Tag Archives: Communism

Maybe a longer spoon, Mr. Obama


The proponents of trade wherever, whenever, whoever tell us that Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was taken aback at the reception he received this past week. For he was treated, at the State Dept., and elsewhere like a chief of government or state rather than the head of one of the most corrupt and repressive political organizations in the world.
The rationalization we are getting for all this pomp and circumstance was that fetting Phu Trong was throwing a little sand into Beijing’s eyes. The theory thereby being expounded was that with the continuing aggressive Chinese thrusts into the South China Sea – even a drilling rig in Hanoi’s claimed economic zone – Washington was demonstrating the growing tacit alliance with Vietnam as well as the other Southeast Asians against Beijing’s threatened aggression. Presidential candidate, then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called it the pivot to Asia which has creaked rather violently as the Mideast continues to enthrall the U.S. in its tortured problems.
Of course, the fact that Boeing – probably with the dying Ex-Im Bank’s help – has just made a big sale to the Vietnamese might explain more than either State Dept. Protocol officers. Pres. Obama turned up at State. [Sec. John Kerry who once testified against his fellow American soldiers in Vietnam, if in camouflage, at a Congressional hearing was too busy trying to make a deal with the Tehran Mullahs in Lausanne.]
Obama told the gathering at State that “[O]bviously, there has been a difficult history between our two countries in the 20th century.” That could go down as the understatement of the year; one would have hoped a speechwriter even at this White House might have chosen a more profound reference to “a difficult history” that cost more than 54,000 American and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives.
True, history marches as they say, and it is probably time to try to reach some sort of working relationship with Hanoi that fits into the current and future Asian and world geopolitical picture. Obama claimed “what we’ve seen is the emergence of a constructive relationship that is based on mutual respect, and that has benefitted the peoples of both countries.”
Maybe. But we are old enough to be uncomfortable with a former enemy who still shows every sign of not mending his ways. Persecution of the religious and all political opposition is still the way Phu Trong’s comrades run the Vietnam they reunited with force in 1975. Corruption is so rife foreign investors shy away from moving there even with the increasing flight from China because of rising costs and the same sort of difficulties as Vietnam presents. The $7 billion in remittances this year from the huge and relatively prosperous Vietnamese American community are a big part of keeping the whole gimcrackery afloat.
All in all, we think it’s best if the President – and those minions at State always willing to find diplomatic compromise – remember the old adage, “When supping with the devil …”
sws-07-09-15

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The Cool War Cometh II


There is presently about as much confusion as when the U.S. entered The Cold War against the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. But there are fundamental defining differences to what is likely to be an equally long and complex new struggle between the U.S., its allies and Moscow.

The two engagements do share one commonality: American leadership now as then has been slow to face up to the task before it. It’s far too easy now to forget just how many times Josef Stalin signaled his forthcoming unrelenting war on The West before democratic statesmen understood what they faced and mobilized to meet it. [And here, mea culpa. I admit shamefacedly as a young, idealistic, naïve student I wrote a U of Mo Jay School classroom harangue [alas! printed in the Columbia Missourian] denouncing Winston Churchill’s March 1946 “Sinews of Peace” speech, at nearby Westminster College. Back from our victorious however bloody war in Europe and Asia, I was sure like most that a new era of relations among nations had begun, that the old balance of power collisions were now a thing of the past. It was then, of course, the British statesmen who whatever his numerous strategic mistakes this time with great clarity defined the issues and coined the term “iron curtain”.]

Churchill knew that the word had gone out to Communist apparatchiks worldwide that the Soviets were grasping for world domination. Even now almost every month brings more evidence of the enormous influence of their coterie in the highest echelons of Western government and among intellectuals helping to disguise and confuse the issues. Yet it was at a time when Moscow was constantly revealing its hand. Whether it was the last minute snatching of Manchuria and northern Korea and Japan’s northern islands, the usurpation of the Polish government-in-exile, Moscow’s attempt to set up a new Azeri satellite in northwest Iran, an attempted Communist coup against still “unrecognized” Indonesian nationalists, Communist exploitation of an insurrection in India’s Hyderabad [Deccan] state, the revelations of penetration of the Australian Labor Party, the attempto install Communism in Greece — Stalin was pushing the Comintern’s envelope everywhere.

