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Total number of comments: 33 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:23)

William deB. Mills

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  • Is Egypt on the Verge of Civil War? Morsi backs off Emergency Decree
    • I agree that there was a fundamentalist-secular social divide; I was speaking about civil war. It is my impression that most Muslim activists in Algeria in 1990-1991 wanted a peaceful transition, while most of the rest of the population (e.g., FLN members) wanted a peaceful transition as well (though not defined the same - more of a Hamrouche-style moderate/secular democracy with economic modernization).

      We will never know at this point whether the FIS electoral victory would have led to Turkey-style rule or Taliban-style rule because the generals chose violence, repressing the Hamrouche liberal democrats, the FIS, and the FLN. At least that is my argument. If my argument is true, then it cautions against military intervention overthrowing democracy to stop peaceful Muslim religious participation in elections.

      Of course extremists existed in Algeria. But should attacks on unveiled women (or women who go to abortion clinics) be prevented by provoking civil war and creating a military dictatorship...or by police action?

      Allow me to ask the question differently. Was the split in Algeria primarily secular-religious or primarily moderates vs. violence-prone extremists (a few generals on one side, a few fundamentalists on the other)?

    • The Algerian disaster of the 1990s following the coup d'etat by a handful of military-intelligence generals is a message-laden event, so I think it deserves extremely careful handling. Is "civil war between secularists and fundamentalists" really an accurate assessment? That phrase implies that the choice was between "seculariss and fundamentalists."

      Judging from a number of books of which Francalgerie is perhaps the single best, the choice was in fact primarily between democracy and military dictatorship. Yes, there was a religious-secular contest, but my impression is that this contest was distinctly secondary. The war that lasted throughout the 1990s pitted a military-intel cabal against everyone else, if one believes the very detailed Francalgerie account: most religious and most moderate secularists were jumbled together and attacked by a handful of generals, with the violence completely provoked by the military at the start by overthrowing democracy and subsequently still mostly provoked by military pretending to be fundamentalists. This is a completely different picture than the glib "fundamentalists vs. secularists" picture those generals carefully stage-managed for the world. The lessons one would draw from one picture are completely different from the lessons one would draw from the other. These lessons directly inform any discussion of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, so it is important to put Algeria in the correct context.

      So, which, in your opinion, is closest to an accurate depiction of the Algerian domestic violence of the 1990s?

  • UN to look into US Drone Program, but the Biggest Victim is Democracy
    • ACLU [http://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/drones]:
      "The U.S. continues to carry out illegal targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. The government must be held to account when it carries out such killings in violation of the Constitution and international law."

    • Gp,
      I will try to give a very brief response to your question--thought I as well look forward to hearing Prof. Cole give his own answer. In my words, you essentially asked: “Aside from drones, what other choice is there?”

      Start from the rational perspective that one should minimize opposition rather than maximize it by trying to isolate those with whom one absolutely cannot avoid fighting. For every al Qua’ida member determined to wage global jihad by any available violent means, there are probably hundreds of political reformers who want democracy and thousands of angry people who see themselves as defending their homes and families against foreign invasion (that would be us). Our goal should be to marginalize and arrest those few al Qua’ida members (with military support only as a last resort) while maximizing opportunities for the rest to find security and join a peaceful political process. Over the long term, the constant and surely terrifying (to all civilians) patrolling of drones accompanied by the rain of rockets blowing up vehicles and buildings risks (ensures???) a nasty backlash. Even over the mid-term (say, the last decade of using drones), the results appear rather counter-productive. The situation in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan certainly don’t look like U.S. victories to me.

      For those who read French, Le Monde just carried a superb article by French political scientist Bertrande Badie (focused on Mali) that makes the argument. [I will soon put a post about this article on my blog-- shadowedforest1000.wordpress.com.] Badie says much, all meriting thought, but the most troubling point he makes, goes (in my words) something like this: the process of high-tech war against these assemblages of gangs, dissidents, fundamentalists, etc. tends to promote the emergence of those who live by violence. The longer foreign military attack lasts, the greater the prominence of gangs who live by war. That is great for the military-industrial complex but very bad news for those of us who happen to enjoy calm middle-class life.

