Monthly Archives: October 2014

Rothbart on Perpetual War

But if the Cold War died in the Communist collapse of 1989, what can the ruling conservative-liberal Establishment come up with to justify the policy of massive intervention by the U.S. everywhere on the globe? In short, what cloak can the Establishment now find to mask and vindicate the continuance of U.S. imperialism? With their perks and their power at stake, the Court apologists for imperialism have been quick to offer excuses and alternatives, even if they don’t always hang together. Perhaps the feeling is that one of them may stick.

The argument for imperialism has always been two-edged, what the great Old Rightist Garet Garrett called (in his classic The People’s Pottage) “a complex of fear and vaunting.” Fear means alleged threats to American interests and the American people. To replace the Soviet-international Communist threat, three candidates have been offered by various Establishment pundits. (…) [Rothbard here offers international narco-terrorism and reunified Germany as the first two potential bogeymen.]

A third threat has been raised in the Wall Street Journal by that old fox, the godfather of the neocons, Irving Kristol. Kristol, in a rambling account of the post-Cold War world, leaps on the “Islamic fundamentalist” threat, and even suggests that the U.S. and the Soviet Union should discreetly cooperate in putting down this looming world period. Here we see a hint of a new conservative-liberal concept: a benign rule of the world by the United States, joined by the Soviet Union as a sort of condominium-junior partner, along with Western Europe and Japan. In short, an expanded Trilateral concept. Of course, pinpointing Islamic fundamentalism comes as no surprise from the neocons, to whom defense of the State of Israel is always the overriding goal.

But in addition to the negative there is the positive. The vaunting along with the fear. The positive carrot is the old Wilsonian dream of the U.S. as global imposer of “democracy.” Since very few countries can pass the “democracy” test, or have ever done so, this poses an objective that suits the Establishment interventionists fine: for here is a goal that can never possibly be achieved.

A goal that can never be reached but can always be kept shimmering on the distant horizon is perfectly tooled for an endless policy of massive expenditure of money, arms, blood, and manpower in one foreign adventure after another: what the great Charles A. Beard brilliantly termed “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

from “The Irrepressible Rothbart”

http://library.mises.org/books/Murray%20N%20Rothbard/The%20Irrepressible%20Rothbard.pdf

pp: 164-65

Turkey surprises everyone by acting against the Kurds

Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader languishing in a Turkish jail, declared war on Erdogan (open link to the last post on the subject: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1978), after the latter’s refusal to intervene on the Syrian Kurdish side against ISIS in Kobani (apart from welcoming all refugees and supplying truckloads of bottled water and milk cartons to those trapped in the town, that is).

The result was PKK activity within Turkey and a decisive aerial bombing campaign against them by the Turks on Monday the 13th October (open link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/10/turkish-jets-bomb-pkk-targets-southeast-2014101492853176434.html). So Erdogan didn’t bomb ISIS, but he bombed the PKK. So what is Erdogan actually doing?

Western media is full of heart-rending stories about ISIS’s atrocities, but the US has supported the beheading, hand-cutting, women-hating, church and synagogue-banning regressive Saudi regime for decades, totally contrary to any possible policy of support for human rights and democracy. The Saudi regime we all know was behind the Afghan jihadis, 9/11, funding the Taliban, threatening Tony Blair with a terrorist attack in London over the Serious Fraud Office investigation of the Yamama arms deal (on this open link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/15/bae.armstrade), and most recently the funding of daily terrorist attacks against the Shia in Iraq, as well as funding of the Syria rebels.

If the US is now trying to consolidate a distinctly odd alliance against what is essentially a group of heavily-armed madmen in Toyota pick-up trucks, if they are so armed, this is also thanks to Saudi Arabia, therefore ultimately to US nods and winks of acceptance. But ISIS has got out of control, and this is to a large extent due to the machinations of Assad and Iran, who have given this extremist group room to manoeuvre for their own ends. So effectively the US is doing a mopping-up operation of its own mess and that of Saudi Arabia’s, with its new coalition of the unwilling.