Only with the dramatic resolve – and what was ultimately to be the Soviet downfall, superior American technology – following the Berlin Airlift in 1948 was there a full awakening. Washington backed off Soviet efforts to force the U.S. and its Western partners out of bifurcated Berlin. Suddenly it became crystal clear to all and sundry that the struggle was joined and would have to be resolved only by the ultimate victory of one party or the other.

Even then, Henry Kissinger’s 1969-1980 “détente” [from the French “a relaxation”] again obscured the issues for a decade. It was not until the advent of Ronald Reagan and his clear-eyed identification of “the evil empire” with his matching tactics that Communism was met again head-on and defeated – as much from its own “internal contradictions”, as the Communists would have said, as outside pressure.

Lack of that Communist ideology or for that matter any ideology characterizes the current contest. Putin’s turn to an age-old amorphous appeal to romantic Slavic “exceptionalism” opposed to Western European humanism is a weak reed. Despite Putin’s labeling the implosion of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, Communism today has no appeal beyond Pyongyang’s traditional Oriental Despotism [into which Lenin warned Soviet rule might degenerate], an increasingly nominal adherence by an ideologically rudderless China, and the kleptocracy of Vietnam.

Putin is not only bereft of ideology, the Russian leader bluffs his way from move to move. But that is not to say he is not for the moment successful. Nor is to be forgotten how often Hitler in the 1930s was bluffing, but how often the feint was successful. From his 1936 “unilateral” remilitarization of the Rhineland in defiance of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties, when he told his anxious commanders they would withdraw if France opposed them militarily, Hitler bluffed. Nor was it clear to most at the time that his domination of Czechoslovakia by gnawing at it through Sudetenland. – “protecting’ German-speaking ethnics much as Putin claims he has done in Crimea and threatens in Ukraine proper – meant he was securing the best Skoda arms for another division to strike at Poland in September 1939, initiating World War II.

Putin, of course, is not Hitler. His jerrybuilt post-Communist economy is not the war machine 19th century delivered to the Kaiser in World War I, the model which so infatuated Lenin it was his template for designing the catastrophic Soviet economic experiment. And if for no other reason, although Putin has a gigantic nuclear arsenal, Russian conventional military forces do not remotely resemble Hitler’s wehrmacht. But Hillary Clinton was correct when her speechwriters said Putin’s grab of Crimea resembled the Nazi dictator’s  repeated claims on his neighbors’ territory through provocations. This time Putin, too, masked pure and simple aggression as ethnic conflict replete with hired thugs and Russian soldiers short of their insignia. As Polish columnist Konstanty Gebert. commented, apparently only half-seriously, “… the analogies are staggering to the point that I’m asking myself whether Mr. Putin’s speechwriter didn’t intentionally model elements of the speech [formally announcing Crimea’s annexation] on the more famous predecessor.”.

Furthermore, The Economist’s Andrew Lucas is absolutely right in condemning on moral terms the Western apologists for Putin, proferring whether we would have treated a former Gestapo figure with such “understanding” had postwar Germany retreated from democracy. An interviewer on government-subsidized National Public Radio [where else?] suggests a fundamental difference Communism and the Nazis: the Kremlin did not pursue a policy of annihilating one people, the Jews. [The Crimean Tatars, 200,000 killed with forced evacuation during World War II, and more murdered when they tried to return after the Soviet implosion, might take exception to even that supposed distinction.] But that is an all too familiar rationalization of the Western left for Moscow’s actions, a Russia where there has been only the slightest fundamental grappling with the horrors of Stalinism and the tens of millions killed by the Leninist regime. It is  a very fine distinction, indeed.

