Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Process of Middle East Liberty


Do the countries of the Middle East deserve social, economic and political liberty?

Should their paths be determined by accident and force or reflection and choice?

The United States and Western powers have ruled over the Middle East since WWI.  It can be said that Western Powers have been manipulating the ME since WWI.  Now, it is a normal course for politicians (power) to manipulate others to their own advantage, but what is so wrong about Western control of the ME is the deception under the guise of liberty and the force by which the ME has been suppressed.

In WWI, Britain gained Arab allies by promising independence to the Arab States of Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula.

However, this promise was usurped by the Skyes/Picot Agreement, which cut Arab territory into pieces for Britain, France and Russia.

Liberty denied.  Liberty stolen.

...and only a year later, in 1917, Britain is party to the Balfour Declaration.  An agreement in which Britain assures help for the Jewish Zionists of the World Zionist Congress to

"view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

So, what has happened here?  All in the game of Risk, boys and girls, all in the name of risk.

Britain promised independence for Arabs in Palestine, in exchange for soldiers, while
Britain promised independence to a burgeoning political group, the Zionist Congress, on Palestinian land, also in exchange for military support in WWI. 

Who got the land?  Britain!
Britain wins.    ....but....what have they won?

Soldiers/Influence in the War. 

The Suez Canal
- good for faster, secured trade to India
-a new front on which to prepare for war with Russia

Control over OIL!!! and oil trade routes.

And remember we are great political allies with our old colonial master, Britain- the US has interest here.

(In 1917, Britain said to Iraqis (as the bombed the heck out of them), "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators." This was 1917, not Sept. 14, 2003, when Cheney made the same statement on Meet the Press.)

Egads! All this history!  Just a bit more:

So, the Arab League was formed after WWII, as Arab States gained independence.  The League included the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) an official representative body of Palestinians.

While Britain and Western allies were pillaging for oil, soldiers and trade routes, Palestinians were being inundated by the Zionist Jewish group (all part of the course of politics), but then, internationally de-legitimized when with UN Resolution 181, which created the Jewish State of Israel, against the wishes of the Arab League. 

Further, The United States intervened in the affairs of the Arab League, pressuring states such as Egypt, Syria and Jordan to act in the interests of Israel and the US against the interest of Palestine's legitimate representative organization, the PLO, (which later spawned Hamas); and also Hizbollah, an Arab faction of Lebanon aggressed by Israel. 

Now, now.  I am not, in this historical perspective, blaming Israel, or the Jewish people.  The blame clearly goes to Western powers, who had the political might and the political ideologies of old. 

It is a process.

This is all part of the course of politics (power and the distribution of resources). 

The World has gone through quite a transition in the past 100 years.  Nation States are new.  It takes a long time for systems to change, from Imperialism and Colonialism to the ideas of self-determination, independence, freedom and liberty.

This all started with a game of Risk, political players were playing for new territory, trade routes and oil...what are we playing for now?

International law concerning Nation States prohibits the taking of territory as a spoil of war.
We have alternative sources of energy (though some corporate oil players will not like the transition).
We are not limited in trade routes.
Our military and allies are the strongest in the world.  

So, why did we go into Iraq in 2003?  Oh, yeah, WMD's. 


I honestly don't know why we went into Iraq in 2003, but we should be asking the question of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney.  Though it may be linked to the PNAC's Strategy for Securing the Realm.
The PNAC was a neo-conservative (or neo-liberal if you are outside the U.S.) think tank that created white papers like the one above.  The Strategy for Securing the Realm called for destabilizing the Middle East as a way to provide security for Israel.

(see my post on American Exceptionalism)

Why should we go into Iraq now? and what can we do about the festering wounds we have inflicted in the ME?

According to Shimon Peres, Israel's oldest living and most honored President, we should not go back into Iraq.  He says,
"This is a Muslim and Arab problem and they have to deal with it. I think the best and the right way is to tell the Arab world ... gentlemen, it is your problem and you must find a solution. American soldiers cannot settle a religious problem that is basically Muslim."
Peres also said that he believes ISIS, the new terrorist threat taking over Iraq, can be a unifying force in the ME, that ISIS is a threat to all nations and that the danger may be an opportunity to come together.   I find this a bit twisted, considering that ISIS is just another in a long line of militants looking, in part, for justice for Palestine.

