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.

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The World to Come


A young immigrant child in Orlando,
I came to the Far West from the Persian Gulf,,
To the Gulf from the Levant,
and to the Levant from the highlands of Armenia.
Now, here I am,
In the strong hold of modern imperium, America,
Seeking my own freedom,
from the dual extremes of ignorance,
and the societal pressure against solitude.
Music, art and philosophy are my realms of expression,
and sustenance.
I offer excellence to you,
and pray for justice.

Is Saudi Arabia Next?


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The Gulf countries, to some extent, initiated quick reforms to avoid the domino effect of the Arab Spring.

Reminiscent of the Age of Metternich in Europe, when serious efforts to revolutionize the continent were being suppressed.

Revolution often has little idea of the future, but this weakness is exploited by existing orders to maintain the “status quo”. The divisions between revolutionaries, usually ideologically, lead to fragmentation. Sometimes, revolutions become themselves suppressive, as with far left or far right ideologies in Europe, the Far East and Latin America.

Ironically, the Arab Spring affected only the nations with little economic influence in the region. If the Arab World has a list of grievances, it would be safe to assume that economic misery is atop the list, along with cultural and political factors. Involvement by foreign countries further complicates the dynamic.

How could the Arab Spring miss the Gulf countries? Why did it not sweep Lebanon? Why were the results overturned quickly in Egypt?

All of these are important questions. Many of the leaders that were overthrown in the Arab World over the last two decades, including Saddam, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Morsi deserved their fate, perhaps. But two forces plague the Middle East – robust capitalism in the Gulf and authoritarianism and sectarianism in the Levant and North Africa. This dynamic of persistent monarchism and militarized statism have together, produced disaster. But how can such polarized forces, like the two aforementioned, which are ideologically diametrically opposed, share the feature of tyranny? This forces analysis to focus on external factors.

The most crucial piece of the Arab political puzzle is the Gulf region, because economically, it preserves the economic capacity necessary for sustaining and developing the entire Middle East. Patronage and nepotism have disenfranchised the average person from the political and thus, economic processes. Religious and family bonds infiltrate policy, and result in corruption and economic misery.

The Gulf is aptly supported by America. Israel too.

Is it possible that both economic, social and political development are lagging then not only as a result of Arab tyranny, but the American involvement which secures it?

Placing the blame on external forces is an easy and common trend, particularly in the Middle East where a factual history of foreign conspiracies confirmed societal paranoias towards the US and Europe.

Both the conflicts in Iraq and Syria were US-led initiatives, really. But genuine reform in the Middle East cannot take place without reform in the crux of the puzzle – the Gulf. If violent insurgencies persist, will they eventually realize their greatest obstacle is not the enemy of the US, Assad and Iran, but rather, the enemy of the Arab World, which is the greediness which permeates the Gulf?

If I Were President – 2016 and Beyond


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There are many avenues that need to be walked in order to improve the US domestically.

The US is still a global leader, but socio-economically it lags in development, compared to its allies in Europe and its emerging competitors in the East. The progressive wave which swept Europe in the 90s and early 2000s seems to have missed the US. Obama’s legacy remains barely left of center, despite significant strides and accomplishments. Furthermore, China’s emergence as an industrial power and Russia’s assertiveness in the 21st century are signs of a need for the US to improve its position politically.

So what should be on the agenda for the US domestically?

  1. Immigration Reform – This must be done comprehensively without leaving any behind and also planning for the future. Grant amnesty, permanent status to those currently living in the US, with discretion for amnesty based on level of hardship endured. Grant federal aid to all immigrants in US. Normalize their status. Establish better relations economically and politically with neighbors, particularly those from which immigrants flee. Tackle source of problem. Tightening borders not only won’t solve problem – it is a mere rhetorical campaign tactic to entice those with little education on the matter.
  2. Minority Rights – African & Latino-Americans, but also Arab and Asian-Americans have suffered disproportionately in the spheres of economics and political representation. Social, economic and political measures are necessary to elevate not just the plight but the status of minorities in the US to that of equal-standing with other social groups to balance out the playing field and ensure a robust democracy and free market for all – not just some.
  3. Military & Prison Reform – We spend too much money on our military. We execute and incarcerate more people than any country in the world. That includes China, the most populous nation on the planet. How could this be? Surely, the US’ history of racism has nothing to do with it…considering the majority of prisoners in the US are either African or Latino. We need to spend less on our military, jail less of our minorities, and de-institutionalize racism. This requires active government initiative in the realms of education and economic opportunity.
  4. Health & Climate – we need a conscious revolution in our expectations of quality and formation of national identity and culture. The US must advocate for cleaner diets and environments for its people. Furthermore, the US must learn to compromise the tradition of robust-industrialization with regards to its negative impact on the environment. Thoroughly embedded universal healthcare must be made accessible to all Americans.