Again, unlike the Soviet Union which attempted autarky except in crises when it needed a capitalist transfusion [see Sanders’ Living Off the West: Gorbachev’s Secret Agenda and Why It Will Fail, Madison Books, 1990], Boris Yeltsin and then Putin’s Russia sought integration into world markets. That is Putin’s strength and his weakness. As by far the world’s greatest exporter of natural gas and the second largest oil producer [only recently has U.S. production risen to make it No. 1], the $160 billion Moscow earned from fossil fuel exports in 2012 is the critical element in its weak economy. The shale revolution initiated by American technology, again, offers abatement in the long run of European reliance on Russian gas. If only Pres. Barack Obama would drop his war on fossil fuels and speed up U.S. pipelines, LNG installations for fleets and exports! Note the call of several Central European countries publicly since the Ukraine crisis began for just such action. Instead, as so often happens with democracies, instead of dramatic, decisive action, Obama has chosen to scale up his economic weapons, thereby giving Putin that more time to accommodate.

True, there will be a price to pay for economic warfare to rock Putin’s boat, especially by our European allies. But there is no reason – given all that he has said publicly and his blatant action in Crimea – to believe that the old secret police thug is aiming at less than an attempted restitution of a Russian empire. Already there have been hints at exploiting other Russian ethnic minorities which exist in all the former Soviet “republics” that freed themselves from Moscow’s rule in the 90s, as he has done on the Black Sea.

Those who obscure the issue by either justifying Putin’s actions with such bogus arguments as Washington’s purported failure to accord Moscow a sufficient world role after the Soviet implosion, or wishful thinking that Putin may not continue to bluff his way to new victories to bolster his rickety regime, are doing world stability and peace a great disservice. Of course, there are complexities and cross-currents. But the fact is the world again is faced with an aggressor dedicated to territorial aggrandizement. And only standing up to the bullying effectively is the answer to maintain longterm peace as NATO, the most successful alliance in history has proved.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with more contact and knowledge of Putin than other Western leaders, has said he lives in “fantasy”. That U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Minister William Hague continually assure Putin — and us – that we are in a new era, absent 19th and 20th century national conflicts, suggests others too may have stumbled into a tangentially related “fantasy”.

sws-03-23-14

Does the U.S. have “a Muslim problem”?


For those who lived through the World War II prelude and the Cold War, the current American dilemma dealing with Islam is all too familiar. To the extent historical analogies are valid, countering Islamic radical infiltration resembles nothing so much as a century of struggle against Communism before the Soviet Union, as Lenin would have said, was consigned to history’s dustbin.

In the bitter climate of The Great Depression – for younger readers, do go to that marvelous reportage of John Steinbeck – reform was not only fashionable but critical. The movers and shakers were a strange lot, drawn from all parts of American society and all ideologies. An example was blossoming of the 30s trade union movement, as a veteran labor leader once told me, I think correctly, advanced by three factors: government [the New Deal’s Wagner Act], socialists and Communists [“community organizers” of those days].

As the years go by, us old reprobates are handed more and more proof of the incredible penetration of Moscow espionage. James Jesus Angleton, the intelligence community’s old Cold Warrior stalwart, may have been paranoid but, as the saying goes, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t persecuted. But, perhaps more importantly, the Cambridge University scandals dramatize as no other single episode widespread subversion of Western thought as well as institutions by Stalinists flying under two false flags of reform and anti-fascism.

Why is any of this relevant dealing with today’s Islamicist threat?

Muslim “moderates” and their apologists present Islam as another Abrahamic religion not all that different from Christianity or Judaism. [Do not the latters’ holy books, too, drip with blood and hatred?] The answer, not so simple but enough for this brief apologia: Islam never had its Renaissance, its Reformation, its Counter-Reformation, its haskala, its Enlightenment, its scientific revolution.

Meanwhile, by accident of history and geology, the industrial West has transferred vast resources to primitive Persian Gulf tribal societies. Just oil revenues alone of half a trillion dollars annually finances fanaticism – bereft of its civilizing Persian [Zoroastrian] and Indian [Hindu, Buddhist] agglomerations – to spread hatred with a “we-they” syndrome so virulent no Western psychiatrist could have imagined it. In effect, the West nurtures subversion of our civilization – as so often it helped the Soviets through Russian Communism’s many death defying crises.

