An epic continuing battle continues for control of Syria’ largest city, historically one of the most famous centers of urban civilization in the world. Before its demise in the post-World War I Franco-British partition of the Levant it ranked with Cairo and Istanbul [Constantinople] as a major cosmopolis, the Western end of the famous Silk Road from China to the West.
A call by 15 physicians in a letter personally directed to Pres. Barack Obama has dramatized the dilemma facing Washington. Obama’s history of “drawing red lines” in the Syrian conflict only to be forfeited has confused foreign participants in the struggle and the American people. His statements led finally only to America abandoning Syria to the tender mercies of the ruthless Basher al Assad regime which allied with the Russians wages war on an unprecedented scale on its civilian population, matched by the incredible brutality of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and its terrorist allies in the opposition.
Government and rebels in the past few days have clashed in southern Aleppo, voiding a truce promised by the Russians to enter the city. Moscow had earlier promised “humanitarian windows” to permit humanitarian convoys of food and medicines to transit. Mosocw now refuses to comment on the current situation including the use of Russian planes against the rebels and civilian populations. Human Rights Watch listed six deliberate strikes in the past two weeks by al Assad regime or Russian warplanes on health facilities in the north that killed 17 people.
Obama’s determination not to involve the U.S. in another irresolute Mideast war is certainly understood by a war-weary American public and justifiable to many of his supporters among the foreign policy experts. But now that has to be balanced with the possibility of another one of those catastrophic destructions of human life which the U.S. and the world have promised “never again”.
The doctors point out that hospitals and medical facilities have become not accidentally but deliberate targets in the warfare. This small group of health providers remaining in the city is dealing with an impossible situation as their letter dramatizes, including a shortage of medicines and supplies which often culminates in triage among wounded children. Furthermore, the rebels accuse government forces of carrying out an attack Wednesday using chlorine gas on rebel-held residential neighborhoods.
It seems unlikely that Obama can openly reverse his Mideast and particularl Syrian policy in the last few months of his administration, He has made American withdrawal the essence of his foreign policy and with serious and obvious U.S. failures on all fronts, its ideological goal is about all that is left of his tattered effort for “transformation” of U.S. foreign policy. Whether he has the courage to do so with a good deal of obscurantist rhetoric remains to be seen.
But we believe it is incumbent on the Congress immediately to take the lead in this human crisis. The physicians have pointed out that Americans earlier had promised to set up “corridors” into the embattled areas. These would carry drugs and foodstuffs to the estimated more than 1.2 million living in the government-held zone as well as some 250,000 now in the rebel-held areas of the city.
Also additional public pressure must be placed on the al Assad regime through Moscow and its allies in Tehran to end what have been reported as recent chemical warfare attacks on the rebels by government forces, apparently with the tacit cooperation of Russian air. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday he was “concerned by reports of a new chemical attack… that is said to have claimed four lives people and left dozens injured.”
A United Nations framework is in place to handle humanitarian aid to both those in the rebel and government areas. It is incumbent now that the U.S. tale the lead in utilizing it to prevent a monumental human disaster.
Category Archives: Wgypt
An epic continuing battle continues for control of Syria’ largest city, historically one of the most famous centers of urban civilization in the world. Before its demise in the post-World War I Franco-British partition of the Levant it ranked with Cairo and Istanbul [Constantinople] as a major cosmopolis, the Western end of the famous Silk Road from China to the West.
Hovering over Vladimir Putin’s reckless adventurism in Syria is the Moslem demographic shadow threatening his Russian Federation.
The Russians’ mushrooming Moslem population is part and parcel of the Russian leader’s whirling-dervish act to try to resurrect Moscow’s status as a superpower. It explains, in some measure, Putin’s desperate attempts to bring back under Moscow control the Slavs of Ukraine, Byelorussia, and ewven Russian-speakers in the Baltic States.
