15 December, 2011

Wish I'd said that ...

“When capital and the ruling classes apologise for: Colonialism, the 14 hour day, class privilege, the 7 day working week, children in coalmines, the opium wars, the massacre of the Paris Commune, slavery, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, starvation, apartheid, anti-union laws, the First World War, Flanders, trench warfare, mustard gas, aerial bombing, the Soviet Intervention, the Armenian Genocide, chemical weapons, fascism, the Great Depression, hunger marches, Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, militarism, Asbestosis, radiation death, the Massacre of Nanking, the Second World War, Belsen, Dresden, Hiroshima, Racism, The Mafia, nuclear weapons, the Korean War, DDT, McCarthyism, production lines, blacklists, Thalidomide, the rape of the Third World, poverty, the arms race, plastic surgery, the electric chair, environmental degradation, the Vietnam War, the military suppression of Greece, India, Malaya, Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Turkey, the Gulf War, trade in human body parts, malnutrition, Exxon Valdez, deforestation, organized crime, the heroin and cocaine trade, tuberculosis, the destruction of the Ozone Layer, cancer, exploitation of labour and the deaths of 50,000,000 Communists and trade unionists in this century alone, then — and only then — will I consider apologising for the errors of socialism.”

— Communist Party of Australia.

02 September, 2011

What is Fascism (part thirteen)

"Fascism is middle-class socialism and we cannot persuade the middle classes to abandon it until we can prove to them that it only makes their condition worse."
— Karl Radek, 1923

05 August, 2011

Total War is Shortest War

Leo Szilard was the world-renowned physicist who drafted the original letter to Roosevelt that Einstein signed, instigating the Manhattan Project. In 1960, shortly before his death, Szilard stated another obvious truth:

If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.

It is also worth noting that Army Air Force General Curtis LeMay once remarked that had the U.S. lost the war, he fully expected to be tried for war crimes, and that Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz furnished an affidavit in support of the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare for the post-war trial of German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946, a practice that he himself had employed throughout the war in the Pacific. The simple fact is that Total War is an American invention, first used by Generals Sherman and Sheridan against the Southern Insurrection. It is a proven, effective method that consists primarily in destroying the capacity of the enemy to economically sustain a war, often involving genocide. It is naive, it is silly to expect to win a war by other methods in this day and age.

27 July, 2011

On the Nature of National Charachter

"This, however, I know—that if every nation were to bring all its evil deeds to a given place, in order to make an exchange with some other nation, when they had all looked carefully at their neighbours’ faults, they would be truly glad to carry their own back again." — Herodotus, chapter 152

Is he saying then, that the sins of the nations are those which they are most prone to? That is, that strong nations think imperialism is a mere vice, while weak nations think of it as a grave injustice? Or that wealthy nations think environmental degradation is the worst of crimes, while starving nations do what they must to get by? And thus that each nation can live with its own sins, while abhorring those of others?

19 July, 2011

How a better Near East would look.

Blood Borders by Ralph Peters, from Armed Forces Journal, June 2006.

This is a quite insightful article making plain the idiocy of present day geography in the Near East.

Click to enlarge.

International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa’s borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.

While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.

Of course, no adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy. In some instances, ethnic and religious groups live intermingled and have intermarried. Elsewhere, reunions based on blood or belief might not prove quite as joyous as their current proponents expect. The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant “cheated” population groups, such as the Kurds, Baluch and Arab Shia, but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis and many another numerically lesser minorities. And one haunting wrong can never be redressed with a reward of territory: the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the dying Ottoman Empire.

Yet, for all the injustices the borders re-imagined here leave unaddressed, without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East.

Even those who abhor the topic of altering borders would be well-served to engage in an exercise that attempts to conceive a fairer, if still imperfect, amendment of national boundaries between the Bosporus and the Indus. Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools — short of war — for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East’s “organic” frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and will continue to face. We are dealing with colossal, man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected.

As for those who refuse to “think the unthinkable,” declaring that boundaries must not change and that’s that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).

Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.

Begin with the border issue most sensitive to American readers: For Israel to have any hope of living in reasonable peace with its neighbors, it will have to return to its pre-1967 borders — with essential local adjustments for legitimate security concerns. But the issue of the territories surrounding Jerusalem, a city stained with thousands of years of blood, may prove intractable beyond our lifetimes. Where all parties have turned their god into a real-estate tycoon, literal turf battles have a tenacity unrivaled by mere greed for oil wealth or ethnic squabbles. So let us set aside this single overstudied issue and turn to those that are studiously ignored.

