking here, you need a government that understand investment and I think Martelly and his folks do." For the US, a pliable figure like Martelly had been a long time coming. Despite many decades of effort, Haiti had not completely succumbed to the plans that its major patron had for it. And such recalcitrance had been causing increasing consternation in Washington. </p> <p><strong>The&nbsp;long history</strong></p> <p>In the 1990s the pace of economic reform in Haiti was not fast enough for Washington government or the powerful IFIs that were together trying to radically alter the face of the country. After the first democratic elections in the country’s 200-year history in 1990, the US was hopeful about breaking up the corrupt state institutions which had been run as the personal fiefdoms of "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc", the US-backed <a href="http://www.travelinghaiti.com/history_of_haiti/francois_duvalier.asp">Duvalier</a> dictators that had ruled viciously for nearly forty years. Private capital would then be able to penetrate deeper into Haiti, and an economic model conducive to the interests of the rich countries could take firm root.</p> <p>But it wasn’t going to plan. Instead of the US-orientated "reformer" many in Washington had hoped for, a huge mass <a href="http://www.hayti.net/tribune/">movement</a>, named <em>Lavalas</em> ("Flood’), propelled the social-democrat priest, <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/01/20/f-haiti-aristide-bio.html">Jean-Bertrand Aristide</a>, to a landslide victory in 1990. Over the next twenty years, Aristide would be ousted twice (with US support), and the democratic hopes and dreams of its people would be quashed time and again. </p> <p>With the nuisance of Aristide, and all the attendant turmoil in the country, it remained hard for the US and its allies in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to transform Haiti according to the neoliberal model in the way they had envisioned. When Aristide was put back in power in 2001 he did so with the tacit agreement that he would allow the US and <a href="http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/item.shtml?x=320747">Bretton Woods</a> institutions to institute their plan. It had been eleven years since the democratic elections, and still economic "reform" was slow. Something had to change. </p> <p>In this period, René Préval, a former ally of Aristide who served as president from 2006-11, seemed to offer some hope for the Americans. "In the context of the developing world, we would most accurately describe him as a neoliberal, particularly in that he has embraced free markets and foreign investment", notes one of the US embassy’s diplomatic cables sent from Port-au-Prince in 2007. </p> <p>But the leader the US was really after in that period looked more like Haitian-American <a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/tarrant-county/headlines/20100202-Southlake-businessman-keeps-Haitians-plight-4098.ece">businessman</a> Dumas Simeus. A resident of Texas, he assured the US embassy, according to a diplomatic cable of 2005, that "he would manage Haiti like a business". The same cable added: "Displaying abundant charm and energy, the 65-year-old said he had decided to run for President not only for Haiti’s benefit, but also as a gesture of thanks to the United States." He was very clear about he would do this: "The University of Chicago alum pledged to bring the 'Chicago boys' to Haiti and establish a road map for change, promising investors would return." </p> <p>It was exactly what the US embassy wanted to hear; Simeus was the candidate they had been searching for. The cable concluded by noting that the millionaire Texan is a "potentially viable candidate" who could, unlike Aristide, "govern responsibly and maybe effectively" - that is, in the US interest. The US now deems Martelly similarly "responsible". </p> <p>But in many ways, the US exasperation at the apparent reluctance of Haiti’s leaders to sell off their country’s assets, and create an economic playground for foreign capital, remains hard to understand. From the mid-1990s through the 2000s, the "Chicago boys" had to all intents and purposes come to Haiti; the process of opening up Haiti’s economy to the predations of foreign capital was well underway. In 1996, the Haitian government had already, one diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks notes, "established legislation on the modernization of public enterprises, which allows foreign investors to participate in the management and/or ownership of state-owned enterprises." </p> <p>Moreover, a law of November 2002 explicitly acknowledged the "crucial role of foreign investment in assuring economic growth and aims to facilitate, liberalize, and stimulate private investment in Haiti." The law gave foreign investors exactly the same rights and protections as Haitians. A few months earlier in 2002, the Haitian parliament had voted for a new free-trade-zone law which provided "zones" with fiscal and customs incentives for foreign enterprises - for example, a fifteen-year tax exemption. In other words, post-Aristide, the government had "seen the light" and embraced the US and Bretton Woods vision for post-dictatorship Haiti. But like a recidivist addict, these steps were never to be enough to sate the US and the IFIs. They wanted their "Chicago boy". </p> <p>A good example of this greed comes from the <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2011/06/us-haiti-wikileaks-minimum-wage-petrocaribe/38579/">Wikileaks cables</a>, one of which notes that in 1996 a "modernization commission" was set up to decide whether management contracts, long-term leases or capitalisation was the best option for each of the companies to be privatised. The commission would also set how much the Haitian government would retain of the asset, with a cap at 49% - a minority stake, stripping the Haitian people of control over their own industries. This had an immediate effect. In 1998, two US companies, Seaboard and Continental Grain, purchased 70% of the state-owned flour mill. </p> <p>But despite this "progress", a diplomatic cable from 2005 lamented: "Some investments, however, still require government authorization". It added: "Investments in electricity, water and telecommunications require both government concession and approval. Additionally, investments in the public health sector must first receive authorization from the Ministry of Public Health and Population." It sounded like a normal sovereign country, but a sovereign country is exactly what the the US and IFIs didn’t want Haiti to be. Two years after Aristide had been spirited out of the country, and just before the victory the "neoliberal" Preval in 2006, the US embassy noted witheringly: "Since the privatization of the cement factory, privatization has stalled and appears to have been put on hold." It went on, plaintively: "None of the major infrastructure-related enterprises (the airport, seaport, telephone company or electric company) have been privatized." </p> <p>The document continued: "Although these entities were supposed to have been privatized by 2002, persistent political crises, strong opposition from the former administration, and a general lack of political will have delayed the process indefinitely." The cable then notes a more plausible reason why this massive privatisation programme had not been enacted quite as smoothly as the US had hoped: "Some opposition to the privatization of state enterprises continues from groups such as employee's unions who have expressed opposition to workforce reductions that privatization might entail." </p> <p>By 2008, then, the US embassy was disconsolate at the slow rate of progress and intransigence from the Haitians. "Despite assurances that privatization is a still a priority for the government …we are increasingly skeptical that privatization, in whatever form, will happen", one cable noted. "Time is running out." The US, however, remained steadfast to its goal. "We will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of privatization and/or private management", one cable noted. It further advocated using the Bretton Woods institutions to bribe the democratic government of Haiti. "[The US embassy] repeats its recommendation … that privatization be a requirement under future agreements with the IFIs … to be negotiated with the new government." </p> <p><strong>The shock</strong></p> <p>Bribery might prove an effective strategy for the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/haiti_3298.jsp">poorest </a>country in the western hemisphere, but it would still be messy. There was after all a Haitian parliament, populated with nationalist elements, which could continue to stall or even kill the massive privatisation programme the US favoured. But as the US was honing its strategy for its latest push, on 12 January 2010 a huge earthquake hit Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the history of the world. More than 300,000 people were killed, while millions became homeless. The capital city lay in ruins, including the majority of government ministries as well as the presidential palace. What was left of an already strangled civil society and social institutions was destroyed. Haiti was a blank slate.</p> <p>The US and its allies in the IMF and World Bank did not waste any time in realising that this was the opportunity to push through their radical neoliberal programme from the 1990s with little resistance. The opposition to this privatisation programme - which had ranged from quasi-nationalist politicians to worker-based collectives - had all but disappeared. Without a government in place to agree or disagree with the US and the IFIs, which were soon running the country, Haiti was ready for the "shock doctrine" - the radical economic prescriptions enforced throughout the world and outlined in Naomi Klein’s eponymous <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine">book</a>. </p> <p>The first step was to entrench a decision-making system which took all power out of the hands of accountable democratic institutions run by Haitians. The <a href="http://www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/fs/2011/154141.htm">Interim Haiti Recovery Commission</a> (IHRC), which became the country’s most powerful decision-making body in the aftermath of the earthquake, was the perfect example of this move. The IHRC was set up ostensibly to coordinate the response and spend the donor money in the absence of a Haitian government. It had twenty-six members, of which twelve were Haitian, leaving them without a voting majority (just as they were not allowed a majority stake in their industries). To those Haitian members, it was obvious they were window-dressing. </p> <p>In a December 2010 letter of <a href="http://http%3a//therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/69-more-blog-posts-from-norman-girvan/524-protest-letter-from-haitian-ihrc-members-to-commission-co-chairs">protest</a> to the IHRC chair, former US president Bill Clinton, they complained of being "completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC", as well as having "time neither to read, nor analyze, nor understand - and much less respond intelligently - to projects submitted." According to one journalist based in Port-au-Prince: "These twelve board members surmised that their only function is to rubber-stamp, as Haitian-approved, decisions already made by the executive committee."</p> <p>This was exactly the perception that the US and the IFIs were trying to avoid. When officials from the US and international agencies in Haiti are interviewed they are at pains to explain how they are "working for the Haitians" and the phrase of the day is "Haitian-led". In truth, there was, and continues to be, minimal Haitian involvement in the reconstruction (outside of the business elite). An <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/07/AR2011010703043.html">article</a> in the <em>Washington Post</em> put it bluntly in January 2011: "There is a dramatic power imbalance between the international community - under U.S. leadership - and Haiti. The former monopolizes economic and political power and calls all the shots." The financial benefits to the American private sector of this set-up was immediately obvious. An AP investigation&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/01/13/132884795/the-nation-how-ngos-have-failed-haiti">found</a> that of every $100 of Haiti reconstruction contracts awarded by the American government, $98.40 returned to American companies. The focus was never on building up indigenous capacity - any work was to be outsourced to foreign companies or NGOs by the IHRC.</p> <p>After Michel Martelly was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13398689">sworn in</a> as president in May 2011 it took months for the former pop star and member of the "tonton macoute" militia to form a government, as his candidates for cabinet positions were repeatedly rejected by parliament. By the time his administration was in place in June 2011, eighteen months after the earthquake, the coordinates of the economic reconstruction were already in place. Martelly’s hands were tied by the very IFIs who claimed to be subordinate to the Haitians. Though in Martelly’s <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/12/2796979/haiti-marks-one-year-with-michel.html">case</a> his hands didn’t even need to be tied - he was a willing "shock president".</p> <p><strong>The neoliberal model</strong></p> <p>The three factors that the US and IFIs wanted to build the "new Haiti" around were high-end tourism; export-processing zones; and a resurgent private sector in control of the previously-state owned assets.</p> <p>The managers of the reconstruction had a couple of countries in mind which they believed could serve as a model. One was the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-dominican-republic-a-time-of-ghosts">Dominican Republic</a>, the country next door to Haiti, which had long been an oasis of calm for private capital in the Caribbean. In Haiti, using the model of its Hispaniola neighbour, the IADB planned to spend $22m on a high-end tourism resort near the 19th-century citadel at Labadee, a port on Haiti’s northern coast. Mr Almedia, Haiti manager for the IADB, told me the bank’s money will "provide the means for the private sector to come and invest", adding that "in [the Dominican Republic] everything they have is all private. The airport is private, the roads are private, even the internal roads. So we could do the same thing [in Haiti]." (In the initial carve up of Haiti society, the IADB was given road infrastructure.)</p> <p>The other opportunity that had to be taken advantage of was speeding up the privatisation process. The World Bank used the example of Teleco, formerly the national telecom operator, which in 2009 the bank’s private sector arm had helped partially privatise. Mr Naim, the private-sector Haiti manager for the World Bank, told me Teleco is an example of what the government should do now to the ports and airport. "[They can] really transform these assets that generally the government handles poorly", he says, adding that "It’s better for the government to focus on social things" and let these assets be privatised. </p> <p>Teleco itself is now due for complete privatisation under the guidance of the World Bank’s private-sector arm, the IFC. For the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it was hard - possibly even suicidal - to argue with the World Bank tells you. In March 2010, the bank promised $479m in grants; the IFC put $49m worth of direct investment into Haiti’s private sector. </p> <p>With Teleco on its way to privatisation, the IADB had its own plans for the national water and sanitation authority (Dinepa), which had come under its domain in the initial carve-up. The bank soon handed over the authority’s management duties to the giant Spanish company, Agua de Barcelona, which won a three-year contract to train and assist worker,s for which they received millions of dollars. "Many local companies are taking control of small towns' water systems", Mr Aguerre of the IADB tells me excitedly. This essential commodity and basic human right was now being turned into a for-profit venture. "We are seeing good examples of places where no one paid for water services, and little by little they are paying", adds Mr Aguerre. Experts from Agua de Barcelona became the leaders of discussions concerning the investment needed in Haiti’s water system and the process of opening bids to different contractors for the completion of new pipelines and other systemic improvements.</p> <p>In education, the IADB’s plans were no different. Thanks to decades of neoliberal policies which prioritised the private sector above the Haitian ministries, even before the earthquake 80% of educational services were delivered outside of the state (primarily by international bodies or the private sector). As a result only half of school-age children in Haiti went to school. For the IADB, this did not prove the folly of their enterprise. Contrariwise, they concluded that it meant they had not gone far enough. "It’s too ambitious to think you can turn it around", Mr Aguerre says. </p> <p>The IADB settled on a voucher <a href="http://www.iadb.org/en/news/webstories/2012-04-25/haiti-invests-to-boost-rural-productivity-and-incomes,9958.html">programme</a> that allows the government to retain some "quality control", but meant education would be completely privately-run. To ensure full access, the plan would create a publicly-funded but privately-run education system. The small print was that this public subsidy would cost the Haitian government about $700m a year, seven times the $100m it spends now on education. With no new revenue streams evident (in fact, as we shall see, the government’s tax base was being all but destroyed), the obvious implication was that full access was not an aim (or even a hope). When the IADB’s promised $500m over three years runs dry, more than half of Haiti’s children will still be locked out of the school system. </p> <p>The IADB rationalised this arrangement by arguing that the private sector would pick up the slack - explicitly holding Haiti’s kids ransom to Hollywood film stars. "There are many private actors willing to put money in", added Mr Aguerre. "Half of Hollywood is interested. Everyone wants their Susan Sarandon School of Arts." Incidentally, the "shock president" Martelly has been approving of both vouchers and subsidising private schools as methods to rebuild the Haitian education system. </p> <p>With the complete privatisation of the telecoms, water, education, the final piece in the jigsaw for the IFIs and the US was new "industrial parks" or "integrated economic zones". These, so the propaganda went, would ensure the economic growth that could put Haiti and its people back on their feet. </p> <p><strong>The cell approach</strong></p> <p>The thirty-minute drive to Codevi industrial park from the airport in northern Haiti is the smoothest in the country. In a place famed for its poor infrastructure - particularly the undulating roads – the park and the surrounding area are something of an oasis. Beyond the small bridge and metal gates which divide Codevi from the town outside, there’s everything that the average Haitian doesn’t have: paved roads, a functioning health service, employment, and even a (small) trade union – the only one in the country.</p> <p>The two million square-foot Codevi park was originally built by a Dominican textile company, Grupo M, on the Dominican side of the <a href="http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/namerica/caribb/hispnola.htm">border</a>, but operations were expanded to Haiti in 2003 (with the help of a large investment by the World Bank). "It was created as a vision of expansion that Grupo M had to look for as the Dominican Republic became more complicated competitiveness-wise", Joseph Blumberg, vice-president of sales for the company, tells me as he sits in his air-conditioned office inside the park. "Haiti offered us the competitive edge that we needed in this region to maintain ourselves with the US market." He adds, "It had a labour cost which was the lowest in the region." The minimum wage in Haiti now is 150 <em>gourdes</em> ($3.70), which is nearly half that in the Dominican Republic.</p> <p>This competitive advantage - in a lay person's terms "slave wages" and favourable trading terms with the US - had caught the eye of the IFIs in the aftermath of the earthquake. The aim was to rebuild Haiti as a "Caribbean sweatshop" that could enjoy the full fruits of the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (Hope) Act, which was <a href="http://ctrc.sice.oas.org/Trade/HHOPE/HHOPE_e.asp">passed</a> by the US Congress in 2006, granting tariff-free access for Haitian textile exporters to the US market. This had been followed by increasingly favourable terms through Hope II, in 2008, and the Help Act after the 2010 earthquake. </p> <p>The parks like that at Codevi are known in the IFIs literature as "integration economic zones" (IEZs): places where infrastructure, welfare services and other services are provided behind imposing metal gates for the lucky few. The propaganda justifying them argued that prospective foreign investors put off by the decrepit or non-existent roads, electricity-grid and water system throughout Haiti would here have access to a ready-made mini-city. There was already a huge industrial <a href="http://businessinhaiti.com/index.php/about-cfi">park</a> of this kind near the airport in Port-au-Prince called Sonapi, which is fully owned by the Haitian government and had nearly forty companies based there. But the new IEZs would be under the sole control of its initial investors - mainly USAID and the IDB.</p> <p>This raised the question of what would happen outside these so-called "poles" of economic activity. What would the incentive be for the central government to develop infrastructure and social services through the country if they were being built on this micro-scale? And where would the money come from? Alexandre Abrantes, the World Bank's special <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/about/alexandre-vieira-abrantes">envoy</a> to Haiti, admits this is a problem; he tells me that industrial parks "may not be sustainable if you were to do it as a policy everywhere". </p> <p>Codevi is essentially an "export-processing zone" where exports pay no tax to the central government and there is no customs duty on imported materials. "You’re in an extra-territorial concept so that your goods come in and out very quickly without much paperwork", adds Armando Heilbron, a senior private-sector development <a href="http://www.ifc.org/IFCExt/pressroom/IFCPressRoom.nsf/0/D78108EB7FDD91A28525795E00518663">specialist</a> at the World Bank working on the IEZs in Haiti. Therefore, Haiti’s reconstruction will be centred in isolated small cells - called "poles" by the economic managers - primarily around the northern part of the country, while the rest of the country’s infrastructure and welfare services will fall further into disrepair. </p> <p>But maybe the biggest problem with the industrial parks is the unscrupulous nature of the companies that populate them. The public-relations tour of <a href="http://sedfny.org/portfolio/active-portfolio/codevi.html">Codevi</a>, with its stops at the local doctor and training facilities, is a relief after experiencing the destruction that has been wrought in the rest of the country. But that same tour did not include many of the most important episodes in its establishment. Codevi was originally built on farmers' land against their will - a process which literally destroyed the region’s agricultural infrastructure to create sweatshops. It was a parable for the economic reconstruction that occurred after the earthquake. The diplomatic cables recount that there had been a "long-standing labor dispute between Dominican manufacturer Grupo M and workers in Ouanaminthe". One says:</p> <p>"According to Yannick Etienne, a labor representative, the fight has its origins in the closed-door negotiations that established the Free Trade Zone (FTZ). The farmers were left out of the negotiating process until the day of the FTZ ground breaking ceremony in 2002, when they were told their land was being expropriated. Grupo M eventually published a social compensation plan in 2003, however, it came too late for the farmers whose land was already gone, and whose suspicions of the Dominicans were already aroused." </p> <p>Grupo M and their <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/haiti">patrons</a> at the World Bank do not tire of outlining the countless benefits which accrue to the local population because of Codevi. When I ask to speak to workers, two are dutifully brought out to give monosyllabic and mono-positive comments about their jobs, perhaps wary of the manager who sits next to them. Neither is a member of the union, I soon find out. In fact, Grupo M tells me it has no conception of how many workers are in the union. "Very little", is all Mr Blumberg tells me. "It’s not part of their priority. They’re happy and when the workforce is happy they don’t mind if anybody is doing anything for them or not." </p> <p>However, according to the diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, the soothing words of Mr Blumberg do not reveal the whole story. "Dominican unions allege [Grupo M] discriminates against labor organizers, fires their members, and has created a fraudulent "scab union" in order to circumvent the legitimate one", one cable notes. It becomes clear something similar had happened in Haiti. Grupo M did have a stronger union once - before it was busted after trying to exercise its rights. Just months after Codevi opened, the workers began complaining of "exploitation and mistreatment" by management of the Grupo M. Rounds of strikes and violence by union members were followed by a "series of employee terminations by the company throughout that summer." </p> <p>Mr Blumberg explains it thus: "When we had the first union, there was a lot of growing pain. They didn’t have the right groups guiding them, there were a lot of radicals, a lot of leftists." But, he adds: "In the end, everything was straightened out and we’re in peace and we’ve fine with the union." The union had been co-opted. Workers' rights would not be a high priority for the economic model that would design the new Haiti. In fact, the plan was predicated on the lack of rights for workers. In an internal IFC document that was presented to the Haitian government, the administration is implored to amend the labour code in order to "lift restrictions on 24/7 multi-labor shifts" while "streamlining" the process by which night-time salary supplements can be done away with. </p> <p>The plan was also predicated on a lack of tax revenue. Another incentive for the foreign companies conjured was the so-called "economic free zones" (EFZs), which would offer companies tax and duty-free rights if they set up operations in Haiti. In truth these <a href="http://cfihaiti.net/en/2012-07-27-18-47-08/investment-zone">zones</a> were not real in physical space but rather constituted the whole country. In other words, Haiti would now be tax-free for foreign investors - further disabling the Haitian government's ability to rebuild any public institutions. For example, in 2011, the Haitian government brought in an estimated $1bn a year in revenue, much less than the per-capita rate in sub-Saharan Africa.</p> <p>The answer to this dillema for the IaDB was the "multiplier effect" whereby companies supplying services to the population would in turn have more income and therefore pay more tax to the government (sometime in the distant future). "It’s on that side that we see the benefits of anchoring in the zones and having these companies come, even if under the current regime they do not pay taxes for a while", says Mr Almeida, <a href="http://www.iadb.org/en/countries/haiti/haiti-and-the-idb,1008.html">IADB</a> country director for Haiti. The idea essentially is that around the industrial estates other smaller Haitian businesses - like travel agents and grocery stores - will pick up the slack of lost tax revenue. </p> <p>The problem for the IFIs was that even with slave wages - and lax labour regulation - it was proving hard to attract foreign investment. In the face of such reticence from investors around the world, Haiti should have focused on building indigenous capacity, perhaps through a massive public-works initiative and the construction of state-owned facilities, like Sonapi. Haitians were instead again put at the mercy of international capital and its "race to the bottom". For the US embassy, the only thing going for Haiti was that its people were made to work for peanuts. "Haiti has the lowest wages in the western hemisphere", boasted one US embassy cable. To Haitians it was nothing to&nbsp;BOAST about. Camille Chalmers, a local economist, <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;frm=1&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CEUQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F7dcbdd92-3c63-11e1-8d38-00144feabdc0.html&amp;ei=hWUqUJzTG-Kw0AXizIGwDQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNFQj1mdDiXgmecIExOzCTv6xWXY6A">told</a> the <em>Financial Times</em> that the wages paid in the textile sector, Haiti’s biggest industry, were a "veritable scandal".