Saturday, September 23, 2017

Deutschland eine US-Kolonie? (Phoneix 2013)

Trump’s UN speech heralds end of the American empire says Catherine Shakdam

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam 
Trump’s UN speech heralds end of the American empire
The floor of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will long echo from US President Donald Trump’s military grandstanding against Iran and North Korea. In fact, it is likely his tirade will be remembered as the start of the sunset on the American empire.
While I’m sure Donald Trump intended his address to project America’s hegemonic power to the extent that all nations would come to understand the pointlessness of their resistance, I fear such bombastic bravado betrays Washington’s deep-seated insecurity. Whether the United States cares to admit it or not, the fact is its power is waning.
Whether it is Washington’s propensity to pursue foreign-policy making from a military perspective, or its inability to assert control on the many fronts it has opened up overseas, America is paying the price of its relentless ambitions.
Never mind the fact that a formerly gullible public is now becoming suspicious of the many lies the neocons have posited in the name of war: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen … how many wars can one country run before war becomes its sole raison d’etre - the very matrix upon which its existence is anchored? Therein I would say is the root of America’s demise.
America’s love affair with its military complex will prove to be its Achilles’ heel. Empires are bound to disappear, and territorial ambitions broken before that of others. The US, one may argue, is living on borrowed time now that other powers have emerged - pertinent to this article, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Allow me to offer a theory to America’s antagonism toward Iran. The context here is essential. Let us just assume that there is more to Washington’s ire than a democratic hungering, especially if we consider that Iran, despite what we hear in the media, is a well-adjusted democracy. If we are to be rational in our analysis, we must recognize that America’s fallout with Iran has very little to do with the fashion of its governance and everything to do with the fact that Iran proclaimed itself sovereign and independent in its territory.
Such independence of course translated into the nationalization of Iran’s natural resources and a revamp of its position toward Western capitals. While such a decision certainly left a sizable gap in Her Majesty’s coffer (aka Great Britain), one ought to be careful when denying a country the right to self-governance - especially since Western democracies thrived on the very principle of sovereign political self-determination.
The Washington-Iran binary exists out of a need to control natural resources and military waterways. I would ask here some license from readers as I am forced to simplify what otherwise would require several books. To better appreciate America’s profound antipathy for Iran, one must cast one’s eyes to pre-1979 Iran, when the Shah still entertained his Western guests to the tune of lavish parties and obscene displays of wealth.
A giant sitting at the heart of the Islamic world, Iran’s wealth guarantees that its leadership will enjoy tremendous political traction both regionally and on the global scene. It is how such traction would manifest which irks the United States.
Last month, Henry Kissinger argued that Iran would soon rise as an empire should ISIS be destroyed, betraying Washington’s innermost fear, and one may even find America’s direct ties to terrorism. It is rather clear from Kissinger’s comments that ISIS has acted somewhat of a buffer to Iran’s geopolitical reach in the Greater Middle East region.
He wrote“The outside world’s war with ISIS can serve as an illustration. Most non-ISIS powers — including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states — agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran?”
I read two things in those comments:
One, Kissinger still holds to the binary architecture he believes will best guarantee regional insolvency, and thus secure America’s dominance - that notion that Sunni and Shia Islam must absolutely exist in antagonism when really so very few differences set them apart. Sectarianism continues to serve as an asymmetrical weapon of war, it is not contextual to the Islamic world, and it certainly has nothing to do with how nations have defined their sovereign identity.
Two, Kissinger exposed America’s inherent fear that an independent Iran will serve as both a model and an inspiration for other nations in the immediate region to stand free within their borders. ISIS we might as well come to terms with is nothing but a valuable asset wielded by imperial powers to together justify military interventionism, and sow discord at the heart of a region with immense geopolitical power.
In short, America’s future relevance is reliant upon Washington’s ability to distort ideologies, explode territorialities and promote sectarian-based terrorism in the Mid-East. Iran’s re-emergence onto the regional and international scene is here but a by-product of America’s imperial folly.
Contrary to common belief Iran does not harbor colonial ambitions. Iran, in fact, has been a fervent advocate for political independence on the basis it has claimed its own away from tyranny. In a speech at a conference on Palestine in late February both Ayatollah Khamenei and Ali Larijani insisted on the need to promote independence and political self-determination as the bedrock of peace and stability.
Such a position was echoed by Seyed Ibrahim Raisi, custodian and chairman of Astan Quds Razavi when he insisted to me that “Iran does not seek to export its system of governance only our principles of justice and fair representation.”
He added: “Iran will always come to the help of those who call upon it.”
And NO, Mr. Kissinger, Iran is by no means radical in its makeup. It may still be a working democratic progress … which nation can claim to democratic absolutism? But Iran is nevertheless a far more progressive state than many of the US so-called ‘friends'.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Trump’s UN Speech: the Swamp’s Wine in an ‘America First!’ Bottle JAMES GEORGE JATRAS

