Archive for the ‘Global Diplomacy’ Category

Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

May 19, 2008

Tomgram: Mark Engler, How to Rule the World After Bush

A mere eight months to go until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office — though, given the cast of characters, it could seem like a lifetime. Still, it’s a reasonable moment to begin to look back over the last years — and also toward the post-Bush era. What a crater we’ll have to climb out of by then!

My last post, “Kiss American Security Goodbye,” was meant to mark the beginning of what will, over the coming months, be a number of Bush legacy pieces at Tomdispatch. So consider that series officially inaugurated by Foreign Policy in Focus analyst Mark Engler, who has just authored a new book that couldn’t be more relevant to our looming moment of transition: How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy.

The question Engler is curious to have answered is this: If Bush-style “imperial globalization” is rejected in January, what will American ruling elites try to turn to — Clinton-style economic globalization? Certainly, as Engler points out, many in the business and financial communities are now rallying to the Democrats. After all, while John Edwards received the headlines this week for throwing his support behind Barack Obama, that presidential candidate also got the nod from three former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen — William Donaldson, David Ruder, and Clinton appointee Arthur Levitt Jr. The campaign promptly “released a joint statement by the former SEC chiefs, as well as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, that praised Obama’s ‘positive leadership and judgment’ on economic issues.”

The United States, however, is a very different creature than it was in the confident years when these men rode high. Now, the world is looking at things much differently. Let Engler explain… Tom

Globalizers, Neocons, or…?

The World After Bush
By Mark EnglerPicture January 20, 2009, the day George W. Bush has to vacate the Oval Office.

It’s easy enough to imagine a party marking this fine occasion, with antiwar protestors, civil libertarians, community leaders, environmentalists, health-care advocates, and trade unionists clinking glasses to toast the end of an unfortunate era. Even Americans not normally inclined to political life might be tempted to join the festivities, bringing their own bottles of bubbly to the party. Given that presidential job approval ratings have rarely broken 40% for two years and now remain obdurately around or below 30% — historic lows — it would not be surprising if this were a sizeable celebration.

More surprising, however, might be the number of people in the crowd drinking finer brands of champagne. Amid the populist gala, one might well spot figures of high standing in the corporate world, individuals who once would have looked forward to the reign of an MBA president but now believe that neocon bravado is no way to run an empire.

One of the more curious aspects of the Bush years is that the self-proclaimed “uniter” polarized not only American society, but also its business and political elites. These are the types who gather at the annual, ultra-exclusive World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and have their assistants trade business cards for them. Yet, despite their sometime chumminess, these powerful few are now in disagreement over how American power should be shaped in the post-Bush era and increasing numbers of them are jumping ship when it comes to the course the Republicans have chosen to advance these last years. They are now engaged in a debate about how to rule the world.

Don’t think of this as some conspiratorial plot, but as a perfectly commonsensical debate over what policies are in the best interests of those who hire phalanxes of Washington lobbyists and fill the coffers of presidential and congressional campaigns. Many business leaders have fond memories of the “free trade” years of the Clinton administration, when CEO salaries soared and the global influence of multinational corporations surged. Rejecting neoconservative unilateralism, they want to see a renewed focus on American “soft power” and its instruments of economic control, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO) — the multilateral institutions that formed what was known in international policy circles as “the Washington Consensus.” These corporate globalists are making a bid to control the direction of economic policy under a new Democratic administration.

There is little question that the majority of people on the planet — those who suffered under both the corporate globalization of the Clinton years and the imperial globalization of George W. Bush — deserve something better. However, it is far from certain that social justice advocates who want to encourage a more democratic approach to world affairs and global economic well-being will be able to sway a new administration. On the other hand, the damage inflicted by eight years of neocon rule and the challenges of an increasingly daunting geopolitical scene present a conundrum to the corporate globalizers: Is it even possible to go back to the way things were?

The Revolt of the Corporatists

Throughout their time in office, despite fulsome evidence of failure, George Bush and Dick Cheney have maintained a blithe self-confidence about their ability to successfully promote the interests of the United States, or at least those of their high-rolling “Pioneer”-class donors. Every so often, though, the public receives notice that loyalists are indeed scurrying to abandon the administration’s sinking ship of state. In October 2007, for instance, in a front-page story entitled “GOP Is Losing Grip On Core Business Vote,” the Wall Street Journal reported that the party could be facing a brand crisis as “[s]ome business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don’t share.”

When it comes to corporate responses to the President’s Global War on Terror, we mostly hear about the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater — companies directly implicated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and with the mentality of looters. Such firms have done their best to score quick profits from the military machine. However, there was always a faction of realist, business-oriented Republicans who opposed the invasion from the start, in part because they believed it would negatively impact the U.S. economy. As the administration adventure in Iraq has descended into the morass, the ranks of corporate complainers have only grown.

The “free trade” elite have become particularly upset about the administration’s focus on go-it-alone nationalism and its disregard for multilateral means of securing influence. This belligerent approach to foreign affairs, they believe, has thwarted the advance of corporate globalization. In an April 2006 column in the Washington Post, globalist cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby laid blame for “why globalization has stalled” at the feet of the Bush administration. The White House, Mallaby charged, was unwilling to invest any political capital in the IMF, the World Bank, or the WTO. He wrote:

“Fifteen years ago, there were hopes that the end of Cold War splits would allow international institutions to acquire a new cohesion. But the great powers of today are simply not interested in creating a resilient multilateral system…. The United States remains the only plausible quarterback for the multilateral system. But the Bush administration has alienated too many players to lead the team effectively. Its strident foreign policy started out as an understandable response to the fecklessness of other powers. But unilateralism has tragically backfired, destroying whatever slim chance there might have been of a workable multilateral alternative.”

Frustrated by Bush’s failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return. As a measure of this — the capitalist equivalent of voting with their feet — political analyst Kevin Phillips notes in his new book, Bad Money, that, in 2007, “[h]edge fund employees’ contributions to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee outnumbered those to its Republican rival by roughly nine to one.”

This quiet revolt of the corporatists is already causing interesting reverberations on the campaign trail. The base of the Democratic Party has clearly rejected the “free trade” version of trickle-down economics, which has done far more to help those hedge-fund managers and private-jet-hopping executives than anyone further down the economic ladder. As a result, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running as opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and of a newer bilateral trade deal with Colombia, a country in which organizing a union or vocally advocating for human rights can easily cost you your life. The tenor of the current campaign represents a significant shift from the 1990s, when top Democrats were constantly trying to establish their corporate bona fides and “triangulate” their way into conservative economic policy.

Still, both candidates are surrounded by business-friendly advisors whose views fit nicely within an older, pre-Bush administration paradigm of corporate globalization. The tension between the anti-NAFTA activists at the base of the Party and those in the campaign war rooms has resulted in some embarrassing gaffes during the primary contest.

For Hillary Clinton, the most notable involved one of her chief strategists, Mark Penn, a man with a long, nefarious record defending corporate abuses as a Washington lobbyist. As it turned out, Penn’s consulting firm received $300,000 in 2007 to support the “free trade” agreement with Colombia. Even as Clinton was proclaiming her heartfelt opposition to the deal and highlighting the “history of suppression and targeted killings of labor organizers” in that country, a key player in her campaign was charting strategy with Colombian government officials in order to get the pact passed.

The Obama campaign found itself in similar discomfort in February. While the candidate was running in the Ohio primary as an opponent of NAFTA, calling that trade deal a “mistake” that has harmed working people, his senior economic policy adviser, University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee, was meeting with Canadian government officials to explain, as a memo by the Canadians reported, that Obama’s charges were merely “political positioning.” Goolsbee quickly claimed that his position had been mischaracterized, but the incident naturally raised questions. Why, for example, had Goolsbee, senior economist to the Democratic Leadership Council, the leading organization on the corporate-friendly rightwing of the party, and a person praised as “a valuable source of free-trade advice over almost a decade,” been positioned to mold Obama’s economic stances in the first place?

If pressure from the base of the party lets up after the elections, it would hardly be surprising to see a victorious candidate revert to Bill Clinton’s corporate model for how to rule the world. However, a return to a pre-Bush-style of international politics may be easier dreamed than done.

The Neocon Paradox

To the chagrin of the “free trade” elite, the market fundamentalist ideas that have dominated international development thinking for at least the last 25 years are now under attack globally. This is largely because the economic prescriptions of deregulation, privatization, open markets, and cuts to social services so often made (and enforced) by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have proven catastrophic.

In 2003, the United Nations’ Human Development Report (UNHDP) explained that 54 already poor countries had actually grown even poorer during the “free trade” era of the 1990s. The British Guardian summarized well the essence of this report:

“Taking issue with those who have argued that the ‘tough love’ policies of the past two decades have spawned the growth of a new global middle class, the report says the world became ever more divided between the super-rich and the desperately poor. The richest 1% of the world’s population (around 60 million) now receives as much income as the poorest 57%, while the income of the richest 25 million Americans is the equivalent of that of almost 2 billion of the world’s poorest people.”

Such findings led UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown, in a remarkably blunt statement, to call for a “guerilla assault on the Washington Consensus.”

In fact, in 2008, such an assault is already well under way — and Washington is in a far weaker position economically to deal with it. The countries burned by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, for instance, are now building up huge currency reserves so they never again have to come begging to the International Monetary Fund (and so suffer diktats from Washington) in times of crisis. Moreover, virtually the whole of Latin America is in revolt. Over 500 million people reside in that region, and over two-thirds of them now live under governments elected since 2000 on mandates to split with “free trade” economics, declare independence from Washington, and pursue policies that actually benefit the poor.

In late April, economist Mark Weisbrot noted that, with so many countries breaking free of its grasp, the IMF, which once dictated economic policy to strapped governments around the world, is now but a shadow of its former self. In the past four years, its loan portfolio has plummeted from $105 billion to less than $10 billion, the bulk of which now goes to just two countries, Turkey and Pakistan. This leaves the U.S. Treasury, which used the body to control foreign economies, with far less power than in past decades. “The IMF’s loss of influence,” Weisbrot writes, “is probably the most important change in the international financial system in more than half a century.”

It is a historic irony that Bush administration neocons, smitten with U.S. military power, itching to launch their wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, and eschewing multinational institutions, actually helped to foster a global situation in which U.S. influence is waning and countries are increasingly seeking independent paths. Back in 2005, British journalist George Monbiot dubbed this “the unacknowledged paradox in neocon thinking.” He wrote:

“They want to drag down the old, multilateral order and replace it with a new, U.S. one. What they fail to understand is that the ‘multilateral’ system is in fact a projection of U.S. unilateralism, cleverly packaged to grant other nations just enough slack to prevent them from fighting it. Like their opponents, the neocons fail to understand how well [Presidents] Roosevelt and Truman stitched up the international order. They are seeking to replace a hegemonic system that is enduring and effective with one that is untested and (because other nations must fight it) unstable.”

Battered by losing wars and economic crisis, the United States is now a superpower visibly on the skids. And yet, there is no guarantee that the coming era will produce a change for the better. In a world in which the value of the dollar is plummeting, oil is growing ever more scarce relative to demand, and foreign states are rising as rivals to American power, the possibility of either going ahead with the Bush/Cheney style of unilateralism or successfully returning to the “enduring and effective” multilateral corporatism of the 1990s may no longer exist. But the failure of these options will undoubtedly not be for lack of trying. Even with corporate globalization on the decline, multinational businesses will attempt to consolidate or expand their power. And even with the imperial model of globalization discredited, an overextended U.S. military may still try to hold on with violence.

The true Bush administration legacy may be to leave us in a world that is at once far more open to change and also far more dangerous. Such prospects should hardly discourage the long-awaited celebration in January. But they suggest that a new era of globalization battles — struggles to build a world order based neither on corporate influence, nor imperial might — will have only just begun.

Mark Engler, an analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, is the author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (just published by Nation Books). He can be reached via the website Democracy Uprising.

Copyright 2008 Mark Engler

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Elite ‘Democratic’ Planning at the Council on Foreign Relations (Part 1 of 2)

February 27, 2008

Elite ‘Democratic’ Planning at the Council on Foreign Relations (Part 1 of 2)

By Michael Barker

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Who are they and how did it start?

The… Council [on Foreign Relations] was conceived, in the words of its incorporating charter, ‘to afford a continuous conference on international questions affecting the United States.’ By its first annual report, November 1922, it had assurance of financial support for the startup years and close to 300 ‘carefully chosen’ members, including [Elihu] Root from the old Council, but also new and promising figures like Herbert H. Lehman, W. Averell Harriman, and John Foster Dulles.”  Peter Grose, (1996) – Official Council historian [1]

As with many elite planning groups the Council on Foreign Relations (the Council) proudly refers to itself as a “nonpartisan and independent membership organization”. However, like other democracy manipulating organizations (e.g. the two bipartisan groups the National Endowment for Democracy and its partner the US Institute of Peace) little critical commentary surrounds their work. The Council’s activities are nonetheless decidedly antidemocratic: that is, it promotes an elite form of democracy, often referred to as plutocracy or polyarchy, as opposed to its more participatory variants. Yet, considering the influential role the Council has exerted over the development of ‘democracy’ in the United States and beyond, it is strange that political scientists the world over tend to overlook this powerful agency of US hegemony.

