Kleptocracy on Capitol Hill?


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How could America be expected to promote democracy abroad while not practicing it for its own people?

Sure, there are principles of democracy here and there, perhaps most importantly in executive limits and free elections – but modern oligarchies have corrupted these institutions through socio-economic paralysis of the middle and lower class.

Particularly in the case of minority rights, the U.S. has exhibited non-democratic tendencies. This is more than problematic, considering the majority of the U.S. will be of minority background by 2050.

America is struggling to make a balance between capitalism on one hand and democracy on the other. Democratic movements are bending towards re-enfranchisement of minorities and the middle and lower classes. Can the US’ policies in other parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East but also in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, be expected to align with democratic movements?

Remember that Karl Marx said he was not a marxist. He saw it as a perversion of his intent. What if so-called capitalist oligarchs in the West are cooperating with authoritarians in other parts of the world to suppress all genuinely democratic movements?

The lack of economic opportunity is related to the absence of equal representation in government in the US and in the Middle East. Immigrants and minorities, religious groups, women and the LBGT community, face discrimination and are underrepresented. Furthermore, they do not receive the same economic welfare from the US government provided to others, particularly minorities and immigrants. To blame this on anything but political underrepresentation is illusory.

The U.S. enables political mobilization – but decades of stagnation has halted progress. Whether or not America is a true democracy is being tested right now. And whether or not other parts of the world can understand the distinction between true democracy and populism, will determine their ability to overcome tyranny.

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Political Gluttony & the Syrian Crisis


The assumption towards the Middle East, and many parts of the world outside Western civilization, such as Latin America and Central Asia, is that there is an even dichotomy between citizens supporting or opposing authoritarian regimes. But the reality is less simple.

Arab citizens understand that, democracy can only unfold when two crucial changes take place, which cannot take place separately. This complicates things because generally, especially in Western media, it is assumed that freedom is an excuse for avoiding responsibility. What I mean is, America, the leader of the free world and its followers, are equally responsible for authoritarianism in the Middle East as the authoritarians themselves. Whether fascist, communist, Islamist, or a mixture of all three, it doesn’t change that American interventionism since WWII has caused this imbalance. Initially, this led me to question democracy altogether, until I noticed the consequence which meant supporting authoritarianism. But I soon realized that democracy itself, is an end which has yet to be reached, even in the West, where simple rights are not universally extended, and economies are riddled with inequality.

America, the leader of the free world, is in more accurate terms; leader of the freer world. Until America takes fuller strides towards democracy at home, it won’t be able to contain the ambitions of its elite, which has grown detached from society and all-too powerful. Since WWII, this elite has engaged in imperial overstretch. I argue that, for stability to ensue in the Middle East, two things must happen: First, America has to reverse its interventionist policy – perhaps not entirely; but violations of sovereignty under so-called pretenses of security must end. Second, Arab governments must institute political and economic competition, and a socially acceptable degree of freedom. This may or may not be exactly democratic – but a step towards freedom it surely is. The implications of this assertion are that two entities are at fault – American corporate elite; for engineering modern imperialism and Arab authoritarianism. What this means is, petty attempts to overthrow Arab leaders won’t solve the problem, which is why Iraq, Afghanistan & Libya remain failures. The real solution may not necessarily mean less bloodshed – but it will actually have direction and dignity because it will be a product of sovereign movements, and not foreign agendas with ulterior motives. This scenario could however also lead to genuine reforms and justice, and possibly less lives lost.

The legacy of Arab authoritarianism is a continuation of American capitalism, a primitive tribal ideology of white supremacist origin, to be frank. Liberty, dignity and democracy, will be achieved at the demise of expansionist politics, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But oversimplified focus will lead to shortsighted decisions that seek to undermine such prospects for a better future. The problem, isn’t the head of state in the Arab world. It is the Arab world’s failure to depend on and trust itself, in the face of a two-faced hegemony indulging in political gluttony. Once it does, America can step back, and let nature take its course. America refuses to renounce the concept of Jewish apartheid in the Middle East in the face of Arab authoritarianism and Islamist fanaticism. But if America involvement in the Arab world becomes less imposing, Perhaps then Arab movements in the direction of democracy can actually succeed. In this scenario, assurances of security and transition could be offered. Violence is the product of stubborn leadership, nonetheless such movements in the Middle East would ideologically pin America against Israel, thus allowing for Palestinian justice – the crux of Middle Eastern instability, and the driving force of both Islamism and authoritarianism in the world today.