When Putin recently opened one of the world’s largest mosques in Moscow, it was a tacit acknowledgement of the power of his growing Muslim population. It was also an effort to forge a compact between a Moslem state organization and the Russian regime, modeled after that which ties the Kremlin – and Putin – to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The official 2002 census reckons Putin has 14.5 million Moslems [out of a total population of 144 million]. Ravil Gaynutdin, head of the Council of Muftis [Putin’s official Moslem religious hierarchy] claimed in August 2005 that Russia’s population included 23 million ethnic Moslems. The latter figure seems closer to reality with some estimates, for example, counting more than 3 million Moslems in Moscow alone, out of a total of some 13 million. Russian Federation population figures got a slight boost when, after the implosion of the Soviet Union, there was an immediate influx of Russian Slav ethnics from the former non-Slav majority “Soviet Republics” in Central Asia.
But the Moslem factor takes on additional significance because the overall Russian population is in sharp and unprecedented historical decline. It reached a tipping point at 148.6 million in 1991, somewhere around 140-145 million now, but declining toward a projected less than 130 million by 2025 While the Russian Federation’s Muslim population is also not reproducing at a rate to sustain it, it is considerably higher than for the Slavs.
That means that when Putin plunged into Syria to fight Moslems and called up an additional 150,000 conscripts, he had to wish away a Russian general staff estimate that by 2025, most of his new soldiers would come principally from Moslem non-Slav ethnic groups.. Contradictorily, his growing jingoistic domestic appeal – and in part the basis of his popularity — to traditional Russian Orthodox Christian loyalties is bound to clash, sooner or later, with the growing body of increasingly Islamicized Moslems on which his armed forces will be dependent.
The Russian leader’s highly unreliable puppet, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman “president” of Chechnya, called on Putin to expand his operations in Syria, “using Moslem ground troops”. Kadyrov was slyly reminding Putin, with whom he has had a stormy relationship, that increasingly the Russian regime is dependent on good relations with its Moslem minority. Even with Kadyrov’s gangster regime, with its long history of Russian wars of domination going back to the 18th century, Chechnya is a virtually occupied region. And its violence has spilled over to the neighboring North Caucus states, the route of traditional Russian imperialism toward Georgia and Armenia, and the dream for an opening one day to the Indian Ocean.
But whether or not Putin is taking the Chechen leader’s advice, on his way to a wider conflict with Daesh [ISIS, ISIL], he took time out to smack the shaky anti-Assad rebels backed by CIA. It was growing Russian air activity over Syria that took Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, not as traditionally waiting on his American ally, to Moscow a week ago, ostensibly to set up traffic controls. For the Israelis, the transfers of Iranian weaponry for Hezbollah’s participation on the Russian-Iran-Damascus side in the bloody civil war, is an important strategic and tactical issue. Did that mean that Israeli intelligence, unlike Washington, was prepared for the spurt in Putin’s Syrian intervention?
By bombing the CIA-supported relatively ineffectual anti-regime forces in Syria, especially those on the edge of Syrian leader Basher al-Assad’s Allawite base on the Mediterranean, Putin taunted Obama and his continued call for Basher to step down before a provisional end of the war can be found. It was also a way at thumbing his nose at Obama, answering the American and EU sanctions against Moscow for his flagrant aggression in Ukraine. Whether Putin can maintain a longer term commitment in Syria given the generally sorry state of the Russian military remains to be seen.
But with what the White House acknowledges is no U.S. strategy on Syria and almost total disarray among the Western allies, Putin comes across as a skilled strategist. The old Greek proverb, “In the kingdom of the blind, a one-eye man is king”, is well known to the Russians too.
Putin’s appeal to live with the worst of the Arab dictatorships in Damascus, hoping it will eventually keep a peace of the dead, flies in some circles even outside Russia, some European rightwingers and American isolationists. But it frightens America’s traditional regional allies, ironically Israel in tacit alliance with the Arabs led now again by Egypt, who see Obama’s “deal” with Iran as enhancing Tehran’s hand as it, and Putin, go all out to support the nominally secular Damascus tyranny.
