The Nature of Fascism and Democracy

Mark Mazower (FT “Fascism revisited” 14 April 2018) labors through a number of books on the ideology of fascism in your Weekend issue. As he notes, a variety of social movements in the past have been described as fascist that were ideological composites of left and right. One should recall that Mussolini had been a socialist, a member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party from which he was expelled for promoting intervention in WWI. He opposed ideas of egalitarianism and class struggle and believed he created a form of corporate capitalism based on national identity that transcended the political philosophies of the 19th and 20th centuries. In many ways, Mussolini’s frustration and rejection of the current politics of his time is reflected in the confused attempts of the authors of the 5 books Mr. Mazower reviews, to make sense of what has happened in the last half of the 20th century. They also display problems in definition.
Finchelstein’s focus on the failures of democracy is a retreat from the difficulties of understanding forms of democracy: direct democracy vs constitutional monarchical democracy as in the UK, or representative democracy as in the USA or one party democracy as in the USSR. Albright and Riemen believe fascism and popularism are linked as is their view of democracy but in both cases they cannot make a clear case for what is popularism and when it is fascist or democratic or if fascism can be democratic. Is the suppression of millions of African Americans, or slaves on English plantations around the globe in the 18th and 19th centuries a form of democracy as in Athens when slaves were common? Is inequality a necessary component of democracy and fascism? Riley and Hett both describe the collapse of governments and the rise of the control of society by militant groups but what makes a society based on law when every society has forms of law legitimized by state power? Once Hitler was in power was it a nation ruled by law, whose law is legitimate is the central question in how a society is structured and how consent is given. Is depriving thousands of Loyalist American colonists the right to vote on separation democracy, or the seizure of power from a “democratically elected government” in a coup by pro-EU forces in Ukraine democracy? Were Juan Person’s descamisados democracy in action? Is the anarchist idea of complete consensus true democracy or is that really the tyranny of the few who refuse to agree?
We are left with the ethnic Greek, Roman citizen Polybius’ scheme of social evolution. Power devolves through the disintegration of consent and the demonstration of failure, so that a society moves from democracy to aristocracy to oligarchy to monarchy and back to democracy. The central question is who owns society and what is the nature of the validity of the control of social institutions. If we note that in ancient Greece a general idea was that the people owned society and, in theory, the surplus of production and the spoils of war were the property of the polis to be used for public good, then that seems a communist idea, but it is rather in practice a communal ideal. If klans or lineages conquer the state and form an armed unit to dominate its institutions, they then own the state. The same is true for an oligarch or king. In the overthrow of a tyrant the mass of the people regain ownership of the state and their participation in control of its institutions is demonstrated by their use of its wealth and power. Whether we call this communism or fascism is immaterial. Whether the agents of change use symbols of communism or fascism from the past or simply national identities is a detail. Mussolini rejected the idea of class struggle as weakening a nation and national identity as a vehicle for social progress. The main problem in all of this is: what are the goals, what programs do “populists” or fascists have? If people can call Venezuela’s president a fascist, or Hungary’s Orban a racist and nationalist and Trump and Putin fascists though they all got elected, then what is the quality of democracy we are missing? What percentage of America’s African Americans have to be prevented from voting or voting districts become so gerrymandered before we can no longer recognize the outcome as that of a democratic society? If Stalin’s USSR, Erdogan’s Turkey or Xi’s China are authoritarian states, can an America formed by less than 5% of the adult male population (who voted for the Constitution and union) by design of the few who organized the election as Charles Beard has noted) with hundreds of thousands of slaves be a free country with democratic principles?
Perhaps it is time to bury the terms “fascism” and “popularism” and instead attempt to define what we mean in practice for there to be a consensus of a functioning and healthy democracy.

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Has the Fed’s expansion of capital only driven speculation? And are we really in a asset-driven recession?

 

 

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that US bank deposits have soared as the Federal Reserve has “printed money” (increased liquidity) since 2007 (see chart from the Financial Times Oct. 3rd 2017). Data from the US Census demonstrates that the U.S. trade deficit has expanded since 2008 (see chart). This appears to support ideas that stock market growth is limited to speculation in a few large companies and non-productive unprofitable entities like Uber. Data from the Small Business Administration shows that loans to small businesses have declined, while large companies have off-shored profits like Apple.

Chart 1

Chart 2

 

  • This is a complex and frustrating problem. Add to this the 2015 article by Jacobs and Shivdasani in Harvard Business Review “Do you know your cost of capital?” and found that about 80% of major businesses use discounted cash flow analysis or “the wrong cost of debt, tax rate or both.” So we find that if this extends beyond the sample survey of 300 companies, a vast number of firms are exposed to significant risk at present.

 

  • I might add that a report by Credit Suisse has found that retail store closings are at an all time high. If one also looks at the historical view (see Phil Wahbra, May 31 2017) massive increases in store closings have occurred during the recent recessions but are dwarfed by 2017 figures (see Chart 3). While ecommerce has been increasing, the increase over the same period has been modest (see chart 4). Combined with wage stagnation and low reinvestment the current situation looks like a recession with only equities showing improvement some what like the run up to the 1938 collapse, but with a number of twists, due to the global financial system, massive off shore holdings of cash and mountains of debt.

 

Chart 3

Chart 4

  • Germany has reported a reduction in government debt for the first time in more than two decades (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 5 January 2018). It is unlikely the USA could weather a Chinese recession at this time, should the Chinese need to call in US debt. The only solution would be a forgiveness of this debt by China or a repeat of the 19th century crisis that led to western invasions (Caldararo, 2017).

 

Caldararo, Niccolo, “Fear of China: Economic and Political Challenge in the 21st Century: A Pacific Society, Weapons, Roots and Trends,” Asian Journal of Social Science Studies; Vol. 2, No. 4; 2017:1-12.

ISSN 2424-8517 E-ISSN 2424-9041

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Free Speech, Berkeley 1964 and Democracy

There has been considerable debate on the issue of free and appropriate speech in the media lately, especially regarding the issue of free speech on the Berkeley, California campus in the 1960s and the nature of democracy. Much of this has been rather confused on the issues. We should recall that free speech in a modern context grew up in the struggle for the freedom to think what one wanted. The term, “protestant” originally meant “I protest,” as thousands of people struggled to express themselves without being punished as heretics.

We should try and keep these articles and letters in historical perspective.  It is certain there has been a lack of freedom of speech among African Americans and Native Americans in our history.  The American union movement suffered violent suppression of the right to assemble and of speech in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In our more recent history, one should note that the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley began with the suppression of the freedom of students and their clubs to place tables on Sproul Plaza and hand out informational flyers on campus.  In 1964 I was a member of the Young Republicans for Goldwater and we had a table on campus.  We had come into conflict with the Young Republicans for Scranton/Rockefeller in the spring before the Republican convention in San Francisco.  Attitudes and anger often boiled over.  Later, campus Christian missionaries clashed with members of the campus Socialist Workers’ Party.

