Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ideology: A Specter Haunting the World

"The fire-breathing Rebels arrive at the party early,
Their khaki coats are hung in the closet near the fur.
Asking handouts from the ladies, while they criticize the lords.
Boasting of the murder of the very hands that pour.
And the victims learn to giggle, for at least they are not bored.
And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawl beneath the rug
And retune my piano."
 – Phil Ochs

Karl Marx once famously said that a specter was haunting Europe and that specter was Communism. Today, specters are haunting the world. They are "progressivism" and Islamism. Yet these are misunderstood because the progressives want to pretend they are liberals and the Islamists want to pretend to be normal, technically pious, traditional Muslims of a century or half century ago.

Islam is a religion, Islamism is a revolutionary movement. Liberalism is a center-to-left political movement, progressivism is a revolutionary movement.

In fact Islam/Islamism and liberalism/progressivism are parallel in many ways. Their differences are distracting, one as a religion and one as an atheist non-religious ideology.
For example; progressivism and Islamism both seek to be political monopolies and ideologies. They're comprehensive. Both use intimidation, though progressivism is more verbal and Islamism is more violent. 

Whenever anyone takes one to task, they insult the whole system. They are not rational systems and are not open to debate.

Both invite large elements of opportunism and careerism. People who see the winning side endorse them to benefit their own careers, not out of genuine belief.

Both of these institutions should be studied coherently. They've not been studied well on political terms. I will explore Islamism further in an upcoming article.

The English Civil War from 1642-1651, the struggle between monarchy and religious political ideologies, mirrors what Islamism is going through now. This was the West's struggle between "Christianity" and "politics" which is now the equivalent of the struggle between "Islamism" and "politics."

This could be called a Manichean model. One side is completely right, and one side is completely wrong. Therefore, a democratic dispute would not be possible.

Phil Ochs, quoted above, was creatively mocking the situation. He showed this ambiguity. Incidentally, I was his guide at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Here was the new professional elite: so pompous, so arrogant. They were benefiting materially, yet were contentious, simultaneously arrogant yet luxury-loving, but also virtuous and well-intentioned, superior. What more perfect combination would there be but the well-heeled Bill Ayers, the son of a senior Detroit automaker, and yet a bombing revolutionary who did nothing to deserve his good estate!

Imagine! Someone with a gold spoon in his mouth made a scruffy revolutionary, and yet the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from conservative Republicans, superior to everyone. Surely a new ruling class if ever there was one.

You get the privilege but pretend you are the victim. You can take a lot of wealth while pretending to be the champion of the downtrodden.

Nowadays nobody seems to know what "progressive" means, though it is in the history books. From around 1910-1924, "Progressive" meant liberal, which was not anything like what it is today. When Theodore Roosevelt was disappointed by his chosen successor, William Taft, he formed the Bull Moose Party from the Republican, often referred to as "the progressive party."

The progressive party of that day did well among people who wanted to continue liberalism.
FDR was always conscious that the American system might turn sharply to the left if he failed, leading to some kind of Obamaesque situation. Remember there was large scale violence (mostly labor related) and an extremely left-oriented culture war. People forget that there was a looming radical threat at that time, for example the Labor Movement.

In 1924, Robert Lafollette decided that his party, Republican, was not liberal enough, and ran under the "progressive" title. He actually got 17% of the popular vote, but concluded that this was not the amount of people needed to win an election, even though this was a rare opportunity to create a three-party system. Ultimately, he decided that the country was not left enough. The brilliance of President Roosevelt was in playing the centrist view. There were communists and progressives and horrid "reactionary republicans."
Roosevelt, however, pitted the idea that the far left (i.e. communists and socialists) were the only other alternative to the "reactionary republicans." Often, liberals said that these were the only choices.

During the 1924 election and the 1930s, Earl Browder and other Communist Party leaders used the word “progressive” as a cover.  In 1948, it was the name chosen by the Communist Party for its front party.

Consider how the Communist Party approached the New Deal. Here’s that party’s leader, Earl Browder, in a 1936 interview:

"Roosevelt was being pulled by some to the left and by the others to the right. Consequently, it would be wrong for 'all progressives to unite around Roosevelt as the sole means to defeat reaction.'  …It seems that personally Roosevelt and [Republican leader Alf] Landon look pretty much alike to Browder."

Incidentally, I've never seen anyone note that when the 2010 electoral organization's far-left organized, it was called Progressives for Obama. The head was Carl Davidson, the former chief of SDS in the 1960s.

