Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Even Stupid...

With apologies to Pauli

What the Israelis are doing in Gaza is not even stupid. How can they expect “Quiet” when the others see no justice?

What Hamas has been trying to do is not even moronic. How can fanatics expect “freedom” when they cannot even tolerate others' differences?

And, even if Hamas’ real aim extends beyond the borders of Gaza, what the Egyptians are letting them do is not even criminal. How can it expect “prosperity” if it comes at the price of dignity?

Furthermore, even if Hamas’ real reach extends beyond the confines of Gaza, what the barbudos on the Lebanese side are (trying) to do is not even suicidal. Then again, we’ve moved beyond logic a long time ago. But at least we Lebanese are upfront about our own shortcomings.

That said, aside from the sheer criminality of knowingly targeting civilians under the guise that there are terrorists hiding in their midst, the Israeli policy will fail utterly, and further drag down the name of Israel into the mud.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s been done already.

In which case, Israel is turning into just another one of its Arab neighbours… No wonder they get along so well with the Assad regime.

Maybe they can be roommates.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reading the Pravda

It’s been a while. But there was so little to discuss; so much “noise”, little real news or actions.

Actions and (lack of) Motion

Yes, there was some speech from former warlords turned peacemakers for those who believe that such a conversion is really possible.

Then there was the odd state visit of the local clAoun for those who really believe in histrionics.

Then there were those Mig’s who will take the place of the Mirage in this big empty warehouse at the Kleyat Air Base… Until we sell them to the Pakistanis or some other wannabe-failed state… Unless we purchase them like we did those infamous Crotale

… But it is all really irrelevant, as the real story may well be unfolding beyond our (puny) reach, or the even punier grasp of our insignificant political c(r)ass...

In this lack of real news, old newspapers can make interesting read. Not so much for the actual information provided, but for the context. I had chanced upon an old Pravda article, back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, which was talking about awarding the Lenin prize to some miners from some Marx-forsaken place in Bejnev’s frozen realm. It actually made more sense in the context of later historic documents that discussed worker unrest in some areas.

Today, in a comparatively freer world, there are reports that “between 23 and 35 Iraqi Interior Ministry officials have been arrested on suspicion of plotting a military coup to topple Maliki's democratically elected government”.

…Dude!

Are we back in 1979?

Surely Maliki’s no Saddam…

Yet he’s no Mother Theresa either.

Consider the plight of that poor “Zaidi”, the man who called the US president a ‘dog’ and hurled both his shoes at Bush. He has already suffered a broken arm and other severe injuries. Before you can shout “police brutality”, recall that he was apparently resisting arrest, since “after he was dragged away struggling and screaming by Iraqi security officers and US secret service agents".

Now the poor sap finds himself “in hospital in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad”. Having “admitted to 'aggression against a president'”, he now faces 15-year sentence under Iraqi law. He’s now “apologizing”… And pleading for clemency:

[My] “big ugly act cannot be excused […] I remember in the summer of 2005, I interviewed your Excellency and you told me, 'Come in, this is your house.' And so I appeal to your fatherly feelings to forgive me

An oddly familiar choice of words, don’t you think? Not to defend that idiot who disrespected Arab hospitality. After all, entire cities were destroyed for a similar crime. Still…

Since when has this law been on the books?

Come to think about it, there's still little to discuss... On reprend les mêmes et on recommence.

Et (re)zou!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bananey Sananey

Back during the heat of the election, when Joe “motor mouth” Biden cautioned that “this president would be tested”, he got a lot of flack. He had a point, however, but one the media skipped over; any new president will appear to be undergoing a test when he resumes office.

However, even this is simplistic; most crises are the result of complex events that pre-date the election. Perceptions can simply exacerbate some of them and their effect, as foreign adversaries miscalculate.

In our case, Dr. Bashar may be making a similar analysis as one of his more illustrious predecessors, confusing the cyclical changing of the guards in the United States with the passing of an era. This perception is leading him to start cranking up the pressure on his opponents in Lebanon. After the comparison with Georgia, soon he’ll be painting Lebanon as another version of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. True, Saad is been laden with money (rires). True, he had not been showing much good judgement so far. However, he has far less links to “Jihadists” that the good Doctor Bashar.