      So, avoid military destruction, encourage moderate Islamic construction of civil society (Turkey can be a key partner here), keep the U.S. in the background working on nation-building, search for positive-sum outcomes. No one says this is easy; I do say that the current approach of choosing violence as the solution is a battlefield failure (not to mention, as Prof. Cole discussed, profoundly endangering our democratic way of life).

    • The U.S. is firing drones across a good portion of the globe, some of them, according to reports (Can anyone confirm or deny?) on the basis of "racial profiling." What evidence could you possibly have that all these people are "waging war on the United States?" We are in their countries, not the other way around.

      Indeed, the core practical argument (distinct from the moral and legal argument Prof. Cole was making) against drones is precisely that the program transforms internal political dissidents into enemies of the U.S. The attitude that everyone who is not with us (defined as "submissive to us") is against us is a dangerously self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Obama's Inaugural and the Danger of an Iran War
    • I have repeatedly made clear my opinion that the nomination for defense of Hagel, known as a man who prefers to avoid war when possible, COULD be the opportunity for a debate over the fundamental nature of U.S. foreign policy. It COULD be the time for denouncing the perilous Neo-Con path of wars of choice, preventive wars, and empire-building. It COULD give Obama a historic legacy.

      However, Obama's remark that "this generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience" sounds more like the words of an empire-builder than a reformer. What the test of the past 15 years really showed was that Americans like war and are very willing to give up democratic liberties when a war president tells them to. It also showed the tight linkage between a foreign policy based on violence and a domestic policy based on financial corruption by the super-rich to defraud the American public. The crises of the past generation were mostly "made in America" and showed how frail life as we know it really is. It is time we woke up, but Obama's smooth words seem designed to keep us asleep.

      So, I think the Obama Administration is at a crucial tipping point. To push him where he says he wants to go will require the firm leadership of the new progressive senators, making the case for a government dedicated to international compromise and domestic democracy.

  • Congress: The Broken Engine of our Stalled Economy (Jamiol cartoon)
    • Cute cartoon...and I don't entirely dispute its point, but the issue seems to me more to be an intentional warping of the US economic system than a breakdown. The Neo-Con invasion of Iraq was marvelously profitable for a handful of military-industrial CEOs and got Bush-Cheney reelected. The accompanying bank-mortgage company theft that produced the 2008 recession was also marvelously profitable for a handful of bank and fund CEOs. Indeed, corporate profits generally are quite healthy (which has almost nothing to do with jobs or wages). The economy is not broken; it has been hijacked by a cabal of the super-rich and their paid political lackeys (who whine about "balanced budgets" to conceal GRAND THEFT ECONOMY). To return to the cartoon, it's not so much that the engine broke down but that its fuel was stolen.

  • Bahrain's Bloody Crackdown no Bar to Big US Weapons Sales (Elliott)
    • Bahrain's descent into brutal repression is a classic picture of what is wrong with a foreign policy based on force rather than diplomacy and setting a good example. Be it drones, wars of choice, nuclear threats, economic war, terror, or just the arming of repressive regimes in thanks for their repression, over the long run, a foreign policy based on force in the modern world is not very effective and provokes all manner of costly backlash. The threats and violence vis-a-vis Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran that solved nothing and made matters worse [http://shadowedforest1000.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/pakistan-iran-and-afghanistan-threats-violence-resolved-nothing/] are quite likely to have the same impact with Bahrain...though perhaps on someone else's watch. Simply, violence causes more problems for a democracy than it solves.

      Let us hope that the upcoming Hagel nomination spurs a national debate over what U.S. foreign policy is doing to long-term U.S. national security.

  • "Surgeon of Damascus" Promises more Blood, Blames West for Syria Violence
    • It is surely clear that there are bad guys in Syria and it is obvious that those bad guys are backed by powerful organizations. It is only logical to assume that there are also many decent people being mistreated. What is not clear is whether or not any "good" organizations exist and merit support.

