|New Year’s Eve Attacks in Cologne|
DDGD January 10, 2016
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Today’s Post is brought to you by… Willie Wanker Chocolate Factory: We take “Death by Chocolate” quite literally.
And for the Umpteenth time “Never Again!” Amnesty: Famine in Syrian city of Madaya 'the tip of an iceberg'. Indeed, as Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon choose to mock the suffering of the starving residents of Madaya in the most obscene way possible, and as the regime keeps putting one hurdle after another on the path of UN efforts to get their life-saving aid package to the besieged town, the promise of “never again” fades quietly into the background signaling the return of the old ethos of “survival of the vicious.” Then again, the ethos has never really been abandoned, but, for a little while there, the promise of “never again” acquired a certain aura of seriousness. A certain firmness of purpose seemed to underlie it. Then it was gone. It will be missed.
Meanwhile, some in the UK have a problem with their government’s inability to get aid to Madaya: “If the RAF can't drop food to Madaya in Syria, we shouldn’t bother having an air force at all.” After all, “the starving and besieged town of Madaya is only six miles from Syria's western border – or 40 seconds' flying time for a Hercules transport aircraft.”
But some Syrian activists are suggesting that Israel could probably deliver such aid without fear of any repercussions, considering its long history of successful incursions into Syrian airspace. Despite the cynical nature of this suggestion, it actually makes sense. Israel is already quietly involved in delivering humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, for it to do so now in such a dramatic fashion: delivering aid to civilians being starved by the alleged pillars of resistance to Zionism: Assad, Hezbollah and Iran, will constitute quite a blow.
Refugenics – Cologne and the challenges of mass dislocation: Germany’s Post-Cologne Hysteria.
…precisely when the country needs a coolheaded conversation about the impact of Germany’s new refugee population, we’re playing musical chairs: Everybody runs for a seat to the left and to the right, afraid to remain in the middle, apparently undecided.
The irony is that the Cologne attacks, by highlighting the issue of refugees and their culture, raise an incredibly important question and at the same time make it almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation about it.
Integration will fail if Germany cannot resolve the tension between its secular, liberal laws and culture and the patriarchal and religiously conservative worldviews that some refugees bring with them. We cannot avoid that question out of fear of feeding the far right. But integration will also fail if a full generation of refugees is demonized on arrival.
Anna Sauerbrey seems to capture the reaction in democracies to any crisis that they face these days. But yes, there are certain hard challenges associated with the immigration issue that do need to be addressed rationally and objectively, far from the fear-mongering of the far right, and the political correctness ad absurdum of the far left.
Plainly speaking, we cannot expect countries to allow more refugees to pour across their borders than their existing social systems can handle. Talk here is not about bureaucratic processing and providing the bare minimum needed for survival, but also about having enough time to conduct some necessary orientation programs, and to help refugees settle down beyond the basics, which requires access to jobs, training, education and counseling. To ensure this in Germany, perhaps more states need to be involved in hosting refugees, while in Europe, and the world as a whole, more countries need to step up to shoulder the burden. For this not just a passing phase. What we are witnessing today is the beginning of an era of major population dislocation that will be part of our lives for decades to come, spurred by a combination of environmental, political and socioeconomic drivers. The sooner we accept this fact the faster we can prepare for handling its challenges, and the more effective our responses will be. There is a nested series of opportunities and crises involved here, and we need to begin sorting things out now while we have some time before the floodgates truly open.
As for the proposed orientation programs, the macabre development in Cologne should help us realize the need for breeching certain topics, including women’s rights and differing socio-sexual mores, with the refugees that we have been loath to do previously for fear of sounding judgmental, condescending or racist, etc. The reason for orientation is not to preach or convert, but to reassert the authority of the law of the land. For, even though some red lines are intuitive, a reminder in this situation is necessary, because the trip to Germany for most migrants have included an element of flaunting the law, and have exposed many of these migrants to horrific circumstances, including serious abuses.
