This the (former) United States Republican presidential front-runner discussing Libya. Let’s hope the Libyans don’t see it or they may change their minds about democracy.
Posts Tagged ‘United States
Tags: Arab world, authoritarian, awash with capital, Ayatollah Khomeini, BBC, coup d'état, democracy, demonstrations, dictator, economy, Egypt, elected government, electricity generation, ethnic cleansing, europe, European Union, Iran, Islamist, israel, Mediterranean, Mohammad Mosaddegh, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Moral Maze, Palestinians, Radio 4, revolution, Sahara, Shāh, siege of Gaza, suppress democracy, The Economist, The West, undemocratic, United Kingdom, United States
This evening BBC Radio 4′s Moral Maze is discussing the unrest in Egypt. I usually find this program to irritating to listen to. The panelist seem to consider that it is their soul objective to be obnoxious and insulting to the “witnesses”.
In describing tonight’s program the BBC web site asks: “Is it morally justifiable to tolerate or support unpleasant, authoritarian, undemocratic regimes because we feel the likely alternatives might prove worse for the citizens of Egypt.”
My answer is simple: NO! No because it is wrong to support unpleasant, authoritarian, undemocratic regimes. NO because we cannot know what the alternative will be. And NO because we have experience of what happens when revolution finally breaks out in countries where the West has connived to suppress democracy. i.e. the people despise the West along with the dictator which they have just thrown off.
The classic example of this is Iran. In 1953 the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup d’état instigated by the United States and the United Kingdom. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed as Shāh and propped up by the United States until the revolution in 1977.
From what I have read the revolution was initially backed by a secular movement but militant Islamists used the chance to grab power. Secular Iranians tried to resist but were crushed by the new regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. They could have received help from the West but having been responsible for 20 years of their repression we were not trusted and there followed a caustic division between Iran and the West that lasts ’till this day. That is an example of what happens when we support unpleasant, authoritarian, undemocratic regimes because we feel the likely alternatives might prove worse.
We should support the people of Egypt in ejecting their dictator. If they then elect an authoritarian Islamist government then more fool them. At least the responsibility will not be ours and when they are finally in a position to reject authoritarianism we will be in a position to help.
More optimistically I believe that Egyptians will have learned from the experiences of Iran and Afghanistan and will reject outright Islamist rule though Islamists may have some role in a coalition. It is possible that Egypt could finally break the curse that has afflicted the Arab world for decades and start to modernise.
Imagine a middle east of modern democratic countries right on the border of the largest trading block in the world. I am talking of the European Union. While the world obsesses over whether China will supplant America as the largest economy in the world they overlook the fact that the EU has an economy larger than both. With the Arab world modernising trade would take off and this would be great news for Arabs and Europeans.
The financial crisis has caused market uncertainty and companies have been nervous about initiating capital projects. Investors are also unenthusiastic as many assets appear overpriced; there is even talk of a Chinese asset bubble. Consequently some sectors, such as insurance, are awash with capital.
If democracy were to blossom then this capital could find it’s way to infrastructure projects in the Arab world. There was speculation in The Economist in 2009 of solar powered electricity generation in the Sahara with the electricity transported to Europe across the Mediterranean. That is not going to happen while the region is ruled by unstable dictators.
Lastly consider the effect on the Arab / Israeli conflict. Today the subtext of much of Israel’s argument is that the Palestinians are just Arabs who are used to being oppressed and the Palestinians are no worse off than citizens of other Arab countries.
Imagine if Israel were surrounded by thriving democracies. Israel would be forced to confront it’s oppressive and racist policies toward the Palestinians. Could The United States continue to support the siege of Gaza or the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Shame on them if they did.
Tags: bangkok, brighton, Cars, corruption, culture, developing world, driving, Dyke Road Avenue, Enoch Powell, ICMB, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, lane discipline, multinational companies, Nigeria, salesman, Thailand, traffic, United States, women drivers, Woodean Drive
While in America I had hired a car. Americans seem to ride more than drive and when the traffic stops they leave vast spaces between each car. They seem more tolerant of poor driving but this may be because they lack lane discipline. Cars weave between lanes without warning.
