Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Everything Goes, Again

DDGD December 15, 2015

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The Illiberalist International: Reintroducing slavery one lie at a time. Slave-owners wannabes, join us and all others will be your salves.

The Delirica  

So, is America teaming up with Al-Qaeda, again? That is indeed the story if one is to believe Andrew Cockburn's assertion in this essay of his in Harper’s magazine. A more accurate statement, however, might go like this: America might be teaming up with some Jihadi groups (such as Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaish Al-Islam) whose basic ideology may not be so different from Al-Qaeda, in order to defeat a common enemy, in this case the IS/Daesh. America has adopted a similar strategy before when it supported the Afghan Mujahideen, an assortment of Jihadi groups backed by Saudi Arabia as well and which included Al-Qaeda, as well as Iranian-backed Shia Jihadis, in their fight against the Soviets. In geopolitical terms, these nuances make a helluva difference. When it comes to Russia, Iran, China, and even Syria or Venezuela, such nuances, such political consideration are never neglected, and are often used by a variety of pundits, experts and journalists to justify the often inexcusable and cruel actions of the leaderships involved. But when it comes to America, things have to be seen in black and white, for some ideological reason. And America has to be condemned, where others are given a pass.

This comes as a defense of consistency rather than America’s fuckups, past or present. Why can’t we just examine things from a somewhat detached perspective, so we can truly understand our lot and have a decent chance at improving it?

Back to Syria and America’s plans there, consider this: when no one intervened when Assad was bombing the largely peaceful protesters, and when it took close to a year before America began to provide some logistical support to moderate rebels, albeit on a highly haphazard basis, and when talks with Iran proceeded as though they were not supporting Assad’s mass slaughter campaign, and a deal was reached that only serve to postpone the “inevitable” while further empowering one of the most destabilizing forces in the region, when Russians were allowed to do what they wanted in Syria from providing arms to the Assad regime to carving their own niche along the Mediterranean (imperialism anyone?), and when you pledged not to put boots on the grounds even if for the defense of the weak and the shattered remains of our sense of humanity and decency, and when international law is clearly on your side, even if it suited the Russian not to admit it, when you are willing to do or let all this happen, what other options did you really leave yourself? When you let the rascals out, and only watch as they push the decent and the moderate away from the scene, when you, in other words, let the rascals rule, with whom are going to partner when it is time for you to act?

On the other hand, for the same people who were advocating non-intervention (I don’t know if Andrew Cockburn is one of them, but his article is definitely being shared all over by them), and who are supportive of the deal with Iran and are against putting boots on the ground, and who are now busy criticizing Saudi Arabia’s role in Syria and the region, while ignoring Iran’s similar role, and who are set against this particularly desperate amoral measure, which remains more a possibility than a reality, what do they really want? Some want Assad to stay in power, and some are clearly advocating a return to the policy of doing business with autocrats, but not Saudi, Qatari, Turkish, or any potentially powerful Sunni autocrat really, just Shia, Russian, Chinese and weak Sunni and African autocrats. Why? Who knows? It could be anything from ideology and clientelism to having LSD-fried brains, or meth for blood. Whatever the cause may be, this is the consequence: the fascists are reemerging on the historical scene, and with a vengeance. Their failure to win he regional elections in France is heartening, but could prove to be a temporary setback if not followed up with efforts to address the roots causes behind the phenomenon. And that’s a toll order.

Nobody should underestimate how hard it is to take the populists on. Some mainstream politicians dismiss their arguments by labelling them fascist or extremist. Yet such disdain risks suggesting that the elite is uninterested in the real grievances that populists play on. Others try to borrow the populists’ less-offensive clothes by promising, say, to deny benefits to migrants rather than build border fences. Yet such xenophobia-lite often just validates populist prejudices. Illiberalism – Playing with fear “In America and Europe, right-wing populist politicians are on the march. The threat is real.” 

The Economist then goes on to suggest steps to help tackle the problem, including: maintaining commitment to “open markets, open borders, globalisation and the free movement of people,” work with Muslims attempting to take on the extremists in their midst, and show strong leadership on security challenges. The last point does not mean that we should focus on the IS/Daesh phenomenon alone, but on the larger issues that facilitated its rise, which in Syria, would include the Assad regime and its murderous tactics.

