KISSINGER ON THE CURRENT AMERICAN STRATEGY IN AFGHANISTAN
"FT: Can, in any conventional sense of the word, Petraeus win this war in Afghanistan?
Dr Kissinger: In the traditional sense of fighting against an adversary with whom it is possible to make an enforceable agreement, no. In the sense of gradually defeating the insurgency and reducing it to impotence, theoretically yes, but it would take more time than the American political system would permit.
FT: So what are the prospects?
Dr Kissinger: To announce a terminal date when the attrition of the opponent is one of the elements of the strategy lets the adversary regulate his own intensity of combat and gives him a deadline. It seems to me an unwise procedure.
FT: So is there an urgent need for Obama to rethink the strategy?
Dr Kissinger: There’s a need for him to rethink the deadline and there is a need to rethink the way it has been designed. It has been designed to turn over the responsibility for security to an Afghan government on a national basis. That, I think, would be very difficult, at least within the stated time limits.
FT: So you’re saying that you need less ambitious, less centralised goals and more time?
Dr Kissinger: Right, but I don’t want my views to be considered an attack on the president’s general view. I agree with the objective he has stated both in his West Point speech [announcing a 30,000 troop surge to Afghanistan last December] and when he dismissed Gen McChrystal.
FT: But the manner in which it is being implemented, the strategy, is something that is imminent need of being rethought?
Dr Kissinger: It needs adaptation to realities.
FT: The plan is to look at this all in December. Is that waiting too long?
Dr Kissinger: I think the underlying strategy would be best reviewed as Gen Petraeus is taking over.
If you leave the strategy in place and you want to gauge how effective it is or how much progress has been made, December is reasonable. If you want to take another look at the strategy without a great announcement, a review with Gen Petraeus might be appropriate. But I would not make a big public announcement about that.
FT: What is at stake if the US does keep to this unrealistic timetable and these unrealistic goals?
Dr Kissinger: The basic issue is that the diplomatic and military elements of the current strategy are not compatible with each other. The military strategy cannot be accomplished within the deadlines and the deadline encourages the adversaries to wait us out.
FT: But do you also argue that a precipitate withdrawal projects weakness?
Dr Kissinger: Rather than weakness, it projects above all ambivalence.
FT: Does Obama need to take a firm hand to the civilian hand of this effort, with the article revealing the difficult relations between McChrystal and people like US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and special envoy Richard Holbrooke?
Dr Kissinger: It’s essential that there is a strategy that is carried out by the civilian and military elements together. Holbrooke is being unfairly attacked. I don’t think he’s ever had any significant authority with respect to Afghanistan. He is a somewhat challenging personality but he has performed admirably in every previous job, so I think he is not, in terms of his abilities, an obstacle.
FT: And Eikenberry, whose memo doubting some of the fundamentals of the strategy has become so public?
Dr Kissinger: It would be essential that the ambassador and the theatre commander have parallel views. You can’t throw the execution of policy open to permanent debate at that level. It should be debated before the policy is established, but the execution of it cannot be subject to a monthly debate.
FT: There are people who say give this more time.
Dr Kissinger: I agree we need time and patience and having been involved in a war with some similar characteristics, the last thing the administration needs is to be harassed by people pressuring them from the outside.
So my basic attitude is to be supportive of the overall effort administration and to support the objectives that the president stated in his relief of General McChrystal.
But I do think that the basic premise that you can work towards a national government that can replace the American security effort in a deadline of 12 months provides a mechanism for failure. On the other hand, if we are willing to pursue the stated objective the public must be prepared for a long struggle. This is a choice that needs to be made explicitly or else we should look for intermediate objectives".
Daniel Dombey,"Transcript: Interview with Henry Kissinger," 28 June 2010 in www.ft.com.
"[Policy] is like a play in many acts...which unfolds inevitably once the curtain is raised. To declare then that the performance will not take place is an absurdity. The play will go on, either by means of the actors...or by means of the spectators who mount the stage....Intelligent people never consider this the essence of the problem, however. For them it lies in the decision whether the curtain is to be raised at all, whether the spectators are to be assembled and in the intrinsic quality of the play."
Furst von Metternich, quoted by Henry Kissinger in, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-22, 1957, p. 41.
Dr. Kissinger's interview in the Financial Times on the subject of Afghanistan is for my purposes quite interesting for the following reason: he points out the fallacy in the American Administration's dubious proposition of a 'time-table' to evaluate how the war is progressing by the Summer of 2011. As has been stated here on any number of occasions and elsewhere of course, the upshot of any such public pronouncement is that the Taliban has become more and more convinced that by merely surviving for awhile longer, they will have in effect scored a victory in this conflict. Especially, since they have all around them signs that the Americans and their NATO allies are uninterested in remaining longer than a year or two at the utmost. A feeling which has by this time also begun to be believed by not only the elements of the Karzai regime (allegedly by Karzai himself as well) but also by the regime in Pakistan. Lest anyone uttering the mots 'quiet interval', think that such a similar 'end-game', is possible in Afghanistan, one may point out that unlike the case of South Vietnam, the debacle when it does occur will be sudden and swift. With all of the rats leaving Karzai's ship, almost the minute that the last Western soldier leaves the country. With elements of the former Northern Alliance, regrouping in the north of the country to prepare for a new civil war `a la 1990-1994. A conflict which will assuredly provide for new staging grounds for Al Qaeda and its allies and recruits worldwide as well as the region. One gets the impression that the new Allied Commander-in-Chief, General Petraeus seems to thoroughly understand this point. One only hopes that the rest of the American administration does as well before it is too late.
AFGHANISTAN: THE ALTERNATIVES
It is time to be far more realistic about the war in Afghanistan. It may well still be winnable, but it is not going to be won by denying the risks, the complexity, and the time that any real hope of victory will take. It is not going to be won by “spin” or artificial news stories, and it can easily be lost by exaggerating solvable short-term problems....
Two critical questions dominate any realistic discussion of the conflict. The first is whether the war is worth fighting. The second is whether it can be won. The answers to both questions are uncertain. The US has no enduring reason to maintain a strategic presence in Afghanistan or Central Asia. It has far more important strategic priorities in virtually every other part of the world, and inserting itself into Russia’s “near abroad,” China’s sphere of influence, and India’s ambitions makes no real sense. Geography, demographics, logistics, and economics all favor other nations, and no amount of academic hubris can realistically model American reform of the “Stans” in ways that are cost-effective relative to other uses of US resources....
There is little doubt that the US and ISAF can continue to win open tactical clashes. The risks lie primarily in the creation of an ANSF that can actually transition to the point of largely eliminating the role of the US and other ISAF forces in combat, and – above all – creating the effective civil side of a US/ISAF effort that can convince the Afghan people that fighting the war will be worth the cost, that a mix of government capabilities will come to exist that are far better than living under the Taliban, that their basic economic needs can be met, and they have a credible path to economic development.
