One variant of a well-known law of bureaucracy says that the amount of time spent discussing a budgetary decision is inversely proportional to the magnitude of the budget in question. Judging by what I witnessed on March 20 at the European Parliament—at the Committee on Budgets’ hearing on the “Financing of the Eastern Partnership”—the Brussels machine functions entirely in accordance with this adage.
The money involved is substantial: 2.8 billion euros ($3.6 billion) over 5 years. The project’s stated purpose is to promote “shared values”—democracy, human rights and the rule of law—in six former Soviet states deemed to be of “strategic importance” to the European Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, andUkraine. Promoting the principles of market economy, sustainable development, civic society and “good governance” is also among the objectives.
In their opening remarks, the officials involved in running the Eastern Partnership Program were self-congratulatory about its alleged achievements. That much was to be expected: lots of sinecures, cushy jobs and expense-padded missions can be extracted from a few billion. Nevertheless, the entire construct’s numerous problems and shortcomings could not be concealed:
- Conceptually, there is no clear consensus within the EU on what exactly it is trying to promote in its eastern neighborhood under the bombastic slogans of “shared values, collective norms and joint ownership.” What does it all mean, if anything, in the real world?
- Empirically, the program has followed, and still follows, a “top-down” approach of deciding in Brussels what are the goals, then telling the eastern “partners” what they need to do, and finally rewarding them accordingly—rather than developing genuine partnerships based on those countries’ real needs and attainable objectives.
- Managerially, in order for the funds allocated to the “Partnership” to be optimally utilized, they would require elaborate apparatuses of deployment, supervision and evaluation. On the basis of the presentations last Wednesday, it is clear that the EU has neither the institutional mechanisms nor the supervisory bodies capable of insuring that this is the case.
- Substantially, the elephant in the room was the issue of EU enlargement—or, rather, the extreme unlikelihood of further enlargement after Croatia’s accession next July. Without the realistic prospect of an eventual path to full membership, the EU lacks meaningful leverage over the political elites in the six eastern countries to make them change their ways.
Far from being addressed, these problems are bypassed by the tendency of the EU bureaucracy to close its eyes to the reality on the ground in the countries concerned—or, worse, still, to misrepresent that reality for reasons of institutional self-preservations. The result, to put it succinctly, is that billions of European taxpayers’ cash are poured into a bottomless pit of post-Soviet corruption, graft, and pork-barrel politics. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us,” went the old Soviet joke. Its modern-day “Eastern” equivalent should be “We pretend to reform, and they pretend that we are doing a good job.” Instead of being properly perceived as part of the problem, terminally corrupt political “elites” are treated as partners in finding solutions.
Moldova is the prime example. On per-capita basis, this backwater squeezed between Romania and Ukraine—the poorest country in Europe—has received far more money than the other five “partners,” and the EU pretends that its objectives are being met. While I was at the European Parliament, the European Commission presented its own regional report on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership. It asserted that “significant progress was made in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership” and singled out Moldova for “showing significant progress,” “stepping up efforts to implement judicial and law enforcement reform,” and “continuing to implement reforms in the areas of social assistance, health and education, energy, competition, state aid and regulatory approximation to the EU acquis.” Moldova’s government was asked to “continue to vigorously advance reforms in the justice and law enforcement systems” as well as intensify the fight against corruption.
This is surreal, on par with the Soviet Communist Party congresses exalting the great and glorious achievements of socialism in the years of terminal decline under Brezhnev. In reality, Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, according to independent analysts, who also claim that the majority of EU assistance is being misused by local officials. The Warsaw-based EaP Institute warns that the EU is devoting considerable sums to Moldova for very little return in terms of progress in the country’s reform process: “It begs the question: Why is the EU throwing money like this at a black hole of corruption, when there is so much to do in the EU’s own member states?”
It does, indeed. Moldova has already received some €482m from the EU Eastern Partnership, which is about 110 euros ($145) for every man, woman and child in the dirt-poor country—the equivalent of an average two-weekly wage. Nobody knows for certain where it went, but we have a fair idea. Recent opinion polls say that the majority of citizens of Moldova consider their current coalition government as “totally corrupt.” According to the Transparency International 2012 report, Moldova is among the most corrupt places in Europe, with Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia topping the list. But the EU says it is doing well, because an unhealthy symbiotic relationship has been developed between the unelected and mostly unaccountable bureaucrats managing enormous funds earmarked for nebulous purposes and their foreign “clients” who gloat at the mouth-watering prospect of placing a major portion of those funds into their own pockets.
After last Wednesday’s introductory presentations, several experts and members of European Parliament (MEPs) expressed misgivings about the Eastern Partnership policy. Olaf Osica, director of the centre for eastern studies in Warsaw, declared that “in four years the policy had failed to produce any tangible political or social results.” A prominent Polish MEP and former senior government minister, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, said the entire edifice should be “completely revised”:
There are a whole multitude of projects which, as we have heard at the hearing, no one seems able to follow or understand… What we are doing is creating the illusion that the EU is helping to transform these eastern European countries when, in fact, the naked truth is that the EU is losing its eastern neighbors. What is actually needed is for the EU—and that means both the Commission and Parliament—to totally revise and revisit its Eastern Partnership policy.
All this was in stark contrast to the earlier assurances by senior officials that the current picture was “confused,” but the EU was nevertheless “doing quite well” in addressing concerns about the transparency and accountability of its funding for the six countries (Marcus Cornaro); or that the EU was determined to push ahead with closer cooperation with those countries that have “demonstrated a commitment to the reform process” (Richard Tibbels).
The lenient attitude of EU officials regarding the patchy record of their “Eastern partners” on corruption, democratisation, and the rule of law is in stark contrast with the ever-moving goal posts for a half-dozen aspiring EU members in the Western Balkans. None of them will join the EU for a decade at least, of course, and a realistic reassessment of their political and economic policies is long overdue. The EU is in a state of chronic institutional and financial crisis, and trying to get on board at this point is equal to betting on Romney last November 5. Alternatives do exist, but they call for the cold-blooded diversification of long-term strategies. Belgrade and Kiev in particular should take note.
The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq
Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.
The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.
It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.
The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”
When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”
Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”
Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”
“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”
But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.
“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
The year is 632 A.D., and Muslim hordes have set their sights on the Mideast and North Africa — the old Christian world. And the Caliphate, as the Islamic realm is called, will not be denied. Syria and Iraq fall in 636. Palestine is next in 638. And Byzantine Egypt and North Africa, not even Arab lands, are conquered by 642 and 709, respectively. Then, just two years later, the Muslims cross the Strait of Gibraltar and enter Iberia (now Spain and Portugal). The invasion of Europe has begun.
And the new continent seems no impediment to Islam. After vanquishing much of Visigothic Iberia by 718, the Muslims cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Gaul (now France) and move northward. Now it is 732, and they are approaching Tours, a mere 126 miles from Paris. The Western world — what’s left of Christendom — could very well be on its way to extinction.
Europe is currently easy prey, comprising disunited, often belligerent kingdoms and duchies recently decimated by plague. In contrast, the Islamic world is a burgeoning civilization; so much so, in fact, that it views the Europeans as barbarians. The Muslims also command enormous battle-hardened military forces and have enjoyed almost unparalleled breadth and rapidity of conquest, while Europe no longer has standing armies. It largely relies on peasants to do its fighting, men available only when crops aren’t beckoning. Yet the Christian Europeans do have one great asset: Charles of Herstal, grandfather of Charlemagne.
Sensing the coming storm as early as 721, Charles realized he was going to need a professional, well-oiled fighting force if he was to tackle the Moorish wave washing across Christendom. So, using Catholic Church resources, he set out to train just such an army. And now, 11 years later, it will be put to the ultimate test.
With a horde of 80,000 men, the Muslims once again start moving north in 732 under the leadership of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. And after defeating Odo the Great and sacking his Duchy of Aquitaine, there is nothing standing between Al Ghafiqi and Paris — except Charles of Herstal and his Frankish and Burgundian army. The two leaders would lock horns in October, on a battlefield between the towns of Tours and Poitier.
When the fateful day arrives, Al Ghafiqi is shocked by what lies before him. The “barbarians” have mustered a force the size of which he isn’t used to seeing in these European backwaters. He nonetheless enjoys a great advantage, outnumbering the Christians by perhaps as much as two to one and possessing heavy cavalry, while his adversaries are limited to infantry. The outcome should still be favorable. And it is.
Charles routs the Muslim forces, stopping their advance into Europe cold. He will eventually chase them back across the Pyrenees Mountains, saving Gaul — and perhaps all of Western civilization— from the sword of Islam. His miraculous 732 victory becomes known as the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers), and it wins him the moniker “Martellus.” Thus do we now know him as Charles Martel, which translates into Charles the Hammer.
Yet the Abode of Islam would not stop hammering Christendom. It is now 1095, and the Muslims are threatening Europe from the east. After seizing most of the Byzantine Empire’s territory 400 years prior, they have now, just recently, subdued Anatolia (most of modern Turkey), thus robbing the Byzantines of the majority of their remaining land. The Muslims are now poised to move west into Greece itself or perhaps north into the Balkans — Europe’s “back door.” And Byzantine emperor Alexius I in Constantinople knows that his realm is too weak to resist. What is he to do?
Alexius decides to approach the Church. Although he and current pope Urban II have been rivals, the pontiff recognizes Islamic expansion to be a clear and present danger. So he decides to address the matter at the Council of Clermont in 1095. In a rousing sermon in front of more than 650 clerics and Christian nobles, he appeals to Europeans to stop bickering amongst themselves and rally to the aid of their eastern brothers. What follows is an excerpt of his words as recorded by the Fulcher of Chartres:
Your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians….
And thus was born the 11th-century Hammer writ large: the Crusades.
Like Martel’s campaigns before them, the Crusades were defensive actions designed to stave off Muslim aggression. Oh, this isn’t what you learned in college, I know. It’s not what we hear from the media. It isn’t what’s portrayed by Hollywood. But it is the truth. And it was explained well by Thomas Madden, Chair of the History Department at Saint LouisUniversity. In “The Real History of the Crusades” he wrote:
The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins.
… [But] Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War…. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece.
… [The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
And that is why I defend them today. No, they weren’t perfectly executed, nor could they achieve all their objectives any more than the Cold War truly vanquished the left. Evil is always afoot. But note that the Mideast and North Africa had more Christians than did Europe at the time of the early Muslim invasions — but no one to Crusade for them. Thus, it’s easy to imagine that, were it not for our hammering medieval heroes, we could well be what the Mideast is today. And unless we shelve multiculturalism and become what those crusaders were yesterday, we may not have a tomorrow.
“Nuclear, ecological, chemical, economic — our arsenal of Death by Stupidity is impressive for a species as smart as Homo sapiens” 1
The hurricanes, the typhoons, the heat waves … the droughts, the heavy rains, the floods … ever more powerful, ever new records being set. Something must be done of course. Except if you don’t believe at all that it’s man-made. But if there’s even a small chance that the greenhouse effect is driving the changes, is it not plain that, at a minimum, we have to err on the side of caution? There’s too much at stake. Like civilization as we know it. Carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere must be greatly curtailed.
The three greatest problems facing the beleaguered, fragile inhabitants of this lonely planet are climate change, economic crisis, and the violence of war. It is my sad duty to report that the United States of America is the main culprit in each case. Is that not remarkable?
Why does Barack Obama not pursue the battle against climate change with the same intensity he pursues war? Why does he not seek to punish the American bankers and stockbrokers responsible for the financial calamity as much as he seeks to punish Julian Assange and Bradley Manning?
In both cases he’s putting the interests of the corporate world before anything else. No amount of fines or penalties will induce corporate leaders to modify their behavior. Only spending some hard time in a prison cellblock might cause the growth in them of their missing part, the part that’s shaped like a social conscience.
Only prosecuting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their partners in bombing and torture will discourage future American war lovers from following in their bloody footsteps.
The recent election result can only embolden Obama. He likely took it as an affirmation of his policies, although only 29.3% of those eligible to vote actually voted for him. And an unknown, but certainly significant, number of those who did so held their nose while voting for the supposed lesser of two evils. Hardly indicative of impassioned support for his policies.
Last week the United Nations Climate Summit was held in Doha, Qatar. The comments which came from many of the activists (as opposed to various government officials) were doomsdayish … “Time is running out … time has already run out … the climate has already changed … Hurricane Sandy, rising sea levels, the worst is yet to come.” The Kyoto protocol is still the only international treaty stipulating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a touchstone for many environmentalists. But the United States has never ratified it. At the previous conferences in Copenhagen and Durban, the US blocked important global action and failed to honor vital pledges.