In Nigeria the driving style was to never give an inch to any other driver. I remember a journey crawling along a narrow street in Lagos approaching a crossroads. Once we reached the intersection every car was revving their engine madly and pushing forward to gradually edge past the other cars which were all doing the same thing. Normally, in Nigeria, I had a driver but one Christmas I had to drive myself and determined to show Nigerians how it should be done. My plan was doomed from the start. I waited forlornly for someone to let me out into the moving traffic but if I had not abandoned my stupid idea and pushed my way out I would be waiting there to this day.
It is the same with the Nigerian corruption. It is all very well claiming moral superiority and deciding that you will pay no bribes but you will achieve nothing. One cannot eradicate corruption by example any more than one can force lane discipline on Americans by example. This is a lesson I believe should be understood by armchair stay at homes who lecture multinational companies on their behaviour in the developing world.
On occasions a Nigerian would become so frustrated by the lack of progress that he would emerge from his car and start directing traffic himself until his own driver was able to navigate the intersection at which point he would re-enter his car and leave the whole tangled mess behind him. I did this myself on several occasions and it gave one a great feeling of elation as one finally gained the open road and sped away into the hot night.
Another boon to Nigerian traffic control were the disabled. I vividly recall a one legged man who would stand on the podium provided for the permanently absent traffic police and direct the traffic with his crutch. As the traffic passed the drivers would sling him a handful of Naira.
A few years ago I drove across Bangkok in the rush hour. Starting around 5pm, I reached my destination by 9pm but on the wrong side of the road which was divided by a concrete barrier. I continued and, noticing that U-turns were prohibited, I turned left and then left again into a car park where I re-emerged and turned right back onto the correct side of the road. A traffic cop stopped me and accused me of making a U-turn. He explained that although I had not actually made a U-turn I had achieved the same result and had therefore broken the law. Unlike the British police he seemed to enforce the spirit of the law if not the letter of the law.
Back in the UK this morning I drove north on the M23 and, as the lanes merged into the A23, I indicated left but the other driver refused to let me in. My initial reaction was that the driver was an anally retentive moron but then I saw the driver was a woman. It is a fact that women do not let you in. I once knew a salesman who said that he never let cars pull out from side streets as it was a “a sign of weakness”. I don’t believe that the reason that women do not let you in is driven by this same insecurity but by a preoccupation with following the rules. If you have right of way, why should give it up?
Men (excluding salesmen) appear more cooperative when they drive. At the meeting of Woodean Drive and Dyke Road Avenue in Brighton each morning cars take turns to join the main road. This admirable cooperation is interrupted only by women and, presumably, salesmen. Perhaps this is related to Enoch Powell’s comment that women are not “clubable”.
I have heard that a study was carried out in the United States to test the effectiveness of the process for launching Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICMBs) and that the test provided that the launch technicians believed that they were initiating a real nuclear missile launch. It was found that women would always launch the missiles as they had been instructed but that a percentage of men would refuse. The men would fall back on their own reasoning and decide that since all they could achieve was wholesale murder there was no point in proceeding. I have heard that more women in the UK support the introduction of capital punishment than men.
It is interesting that my reaction on seeing that the driver who failed to let me in was a woman was to dismiss the incident whereas I would have continued to feel aggravated if the driver had been a man. I guess this is related to some kind of male competition.
Tags: airbus, alienation, allergic to glass, Americans are potty, blood clots, consume alcohol, countering jet lag, customer relations, Deep Vein Thrombosis, efficiency, intelligent debate, jet lag, leg exercises, leg room, long haul flights, material prosperity, National Express, nationalities, over simplification, passengers, PBS, potty, Radio 4, seats, shock jocks, society, talk radio, the system, United Kingdom, United States, Virgin Atlantic
Very often after returning from the U.S. I contrast the chirpy cheerfulness of sales staff in the U.S. with the monosyllabic and apparent indifference of their counterparts in the UK. Arriving at Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon I bought a ticket for the bus and then a bottle of juice and was confronted by aforementioned monosyllabic staff.
For some reason, this time, I was more philosophical. Yes, the guy could have done with some training in how to relate to customers but on the other hand he was being himself. After dealing with car hire and mobile phone companies in the U.S. I had started to speculate that the U.S. forces people to modify their behaviour to suite the system. This arrangement is good in that it increases efficiency and allows greater material prosperity but I wonder whether the cost is increased alienation of people from society.
