A preliminary draft of my master’s thesis


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Conflict in the Caspian: A Comparative Study of Ethnic Inclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan 

Abstract

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states, and a common history. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. I employ both a comparative case study method for generalizability & regional context as well as a logit regression measuring this relationship through 150 cases of ethnic conflict. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion. The comparative case study supplemented by the EPR logit regression results support my hypothesis that there is a positive relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict.

 

Introduction

This research is an attempt to answer the question of why ethnic conflict occurs is some states and not others. In order to properly address the question, I’ve chosen a multi-method approach, including a logit regression as well as a comparative case study. I’ve chosen two Caspian states, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, rich with oil. The Caspian Sea region, or Central Asia rather, has become of growing importance, particularly since the dissolution of the USSR, but even more so perhaps, following the rise in Islamic fundamentalism. This has resulted in coordination between western and Caspian states like Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan in security measures in attempt to prevent instability.

More importantly for this research, instability has also taken the form of ethnic conflict, such as in the Caucasus, but also in CA states like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kirgizstan. Out of the CA states, only Kazakhstan has oil abundance, and is thus vulnerable to the resource curse argument. That is Kazakhstan has averted any major conflict or crises altogether through a rentier system (Franke et al 2009). To counter this argument, and in order demonstrate that a lack of ethnic conflict (ethnic harmony) is not caused by oil wealth but rather by institutional accommodation I compare Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan.

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion.

Theory & Key Concepts

Before analyzing this relationship, it is important to define four major concepts in this research: Ethnicity, Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Exclusion (discrimination) or Ethnic Inclusion.

Ethnicity is defined as “subjective experienced sense of commnality based on belief in a common ancestry and shared culture. Indicators of common ancestry and culture include common language, phenotypical features, and belonging to same faith (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

Ethnic conflict is described as mass violence between two communities that each belongs to a distinct cultural group with common heritage and other subjective commonalities. In order to be classified as an ethnic conflict, armed organizations must seek to achieve “ethnonationalist aims, motivations & interests and recruit fighters and forge alliances on the basis of ethnic affiliations” (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009). Ethnic conflicts are distinct in their “armed organization, recruitment and alliance structures. In other words, ethnic conflicts are typically fought over ethnonational self-determination, ethnic balance of power in government, ethnoregional autonomy, ethnic and racial discrimination, and language and other cultural rights” (Sambanis 2009).

In many cases, antagonist ethnic groups will not be able to agree on new constitutional arrangements or a peaceful separation. These kind of ethnic disputes consequently become violent, some escalate into all-out inter-ethnic war. This is the situation in Angola, Kashmir, Shi Lanka, Bosnia, and Caucasus. Some scholars explain reasons of ethnic conflicts with collapse of the authoritarian rule. As an example, the main reason why ethnic conflicts have sprung up in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere, because the authoritarian rule has collapsed and made such conflicts possible. This is the conventional wisdom. This argument offers an inadequate explanation of the causes of ethnic conflicts. Scholars generally fail to explain why conflicts have broken out in some places, but not others, and why some ethnic conflicts are more violent than others (Ismayilov 2008). To elaborate further, ethnic conflicts can be defined as conflicts between ethnic groups within a multi-ethnic state, which have been going on some time, which may appear to be unsolvable to the parties caught up in them. An ethnic conflict is a dispute about important political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993). The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

It is also important to define ethnic exclusion, or discrimination rather, so as to demonstrate how this exclusion is being gauged. Members of an ethnic group that are excluded from government or discriminated against are subject to intentional, targeted disenfranchisement. Discrimination entails limiting access to government positions to citizens who speak a certain language, exhibit phenotypical features or members of a particular faith. Discrimination can be informal too, that is – it can exist without legal enforcement, if a society actively prevents a particular ethnic group from mobilizing in that society (Tezcur & Gurses 2017). An example of ethnic exclusion or discrimination includes African-Americans until the civil rights movement. Some might argue that informal discrimination persists today (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

On the other hand, inclusion can be described as institutional accommodation, beyond nominal laws, intended to help raise social status and political representation levels of ethnic minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1995 & Affirmative Action are two examples of such accommodations in the US (Porter 2003).

Inclusion is a key concept in this article, particularly because I focus on Kazakhstan’s unique institutional infrastructure, the APK, which reduces the risk of ethnic conflict. The theoretical basis of my argument on the positive relationship between ethnic inclusion and ethnic conflict draws from Remmer’s model of Natural Cultural Autonomy. Remmer’s model suggests that ethnic inclusion does reduce the chances of ethnic conflict, but that this inclusion must go beyond mere laws. In other words, institutions and policies must be in practice that wholly address and accommodate the needs of ethnic minorities based on their experiences in given states (Porter 2003).

Ethnic conflicts occur in a multi-ethnic state, have been going on some time, and appear to be difficult to resolve. An ethnic conflict is a disagreement about political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993).

The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

The literature is vast on ethnic conflict, but there is almost no focus on the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict (Fearon 2003). Instead most researchers focus on secessionist movements or insurgencies, but not on mere violent clashes, pogroms, and massacres. Furthermore, the literature suggests that most ethnic conflict is the result of collapsing authoritarian regimes, but this does not account for the occurrence of ethnic conflict in one region, and not the other (Ismayilov 2008).

The emergence of ethnic nationalism, such as in Azerbaijan, makes ethnic conflict much more likely. The rise of ethnic nationalism in one group can be seen as threatening by others. But even Kazakhstan, and most other post-soviet states exhibited high rates of nationalism for the sake of nation building. The mere disintegration of the authoritarian, cross-national empire of the USSR left a vacuum of power and the need for new states to emerge and address collective political needs. Not all states exhibited the same degree of nationalism. There is a distinction between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in this regard. Neither country is democratic by any means, but Kazakhstan has clear institutional differences in terms of ethnic minority inclusion. So what is this difference? A degree of political development, or institutionalized representation and inclusion has the potential to help mitigate ethnic tension by allowing for the establishment of an inclusive means of governance to address the needs of all ethnic groups in the state. This inclusiveness goes beyond just mere protection of minorities but accommodates and addresses grievances (Porter 2003). Now that we understand these important concepts and their definitions, of ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and the various sources of dispute, and expression of grievances, we can apply this reasoning to the two cases. I’ll begin first with Kazakhstan followed by an assessment of its ethnic harmony and the presence of robust institutions that enable it, followed by a section on ethnic exclusion, discrimination & ethnic conflict.

Shared Histories

The history of the Caspian is rather unique, rich with a prevalence of tribalism, nomadism, and clan relations. This was further enriched by the arrival of Islam, and the legacy of imperial dominance by Russia & Iran. The USSR would eventually encompass the entire region. It’s eventual collapse lead to the modern independent Kazakh & Azerbaijani republics. The purpose of this segment is to demonstrate how these historical similarities, while sharing some resemblance, do not ensure a shared degree of political stability and ethnic harmony.

