MATTHEW BISHOP - 20 JANUARY 2012
The power of war, like the power of love, springs from man's heart. The one yields death, the other life. But life without death has no meaning; nor, at its deepest level, does love without war. Without war we could not know from what depths love rises, or what power it must have to overcome such evil and redeem us.
- William Broyles Jr.
Image from DailyKos
This article is a psychological examination of how humans conceptualize war and aggression in general. William Broyles Jr.'s "Why Men Love War", an article that tries to understand why, as the author says, "There is a reason for every war and a war for every reason" is the foundation of this essay, and this paper serves to expand upon the ideas that Broyles develops. Rathus's work "Theories of Aggression" and Brown's "Manchild in the Promised Land" will also be used for this paper's arguments.
1: Theories of Aggression
Rathus arrives at the conclusion that there are five foremost ways in which psychologists understand war, and in which individuals react to or participate in war and aggression in general. These are the biological, cognitive, psychodynamic, humanistic-existential, and learning perspectives.
The biological assumes that aggression is natural in the human state and ultimately works for the betterment of the individual participating in aggression and that it can also exist for the betterment of the collective society involved in aggression. Sociobiology says that humans compete for survival and for their goals in life and that this leads to aggressive behavior in a very basic and natural way.
The cognitive perspective assumes that aggression is a result of conscious thought and decided intentions, and that aggressive behavior is present in those individuals who have experienced the most aggression in their own pasts. Aggressive individuals understand other individuals as aggressive and hostile even when they are not, and this can often result in aggressive acts including war.
The humanistic-existential perspective is the most optimistic. It understands war and aggression as something contrary to human nature. Aggression, this theory contends, comes in the form of defensive reactions against outside incursions. What causes those outside incursions is not addressed.
The psychodynamic theory contends that aggression usually manifests in small acts that in fact prevent larger acts. Small-scale, everyday aggression can prevent large or more devastating aggression simply by allowing the individual or the society to "let off steam". Even wars, in this perspective, are a result of the need to let off steam.
The learning perspective views aggression as a learned behavior passed down and inherited from one to another. Individuals that are treated in an aggressive manner, in turn, behave aggressively. Individuals who become aggressive are influenced by their own experiences, the experiences they view (this includes viewing violence in the media) and the experiences that they are otherwise aware of.
2: "Why Men Love War"
While any of the above theories might provide the motive for war, Broyles contends that there is something so unique about the experience of war that it draws men into it in the most instinctive and natural way. It is something removed from aggression, and the above theories of aggression can only begin the probing into the human mind in search of understanding war. The proximity to death and the resulting "epic" narrative of war is attractive. The otherworldliness of the entire experience, the uniqueness, is something almost fully irresistible. The ability to destroy life and property without punishment is attractive and allows men to be entirely destructive without consequence-- as is part of man's nature, the author contends. The bonds that exist in the world of war-- total allegiance to those who might save your life and total disregard for the lives of those who are trying to take your own-- is simple, instinctive, and profound in human nature. Controversially, Broyles spends a lot of time discussing the thrill of the kill-- it is not just that killing may be a part of nature, he contends, but it is instead the fact that people enjoy killing which is the general casus belli of every conflict in human history.
People are allowed to enjoy killing in wartime-- they are encouraged to do so, and there is no regard for regular civilian rules. Nor is there any indication that the enemy could ever exist in a civilian world-- they are demons to be vanquished, not people whose interests must be considered. As Broyles recalls in his own experience in Vietnam, "...we didn't burn houses and shoot people; we burned hooches and shot gooks."
The processes of dehumanization-- which Broyles only briefly alludes to in that single and profound statement-- that are inherent in and necessary for every war are also inherent in and necessary for every act of genocide and other large-scale forms of aggression (including structural aggression such as slavery and state violence). It is something easy to identify with in the us-them world of killing or dying, but it is terribly difficult to overcome. Many World War II veterans who fought in the Pacific during World War II still do not consider "Japs" to be humans, for example, or if they do then they are a lesser breed of human. It's been almost seventy years. But time is of no consequence in this. The experiences of the Pacific arena in World War II were so profound and required such a shift in the perception of the Japanese and the perception of self and of Americans that once these shifts occurred, they could not be undone. What Broyles describes as the "epic" narrative of war and the "proximity of life and death" is something that strikes so deep into the core of a human being that there is virtually no force able to exert more influence in the human mind. To many veterans, the Japanese were machines programmed to kill or die, and they still are. In war, everyone becomes a machine programmed to live or die. In some sense, no one is human. In another sense, Broyles would remind us, we are more human in war than in any other phenomenon of human history.
Broyles talks about war as something attractive to mankind, woven into the fabric of man's nature. And to overcome the instinct that creates war, we must always be conscious of that instinct in the first place. We must acknowledge it and react to it by resisting it, not by abiding by it. It is dark to suggest that we recognize this instinct-- it requires that we suspend the rules by which we are raised and admit that we are all capable of terrible, terrible things-- but then again, so does war. Yet recognition is necessary to overcome what ultimately propels every war in the history of our world. We must acknowledge that it is part of the nature of man, and then we begin to change the world around us by changing our own nature and resisting war.
