Betrayal, Obama Style

Earlier this month I wrote a post in which I stated that I planned to write no more articles for this blog in the immediate future. I then wrote a post explaining the reasons for changing its name to Toward a Radical Center. Last night I spent about a half hour beginning to work on another post outlining some of the tendencies which for me represent a “radical center” in politics. What all this adds up to is that the moratorium is off. While most of my writing efforts in coming months will not be of a political nature, I do want to again do some writing on the political, economic, and ecological issues which I believe are significant. The number of such writing will be few perhaps only one a month. However I will also be introducing and linking to articles from established scholars who I believe should be heard.

As any one who has read this blog during the last two years should be aware my interest for several years has been focused around the foreign policy issues of the United States in the Middle East. I am very aware that for most persons these issues are of marginal interest. For me they are of deep significance and are some of the most compelling moral issues of the day. For example over 200,000 people have died in Syria during the past four years and no end to that struggle is in sight. And the United States under the leadership of Barack Obama has done little to nothing to enable the Syrian people to throw off the oppressive Assad regime. This to me is shameful. And yet most of the people of both the Left and Right simply ignore the horrible consequences of the Obama administration’s Syrian policy. So yes these issues are of central concern to me and I will continue to write to remain people that something is horribly wrong with US foreign policy.

Of course it is true that other issues are also of deep importance. Among these some of the most central are the ecological issues of global climate change and ecocide which could ultimately cause the destruction of this civilization. Another important ongoing issue are the decline of meaningful work in the modern world caused primarily by advancing technologies which destroy the need for human labor. So yes I would like to discuss these types of issues in future posts. But at least for the next few months I suspect that the focus of this blog will remain on the issues of foreign policy.

Enough said. I now want to introduce an article “Betrayal, Obama Style” by the Lebanese journalist scholar Hisham Melhem. Mr. Melhem is the Bureau Chief of the Washington DC branch of Al Arabiya News. He is also an expert for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Within this article by Mr. Melhem I think that he both passionately and brilliantly exposes the cynicism of the Syrian policy of the Obama administration

Note that for those who think that because I am opposed to most aspects of President Obama’s foreign policy that I must ally with the Republican Party, I do not! On most domestic issues, for example, I agree with the broad social democratic tendency of Obama’s domestic policies. I even support some of his foreign policy positions. For example I think that he is right not to support Republican sponsored legislation to place more sanctions on Iran. I also do not believe that the United States should in a major way send US military troops back into Iraq to fight ISEL. Enclosed is introduction to the article.

Glenn King

Betrayal, Obama Style

At a time when Russia and Iran, the biggest supporters of the Assad dictatorship in Damascus, are on the ropes economically because of steep declining oil prices, the Obama administration, mostly by inaction but also by design, is practically propping up the Assad regime.

One could see the contours of a hellish Faustian deal in the making. To put it bluntly, the Obama administration today, almost four years after the Syrian people began their peaceful uprising against the depredation of an entrenched despotic rule, is desperately relying on Russian ‘diplomacy’ and Iranian ‘muscle’ to extricate it from its disastrous policy in Syria.

Iran now for all intents and purposes, as one astute Iraqi Kurd told me, is ‘leading from behind’ the ground war against the forces of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, while the U.S. is leading the air campaign. In this new strange, but not brave Middle East, the hapless Iraqi government is more than happy to play the role of the useful mailman/middleman, delivering and receiving messages among the three frenemies. click to continue

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An Army to Defeat Assad

While I wish to see the destruction of ISIL (ISIS) I do not want to see their defeat at the cost of supporting the murderous regime of Bashir Assad in Syria, a regime whose actions have caused the deaths of over 190,000 people. Furthermore while I support the cautious use of US air power to support the legitimate opponents of ISIL such as the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Syrian Free Army I do not believe that the US in any way should attempt to defeat ISIL through the use of US ground troops.

I have just completed reading Kenneth Pollack’s article in the Foreign Affairs magazine called “An Army to Defeat Assad.” It presents the best proposal which I have yet to read regarding what the proper US response to both ISIL and the Assad regime should be. The article link is
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141848/kenneth-m-pollack/an-army-to-defeat-assad

Glenn

Syria is a hard one. The arguments against the United States’ taking a more active role in ending the vicious three-year-old conflict there are almost perfectly balanced by those in favor of intervening, especially in the aftermath of the painful experiences of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The cons begin with the simple fact that the United States has no interests in Syria itself. Syria is not an oil producer, a major U.S. trade partner, or even a democracy.

