Iron Ladies Never Die they Just Continue to Show the Way

By Con George-Kotzabasis—January 9, 2012

In a hostile world only the strong have the right to indulge in hope. Thucydides

Ah, that memorable, fascinating, admirable, and politically insightful and intrepid subject, Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, that challenges almost all of contemporaneous political leadership that is scrambling on all its fours–with some notable exceptions such as Lee Kuan Yu, of Singapore and Antonis Samaras, of Greece–from Obama to Zapatero to Merkel and Sarkozy, who  instead of standing on the shoulders of political giants, like Thatcher, to command events, they have been overwhelmed and overcome by them.

The characteristic spending profligacy of Labour socialist governments over a number of years, and the excessive borrowing and inflation that resulted by the latter’s policies that brought the UK into economic stagnation gave Margaret Thatcher the opportunity to win the election in 1979 with a sizable majority. Her victory would bring not only the transformation of British politics but would also spawn, with a small astute coterie of others, the seeds of a profound change on the political landscape of the world. Further, by re-introducing forcefully the idea of privatization as a dynamic concept among the economic detritus left by Labour’s deficit-laden nationalization of industries, she would place the country on the trajectory of economic efficiency and generation of wealth for the benefit of all Britons.  To open markets to the world she abolished all exchange controls on foreign currency five months after coming to power. The UK from being the poorest of the four major European economies in 1979 became by the end of ten years under Thatcher’s stewardship the richest among them. In a series of economic policies packaged by Milton Friedman’s and Frederick Hayek’s monetarist theories, Britain’s GDP grew by 23.3% during this period outpacing that of Germany, France, and Italy.

However, to accomplish the latter goal, she would have to confront the power of unions decisively, which, in a ceaseless campaign of strikes and imprudent and irrational demands were ruining the British economy. In 1979, at the apex of union power, Britain had lost 29.5 million working days to strikes, whereas at its nadir, under the robust stand of Thatcher and her strong blows against it that led to the defeat of unions, in 1986, the figure of lost working days was 1.9 million. The Moscow trained communist Arthur Scargill, secretary of the Mining Unions, had unleashed in 1984-85 a myriad of strikes with the aim to obstruct the Thatcherite pro-market reforms that would put Britain on the roller skates of economic prosperity. By the end of that year that shook the foundations of British industry and broke the morale of some of her Cabinet members–that prompted Thatcher in a memorable quip to say to them, “You turn if you want to. The lady is not for turning.”—the red flag became a trophy alongside the Argentinian flag in her collection of victories, as Arthur Scargill conceded his defeat.

In international affairs she questioned Kissinger’s policy of détente toward the Soviet Union as she believed strongly that Communism should not be accommodated but overcome. For this implacable stand the Soviet Army’s newspaper Red Star christened her the “Iron Lady.” Together with President Reagan, she planted the diplomatic dynamite under the foundations of the Soviet empire that would eventually bring the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Lenin’s benign Marxist dream that had turned back to its true nature as a nightmare of Gulags and Killing Fields.

Thatcher in the 1980’s fiercely opposed the European economic and monetary integration. To her the European construction was “infused with the spirit of yesterday’s future.” In the kernel of this construction laid the central “intellectual mistake” of assuming that “the model for future government was that of a centralized bureaucracy.” And she was prophetic to the current events and crisis of Europe when she argued that German taxpayers would provide “ever greater subsidies for failed regions of foreign countries,” while condemning south European countries to debilitating dependency on handouts from German taxpayers.” She concluded, “The day of the artificially constructed mega-state is gone.”

However, no statesmanship is without its warts. In 1986 prohibition of proprietary trading went out; the separation between commercial and investment banks was abrogated; and ‘casino banking’ took off, which without these changes would not have happened. Her critics accused her of promoting greed which she personally abhorred. Also, the introduction of the poll tax on adult residents was most unpopular among Britons and sparked the Poll Tax Riots on March 31, 1990, that instigated an internal coup against her that ousted her from her premiership.

Margaret Thatcher entered number 10 Downing Street with her strong character and astute political perceptiveness with panache that destined her, like all great statesmen, to “walk beneath heaven as if she was placed above it,” to quote the seventeenth-century French political philosopher, Gabriel Naude. She will enter the ‘gate of heaven’ not as the frail distracted old woman, as she was depicted in the film made by Phillida Lloyd, but as the iron lady who will never die and continue to show the way.