At the Doha conference the US was acutely criticized for failing to take the lead on planet protection, especially in light of its standing as the largest historic contributor to the current levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. (“The most obdurate bully in the room”, declared the Indian environmentalist, Sunita Narain. 2)
What motivates the American representatives, now as before, as ever, is concern about corporate profits. Cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions can hurt the bottom line. A suitable epitaph for the earth’s tombstone. Shamus Cooke, writing on ZSpace, sums it up well: “Thus, if renewable energy is not as profitable as oil — and it isn’t — then the majority of capitalist investing will continue to go towards destroying the planet. It really is that simple. Even the best-intentioned capitalists do not throw their money away on non-growth investments.”
A brief history of Superpowers
From the Congress of Vienna of 1815 to the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to the “Allies” invasion of Russia in 1918 to the formation of what became the European Union in the 1950s, the great powers of Europe and the world have gotten together in grand meeting halls and on the field of battle to set the ground rules for imperialist exploitation of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australasia, to Christianize and ‘civilize’, to remake the maps, and to suppress revolutions and other threats to great-power hegemony. They have been deadly serious. In 1918, for example, some 13 nations, including France, Great Britain, Rumania, Italy, Serbia, Greece, Japan, and the United States, combined in a military invasion of Russia to “strangle at its birth” the nascent Bolshevik state, as Winston Churchill so charmingly put it.
And following World War 2, without any concern about who had fought and died to win that war, the Western powers, sans the Soviet Union, moved to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO, along with the European Union, then joined the United States in carrying out the Cold War and preventing the Communists and their allies from coming to power legally through elections in France and Italy. That partnership continued after the formal end of the Cold War. The United States, the European Union, and NATO are each superpowers, with extensive military, as well as foreign policy integration — almost all EU members are also members of NATO; almost all NATO members in Europe are in the EU; almost all NATO members have had a military contingent serving under NATO and/or the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere.
Together, this Holy Triumvirate has torn apart Yugoslavia, invaded and devastated Afghanistan and Iraq, crippled Iran, Cuba and others with sanctions, overthrown the Libyan government, and are on the verge now of the same in Syria. Much of what the Triumvirate has told the world to justify this wanton havoc has concerned Islamic terrorism, but it should be noted that prior to the interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria all three countries were secular and modern. Will the people of those sad lands ever see that life again?
In suppressing the left in France and Italy, and later in destabilizing the governments of Libya and Syria, the Holy Triumvirate has closely aligned itself with terrorists and terrorist methods to a remarkable extent. 3 In Syria alone, it would be difficult to name any Middle East terrorist group associated with al Qaeda — employing their standard car bombings and suicide bombers — that is not taking part in the war against President Assad with the support of the Triumvirate. Is there anything — legally or morally — the Triumvirate regards as outside its purview? Any place not within its geographical mandate? Britain and France have now joined Turkey and Arabian Peninsula states in recognizing a newly formed opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people. “From the point of view of international law, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared. “A desire to change the political regime of another state by recognizing a political force as the sole carrier of sovereignty seems to me to be not completely civilised.” France was the first Western state to recognize the newly-formed Syrian National Coalition and was swiftly joined by Britain, Italy and the European Union. 4 The neck irons tighten.
The European Union in recent years has been facing a financial crisis, where its overriding concern has been to save the banks, not its citizens, inspiring calls from the citizenry of some member states to leave the Union. I think the dissolution of the European Union would benefit world peace by depriving the US/NATO mob of a guaranteed partner in crime by returning to the Union’s members their individual discretion in foreign policy.
And then we can turn to getting rid of NATO, an organization that not only has a questionable raison d’être in the present, but never had any good reason-to-be in the past other than serving as Washington’s hit man. 5
The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo — 21 years in a row
For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We don’t hear that any more. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):
|Year||Votes (Yes-No)||No Votes|
|1993||88-4||US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay|
|1995||117-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|1996||138-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|1997||143-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|2000||167-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2001||167-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2002||173-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2003||179-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2004||179-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2005||182-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2006||183-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2007||184-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2008||185-3||US, Israel, Palau|
|2009||187-3||US, Israel, Palau|
|2012||188-3||US, Israel, Palau|
Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.
How it began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 6 Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the suffocating embargo against its eternally-declared enemy.
Placing American presidents in their proper context
“Once upon a time there was a radical president who tried to remake American society through government action. In his first term he created a vast network of federal grants to state and local governments for social programs that cost billions. He set up an imposing agency to regulate air and water emissions, and another to regulate workers’ health and safety. Had Congress not stood in his way he would have gone much further. He tried to establish a guaranteed minimum income for all working families and, to top it off, proposed a national health plan that would have provided government insurance for low-income families, required employers to cover all their workers and set standards for private insurance. Thankfully for the country, his second term was cut short and his collectivist dreams were never realize.
His name was Richard Nixon.” 7
Films on US foreign policy
The Power Principle is a series of three films by Scott Noble. Part one, “Empire”, is the only one I’ve seen completely so far and I can say that it’s great stuff. The three parts, with their times, are:
Featured in the films are Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, John Stockwell, Christopher Simpson, Ralph McGehee, Philip Agee, Nafeez Ahmed, John Perkins, James Petras, John Stauber, Russ Baker, Howard Zinn, William Blum, Nancy Snow, William I. Robinson, Morris Berman, Peter Phillips, Michael Albert, and others of the usual suspects.
To comment about these films or others by Scott Noble, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much more publicized is the new film and book by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. Entitled The Untold History of the United States, it is a 10-part series appearing on Showtime. Only Stone’s name could get this dark side of US history and foreign policy on mainstream television. It will be interesting to observe what the mass media has to say about this challenge to some of America’s most cherished beliefs about itself.
- Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times, September 17, 2009 ↩
- Democracy Now!, December 7, 2012 ↩
- For France and Italy, see Operation Gladio Wikipedia; and Daniele Ganser, Operation Gladio: NATO’s Top Secret Stay-Behind Armies and Terrorism in Western Europe (2005) ↩
- Agence France Presse, November 26, 2012↩
- For the best coverage of the NATO monolith, sign up with StopNATO. To get on the mailing list write to Rick Rozoff at email@example.com. To see back issues at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato ↩
- Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885 ↩
- From the review of the book: I am the change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism by Charles Kesler. Review by Mark Lilla, The New York Times Book Review, September 30, 2012, p.1 ↩
Avgi Tzenis, 76, is standing in the hall of her small brick row house on Bragg Street in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. She is dressed in a bathrobe and open-toed sandals. The hall is dark and cold. It has been dark and cold since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast a month ago. Three feet of water and raw sewage flooded and wrecked her home.
“We never had this problem before,” she says. “We never had water from the sea come down like this.”
Hurricane Sandy, if you are poor, is the Katrina of the North. It has exposed the nation’s fragile, dilapidated and shoddy infrastructure, one that crumbles under minimal stress. It has highlighted the inability of utility companies, as well as state and federal agencies, to cope with the looming environmental disasters that because of the climate crisis will soon come in wave after wave. But, most important, it illustrates the depraved mentality of an oligarchic and corporate elite that, as conditions worsen, retreats into self-contained gated communities, guts basic services and abandons the wider population.
Sheepshead Bay, along with Coney Island, the Rockaways, parts of Staten Island and long stretches of the New Jersey coast, is obliterated. Stores, their merchandise destroyed by the water, are boarded up and closed. Rows of derelict cars, with the tires and license plates removed and the windows smashed, line the streets. Food distribution centers, most of them set up by volunteers from Occupy Sandy Recovery, hastily close before dark every day because of the danger of looting and robbery. And storm victims who remain in their damaged homes, often without heat, electricity or running water, clutch knives against the threat of gangs that prowl at night through the wreckage.
This storm—amid freakish weather patterns such storms will become routine—resulted in at least $71.3 billion in property damage in New York and New Jersey. Many of the 305,000 houses in New York destroyed by Sandy will never be rebuilt. New York City says it will have to spend $800 million just to repair its roads. And that is only the start. The next hurricane season will most likely descend on the Eastern Seaboard with even greater destructive fury. A couple of more hurricanes like this one and whole sections of the coast will become uninhabitable.
This is the new America. It is an America where economic and environmental catastrophes converge to trigger systems breakdown and collapse. It is an America divided between corporate predators and their prey. It is an America that, as things unravel, increasingly sacrifices its own.
Rene Merida, 27, is standing on a street corner. His house, on Emmons Avenue, does not have electricity, running water or heat. He and his pregnant wife and two children, ages 7 and 4, huddle in the darkness inside the ruined home or at times flee to live for a few days with relatives. Merida, who recently lost his job as an ironworker, managed to reach his landlord once on the phone. That was three weeks ago. It was the only time the landlord, despite Merida’s persistent calls, answered.
“He told me it [the repair] will get done when it gets done,” he says. “The temperature inside my house is 15 degrees. I got a thermometer to check.”
Lauren Ferebee, originally from Dallas and now living in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, sits behind a table in the chilly basement of the 123-year-old St. Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded by German immigrants. On large pieces of cardboard hanging from the ceiling are the words “Occupy Sandy Relief.” The basement is filled with donated supplies including pet food, diapers, infant formula, canned goods, cereal and pasta. The church was converted two days after the storm into a food bank and distribution center for the victims of the hurricane. Hundreds of people converge daily on the church to work. Volunteers with cars or vans deliver supplies to distribution points in other parts of New York and in New Jersey.
Ferebee, a playwright, and hundreds of other volunteers instantly resurrected the Occupy movement when the tragedy hit. They built structures of support and community to endure not only the effects of the storm but prepare for the breakdown that appears to lie ahead. As we descend into a world where we can depend less and less on those who hold power, movements like this one will become vital. These movements might not be called Occupy. They might not look like Occupy. But whatever the names and forms of the self-help we create, we will have to find ways to fend for ourselves.
“We have a kitchen about 50 blocks from here where we cook and deliver hot food,” Ferebee says. “We take food along with supplies out to distribution hubs. There is a distribution hub about every 30 or 40 blocks. When I first went out I was giving water to people who had not had water for six days.”
She sits in front of a pile of paper sheets headed “Occupy Sandy Dispatch.” Various sites are listed on the sheets, including Canarsie, Coney Island, Red Hook, the Rockaways, Sheepshead Bay, Staten Island and New Jersey. She is interrupted by Roman Torres, 45, who sings on weekends in a band that plays Mexican folk music. He has pulled his van up in front of the church. He comes two days a week to transport supplies.
“Can you go anywhere?” she asks Torres.
“Yes,” he answers.
“Can you do a couple of drop-offs at the Rockaways?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says. “If someone comes with me.”
As he fixes himself a cup of coffee in the church kitchen, volunteers carry boxes from the basement to his van parked in the rain outside.
“We can’t ever get enough electric heaters, cleaning supplies, tools and baby supplies,” Ferebee says.
In a small apartment above the church Juan Carlos Ruiz, a former Roman Catholic priest who was born in Mexico, sits at a small wooden table. He is the church’s community organizer. It was his decision once the storm hit to open the doors of the church as a relief center. He did not know what to expect.
“It was Tuesday night,” he says. “We got three bags of groceries and two jars of water. It was the next morning that volunteers began to appear. By the first weekend we had over 1,300. It was organized chaos. There was all this creative energy and youth. There was an instant infrastructure and solidarity. It is mutual aid that is the most important response to the disasters we are living through. This is how we will retain our humanity. Some members of the church asked me why these [volunteers] did not come to the church service. I told them the work they were doing was church. The commitment I saw was like a conversion experience. It was transformative. It restores your faith in humanity.”
The emotional cost of the storm is often as devastating as the physical cost.
Tzenis, who was born in Cyprus and immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1956, lists the mounting bills at her Sheepshead Bay home. Since the storm the septuagenarian has paid a plumber $2,000, and that does not cover all the plumbing work that must be done. A contractor gave her an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000 for repairs, which include ripping out the walls and floors. Tzenis has received a $5,000 check from an insurance company, Allstate, and a $1,000 check from FEMA. But $6,000 won’t begin to cover the cost.
“The insurance company told me I didn’t have the water insurance,” she says. “The contractor said he has to break all the walls and floors to get the mold out. I don’t know how I am going to pay for this.”
As she speaks, Josh Ehrenberg, 21, an aspiring filmmaker, and Dave Woolner, 31, an electrician with Local 52, both volunteers with Occupy Sandy, haul ruined items out of her garage and put them in green plastic garbage bags.
