The Folly of Our Leadership

Frank Rich of the New York Times has been reading my posts again.  All egotistical flattery aside, our ideas are in sync because they are the obvious truth.   So very obvious, in fact, that everyone and Yo Mama have the very same thoughts.  No secret there.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/opinion/31rich.html

The folly and intellectual laziness of people still astounds me.  At the heart of Dick Cheney’s foray into the media this month is the fact of revenge.  His main objective is to continue the Bush/Cheney scare tactic of a repeat 9/11 performance in order to obtain the political ends the GOP desires.  Those wants, such as lower taxes, obstruction of individual rights, lower taxes, invasion of privacy, lower taxes, benefits for the rich over all the other economic classes and lower taxes, often bear no correlation to the prevention of terrorism.  As I said in an earlier post, Cheney would feel vindicated if there was another major terrorist attack on our soil.  It is more important for him to be “right” than for peace to prevail.

Frank Rich is also correct that the cradle of worry should be Pakistan.  May I add to that Iran and North Korea?  The common denominator of these three countries is the threat (an actuality in Pakistan) of nuclear arms.  All three nations have corrupt, unstable governments whereby an atomic warhead can very possibly fall into the wrong hands.  President Obama, upon taking office, made his plea for global nuclear disarmament clear.   However, the topic was not sexy enough and the current bevy of pressing issues quickly overtook this essential tenet.

As an aside, I can not for the life of me, reconcile the actions of nuclear armed nations “outlawing” non-nuclear governments from obtaining the technology.  Are the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, et.al. more peace-loving, politically sane and less power hungry than Iran or North Korea?   History would prove that untrue.  If it is forbidden for some countries to develop the bomb, then the entities that already have the bomb must disarm immediately.

Pakistan is the main worry now.  Afghanistan not so much: the terrorists in Pakistan were born in Afghanistan, their loyalties remain to that country but the geographical borders between the two countries do not exist in reality.  The mountains and rough terrain muddy what the maps say exist.  Attention must be paid to Pakistan because they are a nuclear nation and the political unrest there has the power to unleash chaos, which could morph into a nuclear weapon being stolen and used by the extremists.  So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.  Even  though Iran and North Korea may not be atomically armed yet, they too must be watched closely, for they also encompass a shaky political structure that can fall victim to the destructive aims of terrorists.

Furthermore, the Democrats who sided against the closing of GITMO are equally culpable in their contribution to this game of fear and succumbing to the least common moral denominator.  Fear mongering is so much easier than using ones brain to design a more effective solution.  Lazy bastards.

What can the world do?  Frank Rich echoes my thoughts again: we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.  However, until we can attain that stasis, we must protect ourselves.  This is the fly in the ointment.  The yardstick, whether for global harmony, political power or individual financial gain, must become a fair and just belief system rather than a map for what one has, such as power and lucre.  The world at large has vacated their senses, if they ever had any sense in the first place.

Read Frank Rich carefully this morning.  If the next step in the narcissistic political battle field escalates to a nuclear attack, we all lose.

POSTSCRIPT

I have received an illuminating comment on this post in my Daily KOS diary.  I include it here:

You make some fine points.  However I believe that you have swallowed the propaganda with regard to several of the countries you cite as being unstable. For some of them “instability” is the cultural norm, externally imposed stability is the danger.

When discussing Pakistan and Afghanistan, one must recognize that they are tribal societies first and nation states second. When one bombs Pakistanis or Afghans, from the victims point of view, one is bombing their tribe, and that tribe as a whole will react regardless of which country they actually live in. This is why their border is so porous; there is little difference between the populations on either side of it. The border is a mere technicality of more interest to those doing the bombing than those who are being bombed.

Pakistan and Iran are more developed nation states than Afghanistan, but this is largely because their modern identities were developed in opposition to what they perceive as colonization by foreign powers. With Pakistan that would be Britain/India, with Iran it would be the United States. Their fundamental tribal basis is incredibly stable and is only made stronger by foreign intervention which tends to make the various tribes more cooperative.

The paternalistic attitude we take toward them with regard to propping up authoritarian rule in their country has blowback as can be seen in the Russo/Afghan and U.S./Afghan wars and the revolution against the U.S. backed Shah, not to mention the U.S. supported regimes in Iraq.

Your statements as regards Iran’s efforts to get the bomb have been repeatedly knocked down by intelligence services worldwide, though they also say that continued harping on the subject and aggressive stances towards them will ensure their ultimately seeking it if only as a deterrent/bargaining chip.

proliferation of nuclear weaponry has proven to be the sole point upon which the west will bargain. North Korea has proven this conclusively and has milked it through escalation for decades…as has Pakistan vs. India. Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability. They are in fact very stable countries within their own contexts, foreign as they may seem, And aggression or paternalism on our parts only makes both factions more likely to escalate.

we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.

is absolutely correct. The militaristic stances we have taken in order to achieve our own narrow goals for the last seventy years, and longer if Britain, Russia and France are taken into account, have created the problems we see today. When you say:

So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.

You are essentially ratifying the status quo, which I sincerely do not believe will be of any real use if what we are interested in is resolving the problems we face with regard to extremism in the M.E and S.E Asia.

Sorry this turned into a novel.

And here is my response:

Thank you for your insightful comments.  We probably agree more than we disagree.

