Archive for the ‘nature of an autocracy’ Category

If Obama keeps his promise, he will pardon Edward Snowden

July 9, 2013

“In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama called upon ‘We the People’ to preserve America’s ideals of individual freedom and equality.’ When Edward Snowden disclosed the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programmes, he was rising to this challenge. Like the nation’s ‘founding fathers’, hw was also defying the usurpations of an increasingly intrusive government. Mr. Obama should therefore call off the campaign to apprehend him and offer Mr. Snowden a pardon instead.” Stephen Walt*, ‘Snowden deserves an immediate presidential pardon’, Financial Times, July 9, 2013

“Mr. Snowden’s motives were laudable: he believed fellow citizens should know their government was conducting a secret surveillance programme enormous in scope, poorly supervised and possibly unconstitutional. He was right….Once a secret surveillance system exists, it is only a matter of time before someone abuses it for selfish ends. Richard Nixon kept his own ‘enemies list’ and used the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on american citizens. Former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, J. Edgar Hoover, helped keep himself in office by collecting dirt on officials.” Stephen Walt*,ibid.

“Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush pardoned the officials who conducted the illegal Iran-Contra affair, and Mr. Obama has already pardoned several convicted embezzlers and drug dealers. Surely Mr Snowden is as deserving of mercy as these miscreants. Pardoning him would also show that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical commitment to ‘We the People’, and to open and transparent government, is not just empty words.” Stephen Walt*, ibid.

* Stephen Walt is Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University

Islamic theocracies cannot survive economically in the global economy

July 7, 2013

In a distinctly bad sign for the future of Egypt, the military dictatorship buckled to appease Islamic fundamentalists yesterday, rejecting a secular candidate for Prime Minister after earlier announcing that he had been appointed to that position.

From the perspective of my column posted yesterday, this sets a disastrous precedent. Theocracies fare badly economically in the modern world. Islamic theocracies are also fundamentally hostile to any true concept of democracy.The reason for this is that Islam as a religion is still trapped in the 14th century. Sharia law is viewed as supreme over any secular thinking. And the idea that an illiterate 7th century Prophet can determine institutions required for a modern global world economy is simply ludicrous. It is equivalent to believing that the pre-Reformation Spanish Inquisition could provide good economic governance for the West.

The die, it would appear, has now been cast. Egypt will remain a seriously economically undeveloped, repressive nation for many years to come. The military has chosen England’s 1660 Restoration over its 1689 Bill of Rights. Some 30 years of the equivalent of the Stuart doom will surely follow.

English history offers a parallel for Egyptian political reform (1)

July 5, 2013

A revolution against Stuart tyranny erupted in England in 1642. Following a violent civil war, King Charles 1 was executed by Parliament in 1649 on the instructions of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s Model Army then instituted a newly-empowered parliament. That parliament quickly fell under the dictatorship of Lord Protector Cromwell. When Cromwell died in 1658, and his son Richard (Tumbledown Dick) assumed the position of Lord Protector, the English army, split and its leading generals rebelled against parliament. In 1660, a repentant parliament, acting under military orders, restored Charles II to the throne. Charles II, followed by his brother James, ruled England as Divine Right autocrats until James was deposed in a bloodless revolution in 1688. An outside army from Holland then re-established order and introduced a new constitutional order.

Thus far a parallel with Egypt is clear, though the Egyptian time line is dramatically shorter. President Mubarak played the role of Charles I of England, and was deposed by popular revolution, aided by the Egyptian army. The army played a transitional role in arranging for a president and a parliament to be elected. As with England in 1649, the Egyptian electorate proved to be insufficiently mature to support a pluralistic democracy. As with Tumbledown Dick in 1660 England, the Egyptian army once again intervened to depose the utterly incompetent, religious bigot, President Morsi.

In tomorrow’s column, I shall briefly outline the error made by England in the 1660 restoration, an error that resulted in 28 further years of autocracy before England eventually resolved its political quandary. I shall then outline hoe the Egyptian army might usefully proceed to shorten the time-horizon for evolution to effective governance.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ousted by military coup

July 3, 2013

On July 3, 2013, after tanks and troops were deployed close to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egyptian Defense Minister, Abdelfatah al-Sissi appeared on television to announce that President Morsi had been deposed.An army-backed plan for political transition in Egypt will begin immediately with a short period of interim rule before new presidential and parliamentary elections. The coup occurred two years after President Obama bribed the Egyptian military to stand down and allow U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak to be removed by a popular revolution.

I wonder how President Obama and his three witches – Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Powers-Sunstein – are reacting to this welcome news. After all they were so besotted by the Muslim Brotherhood and its extremist version of Sharia Law that they allowed a loyal ally of Israel to be displaced in favor of an an overtly anti-Semitic government in the most important country in the Middle East. Earlier this week, Obama deflected all relevant questions targeted at his Middle Eastern policy. The U.S. President is either politically clueless or in favor of the implementation of Sharia Law with respect to the governance of this once great country.

