CHRISTMAS 2015. MAN’S LAUGHTER or MAN SLAUGHTER? (Lord Thomas Babington Macauley, 1800 -1859)
Back Ground to the Paris Massacre
Advance toward 1984 via the Spanish Civil War
Prequel to Paris Climate Conference
The Hurricane of Climate Change
Background to the November Paris Massacre
An article in Social Europe has placed the November Paris massacre into context, ‘The Paris Attack, the people are made to pay for disastrous Government policies’ (17 November, 2015), author Dr Mehmet Ugar, Professor of Economics, Greenwich University, London, is instructive. The paper was prompted by recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Beirut.
The political elite of the Western World and despotic Middle East acolytes are closing ranks due to the growing realisation that Western Governments have been instrumental in the the rise of Islamic State due to the illegal support provided to the Taliban in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation and culminating in the current bombing in Syria of Islamic State forces. Bombing by Britain and Germany in WW2 did not achieve the objective of breaking the spirit of the people, it built up a strong will to survive and an intense hatred of the enemy.
Ordinary people are now asking questions on national security risk and its relation to Government support provided to various militias and partial warfare against the Islamic State. To call the Islamic State a ‘death cult’ trivialises the situation and does not promote understanding of the issues. This phenomenon has erupted since Western powers intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq (Mission Accomplished!!), Libya and Syria. Despite religious rhetoric, Al Qaeda and Islamic State grew from the political misadventures forced on the Middle East by Western Governments. The terrorism and terrorist threats now endured by Western nations (as an unintended consequence) has been created from the death and destruction, the power vacuum and the supply of weapons facilitated by the West.
The images of Mission Accomplished’ (May 2003) – fantasy, and a destroyed Russian war plane over Syria (November 2015) – reality, encapsulates Western policy in the Middle East.
The back ground to this current situation was the formation of a unipolar world following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This generated a push for market dominance by America and the embryonic European Union. The resulting policy was for a ‘democratisation’ of the Islamic Middle East to produce vast new markets for Western industry (economic colonialism). History has shown this policy to be an abject failure. Likewise, when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Western industry moved in slavering over the vast new markets (the Russian people).This was also a disappointment except for the luxury car manufacturers and legal/financial advisors. As an aside ,economists are advising the West that it must develop markets in Africa if Capitalism is to thrive. Here the West is already on the ‘back foot’ due to an aggressive investment policy by China. Looking back at the history of European Empires, the prime mover for expansion was commerce swiftly followed by military force.
Our politicians do not remind us it was the United States who armed the Taliban to enable them to fight the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, the Taliban then diverted American funds away from the failed state of Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s produced numerous Sunni fighters who formed Al Qaeda in Iraq and created the nucleus for the Islamic State militias in 2006. These groups recruited Sunnis who had lost their jobs and livelihoods under the occupation by American, Australian and other NATO – ISAF members (International Security Assistance Force). From this canvas, the West has created a dangerous Lemaean Hydra.
With the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, arms depots were looted and sent to Syria via Turkey, a NATO ally. It was the hope of the West this ordinance would be used by militias to topple the Syrian President, Assad. This policy was doomed since Syria is Russia’s only Middle Eastern ally, and Russia would obviously protect its Syrian naval base.
The reaction of Western Governments to the Paris massacre is not reassuring:
- There is a security reflex action after the event which severely restricts the movement of people- the authorities must be seen to be doing something! As if on cue, at the Griffith lecture on the 2nd December, journalist Peter Gresta stated Western Governments are becoming more repressive, are providing more ‘spin’ and journalists lives, are being made more difficult. Globally, millions in the Christian world are being ‘terrorised’ by tens of thousands from the Islamic world. Why?
- Western Governments have failed to acknowledge any hand in the catastrophes in Libya, Syria and Iraq through their support of illegal armed militias. Western Governments outcry over the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State lack credibility since they are the source of the problem.
- To heighten population anxiety, Western Governments have not distinguished between political (in house ) terrorism and terrorist (Islamic State ) terrorism. There are examples of political terrorism in Turkey and the war against the Kurds who are battling Islamic State. The West has not challenged Turkey on this as it is regarded as a NATO partner with geopolitical and business advantages.