Trump’s UN Speech: the Swamp’s Wine in an ‘America First!’ Bottle
 | 22.09.2017 | OPINION

In his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump invoked the terms “sovereign” and “sovereignty” 21 times. In a manner unimaginable coming from any other recent occupant of the White House, the President committed the United States to the principle of national sovereignty and to the truth that “the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.” More, Trump rightly pointed out that these pertain not just to the US and the safeguarding of American sovereignty but to all countries:
“In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens -- to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.
“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”
Then he took it all back.
Listening to the president, one would almost think Trump was giving two different speeches, one rhetorical and one substantive. The rhetorical speech (reportedly authored by Stephen Miller) was the most stirring advocacy one could hope for of the rule of law and of the Westphalian principle of the sovereign state as the bedrock of the international order. The substantive speech, no doubt written by someone on the National Security Council staff, abrogates the very same Westphalian principle with the unlimited prerogatives of the planet’s one government that reserves the right to violate or abolish the sovereignty of any other country – or to destroy that country altogether – for any reason political elites in Washington decide. 
Numerous commentators immediately rushed to declare that Trump had dialed back to George W. Bush’s 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech. (The phrase is attributed to then-speechwriter David Frum, now a moving figure behind the “Committee to Investigate Russia,” which in the sage opinion of Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman claims “we are at war” with Russia already.) Trump has now laid down what amounts to declarations of war against both North Korea and Iran. On both he has left himself very little room for maneuver, or for any compromise that would be regarded as weakness or Obama-style “leading from behind.” While hostilities against both countries may not be imminent (though in the case of North Korea, they might be) we are, barring unforeseen circumstances, now approaching the point of no return.
With respect to North Korea, some people assume that because the consequences would be patently catastrophic the “military option” must be off the table and that all this war talk is just bluster. That assumption is dead wrong. The once unthinkable is not only thinkable, it is increasingly probable. As Trump said: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” This is exactly backwards. Threatening North Korea with total destruction doesn’t equate to the defense of the US (forget about our faux allies South Korea and Japan, which contribute nothing to our security), it positively increases the danger to our country and people. The Deep State would rather risk the lives of almost 30,000 American military personnel in Korea, of hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of South Koreans, and of even more millions in North Korea – not to mention prodding Pyongyang to accelerate acquisition of a capability for a nuclear strike on the United States itself – than pry its grip off of a single square meter of our forward base against China on the northeast Asian mainland.
With respect to Iran, the relevant passages of Trump’s speech could as well have been drafted in the Israeli and Saudi foreign ministries – and perhaps they were. Paradoxically, such favoritism toward some countries and hatred for others is the exact opposite of the America First! principle on which Trump won the presidency. As stated in his Farewell Address by our first and greatest president (wait – are we still allowed to say that? George Washington was a slave-owner!), a country that allows itself to be steered not by its own interests but the interests of others negates it own freedom and becomes a slave to its foreign affections and antipathies:
“The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.”
Not to belabor the obvious, at least as far as foreign policy goes, the would-be Swamp-drainer has lost and the Swamp has won. We can speculate as to why. Some say Trump was always a liar and conman and had no intention of keeping his promises. (Let’s see what he does on the “Dreamers” and throwing away his wall on the Mexican border. As Ann Coulter says, “If Trump doesn’t get that wall built, and fast, his base will be done with him and feed him to Robert Mueller.”) Others say Trump meant what he said during the campaign but now surrounded by generals and globalists that dominate his administration, and with populists in the White House now about as common as passenger pigeons, he’s a virtual captive. If so, it’s a captivity of his own making.
To be fair, Trump’s populism was never based on consistent non-interventionism. In 2016 he promised more money for the Pentagon and vowed to be the most “militaristic” president ever. Still, he seemed to understand that wars of choice unrelated to vital national interests, like Bush’s in Iraq and Obama’s in Libya, were a waste of untold billions of dollars and produced only disasters.
His acceptance of the Swamp’s continuation of the war in Afghanistan was his first major stumble towards the dismal path of his predecessors. War against North Korea or Iran, or God forbid both, would wreck his presidency and his pledge to “Make America Great Again!” even more surely than Iraq ruined Bush’s.
Still unanswered: does Trump know that, does he care, and does he have the wherewithal to do anything about it? At the moment, it doesn’t look good.

