Friday, March 28, 2014

Continuity and Change ... For the Worse - The Obama Paradox

Continuity and Change ... For the Worse

The Obama Paradox

Barack Obama ran for office promising change; he delivered continuity.  But then, continuity brought change – for the worse.
In 2008, “change” meant whatever voters wanted it to mean.  Like the candidate, the word was a Rorschach inkblot.
Many, probably most, Obama voters had no clear idea what kind of change they expected.  All they knew was that, under George W. Bush, the country had veered dramatically off course.  They thought Obama would fix that.
Some voters did have more specific expectations.  Some thought that Obama would wean the country off neoliberalism.  With a financial and economic meltdown raging, the time was ripe.
Some expected him to restore the rule of law at least to pre-9/11 levels; many hoped and expected that Bush era war criminals would be brought to justice.
Others thought that the Democratic Party would become more like what it had been before the Clintons had had their way with it.
The list goes on.
Of course, nobody knew what “change” meant to Obama.  Perhaps Obama didn’t know either.  He could hardly have been more vague.
On one point, though, everybody, except perhaps the candidate himself and his close advisors, agreed: Obama would transform the post-9/11 Bush-Cheney regime beyond recognition.
They could not have been more wrong.
Perhaps he had other ideas; perhaps he was overcome by what the ancient Greeks called akrasia, weakness of will.  Perhaps there was never any there there.
Obama’s most ardent supporters, the ones who stuck by him as it became clear that change wasn’t happening, blamed the Republicans; many still do.  Corporate America gives them a nightly forum; they call it MSNBC.
But they are fooling themselves.  Even in the face of Republican obstinacy and determination, the Obama administration didn’t have to be as Bush-Cheney-like as it turned out to be.
Still, the apologists have a point; Republicans really are pieces of work, and they really have dedicated themselves to making sure that the Obama presidency would fail.
Therefore Obama’s apologists are not exactly deluded.  They just give their man – and his opponents — too much credit.
Who knows what Obama really thinks about the issues of the day or how he understands the relation between his words and his intentions.  All we can say for sure is that his words are noncommittal and vague; and that, for all practical purposes, he and his fellow Democrats are on the same page as the Republicans.
This is hardly surprising; they feed from the same trough.   Their antagonism is tactical, not strategic or ideological.
To be sure, racism shapes Republican attitudes, along with other status anxieties and base ideological convictions.  Democrats, on the whole, are nicer people.   But ultimately what both parties want is to win the next election.  For them, it is all about who gets to serve the one percent.
This is bad news for the ninety-nine percent of us about whose interests and wellbeing they could care less.  But that is the least of it.  When our leaders, regardless of party, fix their gaze beyond our (increasingly policed and militarized) borders, the whole world suffers.
Even so, one would expect that there would be a level of competence in the White House and throughout the foreign policy establishment commensurate with the tasks at hand.  Remarkably, this expectation has been confounded by Democratic and Republican administrations for the past quarter century.
When James Baker and Brent Scowcroft left office, who would have guessed that they would outshine all who would follow in their wake?  And, earlier still, who would have imagined that the days of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger would seem like a Golden Age when giants walked upon the face of the earth!
Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before him, put a bunch of clueless stumblebums in charge of throwing America’s weight around in the world.  Predictably, they keep getting in over their heads.
In Bush’s case, the mess was so bad that not even his Poppy could straighten it out.  Then the “change” President came along to continue his work.
The empire’s victims have suffered enormously as a result, but so far the empire itself has survived unscathed.  It is too big to fail.  But, even so, there are limits.
The Obama administration almost exceeded those limits twice.  Vladimir Putin saved Obama both times.
He saved him from being dragged into a potentially catastrophic war against Iran and he saved him from getting America bogged down in the on-going civil war in Syria.
