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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quagmire: Pakistan and Al-Qaeda

Given the last 30 years of conservative rule, the thought of having a "progressive pragmatist" in the White House tends to center on domestic issues (e.g. poverty, racism, sexism, the environment, etc.). The major unknown to confront Obama is terrorism being waged against America, primarily by Islamic fundamentalists. Wallerstein lays out the complexities of dealing with Al-Qaeda in the context of the politics of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He warns Obama of the dangers of getting engaged in a war in the region. The tribal territories including much of Afghanistan appears to be ungovernable. Yet, this where Al-Qaeda is headquartered and protected. Apart from military options and to combat anti-Americanism on the part of the Arab and Islamic world, Barack is considering making a major foreign policy speech at some Islamic capital. It has been suggested that he do that in the nation with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia. It is land that Barack knows but this speech needs to be delivered in the Middle East. That being the case, it would seem that Saudi Arabia would only anger Bin-Laden more. There's Cairo but Egypt is not very democratic. Maybe Amman Jordan? Addressing the Palestinians? Whatever, Barack faces a major challenge when to combatting terrorism. At least we will soon be out of that illegal war in Iraq. RGN

Commentary No. 247, December 15, 2008
"Pakistan: Obama's Nightmare"

On the evening of Nov. 26, 2008, a small group of 10 persons attacked two luxury hotels and other sites in central Mumbai (India) and, over several days, managed both to kill and hurt a very large number of persons and to create massive material destruction in the city. It took several days before the slaughter was brought to an end. It is widely believed that the attacks were the work of a Pakistani group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a group thought to be similar in motivation to al-Qaeda, perhaps directly linked to it. The world press immediately called the Mumbai massacres the 9/11 of India, a repetition of the attacks al-Qaeda launched against the United States in 2001.

The motivations and strategy of al-Qaeda in 2001 were largely misunderstood in 2001, both by the U.S. government and by analysts. The same thing risks happening now. Al-Qaeda in 2001 was of course seeking to humiliate the United States. But this was, from a strategic point of view, only a secondary motivation. Al-Qaeda has always made clear that its primary objective is the re-creation of the Islamic caliphate.

And, as a matter of political strategy, it has considered that the necessary first step is the collapse of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda considers that these two governments have been the essential political supports of Western (primarily U.S.) political dominance in the greater Middle East, and therefore the biggest obstacles to the re-creation of the caliphate, whose initial geographic base would of course be in this region.

The attack of September 11 can be seen as an attempt to get the U.S. government to engage in political activities that would put pressures on the Saudi and Pakistani governments of a kind that would undermine their political viability. The primary actions of the U.S. government in the region since 2001 - the invasion first of Afghanistan and then of Iraq - certainly met the expectations of al-Qaeda. What has been the result?

The Saudi government has reacted with great political astuteness, fending off U.S. pressures that would have weakened it internally, and has been able thus far to minimize al-Qaeda political success in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani government has been far less successful. The regime in Islamabad is far weaker in 2008 than its predecessor regime was in 2001, while the political strength of al-Qaeda-type elements has been on a steady rise. The Mumbai attacks seem to have been an effort to weaken the Pakistani state still further. Of course, LET wished to hurt India and those seen as its allies - the United States, Great Britain, and Israel - but this was a secondary objective. The primary objective was to bring down the Pakistani government.

In Pakistan, as in every country of the world, the political elites are nationalist and seek to further the geopolitical interests of their country. This objective is fundamentally different from that of al-Qaeda-like groups, for whom the only legitimate function of a state is to further the re-creation of the caliphate. The persistent refusal of the Western world to understand this distinction has been a major source of al-Qaeda's continuing strength. It is what will turn Pakistan into Obama's nightmare.

What are Pakistan's geopolitical interests? Before anything else, it worries about its principal neighbors, India and Afghanistan. These concerns have fashioned its geopolitical strategy for the last sixty years. Pakistan sought powerful allies against India. It found two historically, the United States and China. Both the United States and China supported Pakistan for one simple reason, to keep India in check. India was seen by both as too close geopolitically to the Soviet Union, with whom both the United States and China were in conflict.

