Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strategy in Iran's Neighborhood

Imagine the Iranian crisis not as a U.S./Israeli conflict with Iran but as a regional competition involving half a dozen major players and the conclusion that jumps out is: “instability.”

The core level is the double sectarian problem of Azeris living in Iran and Kurds living in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. It would not be prudent for a 21st century strategist to discount the potential of these old sectarian issues to cause problems. Turks, even today in the era of Davutoglu’s “good-neighborliness,” still launch military attacks into Iraq in the endless effort to force the Kurdish circle into the three square pegs of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. As for those who think President Truman resolved the Iranian Azeri issue in 1948 when he faced down Stalin, in now independent Azerbaijan, politicians have not forgotten. Sectarian issues, concerning both justice for minorities and irredentist feelings, lie always ready beneath the surface to complicate whatever other political issues may exist.

Dangerous Neighborhood

The broadest level of the regional political scene is the Iranian-Israeli struggle for regional influence that Americans see through the darkly tinted glasses of the nuclear dispute. Whether or not Iran is truly planning to challenge Israel’s overwhelming nuclear superiority, commonly held to be not just a regional monopoly but a massive 200 or more nuclear bombs, there is little doubt that Tehran wants to duplicate Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity and that Tel Aviv bitterly resents Tehran’s efforts to eliminate by duplication Tel Aviv’s psychological nuclear exceptionalism. Given the questionable utility of nuclear bombs for actual military use, Tehran’s ability to match Tel Aviv’s formerly unique policy of nuclear ambiguity may be more significant in political terms than the question of whether or not it actually manufactures a nuclear weapon.

Another layer of the political onion is political competition among Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan. A recent joint declaration by the three states’ foreign ministers in Azerbaijan to improve relations notwithstanding, realities are less friendly:

  • Major General Hassan Firuzabadi, head of Iran's general staff and a general enamored of provocative public remarks about international strategy, is now alleged “not” to have “in fact declared that ‘the people's awakening cannot be suppressed’ or accused Aliyev's government of ‘giv[ing] freedom to the Zionist regime [Israel] to meddle in [his] country's affairs,’ according to a statement issued by the Iranian Embassy in Baku. Nor had he accused Aliyev of giving ‘command to bar Islamic rules.’”
  • Whatever the truth of the curiously detailed “misquotations” of Iranian general Firuzabadi, Azerbaijan recently announced an Iranian spy plot against Israeli interests in Azerbaijan.

Sitalcay Airstrip - Base for Israeli Aggression Against Iran?
With Azerbaijan cosying up to Israel to the point of worrying American strategists trying to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran, it seems that Muslim fraternal relations will be put to the test. Not only is Israel now selling arms to Azerbaijan, it appears to be gaining access to Azeri air bases, of which Sital Chay [Sitalcay], an old Soviet base outside of Baku, beckons Israeli strategists—judging from Mark Perry’s important article on the Foreign Policy website--as a convenient location either for spying on Iran or landing at after an attack. Israel’s policy toward Azerbaijan copies its longstanding policy of using Georgia as a potential base for attacking Iran.

Bilateral Azeri-Iranian tensions, exacerbated by the strategically provocative Israeli factor, are further complicated by the Turkish role. Turkey has treated Azerbaijan as an important state since its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union, but the relationship is now clearly troubled, with the recent Israeli replacement of Turkey by Azerbaijan as market for its drones symptomatic. One can easily imagine the $1.6 billion Israeli sale leading to Israeli drone flights from Azerbaijan over Iran. An Israeli-made drone has already been reported shot down over Nagorno-Karabakh. An intruding Israeli drone was also chased, unsuccessfully, by Turkish jet fighters in January, suggesting that Israel is becoming significantly more aggressive (now apparently feeling that it can get away with violating the borders of not just helpless adversaries like Lebanon and Syria but even NATO members). Washington’s example of flying drones over Iran is no doubt seen in Tel Aviv as the pertinent precedent.