If the Syrians are really serious about coming back to Lebanon, they need to start picking on bigger statures than the puny Lebanese politicos. To do so, they need a little more than infomercials or empty rhetoric.

Yes, the American administration has changed. But what has changed is the style, not the substance, and definitely not the core interests.

Yes, the Americans are not above selling us (again). However, if Lebanon is nowhere near the top of the agenda, neither is Syrian. So Bashar needs to really deliver something to the Americans. But he has to take into account that, this time, as a result of Saudi, Egyptian, and Iranian involvement, Lebanon’s price just went up.

And the Americans will want cash, upfront.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mabrouk

Ben Franklin, a non-president among the dead presidents we so eagerly trade, was once queried, as he left what would become Independence Hall;

“Well, Doctor, what have we got?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Today, for the 56th time, the Americans ran a presidential election. OK, some would say 57th, since John Hancock had the title first… But the fact is, like clockwork, the Americans vote for a president, and a rather smooth transition takes place. Even if some of the workings of this system smell rather too fishy to qualify as a real democracy, as a Republic, it's not so bad. In any case, it's the closest thing to a democracy the world has.

so, for the 57th time, congratulations to you.

In the United States, Provided he applies to the white house the same shrewd determination that he used to rise to the top, the United States will fare rather well. However, will he succumb to hubris and believe his own rhetoric, the outlook will not be so rosy. Messiahs and prophets do not always fare well, and quite a few are already shopping around for a cross and nails.

And, for (n+m)th time, do not sell us out...

In the rest of the world, the outlook depends on their current alliance or opposition to the power of the American Imperium. They all expect either a saviour or a douche, but they will all get a shrewd president, intent on increasing his power and therefore that of his country.

So, as reality sets in, expect most election promises to be broken, and if the style changes, do not expect the actions to be dramatically altered. For too many, it will take time for reality to sink in;

They voted for a messiah, and got a mere 44th president.

The show goes on.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nigeiran Scams

One can make a lengthy argument as to the impact of the “change” in the direction of the United States policy, should O’bama ever be elected… Personally, I have no illusion of any changes; whether your choice is “the One” who rose to the top too fast to be kosher, or the other one who’s rise is too slow to be a genuine "maverick". I will save you the need to read an lengthy explanation; watch the videos instead.


Those were not opponents laughing at one another.

Those were comrades in arms laughing together at the world's expense. So, when it comes time for Rome to anoint its Cesar, little change is depth can be expected; the new emperor's job would be to clean up the financial mess first and foremost; whatever plans they will implement have already been written by President Paulson.

So it is no wonder that, between Ayers and Keating, I prefer the devil I know, with little justification beyond my own gut feelings… Either way, however, I do expect any real change to affect United States policy in the Middle East. Myself and others have blogged ad nauseum and clearly showed how the Iranians and Syrians will accomplish little as long as they are aligned against the core interests of the United States.

Those who still disagree are too far gone to be convinced. After all, they still expect that, on the morning after the election, either candidate will still respect them ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Salami Tactics

The Syrians are nothing if not persistent.

Rather than learning from the strategic mistakes that led to their ignominious defeats in April ’05, they are following the same tried and true tactics that led to our ignominious surrender in ‘76.

Simple, “slice by slice”, salami tactics.

First, they activate some local supporters. Nothing wrong with that, we share so much that it is hard to refute that, just like Belgium and France, we’re much the same people in two countries. Much like Belgium and France, however, I’d rather we keep it that way.

Then, they activate some loonier outfits, keeping enough plausible deniability to ensure the blame is not all laid on their door. When one of those backfires, that does not stop them from trying again. At some point, their Lebanese allies will "retaliate" against Israel's attack on Hummus.

You can take our land, but you can never, ever, take our falafel!