The history of the Caspian region as populated with nomadic, tribal people with clan-based hierarchies greatly reflects in the political structures of the states therein. Nomadism has played a huge role in the histories of both Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan. In modern times, this is expressed through informal social institutions such as nepotism and patronage. That these societies embrace informality arguably induces corruption. Neither Kazakhstan nor Azerbaijan experienced autonomy until after the dissolution of the USSR. Before the USSR, Kazakhstan was mainly under the auspices of Russia, and Azerbaijan was ruled by Iran.

Traditionally, the influx of ideas, religions and cultures came along what is now called the Silk Route, connecting the east and west through trade networks and other forms of cultural interaction. Prior to the introduction of Islam by Arab warriors into the region in the 8th century, the Caspian region exhibited a diverse religious demography, including the mystical Shamanism, Tengrianism & Buddhism (Edelbay 2011).

USSR & Independence

Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan’s integration into the USSR only reinforced the tradition of authoritarianism and the centralization of power. They have carried on even into the post-soviet era (Tokaev 2004).

The disintegration of the USSR produced a vacuum of power. This vacuum was either to be filled by extremists or a continued legacy of authoritarianism. Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, like most Caspian states, chose the latter. Similar security measures to the USSR were adopted, continuing the legacy of Soviet-inspired police-state. The only difference was that Moscow had essentially less control over the region it once easily swallowed up.

Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan also share linguistic roots. Both languages are Turkic in origin. This renders them an even more ideal comparison. Perhaps most importantly of all commonalities – both states are among the top twenty-five oil-exporters in the world.

Ethnic Inclusion & Harmony in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, this accommodation exists via the establishment and continued involvement and development of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan or APK.

Prominent ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Tatars, Uighurs, Chechens, Koreans, Turks, Azerbaijanis & Germans (Nyussupova 2011). It is important to note that the population of Russians is the second largest. Before independence, Kazakhstan’s own national ethnic group, the Kazakhs, comprised less than 40% of the total population. During this time Russian was more widely spoken. Following independence however, Kazakh was nationalized as the official language. Furthermore, quite recently, Kazakh’s became the official ethnic majority within their own national boundaries for the first time in their history (Karin 2002).

To highlight the significance of demography, the presence of Uzbeks in southern Kazakhstan provide insight into the assertion that modern Central Asia is an artificial creation traced back to the initial “cutting up” of the region by USSR leaders. It is likely that the environment and conditions created by these “partitions” created much of the imbalance and instability in the region today. Despite being Uzbek by ethnicity, Kazakh Uzbeks are loyal to the soil in which they have inhabited for centuries. That ethnic irredentism really highlights the role of the New Great Game in determining the overall demographic structure and dynamic of Kazakhstan, and Central Asia altogether (Oka 2009).

Relative to his Central Asian neighbors, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has witnessed under his rule a relatively stable and harmonious interethnic relationship in his country. This is most likely attributed to Kazakhstan’s overall moderate approach to policy, which sees a balancing of foreign, domestic, and minority interests, contrary to Ilham Aliyev’s cult-like rule in Azerbaijan.

Nazarbayev rules with more pragmatism. Kazakhstan has witnessed no significant episodes of violent deteriorations of society.

More importantly perhaps, is how Nazarbayev’s vision of stability and harmony expressed itself domestically. Through the establishment of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan in 1995, ethnic minorities are represented in this legislative body, which is intended to protect, preserve and celebrate their rights as well as the ethnic pluralism, which defines Kazakhstan. The APK (Assembly of People of Kazakhstan) consists of 384 representatives of all ethnic groups in the state (Jones 2010). The APK elects nine members to the Majlis; Kazakhstan’s lower-chamber of Parliament. Finally, all laws passed by the legislature must meet a certain criteria ensuring ethnic harmony, a significant check on executive power protecting ethnic minorities.

Kazakhstan has successfully employed national efforts to promote cultural tolerance and cohesiveness through its making of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan. National efforts to promote cultural/ethnic tolerance include: insuring each ethnic group has a voice within the government through policies, organizations, assemblies etc., granting all minorities equal rights and representation within the country, not using ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization but instead creating a “national identity” for everyone to be apart of equally (one that does not have to do with ethnic background at all but rather being a citizen of the said country), creating equal opportunities in the business realm for all ethnic groups, instilling strict laws against ethnic discrimination even down to ethnic slurs, as well as promoting peace through cultural events, parades, and the alike. The APK exemplifies directly national efforts in promoting cultural/ethnic tolerance and cohesiveness.

It has become evident that Kazakhstan’s politicians are aware of the need for inter-ethnic accord, in order to maintain political stability. Institutionally, Kazakhstan’s laws prevented the formation of political parties along ethnic lines; instead, in 1995 – by order of executive decree, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in March 1995, a legislative and presidential consultative body, largely touted by Kazakh officials as a representation of the nation’s progressive policies.

Ultimately though, the APK has served mainly as a means for controlling ethnic minorities and securing a national Kazakh identity. This was underscored by the APK’s name-change, which was meant to signify its purpose as a unifying project. In other words, while the mission is to encourage harmony between ethnicities; the more underlying purpose is the stabilization of society under a unifying Kazakh identity.

The main objectives of the APK include the preservation of inter-ethnic harmony and political stability, developing new mechanisms for fostering healthy relations between various ethnicities and nationalities within the state; to promote spiritual and cultural enrichment; development and equality. Despite its ambiguity, and its close ties to the executive branch, considering it was the APK, which proposed extending Nazarbayev’s term, the APK enjoys a level of autonomy and influence on legislative matters, but a new decree centralizing the aim of the APK around Kazakhstani identity might raise some eyebrows (Jones 2010). The APK’s overarching goal is to essentially supervise ethnic groups and their leaders so as to make sure inter-ethnic harmony preserves Kazakhstan’s stability. The APK has been generally used to portray Kazakhstan’s image as an inter-ethnic paradise.

The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan has generated many benefits for both Kazakh society as well as its political infrastructure. Since its creation over two decades ago, The APK has enabled minority ethnic groups the ability for representation, protection and preservation, a guarantee that does not exists not only in developing states, but in even some of the most developed states in the world experiencing minority and ethnic tensions today.

While many have criticized and simplified the APK has an extension of President Nazarbayev’s arm into political affairs, seeing as he is the official Chairman of the institution, these criticisms are premature and lack a clear objective understanding of the regional landscape and history. This isn’t to suggest that Kazakhstan is a democratic paradise, on the contrary. Kazakhstan exhibits significant shortcomings in press freedom, political opposition, and economic competition. Furthermore, its tremendous oil wealth, dubbed the resource curse, has often paralyzed the process of modernization. Still, the extent of ethnic inclusion, representation and national unity are unprecedentedly higher in Kazakhstan than any other Central Asian state (Oka 2004). As demonstrated in the research, ethnic conflict was rampant in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A lack of representation and guaranteed protection for minorities, as well as a robust mechanism for preserving ethnic traditions, was accompanied by violent episodes between ethnic groups. In Azerbaijan, ethnic minorities are suppressed and institutions like the APK in Kazakhstan are absent. There are no constitutional provisions that protect minorities like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Kurds, Armenians, etc.

