How Will We Recover? Thoughts On Election 2016


Campaign 2016 Debate.jpg

The question of whether or not Bernie Sanders was the best candidate has a frank answer – of course he was.

In my last article I explained why he isn’t necessarily the most “presidential” of the nominees.

The president’s aptitude is measured by a number of things. These include both superficial and essential judgements.

In today’s election, superficiality has overwhelmed the political environment. In fact, this has damaged American democracy – at least in the short run.

There are several issues which I think the United States government has to address while other issues can be pushed down the list of priorities. Today we have voters turned into sudden political experts, demanding Hillary Clinton be jailed based on some partisan witch hunt to blame her entirely for Benghazi. Where were these gallant and honorable voters during the Bush years? Selective justice, indeed.

Bernie was conscientious of Palestine; Black Lives Matter; Immigration; Socio-Economics; and so forth. These are the pressing issues of our time.

What he was not prepared for was realpolitik, particularly in foreign relations. The so-called “revolution” Bernie wished to usher, appears to have been pushed through the wrong mechanism – politics. Sure, politics changes things – but real change comes from the people, especially in democracies. Just look back at our history. It was always the US government responding to people’s movements – not empty political promises.

When it comes to foreign policy – both Clinton & Trump – the party nominees – are terrible.

Bernie was prepared to show more restraint in the Middle East (where necessary) and bridge gaps between nations whom we have historically vilified, perhaps a continuation, and even, intensification of Obama’s reconciliatory foreign policy approach. Obama’s approach however was not entirely reconciliatory – as evidenced by Libya. But his withdrawal of forces in Iraq and his restraint in Syria has also cast him in better light than his interventionist predecessor.

Bernie would have also likely been less hawkish than Hillary with Russia. I do believe personally that Hillary “flexes US muscles” towards Putin simply to incite US nationalism and gain the patriotic vote – which is dangerous. But it is much less dangerous than Trump’s approach – exploiting conspiracy theories about Russia and portraying himself as a Putin-apologist. But remember – Trump is playing his own game. Remember what Hitler did to the Soviets? But Putin isn’t a soviet – per se. He is not foolish either. In fact Putin likely doesn’t care for either candidate. He would have equally preferred Bernie Sanders – the whole world would have. Putin still likely prefers Hillary too – contrary to her and Trump’s rhetoric. Things are dichotomous people – it isn’t just this or that explanation. Politics is a deep twisted game for a reason…

Oddly enough Bernie was betrayed by his own party.

Both parties have hawkish foreign policies whether or not their rhetoric is contradictory – Hillary exhibits “some” liberalism here, with the Iran Nuclear Deal serving as an example – as well as the recent Wiki Leaks revelations, which show Clinton’s desire to distance the US from Saudi & Qatari debacles in the ME, mainly their direct support for ISIS.

Both parties are reluctant for comprehensive minority-right reform and socio-economic reform, while it is certainly more characteristic of the GOP.

While Bernie may not be the JFK we are looking for – he certainly embodied the principles of JFK. Hillary – not so much. But her centrist appeal makes her a much more presidential candidate than her maniacal counterpart. About this there is no question.

The GOP betrayed itself too – by allowing Trump to destroy it. I am no GOPer but it should have definitely been Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio up there debating Clinton and Bernie as her running mate. Instead we have this s*** show. Pardon my french.

The West – led by America – is experiencing an identity crisis. It is caught between improving its own democracy on one hand and containing its imperial ambitions on the other. Meanwhile, the East retaliates with every move.

When will the world have the right leadership that can understand these complexities, and make them plain and known to the public, which appears vastly misled, misinformed, and galvanized in the wrong direction?

Hopefully sooner than later, because I don’t think I can handle this election any longer. The extraordinary shamelessness which has been displayed by the right has undoubtedly tarnished the US’ image at home and abroad.

How will we recover?

Surely, Clinton’s political trajectory is incomparably more promising for America’s future. You are free to disagree, but if that puts a fascist in the White House – don’t come complaining in 2020.

Advertisements

Turkey – Clarity Amidst Confusion


erdogan-turkey-coup.JPG

It is really hard to get a grip of what is really happening in Turkey.

Media outlets are misleading as usual.

Political interests are at stake and biases are rampant.

It appears Erdogan has retaken power, resisted the coup, and is now in the process of an apparent legal prosecution against all involved.

This is where things are getting murky.

Erdogan hasn’t played the most loyal role as president, often shifting back and forth between extreme left and right politics. This inconsistency is symbolic of Turkey’s state of volatility and instability in the past two decades.