But America’s arch-enemy du jour is not likely to be similarly helpful when the geniuses at Foggy Bottom and in the National Security Council focus their machinations on Russia itself.
Putin’s foreign policy establishment outclasses Obama’s by every measure.   Should it be in their interest to stop helping Washington out, Obama’s luck will run out faster than in a New York (or Moscow) minute.
Was it better under Bush and Cheney?  No.  But the world has changed – partly in consequence of the policies Obama has continued.  This is why, for the most part, those policies are even more toxic now than they were in the Bush-Cheney days.
In this sense, we did get change after all.  But when the reckoning is made, we will likely find that we would have been better off with less than we got.
Bush and Cheney trampled due process and privacy rights in the name of security.  When they were in charge, Constitutional constraints were only a minor inconvenience that they felt free to ignore.
This is how it has been for Obama too.  But, in carrying on their work, Obama made the situation qualitatively worse.  Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now have some idea how bad it was, and how much worse it became.
We do not know how much, if any, terrorism Bush and Cheney – or Obama — actually stopped.  What we do know is that they increased the supply of potential terrorists many-fold.  Invading foreign lands will do that; so will terrorizing civilian populations by unleashing murder and mayhem upon them.
Obama notched the terror level up, even as he diminished the overall level of violence.
His predecessors used assassins and drones too.  But bombers and soldiers were more to their liking.  For the most part, they did their foul deeds the old fashioned way.
Obama, the peace candidate, kept their wars going; he even escalated them for a while – the better to repackage the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But his preference has always been to kill covertly – by making the most of assassins and drones.  And so, he did change America’s military posture.  From a moral point of view, he made it worse.
Now terror is no longer only the last recourse of the powerless; it is also the first choice of a super-power equipped with a military juggernaut as large as the rest of the world’s combined.
In taking up where Bush and Cheney left off, the Nobel laureate let loose the functional equivalent of an army of suicide bombers, casting large swathes of the Muslim world into a perpetual reign of terror.
His drones are especially onerous.
For one thing, they are even worse than suicide bombers because they terrorize civilian populations more efficiently.  Ordinary people can avoid places suicide bombers are likely to target; no one can steer clear of those drones.
And, from a moral point of view, killing with drones is plainly more reprehensible.  Suicide bombers sacrifice their lives for their cause.  When their workday is over, drone operators spend evenings at home with their families.
Their superiors, the ones who order the killings, are even less involved.  Obama decides whom to kill, his underlings decide where and when, and then their underlings push the buttons.  The higher up the chain of command, the more pleased with themselves they seem to be.
On environmental issues, Obama has made things worse just by continuing the do-nothing policies of his predecessors.  Meanwhile, ecological changes already underway are rapidly ratcheting up the peril.
His administration has made a few changes for the better: for example, on fuel emissions standards.  But on the main causes of global warming, Obama has done nothing significant.  Meanwhile, with each year that passes, points of no return approach and are exceeded.
Then there is Obama’s penchant for enhancing the harm done by his predecessors’ policies through more effective implementation.
One would think that when those policies target key Democratic constituencies, he would at least think twice.  But all he does is talk an earful.  For example, Obama has spoken out frequently in favor of immigration reform; yet his record on deportations is far worse than Bush’s.  Organized labor has fared no better.
In a similar vein, Obama has had nary a bad word to say about government transparency or the importance of a vigorous and adversarial press.  To hear him speak, one would think that he is the whistleblower’s best friend.   Yet, on this too, he has been worse than Bush and Cheney or indeed any other president before him except perhaps Richard Nixon.
The man plods on.  No doubt, on domestic issues, he has his reasons, good or ill.  But on the diplomatic front, there seems to be no coherent thought behind what he does; he and his minions have no clue.