The mere fact that the APK has legislative authority, representation and leverage as well as the presence of explicit constitutional provisions that protect ethnic minorities both underscore the distinct degree of internal political development in Kazakhstan (Jones 2010) This cannot be easily dismissed as a product of its resource abundance relative to its neighbors, considering, even other post-Soviet states endowed with oil, like Azerbaijan, are substantially more discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Oil itself has neither stifled nor promoted political development to coincide with economic development. Rather, it has existed as a mere backdrop feature, while ethnic minorities’ fates remain largely in the political landscape and culture of the host nation. That is why in Kazakhstan, cultural and religious tolerance together have resulted in a less contentious atmosphere, the necessary precondition for ethnic inclusion and institutional development in that regard.

The most important element of this research is the consideration of the regional implications as well as the theoretical implications. This research does not suggest that Kazakhstan is in any way an advanced democratic state, but rather, that it has made significant and commendable strides to protect its ethnic minorities which have in most other cases suffered tremendous discrimination, violence and destitution. Ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan contrarily, have access to social, political and economic capital to advance their ethnic groups in society, protecting their heritage’s past and future (Oka 2010).

Furthermore other research on the region vindicates these assertions as Kazakhstan has exhibited political stability and interethnic harmony since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This has not been the case for other Central Asian & Post-Soviet States, where ethnic conflict and exclusion are simultaneously prevalent. Even where there is abundant oil, or the lack there of – when there are ongoing wars, or the lack thereof – ethnic conflict exists wherever there is an absence of political institutions designed to accommodate and advance their needs.

Even in the US and in most European countries like Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark, there are various institutions and accommodations designed to integrate minorities into society and politics. The EPR data indicates that in situations where such accommodations are made, ethnic conflict is less likely to occur. Contrarily, the absence of institutional provisions meant to protect and integrate ethnic minorities beyond mere cultural tolerance will result in conflict.

Equally said is the need for more improvement for political development and minority protection in Kazakhstan, given that most provisions are often nominal, at the discretion of the Chairman & President, Nazarbayev. Furthermore, the low level of democracy in Kazakhstan renders even the most genuine of efforts to accommodate minority groups as politicized interests. The APK itself is limited in that it can likely be abolished or ignored at the discretion of Nazarbayev given the two branches clash (Tussupova 2010). As with most cases in Kazakhstan, the executive branch tends to overpower the others. Kazakhstan boasts of a many ethnic minorities, but it appears that granting the APK only 9 seats in parliament or the Majlis, is disproportionate to their population. Such improvements could further legitimize the APK as an institution of minority protection and ethnic harmony. Furthermore, Kazakhstan must work to integrate ethnic minorities into all facets of Kazakh society, include the economy. Limits on free press and political opposition also stifle the representative potential of the APK (Jones 2010).

Still it is worth noting that its mere existence is a stride towards democracy. As demonstrated, in places around the world where ethnic groups are excluded and underrepresented, there is higher chance that conflict might spur (Jones 2010).

Ethnic Exclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan

In stark contrast, on the other side of the Caspian Sea, is the case of Azerbaijan. There are four major cases of ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan, including tensions with Armenians, Kurds, Lezgins & Talysh. The situation with Armenia is likely the worst, and involves a ‘secessionist’ movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefor the NK conflict can be seen as a product of three ambitions, ethnic power balance in Azerbaijani politics as well as self-determination & territorial secession. The history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be traced to the dissolution of the USSR. The decentralization of power, and the vacuum of power left by the absence of an authoritarian central authority, led to the emergence of nationalist movements. In many cases, arbitrary boundaries and geographic heritages were even further confused. Following the establishment of post-soviet republics such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, conflict ensued between Azerbaijan and its Armenian population. Nagorno-Karabakh is 80% Armenian in population, but remains within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. An utter suppression and discrimination of Armenian culture, language and freedom is part of policy in Azerbaijan. Various pogroms and massacres of Armenians prompted a mass exodus to Armenia and NK from the Azerbaijani mainland. This mass exodus numbers up to 350,000 Armenians (Country Report 2015). Prior to the onset of the conflict, which began in the 80s, inter-ethnic tensions were brewing. A series of pogroms, such as the Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad or Maraga targeted Armenian minorities in Azerbaijan. In essence, “Armenophobia is institutionalized and engrained into Azerbaijani statehood & Karabakh is at the center of this “policy”.

Some of the approximately 20,000 to 30,000 citizens of Armenian descent living in the country reported discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of social services. Ethnic Armenians often concealed their ethnicity by legally changing the ethnic designation in their passports. There were no reports of violence against Armenians during the year. Some groups reported sporadic incidents of discrimination, restrictions on their ability to teach in their native languages, and harassment by local authorities. These groups included Talysh in the south, Lezgins in the north, and Meskhetians and Kurds (Country Reports on Human Rights 2015).

Destruction of cemeteries so as to erase Armenian history and heritage, the targeting of religious infrastructure, denying entry, linguistic suppression are all policy practices of the Azerbaijani state, which explicitly target and discriminate against Armenians.

The Lezgins exhibit a different condition. They are now considered the most vocal minority claiming discrimination in Azerbaijan (Fayos 2014). They make up the second-largest group in Azerbaijan. Lezgins often disguise themselves as Azeris to avoid losing job opportunities or discrimination in education. As a result, current official statistics in Azerbaijan have arbitrarily reduced the population.

In 1989, another ethnic minority, the Talysh gained the right to register as a distinct ethnic group. The accurate number of Talysh in Azerbaijan may be much higher than census results, which is due to the suppression of their identity, language and culture, “leading to internalized self-repression”. Azerbaijan lacks any robust, comprehensive legislation regarding ethnic minorities. The presidential decree of 1992 is insufficient in this sense. It lacks a “national framework for minority rights protection” and limits the focus to arts and crafts. Azerbaijan also lacks legislation to tackle anti-discriminations issues (Fayos 2014).

Institutionally level there is no specific body to deal with minority issues, unlike the APK in Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan does have the “Office of the Ombudsman”, which aims to compensate for this void. The focus of the state is less on minority inclusion and more on preventing secessionist movements. Such is symbolic of the paranoia, which dictates the Azerbaijani regime, compared to Kazakhstan’s harmonious and unifying approach.

There are few institutions as mentioned before which aim to support ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan, but none of them, neither the Forum of Religious Communities of Azerbaijan nor the Coordination Council of the Cultural Centers of National Minorities are involved in policy-making . They serve merely as consultative bodies and nominal entities. This is in sharp contrast to the APK in Kazakhstan, which not only protects and preserves ethnic minority culture – it grants them representation in the national legislature and the ability to propose laws.

