September 16, 2014

What draws Modi to China. And, importantly, what will the Western Axis do to try to keep India in its grasp?

India’s new dalliance with China gets seriously under way on Wednesday when, on the banks of the ancient Sabarmati river in Gujarat, Narendra Modi greets Chinese president Xi Jinping. The leaders meet at a figurative bend in a river, where expectations that India’s foreign policy will continue to flow America’s way are drying up as India follows the real money. Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

What draws Modi to China
M K Bhadrakumar Asia Times Online Hong Kong September 16, 2014

What readily comes to mind are the lyrics of the famous Frank Sinatra song. Watching the “falling leaves drift by the window … I see your lips, the summer kisses/The sunburned hands I used to hold …”

These wistful lines of infinite longing tinged by nostalgia would characterize the American feelings as India’s dalliance with China gets seriously under way on Wednesday afternoon on the banks of the ancient Sabarmati river in the western state of Gujarat where Chinese president Xi Jinping arrives and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is at hand to receive him personally.

Wednesday also happens to be Modi’s birthday and Gujarat is his home state and the symbolism of what Xi is doing cannot be lost on the American mind.

The widespread expectation in India and abroad had been that the government led by Modi would maintain “continuity” in India’s foreign policy.

That was expected to be in the direction of galvanizing further India’s tilt toward the United States through the past decade of rule under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership, who was acclaimed to be the most “pro-American” leader India ever had since it became independent 67 years ago.

As recently as end-July, the new External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj affirmed, “We think that foreign policy is in continuity. Foreign policy does not change with the change in the government.”

Indeed, India’s political culture seldom admits abrupt policy shifts. Maturity and sobriety are synonymous with continuity in the Indian culture, imbued with respect for the past.

However, one hundred days into the Modi government, it is becoming impossible to maintain the façade.

Navigating through three high-level exchanges in rapid succession through September – with Japan, China and the United States – Modi is casting away rather summarily the lingering pretensions as if dead leaves in an autumnal month.

All this certainly needs some explanation.

The heart of the matter is that there had been a pronounced ‘militarization’ of India’s strategic outlook through the past 10-15 years, which was a period of high growth in the economy that seemed to last forever.

In those halcyon days, geopolitics took over strategic discourses and pundits reveled in notions of India’s joint responsibility with the United States, the sole superpower, to secure the global commons and the ‘Indo-Pacific’.

The underlying sense of rivalry with China – couched in ‘cooperation-cum-competition’, a diplomatic idiom borrowed from the Americans – was barely hidden.

Then came the financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2008 that exposed real weaknesses in the Western economic and political models and cast misgivings about their long-term potentials.

Indeed, not only did the financial crisis showcase that China and other emerging economies could weather the storm better than western developed economies but were actually thriving.

The emerging market economies such as India, Brazil or Indonesia began to look at China with renewed interest, tinged with an element of envy.

Suffice to say, there has been an erosion of confidence in the Western economic system and the Washington Consensus that attracted Manmohan Singh.

From a security-standpoint, this slowed down the India-US ‘strategic partnership’. The blame for stagnation has been unfairly put on the shoulders of a “distracted” and dispirited Barack Obama administration and a ‘timid’ and unimaginative Manmohan Singh government.

Whereas, what happened was something long-term – the ideology prevalent in India during much of the United Progressive Alliance rule, namely, that the Western style institutions and governments are the key to development in emerging economies, itself got fundamentally tarnished.

What we in India overlook is that the 2008 financial crisis has also been a crisis of Western-style democracy. There has been a breakdown of faith in the Western economic and political models.

In the Indian context, the growing dysfunction of governance, widening disparity in income and the rising youth employment combined to create a sense of gloom and drift as to what democracy can offer and it in turn galvanized the demand for change.

Curiously, through all this, it became evident that the mixed economies and ‘non-democratic’ political systems, especially China, weathered the storm far better. Indeed, Modi visited China no less than four times during this period.

Thus, through a corridor of time spanning a decade or two at any rate, the development agenda should get unquestioned primacy. This is where Modi is far-sighted in reorienting India’s foreign policy.

A big question remains: Will Modi be allowed to get away with his road map for India? The history of the modern world is replete with instances of predatory capitalism by the Western world interfering, if need be, to enforce course correction in developing countries that show signs of deviation.

India, again, is a very big fish in the pond and cannot be allowed to get way easily.

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:47 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

America’s island mentality

America’s island mentality
Paul Woodward War in Context USA September 10, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links and its two thoughtful comments appended.

“Traveling in Europe made me understand that America has an island mentality: No one exists except us. There’s a whole other world out there, but most Americans – all they know is America” —

A recent Pew poll asked Americans about what they perceive as “global threats facing the U.S.” the threat from ISIS being among them. The news is that 67% of Americans view ISIS as a major threat to the U.S. — a threat only exceeded by the threat from “Islamic extremist groups like Al Qaeda.”

I guess that after more than a decade of indoctrination in which we have been led to regard Al Qaeda as the purest distillation of evil ever known, it will take some time for the average American to accept the idea that there could actually be anything worse than Al Qaeda.

Even so, the fact that most Americans now perceive ISIS as a major threat doesn’t really reveal a whole lot more than the fact that most Americans watch television.

What I find more interesting than the numbers is the premise behind the pollster’s question: that something could be a global threat and yet not necessarily be a threat to America.

This is a reflection of the prevailing mentality among Americans: that America and the world are in some sense separable.