It was all too easy to formulate a new strategy based on “shape, clear, hold, build, and transition” as long as the civil side of “hold, build, and transition” was conceptual, and did not have to be implemented in rural areas like Marjah and the far more challenging conditions of a largely urban area like Kandahar. It was clear from the start, however, that any practical application of this strategy lacked operational definition on the civil side, that the aid community was not ready to implement it and any civilian “surge” would still leave civil activity highly dependent on the US military, and that building Afghan capabilities would be a slow effort that had to occur at every level from local to central government. It short, implementation was never a military-driven exercise in finding the right troop to task ratio, but always a politico-economic exercise in resource to experiment ratio.
General McChrystal and ISAF deserve praise, not criticism, for accepting these realities. There is a clear need to slow the campaign in Kandahar, to correct the problems that occurred in Marjah, to avoid major combat of the kind that took place in Fallujah, to realistically build government services while finding viable compromises with power brokers, and to move forward on a pace dictated by Afghan acceptance and not US/allied impatience. There are acute limits to any civilian surge, which can only act at the pace that the number of capable US and allied civilians and military personnel with civil-military expertise permits. To paraphrase a lesson from Iraq, the campaign can only succeed if it operates according to Afghan and not US time. As noted earlier, this means that determining whether the war can be won or lost almost certainly should slip from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012. If it does not, it may be a sheer lack of strategic patience – not the other difficulties we face – that loses the war.
At the same time, the fact that the scale of the civil challenge, and ANSF development, are both higher than previously estimated may require more attention to a potential weakness in the overall strategy and campaign plan. Focusing on Kandahar as the greatest challenge makes sense if that challenge can be quickly met. If delays are as inevitable as now seems likely, more attention may well be needed to the less demanding challenges of pushing a much more limited insurgent presence out of the north, west, center, and parts of the east. Reversing insurgent momentum would be much easer to accomplish and would put greater and earlier pressure on the overall mix of insurgents.
These are not likely to be popular conclusions. They require considerable leadership on the part of the US, as well as close and frank coordination with our allies. Moreover, they require acceptance of the fact that the case for the war is not based on some certainty of victory, but odds that may well be even -- or worse. It is time, however, to come to grips with the sheer scale of the US mistakes that led to the rise of the insurgency in Afghanistan, and to start addressing the reality that we may face many wars in the future against extremists that exploit the weakest and most divided states, fight similar wars of political attrition, and force the US to commit forces and money to weak governments and nations that do not meet many Western expectations.
Anthony Cordesman & Jason Lemieux, "The Afghan War: A campaign Overview," 23 June, 2010, in www.csis.org
"The real crisis, however, is that the US-Nato strategy in southern Afghanistan has barely made a dent in the Taliban’s resistance, which is spreading across the country. Nato’s offensive in Marjah, in Helmand, is five months old and still has not secured the area. The anticipated surge to secure Kandahar province has been postponed due to the Taliban’s penetration of the region. Seventy-nine Nato soldiers have been killed in June so far – the highest monthly figure since the war began....
That may not be possible, so a political strategy must now be paramount. The Taliban leadership has let it be known it wants to talk to the Americans. Many Afghans also want Washington’s participation in the talks, so the US can be a fire-break, ensuring Mr Karzai does not make too many concessions, and preventing neighbours such as Pakistan from imposing conditions upon Kabul.
The military strategy must be subservient to this new political process. Instead of going for the hardest killing fields first – Kandahar and Helmand – US and Nato forces should focus on more achievable objectives, such as governance and economic development.
The first priority should be securing the roads linking major cities, and linking cities to the frontiers. Even the critical Kabul-Kandahar highway is littered with checkpoints run by corrupt police, criminal gangs, warlords and Taliban groups, making it unsafe for travel by Afghans. Clearing key roads will bring security to trade, providing an economic boost and reducing corruption.
Next, the provinces around Kabul should be cleared of the Taliban, so aid agencies can operate. US resources to expand economic and agricultural development could then be spent.
The Taliban are not numerous in these provinces but they terrorise a population that is largely pro-government. Moreover, the still weak Afghan army and police could be better used to secure these areas, because many of their recruits come from these same provinces. The same process can then be repeated in the eastern provinces, and in the north. These areas are more pro-government than the south, where the Taliban has reigned untouched since 2002.
In the south, Nato forces should conduct a holding operation preventing Taliban expansion, eliminating its leadership, blocking supply routes from Pakistan and trying to alienate it from locals.
Gen McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy no doubt reaped dividends such as reducing casualties and winning hearts and minds. But a military strategy rooted in political dialogue, and which takes on easier goals first, is more likely to gain support from the Afghans and regional countries, and enable western troops to stay longer if necessary. The alternative is a deeper chaos".
Ahmed Rashid, "It is time to rethink the West's Afghan strategy," 25 June 2010, in www.ft.com.
Anthony Cordesman and Ahmed Rashid are probably the two best commentators on the Afghan War currently writing today. What in essence their overall 'take' on the conflict is that while not by any means 'lost' or 'unwinnable', the war in Afghanistan is (in the words of Bonaparte) 'a hard slog'. The idea that we can (as per it would appear the American Vice-President Mr. Biden, begin to see the commencement of the withdrawal of American forces is risible. Indeed, it is the belief among the Taliban that the American and their allies do not have staying power, which has resulted in upsurge of Taliban attacks in the South of the country, as well as elsewhere. This belief has also reinforced a pre-existing caution & hesitancy by the Afghan President Mr. Karzai. The latter in recent weeks exploring possible pour parler with elements of the Taliban who are controlled by Pakistan. And, while it has been Washington's gameplan for almost two years to eventually seek a modus vivendi with elements of the Taliban, this was only supposed to happen after a clear military defeat of the same. Any endeavors to come to an arrangement with the Taliban, whether or not controlled by Pakistan will only have the end-result of ushering in a quick collapse of the regime in Kabul, as the non-Pashtun elements in the regime rapidly withdraw their support for the same. A wonderful example of what may occur is the endemic instability that South Vietnam suffered from in the aftermath of the assassination of President Diem in November 1963. And, lest anyone have any illusions along the idea that a collapse of the regime in Kabul will have no long term aftershocks outside of the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, the words of Anthony Cordiesman are highly apt in this context:
"The key reasons for the war remain Al Qa’ida and the threat of a sanctuary and base for international terrorism, and the fact the conflict now involves Pakistan’s future stability. One should have no illusion about today’s insurgents. The leading cadres are far more international in character, far better linked to Al Qa’ida and other international extremist groups, and much closer tied to extremists in Pakistan. If they “join” an Afghan government while they are still winning (or feel they are winning), they are likely to become such a sanctuary and a symbol of victory that will empower similar extremists all over the world.