The Virgin Atlantic flight from L.A. to London had been on an airbus A300-600. The seats on this aircraft allowed virtually no room for one to move ones legs. I recall that, in the past, long haul flights made a big issue of telling you to perform leg exercises and I believe that this was to counter a tendency of long haul passengers to suffer blood clots in the legs following a flight. This is known as known as Deep Vein Thrombosis.
The emphasis on efficiency has led Virgin to pack the seats closer and closer together so that now it is not possible for even a person of my modest stature to raise ones legs once seated. Consequently the airline no longer deems it necessary to encourage passengers to exercise and I wonder whether the instances of known as Deep Vein Thrombosis, which can be fatal, have increased. I also wonder whether these chairs conform to any safety standards and whether Deep Vein Thrombosis is considered within these standards.
England was warm and sunny and I boarded a National Express bus to Brighton. Arriving home around 7:30pm I implemented my strategy for negating the effects of jet lag. There are two important factors to countering jet lag. The first is to attempt to stay awake during the daylight hours of the destination both on the aircraft and as soon as one arrives. For this one needs some kind of activity to perform on arrival. The second factor is to consume alcohol just prior to the desired sleep period.
As I had arrived home in early evening my course was clear. I occupied a couple of hours preparing and consuming a curry and then opened a bottle of beer.
I switched on Radio 4 and considered my three weeks in the United States. While driving around in California I had listened to talk radio. While American PBS fights a bravely to encourage intelligent debate it is a battle it seems destined to lose. I listened with interest to shock jocks and dismissed the right wing as bigoted. I listened to the liberals and began to think that there might be reasoned debate but soon realised that the left too is obsessed with over simplification and adherence to dogma.
A friend of mine once met an American woman who claimed to be allergic to glass and insisted on drinking beverages through a straw. He deduced from this that all Americans are potty and this is a widely held view in the United Kington. Personally I temper this with acceptance of difference and the knowledge that the United States is a vast country with numerous disparate people.
However, I sometimes find myself wondering, if Americans appear potty to the British, why do we not hold similar opinions of other nationalities? It is possible that pottyness is merely the most prominent defining character for Americans and that other nationalities too have their defining characters but I think that what is more likely is that the language we share with Americans enables us to gain an insight into their world view and that we are denied this insight with other nationalities. This reasoning is strengthened as I believe that Brits also consider Australians to be potty. Perhaps if we were fluent in Spanish or Chinese we would consider them potty too?
I guess that if an understanding of the language of a foreign country means that on is capable of appreciating their pottyness then, as English is the most common second language, it is the British who must appear the most potty and that is a stereotype that I am very happy to live with.
Tags: absence, authoritarian, Barack Obama, businessmen, Capitalism, china, chinese tantrums, civil rights, climate change, climate summit, CO2, CO2 emissions, competitive advantage, Copenhagen, democracy, failure at Copenhagen, free trade, global warming, globalisation, Kyoto Protocol, negotiating tactic, Nuclear Forces, political leaders, political rights, Ronald Regan, rule of law, send in the tanks, Soviet Union, tantrums, The Independent, The West, Tiananmen Square, Trust but verify, United States, veto, World Trade Organisation, WTO
There is an interesting article in todays’s Independent blaming China for the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit. The article quotes a source who was supposedly in the room when the heads of state were drafting the document who says:
“If China had not been in that room you would have had a deal which would have had everyone popping champagne corks…..”
“The Chinese were happy as they’d win either way. If the process collapsed they’d win because they don’t have to do anything and they know the rich countries will get the blame.
“If the deal doesn’t collapse because everyone is so desperate to accommodate them that they water it down to something completely meaningless, they get their way again. Either way they win. I think all the other world leaders knew that by that stage and were just furious that they couldn’t do anything about it.”
Why am I not surprised?
China was admitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in December 2001 after the United States dropped it’s veto. Since that time trade with China has grown very quickly and the Chinese economy has grown massively. The generally accepted view is that China is now OK as it has accepted capitalism. This is wrong. The regime in power in China today is not substantially different from the regime which drove tanks over unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square just two years before being admitted to the WTO.
The West too often confuses democracy with capitalism, they are not the same. It is possible to have a democratic government that is socialist. It is certainly possible to have a capitalist government which is non-democratic and China is the proof of this.
