Greece:What to Do with Missed the Mark Politics of Coalition Partners?

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 3, 2013

The Samaras’ Government, like Atlas on his back, is carrying and attempting to transform and move Greece’s awesome heavy burden of unprecedented economic insolvency, since the ending of the Second-World-War, onto the stage of economic recovery and development. By succeeding in this most difficult enterprise it will also justify the positive, against the negative, economic remedies formulated in the second Memorandum by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so called Troika, for the purpose of saving Greece from economic catastrophe, and thus simultaneously enhance the credibility, and indeed, the survival of the EU as an institution of crucial influence and guidance in world affairs.

In this call to national salvation three politically and ideologically disparate parties 0f New Democracy, Pasok, (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the Democratic Left (Demar) decided to form a coalition government whose main goal was to keep Greece within the European Union and salvage the country, with the financial help of the latter, from economic bankruptcy that would have devastated the standard of living of the major part of the population and would have brought a proud nation to the status of indigence and economic despair for at least a generation. The two leaders, of Pasok and Demar, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, respectively, seeing the prodigious dangers the country was facing, raised their height to these dire circumstances and wisely decided to stand hand in hand with an ideological opponent, that is, the liberal conservative party of New Democracy and its leader Antonis Samaras, for the purpose of saving Greece from this imminent catastrophe. Hence the two leaders of the left put their ideological reputation and the future viability, and, indeed, the existence of their parties at immense risk by their decision to support a government led by Samaras, their erstwhile conservative opponent, and tie themselves and their parties to the fortunes of the latter, that is, whether the Samaras’ government will succeed or not in pulling the country out of the crisis and start the economic development that is so vital in overcoming the terrifying economic difficulties that Greece countenances at the moment.

There are grounds to make one believe that Greece economically and politically might be at a turning point. The Samaras government after succeeding in convincing its European partners, in exceedingly difficult negotiations, to provide the funds Greece needed, to ignite its economy and place the country on the path of development, under less onerous terms of the bailout than the initial ones the Europeans were demanding. This was a great success and a great achievement of the government and demonstrating at the same time its virtuoso skills in the art of negotiations.

The government announced last month that it had beat its budget targets for 2012. Finance Minister Stournaras claimed that the government was close to achieving a primary surplus—the budget surplus before taking into account payments on the debt—this year that would deliver, according to the mutual agreement of the parties, a further package of help from the Euro-zone.  Employment statistics also showed, that within the span of the last two months the number of workers hired exceeded by nearly nine thousand the number of workers dismissed for the first time since the crisis. Furthermore, the recapitalization of the banks was on track and bound to be consummated in the next few weeks and the spigots of liquidity were therefore ready to be opened that would provide the private sector the funds for investment. Last week, the president of the National Bank stated that levels of liquidity are progressively established and 10 billion Euros could flow into the real economy. And already 50% of one thousand of small and large private enterprises announced that they were preparing to start investing within the current year. The internationally renowned telecommunications company Nokia is planning to establish a branch in Athens that would employ hundreds of highly skilled technicians and could become a magnet that would attract other foreign corporate giants to the country and thus by their presence would provide a continuous economic confidence for the country’s future. The Task Force of the European Commission last week issued favourable reports that the Greek economy was about to be re-ignited although it warned the government that small businesses had been dried of funds and their future operations were at risk. Also the credit ratings agency Moody’s estimated that Greece would have a positive rate of growth in 2014, after five years of negative growth.

Thus we see that there are ample encouraging signs that Greece might be at the crucial point of overcoming the crisis. It is most important therefore that the two parties, Pasok and Demar, that support the Samaras government, must first take note of these auspicious indices and that the current measures of the government are putting the country on the axis of economic development, and second, must not jeopardise this favourable situation by rigidly sticking to their parties position on other issues, such as labor relations and on the restructuring of the public sector, which are contrary to the overall current policy of the government and could endanger the economic progress the latter is making in overcoming the crisis.