Experts disagree sharply about Pakistan’s instability and vulnerability in the face of a US and ISAF defeat in Afghanistan. There is no way to predict how well Pakistan can secure its border and deal with its own Islamic extremists, and Pakistan is both a nuclear state and a far more serious potential source of support to other extremist movements than Afghanistan. A hardline, Deobandi-dominated Pakistan would be a serious strategic threat to the US and its friends and allies, and would sharply increase the risk of another major Indo-Pakistani conflict....
The fact is, the strategic case for staying in Afghanistan is uncertain and essentially too close to call. The main reason is instead tactical. We are already there. We have major capabilities in place. If we can demonstrate that the war can be won at reasonable additional cost in dollars and blood, it makes sense to persist. But, only if we can demonstrate we can win and show that the additional cost has reasonable limits. Containment and alternative uses of the same resources are very real options, and would probably be more attractive ones if we could somehow “zero base” history. The reality is, however, that nations rarely get to choose the ideal ground in making strategic decisions. They are prisoners of their past actions, and so are we".
THE GENERAL McCHRYSTAL DEBACLE: A COMMENT
"'How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?' demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.
'The dinner comes with the position, sir,' says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn. McChrystal turns sharply in his chair. 'Hey, Charlie,' he asks, 'does this come with the position?' McChrystal gives him the middle finger.
The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel's thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the 'most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine.' The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too "Gucci." He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops....
McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you've fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice. 'I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,' McChrystal says. He pauses a beat. 'Unfortunately,' he adds, 'no one in this room could do it.' With that, he's out the door. 'Who's he going to dinner with?' I ask one of his aides. 'Some French minister,' the aide tells me. 'It's fucking gay'....
Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. 'I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem,' he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner. 'Are you asking about Vice President Biden?' McChrystal says with a laugh. 'Who's that? Biden?' suggests a top adviser. 'Did you say: Bite Me?'"
Michael Hastings, "The Runaway General," 22 June 2010, in www.rollingstone.com/politics/news
"Gen. McChrystal's just-published interview in Rolling Stone magazine is an appalling violation of norms of civilian-military relations. To read it is to wince, repeatedly—at the mockery of the vice president and the president's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the sniping directed toward the U.S. ambassador, at a member of his staff who, when asked whom the general was having dinner with in Paris said, "Some French minister. It's so [expletive deleted] gay." The quotes from Gen. McChrystal's underlings bespeak a staff so clueless, swaggering and out of control that a wholesale purge looks to be indicated.
The larger predicament here is not the general's fault. The Obama administration has made three large errors in the running of the Afghan war.
First, it assembled a dysfunctional team composed of Gen. McChrystal, Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Amb. Richard Holbrooke—three able men who as anyone who knew them would predict could not work effectively together. Mr. Eikenberry was a former commander in Afghanistan, junior in rank to and less successful than Gen. McChrystal, and had very differing view of the conflict. Mr. Holbrooke, a bureaucratic force of nature, inserted an additional layer of command into a fraught set of relationships. As a stream of leaks has revealed, the staffs loathe each other.
The second error lies in the excruciating strategy review of last fall. Internal dissension spilled into public, making it clear that Vice President Joe Biden took a very different view of the war than the Defense Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The competitive leaking, sniping and bickering that pervaded the review worsened the climate of command and undoubtedly left Gen. McChrystal and his team unnerved.
The third, and fatal, error came in Mr. Obama's West Point speech in December. He put his own ambivalence about the Afghan war on public view and then announced that he would begin a withdrawal in July 2011. This blunder demoralized his own side while elating the enemy and encouraging Afghan friends and neutrals to scramble to make their accommodations while they could.
But none of this excuses the substance or the tone of the words spoken by Gen. McChrystal and his staff. The poor judgment shown in political-military matters calls into question their broader competence to wage an acutely difficult war....
After Gen. McChrystal's understandable but somewhat impolitic address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies last fall, the message from Washington was clear: Stay mum. In this business one deserves one mistake—and this second mistake is far, far worse than the first....
There are two lessons here. For Mr. Obama it is the imperative of taking charge of this war and owning it—reshaping the team waging it, and communicating a resolve that, alas, one doubts he actually feels. Failing that, he owes it to the soldiers and civilians we have sent there to liquidate the war and accept the consequences for our country and the region....
In wartime, generals become public heroes. In some cases—in Stanley McChrystal's—they really may be heroes. But that does not change the fundamental imperative of maintaining order and discipline. And if doing so means relieving a hero of command, so be it".
Eliot A. Cohen, "Why McChrystal Has to Go," 23 June, 2010 in www.wsj.com.
"Nine days he [General MacArthur] perpetrated a major act of sabotage of a Government operation....After reading the statement I shared his sense of outrage. It can be described only as defiance of the Chiefs of Staff, sabotage of an operation of which he had been informed, and insubordination of the grossest sort to his Commander-in-Chief."
Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, 1969. pp. 518-519.
Professor Cohen is correct: it is dispiriting to read General McChrystal and his staff's infantile, vulgar, nay mauvais ton comments about his superiors and colleagues. In print no less. And, while one is aware of the fact that it is virtually impossible to expect (on this side of the Atlantic at least --- unfortunately) for military leaders to be possessed of the political and personal sophistication of say Field-Marshal Lord Alexander (the younger son of the Earl of Caledon) and Field-Marshal Lord Carver (the direct descendant of the Marquess of Wellesley [the older brother of the Duke of Wellington]), that does not obviate the fact that someone in General McChrystal position needs to be possessed of a certain level of political, diplomatic and social intelligence. Based upon the comments in the interview, one is scarcely able to believe that the General has these needed qualities. On the other hand, as the always intelligent and wise, Leslie Gelb notes, having dismissed one Commander in the Afghanistan theatre last year, it is less than sensible & intelligent to dismiss another one year later. Especially for reasons which are less than substantive (see: Leslie Gelb, "General McChrystal's Screw-up," 23 June 2010, in www.dailybeast.com
). Need one to add that as not only American Commander-in-Chief (hereafter C-in-C) in Afghanistan but also NATO C-in-C, that nominally at least the firing of McChrystal is not merely a domestic American issue, but one that is supposed to involve the entire alliance? A concern that singularly fails to resonate in any of the discussions of this subject on this side of the Atlantic. In addition to which, it is apparently a fact that the General is the only member of the triumvirate who are in charge of American policy in Afghanistan (McChrystal, Ambassador Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke) who has tolerable relations with the Afghan President Karzai. Not surprisingly both NATO headquarters in Brussels and Karzai himself have indicated that they want McChrystal to stay in his post (for all this see: James Blitz, "NATO warns on McChrystal dismissal," 23 June 2010, in www.ft.com
& Daniel Korski, "General Concern," 23 June 2010, www.spectator.co.uk
Well regardless of the above concerns General McChrystal has been forced to resign. Succeeded by his superior (in every sense) General David Petraeus, the American administration has to an extent limited the fall-out of of this entire debacle. Oddly enough the upshot is (based upon Petraeus' recent public comments) that the infamous 2011 deadline for a re-evaluation of the American 'surge' strategy has probably been pushed back into 2012 at the earliest. Since au fond
Petraeus is as committed to the Afghanistan War as his ex-subordinate. Having fired two C-in-C's in Afghanistan in the last two years, one rather doubts that the American President has both the courage and the political capital to fire a third in as many years. As Spencer Ackerman argued today in the aftermath of the firing:
"Today Obama clarified what July 2011 means — somewhat. It means what Gen. Petraeus, his new commander, told the Senate he supports: not a “race for the exits,” but a “conditions-based,” open-ended transition. If that still sounds unclear, it’s because the policy itself is unclear. But by placing Petraeus at the helm, it means that 2012 will probably look more like right now, in terms of troop levels and U.S. troops fighting, than anything Biden prefers. That is, unless Petraeus and Obama come to a consensus that conditions on the ground necessitate more rapid withdrawals. Think of the deadline as getting deliberately blurrier. Tom Ricks called his last book about Petraeus “The Gamble.” It’s sequel time.