Both China and the West have gained from the flow of trade but we should consider that, having now allowed so much industry to move to China, we have become reliant on an authoritarian regime which cares for nothing but perpetuating it’s own existence. We should also keep this in mind when businessmen and political leaders talk of the necessity of allowing the free flow of trade to countries where there is “competitive advantage”. This competitive advantage is, very often, the absence of political rights, civil rights and the rule of law.
China may have legitimate reasons for not being able to commit to the climate change targets discussed in Copenhagen but it’s impossible to tell. The Chinese regime is not elected and therefore illegitimate and cannot be said to represent the views of the Chinese people. When one deals with regimes such as China one must accept that their word is worth nothing.
During the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to limit Nuclear Forces Ronald Regan frequently used the phrase “Trust, but verify”. United States president, Barack Obama, seemed to understand this when, during a speech at Copenhagen he appeared to upset the Chinese by implying that verification was key to any agreement. The fact that this was mentioned caused the Chinese representatives to throw a hissy fit and refuse to attend various meetings.
And that’s another thing, China too often uses tantrums as a negotiating tactic. We are told by Chinese watchers that this anger is related to the difference in culture. Perhaps it is. Perhaps the Chinese fly off the handle so often because they are not used to having to justify themselves.
I wonder how the Chinese regime would have responded to the demonstrators in Copenhagen? Rather than explaining their position perhaps they would simply have sent in the tanks.
This should give us pause for thought.
Tags: 9/11, aerial bombing, afghanistan, airborne laser, armies, attacks on civilians, “Shock and Awe”, casualties, civilian casualties, Collateral Damage, definition of terror, Donald Rumsfeld, going nowhere, Great Britain, inevitable slaughter of innocents, iraq, israel, James Jones, justice, laser weapon, massacres, missile, New York, palestine, Radio 4, September 11, Slaughter Of The Innocents, smart bombs, status quo, target individuals, targeted attacks, Terrorism is a tactic, terrorists, The Bishop of Liverpool, The Right Reverend James Jones, The West, Thought For The Day, unfortunate but inevitable, United States, vengeance, war, wedding parties, what are we achieving
On Wednesday morning The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, spoke on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day. He talked of war and referred to “the inevitable slaughter of innocents”.
It’s true that, these days, we expect that war will involve the slaughter of innocents but I wonder if it’s always been that way.
Certainly armies throughout history have committed massacres after defeating opposing forces but is this the same as today’s collateral damage?
Israel often asserts a distinction between the deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian groups and the targeted attacks on Palestinian individuals which result in civilian casualties. When Great Britain or The United States launch missile attacks against individuals in Afghanistan and kill scores this is generally thought of as unfortunate but inevitable.
Conventional armies can claim to target specific individuals as they have the technology and the ability to assert absolute power over an area even if only temporarily. The forces which we term “terrorists” are usually the weaker side, they are the people who are reacting against a status quo. They have no standing armies and only limited technology and they often resort to isolated surprise attacks on civilians.
We brand these people “terrorists” as they aim to cause terror by but can a random explosion be more terrifying than a F16 fighter bomber screaming overhead firing missiles into the ground? Donald Rumsfeld called it “Shock and Awe” and this sounds like a pretty good definition of terror to me.
Terrorism is a tactic, it is not an enemy. You can no more declare war on terrorism than you can declare war on a siegewarefare or attrition warfare.
I wonder if this acceptance of civilian casualties might have developed during the second world war with the use of mass aerial bombing. Even though it was known that dropping bombs from thousands of feet in the air must mean a high degree of inaccuracy and consequent civilian casualties the bombing was accepted. Perhaps it was accepted because of the enormity of the struggle and the sense that this was a life or death struggle for each nation.
The military have developed more accurate missiles since then and we have been shown videos of “smart bombs” being guided directly to their target yet still we hear of attacks on wedding parties in Afghanistan.
We have become so inured to civilian casualties during conflict that now a Christian Bishop tells us that the slaughter of innocents is inevitable. Perhaps it is not? Perhaps we should be a little more careful in our choice of targets and our choice of weapons?
The fact that our opponents kill innocents is no reason for us to do so. The mass slaughter of civilians in New York nearly eight years ago can be seen as the reason for much of the current military activity by The West but surely the fact that civilians were targeted should emphasise that the reason our troops are fighting is to prevent attacks on civilians be they Americans or Afghans.
