Archive for Nato

After Kaddafi Falls…What Next?

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on August 24, 2011 by playthell

 The Triumphant Rebels burn Kaddafi’s Image and his Green Book!

Can the Emerging Coalition Govern Democratically?

Although I understood and sympathized with the Libyan people’s grievances – which gave impetus to the mass movement that is sweeping away the dictatorial Gadhafi regime – early on, I am not among those who are convinced that a secular democracy will emerge in the aftermath.  Since there is no institutional or ideological basis for such a development, chances are this will prove to be wishful thinking.  Libya is a largely tribal society that was traditionally ruled by sheiks and chiefs who view the world from an Islamic perspective – which means their heads are stuck in the Middle-Ages.

These people entered the modern world through anti-democratic European colonial rule, where the people had no say in governing the country, and they transitioned to autocratic rule under police state conditions in which the practice of pluralistic politics with competing parties was forbidden.  That has been their history during the entire post-independence period.  Therefore the critical question is: On what foundation is a modern secular democracy to be built?

The nature of violent revolutionary change creates the conditions for the rise of a dictatorship in the immediate aftermath of the conflict.  The revolutionary movement destroys existing institutions of authority in the process of seizing power, therefore the first task of the revolutionaries is to restore order and avoid chaos.  While they themselves are the source of the instability, once revolutionaries take power their goals change radically and the tactics they employed to seize power must now be ruthlessly suppressed.

To consolidate the gains of the revolutionary struggle, the maintenance of law and order must be the first priority.  The lights must be on, the water pumps working, the economy must be functional, and the distribution of its fruits more democratic. In the instable conditions following the violent seizure of power, dictatorship is more often than not the only way these things can be achieved.

That’s why many of those who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution were surprised and bewildered by the dictatorial practices implemented by the Bolsheviks.  No one expressed this feeling more poignantly than Emma Goldman in her revelatory book “My Disillusionment in Russia,” a text pro-Soviet Marxists choose to ignore.  Yet she identified the flaws in the emerging Communist order in post-revolutionary Russian that would bring about its collapse a half century later.

The experience of Iraq does not encourage hope for a democracy in Libya.  I believe that what is being called “democracy” in Iraq will quickly degenerate into a tyranny of the majority Shiites over Sunnis once American forces leave.  And the increasing cries of “Allah U Akbar” heard on the streets of Tripoli, strongly suggest that the road to democracy in Libya will be no primrose path.

Although Khadafy has fairly discredited himself on the question of the danger posed by Islamic Jihadists by blaming everything on Al Qaeda, trying to justify his tyrannical behavior by arguing that he was the last line of defense against them taking over Libya, there is more than a little truth to his claim.  As I have written for ten years now, the secular military strongmen have been the main deterrent to the Jihadists in the Muslim world

Beginning with a critique of the Bush Administration’s rationale for invading Iraq “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” I argued that Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not allies the way the Bushmen were arguing in order to justify the Iraq invasion; rather they represent polar opposites in their vision of how Muslim societies should be governed.  Thus, given the repressive regimes run by these military men, Islamic organizations were forced underground and consequently we have no way of knowing the extent of their popular appeal.  But in the free flowing political environment created with the fall of Mummar we shall soon see. Until further notice, I’m down with what Mellin told Snellin: “Ain’t no tellin!”  Anything can happen.

One of the unpleasant truths we have learned from the fall of Sadam Hussein is that in a country like Iraq, where there are serious ethnic and religious divisions that could erupt in conflict, it may require a military strongman like Sadam to hold it all together and avoid the chaos of internecine strife.    For instance, under Sadam women were the freer than anywhere else in the Arab world, and there was no violent religious conflict.  The Christian community was far better off (see “Christmastime In Bagdad” and “Why some Egyptian Women Support Mubarak” on this blog)  It can also be credibly demonstrated that it was a lot safer in Pakistan when General Pervez Musharif was running that country. (see The Trouble With Pakistan” on this blog) In fact, it is fair to say that everywhere these military strong men have been removed the Islamist rapidly grows in power and influence – violence and chaos soon follow.

Given the fact that Libya is composed of 140 tribes, along with an organized Jihadist movement, removing a strongman like Khadafy who, through a system of sticks and carrots, rewarding those who support him and punishing those who don’t, managed to construct a workable system for governing, it is highly probable that the new rulers will find it necessary to impose order with the coercive forces of state power.

The critical question is: Can the ruling coalition that emerges from this turmoil actually muster the resources to govern.  If they can’t disaster will ensue, the country will fall apart, and then the question of whether removing Khadafy from power was a good thing will be on everybody’s mind.  One of the things that will complicate any attempt to govern is a failure to keep the rebel coalition together.