The strategy is supposed to undergo a review in December. Don’t expect that review to be so substantial. Petraeus will only be in theater for a few months. While he may not want to launch his own strategy review, he’ll surely want to keep his options open, and will be able to argue that the extraordinary conditions that put him back in charge of a war will necessitate that delay. Make no mistake: This is Obama intensifying his strategy. That’s the major change that has emerged after Gen. McChrystal’s unexpected self-immolation".
Spencer Ackerman, "With Petraeus Pick, Obama clarifies His Afghanistan strategy,"
23 June 2010 in www.washingtonindependent.com.
Lastly for the historical record, I would just like to point out, that there is no, repeat no, similarity in the behavior of General McChrystal and that of General Douglas MacArthur, in 1950-1951. Whatever else one may say of this horrible interview in Rolling Stone magazine, it does not in any substantive fashion attempt to subvert existing American policy. Nor indeed does either the General or his subordinates even criticize the American President. Whereas of course as then Secretary of State Dean Acheson clearly delineates, General MacArthur's firing was due to his rank refusal to follow government policy and not once but on many occasions. There is nothing in General McChrystal's record which comes close. All the more reason for regarding the dismissal as something purely about the petty politics of Presidential amour propre. In its own fashion as mauvais ton as those idiotic remarks in Rolling Stone.
RUSSIA'S CHOICES IN KYRGYZSTAN: A COMMENT
"OSH Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) Renewed turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has fueled concern in Russia, the United States and neighbor China. Washington uses an air base at Manas in the north of the country, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply its forces in Afghanistan....
Several units of paratroopers arrived on Sunday to protect servicemen and families at Russia's Kant airbase in the north of the country, a Kremlin spokesman said. A Defense Ministry spokesman said 150 armed paratroopers had been sent, while ITAR-TASS news agency, citing ministry sources, said at least 300 were dispatched....
The interim government in Kyrgyzstan, which took power in April after a popular revolt toppled president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has appealed for Russian help to quell the riots in the south.
Led by Roza Otunbayeva, the interim government has sent a volunteer force to the south and granted shoot-to-kill powers to its security forces in response to the deadly riots, which began in Osh late on Thursday before spreading to Jalalabad....
The upsurge in violence has killed more people than the riots that accompanied the overthrow of Bakiyev. Otunbayeva, whose government has only limited control over the south, has accused supporters of Bakiyev of stoking ethnic conflict. Bakiyev issued a statement from exile in Belarus, describing claims he was behind the clashes as 'shameless lies....'
Otunbayeva has asked Russia to send in troops. This appeal was renewed on Sunday by interim defense minister Ismail Isakov, who said Russian special forces could quickly end the conflict. Russia has said it will not send in peacekeepers alone but will discuss the situation on Monday within a Moscow-led security bloc of former Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday called Otunbayeva to discuss the violence, the Kremlin said".
"Kyrgyz ethnic clashes spread, Russia sends troops," 12 June 2010 in www.reuters.com.
"Russia will not send peacekeeping forces to Kyrgyzstan, which has been hit by deadly inter-ethnic clashes in recent days, Russia's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Tuesday.
'Such a step would be unjustified as we are taking here about an internal conflict,' Anvar Azimov said. At least 170 people have been killed in the south of the Central Asian republic in five days of ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups. Tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks, who make up about half the population in the area, have fled to neighboring Uzbekistan. Azimov said extra troops had already been sent to Kyrgyzstan to ensure the safety Russian servicemen and their families at the Kant military base, some 20 km from the capital Bishkek".
"Russia will not send peacekeepers to troubled Kyrgyzstan," 15 June 2010, in www.en.rian.ru
"STRATFOR often discusses how Russia is on a bit of a roll. The U.S. distraction in the Middle East has offered Russia a golden opportunity to re-establish its spheres of influence in the region, steadily expanding the Russian zone of control into a shape that is eerily reminiscent of the old Soviet Union. Since 2005, when this process began, Russia has clearly reasserted itself as the dominant power in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, and has intimidated places like Georgia and Turkmenistan into a sort of silent acquiescence....
Therefore, the Russian relationship with Kyrgyzstan is based neither on military strategy nor on economic rationality. Instead, it is based on the need to preserve a certain level of credibility and fear — credibility that the Russians will protect Kyrgyzstan should push come to shove, and Kyrgyz fear of what Russia will do to it should they not sign on to the Russian sphere of influence.
It is a strategy strongly reminiscent of the U.S. Cold War containment doctrine, under which the United States promised to aid any ally, anytime, anywhere if in exchange they would help contain the Soviets. This allowed the Soviet Union to choose the time and place of conflicts, and triggered U.S. involvement in places like Vietnam. Had the United States refused battle, the American alliance structure could have crumbled. Russia now faces a similar dilemma, and just as the United States had no economic desire to be in Vietnam, the Russians really do not much care what happens to Kyrgyzstan — except as it impacts Russian interests elsewhere".
Peter Zeihan, "The Kyrgyzstan Crisis and the Russian Dilemma," 15 June 2010, in www.stratfor.com.