A friend of mine, who suffers from severe PTSD after eight years in the Marines, cannot even understand Americans as human-- he sees nothing as human, and everything, at every point in time, on the brink of killing or dying. War is his reality, and leaving Somalia, Afghanistan, or Iraq never changed that reality. Coming back to America did not change that reality. I was in the mountains with him one day, and he looked down at the small people beneath us. He sat down and pretended to be taking out a sniper rifle, and started laughing. He'd make the motion of pulling a trigger and make the pop sound with his mouth. He'd count them. Then he started talking about how we should jump off a cliff, and see how far down we make it before we die. Death is as close to him as life is, I realized in that moment. To Broyles, this is the human state. To us, it seems unnatural. But to any man who had spent the last eight years doing what my friend had done, he'd have to agree with Broyles. To people like my friend, our own daily lives are a distortion of reality-- war is the only actual reality.
3: America Today
Claud Brown's "Manchild in the Promised Land" is a recollection of Brown's own childhood in 1940s-1950s Harlem. It is an article that seems far removed from World War II, Vietnam, or Iraq, but it is in fact very close to them all. People in 1940s-1950s Harlem were encouraged to fight. Reputations were based on fights won. People were described by how they fought, which hand they hit with, etc. Parents taught their kids that fighting was a way to win respect in the community and that is was necessary, and would be ashamed when their young children would run from fights. The world they lived in was simple, as the author recalls-- people are constantly trying to steal away "your manhood", which was everything necessary for life, and you had to defend it through physical violence. This is a sort of world that is well-known to any veteran. The enemy is trying to take away what is important to you. You must defend that thing by killing your enemy. Killing your enemy may involve terrible and seemingly inhuman atrocities, but it is necessary, because you must defend that thing which is important to you. That "thing" changes from war to war, but the basic concept remains the same.
It is also a world very similar to the world in which many Americans live today. It is the world of poor inner cities, rural dirt backroads, impoverished ghost towns, and competitive upper-class, fast-paced communities. It is the way in which a huge number of Americans are introduced to violence and the way in which they arrive at the conclusion that violence is acceptable, necessary, natural to the human state, or even inherently good or otherwise not worth resisting. Violence is a tool to achieve one's own ends or to defend that important thing. It does not come in the form of war, but instead in the form of small-scale violence. Yet this is the very same concept that must be present in the human mind for war to exist.
A year ago I stood outside the gates of Dachau. Written in twisted black iron upon those gates was a phrase: Arbeit Macht Frei, the German for Work will set you free. It is easy to remember the Holocaust and to proclaim that the Nazis were inhuman. Yet nearly 70,000,000 German humans watched while more than 12,000,000 humans were cremated, shot, or gassed in their own territories, and that is the fact of it. The Japanese humans killed more than 300,000 humans in the city of Nanking in a systematic raping in little more than six weeks. German and Soviet humans killed millions of humans as they advanced back and forth, sometimes for sport, sometimes to further a racist agenda. Allied humans killed millions more humans in the firebombings of cities in Germany and Japan-- almost every major city in those countries, in fact. Then, over the course of little more than a month, more than 210,000 humans would die in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States chose to drop these bombs because they decided a naval blockade would be inconvenient, and would drag on for a few more weeks-- they decided they were unwilling to wait those few weeks, so 210,000 people died.
Inside of Dachau there stood the only statue that has ever chilled me to my bones. It was a simple black iron statue of starved bodies, almost fully two dimensional, with their mouths open and crying. They were welded together in terrifying positions, reaching for heaven or each other. Some were stacked on each other, but an observer could tell that these figures had some last breath of life in them, that they were still waiting for some sort of deliverance. Under the statue there was a plaque which read Never Again.
But it happens every day. It is the thing in our minds that lets us separate one group of humans from another. That separation lets us hit someone else. When developed further, it lets us kill someone else. Then it lets us drop a bomb, or throw a body in a furnace, or twelve million of them. It is the same concept that takes root in the human mind-- that we are human, and they are machine. That we must defend what is important to us, and killing those machines is what is necessary to secure that important thing. These things happened again. They will always happen, unless, as Broyles advises, we understand that love and war emerge from the same place, and that it is only our conscious direction that could ever possibly decide that the one is more prudent than the other.
A Featured Essay for the Autumn 2011 Quarterly Release
by Director Matthew Bishop (Ohio, U.S.A.) and Far East Asia Regional Director Baron Laudermilk (Beijing, China)
Edited by Director Matthew Bishop
The 2012 Foreign Policy Action Plan covers grand strategy and particular policy suggestions for Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and also engages ideas for reforming global governing, judicial, and economic institutions.
Matthew Bishop is the Founder and Director of World Report: The Student Journal for International Affairs, Managing Editor for this release and the chief author of this document. His concentration is in the rhetoric of social and political change. Baron Laudermilk is the Far East Regional Director and Chief Secretary of the journal and a regular staff researcher and writer. His focus is in Chinese government and economy.
