Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PERSIAN AGREEMENT: WHAT TO MAKE OF IT?

"The Iran deal presented at Vienna is both weak and also far more dangerous than most observers had anticipated. Weak because it very evidently does not definitively meet its own objective of ensuring Iran won’t be able to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities, and dangerous because in return for the temporary limitations set on Iran’s nuclear programme, the regime and its conventional military capabilities will be profoundly emboldened.... Despite all of this, the Obama administration insists that the deal will be effective and that no better deal would have been attainable. To his critics, Obama accuses that if they favour war, then they should say so. But for years, the Obama administration insisted that all options were ‘on the table’ when it came to confronting Iran, and everyone understood this to be reference to possible military intervention. ‘I don’t bluff’ insisted Obama when referring to the use of force in 2012. And yet more recently the President has made plain his belief that there is no realistic military solution to the Iranian threat, rather suggesting that he was indeed bluffing. Many suspected so at the time, not least the Iranians. And therein lies the problem. When it comes to the military option – an unpalatable prospect to be sure -there is an important role for the military deterrent. That doesn’t mean that the West would have to use military force, but it would need to convince Iran that it was serious about doing so if need be. We shouldn’t forget that the one time Iran appeared to voluntarily halt work on its nuclear programme was during the invasion of Iraq. Clearly the mullahs’ thought there was a real likelihood that they could be next. The same is true of sanctions. During these negotiations, Obama consistently resisted congressional pressure to have new tougher sanctions ready in the event that Iran walked away from a deal that actually met the West’s security objectives. The threat of yet more sanctions could well have given the negotiators the leverage for securing a deal that was actually robust enough to be taken seriously. If Iran knew that the West was prepared to stop at nothing to derail any attempts to go for the bomb, then regime might think twice, certainly if it thought its own hold on power would be jeopardised. But in reality, Tehran could see just how badly Obama needed to get a deal signed and they cashed in accordingly. The capitulationist agreement that emerged from Vienna is the result, and history will judge our leaders for not showing resolve and pushing for better."
Tom Wilson, "There was a credible alternative to the Iran deal. Obama just chose to ignore it". The Spectator. 20 July 2015, in www.spectator.co.uk
"After so much wrangling — the false starts, constant setbacks and mutual suspicion — the nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers was always likely to disappoint. Many will say it has lived down to expectations. It should be applauded anyway. For one thing, there is a fair chance that history will take a kinder view. For another, the agreement must be measured against the more unpalatable alternatives. Benjamin Netanyahu will not agree. The Israeli prime minister’s fulminations against the Tehran regime have grown louder and, it must be said, somewhat delusional. The other day, Mr Netanyahu said that Iran’s goal “is to take over the world”. Iran has been ruthless in promoting its Shia proxies as much of the Arab state system has fallen into collapse, but taking over the world? Mr Netanyahu’s answer to Tehran’s nuclear programme has long been to start another war.... Supporters of the agreement should not try to hide from its weaknesses. Even with a new, uniquely intrusive inspection regime, Tehran might still press ahead with a clandestine nuclear programme. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran will have access to tens of billions of frozen and new resources. It will pump more oil and buy technologies hitherto denied it. If it breaks its pledge to stick to a civilian nuclear programme, the so-called “snapback” provisions of the deal may struggle to reinstate effective sanctions. But then who could claim that sanctions have themselves been effective? As Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has pointed out, economic isolation has not prevented Iran from increasing the number of uranium-spinning centrifuges from 200 to 20,000. By US calculations that leaves Tehran within three months of producing enough fissile material for a bomb. One of the purposes of the deal is to push that timeline out to a year."
Philip Stephens, "Three cheers for a flawed Iran deal". The Financial Times. 14 July 2015, in www.ft.com