The Russian reluctance to intervene in the troubled and relatively worthless ex-Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan is rather interesting. As it seems to up-end those analysts (such as myself to a degree) who stated that the overthrow of the Bakiyev regime in Bishkek a few months back was in part, a piece of Russian handiwork. This was a place after all in which Monsieur Putin, felt free to give over a Billion dollars in aid only last year. With the particular aim (or so it appeared at the time) of convincing Bakiyev to kick the Americans out of their Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan. A sotto voce agreement (if in fact thats what it was), which Bakiyev relatively quickly felt free to renege on. Ergo to some, the political & economic pinpricks and rhetorical attacks which Moskva launched immediately prior to the uprising that overthrew Bakiyev, had all the makings of the politics of overthrow and revenge to it. If in fact this surmise is true, why is Russia now reluctant so suddenly to intervene to assist its new clients? While some commentators state that the riots were in fact produced by Bakiyev himself in order to encourage Russian intervention (although one may reasonably ask, why would Bakiyev encourage Russia to intervene in any case?), that still does not answer the query why Putin, Medvedev, et. al., are so reluctant to restore order in this former Soviet Republic (on the idea that the riots were encouraged by criminal gangs who have ties to Bakiyev, see: Sanobar Shermantova, "Kyrgyzstan unrest timed to coincide with SCO Summit," 15 June 2010, in www.en.rian.ru/analysis
)? While some state that Russia is reluctant to meddle in a relatively worthless and troublesome country, for no ostensible gain, others (myself among them to a degree) think that Moskva will eventually intervene in force, but only when the degree of unrest truly mandates it, and when it will have an entirely free hand to do what it wants in this not very important country, from the surrounding regimes in Tashkent, Astana and even Peking (for a differing reading of Russia's behavior than what I posit, see: Charles Clover, "Moscow wary of appeals for military aid to quell violence, 15 June 2010, in www.ft.com
& Deirdre Tynan,"CSTO indecisive on Kyrgyzstan Intervention," 14 June 2010, in www.eurasianet.org
). Otherwise one is tempted to add, that the rhetorical claims by both Medvedev and Putin that Russia has some type of 'sphere of influence', in former Soviet spaces (provided one assumes that they are not members of NATO & the EU...) will ring rather hollow. Au fond, if Russia wishes to be considered a Great Power, rather than simply a Great Power manque, then it will have to assume those troublesome burdens that only Great Powers can assume and undertake. Pur et simple (for a view similar to my own on this topic, if not in all its particulars, see, the article by an ex-Indian Ambassador who has served in both Moskva & Tashkent: M. K. Bhadrakumar, "Russia peers into the Kyrgyz Void," 15 June 2010, in www.atimes.com
THE B[RITISH]P[ETROLEUM] PROBLEM IN ANGLO-AMERICAN RELATIONS: A COMMENT
"Barack Obama knows language and innuendo: he will know what he’s doing by deploying what Boris Johnson rightly calls “anti-British rhetoric” in the BP disaster. BP has not –for many years – stood for British Petroleum’ – you won’t find the two words anywhere in its annual report. But you hear them plenty tripping off the presidential tongue, as if to point the finger on the other side of the Atlantic. It makes you wonder how highly he values UK-US relations: Bush was genuinely grateful for the fact that Britain was America’s most dependable ally in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s hard to imagine Bush using the rhetoric that Obama has so quickly resorted to. It does make you wonder: is there still a “special relationship” or is America just not that into us?
When Piper Alpha exploded in 1988 and killed 162 in the North Sea, no one in Britain spoke suggestively about an American company. Where the parent company is domiciled does not matter: you get British companies whose share capital can be owned by various people. BP is 40% owned by British shareholders and 39 perccent owned by American ones: its board has six Americans and six Brits. This disaster happened on an American-owned, Korean-built rig leased by BP’s American subsidiary. But to listen to Obama, it is as if a few blokes from Stoke-on-Trent sailed over, and drilled a wildcat well – then buggered off and left Uncle Sam to suffer all the damage....
There is fault everywhere in this disaster. Doubtless it deflects anger from Obama and other senior American politicians to ramp up anti-British sentiment – when you consider the appalling performance of BP’s chief executive, and Fergie on Oprah, there is reason to believe that Britain’s reputation in America stands at its lowest ebb since 1776. This has a tangible effect. As Allister Heath argues in City AM today, British companies are reporting that it’s harder to do business over there. Obama is talking about stopping BP dividends – £1 in every £6 paid in dividends in Britain comes from BP. To damage BP's dividend payment scheme is to damage British pensioners: you can't just hit a 'company' without hitting either its customers, or its investors (in this case, several million British pension savers)".
Fraser Nelson, "Events that are shaking the special relationship," 10 June, 2010, in www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse
"Tony Hayward has been lambasted for his inept handling of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But Barack Obama, the US president, and his administration have done no better. Indeed, their crudely populist response to the spill threatens to make what is already a bad situation a great deal worse. There has been far too much posturing by the US administration. This was bad enough when it was confined to rhetoric – the faintly xenophobic harping on about “British Petroleum” (a name the company hasn’t used since 1998), or the coarse threats to keep the government’s boot on BP’s throat....
The administration must curb the urge to hammer BP in public. The objective now must be to restore confidence in the clean-up operation. There is plenty of time for blame to be apportioned. What is needed is to get the spill under control and the beaches cleaned. It is right that BP should be made to pay for the consequences of the spill. But the administration should remember that at no time has the company sought to shirk this responsibility. The public demands for a dividend cut are unnecessary. It is the responsibility of BP’s directors to ensure the company can meet all its obligations, including the spill costs. The White House should trust them to discharge it. BP has, after all, no incentive whatever to be unco-operative. A third of the company’s operating assets are in the US. Tens of thousands of its employees are based there. Were it to lose its position in the country, its whole future would be cast into doubt. Mr Obama should stop treating BP as a hostile and alien entity. Much more would be achieved if the administration worked with the company rather than kicked it endlessly in public".
Leader, "Editorial: US must hit reset button with BP," 11 June 2010, in www.ft.com
"For the purposes of our enquiry, however, America may be largely written off since, comprehensibly, she neither lives, nor desires to live, in touch with reality so long as filmland is open to her, and she has a good spell of illusion still ahead. What is important to remember, however, is that, along with much growing enlightenment, the American bonnet of 1930 is haunted not only by the isolationist bee, but by the nationalist hornet".