It is extraordinary that the G20 Summit has just been held in Turkey, despite the fact that the Government did not consider the Islamic State to be a terrorist organisation until recently. Add to this the media restrictions and the state of emergency with the Kurds. Quite obviously, Turkey is important to NATO. Again, extraordinarily, it has recently come to light there is an illegal oil trade between Turkey and Islamic State (Dr Alexy Moraviev, Curtain University). Credence has been given to this assertion by an ABC News Flash which statedTurkey had shot down the Russian warplane as it was disrupting the oil trade with Islamic State. In early December, CNN also announced the Russian warplane had been shot down to protect the oil trade with Islamic State. On RN Breakfast (3 December), a Terrorist Finance expert (DML Associates, Virginia) indicated Islamic State has an approximate income of $1.5 million a day from oil fields under its control in Syria and Iraq. Regularly, oil tankers cross the border into Turkey. The Assad Government also purchases oil from Islamic State.
Western policy has produced a twin-pronged terrorist recruitment problem:
- The numbers of the original disaffected Sunnis with military background are being reinforced by Iraqis and Syrians whose families have been destroyed by Western bombing, thereby generating a hatred for Western culture. From this will flow a desire to revenge their own dead and maimed families.
- Young Sunni men and women in Europe, America and Australia are open to radicalisation because Governments have not pursued active assimilation. As immigrants, these people feel marginalised and consider they do not have a future.
The announcement that America is to permit Special Forces to operate in Syria has the makings of a macabre Gilbert and Sullivan operetta:
- Russian troops are in Syria protecting President Assad, a naval base and a military airfield. The troops are bombing Syrian militias who wish to depose Assad and have an interest in neutralising Islamic State just as Russia has concerns for discontent in its own Islamic underbelly.
- Simultaneously, American forces will be in Syria to destroy the Islamic State and support freedom fighters whose objective is to remove Assad.
- Both Powers (which include Royal Australian Air Force) are bombing military targets which will involve ‘collateral’ damage.
- Also under this scenario Russians and Americans are on either side of a firing line.
In conclusion, ordinary citizens will continue to suffer from disastrous Western policies: there will be Government spin and less democratic freedom while authoritarian regimes will be supported for commercial or strategic reasons. Take home message – always look behind the news. The general public is provided with an ‘approved’ version, not necessarily the unvarnished truth. Peter Gresta’s advice was to be skeptical of all public information.
Advance toward 1984 via the 1936 Spanish Civil War
It is possible the ghost of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) now hovers over Syria. The antagonists in Spain were the ‘Right’ army (military and landowners) and the ‘Left’ army (battalions of workers). Fascist Germany and Italy supported the Right and the Soviet Union supported the Left. Historical comments show both Germany and Russia used the war to test and experiment with new techniques of mechanised warfare.
Enter the Syrian crisis onto the world stage: on the Left is Russia supporting a despotic Assad while on the Right are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Both are engaging Islamic State but Russia is also fighting militias who wish to overthrow Assad while NATO members support and arm the militias – a dark Gilbert and Sullivan travesty. Both Russia and NATO forces are using these hostilities to test precision bombing and other armaments. The disaster that is now Syria has been a ‘Godsend’ to the industrial-military complex which relishes increased sales and the opportunity to test the effectiveness of new weapons on humans.
Enter 1984 in the guise of 2016. George Orwell was a visionary. The current geopolitical situation appears as a progression toward ‘1984’ which is a fiction but current global trends are a concern. Orwell conceived eternal conflict between three global power blocks. There was no victor only shifting alliances to ensure no one power block became dominant. The waring entities were:
- Oceania comprising North America, South America, Britain, Southern Africa and Australia.
- Eurasia comprising Russia and Western Europe.
- Eastasia comprising China and East Asia.
- Disputed comprising Central Africa, India and South East Asia.
The map is a fiction but it is inescapable that the world is verging towards three power blocks, China, Russia and North America. The current global situation appears to be that:
- China is a rising military power which is increasing its grip over East Asia. Its foreign investment policy in Africa is vigorous.
- Russia is flexing naval muscles in the Pacific and is causing NATO angst over Ukraine and Monte Negro and is sending shivers into the Baltic States.
- The United States is on a shaky ‘pivot to Asia’, and appears to have no counter to China’s policy in the South China Sea. There is a quiet but serious struggle for influence with Russia over Syria.