      Given the record of U.S. influence over Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, etc., it is also clear that the likelihood of Washington decision-makers correctly identifying an organization in Syria that might merit diplomatic, economic, or military support is very small.

      It is no doubt useful to point out the evil being done by various Syrian politicians, though one must be careful to point out such evil regardless of which side is doing it (and few reports have such balance). But at this point, would it not be more valuable to lay out any argument that may exist to justify making a commitment to support those we think might possibly deserve our help? And if no such candidate can be identified, then the proper course of action lies elsewhere.

      "Do no harm" should be the default course of action, especially for elephants. The burden of proof lies on those Westerners who presume to have the wisdom to interfere and make things better.

  • "A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market..." (JFK Poster)
    • Politicians have a pretty good idea whether or not what they are doing is appropriate: if they have expertise in nothing else, politicians certainly have expertise in detecting opportunities to conduct the public business for their personal advantage. When an official hides information, it is almost never for national security reasons, almost always to conceal behavior that the official knows full well was inappropriate. In a democracy, the public interest is rarely served by concealing the behavior or true reasons behind the behavior of officials. There are of course exceptions, perhaps the main one being a situation where a weak state under the threat of attack defends itself by pretending to be more powerful than it is. For a secure state, however, "national security" is a claim designed to protect the guilty far more often than to protect the public. Lack of transparency by officials constitutes prima fascie evidence of guilt.

      Washington officials must be very frightened of the American people.

  • Palestinian Hunger Games
  • Israeli Security Elite Slams Netanyahu, sidetracks War on Iran
    • If Netanyahu is "messianic"--and a worse sin for a man with his finger on the nuclear button is hard to imagine--and thus, as being portrayed by Dagan, Diskin, Olmert, and Gantz, a threat to Israeli national security, then he is obviously also a danger to U.S. national security.

      American politicians lusting for war against Iran can no longer pretend that they are demonstrating "friendship for Israel" by pursuing a policy that, according to much of the elite of Israeli national security thinkers, itself amounts to endangering Israeli national security.

      Instead, these American politicians need to respond directly to the charges being made by Dagan, Diskin, Olmert, and Gantz and show why these Israeli leaders are wrong...or stop
      threatening war against Iran.

  • Yes, MEMRI, there is a Fatwa from Khamenei forbidding Nukes
    • On the other hand, having a small number of nukes and knowing you will never catch up to your adversaries arguably makes you less secure.

      What I find bizarre, assuming that Washington wants a balanced solution, is that Washington makes no effort to convince Iran that it can have security without nukes. Instead, U.S. policy is replete with evidence that in fact only nukes will offer Iran the hope of security + independence. This is a very counterproductive lesson to be teaching them from the perspective of U.S. national interests.

  • Khamenei's Fatwa against Nukes (Cenk Uygur Rant)
    • An interesting point. If Khamenei is lying or not a "true Muslim," does that change the political situation for him? He wishes to be seen domestically as the top representative of Islam, does he not? If that is the case, how can he violate his own fatwah without losing significant domestic political credibility and legitimacy? Further, does it not follow that violating his fatwah would undermine the domestic legitimacy of the Shi'i Republic? In its competition with other factions (e.g., the younger generation of officers who fought the war against Saddam), would the clergy not be somewhat reluctant to do this?

    • It was repeated just a few days ago by the nuclear negotiator Jalili.

      In reaction to the just completed round of nuclear talks between Iran and the West, Iran's chief negotiator Jalili has described Khamenei's fatwa calling nuclear arms "haram" (morally forbidden) as having “created an opportunity for concrete steps toward disarmament and non-proliferation.”

      Jalili's statement prepares the way in Tehran for nuclear compromise as the morally correct and politically correct way forward, if only the West will make some effort to present attractive offers couched respectfully. Tehran has clearly stated, in American language, that compromise is "on the table." This is a hugely significant statement for an extremely hostile and surely somewhat nervous regime that has been struggling since its inception for independence from Western domination. For more, see link to shadowedforest.blogspot.com.