However, regarding the political stability (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I beg to differ with you.  Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of an overall national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.  Each tribal faction has there own little war with the next faction. So even though the tribes may provide some internal stability, that stasis does not apply to a national government or the international arena.

Regarding the stability in Iran, even my son astutely pointed out to me that there is a stable government in Iran.  Once again, I beg to differ.  Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry for action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?  That’s stability?  And what of the electorate who elected him?  That’s stability?  No way.  Internal national security can not exist if it is a threat to international security.  If a nuclear device were to be detonated, would we be able to erect our territorial fences to prevent the toxic poison from entering our space?  No way.

I understand and acknowledge our paternalistic advances in countries that we have no right to interfere with.  That is an obvious given.  However, in view that a few extremist governments, either already possessing a nuclear capability or just on the verge of it, are a real threat to the entire world, we must find a better way, using our hearts and minds, to disarm them.

And more back and forth:

I hear you and I am quite sure that our agreements outnumber the disagreements, however I think the main disagreement is too fundamental not to discuss.

Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of a national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.

I tried to make this point here:

Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability

Probably not well. However, I maintain that aggressive militarism and self righteous, often false, propaganda with regard to such countries is not our friend because it tends to make the competing factions cooperate to a more extreme end than would otherwise be the case. You made my case for me by using Achmidenijad as an example:

Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry to action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?

It is perfectly simple: they have been messed with by foreign powers, including Israel, for over seventy years. As regards Israel: Iran has the largest population of Jews in the middle east, yet Iranian Jews encounter few difficulties in their daily lives. The Persian peoples have traditionally been an extremely religiously sophisticated group. Their stance with regard to Israel has little to do with the Jewish faith, they cannot be fobbed off as anti-semites, there is something more at work here and I believe that the protected status of such an aggressive power as Israel in their backyard has a lot to do with it. See how the tribal and state interests coalesce in a more extreme form than they otherwise would in a different scenario?

Further, Iran has given incredible amounts of aid to the U.S. and its’ coalition partners with regard to our effort in Afghanistan, yet we have infiltrated them with factions hostile to their regime. How can such overt slaps in the face not be considered a factor in the radicalization of the Iranian regime?

Your son is right, the primary reason that Iran is as stable as it is is because they are drawn together in the face of what is perceived a greater enemy than conservative, nutcase Presidents; the Great Satan (U.S.) and its’ indefatigable efforts to undermine their leadership. We cannot say, at this point, that we do not understand that particular dynamic here, why would it be unreasonable elsewhere with far more historical reasons?

Note that the Iranian people’s enmity has not, until recently, extended to the U.S. people, just its’ government. This is an insight that we should be well aware of when advocating for a status quo solution.

My response:

Your comments on Iran are well-taken and I think you are correct. But can you explain to me, because I do not get it, how a seemingly mature nation like Iran can elect a leader like Ahmendinijad?  Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

And finally, more from my interested party:

Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

By comparison, the revolution was only thirty years ago; the coup around fifty. It will take time for their wounds to heal. We should respect that.

Exactly!  Few here could possibly recognize the very real trauma of having one’s elected leadership replaced in a coup instigated by a foreign power and then being ruled by so authoritarian a personage as the Shah. Reja Pahlavi was every bit the butcher that Saddam was (yet another one of our creations). We do not often hear what his reign was actually like…it wouldn’t put us in a favorable light.

The revolution by fundamentalist Muslims in Iran was easily forseeable given the type of country it was, yet one never hears that other side of the story. Instead, we hear a lot about the hostages, nothing about why they were taken hostage. Convenient, eh? When in peril, even a perceived peril, a people, any people including ourselves as we now well know, will seek freedom from that threat(however that term may be defined within the context of its’ own culture) in the most brutal way necessary.

Iran as a culture may be thousands of years old, but as a state it is, comparatively speaking, brand new with virtually all of its founders intact. The revolutionary rhetoric is not surprising, though actions based upon it in the absence of a real threat would be. These folks ain’t stupid…just like Kim Jong Il. Given Iran has essentially been surrounded by what their leadership perceives as an aggressive threat, the surprise is how helpful they have been in spite of their harsh rhetoric.

During the (from their perspective) relatively benign Clinton Administration they were slackening up on their more authoritarian tendencies with regard to their own people and the west, under Bush we got Achmadinejad. Their President, who is surprisingly powerless under their form of government, may have been popularly elected but he is not popular. Don’t bet, however, that in the face of a real threat each and every one of his constituents wouldn’t haul out their pitchforks and follow him wherever he might lead.

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

This is, indeed, critical for our understanding of how to handle all such countries, in my view.

I just thought of the perfect example. Persia is a VERY conservative culture which does not take slights well. Within the tribal system, where most cultural knowledge is passed down verbally, they are still angry at Alexander the Great and memorize epic poems about him. Alexander the Great! Nearly four thousand years ago!

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

One Response to “The Folly of Our Leadership”

  1. Natalie R Says:

    Frank Rich is EXCELLENT in every way. In this article he is spot on. Not to give myself kudos but I have been writing often on my blog, in editorial comments and talking with others about the absolute NECESSITY of waging a PRESCIENT so called war on terror which did NOT include the insanity that was Iraq. I include everything Frank Rich says.

    Because the President now is so engaged, so smart and so well read, I am hoping he reads Frank Rich too. If he does this article tells him much of what he needs to know to make Dik Cheney irrelevant and secure our and the world’s safety. The HOPE is he will do it!

Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: