Power shifts in Lebanon

Check out my latest article and please give me some feedback. This is a collection of thoughts and argument I make on Lebanon’s political and economic structure in the light of the latest Syrian withdrawal and the subsequent legislative elections. Two main arguments stands from the haphazard way I develop my ideas:
1- Social demands are voiced through the sectarian prism
2- Two poles of power are struggling against each other in Lebanon: A military/security complex against a landlord/merchant class.

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An emerging bipolar world?

Not yet friends, but detectable moves here and there would make us believe that if Russia and China try to get closer, this would represent a direct challenge for the only current superpower, namely the US. In a Financial Times editorial, this worry is addressed by pointing to the latest “joint military exercise” that group the two countries, and trying to assess what this represent:

Peace Mission 2005″, the first joint military exercise launched yesterday by China and Russia, is not the innocent peacekeeping drill its name suggests. It represents a significant deepening of the military relationship between a former superpower and an emerging one, and therefore will be closely watched by the only current superpower, the US.
This is no mere token show of co-operation. Over the next week nearly 10,000 soldiers, paratroopers, sailors and airforce personnel, most of them from China, will take part in the exercise in and around the Chinese coastal province of Shandong and the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok.
If these war games were really about peacekeeping, they would not require the mock amphibious assaults, attack submarines and Russian long-range strategic bombers that military analysts say are involved. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, said the exercises would help strengthen the capability for joint strikes against “international terrorism, extremism and separatism”. The use of the word “separatism” suggests that one Chinese aim is to train for an invasion of Taiwan, the island seen in Beijing as a renegade province, or at least to demonstrate that China is serious about enforcing its claim.
Military ties between China and post-Soviet Russia go back more than a decade and are based on mutual back-scratching. Russia, while curtailing its own military spending, has been able to preserve some of its military industry by selling billions of dollars worth of arms to China since 1992. Moscow is determined to maintain its influence in Asia and is using what remains of its military might – as well as the reserves of oil and gas coveted by Asian energy importers – to achieve that goal.
China’s economic success has left Beijing with plenty of cash, and weapons purchases from Russia are a vital part of the drive to modernise and re-equip the People’s Liberation Army.
Just as the US and China found common ground in their distrust of the Soviet Union during the cold war, Russia and China today believe they have a shared interest in confronting US power in the Asia-Pacific region. Last month, at a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which brings together China and Russia with central Asian states, they ganged up on Washington by demanding a date for the departure of US forces from military bases in central Asia.
Militarily, the superior US armed forces will not have much to worry about for years to come in the unlikely event of a war in east Asia, because the best Russian equipment available to China dates back to the 1980s. But the signal sent by the joint exercise is not about military technology or training. This week’s unprecedented collaboration between the armies of China and Russia is another sign of Washington’s waning political influence on the western shores of the Pacific.

This comes at a time when we find increasing numbers of articles on the Taiwan and the threats it faces. A good argument made is that the island (considered by Chinese as their province) is actually threatened much more by its economic dependence (specially in manufacturing goods) than by outright military invasion. Chinese showed they were masters in pulling the strings of trade dependent countries allying refined diplomacy to cold-blooded offensive measures.

Media serves the political interests of the prevailing elite

As in this article published by the Times where the biggest danger to US interests in Iraq is not the Sunni insurgency, but Iran spreading tentacules:

Perhaps most troubling are signs that the rising influence of Iran–a country with which Iraq waged an eight-year war and whose brand of theocracy most Iraqis reject–is exacerbating sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites, pulling Iraq closer to all-out civil war. And while top intelligence officials have sought to play down any state-sponsored role by Tehran’s regime in directing violence against the coalition, the emergence of al-Sheibani has cast greater suspicion on Iran. Coalition sources told TIME that it was one of al-Sheibani’s devices that killed three British soldiers in Amarah last month. “One suspects this would have to have a higher degree of approval [in Tehran],” says a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad. The official says the U.S. believes that Iran has brokered a partnership between Iraqi Shi’ite militants and Hizballah and facilitated the import of sophisticated weapons that are killing and wounding U.S. and British troops. “It is true that weapons clearly, unambiguously, from Iran have been found in Iraq,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week.
How real is the threat? A TIME investigation, based on documents smuggled out of Iran and dozens of interviews with U.S., British and Iraqi intelligence officials, as well as an Iranian agent, armed dissidents and Iraqi militia and political allies, reveals an Iranian plan for gaining influence in Iraq that began before the U.S. invaded. In their scope and ambition, Iran’s activities rival those of the U.S. and its allies, especially in the south. There is a gnawing worry within some intelligence circles that the failure to counter Iranian influence may come back to haunt the U.S. and its allies, if Shi’ite factions with heavy Iranian backing eventually come to power and provoke the Sunnis to revolt. Says a British military intelligence officer, about the relative inattention paid to Iranian meddling: “It’s as though we are sleepwalking.”