The coalition partners must become fully aware that their political viability is tied up not with the sacred ideological position these parties hold on a variety of issues, contra the neo-liberal position of New Democracy, and pushing these toward their consummation, at this critical juncture whose primary goal is the salvation of the country, is a most imprudent diversion from the main goal. On the contrary, their political future is tied up with the success of the Samaras government in pulling the country out of the crisis. The electorate will not remember them and will not elect them for being pure to their ideological position but for their pragmatic support of a neo-liberal government that saved Greece from economic oblivion and mass poverty. In the event the Samaras administration fails in this complex immensely difficult and great task would likewise totally discredit and everlastingly condemn and cast to political oblivion both Pasok and Demar for their support of this failed government, no matter how favorable the former have been on other minor issues, in comparison to the major issue, that are dear to the hearts of the many. Their responsibility to the country and to themselves therefore lies in their pragmatic assessment of the policies of the government beyond ideology as to whether they are better placed to extricate the country from the crisis.

It is for this reason that in this process of the Renaissance of Greece, under the wise and strong leadership of Antonis Samaras, the cohesion of these partners in the salvation of the country is of unaccountable importance. Thus for Pasok and Demar not to miss the mark is to realize that the failure or success, in this uniquely historical venture of saving Greece, will determine their political viability in the future and not their ideological hues on secondary issues.

I rest on my oars:your turn now

The Gravitational Force that Pulled Europe into a Black Hole

Government intervention always wills the good and works the bad.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The European Union’s sovereign debt crisis was neither an act of fate nor an act of a free self-dependent man but an act of deluded ideology whose sails were blown by the long-lasting winds of government dirigisme, i.e., intervention, and welfare dependency. Once again it was the work, the social engineering, of the bien pensants in the form of a state directory of planning that would put a floor of security for the masses and protect them from falling into abject economic privation that was always, according to their thinking, the omnipresent and inevitable result of the unjust, harsh, and unequal regime of the capitalist competitive free market. The trouble was that this floor was made out of straw and at the first jump of an economic crisis–whose seeds were planted by government intervention,  loose monetary policy and low interest rates–would open a gaping hole through which this security would disappear and drown in a massive pool of unemployment and poverty.

The Eurozone’s one dimensional foundation of monetary union without banking and fiscal union could not sustain the European edifice in the long run with the differentiating regime of taxes, social benefits, and pensions that existed among its constituent states. The proliferation and prodigality of unsustainable Entitlement Economies, which have been the characteristics of the welfare states of Europe especially in the south, could not have been continued without cracking the economic underpinnings of the Eurozone. Also, the European Central Bank’s enabling of low risk premiums on interest rates of government debt, encouraged Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland to go on an orgy of borrowing and overspending. The inevitable outcome was a stampede of budget deficits that were unsustainable and the eventual loss of all credibility in the financial markets that the afflicted States would be able to pay back their debts and thus the shutting out of the latter from the global financial lending pool.

Since no private person would hazard to lend money to states lassoed in sovereign debt the only alternative left was for the richest countries in the Eurozone, such as Germany, to become the lenders and continue to finance the former for their economic survival. But such help would be given under very severe terms encapsulated in strict Memoranda to the receiving countries with the stipulation that the latter would adopt and implement stringent austerity measures that would decrease substantially government expenditure, would restructure and reform their economies making them more competitive, and privatizing public enterprises, whose inefficiency and lack of a diligent working ethos can only be sustained by a continuous expensive staple of government subsidies.

These austerity measures, however, whose formulators have been the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the so called Troika, are forcefully rejected by the people of those countries who for decades have been inured to the social and economic comforts and benefits engendered by the reckless spending of their governments, and are refusing to accept any cuts to these benefits even when some are aware that the latter can no longer be provided since the governments’ coffers are empty and the convenience of funding these benefits by borrowing, as they have done in the past, is no longer available due to their nation’s sovereign debt. Moreover, these austerity measures initially had not being complemented with policies of economic development and thus led to the worsening of the economic conditions of those countries that adopted them, such as Greece, leading to unprecedented massive unemployment by the closure of large and small business enterprises and to the smashing of the middle class which is the cornerstone of free societies.

