Using Democracy to Kill It

Hitler famously exploited democratic rules to gain the power to destroy German democracy, the result being World War II. The lessons are clear: 1) democracy and the liberties it is supposed to deliver are about something far more profound than winning elections or gaining the momentary support of a majority; 2) forgetting this lesson can be catastrophic. Nonetheless, the historical examples of populations momentarily putting their freedom in the hands of a single man, who then uses this power to control them, are so numerous that far more effort should be put into studying how wanna-be dictators gain the momentary adulation of a naive population…and unfortunately there is nothing so naive as a population that enjoys civil liberties, because they forget so quickly that dictatorship is the natural order of things.

So consider this scenario:

Using Democracy to Kill It

Suppose a leader wanted the absolute control necessary to lead his country in a dramatically new direction that he knew was opposed by a majority of his people. Suppose that he launched an ethnic war against a minority group that was mostly loyal to the homeland but increasingly successful in democratic politics…and insisting on the right to express an independent viewpoint, one that would not toe the ambitious leader’s new line. When his concocted ethnic war failed to unite the rest of the population behind him, suppose the leader then meticulously tracked the political attitudes of soldiers, police, judges, journalists, and educators, making a list of the thousands who held opinions that differed from his own. Then suppose that he started a rumor that a certain faction was plotting rebellion and that he not only had such a list but was about to use it to purge everyone not obedient to him? One can imagine that such a scenario might well provoke a dissatisfied faction to fall into the crafty leader’s trap by launching a premature coup.

Rather than debating the details of how this scenario might be playing out in some real-world case, the bigger question would be, “How can a society retain civil liberties if the ruling faction is taking full advantage of events to impose dictatorship by playing to the crowd (mob)?” After all, “mob rule” is technically democratic as long as a majority joins the mob, right? Since Augustus destroyed the increasingly self-defeating Roman Republic in its final corrupt days by proclaiming his dedication to the people, history has been filled with examples of leaders who greased the wheels of dictatorship by trumpeting their love for freedom. People voted with their feet for Lenin; people voted with ballots for Hitler. Superior indeed is the society that can see through such trickery.

It will happen again. When it does, will political scientists be able to see it as it unfolds, understand the process, and be able to explain it well enough to help the voters who are being tricked or to guide policy-makers in other regimes on how to minimize the damage?

Among the many methods for peering into the future, one of the simplest in concept (very complicated in practice but with the inestimable attribute of being totally transparent when examined step-by-step) is the mapping of the conceptual chains explaining the dynamics.

The dynamics are the things that change. When democratic procedures are misused to install a dictatorship, first the way the rules are used changes, and then the rules themselves change. The spirit of democracy centers on the two-sided coin of majority rule plus minority rights. A budding dictator will use the existing rule of majority rule to ram through policies without regard for minority opinions in a vicious zero-sum approach. He will likely accompany this with a campaign of ethnic (e.g., “it’s all the fault of Group X”) or political (e.g., “anyone who opposes me is a traitor”)slander.

Once he has whipped up the baser emotions of the majority and grabbed power by these subtle shifts in how the rules are used, he will take the bolder second step of changing the rules. The “democratic” passage of a harsh new law that is then applied retroactively is a canary in the mine of rising dictatorship. College students in the U.S. who studied Russian during WWII, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were allies, suddenly found in the 1950s that their former classroom work was destroying their careers under budding strongman Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused them of being traitors simply because they had studied the language of “the enemy.” A second canary in the mine of budding dictators is suddenly to assert that criticism equals disloyalty, again of course applied retroactively. The careful dictator wannabe will be careful to wait until the mob is indeed whipped up before trying this patently absurd claim. Amazingly, it works like magic, over and over. Such rule changes make “slam dunk clear” that the days of liberty are gone.

Now returning to the question of developing a conceptual mapping of the dynamics underlying the rise of authoritarianism by democratic means, a re-reading of the above discussion of changes in the way the rules of democratic behavior are used and changes in the rules themselves reveals quite a number of concepts and how they are linked.

  • Blaming a religious or ethnic minority – a trait you were born with is almost never the source of society’s problems, and virtually every politician knows this, but such irresponsible politicians also know that telling lies about “those others with that religion” or “those others of that race” can oil their drive for power if done under just the right circumstances.

Thus, one could start the conceptual map with the concept “minority is to blame” which requires a contributing event (e.g., violence by one individual who happens to belong to the victim minority). Now, we have one tiny path toward a drive for power by means of a persuasive hoax. Keep adding concepts, think about when they may link together in some causal way, and soon you will have a complicated map of (more than likely) a vast network of paths that can lead you from here (democracy) to there (dictatorship).

Then, sit back and ask yourself, “Is there any country in the world right this minute that this conceptual mapping seems to be talking about?”

Sectarian War Principles

If the title insulted your sense of decency, well, good – it should have: sectarian war and principles are two concepts that should not go together.

The Wall St. Journal just published an interesting review of the Kurdish campaign against a key Islamic State-controlled town on the Syrian-Turkish border, noting that Ankara is supposedly worried about Kurdish expansion into Arab regions of Syria and that Washington recognizes that the Kurds should not lead the assault on the traditionally Sunni Arab city of Raqqa. Then the Journal stops, for U.S. newspapers seldom address fundamental issues of principle. But the principle is the point.

For once I can comfortably concur with both Washington and Ankara: yes, the U.S. should avoid supporting a Kurdish attack on an Arab region. But the reason is not to cut a backroom deal with Erdogan or for any other tactical goal. The reason is that the U.S. should discourage sectarian warfare, even by “good guys,” because when men in white hats engage in sectarian warfare, their hats get dirty. Was that too cute? Sectarian warfare turns decent soldiers into criminals; decent societies into repressive societies. Societies that do not believe in making war on cities, committing torture, committing genocide find themselves doing so and thus change, decline. Need I cite examples? Yeah, this is a hard issue for Americans, so some examples could include one Lt. Calley from my sad generation, the French experience in Algeria, and any number of campaigns in the U.S. Civil War. The principle is: no sectarian war.

By definition, the principle is not restricted to “the other side.” If we have principles, we are supposed to live up to them…otherwise, they aren’t principles but tools. So, just as Kurds should not run a campaign against Arabs, Israelis should not be in military occupation of Palestine, Shi’i military forces should not be taking control of Sunni cities in Iraq, and ethnic Turks should not be occupying ethnic Kurdish areas of Turkey. Yes, indeed, principles get embarrassing. But without a moral compass, politicians do not know where they are going.

Every U.S. diplomatic conversation with Ankara should note this principle. Sectarian war is a double-edged sword with no handle. If Ankara cannot find citizens of Kurdish descent in sufficient numbers to maintain peace in Kurdish regions, then something is fundamentally wrong with the Turkish socio-political system. Change could  be brought about by stressing the desire to recruit and promote Kurdish Turks for military/police service in the Kurdish region, just as the (black) head of a certain U.S. city recently invited blacks to apply for jobs as police. If Ankara is not willing to have those Turkish citizens who identify themselves as ethnically Kurdish in the military and police in units defending security in Kurdish regions, local governance run by people locally elected, pupils taught by local Kurdish teachers, local Kurdish opinions represented in the media, and everyone having the option of voting for a party of their choice, then Ankara should offer peaceful division in accordance with the results of a referendum in each electoral district.  Black (Palestinian/Sunni/Kurdish/white) lives matter. If a regime (or government at any level)  wants to rule, it is the responsibility of that authority to entice the broad mass of the population throughout the area it proposes to rule into accepting that rule.*

If Erdogan or Netanyahu or whoever rejects this noble advice, then the relevant states do not deserve to be called “allies.” Washington does not approve of  Beijing’s attitude toward Tibet; China is not a U.S. ally: we do not need to start a war or refuse to interact, but the disagreement on principle sets a certain limit. “Alliance” carries with it costs and rewards; it should amount to something more than just tactical convenience. We Americans could of course sound a bit more sincere if we started by applying this principle more carefully at home.

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  • That is democracy; the whole voting thing is just a method. Of course, “off with their heads” is another way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

The Irony of Zero-Sum Blindness

Zero-sum leadership is the way of the world: grab what you can, as fast as you can, and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.* The irony of this zero-sum mentality is that, while it is rooted in a desire for power, a much more effective approach to attaining power is there for the taking by any leader willing to open his or her eyes and search for opportunities.

Leaders will always want power on some level: after all, one leads to accomplish something. Unfortunately, most leaders are so self-absorbed that they cannot visualize any more effective way of influencing events than the zero-sum approach of grabbing and wolfing down the biggest piece of the pie. Naturally, the minute one leader behaves like this, the rest join in, and most of the pie gets spilled on the floor.

