Anatol Lieven cached version 17/01/2018 10:17:08 en Why Obama shouldn’t fall for Putin’s Ukrainian folly <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russia and the west have conspired to tear the country apart. Both sides must stand down now or face the consequences.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>We’re now witnessing the consequences of how grossly both Russia and the west have overplayed their hands in Ukraine. It is urgently necessary that both should find ways of withdrawing from some of the positions that they have taken. Otherwise, the result could very easily be civil war, Russian invasion, the partition of Ukraine, and a conflict that will haunt Europe for generations to come.</p> <p>The only country that could possibly benefit from such an outcome is China. As with the invasion of Iraq and the horrible mismanagement of the campaign in Afghanistan, the US would be distracted for another decade from the question of how to deal with its only competitive peer in the world today. Yet given the potentially appalling consequences for the world economy of a war in Ukraine, it is probable that even Beijing would not welcome such an outcome.</p> <p>If there is one absolutely undeniable fact about Ukraine, which screams from every election and every opinion poll since its independence two decades ago, it is that the country’s population is deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-western sentiments. Every election victory for one side or another has been by a narrow margin, and has subsequently been reversed by an electoral victory for an opposing coalition.</p> <p>What has saved the country until recently has been the existence of a certain middle ground of Ukrainians sharing elements of both positions; that the division in consequence was not clear cut; and that the west and Russia generally refrained from forcing Ukrainians to make a clear choice between these positions.</p> <p>During George W. Bush’s second term as president, the US, Britain, and other NATO countries made a morally criminal attempt to force this choice by the offer of a NATO Membership Action Plan for Ukraine (despite the fact that repeated opinion polls had shown around two-thirds of Ukrainians opposed to NATO membership). French and German opposition delayed this ill-advised gambit, and after August 2008, it was quietly abandoned. The Georgian-Russian war in that month had made clear both the extreme dangers of further NATO expansion, and that the United States would not in fact fight to defend its allies in the former Soviet Union.</p> <p>In the two decades after the collapse of the USSR, it should have become obvious that neither the west nor Russia had reliable allies in Ukraine. As the demonstrations in Kiev have amply demonstrated, the “pro-Western” camp in Ukraine contains many ultra-nationalists and even neo-fascists who detest western democracy and modern western culture. As for Russia’s allies from the former Soviet establishment, they have extracted as much financial aid from Russia as possible, diverted most of it into their own pockets, and done as little for Russia in return as they possibly could.</p> <p>Over the past year, both Russia and the European Union tried to force Ukraine to make a clear choice between them—and the entirely predictable result has been to tear the country apart. Russia attempted to draw Ukraine into the Eurasian Customs Union by offering a massive financial bailout and heavily subsidized gas supplies. The European Union then tried to block this by offering an association agreement, though (initially) with no major financial aid attached. Neither Russia nor the EU made any serious effort to talk to each other about whether a compromise might be reached that would allow Ukraine somehow to combine the two agreements, to avoid having to choose sides.</p> <p>President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of the EU offer led to an uprising in Kiev and the western and central parts of Ukraine, and to his own flight from Kiev, together with many of his supporters in the Ukrainian parliament. This marks a very serious geopolitical defeat for Russia. It is now obvious that Ukraine as a whole cannot be brought into the Eurasian Union, reducing that union to a shadow of what the Putin administration had hoped. And though Russia continues officially to recognize him, President Yanukovych can only be restored to power in Kiev if Moscow is prepared to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and seize its capital by force.</p> <p>The result would be horrendous bloodshed, a complete collapse of Russia’s relations with the west and of western investment in Russia, a shattering economic crisis, and Russia’s inevitable economic and geopolitical dependency on China.</p> <p>But western governments, too, have put themselves in an extremely dangerous position. They have acquiesced to the overthrow of an elected government by ultra-nationalist militias, which have also chased away a large part of the elected parliament. This has provided a perfect precedent for Russian-backed militias in turn to seize power in the east and south of the country.</p> <p>The west has stood by in silence while the rump parliament in Kiev abolished the official status of Russian and other minority languages, and members of the new government threatened publicly to ban the main parties that supported Yanukovych—an effort that would effectively disenfranchise around a third of the population.</p> <p>After years of demanding that successive Ukrainian governments undertake painful reforms in order to draw nearer to the west, the west is now in a paradoxical position. If it wishes to save the new government from a Russian-backed counter-revolution, it will have to forget about any reforms that will alienate ordinary people, and instead give huge sums in aid with no strings attached. The EU has allowed the demonstrators in Kiev to believe that their actions have brought Ukraine closer to EU membership—but, if anything, this is now even further away than it was before the revolution.</p> <p>In these circumstances, it is essential that both the west and Russia act with caution. The issue here is not Crimea. From the moment when the Yanukovych government in Kiev was overthrown, it was obvious that Crimea was effectively lost to Ukraine. Russia is in full military control of the peninsula with the support of a large majority of its population, and only a western military invasion can expel it.</p> <p>This does not mean that Crimea will declare independence. So far, the call of the Crimean parliament has been only for increased autonomy. It does mean, however, that Russia will decide the fate of Crimea when and as it chooses. For the moment, Moscow appears to be using Crimea, like Yanukovych, in order to influence developments in Ukraine as a whole.</p> <p>It also seems unlikely that the government in Kiev will try to retake Crimea by force, both because this would lead to their inevitable defeat, and because even some Ukrainian nationalists have told me in private that Crimea was never part of historic Ukraine. They would be prepared to sacrifice it if that was the price for taking the rest of Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit.</p> <p>But that is not true of important Ukrainian cities with significant ethnic Russian populations, such as Donetsk, Kharkov, and Odessa. The real and urgent issue now is what happens across the eastern and southern Ukraine, and it is essential that neither side initiates the use of force there. Any move by the new Ukrainian government or nationalist militias to overthrow elected local authorities and suppress anti-government demonstrations in these regions is likely to provoke a Russian military intervention. Any Russian military intervention in turn will compel the Ukrainian government and army (or at least its more nationalist factions) to fight.</p> <h2>The west must urge restraint</h2><p>The west must therefore urge restraint—not only from Moscow, but from Kiev as well. Any aid to the government in Kiev should be made strictly conditional on measures to reassure the Russian-speaking populations of the east and south of the country: respect for elected local authorities; restoration of the official status of minority languages; and above all, no use of force in those regions. In the longer run, the only way to keep Ukraine together may be the introduction of a new federal constitution with much greater powers for the different regions.</p> <p>But that is for the future. For now, the overwhelming need is to prevent war. War in Ukraine would be an economic, political, and cultural catastrophe for Russia. In many ways, the country would never recover, but Russia would win the war itself. As it proved in August 2008, if Russia sees its vital interests in the former USSR as under attack, Russia will fight. NATO will not. War in Ukraine would therefore also be a shattering blow to the prestige of NATO and the European Union from which these organizations might never recover either.</p> <p>A century ago, two groups of countries whose real common interests vastly outweighed their differences allowed themselves to be drawn into a European war in which more than 10 million of their people died and every country suffered irreparable losses. In the name of those dead, every sane and responsible citizen in the West, Russia, and Ukraine itself should now urge caution and restraint on the part of their respective leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This article was first published on March 2 on </em><a href="">Zocalo Public Square.</a></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity China France Germany UK United States Russia Ukraine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Anatol Lieven Mon, 03 Mar 2014 09:15:37 +0000 Anatol Lieven 79859 at Afghanistan, then and now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="" alt="" width="160" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">Modern urban versus traditional rural Afghanistan, then and now. Time may have moved on, but the problems are big enough to be extremely concerning.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The positions of the Afghan state in 1989 and 2014 are in certain respects very similar – too similar for comfort. Once again, the modern Afghan urban tradition is fighting for its life against a rural Islamist insurgency. Once again, the state is overwhelmingly dependent on aid from a foreign great power for its continued survival.</p><h2>Then: town vs country</h2> <p>When I visited Afghanistan as a journalist for The <em>Times </em>(London) in 1988 and 1989, it was the starkness of the rural-urban divide that most struck me. Kabul, and to a lesser extent Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, were poor but functioning cities with certain attributes of modernity. The state, however corrupt and brutal, was a settled and accepted thing. Serving the state were at least some professional classes, among whom modern education – including for women – was also an established thing.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Once again, the modern Afghan urban tradition is fighting for its life against a rural Islamist insurgency.</p> <p>In the Pashtun rural areas controlled by the <em>mujahideen</em>, the state had vanished completely – insofar, indeed, as it had ever existed at all. Nor was any serious attempt being made to rebuild it. This differentiated the Afghan <em>mujahideen</em>, and to some extent the Taliban too, from the various left wing and nationalist insurgent movements of the mid-20th century, whose intention was not to destroy the state but to replace the colonial structure with one of their own. Any reference to a judicial system was not to a state code, but to the <a href="">pashtunwali</a> (the ethnic code of the Pashtuns) or <em>sharia</em>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// and W mujid Erwin Franzen copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// and W mujid Erwin Franzen copy.jpg" alt="Black and white photo of several armed Mujahideen" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Afghan mujahideen from Afghanistan's rural areas proved more powerful than the weak Soviet-backed state. Photo CC Erwin Franzen</span></span></span></p> <p>I also felt very strongly among the <em>mujahideen </em>the degree to which the tribes both hated and lusted after the cities. When the state fell in 1992, after Soviet supplies of money, arms and fuel ended, the cities – and Kabul especially – were indeed torn apart by rival bands of <em>mujahideen</em>. What happened was worse than the looting of Kabul in 1929 or other occasions in its history, because the fabric of the city was also largely destroyed by modern weaponry; but Kabul’s destruction between 1992 and 1996 formed part of the same historical pattern.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The Taliban then restored a version of order based on a harsh and literal version of <em>sharia</em> – a development that had been prefigured in conversations I had with clerics and elders in the Pashtun countryside in 1988 and 1989. The Taliban have been widely portrayed by their enemies as representing a Wahabi-inflected form of Islam alien to Pashtun tradition, but this is not really the case. Such revivalist tendencies had existed for a long time, and had often been linked to hostility, both to the British and to the authority of the royal state in Kabul. A representative figure in this regard was the Mullah of Hadda, a leader of the rebellions against the British in the 1890s, who also had to flee from the wrath of Emir <a href="">Abdur Rahman</a> of Afghanistan.</p> <h2>Now: Taliban v outside support</h2> <p>But if the Taliban were not alien to rural Pashtun Afghanistan, they were most assuredly alien to Kabul and its urban traditions, and to a considerable extent to the non-Pashtun ethnic groups. The question now facing Afghanistan is whether these other groups and traditions will be capable either of resisting the Taliban, or of making peace with them; and whether they will be able either to fight or to make peace without great and permanent help from outside.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This dependence on outside support was the most obvious feature of the Afghan state ruled by President Mohammad Najibullah and the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1989, and is still in the state presently ruled by President Hamid Karzai in 2014. Neither is, or was, simply a foreign creation or puppet. The present Kabul state, like that of 1989, has real Afghan sources of support. But, like the PDPA state in 1989, the present Afghan state is utterly incapable of raising the revenue it needs to maintain its basic functions, let alone fight off the Taliban.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">The question now facing Afghanistan is whether other groups and traditions will be capable of resisting the Taliban.</span></p> <p>Today, around 90 percent of the Afghan budget is paid for by foreign aid, and almost 100 percent of the military budget – four billion dollars a year – is provided by the USA. There is no prospect whatsoever of the Afghan state being able to raise these revenues itself. On the contrary: even the 10 percent of its money that the state does raise for itself mostly comes from import tariffs, and imports are above all being sucked in by the boom created by Western aid. So Afghan state revenues can actually be expected to decline sharply in the years to come.</p> <p>The only way that the Afghan state could try to raise large quantities of its own revenue would be by legalising and taxing the heroin trade. This of course is something that the international community is very unlikely to allow – though I have no doubt that (as before 1992) government troops and police on the ground will in practice do this in order to support themselves. Indeed, they already are.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Franzen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Franzen.jpg" alt="A group of armed mujahideen pose for the camera in front of a Soviet bomb case." title="" width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mujahideen in front of a Soviet bomb. The Soviets were largely unable to dislodge the rural guerrillas. Photo CC Edwin Franzen </span></span></span></p> <p>After 1989, the PDPA state survived for a number of years, astounding those western analysts (myself included, I am ashamed to say) who had expected it to fall very soon after the Soviet withdrawal. The reason was partly that, with the hated Soviet army gone and the threat of <em>mujahideen</em> conquest, looting and rape imminent, the urban classes rallied to the state against their traditional foes among the tribes. This change in feeling became very apparent to me during conversations in Kabul in the summer of 1989, especially of course with educated women.</p> <h2>Guerilla warfare vs attacks on defended cities</h2> <p>Another key factor then, and now, became shatteringly apparent to me – and everyone else – when I accompanied the <em>mujahideen</em> in their <a href="">attack</a> on the city of Jalalabad in March 1989. I had made several previous journeys with <em>mujahideen</em> groups, and had never felt in serious danger from government or Soviet forces (apart that is from the ever present and terrifying threat of mines). Local truces were in place in many areas (largely so that local <em>mujahideen</em> and government troops could share the opium poppy harvest), and the threat of air attack had been greatly reduced.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Above all, the <em>mujahideen</em> were too dispersed for it to be worth the Afghan government forces to dissipate their limited strength by attacking them – a key feature of guerrilla warfare. But when the <em>mujahideen</em> concentrated to attack the city of Jalalabad, it was a very different matter. They were pounded by government artillery and airpower (some of it, or so we believed at the time, Soviet planes with Afghan insignia) and the attack failed amid very heavy casualties.</p> <p>This contrast illustrates a key difference between guerrilla warfare of the kind which the Taliban have mostly waged so far, and attacks on defended cities. The Taliban could capture cities in the 1990s because the forces defending them were weakly supplied with heavy weapons. Today, as in 1989, it would be a very different matter – as long as the morale and discipline of the defenders held out.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But that in turn depends on the soldiers being paid, fed and supplied with arms, ammunition, petrol and, if necessary, US air cover. The PDPA state lasted so well that it outlasted the Soviet Union itself – and then promptly collapsed for want of Soviet aid. Unlike the USSR in 1989, the USA is in no danger of ceasing to exist over the next few years – but US willingness to help the Afghan state may well cease to exist; and in that case the Afghan state will fall.</p><h2>After 2014</h2> <p>In the games he is playing over the treaty with the USA on the continued stationing of US advisers and special forces, President Karzai apparently believes that he is both winning Pashtun popular support and exploiting a useful bargaining chip. Both, he might think, may help him both to manage the Afghan presidential elections this year and to guarantee his clan’s wealth, and himself a position as a power behind the throne in Afghanistan. What he has apparently not realised is the profound desire of many members of the US establishment to get out of Afghanistan and have nothing more to do with the place – a desire that his maneouverings are stoking further. In this sense, US aid may prove every bit as insecure as was Soviet aid after 1989.</p><p class="pullquote-right">US aid may prove every bit as insecure as was Soviet aid after 1989.</p> <p>Then again, if the USA does withdraw completely, the Afghan state today has other potential backers, to a far greater degree than was the case with the PDPA state after 1989. Russia itself is much more powerful – and considerably more concerned by Islamist militancy – than it was in the mid-1990s; Iran has the same attachments to its traditional allies in Afghanistan as it did then; and, most importantly of all, India is very much wealthier and its desire to limit the influence of Pakistan has led it to make some very important investments in Afghanistan.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="A shiny and modern coffee shop attended to by several employees in a large shopping centre." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kabul City Center, a modern shopping centre, is protected by bomb-resistant glass and metal detectors. Photo CC Jim Kelly</span></span></span></p> <p>No degree of outside help will enable the Afghan state to crush the Taliban rebellion in the Pashtun countryside. There, support for the Taliban is far too strong; moreover increased Indian help will only lead Pakistan to increasing its own support for the Taliban. However, even if the USA were to withdraw completely, Russia, India and Iran should be able to prevent the Taliban from capturing Kabul, let alone the <a href="">Hazara</a>, <a href="">Tajik</a> and <a href="">Uzbek</a>&nbsp;areas of the country.</p> <p>The fact that the Taliban is an almost exclusively Pashtun force (albeit with some non-Pashtun allies) obviously greatly limits their appeal compared to the <em>mujahideen</em> before 1992. On the other hand, it also makes them very much more united. The <em>mujahideen</em> were more ethnically diverse than the Taliban; the PDPA state and army were more ethnically diverse than the system created by the USA after 2001 on the basis of the (overwhelmingly non-Pashtun) Northern Alliance. Above all, the Afghan army of 1989 continued the traditions of the old Afghan royal army, and was chiefly Pashtun in its senior ranks. Najibullah himself made a much more convincing Pashtun leader than Hamid Karzai can ever hope to be, despite his descent from the Durrani royal clan.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">In 2014 the Afghan state will simultaneously be managing a military withdrawal and a political transition through elections</span></p> <p>Finally, there is the role of ideological systems introduced from outside. In the late 1970s, communism – in its almost insanely radical and savage Afghan Stalinist version – ushered in the entire Afghan catastrophe of the past three and a half decades by provoking a general revolt against the state and drawing in first the USSR on one side and then the USA on the other. However, by 1989 the radical aspects of the PDPA programme had long since been abandoned (on Soviet orders), and whatever the desirability of democracy as a general principle, it can hardly be denied that under the formidable Najibullah, the Afghan state was a more coherent and effective organism than the ‘democratic’ one that the USA and its allies have put together over the past 12 years.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// copy.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// copy.jpeg" alt="Afghan President Hamid Karzai walks past a regiment of US troops in dress uniform outside the Pentagon." title="" width="460" height="368" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Afghan President Hamid Karzai underestimates how thin his patrons' patience has worn. Photo via Helene C. Stikkel</span></span></span></p> <p>Above all, of course, the Afghan state in 1989 did not have to hold elections. The west’s ideological programme has landed it in the position – almost surreally idiotic from a strategic point of view – of simultaneously managing a military withdrawal and a political transition through elections. Moreover, the ideological need to hold ‘free and fair’ elections means that is not clear who will succeed, and the USA is compelled at least to pretend to prevent Karzai – America’s own creation - from arranging the results.</p> <p>None of this means that the Taliban can storm into Kabul and raise their flag over the presidential palace; but it does mean that Afghanistan seems likely to face a period of prolonged conflict and confusion, the ultimate outcome of which cannot be foreseen.</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="/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/russians-in-afghanistan-part-i">The Russians in Afghanistan: part I</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/russians-in-afghanistan-part-ii">The Russians in Afghanistan: part II</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/artemy-m-kalinovsky/leaving-afghanistan">Leaving Afghanistan</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 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anatol Lieven Leaving Afghanistan Russia Religion Politics History Foreign Cultural politics Conflict Central Asia Mon, 17 Feb 2014 09:21:01 +0000 Anatol Lieven 79352 at The future of democracy in America <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Tea Parties draw strength from deep roots in the American tradition. In his updated edition of <em><a href="h;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=0007164610&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=opendemocra0e-21">America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism</a></em>, the author says regardless of who wins the elections in November, this radical conservative tendency poses a serious threat to the future of US democracy.<em> 5,000 word essay</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This essay originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of </em>Current Intelligence<em>,&nbsp;a quarterly bulletin of the&nbsp; London-based research and advisory firm <a href="">Thesiger &amp; Company ('Thesigers')</a>. Republished here by kind&nbsp;permission of Thesigers.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>The US Tea Party movement as such may have passed its peak; but its soul will go marching on through the Republican Party. This in turn will mean that the tendency that the Tea Parties represent will be able to go on blocking any US economic and social policy of which they disapprove. As Kate Zernicke of the <em>New York Times</em> has argued in her book <em>Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America</em>, “if the Tea Party might never run things, it was never going to be defeated either.”</p> <p>For while most opinion polls put Tea Party support at 20 per cent of the population at most, to block not just legislation in the USA you do not need a democratic majority. The US Constitution gives even the minority party in the Senate enormous powers to block not just legislation but also executive actions of which they disapprove. A committed 20 per cent of the electorate is more than enough to dominate the Republican Party and to achieve this blocking role in the legislature.</p> <p>As a result, whether Obama or Romney wins in November, US economic policy will remain largely paralysed, and reform of America’s government impossible. This is not good news, at a time when the US and world economies are in such trouble, and when the rise of China is facing America with a challenge the like of which it has never encountered in its history. Moreover, deep underlying social, economic and demographic trends in the USA make it highly unlikely that American radical conservatism – whatever form it takes - will weaken in the years to come.</p> <p>When Tea Party supporters speak of the people they represent as the historical backbone of the USA and US democracy, they have a point. In the end, in most countries around the world democracy has stood or fallen according to the strength, the values and the loyalty of those groups called in America “middle class” (which include what in Europe would in the past have been called upper working class). The alienation of large sections of these classes from the political elites and the system of government, as demonstrated by the Tea Party movement, is deeply worrying.</p> <p>The power of the Tea Parties reflects both the gathering crisis of the US middle classes and the old cultural lineage of radical conservatism in America. Far from being simply a specific response to the Obama administration and to the post-2008 recession, they are only the latest in a series of radical conservative movements which have emerged in recent decades; and these in turn stem from a populist tradition which is much older still.</p> <h3>Shattering fall <strong><br /></strong></h3> <p>The conservative populist movements of the past generation stem largely from a decline in the economic and social status of the white lower middle classes and working classes which has been gathering pace for more than three decades, and which has accelerated sharply over the past five. The most worrying aspect of US decline is the increasing middle class economic hardship that is helping drive the Tea Party movement and increasing its hysteria. Stagnation of middle class incomes has now been gathering pace for almost four decades. Since 2008, it has become a steep decline. Compared to the decades before the Great Depression and from the 1940s to the 1970s, most individual middle class and working class incomes from the 1970s to 2008 stagnated or fell. By 2009, the US male median wage had dropped 28 per cent in real terms since 1970. Since 2007, median household income has fallen by almost 10 per cent. </p> <p>This has been a truly shattering fall, which was only made bearable for a while by the entry of married women into the workforce, which supported overall family income – while at the same time increasing childcare costs and strains on family life. Adding enormously to the strain has been the rise of job insecurity even for those in good work, with unionized labour being replaced by short-term contracts without benefits.</p> <p>This strikes at the very heart of the American Dream, by which people who are sober, respectable and work hard are guaranteed a good job and a better future for their children. It has been this history of middle class prosperity which in the past allowed America to overcome previous episodes of political extremism and return to moderation. </p> <p>It has also been through the reality of the middle class American Dream – as well as the strength of US institutions and values – that successive waves of immigrants have been integrated into the American system. Without this steadily rising prosperity, both the integration of immigrants and the willingness of the existing population to accept them are likely to be radically reduced; and the white middle class economic anxieties reflected in the Tea Parties are indeed being strengthened by the relative demographic decline of the White population.</p> <p>The Tea Parties also draw their strength from certain ideological traditions in America which stretch back for centuries – some of them even to the 17th Century England and Scotland from which the first American colonists were drawn. One explanation of the appeal of the Tea Parties is that they combine American civic nationalism, with its devotion to the Constitution and the institutions of US democracy, with elements of chauvinism and conservative religion.</p> <p>Finally, the Tea Parties are also a response to very real problems. As Edward Luce of the Financial Times brings out in his brilliant and terrifying new book <em>Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline</em>, the institutions of government in Washington are increasingly dysfunctional and make any strategy of promoting economic development almost impossible, while the US taxation system is a nightmare which is beginning to inflict serious damage on the US economy. However, as Luce also indicates, the Tea Parties’ diagnoses of the reasons for these problems are largely mistaken, and their proposed cures often verge on the insane.</p> <h3>Several notches to the right</h3> <p>Neither the Christian rightist movement of the 1970s, the “Republican Revolution” of the 1990s, nor the Tea Parties have recent years have succeeded in making their own candidate the Republican nominee for president, let alone winning the presidency. In the end, the party has always chosen a candidate with a chance of appealing to centrist voters. At the same time, it is all too apparent how each right-wing populist wave, as it recedes, leaves the Republican Party several notches to the right from where it had been previously. This has been demonstrated by the way that the essentially moderate Mitt Romney (author of a health care reform in Massachusetts which went somewhat further than Obama’s) has been dragged towards radical positions. </p> <p>An old-style Republican (though still more radical than Eisenhower), David Brooks, wrote as follows of the Tea Party role in encouraging the Republicans to reject compromise with the Obama administration in the debate over raising the US debt ceiling in July 2011, which almost led to a national default: </p> <p>“If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases… But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. ..The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.”</p> <p>As a result of this decades-long tendency, the Republican Party today would be largely unrecognisable to Dwight Eisenhower or even Richard Nixon – while the feral hatred of most Republicans for Barack Obama is directed at a president who has in fact governed – to the bitter disappointment of the American Left – as a kind of Eisenhower Republican. Even Ronald Reagan’s Republican election platform of 1980 was far closer to Obama’s of 2012 than to Mitt Romney’s.</p> <p>An irony here is that it is the Eisenhower years of the 1950s to which Tea Party members look as a vanished golden age, and which they wish to restore. This desire for a return to an idealized past, of a culturally and ethnically purer nation, a stable, traditional society, and a “moral economy” in which decent, hardworking people are guaranteed a decent job has been characteristic of radical conservative movements around the world.</p> <p>Classes and groups in decline, or faced with new and unprecedented pressures, have always looked back in this way. In US history, such pressures are not new, even if they have become exceptionally severe in recent decades. For even while the country as a whole has grown colossally over the centuries, important sections of the population have always felt under threat from economic, social, cultural and demographic change. </p> <p>To understand both the power of the Tea Party movement and why its impact (if not the movement itself) is likely to prove enduring, it is important to understand that while on the one hand the Tea Parties reflect the growing hardship and cultural anxieties of conservative middle class whites in recent years, they are also only the latest in a series of radical conservative movements which have emerged in recent decades; and these in turn drew their strength from certain ideological traditions in America which stretch back for centuries – some of them even to the 17th Century England and Scotland from which the first American colonists were drawn. These traditions have been thoroughly Janus-faced: helping to lay the basis for American democracy and economic success, but also contributing greatly to what the American historian Richard Hofstadter (1917-1970), in a famous essay, called the “paranoid style in American politics”.&nbsp; </p> <h3>Middle class anguish</h3> <p>This sense of defeat and embattlement stemmed originally from the original, “core” White Anglo- Saxon and Scots- Irish populations of the British colonies in North America; the specific historical culture and experience of the white South; and the cultural world of conservative Protestantism. </p> <p>In America, the make-up of radical conservative forces has changed with almost every generation, as formerly “outsider” immigrant groups join the white middle classes and form a new synthesis with the older Protestant culture. The stream of feelings of dispossession and loss, however, has flowed continually from one cup to another, from the old “Protestant nativism” through McCarthyism to the Christian and nationalist Right and the Tea Parties of our own day. </p> <p>Hence the phenomenon—so strange at first sight, but perfectly sincere, and entirely characteristic of the history of radical conservatism worldwide—of defenders of the American capitalist system like Newt Gingrich describing themselves as “revolutionary republicans,” and adopting a style and rhetoric of radical alienation from the supposed ruling elites and dominant culture. Hence the popularity on the Right and the Tea Parties of rhetoric about “taking America back”. </p> <p>The Tea Parties can be best described as the reflection of an anguished white middle class state of mind, rather than a political movement in any traditional sense, let alone one with a program for government. Sarah Palin’s highly emotional books, for example, are astonishingly free of specific policy prescriptions of any kind, beyond a vague and general demand for tax cuts and smaller government. The nearest that she comes in her books to a detailed domestic policy is to quote the banner of a “sweet old lady at the Boston Tea Party rally holding up a copy of the Constitution: ‘When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions’.” And a return to the letter of the original Constitution is indeed – together with lower taxes – the only demand that unites all Tea Party members.</p> <p>In parts of the USA with high Latino populations, however, the Tea Parties do tend to be associated with one concrete policy demand, a tougher approach to immigration. Although in general the Tea Parties are very different from radical rightist movements in Europe, “nativist” opposition to immigration does provide one important link.</p> <p>Extremist politics produced by threatened middle classes are a familiar enough sight in European history, and are returning in parts of Europe under the impact of economic crisis and immigration. Two other key aspects of American radical conservatism are however very unfamiliar to contemporary Europeans, and largely explain the bewilderment with which Europeans regard American politics. Both have to do with religion: The first, with fundamentalist religious belief in the strict sense; the second, with what has been called “the American Creed”, the passionate civic nationalist faith in the letter of America’s constitution.</p> <p>At around 60 percent, the proportion of Americans who declare in opinion polls that religion plays an important part in their lives has remained steady for more than a generation. Nor is there anything especially odd about this.&nbsp; When it comes to religious faith and its role in politics, it is of course Europe (and certain former European colonies like Australia) and not the United States that is the “outlier” in the world. Max Weber was right about many things, but his belief that economic modernisation brought with it the inevitable “disenchantment of the world” does not appear to have been one of them. In most places outside Europe, religion is doing just fine, even if its institutions and forms may have changed.</p> <p>Christian fundamentalism does not dominate the Tea Parties, but is certainly strongly present in them, and seems to play an important part in shaping the Tea Parties view of America and its government. Republican Congresswoman, Tea Party leader, and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s faith and views were strongly influenced by the fundamentalist thinker Francis Schaeffer, who preached that the Renaissance and the Enlightenment both represented dangerous turns away from the “total truth” of the Bible. </p> <p>According to CNN, 57 percent of Tea Party supporters polled agreed with the statement that “America is and always has been a Christian nation.” On issues like gay marriage and abortion, majorities of between 59 and 64 percent of Tea Party supporters agreed with conservative religious positions, while 44 percent of self-declared conservative Christians polled agreed with the Tea Parties, against only four percent who disagreed. In practice, it seems likely that Christian conservatives are even more important than these figures suggest, given their well-recorded tendency to higher levels of mobilisation and participation than other groups. Both Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are deeply committed evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, whose faith has profoundly shaped not only their politics, but their personal lives. It should also be said that in both cases, their religion has inspired real efforts and sacrifices. </p> <p>American fundamentalist Protestantism retains elements of thought which have come down with relatively few changes from much earlier eras. The religious historian Dean Kelley described it as one of the “huge political icebergs” of American life, which “move through time with massive stability, changing slowly and surviving in their essential form for many generations.” </p> <p>Its origins are pre-Enlightenment, and its mentality to a very great extent is anti-Enlightenment. For convinced adherents of this tradition, much of modern American mass culture is a form of daily assault on their passionately held values, and their reactionary religious ideology in turn reflects the sense of social, cultural, and racial embattlement among their white middle class constituency. </p> <h3>A little nobody </h3> <p>Fundamentalist religion has also always embodied an element of class and regional resentment against the religiously liberal “East Coast elites” on the part of what Thomas Jefferson called “the honester South and West”, but what Republicans today would call “the Heartland” (Including most of the Midwest). According to Billy Graham,</p> <p>“Let me tell you something: when God gets ready to shake America, he may not take the PhD and the DD. God may choose a country boy. God may choose a shoe salesman like He did D.L.Moody…God may choose the man that nobody knows, a little nobody to shake America for Jesus Christ in this day.”