Cultural Argument reviewed

Check out this article at Znet assessing some of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington’s argument. Interesting in some points and overblown in others such as linkink “political Islam” to American foreign policy which is not completely the case. US foreign policy plays a role no doubt about that, but there are internal factors such as the lack of political representations and the failure of social changes with the help of other political forces.

PNAC letter

to increase the level of military forces:

We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government. This nation can afford a robust defense posture along with a strong fiscal posture. And we can afford both the necessary number of ground troops and what is needed for transformation of the military.

In sum: We can afford the military we need. As a nation, we are spending a smaller percentage of our GDP on the military than at any time during the Cold War. We do not propose returning to a Cold War-size or shape force structure. We do insist that we act responsibly to create the military we need to fight the war on terror and fulfill our other responsibilities around the world.

Ah neocons were always cold war nostalgics. Guess who lobbies for that?

Ilan Berman, long time no see

Do you remember the guy who wrote about why confronting Iran is necessary, with a detailed set of policy recommendations on how to go about this? Well, he just wrote an article linking Palestinian “terror” to Iranian aid. It’s good to see how each one of these guys have his own area of work for the benefits of US foreign policy.

Jim Lobe on Douglas Feith

Here:

Combined with several other personnel shifts, as well as a concerted effort to reassure the public and U.S. allies abroad that last week’s messianic inaugural address did not portend any dramatic new foreign policy departures, the resignation of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith suggests that the administration is deliberately shedding its sharper and more radical edges.

(…)

Speculation about who may replace Feith includes Bolton, I. Lewis Libby, another neoconservative hardliner and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and Richard Lawless, the more pragmatic, if hawkish, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia.

But Elliott Abrams, Rice’s former Middle East advisor, is considered the inside pick. Although neoconservative, Abrams is considered more flexible – and far more diplomatic – than either Feith or Bolton.

A day in the life of Michael Rubin

Two articles are present one in the Forward and one in Haaretz. It’s amazing how neocons choose their publications!

Feith to leave the Defense department

Here. There is a possibility that Scooter Libby would replace him according to Laura Rozen.

The fallacy in the export of democracy

Read this terrific article by historian Eric Hobsbawm that appeared originally in the December issue of Le Monde Diplomatique:

While threatening the integrity of universal values, the campaign to spread democracy will not succeed. The 20th century demonstrated that states could not simply remake the world or abbreviate historical transformations. Nor can they easily effect social change by transferring institutions across borders. The conditions for effective democratic government are rare: an existing state enjoying legitimacy, consent and the ability to mediate conflicts between domestic groups. Without such consensus, there is no single sovereign people and therefore no legitimacy for arithmetical majorities. When this consensus is absent, democracy has been suspended (as is the case in Northern Ireland), the state has split (as in Czechoslovakia), or society has descended into permanent civil war (as in Sri Lanka). “Spreading democracy” aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989.

The effort to spread standardised western democracy also suffers a fundamental paradox. A growing part of human life now occurs beyond the influence of voters – in transnational public and private entities that have no electorates. And electoral democracy cannot function effectively outside political units such as nation-states. The powerful states are therefore trying to spread a system that even they find inadequate to meet today’s challenges.

Europe proves the point. A body such as the European Union could develop into a powerful and effective structure precisely because it has no electorate other than a small number of member governments. The EU would be nowhere without its “democratic deficit”, and there can be no legitimacy for its parliament, for there is no “European people”. Unsurprisingly, problems arose as soon as the EU moved beyond negotiations between governments and became the subject of democratic campaigning in the member states.

It would have been difficult for me to express this idea in this clear and concise way. Thank you for making it happen Dr. Hobsbawm.

Another European Think-tank playing with fire

ICG (International Crisis Group) helps influence policy making in Europe and the US. It’s all in this article that treats of the group’s lobbying for the independence of Kosovo.

Neocons working for a better environment

In this article, Robert Bryce shows how Neoconservatives preaching isolation from the Middle East and Environmentalist groups advocating lower dependence on oil have found common grounds to share:

For Woolsey and Gaffney, the fact that energy efficiency and conservation might help the environment is an unintended side benefit. They want to weaken the Saudis, the Iranians, and the Syrians while also strengthening the Israelis. Whether these ends are achieved with M-16s or hybrid automobiles doesn’t seem to matter to them.