28 OCTOBER 2011 – MATTHEW BISHOP
REVIEW: THE SECRET PEACE by JESSE RICHARDSCheck out the website of the author of Secret Peace for updates and discussions
In his recent book The Secret Peace: Exposing the Positive Trend of World Events
(New York: Book and Ladder Press, 2010), Jesse Richards raises many good points, a work which seeks to repaint the telling of world events as something positive and promising rather than negative and foreboding. Mr. Richards brings to light the evidence usually mired in darkness, evidence that suggests we, as a world, are more peaceful and affluent than we ever have been before and, furthermore, that this state of being will sustain itself and compound upon itself so that we are increasingly peaceful and affluent as time goes on. His work reveals an optimism often lost in the hearts of those who work in international politics, and it should give us pause to consider: If, as Richards argues, the world is set on a path toward peace, then how can we make sure we stay on that path? The Secret Peace
asserts that “human imagination, ingenuity, and nobility know no bounds”. It is a correct assertion that is too often forgotten. Let us take a single facet of world peace: nuclear disarmament. People proclaim that nuclear weapons cannot be done away with entirely—that they are as necessary to strategy and politics as food to a starving man. I would counter that three hundred years ago, slaves, in a huge part of the world, were even more necessary to the economic well-being of a slave-using nation than nuclear arms are for strategy today. Nations would say “I will not be the first to jeopardize my economy by taking a moral stance against slavery”, just as nations today might say “I will not be the first to jeopardize my position among the world’s powers by dismantling my nuclear arsenal”. But countries did renounce slavery—all over the world people became the first, and then the second, and then the third—and now slavery consists of illegal human trafficking and labor rings in the peripheral areas of the world. If nuclear weapons can undergo the same process, as many wish it to do, then can the making of war itself undergo a similar process? Can nations begin to accept nonviolent action as the better solution? Mr. Richards assures us that the answer is yes, because there is a change occurring within us as individuals and in our respective societies—it is a change which will ultimately revolutionize the way nations behave with one another and the way humankind interacts with itself.
Media outlets—like individual beings—are more attracted to the dramatic and the emotional than they are to the everyday. They are drawn to traumatic events and so do not expose positive events. Positive events occur every day. Just this weekend I returned from a conference in DC full of people committed to ending genocide around the world, and there have been few moments in my life when I have been so inspired, and no time in my life when I have been so fully surrounded by so many hopeful and determined people. Reporting significant positive events should be just as high a priority as reporting significant negative events, and Jesse Richards reaches this conclusion very early in his book—it is a conclusion we would do well to consider.
For thousands of years people have lived in poverty and in hunger—for the majority of mankind’s existence, in fact, the majority of human beings have survived on the edge of survival. In this particular moment we are faced with some interesting circumstances, as Jesse Richards points out: There are less people in extreme poverty today as a proportion of the world’s population than ever before. Proportionally, there are less deaths by war and less deaths by genocide than during the preceding ages. We hear about atrocities—what we do not hear about is that force which is pushing atrocity off of the stage, the force of world peace that Richards envisions.
It is also true that nonviolence is on the rise. In 1789 even the “loving” Camille Desmoulins could not envision a French Revolution without blood. In that revolution, more than two million French citizens were killed (of a population of only 25-29 million)—and that is not inclusive of the wars with Prussia, Germany, England, and the Napoleonic wars that followed the course of revolution. The American Revolution required a years-long war with the mightiest nation on earth. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 required only a public that demanded change but was committed to nonviolence. Less than one thousand died in that revolution. The Tunisian Revolution was much the same. The current demonstrations in Chile are much the same. The protests in New York City are much the same. It is not that people in the past advocated violence over nonviolence—they did not recognize nonviolence as a viable practice in public and private policy. This has changed very much in the past two hundred years and there is reason to hope that in the following two hundred years the pattern will continue.
The one part of Jesse Richard’s work which should be well-received by anyone intent on changing the world can be found in his Conclusion on pages 342-344. His ten-point plan for mutually promoting peace, development, and justice will resonate with anyone who has worked with humanitarian campaigns in the past. All of his suggestions in this ten-point plan are valid and I urge anyone interested in international policymaking to take them into great consideration. Specifically, his call to reduce arms selling and trafficking on the international stage should be received and implemented immediately—as Mr. Richards says, wars do not begin with people slapping one another on the face. The United States must acknowledge that it is a major player in the world’s wars simply by providing such a huge percentage of the world’s weapons.
These things considered, the skeptic eye will also catch a few questionable things in The Secret Peace
and bring them to attention.
It is very dangerous to presume that recent history can anticipate the fate of the long-term future. It is also dangerous to ignore what Mr. Richards does not mention in his book. Jesse Richards suggests that the media is attracted to the traumatic—but this is, in fact, not the simple truth. They are attracted to emotion, but they are businesses and as such they seek profits. They are also heavily engaged with other business and government groups. Many of the world’s worst atrocities are invisible, and many of the world’s most threatening facts remain untold. People do not act on affairs of which they have not even heard, involving places and events they do not know exist. Consider these truths:
+Less than half of Americans know that the deadliest war since World War II (DRC, c. 1998-present) even happened. Many Americans have not even heard of the DRC.
+Many Americans do not consider genocide as something relevant in the modern world—they are unaware of any genocides except for the Holocaust, and a great many are unaware of the Holocaust.
+Whereas Mr. Richards makes the point that nearly 100,000,000 people died of war and genocide in the 20th century, between 2000-2010 just under 10,000,000 have died of war and genocide—which, although a significant and meaningful change in the percentage
of deaths due to such causes, is not, in real numbers, any different per year. We should also do well to remember that the 1914-1946 period was one of very unusual levels of violence and atrocity and is historically unique among only a few other such periods in world history.