In the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and the momentary geopolitical weakness of Russia, both the United States and China sought tentatively to obtain closer relations with India. India was geopolitically a more important prize than Pakistan, and Pakistan knew this. One of the ways Pakistan reacted was to expand its role in (and control over) Afghanistan, by supporting the eventually successful Taliban takeover of the country.

What happened after 2001? The United States invaded Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban, and installed a government which had elements friendly to the United States, to Russia, even to Iran, but not at all to Pakistan. At the same time, the United States and India got still cozier, with the new arrangements on nuclear energy. So, the Pakistani government turned a blind eye to the renewal of Taliban strength in the northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The Taliban elements there, supported by al-Qaeda elements, renewed military operations in Afghanistan - and with considerable success, it should be noted.

The United States became quite upset, pressed the Pakistani army to act militarily against these Taliban/al-Qaeda elements, and itself engaged in direct (albeit covert) military action in this region. The Pakistani government found itself between a rock and a hard place. It had never had much capacity to control matters in the tribal regions. And the attempts it made as a result of U.S. government pressure weakened it still further. But its inefficacy pushed the U.S. military to act even more directly, which led to severe anti-American sentiment even among the most historically pro-American elites.

What can Obama do? Send in troops? Against whom? The Pakistani government itself? It is said that the U.S. government is particularly concerned with the nuclear stockpile that Pakistan has. Would the United States try to seize this stockpile? Any action along these lines - and Obama recklessly hinted at such actions during the electoral campaign - would make the Iraqi fiasco seem like a minor event. It would certainly doom Obama's domestic objectives.

There will be no shortage of people who will counsel him that doing nothing is unacceptable weakness. Is that Obama's only alternative? It seems clear that pursuing his agenda, as he himself has defined it, requires getting out from under the unending and geopolitically fruitless U.S. activities in the Middle East. Iraq will be easy, since the Iraqis will insist on U.S. withdrawal. Afghanistan will be harder, but a political deal is not impossible. Iran can be negotiated. The Israel/Palestine conflict is for the moment unresolvable, and Obama may be able to do little else than let the situation fester still longer.

But Pakistan requires a decision. If a Pakistani government is to survive, it will have to be one that can show it holds its own geopolitically. This will not be at all easy, given the internal situation, and an angry Indian public opinion. If there is anywhere where Obama can act intelligently, this is the place.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

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These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

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Pat Buchanan: Right Wing Senators and Their War Against the UAW

As much as I have disdain for much of what Pat Buchanan has to offer, on occasion his more populist version of (white) nationalism leads him away from the Republican line. Appropriately, Buchanan's concern is that a failed Big Three has enormous implications for America's economy. Even so, the "Toyota Republicans," as he calls these Southern Senators, say America be damned, "we want immediate concessions from those 'overpaid' autoworkers." Secondarily, he notes that the war against the Big Three autoworkers means that the Republicans will have lost the so-called Reagan Democrats forever. The blocking of the loan to the U.S. automakers, a position given that the national interest is at stake, defies logic and is evident of the bankruptcy of conservatism when it comes to addressing real world problems. RGN

The Toyota Republicans
by Patrick J. Buchanan (more by this author)
Posted 12/16/2008 ET

"GOP to Detroit: Drop Dead!"

So may have read the headline Friday, had not President Bush stepped in to save GM, Ford and Chrysler, which Senate Republicans had just voted to send to the knacker's yard.

What are Republicans thinking of, pulling the plug, at Christmas, on GM, risking swift death for the greatest manufacturing company in American history, a strategic asset and pillar of the U.S. economy.