</p> <p>Amid manifold reservations from both international investors and labour-rights groups, the IADB and&nbsp;the United States Agency for International Development&nbsp;recently finished the construction of the flagship project in the economic <a href="http://haiti.usaid.gov/issues/earthquake.php">reconstruction</a> of Haiti: the Caracol industrial park (CIP), just forty miles down the well-paved road back toward the northern capital of Cap-Haïtien. </p> <p>The CIP is inspired by the perceived success of Codevi, with those designing Haiti’s new-look economy trying to attract <a href="http://www.citigroup.com/citi/press/2010/100805b.htm">investment</a> with the benefits that drew Grupo M into the economy: cheap labour and geographical closeness to the US, the world’s largest market, where its exports are duty-free. It is one of five planned. The US has poured millions of dollars into the NIP, but only Sae-A Trading, a South Korean textile company, has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/world/americas/earthquake-relief-where-haiti-wasnt-broken.html?pagewanted=all">enticed</a> to set up shop in the park (and according to people involved in the deal, Sae-A were promised a rent-holiday of four years). </p> <p>The fact that the US taxpayer is building industrial parks for the benefit of South Korean companies has also raised eyebrows. The US may be the most active foreign country involved in the reconstruction, but even its companies are still keeping their distance. "We are professional beggars", Mr Aguerre, the Haiti manager for the IADB in Washington, tells me. Haitian people would be beggars too. For example, the internal IFC documents on proposed IEZs argue that the reconstruction should be "propelled by private-sector-led development" even though the same document admits "the existing Haitian Free Zone, Industrial Park and Investment Code policy and regulatory regimes have not been effective in attracting investments that are needed to create jobs". </p> <p>There is another downside, namely that offering generous inducements to foreign companies will adversely impact businesses already in Haiti. Grupo M, for example, is fearful of what the incentives offered for the CIP and other IEZs being planned might mean for them. "[New foreign companies] have to train their workforces, they have to prepare themselves for what is coming", says Mr Blumberg, vice-president of sales at <a href="http://www.aapnetwork.net/aapmembers/Grupo-M-SA/index.cfm">Grupo M</a>. "We want a level playing field if you will. We understand that [foreign companies] are getting a lot of things via grants and via sponsorships from different sources." </p> <p>But if investment is not forthcoming or indigenous industries flee, as many predict, Haiti will suffer stagnation and destitution for another generation. Enthusiasm from donors for aid and other forms of sovereign investment is now dwindling as the international community loses interest and financial crisis continues to bite. The <a href="http://www.haitireconstructionfund.org/hrf/">Haiti Reconstruction Fund</a> (HRF), which aggregates funds from countries and NGOs to fill gaps in investment, has raised $352m so far, but that’s the peak. "We’ve reached a plateau", Mr Leitman, head of the HRF, tells me. "I think the donors have been cautious and reluctant to contribute new money." In March 2010, at the major pledging conference held in New York City, $4.6bn was promised for the first two years of reconstruction. Only $1.9bn of that ever materialised.</p> <p><strong>The agriculture alternative</strong></p> <p>Haiti is a notoriously difficult country to operate in: its institutions are frail, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/haiti-unravelling-the-knot">weakened</a> by years of underinvestment, and system is riven with corruption. For the economic managers post-earthquake this was the default reasoning for their reliance on the private sector and "export-led" reconstruction. But there was nothing inevitable about such a programme. There were plenty of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tone-faret-mariano-aguirre/haiti-politics-of-recovery">reconstruction</a> plans that could, most likely would, have created a fairer and&nbsp;more sustainable future for Haitians. The problem was and remains that these plans go against the strict ideology that imbues the <a href="http://www.brettonwoods.org/index.php/180/Bretton_Woods_Institutions">Bretton Woods</a> institutions. </p> <p>For example, the Haitian government could have rebuilt the country’s crumbling infrastructure with a modern-day equivalent of the Marshall Plan from donors, which would have created public-sector jobs for Haitians to construct roads, ports, and energy infrastructure which has either been non-existent or in disrepair. Everyone, after all, puts infrastructure as among the top problems for making Haiti work. 10,000 jobs could have been created just clearing the rubble. The <a href="http://www.redcross.org/haiti">Red Cross</a> has, for example, created hundreds of jobs for Haitians reusing the rubble to build bricks and other building materials, clearing the city and creating employment. "We’re the only ones doing it", the co-coordinator of the programme in Port-au-Prince tells me. "At the moment, now, all the rest goes down the dump, and the cost of processing it is about the same as taking it down to the dump." </p> <p>Perhaps most importantly, Haiti could have focused on creating a new agrarian economy, a sector which been thriving before President Clinton <a href="http://www.coha.org/haiti-research-file-neoliberalism%E2%80%99s-heavy-hand-on-haiti%E2%80%99s-vulnerable-agricultural-economy-the-american-rice-scandal/">dumped</a> tonnes of cheap US rice in the country in the 1990s. (About 60% of the Haitian population, or 4 million people, live in rural areas). Promoting community-owned agricultural land would instantly depopulate the overcrowded capital and provide a sustainable way of feeding its people (with any leftover ready for export). It was never even discussed. "Agriculture is still missing", Mr Naim at the IFC tells me. The IFC is yet to make one loan to an agricultural small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), instead training its focus on agribusiness rather than the smallholders that Haiti needs. Likewise, the <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/haiti">World Bank</a> admits to me that not enough priority is being given to agriculture. It has put $55m into a new agricultural programme (in the grand scale of things in Haiti, peanuts). "This is our first true agricultural project", acknowledges Mr Abrantes. </p> <p>The US government claims it is not ignoring agriculture. The ambassador to Haiti tells me the US has invested $200m in the sector already; but once again, the focus remains on produce for export as opposed to providing for the Haitian population, large portions of which are starving. The IADB, on the other hand, contends that infrastructure is important but "there are other needs" (like "investing in the private sector" in order to import seeds). The bank has a plan to get a private company to buy the mangoes, centralise them, distribute them and then send them to the exporters. </p> <p>"We’re changing the dynamics of how we can do agriculture in Haiti". says Mr Almeida at the IADB. This new <a href="http://www.iadb.org/en/countries/haiti/hope-for-haiti,1001.html">dynamic</a> is straight out of the neoliberal guidebook: providing vouchers to small producers so they can buy seeds through imports. With no public or community held land, such ventures have to date not got very far. "It’s not a big number of jobs", Mr Almedia admits. The internal Haitian market remains completely ignored by all parties, a travesty considering that 90% of eggs and poultry consumed in Haiti come from the Dominican Republic, while 80% of rice is imported. Changing that state of affairs through publicly funded subsistence farming is not an option. "When I say agriculture I say agribusiness", says Mr Almeida. </p> <p>An emblematic project of this "new dynamic" was brokered by the IADB: an initiative with Coca-Cola who have <a href="http://50.usaid.gov/haiti-hope-a-partnership-project-focused-on-mangos/">created</a> a new soda called "Mango-Tango" which will be supplied with mangoes from newly developed producers. A similar deal with Starbucks coffee seeks to transform individual micro-farmers into cooperatives and then supply coffee to Starbucks and market it as Haitian coffee. Critical analysts call this the "sweatshops and mangoes" development model. "They need roads, they need irrigation in the countryside, but that’s the one thing these guys won’t do", argues Mark Weisbrot, an <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/biographies/mark-weisbrot/">analyst</a> at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. </p> <p>But the Martelly administration’s agriculture policy has so far followed the export-orientated agribusiness model of the Bretton Woods <a href="http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/item.shtml?x=320747">institutions</a> to the book. "What I hear from [the Haitian government] is that they want to go into the export mode, including the agriculture", says Mr Abrantes. In fact, Martelly had pushed the IFIs to go even further. "We were preparing traditional agriculture projects for Haiti which were basically focused on poverty alleviation, on the small farmers", adds Mr Abrantes. "When the Martelly administration came in, they looked at the project and said, ‘We would like it to have a different slant’. We would like to have significant components on stimulating agribusiness, which is quite a different thing from what we had anticipated, and so I think the overall view is, even in agriculture, to encourage parts of the agricultural sector to move into export-production." </p> <p>Haiti remains a majority agrarian country; it needs an agrarian-based development model that distributes land amongst its homeless people for community-based subsistence cultivation. The economic managers of the country are not interested. The long-held dream of a Caribbean sweatshop is being born instead, and out of one of history’s worst human catastrophes, which this approach will only prolong.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Peter Hallward, <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/ghij/h-titles/hallward_p_haiti.shtml"><em>Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment </em></a>(Verso, 2008)</p> <p><a href="http://www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org/ab_who_main.html">Haiti Support Group </a></p> <p>Naomi Klein, <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine/"><em>The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism</em> </a>(Random House, 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iadb.org/en/countries/haiti/hope-for-haiti,1001.html">Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) - Hope for Haiti</a></p> <p>Alvin O Thompson, <em><a href="http://uwipress.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&amp;page=shop.product_details&amp;flypage=&amp;category_id=2&amp;product_id=183&amp;Itemid=50">Flight to Freedom: African Runaways and Maroons in the Americas</a></em> [ University of the West Indies Press, 2006) </p> <p><a href="http://www.haitireconstructionfund.org/hrf/">Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content"> <p>Matt Kennard is a journalist who has worked for the <em><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ba2792e-d00b-11e0-81e2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1h1Gvyltj">Financial Times</a></em> in London, New York and Washington<em><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/matt-kennard"></a></em> </p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/johanna-mendelson-forman/haiti-beyond-failure-ingredients-of-change">Haiti beyond failure: ingredients of change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/matt-kennard/new-york-justice-long-wait">New York justice: a long wait </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/johanna-mendelson-forman/haiti%E2%80%99s-earthquake-port-au-prince-report">Haiti&#039;s earthquake: a Port-au-Prince report</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/matt-kennard/americas-social-security-reforming-giant">America&#039;s social security: reforming a giant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/globalisation/institutions_government/haiti_empty_stomachs_stormy_politics">Haiti: empty stomachs, stormy politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/matt-kennard/veterans-tale-homeless-in-homeland">The veteran&#039;s tale: homeless in the homeland </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/johanna-mendelson-forman/haiti%E2%80%99s-earthquake-future-after-mercy">Haiti’s earthquake: a future after mercy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-protest/haiti_3298.jsp">Haiti: living on the edge</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/haiti_3240.jsp">What election hopes for Haiti?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/article_1779.jsp">The nation-building trap: Haiti after Aristide</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/haiti-unravelling-the-knot">Haiti: unravelling the knot</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Haiti </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Haiti Democracy and government International politics Globalisation american power & the world democracy & power Matt Kennard Tue, 14 Aug 2012 08:38:40 +0000 Matt Kennard 67542 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An Oxford Scot at King Dubya's court: Niall Ferguson's 'Colossus' https://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/article_2021.jsp <p><em>The BBC has made Niall Ferguson this year's <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jms03">Reith Lecturer</a>. To mark the occasion we repost&nbsp;Stephen Howe's 2004 review of his&nbsp;‘Colossus’, setting the book&nbsp;it in the then young historian’s ideological, political, and – not least – media journey.&nbsp;Is America an empire? Should it be? With Washington appointing its proconsul to rule Mesopotamia the book was a powerful treatment of a highly topical issue - first published on 22 July 2004</em></p><p> The opening minutes of the Russell Crowe film <em>Gladiator</em> depict a dramatic confrontation between the armies of imperial Rome and the wild German tribes who resist them. The Germans reject the Roman demand for submission in fairly forthright style – by sending the emissary back to the legions’ lines, still mounted but headless. As the gory figure gallops into view and the barbarians roar defiance, one of Crowe’s legionary sidekicks says simply: “People should know when they’re conquered.” </p><p> It’s a scene, a line, and an assertion that could be used as a starting-point for classroom discussion on any and every aspect of the history of empires. “’People should know when they’re conquered’ – discuss, with reference to ancient Rome, medieval Ireland, Victorian Maori or Zulu, 21st century Iraqis…” </p><p> In the media, a great deal of current debate about Iraq or Afghanistan pivots around the question: when <em>should</em> people recognise that they have been conquered – or liberated? In academia, a large proportion of recent historical work on past British and other empires focuses on related issues: when <em>did</em> people recognise that they were conquered? How did they react, adapt, cooperate or resist? How did they think about those who had conquered them – and how were their ideas about themselves reshaped by the fact of conquest? </p><p> Meanwhile, behind these debates and researches lies a parallel assertion about modern global politics and its antecedents, less often explicitly posed but only a little less central to current debates among analysts, current affairs polemicists or indeed historians: “people should know when they are <em>conquerors</em>.” </p><p> This would-be teachers’ aid also carries its associated questions. How should United States – or British – citizens today react to being (or being perceived as) hegemons, imperialists or aggressors? What stories do they tell themselves about their countries’ global roles? How do these relate to their conceptions of national and other identities? How far or in what ways have notions of themselves as “being imperial” entered into, or even constructed, such identities? </p><p> Niall Ferguson’s worldview revolves almost entirely around those two assertions. Some people – mostly poor and dark-skinned ones – need to recognise that they are conquered, accept the fact, indeed realise that it’s in their own best interests to be so. And other people, especially Americans, must know and accept that they are conquerors and imperialists, shoulder the accompanying burdens, understand that such a role benefits everyone. </p><p> As Ferguson says in the introduction to his latest book, <em>Colossus</em> (2004): “Unlike most of the previous writers who have remarked on this, I have no objection in principle to an American empire. Indeed, a part of my argument is that many parts of the world would benefit from a period of American rule.” </p><p> <strong>A portrait of the gladiator </strong> </p><p> At only just over 40 years old, Niall Ferguson has been named as one of Britain’s 100 most important public intellectuals by <em>Prospect</em> magazine, and even more notably, as one of the world's 100 most influential people by <em>Time</em>. After a glittering undergraduate and postgraduate career at Oxford University and several years teaching there, he soon achieved a repertory of prestigious posts worthy of some particularly well-connected medieval bishop. </p><p> For a time, he was simultaneously professor of political and financial history in Oxford, professor of economics at New York University, and senior fellow of the Hoover institution at Stanford. New York became his main base at the start of 2003, and in summer 2004 he is taking up a history professorship at Harvard. </p><p> Within weeks of arriving in the United States, Ferguson also found himself shuttling to Washington on government invitation, fraternising with policymakers from Colin Powell downwards. His existing profile as a pugnacious reviewer, columnist and TV pundit in London newspapers and on the BBC was rapidly complemented by the appearance of comparable ubiquity in the US news media. </p><p> With astonishing speed, Niall Ferguson has become famous, influential – and presumably quite prosperous. It is hard to think of anyone else from the ranks of academic historians who has recently – or perhaps ever – achieved quite this combination of public attention, political weight, and continued scholarly productivity. </p><p> What are the sources of Ferguson’s current eminence? Two creditable ones are immediately apparent. First, in contrast to several of his those working in the same field, Ferguson is immensely hardworking, prolific and talented. The high-profile intellectual cheerleaders for American empire – Dinesh D’Souza and Robert Kagan, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, Max Boot and Stanley Kurtz (how did that last preposterous pair walk out of the pages of Evelyn Waugh and Joseph Conrad into the real world?) – are almost all crude, lightweight polemicists. The strand of US foreign-policy thinking that derives from Leo Strauss’s disciples is, among its many failings, comprehensively and even proudly anti-historical in temper. </p><p> The really incisive analysts of America’s global role, from David Harvey to Emmanuel Todd, have almost invariably been fierce critics, explicitly and sharply anti-imperialist. And most recent historians of the British and other European empires have tended to offer pretty negative balance-sheets of the past colonial record, with the obvious implication that there are few encouraging lessons to be found there for the US today. </p><p> In this intellectual landscape, Ferguson stands out. Nobody could doubt the breadth, or indeed in <em>some</em> fields the depth, of his historical knowledge, the boldness of his thinking, his tough-mindedness. In an arena of debate suffused with empty moralising and pseudo-ethical posturing, he is unashamedly, even ostentatiously, unsentimental. </p><p> Second, Ferguson is quite exceptionally productive. By the age of 40, many academic historians are satisfied to have published one substantial book – usually a reworking of their doctoral thesis, on some very narrow topic – and maybe a handful of “satellite” articles. Ferguson already has six books to his name, not counting works he has edited or contributed to. None is a slim pamphlet: indeed one, on the Rothschilds, was so massive that its US edition appeared as two separate volumes. </p><p> Ferguson is now apparently preparing at least three more book projects: a study of the second world war, a biography of the banker Seymour Warburg, and an analysis of global demographic trends (about which he has recently published several short articles). </p><p> The torrent of words has become more profuse over time and the issues it addresses ever bigger. Ferguson’s first book, <em>Paper and Iron</em> (1995), dealt with a relatively specialist theme: Hamburg businessmen in the early 20th century. Yet even it broached far wider questions: the relations between financial markets and politics, the origins and consequences of the first world war, the political effects of inflation. </p><p> This last emphasis, especially, may hint at something enduringly significant for Ferguson’s <em>Weltanschauung</em> – for it so closely echoes British, indeed specifically Thatcherite, obsessions of the 1980s. This era and its associated ideology shaped the young Oxford historian; it continues to resonate for the slightly older transatlantic pundit. Indeed, it is plausible to suggest that Ferguson imagines himself playing an intellectual role vis-à-vis the Bush White House comparable to Margaret Thatcher’s in relation to the Ronald Reagan administration. </p><p> Niall Ferguson’s public, ideological persona, now assiduously cultivated on both sides of the Atlantic, offers in this light another answer to the question asked above about the sources of his current eminence. It is that Ferguson repetitively pushes a few big, bold, simple, and intellectually extremely dubious ideas; and that they are ideas which many people, including some immensely powerful people, want to hear. </p><p> Ferguson’s claims flatter some giant egos, reinforce some vulnerable self-images, confirm some pervasive prejudices. It is tempting, if a little mean-spirited, to see in his developing career path an echo of others which his own writing on British imperialism repeatedly highlights: those of the numerous gifted Scots who beat a track to the centre of an empire’s power, and flourished as its loyal servants. </p><p> <strong>A trail of blood, tears – and money</strong> </p><p> In 1998, Niall Ferguson published two enormous books in rapid succession: <em>The World’s Banker</em> (US title, <em>The House of Rothschild</em>), and <em>The Pity of War</em>. The former is still seen by many as his best, a view endorsed in an interview by Ferguson himself. It is based on extensive archival research, in contrast to his later work; but it also anticipates the latter in the several bold and wide-ranging claims that emerge from the mass of detail. Ferguson’s narrative of the 18th-century development of an international bond market, with the Rothschild dynasty as its leading players, contains an important part of the origins of globalisation, of European colonial expansion, even of the defeat of Napoleon. </p><p> The <em>Pity of War</em> involved less detailed research than <em>The World’s Banker</em> and was less lavishly praised by fellow scholars – but it made a bigger public splash and sold far better. It established the pattern for his more recent (and even more attention-grabbing) work by offering a sweeping reinterpretation of a very familiar, much-debated topic: the origins of the first world war. </p><p> Here, Ferguson emphasised British statesmen’s mistakes and misconceptions, especially about Germany. Had they been wiser, they might well have decided to stand aside from the conflict. 