As tensions escalated and the fallout of the convention gelled, the campus was inundated with political activity as the fall semester began.  As usual there was the arrival of new students and their families, but also the diversity of the campus brought conflicting ideas and images.  One was a group of bongo players whose presence began the effort by the administration under Clark Kerr to tame the appearance of the campus.  More detail can be found in a book by Max Heirich (The Beginning: Berkeley, 1964, Columbian University Press, 1970).  The university administration, responding to student complaints, those of rightwing conservatives outside of the campus community and threats from conservative members of the Regents was forced to take action.

It was argued that the political organizing, recruiting of new members for campus groups as diverse as clubs, frats, the US Army, voter registration and socialists and communists, did not belong on campus.  At first it was proposed no one could have a table to recruit or pass out political literature. Then we were banned from expressing our preferences and political ideas along with political groups like socialists and communists as well as religious groups.  Almost everyone who had had tables on Sproul Plaza joined together  to form the Free Speech Movement and thousands of students joined us.  The Regents argued we did not have political rights as students and this become the first mass student civil disobedience event.  We held teach-ins to discuss the situation regarding law and then professors and students held classes in the Administration Building.  For their violation of the ban on political activity some students were detained by campus police, and a sit-in began which led to the occupation of the administration building. The refusal of the Regents to recognize free speech led to the violent attack on the students by police on the night of December 4th 1964. So if we are to refer to free speech on the Berkeley campus we have to start with the fact that in 1964 there was none, we were arrested for trying to have free speech on campus.

We can revisit other examples:  During the San Francisco State Student Strike in 1968 the San Francisco Police invaded the Daily Gater student newspaper breaking down its door and destroyed its equipment, files and furniture.  They claimed they had received a call there were weapons stored there.  None were found.  Or where Peter Camejo, a leader of the Anti-war movement in Oakland and Berkeley and later a founder of the Green Party, was detained by the Oakland Police in the middle of the night before he was to address a major anti-war march in the 1970s.  One can also note the way the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue blockaded Planned Parenthood offices in the 1980s, intimidating and preventing women with appointments from attempting to enter the clinics.  The violence of this group and its tactics led to murders of doctors and bombings of clinics.  What of the free speech of the women who wanted Planned Parenthood’s services or of the doctors and nurses who worked there?

While I certainly support the right to free speech I do not see hate speech as acceptable.  When people espouse murder, slavery and the degradation of other citizens, we must recognize that is violence and not speech.

I take offense by Foroohar’s statement that some professors in “the past few years” who did not “spout the party line” were not allowed to lecture on campus.  Such lack of fact is a general problem today, but does she know of how many people lost their jobs in American universities over rumors they were communists, socialists or anarchists? Has she ever heard of the loyalty oaths people were forced to sign to keep their jobs in the 50s and 60s?  In California, the Levering Act was passed in 1950 and 31 professors  lost their jobs in that  year because of it. In 2008 California’s loyalty oath for all employees caused a Quaker to sue.  Other states have similar oaths.

One cannot defend the right of paid propagandists like Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos to speak as part of an intellectual exercise to widen the scholarly environment of the Berkeley campus.  Their ideas are clearly dogma and historically aligned with the agency of discrimination, sexism anti-semitism, white supremacy, racism and National Socialism.  Do we have room for these ideas to be taught on campus?  Would we allow Hitler or Saddam Hussein to speak, would Bannon support bringing Kim Jong Un on campus?  What these people are doing, under the cover of the idea of free speech is making a mockery of democracy.

 

Niccolo Caldararo

 

See:

Morris, Arval A., “Academic freedom and loyalty oaths,” Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 28, No. 3, Academic Freedom (Summer, 1963), pp. 487-514

“Black lists and loyalty oaths,” Science News, v. 97, n. 2, Jan. 10, 1970:36-7

http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/loyaltyoath/

“Pacifist Cal State teacher gets job back,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2008

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Uber, Taxis, Buses and the Big Ripoff

Madhumita Murgia’s article on Uber’s appeal for a licence to operate in the city of London in the Financial Times “Uber files appeal against cancelling of London licence,” 14 October 2017), addresses the issue if the company is “fit” to operate there. I would urge the Transport for London board to carefully study the effects this company and other “ride hailing” schemes have had elsewhere.  Even though such providers of transportation use the internet there is nothing different about the service except the helplessness of its drivers and their willingness to exploit themselves.  Like people who rent out their rooms via Airbnb, the edge of homelessness has grown ever wider in the digital age.  How did we get here, will a long history of taxi wars pitting rival gangs of “gypsy cabs” against each other and the police and the suppression of illegal and unlicensed buses (once called “gitneys” here), “Venture capitalists,” who disdain laws (like taxes as Leona Helmsley (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leona_Helmsley) once said, which are for the “little people” armed a force of lawyers to exempt their attack on taxis and the City’s bus service.  With the vision of a world without unions, where people buy their own tools (cars for taxis) and hand over the profits of their work (minus gas and food) to their wealthy owners, Uber’s inventors have demonstrated how to undermine not only unions, city taxes and any responsibility for the effects of their business.  If you do not like my version below you can go to Heather Smith’s which is more complementary to Uber and Lyft at: http://grist.org/business-technology/the-secret-history-of-the-taxi-wars/ see also the article at the end on regulation in Chicago).  It is remarkable.   But let’s look at the consequences first.
A study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority found that 6.5% of the weekday vehicle miles in the city were due to Uber and Lyft drivers, over 570,000 miles daily (see Carolyn Said, “Uber and Lyft cars flood SF streets,” SF Chronicle, June 13, 2017). Getting information from Uber has been difficult for cities and San Francisco has had to sue the State for traffic data supplied under statute to state agencies; but Uber has blocked release of it claiming it as confidential data (see Joe Rodriguez, “SF wants ride-hail traffic data from state,” SF Examiner, 13 April, 2017). City agencies have reported more than 45,000 Uber or Lyft drivers in the city creating a daily increase in congestion with most coming from out of town.
While Uber is yet to make a profit, it has a substantial financial backing allowing it to continue to undercut taxi service and mass transportation while paying no tax to the city. Uber and Lyft have been found to be draining riders from not only taxi service (which pays tax) but from mass transit (Carolyn Said, “Uber, Lyft reduce use of public transit , study finds,” SF Chronicle, Oct 11, 2017). The result of this, while draining public funds from transit service, has been to clog the streets with their cars increasing traffic, blocking streets while picking up or delivering passengers or waiting for fares.
A separate study by the SF Police Department found that Uber and Lyft drivers have been responsible for over two-thirds of all traffic violations in the city of San Francisco (see Rodriguez, Joe, “Uber and Lyft account for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown,” SF Examiner, 25 Sept. 2017).
It would seem to a reasonable person that these are negative impacts and should not be rewarded with a licence to operate in London or any venue. The TfL, however, will likely find itself mired in a considerable legal swamp by Uber. An article in the SF Chronicle by Matier & Ross (“S.F. Traffic Planners missed ride hailing” July 3, 2017) regarding S.F.’s Municipal Transportation Agency’s failure to deal effectively with “ride hailing” or Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber, beggars belief. One need only refer to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) press release of Sept. 19th 2013 which announces the CPUC authority and regulations on TNCs. Not only was this information sent to interested parties in the state (and certainly was received by the MTA, but the taxi companies and unions complained of the TNCs as illegal. The CPUC had sent cease and desist orders to Uber and other TNCs in Oct of 2012 this information was widely disseminated (see for example: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/10/08/ride-sharing-startups-get-california-cease-and-desist-letters/#fdcb551d3fc1). If the CPUC was aware of the TNC’s violation of taxi rules, then certainly the SFPD, which is involved in regulating taxis, should have notified the SFMTA; obviously someone did notify the CPUC. However, the very fact that somehow Uber was able to operate without a licence where strict enforcement of illegal or gypsy” taxis was quite effective is still a mystery.