News of the successful coup must be largely welcomed by lovers of freedom. Of course, there are risks that the military may attempt to administer the country for longer than they have suggested. That is the nature of an autocracy. However, some autocracies are much to be preferred to some democracies. Egypt is clearly not yet ready for democracy in its effective pluralistic form. If the military, even though motivated solely to raise the value of the many Egyptian assets that it owns, reverses Morsi’s disastrous thrust to socialism, that alone will provide Egyptians with economic freedoms that they desire. Political freedom can wait a while, until the population at large matures and comprehends the nature of the secular choices that should be made at some future ballot box.

The courage of Edward Snowden

July 3, 2013

First they came for the Tea Party
and I didn’t speak out because I was not a member of the Tea Party

Then they came for the rich
and I didn’t speak out because I was not rich

Then they came for private market entrepreneurs
and I didn’t speak out because I was not an entrepreneur

Then they came for the advocates of freedom
and there were insufficient numbers left in America to speak out for me.

Thank you Edward Snowden for speaking out for me and my fellow patriots!

The increasing tyranny of Emperor (Caligula) Obama

July 3, 2013

How do you think Barack Obama would feel and behave if Air Force One was intercepted by two allegedly peaceful nations and forced to land for a 12 hour search of his plane to determine whether he was ferrying a refugee from tyranny to freedom? Not the kind of situation that this particular president would relish, I surmise.

Well President Morales of Bolivia was treated in exactly this way by the governments of France and Portugal, who denied the equivalent of Bolivia’s Air force One the right to cross their air-space during his return flight from Moscow to his own country. Apparently, Emperor (Caligula) Obama has demanded just such a network of blocked air-routes from any country desperate for the continued goodwill of the United States as long as Edward Snowden remains on the loose from his hounds from Hell. President Morales’ plane was uncontaminated by this fugitive from tyranny, but no apology so far is forthcoming from the United States.

Maybe Obama should attempt to have President Putin’s presidential aircraft grounded in a similar manner? If so, I predict that Obama would have to hire a Caligula-type poison-taster for all his meals. And the price-tag on the appointment would be high indeed, especially if tea consumption had to be policed.

How far will this wretched administration go in order to protect itself from evidence of its despicable network of spies, eaves-droppers and wire-tappersD Do you now believe that President Morales has any residual belief in the United States as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

On Independence Day, tomorrow, you may well want to say a few words of sad remembrance for that noble concept, before you watch the Emperor’s firework display.Bear in mind how Caligula and his successors controlled the People of Rome through a ‘generous’ provision of circuses!

Political realities in Iran

June 17, 2013

The Western media is currently fawning over the newly-elected president of Iran, the ‘Smiling Mullah’, Hassan Rohani. Surely he should be a step forward from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the new president is highly unlikely to shift Iranian politics away from its path to perdition.

Iran remains a theocratic dictatorship and its presidential ‘election’ fully reflects that reality. Iran’s presidential election kicked off in May 2013 when an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists disqualified more than 600 candidates. Woman, naturally, were automatically excluded, as were Iranian Christians, Jews and Sunni Muslims.The remnants from that purge, including a former president, were largely removed for possessing insufficient revolutionary zeal. Eight regime loyalists made it onto the ballots. One of those loyalists, Hassan Rohani, emerged victorious.

Hassan Rohani is a 64-year-old cleric, former nuclear negotiator and security apparatchik. Born in 1948, he entered religious studies in Qom as a child, but went on to earn a law degree from Tehran University in 1969. He spent Iran’s revolutionary days as a close companion of the Ayatollah Khomeini and held top positions throughout the Islamic Republic’s first two decades in power. For 16 years, starting in 1989, Mr. Rohani served as Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. During this period, Mr. Rohani led the crack-down on the 1999 student pro-democracy uprising and helped the regime to evade Western scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

Mr. Rohani, whether now ‘reformed’ or not, is fully aware of the tight leash that will encircle his neck throughout his presidency. The current regime’s theocratic structure – with a Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameenei who is a throw-back to the 14th century, and numerous unelected Islamic fundamentalist bodies, together overseeing elected officials – will quickly remind Iranian voters and Western governments as well as Hassan Rohani, that the new president has little or no room for political maneuver, even should that be his desire.

Hat tip: Sohrab Ahmari, ‘Behind Iran’s ‘Moderate’ New Leader’, The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2013

Xi Jinping confronts Barack Obama in a high noon showdown

June 9, 2013

On June 7 and June 8, 2013 Xi Jinping met with Barack Obama at Sunnylands for a high noon confrontation. The outcome of this face-off is of crucial importance for war and peace in Asia and the South Pacific and for the future economic performance of the world economy. The stakes could scarcely be higher.

If the talks fail, it is likely that Sparta (the United States) will end up in a state of war with Athens (The People’s Republic of China), not because either party desires war, but because, as the Greek historian, Thucydides noted, the Spartans feared the growing influence of Athens.

