Monday, 28 November 2016

Post-Fidel Cuba: Oily Tributes and Resource Struggles


Trudeau sparked fury and online mockery after he referred to Castro as a “remarkable leader” and expressed his sorrow at the death of “Cuba’s longest-serving president....On Sunday, Trudeau said his statement was simply meant “to recognize the passing of a former head of state” of a country that Canada had longstanding ties with, and not to gloss over unflattering history.
On the death of Fidel Castro, Trudeau was certainly quick to chip in with the creeping eulogies and airbrush out the human rights record. The oleaginous tributes had less to do with his being a liberal-left apologist for dictatorship in any ideological sense. It had more to do with certain large unmentionable economic interests.
As usual pseudo-political debates have opened up because of the phoney outrage of US Republican politicians who are playing to the gallery of the Miami exiles from Cuba who celebrated the death of what Trump called a brutal tyrant. While accurate enough, Cruz hallucinated that Obama had "celebrated" Castro.
In actual fact, Obama had done no such thing. Obama actually said history would “record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” that there were “countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.” 
There was nothing in Obama's comments that could be construed as "celebrating" Castro's legacy in the way the craven Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain did, rationalising the dictatorship as a 'systemic alternative'-to use the sinister Seumas Milne's phrase-which opposed US power and so advanced "international solidarity".
Corbyn was, of course, prepared to mention the appalling human rights record and repression but to euphemise them in an Orwellian manner as "flaws" and "excesses" and called on his believers and doubters to look, appropriately enough at the totality of Castro's achievements beyond the health care and literacy.
Trudeau mentioned the health care and education too but only to position himself as 'progressive' and standing in continuity with his father from the optimistic liberal 1960s when 'another world looked possible'. As usual, it's political choreography designed to conceal the usual grubbier material interests.
Trudeau has been as keen as hopey-changey Obama in courting Raul Castro's Cuba in order to advance Canada's corporations such as Sherritt International, Cuba's largest foreign investor with extensive mining interests and deeply involved in tapping Cuba's copious and recently discovered Caribbean oil reserves.
Trudeau has, after all,been heavily criticised by domestic opponents for not doing enough to cheerlead for Canada's oil and gas industry while still wanting to appear 'progressive'. Cuba, then, offers an ideal way forward. Engaging with Cuba is believed on way to help it finally come out from the Cold War while advancing corporate interests.
Naturally, very little mention is ever made in the Western media about taboo oil and gas interests. It's considered bad form to let the public know how the world actually works. Cult followers of Corbyn need to believe Cuba is still a bastion of anti-imperialist resistance when the reality is that its aligning more with the US away from Venezuela.
The reason is that the Chavista experiment is collapsing into economic chaos, sharpened political conflict and potential civil war. Corbyn has conveniently airbrushed this out from political consciousness since becoming Labour leader. It't energy lifeline has gone down. Venezuelan oil shipments to the island have declined by 19.5 percent in 2016.
The embargo is already effectively redundant in blocking access to tapping Cuba's oil. In October 2015 when 120 business leaders flocked to the country to discuss offshore oil development. Trump is unlikely, for all his rhetoric, to stand in the way of this deal cutting but he's just as unlikely to bother with promoting human rights either.
In fact, a sleazy military junta and crony capitalist Havana would make Cuba a perfect outpost for investments in the sort of casino and tourist economy controlled by a shady mafioso elite that Trump would find congenial. The demise of Fidel Castro removes the stigma of 'communism' and herald the return to Cuba as before the 1959 Revolution.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Death of Fidel Castro and the Future Fate of Cuba

'The thaw in relations was crowned when Obama visted the island earlier this year. Castro did not meet Obama and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the US president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many American efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government'. -Rory Caroll, The Guardian November 26 2016
The death of Fidel Castro has only removed from Cuba and the World a recognisable figurehead who had long been reduced to making rambling speeches or else, as when Obama visited in early 2016, to maintaining this position as Revolutionary Icon and so balancing Raul's embrace of the US with the regime's legitimation myth.

Raul's Cuban regime is more openly just a repressive military junta running the show and Obama's decision to bring the embargo to an end represents a more realistic strategy of engagement.The embargo was,after all,used to justify the political repression because the US Imperialist was intent on throttling the Revolution.

The reality is that ever since Fidel Castro gravitated towards the Soviet Union in the early 1960s after seizing power and needing an ally; Cuba was a theatre for posturing and propaganda struggles during the Cold War and one that has long outlived any purpose it might once have served both for the US and for Cuba.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 pulled the plug on the economic trade and aid lifeline that had kept Cuba afloat in the Caribbean and it only just about managed to survive the economic collapse of the 1990s by reinventing itself as an ally of a new wave of leftist-populist nationalism in the 2000s.

George W Bush's crude attempts to reassert US power in Venezuela through backing opposition candidates and a coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 gave a new lease of life to 'anti-imperialist' resistance based on cheap oil, the resource Washington wanted control over in the era before domestic shale oil exploitation.

Cuba was buoyed by huge oil subsidies and handouts from Venezuela but the death of Chavez, the collapse of global oil prices caused by a US-Saudi determination to drive down prices and the disintegration of  '21st Century Socialism' in its protector led Raul to move towards the US in order to ensure its survival.

After all, Obama was not only interested in exploiting the historic opportunity to detach Cuba from Venezuela: Cuba itself had made recent discoveries in 2008 of huge oil reserves off the Caribbean coast. As foreign firms muscled in, the US would neither want to miss out on these opportunities or the chance to detach Havana from Caracas.

As the social experiment in Venezuela collapses, Raul would want to gain foreign investment in Cuban oil, though the current glut of global oil and low prices make tapping it unattractive for corporations at present. Even so, profits, control over oil supplies and uncertainty in the Middle East make it attractive still.

The problem for Cuba is whether Trump in the White House is going to ignore any attempts to link further trade ties and future oil infrastructure development to opening not just the economy but also the political system towards democracy and away from dictatorship. Trump made it clear striking deals with regimes is his business.

After all, even under Obama there was not that much interest in the mysterious death of genuine and principled dissidents such as Oscar Paya; he opposed both Raul's regime and the prospect of renewed US dominance over Cuba's economy and increased poverty through the sort of neoliberal shock therapy that follows 'democracy promotion'.

On the contrary, Washington was more favourable to the usual designer dissidents such as Yoani Sánchez who were more useful in playing a role in advancing US interests because blogging and use of the internet. It is unclear as to whether many are indeed funded by Washington ( as Havana suggests ) or genuinely independent.

Either way, with Trump as President, ironically it could well be that 'democracy promotion' is simply not regarded as important any longer. The Castro regime may have a renewed lease of life, not least when neoliberal free market capitalism has created so many dysfunctional political and economic consequences in the Free World.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Fate of East Aleppo and Failed American Intervention

If insanity is repeating the same failed actions again and again while always expecting a different result, the root of this disorder could be could be said to lie within the deranged thought patterns spawned by fervent wish-thinking and the inability to accept that certain situations are beyond the control of the individual.

In the face of a 24/7 media culture, instant relaying of images from conflict zones  full of civilian casualties and carnage unleashed by deadly air strikes, the immediate impulse from 'liberal interventionists' is that 'something must be done' and that the world's last superpower in the US is best positioned to stop evil.

East Aleppo has become the new focus of voices demanding action as though it was as symbolic in the Syrian Civil War as Guernica was in the Spanish Civil War, which started exactly seventy years ago this year, an epochal conflict between heroic doomed rebels fighting against a fascist dictator who had access to superior weapons and air power.

The fact Western liberal democracies-the US, France and Britain-did very little at the time between 1936 and 1939 to prevent Franco's massacres for geopolitical reasons and because of 'appeasement' has been transferred onto the approach between 2011 and 2016 to the Syrian Conflict. It is, however, a bogus historical analogy.

Scott Lucas, a Professor of International Relations and American Studies at Birmingham University has claimed that President Obama's failure to 'act' in Syria would 'tarnish his legacy' when compared tohis constructive approach to China and Latin America ( the rapprochement with Cuba is singled out for praise in particular ).