More than just imagination, regional drone conflict appears imminent according to Philip Giraldi:

The Israeli government has signed a secret agreement with the government of Azerbaijan to lease two former Soviet military airfields located close to the Iranian border. One of the facilities is being used as an intelligence collection site, with advanced Sigint capabilities and preparations underway for drone operations.

If all these factors fail to give the strategic thinker pause, the number of potential ways in which local misbehavior could pull in the Russians should. After getting a blank international check to demolish Grozniy and cold-clocking Georgia, Russia under the new Putin seems unlikely to tolerate trouble-making on its border. The Heralding the Rise of Russia Blog makes the point clearly:

Moscow has been forced into an alliance of sorts with Tehran due to very distinct geostrategic considerations. Moscow fears that if Tehran falls to its enemies, Russian's already vulnerable position in the Caucasus and Central Asia may become untenable. Moscow fully realizes that the West's main long-term agenda in the region is to exploit the region's remaining energy reserves; to stop emerging nations from growing too powerful; and to contain the Russian Federation and China, the two most powerful nations on the Eurasian supercontinent. 

The full argument is well worth reading. While Turkey may be more of an independent, swing actor than portrayed in Heralding, the point that Moscow's perspective may fail to consider that remains important. Arming Azerbaijan, which certainly has one eye on Armenia, will not go unnoticed in Moscow, nor will the spreading of the Israeli-Iranian conflict into Azerbaijan. And given the current charged political climate in the U.S., any paw swipes by the Bear reminiscent of its behavior in Grozniy or Georgia will surely ruffle the Eagle's feathers. 

From the perspective of U.S. national security, the warning implicit in this convoluted and multi-layered regional competition should be clear: its complexity almost beyond any regime’s capacity to manage, the potential both for a war of choice and a war by accident constitutes a significant threat. Several specific concerns relate to U.S. national security. 1) By giving its Israeli proxy such a long leash, Washington may get itself bit on the leg.  As Israeli policy becomes more provocative, the likelihood of reactions that harm the U.S. (e.g., alienation of Turkey) will increase. 2) Washington's particular combination of a very active but not very effective policy from Somalia to Afghanistan is leading to a power vacuum combined with chaos in the region. This vacuum will suck in Russia, which might not be a problem except that it will, under these conditions, re-enter the Mideast as an opponent of the U.S., a result likely to make Washington's dilemma even worse. 3) Washington may come to regret establishing the precedent that powerful countries have the right to violate the borders of weaker countries with drones. Drones are rapidly proliferating and their rising use by shortsighted politicians happy to have an unmanned weapon suggests that their potential for exacerbating tensions is being overlooked. In the kind of complex situation developing in the region around Iran, drones may prove to be just the spark needed to light exactly the conflagration that Americans--desperate for time to put their own house in order--do not need.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Practical American Plan For Iran

The current U.S. policy toward Iran is more emotion than calculation, born more of desperation than calculation. Bilateral acceptance of a positive-sum strategic attitude would be a game-changer.

Just as a chess game does not begin with checkmate, a state’s strategy should not begin with war. Threats, sanctions, the invasion of states bordering an adversary, the construction of archipelagos of military bases surrounding an adversary, terrorist campaigns to murder enemy scientists, references to “preventive” war, and the open consideration of using weapons of mass destruction against a non-threatening state simply because that state might be building or researching weapons of mass destruction are extremist options that should be saved for extreme circumstances. The possibility that an adversary will want some of the same weapons that everyone else has is not an extreme situation.

The current U.S. policy toward Iran is more emotion than calculation, born more of desperation than calculation. History teaches us that it has little likelihood of succeeding. It is much more likely to provoke momentum toward precisely the disaster it claims to be designed to avoid. The further one pushes the current policy the more intense will become the resistance of a cornered adversary and the more nervous will become the rest of the world.

The alternative is a new grand strategy, a real strategy thoughtfully constructed of an incremental series of consistent, mutually supporting, and logically consistent steps that build on each other to create a political atmosphere in which momentum builds toward a beneficial outcome. The most effective way to achieve this is by designing a positive-sum strategy while keeping one’s gun in one’s holster; everyone knows the gun is there.

