Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hurriya is Arabic for Freedom: Just Listen to Egypt Roar

By Ramzy Baroud

Global Research
February 10, 2011

“Just listen to that roar,” urged a CNN correspondent in Egypt, as thousands of Egyptian protesters charged, fists pumped, against hundreds of armed Egyptian security forces. What a roar it was, indeed. The protests have shown the world that Arabs are capable of much more than merely being pitiable statistics of unemployment and illiteracy, or powerless subjects of ‘moderate’ but ‘strong’ leaders (an acronym for friendly dictators).

The times are changing, and British MP George Galloway’s comment about the Arab lion roaring again seems truer by the day. The Egyptians have revolted in style, and their revolution will go down in history books with such adjectives as “great”, “noble” and “historic”.

Truth be told, Arabs have had their fair share of conjured ‘revolutions’. Arab regimes have always been generous in how they ascribed the loaded term to their military coups or other stunts designed to impress or intimidate the masses. Any modern history of the Arab world will reveal an abundant use of the term ‘thawra’ – revolution. The label has been useful, for those who dared criticize a regime, or demanded basic rights (such as food) could then be dubbed enemies of whatever make-belief revolution the men in power championed. Innumerable Arab political prisoners were designated ‘a’da’ al-thawra’ – enemies of the revolution – and they paid a heavy price for their ‘crimes’. In Egypt alone, rough estimates put the current number of political prisoners (from different ideological backgrounds) at 20,000. The figure must be much larger now that the new enemies of the revolution – i.e. most of the Egyptian population – have dared demand freedoms, rights, democracy, and the biggest taboo of all: social justice.

If there is any revolution deserving of the name, it is this one. Thanks to Egypt, people the world over have been forced to re-think their previous idea of “Arabs”. Even many of us who insisted that the future of the Middle East could only be decided by the people themselves had eventually started to lose hope. We were told our words were redundant, sentimental, and, at best, an opportunity for poetic reflection, but not realpolitik. Now we know we have been right all along. Egypt is the clearest possible manifestation of the truth of people shaping their own history - not just in the Middle East, but anywhere.

The spontaneous popular revolution in Egypt was a most befitting uplift to the collective humiliation that Arabs have felt for so many years, but even more acutely since the US invasion and utter violation of Iraq .

“It became almost a burden being an Arab”, a caller told Al Jazeera. Looking “Middle Eastern” became sufficient grounds for suspicion in international airports. It was not considered entirely racist to ask such questions as “Are Arabs capable of achieving democracy?” In fact, heated media discussions emanated from the type of questions that pondered what Arabs were – or rather, were not capable of achieving. Every war against the Arabs was done in the name of “bringing” something to people who seemed impeded by their own collective failures. In one of my first political science classes at the University of Washington years ago, the professor told us that we would be “examining the Middle East, which consists of strong governments and weak peoples.” With the exception of Israel, of course.

The media has long repeated the mantra that Israel is the Middle East ’s only democracy. Combined with serious doubts regarding the Arabs’ readiness for democracy, the conclusion offered is: Israel carries similar values to the US, the West, the First World , the civilized hemisphere, and the Arabs epitomize all the ailments of the world. It matters little that Arab regimes were made ‘powerful’ by the backing of their western benefactors, or that oppression – in the name of fighting the enemies of peace and progress – was urged, financed and orchestrated with western interests in mind. The fact that the bullets and canister teargas that killed and wounded numerous Egyptians had the following words inscribed on it in Arabic: ‘suni’a fi al-wilayat al-mutahida al-amrikyia’ – Made in the United States – was also deemed entirely irrelevant to any discussion on how and why Egyptians were being suppressed or why the Arab Lion must never find its roar.

“The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise,” wrote Uri Avnery. The CIA was too, although US lawmakers are trying to determine “whether the CIA and other spy agencies failed to give President Obama adequate warning of the unfolding crisis in Egypt” (as reported by Greg Miller in the Washington Post, February 4). Senator Dianne Feinstein who heads the Intelligence Committee, accused the intelligence community of ‘lacking” performance. The CIA should have monitored Facebook more closely, she suggested.
But there can be no telling when a nation revolts. Most of the chanting multitudes have no Facebook accounts. They don’t tweet either. In Tahrir Square , a man with a moustache, dark skin and handsome features carried a cardboard sign on which he had written, rather hurriedly: “I want to eat. My monthly salary is 267 (Egyptian) pounds – approx $45 – and I have four children.”

Others want to breathe the air of freedom. Others still want justice. Dignity. Equality. Democracy. Hope. How can such values be measured, or safeguarded against?
There is a very popular word in Egypt - al-Sabr. It means patience. But none could predict when the patience would run out. Arab and Egyptian intellectuals didn’t see it coming, and even the country’s opposition parties were caught by surprise. Everyone tried to catch up as millions -of long-oppressed Egyptians erupted in astounding unison: hurriya, hurriya, adalah igtimayyia – freedom, freedom, social justice.

Just when we were told that a religious strife was about to engulf Egypt and that the people were subdued to the point that there was no hope, millions of brave Egyptians declared a revolution that brought Muslims and Christians together. The courage and the bravery they displayed is enough to restore our faith in the world - in the human race, and in ourselves. Those who are still wondering if Arabs are capable of this or that need not ponder anymore. Just listen to them roar, and you will find the answer.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza 's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London ), available on

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hosni Mubarak Resigns! Pro-Democracy Protesters Win

Hosni Mubarak resigns as president

Egyptian president stands down and hands over power to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces.

11 Feb 2011 16:39 GMT

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address that the president was "waiving" his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the armed forces.

Suleiman's short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as well by pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country on Friday.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted "We have brought down the regime", while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the "greatest day of my life", in comments to the Associated Press news agency.

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression,'' he said.

"Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation ... today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world," our correspondent at Tahrir Square reported, following the announcement.