There is much that modern media consumers do not know about international politics. Turkey has endured nearly five coup d’etats in its history. This is the 6th.

What people don’t understand is that democracy can be bought, financially or ideologically, or both. That does not mean that democracy is bad, but that it can be easily infiltrated and exploited to destabilize and cause disorder.

There are many narratives.

Which one is actually feasible and most likely?

Remember that America is the world’s sole superpower, and that it dictates most of what happens internationally. This coup might have been instigated by the US as a result of Erdogan’s policies particularly towards Syria. Anytime a leader of a non-western country becomes influential, he is a perceived threat to the US, even if he has for the most part fallen in line with their demands. Remember Saddam Hussein was initially an American ally against radicalism. But why would America see Erdogan as a threat if he has been, for the most part, enabling the NATO agenda of supplying the Syrian insurgency?

There is a vast difference between rhetoric and reality.

America is playing the game of destabilization once again, but did Erdogan’s team just resist? The irony is that just weeks ago Erdogan had reversed foreign policy and initiated a rapprochement with Russia and Israel, a huge statement to the international community.

When Erdogan first became president he was hailed as the new face of Islamic dignity. At least, that was my interpretation.

He defied Israel with the Gaza flotilla. He embarrassed Simon Perez live on television in the name of Palestinian rights. He bolstered Turkey as a democratic, modern, Islamic nation. He further secured Turkey’s potential integration into the E.U.

What went wrong?

The Syrian conflict created a disaster. A refugee crisis, increased security threat, ideological fundamentalism & terrorism. Providing weaponry to the insurgency and mobility intensified the ripple effects.

Meanwhile, Erdogan was becoming increasingly authoritarian domestically, contrary to his democratic foundations. Aside from the right-wing populist rhetoric, Erdogan began initiating limits on women’s rights & press freedom, two bedrocks of democracy, but perhaps more importantly, two bedrocks of Turkish cultural history.

Naivety cannot be afforded in politics, and perhaps Erdogan was naive to Western interests. Neither democracy nor stability are the West’s priorities, but rather control.

That is why it must be understood that democracy or not, no country can be truly free or stable without respecting its sovereignty.

At this point, we may never know the actual perpetrators, and we will be confused by political rhetoric and unsubstantial media coverage.

What we can know is that even democracies have the potential to violate rights.

There are several possible outcomes depending on who is responsible. I believe Erdogan’s Turkey possesses the power to make serious challenges to Western assertiveness in the region. So far he has expressed willingness to cooperate, up until the recent rapprochement with Russia and Israel.

The most crucial variable in this “coup d’etat attempt” is the “Syrian Crisis”.

Turkey is headed in the opposite direction of NATO.

I think this Turkish crisis gives us the perfect opportunity to address a commonly oversimplified term: “democracy”.

We tend to view things as “democratic or not”, when in reality, democracy is a measure itself, of the ability of a nation to uphold certain principles. Since those principles are hotly debated, it becomes difficult to categorize things as “democratic or not”.

This Turkish crisis is symbolic of the fact that there is a real tension over the definition of “democracy”. Oversimplified understandings will highlight obvious components of democracy like free speech, free elections, term limits – but what about social liberalism, like the freedom of social expression, or, on the other hand, political stability and human security. From this perspective, if we look at the world’s countries, we must gauge the overall relationship between leader and people. This relationship shows how “democratic” a country is. It cannot be understood as solely popular support, because in some cases, more than not, populism leads to immoral decisions, domestically and internationally, like “Brexit” in the UK or the rise of Donald Trump in the US. We cannot accept

Some kings are good. Some are bad.

Some elected officials are good. Some are bad.

The problem is that, elections were largely seen as a check on absolute power.

But what if a democrat becomes an autocrat through authoritarian policies and populist appeals?

What is this begins to compromise democratic ideals themselves? Do executive term limits themselves guarantee democracy, or are other components, like free speech, equally important?

If we analyze the world from this angle, we begin to see that, in some cases, the democracy has let to good results; in other bad ones. But to expect that any one country in the world is more democratic than another, we have to analyze it comparatively from all the variables, not just one. Furthermore we cannot measure good or bad based on a twisted conception of democracy or on a prejudiced or predisposed political opinion.

It was likely that Turkey’s attempted coup was a “check” on Erdogan. If he drifts towards a less expansive, and security-driven policy initiative

Could that have been the spark?

All these inconsistencies further blurs the picture.

Why were police officers arresting military personnel? Aren’t the latter more powerful?

