Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Piper’s Kampf

Donald Trump’s followers roared Thursday night when he claimed he had to defend himself when he was slighted.  (Fox News refused to replace Megan Kelley, by whom the Republican front runner felt offended, as moderator of a Republican debate.)
Most observers noted that behavior showed a level of susceptibility that jibed poorly with the image of a fearless leader.  Following upon Donald’s claim that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue without losing any followers, his continued success is more than slightly disturbing.
One of my children’s favorite recordings was The Pied Piper, that fourteenth century German legend of an itinerant musician who led a village’s children away, never to be seen again.  One version has it that only three children remained behind: one who couldn’t hear the music, another who couldn’t see the piper and a third who was lame. Replace the piper with Donald Trump and many white workers with a high school education turn out to be deaf, dumb and blind to the perils of his tune, ready to follow him anywhere. 
Now replace the pipe with a book, Mein Kampf and you have a prospect at least as terrifying as that of a village’s children led into the local river to drown: walls going to up protect a country whose drones rain bombs down on other nations.

Hitler’s ‘Kampf’ - or struggle - was to secure enough ‘room for life’ (Lebensraum) for the German people. Trumps’ struggle is to ‘make America great again’. Both involve seducing gullible masses and telling them to take what does not belong to them.  The roar of approval at Trump’s Thursday night event are chillingly reminiscent of those recorded at Hitler’s torchlight parades, as Oregon’s, among hundreds of militias, await a national leader.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

To Europe: Forget Bandaids! Be Proactive!

The trials and tribulations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, billed by Time magazine as the most important person of 2015, have made me despair over the rapidity with which my beloved old continent is falling apart.

Rather than constantly repeating that "Germany is strong, and we can do this" (i.e., take in more refugees), Merkel needs to announce an entirely new European policy: "We will cut ties with the American administration intent on raping the third world, and invest the money in helping those countries get on their feet."

This is easier said than done, but the results of inaction are too dreadful to contemplate: instead of affording its people continuing well-being, the European Union will disintegrate into warring nation-states once again, this tie with a crucial new element: a growing minority of Muslims in what was once the bastion of Christianity.

The Union was founded as a reaction to repeated intra-European strife - mainly between France and Germany. But today France, Germany and the other 26 countries of the EU appear helpless in the face of thousands of non white, non-Christian, foreigners, although these amount to only 1-2% of its population.

In politics, dithering can be fatal, one of the reasons why naive voters are drawn to politicians who present themselves as 'strong men', who will inevitably take advantage of the dithering of democrats (see Hitler and the Weimar Republic). Europe is all the more dramatically caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place that the decisive action required to save itself is all but unthinkable: pruning ties with the United States, its savior in two world wars and its tutor for seventy. Brussels is accused by many Europeans of being dictatorial, however it has not given itself the tools to conduct a foreign policy independent of Washington, which in an interdependent world world crucially impacts the domestic arena.

US tutoring is threatening Europe's survival. The current generation of leaders has imbibed American leadership with its mothers' milk, taught in school that the Yankees liberated them from German occupation, and finally, after an initial period of resentment, utterly seduced by America's version of modernization. Not to mention how much easier it is to follow than to take initiatives. America's successive rescues probably convinced Europe's leaders, from Adenauer and Schumann on, that the fractious peninsula needs a strong, benevolent tutor to keep the peace. It did not occur to them that Europe would eventually pay the price for America's determination to rule the world.

The presence of a seemingly formidable neighbor - the USSR- on its borders, combined with Soviet hegemony over the Eastern half of Europe, sufficed to keep Christian-Democratic/Democratic -Socialist elites alternately in power, guided by American pro-consuls toward the fruits of progress. But insidiously, this was accompanied by the atrophy of European geo-political thought. (Suffice it to remember the widespread European opposition to America's war in Vietnam, compare to its attitude toward the bombing of Yugoslavia or the invasion of Iraq") On a continent of historically rambunctious rulers, only the Communists could be counted upon to warn of paths best not taken - in vain.

Anti-communism will someday be recognized as one of the main factors having contributed to a widening North-South divide, preventing an ever more comfortable Europe from realizing that it could not remain forever aloof from the travails of the South. Remnants of -colonialism - even if in the form of paternalism - led it to participate in adventures in adjacent areas such as the Middle East and Africa led by an America protected by two oceans from blowback.

Instead of seeing the European Union - the second largest economy in the world - as an equal weight to an oil-rich but backward Middle East, and the three giants Russia, China, and India, with which it shares the Eurasian continent, for the first time in its history, Europe took on the role of junior partner with severely limited voting rights.