This situation is dangerously engendering the fragmentation of social cohesion in those countries and giving rise to political parties of the extreme right and left, coming out of the foam of waves of violent demonstrations that imminently threaten democracy. A latest illustration of this danger are the attacks by petrol bombs and other incendiary devices by hooded youths of anarchists and extreme leftists in Greece against the homes of outspoken journalists, offices of the governing coalition of New Democracy, Pasok, and the Democratic Left, and the burning of Bank’s ATMs. And of particular significance are the attacks on journalists, which are a blatant violation of free speech and a sinister attempt to intimidate them from expressing their opinion about events and criticizing politicians of Syriza, the official opposition, of whom obviously the fire carrying mobs are its ardent supporters.

This will be the tragic legacy of European big government and its ill-considered, indeed, destructive intervention in the processes of the free market that for at least two centuries have delivered prosperity and an unprecedented increase in the standard of living of the masses; as the socialist politicians from Francois Mitterand to Jaques Delors–the architects and enforcers of the European Monetary Union that forced Germany to succumb and pay the price of the unity of west and east Germany as demanded by France–and their present disciples of etatisme are in the process of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, i.e., the unimpeded free market, and by doing so unconsciously and unwillingly are generating and  unleashing the brutal forces of fascism and leftist directorates of totalitarianism on the landscape of Europe.

To avoid this slide to the hell of totalitarianism only the rise of statesmen who “can act beneath heaven as if they were placed above it” is consummated. The fiscal and balance of payments crisis can only be remedied by substantial cuts in government spending and the euthanasia of big government, and by the privatization of debt ridden public enterprises–that are the last strongholds of obtuse and doctrinaire unions– and by the freeing of private enterprise to pursue profit by competition and entrepreneurial creativity and dynamism, respectively. These ‘bitter’ remedies can only be administered by statesmen of the calibre of Lee Kuan Yew and Antonis Samaras. The latter, indeed, might not only be the progenitor of the Greek Renaissance but also the paradigmatic leader of other European politicians to imitate for their own European Renaissance. The Newtonian apple that will stop the European ‘discord’ that currently threatens the demise of the EU will fall to the gravitational force of such statesmanship.

Hic Rhodus hic salta

Statesmen Lead their People from Darkness to Enlightenment

What actually decides is our character   Jose Ortega y Gasset

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 10, 2012

Surprisingly, you are profoundly pessimistic, not to say nihilistic, about Antonis Samaras, who is the greatest politician appearing on the political firmament of Greece since Eleftherios Venizelos. Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare, endowed with that rare combination of high intellect, imagination, stupendous moral strength, and economic insight, which he proved by his prediction of the disastrous policy of austerity, encapsulated in the first European Memorandum as a remedy to Greece’s dire economic peril, without economic resurgence.

Statesmen are not responsible for the ignorance and political immaturity of their people. They try to lead even in a vacuum of understanding among their people about the real dangers their country is facing. The tragedy of Samaras was that his clear and sagacious policies were not able to overcome and trump the ignorance of a large part of the electorate about the real dangers that were threatening Greece, especially in a state of akyvernisia (Lack of government).

As a physicist you must know the fate of Galileo and how difficult it is to nullify ignorance. And your quote of Christopher Hitchens in your blog gives me the sense that you are aware of this difficulty. To wish therefore for Samaras removal, seems to me not only unjust but also politically immoral. And to hope that the leader of Syriza, AlexisTsipras, a staunch votary of Hugo Chavez, that he will change his inveterate leftist populist position of anti-Europe led by Germany, is to indulge in wishful thinking.

In moments of a great crisis, statesmen have the obligation and responsibility to lead their people from darkness to enlightenment and imbue them with indispensable hope about their immediate future, so they can overcome the crisis.

Israel’s Achievements Stem from Cultural and Intellectual Strength of its People

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Israel is no “mercenary of the West in the heart of the Middle East” but an outpost of Western civilization in the midst of barbarians. Besieged on all sides within the short span of 60 years it became culturally, politically, economically, and scientifically the most developed nation of the region and deservedly proud of this great achievement. Moreover as a civilized outpost, Israel is at the forefront of the fight against the holy warriors of Islam, of Hamas and Hezbollah, the proxies of its most dangerous enemy Iran.

The author of the article might be rich in some of his psychological probing but has a very poor understanding of history. Great achievements are not the outcome of “victimhood” but they arise from the cultural, moral, and intellectual strength of a people. And Israel is a testament of that.

