Archive for the On War and Peace in the Mid East! Category

Barack Apologizes to the Afghans

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on March 13, 2012 by playthell
Outraged Afghans Grieving their Murdered Kinsmen

On American Exceptionalism and War Crimes

The slaughter of sixteen innocent Afghan men, women and children in their homes by an American soldier is but the latest atrocity committed against innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As I pointed out at the beginning of these conflicts, back when the Bushmen were preparing to invade Iraq, the nature of foreign occupying forces tasked with suppressing indigenous insurrections is certain to result in war crimes.  It is in the nature of the conflict; the elements come together in such a way as to insure that war crimes will result.

Just imagine the following scenario.   An armed Arab force occupies your town; most do not speak English; they know nothing of our culture, history, or religious beliefs – except that it is the enemy of their beliefs.  Imagine these people blocking off streets and arresting your family and friends without the safeguards provided by our Constitution. They sexually violate women and men, bomb sections of the city trying to kill insurgents while slaughtering scores of innocents: people at weddings, baby showers, just going about their business.

This is the situation our young people in the military have been thrust into.  Since they are widely hated by the Afghan people, who neither understand nor agree with US objectives in their country, many support the resistance forces against the American invaders who might not have supported them otherwise.  Indeed US actions are the best recruitment materials the Taliban and other Jihadists could wish for.  Yet most Americans remain clueless on these questions.

.If it had not been so tragic it would have been amusing to watch MSNBC the hard hitting newsman and talk show host Chris Matthews scratching his head, and asking with a ring of indignation, why there was so much outrage about the recent burning of Korans.  It shows how little even highly educated American journalists/pundits understand about Islamic culture….especially in the remote country of Afghanistan.

Hence for the soldier on the ground who is hopelessly confused about his mission, and cannot distinguish between ordinary civilians and armed insurgents, everybody begins to look like the enemy.  And since the insurgents used the tactics of surprise attack and remote controlled explosive devices, our soldier’s nerves are as tense as hair triggers.  In such a scenario the miracle is that we have not seen even more atrocities.

The soldier who committed this atrocity is a 38 year old Sargent who is married with three children.  He had already done three tours of duty in Iraq and was then employed to Afghanistan!  The reason he has served this outrageous number of combat at tours is because the Republicans who started these wars were too cowardly to reinstitute the draft.

They knew that drafting college students and children of the elite would have revived an Anti-war movement on the scale of the movement that stopped the Vietnam war.  From all appearances the soldier cracked under the stress of multiple combat deployments, and the real criminals are those who constantly ordered him on those hellish missions.

It ought to be clear that the war in Afghanistan is magnifying the danger to our national security.  The recent incidents such as pissing on the bodies of dead Afghan soldiers; burning the Korans, and now this wanton slaughter of innocents in their homes, including children, plus the Republican policy of no apologies for war crimes or assaults upon the culture, religion and family honor of Afghans has placed any possibility of victory beyond the pale.

Offering apologies is the least that President Obama should do as an act of contrition to the Afghan people and reduce the danger to our troops!  American Exceptionalism cannot include immunity from war crimes There is no sane choice but to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible and refrain from starting yet another war in the Muslim world…which the Republicans are itching to do!

 Mission Impossible?

                       Fuck Afghanistan: Bring them Home!!!!!!!
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Playthell Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 13, 2012

Barack Genuflects Before APAC

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by playthell

Barack Pledged to support Bibi in An Attack on Iran

 Is it De Ja Vu Again?  Notes on the Road to War

I have never witnessed a more blatant example of the arrogance of power than the Israeli/American ultimatum to Iran.  Driven by the imperatives of domestic politics in both countries, the terms of this ultimatum were stated in no uncertain terms by President Obama in his speech before the powerful Jewish organization, APAC….and it was a de-facto declaration of war.  “When the chips are down I have Israel’s back!” declared the president.

Barack went on to say he was not interested in containing a nuclear armed Iran; his policy is to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon.   He said all options are on the table; including the full range of our nation’s diplomatic, economic and military resources.  He also said “I will not hesitate to use force to defend American interests.”  Thus the die is cast, and the saber rattling is approaching the decibel level before Bush’s march of folly in Iraq.

On the face of it the demand that Iran cease its nuclear research and development is both hypocritical and an insult to their national dignity.  It ignores Iranian national security interests on the one hand, and tells them in no uncertain terms that they are a second rate nation who will not be allowed to exercise the privileges that the US and Israel consider their natural right as sovereign nations.  No matter what kind of self-righteous preachment or diplomatic mumbo jumbo the US and Israeli governments employ to make their case in the court of public opinion, this is what it boils down to.

It is the height of duplicity for the US and Israel to have a hissy fit about the possibility that the Iranians are building a nuclear weapon when Israel has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the Arabs and Iranians in a fortnight.  And what’s more, the Israelis are already waging a covert war against Iran with American assistance. Although they are rarely reported because they are secret, these are real acts of war nonetheless!

They have assassinated several Iranian nuclear scientists in daring James Bond type hits that everyone who pays attention to these matters knows could only have been pulled off by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.   And the fact that it Furthermore, CBS Sixty Minutes recently did an in-depth report detailing how a brilliantly designed computer virus blew up an Iranian nuclear reactor.  The report featured an international group of distinguished computer scientists who specialize in cyber security, and they concluded the diabolical virus was almost certainly designed by US and Israeli intelligence agencies.

The urgent question for all Americans is whether a war with Iran will serve American interests.  This is an extremely complex question.  The consequences of such a war will have to be considered from the perspectives of foreign relations and domestic policy in order to grasp the full picture.  In terms of foreign relations the immediate consequences include several possibilities.

The most immediate consequence would be the disruption of the flow of oil and a dramatic rise in the price of gas and other petroleum based products.  This would arrest the progress of our economic recovery, which is already fragile and constructed on a shaky foundation.  Tranquility, not chaos, is what is needed in the Middle East.

The Iranians will surely resist, and they will be assisted by their well-armed Shite brethren in Iraq, whom the US put in power as a result of George II’s misbegotten military adventure there.  And they are armed with the latest American weaponry – thanks to US military assistance.  Furthermore Iran is reaching out to Islamic theocrats in an ecumenical manner, putting aside internal theological disputes in order to form a unified front against the “Great Satin” i.e. the USA, which has emerged as the foremost enemy of Islam.

Despite the efforts of those actually tasked with conducting US foreign policy to characterize American waged wars in Muslim countries political…the Jihadists insist that the US is at war with Islam!   And the leading Republican candidates for their party’s presidential nomination are doing their best to convince the moderates in the Muslim world that most Americans also believe they are in a war against Islam.

The Iranian Regime recently hosted a conference of militant Islamist, and Muslims of many stripes from all over the world were present.  There could be no greater catalyst for the rapid development of a new militant Pan-Islamic movement than a joint American/Israeli invasion of Iran.  The invasion would also imperil the stability of the remaining pro-American leaders in the region; who would be trapped between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

If they support the US they will be facing overthrow by the populace, and if they don’t support the US they will face the wrath of the US people and their representatives in Congress, who appropriate foreign aid.   And at the moment the Congress is in the hands of right-wing Republicans; impassioned Christian soldiers who act as if they are ready to wage war with the entire Islamic world at once.   Needless to say, it does not require a gift for prophecy to predict that this will be a real mess!

The Islamic world is in upheaval, old regimes are being overthrown and forces set in motion by an American/Israeli invasion will result in the fall of even more regimes.  No one can predict what new leadership structures or institutions of government will emerge from this turmoil.