Lucas claims there was a failure to do anything when Assad's regime reacted with warplanes from the outset when destroying the insurgency in Homs in early 2012. As he puts it, 'the tenor of this scorched earth policy had been set' while Obama dithered with mere economic sanctions. Of course, in 2011 he was dealing with the Libyan crisis too

What Lucas fails to outline in his condemnation of President Obama's 'inaction' is that key US allies in the Middle East were very far from being 'inactive'. This presupposes a simplistic-and somewhat ignorant-perspective as regards the actual facts and the realities behind brutal conflict, one in which the US has not been 'inactive'

By early 2012, even before Iran and its Shia ally Hezbollah got involved, the Gulf States and Turkey, supported by France ,Britain and the US as 'Friends of Syria', were pledged to co-opting the uprising against Assad that had started in 2011 into a geopolitical struggle to overthrow the Syrian leader.

This was made plain in Clinton and Hague's repetitive soundbite ' Assad Must Go'. As usual, stern and sententious liberal internationalist moralism prevailed and was contradicted by the obvious fact that their allies in the struggle were autocracies such as Saudi Arabia which crushed the movement towards democracy in Bahrain in 2012.

The reason the US and Britain tacitly accepted these brutal actions in Bahrain was to uphold the geopolitical order and maintain energy security and the integrity of the oil rich kingdom against the destabilising effects of a Shia uprising from spreading across the border into Shia areas of Saudi Arabia itself

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, especially Qatar, pumped finance into the coffers of militant Sunni jihadists who had no intention of creating the sort of benign secular democracy Lucas and other liberal interventionists hallucinate would have come out of this civil war if only the US would have used military power to take out Assad's regime.

If the US had done so in 2013, the anarchy would have led to ISIS having a much greater grip over Syria. By then, the Free Syria Army had fragmented into a myriad of competing jihadist militias with fanatical Wahhabi-Salafist ideas. A breakaway faction formed into ISIS in the course of that year and then stormed into Iraq in 2014

Yet the Sunni militias were also fighting the Kurds in 2013 as well as Assad. This is one reason why President Erdogan of Turkey turned a blind eye towards the increasing fanaticism of the Sunni jihadists Lucas regards blandly as all just 'rebels'. If military intervention to remove Assad was justified, then it would also to protect the Kurds.

After all, had Assad been removed in 2013, it is quite likely that sectarian and ethnic cleansing would have increased. Without full scale Western military intervention and troops to occupy Syria, there would likely have been even worse chaos and bloodshed than Libya, another country where 'action' created a worse situation than 'inaction'.

It was only the diversion of the Sunni militias south towards the struggle with Assad in Damascus that gave enough opportunity for the Kurdish YPG militias to withstand the jihadists and also ISIS. In fact, Erdogan claimed back then that Assad and the YPG were aligned against his strategy for promoting democracy in Syria.

Lucas does not even outline what 'doing something' or abandoning 'inaction' would have meant in practice. Syria was not the USA's problem alone to 'solve' by the question of to intervene or not to intervene. It was clear back in 2013 and ever since that only regional and global diplomacy to end a proxy war could hope to end the war.

The age of unilateral interventionism by 'the West' was already over by 2013. There would have been no way either Iran or Russia would have simply allowed the Gulf States to install a Sunni dominated regime that would have conceded a geostrategically vital land to regional rivals with plans also to pump Gulf gas via Turkey towards the EU.

Nor would Qatar have necessarily wanted a democracy, though it claimed it did in Egypt and Libya too, and certainly a despotic Saudi Arabia would have feared that as a 'bad example'. The Syrian conflict was never simply the sort of one that 'decisive intervention' by the US would have been able to end.

On the contrary, a US military intervention could have triggered a greater regional and even global conflagration. Hizbollah was already in Syria. The nuclear deal with Iran had not been struck nor had Iran been drawn back into the fold of diplomacy with the US as regards the fate of the region. Russia had a major naval base at Tarsous.

So the World War Three scenario used by Trump to discredit Hillary Clinton is not the less inaccurate just because Trump is the one saying it. Historians and journalists far more knowledgeable about the Syria conflict than Lucas such as Michael Burleigh, Anatol Lieven and Patrick Cockburn also warned about the dangers.

East Aleppo and Sanaa

During the Presidential election of 2016, Clinton's reckless statement about the need for a 'No-Fly Zone' over Syria ignored the reality that Russia had already since the middle of 2016 implemented one over parts of Syria,most obviously East Aleppo which continues to be bombarded by Russian and Syrian jets.

Apart from the prospect of direct confrontation between Russia and the USA this could well have caused-if she really meant it-, Clinton's foreign policy depended still on the myth,one propagated by Lucas, that there is some predominant 'moderate rebel' force ready to assume power, what he glibly calls 'the opposition',

There is simply no evidence of any such Third Force between Assad and ISIS that could be backed in order to bring a non-sectarian democracy to Syria. In East Aleppo, the Salafi-Jihadists prevail, though this does not justify the crude and indiscriminate ferocity of the air attacks which have led to high civilian casualties.

Despite that, it is hard to see how politicians in the US or 'the West' has much of a moral high ground or any coherent position towards the Middle East. While East Aleppo is focused on, the Saudi bombardment of Sanaa and Houthi areas of Yemen by Saudi aircraft and with Western assistance shows how civilians are sacrificed to geopolitics.

In fact, tacitly supporting Gulf State bombings in Yemen is apiece with Syria. Whereas, Obama has engaged with Iran to draw it in to a regional diplomacy that aims at diminishing the proxy war in Syria and expressing disapproval of Saudi Arabian policy, it needs to sacrifice Sanna in order to keep Riyadh onside and secure its interests.

For Yemen in truth is another theatre in a regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, just as it is in Syria. But the fate of Sanaa and of Yemen has not received as much attention as East Aleppo because it is not politically convenient to draw parallels and because Russia and Iran are thwarting Western geopolitical ambitions in Syria.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Trump's Victory and the Failure of the Neoliberal Global Order