This is why the world now seems even more perilous than it did when Obama took office.
The problem is not just that the War on Terror, and its continuation under Obama, has been stupendously counter-productive; that it has conjured up terrorists faster than assassins and drones and “boots on the ground” can kill them.
It is becoming just as clear that the Bush-Obama wars have destabilized the entire region – from Libya to Pakistan, and lately, under Obama’s aegis, from the banks of the Tigris to the Mediterranean Sea.
East Africa and Muslim areas as far away as the Pacific Ocean have also felt the brunt, and are worse off for it.
The Bush-Obama wars have also strengthened Iran’s role as a regional power.  Whether or not this is a good thing, it is hardly what the United States and Israel had in mind.
Of course, cluelessness is a two-edged sword.   Latin America has benefited enormously from the fact that the United States is mired down in several Middle Eastern quagmires.
While Bush and Obama were otherwise distracted, popular democratic movements in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay were able to flourish and even come to power.  The governments of Brazil and Argentina veered leftward as well.
And, despite several attempts since 9/11 – the latest still underway – the United States has been unable to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela.  America’s never-ending war against Cuba has gotten nowhere either.
South of the border, the 9/11 attacks – or rather the American reaction to them — were, so to speak, a godsend.
It is now becoming clear that, in at least one respect, it has been the same for the rest of the world too.  America’s counter-productive maneuverings throughout the Muslim world brought American and European plans to bring the EU right up to Russia’s borders, and to encircle it with NATO bases, to a temporary halt.
That plan was proceeding apace in the Clinton days.  Russia then was hardly in a position to resist – not with kleptocrats running the country, and with the vast majority of Russians undergoing the hardships and social dislocations brought on by the restoration of a retrograde economic system.
America’s and Europe’s (mainly Germany’s) success in dismembering Yugoslavia provided valuable lessons and also encouragement.  With a new millennium dawning, it looked like full speed ahead.
But then came 9/11 and priorities changed.  Now, it seems they are changing back.
Evidently, our foreign policy wallahs have come to believe that in addition to carrying on in the Middle East, central Asia and the Indian sub-content, it is time to put Russia back in the crosshairs as well.
This too may be about oil, at least to some extent; but that is not the main thing.  And it goes far beyond the exigencies of running a global empire or making the world safe – or safer – for Western capitalists.
Western capitalists don’t need a revival of eastern European fascism and anti-Semitism any more than the rest of us do.  Neither do they – or we — need Al Qaeda-like movements to flourish throughout the Middle East or central and southern Asia.
But that is where our leaders’ policies lead.  Needless to say, it is not what they have in mind.  But then what do they have in mind?  Nothing remotely coherent, most likely; they know not what they do.
Yet onward they go.  With the old Soviet “satellites” currently ensconced in America’s and Europe’s ambit, all that is left is to bring the EU and NATO into the old Soviet Union itself.
The idea is ludicrous, and not just because Russia now is far stronger than it was in the nineties.  If the American empire were in competent hands, it wouldn’t be happening.
Overthrowing recalcitrant governments is old hat for the empire’s stewards.  Their timeworn method was perfected first in Latin America.  After World War II, it was deployed around the world.
The formula is simple: spend serious money stirring up chaos.  Then, when the time is right, discreetly support coups d’├ętat perpetrated by clients or friends.
This is what they are doing right now – so far unsuccessfully – in Venezuela.
But, until now, our leaders always had the good sense to confine their machinations to American spheres of influence or to peripheral areas that did not raise serious security concerns for other major powers.
After World War II, no power was more major than the Soviet Union.  Encouraging dissidents there and in Eastern Europe was acceptable.  But no sane leader would actively encourage “regime change”; not with the possibility that a nuclear war would result.  Eisenhower’s role in the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was exemplary in this respect.
