Monday, October 12, 2015

Placebo Politics

DDGD – October 11, 2015

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Today’s Post is brought to you by: The Society of Free Masochists, the largest unofficial civil society network in the Great Middle East and North Africa Region. The Society of Free Masochists: we know we’re knee-deep in shit, and we like it.

 Editorial Comment

While some people might define the term Placebo Politics as an attempt to provide quick fixes for certain serious political maladies, the way I use it when it comes to describing Obama’s foreign policies is as a synonym for the politics of obfuscation: a methodical endeavor to avoid having to review one’s own policies and reassess one’s worldview even as they clash with reality. We can also refer to this phenomenon as the “Shirk ‘N’ Shift,” that is, shirk the responsibility and shift the blame. President Obama has become a master of this particular art, and his ability to insert an opiate in the mix has been quite helpful as well.

What is that opiate? Security.

Yes, President Obama himself admits (see The No-Fly Zone Section below) that the world is growing more and more turbulent and less and less safe for others, but America is safe, he asserts, and our interests are protected. So, it seems that we are supposed at this stage to simply watch the ugliness unfolding around us while wringing our hands and enjoying the relative safety we are afforded, ignoring any potential long-term consequences, and our sense of humanity. The Administration is not even developing any plans for dealing with the humanitarian consequences of this policy!

 Articles & Commentary

It doesn't matter who's provoking whom here, mutual recriminations mean absolutely nothing. It is imperative at this stage, especially for those who truly care for Palestinian and Palestinian rights, to call for calm, and to insist that the Palestinian Authority takes the lead in inviting to calm, avoiding any provocation from its side and responding to any provocations from the other. This is the absolutely wrong time for an intifada.

The ongoing implosion of the region provides more opportunity for ending the Palestinian dream of self-determination than for fulfilling it. Yes, the world is tougher in its reaction to Israeli aggression, real or perceived, justified or unjustified, than it has been in regard to the way Arab leaders treat their own people, and each other, but that hasn’t made a difference so far, and it definitely won’t at this particular stage.

With Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen disintegrating as we watch, and with other countries put on the waiting list (including Saudi Arabia and even the much celebrated Tunisia), regional and world powers are now fighting over the shape of the new borders, while feeble-minded potentates compete over scraps. But considering the fact that the Palestinians are dealing with Israel and not some Arab autocrat, there is no opportunity for them to be had in this case, at least not through an intifada or even the threat of it.

Any serious confrontation at this stage could pave the way for major military undertaking by Israelis, and to mass dislocation. Other than some strong moral condemnation, and shows of sympathy, perhaps some sanctions, and a sure increase in hate crimes targeting world Jewry, nothing consequential will happen. And Europe will be no less reluctant when it comes to hosting Palestinian refugees than it is now in regard to Syrian refugees.

Yes, these may not the things that so-called pro-Arab pro-Palestinian Western academics and activists will tell their Palestinian colleagues and friends, but, in my humble opinion, there is nothing pro-Arab about telling you the things you want to hear, and reinforcing your illusions. It’s about time we learned to really handle the truth. And the truth is pretty simple in this case: this is not the right time for an intifada. 


Who’s Behind the Horrific Bombing that Hit Ankara? Indeed. The answers are no longer that obvious.

It has been established by now that Turkey has played an active role in the rise of Al-Nusra Front as well as Islamic State and other Islamic groupings, in Syria. In fact the overall Islamization of the Syrian rebel movement may not have occurred without the willingness of the Erdogan government to bet heavily on the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ideological convictions seem to have been behind the initial phase of this support, then, a creeping fear of Kurds, more specifically, of the PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK, and its armed wing, the YPGs, the People’s Defense Committees, seem to have taken over. The PYD and YPGs have shown enough sophistication in terms of their organizational capacity, one that allowed them to provide effective governance structures in areas where the regime, rebel sympathizers, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other Kurdish groups were also active. This must have scared the Turks sufficiently, they backed, if not even instigated, IS operations against Kurdish areas, before, finally deciding, when the world began noticing and complaining about their support of IS, to do the work themselves by carrying out airstrikes against PKK positions inside Turkey.

In many ways, Erdogan behaved like a mini-Obama, never committed whole-heartedly to what he knew was the right course from the beginning: take down Assad, then, he made the situation worse by supporting the wrong actors, marginalizing the secular and moderate forces, and examined the overall situation from the wrong perspective, the Kurdish Question (as opposed to Obama’s focus on terrorist groups), which led him to adopt the kind of narrow-minded action that made the situation worse. The result, as the Economist argues, “Turkey risks descending into a bloodbath.”