"The sense of euphoria is simply indescribable," our correspondent at Mubarak's Heliopolis presidential palace, where at least ten thousand pro-democracy activists had gathered, said.

"I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless." Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera.

"The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people's power to bring about the change that no-one ... thought possible."

In Alexandria, Egypt's second city, our correspondent described an "explosion of emotion". He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere had earlier marched on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

Egyptians hold 'Farewell Friday': Mubarak Leaves Cairo

Pro-democracy campaigners march on state television and presidential palaces, as army calls for normal life to resume.

11 Feb 2011 14:35 GMT

Pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square have vowed to take the protests to a 'last and final stage' [AFP]

Massive crowds have gathered across Egypt, including hundreds of thousands of protesters in and around Cairo's Tahrir [Liberation] Square, calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to stand down.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital marched on the presidential palace and state television buildings, while many also gathered at Liberation Square, on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

At the state television building, thousands have blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on protests.

"The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside]," Al Jazeera's correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said it was not clear if they planned to storm the building, but said that "a lot of anger [was] generated" after Mubarak's speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

"The activity isn't calm, but there are a lot of people here who are tired of not having their demands met," he said.

Outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis, where thousands of protesters had gathered in Cairo, our correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was "no indication that the military wants to crack down on protesters".

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely "friendly".

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Our correspondent said the crowd in Heliopolis was "gaining momentum by the moment", and that the crowd had gone into a frenzy when two helicopters were seen in the air around the palace grounds.

"By all accounts this is a highly civilised gathering. people are separated from the palace by merely a barbed wire ... but nobody has even attempted to cross that wire," she said.

Reports indicate, however, that Mubarak has left Cairo for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh, according to sources who spoke to Al Jazeera.

Egyptian state television announced on Friday evening that an "urgent" televised message from the presidential palace was due "shortly".

In Tahrir Square, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the "masses" of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have "clear resolution" and "bigger resolve" to achieve their goals than ever before.

He also said, however, that protesters were "confused by mixed messages" coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak's staying in power until at least September.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only "as soon as the current circumstances end".

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Many protesters, hoping for Mubarak's resignation, had anticipated a much stronger statement.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed and vowed to take the protests to "a last and final stage".

Protesters outside the state television station accused it of being a mouthpiece for Mubarak's regime [AFP]

"They're frustrated, they're angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions," she said.

Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on "Farewell Friday" in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.

'Anything can happen'

Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organiser and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.

"People are extremely angry after yesterday's speech," he told Al Jazeera. "Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can't tell you what the next step will be ... At this time, we don't trust them [the army commanders] at all."

An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.

"It's an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night," she said.

"The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home ... I don't see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people."

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing "the functions of the president" to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.

"I have decided to stick... by my responsibility in protecting the constitution and the people's interests until the power and responsibility are handed over to whomever the voters chose next September, in free and fair elections," the president said.

Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped in Tahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.

'Go home'

Immediately after Mubarak's speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to "go home" and asked Egyptians to "unite and look to the future."

"Youth of Egypt, heroes of Egypt, go back to your homes and businesses. The country needs you so that we build, develop and create," Suleiman said.

"Do not listen to tendentious radios and satellite televisions which have no aim but ignite disorder, weaken Egypt and distort its image."

More than 1,000 protesters moved overnight towards the presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis in central Cairo.

Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.

The US and EU said the announcement to transfer some powers to the vice-president was grossly insufficient and falls short of genuine reforms demanded by the people.

"The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," Barack Obama, the US president, said in a statement.


World sceptical of Mubarak's speech

US and EU say Egyptian leader's pledge to transfer some powers to his VP falls short of 'concrete path to democracy.'

11 Feb 2011 00:46 GMT

The Egyptian president's defiant speech announcing that he would not resign but transfer some powers to his vice-president has failed to allay the concerns of the international community and pro-democracy Egyptians.

After meeting with his top national security team, Barack Obama, the US president, warned that the transfer of some powers from Hosni Mubarak to his deputy Omar Suleiman did not represent a credible and concrete change.

Obama added that Cairo "must spell out a clear path to democracy." "The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," he said in a statement.

Echoing Obama's position, the European Union foreign policy chief said Mubarak's remarks did not allay the concerns of the Egyptian people and the international community.

In a statement, Catherine Ashton said "the time for change [in Egypt] is now".
"President Mubarak has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms," she said, adding that the EU would continue to "engage with the Egyptian authorities to convey the need for an orderly, meaningful and lasting democratic transition".

'Urgent transition'

Also speaking after Mubarak's speech, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said the announcement was "unavoidable", and that he hoped Egypt would establish a healthy democracy rather than a "religious dictatorship" when Mubarak eventually leaves office
William Hague, the British foreign minister said his country was calling for "an urgent but orderly transition to a broadly-based government in Egypt".

He stressed that Britain did not seek to meddle in Egyptian affairs, and that "the solution to this has to be owned by the Egyptian people themselves."

Hague said it is not clear what powers Mubarak is handing over to his deputy Suleiman.
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said Mubarak's speech "was not the hoped for step forward".

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, said it was not for foreign governments to decide what was best for Egypt.

We should not pretend that we are more important for the Egyptian people than their own interests. I don't think I have to respond on this. It's up to the Egyptian people to find a way and do it according to their own constitution, norms and practices," he said in comments delivered at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Earlier in the day, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, responded to reports that Mubarak may resign by saying that he hoped whoever replaced him would uphold Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, according to an Israeli radio report.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Palestine Papers Demonstrate Israeli Perfidy in Peace Negotiations

Leaked Documents: Who Was Serious About a Deal to End the Conflict?

Disclosure of Palestine Papers rebut Israeli claims that there is 'no partner for peace'

By Harriet Sherwood

January 24, 2011 "The Guardian" - - The Palestine Papers - the cache of documents from Israel-Palestine peace negotiations over the past decade which the Guardian is revealing this week - make fascinating reading for anyone interested in both the history and the future of this place.