One does not have to be a ideological soulmate of Mr. Philip Stephens of the Financial Times, to feel that au fond, what he says apropos the Persian nuclear deal is indeed correct. The simple fact of the matter is, that from a historical vantage point, the time, if there ever was a time to engage in the va banque policy of 'regime-change' towards Persia was circa either 1992 or 2002. And a quick look at both dates shows how reluctant and unevenly such a policy would have played-out in the chancellories of the West. With as much if not more opposition to such a policy among both the Western publics and in International opinion in the rest of the world as was inspired by the Iraq adventure in 2003. And, even if such a policy were engaged in and nominally 'successful' what would have been the ultimate end-result? The triumph of Western Democracy pluralism in Tehran? The mind reels at the thought. Infinitely more likely would have been a repeat, on a larger and grander scale of the debacle in Iraq. However, mere facts are not things that our neo-conservative ideologues and their political enablers in the USA and the UK were ever much concerned about. Faute de mieux, let us try: to engage in a policy of regime change, or conversely to employ force in order to destroy or retard Persia's nuclear programme, would be sheer and unadultered madness given the fact that currently almost the entire Near and Middle East, from Libya in the West to Iraq in the East is in flames and chaos as it undergoes assault by Sunni, religious fanatics of one sort or the other. Resulting in the absurdity that it is (in a strange and perverted fashion), Persia and its allies in the Lebanon and in Syria, who are the 'conservative' forces supporting the status quo ante. Favoring (albeit in an extremely limited fashion) pluralism of religion and sect. Accordingly, the agreement that the Americans and their allies have cobbled together with the regime of Mullahs in Persia, is as former high State Department official in the governments of Bush the Elder and Bush the Younger, Richard Haas noted recently, the very best that can be gotten at the present time given the overall situation in the Near & Middle East:
"The net result is that the accord should lengthen the period it would take Iran to produce one or more nuclear weapons from several months to as much as a year, making it more likely that such an effort would be discovered in time. The prospect that the JCPOA could keep Iran without nuclear weapons for 15 years is its main attraction. Sanctions alone could not have accomplished this, and using military force would have entailed considerable risk with uncertain results. On the other hand (there always is another hand in diplomacy), the agreement permits Iran to keep far more nuclear-related capacity than it would need if it were interested only in civil research and in demonstrating a symbolic ability to enrich uranium. The agreement also provides Iran with extensive relief from economic sanctions, which will fuel the regime’s ability to support dangerous proxies throughout the Middle East, back a sectarian government in Baghdad, and prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime" 1.
'Politics', as the greatest statesman of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck once aptly put it, 'is the art of the possible'. The accord arrived at with the detestable regime of Mullahs in Persia is simply the very best that can be negotiated at the present time. And there is nothing to suggest that there were or are any levers: either economic or military which would have successfully resulted in Tehran agreeing to anything much better.
1. Richard Haas, "Living With the Iran Nuclear Deal". The Council on Foreign Relations. 14 July 2015, in www.cfr.org. See also with many of my own caveats, and reluctance, in the conservative, British periodical, the Spectator, in: Leader, "Iran can’t be trusted: This is an awful plan, but it’s the best option we’ve got". The Spectator. 18 July 2015, in www.spectator.co.uk. See also the following analysis by Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute:
"Without rehearsing its strengths and weaknesses, the most important feature is that Iran’s nuclear programme will be limited and monitored such that, over the next two decades or so, any Iranian efforts to construct a nuclear weapon – whether in secret or in declared facilities – will not only be detected swiftly, but in ample time for the United States and its allies to craft a diplomatic and, if necessary, military response. Iran will be rewarded with sanctions relief only when it has imposed these restrictions and, if disputes arise, any of the E3+3 can - after an admittedly complex process of adjudication and arbitration - re-impose sanctions by notifying the UN Security Council".