Remarkably, until power elite researcher G. William Domhoff briefly wrote about the activities of the Council in his book, Who Rules America? (1967, pp.71-3), it appears that no one on the Left had critically analysed their work. [2] Furthermore, for many years, the only critical book-length study of the Council’s work was Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter’s excellent Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (Monthly Review Press, 1977). [3] In a recent article Laurence H. Shoup, (2004) states:

“One of the prime characteristics of the U.S. upper class is its high level of organization. One of the central organizations, accurately called ‘the citadel of America’s establishment,’ is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Founded in 1921, the CFR is the most influential of all private policy planning groups. Its great strength is mainly exercised behind the scenes and stems from its unique position among policy groups: it is simultaneously both a think tank for foreign and economic policy and also has a large membership comprising some of the most important individuals in U.S. economic, intellectual, and political life. The Council has a yearly budget of about $30 million and a staff of over 200.” [4]

Official Council historian, Peter Grose, corroborates the secretive nature of their work when he observed that: “From its inception, the activities of the Council on Foreign Relations were private and confidential.” Yet despite making this point, in the following paragraph Grose acknowledges that the “Council’s founding fathers appreciated that democracy involved the factor of public opinion, but they were uncertain at first about how such opinion was to be formed and expressed.” [5] There is no real contradiction here as the publics’ role in democratic policy making, as considered by ruling elites, was perhaps best expressed by former Council board member (1932-7) Walter Lippmann,  in 1922 wrote “the common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.” [6] Perhaps with thoughts of the Council in mind Lippmann (1922, p.31-2) wrote:

“[R]epresentative democracy… cannot be worked successfully, no matter what the basis of election, unless there is an independent, expert organization for making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions… [P]ublic opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today.” [7]

Inderjeet Parmar (2005, p.17) writes that in the early 1940s members of the Council and the State Department “were absolutely terrified of public opinion which, in the main, was isolationist, pacifist and, still, largely anticolonialist”. [8] So it is entirely consistent with the Council thinking that in 1947 the globalist Council created a ‘Propaganda and Foreign Policy’ group – shortly thereafter renamed as the ‘Public Opinion and Foreign Policy’ group – that aimed to “research possible ideas to influence and educate the American public on foreign policy issues”. [9]

Following in Lippmann elitist footsteps, Edward Bernays, one of the founding fathers of Public Relations (rather: propaganda), later helped refine the tools for “engineering consent”.  [10] Moreover, the Rockefeller Foundation (which at the time was one of the most influential liberal foundations’), sponsored and organized a number of Communications Seminars between 1939 and 1940 that “acknowledged the need to develop ways in which to manufacture public consent for desired policy changes”. [11] Research undertaken by Parmar concerning the critical period of 1939 to 1945, demonstrates the key role played by liberal foundations in engineering consent to “build a new globalist consensus”. [12]

The work of liberal foundations’ was not limited to developing the means to manufacture public consent for elite profit; they have also played an important role in supporting many progressive causes. Yet, as Nicolas Guilhot (2007, p.449) writes, by no means does this mean that their charitable work is a disinterested apolitical aid, because as in the case of the funding they provided for higher education,  liberal “philanthropists sought to ensure that social reform would be congruent with their own Interests”. Moreover:

“By investing in the universities, philanthropists pursued two specific objectives. In the first place, they obviously sought to foster the teaching of practical knowledge and skills serving the development of commerce and industry, against the prevailing academic traditions. But these educational and scientific investments were also a way of diagnosing the social upheavals caused by the accelerated shift from a still largely agrarian society to an industrial mass society characterized by the emergence of a polyglot and riotous urban proletariat… Aware that social reform was unavoidable, they chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time: urbanization, education, housing, public hygiene, the ‘Negro problem,’ etc. Far from being resistant to social change, the philanthropists promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order but constituted a “private alternative to socialism”. (Guilhot, 2007, pp.451-2)

Liberal foundations’ interests were not limited to education, but as Roelofs (2007, p.480) notes, “[t]heir influence is exerted in many ways” and also includes “creating ideology and the common wisdom; …controlling access to resources for universities, social services, and arts organizations; compensating for market failures; steering protest movements into safe channels; and supporting those institutions by which policies are initiated and implemented.” [13] As I have written about the anti-democratic practices at length elsewhere I will direct interested readers to my recent article Do Capitalists Fund Revolutions? (Part 1; Part 2).

Liberal Philanthropy and US Foreign Policy

Liberal foundations’ and their associated philanthropoids have always played a key role in the work of the Council. According to Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.94-5) the two foundations that provided the most support for the Council were the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York; indeed total foundation grants before 1936 averaged about $20,000 a year, although from 1936 to 1946, this increased to about $90,000 a year. In later years, the Ford Foundation also acted as a key Council funder, and in 1954 they gave the Council a $1,500,000 ten-year grant. [14]

As an example of liberal foundation largesse, Grose writes: “Supported by a $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the Council launched a major initiative in December 1937 to spread its activities and role across the United States, to replicate the New York Council in eight American cities.” Crucially, as Shoup and Minter (1977, p.30) observe, the establishment of these Council committees served two purposes, (1) they “influenc[ed] the thinking of local leaders”, and (2) “they provid[ed] the Council and the United States government with information about trends of thought on political affairs throughout the country”.

Given the Rockefeller Foundation’s involvement with the aforementioned Communications Seminars (1939-40) it is particularly interesting that Grose notes that in 1939 the Foundation funded (to the sum of $350,000 a secret Council project that was launched in collaboration with the US State Department. [15] This Rockefeller-funded project was later known as the War and Peace Studies Group – a project that aimed to development a concrete plan for US domination in the post-war world. [16] Grose continues


“Over the coming five years, almost 100 men participated in the War and Peace Studies [Group], divided into four functional topic groups: economic and financial, security and armaments, territorial, and political. These groups met more than 250 times, usually in New York, over dinner and late into the night. They produced 682 memoranda for the State Department, which marked them classified and circulated them among the appropriate government departments.”

 

Writing from a (far more) critical perspective, F. William Engdahl (2008) offers more details of their work:

 

“The core of the War & Peace Studies, which were designed for and implemented by the US State Department after 1944, was to be the creation of a United Nations organization to replace the British-dominated League of Nations. A central part of that new UN organization, which would serve as the preserver of the US-friendly postwar status quo, [17] was creation of what were originally referred to as the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or World Bank. The GATT multinational trade agreements were later added.

 

“The US negotiators in Bretton Woods New Hampshire, led by US Treasury deputy Secretary Harry Dexter White, imposed a design on the IMF and World Bank which insured the two would remain essentially instruments of an “informal” US empire, an empire, initially based on credit, and later, after about 1973, on debt.” [18]

 

Subsequently, Grose observes that, during the 1950’s, liberal foundations continued to provide massive support to the work of the Council: “from the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation came $500,000 each, topped by $1.5 million from the new Ford Foundation in 1954.” Between 1940 and 1970 David Rockefeller also served as “an active Council member”, and from 1950 to 1970 he was the vice-president of the Council. In 1970, Rockefeller then became chairman of the Council’s board (a position he maintained until 1985), “succeeding [former chair of the Ford foundation] John J. McCloy, who had served for 17 years.” In his autobiography, David Rockefeller (2002, p.407) recalls:

 

“After World War II the Council played an important role in alerting Americans to the new threat posed by the Soviet Union and in crafting a bipartisan consensus on how to deal with the worldwide expansion of Communism. In 1947, Foreign Affairs, the Council’s distinguished journal, published the famous ‘X’ article, ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’ (written anonymously because George Kennan was serving in the State Department at the time). It outlined the doctrine of containment… [This] article became the defining document of U.S. Cold War policy.”

 

At around the same time that Rockefeller became chair of the Council’s board, former CIA analyst, William Bundy, amidst much controversy, became the new head of Foreign Affairs: [19]  it is noteworthy to point out that William’s brother, McGeorge Bundy, was well linked to liberal philanthropy’s inner circles as he served as the president of the Ford Foundation from 1966 to 1979. Moreover, it is vital to note that the activities of  the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford Foundations’ – a grouping often referred to as the big three – were closely enmeshed with the CIA and US foreign policy elites during this period. Unsurprisingly, Victor Marchetti and John Marks’ (1980, p.237) in their book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence noted that the CFR “has long been the CIA’s principal ‘constituency’ in the American public. When the agency has need prominent citizens to front for its proprietary companies or other special interests, it has often turned to the Council [on Foreign Relations] members.” In 1977, Shoup and Minter also wrote that since its founding, the “directorship of the CIA has been in the hands of a Council leader or member more often than not”. [20]

Part 2 to follow…

Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at Griffith University, Australia. He can be reached at Michael. J. Barker [at] griffith.edu.au. Most of his other articles can be found here.

 

Endnotes

[1] The CFR’s website provides links to the following books detailing their history: Robert D. Schulzinger, The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs (Columbia University Press, 1984); Michael Wala, The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War (Berghann Books: 1994); Peter Grose, Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996 (Council on Foreign Relations: 1996).

[2] The Council’s work had however been examined by the conservative writer, Emanuel M. Josephson in his book Rockefeller, ‘Internationalist’: The Man Who Misrules the World (Chedney Press, 1952). The Council also get a brief mention (on one page) in Horace Coon’s groundbreaking Money to Burn: Great American Foundations and Their Money (Transaction, 1938).

[3] In the past few years Laurence H. Shoup has continued to draw attention to the antidemocratic nature of the Council within the pages of Z Magazine, e.g. Election 2008: Ruling Class Conducts its Hidden Primary (2008), and The CFR Debates Torture, Part 1 & Part 2 (2006). Another useful treatment of the Council is provided in G. William Domhoff’s The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America (Walter de Gruyter, Inc., 1990), pp.113-151. Although the Council is bipartisan, here bipartisan can be left, right, or neither, a profile of their work has been compiled by Right Web (although it requires updating).

More recently Inderjeet Parmar has written about the Council, see Liberal-Imperial Brain Trust: The Political Significance of the Princeton Project on National Security (Paper prepared for presentation at the International Studies Association annual convention, Chicago, 2007); Think Tanks and Power in Foreign Policy: A Comparative Study of the Role and Influence of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1939-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). The Council’s Archive is based at Harold Pratt House, 58 East 68th Street, New York City.

[4] In 2007, the Council has 4330 members.

[5] Shoup and Minter (1977, p.12) illustrate how the idea for the Council was “primarily that of British historian Lionel Curtis” who prior to the founding of the Council “had been in charge of setting up a network of semi-secret organizations… called the Round Table Groups” (which were “established by Lord Milner, a former British secretary for war, and his associates in 1908-1911”). For a detailed insider-account of the history of the Round Table Groups, see Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment (Books in Focus, 1981). Chapter 1 of this book can be found online. (In 1984, John G. Albert, who at the time was based at the US Air Force Academy, reviewed this book concluding that “its message is forcefully argued and casts a long shadow over previous interpretations of the events of the first half of this century”. Military Affairs, Vol. 48 (1), p.47.)

Corporate interests rated highly within the Council’s work right from the start: Grose writes: “For all their grumbling, the captains of finance among the membership clearly welcomed the intellectual stimulation and diversity, the unique synergy of interests envisioned at the start. They did all right by their Council. Members who were directors of large corporations seized the opportunity to inject the concerns of business into the reflections of scholars.”

Michael Wala (1994, p.xii) observes: “That the Council is without outside control and has refrained from publicity, remaining by choice in the background, has helped to foster the development of conspiratorial theories about its influence and function over the last three decades.”

[6] Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), p.310

[7] Lippmann (1922, pp.43-4) writes: “Without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event. Access to the real environment must be limited, before anyone can create a pseudo-environment that he thinks wise or desirable. For while people who have direct access can misconceive what they see, no-one else can decide how they shall misconceive it, unless he can decide where they shall look, and at what.” He famously notes that the “manufacture of consent”, was “supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy”, but “it has not”. In fact, he notes that it “has improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb.” Lippmann then observes that “persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government.” (Lippmann, 1922, p.248)

It is noteworthy that, in 1914, Lippmann played an important role at the newly created publication The New Republic. This is because, as Bill Clinton’s mentor, Carroll Quigley (1966, p.938), points out, that it was around then that “the [J.P.] Morgan firm decided to infiltrate the Left-wing political movements in the United States.” He adds that: “The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold: (1) to keep informed about the thinking of Left-wing or liberal groups; (2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so that they could ‘blow off steam,’ and (3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went ‘radical.’” This relates to Lippmann, as Quigley continues by noting that the “best example of this alliance of Wall Street and Left-wing publication was The New Republic,” a magazine founded by Morgan partner Willard Straight and his wife Dorothy (whose money supported the magazine until 1953) (p.939).

According to Quigley: “The original purpose for establishing the paper was to provide an outlet for the progressive Left and to guide it quietly in an Anglophile direction.” He states that “[t]his latter task was entrusted” (in 1914) to Walter Lippman (p.939). The Morgan-connection is particularly relevant to this article because Quigley describes the Council on Foreign Relations as a “front for J.P. Morgan and Company”. He adds that the New York branch of the Council “was dominated by the associates of the Morgan Bank. For example, in 1928 the Council on Foreign Relations has John. W. Davis as president, Paul Cravath as vice-president, and a council of thirteen others, which included Owen D. Young, Russell C. Leffingwell, Norman Davis, Allen Dulles, George W. Wickersham, Frank L. Polk, Whitney Shepardson, Isaiah Bowman, Stephen P. Duggan, and Otto Kahn.” (p.952) Moreover, Shoup and Minter (1977, p.23) write that the “election of Herbet Hoover to the presidency in 1928… increase[d] the Council’s influence on foreign-policy formulation.” This is because Hoover himself had been a Paris member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (the Council’s British-based predecessor), his secretary of state, Henry L. Stimson, was a Council member, and Stimson’s economic adviser had also been a Council staffer.

It is important that the Council’s leadership reflects the power dynamic of the New York financial community, as “until the early 1950s, the most prominent place within the Council was held by men tied to Morgan interests.” However, thereafter Rockefeller linked individuals had played a more important role in directing the Council’s affairs. See Shoup and Minter (1977, p.104).

[8] Indedjeet Parmar, Catalysing Events, Think Tanks and American Foreign Policy Shifts: A Comparative Analysis of the Impacts of Pearl Harbor 1941 and 11 September 2001, Government and Opposition 40 (1), 2000, pp.1-25.

In a manner eerily similar to the Project for a New American Century’s (2000, p.51) ‘need’ for “‘some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” (i.e. 9/11), Parmar notes that in 1941 Council members recognized in order to put their globalist plans into action: “Americans ‘need a shock (preferably a military one)’ to galvanise them into action, to bring them to their ‘senses’ and to recognize that the European war was their concern.” In December 1941, this shock came in the form of Pearl Harbor.For more on the similarities between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, see David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Interlink, 2004).

[9] Michael Wala (1994, p.158) also highlights that the group was “initiated” by Lester Markel, who at the time was the Sunday editor of the New York Times. Markel went on to become the founding chair of the International Press Institute (1951-4), a media group whose activities, as I note elsewhere, are closely entwined with the democracy manipulating community. The mainstream media itself are also intimately tied to the work of the Council: for example, “[i]n 1972, three out of ten directors of the New York Times Company and five out of nine editorial executives were Council members” (Shoup and Minter, 1977, p.66).

[10] Stewart Ewen (1996) writes in his classic book PR: A Social History of Spin that: “During the First World War, Bernays served as a foot soldier for the U. S. Committee on Public Information (CPI)-the vast American propaganda apparatus mobilized in 1917 to package, advertise and sell the war as one that would ‘Make the World Safe for Democracy.’”