If Fethullah, the supposed engineer of the coup according to Erdogan, is in America, how could he have ushered the coup if the US administration stood on the side of Erdogan?

Was this coup staged by the government to bolster fledgling support for Erdogan?

Seeing as how Erdogan is now appealing to post-Syrian Crisis enemies, like Russia for reconciliation, it might be that this coup was a Western backed attempt at a regime-change. Seeing that Turkey’s military has never successfully failed in ushering a coup, this narrative makes sense.

For the sake of democracy this is not good, as dissidents face an increasing and brutal crackdown. Turkey has not been consistent, and this crisis is a product of that position. It has essential played the position of the “rope” in a long tug-o-war between East and West. For the past few centuries, the West tugged harder. Now it seems, they’ve let loose on their grip, and Turkey appears destined towards an alignment with the East.

What does this mean for America and Europe’s interests in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi (the Gulf entirely)?

Another question that comes to mind – where do the millions of democracy advocates who stood with Erdogan stand now, considering his rapprochement with Russia? Many Erdogan supporters supported his stance against President Assad in Syria.

This is where things get murkier.

Erdogan was initially reconciliatory with Assad. Why the sudden shift, particularly given the “Kurdish threat” and rising instability? Erdogan sent a message of defiance to Israel with his Gaza flotilla charade, but then quickly announced reconciliation. How does this make him look? Who really is Erdogan serving – Turkey or himself?

Another possibility is that Erdogan has awoken from his pro-American slumber of naivety. Once again, the Muslim world fell prey to American double-dealing and mischief. If this is the likely scenario, expect the unexpected – an Erdogan-led drift away from democracy in Turkey.

What are the most important elements of democracy? Popular opinion or social equality? If popular opinion advocates for racism, like in Nazi Germany, should the state reject it? These questions are even being asked in America, where right-wing populism also threatens democratic rule – somehow democratically. Are there flaws in the democratic system which are inherent or can they be fixed through greater laws limiting financial influence, media coverage and xenophobic propaganda?

Populism is threatening democracy which suggests that popular sovereignty isn’t the only variable for democracy – there are many. And one of these becomes threatened, it appears none of them will be possible. Erdogan, a democratically elected leader, began trampling on democratic rights, and thus the military, which historically overthrows leaders who drift to far in either direction on the political spectrum, stepped in though without success – also unprecedented.

Whether or not popular rule triumphs in Turkey is less worrying than the potential compromise of Turkey’s traditional culture of tolerance, diversity and secularism. This is being threatened by the extreme right-wing populist appeals of ruling party. In this regard, Erdogan is bad for Turkey. Will he rollback these efforts too as part of his readjustment initiative? It doesn’t appear that Erdogan’s reconciliatory tone towards Russia or even Israel is genuine, since it has been inconsistent. There is reason to believe that such behavior is an act of desperation – a sign of his impending failure.

In order for global stability, peace and prosperity to ensue, the following must happen – led by the only world superpower – the US:

America as a whole must pivot from its half-century long trend of foreign interventionism; replace it with respect for sovereignty; a rejection of populism and neoliberalism/neoconservatism or simply put – neo-imperialism; recognition of cultural distinctions; and a promotion of cooperative political, economic and social relations.

This might have to see the UN become the global spectator; with the US leading the free world; and cooperating with other global and regional powers to ensure prosperity, stability and peace.

The Future of the Middle East: Islam versus the Radicals


Al-Fayhaa_Stadium_in_Damascus,_Syria_as_seen_from_Mount_Qasioun.jpg

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 Rebalancing of Powers: From ‘Brexit’ to Babel?


13439101_10154199266405610_2017150733253960148_n.jpg

There is a disconnect between national policy and international relations.

The decision to leave the EU by the UK, or “Brexit”, is a symbol of that disconnect.

But in order to understand the origins of this decision, it is important to highlight the UK’s tradition of reluctance and hesitation towards the EU since its inception.

By nature, the UK, like America, prefers to play a conservative role in international affairs, dabbling in just enough to get the benefit, but not enough to bear the burden.

But the armed crises in the Middle East have created a storm in UK & EU politics, with the migration crisis being the crux of the problem.

Evidently, the UK prefers to leave such matters in the hands of its European counterparts, which is ironic because the UK is America’s closest ally in Europe – both countries are directly responsible for destabilizing the Middle East in the first place, under the premise of liberalization. This is where the disconnect begins.

At least half of the UK truly feels undermined by the concentration of power, underrepresented and almost collectivized by being part of the EU.