Exactly who really ended up with any significant degree of useful “power” in Iraq after a generation of zero-sum spitting and scratching? All sides poured in resources without restraint, resulting in social, economic, and political collapse requiring endless, daily, additional inputs of resources. Iraq, rich in resources and a generation ago boasting a growing middle class, has become a global “power sink:” everyone who touches it becomes weaker.

The end of the Cold War presented Washington and Moscow with an historic opportunity to replace zero-sum cold war with an obvious positive-sum deal: diminish the roles of military alliances on each side, let Ukraine stand on its own as a truly neutral new state; and concentrate on leading the world in baking a new, bigger economic pie…enhancing the long-term power of both sides. This opportunity, albeit clearly seen by thinkers on both sides, was essentially missed as the result of short-sighted arrogance, with the result that both the U.S. and Russia today find themselves in weaker positions than they could easily have attained.

Power” does not mean looking good; it means being able to have true, sustained influence. Too bad this is a bit subtle for most politicians. The ironic thing is that the reins of “power” can often far more effectively be held by holding them gently.

  • Instead of invading an oil-producing country and provoking a national revolt, one can offer to buy the oil and thereby gain great influence over the seller (not to mention getting the oil much more cheaply).

  • Instead of provoking a civil war no one can win, a war that destroys a functioning society and distracts outside powers from concentrating on improving their own societies, a war that provokes the emergence of new and more dangerous adversaries, a pair of regional competitors for power could compromise by agreeing to the neutrality of the weak neighbor. There is, for example, more than enough sand in Syria to support both a Saudi oil pipeline and an Iranian pipeline.

Opportunities for leaders to gain power abound. At the moment, Moscow and Washington have an opportunity to cut a deal on Syria that is likely to benefit both of them greatly over the long term. Riyadh and Tehran could reach a deal on Yemen would save both of them great future problems. Ankara could offer the Kurds a deal.

But to take advantage of such opportunities, leaders must open their eyes. We need leaders who look at the world instead of in the mirror! Opportunities are out there, if leaders would only look for them. Like snow-blindness overcoming a skier who rushes onto the slope without dark glasses, the newly victorious leader striding onto the world stage is blinded by his own sudden glory: zero-sum blindness prevents him from seeing precisely the power-enhancing opportunity he was searching for. Yet another self-perceived hero bites the dust. What bitter irony thus to snatch defeat from the smiling mouth of the angel of victory!

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*I gratefully acknowledge having been inspired to write this essay by Moszep’s comment on al-Monitor.com.

How Many Times Can a Sane Person Intentionally Make the Same Mistake?

Despite disaster after disaster, politicians keep cooperating with Salafi extremists to serve their own private agendas. It is time to hold these politicians accountable.

History should have taught us all by now that “giving al-Qaeda a pass” amounts to aiding and abetting global terrorism. Sadly, there are those in many so-called civilized, advanced countries who either are so confused that they can’t resist promoting terrorism in the name of peace or who actually do not care how much terrorism they provoke as long as they personally benefit.

It is not just a few remote spots that most in the West never even used to think about that are being destroyed by the wide range of extremists who are united in their faith in the utility of violence. Not that long ago, it was Afghanistan, Gaza, Waziristan, and Somalia. Then, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria joined the list of “failures of governance.” Now Turkish Kurdistan–a big chunk of what only five years ago appeared to be the most progressive country in the Mideast–is being added to the list. In all this time, now almost four decades, with all these open-ended failures, has violence scored a single success for world civilization? How many lessons does it take to demonstrate to rational people that we need a better approach?

Just for a single example, nothing forced those responsible to use an international air campaign to settle the Yemeni civil war.

Any number of rules could be laid down as guidelines to judge politicians’ behavior. Again, just for one example, Washington could state flatly that no regime using white phosphorous–a terror weapon if there ever was one–against a population under its formal authority would henceforth be considered a “friendly” regime. Perhaps Washington could also pass a law stating that any use of white phosphorous by the U.S. would constitute grounds for immediate removal from office of the department chief responsible and grounds for impeachment of the sitting President if he participated in a cover-up. But no, we wouldn’t want to tie our own hands, would we? I mean, the stuff can be so…convenient!

Democracy, liberty, peace, civilization–it is all going to go up in flames unless we start holding politicians accountable for their terror-provoking behavior. The discussion will be embarrassing; no doubt about it. Too bad. We cannot afford to allow politicians to keep making this mistake.