[11] Michael Barker, “The Liberal Foundations of Media Reform? Creating Sustainable Funding Opportunities for Radical Media Reform,” Global Media (In Press).

It is no secret that the foreign policy establishment had contempt for the wider public; as Michael Wala (1994, p.11) points out: “’Public opinion,’ for the members of these groups, had a limited definition and was synonymous with a small group of people having the means to inform and influence large parts of the public.” Moreover, as far as the Council was concerned the only members of the “public that had to be educated” were “those members of society who had influence on the media and politics and to experts in a number of important fields” (p.12).

[12] Indedjeet Parmar, `To Relate Knowledge and Action’: the Impact of the Rockefeller Foundation on Foreign Policy Thinking during America’s Rise to Globalism 1939-1945, Minerva,40 (3),  2002, pp.235-263;  The Carnegie Corporation and the Mobilisation of Opinion During the United States’ Rise to Globalism, 1939–1945, Minerva, 37 (4), 1999, pp.355-378; Engineering Consent: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Mobilisation of American Public Opinion, 1939–1945, Review of International Studies, 26 (1), 2000, pp.35-48.

[13] Roelofs (2007, p.502) concludes that “the pluralist model of civil society obscures the extensive collaboration among the resource-providing elites and the dependent state of most grassroots organizations. While the latter may negotiate with foundations over details, and even win some concessions, capitalist hegemony (including its imperial perquisites) cannot be questioned without severe organizational penalties. By and large, it is the funders who are calling the tune. This would be more obvious if there were sufficient publicized investigations of this vast and important domain. That the subject is ‘off-limits’ for both academics and journalists is compelling evidence of enormous power.”

Liberal foundations also played a key role in ‘supporting’ the development of modern day medicine, see Richard E. Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America (University of California Press, 1979).

[14] Shoup and Minter, 1977, pp.95-6. Liberal foundations continue to support the Council’s work, e.g. the Ford Foundation’s 2006 Annual Report (p.62) notes that they gave the Council a $200,000 grant for “research, seminars and publications on the role of women in conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and state building”.

[15] Michael Wala (1994, p.33) notes, that in May 1943, the Council established a Peace Aims Group that “was financed through a special fund from the Rockefeller Foundation”. This Group “organized meetings attended by representatives of occupied European countries and by the Allies. At these meetings, they could express their peace and reparations proposals, thus providing the State Department with important information for the coordination of its foreign policy aims” (pp.33-4). After the war, the Rockefeller Foundation then provided the Council with $55,000 to establish a group known as the Economic Co-operation Administration (ECA) that was administered by Paul G. Hoffman (who went on to become the first president of the Ford Foundation). “Dwight D. Eisnehower became the chairman of that study group on ‘Aid to Europe,’ and ‘whatever General Eisenhower knows about economics,’ journalist Joseph Kraft quoted a member of the group as stating, ‘he has learned at the study group meetings.’ The Rockefeller Foundation went even further and suggested that the study group ‘served as a sort of education in foreign affairs for the future president of the United States.’” (Wala, 1994, pp.125-6)

[16] Also of interest, James Martin (1981) pointed out that the influential liberal historian, Charles A. Beard, “had opened up another sore while writing his book with a famed article in the Saturday Evening Post for October 4, 1947, ‘Who’s to Write the History of the War?,’ in which he revealed that the Rockefeller Foundation, working with its alter ego, the Council on Foreign Relations, had provided $139,000 for the latter to spend in underwriting an official-line history of how the war had come about, in an effort to defeat at the start the same kind of ‘debunking’ historical campaign which had immediately followed the end of World War I.” Also see Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.118-125) for more details on the work of the War and Peace Studies Group.

[17] For a brief account of the integral role played by the Council in the creation of the United Nations, see Shoup and Minter (1977, pp.169-72).

[18] F. William Engdahl (2008) adds that “State Department planning head, George F. Kennan wrote in a confidential internal memo in 1948, ‘We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.’” Engdahl also notes: “Maintaining the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency has been the foremost pillar of the American Century since 1945, related to but more strategic even than US military superiority. How that dollar primacy has been maintained to now encompassed the history of countless postwar wars, financial warfare, debt crises, and threats of nuclear war to the present.” In addition, Joan Roelofs (2003, p.74) writes: “The new international monetary institutions, created in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, were not to be jeopardized by U.S. economic instability. Consequently, after War II, the ‘Managerial Presidency’ was enlarged to include a Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). The CEA’s role was in institutionalize Keynesian economic planning for economic stability and to implement the Employment Act of 1946.”

After the successful War and Peace Studies, the next time that the Council would convene a group to study the entire international system was in 1973, when the 1980’s Project was initiated “to plan for and create the current neoliberal world system we now have.” See Laurence H. Shoup, Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War: The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, Z Magazine, March 1, 2003. For a detailed examination of the 1980s Project, see Shoup and Minter, 1977, pp.254-84.

[19] David Rockefeller (2002, p.408) writes he “strongly supported” the selection of William Bundy as the new head of Foreign Affairs, even though this “angered many Council members”, who “considered Bill a war criminal” owing to his former employment as assistance secretary of defense in the mid-1960s (a period during which the murderous scale of the Vietnam ‘War’ was escalating). David’s ability to overlook Bundy’s blood soaked past is entirely consistent. (Incidentally, the protests against William Bundy’s promotion were headed by Richard Falk, but the three others individuals joining Falk in the initial protest were Richard Barnet, Richard H. Ullman, and Ronald Steel, see Shoup and Minter (1977, p.46).) As Peter Collier and David Horowitz note in their excellent book The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976), pp.416-7: “If the new military regimes that began appearing on the already bleak political landscape of Latin America dealt harshly with their opposition, they also brought a certain stability. It was for this reason that David welcomed the new conservatism of Washington’s alliance with the Latin republics. Writing in Foreign Affairs… in 1966, David observed that the revised and scaled-down version of the Alliance for Progress  was better than ‘the overly ambitious concepts of revolutionary change of the program’s early years, because it created a climate more attractive to U.S. business.’” Following this line of reasoning it is not surprising that in 1979 David Rockefeller, the banker of the deposed (formerly US-backed) Shah of Iran, worked with Henry Kissinger to “put public and private pressure on the Carter administraton to allowed the deposed Shah of Iran into the country [US], assertedly for both humanitarian reasons and reason of state”. They succeeded in convincing the President to allow the Shah to come to the United States, an event that “precipitated the seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of fifty-three hostages”. See Leonard Silk and Mark Silk, The American Establishment (New York: Basic Books, 1980), pp.224-5. For a full account of David Rockefeller’s involvement in the Iran hostage crisis, see Robert Parry, Original October Surprise, Consortium News, October 29, 2006. For details of how the Trilateral Commission initially succeed in getting Carter elected president, see Shoup, The Carter Presidency and Beyond: Power and Politics in the 1980s (Ramparts Press, 1980).

Given David Rockefeller’s involvement in the fall of the Carter Presidency, it is interesting to note that the Rockefeller-created Trilateral Commissionbrought Carter to power in the first place. Stephen Lendman’s (2008) review of F. William Engdahl’s new book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (Global Research, 2007), titled Agribusiness Giants seek to gain Worldwide Control over our Food Supply, which provides a useful summary of David Rockefeller’s decidedly antidemocratic history. David’s brother Nelson Rockefeller, another influential member of the Council, has a similarly antidemocratic background, see Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil (HarperPerennial, 1995) – see their interview on Democracy Now. has been attributed as being the group that

[20] Shoup and Minter, 1977, p.61.

Asia’s Hidden Arms Race

February 15, 2008

Asia’s Hidden Arms Race

By John Feffer
Source: TomDispatch

John Feffer’s ZSpace Page

Read all about it! Diplomats remain upbeat about solving the nuclear stand-off with North Korea; optimists envision a peace treaty to replace the armistice that halted, but failed to formally end, the Korean War 55 years ago. Some leaders and scholars are even urging the transformation of the Six Party Talks over the Korean nuclear issue, involving the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and the two Koreas, into a permanent peace structure in Northeast Asia.

 

The countries in the region all seem determined to make nice right now. Yasuo Fukuda, the new Japanese prime minister, is considerably more pacific than his predecessor, the ultra-nationalist Shinzo Abe. The new South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, despite his conservative credentials, is committed to continuing the previous president’s engagement policy with North Korea and plans to reach out to Japan via his first post-inaugural state visit. The party that won the recent Taiwanese parliamentary elections, the Kuomintang, wants to rebuild bridges to the Mainland and, when it comes to the Communist Party there, mend fences the ruling Democratic Progressive Party tried to pull down. Beijing, for its part, is being super-conciliatory toward practically everyone in this Olympic year.

 

Despite all this peace-talk, something else, quite momentous and hardly noticed, is underway in the region. The real money in Northeast Asia is going elsewhere. While in the news sunshine prevails, in the shadows an already massive regional arms race is threatening to shift into overdrive. Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, five of the six countries involved in the Six Party Talks have increased their military spending by 50% or more. The sixth, Japan, has maintained a steady, if sizeable military budget while nonetheless aspiring to keep pace. Every country in the region is now eagerly investing staggering amounts of money in new weapons systems and new offensive capabilities.

 

The arms race in Northeast Asia undercuts all talk of peace in the region. It also sustains a growing global military-industrial complex. Northeast Asia is where four of the world’s largest militaries — those of the United States, China, Russia, and Japan — confront each other. Together, the countries participating in the Six Party Talks account for approximately 65% of world military expenditures, with the United States responsible for roughly half the global total.

 

Here is the real news that should hit the front pages of papers today: Wars grip Iraq, Afghanistan, and large swathes of Africa, but the heart of the global military-industrial complex lies in Northeast Asia. Any attempt to drive a stake through this potentially destabilizing monster must start with the militaries that face one another there.

Military Budget

The Japanese Reversal

The Northeast Asian arms buildup — a three-tiered scramble to dominate the seas, beef up air forces, and control the next frontier of space — runs counter to conventional wisdom. After all, isn’t Japan still operating under a “peace constitution”? Hasn’t South Korea committed to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula? Didn’t China recently wake up to the virtues of soft power? And how could North Korea and Russia, both of which suffered disastrous economic reversals in the 1990s, have had the wherewithal to compete in an arms race? As it turns out, these obstacles have proved little more than speed bumps on the road to regional hyper-militarism.

 

Perhaps the most paradoxical participant in this new arms race is Japan. Its famous peace constitution has traditionally been one of the few brakes on arms spending in the region. The country has long limited its military expenditures to an informal ceiling of 1% of its overall budget. As that budget grew, however, so did military spending. Japan’s army is now larger than Britain’s, and the country spends more on its military than all but four other nations. (China surpassed Japan in military spending for the first time in 2006.) Nonetheless, for decades, the provisions of its peace constitution at least put limits on the offensive capabilities of the Japanese military, which is still referred to as its Self-Defense Forces.

 

These days, however, even the definition of “offensive” is changing. In 1999, the country’s Self Defense Forces first used offensive force when its naval vessels fired on suspected North Korean spy ships. Less than a decade later, Japan provides support far from its “defensive” zone for U.S. wars, including providing fuel to coalition forces in Afghanistan and transport in Iraq.

 

Japan was once incapable of bombing other countries largely because its air force didn’t have an in-air refueling capability. Thanks to Boeing, however, the first KC-767 tanker aircraft will arrive in Japan later this year, providing government officials, who occasionally assert the country’s right to launch preemptive strikes, with the means to do so. This is not happy news for Japan’s neighbors, who retain vivid memories of the 1930s and 1940s, when its military went on an imperial rampage throughout the region.

 

Tokyo already has among the best air forces and naval fighting forces in the world, trailing only the United States. But leading Japanese officials have displayed an even larger appetite. Some Japanese politicians are lobbying to amend the peace constitution or even scrap it entirely, while sending military spending skyrocketing. To promote these ideas, they use the thin rationale that Japan should be participating regularly in “international peacekeeping missions.”

 

The Japanese Defense Agency — their Pentagon — which was upgraded to ministry level last year, wants more goodies like an aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered submarines, and long-range missiles. A light aircraft carrier, which the government has coyly labeled a “destroyer,” will be ready in 2009. The subs and missiles, however, will have to wait. So, too, will Tokyo’s attempt to take a quantum leap forward in air-fighting capabilities by importing advanced U.S. F-22 stealth planes. Concerned about releasing latest-generation technology to the outside world, Congress scotched this deal at the last moment in August 2007.

 

Washington has been a good deal more accommodating when it comes to missile defense. Japan has been a far more enthusiastic supporter of missile defense than any of America’s European allies. In fact, the United States and Japan are spending billions of dollars to set up an early-warning-and-response prototype of such an advanced missile system. Part of this missile shield is land-based. Last month, Japan installed its third Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptor and plans on nine more by 2011. The more ambitious part of the program, however, is based at sea. In December, Japan conducted its first sea-based interceptor test.

 

With Japan and the United States in the lead, a space race is also on in Northeast Asia. Last year, China tested its own anti-ballistic missile system by shooting down one of its old weather satellites. While at present this is far from an actual missile-defense system, China effectively served notice that it is up to the technological challenge of hitting a bullet with a bullet in space. Meanwhile, thanks to U.S. pressure Russia too is upgrading its missile defense systems, while pouring money into the development of new missiles that can bypass any putative shield the U.S. and its allies can develop.

 

Give Me Peace, But Not Just Yet

 

The two most recent South Korean presidents, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-Jung and the left-leaning Roh Moo-Hyun, have been well-known for their efforts to foster reconciliation with North Korea. Less well-known have been their programs to beef up South Korea’s military. The dark side of their engagement policy has been its unstated quid pro quo of satisfying the security concerns of South Korean hawks by giving their military everything it wants — and then some. Between 1999 and 2006, South Korean military spending jumped more than 70%. In 2007, at the launching ceremony for a new Aegis-equipped destroyer, which brought South Korea into an elite club of just five countries with such technology, President Roh Moo-Hyun declared, “At the present time, Northeast Asia is still in an arms race, and we cannot just sit back and watch.” By 2020, the South Korean navy wants to build three more Aegis destroyers at a cost of $1 billion each.

 

South Korean hawks are not only responding to concerns about North Korea, the traditional threat around which the South has organized its military. They are concerned about a declining military commitment from the United States, which has reduced the levels of American troops that traditionally garrison the country and pushed hard for greater military “burden-sharing.”