Niccolo Caldararo, Ph.D.
Dept. of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

The Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
The Regulation of Taxicabs in Chicago
Author(s): Edmund W. Kitch, Marc Isaacson and Daniel Kasper
Source:
The Journal of Law & Economics,
Vol. 14, No. 2 (Oct., 1971), pp. 285-350
Published by: The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business,
University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School
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Reparations and Terror

While no one would be so foolish as to suggest there are any historical connections between the colonial enterprise of European countries and contemporary terrorism, it seems relevant to review the problems of reparations in light of the recent attempt of the German government to assuage the lingering animosity of former colonies by direct payments.  Germany completed negotiations on this issue with agreement on payment to the Namibian government for the killing of some 65,000 Herero tribes people during the colonial occupation in 1905.
Dr. Dambisa Moyo has described the post-colonial aid of European former colonial countries as not only unhelpful, but motivated by self-interest in the maintenance of paternalist relationships and to protect the assets of the former colonial investors.  She and other scholars have also argued that aid has created institutional corruption and unstable government.  It would be difficult to argue that current economic and political crises in the former colonies are not traceable to colonial polices, or that internal strife is not related to the colonial borders.  Yet it is natural for people to desire intervention as a means of relieving immediate economic crises, civil wars and environmental disasters.
It would seem obvious that some mechanism is necessary that can avoid past problems, yet even where money exists that should be available for development or education as in the case of the Gaddafi fund where disagreements with the institutions holding the funds, and the secret nature of their location, continue to block their use as described by Shane Harris in a 2015 Daily Beast article (http://www.thedailybeast.com/hell-tell-you-where-to-find-gaddafis-missing-billionsif-he-gets-his-cut) see also
, and Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/may/16/gaddafi-insider-accused-of-using-state-cash-to-buy-luxury-scottish-hotels) or ,in the Telegraph in 2013.
Perhaps doing by nothing more to try and create a constructive resolution of post-colonial problems things will just get better on their own. However, if we see the current wave of terror as an extension of the repercussions of colonialism, from Mau-Mau to al-Qaida to ISIS, then attempting a new solution would be appropriate. Creating opportunities for millions of young people across the globe who have little to look forward to and live in conditions that degrade advancement could be part of a solution. Therefore, I propose a tax on corporations, family wealth and individuals who profited from colonial rule.  This would be a kind of reparation, a kind of forced  philanthropic fund that should be substantial, something like 10% of the wealth currently held in both corporate assets, family funds (of all kinds) and distributed wealth (e.g., to charities like churches).  This fund could then be administered by the UN and people in former colonies, especially African nations and those whose ancestors suffered slavery and now live in the New World could apply for educational support, financial investment or their own ideas of community development.  While this might result in some degree of fraud, it could hardly rise to the level of rapine that European colonial countries visited upon the world.
It would not be difficult to trace the money.  Like the sleuthing that uncovered escaped Nazis after WWII, or that has discovered tax cheats in the Panama Papers,dedication, skill and time would be necessary, but technology would make today’s search easier.

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Western Threats Against China: Revisiting the Opium Wars

Gideon Rachman’s article reviewing several books in this weekend’s FT (“The Struggle for Asia,” 1April 2017) informs us as to how little has changed in western scholarship regarding China in the past two decades. 