Guilt

To end the horrifying pattern of violence against the innocent, official regimes must end their exploitation of extremism to serve their own short-sighted agendas. Of the several lessons that initial evidence suggests can be drawn from the latest attack by (according to Ankara) Islamic State against Turkey, the guilt of various regimes is the most prominent.

Ankara is guilty of facilitating this week’s attack on Turkey by its encouragement of Salafi extremism as a tool for Turkish foreign policy and by its use of Salafi extremism as a cover for the political, economic, and military repression of the Kurdish population of Turkey.

Moscow is guilty for having chosen repression of Chechnya’s aspirations for independence back when Putin was building his power grab. That decision empowered Chechen extremists by denying both independence and participation in Russian politics as equals to all Chechens.

A third lesson from this week’s attack is the timing of the Salafis’ attack–taking advantage of the particular religious schedule of Ramadan to facilitate their attack on “fellow Muslims.” What true Muslims would behave like this? The real Muslim community needs to wake up and clarify its position toward the violence-prone individuals who claim ownership of the concept of “Islam,” and this of course includes the AKP: Salafi extremists are not legitimate partners.

Playing ball with extremists, who win by spreading chaos to confuse the masses, is playing into the extremists’ hands. Any number of countries over the past generation have suffered at the hands of leaders who played this selfish game, often winning elections, always harming their own societies. Another complicit politician will always be ready to take such advantage of ignorant voters until voters learn the price they pay for electing such leaders. Many of the world’s major countries have been led by politicians who pretend to be modern and responsible but act more like the semi-barbarian leaders of Europe during the Thirty Years War or of France during the 16th century religious-based civil war. If we stop and think, we of the 21st century know better…don’t we?

When Moscow offers Chechnya a just compromise, and when Ankara offers its own citizens of Kurdish descent a just compromise, and when both stop using the Islamic State as a tool for their ambitions in Syria, then the world will be on the road to resolving the issue of “terrorism,” as others are fond of labeling Muslim instability.

 

Is the World Spinning Backwards?

In socio-political terms, in terms of global civilization, it is no longer clear that humanity is making progress. Yes, Chinese are accumulating more wealth–which is certainly better than Western opium wars, warlordism, or Maoist excesses–and a vision of clean energy is taking hold in Europe. Yet, on the whole, the forward march of mankind seems all too frequently to be turning into a hesitant one-step-forward-two-steps-back. If we are indeed reaching a tipping point threatening to deprive us of the hard-won progress of the bloody 20th century, now would be a good time to start facing up to reality.

The post-war era–yes, I am referring to WWII–is over; it is time to toss aside the forecasts that almost all of us have been carrying in our heads based on the outcome of WWI and the boom of the 50s (in terms both of economics and decolonization). It is even time to toss aside assumpti0ns based on the later evaporation of the Cold War and rise of global democracy. None of the straight-line projections regarding American power or the popularity of late 20th century Western values any longer merit being taken for granted.

The challenges are clear, albeit more often than not still being denied by ruling elites: global warming, sectarian conflict, great power addiction to “war is the answer;” environmental degradation; the alienation, desperation, and orgy of destruction of Muslim societies across the globe from Bangladesh to Brussels; the accelerating neo-capitalist/neo-colonialist war against not just former colonies but now Detroit, Wisconsin public workers, Greece, Puerto Rico, and indeed the whole U.S. middle class. But where are the visionary leaders, the reform movements?

America? The dominant trend in the U.S. today is a self-destructive class war by the rich to reverse the New Deal: a slow-rolling financial bulldozer wrecking the late 20th century Western values that Americans are now so fond of taking for granted as self-evident natural rights despite the obvious fact that Western values even in recent historical periods have also included Stalinism, fascism, racism, and colonialism. Making this self-destructive trend much worse is the replacement of strategic vision in foreign policy by a short-sighted but emotionally satisfying (and, not incidentally, profitable for the individuals driving that financial bulldozer) assumption that war is the answer, with the more subtle advocates of using the big hammer we possess simply because we possess the biggest such hammer arguing that the growing record of military failures only proves that the solution is simply to redesign the hammer (economic warfare, Stuxnet, drones, or regime change by the manipulation of terror gangs). Yes, Bernie’s movement may change this somber prognosis concerning the future of America, but right now that seems a bit of a long shot: the lessons of both the series of wars in Muslim societies and the Great Recession of 2008 have quite effectively been swept under the political rug by the ruling elite. In result, our thinking about the prognosis for the U.S. over the foreseeable future must focus less on the question of the degree to which the U.S. can continue to advance than on the question of how much further backwards the U.S. is going to slide in a political context of elite enrichment at the expense of the 99% both domestically and globally.