A simple positive-sum American strategy for dealing with Iran should include the following components, implemented more-or-less in the following order, with Steps 1-7 to be implemented over a period of days, Steps 8-10 over subsequent weeks, and Steps 11-13 presented slowly, keeping time with Iran's quid pro quos, over the ensuing months:

Step 1. Call Larijani’s Bluff.
In initial response to the offer by Mohammad Javad Larijani of “permanent human monitoring” to watch over Iranian nuclear transparency, Obama should respond positively to this conciliatory signal.

Step 2. End Anti-Iranian Terrorism.
Washington cannot demonstrate that it is negotiating in good faith with Iran unless it takes action to address the Israeli point on the triangle. A delicate first step vis-à-vis Tel Aviv would be a public statement by Secretary of State Clinton that the U.S. opposes the murder of scientists, a statement that should privately be underscored at a minimum by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, if not at a higher level.

Step 3. Terminate Rhetorical Threats. Obama should order that no one in his administration make any further public threats about the U.S. or Israel launching a war of choice against Iran. Anyone who violated this order should immediately be fired.

Step 4. Recognize the Islamic Republic.
It exists; it governs; therefore, recognize it. Then, figure out how to deal with it.

Step 5. Offer to Negotiate Naval Rules of Engagement.
States go to war, sometimes with good reason, but no one wants a war by mistake. The greatest risk of war by mistake now appears to be a naval incident in the crowded Persian Gulf. Obama should suggest technical talks to develop mutual naval rules of engagement for the Persian Gulf.

Step 6. Combat Illegal Narcotics.
An obvious positive-sum issue begging to be addressed is the flow of illegal narcotics out of Afghanistan, where the war is setting up a situation analogous to that in Colombia during the Cali heyday of Pablo Escobar. Washington should move promptly to identify precise technical solutions designed to minimize smuggling into Iran.

Step 7. Avoid provoking sectarian conflict.
The U.S. should avoid any participation in minority campaigns either by Baluchis or Kurds to dismembering the Iranian state.

Step 8. Offer to Discuss Regional Sectarian Issues. Along with avoiding the provocation of sectarian conflict, Washington should at least discuss cooperation on regional sectarian issues of concern to Iran, specifically in Iraq and Bahrain, according to the following principles:

  1. Start with cautious exchanges of views;
  2. Offer broadened venues including other regional states;
  3. Expect slow progress;
  4. Use these talks initially as an indicator of Iranian sincerity and be ready to respond quickly to Iranian signs of cooperation.
Step 9. Ignore Insults/Threats From Tehran; Condemn Anti-Iranian Insults/Threats By Tel Aviv. Washington should ignore any threatening rhetoric from Tehran and express displeasure at any threatening rhetoric from Tel Aviv, setting, as it were, a new standard of politeness.

Step 10. Put Mutual National Security on the Table.
Washington must concede up front that Iran, like every other state, has legitimate national security concerns. This gives Iran a key reason for being cooperative. It also has the advantage of permitting Washington to introduce the other side of this three-sided coin – the security concerns of the U.S. and Israel.

Step 11. Make Rejection of WMD a National Security Gain.
Washington should make the case that rejecting weapons of mass destruction can lead to enhanced security. The logical case is straightforward: “we” promise not to use weapons against you that “you” do not have. Many attractive offers can be made in this context in return for Iranian nuclear transparency:

  1. Offer to support the idea of Russian sales of defensive missiles for protection against an aerial attack in return for nuclear transparency;
  2. Offer to terminate drone overflights of Iran;
  3. Offer to limit Israeli offensive capabilities by removing U.S. bunker-buster bombs from the Israeli arsenal, constraining the use of AWACS, rationing the supply of jet fuel;
  4. Offer to advocate Iranian-Israeli talks to constrain the routes of Israeli nuclear-capable submarines. 
Step 12. Present a Plan for Resolution of the Nuclear Dispute.
  1. Offer to support the Iranian-Pakistani gas pipeline in return for nuclear progress;
  2. Offer to trade the end of sanctions for permanent human monitoring.
Step 13. Afghanistan.
  1. Offer to discuss resolution of the Afghan conflict;
  2. Include Iran in multinational effort to plan for the future of Afghanistan.

