“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Iraq, the eye of the storm in the Arab world.

It has been no secret to the leaders and tyrants who universally dominate the Arab world, that repression is a necessary tool of statecraft. They know their people. Some like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak begged the Bush Administration not to go into Iraq. He feared the repercussions. He was right.

Those who know the Middle East and understand the tribal nature of the Arab clans and the power of the Muslim clerics, also know that if the steel grip of the more secular rulers is weakened, all hell will break loose as the divisons within Islam surface. Events in Iraq have validated the fear.

Nature abhors a vacuum and nature practices its lessons on those who do not pay attention. Iraq is broken. Iraq is being pulled apart by those elements that want to fill the unfilled power slots. They know the rules and they play the game with absolute ruthlessness. Regardless of which plan is implemented in Iraq, the Arabs and Sunnis know they will outlast any foreign power. Any viable solution will have to be one that is negotiated between the tribes and backed up with force. Whoever rules will do so with the rawest application of brutality and force. In one form or another we will end up with another Saddam. Saddam Hussein knew and practiced his craft well. His successor will also.

The neighborhood is worried about their prospects, as they should. From UPI:

Arabs appear helpless over Iraq
CAIRO, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Arabs appeared to be helpless in checking Iraq's speedy slide towards sectarian strife amid failure to convene a long-delayed national reconciliation summit.

The foreign ministers of ten Arab countries who convened under the chairmanship of Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa Tuesday will make yet another attempt to convince rival Iraqi factions to get together at the League's seat in Cairo next February. Such efforts are geared towards averting what appears to be an inevitable full-fledged sectarian war, an Arab diplomatic source told United Press International.

A preparatory meeting for the aspired reconciliation summit held at the Cairo-based Arab League in November 2005 proved to be in vain as it failed to convince the warring Iraqi factions to hold their fire and end bloodletting as a first step towards consensus.

Mousa sounded the alarm, warning that "Iraq's unity, territorial integrity, identity, social structure and Arab allegiance are seriously threatened and in great danger."

"Developments on the ground and disorder and violence sweeping Iraq necessitate an immediate Arab action to protect Iraq's future from the dangers of fragmentation and slipping into war that would spill over the border and threaten the region's security and stability," Mousa warned.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari was critical of what he described as "Arab neglect and slackening" in taking a leading role to help resolve Iraq's crisis.

"I have asked for a clear Arab support of Iraq's political process and government in which Egypt would take the lead," Zibari said after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"The increasing Iranian role in Iraq of which we are complaining is due to the decline of the Arab role," Zibari added.

The meeting convened in the absence of Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Muallem, whose country is allied to Iran, which the Arabs accuse of encouraging sectarian strife in Iraq.


  1. It seems as if the new sec of defense has another view:

    WASHINGTON - Robert Gates, the White House choice to be the next defense secretary, conceded Tuesday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and warned that if that country is not stabilized in the next year or two it could lead to a "regional conflagration."

  2. Sliding Back into Socialism
    By Bill Steigerwald | December 5, 2006

    Central Europe's four-pack of liberated former Soviet colonies -- Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic -- have been drifting away from free markets and democracy and back toward socialism and authoritarianism. According to Marian L. Tupy, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, Central Europe's liberal political parties (i.e., free market parties) have been losing out at the polls to populist parties that combine left-wing economics with right-wing social attitudes. I talked to Tupy, who has an article about the rise of illiberalism in Central Europe in the January Reason magazine, by telephone Tuesday from his offices in Washington.

    Q: Generally, how have Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic done economically, politically and socially since the end of communism?
    A: I have no doubt that the current social and economic situation in Central Europe is better than it was in the dying days of communism. Standard of living judged by income per capita adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity is at historical highs. Longevity is up. School enrollment is up. The people of Central Europe enjoy more material goods, and, of course, they are free. So both from an economic and a political perspective, it seems to me that the past 17 years have been pretty successful.

    Q: How do you define these new populist parties?
    A: Populist parties in Central Europe tend to promise a lot of things which ultimately are contradictory and which they cannot possibly deliver within the limits of a modern, free-market liberal democracy and also a capitalist economy. They may promise greater job protection and at the same time they may promise lower unemployment. They may promise greater welfare payments and at the same time lower budget deficits.

