Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Jack Matlock, former ambassador under George Bush the Elder:
Ukraine: The Price of Internal Division Posted on March 1, 2014 by Jack With all of the reports coming out of Ukraine, Moscow, Washington, and European capitals, the mutual accusations, the knee-jerk speculation, and—not least—the hysterical language of some observers, bordering on the apocalyptic, it is difficult to keep in mind the long-term implications of what is happening. Nevertheless, I believe that nobody can understand the likely outcomes of what is happening unless they bear in mind the historical, geographic, political and psychological factors at play in these dramatic events. The view of most of the media, whether Russian or Western, seems to be that one side or the other is going to “win” or “lose” Ukraine. I believe that is fundamentally mistaken. If I were Ukrainian I would echo the immortal words of the late Walt Kelly’s Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The fact is, Ukraine is a state but not yet a nation. In the 22-plus years of its independence, it has not yet found a leader who can unite its citizens in a shared concept of Ukrainian identity. Yes, Russia has interfered, but it is not Russian interference that has created Ukrainian disunity but rather the haphazard way the country was assembled from parts that were not always mutually compatible. To the flaw at the inception of an independent Ukraine, one must add the baleful effects of the Soviet Communist heritage both Russia and Ukraine have inherited. A second mistake people make is to assume that when a given government adopts a particular policy that policy is in the true interest of that country. In fact, as often as not, policies made in the heat of emotion, by leaders who feel personally challenged by opponents, are more likely to be counterproductive than supportive of a country’s true interest. Political leaders are not computers weighing costs and benefits or risks and rewards in objective fashion. They are human beings endowed with their full share of human weaknesses, including especially vanity, pride and the felt necessity of maintaining appearances, whatever the reality. Some Basics 1. The current territory of the Ukrainian state was assembled, not by Ukrainians themselves but by outsiders, and took its present form following the end of World War II. To think of it as a traditional or primordial whole is absurd. This applies a fortiori to the two most recent additions to Ukraine—that of some eastern portions of interwar Poland and Czechoslovakia, annexed by Stalin at the end of the war, and the largely Russian-speaking Crimea, which was transferred from the RSFSR well after the war, when Nikita Khrushchev controlled the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Since all constituent parts of the USSR were ruled from Moscow, it seemed at the time a paper transfer of no practical significance. (Even then, the city of Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, was subordinated directly to Moscow, not Kiev.) Up to then, the Crimea had been considered an integral part of Russia since Catherine “the Great” conquered it in the 18th century. 2. The lumping together of people with strikingly different historical experience and comfortable in different (though closely related) languages, underlies the current divisions. That division, however, is not clear-cut as it was, for example, between the Czech lands and Slovakia, which made a civilized divorce practical. If one takes Galicia and adjoining provinces in the west on the one hand and the Donbas and Crimea in the east and south on the other as exemplars of the extremes, the areas in between are mixed, proportions gradually shifting from one tradition to the other. There is no clear dividing line, and Kyiv/Kiev would be claimed by both. 3. Because of its history, geographical location, and both natural and constructed economic ties, there is no way Ukraine will ever be a prosperous, healthy, or united country unless it has a friendly (or, at the very least, non-antagonistic) relationship with Russia. 4. Russia, as any other country would be, is extremely sensitive about foreign military activity adjacent to its borders. It has signaled repeatedly that it will stop at nothing to prevent NATO membership for Ukraine. (In fact, most Ukrainians do not want it.) Nevertheless, Ukrainian membership in NATO was an avowed objective of the Bush-Cheney administration and one that has not been categorically excluded by the Obama Administration. 5. A wise Russian leadership (something one can no more assume that one can a wise U.S. or European leadership) could tolerate a Ukraine that modernizes its political and economic systems in cooperation with the European Union so long as (1) this is not seen as having an anti-Russian basis; (2) Russian-speaking citizens are granted social, cultural and linquistic equality with Ukrainians, and (3) most important of all, that the gradual economic integration with Europe will not lead to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO. 6. So far, Ukrainian nationalists in the west have been willing to concede none of these conditions, and the United States has, by its policies, either encouraged or condoned attitudes and policies that have made them anathema to Moscow. This may be grossly unfair, but it is a fact. So where does this leave us? Some random thoughts: a. It has been a mistake for all the parties, those in Ukraine and those outside, to treat this crisis as a contest for control of Ukraine. b. Obama’s “warning” to Putin was ill-advised. Whatever slim hope that Moscow might avoid overt military intervention in Ukraine disappeared when Obama in effect threw down a gauntlet and challenged him. This was not just a mistake of political judgment—it was a failure to understand human psychology—unless, of course, he actually wanted a Russian intervention, which is hard for me to believe. c. At this moment it is not clear, at least to me, what the ultimate Russian intent is. I do not believe it is in Russia’s interest to split Ukraine, though they may want to detach the Crimea from it—and if they did, they would probably have the support of the majority of Crimean residents. But they may simply wish to bolster the hand of their friends in Eastern Ukraine in negotiations over the new power structure. At the very least, they are signaling that they will not be deterred by the United States from doing what they consider necessary to secure their interests in the neighborhood. d. Ukraine