Pres. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is rapidly resuming Egypt’s role as leader of the Arab world, nosing out U.S. Mideast leadership under Pres. Barrack Obama’s “leading from behind”.
Initially snubbed by Obama after his military coup last year against the Morsi Islamicist government, el-Sissi has moved away from his military predecessor Hosni Mubarak’s all-out alliance with Washington. He has negotiated new arms purchases with Moscow, and taken advantage of France’s cancellation of four warships for the Russians to buy them and new fighter aircraft at discount. By Egyptian standards, his completion of the expansion of the Suez Canal traffic has been a major economic victory.
El-Assi is moving to choke off Hamas in Gaza, the offspring originally of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood. The Egyptian army has flooded the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai through which Iran armed Hamas and where bootlegged traffic has fed its coffers. In tacit cooperation with Israel, he has minimized traffic through Gaza’s Egyptian gateway. And he is doing what he can to break Hamas’ hold, announcing he wants Palestinian Authority’s rule returned to Gaza.
Last week at the UN, he called for an overall Arab settlement with Israel, acknowledging the new tacit alliance among the Mideast Sunni states against the Shia mullahs in Iran. In effect, although their public statements have been supportive, it’s no secret that all the American allies in the region are fearful Obama’s “deal” on nuclear weapons has given Tehran new power.
Nevertheless, El-Sissi threw a bouquet to Washington insisting relations were “improving” after what he admitted had been a two-year “real test of the endurance and strength”. He also tried to disarm his human rights critics with release of two Al-Jazeera journalists, whom his regime had accused of acting as agents of the Islamists – not altogether without merit given the history of the agency as mouthpiece for Osama Ben Ladin.
El-Sissi is pursuing a ruthless campaign against the Islamicists, with a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsular, now linked to Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL]. And for the first time in living memory, Egypt’s western frontier on chaotic Libya is also facing insurgency. The terrorists have been able to carry out bombings and attacks on police, even in Cairo. El-Sissi has responded with the killing of hundreds of terrorist suspects and a series of trials – questioned by Western human rights groups – condemning his predecessor Morsi and other Moslem Brotherhood leaders to death.
Nor does El-Sisi have an answer to the most critical Middle East question of the moment, what to do in Syria. He hints that he is siding with those – some of whom like German Chancellor Angela Merkel has just changed sides – willing to include Syrian Pres. Al-Assad in any provisional government He acknowledges that the West and the Arabs have a dilemma with the overwhelming dominance of the Syrian regime’s opponents by Muslim terrorists, including Daesh. The Obama Administration is still stuck, at least for the moment, with the argument that any solution in Syria must start with Al-Assad’s departure since it was his refusal to make concessions to then peaceful demonstrators which initiated the bloody four-year struggle.
Cairo and Washington still have their differences what with El-Sisi arguing an Israeli-Arab settlement would revolutionize the Middle East situation, urging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s formula of no prior conditions. But Kerry is urging the Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas, barely clinging to power after announcing his retirement, to wait for the fallout of the Iranian “deal. Nor do the sympathetic views of the Moslem Brotherhood among Obama’s closest advisers help further Egyptian-U.S. realignment.
Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.
With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.
That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.
The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.
The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]
To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.
Two points need to be made quickly:
The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.
Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.
That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]
Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.
• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.
• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.
• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.
• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.
• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.
• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.
• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.
• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.
It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.
“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”
In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:
Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.
Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.
Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:
- Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
- Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
- Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
- Asking Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
- Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
- Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.
To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]
Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.
Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.
“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.
Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.
Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.
Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.
Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project
Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.
Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.
“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.
Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.
Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.
Establish a NATO base in Estonia.
Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].
See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.
Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.
East & South Asia
Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.
Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.
Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.
Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.
Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.
Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.
Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.
Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.
If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.
But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.
by Sol Sanders
“Intelligence failures” – fundamental mistakes in evaluating a geopolitical situation – are not rare among state intelligence organizations. They are unfortunately common enough and have cost the lives of millions.
They are a reflection of what after all is a human endeavor with all its frailties. A technician’s intercept of a Japanese naval signal, in the infancy of radar, is ignored with disastrous consequences on Dec. 7. Failing to check a driver’s license more carefully when he is stopped for speeding fails to nab a 9/11 plotter. Placing the briefcase loaded with a bomb a few feet too far fails to kill Hitler costing more thousands of lives.
Such failures are only marginally reduced by the introduction of all the new techniques of the digital revolution since the opportunity for error is so great in these complex situations involving individual peculiarities as well as the presumed overriding political considerations.
Yet there are larger intelligence “failures”, those that result from a fundamental misunderstanding of a much larger cultural environment, whether it be the whole frame of reference of an opponent or constructing a seemingly logical scenario without all the facts. A case of the latter, for example: in 1937 Washington almost went to war with Japan over “The Panay Incident”, sinking of an American ship of the Yangtze Patrol thought to be an expression of Tokyo’s militarist aggression but actually the result of the smuggling activities of a corrupt Japanese admiral. That, of course, did not preclude the outbreak of that war a few years later.
Washington’s surprise and shock at the most recent events in Iraq are the quintessential example of the former, in this instance an inability to judge events in the context of the Muslim world.
For whatever reason, Pres. Barrack Obama and his national security team – despite the extraordinary credentials in Arabic studies of CIA Director John O. Brennan – are bent on misinterpreting the Islamic world. On that basis, Obama’s attempt to reach out for a new relationship with Arab and Islamic countries, expressed in his 2009 Istanbul and Cairo speeches, has come to naught. Instead, that simplistic outreach has further confused issues.
Neither Obama’s flattery nor efforts at appreciation of another culture have been successful. That is in no small part because his premises fundamentally distort or ignore history. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had a Koran in what was probably the most diverse and perhaps the largest library in colonial North America. But after years of trying to persuade the West Europeans to join the infant AmericanRepublic in suppressing piracy and abduction on the Barbary Coast, he ordered the U.S. infant navy and Marines [a standing army he had opposed] into action against Muslim warlords he could not understand but refused to knuckle under to.
Islam has not, as the President insists, played a role in the ideological formation of the American ethos. The Judeo-Christian ethic of The Founders and the founding documents owed no allegiance to Islam. It was an alien culture with which Americans have had only minimal contact until relatively recent decades.
Furthermore, all of this false rationalization is part and parcel of an attempt to equate Islam with “the other Abrahamic religions”. That, again, is a complete distortion of reality. For even where it is practiced in moderation, Islam’s fundamentals cannot be equated with contemporary Christianity and Judaism. Both of these beliefs have evolved through centuries of accomodation to Hellenism and modernization in their European existence. Islam has not, for example, given up its right to a fierce monopoly where its adherents hold political power – something now rejected by various Christian confessions after a painfully long history of bloody religious war.
Furthermore, in an excess of tolerance, any attempt to examine and relate Islam to current events is denounced as “Islamophobia”. Often the denunciations come from organizations with pretensions to representing Muslims residing in Western democracies but with hidden connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and other intolerant Islamic organizations and concepts.
Perhaps more than anything else, this misapprehension of Islam and its relation to the West explains the latest monumental failure of Washington “intelligence”. Despite entreaties from the al-Maliki government in Baghdad for months for help against a foe it recognized, Washington appears befuddled with the sudden blossoming of a crisis of the regime The threat is further magnified by the enormous commitment of blood and resources by the U.S. during its war against Sadam Hussein and the suppression of a sectarian civil war. That war was, too, initially based on the assumption that having fiddled with weapons of mass destruction earlier, Sadam was at it again – a belief shared if mistakenly by all the major allied intelligence organizations.