If we accept the annexation of Crimea we will have given up on the rule-based order and it would have consequences elsewhere in the world”-Ex-NATO leaders Rasmussen and Scheffer
Superpower relations were seldom based on a 'rule-based order' during the Cold War and,in practice, it became increasingly apparent this applied in the post 9/11 2001 approach to global power politics pursued by Bush and Blair-'the rules of the game have changed' That led to the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq in 2003.
Putin's annexation of the Crimea in 2014 was an over-exaggerated and illegal response to the reality that Western-led global institutions from the EU and NATO converged, partly through the actions of aggressive neoconservative diplomats, to ratchet up tensions and fears within Russia about NATO expansionism.
Anatol Lieven made the point well , when he argued that US media and leaders and opinion formers have all focused obsessively on Putin as some sort of 'neo-Soviet' threat, a 'brutal dictator' who is actually an authoritarian nationalist whose foreign policy represent large sections of Russian policy elites and society.
The fact is that a great many American do not realistically think Putin is a threat to them when compared with ISIS and Islamist jihadi warriors and their potential supporters in the West. National security elites in the US and in Europe have built up a rather paranoid 'neo-Cold War' approach to Russia that is unnecessary.
However, the failure of post-Cold War elites in the US to build or work for an enduring security architecture within which Russia could be welcomed and respected instead of treated as a vanquished foe, apart from the disastrous impact of Western imposed IMF shock therapy, led Russia to take a more combative stance.
The Iraq War detonated a geopolitical earthquake within the Middle East and destabilised Syria. Time and time again, Western elites have shown utter arrogance in believing force could be used to reshape the world and impose 'values' through knocking out dictators. 
The NATO spearheaded military intervention in Libya was a further catastrophe, as was policy in Syria after 2011. As John Gray accurately puts it with regards to the serial incompetence of liberal elites in foreign policy in the Near East,
'The move to rights-based liberalism has had damaging effects in many areas of policy. A militant ideology of human rights played a part in some of the worst foreign policy disasters of recent times. The ruinous military adventures of the Blair-Cameron era did not fail because there was not enough post-invasion planning. They failed, first, because in overthrowing the despotisms of Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi they destroyed the state in both Iraq and Libya, leaving zones of anarchy in which jihadist forces could operate freely. More fundamentally, they failed because human rights cannot be imposed on societies that have never known them and where most people may not want them.'
Despite three disasters, two of which were directly connected to Hillary Clinton, she learned nothing and maintained, in foreign policy, the basic premises of the neoconservative vision asset out by ideologues such as Wolfowitz both as Secretary of State and in her equally disastrous Presidential election campaign.
While NATO is not involved in Syria, both Ukraine and Syria are interconnected on the global chessboard. Crimea was strategically important to the Russian fleet as is the port at Tarsous in Syria for Russia to play a role in regional geopolitics and control over the flow of oil and gas resources. The US plays the same Great Game.
NATO was originally conceived as a defensive alliance in the Cold War. Steadily in the course of the early 21st century it became more concerned with expansionism towards what Halford MacKinder called 'the Eurasian Heartland' ,the better to ensure Western global hegemony and control over oil and gas flows.
Despite crude propaganda of the sort pumped out by Edward Lucas, Putin did not initiate a 'New Cold War' through using oil and gas as a geopolitical tool. It was implicit even before Putin came to power in the strategies of Bill Clinton's administration and through the influence of geostrategists such as Brzezinski in his The Grand Chessboard ( 1997 ).
The attempt to expand NATO into the post-Soviet sphere was bound to be interpreted as an attempt to encroach into its sphere of influence and to encircle Russia by turning regional elites against it in ways that took no cognisance of Russian interests. Western triumphalism was in the air and 'the End of History'
The counter-response was to to propagate 'an image of Russian expansionism and revisionism' when Putin started to reassert Russian power and react to the aggression of the governments of smaller states such as Saakashvili's Georgia when, emboldened by the idea of NATO protection, he attacked Russia.
For all the rhetoric about 'democracy promotion', the US and NATO elites were prepared to turn a blind eye to illiberal,incompetent, corrupt and authoritarian governments in post-Soviet nations-e.g Ukraine and Georgia-so long as they were pro-NATO enlargement. Double standards did not go unnoticed.
The world is no longer where it was in the 1990s. The US and NATO leaders need to become more realist,seek to avoid trying to propagate 'our values' through force and proselytization in order to avert the real prospect of conflict either with Russia or with China. 
In this sense alone, Trump could well be better than Clinton as President. Clinton was prepared to enforce a 'no-fly zone' over Syria in response to the Russian bombardment of East Aleppo. Yet Russia had already muscled in to the conflict in order to assert its own,meaning the prospect of war with Russia was possible.
Dealing with Russia on a more realist footing would be far better than the pretense that the sphere of Western liberal democratic influence is inexorably expanding the world over and that the global political environment is there for the US-and Britain,France and the EU-to determine. 

Notes on Donald Trump from 2015 and How He Rose to the Top

Some observations on Donald Trump made back in 2015 that seem quite accurate now he is President Elect 

Having stoked up the threat and fear level after 9/11, so as to help advance the national security state and wars from Afghanistan to Iraq and Libya and Syria, politicians such as Hillary Clinton now see what happens when a figure like Trump exploits it for his own agenda by taking the fear to extreme conclusions
Unlike others, Trump did not apparently support the Iraq War which has, in turn, had a major role in destabilising the ME and causing blowback. He seems less keen on military intervention that other Republicans who speak of the need for more war and more aggression in Muslim majority lands. So does 'Hawk Hillary'.
That foreign policy is far more responsible in having created IS and the threat of global jihadism that Trump's more parochial minded demagogy about security measures to be aimed at Muslims. As bad as Trump appears, the others are far more subtly fanatical and as dangerous to world order and security.
........................

In preempting the outrage and 'hurt' that would greet Trump's call for closing borders to Muslims, so as to get to know who is coming in, he claimed 'I. Don't. Care'. The reason is that he appeals to those tired with the excesses of 'political correctness' in Western life and who have no reason to care whether they are liked or not.
After all, a section of progressive left ideologues have since the 1960s labelled those who disagree with them 'bigots', so there is no reason to feel that word means much anymore. Maybe 'bigots' have the right to self identify as a victim group also, unjustly maligned not for what they have done but for who they are.
What Trump has stolen from the radical left is the tactic of of trying to goad the 'system' into a disproportional backlash so as to provoke the unbalanced reaction against them is evidence of the proof that they are right. Given the chorus of kneejerk media reaction to his comments on Muslims, he is succeeding.
The Pentagon has now called Trump a 'threat' to US security and he's been accused of 'playing into the hands of ISIS'. This demagogue is met with a chorus of dimwit politicians who, in turn, play into his hands and those of his fan base who see conspiracies to remove him because he is a threat to a system that threatens them.
When institutions and politicians of 'the establishment' start calling him a 'threat', they make Trump more credible as a 'real alternative', the man who 'speaks his mind' and is persecuted by those who can't stand truth. Their outrage is proof of this as otherwise they would not be so upset.
Trump is clever and knows that the more reaction he provokes then the more he and his growing band of followers can feel they are all martyrs in the struggle against oppressive political correctness. The best strategy would be to ignore him or just point out flatly why he is factually wrong.
Saying he is 'playing into the hands of ISIS' he is just as much a 'real threat' as ISIS,  something that will sound ludicrous given the fear level in the US that successive governments have stoked up and manipulated ever since 9/11, including using the San Bernardino shootings as a 'terrorist' incident.
If the bombings of IS in Syria and Iraq have failed to stop Islamist plotting to murder Americans, then either it is not working, because too restrained, or else these attacks in the US by supposed IS operatives are because 'radical Islam' is a real threat apart from US foreign policy ( in which case migration is a problem ).
If 'radical Islam' is a threat apart from Western foreign policy, then it stands to reason that Trump's attacks on the lack of secure borders would appear to have more logic and no amount of rhetoric from him could make the threat worse ( since 'they' hate us for 'what we are', not 'what we do' in any case, sothe argument runs).
Consequently, when politicians from Hillary Clinton to Obama blame Trump for 'playing into the hands of ISIS' and being divisive, Trump could argue that if some 'Muslims' were not so full of hate anyway, they would hardly be convinced to bomb America just because of his position which calls for secure borders and no more migration.

Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Oil.

“I’ve predicted a lot of things, you have to say, including, ‘Get the oil, take the oil, keep the oil.’ Right? I’ve been saying that for three years, and everybody said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I mean, this is a sovereign country. There is no country! They’ve created Isis. Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama".
As with anything Trump utters, the meaning within the ostensible truths, wrapped up within layers of untruth, require understanding. Trump means that if the US is going to militarily intervene in the Middle East, it should do so purely in order to get the oil because that is what US foreign policy is really about anyhow.
At one level, Trump is indicating that grabbing the oil that ISIS holds is worth 'bombing them to shit' as well as to secure US energy interests. However, Trump does so while hinting at the idea Hilary Clinton and Obama created ISIS, a line that appeals to those who believe in conspiracy theories about the US creating ISIS.
The obvious fact is that it was George Bush's government in 2003 that created the failed and fractured state of Iraq that then created a Shi'ite ascendency and the driving out of Sunnis from positions of power and influence. The oil wealth of Iraq has primarily fallen into the hands of the Shi'ites and Kurds where most of the oil lies.
But what Trump has long indicated is that the oil basis for US foreign policy is purely about 'what we get from it' and not pointless designs to bring civilisation or democracy to people who are either not capable of it or do not respect it. Any war for oil, and Iraq was clearly one, should only be fought if control of the oil is secured.
This is part of Trump's 'no bullshit' stance. If 'the left' or critics of the Iraq War and US presence in the Middle East are going to criticise the US for basing its foreign policy on energy security and control over global oil reserves, then it makes no sense not to be candid about it and get the best deal for the US.
On Libya, Trump made plain,
'Qadaffi is dead and gone. So what? We have spent more than $1 billion on the Libya operation. And what are we getting in return? A huge bill, that's what. It's incredible how foolish the Obama administration is. Libya has enormous oil reserves. When the so-called "rebels" came to NATO (which is really the U.S.) and asked for help to defeat Qadaffi, we should have said, "Sure, we don't like the guy either. We will help you take out Qadaffi. But in exchange, you give us 50 percent of your oil for the next twenty-five years to pay for our military support and to say thank you for the United States doing what you could never have done on your own." The "rebels" would have jumped at the offer and said yes. 
 Imagine the amount of oil we could have secured for America. Our policy should be: no oil, no military support.'
The open ruthlessness of Trump's foreign policy would appear to tap into the feeling among US taxpayers that they deserve real returns on their dollars. It also dovetails with the idea that it is pointless to avoid a more aggressive pursuit of US oil interests because Muslims are not going to like the US whatever it does.
Trump clearly has his potential uses to the US oil lobby and advocates unfettered drilling no matter where. With shale oil onstream, Trump's logic is that OPEC's power should be broken and the US should get more going in order to be able to dictate the oil price. Iran, as a potential oil competitor not under US control, is the main threat.
Despite what is said, Trump is within the same tradition of pyschopathological US nationalism as George Bush but without the 'bullshit' about democracy and human rights which get in the way. Returning to a more mercenary approach to grabbing resources, backing dictators or waging wars openly for oil is considered better.
It is hard to see how Trump's policy has much diplomatic gravitas to it but, then again, this is a Republican presidential race and he would have time later to alter his stance to be less open about what US foreign policy should be 'really' about. But he is leading the way in showing how being 'candid' about 'our interests' can win support.

