The Future of the Middle East: Islam versus the Radicals


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A few years into the crisis, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad issued a stark warning to the international community, with perhaps more emphasis on what he referred to as the coalition funding the uprising, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Europe, the US and Israel. The president warned of the impending consequences of funding or supporting terrorist groups which he said would eventually turn against them. Remember that al Qaeda was originally supported by the US in its conflict against the USSR in Afghanistan. This is largely why al Qaeda has endured till today. Ironically, al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the deadliest terror attack on US soil – 9/11.

Terrorism is a reoccurring phenomenon. Its potential to exist cannot be ended. That is precisely why the so-called “War on Terror”, like the “War on Drugs” is futile. A war cannot be fought against an ideology or a concept.

But reducing terror, is not impossible. Neither is stability in the Middle East. Terrorism in the name of radical Islam is a relatively new phenomenon that emerged in the twentieth century, largely as a response to a series of actions undertaken by global powers.

The emergence of ISIS, which has overshadowed al Qaeda, has prompted a new opportunity for previously tense relations between Arab states to improve, out of necessity not necessarily genuine conviction.

The country of Syria has historically stood its ground in the front against foreign occupation. For this reason, global powers utilized terrorism and exploited Arab grievances to their advantage, an unoriginal tradition of US foreign policy. In fact Syria is referred to as the beating heart of Arabism.

Putin’s Russia foreign policy is largely a response to US imperial overreach. The illusion of capitalism and conservative politics being mutually exclusive from imperialism is becoming more apparent. Western democracy is being threatened by the age-old western tradition of absolutism. Furthermore, democracy is being threatened by mob-rule and populist right-wing fascism, which has engulfed England as evidenced by ‘Brexit’, and may soon engulf the US, as evidenced by the rise of Donald Trump and the New Conservative Class.

Recent attacks in Saudi Arabia have provided a rare opportunity for Arab states to cooperate. This sense of unity has only become hopeless and scarce because of the history of foreign domination of this region. Has there have been a fully united Arab world? If so, certainly it hasn’t been for long enough, since the Islamic empires were largely Asian and Turkish in orientation. Ottoman Islam, like European colonialism, and historical imperialism all took from the opportunity for Arab nationalism, unity and sovereignty. Furthermore, it reduced Arab culture to narrow, dogmatic religious traditions. The source of this fanaticism is mainly the Gulf, which has exported radical Islam globally. That the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is allied to the US is elusive. How can terrorism be genuinely reduced if the perpetrator is allied with the force against it?

Why is there always a security menace in the Middle East, meant to justify security policy and foreign occupation?

If the world leader, the United States of America, is devoted to securing a better world, it must tackle the problem afflicting the Middle East as a threat to the Islamic world. Islamic terrorism, like US imperialism, have together reduced security in the Muslim world. Coercive democratization efforts, funding of terrorists, regime-change and military invasion have reduced security in the Muslim world.

Why is the US playing this contradictory role? How does it benefit?

The easy answer is oil. But countries like Turkey remain closely linked to the US despite its lack of resource abundance. The resource-curse cannot explain why the US is heavily involved in security coordination with Turkey.

The geopolitical location of the Middle East, as the buffer zone between East and West; the democratic-capitalist and the orthodox-authoritarian world. As a result, this region has been perpetually plagued by security initiatives, led by the West and the East, which is meant to suppress Middle Eastern sovereignty, and to preserve the elite dominance of Russia, China, England and America.

The most important element of political stability is sovereignty.

If the sovereignty of the Middle East is realized and respected, terrorism can be reduced.

But this age-old tug-o-war between world powers over dominion of the Middle East is not entirely original and for this reason it has been referred to as the New Great Game, whereas the old power players were the UK and Russia; the UK has been replaced by the US.