America can be engaged with or disengaged from the rest of the world because, supposedly, if we are so inclined, the rest of the world can be shut out while America tends to its own affairs.

Is it any wonder that a nation that has such difficulty in seeing itself as part of and as inseparable from the world, also has difficulty viewing climate change — the greatest challenge facing our planet — as a threat?

The Pew poll found that 52% of Americans view the spread of infectious diseases as a threat to the U.S., lower, for instance, than the perceived threat from North Korea’s nuclear program.

No doubt for most people being questioned, when it comes to infectious diseases the issue of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will have been uppermost in their minds.

President Obama’s announcement on Sunday about a U.S. response to the crisis again reflects America’s island mentality. This is how he framed the urgency of the issue: …

He also said, “We have to make this a national security priority.”

For the United States, the Ebola outbreak is less of a humanitarian issue than it is a threat to America’s security.

It’s as though if health workers in Africa could guarantee that the disease was contained and there was no risk of it spreading overseas, then the U.S. would have no reason to be concerned.

When Obama lays out his strategy for dealing with ISIS this evening, it goes without saying that one of the central pillars of his argument will be that this organization poses a threat to America’s national security. To present ISIS in any other way would risk implying that the threat which ISIS poses across the Middle East constitutes a sufficiently urgent threat that even if it was to advance no further, this should nevertheless concern Americans. Such an argument would likely elicit a shrug — we don’t live in the Middle East so why should we care?

The idea that we might care because we all live on the same planet, breath the same air, and inhabit the same world, has little traction in the hearts and minds of Americans who see the world as somewhere else.

The idea that those whose lives are not in danger have a responsibility to pay attention to the needs of those in peril, is a humanitarian impulse which in an era of unquestioned realism, is always a lower priority than the national interest.

Returning to the question about global threats, rather than ask Americans a conceptually mangled question about threats to the U.S., it might have been more interesting to try and gauge awareness about actual global threats, which is to say, threats that are global in scale.

These would be — at least by my reckoning: …

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:45 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Washington wins diplomatic support for campaign in Iraq. Coalition aims to remove ISIS from Iraq — says nothing about Syria; Iran leader says U.S. anti-Islamic State effort ‘pointless’

Washington wins diplomatic support for campaign in Iraq; Syria trickier
John Irish and Jason Szep Thomson Reuters Canada/UK September 15, 2014

(Reuters) – World powers backed military measures on Monday to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq, boosting Washington’s efforts to set up a coalition, but made no mention of the tougher diplomatic challenge next door in Syria.

France sent fighter jets on a reconnaissance mission over Iraq, a step closer to becoming the first ally to join the United States in new bombing there since President Barack Obama declared his plans to establish a broad coalition last week.

Paris also hosted an international conference, attended by the five U.N. Security Council permanent members, European and Arab states, and representatives of the EU, Arab League and United Nations. All pledged to help the government in Baghdad fight against Islamic State militants.

But a statement after Monday’s conference made no mention at all of Syria – the other country where Islamic State fighters hold a wide swathe of territory. Iraq attended Monday’s meeting but Syria did not, nor did its main regional ally, Iran.

Obama pledged last week to establish a coalition to defeat Islamic State fighters in both Iraq and Syria, plunging the United States into two separate civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

Iran leader says U.S. anti-Islamic State effort ‘pointless’
Ladane Nasseri Bloomberg USA September 15, 2014

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State is “pointless,” as members of the alliance met today to coordinate efforts against the militant group.

“Actions that were carried out in Iraq and broke the back of Islamic State were not the deed of Americans but those of the army and people of Iraq,” Khamenei said today in comments on his official website. He said the coalition is “pointless, superficial and has an agenda.”

While U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets helped Kurdish and government forces recapture some of the territory lost to the al-Qaeda breakaway group, Iranian-backed militias have also aided the fight against the Sunni extremists.

Khamenei spoke as European and Middle Eastern wings of the developing coalition gathered today in Paris. At that meeting, 25 nations signed a statement expressing their commitment to supporting the new Iraqi government in its fight against the Islamic State, “by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance.” No concrete new measures were pledged.

Britain hopes Iran will cooperate in fight against IS in Iraq
Agence France-Presse France September 15, 2014

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PARIS – British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday urged Iran to cooperate with an international coalition to fight jihadists in Iraq even if Tehran did not join the group.

Hammond made the call in Paris after a major conference on Iraq as Iran refused to join an anti-jihadist coalition.

“It was always unlikely that Iran would become a fully-fledged member of the coalition but I think we should continue to hope that Iran will align itself broadly with the direction that the coalition is going,” Hammond told reporters.

He also said he hoped Iran would be “cooperative with the plans that the coalition is putting in place, if not actively a part of the coalition.”

Iran, which was not invited to the conference, has rejected American overtures to help in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Tehran has been the main regional ally of the Damascus government throughout the three-and-a-half-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Related: Iraqi president: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE don’t need to join airstrikes against Islamic State
Associated Press/Fox News USA September 14, 2014

PARIS – Iraq’s president says Arab powers Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia do not need to join airstrikes against the Islamic State group.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, President Fouad Massoum also expressed regret that Iran was not invited to take part in the 26-nation conference in Paris on Monday to try to counter the Islamic extremists who control vast parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The conference of mostly Western and Arab world countries and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members aims to show a united front, especially from majority-Muslim nations.