is already shattered de facto, with different groups in command of the various provinces. If there is any hope of putting it together again, there must be cooperation of all parties in forming a coalition at least minimally acceptable to Russia and the Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens in the East and South. A federation with governors elected locally and not appointed by a winner-take-all president or prime minister would be essential. Real autonomy for Crimea will also be required. e. Many important questions remain. One relates to the principle of “territorial integrity.” Yes, that is important, but it is not the only principle to consider. Russians would argue, with some substance in the argument, that the U.S. is interested in territorial integrity only when its interests are served. American governments have a record of ignoring it when convenient, as when it and its NATO allies violated Serbian territorial integrity by creating and then recognizing an independent Kosovo. Also, by supporting the separation of South Sudan from Sudan, Eritrea from Ethiopia, and East Timor from Indonesia. So far as violating sovereignty is concerned, Russia would point out that the U.S. invaded Panama to arrest Noriega, invaded Grenada to prevent American citizens from being taken hostage (even though they had not been taken hostage), invaded Iraq on spurious grounds that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, targets people in other countries with drones, etc., etc. In other words, for the U.S. to preach about respect for sovereignty and preservation of territorial integrity to a Russian president can seem a claim to special rights not allowed others.As much as I sympathize with the Ukrainian experience of nondemocracy, living in Fitzwalkerstan I'd settle for a return to democracy at home and an end to American Oligarchic Kleptocracy.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Saturday, February 01, 2014
The Short American Century", which by the way, is a must read for anyone interested in the deeper meaning of collapse, and caught some of the President's State of the Union Speech. I could not be struck from the following from the book written in 2012:
"Obama's fulsome homilies enable Americans to postpone an inevitable disenchantment with their "blessed way of life" for the decline of imperial hegemony will be the pivotal episode of the twenty-first century. The horsemen of of this apocalypse are already visible and galloping at an accelerating speed, with mounting levels of personal, corporate, and government debt; military over extension that cannot be maintained without unpopular conscription, further fiscal indenture, and greater damage to an already disfigured world image; ecological destruction whose repair is routinely subordinated to the imperatives of business; and an economy whose injustice and indignity become ever more glaring and pernicious. Still profoundly enchanted by empire as a way of life, Americans and their leaders may try- with pecuniary ingenuity and perhaps great violence- to prolong the imperium of consumption. Yet even if they appear to succeed, their victory will be brief and Pyrrhic, for they will have purchased their triumph in the currency of fear, denial, and death."
Sunday, November 03, 2013
After being in what can only be described as something similar to a political coma for the past year I finally felt compelled to issue an update as to the state of things in what was once Wisconsin. What we now have is essentially a unitary state where the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government have effectively been coopted and neutralized by the forces of oligarchic kleptocracy. This has been accomplished by a combination of three processes: gerrymandering on the legislative level which means a state that voted for Obama for president and Tammy Baldwin for United States senator has a legislature controlled by corporate controlled nuts, voter supression which reinforces gerrymandering, and of course most importantly money, tons and tons of money.The immediate effects of all this are apparent in the push for unregulated environmental destruction in the forms of sand fracking and iron sulfide miining in the western and northern parts of the state where extractive interests outside of the state will be given free reign removed from local and state ordinances protecting public health and safety. Other instances include Walker's turning away federal money for Medicaid which means upwards of 90,000 people will be without health insurance and further compounded by the state's refusal to establish an insurance exchange in a cynical effort to try and crash the Affordable Care Act. In the area of education the ongoing effort to destroy public education after the demonization of the teaching profession continue with the voucher program which is accompanied by further deregulation and loss of local accountability.I would hope maybe the Democratic Party would finally learn from the debacles of the past four years and put forth someone who clearly stands apart from the status quo.So far there is one candidate of record , Mary Burke, who quite frankly seems to embody neo-liberal policies of class surrender and incremental corporatism. There is an alternative which is a worthy primary challenger that the party needs if it hopes to reclaim the energy and promise of the uprising, namely Kathleen Vinehout. More on her to come.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Saturday, December 01, 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Well it is now time to announce the highly unsought Lost Continents Presidential Endorsement however before doing so let us take time to ruminate on the words of an undisputed expert on flawed, opaque, fraudulent elections, Vladimir "The Magician", Churov:
"The U.S. presidential election is not direct, not universal and not equal, and it does not safeguard the secrecy of voting," Churov, who heads Russia's Central Election Commission, wrote in the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta's online edition. "The electoral system and electoral laws in the United States are far from perfect. They are contradictory, archaic and do not correspond to the democratic principles the United States has declared as the basis of its foreign and domestic politics." He cited a long list of shortcomings such as U.S. methods for registering and identifying voters, vote monitoring which he said was inefficient and mechanisms for casting ballots which he described as questionable."