Considering the history of the ME, there are sure to be other Arab members who are frustrated with their inability to gain autonomy and power without the interference of the United States and Western powers.

The threat from those who have been suppressed, dehumanized, hopeless and de-legitimized will endure until they are able to have a sense of social, economic and political liberty and believe that they are part of a just system.
Peres also said that the Middle East is falling apart, one Nation after another.  He doesn't see Iraq remaining as one State. Senator Joe Manchin, of the Armed Services Committee echoed Peres' opinion yesterday on Face the Nation, saying we should not go back into Iraq and that the borders will probably be redrawn.
 This makes sense to me.  Many of the arbitrary borders drawn after the World Wars have caused further civil wars and international law does not provide solid ground for self-determination.  (Update:  Kurds seek a Kurdish State, independent of Iraq "Iraq has left us, we have found no partner (with the Iraq gov't.)". - PBS Newshour interview July2, 2014 )

While self-determination is a principal of international law, so is uti possidetis juris, which favors stability of Nation's borders.  The two laws contradict each other, and hence, can suppress self-determination, as Western allies determined in the case of Ukraine and Crimea.

I think the US has a big responsibility for the crisis in the ME.  Our ME policies have created terrorists, and in the case of Iraq now, as a consequence of our lawless 2003 invasion, we are obligated to provide assistance.  What sort of assistance and how is a tough problem to address.

Who exactly is ISIS and how have they gained so much power so fast?

One thing is certain, we cannot be successful with military assistance alone.  This is a problem, because, as I outlined in the last post The Process of Liberty, we do not have the skills or authority to go into a young, failing, democracy and give any hope!  Ours is falling apart too!  We have not been vigilant in maintaining Public Virtue.

If we cannot support our democracy at home, how can we guide others in the creation of theirs?  If we cannot bridge the factions in our own country between Republicans and Democrats, how can we be an example for the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds?

We cannot!!

The solution is to- right now- start the process of re-invigorating Public Virtue in the United States.  If we can publicly, overtly, shine the light on those who are doing good, who are getting work done, who are compromising, acting out of courtesy, respect and responsibility toward the common good...

if we can lift them up out of our masses, encourage them and make an example of them for ourselves, maybe we can fix our problems, and in the process become an example again for what freedom means- what liberty means. 

We can do this in the ME too.  There are people, like Peres, in Israel, who want justice for Palestine.  There are Israeli and Palestinian voices who want a two state solution.

There are good leaders in Iraq, who want to make things work, who are interested in public good.  Let us find them and highlight them more than the violence.  Let's lift them up out of the masses, out of the fighting and laud them. 

Easier than political leaders, though, is simply fessing up to our dysfunctional world history, and highlighting the positive contributions the ME has made and is making to the world.  The ME is where civilization started: agriculture, math, writing, art, engineering!  The positives are out there, and the more we focus on that, the further we will get on a positive path. 

We need to find the heroes...
the good people who have the seeds of Public Virtue and exemplify them as our leaders. 

Discourage haters and perpetrators of controversy, lies and violence.  We can do this from our neighborhoods to the international community.

Community, National and International Public Virtue is the magic for the success of liberty for the USA and for the ME.

Can we believe that the ME deserves its own process and attainment of liberty?
Do we believe that we can re-stabilize our own country?

Today and everyday, look for the heroes, find them, encourage them, laud them, follow them. #fame them

#Shame the negative, gossip, hate and discrimination- discourage it.

A brighter future is simple, from the ground up, raise the good and leave the bad behind.

Michael Gerson ended Face the Nation yesterday stating that we have no analogy for the partisanship in congress today- with red districts getting redder and blue getting blue-er- there is no incentive to compromise.  He said,
"It is astounding that people 50 years ago basically did the right thing for the right reason and some sort of common decency and common sense prevailed."

Bob Shieffer asked Peggy Noonan,
"Will we ever see that day again?"

Echoing Gerson's comments about the Civil Rights era from earlier in the show-
"Just because it seems impossible, does not mean that it is impossible."

Make a great day!