 

South Korea’s leaders and military officials are anxious that the Pentagon may continue to focus on the Middle East and Central Asia to the exclusion of its Pacific commitments. To prepare for the contingency of going it alone, South Korea has embarked on an ambitious $665 billion Defense Reform 2020 initiative, which will increase the military budget by roughly 10% a year until 2020. In those years, while troop levels will actually fall, most of the extra money will go to a host of expensive, high-tech systems such as new F-15K fighters from Boeing, SM-6 ship-to-air missiles that can form a low-altitude missile shield, and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

 

If South Korea’s spending spree remains largely under the radar, China’s military expenditures have received considerable media scrutiny. Newspaper accounts have focused on China’s military spending, which officially rose to $45 billion for 2007. However, that public figure, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, tells only half the story. Beijing’s spending, claim these sources, is really in the $100 billion range. With this money, China is pushing forward with an ambitious naval program that will include the addition to its naval forces of five new nuclear-powered attack subs, a mid-sized aircraft carrier, and — clandestinely — the supposed construction of a huge 93,000-ton nuclear-powered carrier by 2020.

 

Lost in the hype around China’s apparent quest for a world-class military to match its world-class economy are the gaps in the country’s offensive capabilities. It has only a couple of hundred nuclear weapons and fewer than two dozen ICBMs pointed at the United States. Its navy doesn’t have a “blue-water” capability, lacking (as yet) any aircraft carriers, a large force of nuclear-powered submarines, and the overseas basing infrastructure to support them. It relies heavily on imports and can’t yet build the sort of aircraft that would allow it to project serious force over large distances.

 

China, however, has been the only modestly credible threat on the horizon that the Pentagon has been able to wield to justify military spending at levels not seen since World War II. The Pentagon can’t use its big naval destroyers against al-Qaeda; Virginia-class subs can’t do much to fight the Taliban or insurgents in Iraq. Yet these systems figure prominently in the Pentagon’s long-range plans to build a 313-ship navy. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), who made headlines back in 2005 with his newfound opposition to the Iraq War, is typical of congressional hawks when he warns of the need to prepare for a coming conflict with China. “We’ve got to be able to have a military that can deploy to stop China or Russia or any other country that challenges us,” he recently told Reuters. “I’ve felt we had to be concerned about the direction China was going.” To counter China, the United States has pursued a classic containment strategy of strengthening military ties with India, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan.

 

The Bush administration trumpets its accomplishment of increasing military spending 74% since 2001. In addition to the $12.7 billion for new warships, there’s $17 billion for new aircraft and over $10 billion for missile defense. The administration wants to increase the Army from 482,400 to 547,400 troops by 2012. A sizable portion of the administration’s $607 billion Pentagon budget request for 2009, which doesn’t even include massive supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will go to maintaining and expanding the U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The Democratic frontrunners for the presidential nomination have also called for troop increases and have said nothing about slowing, freezing, or even cutting the military budget. No matter who is elected, under the next administration, as under the last one, the United States will surely continue to be the chief driver of global arms spending.

 

The Armies of Austerity

 

Increased military spending is not always just a function of affluence. As the Russian economy contracted in the 1990s, the arms export industry became an ever more critical way for the faltering country to earn hard currency. Today, flush with oil and natural gas revenues, Russia has regained its place as the world’s second largest arms dealer by almost doubling its arms exports since 2000. Washington’s moves to establish a global missile defense system and encroach on Russian interests in Central Asia have only encouraged Moscow to boost its military spending in an effort to recover its lost superpower status.

 

With the renewed growth of the Russian economy on the strength of energy sales, Russian arms expenditures began to take off again in the new millennium, increasing nearly four-fold between 2000 and 2006. The Russian government, which projected a 29% increase in spending for 2007, plans to replace nearly half its arsenal with new weaponry by 2015.

 

Compared to Russia, North Korea has had the full experience of economic collapse with very little subsequent recovery. Yet, despite its woefully limited means, it has tried to keep up with the great powers that surround it. By many estimates, Pyongyang devotes as much as a quarter of its budget to the military (even though prosperous South Korea still spends as much, or more, on its military than the North’s entire gross domestic product). North Korea’s failure to match the conventional military spending of South Korea, much less Japan or the United States, was what made the building of a “nuclear deterrent” increasingly attractive to its leaders. In other words, the current nuclear crisis that sucks up so much diplomatic attention in Northeast Asia today is at least partly a result of the region’s accelerating conventional arms race and North Korea’s inability to keep pace.

 

Critics of the North Korean regime often point out that its military spending is ultimately a human rights violation, because the government essentially takes food out of the mouths of its people to spend on armaments. North Korea is, however, just a particularly gross example of an expanding global problem. Each of the six countries in the new Pacific arms race has devised a wealth of rationales for its military spending — and each has ignored significant domestic needs in the process.

 

Given the sums that would be necessary to address the decommissioning of nuclear weapons, the looming crisis of climate change, and the destabilizing gap between rich and poor, such spending priorities are in themselves a threat to humanity. The world put 37% more into military spending in 2006 than in 1997. If the “peace dividend” that was to follow the end of the Cold War never quite appeared, a decade later the world finds itself burdened with quite the opposite: a genuine peace deficit.

 

 

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of North Korea, South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis (Seven Stories, 2003) among other books.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]

 

The Pakistan Conundrum

January 17, 2008

The Pakistan Conundrum

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080116_the_pakistan_conundrum/

Posted on Jan 16, 2008

By Scott Ritter

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto has prompted much instant analysis and ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ by observers of that volatile region. Early assessment’s agree that public sentiment in Pakistan has turned decisively against both President Pervez Musharraf and the Islamic Parties who oppose him (and from the ranks of which the alleged assassins were recruited).  President Musharraf himself has given weight to such assessments by reaffirming Pakistani sovereignty (he would treat any unilateral American military incursion into the Northwest Frontier as an invasion which he would oppose by force) and by projecting his own personal political vulnerability (he expects opposition parties to make gains in the coming elections, and if the newly empowered majority seeks to impeach him, he will resign).

President Musharraf’s pro-American posturing and the material support Pakistan has provided in the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’ have been decidedly unpopular among the majority of the Pakistani population. Islamabad has always tried to tread lightly when it came to an American military presence on Pakistani soil.  The quick ‘victory’ of the U.S.-led Northern Alliance over the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan allowed inconvenient American military bases in Pakistan to be transferred to the newly conquered territory inside Afghanistan.  However, continued resistance in Afghanistan from the Taliban and al-Qaida, who depend on support networks throughout the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, have prompted the United States to pressure Pakistan’s government to crack down, and even in some cases to allow direct action on Pakistani soil, either in the form of the CIA or a military intervention.

President Musharraf has acted against pro-Taliban militants in the Northwest Frontier, but with negligible results.  Indeed, much of the Islamic militancy in Pakistan today has been stirred up by the regime’s continued support of American-inspired operations in Pakistan.  Pervez Musharraf’s recent statement opposing unilateral American military intervention in Pakistan sends a clear signal that the ongoing opposition in Pakistan to continued support of U.S. military activity targeting Pakistanis has resonated politically.

The political unrest created by Musharraf’s ongoing support of the U.S. ‘Global War on Terror’ prompted the Pakistani Dictator to seek stability by firing Pakistani Supreme Court Justices he disagreed with, and to suspend the Constitution.  Both actions have left him vulnerable to impeachment if political opposition parties are able to assemble a viable majority in the Parliament in upcoming elections expected in February.  Musharraf has indicated he will not be a political pawn in any resultant call for accountability.  The question remains whether or not Musharraf will resign and depart Pakistan as a political exile, or resign and reassert himself as Dictator, or resign and throw his support behind a new military dictatorship which will enable him to remain in Pakistan as a behind-the-scenes power broker.

Some would scoff at the notion that Musharraf would seek to re-impose military dictatorship in the face of a growing demand for democracy and the rule of law.  While Pakistan plays lip service to the notion of Parliamentary democracy, the reality is that it is first and foremost a Muslim nation born more from a call for Islamic identity than a desire to embrace the Magna Carta-driven democracy of its colonial masters, the British.

The secular nature of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship disguises the fact that Pakistan as a nation was birthed in an environment of Islamic national identity.  Pakistan from its inception was supposed to bring together the Muslim populations of the former British Indian colony into a viable nation state.  While many of those who oversaw the formation of the new governmental structure were moderate, even secular lawyers trained in the British tradition, the overwhelming population of what was to become Pakistan traced their loyalty to a system of local elders and religious figures who more often than not referred to Shar’ia, or Islamic law, when pronouncing decisions of government.  This duality is reflected in the resolution passed by Pakistan’s early leaders on the eve of what was to become the country’s constitutional convention. It proclaimed: “Sovereignty under the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone,” and characterized Islamic values as essential in any new government.

But Pakistan is no homogeneous Islamic state.  Its roots are deeply seated in tribal, familial and ethnic realities that most non-Pakistani observers are ill-equipped to comprehend.  An illustration of this can be found simply by noting that Benazir Bhutto, the martyred symbol of democratic reform, in reality sat at the head of a political party, the PPP, which was born not from Pakistani society in general, but rather from the ranks of the 700,000-strong Bhutto tribe.  The Bhuttos, an ethnic Sindhi group, possess an insularity that belies the image of democratic reform embraced by Benazir Bhutto herself.  An ongoing rift within the PPP over Bhutto’s successor illustrates this:  Benazir’s husband, Zardari, together with her son, Bilawal, have claimed the leadership of the party, citing a controversial and challenged ‘will’ which emerged following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.  Neither Zardari nor Bilawal are considered to be part of the Bhutto tribe, because Zardari is of Baluchi heritage and the son is traditionally linked to the family tree of the father.  It is not the history of corruption that surrounds Zardari, or the inexperience of Bilawal (a student in the UK), which the Bhutto tribe finds objectionable, but simply the fact that a political party founded by, and for, the Bhuttos is now in the hands of someone outside the tribe.

Pakistan’s population of 170 million people is comprised of three major ethnic groups, the Punjabi, Pashtun and Sindhi, who account for some 44%, 16% and 14% of the population respectively.  Indian Muslin immigrants, or Mujahirs, make up about 8% of the population, while the Baluchi make up another 4%.  The remaining population is divided among other minorities, including the Kasmiri and the various tribes which make up Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier.  There are also some 3 million Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan today, a tragic remnant from the time of the Soviet invasion and occupation of that land.  Pakistan’s historical roots, when it was divided into an eastern and western state, led in part to three major wars (in 1948, 1965 and 1971) and several minor skirmishes between Pakistan and India.  The historical turmoil surrounding the creation of Pakistan, as well as the inconsistent ability of its federal system to hold together the wide variety of ethnic and religious groups brought together to form the country, combined to create a system imbued with a spirit of distrust between the various ethnicities.  The animosities created by this distrust are manifest in Pakistan’s special intelligence service, which was formed to better deal with not only threats from abroad, but also threats from within.  The highly politicized nature of this intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI, has only caused further intrigue and uncertainty for the nation.

The Pakistani ISI played an instrumental role in using Islam as a tool during its struggle against India, as well as its opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  The Makhtab al-Khidamat, or MAK, was one of many Islamic organizations which were funded and supported by the ISI.  Operating out of bases inside Pakistan, the MAK was founded in 1984 by Abdullah Yussuf Azzam, a Palestinian Islamic scholar and theologian, and a Saudi follower, Osama Bin Laden.  using money provided by Bin Laden, and working closely with the Pakistani ISI, Azzam and the MAK established a base of operations in the Northwest Frontier city of Peshawar, a scant 15 miles from the historic Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.  Azzam and the MAK put into operation a system of logistics and communication between the Northwest Frontier and Afghanistan which provided material and financial support to the Afghan Mujahadeen fighting the Soviet Army.  The MAK was also able to funnel a few Arab Mujahadeen into Afghanistan, although this number never rose above a few hundred.  With the assassination of Azzam in 1989, the leadership of the MAK was transferred to Osama Bin Laden, who in 1988 formed an alliance with the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri which today is known as al-Qaida.

The links between Osama Bin Laden and the Pakistani ISI were deep.  The MAK lines of communication between Peshawar and Afghanistan, established during the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, were continued and strengthened during the 1990’s, this time as part of the al-Qaida organization, with the full knowledge and support of the ISI.  Pakistan had been taken aback by the violent infighting between the various Afghan Mujahadeen forces in the aftermath of the Soviet defeat and withdrawal in 1989.  In an effort achieve stability in Afghanistan, the ISI supported the rise of the Taliban, and with it the support to the Taliban by the Arab Mujahadeen of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida.  Pakistan was one of only three nations to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

The al-Qaida-Taliban connection was also seen by the ISI as a means of maintaining contacts with Saudi and other Gulf Arab sources of funds needed to sustain not only stability inside Afghanistan, but also to promote instability inside Indian-occupied Kashmir.  Training camps set up by al-Qaida in Afghanistan to recruit and prepare foreign Mujahadeen for operations worldwide were supported by the ISI as a means of training covert operatives for activity in Kashmir.  al-Qaida and its Arab funders returned the favor by assisting the ISI in establishing mirror-image facilities inside Pakistan which were used to train paramilitary forces for operations in Kashmir.  In 1999 Pakistan sent a large force of paramilitary operatives across the border into Kashmir disguised as Kashmiri rebels.  This gambit failed, and in doing so exposed the reality that the ISI was heavily involved in training Islamist extremists to do their bidding, both in Kashmir as well as Afghanistan.

The support provided by the ISI to Osama Bin Laden was extensive.  When American cruise missiles struck al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1998, in retaliation for the terror bombings carried out against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, among the casualties were Pakistani ISI agents working with al-Qaida.  After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Pakistan was forced to reconsider its public support of the Taliban.  The ISI made an effort to convince the Taliban to turn Osama Bin Laden over to a neutral third party so he could be tried for the 9/11 attacks, but this offer was rebuked by the Taliban leadership.  The collapse of the Taliban as a military force was so rapid in the fall/winter of 2001 that when a large number of al-Qaida forces were surrounded in the northern Afghan city of Konduz, a large number of ISI agents and operatives were trapped with them.  One of the secret annals of the Afghan War is the story of how the Pakistani Government negotiated with the United States to permit the evacuation by air of several hundred Pakistani ISI personnel who had been working with al-Qaida in Afghanistan.  It is alleged that in addition to the Pakistani evacuees, numerous high-level al-Qaida fighters were likewise withdrawn, in particular those with intimate knowledge of the ISI activities involving Kashmir and the Central Asian republics.