      Cenk Uygur's thought experiment was a brilliant way of exposing the standard American bias on the issue.

  • China hopeful Iran will compromise with the UNSC
    • It is not clear to me how Iran can compromise since I am not aware that any compromise is being offered by the U.S. I would love to hear that I am wrong, but it is my impression that Washington is offering only a negotiated surrender of Iran's capacity for self-defense, with the salt of humiliation rubbed into the wounds.

      One might argue that giving up the ability to defend itself is a small loss for Iran, since it obviously really has no ability to defend itself against nuclear Israel anyway. But the humiliation part will be hard to swallow, and the humiliation part is surely Netanyahu's minimum goal because the whole nuclear issue is only a proxy for Israeli hegemony.

      This leaves Obama with a problem: if he cuts a rational deal with Iran designed to resolve the nuclear problem, then it must include something for Iran and that "something" must surely address Iran's legitimate right to self-defense. This is not difficult - U.S. guarantee of no attack plus support for Russian air defense missiles might suffice.

      The problem is that a rational deal trading complete Iranian nuclear transparency for Iranian national security will take the sting--the humiliation--out and therefore such a deal WILL NOT SATISFY NETANYAHU. On the contrary, a deal that recognizes Iran's right to exist, be safe, and continue to pursue its independent foreign policy, while frankly quite fine for the U.S., would be the worst defeat the Greater Israel faction has ever suffered. So Obama has a problem.

  • US Public Wants out of Afghanistan as 3 Western Troops Killed by Afghan Troops
    • Almost all Americans bought the neo-con line about the "war on terror" after the horror of 9/11, but today the 99% appear, judging from various polls, to have learned something. We are told, for example, that nearly 70% now want the war in Afghanistan ended. Interestingly, in stark contrast to the war-mongering by the Netanyahu clique, 62% of Israelis also oppose a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran (though more would support it if Americans paid the bill)!

      In both cases, it seems reasonable to assume that many if not most of the individuals have little knowledge of the real historical facts (which are carefully hidden by Israeli and American politicians) and little appreciation for how the world looks from the perspective of the two countries being targeted. Yet, very large American and Israeli majorities evidently oppose, in the case of Afghanistan, an incompetent and brutal war, and, in the case of Iran, an unprovoked war of aggression. Just imagine how large the anti-war majorities would be if Washington and Tel Aviv made an effort to present accurate portrayals of global affairs to their otherwise-occupied populations!

      I propose that henceforth the following distinction be made when polling or generalizing in any way about what Americans (or perhaps Israelis, though I am not familiar with Israel's tax code) think:

      If more than 50% of your income is earned and derived from income taxed in the normal way just like everyone else, you are in the category "normal;"

      If most of your income is unearned, i.e., derived from privileged sources that are taxed at low rates (e.g., the U.S. rich man's welfare program known as "capital gains"), then you will be classified in the category "privileged."

      Then, we will all have a much easier time figuring out why so many of the rich, who never fight, want war.

  • Changing Iran's Nuclear Calculation with Green Energy: Buonomo
    • Two schools of thought are coursing through the veins of Washinton decision-makers, competing for dominance. One is the desire to persuade Iran to forgo the bomb. The other is a combination of the neo-liberal desire to gain economic control over Iran to exploit it plus the neo-con desire to expand U.S. empire by taking out the greatest current symbol of opposition to the U.S.-centric global political system.

      To the degree that Washington wants to prevent Iranian nukes, the author's proposal of supporting the development of green power for Iran is a brilliant positive-sum solution.

      To the degree that Washington wants empire, the author's proposal will come as nothing more than unwanted interference.

      Read their lips.