Post-1991 Russia was still able to reduce the world to rubble.  Therefore, even Bill Clinton showed some restraint.  Circumstances emboldened him – but not to the point of recklessness.  And he got away with it.
It is unlikely that his First Lady had much to do with plans for enlarging the EU or for bringing NATO up to Russia’s borders.  That doesn’t seem to have been on her to-do list when she was Obama’s Secretary of State either.
But Hillary Clinton is quick to jump on whatever bandwagon is passing by, and so she has lately taken up the cause.  In her opening salvo, she famously likened Vladimir Putin to Hitler.
A dumb remark; though, considering the source, that is only to be expected.
Obama went beyond dumb.   Speaking in Belgium after meeting with the leaders of the G7 (plus and now minus 1), he went out of his way to insult his (disinvited) Russian counterpart, calling him a leader of a regional power whose actions betoken weakness.  Obama calling Putin weak!  How did he keep a straight face?
But then how does he keep a straight face when he accuses Putin of violating international law?  The man continues to amaze.
Is reviving Clinton-era policies towards Russia his idea too?   Or should we blame lesser eminences like John Kerry or those dreadful “humanitarian interveners” Obama empowered?  Whoever is at fault, putting Russia’s security interests in jeopardy is the worst idea that has come along since George W. Bush left the White House in ignominy.
It was for not being associated with ideas like that that it used to be possible to argue that Obama really was the lesser evil in 2008, when he ran against John McCain.  Despite McCain’s inclination of late to put his recklessness and bad judgment on display, it now looks like it was more of a tie.
In any case, it is already plain that the Americans and Europeans – and the Ukrainian nationalists whose “revolution” they encouraged – lost in at least one key respect; Russia’s annexation of the Crimea will hold.
For all their faults, Putin and his crew so far outclass Obama and his that when they set their minds to it, they get their way, even when their hand is weaker.
Fortunately, they are not only smarter; they are also wiser.  They know when not to push their luck; and also, let us hope, how to deal with opponents who are as clueless as theirs are.
This is why we will probably dodge the bullet this time too; the perils Obama et. al. let loose upon the world by setting their sights on Ukraine will probably stay contained.
Unlike the United States, Russia does have legitimate security interests in goings-on in the former Soviet republics.  Obama and the others are therefore like little kids playing with matches.  Fortunately, though, it seems that the Russians also know how to resist egregious provocations.
Because provoked they have been, and will continue to be.  Obama could always decide to put a lid on it, but so far he has been doing just the opposite.
In recent days, anti-Russian animosity seems even to have overcome Washington’s gridlock.  And where Democrats and Republicans go, so go the mainstream media.  The usual suspects are busily doing all they can to whip up a ruckus.
Not since the build-up to the Iraq War has so much wrong-headed pro-regime propaganda spilled forth from their quarters.  NPR has become especially unbearable.  I, for one, can no longer keep it tuned in for background noise.
If the Russians were to stoop to Obama’s level by taking his bait, the consequences would be dire.
And the prospects would be no better if they acquiesce.  Team Obama gets its way so seldom than when they do it only encourages them.
Therefore, if they are not stopped in their tracks, their provocations will continue and become increasingly dangerous.  There are other former Soviet republics out there, after all; and we should not forget that Obama is still itching to “pivot towards Asia.”
In other words, he has China in his sights too.  Too bad he doesn’t also have prudence in his head.
How ironic – and pathetic — that our best hope for avoiding the consequences of Bush-Obama policies lies with a conservative Russian strong-man — a leader with autocratic inclinations, but also with political skills, a sense of history, and the wisdom not to act out foolishly.
This is not how it is supposed to be in a democracy; it only shows how distant our democracy is from the ideal.  But with inept and clueless leaders at the helm – and a political system too corrupt and degraded to provide the change voters want – this, for the time being, is where “hope” resides.
ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE ROVING EYE - Why the EU can't 'isolate' Russia - By Pepe Escobar