13533264_10154199266420610_6003690494943506927_n

But is the decision to leave the EU a right-wing populist scheme exploiting frustrations of the ordinary Brit? In South America, both right and left wing populism have failed to their more centered opponents. The US is still determining its fate.

Has this decision created a more or less secure world? Is this decision likely to produce positive or negative results in the UK’s social, economic and political fabric? How will this impact the rest of Europe? What will happen to the migrants?

It is in fact the people who have decided, through referendum, to leave the EU. Despite a targeted and well-developed “leave” campaign, the decision is also inspired by  general discontent towards the EU in Britain. But the facts and rhetoric surrounding the campaign reveals “Brexit” is more about xenophobia & Islamophobia than it is about sovereignty.

The majority of those who voted to leave the EU were above the age of 40. The vast majority of those who voted against were in their 20s ad 30s.

Given that London just elected its first Muslim mayor, there is reason to believe that unfounded, prejudiced paranoias about migrants and Muslims have stoked fears and insecurities in society, just enough to feed into the allure of right-wing populism and fear.

UK MP Nigel Farage proclaimed victory, ushering the 23rd as the UK’s modern independence day. He went on to claim that such a victory was achieved without any blood spilled. But only last week, British MP Jo Cox was violently murdered by a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain First” as he committed the murder. Has this been understated by the media? Compared to reporting on terrorism linked to one or more Muslims, it is difficult to say that the media is not biased.

Notable international relations theorist John Mearsheimer predicted the disintegration of the EU as a result of the current international political dynamic which has seen America as the world’s sole superpower since the dissolution of the USSR. That dissolution has almost removed the security incentive for unity, or balancing that brought the EU together in the first place. There appears to be a growing rift among NATO members, particularly between European states and the US on how to manage international affairs. The differences stem from foreign policy on the Middle East primarily. Is the UK’s decision to leave the EU an inching towards or away from subservience to US leadership? That depends on the direction US democracy goes. If the American people also give in to fear, Donald Trump might be the next US president. This suggests that the two of the world’s most influential powers, the UK and America, are juggling between the past and the future – traditions of colonialism, racism & global mischief – and the equally traditional struggle against those forces, political enfranchisement, and socio-economic equality.

Europe is drifting towards a center-left progressive “utopia” – something despised by the British traditional-mentality. The same could be said of the US. This is vindicated by the statistics surrounding the ‘Brexit’ vote which saw the majority of the “leave” supporters being over the age of 40.

Without delving deeply into history books, the average person might not know that much of the US’ post-WWI behavior was determined by the British, by prompting fear and insecurity about illusory global threats. In 1952, it was the British who convinced the US that movements for sovereignty in the Middle East were a threat. Initially the US had actually empathized with the struggles for independence in the Middle East. The UK convinced the US to overthrow a democratically elected leader in Iran, and the US agreed because of the paranoias injected by the UK about the so-called “communist menace”.

To some it may be surprising that racism, Islamophobia and fascism are creeping into US and UK politics. To others, perhaps more victimized by these forces, it is more dangerous than surprising. If the US decides to follow suit and elects Donald Trump, there is reason to believe that global tensions might intensify. Remember that European history is bloody. Wars between France, England, Germany were commonplace. The UK’s exit from the EU might disturb this legacy of peace and harmony in Europe which has endured since WWII. Furthermore, it might reintroduce fascism into the West – long thought gone and dead.

It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if the US did in fact follow suit. Two blocs would eventually form in the global order – a rebalancing of powers if you will. The UK and the US would be together on one side; Russia, China & Iran on the other. India would likely play an indirect role, but ultimately throwing most of its support behind the latter bloc. The contrary would apply to the Gulf states in the Middle East, Israel and Pakistan, who would likely remain under the auspices of the UK & the US. Altogether this can be described as the modern world order. In this scenario, the EU disintegrates completely. The fault line will likely split between France & Germany – to no surprise, with much of eastern Europe balancing against the UK & the US. The war between fascism and collectivism ensues. The ideologies of capitalism and culture are at war – they are mutually exclusive. In reality, capitalism fully realized is fascist, and collectivism fully realized is communist – both authoritarian to some extent. But the latter is conditional and retaliatory. In a perfect world, neither would exist, and universal democracy could flourish without capitalism and communism. Till then, we must pick sides and lesser evils or resort to anarchism.

There is still hope for the world and America. Clinton is not our salvation – but in politics there are no angels; only lesser devils – or so it seems.