Germany’s Dismal Election

Complacent elite rejects all change even as Germany’s problems mount

epa05730233 German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the commemoration of the victims of the Berlin Christmas market terror truck attack in the German Parliament, in Berlin, Germany, 19 January 2017. EPA/CLEMENS BILAN

On Sunday Germany votes in an election from which Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party is universally expected to remain the largest but which none of the underlying problems which affect Germany have been addressed.
One of the problems involved in discussing Germany is that the image of the country as a runaway economic success story is so powerful that it makes objective analysis of its problems difficult.
The reality is that Germany is indeed a very rich and economically successful country.  However there are growing problems that put its long term prospects in doubt, and these are being ignored rather than addressed.
Briefly, the German system as it evolved after the Second World War involved a political and financial system heavily geared towards high business investment.
The secret of German economic success was the close collaboration of decentralised regional governments and banks with a partially cartelised business community, with the whole system underpinned by high savings and a well trained and well organised workforce.
Key to the success of the system was a monetary policy geared towards creating low inflation and high savings, and a fiscal policy that avoided deficit.
The result was indeed high business investment drawing on high savings in conditions of extreme price stability within a strictly controlled competitive environment, enabling German business to remain continuously competitive even as German wages and living standards steadily rose.
Over the last decades this system has slowly unravelled as German banks have become less focused on Germany’s domestic economy and more involved in the international financial system, and as Germany has integrated itself ever more deeply into the EU’s institutions and has replaced the Deutschmark with the euro.
The result is that savings and investment in the German economy have fallen from their historic post war highs, so that the total rate of investment in the German economy has fallen from around 30% of GDP in the early 1980s to around 19% now, with the two biggest falls taking place in 1990 (at the time of unification) and in 2000 (at the time of the introduction of the euro), with the rate of investment unchanged since then.
Moreover recently pressure on savings has been increasing further because of the zero interest rate/quantitative easing policy of the European Central Bank, whose lax monetary policy is also causing Germany to experience for the first time in its post Second World War history on a sustained basis a property price boom, something which the Bundesbank, Germany’s own central bank, always anxious to direct investment towards businesses rather than fixed assets, had previously always acted to choke off.
The Germans have responded to the fall in investment in their classic way, striving to keep their economy internationally competitive by compensating for the fall in investment with downward pressure on wages.
In addition Germany has sought to continue to run a budget surplus – operating its economy ‘within its means’ as it is called – a policy whose intended and actual effect is to choke off imports.
Taken together with the relative weakness of the euro (as compared to the strength of any currency Germany might have had if it still had the Deutschmark) these policies have kept the German economy internationally competitive, causing it to run a massive surplus.
However the continued downward pressure on wages, the action taken to make the German workforce more ‘flexible’ (the so-called Hartz IV reforms), the refusal to run a budget deficit (causing public investment to collapse), and the property price boom, are making German society more unequal, and are increasing pressure on living standards.
Needless to say that feeds resentment and It is anyway debatable how sustainable a system, which compensates lower wages for lower investment, in the end is.
At this point it is important to make some qualifiers.  The German economy remains exceptionally strong and the standard of living in Germany remains by international standards extremely high.  The problems, though real, are still in their infancy, and there is time and space to turn things round.
Germany’s real problem is not that its problems are intractable.  It is that under Angela Merkel, who became the CDU’s leader in 2000 – just as the second big fall in the economy’s rate of investment took place – and who has been Germany’s Chancellor since 2005, no serious attempt to address these problems has been taking place.
At a time when Germany needs purposeful policies to turn things round, Merkel’s complacent “keep calm and carry on” approach is leaving them as they are.
The result is that behind the facade of contentment there is growing unease.  Some of the consequences have been well described in a recent article by Andrew Spannaus
A …. major factor is the system of labor market and welfare reforms introduced in Germany in the 2000s. The most famous is the “Hartz IV” law, which provides unemployment subsidies of just 280 euros ($330) a month, and forces people to accept whatever jobs they are offered, even at only 1-2 euros an hour.
German companies have done very well with this system, that allows them to exploit extremely cheap and flexible labor. Critics points to this as one – although certainly not the only – factor contributing to the great success of German industry in Europe.
For the six million citizens trapped in the system though, things aren’t so great. There are entire areas called “Hartz IV neighborhoods,” indicating widespread socio-economic difficulties among the local population. If we add the high level of “working poor,” a category that has reached 9 percent of the population in Germany, it becomes clear where the populist movements can look for votes on economic issues.