Or rather, it is trying to make Turkey do the mopping up operation – i.e. to do its dirty work – because pulling in the odd aeroplane from the UAE, and Qatar, and the odd couple of aeroplanes from the UK, is meaningless, just as bombing people in the desert in Toyota pick-up trucks, who are able to vanish into thin air as quickly as they appear, means nothing and is pointless. The whole thing was in fact supposed to embarrass Turkey into putting troops on the ground, and merely a show of smoke and mirrors.

Why should Turkey help at all?

(1) Turkey supported the democratically elected government of Egypt which the US helped to overthrow, putting in its place a bloodthirsty regime, which only yesterday killed students demonstrating at Alexandria University – the killing of students now becoming a daily event in the morass that Egypt has become (on this open link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/16/egypts-u-s-backed-military-regime-brutalizing-student-protestors/).

(2) The US is stonewalling against Palestinian President Abbas’ demand at the UN, backed by Turkey, that a resolution be passed at the UNSC in regarding to Israel withdrawing to 1967 borders as per UNSC resolution 242. Furthermore, Turkey was not elected in the recent round of elections for non-permanent members of the UNSC, as a result of US pressure. This was to ensure that Turkey couldn’t filibuster on other matters at the UNSC if the Palestinians didn’t get their way (no matter that Abbas expects a US veto, and is planning to follow the veto with a signing of the ICC Rome charter

On this open link : http://different-traditions.com/?p=1941

Also see latest news on the Palestinian approach to the UNSC on: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14716-abbas-we-reject-kerrys-requested-delay-for-un-security-council-plan)

(3) The Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Kobani and elsewhere is clearly a resource, as well as a source of fighters, for the PKK. Furthermore, the PKK is also still, according to NATO, a terrorist organisation, and bombing their formations in South-East Turkey must be in line with NATO official policy. Öcalan’s declaration of war against Turkey must be based on an idea that Turkey must be under pressure from its NATO allies, given the apparent media uproar over ISIS and the grand announcements surrounding the coalition of the essentially unwilling. Don’t forget on this matter that the PKK’s demand is for Turkey to actually cede land to a new Kurdish state, despite the fact that Erdogan since coming to power has recognised the Turkish Kurds as a separate community within Turkey, with equal rights and the right to use their own language within their community. Honestly, how realistic do you think the PKK demand is? Turkey will never give up land.

(4) Öcalan, however, is not only unrealistic, he is also behind the times, for NATO needs Turkey right now more than Turkey needs NATO. In Obama’s long 40 minute UN “crossroads between war and peace” speech, Russia took up some 15% of the total time of the speech.

Obama here considers that “Russian aggression aggression in Europe recalled the days when large nations trampled small nations in pursuit of territorial ambition”, and while the threat of actual military action is downplayed, the fact is that the US now considers that it is in confrontation with Russia on all other levels, up to the quasi-military level. Troops and missile batteries are newly being stationed in the Baltic States and Poland. If advances such as these are being made on Russia’s eastern flank, then Turkey’s position on the south-eastern flank, with the largest army in NATO other than that of the US, is surely crucial.

Turkey is furthermore a vital trading post between Europe and Asia, and the US is seriously concerned about its close relations with China, as can be seen by the current flap over Turkey’s potential contract with China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) to construct the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system.

So it is clear that Erdogan feels he is on solid ground and that he intends to negotiate a high price for anything that Turkey may concede to its NATO allies. Look at what the Turks did when the US objected to the potential CPMIEC contract: they simply asked the Western competitors bidding against it (US Raytheon and the Eurosam Consortium) to improve their offers if they wanted the deal (on this open link: http://www.airforce-technology.com/news/newsturkey-again-extends-bidding-deadline-for-loramids-tender-4354754).