Does Democracy Hurt the Arabs?


arab-spring-democracy.jpg

We long for an Arab glory that has not existed for some time. We have been swept under the rug by nouveau riche politicians and faux-pas muslims trafficking in our religion. Institutional madness has convinced our people that western customs are our own. What happened? Aside from military domination, we have lost our unity, as an Arab people.

If we regard the Arab nation as one – not necessarily ignoring cultural and linguistic distinctions or political borders but, at least, in terms of political, social and economic unity – then we can argue that Israel is an apartheid state in the Arab World.

Furthermore, the Arabs are a linguistic group. This makes them less ideological or religious in political nature than the Israelis. But since the establishment of Israel and subsequent post-colonial occupations of the Middle East and Arab World by foreign powers, namely the US, violence and extremism have become the norm.

Discrimination in Israel against Palestinians and Arabs is evident too.

The arbitrary creation of Israel, violating Arab self-determination and sovereignty, must be considered the root cause of instability and extremism in the region.

Israel’s creation was a mere continuation of European colonialism. How can we discuss a “democratic” Israel which suppresses not only Arab Jews and Palestinians in the remaining territories, but a country built out of ignorance of Arab self-determination. The disaster created by WWII certainly posed a dilemma for Jews, but do two wrongs make a right?

American incursions in the ME are too continuations of the relentless superiority complex of the West in global politics. Unable to contain itself, western democracy is spreading its tentacles around the globe.

Democracy works in the West. It doesn’t in the Far or Near (Middle) East. That’s due to culture. It doesn’t imply democracy is wrong, but rather it is not absolute or universal. In other words, neoconservatism is defunct. Democracy must contain expansive ambitions otherwise it can function as an imperial agent.

What we must recognize is the following. Democracy won’t solve the Middle East as much as has yet to solve the problem for minorities in the West. We assume two things, that democracy is superior, and that it is applicable to the Middle East, and that the Arab World needs democracy to solve its instability. On the contrary, the legacy of democracy is an entrenched colonialism. The Arab World is struggling for unity against foreign interventionism. It, the Arab nation, must set aside its religious differences, at least for the sake of preserving peace. Borders and customs must be respected, but the Arab nation must be united in the face of foreign hegemonies claiming we need them or their policing.

That goes for America and Israel.

The Causes of Political Instability in the Middle East: A Constructivist Approach


GTD Search Results copy.jpg

If we are to analyze properly regions of the world which are historically religious anomalies, it would seem precarious to apply normative principles across various societies. The Middle East possesses a unique characteristic which makes it vulnerable to instability. That is the underlying logic of this research article. The common trend of analyzing the Middle East has focused largely on variables that neglect this consideration. As a result, most research connects Middle Eastern instability with variables such as regime type, natural resource abundance, (sectarianism, religiosity) or ideological conflict. The aim of this research is to fill the gap in the literature by focusing on foreign interventionism in the Middle East as the most significant variable influencing stability. In the post-9/11 era, the US has become more entangled in the region than ever before (Said 1997). US foreign interventionism has largely taken the shape of coercive democratization efforts in the Middle East, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In Syria, protests for democratic reforms resulted in full fledged war and unprecedented terrorism. In other countries, like Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey, where a tradition of democratic pluralism ran deeper, an increasing trend of terrorism is exhibited, particularly after 2003 (START 2015). Drawing from two particular databases, evidence suggests a trend between democratization efforts in the Middle East and increased instability in the form of violent terrorism. I conclude by offering the implications of the findings, in theory and in policy.

Introduction

The tradition of western scholarship has in the realm of international relations been dominated by the schools of rationalism and realism. Where the individual and cost-benefit is the motive of human behavior, the trend of international relations has always been explained through the scope individual self-interest and the pursuits of power and security. But emerging schools of thought have challenged this assumption, such as constructivism, by offering a new outlook on relations betweens states (Wendt).

Theoretical Argument: Hypothesis & Historical Support

This research focuses on a particular region of the world, the Middle East, considered one of the most violent, volatile and unstable. Its goal is to explain the causes of instability through the international relations approach of constructivism, challenging the conventional paradigms of realism and liberalism by emphasizing the importance of “social constructs” to explain variance in cultural values and political institutions across states, by analyzing data on levels of democracy and terrorism in the region.