Many Palestinians will be shocked at how much their negotiators were prepared to offer to reach a deal in 2008 - on settlements and on the right of return of refugees.

But there's another side of this coin too - the documents also show the Palestinians were serious about negotiating, and were willing to make big and painful concessions for peace and to secure their dream of a state.

From the papers I've read, there is little evidence of the Israelis matching this approach by making serious and painful concessions of their own.

Indeed Tzipi Livni is fairly dismissive of the offer on East Jerusalem settlements, focussing on what the Palestinians would not agree to, rather than acknowledging the magnitude of what they were prepared to concede.

Among the settlement blocs that the Palestinians were not willing to give up were Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim.

Ariel, the long finger-like settlement which stretches far into the West Bank, almost cutting it in two, has long been in contention. The Israelis insist they must keep it - it's home to 20,000 people; the Palestinians argue that it makes a contiguous state pretty much impossible. They also point out in the talks that Ariel sits on (and blocks their access to) a major aquifer, which they need for water - a rarely talked-about final status issue.

But it has long been assumed - at least among the Israelis - that Ma'ale Adumim (population: 35,000), the huge city east of Jerusalem stretching towards Jericho, part of the ring of settlements which cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank, will be on the Israeli side of any future border. The Palestinians' unexpected refusal to give it up shows some mettle.

Of course, we don't know if this was a negotiating position, and whether Ma'ale Adumim would have been a card to play closer to a deal.

But it seems to me that after the disclosure of these papers, it will be very hard indeed for the Israelis to deploy their standard argument that the Palestinians are not serious about negotiating a deal and that they have no "partner for peace".


Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process

Seumas Milne and Ian Black,
Sunday 23 January 2011 20.08 GMT

The Palestine papers reveal the offer of concessions by Palestinian peace negotiators on areas such as the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem. Photograph: Awad Awad/AFP/Getty Images

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The documents – many of which will be published by the Guardian over the coming days – also reveal:

• The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.
• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza.

As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere.

Most controversially, they also proposed a joint committee to take over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City – the neuralgic issue that helped sink the Camp David talks in 2000 after Yasser Arafat refused to concede sovereignty around the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

The offers were made in 2008-9, in the wake of George Bush's Annapolis conference, and were privately hailed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history" in order to resolve the world's most intractable conflict. Israeli leaders, backed by the US government, said the offers were inadequate.

Intensive efforts to revive talks by the Obama administration foundered last year over Israel's refusal to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction. Prospects are now uncertain amid increasing speculation that a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict is no longer attainable – and fears of a new war.

Many of the 1,600 leaked documents – drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings – have been independently authenticated by the Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources. The Guardian's coverage is supplemented by WikiLeaks cables, emanating from the US consulate in Jerusalem and embassy in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials also kept their own records of the talks, which may differ from the confidential Palestinian accounts.

The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalem – including Gilo, a focus of controversy after Israel gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes – has never been made public.

All settlements built on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war are illegal under international law, but the Jerusalem homes are routinely described, and perceived, by Israel as municipal "neighbourhoods". Israeli governments have consistently sought to annex the largest settlements as part of a peace deal – and came close to doing so at Camp David.

Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: "This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made." No such concession had been made at Camp David.

But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma'ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. "We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands," Israel's then foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, "and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it".

The overall impression that emerges from the documents, which stretch from 1999 to 2010, is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals; the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives.

Last night Erekat said the minutes of the meetings were "a bunch of lies and half truths". Qureia told AP that "many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the … Palestinian leadership".

However Palestinian former negotiator, Diana Buttu, called on Erekat to resign following the revelations. "Saeb must step down and if he doesn't it will only serve to show just how out of touch and unrepresentative the negotiators are," she said.
Palestinian and Israeli officials both point out that any position in negotiations is subject to the principle that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and therefore is invalid without an overarching deal.

Unbridled Fixed-Market Capitalism Defeated US Consitutional Representative Democratic Republic

The End of New Deal Liberalism

By William Greider

January 24, 2011 "The Nation" -- January 5, 2011-- We have reached a pivotal moment in government and politics, and it feels like the last, groaning spasms of New Deal liberalism. When the party of activist government, faced with an epic crisis, will not use government's extensive powers to reverse the economic disorders and heal deepening social deterioration, then it must be the end of the line for the governing ideology inherited from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson.

Political events of the past two years have delivered a more profound and devastating message: American democracy has been conclusively conquered by American capitalism (Editor: read "unfair Fixed-Market Capitalism"). Government has been disabled or captured by the formidable powers of private enterprise and concentrated wealth. Self-governing rights that representative democracy conferred on citizens are now usurped by the overbearing demands of corporate and financial interests. Collectively, the corporate sector has its arms around both political parties, the financing of political careers, the production of the policy agendas and propaganda of influential think tanks, and control of most major media.

What the capitalist system wants is more—more wealth, more freedom to do whatever it wishes. This has always been its instinct, unless government intervened to stop it. The objective now is to destroy any remaining forms of government interference, except of course for business subsidies and protections. Many elected representatives are implicitly enlisted in the cause.

A lot of Americans seem to know this; at least they sense that the structural reality of government and politics is not on their side. When the choice comes down to society or capitalism, society regularly loses. First attention is devoted to the economic priorities of the largest, most powerful institutions of business and finance. The bias comes naturally to Republicans, the party of money and private enterprise, but on the big structural questions business-first also defines Democrats, formerly the party of working people. Despite partisan rhetoric, the two parties are more alike than they acknowledge.

In these terms, the administration of Barack Obama has been a crushing disappointment for those of us who hoped he would be different. It turns out Obama is a more conventional and limited politician than advertised, more right-of-center than his soaring rhetoric suggested. Most Congressional Democrats, likewise, proved weak and incoherent, unreliable defenders of their supposed values or most loyal constituencies. They call it pragmatism. I call it surrender.