A U.S. State Department official said that several Arab countries had offered to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State fighters.

Massoum says it’s “not necessary” for Egypt, UAE or Saudi Arabia to participate in airstrikes.

Jim comment: I wrote three weeks or more ago words to the effect, ‘Cute. IS a back door into Syria at last and a way back into Iraq.’ Looks more likely every day, doesn’t it?

Obama is open to ground troops in Iraq, a top general says
George Zornick The Nation USA September 16, 2014

President Obama has repeatedly declared there will be no combat troops on the ground in Iraq to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. But a Senate hearing Tuesday with top US military officials revealed that pronouncement is on very shaky ground—there is now no question ground troops are under active consideration at the highest levels of government.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in his opening remarks he isn’t ruling out asking Obama for ground troops. “To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president.”

Dempsey also testified that the president asked him “to come back to him on a case-by-case basis” on the subject of ground troops.

There are currently about 1,600 US troops on the ground in Iraq serving in “advisory” roles. Dempsey reiterated several times he could imagine scenarios in which he would want them to switch into more active roles, though his potential rationale for doing so changed in striking ways throughout the hearing.

Dempsey first said, in a response to a question from Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “If there are threats to the United States, then of course I would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces.”

But moments later, in a response to a question from Senator Jack Reed, he outlined an entirely different scenario that would involve US troops heading into battle without a clear threat to the United States.

“If the Iraqi security forces and the pesh [peshmerga, Kurdish fighting forces] were at some point ready to retake Mosul, a mission that I would find to be extraordinarily complex, it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission,” Dempsey said. “But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don’t see it to be necessary right now.”

“Close combat advising” and “accompanying” don’t literally mean fighting, but clearly US troops would be present in a gritty urban combat operation.

Dempsey clarified in the hearing that military goals are to “destroy ISIL in Iraq, restore the Iraqi-Syrian border, and disrupt ISIL in Syria,” and if the Islamic State retains control of Iraq’s second-largest city, it would be hard to say that mission was accomplished.

Secretary of State John Kerry already opened the door to ground troops last week, when he said they would not be used “unless, obviously, something very, very dramatic changes.”

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:42 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Turkey: A reluctant partner in the fight against the Islamic State

Below: The Middle East Institute (MEI) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank and cultural center in Washington, DC. Founded in 1946, MEI is the oldest institution in Washington dedicated exclusively to the study of the Middle East. The mission of the institute is “to increase knowledge of the Middle East among the citizens of the United States and to promote a better understanding between the people of these two areas.” Dr. Gönül Tol is the founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies

Turkey: A reluctant partner in the fight against the Islamic State
Gönül Tol Middle East Institure USA September 15, 2014

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Last week, President Obama laid out his strategy to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). The strategy includes a systematic campaign of airstrikes; support to forces fighting ISIS on the ground, including Iraqi Security forces and the Peshmerga (the Kurdish armed forces); redoubling U.S. efforts to cut off ISIS funding; improving intelligence; strengthening defenses; and stemming the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East. Without addressing the specifics of the regional division of labor, the President repeatedly stressed that the most important component of his strategy was working with regional allies.

Turkey is one of ten members of the “core coalition” against ISIS announced at last week’s NATO Summit in Wales. Given its long border with Syria and Iraq and the threat ISIS poses to its domestic security, Turkey should be a natural candidate for cooperation against ISIS. The Turkish government has become increasingly concerned about the rise of ISIS after the group captured Mosul and held Turkish consulate staff hostage. Yet, Turkey is likely to be the most reluctant partner. Turkey attended Thursday’s talks in Saudi Arabia where Secretary Kerry sought to build support for Obama’s plan, but it did not join the Arab states in signing the final communiqué.

Several concerns underlie Turkey’s reluctance to play a frontline role. In June, ISIS militants raided the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraq city of Mosul and captured 49 Turkish citizens, including the consul general, staff members, and their families. Since then, Turkey’s top priority has been the safe return of the hostages; it is concerned that joining a U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS might endanger the lives of Turkish hostages.

Turkey’s second concern is its ongoing peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response to the growing ISIS threat, the PKK, the Peshmerga, and the People’s Protection Unit (the military arm of the PKK’s Syrian off-shoot Democratic Union Party) established a united Kurdish front. The PKK militants have come to the aid of Peshmerga fighters in the war against ISIS to halt the jihadi group’s advance into the autonomous region of northern Iraq. The People’s Protection Unit was the main force battling ISIS, and it helped thousands of Yazidis escape from the western part of the region as ISIS attacked.

The United States and some European countries have been directly arming the Peshmerga to facilitate its fight against ISIS. Reportedly some of the arms sent to Peshmerga ended up in the hands of the PKK. Ankara has become increasingly concerned about the PKK strengthening militarily at a time when Ankara is moving forward with a deal that would disarm the group.

Turkey is also concerned about the Shi‘a in Iraq getting stronger at the expense of Sunnis as a result of Western military support. Ankara considers the rise of ISIS as the direct outcome of discrimination by the Shi‘i government against the Sunnis. If the United States keeps beefing up the Iraqi army, dominated by Shi‘a, Turkey thinks the Sunnis will get more alienated and marginalized, becoming more receptive to ISIS ideology. A shift in the balance of power toward the Shi‘a will also strengthen Iran’s hand in Iraq, an outcome Turkey wants to avoid.

