Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Impunity, Triumphant!

The [Russian] raids, which started on September 30, have killed 1,015 civilians, including more than 200 children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 
DDGD January 21, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The Siblinghood of the Guillotine: Though we are only seen during times of chaos, it’s in times of repressive stability that we thrive.

The Delirica

Towards a humanitarian politics – a brief policy note: Just as we care about the environment and climate change, we should also be interested in advocating for humanitarian politics. No, humanitarian politics cannot be just summed up in the dual concepts of democracy promotion and human rights, as they also include working on conflict resolution and preemption, and for establishing a moratorium on mass slaughter through enforcement of the legal doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. They also call for meeting to meet such challenges as the influx of refugee and migrants, for adopting higher preparedness for dealing with this phenomenon, as well as working to mitigate the push factors involved, be they natural or man-made disasters including war, corruption, poor development and economic opportunities, and educational needs.

Adopting a humanitarian approach to politics is indeed in line with our concern for the environment and the future wellbeing of humankind, and it’s extremely strange and counterproductive how some, in the name of realism, can advocate for one, while shying away from the other as it calls for intervention and sacrifice, and could involve major errors. But the complexity of a certain task does not make less urgent, and the future of humankind is no less dependent on our ability to find solutions to this problem than it is on finding ways for saving ourselves from man-made and natural environmental disasters. There is no such a thing as Laissez Faire security. Leaving problems to fester and legitimizing anti-modern forces are not solutions. Those who still refuse to commit to democratic reforms and to respect fundamental human rights under spurious claims of religious or cultural particularity represent a serious problem that needs to be managed. We may not be able to impose change on them both out of respect for the very values we are trying to protect as well as for practical considerations such the limits of our political reach and military power. Be that as it may, we should never delude ourselves into thinking that a conflict does not exist, or into believing that we can find formulas for working with these forces as they expand their influence and their reach around the world at the expense of the democratic aspirations of their and other peoples. The more power and influence we allow these powers to have, the more serious the threat that will eventually pose to our way of life. In an age of hyper-connectivity, asymmetric and hybrid warfare, and growing intersection between organized crime, terrorist networks and autocratic regimes, security cannot rely on military superiority alone, no matter how wide the gap separating us from the rest.

Maintaining our security in the future requires more not less intervention and involvement in global affairs and in steering the various transformations taking place in regions across the world, in order to ensure that the right actors are emerging on top. Now the right actors may not necessarily be ones who are committed to immediate electoral democracy, but they should be committed to a specific timetable for reforms, political, social, economic and educational. In the meantime, they should refrain from curbing activities by the political opposition, and from such odious practices as torture and jailing of dissidents.

But this would only represent a small step, the real step is to revamp and strengthen NATO, because most interventions will probably need to take place under its auspices, hopefully, in coordination with regional forces such the African Unions, ASEAN, and an Arab force that needs to be formed soon. When possible, of course, the UN should the logical mandate-giver, but due to Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UNSC this might prove impossible. Still, attempts should be made to act under authorization of the UNGA.

This is everything that the realists hate. The usual anti-Western crowd will not like this a single bit. But, in my mind, this constitutes a necessary undertaking to defend democratic values and prevent civilizational collapse. Development and democratization are not issues we can afford to keep ignoring. Those who are betting on our ability to ride the impending wave of state failures and mass violence in a number of regions around the world are deluding themselves. People will not fight out amongst themselves while we watch on. It’s better to intervene on our terms, rather than be made to intervene on theirs. Reason does not triumph when it’s under siege.

The Deliricon

Delirealism: A religio-political philosophy based on the contention that when people believe in their delusions with all their hearts they will eventually succeed in transforming them into actual realities, in a process known as Delireal Transubstantiation.  

Tink-Tank (Also, Tinkle-Tank): The temple where Delirealists gather to perform their communal worship, and discuss the latest exegeses by their scholars, which often deal with the banality of the human spirit and the presumptuousness of those who seek to be free from oppression.  

Palintology: A scientific multi-disciplinary approach to the study of empty minds and emptier rhetoric. Palintologists hope to, one day, be able to find a cure for the dumbing effect that such minds have on our own, through their seemingly entertaining and deceptively harmless shenanigans.  

