Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff is extremely timely as a trenchant critique of consumerism.

Western (indeed increasingly world) civilisation is at a critical juncture. Either we go for guided capitalism - capitalism which will be profitable in meeting the needs of society - or we continue with unguided capitalism which has fed the age of waste in which we have been living since the recovery from World war II in the 50s and 60s.

Humanity now faces existential threats - climate change, nuclear wmd proliferation, overpopulation, threats of epidemics, exhaustion of resources from oil to water - etc. etc. Quite apart from the imperative to meet these immense challenges by cooperation rather than eternal war for ever diminishing space and resources, it is indisputable that the developing countries cannot achieve anything even near the US and European standards of living in the present age of waste.

Annie Leonard's figures show dramaticaly how our wealth has been spent on waste, frittered on baubles and inessentials, instead of spent on such things as education (including of women being vital for population control), health, alternative energy, water supply, etc. etc.       

The era of waste will have to end one day and resources redirected - but will we wake up in time - or will those existential threats have become irreversible before we do?

We must answer the question - is life really just all about unlimited consumption (percentage "growth" of our economies)or are there other imperatives for survival, other values than material? As Wordsworth famously remarked - "getting and spending we lay waste our powers".  Not only in a spiritual sense, but our powers to survive as a species.  

Our politicians worldwide are a large part of the problem for they do not and maybe cannot concentrate on the whole picture of our predicament - they are too busy worrying about the next election and how to pay for it - or they are fearful that their dictatorship will meet a stronger force than they.

Monday, March 15, 2010

US & Palestine

re General Petraeus’ appeal to Mullen (and indirectly the White House) for a resolution of the Palestine problem as vital for US interests

This key Petraeus move is very encouraging. Nothing is more important for undermining the appeal of "jihadism" and motivation for suicide bombing - in a word for reducing the "clash of civilisations" that we are livnig through since the invasion of Iraq - than resolving the Palestine problem.

Now that Prime Minister Netanyahu has thrown down the gauntlet either he and the suicidal Israeli fundamentalist "right" will prevail - or the US will.

But the "Pentagon lobby" is also heavily infiltrated by Israel's backwoodsmen and by Mossad's powerful influence within the Pentagon.  Then there is the media - especially Murdoch's - and the still great influence of the neo-conservatives and their Project for a New American Century. They  got us (Britain too) into Iraq.

This is a tug of war between Titans. Little poodle Israel has long been strong enough to wag the tail of the huge American hound! 

Here post-Lisbon Europe could greatly help reinforce Obama's US Administration in out-manoevring the Israeli stone-wallers.  The first great test for "new" Europe. But will it pass that test so critical for the future of the West?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Netanyahu's slaps in the US face

Comment on Eric Alterman, Daily Beast - Netanyahu's slaps in the US face

Resolving the Palestine problem is the sine qua non for undermining justified Muslim resentment against the West and the appeal of "jihadism" and suicide bombing. 

Little poodle Israel is at present wagging the huge American hound. Obama, who knows very well what needs to be done, has suffered a knock out blow. Is he (and the US) down for the count or will he get up and prevail? If the EU can find its spine now the Lisbon treaty is in force, it could greatly help, with Russia, in forcing the Netanyahus and religious extremists to accept a Palestine state. It's cart before the horse to blame the Palestinians for not being a valid partner for negotiations - show them there is a way forward and only if they won't take it can you blame them. (We've been saying this since 2002) 

