By Andy Greenberg,
05.30.08, 1:10 PM ET
Courtesy Of Forbes
The future of the U.S. military looks a bit like a child's toy glider.
Known as the Switchblade, the high-tech mini-plane built by Monrovia, Calif.-based contractor AeroVironment, can be packed in a tube that weighs less than four pounds. Pull it out and its wings, about a foot long, snap into place. Throw it, and its motor engages, setting it to fly a pre-programmed route or a path guided by remote control.
Like AeroVironment's older gadgets, the Switchblade can stream video feeds from color or infrared cameras to its operator, making it a deft spy plane. But this aerial robot has another trick: It can become a guided missile with an explosive payload--used for, say, attacking an enemy sniper.
AeroVironment's remote-control attack plane may be small, but it represents a big shift taking place in the U.S. military: Today's defense robotics are more focused on killing and less dependent on humans than ever before.
In Pictures: Robots of War
A report issued last March by the Defense Advanced Resources Projects Agency laid out a road map for the next 25 years for the Pentagon's war bots, including goals like removing soldiers from a third of the Army's operational ground vehicles by 2015. For air vehicles, those goals are even more ambitious: One-third of the military's air-based strike force will be unmanned by 2010, according to the DARPA report. "The age of the unmanned military is upon us," says Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.
The Air Force is well on its way to fulfilling DARPA's goals. In 2008, Reapers and Predators, the Air Force's two primary remote-controlled vehicles, will spend almost 120,000 hours in the air on reconnaissance and intelligence missions, up from just over 80,000 hours last year and less than 5,000 in 2001.
Those unmanned aircraft, each armed with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs, are attacking more targets than ever before, while their pilots sit in the safer venue of Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas. In 2007, Predators and Reapers launched 128 missiles and bombs--about twice as many as in 2005. In the first four months of 2008, unmanned drones were on track to beat that record, having already launched 47 missiles and bombs.
Despite several reports of civilian deaths in unmanned air strikes by the Air Force, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Air Force officials insist that the robotic strikes go through the same "kill-chain"--the procedure of checking and double-checking targets with human observers--as manned air strikes. "We track the target, we watch it and we make sure we know exactly what we're taking out," says Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick. "It doesn't matter whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned--the decision is the same."
Some military observers are posing a different controversial question: Why do so many unmanned drones end up in pieces on the ground? More than a third of the 182 Predators deployed by the Air Force have crashed in combat or other operations, according to Air Force statistics.
The Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson says those mishaps usually result from a simple break in the line-of-sight connection between a plane and the satellite that controls it--often when one of the aircraft's own wings maneuvers into the path of the signal. "We have repeated problems with [unmanned aerial vehicles] that cut through their own uplink to the pilot, and the consequences aren't pretty," he says. "The moment you break that tether, a UAV becomes a flying chunk of metal."
General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator and the Reaper, argues that its later models have more backup systems to prevent those momentary losses of control. In fact, only one of the U.S.' 19 Reapers--the next generation of drone to follow the Predator--have crashed. The Air Force's Major Jonathan Songer points out that many of the Predator mishaps occured early in the program, when the unmanned drones were still prototypes.
But Sanger also blames what he calls "human factors." Unmanned vehicle pilots fly longer hours than manned vehicle pilots, often leading to fatigue, and they're forced to deal with complex controls without the normal sensory feedback of being in a cockpit. "Pilots no longer have the audible noise or that seat-of-the-pants feeling," Sanger says. "That can decrease their ability to sense how well the engine is running."
The Army's solution? Even more automation. It's deploying another General Atomics plane known as the Sky Warrior, which takes a greater degree of the plane's control out of the hands of humans. The Sky Warrior's automatic takeoff and landing system can put a plane on a runway "plus or minus one foot," says one Department of Defense official who asked not to be named.
He argues the Army's approach, leaving the majority of the piloting to the plane's automatic systems, avoids accidents and saves resources that the Air Force wastes training human pilots. "We don't use a stick and rudder. You just look at a screen and click, and it does what you tell it to," the official says. "Why pay for a pilot to go to college and flight school when you can use an 18- or 19-year-old guy from basic training?"
On the ground, that degree of automation hasn't yet become practical. In November, DARPA put street-level robots to the test in its Urban Challenge, a race of 12 autonomous cars through simulated city streets populated by obstacle cars. Though several cars performed nearly flawlessly, only half of the entrants finished the event. TerraMax, a 12-ton Oshkosh military truck fitted with laser sensors and global positioning equipment, nearly plowed into a concrete pillar and was disqualified early in the race.
But in the air, where obstacles are far fewer, fully robotic vehicles are already a reality. Northrup Grumman, for instance, signed a deal last year with the Navy to begin supplying it with an autonomous helicopter known as the Fire Scout. Though some versions of the helicopter may eventually be equipped with an array of missiles, the Fire Scout is for now planned as a reconnaissance vehicle--a role where entire missions, including taking off and landing on aircraft carriers, can be accomplished with just a few keystrokes.
"If you can open a laptop and move a mouse," says Northrup Grumman spokesperson George Guerra, "then you can pilot this vehicle."
In Pictures: Robots of War
Robots: The Next Tech Bubble
Security Gets Smarter
Who's Listening To Your Calls?
Saturday, May 31, 2008
By Subodh Varma,TNN
31 May 2008, 0335 hrs IST
Courtesy Of The TimesOfIndia
NEW DELHI: The tale of massive fraud and embezzlement of millions of dollars by the US military in its operations in Iraq continues. Testifying before the US Congress Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on 22 May, Mary Ugone, deputy inspector general of accounts in the Pentagon said that an audit of $8.2 billion spending related to the Iraq war showed that $7.8 billion had been improperly spent.
Over 180,000 payments, mostly since the war started in 2003, were made by the defense department to contractors for everything from bottled water to vehicles to transportation services.
In her testimony, Ugone also revealed that $135 million were given to forces from three countries UK, South Korea and Poland to facilitate their participation in the war. This is the first time that the US has officially admitted paying its allies in the so-called Coalition of the Willing that invaded Iraq in March 2003.In his opening statement, Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said that wounded soldiers are getting notices from the Pentagon to return signing bonuses with interest since they had not completed the full term.
"There is something very wrong when our wounded troops have to fill out forms in triplicate for meal money while billions of dollars in cash are handed out in Iraq with no accountability," he said.In an earlier report released in November 2007, the Inspector General had concluded that the Defense Department couldn't properly account for over $5 billion in taxpayer funds spent in support of the Iraq Security Forces.
It said that thousands of weapons, including assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were unaccounted for, and millions of dollars had been squandered on construction projects that did not exist.Ugones testimony gave detailed examples of the bizarre manner in which US defense officials doled out huge amounts of money without recording where it was going.
In one case a sum of $320 million was paid an Iraqi official for paying salaries with only an incompletely filled voucher signed by one official. Since no details of the spending plan were attached as required by Pentagon rules the auditors have no clue as to where the money went. This payment was made from assets seized from Iraq.
Auditors found that the Pentagon gave away $1.8 billion from seized Iraqi assets. There were 53 vouchers noting these payments but not even one adequately explained where the money went.
In another instance, two vouchers, one for $5 million and the other for $2.7 million showed payments to a vendor for goods and services provided except that there were no details of what goods or services were actually delivered.