This situation explains the strong reaction of many Germans when Merkel, without much consultation, suddenly threw open Germany’s and Europe’s doors to the mass refugee flow in 2015.  Inevitably many poorer working class Germans, who have been under growing economic pressure for some time, resented the fact that Merkel and the political establishment appeared to care more about the refugees than it cared about them.  In my opinion this was a far more important factor in the widespread protests in Germany against Merkel’s policy in 2015 than the supposed xenophobic or racist attitudes of lower class German voters, whose grandparents had accepted mass immigration from Turkey and southern Europe in the boom times of the 1950s and 1960s without protest.
Unfortunately the problem is not just Merkel.  The entire German political establishment is locked into the same complacency, so that she has fought the election without coming under any serious challenge.
That a thirst for such a challenge is there is shown by the brief surge of support for Martin Schultz after the SPD nominated as its Chancellor designate at the start of the year.  In the event – as I and many others predicted – Schulz has however proved to have been a truly dreadful choice, with offering no credible alternative to Merkel, so that after his brief surge the SPD’s polling figures have spiralled down.
The result is a dismal election, with a sense of Germany treading water.  Even neoliberal admirers of Merkel such as the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayr├Ęde are dismayed
Having spent this week in Germany, I am struck by another inward-looking syndrome. The German campaign has paid very little attention to Europe, not to mention the world beyond it. It has practically dispensed with the question of how the country should relate to realities beyond its borders: the global shifts at work, how to define its role in a changing environment, how to strategically prepare for the future, and the external impacts that may lie in store…..
The Germans simply don’t want to hear much about the troubles of our times and how to face them: they just want to hunker down and keep on living the good life – which is one of Merkel’s CDU party slogans…..
…..I’ve just spent days in Berlin, Leipzig and Munich, meeting officials, members of the Bundestag, municipal and regional elected representatives, and civil society activists, on a study tour of the German elections with the Robert Bosch Academy. Here are some of the comments I heard. On Germany’s potential leadership role in the Trump era: “The expectations other countries have towards Germany are sometimes exaggerated. We are self-confident, but we don’t have any missionary zeal. We are intensely aware of our history”; “Trump is disturbing, but to take up a leadership role is just too much for us.”
On Europe: “It’s not a topic in this campaign because all the parties, apart from the AfD [the far-right Alternative for Germany], are convinced by the European project. Germans need Europe to forget they are Germans. It’s how we break away from our national historical burden.” On eurozone reform (said with a touch of irony): “Macron wants progress, but it might be expensive for us.” And on Brexit (when asked about it): “It’s like a satire show.”
One of the most fascinating developments in Germany is that, contrary to many predictions, the 2015 refugee crisis has not upended the nation’s politics entirely. How come? In Britain, it contributed to producing Brexit. In France, it helped Le Pen collect 10m votes. In 2015 the world’s huddled, desperate masses came to Germany – and yet, two years on, the country hardly seems to worry about the state of the world, or wants to even discuss it. “We are proud of what we did, the welcome culture, but it mustn’t happen again,” is the main answer you get when raising the question.
Into the gap opened up by the German elite’s complacency has moved the AfD, the new political movement originally created by a group of professors to challenge the twin orthodoxies of Germany’s Atlanticist foreign policy and the euro, but which has gained popular traction as it has redefined itself as an anti-immigrant party and has veered towards the right.
How well the AfD will do in Sunday’s election remains to be seen.  Here however I will restate a view which I previously made in connection with the role in French politics of Marine Le Pen.  Since in Germany as in France there will alway be a majority against a challenge to the status quo from the right, the eventual effect in Germany of the AfD, as of Marine Le Pen in France, will be to reinforce the status quo, not to change it.
On the subject of Angela Merkel herself, though she retains many of her political skills and a large reservoir of support amongst Germany’s large centre right Christian electorate, she has increasingly come across in this election (at least to me) as tired and stale, something which incidentally was never true of her CDU predecessor Helmut Kohl.
Almost everyone expects this to be Merkel’s last election, and I have no doubt this is right.  Not only is Merkel’s time as Chancellor drawing to a close, but I doubt she will be around for much longer, and I think it is unlikely she will see out her full term.  Had the SPD picked a more charismatic and popular candidate than Martin Schulz, I have no doubt she would have been in serious trouble during the election, though the nature of the German political and electoral system always gives the incumbent Chancellor a big advantage.
Germany’s and Europe’s problem – and potentially their crisis – is that in the desert which is what Germany’s current politics have become, it is difficult to see any change coming after Merkel is finally gone.