Europe? Recent history is supposed, in the West, to have centered on a U.S.-European partnership in which the momentary missteps of one would always be covered by the leadership of the other. The nastiness of German dismissal of Greek social needs, the absence of European vision regarding the Muslim world–particularly Europe’s morally challenged attitude toward Muslim refugees, and England’s stinging rejection of European unity–indicate that the world cannot rely on Europe to replace a declining America. 

China? China, vastly impressing everyone with its dramatic march toward the level of a second-rate society with–already–world-class achievements in total economic size and even R&D, might just barely manage to reform its politics enough to surpass the governance of an increasingly corrupt U.S. Communist China with a better quality government than the U.S.? That should be a sufficiently shocking concept to awaken everyone on the Potomac…except that such concepts are not remotely entertained on the Potomac, the admirably cautious and low-key progress of China’s current positive-sum foreign policy based on quiet economic deals in all directions notwithstanding. Progress to date notwithstanding, the difficulty that China is having, even when at peace with the rest of the world, in coming to terms with breathtaking levels of pollution, aging of a population that will become increasingly desperate for health services and care for the old (N.B.: a problem even the rich U.S. has hardly begun to address), and the dangers of corruption in a country lacking a solid rule of law all suggest that China’s progress over the last two decades is likely to slow significantly.

The BRICs? Putin’s recent tactical brilliance may put Russia back on the world stage, but new Russian prominence is more the eager filling of a vacuum than a reassertion of superpower status. As for the rest of the powers at the edge of the stage, Erdogan–provoking ethnic conflict to undermine nascent Turkish democracy–is busy pushing Turkey backwards; India is overwhelmed with domestic social issues; Mexico is fighting a desperate drug war; Brazil, perhaps with the encouragement of Americans still dreaming of the Monroe Doctrine, is committing suicide in a sad determination to reject all the hope of social reform and a turn toward democracy represented by the vision of Lula. India needs to offer justice to its Muslims while the proponents of dictatorship are marshaling their forces in Turkey, Brazil, and Russia.

The Muslim World? While everyone in and looking at the Muslim world focuses on the mad struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran or the spreading sectarian conflict ripping apart Muslim societies–with the active encouragement of all manner of outsiders, the real threat to the Mideast is global warming. The Mideast does indeed, as the West believes, represent a huge danger for the West but that danger is less terror than an unmanageable flood of climate refugees as global warming increasingly makes life impossible due to heat, drought, the loss of water, and the collapse of agriculture. The Mideast may prove to be the canary in the mine regarding the question of whether or not the world can learn in time to deal with global warming. So far, it seems that the worse the climate gets, the more our actions will serve to exacerbate the peril.

Nowhere does there appear to be much focus on anything but short-term, zero-sum squabbles:  the war of the rich against the middle class and culture wars in the U.S. or sectarian efforts to redivide an ever smaller pie in the Mideast. The world is confused, leaderless, and uninspired. Washington blew its historic opportunity to build a genuinely new relationship with post-Soviet Russia. The West watched, motionless, while progressives risked their lives during the now failed Arab Spring. One has the sense that Obama’s breakthrough with Iran will fail due to the inability of Washington to conceptualize a truly positive-sum implementation. No regime anywhere appears to understand the opportunity presented by the millions of Syrian refugees desperate for evidence that there is a place for them, somewhere on earth, to build a new, peaceful, secure society. Old assumptions are increasingly questionable, and it is more and more uncertain what, aside from a slow crawl backwards, exists to replace them.

 

 

Bring Back the American Dream

Keep moving forward; get better organized; defeat the forces of war, fascism, racism, and corruption. Elizabeth defined the financial challenge against Wall St. corruption; Bernie transformed “socialist” from a swearword to a compliment: this is impressive progress. Fill the Supreme Court vacancy; win the Senate; overturn Citizens United: bring back the American Dream.