This comes at a time when the US strike against Iran is inevitable. Media creates a coherent strategic weapon for this strike by nourishing its ideological backbone.

Producers of knowlege on the loose

Two things I have noticed.

First, that no matter how much the US will investigate into alleged Isareli spying, they will always be dependent on Israeli military and security expertise for key issues:

JINSA’s mission is to elucidate the important role Israel can play in bolstering American interests as well as the link between American
defense policy and the security of Israel. Following the September 11 attacks, JINSA developed a program that allows Israel and the U.S. to share information and expertise.
Some 40 police officials and U.S. sheriffs arrived in Israel since 2002, including high ranking officials from the FBI and the DEA. 1,500 participated in the institute’s various programs and heard Israeli representatives, including mall security officials, and police and prison service personnel.

Fortunately enough you have people like Steven Pomerantz who are not only at JINSA but also at Media brainwasher Fox news, ready to litterally create the impression that the US needs the Israelis expertise in security-related issues:

Steve Pomerantz, Former Head of the FBI’s counterterrorism section and presently a Fox News analyst and JINSA director, told Ynet that it is not necessarily the FBI that is in need of Israeli assistance in gathering intelligence about terror activities and developing action plans, but rather, local police officials and sheriffs who man the frontlines.
Overall, there are about 18,000 police departments across the U.S., each responsible for terror prevention, intelligence gathering and response to incidents taking place in the area under its jurisdiction. According to Pomerantz, low ranking law enforcement personnel, on the ground, should be the first to pick up signs of terrorist activities.

And also what about this recent rush towards painting a threatening image of China. Prominent producers of knowlege and ideas such as RAND corp have just issued a study that has made an all time favorite at the level of thethe intellect-lacking Media:

A recent Rand Corp. study found that China’s annual defense spending in 20 years will still be less than $200 billion a year in today’s dollars. (…)
China is using the money to modernize its armed forces and change their emphasis. Instead of preparing for a low-tech, protracted “people’s war” of guerrilla operations against an invader, China is readying for high-tech local wars — conflicts of short duration and high intensity, similar to the United States’ campaign in the 1991 Gulf War.

Check out this type of non-sense, a clear example of how ideas (here: democracies don’t fight each other) become institionalized:

China could develop a moderate form of democracy, establishing a friendly rivalry with the United States similar to U.S.-France relations. Occasional frictions would arise, but neither country would allow them to lead to serious security issues.

As if it is the political regime that will make of China a possible threat to the US’s designs of strategic control.

The long forgotten Mauritania

Few are the ones that know where Mauritania, but it still is an Arabic country. Basically the only arab country that openly practices slavery. what?
Anyway, there was military coup two days ago.
A good article appeared in the Times.
Also check the Christian Science Monitor’s press review.

The many faces of Islamism (part II)

I recently showed in “part I” (i.e. in another blog entry) of the flexibility of the ideology of “Islamism” – just as any other ideology for this matter.
According to Gideon Levy in the Haaretz, Islamic Jihad says it may recognize the State of Israel.
Notice how the organization’s leader Abu Qassam plays with the word “recognition”:

“If Islamic Jihad participates in the Palestinian Authority, and the PA reaches a settlement with Israel, this will be recognition on our part. Not official recognition, but recognition,” he said.

What does it mean? It means basically as much as what a greek sophist would mean when playing with words. nothing.
And just as much as what any ideologue would like to mean when he plays with words such as “islamism”, “jihad”, “terrorism”, etc.

Language is a weapon and concepts are its bullets.

Interesting ideas for Economic Reforms

I wrote an article published in the daily star today about this guy forming a coalition for economic reforms in Lebanon with interesting ideas such as slashing interest rates, tax rates, keep some protection, etc.
But most importantly is probably his denounciation of the profit-driven policies installed since the end of the civil war. And so banks, political elites, Arab big dudes etc. are all part of it.