Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Haunted by Gaddafi on the fifth anniversary of his overthrow

Summary: On the fifth anniversary of his overthrow, anthropologist Maximilian Forte is haunted by thoughts about Libyan ruler Mummar Gaddafi. It’s a sad chapter in the history of US foreign policy, rich with lessons for us — and one of Hillary Clinton’s two major initiatives (other other is the massive screw-up of her 1993 health care proposal).

“You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.”
— Explanation of why we must intervene in Libya — despite my analysis — by a special operations officer (retired) & well-known geopolitical expert.

Mummar Gaddafi

Getty photo.

Haunted by Gaddafi?

By Maximilian C. Forte from Zero Anthropology.
Reposted with his generous permission.

One thing I did not predict is that, even five years later, what happened to Libya and to Muammar Gaddafi would still cast a long shadow across the centres of European and North American political and economic power. By now, almost all of the leaders who persecuted Gaddafi, have experienced their own demise, by gentler means and thus even less justifiable than what befell Gaddafi.

Almost all of the Libyans that appeared in the videos showing the brutalization of Gaddafi have themselves been tracked down and killed. My expectation, around the autumn of 2015, was that Libya would be conveniently buried during the US electoral campaign. Reality, fortunately, proved me wrong. Libya has instead become a recurring theme in campaign debates, and apart from Hillary Clinton and some forgettable Republican candidates, everyone else is unanimous that the consequences of US military intervention in Libya were catastrophic.

Gone are the days of the smug smiles of belligerent NATO technocrats, the self-congratulations, the propaganda planted in the media heralding the NATO campaign as a great success, a model intervention, forming a template to be used again. Unscrupulous academics who once were thrilled about the intervention in Libya, in order to promote their careers as advocates of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), have conveniently and quickly moved to other projects. The “experts” were royally shamed.

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The real reason for America’s hostility to China

Summary: Americans who read the news know that China is a designated bad guy, which justifies the full deployment of US power to contain it. Efforts by China to resist (or even defend itself) show its malevolent intent. Here is the rest of the story — the true story.

Globe and China Flag

What is America’s strategy to manage China? To discover the opinion of US elites, I first turn to The Economist (or Stratfor): “They have returned“, 12 August 2010 — “China should worry less about America’s ‘containment’ strategy and more about why the neighbours welcome it.”  The Economist’s attempt to distract us from the containment program shows that China should worry about US efforts to contain it. To understand this conflict, we begin with the previous global struggle.

“The ‘Long War’ is a term for the conflict that began in 1914 with the First World War and concluded in 1990 with the end of the Cold War. The Long War embraces the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam and the Cold War.  The Long War can be understood as a single conflict fought over the constitutional issue of what form of the nation-state — fascist, communist or parliamentary — would succeed the imperial states of the 19th century.”

— Interview with Philip Bobbit, author of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2003).

I believe the Long War as won by “market-based States”, not “parliamentary” states. Now the US attempting to retain its hegemony over the other market-based nation-states — especially China. From 1950 to 1972 one of the top goals of American foreign policy was to contain China. This culminated in the Vietnam War, as described in the memorandum from Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson, dated 3 November 1965. The opening of the memo is clear (red emphasis added).

“The February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain Communist China. China — like Germany in 1917, like Germany in the West and Japan in the East in the late 30’s, and like the USSR in 1947 — looms as a major power threatening to undercut our importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us.

“The long-run US policy is based upon an instinctive understanding in our country that the peoples and resources of Asia could be effectively mobilized against us by China or by a Chinese coalition and that the potential weight of such a coalition could throw us on the defensive and threaten our security. This understanding of a straightforward security threat is interwoven with another perception — namely, that we have our view of the way the US should be moving and of the need for the majority of the rest of the world to be moving in the same direction if we are to achieve our national objective.”

After Nixon went to China, from 1972 -2001 the US pursued a policy of engagement. But China’s unexpected hypergrowth transformed it from a trading partner and distant threat into a current rival — and after 2001 US policy changed from cooperation to quiet containment.

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A senior Israeli leader discusses a final solution for Palestine

Summary:  The Israel-Palestine war is an open sore in the Middle East, poisoning our relations in the region and adding to its numerous tensions. Here Israel’s Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, shares a perspective about the war that has widespread support in Israel. It shows why peace remains a dream for the Middle East. People in America and Europe have been and will be collateral damage to its conflicts, unless we find ways to help end them.