    What is interesting about the populist parties is that ... they are the opposite of liberals. Liberals, in the classical sense of the word, emphasize the need for economic as well as social autonomy of the individual. In other words, the individual should be able to make independent decisions in his personal life and also be able to -- autonomously and free of government intervention -- participate in the economic life. Populists have really combined illiberal elements -- or the opposite of both. They emphasis religious conservatism and nationalism and at the same time they emphasize socialist economic thinking.

    Q: What is causing the popularity of these illiberal populist parties?
    A: People in the public opinion surveys still continue to believe generally that free markets and democracy are the best ways to go forward. Some of the most dramatic reforms that have been undertaken by reformist regimes in Central Europe continue to enjoy public support. In Slovakia, which had the most radical reformist government in recent years in Central Europe, some of the free market reforms such as the flat tax and privatization of the pension system continue to enjoy public support. My hypothesis is that the rise of the populist parties has to do with the discrediting of the political elites in these countries and public revulsion at the behavior of those political elites and established political parties.

    Q: And you say it is corruption that is causing this revulsion?
    A: Yes. The main part of it has to do with corruption. I went to Central Europe and I talked to people at the time of the Slovak elections, for example. The Slovak election was obviously pretty crucial, because here was this profoundly reformist government seeking re-election. But the people did not say, "We think the reforms are crazy and we would like more state intervention." What they said was, "We do not believe in our political elites. We believe our political elites are corrupt and we want somebody to clean the Augean Stables."

    Q: What kind of corruption are we talking about -- that former communist leaders are living off the state's former assets, trading privileges for money?
    A: I think both. The communists certainly did very well out of the transition from the communist system to the free market. But there is a more general problem with the political elites and the political establishment in Central Europe, which is to say that people continue to seek public office, be it at a national level or a local level, in order to make money.

    Q: What’s the cure for this kind of corruption? Is it just a matter of time until they become more mature democracies?
    A: Certainly, corruption amongst public officials is helped by a number of factors. One is the relative weakness of civil society. Unlike in the United States, where we have a vast variety of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and public pressure groups whose vested interest and entire raison d’etre is to track political corruption and fight it, these sort of political organizations have not yet had time to emerge in Central Europe and those that have emerged have not yet attained the kind of strength that might be the case in the United States.

    Public oversight – oversight that you might expect from courts and parliaments – is still relatively weak, in part because courts continue to suffer from high rates of corruption, and parliament accountability continues to be low because it is the parliamentarians themselves who are often on the take.

    Thirdly, you’ve got the mentality of the people. In other words you have vast sways of society that were brought up under communism where theft and lying were not just tolerated, they were a prerequisite for survival in a communist society. And obviously these attitudes persist in today’s era and all that will have to be changed.

    Now. Is that enough? In my view, that is not enough. The populist parties in Slovakia and Poland have promised to combat corruption by basically just placing greater controls on the behavior of public officials and placing the right people in the right positions. I don’t think this is enough. In my view, in a society where you have this cultural baggage from the days of communism, where you have underdeveloped civil society and an underdeveloped system of checks and balances, what you need to do is minimize or to limit the scope of the state and spending. So it’s not enough to hope that people will change, or that if you have more controls, those controls will address the problem of corruption.

    You need to suck the air out of corruption by doing two things: One, to limit the scope of the state; and two, by limiting the amount of spending by the state. As I pointed out in my paper, I believe on average Central European governments spend about 44 percent of GDP per year, which is an incredibly high number. So obviously public spending has to decline.

    Q: How does that compare with the United States?
    A: The federal government spends about 20 percent of GDP in the United States…. Plus, of course, you have to add to that state government spending…. In Central Europe, in the case of Hungary, the central government spends 50 percent of GDP. So that gives you a comparison. Spending is obviously very high. Unlike the United States, you don’t have a vibrant civil society, a culture of non-corruption, etc., etc. On top of that there is the problem of the scope of the state -- the areas that the state interferes in. In the United States, the regulatory environment, for example, is much less burdensome. In Central Europe, the number of regulations that the bureaucrats administer is much larger and consequently there is more scope for corruption.

    Q: What country is the most backward or the least liberal of the four?
    A: I'd have to go with Poland. Poland doesn't have the highest spending in the region -- that's Hungary. But Poland's economy is the most highly regulated. Once you combine the spending effect with the overregulation of the economy with the scope of bureaucratic action, Poland is the worst country out of those four.

    Q: The best?
    A: I'd probably have to go with a country outside of Central Europe -- Estonia. When it comes to regulatory environment, Hungary is doing the best in Central Europe and then when it comes to state spending, Slovakia is doing the best. If I wanted to give the Central Europeans an example to follow, I'd have to go with Estonia.

