Author Archive

(52) NATO, a Monstrous Institution (3 June, 2017)

Their anxiety about the future of NATO, recently on full display again when the American president was in Europe, could not be bettered as a measure of the incapacity of Europe’s top politicians to guide their continent and represent its populations. Through its provocations of Moscow, NATO systematically helps increase the risk of a military confrontation. By thus sabotaging its declared purpose of serving collective security for the countries on either side of the Atlantic, it erases its fundamental reason for being and right to exist.
      Grasping these facts ought be enough to fuel moves aimed at quickly doing away with NATO. But it is terrible for more and easily overlooked reasons.
      NATO’s survival prevents the political entity that is the European Union from becoming a significant global presence for reasons other than its economic weight. If you cannot have a defence policy of your own you also deprive yourself of a foreign policy. Without a substantive foreign policy, Europe does not show anything that anyone might consider ‘a face’ to the world. Without such a face to the outside, the inside cannot come to terms about what it stands for, and substitutes meaningless platitudes for answers to the question as to why it should exist in the first place.
      NATO is an example of an institution that has gotten completely out of hand through European complacency, intellectual laziness, and business opportunism.

(51) Conspiracy with and without conspirators (4 April 2017)

     The term ‘Deep State’ has entered established parrot journalism, where it joins ‘the one percent’, the other notion ascended from the internet ‘underground’. You can tell by the way it is now mocked in mainstream publications. I first noticed when one of those informed its readers that it lurked somewhere in the remote internet corners given over to conspiracy theory. And now, quite suddenly, there is a mini avalanche of pieces explaining for example why such a thing may exist in Turkey (where the term was first used) or Egypt, but not the United States where all manner of protections guard against it. David Remnick’s article in the New Yorker reflects considerable confusion in parrot journalism ranks about what to do with this concept that has forced itself on America’s consciousness through the combined maneuvers of state and non-state institutions intending to get rid of the new president.
     Two authors had come with books and articles using the deep state abstraction before all this: the meticulous Canadian scholar and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott and much more recently Mike Lofgren, who for more than a quarter century served as a staff member on the Senate and House Budget committees. Their credentials and seriousness are beyond doubt, but their deep states are not the same. Scott digs into what he calls ‘deep politics’ of a criminal nature, like the Kennedy murder and 9-11, while Lofgren assures us early on that the deep state does not add up to a conspiracy. In fact long passages in the Lofgren book, subtitled The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, made me feel as if I was reading my own The Enigma of Japanese Power trying to explain a phenomenon for which I coined the label ‘conspiracy without conspirators’.

(50) Karl Rove’s Prophecy (23 Jan. 2017)

Karl Rove’s Prophecy
By Karel van Wolferen (Jan 23 2017)

In a famous exchange between a high official at the court of George W. Bush and journalist Ron Susskind, the official – later acknowledged to have been Karl Rove – takes the journalist to task for working in “the reality-based community.” He defined that as believing “that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” Rove then asserted that this was no longer the way in which the world worked. “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NYTimes Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004).
      This declaration became popular as an illustration of the hubris of the Bush-Cheney government. But we could also see it as fulfilled prophecy. Fulfilled in a manner that no journalist at that time would have deemed possible. Yes, the neoconservatives brought disrepute upon themselves because of the disaster in Iraq. Sure, opposition to the reality Rove had helped create in that devastated country became a first rung on the ladder that could lead to the presidency, as it did for Barack Obama. But the neocons stayed put in the State Department and other positions closely linked to the Obama White House, where they became allies with the liberal hawks in continuing to ‘spread democracy’ by overthrowing regimes.
      America's mainstream news and opinion purveyors, without demurring, accommodated the architects of reality production overseen by Dick Cheney. This did not end when Obama became president, but in fact with seemingly ever greater eagerness they gradually made the CIA/neocon-neoliberal created reality appear unshakably substantial in the minds of most newspaper readers and among TV audiences in the Atlantic basin. This was most obvious when attention moved to an imagined existential threat posed by Russia supposedly aimed at the political and ‘Enlightenment’ achievements of the West.

(49) The Predators Behind the TPP (14 Oct. 2015)

A major cause of contemporary political ills in the world is the misnomers that help hide what the strong and rich aspire to and already control. A perfect example of this is the ubiquitous term ‘trade’ in what the media are telling us these days about the TPP and the TPIP – the transpacific and transatlantic treaties that seek to organize business activity under one monumental umbrella of new rules. These have been peddled as trade treaties, and hence as being great for growth and jobs, happiness and social well-being. But neither the TPP, tying the United States, a bit of Latin America and a series of East Asian countries together, nor its TPIP companion that is meant to shape American-European business relations, is primarily about trade, if stimulating genuine trade comes into it at all. It is primarily about power. Two kinds of it.
One is aimed at creating global disadvantages for China’s industrial power and putting brakes on what the two formerly communist giants on the Eurasian continent are developing together. The other is power of a collectivity of large politically well-connected corporations to engage in conduct unchecked by national rules, which seen by eyes unaffected by neoliberal dogma would be recognized as predation.
     An earlier attempt to accomplish that second purpose, begun in 1997 by the OECD, was more honest by calling itself the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI). Under MAI rules the participating governments would guarantee foreign businesses all the advantages enjoyed by their domestic producers and services. If implemented, foreign investors in these markets could with the superior force they can muster easily have wiped out domestic players altogether,