Obama’s ISIS strategy creates additional complications for Ankara. Turkey has been at the forefront of the anti-Assad coalition since the early days of the uprising. It even turned a blind eye to weapons transfers to al-Qa‘ida (the most effective fighting force against the regime) and the groups linked to it, hoping to hasten Assad’s fall. But a U.S. attack against ISIS in Syria is likely to strengthen Assad’s hand and help him gain ground in opposition-controlled areas like Aleppo where the moderate Syrian opposition is stuck between ISIS in the north and regime forces in the south.

Public opinion in Turkey is another point of concern. According to a recently released German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Trends Survey results, 57 percent of Turkish society disapproves Obama’s foreign policy, up 4 percent from the previous year.[1] The conservative Sunni base of the ruling party is likely to oppose any Turkish role in a U.S.-led combat mission against a Sunni entity.

Ankara ‘likely to keep’ stance on ISIL action
Serkan Demirtaş Hürriyet Daily News Turkey September 15, 2014

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and US Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands before addressing the media before a meeting in Ankara, Sept. 12. Photo: Associated Press

The international conference to be held under French leadership in Paris on Sept. 15 is unlikely to change Turkey’s position vis a vis the international military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to a Turkish official.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who will represent Turkey at the conference, will underline the need for “absolute elimination of ISIL’s root causes,” citing the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq and the toppling of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria as necessary priorities to achieve this end.

In the event that participants in the Paris conference agree on an action plan outlining the division of labor among the coalition countries, including which country will carry out airstrikes or whose country’s airbases and military facilities will be used, Çavuşoğlu will not make any commitment on behalf of Turkey, according to the Turkish official speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News.

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:40 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

War for Israel is an important tool to project regional strength and distract from political trouble at home, but: Netanyahu loses plot to new Gaza reality—this time few seem to believe his rhetoric

War for Israel is an important tool to project regional strength and distract from political trouble at home, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offensives in Gaza had in recent years furthered those goals. But this year’s brutal Operation Protective Edge has united Palestinians behind Hamas and other resistance groups, suggesting long-term consequences that will outweigh any political benefits.

Netanyahu loses plot to new Gaza reality
Ramzy Baroud Asia Times Online Hong Kong September 10, 2014

Aside from being a major military setback, Israel’s war on Gaza has also disoriented the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu like never before. Since the announcement of a ceasefire on 26 August, his statements appear erratic and particularly uncertain, an expected outcome of the Gaza war.

Since his first term as a prime minister (1996-99), Netanyahu has showed particular savvy at fashioning political and military events to neatly suit his declared policies. He fabricated imminent threats that were neither imminent nor threats, for example, Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Later, he took on Iran.

He created too many conditions and laid numerous obstacles for peace settlements to ever be realized. The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, labored for years to meet Israel’s conditions, and failed. Abbas has taken the same futile road. But Netanyahu’s conditions are specifically designed to be unattainable.

For example, Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian leadership must accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, despite the fact that millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians share that land, which has for centuries constituted the land of historic Palestine. Signing off the rights of non-Jews is not only undemocratic, but also tantamount to clearing the way for another campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

But in actuality, none of this truly matters to Netanyahu. For him, protracted “peace talks” are a smokescreen for his illegal settlement construction project, which remains as ravenous as ever. He is confiscating occupied Palestinian land with impunity, while insisting that Israel’s intentions have always been, and remain peaceful.

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:37 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

United Kingdom in a precarious position as Scots head to the polls

Audio: Clarifying all that is at stake in the Scottish referendum.

United Kingdom in a precarious position as Scots head to the polls
“The Current” CBC Radio One Canada September 16, 2014

No matter how Scots vote in this week’s referendum, some believe the United Kingdom has already changed forever. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

Visit this page for its embedded and related links. You can listen to this segment of the program (27:28) from a pop-up link on the page.

After three hundred years of conquest, the United Kingdom’s greatest threat is now coming from within in the form of Thursday’s independence vote in Scotland. Should the YES side succeed at secession, the fallout could be far-reaching … NATO-grade nuclear weapons would have to be moved and anti-EU activists would find new encouragement. Should the vote go to the NO side, most predict it won’t be over.

Polls suggest Thursday’s independence vote will a close one. No matter the outcome, after the votes are counted, there will still be Scots and English, Welsh and Northern Irish. But relationships within the United Kingdom will be transformed.

There is a growing chorus of voices urging the Scots to remain in the United Kingdom. Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron made an impassioned plea in Aberdeen reminding the Scots of common history, common interests and common values.

“For the people of Scotland to walk away now would be like painstakingly building a home and then walking out and throwing away the keys. So I would say to everyone who is voting on Thursday, please remember…this isn’t any old country. This is the United Kingdom. This is our country and you know what truly makes us great, it is not our economic might or military prowess, it’s our values – British values – fairness, freedom, justice.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron

Professor Sir Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh is a leading historian for Scotland. He has penned 34 books on Scottish history, and he has announced that he will be voting Yes in the referendum…choosing to break away from the United Kingdom.

Other regions within the UK are closely watching the Scottish Vote. The referendum campaign has given a boost to the secessionist movement in Wales. Leanne Wood is the head of the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru or ‘The Party of Wales” and is fully behind the Yes side:

“On the 18th of September, the people of Scotland will be sovereign. It is up to them to decide on that day, whether they want to hold onto that sovereignty for every other day after next Thursday. Today, as citizens of Wales, we gather to send our warmest wishes and our solidarity to the people of Scotland. From the capital city of Wales, we say ‘Go for it Scotland’!”
Leanne Wood, head of ‘The Party of Wales’

And politicians off all political stripes in Northern Ireland are also watching. Jeffrey Donaldson is an MP with the Democratic Unionist Party for Lagan Valley in Northern Ireland.

