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Mr. Cooke has written a good article on ISIS, terrorism, the role of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the dilemma faced by the U.S.A.
Professor Mekonen Haddis

The Never-Ending Cycle of War
Obama’s No-Win War on ISIS
The newest crisis in the Middle East has sucked the U.S. into yet another insoluble military problem. Obama is again considering a bombing campaign in Syria after infamously not bombing the country last year. This time, however, he’s not targeting his enemy Bashar al-Assad, but his enemy’s enemy — ISIS — now referred to as the Islamic State.
By attacking the Islamic State in Syria, Obama will become a de facto ally of the Syrian government, just as Obama and ISIS were de facto allies when they were both targeting Bashar al-Assad. Most Americans are likely fed up with Obama’s zig-zagging foreign policy, and with each new u-turn support drops for the next war.
But the U.S. has no plans to leave the Middle East to its own devices, and “fixing” the current problems will mean that Obama will need to tear up the patchwork of alliances previously pieced together amid past U.S. wars. The next U.S.-led “solution” will only compound the catastrophe, and continue the senseless logic of permanent war.
The situation has become so absurd that the U.S. is now spending millions of dollars bombing U.S.-made military equipment in Iraq — itself worth millions, previously gifted to the Iraqi government and then taken by ISIS.
Obama’s constant Middle East flip-flops have made it difficult to keep allies. After having built a coalition of nations to wage a proxy war against Bashar al-Assad, Obama backed out of his promised air strikes last year, in effect abandoning his anti-Syrian partners, many of whom still bear a grudge.
As a result, Obama faces a “credibility gap,” as does anyone who doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do. Obama also said he supported a two-state solution in Palestine, but then backed Israel 100 percent in its ongoing slaughter against the Palestinians and its continued building of settlements.
Obama also promised to wage a “war on terror,” but allowed the growth of jihadi movements in his fight against the Libyan and Syrian governments, since they were de facto allies against the targeted governments. This is one of the reasons given by Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn on why the “war on terror” failed.
But there are other reasons Obama has few allies to fight ISIS. The unbreakable bond between the U.S. and the Saudi dictatorship can never be too public, since the overwhelming majority of Saudis hate the United States government, as do the vast majority of people across the Middle East, according to a recent poll.
Why do they hate the U.S. government? Unlike the American media perception of U.S. foreign policy goofily stumbling from one good-intentioned mishap to the next, the average person in the Middle East views the American military as a sociopathic power hell-bent on annihilation.
Obama also has to keep Israel at arms length as he searches for war allies in the Middle East, since Israel is the only country hated more than the United States in the region, for the exact same reasons. Thus, teaming up with Israel would worsen Obama’s horrible image in the Middle East.
Many mainstream media publications have recognized Obama’s crisis of allies and are pushing Obama to make new friends, fast. An increasingly popular plan among the mainstream media is to have the U.S. make yet another u-turn and officially ally with the Syrian government, after many of these same publications had been previously urging Obama to attack it.
Interestingly, the Syrian government recently said that it would welcome U.S. airstrikes, but only if Syria were notified first. Without officially allying or “cooperating” with Assad, Obama’s air strikes in Syria will be a breach of national sovereignty, and Assad likely knows that when a tiger gets its paw in the front door it’s not long until it dominates the house.
Obama, however, continues to shun President Assad, recently adding that “Assad is part of the problem.”
Instead, the most “popular” idea seems to be the same one that has failed for the past three years in Syria: create a “moderate” opposition to the Syrian government that would also fight the Islamic extremists. The Guardian explains:
“The favored option, according to two [Obama] administration officials, is to press forward with a training mission, led by elite special operations forces, aimed at making non-jihadist Syrians an effective proxy force. But the rebels are outgunned and outnumbered by Isis and the administration still has not received $500m from Congress for its rebel training plans.”
To continue to advocate for this “plan” after three years of failures is to grasp at already-combusted straws.
The Syrian opposition is completely dominated by Islamic extremists, a fact which nobody seriously contests. But Obama would like to create a whole new “moderate” fighting force out of his armpit, powerful enough to tackle both the Syrian government and the Islamic State. Fantasy quickly reaches its limits in war.
Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn explains:
“There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis. It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day.”
And:
“Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of U.S. policy aims.”
This “relabeled” type of moderate is what Obama would like to grow in Syria. For example, the U.S.-backed “moderate” group, the Islamic Front, is dominated by the extremist group ahrar al sham.
A more realistic — though equally reckless — solution that Obama is suddenly pursuing is arming the Kurds to the teeth, which creates an entirely new set of regional problems. The Kurds have large populations in several Middle East countries, though most notably Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran.
The Kurds have long wanted their own nation, which they likely believe that the U.S. will help them get, since giving a population tons of guns —Obama’s plan — is the first step toward carving out a chunk of land. And although the Kurds have been a long-oppressed minority group that deserves its own country, carving a country out of land already claimed by other nations isn’t done without war, and lots of it.
Here’s how the Guardian explained Obama’s brand-new Kurdish alliance:
“Obama needs the Kurds, and he knows it. They are largely secular and pro-Western, but also maintain dynamic ties to both Iran and Turkey. They offer a potential base from which the US can stage counterterrorism operations against Isis… It [Kurdistan] offers a stable, economically prosperous buffer zone right at the intersection of several regional conflicts.”
Although the mainstream media has suddenly discovered the ‘Kurdistan’ strategy, many analysts have long speculated assumed it as being the “grand plan” for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East: the main purpose would be to create a new nation and regional power — Kurdistan — that would be loyal to the U.S. and thus serve as a countervailing force to the anti-U.S. “Shiite crescent” countries of Iran, Syria, Iraq (under al-Maliki) and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
A key part of creating the new Kurdistan would require the partition of Iraq into three separate nations, which has been advocated by Vice President Joseph Biden.
This idea — having long been considered a “conspiracy theory” —appears to be manifesting before our very eyes, especially when Vice President’s official plan of a “soft partition” is gaining popularity in D.C.
The above cluster of irrational events are based on one fundamentally incorrect assumption: that the U.S. can create and maintain steadfast allies through military interventions, which inevitably attract the hatred of every Middle Eastern person. This false assumption is why Obama’s foreign policy has mirrored Bush, Jr.’s: creating disaster on top of disaster, leaving a strong stench of death in its wake.
And with each new military intervention in the “war on terror” the jihadist movement grows exponentially, born amid the rubble of U.S.-destroyed Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and groomed to maturity by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other Gulf States.
Such an irrational, never-ending cycle of war cannot last forever. It is already collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions.
Shamus Cooke