</p> <p>Thomas Franks (author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas”) and other have studied the way in which these class resentments on the part of lower middle class and working class whites have largely been channelled into cultural hatred of the “liberal elites” rather than – as was the case from the 1890s to the 1930s – into economic protest. A key reason for this shift has been the new cultural divide in the US since the 1960s between conservative religious believers and educated elites who are often at no pains to hide their contempt for religion.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Fundamentalist religion has thus played an important part in driving the polarisation of US politics, and also in increasing the contempt for scientists and experts of every kind which is such a strongly marked feature of the populist Right and the Tea Parties. The reason for this was summed up with perfect clarity by my fundamentalist landlady in Washington 15 years ago, who told me that “I am very sorry to have to say this, but if a person doesn’t believe in God, well, I just can’t really trust them on anything else.” And when you come to think about it, this is a perfectly logical and sensible attitude to take, if one accepts the original religious faith.</p> <p>In Europe and elsewhere in the past, right-wing populism always had an authoritarian and anti-democratic cast (though that may have changed in recent years if one looks at the current run of extreme right-wing parties). In the USA, with the exception of a politically irrelevant fascist fringe, that has never been the case. Episodes of chauvinist hysteria directed at racial, ethnic, religious and political groups and foreign enemies have always been expressed in terms of a defence of democracy and the Constitution – a combination brilliantly analysed by Louis Hartz in his largely forgotten classic, <em>The Liberal Tradition in America</em>. </p> <p>This phenomenon of chauvinist extremism in defence of liberal democracy would seem to have two roots. The first is the Frontier, where White communities with at least an appearance of rough democratic equality fought for their lives against American Indians who were considered altogether outside the law. Together with the exclusion and suppression of the Blacks in the South, this bred a tradition of communal solidarity in defence of American civilisation and against outsiders, and a belief that while democracy and the Constitution must be defended at all costs, their protections only apply to those who are committed to defend them.</p> <p>The second source of what Hartz called “Lockean absolutism” is the sheer power of American civic nationalism itself. Instilled relentlessly in Americans by the school system, the media and popular culture, this faith has only intensified over the past century as it has become a central part of the process of assimilating successive waves of immigrants. In the words of Richard Hofstadter, “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to <em>be </em>one.” The phrase “American Creed” expresses the almost religious power of this civic nationalist belief.</p> <p>A British journalist, Andrew Gumbel, has a fine description of the relentless instillation of this civic nationalist Creed through the education system – quite as relentless (though significantly different in content) as the instillation of nationalist ideas by 19th and early 20th Century state education systems in Europe. Gumbel describes his reaction when his son first went to school in California in 2003:</p> <p>“Even after five years in the United States, I continue to be surprised by the omnipresence of patriotic conformism . . . With my son’s education at stake, I can’t help pondering the link between what is fed to children as young as six and what American adults end up knowing or understanding about the wider world. There is much that is admirable in the unique brand of idealism that drives American society, with its unshakeable belief in the constitutional principles of freedom and limitless opportunity. Too often, though, the idealism becomes a smokescreen concealing the uglier realities of the United States and the way in which it throws its economic, political and military weight around the globe. Children are recruited from the very start of their school careers to believe in a project one might call Team America, whose oft-repeated mantra is: we’re the good guys, we always strive to do the right thing, we live in the greatest country in the world. No other point of view, no other cultural mindset, is ever seriously contemplated . . .”&nbsp; </p> <p>Gumbel quotes a song from his son’s elementary school class:</p> <p>“America, I love you!/ From all sorts of places,/ They welcomed all the races/ To settle on their shore . . ./ To give them protection/ By popular election,/ A set of laws they chose./ They’re your laws and my laws,/ For your cause and my cause/ That’s why this country rose.” </p> <p>These words would cause any historically aware black or American Indian to grind his or her teeth—but, as Gumbel points out, are taken by most American children as simply natural.</p> <p>The idea that democracy and the Constitution are coterminous with US national identity is so deeply rooted among Americans that it is extremely difficult to analyse them critically without feeling that you are in some sense placing yourself outside the community. Or at least, this is true of the White middle classes, for whom this patriotic faith is part of their folk identity. For obvious reasons, Blacks, Latinos and American Indians have a very different perspective on the US tradition. </p> <p>A quasi-religious faith in the Constitution permeates the language of many American conservative intellectuals. Thus the Mount Vernon Statement (“Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the Twenty-First Century”) of February 2010, drawn up by a long list of such intellectuals, begins as follows:</p> <p>“We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.</p> <p>These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.” </p> <h3>Filibuster</h3> <p>American faith in democracy is deeply moving, and it is also justified by history: the history of its role in shaping the United States, and the role of the United States in spreading and upholding democracy in the world. There is nothing wrong with the American Creed as such. The problem comes with the quasi-religious worship not of democracy but of the letter of a Constitution drawn up more than 200 years ago by a small number of White oligarchs, and the belief that this Constitution cannot be changed to suit the needs of a very different America from that of 1787 AD.</p> <p>Above all, as already noted, both the power of the U.S. Senate and its internal rules (especially the filibuster) give immense power to a minority in that body to block legislation. This not only frustrates the entire democratic process, it boosts the wasteful government spending which the Tea Parties and the Right say that they desire to reduce—because it helps give senators the ability to extract massive subsidies and benefits for their states in return for their votes. </p> <p>The increasing radicalization of the Republican Party, and the retaliation it has provoked by the Democrats, has led to an immense expansion of the use of the filibuster. In the 1960s, around eight percent of bills were faced with a filibuster. In the 2,000s, it has been around seventy percent. This is not a recipe for the decline of progressive government; it is a recipe for the decline of effective government in general. Worship of the Constitution makes it even less likely that Tea Party–-influenced Republicans will contemplate even small changes to the Senate’s rules, let alone the Constitution in general.</p> <p>Their refusal to do so is not, however, irrational from their own point of view. &nbsp;For any serious consideration of a change to the U.S. Senate is bound, sooner or later, to come to the conclusion that bad as they are, it is not the rules of the Senate that are the greatest barrier to the will of democratic majorities in America; it is the composition of the Senate.</p> <p>The existing distribution of U.S. Senate seats is colossally weighted in favour of White conservatives. The rule that every state of the United States has two senate seats irrespective of population was framed at a time when the largest state (Virginia) had twelve times the population of the smallest (Delaware). As of 2012, the largest U.S. state, California, has more than seventy times the population of the smallest, Wyoming—but they both have two senators. Above all, this means that six western states with only three percent of the U.S. population have twelve senators between them and are thus in a position to block any legislation that displeases their mainly White conservative populations. This has already contributed enormously to blocking legislation on a range of issues which affect the populations of those states either emotionally or materially, from gun control to carbon taxing. </p> <p>As long as the United States as a whole had an overwhelmingly White majority, the issue of disproportionate representation did not become couched in racial terms. This is very unlikely to remain the case, however, as the White proportion of the population declines. According to the projections of the U.S. Census Bureau, Whites will cease to be a majority (while remaining a plurality) sometime between 2040 and 2050. The proportion of Latinos meanwhile will have grown to almost a quarter of the U.S. population. Long before that, Latinos will be in a majority in conservative states like Texas and Arizona. </p> <p>Even in times of growing economic prosperity, a shift on this scale would have been bound to cause tensions (especially when a sizeable proportion of the change is due to illegal immigration)—and the next three decades do not seem likely to be ones of growing prosperity for many less-educated Whites. </p> <h3>A majority of White</h3> <p>Of course, the White population of the USA does not constitute anything like a united bloc, and barely a quarter of them express support for the Tea Parties. The issue is not White power as such, but the disproportionate power which the makeup and rules of the Senate give to conservative Whites from a small number of states. The cultural-political divide among White voters can be almost drawn with a knife in parts of the US, for example in Oregon and Washington, where the liberal coast is sharply divided from the conservative, small-town and rural interior.</p> <p>Nevertheless, certain trends with a partly racial aspect are already apparent. In 2008, Obama failed to gain a majority of the White vote, and was elected only because Blacks and Latinos turned out to vote in highly unusual numbers. As important as the “White” element is the “Grey” one. A large majority of older White voters cast their ballots against Obama, but he won a majority among younger Whites. In contrast to most previous elections, however, the Democratic vote was noticeably down among less educated Whites.</p> <p>Barring complete economic collapse on the scale of 1929-32, for a long time to come older middle class voters will have a strong interest in keeping taxes low, resisting reform of Medicaid and social security, and also resisting state education and health programmes intended to help younger Americans. As a higher proportion of these younger Americans become non-White, it seems likely that more and more politics will be defined by a “Grey-Brown” divide, with parts of the existing Constitution as a cause of increasing resentment among “Browns” and a matter of fanatical attachment among “Greys”.</p> <p>The constitutional principle of states’ rights has been used as a racial tool, in one way or another, for most of U.S. history. From the 1840s to the 1960s, this was the White South’s principal tool and argument in trying to block first freedom and then civil rights for the Blacks. Indeed, the current Republican and Tea Party obsession with states’ rights is one aspect of the much-remarked “southernisation” of the Republican Party since the 1960s.</p> <p>In both the 1860s and the 1960s, however, White majorities in the United States as a whole eventually overcame Southern White resistance. In the future, there is a real risk that as a result of growing White middle class anxieties about economic, demographic, and national decline, a majority of Whites will come together in defence of an increasingly dysfunctional and unrepresentative constitution which is more and more obviously being used to defend White dominance at the expense of non-Whites. Such a development would mark the end of America’s greatness and her democratic example to the world. In such circumstances, the wild rhetoric of the Right about resorting to arms in defence of the Constitution might also lead to something more than mere rhetoric.</p><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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Anatol Lieven Mon, 15 Oct 2012 09:53:59 +0000 Anatol Lieven 68848 at 'We think of Zakir as Nick Clegg': Taliban perspectives on reconciliation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="" alt="%22Bordering&quot;" width="140" />This summer, former leading figures in the Afghan Taliban and former mediators met the authors to discuss Taliban ideas for a peace settlement. This <a href="">RUSI briefing paper</a> affords rare insights into currents of opinion within the Taliban.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In July 2012, the authors of this report interviewed four senior Taliban interlocutors about the Taliban’s approach to reconciliation. The primary objective was to draw them out on three key issues: </p> <ul><li>- International terrorism and the Taliban’s links with Al Qaeda and other armed non-state actors</li><li>- The potential for a ceasefire </li><li>- Parameters for conflict resolution and continuing presence of US military bases.</li></ul> <p>The interlocutors we interviewed referred mainly to the so-called Quetta Shura Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar. This is, as they all confirmed, the primary vehicle driving the insurgency, and, in their view, continues to enjoy the allegiance of other key groups dotting the insurgent landscape. </p> <p>The unwavering consensus amongst our interviewees was that for an agreement to hold, it would ultimately require approval by Mullah Mohammad Omar. Therefore, our focus was trained mainly on the Quetta Shura and its leadership structure. The use of the term ‘Taliban’ in this report refers to the Quetta Shura. Further, our assessment is that the interlocutors we spoke to present the views of the moderate wing of the Taliban leadership, centred on the Political Commission. We have less confidence in the extent to which these views may be attributed to the more hard-line section of the Taliban centred on the Military Commission.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><strong>Insurgency Leadership:&nbsp;</strong><span>The main Taliban leadership structure is often referred to as the ‘Quetta Shura’, even though few of its members are located in Quetta any more; this group is made up of older-generation leaders from southern Afghanistan who were alive during the war in the 1980s and participated in the Taliban-led government during the late 1990s. Mullah Mohammad Omar is the leader of this group, although his presence and activities have been hidden since 2001. The Haqqanis – commonly referred to as ‘the Haqqani network’, although this is an American neologism – are a group based in southeast Afghanistan and follow patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani and increasingly his son, Serajuddin. The Haqqanis have pledged their allegiance to the ‘Quetta’ Taliban leadership and take pains to restate this publicly, although there are divisions between the two. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar heads up yet another organisation, Hizb-i Islami, and he has done so since the 1980s when he led the party as one of the most prominent mujahedeen leaders; Hizb-i Islami (also known as HiG) has been engaged in negotiations with the Afghan government for several years.</span></p></blockquote> <h3>Interviews and interviewees</h3> <p>The interviewees spoke to us on terms of anonymity; while we present a short background on each, they are each referred to by letter. Further, their backgrounds and designations have been confirmed and cross-checked by the authors in our individual capacity. Interviews were conducted separately with each of our candidates. They lasted between three and five hours, and were conducted in Pashto, Farsi and Urdu. For three of the four interviews, at least two interviewers spoke one of these languages, serving to cross-check the translation. The interviewees were:</p> <p>Interviewee A: A former Taliban minister familiar with the workings of the Quetta Shura’s Political Committee, and who has been closely associated with Mullah Mohammad Omar. </p> <p>Interviewee B: A former Taliban deputy minister and a founding member of the Taliban. B was part of the group that pushed its way into Kandahar in the early 1990s. As expected, B provided the most insight into the structure and debates inside the Taliban movement. He also made clear that he was choosing his words carefully to represent, as far as possible, the general and genuine views of the movement in response to our questions.&nbsp; </p> <p>Interviewee C: A senior former mujahedeen commander and lead negotiator for the Taliban. C has never been part of the Taliban, but fought with and even led a number of key Taliban leaders throughout the 1980s. Notably, C negotiated key deals between the Taliban and other non-Taliban groups in the 1990s. C also provided the most critical perspective of the Taliban having actually experienced negotiating with and for them. </p> <p>Interviewee D: An Afghan mediator with extensive experience negotiating with the Taliban as recently as the late 2000s. D has never officially been part of the Taliban. </p> <p>For the sake of methodological clarity, we developed a three-pronged approach to the interviews. First, interviewees were asked to provide a somewhat lengthy introduction to themselves as well as their association with the Taliban. Second, we asked questions on and around the three substantive issues outlined at the start of the briefing. Third, and as a control mechanism, we sought to cross-check one interviewee’s perspectives with the other. </p> <p>This briefing studiously avoids placing the authors’ biases, views, and opinions into the main of the text. We focus more on what our interviewees had to say. Only in the introduction to each of the three sections discussed below do we establish the context that informed our line of questioning. The key findings are highlighted below, followed by more detailed analysis.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2><span>Key findings</span></h2><h3><span>International terrorism</span></h3><p>* The Taliban leadership and base deeply regret their past association with Al Qaeda. Once a general ceasefire and/or political agreement are decided, the base would obey a call by Mullah Mohammad Omar – and only him – to completely renounce Al Qaeda</p><p>* Renunciation would need to be built into a larger agreement, allowing the Taliban to leverage their delinking themselves – step by step – from Al Qaeda in exchange for some form of political recognition</p><ul><li>* Following renunciation, the Taliban would act to assure that Al Qaeda is no longer able to operate on Afghan soil</li><li></li><li>* The Taliban are open to setting-up a Joint Monitoring Commission staffed by Taliban representatives, ISAF and the Afghan Government to investigate reports of continued Al Qaeda activity</li><li></li><li>* Continuation of drone attacks both within Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan would severely complicate the task of maintaining the base’s allegiance and the leadership’s ability to control popular outrage.</li><li><strong><span><h3><span>Ceasefire</span></h3><div><span><br /></span></div></span></strong></li><li>* The Taliban would be open to negotiating a ceasefire as part of a general settlement, and also as a bridge between confidence-building measures and the core issue of the distribution of political power in Afghanistan</li><li></li><li>* A ceasefire would require strong Islamic justification, obscuring any hint of surrender</li><li></li><li>* A ceasefire endorsed by Mullah Mohammad Omar has the greatest potential for success</li><li></li><li>* A general ceasefire (closer to a larger plan for reconciliation) is preferred by the Taliban more than local- and district-level ceasefires (reintegrating local commanders and cadres). A general ceasefire with Mullah Mohammad Omar’s backing would allow the Taliban to better deal with ‘peace spoilers’ and dissenters.</li></ul><h3><span>Perameters for conflict resolution and US military bases</span></h3><p>* The Taliban will not negotiate with President Karzai or his administration, which is seen as corrupt and weak</p><p>* Outright acceptance of the present Afghan constitution is widely considered as a non-starter. The substance of the constitution is less a matter of dispute, and can be negotiated. The leadership perceive that acceptance would be tantamount to surrender</p><ul><li>* The Taliban are willing to accept long-term US military presence and bases as long as they do not constrain Afghan independence and Islamic jurisprudence. In time, military presence could be transformed into mainly economic assistance</li><li></li><li>* The Taliban leadership are keen to end all attacks on teachers and health-care workers, as evident in public statements</li><li></li><li>* Modern subjects such as mathematics and sciences are encouraged in both madrasas and schools more generally, as underlined in a Taliban policy document on education circulated in early 2012</li><li></li><li>* The Taliban fully understand that their policies of the 1990s need to be re-configured in the face of rapidly changing social forces within current-day Afghanistan</li><li></li><li>* Co-education will not be tolerated, but models for both education and working environments could be adapted to accommodate strict segregation of men and women.</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><span><h2><span>International terrorism</span></h2></span></h2> <h3><span><em>Context</em></span></h3> <p><em>The Taliban have consistently and at different times argued that they are willing to disassociate themselves from international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Yet, and for the most part, there is little clarity as to how this may happen. We therefore focused our questions on what it would actually take for the Taliban to completely delink themselves from Al Qaeda and other non-state and armed groups.</em></p> <h3>Renunciation is a ‘given’</h3> <p>Renouncing international terrorism and the likes of Al Qaeda was considered ‘a given’ by interviewees A and B. The question, B stressed, is not whether the Taliban will delink itself from Al Qaeda, but rather the process by which this could be done. The Taliban is not, as B made plain, part of the government in Kabul. Hence, he stressed, ‘How could it enforce action without the right authority?’ Indeed, all four interviewees agreed that renunciation was a process – and not an end in itself – that would need to be built into a comprehensive peace settlement.</p> <p>The speakers emphasised that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had quite different origins and different Sunni theologies (the Taliban belonging to the Deobandi school of South Asia, while Al Qaeda are Wahabis, which originates in Saudi Arabia), and that Osama bin Laden was originally invited to Afghanistan not by the Taliban, but by members of the mujahedeen regime whom the Taliban displaced from power. They all stated, in different words, that the Taliban now recognise that their links to Al Qaeda before 9/11 were a mistake. As the former Taliban deputy minister and founding member told us, ‘We hold Al Qaeda responsible for wrecking our work to create an Islamic state in Afghanistan.’ According to D, the Taliban are ‘100 per cent’ convinced that ‘Al Qaeda were behind 9/11.’ He argued that the leadership was unaware of the plans when they were hatched on Afghan soil.</p> <p>B argued that there is a widespread belief amongst field commanders and at least the Political Commission of the Quetta Shura that ‘Al Qaeda was responsible for their ouster’, and that this consequently interrupted ‘the implementation of Sharia within Afghanistan.’ In the ultimate analysis, the base would accept the leadership’s call to isolate and eject Al Qaeda as long as the decision came directly from Mullah Mohammad Omar.</p> <h3>Dealing with peace spoilers</h3> <p>As expected, B was far more optimistic about the Taliban leadership’s ability to control and deal with potential peace spoilers than C or D. He argued that the current jihad forced ‘international jihadis’ and Pakistani-based groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to ‘co-operate.’ Once a settlement was in sight, ‘the Taliban would spread the word not to host international terrorists.’ Following an agreement with ISAF and the Afghan government, dissenters would be ‘sought out’ and ‘dealt with.’ B suggested that the idea of instituting a joint commission staffed by those chosen by the Taliban, ISAF and the Afghan Government was not wholly unrealistic. Members of the Political Commission within the Quetta Shura could be persuaded to agree to this if a final agreement were indeed in sight.</p> <p>A joint commission could then deal with the Haqqanis, which, although closer to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), ‘do not have the capacity to stand-up to the combined strength of the Quetta Shura.’ B also dismissed rumours that Qayum Zakir, responsible for military affairs within the Quetta Shura, had fundamental differences with the Political Commission. Zakir, B made sure to underline, is still Mullah Mohammad Omar’s deputy, and would ‘fall in line’. In short, B suggested, ‘we think of Zakir as Nick Clegg’; challenging a coalition from within, but only to a certain tolerable extent.</p> <p>As far as C and D were concerned, controlling groups like the Haqqanis would be far more difficult than current and former Taliban leaders (such as B) presume. D made clear that in the case of the Haqqanis, a lot would depend on how Pakistan and specifically the ISI played their cards. Operationalising a delinking strategy would hence depend on the extent to which Pakistan was invested in a potential peace process. Further, Haqqani opposition would in turn give Pakistani intelligence an opportunity to undermine the entire peace process if it wanted. Needless to add, whilst B forcefully pushed the idea that the leadership could succeed in delinking the Taliban from Al Qaeda, the ability to shape the Haqqanis’ strategic future remained hazy at best.</p> <h3>Drones as instruments of counter-terrorism</h3> <p>All our interviewees said that agreeing to the continuation of drone attacks would be extremely difficult for the Taliban, even if remaining Al Qaeda figures were identified. Tacit Taliban agreement to continued drone strikes in Pakistan from Afghan bases would cause outrage in the Pakistani establishment, among Pakistani Islamists and in the Haqqanis. Above all, such an agreement would be seen by fellow-Pashtuns in Pakistan as deeply dishonourable.</p> <p>Interestingly, whilst B argued that even the ‘idea of discussing drones was a long way away’, this should not necessarily be considered a deal breaker. He also stressed that condemning drone attacks should in no way be read in terms of ‘defending Al Qaeda.’ The issue had to do with ‘dealing with popular discontent’ and the risk to ‘Afghan independence.’ Inside Afghanistan, B stated, each and every drone attack would need to be carefully ‘discussed and negotiated.’ Across Afghanistan’s borders, ‘international rules should apply to the use of drones as instruments of military force.’ Ideally, instead of using drones, as B and D argued, ISAF and the Taliban could use the joint commission to deal with spoilers and international jihadis. To be sure, such a commission could also develop enforcement actions against spoilers.</p> <h3>Renunciation: the way forward</h3> <p>As has been made plain, renunciation in itself is not a problem. However, getting the Taliban to actively and more persistently renounce Al Qaeda and international jihadis will require some form of political agreement. This need not mean a comprehensive plan inked by 2014, the point by which international forces are expected to have withdrawn the bulk of their combat troops, but rather a process that allows the Taliban to ‘use’, as D put it, renunciation as a lever to ‘negotiate something substantial.’</p> <p>According to B, a three-step process might be considered. First, a ceasefire needs to be put in place in the near future. In turn, and second, this would allow the Taliban leadership the diplomatic cover to engage both Afghan representatives in Kabul and ISAF with the view to institutionalising a joint commission. Third, complete renunciation and even enforcement measures be put in place as a potential ceasefire matures into something longer lasting like a political agreement. In essence, as B underlined, ‘the Taliban can really push through promises and renounce more and more once negotiations gain steam.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><span><span><h2><span>Ceasefire</span></h2></span></span></h2> <h3><span><em>Context</em></span></h3> <p><em>The Afghan government and its international allies have officially supported programmes of reintegration and reconciliation for at least seven years. Increasingly, these efforts have been based on the anticipation that conflict resolution will eventually require a political agreement with insurgents. However, at no stage has any major protagonist proposed a general ceasefire or even publicly addressed the issue of proper sequencing of moves towards a ceasefire. This section, as informed by our interviews, challenges the lazy assumption that generalised conflict must continue until a political agreement. It indicates the issues which will have to be addressed for an early ceasefire to become a viable component of peace efforts.</em></p> <h3>Ceasefire as prologue to an agreement</h3> <p>No Taliban leader has publicly endorsed the idea of a ceasefire. However, the interviewees considered it plausible that the Taliban would support a ceasefire in the right circumstances. Indeed, being open to a ceasefire is a logical corollary of accepting that outright military victory is unobtainable. Interview D argued that the Taliban recognised that the movement had the support of about one third of the population. The leadership, according to D, was convinced that outright military victory was out of the question. This of course does not mean that some members within the movement – read the Military Commission – would not want to fight for victory. But, by and large, a ceasefire as the first step towards a settlement would have traction amongst the majority of the Political Committee and even Mullah Mohammad Omar.</p> <p>The Taliban’s public line continues to suggest that they will ‘defeat the foreigners’ but, according to C and D, they do not believe it. Instead, they acknowledge that generating military power is simply not enough. The ability to garner economic power and increase public support are imperatives they recognise, but have limited control or influence over. The leadership understands that it does not have ‘holding capacity’ – the ability to hold ground and wield military power over a long period. The base, however, according to D, continues to think that ‘political power is possible.’ To convince the base, therefore, the issue of a ceasefire will have to be carefully handled.</p> <p>For the moment, discussions around a ceasefire, which in itself may serve as a substantive confidence-building measure given the requirement of each party to meet and interact, would need to be delinked from the publicly stated pre-conditions – as articulated by the Afghan government and ISAF – of laying down arms, disassociating with Al Qaeda, and accepting the Afghan constitution as is. These would need to be incrementally negotiated. Indeed, to appeal to the Taliban base, a ceasefire scheme would have to incorporate a strong Islamic justification, be represented as a voluntary act of the Taliban, avoid the appearance of surrender and be tied clearly to opportunities to address practical Taliban concerns and grievances. In this, as D suggested, a ceasefire could be considered as the bridge between confidence-building measures and the substantive issues in resolving the Afghan conflict.</p> <h3>Choreographing a ceasefire</h3> <p>There is a range of options regarding who would initiate a ceasefire and which parties it would cover. On the insurgent side, a general ceasefire could be ordered by the top leadership, by local commanders further down the hierarchy or by a faction within the movement – a forward bloc. Participants considered that a ceasefire endorsed by Mullah Mohammad Omar would have the greatest chance of success. Failure to co-operate with such a ceasefire would amount to rebellion against the authority that all Taliban recognise.</p> <p>For this reason, B and D argued that a general ceasefire would be preferable to local efforts. B argued that the ‘problem with local ceasefires is that it cuts off the leadership.’ Moreover, even if the chances of a general ceasefire are bleak, it would be valuable to invest in the process. B argued that if the top leadership were involved, and if some form of ceasefire proposal was agreed, ‘an order from the top would be implemented immediately.’ Mullah Mohammad Omar’s word, according to B, ‘is still accepted 110 per cent.’ If a general agreement was not reached, Mullah Mohammad Omar would back away from lending his name, taking with him a moral commitment needed to convince the base.</p> <p>To be sure, whether or not Mullah Mohammad Omar would back ceasefire negotiations – as opposed to endorsing a final agreement – was disputed. Interviewee A in fact argued that Mullah Mohammad Omar could well be an obstacle to achieving a ceasefire. However, as A made clear, this should not distract a forward bloc from negotiating the same without Mullah Mohammad Omar’s approval. The idea, in this case and according to A, would be to essentially hustle Mullah Mohammad Omar into endorsing a ceasefire that has been negotiated outside of his authority.</p> <p>According to C, and apart from the fact that Mullah Mohammad Omar may not immediately endorse ceasefire negotiations that may take effect anytime soon, the reality is that he and the Taliban leadership based in Pakistan would not be able to be a part of these negotiations. C argued that extricating the Taliban leadership from Pakistan, and cutting their relationship with sponsors there, may be necessary in order to put them in a position to endorse a ceasefire. The main conclusion to be drawn from this discussion is that once a general ceasefire is on the agenda, there is a range of options as to who will advocate it and who will become a party to it. Even if a comprehensive ceasefire is initially unattainable, an incremental approach may serve to build up support.</p> <p>C also pointed to his experience of dealing with Taliban ceasefire negotiations in the 1990s. This experience highlighted the importance of efforts to ensure that the top leadership was publicly invested in any ceasefire. C was witness in the 1990s to a number of agreements ‘made and broken’ by the Taliban with the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ismail Khan. However, in C’s view, ‘it is possible that the Taliban has changed.’ Given the fact that American forces are on Afghan soil, and that the opposition to the Taliban is formidable, ‘it is not un-hopeful that the Taliban will negotiate and honour an agreement signed by Mullah Mohammad Omar.’</p> <p>However, as a cautionary note, C underlined that getting the Taliban to both enter and abide by a ceasefire agreement would need ‘sustained engagement to keep them in a negotiated mode.’ As for B, this process could only really begin as and when the Afghan government and ISAF agree to ‘protect the leadership.’ After all, he argued, the government would need working partners led from the ‘top-down’ rather than ‘the bottom-up.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><span><h2><span>Perameters for conflict resolution</span></h2></span></h2> <h3><span><em>Context</em></span></h3> <p><em>Following the discussions around the potential for a ceasefire and renouncing terrorism, we explored the latent parameters for conflict termination. Here, we tested the extent to which the publicly declared statements about rejecting the constitution and American military presence holds true. Overall, we found that the interviewees projected a far more pragmatic picture of the Taliban than otherwise believed. Further, the Taliban’s approach to education and health also demonstrated a degree of revision and pragmatism in sync – to an extent – with international priorities and those of the Afghan government. In this context, there were some positive indications that the Taliban have amended policies which worked to the detriment of education and health during the 1990s.</em></p> <h3>Afghan Constitution</h3> <p>All four interviewees made clear that there was no buy-in whatsoever for accepting the Afghan constitution as it is currently lettered and represented: a document that is widely seen by the base as lending authority to the present Karzai regime. However, both B and D argued that this issue could be dealt with if the narrative around acceptance – presently seen as one akin to surrender – is changed, and if the constitution were to be approved by a Loya Jirga or an assembly of sorts with representation from the Taliban.</p> <p>Importantly, D underlined, the Taliban more or less agreed with the substance of the constitution, which is premised on Islamic jurisprudence. The problem for the leadership is one of perception. C also agreed that ‘there is nothing in the constitution that the Taliban actually oppose’; it is more a matter of ‘interpretation.’</p> <p>In short, a solution would need to be found by which accepting the constitution would not in any way hint at surrender.</p> <h3>Parliament, elections and ‘partners’</h3> <p>Interviewee B stated that the Taliban have no problem with the idea of parliament or elections. What they may want, if and when an agreement is negotiated and primarily to satisfy the base, is some form of clerical role in Afghan government, but without executive authority. Further, the Taliban would want a centralised and undivided state, and would oppose a federal structure.</p> <p>With regards to forming a post-conflict government, B argued that the Taliban felt ‘there was no real foundation for elections in Afghanistan.’ President Karzai was ‘utterly corrupt’, and could not be relied upon to deliver ‘clean elections.’ Interviewee A also underlined that ‘the Taliban cannot support a government run by Karzai.’ If an agreement was to be reached, B suggested that an interim period of three years – he specifically mentioned three years – would be needed between a nominal agreement and elections, which Taliban representatives would campaign like any other candidates.</p> <p>According to C, this need not mean ‘bringing in’ hardcore elements of the Taliban currently based in Pakistan, but endorsing ‘peaceful and moderate’ Taliban that would silence the radical wing, whilst being acceptable to the international community and the Tajik minority. In C’s personal view, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef (the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan) and Mullah Mutawakkil (the former Taliban foreign minister) would be acceptable to members of the Political Committee. A argued that these could simply be men who ‘enjoy prestige’, ‘our people of standing’, and need not necessarily hail from within the movement. Ideally, A made clear, the Taliban would want one vice president and five cabinet ministers</p> <p>Given that the Taliban would at best serve as minority representatives, B and C were clear that they would have to work with other members of parliament. However, ‘there was no chance’ of associating with those who had a proven record of corruption. Looking forward to the 2014 elections, the Taliban, according to C, would not accept any member of the Karzai family, including Quayum Karzai. Interviewee B emphasised that a key imperative for the Taliban in government would be to root out corruption. Hence, as B put it, the question is not ‘who the Taliban will work with’, but ‘who is willing and able to work with the Taliban.’</p> <p>According to D, those around Karzai and far removed from his family would be acceptable to the Taliban. In the ‘last few months’, D maintained, ‘there have been some positive movements towards peace, and there is visible buy-in from the Taliban’; ‘consensus figures exist.’ Salahuddin Rabani, the son of the late Burhanuddin Rabani, and current head of the High Peace Council (HPC) would be one such actor. Importantly, A disagreed with this. In the view of this former minister, Rabani and the HCP could not be taken seriously in its current form. However, there are others who could deliver peace. A suggested that the Taliban were open to working with opposition groups,, and specifically with Ahmed Zia Massoud, the younger brother of Ahmed Shah Massoud.</p> <p>Further, if returned to power, A and B firmly argued that the Taliban would focus more on bureaucratic professionalism and less on matters of piety. D captured a view prevailing among all interviewees that the Taliban leadership do have a vision of peace, but that has ‘nothing to do with the US vision’, – this is ‘one centred on recognising the constitution.’ Rather, it revolves around ‘correcting the mistakes of the previous political rule and remaining engaged with the international community.’ This, however, as C made clear, would require constant vigilance and monitoring. Given a little space, the Taliban may well be tempted to advance the views and practices of the more radical wing of the Quetta Shura.</p> <h3><span><h3>US military bases</h3></span></h3> <p>The Taliban are prepared to accept a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan. B provided the greatest insight. The guiding principle, according to him, was that US military bases and continuing presence of soldiers would be acceptable to a level ‘that does not impinge on our independence and religion.’ When pushed, B suggested that the prospect of the US military operating in Afghanistan up to 2024 and out of five primary military bases – Kandahar, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul – could be agreed ‘through negotiation.’ However, the Taliban would need to consider this in the context of what is best for Afghan national security.</p> <p>The US’s presence would be acceptable if it contributed to Afghan security, but not if the Americans launch attacks against neighbours – such as Iran and Pakistan – from Afghanistan. B went on to say that this did not mean that the Taliban wanted to shield either Iran or Pakistan, but that it would impact their national security and invite ‘trouble.’ If the Americans wanted to attack Iran, B continued, they could do so from somewhere in the Persian Gulf.</p> <p>Interviewees A, B and C could foresee a long-term US role in Afghanistan. All three said that the Taliban would accept this, provided it served the interests of Afghanistan. B stressed that there was and is no natural enmity between the Taliban and the Americans. He claimed that the Taliban originally looked for advice from the Americans (citing experience from three international conferences in the late 1990s), and on all occasions Taliban advances were spurned. C offered the view that a core concern for the Taliban in any future government is to avoid the country fragmenting, and in this context the Taliban would need US assistance in order to hold the Afghan National Army together. C also noted the Taliban’s concern on Iran (echoing B’s sentiments), and in this regard continued US military presence could serve Afghan national security. A also clearly saw a long-term role for America, but suggested that this should transition from the current focus on military assistance to economic assistance.</p> <h3>Schools, teachers and healthcare</h3> <p>From the outset, B made clear to assert that the Taliban should ‘not be considered as anti-education.’ Attacks against schools and teachers have significantly decreased following several iterations of explicit orders from the senior leadership. The same holds for healthcare, where the polio campaign has benefited from letters of support from Mullah Mohammad Omar, to cite just one example.</p> <p>A new six-page policy on education was circulated earlier this year, moreover, which appears to be a serious attempt to outline the current official stance on education. It takes it as a given that education is a necessity. It states: ‘understanding the sacred Islamic disciplines and modern educational concepts are greatly needed.’ It allows for considerable flexibility in terms of different levels of education; rural communities accustomed to religious education have access, but urban communities also have their needs provided for. In many ways, it is a description that fits with the current educational activities of the Afghan government.</p> <p>It also allows for the presence of ‘contemporary subjects, such as science, chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, geography, history.’ The policy does not envision starting from scratch, but rather seeks to reform from within, noting that schools that already are operating should ‘not be closed [but] controlled and supervised.’ Even on education for girls and young women, the policy offers relative flexibility, albeit with some vagueness regarding post-pubescent girls. The document is addressed to the West as well as to the Taliban’s own constitution, trying to walk the slim line between not alienating the more conservative parts of the movement and pushing too much onto them, while showing significant movement and coherence with current policy of the Afghan government and its Western allies.</p> <p>Other senior-level statements issued in recent months unambiguously reflect and endorse this new policy. Attacks against education and health are subject to sanction from the leadership if fighters are caught doing so. Indeed, B made plain that apart from the fact that the Taliban have learnt from their mistakes in the past – when its stance on education and curricula was anything but flexible – the leadership also realises that supporting education is a genuine ‘counter-propaganda’ tool. The truth is, he argued, ‘people want modern education.’ However, B underlined that ‘the Taliban would never agree to co-education.’ In essence, the approach to schooling would need to be negotiated.</p> <p>With the view to demonstrate their eagerness to promote education, B stated that, in areas where the Taliban retain a strong presence, their commanders have been asked to encourage students to apply for and take the concord examination for university entrance. ‘Our policy’, he noted, ‘allows for the killing of government officials but not teachers.’ Further, he argued that the Taliban had ‘given permission to national and international NGOs to work on healthcare projects.’</p> <p>C offered a broader perspective, and the suggestion that the problems with education and healthcare provision were not purely those relating to the Taliban. An example was given of a district in northern Afghanistan where the Taliban had taken over a school as a base, but where the local government representative had also done so. Issues relating to the salaries of teachers and health workers, and corruption, he said, were the real problems where reform was needed.</p> <p>Following our interviews, we also contacted Zabiullah Mujahed, one of the senior spokesmen of the Taliban, to confirm the movement’s official approach to education and health. He made the following statement:</p> <p>You know well that these two [government] ministries are working for the people to make educational and health facilities for the people. We want to help both of these things too, so we are trying to make good facilities and a calm and secure environment for the general population of Afghanistan to be able to have access to education and health.</p> <p>Interviewees offered few specifics for moving forward on health and education beyond continuing to support the moves that had already been taken by the Taliban, and perhaps finding a way to build them in as part of the Qatar process.</p> <p>The interviewees offered the suggestion that education and perhaps healthcare were relatively neutral issues that could be built into the Qatar process, perhaps even as confidence-building measures.</p> <h2>&nbsp;<hr /></h2> <p><strong>‘Taliban perspectives on reconciliation’</strong><em> was originally published as a <a href="">RUSI briefing paper</a>, September 2012. This project was funded by a generous grant from the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme.</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="/opensecurity/farhad-arian/could-power-sharing-build-consensus-necessary-for-peace-in-afghanistan">Could power-sharing build the consensus necessary for peace in Afghanistan?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/juan-garrigues/cautious-allies-regional-powers-in-afghanistan">Cautious Allies: regional powers in Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antonio-giustozzi/taliban-and-afghanistan%E2%80%99s-war">The Taliban and Afghanistan’s war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/derek-gregory/supplying-war-in-afghanistan-frictions-of-distance">Supplying war in Afghanistan: the frictions of distance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/mariam-safi/new-silk-road-stabilizing-afghanistan-post-2014">New Silk Road: stabilizing Afghanistan post-2014</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afghanistan-new-endgame">Afghanistan: the new endgame</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/bruno-de-cordier/parallel-frontlines-ten-years-of-soviet-and-american-occupation-compar">Parallel frontlines: ten years of Soviet and American occupation compared</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/drone-war-blowback">The drone-war blowback</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anatol-lieven/insights-from-afghan-field">Insights from the Afghan field</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> </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 Afghanistan Conflict International politics Anatol Lieven Rudra Chaudhuri Theo Farrell Michael Semple Peacebuilding from a southern perspective Bordering on Peace? Security in South and Central Asia Peacebuilding Thu, 20 Sep 2012 17:15:38 +0000 Michael Semple, Anatol Lieven, Theo Farrell and Rudra Chaudhuri 68181 at Pakistan: the hard reality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan is too often portrayed in flawed and reductive ways that flatten its complexity and offer misleading guidance to policy-makers. This makes it all the more important to acknowledge some difficult truths about the country, says Anatol Lieven. </div> </div> </div> <p>If there is one phrase which defines many aspects of Pakistan, it is “Janus-faced”. So apt do I find it, and so often did I use it in the draft of my book <a href=",,9781846141607,00.html"><em>Pakistan: A Hard Country</em></a> (Penguin/<a href="">Public Affairs</a>, 2011), that the editor went through the manuscript excising it.</p><p>Where politics are concerned, the notion suggests that many of the <a href="">features</a> of Pakistan’s state and government which are responsible for holding Islamist extremism in check are at the same time responsible for holding <a href="">back</a> Pakistan’s social, economic and political development.</p><p>This is most obviously true of the Pakistan army. The institution is <a href="">essential </a>to keeping the country together, but through its proportionally huge budget drains money that might otherwise have gone to development; and through its repeated interventions in government acts as a brake on what might otherwise have been greater progress towards democracy.</p><p>The operative word here, however, is “might”. For even leaving aside the military, there are colossal <a href="">obstacles</a> in Pakistan both to the creation a truly representative democracy and to economic and social progress. These obstacles are bound up both with the deep conservatism of most of the population, and with the entrenched <a href="">power</a> of local kinship groups and the landowning and urban bosses who lead them.</p><p>A fundamental political fact about Pakistan is that the <a href="">state</a>, whoever claims to lead it, is weak, and society in its various forms is immensely strong. Anyone or any group with the slightest power in society <a href="">uses</a> it (amongst other things) to plunder the state for patronage and favours, and to turn to their advantage the workings of the law and the bureaucracy. As a result, Pakistan has by far the lowest <a href="">rates</a> of revenue-collection (under 10% of GDP) in south Asia. This, far more than the military, is responsible for the state’s inability to invest in education, infrastructure and essential services; and what money is directed to these ends is far too often stolen by the elites.</p><p>The proceeds of much of this corruption, however, are then redistributed to the kinfolk and followers of the political bosses in order to ensure their continued support. The fruits of patronage, albeit meagre, extend quite far down into Pakistani society. So while Pakistan’s kinship- and patronage-based political system is terrible for economic development, it is crucial to giving the Pakistani system resilience in the face of revolutionary threats.</p><p><strong>The military culture</strong></p><p>The degree of support for extremist and terrorist groups is scattered throughout Pakistani society, but mass support for Islamist rebellion against the Pakistani state is present only in parts of the <a href="">Pathan</a> (Pashtu) areas - in other words, less than 5% of the population. That is not remotely enough to revolutionise Pakistan as a whole. The precedent of British rule over the region, when there were repeated revolts in the Pathan areas without these causing serious fears of contagion elsewhere in the Indian empire, offers caution here.</p><p>Moreover, any Pakistani national revolution would have to gain not just mass but majority support in Pakistan’s two great urban <a href="">centres</a>, Lahore and Karachi; the wider conditions of Punjab and Sindh at present make this impossible for the foreseeable future - though not necessarily forever, especially if ecological crisis leads huge numbers of starving peasants to flock to the cities.</p><p>There is a clear division in Pakistani attitudes here. When terrorist groups <a href="">attack</a> India, or western forces in Afghanistan, their actions enjoy a degree of instinctive, gut sympathy from a majority of Pakistanis - not because of Islamist extremism, but because of Muslim nationalism and bitter hostility to the United States’s role in the Muslim world in general and Pakistan’s region in particular. But activity in support of a civil war and revolution in Pakistan itself, the sort that seeks to turn Pakistan into a revolutionary Islamic state, is a very <a href="">different</a> matter. That would mean Pakistanis killing Pakistanis on a large scale, and by and large they don’t want to; some may well would be glad of the opportunity to kill some set of immediate rivals, but that’s the extent of their internecine ambition.</p><p>It is important in this respect not to be misled by the spread of terrorism in Pakistan in 2009-11. In many ways, terrorism by the <a href="">Pakistani Taliban</a> - admittedly intense and on occasion spectacular at times - is a sign not of strength but of weakness. If you want to overthrow and capture a state, you need one of three things (or some combination of them): a mass movement on city streets that seizes institutions, a guerrilla movement in the countryside that seizes territory, or a revolt of the junior ranks of the <a href="">military</a>. No movement relying chiefly on terrorism has ever overthrown a state. The Pakistani Taliban looked truly menacing when it took over most of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2009, followed by the <a href="">districts</a> of Swat and Buner. When it blows up everyday people in bazaars and mosques, it merely looks foul.</p><p>Pakistan is thus probably still far from the situation of Iran in the late 1970s or Russia in 1917. Apart from anything else, the army is a united and disciplined <a href="">institution</a>, and as long as that remains the case, it will be strong enough to defeat open revolt - as it proved by defeating the <a href="">Taliban</a> in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009. Where military coups have occurred in Pakistan, they have always been carried out by the army as a whole, on the orders of its chief-of-staff and commanding generals - never by junior officers (a contrast with Africa and elsewhere). The reasons for this are rooted deeply in the military culture and in the material <a href=";">advantages</a> that the army enjoys in Pakistani society.</p><p><strong>Beyond the worst-case</strong></p><p>The only thing that can destroy this discipline and unity is if enough Pakistani soldiers are faced with moral and emotional pressures powerful enough to crack their discipline. The pressures would indeed have to be extreme: in fact, soldiers would have to be put in a position where their duty to defend Pakistan and their conscience and honour as Muslims clashed directly with their obedience to their commanders.</p><p>As far as I can see, the only thing that could bring that about as far as the army as a whole is concerned (rather than just some of its Pathan elements) is if the United States were to invade part of Pakistan, and the army command failed to give orders to resist this. Already, the <a href="">perceived</a> subservience of the Pakistani state to Washington’s demands has caused severe <a href="">problems</a> of morale in the armed forces.</p><p>I have been told by Pakistani soldiers of all ranks that if the country faced open incursions on the ground by US troops, parts of the Pakistani army would mutiny in order to fight the invaders. An army that splintered and became radicalised would be a fertile condition for&nbsp; Islamist upheaval, making the collapse of the state indeed all too likely; but even then, the result would be rebellions leading to civil war, rather (as in Iran) a national revolution that succeeded in taking over the whole country.</p><p>This argument carries the implication that however great the provocation the US feels from Pakistan’s perceived non-cooperation or worse (in, for example, the <a href="">pursuit</a> of Osama bin Laden), Washington <em>must not</em> contribute to the destruction of Pakistan. This is irrespective of the fact that the US campaign against the Afghan Taliban will receive no more than very qualified help from the Pakistani army, the Pakistani state, or the great majority of Pakistani citizens - since Pakistanis of every rank and class <a href="">see</a> the Afghan Taliban in a quite different light from al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban.</p><p>This may seem hard on Afghanistan and its efforts to avoid being consumed by the war. But the reality is that Pakistan has greater strategic importance: in terms of sheer size (almost 200 million people), a large army, nuclear weapons, and - most important of all in terms of the terrorist threat to the west - large <a href="">diasporas</a> in Britain and Canada, which remain very closely linked to their communities of origin in Pakistan. In light of all this, it would be a fool’s bargain to risk Pakistan’s survival for the sake of a victory in Afghanistan that is probably (and as news of formal talks with the Afghan Taliban is <a href="">confirmed</a>) in any case an illusion.</p><p>Instead, in my view and that of an increasing number of experts - including within the Barack Obama administration, if not yet the Pentagon - it would be better to try to treat Pakistan as an asset rather than a problem, and use Pakistan’s <a href="">links</a> with the Afghan Taliban to try to broker a peace settlement with Mullah Omar and the other top leaders based in Pakistan. This is not what anyone would have wished after 2001, but it is a little better than seeing Pakistan and Afghanistan collapse into chaos and face even greater tragedy.<br /><br /></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>Anatol Lieven, <a href=",,9781846141607,00.html"><em>Pakistan: A Hard Country</em></a> (Penguin/<a href="">Public Affairs</a>, 2011)</p><p><a href="">Pakistan Security Research Unit</a>&nbsp; (PSRU), University of Bradford</p><p>Shaun Gregory, <a href=";PID=33286"><em>Pakistan: Securing the Insecure State</em></a>&nbsp; (Routledge, 2008)</p><p>Ian Talbot, <a href=""><em>Pakistan: A Modern History</em></a> (C Hurst, 2005)</p> <p><a href="">Pakistan Policy Blog</a></p><p>Ayesha Siddiqa, <a href=";main=&amp;second=&amp;third=&amp;foo=../ssi/ssfooter.ssi"><em>Military Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy</em></a> (Pluto Press, 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>Anatol Lieven is <a href="">professor</a> in the department of war studies at Kings College, London. He is also a senior research fellow of the <a href="">New America Foundation</a> and a member of the editorial board of <a href=""><em>The National Interest</em></a>. His latest book is <a href=",,9781846141607,00.htm"><em>Pakistan: A Hard Country</em></a> (Penguin, 2011)</p><p>Anatol Lieven's previous books include <a href=""><em>The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence</em></a> (Yale University Press, 1993); <a href=""><em>Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power</em></a>&nbsp; (Yale University Press, 1998); <a href=";ci=9780195300055"><em>America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism</em></a> (Oxford University Press, 2004); and (with John Hulsman) is <a href=""><em>Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World</em></a> (Pantheon, 2006)</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="/anatol-lieven/understanding-pakistan%E2%80%99s-military">Understanding Pakistan&#039;s military</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan_after_benazir_bhuttor">Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nafeez-mosaddeq-ahmed/pakistan-and-united-states-costs-of-militarism">Pakistan and America: costs of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan-and-the-afpak-strategy">Pakistan and the “AfPak” strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/violence_remembering_forgetting">Pakistan and violence: memory, shame, and repression </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan-a-country-on-fire">Pakistan: a country on fire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/pakistan-a-path-through-danger">Pakistan: a path through danger</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan_a_post_election_scenario">Pakistan: a post-election scenario </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mumbai-pakistan-s-moment-of-opportunity">Mumbai: Pakistan’s moment of opportunity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan_dynasty_vs_democracy">Pakistan: dynasty vs democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/pakistan_farewell_to_democracy">Pakistan: farewell to democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-pakistan-army-and-the-afghanistan-war">The Pakistan army and the Afghanistan war </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/pakistan_inside_the_storm">Pakistan: inside the storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/lahore_history">Lahore: urban space, niche repression</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/lahore-to-peshawar-the-trophy-target-war">Lahore to Peshawar: the trophy-target war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pervez-musharraf-the-commando-who-couldn-t">Pervez Musharraf, the commando who couldn’t </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shaun-gregory/pakistan-vs-india-in-afghanistan-david-cameron%E2%80%99s-reason">Pakistan vs India in Afghanistan: David Cameron&#039;s reason</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan_a_question_of_legitimacy">Pakistan: a question of legitimacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-india_pakistan/article_1767.jsp">Pakistan: inside the nuclear closet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/pakistan-s-political-turmoil-musharraf-and-beyond">Pakistan’s political turmoil: Musharraf and beyond</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 class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Pakistan Conflict Democracy and government International politics american power & the world democracy & power india/pakistan Anatol Lieven Tue, 21 Jun 2011 07:45:28 +0000 Anatol Lieven 60069 at Insights from the Afghan field <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Security policy in Afghanistan may be powered by sublimated imperial nostalgia, but most of the really valuable practical memories and lessons of empire have long since been forgotten. A review of three recent books on the Taliban </div> </div> </div> <p>If books like the ones under review had appeared in 2002, and been read by Western commanders and officials, they might have changed the course of the Afghan War. Even today, should a US administration ever be able to disentangle itself from the Karzai government and nerve itself to open serious negotiations with the Taliban, such works will be indispensable to understanding the people on the other side of the table.</p> <p>Antonio Giustozzi’s edited volume <a href=";tag=currenintell-21&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=1850659613"><em>Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field</em></a> is a superb collection of essays by leading researchers, among them Gretchen Peters on the Taliban’s taxing of the opium trade, Thomas Ruttig on the Haqqani network, and Claudio Franco on the Pakistani Taliban.&nbsp; <a href=";tag=currenintell-21&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=185065932X"><em>Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan</em></a>, on the other hand, is Giustozzi’s own study of what has been in effect – God help us – “our” side in Afghanistan: the regional and local commanders whose rule the Taliban overthrew after 1994, and whom the US brought back to power in 2001 under the façade of democracy.</p> <p><a href=";tag=currenintell-21&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=1849040265"><em>My Life With the Taliban</em></a> is the memoir of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, edited by two Kandahar-based western journalists, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn (and in the interest of disclosure, I should note that I am supervising van Linschoten’s PhD at King’s College London). Zaeef was&nbsp;a member of the Taliban since its founding elements first came together in Kandahar in the early 1980s to fight the Soviets and Communists. Under Taliban rule he was a minister and finally ambassador to Pakistan, before being imprisoned at Guantanamo and elsewhere between 2002 and 2005. He has now made his peace with the Karzai administration, and in his book criticises aspects of Mullah Omar’s leadership; but he undoubtedly remains close to the Taliban in sentiment, and above all absolutely detests the US presence in Afghanistan.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the people who shaped Western policy in the first crucial years after the overthrow of the Taliban did not have these books available to them, and knew precious little about Afghanistan. Thus despite the British Empire’s long and bitter history on the Afghan frontier, the British government and military in 2007 were totally unaware of how their military presence in Afghanistan would look to ordinary Pashtuns. As Mullah Zaeef writes (and as British journalists say is a close reflection of Pashtun views in Kandahar and Helmand):</p> <blockquote><p><em>Another strategic mistake [by the US] was to allow the British to return to the south, or Afghanistan in general. The British Empire had fought three wars with Afghanistan, and their main battles were with the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan. They were responsible for the split of the tribal lands, establishing the Durand Line. Whatever the reality might be, British troops in southern Afghanistan, in particular in Helmand, will be measured not only on their current actions but by the history they have, the battles that were fought in the past. The local population has not forgotten, and many believe, neither have the British. Many villages that see heavy fighting and casualties today are the same that did so some ninety years ago…The biggest mistake of American policy makers so far might be their profound lack of understanding of their enemy.</em></p></blockquote> <p>The notion that the British army is in Afghanistan to seek revenge for nineteenth&nbsp;century defeats is of course absolutely grotesque, but that is not the point. The point is that ordinary Afghans do indeed believe this – and the British security establishment ought to have known that they would. That we did not know this is a shattering illustration of the fact that while British policy is in the end powered by sublimated imperial nostalgia, most of the really valuable practical memories and lessons of empire have long since been forgotten.</p> <h3>The ghastly masquerade</h3> <p>The battlefields of Afghanistan are real enough, God knows, for the poor devils who fight and die there; but as so many fatuous statements about Afghanistan suggest, for great sections of Western government, politics, media and public opinion engagement in Afghanistan has been above all one of the largest and most expensive exercises in collective narcissism that the world has ever known, and Afghanistan itself a landscape of the mind, onto which Westerners could project a variety of agendas and fantasies. As Antonio Giustozzi writes, “Every age has its follies; perhaps the folly of our age could be defined as an unmatched ambition to change the world, without even bothering to study it in detail and understand it first.”</p> <p>It would be nice to pin all the blame for this on Bush, Blair and their supporters, but this tendency spread much more widely and is much more deeply rooted in contemporary Western culture. An enormous range of groups and interests jumped onboard the US intervention in Afghanistan. In the first years after 2001, literally thousands of government departments and contractors, but also high-minded NGOs swarmed around the bloated feast of Western “aid to Afghanistan” – I would say like hagfish or hyenas, but at least those useful scavengers have the grace not to proclaim their righteousness and generosity to the heavens in between mouthfuls. The result has been to entangle Western discussion of Afghanistan in great webs of deceit and self-deceit.</p> <p>Thus the desire to bring democracy, freedom, “good governance” and an improvement in the status of women to Afghanistan were laudable goals in themselves, but the result has been a ghastly masquerade, involving descriptions of the present Afghan government and political system not one of which corresponds to reality. Meanwhile the equally laudable desire to bring development to Afghanistan has ensnared us in calculations of “progress” which are virtually Soviet in their misrepresentation of the facts and the experience of ordinary Afghans.</p> <p>European NATO governments have had to tell their populations that their troops are in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is a threat to them – something that Richard Barrett, former head of counter-terrorism at the Secret Intelligence Service, has now declared is “nonsense”. More candid British and European officials and generals have always admitted in private that the only really important reason is to help maintain the alliance with the US because Europeans are incapable of guaranteeing their own defence against a future resurgent Russia, or even the peace of the Balkans. This dependency-driven contribution is publicly called “saving NATO”, and in turn logically justifies Europeans doing the absolute minimum necessary in Afghanistan to keep the US committed to Europe.</p> <p>The British military is also fighting for the sake of American patronage, to which it attaches an almost sacred importance (while complaining about its patrons all the time). In the British military’s case, however, there is another important motive with no necessary connection to Afghanistan: the maintenance of its own self-image as a fighting force, and the prestige of the military in British public life. This in turn feeds into a wider British obsession with great power status, derived above all from the enduring sense of loss of the empire.</p> <p>Unlike the Georgian and Victorian builders of that empire, however, their descendants in the British elites have shown little desire to back up their desire for a great national role with personal commitment or sacrifice. This is not of course true of the British Army – but its gallant sacrifices have been made as part of what overall is a profoundly decadent national spectacle. It is not that the British military and their reputation for courage and endurance are unimportant; but if these assets are to be tailored to our real resources and collective national will, then they are assets that can only be used in Europe or in small scale expeditionary operations like Sierra Leone. As Afghanistan has demonstrated, any other large-scale operations demand a degree of commitment of which the British public today is not capable. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Obama administration and US military for their part are fighting above all. as a senior officer told me, “not to win, but not to lose”. In other words, not for real victory, which neither they nor anyone else can define, but for anything that can be presented as victory, so as to avoid the humiliation of defeat, the consequent emboldening of all America’s enemies, and – not least – a potential Democratic loss in the next Presidential election. . And the US Republicans are doing just the same in reverse, seeking to turn Afghanistan into a US political battlefield on which the Democrats’ hopes of re-election can be crushed.</p> <h3>Post-colonial caricatures</h3> <p>If in all this Afghanistan itself has often seemed to disappear, it is not surprising that the Taliban have also done so, to be replaced by hateful cartoon figures (to accompany the good cartoon figures of the “democratically-elected Afghan government”, “Afghan civil society” and so on). This process has caused me a certain wry amusement: more than 20 years ago, when I was a Pakistan-based journalist covering the Mujahedin war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, with rare exceptions we also dealt in caricatures.</p> <p>But then, of course, the guerrillas – in many cases the fathers of today’s Taliban - were the cartoon freedom-fighters and the government in Kabul the caricatured stooges of a foreign occupying power. The Western journalists covering that war were very often admirable for their physical courage, but taken as a whole the picture of Afghanistan that we presented was shocking in its propagandist ignorance of Afghanistan and its failure to present the facts of what was in reality not a simple war of Soviet occupation and resistance, but an Afghan civil war into which the Soviet Union had been dragged by its support for one side. Then as now, most of us were not really interested in Afghanistan itself, or the Afghans themselves. As for much of the wider Western publics, Afghanistan at that time was no more than a Cold War fantasist’s computer game <em>avant la lettre</em>.</p> <p>All the same, almost nine years after the US intervened in Afghanistan, the shortage of serious books on Afghanistan in general and the Taliban (as opposed to the plethora of books on “terrorism”) is somewhat astonishing – fine works by scholars like Gilles Dorronsoro, journalists like David Loyn, anthropologists like David Edwards and historians like B.D. Hopkins notwithstanding.</p> <p>The same is true of many other parts of the world. Thus almost 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and despite tens of millions of words written on Georgia by journalists, analysts and propagandists (often one and the same thing) no serious book on post-Soviet Georgia exists – with the result that prior to the Georgian-Russian war of August 2008 the West stumbled towards an alliance with Georgia without the slightest real awareness of what it was getting itself into.</p> <p>This systemic ignorance marks a difference from the era of European empires, as opposed to the quasi-imperial ventures of today. Thus Edward Said was quite right in arguing that 19th century European ethnographic, historical and cultural studies of Asian peoples were closely related to the drive for European empire over the peoples concerned. However (in large part because of his concentration at bottom on specifically pro-Zionist studies) he missed two features of these studies which are of crucial importance compared to the present and which mean that these works in many cases remain the ultimate empirical foundations of all subsequent studies (like Robert Montagne’s study of the Berbers, for example).&nbsp;</p> <p>The first is that it was scholars (or scholar-officials or scholar-soldiers) working in the field, among the peoples they were studying, who carried out the research for these works. This had at least some effect in modifying the fantasies that they could project onto their subjects. The second was that precisely because their research was meant to serve the cause of empire in a very practical way, and was carried out by servants of empire working in situ, it could not divorce itself wholly from facts.</p> <p>If knowledge is to be effective power, knowledge has to be basically accurate. Ignorance of and indifference to the culture and views of colonised peoples led to mistakes and revolts like the 1857 rebellion which could and did cost colonial scholar-officials their professional reputations and often enough their lives. Niall Ferguson – to take the most famous example of a neo-imperial academic - runs absolutely no risk of either, no matter what he writes about places that he has never visited. His work, like that of the neo-conservatives, is very strictly imperialism as spectator sport.</p> <h3>The hippo and the turtle</h3> <p>Intense study of Afghan society, culture and politics are so important because they are so very different from those of the modern West – though in some cases, not entirely from the West of the Middle Ages. This means not just that our state institutions have found it extremely difficult to engage with Afghan realities, but that it takes an enormous leap of knowledge and imagination for Western officials to apprehend those realities at all, or to design strategies to deal with them.</p> <p>An allegorical painting of this process might show an attempted marriage between a Western hippopotamus and an Afghan turtle (a turtle because of the remarkable toughness and impermeability of Afghan traditions) – with the interesting, if not entirely aesthetically pleasing twist that the bashful reptile has also been compelled by intense Western pressure to dress itself as a hippo, and the Western hippo-narcisso-pygmalion for a while was even convinced of the reality of this transformation – even as the turtle continued in plain sight to pursue its old turtle-like ways. Or to put it more prosaically, the West created the thin façade of an Afghan state in the image of itself, convinced itself that this flimsy object had real being, and then fell into paroxysms of rage and disappointment when our Afghan allies acted according to the traditions and the realities of their own society, and not according to our precepts.</p> <p>Thus if you strip out all the guff about Hamid Karzai being “democratically elected”, being committed to “development” and “progress”, and indeed being (in any Western sense) “head of the Afghan government”, what we can see in Karzai is a weak Afghan leader pursuing the immemorial strategy of weak Afghan leaders: that is to say, balancing between powerful local forces, maintaining a general hegemony by playing them off against each other, and managing them as far as possible by the distribution of patronage – including, under the new dispensation, sharing out the heroin trade.</p> <p>Of these local forces, among the most important over the past generation and especially since 2001 have been those figures loosely grouped by Western comment and reporting under the pejorative heading of “warlords” (in Afghanistan, all leaders of military formations are called <em>kumandan</em>, or “commander”), the subject of Giustozzi’s latest book.</p> <p>The Soviet Union and the Afghan communists had to deal with them and seek their support. The Mujahedin regime after 1992, and the Northern Alliance which fought the Taliban, largely consisted of warlords. Only the Taliban succeeded in abolishing their power in many areas. Under the Karzai administration and the Americans, warlords have ruled much of Afghanistan. When the West withdraws, it is likely that much of Afghanistan not taken over by the Taliban will be ruled by US-subsidised warlords, though they will probably call themselves generals of some more-or-less fictitious Afghan national state.</p> <p>One of the narcissistic fictions of which liberals have been guilty over Afghanistan is the belief that the re-emergence of the warlords after 2001 was the product of Bush administration folly or wickedness, and that strong and viable liberal and democratic alternatives existed, on the basis of which it would have been possible to build a strong and progressive Afghan state without a massive and very long-term Western presence.</p> <p>Folly and wickedness there undoubtedly was, but as Giustozzi’s work on the warlords shows, once the decision had been made not just to overthrow the Taliban but to exclude them from any share in power, the choices available to Washington were limited and unpleasant. Giustozzi’s basic conclusions concerning the nature and future of the state in Afghanistan are grim but convincing. “In the case of Afghanistan,” he writes, “the problem is still state formation more than state building. Gradually I came to think that the formation of a ‘modern’ and ‘diplomatically recognisable’ state in Afghanistan has little chance of succeeding unless it relies on the establishment of an international protectorate, with all the difficulties that come with that.&nbsp;</p> <p>Giustozzi’s point about state formation is a crucial one. The West’s approach in Afghanistan has been to try to transfer the structures of fully-developed modern statehood to Afghanistan – and not just that, but accompanied by the trappings at least of a specific form of such statehood: that of modern Western democracy. If, however, as Giustozzi suggests, Afghanistan is at an early stage of state formation, then any parallels (however inexact) in European history would have to be sought not in the recent past but many hundreds of years earlier. Giustozzi draws for some of his insights not on contemporary political science but on the period of Charlemagne.