Obama's maladroit tax compromise with Republicans was more destructive than creative. He acceded to the trickle-down doctrine of regressive taxation and skipped lightly over the fact that he was contributing further to stark injustices. Ordinary Americans will again be made to pay, one way or another, for the damage others did to society. Obama agrees that this is offensive but argues, this is politics, get over it. His brand of realism teaches people to disregard what he says. Look instead at what he does.

With overwhelming majorities in Congress and economic crisis tearing up the country in 2009, incumbent Democrats opted for self-protection first, party principles later. Their Senate leaders allowed naysayers to determine the lowest common denominator for reform—halfway measures designed not to overly disturb powerful corporate-financial interests, and therefore not able to repair the social destruction those interests had wrought. Senate Democrats say they didn't have the votes. Imagine what Mitch McConnell would have done if he were their leader: Take no prisoners. Force party dissenters to get in line and punish those who don't. Block even the most pedestrian opposition proposals.

Democrats are not used to governing aggressively. They haven't done so for decades, and they may no longer believe in it. For many years, incumbent Democrats survived by managing a precarious straddle between the forces of organized money and the disorganized people they claim to represent. The split was usually lopsided in favor of the money guys, but one could believe that the reform spirit would come alive once they were back in power with a Democratic president. That wishful assumption is now defunct.

Obama's timid economic strategy can be described as successful only if the standard of success is robust corporate profits, rising stock prices and the notorious year-end bonuses of Wall Street. Again and again, Obama hesitated to take the bolder steps that would have made differences in social conditions. Now it is clear that the bleeding afflictions experienced by the overwhelming majority of citizens will not be substantively addressed because Democrats, both president and Congress, have chosen to collaborate in the conservative cause of deficit reduction: cut spending, shrink government, block any healing initiatives that cost real money.

Republicans, armed with strong conviction, are resurgent with what amounts to ideological nihilism. Leave aside their obvious hypocrisies on fiscal rectitude and free markets. Their single-minded objective is to destroy what remains of government's capacity to intervene in or restrain the private sector on behalf of the common welfare. Many of government's old tools and programs are already gone, gutted by deregulation, crippled by corporate capture of the regulatory agencies originally intended to curb private-sector abuses and starved by inadequate funding. The right wants smaller government for the people, but not for corporate capitalism. It will fight to preserve the protections, privileges and subsidies that flow to the private sector.

Once again, Republicans are mounting an assault on liberalism's crown jewel, Social Security, only this time they might succeed, because the Democratic president is collaborating with them. The deficit hysteria aimed at Social Security is fraudulent (as Obama's own experts acknowledge), but the president has already gravely weakened the program's solvency with his payroll-tax holiday, which undercuts financing for future benefits. Obama promises the gimmick won't be repeated, but if employment is still weak a year from now, he may well cave. The GOP will accuse him of damaging the economy by approving a "tax increase" on all workers. Senate Democrats are preparing their own proposal to cut Social Security as a counter to the GOP's extreme version. In the end, they can split the difference and celebrate another great compromise.

This is capitulation posing as moderation. Obama has set himself up to make many more "compromises" in the coming months; each time, he will doubtless use the left as a convenient foil. Disparaging "purist" liberals is his way of assuring so-called independents that he stood up to the allegedly far-out demands of his own electoral base. This is a ludicrous ploy, given the weakness of the left. It cynically assumes ordinary people not engaged in politics are too dim to grasp what he's doing. I suspect Obama is mistaken. I asked an old friend what she makes of the current mess in Washington. "Whatever the issue, the rich guys win," she responded. Lots of people understand this—it is the essence of the country's historic predicament.

To get a rough glimpse of what the corporate state looks like, study the Federal Reserve's list of banking, finance and business firms that received the $3.3 trillion the central bank dispensed in low-interest loans during the financial crisis (this valuable information is revealed only because reform legislators like Senator Bernie Sanders fought for disclosure). If you were not on the list of recipients, you know your place in this new order.

The power shift did not start with Obama, but his tenure confirms and completes it. The corporates began their systematic drive to dismantle liberal governance back in the 1970s, and the Democratic Party was soon trying to appease them, its retreat whipped along by Ronald Reagan's popular appeal and top-down tax cutting. So long as Democrats were out of power, they could continue to stand up for liberal objectives and assail the destructive behavior of business and finance (though their rhetoric was more consistent than their voting record). Once back in control of government, they lowered their voices and sued for peace. Beholden to corporate America for campaign contributions, the Democrats cut deals with banks and businesses and usually gave them what they demanded, so corporate interests would not veto progressive legislation.

Obama has been distinctively candid about this. He admires the "savvy businessmen" atop the pinnacle of corporate power. He seeks "partnership" with them. The old economic conflicts, like labor versus capital, are regarded as passé by the "new Democrats" now governing. The business of America is business. Government should act as steward and servant, not master.

This deferential attitude is reflected in all of Obama's major reform legislation, not to mention in the people he brought into government. In the financial rescue, Obama, like George W. Bush before him, funneled billions to the troubled bankers without demanding any public obligations in return. On healthcare, he cut deals with insurance and drug companies and played cute by allowing the public option, which would have provided real competition to healthcare monopolists, to be killed. On financial reform, Obama's Treasury lieutenants and a majority of the Congressional Dems killed off the most important measures, which would have cut Wall Street megabanks down to tolerable size.

Society faces dreadful prospects and profound transformation. When both parties are aligned with corporate power, who will stand up for the people? Who will protect them from the insatiable appetites of capitalist enterprise and help them get through the hard passage ahead? One thing we know for sure from history: there is no natural limit to what capitalism will seek in terms of power and profit. If government does not stand up and apply the brakes, society is defenseless.

Strangely enough, this new reality brings us back to the future, posing fundamental questions about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that citizens and reformers asked 100 years ago. Only this time, the nation is no longer an ascendant economic power. It faces hard adjustments as general prosperity recedes and the broad middle class that labor and liberalism helped create is breaking apart.