Margaret MacMillan is the Warden of St Anthony’s College and Professor of International History at the University of Oxford. She is a Canadian historian following the lead up to the Scottish referendum. She was recently in Scotland.

Posted at: September 16, 2014 - 10:35 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

September 15, 2014

The Western Axis way isn’t always the best way & Return of the Magyars: Hungary’s president calls out the USA as morally and financially bankrupt

Are there worldviews inherent in philosophical and religious traditions of the Asia Pacific that shape ethical relationships with the natural world? Are these anthropocentric, biocentric, ecocentric or cosmocentric worldviews? How do our worldviews allocate value and meaning to people, plants, animals and the biosphere? What are the relationships between such worldviews and actual decisions made by policymakers or the daily lives of the people they represent? This repository of ethical world views of nature will eventually include hundreds of entries in an open source format to allow all those of interest, be they philosophers, students, policy makers or those who want to understand others, to consider their world view.

In recent decades, recognition of the intimate relationship between people and places has grown so that cultural diversity is acknowledged as a crucial factor in maintaining the world’s biodiversity. Yet still today, innumerable conservation initiatives remain mired in a dualistic vision that opposes humans and nature. - Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems LINKS, “Mayangna – Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, Nicaragua “

The arrogance of Western diplomatic missions labelling indigenous communities as ‘anti-development’ and even ‘backward’ is indicative of the racism engrained in development discourse. - Amit Singh, a graduate of the London School of Economics who works on the World Views of Nature Project, examining how local philosophies should have more sway in creating international policy.

The Western way isn’t always the best way
Amit Singh New Internationalist blogs UK September 10, 2014

Indigenous groups in Guatemala have been accused of being ‘backward’ for opposing ‘development’ projects such as mines. Photo: David Amsler under a Creative Commons Licence. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Development has become a buzzword in recent decades. No longer do we have the ‘first’ and ‘third’ world. We have the ‘developed’ and the ‘underdeveloped’ world. Typically the developed world is understood to be Western countries, while the underdeveloped world comprises former colonies in the Global South in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We tend to consider development in purely Western and monetary terms, without consideration for local cultural norms and cultural differences. Development has become a doctrine that is aggressively spread by Western states and NGOs, often at the expense of local communities and their standard of living.

Developing states are presented in negative terms in the media and, at times, by NGOs themselves. They are presented as backward, inferior and in need of ‘rescuing’. The assumption is that the developing world needs to be pulled into modernity, its ‘tribal’ culture banished. Poor countries should be made to resemble Western states with highways and sprawling cities. NGOs, of course, tend to take their agenda from Western governments and the transnational corporations that fund them.

White, Western-educated consultants trot across the globe, providing their ‘expertise’ on how best to develop a given community. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank set structural adjustment programmes that swept across Africa in the Cold-War era. These programmes served only to distort problems and in some circumstances contributed to political violence and unrest. The World Bank continues to contribute to the misery of those living in the ‘underdeveloped’ world.

At times it is difficult to see who is benefiting from development, but one thing is clear: it is a huge industry. Of course, many development practitioners are hardworking people trying to make the world more just and equal. But development often benefits the rich one per cent rather than the poor it is supposed to be helping. NGOs may become complicit, facilitating the neoliberal agenda that is promoted by Western states. Such NGOs often played a key role in privatizing what were previously public goods, such as access to healthcare, roads or education.

Related: With so many developments in Ukraine and now a renewed US war on Syria with the Islamic State as the pretext, it has been easy to overlook important developments in the struggle to restore sovereign nations in Europe. - American Kulak

With all this, I would like to point out that a precise or nearly precise forecast of events to come is impossible. Just to cite another refreshing example as a conclusion: the government winning the Hungarian elections declares that at least 50 percent of the Hungarian banking system should be possessed by Hungarians, not by the state but by Hungarians. Three months pass after the elections and this is already a reality. It became a reality that the Hungarian state bought a bank back. Considering such a bank should have never been sold to foreigners, the Hungarian state buys it back, and with this Hungarian national ownership within the banking system exceeds 50 percent. Now the only question that remains, honorable ladies and gentlemen, and it is a question that I am not entitled to answer, that in times like this, when anything could happen, should we be afraid, or should we instead be hopeful? Because the present order of the world is not exactly to our taste, that this future, although it is uncertain, it could even cause huge trouble, it also holds opportunities and developments for our Hungarian nation. So instead of seclusion, fear and withdrawal I recommend courage, prospective thinking, rational but brave action to the Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin but also throughout the world. As anything can happen, it can easily happen that our time will come. Thank you for your honorific attention. - Hungarian President Viktor Orban, concluding paragraph of his speech delivered July 26, 2014. Translated into English by Csaba Tóth for The Budapest Beacon.