The point of defining a positive-sum strategic plan for dealing with Iran is not to solve all the problems but to create a context within which the problems can be discussed rationally. Doing business rationally does not mean all cooperation/no conflict, but it does mean the possibility of mutual benefit exists. Mutual recognition of that would be a game changer.

War in the Eyes of the 99%

Sometimes the average American man or woman in the street seems so abysmally ignorant about the world that politicians can trick them into buying the junkiest lemon of a used political-mobile ever seen rusting on the lot. And yet, on other days, the average American appears vastly more intelligent than the average high-paid member of the ruling elite. 

Yes, almost all Americans bought the neo-con line about the "war on terror" after the horror of 9/11, but today the 99% appear, judging from various polls, to have learned something. We are told, for example, that nearly 70% now want the war in Afghanistan ended. Interestingly, in stark contrast to the war-mongering by the Netanyahu clique, 62% of Israelis also oppose a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran! In both cases, it seems reasonable to assume that many if not most of the individuals have little knowledge of the real historical facts (which are carefully hidden by Israeli and American politicians) and little appreciation for how the world looks from the perspective of the two countries being targeted. Yet, very large American and Israeli majorities evidently oppose, in the case of Afghanistan, an incompetent and brutal war, and, in the case of Iran, an unprovoked war of aggression. Just imagine how large the anti-war majorities would be if Washington and Tel Aviv made an effort to present accurate portrayals of global affairs to their otherwise-occupied populations.

Polls in the U.S. are notoriously biased by the questions avoided and the framing of questions asked, but at least polls are legal. In Iran, polling can get you jailed. Nevertheless, there are indications that in Iran as well, the population tends to be far less extremist than the elite. This suggests that a U.S. effort to develop a policy sensitive to the interests of the Iranian public rather than threatening to starve or bomb the Iranian public would be of long-term advantage to the U.S.

Unfortunately, no generalization about America makes much sense unless one differentiates the 99% (who fight) from the 1% (who don't fight). More accurately, the distinction should probably be between the 99.9% and the 0.1%, though that remains a research area--and one worth serious investigation. In any case, it is too bad that the opinions of millionaire members of the ruling elite (top politicians as well as CEO's of financial firms, oil companies, and war profiteer corporations) are not polled separately. After all, while ultimately we all die, in the meantime, the interests of these individuals and the interests of the other 99% really do not overlap very much, and--more to the point--the 1% have demonstrated in the last decade or two that they do not think their interests overlap with ours.

These comments certainly should not be misconstrued as an argument for democracy. As noted above, the general population can quite easily be manipulated and can panic. But the evidence certainly does not support government by the rich either. While I personally may be biased in favor of government by political scientists, I would be willing to settle, as a first step in the right direction, for government by those who earn  their living and pay at least as high a tax rate as the average. Would that make government officials more responsible? A first step toward figuring out the answer would be to conduct polls so as to differentiate between the opinions of the two groups.

Therefore, I propose that henceforth the following distinction be made when polling or generalizing in any way about what Americans (or perhaps Israelis, though I am not familiar with Israel's tax code) think:

If more than 50% of your income is earned and derived from income taxed in the normal way just like everyone else, you are in the category "normal;"
If most of your income is unearned, i.e., derived from privileged sources that are taxed at low rates (e.g., the U.S. rich man's welfare program known as "capital gains"), then you will be classified in the category "privileged."

Then, we will all have a much easier time figuring out why so many of the rich, who never fight, want war.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mideast Sectarian Threat and Opportunity

If Washington aspires to change the world and implement a positive-sum grand design, current conditions in the Mideast not only present a potentially fatal threat but also offer an unusual opportunity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grand Strategy

U.S. foreign policy since the beginning of the 21st century has been a strategy of military empire, with results that arrogant Washington politicians might not have been able to foresee but that Marcus Aurelius certainly would have had something to say about. Offering the obvious alternative--peace, compromise, searching for positive-sum outcomes--is easy to do, but what, exactly, might such a grand strategy be built of?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Israeli Attack's 'Dire Consequences' for U.S.