Furthermore indicative of Azerbaijan’s ethnic exclusion is the fact that it has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The fact that Azerbaijan actively promotes the usage of the Azeri language underscores the need for some type of institutional protection for ethnic minority groups. Unlike Kazakhstan where the populace relatively respects laws and institutions, the “Law on State Language” in Azerbaijan, undermines any of the constitutional provisions, which guarantee minority ethnic groups linguistic rights. There is, however, a lack of national legislation for preserving and promoting the use of minority languages (Fayos 2014).

The downside of being accepted into greater Azerbaijani society is that minorities risk losing their languages. Indeed, while some minorities appear to be maintaining their level of linguistic other ethnic groups appear to be losing ground to linguistic assimilation; many members of the largest groups (e.g. the Talysh and the Lezgins) have expressed displeasure at this outcome, requesting greater government attention (Marquardt 2011).

Some researchers claim that Azerbaijani policy of appeasing minorities without giving them real rights is in fact comparable to Kazakhstan’s ‘multiculturalism’. I challenge this notion because in Kazakhstan ethnic minorities have legislative representatives that can actually vote on national policy (Marquardt 2011).

To the Azerbaijani state, ethnic identity is associated with the events in Nagorno-Karabakh; the Talysh state which was briefly declared in 1993 and the Lezgins independence movement, which began in the early 1990s. Likewise, these groups are seen as easily manipulated by outside forces that wish to harm Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Azeri government sees all ethnic identity movements as imperial schemes by Russia to instigate separatism, whether it is among the Legniz or the Armenians (Marquardt 2011).

Data

I use Ethnic Power Relations 3.0 to help demonstrate the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict. The dataset identifies 150 politically relevant ethnic groups and their access to state power between 1946-2010. The dataset includes 157 countries and 758 ethnic groups, and measures the degree of exclusion from government ranging from total representation to over discrimination.

Table 1 displays effects of changes in independent variables. By increasing the excluded population from 6% to 32% (Wimmer, Cederman, & Min 2009), it results in a 25% increase in the likelihood of ethnic conflict. Imperial rule between 1816 and independence increases the chance of armed conflict by 13% only. As a whole, the data demonstrates that changes in exclusion of ethnic groups produces the greatest increase in the risk of ethnic conflict.

The regression results in Table 2 & 3 (attached as PDFs due to size & clarity) indicate that variables such imperial past did not have an effect as statistically significant on ethnic conflict as the variable of ethnic exclusion. In other words, the USSR’s legacy of imperialism in the Caspian is not as statistically significant to overall ethnic conflict as one might expect. The same logic applies to oil. The data indicates that oil is nowhere near as significant as ethnic exclusion in its relationship to conflict.

Conclusion

The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that ethnic inclusion leads to ethnic harmony and less conflict. This is because institutional representation of ethnic minorities addresses their grievances. As exhibited in Kazakhstan, proper measures to address ethnic minority rights can mitigate the possibility of conflict altogether. In sharp contrast, Azerbaijan has restricted minority rights, which has coincided with inter-ethnic war with Armenia, pogroms targeting Armenians, desecration of cemeteries, linguistic discrimination, deportation of Kurds, and the suppression of Legniz & Talysh national movements. The presence of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan ensures harmony and representation between ethnic groups. Furthermore, it protects, promotes and encourages minority languages, enabling them to be taught in schools and used openly without discrimination. The APK in Kazakhstan serves as a model for other developing countries struggling with ethnic conflict. Better policies aimed at ethnic inclusion and accommodation will lead to more harmony. The research & data indicates that even powerful forces like the resource curse – that is, the abundance of oil, does not ensure a decrease in the risk of ethnic conflict.

Bibliography

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Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war.” American Political Science Review. 97:1-16.

Brown, Michael 1993. Ethnic Conflict and International Security.

Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. University of California Press.

Ismayilov, Gursel G. 2008. “Ethnic Conflicts and Their Causes.” Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 3.4: 50-63.

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Tussupova, Dinara. 2010. “Mass Media and Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan.” Problems of Post-Communism 57.6. 32-45.

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Nyussupova, Gulnara, and Irina Rodionova. 2011. “Demographic situation and the level of human development of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Regional Aspects.” Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series 16: 78-87.

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Tezcür, Güneş Murat, and Mehmet Gurses. 2017. “Ethnic Exclusion and Mobilization: The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey.” Comparative Politics 49.2: 213-234.

Fayos. 2014. Minorities in the South Caucasus: New visibility amid old frustrations. European Parliament Policy Department. European Union.

Marquardt, Kyle L. 2011. “Framing language policy in post-Soviet Azerbaijan: political symbolism and interethnic harmony.” Central Asian Survey 30.2: 181-196.

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A Neo-imperial Menace – The Great Game for the Middle East


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A comparative study of Syria & Iraq wars, makes it evident that the cause of instability is not authoritarianism, nor radicalism in either of these states, and the entire ME region.

Rather these are symptoms of a greater menace inciting them – neo-imperialism.

Enough with associative-thinking  – ‘this has to be true because of this.’

We don’t need Putin to be boogieman in order to vilify a US president.

Trump & the GOP that created him are war criminals, racists & rabid, hawkish interventionists.

With or without Putin.

Even Egypt’s case of the ‘Arab Spring’ was arguably a direct rejection of neo-imperial vision of a colonial-outpost in the Middle East.

Democracy may be the end-goal even in the Middle East – but democracy is impossible without sovereignty. Democracy has neither been achieved in Iraq or Syria. In one case, an authoritarian was overthrown, the other, preserved. Both cases resulted in utter chaos, unprecedented terrorism and religious radicalization. This implies the specter is foreign intervention, not domestic.

Sovereignty is a precondition for political development. One does not need to be a ‘political scientist’ or expert to understand that simple notion.

The cases of Bahrain, Yemen & Egypt serve as controls for other purported variables that may be influencing the outcome of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Bahrain indicates that while Sunni-Shia hatreds are strong – they are not sufficient to incite a full-fledged civil war along sectarian lines. In Egypt, the political climate made it apparent that radicalism was exploiting any attempt at political development, contrary to the claim that reduced authoritarianism might mitigate religious fundamentalism. Finally, the case of Yemen indicates the double-standard exhibited by interventionists in the region – namely the US & Europe, who on one end funnel arms and finances to prop up dictators such as in Yemen; & in others devote the same efforts to toppling them.

Libya too, like Iraq, demonstrates the vulnerability of a nation without a state.

These are all indications that the primary menace to peace, stability and progress in the Middle East is foreign intervention, or neo-imperialism.

Ultimately, a truly democratic movement – the future of the Middle East, depends as much on internal efforts at deinstitutionalizing & wholly dismantling authoritarianism as it does on mitigating foreign support for these very institutions. Only then, can global hegemonies like Russia, America & China be kept at bay regarding any excessive ambitions in the Middle East and beyond (Latin America, Africa, Central & Southeast Asia).