Why the EU can't 'isolate' Russia
By Pepe Escobar

German Chancellor Angela Merkel could teach US President Barack Obama one or two things about how to establish a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As if Obama would listen. He'd rather boost his constitutional law professor self, and pompously lecture an elite eurocrat audience in the glittering Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, like he did this Wednesday, on how Putin is the greatest threat to the US-administered global order since World War II. Well, it didn't go that well; most eurocrats were busy taking selfies or twittering.

Putin, meanwhile, met with the CEO of German engineering and electrical conglomerate Siemens, Joe Kaeser, at his official residence outside Moscow. Siemens invested more than US$1.1 billion in Russia over the past two years, and that, Kaeser said, is bound to continue. Angela was certainly taking notes.

Obama couldn't behave otherwise. The constitutional law expert knows nothing about Russia, in his (meager) political career never had to understand how Russia works, and may even fear Russia - surrounded as he is by a coterie of spectacularly mediocre aids. His Brussels rhetorical tour de force yielded absolutely nothing - apart from the threat that if Putin persisted in his "aggression" against eastern Ukraine or even NATO members-countries the president of the United States would unroll a much stiffer sanction package.

What else is new, considering this by supreme CIA asset and former Pentagon head in the first Obama administration, Bob Gates, is what passes for political analysis in the US.

The $1 trillion game-changer 
Demonized 24/7 by the sprawling Western propaganda machine as a ruthless aggressor, Putin and his Kremlin advisers just need to play Sun Tzu. The regime changers in Kiev are already mired in a vicious catfight. [1] And even Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Petrovych "Yats" Yatsenyuk has identified the gloomy times ahead, stressing that the signature of the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU has been postponed - so there will be no "negative consequences" for industrialized eastern Ukraine.

Translation: he knows this will be the kiss of death for Ukrainian industry, on top of it coupled with an imminent structural adjustment by the International Monetary Fund linked to the EU (maybe) bailing out a bankrupt Ukraine.

Asia Times Online's Spengler coined a formulation: "A specter is haunting Europe, and that is the specter of a Russian-Chinese alliance at the expense of Europe." The alliance is already on - manifested in the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There are military technology synergies on the horizon - the ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense system is to be unveiled by Moscow, and Beijing would absolutely love to have it. But for the real fireworks, just wait a few weeks, when Putin visits Beijing in May.

That's when he will sign the famous $1 trillion gas deal according to which Gazprom will supply China's CNPC with 3.75 billion cubic feet of gas a day for 30 years, starting in 2018 (China's current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet).

Gazprom may still collect most of its profits from Europe, but Asia is its privileged future. On the competition front, the hyper-hyped US shale "revolution" is a myth - as much as the notion the US will be suddenly increasing exports of gas to the rest of the world any time soon.

Gazprom will use this mega-deal to boost investment in eastern Siberia - which sooner rather than later will be configured as the privileged hub for gas shipments to both Japan and South Korea. That's the ultimate (substantial) reason why Asia won't "isolate" Russia. ( See Asia will not 'isolate' Russia, Asia Times Online, March 25, 2014.)

Not to mention the much-anticipated "thermonuclear" (for the petrodollar) possibility that Russia and China will agree payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal may be in yuan or rubles. That will be the dawn of a basket of currencies as the new international reserve currency - a key BRICS objective and the ultimate, incendiary, new (economic) fact on the ground.

Time to invest in Pipelineistan 
Even though its centrality pales compared to Asia, Europe, of course, is not "expendable" for Russia. There have been rumbles in Brussels by some poodles about canceling the South Stream pipeline - pumping Russian gas underneath the Black Sea (and bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Austria. The Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Dragomir Stoynev, said no way. Same for the Czech Republic, because it badly needs Russian investment, and Hungary, which recently signed a nuclear energy deal with Moscow.

The only other possibility for the EU would be Caspian gas, from Azerbaijan - following on the trail of the Zbig Brzezinski-negotiated Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which was conceived expressly to bypass both Russia and Iran. As if the EU would have the will, the speed and funds to spend billions of dollars to build yet another pipeline virtually tomorrow, and assuming Azerbaijan had enough supply capacity (it doesn't; other actors, like Kazakhstan or ultra-unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, would have to be part of the picture).

Well, nobody ever lost money betting on the cluelessness of Brussels eurocrats. South Stream and other energy projects will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most troubled EU nations. Extra sanctions? No less than 91% of Poland's energy, and 86% of Hungary's, come from Russia. Over 20% of the foreign lending of French banks is to Russian companies. No less than 68 Russian companies trade at the London Stock Exchange. For the Club Med nations, Russian tourism is now a lifeline (1 million went to Italy last year, for instance.)

US Think Tankland is trying to fool American public opinion into believing what the Obama administration should be applying is a replay of the "containment" policy of 1945-1989 to "limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power". The "recipe": weaponize everybody and his neighbor, from the Baltic nations to Azerbaijan, to "contain" Russia. The New Cold War is on because, from the point of view of US so-called "elites", it never really left.

Meanwhile, Gazprom's stock price is up. Buy now. You won't regret it.

