[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] new book by the Yale University Press has just been published. Its title is The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. The author is James Kirchick, a Yale University alumnus, journalist and foreign correspondent, recipient of the Journalist of the Year Award, conservative leaning politically, who however supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections branding Donald Trump as a “brashly authoritarian populist.”
With that as an introduction, I’d like to now proceed to an analysis of the book’s thesis on European democracy by expanding it to American democracy, to demonstrate that in many ways the two may be intertwined and that they may have a common future, for better or for worse, as the case may turn out to be.
I have subtitled my article “Trouble in Paradise” which is also the subtitle of chapter four of the above mentioned book: “The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?” Indeed, there is trouble in paradise but that paradise is called democracy and there is a river that traverses both sides: it’s called the Atlantic Ocean. Their destiny may be intertwined, far more than we care to admit when we declare that it is time to go our separate ways.
Before beginning my own analysis let me provide the readers with the titles of the 8 chapters, the introduction, and the conclusion of the book. It will give the readers a better idea of its import. I recommend it as an eye-opener of sorts to the present predicament of Western Civilization.
Introduction: The European Nightmare; chapter 1: Russia: On Europe’s Edge; chapter 2: Hungary: Democracy without democrats; chapter 3: Germany: The Return of Rapallo?; chapter 4: The European Union: Trouble in Paradise?; chapter 5: France without Jews; chapter 6: Brexit: From Great Britain to Little England; chapter 7: Greece: From Polis to Populists; chapter 8: Ukraine: The New West Berlin; Conclusion: The European Dream.
As mentioned, of particular interest are the chapters on Russia, the one on England, and the one on the EU. They make the point that there is indeed a democracy deficit in Europe which, in tandem with a rising ultra-nationalism, dangerously close to authoritarianism and fascism, is endangering the whole democratic structure built in Western Europe after World War II and culminating with the new polity called the European Union.
And who might be the enemy of the traditional order which has survived for seventy years now? Let’s consider the conspiracy theory called Deep State. As an example, almost chosen at random, let us briefly survey an article which has recently appeared in the daily publication Modern Diplomacy by a US attorney Raul Manchanda with the title: “Deep State Members and their Agents Are Slowly Revealing Themselves.”
It merits mention here that there is presently, prominently lodged in the White House, a security advisor by the name of Steven Bannon, who used to edit the Breibart News, an eminent conspiracy theory publication. He has been amply mentioned and examined at length in other pieces in this publication. What they all have in common is a commonly perceived enemy which they call Deep State.
But what might Deep State be? In the above mentioned article it is conveyed best by its illustration showing the Washington Capital as the tree on top being sustained by its deep roots beneath it. Of course those roots are considered nefarious. If that is in fact the case, the question logically arises: now that the Republican party controls both Congress and the Executive, whom are those roots sustaining? I suppose the logical answer is the present legitimate government of the US, and that’s why they need to be eradicated as enemies of the state or they will corrupt that legitimate and pure state.
In fact attorney Manchanda does identify those roots. They are at the very least: the original Nazi intelligentia, spies brought over by the American elites and privileged classes (Trump excluded, of course, for he is an Andrew Jackson populist), after World War II. Names are supplied: Gottlieb von Braun Rudolph, plus 15,000 others who were supplied with fake identities so that they could establish the foundations of Deep State. So, Deep State is in its origins a Neo-Nazi state. Also Trotsky Communists wishing to establish a New World Order based on intellectual elitism and “Luciferian ideals,” among which “God according to my right” and social engineering (read the social programs which are not fully American). Also, the power to kill and murder at will (read the intelligence agencies that keep the Deep State in power); not to mention the spy agencies, the media, the Federal Reserve.
Finally, Mr. Manchanda goes on, the American people wake up and voilà, Donald Trump appears on the scene as if on a cloud (as we witnessed at the reality show that was the Republican National Convention). Populism is here to save the day. But there are many left-overs, the “useful idiots” and “bastards” who have struck a pact with the Lucifer and are ready to strike back to protect the New World Order established after World War II. They conduct the resistance via Mainstream Media, Face Book, Social Media; hence the massive investigations going on as we speak by Deep State agents on Capital Hill against Trump. A purge may be needed and the sooner the better.
How do we recognize those subversive agents? Manchanda does not hesitate to enlighten us by furnishing 7 telling signs: 1) they wish to start World War III. Their tactic is to demonize peace-loving, non-threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria, China, 2) divide and conquer strategy focusing on divisions and centrifugal forces rather than a united patriotic stance as advocated by Trump, 3) fighting the alternative media (read the deceiving lying media contemptuous of facts) as 4) practiced by the Tweeter in Chief; 5) decoupling Europe from the US by destroying NATO and the Atlantic allegiance, 6) the refusal to abolish the “Luciferin” Federal Reserve Bank, 7) social engineering (the social programs) smelling of socialism, and the manipulation of the judiciary and the courts.
It goes without saying that Alternate State advocates find all the above as conspiracies against the American people, against Human Rights and against the Constitution, as judged by them or some ultraconservative judge, of course. If it all sounds slightly incoherent and deranged, it is. That’s what a pernicious ideology produces when lodged firmly in the human mind. It leads to the denial of facts and reality itself. What elsewhere I have dubbed the reign of Emperor Caligula.
But the most alarming and troubling phenomenon, is not the conspiracy theory itself, which can easily be judged by its own merits and sheer lack of common sense, but what it reveals, when examined carefully, about loyalty to truly democratic ideals, and the anti-democratic authoritarian spirit it reveals. What you have at play is addiction to power and influence parading as populist love of the underprivileged and the powerless. Slogans such as “unpatriotic bastards,” “fake news” “alternative media” “non threatening nations such as Russia, Iran, Syria” give the game away. The ultimate Machiavellian goal seems clear enough: to eliminate democracy as we know it and as implemented after it was rescued by World War II some seventy years ago.
Perhaps this brief review of a conspiracy theory alive and well in the present White House will furnish an initial idea of the present predicament of democracy in the West (on both sides of the Atlantic). We have reached the sorry stage wherein Europe and the US, bastions of democratic values around the world, now have to confront their own demons which they thought they had put to rest once and for all.
The old pathologies and centrifugal forces of rabid nationalism, authoritarianism, territorial aggression, fascism and racism, are menacing the consensus reached after World War II while the present leaders, so called, pursue shallow disingenuous policies such as Brexit, and Moslem bans, even anti-Semitism, and leave the two continents of Europe and North-America open to Russian imperial ambitions out to destabilize, divide and conquer, not so much with the threat of nuclear weapon which could prove self-destroying, but with digital information techniques, considered the new weapon to achieve geo-political parity; a strategy which has found a more than willing ally in Trump and his conspiracy theory minions, beginning with Steve Bannon, who typically advocates the abolishing of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance.
In other words, the liberal world order fought over in World War II and guaranteeing the two continents’ security, is now in serious jeopardy. What did Marx say? “Those who neglect to pay attention to their own history are bound to repeat it.” Marx got it wrong on many fronts, but perhaps on this one he had it right on target. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics
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.”
Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn
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.
Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer
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.
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