+ Whereas Mr. Richards makes the point that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has decreased, and that in recent years even the real number of those in extreme poverty has decreased, the gap between the extreme poor and the extreme wealthy, and the gap between rich/powerful and poor/weak nations, has expanded exponentially. Since 1700 the gap in power and wealth between the richest and the poorest nation on earth has increased by almost 300x (that’s a sum total of 29,900%).
+ Purchasing power parity among the extreme poor is still dismally low. More than half of the humans that have ever been alive are, in fact, alive today—and India, China, and Brazil all have positive demographic momentum to indicate that by 2050 the world’s population may reach levels of around twelve billion (with the highest estimate of the world’s population by 2100 hovering around 20 billion). Struggles over resources have been increasing and are expected to increase in the future. The worlds most well-versed geopolitical and development theorists have all predicted a world returning to power politics and multi-power resource struggles with water being the most valuable and fought-over resource.
+ Whereas Mr. Richards argues that international laws and conventions are a very certain and definitive step toward world peace, international laws and conventions are in fact effectively useless in the face of international aggression. The UN’s dictates and resolutions are continually ignored around the world at no expense or consequence to the belligerents. The opinions of international courts are seldom heard. The most important warrants issued by the ICC have led to no arrests, or, in the case that they do lead to arrest, have taken many long years and the decline in power of the perpetrator. Meanwhile the most powerful players in the world, many of whom are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, remain altogether untouchable, and those courts that do issue warrants for their arrest quickly find themselves the victims of international scrutiny.
+ Whereas Mr. Richards proclaims that war as a viable political solution to international problems is decreasing in popularity, there have been many times in history when war has fallen from popularity and then risen again, and many times in history where the world’s powers have proclaimed eras of peace only to find that they are followed by war. War is not a permanent situation—and neither is peace. To presume that the world can attain world peace in the coming decades is delusional and dangerous and will only lead policymakers to ignore real potential crises around the globe. The world, as it is, can work toward world peace, but it cannot expect to attain that peace in any certain number of decades—if the struggle is to be won, it must first be accepted as a perpetual struggle.
It is heartening to read a work so set on the path of world peace. To believe that world peace is an attainable goal is to make world peace possible—it is something none of us should reject and all of us should embrace. But to presume that world peace is imminent and natural, something coming in this next century as the obvious product of development, is dangerous. If world peace is to ever be a reality then those familiar with world events must be an always-active part of bringing about that peace. Exposing the trend of positive events, as Jesse Richards does in this great undertaking of a work, is a critical step toward the development of world peace. It should be suggested reading for anyone intensely interested in a well-rounded view on such affairs. But as we must increase our vigilance in regards to positive events, we must also increase our vigilance in regards to negative events—and we must realize that they exist together, that in the modern, globalized world, wealth builds itself upon the ruins of poverty, and peace in one place comes at the expense of war in another place. This is the unfortunate but very real situation in which we live.
While we hold The Secret Peace
in one hand, we must hold in the other the list of those who have died from war and genocide, the list of those who remain without healthy drinking water, the list of those who remain isolated and disenfranchised because of their politics, ethnicity, gender, or religion, and the list of those whose nations are entirely destroyed without making the headlines of a single major news company in the most powerful nation on earth. We must be prepared for a world in which water is the new oil, as today’s experts predict- a world in which twelve, even twenty billion compete for increasingly scare and always-necessary resources. As we enter the next 90 years of the 21st century we need to hold these all together and recognize that while Mr. Richards is correct in arguing that world peace is attainable, and that it in fact might be nearer to us now as a world than it ever has been before, it is still a fragile and far-off thing—and making the mistake of thinking that peace will just come to us will destroy it at once.
28 AUGUST 2011 - MATTHEW BISHOP
The Coming of a Palestinian State: A Summary of Arguments for the Established Independence of Palestine and an Exploration of the Flawed Argument Against that Establishment
1: A Practical Look
Palestine does not require the approval of the UNSC to become a state. The United States is therefore, from a technical point of view, unable to forbid the formation of a Palestinian state. Palestine has embassies and ambassadors around the world at this moment, and many nations already recognize its sovereignty. This September, a majority of the world’s countries will recognize Palestine’s sovereignty and independence in the forum of the United Nations General Assembly. And yet the ever-lethargic United States will not be moved. AIPAC is as strong as ever, and against the vast majority of the world’s populations, the vast majority of the world’s nations, and the vast majority of the dictates of international law, the United States now stands almost entirely alone in proclaiming that Palestine may not hold sovereign status.
The coming of a Palestinian state is not something that the United States has the power to prevent. It is something which will come with the general consensus of everyone and everything from the world’s most powerful nations to its least empowered individuals in every corner of the world. It is therefore inadvisable for the United States to remain in opposition of an independent Palestine, and necessary that the US Congress recognize Palestine as a sovereign state this coming September-- at the latest.
2: A Moral Look
The issues of human rights which revolve around the arguments of Palestine’s sovereignty should be familiar to anyone who keeps up with such events. The label of “sovereign” will, we all hope, grant an ear to those whose complaints have been unheard, the complaints of those Palestinians who are forced to endure violations of their natural rights every day of their lives, people who are born into a life where they must accept that they, as people, are not worth as much as Israelis. Recognizing Palestinian statehood will bolster the legitimate complaints of those who suffer violations of human rights and international law every day. Furthermore, we hope it will bring the crimes of Netanyahu into the open light, crimes which offend Israeli and Palestinian alike, and any other conscious human being.