1914 would then have witnessed a limited central European war rather than a global one. Germany would have won it. There would have been no Russian revolution, no Adolf Hitler, and the British empire might have lasted far longer. </p><p> As all this suggests, Ferguson was developing a strong taste for “what if…?” speculation – what academics rather ponderously call “counterfactuals” and Ferguson more trendily retitled “virtual history”. His own chapter in the book he edited on the subject proposes “The Kaiser’s European Union” as the likely outcome of British neutrality in the 1914-18 war. </p><p> <em>The Pity of War</em> contained far more than such hypotheses. Ferguson utilised his impressively wide reading to present a mass of material on the financing of the war. This was where his expertise was manifest and where, specialists thought, his conclusions were strongest. But here too, he was acquiring a penchant for the scholarly equivalent of the soundbite: for example, his startling conclusion that it cost the Germans $11,000 to kill an allied soldier, while the Allies had to spend $36,000 for every German fatality. </p><p> The book, though, focused on blood and tears as much as on cash. Its passages on the misery of soldiering, the sufferings of the rank and file, brought in a dimension of “history from below” – a pathos, a quality of empathy, which neither Ferguson’s previous nor his subsequent writings have included. Indeed one of the most palpable, if not disturbing aspects of his current ideas about Iraq is the loss of this very quality. </p><p> <em>The Pity of War</em> was vulnerable to criticism: not least for overestimating Britain’s role and saying surprisingly little about that of France. A kind of “retrospective unilateralism” can be discerned, an augury of his later ideas about 21st-century American policy options. Some thought his neglect of France stemmed from a stronger force than oversight: a kind of disdain. Certainly, by the time of <em>Colossus</em> (2004), Ferguson’s view of French foreign policy had curdled into sweeping hostility. </p><p> <strong>A nexus of markets, politics – and force</strong> </p><p> Niall Ferguson’s next work in this breathless succession was <em>The Cash Nexus: money and power in the modern world, 1700–2000</em> (2001). In it, another facet of the Ferguson philosophy came fully into focus. As we have seen, he had been closely interested in international financial markets since his very earliest writings – and confessed to the abiding impact Adam Smith’s <em>The Wealth of Nations</em> made on him when he read it at the age of 11. </p><p> It would not, perhaps, be unfair to call Ferguson a “neo-Smithian”, in that his attention to the economic forces shaping world politics (though naturally he distances himself from <em>marxisant</em> economic determinism) centres almost entirely on finance and trade, and takes strikingly little notice of industrial, extractive or agricultural production, or indeed of labour. This has important, damaging implications for his view of world power today. Yet it also, paradoxically, lies behind one of the main strengths of his subsequent book on the British empire. </p><p> <em>Empire: how Britain made the modern world</em> (2003) – this, British, subtitle was intriguingly different from the American: <em>the rise and demise of the British world order and the lessons for global power</em> – puts the power of money, of markets and financial systems, at the heart of the picture. Imperial historians have too rarely done this in the past few decades – though Peter Cain and A.G. Hopkins had done so in their monumental <em>British Imperialism 1688-2000</em>, a far more original and carefully argued book than Ferguson’s, and very oddly not credited in the latter. </p><p> Since the 1980s, and under the influence of Edward Said’s <em>Orientalism</em>, studies of empire tended overwhelmingly to abandon economics – often politics too – and see colonialism in almost entirely cultural terms. Ferguson returned the economic balance-sheets of empire to the centre of debate. But he did so in conjunction with another, less welcome resuscitation of an old argument, a cruder and less enlightening one: simply, was the British empire a “bad thing”, as most post-colonial observers tended to argue or assume, or a good one? </p><p> Ferguson is famous, or notorious, for his forceful assertions that the British empire, and the model of liberal empire of which it was the foremost exemplar, was <em>good</em>. It naturally, though still more contentiously, follows that something on similar lines, run by the United States, would be desirable in the 21st century too. </p><p> <em>Empire</em>, published soon after 9/11 and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, was a production – as a book, and still more as an accompanying TV series (which Ferguson scripted, presented, and oversaw as executive producer) – too slight to bear the full weight of that argument. With its coffee-table format, copious pictures but no footnotes, and with its attempt to encapsulate several centuries’ global history in a few sweeping theses, it is considerably more susceptible to specialist criticism than was <em>The Pity of War</em>. (For a more careful argument that British colonialism was an economically progressive force, one has to turn to older, less fashionable historians of empire like D.K. Fieldhouse). </p><p> As with <em>The Pity of War</em>, probably <em>Empire</em>’s most compelling theme was to do with the relationship between markets, political institutions, and force. Much early English, then British expansion was an informal, private-enterprise affair. But in place after place of the non-European world, British governments realised – often reluctantly – that to safeguard their investments and commercial interests, they would have to seize physical control. </p><p> It is not at all an original argument: the motifs of the reluctant imperialist and of the flag following trade (rather than vice versa) are long familiar in imperial historiography. But what followed from all this, in Ferguson’s version, was overwhelmingly beneficial to the conquered as well as to the British merchants, investors or settlers in whose interests London had initially intervened. </p><p> The process “enhanced global welfare…no organisation in history has done more to promote the free movement of goods, capital and labour than the British empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And no organisation has done more to impose western norms of law, order and governance around the world.” </p><p> Part of the problem here, to which we’ll return, lies in Ferguson’s presumption that “imposing western norms” is self-evidently desirable, and should be recognised as such by the colonised. But even leaving such contentious value-judgments aside, his is a drastically simplified, homogenised and above all rose-tinted view of the British imperial record. </p><p> The benefits he hails – free trade, the rule of law, private property rights, honest and efficient administration, investment in infrastructure, the introduction of new cash crops and expanded markets for old ones – were very unevenly spread and applied. Some carried a devastating downside: free-trade policies and a shift from subsistence agriculture to cash-crop production for export brought famine in their wake, especially in India. </p><p> Ferguson’s response to negative evaluations of Britain’s record in India is, in brief: insofar as Britain failed, it did so by not being vigorously interventionist enough. This is both strikingly feeble and inconsistent with much else that he says. Colonial-era investment in infrastructure, let alone in health, education or welfare, was in many places almost non-existent – except at the very end of British rule, and even then, it stemmed not from some inherent logic of the colonial mission, but from <em>anti</em>-colonialist pressures at home and abroad. And, an argument long familiar to imperial historians but which Ferguson almost wholly ignores, it helped hasten empire’s end. An interventionist colonialism was its own gravedigger. </p><p> An inner contradiction is equally apparent in Ferguson’s treatment of colonial atrocities, abuses of power, even massacres. Ferguson doesn’t ignore them, but his allusions to them often sound very much like “covering himself”, and in making them seem far more exceptional than they were. The empathy with victims that marked <em>The Pity of War</em> is quite absent here. </p><p> Indeed, his entire picture of empire as liberal, modernising and uncorrupt is, again, strikingly one-sided. There was far more archaism, autocracy and indeed corruption than he ever admits. The notion of Britain’s <em>liberal</em> empire entirely overlooks the institutionalised coercion of colonial rule, the mobilisation of custom, the invention of tradition, the centrality of race to colonial projects – and thus the inevitability of the colonised seeing alien rule as systematic humiliation. </p><p> British colonial rule did not, as Ferguson suggests, systematically spread the “rule of law” among its subjects, or extend to them the legal rights enjoyed by Britain’s own inhabitants. On the contrary, while white settlers in the empire usually had such rights as well as gaining substantial economic benefits from the imperial connection, most “natives” remained subject to quite separate and far more punitive legal codes. Moreover, in an irony that Ferguson seems to miss, a great deal of colonial expansion and conquest itself breached even the embryonic structures of international law obtaining at the time, let alone those elaborated since 1945. </p><p> The other side of Ferguson’s finessing of empire’s agents and impacts is his indiscriminate tendency to view all opponents of empire past and present, from the Mahdi in 1880s Sudan to Osama bin Laden, as benighted cultural conservatives or obscurantists. This perception dominates the last pages of <em>Empire</em>, and is expressed yet more starkly in the closing moments of the accompanying TV series. </p><p> The astonishing slide from 19th-century anti-colonial resisters to contemporary Islamists already suggests the present-day payoff of Ferguson’s historical picture. But there’s another, still more crucial link between past and present – and between Ferguson’s 2003 book on British power and his ideas in his latest tome, the new <em>Colossus</em> (2004) on America’s empire. </p><p> <strong>A landscape of test of power, engagement – and will</strong> </p><p> Niall Ferguson argues that the British empire collapsed, above all, because of a failure of will to sustain it. It was in its way an admirable failure, for Britain chose quite consciously to sacrifice empire in the struggle against other, far worse imperialisms: those of Germany and Japan in the second world war. </p><p> This interpretation places far more exclusive weight on 1939-45 than most historians of decolonisation would do. It is flattering to British self-images to see them willingly forfeiting their global power in order to defeat fascist tyranny. But it ignores both all the evidence of growing British weakness before 1939, and all the efforts to sustain superpower status after 1945. Well into the 1950s and beyond, most British policymakers retained global, great-power <em>ambitions</em> if not assumptions, and a belief that empire (even if rebranded as “Commonwealth”) was crucial to these. </p><p> As <em>Empire</em> hit the bookshops and TV screens in late 2001, Ferguson began amplifying the intended lessons for contemporary America. He wasn’t the only pundit to begin speaking, in approving terms, of a new American empire. But his was perhaps the most intellectually powerful, historically informed, and (in terms of the range of media outlets) promiscuous voice. </p><p> The neo-conservative hawks in and around the Bush administration drew heavily on his ideas to make their case for the war in Iraq, and for a wider, less shamefaced US global interventionism. And while some conservative commentators have responded to setbacks in Iraq by seeking excuses or even admitting miscalculation, Ferguson has become an even louder advocate of foreign engagement. As the end of <em>Empire</em> already signalled, it’s all about will. </p><p> America’s rulers, the argument goes, should have recognised much more quickly, fully and explicitly that their country’s role in the world was and must be imperial. By drawing the right kind of lessons from history, especially Britain’s imperial history, they should have understood that a massive and long-term commitment is involved. </p><p> This is not only a military commitment – though that is obviously necessary, and must include (despite Vietnam) a willingness to accept casualties and far deeper resources of military personnel. (In one of the most bizarre passages of Colossus, Ferguson points to America’s vast prison population as a potential resource for a larger army!). </p><p> It also involves a commitment to extended colonial occupation of conquered countries, with many thousands of civilian administrators, all imbued with the skills, ethos and public spirit which marked Britain’s imperial elites. Like Britain’s proconsuls and district commissioners they must, Ferguson writes, create the “strong institutional foundations of law and order” necessary for democracy and free markets to flourish. “The proper role of an imperial America is to establish these institutions where they are lacking, if necessary ... by military force.” </p><p> Nobody else will or can perform this role. The United Nations is a hopeless case. The European Union is too weak, too diverse, too inward-looking; in a rather ugly neologism, he dubs the EU an “impire” rather than a potential “empire”. Europeans, moreover, don’t work hard enough, are too keen on welfarism and economic planning. </p><p> In this, Ferguson is fortifying his consistently negative assessment of the European Union’s prospects. It is not a coolly detached perspective, for his anti-Europeanism goes at least as far back as his student days (one of his first publications was for the Europhobic Bruges Group). But Ferguson does introduce a new element: in a wildly speculative if not distasteful demographic argument, he argues that Europe has too many old people and too fast-growing a Muslim population to enable it to act rightly on a world stage. </p><p> At the same time, he fears that the US may mirror Europe’s infirmity: isolationism, short-termism, unwillingness to incur costs in money or lives, misplaced moral qualms. All may undermine the necessary will to power. </p><p> Ferguson is too clever to resort entirely to a simplistic, monocausal argument from collective psychology. He notes more structural impediments to the United States’s becoming the empire it should be. He explores its economic weaknesses: the country’s external indebtedness and domestic budget deficit, even though – true to his Thatcherite past – he attributes the latter far too much to welfare and social security spending. But it’s the external debt burden, and the potentially destabilising consequences this has for the world financial system as a whole, which he justly sees as the more important constraint. </p><p> As with his earlier books, so in <em>Colossus</em>, it’s as an economic historian that Ferguson is most persuasive. Across great stretches of <em>Colossus</em>, indeed, he writes like a very competent but rather tendentious economic journalist: summarising data on investment, productivity, or working hours. </p><p> But even on this front there are some highly contestable claims. Ferguson dismisses any notion that US actions in the Middle East have anything to do with controlling oil reserves, because, he says, America is itself “oil-rich” and “long ago renounced” any such aim. Yet US oil production has been declining since the early 1970s, while consumption rises – and Ferguson of all people should hardly need reminding that prices matter. </p><p> Still, the tone in these sections is very different from that found in his more sermonising moods, whether within the book itself or in recent newspaper pieces. In the latter, the crude psychologism and the obsession with will return in full force. In the <em>New York Times</em> in April 2004 – the month of the US’s devastating siege of Fallujah – Ferguson scorned the “squeamish” calls for restraint in Iraq. “Putting this rebellion down”, he wrote, “will require severity” and “ruthlessness”. His big worry was that such condign ruthlessness would not be forthcoming. </p><p> More recently, Ferguson is reportedly scornful of those upset at reports and images of torture by US forces at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. What happened, he suggests, was no worse than the initiatory “hazing” routine in many army camps and even student fraternities. Such claims naturally infuriate not only liberals, but also conservatives anxious to uphold the honour of the US military. </p><p> Such provocations display Ferguson at his most unattractive, suggesting the flippant amorality of the perennial Oxbridge undergraduate entranced by his own cleverness. It is also a reminder that Ferguson has written a great deal that is very bad indeed. </p><p> <strong>A world of corruption, terrorism – and disdain </strong> </p><p> Like <em>Empire</em>, the British and American editions of <em>Colossus</em> have different subtitles. In Britain, it’s <em>the rise and fall of the American empire</em>; in America, it’s <em>the price of America’s empire</em>. The implications of the two are drastically divergent: an empire already falling, or just one for which there’s a price to be paid? The whole book threatens to fall into this Atlantic-wide chasm of inconsistency. </p><p> Colossus opens with a brief, preliminary essay in defining “empire” and related terms, which might have been more effective if it hadn’t ignored many previous (and far more detailed) historians’ attempts to do the same thing. The first half of the book is then devoted to a survey of American expansionism across the centuries. </p><p>Ferguson is surely right to argue that, by many if not most definitions, the US has been “imperial” right from the start – first through continental enlargement and expropriation, then overseas expansion in the Caribbean and the Pacific. He traces American empire through the 20th century, into the cold war era and beyond, and points out that although the main mode of expansion was not direct physical conquest, this did not make it any less “imperial” – although there were in fact more examples of formal US colonialism than are usually recalled. </p><p>In all this, as one would expect, Ferguson is lucid, factually pretty reliable, fairly dispassionate. Sometimes, indeed, the attempt at balance results in almost risible blandness. “It is perhaps too harsh to dismiss American rule over the Philippines as a failure. But it was certainly far from the success that Franklin Roosevelt later made out.” This is what is technically described as refusing to have your cake or eat it. The historical sketches also offer some significant hostages to fortune. In relation to Vietnam, Ferguson notes: “Within a short time, the reality – that imperialists are seldom loved – began to sink in.” The implications of that almost throwaway remark for the remainder of the book’s entire argument are severe. </p><p>More dispiriting, though, is that Ferguson – usually so bursting with new ideas, both good and bad – has nothing whatever original to say here. He revisits very thoroughly trodden ground, and does so largely without even acknowledging those who have preceded him: <em>Colossus’</em> bibliography omits almost all the most important prior writing on US empire. </p><p>As Ferguson’s narrative moves towards the present, the tone becomes less bland, more edgy. And he begins more explicitly to mount his case for empire. Decolonisation after 1945 was, he suggests (in an argument, once again, with a myriad unacknowledged precursors), mostly bad news for the former colonies. “(The) experiment with political independence, especially in Africa, has been a disaster for most poor countries ... Might it not be that for some countries some form of imperial governance…might be better than full independence, not just for a few months or years but for decades?” </p><p>Actually it sounds as though he is referring mainly to sub-Saharan Africa, and over-generalising even there, but he repeatedly suggests that his claims hold true for the whole post-colonial world. Its problem, he urges, “is simply misgovernment: corrupt and lawless dictators whose conduct makes economic development impossible.” The assertion is, of course, far too simple. And he soon drops the pretence of openness, affirming far more categorically that “in most cases, (poor countries’) only hope for the future would seem to be intervention by a foreign power capable of constructing the basic institutional foundations that are indispensable for economic development.” </p><p>If Africa, and by slightly slippery extension the whole ex-colonial world, comes off pretty badly in Ferguson’s account, the Middle East fares still worse. Dismissing (rightly) the notion of a “clash of civilisations” between Islam and the west, he suggests instead that the region as a whole has a “distinctive civilisation of clashes, a dysfunctional culture in which rival religions and natural resources supply much of the content of political conflict, but the <em>form</em> is the really distinctive thing. That form is of course terrorism.” So much is absurdly, disgracefully wrong here – and in the chapter on the Middle East which those words herald – that one hardly knows where to begin. From the idea of a whole vast region possessing a single “dysfunctional culture” to the bizarre claim that terrorism is “distinctive” to the Middle East, all this is not only analytically useless, but simply insulting. Its inadequacy has much to do with what Ferguson has read about the area and its history – and, more to the point, what he <em>hasn’t</em> read. He cites a handful of the most conservative (and most pro-Israeli) American and British historians of the region, like Bernard Lewis or Elie Kedourie. The works he mentions are invariably either very old, or (as with Lewis’s recent productions) almost as superficial and suffused with disdain for Arabs and Muslims as Ferguson’s own. If he has ever looked at anything substantial on the history of Iraq, or of any other country in the region, there is no sign of it. Neither in <em>Colossus</em> nor in <em>Empire</em> is a single Arab author acknowledged. </p><p><strong>A pattern of reading, selection – and evasion</strong> </p><p>This is merely an extreme instance of a much broader, deeply disconcerting pattern. Niall Ferguson is immensely widely read in a great range of fields. But that reading is almost entirely confined to the boundaries of the North Atlantic world. In most of his books, he drops in literary allusions. But these are to a tediously predictable and narrow spectrum of writers. </p><p>On American empire, he quotes or alludes to <em>Moby Dick</em>, to Graham Greene’s <em>The Quiet American</em>, and his old, regularly recycled favourites Rudyard Kipling and John Buchan. It seems not to have occurred to him that any Iraqi poet or novelist – or, say, Abdelrahman Munif’s Saudi historical novels <em>The Trench</em> and <em>Cities of Salt</em>, in which American influence and the control of oil are central themes – might offer something relevant. </p><p>In <em>Colossus</em>, Ferguson refers to a couple of Indian-born economists, but in relation to contemporary global economic trends, not to India’s own history or even the Raj. The only works on the latter by Indians which Ferguson cites are an outline economic history by Tirthankar Roy, and a brief, polemical essay by Tapan Raychaudhuri – and he doesn’t really consider the latter’s damning indictment of Britain’s record in India. Indian historians are somewhat better represented among the sources for <em>Empire</em>; but even its extensive bibliographies include only one African writer, Joseph Inikori, whose work on the economics of slavery is so important that it could not be ignored even if one wanted to. That, though is one more African than is cited in <em>Colossus</em>. </p><p>The lack of generosity – indeed, too often, total disregard – towards other writers which Ferguson displays might seem important only to academics obsessed with the small print of the history of ideas. But on another level, it should matter to anyone who cares about giving credit where it’s due, about not forgetting who first laboured in some particular vineyard. And where there’s a clear pattern, as there seems to be with Ferguson, with certain <em>kinds</em> of writers and writing being ignored, then something more serious still is going on. </p><p>As Timothy Burke – himself a major historian of southern Africa – has complained vis-à-vis Ferguson: </p><p> “It's fine to argue that the British Empire really was about civilising and liberation after all, if you like – there's an interesting, subtle case to be made along those lines if one is careful and precise enough to control the terms and ground rules under which it is made. But doing so as a scholar, even for a larger public audience, ought to entail a certain amount of intellectual respect for an absolutely gigantic body of careful, historically precise scholarship that argues otherwise both in terms of specifics and generalities. Ferguson simply ignores a generation of historians outright, as if they never existed.” </p><p>This is not, then, a petty bibliographical complaint. The fact is that Ferguson systematically bypasses or blanks out every source which analyses or presents the perspectives of the colonised. There thus emerges a consistent pattern of distortion or one-sidedness: a pattern which tends to reinforce the prejudices of those he seeks to influence. </p><p>Much of the impact Ferguson’s writing has had on public debate, especially in the US, stems from his being perceived as an expert historian whose arguments about policy are based on specialist knowledge. Ferguson is indeed a proficient historian with a great deal of accumulated learning at his disposal. But his authority does not extend to the histories of any part of the non-European world. When he makes claims about these, they must be evaluated as the arguments of a talented, opinionated amateur, not a scholar. </p><p>It is surely symptomatic that <em>Colossus</em> alludes to Robert Cooper, the British diplomat who shares Ferguson’s affection for “liberal empire”, but not to Fred Cooper, the acute analyst of why “welfare colonialism” failed in Africa. <em>That Cooper</em> – who, as it happens, is also an NYU colleague of Ferguson – does what none of Ferguson’s work since <em>The Pity of War</em> has attempted: giving attention and empathy to the ordinary people who suffered under empire, namely African slaves, peasants and dockworkers. </p><p>That whole side of the story is missing from everything Ferguson writes about empire, past and present, British and American. Niall might benefit here from perusing the work of another namesake, James Ferguson’s grim and moving books on the failure of “development” and the costs of globalisation in Zambia and Lesotho. </p><p><strong>A moment of ambition, resistance – and judgment </strong> </p><p>Perhaps, even, Niall Ferguson could listen to Saddam Hussein. At his committal hearing before an Iraqi court in early July 2004, the former dictator invoked Kuwaiti abuse of and disrespect for Iraqi women. To most listeners, this seemed absurd and despicable as a justification for invasion. But Saddam is neither a fool, nor entirely out of touch with the gut-level feelings of “his” people. His choice of argument tells us something important and disturbing about how powerful feelings of humiliation and revenge can be. They are part of the immensely complex story of how, or whether, “people know when they’re conquered.” </p><p>Niall Ferguson, obsessed with telling Americans to know that they’re conquerors and act accordingly, cannot hear any part of that other story. He seems to think it is enough to point out that those who resist imperial power often (he would say, typically) do so in the name of deeply unattractive, inward- or backward-looking ideologies. Anti-colonial resistance may even rest on utopian, irrational and superstitious beliefs. That is true enough, but noting the fact seems for him to be a way merely of evading the near-ubiquity of such opposition and resistance, of refusing to <em>think</em> about it. </p><p>Ferguson’s panoramic, intensely value-laden claims on the essential nature of imperialism depend heavily, necessarily on equally holistic perceptions of the alternatives to empire. For him, as we’ve seen, these would involve despotism, endemic disorder and economic decay for most of the world’s poorer countries. For the world system as a whole, he adds, the likely alternative to US empire would be dangerous instability. </p><p>Post-1945 critics of empire, in stark contrast, inhabited a time and a worldview in which the alternatives seemed not only readily apparent and attractive, but to be on the road to global victory. Anti-colonial nationalism, post-colonial “nation-building”, new global solidarities of the formerly oppressed – all linked to varying but almost always significant degrees with some form of socialist project – combined to produce an optimistic, progressivist, even triumphalist metahistorical narrative of what Egyptian economist Samir Amin dubbed the “Bandung era”. </p><p>That moment, clearly, is not ours, and those alternatives to empire are not ones that command widespread faith or even hope, at least in the forms that they did during the moment of decolonisation between the 1940s and the 1970s. Nor is the notion of a global, “purified” Islamic <em>umma</em> as their successor attractive or convincing even to most believing Muslims – let alone to the mostly secular intellectuals who write about, and against, empires today. Niall Ferguson’s writing on empire past and present has at least the negative merit of challenging his critics to think harder about what kind of world they would have instead. It is a challenge which is still to be met. </p> uk The Americas american power & the world democracy & power europe Stephen Howe Original Copyright Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:28:24 +0000 Stephen Howe 2021 at https://www.opendemocracy.net America's new wars, and militarised diplomacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-new-wars-and-militarised-diplomacy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>The experience of Afghanistan and Iraq compels Washington to rethink its model of 21st-century warfare. Its evolving focus, already visible in the widespread use of drones and special forces, also has profound political implications.</p> </div> </div> </div> <P>The appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as defence secretary in 2001 by the incoming United States president George W Bush represented the promotion of a figure who was convinced of the value of new military technologies. In future, believed Rumsfeld, military campaigns would be fought largely with stand-off weapons; there were few areas where "boots on the ground" would be&nbsp;necessary; and there was every prospect that the US army could be cut right back <A href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/07/08/this_week_at_war_rumsfeld_s_revenge">without</a> diminishing the country's security.</p> <P>It appeared to work in Afghanistan at the end of 2001 when the Taliban regime was easily terminated by a combination of airpower, special forces and the militias of the Northern Alliance warlords. Rumsfeld saw this very much as a vindication of his concept, and his <A href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12356357">attitude</a> was further bolstered&nbsp;when the first three weeks of the Iraq war&nbsp;culminated in the toppling of Saddam Hussein's <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">regime</a>. The widepread looting&nbsp;in Baghdad could be&nbsp;dismissed in&nbsp;the notoriously offhand remark,&nbsp;"stuff happens". But with the escalation of the insurgency in Iraq and the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the_resurgence_of_the_neo_taliban">regroupment</a> of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the gap between thinking and practice grew into a chasm. </p> <P><STRONG>The new model</strong></p> <P>Now, long after Rumsfeld's departure, the Pentagon is seeking to move beyond a "boots-on-the-ground" era unseen since the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-echoes-of-vietnam">Vietnam</a> war,&nbsp;and reach for a new concept. The politicians also feel the need to respond to a situation where the massive troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan over these grinding years have incurred such an enormous cost, both financial and human (tens of thousands of <A href="http://icasualties.org/">soldiers</a> were killed and injured) and where such wars have proved so unpopular at home. Thus, amid conflicting views within the administration and military, President Obama has overseen a remarkably quick <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-after-iraq-afghanistan">withdrawal</a> from Iraq and set a <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-iraq-and-americas-fix">timetable</a> for rapid downsizing in Afghanistan.