But by now, it should be clear that tackling the issue of Assad’s removal has become an overly complicated problem. The U.S. cannot proceed alone in this matter. But then, the U.S. does not have to. Now that Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a 34-State Islamic Military Alliance Against Terrorism, the U.S. should work with them to prevent this from becoming another nonsensical dysfunctional entity like the Friends of Syria group or the Arab League, and call on them to provide the necessary boots on the ground. Meanwhile, the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany, Australia and perhaps Canada as well, if Justin Trudeau is willing to reconsider its decision about involvement in the Syria Conflict, can provide the necessary air cover and logistical support, and perhaps even create a no-fly zone to ensure the protection of civilian population. Liberated areas can then be government by the local councils who, as Alexander Starritt argues in The Guardian, represent the real alternative to both IS and Assad. 

Yes, the move does entail risking a confrontation with Russia and Iran, but there is no way out of this anymore. Both countries need to be stopped, and they need to be stopped now, in Syria, else they are bound to create more mayhem in the region and elsewhere: Central Asia is already boiling, and Russia’s designs on well-nigh imploding Moldova are no secret.

The Deliricon  

Farticle: An editorial or a news report written right after the author has experienced the equivalent of a brain fart – a bursting aneurism of hot air in the brain, itself the result of inhaling fecal gasses for too long. The phenomenon is also known as brain halitosis

The Daily Delirynth

Vladdie the Santa Clause – or, to be truly Russian, the Ded Moroz (Дед Морoз): Putin makes Kyrgyz girl's wish come true, gives rare dog as gift. And that’s supposed to make us all forget about the children he is busy killing in Syria? And no, this is not some hypothetical. Just yesterday in the town of Douma, east of Damascus, his jets conducted 70 raids in the span of 6 hours. The result: 45 dead, including a number of little girls and their teachers (all women) whose elementary school was hit. Vladdie, Vladdie, you’re no Santa Clause. Embrace your inner psychopath. Go fire warning shots at more Turkish vessels, and build more military bases in the Arctic, you know, let the world momentarily dread the possible start of a new world war, and perhaps even make one, just like megalomaniac psychopaths do. 

The Occasional Trumpist: Trump's first victim? Jordanian humiliated, deported at US airportA Jordanian national with a valid Visa was turned back at a US airport after being interrogated and detained, days after Donald Trump's call for banning Muslims from entering US.

Or is this Trump’s first victim? Assertions of Hate Crime in Seattle After a Somali-American Teenager Falls to His Death. A local news source, The Source, asserts that the “Seattle police department announced Tuesday that they will investigate the death and are ruling it a hate crime.” 

Whatever the case maybe, hate crimes against Muslims are definitely on the rise, with 19 crimes reported within the span of a week, including the burning of a mosque: Muslims gather in prayer after mosque set on fire in Coachella.

Meanwhile, Father Of Fallen Muslim War Hero Teaches Trump A Lesson About American Values. “Muslims are American, Muslims are citizens, Muslims participate in the well-being of this country as American citizens. We are proud American citizens. It’s the values of this country that brought us here, not our religion. Trump’s position on these issues does not represent those values… This country is not strong because of its economic power, or military power. This country is strong because of its values, and during this political season, we all need to keep that in mind.

But, one cannot but admit that had it not been for people like Trump and Marie Le Pen, we may not have seen stories like these about Muslims in the media:

But the controversy surrounding Trump is not simply about him as a person, it’s mostly about the ideas he is proposing. In this regard, his anti-Muslims sentiments seemed shared to one extant or another by other GOP candidates, even those who sound more sophisticated, as William Saletan argues in Slate: Ted Cruz’s Sophisticated Bigotry: This is how you bash Muslims while pretending to be principled.

A reasonable person, after listening sympathetically, might conclude that Cruz, unlike Trump, has designed his refugee policy out of prudence, not prejudice… [But] Cruz isn’t agonizing over the mechanics of vetting refugees. He’s exploiting anti-Muslim anger and sucking up to the Christian right. And he’s doing it while wearing his own disguise: principled leader.