President Xi Jinping brought some heavy artillery to the showdown, while Barack Obama nervously fingered the six-shooter at his hip. Xi arrived in California via Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. If Barack Obama claims now that the United States is an Asian regional power, Xi demonstrates that he is setting up outposts in America’s traditional backyard. As America’s banker, China is now in a powerful position to squeeze the U.S. economy by offloading U.S. Treasuries on a significant scale, if the U.S. does not conform to his China dream. Creditors typically hold the better cards when dealing with their profligate debtors on the international stage. That holstered pistol at Obama’s hip looks increasingly futile at this crossroads meeting. Even if Obama proves to be the faster on the draw, Xi has a million men under arms, whereas the United States sadly has only a few increasingly ragged, under-provisioned divisions.

So negotiations will have been somewhat one-sided at the crossroads. Obama will have requested an end to China’s hacking of intellectual propertry. Fat chance of that when such hacking is a major source of China’s growing economic presence on the world stage. Obama will have pled for China to prevent North Korea from placing nuclear tips on its inter-continental ballistic missiles. Fat chance of that given that China still views North Korea as an important piece on its weiqi-board. Obama will have asked China to retreat from its territorial threat to Japan’s island specks. Such a retreat would not go down well with the People’s Liberation Army, a special interest that Xi Jinping would ignore at his peril.

In retreat, Obama will have offered to facilitate China’s economic incursion into North America, allowing such successful Chinese companies as Huawei and CNOOC further to penetrate the American market-place. He will have offered to scale back American use of the World Trade Organization to curb China’s market dominance in key markets. He will have been wise to retreat in this way. For such retreats enabled China’s ancient dynasties to survive repeated incursions from the West at a time when the West had the guns and the divisions and the Middle Kingdom did not.

“the lesson of history is that everybody loses if the world allows legitimate worries to get out of hand. More than 2,000 years ago Greece was torn apart by Sparta’s failure to manage the rise of Athens. A hundred years ago Europe was torn apart bu its failure to manage the rise of Germany. If the 21st century is to be more peaceful than the 20th, America and China must learn to co-operate better.” ‘The summit’, The Economist, June 8, 2013

Yang Jisheng appreciates the unmitigated evil of Mao Zedong

May 26, 2013

“In the spring of 1959, Yang Jisheng, then an 18-year-old scholarship student at a boarding school in China’s Hubei Province, got an unexpected visit from a childhood friend. ‘Your father is starving to death’!’ the friend told him. ‘Hurry back, and take some rice if you can.’ Granted leave from his school, Mr. Yang rushed to his family farm. ‘The elm tree in front of our house had been reduced to a barkless trunk,’ he recalled, ‘and even its roots had been dug up.’ Entering his home, he found his father ‘half-reclined on his bed, his eyes sunken and lifeless, his face gaunt, the skin creased and flaccid. ‘I was shocked with the realization that the term skin and bonesreferred to something horrible and cruel.’ Mr Yang’s father would die within three days. Yet it would be years before Mr. Yang learned that what happened to his father was not an isolated incident. He was one of 36 million Chinese who succumbed to famine between 1958 and 1962. It would take years more for him to realize that the source of all the suffering was not nature: There were no major droughts or floods in China in the famine years. Rather the cause was one man in particular: Mao Zedong, the Great Helmsman, whose visage still stares down on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square from atop the gates of the Forbidden City.” Bret Stephens, ‘Reading Hayek in Beijing’, The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2013

This Memorial Day weekend, as we reflect on all those who have given their lives in defense of freedom, let us also remember those disgusting, self-seeking dictators, like Mao Zedong, who stole their own people’s lives through a mixture of gross peasant ignorance and narcissistic egoism. The fact that the People’s Republic of China still allows that degrading image to look down on Tiananmen Square tells us categorically that China has a long way to go before it enters into the community of civilized nations. The day that it does so, the bulldozers will be out to smash the image of Mao Zedong and to bury it forever in the trash-can of history.

Obama ignores nuclear threat from North Korea

May 21, 2013

Since 2006, North Korea has conducted at least three apparently successful nuclear tests. It has also orbited a satellite. Together, these events fulfill the basic technological requirements for an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead against mainland United States.

Miniaturizing a warhead to fit on a missile is not an overwhelming technical obstacle. North Korea requires only one ICBM capable of delivering a single nuclear warhead in order to pose an existential threat to the United States.The Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, together with several other U.S. studies have established that detonating a nuclear weapon high above any part of the U.S. mainland would generate a catastrophic electro-magnetic pulse.

Sucn an EMP attack would collapse the electric grid and other infrastructure that depends upon it. 300 million Americans would be placed in immediate and serious life-threatening jeopardy. An EMP attack would plunge the U.S. electricity-powered civilization into a black-out potentially lasting for several years. The U.S. currently has no missile defense assets devoted to stopping a missile coming from the south. All such assets currently are positioned to intercept a missile strike in the middle or late part of its trajectory coming from the north polar region. The Obama administration indeed has cancelled the only two U.S. boost-phase or space-based defensive systems.

Wake up President Obama while sufficiwnt electricity remains for you to smell the coffee.A surgical strike to prevent North Korean development of an ICBM has never been more urgent.

Hat Tip: R.James Woolsey and Peter Vincent fry, ‘How North Korea Could Cripple the U.S.’, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2013