Only through unity of indigenous cultures and nation-states can regions afflicted with imperialism overcome & develop. Dignity, prosperity, culture & innovation are best preserved under these conditions.

Flirting with Fascism


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that white nationalism has triumphed in America.

Brexit, the decision for England to leave the UK, laid the trajectory of the Western world earlier this year.

The world is undergoing vast changes in response to economic decline and a rise in global terrorism, particularly from the Middle East.

It has been 15 years since 9-11.

The world is still in the post-911 era, in which economic insecurity and nationalism are rising together.

Nationalism is filling the void of capitalism’s recent setbacks. There was not a single democratic-liberal candidate on stage. Clinton is essentially center-right. The irony is that

The West, a fancy term which basically means Europe and America, is rejecting globalization and internationalism in favor of war-politics.

Instead of allowing trade and diplomacy to bring nations together as the Obama Administration has been at least attempting to do and successfully in some cases – the US appears to have chosen the trajectory of its mother country, England – right-wing nationalism.

The engine of the type of prosperity Americans yearn for is not one that can be offered by government.

Ironically the right which is typically skeptical of big government has awarded itself the biggest government it could imagine – only one that benefits proponents of war.

The left is painted as some conspiratorial elite meanwhile the right operates exactly as one.

Many in the world are convinced that a Trump presidency is somehow going to be pacifist but they’ve forgotten – they’ve forgotten that if it weren’t for the GOP – Trump’s party – the world would be a much different place today.

We might have never gone to war in the Middle East, spring-boarding the rise of ISIS and unprecedented waves in international terror.

I do believe that the illusion which has been sold to the American people will be exposed.

This is one giant lesson for humanity – that selective justice and moral relativism are dangerous devices to flirt with. Perhaps the West’s neglect for humanitarianism in the East has backfired.

Hopes for living out the democratic dream in the underdeveloped world were hijacked and undermined. The hint of liberalism which crept in through the Arab Spring was eclipsed by a cold, harsh Arab Winter.

In these next four years, the US is likely to engage in direct military confrontations – contrary to what Trump’s electorate believes they voted for. This is the basis of the GOP’s ideology. It is the engine of Anglo-Supremacy.

Remember – Trump has no ideology. He just a hateful politician who exploits convenience. If the social scapegoat happened to be Japanese – he’d go after them too – and devise some sick conspiratorial ideology to advance it. In fact, Trump is not as detached from his party as it seems. There is a reason why he chose the Republican and not the Democratic ticket to run on this election, given he was formerly a member of the latter as is now widely known.

The ideological battle in the GOP between nationalists and capitalists has given way to the former in the presidency.

Rubio vs. Trump embody this difference. Trump is a sympathetic to dictators. Rubio is antithetical to them – partly because he is of Cuban ancestry, haunted by Castro’s legacy at home. The Cuban Lobby is one of the most powerful in America, and Cubans of the Latin-American community tend to be in the right side of the political spectrum, unlike most other Latin-Americans, such as Puerto Ricans, Colombians and so forth.

The world is reeling from the election results and everyone is venting their frustrations and angers but nobody has really offered an accurate portrayal of what to expect.

Ultimately, the party that brought Trump to power is the Republican base. These guys are conservative, and no matter what Trump’s rhetoric might have suggested, or what his own followers might want, the establishment of the conservative base which brought him to power is the one that dictates the future, similar to one the Democratic establishment which lays the agenda for their candidate. Donald Trump was portrayed as somebody who is maniacal, crazy, and a “masterful” politician. In reality, he was exploiting his privilege, inheritances, and political affiliations. The GOP knew that a Hillary-led America was their demise. What people do not seem to realize is the following – the specter of racism which is deeply embedded in American culture afflicts the world at large, and this can be true of nearly every political phenomenon which affects Americans. The US and the international arena are inextricably linked.

The Russians played a part but the real reason for Trump’s win was the fascist racist subculture which largely dictates US policy in domestic and foreign spheres.

The Russians have taken for granted Obama’s flexibility and compromise. Like the Americans, they feel they’ve encouraged the rise of a greater asset for stability – but what they underestimate, as they have their foes in their recent past, is Trump’s loyalty to his own party platform, whom without, he wouldn’t know what to do. This guy is a figurehead – not a policymaker.

I predict Trump will be a disaster for both his nation, his allies and his foes – because he will act on the ideological positions of his party which will run counter to the reconciliatory efforts of Obama which eased global tensions, such as with Iran. He’s completely reduced US presence in Iraq. The exception was Libya. The Syrian Crisis can be blamed mainly on Gulf & Turkey.

Trump will attempt to sabotage the Iran Nuclear Deal, inflame radicalism and terror & damage the global economy. His noninterventionism will prove to be a lie as the GOP convinces him to militarily confront Islamists more directly. He will embolden his Gulf allies, while supporting dictators like Assad, thereby creating a more dire situation of instability and violence – contrary to his empty promises of unconventional approaches to foreign policy. He will stand more strongly with Israel, and undermine Palestinian human rights therein – contrary to expectations that his competitor, Clinton would do worse. This doesn’t mention the domestic ills he will cause – and the backlash that will come with it. His empty promises will have proved to hijack the insecurities of Americans. They’ve created a new messiah for themselves. And almost every single accusation of deviousness levied by them, is in fact practiced by them in the fullest. The lazy, unambitious, privileged, complacent, unskilled, bitter, overweight, gluttonous, self-loathing, racist, dependent, nepotistic and unmerited class of Americans have shown their hypocrisy. They’ve shown that deep down they hate America; and wish to see it suffer as they do for their lack of conscience and humility. They echo radicals in their hatred of liberal freedoms which they are ungrateful for.

Let us hope we can overcome. Whether that means enduring, impeaching, organizing or mobilizing.

Trump will make a mockery of the Russians for believing he was better for them than Clinton. The GOP cannot decide between nationalism and capitalism – and the Middle East is a dire example of that where the US is caught between helping their Gulf allies fund ISIS & al Qaeda against Assad while simultaneously protecting Assad against ISIS. This double-dealing is symbolic of a long-lasting tradition called the Great Game, originally waged between England and Russia. Now the New Great Game is fought between USA & Russia, over regions like Middle East and Central Asia.

Americans have amnesia. They’ve forgotten that the GOP is responsible for bringing us to the point we are at in our history. They’ve forgotten the Bush years. The WMD lies. The millions of dead Iraqis. They’ve forgotten the War on Terror. They’ve forgotten Obama’s inheritances. The media emblazoned Trump’s message everywhere and Americans naturally ate it up.

Americans caved in. They could not contain their miseries. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has been reeling from American onslaught for decades.