Worse still, intercommunal civil wars such as Syria’s tend to end in one of two ways: with a victory by one side, followed by a horrific slaughter of its adversaries, or with a massive intervention by a third party to halt the fighting and forge a power-sharing deal. Rarely do such wars reach a resolution on their own through a peaceful, negotiated settlement, and even when they do, it is typically only after many years of bloodshed. All of this suggests that the kind of quick, clean diplomatic solution many Americans favor will be next to impossible to achieve in Syria.

Nevertheless, the rationale for more decisive U.S. intervention is gaining ground. As of this writing, the crisis in Syria had claimed more than 170,000 lives and spilled over into every neighboring state. The havoc is embodied most dramatically in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, a Sunni jihadist organization born of the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq. After regrouping in Syria, ISIS (which declared itself the Islamic State in late June) recently overran much of northern Iraq and helped rekindle that country’s civil war. ISIS is now using the areas it controls in Iraq and Syria to breed still more Islamist extremists, some of whom have set their sights on Western targets. Meanwhile, Syria’s conflict is also threatening to drag down its other neighbors — particularly Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where the influx of nearly three million refugees is already straining government budgets and stoking social unrest.

Go to the above link to read rest of article

New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

Syria: Is it Too Late To Do Anything?

This article by Frederic C. Hof of the Atlantic Council describes perfectly my own thoughts and feelings regarding the refusal of the United States to take morally responsible military action in Syria in defence of the Syrian people. I have to share it.

Glenn

Syria: Is it Too Late To Do Anything?

Those who have long counseled against the United States taking control of the arming of Syrian opposition forces have recently updated their argument: it is now simply too late for Washington to do anything useful, even if it wanted to. According to this line of reasoning the Assad regime has been stabilized by the chemical weapons agreement and Russian-Iranian aid, while jihadists, luxuriating in arms and money, have been attracting manpower away from nationalist leaders denied meaningful assistance by the West. As one Italian observer asked me last week, “Why bother? Do you really expect the followers of General Idris to fight a two-front war against the regime and al-Qaeda?” Click to read full article.

Syria, Anti-Islamism, and the Left

While members of the American Left make eloquent claims to having no prejudice against Islam the real truth is that only an apolitical, purely westernized Islam, that has no social, political, consequences, is acceptable to them. Therefore the fact that the people of Syria due to the pressures of the civil war have increasingly embraced the more political forms of Islam is viewed as anathema.

Furthermore most Westerners make no distinction between the various forms of political Islam. Thus the more moderate forms of political Islam such as the Muslim Brotherhoods, and the Turkish Justice and Development Party which accept  many aspects of Western democratic political practice while attempting to be loyal to the traditional practices of Islam are lumped together with groups such as Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etc which reject democracy in principle.

This anti-Islamism in the West means that Westerners can only see the war in Syria as being a war between Islamic extremism and the Assad dictatorship. I suspect that many in the Left in fact see the Assad regime as the lesser of the two evils. The reality is that the human desire for justice and freedom in an Islamic world almost enviably takes an Islamic form. That Islamic form does not negate the fact that the armed struggle of the Syrian people against the regime remains a genuine struggle for justice and freedom.

Glenn

The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria

“America may think it does not have any interests in Syria, but it has interests everywhere the Syrian conflict touched.”

As regrettable as the Syrian conflict is with its loss of 70,000 Syrian lives, the United States has no national interest in intervening in the conflict. That mantra of “national self interest” is heard repeatedly by the majority of media pundits as represented by such well known figures as Ted Koppel and foreign policy professionals such as Robert E. Hunter who advise the Obama administration to refuse to get involved in the Syrian conflict in any way beyond its  role as a provider of humanitarian aid and of diplomatic posturing. Well Vali Nasr, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University is also able to discuss America’s self interest. And he believes that it is in America’s national self interest to aid the Syrian people in their struggle against the Assad regime. I think he has the more credible position.

Glenn King

The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria

By: Vali Nasr

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The International Herald Tribune.

President Obama has doggedly resisted American involvement in Syria. The killing of over 70,000 people and the plight of over a million refugees have elicited sympathy from the White House but not much more. That is because Syria challenges a central aim of Obama’s foreign policy: shrinking the U.S. footprint in the Middle East and downplaying the region’s importance to global politics. Doing more on Syria would reverse the U.S. retreat from the region.

Since the beginning of Obama’s first term, the administration’s stance as events unfolded in the Middle East has been wholly reactive. This “lean back and wait” approach has squandered precious opportunity to influence the course of events in the Middle East. Click here to continue.