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Menagesha

Neoliberalism is an immoral and perverted system that siphons wealth from the working poor and the middle class and transfer it to the wealthiest 1 percent.This is a perfect example of “a direct attack on democracy”.

Enjoy a good writing by Robert Hunziker.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

A Direct Attack on Democracy

Neoliberalism’s “Breaking Bad” Motif

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

Walter White, the main protagonist in the hugely popular Breaking Bad (AMC 2008-13) cable TV series, starts as a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer. As such, Walter turns to the fast money lane of methamphetamine formulation to secure a financial future for his family before he dies, leading to a lifestyle conversion from protagonist to antagonist, an evolving metamorphosis from sympathetic to callous, brutal, and hardnosed.

The TV series is emblematic of neoliberalism’s unfolding over these past few decades during which the innocence of the 1950s Leave it to Beaver socio-economic era transformed into… well, the heartbreaking loss of innocence of Breaking Bad, involving lust for money as life’s destiny, as Walter White buries barrels full of hundred dollar bills in the desert, in and of itself a metaphor of money for the sake of money as an end game.

Today’s neoliberalism, which is rampant, dispassionate, no-holds-barred capitalism, has evolved much as Walter White evolved in Breaking Bad. As such, it was the 1950s when an unknown economist named Milton Friedman (1912-2006) innocently coined the term “neoliberalism.” Ever since, and similar to Walter White’s transformation, neoliberalism has increasingly taken on a rougher more dispassionate character in its quest to eliminate FDR and LBJ’s social consciousness of governing for, and on behalf of, “the people.”