</p> <p>Some parts of Machiavelli are also a pretty good guide to the realities of warlordism, though the setting of contemporary Afghanistan is far poorer and less developed than that of 16th century central Italy. In Afghanistan as in Italy, at different times warlords have either undermined the state or laid its foundations. As Giustozzi points out, both the mid-18th century creator of “Afghanistan”, Ahmad Shah Abdali, and the late-19th century founder of the modern Afghan state, Emir Abdurrahman, would probably be defined today as “warlords”. <em>&nbsp;</em>“The warlords of the late 20th century,” he notes, “like the kings of the 18th and 19th centuries, all had to prioritise the primitive accumulation of power, to be attained primarily through both the monopolisation of large-scale violence and the centralisation of patronage.”</p> <p>Giustozzi’s work is thus an extremely important contribution to the academic literature not just on warlordism but on state formation in general. Its greatest value, however, lies in its magnificently detailed and textured examination of local power in Afghanistan as it has developed since the retreat of the Afghan state after 1979, and its almost total collapse in 1992. As the Afghan state retreated from many areas in the 1980s, a number of factors came together to ensure that – unlike in Vietnam, Algeria and elsewhere - the forces of the anti-communist and anti-Soviet rebellion would not be able to form state-building mass parties led by regular political cadres. Of these factors, two above all were critical: Afghanistan’s deep ethnic, tribal and regional divisions, and the very limited extent to which a sense of the modern state or of modern political mobilisation had penetrated into the mass of the population.</p> <h3>Warlords from the Dark Ages</h3> <p>Thus when I visited parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Mujahedin in the late 1980s, the first thing that struck me was the total disappearance of the state – “with all its works and all its empty promises”, as I wrote at the time – and the fact that neither the Mujahedin nor local Afghan society had made any attempt to recreate its local institutions. What they had restored were local traditional forms of justice, consultation and compromise – but these were derived either from the Pathan code of the pashtunwali or the Shariah, which long predated the state.&nbsp;</p> <p>What this experience left me with, and what is strongly reflected in Giustozzi’s work, is that the state as it is now understood – whether in modern democracies or modern authoritarian systems – is not a natural growth that springs up spontaneously in any soil. It needs a long, long process of cultivation. As the Vietminh and other left-wing guerrilla movements demonstrate, this cultivation can well be carried out by anti-state forces, but only if they draw on old local state traditions and also possess an ideology and ideologically-derived party structure which are dedicated to the control and development of the state.</p> <p>Very little of this was present in most of the Afghan resistance of the 1980s. Instead, a combination of local revolt, the undermining of traditional structures of elite and tribal allegiance and control by the war, and the flood of weapons from the US and its allies produced a situation in which across much of the country, the commanders of local armed rebel forces exercised most local power.</p> <p>As the war went on, more and more villagers fled either to the cities or across the borders to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and more and more Arab and US money arrived for commanders to pay their men, so more and more Mujahedin fighters ceased to be part-time warriors based in their home villages and became full-time soldiers owing their first loyalty to their commanders. These in turn generally owed formal allegiance to the leaders of Mujahedin parties based in Pakistan (the “seven dwarves”, as even their US sponsors called them in private) who controlled the flow of Arab money and US weaponry, but in effect functioned as independent princes – and could always change their party allegiance if they felt hard done-by.</p> <p>However, the collapse of central authority led to the development of opium poppy cultivation and the heroin trade, thereby giving local commanders their own source of income – something that remains of great importance today. It is should be noted, moreover, that most commanders had emerged not through hereditary prestige but through a rough and violent form of meritocracy. Men lacking in courage, resolution, ruthlessness and leadership skills have not lasted long as commanders in Afghanistan. Within its own specific – and unpleasant – context, their authority was a natural thing.</p> <p>After the collapse of the communist government in Kabul in 1992 (due to the defection of warlord-led militias when their Soviet subsidies disappeared), warlords took power across most of Afghanistan. With US backing, the Karzai administration has succeeded in reducing some of their power, but often only in order to replace them with warlords closer to Karzai.</p> <p>However, it is very important to differentiate in terms of warlordism between the Pashtun and other parts of the country. In 1992-94, except where Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami party exercised control, power was divided among a multitude of petty warlords squabbling among themselves, looting the population and commanding very little support from the local population, at least beyond their immediate clans.</p> <p>Among the non-Pashtun ethnicities, things were rather different. Warlords might emerge as the de facto leaders of a local ethnic group in its struggles with the Pashtuns and other ethnic rivals. This was true of one of Giustozzi’s principal case studies, General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Junbesh Uzbek militia (and, I would say, of the late Ahmed Shah Masoud’s leadership of the Panjshiri Tajiks, though for reasons that are not quite clear to me Giustozzi does not consider him to have been a warlord). While they have been far from nationalist leaders in a modern state-building sense, this local ethnic support gave some of the northern warlords a solidity and durability denied to the Pashtun warlords.</p> <p>In consequence, while the Taliban swept away the latter with remarkable ease after 1994 (to the overwhelming applause of the local Pashtun populations, sickened by their marauding), they had a much harder struggle to conquer the north of the country, and had not wholly succeeded when 9/11 occurred and brought the US down on their heads. With the US unwilling to deploy its own forces, and unable to do so in the timeframe demanded by the Bush administration, the Americans used the warlords of the Northern Alliance as ground forces. Those ground forces then very naturally seized the power abandoned by the Taliban and took the opportunity to dispose of their local rivals and regain control of the reviving heroin trade.</p> <p>Unwilling to launch new military operations against former US allies in support of a strong central state, the West, in Giustozzi’s words, “busied itself finding as many distractions as possible” in “reconstruction”, “development”, “electoral processes” and so on, which had no chance of ultimately succeeding in the absence of effective state authority.</p> <p>As Giustozzi points out, however, certain warlords – notably Ismail Khan in Herat – have also played an embryonic state-building role in the areas they control. Should the Afghan central state and army wither again in the aftermath of a US withdrawal, anti-Taliban warlords backed by US arms and money will in effect run small semi-independent statelets or principalities across much of Afghanistan. Nonetheless, they will still owe formal allegiance to some kind of state administered out of Kabul, and may share local power with its representatives or even conceivably with the Taliban.</p> <p>This brings us to another distorting intellectual shadow being cast over our understanding of Afghanistan (and other societies): that of Max Weber. He famously defined the monopoly of armed force as a key characteristic of the <em>modern</em> state. The fact that most states through history have not fulfilled the criteria of modernity has not stopped Western analysts applying it unquestioningly to Afghanistan, since the modern state is the only kind of state that most of them know or can imagine. They have forgotten that for great parts of human history states have not in fact held monopolies of armed force – and yet have functioned with a degree of efficiency in their circumscribed fields, have co-existed fairly peacefully for long periods with other armed groups on their territory, and have allowed sections of the economy and culture to flourish. Or to put it another way: Afghanistan is often called a “medieval” country as if this were an insult. It would in fact be a <em>compliment</em> – if only it were true. In many respects, Afghanistan is in fact closer to the European Dark Ages than to the European – or Muslim – Middle Ages.</p> <h3>An impenetrable enemy</h3> <p>If our allies in this war are so complicated and unreliable, what of the Taliban? What are the chances of the US being able to split them, and make peace with their “moderate” elements? Can there be a settlement with the movement as a whole, involving the exclusion of at least an open presence of Al Qaeda from areas controlled by the Taliban, and some kind of division of Afghanistan into spheres of influence? Failing that, when the US withdraws, will the Afghan National Army be able to beat them back from the main towns, as it did with Soviet backing in 1989-92? Or will the Taliban sweep to power in the Pashtun areas, or even the whole country?</p> <p>These are the questions on which the whole future of Afghanistan, and perhaps the political future of the United States will hinge; yet our governments and militaries lack the knowledge of the Taliban that would be necessary to start formulating even tentative answers to them. Having roundly blamed the West for a lack of real interest in the subject, it is only fair to add that another reason for our lack of knowledge is that the Taliban are not at all easy to know. They do not exactly encourage research by journalists and scholars. Exceptionally dedicated journalists like David Loyn and Christian Parenti have managed to interview some of their commanders, and Graeme Smith of the <em>Globe and Mail</em> organised a very interesting opinion survey of several dozen ordinary fighters, but such efforts have been rare and partial. As for the Taliban’s own statements, both their style and content are rhetorical, hortatory and formulaic, making it extremely hard even for Afghans, let alone Westerners to detect whether they might all the same contain the possible seeds of compromise.</p> <p>This impenetrability is true to an extent even of Mullah Zaeef’s book, by far the most valuable work in translation to have emerged from the Taliban, and which should be on the shelf of every policymaker, analyst or commentator dealing with Afghanistan. It is literally invaluable; yet it must be admitted that it is invaluable in something of the same way that a Sassanian royal declaration would be to a historian of ancient Persia: containing enormous lacunae; damnably hard to follow; and comprehensible only with the help of other sources and scholarly exegesis.</p> <p>I shudder to think of the work that Linschoten and Kuehn must have had to do in order to make it reasonably logical in terms of structure, reasonably accessible to Western audiences and minimally frank on certain key issues; and even so it contains enormous gaps. A scholar of Afghanistan 3,000 years from now with only this as his source would be hard put to understand 9/11 and the US response, since there is almost no mention of Al Qaeda; would not know where the Taliban got their arms during the 1990s, since there is no mention of Pakistan’s role in supplying them; and would only be able to pick up the role of ethnic tensions in modern Afghan history, and the role of Pashtun feeling in Taliban support, from occasional veiled hints.</p> <p>Where this book is most valuable is in its evocation of the <em>world</em> of the Taliban: their deep rootedness in the society of rural southern Afghanistan, as worked on by the experience of war, displacement and the Pakistani refugee camps of the 1980s. Mullah Zaeef himself was the son of a small village mullah in rural Kandahar. One passage about his childhood:<em> “</em>My younger sister died in Mushan, although I am not sure what she died of. There were so many deaths in the villages in 1971 and 1972, after a drought, and some families lost their entire harvest…”</p> <p>So much for the paradisiacal portrait of pre-Soviet Afghanistan drawn by Afghan liberals and believed by naïve Westerners. Memories like this help explain the mixture of distrust and indifference with which many ordinary rural Afghans regard their own state. In its entire existence, it has quite simply never done anything good for them or their families. Hence too the willingness to regard either the Taliban (in the Pashtun areas) or some local warlord as a preferable alternative to the state, or at least one that could not be worse.</p> <p>Contrary to the widespread canard that the Taliban were created (as opposed to supported later) by Pakistan in the mid-1990s, Zaeef records the origins of the movement in a network of local resistance to the Soviets led by local Mullahs in Kandahar province and the Pakistani refugee camps in the early 1990s (and taking their name of course from an institution which as Zaeef points out is almost as old as Islam itself, that of religious students). It is this leadership by a cadre of small local mullahs rather than great tribal chieftains which may give the Taliban their remarkable staying power compared to the Pashtun revolts of the past, which tended to flare up quickly and widely but then sink down again equally quickly after suffering reverses. They are also – it hardly needs saying – extremely tough. Mullah Zaeef describes his comrades suffering wound after wound and yet returning to the fight</p> <p>After the fall of Kandahar to the Mujahedin in 1992, this network came together again and gained mass support in response to the appalling behaviour of the local Mujahedin commanders. In the southern Pashtun countryside at least, standard Western official language about the Taliban “penetrating” or “infiltrating” local society is therefore misleading. They <em>are </em>local society.</p> <p>A striking feature of Zaeef’s book is its strong Afghan nationalism (mixed up with Pashtun allegiances which he does not discuss and may not even be fully aware of). This comes out among other ways in his intense loathing of the Pakistani state.<em> </em>He writes: “Pakistan, which plays a key role in Asia, is so famous for its treachery that it is said that they can get milk from a bull. They have two tongues in one mouth and two faces on one head so they can speak everybody’s language; they use everybody, deceive everybody.”</p> <p>This loathing is partly because of the way in which it handed him to the Americans in 2002, but also no doubt because he shares the bitter resentment that so many Afghans have expressed to me over the years at Pakistan’s attempts to use and dominate them, as well as the humiliations visited on Afghan refugees in Pakistan by Pakistani police and officials.</p> <p>An interesting point is that in the 1980s, after 9/11 and – to judge by Zaeef’s account – during the Taliban’s rise in the 1990s, this was true even of those Afghans who were gaining the most help from Pakistan. Zaeef describes his own approach to dealing with Pakistani military intelligence, while Taliban ambassador to Islamabad, with the words “I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, but not so bitter that I would be spat out.”</p> <p>Zaeef’s nationalism tends to support the results of Graeme Smith’s survey, which suggest that while the leadership obviously also have an agenda of seizing power in order to create an Islamist regime, by far the most important motivation for ordinary Taliban fighters is not Islamist ideology but to get the US and Western forces out of the country – a desire obviously strengthened enormously by the loss of relatives or neighbours killed by US bombardments.</p> <p>In Giustozzi’s edited volume, Joanna Nathan writes of the Taliban putting out “an almost solely nationalist message relentlessly spotlighting the poor state of local governance and questioning the motives of foreign ‘invaders’ “.Or as an anti-Taliban Pashtun politician in Pakistan told me, “Our problem is that every Pashtun has been brought up from the cradle to believe that to resist foreign occupation is part of what it is to do Pashto” (i.e. follow the true Pashtun way). &nbsp;</p> <p>And indeed, the Taliban leadership’s one non-negotiable demand is the complete withdrawal of Western forces. They say that this must take place <em>before</em> they will negotiate any settlement with the government in Kabul, but clearly there might be some room for compromise here on the basis of a public US commitment to a swift and reasonably rapid timetable for withdrawal.</p> <p>There are obvious obstacles to a negotiated settlement. A resolution seems quite impossible as long as Karzai remains in power, since his removal would be an essential part of any settlement. A minimum demand would be Taliban control of the south, which would also mean displacing Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali, and other local bosses and warlords who have been backed by both Karzai and the US. Given Afghan history, it is conceivable that a deal could be worked out in which these parties share local power and profit with the Taliban, but this remains highly unlikely.</p> <p>Would the Taliban leadership and their followers settle for power only in the south, or perhaps in the Pashtun areas as a whole? Unfortunately, it is in the nature of their Pashtun character that the Taliban (including Zaeef) are at their most infuriatingly enigmatic. There are plenty of coded appeals to Pashtun sentiment in their propaganda, but they have never presented themselves as a Pashtun movement – both because they hope to rule all of Afghanistan and perhaps because, like many Pashtun, they see Afghanistan as an essentially Pashtun country. Their support, however, is certainly and overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) concentrated in the Pashtun areas.</p> <p><em>Decoding the New Taliban</em> provides a deeper understanding of such issues. &nbsp;Its essays, drawn from field research conducted in several different provinces, bring out the varied levels of organisation and command and control exercised by the Taliban high command in different parts of the country. These divisions would seem in principle to give the US and the Karzai government a good chance of splitting the Taliban and drawing away its local commanders in some areas. Mullah Zaeef recalls a pattern during and after the Soviet withdrawal, one which which I heard described repeatedly during my travels with the Mujahedin in Afghanistan:</p> <blockquote><p><em>Kandahar’s [Communist] governor at the time, Nur-ul-Haq Ulumi, was handing out truckloads of money to various [Mujahedin] groups, in exchange for which they would conduct staged and pre-announced attacks in which there would be no casualties…Even though the Russians were defeated, the Communists would remain in power by buying off the Mujahedeen. This tactic was extensively funded by the Soviet Union…The fragile alliance between the Taliban and other Kandhari mujahedeen groups began to crumble.</em></p></blockquote> <h3>A line in blood&nbsp;</h3> <p>Could the US and Karzai replicate this Soviet success in splitting the opposition on the ground? The problem, as Giustozzi writes, is that while the Taliban are clearly poorly organised compared to some old-style Communist and nationalist guerrilla movements, they are vastly more united and disciplined than the Mujahedin of the 1980s – and, I would say, than many of the forces supporting Karzai. Giustozzi's conclusions concerning the possibility of breaking off significant parts of the Taliban are gloomy:</p> <blockquote><p><em>The role of the core activists is crucial: it is they who are able to inflict casualties, able to move around as required by the leadership, disciplined enough to take orders and motivated enough to risk their lives…Although local recruits, local commanders without an ideological profile, and mobilised communities make up the bulk of the neo-Taliban insurgency, their strategic importance is very modest. They are “auxiliary insurgents” or even “decoy insurgents” in some cases, and wars (or peaces) are not won by focusing on auxiliaries….Any major political or economic effort targeted at luring away these “auxiliaries” and “decoys” could well end up resembling an attempt to empty the sea with a bucket.</em></p></blockquote> <p>On the other hand, he is also pessimistic about the chances of negotiating successfully with the top Taliban leadership, as long as it is convinced that it is winning and Western will to continue the fight is crumbling. Another central part of US strategy to push back the Taliban and allow the US to withdraw is to strengthen the Afghan National Army, but this risks making negotiations with the Taliban leadership permanently impossible, since no strong army command would ever agree to giving up control of much of the country to the Taliban. Mullah Zaeef describes negotiations between the Taliban and the Ahmed Shah Masoud in 2000, which broke down over Masoud’s inevitable insistence on retaining independent armed forces (albeit as part of an ostensibly united Afghan army) and the Taliban’s refusal to agree to this. Moreover, negotiations with Mullah Omar may well be politically impossible for the Obama administration (at least until the 2012 elections, which it may not survive), given the political advantage the Republicans could derive from this “surrender”.</p> <p>My own view therefore is that the most likely future may well resemble the past Soviet withdrawal. The US will build up the Afghan army to the point where they think it has a reasonable chance of surviving on its own (albeit with continued and massive US support, including both air power and money to buy off local Taliban commanders), and will then declare victory and withdraw all or most US ground troops. The army will then either hold the Pashtun cities against the Taliban in a series of bloody sieges like that of Jalalabad in 1989, or lose them and retreat to Kabul and the non-Pashtun areas.</p> <p>This would usher in a long-term civil war along broadly ethnic lines, in which different warlords and militias would be helped by different international backers, including the US, India, Iran, Russia and possibly China, and of course Pakistan for the Taliban. This would be a thoroughly awful future for Afghans, and would draw a line in blood under all the megalomaniac Western hopes of transforming Afghanistan. It has to be said that such an outcome would be largely in tune both with much of America’s record elsewhere in the world, and with Afghanistan’s own modern history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This essay first appeared in <a href="">Current Intelligence Magazine</a> on September 6, 2010, and is republished here courtesy of its editors.</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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Culture Conflict International politics Anatol Lieven Mon, 25 Oct 2010 13:56:29 +0000 Anatol Lieven 56479 at Understanding Pakistan's military <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A guided tour of Pakistan’s Army, from its role within Pakistani nationalism, prospects of mutiny, and the relationship of the ISI to the Jihadi world, to hostilities with India, suggests that some key ways of defusing the situation may be being neglected </div> </div> </div> <p>Voltaire remarked of Frederick the Great’s Prussia that “Where some states have an army, the Prussian Army has a state.” In view of the sheer size, effectiveness and wealth of the Pakistan military and associated institutions compared to the rest of the state, much the same could be said of Pakistan.</p> <p>The Pakistani military is the only Pakistani state institution which works as it is officially meant to – which means that it repeatedly does something that it is not meant to, which is to overthrow what in Pakistan is called “democracy” and seize control of the state from other institutions. The military has therefore been seen as extremely bad for Pakistan’s progress, at least if that progress is to be defined in standard western terms.</p> <p>On the other hand, it has also always been true that without a strong military, Pakistan would most probably long since have disintegrated. That is more than ever true today, as the country faces the powerful insurgency of the Pakistani Taleban and their allies. The Taleban threat makes the unity and discipline of the Army of paramount importance to Pakistan and the world – all the more so because the deep unpopularity of US strategy among the vast majority of Pakistanis has made even the limited alliance between the Pakistani military and the US extremely unpopular in Pakistani society, and among many soldiers.</p> <p>The Pakistani military owes its success as a modern institution to the fact that it has to a considerable extent separated itself from the political culture of the rest of the country, which revolves around kinship, factions, and patronage – which alas all too often shades over into corruption and even kleptocracy. Of course, corruption does exist within the military, but to nothing like the same extent as in the rest of society.</p> <p>The military has been able to achieve this separation because of two deeply intertwined and mutually dependent factors: a collective ethos which promotes honest service to the military as an institution; and a <em>great deal of money.</em> Without the resources to reward the soldiers adequately and provide them with decent services, the collective ethos of service, honesty and discipline could not be maintained. On the other hand, without this collective ethos, many of the resources given to the military would simply be stolen, as they are in the rest of the state.</p> <p>To put it another way, the military’s success as an institution and its power over the state comes from its immunity to kinship interests and the corruption they bring with them; but it has only been able to achieve this immunity by turning itself into a sort of giant kinship group, extracting patronage from the state and distributing it to its members.</p> <p>The scale of military spending has severely limited funds available for education, development, medical services and infrastructure. If continued, this imbalance risks eventually crippling the country and sending Pakistan the way of the Soviet Union – another country which got itself into a ruinous military race with a vastly richer power. On the other hand, the rewards of loyal military service have also helped to prevent military mutinies and coups by junior officers – something that would plunge Pakistan overnight into African chaos, and usher in civil war and Islamist revolt.</p> <h3>Our mad dog</h3> <p>As a Lt Colonel fighting the Pakistani Taleban told me in July 2009:</p><blockquote><p>“The soldiers, like Pakistanis in general, see no difference between the American and the Russian presences in Afghanistan. They see both as illegal military occupations by aliens, and that the Afghan government are just pathetic puppets. Today also, they still see the Afghan Taleban as freedom-fighters who are fighting these occupiers just like the Mujahedin against the Russians. And the invasion of Iraq, and all the lies that Bush told, had a very bad effect – soldiers think that the US is trying to conquer or dominate the whole Muslim world. But as far as our own Taleban are concerned, things are changing.</p><p>Before, I must tell you frankly, there was a very widespread feeling in the Army that everything Pakistan was doing was in the interests of the West and that we were being forced to do it by America. But now, the militants have launched so many attacks on Pakistan and killed so many soldiers that this feeling is changing…</p><p>But to be very honest with you, we are brought up from our cradle to be ready to fight India and once we join the Army this feeling is multiplied. So we are always happy when we are sent to the LOC [the Line of Control dividing Pakistani and Indian Kashmir] or even to freeze on the Siachen. But we are not very happy to be sent here to fight other Pakistanis, though we obey as a matter of duty. No soldier likes to kill his own people. I talked to my wife on the phone yesterday. She said that you must be happy to have killed so many miscreants. I said to her, if our dog goes mad we would have to shoot it, but we would not be happy about having to do this.”</p></blockquote> <p>Between 2004 and 2007 there were a number of instances of mass desertion and refusal to fight in units deployed to fight militants, though mostly in the Pathan-recruited Frontier Corps rather than in the regular Army. In these morally and psychologically testing circumstances, anything that helps maintain Pakistani military discipline cannot be altogether bad – given the immense scale of the stakes concerned, and the consequences if that discipline were to crack.</p> <p>Fortunately, commitment to the Army, and to the unity and discipline of the Army, is drilled into every officer and soldier from the first hour of their joining the military. Together with the material rewards of loyal service, it constitutes a very powerful obstacle to any thought of a coup from below, which would by definition split the Army and would indeed very likely destroy it and the army altogether. Every military coup in Pakistan has therefore been carried out by the Chief of Army Staff of the time, backed by a consensus of the Corps Commanders and the rest of the High Command. Islamist conspiracies by junior officers against their superiors (of which there have been two over the past generation) have been penetrated and smashed by Military Intelligence.</p> <h3>Morally superior</h3> <p>The Pakistani military therefore, more even than most militaries, sees itself as a breed apart, and devotes great effort to inculcating in new recruits the feeling that they belong to a military family different from (and vastly superior to) Pakistani civilian society. The mainly middle-class composition of the officer corps increases contempt for the “feudal” political class. The Army sees itself as both morally superior to this class, and far more modern, progressive and better-educated.</p> <p>This belief is also widely present in Pakistani society as a whole, and has become dominant at regular intervals. It is sadly true that whatever the feelings of the population later, every military coup in Pakistan when it happened was popular with most Pakistanis, including the Pakistani media, and was subsequently legitimized by the Pakistani judiciary. As Hasan-Askari Rizvi <a href=";pageno=2&amp;recordPerPage=25&amp;totalrecord=21">writes</a>, “the imposition of martial law was not contested by any civilian group and the military had no problem assuming and consolidating power.”</p> <p>It is possible that developments since 2001 have changed this pattern, above all because of the new importance of the independent judiciary and media, and the way that the military’s role both in government and in the unpopular war with the Pakistani Taleban has tarnished their image with many Pakistanis.</p> <p>However, this change is not proven yet, and depends critically on how Pakistani civilian governments perform in future. On that score, by the summer of 2009, only a year after Musharraf’s resignation, many Pakistanis of my acquaintance, especially in the business classes, were once again calling for the military to step in to oust the civilian administration of President Zardari – not necessarily to take over themselves, but to purge the most corrupt politicians and create a government of national unity or a caretaker government of technocrats.</p> <p>Military loathing for the politicians is strengthened by the fact that Pakistani politics is dominated by wealth and inherited status, whereas the officer corps has become increasingly socially egalitarian, and provides opportunities for social mobility which the Pakistani economy cannot, and a position in the officer corps is immensely prized by the sons of shopkeepers and big farmers across Punjab and the NWFP. This allows the military to pick the very best recruits, and increases their sense of belonging to an elite. In the last years of British rule and the first years of Pakistan, most officers were recruited from the landed gentry and upper middle classes. These are still represented by figures like former Chief of Army Staff General Jehangir Karamat, but a much more typical figure is the present COAS (as of 2010), General Ashfaq Kayani, son of an NCO. This social change reflects partly the withdrawal of the upper middle classes to more comfortable professions, but also the immense increase in the numbers of officers required.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the political parties continue to be dominated by “feudal” landowners and wealthy urban bosses, many of them not just corrupt but barely educated. This increases the sense of superiority to the politicians in the officer corps – something that I have heard from many officers and which was very marked in General Musharraf’s personal contempt for Benazir Bhutto and her husband.</p> <p>I have also been told by a number of officers and members of military families that “the officers’ mess is the most democratic institution in Pakistan, because its members are superior and junior during the day, but in the evening are comrades. That is something we have inherited from the British”.</p> <p>This may seem like a ludicrous statement, until one remembers that in Pakistan, saying that something is the most spiritually democratic institution isn’t saying very much. Pakistani society is permeated by a culture of deference to superiors, starting with elders within the family and kinship group. Pakistan’s dynastically-ruled “democratic” political parties exemplify this deference to inheritance and wealth; while in the Army, as an officer told me:</p> <blockquote><p>“You rise on merit – well, mostly - not by inheritance, and you salute the military rank and not the sardar or pir who has inherited his position from his father, or the businessman’s money. These days, many of the generals are the sons of clerks and shopkeepers, or if they are from military families, they are the sons of havildars [NCOs]. It doesn’t matter. The point is that they are generals.”</p></blockquote> <h3>Pakistani nationalism</h3> <p>The social change in the officer corps over the decades has led to longstanding Western fears that it is becoming “Islamized”, leading to the danger that either the Army as a whole might support Islamist revolution, or that there might be a mutiny by Islamist junior officers against the high command. These dangers do exist, but in my view only a direct and massive attack on Pakistan by the US could bring them to fruition.</p> <p>It is obviously true that as the officer corps becomes lower middle class, so its members become less westernized and more religious – after all, the vast majority of Pakistan’s population are conservative Muslims. However, as the last chapter explained, they are many different kinds of conservative Muslim, and this is also true of the officer corps.</p> <p>On the whole, by far the most important aspect of a Pakistani officer’s identity is that he (or sometimes she) is an officer. The Pakistani military is a profoundly shaping influence as far as its members are concerned. This can be seen amongst other things from the social origins and personal cultures of its chiefs of staff and military rulers over the years. It would be hard to find a more different set of men than Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf, Beg, Karamat and Kayani in terms of their social origins, personal characters and attitudes to religion. Yet all have been first and foremost military men.</p> <p>This means in turn that their ideology was first and foremost Pakistani nationalist. The military is tied to Pakistan, not the universal Muslim ummah of the radical Islamists’ dreams; tied not only by sentiment and ideology, but also by the reality of what supports the Army. If it is true, as so many officers have told me, that “No Army, no Pakistan”, it is equally true that “No Pakistan, no Army”.</p><p>In the 1980s General Zia did undertake measures to make the army more Islamic, and a good many officers who wanted promotion adopted an Islamic façade in the hope of furthering this. Zia also encouraged Islamic preaching within the army, notably by the Tabligh-e-Jamaat. However, as the careers of the generals Karamat and Musharraf indicate, this did not lead to known secular generals being blocked from promotion; and in the 1990s, and especially under Musharraf, most of Zia’s measures were rolled back. In recent years, preaching by the Tabligh has been strongly discouraged, not so much because of political fears (the Tabligh is determinedly apolitical) as because of instinctive opposition to any groups that might encourage factions among officers, and loyalties to anything other than the Army itself.</p> <p>Of course, the Army has always gone into battle with the cry of <em>Allahu Akbar</em> (God is Great) – just as the old German army carried Gott mit Uns (God with Us) on its helmets and standards; but according to a moderate Islamist officer, Colonel (retd) Abdul Qayyum:</p> <blockquote><p>“You shouldn’t use bits of Islam to raise military discipline, morale and so on. I’m sorry to say that this is the way it has always been used in the Pakistani army. It is our equivalent of rum – the generals use it to get their men to launch suicidal attacks. But there is no such thing as a powerful jihadi group within the army. Of course, there are many devoutly Muslim officers and jawans, but at heart the vast majority of the army are nationalists, and take whatever is useful from Islam to serve what they see as Pakistan’s interests. The Pakistani army has been a nationalist army with an Islamic look.”</p></blockquote> <p>However, if the Army is not Islamist, its members can hardly avoid sharing in the bitter hostility to US policy of the overwhelming majority of the Pakistani population. To judge by retired and serving officers of my acquaintance, this includes the genuine conviction that either the Bush administration or Israel were responsible for 9/11. Inevitably therefore, there was deep opposition throughout the Army after 2001 to US pressure to crack down on the Afghan Taleban and their Pakistani sympathizers. “We are being ordered to launch a Pakistani civil war for the sake of America”, an officer told me in 2002. “Why on earth should we? Why should we commit suicide for you?”</p> <h3>Mutineer scenarios</h3> <p>In 2007-2008, this was beginning to cause serious problems of morale. The most dangerous single thing I heard during my visits to Pakistan in those years was that soldiers’ families in villages in the NWFP and the Potwar region were finding it increasingly difficult to find high-status brides for their sons serving in the military, because of the growing popular feeling that “the Army are slaves of the Americans”, and “the soldiers are killing fellow Muslims on America’s orders.”</p> <p>By late 2009 the sheer number of soldiers killed by the Pakistani Taleban and their allies, and still more importantly the increasingly murderous and indiscriminate Pakistani Taleban attacks on civilians, seems to have produced a change of mood in the areas of military recruitment.</p> <p>Nonetheless, if the Pakistani Taleban are increasingly unpopular, that does not make the US any more popular; and if the US ever put Pakistani soldiers in a position where they felt that honour and patriotism required them to fight America, many would be willing to do so.</p> <p>The most dangerous moment in my visits to Pakistan since 9/11 came in August-September 2008, when on two occasions US forces entered Pakistan’s Tribal Areas on the ground in order to raid suspected Taleban and Al Qaeda bases. On the second occasion, Pakistani soldiers fired in the air to turn the Americans back. On September 19th 2008 the Chief of the Army Staff, General Kayani, flew to meet the US Chief of the Joint Staffs, Admiral Mike Mullen, on the US Aircraft Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and in the words of a senior Pakistani general “gave him the toughest possible warning about what would happen if this were repeated”.</p> <p>Pakistani officers from Captain to Lt General have told me that the entry of US ground forces into Pakistan in pursuit of the Taleban and Al Qaeda is by far the most dangerous scenario as far as both Pakistani-US relations and the unity of the Army is concerned. As one retired general explained, drone attacks on Pakistani territory, though the ordinary officers and soldiers find them humiliating, are not a critical issue because they cannot do anything about them:</p> <blockquote><p>“US ground forces inside Pakistan are a different matter, because the soldiers can do something about them. They can fight. And if they don’t fight, they will feel utterly humiliated, before their wives, mothers, children. It would be a matter of honour, which as you know is a tremendous thing in our society. These men have sworn an oath to defend Pakistani soil. So they would fight. And if the generals told them not to fight, many of them would mutiny, starting with the Frontier Corps.”</p></blockquote> <p>At this point, not just Islamist radicals but every malcontent in the country would join the mutineers, and the disintegration of Pakistan would come a giant leap closer.