Thursday, July 16, 2015

THE GREEK DEBACLE: A COMMENT

"Greece’s ruling Syriza party erupted into rebellion and recriminations on Wednesday as prime minister Alexis Tsipras appealed for support for a new bailout deal that will heap more austerity measures on the country. In a sign of the tensions before a key parliamentary vote, radical leftist demonstrators opposed to further cuts hurled petrol bombs outside parliament and riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters, whose numbers had swelled to more than 10,000. Mr Tsipras was expected to prevail in the vote, scheduled for some time after midnight in Athens, with the help of opposition parties keen to grasp an €86bn bailout package to prevent Greece from crashing out of the eurozone. Still, the backlash from his own party could see more than 30 MPs rebel against their leader. Widening rifts within the leftwing, anti-austerity party also seem likely to force Mr Tsipras to reshuffle his cabinet to keep Syriza together in the aftermath of the vote. In a sign of the potential threats to the stability of the Greek government, more than half of Syriza’s Central Committee signed a letter opposing the deal and slamming it as a “coup”. Nadia Valavani, deputy finance minister, also resigned. “The solution imposed today in such a depressing way is not sustainable for the Greek people and for the country,” Ms Valavani said in a letter sent to Mr Tsipras on Monday and made public on Wednesday. Addressing his unruly party, Mr Tsipras called on MPs to maintain unity given the gravity of the situation, and asked them what they would have done instead. “I exhausted all possibilities and looked at all the negotiating solutions. Tell me what is the credible alternative that I did not think and did not say?” he asked".
Christian Oliver and Henry Foy in Athens and Peter Spiegel, "Syriza splinters ahead of crucial vote on Greece bailout deal". The Financial Times. 15 July 2015, in www.ft.com
"I had a long conversation today with Mr Hudson on his return from Athens where he has been serving as first secretary to our Legation. He emphasised the extent to which the Government were replacing the efficient Venezelist officers and officials by incompetent Constantinist [sic] amateurs. He is afraid that if some action is not taken in the near future the whole executive machinery will be irremediably ruined, and complete disintegration will set in. His views merit attention in that he was the only one of our officials in Athens who consistently forecasted the present crisis. I venture to urge the following considerations: (1) The Greek people, rightly or wrongly, are under the impression that in the end we will come to their assistance. At our request they are maintaining eight divisions of 150,000 men in all in Anatolia at the cost of two million drachmae a day. For the last two months they have been doing this on their own resources in order to convince us of their good faith....They know that they cannot hold out much longer, and that we shall be forced to show our hand. They are confident of the result and they look to us to appear as the friend and Protector of Greece....But if we really intend to help Greece we can only do so by positive action, and all negative compromises merely afford the French and the Italians an occasion for overt or subterranean opposition. (3) By 'positive action' I mean something like the following: - send someone to Greece at once to get into touch with King Constantine and to inform him that we shall be prepared to afford him support under certain conditions.... (4) I fully realise that the above suggestion may appear drastic. My point is however that unless we do something drastic the situation will collapse of itself."
"Memorandum by Mr. Nicolson on the Greek situation". 8 January 1921. In Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939. First Series, Volume XVII: Greece and Turkey, January 1, 1921-September 2, 1922. Edited by W. N. Medlicott, Douglas Dakin & M. E. Lambert. (1970), pp. 7-8.
The rather hectic and indeed almost unprecedented changes in the Greek situation is almost breathtaking. First the idiotic and ultra-gauchiste Syriza government rejects the proposed extension to the bailout programme by the troika and instead has insists upon a referendum by the Greek people to vote on the matter. Which to my own great surprise the Greek people, taking leave of their senses once again, voted in accordance with the wishes of the Syriza government and rejected the last bailout offer by the European Union and its partners of the IMF and the European Central Bank. When predictably enough Brussels announced that it would not offer Athens any further concessions and indeed hardened its stance on the negotiations with Prime Minister Tsipras, the latter only to my surprise staged a very quick climbdown at the very last second and agreed to an even more onerous, nay perhaps more accurately much more onerous bailout formula. Indeed as per the EU Observer:
the deal represents capitulation on nearly all points for the left-wing Greek government, which was elected on a platform to stop austerity and which, just one week ago, held a referendum in which Greek people rejected creditors' demands 1.
In short, financially at least, the radical Syriza government has been almost completely fettered in exactly the way that that most elegant and timeless of diplomats, Harold Nicolson suggested almost one-hundred years ago. Unfortunately, Nicolson's advice was rejected at that time by the more august and perhaps cynical mandarins of the Foreign Office 2. Thankfully, his European Union successors have successfully managed to implement his programme. Of course it is probably the case that as advocated by the IMF, the bailout programme should also include at the very least some degree of debt forgiveness 3. If not perhaps immediately then in a few years time, once the Syriza government or whoever (hopefully) succeeds it, manages to implement the needed reforms which Greece's almost completely corrupt and inefficient governmental structure and the society which supports it, cries out for. But for that the sooner that the Syriza government is ousted the better. In that respect if nothing else the hardline pursued by the European Union and Germany in particular has been quite praiseworthy.
1.Honor Mahony, "Greece capitulates at EU summit". EU Observer. 13 July 2015, in www.euobserver.com.
2. See as Minute by the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, Sir Eyre Crowe, dated the 10 January 1921, in Documents, op. cit., p. 9.
3. Shawn Donnan, Peter Spiegel, "Latest IMF debt relief push baffles eurozone creditors". The Financial Times. 15 July 2015, in www.ft.com