Our problem, then, is not so simple as distinguishing between Islam as religion and a political creed. It would be no easier than earlier on sorting out Communist motivation from true “reformism” — or often simple naiveté. Distinguishing between Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s spot-on denunciations of Communist infiltration at the time was difficult when “McCarthyism”, the accusation of slander, was flung about, often, by partisans of Communists appearing before his inquisition that refused to identify their true beliefs and exploited his excesses.

That comes to mind now with charges from Muslim organizations, including unindicted co-conspirators aiding terrorists, who scream “Islamaphobia” when any attempt is made to ferret the real intent of those seeking to subvert US institutions. For those Muslims who take their cue from parts of the sunnah/hadith – sayings and activities of the prophet Mohammed – dissimulation is permitted when dealing with non-believers, even “People of the Book” [Christians and Jews]. It was so with Communists using Marxist “ethics” even against their “social fascist” [social democrat], sometime partners.

That’s why U.S. and state governments are in difficulty sorting out Islamicist tendencies. Much the same miasma as during the long fight against Communism, its state power and its influence as an ideology dogs the current scene. Prisons and the military have succumbed to fanatics posing as chaplains. Our most prestigious universities accept benefice from the Gulf states in exchange for defending their authoritarianism and obscurantism. Mosques and madrass [religious schools] are often financed and encadred by radical preachers sabotaging our values. Our crusaders [pun intended] for freedom of the internet inadvertently permit terrorist digital recruiting. To a degree, Ron Paul is right suggesting we have reaped a whirlwind we sowed – alas! but with petrodollars and technology transfer rather than the geopolitical offenses he and others pretend.

This has all, of course, been compounded by a President who — for example in his Cairo speech written and poorly researched by a very young man without knowledge of the 1400 years of Islam and eons of Mideast history – serves up misplaced sentiment, logic and politics to further befuddle an already critical issue.

sws-11-25-11

Is technology catching up with the Chinese Communists?


A continuing, often bitter, argument among “China hands” is over where the introduction of elements of market economy and attendant technology would take Communism “with Chinese characteristics”.

Just as two decades of remarkable Chinese economic successes has been exaggerated, Pollyannaish speculation argued economic development would bring greater freedom. Former Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, now claiming Chinese expertise, argues outside pressure cannot modify Beijing’s repression. But he holds out hope — as do many of his persuasion — economic progress will eventually bring a free society.

Another school has held economic development and technology is morally and politically “neutral”, as the successes of both the Nazi and Soviet regimes proved – at least temporarily. [The Nazis used vaunted German chemistry to develop a gas for efficient killing of Jews in the Auschwitz “showers”. And Stalinism sent man into space, suppressing all heavy missile launching losses.]

The Beijing regime’s successes after hundreds of rebellious students and workers were slaughtered at Tien An Mien square in 1989 has added weight to that hypothesis. For example, The Great Firewall of China, internet censorship – using at least 50,000 employees costing initially $800 million, along with “self-censorship”, the threat of imprisonment or worse — has stifled opposition.

But as so often happens, one event, sometimes relatively minor, can swerve history in new directions. We saw that when a Tunisian roadside fruit peddler’s self-immolation set off revolt throughout the Arab world. Surprisingly to most outside observers, Beijing feared contagion from Arab disturbances and launched a new crackdown. For example, in 2010 Beijing closed 1.3 million websites — almost halving the number.

Now comes the mid-August wreck of two new high-speed trains encapsulating what is happening culturally as well as in the economy and politics.

Having snookered Japanese, French and German train manufacturers into providing technology for vast high-speed rail network expansion, the Chinese had already tried to export trains. In the complex skein of globalized economy, there was a short-lived preposterous proposal to buy Chinese trains for California to be funded partly by Obama Administration’s stimulus funds. Foreign companies cried “foul”, arguing they were victims of all too common Chinese theft of intellectual property. And Japanese manufacturers formally abnegated responsibility for faulty Chinese manufacture and operation. Bottom line: the largely unexplained accident has dimmed hopes for high end exports needed to keep China’s boom going, now plagued with rising prices and worldwide competition from other low cost labor producers.