</p> <P>The collapse of a&nbsp;military model based on large force-deployment has forced a rethink about how the United States can maintain control in a country such as Afghanistan, and how it may learn to <A href="http://www.cfr.org/us-election-2012/obama-doctrine/p27295">handle</a> other risks. Some of the thinking was already being done in the early period of Rumsfeld's <A href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/what-rumsfeld-got-right/6870/">tenure</a>, but the accumulated experience of these two disastrous wars has sharpened its urgency - and offered lessons and possibilities unimaginable even a decade ago. </p> <P>For the Pentagon, the most <A href="http://www.npr.org/2011/11/26/142781012/war-by-remote-control-drones-make-it-easy">tempting</a> response has been to embrace the high-tech option of "wars by remote" - evident in the rapid increase in the use of armed drones, whether or not the authorities in a given country acquiesce to their use, (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/drone-warfare-cost-and-challenge">Drone warfare: cost and challenge</a>" [23&nbsp;June 2011], and "Th<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/drone-war-blowback">e drone-war blowback</a>" [29 September 2011]). Just as significant, however, is the greatly increased focus on special forces.</p> <P>While most countries with a substantial military capacity have special forces of one sort or another, the size of the United States's commitment far exceeds that of any rival. Its special-operations command (<A href="http://www.socom.mil/default.aspx">Socom</a>) oversees forces that are larger than many conventional armies. Socom currently has 66,000 personnel, with 12,000 deployed outside the homeland, three-quarters of them in Afghanistan (see David Isenberg, "<A href="http://www.ipsterraviva.net/UN/news.asp?idnews=107906">The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces</a>", <EM>IPS/TerraViva</em>, 27 May 2012). A 12% increase is planned over the next four years, though a period of increasing budget pressures means that Socom wants to&nbsp;forge far greater cooperation with supportive allies.</p> <P>It envisages a series of regional centres that concentrates the training and coordination of special forces from a number of countries (see Barbara Opall-Rome, "<A href="http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120512/DEFREG02/305120003/U-S-Seeks-Global-Spec-Ops-Network">U.S. Seeks Global Spec Ops Network</a>", <EM>Defense News</em>, 14 May 2012). These would be modelled on Nato's special-operations forces HQ at Mons in Belgium. The latter has been instrumental in the rapid expansion of such <A href="http://cnsnews.com/news/article/marine-general-us-special-forces-will-be-afghanistan-years-after-2014">forces</a> in Afghanistan, where the US has worked closely with the British SAS, Australian units, and contingents of other coalition states (see Andrew Bacevich, "<A href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175547/tomgram%3A_andrew_bacevich,_the_golden_age_of_special_operations/">The Golden Age of Special Operations</a>", <EM>TomDispatch</em>, 29 May 2012).</p> <P>Socom is already planning to set up the first such centre to cover central and south America (<A href="http://www.socso.southcom.mil/history.aspx">based</a>, however, in Miami). The current leadership is also looking to establish another centre in the the middle east, though major political differences between <A href="http://www.europeaninstitute.org/EA-April-2012/historic-shift-in-us-defense-strategy-will-have-major-impact-on-europe.html">allies</a> will make this hard. </p> <P>Instead, a likely candidate region is sub-Saharan Africa, where US forces are reported to be widely engaged in seeking to control a number of <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/stephen-ellis/saharas-new-cargo-drugs-and-radicalism">conflicts</a>. A current example is&nbsp;the hundred Socom personnel now aiding <A href="http://intelnews.org/2012/02/24/01-935/">operations</a> against Jospeh Kony and the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (see John Ryan, "<A href="http://www.johncarltonryan.com/">The Search for Joseph Kony</a>", <EM>Defense News</em>, 21 May 2012). A&nbsp;probable future focus is&nbsp;backing for&nbsp;the Nigerian authorities in countering the Boko Haram rebellion (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/al-qaida-franchise-nigerian-case">Al-Qaida franchise: the Nigerian case</a>",&nbsp;25 August 2011).</p> <P><STRONG>The future war</strong></p> <P>The overarching assumption guiding military planners in this switch of emphasis to drones and special forces concerns the <A href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;">future</a> of warfare. In particular, that there will be more "small wars in far-off places"; that these, despite their modest size and distance, might threaten US and western interests; and that they must be <A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415419383/">controlled</a> without huge military commitments. Thus, the planners see drones and special forces as central to the challenge (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-global-shift-drone-wars-base-politics">America's global shift: drone wars, base politics</a>", 3 May 2012). </p> <P>But in the case of Washington's shift of emphasis&nbsp;there is a further, intriguing twist: the ever-closer linkage of this evolving approach not just with the US security posture but more generally with the country's foreign policy.</p> <P>Two examples illustrate the trend. The first is the unexpected <A href="http://www.state.gov/j/cso/releases/other/190812.htm">address</a> by secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the special-operations forces industry conference in Tampa, Florida (see Paul McLeary, "<A href="http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305270001">U.S. State Department, SOCOM forge unlikely partnership</a>", <EM>Defense News</em>, 28 May 2012). This focused on the need to connect the state department and its diplomatic missions much more closely with Socom; as a case-study, Clinton cited the work of an inter-agency <A href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/09/executive-order-13584-developing-integrated-strategic-counterterrorism-c">team</a>, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, in <A href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/24/us-efforts-on-web-said-frustrating-to-al-qaeda/">countering</a> al-Qaida propaganda in Yemen. This team was housed in the state department, but it included Pentagon and intelligence-agency staff along with Socom personnel.</p> <P>The second example relates to the aforementioned Socom operations in eastern Africa. Before Socom's involvement, the state department's new <A href="http://www.state.gov/j/cso/releases/other/190812.htm">bureau</a> of conflict and stabilisation operations (CSO) was working across the region. As Clinton put it: "{You) can begin to see the potential when soldiers and diplomats live in the same camps and eat the same MREs [meals read to eat]. This is smart power in action."</p> <P>None of this is new. Diplomats and the military of many countries have invariably worked together, a reality especially pervasive when American and Soviet missions were engaging in&nbsp;numerous "proxy wars" during the cold-war <A href="http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/The-Cold-War.aspx">era</a>. In some ways, then,&nbsp;the trend represents "back to the future" - even if it&nbsp;flows directly from the experience of the post-9/11 wars.</p> <P>What <EM>is</em> different is the context: not of an ideological conflict between rival superpowers but of a <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/world-in-crisis-echo-need-hope">constrained</a> environment filled with ever <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/world-on-margin">more</a> individual "revolts from the margins". In this 21st-century world, the closer integration of military and diplomatic missions may lean more in the direction of a militarisation of diplomacy than the other way round. That certainly is significant.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href=" Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 (Pluto Press, 2011)">Department of peace studies, Bradford University</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a></p> <P><EM><A href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/">Long War Journal</a></em></p> <P>Paul Rogers, <EM><A href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;">Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> <P><EM><A href="http://smallwarsjournal.com/">Small Wars Journal</a></em></p> <P>Paul Rogers, <EM><A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415419383/">Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control</a></em> (Routledge, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Paul Rogers is professor in the <A href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a><A id="link3" title="archive de department of peace studies" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/&amp;title=department%20of%20peace%20studies" rel="nofollow">↑</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <STRONG>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <A href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a><A id="link5" title="archive de Oxford Research Group" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/&amp;title=Oxford%20Research%20Group" rel="nofollow">↑</a> . His books include <A href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><EM>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a><A id="link7" title="archive de Why We’re Losing the War on Terror " href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html&amp;title=Why%20We%E2%80%99re%20Losing%20the%20War%20on%20Terror%20" rel="nofollow">↑</a> (Polity, 2007), and <A href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><EM>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a><A id="link9" title=" Global Security in the 21st Century " href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376%26&amp;title=Losing%20Control%3A%20Global%20Security%20in%20the%2021st%20Century%20" rel="nofollow">↑</a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <SPAN class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-lost-wars-choice-in-2012">America’s lost wars: the choice in 2012</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-warfare-cost-and-challenge">Drone warfare: cost and challenge</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaida-franchise-nigerian-case">Al-Qaida franchise: the Nigerian case </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/drone-wars">Drone wars</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-panoptic-shiver">America: the panoptic shiver</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict/article_1548.jsp">Afghanistan and Iraq: in search of stability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afpak-iraq-wrong-war-right-path">AfPak-Iraq: wrong war, right path</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/afghanistan/afpak-the-unwinnable-war">AfPak: the unwinnable war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">America’s military: failures of success</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaida-and-world-in-balance">Al-Qaida, and a world in balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/americas-global-shift-drone-wars-base-politics">America&#039;s global shift: drone wars, base politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afghanistan-iraq-and-americas-fix">Afghanistan-Iraq, and America&#039;s fix</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/world-changing-moment">The world-changing moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaida-and-world-in-balance">Al-Qaida, and a world in balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/thirty-year-war-past-present-future">The thirty-year war: past, present, future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-war-blowback">The drone-war blowback</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Iraq Afghanistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security american power & the world democracy & power Paul Rogers Thu, 31 May 2012 20:41:22 +0000 Paul Rogers 66164 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Barack Obama and Poland: injurious ignorance https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-j-chmielewski/barack-obama-and-poland-injurious-ignorance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P> </p><P>The American president's award to the wartime Polish hero Jan Karski was tarnished by a historical blunder that reveals all too much, says Adam J Chmielewski. </p> <P></p> </div> </div> </div> <P>The occasion had been long awaited. Jan Karski, the legendary Polish hero who risked his <A href="http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf187001bd/?query=karski">life</a> to gather firsthand knowledge of the degradation and extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, and who as a special <A href="http://www.jankarski.net/1/618/About+Karski.html">envoy</a> travelled to the capital cities of Poland's Allies to share this knowledge, was at last to be formally honoured at a <A href="http://www.polandembassy.org/">ceremony</a> in the White House on 29 May 2012. The current president of the United States was to award Karski the highest national honour: the presidential <A href="http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/two_column_table/Presidential_Medal_of_Freedom_Recipients.htm">medal</a> of freedom. </p> <P>This overdue act of recognition had, on the part of the United States (and Britain) an element of restitution about it. For when Karski <A href="http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/karski.html">reached</a> their shores in 1942-43, virtually none of the great politicians in the two countries was willing to listen to his message. Thus, the Allies did nothing to save the lives of Jews being annihilated on the territory of Poland - then a nation without a state, after the invasions and partition of the country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939. </p> <P>Among the most drastic examples of indifference to Karski’s desperate appeal is that President Franklin D Roosevelt was more interested in the Nazis' treatment of horses than Jews, and that the supreme-court judge&nbsp;<A href="http://www.oyez.org/justices/felix_frankfurter">Felix Frankfurter</a> responded to the materials presented by Karski by saying: "‘Mr Karski, A man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe in what I have just heard, in all the things that you have just told me."</p> <P>It is very unfortunate, then, that during the award ceremony, President Obama <A href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18264036">used</a> the expression "Polish death camps". The implication these words carry is that it was Poles themselves who had invented and operated the Nazis' <A href="http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/index.asp">mass-extermination</a> machine. It is difficult to imagine words more insulting and offensive, or that more deeply <A href="http://www.washington.polemb.net/index.php?document=1196">convey</a> disregard for the cause Jan Karski risked his life to pursue.</p> <P>Jan Karski, after all, is <A href="http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/karski.asp">recognised</a> at Yad Vashem, the memorial museum of the Holocaust in Israel, as belonging to the "righteous among the nations". Yet on the very occasion that he is being honoured in Washington, with these words his memory is defiled. It is as if the <A href="http://jankarski.net/1/619/News/Activities.html">campaign</a> for Karski's recognition undertaken by the Polish government and intellectuals, led in the United States by Alex Storozynski - the chairman of the <A href="http://www.thekf.org/">Kosciuszko Foundation</a> - had never been understood in the White House. </p> <P>The outrage in Poland is enormous, even after a weak <A href="http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/101080,White-House-apologises-after-Obama-%E2%80%98Polish-death-camp-blunder">admission</a> that the president "misspoke". Polish media across the world are full of protests against this serious <EM>faux pas</em>. <EM><A href="http://www.dziennik.com/">Nowy Dziennik</a></em>, the best Polish-language newspaper, which happens to be published in New York, calls for a joint resolution of the US congress and senate concerning a ban on this <A href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/05/polish-death-camps">expression</a>, which is mindlessly propagated by many English-language newspapers. The blunder has also provoked wild speculation among extreme right-wing Polish parties to the effect that Obama's use of these words was deliberate, on the grounds that the largest ethnic minority in America is supposedly German. </p> <P>This has not been Obama's first great <A href="http://www.dziennik.com/wiadomosci/artykul/zakazac-uzywania-terminu-polskie-obozy-smierci">error</a> in relation to Poland. In 2009 the American administration chose 17 September to <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/world/europe/18shield.html">announce</a> that it was abandoning its planned "anti-missile shield" over Poland and the Czech Republic, which had been designed with the putative threat from Iran in mind. It is worth stressing that <A href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/05/obama_poland">Poles</a>, great enthusiasts of this misbegotten programme, always thought that its true purpose was to defend them from potential Russian aggression. </p> <P>The gravity of this earlier misjudgment<EM> </em>is that every 17 September in Poland is solemnly <A href="http://www.krakowpost.com/article/1575">remembered</a> as the anniversary of the launch of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 - two weeks after the invasion by Nazi Germany from the west. The American president seemingly did not know or care that his <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6720153.stm">decision</a> would be connected with a Soviet attack that has long been ingrained into Polish consciousness as a "knife in the back". Many Poles saw the coincidence as a knife in the chests of a later generation of Poles, descendants of those who had fought bravely against two <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/poland-end-of-illusion">overwhelming</a> enemies. </p> <P><STRONG>Mind and heart</strong></p> <P>On an apparently different note, for months the Polish press has been debating the deplorable condition of Polish universities. In the discussion, Harvard University is often cited as the best example to follow and learn from. </p> <P>It seems appropriate to recall that President Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. I do not know in detail what was taught at these two prestigious institutions at the time, but I can state with confidence that at the law faculties of Poland's much criticised <A href="http://international.uni.wroc.pl/en/s3.php">universities</a> the students do study history. Moreover, Polish high-school pupils in general know much more about the United States than do their American peers about Europe as a whole or any of its constituent nations. </p> <P>Obama’s repeated <A href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/polish-president-writes-obama-death-camp-gaffe/story?id=16462942">blunders</a> suggest that the Polish enthusiasts of the American educational system, who are also harsh critics of the Polish one, would do well to rethink their position. Everyone else, especially active politicians, would do well to take into consideration people’s feelings. For in political action few things are more important than the hard facts of human sentiment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/two_column_table/Presidential_Medal_of_Freedom_Recipients.htm">Presidential Medal of Freedom, United States</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.jankarski.net/1/618/About+Karski.html">Jan Karski</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.polandembassy.org/">Polish embassy, United States</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.washington.polemb.net/index.php?document=1196">Against Polish Death / Concentration Camps -&nbsp;a how-to guide</a></p> <P><A href="http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/karski.asp">Yad Vashem, Jan Karski</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.thekf.org/">Kosciuszko Foundation</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Adam J Chmielewski is <A href="http://www.chmielewski.uni.wroc.pl">professor</a> of philosophy in the <A href="http://www.filozofia.uni.wroc.pl/" target="_blank">Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław</a><A id="link3" title="archive de Institute of Philosophy, University of Wrocław" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.filozofia.uni.wroc.pl/&amp;title=Institute%20of%20Philosophy%2C%20University%20of%20Wroc%C5%82aw" rel="nofollow">↑</a> , Poland. His books include <EM>Popper's Philosophy: A Critical Analysis</em> (1995); <EM>Open Society or Community?</em> (2001); and <EM>Psychopathology of Political Life</em> (2009). He is also the author of the successful bid of the city of Wroclaw&nbsp;for the title of the <A href="http://www.wro2016.pl/en/wroclaw-2016/institution-of-culture-wroclaw-2016/">European Capital of Culture 2016</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/krzysztof-bobinski/polands-election-european-lesson">Poland&#039;s election, European lesson </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/poland-end-of-illusion">Warsaw and Washington: after illusion</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/poland_after_pis_handle_with_care">Poland after PiS: handle with care</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/sleepless_in_sczeczin_what_s_the_matter_with_poland">Sleepless in Szczecin: what’s the matter with Poland? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/poland_2858.jsp">The Polish lifeboat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-j-chmielewski-denis-dutton/poland%E2%80%99s-tragedy-sorrow-and-anger">Poland’s tragedy: sorrow, and anger </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/ironic_2963.jsp">The Polish autumn</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/poland-the-future-s-past">Poland: the politics of history </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/adam-szostkiewicz/poland-1920-and-all-that">Poland: 1920 and all that</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Poland Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power europe Adam J Chmielewski Thu, 31 May 2012 03:39:16 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 66143 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The United States and "atrocity prevention" https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-shaw/united-states-and-atrocity-prevention <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The formation of an official agency charged with helping Washington identify and address threats of atrocity around the world is notable.&nbsp;But the United States's own foreign-policy record raises serious questions over its likely impact, says Martin Shaw.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In a speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) on 23 April 2012, President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-announces-sanctions-for-tech-used-in-human-rights-abuses-in-iran-and-syria/2012/04/23/gIQAOGm3bT_story.html">launched</a>&nbsp;a "comprehensive strategy" to "prevent and respond to atrocities". He has <a href="http://www.usip.org/publications/obama-announces-formation-the-atrocities-prevention-board">charged</a> his new&nbsp; Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) with "helping the US government identify and address atrocity threats, and oversee institutional changes that will make us more nimble and effective". <br /><br />The APB - chaired by Samantha Power, author of an an indictment of earlier US inaction on genocide, <em><a href="http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Problem-Hell-Samantha-Power/?isbn=9780061120145">A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide</a>&nbsp;</em>[Harper Collins, 2003]) - will be <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/never-again-obamas-big-risky-plan-for-preventing-global-atrocities/256278/%20">strengthened</a> by&nbsp;the inclusion of representatives of all the main departments of the US government. In addition,&nbsp;the National Intelligence Council will prepare a national-intelligence estimate on the global risk of mass atrocities and genocide, and there will be new peacekeeper training and diplomatic initiatives. </p> <p>There will also be a new capacity for "civilian surge" to respond rapidly to crises, and new sanctions for companies that aid the Syrian and Iranian governments track and target civilians for abuse. Perhaps most important,&nbsp;the US military will incorporate counter-atrocity planning into its operating procedures, and senior officers will meet - at the <a href="http://www.ushmm.org/museum/about/%20">USHMM</a> - to plan this.</p> <p><strong>Between morality and policy</strong></p> <p>This follows a presidential study directive (<a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/08/04/presidential-study-directive-mass-atrocities">number 10</a>) issued in 2011 that aimed to bridge the gap between national interest and altruistic intervention. It claimed that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest" as well as "a core moral responsibility of the United States. Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America's reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide." <br /><br />A White House release accompanying Obama’s speech claims "an unprecedented record of actions taken to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable", including "leadership of the successful international military effort to protect civilians in Libya" as well as of of various international efforts over Cote d'Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, and Syria; efforts to ensure "peaceful and orderly" independence for South Sudan; action against the Lord's Resistance Army and to apprehend Joseph Kony (anti-hero of a recent YouTube hit), and supporting the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/eric-gordy/icty-vs-mladi%C4%87-had%C5%BEi%C4%87-good-defence-better-history">capture</a> of Ratko Mladic.<br /><br />Obama’s moves have been welcomed by the US’s increasingly active genocide lobby. The principal campaigning group, <a href="http://www.endgenocide.org/">United to End Genocide</a>, webcast Obama’s speech to supporters, and its president, Tom Andrews, hailed it in an email to them as "a major victory for genocide prevention" and campaigning, indeed as "a result of three years of hard work and over 200,000 of your emails, phone calls, letters and meetings". </p> <p><strong>Between claim and reality</strong></p> <p>It is clear that counter-atrocity policy, now institutionalised in a way that entrenches its role as a "national interest", is taking ever-stronger shape under Obama. However, genocide campaigners should beware functioning as the administration’s cheerleaders. Even if atrocity-prevention is a national interest, that hardly means it will trump other national interests - strategic and commercial, for example.The fate of the "ethical dimension" of New Labour’s foreign policy is a warning: it remained just a dimension, and an increasingly subordinate one at that.<br /><br />The US administration's claims immediately suggest specific reasons for scepticism. Some civilians were protected by western military support for Libya’s rebels, but many others died in the civil war, moreover, it is egregious to claim that the policy was merely one of civilian protection, when the main driver was regime-change. The US’s support for peace and order in Sudan has not prevented the Sudanese government’s new aggression in border provinces, which genocide activists have been quick to protest. Joseph Kony, despite his new notoriety (or celebrity), is still at large.