Friday, July 10, 2015

THE AFGHAN CONUNDRUM: SOME THOUGHTS

Taliban fighters have killed 11 Afghan soldiers in an ambush on a military convoy in western Afghanistan. Military sources said on June 29 that the convoy came under heavy fire late on June 28 in the Karokh District of Herat Province. The fighting lasted for five hours, a military spokesman told the Reuters news agency. Afghan security forces have suffered increased casualties since the Taliban launched their annual spring-summer offensive in April. Most international combat troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan at the end of last year, with a small NATO mission called Resolute Support remaining to train and support local security forces.
"Taliban Attack Kills 11 Afghan Soldiers In Herat." Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. 29 June 2015, in www.rferl.org
"As was the case in Vietnam and Iraq in 2011 ---, the US ended its combat presence at a time when Transition involved a serious risk that the war would fail to achieve any form of security and stability. The combat situation was intensifying rather than declining, and the Afghan government was still partially paralyzed by the crisis growing out of the 2014 Presidential election."
Anthony Cordesman. Afghanistan at Transition: the lessons of the longest War. (March 2015). p. x.
The issues at stake in Afghanistan are similar to those which have confronted the Americans and their allies formerly in Iraq and now in a new fashion in both Iraq and Syria. The question can be posed in a very simple manner: can and will the Afghan National Army perform or collapse if and when the Americans withdraw circa 2016 / 2017? Presuming that the Americans do indeed withdraw from Afghanistan in the same fashion that the Americans withdrew from Iraq circa 2011, it would seem to be a good surmise that the Taliban will stage many ferocious and perhaps very successful attacks. The conundrum is: will the Afghan National Army collapse or not? At the very least, it should be possible that if the Americans were to retain x number of troops on the ground as advisors and in the air, for the situation to be fairly stable. If the Americans as per the original plans of the White House, were to completely withdraw at the end of the 2015 / 2016, then it would be quite possible to expect that the Afghanistan National Army will, under hammer blows of the Taliban, begin to first withdraw into the enclaves of the major urban areas and then to collapse. Not, mind you a collapse tout à coup but in stages so that after two or three years, it would not be too surprising to begin to see something akin to what happened in South Vietnam in 1975 and in Kabul with the Najibullah regime circa 1992. Given the overall situation in the Near and Middle East at present a collapse of the current Kabul government to either the Taliban or to chaos would be an unmitigated disaster. Pur et simple. Accordingly, those like the American military commentator Anthony Cordesman who advocate that the Americans retain forces in some form or other for the long-run are surely correct. The only alternative being a collapse in stages by the Afghan National Army. As the greatest of all military theorists, Karl von Clausewitz once noted:
"There are times when a general must rise above it, calmly hold to his plans and face the short-term objections that are advanced by fainter hearts. Still, this impression is no mere specter that can easily be dismissed; it is not like a force that affects only a single point, but rather one that spreads instantaneously through every sinew, and paralyzes all military and civil activity....These consequences of retreat should not be underrated 1."
1. Karl von Clausewitz. On War. Edited & translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (1976), p.471.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