It is easier to just get angry. It is easier to fight anyone or anything. It’s easier to lob missiles and hope you get the right guy.
I met an American soon after 9/11 and we discussed the attack on the twin towers and the war in Iraq and I said that the Iraqis were not involved in the 9/11 attacks and I recall his response. He said “I don’t care”.
He didn’t care who the U.S. military attacked. He thought that the 9/11 attacks were so atrocious that the U.S. was justified in hitting out at anyone.
But killing random strangers only serves to enflame hatred.
The United States are reported to have mounted a large laser weapon inside a Boeing aircraft.
I have read speculation regarding effectiveness of this laser when destroying tanks but we already have very effective anti-tank weapons which can be mounted on smaller aircraft so what is the point of the laser?
I wonder of the United States hasn’t realised that it needs a weapon which can target individuals from a great distance.
Sadam Hussein goes for a walk in the garden of his palace, a telephone call is made by someone inside the palace, a military jet stops circling and moves into position. Pfzzzzzzz!! Sadam boils away into thin air and a large sum of money is deposited in the Swiss bank account of an Iraqi official.
Yet another British soldier was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday and in Britain there is a sense that this conflict is going nowhere. Of course it is possible for NATO to maintain control of Afghanistan and to tolerate the trickle of military casualties but are we achieving anything?
In the wake of 9/11 The United States may have two immediate goals: To bring to justice those behind the attacks on New York and, arguably, to avenge the deaths of thousands of innocents. Two overlapping and some might say contradictory goals.
In the days of the British Empire this may have resulted in punitive attacks but since the Second World War, followed by The Cold War, The United States sees itself as a moral power bringing liberty to the world and punitive strikes are not now considered an acceptable response.
The United States is trying to replay the experience of the Second World War. It’s game plan is the total occupation of it’s opponents country followed by the rebuilding of that country as a industrialised capitalist democracy.
This worked very well with Germany and Japan but this is not an appropriate response for a tribal, mostly illiterate people with a weak sense of nationhood.
More importantly America has no responsibility to bring democracy to Afghanistan. This is not to say that liberty and democracy are not excellent in themselves but only that, in defending itself, The United States need not take on the burden of nation building or democratisation.
Liberal democracy in The United States and Western Europe did not come about through outside intervention. It came about through a long struggle by the people themselves. The people struggled for liberty and they now value liberty.
It was reported in the British press recently that in one area of Helmand province as few as 150 Afghans may have voted while 10 British soldiers died to allow that election. One has to ask the question:
If the Afghans are not prepared to put their lives on the line for democracy then why should foreign soldiers?
The United States has suffered a tragic attack on it’s civilians and in response has taken on the probably impossible task of converting Afghanistan to a Western style democracy. It need not do so.
The United States was attacked and it required justice. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan must have cost numerous lives and billions of dollars. If all that blood and gold had been spent on relentless tracking down the individuals implicated in the attacks on the United States then America could have justice and in addition take pride that it had resisted the impetus to simply lash out.
Tags: branded as a terrorist, democracy, donations, elections, hamas, in favour of Israel, israel, Israeli, Israeli charities, Israeli election, Jews, kadima, legitimate leader of Israel, Militant Jews, Militant Palestinians, palestine, Palestinian election, Palestinians, United States, United States bias, uses ceasefires to rearm
No side in the Israeli conflict is without blame but I am continually irritated by crass bias of the United States in favour of Israel.
Some thought to consider:
· Palestinian militants kill Israelis
· Israeli militants kill Palestinians
· Militant Palestinians want to throw the Jews out of the whole of Israel / Palestine and unite the area into one country
· Militant Jews want to throw the Palestinians out of the whole of Israel / Palestine and unite the area into one country
· In April 2006 Kadima won the Israeli general election
· In January 2007 Hamas won the Palestinian general election
· Hamas use ceasefires to rearm
· Israel uses ceasefires to rearm
· The leader of Kadima is recognised by the U.S. as the legitimate leader of Israel.
· The leader of Hams is branded as a terrorist by the U.S.
· United States citizens may donate money to Israeli charities and this is tax deductible
· United States citizens may be prosecuted if they donate money to Hamas