US: The dishonest broker

 

Despite high expectation for Barack Obama, the US president has not convinced Israel to cease settlement construction.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been both a major concern of American diplomacy since 1967 and the arena of persistent failure.

There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.

The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its expansionist agenda on the West Bank.

The asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians is so great that only a third party can bridge the gap. In plain language, this means leaning on Israel to end the occupation and to permit the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In theory America is committed to a two-state solution to the conflict but in practise it has done very little to push Israel into such a settlement. It is not that America lacks the means to bring pressure to bear on Israel. On the contrary, Israel is crucially, and almost exclusively, dependent on America for military, diplomatic, and financial support.

America’s financial support amounts to three billion dollars a year. So the leverage is there. The real problem is that American leaders are either unable or unwilling to exercise this leverage in order to promote a just settlement of this tragic conflict.

The most depressing aspect of the situation is that despite its proven inability to make progress on the Palestinian track, America continues to cling to its monopoly over the peace process. In the aftermath of the June 1967 War, America arrogated to itself a near-monopoly over the diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During the Cold War, the main purpose of American diplomacy was to exclude the Soviet Union, the ally of radical Arab states, from the quest for peace in the Middle East. After the end of the Cold war, America continued to marginalise Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The UN has the authority as well as a duty to regulate this conflict because it is a threat to international peace and security. But the Americans undermined its efforts and routinely used their veto on the Security Council to defeat resolutions that were critical of Israel.

American contempt towards the UN reached a new height during the two Republican administrations of George W. Bush. The attitude of the neoconservatives is illustrated by the following conversation between a senior UN official and a venerable Republican Senator. The official asked “Why are you Americans so hostile to the UN? Is it ignorance or is it indifference?” And the Senator allegedly replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

Barack Obama’s election was widely expected to usher in a more even-handed policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Cairo speech of June 4 2009, Obama stated that the bond with Israel is unbreakable but he also expressed deep empathy for the Palestinians and wanted there to be no doubt that: “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own”.

Obama is an inspiring orator. However, to use an American phrase, he has talked the talk but he has not walked the walk. The rhetoric has changed but in practical terms there has been more continuity than change. Partiality towards Israel remains the order of the day and it vitiates the possibility of a genuinely even-handed policy.

To be fair to Obama, he recognised at the outset that Jewish settlements on the West Bank are the main obstacle to progress. He admitted, in effect, that there can be a peace process but no peace if Israel continues the colonisation of the West Bank. At his first meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on May 18 2008, Obama insisted on a complete settlement freeze.

A week later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained: “The President wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions… That is our position…And we intend to press that point”. The position was admirably clear but she and the president failed to press the point. They backed down.

The direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched by Secretary Clinton in Washington on September 2 are the best that could be expected after this and subsequent climb-downs. But these talks are an exercise in futility.

There is an Arabic saying that something that starts crooked, remains crooked. These peace talks started in a crooked way because they did not meet the most fundamental Palestinian requirement: a complete freeze on settlement activity.

All that Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to was a partial settlement freeze for a period of ten months. The ban did not apply to the 3,000 housing units that had already been approved or to East Jerusalem, which Israel had illegally annexed following the June 1967 Six-Day War.

When the ban expired on September 27, Netanyahu refused to extend it. Shirking his responsibility as prime minister, he simply called on the settlers to exercise restraint. A more vacuous statement is difficult to imagine. Predictably, as the Israeli media has reported, the bulldozers are back at work in the Jewish settlements near Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron.

The conclusion is inescapable: Netanyahu is not a genuine partner for the Palestinians on the road to peace. Land-grabbing and peace-making simply do not go together and Netanyahu has opted for the former.

Netanyahu is like a man who, while negotiating the division of a pizza, continues to eat it.