RUSSIA IS A 'REVISIONIST' NOT A 'ANTI-REVOLUTIONARY' POWER

"After hearing the news of the outbreak of the 1848 Paris revolution, Nicolas I is said to have rushed to the palace to interrupt the dancing and give the counter-revolutionary command: “On horses! To Paris!” Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin is in a similar mood. When protesters in the small, strategically insignificant Balkan state of Macedonia, outraged at revelations of corruption and the abuse of power, last month besieged a government building and demanded the resignation of the government, the Russian minister of foreign affairs raced to denounce Skopje’s colour revolution in the making. Why? A clue lies in Sergei Lavrov’s appearance before the UN General Assembly this year, when the Russian foreign minister asked for a declaration “on the inadmissibility of interference into domestic affairs of sovereign states and the non-recognition of coups d’état as a method for changing governments”. Moscow, once the combative centre of world communist revolution, has become the world’s pre-eminent defender of sitting governments against their restless citizens. Western politicians imagine the Kremlin’s anxiety about colour revolutions is rhetorical, not real. But Mr Putin and his colleagues believe what they say: that street protests are stage-managed by Russia’s bitterest enemies. In the words of Mr Lavrov: 'It is hard to resist the impression that the goal of various ‘colour revolutions’ and other efforts to topple unsuitable regimes is to provoke chaos and instability.'"
Ivan Krastev, "Russian mistakes and western misunderstandings". The Financial Times. 17 June 2015, www.ft.com.
"In the reign of Nicholas patriotism became something associated with the Knout, with the police, especially in Petersburg, where the savage movement ended, conformably to the cosmopolitan spirit of the town, in the invention of a national hymn after Sebastian Bach and in Prokopy Lyapunov---after Schiller! To cut himself off from Europe, from enlightenment, from the revolution of which he had been frightened since the Fourteenth of December, 1825. Nicholas on his side raised the banner of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationalism, embellished after the fashion of the Prussian standard and supported by anything that came to hand---the barbaric novels of Zagoskin, barbaric ikon-painting, barbaric architecture, Uvarov, the persecution of the Uniats, and 'The Hand of the Most High saved the Fatherland'. The encounter of the Moscow Slavophils with the Petersburg Slavophilism of Nicholas was a great misfortune for the former. Nicholas was simply flying to nationalism and Orthodoxy from revolutionary ideas. The Slavophils had nothing in common with him but words".
Alexander I. Herzen. My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen. Volume II. Translated by Constance Garnett. Revised by Humphrey Higgens. (1968), pp. 514-515.
Per contra to surmises and analyses such as the one cited above by Ivan Krastev or the recent piece in the Times of London Literary Supplement (TLS) by Lesley Chamberlain, there is in fact very little correspondence between the Putin regime and any sort of 'conservative' regimes from Russia's past 1. Whereas in the case of Tsarist Russia, it viewed itelf as part and parcel of the European order of states (AKA Russia as 'the Gendarme of Europe'), that is hardly the case to-day nor has it been for quite awhile under Putinism. Au fond, 'Putinism' is nothing more and nothing less than a systemic institutionalization of corruption, bribery and rent-seeking. Putinism as a regime, has almost nothing in common with Tsarist Russia, especially the latter's more cosmopolitan aspect, id. est., the non-Russian, power elite who helped run the empire from the beginning of the 18th century to almost 1917. The names of such individuals as Benckendorf, Nesselrode, Witte, Lambsdorf, Kleinmichel, Munnich, Richelieu, Kankrin, Campenhausen, Kaufman, Barclay de Tolly, Giers, et cetera, et cetera. They gave the Russian Empire a European and indeed cosmopolitan visage and coloration 2. We see absolutely nothing of the sort in contemporary Russia under Grazhdanin Putin 2. While it is of course absolutely the case that Putin, et. al., were and are wildly frightened of the potential spread of another 'Colored Revolution', to Russia itself, this has little to do with 'ideology' and everything to do with a clique of criminals who wish to keep their ill-gotten gains 3. As the Financial Times recent interview with Putin's close colleague, Sergei Ivanov, indicates, those elements in the ruling circle (such as ex-Finance Minister, Kudrin), who would like to stage a climb-down over Ukraine and seek a rapprochement with the Western Powers are still currently sidelined 4. Of course if offered the Western powers should jump at any opportunity to wrench Matushka Russia from its current isolated and forlorn condition and stance. Something which is far and away different from anything in terms of diplomatic isolation that Tsarist Russia ever suffered from. Or indeed allowed itself to venture into. Viz, the current position of Moskva vis-`a-vis the Western Powers resembles nothing so much as Sovietskaya Vlast in the 1920's and the 1930's. Something which a perusal of the historical literature on the subject matter clearly shows for both periods 5. When for reasons of both ideology and primat der Innenpolitik, Moskva was (along with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italia) the leading revisionist power on the European continent. The sad truth of the matter is that looking back to Tsarist Russia to ascertain the future policies of Putin's Russia leads very quickly to a speculative cul-de- sac. Insofar as one wishes to look back at all for an idea of future Russian policies one has to look at the early Soviet period and unfortunately, that does not provide one with a very optimistic or hopeful view of Russia's future policy towards Europe.
1. Lesley Chamberlain, "New Eurasians: How Russians have long reacted to revolution". The TLS (Times of London Literary Supplement). 15 May 2015. in www.the-tls.co.uk.
2. On this theme see an essay by the Polish intellectual, Adam Michnik, "1863: Poland in Russian Eyes", wherein he quotes the Emperor Nicholas I in his famous conversation with the jailed Slavophile writer, Yuri Samarin in 1849, as saying: "You have attacked whole classes [the German Baltic aristocracy] which have served us faithfully: beginning with Pahlen, I could list a hundred and fifty generals....You have aimed directly at the government: you have wanted to say that from the times of Emperor Peter I we have all been surrounded by Germans and we ourselves have become Germanized". In Letters from Prison. (1985), pp. 251-252.
3. On the nature of Russian policy in Ukraine since 2013, see: Sten Rynning, who cogently argues: "The restoration of Russian state power under Putin has thus benefited the old security elite---and especially those close to Putin---rather than the Russian state as such. Continental repression follow when a predatory elite, bereft of easy oil and gas revenues, is tempted to channel popular frustration into foreign affairs". In: "Russia, the West and the necessary balance of Power". International Affairs. (May 2015), p. 548 and passim.
4. On the interview with Ivanov see: Kathrin Hille, "Putin's right-hand man plays down talk of crisis". The Financial Times. 22 June 2015, in www.ft.com.
5. On Tsarist Russia, in particular the late 18th and early 19th century, see: Paul Schroeder. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848.(1994), pp. 515-520, 555-559, 730-735 and passim. Also see: A. J. P. Taylor. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe. (1954), p. 9, where as the author notes for the post-1848 period, that: "the directors of Russian policy were themselves mostly Germans--Meyendorff, the ambassador at Berlin, a Baltic baron; Nesselrode, the Chancellor, a Lutheran, who never learnt to speak Russian". For the Soviet period, see (for one example among many): Zara Steiner. The Lights that Failed: European International History, 1919-1933. (2005), pp. 548-558, 620-622 and passim; Jiri Hochman. The Soviet Union and the Failure of Colletive Security. (1984).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