Yet it is enough to know that there is a strong, organized, Islamic element among the rebels in each of these populist uprisings to recognize the danger they pose.  In every country the secular democratic forces fighting to modernize their nation, so they can compete in the 21st century, are already at a disadvantage.

The secular Democrats are promoting values that are highly prized only by the educated elite – many of whom have spent time living in western democracies – thus their core concepts are alien and poorly understood by the masses of their people.  I warned that the Islamist could seize control of the revolt in Egypt – while the cheerleaders in the west assured us the Muslim Brotherhood was passé and impotent and other Islamists without much influence – and it has come to pass.  I remembered something the other pundits seemed to forget.  The overthrow of the Iranian Shah was also engineered by secular intellectuals; but the theocrats quickly took control, executed many of the secularists, and established Sharia Law.

Alas, a cry for war is rising from much of the commentariat in commercial media.  It is manufacturing a pro-war hysteria among the public. People like Joe Scarborough who host MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” – a charming sophist whose claim to fame is that he looks like the old cowboy movie star John Wayne – are cheering the President’s militant stance, although he has been damming Barack for not pulling all American troops from Afghanistan.  Joe practically called for the dismissal of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he said “Iran is a rational actor in international affairs.”

The General’s intention was to quell the crazy narrative spun by hysterical warmongers who are painting the Iranian leadership as madmen willing to commit national suicide by launching a nuclear attack against Israel.  There is absolutely no evidence to support such a conclusion; I believe the US is far more likely to commit national suicide over Israel than Iran committing suicide over the Palestinians!  The attempt to paint the Iranian regime as irrational and therefore a danger to US interests is a transparent move to politicize intelligence regarding the threat from Iran in order to justify a “preemptive attack.”

This is the same path that led to war in Vietnam and Iraq, two nations that had also committed no offense against the US.   Yet we squandered massive amounts of American blood and treasure there, while maiming or killing millions of innocent bystanders.   Alas forces that lead to war have already been set in motion.

The momentum of events may well overwhelm President Obama’s resistance and we shall soon find ourselves in yet another major war with a Muslim country.   Indeed, if the Israeli’s decide to attack Iran, President Obama could find himself in the same predicament as Abe Lincoln when he reflected on the consequences of the Civil War and exclaimed: “Clearly I have not controlled events…but events have controlled me.”  It’s De Ja Vu all over again!

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 9, 2012

 

The Case For Palestinian Statehood

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , , on September 24, 2011 by playthell

 Bright Moments: Mahmoud Rappin with Barack

 

He told “a round unvarnished tale”

For those with any understanding of the facts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, President Obama’s speech before the United Nations on Wednesday was an embarrassment.  And for Americans of conscience who value truth, freedom and justice it was shameful if not sinful.

In the President’s speech only the security concerns of the Israeli’s was discussed; a nation with one of the world’s top military establishments armed with the most advanced weaponry and a nuclear arsenal larger than Great Britain’s.  It was left therefore to President Mahmoud Abbas to present the counter-narrative, to tell the Palestinian side of the story.  And, like Othello, what a round unvarnished tale he told.

Those Americans who took the time to watch the speech on CNN got an extremely rare opportunity to hear the Palestinian case presented unfiltered by an American media that is openly biased in favor of Israel; in fact most of their copy sounds as if it was written in the Israeli embassy.   Hence for many Americans President Abbas must sound like a man from Mars.  For the picture he painted so vividly is one of a victimized people; a people whose lands and wealth was plundered by foreign invaders.

He told how the Palestinian people are the victims of colonial/settlers, the European and American Zionist, who disposssed them of their lands, instituted a racist Apartheid system, and in spite of 60 years of resolutions and agreements, many of which originated in agreements supervised by the UN, the Palestinian people continue languish under Israeli military occupation and are forced to stand idly by as Israeli settlers,  Zionist Jews from all over the world, continue to gobble up Palestinian lands by building new settlements and carving up their territory with “security walls.”

It sounded as if Mahmoud and Barack were talking about two different worlds; as if the situation looked different ways on different days.  The narratives are so radically different that there seems little reason to hope that a catastrophe can be avoided in the Middle-East.  Thus while the American President spouted nonsense, putting forth an argument that can only make sense if viewed from the imperatives of an American domestic politics dominated by the Israel Lobby, arguing that there is no road to Palestinian Statehood except through bilateral negotiations with an intransigent Israeli government, Mahmoud Abbas took his case to the United Nations General Assembly and asked the world to recognize their inherent right to a national existence as a sovereign people with all the rights and privileges that are accorded independent nations.

His overview of the crisis beginning with the founding of the Zionist state of Israel in Palestine was heart rending, a damming case of conquest, colonial occupation, and racial apartheid.  By the time Mr. Abbas announced his intention to apply for membership, proudly holding up the document for the assembly to see, the wildly applauding crowd stood in ovation.  As far as I can see, only the American and Israeli delegations remained quiet.  Thus we can clearly see the intractability of the crisis in the Middle East.

If the response of Richard Hass, Editor of Foreign Affairs, one of Americas most distinguished journals devoted to international relations, is any measure things look grim indeed. Mr. Hass, who is widely regarded as one of our nation’s most knowledgeable and prescient foreign policy analyst, expressed disappointment with Mr. Abbas’s speech and assured us that while it inspired ovations in the UN General Assembly, and will inspire cheers on the West Bank and Gaza: It would only harden the Israeli resolve to maintain the status quo. And he appeared to think this was a reasonable stance.

I see it differently; it is a course of action that can only swell the ranks of the Jihadist all over the Middle East.  There is no question that this will happen, because that is how mass transformative movements work.  Of the many factors that contribute to the growth of a movement the most potent factor is the presence of a clearly identified enemy. And that means real trouble for the US, since we are regarded as Israel’s enabler in the region.

Not long after President Abbas ended his triumphant speech, the Israeli Prime Minister took the stage and presented yet another narrative in which Israel is the victim and the Arabs are the dangerous ones.  He skillfully painted a picture of a beleaguered Jewish homeland besieged by crazy murderous Muslims.  I say Muslims because his attacks were not confined to the Arabs, aside from the Jihadists his greatest invective was reserved for Iran, which is Persian.

And  the Israeli Prime Minister willfully misrepresented some critical facts. The worst of which is to suggest that Iran, a Shiite nation, would give a nuclear weapon to Sunni Jihadist; it is a claim that defies history and denies present realities.  But it is a great ploy to rile up a millions of Americans who are already dwelling on the verge of anti-Muslim hysteria.

Yet at the end of the speechifying, I had the funny feeling that all three political actors were playing to audiences that were not present in the General Assembly.  They are all tightrope walkers who must delicately balance their performance to appeal to several audiences.  I believe that, if left to their own devices, these three rational and skilled statesmen could work out a deal.  But if they wish to survive in their high office each of them must do the bidding of constituencies that are irrational, and if their hopes and dreams are not addressed they may do no telling what.

In President Obama’s case, failure to veto the Palestinian resolution would make him political enemy #1 to the Israel Lobby and Christian Zionist.  The President cannot afford to make such powerful enemies just now; not at a time when he is conducting three wars abroad and trying to devise a cure for the protracted crisis in American capitalism.

And the situation threatens to get worse in an economy with recession level unemployment.  Furthermore he has the bizarre problem of trying to raise his approval rating among the Israeli populace; lest they give the order to the Israel Lobby and Christian soldiers of Zion the order to ice him – a call that would energize and mobilize their troops against the President’s reelection.