They aren’t the only Iraq hawks who have joined the cause. The Hudson Institute’s Meyrav Wurmser also signed the IAGS plan. In 1996, she was one of the authors—along with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, of a famous strategy paper for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and military assaults against Lebanon and Syria. (Wurmser’s married to fellow neocon David Wurmser, an adviser to Dick Cheney, former AEI fellow, and enthusiast for the Iraq war.) Clifford May, the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, endorsed the IAGS scheme, too. And the Committee on the Present Danger is about to join the Prius-and-ethanol crowd, as well. A driving force for America’s military buildup since the ’50s now reconstituted as an antiterror group, the CPD will issue a paper in the next few months endorsing many elements of the IAGS plan. CPD members include Midge Decter, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Newt Gingrich, and Steve Forbes, as well as Woolsey and Gaffney.

So far, the neocons are the only ones on the right to break with Bush on energy policy. They can do this because opposing the energy policy doesn’t cost them anything—either politically or economically. The neocons come mostly out of academia and government so, unlike other conservative Republicans, they have few ties to big business and no significant connections to the energy lobbyists who are so influential with the White House.

Despite the setbacks in Iraq, the green neocons believe they can convince Congress and the White House to adopt their program. May, the head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, predicts that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be “open to arguments that we can increase and enhance national security for a reasonable price.” Gaffney won’t name names, but he too is confident, saying, “We continue to enjoy access to and friendships with people who are key policymakers.”

If they can convince Congress and the White House to enact meaningful legislation on energy efficiency and conservation—issues that have been marginalized since the Carter administration—then perhaps the neocons will finally have a success story that they can brag about. Better still, it won’t require the services of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Nathan Chtcharanski, appealing to neocons, and Bush

Daniel Vernet in Le Monde:

Mais la lecture qui a récemment le plus impressionné George W. Bush a été le livre de Nathan Chtcharanski, The Case for Democracy, The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (“Plaidoyer pour la démocratie. Le pouvoir de la liberté pour venir à bout de la tyrannie et de la terreur”). Alors qu’il venait de terminer un entretien avec le rédacteur en chef du quotidien conservateur Washington Times, le président a retenu son interlocuteur par la manche : “Si vous voulez avoir une idée de ce que je pense en politique étrangère, lui a-t-il dit, lisez le livre de Chtcharanski. Il est court et il est bien. Le gars est une figure héroïque, comme vous le savez. C’est un grand livre.”

Nathan Chtcharanski, en effet, est – ou a été – une figure héroïque. En 1973, les autorités soviétiques lui refusent un visa pour Israël. Mathématicien de renom – il se prénomme alors Anatoli -, il perd son travail, milite pour les droits de l’homme en URSS au côté d’Andreï Sakharov, et pour les droits des juifs soviétiques à émigrer. En 1978, il est condamné pour “espionnage” à trois ans de prison et dix ans de camp. En 1986, il peut enfin s’installer en Israël, après avoir été échangé sur le pont de Glienicke, qui relie Berlin-Est à Berlin-Ouest, contre des agents soviétiques détenus en Occident.

Dix ans après son arrivée en Israël, Nathan Chtcharanski a fondé un petit parti “russe”, appelé BeAlya, qu’il a récemment intégré dans le Likoud. Il est ministre de la diaspora dans le gouvernement d’Ariel Sharon, ce qui ne l’a pas empêché de voter contre le retrait de Gaza. Il considère cette décision unilatérale comme une “manifestation d’impuissance”, parce qu’en dix ans “nous n’avons pas été capables de trouver des interlocuteurs avec qui négocier”.

Depuis plusieurs années déjà, Chtcharanski, à cause de son passé de dissident soviétique, est un invité privilégié des néoconservateurs américains. Il a eu une grande influence sur la formulation de leur attitude vis-à-vis du conflit au Proche-Orient. Elle peut se résumer en deux propositions : politique de force contre le terrorisme et démocratisation de l’Autorité palestinienne (à défaut de celle du monde arabe).

