Connect with us

Americas

Ship of Fools Dead in the Water

Published

on

There are approximately two weeks left before the general 2016 Presidential election. People have begun to vote in absentia. More wiki-leak revelations (thanks to Russian hackers) have surfaced. Groped women claiming sexual assaults have also suddenly surfaced. Donald Trump’s surrogates continue to claim that everything is normal on the ship of the GOP presidential campaign; that polls reveal that Trump is winning, or at least he is tie with Hillary Clinton; or, at the very least, that there is a very narrow lead to victory.

If truth be told (a hard thing to do nowadays), Trump’s ship, like the Titanic, is already sinking. It’s just that the majority of Trump supporters (the so called basket of “deplorables,” or assorted racists and bigoted white supremacists of all stripes) do not know it yet; or if they do, or suspect it, they continue giving the false appearance that all is normal and the ship is speeding full steam ahead, straight to victory with captain Dum Ass at the helm.

The more astute politicians, such as the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have already sounded the alarm to their GOP colleagues: it’s everybody for themselves now; run to the life-boats and save yourselves. What is reprehensible in this attitude is not only its selfishness but the sheer lack of responsibility for the creation and constitution of the monster and the ensuing catastrophe. Nobody can stop the monster now. He could have been stopped when he started going around with the birther issue, but he was abetted and encouraged instead.

Some have headed the warning and are trying to save themselves politically by distancing themselves from the deplorable ideas of the deplorable captain; the captain that has managed in three short years, not only to insult a sitting president of the US (aided and abetted by the Tea Party of the GOP who are in large part responsible for the creation of the Frankenstein) but also women, minorities, veterans, Latinos, Blacks, Moslems, immigrants, you name it. Consider this twitter written some time ago by our twitting presidential candidate:

dttweet

That twitter says it all, in a way. What to my mind constitutes poetic justice of sort is that it is the GOP that now finds itself on the Titanic reaping the whirlwind with a not so confident Captain Deplorable at the helm. He now goes around saying that if he loses (i.e., if the ship sinks), then the game is rigged and he may then have to call for a revolution to reinstate him as captain.

The ones who have not heeded Ryan’s alarm are still deluding themselves that all is well. In fact, they are still playing the violin on the ship as it sinks, and continue their enthusiastic support. Alas, in three weeks they’ll find out that there aren’t enough life-boats for every surrogate and passenger. One of the prominent passengers playing this charade is the former mayor of New York Rudi Giuliani, the loyal lieutenant determined to go down with the ship and sink his political prospects.

You will recall that the so called “unsinkable ship” did not sink in the blink of an eye; it took a few hours before it was dead in the water. Similarly most GOP voters, when the women’s groping revelations, promptly denied by Trump, surfaced, may have heard a strange bump in the GOP engine room, but are still suspecting nothing. The music continues. The surprise will arrive on November 8, in three weeks or so, when they may lose the election on a landslide. Once the ship is under water with a good number of supporting surrogates and passengers, the GOP may also be dead in the water and may never resurface. Lincoln must be turning in his grave.

Given that the captain is not the type to go gently into the night, for he is a winner, by hook or by crook, we may expect a call to protest and civil disobedience (which is ok within a democracy) claiming that the game was rigged, or worse, the creation of “vicious” new party which will make the Tea Party look like a picnic, designed to frustrate every move of a Clinton presidency from day one. Even worse, we may see the beginning of the end of democracy in America, as we know it.

Perhaps we’ll avoid an ultimate catastrophe after all, perhaps democracy, despite Plato’s skepticism that an incompetent captain at the helm is able to lead a ship to port, is more resilient than we have surmised, but history does not support such optimism. The arrival of a Caesar Augustus and Adolph Hitler and Mussolini, as strong fix-all men was largely due to the weakness of democratic republics which allowed the ensuing of despotism. Ultimately one arrives at the sad derangement of a Caligula or a Nero, or a Trump with his finger on the nuclear button. I suppose time will tell. Meanwhile stay tuned. Things will surely get more interesting.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

Americas

Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

Published

on

The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

Continue Reading

Americas

Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

Published

on

Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

Continue Reading

Americas

Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

Published

on

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

taliban afghanistan taliban afghanistan
South Asia8 mins ago

Why Strategies of Stakeholders in Afghanistan Failing Against Taliban?

Taliban is increasingly gaining ground in Afghanistan, on daily basis, for considerable period. US may have declared ending its military...

Human Rights2 hours ago

COVID-19: Education replaced by shuttered schools, violence, teenage pregnancy

A culture of “safety, friends and food” at school has been replaced by “anxiety, violence, and teenage pregnancy”, with remote...

Human Rights4 hours ago

Six months after coup, Myanmar’s political, rights and aid crisis is worsening

It’s been six months since the military coup in Myanmar where there’s grave concern over the widening impact of the...

Green Planet6 hours ago

Sink or swim: Can island states survive the climate crisis?

Small island nations across the world are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, and their problems have been accentuated...

Health & Wellness9 hours ago

Delta variant, a warning the COVID-19 virus is getting ‘fitter and faster’

Cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19 continue to climb worldwide, mostly fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which has...

Africa Today10 hours ago

Investing in Key Sectors to Help Nigeriens Recover From the Health and Security Crises

The Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the security situation continue to undermine the Nigerien economy, wiping out years of hard-won gains...

Tech News12 hours ago

Ensuring a More Inclusive Future for Indonesia through Digital Technologies

While Indonesia has one of the fastest growing digital economies in South East Asia, action is needed to ensure that...

Trending