Tag Archives: anti-Americanism

The grim Arab summer

Among nations, as in private lives, there are self-evident long-term trends, often cataclysmic, but with unforeseen tripwires for timing the unpredictable denouement. At the moment notable among these is continued failure of modernization among the 1.3 billion Arab/Moslem world.

What a few months ago seemed an irresistible wave of rising expectations forcing a renaissance in Tunisia, Egypt, and other “moderate” Muslim societies, has stymied

But it has had economic and political consequences. Others, unforeseen, are bound to come along, but for the moment:

  • The bloodiest of all retrograde Arab dictatorships in Syria is doomed, its mostly reluctant advocates notwithstanding. Saudi Arabia, chief expositor of a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil foreign policy, appease [and fund] it. Washington and Paris cower, fearing Basher al-Assad’s demise might lead to something even worse than his purported secular tyranny. Damascus’ strategic partners — Iranian, Lebanese and Palestinian Islamicists – using it as a trampoline to Mediterranean power, can only wring their hands. Turkey dreaming of an alliance ushering in Neo-Ottoman glory is befuddled with an onslaught of refugees.
  • Egypt, long Islam’s cultural center, flops back into a new lap of corrupt if camouflaged military government. Collapse of tourism and crippled local industry threaten minimal growth achieved during the Mubarak era with a yawning, unemployed youthful demographic bulge. Army leadership, shrewd enough to continue a half-peace with a formidable enemy, Israel, nevertheless, flirts with populist anti-Semitism while enriching itself through protectionist, crony state capitalism rather than opening up to investment, technology transfer and rapid growth.
  • Pakistan, largest self-proclaimed Muslim state of 200 millions ironically conceived as an Islamic modernizing force in dying British Imperial India despite its confessional moniker, implodes. Its military, only Pakistani “national” entity, has suffered a lethal blow from the unilateral surgical American strike killing Osama Ben Ladin. The related perception of impotence and/or incompetence complements rising opposition to the generals’ corrupt incestuous relationship with greedy Punjabi feudal elite. Washington influence seeking to foster make-believe democratic parallel civilian government feeds anti-Americanism. Beijing siphons off massive U.S. aid to one of the world’ poorest populations through an anti-India alliance even as Chinese “aid” projects come under terrorist attack.
  • The Obama Administration, buying into Muslim victimization mythology reinforced by the President’s own pesudo-Marxian historical view, has no strategy for dealing with the energy fulcrum Persian Gulf powers wield however haphazardly on world economy. The Administration’s muddled “alternative energy” policies – not excluding the crassly politically motivated band-aid release of strategic reserve oil – is ever more irrelevant in the face of vast new fossil fuel discoveries [shale gas and deepwater drilling] and potential [e.g., Arctic oil].
  • Libya encapsulates Mr. Obama’s failing attempt to wind down Pres. George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism”. Refusing the full weight of American arms to NATO’s effort, initiated by the Europeans, risks temporary resumption of Muammar Qadaffi’s long history of terrorism against Americans. In the bargain, “Libya” dramatizes long ignored NATO inadequacies with its increasing dependence on American muscle.
  • Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal announcement touched all domestic 2012 electoral bases, but it offered no solution to the fundamental question: having taken on Islamic radicals, Washington has not struck the lethal blow. There is no Hitler bunker suicide, no Japanese militarists’ surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, the Osama drama notwithstanding. Probably unconsciously, Pres. Obama has taken a leaf from old Sen. George Aiken’s rejected Vietnam playbook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Aiken: “declare victory and come home”. Later modified by Pres. Richard M. Nixon and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger to “a decent interval”, it failed, demoralizing the U.S. military and undermining domestic self-esteem for a generation while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives without accomplishing its geopolitical goals of mollifying the Soviets or welding an effective Chinese alliance.

Leaked efforts to contain spreading Islamicist virus in Yemen with Special Forces drops armed with unmanned aerial vehicles, ipso facto, insures the fight will continue long after the highly publicized if incoherent Inside-the-Beltway “debate” over counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism is, again, out of fashion. Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA [Rtd.], a principal if scientistic participant, after all, soon will be charged with clandestine warfare. Whatever Mr. Petraeus’ success at Langley, Mr. Obama or his successor at 1600 Pennsylvania, can not long avoid the basic problem, election or no election: protecting the U.S. from continuing Islamic terrorism.


No reset, no restart — no deal with Moscow

“Reset” is the trendy way the Obama Administration describes its Russian efforts. In his “comprehensive” approach, Mr. Obama reversed Condoleeza Rice’s foreign policy haiku ending with “neglect Russia”. Instead of that virtualization, the Obama Administration has gone crashing ahead trying to set up a new relationship with an extremely fragile Moscow regime.