Pentagon recognition of Israeli threat to U.S. national security is rising.

Monday, March 19, 2012

American Terrorist

This single act of terrorism by an American in uniform representing his whole nation overseas raises fundamental questions about the moral nature of American society. We need answers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mossad & CIA: No Iranian Bomb Program

Both Mossad and the U.S. Intelligence Community agree that Iran not only has no nuclear bomb but does not even have a program to develop a bomb.

Algeria As Prologue

In the book of America's conflict with politically active Islam, Algeria is the prologue.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shall We Have Another War...This Time, Iran?

No one did much thinking in early 2003; everyone was "in shock," you see. That excuse cannot be used this time. So...has the U.S. public learned anything in the interim?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Explaining Afghanistan

Is the U.S. really in Afghanistan to help the Afghanis? Is this a pipeline war rather than a "war on terror?"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yemen: More Resistance

Given how well it worked in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, why not Yemen?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Changing Irrational Regimes

A security threat surely does exist in the Mideast, but neither war nor regime change in Iran alone will resolve the situation. The solution is regime change in both Iran and Israel.

Ex-Mossad chief Dagan, diehard advocate of violence as the method of choice to defeat Israel’s antagonists but nevertheless sufficiently “rational” to choose methods short of full-scale military aggression, differs profoundly from Netanyahu clique politicians. “Rational,” everyone now suddenly seems to agree, is a term that applies to the Iranian regime: i.e., not suicidal, not similar to (say) extremist end-of-days Protestant fundamentalists who believe not only that the world is coming to an end but that we should rush to embrace that end or to analogous extremist end-of-days Twelver Shi’a with the same beliefs (by some accounts including Ahmadinejad).

Attacking Iran now is “the stupidest idea” Meir Dagan has “ever heard[Meir Dagan on 60 Minutes.]

Dagan, too, despite his penchant for violence, appears rational. If an enemy is rational and not a clear and present danger of disaster, war cannot be justified. Militarily insignificant Iran with its cautious foreign policy still presents a challenge to Israeli foreign policy and its current ruling elite– to its pretensions of exceptionalism, to its claims of the exclusive right to determine which arms all other states in the region may possess. But Iran presents no clear or present danger of disaster to the Israeli state or society.

Netanyahu carefully confuses this distinction for very good personal reasons, which brings us to the question of whether or not Netanyahu is rational in risking, if not begging for, war by constantly harping on the alleged “existential threat” that a future nuclear Iran would pose. The fact is that all nuclear states pose existential threats to everyone else. That is the shadow under which mankind has survived for the last half century. But only the current ruling clique in Tel Aviv raves about it in a manner that sounds…irrational.

Rationality for political leaders needs to be judged on two levels – what is rational for the leader and what is rational for the society. Simply, from a personal perspective, risking war to maintain his career has an element of rationality for Netanyahu – the U.S. might do it for him and might get away with it and even if it does not, Iran might cave, and in any case the U.S. is almost certain to open even wider the spigot of arms. From the perspective of the Israeli people, who presumably want to live in good economic conditions and in the absence of falling missiles and, by the way, in a democracy, Netanyahu’s behavior is, in contrast, hard to define as rational: he is risking everything in the absence of a clear and present danger but mostly he is putting at risk his society’s safety for the sake of his career.

Does that remind anyone of Ahmadinejad? It should, for he gains the same benefits by whipping up war. This similarity of irresponsible politicians on both sides waving the bloody flag of war for personal profit suggests a solution to the whole problem, and, interestingly, Mr. Dagan gets it half right in remarks reportedly made to 60 Minutes referring to regime change in Iran as preferable to an Israeli attack.