And what about in the realm of foreign politics?

Disengagement – the US must return to its pre-WWI foreign policy of having almost no foreign policy. The US was isolationist, largely uninvolved in the world prior to the world wars. Interventionism in the post-cold war period has reached new heights, and caused greater setbacks for the US and the world altogether. More military disengagement, including of covert operations, would result in a more secure US. The US cannot expect to have its borders secure while it practically disregards the borders and national sovereignty of other nations.

  1. Disengage Saudi Arabia until religious tolerance reform; distribute wealth
  2. Reconcile with Iran, Syria – South America
  3. Disengage Israel – less partial support
  4. Disengage from other spheres of influence (respect Chinese, Russian spheres)
  5. Recognize the Armenian Genocide (and all other disregarded mass-genocides of the 20th century and beyond; in Africa and Asia)
  6. Pressure Turkey to contain itself

Instead of disrupting the balance of power, the US should seek to play a more even hand. It could thus focus less on entertaining the greed of its elite through foreign escapades, and more on distributing resources more justly, effectively and fruitfully.

Who is the best candidate?

Overall Bernie Sanders is the best candidate because he benefits all those who are struggling, from economic equality, gender & minority rights, prison-reform & foreign disengagement – all of these fall within his scope. And all of these have hurt the US. As for foreign policy, he won’t do much. But that’s better than doing a lot – which is what his competitors and his predecessors have done – full military engagement or support for various forces. Bernie isn’t going to save America or the world. Particularly in the Middle East, his policies could prove naive – how would he manage Israeli aggression? Furthermore, in light of the double-standard against Palestinians, can their self-determination be secured in the face of a relentless, expansionist Israeli state?

What would happen in a Trump or Clinton presidency? How different are they, how similar?

We would clash with all our “enemies” more directly: Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Venezuela, Hamas, Hezbollah & Syria. Obama’s legacy of reconciliation would be undermined, where as a Bernie Sanders presidency would be more in tune.

If we focus on policy instead of rhetoric, we’ll see that both Trump and Clinton are hawkish. They are both angry about the deal with Iran. Both are unrelentingly pro-Israeli.

America is at a cross-roads. Sure, we are always choosing between two sides, but this election, more than ever, is more polarized than ever. Considering the US’ immense influence over global affairs, blue or red tie in the White House often means the difference between inflated gas prices and high terror alerts.

Is Bernie that much different from Trump and Clinton?

Aside from the slogans, ideologies and rhetoric – how different are these guys? In domestic politics, greatly. In foreign politics…not so much. In fact foreign politics has almost taken a backseat to the economic crisis in the US. The sad thing is that the two are so-connected.

Who do you trust most to deal with these realities?

Take your pick. Bet you can’t guess mine! (Even though I can’t vote…which goes back to the need for immigration reform). Catch my drift?

We Major! Minorities in America in 2016 & Beyond


 

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White Supremacy is real.

At one time in America’s history, it was a norm.

Today, it is more veiled – nonetheless in today’s political arena, we are witnessing the ugliness of America’s culture of bigotry creep in.

The Republican party has been reduced to a conservative, racist party of white men & their brainwashed minority of immigrants – Carson & Rubio.

But the vast majority is more of the Paul Ryan look.

These Republicans are against a real competition – which is ironic because they run on the platform of free markets & individual liberty. What the GOP really means is exclusive markets & liberty for White America.

In other words – apartheid. Even though White Americans make up the majority of the US population, the nation will be a majority-minority nation by 2050.

Maybe the GOP realizes this and is working against it.

But why work towards depriving human beings of democracy? Why can’t we all have a shot? Why can’t we all have individual rights and access to the free market?