Mais, depuis que George W. Bush l’a reçu à la Maison Blanche et qu’il a lu son livre, l’influence de Chtcharanski s’est élargie. L’ancien dissident incarne la conviction partagée par les néoconservateurs que la manière dont l’Europe de l’Est a été libérée du communisme est un modèle pour le Moyen-Orient. Comme ses amis néoconservateurs américains, il critique les “réalistes”, qui placent la stabilité internationale au-dessus de tout autre objectif, et les “libéraux”, qui placent sur le même plan les démocraties, même imparfaites, luttant pour les droits de l’homme et les Etats autoritaires qui les bafouent.

Another ideologue with plans to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem with the wrong tools I guess. Oh, and by the way, another interesting detail picked up by Daniel Vernet, is the concept of “Tyranny” that Bush frenetically used in his latest speech: It’s a Leo Straussian concept.

Michael Ledeen’s answer to Seymour Hersh’s latest article

here and here. Ledeen seems more pissed off than coherent…attacking the two main areas of interest of Ledeen (Iran and the reform of the CIA) is not something pleasant.

US Budget defense cuts

so what about these cuts? we hear about lobbyists winning and the war party suceeding, but in reality major restructuring are taking place. This article summarizes the main points. A sort of who’s getting what kind of analysis.

Holocaust propaganda

Check out this article by Robert Satloff on the responsibility Arabs should bear for the holocaust! So let see, first Islam is a deadly enemy and second they hate Jews. So here you have it, the perfect target for Israelis. How beautiful ideas can serve the interests of those in power.

Lobbying George Bush

Everbody heard about the Gala dinner where all the profiteers from the current administration, from Military to Oil tough guys, gathered to drink champagne and rest on the carcass of others. Check out, a detailed list of the profiteers and a stimulating, somewhat to the left, commentary here.

Iran the next target viewed by a french man

Le Monde has a synthesis of the current charges against Iran and the possible outcome in the near future. Neocons, the nuclear challenge, US strategies, etc.

Aid to Tsunami victim the Israeli way

Which basically means (for Sri Lanka anyway) something that has to do with the military industry…. Sri Lanka has purshased military equipment from Israel, and so noblesse oblige, Israel helps Sri Lanka getting better in order to sell more.

Yushchenko and the right in the US

That’s it, right-wing Think-tanks are already pushing for their “structural” reforms via the “democratic” Yushchenko of Ukraine. The timing, and the political effect of the AEI or the Heritage foundation’s proposals are becoming more and more predictable. This is scary.

Sharon and the Left

Interesting article in the Forward. I like this sentence:

In a bizarre turn of events, Sharon — for decades the most visible and most vilified symbol of the Israeli right — managed this week to survive as prime minister only because the left and several Arab nationalist lawmakers supported him in a Knesset vote of confidence, after the right abandoned him almost entirely.

James Woolsey and other war profiteers

How through the DPB (Defense Policy Board), Pentagon contracts were given. The writer of this article

would rate the husband and wife team of James and Suzanne Woolsey up there as one of the most blatant examples of war profiting that I‘ve ever seen. They both remain policy advisors on Iraq, even though they both work for private firms that do business there. (…)

In addition to getting $100 million tax dollars allocated for the INC and Ahmed Chalabi in 1998, James also became lawyer and adviser to Iraq’s “President in Waiting” in the same year.

Among other things mentioned, looking at Woolsey’s work for Booz Hamilton and how it serves his business interests in Iraq, Paladin Capital Group, another defense-related firm, Global Options that provides contacts and consulting services to firms doing business in Iraq, and the activities of James’ wife Suzanne that is even richer in variety.

US groups planning for regime change in Iran

This article tells it all. With the use of exiled Iranian groups, neocons, republicans and democrats, are working for the “spread of democracy” in Iran with the close help of the Hudson Institute, and American Enterprise Institute scary warmonger Michael Ledeen. Congress is supposed an Iran Freedom and Support Act has been proposed by senators Rick Santorum and John Cornyn that proposes backing and funding regime change. The proposed act has the backing of AIPAC. But sceptic says it all:

One official said present policy was not to embrace the regime change option. But there was interest in supporting groups that would help to “modify” Iran’s behaviour through promoting democracy. Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy doubts “regime change” will make it through Congress, and says the exiles’ funding hopes are just “dreams”.

Daniel Pipes out of United States Institute for Peace

Finally, a wise decision but thanks to:

senators Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkin and Christopher Dodd, all Democrats; Arab and Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations as well as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and Middle East analysts Judith Kipper of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and William Quandt of the University of Virginia.