While some state’s exhibit individualistic cultures, others practice collectivized traditions that preserve age-old customs and traditions embedded within society (Said 1997). The emergence of globalized democracy in the twentieth century limited conventional imperialism, which relied heavily on military capability. In today’s world, where technology and freedom have made information more readily accessible, democratic states are more pressured to conform to order. But instead, the US, leader of the democratic world, has embarked on foreign military adventures under the premise of both preserving and spreading democracy. Because of its successes in the West, it was expected that reluctance to such institutional changes would be absent relative to resistance towards non-democratic interventionism throughout the twentieth century. But despite democracy’s triumph in the 21st century there still remains a specter of arbitrary interventionism which violates the sovereignty of vulnerable nation-states by global hegemonies. I argue that the modern form of this interventionism is the insistence of the US-led West on spreading democracy abroad, in this case, the Middle East.

The purpose is not however to pinpoint democracy as the cause of violence, nor to dismiss authoritarianism as a viable source of instability, but rather to analyze the increase of Western interventionism in the post-Cold War era, despite the demise of the USSR and the so-called communist threat. This tradition of exporting democracy, or neoconservatism, I argue, ignores the constructive distinctions between states (their political culture) and thus leads to conflict. Whether or not democracy is a comparable nemesis to communism in the sense of its imperial capacity isn’t the focus or assertion here then. The Middle East, particularly the Arab World, has been under foreign dominion for ages. Its struggle for sovereignty has resulted in immense grievances, expressed violently, domestically and internationally. I argue that in today’s world, foreign presence in the Middle East has taken the form of democracy.

The main premise of the research rather is to associate destabilization in the Middle East with violations of sovereignty and negligence of the distinctions in political culture between East and West, usually perpetrated by global hegemonies, which in today’s case, would be the United States. Historically, the UK and Russia were much more interventionist, but the twentieth century replaced these two world powers with a unipolar global dynamic led by the US. Since the end of WWII, the Middle East has endured unstable periods of regime change, terrorism and war. The literature on this subject has focused primarily on domestic causes of this instability, pointing often to variables such as the oil-curse, Islamism or authoritarianism, however little to none of the literature focuses on non-domestic actors. This research seeks to fill this gap.

Historically, the Middle East has fallen prey to foreign ideologies like communism. The conflict in Afghanistan in this perspective can thus be seen as a struggle between Arab sovereignty and the imperial nature of communism. Today, there is no USSR and communism has been essentially made irrelevant. Instead, foreign presence in the Middle East is now in the form of democracy, led by the US. The emergence of the neoconservative doctrine, or coercive democracy, has prompted the US to intervene in the internal affairs of nations for the sake of its interests, whether they are to contain ideologies, remove unfriendly leaders or to preserve economic assets. For this reason, many Islamists who regarded the US as an ally in the struggle against communism turned against the US for exhibiting the same behavior as the USSR in Afghanistan, but under a new guise. It was not until the second half the twentieth century, during which the Middle East was divided by european colonialists, Israel was established, and the ensuing wars on terrorism manifested. It was also during this period that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism emerged and would eventually become a norm (Moghadam 2006). As a result, this research has focused on the linkage between foreign interventionism via democratization in the Middle East and political instability measured by the frequency of terrorist incidents. Through a hybrid method of qualitative anecdotal evidence as well as quantitate data analysis, this research argues that violence in the Middle East, both domestic and exported, is caused mainly by foreign occupation (Pape 2003). The goal is to challenge the idea that democracy is universally applicable, and universally stabilizing, and perhaps more importantly, to establish a link between violations of sovereignty in the Middle East and the heightened level of political instability, in the form of terrorism, in the region altogether. By controlling for the variables of oil, islamism and authoritarians, it aims to dispel the myth that the Middle East is a so-called backwards society with tyrannical leadership across the board – and to suggest the notion that the Middle East is in fact culturally unique, especially due to its history, and that violating its sovereignty on a political and cultural level have destabilized the region.

In this research design, I argue that, though many variables are offered in the literature as potential causes of instability, I focus on the variable of foreign intervention, which has relatively little focus in the literature. In today’s world, international relations can be characterized by the global dominance of liberalism and democracy. In many parts of the world, these institutions are absent, for a variety of reasons. The objective is to demonstrate how modern foreign interventionism as largely taken the form of pressured democratization via regime change, particularly in non-western societies, and how this has coincided with a simultaneous increase in the trend of terrorist incidents in the Middle East.