   Rachman begins with Graham Allison’s “Thucydides Trap” theory.   If we examine the theory, however, it immediately falls into ruins.  If the war between Sparta and Athens was caused by Athens’ fear of the rise of Sparta it would come as a surprise from reading Thucydides’ history and that of Herodotus, Aristotle and Xenophon.  In these histories (most Western historians, except a precious few like Toynbee, ignore the Spartan historians though most of their writings like those of Sosibius are lost or simply fragments of a few passages) we find Athens building a political and economic empire.  Their raiding the coast of Asian Minor and desecration of the temples of the cities they sacked, caused the Persians to desire revenge.  That can be seen as the reason for the invasion of Greece under Darius and Xerxes and the defense of Greece by the Spartans (and other Greeks) at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E.
   It was such disregard for honor and humanity that led to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.E.).  Athens built her empire on ruthless trading policies and conquest that threatened all of the independent Greek cities.  Sparta became the leader of the free cities against Athenian hubris and growing arrogance.  In the end, Athenian greed and corruption resulted in her defeat.  Most European historians have found in the Athenians a reflection of their own history, imperialists, mercantilists and slave owners.
   To bring this into a contemporary context one can see the parallel, but it is the obverse of the Greek situation, the US and the European powers have conquered and dominated the globe for 4 centuries.  Their power was broken in two great civil or tribal wars in the 20th century where Europeans and the Americans wasted their treasure and people in years of massacre.  Now in the shadow of that disaster the west fears those it oppressed.  That is only natural, but it is not a consequence of what Dr. Allison’s theory predicts.  It is an entirely eurocentric view of the world.
The views of Howard French, Michael Green, Tom Miller and Bernard Cole are all in the same vein.  The lack of historical context is remarkable, how can one talk of China’s response to the west without noting the colonial war Europe brought to the world?  Here Green is the only stand out.  One must recall that trade up to the mid 19th century with China had drained Europe, and especially England of its silver and was causing a serious economic crisis.  China bought little from Europe, like the past 3 decades, and yet Europe was buying Chinese wares and becoming a debtor.  The solution in the 19th century was first an attempt to swamp China with opium and then when the Chinese blocked this, European armed forces invaded, resulting in the defeat of China and a near century of looting the nation.  In 1903 England invaded Tibet on a similar pretext based on the idea the Russians were going to do it anyway.
Rachman’s comments on Japan follow a similar path of inevitability which Allison’s theory predicts, though masks the actions of the USA in Asia, as his theory distorts and overlooks those of Athen’s in Asia Minor over 2,600 years ago.  While Japan had closed her borders to the west after the arrival of Europeans like Fernao Mendes Pinto and the two Embassies to Europe by Japan in the early 16th century, her attempt at ignoring the threat as China had,  saved her from the contamination of her people by contact with western values.  When forced to open to the west by the USA, the Japanese immediately saw their only survival in becoming like the Europeans and Americans and to avoid being like  those non-European peoples who were colonized and enslaved.  Seeing how Europeans treated non-Europeans was central to this transformation (see my article, “The Origins of the Nation-State in Japan: Destruction of Militant Buddhism and Western Contact of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Implications for the Concept of the State,”American Studies Eurasian Perspective 2016; 1(2): 87-98, DOI: 10.15340/2147349812964 ).
Japan’s rise only took place at China’s defeat and dismemberment at the hands of Europeans. Japan in the late 19th century was unconquered or colonized, a rare position for a non-European people.  They embarked on a program of establishing themselves as equal to European powers then contending for China’s resources.  Japan in 1900 was the only non-European power in the world and its existence was only recognized after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.  As Japan attempted to seize colonies for itself to model its nation as a European colonizer it was threatened by the western nations who saw Japan as a threat to its colonies.  Here the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 was a product of this fear, yet the demonstration by the Japanese in their destruction of the Russian navy in the East and its armies, showed that they could act as a powerful force in a European manner.
After World War I Japan offered that all world powers give up their colonies and  a policy of respect for all peoples be accepted by the victors at Versailles.  Rejected, Japan went on to its earlier program of mimicking European colonial interventions and a decade later, to the Mukden Incident in Manchuria.  This led to the protest of the Allied powers and the 5 Powers Treaty which was ostensibly about disarmament (even as the conference was taking place the USA was building 10 major warships) but really forced on Japan to protect European spheres of influence.  Not satisfied and wanting to preserve western control the USA called another meeting, the 9 Power Treaty, to force Japan out of China.  Billed as a means to protect China which was already divided up, there was no change except Japan exited Shangtung Province and Siberia.
If the west wants to avoid conflict with China then there should be an effort to avoid the last consequence of western debt with her.  In 1839 the west could have worked on a constructive resolution to the silver drain to China and Britain’s mounting liabilities there.  Instead Britain choose war.  Today we find China (and German) accused of currency manipulation when the real problem is a lack of productivity in the west.  While we hear so much about American creativity, we see a crisis of the economy that threatens world peace.

 

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Brexit, Nationalism and Democracy

In the 21st century it is perhaps naive to expect politicians to avoid myth and illusion, yet the campaign for Brexit and commentary after its conclusion and results can be characterized as such. Claims of historical precedent and constitutional basis have tumbled together with a mix of sheer ideological cant to produce the confusion we see in the media. The situation is certainly a crisis, with officials in Northern Ireland and Scotland calling for their own exit from the UK. British citizens are looking to accomplish their own individual exit by gaining Irish passports (Vincent Boland, “British citizen swamp Ireland with passport applications, Financial Times 28 June, 2016). There are calls for new referendum and their are constitutional questions, especially regarding sending the results to parliament and whether it is a binding referendum or if the devolved government can block it. But their this calls into question what is the nature of sovereignty in the UK? Since there is no formal constitution, it appears there is a de facto process that has evolved and places sovereignty in the hands of Parliament. Do the people of the UK not understand their history or are they such strangers to their government that they cannot perceive the nature of it? Most arguments in the FT over the past months of the campaign over Brexit, and the last few days since the vote, have focused on money, on the costs of Brexit, but the essential and most important issue is sovereignty.
A book by Richard Tuck (The Sleeping Sovereign, 2016) and the review of it by Paul Sagar (TLS, “Of the People, for the People”) address examples of this problem on a larger scale for Anglo-Americans. Dr. Tuck sets up a dichotomy between the myth of democracyof ancient Athens and the illusion of the effects ofthe Girondin during the French Revolution. He also relies on the metaphysics of Hobbes who invoked a Gnostic-like view of the sleeping sovereign. Rather, we can look to Polybius whose examination of Roman and Greek government and history produced a useful model for the transitions of human society (given Western cultural foundations) from democracy, aristocracy and tyranny. Giambattista Vico built on this model adding an examination of institutions and their elements in the process of government and corruption modifying Cicero’s views, while Douglas North and Amitai Etzioni recently have spend substantial energy studying the role of rules.
The first problem is typical of European historians who saw in the Athenians their image. This was to be expected as the Athenians hadslaves, created and empire and refused participationin law and government to women. So any question of democracy has to begin withassumptions of who this democracy is for. The same problem plagued the partisans of revolution in America, there was seldom presented any ideaof freedom or democracy for African slaves in thenation and the country’s institutions were framed toignore or prevent that participation. The same can be said for the role of women.
Often discussions of Athenian government are contrasted with ideas of Spartan life, but its history was written (with few exceptions, as that of Xenophon) by her enemies. Like Athens she had a representative government, the Ephors represented the mass of the people, elected “kings”and the various classes fought together, even the supposed state slaves, the Helots, who Toynbee questioned being slaves at all.
But European historians have generally seen Athens as the perfect representation of the combination of capitalism and empire, yet her greed and brutality was factors in her defeat at the hands of “communistic” Sparta. Yet how does this inform us of the nature of sovereignty in the UK? There is a considerable debate on this issue, for example, while there is no British constitution, or one that was voted on ever in the UK, there are scholars who argue that one has been given assent by indirect means. See: Turpin, Colin; Tomkins, Adam (2007). British government and the constitution: text and materials.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The nature of the initiative and referendum is idealized by both Sagar and Tuck, it is remarkable that both seem to forget that the U.S. Constitution was ratified by a vote and that many people, including Franklin were opposed to the way it was undertaken. Charles Beard estimated (in his 1913 book) that less that 5% of the American population was involved in the poll. The time allowed for farmers to reach polling places and to qualify to vote limited participation. Slaves could not vote nor women and there were states limitation on voting rights, some based on property or wealth. All 13 states ratified by election by 1790. Again the question is who is the process designed to engaged in democratic institutions?
Certainly the American framers of the Constitution were affected by events in France during the French Revolution, and efforts were made to fashion American institutions so that it would be more stable. Yet, stable for whose benefit? Yet the Girondin had little effect in this, or in latter efforts to create democratic states, the authors of the revolutions of 1848 as Patricia Robertson has noted in her comprehensive book, were more influential in this development. But for the UK, the confrontation at Runnymede that created the Magna Carta was led by a group of rebel barons and was to be governed by a council of them, not for all people in the British Isles. It was annulled by Pope Innocent III and led to the First Baron’s War and to a final confrontation that produced a stripped down version by King Henry III. Later it was established by treaty at Lambeth in 1217. But as time went on confrontations and violations continued until the Civil War when the victorious Parliament seized power by force of arms. Does that power define sovereignty in the UK today? If so, then the referendum is only an exercise in advice and not one of determination.
California has had a referendum and initiative process since the Progressive era and yet today it is largely dominated by big business to subvert legislation passed by the representatives of the people. Therefore, the question facing the UK today is not Brexit, but the nature of government. Can sovereignty be exercised by the people directly, and thus as Tuck argues, is the UK governed by the people, is it a democracy or is it a representative government?