The point of this article is to demonstrate how the Republican Party has – once again – fooled Americans. You’ve all been duped into a new promise, instead of treading along the trajectory of realism and reconciliation as we were with Obama. All your conspiratorial messianic megalomaniacal invocations against Obama were actually embodied by your new GOP leader – Donald J. Hitler. If Clinton was a hawk – Trump will prove to be a bald eagle clutching a fasces.

These next 4 to 8 years will be tough – but they will NOT be what people expect.

I can assure you that by 2020, the world will be a much different place, and America will finally realize that, as leader of the world, still, one cannot practice democracy while expecting other nations to devolve into utter chaos, conflict and injustice. America cannot begin to be selective about justice at home or abroad. Only then can fascism be put to rest wholly.

Trump’s election is a disgrace to America. It is a disgrace to the world and should be protested in every form. Whether we succeed or not in indicting him for ANYTHING he does we make it clear that this man is not liked, not representative, nor reflective of America as a whole.

Trump endangers minorities, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women & LGBT.

Trump’s positions will reflect his own selfishness and that of those around him. He will even sidestep his own so-called beliefs and compromise them as long as it benefits the GOP’s vision of a racist and imperial America.

All those who sympathize with him, particularly those from Arab or Armenian communities which I come from, will be made a mockery of when he displays exactly how he is going to undermine your community entirely.

America will have elected a false messiah; and earned a devil instead.

My worry is our ambivalence towards Clinton has put a much worse fascist in office.

Trump is motivated by a complete lack of moral restraint. That is why I am puzzled by those who chose not to stand with Clinton, or who chose to devote their cause to a third party candidate, because of the clear racism and fascism harbored by Trump and his followers. But this is a part of the GOP fabric. The irony is that the GOP is both incompetent and bitter that even their own selfishness is without any achievement. How pathetic.

From an Armenian perspective it does not make sense to stand with Trump or the GOP for two reasons:

Trump will side with Turkish fascism, racism (anti-Armenian, Kurd sentiment) & imperialism (involvement in Iraq & Syria). Somehow this will be reconciled with Trump’s promise to contain ISIS and ‘radical Islam’. They’ve pinned Hillary as a corroborator because of her “apparent shortcomings” but Trump’s double-dealings will prove to be actually devilish – beyond illusory YOUTUBE conspiracy theories.

His team has already expressed an urgent need for closer ties with Turkey – despite democratic shortcomings and rampant ethnocentrism.

He will side with Azerbaijani-occupation.

He has already stood with Israeli-apartheid & occupation.

As an Arab, there is no reasoning in siding with Trump either; or enabling him indirectly even. He hates Arabs; and Muslims. Trump will worsen the security conditions in the ME which will run counter to what ME governments think will b better US FP. He has already opened wounds by what he represents – the darkest shade of the American nationalist fabric.

He will follow no consistent course of moralism – but rather a path of ambiguous yet vigorous authoritarianism. And he will violate every promise made of being noninterventionist justified as security initiatives as usual.

Trump will renege every promise he’s made of being anti-establishment, non-interventionism and radical change. Instead he will drift the US along the course it was on before Obama – the one of Bush jr. You think otherwise because he’s claimed to be against this or that? Have you paid attention to his flip-flopping?

Just remember – what the Russians expected out of their deal with Hitler was eventually overturned and they were backstabbed. It was convenient for the Germans at the time to lure Russia; just as Trump might have duped them into thinking he’s playing their game.

Pay closer attention.

The Democrats don’t need some cosmic change. We do want more minority representation but what defeated the left is fear. Just as fear defeated common sense when Bush beat Gore – who like Clinton won the popular vote.

So much for being anti-establishment.

We might have a chance to impeach Trump (for future or past unknown offenses; Treason w/ the Russians?) or force him to resign – if we have the willpower and legal capacity. Or we might have to endure and defeat him in the coming elections. It all depends on how things unfold and how far he goes along the spectrum of his maniacal, politically inexperienced imagination. If Trump deports people by the masses; passes laws that destroy the US economy; incites greater terrorism; expresses more authoritarianism; challenges US civil liberties; insults minorities  – I foresee mass protests and unrest. Till then, we endure.

A message to the younger generation is to remain more vigorous, organized and effective – and be universally cognizant of moral injustices around the world. This will empower us on the domestic and international level. Most importantly however it is time to exhibit some more confidence, similar to that of the FDRs, JFKs and even Obama. Let us harbor our humility and modesty; while exploiting our cunning. This is politics – not philosophy class – after all. Harden your skin, folks!

Nazism, anti-semitism, racism & all forms of conspiratorial genocide denial are ILLEGAL in Germany and many parts of Europe. America hasn’t caught on because it benefits from the Anglo-American, White Supremacist Authoritarian Insecurity Complex. As Edward Said might call it, Orientalism or post-Colonialism. The violation of the Hatch Act by James Comey should have disqualified Trump – and his close ties with Comey and his associates, as well as those with Russia, should be grounds for disqualification. This isn’t necessarily to prevent a Republican victory, but rather, a Donald Trump victory. A Marco Rubio presidency, though controversial, would not elicit backlash because Rubio has never expressed Nazi ideals. Watch as Trump backtracks completely on all his anti-establishment policies and watch as he solidifies the American corporate grip on politics. Finally, you’ll see an unprecedented escalation is US militarism. All contrary to his empty promises, but consistent with his, and his party’s own neofascist foundation.

The problem good people have is they misunderstand both politics and spirituality. They’ve got this extreme inclination, one that is imbalanced. The ordinary American seems caught between his materialistic desires and philosophical pretentiousness, without any middle ground. Politics is approached as some revenge game, not with any sense of practicality and moral imperative – the two contradictory ideological foundations of American politics. President Obama, Reagan, Bush Sr., Carter, JFK, FDR, Teddy, were among these types.

But really guys? Enough with the privileged talk about third party candidates. Suspend your egos for just one moment. You guys fear some conspiratorial presidency under Clinton only to usher in an actually conspiratorial presidency under Trump as a solution or an alternative? What hypocrisy! And all this post-election banter about “listening to rural white America”. The same guys who have been telling us for years not to look at government as our savior have now idolized worshipped and ushered in their fascist messiah. Most of these guys are envious, unemployed, insecure, lazy, racist, sexist, selfish citizens who do not contribute to society economically or socially or politically yet blame immigrants for their own miseries, as opposed to their own egos and incompetencies. The irony – the privileged complaining about oppression. The fascists demanding government interference. The irony. The libertarians and the anarchists all who rallied behind a neoconservative symbol of tyranny. The Arab-Americans who sympathized with Trump – I hope Trump moves the embassy to Jerusalem in Israel so that you may be shamed for your support for him. The Armenians who doubted Hillary – you will feel shame for not recognizing your own selfishness in the face of a blatant racist.

America will regret this decision. I find solace in the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. It furthermore underscores the establishment’s endorsement and enabling of Trump – from corporations, to hedge-funds, to mass-media – this is Trump’s syndicate which propelled him to the presidency.