</p> <h3>India and Kashmir</h3> <p>Traditionally, hostility to the US in Pakistan has stemmed from a mixture of anger at US policies in the Muslim world more widely (especially of course concerning Israel and Palestine) and a feeling that on specific occasions, the US has used and then abandoned Pakistan. More recently, however, hostility has been considerably strengthened by the growing alliance between the US and India. This is especially dangerous as far as the military is concerned, for fear of India is the military’s central raison d’etre.</p><p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Speaking of the average Pakistani officer of today, however, Lt General (retd) Tanvir Naqvi told me that: </span></p> <blockquote><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“He has no doubt in his mind that the adversary is India, and that the whole <em>raison d’etre</em> of the Army is to defend against India. His image of Indians is of an anti-Pakistan, anti-Muslim, treacherous people. So he feels that he must be always ready to fight against India.”</span></p></blockquote> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Pakistan was born in horrendous bloodshed between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; and within two months of its birth, fighting had broken out with India over the fate of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. This fighting has continued on and off ever since. Two out of Pakistan’s three wars with India have been fought over Kashmir, as have several smaller campaigns. These include the bitter, 25-year-long struggle for the Siachen Glacier (possibly the most strategically pointless fight in the entire history of human conflict) initiated by India in 1984. The vast majority of Pakistani soldiers have served in Kashmir at some point or other, and for many this service has played a formative role in their worldview. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The military’s obsession with India and Kashmir is not in origin Islamist, but Pakistani Muslim nationalist. With rare exceptions, this has been true even of those senior officers most closely involved in backing Islamist extremist groups to fight against India, like former ISI chief Lt General Hamid Gul. Most have used the Islamists as weapons against India without sharing their ideology.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Islamist radical groups, madrasahs and networks which had served to raise Pakistani volunteers for the Afghan jihad had always hated India, and were only too ready to accept Pakistani military help, including funding, weapons supplies, provision of intelligence, and the creation of training camps run by the Pakistani military.</p> <p>However, just as in Afghanistan first the Mujahedin and then the Taleban escaped from the US and Pakistani scripts and ran amok on their own accounts, so the militants in Kashmir began to alienate much of the native Kashmiri population with their ruthlessness and ideological fanaticism; to splinter and splinter again into ever-smaller groups and fight with each other despite ISI efforts to promote co-operation, and to prey on kashmiri civilians.</p> <p>Finally – though it is not clear if this was really a departure from the script, as ISI officers claim in private, or was planned by the ISI as the Indian government believes – the militants began to carry out terrorist attacks on Indian targets outside Kashmir (starting with an attack on Indian soldiers at the Red Fort in Delhi in December 2000). This last development in particular ensured that in the wake of 9/11, Pakistan would come under irresistible US pressure to abandon its active support for the Kashmiri jihad and crack down on its militant allies.</p> <p>In January 2002, Musharraf formally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, and ordered an end to militant infiltration into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan. Due mainly to intense US pressure, from mid-2003 on this ban has been enforced, leading to a steep reduction in violence in Kashmir. Largely as a result, in November 2003 India and Pakistan agreed a ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir, and initiated a dialogue on a possible settlement over Kashmir. However, the Pakistani military remained firmly convinced that India would never agree to terms even minimally acceptable to Pakistan unless at least the threat of future guerrilla and terrorist action remained present.</p> <h3>The ISI</h3> <p>By 2008, as the Taleban insurgency against Pakistan itself gathered pace and an increasing number of ISI officers and informants fell victim to it, the ISI itself began to see the need for a new and much tougher approach to some of its militant allies within Pakistan.</p> <p>However, the military is genuinely concerned that if it attacks some of these groups it will drive them into joining the Pakistani Taleban – as has already occurred with Sipahi-Sabah, Lashkar-e-Janghvi and some sections of Jaish-e-Mohammed. The suspected involvement of JeM activists in the attempts to assassinate Musharraf in December 2003 (apparently with low level help from within the armed forces) led to a harsh crackdown on parts of the group by Pakistani intelligence.</p> <p>The ISI’s long association with the militants, first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir, had led some ISI officers into a close personal identification with the forces that they were supposed to be controlling. This leads to a whole set of interlocking questions: How far the Pakistani High Command continues to back certain militant groups; how far the command of the ISI may be following a strategy in this regard independent from that of the military; and how far individual ISI officers may have escaped from the control of their superiors and be supporting and planning terrorist actions on their own. This in turn leads to the even more vital question of how far the Pakistani military is penetrated by Islamist extremist elements, and whether there is any possibility of these carrying out a successful military coup from below, against their own high command.</p><p>Since this whole field is obviously kept very secret by the institutions concerned (including Military Intelligence, which monitors the political and ideological allegiances of officers), there are no definitive answers to these questions. What follows is informed guess-work based on numerous discussions with experts and off-the-record talks with Pakistani officers including retired ISI officers.</p> <p>Concerning the ISI, the consensus of my informants is as follows: There is considerable resentment of the ISI in the rest of the military, due to their perceived arrogance and suspected corruption. However, when it comes to overall strategy, the ISI follows the line of the high command. It is after all always headed by a senior regular general, not a professional intelligence officer, and a majority of its officers are also seconded regulars. The present Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, was director of the ISI from 2004-2007, and ordered a limited crackdown on jihadi groups that the ISI had previously supported.</p> <p>Concerning the Afghan Taleban, the military and the ISI are at one, and the evidence is unequivocal: The military and ISI continue to give them shelter, and there is deep unwillingness to take serious action against them on America’s behalf, both because it is feared that this would increase Pathan insurgency in Pakistan, and because they are seen as the only assets Pakistan possesses in Afghanistan. The conviction in the Pakistani security establishment is that the West will quit Afghanistan leaving civil war behind, and that India will then throw its weight behind the non-Pathan forces of the former Northern Alliance in order to encircle Pakistan strategically.</p> <p>Concerning the Pakistani Taleban and their allies, however, like the military as a whole, the ISI is now committed to the struggle against them, and by the end of 2009 had lost more than seventy of its officers in this fight – some ten times the number of CIA officers killed since 9/11, just as Pakistani military casualties fighting the Pakistani Taleban have greatly exceeded those of the US in Afghanistan. Equally, however, in 2007-2008 there were a great many stories of ISI officers intervening to rescue individual Taleban commanders from arrest by the police or the army – too many, and too circumstantial, for these all to have been invented.</p> <p>It seems clear therefore that whether because individual ISI officers felt a personal commitment to these men, or because the institution as a whole still regarded them as potentially useful, actions were taking place that were against overall military policy – let alone that of the Pakistani government. Moreover, some of these men had at least indirect links to Al Qaeda. This does not mean that the ISI knows where Osama bin Laden (if he is indeed still alive), Aiman al-Zawahiri and other Al Qaeda leaders are hiding. It does however suggest that they could probably do a good deal more to find out.</p> <p>On the crucial question of support for terrorism against India, it is obvious that not just the ISI but the military as a whole are committed to keeping Lashkar-e-Taiba (under its cover as Jamaat-ut-Dawa) at least in existence, both as a potential future weapon against India and because they are genuinely scared of driving this very powerful and popular group to revolt.</p> <p>Jamaat-ut-Dawa’s extensive international network in the Pakistani diaspora also leads Pakistani officers to fear that if they attempt seriously to suppress the group it will also launch successful terrorist attacks in the West, with disastrous results for Pakistan’s international position. Lashkar-e-Taiba members certainly have contacts with Al Qaeda, and helped Al Qaeda operatives escape from Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taleban and helped shelter them within Pakistan. As Stephen Tankel writes:</p> <blockquote><p>“Ideologically, for all of its strategic restraint following 9/11 Lashkar is, after all, a jihadi organization with a long history of waging pan-Islamic irredentist campaigns. Indian-controlled Kashmir may be the group’s primary ideological and strategic target, but it has never been the apotheosis of Lashkar’s jihad.”</p></blockquote><h3>Blaming Pakistan</h3> <p>All the groups and individuals within this net hate the US, Israel, India and indeed Russia alike, though they have different targets at different times. Despite LeT’s strategic decision to concentrate on India, therefore, there is no ideological barrier to its members taking part in actions against the West. The jihadi world could even be called a kind of cloud of gas in which individuals join some clump for one operation and then part again to form new ad hoc groups for other attacks. This also makes it extremely hard for the ISI to keep tabs on the individuals concerned, even when it wants to.</p> <p>By far the biggest terrorist attack actually carried out by LeT itself was that in Mumbai in November 2008. The great majority of the Pakistani experts and retired officers whom I know do not think that the Pakistani high command, either of the ISI or the army, was involved in ordering Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008. They point out in particular that while deliberately targeting Westerners greatly boosted LeT’s prestige among international militants, it would have been an unprecedented, reckless and pointless strategy for the Pakistani high command, ensuring a furious reaction from the international community.</p> <p>Equally, there is an overwhelming consensus that this operation could not have been planned without ISI officers having been involved at some stage and without the ISI knowing that some sort of operation was being planned. Whether the operation then continued as it were on autopilot, was helped only by retired officers, or whether the junior officers concerned deliberately decided to pursue it without telling their superiors, is impossible to say at this stage.</p> <p>ISI help is however not necessary for Islamist terrorists who wish to carry out attacks against India (though it has certainly occurred in the past). The discontent of sections of India’s Muslim minority (increased by ghastly incidents like the massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, encouraged by the Hindu nationalist state government) gives ample possibilities of recruitment; the sheer size of India, coupled with the incompetence of the Indian security forces, gives ample targets of opportunity; and the desire to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan gives ample motive. But whether or not the ISI is involved in future attacks, India will certainly blame Pakistan for them.</p> <p>This creates the real possibility of a range of harsh Indian responses, stretching from economic pressure through blockade to outright war. Such a war would in the short term unite Pakistanis, and greatly increase the morale of the Army. The long term consequences for Pakistan’s (and possibly India’s) economic development could however be quite disastrous; while if the US were perceived to back India in such a war, anti-American feeling and extremist recruitment in Pakistan would soar to new heights.</p> <p>All of this gives the US every reason to press the Pakistani military to suppress some extremist groups and keep others on a very tight rein. Washington also however needs to press India to seek reconciliation with Pakistan over Kashmir, and to refrain from actions which will create even more fear of India in the Pakistani military.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in </em>The National Interest, Washington DC,<em> no.94, March/April 2008, under the title “All Kayani’s Men”.</em></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 Anatol Lieven Mon, 09 Aug 2010 11:46:14 +0000 Anatol Lieven 55511 at Anatol Lieven <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anatol Lieven </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anatol </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lieven </div> </div> </div> <p>Anatol Lieven is a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC. A new, updated edition of <em><a href=";ci=9780199897551">America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism</a></em>, was republished in September 2012 by Oxford University Press.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anatol Lieven is a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC. A new, updated edition of &lt;i&gt;America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism&lt;/i&gt;, was republished in September 2012 by Oxford University Press. </div> </div> </div> Anatol Lieven Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:12:23 +0000 Anatol Lieven 51032 at Pakistan’s American problem <p> The war that has resumed between the Pakistani army and the Taliban in the northern mountains of Pakistan is not between two clearly defined sides, with clearly defined victory and defeat. It is, instead, a very complicated mixture of war and politics, in which episodes of extreme violence alternate with periods of negotiation. <span class="pullquote_new">Anatol Lieven is a professor in the department of war studies at King&#39;s College, London. Among his books are <a href=""><em>The Baltic Revolution</em></a> (Yale University Press, 1993), <a href=""><em>Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power</em></a> (Yale University Press, 1998), and <a href=";ci=9780195300055"><em>America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism</em></a>  (Oxford University Press, 2004). His latest book (co-written with John Hulsman) is <a href=""><em>Ethical Realism: A Vision for America&#39;s Role in the World</em></a> (Pantheon, 2006). He is currently writing a book about Pakistan<br /> <br /> This article was published in the (London) <a href=""><em>Times</em></a>          <br /> Also by Anatol Lieven in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/node/549">Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation</a>&quot; (18 September 2002)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/node/2081">America right or wrong?</a>&quot; (8 September 2004)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/node/2168">Israel and the American antithesis</a>&quot; (19 October 2004)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/node/2171">Israel, the United States, and truth</a>&quot; (20 October 2004)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/democracy-americanpower/article_2348.jsp">Bush&#39;s choice: messianism or pragmatism?</a>&quot; (22 February 2005)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/democracy-opening/failure_2968.jsp">Democratic failure: festering lilies smell worse than weeds</a>&quot; (27 October 2005)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-americanpower/peace_diktat_3763.jsp">Israel and the Arabs: peace, not diktats</a>&quot; (24 July 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/pahlavi_4152.jsp">The Iran we have</a>&quot; (5 December 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/at_the_red_mosque_in_islamabad.jsp">At the Red Mosque in Islamadad</a>&quot; (4 June 2007)</span> </p> <p> One of those violent periods is resuming now. Barely two months after a peace deal with the Taliban was <a href="">reached</a> in mid-February 2009 to create a <em>sharia</em> system in the Swat district, the army is back on the <a href="">offensive</a>. The Taliban overstepped an unwritten mark when it tried to extend its control into the district of Buner, barely eighty kilometres northwest of Pakistan&#39;s capital, Islamabad. The army chief, <a href="">General Ashfaq Kayani</a>, stated clearly that a challenge to the existence of the Pakistani state would not be tolerated. </p> <p> What will be tolerated is Taliban strength in the tribal areas of northwest <a href="">Pakistan</a>. As I discovered during a visit to the region in September 2008, the level of support for them there is such that crushing them completely would require a huge campaign of repression (see &quot;For <a href="">America, the problem is Pakistan</a>&quot;, <em>Financial Times</em>, 7 April 2009). </p> <p> As long as this conflict remains restricted to the mountains, in many ways the most important prize is not control of territory as such, but the support of the local population (see Ayesha Khanna &amp; Parag Khanna, &quot;<a href="">How Pakistan Can Fix Itself</a>, <em>Foreign Policy</em>, May 2009). </p> <p> There are many reasons why this is so, and why even many Pakistanis who deeply oppose Taliban rule are also <a href="">opposed</a> to a tough military campaign against them. Three are worth noting. The first is (at least to judge by my interviews on the streets and in the bazaars) that the <em>jihad</em> of the Afghan Taliban against the United States &quot;occupation&quot; of Afghanistan enjoys overwhelming public approval in northern Pakistan; and the Pakistani Taliban gain a great measure of prestige from their alliance with this <em>jihad</em> (see Patrick Cockburn, &quot;<a href="">Where the Taliban roam</a>&quot;, <em>Independent</em>, 6 May 2009) </p> <p> The second is that, with the exception of some of the higher courts, the Pakistani judicial system is such a corrupt, slow, impenetrable shambles that the Taliban&#39;s programme of <em>sharia</em> enjoys a great deal of public support, at least in the Pashtun areas that I have visited. The third is that the security establishment is determined to prevent Afghanistan becoming an ally of India, and continues to shelter parts of the Afghan <a href="/article/the-neo-taliban-a-year-on">Taliban</a> as a long-term &quot;strategic asset&quot; against this threat. </p> <p> <strong>The real danger</strong> </p> <p> In a way, however, you really have to know only one fact to understand what is happening: and that, to judge by my meetings with hundreds of Pakistanis from all walks of life over the past nine months, is that the vast majority of people believe that the 9/11 attacks were not an act of terrorism by al-Qaida, but a plot by the George W Bush administration or Israel to provide an excuse to invade Afghanistan and dominate the Muslim world. </p> <p> It goes without saying that this belief is a piece of malignant cretinism, based on a farrago of invented &quot;evidence&quot; and hopelessly warped reasoning. But that is not the point. The point is that most of the Pakistani population genuinely believe it, even in <a href="">Sindh</a> where I have been travelling for the past week; and the people who believe it include the communities from which the army&#39;s soldiers, NCOs and junior officers are drawn (see Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/pakistan-sources-of-turmoil">Pakistan: sources of turmoil</a>&quot;, 28 April 2009). Understand this, and much else falls into place. </p> <p> After all, if British soldiers strongly believed that the war in Afghanistan was the product of a monstrous American lie, involving the deliberate slaughter of thousands of America&#39;s own citizens, would they be willing for one moment to risk their lives fighting the Taliban? </p> <p> All the same, it is important not to exaggerate the extent of Taliban power. Whatever Hillary Clinton, the United States secretary of state, may <a href="">say</a> about Pakistan being a &quot;mortal threat&quot;, there is no possibility at present of the Taliban seizing Islamabad and bringing down the state. In Punjab, the province with a majority of the country&#39;s population, there has been a number of serious terrorist attacks and a growth of Taliban influence, but as yet, nothing like the insurgency <a href="">occurring</a> among the Pashtun tribes. In the interior of Sindh, support for the Taliban is virtually non-existent. </p> <p> In Karachi, Pakistan&#39;s greatest <a href="">city</a> by far, the situation is more complicated. The vast majority of Karachi&#39;s Pashtuns support the Awami National Party (<a href="">ANP</a>), the moderate secular nationalist party now ruling in the North West Frontier Province (<a href="">NWFP</a>). However, a small degree of Taliban infiltration has helped to reignite simmering tensions between the Pashtuns and the Mohajir majority, made up of people whose families migrated from India at the time of independence, who are represented by the <em>Muttahida Quami Movement</em> (<a href="">MQM</a>). </p> <p> In clashes between the MQM and Pashtuns in Karachi on 29 April 2009, thirty-two people were <a href="">killed</a> - the great majority of them Pashtuns. The city fears that a return of inter-ethnic rivalry could cause great economic disruption and tie down yet more Pakistani soldiers who are desperately needed to fight the Taliban in the north. </p> <p> The danger to Pakistan is not of a Taliban revolution, but rather of <a href="/article/pakistan-sources-of-turmoil">creeping</a> destabilisation and terrorism. Even as Pakistan&#39;s president Asif Ali Zardari <a href="">meets</a> Barack Obama in the White House on 6 May, this reality makes any Pakistani help to Washington against the Afghan Taliban even less likely than it is at present. </p> <table border="0" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5" width="500" height="200" bgcolor="#e3f2f9"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p> Among <strong>openDemocracy&#39;s </strong>many articles on Pakistan: </p> <p> Shaun Gregory, &quot;<a href="/conflict-india_pakistan/musharraf_rule_3935.jsp">Pakistan on edge</a>&quot; (25 September 2006) </p> <p> Ehsan Masood, &quot;<a href="/globalization-india_pakistan/pakistan_military_4519.jsp">Pakistan: the army as the state</a>&quot; (12 April 2007) </p> <p> Ayesha Siddiqa, &quot;<a href="/conflict-india_pakistan/pakistan_crisis_4622.jsp">Pakistan&#39;s permanent crisis</a>&quot; (15 May 2007) </p> <p> Maruf Khwaja, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/crisis">The war for Pakistan</a>&quot;  (24 July 2007) </p> <p> Shaun Gregory, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts-india-pakistan/farewell-democracy">Pakistan: farewell to democracy</a>&quot; (29 October 2007) </p> <p> Ayesha Siddiqa, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/benazir_bhutto">Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto</a>&quot; (28 December 2007) </p> <p> Fred Halliday, &quot;<a href="/article/the_assassin_s_age_pakistan_in_the_world">The assassin&#39;s age: Pakistan in the world</a>&quot; (28 December 2007) </p> <p> Maruf Khwaja, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts/dynasty_vs_democracy">Pakistan: dynasty vs democracy</a>&quot; (9 January 2008) </p> <p> Irfan Husain, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/after_pakistans_election">Pakistan&#39;s judgment day</a>&quot; (22 February 2008) </p> <p> Irfan Husain. &quot;<a href="/article/pervez-musharraf-the-commando-who-couldn-t">Pervez Musharraf: the commando who couldn&#39;t</a>&quot; (19 August 2008) </p> <p> Shaun Gregory, &quot;<a href="/article/pakistan-s-political-turmoil-musharraf-and-beyond">Pakistan&#39;s political turmoil: Musharraf and beyond</a>&quot; (26 August 2008) </p> <p> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/pakistan-the-new-frontline&quot;%20Pakistan:%20the%20new%20frontline">Pakistan: the new frontline</a>&quot; (18 September 2008) </p> <p> Shaun Gregory, &quot;<a href="/article/the-pakistan-army-and-the-afghanistan-war&quot;">The Pakistani army and the Afghanistan war</a>&quot; (25 November 2008) </p> <p> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/the-afpak-war-washington-s-three-options">The AfPak war: three options</a>&quot; (25 February 2009) </p> <p> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/a-war-on-three-fronts-iraq-afpak-washington&quot;">A three-front war: Iraq, AfPak...Washington</a>&quot; (20 March 2009) </p> <p> Nadeem Ul Haque, &quot;<a href="/article/how-to-solve-pakistan-s-problem">How to solve Pakistan&#39;s problem</a>&quot; (24 April 2009) </p> <p> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/pakistan-sources-of-turmoil">Pakistan: sources of turmoil</a>&quot; (30 April 2009) </p> <p> Also - regular reports and comment on the region in <a href="/article/email/who-are-the-taliban-in-swat">openIndia</a> </p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> openIndia Conflict conflicts india/pakistan Anatol Lieven Creative Commons normal email Pakistan in chaos Fri, 08 May 2009 15:58:46 +0000 Anatol Lieven 47879 at Pakistan: prospects and perils <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="" height="24" width="240"> <param name="movie" value="" /> <param name="wmode" value="transparent" /> <param name="menu" value="false" /> <param name="quality" value="high" /> <param name="FlashVars" value="soundFile= podcast FINAL (2).mp3" /> <embed src="/modules/audio/players/1pixelout.swf" flashvars="soundFile= podcast FINAL (2).mp3" height="24" width="240"></embed> </object> What&#39;s in store for Pakistan? Anatol Lieven forecasts. Listen now </div> </div> </div> <p> Last week, the first of a series of <a href="/terrorism">terrorism.openDemocracy</a>-sponsored seminars focused on the timely subject of Pakistan. Anatol Lieven delivered opening remarks, outlining a few of the scenarios facing the country as it endures emergency rule under General Pervez Musharraf. In this excerpt, Lieven argues that while there is little chance of an Iran-style Islamic revolution in the country, a truly democratic Pakistan remains a very remote possibility. </p> <p> For a provocative, detailed discussion of the internal dynamics of Pakistani politics, click on the play button above. </p> <p> Read all the latest analysis of the crisis in Pakistan on <a href="">openDemocracy</a>, with articles by <a href="/article/conflicts/india_pakistan/musharraf_moment" target="_blank">Shaun Gregory</a>, <a href="/article/conflicts/pakistan_crisis" target="_blank">Irfan Hussain</a>, and <a href="/article/india_pakistan/pakistan_power_of_the_gun" target="_blank">Ayesha Siddiqua</a>. </p><div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//" /><a href="" type="audio/mpeg; length=8388607">lieven podcast FINAL (2)_1.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Conflict democracy & terror conflicts india/pakistan Anatol Lieven rule of law religion democratic society Wed, 21 Nov 2007 16:03:02 +0000 openDemocracy 35118 at The Iran we have <p>I share with <a href="">Reza Pahlavi</a>&nbsp;the desire that Iran should be a prosperous and stable democracy. Indeed, I am rather confident that this will one day be the case. Iran possesses considerably more of the preconditions for successful democracy than most other states in the region. For one thing, unlike Pakistan, Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, Iran is a genuine and ancient nation, not a recent and artificial colonial or dynastic creation. Moreover, given the disillusionment of Iranian youth with the existing system, there seems good reason to think that in the decades to come, a <a href="" target="_blank">new generation</a> of Iranians will bring about Iran&#39;s transformation. </p><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Anatol Lieven is replying to Reza Pahlavi's article, published simultaneously on openDemocracy:</b></p> "Talking to Iran" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=4153">5 December 2006</a>) </div><p style="line-height: 150%" class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p>In our book <em><a href="" target="_blank">Ethical Realism: A Vision for America&#39;s Role in the World</a></em>, my co-author <a href="">John Hulsman</a> and I part company with Reza Pahlavi over his belief that democracy in Iran can be promoted as an aspect of contemporary US strategy in the region, especially when associated with American policies that most Iranians find detestable.</p><p>As Reza Pahlavi is doubtless aware, from its very beginnings in the protests of the 1890s against the treaty establishing a British tobacco monopoly, democratic <a href="" target="_blank">mass politics in Iran</a> has been deeply intertwined with Iranian nationalism, and in particular with the country&#39;s hostility to real or perceived western imperialism.</p><p>The answers Iranians have given to opinion surveys concerning US policies indicate that, for the great majority of Iranians, the combination of US <a href="" target="_blank">advocacy of Iranian &quot;democracy&quot;</a> with the advancement of US and Israeli foreign and security policy objectives only discredits the forces of democracy in Iran; at least, if these are to be identified with Iranian liberalism rather than with the troubling but undoubtedly very popular <a href="">mixture</a> of populism, clericalism and nationalism being advanced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. <br /></p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><b><p>Also in openDemocracy on Iran, its foreign policy and relationship with the United States: </p> <p>V.K., "'Rogue state' bites back" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=224">30 August 2001</a>) </p> <p>Mamoudreza Golshanpazhooh, "Listening to Iran" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3226">30 January 2006</a>) </p> <p>Fred Halliday, "Iran vs the United States &#150; again" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3267">14 February 2006</a>) </p> <p>Bahram Rajaee, "Iran's nuclear challenge" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3263">14 February 2006</a>) </p> <p>Kaveh Ehsani, "On the brink: the Great Satan vs the Axis of Evil" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3498">3 May 2006</a>) </p> <p>Trita Parsi, "The United States's double-vision in Iran" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3518">9 May 2006</a>) </p> <p>Hazem Saghieh, "Iran's politics: constants and variables" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3538">12 May 2006</a>) </p> <p>Behrad Nakhai, "Iran, the US, and nuclear plans: pen and sword (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3911">18 September 2006</a>) </p> <p>Hooshang Amirahmadi, "Iran and the international community: roots of perpetual crisis" (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=4128">24 November 2006</a>) </p></b> </div><p>This is especially true because Iran today is by no means the bloodstained clerical tyranny it was in the early 1980s. It is certainly not a <a href=";ci=9780195189674" target="_blank">democracy</a>, but it contains more elements of democracy than several key US allies in the region. The electoral process which elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was highly constrained; but all credible evidence suggests that his election did represent in part a widespread public backlash against the growing corruption of the state elites. By contrast, there is little evidence to suggest that a more genuinely open process would have produced a victory for pro-western liberals.</p><p>This being so, if we believe that Iran has a vital role to play in any future regional order, and that compromise with Iran is essential to the future of both Iraq and Afghanistan, then we have no choice but to negotiate with the Iran that we have. We cannot afford to wait a generation in the hope of getting the kind of Iran we would prefer; the crises in <a href="">Iraq</a> and <a href="">Afghanistan</a> are far too urgent for that. And if we are not to seek help from Iran and other neighbouring states, then where can we hope to find it?</p><p>This does not mean supporting the existing Iranian regime, any more than US compromises with communist China represented support for Chinese communism. On the contrary, Nixon and Kissinger&#39;s <a href="" target="_blank">opening to China</a> helped to bring about the long-term social and economic transformation of the Chinese system. By contrast, US attempts to isolate Cuba, North Korea and Iran have helped only to consolidate the ruling systems in those countries. </p><p>If, however, we are going to talk to the Iranians, then - as the International Crisis Group argued in its <a href=";id=3976" target="_blank">February 2006 report</a> (<em>Iran: Is there a way out of the nuclear impasse?</em>) - we have to offer proposals that the Iranian establishment can actually accept; and this can only mean returning to the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (<a href="" target="_blank">NPT</a>) and accepting limited uranium enrichment under strict supervision. In addition, John Hulsman and I recommend a row of mandatory sanctions which Russia, China and other leading states will commit themselves by treaty to adopt automatically if Iran itself breaks the <a href=";id=3976" target="_blank">NPT</a> and goes for weaponisation. </p><p>I agree that this is by no means an ideal solution; but threats of force against Iran are empty unless one is prepared to carry them through; and the probable consequences of a US attack on Iran seem to me absolutely disastrous: for western interests, regional peace, Iranian democracy - and for the personal prospects of any Iranian &eacute;migr&eacute; who was foolish enough to allow his name to be associated with such an attack.</p></div> democracy & power middle east democracy & iran Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Tue, 05 Dec 2006 00:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 4152 at Israel and the Arabs: peace, not diktats <p>In recent months, the George W Bush administration seems to have been quietly drifting towards a <em>de facto</em> acceptance of Israeli prime minister <a href= target=_blank>Ehud Olmert's</a> plan for a unilateral, Israeli-dictated "settlement" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - if a Palestinian authority does not accept an agreement on Israel's terms. The events of the past <a href= target=_blank>four weeks</a> &#150; in Gaza, Lebanon, and Israel itself &#150; have made completely clear that this course is disastrous. It will ensure not only the continuation of Palestinian terrorism, but violence and destabilisation in neighbouring states and ultimately throughout the entire middle east. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b><a href= target=_blank>Anatol Lieven</a> is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington DC. His book <em>Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World</em> (co-written with John Hulsman) is published by Pantheon in September 2006</b></p> <p></p><p>Also by <a href= target=_blank>Anatol Lieven</a> in <b>openDemocracy</b>:</p> <p></p><p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=549">Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation</a>" (September 2002)</p></div></div></p> <p></p><p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081">America right or wrong?</a>" <br />(September 2004)</p> <p></p><p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2168">Israel and the American antithesis</a>" <br />(October 2004)</p> <p></p><p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2171">Israel, the United States, and truth</a>" (October 2004)</p> <p></p><p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2348">Bush's choice: messianism or pragmatism?</a>" <br />(February 2005)</p> <p>The origins of the latest <a href= target=_blank>flare-up</a> of violence in Lebanon lie in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Without the election of <a href= target=_blank>Hamas</a>, Hamas's extremism, and Israel's armed intervention to overthrow the Hamas government, Hizbollah would not have had the excuse to launch its own new attack on Israel. Hizbollah's backers, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3752">Iran</a> and Syria, have exploited the eruption in Israeli-Palestinian tension for their own ends. They did not create that tension. For that, Israelis and Palestinians both share considerable blame &#150; but the US is backing only the Israelis.</p> <p> The contours of this contemplated Israeli <a href= target=_blank>diktat</a> to the Palestinians are already clear. The frontier with the West Bank would run along Israel's existing security barrier, almost cutting the Palestinian territory in half. Israel would keep control of the Jordan valley, severing the Palestinian "state" from the rest of the middle east. Israeli-controlled roads leading to the Jordan valley would divide the Palestinian lands still further. No compensation would be offered to Palestinian refugees and their descendants or to the Arab states which have hosted them for decades.</p> <p>This dictated "peace", far from being the "two-state solution" officially promoted by the US, would give the Palestinians nothing remotely resembling viable statehood. It would be rejected by the Palestinian people and the world community. It would give Palestinian leaders no incentive to control extremism among their own people.</p> <p>Nonetheless, such a diktat &#150; however unjust and harsh &#150; would have a certain brutal justification if it led to a real and effective separation between Israelis and Palestinians, and an end to major violence between the two sides. But it won't. The unilateral Israeli withdrawal from <a href= target=_blank>Gaza</a> in August 2005 was supposed to lead to just such a separation &#150; and all too obviously hasn't. </p> <p> Instead, only a few months later, Israeli forces are once again deep within the Gaza strip, carrying out an operation designed to punish the Palestinian people for terrorism and overthrow the Palestinian government. And the original reason, or at least pretext, for this massive operation was some almost completely ineffective rocket attacks on Israel, and the kidnap of just one Israeli soldier. This Israeli reprisal in turn has led to a new conflict with <a href= target=_blank>Hizbollah</a>, and the radical destabilisation of Lebanon, which was supposed to be a prize example of successful US efforts to democratise the middle east. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Also in openDemocracy on the war involving Lebanon and Israel, Hizbollah and the Palestinians:</b></p> <p>Paul Rogers tracks the conflict in a series of daily columns. For an overview see his "<a href="">Global security</a>" column </p> <p>Plus, reports and analysis from the region: </p> <p>Thomas O'Dwyer, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3739">Did Hizbollah miscalculate? The view from Israel</a>" (13 July 2006)</p> <p>Alex Klaushofer, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3740">Lebanon: unity within diversity</a>" <br />(17 July 2006)</p> <p>Roger Scruton, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3754">Hizbollah: the missing perspective</a>" <br />(20 July 2006)</p> <p>Eric Silver, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3759">A united, worried Israel</a>" <br />(21 July 2006)</p> </div><p>The terms of an Israeli-dictated settlement would make further terrorism against Israel inevitable. Israel's security fence might limit attacks, but as the Gaza experience has shown, could not possibly end them &#150; especially since Israeli security forces in the Jordan valley and elsewhere would continue to be surrounded by Palestinians. And if Israel continued to inflict collective punishment on the Palestinian people as a whole, then even limited Palestinian statehood would be revealed as a cruel fraud.</p> <p>If the US acquiesces in such a diktat, then any hope of strengthening progressive forces elsewhere in the middle east will be lost. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue, and will continue to generate support and recruits for al-Qaida and its allies. In his book <em>Knights Under the Prophet's Banner</em>, <a href= target=_blank>al-Qaida's</a> second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, writes that his organisation should concentrate on exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because whereas most Muslims do not share al-Qaida's ideology, most Muslims and almost all Arabs sympathize with the Palestinians. </p> <p><b>The Bush legacy</b></p> <p>As many moderate Israeli commentators have pointed out, such an Israeli diktat would also not be in the real long-term interests of Israel. It would wreck détente even with pro-western Muslim states. As the Hizbollah attack and Israel's counter-attack on <a href= target=_blank>Lebanon</a> have demonstrated, it would certainly not lead to peace between Israel and her neighbours. It would continue to focus the hatred of Muslims all over the world on Israel. It would make real integration into Europe and the west impossible for Israel. From the security point of view, it would essentially lead to Israel marking time until the day &#150; however long delayed &#150; when Palestinian or Islamist terrorists <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3755">acquire a capability</a> to deliver a really devastating blow. </p> <p>Rather than drifting along behind this Israeli strategy, the Bush administration should throw its weight behind a genuine agreed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should declare clearly what that solution should be, and should demand that both sides accept it &#150; rather than demanding that the Palestinian side make all the key concessions in advance.</p> <p>The Bush administration should do this because it is the right thing to do, and obviously the patriotic thing to do from a United States standpoint. And Bush should also do it for the sake of his historical image, something which is said to concern him very deeply. Given the mixture of unsolved and grossly worsened problems he will leave behind, Bush stands a good chance of being remembered as one of the worst presidents in the entire history of the United States. But he can still save something from the wreck. A settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would allow him to be remembered as on balance a true servant of his country, and even a benefactor of mankind.</p> </div></p> Conflict conflicts democracy & power middle east The Americas the middle east american power & the world Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Sun, 23 Jul 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 3763 at Large rocks in the stream ahead <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. Forty-nine of openDemocracy’s distinguished contributors, from Mariano Aguirre to Slavoj Zizek, Neal Ascherson to Jonathan Zittrain – offer their predictions for the coming year. Since this is openDemocracy, we did not expect them to agree. We were not disappointed. (<a href="">Part Two</a>). </div> </div> </div> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>The underlying tendency of the US over the next year seems likely to be one of drift and increasing weakness. A virtually&nbsp;<a href="">lame-duck</a>&nbsp;Bush administration will be carried by the current rather than shaping its own course. In many ways, this is of course preferable to the period of 2001-03, when the administration set out boldly to reshape the world, with disastrous results.</em></p><p><em>The problem, however, is that the stream ahead contains large rocks, on which American power, middle-eastern peace, and the world economy may all strike and founder. These rocks are not submerged – on the contrary they are in plain sight. But that does not mean that American policymakers will be able to avoid them.</em></p><p><em>In Iraq, American public opinion will, in my view, compel moves towards the progressive withdrawal of US forces from the frontline. Some will be withdrawn from Iraq altogether; others will be confined to bases, from where they will sally forth if the insurgents seem to be on the verge of winning major victories. As the Congressional elections of November 2006 approach, the pressure from Republican senators, congressmen and governors for a reduction of US casualties is likely to become irresistible.</em></p><p><em>The administration will seek to cover this with a flood of&nbsp;<a href="">rhetoric</a>&nbsp;about the Iraqis being ready to take over, but the reality will probably be increased power for US-armed Kurdish and&nbsp;<em>Shi’a</em>&nbsp;militia. This will ruin moves to bring the&nbsp;<em>Sunni</em>&nbsp;Arabs into the new political order, and point the country towards full-scale civil war. The implications of this for the region as a whole may well be disastrous, but will emerge in 2007 and after, rather than next year.</em></p><p><em>Two immediate threats are those of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites – which would lead to various forms of violent Iranian retaliation – and a world economic crisis. Since one of the obvious potential catalysts for such a crisis is another oil shock stemming from market fears about the security of supplies from the Persian Gulf, it is easy to see how hitting the first rock could then lead to the US hitting the second. But given the deep weaknesses of America’s fiscal, debt and current account situation, an economic crisis could also be generated simply by structural factors in the US and world economies, as in 1929, rather than by a geopolitical event.</em></p><p><em>If – or perhaps rather when – such a crisis does strike, the key question will be whether the world’s leading economic powers will be capable of acting in unison to manage and contain it, or whether they will resort instead to some of the mutually destructive approaches adopted after 1929. If they fail, the political consequences across the world could be truly dire. But leading such an international response would require far greater vision than anything yet&nbsp;<a href="">displayed</a>&nbsp;by the Bush administration.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p> Anatol Lieven Thu, 22 Dec 2005 00:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 62262 at Democratic failure: festering lilies smell worse than weeds &#147;We must keep firmly in mind that democracies can fail.&#148; The barriers to democratic progress in the world today are far deeper than Anthony Barnett & Isabel Hilton allow, while Roger Scruton&#146;s depiction of &#147;the west and the rest&#148; is equally flawed, argues Anatol Lieven.<p>I have to endorse most of what <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2944">John Dunn</a> argues in his response to Anthony Barnett & Isabel Hilton&#146;s article &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2792">Democracy and openDemocracy</a>&#148;. </p> <p>Barnett & Hilton express a set of noble aspirations about democracy and its spread in the world with which I am wholly in agreement. I honour their intent. And indeed, it is the duty of everyone to work towards the kind of world they describe: one of an &#147;open-minded, democratic citizenship&#148; capable of &#147;empowering the powerless and checking the powerful&#148;. </p> <p>We shall do so much more effectively, however, if we do not suffer from too many illusions about how easy, or even likely this is going to be. And as a description of democracy&#146;s historical vicissitudes, present nature, and future challenges across most of the world I must say that their account seems to me deeply flawed. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Anatol Lieven is responding to the openDemocracy article by Anthony Barnett & Isabel Hilton, &#147;<a href="/democracy-opening/barnett_hilton_2792.jsp">Democracy and openDemocracy</a>&#148; </b></p> <p>Also in our debate on &#147;<a href="">Opening democracy</a>&#148;:</p> <p>Roger Scruton, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2921">Democracy or theocracy? A response to Barnett & Hilton</a>&#148; </p> <p> John Dunn, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2944">Getting democracy into focus</a>&#148;</p> <p>If you find this material valuable please consider supporting <b>openDemocracy</b> by sending us a <a href="/registration2/donate.jsp">donation</a> so that we can continue our work in support of democracy and keep it free for all</p> </div><p>In truth, Barnett & Hilton&#146;s description of democracy really only applies to western democracy during a few balmy decades after 1945. Those decades were closely associated with a period of unprecedented and seemingly unending economic prosperity unlimited by ecological, demographic or resource constraints; and also with a European generation that had been so scarified by the experiences of Nazism, Stalinism and the second world war that they possessed deep internal barriers to political extremism. </p> <p>Neither of these factors were inherent to democracy &#150; even to western democracy &#150; but were historically contingent, and may well now be coming to an end. For that matter, even during those decades the picture of democracy as a defender of civil liberties and human rights did not apply to the colonial or neo-colonial wars waged by France and America in Vietnam, France in Algeria, and Britain in <a href= target=_blank>Kenya</a>, any more than it does to the United States-led campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan today. </p> <p>What the authors mean by democracy is really liberal-pluralist, social-market democracy that possesses the ability both to generate and to redistribute wealth, a vibrant and tolerant civil society, and a judiciary that manages to combine independence from government and mob passions with the basic confidence of the people. Even where democracies or semi-democracies have existed in history before the later 19th century, they did not conform to this picture. </p> <p> <a href= target=_blank>Athens</a> of course was quite different, not only in its savage treatment of women, slaves and metics, but also in its insistence on conformity to communal religious and moral values &#150; as Socrates found to his cost. For many centuries, the most democratic institutions in Europe were probably the urban guilds, which were also a central component in the development of representative bourgeois institutions in Europe. But the guilds not only operated an economic closed shop, they were bitterly hostile to outsiders in general, foreigners even more, and Jews most of all.</p> <p>From the late 18th century, the rise of mass politics and the origins of democracy in many countries was closely associated with the rise of nationalism, often of a highly aggressive and intolerant kind. That was true not only in Europe and across the colonial world but in the United States. There, the politics of Andrew Jackson and his followers combined democratic reform and hatred of the oligarchical elites with a cult of &#147;toughness, maleness and whiteness&#148; (<a href= target=_blank>Michael Kazin</a>), territorial aggression, violent hatred of foreigners, support for black slavery and Indian dispossession. </p> <p>This <a href= target=_blank>tradition</a> in America was and remains (as represented by figures like John Ashcroft) genuinely committed to democracy and the rule of law. In this sense it does not resemble the old autocratic European right. But it believes strongly that democracy and the law can only be safely exercised by civilised (in the past, white) men, and cannot be entrusted to aliens or internal dissidents.</p> <p> <b>The case for pessimism</b></p> <p>Concerning the present, there are two key problems. The first is that the economic prosperity and the institutions necessary to create liberal, pluralist, social-market democracy cannot actually be generated by most of the world&#146;s societies and economies at this time. The second is that, as <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2921">Roger Scruton</a> points out in his rejoinder to Barnett & Hilton, democracies also require at least some basic feeling of common nationhood and loyalty. </p> <p>Lacking all these things, at best, these societies will produce &#147;democracies&#148; that are more or less of a façade behind which something else goes on, as in most of <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2962"> Latin America</a> and <a href="">Africa</a>. At worst, they will simply collapse again, as democracies have done again and again in so many countries over the years. How many times has this happened in Pakistan, for example, since 1947? </p> <p>The paths by which societies build up the economies, the legal structures and the representative traditions necessary to create stable pluralist democracy are however historically immensely tortuous &#150; as the crucial historical example of Britain demonstrates better than any other. Throughout the 18th and the earlier part of the 19th century the <a href= target=_blank>British</a> Protestant, aristocratic and mercantile oligarchy&#146;s treatment of the mass of the population (without even getting into the questions of Ireland or slavery) was every bit as vile as the behaviour of many &#147;third-world&#148; elites today. If however they had been overthrown by a mass &#147;democratic&#148; uprising, would Britain&#146;s modern economic and political success and world model still have been possible? I very much doubt it.</p> <p>We must keep firmly in mind that democracies can fail. And this applies not only to weak, impoverished pseudo-democracies in the developing world, but western democracies too. Any democracy, like any governing system, can and will collapse if faced with an existential challenge that it cannot meet. As we should remember, Nazism, Italian fascism and <a href= target=_blank>Japanese militarism</a> were all the products of failed democracies (or in the Japanese case, constitutional oligarchies). At present, we in the west may be facing two such tests, on the results of which could depend the survival of our democracies. </p> <p>The first test is whether we can integrate into our systems huge and growing immigrant and immigrant-descended populations with radically different cultures, and (at least in the case of many Muslims) religious-political allegiances. On this will depend the extent of the future terrorist threat to our societies. </p> <p>The second test is whether we can modify our consumption habits sufficiently to ward off ecological catastrophe.</p> <p>Neither of these failures is certain, because the threats themselves may be less than the pessimists predict. But if these threats do prove existential, and we fail, then our descendants will not look back on liberal democracy with nostalgia and respect. They are more likely to spit on our graves. And it must be said that the present character of western democratic electorates is not very encouraging in this regard. </p> <p>If one speaks of the millions of people who protested in Europe against the Iraq war, must one not also speak of the millions of Americans who believed and continue to believe the Bush administration&#146;s <a href= target=_blank>lies</a> about that war, because they were (very democratically) misled by parts of the free mass media, and also because (equally democratically) they were too lazy and ignorant to seek out alternative sources of information? </p> <p>In the area of the mass media, it already seems even in the west the systems we live under are less democracies than veiled oligarchies, paying outward deference (like so many oligarchies before them) to a sovereign whom they secretly despise and whose failings they ruthlessly exploit and manipulate. The difference is that in the west today, this impotent, decadent, sodden, malleable sovereign is not a hereditary monarch, but the People. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Anatol Lieven is <a href= target=_blank>senior research fellow</a> at the New America Foundation, Washington DC.</b></p> <p></p><p>Also by <a href= target=_blank>Anatol Lieven</a> in <b>openDemocracy</b>:</p></div></div></p> <p></p><p>&#147;Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=549">September 2002</a>)</p> <p></p><p>&#147;America right or wrong?&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081">September 2004</a>)</p> <p></p><p>&#147;Israel and the American antithesis&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2168">October 2004</a>)</p> <p></p><p>&#147;Israel, the United States, and truth&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2171">October 2004</a>)</p> <p>Bush&#146;s choice: messianism or pragmatism? (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2348">February 2005</a>)</p> <p><b>The west and the rest</b></p> <p>I share some of <a href= target=_blank>Roger Scruton&#146;s</a> concern about the great difficulty of maintaining functional (and above all social-market) democracies in the long run without a real sense of national community and purpose. However, I must emphatically distance myself from the attempt to create a radical, black-and-white &#147;clash of civilisations&#148; between the &#147;secular&#148; west and the Muslim world. The only way forward is to find some way of living with our <a href= target=_blank>Muslim compatriots</a>, and that involves accommodation and respect. </p> <p>The European immigration policies of the 1950s and 1960s may well in retrospect seem a disastrous mistake, but let us not forget two things. First, they were arrived at by legitimate democratic means. Second, at least in the case of Britain and France, they were the product of our imperial conquest of Muslim societies. If we didn&#146;t want Algerians in Paris and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2721">Pakistanis in London</a>, then we shouldn&#146;t have sent armed Frenchmen to Algiers and armed Britons to Lahore. </p> <p>On &#147;accepting Muslim countries into the communion of nations&#148;, this is grotesque. Communion is something one does with fellow Christian believers, not with other nations. And if there is such a communion, <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2642">Iran</a> and Egypt were there long before us. Nor can lack of democracy be a reason for exclusion of states from such a &#147;communion&#148;, or we would have to kick out China. </p> <p>This makes no sense historically &#150; in terms of continuity and historical achievement, <a href= target=_blank>China is integral</a> to human civilisation. It makes no sense in terms of the present &#150; the existing &#147;communist&#148; regime, with all its faults, has been responsible in the past twenty years for one of the greatest advancements in human wellbeing (judged by numbers) in human history. And it makes no sense at all in terms of the future, when China will be critical to the success or failure of the human race as a whole to preserve civilisation in the face of the challenges facing us.</p> <p>I fear that Roger Scruton also suffers from a certain confusion between governments and states, and between strict theocracies and religiously-dominated societies. In doing so, he also contributes to the view that democracy is obviously incompatible with theocracy in the strict sense &#150; obviously, democracy has to involve at least the possibility of alterations of government. </p> <p>However, <a href=" ">Turkey</a> in recent decades is rather a good example of how many of the forms of democracy (free elections, changes of government) can exist in a system where the fundamental cultural character of the state is fixed and defined by institutions that are not subject to &#147;democratic&#148; alteration, but which are accepted by a consensus of the people. The amusing thing in the case of Turkey of course is that this culture was defined as secular and, previously at least, much praised in the west. I can easily see Iran and other Muslim countries heading in some such direction in the years to come.</p> <p><b>The fragility of American democracy</b></p> <p>That brings me to America. Whatever the left may say, the US religious right is not aiming at creating an authoritarian &#147;theocracy&#148;. And whatever the right may say, the liberals are not trying to create a &#147;liberal (or gay) dictatorship&#148;. Nor however are either of these forces democratic in the sense of accepting the will of democratic majorities and seeking to change these simply by reasoned argument and campaigning in elections. Both want to fix their cultural rules on the mass of the population in ways that will be unshiftable by future elections.</p> <p>&#147;<a href= target=_blank>Roe vs Wade</a>&#148; did not reflect the will of a majority of Americans in the early 1970s. It was the decision of a Supreme Court packed with liberal judges thanks to the autocratic, essentially monarchical (in this regard at least) powers of the US president. Nor is the attempt of the Christian right to reverse Roe vs Wade democratic in this sense. They are trying to use the same monarchical powers to pack the court in the opposite direction, and to hell with what a majority of present-day Americans think and how they vote. Indeed, that is precisely the point. As far as <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2329">Christian fundamentalists</a> are concerned, since Americans who support abortion are by definition going to hell anyway, why bother with what they think? <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Anatol Lieven&#146;s argument about American national identity and American democracy is developed in his book <em>America Right or Wrong: an anatomy of American nationalism</em> (Harper Collins, <a href= target=_blank>2004</a>)</b></p></div><p>At present, and for most of American history (with the obvious exception of slavery and the civil war) such radical disagreements have been contained not so much by innate cultural tolerance as by profound and near-universal reverence for US procedural democracy, as reflected in the US constitution and buttressed by <a href= target=_blank>American civic nationalism</a>. The historical longevity and tremendous success of the US democratic system has given it tremendous innate strength and even a quasi-religious aspect of transcendence. </p> <p>Nonetheless, it is not divine or immortal. If in future it fails to protect the livelihoods of the American middle classes from immiseration, or their lives from nuclear terrorism, then it will fail. Then the deep cultural and racial antagonisms among Americans will burst forth in fury from the bounds of procedural democracy. And then there won&#146;t be a clear dividing line at all between the US and the Muslim world. </p> </div></p> openSecurity The Americas opening democracy democracy & power Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Wed, 26 Oct 2005 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 2968 at Bush's choice: messianism or pragmatism? <p>President Bush has opened his second presidential term with a sustained rhetorical effort to use the language of &#147;freedom&#148; as a way of reuniting the west under American leadership. His inaugural address at the start of his second presidential term on <a href= target=_blank>20 January 2005</a> ostensibly made the spread of freedom and democracy the heart of America&#146;s political strategy in the &#147;war on terror&#148;. His State of the Union <a href= target=_blank>speech</a> on 2 February continued the theme: <blockquote>&#147;The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom&#146;s power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture: to extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty, and to spread the peace that freedom brings.&#148;</blockquote></p> <p>On the eve of his 21-24 February visit to Europe, his weekly radio talk <a href= target=_blank>declared</a>: <blockquote>&#147;America and Europe are the pillars of the Free World&#133;Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic understand that the hopes for peace in the world depend on the continued unity of free nations.&#148;</blockquote> </p><p>Now, in the major <a href= target=_blank>speech</a> of his European tour &#150; at Concert Noble, Brussels &#150; President Bush has underlined the ideological importance of the theme of freedom to his political mission: <blockquote>&#147;This strategy is not American strategy, or European strategy, or Western strategy. Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind. This approach not only reduces a danger to free peoples; it honors the dignity of all peoples, by placing human rights and human freedom at the center of our agenda. And our alliance has the ability, and the duty, to tip the balance of history in favor of freedom.&#148;</blockquote></p> <p><b>Democracy is America</b></p> <p>One can indeed get a certain distance with this line in Europe. After all, the European countries are themselves committed in principle to spreading democracy in the world, and this is at the core of the European Union&#146;s own expansion. Tony Blair has <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1832">echoed</a> much of Bush&#146;s language. The legacy of Communist rule and its overthrow means that east-central European elites have an instinctive tendency to pay tribute to language like Bush&#146;s. Western European governments have aligned themselves with Bush&#146;s &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1731">Greater Middle East Initiative</a>&#148; (proposed in February 2004) that aims to bring progress to the region &#150; albeit partly in order to modify the arrogance of the United States approach. A disparate collection of western European intellectuals, including <a href= target=_blank>Timothy Garton Ash</a> in Britain and <a href= target=_blank>Bernard-Henri Levy</a> in France, have also sought to put cooperation in spreading freedom and democracy at the heart of a new transatlantic partnership and of strategy in the Muslim world.<div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p>Also by <a href= target=_blank>Anatol Lieven</a> in <b>openDemocracy</b>:</p> <p>&#147;Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation&#148; (September <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=549">2002</a>)</p> <p>&#147;America right or wrong&#148; (September <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081">2004</a>)</p> <p>&#147;Israel and the American antithesis&#148; (October <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2168">2004</a>)</p> <p>&#147;Israel, the United States, and truth&#148; (October <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2171">2004</a>)</p> <p>If you find these articles valuable, please consider <a href="/registration2/donate.jsp">subscribing</a> to <b>openDemocracy</b> for just &pound;25/$40/€40. You&#146;ll gain access to easy-to-read PDF versions of all our material.</p> </div><p>Within the US, on the other hand, Bush&#146;s approach has drawn considerable criticism, from old-style conservative realists as well as from voices on the left. In a pair of excoriating articles for <a href= target=_blank>Newsweek</a>, Fareed Zakaria and Andrew Moravcsik draw attention to the <a href= target=_blank>yawning gulf</a> between the views of most Americans and large majorities of non-Americans about the benevolence of their country&#146;s role in the contemporary world. </p> <p>All the same, a speech like Bush&#146;s inaugural address could only have been delivered in the United States. Blair may have said many of the same things, but he has accompanied them with proposals for concrete, verifiable action in key areas of world concern: climate change, mass misery and state collapse in parts of the global south and a real peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. The same tends to be true of European Union <a href= target=_blank>rhetoric</a> about spreading democracy. </p> <p>Only in the US could &#147;democracy&#148; and &#147;freedom&#148; as such be advanced by a government not just as part of a non-military strategy but as <em>the</em> entire strategy and even as a way of avoiding doing some of the other things that Blair has called for. And above all, only in the US could a national leader identify the spread of democracy, and indeed ideal democracy itself, so absolutely with his own country and its power in the world. There is a nobility about this sentiment; but as <a href= target=_blank>Fareed Zakaria</a> and <a href= target=_blank>Andrew Moravcsik</a> argue, there is also a profoundly dangerous solipsism and arrogance.</p> <p><b>A messianic vision</b></p> <p>Indeed, much of the language about democratisation in America is not really about democratisation at all. It is about America itself, the nature of one powerful strand of American nationalism, and how the Bush administration has used that nationalism to strengthen its own position at home. Because of the power of this nationalism and the &#147;American Creed&#148; on which it is based (as I have called it in my <a href= target=_blank>book</a> <em>America Right or Wrong: an anatomy of American nationalism</em>), the rhetoric of spreading democracy and freedom has been all too successful in wrong-footing the Democratic party and in winning over some of their intellectual supporters to what is in effect a position of support for the <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1998">neo-conservative agenda</a>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, however, much of this rhetoric is completely irrelevant, in the short-to-medium term, to many of the challenges facing the middle east, and to the needs of the struggle against <a href= target=_blank>al-Qaida</a>. Worse still, this whole democratisation strategy is being used, in some quarters at least, as a grand diversionary strategy to distract attention from what the US should be doing in other fields &#150; but isn&#146;t. </p> <p>The acknowledged influence of Israeli hardliner <a href= target=_blank>Natan Sharansky</a> on Bush&#146;s &#147;strategy&#148; of democratisation should make it clear to everyone that, however noble its ideological and historical roots, American messianism &#150; today, as in the Vietnam era &#150; can take forms which are not only misguided but actively malignant. The contrast between Sharansky&#146;s own professed desire for Palestinian democracy and his utter contempt for the lives, property, wellbeing and indeed democratically-expressed views of the Palestinian people is evident: it was expressed most recently in his decision in 2004, as minister for Jerusalem, to allow Israeli authorities to confiscate Palestinian land by administrative decree. </p> <p>Bush&#146;s reliance on Sharansky (whose book <a href= target=_blank><em>The Case for Democracy</em></a> was one of the intellectual props of his inaugural speech), and the deep unwillingness even of the American liberal media to criticise the former Soviet dissident, demonstrate one facet of the Orwellian nature of the present US approach to democratisation and the war on terror. Not only is its language of democratisation accompanied by de facto support for a range of savagely authoritarian regimes, and its talk of the rule of law accompanied by <a href="/debates/debate-8-112.jsp">Abu Ghraib</a> and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2110">Guantánamo Bay</a>; but key aspects of US strategy are based on an absolute and open contempt for the opinions of the great majority of ordinary Arabs and Muslims &#150; in other words, the very people to whom the US administration professes to want to bring democracy! </p> <p>This glaring contradiction is the product of an inevitable <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081">clash</a> between American idealism and American <em>Realpolitik</em>. However, its roots also lie in a central feature of the messianic tradition in American civic nationalism. As reflected in the attitudes and behaviour of the Bush administration, the widespread American belief in America not as a democracy among others but as the very summit and model of democracy encourages contempt for the opinions of the rest of humanity &#150; even when expressed by majorities in fellow democracies. The creation of a notion of &#147;democracy&#148; as a pure absolute discourages real study of all the <a href= target=_blank>conditions</a> which are in fact needed for democracy to flourish.</p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p>In our &#147;American power & the world&#148; <a href="/debates/debate-3-77.jsp">debate</a>, leading <b>openDemocracy</b> writers examine the United States as an empire, its geopolitical strategy, the &#147;war on terror&#148;, and the nature of ideas like &#147;the free world&#148; and &#147;anti-Americanism&#148;. </p> <p>Among the featured authors are Mary Kaldor, Robert Hunter Wade, Philip Bobbitt, Tom Nairn, Stephen Howe, Fred Halliday, Dominic Hilton, Ann Pettifor, and Todd Gitlin. </p> </div><p>This in turn encourages a belief that, in the words of the US general in Vietnam in Stanley Kubrick&#146;s film <a href= target=_blank><em>Full Metal Jacket</em></a>, &#147;inside every gook there is an American waiting to get out&#148;; in other words, that if you can get rid of a few Communist, Ba&#146;athist or Iranian &#147;bad guys&#148;, populations naturally will both adopt American-style democracy and capitalism and side with America geopolitically. And finally, the immense power in the American national discourse of words like &#147;democracy&#148; and &#147;freedom&#148; can lead to them being used in a way described acutely by WH Auden during the <a href= target=_blank>cold war</a>: <blockquote>&#147;More deadly than the Idle Word is the use of words as Black Magic&#133;For millions of people today, words like Communism, Capitalism, Imperialism, Peace, Freedom and Democracy have ceased to be words the meaning of which can be inquired into and discussed, and have become right or wrong noises to which the response is as involuntary as a knee reflex.&#148;</blockquote></p> <p>I have myself frequently <a href= target=_blank>observed</a> how difficult it can be in the US to mount an argument that appears to criticise the universal, eternal and inevitable value of democracy, or to suggest that &#147;freedom&#148;, far from being a natural absolute, has always been a complex, contingent, changing and contested <a href= target=_blank>term</a>. In other words, these terms can be used, whether consciously or unconsciously, to shut down real debate. </p> <p><b>The power of the Creed</b></p> <p>The reason for this distinctive aspect of the United States lies in the nature of American civic nationalism. This nationalism, and much of the US national identity itself, is based on the American Creed: belief in the values of democracy, the law, free speech and the US <a href= target=_blank>constitution</a>; and less formally, in social and economic individualism, in America as the supreme exemplar of democracy and successful modernity, and in American benevolence, innocence, goodness and inevitable triumph. </p> <p>Many great American thinkers from across the political spectrum have remarked on the power of this Creed. In the words of <a href= target=_blank>Richard Hofstadter</a>: &#147;it has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.&#148; A century earlier, <a href= target=_blank>Ralph Waldo Emerson</a> described adherence to American governing principles as a form of religious conversion. In this sense, it bears a certain comparison to the role that Communism was supposed to play in the Soviet Union &#150; with the crucial difference that the values of the American Creed have been both much more positive and much more successful historically. The strength of this Creed dates back even further than the foundation of the American colonies and 17th-century visions of America as the &#147;<a href= target=_blank>city on a hill</a>&#148; to 16th-century English and Scottish Protestant beliefs in their countries as the &#147;new Israel&#148;. </p> <p>The power of the Creed also stems from its immense importance in holding together the huge and immensely varied American nation, and giving it the ability constantly to assimilate vast numbers of new immigrants from hugely diverse backgrounds. Belief in the principles of the Creed is perhaps the only thing (other than the English language) that the gays of San Francisco and the fundamentalist Baptists of Texas have in common. </p> <p>The consequences of this for American messianism are obvious. In her great study of the American involvement in Vietnam, <a href= target=_blank><em>Fire in the Lake</em></a>, Frances FitzGerald wrote: &#147;Americans see history as a straight line and themselves standing at the cutting edge of it as representatives for all mankind&#148;. </p> <p>For most of American history, this has been a &#147;passive&#148; messianism, which takes the form of a belief (in which I largely share, by the way) in the supreme importance of America&#146;s democratic example in the world, but does not support outside interventions. As such, it is entirely compatible with American <a href= target=_blank>isolationism</a>. However, at particular moments, when the US has been attacked or threatened, or feels forced to make some massive overseas commitment, this messianism can take an active form.</p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p>Anatol Lieven&#146;s argument about how the different strands of American national identity coexist and compete is developed in his book <em>America Right or Wrong: an anatomy of American nationalism</em> (Harper Collins, <a href= target=_blank>2004</a>)</p></div><p>There is an element of tragedy in all this. For the values of the American Creed are indeed great ones, of inestimable value to mankind. The United States&#146; sense of a mission to humanity is in part a noble and inspiring one. And throughout modern history, the US has in fact acted both as a beacon for the rest of the world and as the last refuge and defender of democracy. US leadership in the 20th-century struggle against Nazism and Soviet Communism was essential to preserving democratic civilisation in the world. This past record ought to be able to provide the basis for the continuation of the idea of a west united under American leadership. </p> <p>Today, however, the tragic flaws in this American sense of national mission are acting to wreck this hope. The national arrogance that is so closely linked to the sense of national mission is undermining still further American willingness to listen to key allies, even among the western democracies, let alone in the Muslim world. This arrogance is fed by the alliance with Israel &#150; symbolised by Bush&#146;s <a href= target=_blank>reliance</a> on Natan Sharansky &#150; which in turn reinforces the sense of a pure democratic America and Israel surrounded by a world full of hostile, tyrannical, anti-semitic aliens. </p> <p>Historically, US messianism has always been at war with US pragmatism. In the end pragmatism has usually won. This was true in Vietnam, but only after a devastating war involving two million Vietnamese killed (and 58,000 Americans), enormous environmental degradation, and a cycle of destruction across southeast Asia. As Captain Willard declares in Francis Ford Coppola&#146;s <a href= target=_blank>film</a> <em>Apocalypse Now</em>: &#147;I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. It was a real choice mission. And when it was over, I&#146;d never want another.