“My husband had dementia,” she says. “I took care of him for six years with these two hands. For a few months the insurance gave me help. Certain medications they pay after six years. They told me once he couldn’t swallow no more there was nothing we could do. … He died at home last year.”
She begins to sob softly.
She mutters, “Oye, oye, oye.”
“I was going to hang myself in the closet,” she says, gesturing to the hall closet behind me. “I can’t take life anymore. My husband. Now this. I don’t sleep good. I jump up every hour watching the clock. I’ve been through a lot in my life. Every little thing scares me. I’m on different pills. I’ve come to the age where I ask why doesn’t God take me. I pray a lot. I don’t want to give my soul to the devil because they would not put me in a church to bury me. But you get to an age where you are only able to take so much.”
She falls silent. She begins to reminisce about the bombing of Cyprus during World War II. She says that as a girl she watched a British military airport go up in flames after it was hit by German and Italian bombs. She talks about the 1950s struggle for Cypriot independence that took place between the British and the underground National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston, known as EOKA. She says she misses strong populist leaders such as the Cypriot Archbishop Makarios III, who openly defied British authorities in the campaign for independence.
“People were hung by the British soldiers,” she says. “Women were raped. People had their fingernails pulled out. They were tortured and beaten. My cousin was beaten so badly in jail he was bleeding from his bottom.”
The horrors of the past merge with the horrors of the present.
“They say [hurricanes like] this will happen again because the snow is melting off all the mountains,” she says. “It never flooded here before. No matter how hard it rained not a drop came through the door. But now it has changed. If it happens again I don’t want to be around.”
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
Yesterday and today (October 14-15) I’ve been taking part in an interesting conference at the Patriarchate of Peć, in the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo. Organized by Bishop Jovan (Ćulibrk), an old friend of Dr. Fleming’s and mine, The Balkans and the Middle East Mirroring Each Other marks the centenary of the First Balkan War and the liberation of Kosovo and Southern Serbia after four centuries of the Ottoman misrule.
The conference has brought together an eclectic group of scholars: Ambassador Darko Tanasković of the University of Belgrade, Boris Havel of the University of Zagreb, Col. Shaul Shay of BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Martin van Creveld of Tel Aviv University, Gordon Bardos of Columbia University, and myself. The proceedings were attended by Patriarch Iriney of the Serbian Orthodox Church (R) and an array of Western diplomats and military officers based in Kosovo.
On the first day Professor van Creveld caused some controversy by suggesting that there existed a significant parallel between Israel and Serbia. The former needs to give up all occupied territories, including most of East Jerusalem—he argued—just as the latter needs to give up its claim to Kosovo. Regardless of how attached both nations feel to their ancient shrines and monuments that would be left behind, van Creveld argued that “amputating the gangrenous leg” was the only way to halt the sapping of strength and resources with no end-game in sight.
Disputing van Creveld’s diagnosis, Dr. Shay said that the apt metaphor was not an amputable leg but the patient’s heart that cannot be removed without killing the patient. My own paper reflected a similar point of view. The similarities between Kosovo and the West Bank are not obvious to the uninitiated, and prima facie similarities may appear superficial: In both cases there’s a small piece of disputed real estate, rich in history, poor in everything else, and badly mismanaged by the local Muslim majority which is chronically hostile to its non-Muslim neighbors. In both cases that majority craves internationally-recognized statehood. Far more important, in my view, is the spiritual parallel, with which I closed my remarks:
Proponents of Kosovo independence scoff at the Serbs’ claim that Kosovo, with its many ancient monasteries and the site of the famous battle, represents not just any part of their country but its very heart and soul—“Serbia’s Jerusalem.” Such attitude betrays a cynical contempt for the essence of any true nation’s identity, which necessarily rests on its historical, moral and spiritual roots. Without such foundation a people ceases to be a people and becomes but a random mob. If Serbia can be haughtily deprived of her Jerusalem today, and her historical and spiritual claims are dismissed out of hand, who is to say “al-Quds” will not be demanded of Israel tomorrow as the capital of an independent Palestine? And is it not hypocritical of the United States to actively support the former while claiming to be opposed to the latter?
Turkey is the common denominator in the Balkans and the Middle East, and its return to the center stage as a regional power is a remarkable phenomenon. It is historically unprecedented for a former great power which undergoes a period of steep decline to make a comeback and reestablish its position as a major player. After the Peloponnesian War Athens was finished for all time. Following the collapse of the Western Empire, Rome has never regained its old stature and glory. After Philip II Spain declined precipitously and has remained a third-rate power ever since. The list goes on, yet Turkey appears to be an exception to the rule.
Turkey’s neo-Ottoman strategy was the theme of Professor Tanasković’s presentation. He noted that at different times and in different contexts Turkey presents itself as a Mediterranean, Balkan, Middle Eastern, or NATO country, but that its most important, indeed defining feature is its Islamic character. Both the Balkans and the Middle East have been repeatedly singled out and openly named as priorities in the neo-Ottoman strategy of “Strategic Depth” as articulated by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The ultimate goal is to recreate a sphere of strictly Turkish dominance, according to Professor Tanasković. He insists that the AKP government’s neo-Ottoman strategy is not an ideological projection focused on the past. Quite the contrary, it is a constant feature of Turkish foreign policy—logical and legitimate. The Islamists are rediscovering their heritage which was interrupted by the Kemalist revolution. Neo-Ottomanism is neither good nor bad, it is a reality based on the notion that parallel to globalization, we have macro-regionalization of the world. In reality, Tanasković went on, there is no “globalization” in world politics: in a sense we are still in the 19th century, with regional powers seeking to dominance in their zones of influence. Only the US is still hoping to transcend the spatial limitations by projecting power always and everywhere.
Professor Tanaskovic concluded by saying that Turkey may have overplayed her hand following Ankara’s decision last spring to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. That decision has changed the strategic equation in the region, and it now exposes Turkey to the possibility of both Russia and Iran coming to view it as an adversary.
Shaul Shay opened his presentation by saying that the term “Arab Spring” is flawed. The word “tsunami,” or perhaps “earthquake,” would be more appropriate. It was destructive, unexpected, and not significantly amenable to human intervention. Nothing significant enough had happened in 2010 to enable us to say that this was the trigger for what followed. In the end, Shay argued, the Islamic Evolution proved stronger than the Tweeter Revolution. The process launched by young activists using all the resources the Internet has to offer eventually paved the way for Islamist movements. The main actors for change have been the youth, but the beneficiaries have been the Islamists—they were structured, with deep roots in society, unlike the youth who have not had time to organize. The outcomes of recent Arab uprisings have confirmed the organizational superiority and appeal of Islamist political parties in a number of countries in the Middle East. The fragile transitions from secular pro-Western dictatorships through a “democratic procedure” to the formation of Islamic regimes was a “tsunami” which has moved the tectonic plates of the Muslim societies and will provoke aftershocks that will lead to a region dominated by political Islam.
In recent years, Say concluded, we’ve seen a change in strategy used by radical Islamic organizations. Muslim Brotherhood openly seeks to establish “democracy” based upon Islamic principles. They regard liberal democracy with contempt, but they are willing to accommodate it as an avenue to power but as an avenue that runs only one way.
Historic changes taking place in both the Balkans and the Middle East are the political equivalent to the shift of tectonic plates. This is a crossroad in history and the road the nations involved take will determine our future. In the meantime we might see more Islamization there rather than Western style democracies. Where it will really lead Middle East and the rest of the world only future will tell.
Russia and China represent Washington’s final frontier. Building up around their borders and encircling both countries with US bases makes anything ahead possible.
Prioritizing peace isn’t America’s long suit. Unchallenged global dominance assures war. One country after another is ravaged. Multiple direct and proxy wars remain ongoing. Flashpoints easily shift from one region to another or target several at the same time.
Currently, the Middle East is ground zero. Longstanding US plans want Syrian and Iranian governments replaced by pro-Western ones. Russia opposes US imperialism for good reason. Recent exchanges between both sides show strain.
On October 12, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland addressed Turkey’s anti-Russian/Syrian provocation. Fighter jets forced a Moscow inbound Syrian airliner to land in Ankara. “We have no doubt (about) serious military equipment” being shipped, she claimed. She lied.
In less than so many words, she accused Russia of aiding and abetting Washington’s enemy. AP said Obama officials “Friday accused Russia of pursuing a ‘morally bankrupt’ policy in Syria.”
“Everybody else on the Security Council is doing what it can unilaterally to ensure that the Assad regime is not getting support from the outside.”
“No responsible country (should help) the Assad regime and particularly those with responsibilities for global peace and security as UN Security Council members.”
Washington, of course, planned and initiated conflict. Stopping it is as simple as withdrawing support, halting Turkey’s involvement, telling Saudi Arabia and Qatar to back off, informing other regional and Western states the same way, and calling off its dogs.
Russian nationals were on board the inbound flight. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lied or didn’t tell all, saying, “We received information that the plane’s cargo did not comply with rules of civil aviation.”
Syria justifiably accused Turkey of “air piracy.” Its Foreign Ministry said “the hostile Turkish behavior is additional evidence of the aggressive policy adopted by Erdogan’s government, taking into account the training and harbouring of gunmen and facilitating their infiltration through its borders and bombing Syrian territories.”
Syrian Air’s Airbus A-320 departed Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. On entering Turkey’s airspace, Turkish Air Force F-16s forced it to land in Ankara. On board were 37 passengers. They included crew members and 17 Russian nationals with children.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Turkey of endangering the lives of those on board. FM spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said “the Turkish authorities without explaining the reason and in violation of the bilateral Consular Convention did not allow diplomats to meet with the Russian citizens.”
They and others on board were forcibly held for nine hours without food or other assistance. They were abused. Crew members were accosted at gunpoint. Turkish authorities demanded they sign a statement saying an emergency landing was necessary. They refused.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been spoiling for a fight for months. He serves shamelessly as Washington’s lead regional belligerent. He’s little more than a convenient stooge. Obama may get the war he wants without direct US involvement.
Erdogan claimed Moscow was sending “equipment and ammunition” to Syria. Syria’s Foreign Ministry accused him of lying.
Russia was very irate. A formal protest was lodged. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “We have no secret, and we have scrutinized the details. There were no weapons on board the plane and could not have been any.”
“There was a cargo on the plane that a legal Russian supplier was sending in a legal way to a legal customer.” The plane carried radar parts. International agreements permit them.
The pilot landed “because he knew he was not transporting anything illegal. We are waiting for an official reply why our diplomats were not allowed to meet with Russian passengers on board.”
So far, Ankara stonewalled. It displayed no weapons seized because there are none. Vladimir Putin indefinitely postponed a planned visit. Weeks earlier, he accused Washington of being back in bed with Al Qaeda. It’s no secret. Hillary Clinton admitted it months ago.
Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party called for decisive action. It wants Turkey’s Moscow ambassador expelled.
Other hostile exchanges followed. Tensions already are heightened. Russian Foreign Ministry deputy media and press director, Maria Zakharova, said:
“Based on news coming from Syria, terrorism has become the top among the means of the armed opposition. This raises a serious concern as it obviously signals the growing role of the radical extremists in the ranks of the ‘Syrian opposition.’”
Security Council condemnation statements should be followed by corresponding deeds, she stressed. It hasn’t happened so far.
At Washington’s behest, Turkey falsely accused Moscow of shipping weapons and/or weapons grade material. At the same time, Western and regional countries actively supply anti-Assad mercenaries with heavy weapons and munitions.
It’s been ongoing since early last year. Funding, training, and directing foreign fighters are involved. CIA and UK intelligence elements are active players. So are Western and regional special forces.
Washington, Britain and Turkey actively wage war on Syria without declaring it. On October, 13 Hurriyet Daily News said Erdogan accused international countries of encouraging Assad. He told participants at an Istanbul World Forum:
“So what is the source of this attitude? If we have to wait for what one or two of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will say, then the consequences for Syria will be very dangerous.”
“The UN, which was an onlooker to the massacres of hundreds of thousands of people in the Balkans 20 years ago, is having the same kind of blindness in Syria today. What kind of explanation can be made for the injustice and the inability that is being displayed here?”
His comments targeted Moscow and Beijing. On October 13, Hurriyet Daily News headlined “Syria row hits Assembly,” saying:
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) submitted a motion to censure Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. It was rejected. On June 6, so was an earlier one. Erdogan’s government was accused of aiding and abetting anti-Assad mercenaries in Turkish territory.
Davutoglu threatened to sue CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. CHP deputy Osman Koruturk said Turkey was coming to “the last exit before the bridge (on Syria). If we miss this exit, we will proceed through uncertainties in foreign policies.”