Prime Minister Netanyahu sent the President a strong message when he came to Washington recently and addressed a joint-session of Congress and got 18 standing ovations – more than the President got on his last State of the Union Address!  The not so subtle message was: “I own your Congress Mr. President!”   As sad as the situation is, it is nonetheless true that a failure to veto the Palestinian proposal was tantamount to committing political suicide!

Since politics is the art of the possible and I am a political animal, I fully support the President’s decision to veto the Palestinian proposal in the spirit of a circus performer who holds his nose and kisses a skunk because that’s what the script calls for!  It is, by far, a lesser evil than a Republican victory in the 2012 election.  If Mahmoud Abbas thinks that the Palestinian people will ever have a better friend in the White House than Barack Obama he is delusional.

That’s why, in spite of the undeniable righteousness of his cause, Mr. Abbas may well have injured that cause by not acceding  to the President’s request to delay his proposal for statehood a while longer so that he can try to work other options.  An American veto of this proposal will almost certainly strengthen Hamas, Mr. Abbas’ nemesis, as well as swell the ranks of Jihadists, who are the avowed enemies of secular democratic leaders like Mr. Abbas.  But once the independence motion became an option, there is no way he could have withdrawn it.  That would surely have finished him with the cheering crowd massed in Ramallah.

Ironically, Bibi Netanyahu may have won this test of wills with Barack Obama, but he imperiled the security of Israel in doing so.  It was a pyrrhic victory and Netanyahu is too smart not to know it.  Hopelessness spawned from long standing injustice is the incubator of terrorist!  Simply because justice too long delayed becomes justice denied and in such situations the oppressed will resist by any means at their disposal including suicide bombers!

Yet Bibi must bow to the will of his Likud Party – which an article in the September 23 New York Times describes as “a governing coalition dominated by right-wing and religious parties” – or face a revolt from right wing fanatics that could bring down his government Mucho Pronto.

Alas, there are positions Bibi must take in deference to the realities of Israeli politics even if he thinks he has better options.  That’s the fundamental problem with courting unthinking fanatics who operate from an irrational perspective…such as religious dogma.  We can see that the Israeli Prime Minister is concerned about the optics of their intransigence; it explains his impassioned plea for Mahmoud to return to the bargaining table…and his surprising offer to conduct the talks right here in New York right now.

However his refusal to address the issue of expanding settlements his peripatetic rant, suggest that his overtures were purely cosmetic. In the end it appears that we are witnessing a real life drama that combines elements of classical tragedy, Shakespearean intrigues and a post-modern theater of the absurd!  Only one thing is certain:  unless these three leaders can find a way to elevate reason, courage and integrity over the imperatives of political survival, an unspeakable catastrophe looms on the horizon.

Barack and Bibi: Who’s the Boss?

Is the tail wagging the dog here?

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 24, 2011

Man on a Tight Rope!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on September 22, 2011 by playthell
  Speaking before the General Assembly

 

On the contradictions of War, Peace and Freedom

It was a herculean task the President undertook when he addressed the United Nations this morning.  He had come to celebrate the virtues of human freedom and the unique role the UN must play in promoting the freedom and welfare of all peoples.  His central challenge was to craft a speech that would sound convincing to a room full of seasoned and somewhat cynical diplomats; all of whom were aware that he has vowed to veto the Palestinian people’s petition for national recognition before that same august body on Friday.

Yet there is no one who deserves the intervention of the United Nations more than the long suffering Palestinians.  Since everybody present knew that the Israeli’s would collapse without the agency of the United States, President Obama was viewed as a shameless hypocrite by many of the delegates in the hall before he ever opened his mouth.  As much as I believe in the power of great oratory, and Barack is a verbal virtuoso of the first order, I couldn’t imagine how he could possibly pull it off.

I was saved from despair only because I had already witnessed him weave irresolvable contradictions into a convincing polemic when he defended war in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Barack has a brilliant mind that can grasp the complexities of things, and the eloquence to explain them in poetic language.  These gifts were never more finely displayed than on this occasion, especially in his impressive grasp of the great issues that define the human condition at the beginning of the 21st century.

The Speech was a celebration of cherished American ideals designed to appeal to reasonable people everywhere.  But most Arabs are in no mood to be reasonable: especially the Palestinians.  Alas, they have been more than reasonable for decades now to no avail.

The President was at his best recounting the march of freedom in the world since his last speech before them, and the role the UN played in facilitating that march with full US support.  Unfortunately, the narrative of the Israeli/Arab conflict offered up by the President was a burlesque on serious historical analysis.  To listen to him tell it one would think that it was the Palestinians who came from Europe and invaded Jewish lands, dispossessed them of their country by brute force and now seeks to deny their national identity after 60 years of struggle – forcing them to live in wretched refugee camps abroad and under military occupation on their native soil.

Barack’s message to the Palestinians was not to petition for UN recognition because the US will veto it; their only option is to return to the negotiating table with Bebe Netanyahu, the arrogant Israeli leader who has all but told the American President to fuck off!  Although he heaped praises upon his head after he dissed the Palestinians in his UN speech. Dr. Ziebniew Brzezinski, a former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and one of America’s most able foreign policy analysts, recently called Netanyahu’s hard line position on the Palestinians “Suicidal!”  And this is a man who was an architect of the Israeli / Egyptian peace accord, which is the most important diplomatic achievement in the region since the 1948 UN resolution that created the state of Israel.

Hence despite the president’s soaring eloquence and impressive intellect, his proposal was ludicrous.   Stuff like that might play well in Washington, Tel Aviv and the 9th Congressional District of New York; but judging by the immediate rejection of the President’s proposal by  Palestinian representatives, it appears his recommendation will go over like a lead balloon in the Arab World.

The only hope of averting a diplomatic disaster of historic proportions is for President Obama to work out a deal with the Israelis and Palestinians before President Abbas speaks to the UN General Assembly on Friday. Should he fail to cut a deal, and the US vetoes the Palestinian petition, I suspect the armed insurgents of the “Arab Spring” will greet his decision as a callous betrayal; Al Qaeda will welcome it as a gift from Allah, and the Iranians will reference it as irrefutable evidence of their charge that US presidents are slaves to the Israel lobby!

 What the future Holds for the Mid-East

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 21, 2011

 

 

Nowhere to Run…Nowhere to Hide!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 20, 2011 by playthell

 Barack at the Wailing Wall

On Israel, the Arabs and American National Interests

The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will petition the United Nations for admission in a speech before the General Assembly on Friday.  The problem is that only nation states are admitted to the Assembly.  Hence recognition of the Palestinian Authority is tantamount to acknowledging their claim to national sovereignty; which the Israeli’s vociferously oppose and the US government has vowed to veto.

According to the Chief UN Envoy of the Palestinian Authority, Rashid Areikat, their resolution “will talk about the Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. It will call for two-state solution, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. And I believe it will also emphasize the need for negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues.” If the Palestinian resolution is put to a vote and the US stands alone with Israel, it will have disastrous consequences for U.S. National interest and security.

Anyone who has been closely following the populist upheavals in the Middle East understands that these revolts could take several directions; some good for the US and others spell real trouble.  Since the root of our conflict with the Arab world is the US government’s uncritical support for Israel, no matter what they do, the spectacle of America vetoing the Palestinian petition for diplomatic recognition will surely inflame anti-American passions throughout an instable Arab world experiencing cataclysmic political change, and serve as recruiting posters for the Jihadists.  While simultaneously promoting cynicism among middle class cosmopolitan intellectuals who are tasked with winning the hearts and minds of the “Arab masses” for a liberal western style democracy, as opposed to militant Islamic theocracies!