But Russia’s role has been more of a counter-balance to the US. Only following WWII did communism fully take root in Russia. After that, the USSR became the world’s second greatest power. While many countries were coerced into allegiance to the USSR, some also did so willingly out of repulsion to Western imperialism – a sort of balancing. Similarly, many states balanced against the USSR, with their democratic allies forming then future NATO bloc.

The idea of a Shiite-Sunni conflict in the Middle East is an extension of American imperial propaganda meant to preserve the political apparatus which has dominated the Arabian peninsula for the past century – anarcho-capitalism & Islamo-fascism. These two forces, together, have caused the greatest socio-economic imbalance in the Middle East. Together, this social reality, fused with constant violations to Middle Eastern sovereignty have made this region the breeding ground for radicalism and terrorism. While Central Asia and Latin America share similar characteristics with the region, both have made substantial democratic reforms, and exhibit much less levels of political instability. What is the reason for the lag in the Middle East?

The world powers are bent on subjugating this region and preventing its sovereignty merely out of their imperial ambitions. The only institution meant to check these powers, the UN, is powerless in the face of global tyranny. Instead, the world points to radical Islam without realizing that it would not exist if these political realities also did not. It has much less to do with resources and regime-type as it does with the persistence of foreign occupation via Israel; US military invasions; covert operations; and terrorism. If the US was not culturally inclined towards domination-politics, a global balance of power could emerge limiting imperial overreach as well as reducing the incentive for imperial retaliatory measures such as those undertaken by Russia and the Soviet nations following WWII.

Diversity, secularism, stability and political development are not possible with the realization of the need for sovereignty, and the greatest disrupter of this possibility can be explained by constructivist theory which sees the tendency for hawkish foreign policy as a social construct of US political culture. If the warring tendency of capitalist-inclined states can be reduced, not only can true democracy unfold globally, but so to can violence be reduced. Pushing for democracy coercively will not solve the problem because political development must come from authentic national initiative. Any attempt by foreign powers to get involved is in their own self-interest.

Elements of realism, liberalism and constructivism must all be considered, but so too much constructivism. The distinct political cultures of states must be realized. Furthermore, sovereignty must be respected.

Is the problem imperial tendency or democracy or capitalism?

Democracy might not work in the Middle East. It might. But if it does, it won’t come from coercive foreign efforts. Even then, democracy is not universal in orientation and takes many forms, such as the Westminster model versus the consensual model. Elements such as term limits, referendums, votes of confidence, parliamentary representation, and other limits are distinct across different countries. Perhaps many Arab leaders do possess support of a majority of their populations. How can we know if the observation is tainted by war and foreign occupation?

Capitalism is disrupting democracy. Free markets and individual liberty are necessary for prosperity, happiness and stability – but so to is law and order. Sometimes, ideologies like capitalism can run rampant and overshadow human values.

The problem is imperial tendency – capitalism taken to an intolerable scale.

Once this extreme is mitigated, imperial overreach will too and political stability won’t be so scarce an opportunity on a global scale.

The majority of casualties as a result of radical Islamic terrorism are Muslims themselves. Furthermore, more than a quarter-million Iraqis have died since the beginning of the US invasion. The face of radicalism is not only Islamo-fascism, but also American imperialism. We can lump the Abu Bakr al Baghdadis, Zawahiris, bin Ladens, Kasimovs, Julanis, as well as the Dick Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Bushs, Saddam Husseins, Gaddafis, Kim Jong Uns, Dutertes all into the same bunch – individual with imperial ambitions and a disregard for human life and security.

Once laws are enacted to limit the potential for such individuals to exploit the political process in the US and abroad, sovereignty can be respected, political stability and human security can be fortified, and political development can be made possible. Until then, we remain paralyzed by power, money, terror & propaganda.

The World to Come – Volume I: An International Theory of Politics


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Cultural relativism and constructivism are two theories, one sociological the other political, that help us understand international politics from a different perspective.

We challenge the idea of absolutes but we also accept the traditions which develop over time as part of human social culture, or constructs.