1. Popcorn Please While "Putin's Agitators" Rule in Kiev, Moon of Alabama, March 26, 2014.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE ROVING EYE - Asia will not 'isolate' Russia By Pepe Escobar

Asia will not 'isolate' Russia
Envy the fly on the wall in The Hague when cool Xi Jinping met Barack Obama, pivoting around himself because China and the rest of Asia will not "isolate" Russia. China is Russia's strategic partner and along with Japan and South Korea (essentially US protectorates) identifies more with a steady supply of oil and gas, and business deals struck in Moscow, than helping stir an anachronistic Western-provoked New Cold War.

Any (bureaucratic) doubts the New Cold War is on have been dispelled by the Group of Seven issuing a pompous, self-described Hague Declaration. Abandon all hope those who expected The Hague to become the seat of a tribunal judging the war crimes of the Cheney regime. 

The G-7 also cancelled its upcoming summer summit in Sochi as a means of "punishing" Moscow over Crimea. As if this carried any practical value. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded with class; if you don't want us, we have better things to do. [1] Everyone knows the G-7 is an innocuous, self-important talk shop. It's in the G-20 - much more representative of the real world - where crucial geopolitical and geoeconomic issues gain traction. 

The Hague Declaration comes complete with the kiss of death, as in, "The International Monetary Fund has a central role leading the international effort to support Ukrainian reform, lessening Ukraine's economic vulnerabilities, and better integrating the country as a market economy in the multilateral system." That's code for "wait till structural adjustment starts biting". 

And then there will be "measures to enhance trade and strengthen energy security" - code for "we will destroy your industry" but "are not very keen on paying your humongous Gazprom bill". 

All this in the sidelines of a supposed summit on nuclear security in the Netherlands, where US President Barack Obama, at the Rijksmuseum, in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch, extolled Washington's "support of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people". Rembrandt's watchers have never seen anything like it in their glorious lifespan. It pays to be a Nazi after all; you just need to be in the right government, against the right enemy, and fully approved by the hyper-power. 

King Willem-Alexander hosted a lavish dinner for the members of the nuclear security summit at the Royal Palace Huis ten Bosch in The Hague - after Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a (failed) bid to "isolate" Russia. The White House would later add that, as long as Russia continues "flagrantly" to violate international law, "there is no need for it to engage with the G7". Unless, of course, it starts conducting a drone war in Ukrainian badlands - with kill-list attached. 

All about NATO
The US Senate - always enjoying superb popularity ratings - laboriously laid the groundwork for debating a bill backing a US$1 billion loan guarantee for the regime changers in Kiev, plus $150 million in aid also including "neighboring countries". These figures are enough to pay Ukraine's bills for maybe two weeks. 

Meanwhile, in the facts on the ground department, Crimea will be booming soon - tourism included - and may even become a "special economic zone". [2] Subjects of the upcoming IMF/agrobusiness-plundered Khaganate of Nulands will see the results for themselves. 

Hysteria within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that Russia is about to invade everyone and his neighbor literally tomorrow - remember The Russians Are Coming! - persists unabated. Independent observers, The Roving Eye included, always insisted this is all about NATO, and not the European Union. [3] 

Since the go-go days of the Bill Clinton era, NATO has been expanding to the doorstep of Russia. The process graphically represents US hegemony over Europe; NATO "annexed" Eastern Europe even before the EU. And even those certified US Cold Warriors such as Paul Nitze always thought this was a needless, dangerous provocation of Russia. 

Very few remember how "Bubba" Clinton, to make sure terminal alcoholic Boris Yeltsin was re-elected in 1996, postponed NATO's expansion for a year. Afterwards, the expansion turbocharged into NATO as global Robocop - from the Balkans to the intersection of Central and South Asia, and to Northern Africa. 

NATO's humanitarian bombing of Yugoslavia - 36,000 combat missions, 23,000 bombs and missiles - whose 15th anniversary is "celebrated" this week, codified the new realities. NATO had nothing to do with defense; it was a multi-lethal (transformer) attack dog. It was the epitome of clean war; aerial blitzkrieg, and no casualties. And it was totally legitimized by "human rights" over national sovereignty; that was humanitarian imperialism in the making, opening the way to "responsibility to protect" and the destruction of Libya. 