The $14 billion loan to the Big Three that Republican senators filibustered to death is just 2 percent of the $700 billion the Senate voted to bail out Wall Street. Having gone along with bailouts of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie, Freddie and CitiGroup, why refuse a reprieve to an industry upon which millions of the best blue-collar jobs in America depend?

In a good year, Americans buy 17 million cars. A more populous EU probably buys as many. Three billion people in India, Southeast Asia and China, four times as many people as there are in the EU and United States, are moving toward the middle class. They, too, will be wanting cars. And millions of them love American cars.

Is the Republican Party so fanatic in its ideology that, rather than sin against a commandment of Milton Friedman, it is willing to see America written forever out of this fantastic market, let millions of jobs vanish and write off the industrial Midwest?

So it would seem. "Companies fail every day, and others take their place," said Sen. Richard Shelby on "Face the Nation."

Presumably, the companies that will "take their place," when GM, Ford and Chrysler die, are German, Japanese or Korean, like the ones lured into Shelby's state of Alabama, with the bait of subsidies free-market Republicans are supposed to abhor.

In 1993, Alabama put together a $258 million package to bring a Mercedes plant in.

In 1999, Honda was offered $158 million to build a plant there. In 2002, Alabama won a Hyundai plant by offering a $252 million subsidy.

"We have a number of profitable automakers in America, and they should not be disadvantaged for making wise business decisions while failure is rewarded," says Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

DeMint is referring to "profitable automakers" like BMW, which sited a plant in Spartanburg, after South Carolina offered the Germans a $150 million subsidy and $80 million to expand.

Be it BMW, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi or Hyundai, the South has become a sanctuary for foreign assembly plants, for which Southern states have been paying subsidies.

Fine. But why this "Let-them-eat-cake!" coldness toward U.S. auto companies? General Motors employs more workers than all these foreign plants combined. And, unlike Mitsubishi, General Motors didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.

Do these Southern senators understand why the foreign automakers suddenly up and decided to build plants in the United States?

It was the economic nationalism of Ronald Reagan.

When an icon of American industry, Harley-Davidson, was being run out of business by cutthroat Japanese dumping of big bikes to kill the "Harley Hog," Reagan slapped 50 percent tariffs on their motorcycles and imposed quotas on imported Japanese cars. Message to Tokyo. If you folks want to keep selling cars here, start building them here.

Fear of Reaganism brought those foreign automakers, lickety-split, to America's shores, not any love of Southern cooking.

Do the Republicans not yet understand how they lost the New Majority coalition that gave them three landslides and five victories in six presidential races from 1968 to 1988? Do they not know why the Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are going home?

The Republican Party gave their jobs away!

How? By telling U.S. manufacturers they could shut plants here, get rid of their U.S. workers, build factories in Mexico, Asia or China, and ship their products back, free of charge.

Republican globalists gave U.S. manufacturers every incentive to go abroad and take their jobs with them, the jobs of Middle America.

And, for 30 years, that is what U.S. manufacturers have done, have been forced to do, as their competitors closed down and moved their plants abroad in search of low-wage Third World labor.

It's Herbert Hoover time in here, Vice President Cheney is said to have told the Senate Republicans -- as they prepared to march out onto the floor and turn thumbs down on any reprieve for General Motors.

In today's world, America faces nationalistic trade rivals who manipulate currencies, employ nontariff barriers, subsidize their manufacturers, rebate value-added taxes on exports to us and impose value-added taxes on imports from us, all to capture our markets and kill our great companies. And we have a Republican Party blissfully ignorant that we live in a world of us or them. It doesn't even know who "us" is.