In summary: From a legal standpoint, the United States is powerless to prevent the coming of an independent Palestine this September. From a moral standpoint, the United States is in fact obligated to recognize an independent Palestine. From a practical standpoint, even should the United States remain fervently opposed to an independent Palestine, an independent Palestine will come all the same—the world has already made up its mind, with or without the United States. It is, then, inconceivable that the United States should refuse to recognize an independent Palestine, and yet the lobbyists and religious zealots behind the opposition remain firm, and hide behind the most vulnerable defense: “we oppose such a unilateral move”.
3: The Argument Against an Independent Palestine
They refer, of course, to the “unilateral move” of Palestinians to proclaim their independence. It is not, in fact, a “unilateral move” when more than four of the almost seven billion of the world’s people and more than 2/3 of the world’s nations proclaim their support for an independent Palestine (as many as 170 of the UN’s 192 nations are expected to proclaim support for a sovereign Palestine, with 2/3 being the lowest estimate). It is not “unilateral” to follow the dictates of international law or the declarations of the United Nations. There is nothing in any way “unilateral” about the Palestinian bid for statehood, and yet pro-Israeli pundits hide behind this fallacy-ridden argument time and time again.
It is “unilateral” to presume that Israeli law may ignore human rights. It is “unilateral” to presume that Palestinian issues can be handled exclusively by an Israeli government. It is “unilateral” to presume that Palestinians have no legitimate voice, and that a coalition of US and Israeli politicians may say what is and is not right for a Palestinian nation.
I might also remind our readers that America’s independence was, in fact, a unilateral movement, and that even if I had simply made up all of these arguments, those who oppose an independent Palestine would do well to take a history class before making such terribly unfounded accusations. They suppose that unilateral movements are inherently unjust. The Palestinian bid for statehood, requiring the majority consent of the world, is the furthest thing possible from “unilateral”, but even were this not true, their bid for statehood could not be regarded as unjust simply for being a unilateral movement—which again, it is not.
4: A Brief Look into the Costs of the US-Israeli Alliance and Why Things Don't Change
The United States has been hiding behind its pro-Israeli arguments for far too long. Religious, political, economic, and strategic interests have all kept the US-Israeli alliance firm. But every moment of this alliance has in fact worked against long-term economic, political, and strategic interests of the United States. This alliance has come at the cost of positive US-Muslim relations in every corner of the world. It has isolated entire segments of the world’s populations. It has caused countries from the poorest to the richest to publicly proclaim the United States as a nation which thinks itself above international law, a nation which has destroyed any idea of human rights. This alliance has cost us more than three billion USD a year. It has cost the lives of dozens of thousands of unarmed Palestinians. It has cost us a potential alliance with the new democratic governments emerging across the Middle Eastern and North African world, democracies which now regard the United States as a backward and tyrannical nation unfit to be trusted. This alliance has manifested in the Taliban, al Qaeda, and an ISI which is more interested in cooperating with a terrorist than with a US Senator. It has manifested in the soul of every person who is raised to hate the United States by being shown video clips of American-made, American-funded bombs on American-made, American-funded planes destroying Palestinian homes, villages, and refugee camps—and then being told the truth: That these planes and bombs are approved year after year by the US Congress, and every year they are used by an Israeli government against an almost-Palestinian-nation which lacks the ability to keep itself alive.
Israel has treated the United States as an inferior: While the United States sends messages to Netanyahu’s Israel time and time again, condemning illegal Israeli settlement policies, Netanyahu, knowing that the United States Congress cannot really stand up against the Israeli foreign lobby, continues with settlement policies. As soon as the US condemns Netanyahu, he issues another statement proclaiming the establishment of more illegal settlements in Palestinian land, and if a US Congressman does not jump up to applaud Netanyahu’s flagrant abuse of power, he or she is attacked by the Israeli lobby.
Meanwhile, Palestinians and Israelis alike live in a world where it is illegal to express social or political dissent, where they are prohibited from gathering in public to protest Israeli policy. They live in a world where if they protest the ambitious designs of the Israeli government, they are more likely to be run over by an Israeli bulldozer and called a “terrorist” than to be remembered by the world as who they were and what they stood for. This is the real cost of our alliance.
In summary of those last two paragraphs: While US Congressmen feel trapped by the Israeli lobby, Palestinians and sympathetic Israelis alike feel just as trapped by their own abusive governments.
We have explored the downsides of the alliance and recognized that its expenses are huge. The arguments against US support of an independent Palestine do not withstand even the most minimal level of scrutiny. There is, furthermore, in fact every reason to support a Palestinian state, from an economic, political, legal, pragmatic, or strategic point of view. Even if all of this were not true—even if this entire essay was, in fact, entirely devoid of truth—it is still plainly impossible for the United States to alone withstand the will of all the other nations and all the other people of the world. Palestine will become a nation. The United States can accept it or not, but to not accept it will be nothing less than another crime added to its record—a crime which the emerging nations of the new Middle East and North Africa will not easily forget—a crime which the imminent Palestine will remember forever.
11 JULY 2011 - MATTHEW BISHOP
A critical look into the US decision to pull back 800,000,000 USD in annual funding to Pakistan. This leaves roughly 1.2 billion USD in US aid to Pakistan per year.