  • SOTU and a Destabilized Middle East
    • I am sure Obama would be delighted to hear that you think he is better than the worst president this country has ever had! As for representing the American people's view of foreign affairs, gee, I personally (as one of the American people) would in theory prefer a leader on foreign policy rather than a follower, given the pathetic ignorance of foreign affairs in this country. Of course, considering where his predecessor led us, maybe a follower is better after all.

  • Dagan, Ofer and Israel's Growing Iran Credibility Gap
    • Judging from Israeli media and the unusually pointed public comments of normally silent Israeli intel chiefs, those men appear truly concerned that Netanyahu is undermining Israeli national security. It follows that if Washington also cares about Israeli security, that it should do something.

      The record of irrationality in Israeli foreign policy makes it dangerous to discount the threat of Israeli aggression.

      But most telling of all is the absence of any clear, unambiguous statement from the White House that the Obama Administration would reject and oppose any Israeli attempt to attack Iran in the absence of a clear and immediate Iranian threat to Israel.

      Even if Washington is totally opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran, the ambiguity in Washington rhetoric leaves a dangerous space for leaders in Tel Aviv to imagine that they can pull Washington along in their wake should they decide to start a war they cannot win. If they take the chance, and if they can play Washington one more time as they have so many times before, and if U.S. can end a war against Iran fast enough to avoid disaster for Israel, then Netanyahu and Barak can restore their political fortunes, roll over the Palestinians, and rule the Mideast. It is a nice daydream for a faction whose time may be nearly up.

      Given the influence of this faction over the U.S. Congress, however, what is Obama to do? There are five private citizens in Israel today who have spent their lives defending Israeli national security and who now seem worried about that security: Meir Dagan, Gabi Ashkenazi, Amos Yadlin, Gad Shimron, and Yuval Diskin. Make no mistake: these are Israeli right-wing super patriots, their views will not be in accord with U.S. national security interests, and Obama's contacts with Israelis should be far broader than this group. But, in contrast to certain politicians, they represent what may be called the "rational right:" conservatives who truly care about their country (not just their personal incomes).

      If the security of the Israeli people is of concern to Obama, then perhaps he should take the time to invite these gentlemen to lunch.

  • Anzalone, After Usama: The Jihadi-Takfiri Trend after Bin Laden
    • Two steps by the West can turn bin Laden's death into a positive turning point.

      The Arab Spring is an enormous opportunity for the West to improve relations with the Muslim world while isolating and marginalizing jihadi/takfiris. To the degree that the West takes the side of Muslim populations seeking justice and good governance, moderates are empowered, perception on both sides of a positive-sum relationship between Muslim and Western societies is cultivated, and those relying on violence will appear to be the enemies of everyone. But that outcome will require both that the West reject reliance on violence itself and that it support the Arab Spring, which it remains very far from doing.

      The second step would be the transformation of Western policy toward jihadi/takfiris from something resembling war--which will be perceived as war against Islam--into an international police action. A police action, designed to arrest and publicly try, those who employ violence, would send the message that the West has values and standards of good governance that it takes seriously and offers as common standards for all societies. To be taken seriously, though, this standard would have to be applied not just against "terrorists" but also against violence-prone governments.

      These two interdependent steps will require some fundamental rethinking by the West but could invalidate bin Laden's message.

  • All Hell Breaks Loose in the Middle East
    • The incompetence of the dictatorial Arab regimes is amazing. Whenever an insignificant demonstration occurs, they rush to drop stones on their own feet - by sending cavalry on camels or arresting children or shooting at peaceful protesters. When they "compromise," it has been similarly incompetent - regime offers focusing on monetary moves rather than responding to calls for legal or political reforms and thus giving (the quite correct) impression they hope to bribe their way out of trouble.

      Why?

      The more extreme, the more unjust, the more oppressive the regime, the more difficult it seems to be to change course. The crimes of a politician are no less crimes simply because the politician decides to stop committing those crimes. The criminal politician is trapped: he must fight to the death or pay for his crimes. But fighting to the death just undermines his position all the faster.