At the same time, Ankara bolstered its presence on Syria’s border. Armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and 250 tanks were deployed in Sanliurfa, Mardin and Gaziantep provinces.
NATO was asked to activate radar and other technical capabilities against Syria. Syrian air defenses and offensive positions are targeted.
Erdogan ordered military readiness. Maybe he knows something he’s not revealing. On Friday, in response to a Syrian helicopter attack on Azmar bordering Turkey, Ankara scrambled two fighter jets.
Each incident builds on earlier ones. At some point perhaps, a point of no return gets crossed. Ankara warned Damascus. Baseless accusations claimed Syria fired mortars on Turkish territory.
Anti-Assad militants were responsible. Assad wants tensions cooled and good relations restored. Washington wants its lead regional belligerent stoking conflict.
Turkish Chief of General Staff General Necdet Ozel warned about launching cross-border attacks “with greater force.” Conditions are dangerously close to full-scale war. Ankara awaits word from Washington.
It’s ready to attack on cue. NATO support may be involved. Fresh from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps EU/North Atlantic Alliance countries want to say thank you. What better way than by waging war. It’s what NATO/EU nations do best.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Fourteen centuries of Islam have fatally undermined Christianity in the land of its birth. The decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East has been accelerated in recent decades, and accompanied by the indifference of the post-Christian West to its impending demise. Once-thriving Christian communities are now tiny minorities, and in most countries of the region their percentages have been reduced to single digits. Whether they disappear completely will partly depend on Western leaders belatedly taking an interest in Christian plight and persecution. This seems most unlikely, as the examples of Iraq, Egypt and Syria demonstrate.
In Syria the Obama administration is fully committed to supporting the rebels, although it should be well aware of the ideological outlook and long-term objectives of Bashar al-Assad’s foes. They are Sunni fundamentalists. The partnerships forged thus far are ominous. The New York Times reported last June that CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, deciding which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms. The weapons are being funneled across the Turkish border “by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”
Syria is the region’s only remaining country where Christians live effectively as equals with their Muslim neighbors. It has the second largest Christian community in the region (after Egypt), some 2.5 million strong. Most of them are supporting President Bashar Al Assad amidst ongoing rebellion in the country because they prefer a dictator who guarantees the rights as a religious minority to the grim future that Assad’s departure might bring. According to George Ajjan, an American political strategist of Syrian origin, an existential fear about a bloody fate awaiting them—should the Assad regime fall in Syria—is the main driver behind the Christian community’s almost unanimous support of its policies:
“The secular regime of the Baath Party dominated over the past four decades by the Alawites, a heterodox Shiite sect to which the Assad family belongs, undoubtedly secured life and liberty for the Christians— although dire economic circumstances resulting from the regime’s failure to provide growth have driven many middle-class Christians to emigrate, seeking a better standard of living abroad. Taking that into account, the commonly-cited figure of 10% Christians is perhaps close to double the real number living in Syria at the start of the uprising.”
It is not to be doubted that if the Obama Administration is successful in its stated objective of bringing Assad down, the Christians in Syria will follow their Iraqi brethren into exile. The predictable consequences of Assad’s fall and the Brotherhood’s victory would be the creation of a Shari’a-based Islamic state.
According to political analyst James Jatras, it sometimes appears as if Washington’s policy toward the unrest sweeping the Middle East is impacted by a network of Muslim Brotherhood agents working in cohorts with Obama who is only pretending to have strayed from his Islamic birth (as defined by Sharia). If this scenario is even only partly correct, Jatras says, then it would be hard to see how the result would be different from the one we have:
“If the conscious goal of the policy were the final uprooting of Christ’s followers from the region of His birth and earthly ministry, it could not have been better crafted. No one can doubt that should the regime of Bashar al-Assad fall, Syria’s Christians (primarily Orthodox), already singled out for attack by the ‘democratic’ opposition, would be subject to a full-scale campaign of elimination that they (unlike the Alawites, who at least can try to defend themselves in mountain areas in which they predominate) are unlikely to survive as a living community. It is thus not too strong to accuse, in so many words, those bipartisan champions of ‘Free Syria’ who urge outside intervention of advocating Christian genocide, whether or not that is their conscious intention.”
That this scenario seems acceptable to the Obama Administration became obvious in October 2011 when Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, blocked a delegation of Middle Eastern Christians led by Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai from meeting with Obama and members of his national security team at the White House. Mogahed reportedly cancelled the meeting at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood in her native Egypt. Rai has warned repeatedly that a Brotherhood-led regime would be a disaster for Syria’s Christian minority, but his admonitions are unwelcome in Washington.
Last July, the Department of State vigorously lobbied against bipartisan Congressional legislation to send “protection envoys” to the Middle East to examine the position of the Christian minorities. The State Department called the protection envoy role “unnecessary, duplicative and likely counter-productive.” In the meantime, tens of thousands of Syria’s Christians have already fled rebel-controlled areas as Islamists who dominate in the rebel ranks target them for murder, extortion and kidnapping. As George Ajjan concludes, this gradual downward demographic pressure of recent years will explode with the exodus of Christians from Syria that is occurring and will accelerate without an end to the current armed conflict:
“Should the uprising continue, with the regime losing control of more and more territory to armed rebels and law and order further breaking down, Christians will increasingly become the targets of intimidation tactics, kidnapping, and overt hostility—if not ethnic cleansing from mixed areas.”
At the same time, Administration officials pressed Egyptian generals into gradual surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country. The decision to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a strategic partner has been on the cards at least since February 10 of last year—one day before Hosni Mubarak’s resignation— when President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made an astounding statement. He told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence that the Brotherhood “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements… a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam.”
The assertion by a top-ranking member of Obama’s team that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” defies belief. It came into being in 1928 as an outright reaction against secularism, which the Egyptian elites had largely embraced during the British dominance in the country. To this day the Brotherhood’s simple credo remains the same: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Contrary to Clapper’s assurances, the Brotherhood is an archetypical Islamic revivalist movement that opposes the ascendancy of secular ideas and advocates a return to integral Islam as a solution to the ills that had befallen Muslim societies. Today it has branches in every traditionally Muslim country and all over the world, including the United States. Its members share the same long-term goal: the establishment of a world-wide Islamic state based on Sharia law. As is to be expected, they believe that the Koran and the Tradition justify violence to overthrow un-Islamic governments, and they look upon America as a sworn enemy.
During the Cold War, Washington routinely pandered to various Islamists as a means of weakening secular Arab nationalist regimes. In the mid 1950s, the Americans even promoted the idea of forming an Islamic bloc—led by Saudi Arabia—to counter the Nasserist movement. That approach may have made some sense during the Cold War, but it certainly makes none today. The strategy of effective support for Islamic ambitions against the Soviets in Afghanistan has helped turn Islamic radicalism into a truly global phenomenon detrimental to U.S. security interests. The ridiculous notion that the Muslim Brotherhood can become America’s user-friendly partner merely proves that the architects of our Middle Eastern policy have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Egypt’s dwindling Copts have seen their position deteriorate over the past year from precarious to perilous. Already facing discrimination and harassment from Mubarak’s secular regime, they now see that things could get a lot worse under the Islamists who are now poised to take complete power. Their annus horribilis started on New Year’s Day 2011, when a powerful car bomb targeted a Coptic church in Alexandria, killing 25 parishioners and wounding nearly 100 just as they were finishing midnight liturgy. The next turning point was the Maspero massacre on October 9, 2011, when 27 unarmed Christian protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, not by some shadowy Islamic extremists but by the military. An official commission—established by the Army—has unsurprisingly absolved the Army of all responsibility for the killings.
Egypt shows that the prospect of the end of Christianity in Syria as a direct consequence of American policy is not unique, nor limited to one party or administration. The almost complete Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt already is accompanied by an accelerating Coptic exodus, as church attacks and kidnappings (mainly of girls, who after rape and supposed “conversion” to Islam are denied return to their families).
The process is accelerating. On August 1 Sherif Gadallah, a prominent lawyer from Alexandria, submitted a report to the public prosecutor demanding the exclusion of Copts from the committee in charge of forming Egypt’s constitution. That same week a sectarian crisis escalated in the village of Dahshur, only 25 miles south of Cairo, where hundreds of Muslims torched and looted Coptic businesses and homes. “As 120 families had already fled the village … the businesses and homes were an easy game for the mob to make a complete clean-up of everything that could be looted,” said Coptic activist Wagih Jacob. “The security forces were at the scene of the crime while it was taking place and did nothing at all.” The Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement criticizing officials “for not dealing firmly with the events, demanding the speedy arrest of the perpetrators, the provision of security to the village Copts, their return to their homes, and monetary compensation for all those affected.” Its adherents see the Dahshur incident as a continuation of the Mubarak-era policy of collective punishment of Copts. Renowned Egyptian novelist Alaa Al-Aswany said, “What if the Americans acted the same way as the extremists of Dahshur; would you accept the expulsion of Muslims of America in response to Bin Laden’s terrorism?”
Egypt’s ongoing transition to what passes for democracy in the Muslim world is going to make matters far worse for the Copts, who are fearful the army and courts will not shield them from ever-greater discrimination and harassment. The Freedom and Justice Party, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, now controls the country’s parliament, and the president is a Brotherhood disciple. The adherents of political Islam are in charge. Their spiritual leader is Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who in a recent video reminded the faithful that Christians are infidels. The Sheikh’s position is in line with orthodox Islamic teaching, which may explain the fact that he is still hailed in the West as a moderate. Five years ago, a U.S. News article described him as “a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam.” As a result, according to an August 14 report in El Fegr, jihadi organizations openly distribute leaflets inciting for the killing of Copts and promising them “a tragic end if they do not return to the truth” (Islam). The letter even names contact points and a location, Sheikh Ahmed Mosque in Kasfrit, where those supportive of such goals should rally after Friday prayers and join forces.
“Liberation” of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s secular dictatorship has devastated that country’s Christian community, with many taking refuge in Syria, where they are now again under threat. “At least proponents of Muslim liberation in the Middle East can claim, however implausibly, that the negative impact on local Christians is an unintended and regrettable consequence of a fundamentally humane and progressive program,” James Jatras says.
“But in the Balkans, specifically in Kosovo and in Muslim-controlled areas of Bosnia, no crocodile tears are required. The victims are Serbs, and of course they deserve everything they get. But excuses and window-dressing aside, the bottom line is the same: Washington—supposedly the great global opponent of jihad terror—in fact is the consistent supporter of militant Islamization of one country after another, with the predictable result of streams of Christian refugees, burned churches, murdered clergy, and enslaved girls. Given the collusion between our government and media, not one American in ten has a clue what our government is doing in our name and with our money.”
Iraq’s dwindling Christian population marked Christmas 2011 with bomb attacks across Baghdad that killed dozens of them. After U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from the country, Christian exodus from Iraq accelerated. “Our faithful in Iraq live in fear,” Chaldean Bishop Shlemon Warduni complained, “they feel there is no peace, no security, so they go where they can live in peace… The government cannot ensure their lives.”
The Christian community in Iraq was some two million strong before the US-led invasion of 2003. Up to four-fifths is estimated to have left the country in recent years following a series of attacks by Muslim extremists. While they were still there, the U.S. forces did little to protect them, leaving the task to the Iraqis. On October 31, 2010, an assault on a Baghdad church left 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force members dead. According to Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, “the security forces are not sufficiently prepared to ensure the protection of Christians.” He says that 57 churches and houses of worship in Iraq have been attacked since the invasion with a thousand Christians killed and more than 6 000 wounded.
At the outset of the Islamic conquests under Muhammad’s successors all of these lands were 100 percent Christian. By the time the Ottomans took over they had a Christian plurality, and in Palestine and Lebanon the outright majority. Under the British Mandate (1919-1947), Palestine officially was a Christian country. Bethlehem, for instance, had a population that was 90 percent Christian. Today, they are disappearing: Bethlehem is now less than 10 percent Christian. Among almost three million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, only 50,000 Christians remain. Within the pre-1967 borders of Israel there are six million people; only two percent are Christians. In the city of Jerusalem the Christian population has declined from 45,000 in 1940 to a few thousand today. At the current rate of decline, the Christian population will be a fraction of one percent in the year 2020, and there will be no living church in the land of Christ
If the Jewish or Muslim population of America or Western Europe were to start declining at a similar rate, there would be an outcry from their co-religionists all over the world. There would be government-funded programs to establish the causes and provide remedies, and heart-rendering Hollywood movies. The endangered minority would be awarded instant victim status and be celebrated as such by the media and academia. But the disappearing Middle Eastern Christians, or their remnant, remain invisible to the Western world. It is evidently hard to be “post-Christian” without becoming anti-Christian.