The American position is pusillanimous and feeble. Instead of taking a firm position on the side of the Palestinians and pressing the point of principle, they press the weaker party to make more and more concessions. Under these conditions, the prospects of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are close to zero.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel, only more illegal settlements, and consequently more strife, more violence, more bloodshed, and ultimately another war.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso). This article first appeared on the University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations Blog.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

ANALYS: US Military Doctrine since the Cold War

The American military at the end of the Cold War was a formidable force, large in size, very well equipped, and quite capable of meeting any conceivable Soviet warfare challenge, nuclear or conventional. Its recovery from Vietnam was total. The Reagan Build-up, a major infusion of funds and technology that occurred in the 1980s, had allowed the military to modernize its weapons, doctrine, and training. It had learned to recruit and motivate effectively an all-volunteer force, a no small feat for a military long used to the cheap labor of conscription. Thoughts of honing its fast fading counter-insurgency skills or of a search to discover how best to participate in peace-keeping and nation-building ventures were far from its doctrinal priorities. Instead, the American military rejoiced in its smashingly fast and near cost-free defeat of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and planned to implement further improvements in its conventional war-fighting capabilities.

These improvements, often referred to as the Precision Revolution, were based on advances in sensor, radar masking, robotic, and targeting technologies and were intended to allow American forces to detect, classify, and destroy targets precisely with low risk and at expanding distances. The high casualty rate of Vietnam is unsustainable with an all volunteer force. And absent a serious threat to its own security, the American public’s tolerance for civilian casualties inflicted by American forces-collateral damage-is very limited. The rapid and seemingly decisive victories in the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq featured such advances, the product of a decade long effort by the military to implement the operational lessons of the Gulf War while trimming force structure to adjust to the Soviet Union’s demise.

But the Afghanistan and Iraq victories were anything but decisive. American forces soon become entangled in difficult counter-insurgency operations in both countries. Plans for a quick transition to local rule and a minimal American presence slid into persistent combat and a troop rotational pattern that strained American forces. American commanders seemed confused and unprepared, at a loss to control the violence that included inter-communal attacks and to initiate the reconstruction of vital infrastructure that both countries needed. The resulting “hard slog”, as the now discredited Donald Rumsfeld once described the counter-insurgencies, is blamed on many factors, but mostly on a supposed blind spot in the US Army’s doctrinal vision. The Army, it is said, is culturally resistant to creating effective doctrine for counter-insurgencies, preferring always to focus on large scale conventional operations.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates chides the entire US military for being absorbed in “Nextwaritis” even as it fights the current difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army he notes has designed its Future Combat System. a network of manned and unmanned vehicles, to defeat up-dated versions of Soviet motorized rifle regiments while the Air Force keeps promoting additional purchases of its expensive F-22 which is optimized for air-to-air combat, a non-existent set these days. The next war in the US military’s planning concepts may look like the last, but certainly not like the current ones. But America’s future, the critics and the Secretary say, is more of the same culturally sensitive, all-agency, coalition-partnered interventions that require the coordinated management of complex security and development operations.

There are two defenses that the military could offer to this critique if it were allowed to do so.  First, this is new guidance for military preparedness. In the years between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks, political direction was minimal and certainly not united on counter-insurgency. When President George H. W. Bush said in the wake of the Gulf War that America’s Vietnam Syndrome was vanquished he meant that it was now possible again for the US to use military force in a big way, and not that the US was free once again to become engaged in counter-insurgency.  In fact, he passed by the opportunity to invade Iraq to replace Saddam in large part because of the possibility that it would require a long effort to suppress regime supporters or other elements of Iraq’s fractured society.

Each of the interventions of the 1990s-Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo-had significant opposition within and outside of government. Although all were low casualty events, the public was fearful of the risks. The military saw them as diverting from a mission to be ready to meet a rising China or a resurgent Russia, both conveniently masked behind the proxies of North Korea and Iran or Iraq. Big militaries require big opponents and Haiti and Serbia just did not match up.  The Democrats largely left the military planners alone, and the Republicans reflexively defended anything they did. It was largely a self-guided military during the 1990s, aware that there was strong domestic opposition to interventions in on-going ethnic conflicts, and intrigued by the technological advantages that the Precision Revolution seemed to offer to the US in conventional operations. It was time to plan the post-Cold War military and to make large investments in new equipment. What better way than to make the US military the lean, mean wireless machine that many observers said was just over the horizon.