The most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East (the figures are imprecise because no state has ever allowed an honest census). Greater than the population of present-day Iraq, even the lower figure makes the Kurds the world’s largest ethnic group without a state of its own. Worse, Kurds have been oppressed by every government controlling the hills and mountains where they’ve lived since Xenophon’s day.

The U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad’s fall. A Frankenstein’s monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately. We failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq’s Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government — which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will. But were a free plebiscite to be held, make no mistake: Nearly 100 percent of Iraq’s Kurds would vote for independence.

As would the long-suffering Kurds of Turkey, who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to “mountain Turks” in an effort to eradicate their identity. While the Kurdish plight at Ankara’s hands has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory. As for the Kurds of Syria and Iran, they, too, would rush to join an independent Kurdistan if they could. The refusal by the world’s legitimate democracies to champion Kurdish independence is a human-rights sin of omission far worse than the clumsy, minor sins of commission that routinely excite our media. And by the way: A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.

A just alignment in the region would leave Iraq’s three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with a Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon: Phoenecia reborn. The Shia south of old Iraq would form the basis of an Arab Shia State rimming much of the Persian Gulf. Jordan would retain its current territory, with some southward expansion at Saudi expense. For its part, the unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan.

A root cause of the broad stagnation in the Muslim world is the Saudi royal family’s treatment of Mecca and Medina as their fiefdom. With Islam’s holiest shrines under the police-state control of one of the world’s most bigoted and oppressive regimes — a regime that commands vast, unearned oil wealth — the Saudis have been able to project their Wahhabi vision of a disciplinarian, intolerant faith far beyond their borders. The rise of the Saudis to wealth and, consequently, influence has been the worst thing to happen to the Muslim world as a whole since the time of the Prophet, and the worst thing to happen to Arabs since the Ottoman (if not the Mongol) conquest.

While non-Muslims could not effect a change in the control of Islam’s holy cities, imagine how much healthier the Muslim world might become were Mecca and Medina ruled by a rotating council representative of the world’s major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State — a sort of Muslim super-Vatican — where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed. True justice — which we might not like — would also give Saudi Arabia’s coastal oil fields to the Shia Arabs who populate that subregion, while a southeastern quadrant would go to Yemen. Confined to a rump Saudi Homelands Independent Territory around Riyadh, the House of Saud would be capable of far less mischief toward Islam and the world.

Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today’s Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State.

What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren (the point of this exercise is not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them). Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining “natural” Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.

The city-states of the United Arab Emirates would have a mixed fate — as they probably will in reality. Some might be incorporated in the Arab Shia State ringing much of the Persian Gulf (a state more likely to evolve as a counterbalance to, rather than an ally of, Persian Iran). Since all puritanical cultures are hypocritical, Dubai, of necessity, would be allowed to retain its playground status for rich debauchees. Kuwait would remain within its current borders, as would Oman.

In each case, this hypothetical redrawing of boundaries reflects ethnic affinities and religious communalism — in some cases, both. Of course, if we could wave a magic wand and amend the borders under discussion, we would certainly prefer to do so selectively. Yet, studying the revised map, in contrast to the map illustrating today’s boundaries, offers some sense of the great wrongs borders drawn by Frenchmen and Englishmen in the 20th century did to a region struggling to emerge from the humiliations and defeats of the 19th century.

Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.

Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself. The current human divisions and forced unions between Ankara and Karachi, taken together with the region’s self-inflicted woes, form as perfect a breeding ground for religious extremism, a culture of blame and the recruitment of terrorists as anyone could design. Where men and women look ruefully at their borders, they look enthusiastically for enemies.

From the world’s oversupply of terrorists to its paucity of energy supplies, the current deformations of the Middle East promise a worsening, not an improving, situation. In a region where only the worst aspects of nationalism ever took hold and where the most debased aspects of religion threaten to dominate a disappointed faith, the U.S., its allies and, above all, our armed forces can look for crises without end. While Iraq may provide a counterexample of hope — if we do not quit its soil prematurely — the rest of this vast region offers worsening problems on almost every front.