Is a Balance of Power Emerging?


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At first glance, it would seem that the world we live in is starkly unipolar – defined by US hegemony in a post-soviet world. While US hegemony is unquestionable, the notion of an emerging balance of power is still possible. Waltz definition for BOP theory includes a bipolar world. For this reason, the USSR-US dichotomy provided a staple framework for the theory. But the end of the Cold War introduced an era of seemingly unprecedented unipolarity characterized by US hegemony over global politics. Neoliberal institutionalism and democratic peace theorists have long argued that the balance of power theory is defunct and irrelevant in a post-Cold War era. BOP theory suggests that countries around the world would exhibit balancing in order to counter US hegemony, but democratic peace theorists argue that, democracies are less aggressive, and thus elicit less defensive responses. In other words, the US isn’t the same at the Roman Empire because the former is democratic, which permits free trade and self-interest. If this were the case, it could challenge the very nature of BOP theory in that, nations may not perceive hegemonies as threatening but rather, non-democracy as threatening. Is that perhaps why alliances between democratic hegemonies and democracies in the periphery have persisted, such as NATO & the EU? However neorealists like Kenneth Waltz and Mearsheimer might argue that the world is currently in a transitional phase, in which balancing will eventually occur. Evidence of that is China’s rise as an industrial power; Russia’s annexation of Crimea & South Ossetia; the emergence of BRICS; heightened conflicts in the Middle East; and the rise of violent, anarchical militias largely in response to US “hegemony”. All of these are reasons to believe that, balance of power theory was merely “warming up” after the Cold War.

But since the end of the Cold War, American hegemony has remained uncontested, at least, wholly. Neorealists have argued the end of the Cold War would result in a break up of the EU and a rebalancing of powers to counter US domination (Mearsheimer). In the 1990s, this may have seemed almost impossible – considering the allure of democracy, and the collapse of the USSR. Even in today’s world, the possibility of a US-European detente seems improbable, especially with a rising threat of terrorism; and the rise of the Far East (Russia & China). But since the attacks of September 11th, the US has plunged itself into a series of endeavors which have earned it both the lauding and criticism of its allies. The conflict in Syria, and Eastern Europe, with regards to Russian interference, is a sign of a resurgence of the East, possibly as a response to US expansiveness over the last decade. It could be argued, perhaps in Mearsheimer’s favor, that a balance of power is in fact emerging, led mainly by Russia & China. The question is how enduring it will be; and whether European nations will follow. Seeing that neoliberal institutionalists see democracy as an exception to the “realist paradigm”, they might argue that Russian & Chinese led power-balancing is the result of their desperate attempt to resist democracy. In this scenario, neoliberal institutionalists might argue that balancing occurs to resist authoritarianism; not necessarily to resist hegemony. For this reason, the characteristic of benign hegemony has been attributed to the US (Axelrod).

From the perspective of the neoliberal institutionalist, international institutions have served to mitigate the threat of hegemony, primarily as a result of the triumph of democracy which is rooted in self-interest. Peace is the nature of democracy; and therefore is usually only interrupted when authoritarian regimes become threatening. The relationship between democracies is rationally cooperative here, a sort of complex interdependence (Keohane).

Waltz & Mearsheimer would argue against this notion. Whether or not a country is democratic, in their view, does not affect its instinct to seek relative gains. The unit of focus is the state and system, versus the individual (Waltz).

Unconventional to all of these approaches is the constructivist claim, which essentially argues that cultural norms, beliefs or constructs, have produced scenarios in which balancing occurs in the past, and seek to explain perhaps why or why not balancing may occur in the future (Wendt). This school which is almost sociological in nature, challenges the very theories which realism and even neoliberal institutionalism rest upon, specifically the assumptions of static cultural and political norms. Motives such as security, survival, power and relative or absolute gains are social constructs; even states, war, and the balance of power. In today’s world, constructivists would likely argue that the balance of power paradigm is outdated and that other motives such as cultural preservation and sovereignty take equal if not more precedence among states and individuals. Therefore, the struggle in today’s world can be seen as a pursuit of these ends both by hegemonies and by countries in the periphery.