Finally, we have the regional political picture to consider. Above all, the Turks know that Baghdad doesn’t care about the loss of Anbar province to ISIS. The Shia government there honestly doesn’t want the trouble of incorporating what are the poorest provinces of Iraq into an Iraqi state, since 90% of the oil reserves of the country lie in Basra (100bb). Whatever you think of such a policy – and in fact Abadi, the new PM, is no different on this matter than Maliki was – they are only playing to the gallery when they chant that they want a ‘united Iraq’. The Iraqi army isn’t that bad, that it couldn’t, if it really tried, retake Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city). But all they really want is to hang on to Baghdad, and the Shia militias that have long terrorised the Sunnis in Baghdad (created under the aegis of the US during its occupation) are capable of doing that even without the Iraqi army.

So if the Iraqi army doesn’t really want to fight ISIS, why should the Turks take the brunt? In fact, it is counter-productive for them to do so, because the Sunnis in Anbar support ISIS – which is why they rule there – both from personal interest when it comes to Baathist leaders, or from fear when it comes to the general population. However, bear in mind that the general population Sunnis fear the Baghdad government of Abadi actually more than they do ISIS, given what has happened in the past seven years of its rule.

So If the Turks bombed ISIS, then they would be bombing the Sunnis, who, in the long-term will become a separate statelet in one form or another within Iraq and Syria, whether under ISIS or not, and ultimately therefore clients of the Turkish state and its fast-growing economy.

Iraq is a broken humpty-dumpty – broken in 2003 when the largest military machine in the world attacked it with overwhelming force, killed anywhere between 400,000 and 1 million Iraqis (open link for the third and final Lancet report: http://web.mit.edu/CIS/pdf/Human_Cost_of_War.pdf). In fact, we can say that the entire Iraqi population has post-traumatic stress, and psychologically can no longer trust “grand ideas” of an “inclusive” Iraqi state. The situation is now “every man for himself”.

If Turkey and Iran will benefit by having new client statelets gravitating towards their areas of influence, breaking away from from Syria and Iraq, we can say that those two latter countries are finished as cohesive wholes. Meanwhile Turkey and Iran gain power. Whilst Erdogan is asking the impossible (no fly zone, and a policy of removing the Assad regime in Syria etc..) for Turkey’s co-operation with its NATO allies in the fight against ISIS, it seems he is asking this in the knowledge that he won’t get his way. Israel now prefers Assad in Damascus to any other potential Islamic government, which anyway is unlikely to be democratic (not that that matters to Israel), and the US is thus now balking at Erdogan’s new demands irrespective of its previous forceful declarations on the removal of Assad, because of Israel’s attitude.

This suits Erdogan, who now prefers to do nothing. If he were to go for Assad’s jugular, he will have to contend with Iran’s current commitment to Assad. Iran and Assad can support the YPG and the PKK and easily foment trouble in Turkey, just as Turkey is on good terms with the Iraqi Kurds and can foment trouble through them in Iran, within Iranian Kurdish communities. So the two main powers in the region are simply playing a waiting game, which Iran is clearly expert at doing, if their negotiations over the nuclear problem are anything to go by. While the US/UK/France dominant foreign power in the region continue to try to shape Iraq and Syria’s future, there is no clear plan, and both Turkey and Iran knowing that advantage can simply fall into their respective laps if they just do as little as possible.


 

Recognising Palestine: the changing dynamic

After Sweden announced its intention to recognise the State of Palestine (on this open link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1975), France announced that it is considering doing the same (open link: http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/europe/47081-141013-israeli-official-uk-parliament-bid-on-recognizing-the-state-of-palestine-likely-to-pass).

Then suddenly the British Parliament voted 274 in favour vs. 12 against to recognise the State of Palestine on October 13th:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/13/mps-vote-to-recognise-palestinian-state

None of this is exciting in the global context because actually, after the 2012 UN vote, 130 countries have already come to recognise Palestine as a state. The whole matter thus relates purely to European countries slowly and belatedly breaking out of their long time pro-Zionist positions.

The Commons motion in the UK Parliament was tabled by the Labour MP Grahame Morris, and backed by Ed Miliband. Note that Ed and David Miliband’s mother, Marion Kozak, is a signatory to (and apparently a leading force in) Jews for Justice for Palestine (see this on their website at: http://jfjfp.com/?page_id=9).