Over $2.7 billion was spent on providing equipment and services to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The auditors found that $2 billion of this was not properly accounted for. For example, 31 heavy tracked recovery vehicles costing $10.2 million were given to the ISF, but 18 of them could not be traced because identification numbers were not recorded.
By Vikram Dodd,
Friday May 30 2008
Courtesy Of The Guardian
Britain should negotiate with leaders of al-Qaida as part of a new strategy to end its violent campaign, one of the country's most senior police officers has said.Orde, the frontrunner to be the next commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said he could not think of a single terrorism campaign in history that ended without negotiation.
Speaking to the Guardian, Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said the experiences of his force tackling the IRA had convinced him that policing alone - detecting plots and arresting people - would not defeat al-Qaida inspired terrorism.
Asked whether Britain should attempt to talk to al-Qaida, he said:
"If you want my professional assessment of any terrorism campaign, what fixes it is talking and engaging and judging when the conditions are right for that to take place.In the interview Orde gave his personal blueprint for policing in which he:
"Is that a naive statement? I don't think it is ... It is the reality of what we face.
"If somebody can show me any terrorism campaign where it has been policed out, I'd be happy to read about it, because I can't think of one."
· Branded as "barking mad" the idea that people from the private sector could be parachuted into senior policing roles;
· Called for the number of police forces to be slashed from 43 to nine to better fight terrorism;
· Said police chiefs who took the media "personally" would be finished;
· Warned that the threat from dissident republicans in Ulster was at its greatest in five years.
It is Orde's remarks on talking to al-Qaida that stand out:
In Ulster, more than 30 years of fighting terrorism by the British army and Royal Ulster Constabulary could not bring an end to the violence.Orde's comments are at odds with the stance of the British government and senior counter terrorism officials who dismiss talk of negotiating with al-Qaida.
A peace process brought an end to the Troubles, seeing life-long enemies such as Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley talk to each other, and now Catholics and Protestants serve in government together.
"If you look at some of the biggest risks my people have taken it is talking to people who historically they would not have dreamed of talking to. Were we going to actually police our way out of the Troubles? No. Are we actually going to police our way out of the current threat? No."
He added: "It means thinking the unthinkable."
Orde became the first head of the police force in Ulster to meet Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA. He cited this as an example of how one-time enemies can become partners in peace.
"Did I think in 1977 when I joined the Met ... I would end up talking to Gerry Adams in 2004 - and bear in mind the campaign was in London? Absolutely unthinkable."
Asked if he was saying "we should talk to al-Qaida", Orde replied:
"Well that's the logic of ... I don't think that's unthinkable, the question will be one of timing."He said there was a need to maintain tough law enforcement against the terrorists and that would help bring them to the negotiating table.
He gave this assessment of why the IRA put down its weapons:
"It got to a point where those combatants realised ... certainly on the republican side, it wasn't ever going to work. So there's a certain pragmatism in there. The question, does Bin Laden see it that way, probably not. If you don't ask, you don't know."Orde also warned that dissident republicans opposed to peace were at their most active for five years and posed a threat to his officers, who were now being urged to check under their cars.
He said the peace process was at its "endgame", with control of policing about to be handed to local politicians.
Orde said:On Tuesday terrorists attempted to fire-bomb a Belfast sports good store, but failed. Orde said Irish terrorists still wanted to bomb the UK mainland, but lacked the capability. They were still attempting to buy weapons but were disorganised, "psychopathic" and probably numbering no more than 200 people.
"A cornered animal lashes out, and these people are cornered. They are not wanted by their community, they've got nowhere to go."
Orde would not answer whether he wanted the job of Met police commissioner to succeed Sir Ian Blair who is due to stand down by February 2010, but said the role of being a chief constable was demanding. He said: "If you don't like the heat, don't get in the kitchen," before adding: "I quite like cooking."
Orde said the constant criticism of Blair did not leave him ruling out being commissioner:
"I think that people that put themselves up, have sufficient confidence in their ability and sufficient confidence in their vision for policing, not to be too intimidated by the more ridiculous assertions of some of the press. If you take the press personally, you're dead."
Orde is also in charge of choosing future police leaders and described as "barking mad" the idea that people from business could be parachuted into the force to be senior officers. "Do the public seriously want amateurs playing in this world?"
1. Negotiating With "Terrorists" Is A Must
2. Bush's Endless Hypocrisy On Terror
Friday, May 30, 2008
By David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Thursday May 29, 2008
Courtesy Of The RawStory
During an appearance at a Long Island bookstore last month, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was asked by a member of the audience why the United States has not been hit again since 9/11.
"I honestly don't know," Gingrich replied. "I would have expected another attack. I was very, very worried ... when we had the sniper attacks, because the sniper attacks were psychologically so frightening. ... I was amazed that the bad guys didn't figure out how to send ten or twelve sniper teams."Gingrich then recommended splitting the FBI into a domestic crime unit, which would respect civil liberties, and a "small but very aggressive anti-terrorism agency" with "extraordinary ability to eavesdrop."
"This is ... one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration," Gingrich continued. "The more successful they've been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less proof there is that we're in danger. And therefore, the better they've done at making sure there isn't an attack, the easier it is to say, 'Well, there never was going to be an attack anyway.' And it's almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us."
"I think that your liberties in a domestic setting are paramount," Gingrich explained. "I would rather risk crime than risk losing my civil liberties. But I would not rather risk a nuclear weapon. ... I think the greatest danger to our liberty is to actually have the country end up in the kind of attack that would lead us to favor a dictatorship for security."This video is from C-SPAN 2, broadcast April 29, 2008. The full video can be viewed here
Thursday, May 29, 2008
A foreign policy expert consulted by Senator Barack Obama, the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, has accused members of the American Jewish establishment of "McCarthyism" in its attitude towards critics of Israel.By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 4:08PM BST 27/05/2008
Courtesy Of The Telegraph
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, said that the pro-Israel lobby in the US was too powerful, while the slur of anti-Semitism was too readily used whenever its power was called into question.He added that other country-specific lobbies, such as the Cuban-Americans, the Armenians and the Irish, had also exerted undue influence in Washington.
Presenting a solution for the Middle East, he listed historical compromises that had to be made by Israelis and Palestinians but accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) – the largest and most influential Jewish lobby group – of obstructing peace efforts.
"Aipac has consistently opposed a two-state solution and a lot of members of Congress have been intimidated and I don't think that's healthy."
Mr Brzezinski, who served under President Jimmy Carter, was a key player in the 1978 Camp David Accords and remains an important voice in the US foreign policy establishment.
An active author and analyst at 80, he is close enough to Mr Obama that his remarks may feed fears in the American-Jewish community that the senator would soften America's traditional strong pro-Israeli stance if he became president.
This perception has been created in part by Mr Obama's professed willingness to talk to Iran and partly by other foreign policy associates.
In recent weeks, Mr Obama has courted the Jewish vote and, on Israel's 60th anniversary, underlined the need for the US to show "unshakeable" support.
Mr Brzezinski has been accused of being "anti-Israel" by some Jewish academics, writers and bloggers after criticising Israel for excessive use of force and unwillingness to compromise.Although Mr Brzezinski is not a formal day-to-day adviser and stressed he doesn't speak for the campaign, he said that he "talks to" Mr Obama.
Last year, censure of him reached new heights when he defended John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, two academics who had criticised the pro-Israel lobby and were accused of questioning the right of the state of Israel to exist.