The ISI also plays an important role in the internal politics of Pakistan, monitoring various ethnic and tribal groups who are deemed to be questionable in terms of their absolute loyalty to Pakistan, or at least the Pakistan supported by the ISI.  In doing so, the ISI has established relationships with all the major tribal and ethnic groups, and is thus able to play one off against the other in a giant game of divide and conquer.  One of the targets of the ISI was, and is, the PPP Party of Benazir Bhutto.  The intelligence agency had made use of its considerable links with the Islamist elements of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier to generate an Islamic opposition to the return to power of Benazir Bhutto, and there is good reason to believe that the ISI was involved, either directly or indirectly, in her assassination.

The unfortunate reality of Pakistan today is that it is a barely functioning nation state.  Federalism, designed to bring together a disparate band of ethnic groups and religious movements, is failing.  Democracy, the dream of western-trained lawyers, is foreign to the majority of the population, which largely continues to defer to tribal elders and religious leaders.  The nefarious activities of the Pakistani ISI only highlight the reality that Pakistan, today, is not only an untrustworthy member of the erstwhile ‘global coalition against terrorism,’ but actually a deep-rooted supporter and instigator of the very violence the United States has sworn to oppose since 9/11.  Far from being a close ally, the truth is that, if anything, Pakistan is the personification of the enemy we have supposedly pledged to defeat.

Does this mean that the appropriate policy direction of the United States should be to wage war against Pakistan, as we have against the Taliban in Afghanistan?  Absolutely not.  If anything, the experience of Afghanistan shows that without a doubt the policies embraced by the Bush administration in pursuing its ‘Global War on Terror’ were fundamentally flawed.  In the cause and effect world of reality, as opposed to the ‘never-never’ land of neoconservative fantasy, any continued push against Pakistan in the name of the ‘Global War on Terror’ would be extremely counterproductive.  Let’s not forget that they have the bomb.

The fact of the matter is that the chief enemy in America’s fight against terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, is a mere propaganda source who is given more legitimacy the more we pursue him.  The continued instability in Afghanistan caused by the ongoing American and NATO occupation is the source of much of Pakistan’s current problems.  If we truly want to eliminate Osama Bin Laden, we would do well to withdraw from Afghanistan, and work with Iran, Pakistan and the former Soviet Central Asian republics, as well as the Taliban, to bring a sense of normalcy back to this tortured country.  In doing so, it would become self-evident to all parties that any continued role on the part of Osama Bin Laden would be self-defeating, and he would be dealt with appropriately by those best equipped to do so.

This, of course, is the last policy direction being pursued by any of the candidates seeking election to the office of President of the United States.  The bravado of the respective candidate’s ‘hunt Osama down until he is brought to justice’ rhetoric is as empty as their promises to seek stability inside Pakistan, for the two are inherently contradictory policy directions.  To pursue one is to fail on the other.  But, as has been the case with Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran beforehand, one would be foolish to believe that the people of the United States, let alone those they seek to elect to higher office, would deign to formulate policy with the reality of the region in question, and not the American domestic political dynamic, in mind.  Today, in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, America flounders in a sea of uncertainty and sorrow.  Sadly, there is no good reason to believe that any future Captain of our Ship of State will be any more successful in navigating the challenges of the Pakistan Conundrum.

Russia withdraws from arms treaty

December 12, 2007
Russia withdraws from arms treaty
 
 

The pullout means Russia can now move troops around the country without notifying Nato [AFP]
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In a statement, the ministry said: “Such a step has been caused by the exceptional circumstances connected to the content of the treaty which concern the security of Russia and demand that we take immediate measures.”

 

Russian troops can now be moved around the country without notifying Nato.

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Restoring military might

Signed in 1990 and modified in 1999, the CFE places precise limits on the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia’s Ural mountains.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who has made a priority of restoring Russian military might, signed a decree ordering Moscow’s suspension of the treaty last month.

The foreign ministry said that Russia was no longer “constrained by the limitations placed on arms deployments on its flanks”.

However, it said: “We have no current plans to accumulate massive armaments on our neighbours’ borders.”

In theory, Russia can return to the treaty at anytime, but analysts say that is unlikely, given mounting East-West distrust.

Rising tensions

The demise of the CFE comes on top of tensions around US plans to install a missile-defence shield in Nato members Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia has also threatened to leave another major treaty, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

At the heart of Russia’s complaints regarding the CFE is Nato’s failure to ratify the amended 1999 version of the treaty, taking into account the huge changes wrought by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Nato countries say they cannot ratify the 1999 version because Russian troop presence in the ex-Soviet states of Georgia and Moldova violates the treaty, a charge Moscow rejects.

In addition, Moscow has been pushing for changes to CFE limits on moving troops to the European western flank of the vast country.

Anatoly Antonov, a director at the foreign ministry, said: “Imagine that President Bush cannot move his forces from  California to the New York region. It’s ridiculous.”

‘Treaty dead’

Observers said the long list of problems made the CFE unlikely to get back on track.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst, said: “The treaty is dead.”

Felgenhauer said: “It is practically inevitable that Russia will begin moving weapons west, primarily to borders of Baltic states.”

“It makes a lot of economic sense to move forces from Siberia to Leningrad district, because it’s two or three times more expensive to keep them in Siberia.

“It will also send a powerful signal to the West. It’s a win-win situation for Russia.”

Bombed if you do, Bombed if you Don’t By Ron Paul

December 12, 2007

Bombed if you do, Bombed if you Don’t By Ron Paul

Dandelion Salad

By Ron Paul
12/11/07 “ICH

The latest National Intelligence Estimate has been greeted by a mixture of relief and alarm. As I have been saying all along, Iran indeed poses no quantifiable imminent nuclear threat to us or her neighbors. It is with much alarm, however, that we see the administration continue to ratchet up the war rhetoric as if nothing has changed.

Indeed nothing has changed from the administration’s perspective, as they have had this latest intelligence report for some time. Only this week has it been made known to the public. They want it both ways with Iran. On the one hand, they discredit the report entirely, despite it being one of the most comprehensive intelligence reports on the subject, with over 1,000 source notes in the document. On the other hand, when discrediting it fails, they claim that the timing of the abandonment of the weapons program, just as we were invading Iraq, means our pressure must have worked, so we must keep it up with a new round of even tougher sanctions. Russia and China are not buying this, apparently, and again we are finding ourselves on a lonely tenuous platform on the world stage.

The truth is Iran is being asked to do the logically impossible feat of proving a negative. They are being presumed guilty until proven innocent because there is no evidence with which to indict them. There is still no evidence that Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ever violated the treaty’s terms – and the terms clearly state that Iran is allowed to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful, civilian energy needs. The United States cannot unilaterally change the terms of the treaty, and it is unfair and unwise diplomatically to impose sanctions for no legitimate reason.

Are we to think that Iran hasn’t noticed the duplicitous treatment being received by so-called nuclear threats around the globe? If they have been paying attention, and I think they have, they would see that if countries do have a nuclear weapon, they tend to be left alone, or possibly get a subsidy, but if they do not gain such a weapon then we threaten them. Why wouldn’t they want to pursue a nuclear weapon if that is our current foreign policy? The fact remains, there is no evidence they actually have one, or could have one any time soon, even if they immediately resumed a weapons program.

Our badly misguided foreign policy has already driven this country’s economy to the brink of bankruptcy with one war based on misinformation. It is unthinkable that despite lack of any evidence of a threat, some are still charging headstrong into yet another war in the Middle East when what we ought to be doing is coming home from Iraq, coming home from Korea, coming home from Germany and defending our own soil. We do not need to be interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and waging war when honest trade, friendship, and diplomacy are the true paths to peace and prosperity.

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The “Great Game”: Eurasia and the History of War by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

December 3, 2007

The “Great Game”: Eurasia and the History of War by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Dandelion Salad

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, December 3, 2007

The History of War

History is often self-repeating. Those who are oblivious to the lessons of history are, by virtue of ignorance, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” is an outright camouflage, an ideological instrument used to reach geo-political objectives.  This “conflict notion” is part of a broad strategy which has been used throughout history to divide, conquer, and rule.

By Huntington’s definitions, nine diverse civilizations co-inhabit Eurasia; establishing conflict between them is a means towards controlling them and eventually absorbing them in the Spencerian sense of war and the social evolution of nation-states and societies, as defined by British sociologist Herbert Spencer.

Is humanity witness once again to a gradual march towards a large-scale international war like the Second World War, as Vladimir Putin has warned the Russian people? Or is fear being used to push forward otherwise unacceptable global economic policies?

If the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the dual-thrones of Austria and Hungary (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), on June 28, 1914 was the cause of the First World War why then was there talk of a major war throughout Europe in 1905?

It was on the eve of the First World War that radical changes were made to the banking system in the U.S. and on the eve of the Second World War that otherwise unpopular economic reforms were implemented in Britain. War allows otherwise unpopular measures to be accepted by domestic populations or gives them stealthy means for execution.

Mackinder’s Warnings: Divide the Continentals (Eurasians)

Mackinder warned British strategists about preventing Eurasian unification:

“What if the Great Continent, the whole World-Island [Africa and Eurasia] or a large part of it [e.g., Russia, China, Iran, and India] were at some future time to become a single and united base of sea-power? Would not the other insular bases [e.g., Britain, the U.S., and Japan] be outbuilt [sic] as regards [to] ships and outmanned as regards [to] seamen?” [1]

Mackinder also went on to instruct Britain to prevent this unification from ever happening: a policy of balkanization was adopted by London, with a strategic aim of preventing Eurasian unification.

In addition, Mackinder also warned about the large populations of Eurasia. Mackinder argued that lasting empires were based on manpower:

“[The] vast Saracen [Arab] design of a northward and southward Dominion of Camel-men crossed by a westward and eastward Dominion of Shipmen was vitiated by one fatal defect; it lacked in its Arabian base the necessary man-power to make it good. But no student of the realities about which must turn the strategical thought of any government aspiring to world-power can afford to lose sight of the warning thus given by History.” [2]

Mackinder also makes the same observation about the short-lived empires of the peoples’ of the Eurasian steppes, such as the Mongols:

“When the Russian Cossacks first policed the steppes at the close of the Middle Ages, a great revolution was effected, for the Tartars, like the Arabs, had lacked the necessary man-power upon which to found a lasting Empire, but behind the Cossacks were the Russian ploughman, who have to-day [1905] grown to be a people of a hundred millions on the fertile plains of the Black and Baltic Seas.” [3]

Population is clearly an important geo-strategic issue. Under this scheme Russia, China, and India are viewed as threats. This is also why the U.S. will never give up its nuclear weapons. Aside from military superiority and nuclear weapons, how can the generally less populated NATO states keep a balance of power with such heavily populated states? It should also be noted that one of the reasons for European conquests and colonial expansion was also the fact that, at the time, European countries had (in relative terms) large populations.

Dividing, balkanizing, and finlandizing Eurasia, from Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R. to the Middle East and India, is consistent with these historical objectives outlined by Britain prior to the First World War. This is one of the reasons why Britain, France, and America gave refuge prior to World War I to various separatist movements from within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Czarist Russia. Today, the U.S. and Britain are harbouring similar political groups against Iran, Sudan, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, China, and India. Nothing has changed. Only today Zbigniew Brzezinski makes these warnings and not Halford Mackinder.

Learning from History: The Prevention of the German Ostbewegung

In 1848, at St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt there was an attempt to create a single and large Central-Eastern European, German-dominated nation. This project did not move forward until half a century later, because of the opposition of the Habsburg Dynasty and the rivalry between Prussia and Austria.

Britain feared the German Drang nach Osten, the “drive to the East,” or the Ostbewegung or “eastward movement.”

For the most part this eastward movement, which started in 1200 with the extension of long distance trade, was not part of any German imperial ambitions. [4] The fear in British circles was that some form of unification between the two dominant powers in the Eurasian Heartland, namely Germany and Russia would occur. The fear in the Twenty-First Century is the unification of Russia, China, India, and Iran.

Before the First World War, British strategists believed that Germany was making important inroads towards becoming a global superpower. All that was required to elevate Germany was industrial control over Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which was well underway. Germany was already taking over British markets and threatening the U.S. and Britain economically.

Historically, Eastern Europe has been sandwiched between two great nations, Germany and Russia. After the Napoleonic era and up until the First World War, Eastern Europe was dominated by the Russians and then the Germans. Historically, British strategy was aimed at weakening Czarist Russia until Germany replaced Russia as the dominant power in Eastern Europe. This is one of the reasons why Britain and France supported the Ottoman Turks in their wars against the Russians.

German influence in Eastern Europe was secured under a partnership between the Hungarians (Magyars) and Austrians. German influence had also been growing economically, politically, and industrially under the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East. In Czarist Russia, before the First World War, German influence was politically and economically significant. The Russian capital, St. Petersburg, was in a Germanized area of the Russian Czardom and many Russian aristocrats and nobles were Germanized and German speaking.

German industrial colonies or settlements were also established in the Ukraine and the Caucasus within the territory of Czarist Russia. Similarly German settlements were established in the Levant, within the territory of the Ottoman Turks. The Ostbewegung was more about economics and a united and strong Eurasian industrial base under the control of Germany than it was about the myth of German colonization of all Eurasia.

However, Germany’s means of economic expansion did change about half a century later with the rise of Adolph Hitler in Berlin, who tried to force a German-driven form of globalization in Eurasia by military means. Is this being repeated by those who hold power in Washington, D.C. and London?

A Lesson from History: Playing the Russians and the Germans in War

Economics and industrial competition was the real key behind the tensions that resulted in the First World War. Mackinder also states this. In reality the truth of the matter was that the Germans were from an economic standpoint expanding eastwards. The German demographic push to the East was also over exaggerated. Historically, in many cases Germans were invited as merchants and craftsmen by Eastern European states, such as Bohemia and Hungary, before the unification of Germany under Prince Otto von Bismarck the Prime Minister of Prussia.

Mackinder and others in Britain saw this all as part of a gradual trend that would unify the Eurasian Heartland under a single and powerful player.

The key to stopping the emergence of a single powerful player in the Heartland was to play the Germans against the Russians:

“In East Europe there are also two principle elements, the Teutonic [German] and the Slavonic, but no equilibrium has been established between them as between the Romance [Latin-based speaking] and Teutonic elements of West Europe. The key to the whole situation in East Europe — and it is a fact which cannot be laid to heart at the present moment — is the German claim to dominance over the Slavs. Vienna and Berlin, just beyond the boundary of West Europe, stand already within territory that was Slav in the earlier Middle Ages; they represent the first step of the German out of his native country as a conqueror eastward.” [5]

In the eyes of Britain, playing the Russians and the Germans against one another was vital to keeping the Continentals from uniting.