10.3.'10 re Alan Hart
We at this diplomatic consultancy pointed out in Sept 2002 that the necessary corollary to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was a resolution of the Palestine/Israeli decades-long running sore on international relations. That's because nothing was causing more resentment and hatred of the West among the world's Muslims (and many non-Muslims) than the miserable fate of the Palestinians. 
It is the same today in 2010 - nothing would do more towards de-fanging the "clash of civilisations" and the motivation of "jihadis" and suicide bombers than establishing a Palestinian state (before Israeli settlements make that impossible). 
Because the Palestinian problem was left to fester after President Clinton's effort in 1999, G W Bush (with his invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib etc.) and Osama bin Laden (and his "Al Qaeda and Co.") have together succeeded in vastly exacerbating that worldwide quasi-religious confrontation inaptly called "the War on Terror". 
It is no use fighting in Afghanistan and indeed everywhere else that Al Qaeda and Co. pop up, if the underlying justified Muslim resentments are not addressed - and that means having the determination and courage to get a Palestinian state on track. This is not just a matter for the US. Europe and Russia, if they lived up to their convictions, and together took action, could greatly help President Obama to overcome the immense political difficulties for the US to stand up to Israel's present extremist government - which in fact is acting against Israel's longer term interests - incidentally worrying many Jews in the US and elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comment on Sanctions on Iran, and Israel/Palestine. Israel's grip on US Middle East Policy.

Comment on Sanctions on Iran, and Israel/Palestine. Israel's grip on US Middle East Policy.           

Mr. Rosenberg is correct. AIPAC is a danger for the US and its ability to have a constructive foreign policy not just in the Middle East but in the world. This Israeli hold on US policy is very dangerous for us in Europe too.  

Alas, Israel's hard line governments are actually endangering "Israel's right to exist" by blocking enlightened US foreign policy. In what was once called the "War against Terrorism", far more important than military action, is the need to undermine the motives for "jihadism".  And the only way to do that is to cure the Israel/Palestine running sore on the international body.  

Even today after the hugely increased hatreds caused by the Iraq invasion, Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, rendition etc. etc., the treatment of the Palestinians remains no. 1 motive for moderate Muslims to oppose the West ("clash of civilisations") and for young Muslims to support Al Qaeda and co. in countries around the world. But  AIPAC and Mossad oppose any real move towards justice for the Palestnians.  All this plays into the hands of the present Iranian Government.  

Gasoline sanctions could - as many observers point out - be disastous and prove just what Ahmedinejad wants to galvanise the Iranian people behind him and HIS "neo-conservatives" (yes- that's what the Islamic Republic's extremists are). He is deliberately throwing down the gauntlet - and it is folly for the West to pick it up.  

We who want to see a new era of intenrational cooperatio, need to be enlightened friends of both Israel and of Iran - despite their non-cooperative confrontational  
Enough said - more on www.dipconsult.eu. JP Diplomatic Consultancy's website

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Comment on Prof Lawrence Lessing's article re the dysfunctional US government

Comment on Prof Lawrence Lessing's article re the dysfunctional US government (9 Feb '10)

Professor Lessing has indeed "stated the obvious with brilliance" - something we badly need. 

If I may comment as a European: - 

The "ominously dysfunctional" US government is paralleled by our equally dysfunctional European Union(which the coming into force of the Lisbon treaty has not - yet - improved). 

On the international scene a US President can't make international obligations (e.g. at Copenhagen over climate change) because of the dysfunctional ("fund-raising") Senate. And Europe can't speak with one voice because no one is in charge of its foreign policy. 

With the sunset in the West (much hastened by the worldwide fall-out from the Iraq war) we are not declining "gracefully" (as Immanuel Wallerstein put it) while inaugurating an era of international cooperation made possible by the end of the Cold War. (Yet that is essential if humanity is to face up to the new existential challenges without the "endless wars" the Pentagon foresees). 

Instead, the US and Europe are demonstrating the worst weaknesses of democracy (which we are at such pains to try to propagate) while authoritarian Russia and China are demonstrating their ability to take international decisions and to implement them - but too often not in the direction of mutually beneficial cooperation.

As Professor Lessing points out, the US problem could be resolved if only enough influential people grasped the danger and got together (as at the start of a war) to take the needed action. And equally Europe too, could wake up and, with similar cooperative determination, forge a united foreign policy at least for the great issues. 

But in the US and Europe few perceive our peril as they would an incipient war. The established parties won't help - they are either "fund raising" or steeped in the paralysis of outmoded ideologies of left and right. And the media, largely dominated by commercial interests, is ill placed to help with a wake up call. 

