Thursday, May 12, 2011

Where is the Secretary of State ?

A minor orthodox Jewish newspaper has joined the ranks of the Chinese and Russian media who specialize in doctoring reality.  Hair dyed or not, the Chinese leaders are displaced on the chessboard like the puppets of the regime they are.  When Cairo was of the opinion that the Rais did not receive the coverage that was expected, the pre-revolution Egyptian press altered the photos to give him an equal place amongst the leaders, while in fact he was only present for reasons of courtesy. His propaganda machine would have gone to the extremes, putting him in Yalta, if necessary (with the dyed look, of course).
 For the incriminated paper, Hillary was probably deemed to create an overflow of testosterone amongst orthodox Jewish readers and she, together with a female attendant, was wiped-out of the photo of the Situation Room of the White House which became disreputable, given the presence of two women. History again made a U-turn to falsify facts in the Goebbels/Stalin tradition. That this was done in a Jewish paper is ironic, at least.
Like all present, Hillary would have continued to concentrate on the events surrounding the killing of Bin Laden, rather than being preoccupied with the priapic “angst” emanating from some ultra-orthodox obscure newspaper.  From Nietzsche to Christopher Hitchens, many have rejoiced in or elaborated on the death of God.  In Europe it looks indeed as if He left us with empty places of worship or some creepy ceremonies of the kind we just witnessed in Rome where the blood of Jean Paul II was serenaded in some gigantic Red Cross cult. Sometimes it looks as if the remaining religions, ascending (Islam) or delocalized (Christianity), have found refuge in the grotesque. They make it impossible for the non-believer to muster a minimum of respect for Allah’s butchers, Jewish censors or Christian necrophiles.
To return to the disappearance of the American Secretary of State from what is already an iconic document, one is entitled to be scandalized. It is sexist, anti-historic and in plain view a repulsive lie.  I doubt that Mrs. Clinton will lose sleep over Der Tzitung’s removal or consider how to extricate herself from this Jezebel moment. Nor is this rag representative of the Jewish press.
The manipulation through religion is the problem. Nevertheless, the proliferation of cults, sects, martyrs and yellers cannot hide the fact that the bathtub is running empty. Only Buddhism, which is not a religion “per se”, seems to be able to avoid the booby-traps of vulgarity.
One should not exaggerate the malpractice of a marginal paper. On the other hand, this fraudulent offspring of religion is an eloquent illustration of the amount of distortions that a dying breed might resort to in order to prolong the secular lie of Creationism. The latter is all too often the twin of a populist, anti- intellectual strand that attempts to weaken the more enlightened part of society.  The US administration will have its hands full to dismantle the Jihad/ersatz offshoot now that it has gotten rid of the main imposter. We are entitled to expect more from the media than another religious sham.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011



As if the Arab labyrinth was not complicated enough, Bashar Assad has added a poisonous card to the deck.  Muammar Quadafi is an unpredictable hybrid who represents a derailment of minor consequence if one chooses not to take into account the human toll.  Otherwise Libya is “oil cum nothing”.
Syria is another cup of tea.  The Assads kept the country under control, while creating havoc by proxy, via Hamas and Hizbullah.  The vacuum which followed the fall of Saddam Hussein has never been properly addressed. Syria has been able to reset its relationship with post Mubarak Egypt and an assertive Turkey.  Lebanon is becoming a client state and the rejectionist camp in the Middle East gravitates around Syria, which acts for Iran’s interests. As much as the Libyan situation verges on the primitive, the Syrian events present the West, and especially Israel, with a far more perverse conundrum.  It is hard to imagine a similar scenario as Libya because Syria, while poor in natural resources is a geopolitical “trap” in the region.  Any intervention might set in motion unforeseeable consequences and involve multiple actors.  A NATO intervention would be politically suicidal and is unrealistic given the fact that Turkey will not be the passive onlooker in what happens in its backyard.  Israel must be alarmed by further instability in a region where the question marks start to abound.  After the fall of Mubarak Saudi Arabia is left with a hangover and fear of the Shia tsunami.
The West--the USA in the first place--finds itself in a quasi-impossible situation. Its policy is a patchwork of many ineffective or semi-improvised short term gestures and actions that are incoherent. They reinforce their foes and alienate their allies; they are ill-timed, poorly executed and risk alienating  a whole region. Wisely, Israel has chosen to play the Cheshire Cat (“You must be mad, otherwise you wouldn’t have come here”). 
It is too easy to be critical and not to offer an alternative. Quasi-inaction in Egypt, non action in Tunisia, hesitation in Yemen, bombing in Libya , voyeurism in Syria don’t add up.  The situations differ but they all have potentially similar consequences. What unites them is that they are all threatening.  Rather than getting involved in these fratricide wars that run amok, it is better to let the Arabs deal with their own problems. In Turkey we have a unique player that is both in and out.  To encourage Ankara to intervene politically and to maximize its influence in what is its zone of influence might have a double advantage.  It is a carrot hard to refuse for a power that is on the rise.  It is a stick that cannot be ignored by countries that share a similar DNA.  Both the EU and NATO still have some credit in Turkey  and policies can to some extent still be co-managed without being tainted by what the Arabs consider as the Western “Wild West behavior” towards Arab  dysfunctions. The West must not delocalize its responsibilities but neither must it shoulder what is not in its own direct geopolitical interest. Countries have to share the burden and assume the consequences of globalization in a multi-polar world.  Europeans intervened militarily in the Balkans without asking others to come to rescue their “brethren”. The same applies here.  The Arabs have to be first in line to disentangle themselves from a historical shift that might harm them if it is not timely controlled.  Meanwhile diplomacy must be set in overdrive so that Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan receive the assurance that the “Shah syndrome”, which was repeated in Egypt and will probably affect Yemen, is not a fixture but a fatality.  Such diplomatic endeavor could follow the EU model of the Troika to deflect any chance of hypothermia, which would again target the USA.