Written June 2016

Sunday, 13 November 2016

US Elections 2016 : Donald Trump's Victory

 'I can act differently for different people'.-President Elect Donald Trump.

'He’s a petulant, ignorant child, strangely promoted above the grownups'-Writer Ian McEwan

In November 2016 Donald Trump is President Elect. The fact McEwan do not like him is irrelevant. I don't like him either but he simply isn't stupid as his whole folksy posture is one big act. He never had that accent or used words like 'yuge' or 'bigly' in the past. Not even when he acted the role of ruthless businessman in The Apprentice.

One reason for Trump's victory is that he communicated in very easy conversational and the sort of bar room language that seemed very different from Obama's intelligent and far more thoughtful use of language. Part of that was to show the US had an intelligent leader after George W Bush and his 'catastrophic diplomacy' ( Brzezinski ).

Of course, Trump himself is not 'dumb'. Early interviews going back to the 1980s reveal him as well and softly spoken, using plain language without the raucous New York accent and intonation he adopted when he became a reality TV star or when advertising 'Trump Steaks'. President Trump is a fictional creation made real-by Trump.

In fact, Trump has a sort of cunning and ability to act that shows a sinister clown-like form of intelligence, if not of a higher sort ( certainly nothing in the way of wisdom or moral intelligence ). In truth, he's a pyschopathological type, even though Clinton too was also a liar and a sociopath with mediocre abilities.

But Trump pitched his 'personality' in the market perfectly and knew his audience and shaped himself to represent their unconscious fears,anger and alienation from 'the mainstream'. He was folksy enough to make himself one of the people but appeared clever enough as a businessman to be the 'man to get things done'.

After eight years of Obama and his laboured and pained explanations in foreign policy and seeming failures and humiliations in foreign policy, Trump pitted himself as the 'no bullshit' candidate who was 'telling it like it is' without 'political correctness'. A sharp businessman to get America working again.

As is said in the US 'any solution is better than no solution'. The world in 2016 is incredibly complex, but many electors would seem to have had enough of leaders like Obama over-complicating things in lawyer style speeches or else by calling Islamic State supposedly 'politically correct' names like Daesh instead of 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'

Trump has built on the culture of fear that has grown up in the US since 9/11 in this regard. Both Al Qaida and ISIS have been bigged up as 'civilisational struggles' and 'existential conflicts' by politicians such as Bush, Cheney and Clinton-who also supported the torture of 'terrorist suspects'. McEwan has put this context down the memory hole.

Trump's position is that this is all true but that previous administrations and politicians have simply been too cowardly and weak- or else greedy and self-interested- to put American's interests first. They cause havoc in the Middle East, then they let just anybody in from that region, endangering Americans.

One interesting thing about Trump is that he was prepared to break the oil taboo and state that he only cared about 'grabbing the oil' through striking deals or, if necessary, wars which dispensed with pointless and futile efforts to install democracies or promote human rights in lands where there is no history of them.

In practice, this means, as the future looks certain to be one of pyschopathological wars to take resources, that Trump is looking forward to a more 'realist' and brutal policy in which half-measures are hypocritical and only the use of total force when and where necessary would be both successful and win over 'the people'.

In that sense, Trump is a crude devotee of Machiavelli. His admiration for Putin lies not in wanting somehow to collude with the Russians, as Clinton insinuated, as though a 'traitor' but in standing firm for US interests alone and not for more destructive and self-defeating attempts to 'change the world' for its own good.

This 'no-nonsense' approach was part of his appeal. It is not that his fan base and other electors have foreign policy at the forefront of their minds but that the obsession with meddling, hectoring and lecturing everybody both at home and abroad with human rights nostrums became tiresome and abroad led to pointless conflicts.

Against Hillary Clinton, Trump was effective in exploiting the revulsion a great number of Americans had against the Hypocrite, the one who prates about human rights, the 'need to intervene' against Assad while having 'created' ISIS, the one who advocates 'Love trumps Hate' while being fond of war.

The old tricks of triangulation pursued by Clinton, posing as the US nationalist while advocating US led globalisation for all, advocating tolerance and 'diversity', while being prepared to use force to impose US and so global 'values' failed, as Trump was astute enough to 'cut through the crap' and put America first.

Overall, there are many reasons why Trump has become President. Certainly fielding Hillary Clinton as his rival was the biggest mistake, as was the desire to laugh at him as a buffoon, something which Trump may well have encouraged so as to consolidate his outsider status and one of the real people made good and so sneered at.

US Election 2016 : Slavoj Zizek and Trump as a Force for Change.

Trump's election as next President for 2017 does not mean that progress is history but is part of the cunning of History in it is necessary to destroy the destroyers such as Clinton and the establishment Democrats , the better to blow apart the integument of the existing two party Republican and Democratic system.

Globally famous thinker and left-wing guru, Slavoj Zizek believed in a Trump victory which would force the two existing parties to change and that this would be better than the fake progressive Clinton. She only represents 'inertia'. He seems to think a Trump victory would throw a spanner in the works an create new political realities.

Zizek appears to think it will intensify the contradictions within capitalism and bring about a truly confrontational scenario both with the US and abroad and so new authentic revolutionary possibilities. Out of the wreckage of the old systems will come something new and more vital instead of the continuation of the old moribund system.

On the other hand, maybe Zizek is just a rasping lunatic who keeps rubbing his nose and has been snorting something. After all, out of the wreckage of the old system can come just more wreckage. But that would return history to a base point from which there could only be progress again and where people would be less bored.

US Election 2016 Trump and Farage Do Doublethink

'It’s hard to find much humour, either, in the picture of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage grinning as they meet at Trump Tower, the interim Ukip leader having secured a meeting with the president-elect ahead of any British politician. ( Guardian UK )
George Orwell laughed at the absurdity and aggressive stupidity of totalitarianism during its darkest epoch in the 1940s. That was in the shadow of World War Two which had just killed millions of European and with another world war seeming imminent. Even so, 1984 is a satire that is very funny in places, though it's gallows humour.

The picture of Farage and Trump in a gold lift in New York is still grimly amusing when it's understood that Farage flew to New York after the man who rejected the EU gave a speech on TalkRadio from Spain. There he claimed he was 'the catalyst' for the downfall of the existing order, part of the wider global nationalist revolution he has spearheaded.

Farage modestly claims credit for helping Trump win the 2016 US Election and so ensuring his role in toppling,
“the Blairites, the Clintonites, the Bushites and all these dreadful people who work hand in glove with Goldman Sachs and everybody else, have made themselves rich and ruined our countries”.
That's a curious position to take while grinning in a photo shoot with a billionaire property mogul and tax evader whose transition team for the 2017 Presidency contains three Trump family members and five millionaires including Steven Mnuchin, a Trump fundraiser who worked on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs and left with over $40 million.