We need a leader from outside our closed political shops whether in the US or Europe to cry our deficiencies to the roof-tops. I too, had thought Obama might be that man. But so far he's behaved as just another - albeit brilliant - insider. Might he change faced with defeat in 2012? A leaderless Europe might then wake up and follow. He would need - as he needs now - united European support.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Obama's open files

JP Diplomatic Consultancy - our "round up"                                 5 February 2010

Obama and the State of the Union: look at all those open files!
(n.b. those disappointed by Obama’s ‘lack of progress’)  

Existential challenges: for the first time in history humanity faces a raft of existential challenges – climate change, pandemics, water shortage, nuclear proliferation, and overpopulation (the least discussed).  And all need to be confronted as it is already late in the day.

If there is to be any hope of our species meeting these challenges, it is clear that there must be a shift in the foreign policies of the leading powers from confrontation to cooperation. President Barak Obama does appear genuine in trying to lead in creating the era of cooperation that was made possible by the end of the cold war – but which was already proving elusive before fading away with President G. W. Bush’s eight years of confrontation. But, as we warned during the 2008 presidential election, President Obama is finding it quite extraordinarily difficult to make that huge ark, USS America, alter course from confrontation to cooperation.  

And if the United States does not clearly make that shift, no other major power is likely to take the lead. On the contrary, used to reacting to G. W. Bush’s neo-conservative (Project for a New American Century) attempt to create a uni-polar world, China and Russia in particular will continue to be tempted, and at times act, to take advantage of America and the West’s present weakness to forward their own narrow national interests in a confrontational manner.    . 

So it is vital that President Obama’s moves toward cooperation succeed. Otherwise the Pentagon is likely to prove correct in formulating its dread vision of an indefinite era of unending wars as each nation struggles to keep a portion of an ever-diminishing cake – ever diminishing because of the failure of humanity as a whole to meet those existential challenges.  

“Too many open files”   Our own experience working for political leaders is that just one unexpected development can take a minister’s mind away from some urgently required decision in order to deal with a minor crisis demanding immediate attention. Great leaders can of course focus on several matters at once. They are able to do so because they have well chosen their cabinet and can trust their ministers to brief them accurately and truthfully about any problem in their department that needs the leader’s personal attention. In turn, ministers know that the leader has the talent quickly to understand the issue and give the guidance required.  

But, after seven disastrous years of President G. W. Bush, President Obama has – as he himself acknowledges – inherited “too many open files” (to cite the warning our computers generate from time to time). This would be daunting for any leader – even for one so gifted as Obama. 

To short list just some of these “open files” all requiring his attention is to take a peek at Obama’s work load – remembering that he too, lives a 24 hours day:-  

1. Climate change (over which G.W. Bush lost ten precious years doing nothing). This very complex but top priority problem is perhaps the main reason why a new era of international cooperation is essential. Here America must lead – not promise to act if China or some other country acts first. But there is immense opposition from major corporate interests to truly effective action by the US. And misrepresentation of the issues has confused not just the public but much of Congress. There is also the paralysis of the Senate (see below). Possibly the best hope is for the European Union to take the lead – as it attempted to do at Copenhagen speaking for the first time with “post Lisbon” unity – and so obliging the US to follow. A strategy of “after you, Claude” requiring some hours of briefing and careful consideration by the President himself.    

2. The threat of nuclear proliferation, presently from North Korea and Iran, is perhaps the second most urgent problem requiring far greater cooperation from the major powers. Here much depends on improved relations especially with Russia – the only other possessor of a huge stock of nuclear weapons. That in turn requires rebuilding trust by definitively ending the neo-conservative uni-polar policies that Russia, China and other countries believe the US is continuing to pursue. In the case of North Korea, the best hope for success if for China, Russia, Japan and other countries involved to take the lead. In the case of Iran, once again real results are most likely to come from pressure by Russia and the European Union, backed by other countries in the region. But arranging for the US to back the initiatives of others demands great diplomatic skill and coordinatioin – requiring the President’s personal attention.

3. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars undertaken simultaneously by G. W. Bush Because simultaneous, and thus over-straining American resources, they have morphed into two “Vietnams” which have to be dealt with at the same time (“Vietnams” in the sense “now we’re in, how to do we get out with least damage”) The outcome in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan still remains decidedly uncertain. At this late stage Obama has few options in both striving to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible without a collapse of security, and striving to hold Afghanistan long enough to internationalise the stabilisation of the country. These formidable tasks are all the more difficult thanks to the widespread perception by friends and enemies alike that the US is close to losing both the wars Present G W Bush started.    

4. Closely connected to both these wars is the “clash of civilisations” (Islam versus the secular West) – greatly exacerbated by Al Qaeda’s stunning success with “9/11” – a provocation designed to provoke a disproportionate ill-directed response from the US. The Iraq war, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, extraordinary rendition, and the failure to resolve the Palestine problem have all helped to make Al Qaeda’s gamble a huge success: it has successfully spawned offspring not only in Islamic countries but also in Western countries, notably the United Kingdom. This requires a comprehensive international effort to undermine Al Qaeda’s appeal – starting with a major attempt to resolve the Palestine problem, for the plight of the Palestinians still remains the No.1 reason for Muslim resentment and a major motive for “jihadism” and suicide attacks.    

5. But the decades old Palestine problem which might at last have been resolved in the wake of “9/11” at the height of America’s international popularity, is stuck as never before with extremists dominant in both Israel and Palestine. And this at a time when the US is unable to pursue its own foreign policy in the Middle East because of the overwhelming influence of hard line Israeli governments through Jewish lobbying of both Congress and the media, and through the Mossad’s peculiarly close relationship with the Pentagon and the CIA. This provoked the second intifada and the electoral victory of Hamas – equally as obdurate as its Israeli opponent.  The virtual Israeli “veto” freezes all attempts to establish a Palestine state, and hence to diminish Al Qaeda & Co.’s appeal and enable majority non “jihadi” Muslims to take a stand against violence without being labelled American stooges.

6. The Palestine problem and much else that needs to be resolved in the Middle East again comes back to the fact that no US president can achieve his foreign policy aims without international support. And he has to start with mending fences with the European Union and deftly encouraging the ability of the Union to speak with one voice on the international stage now that the Lisbon treaty has came into force. That is not impossible – as mentioned, it happened at the Copenhagen conference on climate change. But restoring Western unity is not enough. As President Obama has acknowledged, nothing much can be done without Russia – that other essentially European country. And reconciling Russia and Europe so bringing Russia into the “greater West” is a formidable task after and suspicions and hostility aroused not just by Putin’s Russia, but also by G W Bush’s America and some of the Europeans themselves. Nevertheless the national interests of the US, the EU, and Russia coincide remarkably – and this is recognised by clearer heads in all three.

7. And on top of these great political challenges President Obama has to grapple with the financial and economic collapse from the final year of the last US administration - essentially caused by President G W Bush continuing the fiscal deregulation begun by his predecessors of both parties, and which he exacerbated by going recklessly to war on a massive tax cut.  At the root of the financial crisis is the strange but tenacious return of laissez-faire capitalist ideology notably under Britain’s former Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher and America’s President Reagan, neither of whom appear to have grasped the lessons of the Great Depression of the 1930s which led to the post-Keynesian pragmatic economics of the post World War II years where banking was confined to banking leaving risky speculation to other concerns. Fiscal discipline required annual budget surpluses to have large stimulus funds available to cushion trade cycle slumps. But under G W Bush the significant surplus left by the Clinton administration was replaced by large and ever growing deficits during years when the economy was healthy.  So President Obama has been forced to further increase the deficit to provide the huge stimulus needed after years of government and private prodigality. But to do this he has has to do all he can to de-fang the opposition with its long outdated laissez-faire concepts and its refusal to accept that capitalism, to be socially acceptable, requires rules and their enforcement every bit as much as, say, football.