Bin Laden

Exit Bin Laden ?
The death of Bin Laden in a firefight with US Special forces raises a lot of questions:
--The demise of the emblem of Evil gives President Obama and US intelligence a boost.  On the other hand, it further compromises Pakistan.  Bin Laden was not hiding in some fantasy cave.  He was found in a compound not far from Islamabad and close to a Pakistani base. This raises some embarrassing  questionmarks.
--It is too soon to predict the outcome.  Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has become a more decentralized organization which has lately been marginalized during the “Arab Spring” which prioritized socio-economic issues over religious ideology.
--Will Ayman al-Zawahiri take over?
--It is to be expected that certain Arab media and representatives will try to deny reality in favor of the most extravagant alternatives, as they did after 9/11.  They have a mastery of story-telling since the “1000 and 1 Nights.” Proof of what happened will be demanded but I fear that no answer will ever put an end to Bin Laden’s sordid legacy.
--Bin Laden dead doesn’t mean that Al Qaeda will give up.  Its grip on the imaginations diminished but the death of their leader might give them a shot in the arm.  Western intelligence and preparedness should be reinforced as desperate terrorist acts could be more dangerous than the rational, more cerebral acts of the past which were targeted with medical precision.
--The tide that might occur in the Arab countries is unpredictable. There might be rage, there might be resignation, there may be less room  for the usual emotional outbursts, given the new priorities that stem from the Jasmine Revolution.
--The USA should adopt a low-profile and accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan, since one of the main purposes for their intervention is no longer there.  Al Qaeda has been closely identified with its leader. His death however is not the end of the terrorist wave he largely inspired. If he were to become a “martyr” in the eyes of the radical Islamists, one might as well expect an increase in terrorist acts at random.
--The Obama administration has shown its muscle. The Americans have their scalp. The world takes notice that the USA has both might and a technological advance unique in precision and execution.  I am sure that Bashar Assad and Muammar Quadafi will think twice.
Pakistan lost face after already having compromised its own credibility in the recent past. However, the diplomatic, intelligence and military channels are trails that cannot be allowed to get cold.
-- Conversely, the West must at all cost avoid the deadly equation:  Muslim=terrorist. The “democratic” movements in Egypt, Yemen or Syria remain fragile but our support should at least be unambiguous and not opportunistic as our previous lukewarm appeared, backing disreputable leaders who are now sent packing, via Zurich (if they can).
The Arabs have to handle their own affairs.  When called upon, or under cover of a UN mandate, we should contribute in the making of secular, rule-of-law abiding civil societies, with all means.  Non-legitimate gunboat diplomacy can only have a boomerang effect.
--Bin Laden’s end is not closure, unfortunately.  We had better prepare ourselves for what might lie ahead.  Keeping a reasonable distance is wise, ignoring is a sin.