There are elements of all philosophy, from realism and liberalism, which are embraced. But ideas such as the universalism of capitalism and democracy are challenged. Furthermore, I seek to explain all global injustice as a result of the exploitation of human insecurities by global political elites. There are remote, isolated incidents of craziness, but the trend suggests that, most human suffering is caused by the decisions of political elites to disregard the cultural distinctions and sovereignty between states.

Imperial overreach is practiced by many states. But the argument here is that the culture of capitalism embraced in the West, particularly in America, in the post-20th century especially, enables the likelihood for international agendas of domination.

While hegemony and power are innate, domination and violations of sovereignty are not. While America struggles to establish its identity as leader of the free world, individuals within America wish to export this freedom to countries where religious sensitivities are prioritized over democratic values and individual rights.

Regions of the world with rich indigenous histories and religious sensitivities, like Latin America, Central & South Asia, and the Middle East, are not conducive to democracy.

In the twentieth century, communism and nazism were viewed as threats to democracy – but had neither the English nor the Americans been aggressively imperialistic, democracy itself would not have been threatened. Imperialism, the desire to expand beyond one’s natural borders, is the cause of ideological fanaticism and political instability, plain and simple.

The frequency of violence and radicalization cannot be viewed as a cause – but rather the effect of another cause – violation of sovereignty. The moral indignation, humiliation and socio-economic depravity resulting from foreign occupation causes political instability and violence to ensue.

The result is terrorism and vulnerability.

That is precisely why Islamic radicalism has become a “thing”. While it is mostly due to the media’s biased coverage, the main reason why Muslims are vulnerable to radicalization is the social and economic inequalities in the regions in which they live. These inequalities are assumed to be the direct cause of governmental shortcomings, but upon closer examination, the complicity of foreign powers, namely the US and Europe, in destabilizing the region, becomes far too apparent.

That is why petty, underdeveloped initiatives are toppling leaders are viewed with such skepticism and distrust, especially in the Middle East. These initiatives have ulterior motives, driven more by agendas of destabilization and maintaining control than by the moral motives of human rights. Such is evidenced by double-dealing from world powers like the US, Russia and Europe in the Middle East and Central Asia, funding radicals on one hand, and putting puppets into power on the other.

It becomes that much more difficult to believe that democracy will solve the problem of instability in the aforementioned regions of the world.

And attempts at spreading democracy in these regions are as mischievous as the USSR’s campaign for spreading communism. This neoconservatism is not very different.

Power is perhaps an innate feature of mankind, but war & instability is not, contrary to conventional theory in politics.

If countries are forced to contain their imperial potential, stability will ensue. But this entails tackling illusions of our history. This entails confronting the assumptions we have about international relations today.

We must learn to appreciate the West’s liberty – but the West must learn to appreciate the East’s cultural heritage.

Only through such self-reevaluation can stability be possible.

The Obama Doctrine – from Tehran to Havana


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I think its a beautiful thing to see a US-Cuban rapprochement.

A full reconciliation of relations may be naive, but the so-called “Obama Doctrine” has made normalizing relations, with some of America’s most bitter “rivals” historically, part of the agenda.

The Nuclear Deal with Iran (which American 12republicans are sworn to reverse, along with every other progressive measure – immigration, healthcare, etc.); Obama’s sympathy with the Palestinians; his less hawkish tendency in the Middle East – these are part of what has been called the Obama Doctrine.

Though it has been vague. This is partly because Obama is an elusive figure. Early on, some called him a socialist. But it appears that before anything, Obama is a classical liberal – of the Neo-Liberal Institutionalist approach of international relations.

His emphasis on “trade relations” with Cuba underscores his belief that capitalism & democracy are the path to civility. Instead of military pressure, Obama has wielded the tool of diplomacy and pragmatism. I recall Fareed Zakaria’s article which labeled this era the Age of Pragmatism.

