Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel and the Arab Spring

Vaclav Havel, former Czech President, architect of the "Velvet Revolution" and dissident playwright has sadly died today aged 75.

On becoming President in 1990, he spoke of the fallen communist regime as “a monstrous, ramshackle machine” which had bequeathed not merely economic failure but also “a spoiled moral environment”.

“We have become morally ill because we are used to saying one thing and thinking another,” he explained. “We have learned not to believe in anything, not to care about each other. Love, friendship, mercy, humility and forgiveness lost their depth and dimension.”

“Some say I’m a naive dreamer trying to combine the incompatible: politics and morality,” he wrote in Summer Meditations (1992). “I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on law if we do not at the same time build a state that is ... humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural.”

Some might say that Havel's political and moral philosophy is a million miles away from Arab and Islamic doctrines. Since the dawn of history, human communities have tried to govern themselves in ways that ensured their own survival, stability and economic wellbeing, often at the expense of other communities. Religions and man-made laws serve such ends but also breed conflicts and wars if they are uncompromising and devoid of basic moral and humane values.

Today, there are no real or uniform political, philosophical and moral doctrines in the Arab world. There are only ruling classes who seek power, wealth and glory for themselves first, their tribes second and their nations third (if at all).

Arab kings, princes and presidents (and many Western leaders) strongly believe that the Arabs are not ready for democracy and cannot sustain such values. If a human being can be "humane, moral, intellectual, spiritual, and cultural" so can the society to which he belongs. Inspired leadership, enlightened education and compassionate moral codes are what make a good society great.

Democracy, with all its faults, allows societies to compromise, regenerate themselves and flourish whereas autocracy and theocracy allow the ruling classes to thrive while their nations wither and die.

The Arab Spring may initially swap dictators for Islamic fundamentalists to bring back some moral code into politics. No uncompromising fundamentalist regime is, however, likely to survive for long when the vast majority of Arab youth are craving freedom, opportunity and inspired leadership.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingrich is right, Palestinians are an invented people

He has, after all, a Phd in history and knows exactly what he is talking about.

There was no "State of Palestine" under Ottoman rule, nor was there a State of Israel.

There were lots of Palestinian Arabs and some Palestinian jews. They lived side by side in relative harmony  until European jews flooded Palestine, displaced the Palestinian Arabs and invented the State of Israel.

There were no fat white settlers  in America before the 17th century, nor was there a "United Republic of Apaches and Blackfeet".  There were, however, 8 million native Red Indians who have been all but wiped out by the new settlers who invented the United States of America.

Funny how men in pursuit of high office in the United States of America almost always turn into moral Judas; they are quick to re-write history and exchange personal integrity for the cheapest Jewish votes.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Alawite "state within a state" begins to implode

The French created the Alawite State in and around Lattakia in the 1920s to divide and rule Syria.  They encouraged Alawites to join the new army because the more-affluent and urban Sunni majority preferred civilian life.

As they rose through the ranks and their numbers swelled the armed forces, the Alawites proceeded to build a state within a state from the late 1960s onwards motivated by deep-seated fear of Sunni persecution and lust for power.

Not only did they take control of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the police but also the Baath party, state enterprises, trade flows and oil revenues. They co-opted the greedy Sunni merchants of Aleppo and Damascus and the fearful Christian, Druze and other minorities' leaders. Their project was not complete until they drove out the middle classes, muzzled the intelligentsia and bought long-term protection from Iran.

The real losers in the last 41 years have been the poorer Sunni majority, two generations of expatriates and their dependent families back home and Syria's development as a healthy, effective and modern nation state.

Dismantling this extraordinary "state within a state" will not be easy let alone rebuilding Syria. International sanctions do not have much effect on such a state and could hurt ordinary Syrians. This regime has plenty of foreign reserves and gold stashed away and can go on funding its killing machine for at least six months. That said, the Assad tribe has already sown the seeds of its own destruction.

The regime has hardly any friends left in the world and its security apparatus is coming under attack not just from defectors but also international powers. While it can  survive for a few more months, Assad himself, his inner circle and extended family have no choice but to negotiate a safe-exit deal with the Russians or risk being slaughtered.

Splits within the Alawite community are also bound to emerge in coming weeks. Other Alawite tribes may even offer the Assad clan to the international community as sacrificial lambs if faced with a real threat of annihilation.