Almost a year has passed since we last took note of Turkey’s increasing clout in three key areas of neo-Ottoman expansion: the Balkans, the Arab world, and the predominantly Muslim regions of the former Soviet Union. Each has played a significant part in reshaping the geopolitics of the Greater Middle East over the past decade. This complex project, which remains under-reported in the Western media and denied or ignored by policy-makers in Washington, is going well for Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP (Justice and Development Party).
On the external front, Ankara’s decision to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria has changed the equation in the region. Until last spring, Erdoğan’s team was advising Bashar to follow the path of political and economic reform in order to avoid descent into violent anarchy. Within months, however, Turkey has become a key player in Washington’s regime-change strategy by not only providing operational bases and supply channels to the rebels, but by simultaneously confronting Iran over Syria. The war of words between them is escalating. Earlier this week, Iranian Chief of Staff General Hassan Firousabadi accused Turkey of assisting the “war-waging goals of America. The AKP government has reinforced Turkey’s old position as a key U.S. regional partner. It is skillfully pursuing its distinct regional objectives, which in the long run are bound to collide with those of the U.S., while appearing to act at the behest of Washington and revamping its Cold War role as a reliable NATO-“Western” outpost in the region.
This newly gained credit has enabled Erdoğan to make a series of problematic moves with impunity, the most notable being Turkey’s growing support for Hamas in the Palestinian Authority and its treatment of Iraq as a state with de facto limited sovereignty. In a highly publicized symbolic gesture, on July 24 Erdoğan met Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal at his official residence to break the daily fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Ties between Turkey and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, have blossomed since Turkey’s alliance with Israel collapsed following a raid by Israeli troops on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza in 2010. At the same time, Ankara’s links with the more moderate Fatah movement, which rules the West Bank, are at a standstill; Turkey wants Hamas to prevail in the Palestinian power struggle.
In northern Iraq, Turkey has developed close relations with the Kurdish leadership in Kirkuk. It has made significant investments in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region as a means of exerting political influence and thus preempting demands for full independence, which could have serious implications for the Kurdish minority in eastern Turkey. In an audacious display of assertiveness, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq earlier this month without notifying the government in Baghdad, let alone seeking its approval. Turning the putative Kurdish statelet in Iraq into its client is a major coup for the government in Ankara. The partnership is based on the common interest of denying the Marxist PKK guerrillas a foothold on either side of the border. In a joint statement, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan warned the PKK that they would act jointly to counter any attempt to exploit the power vacuum in Syria. Another far-reaching albeit unstated common goal is to provide Iraq’s Kurds with a potential northwestern route for their oil and gas exports, which Al Maliki’s central government would not be able to control. The net effect is likely to be further weakening of an already unstable Iraq in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal; yet Washington appears unperturbed by Turkey’s gambit. It is apparently unaware of the fact that, in Ankara’s worldview, “nothing can stand in the way of its dream of becoming the ultimate energy bridge between East and West.”
The Obama Administration has been equally indifferent to Prime Minister Erdoğan’s trouble-making in the Balkans. Most recently, his provocative statement last month that Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the “care” of his country has caused no reaction in Washington. “Bosnia and Herzegovina is entrusted to us,” stated Erdoğan during a meeting of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) provincial heads held in Ankara on July 11,recalling the alleged statement of the late Bosnian Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegović, whom Erdoğan visited on his deathbed in Sarajevo. “He whispered in my ear these phrases: ‘Bosnia is entrusted to you [Turkey]. These places are what remain of the Ottoman Empire’,” said Erdoğan. He went on to describe Izetbegović as “a legendary hero and captain,” and to declare that Turkey would “put this trust in God with high precision.”
The notion of Bosnia and Herzegovina being given as a ‘trust’ to Turkey in the name of its Ottoman legacy reflects an earlier statement by the outgoing leader of the Islamic community in Bosnia, Efendi Mustafa Cerić, who told Erdoğan that “Turkey is our Mother. That’s how it was always, and it will remain like that.” Erdoğan’s latest outburst was immediately welcomed by the leader of the biggest Muslim party in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sulejman Tihić.
The notion that Bosnia has been bequeathed by its fundamentalist Muslim leader to the Turkish state is unsurprisingly anathema to the non-Muslim majority of Bosnia’s citizens. “Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a land to be inherited,” said Igor Radojičić, the Bosnian Serb Parliament speaker. Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Čović expressed puzzlement that Izetbegović could imagine Bosnia was his to give away as a trust. Analysts outside Bosnia also expressed outrage. Serbian historian Čedomir Antić, called the statement “an unprecedented provocation” that should be “officially renounced by Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia”. Professor Darko Tanasković, Serbia’s former ambassador to Turkey, was not surprised, however. The statement represents a political reality, he said, that Turkey sees the Balkans as a priority in its ambitious foreign policy.
Three months earlier the leader of the Islamic Community in Montenegro (Islamska zajednica Crne Gore, IZCG),Reis Rifat Fejzić, signed an agreement with the authorities in Podgorica on the status of the Muslim minority there. The Agreement stipulates that any disputes within the Islamic Community will be referred for arbitration to the Directorate of Religious Affairs of the Turkish Republic (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı). This is a remarkable development: the Republic of Montegnegro—a sovereign, non-Muslim Balkan state—has formally granted decision-making powers in matters affecting some of its citizens to an institution of another sovereign and nominally still secular state. Imam Fejzić’s explanation added an interesting twist to the story. Some disputes among Roman Catholics are referred to the Vatican, he said, so it is normal for Muslim disputes to be referred to Ankara. In other words, the Turkish state is to assume the role of an Islamic Vatican for the Muslim millets of the former Ottoman Empire. The Montenegrin precedent is the model Ankara will seek to apply elsewhere. Turkish politicians have already taken an active role in mediating between the rival factions of the Muslim religious and political establishment in Serbia’s Sanjak region.
The U.S. is sympathetic to Turkey’s Balkan ambitions not only because they seem to fit in with a Western strategy of long standing, but also because Turkey is seen as a counterweight to Iran’s influence in the region. As John Schindler, the author of the seminal book Unholy Terror pointed out recently, the close relationship between leading circles in Sarajevo and Tehran harks back to before the Bosnian war. During the war the Clinton Administration aided and abetted Iranian deliveries of arms to the Bosnian Muslim side, and the SDA has always had a soft spot for Tehran. Now, however, with a potential war with Iran looming, Schindler says,the U.S. and its European allies, who have done so much to help the Bosnian Muslims for a generation, have had enough. As reported by the Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz, last week Patrick Moon and Nigel Casey, the American and British ambassadors to BiH, jointly read the riot act to Sadik Ahmetović, the country’s powerful security minister, telling him that the SDA and Sarajevo must sever their secret ties—espionage, political, financial—with Tehran:
Sarajevo officially has been given a warning to reset its course in a European and Western direction as war with Iran looms. Hard decisions will have to be made by the SDA. They have been repeatedly deferred for nearly two decades but can be avoided no longer. If the Bosnian Muslims opt to stick with Iran as tensions rise, the ramifications for them and all Europe may be dire indeed.
Bosnia’s Muslims, ever mindful of the need for foreign support in their disputes with the country’s Serbs and Croats, will likely opt for even closer links with Ankara to compensate for an eventual weakening of the Iranian connection —and they will do so with Washington’s approval. Yet again Turkey will strengthen its position in the Balkans while relying on the Western powers to do its field work.
At home, the parallel process of re-Islamization of the Turkish state and society is well-nigh-irreversible. The Army has been decisively neutralized as a political factor. Last February, Erdogan declared that it is not the goal of the AKP government to raise atheist generations, and he certainly has been true to his word. Earlier this month, Turkey’s Board of Higher Education appointed Islamic scholar Suleyman Necati Akcesme as its secretary-general. His duties will include appointing professors and rectors, as well as overseeing universities. Akcesme will occupy a position of direct influence over Turkey’s higher education —unimaginable for an imam in the old Kemalist setup. The influence of the shadowy Gülen Movement, a fundamentalist sect calling for a New Islamic Age based on the “Turkish-Islamic Synthesis,” is becoming all-pervasive, with rich businessmen and senior civil servants donating an average of 10 percent of their income to the cemaat. According to the August 8 issue of Der Spiegel,
Gülen’s influence in Turkey was enhanced when … the AKP won the Turkish parliamentary election in 2002. Observers believe that the two camps entered into a strategic partnership at first, with Gülen providing the AKP with votes while Erdogan protected the cemaat. According to information obtained by US diplomats, almost a fifth of the AKP’s members of parliament were members of the Gülen movement in 2004, including the justice and culture ministers. Many civil servants act at the behest of the “Gülen brothers,” says a former senior member… In 2006, former police chief Adil Serdar Sacan estimated that the Fethullahcis held more than 80 percent of senior positions in the Turkish police force . . .
Sharia-inspired legislation is affecting the society at large. Turkey’s recent laws and taxes on alcohol sales are more rigorous than those in Egypt or Tunisia before last year’s revolutions. Employers are now authorized to fire any employer who comes to work having had a drink, as opposed to being drunk. Having a single glass of raki, wine or beer with lunch—perfectly common in the business community until a few months ago—may now abruptly end a career. More troublingly, Turkey now leads the world in “honor killings” of girls, with a murder rate five times that of Pakistan. As Turkish affairs expert Barry Rubin has noted, many Turks are astounded by Obama’s policy of favoring the current regime in Ankara: “the regime has thrown hundreds of people in prison without trial or evidence… and it is turning Turkey into a repressive police state,” yet the Department of State and the White House remain indifferent. Turkey’s secularists feel abandoned and betrayed.
Turkey’s shift from Kemalism via post-Kemalism to anti-Kemalism is a process of historic significance for the Greater Middle East. In 2005 senior State Department official Daniel Fried declared, absurdly, that Erdoğan’s AKP was simply the Islamic equivalent of a West European Christian Democratic party and that Turkey remains a staunch ally of the United States. The diagnosis was evidently mistaken seven years ago. Today it amounts to an unforgivable act of willful self-deception.
In the meantime Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares for discussions in Istanbul on August 11 that will focus on forming a “common operational picture” with the Turks “to guide a democratic transition in post-Assad Syria.”
Over the past two decades the decisionmakers in Washington have acquired and internalized a bias in Balkan affairs that falls outside the parameters of rational debate. As Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute has noted, such policy is not as inconsistent as it seems: “Time after time the U.S. policy makers would ask what is it that the Serbs want, they would think about it for about five seconds, and reply that it is totally unacceptable.”
Such consistency has had grim results. Their mendacity, as displayed at Rambouillet in February 1999, was on par with the farce of Munich in 1938. In Kosovo their bombs led to a violent secession by an ethnic minority which, in the fullness of time, may render many European borders tentative. In Bosnia-Herzegovina they helped ignite the war in the spring of 1992, notably with U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmermann’s now notorious mission to Sarajevo. They kept it going in 1993 by torpedoing the European-led peace initiatives. They engineered an outcome in 1995 that could have been obtained in 1992 without a single shot. In Croatia, in August 1995, they aided and abetted the biggest act of ethnic cleansing in post-1945 Europe.
The puzzling question remains: why did America get involved in Balkan affairs, which bear no relationship to U.S. security, involving herself in long-standing and perhaps incurable national conflicts, and consistently acting in bad faith at that?
THE BURDEN OF HISTORY—The U.S. policy in the Balkans made its debut near the end of the First World War. President Wilson, while advocating the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918, did not realize that the unification of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was at least half-century overdue: the process of separate cultural development and the emergence of mutually incompatible national identities among the South Slavs had been completed. But being a liberal, Wilson did not allow Balkan realities to get in the way of his vision. He blended the Puritan self-righteous zeal with the Progressive Era’s belief in the power of politics to change the world for the better. His concepts of “self-determination,” “enlarging democracy” and “collective security” signaled the birth of a view of America’s role in world affairs which has created—and is still creating—endless problems for America and for the world.
After 1948 Tito came to be perceived as an asset by the U.S. Money, weapons, and warm welcome were soon to follow and continued until the end of the dictator’s life in 1980. Fixated on “Tito’s Yugoslavia” as a factor of Cold War stability, key American leaders disregarded—a decade later—the fact that Tito’s internal boundaries between the federal republics were the root cause of the looming conflict. Arbitrarily designed by the communist winners in the civil war in 1945, they left a third of all Serbs outside Serbia-proper, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. For good measure two “autonomous provinces” were carved out of Serbia, one of which—Kosovo—is an almost Serbenfrei quasi-state today.