<br /><br />Although the administration sees atrocity-prevention as multilateral rather than unilateral, it makes no commitment to consistent multilateral action against atrocity. It is one thing to sanction your enemies in the name of fine ideals, but if you don’t mobilise the United Nations to do the same against your allies, these ideals are tarnished. Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s hesitation over acting against Hosni Mubarak and his military successors in Egypt, and against the repression carried out by the Saudi and Bahraini monarchies, suggests a strong danger in tying "atrocity" campaigning closely to official US policy.<br /><br />It could be objected that repression in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has not reached genocidal levels, but it has surely included atrocities. The new policy and board are framed, after all, in "atrocity" rather than "genocide" terms. It is surely the point of "preventative" policy to act at lower levels of violence, to stop escalation. Why are there no sanctions against companies that aid these regimes to track and abuse activists? Why, indeed, is there no withdrawal of US military collaboration with these (and similar) regimes that have also been responsible for atrocities?<br /><br />The linkage to sanctions against Iran and Syria is also problematic -&nbsp;not because these regimes are not guilty of atrocities, but because of the link this could easily provide to Israeli campaigning for a military <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-and-iran-after-bombs-fall">strike</a> on Iran to halt the Iranian nuclear programme. Israel’s leaders, the pro-Israel lobby in the US, and some "genocide scholars" are already framing their proposed attack as "genocide prevention". Yet the last thing genocide prevention needs is to be linked to aggressive <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-mediation-vs-war">war</a>, which will severely discredit the whole idea.<br /><br />Such a war will surely bring its own atrocities against innocent Iranian civilians, just as the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syria-iraq-and-al-qaidas-opportunity">Iraq</a> war did against Iraqis and the Afghan war against Afghans. There are direct victims of US policy, currently including Pakistani citizens who are dying from US drone attacks, and Afghan villagers (such as&nbsp;the wedding parties regularly strafed by US aircraft,&nbsp;as explored by&nbsp;Stephen Rockel — see his chapter in Philip G Dwyer &amp; Lynndal Ryan eds, <em><a href="http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=DwyerTheatres">Theatres of Violence: Massacre, Mass Killing and Atrocity throughout History</a></em> [Berghahn, 2012]). There are also indirect victims, notably the thousands of Iraqis who are still dying in the low-level civil war provoked by the United States-British invasion in 2003, a war that at one point reached genocidal dimensions as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were forced to flee their neighbourhoods, mostly into exile.<br /><br />Are not these all cases of atrocity? The Atrocities Prevention Board, to live up to its name, cannot ignore the way that US military <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-iraq-and-americas-fix">policies</a> daily produce atrocities. Genocide campaigners need to be alive to these dangers, and campaign against US policy when it too causes violence against civilians. The potential of the Obama administration’s latest moves to prevent <em>some</em> atrocities should be noted, but there must be sustained vigilance lest they end up being mobilised to produce <em>other </em>atrocities.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div> <p>Martin Shaw, <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em><span><span>What is Genocide?</span></span></em></a><em> </em>(Polity, 2007)</p> <p>Gérard Prunier, <em><a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=461"><span><span>From Genocide to Continental War: The 'Congolese' Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa</span></span></a> </em>(C Hurst, 2009)</p> <p>Ben Kiernan, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300100983"><span><span><em>Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Exte</em><em>r</em><em>mination from Sparta to Darfur</em></span></span></a> (Yale University Press, 2007)</p></div> <div><a href="http://statecrime.org/%20"><span><span>Statecrime</span></span></a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.massviolence.org/"><span><span>Encyclopedia of Mass Violence </span></span></a></div> <div> <p><a href="http://www.inogs.com/"><span><span>International Network of Genocide Scholars</span></span></a> (INOGS)</p> <p><a href="http://www.yale.edu/gsp/"><span><span>Genocide Studies Program, Yale University </span></span></a></p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>Martin Shaw is research professor of international relations at the <em>Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals</em> (<a href="http://www.ibei.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=135&amp;Itemid=16&amp;lang=en">IBEI</a><a id="link3" title="archive de IBEI" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.ibei.org/index.php?option=com_content%26task=view&amp;id=135&amp;Itemid=16&amp;lang=en&amp;title=IBEI">↑</a> ) and the University of Sussex, and professorial fellow in international relations and human rights at the University of Roehampton. </span>Among his books are <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745619064"><em>War and Genocide: Organised Killing in Modern Society</em></a><a id="link5" title=" Organised Killing in Modern Society" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745619064&amp;title=War%20and%20Genocide%3A%20Organised%20Killing%20in%20Modern%20Society">↑</a> (Polity, 2003); <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745634104"><em>The New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq</em></a><a id="link7" title=" Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745634104&amp;title=The%20New%20Western%20Way%20of%20War%3A%20Risk-Transfer%20War%20and%20its%20Crisis%20in%20Iraq">↑</a> (Polity, 2005); and <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820"><em>What is Genocide? </em></a><a id="link9" title="archive de What is Genocide? " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820&amp;title=What%20is%20Genocide%3F%20">↑</a> (Polity, 2007). His website is <a href="http://martinshaw.org/about/">here</a><a id="link11" title="archive de here" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://martinshaw.org/about/&amp;title=here">↑</a> &nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/holocaust-and-genocide-loose-talk-bad-action">The Holocaust and genocide: loose talk, bad action</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/dr-congo-arc-of-war-map-of-responsibility-0">DR Congo: arc of war, map of responsibility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-uses-of-genocide-kenya-georgia-israel-sri-lanka">Uses of genocide: Kenya, Georgia, Israel, Sri Lanka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/peter-lippman/srebrenica-fifteen-years-on">Srebrenica, fifteen years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/un_genocide_4049.jsp">The United Nations and genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/sri-lanka-camps-media-genocide">Sri Lanka - camps, media…genocide? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-lippman/srebrenica-fifteen-years-on">Srebrenica, fifteen years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/afghanistan-and-iraq-western-wars-genocidal-risks">Afghanistan and Iraq: western wars, genocidal risks </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/holocaust-genocide-studies-and-modern-politics">The Holocaust, genocide studies, and politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/blood_and_soil_the_global_history_of_genocide">Blood and soil: the global history of genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-yugoslavia/srebrenica_2651.jsp">Srebrenica: genocide and memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/peter-lippman/visegrad-memory-and-justice">Visegrad, memory and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-shaw/britain-and-genocide">Britain and genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/iraq/halabja_the_politics_of_memory">Halabja: the politics of memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/armenian-genocide-and-turkey-then-and-now">Armenian genocide and Turkey: then and now </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/cambodia-surviving-the-khmer-rouge">Cambodia: surviving the Khmer Rouge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sudan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Bahrain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Bahrain Syria Sudan United States Conflict Democracy and government International politics institutions & government Globalisation american power & the world democracy & power middle east IDEA Martin Shaw Security in North America Diplomacy International Law Peacebuilding Fri, 27 Apr 2012 06:32:19 +0000 Martin Shaw 65564 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Colombia, a state of flux https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-isacson/colombia-state-of-flux <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A decade of violence and insecurity has deeply marked Colombia's society, politics and institutions. For Colombia to move on, its beleaguered yet independent justice system will have a vital role to play, says Adam Isacson.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The approaching date of 20 February 2012 will be a frustrating anniversary in Colombia. On that day in 2002, following guerrillas' kidnapping of a senator, the country's then president Andrés Pastrana abruptly ended more than three years of stumbling peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas. </p> <p>Over the next ten years, more than 22,500 Colombians died in combat involving the security forces. Many thousands more lost their lives in hostilities between illegal armed groups, and as civilian casualties.</p> <p>At the end of this decade, the armed groups in Colombia’s nearly half-century-old conflict (the Farc, the smaller ELN guerrillas, and drug-funded "paramilitary" networks) look different, and are markedly weaker. But they persist, and threaten to be around for quite some time. Still, Colombians speak far more optimistically about their country’s prospects than they did in 2002. The president, Juan Manuel Santos, echoed their sentiment in <a href="http://wsp.presidencia.gov.co/Prensa/2010/Octubre/Paginas/20101011_06.aspx" target="_blank"><span><span>telling</span></span></a> a group of Brazilian investors that Colombia "has a new agenda. We are a country ready for takeoff."</p> <p>But are the optimists right? Is Colombia, its violence and drug-trafficking problems reduced to "nuisance" status, poised to follow the trajectory of Lula’s Brazil? Or do fundamental inequality, injustice, corruption and rule-of-law issues remain unresolved, threatening to pull the country back into the abyss at any time?</p> <p>It could go either way. No matter what the issue in Colombia today, there is a glass-half-full and a glass-half-empty view - and both are based on measurable facts.</p> <p><strong>An elusive security</strong></p> <p>Take, for example, the country’s <em>security situation</em>. Here, the big-picture news appears good. The military’s offensive against the guerrillas, and a negotiated deal that demobilised - and withdrew much government support from - the paramilitaries, <a href="http://www.mindefensa.gov.co/irj/go/km/docs/Mindefensa/Documentos/descargas/estudios%20sectoriales/info_estadistica/Logros_Sector_Defensa.pdf" target="_blank"><span><span>reduced</span></span></a> violence sharply. Murders are down 50% since 2002, and kidnappings by 90 percent. This makes Colombia an exception in Latin America, where violent crime is rising almost everywhere.</p> <p>The security forces have dealt monumental recent blows to armed groups. The Farc’s paramount leader, Alfonso Cano, was killed in November 2011. The Erpac, the neo-paramilitary group that dominates Colombia’s eastern plains, demobilised in December 2011, a year after its own leader’s killing. On 1 January 2012, government forces killed Juan de Dios Usuga, one of two brothers who commanded the <em>Urabeños</em> neo-paramilitary group.</p> <p>The more recent news, however, is far less encouraging. In response to Usuga’s killing, the <em>Urabeños</em> <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/21542791" target="_blank"><span><span>ordered</span></span></a> all businesses to shut in a broad swathe of territory across Colombia’s north - a more ambitious "armed strike" than anything the Farc ever attempted. In 2011, meanwhile, kidnappings <a href="http://insightcrime.org/insight-latest-news/item/2140-defense-ministry-says-kidnapping-rose-5-in-colombia-2011-contrary-to-police-claims" target="_blank"><span><span>rose</span></span></a> 5%, and guerrilla attacks - most of them ambushes, IEDs, landmines, and sniper fire in remote areas - killed over 400 soldiers and police for the third straight year. In early February 2012, the Farc detonated bombs outside two southwestern Colombian police stations in two days, killing fifteen people, eleven of them civilians. The guerrillas <a href="http://www.nuevoarcoiris.org.co/sac/?q=node/1381" target="_blank"><span><span>attacked</span></span></a> the security forces 132 times in the first twenty days of 2012.</p> <p>The story of Colombia’s fight against <em>drug-trafficking </em>is similarly mixed. In the late 2000s, the country cut back on aerial herbicide fumigation (which had spread in the early years of the decade, under "Plan Colombia") and increased manual eradication of coca plants. This appears to be reducing coca cultivation - to the point where Peru may have produced more coca leaf in 2011.</p> <p>However, the country’s current crop of drug lords - figures like Daniel "El Loco" Barrera and Medellín kingpin "Sebastian" or "Don Mario", who <a href="http://www.semana.com/nacion/ordeno-desde-prision/170732-3.aspx" target="_blank"><span><span>reportedly</span></span></a> continues to order the <em>Urabeños</em> group from prison - remains wealthy and, by corrupting officials, politically powerful. More cocaine continues to be produced in Colombia than in any other country, and the vast majority of United States-bound cocaine <a href="http://justf.org/blog/2012/02/02/collected-maps-suspect-trafficking" target="_blank"><span><span>leaves</span></span></a> Colombian territory, either from the country’s coasts or into Venezuela and then by air.</p> <p><strong>A form of justice</strong></p> <p>For its part, <em>Venezuela’s relations with Colombia</em> remain calm and cordial. Lawless conditions on Venezuela’s side of the border, and Colombian accusations that Venezuela’s leftist government harbours the Farc, led to several very tense episodes between the two countries during the government of Colombia's president from 2002-10, Álvaro Uribe. After he succeeded Uribe in August 2010, Juan Manuel Santos abruptly shifted gears towards a rapprochement with Hugo Chávez.</p> <p>The thaw in Colombian-Venezuelan relations is also fragile, though, with allegations of Venezuelan support for the Farc presenting the greatest challenge. It did not help that the new Farc leader, Timoleón Jiménez (alias "Timochenko)" is based in the Colombia-Venezuela border-zone, or that Venezuela’s new defence minister, General Henry Rangel Silva, is wanted in the United States for allegedly collaborating with the Farc. Still, diplomats from both countries are endeavouring to keep things on an even keel, especially amid Chávez’s ongoing bout with cancer and Venezuela’s forthcomong presidential elections in October.</p> <p>Colombia’s <em>domestic politics</em> have also changed after the hard-right Uribe government’s eight years. Though he served for three of those years as Uribe’s defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos has ended Uribe’s feuds with the justice system, and ceased public accusations that human-rights groups are tied to terrorists. His government has raised Colombia’s minimum wage and pushed for (and is now beginning to implement) landmark legislation to return millions of hectares of land stolen by armed actors since the early 1990s. </p> <p>These developments have diminished former president Uribe (who disagrees strongly with some of his successor's policies, particularly the rapprochement with Venezuela). He has been forced to defend himself and his political allies against investigations of several scandals involving <a href="http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=AP&amp;date=20120116&amp;id=14696257" target="_blank"><span><span>corruption</span></span></a>, <a href="http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/articulo-324983-uribe-dice-maria-del-pilar-hurtado-le-quieren-fabricar-delitos" target="_blank"><span><span>spying</span></span></a> on political opponents, and <a href="http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/21851-auc-collaborated-with-uribe-government-spy-agency-don-berna.html" target="_blank"><span><span>collaboration</span></span></a> with paramilitary groups.</p> <p>It is not clear, though, whether the Bogotá government will be able to see the land-restitution program through completely. Some of the areas where the most land was stolen continue to be either consumed by violence or under the influence of corrupt landowners who have supported violent tactics in the recent past. Since President Santos took over, more than twenty leaders of groups seeking the return of land have been killed; as the restitution plan gets going and actually tries to take away ill-gotten land, life could get even more dangerous for victims seeking to regain what they lost.</p><p> <em>The security forces' </em>ability, and willingness, to protect victims will be vital. To ensure that restitution takes place (and that the Farc and "new" paramilitary groups do not get any stronger), the Santos government will need the cooperation of a military that is becoming increasingly assertive politically. With nearly 300,000 members (plus 160,000 police) and a large chunk of the national budget, Colombia’s armed forces have become a much more powerful institution than they were ten years ago. </p><p>And they are angry: in the past few years Colombia’s civilian-justice system has shown more independence and sentenced several top officers to prison for past human-rights crimes. The verdicts that have stung the military hardest have to do with abuses committed during what remains a <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB319/index.htm" target="_blank"><span><span>super-sensitive case</span></span></a>: the army’s overwhelming response to an incident in 1985 when a guerrilla group seized the palace of justice in Bogotá.</p> <p>Some analysts of Colombia’s armed forces, including retired officers, <a href="http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/no-es-cierto-que-los-soldados-esten-desmoralizados-general-rey_10697186-4" target="_blank"><span><span>claim</span></span></a> that recent security reversals (such as the rise in Farc attacks) may in part be owed to discontented officers deliberately avoiding combat. In a sort of "sit-down strike", they may be holding out for greater impunity by reminding civilian leaders that they need the military more than the military needs them.</p> <p>During a debate in the legislature on constitutional reform in autumn 2011, the defence ministry <a href="http://www.wola.org/commentary/a_human_rights_counteroffensive_in_colombia" target="_blank"><span><span>introduced</span></span></a> an apparent response to this "strike": a proposed section that would send human-rights cases first to the military-justice system (where impunity in the past has been virtually assured) instead of the civilian system. This would be a huge setback for human rights in Colombia. It may be hard to believe so soon after the armed forces allegedly <a href="http://www.hchr.org.co/documentoseinformes/informes/altocomisionado/Informe2010_eng.pdf" target="_blank"><span><span>killed</span></span></a> over 3,000 civilians and claimed their victims as armed-group members killed in combat, but the military may be about to win the right to try its own men for human-rights crimes.</p> <p>Meanwhile, on the seemingly eternal question of <em>prospects for peace </em>in Colombia, the picture is less than encouraging, but also mixed. The armed forces believe that they are in the final, "mopping up" phase of their conflict with the Farc, and - along with perhaps half of Colombians - do not favour peace negotiations. However, the Farc’s new leader "Timochenko" has been much more vocal than his predecessors; striking an almost conciliatory tone, he has indicated a desire to restart peace negotiations. However, in early February, amid much posturing on both sides and the defence ministry’s unwillingness to allow outside actors (including the Brazilian government) to help, the Farc <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/colombia-rebels-announce-delay-prisoner-release-15487484////l.TzBHsaw9md2" target="_blank"><span><span>rescinded</span></span></a> an offer to release six security-force members whom it has been holding hostage for over a decade.</p> <p><strong>Washington's role</strong></p> <p>Even before the last peace process ended, <em>the United States</em> has played a crucial role in all of the issues of war, peace, drugs and politics discussed here. Today the US's role, too, is contradictory: both receding and important.</p> <p>The reduction of US influence is palpable. Aid is being cut, to under <a href="http://justf.org/country?country=Colombia" target="_blank"><span><span>$300 million</span></span></a> in military and police aid in 2012 - a return to pre-1999 levels. Moreover, it is likely to continue shrinking in line with US budget cuts. In 2011, the US Congress at last ratified the 2006 free-trade agreement with Colombia, which now means less US leverage over Colombia’s human-rights and labour policies. Washington is also distracted by violent crises elsewhere in the hemisphere, especially Mexico and central America.</p> <p>At the same time, the United States continues to play a determining role. Also in 2011, Washington approved $215 million in new Usaid contracts for a controversial military-and-development assistance scheme known as "<a href="http://www.ccai-colombia.org/" target="_blank"><span><span>Consolidation</span></span></a>" across four zones of Colombia. And US aid to Colombia’s justice system, which has not been deeply reduced in the 2012 budget, is more important than ever before.</p> <p>Whether the issue is human-rights trials, land restitution, efforts to curb organised crime or to clean up corruption, all roads in Colombia go through the country’s beleaguered yet independent justice system. The judiciary’s ability to do its job could spell the difference between Colombia deteriorating and Colombia being mentioned in a few years' time in the same breath as Brazil. All in all, US support for Colombia’s judicial system is money very well spent right now - and sfar more important than more money for a war that may rage for at least another ten years.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="adam-isacson/%20http://www.wola.org/"><span>Washington Office on Latin America</span></a></p><p><span><a href="http://www.justf.org/%20">Just the Facts</a> <a id="link360" title="archive de Just the Facts" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.justf.org/%2520&amp;title=Just%20the%20Facts">↑</a> </span><span>project</span></p><p><a href="http://colombiareports.com/">Colombia Reports </a> <a id="link362" title="archive de Colombia Reports " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://colombiareports.com/&amp;title=Colombia%20Reports%20">↑</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.lasillavacia.com/"><em>La Silla Vacía </em></a> <a id="link364" title="archive de La Silla Vacía " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.lasillavacia.com/&amp;title=La%20Silla%20Vac%EDa%20">↑</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.as-coa.org/">Council of the Americas</a> <a id="link366" title="archive de Council of the Americas" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.as-coa.org/&amp;title=Council%20of%20the%20Americas">↑</a></p><p>Center for International Policy - <a href="http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1269">Colombia programme</a> <a id="link368" title="archive de Colombia programme" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1269&amp;title=Colombia%20programme">↑</a> (Cipcol)</p><p>David Bushnell, <a href="http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/5972.php"><em>The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself</em> </a> <a id="link370" title=" A Nation in Spite of Itself " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/5972.php&amp;title=The%20Making%20of%20Modern%20Colombia%3A%20A%20Nation%20in%20Spite%20of%20Itself%20">↑</a> (University of Colombia Press, 1993)</p><p><a href="http://www.hrw.org/americas/colombia">Human Rights Watch - Colombia</a> <a id="link372" title="archive de Human Rights Watch - Colombia" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.hrw.org/americas/colombia&amp;title=Human%20Rights%20Watch%20-%20Colombia">↑</a> </p><p><em><a href="http://laht.com/index.asp"><em>Latin American Herald Tribune</em></a> <a id="link374" title="archive de Latin American Herald Tribune" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://laht.com/index.asp&amp;title=Latin%20American%20Herald%20Tribune">↑</a> </em></p><p><a href="http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1269">International Crisis Group</a> <a id="link376" title="archive de International Crisis Group" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1269&amp;title=International%20Crisis%20Group">↑</a> - Colombia</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Adam Isacson is a senior associate for regional security policy at the <a href="http://www.wola.org/">Washington Office on Latin America</a> <a id="link3" title="archive de Washington Office on Latin America" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.wola.org/&amp;title=Washington%20Office%20on%20Latin%20America">↑</a> </span><span>. There, he coordinates the “<a href="http://www.justf.org/%20">Just the Facts</a> <a id="link5" title="archive de Just the Facts" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.justf.org/%2520&amp;title=Just%20the%20Facts">↑</a> ” </span><a href="http://www.justf.org/" target="_blank"><span>&nbsp;</span></a> <a id="link7" title="archive de  " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.justf.org/&amp;title=%A0">↑</a> <span>project monitoring United States <a href="http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=viewp&amp;id=1105&amp;Itemid=2%20">security relations</a> <a id="link9" title="archive de security relations" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content%26task=viewp&amp;id=1105&amp;Itemid=2%2520&amp;title=security%20relations">↑</a> </span><span>with the hemisphere</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/chemical_war_3020.jsp">Colombia&#039;s other war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/colombia_in_evil_hour">Colombia: in evil hour</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/adam-isacson/colombia-%E2%80%9Cgreen-wave%E2%80%9D-that-wasn%E2%80%99t">Colombia: the “green wave” that wasn’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pawns_of_war_the_colombian_hostage_crisis">Pawns of war: the Colombian hostage crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/adam-isacson/next-colombia">The next Colombia </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/colombias-guerrillas-between-past-and-future">Colombia&#039;s guerrillas: between past and future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/isacson_nextplan_4425.jsp">The United States and Colombia: the next plan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/adam-isacson/colombia-tale-of-two-leaders">Colombia: a tale of two leaders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/colombias-imperilled-democracy">Colombia&#039;s imperilled democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/politics_protest/colombia_peace_and_democracys_enemies">Colombia: who are the enemies of peace and democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/colombia-a-miraculous-rescue-and-what-comes-next">Colombia: a miraculous rescue, and what comes next </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-protest/colombian_crisis_4617.jsp">The crisis of Colombia&#039;s state</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/politics_protest/facebook_farc">Colombia: networks of dissent and power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/the_colombia_venezuela_ecuador_tangle">The Colombia - Venezuela - Ecuador tangle</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/alvaro-uribe-otra-vez-colombias-re-election-debate">Álvaro Uribe, otra vez? Colombia&#039;s re-election debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/colombia_interrupted_lives">Colombia: interrupted lives </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/colombia_3342.jsp">Colombia&#039;s elections: the regional exception</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Colombia Conflict Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power latin america Reconciliation and Peacebuilding Adam Isacson Security in Latin America and Caribbean Peacebuilding Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:59:33 +0000 Adam Isacson 64094 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Arab revolts in year two https://www.opendemocracy.net/volker-perthes/arab-revolts-in-year-two <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The uprisings across the Arab world are becoming more complex and variable as they enter their second year. This makes it all the more important to identify their main dynamics, says Volker Perthes. </div> </div> </div> <p>Since the fall of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in the first weeks of 2011, it has become evident that the political transformation of the states of the Arab world is and will be a complex, often violent, and protracted process - and that it has only just begun. </p> <p>The concept of the "Arab spring" that gripped many western observers from the early stages is in this respect much too seasonally limited, and thus guaranteed to breed impatience and disappointment rather than the deeper understanding required. This time-restricted notion also discourages Europe and the United States from thinking about their long-term strategic engagement with the region.