.

US aid, blessing or curse?

To answer this question, check out Tom Barry’s article in Asia Times. A retrospective of US aid. The Thesis? Aid has been motivated by strategic rather than by humanitarian instincts.

Syria on the rise

Apart from Israeli nervousness over Syro-Russian missile deal, an Arab-American Trade centre is opening in Damascus despite santions.

Although the two events are disconnected, it shows that Syria is not completely on the defensive.

Iranian "moderate" on Lebanon

Check out this article (Dec. 7) by Amir Taheri on the democratic deficit in Lebanon. Apparently

The final vestiges of sovereignty were stripped from Lebanon in October. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad summoned Lebanon’s then-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to Damascus for a 12-minute audience in which he demanded that Lebanon’s constitution be amended to allow incumbent President Emil Lahoud’s term to be extended by three years. The two Lebanese politicians had no opportunity to argue against Assad’s “suggestion,” and Syria’s orders were fulfilled within 24 hours. All that Mr. Hariri could do was resign, allowing Assad to appoint Omar Karami, one of Syria’s longest-serving “special friends,” as prime minister.

The usual suspects are again screened: Syria, Hezbollah, Iran. oh, by the way, Amir Taheri is with Benador Associates.

Charges against Al Manar intensifies

An article in the National Review sums up the charges against Al Manar’s, including charges against Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and “Islamism”. The main person to thank is Avi Jorish and his memorable paper.

Check out in this passage the pervasive influence of ideas (those of Jorish and others) on the economic:

Most of al-Manar’s money comes from Iran (indirectly, through Hezbollah); its annual budget was about $15 million in 2002. The station also receives donations from viewers around the world, who are asked to deposit money directly into Hezbollah’s Lebanese bank accounts. Commercial advertising from Lebanese and Western companies accounts for another portion of income. Though previous American commercial advertisers — including Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, and Western Union — stopped advertising on al-Manar in 2002 following an L.A. Times op-ed by Jorisch, European companies continued.

The summary of the campaign can be found here, with links to the main articles written on Al Manar.

Academic thesis used as a political weapon

To some extent a good article on the political use of the “Clash of Civilization” thesis in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Walid Phares quoting Bernard Lewis and other villains

The eminent Walid Phares has still time to read according to this article. One can now understand the depth of his analysis when the guy’s favorite authors are Bernard Lewis and Bat Yeor…

Lewis’ central thesis (after 50 years of work in the field – time does not help to mature seemingly) is that Muslims are a homogeneous crowd of angry and resentful people against the West. Bat Yeor’s work is more modest in its ambitions. He just wants to show that Muslim have a complex system for treating non-Muslims like animal, that real “Anti-semitism” was practiced not by European but by Muslims.

US not happy about Israeli arm deal with China (Part II)

A must read article by Alex Fishman, from the Yediot Ahronot, in the Forward:

And Israel has been putting it in the hands of a country that, since the fall of the Soviet bloc, the United States has come to see as the strategic enemy of the coming decade.

This yellow panic began to emerge in the Clinton administration, but came to full blossom during the Bush presidency. The Bush administration, which is supported by the most extreme elements of the American right — including elements of the old, militantly anti-Communist China Lobby — sees China as the next enemy.

American pilots are trained today on simulators against a very particular enemy. Nobody calls the enemy China. But everyone understands that the simulators are programmed to re-create attack conditions against Chinese weaponry. Even in the biggest exercises — the Navy’s Top Gun, the Air Force’s Red Flag — the enemy, while unnamed, is always marked in yellow.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that in Israel somebody prefers to ignore the special American sensitivity to Chinese matters.

(…)

So far, no such luck — even though the Israeli-Chinese relationship has been significantly curtailed. In 1995, then-CIA director James Woolsey disclosed that Israel had supplied between $2 billion and $3 billion worth of military equipment to China since 1980. In the last four years, Chinese orders total only several tens of millions of dollars, apparently because the Chinese understand the nature of Israel’s dependence on America. The Phalcon incident taught that when the crunch comes, they are likely to be left without technical and logistical backup for equipment sold here.

But what about the idea that “extreme” elements in the US administration are pro-Israeli or even pro-likud? There is something fishy Mr. fishman.

American defense budget cuts

Finally, it is beginning to crack…and some people are not really happy.