GREECE ON THE BRINK?

"Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, vowed not to give in to demands made by his country’s international creditors, accusing them of “pillaging” Greece for the past five years and insisting it was now up to them to propose another rescue plan to save Athens from bankruptcy. Mr Tsipras’s remarks came less than 24 hours after the collapse of last-ditch talks aimed at reaching agreement on the release of €7.2bn in desperately needed rescue funds. The comments were part of a chorus of defiance in Athens that left many senior EU officials convinced they can no longer clinch a deal with Greece to prevent it from crashing out of the eurozone. Without a deal to release the final tranche of Greece’s current bailout, Athens is likely to default on a €1.5bn loan repayment due to be paid to the International Monetary Fund in two weeks, an event officials fear would set off a financial chain reaction from which Greece would be unable to recover. “One can only suspect political motives behind the fact that [bailout negotiators] insist on further pension cuts, despite five years of pillaging,” Mr Tsipras said in a statement. “We are carrying our people’s dignity as well as the aspirations of all Europeans. We cannot ignore this responsibility. It is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. It has to do with democracy....Hardliners in Mr Tsipras’s ruling Syriza party demanded a definitive break with creditors, calling on supporters to stage street protests against further austerity measures.".
Peter Spiegel and Kerin Hope, "Defiant Alexis Tsipras accuses creditors of ‘pillaging’ Greece". The Financial Times. 16 June 2015, in www.ft.com.
"The Communists must exert every effort to direct the working-class movement and social development in general along the straightest and shortest road to the victory of Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world-wide scale. That is an incontestable truth. But it is enough to take one little step farther—a step that might seem to be in the same direction—and truth turns into error. We have only to say, as the German and British Left Communists do, that we recognise only one road, only the direct road, and that we will not permit tacking, conciliatory manoeuvres, or compromising—and it will be a mistake which may cause, and in part has already caused and is causing, very grave prejudices to communism."
Vladimir I. Ulyanov [Lenin]. 'Left-wing' Communism: an Infantile Disorder. (1920).
The Syriza Government of Tsipras, et. al., appears to be inclined, nay eager to commit national suicide for purposes of proving his and his party's soixante-huitard like credentials. The fact that it will mean that Greece will be thrown into a violent recession, nay Depression, with capital controls, wild-inflation, plunging values and with the final upshot being violence in the streets, does not in the least appear to influence the Tovarish Tsipras. Au fond, if Greece possessed something approaching a normal government and a normal governing regime, then I would strongly contend that it is incumbent upon the European Union, et. al., to come to some compromise with Athens over the austerity programme. As I for quite awhile now would agree that austerity per se, is a political and economic cul-de-sac. However, given the overtly gauchiste, if not indeed left-wing Communist tenor to the Syrizia Government, it seems to the case that the responsible negotiators for the European Union, have no chose in the matter but let Greece hang itself by its own revolutionary petard. As Ulyanov if he were alive to-day (and thankfully he is not...), would comment, it is due to left-wing infants of the Syrizia type that Europe has never had (thankfully) a Communist Revolution.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