 The paramount objectives of US policy in the region is to keep the oil supply flowing at a cheap price and defeating the militant Islamic Jihadists; hence a veto of the Palestinian petition is manifestly against the national interests of the United States.  Why then is our government pursuing this self-destructive policy?  Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of Harvard and University of Chicago offer the most plausible explanation for this transparent folly in their seminal study, The Israel Lobby: 

The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?”  The professors’ conclusions are unambiguous: “…the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’.

The power of that lobby was made clear to President Obama when long-time democratic warhorse “Crazy Eddie” Koch helped elect a right-wing pro-Zionist Republican in the 9th Congressional Ward; which Democrats have controlled for nearly a century!  Thus the President is faced with a policy conundrum and moral dilemma: Should he stand on the principle of equal justice he has proclaimed in supporting military action against Khadafy and denouncing tyranny throughout the Muslim world, or bow to domestic political realities.

On the one had President Obama’s moral authority will be enhanced with the emerging leadership of the Arab world, propelled forward by the tectonic forces unleashed by the Arab Spring.  But should he choose the morally duplicitous position of chastisimg Arabs, but turning a blind eye to Israeli transgressions  in order to appease Israel Lobby in the US, it will destroy his credibility with the Arab masses and also alienate much of the intelligentsia.

Alas, our President will not only have destroyed the credibility of his administration to act as honest broker in the protracted Arab/Israeli conflict, but will also make the task of those forces fighting to establish secular democracies in the Arab world infinitely harder.  Thus the President is literally trapped between The Devil and the deep blue sea, and there is no easy way out of this moral dilemma and political quagmire.

The confederacy of charlatans who are campaigning for the Party’s presidential nomination, are clearly prepared to genuflect before the Israel Lobby, and in doing so they are also appealing to a wide swath of the Christian right, millions of whom are evangelical “Christian Zionists,” fanatical closet anti-Semites who care not a whit about the Jews but love Israel because they see its emergence as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. As for the Jews – such as the Ortodox crowd Sick Rick was with when he denounced the Presidents’s middle East policy as “arogant and dangerous -” well…if they don’t convert to Christianity before the Rapture their fundamentalist Christian allies believe they are gonna all burn in the eternal fires of hell for refusing to accept Jesus as the Messiah!

That’s the crazy crowd that Sick Slick Rick Perry was really giving a shout out to when he was pandering to his Zionist boosters  in New York today; spouting simple minded demagogic attacks on the President’s effort to develop a Middle East policy that would bring some sense of coherence and justice to American diplomacy in the region.  In a classic case of shortsightedness, Zionist zealots among the American Jewish leadership have  entered into a Faustian Bargain with Christian Zionist crackpots, such as those who surround Rick Perry,  who even the Israsli Mosaad are worried about.

This is because these American Christian zealots - motivated by visions of armmageddon and inspired by “End Time” theology - encourage the most fanatical elements of the Israeli population,  The intelligence professionals fear that they may provoke some atrocity against the Arabs that will cause the entire Muslim world to declare Jihad against Israel; thus propelling a local conflict with the Arabs into a war with a billion Muslims around the world!   All eyes  will be watching to see what policy the President will pursue; if he will really veto Mahmoud Abbas’s rather modest and imminently reasonable proposal, even as the rest of the world stands with the Palestinian People.  And none will be paying closer attention than those on the Arab street!

 Mahmoud Abbas will plead the cause of the Palestinian people

 

A reasonable Man at the end of his rope

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 Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September, 20, 2011

 

Sleeping In the Same Bed Dreaming Different Dreams?

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on September 4, 2011 by playthell

 Islamist celebrating Victory

Secular Democracy, Islamic Theocracy or Chaos?

As I pointed out in a previous commentary on Libya, “After the fall of Khadafy…What Next,” all mass movements are segmented into factions based on ideological differences.  These factions can be graded on a continuum from right to left: Radicals, liberals and conservatives.  This is true despite the fact that they all agree on the basic objective of the movement.  In this case the unifying objective is the overthrow of megalomaniacal tyrant Mummar Khadafy.

Yet as we get a closer look at the composition of the rebel forces we see that there are deep divisions based not only on ideology but also class, ethnicity, regionalism and theocrats vs. secularist.  At this point it is not at all clear just how profound the divisions are or whether there exist a leadership structure that can unify these disparate factions under the banner of Libyan nationalism.

If they cannot things will fall apart and, like Iraq, the ensuing chaos will be such a nightmare many Libyans will view the Khadafy regime as “the good old days.”  There are several critical contradictions coming to the fore with the fall of the ruling clique that has governed Libya for nearly half a century.  For instance the shallowness of national identity is beginning to manifest itself in the squabbling between the different armed groups who are vying for supremacy in terms of who shall have command of the unified armed forces of the new regime.  With reports of different factions marking off their territory by spray painting graffiti on walls, they look far more like criminal street gangs than members of a serious disciplined revolutionary movement

The normal problem of dealing with antagonistic factions in mass transformative  movements is magnified by the nature of the movement that overthrew the old order in Libya.  Unlike the great revolutionary movements we witnessed in the 20th century, which had strong vanguard parties guided by comprehensive ideologies that defined their objectives and a unified command over the military; the uprisings in the “Arab Spring” have no central leadership structure, no clear cut ideologies and are largely directed by dissidents using social media to direct the spontaneous combustion of the masses.  Hence, from the evidence I’m seeing, nobody is really in charge here so we have no way of predicting what course events will take.  And the fact that Khadafy is still at large and threatening to wage a clandestine counter-struggle further complicates and confuses the situation on the ground.

By virtue of the unique relationship between the army and the people in Egypt, the military was entrusted to maintain order and steward the nation into a new era.  The army that formerly served Honsi Mubarak has now sided with the rebels and arrested Mubarak, who will soon be put on trial for his crimes against the Egyptian people. This was a radically different outcome from previous popular movements that overthrew national governments.  It is a function of the fact that the movement had no established leadership and no clear vision of the new order they wanted to create.  If the Chinese revolution had taken such a course we would be witnessing endless chaos now, given the size and diversity of China.

However the movement that transformed China was a scientific affair artfully directed by the brilliant theoretician Mao Tse Tung, the greatest mass leader of the 20th century…if not in world history.  He certainly gets my vote.  Viewed in retrospect from the vantage point of the mass uprisings in the Arab world the Chinese Revolution is even more awe inspiring when you consider the vastness of the country, the many millions of people, and that they had no telephones, cell phones, computers, internet, social media, television or radio.  They communicated their complex ideology through written pamphlets and face to face recruiting.

We can see how this was accomplished through the voluminous writings of Chairman Mao, the supreme leader of the Chinese Communist Party.  In his three volume Magnum Opus “On Protracted Warfare,” and shorter works like “On Contradiction” and “On Practice” we see the blueprint for a scientific approach to revolution that was also successfully applied by the Vietnamese.

Of course they made necessary alterations to fit the particular conditions of Vietnam; Just as Mao had adapted Marxism/Leninism from the Russian experience to the special circumstances of China.  However these revolutionary movements took a generation or more to build!  As such they organized, mobilized and directed the entire society toward clearly defined objectives.  It is no wonder the Chinese people dubbed Mao “The Great Helmsman.”