What the Obama movement did was to combine philosophical idealism, the farthest left of the old democratic party, and the lumpen proletariat, convincing more moderate liberals that this more radical movement identified with them, while everyone else was reactionary (as was done in the 1930s). 

Furthermore the Republican leadership was headed by an unimaginative "rhino."

If you want to understand Obama and his movement, you have to go back to the 1960s and 1970s. For more on this, see Barry Rubin, Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance (Harper Collins, forthcoming April 2014).

Who’s to Blame? Palestinians Seek to Avoid Responsibility for Their Situation
Posted: 07 Jan 2014 02:41 AM PST
The presentation of the Palestinian Authority argument is really pitiful.

"These days, life appears to be going along as normal for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Appearances can be deceptive, however. Prior to the 1987 intifada, too, things appeared to be normal–until they exploded, much to everyone's surprise. But no one should be surprised if a new intifada erupts in the next few months. Many experts, even those within the Israeli security apparatus, like the former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, are predicting it."

Note that this is supposed to be the victimization argument. Thus, even if Palestinians refused the UN Partition Plan (1947) as well as Camp David (2000) and they don't even pay their electric bills, they are nonetheless eternal victims; their problem does not have anything to do with their actions.

Actually, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan did not predict an intifada. He said it was possible that an intifada could occur but it may not also. In fact, the Mossad report said that it was quite possible that an intifada would not occur. Dagan was thus misquoted, and an intifada is not definite.

"We Palestinians are living through the worst situation in years. And, despite surface appearances of normal, mundane, routine everyday life under occupation, four significant factors have begun to interact that may disrupt the seemingly stable status quo."

Indeed, it is certain that the conditions of the Palestinians have not improved over time, despite having received billions of dollars in aid, much of which Hamas stole or wasted. And if they truly are in the worst situation in 50 years, who is to blame? The situation of the Palestinians is due to decisions made by Palestinian rulers, negotiators, and terrorists.

"The first, and most potent [factor], is the collapse of any hope that the occupation will ever end and Palestinians will attain their freedom and independence. This hope had allowed Palestinians to endure the daily injustices of occupation in the expectation of a better future. It is this same hope that led them to support negotiations with Israel and the idea of a two-state solution."

Again, this is an extremely selective view of the situation over the past half century. For example, "The Palestinians' strategic mistake was to think that conceding 78 percent of the land of historical Palestine in 1993 would be enough." Note the subtlety here, as the author is in fact hinting that the Palestinians should have demanded a one-state solution.

The entire peace negotiations (1993-2000) were based on the premise that there would be a two-state solution. "It didn’t occur to them that Israel wanted to split this remaining land with them, leaving them with–in the best of cases–a state of leftovers."

"And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it." In fact, the "exorbitant" price for the Palestinians consisted of the recognition of a Jewish state in exchange for the recognition of an Arab state, the cessation of terrorist attacks on Israel, and other similar conditions. Yet in the previous month alone there were at least five murderous attacks on Israelis, a bomb on a bus within Israel, a border attack against Israel from Gaza, and the–especially creative–effort of a member of the PA security Forces who had requested to be treated for an eye injury in Israel intending to use that humanitarian gesture as an opportunity to commit a terror attack on an Israeli hospital.

Every day, there are verbal attacks on Israel as well. In other words, Israel is only offered real peace as a propaganda measure. "The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel." Remember that if the Gaza Strip is being included in the 22 percent allegedly offered to Palestinians, Gaza is not controlled by the PA. Therefore the PA has no authority to be negotiating about Gaza and Hamas is not ready to accept Israel under any conditions.

Meanwhile, another op-ed by Ahmad Tibi in the Hill–a publication that is widely read by Congressional staff–claims that in the negotiations on a two-state solution Israel is subjecting Palestinians to "'Jim Crow' treatment." In other words, Tibi's claim is that the problem is not a conflict between two national groups, but rather systematic racist control in which Palestinians are always the victim.

Note that since 1994, Palestinians have had self-government and have voted to determine who would rule in the West Bank and Gaza. After two decades of Palestinian self-rule, including its own armed forces and economy, and after having received billions of dollars in aid, Tibi is arguing that the Palestinians should never be held responsible for ruling themselves.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of Jewish Israelis agreed that they would hear the Palestinian narrative in school. Can you imagine the opposite? Of course not. Some years ago, I actually lectured at a Palestinian university and apparently my affiliation was omitted from the syllabus.