For as long as Yugoslavia existed the Serbs could nevertheless derive some comfort from the existence of a common Federal framework: it appeared to promise them a measure of security from the repetition of the nightmare of 1941-45. When Yugoslavia started unraveling, however, in 1991-92, they were determined to resist any attempt by the breakaway republics to force millions of Serbs to become insecure and disliked minorities in their own land.
POLITICAL ESSENCE OF THE WARS—In Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1992 the Serbs reacted in the same manner as the Americans of Texas, Arizona or New Mexico may react—10 or 20 years from now—if they are outvoted by a Latino majority demanding that those states be reabsorbed into Mexico, or into a contrived “Republic of the North.” For those who discount such outcomes, let us remember history. For example, the Protestant Ulstermen fought, demanded, and were given the right to stay in the United Kingdom when the Irish nationalists opted for secession in 1921. A second poignant illustration is the creation of the State of West Virginia in 1863 when—during the Civil War—the Union annexed the counties of the Commonwealth of Virginia that rejected secession. When comparing the paradigms, the Loyalists of Ulster and the Unionists of West Virginia were just as guilty of a “Joint Criminal Enterprise” to break up Ireland, or the Old Dominion, as were the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina who did not want to be dragged into secession by the Muslim plurality.
Yugoslavia was a flawed polity, and in principle there should have been no objection to the striving of Croats or Bosnian Muslims to create their own nation-states. But equally there could have been no justification for forcing over two million Serbs west of the Drina River to be incorporated into those states against their will. Yugoslavia came together in 1918 as a union of South Slav peoples, and not as a federation of states or territorial units. Its divorce, once it became inevitable, should have proceeded on the same basis. This has been the key foundation of the Yugoslav conflict ever since the first shots were fired in May 1991.
The political essence of the wars of Yugoslav disintegration has been systematically hidden or distorted in the Western mainstream media, academia, and political forums, behind the portrayal of the Serbs as primitive ultranationalists who seek to conquer other peoples’ lands by violent means. The demonization of the Serbs was an exercise in social constructivism, depressingly effective in its crude simplicity. As early as 1992 the media pack equated the brutalities of the Balkans with the Holocaust. Once the paradigm matured with the myth of the “Srebrenica Genocide,” and once any doubters were equated with holocaust deniers, the possibilities for mendacity were limitless. Its fruits will be with us for decades to come.
UNDERSTANDING THE ABSURD—At the level of institutionalized corruption which passes for the political process in Washington D.C. the Yugoslav policy was the end-result of the interaction of pressure groups within the power structure: finding a new role for NATO, earning points in the Muslim world, caving in to ethnic lobbying, pandering to the military-industrial complex, isolating Russia, controlling strategic routes between Europe and the Middle East, and above all cementing American global hegemony. The influence of organized political lobbies in Washington was not decisive, but it should not be underestimated. Anti-Serb lobbies, notably Albanian-Americans, have been well-funded and well-placed for decades, while today (as in the past) the “Serbian lobby” does not exist. As James Jatras has noted, well before the outbreak of hostilities in 1991, the Serbs had already been branded the bad guys. Combined with media reinforcement, much false information was and still is accepted as unquestionable fact.
The Bosnian war transformed NATO into a tool of U.S. hegemony and it opened the door to the renewal of American dominance in European affairs to an extent not seen since Kennedy. As the late Richard Holbrooke put it, Dayton demonstrated that Europeans were not capable of resolving their own problems and that America was still the “indispensable nation.” He boasted, a year later, “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.”
It is undeniable that geopolitical-strategic factors have played a role in defining the Balkan policy in Washington. Such “rational” reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the zeal of successive administrations in pursuing a premeditatedly duplicitous anti-Serb policy. The clue is not in the realm of tangible strategic benefits and geopolitical assets, of transit corridors, oil and gas pipelines, lignite and zinc reserves, or military bases such as Camp Bondsteel. The key is in the desire of the Western elite class to use the Balkans as a testing ground for their emerging postmodernist, postnational project. They know that Kosovo is more than a piece of real estate, that it is to the Serbs what Alamo is to Texans or Jerusalem to Jews, that taking it away and letting its churches and monasteries be demolished is an unprecedented exercise in ethnocide. They condoned the Albanian barbarity because they saw the demolition of a small nation steeped in tradition of heroism and martyrdom—the Kosovo saga embodies it perfectly—as a step in the direction of a U.S.-dominated post-national world based on propositional abstractions.
This is the cue to the treatment of the Serbs by the U.S. political and media decision-makers over the past two decades. On the ruins of real nations, the rhetoric of “universal human rights” is imposed as the new basis for law and morality. The Serbs were merely a litmus test. The slogan of choice is multicultural democracy, irrespective of the wishes of the citizens of the particular territory involved—unless it is Serbs who wish to maintain a multi-ethnic state, in which case secession is the West’s preferred policy.
PANDERING TO ISLAMIC MILITANTS—In 1980 the U.S. supported hard-core Islamists in the insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decision was a strategic mistake of the highest order: it prompted the release of the Jihadist genie from a bottle that had remained sealed for almost three centuries after the siege of Vienna. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “brilliant idea”—as he called the Afghan covert action almost two decades after the event—meant that hundreds of millions, and eventually billions of dollars were poured into the coffers and arsenals of people who openly stated their intention to rebuild an early-medieval theocracy in Afghanistan.
The fruits went beyond the jihadists’ wildest dreams. Brzezinski will go down in history as the man who did for Bin Laden what the Kaiser did for Lenin by providing him with that sealed train in 1917. Two “liberal” interventions on the side of the Balkan Muslims, in Bosnia and Kosovo, ensued in the 1990s. The most tangible result of promoting “common ideals and interests in this globalized world” by NATO bombs is the existence of a vibrant, hard-core jihadist base in the heart of Europe that has had a connection with every major terrorist attack in the past decade. Even 9/11 itself had a Bosnian Connection: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who planned the 9/11 attacks, was a seasoned veteran of the Bosnian jihad, as were two of the hijackers.
In spite of all other unresolved domestic and foreign issues, at a time when the U.S. power and authority are challenged around the world, key players in President Obama’s team still look upon the Balkans as the last geopolitically significant area where they can assert their “credibility” by postulating a maximalist set of objectives as the only outcome acceptable to the United States, and duly insisting on their fulfillment. We have already seen this pattern with Kosovo, and we’ve seen an attempt to stage its replay in Bosnia under the ongoing demand for unitarization.
The U.S. policy in the Balkans—just like its policy in Libya last year and in Syria today –facilitates the jihadist agenda. American goals paradoxically coincide with the regional objectives of those same Islamists who confront America in other parts of the world. Far from enhancing peace and regional stability, such policies continue to encourage pan-Islamic agitation for the completion of an uninterrupted Green Corridor in the Balkans by linking its as yet unconnected segments. It destabilizes Bosnia by encouraging constant Muslim demands for the abolition of the Republika Srpska, and it destabilizes Serbia in the Raska region (“Sanjak”). It encourages greater-Albanian aspirations against Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia. It encourages escalation of Turkey’s neo-Ottoman ambitions in the region. It is destructive and harmful.
In all cases the immediate bill will be paid by the people of the Balkans, as it is already being paid by Kosovo’s disappearing Serbs; but long-term costs of the U.S. policy in the Balkans will haunt the West. By encouraging its Albanian clients to proclaim independence, the U.S. administration has made a massive leap into the unknown, potentially on par with Austria’s July 1914 ultimatum to Serbia. The fruits will be equally bitter. In the fullness of time both America and Europe will come to regret the criminal folly of their current leaders. Remarkably, the continuing automatic-pilot policy directed against the Serbs is taking place without any serious debate in Washington on the ends and uses of American power, in the Balkans or anywhere else. Obama’s and Bush’s rhetoric differ, but they are one regime, identical in substance and consequence. Its leading lights will go on disputing the validity of the emerging balance-of-power system because they reject the legitimacy of any power in the world other than that of the United States, controlled and exercised by themselves. Theirs is, indeed, the global equivalent of the Brezhnev Doctrine.
The quest for hegemony leads to a counter-coalition which defeats it. The proponents of American exceptionalism nevertheless scoff at history’s warnings provided by Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the Kaiser’s in 1918, or Hitler’s in 1945, as inapplicable in the post-history that they seek to construct. They confront the argument that no vital American interest worthy of risking a major war is involved in Georgia, or Syria, or the Balkans, with the claim that the whole world is America’s near-abroad. It is therefore essential for the emerging powers to refuse in principle to accept the validity of Washington’s ideological assumptions and the legitimacy of its associated geopolitical claims. At the same time, the key “liberal hawks” in the Obama Administration remain anchored in Madeleine Albright’s hubris: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall.”
The premises of an imperial presidency—which in world affairs translates into the quest for dominance and justification for interventionism—remain unchallenged, as we are witnessing in Syria today and as we shall witness in Iran tomorrow. (We are witnessing it in America, too, with Obama’s unrestrained use of the Presidential executive order—an extreme emergency measure—as a tool for overriding the will of the Legislative branch.) American meddling in the Balkans has been paradigmatic of the problem. It remains unaffected by the ongoing financial crisis manifest in a 16-trillion public debt, just as Moscow’s late-Cold War adventurism—so tragically manifested in Afghanistan—was enhanced, rather than curtailed, by the evident shortcomings of the Soviet political and economic system.
[Excerpts from Dr. Trifkovic’s paper presented in Belgrade at The Gorchakov Foundation conference European Security: The Balkan Angle on June 27, 2012.]
Once some powerful people in Washington decide that they want a war, they do not give up until they get it. The proponents of an American-led NATO intervention in Syria were on the defensive in April, when government forces were winning on the ground and the political balance inside the Beltway seemed to be favoring restraint. In May they regrouped and reconsidered their strategy. Now they are back with a vengeance.
President Obama appeared to be unenthusiastic about intervention, as was apparent during his meeting with Vladimir Putin at Los Cabos on June 18 when his remarks fell short of demanding President Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power. His more hawkish rhetoric at home indicates that he was merely trying not to irritate Putin by explicitly demanding regime change.
By now the proponents of Operation Syrian Freedom have put together four key ingredients needed for the pendulum to swing their way:
- Atrocity management is the key: the staged slaughter of civilians in Houla by the rebels last month, reminiscent of similar stunts in the Balkans—notably the Račak “massacre” that preceded the U.S.-led NATO war against Serbia in 1999—produced exactly the kind of reaction its perpetrators were hoping for. More similar incident are likely to follow.
- Misrepresentation of the insurgency as a fully-fledged civil war between two sides—one virtuous, the other unredeemably evil—is all but complete. Once the misnomer “civil war” is routinely used and accepted as accurate, it becomes easier to advocate intervening on the “good” side in that war. Arming the insurgents and helping them with air power is also possible—that was done in Libya—but the political consensus-building is more difficult this time.
- The assertion that intervention is a moral imperative and a test of American “leadership,” which the rest of the world supposedly hopes for and expects, is equally predictable. The narrative has been developing since Gulf War I and it matured under Clinton. Only the names of villains and victims need to be filled in.
- Last but not least, there is the claim that intervention is a geopolitical necessity, because the Russians are already involved by arming government forces and because a regime change in Damascus would be a blow to Iran’s position in the region. Nothing to do with the Syrian people, even though they would be the ones to pay the price of intervention in blood, like their Iraqi neighbors have done.
This last point is particularly worthy of attention, in view of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deliberate misrepresentation of facts regarding the delivery of Russian helicopters to the Syrian government. On June 12 Clinton expressed concern over the alleged sale of Russian helicopters to Syria, saying that if the Syrian government got possession of such lethal weapons, it “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
The Russians replied that the helicopters had been sold and delivered to Syria a long time ago, that they were sent to Russia for refurbishing and were now being shipped back. On June 13 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia was merely fulfilling its contractual obligations, signed and paid for long before the outbreak of the rebellion. He went on to allude to U.S. sales of arms to Bahrain—which faces latent unrest following last year’s protests that ended in bloodshed—by saying, “We are not supplying to Syria or anywhere else things that are used in fighting with peaceful demonstrators, in contrast to the United States, which is regularly sending such special means to countries in the region. For some reason, the Americans consider this to be in order.”
Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US State Department, effectively confirmed the Russian version and contradicted her boss when she declared on June 14 that “these are helicopters that have been out of the fight for some six months or longer. They are freshly refurbished.” An anonymous senior Pentagon official told The New York Times that Clinton had “exaggerated a little bit”—that is, lied—in order “to put the Russians in a difficult situation.”