Mr Brzezinski said "it's not unique to the Jewish community – but there is a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community", referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s.
"They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel."
He endorsed the Illinois senator, lauding him as "head and shoulders" above his opponents. He said that he was the only candidate who understood "what is new and distinctive about our age".
In turn, Mr Obama has praised Mr Brzezinski as "someone I have learned an immense amount from" and "one of our most outstanding scholars and thinkers".
They share very similar views on the folly of the Iraq war.
Robert Malley, a Middle East expert, recently quit as an Obama adviser after it emerged that he was talking to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, as part of his work for the International Crisis Group.Senator John McCain, who would be Mr Obama's Republican opponent for the White House, is expected to focus on the 46-year-old senator's lack of foreign policy experience and supposed weakness towards enemies.
But as president, he will need the support of Aipac and other groups, which may be hard to achieve given his associations.
In Mr Brzezinski’s view, whoever is the next US leader must persuasively propose the following dramatic steps to peace:
a) Palestinians give up the right of return from Jordan
b) demilitarise of the Palestinian state
c) Israel share Jerusalem
d) Israel return to its pre-1967 war borders with “equitable adjustments”.
If this agenda is pursued, in time “Israel and Palestine could be the Singapore of the Middle East and that is in the interests of the US”, he said.
This is a live link to the Telegraph's article:
Caracas, Wednesday May 28 , 2008
Courtesy Of elUniversal
The possibility of a US military incursion into Venezuela "is nearby," according to German political expert Heinz Dieterich.
"Washington is not prepared to lose Latin America in the competition with India, China and Europe," said Dieterich on Tuesday night during a debate in Montevideo, DPA quoted.
He thinks it is a "live-or-die" situation for the US government. Therefore, they would be ready to implement a military plan, which could include an invasion or an attack from Colombia.
"For that reason, they brought the Fourth Fleet back, wiped out the Colombian guerrillas and will make Colombia play the same role that Honduras played against Nicaragua" in 1979.
In the opinion of the German expert, a PhD in Social Sciences of Bremen University who holds a Master degree from Frankfurt's Goethe University, "conventional military pressure will increase" on Venezuela.
"If this happens," he said, "Venezuelan generals will stage a coup d'état against President Hugo Chávez. Most generals are not to immolate in a war against gringos."
May 29, 2008
Courtesy Of AntiWar
With daily television coverage of suicide car-bomb attacks, ambushes, drive-by shootings, stabbings, and other Intifada-type attacks around the world, the question arises as to why al-Qaeda does not stage such small-scale but deadly operations in the United States. From Washington and the presidential campaign trail comes a cocky, multi-part answer: our massive homeland security spending has worked; al-Qaeda is on the run and hiding; and/or the U.S. military is fighting the Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan so they cannot come to America.
There may be a mite of truth in each claim, but the correct answer would be frankly to acknowledge that al-Qaeda would have no trouble mounting the kind of attacks made against Israel in America – guns, cars, militant Muslims, and open borders for other needs are all readily available – but that, at this time, it has no interest in staging Intifada-type attacks in the United States.
There are at least three solid reasons why al-Qaeda is not running an Intifada-like campaign in the United States:
1.) Al-Qaeda does not want to fight the United States for any longer than is needed to drive it as far as possible out of the Middle East, and its doctrine for so doing has, in Osama bin Laden's formulation, three components:
(a) bleed America to bankruptcy;
(b) spread out U.S. forces to the greatest extent possible; and
(c) promote Vietnam-era-like domestic disunity. Based on this doctrine, al-Qaeda leaders have decided that attacks in the United States are only worthwhile if they have maximum and simultaneous impact in three areas: high and enduring economic costs, severe casualties, and lasting negative psychological impact.
Such an attack, they believe, would require significant U.S. military participation in the post-attack phase – especially if the weapon used is the nuclear device they have sought since the early 1990s – and thereby reduce the military's ability to operate overseas.
They also believe that a greater-than-9/11 attack would greatly undermine the confidence of Americans in Washington's ability to protect them.
(NB: The usually deft Osama bin Laden also has put himself in something of a box regarding another attack in America because he pledged the next attack will be more destructive than 9/11. Paradoxically, a spate of Intifada-type attacks by al-Qaeda in the United States could well be good news because it probably would signal an admission by bin Laden, et. al that they no longer have the capability to match or exceed the attacks of 9/11 inside America.)
2.) Al-Qaeda appears to recognize the huge difference between attacking Israel and attacking the United States. For Palestinian and Hezbollah insurgents, Intifada-style attacks have sufficed; over the decades, the limited number of casualties the Palestinians and Hezbollah have inflicted on Israel's small population has repeatedly won concessions. Suicide attacks, ambushes, and stabbings against America's 300-plus-million population would cause outrage, a few casualties, and some panic, internal confusion, and perhaps limited inter-ethnic-group violence.
They would not, however, shift the strategic balance in al-Qaeda's favor. Intifada-style attacks could not satisfy any of al-Qaeda's three-part doctrine: they would not
(a) cause U.S. bankruptcy,
(b) require large numbers of U.S. troops to clean-up after, or
(c) significantly undermine political cohesion.
Indeed, there is reason to surmise that al-Qaeda's leaders have concluded that attacks like those used against Israel – which intend to cause deaths of women, children, and the elderly – would unite Americans rather than divide them.
3.) Al-Qaeda leaders probably think, for the moment, that it would be counterproductive to stage any but a larger-than-9/11 attack in America.
Currently, Bin Laden and his senior lieutenants are clearly off balance vis-à-vis the United State because so much substantive success has accrued to al-Qaeda's interests so quickly since 9/11.
Neither al-Qaeda nor the Taliban were destroyed in 2001; both escaped with most of their forces largely intact. Each has regrouped, rearmed, and retrained in safe havens in the Pashtun tribal lands that straddle the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The Pakistan army's incursion into the tribal zone was defeated; the new, less-pro-U.S. government in Islamabad is suing for peace with the tribes; and the Islamization of Pakistan continues unabated.
The Muslim world perceives that the U.S. military is being defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been further alienated by the U.S. treatment of captured mujahedin.
Finally, the U.S. economy is slowing, Americans are severely divided over Washington's activities overseas, and none of the three major presidential candidates are likely to drastically alter the foreign policies all polls show are hated by up to 80 percent of Muslims.
This embarrassment of riches advances each part of al-Qaeda's doctrine for fighting America – casualties, costs, and disunity – and it has been accumulated without a follow-up-to-9/11 attack.
While bin Laden might well risk this good fortune for a chance to detonate a nuclear device in the United States, he certainly would not risk it now for the sake of shooting up a half-dozen theaters, coffee shops, and pizza parlors.
So, Americans can relax a bit, go to the movies or the mall, and stop afterwards for coffee or pizza without worrying too much about al-Qaeda launching small-scale attacks. For now, Americans should see themselves as being in standby mode for the larger-than-9/11 attack bin Laden eventually will trigger because the last two U.S. administrations and Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama have warned about the severe Islamist threat, while knowingly encouraging its worldwide growth by championing status quo foreign policies that degrade U.S. security, as well as by supinely appeasing their Saudi and Israeli masters.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
John McCain Wants To Create A New Alliance To Circumvent The UN. We Mustn't Let This Idea Gain Consensus In Washington.By Shashi Tharoor
May 27, 2008
Courtesy Of The Guardian
Amid the continuing brouhaha about issues of race and gender in the US presidential campaign, we may be in danger of losing sight of the most important question that has arisen in the candidates' skirmishing over international affairs. That relates to John McCain's advocacy of the establishment of a "league of democracies", and the mounting clamour for Barack Obama to espouse the same idea as his own.