My bleak analysis is not the end of the story. Change is hard to visualize now, given the awesome power of the status quo and the collapse of once-trusted political institutions. But change will come, for better or worse. One key dynamic of the twentieth century was the long-running contest for dominance between democracy and capitalism. The balance of power shifted back and forth several times, driven by two basic forces that neither corporate lobbyists nor timid politicians could control: the calamitous events that disrupted the social order, such as war and depression, and the power of citizens mobilized in reaction to those events. In those terms, both political parties are still highly vulnerable—as twentieth-century history repeatedly demonstrated, society cannot survive the burdens of an unfettered corporate order.

People are given different ideological labels, but Americans are not as opposed to "big government" as facile generalizations suggest. On many issues, there is overwhelming consensus that media and pundits ignore (check the polls, if you doubt this). Americans of all ages will fight to defend social protections—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, among others. People are skeptical to hostile about the excessive power of corporations. People want government to be more aggressive in many areas—like sending some of the financial malefactors to prison.

One vivid example was the angry citizen at a town hall meeting who shouted at his Congressman: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" I heard a grassroots leader on the radio explain that basically the Tea Party people "want government that works for them." Don't we all? In the next few years, both parties will try to define this sentiment. If they adhere to the corporate agenda, they are bound to get in trouble, and the ranks of insurgent citizens will grow. Nobody can know where popular rebellion might lead, right or left, but my own stubborn optimism hangs by that thread.

Whatever people on the left may call themselves, they have a special burden in this situation because they are deeply committed to the idea that government should be the trustworthy agent of the many, not the powerful few. Many of us believe further (as the socialists taught) that the economy should serve the people, not the other way around.

The current crisis requires people to go back to their roots and re-examine their convictions—now that they can no longer count automatically on the helping hand of government or the Democratic Party. Obama's unfortunate "hostage" metaphor led Saturday Night Live to joke that the president was himself experiencing the "Stockholm syndrome"—identifying with his conservative captors. Many progressive groups, including organized labor, suffer a similar dependency. They will not be able to think clearly about the future of the country until they get greater distance from the Democratic Party.

I suggest three steps for progressives to recover an influential role in politics. First, develop a guerrilla sensibility that recognizes the weakness of the left. There's no need to resign from electoral politics, but dedicated lefties should stake out a role of principled resistance. In the 1960s uncompromising right-wingers became known as "ankle biters" in Republican ranks, insisting on what were considered impossible goals and opposing moderate and liberal party leaders, sometimes with hopeless candidates. They spent twenty years in the wilderness but built a cadre of activists whose convictions eventually gained power.

Where are the left-wing ankle biters who might change the Democratic Party? It takes a bit of arrogance to imagine that your activities can change the country, but, paradoxically, it also requires a sense of humility. Above all, it forces people to ask themselves what they truly believe the country needs—and then stand up for those convictions any way they can. Concretely, that may lead someone to run for city council or US senator. Or field principled opponents to challenge feckless Democrats in primaries (that's what the Tea Party did to Republicans, with impressive results). Or activist agitators may simply reach out to young people and recruit kindred spirits for righteous work that requires long-term commitment.

Second, people of liberal persuasion should "go back to school" and learn the new economic realities. In my experience, many on the left do not really understand the internal dynamics of capitalism—why it is productive, why it does so much damage (many assumed government and politicians would do the hard thinking for them). We need a fundamental re-examination of capitalism and the relationship between the state and the private sphere. This will not be done by business-financed think tanks. We have to do it for ourselves.

A century ago the populist rebellion organized farmer cooperatives, started dozens of newspapers and sent out lecturers to spread the word. Socialists and the labor movement did much the same. Modern Americans cannot depend on the Democratic Party or philanthropy to sponsor small-d democracy. We have to do it. But we have resources and modern tools—including the Internet—those earlier insurgents lacked.

The New Deal order broke down for good reasons—the economic system changed, and government did not adjust to new realities or challenge the counterattack from the right in the 1970s. The structure of economic life has changed again—most dramatically by globalization—yet the government and political parties are largely clueless about how to deal with the destruction of manufacturing and the loss of millions of jobs. Government itself has been weakened in the process, but politicians are too intimidated to talk about restoring its powers. The public expresses another broad consensus on the need to confront "free trade" and change it in the national interest—another instance of public opinion not seeming to count, since it opposes the corporate agenda.

Reformers today face conditions similar to what the Populists and Progressives faced: monopoly capitalism, a labor movement suppressed with government's direct assistance, Wall Street's "money trust" on top, the corporate state feeding off government while ignoring immoral social conditions. The working class, meanwhile, is regaining its identity, as millions are being dispossessed of middle-class status while millions of others struggle at the bottom. Working people are poised to become the new center of a reinvigorated democracy, though it is not clear at this stage whether they will side with the left or the right. Understanding all these forces can lead to the new governing agenda society desperately needs.

Finally, left-liberals need to start listening and learning—talking up close to ordinary Americans, including people who are not obvious allies. We should look for viable connections with those who are alienated and unorganized, maybe even ideologically hostile. The Tea Party crowd got one big thing right: the political divide is not Republicans against Democrats but governing elites against the people. A similar division exists within business and banking, where the real hostages are the smaller, community-scale firms imperiled by the big boys getting the gravy from Washington. We have more in common with small-business owners and Tea Party insurgents than the top-down commentary suggests.

Somewhere in all these activities, people can find fulfilling purpose again and gradually build a new politics. Don't wait for Barack Obama to send instructions. And don't count on necessarily making much difference, at least not right away. The music in democracy starts with people who take themselves seriously. They first discover they have changed themselves, then decide they can change others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Staunch Zionist Congresswoman Jane Harman Quits to Head Wilson Center

"Jane Harman, the centrist Democratic congresswoman from California, is quitting Congress to take over the presidency of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars." She has been an aggressive supporter of AIPAC's agenda in the US House of Representatives.