This is a most precarious situation. If Pakistan is not already a failed state, it is very close to becoming one. The recent mob violence in Karachi, which claimed nearly a hundred lives this past weekend, is but one small testament. The greater testaments are the undeniable links between the ISI and Al Qaeda, between the government of Pakistan and the Taliban, and the fact that much of “Pakistan’s land” is not actually controlled, and in some cases not even monitored, by the Pakistani government—these include the most violent of territories in the north and west of the country. Construct upon this backdrop a party of Pakistani people who wish to bring the United States into closer and more harmonious relations, and you have the context for a civil war.
I had a professor of political science and counterterrorism tell me once that he has never seen a nation as close to civil war as Pakistan is now, and that is not a light or arbitrary statement. Much of Pakistan is not controlled by the Pakistani government. Much of Karachi is not even controlled by the government. People who need schools and hospitals regularly go without them, not even aware that there is some central government whose theoretical obligation is to provide those services. There are those in government who want to put more funding in these tribal areas, then there are those who would ignore them. There are those who would embrace the United States, then there are those who would push the US away. There is, almost unanimously, a feeling that United States is too heavily involved and must “back off”, and Pakistanis can unite behind this call. Yet behind this veil of unity there is division. The cutting of US funding brings all of these questions and more to the fore, and the United States would do well to reexamine them all in turn and to consider what they really mean.
We cannot expect that the military and the ISI will not be involved with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They helped create the Taliban, surely as the United States did after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Yet their ties have remained friendly, while ours have evolved into a rivalry. Their cause, often, is one and the same. Meanwhile, there are ISI officers whose second job is that of a trainer at an Al Qaeda camp. We cannot possibly criticize them for “sympathizing” or “being soft” with Al Qaeda when they themselves help train Al Qaeda militants—it does not even begin to make sense. The United States has attempted to thrust a foreign ideology upon Pakistan, and it has been repulsed time and time again.
The United States and Pakistan are enemies operating under the veneer of an alliance. This alliance exists for a reason—it has been maintained, at the great cost of our own US statesmen and at the enormous cost of Pakistan’s President Zardari, so that Pakistan does not devolve into civil war and does not become a failed state. It is critical that this relationship continues, for all of the reasons listed above, and for one more: nuclear weapons.
The closest things to a failed nuclear state that the world currently has are the old satellite states of the Soviet Union. They have seen more Highly Enriched Uranium and Petroleum stolen from their warehouses than any other location on earth. They have the weakest guards for their nuclear storehouses—and this applies to Russia itself as well—oftentimes employing simple security guards at slightly more than minimum wage. Pakistan’s premiere nuclear scientists have sold blueprints in the past to a large number of states, Iran among them. It is the belief of many such scientists that nuclear weapons knowledge belongs to the Dar-al-Islam, the concept of an Islamic world united on some level by culture, religion, and tradition. As such, nuclear weapons are not the property of Pakistan, but the property of Islam.
It was pressure from the United States and other nations which eventually put a halt to this pattern and forced a number of nuclear scientists to resign after selling plans to other nations. Should this occur again, and the United States find itself out of any favor in Pakistan and without the benefit of supplying large quantities of cash on an annual basis, the United States will not have the leverage necessary to demand that this stops. It is not a latent threat—Pakistan’s nuclear program is still very alive and the belief that such knowledge belongs to the entire Islamic world is a common one.
Should Pakistan fall into the full-fledged status of a failed state, its nuclear arms will be up for grabs. That is not just to say that its scientists, programs, resources, and abilities will be up for sale—but to say that the weapons themselves will be just as vulnerable. It is a ridiculous thing to imagine that someone would ever use a fully armed nuclear warhead in this modern age, when they are so devastating and can kill so many. But ridiculous things have occurred before, and only a fool dismisses this as impossible.
The threat of nuclear arms is only one part of the greater equation, into which government-mob, tribal-government, intertribal, and military/ISI-civilian government tensions are constantly tested to near breaking. The United States, like it or not, has played and will continue to play a role in this volatile situation. It will be responsible for the actions it chooses to take—such as withdrawing 800 million USD in annual aid—and answerable to the consequences of those actions. The United States and Pakistan have never been “true” allies, as surely as the United States has never counted Saudi Arabia among its real and more reliable friends. But the very idea of an alliance is something worth maintaining—it is something strong in a country that faces weakness.
When we consider aid to Pakistan, it is usually in terms of military aid for a military alliance. Unfortunately, the military and ISI and among the factions in Pakistani society most hateful toward the United States, and their grip on power cannot bring Pakistan up from the status of a dangerous and failed state, no matter how hard those factions may try. In a series of polls conducted by third-party agencies and documented by terrorism and counterterrorism policy experts (See Gottileb’s Debating Terrorism and Counterterrorism, and also TerrorFreeTomorrow.org) researchers found several things that the people of Pakistan said would make them see the US as a favorable ally: More humanitarian aid, for schools and hospitals, was foremost among those criteria. Many parts of Pakistan receive no aid from their government. If the US intends to curry Pakistan as an ally, the US must first realize that Pakistan, as we think of it, does not exist in many tribal areas. These areas, dangerous in the context of a failed state and requiring only relatively simple investments that do not begin to reach the two billion dollar mark, demand our attention and our aid. They will make much greater use of our tax dollars than the ISI or the military, to be sure—although for stability’s sake we must also continue to help fund the military.