Sir Robert Vansittart [Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office], "An Aspect of International Relations in 1930," 1 May 1930. Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1930, Series Ia, Volume VII, London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1975.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has unveiled a tale of not two cities but two universes. One the one side of the Atlantic, there is an outpouring of emotion, mostly of the negative variety, directed at both the American government in Washington, DC and to the company whose incompetence caused the accident to occur in the first place: BP. It is not my place to play advocate on behalf of BP: it is obvious that the company has shown gross incompetence and perhaps indeed negligence in their operations in the Gulf of Mexico as it pertains to deep water oil drilling. Particularly since this is not the first time, that an accident, albeit not quite of this nature, has occurred in the recent past. It seems that BP, has chosen to operate in a manner which put paid to any idea of rigorous safeguards. In that respect, one would surmise that BP is rather similar to most of his (American) counter-parts, both in the USA and elsewhere. With all that being said, the kvass patriotismus
coming out of the American government in the past few weeks is au fond, bewildering in its stupidity and may perhaps cause fundamental damage to Anglo-American relations. As has been pointed out elsewhere (see especially Ian Cowie, "BP-bashing Americans could jeopardise British pensions. They should remember 1988," 1 June 2010, in www.blogs.telegraph.co.uk
), one in seven, yes, one in seven British dividends last year were paid by BP. Whose UK shareholders number perhaps upwards of half a million. BP also pays out a huge amount of tax revenue, to her Majesty's Treasury. Tax revenue which the Inland Revenue, desperately needs at the moment. With all of this in mind, facts that one presumes were not entirely unknown to the American administration, one has to wonder about the rationale of the near-xenophobic language being used. Most especially, as many on the other side of the Atlantic have pointed out, the current regime in DC, has scarcely ever cared to use about say Persia, North Korea, Sudan or indeed if it comes to that the PRC. Does the American President need to be reminded that British troops provide the largest non-American contingent in Afghanistan? And, that they performed the same function in both Iraq and in the first Gulf War? Does the American government think that there are volunteers from other countries who are dying of enthusiasm to send their troops to serve with the US army? I for one do not see any. If, as it appears from the statement issued by Number 10 Downing Street on Saturday and other sources, the American leader is going to tone-down his abhorrent rhetoric, then it is none too soon as it relates to good Anglo-American relations. One may only hope that he does so and soon (see: "Gulf Oil Spill: PM's call to President Obama," 12 June 2010, in www.number10.gov.uk/news
& Will Heaven,"Cameron has passed the BP test, but not with flying colours," 14 June 2010 in www.blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news
FINIS GERMANIA AS A GREAT POWER? A BRIEF COMMENT
"Drastic spending cuts of more than €80bn (£66bn) were unveiled by Angela Merkel, German chancellor, yesterday, along with up to 15,000 job losses in the public sector as part of a sweeping austerity package for Europe's largest economy....
The four-year savings plan was approved after negotiations between the partners in the ruling centre-right coalition. It is intended to curb the country's soaring budget deficit, set to exceed 5 per cent of gross domestic product this year, and provide an example to other members of the European Union, Ms Merkel said. She described the package as a "unique effort" to reinforce budget discipline and meet the demand written into the German constitution to keep a balanced budget.
Ms Merkel said a decision on the abolition of conscription in the armed forces had been postponed, but the Bundeswehr (Federal defence force) would face radical reforms in order to meet its spending target.
Quentin Peel, "Berlin reveals drastic 80 Billion Euro Cuts," 8 June 2010, in www.ft.com
"Defence Secretary Liam Fox is used to looking across the Atlantic for military inspiration and across the English Channel to France for the future of defence cooperation. But he might do well to look somewhere else – namely to Germany where the young defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has launched one of the Cabinet’s most ambitious cost-cutting programmes.
He is planning to cut the number of active-duty soldiers from 250,000 to 150,000 as part of a an effort to find €1bn (£840m) worth of cuts as part of the government’s €80 billion austerity programme. He is even contemplating an end to compulsory military service -- something normally seen as a fundamental principle for the CDU and CSU. Earlier in the week, the man tipped as a future chancellor, said that deep spending cuts were needed in his budget because of the federal government's dire fiscal situation. "A symbolic cutting of a few individual acquisitions will not be enough," the German defence minister said after a speech to soldiers in Hamburg. "If one looks at the current numbers there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift."
True, Germany’s military cannot be compared to the British army. One goes to war, the other shuns even the word “krieg”. The German president had to resign a week ago when he stated the obvious – that Germany’s safety and prosperity is related to its willingness to be a security provider, not a security free-rider. Nor was Germany’s spending on defence particularly high in the first place; its defence spending – 1.32percent of GDP -- is the second lowest among the G8 countries".
Daniel Korski, "Achtung Liam!" 10 June 2010, in www.spectator.co.uk.
"Beust was no Metternich equipped - or handicapped - with a profound political philosophy; his stock-in-trade, like that of all the statesmen of these little German states with no basis in reality, was smartness - the clever phrase and the quick result with no thought of the consequences."
A.J.P. Taylor, The Habsburg Monarchy, 1815-1918, London, 1942, p. 143.
Some years back, the American historian, James J. Sheehan wrote a study of German history for the one hundred or so years before the battle of Koniggratz, in which he posited that there was a German 'third way', which had failed to come about, between Prussian and Austrian ascendancy's. Namely the Germany of the smaller, liberal (id est., 'liberal' in the 19th century, sense of liberal-bourgeois, rather than in the contemporary American [mis]-usage of the term), states of the South and West of the German Confederation. Viz, Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg, et. al. Parliamentary states, albeit Monarchical ones, on the Belgium and Dutch models, these states, were in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, the playthings of international politics. Objects rather than subjects, acted upon rather than acting. First by Metternich, then by Bismarck. With no armies or forces to speak of, in any real sense, it is not altogether surprising that even eight years after Koniggratz, which saw them all subsumed into Bismarck's political fold, that a historian like Taylor can only write of them with absolute contempt. The reports in the Financial Times, with its elaboration in the London Spectator cited above, can only put one to mind that the denouement of the Federal Republic as a modern-day Baden or Wurttemberg write large has come to pass. States exist, if they exist for any purpose whatsoever in this Hobbesian world of ours, to exercise power and force. Otherwise one can put paid to any idea of real sovereignty. If the reported cuts in the German army do in fact come to pass, then one may indeed speak of Finis Germania. At least insofar as one may consider Germany a state which has the right to be even vaguely considered as a Great Power and a machtstaat. For good or for ill. Considering its role in contemporary Europe, one can only consider it as something to shudder at.
WHITHER TURKEY? A LOOK
"The downward spiral of relations over the last eighteen months goes back to the Israeli Gaza offensive in December 2008, which marked an important turning point. Relations since then have really gone downhill. Turkey appears to be on a strongly anti-Israeli course, but in a broader sense one has to see this in a historical perspective because this represents the adjustment of Turkey to the aftermath of the Cold War. Turkey became less dependent on the United States for its security. The end of the Cold War opened up new opportunities for Turkish policies in areas Turkey historically has had strong political and economical interests, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia. Turkey is returning to a more traditional role, one in which it was closely involved in the Middle East for centuries, going back to the Ottoman Empire....
Turkey's reaction has both internal and external components. Internally, it's been very popular. It has shown everyone that it wants to be a strong leader. Externally, it's been popular with the Arab countries and enhanced its prestige in the Arab world. Turkey eventually wants to be an important regional player in the Middle East. There's a vacuum there, and it's trying to fill that vacuum.
It's part of their general feeling that they want to be a major player in the Middle East. They've shown that by their willingness to act as a mediator in the dispute between Israel and Syria, and they've continued to play a role as a mediator between the United States and Iran. What they did with the nuclear deal was again to become the broker, but it's part of the larger dimension of Turkish policy. This is part of the changes since the end of the Cold War, which opened up new opportunities for Turkey....
In essence, this doesn't have much to do with Islam. It has much more to do with the change in the Turkish security environment. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the security problems that Turkey has are now in the south, in and around its borders. That includes the fragmentation of Iraq; the possibility that Iran will get nuclear weapons; the Palestinian problem, which, of course, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is taking a major role in and siding openly with the Palestinians. It's an important break with previous Turkish policy.