Return of the Magyars: Hungary’s president calls out the US as morally and financially bankrupt
American Kulak The Vineyard of the Saker USA September 13, 2014

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Today’s topic is the next target for the Empire’s Two Minutes Hate propaganda in Europe (besides Marie Le Pen and the National Front of France): the ancient nation of Hungary and her proud president, Viktor Orban. Let me start by saying that as an American citizen and independent blogger, I have no financial or blood ties to Hungary, nor is my intent to defend all of Budapest’s policies. My purpose in this post is to examine why the Empire increasingly views the Hungarian government with disdain and has sent out its usual NGO and media mouthpieces to trash President Viktor Orban personally and attack his ‘Putinist’ pro-Russian worldview. In doing so I approach this post from the perspective of someone who is a neophyte to Hungarian politics, but not to the overall games the European Union plays to keep its member nations as vassals to what Saker calls the ‘Anglo-Zionist’ Empire.

Posted at: September 15, 2014 - 2:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Too close to call, but: Many peoples have ‘one foot out the door’ of the Western Axis house. The Scots may show them how to move the other one

The Western Axis is terrified by the thought of an independent Scotland. A critical-freethinking, socially democratic country in its own backyard? Possibly a beacon for the rest of the world? A free Scotland must be avoided at any cost.

Scotland, Quebec, Catalonia – the unity case needs constant remaking
Konrad YakabuskiGlobe and Mail Canada September 15, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and related links.

The prevailing narrative for why Scotland’s independence vote will be closer than almost anyone anticipated is that the No side blew it. Until panic set in, it ran a complacent, negative campaign with a bland leader, leaving the Yes side to invoke the romance of nation-building.

Sound familiar? The same recriminations erupted among the No forces after Quebec’s 1995 referendum. Many blamed the No’s near-loss on an uninspiring campaign led by Quebec Liberal leader Daniel Johnson and its tired warnings of economic Armageddon after a Yes victory.

Then, as now, an unpopular prime minister (Jean Chrétien was almost as disliked in Quebec as David Cameron is in Scotland) was the icing on the cake for a Yes campaign with momentum. Last-minute promises and expressions of affection were repudiated as insincere acts of desperation.

For the vast majority of Quebeckers, however, the decision to vote Yes or No did not turn on anything as superficial as a campaign slogan. Media accounts of the referendum focused on strategies and tactics, but voters focused on the beef, not the bun.

The same goes for the Scots. As Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh noted last week, “big things do not happen for small reasons.” While the “trigger” for wars, revolutions or independence may sometimes be “fiddly and particular,” the “ultimate cause is deep and structural.”

“If a 300-year-old union is on the edge of oblivion, this cannot be explained by ‘messaging’ and ‘tone,’ ” Mr. Ganesh wrote. The forces that held the union together for more than three centuries – the privileges of empire and military threats in Europe – are no longer relevant.

“The UK is not an immutable fact of nature; it is a human design that can be undesigned when the circumstances that gave rise to it no longer obtain,” Mr. Ganesh concluded.

If this is true, watch out. Whatever the result of Thursday’s vote in Scotland, the Yes side’s surprising competitiveness will have recomforted separatists from Catalonia to Corsica, from Quebec to Flanders and to northern Italy, that theirs is far from a lost cause. These regions all belong to countries that are human constructs, formed either at the barrel of a gun or because it seemed like the right thing at the time. The case for unity must be constantly remade.

Six words to determine Scotland’s future, but the real question is ‘why’
L. Ian MacDonald iPolitics Canada September 14, 2014

Could Scotland be an independent country? Of course it could.

Truth be told, Scotland has all the attributes to be a sovereign country — the Scots are a people with their own geography, history and institutions.

“Should Scotland be an independent country?” That’s a very different question. It also happens to be the exact question in Thursday’s referendum. Six words, please answer Yes or No.

There’s quite a bit riding on it, starting with the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom. There’s a lot more than six words to that.

But at least it’s an honest question. There’s no deliberate ambiguity, quite different from the tormented question posed by the ‘Yes’ forces in Quebec in 1980.

For Quebecers and Canadians who’ve seen this movie twice, it’s pretty much Groundhog Day.

There’s one further similarity between the No side in Quebec in 1980, and Scotland in 2014. They’ve had the same campaign slogan, “No Thanks”. Which, now as then, says it all in a polite but firm manner.

And the close call of 1995, which saw divided families and broken friendships, is an experience very few Quebecers want to live through again.

But the Quebec independence movement does have one thing in common with its Scottish cousins — the absence of a rationale for breaking up a great country.

Posted at: September 15, 2014 - 2:11 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

War is nasty; brutish. Western Axis quick to condemn IS beheadings but say nothing about beheadings by our proxies in Ukraine

Mr Cameron, who chaired an emergency Cobra committee meeting on Sunday morning, said the murder of an innocent aid worker was “despicable and appalling”. “It is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to the family of David Haines who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude throughout this ordeal. “We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes,” the prime minister added. - BBC News, September 14, 2014, David Haines’s ‘evil murder’ condemned by PM

Baird says beheading of British aid worker is horrific
Mike Blanchfield Canadian Press/CTV News Canada September 15, 2014

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced Monday the widely held view that fearsome new militants in Iraq and Syria have a “root cause” — a stark characterization that questions the reason for his foreign minister’s recent trip to Iraq.

In a speech to party faithful, Harper unequivocally branded the al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, as “evil” and “vile,” saying it must be opposed.

Harper also blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for his continued aggression in Ukraine, and pledged that Canada would loudly brandish its pro-Ukrainian solidarity later this week when President Petro Poroshenko visits Parliament Hill.