THE FALL OF RAMADI: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

"The loss of the strategically important city of Ramadi has cast further doubt on Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s efforts to regain control of a war that is fragmenting the country. For months, Mr Abadi has sought to strengthen his position against the rising authority of the Shia militias some of them supported by — or loyal to — Iran as those forces played a key role in the campaign to retake the city of Tikrit. But the fall of Ramadi to the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on Sunday has forced Mr Abadi to lean on the Shia militia and volunteer forces he had until recently hoped to sideline. Mr Abadi on Monday met with their leaders to discuss what state television described as the “redefinition of the defence lines” in Anbar. “The fall of Ramadi is more of a commentary on the Iraqi government than on the strength of Isis. [The US] has a partner in Iraq that is very weak,” says Kirk Sowell, a political risk analyst who publishes Inside Iraqi Politics, a newsletter. Surrounded by Isis and other insurgent groups, Ramadi had fought off jihadi advances for nearly 18 months. But by all accounts Iraqi troops there performed poorly when Isis launched its offensive this weekend. Sunni tribal leaders have complained publicly about the way Iraqi troops’ withdrew from the city without putting up a serious fight — reviving memories of the army’s flight from Mosul last June. The tribes also say they lack the heavy weaponry to take on Isis — who are armed with millions of dollars worth of US equipment they looted when they over-ran northwestern Iraq last summer. For now, Baghdad, as well as Iraq’s Shia shrine cities to the south, such as Karbala, and the Kurdish controlled cities in the north, are well defended and out of Isis’s reach. The main strategic consequence of Ramadi’s fall will be to push back the timeframe for retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second city. But the battle for control of Ramadi also offers a sign of what a future Iraqi state might look like. .”
Borzou Daragahi, Erika Solomon, "Ramadi’s fall casts doubt on al-Abadi’s control of Iraq war". The Financial Times. 19 May 2015, in www.ft.com
"War plans cover every aspect of a war, and weave them into a single operation that must have a single, ultimate objective in which all particular aims are reconciled. No one stars a war---or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so---without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principal which will set its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail. We said in the opening chapter that the natural aim of military operations is the enemy's overthrow, and that strict adherence to the logic of the concept can, in the last analysis, admit no other. Since both belligerents must hold that view it would follow that military operations could not be suspended, that hostilities could not end until one or the other side were finally defeated."
Karl von Clausewitz. On War. Edited and Translated by Michael Howard & Peter Paret. (1976), p. 579.
The recent ISIS victory in capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi highlights the fact that the Americans have not entire thought through their operational strategy for this particular military campaign. Regardless of what the Americans would ideally like to occur, it does not appear from current vantage point that a purely American air campaign will carry the day anytime soon against ISIS in Iraq. Not to speak of what is going on in Syria. The fact of the matter is that unless the Americans either: i) devote much more resources to the air campaign, with the concomitant greater likelihood of innocents being killed or wounded in occupied ISIS territories; ii) bring in some outside military force to assist the Iraqis (such as the say the regular Persian military). There at present being no readily available 'outside' force to so employ; iii) introduce American ground forces in sufficient numbers to quickly and effectively overthrow ISIS in a lightning campaign. If I had to choose which of the three above scenarios I would recommend the last one is the one that I would (reluctantly) go for. Which is not to gainsay the strictures that people like Anthony Cordesman have raised against putting American ground forces in harms way 1. Merely that having decided to go to war against ISIS (something which I was in favour of, albeit with scepticism as to how effective a purely air campaign would ultimately be), the Americans will be hard put to allow the continuation of a situation in which ISIS can boast that it is fighting the world's premier Great Power to a standstill. With all that implies in terms of the enormous prestige and the recruits and money following that ISIS will garner as a result. The sad and unfortunate truth of the matter is that the Americans have saddled themselves for a long time to come, with a burden which comes from having overthrown the Hussein regime back in 2003. Twelve years is not nearly long enough a time period to have absolved themselves from the consequence of their (admittedly stupid and irresponsible) actions....
1. See: Anthony Cordesman, "Boots on the Ground: The Realities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria". Center for Strategic and International Security. 13 February www.CSIS.org, wherein he argues that:
" It is important to realize that unless major U.S. combat forces are deployed in significant enough numbers to actually do all or most of all the fighting, local or host country forces will fail if they cannot get emergency support and reinforcements. They also face a very different challenge in large countries, when they face a dispersed force of nonstate actors that is on the scene and knows their weaknesses in detail, and where the real war is less one of short tactical victories and more one of lasting attrition in fighting for control of the population. And, these are wars that local forces must ultimately win. As was clear in Vietnam, and became all too clear in Afghanistan and Iraq, even the best U.S. combat units and a constant series of tactical victories can still fail if the United States and its other outside allies fully occupy an area or the country. Worse, doing it our way can deprive the local forces or host country of popular legitimacy, temporarily suppress sectarian and ethnic divisions, identify the United States as an occupier rather than an ally, and create a culture of military dependency where the local or host country forces never really learn to stand on their own".