Mr. Obama’s charm offensive hasn’t gone any place for the simple reason Russia is an old, wounded wolf, armed with the fangs of an ageing nuclear arsenal, but with the stench of death. Falling longevity among men, alcoholism, HIV-AIDS, etc., and a nonreplacement birthrate could cut Russia’s 150 million by 20 million in the next 20 years.

Any IT nerd could have told Secretary Hillary Clinton if you push the reset button, and it doesn’t work, you have to start looking for a new motherboard, power supply, video card, or memory. Maybe memory is key given our long Cold War history.

It’s true Mr. Obama’s interlocutor Vladimir Putin’s popularity appears high [probably higher than Mr. Obama’s]. But it’s explained by the old Russian lament, “If the Tsar only knew …”, protecting Kremlin rulers as Ras clambered back into an authoritarian state.

In a bid to set up a Barry-Vlad relationship, Mr. Obama quickly canceled painfully negotiated agreements with the Poles and Czechs of anti-ICBM deployments. Defense Sec. Robert Gates guarantees a more effective shorter range substitute. But mid-January Iranian space flights are not very reassuring as they presage Tehran ICBMs.

If the Central European abandonment was supposed to produce Russia’s help in halting the mullahs’ nukes, it hasn’t. For the moment, Moscow hides behind Beijing’s opposition to stringent sanctions. And the Kremlin just announced it won’t cut off missiles technology which [along with Chinese and North Korean transfers] fuels the mullahs’ program. Furthermore, Moscow’s is huffing because Washington also needs Romania for the new deployment, treading where the Russians believe they deserve hegemony. And for the new program Washington has had to hustle anti-misile defenses in the Persian Gulf oil sheikhdoms, objects of growing Iranian bellicosity — and seduction.

Picking up on every president since the Soviets got the hydrogen bomb, Mr. Obama reportedly is about to conclude a new strategic arms agreement. That’s seen as incremental progress toward the old vision of a nuclear-free world. Professions of that blessed future got Mr. Obama to Oslo. Truth is the Russians, despite their propaganda, will accept the deal with alacrity because it only confirms the erosion of their weaponry but commits the U.S. to cutbacks. [Moscow’s newest ICBM keeps failing tests, threatening overall Russian strategy.] Perhaps that’s a draw; Mr. Obama apparently intends to refit our nuclear warheads, a controversial but necessary maintenance.

Efforts, generally, to woo the Russians back into the post-Soviet implosion era of good-feeling isn’t on line. All observers – not just those tacky meaningless polls – report Russian anti-Americanism skyrocketing, despite Mr. Obama’s worldwide mea culpas. Tattered negotiations to get Moscow into the World Trade Organization have stymied over issues the Bush Administration couldn’t budge. Beleaguered Special Trade Rep. Ron Kirk’s office doesn’t want to talk about it.  The Russians have even threatened $800 million in American chicken imports, one of the few trade deals going.

The agreement to help Washington out in Afghanistan by transiting non-lethal cargo because of Pakistan’s deterioration has stymied. Mr. Putin’s efforts to thwart U.S. bases in the Stans have failed. But Vice Pres. Cheney’s “southern energy corridor” to move Central Asian fossil fuels to markets through Turkey, with lower world recession demand is further sabotaged with Russian counter-initiatives and Ankara’s growing love affair with Moscow.

But even with the oil price creeping back up, Moscow’s mainstay economic prop is troubled. The gas monopoly Gazprom is creaking. Intrigue to control European markets has drained resources from poorly maintained pipelines, away from new prospecting. Were there weather or some other emergency, it’s doubtful Moscow could meet West European commitments. Going for East Asia markets – including extended negotiations with Beijing – has soured. Mr. Putin’s confiscation of European and Japanese Sakhalin equities has the majors thinking twice about lending capital and technology essential for the next oil and gas push in the Far East and the Arctic.

Minor political rebellions at both ends of the Federation – in the Maritime Provinces and in the Kaliningrad enclave – are symptomatic of what could develop into another implosion. Internal democratic forces have been squelched. But Russia’s large Muslim minority is increasingly restive. Mr. Putin’s Georgian aggression last summer, setting up two new Potemkin states, has only aggravated the running sore on his southern flank. Not only has Chechnya not been pacified, but terrorism is spreading to neighboring “republics”. Attempts to organize a state Muslim organization to match the compliant Orthodox Church has come a cropper. There is new Moscow-Muslim Tatarstan tension. [Lenin can’t go home again.].

Still, Russian bombast and Mr. Putin’s macho photographs seem to have mesmerized Washington. Never mind if the computer has hanged.