Harman assumes the post currently held by Lee Hamilton who co-chaired (with Thomas Keane) the now discredited 911 Commission Investigation  and Report of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September of 2001.

It is unclear how Harman's new position at the Wilson Center might be used in service of AIPAC in particular and the Zionist cause of creating a Greater Israel in general.  Stay tuned...

--Dr. J. P. Hubert


Anti-Bill of Rights Jane Harman to resign from Congress

Coto Report
Posted on February 7, 2011

Rep. Jane Harman, a blue-dog Democrat from California, announced today she will resign from office, to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Harman’s pro-business, anti-liberty stance is world-renowned. She introduced HR 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, otherwise known at the Thought Crimes bill.

In 2005, she voted to make the Un-PATRIOT Act permanent, but in 2010 opposed some provisions of the bill.

In addition to serving on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Subcommittee on Health, she also Chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

AIPAC controversy

In October 2006, Time magazine, quoting anonymous sources, asserted that an FBI and US Department of Justice investigation of Harman was underway. The magazine alleged that Harman had agreed to lobby the Department of Justice to reduce espionage charges against Steve J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two officials at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In exchange, Time said there was a quid pro quo in which AIPAC would lobby then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman as chair of the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats captured the House after the 2006 elections. Harman, the FBI, the Justice Department and Pelosi’s office have all denied knowledge of or involvement with any investigation. AIPAC denied it had engaged in a quid pro quo with Harman. “AIPAC would never engage in a quid pro quo in relation to a federal investigation or any federal matter and the notion that it would do so is preposterous,” a spokesperson said at the time.

In April 2009, CQ Politics, also quoting anonymous sources, said Harman had been captured on a National Security Agency wiretap prior to the 2006 elections, telling an “Israeli agent” that she would “waddle into” lobbying the Department of Justice on the AIPAC case. Harman ended the phone call, according to CQ, by saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.” Harman denied the allegations, saying:

 “These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact. I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves.” According to CQ, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pressed CIA Director Porter Goss to drop the agency’s investigation of Harman, because he wanted Harman’s support during the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, about to break in The New York Times. Harman called The New York Times and urged them not to publish details on the program. Gonzales and Goss declined to comment.

A strong supporter of the military, she rejects the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, believing “authorities” should read mail and email, tap phones, and conduct random searches without a warrant, backing the Bush regime while lobbying the New York Times not to run the story in 2004.

Armenian Genocide

Harman was a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution bill in 2007. However, while still cosponsoring the bill, she wrote a letter to House Foreign Relations Committee Chair Tom Lantos urging him to withdraw the bill. Her argument was that while the genocide deserves recognition, it was not a good time to embarrass Turkey given that country’s role in moderating extremism in the Middle East.


Fein criticizes Harman over husband's rumored purchase of Newsweek

By Art Marroquin Staff Writer
Posted: 07/13/2010 06:52:57 PM PDT

Republican congressional candidate Mattie Fein has jumped on a rumor that the spouse of her Democratic rival, South Bay Rep. Jane Harman, is considering whether to purchase Newsweek magazine.

Stereo industry entrepreneur Sidney Harman is among the many suitors who have shown interest in buying the political weekly magazine since it was put up for sale by The Washington Post Co., according to a blog item posted earlier this month on Politico.

Fein claims the Harmans would try to kill stories that were unflattering to the congresswoman or the Democratic Party. She cited a similar instance in 2004, when Jane Harman urged the New York Times not to publish a story about the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program.

If Harman International acquires Newsweek, Congresswoman Jane Harman would be in the catbird's seat controlling the news magazine's reporting or editorializing because she owns millions of dollars of its stock," Fein wrote in an open letter delivered last week to Newsweek's managing editor, Jon Meacham. "That would bode ill for your reporters and editors," Fein wrote "Harman is an ardent foe of freedom of the press."...

Editor's NOTE:

Since the above piece, the Harman's completed the purchase of Newsweek.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Growing National Security State Promotes "all War all the Time"

Posted by Andrew Bacevich at 9:20am, July 29, 2010.

Andrew Bacevich, Giving Up On Victory, Not War

If you ever needed convincing that the world of American “national security” is well along the road to profligate lunacy, read the striking three-part “Top Secret America” series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that the Washington Post published last week. When it comes to the expansion of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), which claims 17 major agencies and organizations, the figures are staggering. Here’s just a taste:
“Twenty-four [new intelligence] organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips, and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11.”

More striking yet, the articles make clear (admittedly a few years late) that no one has a complete picture of the extent of the American intelligence quagmire -- from its finances (announced at $75 billion but, the authors assure us, significantly higher) to its geography, its output (the 50,000 top-secret reports it churns out yearly that no one has time to read or track), its composition, or even its office space. (“In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.”) And keep in mind that all of this and more was created not to keep track of or fight a series of covert wars with another major imperial power like the Soviet Union, but to track and hunt down a rag-tag terrorist outfit with a couple of thousand members, including modest-sized groups in countries like Yemen and small numbers of individual wannabe terrorists like the “underwear bomber.” In much of this, as anyone who bothers to scan front-page headlines knows, the IC has been remarkably unsuccessful. Such staggeringly out-of-control expansion should, of course, be a major scandal, but along with our constant wars, it’s already so much a part of the new national security norm that the publication of the Post series is unlikely to have any significant effect.

All this has, in turn, been driven by Fear Inc. To fuel its profitable if cancerous growth, it has vastly exaggerated the relatively minor and largely manageable  ["A thousand smart intelligence analysts, a thousand smart FBI and law enforcement officers, and a few hundred Special Operations military folk are all that's needed to deal with the terrorism threat. It's been hugely overblown"] danger of Islamic terrorism -- since 9/11, above shark attacks but way below drunken-driving accidents -- among the many far more serious dangers this country faces. If the IC actually worked as an effective intelligence delivery system, we would be a Mensa among states. But how could such a proliferation of overlapping agencies and outfits, aided and abetted by a burgeoning privatized, mercenary version of the same, provide “intelligence”? With more than two-thirds of all intelligence programs militarized and overseen by the Pentagon, itself driven to paroxysms of spending and expansion since 2001 (despite the fact that all major military challengers to the U.S. are long gone), labeling this morass “intelligence” should be considered a joke. However absurd, though, don’t expect any of those organizations or agencies to disappear any time soon. They’re ours for the duration.