This is only meant to explain the complicated context in which these heinous terrorist attacks took place. Nothing, however, justifies the killing of civilians.

*** Flash Notice ***

Welcome to The New Multipolar World: where you'll never know who's bombing the shit out of you, or why.


Putin’s move into Syria might indeed be a sign of weakness, as Obama argues in this new interview of his, but autocrats often react to being weakened by creating more trouble and mayhem for others, rather than biding their time, or engaging ion reforms. Indeed, this is what Assad has been doing for the last four years. Letting these autocrats get away with creating trouble is to create bigger problems down the road, because autocrats don’t clean up after themselves. Obama might be good at making the right diagnoses, but his prognostic skills are iffy to say the least, always assuming the worst, always projecting failure and death as the eventual outcome. No wonder that his prescribed treatment regime is more often meant to help him shirk responsibility for the deadly result, rather than attempt to prevent it. Perhaps this is the expected modus operandi from someone who surrounds himself with lawyers.

As a doctor, however, Obama leaves much to be desired. He narrows his own options, and he comes with an established bias for a specific treatment: inaction or, when pressed, a noncommittal action designed to make him look responsive, while having minimal impact on the situation– the political equivalent of placebo. By now, he is a true believer in this approach, and is unlikely to reverse course.
A Riddle

It’s been established that the Assad regime tortures children to death, in fact that’s how the Syrian revolution started, while the Islamic State, as many of its videos reveal, prefers to behead them. So, who’s the more maniacal? The answer is found at the end of the post.

 My America

20-City Anti-Islam Rally Puts Mosques across U.S. on High Alert. The problem with most Americans who are afraid of the spread of Islam in the United States is not simply that they are ill-informed, and/or motivated by their own fundamentalist religious beliefs and political ideologies. Rather than, the problem lies in the prevalence of so-called pundits and politicians who are willing to pander to them without fear of censure from their colleagues. Trump’s refusal weeks ago to criticize and correct the man in his rally who accused Obama of being a Muslim is a case in point. As many pointed out at the time, Trump should have corrected the man on two points: first by noting that Obama is not a Muslim, and second, by reminding the man that there is nothing with being a Muslims or with having a Muslim president. The unwillingness to challenge the man for fear of losing votes is exactly why the system seems to be encouraging this kind of dangerous populism.

Then again, in Trump’s case, the reluctance to respond might have come as a reflection of the fact that his own views in the matter may not have been that different from those espoused by his acolyte. Here lies the bigger problem. Populist politicians and demagogues are becoming part of the mainstream.

But the United States have been through such internal upheavals before, and have what it takes to climb out of them, but not without brave and ethical leadership. Unfortunately, both Democrats and Republicans at this stage seem incapable of providing such leadership.

 Quote of the Day

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Carl Sagan

 Tweets of the Day
 The No-Fly Zone: Comments, statements & policies that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

Personally, I cannot think of anyone who has suggested that the U.S. should send 100,000-200,000 troops into Syria, or back into Iraq. But it has been a habit for President Obama to juxtapose his position against an extreme one that no one is advocating, leaving his audience with the impression that his critics are extremists.

President Obama: … And if in fact the only measure is for us to send another 100,000 or 200,000 troops into Syria or back into Iraq, or perhaps into Libya, or perhaps into Yemen, and our goal somehow is that we are now going to be, not just the police, but the governors of this region. That would be a bad strategy Steve. And I think that if we make that mistake again, then shame on us. Steve Kroft: Do you think the world's a safer place? President Obama: America is a safer place. I think that there are places, obviously, like Syria that are not safer than when I came into office. But, in terms of us protecting ourselves against terrorism, in terms of us making sure that we are strengthening our alliances, in terms of our reputation around the world, absolutely we're stronger. 60 minutes, October 11, 2015.

 Video(s) of the Day

Brave New Words! After legitimizing the Russian intervention in Syria, the Imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus addresses Putin, “the great leader who destroyed the myth of American power,” and pledges that Syrians will come to the defense of Russia should it become subject to a terrorist plot.

 Artistic Delirium

By Brussels based Syrian artist Abdalla Omari.


Answer to the above riddle: Those who support them and those who pretend to fight them but end up strengthening them. 

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