“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Palestinian land loss: 1948-2014

Click to enlarge.

Introduction

Below is a post by Ayelet Shaked on her Facebook page. Posted 1 July 2014; since deleted. It provoked an international outcry. Elitzur makes some powerful points. Most importantly, America and our allies provide ample precedent for Israel’s use of force. Of course, we weren’t doing a gradual conquest of Germany and Japan. Neither Ayelet nor Elitzur mentions the colonization of Palestine by Israeli “settlers”, backed by Israeli vigilantes and military.

Like many Old World conflicts, it has raged for generations — with the original rights and wrongs lost in the dust of history. Nor does America or Europe have clean hands, so we should hold the righteous criticism.

A translation of her Facebook post (red emphasis added)

“This is an article by the late Uri Elitzur {pro-settler journalist}, which was written 12 years ago, but remained unpublished. It is as relevant today as it was at the time.

“The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to define reality with the simple words that language puts at our disposal. Why do we have to make up a new name for the war every other week, just to avoid calling it by its name. What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy.

A declaration of war is not a war crime. Responding with war certainly is not. Nor is the use of the word “war”, nor a clear definition who the enemy is. Au contraire: the morality of war (yes, there is such a thing) is founded on the assumption that there are wars in this world, and that war is not the normal state of things, and that in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.

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Stratfor: Those Who Are (and Are Not) Sheltered From the Panama Papers

Summary: Here is Stratfor’s analysis of the Panama Papers, the biggest revelations since Snowden’s in 2013. And what we have is probably just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Stratfor

Those Who Are (and Are Not) Sheltered From the Panama Papers

Stratfor, 8 April 2016

Summary

On April 3, the Panama Papers hit media outlets around the world, and the fallout was swift. A prime minister lost his job, and other global leaders are under mounting pressure to account for their actions. But the effects of the leaks are not evenly spread; the documents contained far more information about the offshore activities of individuals in the developing world than in the developed world. Whatever the reasons for the imbalance, it will likely limit the papers’ impact. In the developing world, long histories of corruption have dulled the public’s sensitivity to scandal, and repressive governments leave little room for popular backlash.

So although less information was released on Western leaders, it is already doing more damage. Iceland’s leader has left his post, and relatively minor revelations have had a disporportionately large impact in the United Kingdom and France. Meanwhile, in the developing world, the Panama Papers’ effects have been most strongly felt in the former Soviet Union, a region in which political tensions were already high. The leaks’ results have been more mixed in China, where they have provided new targets for the anti-corruption drive already underway but have also implicated figures close to the administration’s upper ranks.

This is only the beginning. The Panama Papers are the largest information dump of their kind, and the information that has been released so far appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. They are also the latest in a string of public leaks that seem to be happening more and more frequently. As revelations continue to surface, calls for greater global transparency will only get louder.

Stratfor’s analysis by region

  • Former Soviet Union
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Asia-Pacific
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South Asia

See the full report at Stratfor.

Professor Hugh Pennington: The story so far of the Zika epidemic

Summary: A new year, another epidemic (they’re all “pandemics” in our fearful world) – Zika. In a world of seven billion people linked by rapid transportation, epidemics will become increasingly common. That does not mean that hysteria need accompany each and every one. As with Avian Flue and Ebola, the FM website provides you with reliable information as an antidote to the fear-mongers, starting with this essay by the eminent Professor Hugh Pennington.

A mosquito stops for lunch

An Aedes aegypti mosquito stops for lunch

Zika Virus, the Story So Far

By Hugh Pennington
London Review of Books, 27 January 2016
Posted with his generous permission. Red emphasis added.

On 18 April 1947 in a cage on a tree platform in the Zika Forest in Uganda, rhesus monkey number 766 developed a fever. Its serum was inoculated into the brains of mice. They fell ill. Zika virus had been discovered. The sentinel monkey researchers were the virologist George Dick and the entomologist Alexander Haddow, based at the Rockefeller Foundation Yellow Fever Laboratories in Entebbe. Haddow went on to build a 120-foot steel tower in the forest to study high-flying mosquitoes and their viruses. The best time and place to find Zika virus was in the evening, 80 to 100 feet above the forest floor.