McCain says he'd establish the league in his first year in office:
a close-knit grouping of like-minded nations that could respond to humanitarian crises and compensate for the UN security council's tendency to be hamstrung by the likes of Russia and China when it needs to take decisive action against the world's evil-doers.
Neocon guru Robert Kagan, an avid proponent, says:
"The world's democracies could make common cause to act in humanitarian crises when the UN security council cannot reach unanimity." The league's strength would be that it "would not be limited to Europeans and Americans but would include the world's other great democracies, such as India, Brazil, Japan and Australia, and would [therefore] have even greater legitimacy".
The idea has also been embraced by many Obama supporters, notably Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy adviser to the Illinois senator, and Anthony Lake, his senior international affairs adviser.
"Crises in Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Darfur," Lake writes, "not to mention the pressing need for more efficient peacekeeping operations, the rising temperatures of our seas and multiple other transnational threats, demonstrate not only the limits of American unilateral power but also the inability of international institutions designed in the middle of the 20th century to cope with the problems of the 21st."
In other words, the institutions so painstakingly built up out of the ashes of the second world war have passed their use-by date, and it's time to move on.
One doesn't have to be a starry-eyed devotee of the UN to ask everyone to take a deep breath before the runaway popularity of this idea becomes consensual in Washington. No one disagrees that our international institutions need reform to make them reflect the realities of a post-American world, but that's not where the advocates of an alternative are coming from.
The world has just, less than two decades ago, come out of a crippling cold war. We are moving fitfully to a world without boundaries, one in which America's biggest potential geopolitical rival, China, is also its biggest trading partner. If we were to create a new league of democracies, who would we leave out? China and Russia, for starters - a former superpower and a future one, two countries without whom a world of peace and prosperity is unimaginable. Instead of encouraging their gradual democratisation, wouldn't we be reinforcing their sense of rejection by the rest? Might the result be the self-fulfilling prophecy of the emergence of a league of autocracies with these two at the helm?
But would all democracies even join such a league?
Not if the price were the alienation of vital trading partners, resource suppliers or simply neighbours who happen to be non-democracies. Democracies like India and France have proved prickly in the past about countries like the US or Britain assuming that their internal political arrangements would necessarily govern their foreign policy choices. Many democracies have other affinities that are as important to them.
India, for instance, may count solidarity with other former colonies, or with other developing countries, as more important than its affiliation with a league of democracies; southeast Asian democracies might prefer their regional alliance with autocracies in Asean. The American notion that a collection of democracies would inevitably be an echo-chamber for an American diagnosis of global problems is a fantasy.
The claim that a league of democracies would be less likely to be paralysed into inaction over, say, sanctions on Iran, than a security council with the likes of Russia or China on it, overlooks the basic fact that it is in the nature of democracies to differ, to argue among themselves, and to be responsive to the very different preoccupations of their own internal constituencies. Had a league of democracies existed during the apartheid years, would Washington have been persuaded by a democratic majority to intervene against Pretoria? The very question points to the risibility of its premise.
The advocates of a league of democracies argue that it would intervene more effectively in cases like Darfur or the cruel indifference of the military regime in Burma to the sufferings of its cyclone victims. That is a delusion. Such interventions have not occurred because they are impracticable. Humanitarian aid could not have been delivered effectively in the Irrawaddy delta in the teeth of active resistance by the Burmese junta, or in Darfur by going to war with the Sudanese army, unless the countries wishing to do this were to be prepared to expend a level of blood and treasure that democracies rarely risk for strangers. It is one thing to march into a chaotic, government-less Somalia to protect the delivery of aid, quite another to confront the organised military force of a sovereign state defending its own territory.
It is also specious to argue that collective action by a group of democracies (when the UN is unable to act) would enjoy international legitimacy. The legitimacy of democracies comes from the consent of the governed; when they act outside their own countries, no such legitimacy applies. The reason that decisions of the UN enjoy legitimacy across the world lies not in the democratic virtue of its members, but in its universality. The fact that every country in the world belongs to the UN and participates in its decisions gives the actions of the UN - even that of a security council in urgent need of reform - a global standing in international law that no more selective body can hope to achieve.
This is the time to renovate and strengthen the UN, not to bypass it. As the post-cold war "unipolar moment" slowly but surely makes way for a world of multiple power centres and a rising new superpower, there has never been a greater need for a system of universally applicable rules and laws that will hold all countries together in a shared international community. We all hope that, in an era of instant communications and worldwide information flows, this community will be an increasingly democratic one. Subtracting today's democracies from it will have the opposite effect.
· Shashi Tharoor is a former UN under-secretary general shashitharoor.com
By Leon Hadar
May 28, 2007
Courtesy Of Anti War
After the Chinese communists led by Mao Zedong won the civil war in China in 1949 and forced Chiang Kai-shek and his pro-American Chinese Nationalists to flee to Taiwan, U.S. Congress and the press started to debate the question: "Who Lost China?"
Conservatives blamed the "China Hands" in the U.S. State Department, who were accused of exhibiting pro-Communist sympathies, while liberal critics argued that Washington's longtime support for the corrupt Nationalists ended up producing anti-American blowback in China.
Considering the continuing decline in US influence in the Middle East – from the Persian Gulf through the Levant and to the Holy Land – is it possible that sometime during the first or second term of the next occupant of the White House, when Iran, perhaps armed with nuclear weapons and supported by its proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, emerges as a dominant regional power, lawmakers and pundits in Washington will engage in a similar debate: "Who Lost the Middle East?"
In fact, this debate should and could become one of the main issues that need to be addressed during the presidential campaign this year. In many ways, this month's visit by U.S. President George W. Bush to the Middle East – his advisers once referred to it with the sobriquet the "New Middle East" – can be seen as a defining moment in the history of America's relationship with that region.
In Iraq, it was Iran that played the critical role in mediating an end to fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City between the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is controlled by Shi'ite parties, and anti-U.S., pro-Iranian cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In Lebanon, the accord to end the fighting between the Western-backed government in Beirut and the Shi'ite Hezbollah militias was seen as political victory for the pro-Iran group. In both countries, Iran demonstrated that it, not the United States, is the central power broker. Not less dramatic has been what seems to be an erosion of the ability of the U.S. to influence Israel, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which are regarded as America's staunchest allies in the region.
The Bush administration, which has failed to revive the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians while continuing to insist that it will not negotiate with the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, had no choice but to back an independent Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire that would bring an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas through indirect negotiations between these two foes.
At the same time, in clear opposition to the Bush administration's policy of isolating Syria, led by Bashar al-Assad, an adjunct member of the so-called "Axis of Evil," Israel decided to open negotiations with the Syrians, which are now taking place in Turkey through Ankara's mediation.
Both Israel and Turkey believe that the secular Syrian regime is not a "natural" ally of Tehran and that it can be co-opted into the pro-Western camp in the region. The negotiations between the two governments could lead eventually to a peace agreement and an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights. But the most significant aspect of this development is that it is taking place despite the strong resistance to it from Washington.