The nature of mass movements is such that its constituents are diverse and have different interests; they are united by a common enemy.  But once that enemy is defeated the difference between factions in the movement is magnified.  That’s why civil wars often follow national liberation struggles.  All the factions in a popular front agree on the paramount objective, defeating their mutual oppressor.  But once that objective been achieved the contradictions between factions sharpen.  How to resolve these contradictions peacefully and forge a working coalition that can actually govern, is the paramount problem facing the new leadership of Libya.


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 24, 2011




A Prescription For Disaster!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by playthell

 On American Military Provocations to China and Russia


 Missiles from China’s Mighty Red Army


Is President Obama Trapped by myths masquerading as history?

Since we know that President Obama is a highly intelligent man who, for the most part, has pursued a foreign policy that is something different and something more than that of his predecessor, there seems to be only one rational explanation for some of the irrational decisions the Obama administration is making in dealing with China and Russia in military matters. They are locked in a master narrative that bears little resemblance to historical truth or present reality! 

Although the administration’s foreign policy wonks must recognize the folly of these ideas, they dare not break free of this ideological prison for fear of political retribution from a woefully ignorant and increasingly paranoid electorate; an untutored mob who can easily be whipped into frenzy by right wing Republican demagogues and their point men – the verbose hysterics who dominate AM talk radio.  A poignant example of the extent to which they are servants of historical fictions is the Obama administration’s decision to sell advanced military weaponry to the de-facto island nation of Taiwan – which the Chinese have contended for over half a century is a part of China.  This is a clear insult to Chinese prestige and a threat to their national security.

To compound the insult and heighten the threat congress bans the sale of these same sophisticated weapons systems to China!  Fifty years ago, when US policy on this issue was formulated, the US could get away with such offensives with impunity. But it could prove very costly in today’s world.  China is no longer a technologically backward semi-fuedal nation in the process of modernization; it is a financial power that is the major US creditor, and a rapidly raising technological colossus whose universities are turning out ten times the number of engineers as US universities.

Furthermore, the Chinese have a massive well armed and trained military which would prove invincible in the face of any land invasion. This means that in the event of a conflict our military options would rapidly turn to nuclear weapons.  General Douglass McArthur understood this a half century ago, and warned that America could not prevail in a land war against “the limitless legions of China.” Even then, when China’s military was a far inferior force, the general advocated dropping the A bomb on them.  So the question thoughtful Americans should now be asking is: What would be the US response if China decided to attack and annex Tiawan?

President Bush’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Anti-ballistic Missile treaty in 2002 – which forbade the deployment of missile defense systems except in one location on their home territory and prohibited developing advanced technology that would cover larger areas – was bad enough. But President Obama’s decision to build a defensive missile shield in nations that were once allied with Russia is an even more dangerous game.  It justifies my skepticism about keeping Robert Gates as defense secretary; his hand is everywhere in this misguided decision. In a New York Times column of September 20, 2009 Gates confessed:  “I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies to combat future threats.” 

President Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher, who is negotiating the agreements for deploying these defensive systems in eastern Europe, is also a longtime advocate of missile defense.  As the Chairman of the Strategic Forces Sub-committee of the House Armed services committee, she avidly supported Bush’s plan to build an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe, even though she was a Democrat from California and most of her party opposed it.  Hence Ms. Tauscher’s appointment to her present position begs the question of President Obama’s real intentions when he announced that he was scrapping Bush’s plans to build the shield.  For, according to Under Secretary Tauscher, the Obama plan would provide for earlier deployment and cover a wider area than the system proposed by President Bush!  It’s beginning to look like the old “bait and switch,” a diplomatic bunko game.

Predictably, the Russians have declared these developments – and NATO expansion in general – to be a threat to their national security.  The Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, announced to the press: “Maybe it’s against Iran, but that same system can be targeted against any other country, including Russia’s strategic nuclear potential. The U.S. is using Iran’s actions to globalize its system of missile defense….Our military shouldn’t believe some promises or intentions. We need to go on the assumption that a foreign military potential is approaching our borders.”  This has become the basic assumption of the “New Military Policy,” which calls NATO and US actions one of “the main external threats of war.”  Yet this doctrine will guide Russian military planning for the next ten years. And the comment of Igor Korotchenko, a retired Colonel who edits the National Defense Magazine, should certainly give cause for a pause.  “Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the US missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia’s preventive missile strikes.”

The critical questions here are: Does the Obama administration believe the Russians are bluffing?   And if not, are we prepared to go to war with Russia to defend Romania if they are attacked?   What would happen to the Obama Presidency if the US were forced to back down?  And most important of all: Is any of this in the national interests of the United states or are they just playing politics?   The fate of the Obama Presidency is not the only thing hanging in the balance here…but the fate of the earth as well.

 This Russian Nuclear Missile Can hit Washington in 30 minutes!




 Harlem, New York

Feburary 24, 2010