Monday, February 27, 2012

Gareth Evans Doctrine of Bonhomie in International Relations

By Con George-Kotzabasis—January 24, 2012

Gareth Evans the former minister of Foreign Affairs and presently Chancellor of the National University in Canberra, in an article published in The Australian, on December 26, 2011, under the title Peaceful Way in a World of Grey, argues that a confrontational approach is rarely the best means of tackling serious issues. He contends “that Manichaean good vs evil typecasting, to which George W. Bush and Tony Blair were famously prone…carries two big risks for international policymakers.” The first risk is that such thinking restricts the options of dealing optimally “with those who are cast as irredeemably evil,” and the second is by seen the world in “black-and-white terms” engenders “greater public cynicism, thereby making ideals-based policymaking even harder.” To strengthen these two points he uses the “debacle,” according to him, “of the US-led invasion of Iraq…should have taught us the peril of talking only through the barrel of a gun to those whose behaviour disgusts us” (M.E.), while conceding that “sometimes threats to civilian population will be so acute as to make coercive military intervention the only option, ( M.E.) as with Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.” Conversely, as a non-confrontational smart benign diplomacy he uses his own negotiations “with the genocidal butchers of the Khmer Rouse,” that were “acutely troubling, personally and politically, for those of us involved,” but which “secured a lasting peace in Cambodia.” He caps his argument by saying that one must see the world beyond the “two dimensions, economic and geostrategic,” and add a third: “every country’s interest in being, and being seen to be, a good international citizen.” (M.E.)

This is not Fukyama’s The End of History but the re-writing of history, and distorting it to boot, on a grand scale. Evans by a divinely made eraser rubs out all evil from the pages of history. But let us respond to his points in sequence. It is obviously true that for a policymaker to see the world in black-and-white terms would be utterly wrong. But likewise, to see the world solely in grey colours without the colour of blackness casting its evil shadow in most human affairs is to paint the world in the colours of wishful thinking. The task of statesmanship is to see the world not with the eyes of the ‘good citizen’ but with the piercing eyes of the political scientist who perceives the nucleus of evil that potentially exists in all human action motivated by ideology or extra mundane religious beliefs. It is to identify and separate the irreconcilable from the inconsolable enemy and act commensurably to the dangers issuing from these two substantially different foes.

The attacks on 9/11 were not the attacks of “good international citizens” but of evil ones driven by eschatological divinely directed goals. Bush and Blair promptly and insightfully recognized that they were facing a deadly irreconcilable enemy that could not be mollified by any ‘benevolent’ actions they could take toward him—they were already depicted by this foe as “Great Satans”—but had to be completely defeated in the battlefield. Further, astute strategy would not allow such an irreconcilable foe to become stronger but to defeat him while he was still weak and hence at less expense in human loses and materiel. The invasion of Iraq had this aim, to prevent the nexus of fanatic terrorists with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and nuclear ones supplied deliberately or inadvertently by rogue states rigidly belligerent against America and generally the West. In the aftermath of 9/11 no statesman could underestimate the possibility of such a great threat consummated by nuclear weapons that would annihilate their people. As the success of one such attack against a western metropolis would be the ultimate incentive for Alahu Akbar terrorists to become serial users of WMD and nuclear ones against the West and its Great Satan America. And this can be illustrated comparatively and plainly by the success of the first car bomb that brought in its wake a succession of innumerable car bombs used by the terrorists against their enemies.

Indubitably, the invasion of Iraq would have been a “debacle,” due to serious tactical errors American strategists committed during the initial stages of the occupation, such as the disbanding of the Iraqi army that fuelled the yet to come insurgency, if it was not for the Surge that under the savvy new strategy implemented by General Petraeus, had not turned a potential defeat into real victory. A victory, moreover, that planted the seeds of democracy in Iraq and by establishing a nascent democratic state there soon became the catalyst that disseminated the ethos of freedom and democracy among the masses in the region and the great potential this entails for all the countries in captivity to brutal and authoritarian regimes. And one must bear in mind that the Arab Spring is the legitimate offspring of the American gate crashing of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the transplanting of democracy in Iraq made in the U.S. However, one must not be unaware of the great dangers that could lie in wait in this transformation of democracy among those countries whose peoples in considerable numbers are imbued with the religious fervour of Islam, that Islamists, like Hamas in Gaza, could attain political power through the ballot box. And developments in Egypt after the fall of President Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood and extreme Salafists gaining a majority of seats in Parliament at last week’s election, are not encouraging for those sections of Egyptian society that believe in individual freedom and democracy.