 Chairman Mao

 

Father of the Military Science of Protracted Peoples War

In his seminal text on the role the CIA played in the evolution of American involvement in trying to suppress the Vietnamese revolution, “Dangerous Deceits,” former CIA agent Ralph McGhee provides us a first-hand account of the elaborate organization of the Asian liberation movements directed by Communist parties based on the Chinese model.  He shows how every identifiable social grouping was organized – workers, peasants, teachers, etc. – and explains that it was the American insistence on defining the Communist as a fringe element with “politicized intelligence” rather than the true representatives of the people that led us into a protracted people’s war in Vietnam and ultimately a humiliating defeat.  This grass roots organization by a disciplined revolutionary political party also accounts for the orderly governance of society after the war ended.  The long period of organization and struggle prepared the revolutionaries to govern.

This is a critical element that’s missing in the rebellions of the “Arab Spring” and in the case of Libya, a highly tribal society, it could prove disastrous!  A comprehensive report from the front lines in the August 31, New York Times, “Tripoli Divided As Rebels Jostle Over Leadership,”  points out the complexity of the problem.  “Rebels from the western mountains, the mid-coastal city of Misurata and the eastern city of Benghazi each fought independently, and often rolled their eyes in condescension at one another…Tripoli has become an early test of the revolution’s ability to bridge those divisions because in contrast to other Libyan cities liberated by their own residents, colonel Qaddafi was ousted from Tripoli by brigades from other regions, and most remain in the streets.”

When the Tripoli Brigade, which has five battalions and is the largest and best equipped of the rebel forces, chose Alamin Belhaj to lead the unified military forces – the Tripoli Military Council, which commands 8000 troops and is the largest of the rebel military formations – ideological divisions among the rebels quickly came to the fore.  The main objections to Belhaj is that he had been one of the leaders of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group, which tried to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi during the 1990’s and failed.  This organization has been known to have ties with Al Qaeda and is actually classified as a “terrorist organization” by the US government.

Hence many of the secularist who envision a liberal democracy as the ideal society for the new Post Qaddafi Libya view him with suspicion; a stalking horse for a takeover of the revolution by Islamic zealots.  And the fact that the Tripoli Brigade is largely trained and equipped by the government of Qatar, which also finances the Arabic news service Al Jazeera, feeds the suspicion that they are sponsoring “Muslim Extremism” in Libya.  One member of the Transitional Council – the civilian organization tasked with establishing a post Qaddafi government – reported “The revolutionary fighters are extremely unhappy and surprised.”   He said of Belhaj: “He is the commander of nothing!”

The danger of Islamic Jihadists subverting the popular movements for democracy into a movement to establish an Islamic theocracy under Sharia Law is a constant theme in my commentaries on the so called “Arab Spring.”  And that danger is clearly present in Libya.  The reason for this is that in a popular movement all elements that are opposed to the ruling elite are welcomed into the mass struggle.  But those factions that have superior organization and clear ideological objectives will eventually emerge as the dominant force.  That’s why when communist or Jihadist become part of a coalition they will eventually take it over.

They cannot accord equal weight to other ideas the way liberal democrats are inclined to do because their ideologies are absolutist.  The Communist views their ideology as “scientific,” which means that like chemistry, it’s formulas for change is universally true.  And the Muslims believe that their theology is the “word of God” which by definition is true for all times, places and peoples.

Hence the fear of a Jihadist takeover of the popular movement in Libya is justified by their history and present actions – I will explore their worldview in a forthcoming commentary.  The recent assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younes, who was the supreme commander of the rebel forces in Benghazi, a major theater of conflict, is a case in point.

Although the perpetrators of the murder remain a mystery it is widely believed among secular liberals in the rebellion that it was Islamist forces extracting revenge for the role the general played in suppressing them under Qaddafi.   As flags displaying the star and Crescent increasing unfurl, the Islamic zealots are beginning to openly assert themselves as the popular movement gets closer to taking power.

For instance, as the rebels debate about who should lead the military forces Alamin Belhaj, who is both a member of the secular/liberal dominated Transitional Council from Tripoli and a leader of the long suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, argues that the Islamist factions are best qualified to lead because they will be most effective at disarming the freelance groups running around with military weapons.

 Rebel Military Commander: Alamin Belhaj

 A Closet Islamist?

“They trust us more” says Mr. Belhaj, who argues that the street warriors are afraid that if they give up their guns the fruits of the revolution will be stolen by the rich westernized Libyans, many of whom are expatriates returning from exile in western countries.  This is a recurrent phenomenon in third world countries ruled by dictators where the educated or “westernized” elites fled the country for exile in the liberal democracies of the west, but returned to help rebuild the country after the fall of the tyrant.  It is a special problem in Muslim countries where militant Islamist are playing a major role in the new leadership.  We witnessed this in Iran, where many of the intellectuals in exile helped to overthrow the Shah and put Ayatollah Homeni in power and were then executed when the Mullahs took over.

My former colleague at the University of Massachusetts, Cherif Guellal, who had been a member of the Central Committee of the FLN during the bloody Algerian Revolution, told me very similar stories about the antagonism and suspicions toward western trained intellectuals after they took power.  The irony is that it is the western educated intellectuals who led the revolution.  The central theoretician of the Algerian revolution was the black Martinican Psychiatrist Franz Fanon, who was trained in France.

As a modern man committed to rationalism and science he had warned about the dangers of establishing an Islamic theocracy in the twentieth century in his famous essay “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness.”  Cherif once told me cynically “If you knew how to sign your name it was cause for suspicion by many of the fellahin guerillas.”

Dr. Franz Fanon

An implaccable foe of the Islamcist 

Cherif could sign his name in five languages and he was soon driven into exile; the memory of his close friend and revolutionary comrade Franz Fanon, who had died of cancer on the cusp of victory, was systematically eradicated from the memory of the nation.   And there has been a bloody protracted struggle between the secular and Islamic forces ever since.

That’s why it is a risky business for the US government to support the rebels that are overthrowing the established regimes in the Arab world headed by secular military strong men, even though they are all despicable tyrants who suppress the popular will of their people and fleece the nation of its treasure.  While the US cannot afford to be on the wrong side of history defending tyrants against a historic popular movement that is transforming the Arab world,  thus far history demonstrates that when the tyrants  fall the Islamist rise.  I fear that we may be witnessing a similar scenario developing in Libya, because all evidence suggest the rebels are sleeping in the same bed …but dreaming different dreams.

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September 7, 2011

After Kaddafi Falls…What Next?

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on August 24, 2011 by playthell

 The Triumphant Rebels burn Kaddafi’s Image and his Green Book!

Can the Emerging Coalition Govern Democratically?

Although I understood and sympathized with the Libyan people’s grievances – which gave impetus to the mass movement that is sweeping away the dictatorial Gadhafi regime – early on, I am not among those who are convinced that a secular democracy will emerge in the aftermath.  Since there is no institutional or ideological basis for such a development, chances are this will prove to be wishful thinking.  Libya is a largely tribal society that was traditionally ruled by sheiks and chiefs who view the world from an Islamic perspective – which means their heads are stuck in the Middle-Ages.

These people entered the modern world through anti-democratic European colonial rule, where the people had no say in governing the country, and they transitioned to autocratic rule under police state conditions in which the practice of pluralistic politics with competing parties was forbidden.  That has been their history during the entire post-independence period.  Therefore the critical question is: On what foundation is a modern secular democracy to be built?