8. The Great Depression of the 1930s absorbed the lion’s share of the attention of both President Hoover and President Roosevelt but neither had also to deal with climate change, two “Vietnams”, nuclear proliferation etc. let alone one other “open file”: the American “addiction to oil” and the related collapse of the automobile industry partly due to government failure to require less gas-guzzling products. Lessening oil-addiction requires drastic economies, securing oil supplies, and major investment in alternative energy in very tight fiscal conditions.     

9. Another aspect of the financial crisis is the US’ huge deficits on both balance of trade and balance of payments, which, coupled with Chinese undervaluation of their currency, have led to China’s vast  holdings of US Treasury bonds giving China a major say over US and Western financial policies. Here part of the solution is to encourage savings when so many Americans are “under water” with mortgage and credit card debt. Even more difficult is persuading an exultant China that beggar my neighbour is not in its long term interest.   

10. Then on the home front there is the imperative for the US to catch up with other advanced nations in providing universal health care – all but ignored by G.W. Bush. And health care is only one of America’s political problems that cannot be resolved without standing up to corporate interests and their lobbying power. But the big corporations are shielded by the sharp division of American society between the “politically correct” the self-described “progressives” and the traditionalist conservatives, particularly in the “red” states where ordinary people  vote Republican against their financial interests to preserve what they see as their traditional morality, their way of life. So there is the task of gathering a sharply divided electorate behind the internal and external policies required by a pragmatic approach to governing. That means reassuring both “Americas” and that means persuading each side to compromise. And that is essential if Obama’s welcome pragmatism is to continue into a second term.
11. There are of course even more “open files”, but no list can leave out the present near ungovernability of the United States. None of the great challenges the United States and the West) faces can be resolved because the present filibuster arrangements require a 60 vote majority in a hundred member Senate to pass legislation. And at present the Republican party is in no mood to help a Democrat President to achieve the essential changes in foreign and domestic policy that the country urgently needs. Exploiting the President’s difficulties – in large measure caused by them -  their eyes are on this year’s Congressional elections and, already, on the 2012 presidential election.  So something needs to be done about the filibuster so that government can be carried on with a simple majority in the Senate.

Many people, including Americans, do not realise how far the Senate is profoundly undemocratic.  While 4 states have a population of over 18 million, 21 have a population under 3 million and 6 have less than a million  – yet all are represented by two senators. The two senators from California represent 37 million people, while those from Wyoming represent just over half a million! Worse, of the four most populous states three voted Democrat in 2008 – only Texas went Republican. And in the 21 states with a tenth of the population of Florida, the majority are central “red” states that are Republican. So even though the Democrats have a simple majority in the Senate, all legislation requiring a filibuster proof vote of 60, can be blocked by the senators from just 5 of the Republican central states whose electors typically have little interest in the great questions of the day. In a time of acute party conflict when the minority party is bent on wrecking the presidency, only a reform of the filibuster rules will make America able to take a full part in international affairs. Finding a way out of this paralysis is far from easy, and another urgent call on the President’s attention. Because all treaties must be approved by the Senate, America could not go to Copenhagen with a guaranteed offer for approval. Europe could, and so could China.   

12.  As if all this was not agenda enough for a superman, another element in the separation of powers remains under the control of G W Bush “right wing” appointees - the Supreme Court, which has just issued a judgment that threatens to tip future elections into the hands of the more extreme Republicans. It ruled 5 to 4 that there is effectively no financial limit to what corporations may spend on candidates’ election expenses. As America’s democracy depends in large measure on any administration’s ability to stand up to the great corporations and financial entities where necessary, means must somehow be found to negate this judgment. But how pass a Constitutional Amendment or even corrective legislation with the Senate as it is? That’ another dilemma for the President.