But Harper’s earnest denunciation of ISIL puts distance between himself and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who recently travelled to Iraq to bolster a new central government struggling to contain the new Islamist insurgency.

“Canadians are rightly sickened by ISIL’s savage slaughter of anyone who doesn’t share their twisted view of the world. We know their ideology is not the result of ‘social exclusion’ or other so-called ‘root causes,”‘ Harper said, sparking mild laughter.

“It is evil, vile, and must be unambiguously opposed.”

Harper hosts parliamentary pep rally
Stephanie Levitz Canadian Press/National Newswatch Canada September 15, 2014

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper rallied his political troops Monday, marking the start of Parliament’s fall sitting with a campaign-style rally laden with economic high-fives and tough talk about protecting Canadian values around the world.

With Conservative caucus members and several massive Canadian flags as a backdrop, Harper sang the praises of his government’s work in creating jobs, sealing trade deals and cracking down on criminals.

But it was the fires burning far from Canadian shores — terrorists in Iraq and Syria, the crisis in Ukraine and Israel’s ever-present peril — that earned Harper the loudest cheers from the hyper-partisan, invitation-only crowd.

“We live in an uncertain world, indeed, a dangerous world,” he said.

“But the measure of good government, the true test of leadership, lies not in achieving success in times of stability and peace but in doing so during times of risk and danger.”

Canada won’t cut Russian President Vladimir Putin any slack over the crisis in Ukraine, and will stand with its allies in fighting terrorism in the Middle East, Harper promised.

“We will not rest until the people of Ukraine are free to choose their own destiny,” he said. “Free from Russian boots on their soil, free from intimidation.”

He dismissed suggestions that the brutal ideology of the al-Qaida splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is due to social exclusion or any other root cause. “It is evil, vile and must be unambiguously opposed.”

And on Israel, he said the Jewish state must be supported — a position that earned an enthusiastic standing ovation from the partisan crowd.

Hamas is a greater threat to Israel than ISIL is to Canada, he suggested.

“Israel is the front line,” Harper said. “And anyone among the free and democratic nations that turns their back on Israel, or turns a blind eye to the nature of Israel’s enemies does so, in the long run, at their own peril.”

Photos: Донецким матерям прислали отрезанные головы сыновей (Ukraine). These are the severed heads of Novorussian soldiers captured by Kiev-based death squads near Donetsk. Theses severed heads were reportedly sent to their mothers by one of the terror battalions paid for, and subordinated to, Igor Kolomoiski, a billionaire banking tycoon appointed in June by the post-coup government to the post of governor of Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. The two dead soldiers were fighting for the autonomy of E. Ukraine from the Western Axis installed Ukrainian government. One of the key aspects of the Junta’s strategy is to empty the Donbass of its population, ethnic cleansing if you prefer. Some have left temporarily, and others have probably left forever, but just as in Gaza, those committing these atrocities are deluding themselves if they think everybody whom they will not kill will leave. The human spirit is always stronger than terror, at least in the long run, and unless a true genocide is a real option (and in this case it is not), this terror will not achieve it’s intended result. In fact, it will only strengthen the determination of these people to fight. At any cost.

Posted at: September 15, 2014 - 1:44 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

September 14, 2014

Is ‘Progress’ good for humanity? & Naomi Klein says this changes everything

The idea that the Industrial Revolution made us happier, wealthier, more productive is deeply ingrained. What if it actually made things worse? The article below has been adapted from Jeremy Caradonna’s new book, Sustainability: A History, Oxford University Press, September, 2014. From the publisher’s description:

In this illuminating and fascinating primer, Jeremy L. Caradonna does just that, approaching sustainability from a historical perspective and revealing the conditions that gave it shape. Locating the underpinnings of the movement as far back as the 1660s, Caradonna considers the origins of sustainability across many fields throughout Europe and North America. Taking us from the emergence of thoughts guiding sustainable yield forestry in the late 17th and 18th centuries, through the challenges of the Industrial Revolution, the birth of the environmental movement, and the emergence of a concrete effort to promote a balanced approach to development in the latter half of the 20th century, he shows that while sustainability draws upon ideas of social justice, ecological economics, and environmental conservation, it is more than the sum of its parts and blends these ideas together into a dynamic philosophy.

Caradonna’s book broadens our understanding of what “sustainability” means, revealing how it progressed from a relatively marginal concept to an ideal that shapes everything from individual lifestyles, government and corporate strategies, and even national and international policy. For anyone seeking understand the history of those striving to make the world a better place to live, here’s a place to start.

Is ‘Progress’ good for humanity?
Jeremy Caradonna The Atlantic USA September 9, 2014

Rage against the machine: Luddites smashing a loom. Image: Chris Sunde/Wikimedia Commons. Visit this page for its embedded links.

The stock narrative of the Industrial Revolution is one of moral and economic progress. Indeed, economic progress is cast as moral progress.

The story tends to go something like this: Inventors, economists, and statesmen in Western Europe dreamed up a new industrialized world. Fueled by the optimism and scientific know-how of the Enlightenment, a series of heroic men—James Watt, Adam Smith, William Huskisson, and so on—fought back against the stultifying effects of regulated economies, irrational laws and customs, and a traditional guild structure that quashed innovation. By the mid-19th century, they had managed to implement a laissez-faire (“free”) economy that ran on new machines and was centered around modern factories and an urban working class. It was a long and difficult process, but this revolution eventually brought Europeans to a new plateau of civilization. In the end, Europeans lived in a new world based on wage labor, easy mobility, and the consumption of sparkling products.