Research Method

The US has not always been thoroughly involved in Middle Eastern affairs. After WWII this changed (Said 1997). In the post-9/11 world, US foreign policy has focused on the Middle East, particularly challenging authoritarianism. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq can be seen as the beginning of this endeavor. This would be followed by regime change in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen; the ongoing war in Syria. My argument is that the significant rise in terrorism is due to these campaigns. More specifically, pressures for regime change through forced-democratization have resulted in instability and the increase of terrorism. Instead of explaining this through power-struggles as per the prevailing schools of thought in international relations, I focus on democratization as a form of neocolonialism, violating both the political sovereignty of Middle Eastern states as well as challenging their norms and institutions which have been historically reluctant to democratization, and foreign interventionism altogether.

The purpose of this research paper is to demonstrate how terrorism has increased rapidly in tandem with the US-led democratization efforts in the Middle East. It seeks to show how modern foreign interventionism as largely taken the form of pressured democratization via regime change, and how this has coincided with a simultaneous increase in the trend of terrorist incidents in the Middle East.

To demonstrate this, I employ the quantitative method of cross-country analysis, gaging both incidents of terrorism as well as instances of democratic evolution, or democratization, over time in the Middle East, drawing from two databases, the Global Terrorism Database, which measures terrorist trends in each country in the world over time between the periods of 1970 and 2013, and Our World In Data, which covers global democratization trends ranging from 1800 to 2012.

Data Findings

Terrorist incidents in the Middle East were at a steady and constant low from 1970 until 2003, the year of the US invasion of Iraq, the country with the highest terror threat in the Middle East (START 2015). Terrorism increased from about an average of 1000 incidents per year from 1970 until 2002 to 4000 incidents in 2003, and 8000 in 2013 (START 2015). The trend is increasing. Is there a positive relationship between democratization and terrorism in the Middle East, contrary to the conventional arguments in the literature? Democracy in the Middle East is relatively scarce, and where it does exist, it is new. Only Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia, Israel, Lebanon and Yemen are even partially considered democratic. Prior to 1985, this was not the case (Roser 2016). Since its inception, as evidenced by the data, terrorism has reached unprecedented heights in the Middle East (START 2015).

The more democratic countries in the Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq exhibit the highest rates of terrorism in the region (IEP 2013). Tunisia is an outlier in this case, because its global terrorism index is measures lower than the previously mentioned countries, however other sources suggest that despite its low occurrence, the trend of terrorist threats continuous to increase even in Tunisia, particularly after 2010 (START 2015).

On the contrary, the most autocratic countries of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iran & the UAE have drastically lower levels of terrorist attacks (IEP 2013). As mentioned previously, the main focus of the research is to reveal how foreign interventionism results in instability in the form of terrorism, and that in today’s world, foreign interventionism largely takes the form of forced democratization and regime change. The data indicates that at the height of democracy in the Middle East, terrorism is most rampant.

Literature Review – Filling the Gap

To explain instability and the rise in terrorism in the Middle East, the literature generally focuses on either natural resource abundance or regime type. There are few regions in the world like the Middle East, imbued with some what a gift and a curse: a unique religious history and the presence of oil (Ross 2001). This has been coined the resource curse. The presence of oil in the Middle East has made it the focal point of global hegemonies competing for power and assets. However oil is not present in some of the most terror-inflicted countries in the Middle East and in the world, such as Israel, Lebanon and Turkey in the Middle East, and Uzbekistan and Pakistan in the broader scope. Equally, terrorist incidents in the Gulf region are significantly lower than North Africa and the Levant (START 2015).

The majority of fighters in Syria are currently Iraqi (Roser 2016). This implies that without US intervention in Iraq, there would be no vacuum of power to form the terrorist-network of ISIS. Furthermore this suggests that sudden overthrowing an authoritarian regime in the Middle East produces dire consequences instead of increasing hopes for democratization.

Another aspect of the literature points to civilizational conflict as the driving source of instability in the Middle East. The premise here is that Islam is at war with competing ideologies and institutional norms. To counter this claim, I argue that, in some of the most homogeneously Islamic societies, there are significantly less cases of instability and terrorism, such as in Malaysia and Indonesia, compared to the frequency of terrorism in the Middle East. In a sense, terrorism is viewed as a response to occupation (Pape 2003). In this case, occupation is viewed as coercive democratization.

The final case in the literature review focuses on authoritarianism as the primary cause of anti-americanism (Bush et al.). But even in countries like Lebanon, where authoritarianism is relatively low, anti-americanism persists, and the terrorist threat is at its highest in the region.