Despite 50 years of cross-border terrorist attacks against Israel, missiles fired against Israel, attempts of boycotts against Israel, and failure to pay Israel for providing electricity to the Palestinian territories, the New York Times article claims, "The Authority's financial insolvency is creating more problems for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, especially the young." If a PA government that has existed for two decades wants a situation in which stability is impossible, how can the virtual state of war be blamed on Israelis? Note that when Israel withdrew from the settlements in 2005, the equipment that was left was either stolen or broken by Palestinians and was not used for prosperity. And who started the rocket wars? For 50 years, Palestinian attacks and victims have been bragged about.

The basic construction of the argument is this: We fought and attacked Israelis and yet throughout the years, only the Israelis were responsible for our suffering. If Israel cannot be admitted into any good act, how can the PA make peace with Israel? How credible can it be?

After two decades of self-rule, Palestinian public figures can say that Israelis don't want peace and that Jews subject Palestinian to Jim Crow treatment, yet Israelis and Jews say nothing of the kind and yet are condemned as horrible oppressors and racists.

The Middle East at the Beginning of 2014
Posted: 07 Jan 2014 02:44 AM PST
"We are at the beginning of a very long and profound transformation," says President Barak Obama. True. Nowhere is this truer than the Middle East.

Egypt, the largest and most populous Arab country, seems to have settled down into the type of military regime that has existed since 1952, except for 2011 to 2013 when it had an Islamist government. 

Nevertheless, there have been some important changes in Egypt. First, in the "Islamist" era, Egypt remains still at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Second, in international relations, Egypt has been generally disgusted by the U.S. administration's–as one of my smartest, most democratic Egyptian friends says–"cowboy" behavior. Since the Obama administration backed the Muslim Brotherhood government from 2011 to 2012, Egypt has turned to Russia–just as in 1955, when the United States confronted a radical Egypt.

It should be amusing to Egyptians that while the U.S. aid is a gift, they have to pay for Russian assistance. But then the Egyptians are more suspicious of the Yankees than of Greeks bearing gifts. In addition, since Hamas and Turkey–which support the Muslim Brotherhood and even anti-Egyptian terrorists–have supported revolutionary Islamists against Egypt, the two are in conflict with Egypt.

Since Hamas is at war with both Egypt and Israel, Egypt and Israel have common interests in this conflict. Thus, it may seem Israel's current situation in the region is worse-off, but there are actually many positive aspects.

Turkey's situation is unstable too. On the one hand, Turkey has been the main supporter of the rebel, Sunni side in the Syrian civil war. Turkey's support of the Muslim Brotherhood is considered antagonistic to Saudi Arabia and the military regime in Egypt. It also potentially damages its hopes for business plans with Iran, since support is equally antagonistic to the Shi'a bloc. This has seriously damaged Turkey's relations with both the Arab and Iranian blocs; Turkey would like to be a bridge among Islamists, but that is making Iran and the Saudi-Egyptian bloc suspicious.

Sunnis and Shi'as are in conflict, and although people may think that the Arab world is obsessed with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, this is not the case. The Arab world (being divided) is less able to do something about the conflict, and it is far less focused on it than it has been over the past few decades.

Saudi Ambassador to Britain Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who seems to be the Saudi regime's spokesman, wrote the in the New York Times, “Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone.”

"Saudi Arabia has been friends with our Western partners for decades…. for almost a century. These are strategic alliances that benefit us both. Recently, these relationships have been tested–principally because of differences over Iran and Syria. We believe that many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by…. And yet rather than challenging the Syrian and Iranian governments, some of our Western partners have refused to take much-needed action against them."

The Egypt-Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas conflicts, the Syrian civil war, the conflict between the Shi'a and Sunni blocs (the latter including Saudi Arabia), and Turkish-Arab friction are all signs of this. If the West is willing to keep Asad as dictator of Syria, the Sunni rebels will never accept this, and the Syrian civil war will only be intensified in the coming year.

Ammar Abdulhamid, a respected analyst on Syria, has pointed out that "re-legitimating the Assad regime today, after all it had done, will green light genocidal ventures elsewhere in the world." Of course, if the United States helped to overthrow the Asad regime in Syria, there would also be a risk of genocide against the Alawites and the Christians (who make up about 30% of the population).

I hate to say it, but it is almost as if the Obama administration simply wants to keep the supposed "deal" alive until after the 2016 elections, so it can boast a great diplomatic triumph in the Middle East by resolving all problems, only to then let the deal collapse. This could explain why President Obama said there was only a 50-50% chance that the deal would go through. Usually, the president and secretary of state do not talk about the certainty of deals before they are much closer to being completed.

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