A shift of fundamental potential has occurred in the so very middle-of-the-road, conventionally-minded American public: the most popular politician in America is a socialist. If the voting public permanently shifts from supporting elitist politicians short on vision, focused on self, and eager to look tough by using violence toward supporting politicians who put society first, i.e., who work for the common good (rather than the welfare of billionaires), then the efforts of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will put the U.S. back on its historical path toward democracy. Having the first U.S. female president may, along the way, not be a bad thing…as long as progressives pull her into the future rather than her pulling the U.S. back into its traditional sins of elite financial and environmental abuses, domestic police brutality, and international aggression.

To understand the tipping point at which U.S. society now stands does not require a detailed analysis of the long Western war to control Mideast oil at the expense of local Muslim societies, the endless financial corruption of Wall St. as it transfers the wealth of the U.S. middle class into the pockets of the 0.1%, the short-sighted exploitation of the environment for corporate enrichment, the brutal police repression of the urban poor, the rejection by the rich of the principle of universal health care, or the implacable elite hostility to public financing of truly democratic elections: all these particular policies are really just logical elements of an overall strategy for government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Progressives need to take not just the long view but a broad view. The long-term progressive vision of fundamental reform rather than crowd-seducing band-aids is the core of genuine progress. A stable, productive society, as any progressive knows, requires economic security for all via the spreading of the available resources. The U.S. is lucky: it has plenty of money; the current economic malaise results not from the nation being impoverished but from the intentional misallocation of resources out of the productive working and middle class into the hands of the idle and frequently misbehaving rich. Be it Goldman Sachs prostitutes or the scandal of Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, it is the corruption of the billionaires that puts American workers on the dole. More, all progressives understand that civil liberties rest on democracy, democracy rests on free elections, and free elections depend on having an educated citizenry empowered by “one person, one vote.” The elite, in contrast, clearly recognizes that its own cherished freedom to be as irresponsible as it desires rests on a cowed, uneducated, poorly paid electorate that votes on the basis of emotions formed by the carefully biased nonsense of the TV evening news plus “one dollar, one vote.” Real control, when needed by the elite, comes in two forms that constitute two sides of the same repressive coin: war against foreign reform movements (such as many of the factions of “politically active Islam”) that challenge Western manipulation of global oil supplies and police brutality against domestic popular democratic activism, whether by black urban poor or white college kids (e.g., Occupy Wall St.).

But taking the long view–promoting a pro-society political agendaenough. In addition to the impressive progressive ability to define a socially responsible long view, progressives must also take the broad view: the Occupy Wall St. struggle, the struggle of local government employees (police, teachers, firemen) to protect their contracts in Wisconsin, the struggle of blacks for police protection rather than repression are in fact each components of one struggle. Only the solid unification of these disparate groups is likely to enable the gathering of sufficient momentum for real reform. The progressive movement needs to turn itself into “a house united.” Hillary’s victory would represent a milestone for sexual equality, and her early championing of health care reform gives her, conservative as she has become, another link to the American reform movement, so the potential for her to play a useful supporting role exists, although it is no longer easy to imagine her leading the way. She should be encouraged to join up, and Senator Warren is the obvious bridge.

By the same token, a mansion divided against itself cannot stand; international aggression, aggression against the poor, controlled elections all go together in a bundle of rules designed to control society for the benefit of the elite. It is critically important that progressives understand the tight linkages between anti-democratic pressures within the U.S. and the repressive nature, even under Obama, of a U.S. foreign policy that remains addicted to force as the solution despite the counterproductive results of pouring gasoline on the fires of developing world politics.

A generation ago these words would have sounded hopelessly naive; a decade ago, even more so. But now–as the result of the shocks of 9/11, the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico by Big Oil, the scam of Citizen’s United, the great leap backwards of the U.S. economy after the 2008 recession and bailout of the billionaires, and the long series of military outcomes undermining long-term U.S. national security in an endless war against Muslim societies—the U.S. voting public has managed to bestir itself enough to put the breath of life back into the American Dream of that other bundle of rules designed to control…well…the forces of repression: elections based on voting not money, the fair sharing of resources, a foreign policy of accommodation rather than dominance, civil liberties, and quality education for all. No victory has yet been achieved, but at least a future in which the common good defines the standard against which to measure our behavior and our leaders’ behavior now appears before us not just as an idealistic daydream but a genuine possibility.

So keep moving forward; get better organized; defeat the forces of war, fascism, racism, and corruption. Elizabeth defined the financial challenge against Wall St. corruption; Bernie transformed “socialist” from a swearword to a compliment: this is impressive progress. Fill the Supreme Court vacancy; win the Senate; overturn Citizens United: bring back the American Dream.