That is, by clamoring for the admission of more Christian refugees from Syria, while banning Muslims, even though IS operatives could as easily mascaraed as Christians, Mr. Cruz is presenting a bogus argument that is meant to hide his own prejudice as well as his desire to cater to the Christian right in the country. As for the persecution of Shia (the author here seems to be mixing Twelver Shia and Alawites) by IS, and while Mr. Saletan’s reasons for mentioning them is meant to showcase Mr. Cruz’s hypocrisy when it comes to persecuted minorities, we should bear in mind that most of the killing and persecution that has been happening in Syria over the last five years is carried out by Twelver Shia militias (manned mostly by Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghani and Iranian mercenaries), and army units commanded by Alawite generals and manned mostly by Alawite recruits.

So, in essence, Republican debates feature, in effect, Donald Trump and a few Mini-Mes. However, this sweeping rejection of GOP candidates does not include their grassroots supporters, the majority of whom are definitely NOT White Supremacists, and may not understand the implications of what's happening in their name at this stage. Yes, prejudice is often involved in their perceptions of things, but their prejudice seems to be more a matter of ignorance, fear and a battered sense of identity than ideological conviction – which is what distinguishes the stands of White Supremacists.

As such, there is much that needs to be done by way of education, and even more by way of addressing the underlying socioeconomic issues that seem to be at play here. Development I the U.S. continues to be uneven, and there are too many towns and communities where the living standards of the people involved reek of underdevelopment.

But this is not all about domestic policy. The way America has been conducting its foreign policy, perhaps since the end of the Cold War, or at least since 9/11 is in question here. There is enough blame to go around here, America’s current retreat is not the product of the fuckups of one administration’s policies. The idea that Obama and his apologists have been trying to peddle ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, namely that retreat and non-involvement, or minimal involvement, make for smart policy is ludicrous. The retreat has created power vacuums both abroad and at home, a vacuum that was immediately filled by illiberal forces. Yes, retreat abroad created a power vacuum at home, the perception of weakness that Obama created had implications at home as well where he already had problems. He gave the most fringe elements enough fodder to allow them to move closer to the mainstream.

But this is not simply about mismanaging the transition into an America with a smaller footprint, it’s about the unilateral nature of the decision itself. An America with a smaller footprint can be good for America and the world, but such a transition cannot be accomplished with a unilateral American retreat, but through sharing of the responsibility of global leadership with America’s liberal allies around the world. Obama needed to make sure before any retreat that whatever vacuum that will be left behind will be filled the right combination of global and regional actors.

But America still has a chance to undertake a course correction. And the process has to begin by pacifying Syria, NOW, before the Russo-Iranians alliance grows larger and before it heats up other fronts.

Here's where the Right and the Left are failing: our challenge today is no longer about nation-building in that old geographically confined sense, nor is it about a globalization that undermines the peoples’ sense of belonging and identity. Rather, the challenge is about nation-building going hand-in-hand with world-building, about finding ways to find common grounds and institutions that can allow us to interact on an equal footing as human beings, even as expressions of our common humanity remain different. The idea of a nation standing apart from all others as a fortress entity is no longer feasible. Each nation in this hyper-connected world of ours, no matter how small, has interests that go far beyond its border. The COP21 agreement is one expression of that, competition over energy and food sources and networks of global transport and distribution involved, the challenge of global terrorism and certain emerging demographic realities are other such expressions. The notion that no nation can be secure and free if others are not is no longer an idealist assertion, but an observed and experiential reality with immediate geopolitical implications that warrant our immediate attention.

In trying to manage this complicated situation, it’s clear that we cannot rely on idiosyncratic figures such as Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Bashar Al-Assad, And it’s equally clear from what is happening in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Ukraine, that we cannot let dictate the pace and nature of the current transition. The resurgence of illiberalism is a fact, but it’s a triumph is neither inevitable, nor a viable option. There is no such a thing as the right to oppress, not even in the name of traditional beliefs and values, or some “holy” texts. Indeed, there will always be powerful figures and forces aligned against the “liberal” vision and the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and while we cannot always afford to confront these forces especially by military means, there are occasions when such confrontations cannot be avoided, and should not be avoided, on ethical, humanitarian, as well as strategic grounds. The case for such a confrontation cannot be clearer than it is in connection with the Syrian conflict today. If Western powers fail to act to stop the bloodshed, and the actions of Iran and Russia now, they will have to confront a bigger and far more pervasive challenge tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this logic is unlikely to be accepted now. Not when Obama and his coterie of "realist" ideologues are leading the way. No. this lot will continue to think of themselves as geniuses even as the world around them falls apart. They will continue to congratulate themselves for “staying above the fray” and will fail to see the impact of their stands and policies at home, where the fissures and fractures separating communities, regions and classes continue to grow and where old wounds, that have not fully healed, have been reopened, and new ones have been inflicted. No. They won’t see that strife that is looming at home, and will continue to believe in that myth that, somehow, America is immune, and that the only security threat to be wary of is something that is clearly “foreign” and “exotic.” But it is the familiar that we should fear.  