Orwell satirised such politics as doublethink, 'the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.' Farage and Trump are both of the elites against the elites they are against and chose to be in the name of 'the people' who are to be mobilised as part of this oligarchical power game.

True, the global consequences of a Trump Presidency could be terrifying if he is not contained. Those thinking he might be less aggressive than Clinton, just because he hinted he was against the Iraq War, fail to see that Trump is obsessed-reality TV star that he is-with doing anything to retain popularity and his ratings.

In foreign policy, Trump's administration could mean carpet bombing swathes of Iraq to destroy ISIS. It looked likely to mean torpedoing the nuclear agreement with Iran, so creating greater tensions between it and Saudi Arabia and consequently escalating the potential for all out proxy conflict across the Middle East.

Trump is criticism of previous US governments was not that they were too aggressive but that they were 'losers' and lacked the ruthlessness to be effective, either by supporting dictators who could be useful or by simply going in and 'grabbing the oil' rather than promoting such niceties as democracy to savages..

Trump also has to have an aggressive posture against China as it is blamed for eclipsing the US as a Global Power, for its trade prowess and products for decimating the US industrial base. His slogan is 'Make America Great Again' means he has to deliver that by whatever means possible if he wants to get re-elected.

And he has shown he will do or say anything to get power. The question remains whether he is really just the ultimate flip-flopping populist who will not want to really disturb the status quo that much or whether he really he is a total sociopath who is prepared to do anything to advance the profit and prestige of his cronies.

The US could well become a a toxic 'managed democracy', authoritarian and populist, with power concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The ultimate irony would be if the US was less interested in a post-Brexit Britain or indeed the EU as it fragments further and Farage is considered expendable. Of what use would he then be to Trump ?

Nostalgia for Blair and his Third Way

'We all had things we disagreed with. ..For many it was Iraq – but we should remember that was born of idealistic hubris, not malignancy, a belief that we could overthrow fascist dictatorships and install humane liberal democracies in the world’s trouble spots.'
Hubris is malignant whether or not, as with the drive towards the Iraq War, it was claimed that the war was being pursued for 'idealistic' reasons. The war was sold as one necessary for Britain's and the world's security because an oil rich dictator had developed 'weapons of mass destruction'.

Hubris is something usually possessed by one individual with aspirations to Divine Greatness and the 'we' that followed Blair was prepared to believe and bolster everything that he pursued because their careers depended on being 'on message' and to amplify official propaganda ( a.k.a "public diplomacy").

Akehurst's surreal attempt to rewrite history has elements of a Stalinist apologetic in it in claiming things were quite the opposite of what they were and trying to depend on people not having a memory. New Labour never claimed to be 'socialist' and depended on a charismatic leader and political choreography.

Akehurst is still comically in autospin mode in trying to pretend New Labour was 'socialist'. It was explicitly a Third Way between 'statist socialism' and unregulated capitalism and really that meant accepting neoliberal capitalism ( deregulated markets, debt fueled lifestyles etc ) and prating about the need for 'society'.

In practice, that meant all the unpleasant authoritarian politics of the 1960s and 1970s radical left combined with the most unpleasant and destabilising aspects of capitalism, in particular marketising nearly every branch of public and private life and promoting a shallow cult of egotistical consumerism and greed.

The totalitarian-lite style entrance of Blair into Downing Street in 1997, the spin and attempts at mendacious mass media manipulation were systemic to the Blair regime, the obsession with 'triangulation' and the trend of casual 'sofa government' led directly towards the catastrophe of the Iraq War.

The ignorance of history-"it's time to move on"-the sheer mediocrity and shallowness of the entire Blair Project and the utter stupidity of Blair himself,the lack of statesmanship and any grasp of reality, was revealed completely with Iraq war. It was not a "mistake" but a systemic outcome of the New Labour regime.

The idea 'fascist' dictatorships-Saddam's was actually more Stalinist-could be overthrown and 'humane liberal democracies installed' makes it sound as though 'regime change' is as simplistic as 'installing' a new software package or a new toilet block in a building. It shows how unreal, in retrospect, the Blair era was.
'Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer retro Labour from 20 years ago as my model of what a “social movement” or a political party should look like'.
There is nothing 'old fashioned' about it,it is just that the Blairites are as obsolete as as a Ford Mondeo or any other consumer product long past its sell by date and whose 'appeal' lay primarily in mass marketing strategies and selling Blair, a product of his time clearly on the scrapheap of history within his lifetime.

Whatever one thinks of Jeremy Corbyn, he is a socialist with sincere beliefs and, as such, his rise as Labour leader reflects a complete rejection of Blair and his messianic left style of doing politics that he adapted from Margaret Thatcher, one he thought he could pull off in a more complicated post-Cold war world.

Whether Corbyn has much to offer rather than a reheated version of 1980s radical Metropolitan Labour policies remains to be seen. In foreign policy anyway, he seems to believe the Middle East can be 'solved' by what Britain does or does not do as much as Blair, with the difference he is not 'imperialist'.

The Syrian Endgame: Why Russian Participation is Essential to End the War in Syria.

August 2016

Natalie Nougayrède's position on Syria is bizarre but revealing. The assumption is that if 'the west' does not 'do' something about Assad and Russia bombing northern Syria and is seen to be tacitly aligned with them, then this would spur on 'radicalisation' in the west. If this is the case, western Europe is in deep trouble.

After all, the very same voices demanding 'liberal intervention' in Syria are also the same ones aligning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 'open door' policy to migrants/refugees from the very parts of Syria where Sunni Arabs are fleeing not so much from ISIS alone but more from Assad.

If these assumptions hold true and the West is seen to be doing a 'dirty deal' with Assad, it would only be a question of time before a number of Islamist oriented Syrians turn on their host societies in Europe or join with those already 'radicalised' or espousing jihadi ideologies for 'betraying' them through their foreign policy.

Such an assessment would then make 'empathy', and so the acceptance of huge numbers of refugees or migrants, suicidal for Europe if they are, in addition, not successfully integrated quickly-and there is no guarantee of that, not least should the EU economies founder further because of a global economic crisis.

In which case, the best course of action would be that which actually ends the war as quickly as possible. Nougayrède offers nothing practical other than 'we must be seen to be doing something' and maintaining the line 'Assad must go'. But even if Assad were 'to go', the consequence would be that ISIS would be strengthened.

Nougayrède seems to believe that 'virtue signalling' could be effective. All it can do is make the West look even more 'hypocritical' is showing that it 'really cares' while,in practice, the only option is, in fact, to tacitly align with Assad and Russia to finish off ISIS and compel Sunni Arab politicians to accept diplomacy.

The Sunni jihadist groups in Northern Syria are not 'moderate rebels' and there is little chance of creating a Third Force between ISIS and Assad on the battlefield. With Turkey having rejected support for Sunni jihadists in the region, they are finished anyway and successive attempts to create a Third Force have failed.

As the war in Syria potentially reaches its gory endgame around Aleppo, the maintenance of both the Syrian and Iraqi states, bolstered by Russia and the USA respectively, would require a peace-once ISIS ( and the jihadists ) have been defeated-that creates autonomous zones for northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

The Sunni Arabs require this because they would have no reason to trust Assad and the promise of this would provide both a homeland for the refugees to return to. The Sykes-Picot border drawn up between Syria and Iraq in 1916 is effectively finished: accepting this would take the sting out of Sunni resentment.

Before official peace talks come into being, there has already been the danger that the Kurds would unilaterally declare Rojava an independent or autonomous state as it did in March 2016. The US had to criticise this to keep Turkey onside as Erdogan has become increasingly concerned about Kurdish irredentism.

Even so, there is no reason why that could not be dealt with later but only as and when the diplomacy hammers out the peace settlement. Doing so before would fracture Iraq and Syria and encourage no end to the fighting. Such 'moderate' Sunni forces as exist need to be mobilised to fight ISIS and assert control over Sunni territories.

Nougayrède seems clueless as to basic geopolitical realities and living in a 1990s timewarp like Hillary Clinton ). Russian participation in this strategy is vital because only Moscow could persuade Tehran to reach a regional peace agreement to end the proxy war and without Russia, Assad may not want to cede control over territory.