That is why the now seemingly sudden emergence of a barbaric terrorist force threatening to take over Iraq, one of the most important of the Arab states with its vast petroleum resources, has come as such a surprise for the Administration. All this is a repetition of the Administration’s attempt to minimize the importance of Muslim terrorism riding on the coattails of one of the world’s major religions. And that misperception has resulted in its inability to anticipate or to cope with political events, whether in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and now Iraq.
The President’s attempt to end the conflict with Muslim terrorism by unilaterally announcing its demise will fail of course. Unfortunately, Muslim terrorism is alive and well in half a dozen countries with every expectation that it will continue to make the U.S. and Americans one of its principal targets. The current advance of a terrorist group in Iraq with a significant number of international participants, many recruited from America and Europe and Australia, is only a manifestation of that general continuing problem for U.S. policymakers.
Probably even more damaging, by failing to acknowledge the traditional role of violence and conflict in the history of Islam, the Administration has further handicapped those forces in the West and in the Muslim countries seeking modernization. The fogging of issues has permitted essentially antidemocratic organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood to mask their real intent. It blinded the Administration to the growth of what was intended as another religion-based tyranny under former Pres. Mohammed Morsi, then its reluctance to accept his popular overthrow by the military reduced Washington’s ability to influence the new Egyptian regime. In Syria, Washington was unable to see that the popular resistance to the Assad dictatorship was coming under the domination of international Muslim fanatics which has now spread to Iraq, not only threatening that government and its neighbor Jordan, but with the possibility of providing the kind of sanctuary for attacks on the U.S. as took place in the Taliban’s Afghanistan on 9/11.
To quote the old cliché, ideas have consequences. Failure to deal with the relationship between Islam and the Muslim terrorists which threaten American interests in the region – and even the U.S. homeland as in 9/11 – is likely to cost dearly.
Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of “The Turkish model” is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey’s image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.
But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 Turkish million immigrants to Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live.
Erdogan, without daring to acknowledge it publicly, turned his back on the top-down secularization of Mustafa Kemal, the general-politician-philosopher who founded the modern Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Over the past decade, Erdogan nibbled at Atatűrkism’s basic building blocs – political authoritarianism, state capitalism and anticlerical tenets. He even edged into recognizing the multiculturalism of the Anatolian peninsular instead of Atatűrk’s Ne mutlu Turküm diyene! [How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk!]. That included not only the ancient, cosmopolitan megametropolis Istanbul [Constantinople] [14 million] at the crossroads of Europe and Asia where Erdogan’ S political career began as mayor. He also hesitantly recognized the identity of Turkey’s 15 million Kurds who have waged guerrilla war and terrorism for autonomy or independence for more than three decades. But simultaneously he moved toward more and more conservative Muslim concepts, appealing to rural Anatolia which had given him his big parliamentary majorities. That process is seen as a threat by the Alevi sect, another disproportionately wealthier 20 percent of the population, whose Sufism is considered apostate by many in the orthodox Sunni majority.
Erdogan’ policies – particularly his continued economic liberalization –ushered in a period of growing prosperity and optimism about the country’s future with continued if diminishing hope of entering the European Union. Most critically, he adroitly broke the hold of Atatűrk’s secularist heirs in the military. He probably ended the possibility of another of the half dozen coups by the military whose intervention had prevented political chaos and kept more outspoken Islamic forces at bay.
But in the process – and not least because of his egotism – his tactical skills were less than a strategy, bereft as it has been of consistency and integration. His foreign policy aiming at neo-Ottoman regional leadership has collapsed. Overall progress has been at the expense of growing destabilization Perhaps much of that was inevitable in a rapidly growing and changing society. But now the exploding corruption scandals and more importantly, the in-fighting inside his Justice and Development Party [AKP], a coalition of Muslim-oriented political groups, could bring down the regime as well as his administration.