- It is important Australia clings tightly to ANZUS; it is not impossible that this continent might also become an Orwellian ‘Disputed Territory’ only valued for its mineral wealth. Is it possible Eastasia has already netted a 99-year lease on the port of Darwin?
The prognosis for 2016 is that current geopolitical trends will consolidate – some in the South China Sea are already set in concrete.
Prequel to the Paris Climate Conference
The world has moved from the benign Holocene climate to the benighted Anthropocene (Human Age) that brings fire, flood, hurricane, drought and species extinction. The bottom line of the PCC appears to be that, on present carbon dioxide equivalent pollution, global temperature in fifty years will rise to 2.7*C above baseline – catastrophe. To limit temperature to 2*C will still be a disaster while limiting to 1.5*C will be a calamity that might be managed. The entrails of the Conference have been spread across the planet, no further comment is warranted here.
Apparently, not given prominence was the nexus between global warming and ecological disaster, geopolitical hegemony and Capitalism that drives global commerce and global warming. Comment published by The Guardian (3 September) is relevant:
- current Capitalism is an impediment to solving climate change,
- successful Capitalism depends on perpetual economic growth, -this is no longer possible,
- there is an inherent contradiction between Capitalism and environmental sustainability,
- Capitalism requires inexhaustible natural resources and increasing production, markets, consumption and waste disposal,
- neoliberal economic policy has failed; Governments must become more prescriptive and enact restrictive laws,
- ecological rehabilitation, recycling and greenhouse gas reduction must proceed in lockstep.
A recent publication by E Colbert (2014), ‘Can Climate Change cure Capitalism? This makes for sombre reading:
- global corporations have become to big too fail,
- corporations distain civil society- commercial drivers are growth and profit, not the condition of the host country,
- global corporations operate outside the law and are degrading natural capital,
- global corporations are generating resentment around the world.
Enter now competitive hegemony and its corrosive addition to global warming. The Monthly Review (2009) published the paper by Dr J Forster, Sociology Department, Oregon University, “A Failed System – The World Crisis of Capitalism and Globalisation and its effect on China”. In this sombre review, the spectre of ‘1984’ (George Orwell) is emerging in a destabilised global community. There are three consuming problems:
- A global financial crisis teetering towards stagflation or deflation. Society living under Capitalism is suffering income inequality and an inability to maintain employment equilibrium. The Achilles’ Heel of Capitalistic production is that it depends on the consuming power of society. The destabilisation of the MiddleEast, the implosion of the Soviet Union and slow African development has not produced the anticipated markets required necessary for a Capitalistic hegemonic power block to survive.
- An ecological collapse may be a greater threat than a financial collapse. With global temperature around 0.9*C above pre-industrial levels, ecological disasters are sweeping the planet, namely deforestation, overgrazing, desertification, ocean acidification, water shortage, species extinction, industrial and human pollution, polar ice loss and cancerous urban growth.
- There is increasing imperial global instability originating in a struggle for hegemony and natural resources. Perhaps ‘winning hearts and minds’ has now been replaced by ‘bomb the bastards’ or ‘lock them up’. The cult of Capitalism, by its nature, is ‘imperial’. The ‘centre’ controls the process while the ‘periphery’ provides natural resources and the markets. Originally, both China and Russia were dependant satellites of Western Capitalism; now this is changing as new power blocks are rising to challenge American hegemony.
Capitalism and its impact on the Global Community. The concentration of power (economic, financial, communication, industrial, military) is intrinsic to capitalism as a global system since the world economy was based on wealth accumulation at the ‘centre’.
The Capitalistic world is most stable when there is a single hegemonic power, i.e. Britain in 19th century and America in 20th century. The rise of China is precipitating hegemonic instability and the the financial system is verging toward crisis. The rise of China and Russia constitute a tectonic geopolitical shift in the Capitalistic system and this can precipitate ecological disaster as military activity ramps up. With decline in power of the United States relative to China, the United States has sought to gain resources and political dominance by establishing military bases round the globe. America regards China as its ultimate major competitor and views with concern its active roll in African resource development. It also has concern for a China-Iran alliance – to counter this America has a pact with India. Although the United States and China have strong trade ties the rise of China and the relative decline of United States influence is generating a tense relationship. Current flash points are the military activity in the South China Sea and the ‘string of pearls’ maritime bases (including Darwin) terminating in the oil rich Persian Gulf.