Then again, that part depends on Iran, and the Mullahs appear to have grown cautious. Lebanese cuisine may be excellent, but it is nothing compared to the witches' brew those Persians Barbudos are cooking... Or thinking they're cooking.

They can also claim that some of their citizens have been kidnapped in Lebanon. That’s an easy charge to make; they only need to list those citizens their own services continue to “disappear”.

Well, it's not that Bashar is afraid OF freedom. He's afraid FOR freedom.

And yes, he'll still respect you in the morning.

I would not be surprised to see Michel Kilo or others on the list of those we ungrateful Lebanese isolationists kidnapped. They could also blame those devious Jews, but for now, the objective remains Beirut and its banks.

Then, since this regain of “activity” does not get them much attention, why not throw in a tantrum closer to home? Yes, the side effect would be the loss of a few Syrian lives, but it’s not like this regime has not been there before… So just add them to the Hama roster, it’s only statistics, after all.

And after that, follow-up this regain of activity with some good ol’ fashioned bombing, and since the Iranians appear to be too cautious (for now), why not some ol’ time kidnapping(s)?

As he gathers his Schutzstaffel, Bashar is hoping that someone Sooner or later, someone may well ask the “secular” Syrian regime to join the fight against the common “Jihadist” enemy, and take charge of security in Northern Lebanon. Then the whole of Lebanon... Bwahahaha.

In that respect, the Syrians appear to be "betting on Barak". But if the Syrians expect him to change course on foreign policy and undermine his country’s own interests, they have another thing coming. Personally, I do not trust the guy, though smarter people distrust McCain. But I know one thing; whatever Obama's disagreements with McCain on foreign policy, they are merely tactical.

The US strategy remains the same.

And the Syrian “salami tactic” remains just that; a tactic. And no substitute for strategy.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Stupidity (2/2)

In the midst of all the political muck around us, Joe Biden's been outdoing Palin Sirah, pr maybe just getting ahead of himself... and ourselves.

I missed the memo on when te United States "kicked [Hezb'O] out of Lebanon. And I hope nobody tries again, as it will be fatal to Lebanon. Nasrallah and his goons are not the disease that afflicts Lebanon, but one symptom of the deeper Arab disease;

Just one party out of many who claim to be inspired by God.

If one thing was common to all those who walked on that famous day of March 14, it is that most Lebanese are eager to get Allah out of any of our Hezbs. The trouble is we still haven't figured out how; it's going to be hard as long as we still haven't fully accepted that, thanks to mass media, God now may have other options than to send isolated prophets... Maybe we should start by getting those Hezbs and Zaims out of our hearts, thus leaving room in there for our children.

Until we do that, we Lebanese will remain the stupidest of God's creatures, our best and brightest emigrating away, leaving only rawhide to flock around the Qislings who slaughter them.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stupidity (1/2)

This winter, the Middle East is heating up, and so is Lebanon. But let's start with the international scene first; the United States. I am surprised no one has picked up on Taheri's New York Post

Yes, Taheri cried wolf far too often, but this time he appears to be on the level. And yes, it's no lipstick, but the implications are far worse. Most notably, Obama's response all but confirms Taheri's claims!

Heck. I can understand that journalists are stuck in "group think", but I cannot see they can miss this one; after all, there's no lobbying egging them away from the truth. Normally, US elections would not matter to us foreigners; past history shows that whoever is elected will tend to maintain the policies of previous administrations. But this one may be different; yes, domestically Obama's plans appear superior to McCain's, but in Obama's approach there are elements on foreign policy that are downright stupid.

In the short term, there'll be hell to pay until an Obama administration wises up. This may be secondary to the concern of many in the United States; we ragheads do not matter; we do not vote in the US elections, and only the economy really matters. However, while Oil matters more than Arab blood (and in this case American blood too), the United States is not an Island.

Not anymore...

Update/Note:

Gus rightly points out that those are technically separate agreements. However, there are larger issues here, beyond the point raised by Taheri that the two agreements are essentially linked.