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There are no kings in Basque Country

An Acquaintance sent me this story. I find it quite compelling in the times we live in, yet strangely hopeful.
THERE ARE NO KINGS IN BASQUE COUNTRY
1
Once when I was a child my grandfather, took me to Gernika to see Gernikako Arbola, the tree of the Basque people. It was at the time when chaos had engulfed the world, before the Order and the Voice had come. He had said that in each person’s life things seemed normal, even war, as all things become normal in time and people come to adjust to how they are. The tree, he had said, represented the people, the branches and the leaves, the families, the trunk, the history and the roots were the past of generations unknown, when to be a Basque came into being. The Basque must be thankful for those in that past who made being Basque.
From time to time I came across books about the Basque, like Mark Kurlansky’s the History of the World According to the Basque, where the Basque fierce independence and democracy are central to their story. Other books, like Roger Collins’ The Basque, describe the mists that cover the obscure origins of this people. Then there was the Movie, To Die In Madrid, which depicts the fight of the Basques against fascism. It seemed horrific when the Nazis purposely bombed the Gernikako Arbola and the town of Gernika. But from an acorn a new Gernikako Arbola grew and the Nazis were no more. I kept these ideas as a foundation to understand my own origins and path in the world.
Things changed when my grandfather was a child, from a time when there were nations and those nations made of people who traded and fought as groups. My great grandfather was Chinese, born in Buenos Aires, but raised in Chicago. He married a Native American woman in New Orleans. He came to France with the American army in WWII and stayed in Bayonne as a civilian. He married a woman from Carcassone whose mother was a Tuareg from Mali and her father a man of Langue d’oc. My grandfather had been educated in Macao but worked in Japan where he married a woman of Okinawa. They had returned to Bayone to care for my great grandfather. My father lived in the Philippines and married a woman from Luzon. My wife is a woman from southern India, a vet who specialized in small animals.
But when my grandfather became a man the world became the prisoner of sects and fanatics who joined to destroy borders of nations and differences in beliefs. They set fire to all things that displeased them and murdered those with whom they disagreed. Yet this caused war and destruction so that weapons of all kinds were used, including nuclear ones and violent swarms of fanatics covered the earth until there were no farms or factories. The earth became a wasteland.
Globalization – civilization of the modern era, had brought us to this place, where the contributions of millions of minds had opened great vistas of possibilities, but with it came a terror of certainty so unrelenting that the light of the world faded and the way of being human was lost.
In this wasteland of violence rose one group who enslaved all others and swept the continents of disorder until there was only one nation, the Order and the Voice. The Basque did not succumb to this terror or the fundamentalism that drove it, but remained within their countries. My grandfather had come there with his sister and wife, and he told of travelling across their roads where people did not live as in other cities, where the buildings had been destroyed and the roads and highways were now places filled with shacks, as in Medieval Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Basque kept their roads clear, their cities tidy and they kept farming and making things. It was, my grandfather had said, as if most people on the earth had listened to a song and become mad, but the Basque could not hear the song and so kept being Basque. They met the crisis by meeting and discussing the evidence, each person a voice, no leader, no chief, only a stream of individuals examining the cosmos together. It was as if the mists of the past still surrounded the Pyrenees, mists so old they still recalled the days before the coming of man, before there were Basques. Then there were no Basque, only people, then they became Basque.
There were refugees who came to Basque country, as they had always, to learn Basque and be. And some could stay and be productive and Basque country grew into what had once been the lands of Gascogne after the fall of the Roman Empire, and to Catalonia and the Cantabrias, for there were no people there, and Barcelona was a ruin. The Basque never had kings, were perhaps matriarchal and are said to never have conquered others. They tended their garden, though were often forced to fight for others to survive, in the Roman Armies, and in the service of the Visigoths and Franks. There were no mountains among them, no leaders who dominated the landscape of a nation, not in the pass where Roland fell or in the blood soaked fields of the Ring of Iron before the fall of Bilbao in the Civil War. “It goes,” said the woman who sold flowers in the market in San Sebastian, ” from large to small and back again, it grows but stays the same. ‘That’s not progress, and does not make history for a nation,” they say. She shrugged. There is a place in your heart that is carried across the generations. Whether it be in Spain or America, Russia or Australia. You come to a clearing in the forest and you know you are home. That is “Basque country.” It is your country, because you are there.
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To the rulers of the Order and the Voice the existence of Basque country was, at first, an opportunity. They bought food and manufactured goods. But the Basque would not sell them weapons, vehicles, ships or airplanes. Those that existed outside Basque country were breaking down as there was no education or training in the chaos of the Order and the Voice. Teaching and learning were forbidden to them, there was only subjection and taking, knowledge was evil to them. Eventually the Order and the Voice sent its armies against the Basque and the Basque defeated them, but then more came by the 100s of thousands, month after month until the Basque were driven to their mountains. Then the storm seemed to lessen, week by week the numbers of attackers fell until what had been a torrent became a stream and then only stragglers came asking for asylum. They told of great armies of the sky who destroyed the Order and the Voice cities and armies.
As the days passed unease set in after the initial relief as there was no understanding of what force had set upon the Order and the Voice and if it would be a danger to the Basque. Planes were seen flying over the countryside that had once been battlefields. The Order and the Voice had no planes so the new force was a mystery. One sunny day radar picked up a number of planes heading for Bilbao. Broadcast to the Basque media came a message from the Japanese, that an emissary was on the way. The Basque air force moved to intercept, but there were no aggressive acts. A single plane landed in Bilbao.
The Mayor of the town and a mass of Basque came to meet this person. Out of the plane came a woman in a kimono followed by a number of men in traditional Japanese dress. The woman came to the Mayor and said in Basque:
“We suffered the first horror of nuclear war decades ago. Modernity produced weapons of mass destruction and death-worshiping dogmas. All the ideologies of the world are dead. All religions false. We endeavor to destroy man and bring peace. Do not expand, be Basque.” She turned and they returned to the plane and left. It seemed obvious the Japanese were also immune to the music of the sects.
3
When I was a child we often heard that the Japanese had pursued the fanatics across the globe killing all humans they encountered. They pursued the fully globalized, those lost to technology who like zombies walked the streets staring at glowing screens, locked into the message of the Order and the Voice still broadcast from robot servers hidden in the depths of ruins. Purifying the land as they went, one might say, following the signals of the living dead. Where no “modern people” were but only traditional people, as in jungles of the Amazon or the Congo, they did not go, but where the plague had passed of the Order and the Voice they spread death. But among the Lapp, the Hadza, in parts of Indonesia, there remained some clothed in a protective shield of ancient culture. Still here and there, in America, in Australia, and other places were people who had resisted the song and were living without the power that had been the Order and the Voice.
Basque fishermen and women had for thousands of years before the Romans arrived, fished across the Atlantic without contaminating other peoples. Now they brought reports of huge schools of fish, of great groups of whales and of forests in the Americas and Europe. The world was healing. This meant little to the Basque who just lived their lives as they had for thousands of years before. No more people came asking for sanctuary. The Japanese did not come again. The land was quiet except for the skies being filled with birds of all kinds.
Radio messages from Ainu Ham Radio operators in Japan told of terrible riots by fanatics and it appeared that the Japanese were also not immune to the disease. Decades went by with no more broadcasts until a Basque ship landed in Hokkaido. The country had returned to nature and the Ainu had returned to the old ways, like the Andamanese, they desired no contact and turned their backs on the visitors.
Some people continued to go into the lands outside Basque country to hunt or fish. Some went to the ocean outside Catalonia, but none stayed. My wife and I lived in the village of Aixhxoa with a house full of cats on the top of the mountains. Buried beneath the house are the bones of people who lived before us, some known, some unknown, for all people are our ancestors. We read their lives and learn how to live so there will always be enough and peace can reign instead of men. As the Japanese had requested, the Basque did not expand, but then the Japanese were no more and yet it did not matter. The world was at peace and the Basque remained Basque.
Attributed to:
Nelson Ogalala Chan, “Reverse 1492” a fragment from his autobiography