Second, although the current administration and secretary may want the focus to remain on counter-insurgent operations, the US military likely calculates that this is a politically unsustainable policy.  A modern, professional military, one dependent on volunteers, has a great deal of difficulty providing the 18-20 brigades of ground combat troops that the counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan required.  Many soldiers are now contemplating their fourth or fifth combat rotation with up to 18 months separation from their families. Conscription, which would share these burdens more evenly in the population, is politically impossible to reinstate. Hunting down al Qaeda is still popular. Making the world safe for democracy or saving the Somalians, Sudanese or South Congolese from local war lords is only in the nice idea category, especially when such missions are likely to be done with few partners and amidst much brutal fighting. And after Iraq and Afghanistan it would take an insane American politician, one likely to be carted away to an institution, to make an invasion of Iran or North Korea anything but an empty threat.

It is relatively easy for the American military to defeat conventional forces arrayed against it for they are basically targets that can be identified and destroyed at safe ranges. Coping with insurgents is a much more difficult task because the insurgents hide among civilians and attack from great advantage. Only when the stakes are very high will the American public tolerate the harsh, often brutal, measures and significant sacrifices that need to be sustained over years to suppress insurgencies. New manuals that repeat old truths about providing security, vital infrastructure, good government, and economic opportunity to local populations in order to isolate and defeat the stealthy enemy do not eliminate this test of wills.  The American military knows that for marginal interests that “will” will not be there long. Each generation of American politicians apparently learns this anew. The American military’s doctrine is to avoid fighting counter-insurgencies.

Ref: e-IR

Harvey M. Sapolsky is Professor Of Public Policy and Organization Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts and for nearly 20 years he was the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program.  His most recent books are US Defense Politics, written with Eugene Gholz and Caitlin Talmadge, and US Military Innovation since the Cold War, edited with Benjamin Friedman and Brendan R. Green.

Keeping Track of the US Empire’s Crimes

If you catch the CIA with its hand in the cookie jar and the Agency admits the obvious — what your eyes can plainly see — that its hand is indeed in the cookie jar, it means one of two things:

a) the CIA’s hand is in several other cookie jars at the same time which you don’t know about and they hope that by confessing to the one instance they can keep the others covered up; or

b) its hand is not really in the cookie jar — it’s an illusion to throw you off the right scent — but they want you to believe it.

There have been numerous news stories in recent months about secret CIA programs, hidden from Congress, inspired by former vice-president Dick Cheney, in operation since the September 11 terrorist attacks, involving assassination of al Qaeda operatives or other non-believers-in-the-Empire abroad without the knowledge of their governments. The Agency admits to some sort of program having existed, but insists that it was canceled; and if it was an assassination program it was canceled before anyone was actually assassinated. Another report has the US military, not the CIA, putting the plan — or was it a different plan? — into operation, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the program. (The Guardian, July 13, 2009.)

All of this can be confusing to those following the news. And rather irrelevant. We already know that the United States has been assassinating non-believers, or suspected non-believers, with regularity, and impunity, in recent years, using unmanned planes (drones) firing missiles, in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, if not elsewhere. (Even more victims have been produced from amongst those who happened to be in the same house, car, wedding party, or funeral as the non-believer.) These murders apparently don’t qualify as “assassinations”, for somehow killing “terrorists” from 2000 feet is morally and legally superior to doing so from two feet away.

But whatever the real story is behind the current rash of speculation, we should not fall into the media’s practice of at times intimating that multiple or routine CIA assassination attempts would be something shocking or at least very unusual.

I’ve compiled a list of CIA assassination attempts, successful and unsuccessful, against prominent foreign political figures, from 1949 through 2003, which, depending on how you count it, can run into the hundreds (targeting Fidel Castro alone totals 634 according to Cuban intelligence)2; the list can be updated by adding the allegedly al Qaeda leaders among the drone attack victims of recent years. Assassination and torture are the two things governments are most loath to admit to, and try their best to cover up. It’s thus rare to find a government document or recorded statement mentioning a particular plan to assassinate someone. There is, however, an abundance of compelling circumstantial evidence to work with. The following list does not include several assassinations in various parts of the world carried out by anti-Castro Cubans employed by the CIA and headquartered in the United States.

1949 – Kim Koo, Korean opposition leader

1950s – CIA/Neo-Nazi hit list of more than 200 political figures in West Germany
to be “put out of the way” in the event of a Soviet invasion

1950s – Chou En-lai, Prime minister of China, several attempts on his life

1950s, 1962 – Sukarno, President of Indonesia

1951 – Kim Il Sung, Premier of North Korea

1953 – Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran

1950s (mid) – Claro M. Recto, Philippines opposition leader

1955 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India

1957 – Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt

1959, 1963, 1969 – Norodom Sihanouk, leader of Cambodia

1960 – Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, leader of Iraq

1950s-70s – José Figueres, President of Costa Rica, two attempts on his life

1961 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, leader of Haiti

1961 – Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo (Zaire)

1961 – Gen. Rafael Trujillo, leader of Dominican Republic

1963 – Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam

1960s-70s – Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, many attempts on his life

1960s – Raúl Castro, high official in government of Cuba

1965 – Francisco Caamaño, Dominican Republic opposition leader

1965-6 – Charles de Gaulle, President of France

1967 – Che Guevara, Cuban leader

1970 – Salvador Allende, President of Chile

1970 – Gen. Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of Army, Chile

1970s, 1981 – General Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama

1972 – General Manuel Noriega, Chief of Panama Intelligence

1975 – Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire

1976 – Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica

1980-1986 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya, several plots and attempts upon his life

1982 – Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran

1983 – Gen. Ahmed Dlimi, Moroccan Army commander

1983 – Miguel d’Escoto, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua

1984 – The nine comandantes of the Sandinista National Directorate

1985 – Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanese Shiite leader (80 people killed in the attempt)

1991 – Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq

1993 – Mohamed Farah Aideed, prominent clan leader of Somalia

1998, 2001-2 – Osama bin Laden, leading Islamic militant

1999 – Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia

2002 – Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Islamic leader and warlord

2003 – Saddam Hussein and his two sons

For those of you who collect lists about splendid US foreign policy post-World War II, here are a few more that, lacking anything better to do, I’ve put together: Attempts to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which had been democratically-elected. (* = successful ouster of a government.)

Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958-60 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *

After his June 4 Cairo speech, President Obama was much praised for mentioning the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. But in his talk in Ghana on July 11 he failed to mention the CIA coup that ousted Ghanian president Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, referring to him only as a “giant” among African leaders. The Mossadegh coup is one of the most well-known CIA covert actions. Obama could not easily get away without mentioning it in a talk in the Middle East looking to mend fences. But the Nkrumah ouster is one of the least known; indeed, not a single print or broadcast news report in the American mainstream media saw fit to mention it at the time of the president’s talk. Like it never happened.

And the next time you hear that Africa can’t produce good leaders, people who are committed to the welfare of the masses of their people, think of Nkrumah and his fate. And think of Patrice Lumumba, overthrown in the Congo 1960-61 with the help of the United States; Agostinho Neto of Angola, against whom Washington waged war in the 1970s, making it impossible for him to institute progressive changes; Samora Machel of Mozambique against whom the CIA supported a counter-revolution in the 1970s-80s period; and Nelson Mandela of South Africa (now married to Machel’s widow), who spent 28 years in prison thanks to the CIA.

Ref: Counterpunch

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com