      With all the al Jazeera reporting, all the Wikileaks, all these unofficial folks voicing their opinions on the Internet, being a crooked politician just isn't as much fun as it used to be.

  • Sunni-Shiite Tension Boils in Iraq, Gulf over Bahrain
    • The shift in the terms of the Arab debate from "dictatorship vs. democracy" toward "Sunni vs Shi'a" is most unfortunate and dangerous. The former debate was unifying and potentially positive-sum (more liberty for all); in contrast, a sectarian debate is zero-sum, if not negative-sum (we all lose). Unfortunately, it is also much easier to get caught up in a zero-sum debate (we have to oppose those guys to save ourselves) than to stay the course on a generous strategy of working together. Al-Sadr seems to be calling, for example, for Shi'i togetherness rather than civil liberties for all, and this sort of rhetoric only feeds into the process of radicalization provoked by Riyadh's military intervention.

  • It's Official: Tunisia Now Freer than the U.S.
    • Your constant attention to the state of liberty in both the Muslim world and the U.S. is extremely important for Americans, who seem so far in denial about the degradation of their democracy over the last 15 years.

      Liberty is a fragile achievement requiring constant care. Some think it should be treated as a gated community, in which “I” should hide, excluding “you.” Others view liberty as a common good best shared. Both groups, however, surely agree that to take liberty for granted is to weaken it. Consider, in this context, the significance of some events currently taking place in the Mideast and the U.S.

      Across the Arab world, people are putting their lives on the line by publicly protesting, often in the face of both laws prohibiting freedom of speech and security forces with a reputation for torture and murder. Simultaneously, Arab societies are now building civil society. In Egypt, for example, a free union federation has just been organized.

      Meanwhile, on March 2 Israel totally closed a border crossing into Gaza via which limited but critically important food aid was being transferred into the ghetto, thus intensifying its policy of collective punishment. In addition, yesterday used F-16s to attack a university building under construction in Gaza. This is perhaps understandable: if you wish permanently to repress a population, it is indeed useful to prevent them from being educated. And this is not an isolated incident of Israeli efforts to prevent Palestinians from becoming educated. On the West Bank, an armed band of Israeli terrorists from the illegal settlements there—settlements recently supported by the U.S. government at the U.N.--attacked Palestinian villagers.

      In the U.S., the right to bargain collectively, won under near-revolutionary conditions during the Great Depression, is now once again under attack, albeit by peaceful, fairly democratic, though arguably illegal methods. In addition, the U.S. government is holding a soldier naked in jail every night “for his own protection.” Having kept him in confinement for months, much of it in solitary, the government has evidently succeeded in so damaging his psyche that he might stuff his shirt in his mouth and kill himself. Even Solzhenitsyn’s tales of the Gulag Archipelago didn’t include this legal tactic.

      Now, these are just random events and do not constitute proof of which country has a more decent government or a more responsible society or a stronger democracy. But these events do suggest something about the direction in which various societies in this world are moving, and I would like to suggest that it would be in your interest, as a citizen, to pay attention.

  • Why Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979
    • Gordon has a grip. The Egyptian "street" is in a serious sense fighting our (ie., Americans') battle. Liberty is liberty; it does not work too well when divided. When we support dictatorships overseas we diminish our own liberty.

      Yes, dissent is still allowed in America--but Palin's ad about taking out Democrats as well as neo-con references under Bush to opponents of his foreign policy as traitors both demonstrate that there are those who would like to prohibit dissent in America. We all know that the phrase "take out" means "kill." That attitude is not compatible with dissent, nor is the incarceration in solitary for six months of a suspect in the Wikileaks case.

      Liberty is like a plant; it only survives if watered.

  • Thousands of Protesters Challenge Police Crackdown in Egypt
    • Mubarak appears to believe the police are being defeated by the protesters and al Jazeera reports suggest the same thing; whether or not soldiers will attack protesters now appears to be the key question.

      I can only wonder what could persuade a young soldier to fire on a crowd of his own people that might include his own family members...