Having put the election in its proper perspective, choice of who to vote for is not an easy one. President Obama is clearly a representative of the Oligarchic Kleptocracy who has no interest in due process, supports extra judicial assassinations, has deported more undocumented people than George Bush ever thought about, and made whistle-blowing a high crime just for starters.
His opponent from the other half of the duopoly if anything is even worse on these matters with the added attraction of belonging to the Mormon Church which is the equivalent of the Alawites of Islam, a secretive paranoid group whose most visible representative is Bashar Assad of Syria. The other major turn off is the undisguised racism of the followers of the Republican party who are demographically doomed.
There is of course the option of the multiple third party candidates of whom Jill Stein of the Green Party is probably the leading example. I agree with about everything the Greens stand for however their lack of actual governing experience is unnerving and they lack a certain sociopathic viciousness which seems to be necessary to succeed in American political life. If Citizens United is ever overturned there may be a future for Dr. Stein and her party. In the meantime they need to battle it out in city councils and state legislatures. Besides being from Wisconsin I am sick of lost causes.
So in my final analysis my vote is based on a calculus of suffering and who is likely to inflict the least. It may be a nebulous approach but if you are someone who isn't killed, denied healthcare, or imprisoned it is a big difference. Obama has gotten my nauseated, jaundiced stamp of approval.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The horrible electoral auction is mercifully drawing to an end. The outcome however may be worse than the actual contest. The so-called debates were notable for the lack of content regarding a future discussion of European financial collapse, climate change, the so-called Mexican Drug Wars, and immigrant rights. May I quote Liu Xiaobo :
"For too long we've leaned upon the bayonet's lies, shamelessness, selfisheness, weaknesses, so that we've wholly lost both memory and time-life numbed, unceasingly and interminable, from zero begins to zero it ends: what qualifications can we claim for our mighty nation? None with the least merit."
Saturday, October 06, 2012
After watching the so-called debate this past Wednesday the word that stuck with me was pathetic. The candidates seemed to go out of their way to show how similar each was to the other in an appeal to the nebulous "center" of American politics. They are essentially interchangeable cogs of the duopoly of power. Chris Hedges in his usual fashion lays it out.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
I spent part of the afternoon today in Janesville WI visiting with some folks from Freeport IL who are having their jobs outsourced to China courtesy of Bain Capital. The gathering took place at the now defunct GM plant which is quite literally the smoldering crater of what was Janesville's once vibrant economy. It was a spirted if somewhat short rally which ended when the police "suggested" we move along...nothing to see here..The Downward Spiral has the gruesome details of the Romney induced calamity and is well worth reading.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
The 11th annual Fighting BobFest was held in Madison Wisconsin at the Alliant Energy Center. The speakers that I saw included Jim Hightower, Gwen Moore, Juan Cole, Phil Donahue, Mike Papantonio, Norman Solomon, and Greg Palast. Also caught part of the breakout with Bill McKibben. All and all a very revitalizing experience made even better by talking with fellow attendees and realizing the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated struggles. A common theme was the angst of what to make of President Obama. I think Jim Hightower expressed it best when he described re-electing Obama as trying to carry a sack of concrete over the finish line. A note about the venue; I realize Baraboo was off the beaten track for some but it had a certain agrarian-populist charm. The Coliseum (Alliant Energy Center) has a much weirder vibe which comes in part having an essentially anti-corporate gathering in a corporate owned public place. Enjoy The Raging Grannies and the Solidarity Singers, two musical-cultural institutions who sustained us throughout the Wisconsin Uprising.