There were other demands from the people of Pakistan: Free trade policies between the US and Pakistan which would allow their economy to grow, easier access to United States visas, and a shift in policy away from Israel and in favor of Palestine. Undeniably, these three changes are in fact changes that our government should make. The hypocritical trade policies of the United States have dire consequences for poorer nations like Pakistan, and bringing those policies to justice in favor of real free trade would go a very long way in US-Pakistani relations (although it would raise an outcry from other nations, who face a similar dilemma when it comes to US relations). Reversing our policy in regards to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine is an unavoidable necessity which would not only revolutionize our relations with Pakistan, but with all of the Dar-al Islam, the entire Middle Eastern world, Indonesia, and the Maghreb. Easier access to visas is a common complaint from many nations, but Pakistani people in particular face enormous challenges in obtaining visas.
In short, to prevent Pakistan from becoming (or remaining?) a failed state, and to play the best part we can in preventing civil war, we must appeal to the real Pakistan, which exists far outside of the government’s reach, while at the same time appealing to the government and continuing to fund the military. It may make us cringe and feel uneasy, as this alliance is not a “natural” alliance, and it seems clear to many that rivalry should exist between us. But if we are to prevent chaos, we must remain calm, and if we are to prevent war, we must act as if we are at peace. The people of Pakistan have their own interests which are openly divergent from the interests of US politicians and strategists, but for the greater interest and the long-term stability of the United States, of Pakistan, and in fact of the world, we must maintain this unnatural alliance even when it seems clear that open rivalry is the only option available.
MAY 20 2011
An Interview with Professor of Terrorism Dr. Marc Scarcelli
The views expressed here are mostly those of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Scarcelli unless explicitly stated.
I. Structural and Strategic Look into Al Qaeda and the Information from Bin Laden's Compound
Despite finding of plans to sabotage US railways and the discovery of large amounts of intelligence, including nine hard drives, in Bin Laden's compound, there is a prevailing view that Bin Laden was not active in commanding Al Qaeda from his home north of Islamabad. Proponents of this second view cite facts like Bin Laden's courier coming and going only once every two months. Dr. Scarcelli shares this views. Bin Laden, Scarcelli proclaims, was essentially "in retirement". Symbolically, he was important-- but that was his greatest role. Yet he did play a role in reducing infighting among the Tehreek-e-Taliban, and with Bin Laden gone an increase in infighting is possible. In any case, operationally, says Dr. Scarcelli, Al Qaeda will be more focused in Yemen, Algeria, and Somalia in the years to come.
Ayman al-Zawahiri cannot become the symbol that Osama Bin Laden was, but he can replace him as the figurehead of Al Qaeda, and probably will. Dr. Scarcelli says, however, that it is probable that the information gained from Bin Laden's compound will lead to Zawahiri's capture or death. In light of the recent attempt on Awlaki's life, it seems plausible to me that the information from Bin Laden's compound did at least lead to a link pointing at Awlaki.
As far as recruitment goes, the death of Bin Laden could be a positive or negative factor-- recruits could join honoring Bin Laden as a martyr, or they could abstain from joining, seeing as Bin Laden was in fact caught and killed by the United States. That is much the same pattern for states-- that is, states may be more reluctant to harbor terrorists, they may resist with more energy, knowing that the United States is willing to violate their sovereignty and is capable of executing quick military missions inside that country. Conversely, a nation could consider that the United States has apparently no regard for state sovereignty and takes ten years to track down its worst enemies, and so hold the United States in lower esteem and in effect be more receptive to terrorists coming in and coopering with the state.
Yet if we throw patterns of state cooperation and recruitment into context, we have to ask how much of an audience Al Qaeda actually enjoys in an age where activists across the Middle East are demanding more moderate and representative governments. Many people have expressed concern that Al Qaeda could "hijack" a revolution-- this concern is perhaps most vivid in Libya-- but the fact remains that the majority of uprisings are directed against the sort of tyranny which Al Qaeda would institute were it to ever assume power as an actual state. The democratic revolutions, in short, are not receptive to Al Qaeda-- and Al Qaeda is not receptive to the revolutions, having recently reiterated its position of being decidedly anti-democratic and against democratic uprisings. Given recent events there is an emerging line of thought stating that if Al Qaeda cannot appeal to a newer, younger, more democratic generation, then they have no future. Yet the political agenda of Al Qaeda cannot be dismissed, at least not the part of its agenda which is in common with the agendas of organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah-- the complaints of these groups should be addressed in conjunction with US support for nonviolent democratic movements which are right now still gaining popularity across the Middle East.
II. Foreign Policy: Palestine
Hamas does not want to enfranchise Al Qaeda. Their mourning of Bin Laden's death was symbolic, and not actual, in that Hamas is still decidedly separate from, unaffiliated with, and at times in open rivalry against Al Qaeda. The issues statements in praise of Bin Laden, Dr. Scarcelli asserts, could, furthermore, actually distance the more Al Qaeda-leaning individuals and thrust more moderate individuals within Hamas into the fore of the political arena. Perhaps inadvertently, Hamas has opened the door to letting their more moderate members gain more clout, and by idolizing Bin Laden has created a separation within themselves. Regardless of to what extent this separation may exist, or of how profound it may be, this is an opportune time for the United States to cater to more moderate individuals within Hamas, to play up the mutual US-Hamas dislike of Al Qaeda, and, furthermore, to support the nonviolent democratic movement within Palestine while at the same time condemning joint Israeli-Palestinian crackdowns of joint Israeli-Palestinian protests, thereby strengthening the political constituency which will be most in favor of an also-strengthened newly-moderate Hamas.