Moscow knows very well the lineaments of the neo-barbarian behemoth at its gates, in the form of NATO bases in Ukraine, assuming the regime changers in Kiev remain in power. And their response has absolutely nothing to do with "Putin's aggression". Or the so-called "Medvedev Doctrine" of Russia theoretically extending military protection to Russians everywhere. As if Russia was about to "threaten" its business interests in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan or Mongolia. 

What the White House calls "the international community" - roughly the "Hague Declaration" G-7 plus a few European minions - could not possibly admit that. Asia, on the other hand, clearly identifies it. China, Japan and South Korea, for starters, identify Russia with a steady supply of oil and gas and further business deals. Even considering that Japan and South Korea are essentially US protectorates, nothing could be more anachronistic in their calculations than a Western-provoked New Cold War. 

Asia will not "isolate" Russia - and Asians and Russians know it, as much as The White House is in denial. Beijing's abstention in "condemning" Moscow - talk about the American angry-schoolmaster brand of politics - is classic Deng Xiaoping-style "keep a low profile", as China is Russia's strategic partner and both are busy working for the emergence of a multipolar world. Not to mention Beijing's utmost rejection of US-style color-coded "revolutions" and regime change ops - as well as that "pivoting to Asia" encirclement ops. 

Oh, to have been an EU-regulated fly on the wall in that Hague room where Obama and Xi were talking; cool Xi meets Obama pivoting around himself. 

1. Russia not clinging to G8 if West does not want it - Russian FM, Russia Today, March 24, 2014.
2. Crimea to become Russian special economic zone-Medvedev, Russia Today, March 24, 2014.
3. Why the EU won't annex Ukraine, Russia Today, March 24, 2014.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

The War Party At Work In Syria: Another Nation Destroyed, More Blood On America’s Hands

The War Party At Work In Syria: Another Nation Destroyed, More Blood On America’s Hands 

By David Stockman 
March 24, 2014 "Information Clearing House - Just in the nick of time last fall, the American people finally put their collective foot down, and took away Obama’s keys to the Tomahawk Missile batteries. Yet just because the planned missile barrage has been silenced does not mean that destruction has abated. In fact, the carnage wrought by what is described in the main stream press as Syria’s “civil war” rages on. The death count is now in the hundreds of thousands; the flow of desperate refuges is in the millions; everywhere civil order, food and fuel supplies, buildings, streets, homes are in ruins; and the barbaric jihadists who now dominate the so-called opposition sack much of the land outside of areas controlled by the government.

Undoubtedly, the brutal 40-year regime of the Assad family sowed the seeds of discontent and uprising—especially among Syria’s majority Sunni population—-that manifested themselves three years ago. But what started as Anderson Cooper’s latest televised ”uprising” did not become today’s cauldron of civil war and unspeakable violence by the equivalent of immaculate conception.

Another Middle East nation has been destroyed because the “opposition” was provoked, supplied, trained, armed and financed by the West and the Persian Gulf sheiks. Whatever its legions of sins, the Assad regime has been no more brutal, tyrannical, decadent or self-serving that the House of Saud or the Al Thani rulers of Qatar. So the “civil war” is not about better government for the Syria’s suffering population because it is no longer a civil war at all—if it ever was.

Its a proxy war–pure and simple. The aim yet again is ”regime change”, and not because the Assad’s are so bad; its because in the imaginations and propaganda of the neo-con War Party, the rulers of Iran are so evil. The real purpose of the US-Saudi sponsored civil war is to eliminate the Syrian link in Iran’s alleged arc of influence thru the Levant and Hezbollah.

So two things are clear. First, if Washington had a clear-eyed, sober view of the Iranian regime, it would not be demonized as an implacable enemy of civilization; we would resolve our differences–including on the nettlesome nuclear issue—in conference rooms, not thru proxy wars.