The Americans are also discovering that their leverage over Saudi Arabia is waning. The Saudis blame the decision by the Bush administration to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein for the rise in Iranian influence in the region, and they believe that the Israel/Palestine issue – and not Iran – is the central cause of the instability in the region. And they have been resisting American pressure to increase their oil output as a way of helping to reduce global energy prices and the pressure on American consumers.
Indeed, there is very little doubt that the implementation of President Bush's neoconservative agenda in the Middle East – the bizarre fusion of crude imperialism and democracy promotion – has created the conditions for the current challenges to the U.S. position in the region.
While the era of Pax Americana in the Middle East is not over yet, the balance of power in the region is beginning to shift from the U.S. This reality is being recognized by both America's rivals and partners in the region, which are now starting to readjust their policies by pursuing independent strategies. Americans can now begin their debate: Who lost the Middle East?
Copyright 2008 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. The US Can No Longer Be Global Hegemon
2. A New Middle East Is Taking Shape
3. Mideast Governments Ignore U.S. Views
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
By JEAN BRICMONT
May 27, 2008
Courtesy Of Counter Punch
One can understand why some people might have sincerely thought that the Iraq war would be a "cakewalk". First, consider WW2 ; the US mercilessly bombed Germany and Japan, including their civilian populations, then occupied those countries militarily, imposing almost total control. Yet, today, Germany and Japan are among the world’s most faithful allies of the US. How deep this alliance really is and how long it will last remains to be seen, but for the moment it is a reality.
Now, consider the Cold War. Remember that, once upon a time, governments from Poland to Bulgaria were hostile to the US. Now, they want nothing more than integration into Nato, advanced US anti-missile shields and participation in the occupation of Iraq.
Or consider, even more surprisingly, Vietnam, where US investors are now welcomed with open arms, while, in a not so distant past, the US was ferociously bombing Vietnam, killing millions of people and poisoning the environment.
Even after the bombing of their little country in 1999, the Serbs behaved as desired, by voting out Milosevic and by accepting, at least for a while, pro-Western governments approving implicitely if not explicitely the bombing of their own country.
All this led to a worldview, dominant in the West, particularly among intellectuals, and even (if not especially) among liberal or leftist intellectuals, which may be called the Great Western Delusion.
According to that view, the world, especially the Third World, is full of people oppressed by their own governments, run by political dictators and economic mismanagers, and those people only look forward to being helped or supported or liberated (if necessary by military means) by the good, democratic, liberal, open market West. This leads to a large part of the left supporting "democratic revolutions" in Ukraine, Belarus, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, among other places, as well as supporting human rights in China and Tibetan independance.
The reason it is a delusion is that it misses the fundamental change in the 20th century, at least the one which has had the greatest long lasting impact. This is not the history of fascism or of communism, which indeed belong to the past, but decolonization. Not only did this movement free hundreds of millions of people from a particularly brutal form of racist domination, but it inverted what had been the dominant trend in the history of the world since the end of the 16th century, namely the movement of European expansion.
The 20th century marked the decline of Europe, and the replacement of Europe by the US as the center of the world system is likely to be short lived.
Once we understand that, it is rather easy to see the source of our contemporary delusions.
Germany and Japan were, before the war, imperialist powers and, partly for that reason, fiercely anticommunist. So, what the US offered to their elites, after the war, was basically to continue doing what they had been doing before, namely fighting communism, but by relatively peaceful means, and under American leadership. That was a "way out" for the defeated powers that was far more acceptable to them than the Versailles Treaty had been for the Central powers after WW1. It explains why the American policy in Germany and Japan after WW2 has been relatively successful and has led to a rather stable alliance, at least so far.
Similar considerations apply to the "victory" in the Cold War. The Achilles’ heel of the Soviets was always their control over Eastern Europe. Indeed, most of the populations there felt "European" and all their elites were looking with envy towards the "civilized" West and away from the "barbaric" East. So that their"control" was, for the Soviets, a constant source of troubles (starting in East Germany in 1953, then Hungary 1956, Prague 1968, Poland etc). And of course, it is in those countries that the US were most warmly welcome after 1989. But that warmth basically extends to Western Ukraine and stops there. The Russians, as well as the ex-soviet Asian republics don’t feel all that Western and know that they’ll never be considered as part of "the West".
And this is true a fortiori for China, Latin America or the Muslim world. There is nothing "positive" that the US could offer, as a compensation for the war, to Iraq and Afghanistan today.
While travelling in Syria in 2002, a small businessman (pro-Western in some sense) told me that "80% of the people in the region would want Saddam to go, but if it is the US that eliminates him, they’ll have 100% of the people against them ; indeed, we have had the Turks, then the British and the French, now the Israelis ; we don’t want colonialism any more".
He was perfectly right and this obvious truth was rarely understood in the West at that time, even among antiwar people (who often favored Western intervention, but of a milder, non military, form than Bush).
One of the main weaknesses of the contemporary Western left is precisely that it does not sufficiently take into account, in its worldview, the demise of colonialism when it vigorously embarks on pro-democracy or pro-human rights or pro-minorities campaigns in the Third World.
The most recent example of such a campaign is the agitation around the Olympic games in China, particularly virulent in Paris, which is nowadays the capital city of such "humanitarian" imperialism (which has replaced there both marxism and fake 68 revolutionarism).
The issue is not whether the "Free Tibet" movement is legitimate or not, or even whether the Dalai Lama is a former slave owner and a stooge of the CIA, but is far more basic: what are "we" (the Western left) hoping to achieve there ? China is not Serbia and is not going to be bombed into submission. We are more ecomonically dependent on them than they are on us, so that economic sanctions (another favorite tool of the humanitarian left) won’t work either.
China remembers its subjugation to foreign powers and its dismemberment just as much as we remember WW2 and the holocaust. China also says "never again". It obviously sees (rightly of wrongly) our current agitation about Tibet as a continuation of our past policies. And that is true of all the Chinese, irrespective of their political beliefs.
The best thing we could do for the Tibetans would be to reassure China that we don’t have imperialist ambitions in that part of the world. But all the agitation about Tibet, as well as the installation of US military bases in Central Asia, go exactly in the opposite direction.
Of course, each time we intervene we will find people, dissidents or minorities, who are apparently "on our side". But most often, as, for example, the Kosovo Albanian nationalists as well as the current rulers in Iraq, that is just because they are happy to use US power to achieve their goals. But those goals, creating an ethnically pure state in Kosovo or installing an Islamic state in Iraq, do not necessarily coincide with those of US rulers (who also suffer from Western delusions) and even less with the broader goals of the Western left.
The "support to minorities", constantly used by imperialists to weaken rival states, is one of their most irresponsible policies. Indeed, what happens to those minorities when the empire withdraws and leaves them to live with their neighbours that considers them as traitors? What happened to the Hmongs in Laos, after the American withdrawal ? Or to the pro-German groups in Eastern Europe after the defeat of Germany ?
What the Western left should do is to encourage a realistic view of the world situation and a foreign policy based on such realism.
Now, "realism" usually sounds like a dirty word to leftist ears. But it all depends what a realistic analysis leads to: if one thinks that one is all powerful and if that is indeed the case (as it was with West vs the Rest of the world during past centuries), a realistic policy may be one of brutal plunder. But if one is not as strong as one thinks, then, more realism should lead to a more prudent policy.