It’s into such national security institutional madness that Andrew Bacevich, author of the bestselling The Limits of Power, strides in his latest work, to be published this week, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. It is the single best source for understanding how Washington came to garrison the planet, intervene regularly in distant lands, and turn war-making -- and not even successful war-making at that -- into an American norm. It’s simply a must-read. Think of today’s TomDispatch post as a little introduction to just a few of that book’s themes. (And while you’re at it, catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses his new book by clicking here, or to download it to your iPod, here.)

Tom Englehardt

The End of (Military) History?

The United States, Israel, and the Failure of the Western Way of War

By Andrew J. Bacevich

“In watching the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history.” This sentiment, introducing the essay that made Francis Fukuyama a household name, commands renewed attention today, albeit from a different perspective.

Developments during the 1980s, above all the winding down of the Cold War, had convinced Fukuyama that the “end of history” was at hand. “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea,” he wrote in 1989, “is evident… in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.”

Today the West no longer looks quite so triumphant. Yet events during the first decade of the present century have delivered history to another endpoint of sorts. Although Western liberalism may retain considerable appeal, the Western way of war has run its course.

For Fukuyama, history implied ideological competition, a contest pitting democratic capitalism against fascism and communism. When he wrote his famous essay, that contest was reaching an apparently definitive conclusion.

Yet from start to finish, military might had determined that competition’s course as much as ideology. Throughout much of the twentieth century, great powers had vied with one another to create new, or more effective, instruments of coercion. Military innovation assumed many forms. Most obviously, there were the weapons: dreadnoughts and aircraft carriers, rockets and missiles, poison gas, and atomic bombs -- the list is a long one. In their effort to gain an edge, however, nations devoted equal attention to other factors: doctrine and organization, training systems and mobilization schemes, intelligence collection and war plans.

All of this furious activity, whether undertaken by France or Great Britain, Russia or Germany, Japan or the United States, derived from a common belief in the plausibility of victory. Expressed in simplest terms, the Western military tradition could be reduced to this proposition: war remains a viable instrument of statecraft, the accoutrements of modernity serving, if anything, to enhance its utility.

Grand Illusions

That was theory. Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story. Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness. Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage. Pain vastly exceeded gain. In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers. When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn. As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war’s problem-solving capacity had begun to erode. As early as 1945, among several great powers -- thanks to war, now great in name only -- that faith disappeared altogether.

Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend. One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident. The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm. By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority. In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, “peace” was a codeword. The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority. In this regard, the two nations -- not yet intimate allies -- stood apart from the rest of the Western world.

So even as they professed their devotion to peace, civilian and military elites in the United States and Israel prepared obsessively for war. They saw no contradiction between rhetoric and reality.

Yet belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. “Peace through strength” easily enough becomes “peace through war.” Israel succumbed to this temptation in 1967. For Israelis, the Six Day War proved a turning point. Plucky David defeated, and then became, Goliath. Even as the United States was flailing about in Vietnam, Israel had evidently succeeded in definitively mastering war.

A quarter-century later, U.S. forces seemingly caught up. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush’s war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, showed that American troops like Israeli soldiers knew how to win quickly, cheaply, and humanely. Generals like H. Norman Schwarzkopf persuaded themselves that their brief desert campaign against Iraq had replicated -- even eclipsed -- the battlefield exploits of such famous Israeli warriors as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Vietnam faded into irrelevance.

For both Israel and the United States, however, appearances proved deceptive. Apart from fostering grand illusions, the splendid wars of 1967 and 1991 decided little. In both cases, victory turned out to be more apparent than real. Worse, triumphalism fostered massive future miscalculation.

On the Golan Heights, in Gaza, and throughout the West Bank, proponents of a Greater Israel -- disregarding Washington’s objections -- set out to assert permanent control over territory that Israel had seized. Yet “facts on the ground” created by successive waves of Jewish settlers did little to enhance Israeli security. They succeeded chiefly in shackling Israel to a rapidly growing and resentful Palestinian population that it could neither pacify nor assimilate.

In the Persian Gulf, the benefits reaped by the United States after 1991 likewise turned out to be ephemeral. Saddam Hussein survived and became in the eyes of successive American administrations an imminent threat to regional stability. This perception prompted (or provided a pretext for) a radical reorientation of strategy in Washington. No longer content to prevent an unfriendly outside power from controlling the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Washington now sought to dominate the entire Greater Middle East. Hegemony became the aim. Yet the United States proved no more successful than Israel in imposing its writ.

During the 1990s, the Pentagon embarked willy-nilly upon what became its own variant of a settlement policy. Yet U.S. bases dotting the Islamic world and U.S. forces operating in the region proved hardly more welcome than the Israeli settlements dotting the occupied territories and the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assigned to protect them. In both cases, presence provoked (or provided a pretext for) resistance. Just as Palestinians vented their anger at the Zionists in their midst, radical Islamists targeted Americans whom they regarded as neo-colonial infidels.


No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel’s near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.

So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the “terrorists” (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren’t intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.

Israel ran smack into this problem during Operation Peace for Galilee, its 1982 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. forces encountered it a decade later during Operation Restore Hope, the West’s gloriously titled foray into Somalia. Lebanon possessed a puny army; Somalia had none at all. Rather than producing peace or restoring hope, however, both operations ended in frustration, embarrassment, and failure.