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I must say that, while I understand that few presidents or US leaders can be critical of Israel, some are, more than others. Still, not enough is done. Palestinians are reduced to extremists calling for the removal of Israel; while Western leaders ignore the ongoing reality – Israel is actually removing the Palestinians. Thus, instead of tacit support of Israel, the US should play a neutral role, and allow the natural course of Middle Eastern self-determination to unfurl. The same applies for the rest of the Middle East. This approach could be an extension of what Obama is trying to do. Perhaps it could further democratization efforts in the region – but more importantly, it could create stability.

Is “Democracy” possible in the Middle East?


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As I prepare my thesis for my graduate studies at the University of Central Florida, I begin to ponder some of the variables involved.

This forces me to ask other questions about my subject matter, the Middle East, and social justice.

Is democracy meant for the Middle East?

It is true that Lebanon is the most democratic; with women’s freedom to dress liberally and citizens to criticize politicians openly; but still, the system is very much undemocratic, corrupt & influenced by autocratic neighbors.

This leaves me wondering if the Middle East is intended to be democratic, given its religious nature and religious history.

During my undergraduate studies, I recall my professor of ME studies, an Iranian-American not to mention, who challenged the universalism of democracy, asserting that the ME was a unique society, possibly unsuited for democracy; at least the Western model.

Many proponents of democracy in the ME, most of which tend to be either non-Middle Easterners, or Middle Easterners from the diaspora, such as the Syrian National Council, the supposed coalition against Syrian president Bashar al Assad. The SNC, operates outside Syria, in Turkey. These critics of the dictatorship in Syria argue that the ME is suited for liberal democracy, but only a minority is liberal, which is why perhaps the Syrian opposition to Assad was swallowed up by extremist groups; which represents the majority of the opposition. This reality suggests that, even if the dictatorship were overthrown, genuine liberal democracy wouldn’t ensue, but rather, an Islamic-style of government. And the extents of its Islamism would be unknown. Take Egypt, another example for instance. When democracy prevailed, the force that dominated the elections was Islamism, in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. This scared liberal Egyptians, and secularists in the international arena alike. It almost minimized the prospects of a liberal democracy flourishing the heart of Arab civilization; the “Mother of the World” – Egypt.

Iraq, almost 13 years after its so-called ‘liberation’, remains in worse shape than it did prior to the invasion.

Libya, it could be argued, suffers the same fate.

So why then, must we continually heed neoconservative calls for “democratic revolution” in the Middle East?

Are we right or wrong to?

Netanyahu’s Election Speech Hypocrisy


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Since Israel is more of an apartheid than a democracy, it is becoming increasingly difficult for western democracies like the US and Europe to continually vouch for the Jewish state.

The Obama Administration has certainly broken from the traditions of its predecessors and perhaps the entire tradition of American politics by even SLIGHTLY suggesting a rift in relations between the US & Israel.

The underlying reality that Israel is an unjust entity resonates with the disenfranchised communities of United States, especially the African-American population, which only 30 years ago were granted the right to vote.

Largely disenfranchised socio-economically, African-Americans make up the majority of prisoners incarcerated in the US. The reality that African-Americans were only granted the right to vote 30 years ago cannot be understated in this context. Poverty, violence and disenfranchisement produce the kinds of demographics we see in the US today, with regards to the huge discrepancy in economic equality between White and Non-White Americans. Similarly, in Israel, the Arab and Palestine population endures the same levels of injustice. This is not to diminish either sides peculiarity or suffering but rather to reveal the ties between the forces responsible for injustice in the Middle East and injustices here in the US. Our attention is constantly being diverted by the media as it portrays Americans seperately from the rest of the world, the irony being in that the US is the most heavily involved country in foreign affairs in the entire world.

Islamophobia and racism are tools of the same political forces. That is why when Netanyahu made his racist comments regarding Arab-Israeli citizens just to harbor the election victory, it comes as no surprise. Similarly, US officials and police authorities spout racist comments so as to discourage and perpetuate suppression of African-American rights.