The Roots of an Anglo-American Compact

The British and the U.S. were clearly trying to weaken both Germany and Czarist Russia. This is evident from British and American support for the Japanese “when it [meaning Britain] kept the [naval] ring round the Russo-Japanese War,” in 1904 to 1905. [6]

By the time  of the Russo-Japanese War the Anglo-American alliance had already formed between the U.S. and Britain as Mackinder notes:

“Those events began some twenty years ago [in 1898] with three great victories won by the British fleet without the firing of a gun. The first was at Manila [in the Philippines], in the Pacific Ocean, when a German squadron threatened to intervene to protect a Spanish squadron [in the Spanish-American War], which was defeated by an American squadron, and a British squadron stood by the Americans.”[7]

In Mackinder’s words “So was the first step taken towards the reconciliation of British and American hearts.” [8] This was also the point in history where the U.S. became a major imperialist power.

It should also be noted that the Spanish-American War is believed by some historians to have been started under a false pretext. The U.S. government started the war, blaming the Spanish for the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba, from whence comes the quote that was used to build American public support against the Spanish: “Remember the Maine!

The Second World War: Playing the Soviets against the Germans

The strategy of playing the main players in Eurasia against one another continued into the Second World War. Germany, France, and the Soviet Union were played against one another just as Germany, Czarist Russia, and the Ottoman Empire were before the First World War.

This is evident from the fact that Britain and France only declared war on Germany when both Germany and the U.S.S.R. invaded Poland in 1939. The Locarno Pacts and Hoare-Laval Plan were used by the British government to push the Germans eastward to confront the Soviets by neutralizing France and allowing Germany to militarize, while appeasement under Neville Chamberlain was a calculated move aimed at liquidating any states between Germany and the Soviet Union and establishing a common German-Soviet border. [9]

Both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were aware of Anglo-American policy. Both countries signed a non-aggression pact prior to the Second World War, largely in response to the Anglo-American stance. In the end it was because of Soviet and German distrust for one another that the Soviet-German alliance collapsed. Presently, the U.S. government is using the same strategies in regards to Russia, China, Iran, India, and other Eurasian players.

The Roots of Strategic Balkanization: Preventing the Unification of Eurasia 

Mackinder stipulated that the Eurasian Heartland started in Eastern Europe and on the frontiers of Germany. It was from Eastern Europe that a foothold could be established for entrance into the Eurasian interior.

London’s greatest fear, until the division of Austria-Hungary and a creation of a buffer zone between the Germans and the Russians with the emergence of several new states after 1918, was the unification of the Germans and the Slavs as a single Eurasian entity.

British balkanization policy was a synergy of colonial policy, power politics, economics, and historical observation.

Strategic balkanization probably came to maturity when Italy and Germany became unified nation-states and the British realized the dangers that centralized and strong states in Europe could pose. Once again, economics was a driving force. Before this period balkanization was used for colonial means. After the formation, or rather unification, of Germany and Italy balkanization also became a means to neutralize potential British rivals.

František Palacký, the famous Czech historian, is quoted as stating: “If Austria [meaning the Habsburg or Austro-Hungarian Empire] did not exist, it would be necessary to create her, in the interests of humanity itself.”

This is a noteworthy statement because Palacký was a Slav, who defended the Austro-Hungarian Empire due to its multi-ethnic characteristics.

The Habsburg Empire was a regional synthesis between the Germans, the Hungarians (Magyar), and the Slavs. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, like the former Yugoslavia that would spring from its ashes, was also religiously diverse. Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived within its borders and in 1912 Islam became a state religion, alongside the Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity. The British feared that this model under the leadership of German industrial might could be extended to Germany, Austria-Hungary and Czarist Russia, thereby creating a powerful German-Slavic political entity in the Eurasian Heartland. [10] The synthesis was already underway, with the inclusion of the Ottoman Empire, until the First World War stopped it. As already stated this process was part of a historical fusion. Austria-Hungary had to be dismantled in the eyes of London, with a view to obstructing any unification process between the Continentals.

For these reasons separatist nationalist movements were utilized and manipulated. Czechoslovak leaders, such as Milan Rastislav Štefánik, fought for the French and British during the First World War. It should also be noted that in September 1918, the U.S. government recognized Czechoslovakia before it was even created and that the Pittsburgh Agreement, which paved the way for breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire and creating Czechoslovakia, was signed in Pennsylvania with the support of the British and U.S. governments. Three “Czecho-Slovak” legions were also formed to fight Germany and the Austro-Hungarians by Britain and France in the First World War.

Redrawing Eastern Europe and the Middle East: The Template for Iraq

Since the First World War instability has been continuously fueled from Kosovo in the Balkans to the province of Xinjiang, which constitutes China’s Western frontier. This is an important fact that manifests itself from events such as the division of India to the division of Yugoslavia.

The rationale for establishing new states in Eastern Europe is also explained by Mackinder:

“Securely independent the Polish and Bohemian [the Czech and Slovak] nations cannot be unless as the apex of a broad wedge of independence, extending from the Adriatic and Black Seas to the Baltic; but seven independent States, with a total of more than sixty million people, traversed by railways linking them securely with one another, and having access through the Adriatic, Black, and Baltic Seas with the [Atlantic] Ocean, will together effectively balance the Germans of Prussia [meaning Germany] and Austria, and nothing less will suffice for that purpose.” [11]

Although Bohemia is properly a reference to the Czechs, in this case Mackinder is using it to mean both the Czechs and the Slovaks or Czechoslovakia.

By 1914, the Germans had already secured significant inroads into the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire had to be dismantled too. However, in the eyes of British strategists, Russia and Germany were the two main long-term opponents. To undermine the process of unification between the Germans and Russians, a shatter-belt region had to be created in Eastern Europe between Germany and Russia.

After the First World War, Anglo-American planners projected the replacement of Germany by the Soviet Union, the player that emerged from the ashes of Czarist Russia, as the most powerful player in Eurasia. Creating a shatter-belt zone around the western portion of the Soviet Union from the Baltic to the Balkans and the Persian Gulf became a strategic objective for the British. This is one of the reasons why so many new nations were created in Eastern Europe and the Middle East after the First World War and again in Eastern Europe and Central Asia after the Cold War.

As Anglo-American strategists started looking at global strategy in a holistic view they adopted the concept of trans-continental encirclement.

The Rimland is the concept of a geographic area adjacent or circling the Eurasian “Heartland.” Western Europe, Central Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia, and the Far East comprise this area from Western Eurasia to Eastern Eurasia. Nicholas Spykman’s Rimland helps give an objective and historical context to the present zones of conflict encircling Russia, China, and Iran that start from the Balkans, the Kurdish areas of the Middle East, Iraq, Caucasia, and go through NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan, Kashmir, Indo-China, and finish in the Korean Peninsula. The geographic locations of these areas say much as to which countries or players are disturbed.

Iraq is being redrawn in a step by step fashion, but firstly though its political landscape and a system of soft federalism. This holistic concept is also getting stronger and the existence of European and Asiatic missile shield projects are connected to this approach as is the brinkmanship to create an American-dominated global military alliance.

The Pirenne Thesis

In his book, Mohammed and Charlemagne, Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, states that Charlemagne and the Frankish Empire would never have existed if it were not for the period of Arab expansion in the Mediterranean region. Henri Pirenne became known for his thesis that the Germanic barbarians, such as the Franks and Goths, that were traditionally credited by historians for the fall of the Western Roman Empire in reality merged themselves with the Western Roman Empire and that the economic and institutional templates of Western Rome continued and stayed intact. Pirenne challenged the traditional historic narrative that the Germanic barbarians were the reason for the decline of Western Rome.

Pirenne seems correct in the basis of his theory. In most cases Western Roman ways were maintained by the Germanic kingdoms. The facts that the Franks, a Germanic people, adopted Latin (which eventually evolved into French over time) as their language or that the Roman Church stayed intact as an important societal institution supports his observations and thesis.

The decline of Rome is more probably based on an end to an economy based on imperial expansion, slavery, over-militarization, and political corruption as its main factors. The decline of the Western European economy was not because the Arabs were unwilling to continue trade with Western Europe, but because of militarism and the de-centralization that went with it, hand-in-hand; the end result being European feudalism. Is this process repeating itself today?

To Pirenne, it was clear that the economic framework of the Roman Empire, Western and Eastern (Byzantine), was fixed around the economy and trade of the Mediterranean Sea. Western Rome only transformed from a politically centralized entity to a network of politically separate kingdoms and states, but with the same economic framework, fixed on the Mediterranean, intact.

Pirenne theorized that the real decline in the Western Roman entity was brought about by the rapid expansion of the Arabs. The Levant, Egypt, various Mediterranean islands, portions of Anatolia (Asia Minor), Spain, Portugal, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which were all Mediterranean regions, were all incorporated within the vast cosmopolitan realm of the Arabs. According to Pirenne, the reason that this decline was brought about was the cut in ties between the integrated economies of most of the Mediterranean and Western Europe that was brought about by the Arabs. Western Europe effectively degenerated into a marginalized economic hinterland.

Another factor that should be added to Pirenne’s theory about the economic decline of Western Europe after the fall of Rome was that Eastern Rome (Byzantium) also diverted its trade, or reduced its level, from Western Europe due to economic realities brought about by the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean. Also in part the dissolved economic links between Western Europe and the Byzantines was because of the differences and rivalry between the Western Christian Church and the Eastern Christian Church that developed with time. Animosity also existed between the authorities in Constantinople and Western Europe and further effected economic ties. These tensions were also in many cases economic in origin.

The Pirenne Thesis states that Western Europe was transformed into a series of farm-based economies, which slowly gave rise to European feudalism, due to Arab expansion. Raw resources were being exported outwards with little imports to Western Europe, whereas before items and resources such as valuable metals and Egyptian papyrus would enter Western Europe. This was because the economy of Western Europe was cut off from the rest of the globe. The European voyages of discovery that occur later can also be traced to this period as a means to reverse this process.

The Eurasians Strike Back: The New Silk Road

Today, across Eurasia there is a renewed drive at economic and socio-political cooperation and integration. The Silk Road is being revived. Iran, Russia, and China are the most important forces in this project. Kazakhstan is also playing a very important role. Railway networks, transport corridors, electric grids, and various forms of infrastructure are being developed, linked, and built in an effort to integrate Eurasia.

Central Asia is set to become the mid-axis and the heartland of a series of north-south and west-east corridors. A strategic triangle between Russia, Iran, and China will set the border for a Eurasian trade zone that can eventually bring Africa and chunks of Europe into its orbit. Latin America has already anticipated this shift and is preparing to redirect part of its trade from the U.S. and E.U. towards this area.

China is a global centre of labour while Russia, Iran, and Central Asia hold 15% or more of global oil reserves and 50% of the world’s reserves of natural gas. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) also holds half the planet’s estimated population. Together these areas also have vast and important markets.

Eurasia is coming together in a wave of regional integration and cross-border trade. Russia and Kazakhstan have also made proposals for the eventual formation of a Eurasian Union. The customs union established between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan is a step towards this Eurasian Union. Iran has also made proposals for the formation of a so-called Islamic Union between nations with Muslim populations.

This is all effectively a re-introduction of the Pirenne Thesis in a modern context. In this second round of the Pirennian cycle it is the trade-dependent economies of Western Europe and the U.S., the players of the Eurasian periphery and the maritime realms, that are under threat of being marginalized like the former areas of Western Rome were during the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean. The Eurasians are striking back; they realize that it is not them who needs the U.S. or E.U., but the other way around.

A Mediterranean Union and an Islamic Union: The West versus the Eurasian Heartland

Reflecting on the Pirenne Thesis, it is also not historically ironic that the E.U. is pushing for the establishment of a Mediterranean Union, which would economically merge the nations of the Mediterranean and E.U. together with both Israel and Turkey playing key roles. This is a Western answer to the growing strength and cohesion in the Eurasian Heartland between Russia, Iran, and China.

To counter this drive Russia, China, and Iran have been courting the nations of the Mediterranean. In fact after Nicholas Sarkozy’s trip to Algeria, as part of a tour to promote the creation of a Mediterranean Union, an Iranian delegation led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived with a counter-proposal for the creation of an alternative bloc; this was what the Iranians called an Islamic Union.

The Islamic Union is essentially a rival economic project to the Mediterranean Union in the Mediterranean lands of North Africa and the Middle East, rather than the institutionalization of Islam within any of these states. Undoubtedly, the Iranian proposal must have had some backdoor support from Moscow. It is more than likely that the Islamic Union will be linked in some form to the Eurasian Union proposed by Russia and Kazakhstan. These regional blocs can be overlapping and countries like Iran can hypothetically belong to the Eurasian Union and the Islamic Union, just as how France and Italy could belong to the E.U. and the proposed Mediterranean Union. This is also part of the brinkmanship of turning several regions into supranational entities and ultimately into super-national entities that would merge with like entities.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict and the so-called Mid-East Peace Process, essentially including the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, are tied to the joint American-E.U. economic project that is the Mediterranean Union, which will see the integration of the economies of the Arab World with that of Israel in a network of regionalized economic relations that will ultimately merge the economies of Europe, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab World. The Mediterranean Union is a project that was drafted years before the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. The deep ties between Turkey and Israel have been a preparatory step towards eventually establishing this Mediterranean Union with the participation and full involvement of Israel as one of its pillars.

The Bloc Concept and Regionalization: Orwellian Showdown between Oceania and Eurasia?

The players of the Eurasian Heartland realize what is happening. Moreover, France and Germany, like India, are being courted by the players of the Eurasian Heartland to encourage them to de-link themselves from the Anglo-American axis.  This is probably why the euro is not being targeted on international currency markets by Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and China in the same way as the U.S. dollar. Or is this because America is the immediate threat to these countries?

The Eurasians are slowly prying the hold of Western financial centres on global transactions. The establishment of a petro-ruble system in Russia and the republics of the former U.S.S.R., as well as the establishment of an international Iranian energy bourse on Kish Island are part of this trend.

However, it seems too late to end the concord between the Franco-German and Anglo-American sides. Franco-German interests appear to have become entrenched with Anglo-American interests. A deal has been reached to eventually merge, with regard to trading systems, the economies of the E.U. and North America that will guarantee the interests of Britain, the U.S., France, and Germany.[12] This deal will also allow the four major powers within the so-called Western World to challenge the Eurasian Heartland as it merges into a single powerful bloc or player.