But regime change in Iran would, by itself, solve nothing. First, it would not stop the theoretical possibility that one day Iran might choose to weaponize its nuclear technology. Iran under any regime other than a completely submissive colonial lackey administration (in today’s world, an untenable long-term solution), would still want nuclear knowledge and a prominent regional position for Iran. It would still face its own existential threat from Israeli nukes, not to mention Pakistani and Indian and U.S. and Chinese and Russian and French and British nukes (and the theoretical possibility of future Saudi nukes). It would still challenge Israel pretensions to military dominance of the Mideast by its very existence as an independent and much larger state, thus making the Israeli threat a very real one. Thus, second, regime change in Iran would not eliminate the theoretical future threat to the region of Iranian nukes, nor would it eliminate the current very real threat to the region of Israeli nukes.

Nukes don’t kill people; politicians do. The danger in the Mideast is posed less by the weapons than by the propensity of certain politicians, certain regimes, and certain elite forces to use weapons (from nuclear ambiguity to economic sanctions to murder to nukes) in pursuit of political goals. The solution is regime change in both countries. Militarily imposed regime change in either country would, I concur with Dagan, almost surely be a disaster, but Obama in a second term could find worse goals than using the power of the presidency to promote regional political conditions such that the people of Iran and Israel each voluntarily reach the conclusion that it is in their own interests to tell the irresponsible politicians endangering them to take a hike.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Giving a Fix to an Addict

Reports of giving offensive weapons of mass destruction to the Netanyahu gang sound like buying off the neighborhood junkie with a free fix. The next U.S. president better come into office with a plan of pure magic.

The best TV news program available in the U.S. today, Democracy Now, says that Obama has "reportedly" offered Israel offensive weapons of mass destruction to delay a war of aggression against Iran, i.e., a new and more powerful fix for a buddy who is already a junkie and on the verge of "going rogue." Given that Obama wants to help Israel, defensive arms and/or an even more solid security wall around Israel than the U.S. already provides might have been in order, but to offer to increase the ability of a potential aggressor to commit aggression in return for a promise that the potential aggressor will delay ever so slightly his commission of the sin would constitute a betrayal of presidential responsibility for protecting U.S. national security, not to mention being a very nasty thing to do to one's addict-buddy. A friend would offer Israel an option other than the madness of launching an uncontrollable war against a vastly larger adversary rather than further whetting the appetites of a regime already committed to solving its foreign policy and domestic policy problems through violence.

Even the infamous hardline former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, keeps warning against the Netanyahu regime's promotion of war as the answer, most recently calling the idea "stupid." One wonders how well he will sleep if the regime he recently left and now distrusts becomes convinced that it finally has the ability to deal the Iranians a "final solution."

Democracy Now indicated the news might not be true. One can only hope, but this is exactly the self-defeating policy Washington has been pursuing for a generation, and the U.S. "Israel problem" just keeps getting worse and worse. If the report is true, Obama may get reelected, since no presidential-quality opposition is yet visible on the horizon, but if he does, then how will he control Israel the next time?

Understanding the U.S. Conflict with Iran

It seems only reasonable that anyone advocating a war of aggression against Iran, a country that is not attacking us, provide answers to the following basic questions:

1.) Would War Against Iran Help?

2.) Can Current U.S. Policy Toward Iran Succeed?

3.) Does Current U.S. Policy Make Theoretical Sense?

4.) Is Israel Really on Our Side?

5.) Is Iran Being Isolated?

6.) Who Is to Blame?

The answers are not soundbites, nor would you believe me if I gave the answers as soundbites, because the truth is not what you think. See the "Iran" page for brief answers, and then consider contacting your elected representatives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Corporate Subversion of Democracy

You elected those politicians to represent you. Are they, or are they perhaps colluding to enrich themselves by creating a corporate state or, even worse, a fascist state? One of the best clues to this shadowy operation is government facilitation of corporate corruption.

No one, and certainly no government, is perfect, so "perfection"--e.g., the absence of corruption in government--may be a nice ideal but is hardly a realistic standard for daily performance. Therefore, it is perhaps a bit unfair to condemn a government for exhibiting corruption. A more realistic standard for daily performance would be this:

Does the government facilitate or combat corruption in its own ranks and among the broader corporate elite?