Furthermore, Israel’s hypocrisy is revealed in Netanyahu’s pathetic post-election victory apology for his racist comments, so as to appease the Israeli “left” and the West. He did not fail to make the following comment after his so-called apology:

“I think, similarly, that no element outside the state of Israel should intervene in our democratic processes.”

Was it not Netanyahu who intervened in US politics by speaking to Congress without consulting a bi-partisan coalition?

Hypocrites. But we’re used to it.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32026995

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The Deer Hunter Russian Roulette Scene


One of my favorite scenes from the movie. The Vietnam War, a contentious issue of debate, remains a stain on US history. Despite being portrayed as a containment of communism, the US invasion proved not only disastrous, but to carry its own agenda, the suppression of national sovereignty.

This same phenomenon occurred in Afghanistan, when the US funded the mujahadin of Afghanistan to combat communism. The premise of containing communism was quickly overshadowed by a new specter of foreign oppression, western capitalism.

The Arab Spring: Legit or Not?


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The question of whether or not the Arab Spring is a legitimate movement against corruption and tyranny requires addressing the following assumptions regarding the culture of the Middle East as well as the nature of democracy as a political philosophy; and the credibility of global power like the US, Europe, Russia & China in policing the world and/or crusading for democracy.

Obviously we cannot throw all uprisings in the Middle East into one category because each country is different culturally and circumstantially. The main scene of protest in the Middle East in what would be called the Arab Spring includes Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria & Bahrain. It wasn’t much before the Arab Spring when the Lebanese people orchestrated a one-million man protest in Beirut which would eventually force the Syrian government to withdraw completely.

Protests also erupted in neighboring countries of influence and significance, namely Iran & Turkey.

Some might argue the Arab spring inspired movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba & Ukraine where extreme forces are already threatening to take grip — amidst uncertainty and the vulnerable state of a country during a transitional phase of government.

As I stated before each of these countries is different. The type of reforms necessary, the culture of the people, the grievances of the people. They are not all the same. What was common among all participants of the Arab Spring was a sense of discontent with the social, political and economic conditions of the Arab people. But what exactly is the cause of the misery of the Arab people? Is it the tyranny of their own governments, or the tyranny of global powers?

Take a look at Syria for example, where the government has been ruled by a close-knit group of Assad-sympathizers. 75% of the Syrian population is Sunni, which has remained largely unrepresented in the political and economic aspects of Syrian life. The Alawites, a minority religious sect of Shiite Islam, have been largely in control of the political process in Syria, operating from the stronghold of Damascus. Despite disparaties between the elite rich and the impoverished lower classes, largely Sunni, the majority of Syrians were content with their state of affairs. The irony is that it was the Alawites who were disenfranchised from Syrian society before the coup which ushered in the presidency of Hafez al-Assad in 1970. The Alawites were regarded as heretics and second class citizens. It was Assad’s rise to prominence which elevated their social status, seen by many Syrians as their way of avenging their history of oppression. The Correction Movement, initiated by the Assad government, aimed to socialize the Syrian economy and redistribute wealth more fairly so as to guarantee universal prosperity. The outcome? While major advancements were made on a national level in terms of infrastructure and self-sustenance, the economy was largely controlled by the Assad government. How was this different from the Sultan-esque elitist economic model that ruled Syria prior to Assad’s Corrective Movement? Similar efforts were attempted in the realm of Socialism in Egypt and Libya for example, by Gamal Abd Nasser & Muammar al-Gaddafi, respectively. All three of this historic figures were regarded as threats to global hegemonies and the tradition of capitalism which had been the foundation of the international political system for centuries. None of their socialist policies brought openness and prosperity to the economy except for those in power, essentially just fortifying the system of stagnation in place before.

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Assumption: democracy is the universal road to justice; democracy is compatible with Arab & Muslim society; democracy is a guaranteer of social equality; that the global police actually exhibit democracy.