Further reading:

My former posts on the ME

Middle East Timeline (PBS) 
Timeline of Colonialism in Iraq
UN Resolutions concerning Israel and Palestine
Letter to America from Osama Bin Laden  (notice the theocratic language, does it remind us of the Christian Right in America today?)
View of Israeli Peace Activist Mike Peled and his video

Next Week:  American Exceptionalism

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Process of Liberty

We have problems.  Problems, problems, problems...

Should people be 'allowed' to be wealthy?  What is the inherent problem therein?

Do we really believe in equality in the US?  What about the slow climb of so many non-white, non-men to that revered ideal?

What in the name of Heaven or Hell are we gonna do with our Middle East problem?

Hmm...well, well...

One cannot take capitalism out of the United States, but we can improve capitalism.

The ideal of equality is just that- an ideal.  

How 'bout an anchor for the US, something like...Morality and Respect.  

So, what about me?  What about you?  Who is more important?  Whose wants/needs/desires should be prioritized?  The answer is simple:
I am more important to me and you are more important to you.

Never the twain shall meet? 
Hardly.  At some point we will be walking down the same path and one of us will have to step aside.

It really is a simple matter of courtesy.  According to almost every philosophy of freedom loving politics Courtesy, Morality, Respect and a sense of Responsibility to the Commons is the key to longevity and success.

That is:  Freedom and liberty will not survive without PUBLIC VIRTUE.  

As Rome fell, many philosophers of the time blamed the erosion of public virtue.

Public Virtue is what Ben Franklin was referring to when he said that 'we have a republic...if we can keep it.'
In fact, around the time the US Constitution was formed, our founders placed the heaviest burden of success on the idea of Public Virtue.  The idea that the people were one body, and that no man should rise above to quench another mans liberty.

The ideal of liberty was married with the ideal of equality.  Through education and opportunity, every man would be given equal chance to rise and fall amongst his neighbors and brethren. 

So, what of the wealthy?

"...a man racked with selfish passions of greed, envy and hate loses conception of order...his sense of connection with the general system."

Is a wealthy person inherently infected with the elements of greed, envy and hate?  Honestly, I don't know, cause I have never been wealthy, but I assume not.

What can save a wealthy person from these traps?

A moral compass.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the above statement as a Nation...

    Is our country racked with 


Do citizens have a hard time relating to their communities and our Nation?

Are our communities and Nation falling apart?


Problems, problems.  

What can save our Nations from these traps?  Public Virtue
Our nation was founded on the ideals of a quality and fortitude of men, the likes of which I have never encountered.  A shame.  Instead of cultivating ourselves into a better people we have become racked with....(see above quote.)

Our founders saw luxury as a root of societal destruction.   

William Moore Smith asks us, "Is there no proper use of wealth and civil happiness-the genuine descendents of civil liberty- without abusing them to nourishment of luxury and corruption?" 

Wealth and civil happiness.  Never the twain shall meet?  The two absolutely must be married to ensure freedom and liberty.  

The key, as all freedom loving philosophers have concluded, is a sense of morality.

Adam Smith, too, included this in his idea of free market capitalism.  We have forgotten, and educators have long left this part out, but along with the invisible hand of supply/demand, Smith also included a vitally important element:

The invisible hand of morality.  

When I studied economics in college, it was disturbingly obvious to me that, though we skimmed over this element, it was quickly discarded.  

I raised my hand in class one afternoon and asked, "What about the invisible hand of morality?"

My professor replied, "We took that out a long time ago."  

We?  Who?  Honestly I don't know who the 'we' is that took the morality out of capitalism, but...

John Locke, a main influence on the founding of our society, and great philosopher of liberty, has this to say of labor and capital: 

1.  No man can own another
2.  The earth was put here for each of us equally
3.  Mixing ones labor with a natural resource makes it his own
4.  Man may take of the commons as long as there is as much and of equal quality for others.  

I love this man!  I love this philosophy.  

These statements allow much more liberty in a world with abundant resources.  They also provide guidance in a world where resources are limited.  

No one should own or take the liberty of destroying our water or land.  
Access to land for food should be universal
Not only should labor be paid according to the value of a person's time and labor (a function of a living wage); but also of the added value that comes from the mixing of ones labor with the raw material he/she is creating from.  After all, it is not the capital holder who is mixing his labor with the materials.