Whenever a dominate player has started to emerge in the Eurasian Heartland there have historically been wars fought — even the fear of the emergence of one has been the cause of conflict — to prevent the ascendancy of such a power or player. These different stages of regionalism and regionalized mergers mean several things, but what this can mean in Orwellian terms is that Oceania and Eurasia are preparing to challenge one another. [13]

NOTES

This article is a continuation of The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’ Ambitions in Eurasia (Nazemroaya, 26.08.2007) and lightly touches on the concept of the Mediterranean Union, which is covered in an article yet to be released.


[1] Halford John Mackinder, Chap. 3 (The Seaman’s Point of View), in Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, U.K.: Constables and Company Ltd., 1919), p.91.

[2] Ibid., Chap. 4 (The Landman’s Point of View), p.121.

Note: This chapter in Democratic Ideals and Reality is based on an essay, Man-power as a Measure of National and Imperial Strength, that Mackinder wrote for the National Review (U.K.) in 1905. It should also be noted that Mackinder and various circles in London viewed the large populations of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Czardom of Russia as threats that should be addressed. If one reads the full works of Mackinder they will come to realize that he advocated for some form of Social Darwinism amongst nations, and saw democratic idealism as a subject that should be put aside to preserve the British imperial order. Mackinder even states that the commerce that the British enjoyed was due to the use of British guns and force (Chap. 5, pp.187-188).

[3] Ibid., p.142.

[4] Lonnie R. Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, 2nd ed. (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 37-42.

[5] Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, Op. cit., Chap. 5 (The Rivalry of Empires), pp.160-161.

[6] Ibid., Chap. 3, p.78.

[7] Ibid., pp.77-78.

[8] Ibid., p.78.

[9] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden (San Pedro, California: GSG & Associates Publishers, 1981), pp. 233-235, 237-248, 253, 264-281, 285-302.

“…from 1920 to 1938 [the aims were] the same: to maintain the balance of power in Europe by building up Germany against France and [the Soviet Union]; to increase Britain’s weight in that balance by aligning with her the Dominions [e.g., Australia and Canada] and the United States; to refuse any commitments (especially any commitments through the League of Nations, and above all any commitments to aid France) beyond those existing in 1919; to keep British freedom of action; to drive Germany eastward against [the Soviet Union] if either or both of these two powers became a threat to the peace [probably meaning economic strength] of Western Europe (p.240).”

“…the Locarno agreements guaranteed the frontier of Germany with France and Belgium with the powers of these three states plus Britain and Italy. In reality the agreements gave France nothing, while they gave Britain a veto over French fulfillment of her alliances with Poland and the Little Entente. The French accepted these deceptive documents for reason of internal politics (…) This trap [the Locarno agreements] consisted of several interlocking factors. In the first place, the agreements did not guarantee the German frontier and the demilitarized condition of the Rhineland against German actions, but against the actions of either Germany or France. This, at one stroke, gave Britain the right to oppose any French action against Germany in support of her allies to the east of Germany. This meant that if Germany moved east against Czechoslovakia, Poland, and eventually [the Soviet Union], and if France attacked Germany’s western frontier in support of Czechoslovakia or Poland, as her alliances bound her to do, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy might be bound by the Locarno Pacts to come to the aid of Germany (p.264).”

“This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement. So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward. And by this date [1936], certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and [the Soviet Union] against one another in Eastern Europe. In this way they felt that two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine. It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and [the Soviet Union] might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West. Even less did it occur to them that [the Soviet Union] might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism (p.265).”

“In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against [the Soviet Union], it was necessary to do three things: (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and Russia; (2) to prevent France from honoring her alliances with these countries [i.e., Czechoslovakia and Poland]; and (3) to hoodwink the [British] people into accepeting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem. The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the [geo-strategic] implications of their policy and tried to reverse it (p.266).”

“Four days later, Hitler announced Germany’s rearmament, and ten days after that, Britain condoned the act by sending Sir John Simon on a state visit to Berlin. When France tried to counterbalance Germany’s rearmament by bringing the Soviet Union into her eastern alliance system in May 1935, the British counteracted this by making the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935. This agreement, concluded by Simon, allowed Germany to build up to 35 percent of the size of the British Navy (and up to 100 percent in submarines). This was a deadly stab in the back of France, for it gave Germany a navy considerably larger than the French in the important categories of ships (capital ships and aircraft carriers), because France was bound by treaty to only 33 percent of Britain’s; and France in addition, had a worldwide empire to protect and the unfriendly Italian Navy off her Mediterranean coast. This agreement put the French Atlantic coast so completely at the mercy of the German Navy that France became completely dependent on the British fleet for protection in this area (pp.269-270).”

“The liquidation of the countries between Germany and [the Soviet Union] could proceed as soon as the Rhineland was fortified, without fear on Germany’s part that France would be able to attack her in the west while she was occupied in the east (p.272).”

“The countries marked for liquidation included Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, but did not include Greece and Turkey, since the [Milner] Group had no intention of allowing Germany to get down onto the Mediterranean ‘lifeline.’ Indeed, the purpose of the Hoare-Laval Plan of 1935, which wrecked the collective-security system by seeking to give most Ethiopia to Italy, was intended to bring an appeased Italy in position alongside [Britain], in order to block any movement of Germany southward rather than eastward [towards the Soviet Union] (p.273).”

[10] Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, Op. cit., Chap. 5, pp.160-168.

[11] Ibid., Chap. 6 (The Freedom of Nations), pp. 214-215.

[12] US and EU agree ’single market,’ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), April 30, 2007.

[13] Critical thinking should be applied to this last statement and the level of cooperation between both sides should be carefully examined.

Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
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A Dollar the Size of a Postage Stamp By Mike Whitney

November 29, 2007

A Dollar the Size of a Postage Stamp By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
11/28/07 “ICH

Even Larry Summers Predicts Doom

Lately it seems as though everyone wants to take a poke at the dollar. Last week, it was the Brazilian supermodel who demanded euros for her jaunts on the catwalk instead of USD. The week before that, hip-hop impresario, Jay-Z, released a video dissin’ the dollar and praising the euro as the ‘baddest Dude in the ‘hood’.

Lambasting the greenback has become trendy. It’s a favorite pastime of politicians, too. At the November OPEC meeting in Riyadh, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the assembled finance ministers to “study the feasibility of selling oil in another currency.” Ahmadinejad disparaged the dollar as “a worthless piece of paper”.

The fiery Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, followed Ahmadinejad’s lead predicting that the demise of the dollar would mean the “end of the Empire.”

Hugo may be on to something. The dollar is America’s Achilles heel; if the dollar tanks, so does the empire. That means the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for Bush’s bloody-interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than the Chinese. That also means that the US will have to export something of greater value than Daisy Cutters and gulags. That could be a tall-order, now that Bush has boarded up the factories, hollowed out the industrial base, and outsourced 3 million manufacturing jobs. We’ll have to scrape the rust off the machinery and get back into the widget-making business like we were before the Free Trade fiasco.

Central banks across the globe are trying to figure out how to ditch their dollar reserves without triggering a stampede for the exits. No one wants to see that. But, then, nobody wants to be stuck with vaults full of Uncle Sam’s green confetti either. So, the question arises; What is the best way to divest oneself of $5.6 trillion (total USD held overseas) before the Lusitania capsizes?

Kuwait, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and Norway have already opted to ignore the destabilizing effects of “conversion” from dollars and are in some stage of divestiture. Others will follow. The UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia are considering switching from the dollar-peg to a basket of currencies so they can hedge against the inflation that’s battering their economies. It’s only a matter of time before the Petrodollar System—which links the dollar to petroleum sales and creates a de facto “international currency”—unravels completely, precipitating the final collapse of Breton Woods.

Talk of America’s impending currency disaster is no longer relegated to the Internet blathershere. Mainstream journalists have joined the chorus and are sending up their own red flags. The UK Telegraph’s economics’s editor, Liam Halligan, made this grim observation in his recent article, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar Tensions Will Follow”:

“The importance of “dollar divestment” cannot be overstated. At the very least it means the greenback has much further to fall – plunging the US into recession. But it begs a bigger, more alarming, question. How will Washington react to the end of the US hegemony?”

The dollar was savaged by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. The Fed’s policies were designed to coincide with Bush’s Middle East Crusade. They were supposed to work like two wheels on the same axle. The administration believed that, by 2007, the military would need only 30,000 or so troops to maintain security in Iraq. That would give Bush’s legions the chance to turn east and push on to the next target-state, Iran. If things went according to plan — and no one thought the high-tech US war machine could be stopped – the US would control two-thirds of the world’s oil. This would allow America to keep writing bad checks on green paper for the next century.

But then, of course, the plan hit a snag. The Iraqi resistance mushroomed, the US got bogged down in an “unwinnable” war, and the once-mighty dollar shriveled into nothingness. Now we’re at a turning point and our leaders are in a state of denial. Bush is still playing Teddy Roosevelt, while Paulson and Bernanke are just plain shell-shocked. They probably know the game is over. As the dollar continues to wither; the frustration is beginning to mount in Europe. Liam Halligan sums it up like this:

“Europe has finally had enough of America’s “benign neglect” dollar policy. As a large economic area, with a floating exchange rate, the eurozone suffers most. Over the past seven years, the single currency has risen by a shocking 82 per cent against the greenback. That’s hammered eurozone exports – provoking serious trade disputes between the EU and US, the world’s two biggest trading blocks. No wonder French President Nicolas Sarkozy describes America’s drooping dollar as “a precursor to economic war”. (UK Telegraph, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar tensions Will Follow”)

Sarkozy is leading the charge for “intervention”; the buzzword for shoring the greenback through exchange controls and buying up billions of dollars. But it’s a risky business; especially when net capital inflows — which are the monthly purchases of US-backed securities and Treasuries –have gone negative for the last two months. That means the US isn’t attracting enough foreign investment to finance its trade deficit. So the dollar will have to fall to compensate.

So, how much loot is Sarkozy willing to put up to keep the dollar from slumping further — $100 billion, $500 billion, $1,000 billion? And where’s the bottom?

The fact is, the greenback took a “header” down the stairwell and by the time it picks itself up, it could be eye to eye with the peso. Who knows? Maybe its time we all learned Spanish?

More than two-thirds of all sovereign foreign exchange holdings are denominated in dollars. When those dollars are converted into back into foreign currencies and start recycling into the US; we’re in deep trouble. Inflation will soar. Surely, the Fed must have known this day would come when they were pumping trillions of dollars into subprime mortgages and complex debt-instruments which served no earthly purpose except to fatten the bottom line for rapacious bankers and hedge-fund managers. The Fed also knew that the nation’s wealth was not being “efficiently deployed” for capital improvements on factories, technology or industry. Oh, no. That would have ensured that America would remain competitive in the global marketplace into the new century. Instead, the money was shoveled into the bottomless sinkhole of stucco homes with composition roofing and toxic credit default swaps.

The stock market lost another 237 points yesterday; the third 200-plus slide in a week. Now all three indexes are down more than 10% since their record high on Oct 9. Treasury yields are plunging as investors flee the stock market looking for safety. That means the Fed will have to slash rates again at its December 11 meeting to provide more low interest crack for the investor class. Traders see an 82% chance that Bernanke will cut the Fed Fund’s rate by another quarter point to 4.25%. All that is likely to do is put the dollar into free fall and send food, oil and gold prices to the moon. It won’t pay off the overdue mortgage payments and it won’t remove the billions of dollars of debt from the banks’ balance sheets. It’s pointless. The US is headed for a “hard landing” and its dragging the rest of the world along with it.

Harvard Economics professor, Lawrence Summers offered this sobering warning yesterday in an article in the Financial Times, “Wake up to the dangers of a deepening crisis”:

“Three months ago it was reasonable to expect that the subprime credit crisis would be a financially significant event but not one that would threaten the overall pattern of economic growth. This is still a possible outcome but no longer the preponderant probability. Even if necessary changes in policy are implemented, the odds now favor a US recession that slows growth significantly on a global basis. Without stronger policy responses than have been observed to date, moreover, there is the risk that the adverse impacts will be felt for the rest of this decade and beyond. Several streams of data indicate how much more serious the situation is than was clear a few months ago.”

Summers is not the smartest guy on the block. If he was he wouldn’t have said men are smarter than women and he’d still be president of Harvard. But he’s a capable economist and he can sniff disaster as it comes stampeding round the corner.

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Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”

November 28, 2007

Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”


As the U.S. convenes a Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky says U.S. backing of continued Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestinian land is the biggest obstacle to peace. He says: “The crimes against Palestinians… are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.” [includes rush transcript]


Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a U.S.-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday. More than 40 organisations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston, sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was titled “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin with Noam Chomsky. A professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.” Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

  • Noam Chomsky. Professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”

RUSH TRANSCRIPTThis transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a US-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Monday. More than forty organizations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israel-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist and author Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin today with Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century. Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Noam Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.

    Well, I’ve been asked to talk about the apartheid paradigm and the proper response here, so I’ll do that, though not without some additional reservations. We have to recognize that there will be no clear answer as to the question of whether the apartheid paradigm applies in Israel or in Boston, right here, or elsewhere. The genre has, after all, only one example: South Africa. And there are similarities elsewhere in many dimensions, and it’s fair enough to bring them up, but there’s very little point debating whether they are close enough in one or another case to count as apartheid, because that will never be settled, we know that in advance.

    I’ve brought up similarities in the past, when I thought that they were appropriate. Actually, the one time I recall clearly was exactly ten years ago. That was at a conference at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. It was on the anniversary of the thirtieth year of the military occupation. And in the talk there, I quoted from a standard history of South Africa on elections in the Bantustans, which I’ll read; and just change a few words, and you’ll know what it’s about.

    “South African retention of effective power, through its officials in the Bantustans, its overwhelming economic influence and security arrangements, gave to this initiative of elections elements of a farce. However, unlikely candidates as were the Bantustans for any meaningful independent existence, their expanding bureaucracies provided jobs for new strata of educated Africans tied to the system in a new way and a basis for accumulation for a small number of Africans with access to loans and political influence. Repression, too, could be indigenized through developing homeland policy and army personnel. On the fringe of the Bantustans, border industry growth centers were planned as a means of freeing capital from some of the restraints imposed on industrial expansion elsewhere and to take advantage of virtually captive and particularly cheap labor. Within the homelands, economic development was more a matter of advertising brochures than actual practical activity, though some officials in South Africa understood the needs from their own perspective for some kind of revitalization of the homelands to prevent their economies from collapsing even further.”