The behavior of the migrant gangs in Cologne was not some cultural misunderstanding. It was criminal behavior par excellence, and those who engaged in it knew it. But, I think that, in addition to drunkenness and mass hysteria, their behavior was also influenced by their inability to appreciate the existence of limits. Despite the hatred and anger that their presence had inspired in some, once they arrived in Germany, the experiences of most migrants were quite positive relatively speaking, and most people who met one they arrived were concerned with making them feel safe and welcome. For few, (since we are talking about a million refugees by now, the few could mean several thousands) some of whom might already be criminals of one type or another, while others might simply be confused and angry as a result of their journey, or what they have witnessed before their journey, the welcoming attitude might have felt as an invitation to explore the limits of the acceptable. It is for the sake of this few and for others more accustomed to a structured way of life, that orientation programs are needed, and need to contain a component asserting the authority of the law. The majority of the refugees who may not need such a program are not likely to find it as objectionable as some people on the left may think. After all, they are generally aware of the controversy and fears that their influx is causing in host countries; as such, they can understand the need for taking part in such programs.
What happened in Cologne is criminal, but it’s not a cultural misunderstanding, nor is it a simple sign of sexual frustration (rape, after all, is about power, rage and control). We will not know the ultimate motives until the key players are identified by the police, and until their specific background stories are made known, as is the case with any criminal investigation.
But, yes, accommodating migrants will not be easy, and, no, we cannot turn our backs on them. For, even if building walls to keep migrants out was a feasible proposition, eventually, walls will make prisoners of us as well. On a less philosophical note, the problem we are dealing with here is this: over the next few decades, a set of man-made and environmental disasters, including conflicts, droughts and famine will combine to drive millions of people from their homes, in the direction of the West, and more developed nations. In theory, it is better for all concerned if we managed this situation through a series of timely, if costly, interventions, keeping people where they are and preventing violence from escalating. But since the political will for such undertakings is lacking in the West, and since countries like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others, tend to intervene in a manner the further inflame conflicts, and, finally, since, unfortunately for all of us, there are still quite few regimes around the world boasting leaders like Assad or worse, considering all this, we are left with the difficult task of managing the influx of refugees and migrants. For our sake, as well as theirs, we cannot afford to lack the political will to do things right here.
Saudocalypse – The Wankerite Revolution: The Saudi blueprint “The desert kingdom is striving to dominate its region and modernise its economy at the same time.” The new rulers of Saudi Arabia can throw in terms like “a Thatcherite Revolution,” can wave promises of selling shares in Aramco and creating the biggest IPO in history, and can launch a war in Yemen and support Islamist rebels in Syria, but at the end of the day nothing can save their ailing Kingdom and dynasty except for serious political and social reforms – that is the exact thing they are trying to avoid. But then, that was the exact same thing that Bashar Al-Assad has been trying to avoid for a decade before the Syrian revolution, and look where it landed him, and what he did to Syria in the process.
We need political and social freedoms just to survive in this modern world of ours. And we need effective governance and empowered technocratic elite if we want to move beyond mere survival. Saudi has more challenges than confronting Iran’s regional ambitions; their primary challenge is to prepare their economy and society for the transition to the era beyond fossil fuel dependency. Thanks to the Paris Agreement we now have a deadline for meeting this challenge: 2050. Without social and political reforms, Saudi is set to lose this challenge. Worse. Saudi is set for Saudocalypse.
And we are not talking about full-fledged liberal electoral democracy here. Thanks to the Wahhabi establishment, Saudi society is definitely not ready for that. Reforms at this stage could be restricted to a constitution, bill of rights, and a parliament (preferably bi-cameral in order to balance various societal and regional forces and check the power of Islamists). The king could retain the power to appoint people to certain key posts, such as the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior and defense and heads of various security agencies. A measure of decentralization might help meet some of the demands of the country’s Shia minority, among other segments. And educational reform is a must, and the reform needed here is not simply about improving the content of religious instruction. It’s about helping students to acquire the right mentality and skills that will needed down the road to enter into the job markets and take part in creating the new economic alternatives to income generated from oil exports.
Until Saudi’s new rulers show the courage and wisdom necessary to undertake such reforms, theirs is a revolution of wankers, and their future choices will be reduced to one of three alternatives: death, exile, or learning Persian in order to better serve their new masters.