  • Egypt forbids Protests a Day after it was Shaken by Thousands of Demonstrators, 3 Killed
    • Professor Cole,
      You say Egypt is not Tunisia. Details would be very useful; certainly the middle class protesters looked much like those of Tunisia.

      But I see at least two ways in which Egypt is not Tunisia:

      1) Cairo is Tien An Men (not to mention Tehran), where police and military (in China, country boys with no sympathy for middle class urban protesters) did not hesitate to terrorize protesters;

      2) Washington thinks Egypt is "too big to fail."

  • Wikileaks: Israelis 'Intend to Keep the Gazan Economy on the Brink of Collapse'
    • Foreign policy is traditionally seen as “top-down:” leaders confer with leaders, regimes sign treaties and start wars; policy is made between states, not a couple of guys in an alley. But the world has recently seen some disconcerting examples of “bottom-up” foreign policy, where individuals have acted in classic complex-adaptive systems mode to self-organize new forms of behavior.

      Two obvious current examples are the post-2003 Iraqi insurgency and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan against U.S. military intervention. For Americans, at least, Gaza is unfortunately a less well understood, albeit increasingly important, example.

      The Gaza Ghetto, with its encircling ring of Israeli military “guards” is of course a good example of top-down control, but within the 1.5-million-person society of Gaza, Israel’s writ extends only to influencing rather than controlling. Hamas runs the local government, but even Hamas apparently does not control either the formation of political factions or the use of force—either internally or against the Israeli enemy. Whether Israel exerts its influence through the murder of politicians, military attack, or—as recently revealed—the cynical manipulation of finances to impose the collective punishment of semi-starvation on the whole population, Israel’s actions come down to an insertion of energy that keeps the social pot boiling without controlling the outcome. The outcome is the result not of Israeli decision-making but of highly complex local self-organization.

      Israel might choose to support the development of normal self-government in Gaza, but it does not so choose. Rather, Israel subverts Hamas’ efforts to govern. Since Israel also does not offer a socio-political solution of its own that the population can live with—human rights, a viable economy, security, an educational system, or even a sewage system, Israel does not manage the society in the way any normal government would; rather, it simply provokes the population of Gaza to self-organize even as it prevents the only government Gaza has (that of Hamas) from performing effectively.

      The effect of Israel’s negative-sum policy of preventing good self-government while refusing to offer its own governance (good or bad) is to stimulate experimentation by raising the level of desperation without offering any solution. Israel is thus creating a highly efficient laboratory for breeding new forms of self-organization. The highly predictable outcome is surprise: made desperate and goaded endlessly, the Palestinians will in response invent an endless series of new responses. One day it may be a violent Hamas takeover of domestic administration from a corrupt and servile Fatah, another day it may be a bulldozer attack on the Egyptian border, another day a series of import-export tunnels, another day an international campaign to ship in desperately needed medicine, another day the rise of new self-organized fundamentalist militias that make Hamas look like Gaza’s last best chance for democracy.

      In brief, Israel’s policy in Gaza is a direct threat to Israeli national security. It sets a conservative, hierarchical modern military backed by a government with a foreign policy fixed in the concrete of military superiority as the road to peace against an increasingly inventive, flexible, motivated population finding foreign support from a broadening array of state and non-state actors. It is only a matter of time before some form of behavior with truly serious consequences for Israeli society and, by inevitable extension, for the U.S., emerges from the Gaza laboratory.

  • Wikileaks: Israel Plans Total War on Lebanon, Gaza
    • It is crucial for Americans to recognize the linkage between support for Israeli hawks (who are provoking Arab extremism) and American civil liberties. Those who don't mind endless war against Islam include those who are quite happy to see historic profit margins on Wall Street while Main Street declines, for one example. (One could also mention Big Energy profits at the cost of a poisoned Gulf of Mexico; Big Pharma profits at the cost of many millions without government health insurance.)