But the culmination of these Turkish events has much larger implications:
- · The increasing instability and possible collapse/transformation of Erdogan’s administration again puts the question of whether there can be a modern state in Muslim-majority lands without a formal break with traditional Islam.
- · Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s reliance on Erdogan – in 2011 more telephone conversations with him than any other foreign leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron – is another sign of the failure of the American administration’s Mideast policies.
- · The growing economic crisis in Turkey, a result of reaching a development plateau and the growing political instability, puts into question for other Muslim states economic liberalization which permitted growth but [as in Iran] fed a new reactionary Muslim-oriented middle class..
- · Turkey’s growing instability is writing finis to its effective participation in NATO, and may, indeed, point to the growing inability to turn the spectacularly successful anti-Soviet alliance into a broader security and peacekeeping coalition.
- · Turkish instability is going to further imperil assimilation of the 10 million Turkish émigrés in Western Europe, recruited, especially in Germany as gastarbeiter, but who now constitute a growing European social and political problem in a period of extended high unemployment and growing Muslim fanaticism.
Islam has never had its Reformation or its Counter-Reformation paralleling Christianity in the West. Its religious thinkers for at least a half millennium have largely been ignored Greek logic and philosophy and its Roman progeny, the foundations of Western – and increasing universal – law. Orthodox Islam calls for no separation of church and state. In fact, orthodox Muslims demand the reestablishment of a worldwide ruling religious leader such as the Ottoman Empire’s sultan who also as caliph was the commanding religious figure. In majority Muslim countries, both Sunni and Shia ecclesiastics refuse the hard fought fundamental of Western democracies, equality of all religions before the law – including minority Islamic sects. Turkey’s role as the most successful example of a predominantly Muslim country advocating that concept – and rejecting much of sharia, traditional Islamic law — is now crumbling. Advocacy by Asian and African leaders of emulating Ankara’s road to modernization is not likely to be heard in the future.
That has implications for American policy. Obama had accepted that old hypothesis and said that Erdogan was one of his closest friends. It was to him in part that the Arabists surrounding the U.S. president sought counsel. But Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams of becoming the go-to for the area’s regimes, has gone a glimmering. Instead, Turkey is at odds with virtually all its neighbors, especially Egypt and Israel, and, of course, Syria. There the al Assad regime now under siege after Erdogan effusively courted it only a few years earlier is driving tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey as well as the surrounding countries. Furthermore, the corruption accusations link some perpetrators to the mullahs of Iran – the Turks’ historic competitor for influence through the Mideast and Central Asia. As the internal conflict among Turkish Islamicist groups likely intensifies, Now Washington will find itself hard put – if it already has not done so – to pick sides.
Abetting the crisis is the rather sudden turn in Turkey’s economic outlook, after its gross domestic product more than tripled during Erdogan’s office. Now the trade deficit is widening dramatically, the lira is devaluating at a rapid pace, unemployment is increasing, and the political turmoil has taken a toll of the stock market, discouraging foreign investment as well as fueling a capital flight.
What may be even more significant longer term is that the liberalization of the economy which began in the 80s before Erdogan’s arrival at the helm has produced a new and growing class of entrepreneurs. They, like their Persian counterparts as a result of reforms by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, seeking a new orientation from their peasant backgrounds, tend toward religious obscurantism.
The growing Islamicist sentiment of the Erdogan administration itself – including accusations that growing opposition to his government among Turkish groups is plotted by kafir [unbelieving foreigners] including the Americans – is distancing Turkey from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It will add to NATO’s renewed conundrum of its future role with the messy U.S.-led alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Erdogan’s threat to go to the Chinese for new weapons, which would create security lapses in integration with NATO, has further put into question the allegiance of one of the alliance’s most loyal members in time past. With Western Europe’s dramatically falling birthrates, Turkey’s army was seen in Washington and European capitals as an important element in any NATO peacekeeping effort. Given the growing decline in most of the European military budgets, Brussels had looked to Turkey’s young population [more than a quarter under 14] as a stalwart partner. That hope vanishes as the political crisis matures.