The aforementioned approaches each tackle the notion of the balance of power in their own right. While there is a clear distinction between them, it appears, they share some similarities too, especially between the neorealist and the neoliberal. However in sum, it would appear almost negligent to reduce the global political paradigm, and the state of the balance of power today, to one particular approach. Instead, I argue that a careful balance, no pun intended, of all the claims could help us to better understand the direction in which international relations, both the reality and the field, is headed.

It seems that the idea of a balance between the static nature of states and individuals and the socially constructed assumptions of the behavior of states and individuals — that is, a combination of the realist, liberal and the constructivist are not mutually exclusive. Alluding to Samuel Huntington, I believe that while states, or civilizations, do share many characteristics such as the need for survival and security – the means by which they are achieved are very different and are often drastically dependent upon the cultural norms of that given state’s society. But while cultural norms shift across different regions, some remain static – and these, I argue, help us to understand the international political reality of today. Within that context, it seems that a balance of power is in fact emerging in response to US hegemony, but that this balance has taken a new form largely due to the emergence of democracy and the dissolution of the USSR. Therefore the claim that a balance of power must emerge as the result of bipolarity, seems insufficient. Two possibilities seem most probable; a more coherent anti-US coalition could form  in the international political arena in the case of increasing US war campaigns; or cooperation among these states due to an alleviation of US aggression, both of which reflect a sort of “balancing” that ought to occur.

Bibliography

Huntington, Samuel P. “The clash of civilizations?.” Foreign affairs (1993): 22-49.

John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19: 3 (1994).

Keohane, Robert, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, 1984.

Robert Axelrod, “The Emergence of Cooperation Among Egoists,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 75, No. 2. (1981).

Waltz, Kenneth, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, 1959.

Wendt, Alexander, Social Theory of International Politics, 1999.

British MP Galloway: I Am Against the Enemies of the Syrian Regime


Why Bernie Sanders hasn’t captured ALL of our hearts


The hypocrisy would be appalling were it not so functional: the biggest impediment to both the reform of Islam and peace in the Middle East that Americans have the ability to remove is our support for a militant Jewish ideology that few Arabs and Muslims have ever accepted.

The 9/11 Commission concluded that US policy in Palestine was part of the reason for the attacks, but that analysis was whittled down to a few sentences– even as the head of the commission said that the Iraq war was launched to protect Israel. (And Condi Rice said the war would provide “strategic relief” to Israel and Colin Powell said it was dreamed up by the Zionist thinktank the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs).

And this blog– for which the Iraq war was the core issue– began after my brother told me that he had demonstrated against the Vietnam War but his Jewish newspaper said this war might be good for Israel; and this blog got pushed out the door at the New York Observer, then the Nation Institute.

Bernie Sanders and I both opposed the Iraq war. Most American Jews opposed that war. But Sanders’s assertion that there is a war for the soul of Islam is hollow, cheap and condescending so long as he and the mainstream Jewish community continue to suppress the war for the soul of Judaism.

That war is happening all around us in the margins; but the west will not be able to rid the earth of ISIS and the radical Islamism that we are told is not Islam (believe me, I can’t wait for their demise) till we conduct a similar scathing inventory of Jewish political beliefs.

Yesterday James North and I wrote here that we’re not monocausal; even if there was justice in Palestine it would not end Islamist violence. I stand by that point. But the ultimate question is the one Bernie Sanders raised last night, What can we do to end the religious element of the conflicts in the Middle East? And the answer is that Jews must end their support for Zionism, which has turned out to be religious, fascistic and militant, and is fueling rage across the Middle East and further.

How long can Jews not have this conversation? Hannah Arendt wrote in 1944 that opposition to Zionism drew on great understandings: the “realization of the fatal, utopian hyperbole of the demand for a Jewish commonwealth and a rejection of the idea of making all Jewish politics in Palestine dependent on the protection of great powers.”

It was an American problem then and it’s an American problem now. We have set aside our own secular values when it comes to the Middle East. We should stop lecturing Muslims about their backward ideas till we reckon with our own.

– See more at: Mondoweiss

Is “Democracy” possible in the Middle East?


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

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

Is democracy meant for the Middle East?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we right or wrong to?