There is, moreover, a fundamental inconsistency in Gareth Evans’s argument when he supports military intervention in the case when civilians are killed or threatened to be killed by an authoritarian regime, like Muammar Gaddafi’s, but not when civilians are killed and are threatened to be killed in their hundreds of thousands in the future by fanatic Islamists as it happened in New York and Washington. Lastly, his mentioning of Cambodia and the negotiations with the Khmer Rouse, in which he was directly involved, that brought a “secured a lasting peace” with the backing of “good old-fashioned containment and deterrence,” as a triumph of reason over bellicosity, he overlooks the fact that the Pol Pot regime by the time of the negotiations was already removed from power as a result of being defeated by Vietnam militarily in 1979, and existing as a weak resistance movement in West Cambodia.  

It is by such a collage of diplomatic misapprehensions and awkward inconsistencies that the former minister of foreign affairs attempts to breathe life into his narrative of “a good international citizen” and the “cause of human decency” and insert it into the maelstrom of human conflicts often ensuing from Caesaro-Papist sinister ideologies. The doctrine of bonhomie in international relations can only be indulged over a cafĂ© latte.

I rest on my oars: your turn now…                        

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Periclean Dimensions of Antonis Samaras as the Future Prime Minister of Greece

By Con George-Kotzabasis—December 10, 2011

We have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring. Pericles

In the present storm-laden dark sky of Greece, a glittering new star has made its appearance which like a beacon of the sky is attempting to navigate the battered ship of Greece into calmer waters and save it from shipwreck. This new star is the leader of the Opposition of the New Democracy Party, Antonis Samaras, who since he has become its leader two years ago, has displayed unprecedented qualities of leadership and economic and political insight and daring, in this critical economic situation that Greece traverses, that only a statesman of Periclean dimensions could exhibit.

The criticism of Samaras from early on as leader of the Opposition of the Papandreou government, which he has depicted as amateurish and inept, has been totally justified. His early warnings that the policies of the socialist government of Papandreou were wrong and the torrent of taxes that the latter rained upon the middle classes would be disastrous for the economy. In October 2009, when Papandreou began his premiership, public debt was 298 billion euros, 125% of GDP. Today it has reached the whopping amount of 360 billion euros, 165% of GDP. Gross National Product in 2009 was 238 billion and presently has shrunk to 218 billion. According to OECD estimates it will decrease even more by 6% in the near future and unemployment will increase to 18.55%, affecting tragically younger people.

Further, Samaras predicted that the first EU Memorandum that imposed draconian austerity measures on Greece would neither decrease the budget nor would it put the economy on a track of recovery. As an economist he cogently argued that in conditions of deep recession austerity measures would exacerbate the economic crisis not dampen it. He was severely criticized and reprimanded when the New Democracy Party voted in parliament against the extreme austerity measures. Moreover, he had the moral strength and political insight not to be tempted to fall to the seductive calls of Papandreou to participate in a unity government to deal with the national crisis. Samaras gave as his strong reasons that since the PASOK Government was refusing to change its economic policies, that followed the blueprint formulated in the European Memorandum without attempting to modify it in certain crucial parts that could deter the further weakening of the economy, and which had failed the country, he, and his party, would not take part in a coalition government merely for the purpose of being an “accomplice” to these flagrantly wrong policies.