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THE PROBLEM TRULY IS ISLAM

"These days, on the subject of Islam, non-Muslims have mostly divided into two camps — though there’s a little wandering about between the tents. Camp one says Islam is a religion of peace, and points for proof to the millions of non-violent Muslims around the world. Warlike Muslims are an anomaly, they say, and fight not because they are religious but because they are politicised. Bad guys like Isis aren’t Muslims so much as Islamists, which is different. Most politicians and public figures belong to this camp, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Camp two is more furtive. Members look around before they speak. In this gang, sotto voce, everyone agrees there is something intrinsically violent about Islam and that Islamism — Isis, for example — is a natural offshoot of its angry soul. The Queen’s chaplain appears to be in camp two. He sent a wave of revulsion through the media last month when he suggested the Quran might incite violence. Round here they say ‘Islam was spread by the sword’, meaning that conquest is in its DNA. Though Allah has a compassionate face, war is in his nature too. Ploughshares must sometimes become swords. How else will the caliphate be established?.... Is that there really isn’t much in the Quran to suggest that Allah gives a hoot for non-believers. Muslims are encouraged to forgive one another, but it is not required to forgive infidels, the apostate or people who blaspheme. We’re not all in it together. That Pew study also predicted that sometime soon after 2050 the number of Muslims will begin to overtake the number of Christians worldwide. In England, nearly one in ten British children is now Muslim — and is that what they’re taught? No need to say sorry to an infidel."
Mary Wakefield, "Original sin makes us better people. I wish Muslims believed in it." The (London) Spectator. 11 April 2015, in www.spectator.co.uk
"Christianity’s doctrine is found in three sources: the Bible, Tradition, and the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. An unbiased and clear inspection will show that Christianity is a religion of peace. Islam, not so much. Christianity offers peace through redemption, freedom through penance, joy through forgiveness, perfection through sanctification, and charity as the crown and driving force of every Christian life. Nowhere does Christianity’s Divine Founder counsel violence, mandate war, or promise something sinful as a reward for fidelity. Yet a careful reading of the Qur’an, the “founding document” of Islam, reveals that these three elements are present in its pages. A sampling: - “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them; thereafter is the time for either generosity or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens…. But those who are slain in the way of Allah, he will never let their deeds be lost” (47:4). - “May the two hands of Abu Lahab [Muhammad’s uncle who betrayed him] perish! May he himself perish! Nothing shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots [firewood], shall have a rope of fiber around her neck” (111:1-5 sura). - “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued'".
Father John Perricone. "Christianity and Islam: morally equivalent?" The New Oxford Review. (April 2015), p. 24.
The wise mots of both Father Perricone and Mary Wakefield highlight something which any cursory reading about Islam quickly reveals: that notwithstanding the fact that most of its adherents are peaceful and law abiding, it is au fond a religion of violence. Akin to what Simon Weil thought was the major characteristic of pre-diaspora Judaism, Islam in its origins shows itself to be a religious belief system which incalculates a theology of warfare and violence towards all those who do not adhere to its tenets 1. Whereas the intermittent violence which one can associate with Christianity (the Crusades, et cetera), can be said to be at variance with the central tenets of Christianity, that is hardily the case with Islam. Its founder, the so-called Prophet Mohammed, was a figure who it is easy to see, from any unbiased point of view, had hands filled with blood of innocent people. It is not too far a thing to say, that from any humane standpoint, Mohammed was an evil man. Pur et simple. And unless and until the two billon plus human beings who claim some relationship with Islam, own up to this fact about their religion, the relations between these two billion and the other five million people on the planet earth will be filled with more violence. Because violence and hatred is something that Islam is filled with. To claim anything else is both idiocy and propaganda. Unless and until a true reformation of this religion of hatred takes place, the world can, must and will be on guard to stop in its tracks any more advances by this faith system.
1. For Simone Weil's rather negative view of pre-diaspora Judaism, see: Waiting on God. Translated by Emma Crauford. (1954), pp. 157, where she comments: "The tradition of Noah and his sons throws a startling light on the history of Mediterranean civilisation. It is necessary to delete what the Hebrews added to the story out of hatred....The Hebrews boasted of having utterly exterminated a number of cities and tribes in the land of Canaan when Joshua was leading them. Give a dog a bad name and you can hang him. After he has been hanged you can accuse him more than ever". See also: Letter to a Priest. Translated by A. F. Wills. (1951), p. 15, where she comments: "If some Hebrews from classical Jewry were to return to life and were to be provided with arms, they would exterminate the lot of us--men, women and children, for the crime of idolatry". For the recent historiographical discussion of Jewish influences on early Islam, see: The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume XIV. Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, A. D. 425-600. Edited by Averil Cameron, Bryan Ward-Perkins and Michael Whitby, (2000), pp. 684-697.