The common denominator missing from the literature is the variable of foreign intervention in its influence on stability in the Middle East. Furthermore, empirical approaches have neglected the relationship between democratization and instability in the Middle East, primarily because of the domination of international relations theory by neorealist schools of thought. This theory presumes that self-interest and materialism rule the world universally. I argue that this presumption has justified modern “imperial overreach” by the US, particularly in the twenty-first century, in the form of coercive democratization. This had led to increased instability in the Middle East, and the rise in terrorism both regionally and globally.

Setbacks in My Approach

As with most research designs, there are setbacks suffered in this approach. Firstly, the lack of empirical data on Middle East politics makes it difficult to test claims. Secondly, the volatility of the region makes it even more challenging to innovate new methods and gather original data. Finally, the Middle East’s unique religious history challenges both the methods and approaches of the prevailing schools within political science, as well as the foreign policy traditions of major power players in global politics, in this case, the United States. The social constructs which distinguish the political cultures of the Middle East, a more collectivized society, from the West, the beacon of liberalism, make it difficult to understand and analyze the causes of violence.

Conclusion

The data gathered demonstrates that even where democracy endures in the Middle East, in the slightest form, it often exhibits extreme cases of political instability in the form of terrorism. Since 2003, terrorist attacks spiked in the Middle East (START 2016). The rise of ISIS has further intensified the terrorist threat in the region and abroad. It is mind boggling then that such an important variable as foreign interventionism, be it in the form of democratization or not, is largely unconsidered in international relations theory, considering the data which reveals a significant increase in terrorism immediately following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 (START 2016). But the neoliberal and neorealist traditions which dominate international relations theory leave little room for discussion of culture and religion, what constructivism calls “social constructs” in explaining the international political dynamic, because it emphasizes self-interest and profit-incentives as universally applicable principles. This assumption is the source of tension between the US and the various political forces in the Middle East. A continued negligence of these differences will likely perpetuate the increasing trend of terrorism in the Middle East, while a recognition of them would result in the opposite – a sort of stability that characterized the Middle East prior to the 2003 War in Iraq.

Bibliography

Bush, S. S., & Jamal, A. A. 2015. Anti‐Americanism, Authoritarian Politics, and Attitudes about Women’s Representation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Jordan. International Studies Quarterly: 59(1), 34-45.

Global Terrorism Index. 2015. Institute for Economics and Peace: Visions for Humanity.

Huntington, S. P. 1993. The Clash of Civilizations? Foreign Affairs: 22-49.

Max Roser 2016. Democratisation. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/democratisation/ [Online Resource]

Moghadam, A. 2006. Suicide terrorism, occupation, and the globalization of martyrdom: A critique of Dying to Win. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism: 29(8), 707-729.

National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 2015. Global Terrorism Database: http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd

Pape, Robert 2003. The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. American Political Science Review. 343-361.

Ross, M. L. 2001. Does Oil Hinder Democracy? World Politics: 53(03), 325-361.

Said, E. 1979. Orientalism. 1978. New York: Vintage.

Wendt, A. 1999. Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge University Press.

The Capitalist Lie


american-flag-companies1.jpg

Capitalism is portrayed as a mechanism for increased accessibility, opportunity and dignity.

It is offered essentially as the corner-stone of English culture – the Protestant work ethic, the idea of private property, and so forth.

But is capitalism really a mechanism for competition or is it like communism, another tool of the elite to secure their exclusive control of the economy?

Such exercise of power is tremendous.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism can be thus pinned as the equivalent of Russian bolshevism, or stalinism. The promise is always equality; the reality is often not.

Is there an alternative?

I believe the world is struggling today against the imperial nature of capitalism in the same fashion that it has historically struggled against other ideological waves of global imbalance.

It is only when sovereignty and culture are respected, that balance ensues.

So what interrupts this order? When did this happen?

Whenever a social group takes it upon itself to be the harbinger of justice, and expresses that actively by violating the self-determination of another social-group – this is when order is interrupted.

Capitalism is used inter-changeably with freedom and free markets, but in reality, religion, culture and government have all played a huge hand in institutionalized disenfranchisement of certain social groups via discrimination.

The problem isn’t that America needs to be more capitalistic but rather that it needs to acknowledge the cultural dilemma it is facing – America is no longer an Anglo-Saxon nation and will be, by definition, a majority-minority country by 2050.

America should be more focused on fully embodying democracy at home, where it is advertised but not fully practiced despite demands from the people, and less focused on exporting it to places in the world where it is not welcome, at least not by force.

Much of what has happened historically, and in today’s world even, has been a reaction towards American imperial overreach. We will face the same consequence as the USSR or the Holy Roman Empire or will America learn to contain its own ambition, for the sake of national and global security?