The failure of Europe’s leaders to assert their authority over foreign affairs, building a better partnership with Arabs and Africans than the disastrous one gifted them by Washington, is fast resulting in reverse colonization

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Study in National Denial

Having spent a total of thirty years living in France, I have a Ph.D in the study of national denial: when I first arrived there as a child in 1948, France still ruled Indochina, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and a host of other third world countries. Britain had its Commonwealth, but France, as De Gaulle never tired of saying, had its ‘rayonnement’.  The seven foot tall general led the French resistance to German occupation from London, ruled France after the Liberation, then again in the late fifties when he designed the Presidential Vth Republic and steered France out of its North African colonies - and NATO.  De Gaulle was to twentieth century France what George Washington and Abe Lincoln combined are to the United Sates: a country’s enduring image of itself with a halo.
That image would not have been possible without a long line of Louis, starring the fourteenth, or Sun King, then the sixteenth, whose head was chopped off to give the people a voice, followed by the imperial Napoleon, Hitler’s ill-fated predecessor in invading Russia, and Merkel’s predecessor when it came to knocking Europe’s ‘crowned’ heads together.
Fast-forward to 2015: the Fifth Republic’s second socialist president, Francois Hollande, dubbed its least popular ever, faces recession, an avalanche of immigrants, and the looming dissolution of the European Union that neither France nor Germany can avoid without taking their heads out of the sands of America’s Empire.
The political class in France coped with their country’s terminal decline after World War II by mocking and denigrating the United States: Americans were loud and ignorant, and they were going to destroy Europe’s unique culture! The earliest modern graffiti was probably the popular slogan “US Go Home!” But by the early 1980’s, Fulbright and other government-sponsored programs having lured European decision-makers to the US for lavish stays among America’s best and brightest, even left-wing intellectuals found things to admire, while the rest of the country took to ‘Le Drug Store’ and the latest street memes.
For forty years, Europe had told itself that it shared the convictions of the superpower across the seas, even though liberte, egalite, fraternite implies solidarity, whereas the pursuit of happiness does not. Although each individual country had an array of left-wing parties, Europe was content to play off Washington and Moscow while clinging to the Atlantic Alliance just in case if the Red Army really was poised to strike - or to save itself from a soft takeover known as ‘Finlandization”. 
In the nineteen-eighties and nineties, instead of letting its myths go, France continued to claim a unique place among America’s subalterns - right behind Great Britain (“Perfide Albion”!). As long as Marianne, the symbol of France, was standing, English would never become the world’s lingua franca (franca….). The ‘Academie’ continued to Frenchify American words, while Arab youth adopted hip-hop and created a street language incomprehensible to Sorbonne/Harvard-educated  adults.
Today, Finlandization is alive and well. The current kerfuffle over the supply of gas from beyond EU borders feeds a dawning awareness among European economic leaders that they can have non-imperialist relations with Eurasia instead of subordinate relations with the hegemon overseas. But this piece is not about Europe, it’s about the US refusal - so similar to the one I witnessed in France for decades! - to admit that its time in the sun has passed, and to graciously, for the good of humanity -pass the baton to Eurasia.
The American version of National Denial does not involve cultural icons, but a commitment to full-spectrum dominance. This requires no-drama Obama to assure us that we are defeating ISIS and that Russia’s showing off of its latest hardware at its airbase in Latakia with a lot less formality than journalists get on US installations, is a desperate attempt to deny its isolation.
Faced with the daily, embarrassing proof of the failure of its campaigns against Iraq and Libya, compared to evidence that the Russia intervention requested by President Assad is moving the Syrian tragedy toward resolution, the US has adopted two tactics:  it paints Putin as a sort of Lone Ranger, getting himself into a ‘quagmire’ with no real allies other than China, Iran and the creepy Hezbollah, while touting the biggest trade deals ever, the TPP for the Pacific rim and the TTIP for Europe, as evidence of its military and economic dominance.
But these assertions are even easier to debunk than France’s ‘rayonnement’.
Washington claims the TPP accounts for 40% of the world’s GDP, but the math says otherwise: the US accounts for 17%, and even with Japan’s 4.6%, the other members only account for 10%, for a generous total of 28%. A statement on the TPP site reveals the deliberate obfuscation: “Through this agreement, the Obama Administration seeks to boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality American jobs by increasing exports in a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies and that represents nearly 40 percent of global GDP. “
The Pacific region does represent nearly 40% of global GDP if China is included, but the purpose of the treaty is to exclude and if possible counter China, the world’s second largest economy, with 10% of GDP. Given this reality, the two mega trade deals pursued by the US, the TTP to the East, and the TTIP to the West,  are a desperate attempt on the part of the hegemon to preserve its status - an exercise in denial. 
In addition to aligning its ducks in the Pacific to counter China, it is crucial to the future of the US that Europe sign on to the TTIP, notwithstanding the new regional trade entities that Russia and China are creating across the Eurasian continent.
 Never completely identifying with Europe, while renegotiating its EU status, Britain has signaled its interest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Should the EU, instead of joining the TTP, follow suit, adding its 18% of global GDP to China’s 10, Russia’s 1.8, India’s 2, Brazil’s 2.3, South Africa’s 350 (these latter part of the BRICS, the main upstart group organized around Russia and China) the result would be 32% versus 28% for the US-sponsored Pacific rim.
While France still claims all other cultures draw their creativity from her unique example, the US has emphasized its economic and military power.  However, its 900 plus bases worldwide can only be maintained if purse-strings permit. In a chicken and egg scenario, the US must appear not as the fairest of them all but as having the deepest pockets. As that becomes ever more difficult to pull off, it can only cry in the wilderness that “there is no alternative” to American leadership, painting its designated rival  as isolated. 
Evidence that America’s allies increasingly identify with President Putin’s approach to world affairs will be the subject of the third article in this series.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Merkel, Putin and the World Island