Samaras made a series of proposals that he encapsulated in his “Restart of Greece” by which the country could avoid the shoals that would cause its economic sinking. Last May in his Zappeio II Proposal the Leader of the Opposition presented a number of policies that could put Greece on the road of economic recovery and its corollary, the ability to pay off its debts. His restart programme would necessitate a “shock treatment” but with positive results. (a) A severe cut in public spending and on pensions, only above the level 700 euros. (b) A reduction of taxes on household income and businesses and a decrease in VAT in all sectors of the economy particularly in tourism which is pivotal to the Greek economy. (c) The abolition of all means test for the acquisition of a house and on capital repatriation so to inject money in the financial system. (d) The legalization of all buildings constructed without permits-there are more than a million-which will bring substantial increases in state revenue. (e) The state is to pay off all its debts to private individuals thus increasing market liquidity. And banks to commit to the real economy 20% to 30% of the guarantees they receive. This will further increase liquidity in the market and be an incentive to stop capital flight. (f) The state must not make any cuts to the Public Investment Programme with its high multiplier effect that is a powerful instrument to combat recession. (g) The acceleration of denationalization of public owned entities, which the Papandreou government was slow to implement, and the stimulation of the development of property which is the economic engine of the country. All these relief measures will increase state revenue and the Restart programme will balance the budget within just over three years, and start paying off Greece’s debt.

This daring Restart programme is not an abstraction and Samaras is quite aware that to concretize it he has to convince the lenders of Greece, i.e. the EU, of the urgent necessity of making changes to the present economic policies that clearly have failed, if the goals of the Memorandum of 26th of October, to which he is irrevocably committed, are to be achieved. This task of convincing Greece’s European partners of a change in tack has been eased, as High German officials admit now that the initial programme was wrong.

Finally, Samaras warns (not exactly in the following words) that this contagion that is threatening to engulf the European continent is not only economic and political but also social, and could lead to an explosion of European Spring protests that could not be contained and could transform radically the political landscape of the continent by the reappearance of the infernal star of the swastika in the political constellation of Europe.

But History has shown repeatedly nations at moments of great dangers, produce great and illustrious leaders that saves them at the eleventh hour from destruction and obliteration. From Themistocles to Charles Martel to Winston Churchill, the invasions of barbarians and dictators were defeated by the sagacity, imagination, and moral strength of exceptional leadership. Antonis Samaras from his words and deeds without any doubt belongs to this lineage of leadership. Greece facing the abyss of economic bankruptcy, poverty, and mob rule with the dangers that are historically inherent in such combination, i.e. the resurgence of fascism, has a unique leader in Antonis Samaras that could prevent this stupendous threat from consummating which would consign the country into the doleful state of penury and into the captivity of dictatorial regimes.            


Thursday, February 2, 2012

American Liberals Scared by their Own Made Ghosts

By Con George-Kotzabasis

“Scariest stories ever written about contemporary America” is the story that makes some of the political toddlers of America to run and cover themselves under their bed sheets. Sans political wisdom, sans political and historical insight, and hence, sans cognitive and intellectual legitimacy, they attempt to analyse the world shaking event of 9/11 and the Administration’s protagonists’ response to the crescent shaped bolt that appeared over the blue sky of America with their childish fears. And for fear to be effective it must have its bogey ghosts. So we have Cheney, Addington, and Bolton wrapped up with white sheets in the middle of the night scaring the bejeesus out of the liberal intelligentsia with their nefarious schemes of “a massive expansion of presidential power” starting an “illegitimate war,” creating “a system for spying on American citizens...sanctioned torture”, and “pushed official secrecy to unprecedented levels.” The critics of Cheney, Addington, and Bolton never learning the abc and never reaching the omega of statecraft are shocked to see, and it’s beyond their comprehension, that in moments of national crises the expansion and concentration of presidential power is the sine qua non of strong political leadership and a necessary but temporary measure to protect a nation from malicious lethal enemies, both external and internal.

All the above measures that Clemons highlights were instigated by the Vice President solely for the protection of America. It was an unenviable task and it could only be performed by the strong in character. One must not forget that in hard times only the hard men/women prevail. And Cheney, Addington, and Bolton will be panoramic figures in American history for their political and strategic insight, strength of character, and their indefatigable efforts to shield the United States and the West from the fanatical irreconcilable enemies of Islam.