If Hitler had been a "realist" he would not have launched WW2 and he would certainly not have invaded the Soviet Union. If the US had been more realistic it would not have escalated the Vietnam war in the early 60’s, nor would it have invaded Iraq in 2003.
Besides, realism would certainly lead the US to drop its constant support for Israel that brings no oil, costs a lot of money and creates an enormous amount of animosity towards the US.
The irony is that the most progressive position (at least objectively) in those matters is often the one of the capitalists who, most of the time, favor open trade rather than boycotts or sanctions (or wars) on humanitarian grounds. Of course, one could favor limitations of the capitalists’ power, uncluding trade, on social or economical grounds, but, as far as international relations are concerned, the left should support a similar position, which is also the one of the non-aligned movement, namely mutual cooperation and the rejection of unilateral (non UN based) sanctions.
The problem of the US and Western elites is not only that they are willing to pursue violent policies in favour of their interests, but that they also pursue violent policies against their interests, because of their unbounded arrogance. We no longer control the world and great miseries follow from the non acceptance of this fact.
Far from encouraging our "humanitarian" interventions, the left should foster a more realistic appraisal of the relationship of forces in the world and a policy based on dialogue, respect for national sovereignty and non intervention.
Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium and is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His new book, Humanitarian Imperialism, is published by Monthly Review Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 24, 2008
Courtesy Of LewRockwell
Europe, the Mother Continent of Western Man, is today aging and dying, unable to sustain the birth rates needed to keep her alive, or to resist conquest by an immigrant invasion from the Third World
What happened to the nations that only a century ago ruled the world?
In Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War': How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, published today, this writer will argue that it was colossal blunders of British statesmen, Winston Churchill foremost among them, that turned two European wars into world wars that may yet prove the mortal wounds of the West.
The first blunder was a secret decision of the inner Cabinet in 1906 to send a British army across the Channel to fight in any Franco-German War. Had the Kaiser known the British Empire would fight for France, he would have moved more decisively than he did to halt the plunge to war in July 1914.
Had Britain not declared war on Aug. 4 and brought in Japan, Italy and the United States, the war would have ended far sooner. Leninism and Stalinism would never have triumphed in Russia, and Hitler would never have come to power in Germany.
The second blunder was the vengeful Treaty of Versailles that added a million square miles to the British Empire while putting millions of Germans under Czech and Polish rule in violation of the terms of the armistice and Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points.
A third was the British decision to capitulate to U.S. demands in 1921 and throw over a faithful Japanese ally of 20 years. Tokyo took its revenge, 20 years later, by inflicting the greatest defeat in British history, the surrender of Singapore and an army of 80,000 to a Japanese army half that size.
A fourth British blunder, which Neville Chamberlain called the "very midsummer of madness," was the 1935 decision to sanction Italy for a colonial war in Ethiopia. London destroyed the Stresa Front of Britain, France and Italy that Mussolini had forged to contain Germany, and drove Mussolini straight into the arms of a Nazi dictator he loathed.
In 1936, France sounded out the British to determine if they would support a drive to push German troops out of the Rhineland that Hitler had occupied in violation of Versailles. The British refused. And Churchill congratulated France for taking the matter up with the League of Nations, and said the ideal solution would be a voluntary Nazi withdrawal from the Rhineland to show the world that Hitler respected the sanctity of treaties.
Munich, 70 years ago this September, was a disaster. But it was a direct, if not inevitable, consequence of a Versailles treaty that had consigned 3.5 million Sudeten Germans to Czech rule against their will and in violation of the principle of self-determination.
But the fatal blunder was not Munich.
It was the decision of March 31, 1939, to hand a war guarantee to a neo-fascist regime of Polish colonels who had joined Hitler in the rape of Czechoslovakia.
Britain gave Warsaw a blank check to take her to war over a town, Danzig, the British themselves thought should be restored to Germany. Result: a Hitler-Stalin Pact and a six-year war that left scores of millions dead, Europe in ruins, the British empire bankrupt and breaking, 10 European nations under the barbaric rule of Joseph Stalin and half a century of Cold War. Had there been no war guarantee to Poland, there might have been no war, no Nazi invasion of Western Europe and no Holocaust.
Churchill was the indispensable war leader who held on until Hitler committed his fatal blunders, invading Russia and declaring war on America. He was also the man most responsible for Britain's fall from mistress of the greatest empire since Rome to an island dependency of the United States.
About the character of the Bolshevik regime in 1919 and Nazi regime in 1933, Churchill had been right. About British rearmament, he had been right. But Churchill was also often disastrously wrong.
He led the West down a moral incline to its own barbarism by imposing a starvation blockade on Germany in 1914 and launching air terror against open cities in 1940. These policies brought death to hundreds of thousands of women and children.
He was behind the greatest British military blunders in two wars: the Dardanelles disaster of 1915 and the Norwegian fiasco of 1940 that brought down Chamberlain and vaulted Churchill to power.
While excoriating Chamberlain for appeasing Hitler, Churchill's own appeasement of Stalin lasted longer and was even more egregious and costly, ensuring that the causes for which Britain sacrificed the empire – the freedom of Poland and preventing a hostile power from dominating Europe – were lost.
Churchill was, however, surely right when he told FDR in their first meeting after Pearl Harbor that they should call the war they were now in "The Unnecessary War."
He was a Great Man – at the cost of his country's greatness.
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War.
Copyright © 2008 Creators Syndicate
By Mike Steketee,
National Affairs Editor
May 27, 2008
Courtesy Of TheAustralian
THE US can no longer assume it has hegemony over world affairs and will have to change its approach dramatically to emphasise soft power, diplomacy and regional security co-operation, according to American scholar Francis Fukuyama.
"It is not American decline so much as the rise of India, China and the Gulf as other important sources of power," he said.
"The US, despite its predominant position, is not going to be able to restructure the world as it chooses. Intervening militarily to stop (weapons) proliferation or deal with terrorism has been pretty widely discredited and pretty widely seen as counter-productive."
He sees a future in which the US exercises influence through soft power such as education and training, advice, leading by example and financial assistance. As well, a more imaginative multilateralism was required.
"You want an east Asia in which China has a stake in a growing system of rules in anticipation of a period when it is going to be relatively much more powerful," he said.
There should be a bigger role for regional security organisations.
"If we took NATO more seriously so we had to get approval for certain kinds of interventions, we would not have made the mistakes that we got into in Iraq, because the majority of NATO countries were opposed." he said. "But we would have had support for going into Afghanistan."
However, this would require a new decision-making process for NATO, replacing consensus with some form of weighted voting that could be based on a country's contribution of forces.
Beyond the current impasse on North Korea, the framework of the six-party talks could be turned into a permanent security organisation for northeast Asia, involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US.
On Iraq, Professor Fukuyama said the situation looked better now than at any stage since the invasion in 2003.
"As long as the US is willing to maintain approximately 130,000 troops in Iraq, there is no way the US will lose or the Iraqi Government will be destabilised," he said.
His guess was that US troops would be withdrawn in the next four years, almost regardless of who became president.
The question was whether democracy would survive in the absence of US troops. While the Iraqi army had been reasonably successful in controlling militia, tremendous internal tensions remained in Iraqi society.
Even if the end result was positive, it had involved a huge waste of resources. "We have invested so far five years' worth of effort, 30,000 casualties, a trillion dollars in overt expenses and probably another trillion in delayed expenses," he said.
"Politically, it was counter-productive: it produced more terrorism and more nuclear proliferation than it stopped."