Realistically, Dr. Scarcelli asserts, a U.S. politician cannot criticize Israel and expect to win reelection, even when that criticism is necessary to create a more stable and peaceful environment in the Levant. Yet in light of the recently bridged gaps between Hamas and Fatah, in light of the coming proposed UNSC Resolution this September, and in light of a world which is increasingly aware of the human rights violations committed by Israel and of a moderate Palestinian youth whose protests are nonviolent and aimed at legitimate reform, it seems to me that regardless of "American ignorance", as some have called it, it is time for politicians across the board to step up-- against the lobbyists and the media-- and proclaim their support for measures which will lead to legitimate, peaceful, and lasting reform. The events which have occurred in recent history, during this past year, and in the wake of Bin Laden's death, I think, make this an opportune time to switch gears.
III. Pakistan: Foreign Policy and a Look at Internal Dynamics
Dr. Scarcelli is sure that the ISI and perhaps the military was at very least complicit in Bin Laden's hiding. Many analysts, knowing the circumstances and the evidence surrounding Bin Laden's death, are of the same opinion. The ISI and Pakistani military have been allied with the Taliban for decades. There are, in fact, certain officers within the ISI who also operate as trainers at Al Qaeda camps. As one of the sharpest intelligence networks in the world, it is almost inconceivable that the ISI did not know of Bin Laden's whereabouts.
Of course, that does not mean that the government-- or the president for that matter-- were aware of this. The ISI has the capacity to operate independently of the Pakistani civilian government and could have held this information from them. Given the fact that Bin Laden lived so close to a military school and compound, this is actually a reasonable proposal. It is not unlikely that someone in the government knew, but to suspect that the entire government knew-- and to suspect that the president knew, for that matter-- may be presuming too much. The death of Bin Laden may bring to the surface old rivalries between the military/ISI factions and the civilian government. Pakistan, already a country divided, has become even more heated in light of Bin Laden's death, and more divided than they already were.
For the United States, there are not a lot of options available. It is obvious that letting nuclear Pakistan become a failed state is not a plausible option-- funding cannot be terminated. It would only make bad problems worse. Yet the ISI is unlikely to drastically alter its allegiances. Most recently, Pakistan allegedly released the name of a supposed CIA operative who was directing CIA operation in Pakistan-- and so presumably oversaw the SEALS operation. That, Dr. Scarcelli says, was Pakistan's way of getting back the United States, however meaningless it may be in comparison. Yet for the United States, Dr. Scarcelli agrees, there is little one can do-- except avoid being naive about the issues surrounding Pakistan. The ISI and many military factions may be decidedly anti-United States; yet that does not mean that the US does not have any audience inside the Pakistani government. It does suggest, in any case, that as suspicious as we were before this incident, we should be more suspicious after it. At the same time we should try to ensure that the divisiveness inside Pakistan does not disintegrate into civil war-- we cannot, therefore, marginalize any large sector of the military or ISI.
Dr. Scarcelli also brings up that fact that it seems almost impossible that Pakistan is uninvolved with the Afghanistan drug trade, the prosperity of which is in part due to the lengthy conflict in that country. In a sense, one might conclude, the longer violence reigns in Afghanistan, the longer Pakistan will have an economic incentive to be complicit in that violence-- and again there are factions loyal to the Taliban and factions loyal to Al Qaeda. Violence in Afghanistan, however, cannot simply be solved with an influx or a withdrawal of troops.
The optimists are hailing Bin Laden's death as the end of Al Qaeda. The decentralized network, now without its most central figurehead and in the midst of the Arab Spring, will be unable to sustain itself and largely disabled. Dr. Scarcelli, along with a great many scholars, refutes this. Al Qaeda does not require the nod from Bin Laden-- Al Qaeda is a network of cells trained with the capacity to operate independently. Furthermore, Al Qaeda does not even require a central command-- the influence of Al Qaeda is enough to gain recruits who sometimes will act on their own, without even having been trained. Bin Laden's death, in the most real view, is perhaps entirely symbolic-- in which case we must consider that symbolic acts can have real and lasting effects. Yet the events and circumstances surrounding his death merit our attention, in that on many stages they have the capacity to change the way we do act-- or change the way we should act-- toward certain actors around the globe. Now is not the time to dismiss the legitimate political demands of terrorist groups aiming to enfranchise themselves in a larger, more stable political process, and to proclaim unilaterally the death of terrorism. Now is the time to continue the crackdown on Al Qaeda while working to trim down their base of support and their capacity to recruit by seriously reconsidering the way we act on the international stage-- that is an effort which will not only lead (hopefully) to the demise of Al Qaeda, but also to a peaceful and stable environment in Palestine.
Concerning Pakistan, however, it is not entirely possible to bridge the gaps, nor is it necessarily plausible to even talk of such things, until a large variety of internal factors work themselves out, and that is another discussion entirely. As for Pakistan, the most that the United States can do is to continue funding (while monitoring the appropriation and application of that funding) in support of stability, and to address the issues of Afghanistan and Pakistan as inter-related and at times conjoined.