I rest on my oars: your turn now…              

 

The Presidency of New Envoys in Hotspots

I’m republishing this paper for the readers of this new website.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

“Within reality there is a senseless craving for unreality.” Robert Musil

In the dangerous times Western civilization and its people face by the present and looming attacks of the irreconcilable implacable holy warriors of Islam, President Obama true to his campaign promise is, at least initially, replacing the hard power of the previous administration that kept the terrorists at bay from attacking America again with the soft power of diplomacy. The president has decided in his wisdom to sheath the sword of former President Bush, which he considers to be a blunt instrument of foreign policy, and unsheathe the paper knife of diplomacy to deal with the prolonged Israeli Palestinian conflict and the new drawn-out conflict of the U.S. and its allies with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan which is spilling over the borders of Pakistan. His appointment of two high-powered envoys—and more to come in other regions of raging or impending conflict—for the Middle East and Pakistan-Afghanistan, former senator George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke respectively, puts flesh on this ‘skeleton’ of diplomacy which the new president hopes will resolve these up till now intractable issues in the above regions. And simultaneously restore the love and respect of the world for the United States that were lost during the Bush administration with its horrendous, immoral, and unilateral undiplomatic actions in its foreign policy, embodied  in the illegal and foolish war in Iraq, that tarnished the reputation of the U.S. so badly as a prudent temperate peace loving nation.  

President Obama strongly believes, as he made it clear during his campaign, that America by living on its principles and values and exemplifying these in its actions is the way to mollify a recalcitrant world that believes wrongly that the U.S. is a brutal power, as an outcome of the lawless and immoral misdeeds of the Bush administration. Hence Obama in his cum-sacerdotal role by cleansing America’s Soul from the wicked ‘footprints’ that the heavy boots and missteps of the Texan left in so many parts of the world will be reviving the moral and material strength of America at which the rest of the world will gape with awe at this miraculous transformation, with the corollary, that the latter once again will graciously accept American leadership. All of them, needless to say, laudable aims in the moral sphere of politics but the question remains to what extent, if any, these aims will impact and affect the sphere of realpolitik.

This expansion of diplomacy and its more direct engagement in the hot spots of the world by the new administration is widely acclaimed by the liberal ‘smart set’ in the U.S. and their no less smart cousins in Europe. To them Obama’s initiative brings the “right balance between diplomacy and war” and wisely distances himself from the brazen and grossly stupid policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. In their spiritual euphoria however they miss the cognitive fact that an abstraction such as “the right balance between diplomacy and war,” cannot impact upon the concreteness of a particular situation and on the kind of enemies one is dealing with. One cannot weigh geopolitical issues on a grocer’s scale by putting in one side of the scale diplomacy and in the other war. On such issues the scale is never at a balance and is ever in a state of continuous disequilibrium. It depends on the political principles the military strength and the character of one’s enemy whether one might use more effectively either diplomacy or war or a combination of both to achieve peace with one’s foe. Therefore the liberal nostrum of the “right balance…” is an abstract entity with no effectiveness in the realm of geopolitics.

Furthermore, it’s prerequisite in all conflict situations, especially prolonged ones, for a commander-in-chief to know thy enemy if one would have a chance to defeat him, as the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Zi stated. The deep knowing of one’s enemy is a ‘unilateral’ knowledge that regrettably does not spread in too many heads of States. Only on those leaders and their close advisors who are aware of the kind of enemy they are confronting falls the absolute responsibility and burden to deal expeditiously and decisively with such an enemy. This is why diplomacy in so many cases in the past has failed to pull together a set of allies to confront a common enemy. As most of these purported allies lack the insight to see the future dangers that will be surrounding their nations from this common irreconcilable foe. Hence, predictably, the responsibility of taking military action, when all diplomatic overtures have failed, against a dangerous opponent falls on the shoulders of those leaders who are endowed with political and strategic insight, and ironically these leaders with the knack of statesmanship in their swift decisions and unilateral and preemptive actions, who are the real defenders of their nations, are slanderously condemned as warmongers as a result of the lack of strategic depth of other leaders and the deeper lack of knowledge and understanding of the masses of the responsibilities of statecraft.

The principle of the force of knowledge and its irreplaceable value in politics can be illustrated by Newton’s law of gravity: The force of gravity is proportional to the mass of a planet and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from its centre, which is the Sun. Likewise, the force of knowledge is proportional to the mass of the intelligence of a political leadership and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from its centre, which is geopolitics. Therefore the closer a leadership is to the ‘Sun’ of geopolitics the greater its knowledge to identify correctly a menacing enemy and the kind of enemy one is fighting. And let us not be misunderstood! We are not talking about infallible absolute knowledge which is not within the grasp of human beings, but relative knowledge, which is applicable to a particular political and strategic situation, not however with absolute certainty.