There are many other open files requiring some attention from the President, such as countering the misinformation of an overwhelming “right wing” media (notably Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation,slashing waste from the Pentagon's over $700bn budget (including the $159bn for the two wars and the the supplementary $33bn requested for the Afghanistan surge), mending relations with an increasingly independent Latin America, and responding to the situation the Sudan where peace in the South is again at risk, and the conditions in Darfur remain inhuman.  But we have said enough to demonstrate President Obama’s Herculean workload and the need for patriotic Americans to sink their bitter “progressives” versus traditionalist differences and back this unusually gifted President who is blocked by so many ill-wishers from taking the actions needed to bring about the change he has promised. The US is the world’s lead country and the world is imperilled when its institutions are clogged and its electorate polarised. As never before there is a need for true patriotism and a readiness to compromise – and this applies not only to the public and Congress, but to the media.           
                                                                                                [ends, 2750 wds

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corporate entity - the Supreme Court Decision

Corporate entity - the Supreme Court Decision

By dip consult | January 23, 2010 
This Supreme Court decision is alarming for us in Europe. We had to suffer 8 years of G W Bush gravely damaging the Western position in the world. In most of our countries there are strict rules about financial support for parties and individual candidates. This ruling appears to make the US - the lead democracy - an exception. 

The nightmare for us is Obama - whatever we may think about his effectiveness - losing in 2012 and the Republicans returning backed with unlimited corporate contributions (bribes too?) with an extreme right Congess and another President who is a follower of neo-conservatism. (Even with Mme Palin! Though that seems less likely now).

So, from our point of view it is essential to undo the Supreme Court's ruling by legislation or by constitutional amendment even before this November's Congressional elections (When with this ruling in place the Republicans could end the Democratic majority)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why do they hate us?

 Western hypocrisy prevents us reducing the motives for jihad
                     We must answer "why do they hate us?"

The extraordinary hypocrisy of "the West" has been even more difficult to overcome since the invasion of Iraq and the manifold disasters that came therefrom. One reason is that our leaders and representatives cannot bring themselves to admit to so great an error. 

That means they cannot face up to the real motives of Al Qaeda, "jihadsts" (suicide or other) and understand the silence of so very many non-violent Muslims.
Bin Laden puts Israel/Palestine as his third motive in declaring war on America in 1998. (Presumably for religious and his own political reasons). 

But there is no doubt that, in the minds of probably the great majority of Muslims and many others (like myself) Israel's treatment of the conquered Palestinians decades after the Arab nations' defeat is so shocking and inhuman that it is the first cause of anti-American and anti Israeli bitterness - and thus the main motive for many young Muslims joining to fight a guerrilla or terrorist war.

Since then of course there has been the Iraq war, Abu Graib, Bagram, rendition, the acceptance of large scale civilian casualties - etc. etc. (And most particularly Israel's wars against Lebanon and occupied Gaza). All this, coming on top of the Palestine issue, has vastly increased Muslim feelings of bitterness and impotence - and so vastly increased the motivation for young Muslims to immolate themselves for "jihad".

There is another factor - America has lost in Iraq and is losing in Afghanistan. Throughout the Muslim world and in the West, "Al Qaeda and Co" (clones) are succeeding in spreading fear and mayhem. This perception of the accelerating "Decline of the West" greatly increases the attraction of "being in for the kill."

Our Western failure to admit our errors even to ourselves stops us from recognising that one side of the anti-terrorist medal is security, but the other is diminishing the motivation for Islamic terrorists. That implies recognising the understandable hatred of so many Muslims and doing something to correct this. And the obvious and easiest first step is to act decisively to resolve the Palestine problem.

This is something the Obama administration cannot do because it is too weak in Congress, too beset with other top priorities, and it is faced with the immense power of the Israel lobby in Congress and in the media (especially Murdoch's) and the symbionic relationship between the Pentagon and the Mossad.

Europe surprised me by having a unified voice at Copenhagen. If it can now - post Lisbon - have a united determination to cure the running sore of  Palestine which has dogged international affairs for so long, then it can greatly - perhaps critically - help the Obama administration to oblige the Israeli government to achieve a two state solution.   

But, as things are, it is no use lamenting that "moderate Muslims" are not speaking out against terrorism. Anyone who does so, appears to side with America's and the West's evils in supporting Israel when Israel is so clearly in the wrong (and indeed is itself embracing suicidal policies as so many Jews and Israelis point out). 

Until we in the West understand this we cannot begin to defang terrorism by removing legitimate grievances.  As Burns put it "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us".