Although a first generation of immigrants to Western Europe seemed to be assimilating, their offspring have in more than anticipated numbers turned to radical Islam. There is a growing number of second and third generation Turks [and European-resident and native Arabs] who have joined the jihadist-led opposition to the ostensible secular regime in Syria’s civil war. Mosques in Europe, many supported by the militant Wahabbi sect of Saudi Arabia, have become hot houses for the spread of radical Islamicism and recruitment for jihadist terrorism. If the once secular regime of Turkey continues to move away from its Atatűrk traditions, as seems likely whatever the result of the current political crisis, it will have an adverse influence on assimilation of these immigrants.
Overall, this Turkish crisis inevitably becomes an integral part of the instability sweeping the Muslim umma [world] from Casablanca to Zamboanga, an accelerator in the age-old struggle for modernization in that impoverished and retrograde cultural environment. At the moment, the forces of reaction [and terrorism] are winning in the face of the incapacity of Muslim modernists [or “moderates”] and the Obama Administration to offer an effective counter to a romantic call for a return to simplistic, medieval orthodoxy [Islam=”submission”]. That, unfortunately, as 9/11 tragically proved, produces a growing threat not only to the future of Muslims themselves but to peace and stability throughout the world.
Fleeting memory – and perhaps proof that if there are lessons of history, they are never learned – is that there is almost no mention of “Nasserism” or “Pan-Arabism” in the current reporting on Egyptian chaos.
Yet for two decades a young army officer out of nowhere, Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, towered over Egypt, the Arabs – and even the broader Muslim world — allied to the Soviet Union and preaching shortcuts to modernization. Today his politics is scarcely mentioned among the 400 million Arabs much less in the rest of the world. That could only be, what with a third of Egypt’s 90-million under 15, nearly three-fifths under 30, most at best semi-literate – a population that increased at least 25% in the last two decades.
Yet as that motto over the U.S. Archives says, the past is prologue. Nasser’s 1952 revolution and two decades of military misrule contributed to the current tragedy in so many ways. Like successor politicians, even in the Western democracies – one too close to home — Nasser preached “comprehensive” solutions to the myriad problems of what was once the breadbasket of the Roman empire with its triple-cropping and rich Nile River silt soil. The corruption and incompetence of the pseudo-liberal parliamentary monarchy which preceded him, the first effort at a stable, modern society in one of the world’s oldest civilizations, was so imperfect he said it had to be overthrown by what turned out to be sheer demagoguery.
For as the reality of the depth of Egypt’s problems sank in, Nasser turned to preaching unity among the Arabs – a groundless concept so often promised and failed. Ethnicity, geography, wealth and history – even religious concepts — divide the Arabs at every crisis as is the case just now. But with the adulation of millions, Nasser turned to implacable hatred of the most effective modernizing force in the region, Israel, with disastrous results in three wars.
Simultaneously, in his rush toward Soviet-style socialism, he purged Egypt of its centuries-old ethnic minorities, the Greeks, the Armenians, the Genovese, the Venetians. The Jews had already fled, the wealthier to France, the poorer to Israel. This “middle class” had nourished the caravan trade for centuries and were the factors of its agricultural economy and nascent industrialization.
Moreover, Nasser’s pan-Arabism excluded and threatened Egypt’s indigenous Coptic Christians, quintessentially Egyptian and close to 15% of the population. From Upper Egypt fellahin peasants to Alexandrian and Cairene landlords and entrepreneurs they were disproportionably wealthy, said to control 50% of the country’s riches. Age-old animosities were revived with continuing persecution persisting to this moment. But unlike other indigenous Mideast Christians, perhaps as many as 15 million Egyptian Copts are not just going to pack up, and fade away. Obviously they have played a significant role in turning back the first wave of the Islamic radicals under ousted Pres. Mohamed Morsi and his dissembling Moslem Brotherhood fanatics.