But, it wasn’t until the arrival of Ronald Reagan that Friedman’s doctrines truly came to the fore, similar to the relationship of Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman, who was Walter White’s dedicated student and his partner and inspirational force. In due course, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sealed the deal for neoliberalism’s pathway to riches for fewer and fewer players by extricating democratic capitalism from the pursuit of, as the French say: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Now that Breaking Bad is finished, dedicated fans readily admit Walter’s beneficent character turned more, and more, maleficent as the series progressed. By the end, all feared Walter, including adoring fans as he morphed into a nefarious character that left a bruised and bloodied streak in its wake.

Similarly, neoliberalism, which is capitalism with the gloves off, destroys livelihoods left and right, e.g., America’s middle class is on the ropes, whilst uplifting the wealthy class to unheard of heights. But, how does the world react to this heisting, which benefits so few? There is no palpable reaction. It’s as if the world is frozen in a time warp from the 1890s Gilded Age (coined by Mark Twain) when nouveau riche families of the day, the Astors, the Vanderbilts, and the Rockefellers glowingly flaunted their status via conspicuous consumption.

However, in light of that era, the overriding issue is not the right to success nor is the issue the right to accumulate wealth. The burning issue underlying neoliberalism’s course is the devious manipulation of governing policies and regulations, plus disregard of compassion for society at large, which are at the core neoliberalism’s quest for profits at any cost; only profits count, leaving in its wake a long string of deadened and/or dispirited middle class Americans.

Similar to the script’s unfolding in Breaking Bad, neoliberalism grows ever more vicious and merciless. And, interestingly, the general awareness of this is everywhere to be seen and heard in the public domain, even though nobody does much of anything about it.

For example, why is “the one percent” such a profoundly accepted and widely recognized epithet today?

And, as for another example, the turning out of Eric Cantor, who was beholden to Wall Street, signifies what?

Similar to Walter White’s increasingly ugly demeanor as episode followed episode whilst fans grew anxious about what the ending might bring, neoliberalism has shown its true colors and exposed its warts: A society duped by its own leadership via international agreements like NAFTA, which undercut the working middle class in America and in Mexico and tax policies that favor the rich at lower rates (Romney’s 15%) than working-class families and the boundless contrivance of offshore monies hidden from full view and the relentless offshoring of good, solid American jobs shipped to starvation-wage foreign shores.

This is transnationalism at work, taking its cue from neoliberalism’s dicta of brutal competition and harsh efficiency to achieve maximum profit as well as the death knell to social welfare programs. Yes, the spirit of FDR and LBJ is on a slippery slope, and like Hank Schrader, Walter White’s DEA agent brother-in-law, who was durably honest and too honorable to save in the dystopian script, nothing good survives to the end of the series.

Likewise, social programs run out of funds when trillions of dollars are transported offshore (an upshot of neoliberalism), up to $32 trillion, excluding tangibles like RE and yachts and islands, and on and on it goes (Source: James Henry, atty. and former chief economist of McKinsey & Company) because who’s left to pay the bills at home? As it happens, going into debt to pay for social programs is always an option, but that fallback routine has already gone over the top. Similar to Walter White burying millions of dollars in 32-gallon barrels in the desert, neoliberalism has a predilection for wealth creation via contorted taxation codes and inverted governmental policies and stockpiling via hidden assets.

And, everybody knows it.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks about it all the time on the floor of the U.S. Senate: The three-story stucco office building in the Bahamas with 5,000 postal addresses for hedge funds, corporations, and wealthy individuals. Post office box business addresses in the Bahamas are “in your face” contempt of the policies, laws, and ethics of civilized society, as well as disgustingly avaricious and decidedly gluttonous.

Additionally, Senator Sanders, America’s only declared socialist in Congress, talks about crony capitalists who work in darkness, in the shadows, creating phony 501(c)3 not-for-profit entities to secretly funnel money to defeat social causes, to privatize schools, to privatize libraries, to privatize the Post Office, to privatize defense, to privatize NASA, to privatize social security, to privatize medical care, to privatize (rather, own) elections, to privatize the whole world!

Yes, the consummate Friedmanesque goal is privatization of everything; turn everything into a commodity because “the market knows best.” Implicit within this market-driven worldwide neoliberalism (nihilism) is the implied message that people are commodities to be used and discarded as necessary, and isn’t that what’s been happening? It’s feudalism all over again.