But a large number of Labour MPs were given permission to stay away from Westminster for the vote, making it impossible for Miliband to enforce a party whip on the vote. Chief among the Labour rebels on this issue was Ed Balls, who is big within the Labour Friends of Israel. The vote has, in the context of the large number of absentees from the vote, been called by David Cameron a “symbolic vote”, once which will not necessarily change Foreign Office policy.

Nevertheless, the vote has happened. So what drove it – essentially – given that people like Richard Ottaway, Conservative chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, voted in favour of the motion? First there was Baroness Warsi’s devastating attack on Conservative/Coalition policy towards Gaza (on this open link: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1771). But secondly – according to Ottoway- there was, equally importantly, the general revulsion at Israel’s latest and brazen land grab of 950 acres of West Bank Palestinian farmland to build new settlements, something that not only the UK, France, Italy, and New Zealand all forcefully complained officially about to the Israeli government, but also the US!

Recognising the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel has always been the political centrepiece of the “two-state solution”, but the Israeli incursions with their illegal settlements outside 1967 borders, has made this solution almost irrelevant. European countries had so far held off recognising Palestinian rights on the basis that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine must be reached first, but they have stubbornly refused to concede that Israel has never negotiated peace in good faith. Now that they are beginning to do what they should have done years ago, it is too late.

It is also too late for those Israeli politicians who want to see a “pure Jewish” state in the long-term, and who are spending the vast majority of their country’s resources on subsidising  Zionist extremists to settle on Palestinian land. The only conceivable long term outcome is now a “one-state” solution which, if to avoid the ultimate status of international pariah as an apartheid state, will have to become fully democratic: democratic here meaning recognising the full Palestinian right of return. So Israeli obduracy will have ultimately undermined their stupidly blinkered goals.

Turkey’s stance over Ayn el-Arab/Kobani

While riots by Kurds erupt in Turkey and all over Europe, in regard to apparent Turkish indifference to the plight of Kobani, the Turkish government is unmoved.

The Iraqi Kurds had created a “crisis that wasn’t”, from of the Yazidi situation, and managed to swing Western public opinion enough to create an unlikely alliance against ISIS, albeit restricted to a (potentially ineffective) air war. The US/Israeli/UK ties with the Kurds irritates the Turkish government. Should such ties be so important to the US, then according to the Turks, it is for the US to put armed forces on the ground to supplement air strikes and deal with ISIS.

There is also the question that the Syrian Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, is still listed as a terrorist organisation by NATO which is why Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s leader still languishes in a Turkish jail.

More generally, the Turkish government feels let down over the US volte-face over the question of the removal of Assad, as well as in regard to US backing for the coup in Egypt, which latter set of events Erdogan feels particularly aggrieved about. In fact, Turkey’s support for the Arab Spring across the board, has been almost totally upended by the Obama administration. Is it surprising then that Turkey is both insisting on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before agreeing to move in any direction, as well as extracting a large price for any prospective involvement on its part, given everything that has happened?

Sweden and the State of Palestine

“The Palestinian diplomatic institution in Stockholm has already been upgraded to a status that is as close to an embassy as you can get without a formal recognition,” said Ulf Bjereld, a political science professor at Gothenburg University, to Sverige Radio. “So, I think this is a powerful symbolic policy but it will not mean much in practice,” he continued. Listen on

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5983790&playaudio=5100110

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s announcement of the recognition of the State of Israel, which came as part of his inaugural speech as prime minister, was strongly criticised by Israel and the United States, who argue that an independent Palestinian state should only emerge through negotiations [presumably indefinite negotiations (ed.)].

Foreign Minister Wallström said in this respect in another radio interview that: “it was expected that we would be criticised. We will continue a constructive dialogue and talks with the USA to explain our motive for this… This has been going on for so long now. We have to get to a point where there are two states that can live next to one another. Of course a lot has to be done down there for it to become a peaceful co-existence. But our view has been clear for a long time, and cannot come as a surprise to anyone”. Listen on

http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5982771

 

 

 

 

Finally a New York Times editorial calls an Egyptian spade a spade

Despite the venality and sheer obtuseness of US politicians [open previous post http://different-traditions.com/?p=1959], on Egypt, the New York Times is clear: in its editorial it says that Sisi is a ruthless and bloody dictator.