The nature of violent revolutionary change creates the conditions for the rise of a dictatorship in the immediate aftermath of the conflict.  The revolutionary movement destroys existing institutions of authority in the process of seizing power, therefore the first task of the revolutionaries is to restore order and avoid chaos.  While they themselves are the source of the instability, once revolutionaries take power their goals change radically and the tactics they employed to seize power must now be ruthlessly suppressed.

To consolidate the gains of the revolutionary struggle, the maintenance of law and order must be the first priority.  The lights must be on, the water pumps working, the economy must be functional, and the distribution of its fruits more democratic. In the instable conditions following the violent seizure of power, dictatorship is more often than not the only way these things can be achieved.

That’s why many of those who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution were surprised and bewildered by the dictatorial practices implemented by the Bolsheviks.  No one expressed this feeling more poignantly than Emma Goldman in her revelatory book “My Disillusionment in Russia,” a text pro-Soviet Marxists choose to ignore.  Yet she identified the flaws in the emerging Communist order in post-revolutionary Russian that would bring about its collapse a half century later.

The experience of Iraq does not encourage hope for a democracy in Libya.  I believe that what is being called “democracy” in Iraq will quickly degenerate into a tyranny of the majority Shiites over Sunnis once American forces leave.  And the increasing cries of “Allah U Akbar” heard on the streets of Tripoli, strongly suggest that the road to democracy in Libya will be no primrose path.

Although Khadafy has fairly discredited himself on the question of the danger posed by Islamic Jihadists by blaming everything on Al Qaeda, trying to justify his tyrannical behavior by arguing that he was the last line of defense against them taking over Libya, there is more than a little truth to his claim.  As I have written for ten years now, the secular military strongmen have been the main deterrent to the Jihadists in the Muslim world

Beginning with a critique of the Bush Administration’s rationale for invading Iraq “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” I argued that Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not allies the way the Bushmen were arguing in order to justify the Iraq invasion; rather they represent polar opposites in their vision of how Muslim societies should be governed.  Thus, given the repressive regimes run by these military men, Islamic organizations were forced underground and consequently we have no way of knowing the extent of their popular appeal.  But in the free flowing political environment created with the fall of Mummar we shall soon see. Until further notice, I’m down with what Mellin told Snellin: “Ain’t no tellin!”  Anything can happen.

One of the unpleasant truths we have learned from the fall of Sadam Hussein is that in a country like Iraq, where there are serious ethnic and religious divisions that could erupt in conflict, it may require a military strongman like Sadam to hold it all together and avoid the chaos of internecine strife.    For instance, under Sadam women were the freer than anywhere else in the Arab world, and there was no violent religious conflict.  The Christian community was far better off (see “Christmastime In Bagdad” and “Why some Egyptian Women Support Mubarak” on this blog)  It can also be credibly demonstrated that it was a lot safer in Pakistan when General Pervez Musharif was running that country. (see The Trouble With Pakistan” on this blog) In fact, it is fair to say that everywhere these military strong men have been removed the Islamist rapidly grows in power and influence – violence and chaos soon follow.

Given the fact that Libya is composed of 140 tribes, along with an organized Jihadist movement, removing a strongman like Khadafy who, through a system of sticks and carrots, rewarding those who support him and punishing those who don’t, managed to construct a workable system for governing, it is highly probable that the new rulers will find it necessary to impose order with the coercive forces of state power.

The critical question is: Can the ruling coalition that emerges from this turmoil actually muster the resources to govern.  If they can’t disaster will ensue, the country will fall apart, and then the question of whether removing Khadafy from power was a good thing will be on everybody’s mind.  One of the things that will complicate any attempt to govern is a failure to keep the rebel coalition together.

The nature of mass movements is such that its constituents are diverse and have different interests; they are united by a common enemy.  But once that enemy is defeated the difference between factions in the movement is magnified.  That’s why civil wars often follow national liberation struggles.  All the factions in a popular front agree on the paramount objective, defeating their mutual oppressor.  But once that objective been achieved the contradictions between factions sharpen.  How to resolve these contradictions peacefully and forge a working coalition that can actually govern, is the paramount problem facing the new leadership of Libya.

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 24, 2011

 

 

 

The Fall of a Deluded Mythomaniac

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on August 22, 2011 by playthell

Mad Mummar!

 Notes On The Libyan Uprising and American Radicals 

From the look of things the unopposed forty two year reign of Mummar Ghadaffi in Libya is over; he has been driven from power by a popular uprising aided by military forces from NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which included the use of American air power.  From the moment the US and NATO – which for all intents and purposes is a shill for US policy objectives -  decided to get involved, Gadhafi’s goose was cooked.

It was the beginning of the end for this murderous dictatorial regime.  If Mummar were not a megalomaniacal madman he would have acceded to the rebel demands to step down and go into exile.  Had he done this all of the bloodletting which has occurred in the last few months could have been avoided.  Therefore the responsibility for the carnage falls squarely upon his head!

This is a radically different narrative than we are hearing from many of my comrades on the American left, and Black Nationals ideologues too.  In the view of these factions the Libyan uprising was an imperialist plot covertly organized and directed by the CIA; among the Afro-centric crowd President Obama was just doing what he was “put there” to do: Recolonize Africa!

In their view Obama is but the “brown face of American imperialism.”  That these charges bear no demonstrable relation to the facts, matters not a whit to these ideological automatons; for they are preprogrammed to yell “imperialism” whenever the US or “Western” nations are engaged in an armed conflict with a “Third World” country.

These impassioned ideologues base their judgments of such matters on history and ideology, not an objective reading of the facts of the specific situation.  They are far more inclined to simply dismiss the facts if they don’t agree with their particular ideological dogma. They are suspicious of news sources that produce inconvenient facts.

Some even believe that there is an anonymous cabal of tinkerers, saboteurs, all knowing spooks, and malignant capitalists that conspire to keep us from knowing “the truth” by dictating what we are allowed to see, hear or read in the media.  Needless to say: This is nonsense!   I regard such views as just the latest expression of what historian Richard Hofstadter calls “The paranoid style in American politics.”

But it is not just their paranoia that troubles me in this instance, as much of a drag as it is on the real side.  I am much more appalled by their amorality.   It is shameful that so many people should rally to the side of a murderous dictator in Libya, yet treasure the democratic process for themselves; who, in spite of their “revolutionary” poses, will not hesitate to hire a lawyer and cloak themselves in the Bill Of Rights should the “Power Structure” transgress against them with the intent of silencing their attacks on “The System.”  It is base hypocrisy!  Furthermore, their arguments are the prattle of ignoramuses or charlatans that bear no relation to reality.

The paramount objectives of US policy in the Middle East are: To keep the oil flowing at a cheap price, defeat the Islamic Jihadists, and defend the Zionist state of Israel; in that order.  To accomplish this the US government supported repressive regimes throughout the Middle East; they in turn suppressed the Jihadist, tolerated the existence of Israel, and kept the oil flowing.  These are the rulers who are presently being overthrown by popular uprisings of the people – spontaneous social combustions directed on facebook!

Obviously, the US government had no interests in the overthrow of any of these regimes – for they were collaborators – including the crumbling Libyan dictator Mummar Ghadaffi!  Like everybody else, the CIA was caught off guard by these spontaneous social explosions because they don’t conform to the conventional wisdom about the nature of mass transformative movements.

They are scrambling to get out front of the trends and try to direct these tetonic socio/political forces; which means they are trying to establish contacts and develop relationships with the new leaders of the country – if they can identify them.  To suggest that they are the cause of these devlopments is to vastly overestimate their powers. That’s the trouble with calling white men “the Devil,” you end up making them omnipotent and attribute things to them that are clearly beyond their control!