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Henry Paulson and China: West in Denial over Crisis

Mr. Henry Paulson addresses China’s recent stock market “correction” and the resulting government intervention (Financial Times 22 July 2015, “Let China’s markets speak truth to power”) with a remarkable lack of self reflection. He lists a number of problems with China’s market system under the Communist Party’s guidelines and yet he does not realize that his criticisms are assumptions.
He begins by noting that all equity markets are prone to boom and bust cycles but that problems arise when capital markets are underdeveloped. One wonders if he does not consider the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s a problem, or the dot com crash of the late 1990s or the financial meltdown of 2008? He then makes the remarkable statement that the Chinese are protecting investors and that doing so is not the “best way to create a modern capital market.” Does he suggest that the market crashes of the 19th and 20th centuries, including 1907, 1929 and 2008 did not create a “modern” capital market or does he mean the process is ongoing?
He assumes that the Chinese “closed” financial system misallocates and misprices capital. But then he argues that “If China is to have a well functioning and stable capital market – which can also help protect investors…” thus suggesting that intervention always creates dysfunctional markets and a lack of intervention results in “stable markets.” Does he forget his substantial and unprecedented interventions as Treasury Secretary or those of Alan Greenspan, Bernanke and now Yellen? He also argues paternalistically that the Chinese need more foreign talent to serve their investors, as if western talent was immune to booms and busts in their experience and advice.
He seems confused concerning the need to protect investors, as he states, “Beijing can further protect investors by establishing a well enforced regulatory regime designed to minimize accounting fraud and market manipulation.” One wonders why Paulson feels it is the role of government to protect investors, but also where does he expect them to look to develop such a regulatory regime, does he forget the Enron scandal, the demolition of Glass-Steagell and the Worldcom and more recent Libor, London Whale, and other scandals? He also recommends “transparent accounting and disclosure standards” but must have forgotten the Arthur Anderson and Lehman accounting scandals?
Chastising the Chinese by stating they should be “letting the market be the decisive factor” in July of 2015 seems like telling someone not to yet fire while standing in a burned out theater. Perhaps it is better for the Chinese to learn from our mistakes and illusions and for Mr. Paulson to reflect more on the current remains of his work that we are all living with and might have turned out better had he taken his own advice in 2008 and let “the market” have been the decisive factor then.

Niccolo Caldararo, Ph.D.
Dept of Anthropology
San Francisco State University

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Yemen, Iran, Cairo and the End of Saudi Arabia

Abstract: War in Yemen involves old enemies yet has roots in contemporary global tensions. The focus is on a tribal group, the Houthis and news media have distorted the history and motives of this group. Considerable cultural understanding and background are necessary to have a clear picture of the war and the local as well as international players. History of the Saudis rise to power and their religious association with the Wahhabi movement and Saudi support for its proselytizing activities abroad and especially is a central element to understand the conflict. Also important is the history of imperialism in the area, especially the Ottoman and British invasions.

Key Words: Houthis, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, Iran, Sunni, Shia, water, oil

   Introduction

Today the news is focused on the war in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and the idea of an opposition of geographic frontlines between Shia and Sunni populations. This ignores the fact that these populations are spread out over the Middle East and the north of Africa and southern parts of Eurasia unevenly and in most areas are intermixed. A simple view of this distribution (leaving out immigration to Europe and the Americas) is shown in Figure 1. Arguments of Saudi and Iranian confrontations take place outside of reality as the Shia are already in Saudi Arabia as there are Sunni in Iran. The threat from Yemen is not that the Houthi might drive from Sana’a to Mecca (about the distance from Los Angeles to Portland, given an indirect road system) but that the Saudi regime might collapse both due to outside pressure and internal stress. Thomas Hegghammer (2008) has given a concise analysis why this is unlikely though possible, yet past threats were blunted by the Saudis calling in the Egyptian military as they have done now.. Hegghammer (2008) reviews the history of Saudi repression and it is chilling how the kingdom has maintained a brutal silence over the past near 100 years. Nevertheless, while a moderately secular Iraq became a substantial threat to Saudi rule under the

Figure 1 Dark green nominal Shia, light green basically Sunni

Baathist Party as it did Iran (Khadduri, 1988; Khan, 1975), revolutionary Iran posed a combined threat of Shia sect and democratic change. Saudi continuity and hegemony depend substantially on western power and the implication that no change to its existence or authority will be tolerated by the west. The continued resistance of the Houthis to Saudi hegemony is seen by the west in almost black and white Sunni-Shia opposition, mixing the Iranian threat with fundamentalism. A more wrong-headed conception is hard to imagine, yet western fantasies about the Middle East have been so consistently devoid of fact, as Edward Said noted (Said, 1978; 1981), one should not be surprised.