Revolution and common sense

A revolution is not a tea party”. -Mao Tse-tung

Every revolutionary ends up by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic. –Albert Camus

All revolutions devour their own children.-Ernst Röhm

Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder. –George Bernard Shaw

In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end. –Alexis de Tocqueville

Historians will have to evaluate how much Obama Administration’s denigration of American power and prestige contributed to Egypt’s chaotic crisis. But led by an often untutored media seeking sensation at whatever cost, and Al Jazeera beating the jihadist drums, U.S. Mideast policy waffles and meddles beyond its competence.

The American tendency is not only ahistorical, but antihistorical. After all, our forebears came to escape their European, Latin American and Asian – even African – histories. Nothing could be further from the American experience than Egypt’s multimillennial suffocating cultural “overburden”. To further alienate Americans from context, the world has moved to instantaneous electronic transmissions. Images and tweets replace studies and serious journalism – and contemplation.

That’s why it might be well to lean back and view unpredictable events with more dispassion — and, yes, common sense. [I like the Oxford English Dictionary’s No. 2 definition: “xxx the plain wisdom which is everyone’s inheritance xxx”.]

America’s role and national interest.

Egypt’s burgeoning 80 million people has been for centuries the center of Sunni Islam; Cairo, heart of the larger Arab world with its vast petroleum resources [only gas in Egypt]. With feeble economic, cultural and physical infrastructure, the Arab and Persian petrosheikhs now levy a “tax” on the world economy [as former Sec. of Treasury William Simon rationalized.] Therefore, Egypt’s stability inherently demands Washington’s highest priority.

As Biggest Boy on the Block, the U.S. is both envied and courted, not least by Egypt. Washington struck a bargain with its annual $2 billion aid package – a bribe to keep Egypt’s military on the straight and narrow. Cairo was to modernize, bolster regional moderates, help secure the world oil supply and prevent attacks on Israel. Not least, it guarded Suez Canal passage for 80% of world commercial traffic.

Those dollars and weapons have undoubtedly helped; Pres. Hosni Mubarak, whatever else, has cooperated to stem worldwide Islamic terrorism. But no person, no nation, likes dole, certainly not Egypt with its fabled history. So “anti-Americanism” is endemic.

But current idiocies include polling – which, of course, has been so accurate in the U.S.! Does that little lady with a clipboard asking questions in an authoritarian society with a secret police wear a burka? Are “Westernized” elites or illiterate subsistence farmers measured?

Poverty, insecurity and lifestyle.

Most Egyptians have no safety net beyond extended family, living with greater insecurity than Americans have known since the Civil War. With population doubling during Mubarak’s 30-year rule, a third now under 14, unemployment is staggering. [That’s why early demonstrators were mostly adolescents.] Egypt would have to generate 450,000 new jobs annually just to keep its current unemployment level.

Agriculture – less than 3% of land along the Nile is arable — desperately needs modernization. Even with the world’ best cotton, progress toward agroindustry as elsewhere in “the third world” has been slow. But farming employs one-third the workforce, including subsistence on three million holdings under five acres. Egypt, in Caesar’s time Rome’s granary, by 1980 was importing about three-fourths of its staple, wheat.

Mubarak has unwound nationalized industry slowly – often rewarding his fellow military. It was “collectivized” in the 1950s by army dictator Abdul Gamal Nasser, seduced by Moscow planners. Perhaps even more damaging, Nasser expelled ethnic communities – Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Italians – who for centuries had managed Egypt’s economy. [Still, today, Copts, Egypt’s indigenous Christian minority – perhaps as much as 15% – are disproportionately “wealthier”, an always threatening political timebomb.]

The politics of desperation

Government to government and UN aid has been irrelevant. Faced with staggering problems, the remnants of Egypt’s traditional elite and its new military recruits have ruled despotically. Still, Egypt’s purchasing power ranks around 25th in the world. And the Mubarak regime has managed growth of about 5% annually. Violence has already torpedoed that; for example, frightening off 13 million annual tourists bringing in $12 billion, supporting 10 million workers.

The totalitarian temptation

Egypt has been the fount of modern Islamic fundamentalist violence. Its Moslem Brotherhood, coalescing in the 1920s, advocates returning to medieval church-state organization based on a primitive Islam. Plotters from a Brotherhood offspring assassinated Pres. Anwar Sadat in 1981, an officer of peasant origin who broke off Nasser’s Soviet alliance, allied himself with Washington and made peace with Israel. Mubarak has walked in his footsteps, however hesitantly. No one is certain – because of off and on suppression – of Brotherhood strength. But it is the only significant political organization beyond Mubarak’s government hangerson – and the military. And although splintered – and without charismatic leadership of revolutionary Iran — its “magic formula”, “submission” to the Koran, to solve all social and economic problems, is as attractive as Communism and Fascism were to so many in the 1930s.