Friday, February 5, 2016

A Fist Full of Saffron! A Mouth Full of Shit!

DDGD February 6, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The Saffron Guild: A group of fundamentally shitty people who try to hide their basic shittiness through deployment of colorful imagery and flowery language. Guild members, AKA the Saffrogettes (even though the majority of them are men), specialize in attending the signing ceremonies of any deal struck with the devil, hailing it as breakthrough, and castigating its critics.

The Delirica

The Search for Hope and Safety: We are told that EU officials are only now discovering that most of the “refugees” whom they had welcomed into their countries are actually not refugees at all, but are, in fact, the long heralded and dreaded economic migrants: those hideous creatures whose eventual appearance onto the historical scene has long been predicted by certain sociologists and economists. Yes, those end-of-days creatures are now pouring into Europe, following the same treacherous trek as refugees. But they are not in search of mere safety, as the refugees seek, but rather better economic opportunities, ones that are not available in their countries of origin, for whatever reason.

The impulse to separate economic migrants from real refugees is understandable to a point. Many people feel compassion for the plight of refugees and want to try to accommodate them, even if only on a temporary basis or until circumstances allow them to return home. But they resist the idea of affording economic migrants that same benevolent treatment. The burden of this group’s economic expectations, they suggest, is something their own governments, not ours, should shoulder—even if those governments happen to be unfair, unrepresentative, and incompetent at economic management. If our doors are open to migrants from North Africa, Europeans wonder, why not to every person in the world who thinks quite rightly he would have a better life here?

The problem is that people are not so reasonable when it comes to managing their expectations and sitting still for their allotment in life—accepting that being born in Algeria or Tunisia does not confer the same opportunities as being born a boat ride away in Italy. Nor do human expectations neatly sort into separate packages—the economic versus the political—to be handled by different agencies. Nor are our destinies, or our economics, so separate that the impact of certain developments “there” can be kept “there.”

Things have always been far more complex than that. In the modern globalized world, there is no Las Vegas principle—what happens there does not stay there… (Continue Reading the Article)

The Daily Delirynth

Here is what Putin said last year to the UN General Assembly: "Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster — and nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have forced that situation: Do you realize what you have done?" And he was pointing at us.

In a sense, Putin is saying what some self-styled realists in the United States say: that by trying to remake the world in our democratic image, America is actually making everything worse.

Here is the problem, I think, with that argument: It wasn’t the United States that gave all those people from the Middle East to Ukraine to Burma to Burundi the idea that their governments should serve them instead of stealing from them.

Yes, it’s true that ideals that we professed have inspired those people in many places; legal norms we have helped to forge over many years have empowered many of those people. But it was they who decided to remake their worlds in their image of what a just society demands.

This is a very important comment by Mr. Malinowski, because there are lots of people out here, realists and leftists intellectuals as well as autocratic leaders and their apologists, who often ignore the fact that demands for democracy and respect for human rights are homegrown, and that there exists a growing indigenous constituency for these ideals whose rights is being trampled underfoot and whose plight is being ignored by all those anti-war advocates and all those limited to no-intervention realists.

Be that as it may, the autocrats and the realists can congratulate themselves for now: they have won the current showdown against the democratic forces, and have momentum on their side. Just don’t expect the world to be better for it, even if the price of oil is on the decline and we seem poised to move beyond dependency on fossil fuel. There is an inherent latent cost to indifference and narrowmindedness, and we will have to face the music soon enough.

Complicit Not Conned: Syria: What Next? This piece by Fred Hoff is excellent except when it comes to tis analysis how badly the U.S. fucked up in regard to its Syria policy, but I take issue with its underlying assumption throughout that the Obama administration was repeatedly “gulled” by Moscow. I don’t believe the Administration was gulled.