The US is trying very hard to persuade the Western world that President Vladimir Putin wants to recreate the old Soviet Union and also retake the countries of Eastern Europe that became Soviet satellites at the 1945 Yalta conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
What is never mentioned is the background for the Yalta decision: the fact that Eastern Europe was/is seen by Russia as the historical corridor from which Western attacks have come: the Teutonic Knights, Napoleon, then Germany, twice.  (Ghengis Khan’s Mongols came from the East and ruled Russia for four centuries….) Centrally located, Germany has historically been the dominant influence in the  region east of the Alpine barrier which, for the Russians, has been an open back door.
Having fomented two world wars in thirty years, a twice defeated Germany ultimately became the de facto leader of the European Union (however much France would like to believe in its equal role). Considering the current transformation of the Russia/German relationship, we can, for all practical purposes substitute ‘Germany’ for Europe.  
As a KGB agent, Putin was stationed in East Germany, where Angela Merkel lived until the age of 35, when Germany was reunited. The two leaders are fluent in each others’ language.  When in March, 2014 Merkel (Time’s 2015 person of the year) remarked that Putin was “living in another world”, Washington took the quip for more than it was worth, failing to realize it could be interpreted in many different ways.
The remark came on the heels of a long economic crisis brought about essentially by Europe foolishly following Wall St., and before it became the dumping ground for the victims of Washington’s intrusive policies around the world. The momentous arrival of up to 1,000,000 refugees in one year has led to a ‘European Awakening’: the old world’s movers and shakers - in particular its business community, but also, more cautiously its political leaders - are at last giving themselves permission to turn toward the European peninsula’s natural ally, the country that dominates the Eurasian continent geographically. 
The Eurasian land mass was designated by the early 20th century British geographer Halford Mackinder as “The World Island”, a notion that was dusted off to great effect in Natylie Baldwin and Kermit Heartsong’s Ukraine, the Grand Chessboard and How the West was Checkmated. This fascinating book shows that Mackinder’s affirmation that "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland and who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island”, inspired the Neo-cons to detach Ukraine from Russia.  They did this by getting the EU to back the deposition of the democratically pro-Russian President in 2014.  

The location of Ukraine, bordering on Poland, Bela Rus, Slovakia and Romania clearly marks it as the final lap of the invasion route from Eastern Europe to Russia, hence its strategic importance, aside from its minerals and black earth farmland, to the World Island theory. 

Often overlooked is the fact that Mackinder’s theory reflects the early twentieth-century colonial worldview according to which power rests with a white, mainly Christian center, to be exercised over a darker, tribal or Muslim periphery. Reprised by Zbig a century later, it remained a colonial theory, the only relevant difference being that a neo-liberal America rather than a ‘north’ that also included Europe, was now in charge..

The Neo-con commitment to permanent US leadership requires the world to believe that the threat lies with Russia. But just as crucial is the fundamental difference in world outlook between the US and an increasingly vibrant and relevant ‘south/third world’, led by Russia and China, with India close behind. Contrary to what the United States ceaselessly affirms, the challenge is neither commercial nor military, but philosophical: the colonial template is being challenged by the Eurasian-led affirmation that great powers must rule the world cooperatively.
The only solution Washington sees to this uncomfortable truth is to saddle Russia with its own motivation. The crisis engineered in Ukraine was intended to prevent Russia and China - the two powers that geographically dominate Mackinder’s World Island  from successfully organizing the globe on a collegial rather than colonial basis.
Two years after agreeing to engineer the so-called Maidan Revolution, an economically weakened Europe struggles with a refugee crisis that puts into question its very borders. As Russian speaking Eastern Ukrainians’ continue to defy Kiev, Brussels tries to gently back away from the Neo-Nazi monster it unwittingly helped empower. Still not daring to openly defy orders from Washington, it renewed sanctions against Moscow for six months, while its businessmen and academics trek to Moscow to mitigate the harm.
As the Europeans edge up to the Russia/China Silk road, the second part of the Heartland Theory is being confirmed: the British Isles have indeed become "outer islands”, while increasingly, the America’s are "outlying islands”. Merkel’s comment that Putin was living in ‘another world’ could refer to the World Island, which Europe is finally recognizing as its home.

Note:  The second article in this series will confront the phenomenon of ‘national denial’.