The Daily Delirynth

Question to Realists: We get told all different sorts of things in justification of political realism, including complaints about “imperial overreach” on account of the neocons’ misadventures, the alarming growth of the military industrial complex despite the end of the Cold War, and corporate greed which, one way or another, we are told, fuels and encourages warfare. But, at the end of the day, and for all these explanations, can someone explain any of these things to those who share our democratic beliefs and values and whom we have betrayed in places like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere? More importantly perhaps, since we established that realists care little for others’ suffering, can someone explain to us, how does allowing for anti-democratic and even anti-modern powers like Russia and Iran to grow and metastasize lead to strengthening our security, limit the growth of our problematic military industrial complex and control corporate greed? How can leaving the world to become an even more dangerous place, address any of these concerns often raised by realists?

Realist Thinking: President Obama just testified as to the correctness of my recent assessment of realist thinking, namely when I suggested that the realists “think that their vindication will come tomorrow.” This is what President Obama said: “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this.” Meanwhile, Syrians and Iraqis, among others, can continue being killed by other means. Every president has his name attached to his policies, the good and the bad, historians will make sure of it, so, I am not sure what to make of this pledge by Mr. Obama. Anyway, this is not a naming and shaming game. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying and millions are being dislocated as a result of Iranian and Russian actions, and things are bound to get worse as a result of this “deal.” So, whether President Obama owns up to this deal or not in twenty some years, it would matter little to those who have been killed as a result of his… realism.

Saudaran: Those who are busy quoting Saudi scholars saying all different sorts of vile things about Christians, Jews, Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims, and modernist and reformist Sunnis would sound more sincere if they told us what Iranian and Lebanese and Iraqi Shia clergy are busy saying about Christians, Jews, Sunnis, etc. Because what’s inflaming sentiments in our parts is not Saudi rhetoric alone, it’s the propaganda coming from both sides, as well as their actions in support of maniacal regimes and terrorist movements. There is no civilized side in this conflict, and by taking side, and being hypocritical in their coverage of events, they are acting as part of the problem. Whether they are doing so willingly or unwittingly may not matter much for the millions who are affected.   

The Faqihnameh – The Price: Prisoner Swap May Help Iran Arm Assad. Sanctions imposed by the E.U. and the U.S. on Iranian businessmen and officials involved in smuggling arms in support of the Assad regime seem to have been lifted in accordance with the Iran Deal, which means that these people are now free to pursue their activities with greater freedom. The new sanctions imposed on Iran on account of its ballistic missile program will have no impact on the situation.

Meanwhile, there are those who want us to review our estimates as to the price involved in the Faustian Deal, suggesting that the figure being currently of $150 while accurate will not all go to fill up the Mullahs coffers as the bulk of it is already committed to various lenders. So, at end of the day, Iran will receive over $50 billion “only,” but will be unburdened from major debts. That’s still a lot. For a country that was able, even under sanctions, to invest billions of dollars into supporting Assad, Hezbollah and various Shia militias acting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, as well as a number of Sunni groups, including Al-Qaeda and IS when it suited its purposes, getting 50 billion smackaroos and having your debts erased is still something of a major break. So, while we stand corrected on certain facts, we still stand far apart. The administration and its realist supporters see a more peaceful and safer world emerging as a result of this deal, others, like me, still find it hard to fathom how can rewarding a regime that is still busy supporting mass murder in places like Syria and Iraq, irrespective of the justifications it and its supporters proffer in this regard, lead to any improvement in our regional or global security conditions. Yes, this is indeed another “peace in our time” moment, the kind that was reached by ignoring war crimes, and that is bound to lead to much more of the very same old mayhem. We don’t learn from history except how to repeat it.

The release of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha despite his videotaped confession to taking part in an assassination plot orchestrated by Syrian intelligence targeting Lebanese opponents of the Assad regime, followed soon by a sudden agreement on a pro-Hezbollah candidate for the Lebanese presidency are two recent developments that come as testament of the kind of “stability,” “peace,” and “safety” that the Iran Deal has ushered in the Middle East. Certified criminals will now be in charge of Lebanon’s fate, just as certified criminals are still being supported across the border by all means available as they conduct their campaign of mass murder against their people.