Do you think that Erdogan and the foreign minister's anger at Israel really stems from the 2008 Gaza attack?
That was a turning point, but something that had been mounting over the years. This is not the first time that Turkish foreign officials called Israeli actions "state terrorism." This is part of an evolving process where Turkey, and Erdogan himself, has moved in an anti-Israeli direction. The Gaza offensive was a turning point, but it wasn't the beginning. It was just the climax of a deterioration of a relationship which has been going on for some time....
Generally, they should start from the point of recognizing that we're dealing with a new Turkey, one that is more assertive and self confident; we shouldn't expect Turkey to act as it did during the Cold War when it was sort of a junior partner. That doesn't mean our interests don't coincide in some areas, but we have to recognize that when it comes to the Middle East, U.S. and Turkish interests only partially coincide. The real issue is to manage those differences. It does not mean that Turkey is turning its back on the United States or on the West. It does not mean its policies are becoming Islamized, but we have to recognize the changes that have taken place structurally since the end of the Cold War and try to manage those divergences as best as we can".
F. Stephen Larrabee interview, "Managing a More Assertive Turkey," 3 June 2010, in www.cfr.org
"Turkey called for international punishment of Israel for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship,? telling a regional summit on Monday that Israel’s blockade of the territory should be lifted immediately. Leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Israel’s enemies Iran and Syria are to attend two-day Eurasian and Middle East talks in Istanbul at which Israel’s storming of the Turkish ship is likely to dominate discussions.
“The time has come to lift the embargo on Gaza,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a joint news conference with Syria’s President Bashar Assad of Syria. “We don’t want an open air prison in the world anymore.”
Turkey wants a final declaration by the Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) forum to condemn last Monday’s raid by Israeli commandos in which nine Turks were killed. “If CICA is the OECD of Asia then the final declaration of the summit should have a statement about Israel’s attack,” a Turkish official said, referring to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“If there was such an attack in Hungary, for example, then all OECD countries would have a say,” he added. Israel, a CICA member, is sending a diplomat from its consulate in Ankara rather than exposing a higher-ranking figure to the fury over the killings, which drew world censure. Erdogan, who has said nothing would ever be the same between the two nations, accused Israel of using disproportionate force and of committing a “war crime.” Assad, whose country is not a CICA member but is attending as a guest, struck a similar anti-Israeli note, saying the killings reflected “the nature of Israel....Israel committed this crime knowingly and the forensic experts showed these were murders,” Assad said.
Both Erdogan and Assad, who said “Turkish blood is not different from Arab blood,” called for an international investigation into the killings.
"Turkey demands Israel face punishment for flotilla raid," 7 June 2010 in www.dailystar.com.lb.
"Next to Iran, Nato member Turkey is now the biggest headache for the west. With Egypt sinking into torpor and Riyadh firmly ensconced on the fence between Washington and Tehran, Turkey has seen the leadership of the region up for grabs – and is going for it. It has drawn Syria into its orbit and has reached a nuclear deal with Iran, its rival for hegemony.
What better way to pursue this end than to lead a crusade against the Jewish state? Going after the “Little Satan” is the card that trumps them all, and it embarrasses the “Great Satan” to boot. The real game is about dominance at the expense of America, which US President Barack Obama has yet to grasp. Neither has Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. Sailing into the Turkish trap was a blunder worthy of General Custer at Little Big Horn....
Israel has Turkish guile and its own folly to thank for this tragedy. Israel must learn, as it should have after the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009, that for it to kill civilians is precisely what its enemies want. The US must learn that the real contest is between itself, Turkey and Iran. It is now up against both.
The arena extends from Ankara to Kabul, and the issue is who shall be umpire. Mr Obama thinks that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all trouble. If it were, Iran would not be trying to develop nuclear weapons and Turkey would not be seeking mastery over its ancient domain. Nor were Palestinians on the mind of the previous claimants to hegemony – from Nasser’s Egypt to Saddam’s Iraq. Remember that the deadliest and longest war in the region was between Iraq and Iran.
Terror in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan is not designed to uproot Jewish settlements. It is not Israel that motivates Syria’s recolonisation of Lebanon. Turkey and Iran are not vying for control so as to promote a two-state solution....
Palestine has got nothing to do with it".
Josef Joffe, "Turkey is making a play for regional power," 7 June 2010, in http://www.ft.com
I am not sure that I would entirely agree with Josef Joffe about Ankara and its 'new' foreign policy. Certainly, no one can disagree that whatever is motivating Turkey's verbal attacks on the state of Israel over last week's flotilla fiasco, the actual occurrence can hardly be said to be true reason. The disproportion between the Turkish leadership's verbal assault on Tel Aviv since the incident, and, its quieta non movere
diplomacy as per Persia's, Syria's and Sudan's human rights record, is too incongruous to pass without notice. Whether this degree of blatant hypocrisy on the part of Turkish Premier Erdogan is part and parcel of an attempt to seek 'mastery over its ancient domain,'
is to my mind questionable. Per se, there is no evidence that Turkey for example has begun to engage in an arms build-up, which would be the sine qua non, of any endeavor to recreate Ottoman Empire. Nor is there much in the way of evidence that Ankara is truly prepared to take-up the Nasserite burden of overtly opposing the Jewish State militarily. Much less the USA. Therefore, it is my surmise that the motivation for Turkey's new foreign policy is primarily internal, and, not external. Id est., another case of Primat de Innenpolitik
. As an American anthropologist has recently argued, the 'democratization' and the much more demotic nature of political discourse in Turkish politics, under the AKP has meant:
“Is that the far-right Islamists have captured the political issue of Gaza, and the government is using this for their purposes....It doesn’t mean that society is becoming more radicalized, but the radical segment of society has captured the issue of Gaza and the anti-Israel sentiment, which has a lot of political capital behind it.... The question is; how much does the government now owe the more radical organizations and segments of society who have captured this segment of public opinion?”
Yigal Schleifer, "Islamic NGO Setting Tone in Turkish-Israel Row over Gaza Flotilla Raid," 4 June 2010, in http://www.eurasianet.com
In essence a Turkish version of Hurrahpatriotismus
. And, therefore relatively harmless. And, should be treated as such, however annoying and indeed disgusting Erdogan's mots sound. Insofar as Asia Minor is no longer a great strategic prize that it was in the Cold War, a rather harmless political and diplomatic evolution. AKA, the West does not need Turkey as a strategic ally in the way that it did circa 1980 or even 1992. Where a possible problem may occur is that the rhetorical assaults that are being launched by the AKP government on Israel may in the future, give rise to expectations among the Turkish population, especially the AKP-inclined masses that might be difficult to control. What will be the upshot when Ankara proves that its bark is much worse than its bite, is something which may cause serious problems in the future. Problems which the AKP government may not be able to control.