And why do Republicans act like used public services and collective initiatives are not equally responsible as their own individual initiatives in helping them to achieve their status?

Republicans want to paint anybody who supports freedom for all minorities too – as a danger to America; as a danger to the values of free markets; etc.

But how could this be possible in a democracy, where limits on the executive and elections limit tyranny?

It appears that, in a democracy, Republicanism functions more like Communists in an authoritarian regime – both seek to preserve an elite exclusive culture as the expense of equal opportunities for all.

These dudes just fear competition – an old guard.

And they don’t like the idea of a Black president; a Hispanic CEO; a Jewish athlete; a Muslim doctor; a gay teacher; etc. But these are all the fruits of a truly free society, that encourages competition and dignity for all – democracy ; whereas the GOP’s brand, called capitalism, echoes communism; and means freedom for a small bunch of white dudes.

Initiatives such as ending immigration reform; preventing prison reform; these are continuations of an age-long American/Anglo-Saxon tradition of politicized, institutionalized superiority complexes.

You see this in the ongoing police brutality which has claimed a disturbing number of lives of innocent African-American…youth.

But we have been desensitized by the media which conflates the victim’s flaws; and justifies the oppression.

I do think that with more legal action and reform, we can stamp out the “culture of racism” which has been disguised as “freedom-loving” in the US once and for all and provide a future for our children, of all colors and orientations, that gives them all the opportunity to either fail – or succeed – but nonetheless – giving them the opportunity – at best.

 

 

The Seeds Were Sewn: Democracy & Terror in the Middle East


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Democracy & Terror in The Middle East

Danny Krikorian

Abstract

The aim of this research analysis is to determine whether or not levels of democratic process influence political violence in the form of Islamic extremism within the context of Middle Eastern countries. The overall findings suggest that the relationship between reduced violence, that is, stability, and political freedom is weak. Even countries with higher levels of political freedom, like Lebanon, Tunisia, Israel and Iraq exhibit high levels of terrorism. The notion that democracy is universal, that it brings stability, comes into question here. The presumption that authoritarianism breeds fundamentalism, alone, ignores the data provided, which is contradictory to the general belief that democracy induces stability and discourages violence. Furthermore, it implies that US foreign policy initiatives aimed at “democratizing” the West are more elusive than perhaps believed.

Introduction

Since the end of World War I, the break-up of the Ottoman empire, and the subsequent partitioning of the Middle Eastern territories among world powers, the Arab World has yet to see peace. In fact, an unprecedented century of instability has almost become a de facto part of the Middle Eastern social fabric. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 21st century thus cannot be understood without looking into these types of historical contexts as well as the political realities of today which have led up the current dynamic in the Middle East. It appears, with further research, that the relationship between the forces of colonialism, poverty, autocracy and political violence is rather intimate (Dalacoura 2005).

The aim of this research analysis is to determine whether or not levels of democratic process influences political violence in the form of Islamic extremism within the context of Middle Eastern countries. Since there is no universally accepted definition of democracy, I will use one particular indicator, political freedom. Generally, indexes use variables such as press freedom, political competitiveness and economic liberalization as indicators of political freedom. In this case, the independent variable is political freedom, measured by the Economic Intelligence Unit, based in the UK. The dependent variable is terrorism, as measured by the Global Terrorism Index, gathered by Visions of Humanity which is part of the Institute for Economics and Peace, based in Sydney, Australia.

Conventional wisdom within western scholarly circles would offer the general hypothesis that nations with lower levels of political freedom are likely to experience higher rates of terrorism (Dalacoura 2005). The logic behind this hypothesis is that citizens are likely to resort to violent means of insurrection as a reaction to the government’s repressiveness. The research shows however that because terrorism is actually higher in countries with greater political freedoms, such as Lebanon and Tunisia, other variables might play a role, such as culture, religion, economics and geopolitics. When put to the test, this hypothesis appears weak, as indicated in the following section.

The research is divided into five segments starting with the introduction, which includes background information about the region and its relationship with terrorism and democracy; second is the literature review in which I will analyze the current conversation; followed by a data and methods section which will explain the quantitative measurements used to test the hypothesis; fourth, I will discuss the shortcomings and potential weaknesses of this research design; finally, I will leave readers with a conclusion regarding the future of the region and the overall theoretical and policy implications of this research.