By working in strategic partnership with Russia, not only do the Western Powers stand far more chance of ending the war in and over Syria, they would show they respect Russia's international status and this would assist in lessening tensions across the Black Sea in another strategic energy corridor-Ukraine.

But, of course, much Western policy at present is based on virtue signalling and an inability to come to terms with the passing of the US unipolar and hyper power era that briefly existed between the end of the Cold War in 1990 and the onset of the disastrous Iraq War. Even if the neoconservatives are rejected, the arrogance of US 'exceptionalism' has not.

Heaven Knows He's Miserable Now: Morrissey and Politics

“Liberal educators such as George Galloway and Nigel Farage.....they are loathed by the BBC because both men respect equal freedom for all people, and they are not remotely intimidated by the BBC...( Khan ) eats halal-butchered beings, and talks so quickly that people can’t understand him..that suits the British media perfectly.” -Morrissey 2016.
"I nearly voted for UKIP. I like Nigel Farage a great deal. His views are quite logical – especially where Europe is concerned..."-Morrissey 2013
There is no reason why people should expect incisive or idealistic political commentary from "alternative" or "counter-mainstream" pop stars, even-or especially-from those given to adolescent posing as "alienated", "misunderstood" or the bit-of-an-existentialist "outsider", the  quirky "lone individual".

Morrissey is clearly still locked into that pose which is why he has some regard for Galloway and Farage and it probably is part of his mindset now. Beyond forty, those who put such a high premium on being idols in their youth inevitably become boring and do not develop that much having reached their prime long ago.

Partly, his political stances are all about Him and a projection of his image. Both Galloway and Farage are "alternative" and Morrissey has complained about Britain changing out of recognition for the worse, which is why he may also have sympathy for two leading Brexit campaigners who were young in the 1980s.

By "liberal educators", Morrissey probably means not that they are liberals in his view but that they are showing "liberals in the mainstream" that there is an "alternative" to their boring orthodoxies and the forces changing the Britain he remembers nostalgically and that once made him a cutting-edge pop star.

This was made clear even a just under decade ago back in a "controversial" NME interview in 2007,
"The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away."
"With the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because, although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears".
"If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won't hear an English accent. You'll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent."
From a late career perspective, his comments on immigration and UKIP are probably partly sincere, though he benefits from the controversy in order to gain publicity and, when attacked, to gain sympathy from the ageing fan base who might likewise be piqued at the thought of themselves becoming obsolete too as time passes.

The one recurrent theme is boredom. The 1980s was a decade that compares favourably with the 2000s for having better pop music that kept the United Kingdom at the forefront of global fame and fortune and that was uniquely British. It's the end of that identity he appears to be mourning and melancholy about.

Pop stars are often not completely unlike modern politicians in that they need to tap in to the 'spirit of the times' and understand what messages their audience are receptive to. In a sense they can be just as manipulative in that regard. They can have messiah complexes and dictatorial tendencies, being supreme egotists.

Morrissey is one such example and he identifies with these lone individuals put on a pedestal and always in the spotlight. He likes Galloway and Farage because they provoke a reaction and defy convention. Farage was once rumoured to have been a punk and Brexit did, in fact, cause some 'Anarchy in the UK'.

Galloway repackaged his image from being a hardline Clydeside communist into a passionate idealist in a cynical world of warmongers and profiteers; they had betrayed the authentic traditions of the real left and had become Blairite clone politicians who blended one into another in a bland mass of mediocrity.

Galloway's autobiography and statement of his political credo drew on John Lennon's Imagine with the title I'm Not the Only One. Of course, it is handy for Morrissey to have shown support for Farage and Galloway . So he cannot be pinned down as 'right wing' and 'racist' because Galloway gets the Muslim vote.

Morrissey's 'politics' is mostly about image projection and a genuine sulking dislike for a world that changed too quickly. There is an aspect of that in the UKIP vote and, until Corbyn rejuvenated the Labour Party, on the left too. Galloway was a solo act thought to have alone carried on the tradition of 'real' socialism after its 1980s defeats.

So many of Morrissey's political riffs are a consequential of generational struggles with unwanted changes, a talent for self-promotion, without much in the way of any new music to accompany it, and the fear that the world that made him and that he made something of through music has largely gone and vanished.

Morrissey is definitive English social type, a misanthropic and sarcastic Mancunian who grew up in a specific time and place that has moved on, leaving him obsolete.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Britain's Labour Party and the "Splitters"

The wrangling over 'party unity' and a 'unity candidate' for the British Labour Party is futile. The membership, under rules drawn up by the previous Labour leader for leadership elections and accepted by the party, appear most likely to vote Corbyn again. The PLP wants Owen Smith because most MPs do not want Corbyn.

For all the accusation of who are 'the splitters', the fact is the party is permanently split and needs to implode no less than the Conservative party does. This could well be quite possible too once PM Theresa May fails to 'deliver' on Brexit while the UK and European economies stagnate and greater mass migration raises the stakes.

Britain needs a new political system to be able to absorb burgeoning discontent within and the two-and-a-half party Westminster model is incapable of representing the plurality of political opinion and forces within the UK. Posturing over who 'really represents' the 'soul' of Labour is utterly pointless and could well continue.

The rumours of a split that McDonnell accuses Smith of plotting could well be true, though he is using them to suggest Smith is trying to destroy the party if he and his supporters get their way and so accuse him of disloyalty. But it is impossible to see how most anti-Corbyn MPs could ever suddenly become loyal to him.

The majority of the PLP has spent the summer after Brexit-and were scheming for some time before-trying to bring Corbyn down. If ( when ) Corbyn wins again, they are not going to spin around 360 degrees and start proclaiming undying loyalty to a real leader. Most of the shadow cabinet resigned after Brexit.

If anything these MPs, mostly proteges of the Blair regime and of Brown's administration, would consider 'reclaiming' Labour. But if they lose that , then surely they are going either to have to resign en masse or would be deselected as part of a mass purge. Or else they would just have to mutiny and form a new SDP.

If that was possible, how it would work is uncertain. The biggest opposition party-the new SDP-would vote its leader and Corbyn would be leader of a rump Labour Party. In fact, the PLP is already mostly a liberal-left party rather than 'Labour' in the older sense. The only reason they want 'Labour' is because it is a recognised 'brand'.

As mostly careerists, and clones of the Blair regime's epoch of power, a great many MPs are mostly obsessed with keeping their positions and careers. If they had any genuine integrity, they would simply be prepared to renounce the party they no longer control and, once Smith is defeated, set up a new party. There is little alternative.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

US and NATO in Afghanistan 2016 : Still a War of Energy Geopolitics in the New Great Game .

The Afghanistan War drags on and while the West has managed to extricate itself from a war in which it would pay a publicly unacceptable blood price-and shifted that on to Western trained Afghan troops-there seems to be no explanation as to what it is that the US and NATO are actually trying to achieve in 2016.

One rationale for the US and NATO to remain in Afghanistan in 2016 after official "drawdown" is to defend a central war ambition that was once derided as a "conspiracy theory" -the construction of the TAPI pipeline. The war was never quite only about the stated purposes, from 'keeping Western streets safe' to women's rights.

The gas pipeline plans were mentioned by antiwar critics from the outset back in 2001-2002. However,the way many saw the Al Qaida terrorist attacks as 'allowed' by the Bush administration so as to provide an excuse for sinister 'neocons' such as Dick Cheney to justify invading Afghanistan to build a pipeline led to ridicule.

It was absurd to suggest the US entered Afghanistan just so Cheney's Halliburton company-or other big corporations-could possibly benefit from the construction of what was then known as the UNOCAL pipeline. These theories thus were said to represent 'emotive' arguments that the West was being 'imperialist' against Islamic lands.

Yet even the very idea the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan could ever about long-term economic and political goals was dismissed by the BBC's Malcolm Haslett in October 2001 as not adding up because as regards 'export pipelines' it ' it simply is not true that Afghanistan is the main alternative to Russia'. 

Haslett opined 'very few western politicians or oil companies have taken Afghanistan seriously as a major export route - for the simple reason that few believe Afghanistan will ever achieve the stability needed to ensure a regular and uninterrupted flow of oil and gas'. Yet, if anything was a mere theory, it was Haslett's rationalisation.

