Sunday, February 28, 2016

Trumpocalypse Now!

My latest contributions to the Lawfare Blog 
DDGD February 28, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The Little Engine That Should But Won’t Inc. We know what’s right, but we’re just not sold on the reason why we should do it.

The Delirica

The Deeper Price: 106-Year-Old Says She Can 'Die Happy' After Obama Meeting. Such stories capture the essence of my disappointment as a liberal with Obama’s policies on the Syria War and on the issue of democracy promotion in general. For how can a man, whose rise to power marks a critical breakthrough in the fight for civil rights in this country, be so casual in his treatment of civil rights efforts abroad? I have been voicing this sentiment repeatedly since Obama’s 2008 Cairo Speech which marked a return to the cynical policy of engaging dictatorial regimes and working with their puppet NGOs.

The spirit and philosophy that underlined that speech, namely that the United States should not interfere in other peoples’ struggle for freedom and democracy, which later metamorphosed into the assertion that it’s not the job of the United States to determine the outcome of other peoples’ civil wars, might have made sense back in the 19th Century or even earlier. But a couple hundred years of global; interactions and increasing inter-connectivity make such sentiment nothing less than nonsensical if not hypocritical. The whole point of the UN, an institution that would not have come into existence without America’s leadership, was to facilitate the spread of democracy as the cornerstone for peacemaking.

The end of the Cold War coincided with a revival of that very ethos, and was embodied through the establishment of the European Union, the push for its expansion, and processes such as the Barcelona Process, which pushed for the adoption of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership agreement, an agreement that meant to strengthen economic ties between the two world, while encouraging political reforms. Finally, the trend culminated with the adoption of the international legal doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, which president Obama himself invoked when justifying the intervention in Libya.

Turning our back on all these achievements, which seems to have been the guiding vision behind the Cairo speech, and Obama’s foreign policy in general, has undermined them all, and now illiberalism is on the rise again around the world, and even in our democratic societies. America has long ceased to be a mere power among others, she has made itself unique, and its leadership indispensable. Western Civilization has long become universal because it has succeeded in encompassing the best values promoted by previous civilizations, then, went on to build something even bigger and better – something that is more than the sum total of these civilizations, something bigger than its own geography would suggest, something whose core values came to be enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Responsibility to Protect (R2p) and similar conventions. These conventions were approved by representatives of most if not all contemporary countries. They are owned by all.  They bind us together, at least those of us who believe in them. These conventions have enemies and adherents everywhere. When a country that has assiduously worked to be the defender of these values shirks its duties in this regard it does not just fail its people, it fails all people who believe in these values or who are wrestling to embrace them wherever they happen to be. It is this truth that captures the essence of Obama’s failure, and of the realists’ abnegation of universalism.

The Daily Delirynth

Delirial Utterances: By the time I receive my American citizenship sometimes this summer, as I hope, I will have spent a total of 20-some years of my life in the United States, divided over two separate yet quite significant periods. By now, I am as American as can be and no longer an outsider to the American culture and political system. When I speak out I do so out of genuine concern for America, Syria, and the world beyond. I critically embrace America’s values, I do believe in her natural right to pursue its interests, and I earnestly want to see her prosper. So there!

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are mere symptoms of an all too familiar malaise in democratic societies: political parties that have lost touch with their base. Until this malady treated, nothing will really change, except to the worse.  

‪Presidents Obama and the Obamaphiles have paved the way for Donald Trump and the Trumpolytes. Fascist illiberalism is the child of amoral Realism.

By ignoring and failing to take strong stand against certain clearly racist attacks against Obama, the Republican establishment has greatly contributed to the Trump phenomenon.

A country like the United States of America cannot behave amorally no matter hard some of its leaders try. By virtue of its declared values and its history, especially over the last 100 years, its actions and policies can only be moral or immoral. By reneging on this, it was only natural for Obama’s Realism to lead to Illiberalism.

Trump’s fascism, and that of his supporters, is not as pronounced and ideological as it was at the time of Hitler and Mussolini. It’s much subtler, and both he and his supporters, seem to be unaware of it. That’s exactly why it is so dangerous.