Literature Review – Democracy & Terrorism in the Middle East

The scholarly literature surrounding this particular topic of Middle Eastern stability and the region’s political relationship with the outside world (namely global hegemonies like the United States, European Union, Russia and China) offers two overall explanations for rising tensions in the region as well as conflicts between political actors from the region with the rest of the world.

The first emanates from Samuel Huntington’s (1996) book “Clash of Civilizations” in which the pervading theory explaining the cause of conflict between the West and the Middle East is rooted in a “clash of civilizations”; a certain cultural rift, driven mainly by religious conviction.

The second is more empirically oriented, and attributes underdevelopment in the Middle East to environmental or biological predispositions, rendering the region less viable for growth, stability and peace, therein warranting the need for foreign intervention and “occupational development” (Diamond).

Since the democratic experiments of Iraq and Libya have produced contradictory results, it has encouraged me to contribute a third opinion. This opinion considers factors overlooked by the aforementioned theories, such as colonialism (exploitation by foreign powers), the presence of immense natural resources in the region, and possibly most important, cultural relativism. These factors have perhaps largely contributed to the region’s volatility and vulnerability to greed, corruption and instability.

This research aims to fill a particular void in the scholarly debate surrounding the US-Middle East relationship. Its aim is to answer the question of whether or not the undemocratic structure of political institutions in the Middle East are a primary source of instability, poverty and political violence in the region. It forces analysts to consider external political actors that exploit resources, conflicts and cultural sensitivities in the region to their advantage. This “colonial” tactic often manifests in the autocratic tradition itself, silencing critics, banning opposition, bribing officials and major income disparities between rich and poor (Dalacoura). But global powers are complicit too, in this regard, often double-dealing with the non-democratic tyrants they so adamantly oppose (Kleveman 2003).

Much of the political violence conducted by Islamic fundamentalist groups against Western countries is actually aimed at exposing the complicity of Western governments in propping up dictators to the constituencies of Western countries, where democratic process makes injustice more difficult to cover-up. This practice is known as “propaganda by the deed” (Chaliand and Blin 2007). Further scholarly research suggests that the major grievances of national populations are not religious, they are socio-economic (Rashid 2002). The rise of social media in the 21st century has made it difficult for Western governments to hide their double-dealings (Chaliand and Blin 2007). Fundamentalism is fomenting at a more rapid race than ever in the Middle East, and poverty is worsening (Wilson 1995). Leaders are growing more weary that the effects of the “Arab Spring” might spill-over into their countries. Desperate attempts to alleviate their populations have been pursued. But these seem to only buy time. In this paper, I argue that in order for Western countries to genuinely reduce the threat of political violence, they must end their inconsistency in foreign policy, which has them picking and choosing between autocrats. This could threaten some the West’s most valuable allies, who have a lot of leverage on US politics: Israel & Saudi Arabia (Kleveman 2003).

While the Middle East remains largely impoverished, elites in these two countries, to name a few, enjoy the spoils of a cult-of-personality-owned economy (Yom). The issue of colonialism and autocracy plague the region, but before the West ends its double-standard, instability, poverty and violence will continue to rise, narrowing the window of opportunity for democratic reform and peaceful transition (Dalacoura 2005). This means that autocrats will have to suspend their franchise over the political and economic process; allowing for national competitiveness. I argue that this will increase government authenticity, popular trust and will therein reduce both the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, as well as its appeal to those once impoverished and disenfranchised populations of the Middle East. Only then will the so-called threat of “Islamic-Jihad” be distinguished from the genuine popular struggle against injustice and autocracy in the Middle East (Rashid 2006). Only then will political violence cease to be more commonplace than the peace enjoyed in the West.