For the NYT editorial open link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/opinion/sunday/reining-in-egypts-military-aid.html?_r=0

Here is its text:

“Egyptian leaders have come to see the annual $1.3 billion American military aid package as an entitlement they are due in perpetuity for having signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The United States has done little to disabuse them of that notion. It’s time it does. Failing to make significant cuts to the program later this year, when the Obama administration will confront tough choices regarding Egypt’s future, would be indefensible. Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took control in Egypt though a military coup in July 2013, the country has returned to its authoritarian moorings by jailing political opponents, silencing critics and vilifying peaceful Islamists.

[The New York Times had on July 3rd 2013, called the coup by its real name – open link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/world/middleeast/egypt.html?pagewanted=all]

Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which became the leading political movement in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising, are languishing in prison , unfairly branded as terrorists. That has left a large generation of Brotherhood supporters rudderless, raising the possibility that some will be drawn to militancy. Just when the United States is battling Sunni extremists in Iraq and Syria, seeking to isolate the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, Egypt’s crushing authoritarianism could well persuade a significant number of its citizens that violence is the only tool they have for fighting back.

In the coming months, however, the administration will have two opportunities to correct its course and signal that it can no longer condone brutality.

First, Washington must stop allowing Egypt to place military hardware orders under a preferential system called cash flow finance. Available only to Israel and Egypt, the mechanism works much like a credit card, permitting the countries to place orders under the assumption that Congress will eventually appropriate enough funds to cover them. It will take years to wean Egypt off cash flow finance, since orders can take years to process, but doing so now will help untangle contractual and legislative knots in the future.

Second, Secretary of State John Kerry has to certify to Congress that Egypt is on a path to democracy as a condition for delivering several items of military aid that are in the pipeline. Congress insisted on such certification when it appropriated Egypt’s military aid package last year. Failing to do so by the end of the year would halt the delivery of roughly $650 million worth of American tanks and fighter planes. The only reasonable answer from Mr. Kerry is no.

Egypt values American military hardware, and continued cooperation is in the interest of both countries. The onus is on Cairo to earn it.

Egypt today is in many ways more repressive than it was during the darkest periods of the reign of deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Sisi’s government has cracked down on demonstrations, tightened control of state media and prosecuted journalists. A new, vaguely worded law will soon stiffen penalties for individuals who receive foreign funding, making it a crime punishable by life in prison. The measure, ostensibly intended to fight terrorism, is similar to policies the state has used to suppress the work of pro-democracy organisations.

In Sinai, as its fight against militants has moved into populated areas, the Egyptian army has reportedly used American-made tanks to shell civilian areas. When Human Rights Watch tried to release a report in Egypt about last year’s brutal crackdown on a Cairo demonstration camp, during which more than 900 protesters were killed, the group’s representatives were barred from entering the country.

Mr. Sisi, who came to power in a rigged election, seems to think the rest of the world has not noticed.

[The New York Times had, on May 6 2014, once again called a spade a spade on Sisi’s ridiculous election – open link http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/world/middleeast/election-in-egypt.html]

Addressing the General Assembly last week, Sisi claimed, astonishingly, that he was building a new Egypt that “respects rights and freedoms” and “ensures the coexistence of all citizens without exclusion or discrimination.”

American officials have been measured in their criticism, calculating that they are better off with Egypt as an ally, however despotic. Historically, they have valued expedited passage through the Suez Canal for American Navy ships and unfettered access to the country’s airspace.”

Americans were led to believe the U.S. political class was on the side of democracy in Egypt. Nope.

Read Glenn Greenwald on this subject by opening link:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/feigned-american-support-egyptian-democracy-lasted-roughly-six-weeks/

A considered academic position which accords with Greenwald in its conclusions is that of Jason Brownlee, a leading scholar of Middle East politics at the University of Texas at Austin in his book: Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance. To view a summary of the book open link:

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/government/features/_features/Books-Brownlee.php