For Capitalism to flourish wealth must be maintained at the ‘centre’ which was ‘The City’ (London) and ‘Wall Street (New York). The financial centre of gravity is moving eastward across Eurasia towards China. America now worries about the strength of its dollar. To remain relevant as an economic power, America must maintain its trade settlement and reserve currency status. Currently China is seeking to globalise the renminbi to trade financing capacity and become a currency of last resort. Ultimate international acceptance would weaken United States financial influence. Currently China holds over $600 billion of US Treasury debt: if America devalued, China would regard this as a hostile act of expropriation. The other horn of this dilemma is if China moves away from the dollar this could destabilise the United States and the world economic order.
In the 21st century, classic geopolitical Capitalist theory requires the control of the rim lands of Eurasia, this is in line with American ‘Pivot to Asia’ to ensure economic and military dominance.
Capitalism (production and consumption) is the principal cause of global warning. It is regarded as a failed system by economic experts for several reasons:
- There is a threat of global deflation worse than in the 1930s,
- Ecological disasters due to industrial/economic activity threaten the planet,
- Neoliberal Capitalism is now discredited,
- America has attempted to regain hegemony by a ‘War on Terror’
- At the time of the Global Financial Crisis, the banking industry was bailed out by $4400 billion while the climate change program only netted $13 billion.
Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, (Financial Times Oct. 2015) is concerned the global economic system could break down as in the 1930s. This situation is partly due to the policy of mercantilist countries (China, Germany, Japan) running a large surplus, with insufficient internal demand – there was a policy of dumping on distressed markets.
Capitalism has been in a long term crisis which has resulted in depression economics as a general global situation. Among ‘democratic’ populations there is now a perception that industrial Capitalism and consumerism are responsible for global warming and ecological disasters. Concurrent with this realisation is the rise of three competing power blocks, America (Oceania), Russia (Eurasia) and China (Eastasia). Collegial cooperation, to ensure global warming objectives, will be more difficult to maintain due to their competing quest for hegemony and resources.
Final Comment. The international community has to surmount several issues if global warming reduction is to become reality:
- vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- sequester carbon in sinks, soils, forests, geological formations
- commence massive recycle programs
- reduce product choice in consumerism
- create a new form of Capitalism based on less consumerism
- encourage ecologically friendly industries with commensurate returns on investment
Scientific advice is that it will take several decades for current greenhouse gases to work through the system: climatic conditions will continue to deteriorate before improving. Complicating progress will be the three global powers battling for supremacy.
The Hurricane of Climate Change
Behind the glitz, carols and incantations of Christmas it has been despair and devastation for millions. The disasters below all encompass the ‘Festive Season’ – on their own an unfortunate occurrence, globally a portent as clear as the ‘Star over Bethlehem’. According to NOAA, globally 2015 was the hottest year to date with the Pacific and Indian Oceans being the warmest ever. Australia’s BOM reports the warmest year for Sydney. The cartoon again illustrates that the lifestyle of Anthropocene mankind is coming back to bite it.
A partial picture across the ‘Festive Season’:
- Australia: flooding south of Darwin, bush fire along the Great Ocean Road, the Kurnell tornado, the South Australian heatwave.
- Argentina-Paraquay-Brazil-Uruquay: worst floods in fifty years, over 150,000 flee to safety.
- North America: extensive bush fires in California, floods in Missouri, tornados and blizzards inTexas and New Mexico.
- England: severe flooding in north and central regions, over 2,000 homes affected.
- Philippines: typhoon Melor affects over 700,000 people.
- Ethiopia: drought and famine, over 350,000 children severely undernourished.
- India: worst floods for over 100 years in Tamil Nadu.
- The Vatican: ongoing corruption and sleaze trial! (ABC RN Breakfast, 30 December)
Despite dire warnings of a dry El Nińo weather event, November/December rainfall was seven inches, dams are full, creeks are flowing. For an El Nińo the Southern Oscillation Index is inconsistent – falling from minus 18 (av.) Sept/Oct to minus 6 (av.) Nov/Dec. Moisture laden winds from the Indian Ocean and East Coast lows are providing unexpected rain. With the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ sea surface temperatures abnormally high the SOI has been driven lower but the El Nińo is still causing havoc in South America and southern Africa.