That standard is one that separates good governance, i.e., government for the people, from bad governance, i.e., government for the elite. That standard also directly addresses the more particular issue of whether or not a government is moving toward corporatism, i.e., the enrichment of corporate elites at the expense of the society as a whole. That standard also exposes rising fascism, a particularly pernicious form of corporatism.

In this context, consider the recent remarks of muckraking journalist Matt Taibi about Bank of America:

This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests....
Conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it’s received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support, most of it doled out by the Obama administration.

Liberals should also be outraged. The goal of liberalism is to take care of those who need it, not to feed obese welfare queens. As a liberal, I can testify that government bailouts of rich, corrupt banks violates the ideals of liberals; conservatives can speak to their own values.

Taibi explains:

Conservatives believe that a commitment to free market principles and limited government will lead us out of our economic troubles, but Bank of America represents the opposite dynamic: a company that is kept protected from the judgments of the free market, and forces the state to expand to take on its debts.

Feeding the greed of "too big to fail" corporate welfare queens has become a major financial drain on the U.S. economy; the unemployed and those defrauded out of their mortgages are paying for this. Beyond the financial cost to society of corrupt corporations lies the specter of corporatist or outright fascist subversion of democracy. If the citizens are so generous that they choose to provide welfare to billionaire CEOs, so be it. My concern is far more with the political implications. To put it briefly, the more the regime becomes the financial partner of corrupt corporate leaders, the greater will be their tendency to collude to undermine citizen oversight of their misbehavior, which will inevitably lead to a police state, i.e., a corporatist dictatorship.

It is important to note that the issue of whether or not the government is colluding with the corporate elite to defraud society is a separate issue from government creation of healthy conditions for business. Smoothly running, productive corporations can be useful social tools as long as the government understands that its purpose is to protect the larger interests of society. The string of economic crises (S&L, Latin defaults, Asian tiger collapse, Long-Term Capital Management's collapse) culminating (so far) in the 2008 Financial Crisis--all caused by out-of-control corporate greed facilitated by complicit regulators--does not prove that capitalism is an unacceptable form of government; it does, however, pretty conclusively prove that capitalism in the absence of strict government regulation backed up by energetic popular oversight is suicidal

Now every human with a brain can see that capitalism is a very hot torch; without great care, it will burn you, but socialism--albeit better in theory as, by definition, a system to protect "society" rather than "capital"--has its own problems, which are perhaps best described in Solzhenitsyn's brilliant chapter "The Law As a Child" in Gulag Archipelago, where the collapse of Soviet socialism into communist dictatorship in the absence of a rule of law that would provide regulation over government) is exposed. The fundamental issue is not "capitalism vs. socialism" but whether or not the population has the education, commitment, and capability to keep watch over the elite.

If (a big condition) the citizenry is sufficiently awake to defend itself, the standard approach of a government trying to establish a corporatist dictatorship is to whip up national security fears, wave the bloody flag, and terrify the population into bowing down before a "great leader" who promises to "protect" them. That is the point at which corporatism transforms into fascism, and one of the clearest initial clues that this process has been launched by an elitist regime is government facilitation of corporate corruption.
"Corruption!" is an easy charge to make; is it fair?
  • Bank overdraft scam: BoA settled a court case accusing it of running a bank overdraft scam for $400 million. That may well have been a tiny portion of the total amount stolen from depositors, but even for BoA, $400M would presumably constitute a line item in their budget. Would they have paid such a fine if they were innocent?
  • Mortgage fraud: Three years after the "2008 Financial Attack on the One Percent," the Federal Government is finally bringing legal charges against BoA for mortgage fraud. BoA has already paid a cool $22M to avoid complicity for defrauding...soldiers!!! That is called "corporate patriotism." (Corporations, you recall, are now "persons," so one should presume that they could be expected to be patriotic just like the rest of us "persons," but of course personhood for corporations only pertains at their convenience.)
  • Selling elections. Even the Supreme Court, last defense of the Constitution, has joined the game, twisting the Constitution in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to allow corporations to buy elections. When campaign time on TV is made free and passed out fairly, then we will know that the government is protecting democracy rather than promoting a corporate state.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slippery Slope to Fascism?