As to the real motivations of President Obama, I believe that, like everything he does, his intentions were honorable.  The Libyan uprising was motivated by the same factors that have motivated all of the uprisings that are collectively called “The Arab Spring.”   Anyone who values liberty for themselves should have no trouble recognizing what they are: a hatred for oppresive tyrants, anger at the wholesale theft of the people’s wealth, and the recognition that it is possibe to end it by collective action.

The catalyst that sparked the chain reaction was the discovery that one could organize a mass movement through social media and the authorities couldn’t stop the organizers.  Ghaddfi, cluless megalomaniac that he is, was caught off guard.  He had imagined himself the Savior of the people, and the obsequious lackeys with which he surrounded himself echoed that view.  That’s why he was caught off guard and went apeshit when his four decade old rule was finally opposed.   He called the protesters “Rats” and threatened to kill all the dissidents.

Samantha Powers, a Harvard Professor and internationally recognized authority on genocide, warned that another Rawanda was about to happen on the African continent.  At the behest of his Foregin policy advisors – led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice – President Obama reluctantly committed the US to supporting the rebels.   Wisely he confined American military involvement to enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, launching attacks from aircraft carriers and nearby bases.

I opposed any American military involvement (See: “On Operation Odyssey Dawn” on this blog) But not for the reasons proffered by the Left and Black Nationalists.  I believe that the President is motivated by a deep humanism that takes seriously the Christian imperative to minister to the least of us, and I admire his principles.  However I believe it is long past time for the US to abandon the role of planetary policemen.   I am not willing to spend another dollar of US money, not to mention spill a drop more of American blood, to keep foreigners from killing each other.

It’s not that I want our country to become indifferent to oppression and genocide in the world, nor do I think murderous dictators should be able to hide behind the facade of “national sovereignty.”  But I think the US role should be to mobilize the rest of the world to act through the UN – something the Republican zealots are adamantly oppose to!  Just listen to John McCain whining about Barack’s restraint in using America’s military might; even as the left denounces him as a war mongering imperialist!

Although I was opposed to getting involved in the murderous Libyan mess , I think President Obama acted out of the most noble impulses.  I also think the Libyan people will eventually be better off as a result of it.  I will discuss the problems and prospects for Libya after the fall of Ghaddfi in part two of this analysis.

The Wrath of the People!

Libyans Rejoicing Today!!!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 22, 2011 

On The Fog of War

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , on June 30, 2011 by playthell
Caught in a Quagmire: Dammed if he do and Damned if he don’t!

 

No Easy Way Out of Iraq and Afghanistan

It was clear from his solemn and tortured attempt to explain the complexities of American policy in Afghanistan that President Obama is trapped between “a rock and a hard place.” On the one hand he is confronted with the “get out now whatever the cost crowd” on the left, and the chicken hawks on the right who will accept nothing short of “victory.”  Even if nobody has any idea what victory looks like.

Theirs is a world view that will lead to perpetual war, which in the present era of American diplomacy has tragically become our modus operandi.  It is clear from all that we know of President Obama’s long held beliefs about what constitutes an ideal world, and America’s place in it, that he would like all of the wars to just go away.  I have no doubt that in his heart of hearts he would love to “beat our swords into plow shares and study war no more!”

But then there are the realities of the international order and American national interests and security.  As President of the United States, the burden of crafting policies to address these vital issues falls squarely upon the shoulders of Barack Obama.  And his paramount objective must always be to do what he deems in the best interest of the USA. That’s what virtually all Americans demand – this writer included.

Naturally, there are going to be differences of opinion as to how this is best achieved.  As is his fashion, “No Drama Obama” is trying to steer a middle course between the two extremes of packing up and leaving right now – “declaring victory and going home” as Kissinger advised Nixon on Vietnam – or waging an endless war.  Yet there is no comfort zone to be found in the middle: with the left denouncing him as a war monger and the right accusing him of caving in to the enemy; thus betraying the soldiers who were wounded or killed in these conflicts.

The President has wisely ignored both extremes as he struggles to find the best way out the Mid-East quagmires. The ideologues on the left must understand that in the world of realpolitique there are often no ideal solutions to complex problems.  And whatever disagreements we may have with President Obama, a Republican takeover of the government would result in policies – foreign and domestic – that would be infinitely worse!  This is the reality we face.

It is enough to hear their constant mantra imploring the President to defer to the opinions of the Generals in making his decision as to when he should withdraw American forces for Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to get a pretty good idea of the mess we would be in if the Republicans controlled the Presidency.

In spite of their constant exaltation of the US Constitution, it’s all talk.  Most of them who shout the loudest don’t really know that much about what the constitution actually provides.  And it does not appear that they have a clue as to why the Founding Fathers placed the military firmly under the President’s control; who the Constitution defines as the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.

It is clear that the architects of the Constitution intended to prevent a military caste from seizing control of the instruments of state power.  They were prescient enough to see that military rule would be disastrous because, among other undesirable features, the Generals could declare war.  And as the late great French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau observed: War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”

What this statement means in essence is that war involves the entire society, most directly through military conscription and the great expenditures it requires; therefore the decision to wage war should be made by the representatives of the people not professional soldiers.  To place such power in the hands of Generals is like putting the hawk in charge of the chicken coop.  It is folly to ask military leaders if they believe they can win a war!  What can you reasonably expect them to say?

After all the billions the nation has spent on military hardware and paying a standing army; plus the endless training and practicing of war scenarios, when it come to the real thing you expect them to admit that they can’t bust the grape?  It goes against everything we understand about human nature.  It is a matter of professional pride to accomplish the mission.  And it is especially galling when the enemy is a rag tag band of “towel head camel drivers.”

The leaders on the US military will never admit to defeat at the hands of so inferior a military power.  That’s why to suggest that the President allow them to decide when we should end a conflict without accomplishing the mission, especially after so much blood and treasure has been wasted, would be a spineless abdication of the President’s constitutional prerogatives as commander-In-Chief. Yet the Republicans are more than willing to genuflect before the military brass.  And we will be perpetually at war if they are in charge.

Although he has been solicitous of the General’s views, and respectful of their advice, this President does not appear to be willing to abdicate his Constitutional powers over the military; and that’s very good news. So all of the hysterical chatter on the left, in which people are threatening not to support President Obama and the Democrats in the next election, is just so much mindless fiddle/faddle.

If you can’t live with the Democrats you will surely die under the Republicans; we must hang together or we will hang separately!   If anything is certain it is that this nation will go bankrupt if we keep pouring hundreds of billions down the sink hole of foreign wars. The American electorate is becoming conscious of the fact that while we are firing thousands of school teachers and other vital public servants, and the infrastructure of the nation is crumbling all around us, we are squandering the nation’s wealth on futile adventures in strange lands.

Hence I am opposed to continued American involvement in foreign military expeditions.  I opposed the Bush invasion of Iraq – See “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq,” and I have called for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan – See “It’s Time to Quit Afghanistan” – and I argued against the Libyan intervention.  Not that I don’t think that Mummar Ghadafy is a murderous madman who ought to be toppled; I just don’t think that we can afford another war – see “On Operation Odyssey Dawn.”

As for the arguments of the left that the NATO force that is presently supporting the Libyan rebels is just another example of  “Western Imperialism,” or the hysterical Black Nationalist claim that “Obama is bombing Africa!, it is irrefutable proof of their moral and intellectual bankruptcy.  The “imperialism” motive is irrational, since the leaders who are being overthrown are the clients of the West!