But an opposite trend has also occurred within this readjustment. For example, in the case of Saudi Arabia, where its internal tensions from the process of modernization (Al-Yassini, 1982) were defused at home (which peaked with the repression of the November 20th, 1979 attacks on Mecca and Medina by Juhaiman). But they were successfully projected onto other points of the region by geopolitical events as in the creation of the jihadis for resistance of the Soviets in Afghanistan and the struggle against ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia (Hegghammer, 2008) . The success of the Saudis in this projection continues today in Syria, Libya, Chechnya, Iraq, Somalia and Central Africa, India, Pakistan and Indonesia and the Philippines. The uprisings against Saudi rule, as in the Arab Spring, were quickly repressed and redirected. This genius of Wahhabism is behind both the export of jihadism as well as the repression at home and is a remarkable development.

Origins

Saudi Wahhabism was brought to power by the British in their support of Abd al-Aziz or Ibn Saud with arms and advice before the First World War to undermine Ottoman attempts to suppress the violent fanaticism of Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud that followed their uprisings after 1746 (Al-Yassini, 1982; Wilson and Freeth, 1983). What is contradictory is that while the west concentrates on militant groups in various Islamic countries that are fighting for Sharia law and an Islamic state, this is what Saudi Arabia has now and has promoted abroad through its donations, foreign aid and educational foundation activity. But as Doran (2004) notes, the Saudi government has a long history of promoting conservative Islam, trying to balance its role in a secular and Christian dominated world and yet attempt to limit the role of Shia Islam.

The consequences of this support have stemmed from the creation of the totalitarian state of the Saudis and the spread of fanatic Wahhabism by the use of oil money. In the past two decades increasing international confrontations and competition for resources have escalated. Current assaults on national territories from Yemen to Columbia in search of a pacification of activities that are seen as “terrorist” and inconsistent with global capitalism often reflect a process of repression of local political resistance to development (Abbot, 2015; Feldman, 1994; Shah, 2013). Actors are frequently left little recourse to peacefully resist after corrupt legal processes deny their standing to block development. These pressures are bound together as in the case of Saudi based Wahhabi proselytizing and regional (e.g. Egyptian bombardment of Sa’da) and international intervention (Soviet and American client support) (Hamidi, 2009). Yemen was divided into north and south portions between the British (south) and Ottoman (north) at the beginning of the 20th century. Main resistance to outside control, whether Ottoman in the 16th and 17th centuries or British has been from the Zaydi. Yet Zaydi influence has been contested by Sunni Wahhabi from Saudi Arabia and that conflict has continued to the present (King, 2012). The present Houthi rising can be seen as a continuation of this conflict.

Houthi History and Identity

One should keep in mind the Houthis have legitimate issues and these date back to the British and Ottoman period, the Cold War contest of north and south as well as the role the people of the Marran were to play in the time of Badr al-Din al-Huthi. Al-Huthi was both a Zadyi religious leader and member of the Yemeni parliament at one time and gave voice to the aspirations of the people of the interior. The people of the Marran and other interior areas had long pressed for a voice in government and complained of the corruption in the capital.   Yemen’s historic north and south divisions created tensions along this regional line between the British (south) and Ottoman (north) at the beginning of the 20th century.  Main resistance to outside control, whether Ottoman in the 16th and 17th centuries or British has been from the Zaydi.  Yet Zaydi influence has been contested by Sunni Wahhabi from Saudi Arabia and that ideological conflict has continued to the present (King, 2012).  The present Houthi rising can be seen as a continuation of this conflict.   Al-Huthi led a regional movement for self-government and the government put a bounty on this head of $55,000. He was hunted down and murdered some time between June of 2004 and the 10th of September 2004 (Hamidi, 2008). Numerous claims concern al-Huthi’s intentions, separate state, revolution, etc. and claims of his assassination have been rejected by the government.

Aside from the Western Soviet support for different elements in Yemen’s history, with Soviet (Russian) involvement going back to 1928 and an agreement followed shortly after 1926, when Imam Yahya declared himself king of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, becoming a temporal as well as a spiritual leader as a Zaydi. It is possible that the Zaidiyya originate in the 8th century schism of Islam, but it is more likely that the foundation for Zaidiyya was a fertile culture of independence and separate identity long present in Yemen.. Yemen is a land of tribes and its relation to the Saudis has been tenuous or hostile, not only in the loss of territory as in 1934, but in the presence of separate Yemeni tribes that dominate routes into the Saudi peninsula or the water resources along the border. Water has been a substantial problem in recent years as pressure for farmed products has changed needs and destabilized water rights and usage (Lichtenthäler, 2000).

The Houthis come from the Marran region of Sa’da district and Hashimi scholars. The Saudis (Sunnis) have pressured the Zaydis in northern Yemen ever since producing war in 1934.  Saudi and Egyptian forces invaded the country sparking a war in the 1960s.  After the national reconciliation of 1970 and in 1990 a unification of north and south took place after liberation of the south from the British.  Saudi intervention continued resulting in civil war and has continued its interference with money and the infiltration of proselytizing.  Houthis are opposed to al-Qaeda and ISIS yet neither they nor Saudi elements have sufficient support to rule the country.

Saudi Destabilizing Influence and Fragility

Saudi influence has been historically destabilizing and corrosive. The bombing and death toll of civilians parallels that of the past. While the world condemns ISIS and the Taliban for destroying and defacing artifacts there is hardly a squeak at the damage Saudi bombs are doing today.

Figure 2: Saudi destruction of 2,500 year old UNESCO World Heritage Site in old city of Sana’a.

From 1962 to 1970 Egypt invaded Yemen at the bequest of the Saudis. The war did not go well and the losses to the 70,000 troops in men and material were telling and have been noted as a factor in the poor showing of Egyptian troops in the 1967 war with Israel. Today Egypt is faced with internal unrest as well as involvement in a minor war in Libya and ISIS in the Sinai. A draining war in Yemen could collapse the Egyptian government and open the Saudis to a greater problem than before. To explain this we have to realize the handicaps the Saudis have and why their regime could disintegrate.

Figure 3: Saudi-Egyptian damage to historic sites in Marran in 2004 from Hamidi (2009)

Saudi Fragility, Foreign Workers and Repression

Saudi Arabia’s population is just under 30 million; Yemen’s about 25 million. A third of the Saudi Army is made up of Houthi Yemenis and related tribes. About 20% of the Saudi population is Shia and about one-third of the population are immigrants from poor countries, especially places like Pakistan and Indonesia. I would predict that the Houthi (Shia) have about the same potential for overthrowing the ruling absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia as the Saudis do of pacifying Yemen. Yet Saudi arms buildup, especially purchases of weapons and helicopters has been seen as a destabilizing element in the area (Sugrue, 2010).