Europe had rescued itself from the pre-industrial misery that had hampered humankind since the dawn of time. Cheap and abundant fossil fuel powered the trains and other steam engines that drove humankind into this brave new future. Later, around the time that Europeans decided that colonial slavery wasn’t such a good idea, they exported this revolution to other parts of the world, so that everyone could participate in freedom and industrialized modernity. They did this, in part, by “opening up markets” in primitive agrarian societies. The net result has been increased human happiness, wealth, and productivity—the attainment of our true potential as a species.

Sadly, this saccharine story still sweetens our societal self-image. Indeed, it is deeply ingrained in the collective identity of the industrialized world. The narrative has gotten more complex but remains à la base a triumphalist story. Consider, for instance, the closing lines of Joel Mokyr’s 2009 The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700–1850: “Material life in Britain and in the industrialized world that followed it is far better today than could have been imagined by the most wild-eyed optimistic 18th-century philosophe—and whereas this outcome may have been an unforeseen consequence, most economists, at least, would regard it as an undivided blessing.”

The idea that the Industrial Revolution has made us not only more technologically advanced and materially furnished but also better for it is a powerful narrative and one that’s hard to shake. It makes it difficult to dissent from the idea that new technologies, economic growth, and a consumer society are absolutely necessary. To criticize industrial modernity is somehow to criticize the moral advancement of humankind, since a central theme in this narrative is the idea that industrialization revolutionized our humanity, too. Those who criticize industrial society are often met with defensive snarkiness: “So you’d like us to go back to living in caves, would ya?” or “you can’t stop progress!”

Narratives are inevitably moralistic; they are never created spontaneously from “the facts” but are rather stories imposed upon a range of phenomena that always include implicit ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong. The proponents of the Industrial Revolution inherited from the philosophers of the Enlightenment the narrative of human (read: European) progress over time but placed technological advancement and economic liberalization at the center of their conception of progress. This narrative remains today an ingrained operating principle that propels us in a seemingly unstoppable way toward more growth and more technology, because the assumption is that these things are ultimately beneficial for humanity.

Advocates of sustainability are not opposed to industrialization per se, and don’t seek a return to the Stone Age. But what they do oppose is the dubious narrative of progress caricatured above. Along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, they acknowledge the objective advancement of technology, but they don’t necessarily think that it has made us more virtuous, and they don’t assume that the key values of the Industrial Revolution are beyond reproach: social inequality for the sake of private wealth; economic growth at the expense of everything, including the integrity of the environment; and the assumption that mechanized newness is always a positive thing. Above all, sustainability-minded thinkers question whether the Industrial Revolution has jeopardized humankind’s ability to live happily and sustainably upon the Earth. Have the fossil-fueled good times put future generations at risk of returning to the same misery that industrialists were in such a rush to leave behind?

But what if we rethink the narrative of progress? What if we believe that the inventions in and after the Industrial Revolution have made some things better and some things worse? What if we adopt a more critical and skeptical attitude toward the values we’ve inherited from the past? Moreover, what if we write environmental factors back in to the story of progress? Suddenly, things begin to seem less rosy. Indeed, in many ways, the ecological crisis of the present day has roots in the Industrial Revolution.

All of this is to say that the simple-minded narrative of progress needs to be rethought. This is not a new idea: In fact, critics of industrialization lived throughout the Industrial Revolution, even if their message was often drowned out by the clanking sounds of primitive engines. In their own particular ways, thinkers and activists as diverse as Thomas Malthus, Friedrich Engels, the Luddites, John Stuart Mill, Henry David Thoreau, William Wordsworth, and John Muir criticized some or all aspects of the Industrial Revolution. The narrative of industrial-growth-as-progress that became the story of the period occurred despite their varied protestations. The Luddites questioned the necessity of machines that put so many people out of work. Engels questioned the horrendous living and working conditions experienced by the working classes and drew links between economic changes, social inequality, and environmental destruction. Thoreau questioned the need for modern luxuries. Mill questioned the logic of an economic system that spurred endless growth. Muir revalorized the natural world, which had been seen as little more than a hindrance to wealth creation and the spread of European settler societies around the globe.

These figures have provided wisdom and intellectual inspiration to the sustainability movement. John Stuart Mill and John Muir, for instance, have each been “rediscovered” in recent decades, respectively, by ecological economists and environmentalists in search of a historical lineage. For the sustainability-minded thinkers of the present day, it was these figures, and others like them, who were the true visionaries of the age.

Related audio: Naomi Klein says this changes everything
“Sunday Edition” CBC Radio One Canada September 14, 2014

Photo: Ed Kashi

You can listen to the interview (43:55) from a pop-up link on this page.

An existential crisis for the human species, a clear and present danger to civilization, a death sentence for the planet, a weapon of mass destruction: these are just some of the phrases you will find in Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything. The book is a wake-up call about the state of the environment.

Ms. Klein argues that nothing else matters – war, pestilence, disease, economic collapse – if we don’t have clean air to breathe and water to drink. But we seem to be sleep-walking en masse towards a point of no return.

Naomi Klein is a bestselling author. No Logo – about how we have become slaves to globalization and brand culture – was translated into more than 25 languages and sold more than a million copies. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism also became an international bestseller.

Michael Enright spoke to Naomi Klein in our Toronto studio.

Posted at: September 14, 2014 - 1:04 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post