The main concern here is that Obama's actions give the appearance of fundamental disharmony within the United States, and this could create a dangerous precedent. A president Obama would then expect his foreign interlocutors to stall, since they would expect political challengers to undermine him from within. Such undermining may not be unprecedented in American history, but its level and brashness is.

This perception of "two Americas" will further weaken the position of the United States in the region; Americans would be vain to think that theirs is still "a shining city on a hill".

The rest of the world is watching...

... And learning.

Update/Follow-up (September 24th, 2008):

Many a commenter pointed out that Tahery's report is misleading and, at best, simplistic. The basic arguments advanced by Tahery has been (again) refuted, and I apologize for not updating the post sooner... I tend to follow a “feast or famine” cycle, and work has been getting in the way of blogging lately.

Still, while that may be a reason, it’s no excuse…

However, it's not a complete crow breakfast for me; my main point remains valid: America’s not isolated. In this globalized world, I feel foreign forays by candidates, such as Obama's latest, can risk undermining the standing of the United States. Granted, this standing was not helped by the policies of Dubya Harding so far, but when addressing foreigners will little concept of plural democracy, this gives the appearance of disunity.

On another note, economic nationalism may be leading the august burghers who rule "shining city on a hill" to forgo the advantages fo globalization. Maybe Paulson does not need those 700 Billion after all; there's plenty of money in the world that's may be willing to get a slice of the action. Or maybe he's worried about his (incompetent) friend's golden parachutes... But I digress again, we have enough on our plate already.

Back to my main point; in an increasingly globalized world, America’s can longer afford to consider itself an isolated city on a hill anymore. Internal shenanigans have an external effect, and foreigners are now increasingly playing in its internal politics, as evidenced by the latest foray by Maliki, who’s proving to be no pushover, but no enlightened liberal either. Whoever gets this hot potato will like have to butt a few friendly heads. In this context:

Facts will matter less than perceptions.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gimmicks

In previous centuries, rhetoric was a major academic topic. As an essential part of their education, many a real gentleman became masters in this art. The “art of saying nothing in flowery language”.

Today, and ever since the rise of advertising executives, “communication” is it. Yet the art of “mad men” is essentially not much different from that of past orators. Only their palette is much richer; beyond words, they add in images and sound. Maybe this is why they increasingly taking themselves seriously, thinking their marketing matters more than the product itself.

Across the world

The news feeds are full of such examples. The best example is found in the United States where the Democrats, having dropped a solid contender for a hyped-up longshot, are growing angry at the Republicans (and themselves) for beating them at their own game. As the campaign heats up, vacuous talk about “change” is met by no meaningless jibes about lipstick as the campaign is moving away from real issues and degrading into a high school popularity contest.

Thanks GK for the vid link...

And the World is Emulating Them

Others are “communicating” as well. Iran’s oil money is being put to good use in Photoshop launches. Venezuela’s oil wealth is allowing him to invite a few Russian pilots and sailors for a tour of Caracas… And now, we Lebanese have found the way forward for dialogue; not a round table, but a rectangular table. As the leaders gather around to sit, one may suggest they turn the table over, dispense with the chairs. They will at least know how the average Lebanese citizen feel.

Those gimmicks will get us all nowhere fast. The United States elections will not change the fundamental dynamic of a complex economy. No Russian sailors can save Chavez’ legacy; his cash will run out before his oil does.

Closer to Home…

As for Lebanon, what was true yesterday remains true today; our “leaders” can fool some people (and themselves) all the time, and all people some of the time. But their best efforts at rhetoric or “communication” will fail on the long run;

They have yet to devise a way to fool all the people.

In this regard, Hezb’O is trying hard. But they’re finding increasingly hard to hide the blood on their hands.

Reality will bite soon enough...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On the Way to Cannae...

La politique, c'est comme l'amour, il faut des grands sentiments et des petites intentions.

Bashar appears to understand this well, and all his grand talk about peace in the Middle East and fighting terror only hides a very pedestrian goal; to return to Lebanon.

An Odd Delusion

However, it appears many others choose to ignore this simple truth. This is an odd delusion. No wonder some suspect the devious intentions of those who insist on “prying Syria away from Iran”. And they would be right; some of those guys have ulterior motives, hoping that Bashar would grant what the Palestinians could never cede.