Monday, May 26, 2008
By Jonathan Wright
Source: Reuters North American News Service
May 26, 2008 06:00 EST
Courtesy Of WireDispatch
CAIRO, May 26 (Reuters) - The governments of the Middle East, from Iran to Israel and beyond, are increasingly ignoring the wishes of a U.S. administration which has only eight months left in office, going their own way in regional diplomacy.
U.S. President George W. Bush's latest speech on Middle East policy, made in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last week, shows how the gap has grown between what Washington would like and what is happening in the region.
It is part of a wider picture of Washington's declining clout, accelerated by its debilitating deployment of more than 100,000 troops to Iraq for the past five years.
France has had contacts with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, for example, and Israel has had indirect talks with Syria, which Washington is trying to isolate.
Bush said in Sharm el-Sheikh that all nations in the region should stand together against Hamas, a group which he said was attempting to undermine efforts at making peace.
But the Egyptian government, his host and a longstanding friend of the United States, was simultaneously, and with U.S. consent, trying to mediate a truce between Gaza and Israel.
Israeli commentators said the Egyptian mediation amounted to indirect negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, a group with which the United States refuses to have dealings.
The Islamist organisation, which controls the Gaza Strip, was offering Israel a long-term truce which could make it easier for the rival Palestinian group Fatah to reach an agreement with Israel -- a goal which the United States says it is promoting.
In his Sharm el-Sheikh speech, Bush also attacked the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, calling it "terrorists funded by Iran" and "the enemy of a free Lebanon".
HEZBOLLAH'S CENTRAL ROLE
Three days later in the Gulf state of Qatar, Hezbollah and other Lebanese groups reached an agreement ending the political crisis that had paralysed Lebanon for months.
Hezbollah had defeated its rivals in Beirut in short order this month when Washington's allies in the Lebanese government tried to challenge some of the privileges it enjoyed as the force which helped drive Israel out of south Lebanon.
The new political arrangement in Lebanon, symbolised by the election of Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday, tilts the balance of power significantly in Hezbollah's favour and underscores its central role in Lebanese politics.
Bush maintained his confrontational attitude towards Iran and Syria, saying: "Every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in stopping these nations from supporting terrorism."
On the same day of the Lebanese agreement, Israel and Syria disclosed they had held indirect talks mediated by Turkey -- the closest they have come to serious negotiations since talks brokered by the United States collapsed in 2000.
The Bush administration walked away from high-level contacts with the Syrians after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005. The United States says it suspects Syria of the killing, a charge Syria denies.
Bush's audience included Gulf Arab officials whose governments have maintained working relations with Iran, defying to some extent Washington's attempts to isolate Tehran.
Years of U.S. policy, including sanctions and a debate about the possibility of military strikes, have not persuaded Iran to abandon its ambitions to produce its own enriched uranium.
DIALOGUE WITH IRAN
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that in his talk about Iran's nuclear programme Bush had again failed to address the nuclear activities of Israel. It is widely believed to have some 200 nuclear warheads.
Mohamed ElBaradei, Egyptian head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the same conference in Sharm el-Sheikh that Washington was maintaining double standards on nuclear weapons, and dialogue with Iran was the right approach.
Bush argued that "terrorist organisations and their state sponsors" are the main opponents to democracy in the Arab world.
"(They) know they cannot survive in a free society, so they create chaos and take innocent lives in an effort to stop democracy from taking root," he said.
But civil society and human rights groups say that governments friendly towards the United States are some of the most determined obstacles to democracy, repressing peaceful Islamist groups which seek power through democratic elections.
In Egypt, for example, where Bush was speaking, the authorities prevented the non-violent Muslim Brotherhood from standing in local elections and some parliamentary elections over the past two years, ignoring occasional U.S. criticism.
Without naming names, the U.S. president did criticise his friends in the Arab world for holding political prisoners.
But five years after Bush launched his campaign for political change in the Middle East, Arab leaders have learned that the price for ignoring him on human rights is low.
"We've heard these speeches before," said an Egyptian official who asked not to be named.
In Cairo three years ago U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the time had come for the rule of law to replace emergency decrees. But this week the Egyptian parliament is expected to extend for another year a system of emergency law that has been in force for more than 26 years.
(Writing by Jonathan Wright)
A New Middle East Is Taking Shape
By Chris Hedges
Posted on Jul 2, 2007
Courtesy Of TruthDig
Israel, without the United States, would probably not exist. The country came perilously close to extinction during the October 1973 war when Egypt, trained and backed by the Soviet Union, crossed the Suez and the Syrians poured in over the Golan Heights. Huge American military transport planes came to the rescue. They began landing every half-hour to refit the battered Israeli army, which had lost most of its heavy armor. By the time the war was over, the United States had given Israel $2.2 billion in emergency military aid.
The intervention, which enraged the Arab world, triggered the OPEC oil embargo that for a time wreaked havoc on Western economies. This was perhaps the most dramatic example of the sustained life-support system the United States has provided to the Jewish state.
Israel was born at midnight May 14, 1948. The U.S. recognized the new state 11 minutes later. The two countries have been locked in a deadly embrace ever since.
Washington, at the beginning of the relationship, was able to be a moderating influence. An incensed President Eisenhower demanded and got Israel’s withdrawal after the Israelis occupied Gaza in 1956. During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes bombed the USS Liberty. The ship, flying the U.S. flag and stationed 15 miles off the Israeli coast, was intercepting tactical and strategic communications from both sides. The Israeli strikes killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 171. The deliberate attack froze, for a while, Washington’s enthusiasm for Israel. But ruptures like this one proved to be only bumps, soon smoothed out by an increasingly sophisticated and well-financed Israel lobby that set out to merge Israeli and American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Israel has reaped tremendous rewards from this alliance. It has been given more than $140 billion in U.S. direct economic and military assistance. It receives about $3 billion in direct assistance annually, roughly one-fifth of the U.S. foreign aid budget. Although most American foreign aid packages stipulate that related military purchases have to be made in the United States, Israel is allowed to use about 25 percent of the money to subsidize its own growing and profitable defense industry. It is exempt, unlike other nations, from accounting for how it spends the aid money. And funds are routinely siphoned off to build new Jewish settlements, bolster the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories and construct the security barrier, which costs an estimated $1 million a mile.
The barrier weaves its way through the West Bank, creating isolated pockets of impoverished Palestinians in ringed ghettos. By the time the barrier is finished it will probably in effect seize up to 40 percent of Palestinian land. This is the largest land grab by Israel since the 1967 war. And although the United States officially opposes settlement expansion and the barrier, it also funds them.
The U.S. has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems and given Israel access to some of the most sophisticated items in its own military arsenal, including Blackhawk attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets. The United States also gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its NATO allies. And when Israel refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the United States stood by without a word of protest as the Israelis built the region’s first nuclear weapons program.
U.S. foreign policy, especially under the current Bush administration, has become little more than an extension of Israeli foreign policy. The United States since 1982 has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It refuses to enforce the Security Council resolutions it claims to support. These resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
There is now volcanic anger and revulsion by Arabs at this blatant favoritism. Few in the Middle East see any distinction between Israeli and American policies, nor should they. And when the Islamic radicals speak of U.S. support of Israel as a prime reason for their hatred of the United States, we should listen. The consequences of this one-sided relationship are being played out in the disastrous war in Iraq, growing tension with Iran, and the humanitarian and political crisis in Gaza. It is being played out in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is gearing up for another war with Israel, one most Middle East analysts say is inevitable. The U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is unraveling. And it is doing so because of this special relationship. The eruption of a regional conflict would usher in a nightmare of catastrophic proportions.