It may follow, using this prescription from John Locke, that a capital holder might not siphon so much of the profits that may belong to the laborers themselves, without merit.  

If the capital holder cannot make a profit after taking these production costs into consideration, then his business or business model must be changed. 

Capitalism must have a moral compass.

Hence, good men of capitalism have changed their business models to more environmentally and socially sustainable systems.  These moral tactics also improve profits.  Hear! Hear!

We are in a great transition as a nation. 

Our forefathers (I am in love with them as an idea of what men have been), had great IDEALS.  

Equality.  First for men among men.

After, it has been and is the responsibility of generation after generation to apply our forefathers ideal of equality to everyone.  

They knew they couldn't change things so quickly- that the walls of greed, envy and hate could not ALL be brought down with their words and actions.  But they knew what civil equality should look like and they gave us their vision in a Constitution and Bill of Rights as guidance. 

People complain of the founding fathers and their hypocrisy in slavery and women's rights, but they were lucky to gain equality for themselves among other men.  It was an important first step, and we should revere it as a victory for us all, not a defeat for minorities and women. 

We are lucky, and should feel honored to be part of the process that can create equality, freedom, liberty, stability and sustainability for society...and if we are successful, as our forefathers were, to be an example for all the people of the World.  

However, right now we are in a crisis of Public Virtue.  We do not have it, and many probably don't even know what it is.  

We cannot expect our leaders to reflect morals and ethics if we as a society do not.  We should not expect  business leaders to reflect morality, ethics and a sense of public good, if the society the have grown out of does not.  

The solutions to our problems cannot come from the top down, but must rise from the bottom up.

This is our challenge and it is simple, 
This is our challenge and it is easily attainable: 

To develop Public Virtue in our culture.  To re-instil a sense of morals based on courtesy, mutual respect, and civil responsibility. 

Our leaders, our choices are a reflection of the virtue we hold as a people.   

We may choose to create and obey laws out of virtue or our laws may be forced upon us and compel obedience by terror. 

Coming Next:  What all of this has to do with the Middle East.  

Make a great day! 


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do we deserve this Democracy? Can we keep it?

Simple question for today, delivered to the American People by Alexander Hamilton. 

The excerpt below is the introduction to a long debate concerning the philosophical need for and content of our US Constitution. 

Let is be said that I in NO WAY am advocating a NEW  Constitution!  Ours was debated, deliberated and died over by some of the most brilliant men in is our duty to understand the structure they set out for us.  A structure to maintain our freedom. 

"AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

So, can we, through reflection and choice, establish a good government?  or not?

Make a great day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome Back

Well, I haven't written for some years, but it seems things were still for most of that time anyway.  Politics has started to move again.  Hurray! I am not sure what happened, but I did notice about two months ago that we started having movement in congress again, and at least some substantive conversations.  Nothing too exciting, just some bits of normal conversation coming out on the Sunday shows. 

This is good news.  It doesn't mean that we have gotten past our biggest problems though...mis/uninformed citizens, citizen apathy and money in politics.  

I think things have come to a head though.  We can't get any more left than Occupy Wall Street's vision of abolishing capitalism and (magically) instilling a utopian Socialist land and we can't get any more right than the blatant racism, theocratic and murderous conservatism that has abrasively surfaced. 

A foundation for something new is on the verge, but it won't be Socialism and we can't let it be Tyranny.  

But, before I predict next steps, let me thank the Republicans for two things:

1.  Co-opting the Tea Party (this is controversial, but I was there when it happened, the Tea Party existed as part of Ron Paul's campaign in 2007).

Why do I thank thee?

a.  motivating, funding, setting fire to, now active citizens and in turn motivating even more citizens  in protest to 'your' well funded (however misinformed), co-opted 'grassroots' movement.

2.  Starting to come out and battle the misinformation and insanity of the Tea Party as any good conservative should. 

What I see in the future (oh I am so excited!)(no really I am!)

Awesome debates on and about the US Constitution, #whatfreedommeans and the role of the citizen. 

Heavens yes!  Hell yeah! 

...and that will be the topic of tomorrows post. 

Make a great day!