A concrete demonstration of the above argument was the situation with Iraq prior, during, and after the war. The Bush administration used and exhausted all avenues of diplomacy in the UN with its European allies Russia and China to take hard effective diplomatic action against Saddam Hussein, since all of their intelligences unshakably believed that the latter was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and had the scientific infrastructure in place to develop nuclear ones, yet it was unable to persuade them in taking this action forcing thus the U.S. and its willing allies the UK,  Australia, and some smaller European nations in invading Iraq. And one must not be maliciously forgetful that when Bush started the war he had the support of more than 80 per cent of Americans behind him as he was able to persuade them in the aftermath of 9/11 that the invasion was interrelated to the war against global terror and the latter could not be defeated without either the diplomatic or military defeat of its state sponsors. As we well know this support was dissipated as a result of not finding WMD which the liberal media ignominiously presented that the war was a product of lies when it well knew that the misinformation on the weapons issued from faulty intelligence. And it would not be long before these ‘lies’ were connected to the hated Watergate lies of Nixon and soon embedded into the contemporaneous American psyche as Iraqgate. Moreover the grave error of the Bush administration of ‘shifting’ the ground of the war from its original position of being part and parcel of the war against global terror onto the ‘idealistic’ ground of bringing and building democracy in Iraq further eroded public support for the war. It was obvious that Americans were not prepared to support a war whose aims had changed from the security of their homeland from future deadly terrorist attacks to the idealistic goal of building democracy in Iraq, especially when the war took a bad turn with heavy American casualties with no victory sign at the end of the road—although this was to change with the new strategy of the Surge and its savvy implementation by General Petraeus—and a most expensive war to boot.

Saddam of course was not connected to the attack of 9/11. But he had a strategic interest, seeing the rise of al-Qaeda, to win over its adherents and use them as proxies, as Iran presently does with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, for his political ambitions and in his irreversible confrontation with the United States. That is why his intelligence agents from early on during the domicile of al-Qaeda in Sudan had contact with its higher echelons and provided training to some of its foot-soldiers in Iraq itself. Al Zarqawi himself, the future leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in the aftermath of the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan was domiciled in Iraq before the ousting of Saddam and was hospitalized and treated for his injuries sustained in Afghanistan. On the issue of the WMD Saddam might have had them destroyed but it would be foolish to believe that he had not in place the scientific apparatus and the scientists to develop them rapidly once the sanctions of the UN were lifted. Saddam was too focused in his ambition to be the leader of the Arab world to have given up the acquisition of WMD and indeed nuclear ones that were a prerequisite to consummate his ambition. Moreover, knowing that his arch enemy and competitor in the region Shiite Iran was in the process of developing nuclear weapons, he himself would have given them up. To have believed in the latter would have been to believe that the brutal dictator by a miraculous saintly intervention was transformed into a disciple of the Dalai Lama.

 For all the above reasons the ousting of Saddam was fully justified despite all the mistakes of the Bush administration in the prosecution of the war during the insurgency which once they were promptly corrected by the new strategy of the Surge they reversed a coming defeat of the Americans into a surprising  impending victory. A victory that the liberal smart set still blindly denies. But more importantly, the defeat of al Qaeda and its sundry jihadists in Iraq could be the pronunciamento of the forthcoming defeat of global terror, providing the present administration of Obama does not step-down from the strong resolve and determination of the previous administration to prosecute the war against this deadly irreconcilable enemy until total victory.

 

Will Obama Deflate America’s Pragmatic Victory in Iraq by inflating The Moral Standing of his Administration?

After this rather long but necessary digression we must return back to President Obama, as his policies in the realm of foreign affairs will be critical and decisive in strengthening or weakening the United States as the sole superpower and its ability in dealing both with its deadly enemies and its full of reservations and often recalcitrant allies for the reasons we mentioned above. His first actions however of closing Guantanamo Bay and the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq in sixteen months are the first blurred signs that his presidency will be enfeebling America’s power in handling the great and inexorable dangers rising from the irreconcilable apocalyptic forces of Islam. The Commander-in-Chief who met his CENTCOM commander on the ground General David Petraeus supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates at an Oval Office meeting on January 21 was not persuaded by the argument of Petraeus and Gates, to the chagrin of the latter, that Obama would have to back down from his campaign pledge to pull out all combat troops from Iraq within 18 months or risk “an eventual collapse in Iraq” with his withdrawal policy. Thus President Obama on the dogmatic moral precept about the wrongness of the war in Iraq is rejecting the advice of his general on the ground and is willing to squander and jeopardize the great pragmatic victory US forces achieved in Iraq over al-Qaeda and the al-Sadrist militias. And to his everlasting ignominy he will be known in history as the only commander-in-chief who withdrew his troops from a crucial battle against global terror when these same troops under their capable Generals Petraeus and Odierno were winning the war against it and solidifying their victory; a victory moreover that shows the way and heralds the defeat of all other jihadists in this borderless war on terror. That President Obama would be willing to sacrifice this great strategic victory of jihadists in Iraq on the altar of his morals is breathtaking.