However, when it comes to the French and even Hezb, I prefer to reserve judgment; with Baku-Ceyhan back under Russian control (again), the core interests of an oil-obsessed West cannot accept continued Iranian alignment with Syria. It is odd that le Petit Nicolas did not hear this délicieuse petite phrase; not only was he nearby when Michele Barzach uttered it, but his Italian wife must surely have shared with him the disappointments of her compatriots

Is he rushing things?

Or is it just Manoeuvring?

Improving his hand for when the Americans come back?

It is also odd that Hezb is increasingly undermining the state. Yes, strategically, the party remains the antithesis of Lebanon; as the country’s being slowly gutted, this primus inter pares among our national sectarian groups will ultimately destroy it. However, tactically, they have an growing list of immediate concerns, so why add to them by attacking the Army, and vigorously defending Bashar?

Or is it just Hubris?

Do the leaders really believe their newspeak?

What Gives?

Those behaviours are odd.

From Hezb’s side, it is odd that their experienced military leadership is expanding the “line of contact”, and negating their advantages. Yes, the region’s political establishment is all but bankrupt, and would be easy target were they not propped by hype and easy oil money… But tactically, it would make sense to focus on the limited goal of consolidating their “home front”.

From the French side, most of their foreign policy has a mercantile bent, and there is little "hard" interest there; while the Lybian deals may be falling through, but Syria cannot afford enough Airbus planes to really matter. The French policies may owe more to a post-Bush mindset than to a genuine concern about Syria, a country whom most of those so-called analysts could not have placed on a map till Bashar’s assassination of Hariri.

You mean the tooth fairy didn’t do it?...

However, while George Bush will (deservedly) go down in history as the “worst president ever”, the criticism against him owes more to his incompetence in Iraq than to his invasion.

And yes, Bush is still right on Syria.

Random chance?...

Even Gebran “Kélém” Bassil appears to understand the need to keep a distance from the (not so) tired dictator.

...


Friday, September 05, 2008

Oops! I did it again

Those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it. The same goes for those who misunderstand those lessons.


Lebanon’s was subjected to successive tragedies by the miscalculations of its past leaders. Each in their turn followed the Syrian model; use their own sectarian base, and leverage a political issue to rule the entire country.

It did not work.

Hezb seems to think it can work for them this time around; after all, they have “the Shiites” united behind them. The sectarian logic appears impeccable; after all, it worked for Syria’s Alawites, didn’t it?

It will not work.

The same sectarian logic defeats it. Once you divide a country into sectarian groups, the communities themselves will be divided. In the past, “the maronites” who were united under the banner of the Lebanese Forces in their little canton soon find themselves fighting amongst one another. From Safra, to Intifada, to Harb-el-Tahrir, “they” brought upon the country more Syrian oppression.

In addition, the regional equation does not support it. Relying on the support of the Syrians and Iranians may not ingratiate Hezb to the people who really matter now; the Saudis. The Saudi-Iranian struggle in the Gulf is slowly seeping into Lebanon, and turning the conflict with Hezb into a Sunni-Shiite conflict.

It has already started.

What did they expect after invading Beirut. What do they expect after attacking the army?

It does not take a veteran to realize that mere gunmen cannot shoot down an army helicopter. Even the Lebanese Army’s antique Huey chopper are beyond the reach of the average AK or M16, and require more potent firepower, and a more stable firing platform.

It does not take a geographer to realize that the region where the chopper was brought down is controlled by Hezb. And as such, Hezb is responsible; either their goons acted willingly, or they were incompetent to control their own region.

Either way, it does not take a logician to see who really did this; it is whoever killed Rafic Hariri, constantly undercut the state, invaded Beirut and violently brought down a government.

And what if Nasrallah was no mere liar or mythomaniac? What if he was sincere in his claims of innocence?

Then it is worse than we though; he lost control over his goons.

Or maybe he never did; Assad remains a "player", after all.