But the train accident unleashed far more. By standards of Chinese disasters, natural and man-made, it was small potatoes: officially 39 dead and 190 injured. Still some of China’s 457 million “netizens” [internet correspondents and bloggers] were quick to challenge official explanations one train had rammed into another immobilized by lightning. That kind of accident, Japanese developers of the first superfast trains were quick to point out, was impossible on their lines, virtually accident-free for three decades. And too many Chinese cellphone cameras recorded the wreck, government efforts to minimize the casualties, to bury wreckage and then – after protests — to uncover the same wreckage!

Quickly, too, bloggers ragged government’s dismissals of “responsible” railway officials – already under public accusations of corruption — when a replacement turned out to have been demoted after an earlier wreck. Then there was high comedy with outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jaibao who styles himself just a fuddydutty old Chinese grandfather arriving at disasters to console the mourners. This time he excused himself, ostensibly on doctor’s orders. But netizens quickly dug up video showing him buoyantly healthy, meeting a Japanese trade delegation only a day after the accident.

So loud has been the bloggers’ furor, official media reluctantly joined in — or as is common in intra-Party power struggles, were being used in the blame game, especially on the eve of next year’s planned generational changeover. An editorial in People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, called for an end to the country’s blind pursuit of “blood-smeared GDP”. That comes close to the jugular: Beijing’s two decades old economic-political strategy in pursuit of maximum growth to assuage the absence of abandoned Communist orthodoxy. What has been that successful strategy to meet demands of an impoverished population is already threatened by cutbacks in its chief motor, unlimited infrastructure expansion, in order to rein in incipient inflation.

Next chapter in China’s 5,000-year history may have begun.

sws-07-29-11

Famine season in North Korea


The probability of another government-induced and natural disaster famine in North Korea that took as many as two million or more lives in in a population of only about 20 million in the early 90s is now being predicted by the few observers permitted in the gulag country by the Pyongyang regime.  Former Pres. Jimmy Carter who proves that longevity may sometimes be a vice reported at least a third of the children were suffering from malnutrition. That has not been a secret with South Korean children, many of them from families of Northern origin in the exchanges during the Korean War, tower over their kinsmen by as much as a foot by adolescence.

Ccarter has called for a lifting of the embargoes on food shipments by the U.S., the South Koreans, and the Japanese. Were he only to put as much energy in fostering — a fat chance — a system of supervision in the ultra-Stalinist state to see that relief food shipments did not simply go to North Korea’s 1.2 million under arms and its massive diversion of resources to attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear.

But talk of famine reminds one of a recent ridiculous — if as esoteric as many of the letters exchanges in the TLS tend to be — argument over one of the recent books on the so-called secret Chinese famines during the Great Leap Forward of 1958-61.

Mao’s fantasy economic policies led to the death of at least 50 million people. But the TLS exchange is by the self-promoting author

http://web.mac.com/dikotter/Dikotter/Home.html

and a critic who has charged he has not consulted the proper Chinese Communist repeat Chinese Communist sources.

In the first place, of course, the whole concept of the famine being secret is in the eye of the beholder, in this case poor scholarship [and that is giving them the benefit of the doubt]. As a Hong Kong friend says, “Yes, secret, except to three and a half million Chinese in Hong Kong trying desperately to get food-parcels to their starving relatives on The Mainland”.

What is even more ridiculous about Dikotter and his “critics” is the complete ignoring of the fact that a small but determined band of China hands were at the time giving  full vent to catastrophe. Father Ladeslaw Ladony, SJ, the editor and publisher of the unique China News Analysis, Miriam and Ivan London

http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/people/data/ivan_d__london.html,

Prof. Richard “Dixie” Walker

http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/3704493,

and a few others.  [Dikotter has the temerity not to even list them in his bibliography.]  If their voices were not heard, it was because virtually the entire Academy band of Chinese “scholars”, with their Maoist predilections, led by John K. Fairbank of Harvard, were simply ignoring anything that did not fit their anti-anti-Communist religion. Most of the Maoistas who are still alive — some even heading prestigious institutions such as The Asia Society — have still not have their “Kronstadt” and repented publicly.

All of this to ask whether an oncoming North Korean famine will be reported in the MSM contemporaneously and in proportion to its calamity. Don’t count on it!

sws-05-06-11