And the suggestion that western intelligence forces are directing the mass uprisings that constitute the “Arab Spring” reeks of cultural chauvinism and perhaps racism.  It reminds me of nothing so much as the white racist rednecks in Florida who said “communist” were fomenting the Civil Rights Movement!  It is the same sort of thing,

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However the thing that disturbed me about the President’s speech is his conception of America’s role in the world.  “Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.” He tells us.  “Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.”  To many Americans this sounds like a perfectly reasonable position, and when compared to the attitudes of the Republican candidates for President it seems like Solomonic wisdom.

These pugnacious Republicans are committed to endless foreign wars in a futile attempt to maintain the Pax-Americana envisioned by the neo-con crowd from the Project for a New American Century that seized control of American foreign policy when George Bush panicked after the 9/11 disaster.  When I listen to the Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum talk I here echoes of the foreign policy prescriptions outlined in the comprehensive PNC policy paper “Redesigning America’s Defenses,” which served as the blueprint for getting us into the disastrous war of choice in Iraq, and the deepening quagmire in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, President Obama is much more restrained in his ambitions and would eschew the promiscuous deployment of American’s armed forces.  “We must chart a more centered course” he argues.  “Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.

When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny. “

However I believe that even this vision is far to ambitious, and it shows the difficulty we face in changing the pattern of American interventionism that characterized American foreign policy in the twentieth century, when the US engaged in over 100 military incursions in foreign countries and many covert actions designed to shape the politics of other nations – including assassinations of foreign leaders with whose policies we disagreed.

If anything is certain, it is that this nation cannot afford to continue the role of planetary policeman.  We cannot afford it.  Since the greatest threat to American security is economic stagnation and a crumbling infrastructure, which threatens our internal peace and stability, it is imperative that we re-imagine our role in the world and radically revise our priorities.

If we devised a foreign policy more like that of China, which is based on non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, instead of the evangelicalism the presently characterize our foreign policy, we could reduce our military budget dramatically.  My goal would be to cut it by half!   If we envisioned our military forces as primarily for the defense of our homeland we could close all of the bases in foreign countries.  The cold war is long over; do why do we still maintain bases in Europe and Asia?  These bases are the signature of empire; it is reminiscent of the Roman Empire in the age of Pax Romana, when ‘all roads led to Rome.”

Like the US Empire, the Romans did not generally colonize countries like the modern European colonists who occupied and governed other peoples.  Rather they forced weaker nations to concede territory on which the Romans could build military bases.  Then they imposed Rome’s will on the ancient world from those military installations, just like the US did in the twentieth century – as the great British historian, Dr. Arnold Toynbee, was fond of pointing out. The weight of empire, the cost of trying to rule the world, helped to hasten the fall of Rome and will lead to the decline of America as the supreme power in the world if we continue down the path of continuous wars in foreign countries.

Fortunately President Obama understands this, but even he seems unable to envision a time when the US will no longer be the “anchor of global security.” That’s how he blundered into Libya, propelled by the intention of setting things right.  It is critical that we withdraw our soldiers from all of the present conflicts and return them to their barracks for our own good.  This is clear enough for any intelligent observer to see….unless your vision is clouded by the fog of war.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

June 30, 2011

Things Fall Apart!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on May 25, 2011 by playthell

President Obama at the State Department

Building a New Order In the Mid-East

AS the long suffering oppressed masses in the Muslim world rise up against entrenched autocrats, military and civilian, the world looks on in amazement or bewilderment while the US scrambles to construct a policy to accommodate the changing realities.  Given the rapidity and spontaneity of the uprisings that have popped up in twenty countries, threatening to wash entire regimes into the sewers of history in a fortnight, US policy makers are like Alice in wonderland: everything around them is moving so fast they have to run just to stay where they’re at!  Under the best of circumstances formulating an effective foreign policy is both a science and a fine art.  In the current situation foreign policy wonks are all dancing it the dark alas.

The success or failure of US policy in the Middle East will be largely determined by the ideology of the new regimes that arise from the present turmoil. From what we have been able to glean from the attitudes of many of the protesters, the new leaders of the Arab world will not be as malleable to American concerns as the old regime.

That’s why the charges from Left wing and Black Nationalist circles that the CIA is behind the overthrow of these regimes are absurd!  It demonstrates a thorough misunderstanding of the character of the populist revolts sweeping the Islamic countries, and a willingness to believe conspiracy theories no matter how improbable.  The US, like everybody else, got caught napping.   Now the CIA is everywhere on the ground as nations crumble all over the region.  But they cannot predict the future; they are simply trying to gain some measure of understanding as to who is who and what their vision for the new order is.

In the absence of clearly identifiable leaders and well defined ideologies, this is no easy matter.  Since each of these situations is unique, there is no cookie cutter policy that can address each crisis.  None-the-less the architects of our foreign policy must still find a way to steadfastly pursue American interests in the world, while accommodating the interests of each country with whom we have diplomatic relations.

That’s why everybody stood with bated breath waiting to hear from the President what the new marching orders are going to be.  He gave a great speech on Middle East situation that began with a concise historical narrative of the development of the massive upheavals throughout the Arab world that has become popularly known as “The Arab Spring;” a term with poetic resonance but little in the way of specificity.

However there are some underlying themes that resonate through these populist revolts: more personal freedom, an end to tyrannical regimes, and greater economic opportunity.  In spite of the absence of clear cut intelligence about the rebels, President Obama enunciated a set of broad based policies that seeks to address these general aspirations:

First, the United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. Second, we support a set of universal rights including free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly and association; equality for men and women under the rule of law; the right to practice your religion without fear of violence or discrimination; and the right to choose your own leaders through democratic elections. Third, we support political and economic change in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of the people throughout the region.”

Beyond the allusions to general principles, United States interests in the Middle East region is clear: to guarantee an unimpeded flow of cheap oil; to defeat the militant Islamic Jihadist movement, and the defense of Israel.  Historically US policy toward the Arabs has been to march in lock step with the policies of the Israeli government.

In the case of Arab countries that task is made immeasurably more difficult by the fact that we cannot know what their national interests is because they are in the process of radical change and we don’t know what interests will be paramount in the eyes of the new regime.  But even so, in some areas no matter how much things change, some issues will remain the same; the Arab Israeli conflict is first among them.

How the US seeks to resolve this issue will be a major factor in determining the extent to which we will have harmonious relations with the Arab world and, given the power of the US Israel Lobby, it could also determine whether the President will be elected to a second term.  The amazing reception accorded to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu when he addressed a joint session of Congress earlier today does not bode well for the President’s attempts to find a solution to the festering Arab/Israeli conflict. Netanyahu played the Congress like a like a master fiddler plays the violin.

Uneasy Allies?

Barack and Bibi: Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

Bibi received over two dozen standing ovations – more than the President got at his last state of the Union Address – as he trashed the basic negotiating principles enunciated by Mr. Obama just days ago,   It was like stabbing our President in the back in the interest of a foreign nation!  And it has fairly destroyed the President’s credibility in his dealings with the Muslim world. Furthermore,  we may well end up as the only country in the UN to oppose the recognition of the emerging Palestinian nation when the General Assembly votes on the issue later this year.

Rachid Arieikat, the Palestinian Representative at the UN, quickly rejected Netanyahu’s vision for the region.  As President Obama hop scotches around Europe like Netanyahu’s  errand boy, trying to convince the Europeans to support the American position, the world watches in horror while the possibilities for peace in the Middle East evaporates like snowflakes in a microwave oven.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 25, 2011

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