      The link is that this highly comfortable situation the elite finds itself in while America declines is likely eventually to start making Americans angry. Are you angry about unemployment, bad health care, poisoned environment? "Sorry, deal with it: we are in the midst of a terrorist emergency!" It is all so very convenient for the ruling elites of both the U.S. and Israel.

  • Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government
    • Abraham,
      I don't know who you are since your link appears to be broken, but I hope you are a public prosecutor. Well stated.

    • Obviously you were talking to Kathleen, not me, but I just wanted to commend you for your defense of freedom of speech. The reason for the White House's irritation with Wikileaks seems clear enough - more concern about peope seeing their dirty linen than about the fact that it is dirty. "Face" is of course of preeminent important to us Westerners, after all!

      As you clearly recognize, that is no way to run a democracy.

    • You and Gary Sick, whom you mentioned in this post, are both doing a fabulous job of putting the Wikileaks in perspective. Professor Sick got it right in his blog post a few days ago when he said Wikileaks would be a good thing for the U.S. if it promoted a more thoughtful discussion about Iran policy. All of us who are concerned about the ongoing mismanagement of this issue and the threat of a nuclear war (by our side, obviously, in the short term at least, since the other side is not known to have nukes) should focus on promoting such a dialogue.

      If one made a list of all the global actors who benefit from the current situation, the list would be very short. It would include bin Laden and Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu. It would certainly exclude the people of the U.S., Israel, and Iran, however. If money could solve the U.S.-Iran dispute, I would propose a new Manhattan Project, but unfortunately it is not that simple. We are actually going to have to open our minds to reality in order to reach this goal; it is not just rocket science.

      My thanks to you, Gary Sick, the Wikileaks folks, and others who are trying to get us there. It is too bad that Obama can't face up to the need for openness in foreign policy, given the track record of how things have been handled behind closed doors.

  • Jewish Gaza Aid Flotilla Planned
    • Americans still deluded into thinking that the politicians in charge in Israel represent anything remotely connected to American values, a group of German Jews running the Gaza blockade is an eye-opener [Goggle: Jewish Ship to Gaza]. Their description of conditions in Gaza:

      "Gaza is still lying in ruins. Children play on top of heaps of rubble, all that remains of their homes. They have no toys. Their schools have no writing or learning materials. There are long lists of the books they need. They have no warm clothes for the winter, often they have neither gas nor electricity for heating.

      Water is in short supply and is contaminated. Damaged plumbing and drainage systems can't be repaired. The hospitals are short of medicines, medical equipment, wheelchairs and prosthetics.

      Houses can only be provisionally rebuilt in clay. Essentials for daily survival have to be brought into Gaza through tunnels, often carried by young people who are risking their lives. Soon even these tunnels will be blocked off.

      Through the expropriation of their land and the prohibition on fishing, the people of Gaza are denied their basic means of earning a living.

      They lack freedom, the right to human dignity and our active solidarity."

      If these Jews find the resources to implement their brave plan, one wonders what will happen. They represent a far more formidable threat to Zionist rightwingers than the Turkish flotilla did. In our world, the fact is that Israelis can murder Muslims without retribution, but German Jews? Will Tel Aviv dare to drop commandos onto a boatload of German Jews under the cover of darkness? Perhaps an "accident" at sea with the support of a well-concealed Israeli submarine would be a more effective response. Or maybe the proper fate for a German Jew so contemptuous of authority as to protest the 21st century's "Warsaw Ghetto" must obviously be crazy and must be shut away in a psychiatric hospital "for his own safety," as with Soviet dissidents. Or perhaps Tel Aviv has sufficient muscle to force Germany simply to arrest them all.

      No doubt the American defenders of Zionist racism and militarism, e.g., Lin Cheney and Elliott Abrams, will be calling these German Jews terrorists any time now. For Americans who are neither Likudniks nor empire-builders, for Americans who actually believe in American values, these are the Jews whose values we share.

      In any event, this is a little story of potentially major significance, so keep watching. If these brave Jews make it to Gaza, a very loud statement of what "values" really are will be heard around the world.

      If you care about the kind of world we live in, give them your support.

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