Monday, January 12, 2009

Back from the holidays, and a bit of media

I'm back from a bit of a holiday break. Two media links and a brief commentary on the Gaza conflict for today:

First, I recently appeared on the C-Realm podcast with KMO. We discussed hierarchy, energy, and the "Peter Principle."

Second, here's a video of my presentation at the 2008 ASPO-USA conference in Sacramento. You'll need to skip past the first presentation (though it's also worth watching) to get to my presentation on energy geopolitics.

Finally, a few thoughts on the Gaza conflict. I'm not going to talk about the actions of Israel or Hamas. Instead, I'm going to talk about the problems created by America's hypocritical support of Hosni Mubarak. Despite the consistent American talking point of "supporting democracy," the US has consistently supported Mubarak, a defacto dictator at the healm of a military-industrial oligarchy, as the leader of Egypt, the most populous Arab state. President George W. Bush resolutely supported Mubarak for his support in the "War on Terror. There has been (to my knowledge) no indication from the Obama camp that we will put any serious pressure on Mubarak for democratic reforms in Egypt, despite ongoing rhetoric about supporting democracy. Why? Because it has been, and will continue to be expedient in the short term to support an autocratic strong-man in Egypt.

A democratic Egypt will, at least for now, mean an Islamic fundamentalist Egypt--if truly free and fair elections were held today, the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned, grass-roots organization) would almost certainly win. We support Mubarak because he is a barrier against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Mubarak, however, is exacerbating the situation in Gaza because he views Hamas as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood (they grew out of the same basic movement), and therefore views them as a threat to his rule. The US, by supporting what the "Arab street" (largely) correctly views as a series of thugs and dicatators bent on exploiting Arab poverty and sentiment for their own good, continues to draw the ire of Islamists. We like to say that "they hate our freedom" or some political drivel like that, but the simple truth is that they hate the way we have selfishly supported their exploitation by local dicatators and monarchies for nearly a century (and for over a century if we tack on our imperial predecessors).

Americas claim to stand for a set of very noble principles. Yet we seem to think that we can "win" a war on terror that started and continues due our our incessant pissing off of the vast majority of the Arab world. We don't have to bow to terrorists or surrender to stop pissing them off. In fact--shocking as this may be--we would likely find that if we just start acting on the very principles we espouse we would achieve the best resolution possible in the war on terror. The catch? It would take time, and it would appear to get worse before it gets better (oh, and it would undermine our remaining vestiges of economic imperialism to a certain extent).

This isn't much of a New Year's post (that will be coming soon--predictions and reviews of 2008 predictions), but this is the theme for 2009: we have the opportunity to make the hard choices that will hurt now and actually improve our long term situation, or we can continue to reach for the quick fix and make the ultimate, necessary accounting that much worse. Here's a preview for my 2009 predictions: we won't have the guts to make the difficult but correct choice.


Kale said...

Way to say it like it is regarding the hypocrisy of supporting democracy and freedom

I really enjoyed your podcast interview. The Peter Principle seems a good way to illustrate and support the rhizome ideas. Perhaps a post on the two would be enlightening.

Gary Peters said...

I'll look forward to your review of 2008 predictions. Though most predictions are wrong, seldom does anyone go back and call people to task for them.

Rice Farmer said...

Terrorism was around a long time before the phony "war on terror," and it's not going away as long as there are angry and frustrated people who see no other way to take action.

First of all, the "war on terror" is not going to get rid of terror any more than the "war on poverty" got rid of poverty or the "war on drugs" got rid of drugs. But I call the "war on terror" phony because it's not meant to rid the world of terrorism. Truth is, terrorism is too useful for many of the world's governments as a tool to help institute authoritarian reforms. Terrorists are the shock troops who can help scare populations into accepting what they might otherwise refuse. So it is that those Grand Bogeymen UBL and KSM are regularly raised from the dead to shock us and fill us with dread and loathing.

Hence, there is no "war on terror" to be won. But we could rid the world of terrorism by righting the injustices that cause it. Trouble is, it will never be done.

Anonymous said...

I found your presentation to be insightful. The most important point you made was about how "geopolitics should be viewed as a force of nature." This is critical, and fits well with John Robb's ideas.

The reasons for building resilient communities are similar to why we build tornado shelters or earthquake resistant buildings in Japan. We don't attempt to stop natural disasters. Instead, we accept that they're going to happen, and prepare ourselves accordenly.

Anyway, good talk and interesting blog. Keep up the good work.

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