&#148; My fear is that as in Vietnam, the return to pragmatism may come only after the United States has inflicted a whole series of disasters on itself and the world. </p> </div></p> democracy & power The Americas american power & the world Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Tue, 22 Feb 2005 00:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 2348 at Israel, the United States, and truth: a reply to Emanuele Ottolenghi <div><div class="pull_quote_article">Anatol Lieven is responding to Emanuele Ottolenghi's sharp attack on the chapter of his book <em>America Right or Wrong: an anatomy of American nationalism</em> which discusses Israel and the Arab world. For an extract from this chapter, click <a href= target=_blank>here </a> </div><p> Perhaps this exchange of views with <a href= target=_blank>Emanuele Ottolenghi</a> can act as a substitute &#150; an utterly inadequate one, of course &#150; for the debate on Israeli policies, and United States support for them, which has been such a conspicuously missing element of the American election campaign. This failure of the American political elite to discuss this critical issue has betrayed the national interests of the American people and of loyal American allies, including Britain, and has helped tarnish the image of American democracy abroad. </p><p> In a true debate on these issues, in which all shades of opinion were represented, I would find myself in a moderate or centrist position, to all intents and purposes identical with that of the present British government. To make this clear, let me restate my basic positions on the Israeli&#150;Palestinian conflict, as already set out in my book <a href= target=_blank><em>America Right or Wrong: an anatomy of American nationalism</em></a>. </p><p> I believe firmly in the right of the state of Israel to exist, as a specifically Jewish (and not &#147;binational&#148;) state, within the internationally recognised borders of 1967, and with any adjustments to those borders which may be agreed with a legitimate Palestinian authority. Within those borders, Israel should enjoy the full support of the United States and the west in general. </p><p> Beyond those borders, Israel has every right under international law to continue a military occupation of the Palestinian territory. This occupation however must be conducted under the terms of the Geneva <a href= target=_blank>conventions</a>. It can continue until the signature of a peace treaty with neighbouring Arab states and with a Palestinian government which can guarantee reasonable controls over further violence by Palestinian extremists &#150; let us say, to the level achieved by the government of the Irish Free State after the signature of the treaty with Britain in 1921. To suggest that such a position constitutes some kind of malignant hostility to Israel is a gross offence against common decency. </p><p> I have never opposed the Israeli occupation of the <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=810">West Bank</a> and Gaza strip as such. Like so many people &#150; Israeli, American and European, Jewish and non&#150;Jewish &#150; what I oppose is the use of that occupation to confiscate Palestinian land and plant Jewish settlers. Legally, this is contrary to international law as presently recognised. Morally, it recalls the dark days of previous imperial settlements, and is linked to religious beliefs which make any settlement, negotiation or even discussion of this issue much more difficult. Practically, the settlements have played an absolutely disastrous role in undermining the Oslo peace process and in inflaming Palestinian <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1875">radicalism</a>. </p><p> This has been attested not only by a long series of opinion surveys among the <a href= target=_blank>Palestinians</a>, but by senior US officials involved in the peace process. In supporting Israel while condemning the settlements, I am not setting out a radical or anti&#150;Israeli position. This is the official position of the British government, and has been the official position of every US administration until the present one. </p><p> Like successive British governments, I also believe that America&#146;s massive support for Israel &#150; financial, military and diplomatic &#150; gives Washington both the right and the duty to use that support as a lever to change Israeli policies in line with the wishes and interests of the US and critical US allies like Britain. This is a position so natural and logical that it would not even be a matter for serious discussion in any other international context. </p><p> <strong>A polemic, not a critique</strong> </p><p> <a href= target=_blank>Emanuele Ottolenghi</a> claims to have written a critique of my approach to the Israeli&#150;Palestinian conflict, to radical Zionism, and to the relationship of these issues to contemporary American nationalism. In failing seriously to address the settlement issue and my arguments concerning it, he makes it clear that his aim is not in fact any kind of serious intellectual debate, but only the production of a polemic of his own. </p><p> I certainly did not suggest that the settlement issue is the only one acting as an impediment to peace, only that it is a very important one. Ottolenghi admits this, but instead of discussing just how important, and what should be done about it, he immediately slides away to other subjects and other attacks. In this, of course, he is following the line of the Israel lobby in the US, which has to a great extent succeeded in banishing discussion of this issue from the American national debate &#150; as witnessed once again in the US election <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=117">campaign</a>. </p><p> If Ottolenghi were genuinely to admit the importance of this issue, he would be logically bound to agree that the US should indeed put serious pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction. And please don&#146;t use US aid to Egypt and Jordan as some kind of excuse. It is not just that this aid is given for clear&#150;cut geopolitical reasons which do not exist in the case of Israel; it is also to a considerable extent an outgrowth of US support for Israel &#150; it originated in the desire to gain Arab allies in the cold war struggle against the Soviet Union, but also in the desire to reward and support Arab states willing to make peace with Israel and to break with the radical &#147;rejectionist&#148; camp. </p><p> I want nothing to do with people who call for Israel&#146;s destruction. And while I have some respect for the idealism which motivates calls for a binational <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1842">state</a>, I oppose this firmly in my book. In fact, like so many of the Israelis whom I quote, my criticism of present Israeli policies is rooted in a belief that if continued they will in fact make a two&#150;state solution impossible. </p><p> As <a href= target=_blank>Avraham Burg</a> and others have warned, in this case Israel will either abandon democracy and become a form of apartheid state, or will ultimately find itself with a Palestinian majority, and almost certainly sooner or later in a state of full&#150;scale civil war and ethnic cleansing. Either outcome will be disastrous to Israel, to peace in the region, and to the interests and safety of the US, where I work, and Britain, the country of which I am a citizen. </p><p> Ottolenghi writes that I have &#147;a thing about Jews&#148; &#150; a barely veiled and extremely discreditable accusation of anti&#150;semitism. On the one hand, I should be intrigued to know how one can possibly write about Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish diaspora without writing about Jews. On the other, however, I made it very clear that the Israel lobby in the US is not a &#147;Jewish lobby&#148;; and that in particular, the Christian right plays a critical role in it. </p><p> But Ottolenghi is not really concerned in his remarks either to deal with anything that I have actually written, or to think seriously about the terms of an Israeli&#150;Palestinian and Israeli&#150;Arab peace. He reveals this especially at two points. </p><p> The first is where, in an offhand remark, he comments on my position on &#147;the refugee issue&#148; &#150; clearly referring to my opposition to any general <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1454">right of return</a> for Palestinian refugees &#150; by saying parenthetically: &#147;here, Lieven sides, surprisingly, with Israel&#148;. Clearly, if he had paid any attention to my actual beliefs &#150; rather than to a propagandist <em>Feindbild </em>(enemy image) of his own construction &#150; he would realise that my stance on this question is completely consistent both with my support for the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and with my beliefs concerning the necessary terms of a peace settlement. </p><p> The second point at which he reveals his true colours is in his abrupt dismissal of the Arab League initiative on the Israeli&#150;Palestinian issue of <a href= target=_blank>2002</a>. Now I did not suggest that this statement was adequate in itself as the basis for a peace treaty. It did however provide a clear basis for further negotiation. By refusing even to look at the contents of this offer, Ottolenghi shows clearly that he is not in fact interested in any serious negotiations with Arab states, but only to dismiss them as serious interlocutors on the basis of a set of contemptuous remarks about their culture and traditions. </p><p> On that score, I did not address the manifold faults of the Arab and Muslim worlds at length in <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081"><em>America Right or Wrong</em></a>, because it is a book about American nationalism and the various influences on it from within the US, and neither Islam nor Arab nationalism have any such influence. </p><p> However, my views are clearly set out in other writings; for example in my essay for the British magazine <em>Prospect</em> [October 2001 (<a href= target=_blank>subscription only</a>)], reprinted in the book <em>How Could This Happen?</em> (New York, Council for Foreign Relations, 2002). </p><p> Unlike the straw man erected by Ottolenghi, I too am quite convinced that the ultimate roots of Arab and Muslim extremism do indeed lie in Arab and Muslim history: a thousand years of mostly triumphant advance followed by four centuries of social, economic, political and cultural decline, and geopolitical defeat and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1152">humiliation</a> at the hands of western power. This history has given rise to pathological movements, and to pathological attitudes to the outside world. </p><p> <strong>Israel&#146;s challenge</strong> </p><p> Israel of course is not responsible for any of this. But what Israel has done in recent decades however is to provide a catalyst for these deeper sentiments &#150; exacerbating them, ensuring them greatly increased support, and in particular turning them against Israel&#146;s ally and sponsor, the United States. </p><p> Of course, much of this hatred stems originally from the very creation of Israel, which is obviously not something Israel can or should do anything about. But in view of the absolutely overwhelming weight of evidence from opinion <a href=,%203/16/2004 target=_blank>surveys</a>, official reports, and journalists&#146; interviews, it should not be possible for any reasonable person to deny that the daily images of Palestinian suffering being broadcast throughout the Muslim world are having a disastrous effect in fuelling &#150; not creating, but fuelling &#150; Islamist extremism and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1865">terrorism</a>, and therefore in strengthening the enemies of Israel and the west. </p><p> Concerning what Ottolenghi calls the &#147;nuanced&#148; positions of the Christian right concerning Israel and Palestine, I quoted at length from Senator <a href= target=_blank>James Inhofe</a> and others precisely in order to demonstrate that there is no nuance whatsoever in their approach, and that it is just as utterly obstructive of peace as are the beliefs of Palestinian radicals. Does Ottolenghi support such views on the part of the US Christian right and the Israeli religious right? If not, why does he not publicly condemn them, as is his clear duty? </p><p> As for <a href= target=_blank>Alan Dershowitz</a> of Harvard and Abraham Foxman of the <a href= target=_blank>Anti&#150;Defamation League</a>, these are quite obviously not the marginal figures Ottolenghi tries to suggest. Readers can find their books, and judge for themselves whether my characterisation of their views is accurate. Whatever Ottolenghi may say, I cannot regard a man like Dershowitz, who argues for judicial <a href= target=_blank>torture</a> as a liberal in any recognisable contemporary sense of that word. Of course, as I have argued, he does resemble in some respects a pre&#150;1914 national liberal. We are supposed to have moved on a bit since then. </p><p> How far we have moved, or need to move beyond nationalism &#150; the wider issue Ottolenghi addresses towards the end of his attack &#150; is one I have wished to leave aside in order to answer Ottolenghi&#146;s more twisted charges about Israel and anti&#150;semitism. His article as a whole contains numerous other evasions and distortions, but rather than addressing them I have asked the editor of <strong>openDemocracy</strong> to publish a second <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2168">extract</a> from my book which offers them sufficient rebuttal. </p><p> Those interested can read this extract and the <a href= target=_blank>book</a> itself, compare Ottolenghi&#146;s presentation and attacks &#150; and then judge both who is correct and who has behaved more honourably in this debate. </p><p> </p></div> Conflict conflicts middle east israel & palestine - old roads, new maps american power & the world Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Tue, 19 Oct 2004 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 2171 at Israel and the American antithesis <p> One of the principal arguments made in defense of unconditional United States support for Israel over the past generation is rooted in the &#147;American Creed&#148;. Namely, that Israel is a fellow democracy, and the &#147;only democracy in the Middle East&#148;, and therefore deserves American support. But as this becomes more and more difficult to square with Israeli actions &#150; most especially, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the planting of Jewish settlements there, other arguments, which have always been present, may gain greater prominence. These arguments are closely related to values and beliefs which I have described in my recent <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2081">article</a> for <strong>openDemocracy</strong> as forming part of the &#147;American antithesis.&#148; <div><div class="pull_quote_article">If you like this exclusive from Anatol Lieven, <a href= target=_blank>click here</a> to buy an annual susbcription for just &pound;25/$40/€40. With your subscription, you&#146;ll gain access to the easy-to-read PDF version of this article</div><p> Indeed, even the argument that Israel is a &#147;bastion of democracy&#148; is often paired with the spoken or unspoken view, more reminiscent of the 19th century, that it is also &#147;an island of western civilisation in a sea of savagery&#148;. Indeed, the use of &#147;democracy&#148; in this context sometimes seems more a contemporary version of the 19th-century use of the word &#147;civilisation&#148; than a reference to actual behaviour. </p><p> Arguments rooted in the American antithesis were admirably summarised in a speech to the United States Senate in March 2002 by Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) setting out seven <a href= target=_blank>reasons</a> why &#147;Israel alone is entitled to possess the Holy Land&#148;, including the Palestinian territories. These views are widely shared among the other members of the Christian right in the US Congress. Their numbers include both of the last Republican leaders in the House, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. In May 2002, Armey, then House Majority Leader, called during a television interview for the deportation of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. </p><p> Democracy was not among the arguments set out by Senator Inhofe; indeed the only one which is compatible with US official public values as presently understood, let alone with the official policies towards the issue of every US administration, was that of &#147;humanitarian concern&#148; for the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Instead, the Senator set out archaeological and historical arguments proving that the Jewish claim &#147;predates any claims that other peoples in the region may have&#148; &#150; the same arguments so often used by nationalist intellectuals in the Balkans and Caucasus. By contrast, in 1913, &#147;Palestinians were not there&#148;. Two of Senator Inhofe&#146;s reasons were realist ones in international terms: that Israel is a &#147;strategic ally of the United States&#148; and &#147;a roadblock to terrorism.&#148; </p><p> Other arguments of Inhofe&#146;s concerned civilisational superiority: the idea that Israel took desert land which &#147;nobody really wanted&#148; from its supposedly nomadic native inhabitants, and made it bloom. Despite all the years since the conquest of the American west, this is still an idea with great resonance for Americans from the Jacksonian tradition, or influenced by it. After all, both this belief and the explicit parallel between the American settlement of the &#147;new world&#148; and the Israelites&#146; occupation of Canaan go back to the first days of white settlement in North America. In the words of TR Fehrenbach concerning the Texan consciousness of Texan history (and remembering that Oklahoma borders Texas and was largely settled from there): </p><p> &#147;The Texan did not shed his history in the 20th century; he clung to it. Texas history was taught in Texas schools before the study of the United States began&#133;This Anglo history was shot through with the national myths all such histories have; it had its share of hypocrisy and arrogance. Parts of its mythology made both ethnic Mexicans and Negroes writhe. But in essence, it rang true. <em>We chose this land; we took it; we made it bear fruit</em>, the Texan child is taught.&#148; </p><p> Or in the words of John Wayne: &#147;I don&#146;t feel that we did wrong in taking this great country away from them [the Indians]&#133;Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.&#148; Leo Strauss, one of the intellectual fathers of the <a href= target=_blank>neo-conservatives</a>, made &#147;theft of land&#148; the basis for <em>all</em> states, while arguing that this unpleasant truth should be veiled from the masses. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">How important is Leo Strauss to American neo-conservatism? In <strong>openDemocracy</strong>, Danny Postel interviews Shadia Drury, anatomist of his work and influence: &#147;Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1542"> October 2003</a>)</div><p> In this vein, like so many American supporters of Israel over the decades, Senator Inhofe quoted a passage from Mark Twain about his travels through a desolate Palestine; and long-held views of Palestine&#146;s backwardness before the start of Jewish settlement, and therefore the Palestinians&#146; inferiority, hark back directly to 19th-century attitudes. </p><p> Senator Inhofe&#146;s final argument also stems directly from another key strand in the American &#147;antithesis&#148;. In his words: </p><p> &#147;This is the most important reason; because God said so. As I said a minute ago, look it up in the book of Genesis. It is right up there on the desk&#133;The Bible says that Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built an altar there before the Lord. Hebron is in the West Bank. It is at this place where God appeared to Abram and said &#145;I am giving you this land&#146; &#150; the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether the word of God is true.&#148; </p><p> Such an argument not only removes this critical issue from the sphere of negotiation; it removes it from any possibility of rational discussion based on universally accepted criteria. This argument in fact rejects the Enlightenment as a basis for political culture, and in doing so, also rejects modern western civilisation. The rejection of the Enlightenment tradition is especially true of the <a href= target=_blank>millenarian</a> Christians in the United States, who believe that the restoration of Israeli rule over the entire biblical Kingdom of David is an essential precondition of the Apocalypse. </p><p> Or in the simple words of the Reverend Jerry Falwell: &#147;To stand against Israel is to stand against God.&#148; Over the past decade, unconditional support for Israel has become increasingly strong on the Republican right, in tandem with the rise of the Christian right &#147;from an irrelevant fringe into a centerpiece of the conservative movement&#148;. This is a very marked change from the days of Eisenhower, and indeed of George Bush Sr. </p><p> <strong>The costs of unconditional support</strong> </p><p> Such views, of course, represent a distinctly minority opinion in the US as a whole concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But the rise of the Christian right within the Republican party means that on this wing of US politics, they are views which are becoming more and more significant. The Israeli fundamentalist right is developing a closer relationship even with more moderate sections of the Christian right in the US. Indeed, it would seem that from the mid-1990s Likud governments in Israel have come to rely more on the Christian right than on &#147;unreliable&#148; liberal Jewish Americans in their attempts to mobilise support in the US for its policies. </p><p> In the case of Israel, both the Democratic Party and the liberal intelligentsia have been disabled from presenting strong and coherent opposition to <a href= target=_blank>them</a>; whether by sincere identification with Israel, or fear of being attacked by the Israeli lobby. As a result, there is in effect no real political alternative or opposition in the US concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US policies towards it. </p><p> Over the past four decades US policy has in consequence become bogged down in a glaring contradiction between American public ideals and US-financed Israeli behaviour. On the one hand, America preaches to Arabs contemporary civic ideals of democracy, modernity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. On the other, it subsidises not only a brutal military occupation but the seizure of land from an established population on the basis of ethno-religious claims which in any other circumstances would be regarded by US governments and a majority of public opinion as utterly illegitimate. </p><p> The most truly tragic aspect of all this, as more and more Israelis and Jewish Americans have begun to argue, is that this kind of unconditional US support, coupled with continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, is also proving disastrous for Israel itself, and for the noble ideals which motivated the best elements in the Zionist enterprise. These critics include not just liberals, but senior retired military and security officials; like the four former directors of the Shin Bet domestic security service who in November 2003 warned the Ariel Sharon government that if Israel does not withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel&#146;s very existence will ultimately be endangered. </p><p> The figure for US aid to Israel 2002 was around six times that to the entire desperately impoverished continent of Africa, and ten times the proposed US share of aid for the reconstruction of liberated Afghanistan &#150; the latter being both a US moral imperative and also supposedly a vital US strategic interest. This clearly makes Israel a special case. It makes the US morally complicit in Israel&#146;s crimes, not only in the eyes of the world but in reality; and it gives Americans both the right and the duty to put pressure on Israel to end the <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1875">occupation</a> of the Palestinian territories. </p><p> The United States&#146;s need to bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also dictated on purely realist grounds, especially in the context of the &#147;war against terrorism&#148;. Israeli strategies and tactics in that conflict, and US support for Israel, are central to how a large majority of Muslims view the US and its policies in the Muslim <a href= target=_blank>world</a>. This fact has been attested to by an almost endless procession of opinion polls and media reports, including surveys by the US state department, and is not or should not be open to serious question. </p><p> In the context of either a realist or an ethical international tradition, there is of course nothing wrong in a US <a href= target=_blank>commitment</a> to Israel based on a sense of cultural and ethnic kinship, nor in US willingness to make geopolitical sacrifices for the sake of defending Israel. This, after all, was the position of Britain vis-à-vis its former &#147;white&#148; colonies long after they had become politically independent of Britain, and even when some had ceased to be real strategic assets. </p><p> In the case of Israel&#146;s role in the US-Israel alliance, alas, a darker historical parallel suggests itself. If anything, the US-Israel alliance is beginning to take on some of the same mutually calamitous aspects as Russia&#146;s commitment to Serbia in 1914; a great-power guarantee which encouraged parts of the Serbian leadership to behave with criminal irresponsibility in their encouragement of irredentist claims against Austria, leading to a war which was ruinous for Russia, Serbia and the world. </p><p> One might almost say that as a result of the way in which the terms of the Israeli-US alliance have become set, the US and Israel have changed places. The US, which should feel protected both by the oceans and by matchless military superiority, is cast instead in the role of an endangered middle-eastern state which is under severe threat from terrorism, and which also believes itself to be in mortal danger from countries with a tiny fraction of its power. </p><p> Meanwhile, thanks largely to support from the US, Israel has become a kind of superpower, able to defy its entire region and Europe too. This is not only bad for the US, it is terribly bad for Israel itself. For Israel is not a superpower. It is rich and powerful, but it is still a small middle-eastern country which will have to seek accommodations with its <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1875">neighbours</a> if it is ever to live in peace. Blind and largely unconditional US support has enabled Israeli governments to avoid facing this fact, with consequences which are likely to prove utterly disastrous for Israel itself in the long run. </p><p> <strong>A dangerous entanglement</strong> </p><p> As in the case of Serbia and powerful pan-Slavist sections of pre-1914 Russian public and official opinion, so in the case of Israel, important sections of US opinion (by no means only Jewish) have over the past half-century come to view the US and Israel as almost one country, so tightly identified with each other as to transcend America&#146;s own identity and interests. They genuinely believe in an &#147;identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States.&#148; The relationship has been described as a &#147;love affair&#148;; in the words of Jerry Brown (former Democratic governor of California): &#147;I love Israel. If you would show me a map and ask me to identify Israel, I probably wouldn&#146;t find it. But Israel is in my heart.&#148; </p><p> This identification with Israel would not matter much to US and western security, except that over the same period the wider Arab (and to a lesser extent Muslim) worlds have come equally to identify with the Palestinians in their struggle with the Israelis. The US has a separate hegemonic <a href= target=_blank>agenda</a> in the region, which is focused on control of access to oil, the deterrence or removal of hostile states, and the attempt to develop states and societies so as to ward off state failure, anti-western revolution, or both. This task would be difficult enough in itself, but it is made immeasurably more difficult by the embroilment of the US in an essentially national conflict with the Palestinians and their Arab backers. </p><p> So as a result of a combination of Israel and oil, the US finds itself pinned to a conflict-ridden and bitterly anti-American region in a way without precedent in its <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1900">history</a>. In all other regions of the world, the US has been able either to help stabilise regional situations in a way which broadly conforms to its interests (Europe, northeast Asia, central America), or, if regional hostility is too great and the security situation too intractable, to withdraw (as from Mexico in 1917 and Indochina in the early 1970s). </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">Also by Anatol Lieven in openDemocracy: &#147;Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation&#148; (<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=549"> September 2002</a>)</div><p> If the result of US entanglement in the middle east is also unprecedented embroilment in a series of conflicts, then this is likely severely to damage not only US global leadership, but the character of US nationalism and even perhaps of US democracy. As the period of the Vietnam war indicated, prolonged war may bitterly divide American society and create severe problems for public order; and it may also help push the American government in the direction of secretive, paranoid, authoritarian and illegal <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2025">behaviour</a>. </p><p> <strong>The nationalist black hole</strong> </p><p> Whatever the natural, legitimate and understandable roots of unconditional loyalty to Israel, the effects often resemble wider patterns of <a href= target=_blank>nationalism</a> in the world. One of the saddest experiences of visits to countries experiencing national disputes and heightened moods of nationalism is to meet with highly intelligent, civilised, and moderate individuals whose capacity for reason and moderation vanishes as soon as the conversation touches on conflicts involving their own nation or ethnicity. Otherwise universally accepted standards of behaviour, argument and evidence are suspended, facts are conjured from thin air, critics are demonised, wild accusations are leveled, and civilised and rational argument becomes impossible. </p><p> I observed this as a journalist in the southern Caucasus in the run-up to the wars there in the early <a href= target=_blank>1990s</a>, and more than a decade earlier when visiting the then Yugoslavia as a student. It was therefore with dismay that I found exactly the same pattern repeating itself at dinner-parties in Washington as soon as the conversation touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also immensely sad and troubling is to see ethical principles and intellectual standards crumble at the touch of national allegiance among scholars and thinkers whose work you deeply admire. </p><p> As far as the pro-Israeli liberal intelligentsia of the US &#150; both Jewish and non-Jewish &#150; is concerned, any condemnation must be tempered not only by the terrible impact of the Holocaust but by an awareness of the extremely difficult ideological and ethical position in which its members have found themselves since 1945, a position which is nothing short of a tragic dilemma. This stems in origin from the fact that for equally valid and legitimate reasons, western Europe, and the liberal intelligentsia of the US on the one hand, and the greater part of the world&#146;s Jewish population on the other, drew opposing conclusions from the catastrophe of Nazism. And this split ran straight through the individual consciousnesses of most of the Jewish diaspora intelligentsia. This is not an enviable situation to be in. </p><p> The western European elites, and the liberal intelligentsia of the US, essentially decided that the correct response to Nazism - and to the hideous national conflicts which preceded, engendered and accompanied Nazism - was to seek to limit, transcend and overcome nationalism. Hence the creation of common European institutions leading to the European Union, and the great respect paid in Europe (and by many liberal Americans) to the United Nations and to developing institutions of international law and cooperation. Given the strong past connections between chauvinist nationalism and anti-semitism (even to a degree in the US), and the role of nationalism in fascism, most of the Jewish intelligentsia in the diaspora naturally also identified with these attempts to overcome nationalism around the world. </p><p> However, given the failure of the western world (including the US) in the 1930s and 1940s to prevent genocide, or even &#150; shamefully - to offer refuge to Jews fleeing the Nazis, it is entirely natural that a great many Jews decided that guarantees from the international community were not remotely sufficient to protect them against further attempts at massacre, and that in addition, a Jewish national state was required, backed by a strong Jewish nationalism. This nationalism embodied strong and genuine elements of national liberation and social progressivism, akin to those of other oppressed peoples in the world, and it was from this that Zionism drew its powerful elements of moral nobility, as represented by figures like Ahad Ha&#146;am, Martin Buber and <a href= target=_blank>Nahum Goldmann</a>. </p><p> Unlike most other national senses of martyrdom &#150; that of France after 1871 or Germany after 1918, for example &#150; the Jewish one was truly justified. But that has not saved many Jews from the pernicious results of such a sense of martyrdom in terms of nationalist extremism and self-justification &#150; any more than it has the Armenians, for example. It has produced an atmosphere which has shaded into and tolerated the religious-nationalist fundamentalism of Israeli extremist groups and different groups of ideological settlers in the occupied territories, and crude hatred of Arabs and Muslims. </p><p> Furthermore, while Zionism of course originated in the late 19th century and is a classic example of the modern &#147;construction&#148; of a nation, the Jewish ethno-religious basis on which it did so represents the oldest and deepest &#147;primordial&#148; national identity in the world. </p><p> An appeal to religious and quasi-religious nationalist justifications for rule over Palestine was also implicit in the entire Zionist enterprise. Given the large majority of Palestinian Arabs throughout Palestine &#150; even at the moment of the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948 - the claim to create a Jewish state in Palestine could not easily be justified on grounds of national liberation alone. It needed also to be backed by appeals to ancient ethnic claims and religious scripts, and by civilisational arguments of superiority to the backward Arabs and &#147;making the desert bloom&#148;. These could not easily be assented to by other peoples around the world, and indeed made even many western liberals think uneasily of their own nationalist and imperialist pasts. </p><p> Today, it should also be quite clear that if one of the absolute preconditions for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Israeli abandonment of many settlements in the occupied territories, the other is Palestinian abandonment of the &#147;right of return&#148; for those Palestinians who were expelled in 1948. I should add that I strongly support the Jewish &#147;right of return&#148; to Israel within the borders of 1967, as an ultimate fallback line in the event of a real return of anti-semitism elsewhere in the world. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">Anatol Lieven&#146;s book <em>America Right or Wrong</em> HarperCollins, <a href= target=_blank>2004</a>) develops the arguments in this essay</div><p> But while the expulsions of 1948 may have been necessary for Israel&#146;s survival, the lies which they have generated over the succeeding generations, and which continue to this day, have been extremely dangerous for both Israel and the US. It would have been far better if Israel, and partisans of Israel in the US, had &#150; like David Ben Gurion in private - accepted the truth of what happened in 1948, and then used it as the basis for thinking seriously about compensation and laying the foundations for future peace. Instead, the pro-Israel camp committed itself to an interlocking set of moral and historical falsehoods. </p><p> Over time, the intellectual consequences of these positions have spread like a forest of aquatic weeds until they have entangled and choked a significant part of the US national debate concerning relations not only with the Muslim world but with the outside world in general, and have thereby fed the worst strains of American nationalism. </p><p> </p></div></p> Conflict conflicts middle east israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Mon, 18 Oct 2004 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 2168 at America right or wrong <p>The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were an atrocious assault on the American homeland. Any United States administration would have had to respond to them by seeking to destroy the perpetrators. The war to destroy the al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan and their Taliban backers was therefore a completely legitimate response to &ldquo;9/11&rdquo;, as are US actions against al-Qaida and its allies elsewhere. </p><p>What the George W Bush administration did, however, was to instil in the American public a fear of much wider threats to the homeland &ndash; from Iraq, Iran and North Korea. These states had no connection to al-Qaida. By acting thus, the administration created a belief that anything America does is essentially defensive and a response to &ldquo;terrorism&rdquo;. </p><p>What were the roots of this belief? Traumatised by the events of <a href="" target="_blank">11 September</a>, Americans very naturally reacted by falling back on old patterns of thinking and behaviour shaped by their nationalism. This nationalism embodies beliefs and principles of great and permanent value for America and the world. But it also contains very great dangers. Aspects of American nationalism imperil both America&rsquo;s global leadership and its success in the struggle against Islamist terrorism and revolution. </p><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="book cover" border="0" /></div><p>More than any other factor, it is the nature and extent of this nationalism which at the start of the 21st century divides the United States from a largely post-nationalist western Europe. Some neo-conservative and realist writers have argued that American behaviour in the world, and American differences with Europe, stem simply from the nation&rsquo;s possession of greater power and <a href="" target="_blank">responsibility</a>. It would be truer to say that this power enables America to do certain things. <em>What</em> it does, and <em>how</em> it reacts to the behaviour of others, is dictated by America&rsquo;s political culture. Different strands of <a href="" target="_blank">nationalism</a> are critically important parts in this. </p><p>The disaster of 9/11 should have been enough to produce a serious examination among Washington policy elites not only of past US policies, but of the American political cultures which helped to produce them. </p><p>In fact, as the genesis and conduct of the Iraq war of 2003 demonstrated, large sections of those elites have learned precisely <em>nothing</em> from the folly and wickedness of their past conduct. And this failure is above all because they have been blocked from doing so by certain key features of <a href="" target="_blank">American nationalism</a>. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">Also by Anatol Lieven in openDemocracy: <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=549">&#147;Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation&#148;</a> <br />(September 2002)</div><p>Moreover, insofar as American nationalism has become mixed up with a chauvinist version of Israeli nationalism, it also plays an absolutely disastrous role in the US&rsquo;s own relations with the Muslim world, and in fuelling terrorism. One might say, therefore, that while America keeps a splendid and welcoming house, it also keeps a family of demons in its cellar. These demons, usually kept under certain restraints, were released by 9/11. </p><p><strong>Neither patriotism or imperialism</strong> </p><p>After the 9/11 terrorist attacks the United States had the chance to create a concert of all the world&rsquo;s major states (including Muslim ones) against Islamist revolutionary terrorism. Why instead did it choose to pursue policies which divided the west, further alienated the <a href="" target="_blank">Muslim world</a>, and exposed America itself to greatly increased danger? </p><p>The most important reason is the character of <a href=";pr=10&amp;ss=author&amp;sf=all&amp;view=usa&amp;sd=asc&amp;ci=0195168402#titledescription" target="_blank">American nationalism</a>. This explains why many Americans reacted in the way that they did to 9/11 and why it was possible for the Bush administration later to extend the &ldquo;war on terror&rdquo; to Iraq, and in doing so to retain the support of a majority of Americans. </p><p>Nationalism has not been the usual prism through which American behaviour has been viewed. Most Americans have spoken of their attachment to their country as &ldquo;patriotism&rdquo;, or in an extreme form, superpatriotism. Critics of the United States, at home and abroad, have tended to focus on what has been called American imperialism. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">Is the United States an empire? In openDemocracy, Stephen Howe retrieves past answers to the question, and surveys the work of one of the foremost current advocates of American hegemony, Niall Ferguson: <ul><li><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1279">&#147;American Empire: the history and future of an idea&#148;</a> (June 2003)</li> <p> </p><li><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2021">&#147;An Oxford Scot in King Dubya&#146;s court: Niall Ferguson&#146;s <em>Colossus</em>&#148;</a> (July 2004) </li> </ul></div><p>The US today does harbour important forces that can be called imperialist in their outlook and aims. However, although large in influence, people holding these views are relatively few in number. They are to be found above all in overlapping sections of the intelligentsia and the foreign policy and security establishments, with a particular concentration among the so-called neo-conservatives. </p><p>Unlike large numbers of Englishmen and Frenchmen during their countries&rsquo; <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=1262">imperial phase</a>, the vast majority of ordinary Americans do not think of themselves as imperialist, or as possessing an empire. The aftermath of the Iraq war seems to be demonstrating that they are not prepared to make the massive long-term commitments and sacrifices necessary to maintain a direct American empire in the middle east and elsewhere. </p><p>Apart from the effects of modern culture on attitudes to military service and sacrifice, American culture historically has embodied a strong strain of isolationism. This isolationism is, however, a complex phenomenon, which should not be understood simply as a desire to withdraw from the world. Rather, American isolationism forms another face, both of American chauvinism and American messianism &ndash; united by a belief in America as a unique &ldquo;city on a hill&rdquo;. </p><p>The result is a view that if the US really has no choice but to involve itself with disgusting and inferior foreigners, it must absolutely control the process, and must under no circumstances subject itself to foreign control or even advice. </p><p>Again, unlike <a href=",,0_0713997702,00.html" target="_blank">previous empires</a>, the US national identity and what has been called the &ldquo;American Creed&rdquo; are founded on adherence to democracy. However imperfectly democracy may be practiced at home, and hypocritically preached abroad, this democratic faith does set real limits to how far the US can exert direct rule over other peoples. Therefore, since 1945 the United States has been an indirect empire, resembling more closely the Dutch in the East Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries than the British in India. </p><p>As far as the mass of the American people is concerned, even an indirect American empire is still an empire in denial. In presenting its imperial plans to the American people, the Bush administration has been careful to package them as something else: on one hand, as part of a benevolent strategy of spreading American values of democracy and freedom; on the other, as an essential part of the defence not of an American empire, but of the <a href="" target="_blank">American nation</a> itself. </p><p>Under the George W Bush administration the United States has driven towards empire, but the domestic political fuel fed into the engine was that of a wounded and vengeful <a href="" target="_blank">nationalism</a>. After 9/11, this sentiment is entirely sincere as far as most Americans are concerned, and it is all the more dangerous for that. In fact, to judge by world history, there is probably no more dangerous element in the entire nationalist mix than a sense of righteous victimhood. In the past this sentiment helped wreck Germany, <a href=";products_id=1733" target="_blank">Serbia</a> and numerous other countries, and is now in the process of wrecking Israel. </p><p><strong>The two souls of American nationalism</strong> </p><p>Like other nationalisms, American nationalism has many different faces. <a href="" target="_blank">Erik Erikson</a> wrote that &ldquo;every national character is constructed out of polarities.