We need a new team on the field and a new coach who believes with Vince Lombardi that "winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Copyright © 2008 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

Ron Walters: The Big Three and White Nationalism's Last (?) Stand

Ron Walters does an analysis of the continuation of the Civil War as it was played out by the right wing Southern Republican Senators in their obstruction of the loan to the America’s Big Three automakers. Their defeat of a congressional solution to this immediate crisis was nothing more than a union busting tactic that placed the nation’s economy in further peril. That the UAW supported Obama was not lost as a part of their planning. Also, as Walters points out, neither was the fact that it was “their blacks” who left debt peonage for the industrial sector. For these Senators their opposition was nothing less than the revenge of a white nationalism lost. RGN

The Radical Right Rides Again
By Ron Walters

Think about it. A group of Southern, right wing, Republican Senators have stopped the Senate from approving a package of financial assistance to the big three auto companies who employ directly over 150,000 workers, but affects 3 million including the suppliers, dealers and etc. This kind of cold blooded action on their part strikes me as just the kind of narrowly conservative, mean-spirited and reckless decision making that the nation voted against in electing Barack Obama.

The issue was that in the Senate negotiations over the $14 billion package for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, Republicans, led by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, developed a four point plan wherein three of the four major concessions were to be made by auto workers. It directed the United Auto Workers to agree that their wages would be brought in line with those of Nissan and Volkswagen; take half of their $23 billion Voluntary Benefit Association fund in stock options; and to eliminate payments to workers receiving nearly full salaries up to four years after retirement. Some of these proposals had previously been made by the corporate auto heads, so Corker was doing their bidding as well. The UAW that had already given up billions of dollars to the auto industries to keep them solvent, said no.
Nevertheless, Corker and his party had lots of political interests here. Ron Gettlefinger, head of the UAW, charged Corker with trying to break the union and bring it into line with non-union auto makers in his own state. Second, the UAW was also a target because of its role as a strong constituency of the Democratic party. Then, in Tennessee, Nissan and Volkswagen have plants and the latter’s headquarters is in Nashville and another Republican leader, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, has argued that the companies should face bankruptcy. He has foreign auto makers in his state such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai that he may be defending.

To come clean, I drive a Toyota because of its reputation for dependability, but I am also aware of the strides American manufacturers have made with respect to quality. In fact, what constitutes an “American car” today is questionable because of the substantial integration of auto parts from foreign countries into American cars. American cars cost about $2,000 more to make, largely because of factors such as health care, retirement, and dealership structure, but the governments of foreign auto makers absorb most of these costs. However, American elected officials who follow the pure capitalist model while other countries support their industries in a globalized world, contribute to the reason why we are losing out in a number of industries. The big exception is agriculture where government subsidizes corporate farmers. But no one demanded that corporations which received some of the $700 billion in funds to cut the salaries of their workers, or return benefits.

What these Southern Senators seem to be saying is that they don’t care whether there is a viable American auto industry. The auto industry helped African Americans to escape the oppression of the Southern oligarchy and by unionization, to earn a decent living that could support their families for the first time. And because of the historical resentment by the oligarchy for this fact, they have waged an unrelenting and brutal war against the unionization of agricultural labor in the South that would help liberate labor in that region. Under the peonage system, for a good part of the 20th century, whites paid black laborers little, very often nothing and were resistant to government social services or corporate wages that competed with wages in their region. A low wages economy has unified Republican corporate leaders and Southern barons.

I still have this image in my mind of House Republican leaders marching lock-step to Impeach Bill Clinton for a minor offense, while his favorable ratings in surveys of the American people was at 85%, clearly suggesting they did not want Impeachment to occur. But the radical Right didn’t care because their narrow ideology was more important. No doubt, when Barack Obama recalled many of these kind of events, it created the rationale for his statement that America should “turn the page.”

Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Barack and Hillary: A View from the Fascist Right

This piece from white nationalist numero uno, Pat Buchanan, is interesting on what the future holds for Barack, Hillary and foreign policy. Pat may be more willing to recognize Barack's "Left" leaning than the Left itself. Even so, he poses some interesting questions, questions that he argures out to make the left nervous. RGN

Can This Marriage Last?
by Patrick J. Buchanan (more by this author)
Posted 12/05/2008 ET
Updated 12/05/2008 ET

Having savaged each other for a year, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have now formed a rare partnership in power. Not since James Garfield chose James G. Blaine has a new president chosen his principal rival to be secretary of state.
What does this tell us?