</p> <p>A larger and more long-term view - which draws on the experiences of other regions in transition - suggests that the Arab world still finds itself within "the first five minutes" of its historic hour. </p> <p>In this perspective, as the Arab revolts enter year two, four factors seem especially important to watch - and for Europe and the United States to take account of in their policies. </p> <p><strong>A fourfold reality</strong></p> <p>The first factor is <em>socio-demographic</em>. The popular revolts in the Arab world have mainly been the work of the generation of 20-35 year-olds. This contingent is more numerous and generally better educated than any of its predecessors, but has fewer social and material opportunities. Yet so far, the fall of the old regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has not improved its economic and social situation. Moreover, the "2011ers" among them - the political activists that triggered the revolutions - have not been among the winners of the first post-revolt elections. Thus it shouldn’t be a susrprise if this generation, which has already tasted its power, sets out to challenge the newly elected authorities as well. </p> <p>Europe and the US would do well to support and encourage the transforming Arab states in efforts to provide opportunities for this young generation, both with regard to employment and to political participation. They should also realise that comparable socio-demographic developments will almost certainly occur at different times in different Arab countries. In Saudi Arabia for example, a generation akin to Tunisia’s, Egypt’s (or Syria’s) "2011ers" is only now being educated, and will reach its full strength only in a couple of years. It is vital then to avoid complacency with regard to countries that today seem stable.</p> <p>The second factor is <em>the military</em>. In Tunisia and Egypt, the army played a positive role in the revolts against the old regimes; in Syria and Yemen, decisions by key elements in the military will largely determine further developments. In many Arab states, the military has enjoyed more trust than governments and other institutions, and has been seen as a factor of national unity. But, as Egypt shows, it is neither a neutral nor a democratic actor; it wants above all to preserve its interests, and its leaders have no understanding of modern government or economics. The military may be needed to prevent chaos and to protect the transformation toward a new political order; but it is not prepared for the role this institution is supposed to play in democratic states. </p> <p>Europe and the US should neither court nor ignore Arab military leaders. Rather, and without overestimating external influence, Nato’s existing dialogue and partnership formats should be used to cautiously engage its Arab counterparts. Central and eastern European Nato member-states should have a special role here by offering to share their experiences with military reform after a political transformation.</p> <p>The third factor is <em>political Islam</em>. It is likely that more Arab states will become both more democratic and more conservative in the coming years. In one form or another, religious conservatism has a constituency all across the region, and election results in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco also suggest that Islamist parties enjoy an "image advantage" with regard to morality - which registers highly in an era of uncertainty. At the same time, the opening and pluralisation of the political systems has opened and broadened the spectrum of political Islam itself. </p> <p>This raises the question of how mainstream Islamist groups and parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood will develop in face of strong political competition from ultra-conservative Saudi-inspired Salafism. Are they going to move towards the Salafists and lose in the political centre; or will they seek pragmatic answers to their countries’ social and economic problems in order to establish themselves (in a way akin to Turkey’s AKP) as broad-based conservative parties? </p> <p>Europe and the US should try if they can to support the latter type of development by seeking honest dialogues with mainstream Islamists, and with any new government in the region that emerges from free elections - regardless of its political colouring.</p> <p>The fourth factor is <em>regional geopolitics</em>. The changes in some Arab countries, and the ongoing revolts in others, have an impact on regional politics. Egypt, Turkey and emerging Qatar already play a more active role than before. The Arab League, which so long has served as a club of autocrats, is being transformed into a regional organisation that no longer shies away from the "internal" affairs of member-states. </p> <p>The stance of the league against the regime in Damascus, there seems little doubt, has as much to do with geopolitics as with humanitarian motives. Again, this is no surprise. What is happening is a heightened politicisation on all levels. As originally local revolts immediately attain a regional dimension and new regimes tend to review their foreign-policy approaches, the interplay between domestic politics and regional geopolitics certainly promises more turbulence. This is particularly so as neither the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor the struggle over hegemony in the Persian Gulf has moved closer to a solution.</p> <p>Israel has become more isolated since the fall of Mubarak. Whoever comes to rule Cairo is likely to be more supportive of the Palestinians and tougher on Israel than the old regime. The two Palestinian administrations in the West Bank and the Gaza strip seem to be on a path (albeit thorny) to reunity. This is happening under popular pressure, and it is a necessary precondition to forming a government that represents the Palestinian territories in its entirety. But the support of Hamas for such a government will not make the Israeli government any more prepared to reach out to its neighbours; and frustration with the lack of progress in peace talks can easily translate into renewed violence.</p> <p>The ongoing revolt in Syria, and the widely-shared expectation that the Bashar al-Assad regime is approaching its own endgame, have initiated a new regional struggle <em>over</em> Syria that involves (among others) Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Iran. Just as Tehran is worried about losing its main ally and foothold in the Levant, so the Saudis (as well as the US and some Europeans) regard the prospective fall of Assad primarily as an opportunity to weaken Tehran’s regional position. The uprising in Syria is thus being directly connected with the power-struggle over the Persian Gulf. This conflict will also continue to impact on the situation in Bahrain, to the detriment of those who seek peaceful change in that country; probably even on that in Yemen; and certainly in Iraq, where both domestic conflicts and competition over regional influence have begun to increase after the withdrawal of most US forces.</p> <p><strong>A threefold task</strong></p> <p>Western actors should have learned by now that simplistic models, such as the distinction between a supposedly "moderate" and a "radical" camp in the middle east - a model that guided US policy until the fall of Mubarak - do not actually aid understanding of regional politics. It is enough to observe that Iraq, still an American ally, is also the strongest Arab supporter of the Assad regime in Syria; and that Saudi Arabia, the main regional rival of Iran, is the main backer of Salafism, whose electoral successes trouble some less extreme Islamists as well as liberal and secular forces. </p> <p>What is needed from the United States and from Europe is threefold: careful crisis management in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a return to diplomacy rather than escalation with Iran; and active attempts to shape the conditions for a peaceful transition in Syria that spares the country a descent into civil war. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik</em> (<a href="http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/start-en.html">German Institute for International and Security Affairs</a> <a id="link5" title="archive de German Institute for International and Security Affairs" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/index.php?PHPSESSID=2c40a885ae9e26e5c5d96f8e427ddb5a%26active=home&amp;title=German%20%20Institute%20for%20International%20and%20Security%20Affairs">↑</a> / SWP) </p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a> <a id="link282" title="archive de Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.merip.org/index.html&amp;title=Middle%20East%20Research%20and%20Information%20Project%20%28MERIP%29">↑</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.demdigest.net/blog/about/"><em>Democracy Digest</em></a> <a id="link284" title="archive de Democracy Digest" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.demdigest.net/blog/about/&amp;title=Democracy%20Digest">↑</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a> <a id="link286" title="archive de Al-bab " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.al-bab.com/&amp;title=Al-bab%20">↑</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><em>Revolution in the Arab World</em></a> <a id="link288" title="archive de Revolution in the Arab World" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world&amp;title=Revolution%20in%20the%20Arab%20World">↑</a> (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011)</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> <a id="link290" title="archive de What&#039;s Really Wrong with the Middle East" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240%26TAG=&amp;CID=&amp;title=What%27s%20Really%20Wrong%20with%20the%20Middle%20East">↑</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p><p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> <a id="link292" title="archive de Whatever Happened to the Islamists?" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502&amp;title=Whatever%20Happened%20to%20the%20Islamists%3F">↑</a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Volker Perthes is <a href="http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/forscher/forscherprofil.php?id=41">director</a> <a id="link3" title="archive de heads" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/forscher/forscherprofil.php?id=41&amp;title=heads">↑</a> of the<em> Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik</em> (<a href="http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/start-en.html%20">German Institute for International and Security Affairs</a> <a id="link5" title="archive de German Institute for International and Security Affairs" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/index.php?PHPSESSID=2c40a885ae9e26e5c5d96f8e427ddb5a%26active=home&amp;title=German%20%20Institute%20for%20International%20and%20Security%20Affairs">↑</a> / SWP) in Berlin. He has published widely on Iraq and the middle east </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tarek-osman/arab-freedom-vs-geopolitics-time-of-risk">Arab freedom vs geopolitics: a time of risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">The Arab rebellion: perspectives of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rada-ivekovic/arab-insurgencies-women-in-transition">Arab insurgencies, women in transition </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ayman-ayoub/tunisias-elections-consolidating-democracy">Tunisia&#039;s elections: consolidating democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/iran_gulf_states_3863.jsp">Arab Gulf states: the Iran complex</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariano-aguirre/arab-revolution-tensions-and-challenges">The Arab revolution: tensions and challenges </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">The Arab revolutions and al-Qaida </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">Arab democracy rising: international lessons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-crisis-food-energy-water-justice">The Arab crisis: food, energy, water, justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">Arab revolutions, Turkey’s dilemmas: zero chance for &quot;zero problems&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nadim-shehadi/arab-revolt-transformation-to-transition">The Arab revolt: transformation to transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iraq Syria Tunisia Egypt Democracy and government International politics politics of protest american power & the world democracy & power middle east Geopolitics Revolution Volker Perthes Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:58:22 +0000 Volker Perthes 64099 at https://www.opendemocracy.net America's social security: reforming a giant https://www.opendemocracy.net/matt-kennard/americas-social-security-reforming-giant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The cost of the United States's trillion-dollar pension system is high on the presidential-election agenda. But turning problems into workable proposals is hard, reports Matt Kennard. </div> </div> </div> <p>Social security, the United States's federally-run pension system, has become one of the defining issues of the Republican primary campaign as the presidential-election campiagn gathers steam. Think-tanks on both sides of the political divide are racing to outline plans for reform of the system, which politicians so far have been eager to criticise but unable to find an agreed alternative to. The private sector in the US has been waiting for decades to gain access to the trillion-dollar programme; now think-tanks on the right are focusing on ways to let them do it.</p><p>Barack Obama's administration announced that, from January 2012, 55 million recipients of social security will get increases averaging $39 a month, or about $467 a year. The boost, reflecting higher inflation, was well received by many in the programme but again highlighted the huge unfunded outlays due over the coming decades.</p><p>Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who is running for the Republican nomination, in reference to this shortfall called the programme a "Ponzi scheme". Mike Meedham, chief executive of Heritage Action, a conservative policy-advocacy organisation, is more measured but equally clear in saying: "Everybody on the right in this country knows that social security is on a fiscally unsustainable path."</p><p>Before the primary season got underway, the issue of reform of social security on the right was still muted. The main reason was George W Bush’s abortive attempt to part-privatise the system early in his second-term.</p><p>In 2005, Bush wanted to take part of social-security taxes (at a point when social security was running at surplus) and put the bulk of the money into a thrift-savings plan. That would then be invested and social-security benefits would accrue from both the government and the private account.</p><p>That idea is now widely repudiated by conservatives. But reform is not.<br />"We stopped using the word privatisation around 1999," says David Corn, a fellow at Heritage. "I desperately want to avoid that, it doesn’t describe the kind of reforms that people are talking about."</p><p>"The country was not in the mood during the Bush presidency," adds Meedham. "Now Americans are realising we are at a tipping-point, we see in Europe what the future could be."</p><p>Social security in the US, like most countries, is a pay-as-you-go system where people contribute 6.2% of income, which is matched by their employers for a total of 12.4%. That pays for retirement survivors’ benefit and a smaller disability programme. The system is facing a dilemma as it faces low economic growth-rates, a declining birthrate, and rising numbers of elderly people.</p><p>The social-security trust fund has about $2,600bn invested in special-issue treasury bonds. For much of the early 2000s analysts believed the programme would go "cashflow negative" in 2017, but that happened in 2010. Under current projections the trust fund will run out of money in 2036.</p><p>"The supporters of the current system talk about changes with taxation or the fact that social security is still financed for twenty-five years, but it’s like fixing a roof: the longer you leave it the most expensive the repair becomes," says Corn.</p><p>"We are close to having a third of the adult population on social security," says Eugene Steuerle, fellow at the Urban Institute, which has authored its own plan to reform social security. "It will be roughly two working people to one person on social security when baby-boomers retire, it was six-to-one before."</p><p>He adds: "It either means workers will have to pay a lot more, or beneficiaries are going to get less as a share of national income. People on left and right want to dodge that issue."</p><p><strong>The trillion-dollar bullet</strong><br /><br />The stakes are high. Social security - alongside Medicaid/Medicare and defence spending - is one of the three "trillion-dollar problems", which if solved could wipe out the fiscal deficit that led to a recent downgrade of the US’s sovereign credit-rating.</p><p>Most analysts say that social security is the only one that can be easily solved. There are three ways in which the programme can avoid insolvency - pay more into the system, cut the benefit, or move back the retirement age. There is a bipartisan consensus that a benefit structure change can work if it is progressive, i.e. it lowers the schedule more for higher earners than lower earners.</p><p>Social security is not price-indexed. When computing initial benefits an average of career earnings is caculated and increased by the percentage of the increase of wages over that career, not prices.</p><p>"Here’s the question", says Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and expert on social security. "If today we only go from wage index to price indexed initial benefits, and we kept everything else the same, we have a $13tr deficit - well, we would wipe it out immediately."</p><p>Wages, he says, go up 1% more than prices. Pozen calls his proposal "progressive benefit reform". He argues that the programme should take the lower third of workers, which is roughly $25,000 career earnings based on much lower incomes. These people don’t have 401-Ks or IRAs: in their case the replacement ratio is very important for them, so Pozen proposes to wage-index them.</p><p>The top third then see their benefits grow at price index, and in the middle there is a blend. He estimates it would reduce the long-term deficit from $13tr to somewhere between $3-5tr.</p><p>"The beauty of this multi-trillion dollar number that we could come to grips with it and solve it," says Pozen. "On healthcare there is no agreement and on defence we have gone as far as we can go, that’s why I’m a little optimistic."</p><p>Heritage meanwhile proposes a public-private partnership, and a streamlining of benefit structure. "What we’re saying at Heritage is that there should be a flat-rate benefit," says Corn. It would be equivalent of 140% of the poverty, which works out at $1,200 dollars a month as the average benefit that individual receives.</p><p>They would raise the etirement age, which reflects changes in longevity, alongside changes to the formula used for annual cost-of-living increase. The political divisions in the United States, both inside and between the parties, make any such plan hard to implement. But a big problem needs an imaginative response. The next few years will show whether the US political system can still produce one.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cbo.gov/">Congressional Budget Office </a></p><p>Andrew Gelman, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9030.html">Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do</a></em> (Princeton University Press, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/">Tax Policy Center</a></p> <p>Scott Rasmussen &amp; Doug Schoen, <a href="http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Mad-As-Hell/?isbn=9780062016720"><em>Mad As Hell: How </em><em>the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two</em>-<em>Party System</em></a> (Harper Collins, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/">Bipartisan Policy Center</a></p> <p><a href="http://uselectionatlas.org/">US Election Atlas</a></p><p>Rick Perlstein, <a href="http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=1&amp;pid=617952&amp;er=9780743243025"><em>Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America</em></a> (Simon &amp; Schuster, 2008)</p> <p>Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole &amp; Howard Rosenthal, <a href="http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&amp;tid=10873"><em>Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches</em></a> (MIT Press, 2006)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=155">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Matt Kennard reports for the <em><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ba2792e-d00b-11e0-81e2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1h1Gvyltj">Financial Times</a></em>. His work has also been published in the <em><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/matt-kennard">Guardian</a></em></p><p>Also by Matt Kennard in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/matt-kennard/veterans-tale-homeless-in-homeland">The veteran's tale: homeless in the homeland</a>" (19 December 2011)</p><p><br /><em><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/matt-kennard"></a></em></p><p><em><em><br /></em></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/matt-kennard/veterans-tale-homeless-in-homeland">The veteran&#039;s tale: homeless in the homeland </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/american-leadership-and-system-failure">American leadership, and a system failure</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-presidential-politics">America’s presidential politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/america-s-politics-of-defence">America’s politics of defence </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-fiscal-political-trap">America’s fiscal-political trap</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power north america Matt Kennard Mon, 23 Jan 2012 14:35:22 +0000 Matt Kennard 63802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The thirty-year war: past, present, future https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/thirty-year-war-past-present-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The prognosis of a thirty-year war looked outlandish as Saddam's regime toppled, persuasive as Iraq's insurgency erupted - and now less plausible amid American forces' retreat. But two core issues continue to give it life. </div> </div> </div> <p>In early April 2003, United States troops were moving towards Baghdad in the early stages of the bombardment and occupation of Iraq. Their campaign was already facing many problems and intense fighting, but political leaders and media exuded confidence that the war would soon end. </p> <p>A few analysts took a different view. A column in this series, which by then had been running for just over eighteen months, linked the war aims of the George W Bush administration to the potential for a long conflict (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1127.jsp">A thirty-year war</a>", 4 April 2003). It said: </p> <p>"Gulf oil will be the dominant energy source for the world for upwards of thirty years. If the US neo-conservatives establish a paradigm of clear-cut western control of the region, with Iraq at its centre, then the stage is set for a conflict that lasts just as long.</p> <p>The Iraq war may be over within three months or it may take longer; in either case, it has the potential to signal the development of a much more sustained conflict. Whether this occurs depends on a key variable: the endurance and success of the Bush administration's conception of international security, the essential requirement for a New American Century".</p> <p><strong>The larger view</strong></p> <p>Within a couple of months it looked as if the new American <a href="http://www.newamericancentury.org/">century</a> was very much back on track. Saddam Hussein's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">regime</a> had fallen, and the leader was being hunted down; the war seemed over, a few armed "remnants" or "holdouts" (in the jargon of the time) apart; and planning was underway to instal large American bases in strategically important parts of the country. Above all, Paul Bremer's <a href="http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG847.html">Coalition Provisional Authority</a> was all set to transform the Iraqi economy into a living emblem of a true free market - with minimal financial regulation, a flat-rate tax system, and wholesale privatisation of state assets.</p> <p>Iraq, in this vastly ambitious but wholly serious plan, would be a model for the middle east, in turn laying the foundation for a long-term American presence to be entrenched in the <a href="http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/txu-oclc-192062619-middle_east_pol_2008.jpg">region</a>. This would be effective in constraining the US's real enemy - Iran. For a US in control of Iraq to the west and Afghanistan to the east, backed by command by the US navy's reconstituted fifth fleet of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, would ensure that Tehran behaved itself.</p> <p>In the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1900.jsp">event</a>, intractable Iraqi <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item1164337/A%20History%20of%20Iraq/?site_locale=en_US">realities</a> exposed Washington's ideology-driven <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">objectives</a> as fantasy. The outcome in Iraq was instead a protracted war in Iraq that <a href="http://www.iraqbodycount.org/">cost</a> well over 100,000 lives, with hundreds of thousands more seriously injured and millions displaced or made refugees. In the first theatre of the "war on terror", Afghanistan, the ongoing post-2001 conflict escalated further from 2005, also inflicting an enormous human <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/toll-of-world">toll</a>. </p> <p>The scale of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">reverse</a> was such that within five years, a US presidential candidate could campaign in 2008 on the promise of ending the Iraq war and even seeking to find an exit from Afghanistan. With the result that by the end of 2011 most US troops had left Iraq and there was a realistic expectation that a withdrawal <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-afghanistan-politics-in-charge">from</a> Afghanistan (however achieved) would be well underway by 2014.