It is a new world order in the spirit of Milton Freidman’s motto “the government is best which governs the least,” nonetheless, and this is a very big nonetheless, hypocritically, a full throttle political tilt in support of neoliberalism set the stage for Reverse Robin Hood economics via manipulation of governmental policy and regulations, proving how perfectly hypocrisy rhymes with plutocracy.

In that regard, Breaking Bad reflects neoliberalism’s deep, dirty underbelly in the character of Gus Fring, the drug kingpin, who by all outward appearances is one of the most upstanding citizens of Albuquerque, the setting for Breaking Bad. But, within the darkened shadows Gus’s true colors reveal a vicious drug kingpin who poisons society for money. It’s all about the winners no matter who loses. Nothing else counts but winners, the subplot of neoliberalism, but the playing field is rigged as people are commoditized and utilized as a means to an end, whereby Gus adroitly exerts total control over Walter and Jesse to produce the purest of methamphetamine; thus, his two human commodities produce a raunchy, but highly marketable, commodity, as the world turns.

Singularly, the value system of neoliberalism is reflected in the art of contemporary society as writers, producers, actors, and directors subconsciously regurgitate the mores and perverted policies of society in a hit TV series. In that regard, Breaking Bad is all about the loss of innocence and disregard for decency and respect for society at large in the pursuit of a buck.

And, that buck stops offshore.

Be that as it may, ultimately the public’s distaste for sanctimonious crud finds a proper course of action in its undying search for a glint of fairness, and maybe comeuppance, as the mallet of public judgment quashes the infestation of hypocrisy lodged behind the veiled curtain of brutal, shifty politics supportive of neoliberalism. Cantor is out, Walter is dead, and an unflinching neoliberalism wobbles and quivers, maybe for the first time.

Postscript: “Neoliberalism is the defining political economic paradigm of our time – it refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. Associated initially with Reagan and Thatcher, neoliberalism has for the past two decades been the dominant global political economic trend adopted by political parties of the center, much of the traditional left, and the right. These parties and the policies they enact represent the immediate interests of extremely wealthy investors and less than one thousand large corporations.” Robert W. McChesney, Noam Chomsky and the Struggle Against Neoliberalism, Monthly Review, April 1, 1999.

“The very design of neoliberal principles is a direct attack on democracy.” Noam Chomsky- the “father of modern linguistics”

Robert Hunziker 

 

No shortage of optimism and ambition at the 3rd Ethiopia CEOs Breakfast Forum

The Ethiopia CEOs Breakfast Forum, organized by Precise Consult International, was held today April 17, at the Sheraton Addis. The forum’s objective is to inform and connect Ethiopia’s private sector with government officials and multinational corporations.  A capacity audience of over 90 participants attended.

Panelists included Ato Solomon Taddesse, CEO, Ethiopian Tourism Organization, Ato Khalid Bomba, CEO, the Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ato Esayas Woldemariam, Managing Director, Ethiopian Airlines International Services, and Ato Tsedeke Yihunie, founder of Flinstone homes. Moderated by Ato Haddis Taddese, Country Representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the panelists shared their experiences and thoughts on Ethiopia’s economic development, agricultural potentials, and transformation of its tourism industry, housing and infrastructure.  Most were quite optimistic and ambitious about the prospects of Ethiopia in the coming years.

Prominent government representatives included H.E Ato Taddesse Haile, the State Minister of Industry, H.E Dr. Mebrahtu Meles, State Minister, Ministry of Industry, H.E Ato Fitsum Arega, Director General, the Ethiopian Investment Agency, H.E Professor Mekonnen Haddis, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ato Ayenew Ferede, advisor to the Minister of Trade.  H.E Ambassador Catherine Mwangi of Kenya noted that events like the CEO forum played a role in strengthening relations between Ethiopia and Kenya.  H.E Ambassador Sanjay Verma of India also weighed in, noting that India and Ethiopia have similar development challenges and that they can learn from eachother’s development.  Mrs. Josephine Ngure, the newly appointed resident representative of the African Development Bank also enlightened the audience about the bank’s continuous efforts to secure funds for infrastructure development in the continent.

The event was concluded with leading CEOs using this unique opportunity to network with other members of the private sector and officials.

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