First, don't take campaign oratory all that seriously.

Second, unlike Dennis Kucinich, Ted Kennedy, Ron Paul or Jesse Helms, Hillary and Barack are pragmatists. They do not let ideology or past insults get in the way of a mutually beneficial deal.

But this is not some Hitler-Stalin pact of American politics.

Dick Morris has it right. As in a parliamentary system, where Cabinet members come straight off the majority party front bench, Barack, as prime minister, is knitting together a coalition government that allocates its highest honors to its greatest stars.

As Tony Blair named rival Gordon Brown as chancellor of the exchequer, Barack made Joe Biden his vice president, Hillary his secretary of state and Bill Richardson his secretary of commerce. Had John Edwards not fouled his nest, he, too, would be in the Cabinet. Perhaps attorney general.

And while Barack has taken a risk naming Hillary, with her national following and ruthless courtiers, Hillary's investment is even greater. Should a clash erupt, as it did between Ronald Reagan and Al Haig, Barack, though at great cost, can terminate her and her career. The idea that a cashiered secretary of state could challenge President Obama in 2012, capture the nomination and win, after humiliating and dumping our first African-American president, is absurd.

And the Clintons know it. Absent divine intervention, Obama is the nominee in 2012. Hillary has to know this is likely her last chance to make history. Thus she seized the offer of State, and Bill agreed to go the Full Monty on his financial relationships.

What does this marriage of convenience, with Biden, Bob Gates and Gen. Jim Jones as ushers, mean for U.S. foreign policy?

Methinks the antiwar left has the crying towel out too early.

Our new decider's heart is still on the left. Moreover, his political interests argue for relegating to the trash bin of history a Bush-neocon policy of endless war until the Middle East resembles the Middle West. America cannot sustain the wars that Bush's policy produced, nor those it promises.

Look, then, for Obama to make a large, early down payment on his pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months. Though the Status of Forces Agreement accepted by Iraq doubles the time Obama has to pull out, to December 2011, the nation, not just the left, wants out, with but a single caveat: America does not want a Saigon ending.

What happens after -- whether Shia attack Shia, or join to crush Sunnis, or Arabs engage Kurds -- is not a war Americans are willing to intervene in with any new surge of U.S. troops.

About Afghanistan there is a gathering consensus that victory over a resurgent Taliban with a sanctuary in Pakistan's border region cannot be achieved without an infusion of U.S. troops this country is unwilling to support.
Escalating the war means more air strikes that have alienated the Afghan people as well as President Kharzi. More Predator strikes in a Pakistan where anti-Americanism is rife and the government is besieged hardly seems a promising policy.

What is the U.S. bottom line in Kabul? Not the impossible dream of a democracy modeled on our own but a government committed to keeping al-Qaida out. Given the bloody beating the Taliban have taken for seven years, they may be amenable to such an arrangement.

But the first test of the Obama-Clinton team may be Iran.

Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has never declared it in violation of the non-proliferation treaty. Yet, the suspicion is broad and deep in Washington and Tel Aviv that Iran is hell-bent on building an atom bomb. Obama and Hillary have both said that will not happen, no matter what it takes.

If war with Iran is to be averted, the new team must move swiftly to talk to Tehran and put its cards on the table. It is here that the potential for a split between Barack and Hillary is greatest.

If Likud's "Bibi" Netanyahu wins the Israeli election, he will push hard for U.S. air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites, and push back against any Obama deal with Tehran. With the Israeli lobby and a Jewish community that gave Barack 80 percent of its votes, plus the neocons and Evangelical right calling for strikes against Iran's nuclear sites, would the Obama-Clinton team stand united -- against war?

Would Hillary, a former senator from New York who relied even more heavily than Barack on Jewish contributions and votes, stand by Barack if the two disagree on whether the survival of Israel is at stake?

On second thought, the antiwar left is right to be nervous.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

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