For a Madam Secretary to lie is nothing new: Madeleine Albright did it routinely in the 1990s to justify the Bosnian intervention and the war against the Serbs. For her current successor to resort to falsehoods in order to provoke the Russians is remarkable, however, especially as it happened less than a week ahead of last Monday’s meeting between Obama and Putin. There are three possible explanations: that she was misinformed, which is unlikely; that she was acting on her own accord, which is possible; or that she was deliberately raising tension over Syria, which is most probable.
The Russians responded by announcing they would send two warships and a support vessel to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains her only naval base in the Mediterannean. A Russian navy official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines, supposedly to protect Russians in Syria if necessary. Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria to date.
Once the “civil war” paradigm is in place, the next stage of the escalation is predictable: Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will provide the funds and Jihadist volunteers for the rebels, Turkey will be the staging post, while America and NATO will provide the weapons and trainers. It is eerily reminiscent of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1979 “brilliant idea” to train, arm and equip Islamic fundamentalists as a tool against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The fruits will be the same. A post-Assad Syria—however fragmented—would become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and Jihad terrorism.
That Syria is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in the relations between Washington and Moscow is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous development entirely of the Administration’s own making. That the strategic rationale for such behavior is lacking is unsurprising. All major interventions of the past two decades—Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—have been self-defeating, illegal, and beneficial to the warriors in the path of the Prophet. Syria would be no exception.
Whites Now Less than Half of US Births…
Bill Clinton once said that he looked forward to the day when whites were a minority in America. While he won’t live to see such a time, a demographic milestone that should send a tingle up Slick Willie’s leg was just reached. Writes The New York Times:
After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States.
Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.
Obviously, a big reason for this demographic shift is migration – and mainly the legal variety. As a result of Ted Kennedy’s Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the level of yearly immigration increased from approximately 250,000 prior to ‘65 to about 1,000,000 afterwards. And its nature changed also: 85 percent of our new arrivals now hail from the Third World and Asia. This radical departure from America’s traditional immigration patterns has created a demographic transformation possibly unprecedented in world history – except for cases of actual invasion.
If one blindly accepts the unproven assertion, “Our strength lies in our diversity” – which is much like saying my health lies in my cancerous tumor – he may join Clinton, Chris Matthews and other languid-minded leftists in a leg-tingling love-fest. But the reality is that diversity isn’t a strength to be applauded – it’s an obstacle to be overcome. To understand this, you only have to study history and consider the fate of the former Yugoslavia: the Balkans are balkanized because of diversity. And now the United States is being balkanized, too.
Another problem is that “diversity” is a vague term; there are many kinds of diversity. Not too many people care if you dine on Thai cuisine as opposed to Italian; or hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. People won’t take to the streets because you play cricket or curling instead of baseball. But when deeply held beliefs concerning all-important issues divide citizens, it’s a different matter.
As for what’s helping diversify us into division, immigration, it is a vaguely understood institution. And when people accept something because it’s fashionable, not really knowing what they’re getting, disaster can result.
We’re always wary of dangerous imports, such as contaminated goods from China or substandard medical devices from overseas. It also requires vigilance when non-indigenous life forms are introduced into an ecosystem. Some, such as the horse or soybean, blend in seamlessly and can be beneficial; others, such as pythons in the Everglades or the Brown Tree Snake in Guam, can disrupt an ecosystem and decimate native species.
This is why the answer to the question “Do you support immigration?” should be “not enough data.” Since people do get the government they deserve, it matters very much what species of immigration it is. How high are the immigrants’ numbers? What is their cultural nature? How compatible are they with our cultural ecosystem? Will they blend into it or supplant native cultural elements? Of course, some will say that the latter is fine, that change is good. And, actually, they could possibly be right – except that “change” is another vague term. If those cultural elements are superior, then, by all means, embrace them; if they’re not, avoid them like the plague – which, incidentally, came to Europe from Asia. Those that trumpet immigration, diversity and change are the last ones to judge such matters, however, because they tend to be cultural relativists whose moral foundation is even vaguer than the slogans they disgorge.
What they do know, though, is how to import leftist voters. When I crunched the numbers a few years back, I found that the groups represented by that 85-percent Third World/Asian immigration block vote Democrat approximately 79 percent of the time. Is this a surprise? People don’t come here as blank slates; they bring their religion and ideology with them, and these things don’t magically change upon contact with American terra firma. And remember that most new immigrants hail from Mexico, Central and South America(50 percent from Mexico alone), where socialism is the norm. Sure, sometimes they may elect one of their “conservatives,” but “conservative” and “liberal” are relative terms. A conservative south of the border – or in Europe, for that matter – is much like our liberals. Their whole political spectrum is to the “left” of ours, and the more voting-booth levers they pull here, the more our spectrum will be pulled left, too.
The lesson is simple: people make the culture – not the other way around – and then the culture makes the government. If you imported enough Mexicans or Muslims to America, you’d no longer have Western civilization. You’d have Mexico Norte or Iran West.
Many will say in response to this that assimilation is the answer. Ah, it’s a nice dream. How can we expect people to assimilate when there is neither sufficient pressure from natives, nor sufficient will from newcomers, to do so? How can we expect it when, according to a Zogby poll, 58 percent of Mexicans believe that California and the Southwest rightfully belong to Mexico? How can we expect it from Muslims who believe that Western culture must be subordinated to Sharia?
Moreover, asking for assimilation becomes less logical all the time. After all, how is it a meaningful statement to say “All people have to do is become American” when there’s no agreement on what it means to be American anymore? Depending on whom you listen to, you can be an American and be a socialist, free-market adherent, devout Christian, witch, pro-abortion or pro-life activist, existentialist, realist, hippie, yuppie, black or white supremacist, La Raza separatist, prude, libertine, traditionalist, multiculturalist, patriarchy proponent, feminist, deist, atheist, humanist or Satanist. You can have any ideology, philosophy, faith, culture or “lifestyle” you want. It’s “whatever works for you,” and that itself is now to be considered a quintessentially American sentiment (unless it works for you to consider it something else). Well, guess what? What works for many is to not assimilate into they know not what. And that is the issue: there’s no clearly identifiable, dominant, appealing culture to assimilate into, anyway.
The problem here is the same as it is with the “undefining” of marriage: If something can mean anything, it essentially means nothing. “Cat” refers to a specific creature, but if “cat” could mean fish, aardvark, meadowlark, chair, cookie, ice cube or whatever works for you, it would lose meaning; it could mean anything and would just be “something.” And so it is with a nation. People have no reason to assimilate into just “something”; they already have something – something they already know.
The Western man has forgotten that a nation is essentially an extension of the tribe. The only other option is to have many tribes living within the same borders, which historically hasn’t begotten tranquility. Just think of the Hutus and Tutsis in Ruanda– and then consider that there was probably less dividing them culturally than there is dividing the motley “us.”
This is why, unlike most, I don’t expect America to ever become majority non-white.
Our republic won’t last that long.
In the meantime, the band will play on, as we repeat all the vague feel-double plus good mantras. Hey, folks, remember, immigration is the lifeblood of America. Well, maybe so. But then it’s important to accept a crucial fact about transfusions: If the blood type is incompatible, the body dies.
Americais on life support, and she does certainly need some kind of transfusion. But in a world dominated by socialism and kleptocracy, I don’t know where one goes to find large amounts of freedom-flowing blood. I think we had better shut our borders and stop looking overseas, open our minds, and start casting our eyes heavenward.
The Obama Administration’s “Defense Strategic Guidance” (DSG), which was unveiled on January 5 as part of the broader programmatic document, Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, has been greeted with neoconservative howls of rage. The document “sends a clear message to America’s adversaries: Go for it,” was the view of the Washington Times editorialist, “this mini-Quadrennial Defense Review is an eight-page admission of American impotence.”
It is nothing of the kind. Obama’s DSG replicates all of the flawed strategic assumptions of the Bush era. Reading a short statement at a press briefing at the Pentagon to unveil the DSG, President Obama spoke of “enduring national interests” in maintaining the unparalleled U.S. military superiority, “ready for the full range of contingencies and threats” amidst “a complex and growing array of security challenges across the globe.”
Obama made no attempt to outline the basis for his claim that the security threats to America are growing, or to provide his own definition of “enduring national interest.” The terms “full-range,” “contingencies,” “threats,” or “security challenges,” are not value-neutral. Obama used them within a paradigm which treats the entire world as a legitimate sphere of interest of the United States. The consequence is that there will be new wars, as unrelated to the realist understanding of this country’s national interest as have been those in the Balkans under Clinton or in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush.
Far from heralding “the massive $450 billion in defense budget cuts over the next 10 years” the President stated that “global responsibilities demand leadership, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.” This means that the rate of growth will slow down somewhat—and 45 billion a year is a drop in the $16 trillion ocean of debt—but there will be no “cuts.” Obama further stated that our defense spending “continues to be larger than roughly the next ten countries combined.” It is less than the rest of the world combined—the preferred neocon level of spending—but it is still much more than America needs, or can afford to spend.
The DSG claims that in the decades ahead it will be the task of the United States to “confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world.” “Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region,” it declares, “they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.” This means that the totality of what the DSG treats as American commitments and interests around the world will continue to exceed the ability of the United States to defend them.
A strategically innovative president would accept the limits of American power and seek to establish a rational correlation between its ends and means. He would turn America into a “normal” power pursuing limited political, economic, and military objectives in a world populated by other powers doing the same. But Obama and his team remain wholly unwilling to do any such thing (not to mention his likely Republican opponents). His view of America’s role in the world still produces strategic blueprints for new self-justifying interventions around the world—interventions which are not merely unnecessary but detrimental to U.S. interests. “Making the world safe for democracy” has morphed since 1917 into many strange pursuits: making Libya, Syria, and Bosnia safe for the Islamic radicals; making Kosovo safe for the KLA. Under Obama the bipartisan continuity of methods and objectives has remained intact. The continuity of imperial assumptions and practices remains unbroken.
The DSG is a flawed document. The key issue of ends and means of American military power is still unexplored, and will remain so regardless of what happens next November.
My stopover in Brussels on the way to the Balkans last week proved less than illuminating on the issue of the eurozone crisis and Greek debt. The real decisions are made further east, in Frankfurt and Berlin, but the EUapparat appears confident that there will be no Greek default in the short term and that Athens will not leave the eurozone.
What will happen later in the course of 2012 is harder to predict, however. “The crisis has reached a systemic dimension,” European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told European lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday. “Sovereign stress has moved from smaller economies to some of the larger countries. The crisis is systemic and must be tackled decisively.” For his part the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso says that all 27 EU nations have a stake in the Greek rescue—not just those in the eurozone—because a tumbling common currency would be a calamity for all.
Greece is in the grip of a recession and yet it is forced to accept further austerity measures to reduce a public debt which will exceed 160 percent of the country’s gross domestic product this year. It is evident that it cannot repay its sovereign debt, and the political will in the eurozone for further bailouts is wearing thin. The situation is untenable regardless of what the government in Athens does. On the other hand, the holders of Greek bonds would have to settle for a cut of more than 60 percent in what Greece owes them, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the eurozone’s finance ministers. This was the first admission by a high-ranking EU official that just how drastic the “haircut” will need to be. The original figure was only 21 percent.
Juncker’s statement would have caused a storm only a few months ago, but today it is accepted that Greece is entering bankruptcy proceedings under whatever name. Many European banks holding Greek debt will be hard pressed to stay afloat without injections of government liquidity. Where will it come from? The ECB prefers government guarantees rather than the central bank’s money market operations. The ECB says governments should use the 440-billion-euro ($600 billion) European Financial Stability Facility to insure a portion of new bonds issued by debt-strapped nations. That would theoretically leverage the amount available to protect member states such as Spain and Italy from following in Greece’s footsteps. The trouble is that even this amount will be woefully inadequate to overcome M. Trichet’s “systemic weaknesses.”
The elephant in the room is the future of the European Union itself. It is to be feared that “saving the euro” and averting further financial woes will be used by the proponents of the EU superstate as a means of imposing ever tighter political controls on the member-states. That superstate is an evil concept devoid of political, economic, historic or moral logic; which is why Sr. Barroso and the rest of the Brussels Machine will do their best to make it a reality.
The “Strategic Partnership” between Berlin and Moscow is usually understood in the English-speaking world in somewhat simplified terms: Russian energy meets German technology with a lot of high-minded political rhetoric on top. In the meantime, the received wisdom goes, Germany remains firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic framework of political, economic and military institutions and relationships. In other words, Moscow may be Germany’s partner, “strategic” or otherwise, but Washington remains Berlin’s primary ally and its primary institutional focus is still in Brussels.