&rdquo; This is certainly true of the United States, which embodies amongst other things both the most modern <em>and</em> the most traditionalist society in the developed world. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">Have changes in American society helped increase the political dominance of the American right? Read Godfrey Hodgson in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>: <ul><li><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1182">&#147;From frontiersman to neo-con&#148;</a> (April 2003) <p> </p></li><li><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1951">&#147;Ronald Reagan and America: the real legacy&#148;</a> (June 2004) <p> </p></li><li><a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1994">&#147;America&#146;s choice: inequality or democracy?&#148;</a> (July 2004) </li></ul></div><p>The clash between the two is contributing to the growing political polarisation of American society. At the time of writing, the American people are more sharply and more evenly divided along party lines than at any time in modern American history. This political division in turn reflects greater differences in social and cultural attitudes than at any time since the Vietnam war. White evangelical Protestants vote Republican rather than Democrat by a factor of almost two-to-one, with corresponding effects on the parties&rsquo; stances on abortion and other <a href="" target="_blank">moral issues</a>. </p><p>The gap is almost as great in regard to nationalism: 71% of Republicans in 2003 describe themselves as &ldquo;very patriotic&rdquo; compared to 48% of Democrats. This partly reflects racial political allegiances; 65% of whites describe themselves as &ldquo;very patriotic&rdquo; compared with 38% of blacks. Gaps concerning attitudes to crime and faith in American business are even greater. </p><p>It is however not the opposition, but the <em>combination</em> of these different strands which determines the overall nature of the American national identity and largely shapes American attitudes and policies towards the outside world. </p><p>The first of these strands stems from American Creed (or the &ldquo;American Thesis&rdquo;): the set of great democratic, legal and individualist beliefs and principles on which the American state and constitution is founded. These principles form the foundation of American civic nationalism, and also help bind the United States to the wider community of democratic states. They are shared with other democratic societies, but in America they have a special role in holding a disparate nation together. As the term Creed <a href="" target="_blank">implies</a>, they are held with an ideological and almost religious fervour. </p><p>The second element forms what I call the American nationalist &ldquo;antithesis&rdquo;. It stems above all from ethno-religious roots. Aspects of this tradition have also been called &ldquo;Jacksonian nationalism&rdquo;, after President <a href="" target="_blank">Andrew Jackson</a> (1767-1845). Because the US is so large and complex compared to other countries, and has changed so much over time, this nationalist tradition is correspondingly complex. </p><p>Rather than the simple, monolithic identity of a Polish or Thai ethno-religious nationalism, this tradition in the United States forms a diffuse mass of identities and impulses, including nativist sentiments on the part of America&rsquo;s original white population, the particular culture of the white south, and the beliefs and agendas of ethnic lobbies. </p><p>Nonetheless, these nationalist features can often be clearly distinguished from the principles of the American Creed and of American civic nationalism; and although many of their features are specifically American &ndash; notably, the role of fundamentalist Protestantism &ndash; they are also related to wider patterns of ethno-religious nationalism across the world. </p><p>These strands in American nationalism are usually subordinate to American civic nationalism stemming from the Creed, which dominates America&rsquo;s official and public political culture. However, they have a natural tendency to rise to the surface at times of crisis and <a href="" target="_blank">conflict</a>. In the specific case of America&rsquo;s attachment to Israel, ethno-religious factors have become dominant, with extremely dangerous consequences for the war on terror. </p><p>In 1983, one of the fathers of the neo-conservative school in the US, <a href="" target="_blank">Irving Kristol</a> drew a distinction between a patriotism that &ldquo;springs from love of the nation&rsquo;s past&rdquo; and a nationalism that &ldquo;arises out of hope for the nation&rsquo;s future, distinctive greatness&rdquo;; American foreign policy, he went on, &ldquo;is the national interest of a world power, as this is defined by a sense of national destiny.&rdquo; </p><p>In the perspective of such thinkers, nationalism has always had a certain revolutionary edge to it. In American political culture at the start of the 21st century, there is certainly a very strong element of patriotism, of attachment to American institutions and to America in its present form; but as Kristol&rsquo;s words indicate, there is also a revolutionary element, a commitment to a <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=549">messianic vision</a> of the nation and its role in the world. </p><p>It is this feature that links the American nationalism of today to the &ldquo;unsatisfied&rdquo;, late-coming nationalisms of Germany, Italy and Russia, rather than the satisfied and status-quo patriotism of the British. </p><p>But if one strand of American nationalism is radical because it looks forward to &ldquo;the nation&rsquo;s future, distinctive greatness&rdquo;, another is radical because it continuously looks <em>backwards</em>, to a vanished and idealised national past. This &ldquo;American antithesis&rdquo; is a central feature of American radical conservatism: the world of the Republican right, and especially the <a href="" target="_blank">Christian right</a>, with their rhetoric of &ldquo;taking back&rdquo; America, and restoring an older, purer American society. This longstanding tendency in American culture and politics reflects the continuing conservative religiosity of many Americans; however, it also has been an expression of social, economic, ethnic and above all racial anxieties. </p><p>In part, these anxieties stem from the progressive loss of control over society by the &ldquo;original&rdquo; white Anglo-Saxon and Scots-Irish populations, later joined by other similar groups. Connected to this are class anxieties &ndash; in the past, the hostility of the small towns and countryside to the new immigrant-populated cities; today, the economic decline of the traditional white working classes recently examined by <a href="" target="_blank">Thomas Frank</a>. </p><p>As a result of economic, cultural and demographic change, large numbers of Americans feel defeated even though their country is the supremely victorious nation of the modern age. The domestic anxieties this generates spill over into attitudes to the outside world. </p><p>These fears help give many American nationalists their curiously embittered, mean-spirited and defensive edge, so curiously at variance with America&rsquo;s image and self-image as a land of success, openness, wealth and generosity. Over the years, the hatred generated by this sense of defeat and alienation has been extended to both domestic and <a href="" target="_blank">foreign enemies</a>. </p><p>This too is a very old pattern in different nationalisms worldwide. In European history, radical conservatism and nationalism have tended to stem from classes and groups in actual or perceived decline as a result of socio-economic change. One way of looking at <a href="" target="_blank">American nationalism</a>, and America&rsquo;s troubled relationship with the contemporary world, is to understand that many Americans feel threatened by and are in revolt against the world which America itself has made. </p><p><strong>Living in an American nightmare</strong> </p><p>However, except for the extreme fringe among the various &ldquo;militia&rdquo; groups and <a href="" target="_blank">neo-Nazis</a>, these forces of the American antithesis are not in public revolt against the American Creed and American civic, or democratic, nationalism as such. Most radical nationalist and radical conservatives movements elsewhere in the world have in the past opposed democracy and demanded authoritarian rule; by contrast, Americans from this tradition generally believe strongly in the American democratic and <a href="" target="_blank">liberal Creed</a>. </p><p>However, they also believe &ndash; consciously or unconsciously, openly or in private &ndash; that the Creed is the product of a specific white Christian American civilisation, and that it is threatened by immigration, racial minorities, and foreign influence. The many contemporary trends that can be seen as justifying this belief naturally leave its adherents feeling embattled, embittered, and defensive. </p><p>American Protestant fundamentalist groups also do not reject the Creed as such. But their attitudes to culture and the intellect mean that their rejection of contemporary America is even deeper, for they refuse key aspects of modernity itself. For them, modern American mass culture is a form of daily assault on their passionately held values; their reactionary religious ideology in turn reflects the sense of social, cultural and racial embattlement among their white middle class constituency. Even as America is marketing the &ldquo;American dream&rdquo; to the world, at home many Americans feel that they are living in an American nightmare. </p><p>For America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread, and conservative religious belief in the western world, including a section of society possessed by wild millenarian hopes, fears and hatreds. </p><p>Moreover, these two phenomena are intimately related: a Pew Research Centre survey of 2002 demonstrates that the United States as a whole is much closer to the developing world in terms of religious belief than to the advanced <a href="" target="_blank">industrial countries</a>. For example, 59% of American respondents agreed that religion plays a very important role in their lives - a figure that put the US closer to Pakistan (91%) than to France (12%); as of 1990, 69% of Americans believed in the personal existence of the Devil. </p><p>The religious beliefs of large sections of this core population are under constant, daily challenge from modern secular culture, above all via the mass media. And perhaps of equal importance in the long term will be the relative decline in recent decades in the real incomes of the American &ldquo;middle classes&rdquo;, where these groups are situated socially. This decline and the wider economic changes which began with the oil shock of 1973 have had the side-effect of forcing more and more women to go to work, thereby undermining traditional family structures even among those groups most devoted to them. </p><p>The relationship between this traditional white Protestant world and the forces of American economic, demographic, social and cultural change may be compared to the genesis of a hurricane. A mass of warm, humid air rises from the constantly churning sea of American capitalism, to meet a mass of cooler layers of air, and as it rises it sucks in yet more air from the sides, in the form of immigration. </p><p>The cooler layers are made up of the white middle classes and their small-town and suburban worlds in much of the United States; the old white populations of the greater south with their specific culture; and the especially frigid strata of old Anglo-Saxon and Scots-Irish fundamentalist <a href="" target="_blank">Protestantism</a>. </p><p>The result of this collision is the release of great bolts and explosions of political and <a href=";pid=411269" target="_blank">cultural electricity</a>. Like a hurricane, the resulting storm system is essentially circular, continually chasing its own tail; and essentially self-supporting, generating its own energy &ndash; until, at some unforeseeable point in future, either the boiling seas of economic change cool down, or the strata of religious belief and traditional culture dissolve. Among these bolts is hatred, including nationalist hatred. </p><p>In the United States context it is also crucial to remember that &ndash; as in a hurricane or thunderstorm &ndash; the two elements combining to produce this system work together rather than in opposition. In a curious paradox, the political representatives of Protestant America&rsquo;s old conservative religious and cultural communities are encouraging the very unrestrained free-market capitalism that promises to dissolve those communities. </p><p>This was not always so. In the 1890s and 1900s, this sector of America formed the backbone of the <a href="" target="_blank">Populist protest</a> against the excesses of American capitalism, and in the 1930s it voted solidly for Roosevelt&rsquo;s New Deal. Today, however, the religious right has allied itself solidly with extreme free-market forces in the Republican party &ndash; although it is precisely the workings of unanchored American capitalism which are eroding the world which the religious conservatives wish to defend. </p><p><strong>The threat to America is America</strong> </p><p>In the vision set out in its National Security Strategy of 2002 (<a href="" target="_blank">NSS 2002</a>), embodying the so-called Bush doctrine, American sovereignty was to remain absolute and unqualified. The sovereignty of other countries was to be heavily qualified by America, and no other country was to be allowed a sphere of influence, even in its own neighbourhood. </p><p>In this conception, &ldquo;balance of power&rdquo; &ndash; a phrase used repeatedly in the NSS &ndash; was a form of Orwellian doublespeak. The clear intention actually was to be so strong that other countries had no choice but to rally to the side of the United States, concentrating all real power and freedom of action in the hands of <a href="../articles/View.jsp?id=503">America</a>. </p><p>This approach was basically an attempt to extend a tough, interventionist version of the Monroe doctrine (<a href="" target="_blank">1823</a>) to the entire world. This plan is megalomaniac, completely impracticable (as the occupation of Iraq has shown) and totally unacceptable to most of the world. Because, however, this programme was expressed in traditional American nationalist terms of self-defence and the messianic role of the US in spreading freedom, many Americans found it entirely acceptable, and indeed natural. </p><p>The Bush administration, then, like European elites before 1914, has allowed its own national chauvinism and limitless ambition to compromise the security and stability of the world capitalist system of which they are the custodians and greatest <a href="" target="_blank">beneficiaries</a>. In other words, they have been irresponsible and dangerous not in Marxist terms, but in their own. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article">What ideology drives the Bush administration? In openDemocracy, Danny Postel interviews Shadia Drury, anatomist of the influence of the political philosopher Leo Strauss: <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1542">&#147;Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq&#148;</a> (October 2003) </div><p>This point is vitally important in relation to the stability of the world and of United States hegemony in the world. A relatively benign version of American hegemony is by no means unacceptable to many people round the world &ndash; both because they often have neighbours whom they fear more than America, and because their elites are to an increasing extent integrated into a global capitalist elite whose values are largely defined by those of America. </p><p>But American imperial power in the service of narrow American nationalism is a very different matter, and an extremely unstable base for hegemony. It involves power over the world without accepting any responsibility for global problems and the effects of US behaviour on other countries &ndash; and power without responsibility was defined by <a href="" target="_blank">Rudyard Kipling</a> as &ldquo;the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.&rdquo; </p><p>American nationalism has already played a key role in preventing America from taking advantage of the uniquely beneficent world-historical moment following the fall of communism. Instead of using this moment to create a &ldquo;concert of powers&rdquo; in support of regulated capitalist growth world stability, and the relief of poverty, preventable disease and other social ills, nationalism has helped direct America into a search for new enemies. </p><p>Such nationalism may encourage its adherents to cultivate not only specific national hatreds, but also hostility to all ideals, goals, movements, laws and institutions which aim to transcend the nation and speak for the general interests of mankind. This form of nationalism is therefore in direct opposition to the universalist ideals and ambitions of the American Creed &ndash; upon which, in the end, rests America&rsquo;s role as a great civilisational empire and heir to Rome and China; and upon which is based America&rsquo;s claim to represent a positive example to the <a href=";pr=10&amp;ss=author&amp;sf=all&amp;view=usa&amp;sd=asc&amp;ci=0195168402" target="_blank">world</a>. </p><p>The historical evidence of the dangers of unreflecting nationalist sentiments should be all too obvious, and are all too relevant to US policy today. Nationalism thrives on irrational hatreds and on the portrayal of other nations or ethno-religious groups as congenitally, irredeemably wicked and hostile. Yesterday many American nationalists felt this way about Russia. Today those or other nationalists may regard the Arab and Muslim worlds, and to a lesser extent any country that defies American wishes, in the same way. Hence the astonishing explosion of chauvinism directed against France and Germany in the approach to the war in Iraq. </p><p>When other nations are declared to be irrationally, incorrigibly and unchangingly hostile, it is obviously pointless to seek compromises with them or to try to accommodate their interests and views. And because they are irrational and barbarous, America is free to dictate to them or even conquer them for their own good. This is precisely the discourse of nationalists in the leading European states towards each other and &ldquo;lesser breeds without the law&rdquo; (<a href="" target="_blank">Kipling again</a>) before 1914, which helped drag Europe into the great catastrophes of the 20th century. It was also a central part of the old hideous discourse of anti-Semitism. </p><p>If such visions spread in the United States, they will be disastrous not only for American interests and American security but for America&rsquo;s soul. Pathological hatred and fear of the outside world will feed the same emotions in American domestic politics, until the nation&rsquo;s moral and cultural greatness lies in ruins, and its legacy to the future is broken beyond repair. </p></div> democracy & power The Americas american power & the world Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Tue, 07 Sep 2004 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 2081 at Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation <div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="General Gordon" border="0" /><span class="image_caption"><i>General Gordon's last stand (Click for bigger image)</i></span> </div>The real <i>line</i> of the Bush administration on Iraq is <i>regime change</i>. A compliant not democratic Iraq is its objective, the aim being to secure a compliant Middle East. Now, in its rhetoric, the administration is calling for democracy in Iraq, and Bush academics are calling for, and explaining the US strategy in terms of, a desire to bring democracy to the entire Arab world. This is a stroke of malign brilliance. It is unbelievable to those who study what is actually happening. Nonetheless, it may prove highly influential in the US because of the way in which rigid, ideological paradigms dominate the public discussion here. <p> In origin, the commitment to Arab democracy is no more than a cynical cross between war propaganda (stressing the undemocratic, therefore barbarous nature of the Arab enemy) and a giant diversionary tactic intended to distract attention from Israel&#146;s crimes and US complicity in them. However, it also has the capacity to co-opt and silence what might otherwise have been a good part of liberal opposition to the war in the US. </p><p> For in the US, a belief in the universal applicability of democratic institutions, and America&#146;s right and duty to promote or even impose them, is so widely and unquestioningly held that it is part of what Richard Hofstader and others have called <i>the American Creed</i>, the core beliefs which define the American nation. So deep and universal is this creed that it is extremely difficult for liberal Americans to stand up against an argument presented in these terms &#150; even when the argument is intended to justify a war of aggression and the flagrant violation of international law. The propaganda of <i>democratisation</i> therefore is a way of enlisting the sickly pieties of the Clinton era in the service of the ruthless geopolitical ambitions of Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle, and of allying genuine sentiments of liberal universalism with vicious ethno-religious hatreds. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="drawing of missionary" border="0" /></div>The media boosters of this administration line (George Will and Charles Krauthammer in the <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Washington Post</i></a>, Max Boot in the <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Wall Street Journal</i></a>, Amity Shlaes in the <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Financial Times</i></a> and so on) have written of this as a <i>new Wilsonianism</i>. Not that it did much good at Versailles in 1919 after the First World War. Such beliefs, however, are older, deeper and more powerful than the name of President Wilson would suggest. The basic psychological and cultural approach also has a great deal to do with the American missionary tradition &#150; and given the nature of that tradition, this is something that should give us all great pause. For a classic feature of much of the missionary tradition was the combination of a genuinely-felt care for the souls of non-Christian peoples with a complete indifference to their actual well being; and an ostensible commitment to the equality of all men before the Lord, with deep racist contempt for other cultures and social orders. <p> The British especially need to be wary of the appeal of supposedly benign neo-imperialism, bringing progress, peace and democracy at the point of a gun. For obvious, deep historical reasons, such an appeal is especially strong in Britain, where a sense of bereavement for the loss of empire seems to have found two kinds of solace, which Tony Blair&#146;s approach brings together. </p></div><div class="full_image"><p><img src="" alt="map of British Empire" width="555" border="0" /><br /></p></div>The first is to place Britain within the English-speaking Empire of America. Under the Prime Minister&#146;s imprimatur, British diplomats in Washington are drawing upon the Churchillian trope of the English-speaking peoples, and now refer to a <i>common Anglo&#150;Saxon culture</i>, as if the year were 1900 and Conan Doyle were still alive. To invert Dean Acheson&#146;s famous phrase, as far as a good many members of the British (or at least English) establishment are concerned, Britain never did lose an empire and has quite easily found a role. The British Empire has simply passed into the English-speaking American Empire, and Britain&#146;s role is that of a minor if colourful confederate and provider of useful and plucky auxiliary soldiers &#150; something like Nepal in Britain&#146;s Indian Raj. <p> The second solace for the loss of empire is to retain a British capacity for expeditionary, neo-imperial warfare, and to cast this capacity as an agent of world peace and progress. This line has found one of its most eloquent spokesmen in Robert Cooper, formerly of the Cabinet Office; and it has completely taken possession of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. </p><p> <b>What Blair represents</b> </p><p> It would be quite unfair to see Blair as just a tinpot leader of a former great power &#150; Yeltsin without the alcohol &#150; deriving some kind of personal gratification from the condescending flattery of the Big Man in the White House; or as a mere politician who exploits the deep pride of the British public in the British armed forces, and in their successful use in a just cause which conveniently renews the enduring romance of far-flung military expeditions; or even as a leader determined at all costs to try to bridge the widening gulf between the US and Europe, and thereby to save Britain from having to confront a truly wrenching geopolitical choice. </p><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="pas de deux" border="0" /><span class="image_caption"><i>(Click for bigger image)</i></span> </div>Blair represents all these things, but it is impossible to understand his support for the Bush administration unless it is also recognised that he genuinely sees himself as the heir of Gladstone, a muscular imperial Christian righting the world&#146;s wrongs, whether the world wants this or not. This self-perception gives Blair real moral courage &#150; for however much one may disapprove of his present approach to war with Iraq, we must recognise that this extremely ambitious and history-conscious politician is risking his premiership and his historical image on a reckless throw of the dice. On the other hand, a five-year record of apparently successful (if in fact sometimes extremely ambiguous) benign military interventions in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan doubtless gives him confidence and appears to lend strength and justice to his arm. <p> British liberals and leftists often find it hard to take a strong stand against Blair. In part, to do him the credit he deserves, this is because some of the interventions in the 1990s were in fact highly moral and necessary. Moreover, it is now recognised that the West&#146;s failure to intervene in other cases (Rwanda, Bosnia in 1992) was a disgrace. Also, they suffer from the legacy of past <i>anti-imperialism</i>, too often blaming all problems on the colonial powers and their local clients, investing hope in a range of <i>progressive</i> or revolutionary movements and regimes, many of which have proved to be a disaster. When I was growing up in the 1970s, it was impossible in respectable intellectual company to suggest that many societies around the world were unprepared for modern statehood without being automatically accused of <i>racism</i> or <i>imperialism</i>. The dreadful record of so many much-praised <i>progressive</i> regimes in the Third World, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, brought about a deserved backlash. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="book cover" border="0" /></div>But Tony Blair has used this to revive liberal imperialist attitudes, combining them with whatever remains of a muscular Christian militarism. Just because the post-colonial record has often been awful, there is no reason to suggest that the imperial record was good &#150; above all in the Middle East. This, however, is precisely the underlying assumption of Cooper&#146;s sophisticated arguments (with their continual underlying suggestion that <i>we</i> are acting in the interests of higher world order and progress) and the open assumption of cruder neo-imperialists in the US and Israel. <p> The imperial powers were not responsible for many of the deep underlying features of the colonial societies. Nevertheless, they have been responsible for a great deal of the post-colonial disasters. Even in Sierra Leone, the subject of one of the most morally justified of all Western military interventions in recent years, it would have been good if British press coverage especially of the barbarous state of that country had been accompanied by acknowledgment and analysis of the way in which the rotten socio-economic system and governing class left behind by the British contributed to the later catastrophes. </p><p> <b>Democracy and the Middle East</b> </p><p> Particularly in the Middle East therefore, democrats need to resist attempts to justify American imperial policies in the name of democracy and progress. It would make a cat laugh to see how US commentators, often in the same article or speech, call for Arab states simultaneously both to democratise and to suppress criticism of the US and Israel by their citizens. At one official conference that I attended in Washington, a leading member of the Israeli lobby began by declaring the need for the US to bring democracy to the Arab world if there is ever to be peace between the Arabs and Israelis. He then continued by stating that there is, however, no need for the US to pay the slightest heed to the views of the Arab peoples when it comes to Israeli policies, for the US is quite powerful enough to crush any Arab opposition, whether from states or peoples. &#145;Let them hate us, as long as they fear us,&#146; he concluded &#150; the motto of that famous liberal democratiser and benefactor of mankind, the Emperor Caligula. One of the first promoters of the idea that genuine democracy for the Palestinians and the Arabs in general is necessary if there is to be peace was Natan Sharansky &#150; a pathological Arab-hater whose party contains open advocates of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The threadbare Wilsonian clothing of such people barely hides their wolfish visages. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src=";Native_180902.jpg" alt="audience with Victoria" border="0" /></div>The way in which the terms <i>democratic</i> and <i>undemocratic</i> are used by Bush apologists has striking historical echoes. It is close to the way the European Empires of the past used <i>civilised</i> and <i>uncivilised</i> (or barbarous), with all the dreadful connotations of that use of language when it came to racism, imperial aggression, land-theft, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and the destruction of cultures and languages. This could hardly be clearer when it comes to the language US and Israeli nationalists use about the Muslim world. When US pro-Israeli propaganda harps endlessly on the fact that Israel is a <i>democracy</i>, in contrast to the <i>dictatorships</i> of the Arab world, the term is being emptied of all real democratic content, and becoming simply a cultural marker, a declaration that the Israelis are <i>like us</i>, while their enemies are savage and inferior. <p> Like the use of <i>civilisation</i> in Victorian times, the term is also endlessly flexible according to convenience. Even the most brutally authoritarian American allies (such as Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan) can always be described as being <i>on the path to democracy</i>; while given the realities of most states in the world, almost any state which opposes America can be berated for its democratic failings with at least the appearance of truth. Witness the contrasting attitude to Russia and Turkey in the 1990s &#150; and the fascinating way in which, now that Moscow is a semi-ally in the war against terrorism, the criticism of Russia&#146;s lack of democracy is dying away in dominant American political circles. When it comes to democracy, human rights abuses and so on, the American establishment&#146;s conscience flickers on and off like a strobe light in a seedy disco. </p><p> The rest of the world can see this. The main danger about the use of <i>democracy</i> remains that it is all too seductive as far as American liberals are concerned. A naive belief in the universal, immediate applicability of US-style democracy, and America&#146;s right and duty to promote this, is an article of national ideological faith in the US. It easily shades over into a messianism, which is, in itself, nationalist and imperialist. </p><p> The result is that even highly intelligent, knowledgeable, widely-travelled (at least to international conferences) <i>experts</i> often produce work on democracy in the post-Communist and <i>developing</i> worlds that can only be described as baby-talk. When it comes to their supposedly democratic interlocuters in these countries, they show a kind of ardent willingness to be deceived more appropriate to a country maiden in an eighteenth century comedy. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="marines" border="0" /></div>Equally importantly, all too many of the groups and individuals strongly advocating <i>democratic nation-building</i> share with the imperialists a profound contempt for and ignorance of the actual societies and cultures with which they are dealing &#150; the only difference being that, while in the case of the imperialists this contempt is increasingly open, in the case of the democratisers it is unconscious or at least unacknowledged. In Stanley Kubrick&#146;s <i>Full Metal Jacket</i> a (fictional but acutely portrayed) US Marine General declares that &#145;in every Gook there is an American waiting to get out&#146;. The democratisers would not, of course, phrase things that way, but the approach of many of them is not fundamentally different. They do not see it as contempt of course &#150; on the contrary, they are genuinely convinced that ordinary people and peoples all over the world are naturally good, peace-loving and democratic. This being so, there is no need to study them in any detail. <p> The belief that all the peoples of the earth are naturally democratic and peace-loving when not misled by wicked elites can take some truly bizarre forms. I vividly remember a symposium on ethnic conflict at a US university in 2000. Among other historical revelations I learned that nationalism was invented by European aristocratic regimes in the nineteenth century as a way of justifying mass conscription for their aggressive wars; that Bismarck was &#145;an ethnic entrepreneur who created German nationalism in the 1850s&#146;; that &#145;Greeks and Turks lived in harmony in Cyprus for thousands of years until modern politicians divided them&#146;; that &#145;one man is responsible for all the conflicts in the Balkans&#146;; and that Arab popular hostility to Israel is the product of &#145;manipulation by Arab regimes&#146;, with no roots in real popular sentiment, genuine grievances, or of course Israeli actions. </p><p> More frightening still, these claims went unchallenged by the other participants &#150; a degree of intellectual conformism that an authoritarian regime would have to struggle to achieve. Like their missionary forbears, and their cold war predecessors, US liberal intellectuals in the grip of this ideology may be prepared to mow down untold thousands of Arabs and wreck their countries in the sincere belief that they are liberating them from the wicked rule of their elites. </p><p> The contempt for the reality of others is ideological and has been worsened by the radical downgrading of history, regional studies and social anthropology compared to approaches based on universal theories reflecting a bland, pseudo-scientific universalisation of American attitudes. The result is that many &#150; perhaps most &#150; of the essays, articles and lectures concerning democratisation published in America are written as if no serious social, historical, or cultural study had ever been written; just as most of the discussions of corruption and anti-corruption that I have attended have been conducted in ignorance of most works on political patronage or conspicuous consumption. </p><p> As I recall at the same symposium, only one of the <i>experts</i> present had ever actually lived outside the United States or Western Europe. From the point of view of comfort and safety, approaches based on general theory are therefore wonderfully convenient, since they require no serious or prolonged research in the more uncomfortable parts of the world. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="missionary stew" border="0" /></div>Here many of the democratisers and the geopolitical <i>realists</i> may be said to come together. For the realists, too, absolutely disdain the study of particular societies in favour of rigid and universal models of state behaviour, in which states are seen as pieces performing pre-ordained patterns on an eternal chessboard. <p> Most missionaries were sincere and well meaning. Many did real good, especially when it came to suppressing the slave trade in Africa. To do this, they lived, and often died there. Unlike most of their contemporary equivalents, they ran appalling risks, and endured terrible hardship, and sometimes torture and death. Even so, they acted as ideological cover for imperial projects, which were by no means directed to the well being of the peoples concerned. In extreme cases &#150; most notably King Leopold&#146;s conquest of the Congo &#150; the language of Christianity and progress was used to cover the most appalling crimes. </p><p> <b>Wilful amnesia and total war</b> </p><p> Finally, and most dangerously, the missionary ideological approach also fits into a US tradition of total war. As Walter Russell Mead and others have pointed out, there exists in the US a strong belief that, if wars are to be fought, they should be fought with the aim of the absolute and unconditional defeat of the enemy. Bred by annihilatory victories over the Native Americans, and comprehensive ones over the Mexicans and Spanish, and Sherman&#146;s destruction of the South in the Civil War, this attitude was both reflected and strengthened by the Second World War, when the Americans (alone, as most of them see it) utterly defeated Germany and Japan, occupied them, completely reshaped their political systems and culture, and reduced them to geopolitical subservience to the US. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_image"><img src="" alt="bound man" border="0" /><span class="image_caption"><i>(Click for bigger image)</i></span> </div>A war to eliminate Saddam Hussein&#146;s regime is all too likely to spread, with disastrous consequences. But it could be contained. An approach to the whole Arab world, which combines compulsory regime change in the name of democratisation with acknowledged subservience to the US and Israel (as in the now notorious briefing paper to the Defense Policy Board advocating an ultimatum to Saudi Arabia), suggests a true clash of civilizations and a struggle without borders and without end between the US and the Arabs. This is precisely what some members of the Israeli lobby would like &#150; but most American, indeed European and world citizens would recoil in horror. Not least because it would mean that the <i>war against terrorism</i> would most likely be lost. <p> Through history, many countries have created empires. Some worse, some better. As a whole, the British Empire was not too bad as empires go, and left some real benefits behind. Nor were the societies conquered in Africa, Asia and elsewhere some kind of earthly paradise before the West arrived to spoil things. But what must also never be forgotten is how many crimes were committed by empires, even when they were claiming to act in accordance with Christianity and civilisation; just how rotten, fraudulent and unstable were the <i>democratic</i> states which even the British Empire left behind in most of its colonies; and above all, why most of the rest of humanity has no desire ever again to accord Europe or the US the right to intervene in their affairs in the name of our supposed ideals and actual interests. </p><p> This applies with particular force to the historical record of the British, the French, the Americans and the other Western powers in the Middle East. Given the entire history of Western imperialism and of Western involvement in that region, the idea that we will bring peace, progress and democracy is a fantastically bad joke, which the Arabs are right to treat with contempt. On a personal note, as someone educated and trained in the British system, I find it deeply depressing that British subjects, who should know better because they should know their history, are now among those telling America <i>how to do it</i>. </p></div> Conflict conflicts democracy & power europe The Americas american power & the world Anatol Lieven Original Copyright Tue, 17 Sep 2002 23:00:00 +0000 Anatol Lieven 549 at