And those operations proved but harbingers of worse to come. By the 1980s, the IDF’s glory days were past. Rather than lightning strikes deep into the enemy rear, the narrative of Israeli military history became a cheerless recital of dirty wars -- unconventional conflicts against irregular forces yielding problematic results. The First Intifada (1987-1993), the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a second Lebanon War (2006), and Operation Cast Lead, the notorious 2008-2009 incursion into Gaza, all conformed to this pattern.

Meanwhile, the differential between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli birth rates emerged as a looming threat -- a “demographic bomb,” Benjamin Netanyahu called it. Here were new facts on the ground that military forces, unless employed pursuant to a policy of ethnic cleansing, could do little to redress. Even as the IDF tried repeatedly and futilely to bludgeon Hamas and Hezbollah into submission, demographic trends continued to suggest that within a generation a majority of the population within Israel and the occupied territories would be Arab.

Trailing a decade or so behind Israel, the United States military nonetheless succeeded in duplicating the IDF’s experience. Moments of glory remained, but they would prove fleeting indeed. After 9/11, Washington’s efforts to transform (or “liberate”) the Greater Middle East kicked into high gear. In Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror began impressively enough, as U.S. forces operated with a speed and élan that had once been an Israeli trademark. Thanks to “shock and awe,” Kabul fell, followed less than a year and a half later by Baghdad. As one senior Army general explained to Congress in 2004, the Pentagon had war all figured out:

“We are now able to create decision superiority that is enabled by networked systems, new sensors and command and control capabilities that are producing unprecedented near real time situational awareness, increased information availability, and an ability to deliver precision munitions throughout the breadth and depth of the battlespace… Combined, these capabilities of the future networked force will leverage information dominance, speed and precision, and result in decision superiority.”

The key phrase in this mass of techno-blather was the one that occurred twice: “decision superiority.” At that moment, the officer corps, like the Bush administration, was still convinced that it knew how to win.

Such claims of success, however, proved obscenely premature. Campaigns advertised as being wrapped up in weeks dragged on for years, while American troops struggled with their own intifadas. When it came to achieving decisions that actually stuck, the Pentagon (like the IDF) remained clueless.


If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it’s this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today’s enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel’s “demographic bomb” -- a “fiscal bomb.” Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.

By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning -- at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term. They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.

As a consequence, U.S. troops today sally forth from their base camps not to defeat the enemy, but to “protect the people,” consistent with the latest doctrinal fashion. Meanwhile, tea-sipping U.S. commanders cut deals with warlords and tribal chieftains in hopes of persuading guerrillas to lay down their arms.

A new conventional wisdom has taken hold, endorsed by everyone from new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus, the most celebrated soldier of this American age, to Barack Obama, commander-in-chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. For the conflicts in which the United States finds itself enmeshed, “military solutions” do not exist. As Petraeus himself has emphasized, “we can’t kill our way out of" the fix we’re in. In this way, he also pronounced a eulogy on the Western conception of warfare of the last two centuries.

The Unasked Question

What then are the implications of arriving at the end of Western military history?

In his famous essay, Fukuyama cautioned against thinking that the end of ideological history heralded the arrival of global peace and harmony. Peoples and nations, he predicted, would still find plenty to squabble about.

With the end of military history, a similar expectation applies. Politically motivated violence will persist (Editor: orthodox Christians believe this as well having been instructed by Divine Revelation that man is a fallen creature who was created good but now must resist the temptation to do evil) and may in specific instances even retain marginal utility. Yet the prospect of Big Wars solving Big Problems is probably gone for good. Certainly, no one in their right mind, Israeli or American, can believe that a continued resort to force will remedy whatever it is that fuels anti-Israeli or anti-American antagonism throughout much of the Islamic world. To expect persistence to produce something different or better is moonshine.

It remains to be seen whether Israel and the United States can come to terms with the end of military history. Other nations have long since done so, accommodating themselves to the changing rhythms of international politics. That they do so is evidence not of virtue, but of shrewdness. China, for example, shows little eagerness to disarm. Yet as Beijing expands its reach and influence, it emphasizes trade, investment, and development assistance. Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army stays home. China has stolen a page from an old American playbook, having become today the preeminent practitioner of “dollar diplomacy.”

The collapse of the Western military tradition confronts Israel with limited choices, none of them attractive. Given the history of Judaism and the history of Israel itself, a reluctance of Israeli Jews to entrust their safety and security to the good will of their neighbors or the warm regards of the international community is understandable. In a mere six decades, the Zionist project has produced a vibrant, flourishing state (Editor: through the perpetration of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity). Why put all that at risk? Although the demographic bomb may be ticking, no one really knows how much time remains on the clock. If Israelis are inclined to continue putting their trust in (American-supplied) Israeli arms while hoping for the best, who can blame them?

In theory, the United States, sharing none of Israel’s demographic or geographic constraints and, far more richly endowed, should enjoy far greater freedom of action. Unfortunately, Washington has a vested interest in preserving the status quo, no matter how much it costs or where it leads. For the military-industrial complex, there are contracts to win and buckets of money to be made. For those who dwell in the bowels of the national security state, there are prerogatives to protect. For elected officials, there are campaign contributors to satisfy. For appointed officials, civilian and military, there are ambitions to be pursued.

And always there is a chattering claque of militarists, calling for jihad and insisting on ever greater exertions, while remaining alert to any hint of backsliding. In Washington, members of this militarist camp, by no means coincidentally including many of the voices that most insistently defend Israeli bellicosity, tacitly collaborate in excluding or marginalizing views that they deem heretical. As a consequence, what passes for debate on matters relating to national security is a sham. Thus are we invited to believe, for example, that General Petraeus’s appointment as the umpteenth U.S. commander in Afghanistan constitutes a milestone on the way to ultimate success.

Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: “What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?”  (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?

Washington’s refusal to pose that question provides a measure of the corruption and dishonesty permeating our politics.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, has just been published. Listen to the latest TomCast audio interview to hear him discuss the book by clicking here or, to download to an iPod, here.

Copyright 2010 Andrew Bacevich