</p> <p><strong>The complicating factors</strong></p> <p>The spectacle of American personnel returning home, when set against the military conditions and political calculations of the mid-2000s, suggest that the prognosis made in 2003 that a thirty-year was in prospect has already been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-lost-wars-choice-in-2012">disproved</a> by events. </p> <p>After all, the Iraq war - considered as a single continuous conflict - lasted less than a decade, though the country is now mired in renewed violence and political controversy (see "<a href="http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15674679,00.html">Iraq oscillates between bombings and political crisis</a>", <em>Deutsche Welle, </em>19 January 2011). Moreover, the idea of the "new American century" is now hardly discussed (except in negative terms) and Barack Obama's policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan is favoured over that of his predecessor. But two elements complicate the picture. </p> <p>The first is that the United States is not leaving the region. The Gulf remains hugely important to its strategic thinking; links with Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the Emirates are firm; and the key base at Diego Garcia is as vital as ever. Moreover, in a little remarked development, US collaboration with Israel has <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-complex">increased</a> substantially in recent years, not least in equipment, tactics and especially training (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/a_tale_of_two_towns">A tale of two towns</a>", 21 June 2007).</p> <p>True, there are far fewer American "boots on the ground" - part of an overall trend in US military thinking, borne largely out of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/global_security/a-new-world-of-warfare">disastrous</a> experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The corollary is more <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item2703820/The%20Iraq%20Wars%20and%20America%27s%20Military%20Revolution/?site_locale=en_US">emphasis</a> on power-projection through carrier battle-groups and amphibious forces, as well as on special operations and remote warfare using armed-drones. </p><p>A significant example in current circumstances is what is happening in the Gulf. The carrier battle-group (that is, an aircraft-carrier supported by a flotilla) headed by the <em>USS John C Stennis</em> has now <a href="http://www.c7f.navy.mil/news/2012/01-January/019.htm">departed</a> to Singapore and thence back to the United States, to be replaced by the Carl Vinson carrier-battle group. In addition, though, yet another such group headed by the <em>USS Abraham Lincoln</em> has joined the fifth fleet in the region. While <a href="http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=64854">described</a> as a "routine" deployment, this means that the Pentagon plans to keep two carrier battle-groups in the region for at least until April 2012.</p><p>This also makes it likely that the US navy will deploy one of the groups <a href="http://www.analysis.williamdoneil.com/Hormuz.jpg">through</a> the Strait of Hormuz to the <a href="http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/">fifth-fleet's</a> headquarters in Bahrain in the coming days, quite probably coinciding with planned exercises by the naval units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps</p> <p>These manouevres are deeply <a href="Iran%20considers%20U.S.%20warships%20presence%20in%20Gulf%20as%20%22routine%20activity%22%201/21/2012%204:39:00%20PM%20%09%7C%20%09Gulf%20News%20%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%BA%D9%8A%D8%B1%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%83%D9%84%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%83%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B1%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%B7%20TEHRAN,%20Jan%2021%20%28KUNA%29%20--%20Iran%27s%20Revolutionary%20Guard%20Corps%20said%20it%20considered%20the%20likely%20return%20of%20U.S.%20warships%20to%20the%20Gulf%20part%20of%20routine%20activity,%20the%20official%20IRNA%20news%20agency%20reported%20on%20Saturday.%20It%20cited%20Revolutionary%20Guard%20Deputy%20Commander%20Hossein%20Salami%20as%20saying%20that%20%22U.S.%20warships%20and%20military%20forces%20have%20been%20in%20the%20Gulf%20and%20the%20Middle%20East%20region%20for%20many%20years%20and%20their%20decision%20in%20relation%20to%20the%20dispatch%20of%20a%20new%20warship%20is%20not%20a%20new%20issue%20and%20it%20should%20be%20interpreted%20as%20part%20of%20their%20permanent%20presence.%22%20Revolutionary%20Guard%20new%20naval%20exercises%20in%20the%20Strait%20of%20Hormuz%20and%20the%20Gulf%20would%20go%20ahead%20as%20planned%20which%20would%20take%20place%20from%20January%2021%20to%20February%2019,%20Salami%20noted.%20On%20Thursday,%20Washington%20announced%20the%20deployment%20of%20a%20marine%20unit%20and%20amphibious%20transport%20dock%20ships%20to%20the%20Gulf.%20%28end%29%20ms.nfm%20KUNA%20211639%20Jan%2012NNNN%20">connected</a> to the second element - Iran and its status. The biggest single setback for the US security posture in the region is the failure of the Iraq and Afghanistan ventures to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-and-america-components-of-crisis">bring</a> Tehran under control. The road to Tehran may well have run through Baghdad, but somewhere along the way it got lost.</p> <p>Iran is beset by internal economic and political problems, which are reinforced by sanctions; but a decade of war in its environment has left it with far greater <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1900.jsp">influence</a> in Iraq and quite a lot more in Afghanistan than at the start. Tehran's presumed <a href="http://isisnucleariran.org/">nuclear</a> ambitions make it a more acute threat in the eyes of Israel and US hawks. And Iran is at the centre of the Gulf region, which retains its place as the world's most important source of oil and natural gas.</p> <p><strong>The Iraq template </strong></p> <p>Much in the middle east has changed even since 2003, including the Arab awakening with its huge <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">promises</a> and now uncertainties (especially <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syria</a>, a close <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/us_uncovers_iran_effort_to_help_syria_evade_oil_sanctions_assad_ahmadinejad/24457330.html">ally</a> of Iran). But two fundamental realities are as much in evidence as before the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime: the Israel-Palestine crisis, and an Israel-United States-Iran <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-dangerous-moment">nexus</a> wherein Tehran is perceived unequivocally as an enemy.</p> <p>The column of April 2003 <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1127.jsp">concluded</a> that "if...a saner approach to international security develops, the beginnings of a peaceful order could be shaped". A sequel published in August 2008 concluded that "unless there is a decisive shift towards a different security paradigm" the conflict "may indeed be measured in decades not years" (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/global_security/the-thirty-year-war-revisited">The thirty-year war, revisited</a>", 4 August 2008).</p> <p>Several years further on, the new American century is in suspension and the neocons are in transition, while direct conflict around the Gulf has for the moment diminished. But in this different context the larger assessment regrettably stands: without resolving the core issues of Israel-Palestine and Israel-United States-Iran - and in the absence of that saner approach to international security - the frame of a "thirty-year war" looks all too realistic.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/" target="_blank"><span><span>Department of peace studies</span></span></a>, Bradford University</p> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p> <p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </span></span></a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p><p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/" target="_blank"><em><span><span>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p>Charles Tripp, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item1164337/A%20History%20of%20Iraq/?site_locale=en_US"><em>A History of Iraq</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 3rd edition, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://www.sustainablesecurity.org/">Sustainable Security</a></p><p><a href="http://www.iraqbodycount.org/">Iraq Body Count</a></p><p><em><a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/">Long War Journal</a></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Rogers is professor in the <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <strong>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <a href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a>. His books include <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict/article_1127.jsp">A thirty-year war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/global_security/the-thirty-year-war-revisited">The thirty-year war, revisited </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-shifting-risk">America, Israel, Iran: a shifting risk </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-panoptic-shiver">America: the panoptic shiver</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/a_tale_of_two_futures">A tale of two futures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/a-tale-of-two-paradigms-security-vs-development">A tale of two paradigms</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/a_tale_of_two_towns">A tale of two towns</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-dangerous-moment">America, Israel, Iran: a dangerous moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/al-qaida-open-endgame">Al-Qaida: an open endgame</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/world-in-crisis-echo-need-hope">A world in crisis: echo, need, hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-wars-logic-of-escalation">America’s wars: the logic of escalation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-lost-wars-choice-in-2012">America’s lost wars: the choice in 2012</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/911-and-lost-decade">9/11, and the lost decade</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america%E2%80%99s-military-failures-of-success">America’s military: failures of success</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-war-in-focus">America, Israel, Iran: war in focus </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Iraq Israel Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security american power & the world democracy & power Paul Rogers Fri, 20 Jan 2012 06:57:29 +0000 Paul Rogers 63750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sanctioning Iranian oil https://www.opendemocracy.net/reyhaneh-noshiravani/sanctioning-iranian-oil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> With increasing geopolitical instability in oil producing states and the barriers that stand in the way of reaching a multilateral policy, the threat of sanctions in Iran only serves to intensify uncertainty surrounding oil price forecasts for 2012 </div> </div> </div> <p>On 4 January 2012, in a striking expression of unanimity <a href="http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2103817,00.html">members of the European Union agreed</a> “in principle” to ban the purchase of Iranian oil, with the aim of undermining Tehran’s nuclear programme.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a European official "significant issues remain and no agreement is expected before the end of January."&nbsp;However, the precarious situation in the oil market, geopolitical instability in oil producing countries, limited prospects for international cooperation, and the EU’s own economic woes cast a shadow on the <a href="http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-news/global-exchange/international-roundup/eu-thinks-twice-about-iran-oil-ban/article2260239/?service=mobile">potential feasibility</a> and efficacy of such sanctions.</p> <p>Iran, which has the world’s second largest petroleum reserves, exports 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), directing 450 thousand bpd of this supply to European member states, making the bloc collectively the second largest market for Iranian oil after China. If sanctions are imposed this volume must be sourced elsewhere, which would tighten supply and increase the price of oil.</p> <p>Currently, geopolitical instability among oil producing states is applying pressure on the price of oil as markets attempt to assess the likelihood of supply disruptions in 2012.&nbsp;Last year, the Libyan revolution and civil war that toppled the regime of Colonel Qaddafi halted the country’s 1.3 million bpd exports. While production has been gradually increasing, it has yet to reach the pre-war rates.</p> <p>This situation is only likely to be exacerbated as in some oil producing country the problems are just starting.&nbsp;In Iraq, resurfacing of violence following the departure of the last American convoy in December has threatened the stability of Baghdad’s national unity government and has flared sectarian tensions, placing the country on the verge of yet another civil war in less than a decade.&nbsp;Despite having the world’s fourth largest proven petroleum reserves, Iraq’s oil sector is constrained by the lack of investment resulting from years of sanctions and wars.&nbsp;Such developments could further undermine Iraq’s production targets by years.</p> <p><a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20120109-707725.html">In Nigeria,</a> Africa’s primary oil producer, there has been a dramatic escalation of inter-sectarian violence bringing raising concerns about the possible emergence of a civil war. Moreover,&nbsp;a recent decision by the Nigerian government to remove gasoline subsidies has triggered protests and calls for strikes by trade unions. According to an oil analyst at Petromatix, “Nigeria, has a history of long strikes and that can have an impact on overall crude exports."</p> <p>Only Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is understood to have significant spare capacity, currently estimated at 2.5 million bpd.&nbsp;The Kingdom has announced that it is prepared to supply gaps should sanctions be imposed on Iran. However, pumping anywhere near the declared production capacity will be difficult to sustain and might involve extracting heavy crudes the market might not want. It would also be difficult to sustain higher rates for lengthy periods.&nbsp;Moreover, this could deplete Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity, which would ultimately fail to stabilize prices. Similar circumstances in 2008 increased the price of oil to almost $150 per barrel.</p> <p>A further cause for concern is Saudi Arabia’s own domestic oil consumption, which according to a recent <a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/180825">report by Chatham House</a> is posing a serious threat to the Kingdom’s position as the world’s largest oil exporter.&nbsp;A reduction in oil prices is also unlikely to benefit the Kingdom’s domestic standing. As Mai Yemeni states “No kingdom is an island, particularly when it sits in a sea of revolution.”&nbsp;Saudi Arabia has not been immune to the democratic forces sweeping across the Arab world. Last years, pro-democratic protests were stifled through a massive show of force combined with a $35 billion financial aid package, which increased government salaries, subsidies and housing allowances, and payoffs to the religious establishment. The backbone of the increase in government spending has been high oil prices. Moreover, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/27/king-saudi-arabia-protesters">widespread public grievances remain</a>, particularly among the Kingdom’s Shia population concentrated within the oil-rich eastern provinces.&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>The efficacy of an embargo on Iranian oil is also dependent on the cooperation of Asian countries, which in itself would increase competition for Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity. Asian countries are currently Iran's principle costumers, and Tehran can offset the effect of European sanctions by boosting sales to&nbsp;Asian markets which have&nbsp;continuously demonstrated their preparation to absorb any incremental cheap supplies.</p> <p>China, whose fast-growing economy is the world’s largest energy consumer obtained approximately 11 percent of its oil imports from Iran in 2011.&nbsp;Such huge imports would be next to impossible to obtain from other sources, and Beijing has already expressed its opposition to sanctions against Iran. On 4 January China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stated, “China has consistently believed that sanctions are not the correct way to ease tensions or resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear programme… The correct path is dialogue and negotiations. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/china-rejects-linking-trade-iran-nuke-program-ahead-of-geithner-visit-to-lobby-for-sanctions/2012/01/09/gIQATnC0kP_story.html">China opposes</a> putting domestic law above international law to impose unilateral sanctions on another country."&nbsp;China’s deputy foreign minister Cui Tiankai has repeated these sentiments. “The normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issues” <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL3E8C40DT20120104">Cui told reporters,</a> “We should not mix issues with different natures, and China's legitimate concerns and demands should be respected."&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>For Japan, Iranian oil accounted for more than 9 percent of its energy needs in 2011.&nbsp;The Asian nation is now even more heavily dependent on oil and natural gas imports after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami forced the shutdown of its nuclear reactors. South Korea,&nbsp;which purchased 9.6 percent of its oil imports from Iran last year, is already seeking to be exempted from Iran oil sanctions.</p> <p>European governments must also assess the implications of these sanctions for their own struggling economies. Several countries within the EU are heavily reliant on oil imports from Iran, and none more so than economically struggling Greece, which currently imports 30 percent of its domestic oil from the Islamic Republic. According to the rating agency Fitch, "The likely increase in oil prices that would result from a ban would be felt by all (European) oil refiners, not just those that are big customers for Iranian oil."</p> <p>The imposition of sanctions against Iran's oil industry could possibly backfire by further radicalizing Tehran.&nbsp;An embargo against Iranian oil will likely be viewed as a hostile act and a direct threat to Iran’s national security. Iran earns almost $70 billion a year from oil sales, which is approximately 80 percent of its annual foreign revenue.&nbsp;Tehran has already threatened to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions were imposed on its crude exports.&nbsp;Flows through this narrow strip of water that separates Oman and Iran are estimated at approximately 17 million bpd, or just under a fifth of global supplies. While the closure of the Strait would be a crippling blow to Iran's own fragile economy, such threats cannot be taken lightly. As <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/irans-growing-state-of-desperation/2012/01/04/gIQA6usPbP_story.html">Fareed Zakaria</a> notes “weak countries whose regimes face pressure can sometimes cause more problems than strong nations.”</p> <p>While debates continue on whether Iran has the will&nbsp;and capability to undertake such a risky endeavour, the uncertain atmosphere caused by these developments have increased market speculation, helping maintain oil prices above $100 a barrel despite sluggish global growth.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Nigeria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openEconomy openSecurity Saudi Arabia United States EU China Nigeria Iran International politics the middle east global security global politics american power & the world middle east Geopolitics Reyhaneh Noshiravani Thu, 19 Jan 2012 12:40:57 +0000 Reyhaneh Noshiravani 63705 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Thinking about war with Iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-doliner/thinking-about-war-with-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The real Iranian threat is not its nuclear capacity but its independence. If Iran continues to stand as a model of defiance for increasingly poverty-stricken and restless populations of family fiefdoms in the Gulf, the current US-backed setups will either fall or be forced to democratise. These potentially catastrophic losses of empire go a long way to explaining the rising beat of war drums in the region. </div> </div> </div> <p>The United States and Israel are threatening to go to war with Iran. This threat has nothing to do with Iran's nuclear policy which is for peaceful purposes. The IAEA has found no violations of the NPT in Iran's nuclear programme. Anyone who doubts this should first read&nbsp;<a href="http://antiwar.com/archives.php?author=Gordon%20Prather">Gordon Prather's</a>&nbsp;articles. The United States has been hostile to Iran since the revolution in 1979 which overthrew the compliant Shah, but the US has never actually fomented war, as they seem to be doing now. So what gives?&nbsp;</p> <p>President George Bush, when he lumped Iran into the 'Axis of Evil', contemplated winning easily in Iraq and moving on to Iran. Of course that didn't work out. The United States lost in Iraq and now has minuscule, if any, influence there. Our man in Iraq,&nbsp;<a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/iyad_allawi/index.html">Ayad Alawi</a>, actually won the last election but without a majority. Iraq formed a government without him and shut him out. He has no cabinet positions. The huge American 'embassy' in Iraq, though filled with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=embassy%20iraq%20mercenaries%20foreign%20relations%20committee&amp;source=web&amp;cd=5&amp;sqi=2&amp;ved=0CD4QFjAE&amp;url=http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32419.pdf&amp;ei=xQkLT8zXDKjk0QH-nvjSCw&amp;usg=AFQjCNGpRdFOKU1DoZUO-6zx6LA9YuP6kQ&amp;sig2=nSBgV1N8EacUCtaMF_I9Ag">mercenaries</a>&nbsp;protecting the embassy,&nbsp;will also not influence political events, for mercenaries cannot launch military actions. Iraq will go about its own business.</p> <p>The United States had hoped for a permanent military presence in Iraq to replace the bases lost in Saudi Arabia whose government and people objected to these bases so close to their holy sites. Toleration of this impiety had outraged Osama Bin Laden and other Saudis and threatened to disrupt the regime. The US had planned to move their military presence to Iraq. Now that the United States has lost in Iraq it is without this military presence. Although the fifth fleet is stationed on Bahrain, it is less of a threat than it seems. Warships are obsolete and useless for modern warfare. Unstoppable&nbsp;<a href="http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/06/how-dangerous-are-irans-missiles/">missiles</a>&nbsp;make aircraft carriers into big targets. The fleet is more like a chip on a shoulder that, if knocked off, will result in war. But if an aircraft carrier actually launched its planes in a military operation against a country as sophisticated as Iran, it would be sunk.</p> <p>Before the Iranian Revolution, the United States had control of the Persian Gulf. The compliant Shah ruled Iran, docile royal families ruled in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf kingdoms. A compliant Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, launching the Iran/Iraq war after the revolution with US support and encouragement in the hope of toppling the Iranian regime. This control allowed American and British oil companies to exploit Middle East oil. With oil sold in dollars, 'dollar hegemony' forced the whole world to keep large dollar reserves, in effect loaning the US money it never had to pay back. The good times rolled. The United States could print money that the Middle East oil producing counties would redeem in precious oil.</p> <p>With the Revolution, Iran removed itself from this system, though it still sold oil in dollars. But the US has managed to keep the rest of the Gulf states in line — until now. Until now the United States maintained close military ties with the Gulf States. In 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council, a joint military force, was created by an agreement among&nbsp;Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The United States supplied the weapons and training, guaranteeing deep ties with the officer corps. In addition the United States had lucrative arms sales deals on the side with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;q=arms+sales+Saudi+arabia">Saudi Arabia</a>&nbsp;and the other Gulf States. These weapons were primarily for repression of their own populations, for, with Iraq balancing Iran, no war threatened. Since these regimes were family fiefdoms they survived primarily by force. So the dollars the Gulf States collected for their oil went to buy American arms and spy prowess. This trade kept the American arms industry healthy, the Gulf royal families in power, American control of oil secure, and dollar hegemony firmly in place.</p> <p>Perhaps only implicitly, the United States held the threat of regime change over these family fiefdoms. The US had overthrown Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 because he nationalized Iranian oil. It could do the same elsewhere. Mossadegh had been wildly popular. It would be far easier to overthrow these unpopular family fiefdoms, or, more likely, replace one member of the royal family with a more compliant member from another line. American control was both a threat to the regime and support for its repression of the population.</p> <p>But after the loss in Iraq both the American threat and support for Gulf state repression became far less plausible. The Iraq war was so barbaric and so bungled that almost anyone connected to the US was anathema to most Arabs. American hostility to Islam guaranteed that American involvement with a candidate damned him. Alawi's fate foretold that of many other American-sponsored candidates. Recently, the Shi'ite government put out a warrant for the arrest of Tariq al-Hashemi, the vice president and Alawi's only ally in the government. He had to flee. Any new man the US might install in power in any of the Gulf states would immediately be tainted with his US connection. His fate would be even harsher than Alawi's. Regime change was out. The US could, at best, maintain the regimes already in place.</p> <p>However, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states had changed in the meantime. Whereas the ordinary Saudi citizen had lived quite well in the late nineteen seventies, the Saudi population has exploded and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.emirates247.com/business/saudi-government-criticised-over-low-wages-2011-12-13-1.432450">income</a>&nbsp;of the Saudi man in the street had plunged. The discontent that erupted during the 'Arab spring' in the Gulf states,&nbsp;where ever poorer populations saw the US extract their countries' wealth,&nbsp;is the direct result of repression becoming less tenable. With the US threat of regime change less plausible, the hold the US had on the Gulf State regimes has relaxed.</p> <p>Their governments repressed the 'Arab spring' uprisings brutally. A large portion of the population is Shi'ite, and the Shi'ite population is in the oil producing regions. Without the American threat, and with Iraq now in Shi'ite control, these populations will now have a rear area in Iraq to train and, more importantly, organize. Whereas until now the Gulf regimes could pretty much repress any opposition political organization through infiltrating spies and brutal police crackdowns, that will no longer be possible. These organizations will form in exile.</p> <p>These regimes must fear not only their Shi'ite populations, but their own ever poorer Sunni populations as well. They too are not happy with their lives under the family fiefdoms. If the kings have any brains they must be thinking of public works and other ways of improving the lot of their people. For it is clear that in the present situation repression will not work much longer. When repression fails, you have to share the wealth. And this seems to be what they&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/24/world/fg-saudi-stimulus24">plan</a>&nbsp;to do.