Debate between American Australian and Norwegian What to Do about Somali Piracy

I’m republishing the following debate that took place on October 7, 2009, in view of the American and European present decision to attack Somali pirates on  land by special forces, which was the proposal I suggested in my contribution to the debate.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Somali piracy needs speedy, decisive, and relentless action by the U.S. and its European allies. To wait for the ability of Somalis “to police their own territory” and Somali leaders “to take action against pirates,” to quote Secretary Clinton, involved in the only highly profitable enterprise in a poor country, is to fly in the face of reality. In the event that Somali leaders were willing to do so, their military capacity to achieve this would take years to consummate.

Further, an increase of U.S., European, and Asian vessels and a better coordination between them is totally inadequate to police such a huge “expanse of ocean” as Secretary Clinton herself remarks. To pursue such a policy as Secretary Clinton delineates in her speech is to pursue a chimera. What the U.S. and its allies must do is to attack by relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the Somali towns from which piracy stems, and at the same time placing the requisite armaments on merchant ships that will protect them from any approaching pirate vessels. No amount of “carrots” will dissuade the pirates to desist and stop them, repeat, from such lucrative business in such impoverished country. Only their decisive military defeat will persuade them to do so.

Dan Kervick says,

I agree in part with C-G Kotzabasis’s assessment. We certainly can’t wait for the restoration of the ability (and inclination) of Somalis to police their own territory and to take action against pirates. Somalia is the most failed and dysfunctional of failed states. I also agree that the linchpin of the problem is that piracy in that part of the world is extremely lucrative. The piracy won’t end until piracy is made an ill bargain for the pirates.

But, given that assessment, I have a different view on the best means for addressing the problem, and the chances of success of a coordinated international response.

Yes, the area to be policed is very large. But this isn’t a matter of just sailing around hoping to encounter pirate ships, or hoping to be in the right place at the right time. I assume we have the ability to identify and track most of the ships belonging to these pirates, to share the needed information (though not the sources and methods) with merchant vessels, and to direct force where it is needed in a timely way, especially if we have a larger multinational force of ships in the area. I am also assuming that some of the tagging and tracking means available are clandestine, and are unlikely to be discussed in public.

I also suspect that the economic and other hurdles that need to be cleared so that merchant ships can better defend themselves can be cleared quickly with vigorous, multinational government involvement.

I am somewhat shocked that Kotzabasis would recommend air raids on the home towns of the Somali pirates. No honorable man would defend the intentional killing of the women and children of one’s adversaries as a means of deterring those adversaries. I thought C-G was more chivalrous than that.

Maybe it’s an old-fashioned American outlook based on too many cowboy movies, but I was brought up to believe there were certain acceptable and unacceptable ways of handling these kinds of problems with banditry. Arming and funding more people to ride shotgun on the stagecoach is certainly called for. And sending out posses to track and engage the bandits, and either apprehend or kill them, is also appropriate and in bounds. But sending people to shoot up the towns and encampments where the bandits’ families are located? Not OK.

Kotzabasis says,

Dan Kervick

Thanks for your intellectually amicable and positive response to my post. I’m however surprised that you so facilely assume that these raids will intentionally be killing women and children. The latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the terrorists and use women and children as human shields. So if there is no intentional killing my ‘honor’ and ‘chivalry’ are not besmirched.

Moreover, if you are prepared to put ‘stagecoach shotguns’ and send “out posses to track and engage the bandits” then you have to go the whole hog. You cannot exterminate the scourge of piracy by half measures or by chivalric ones.

Posted by Paul Norheim, Apr 16 2009, 7:54PM – Link

A comment to the exchange between Kotzabasis and Dan Kervick.

Kotzabasis says:

“I’m however surprised that you so facilely assume that these raids will intentionally be killing women and children. The latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the terrorists and use women and children as human shields.”.

Of course no single innocent human being will be killed intentionally by the Americans (that would be bad PR). But if you attack by “relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the Somali towns from which piracy stems”, much more innocent civilians are likely to die than those killed by pirates.

This is an excellent illustration of a certain paradox, namely between those “irregular” elements who target non-combatants (or, in direct terrorist operations: civilians), and a regular army targeting the enemy in ways that inevitably kill a lot of civilians, not because they are targets, but because the regular army decides to target the enemy by means that often, and inevitably, kill more civilians than the irregular elements (pirates/terrorists) do.