(48) NATO and the Two Central Conflicts of the Ukraine Crisis (13 March 2015)

Where I live (the Netherlands), if you were to call NATO the world’s most dangerous institution, a consensus would quickly form to conclude that you must have lost your marbles. Yet, without NATO we would not have a Ukraine crisis, and no speculations about the possibility of war with Russia. Taking nuclear war seriously as a policy option should be listed in psychology handbooks as indicative of complete insanity or lethal ignorance. This has not stopped newspaper editors from speculating about it in their headlines, as they fill in the blanks of what a number top officials on both sides of the Atlantic have recently been half-saying or implying. With no NATO they would not have had occasion or reason to do so. Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko recently said: “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore”. Political insanity can exist independently of NATO, but the least one can say is that it has become a facilitator of that insanity.
     It would therefore be a momentous development for what is still called ‘the West’ if last week’s Der Spiegel signals a relevant German awakening. The weekly magazine published a hard hitting article in which the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Breedlove, is accused of undermining Chancellor Merkel’s attempts to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis through diplomacy. The military head of NATO, with his exaggerations and untruths about Russian troop movements, spouts “dangerous propaganda” according to officials in Merkel’s Chancellery, as quoted by the magazine. In other words, he can no longer be trusted.
     Lies coming out of Washington that portray Putin as the grand aggressor are nothing new; for about a year they have formed a constant stream, from the lips of the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and in a milder form from the President himself. As a result the idea of Russian aggression has become close to an article of faith in Northern Europe’s mainstream media. But by singling out Breedlove, the German fingerpointing is directed at NATO, and Obama and Co may draw their own conclusions from it.
     An assortment of conflicts have gone into the Ukraine crisis, but the two that now appear to have become fundamental to it play themselves out far away from that tragic country. One is centered in Washington where an out-of-his-depth president must decide whether to become realistic or give in further to right-wing forces that want to give the Kiev regime the weapons needed to continue its war in Eastern Ukraine. The second conflict is an incipient one about NATO – meaning European subservience to the United States – begun by Angela Merkel’s and Francois Hollande’s recently formed Peace Party, of which their mission to the Kremlin, Merkel’s joint press conference with Obama and the abovementioned German reporting are early signs.
     Until now Obama has given as good as free rein to the liberal hawks and neocons in his own government. The War Party. A prominent member of that group, Victoria Nuland, who played a central role in helping to organize the coup d’état in Kiev last year, is eager to give Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the means to survive the onslaughts of supernationalists in his own environment and to subdue, finally, the anti-regime troops in South East Ukraine. Nuland works closely with Breedlove, and both have expressed themselves in denigrating terms about European recalcitrance in the face of what they want to accomplish.
Should Obama choose to become realistic, it would require measures to show the world

(47) Europe’s Accidental Autocrat And Her Two Accidental Missions (6 March 2015)

The European Union is not a state or a federation of states, it is something not seen before, but is assumed to grow state-like characteristics like a center of political accountability. It does not have a head of state or head of government. But political entities of any kind will at some point, when under pressure, cry out for leadership. Europe’s crises are demanding this, and have thrown up an autocrat.
     Angela Merkel is an accidental autocrat. She was not chosen to be leader of Europe through any democratic method. She was not appointed or anointed. She could hardly be a more unlikely leader of the continent, having received her political education in the sheltered system of the DDR, far removed from plans and beginnings of Europe’s unification. She does not give the impression of having wanted the position, and if she relishes it she does not let on. She has demonstrated to possess great political savvy, with tactical skills first honed when she was leader of a youth division of East Germany’s "Propaganda und Agitation". Her acumen has lifted her to an apparently invulnerable position above Germany’s political parties. The big question for all of us interested in the world’s future is whether she is becoming the inspired politician for whom many Europeans have been waiting. Can she rise to the occasion?
     Early signs do not prompt a jubilant ‘yes!’. Yes, she did make a late move, eleven months into the Ukraine crisis, to try stop American ‘lethal’ weapon deliveries (with the inevitable ‘advisers’ and in the end well-nigh inevitable tactical nukes) to the Kiev regime. And, yes, she let the Greek Minister of Finance have a tiny slice of a compromise to allow him a Herculean attempt to save his country from total economic ruin. Both moves, though, were the absolute minimum of what the crises required.
     The Ukraine and Greek crises have become existential crises for the European Union, caused by what is most wrong with that political entity. There are two great hindrances that keep the Union from fulfilling its unrealized promise.