There were many in the American foreign policy establishment and State Department who saw this situation coming. The decision to throw our lot in with Israel in the Middle East was not initially a popular one with an array of foreign policy experts, including President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, Gen. George Marshall. They warned there would be a backlash. They knew the cost the United States would pay in the oil-rich region for this decision, which they feared would be one of the greatest strategic blunders of the postwar era. And they were right. The decision has jeopardized American and Israeli security and created the kindling for a regional conflagration.
The alliance, which makes no sense in geopolitical terms, does makes sense when seen through the lens of domestic politics. The Israel lobby has become a potent force in the American political system. No major candidate, Democrat or Republican, dares to challenge it. The lobby successfully purged the State Department of Arab experts who challenged the notion that Israeli and American interests were identical. Backers of Israel have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to support U.S. political candidates deemed favorable to Israel. They have brutally punished those who strayed, including the first President Bush, who they said was not vigorous enough in his defense of Israeli interests. This was a lesson the next Bush White House did not forget. George W. Bush did not want to be a one-term president like his father.
Israel advocated removing Saddam Hussein from power and currently advocates striking Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Direct Israeli involvement in American military operations in the Middle East is impossible. It would reignite a war between Arab states and Israel. The United States, which during the Cold War avoided direct military involvement in the region, now does the direct bidding of Israel while Israel watches from the sidelines. During the 1991 Gulf War, Israel was a spectator, just as it is in the war with Iraq.
President Bush, facing dwindling support for the war in Iraq, publicly holds Israel up as a model for what he would like Iraq to become. Imagine how this idea plays out on the Arab street, which views Israel as the Algerians viewed the French colonizers during the war of liberation.
“In Israel,” Bush said recently, “terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.”
Americans are increasingly isolated and reviled in the world. They remain blissfully ignorant of their own culpability for this isolation. U.S. “spin” paints the rest of the world as unreasonable, but Israel, Americans are assured, will always be on our side.
Israel is reaping economic as well as political rewards from its lock-down apartheid state. In the “gated community” market it has begun to sell systems and techniques that allow the nation to cope with terrorism. Israel, in 2006, exported $3.4 billion in defense products—well over a billion dollars more than it received in American military aid. Israel has grown into the fourth largest arms dealer in the world. Most of this growth has come in the so-called homeland security sector.
“The key products and services,” as Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation, “are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems—precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories. And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn’t threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the ‘global war on terror.’ ”
The United States, at least officially, does not support the occupation and calls for a viable Palestinian state. It is a global player, with interests that stretch well beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, and the equation that Israel’s enemies are our enemies is not that simple.
“Terrorism is not a single adversary,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in The London Review of Books, “but a tactic employed by a wide array of political groups. The terrorist organizations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More important, saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.”
Middle Eastern policy is shaped in the United States by those with very close ties to the Israel lobby. Those who attempt to counter the virulent Israeli position, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, are ruthlessly slapped down. This alliance was true also during the Clinton administration, with its array of Israel-first Middle East experts, including special Middle East coordinator Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, one of the most powerful Israel lobbying groups in Washington. But at least people like Indyk and Ross are sane, willing to consider a Palestinian state, however unviable, as long as it is palatable to Israel. The Bush administration turned to the far-right wing of the Israel lobby, those who have not a shred of compassion for the Palestinians or a word of criticism for Israel. These new Middle East experts include Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, the disgraced I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser.
Washington was once willing to stay Israel’s hand. It intervened to thwart some of its most extreme violations of human rights. This administration, however, has signed on for every disastrous Israeli blunder, from building the security barrier in the West Bank, to sealing off Gaza and triggering a humanitarian crisis, to the ruinous invasion and saturation bombing of Lebanon.
The few tepid attempts by the Bush White House to criticize Israeli actions have all ended in hasty and humiliating retreats in the face of Israeli pressure. When the Israel Defense Forces in April 2002 reoccupied the West Bank, President Bush called on then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to “halt the incursions and begin withdrawal.” It never happened. After a week of heavy pressure from the Israel lobby and Israel’s allies in Congress, meaning just about everyone in Congress, the president gave up, calling Sharon “a man of peace.” It was a humiliating moment for the United States, a clear sign of who pulled the strings.
There were several reasons for the war in Iraq. The desire for American control of oil, the belief that Washington could build puppet states in the region, and a real, if misplaced, fear of Saddam Hussein played a part in the current disaster. But it was also strongly shaped by the notion that what is good for Israel is good for the United States. Israel wanted Iraq neutralized. Israeli intelligence, in the lead-up to the war, gave faulty information to the U.S. about Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And when Baghdad was taken in April 2003, the Israeli government immediately began to push for an attack on Syria. The lust for this attack has waned, in no small part because the Americans don’t have enough troops to hang on in Iraq, much less launch a new occupation.
Israel is currently lobbying the United States to launch aerial strikes on Iran, despite the debacle in Lebanon. Israel’s iron determination to forcibly prevent a nuclear Iran makes it probable that before the end of the Bush administration an attack on Iran will take place. The efforts to halt nuclear development through diplomatic means have failed. It does not matter that Iran poses no threat to the United States. It does not matter that it does not even pose a threat to Israel, which has several hundred nuclear weapons in its arsenal. It matters only that Israel demands total military domination of the Middle East.
The alliance between Israel and the United States has culminated after 50 years in direct U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. This involvement, which is not furthering American interests, is unleashing a geopolitical nightmare. American soldiers and Marines are dying in droves in a useless war. The impotence of the United States in the face of Israeli pressure is complete. The White House and the Congress have become, for perhaps the first time, a direct extension of Israeli interests. There is no longer any debate within the United States. This is evidenced by the obsequious nods to Israel by all the current presidential candidates with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. The political cost for those who challenge Israel is too high.
This means there will be no peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It means the incidents of Islamic terrorism against the U.S. and Israel will grow. It means that American power and prestige are on a steep, irreversible decline. And I fear it also means the ultimate end of the Jewish experiment in the Middle East.
The weakening of the United States, economically and militarily, is giving rise to new centers of power. The U.S. economy, mismanaged and drained by the Iraq war, is increasingly dependent on Chinese trade imports and on Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury securities. China holds dollar reserves worth $825 billion. If Beijing decides to abandon the U.S. bond market, even in part, it would cause a free fall by the dollar. It would lead to the collapse of the $7-trillion U.S. real estate market. There would be a wave of U.S. bank failures and huge unemployment. The growing dependence on China has been accompanied by aggressive work by the Chinese to build alliances with many of the world’s major exporters of oil, such as Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Venezuela. The Chinese are preparing for the looming worldwide clash over dwindling resources.
The future is ominous. Not only do Israel’s foreign policy objectives not coincide with American interests, they actively hurt them. The growing belligerence in the Middle East, the calls for an attack against Iran, the collapse of the imperial project in Iraq have all given an opening, where there was none before, to America’s rivals. It is not in Israel’s interests to ignite a regional conflict. It is not in ours. But those who have their hands on the wheel seem determined, in the name of freedom and democracy, to keep the American ship of state headed at breakneck speed into the cliffs before us.