When you look at the tactics and outcome of some recent events (like the Israeli attack in Gaza, and the Sri Lanka`n army against the Tamil Tigers), it is indeed very difficult to distinguish between “terrorists (who) use women and children as human shields”, and states who send their armies to kill indiscriminately. If you look at statistics regarding the percentage of civilians killed in wars during the last hundred years, you would come to the conclusion that the respect for civilian lives seem to have diminished drastically – regardless of terrorists, guerillas, or pirates. The regular armies and the politicians behind them have their significant share in this development.

There is no point in mentioning Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki to prove that: Iraq is a fresh example.

How many innocent civilians did Saddam Hussein kill? And how many innocent civilians did Clinton and Bush kill – unintentionally?

To me it`s always been difficult to distinguish between terrorist methods and Kotzabasis`”relentless means”. For poor, innocent women and children, hit unintentionally, I would imagine that this distinction would make no sense.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 16 2009, 9:49PM – Link

Kotzabasis,

I may have misinterpreted you. There are some people who have recently advocated the *intentional* targeting of the pirates’ towns and kin in order to teach the pirates a lesson. You instead seem to be advocating going after the pirates themselves, and regard whatever happens to the communities around them as collateral damage brought on by the pirates decision to live among other people.

I appreciate that when you talk about “exterminating the scourge of piracy”, you are only logically implying that it is the scourge that must be exterminated, not the people. I hope that’s all you mean. Because as for the people themselves, I think experience with banditry shows that it is by no means necessary to exterminate all the bandits – even if such a thing were possible – in order the deter them from banditry. It is only necessary to change the cost-benefit analysis with which they operate. When it becomes to hard to profit from banditry, and too risky, the banditry ends.

This isn’t a half-measure. It is just a question on of re-asserting the rule of law without inflicting more death and pain on our fellow human beings than is necessary.

Unlike the case with some terrorists perhaps, the pirates do not hide continually among civilian populations plotting their crimes. They frequently float around in boats on the open ocean. Thus, if they are to be targeted for attack, there is no excuse for not targeting them when they are out there on the high seas, away from innocent people. If one can kill or apprehend some transgressor in a way that doesn’t risk the lives of innocents, then one should do so. It is not relevant whether we can pin the “fault” for the innocent deaths on the wrongdoer. What is relevant is that we avoid causing absolutely unnecessary deaths, whom ever is to be assigned the ultimate fault for those deaths.

Let’s not build these bandits up into something more than they are. What is needed now is stepped-up global policing of international shipping lanes, and that calls for increased levels of economic, manpower and intelligence commitment. The pirates are not an army, and civilization isn’t crumbling. We just need to invest more resources than we have previously.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 17 2009, 1:18AM – Link

Dan Kervick

Of course you don’t have “to exterminate all the bandits,” and your “cost-benefit analysis” is a perfect measure that would end such banditry. But to reach that measure that would deter the pirates from practicing their deadly enterprise one cannot do it by “half-measures.” It would be a half-measure to draw the gun and not shoot at your enemy. However, your “rule of law” is not a half-measure but no measure at all. These are lawless people that no law will ever restrain their actions.

I’m afraid you are too well- intentioned and too replete with humane genes that disqualify you from being a pragmatic strategist in deadly conflicts. No war has ever being fought clinically without the spilling of innocent blood. The price of freedom and the continuation of a civilized society at times is quite high. Nothing of great value is costless. The question always is whether people have the sagacity, the will, and mettle to pay the price.

Paul Norheim

This is a ‘straitjacket’ detachment from reality Paul. An “excellent illustration” that totally destroys your fabricated “paradox” is Iraq that by indisputable statistics shows that more civilians were killed by “irregular elements” i.e., by terrorists, than by the regular army of the U.S. and its allies. And to infer, sarcastically, that Americans don’t kill intentionally because that would give them “bad PR,” is to denigrate shamefully U.S. armed personnel who have been trained not to kill civilians, unlike the terrorists who are trained to kill them deliberately. .

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 17 2009, 7:37AM – Link

“These are lawless people that no law will ever restrain their actions.”