If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own.

04 July, 2011

Farrenkopf on the fragility of the Pax Americana

Exactly ten years ago (and, it is worth noting, before the Outrage of 11 September 2001), John Farrenkopf wrote a lengthy analysis of the philosophy and works of Oswald Spengler, Prophet of Decline. I read it when it came out and was quite impressed however, picking it up again after the passage of a decade, I am pleased to see how well it has stood up. In commenting on Spengler's prediction of a twenty-first century Pax Americana, roughly synonymous with the Pax Romana of the first and second centuries AD. Farrenkopf uses his knowledge of current events and Spengler's method to produce this remarkably prescient prediction of what has actually happened in the last ten years:

The decline of American hegemonic power is inevitable as twilight begins to spread its shadows over the Pax Americana. The American neo-imperial world order will prove in the twenty-first century to be a transitory affair. In its home country the signs of sociological decay are already unmistakable in the break-down of the family structure and growing social pathologies, the spread of quasi- pacifism, and the unabashed excesses of our sensate culture. Despite the remarkable economic prosperity of the 1990’s, causes for anxiety abound. The fiscal burdens of the welfare state compounded by and aging society, the massive current-accounts deficits, frenzied speculation, and the recurrent instabilities of the global economy portend an eventual economic crisis for the United States. Effective governance already facesthe multiple challenges of interest groups subverting the public interest, plutocratic tendencies, the necessity of coping with unprecedented ethnic diversity, and growing political apathy, if not disgust. The erosion of America’s ability to exercise leadership in world affairs and manage world order is only a matter of time. The fragile Pax Americana will not have the impressive staying power of the Pax Romana.

02 July, 2011

17 May, 2011

The Willie Sutton Tax Plan

When a reporter asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he answered very matter of factly: "Because that's where the money is!"

So why don't we tax the rich? After all, that's where the money is. And it's primarily there because government has ceased to act as a counter-weight to private power. During the 1950's, when New Deal tax rates were still in effect, income over $100,000- was taxed at 90% and working class income doubled! Since the Kennedy tax cuts, and especially since the Regan/Bush/Bush tax cuts, wages have fallen, inequality has risen, and the government has become insolvent.

Why tax the rich?

Because that's where the money is!

25 April, 2011

Nice Chart

MyType, a blog about personality, not politics, recently did an survey of the dichotomy within the Tea Party Movement between what they classify as "Religious Conservatives" and Libertarians. While there is nothing particularly new in this analysis, they did post a nice chart of the characteristics of the two different types.

This chart covers the differences between Conservatives (who want more social order) and Liberals (who want more personal freedom) within the Tea Party Movement, illustrating nicely by omission that the movement is united in being Right Wing (favoring the owning class) with no Left Wing (working class) component whatsoever.

09 April, 2011

Soviet Man?

Chicago's Own Stasi Memorial

So, this afternoon I was heading down to Hyde Park on my bike, making a delivery, enjoying the bucolic delights of the lakefront trail, when a fellow caught my eye and flagged me down. He was standing at what a quick Google search identifies as the "Gold Star Families Memorial" at 1420 S Museum Campus Drive. (That's right, things along the lakefront trail actually have street addresses!) The fellow was in his fifties, wearing a windbreaker, salt-and-ginger mustache, and he had a thick German accent. He asked me, "What is this memorial for?"

I'd never really looked closely at the stainless steel eye-sore he was pointing to, but I took it in immediately and explained, "Oh, that's the memorial for police officers who've died in the line of duty."

"Ja, ja, ach so ..." He nodded and pulled at his mustache, "And — where is the memorial for Fred Hampton?"

Well, now, wasn't this embarrassing. Last I heard, there wasn't even a plaque on the front of 2337 West Monroe Street. "I -uh- don't think there is one."

"Well, in my town there is a memorial to all the fellows who were killed trying to cross the wall ..."


"Ja, but we don't have any markers for the Stasi who killed them."

"Is that a fact?" I asked.

His smile was full of mischief, "Ja."

Didn't have the heart to point out to the fellow that from where we were standing, he could see the Balbo Monument, Mussolini's gift to the city.

22 February, 2011

RE: Wikileaks

"Secrecy is for losers. For people who do not know how important the information really is."

— Daniel Patrick Moynihan