The literature varies on the intimate relationship between the forces of autocracy, poverty, colonialism, and political violence in the Middle East. That colonialism is responsible for income disparity in the region, is a point made by British journalist Patrick Seale in his infamous book on the Assad family’s leadership in Syria. The fomenting of Islamism, largely through the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, is largely blamed on the constant influx of foreign financing to extremism forces in the region. Seale highlights that the Saudi Arabian autocratic monarchy is largely responsible for growth of extremism and political violence in the region (Seale 1990). In his research, Seal also suggests the possibility that a tight-grip on the political and economic fabrics of Syrian society by the Syrian government did nothing to help reduce national mistrust therein encouraging movements of insurgency. Such movements would prove to have dire consequences, with the regime’s bombing of a Muslim Brotherhood anti-government uprising in the city of Hama resulting in the deaths of nearly 20,000 men, women and children (Seale 1990). The majority of extremism in Central Asia, also a predominantly Muslim region, has been tied to the socio-political fabric of Saudi society, which is largely propped up by an extreme brand of Islam: Wahhabism (Kleveman 2003) Considering the closeness with which Saudi Arabia maintains its relationship with the West, it deems Western demands for democratic reform in the region almost hypocritical (Dalacoura 2005).

Samuel Huntington isn’t the only scholar offering the “Clash of Civilizations” perspective. Military-history scholar Caleb Carr also suggests this perspective, that Islam, as a political ideology, is incompatible with components necessary for Western-style democracy. He goes further to justify military campaigns against the Muslim world in order to prevent threats against the democratic order of the world (Carr 2002). In All the Shah’s Men, Steven Kinzer contradicts this view by explaining how constant efforts by western democracies, namely the US and the UK, to infiltrate the national sovereignties of predominantly Islamic nations, usually for the sake of securing economic interests, results in reactionary movements against the West, fueled more often that not by Islamic sensationalism, and eventually “sowing the seeds of Middle Eastern terror”, so to speak. (Kinzer 2008).

Research provided by The Heritage Foundation in their 2015 Index on Economic Freedom indicates high levels of corruption, and low levels of mobility in the economies of Middle Eastern countries. Since research indicates that a vast majority of Islamic fundamentalism is exported from the Gulf region, it leads to ask whether or not the these income disparities between fuel the culture of radicalization, relative to the variable of democracy. “Scores in the Middle East for business freedom — the lack of which, the editors note, helped ignite the “Arab Spring” protests — declined for 11 of the 18 countries in the region (three of which are not graded in the 2015 Index due to ongoing violence and unrest)” (Miller, Terry & Kim 2015). This could suggest that economic inequality plays an equal if not more important role than political institutions in influencing the threat of terrorism.

Data & Methods

To indicate the relationship between terrorism and political freedom, two tables were retrieved from two western Non-governmental Organizations dedicated to analyzing levels of democracy and terrorism. Each table measures the respective variable according to its own scale. Conveniently in this case, both indexes used a scale of 1-10. The Global Terrorism Index provided by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks countries in their vulnerability to terrorism from 1-10. The Political Freedom Index also measures the independent variable, political freedom, on a  scale from 1-10. Based on the assumption and hypothesis that more political freedom results in less terrorism, the trend should follow a negative linear regression, with a downward slope.  The research indicates that the hypothesis is in fact weak; that democracy is a stabilizing force in the Middle East may be presumptuous. Libya’s GTI score rose from zero to six since the overthrow of Gaddafi. The hypothesis originally suggested that the relationship between democracy and terrorism is negative, that the more democratic a nation, the less terrorism it will exhibit. The data retrieved from the indexes suggests what could be the exact opposite; that democracy enables terrorism in the Middle East, or that it simply does not ensure stability. This blurs the prospects for democracy in the region. It furthermore forces us to consider other variables that might challenge the universalist tendency of democratic theory which is so prevalent in the political conversation today. Variables such as geography, cultural relativism, and religion must be taken into account when determine the forces of conflict and instability within a region. In the appendix I have included an aggregation of the data gathered from the two aforementioned indexes regarding political freedom & terrorism in Middle Eastern countries.

The idea that natural resource endowment is responsible for low levels of democracy is not uncommon (Mehlin, Morne & Torvik 2002). This is known as the resource curse. While Saudi Arabia possesses the world’s largest oil reserves as well as high levels of authoritarianism, relative to its neighbors, the kingdom exhibits low levels of terrorism (Institute for Economics and Peace). Furthermore, countries like Syria, Jordan & Egypt possess an insignificant amount of oil relative to Saudi Arabia and the global market at large, yet these three countries exhibit some of the lowest levels of democracy and the highest levels of terrorism in the entire region (Institute for Economics and Peace).