    Well, I won’t waste time expressing the similarities to the Occupied Territories, but you can do that quite easily. Ten years ago, that was the optimistic prospect for the Occupied Territories. By now, even that’s remote, and reality is far more grim than it was then. There’s no time and, I presume, no need to review the harrowing details.

    We’re now approaching George Bush’s historic Annapolis conference, as it’s called, on Israel-Palestine, so we can anticipate a flood of deceit and distortions to set the proper framework. And we should be prepared to counter the propaganda assault, which has already begun. Just to pick a couple of examples, Bostonians could read in the Boston Globe a few days ago that at the Taba Conference in January 2001 — now quoting — “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted ideas floated by President Bill Clinton that would have produced a Palestinian state in 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza,” but these forthcoming gestures failed. The evil Palestinians refused Israel’s generous offers, keeping to their time-honored insistence on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory and proving they’re not partners for negotiation.

    Well, there’s one fragment of truth in this conventional fabrication: there was a conference in Taba. And, in fact, it did come close to a possible settlement, but the rest is pure invention. In particular, the conference was terminated abruptly by Prime Minister Barak. The truth is completely unacceptable, so the facts are either suppressed, as they generally are, or, as in this case, just inverted. And we can expect a good deal more of that. Actually, the truth about the Taba Conference merits attention. That week, in one week in January 2001, that was the one moment in thirty years when the United States and Israel abandoned the rejectionist stance that they have maintained in virtual isolation until the present.

    And that may suggest some thoughts about another familiar fairytale that you could read about a couple of days earlier in the New York Times, where the respected policy analyst and former high government official, Leslie Gelb, wrote that every US administration since 1967 has privately favored returning almost all of the territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state. Note the word “privately.” Crucial. We know what the administrations have said publicly. Publicly they have rejected adamantly anything remotely of the sort ever since 1967 — ’76, when the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement on the international border, incorporating all the relevant wording of UN 242 — it’s the basic diplomatic document to which Washington appeals when it’s convenient. The US veto — it’s worth bearing in mind — is a double veto. One part of the veto is that the actions are barred, of course. And it’s also vetoed from history, as in this case, so you’ll work really hard to find it, even in the scholarly literature.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll come back to Professor Noam Chomsky’s address in Boston, and then we’ll go on to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They were both speaking at the Sabeel conference.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to MIT professor and author Noam Chomsky speaking recently in Boston at the Old South Church at a conference called the Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Sometimes the public rejection of a separate Palestinian state is more articulate and considerably more extreme, so it takes a George Bush no. 1, who is reputed to be the most hostile to Israel of US presidents. In 1988, as you know, the Palestinian National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement, and the Israeli government responded. This was the coalition government of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir. They responded by issuing a formal declaration that there can be no additional Palestinian state between Jordan and Palestine — “additional” because for Shimon Peres and his Labor coalition, Jordan already was a Palestinian state. It’s a view that’s attributed to the right wing, but that’s mistaken. This is Shimon Peres. The United States reacted to that with what was called the Baker Plan — James Baker, Secretary of State. The Bush Baker Plan endorsed Israel’s position without qualification and went on to add that any Palestinian negotiators would have to accept that framework, namely no second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan. That’s Bush no. 1, the alleged critic of Israel, and the respected diplomat James Baker. Again, the truth is inconvenient, so virtually none of this was reported, and you’ll have to work — search hard to extricate it from the web of self-serving propaganda that dominates commentary and reporting, of which Leslie Gelb’s article in the New York Times is a typical, but not unusual, example.

    Well, I’m not going to go on with that, but the diplomatic record is one of uniform rejectionism, apart from the week in Taba, and unilateral rejectionism, increasingly so. By now, virtually the entire world agrees on the two-state international consensus of the past thirty years, pretty much along the lines that were almost agreed upon at Taba. That includes all the Arab States, who actually go beyond to call for full normalization of relations with Israel. It includes Iran, although you won’t find that published here, which accepts the Arab League position. It includes Hamas; its leaders have repeatedly endorsed, called for a two-state settlement, even in articles in the US press. That also includes Hamas’s most militant figure, Khaled Meshaal, who’s in exile in Syria. And it includes the rest of the world. Israel rejects it, and the United States backs that rejection fully, not in words just, but in actions.

    Bush no. 2 has gone to new extremes in rejectionism. He’s declared the illegal West Bank settlements must remain part of Israel. That’s in accord with the Clinton position, expressed by his negotiator Dennis Ross, who explained that what he called “Israel’s needs” take precedence over Palestinian wants. That’s Clinton. But the party line remains undisturbed. Facts don’t matter. Bush, Rice and the rest are yearning to realize Bush’s vision of a Palestinian state — somewhere, someplace — persisting in the noble endeavor of the longtime honest broker.

    Well, what’s happened in the past is — of course, rejectionism goes far beyond words. It includes settlement programs, the annexation wall, closures, checkpoints, and so on. Settlements increased steadily right through the Oslo years, peaking actually in Clinton’s last year, the year 2000, right before the Camp David Accords. And the story is now being repeated before our eyes — shouldn’t surprise us.

    So to take just one example, with the Annapolis conference approaching, Israel has just confiscated more Arab land to build a bypass road from Palestinians — I’m quoting now — “in order to push the Palestinian traffic between Bethlehem and Ramallah deep into the desert and effectively bar Palestinians from the central part of the West Bank.” That’s part of the so-called E1 project, which is designed to incorporate the town of Ma’ale Adumim within Israel and effectively to bisect the West Bank. “With such policies” — continuing to quote — “With such policies enacted by the government, the famous Annapolis conference is emptied of all meaning long before it convenes.” This is quotes from the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom. All of this is backed by the honest brokers in Washington and paid for by US taxpayers, who, incidentally, overwhelmingly join the international consensus, in opposition to their own government. But that’s not what we’re going to hear.

    Well, in fairness, it should be added that there is occasional public criticism of the settlement programs. So in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, there was a favorable review of a very important study, which has just been translated into English, Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, which bitterly condemns the US-backed Israeli programs in the West Bank and the takeover of Israeli political life by their advocates. It’s a strong and important book.

    The review, however, goes on with conventional fairytales. Among them, it tells us that within the Green Line in Israel itself, Israel is what it calls a “vibrant democracy” in which non-Jews have equal rights and, unlike the West Bank, there are no Arab villages made inaccessible, because their roads have been dug up by army bulldozers. Well, again, there’s a fragment of truth in the description. So take, for example, the village Dar al-Hanoun in the so-called Triangle, Wadi Ara, it’s older than the state of Israel, but it’s one of the innumerable unrecognized villages in Israel. So it’s true that there’s no road dug up by bulldozers, and the reason is that there’s no road. No road is permitted by the state authorities, and no construction is permitted. No services are provided. That’s not an unusual situation for Palestinian citizens, who are also effectively barred from over 90% of the land by a complex and intricate web of laws and administrative arrangements. Technically, that was overruled by the high court seven years ago, but, as far as I can determine, only technically. And we may recall that in the United States it took over a century for even formal implementation of the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights to all persons, and actual implementation of it is still remote a century-and-a-half later.

    Well, let’s turn briefly to the important question, the most important question: what can we do about it? Here, it’s useful to think about the apartheid analogy, and it’s useful to remember a little history.

    In 1963, the UN Security Council declared a voluntary arms embargo on South Africa. That was extended to a mandatory embargo in 1977. And that was followed by economic sanctions and other measures — sometimes officials, countries, cities, towns — some organized by popular movements. Now, not all countries participated. In the United States, the US Congress did impose sanctions over Reagan’s veto, but US trade with South Africa then increased by various evasions, along with concealed support for South African terrorist atrocities in Mozambique and Angola, which took a horrendous toll. It’s about 1.5 million killed and over $60 billion in damage during the Reagan years, the Reagan years of constructive engagement, according to UN analysis. In 1988, the Reagan administration declared Mandela’s African National Congress to be one of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups — that’s 1988 — while it described RENAMO in Mozambique merely as an indigenous insurgent group. That was after it had just killed about 100,000 people, according to the State Department, with, of course, US-backed African support. Thatcher’s record was similar or maybe worse. But most of this was in secret. There was just too much popular opposition.

    And the popular opposition made a difference. There was a very significant anti-apartheid movement decades after the global decision of the Security Council to bring apartheid to an end. In 1965, boycotts and other measures would not have been effective. Twenty years later, they were effective, but that was after the groundwork had been laid by activist, educational and organizing efforts, including within the powerful states, which is what matters in an ugly world.

    Well, in the case of Israel-Palestine, the groundwork has not been laid. The quotes that I just gave are perfectly representative examples; you can fill them out in books, yeah. The kind of popular measures that were effective against apartheid by the late 1980s are not only ineffective in the case of Israel-Palestine today, but in fact sometimes backfire in harming the victims. We’ve seen that over and over. It’s going to continue until the organizing and educational efforts make real progress. It’s not just the United States; the European Union is hardly different. So, for example, the European Union does not bar arms deliveries to Israel. It joined the United States in vicious punishment of Palestinians, because they committed the grave crime of voting the wrong way in a free election. And there was very little internal protest in Europe. Populations support the international consensus, but they don’t react when their governments undermine any hope for its realization.

    Well, in the coming weeks and the longer term, there’s plenty of educational and organizational activity that will have to be carried out among an American population that happens to be largely receptive, though deluged with propaganda and deceit. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s never been easy. But much harder tasks have been accomplished with dedicated and persistent effort.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking recently in Boston at a conference called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” sponsored by the Palestinian Christian organization Sabeel.

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A footnote in history

November 26, 2007
 
By Clayton Swisher

 
 
 
 

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, will participate in the conference [AFP]

Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s US policy analyst and author of The Truth About Camp David, explores the forthcomimg US-hosted meeting that aims to initiate Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.The decision by all Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia and Syria – to partake in the Annapolis meeting is a significant advance, and likely to form a footnote in history.  Unfortunately, I believe that is as far as it will go. 

There are three primary reasons why I do not believe the Annapolis meeting will succeed in establishing a Palestinian state by the end of the US president’s term in office.

The first is that this is not George Bush’s clearly stated objective. Whatever Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, may intend, it is the president who is in charge.

Little understanding

Bush’s beliefs are steadfast, and they reflect little understanding of Palestinian realities: On the one hand, Bush seeks mileage out of the false claim that he is the first US president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and he emphasises his plans to “lay the foundation” for the said state.

On the other hand, he acts as if that state had already been created when he demands the fulfilment of near-impossible conditions from a people living under a brutal, 40-year occupation.

The world has heard how the Palestinian Authority must internally reform; more vigorously “fight terror” (ie crush Hamas, give up resistance to occupation and do Israel’s security bidding); “elect new leaders” (ie ones palatable to the United States); pursue democracy (ie broadly defined as empowering the losing party’s armed forces so they can confront legitimately elected opponents); and provide basic services to the local population.

Then, perhaps, if the “behaviour” of the Palestinians reaches Olympian standards, Bush might “spend capital” he has built with Israel and force it to abandon Palestinian land.    

Weak claims

The next reason is that the Bush administration has an extraordinarily poor ability – or is it willingness? – to bring about the outcome it claims to seek. 

Set aside, momentarily, the seemingly endless quagmire in Iraq, the growing Taliban strength in Afghanistan, the constitutional crisis in Lebanon and the dangerous confrontation with Iran, and consider Palestine alone. 

Is it reasonable to expect that this administration will compel Israel to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines, or even anywhere close to them, when to this day it has not even been able to get Israel to withdraw to the positions it held on September 28, 2000 – the eve of the second intifada? Then there is Bush’s “road map” in 2003 which called for a Palestinian state by 2005.

Enough said, though it is important to note that the road map was devised to blunt international criticism of the US for abetting Israel’s horrendously disproportionate attacks against the Palestinian population at the time. 

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The US was in “fight terror” mode following the 9-11 attacks, and its war machine was zeroing in on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The road map thus had more to do with lessening scepticism among “moderate” Arab governments to join the “coalition of the willing” against Iraq as they could show their domestic critics that America cared about Palestine.   

If more language emphasising Palestinian statehood does emerge from the US, Israel, and Arab governments from Annapolis, one can only wonder at the degree to which history is repeating itself with Iran.

Even if Bush could be replaced by hard-charging Rice – and he cannot – her own credit rating when it comes to deliverables is shot. To evade the road map, the detailed proposal for a two-state solution known as the Geneva Initiative, and the refusal by reserve Israeli pilots and commandos to partake in the wanton killings of Palestinians, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former prime minister, countered with his Gaza disengagement plan.

By offloading 8,000 or so Jewish settlers there who had hijacked the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians, Israel was able to win the admiration of Washington. When the international community replied, as well as Israeli courts, that effective control of Gaza had not been relinquished by Israel – that the Gaza occupation still legally remained, secretary Rice appeared in November 2005 to broker the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA).

She failed miserably in her first test of pressing Israel on performance: In violation of that agreement, not a single busload of Palestinians ever made it from Gaza to the West Bank, while Palestinian harvests never made it to the market.

A Pollyannaish few believed that after disengagement, Gaza would become a vibrant economic powerhouse, like Dubai. Indifference to the AMA, plus America’s decision to punish the entire population of Gaza for democratically electing Hamas, is why Gaza today more resembles Mogadishu. 

Hamas exclusion

The final reason the Annapolis meeting will come to nothing is that it excludes Hamas. 

Though it is difficult to prove this through poll results, there is no reason to believe that support for Hamas and the Islamic parties throughout the region has fallen. In fact, I sense the opposite is true. And the secular nationalist parties that have received US support may also have seen a drastic drop in domestic popularity. 

Market forces here in the Middle East are moving with a moderate version of political Islam, not against it.

As always, Washington will be late in recognising this fact. In the span of a year, Washington and its international partners hope to inject Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, with political steroids.

How? By standing up the West Bank economically with direct aid, agricultural initiatives and micro-loans (recall the Gaza-Dubai pipedreams).

The thinking is that Hamas, or at least those suffering under its rule, will realise the failure of its politics and convert to Fatah.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that a weakened Abbas will be able to extract from Israel the terms of a final-status agreement that a much stronger Yassir Arafat was not able to obtain, and sell it not only to his own supporters but also to the Palestinian refugee community in the Diaspora.

I wish secretary Rice and her team the best at Annapolis. But, unlike them, I know that wishing is not enough. 

 
  Source: Al Jazeera