Looking back, we see a pattern emerging from the day Bashar Al-Assad was crowned as Syria’s president, to his choice to upgrade Hezbollah stature from that of useful tool to that of a strategic ally, to Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese PM, Rafic Al-Hariri, which could not have happened without a nod of approval from Iran, followed by the slew of assassinations that targeted other anti-Assad anti-Mullah figures there, to Iran’s slow takeover of Syria since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in early 2011, which, despite has been somewhat diluted on account of Russia’s recent intervention in the conflict, to this moment, Iran been using every available means at its disposal to get to this point, and chaos so far it has produced chaos. Saudi Arabia played almost no role in all this until the beginning of the Arab Spring when it feared that instability could reach its territories. It was Iran that was the prime mover of these events all along. Yet, the realists speak of a safer world emerging as a result of the Iran Deal, and of Iran as a stabilizing force!  What sort of safety and stability are they talking about?

Realism, stability, peace, what meaning are we assigning to these words these days? Brave New Words, indeed. But to me, stability obtained through wanton bloodshed and maintained by fear and oppression is servitude. Are we supposed to settle for the very thing against which we have rebelled?

In the meantime, another round of the Mullah-led charade pitting moderates against conservatives in parliamentary elections is about to take place for the benefit of a domestic as well as an international audience. Khameini does a nice job setting the tone for it:

"I said that even those who oppose the Islamic Republic should take part in the election. (But) this does not mean that opponents of the Islamic Republic should be elected to parliament... Only those who believe in the Islamic Republic and its values should be allowed to enter parliament… Even in America, which claims it is the land of freedom and some people naively accept that, during the Cold War those with slightest socialist leaning would have been marginalized."

And finally, and by way of smoothing the way for future diplomatic coups, it is reported that the three Americans recently kidnapped in Baghdad were taken by Iran-backed militias.

Refugenics: When we are talking about a large number of people: tens and hundreds of thousands, even millions, the attitudes and aptitudes involved are bound to run the whole gamut known to psychologists and sociologist. So, those who want to see refugees in a negative light, that is, as extremists, freeloaders or misogynistic bastards, will naturally be able to find a good sample of them to prove their point. So can those interested in looking for good hardworking people. In fact, their task will be much easier, since these people tend to constitute the majority in any society. The point: refugees are bound to bring many problems with them, but accommodation still represents far wiser strategy than rejection.

The key to refugees’ integration is getting an accurate assessment of their professional backgrounds and skillset in order to design special programs to help them become productive members of their new communities as soon as possible. Asking them to contribute financially to their resettlement efforts in the manner currently considered by Denmark and Switzerland is quite misguided and comes as a hidden form of rejection. The key to defray resettlement costs is to increase initial investment in helping refugees, including perhaps launching small loans programs to qualified people so they can start their own business or pursue their education, in order to get them to become productive sooner rather later. In this way, refugees can defray the cost of resettlement by paying taxes like everybody else in their host communities.

Quote of the Day

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed.” --Robert Proctor, science historian, Stanford University.

“As a man who long ago wrote a novel called ‘Menstruation’ I feel morally obligated to tell legislators in all those 40 American states that impose a ‘luxury’ tax on tampons, among other sanitary products: are you out of your freakin’ minds? You might as well impose a luxury tax on clothes. It’s the 21st Century for crying out loud, update your freakin’ laws.” –Ammar Abdulhamid, author of “Menstruation,” and “The Irreverent Activist.
   
Tweet(s) of the Day




Video(s) of the Day

The video below shows a pilgrim man making the rounds around the Kaabah using a hover-board. This seems quite appropriate actually because by now making Hajj is like visiting a big IKEA store. Pray tell me, what spirituality can one feel in that stale space? I mean the Kaabah, not the IKEA store.


This video, on the other hand, shows Egyptian TV Hosts Demand Execution of Journalist for Saying that Tahrir Square Is Holier than Mecca. Pray tell me, what’s more sacrilegious: saying Tahrai Square is Holier than Meca, or actively and systematically destroying its heritage?

  
Cartoons: The Cauldron



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