At this stage, I cannot see around the conclusion that the administration is a silent partner in the current scheme unfolding in Syria, with the Russians and Iranians doing the dirty work which the Administration cannot do but of which it amply approves. This policy is more about betrayal than gullibility, and it’s not simply Syrian rebels who are being betrayed but American values, the very ones that the President defends to a domestic audience. I believe that the plan being currently implemented is to allow for the Russians and the Iranians to defeat the rebels, yes, even those once reluctantly backed by the West, thus restoring the regime's control over the western parts of Syria, while the U.S. and its allies focus on fighting the Islamic State in the eastern parts of the country as well as in Iraq. Then, at some hapless point in the future, once the goals are achieved or sufficient progress has been made in this regard, Bashar Al-Assad might be removed, one way or another, albeit probably through a convenient car bomb attack, in order to make the situation more acceptable to the international community.

In many ways, the realists seem comfortable allowing states like Russia and Iran to play such “stabilizing” roles in the future, and to bear its material costs. For some reason, the return to relevance of such illiberal states doesn’t seem to scare them, because America’s military and economic superiority remains unassailable at this stage, while the economies of most these states are in tatters, and their armies, though strong, remain far from constituting a serious threat to America itself. The fact that such developments pose existential threats to some of America’s traditional allies doesn’t seem to bother the realist camp. The fact that the aspirations of so many people for democracy will be crushed, and are, in fact, being crushed, by these illiberal forces matters even less. Theirs is a dream indefinitely deferred, and is not something that realists care very much for anyway.

The assumption that Russia may not enjoy any victory in Syria and Ukraine for too long, as its economy continues to teeter on the verge of collapse, an assumption widely held by realists, and with which I tend to agree, with some reservations, should, in fact, compel the administration to stand up to Putin, not appease him. Why appease a loser? Why not hasten his fall? Why not work to cultivate new alliances by facilitating democratic transition in Syria? The simple answer is: the Obama Administration is too risk averse, and will not embark on such undertakings without guarantees. Many would argue this stand in itself all but guarantees chaos and failure, and increases risks on the longer run. But a myopic administration can live with that.

The Missing Tidbit: Government Forces, Backed by Russian Jets, Advance in Syria. There is an interesting little tidbit of a fact missing from current coverage of “the Assad regime” or “government forces” advances” in northern Aleppo, and other parts of Syria: it’s simply not the regime (or the government) that is advancing. What’s actually advancing is a motley assortment of Shia militias from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon (Hezbollah), funded by Iran and many were trained there, backed by Russian carpet bombing and tanks, led by Russian and IRGC generals, and supported when necessary by Russian commandos. There are few Alawite officers there for sure to act as liaisons with the local population, and to appear on state TV to announce victory, real and imagined, but whose role in the actual fighting has largely become symbolic at this stage. Those who ignore this little tidbit are simply blinding themselves to what the future holds for Syria.

For if this is how victory is to be achieved in Syria, and considering that all these victories are leading to mass dislocation of the mostly Sunni population, then, basically, the Western parts of Syria are being gradually transformed into an Iranian/Russian colony, stretching from Aleppo and Latakia in the North, to Daraa and Suweida in the South, with some strips along the borders with Israel, Jordan and Turkey left under local control with support from said neighbors. To the East, Kurdish and Arab tribes will establish their control, after defeating IS, with U.S. backing and possible involvement by Saudi and Arab forces. It might still take a couple of years before this scenario is finalized, and the fate of Idlib and certain parts of central Syria may not be resolved for years to come, but things seem to be heading in this direction. 

And the sale of Syria will thus be completed, and all for a fist full of saffron, and a few Persian rugs.

Neither a dervish nor a puppeteer: In all this, and to go back to the assumption that Obama Administration has been or is being “gulled” by Putin, it’s true that the President himself might at times appear as a sad and haggard dervish who lost his will to whirl, but, the fact is that he remains far more involved in the current state of global affairs to be thought of as being a dupe. The world is still, in part at least, dancing to his rhythms, but he is no longer the maestro. In fact, the entire orchestra has no maestro at this stage, which is why everybody seems to be playing off-tempo, to the bewilderment of the audience. Still, some diehards, the realists and their ilk to be specific, might prefer to think of the new composition as representing a bold new experiment of sorts, a “Marteau San Maître” Part Deux if you will. If so, then, Pierre Boulez and Klemens von Metternich must be rolling in their respective graves.

Quote of the Day

“Any plan conceived in moderation must fail when the circumstances are set in extremes.” –Klemens von Metternich

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Cartoons: The Cauldron

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