But Nasser’s tortured economy iheritance persists.
It would be hard to exaggerate its current failings, exacerbated, of course, by the instability of Egypt’s version of the Arab Spring. Having long ago descended into the abyss, Cairo has to import 40% of its food. It runs a trade deficit equivalent to an astonishing fifth of its gross national product [GDP]. The government’s credit rating has collapsed. Price controls and subsidies had seduced the population into uneconomic waste of domestic oil and gas moving toward a tenth of the GDP. The official 10% unemployment [25% among the young] is notional. Crony capitalism – including the military – distorts virtually every market. Recourse to the International Monetary Fund’s cash has been held up by its unsavory reputation – whether deserved or not – with the Egyptian polity. But in any case, the IMF still needs a road map for some sort of return of stability.
Through modern times Egypt has been a top destinations for international tourists – in 2010, 5.5 million came spreading $14 billlion. With growing international travel, that had doubled from a decade earlier. And it was despite an ugly 1997 massacre of 62 foreign tourists at Luxor — the center for expeditions to the Valley of the Kings ruins, a Pharonic history dating as far back as 5,000 years.
One of the tipoffs of the total incompetence — if not its true nature — of the ousted Morsi regime was appointment of a former Islamic terrorist as governor in the region until public outcry immediately drove him out. He was a member of the outlawed Al Gama’a al-Islamiyyaorganizationalleged tohave perpetrated the outrage. Their bloodthirsty assasinations of public officials – including implication in that of Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat – have suggested a tacit alliance with Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda. Although officially renouncing violence, Al Gama was heavily represented in the parliament elected last year. Its one time leader, the blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who directed the first attack on the New York City Trade Center in 993, is now in a U.S. prison. But he refuses to renounce violence and probably still plays a role in convoluted Egyptian Islamicist politics.
The continued political crisis has wreaked havoc on tourism, of course, And with one in every 12 in the labor force working with visitors, the bonds between reestablishing order and its reputation abroad is essential for any resurrection, even temporarily, of the economy.
Nasser’s death in 1970 and the subsequent break with the Soviet Union by his successor, another military leader Sadat, ushered in reform. Chaperoned by Pres. Jimmy Carter, Sadat made his famous peace visit to Israel. He turned to the U.S. and the West and the Persian Gulf oil ministates for what has been billions of dollars in economic and military aid. – $19 billion alone from Washington, still on the hook for $1.3 billion annually.
The 90s finally brought a serious effort for economic reform, to dismantle Nasser’s legacy. But much of Egyptian industry is still in uneconomic and corrupt government companies in a bloated public sector. Even before the recent political explosion, inflation and unemployment with huge military outlays pushed a growing public debt. Only the three million Egyptians working in other Arab countries and their remittances, the lifeline of the Nile’s irrigation waters, an off and on export of gas to Israel and Jordan, and the relative trickle of tourism – and massive aid, of course — has kept the country afloat. [A nasty additional cloud on the horizon is the threat of riparian countries on the upper reaches of the Nile to void British colonial imposed divisions which benefited Egypt and the Sudan downriver disproportionately.]
It would be a fool’s errand to predict what comes next. The long descent of Indonesia’s once highly efficient plantation-colonial economy under the demagogic Soekarno and the collapse of Burma’s pre-war colonial agricultural exports under the rule of the mad Ne Win and his successors proved there is no bottom in pre-industrial societies. Southeast Asia is not Egypt, of course, although the once common relatively easy life of the tropics suggests comparisons.
Egypt’s long history of synthesizing totally different intellectual currents and absorbing economic abuse like a sponge give some faint hope. But, for the moment, the future could not seem bleaker.