Saudaran –Clash of the Morons! The Saudi-Iran paradox that haunts the west “Riyadh is viewed as a close ally and vital collaborator in the fight against jihadism.” When talking about Iran, the author does not fail to raise the issue of its civilizational superiority, or, in his parlance, “civilizational depth,” the favorite theme of those who back the Iran deal and Iran over Saudi in general. But, in terms of civilizational “depth,” while there is no denying Iran’s much richer history, none of us can fail to note the distinct absence of any 1,000 year old walking down the streets of Tehran and Riyadh (that is, with the possible exception of the Hidden Imam), as such, one should not really read too much into those depths, especially at the expense of the last century, and the last four decades in particular.
Yes, the Mullahs in Iran have been in control for more than three and half decades for now, one of them, the 1980s, was particularly violent, leading to a mass purges, mass exodus, mass casualties (during to Iraq-Iran war), much by way of population shifts and dislocations, and mass social engineering. Indeed, a lot has happened to Iran, state and society, during this period and the following decades. Cultures change, and if some segments of the Iranian urban society showed some resilience to the Mullah’s anti-modern ways, most other segments have found it much easier and natural to surrender to their teachings, accepting it whole, stock and barrel. Let’s not forget here, how much support the former president Ahmadinejad had, for all his archaic religious views, and millenarian outlook, or, in fact, because of them.
Moreover, the secularism of some of the urban elites does not necessarily translated in the political field into a pro-Western, not to mention pro-American attitudes. Most Iran’s secularists are still leftists. To them, America is as satanic as it is to the Khomeinist mullahs. The only significant political group in Iran that might be cultivated by the West, and America, is the Bazari faction within the mullah establishment. It is, generally speaking, this faction and its few Khomeinist allies that supported the Green Movement back in 2009. But this group is neither enlightened nor interested in enlightenment. But its members are greedy, corrupt, and pragmatic, if, at one point, Rouhani was one of them, he only became president on account of his return to the Khomeinist fold, led by Ali Khamenei. But, pragmatism is not civilizational depth, and if it were, then, Saudis have been far better at it, and have had a longer history of it with the United States and other Western allies.
But since neither side at this stage currently represents a civilization worthy of the name, let’s dispense with this rubbish. This is not about a choice between civilizations. There are simply those in the U.S. and Europe, including President Obama himself, who are convinced of the inevitability of Saudi collapse, and perhaps even Turkey’s collapse, and are busy trying to create alternatives to her in the region. But, paradoxically enough, they are these efforts of theirs to hedge their regional bet that seem to be playing a major part in precipitating the crisis.
Moreover, Iran is simply not the right instrument for regional stabilization. Stabilizing a mostly Arab Sunni region requires an Arab Sunni force. Modernizing it requires an Arab Sunni power that is committed to modernity. Facilitating the emergence of such power and increasing its influence on its neighbors, and their peoples, so as to be able to play a stabilizing role calls for a certain commitment to democratic values. This is a daunting challenge, but running away from it and embracing illusions will not make things any easier.
The Next Front in the Saudi-Iran War “The two regional powers are at each other's throats. But Riyadh's next move won't be in Syria or Yemen -- it'll aim to hit Tehran where it really hurts.” And oil prices are apparently where it hurts. Saudi is betting on its ability to absorb the losses and/or make up for them through its other ventures.
Don’t Take Sides in Other People’s Quarrels. This might sound reasonable to the uninformed and stupid. But, after actually taking sides in other people’s conflicts for about a century making the unilateral choice to stop becomes a slightly more complicated affair. America has cultivated allies, made commitments and promises and still has interests all over the world; indeed, its relationship with the world is both dynamic and interactive. So, if there is a conflict out there, and one of the sides involved happens to be an ally of the U.S. with whom she still has certain common interests, the idea of not taking sides seems more like betrayal and will have major negative repercussions for years to come. Now we have doomed ourselves to a long period of violence and conflicts around the world, most of which are bound to have some impact on our living conditions at home, the idea of not taking sides seems disingenuous or downright stupid.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, six thousand die in a 'forgotten war' as a young girl and a city struggle for life.
“The regime lies, and has not allowed any food or medical aid to enter Madaya or Zabadani…Any armed rebel who surrenders himself gets taken to one of the security branches and is never heard from again… Hezbollah has complete control of the areas around Zabadani, Bludan and Madaya. Regime officers don’t dare do anything without orders from it...It’s as though the regime has sold the region to Hezbollah.” --Dr. Burhane, head of the Medical Commission in Zabadani