Has there ever been a democracy? Is the US a real democracy? The French Revolution was hijacked too. Instead of ushering in what was supposed to be individual rights we went from tyranny of the pride to tyranny of the revenge. The American Revolution ushered in the first real modern attempt at democracy to ensure the rights of individuals socially, economically and politically. But how could the US be a democracy if it for 200 years deprived all African-Americans of basic, necessary human rights? Today immigrants, gays, muslims, arabs, atheists, jews and still African-Americans, are the subject of unequal treatment.

Even in the far east, in Russia for example, the public attempt to collective reform Russian society was another revolution hijacked by yet another pseudo-science: Communism. Communism merely strengthened the hold of elitism by placing control in the hands of a political party and cult of personality versus a family or royal name as had been before.

Thanks to movements by honorable leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. the US has made great strides towards a more democratic society; however the 21st century has revealed that 200 years of human rights abuses have consequences that are still to be seen. I am referring to the corruption of the justice and prison systems as well as police brutality and disparaging inequalities in income. The 21st century also ushered in the Arab Spring. In the case of Tunisia, I would say the movement succeeded. In the case of Egypt, Libya & Syria, it is not the same. Syria has become the battleground for the war against fundamentalism as well as a proxy war against Israeli expansionism. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism as well as failure on the international community to realize the human rights of the Arab World, most importantly Palestine, contributed to the hijacking of what was supposed to be an Arab Spring towards democracy.

But who is to blame? Assad of Syria? Sisi of Egypt? Gaddafi of Libya? The US? The West? Russia & China? Religious fanaticism? Israeli expansionism? Colonialism?

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I am sure all of these forces contributed. But as stated before each country is different. In Syria, the people are not as upset with their government as they are with the international community’s silence of the crimes of colonial entities such as Israel. Perhaps this is why Assad has yet to dissolve his government; perhaps his claim that the Syrian people remain united has some validity. It is true, that neither Syria, Libya nor Egypt have progressed towards democracy economically, politically or socially…but to place the blame entirely on Arab leaders is misguided. Furthermore, it is a way of stereotyping…typecasting all Arab national grievances as similar in motive. The West was keen on insisting that Assad leave early on in the conflict. The tone has changed.

Perhaps the Arab Spring did not die. Perhaps the Arab Spring is still alive; but, despite what the media might suggest; that the revolution has in fact another target — not our own Arab leaders — but the dismantling of the expansionist, colonialist apartheid regime of Israel, which has occupied Palestine and destabilized the Middle East for a half-century now, spurring the rise of terrorism and instability in the region.

As pro-Western Arab allies like the King of Jordan and the new Saudi King Salman scurry to improve their reputations; other Arab nations are more keen are continuing the initiative that was begun by the earliest of Arab independence movements that unfolded in the mid-twentieth century against the colonial powers of France and the UK.

Democracy is certainly the end goal of all nations. But the irony which surrounded America’s non democratic history forces us to realize the possibility (and likely reality) that the Arabs are victims of non-democratic tyranny, largely supported and facilitated by Western governments, in the interests of none other than the apartheid regime of Israel, the supposed only ‘democracy in the Middle East’. How can an apartheid government, a theocracy, serve as a role model for democracy? How can a country which tortures men women and children, razes homes, propagates religious extremism and exclusivity, encourages conformity, suppress individuality and human rights, be considered a beacon of democracy?

The real Arab Spring is a continuation of the more genuine revolutionary initiative of the earlier Arab independence movements of the twentieth century. We cannot allow our dignity and revolutionary spirit to be easily hijacked by extremists and elitists. Let us remember who the occupying and oppressive power really is, and the techniques of mainstream media outlets in distorting reality and history.

The miserable conditions of Arab States cannot be addressed or solved until the cause is exposed and removed. Let us not compromise our dignity, loyalty, community and humility for the sake of the instant gratification of temporary and illusory solutions.

Clarifying the Qur’an