Secondly, the Syrian civil war and carnage can stop any time our peace-candidate President gets up enough gumption to tell the War Party to take a hike.  In the insightful post below, Eric Margolis makes clear that this is the essence of the matter:

By March 22, 2014

As Syria lies dying, western media cries, “we must save Syria’s suffering children.” Indeed so,  among Syria’s nine million internal and external refugees,  some 450,000 are children.

All civil wars are bloody and cruel, but Syria’s strife has reached new extremes of violence and mass civilian suffering as the US and Saudi Arabia use this once beautiful, bountiful nation as a proxy battleground against Iran.

I extensively covered Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war; its  ghastly memory still makes me shudder. In the 14 wars I’ve reported on, Lebanon holds top ranking for barbarity and sadism. One friend of mine, the owners of women’s boutiques, became a paramilitary Rambo and went from selling perfume to cutting off and collecting the ears of Muslims.

A similar madness has descendent on Syria as its many ethnic and religious groups tear one another’s throats. Syria’s 630,000  Palestinian refugees have suffered frightfully, caught between the warring parties.

But as we lament the plight of Syria’s  refugees, let’s remember that this brutal war was begun by the Western Powers and Saudis, is financed by them, and could be stopped at anytime if Washington and Riyadh give the order.

In 2011,  fighting erupted after demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians were fed up with the brutal, 40-year Assad dynastic dictatorship and domination by Assad’s Alawi minority.

Western intelligence used techniques developed in Georgia, Ukraine,  Iran, Libya, Turkey (unsuccessfully) and Egypt to convert public anger into demonstrations. The Assad government’s typically heavy-handed response turned a local problem into spreading civil war.

Most of the uprising against Damascus began on the borders with Lebanon and Jordan, from where  US, British, French and Saudi intelligence services organized, trained, and financed anti-Assad groups. Turkish intelligence, MIT,  also fuelled the uprising in the north.

This writer strongly believes Western special forces armed with the latest anti-tank weapons covertly supported anti-government forces – just as in the western-organized overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gadaffi.

France has long aspired to re-establishing some sort of French-led Levant protectorate over Lebanon and Syria. Curiously, France’s socialists are even more imperial-minded than its conservatives. French intelligence – formerly SDECE, today DGSE – plays a key role in supporting Lebanon’s anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah factions.

Interestingly, even Russia has never fully given up its 19th-century pretensions as defender of the Levant’s Christians. Moscow remains Syria’s most important ally.

Today, Syria is in ruins. It joins Afghanistan and Iraq  who also defied the will of the United States, and paid the price. Three years into the war, the Assad government appears to be slowly winning the conflict, aided by Iran, Russia, and, to a modest degree, Hezbullah.

While Damascus gains military momentum, Syria’s western-backed rebel factions are rent by confusion and rivalries. They are unable to come up with representative leadership. Meanwhile, increasingly radical Islamists – perhaps 100,000 – have taken over much of the fighting. These wildmen are a loose cannon that frightens their Western patrons even more than Damascus. No one is able to control or organize them.

Ironically,  these jihadis should be enemies of the West while the secular Assad regime an ally. Hatred of Iran does funny things.

The United States showed its frustration with the war it began, but cannot win, by just breaking diplomatic relations with Syria, a low IQ act that is totally counter-productive and often indicates war is imminent.

More disturbingly, Israel launched another attack on Syria last week after one of its patrols likely hit an old landmine. Israel and its US supporters are determined to crush the Assad regimes as the first step in overthrowing Iran.

Given the failure of the anti-Assad rent-a-jihadis, Israel may soon intervene to destroy Assad’s air force and armored formations. Israel is getting ready to massively attack Hezbullah in Lebanon in yet another attempt to eradicate the Shia resistance movement.

The US almost openly entered Syria’s war last fall until Russia’s deft diplomacy pulled the rug out from beneath Washington’s feet. But powerful factions in the US are still urging air and naval attacks on Syria.

Ukraine and Crimea temporarily distracted the US. The cautious Obama administration seeks to avoid conflict, but America’s pro-Israel neocons and Republican hawks are pushing hard for war – and mid-term elections come this fall.