Bernie Has Already Won

Superficial reporters keep asking if Bernie really thinks he can win. Bernie has already won. Bernie is the only candidate in this election representing the people and fighting for democracy. Hillary is so self-satisfied it would have nauseated the brilliant young woman with a law degree from Yale who “doesn’t bake cookies”–had she only known what she would turn into. Trump is running a campaign of brain-dead hatred that reminds one of the young Hitler more and more every day.

Bernie, however, has changed the political environment, laid the groundwork for a future based on the renewal of American democracy by focusing debate on cleaning our own house first. Setting that desperately needed priority in a land possessing more power than its leaders or people have any idea how to employ properly, for our own long term benefit, is a contribution that only a handful of American politicians before him ever accomplished.

That handful no living American politician. Obama tried but ended up kneeling before the corrupt elite, Hillary once appeared headed for greatness before falling in love with her own new position as card-carrying member of the elite.

Bernie, in contrast, has already achieved a renewal. We are depending on him to continue his campaign, to sharpen the content of his message, and to lead progressives in Washington for the rest of his remarkable career…whether he speaks from the bully pulpit or not.

 

 

For a Great America

Platform for a reformed and regenerated exceptional America…

  1. One man, one vote: Terminate Citizens United to restore democracy. A government controlled by billionaires will never be just.

  2. Never too big to jail: Create a financial system for society, not for billionaires.

  3. Criminalize war-profiteering: End foreign policy for the war-profiteering elite. Foreign policy will not be made in the interest of society as long as elections can be bought.

  4. Only one world: Make the economy serve the environment. The truly wealthy are those with fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Logic Raises a Clear Target: Salafi Violence in Yemen

Invaluable as research may be, logic raises a clear target. Attack the target at will, but don’t pretend it is not there.

Events are blips chained together in a complex, adaptive array never visible in its entirety at a glance. One narrative to make comprehensible the events in Yemen over the past year holds that Riyadh sent its military into Yemen “to fight the Houthis.” Perhaps, but it takes a lot of explaining to sell this intricate interpretation of events. By Ockham’s Razor (shave away extraneous detail), when A.) a semi-Salafi regime intervenes in a civil war, with B.) the readily predictable and predicted impact of aggravating the level of social chaos and thus empowering a range of semi-independent Salafi rebel groups, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of he who would argue that A was not done for the purpose of achieving B.

Is this attempt to reduce the complexity of Yemen to a clear logical statement still overly detailed? Shave again:

If a regime implements a long-term policy that steadily and visibly empowers a particular faction within the regime, then the longer the policy is maintained, the greater the justification for assuming that the regime supported said faction from the start.

Perhaps Riyadh cannot or at least does not bother to differentiate among its various foreign policy goals, e.g., defeating the Houthi effort to create a Yemeni state independent of Saudi Arabia or at least defend its own autonomy, opposing the rising regional influence of Iran, dominating regional oil and gas reserves, and radicalizing Sunni Islam. In truth, at a certain level of analysis and for a certain period of time, these goals are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, one cannot have four goals all of which are primary, and the Saudi Yemen war has consistently benefited only the goal of empowering the most radical branch of Sunni Islam–that branch espoused by the Islamic State and al Qua’ida.

Perhaps some Saudi officials are primarily pursuing a greater hydrocarbon empire. Perhaps some Western officials and CEO’s, not contemplating too deeply the risk of that war backfiring and destabilizing the whole Saudi sand castle, think they will benefit by arming this hydrocarbon empire. But, by Ockham’s Razor, the core truth of the Saudi Yemen war appears to be the over-riding desire in Riyadh to control and radicalize Sunni Islam. The simple “Ockham’s Razor” line of reasoning proves nothing; it is not intended to do so. It is intended to provide a logical starting point for analysis when evidence is inconclusive. The truth may indeed be far more complicated, but to the degree that the simple inference that radicalizing Islam is the core Saudi goal has validity, then the West should ask itself if a more radicalized Islam is indeed the outcome that it desires; the West should ask itself if a destroyed Yemen or a Yemen ruled by al Qua’ida in the Arabic Peninsula would indeed be a good thing…for those are the outcomes that the year-long Saudi military campaign in Yemen is in the process of achieving, and by Ockham’s Razor, the world seems logically entitled to infer that such an outcome was intended from the beginning.

Regarding world affairs, innocence is a claim that cannot be taken  on faith.

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