Again, the Houthis have legitimate issues and the west has bet on the Saudis who have used their money to spread their fundamentalist Wahhabi sect which is at the heart of the struggle in Yemen. It is hard to construct a narrative to support the Saudi government. It is spreading fundamentalism across the region and into Asia and Africa, it sits as a minority of a minority in its territory ruling by terror and its military intrusion into Bahrain in 2011 (Blincow, 2011) to save the ruling family there showed the cruelty and violence they are willing to engage.

Figure 4 Ottoman Empire

Iran, Oil Prices and the Nuclear Negotiations

One of the interesting aspects of the current confrontation in Yemen is the framework it appears in, for example, the negotiations with Iran over nuclear issues. One would imagine that Iran, appearing to want the treaty and sanctions lifted, would be less likely to be fomenting the Houthi. Their cooperation in Iraq with the Iraqi regime vs ISIS seems to support this idea. Yet the media presents an active Iranian support for the Houthis (Dorell, 2015). Nevertheless, Yemen is more complex than that simple view, one has to been in mind that the former president Salah who is now (with his substantial supporters) allied to the Houthis, has waged war against them twice (Barron, 2008).

But from another frame of reference one can see that those in the oil and gas industry might want to both:

  1. cut back Saudi oil production to allow the price of oil to rise to stop losses in oil sales (given the drop in oil price has created huge losses where producers have sold futures or leveraged sales over time), or those who have losses or potential losses in oil derivatives and other contracts, as well as the fracking industry that is taking punishing losses and the storage oil and gas people. They all have an interest in forcing the Saudis to act and the Houthi are certainly an opportunity for these people to use (perhaps not actively) and their support of Houthi rebels (in a propagandist sense perhaps) is as a means of putting pressure on the Saudis.
  2. They might want to punish the Saudis for their intransigence in not cutting production in the first place to balance production to keep prices high. So support of the Houthis could easily come from other sources (including Russia a supporter of Shia regime of al-Assad in Syria) not just Iran. The USA pushes in Ukraine and the Russians in the Middle East, while it smacks of the Cold War the potential for resolution seems remote, yet the people of both regions have few possibilities to stop either conflict. But the creation of ISIS, whether a part of a distinct plan by US authorities (as America’s Senator Rand Paul has recently claimed, Associated Press, 2015), has changed the focus of the jihadist war of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda to a religious/ethnic war of Sunni vs Shia vs Christian, Kurd, etc. (Ackerman, Malik & Khalili, 2015) that looks more like the ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s. al-Qaeda in Yemen has been attempting to gain territory and support of local populace and the Houthi have been opposed to their presence (Ghobari. 2014).

Certainly the Houthis do not appear to be either well funded, armed or represented in the media. Some Middle Eastern experts come close to describing them as anti-state nihilists (Shakdam, 2014)

With the Saudi overlords gone the entire Middle East would be open to tremendous change, not just in terms of the Sunni-Shia conflict but in terms of the distribution of wealth and power. Borders would immediately come under crushing pressure and might evaporate, they are only barely holding today across Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. Minor political entities ruled by rich families like Kuwait and Bahrain would likely disappear completely. Yemen seems, however, likely to continue to suffer the attentions of regional powers and international intrigues.

This is a really fascinating crisis.

References

Abbot, Jeff, “How Washington’s War on Terror Has Become a War on Human Rights Defenders in Central America, Truthout, January, 20, 20015

Ackerman, Spencer, Malki, Shiv and Younes, Ali,, Khalili, Mustafa, “al-Qaida ‘cut off and ripped apart by ISIS,’” The Guardian, June 11, 2015.

Al-Yassini, Ayman S., “Saudi Arabia: the kingdon of Islam,” in Carlo Caldarola, ed., Religions and Societies: Asia and the Middle East, Berlin, Mouton Press, 1982: 61-84.

Associated Press, “GOPs hawks created Islamic State, Paul says,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 28th.2015.

Ayman. Hamid, “Inscriptions of Violence in Northern Yemen: Haunting Histories, Unstable Moral Spaces,” Middle Eastern Studies, v. 45, 2, 2009: 165-187.

Barron, Owen, “Things Fall Apart: Violence and Poverty in Yemen,” Harvard, International Review, v. 30, n.2, 2008:12=13.

Blincow, Malcolm, “Guest editorial: What’s in a name?” Dialectical Anthropology, Vol. 35, No. 4 (December 2011), pp. 381-385.

Doran, Michael Scott, “The Saudi Paradox,” Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb2004, Vol. 83, Issue 1:35-51.

Dorell, Oren, “Iranian support for Yemen’s Houthis goes back years,”

USA Today, April 20th, 2015.

Feldman, A., “On cultural anesthesia: from Desert Storm to Rodney King,” American Ethnologist,” v. 21, n. 2, 1994:404-418.

Ghobari, Mohammed, “Al Qaeda and Houthis clash in central Yemen: residents,” Reuters, October 16th 2014 (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/16/us-yemen-security-idUSKCN0I41KG20141016)

Hamidi, Ayman, “Inscriptions of violence in Northern Yemen: haunting histories, unstable moral spaces,” Middle Eastern Studies, v. 45, n. 2, March 2009:165-187.

Hegghammer, Thomas “Islamist violence and regime stability in Saudi Arabia,” International Affairs, v. 84, 4, 2008: 701-715.

Khadduri, Majid, The Gulf War: Its Origins and Implications of the Iraq-Iran War, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Khan, M. A., Saleem, “Iran, Iraq and the Gulf,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 10, No. 28 (Jul. 12, 1975), pp. 1044-1045.

King, James Robin, “Zaydi revival in a hostile republic: competing identities, loyalties and visions of state in Republican Yemen,” Arabica, v. 59, 2012:404-445.

Lichtenthäler, Gerhard, “Power, Politics and Patronage: Adaptation of Water Rights among Yemen’s Northern Highland Tribes,” Études rurales, No. 155/156, Prégnance du droit coutumier (Jul. – Dec., 2000), pp. 143-166.

Said, Edward, Covering Islam, New York, Partheon Books, 1981.

Said, Edward, Orientalism, New York, Random House, 1978.

Shah, Anup, “War on Terror,” Global Issues, http://www.globalissues.org/issue/245/war-on-terror 2013.

Shakdam, Catherine, “Supporting the Houthis: who stands behind Yemen’s new dissidents?,” NEO, Sept. 26, 2014

Sugrue, Matt, “Saudi arms deal moves forward,” Arms Control Today, v. 10, n. 10, December, 2010:46-47.

Wilson, Robert and Freeth, Zahra, The Arab of the Desert, London, Allen and Unwin, 1983.

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