If you have a president whose guiding principles about war and peace are emanating from moral precepts then such president does not deserve to be the leader of a great nation whose paramountcy of strategic military power is pivotal to the order of the world. In a Hobbesian world of bellum omniun contra omnes, unless President Obama has the wisdom and the strength of character to be at times like the “Feudal Knights” in full armour “who made literal mincemeat of their enemies, leaving the clergy to handle the morals,” to quote the great Austrian writer Robert Musil, he will weaken America’s will and power to confront and defeat its implacable enemies.

But his predilection to appoint envoys in the hot spots of the world, where in most cases the arbiter is military force, in the hope that diplomacy and the use of ‘soft power’ will reconcile irreconcilable foes, reveal that President Obama will be neither a wise nor strong leader but the embodiment of Jimmy Carter who will have just enough strength to break the peanuts that the latter was farming. And despite the fact that as president he will be orbiting close to the Sun of geopolitics he will be unable to “know thy enemy” and see his ferocious visage as an outcome of his lack of nerve and debilitating politically moral passions.

For the sake of America and Western civilization and its out posts, one can only hope that his top close advisors have greater insight more mettle and less moral fervour than President Obama and will imbue his administration with these qualities that are the sine qua non of statecraft. As the danger to civilized societies will not be eliminated until the ‘serpent’ of statesmanship has terror in its belly.

I rest on my oars:your turn now…    

In Greece Political Midgets on High Wire Act

By Con George-Kotzabasis—November 02, 2011-11-02

Political midgets, a la Papandreou, have chosen to take the risk of the high wire act by this proposal of the referendum. Hoping that the people will vote for the lesser of two evils, i.e., accepting the debt deal as formulated in Brussels last week and rejecting default and departure from the euro zone. At a time when strong leadership is a prerequisite for diminishing the crisis that Greece is facing, Papandreou abdicates his own and passes it to the people through this future referendum. It’s as if the polloi had somehow a better knowledge and understanding of the critical dimensions of the economic situation and could provide a better solution to the crisis than the expertise of the economically and politically savvy.

Once again politicians, who are more concerned of holding power than of the future of their own country, are ready to prostrate themselves before and pay homage to the idol of the Demos. Papandreou facing in Parliament a no-confidence vote and the ousting of his government promptly announced a referendum that would decide the future of the country, hoping that this would allay the anger and opposition of the people against the austerity measures, imposed by the EU, and at the same time put an end to the disarray within his own government that itself stems from the revolt of the people. It’s clever politicking to avoid defeat and save for him the prime ministership. But he is doing this at the expense of the future well being of the country, as it would take years for Greece to recover from the shock of a default if the electorate voted for it, which is highly likely. This is no less than the revisiting of the ‘sinful’ genius of his pere who himself was the preeminent progenitor of the economic ills that Greece is presently plagued with. The fils merely continues , like father like son, the ‘sins’ of his sire in a more acute form and projects them into the future.

World Bank president, Robert Zoellick said that “if voters reject the plan, it’s going to be a mess.” Economists claim that the immediate effects of a default would probably be a 20 percent to 30 percent drop in domestic demand and a fall of 5 to 10 percent of domestic product. Evangelos Venizelos, the Finance Minister, and his deputy broke ranks and opposed the referendum, saying it would jeopardize Greek membership in the euro zone. Ilias Nicolakopoulos, professor of political science and close to the governing socialist party, stated that a “referendum would put the country in danger of blowing everything up.” In contrast, Henry Ergas writing in The Australian, on November 3, 2011, “Greek Vote a Banana Republic Moment,” praises Papandreou for having the “balls” to propose the referendum, and compares him to the gutsy warning of Paul Keating’s “Banana Republic.” He says, that “to call a referendum on the austerity program is hardly irrational. But he adds the caveat, “true, it is a gamble, and a risky one.” Nonetheless, “the best hope of what comes next must lie in securing a genuine popular mandate.”

Regrettably, however, Papandreou’s proposal of a referendum does not rise from his “balls” but from his impotence. Unable to lead and convince the country, as a weak leader, to accept the inevitable “scenario, Greece must face a lengthy period of austerity and structural reform,” Papandreou passes this leadership to the impassioned people to decide whether to accept or not this scenario. Professor Ergas’ quote of Sophocles, “truth is always the strongest argument,” though generally accurate, is misplaced in the context of a long corrupt electorate that the fiscal profligacy of past governments accustomed it to indulge in ‘free suntans’ in sunny Greece. In such circumstances, the only truth that this pampered electorate will accept is the continuation of these free suntans at public expense. And that is why they will vote NO to austerity measures and thus turn the referendum into an ogre for the future economy of Greece.

Fortunately the proposed referendum like the balloon it was fizzled out within twenty four hours. Under external and internal pressure Papandreou reneged his proposal and withdrew it. Tonight (November 4, 2011), he places his fate on the lap of the god, parliament, on a confidence vote. Even if he survives by the smallest margin his prime ministership is foreclosed.      

       I rest on my oars: your turn now…