A particular finding that stood out in the research is that, while Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Qatar and Morocco all exhibit a relatively equal level of political freedom, there is a huge discrepancy in the level of terrorist attacks in each country.

To control for cultural relativity, Indonesia and Turkey, both predominantly Islamic countries with democratic political structures were included in the table. Indonesia perhaps poses the greatest support for the hypothesis, because it exhibits the one of the lowest levels of terrorism among the countries as well as one of the highest levels of political freedom. On the other hand, Turkey, which is enjoys a relatively heathy level of political freedom and democracy, exhibits terrorist attacks at the same rate as Egypt. This challenges the hypothesis.

Weaknesses

The complexity of this research’s subject matter, the Middle East, is perhaps the most noticeable detriment to the strengths of this research. In other words, the influence of a variety of other potential variables, such as cultural relativism and colonialism are difficult to account for, whereas variables such as natural resource endowment may easier to control for. Another weakness of this article is that it focuses only on Middle Eastern countries, despite the fact that a lot of religious terrorism comes from other regions of the world, regions that exhibit similar conditions of authoritarianism and natural resource endowment, like Central & Southeast Asia.

All of the Middle Eastern nations are young, having only gained independence within the last century. This makes it difficult to pass long-lasting judgments regarding the prospects of democracy in the region.

Despite the empirical limitations intrinsic in this type of analysis, as well as the absence of empirical research on the subject especially in the Middle East, it furthermore implies the ambiguities of the findings.

Another major weakness of the research is that only 12 of the 22 countries in the Middle East were assessed due to difficulties that arise in retrieving reliable information from a region as contentious as it is.

Conclusion

The original hypothesis, that political freedom reduces violence and stability, is perhaps not absolute. The literature as well as the data provided have together displayed how in some cases, terrorism has in fact increased where democracy has been most prevalent in the Middle East. Furthermore, the inconsistency in the foreign policy of western democracies has made democracy less appealing, and credible to the Middle Eastern community (Dalacoura 2005). There are many questions that can be raised about democracy itself. Why is the United States, the beacon of western democracy, increasingly entangled in the affairs of authoritarian regimes? And how complicit is western negligencee towards the realities of the region in the rise of terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and Da’esh. Since the tragedy of 9/11, the US has embarked on a dual mission of spreading democracy and containing the threat of Islamic radicalism, but these two initiatives often run counter to one another (Dalacoura 2005). The U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as the NATO-led overthrow of Gaddafi, have had dire consequences on the region’s stability. That Libya has transitioned from a GTI score of zero to six since 2006 is telling of the future of the Middle East as it grapples with democracy. The overall research suggest that the relationship between reduced violence, that is, stability, and political freedom is weak. Even countries with higher levels of political freedom, like Lebanon, Israel & Iraq exhibit the highest levels of terrorism. The notion that democracy is universal, that it brings stability, is being challenged by these findings. There are many other factors that can be attributed to the volatility of the region and the rise in terrorist activity, such as oil politics, geopolitics, and cultural relativism. Nonetheless, the presumption that authoritarianism breeds fundamentalism, alone, is premature.

Whether or not democracy is universal is a matter of theory. But what is fact, is that western democracies have preferred cooperation with authoritarianism over democracy where it is deemed convenient (Yom 2011). The opposite is true, that western democracies, namely the United States, will promote extreme pressures for democratic reform where it is convenient. The irony is that in the cases where democracy is encouraged, the United States has managed to maintain a permanent military presence. Furthermore, these regions, like Iraq for example, exhibit the highest rates of terrorism in the region — in the world for that matter (Institute for Economics and Peace). Perhaps this explains why Middle Eastern attitudes towards democracy have remained negative (Tessler 2002).

Terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism are on the rise in the Middle East (Rashid 2006). Democracy perhaps isn’t the best force against radicalization. This is evidenced by the current instability in Iraq, Syria & Libya. Even Russia has responded to the threat of radicalism by propping up its anti-democratic authoritarian allies in the region, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Perhaps this suggests that democracy is culturally relative — that is, not all societies are compatible with democratic institutions. What this means for the future is increased instability and heightened tensions between various forces in the Middle East, in what appears to be the formation of a dichotomy between pro-western and anti-western political factions. It could also increase the overall threats to international security emanating from radical Islamic movements. This could threaten America’s economic interests, and affect the global economy.