Trump has exploited controversy capitalism. What this means is he uses his position to get more attention through controversy instead of through genuine accord. Unlike previous presidents – especially those on the left – he lacks the educational, moral and character capacity and knowledge about policy to draw genuine support so he depends on appeals to the lower bases of human nature – such as attachment, idolatry & scapegoating.

The mob rule mentality and controversy capitalism have overtaken America.

A history of property laws based on preventing non-white ethnic groups from equal opportunity in the political and economic spheres thereby rendering them weak in representative power. Even Armenians were not allowed Racism has taken a new form in modern America.

Now that Trump has announced his cabinet choices –

How can America not see this is blatant racism? In Europe – Germany for example – Nazism is literally illegal. Do we have to wait till gas chambers until we realize we’re “headed in the wrong direction?”

I am an Armenian. I know this all too well. I have etched images and movies in my mind – like figments of my imagination running through my blood and my genes – perhaps self-constructed – but nnetheless vivid and real – that recall of the horror and tragedy of the Armenian Genocide – I hear women’s and children’s screams.

And Putin’s Russian has already expressed doubts about what Trump is promising he will do as a means of cooperating in Syria with the Russian army.

Remember – at first before WWII both the Russians (then the USSR) and the British appeased Hitler – partly out of skepticism, but also because they kind of identified with him. They could “use” him. Of course it got out of hand, as most might predict, and led to one of the worst tragedies in human history.

Hitler backstabbed the Russians – invaded them. Then he made the British regretful of their appeasement – by almost sacking London.

What is repulsive is that what Trump is doing is not illegal. The right has nothing left to offer which is coherent to the American people and in fact the right is responsible for our economic turmoil as well as our militaristic endeavors. Without the right, there would be no Middle Eastern debacle – at least to the intensity it has reached.

Trump has exploited miserable white men in need of a political messiah.

What happened to self-dependence and working hard – values the right championed? Perhaps they weren’t able to achieve these themselves. And yet, they wish to disenfranchise minorities from the opportunity to compete – what insecurity!

And so I guess we are flirting with fascism after all.

Time will tell, but pay close attention. Trump will falter.

Who Really is ‘Presidential’? Thoughts Ahead of Tonight’s Debate – #Election2016


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Bernie Sanders was not presidential [sadly to say – despite many of his ideals being great – if not the best compared to his counterparts].

That is something the American people are struggling to grasp – especially the youth.

What is – ‘presidential’?

Donald Trump – is not presidential. But for reasons different than Bernie. Bernie is, well, simply put, without any character, really. Despite all the slogans and witty catch phrases, Bernie is just another product of social trends. He isn’t Justin Trudeau. He isn’t Obama. He just doesn’t have any flair. Americans like intellect – but they equally value humor; athleticism; suaveness – or “swagger” in today’s terminology. None of these are characteristic of Sanders.

The same could be said of Donald Trump but for different reasons. He is too uneducated, vulgar, impolite, erratic & irresponsible for such leadership – if not to hold any post. He can barely manage his own funds – or his father’s, rather.

That isn’t to say that Hillary Clinton is ‘presidential’.

Back in ’08, I hadn’t heard of a guy named Barack Obama, but as the campaign progressed, I realized – I had just witnessed the rise of an extraordinary individual. This man is beyond brilliant – something that few people truly appreciate. I can say that the world appreciates Obama more than America – which is quite telling. That isn’t necessarily true – a lot of Americans love our current president. But the ‘other side’ is equally if not more bent on voicing their hatred – to put it ‘mildly’.

Ahead of tonight’s momentous occasion, the first live debate between Clinton & Trump – I share the following sentiment. People often expect too much. This is a sign of…a lack of experience maybe. But other forces play a role too. The world is suffering and yet, the average American struggles to understand the nooks and crannies of his or her own political system and culture.

As an Armenian-Syrian immigrant living in America – I must say that my perspective should be heeded. There are many causes which are directly connected to me that have yet to be addressed or have been horribly managed, by the US wholly but also precisely by US president Barack Obama, whom I continue to support. Why? Because I am not a perfectionist in the political sense – and expect some compromise – not always – but in times of necessity and urgency. There is much change, and much work to be done in the stride towards justice – but it is just that – a stride – a path. We cannot be held back by radical expectations which in themselves seek to paralyze our sense of progress. That being said it is clear to me there is only one candidate worthy of a vote in this election and that reasoning is from contrived a moral and practical logic – that candidate is Hillary Clinton.

So while she isn’t necessarily the perfect candidate – relative to America’s choices – she is definitely presidential.

The US president is a person of immense wisdom and discipline; responsibility and sacrifice; public service and family value. Which of the two candidates possesses these qualities? And if you have to think twice – think again.

What gets me is that Americans want to change parts of their system that are less relevant to domestic and global wellbeing while ignoring the more pressing issues. And then when a tragedy or crisis occurs, Americans are left wondering how or why. Instead of a Wall Street revolution there should be a minority rights and immigration reform revolution. Instead of a focus on spreading democracy abroad we should be seeking to reduce our arbitrary and partial political influence overseas. Issues like these are costing us – but instead Americans wish to focus on ideological ambiguities and polarized politics.

That is why the candidates have dwindled down to the current options available – one representing the so-called establishment while the other represents the ugliest part of the establishment disguised as anti-establishment.

It is undoubtable that America and the world must implement comprehensive political reform – but this is likely an impossible feat under the auspices of a hypothetical President Trump. On the contrary, Hillary, like Obama (but perhaps to a lesser degree since she is more hawkish) – will pave the road for future generations to at least further the cause of progressivism in its purest form.

Perhaps future generations will reflect a more balanced perspective on US politics – representing minorities; women; LGBTQ; etc. But this cannot be associated with any particular ideological strand or populist trend as it has been in this election. American individualism and personal responsibility, contrary to the ‘8th grader youtube conspiracy video viewer mentality’ – is not preserved or protected by the far left or right – but rather, by a careful, tolerant moderate centrist. So when I say that Hillary Clinton is in fact presidential – that is precisely why. She isn’t just the echo of our grievances – but also of our reason.

A Legacy of Liberalism in the Middle East – Between the Orient and the Occident


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Islamic liberalism is not a myth, but to assume that it seeks to mimic the West, ignores that the West itself has shortcomings in the realm of authentic liberalism.

It becomes difficult to gauge really what is the so-called problem ailing the Middle East, when one does so from a perspective shaped by Occidentalism – which has academics arguing that individual rights were born in the West.

The premise is based on the birth of individualism in the 12th century on to the 18th century. This period saw an emergence of anti-elitism.

But development and modernization, which swept the West, but drastically missed the rest of the world, to varying degrees.

But the West’s vast advantage in development is not because of its individualism. Instead it is because the West is more inclined toward a culture of subjugation and exploitation – instead of enriching itself and others. As a result, it has developed faster, often building upon the miseries of others, illegally.