The Qalifate: The Islamic State Was Coming Without the Invasion of Iraq. Kyle Orton is spot on in noting that, even before the invasion of Iraq, Saddam has done much to prepare the grounds for the emergence of IS. This does not excuse the major fuckups that Americans committed there, but it does put things in context. Local factors have played a more critical role in radicalization of both the Sunni and Shia population communities.

Saddam had taken extensive steps to Islamize the government and society since the mid-1980s, which profoundly affected the security sector. While this began cynically, the evidence is that Saddam had a conversion experience. But even if Saddam remained a cynic, his government acted to promote a religious movement under his leadership—call it Ba’athi-Salafism—and reshaped society by, for example, empowering clerics as social leaders, notably in Sunni Arab areas where they had not been before. 

In fact, a similar phenomenon could be observed in Syria ever since the mid-1980s, when Hafiz Al-Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood only to empower the traditional Sunni establishment. This establishment has been, since Ottoman times, quite subservient to the state, its rulers and their provincial representatives. But Assad Sr. was also quite willing to support more radical Salafi interpretations, so long as the adherents involved carried out their Jihadi activities elsewhere, and often in furtherance of Assad’s own regional schemes. Beginning in the late 1980s, a revival of traditional Alawite piety was also allowed, in tandem with Shia proselytization efforts. Earlier efforts at Sunnifying the Alawites were abandoned. Bashar simply copied and advanced his father’s tactics. The Assads remained cynical throughout the process.

The underlying ethos is simple to explain: when revolutionary leaders end up behaving like Sultans and become interested in passing the reign of power to their children, they immediately discover the importance of traditional religious piety as an important vehicle in facilitating the people’s acceptance of this unfortunate turnaround. As such, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq simply unearthed processes that were already in motion. This does not excuse the invasion and the subsequent mistakes, but, it does reveal the importance of the local actors themselves in what is transpiring in their societies. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own misery.

Meanwhile, in India, 70,000 Indian Muslim clerics issue fatwa against Isis, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terror groupsClerics said the terror groups were 'not Islamic organisations' and said they were a threat to humanity.” Of course, the clerics were all Sufis, people whom IS/Daesh would denounce as apostates.

US-backed Syrian rebel group on verge of collapse. Why, because of lack of support from West. This is exactly why the U.S. needs to move quickly and forcefully. No support, followed by haphazard reluctant support is what got us here. The U.S. needs to stand by its allies in Syria as forcefully and committedly as the Russians and Iranians are doing in regard to Assad, otherwise, the U.S. will find it well-nigh impossible to forge strong alliances elsewhere.

Support for Isis around the Muslim-majority world. In regard to Syria, it’s not clear if the pollsters actually to understand if the support to ISIS translates into supporting its ideology as a whole, or if it simply reflects the belief that it is fighting Assad, at least in some areas, and that it constitutes a more serious threat to it than other groups.

Refugenics: Edward Norton Helps Raise Nearly $400,000 for Syrian Refugees. The funds will go to support the Syrian scientist profiled in Humans of New York. Despite their individual or small-scale nature, that is, in comparison to the challenge at hand, these efforts tug on the heart and are important to keep our faith in humanity alive. So, thank you Edward Norton, Mandy Patinkin, Angelina Jolie, Benedict Cumberbatch, and all other celebrities who have stood by the Syrian refugees, and helped raise awareness about their plight. Thanks as well to the non-celebrities doing so much to make the Syrian refugees feel home without expectations of reward and far from the lime-lights.

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The Cauldron

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