If the West wishes to avert this, perhaps it would be best to reserve democracy for itself, instead of trying to desperately spread it abroad. It is as if the West cannot decide for itself what is of greater value; oil or principle. The longer it waits to decide, the greater the threat terrorism may become, to democracy, stability and global peace.

References

Blin, Arnuad & Chaliand, Gerrard. 2007. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda.    University of California Press.

Carr, Caleb. 2002. The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare against Civilians : Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again. New York: Random House.

Dalacoura, Katerina. 2005. U.S. democracy promotion in the Arab Middle East since 11 September 2001: a critique. International Affairs. Vol. 81. 963-979.

Huntington, Samuel P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kinzer, Stephen. 2008. All the Shah’s Men: An American-Coup & the Roots of Middle Eastern Terror. John, Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey.

Kleveman, Lutz. The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003.

Martin, Gus. 2003. Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Mehlum, Moene & Torvik. 2002. Institutions & the Resource Curse. The Economic Journal. 1-20.

Miller, Terry & Kim, Anthony. 2015 Index: Economic Freedom Rises Slightly in Middle East/North Africa. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/01/middle-east-north-africa. (2015).

Rashid, Ahmed. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Seale, Patrick. 1990. Assad: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press.

Tessler, Mark. 2002. Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. Comparative Politics, Vol. 34. No. 3. 377-354.

Wilson, Rodney. 1995. Economic Development in the Middle East. Routledge.

Yom, Sean. 2011. Authoritarian State Building in the Middle East. Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Stanford University. 121.

Index References

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

Political Freedom Index. 2015. Economic Intelligence Unit. The Economist. London.

 

 

Salih, K.O. “Underlying Causes Of Violence In The Middle East.” Digest Of Middle East Studies 1 (2007): 58. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

Vick, Karl, and Rami Nazzal. “Violence Beats Politics As A Third Intifadeh Looms In Israel.” Time 186.17 (2015): 9-10. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

Hirst, David. The gun and the olive branch: the roots of violence in the Middle East. Nation Books, 2003.

American Fascism


FascistAmerica

The Trials of an Immigrant Disenfranchised & a Struggle Against American Fascism

In America there is this sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. This attitude is based on the idea that the ordinary American needs no one but himself in achieving the American dream or even just to establish a sense of financial independence and security.

But what Americans don’t realize is their own hypocrisy. It was not a path of self-sustenance that founded and engineered American society. It was rather an amalgam of ideas, from centralized government to free market maneuvering. But never, was there ever 1 ideology intended to dominated our government entirely thereby disenfranchising others from resources and a path to a more genuine, moderate sense of self-reliance. But slavery built America. Is the link between democracy and fascism inseparable? Does democracy lead to mobocracy? I would argue that democracy hasn’t fully flourished ANYWHERE in the world because the rights and privileges are not extended to all men, for reasons of race, religion, ideology, background etc. That being said, I believe it is this fascist attitude holding America hostage from becoming a universal democracy.

America was built by immigrants, and on the backs of slaves. Yet, only 40 years ago were African-Americans even granted the right to vote; Immigrants remain largely disenfranchised and disallowed from the normal institutional processes of the US, barred from social security, tax collections, etc; African-Americans and other minority groups make up the majority of incarcerations.

All of this is linked.

It is the racist attitude; this bigotry which has elevated a certain group to a privileged status thereby suppressing the freedoms and rights of other social groups.

It is as if the American right-wing fascist is afraid of losing something; as if he fears competition. So much for “free market” economics. That is why all that Reaganomics, right-wing free market trickle down bullshit is a bunch of nonsense because it isn’t even practiced by its preachers. Meanwhile the left is made to look like some tyrannical force that seeks to strip men of their individuality when it is the exact opposite; leftists wish to provide ordinary citizens with adequate resources in order to achieve a state of self-sustenance because they acknowledge the need for collective initiative as well as individual initiative, not ever focusing on one more than the other. The danger lies in dogmatizing collectivism or individualism. An example of collective dogma would be communism. An example of individual dogma would be libertarianism. Both lead to slavery. And in essence, both are collective in nature but due to their extreme ideological foundation they require a combination of denial, propaganda and suppression of the masses in order to perpetuate their lies.