Haslett , of course, seems to have taken what politicians said at face value and ignored the very obvious flaw in his argument. If politicians did not believe Afghanistan 'will ever' stabilise Afghanistan ,then that would have come as news to them given the emphasis they were putting on 'nation-building' even back then.

Haslett represented a BBC that was failing in its job to scrutinise the claims of the powerful, something that was later revealed in its failure to challenge the absurd propaganda and spin that accompanied Tony Blair's drive for justifying war in Iraq in late 2002 to March 2003. Oil too was written off as not important.

The idea the occupation of Afghanistan did not have as an aim the construction of a pipeline-because a southern pipeline through the Caucasus was the main ambition at the time-ignores the extent to which the Afghan pipeline was seen as much as a geopolitical interest and development project as a potential source of gas for the West.

All this would have come as a surprise to the Afghan energy minister at that time who freely admitted to Lutz Klevemann, when interviewed, that much of the interest the Western powers were showing in Afghanistan was connected to the clear geopolitical benefits that a trans-Afghan pipeline would bring.

It is recorded in Klevemann's The New Great Game Blood and Oil in Central Asia ( 2003). The collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the creation of new oil rich post-Soviet republics in Central Asia led the US to plan asserting its influence in Eurasia and so to replace Britain's old imperial role in the region in the late nineteenth century.

With Russia trying to reassert its influence once more too, as the Russia Commonwealth of Independent States, Afghanistan occupied a vital piece of strategic real estate as a 'land bridge' connecting Central Asia with the Indian Subcontinent. As such a pipeline between Turkmenistan and India would have great benefits.

For a start a trans-Afghan pipeline would help provide essential energy supplies to Pakistan,a nation with a burgeoning population and so help both it align towards the West rather than with either Iran to the west or else China; this would be part of a broader geostrategy of 'containing' China as well as drawing India away from Russia.

So even before the TAPI project became formalised, this time without the Taliban as in was in the late 1990s, in the period between 2005-2006 ( and it has been set back many times by the hazardous security environment ), it was known that it was a strategic interest that would require a US military presence in Central Asia.

A gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Pakistan and then India, with outlets to the sea and for LNG exports would provide much needed revenue to rebuild the failed Afghan state. However, for TAPI to be secure it needs US and NATO to train forces capable of protecting the pipeline against  insurgents such as the ousted Taliban.

The TAPI pipeline finally started construction in 2016, just over a year since the media recycled official claims of a US-NATO 'drawdown' in Afghanistan. But the clue is in the wording of 'public diplomacy'. 'Drawdown' means in fact reduction and not withdrawal which very much mean to 'draw out' as a final removal of troops.

That has not happened and was never going to and not just because of a 'resurgent Taliban' that has, once more in 2016, mean that the withdrawal ( touted before the end of 2014 as 'drawdown ) has been slowed down. Reduction in troops numbers, in any case, would not mean closing the colossal Bagram Air Base.

The reason is that Central Asia is so strategically important in the New Great Game and because of its great fossil fuel wealth. As such it is set to play a role as one region that could ensure the energy security of NATO states and for it to influence major regional players by offering an alternative locus of power to Russia, Iran and China in Central Asia,

So the war is set to go on indefinitely precisely because the stakes are so high. As with largely oil free Syria, and the need to rollback ISIS, Afghanistan is an important land because of the resources in states adjacent to it and because pipelines through it would connect to huge energy markets. Control over them is a strategic goal.

As Euronews reported in December 2015 ( TAPI: A Pipeline for Peace and Stability )
'TAPI’s progress may be blighted by deadly regional conflicts. The pipeline will pass a dangerous route through Afghanistan’s Kandahar province and the neighboring Quetta region of Pakistan – the heartland of the Taliban militancy.
India’s Vice President, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, told euronews the partners are aware of the challenges that lie ahead: “We must recognise that the forces of violence and disruption can no longer be allowed to threaten the quest for economic development and security of our people.”
Daud Shah Sabah, Afghanistan’s Mines and Petroleum minister said: “We have successfully implemented the security structure of the biggest mining project in Afghanistan. It’s successfully done. We have that model and we will implement it in TAPI as well.”
“We hope that the terrorist groups that are coming from outside into Afghanistan will be expelled by the communities once the community has an asset there for them, which is the TAPI pipeline,” he added.
In order to diversify its natural gas markets, Ashgabad has already reached tentative agreements with Turkey, Japan, and South Korea. The European Union, which is looking to decrease its dependency on Russia, also expects to start receiving natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan by 2019.'
It ought to be remembered too that Helmland ,a key opium growing region controlled by the Taliban and the region through which the TAPI pipeline is set to run. The energy security dimension of this war and the geopolitics is seldom mentioned in the media, though US State Department press conferences state plainly it as an aim.

It has long been recognised that the Taliban is not one force and that there divisions within it that could be exploited so as to bring about a negotiated ceasefire between more 'moderate' Taliban factions and Kabul. This would be the only way in which provinces such as Helmland could be 'pacified'.

So long as the Taliban are excluded from having a role in Afghanistan's political process they have every interest in thwarting Kabul and its economic development projects, not least as the futile 'War on Drugs' crusade in the 2000s alienated poor farmers and pushed them towards the Taliban without reducing the demand for drugs in the West.

It's profits from the lucrative drugs trade, from heroin trafficked through corrupted states from Central Asia through into Europe via the Balkans, that enables the Taliban to keep up its armed insurgency and control the pipeline route regions. That, in turn, raises what's at stake for the US-NATO and Kabul in continuing the war without end.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Britain and Iraq 2003: Blair Joins a War for Energy Security


"We would need to handle this carefully and ensure it was confidential to avoid charges of oil motivations"-UK diplomat in a declassified memo February 2003.

"...the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it"- Prime Minister Tony Blair, TV interview February 2003.

 '....human kind / Cannot bear very much reality- T S Eliot, Four Quartet.

One of the problems that arises whenever the causes of the Iraq War of 2003 are discussed as a war for oil is the way some anti-war activists describe it as being ‘all about oil’. This is usually taken to mean that Blair lied about there being higher motives or defence reasons for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

According to this view, peddled by crowd pleasing populists from the film maker Michael Moore to many in the useless British Stop the War Coalition leadership, it was all about enriching corporations, Dick Cheney and Halliburton, the oilmen and oily spinmasters such as Blair. This then, in turn, is used as 'proof' it is a 'conspiracy theory'.

When the Iraq War is-and was in 2003-depicted as 'all about oil' in such a manner, as though there were sinister vampire-like evil capitalists drooling over carving up Iraq to make profits, it becomes easier for those like Blair to discredit and dismiss the very real role oil played as part of the determination to go to war.

The first thing that requires understanding, as far as Britain was concerned, is that the Bush administration was intent on invading Iraq after 9/11. Al Qaida in the Middle East was feared to provide a potential threat to oil infrastructure and the ‘strategic chokepoints', the sea lanes around the Arab Peninsula through which oil tankers move.

Blair must have known-and in fact did know-that protection of oil supplies was a vital British interest primarily in order to keep oil prices low and head off the possibility of price volatility or a sudden oil price spike. This threat, in Blair’s thinking, could have been caused either by Al Qaida or by Saddam Hussein or by instability in Saudi Arabia.

The Chilcot Report declassified a February 2003 memo in which a U.K. diplomat claimed the British government should "start preliminary work to ensure U.K. companies are well-placed to pick up contracts in the aftermath" of the war. But that only confirms that there had been high level talks to control Iraq’s oil for reasons left unstated.

As early as December 2001, Mark Allen of MI6 wrote a top secret memo with a section entitled Why Move ? It advocated Saddam had best go. Allen, who also brokered Blair's deal with Colonel Gaddafi in 2004, and later became a special adviser for BP, claimed 'The removal of Saddam Hussein is a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies'.

Yet Blair’s decision to join the US invasion of Iraq was not so much about him serving the interests of BP or Shell. He no doubt 'believed' by involving British oil corporations in the reconstruction of Iraq, he could fulfil the primary goal that the US neoconservatives had also sought-the breaking of the power of OPEC.