Furthermore, the Middle East’s struggle with foreign intervention, or colonialism, or imperialism, or neoconservatism, or whatever you want to call it these days since words these days lose meaning, has even worsened and confused our understanding of religion.

People forget really what the Prophet Muhammad’s initial message was about. This gets confused with sensitivity and motive. In my case, the pursuit of truth is my motive, whether that upsets me or not. But my faith is strong, in Allah, and so I do not fall to doubt.

Islam, is a culture. But the culture itself has become domineering. We can blame Muslims, but that ignores history. The Middle East suffers most from this. It is underdeveloped but most importantly, it is ravaged by instability and violence.

The Middle East is vibrant. It is the home of many religions, stories and nationalities.

While Islam is a rich part of that history, it is not the only part.

More importantly, religion should be neither compulsive nor imposing.

If the Middle East embraced Abrahamic monotheism more closely, it would find that judging others is unholy. In fact, to judge is to assume the role of God – the exact sin of the devil. We forget Iblis sought to play the role of God’s spokesperson?

Dogma has engulfed the Middle East. Individualism has been made scarce. That is because religious sensitivity, political instability and envy have together, created a scenario of perpetual unrest, casting a shadow over individuals of excellence in the Middle East, and instead, bringing into the limelight, the radicals, fools and those who slander the region’s reputation.

If Western countries were not nitpicking at the Middle East’s every corner, there would be an opportunity for modernization, no matter how different. Instead, the Middle East was infiltrated by misleading pursuits of glorification.

The West juggled fascism and communism, and injected them into every corner of the world.

How then can the West be the harbinger – the origin – of liberalism?

Do you think African-Americans, or Native-Americans believe that narrative?

How about Muslim-Americans?

The world is struggling between cultures.

And the so-called “rational world” which is in reality merely a civilization built on voluntary exploitation. The spirit of domination fuels the Western cultural and political machine. This has given it the courage to exploit. It injected communism into China. It injected fascism into Europe and South America. In the Middle East, it has played into the hands of fascism.

The Middle East is home to Islam but it is also home to religions like Christianity, Judaism, or the more taboo Zoroastrianism, Yazidism, Shiism and so on. These diversities have been eclipsed by imperialism, democratic imposition and radicalization. To battle clerical radicalism, historically states in the Middle East equipped robust security apparatuses. The grievances of the Middle Eastern people include many, but the promise of democratic institutionalism is not their guaranteer of salvation. Democracy is just pretty fascism. The woes of the Middle East are economic, social, and political.

Our rich history, and our eternal future, cannot be cultivated, or secured by social systems designed by ideology and not spirituality infused. The two must respect one another, both science and religion.

Order, merit, stability, institution, and bureaucracy, are not dependent on democracy and are in fact almost threatened by the potential of democracy to lead to mob-rule. Insert Donald Trump or Adolf Hitler quote here.

Ultimately, a careful semblance of absolute rule and popular sovereignty is the best possible system we can design [parliamentarian monarch in the west; shah/majlis in the East]. Anything else almost guarantees the prevalence of dogma and tyranny. The West has arrived at fascist neoconservatism through democratic mob-rule. It has divided and exploited the Middle East, and thus we have an environment absent of liberty, peace and stability.

This is not a case against democracy, but rather, a containment of Western imperial overreach.

The greatest purveyor of social justice, which includes, autonomy, sovereignty, private property, tolerance and personal freedom, has historically not been democratic in the Middle East, but unfortunately more authoritarian, given the dynamic created by foreign powers. Even if the Middle East were the world’s greatest power, it would likely not choose democracy because political representation is not a cultural priority in the Middle East or the Islamic/Arab World. The priorities include family values, religious devotion and national loyalty. Personal ambitions are considered but not wholly.

Only through this recognition can the Middle East be free of subjugation and calamity.

May there one day be peace in the Middle East. Only then will such hope be no longer a fleeting prayer but rather a perpetual reality.

To the world to come.

Let it be known though that I am a Muslim, socially liberal and devout – though I do believe in authority and order – and that both irreligion [libertine] and radicalism [conservative] are two sides of the same coin, sort of like communism and capitalism. The eradication of both, is a triumph for Muslims everywhere, of all orientations.

 

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.

Who is responsible for Istanbul attack?


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On June 28th, a group of suicide bombers conducted an attack on Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport, killing 41 people and injuring 239. As the world mourns the tragedy, investigators seek to bring justice to the perpetrators. But who is responsible? And Why?

Is it Daesh (ISIS)?

Is it PKK?

These are both valid suggestions, based on the history of violence among both groups.

Based on the PKK’s terrorism tactic, the attack in Istanbul does not necessarily fit their profile. According to news sources, though unconfirmed, the PKK usually target Turkish nationals. The conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government surrounds the Kurdish question of identity and statehood in the Middle East. The Kurds have been without an autonomous country and do not enjoy equal rights in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan is the only region where Kurds enjoy a degree of nationalism but it is far from being a nation-state.

Why would Daesh or ISIS commit the attacks?

Turkey has been supporting the armed insurgency against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad since its inception. The majority of Daesh or ISIS fighters are not Syrian but foreign nationals, from Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and Central Asia, which raises the question as to whether this a so-called civil war between state and opposition or an international conflict between states. Is Syria a proxy conflict waged between global powers? Is this the continuation of the so-called “Great Game”?

If Turkey has stood against the Syrian government, thereby granting ISIS leverage directly or indirectly, then why would such an attack take place?

Since the emergence of ISIS, and the corresponding terrorist attacks globally which have victimized France, America and Turkey to name just a few, the political dynamic of the Syrian conflict has shifted. The ouster of Assad, like that of Mubarak, Morsi, Ben Ali, Abdullah Saleh, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, was originally argued as the procurement of stability and justice in the Middle East. The outcomes have proven otherwise. The tyrannical leadership of these autocrats is undoubtable, but is there another force enabling this instability to begin with?

As a result of ISIS’ apparent indiscriminate violence, fundamentalism and fickleness, Turkey has, like the US, altered its position internationally. Just last week, Turkey announced reconciliation efforts with its historical arch-rivals, Israel and Russia. Russia has arguably maintained the Syrian government since its intervention.

Could this rapprochement have provoked backlash from ISIS against Turkey? Were these two gestures of international rapprochements with ISIS’ nemeses, Israel & Russia viewed as a form of betrayal by the terror group?

As investigations continue, emerging facts will likely give this blurry picture some lucidity.

But a shifting world order is evidentially not as far off as one might have expected, particularly after England’s vote to leave the EU.

As the migrant crisis continues, and Middle Eastern instability intensifies, one might ask why foreign powers have prioritized their ambitions over practical politics.

One cannot speak of justice in the Middle East while neglecting the bedrock of human security – sovereignty.

Until this is realized, fanaticism and instability will continue to overshadow justice in the Middle East.