This may have been so over the years but it need not be so in the future. A foreign policy realist would argue that in the years ahead of us the German decision-making elite would be well advised to critically reconsider old assumptions and to develop an overall strategy of greater equidistance vis-à-vis Moscow and Washington. (Instead of equidistance, “more equal proximity” may be a better term.)
If German political, economic and civilizational interests are considered in realist terms, without the rhetorical ideological shackles of common values and ideals, it transpires that the Federal Republic has a more natural community of long-term geopolitical interests with Russia than with the United States.
The fundamental German-Russian compatibility is that they are traditional European nation-states pursuing limited objectives by limited means. By contrast, the leaders of the United States of both parties still subscribe to the notion of America’s exceptionalism and to the propositional creed rooted in Puritan millenarianism.
In world affairs this neurosis translates into self-appointed missions of “spreading democracy” and “humanitarian interventionism.” There is precious little to choose between the neoliberal interventionists, notably the ladies’ trio of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and their neoconservative counterparts, such as Richard Perle, Paul Wofowitz, or Douglas Feith. They are but two sides of the same coin.
Germany has gone along with various American idiosyncrasies for a long time, but its elites have never been fully comfortable with the ideological arsenal of American postmodernia. Let it be noted that announcing the failure of the multiculturalist experiment, as Chancellor Merkel has done earlier this year, is unimaginable for an occupant of the White House from either party.
In geopolitical terms, like Russia but unlike the U.S., Germany is a continental power; and also like Russia but unlike the U.S., Germany has limited and “rational” strategic and security objectives. Both are weary of America’s self-appointed global missions, although Russia is unsurprisingly more vocal about its misgivings. Looking back over the past decade we find numerous areas of actual discord between Berlin and Washington reflecting divergent interests and strategic philosophies:
- During the Bush years Germany was consistently lukewarm about NATO’s eastward expansion and notably unsupportive of the inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in the Alliance, although this course was strongly advocated in Washington.
- In 2003-4 Moscow and Berlin effectively developed a common front against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
- In the fall of 2004 Germany took a back seat during the U.S-driven financial, political and financial support for the “Orange” takeover in Ukraine.
- In 2005, having rejected the U.S.-endorsed Polish proposal for a Western energy alliance, former Chancellor Schroeder went on to initiate the Nord Stream project, regardless of Washington’s displeasure at the bypassing of its Baltic-Polish clients.
- Although reputedly more Atlanticist than her predecessor, Angela Merkel was unwilling to join the U.S.-led chorus of condemnation of Russia after Moscowt responded forcefully to Saakashvili’s aggression in South Ossetia in 2008.
- In 2009 the U.S. exerted political pressure on General Motors, which had just received a massive Federal bailout only months earlier, to cancel plans to sell Opel to a Russian-backed consortium, although the deal was supported by the German government.
- On the southeastern front, the Germans have been lukewarm about the stalled Nabucco pipeline, which has been strongly favored by the U.S., and have suggested Russia’s inclusion in it, even though it is clear that this would defeat the project’s rationale.
- At the same time Germany is not averse to the Russian South Stream project, which is anathema to Washington and a number of its chronically Russophobic East European clients.
- The United States and its European clients (notably Poland) would prefer the EU to present a single interface in its foreign and economic relations with third parties—including above all energy—while Germany wisely pursues bilateral arrangements which are also preferred by Russia.
- Last but not least, earlier this year Germany remained on the sidelines while the U.S., Britain and France intervened in Libya under the aegis of NATO.
It is noteworthy that some of these trends have gelled, or maintained momentum, under Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, even though her government has made few moves to deepen German-Russian relations from the pinnacle of the Schroeder-Steinmeier years and she is personally by no means a cultural Russophile. This indicates that the logic of interests and objectives determined by the relatively constant factors of geography, resources and political culture, operate to a considerable extent independently of the decision-makers’ personal preferences.
The likely return to Russia’s presidency of Vladimir Putin in 2012 would be beneficial to the development of various currently untapped potentialities in German-Russian relations. As a cultural Germanophile with a strong sense of history and a firm rooting in the realist approach to grand strategy, Putin would also give an impetus to the return of what I would like to call the Neo-Bismarckian Paradigm. It was under the Iron Chancellor, the towering genius of the European 19th century diplomacy, that Germany and Russia last had a genuine strategic partnership, based on the compatibility of interests and the absence of truly insurmountable obstacles. Bismarck’s incompetent successors had abandoned this paradigm in favor of an unnecessary and ultimately fatal bid for multi-spectral hegemony (a Wilhelmine brand of neoconservatism) which finally entangled Germany in the affairs of the Habsburgs in The Balkans—which, as Bismarck had rightly pointed out, were not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.
In the neo-Bismarckian framework Russia will pursue a strong, but bilaterally-based relationship with Germany and with other key European partners, such as France and Italy. It is neither in Russia’s interest, nor in the interest of Germany, to allow the apparatus of the European Union to impose itself as an interface. As the current financial crisis clearly indicates, the interests of different members and groups within the EU are too diverse, incompatible even, to allow for a single platform to interfere in the conduct of what are properly bilateral affairs.
It is almost axiomatic, for instance, that Russia cannot have the same kind of partnership with Britain as it does with Germany, and the terms of such relationships need to be determined in direct dialogue with London and Berlin, or Paris, or Rome. That is the optimal model for Russia benefiting from the German connection on its path to necessary modernization, and that is the optimal format for Germany to make its contribution. Had the Nord Stream project been subjected to a Brussels-based interface, it would not have been built.
As the global distribution of power regains its multipolar character and the United States continues to lose its briefly held position of full-specter dominance, as the European Union is in a period of chronic crisis, the traditional nation-states of Europe need to rediscover the benefits of togetherness based on spontaneously emerging, interest-based links, and not on multilateral, bureaucratically mediated institutional mechanisms.
To truly unite Europe by helping Russia modernize and deploy its full potential and by integrating it into the common European home, we need “Europe” indeed, but not necessarily in its current Brussels form, or let me be frank, not at all in that form—and certainly we don’t need interference or arbitration from Brussels when its traditional nations seek common ground on the basis of a plus-sum-game. Bismarck would understand this, I believe Vladimir Putin does, and I hope the German political and business elite will do likewise during his next mandate, to the benefit of all.
Address given on Monday, August 29, at the international conference Central Europe, the EU and the new Russia at the Czech Parliament in Prague.
More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, NATO is an obsolete and harmful anachronism. It has morphed into a vehicle for the attainment of misguided American strategic objectives on a global scale. Its mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational force based on the nebulous doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” started with the air war against Serbia in 1999 and was completed with the Libyan intervention in the spring and summer of 2011. NATO in its mature form is beyond redemption or reform. It should be disbanded.
The Soviet Union came into being as a revolutionary state that challenged any given status quo in principle. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, Russia has been trying to articulate her goals and define her policies in terms of traditional national interests. By contrast, the early 1990’s witnessed the beginning of America’s attempt to assert her status as the only global hyperpower. Instead of declaring victory and disbanding NATO in the early 1990’s, the Clinton administration successfully redesigned it as a mechanism for open-ended out-of-area interventions at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared.
Following the air war against Serbia, NATO’s area of operations became unlimited and its “mandate” self-generated. Another round of NATO expansion came under George W. Bush. In April 2007, he signed the Orwellian-sounding NATO Freedom Consolidation Act, which extended U.S. military assistance to aspiring NATO members, specifically Georgia and Ukraine. Further expansion, according to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, was “historically mandatory, geopolitically desirable.” A decade earlier, Brzezinski readily admitted that NATO’s enlargement was not about U.S. security in any conventional sense, but “about America’s role in Europe—whether America will remain a European power and whether a larger democratic Europe will remain organically linked to America.” Such attitude is the source of endless problems for America and Europe alike.
President Obama and his foreign policy team have failed to grasp that a problem exists, let alone to act to rectify it. There has been a change of officials, but the regime is still the same—and America is still in need of a new grand strategy. The threat to Europe’s security does not come from Russia or from a fresh bout of instability in the Balkans. The threat to Europe’s security and to her survival comes from the deluge of inassimilable aliens within the gates and from collapsing birthrates. These problems are due to the moral and cultural decay, not to any shortage of soldiers and weaponry.
More than three decades after the occupation of Prague in 1968 the USSR was gone and the Warsaw Pact dismantled, but the principles of the Brezhnev Doctrine are not defunct. They survive in the neoliberal guise. No “interests of world socialism” could beat “universal human rights” when it came to determining where and when to intervene. The key difference is only in the limited scope of the Soviets’ self-awarded outreach. It applied only to the “socialist community,” as opposed to the unlimited, potentially world-wide scope of “responsibility to defend.” The “socialist community” led by Moscow stopped on the Elbe, after all. It was replaced by the “International Community” led by Washington, which stops nowhere and constructs as it goes along a self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. It precludes any meaningful debate about the correlation between ends and means of American power: we are not only wise but virtuous; our policies are shaped by “core values” which are axiomatic, and not by prejudices. The foreign policy community in Washington remains oblivious to the fact that, after a brief period of American mono-polar dominance (1991-2008), the world’s distribution of power is now characterized by asymmetric multipolarity. It is the an inherently unstable model of international relations.
The doctrine of global interventionism has been given an updated form in NATO’s much-heralded “Strategic Concept” (SC), adopted at the summit in Lisbon almost a year ago. Last week liberal interventionists and their neoconservative twins on both sides of the Atlantic were jubilant as Libyan rebels took over Tripoli. From now on, “[t]he right question for the United States and its allies isn’t whether to help oppressed people fight for freedom, it’s when,” declared The Washington Post on August 24. Yet again NATO has intervened militarily in pursuit of formally stated goals which had little to do with its hidden agenda and which produced results “objectively” detrimental to Western interests. As the country braces itself for the second half of the double-dip recession, the Balkan Syndrome of the 1990’s has been transferred to a grander, strategically more significant scene.
In the meantime the key strategic issue, NATO’s attitude toward Russia, remains unresolved. The Strategic Concept asserts that “NATO poses no threat to Russia,” with which it seeks “a true strategic partnership.” President Barack Obama greeted President Dmitri Medvedev in Lisbon as “my friend and partner.” It was left to Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, to articulate Moscow’s misgivings: “The NATO gamekeepers invite the Russian bear to go hunting rabbits together. The bear doesn’t understand: why do they have bear-hunting rifles?” We’ve heard statements like Obama’s before: In 1997 Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which was soon violated by the Kosovo war in 1999 and NATO’s eastward expansion.
In Lisbon Russia was invited to cooperate with NATO in missile-defense development, but only after the plan was completed in Washington and Brussels. Russia is expected to provide transit of NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan, but she has no say in shaping the mission itself. Moscow is asked “to increase transparency on its nuclear weapons in Europe and relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members,” but no corresponding commitment is made to the relocation of NATO’s missile-defense system away from Russia’s own borders. Russia’s involvement is indispensable to the European missile defense which lacks feasibility without integrating Russia’s radar stations. Furthermore, Russia as a permanent Security Council member still retains an important role when NATO launches operations requiring the UN approval. At the same time, NATO is not offering Russia anything practical in return. A strategic or any other serious partnership between Russia and NATO stands no chance. Russia and NATO have inherently divergent interests that cannot be resolved merely by bombastic press releases. NATO remains at the top of the list of external threats Russia faces today.
On the plus side, Ukraine and Georgia are no longer serious candidates for membership. The financial crisis makes the further reduction of European military budgets inevitable. Whatever new NATO missions are conjured in Washington, the lack of political will in “Old Europe” to sign on will be coupled with the material inability to do so in a meaningful way.
Also on the plus side, it is in the interest of European stability that Vladimir Putin will declare his candidacy, and next year will get elected President of Russia yet again. Western Russophobes on both sides of the Atlantic are hoping that this will not happen, and a new round of Putin’s demonization is already under way in the U.S. media. In fact, any scenario other than a new Putin presidency is not only unrealistic; it is also harmful to European stability because it would create the impression that Russia is divided and that it can be manipulated and reduced to the impotence of the Yeltsin era. False impressions and false hopes, but as we know political misconceptions based on erroneous assumptions may have serious consequences.
NATO is devoid of a coherent mission and strategic purpose. Between 1949 and 1991 it was successful in providing security against the threat of a hostile totalitarian power. Today, it is detrimental to the security in Europe and irrelevant to the security of its members. It should not be reformed; it should be abolished.