Fears of Saudi Instability.

Increased production from Iraq would also mean falling oil prices for the entitled consumer in the West. After the defeat of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Saddam in the First Gulf War in 1990, the US became very much more clearly the hegemonic power in the Middle East with a role in protecting oil supplies.

Economic globalisation and the huge surge in demand, with ever greater economic growth and the benefits of the US-China relationship bearing results, led to an age of profligate fuel use as symbolised in the popularity of the 'gas guzzling' American SUV Hummers ( these had originally been military vehicles in the 1990 conflict ).

However, this entire model of Western led globalisation came under attack with the upsurge of Islamist radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East. This was a consequence of the failure of unaccountable autocratic states to guarantee previous levels of economic well-being from oil profits and the pressure of huge levels of population growth.

The Saudi oil fortunes of the 1970s was diminished by the need to maintain the extravagant lifestyles of fifteen thousand royal prices as well as buy off discontent by spending huge amounts of cash both on state-of-the-art Western weaponry ( primarily American and British ) in order to keep them occupied and loyal to the regime.

The second looming concern for the US was that China was becoming not only an emerging economic superpower in partnership with the US but translating that into military power in ways that could threaten America's global hegemony. This was clear in 2000 before Al Qaida's attack on the WTC in New York 'changed everything'.

Apart from 9/11 2001 and the threat of Al Qaida, in the period between 1997 and 2003, Saudi Arabia had attempted to reassert its leadership over OPEC against overproducing Venezuela by flooding the market with oil so as to lower prices. Unfortunately, this coincided with the decline in demand from Asia following the financial crisis of 1998.

 Tony Blair Fears Oil Price Volatility in the Run Up to the Outbreak of War.

By 2000 Saudi attempts to cut production and increase the price overshot the mark and drove prices up to thirty dollars a barrel. In Britain one consequence of that was the fuel protests of that year when road hauliers went on strike and threatened to tarnish New Labour’s pledge there would be no return to the economic instability of the 1970s.

One of the documents declassified by the Chilcot Report shows how Blair in March 2002 was also concerned at oil price stability if the US embarked on military action. "Oil prices. This is my big domestic worry. We must concert with the U.S. to get action from others to push the price back down. Higher petrol prices really might put the public off".

Hence Blair made the pledge that ‘ We will be with you’ whatever'. It is still not known what exactly Blair said to Bush at the Crawford Meeting in Texas in the following month in April 2002. The Chilcot Report omitted this. What is a fact is they initiated the US-UK Energy Dialogue which stressed increased oil supply from the Gulf as vital.

The idea the Iraq War was ‘all about oil’ to benefit corporations taps into populist  economic globalisation. Yet it explains everything and nothing. Blair himself had serious doubts about whether a war could ensure stability of oil prices. The Chilcot papers reveal he had started to panic by 2004 when reconstruction was delayed.

It isclear Blair regarded himself primarily as an advocate. For him, presentation was all because, even if oil was bound to be an important part of Iraq's 'nation-building' as a democratic model state, what mattered was success alone. He claimed he 'did not have a reverse gear'. Once 'delivered' from Saddam, things could only get better.

In this respect Blair's ideology was crudely utilitarian as well as implicitly authoritarian. Embittered by the failure of Labour Party among voters in the 1980s and of his youthful ideals, 'the people', whether in Britain or Baghdad were to be less interested in politics but in consumerism, material goods and in being given 'what they really want'.

Blair's banality and in being utterly out of his depth on foreign policy, indeed as a statesman, is shown by the fact that when he suspected the occupation was going badly he knew “If it falls apart, everything falls apart in the region.”. Warned before March 2003 on this, Blair, had no idea what to do when it did.

In fact, the private correspondence with Washington revealed by the Chilcot Papers shows Blair putting forward 'three point plans' that called for speeding up rebuilding work, ramping up security in Baghdad and, bizarrely ( but true to his banal character ), “putting on TV things people want to watch – local soaps, football etc”.

Blair could have stayed out of Iraq. But it was a war of choice because in the run up to March 2003 he had decided he really 'believed' that if the US was sure it could make the war 'work' to short order, then they had to be 'right'. But whether it is liked or not, the chilling reality is that energy security was a crucial consideration for him.

The Chilcot Report has very much downplayed the role of oil because ultimately, unless there is a movement away from the dependence upon Middle Eastern oil to power the global economy, wars to secure access to oil and gas, as well as protect pipeline routes, are going to become a recurrent feature of Anglo-American foreign policy.

David Cameron, in response to the Chilcot Report, made plain that Blair's 'mistakes' should not mean Britain would not be prepared to launch military interventions in future, not least as he himself- as"heir to Blair"-spearheaded another disastrous one in Libya in 2011. And again a main ambition was the geopolitics connected with energy.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Politics of Authenticity

“.....the most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love”- Ben Okri, cited by Jeremy Corbyn at his acceptance speech after being elected leader of the Labour party in September 2015.

“Can we still seek the lost angels / Of our better natures? … We dream of a new politics / That will renew the world / Under their weary suspicious gaze.”- Ben Okri, A New Dream of Politics

We cry for a politics of authenticity – that is what human beings want more than anything else – but when we have a figure like that, we are conflicted as well … We need to ask ourselves what we really want from them.”- Ben Okri .

When Okri talks about Corbyn in terms of the 'politics of authenticity', it could be that Corbyn is indeed authentic in the same way Chavez was, a figure Gabriel Garcia Marquez though was ambiguous in genuinely wanting social change to benefit the people and yet also somewhat of a populist who traded on hatred of the USA.

When Corbyn opposed Britain's 'humanitarian interventions', he opposed them all on the basis of 'anti-war' stances and 'anti-imperialism' rather than even trying to look at the complexities of such conflicts as those in Yugoslavia and Kosovo where non-intervention had arguably meant civilian deaths.

As regards integrity, many politicians within Britain's Parliamentary system are like actors who position themselves as theatrical impersonations of the types of being that appeal to the section of the electorate they wish to woo. There is, indeed, a market in Britain for 'anti-war' activism among students and radical London.

London as a microcosm of the globe has always harboured messianic radicals who believe that what happens 'here' is a sign of what will change the world later. Corbyn is heir to those traditions through his Islington fiefdom with his Latino wives and interest in 1970s liberation movements and threats of fascist coups.

Corbyn is courting intellectuals and writers like Okri for similar reasons why Chavez tried to woo Marquez as did Castro. It reflects a genuine interest in radical idea of a better world but also adds to his image as a Latin American style radical Líder Máximo directly and democratically ranged against the imperial order.

What relevance any of this sort of politics has for Britain, it is hard to say. Certainly London increasingly appears to be a city dominated by oligarchs and disconnected corrupt rentier elites rather like in Brazilian mega-cities. The settled middle class life it once had has vanished out more into the provinces.

Brexit too could dramatically polarise politics should Theresa May's new government fail to deliver on the verdict of the referendum, an economic recession kick in and Corbyn assert greater control over the Labour party to the point where the liberal-left centrists either split, resign or are purged by mass deselections.

In such circumstances, in a dysfunctional two and a bit Parliamentary Party system, Corbyn and Momentum, fired by street protests, strikes and agitation in Britain's cities could generate a tack of rightist Conservatives towards UKIP positions. Corbyn would be portrayed more and more as national security threat.

After all, with a more unstable global landscape, the rise of China in the Far East, of Russia reasserting control over its Near Abroad-and so gas and oil pipeline routes the West wants-Corbyn's challenge to NATO and to Trident would be seen as the ultimate systemic threat and so repressive police measures used to crush him.

May comes across as a snooping authoritarian obsessed with spying,monitoring and 'taking control'. As there seems to be no end in sight to the geopolitical struggles over pipeline routes and resources in the Middle East, there can be no end to British military intervention and so the threat of Islamist blowback.

With the migrant crisis unfolding further an the EU fracturing, Corbyn would be demonised by the Murdoch media in particular as precisely the sort of Salvador Allende martyr figure he already envisions himself as being. As a terrorist sympathiser. The scene would be set for his forcible overthrow by 2020.