As a sign of how blurred the lines have become between the extreme left represented by Bernie Sanders and the extreme right represented by Donald Trump, the appeal of both men to minority groups remains limited, and the policies proposed by both on foreign policy issues, especially the conflicts in Syria and Libya, are practically identical. Realism unites, but the surprising result is a betrayal of what America is about: practical idealism, or, if you will, moral realism.

Truce in Syria feels more like a Hoodna than a hudna. That is, it only applies to certain specific localities, often hoods and villages scattered throughout the country, than the entire country. And there will violations of course. The thing was designed to allow for violations under the mantle of fighting terrorism.

The Ugly Dictator’s Survival Handbook - Lesson 77: How Pentagon Geeks & Russian Generals Plotted in Secret to Take Away Assad’s WMDA secret plan involving Pentagon scientists and Russian national security officials managed to take out the weapons of mass destruction belonging to a brutal dictator.” Just like Samantha Power’s book “A Problem from Hell,” this article can also have a dual use. That is, it can serve as a how-to to dictators wo want to avoid accountability on how they can win international support at the expense of the basic rights and aspirations of their people. Or, to be more specific, the article can serve as an additional reinforcement and encouragement for dictators who have already discovered the secret for survival in an amoral world.

For dictators have long discovered the value of popularizing nightmarish scenarios that are said to unfold should the regimes be allowed to fall. They did this for the benefit of a domestic audience as well as the international community. But, these days, and as the article points out, and the truth of the Iran Deal reveals, having lots of WMDs stockpiles dispersed over many locations in the country is an important new ingredient of this strategy. And if one can afford to develop a serious nuclear program, then, one should not hesitate about it, irrespective of any international condemnation, threat or sanctions. Ultimately, when the program is advanced enough, there is every reason to believe that diplomatic engagement will be seen as the only way out. And the ruling regime, no matter how authoritarian or corrupt it happens to be, will be re-legitimated. In the meantime, no one would risk going to war with it, and the economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation imposed on it can help it increase its grip on state and society.

The fact that the Obama administration is actually congratulating itself on its handling of the Syria File as a whole and not just the issue of the WMDs, as well as the Iran Deal, all while ignoring the price involved – the half million Syrian dead, the millions injured and displaced, the destroyed infrastructure, the implosion of a country, and the threat to Europe’s stability, all that should serve as an additional source of confirmation to dictators that their “Aprés moi, le deluge” strategy still works.

No Friend of Mine: The willfully ignorant and the ideologues are not friends of ours! The comment below was left on my Facebook page by a certain Steven C. Hunt. Below that comment is my own response: 

“Whatever your past conflicts with the Syrian government, if you align with sectarian forces that have hijacked the 2011 protests, then you have no credibility as a secular voice or persona. The role played by cynical external, imperialist forces in this mayhem is well documented. Thankfully, they are losing. I am supporting the Syrian people, and the legitimate government in this situation. The US, Saudis, Qataris, and Turks are not friends of the Syrian people.”

My response:

“Long before the Revolution, sectarian forces have hijacked the government in Syria. It's the Assad regime's sectarian tendencies over the last 40 years that paved the way to this catastrophe. You also ignore the role of Russian and Iranian imperialism in this matter.

I am not interested in appearing credible to ideologues and people who are so deeply misinformed about the situation in Syria, and so unwilling to examine all relevant facts, yet quite willing to stand by the Assad regime calling it legitimate, as though we ever had free elections, and as though the Assad regime, by UN reckoning, is not the entity responsible for over 90% of all the dead, tortured, cleansed and raped, and most of the damage to the country's infrastructure.

True, judging by their actions, neither Obama’s US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey nor Qatar are friends of the Syrian people. But neither are the Russians, the Iranians, the Assad regime itself, or members of Hezbollah and the Shia/Alawite-manned or led militias fighting for it.

Moreover, and quite respectfully, sir, neither are you, since you remain an avowed ally of their oppressor.” 

Quote of the Day

“We didn’t have much choice left. Nearly 90% of reformist candidates, even the second- and third-rate ones, were disqualified. So we had to either boycott the elections and leave the political ground to the principlists, or change our strategy.” --Sadegh Zibakalam on Iranian parliamentary elections

Tweet(s) of the Day

Cartoons: The Cauldron

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