</p> <p>Meanwhile, these family fiefdoms have no real reason to continue their obedience to the United States. The money the US wants them to spend on weapons could be better used for public works. But the United States has proved itself incapable of building. The United States rebuilt Iraq into a charnel house and a shambles. China knows how to build, but will not want dollars. China, for various reasons, is trying to slowly reduce its hoard of dollars. So the Gulf regimes must now reconsider its sale of oil for dollars. Were they to stop selling in dollars, dollar hegemony would end and all those dollars out there would seek something to buy in the US. Hyperinflation would cause United States economic meltdown that would make the current depression a walk in the park.</p> <p>So American weakness in the Persian Gulf threatens loss of arms sales, loss of control of oil, the end of dollar hegemony, and a US economic crash. Shi'ite Iran and Iraq threaten the other Gulf states, not militarily, but simply because they offer support to their Shi'ite citizens. Although the Gulf kingdoms are now terrified of Iranian power, Iran has no reason to attack them unless the US and Israel attack it. This terror is, in all likelihood a cover for real fear of their own populations. Democracy is what the family fiefdoms have to fear. The real threat of an independent Iran is its independence, which will foster Shi'ite political organization in the other Gulf states. The family despotisms will find it much harder to survive under these circumstances, for, pressured by both these Shi'ites and the poor Sunni population, they will almost have to liberalize, and eventually democratize.</p> <p>So, paradoxically, the United States is threatened by Iranian freedom. If Iran continues to exist, the Gulf kingdoms will either fall or democratize. In either case they will abandon their role in the American setup and the royal families will lose power. These potentially catastrophic losses of empire inflame the desire for war.</p> <p>The Bush plan, to win first in Iraq and then move on to Iran, leaving favourable regime change in both and so restoring the pre-1979 situation is now clearly not possible. The US cannot possibly contemplate an Iraq-like war in Iran: the defeat in Iraq would surely be duplicated in the far more formidable Iran.</p> <p>Nor will a drone war work here. This delusional strategy counts upon fomenting internal chaos that the US can exploit, but only weakens the US. What is happening in Pakistan illustrates the drone war's counterproductive dynamic. The US, in alliance with the Pakistani military and spy agencies had controlled the country, but American high-handed incursions into the country have ended US influence in Pakistan. The US had controlled Pakistan with a carrot held out primarily to these agencies, but Pakistan can now turn to China for help and even the Pakistani military is drawing away from the US. Again, the population so detests American activities that any connection a politician might have with the US taints him. US influence in Pakistan is all but gone, in large part because of the drone wars. Pakistan has refused to allow the US to resupply its army in Afghanistan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>But it is not only the ineffectiveness of drone wars in fomenting regime collapse the US can exploit that&nbsp;precludes their use in Iran. Iran has threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz and anyone who says they&nbsp;can't do it is stupid. A look at the map will reveal a strait with a navigable passage sometimes narrower&nbsp;than five miles across. Within this waterway huge slow moving oil tankers would be vulnerable&nbsp;to small speedboats with crews armed only with shoulder carried rocket propelled grenades. If not&nbsp;grenades, mines, if not mines, missiles, and if not missiles Iran can sink some of its own ships in the&nbsp;strait. There is no way to keep them from closing it. Twenty percent of the world's oil would stop&nbsp;flowing and the world economy would plunge into unrecoverable depression, for social chaos would&nbsp;engulf much of the developed world. In the process the US fifth fleet would be bottled up like sitting&nbsp;ducks. The huge American embassy in Iraq would be cut off from supplies and would probably fall.</p><p>For this reason the Gulf states are busy building pipelines to allow oil shipments to skirt the Straits of&nbsp;Hormuz. But Iran's most potent weapon is their ability to shut off oil exports from the Gulf. In a war&nbsp;they will not give it up easily, for it will be their best strategy. With Iraq no longer a buffer between&nbsp;the Gulf States and Iran, and without a serious American military presence in the Gulf, Iranian military&nbsp;forces would overrun Kuwait and Saudi Arabia even more quickly than Iraq overran Kuwait in 1991.</p><p>The puny Gulf state militaries could not stop them and the US, blocked by the closed strait, could not&nbsp;bring its forces, such as they now are, to bear. And even if Iran could not overrun Saudi Arabia and&nbsp;Kuwait, food vital to these countries cannot travel by pipeline. It must come through the strait. The&nbsp;food is as essential as the oil, if not more so. The only way to stop an utter debacle would be to use&nbsp;atomic weapons, which would likely inaugurate World War III. Any honest person trying to evaluate&nbsp;the trajectory of such a war would have to assume that this would happen. It is both the worst case&nbsp;scenario and the most likely one.</p><p>So any US war with Iran will be a nuclear war, ending the nuclear weapons taboo and plunging the&nbsp;world into depression. The worldwide chaos will make controlling this war impossible. World nuclear&nbsp;war is almost certain to follow. Such a war is suicidal madness, yet they contemplate and plan it.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity United States Iran Conflict International politics the middle east iraq - the war & after iran: how to avoid war? conflicts; the middles east; middle east american power & the world 9/11: islamic worlds 9/11 : the 'war on terror' middle east Geopolitics Michael Doliner Security in North America Security in South and Central Asia Thu, 19 Jan 2012 11:33:59 +0000 Michael Doliner 63701 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Pakistan: next in line? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shazad-ali/pakistan-next-in-line <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> After Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has now turned its belligerent attention towards Pakistan. But opening up a new battlefront, this time in Pakistan, in the run-up to the presidential elections, will prove another quagmire for the Obama administration. </div> </div> </div> <p>The November 26&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2011/11/2011112775817634246.html">attack</a> by NATO on two Pakistani border posts at Salala in Mohmand Agency that killed 24 Pakistan Army soldiers, will have negative repercussions for the United States. This incident, and many like it before, indicate that the US wants to make Pakistan another Afghanistan. Such a plan will be counterproductive in tackling terrorism as the US military intervention in Afghanistan has already boomeranged.</p> <p>While Pakistan has claimed that NATO forces, which were believed to be US commandos and attack helicopters, was <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2011/11/201111304332430804.html">unprovoked</a>, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has ordered an inquiry into the bloody incident. The bloodshed has naturally provoked Pakistani military’s ire for the US as NATO has been fighting America’s ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the US President Barack Obama has <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2011/12/2011124173311507890.html">admitted</a> that it was not a deliberate strike. Perhaps the US will announce this is ‘collateral damage.’</p> <p>Even if one accepts it was not a calculated strike, how is it that the most technologically advanced forces of the world’s sole superpower could not differentiate between friends and foes during a skirmish? How come the US intelligence, armed with the most modern gadgetry, has failed to detect the presence of Pakistani forces in the area.</p> <p>Whatever it was, a planned attack or so-called collateral damage, the ramifications of this latest incident might be more serious for the US than the previous attacks given the tough stance by Pakistan. The <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A59443-2001Oct14?language">anti-America sentiment</a> is growing rapidly in Pakistan. To rub salt in the wounds, Obama’s advisers have suggested that he should not offer an apology on the incident as this could weaken his re-election bid.</p> <p>History and statistics indicate that the Mohmand incident might have been an unprovoked attack. Although the death toll of Pakistani troops by the US forces in the recent attack is unprecedented, the incident was not unique. American <a href="http://www.asia-pacific-action.org/node/173">commandos</a>, who came aboard three helicopters, brutally killed 20 civilians, most of them women and children, on September 3, 2008, in a Pakistani village near Afghan border. The US administration apologised to Pakistan.&nbsp;According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, at least 392 civilians, including 175 children, have so far been killed in <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/">drone attacks</a> in Pakistan by the CIA since 2004. While the legality of such drone attacks is questionable, the number of innocent civilian deaths is enough to increase hatred of America in Pakistan.</p> <p>Pakistan indeed receives huge amounts in aid from the US, the withdrawal of which could create problems for Islamabad. But the ramifications of opening up a front in Pakistan could be a great diplomatic faux pas for the US.</p> <p>The US invaded Afghanistan 10 years ago to get rid of the Taliban regime and to ‘democratise’ the landlocked country. The Americans toppled the Taliban, but Afghanistan is still a political quagmire for the US administration.</p> <p>The costs of war project at Brown University says that Afghanistan is considered an <a href="http://costsofwar.org/article/did-wars-bring-democracy-afghanistan-and-iraq">authoritarian regime</a> on the Democracy Index, and is at 1.4 on the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/oct/26/corruption-index-2010-transparency-international">Transparency International corruption scale</a> which is the worst in South Asia. Military aggression by the US in Afghanistan has neither brought peace nor eliminated terrorism. Instead, things have gone from bad to worse.</p> <p>After the recent NATO attack Pakistan has stopped supplies for the security forces in Afghanistan, while the US has complied to Pakistan’s demand of vacating Shamsi air base which has been used by the US to operate/service drones involved in killing the Taliban and Al Qaeda. America has reserves enough for a few weeks but there is always a problem for Washington that supplies from Pakistan could be cut off.</p> <p>On the other hand, Pakistan’s <a href="http://english.cntv.cn/program/newsupdate/20111205/122545.shtml">absence</a> from the Bonn conference in protest against the NATO attack has left the stakeholders scratching their heads. The conference, as expected, ended with nothing but pledges by the west to support Afghanistan in economic and social development, while the real agenda of the meeting – peace and security – could not be fully discussed, owing to Pakistan’s boycott. The message was loud and clear: neither the US nor Afghanistan can think of bringing peace and stability to the region without Pakistan.</p> <p>The US has indicated that it will stay in Afghanistan even after pulling out of the landlocked country in 2014. It seems to be an eyewash and a plan to keep intact US domination over the region which is rich in natural resources. US hegemony and such acts of belligerence will only add fuel to fire and increase radicalisation and consequently terrorism. Not only this, Washington wants to leave Afghanistan by handing over charge to the pro-India Northern Alliance as its proxy. This strategy is also unlikely to bring peace to the region.</p> <p>The Pashtuns in Afghanistan make up a big part of the Afghan population. They were, however, left out and alienated after the Taliban were toppled in 2001. It is necessary to take them on board. The costs of war project <a href="http://costsofwar.org/sites/default/files/articles/47/attachments/Evangelista%20Coping%20with%209-11.pdf">statistics</a> show that peaceful political measures used in 268 cases against terror groups from 1968 to 2006 proved the most effective, with a 43 percent success rate, followed by intelligence and policing methods at 40 percent. There was only seven percent success when military action was used against terror groups.</p> <p>Obama needs a battlefront for his election campaign and Pakistan is a perfect place to wage another ‘war’ to keep his vote bank intact and increase his rating. First it was the Raymond Davis affair, then the Abbottabad raid and now mounting pressure and unrelenting harangues on Pakistan with the ‘do more’ mantra.</p> <p>If the US now opens a new battlefront, this time in Pakistan, the results will be disastrous for both America and the entire region. If the US has failed to achieve results in Afghanistan in 10 years, it cannot seriously expect to win its ‘war on terror’ through blitzkrieg in Pakistan. It is time for a more holistic approach and a more prudent diplomacy and dialogue: in short - &nbsp;a change in US interventionist foreign policies.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Pakistan iraq - the war & after american power & the world 9/11: us upside down 9/11 : the 'war on terror' north america asia & pacific Shazad Ali Security in North America Security in South and Central Asia Mon, 19 Dec 2011 11:39:46 +0000 Shazad Ali 63205 at https://www.opendemocracy.net American leadership, and a system failure https://www.opendemocracy.net/godfrey-hodgson/american-leadership-and-system-failure <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The combination of a faded president, discredited rivals, and a dysfunctional political system spells trouble for the United States - at home and in the world, says Godfrey Hodgson. </div> </div> </div> <P>For anti-Americans and others addicted to <EM>Schadenfreude</em>, it could hardly get better. The delicious clip of Republican candidate Rick Perry, unable to remember the name of one of the three departments of the federal government he had pledged to abolish, was a moment to treasure.</p> <P>But seen in a larger context, the comic relief soon fades. For the American political system seems to be unravelling in the most extraordinary way. A president whom many regard as a failure, and who is a disappointment even to his most fervent admirers, looks likely to squeeze through the 2012 presidential election, now less than a year away, only because of the antics of the extraordinary menagerie of candidates the once Grand Old Party can put into the field against him.</p> <P>In the meantime, neither the president nor the Congress seems able even to begin to address the United State’s grave problems - public and private debt, high unemployment, economic stagnation and policy paralysis. The fact that the next election is of vital importance to America and the world makes this a chilling reality.</p> <P><STRONG>The Republican circus</strong></p> <P>Rick Perry’s amnesia in a televised debate is far from the only worrying aspect of his personality and campaign. He was the governor of Texas: yet even on questions about Texas's constitution and its economy’s alleged immunity to national problems, he has proved evasive or uninformed.</p> <P>Herman Cain is an even more implausible candidate, whose only qualification, it seems, is having accumulated a fortune selling pizza: the suspicion has been voiced that he is only running to push up his appearance fees. His own broadcast moment of embarrassment (over the administration’s Libya policy) was as excruciating as Perry’s, and he too has shown comprehensive ignorance of public life at home and abroad. The accusations of several women job applicants that he propositioned them further expose his flaws. </p> <P>These two are only the most obviously absurd contestants. Mitt Romney, superficially the most acceptable candidate by conventional standards, seems dull, little more than a profile over a well-tailored suit of clothes. His qualifications for entering the race are that his father was a (not very impressive candidate) forty years ago, and that he amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in his private-equity business, Bain Capital. Two biographical details that might commend him to an unbiased observer - his loyalty to his Mormon faith and his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, where he passed a healthcare-reform measure - are seen by many Republicans and much of the media as negatives.</p> <P>Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives and in the mid-1990s an influential and innovative conservative politician, has by default re-emerged as a plausible option among many Republicans, commentators and others. He a man of real political stature, but is vulnerable to media scrutiny of many details of his personal and financial life.</p> <P>Someone will emerge a winner from amid the scrum of televised debates, costly advertising wars, and local votes. But so far the pre-election circus has had little to say about two fundamental questions:</p> <P>* Why is the American political system now apparently so dysfunctional?</p> <P>* What will be the implications, for the United States and the world?</p> <P><STRONG>The dysfunctional system</strong></p> <P>Many answer the first question by identifying specific constitutional problems, such as the high barrier needed for invoking cloture in the Senate. But these are often a symptom rather than an originating cause. Here, two processes seem of especial importance.</p> <P>The first is the breakdown of party, especially at the level of presidential electoral politics. While party allegiance has considerable importance in Congress and at the state level, presidential campaigns are essentially raids by charismatic leaders who campaign with little or no loyalty to party or party programme (that is, charismatic in the classic sense in which Max Weber defined the term: leaders who attract a horde of followers with the promise of gain, here on earth or in the hereafter).</p> <P>Since the campaign of John F Kennedy in 1960, few successful presidential candidates have owed much to party ideology and less to party organisation. Their success, when it comes, is owed to personal magnetism, promoted by media manipulation, and sustained by massive fundraising. That is why candidates wealthy enough to pay for a significant share of escalating costs (Kennedy, Rockefeller, Bloomberg, Corzine, Romney and many others) have such an advantage in pursuing the race).</p> <P>Moreover, as the two parties have become more defined and indeed polarised in ideological terms, presidential candidates emerge not from debate within a party organisation but rather impose themselves in a sort of ideological auction. The process is exacerbated in this electoral cycle by the influence of the Tea Party (itself supported by a small number of very wealthy men, from the Koch brothers to Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News)</p> <P>The second process is that the influence of money in the system is increasingly excessive and distorting. The single reform that would do most to clean up American politics and to make the procedures of election more democratic would be a ban on political advertising. More than half the money spent on electioneering, which threatens to break all records in 2012, goes on advertising - and this overwhelmingly still means television advertising, which remains the essence of American campaigning.</p> <P>The cost of buying space is exorbitant; the cost of hiring and paying experts to research, write, design, promote and buy political advertising is beyond all but the deepest purses. As a result, political consultants, often guns for hire with little coherent political philosophy, have excessive influence.</p> <P>A reform of this kind, however, is unthinkable. The Supreme Court, since its decision in <EM>Buckley v Valeo</em> in 1976 that political advertising is a form of speech and is therefore protected by the first-amendment guarantee of free speech, has steadily amplified the import of its commitment to this absurd proposition. The present court, dominated by conservative ideologues, has carried the protection of political advertising to new lengths. In January 2010, in <EM>Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission</em>, the court removed all limitations on political expenditure by (among other bodies) business corporations.</p> <P>This will give the Republican Party, traditionally the representative of corporate business and private wealth, an even greater advantage; and within the Democratic Party it will increase the importance of a number of sources of campaign funding, among them Wall Street and Hollywood. It may well, as a result, make it even more difficult or Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama, to be more even-handed in their approach to the (now more vital than ever) politics of the middle east and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.<BR /><BR />The current media dynamics, especially the migration of readers and advertising to the internet, make it likely that there will be even more attention to the personal issues and scandals surrounding the candidates, and less to policy matters (particularly the economy and foreign affairs). In this respect, the hopes of many that social media would democratise political campaigns have so far proved over-optimistic.</p> <P><STRONG>The international implications </strong></p> <P>The second question is already being answered in the multiple signs of a diminishment of Washington’s authority in world politics, all of them overshadowed by the political consequences of the US government’s failure to deal with its debts, trade and structural deficits, and the economic slowdown. </p> <P>President Obama and his treasury secretary Timothy Geithner have continued to berate European governments for their failure to solve economic problems that Washington itself has scarcely begun to address. For this and other reasons, it is probable that relations between the United States and Europe will deteriorate, perhaps quite sharply and quite soon. This will make the resolution of the economic and financial crisis much harder to achieve. The historic achievements of the alliance forged between the US and European (and other) democracies are near forgotten in contemporary Washington.</p> <P>The inability of the American political system to resolve its problems has weakened the country’s capacity to sustain a central or decisive part in world affairs. Barack Obama’s reluctance to take the lead over Libya is a much-noticed example, though equally revealing is the influence of domestic politics on his awkward Afghan strategy (a mixture of military “surge” and preparation for withdrawal). The crisis in relations with Pakistan, and the loss of position in the Arab world - where Washington is sleepwalking towards a crisis where it will be found to be allied with Israel and Saudi Arabia against the spread of democracy - emphasise the dangers it faces.</p> <P>The major commitments of American policy - to “containment” in the cold war, to the "western alliance", to other international obligations - were once clear to its allies and adversaries alike. Some American leaders (such as Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner) continue to behave as if the United States were still a hegemonic power, unchallenged in its financial reach and ideological beliefs as well as militarily paramount. But many of their interlocutors, from China to Latin America and Russia to Israel, are ever bolder in their rejection of the implied claim. </p> <P>As a result there is a serious and growing disparity between the assumptions of media and politicians in the United States and the realities of the world which its political elites still aspire to dominate. The latter are losing not just the power do so, but perhaps even the will to understand the world.</p> <P>This ought to be a source of fear rather than of satisfaction abroad. The world’s mounting problems will be hard enough to solve even if the United States is trying to help and capable of doing so - but will be all but insoluble if it is not. But how can the US get into a position where it again can help? Only by a candid acknowledgment that the American political system is very far from being an inspiration to the world or governed by ideals that others now seek to emulate (as the neo-conservatives, with their ill-fated adventures of persuasion or force, believed) - and that this system itself is in serious need of reform.</p> <P>It is near impossible to imagine any of the eight Republican candidates on show - obsessed as they are with self-pleasing fantasies about the American past - undertaking this work. For his part, Barack Obama was once invested with - and did much to cultivate - huge hopes that he could do so. There has been little reason to believe that in office he understands how vital and unavoidable it is.</p> <P>John F Kennedy’s favourite general, Maxwell Taylor, posed an old question in 1971 that is more urgent now than ever: "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Godfrey Hodgson was director of the Reuters' Foundation Programme at Oxford University, and before that the&nbsp;<EM>Observer's</em> correspondent in the United States and foreign editor of the&nbsp;<EM>Independent</em></p> <P>His most recent book is&nbsp;<A href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300125702"><EM>The Myth of American Exceptionalism</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2009)</p> <P>His earlier books include&nbsp;<A href="http://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/by/godfrey-hodgson/32660/"><EM>The World Turned Right Side Up: a history of the conservative ascendancy in America,</em>&nbsp;</a>(Houghton&nbsp;Mifflin, 1996);&nbsp;<A href="http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/catalog/titledetail.cfm?titleNumber=681114"><EM>The Gentleman from New York: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan</em></a>&nbsp;(Houghton Mifflin, 2000);&nbsp;<A href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7700.html"><EM>More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century </em></a>(Princeton University Press, 2006),&nbsp;<A href="http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/publicaffairsbooks-cgi-bin/display?book=9781586483739&amp;view=quotes"><EM>A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving&nbsp;</em></a>(PublicAffairs, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america-against-tide">America against the tide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-presidential-politics">America’s presidential politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-fiscal-political-trap">America’s fiscal-political trap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-emotional-political-moment">America’s emotional-political moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america-against-tide">America against the tide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/thanksgiving-and-tea-party">Thanksgiving and the Tea Party</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/americas-political-suspense">America&#039;s political suspense</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/libya-arab-democracy-and-western-policy">Libya, Arab democracy, and western policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-fiscal-political-trap">America’s fiscal-political trap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america-and-arab-revolts-faces-of-power">America and the Arab revolts: faces of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-world-salesman-and-missionary">America’s world: salesman and missionary</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america%E2%80%99s-mad-hatter-politics">America’s mad-hatter politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/american-tragedy-political-response">American tragedy, political response</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power north america Godfrey Hodgson Wed, 23 Nov 2011 05:49:22 +0000 Godfrey Hodgson 62785 at https://www.opendemocracy.net