You seem to be confusing enforcement of the rule of law with respect for the law, Kotzabasis. Obviously, these pirates have no motivation to obey the law simply because it is the law. They are not law-abiding people.

For such people, reassertion of the rule of law always requires the imposition of harsh, credible penalties. Some percentage might be deterred by the mere credible threat of these penalties. But others will only be prevented from violating the rules of the road on the high seas by the actual infliction of the penalties.

I didn’t say that we should draw the gun and not use it. I said that in this case it seems likely that whatever force needs to be applied can be applied away from land, and away from innocent people. Yes, sometimes innocent people are killed in justifiable actions. But we shouldn’t recklessly endanger innocent lives just to prove our “will” or “mettle”, not when we can bring the required force to bear without endangering those innocents.

While the pirates aren’t motivated by respect for international rules, they are, as you have pointed out, motivated by profit. As it becomes less and less likely for the pirates that they will profit from attempted acts of piracy, and more and more likely that they will lose their lives or liberty, their banditry will be brought to an end.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 17 2009, 9:45AM – Link

Dan Kervick

Lawless people are not concerned with what MIGHT HAPPEN to them if they break the law, but, as you correctly say, by the “actual infliction of the harsh penalties’ imposed upon them, and I would add in this case wherever they are, on sea or land. It would be strategically foolish and inutile to confine one’s tactical operations solely on the “high seas” as well as reveal one’s tactics to one’s enemy. Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.

I used the “draw of the gun” figuratively, not that you said it, in response to your “stagecoach” post, that if you draw it you have to shoot your deadly foe wherever he is, even in a ‘crowded street.’

War has too many imponderables to compute them beforehand with algorithmic precision. McNamara’s “fog of war” is the constant condition. That is why people, and even professional soldiers, avoid it justifiably like the plague. But once one has decided to ‘unsheathe the sword’ then like the “feudal knights one has to make “literal mincemeat of one’s enemies, leaving the clergy to handle the morals,” to quote the great Austrian writer Robert Musil.

Posted by Dan Kervick, Apr 17 2009, 10:25AM – Link

“Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.”

This sort of scenario paints an unrealistic picture of the pirates as some kind of “pirate army” that is best countered by attrition of their numbers until they surrender. I don’t think it works that way. The pirates are fishermen, who have taken to using their fishing trawlers to mount pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has become a lucrative profession, and people will continue to pursue that profession as long as it remains lucrative. There is no fixed supply of pirates, just as there is no fixed supply of investment bankers. There is no pirate army to defeat.

We can’t bomb all the fishermen in Somalia, nor would that make sense. There is simply no need for this kind of overkill. The pirates attacked a US-flagged ship earlier this month, and that mistake resulted in an extended nuisance, the rescue of the captain, a week of media pants-wetting, three dead pirates and one captured pirate. This outcome is going to have a deterrent effect, and the pirates were dealt with out on the water. With stepped up resources and commitment, we can turn this piracy business into a non-viable enterprise.

Posted by kotzabasis, Apr 18 2009, 12:22AM – Link

It was a thought experiment and you missed its point.

You are digressing into ‘softer areas’ from your previous posts and I’ve nothing to add. Piracy now has become to you an ‘economic’ issue and merely an “extended nuisance” and an entertaining vaudevillian play, “media-pants wetting.”

Join the debate

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…    

Afghanistan: How to Mobilize the Tribal Chiefs against the Taliban

By Con George-Kotzabasis

There is a great possibility of replicating the Surge in Afghanistan with the following economic-political-military strategy: To shift the estuary of the stream of revenue from narcotics from the Taliban’s and narco-lords’ mouths to the government mouth with the aim to feed the hungry mouths of the tribal chiefs of Afghanistan. That is, to nationalize the poppy industry and make the tribal chiefs of Afghanistan the direct equity holders of the income that accrues from the production of opium. Such a policy will create a powerful self-interest and lead to a Tribal Chief’s awakening that will be more widespread and potent than the Iraqi one, since it will mobilize the whole country, through its tribal chiefs, against the Taliban and the narco-lords.

Thus U.S. forces will not have to go to a wild goose chase of serendipity to get “their lucky break.”

This idea was floated by me in a paper of mine on October 2008.