THE GAZA FLOTILLA INCIDENT: ANOTHER COMMENT
“The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.
“The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.
“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary–General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.
“The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009). In that context, it reiterates its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.
“The Security Council underscores that the only viable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement negotiated between the parties and re-emphasizes that only a two-State solution, with an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours, could bring peace to the region.
“The Security Council expresses support for the proximity talks and voices concern that this incident took place while the proximity talks are under way and urges the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region.”
Full text of Presidential titled, "Security Council Condemns acts resulting in civilians deaths during Israeli Operations Against Gaza-bound aid convoy, calls for investigation in Presidential Statement," 1st of June A. D. 2010, in www.un.org/News.
"Israel's behavior should definitely, definitely be punished....No one should try to test Turkey's patience....The time has come for the international community to say 'enough....The United Nations must not stop at its resolution condemning Israel, but stand behind its resolution....Israel should lift the inhumane embargo on Gaza right away. Killing innocent people is a wicked recklessness,"
Turkish Premier Erdogan, "Turkey's PM says Israel should be punished," 1 June A. D. 2010, in www.reuters.com.
As predicted here a few days back, the Security Council has considerably watered down the rather predictable attempt by Turkey, et. al., to pass semi-hysterical resolutions condemning the Israeli action on the 31st of May. Specifically, of course the United States toned down considerably the move to condemn Israel's action. As also pointed out here the likelihood that the American government would allow the Council to pass a resolution condemning Israel was a complete non possumus
. The American Vice-President's statement today, overtly defending the Israeli action, being as it were for me merely, quod erat demonstrandum
(on this statement:"Biden backs Israel's right to stop Gaza-bound ships," 3 June, A. D. 2010, in www.reuter.com
). And, as the recent Israeli statements on the subject show rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my opinion), Tel Aviv has absolutely no intention of dismantling their blockade (on this see: "Netanyahu: World hypocritical for condemning Gaza Flotilla raid," 2 June A. D. 2010, in www.haaretz.com
). As for the regime in Istanbul, all one can say is that their reaction, nay gross over-reaction to the entire episode, betrays to my mind at the very least, some element of pleasure at what has occurred. So much so, that one is almost tempted to believe that the government in Ankara expected and indeed encouraged what has unfortunately happened. Otherwise the near hysterical condemnation of the Israelis appears to be rather grossly exaggerated. Especially, since one does not hear much in the way of condemnation by the AK government of human rights abuses of a much more flagrant nature by its new-found allies in Tehran, Damascus and Khartoum...But, as the great Lord Salisbury observed to the German Ambassador to the Porte over one hundred years ago:
"For the Turkish Ministers Lord Salisbury merely expresses utter contempt. He considers them incapable of conducting any serious negotiations whatever....He doubts whether, even if the intentions of the rulers of Turkey were more honest than they are, the universal corruption of the governing classes would permit the establishment of stable conditions".
Quoted in Freiherr von Werther to Bernhard von Bulow, 14 January A. D., 1877, see: German Diplomatic Documents, 1871-1914, Volume One, Edited & translated by E. T. S. Dugdale, 1928, p. 46.
A state of affairs which at least on the diplomatic front has not changed very much since the above statement was made...
THE 'GAZA FLOTTILA INCIDENT', A 'SECOND EXODUS' FOR ISRAEL?
"Internationally, there is little doubt that the incident will generate a firestorm. Certainly, Turkey will break cooperation with Israel. Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States — by far the most important in the equation — might shift to a “plague-on-both-your-houses” position.
While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel’s isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen.
The tougher Israel is, the more the flotilla’s narrative takes hold. As the Zionists knew in 1947 and the Palestinians are learning, controlling public opinion requires subtlety, a selective narrative and cynicism. As they also knew, losing the battle can be catastrophic. It cost Britain the Mandate and allowed Israel to survive. Israel’s enemies are now turning the tables. This maneuver was far more effective than suicide bombings or the Intifada in challenging Israel’s public perception and therefore its geopolitical position (though if the Palestinians return to some of their more distasteful tactics like suicide bombing, the Turkish strategy of portraying Israel as the instigator of violence will be undermined).
Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.
And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it".
George Friedman, "Flotillas and Wars of Public Opinion," 31 May 2010, in www.stratfor.com
"The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.
The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza. We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international NGOs and the UN, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction materials, through the border crossings, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. However, Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and work of nongovernmental organizations, and its use and endorsement of violence, complicates efforts in Gaza. Mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by governments and groups that wish to do so. These mechanisms should be used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region."
Philip J. Crowley, Official State Department statement on 'Free Gaza Flotilla,'
31 May 2010, in www.state.gov.
"C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute."
Comte Charles Maurce de Talleyrand-Perigord, on the official murder of the Duc d'Enghien in 1804. Also attributed to Joseph Fouche & Antoine Bourlay de la Meurthe.
Notwithstanding the undoubtedly unfortunate and most regrettable loss of life on the high seas this week-end just past, the fact of the matter is that one would have to take a rather emotional and therefore not very accurate and realistic view of things to believe that much in the way of existing circumstances, id est., realities will change as a result of this horrid incident. Just as the 'Exodus', and the fall-out from the same, did not cause the British to surrender the Palestine Mandate in 1947-1948 (the real reason is that Britain could not afford to retain the Mandate given its economic crisis at the time), it is highly unlikely, nay indeed I venture to state for the record, a complete non-possumus
, to imagine that: i
) the Americans will allow a Security Council condemnation of Israel to be approved. The State Department's statement is rather clear evidence of this very empirical fact; ii
) that the Israeli government will phase-out the blockade of the Gaza Strip, sans the Hamas government's official recognition of Israel; iii
) that the Netanyahu government will fall as a result of the fall-out from the incident; iv
) that anyone outside of perhaps Turkey will do anything of substance about either 'i' or 'ii' above. Apropos the Netanyahu government falling `a la Stratfor's George Friedman. This seems an extremely unlikely result, since the operation was headed by what is seen to be the weakest link in Netanyahu's coalition: ex-premier Ehud Barak. As long as Barak's Labour Party remains in the coalition, then there are slim chances that the coalition will fall from power. As per the 'isolation' of Israel: in the absence of trade sanctions, which no one is talking of imposing, the phrase is quite meaningless. Especially, since the American Administration is incapable of even hinting at slapping Israel on the wrist, for this or any other incident. Regardless of any fantastic ideas to the contrary that one reads in the bien pensant European press (viz: The Financial Times leader for the 1st of June: "Israel lost at Sea," in www.ft.com
). In short, one may agree with Talleyrand that what occurred was worse than a crime it was a mistake. Just as was said here back in January of 2009, over 'Operation Lead'
. That per se, does not change the realities on the ground: that Israel has the whip hand to do as it pleases, and concretely speaking there is nothing that anyone can do about it. At least for the time being.