Fascism in America? The most disturbing evidence of all is the refusal of major party candidates to address Ron Paul's charge.

The most significant statement to be made in this pathetic U.S. campaign season of brainless, superficial soundbites should constitute the core of the debate until election day:

Now we're slipping into a fascist system where it's a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen. [Ron Paul as quoted by CBS News.]

With bailouts of billionaires, oil wars by leaders who oversee multi-billion-dollar sole source contracts to the companies they previously headed, laws supported by both “parties” that are steadily chipping away at Constitutional protections, a Supreme Court that magically transforms corporations into people, the careful avoidance of criminal action against corrupt corporate leaders for poisoning the environment or wrecking the economy, and a foreign policy based on military force, Representative Paul has a strong prima facia case that the U.S. is sliding down the slippery slope toward corporate control at the expense of civil liberties and democracy in combination with militarism rather than protection of society as the purpose of the state. That combination essentially constitutes the definition of fascism.

If there is a counter-argument to this prima facia case that the U.S. is slipping toward fascism, then the candidates who give credence to that counter-argument should make it. This charge is central to all we believe in. Silence = agreement.

1) Attacking the Constitution -
Illegal Wiretaps

2) Military Rule Vs. Rule of Law - 
Military Custody for Terrorists

3) Definition of Fascism -
Fascism Checklist

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

This post by an Israeli and self-described Zionist cuts through the flood of propaganda, ignorance, and willful self-delusion on the subject of attacking Iran with a degree of clarity and moral vision almost unknown in U.S. commentary.

The author concludes:

The Jews I know seem to be divided between those who support sanctions and those who support military action. Maybe I hang out with the wrong crowd. I support neither. The drums of war have started again, and the madness should be stopped now. If either Israel (or its proxy, the US) attacks Iran, it will be difficult for any moral person to defend the right of such a rogue state to exist.

Have we reached the point where we can no longer safely avoid the conclusion that there exists a state so powerful and so vengeful and so lacking in self-control and so contemptuous of the rights of others that the defense of our own national security compels us to disarm that state? In short, can the U.S. any longer afford to permit the state of Israel to exist?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't Even Think about It!

Some things are best left unsaid. On the other hand, the best lie is the one you don't even need to tell because everyone already believes it.

Let there exist a country with no nuclear weapons but with pretensions to independence and a level of in-your-face amour-propre that is simply off the map. Clearly, I am making this up, because no country lacking nuclear weapons could possibly have pretensions of anything. Said imaginary country has no colonies and no serious military forces outside its own borders (a few trainers perhaps excepted). It is by all standard measures not a player. plays. That, obviously, violates the rules. It shall be bombed. No other option exists.

Let there exist another country, very tiny, insignificant in every way, except that this one does have nuclear weapons. It even has its own personal superpower lackey, which it publicly shames and ridicules on a regular basis. This country also has pretensions to independence and a level of in-your-face amour-propre that...well, if one were allowed to think about it, it would be unthinkable, but fortunately for said tiny country, thinking about it is not allowed. It receives a blank check from its superpower lackey, on the back of which is the express statement: "Thinking about the actions of the recepient or the implications of this check is not allowed." Case closed. This country has a colony, about which one is not permitted to think; in fact, one is not even permitted to call it a colony. In truth, the country is itself a colony, albeit independent, since composed entirely of foreigners who stole the land they live on, but their Indians are nearly gone, so one is no longer permitted to call them colonials. This country also regularly invades its neighbors, where it focuses on bombing concrete. Such invasions are perfectly legal because they occur only after the neighbors violate arbitrarily imposed rules unilaterally defined by this country such as performing unauthorized self-defense. The details really require no discussion, because the whole topic is not allowed to be thought about, and there really is no purpose in discussing something you cannot think about. This country shall, with the support of its lackey as needed, conduct the bombing.

If you have a problem with this, you're a racist. Believe me, it is better if you just don't think about it.