The first human case to be described was in 1964 in another Entebbe virologist, David Simpson; he had a 36-hour fever, some back pain, a headache and a rash. He was better by day three. Antibody studies in Nigeria in the early 1970s found that 40 per cent of people had been infected at some time in the past.

For many years Zika virus resided quietly in the textbooks as a member of the Flavivirus family, a distant and unimportant relative of yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. The books said that it caused only mild symptoms (or none at all), that it was spread by the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, that monkeys were an animal reservoir, and that it occurred in Africa, India and South East Asia.

An alarm bell rang in 2007 when an outbreak occurred on Yap Island in the southwestern Pacific. The infection was mild, with a rash, conjunctivitis and joint pains. But not only was the outbreak the biggest so far recorded – it was estimated that well over half the residents had been infected – the virus had travelled a long way to get to Yap. Perhaps it could spread to the Americas.

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Stratfor: Cracks appear in Putin’s Kremlin as the stress on Russia grows

Summary: We tend to see the complex politics of America but assume Putin rules a simple autocracy. Here Stratfor describes the fragile Russian state, under incredible pressure from the collapse of oil prices — while a struggle appears to have begun to control its future.

Stratfor

The Kremlin’s Cracks Are All-Too Familiar

Stratfor, 27 February 2016

Summary

February 27 marks the anniversary of the assassination of Russian opposition heavyweight Boris Nemtsov. His killing sparked two weeks of intrigue in Russia’s top political circles, laying bare previously obscured Kremlin infighting and putting President Vladimir Putin’s continued control in question. The dispute, which went far beyond the death of one opposition leader or even broad factional competition, was in fact a struggle over who controls Russia’s future. In this it mirrored a three-year period of division in the early 1920s that ended in a leadership transition and set the trajectory of the Soviet Union.

Analysis

Struggles among the Kremlin elite are as old as the fortified stone citadel itself. The name Kremlin literally means “fortress inside a city,” a potent metaphor for the murky elite power struggles at the heart of Russia’s bustling government system. For the past decade, the Putin government has been divided into four camps: the powerful Federal Security Services (FSB), the so-called liberal reformists, the hawkish non-FSB security circles and a circle of those who are loyal to Putin alone.

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Stratfor: Europe makes Greece a Scapegoat for the Migrant Crisis

Summary: Europe’s immigration crisis shows no signs of abating, and the European Union is struggling to figure out how to address it. The bloc’s original strategies of cooperating with Turkey to limit the number of asylum seekers and redistributing migrants across the Continent have clearly failed. Now, EU member states are looking for alternative approaches as they try to stem the tide of asylum seekers flowing into Europe, and they appear to have reached an agreement on who is to blame: Greece.

Stratfor

Greece: The Scapegoat of a Migrant Crisis

Stratfor, 29 January 2016

In recent weeks, several EU members have threatened to expel Greece from the Schengen Agreement, which eliminated border controls among its signatories. According to countries like Austria, Greece has failed to patrol its borders and should be punished for it. On Jan. 27, the European Commission issued a report saying that Greece “is seriously neglecting its obligations” and that there are “serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls.” Brussels gave Athens three months to improve its border controls, or risk being ousted from the passport-free area. But kicking Greece out of the Schengen zone will not have much impact on the influx of migrants to Europe since Greece does not share land borders with any other Schengen members.

Still, it would punish Greece in an indirect way; though asylum seekers would not be affected by the move, Greek citizens traveling to Western Europe would. Should Greece’s Schengen membership be suspended, its citizens would be treated as third-country nationals when flying elsewhere in the European Union. This suggests that the threat of expulsion is purely a political move aimed at pressuring Greek authorities (through angry Greek voters) to improve the country’s border controls with Turkey. However, the strategy has its risks: If Greece is suspended from the Schengen Agreement, there is no guarantee that voters’ ire would be directed solely toward the ruling Syriza party.

In fact, removing Greece from the Continent’s passport-free zone could inflame anti-EU sentiments in Greece, reducing popular support for the eurozone and the economic reforms linked to it. The Syriza government controls only a small majority in Parliament and is facing protests over its controversial plan to reform the country’s pension system. If the Schengen group ousts Greece, the current administration could collapse if lawmakers refuse to move forward with planned reforms as a form of protest against the European Union. This would derail Athens’ bailout program and add to the uncertainty surrounding Greece’s future.

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