    Q: Why Estonia?
    A: First of all, Estonian economic performance has been superior to any other country from the former Soviet Bloc. Estonian income per capita grew at a much faster pace than in Central Europe. From 1995 to 2004, Estonian income per capita grew by 96 percent, which is absolutely extraordinary. Also, the Corruption Perception Index, the measure of corruption in Estonia, is the lowest out of all post-communist countries.

    Is it a perfect country? Definitely not. But it is doing better than any other post-communist country in terms of corruption. And why is that? The argument I make in my study is because Estonia has actually made the greatest progress when it comes to limiting the power of the bureaucrats and also in limiting government spending. Estonian spending is on a par with Slovakia but its regulatory involvement is less.

    In other words, there are fewer bureaucrats spending less money than anywhere else in post-communist countries -- which, of course, limits corruption.

    Q: Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about these former communist colonies?
    A: I’m very optimistic in the medium to long term. The underlying problem of Central Europe is corruption.

    Because the populist parties in Central Europe do not believe in the free market, do not believe in the value of limited government, they are going to maintain and perhaps even exacerbate the problems of corruption. They are not going to stop spending. They are not going to limit the size of government. And as a consequence, in the next few years we are going to see the kind of corruption scandals we have seen before blow up in the face of the populists as well.

    It’s already happening in Poland. The Law and Justice Party, which came to power promising to tackle corruption, is now deeply embroiled in corruption scandals. In Slovakia, 100 days into the new government, we have already seen the resignation of one state secretary for suspicion of corruption. So the undoing of the populists in the medium term is going to be the same problem they have been accusing their predecessors of, which is corruption. As these populist parties become discredited, the liberal parties, that obviously I believe have the answers to the remaining social and economic problems of Central Europe, are going to be given another chance. Then it will be their task to make sure that when they tackle the problem of corruption, they are unimpeachable when it comes to government.

  3. USSR did deep damage all over planet. Deep, deep, deep. And pernicious, persistent, and perpetuating.

    Liberalism is best if for no other reason than because it is not its opposite.

  4. Comrade Rufus:

    Checka the numbers of the CPUSA and the Socialist Party of the USA.

    Our numbers are growing. It is a wonderful world when everyone is equal.

    Join us Comrade. We even have good old American hay rides,we go hunting and fishing,watch NASCAR and the upcoming Victoria Secrets show on big screen TV.
    We are Americans and Communists and we vote too.
    Soon the illegals will be granted citizenship but we have an inroad there too. Our new Maximum leader, El Tigre Chavez will control them and they will vote for communists and socialists. We will be the swing vote and your politicians will grovel for our votes to keep power over you. It will happen soon, perhaps ten years.
    Join early and become a member of the "Gus Hall Brigade"

  5. America has shamed itself in Iraq.

    Your best minds could not conjure, your eyes did not see. You heard only your own voice, and you spoke lies to the world.
    Now you are engaged in losing AGAIN. Korea,Vietnam,Somolia,Afghanistan,

  6. Choke on it said, "Our numbers are growing. It is a wonderful world when everyone is equal."

    Communism: You have two cows -- the government takes both, and gives you the milk.


    You have been outflanked in Europe,South America,Africa,ME,Far East,Miami,Detroit,San Fransisco,LA,NYC.

    Your population is fat for the slaughter.

  8. Habu, will there be gulags? I hope they have internet.

  9. Comrade Rufus,
    Hey, someone had to do it. Snag a few lurkers, give'em heart attacks.

    Back to business.

    Glory to Mother Russia

  10. if they DON't have internet, I'm not going in. I'll write my congerssmun, whover the fug he is.

  11. Buddy, shusss, I'm under cover now as Livendinkolonium's double.

    Long wax Lenin

  12. Gulags, comrades that was western propaganda. Those were health resorts for those who had mental or weight problems.
    People were dying to go there.

  13. Willdo, my figers are sealed. Long Live The Prolinoleum Revolution!

  14. Comrades, check out that CPUSA link..we are celebrating OUR victory over the Republicans. It is a great article about our helping our comrades in the other parties.

    Typical Russian girl

  15. truth is, we SHOULD join the CPUSA. Maybe we could do some good. Currently, that goddam Bush won't even listen to me. I wanted a new lawnmower.

  16. 8. Summary back to top
    The problems of exploitation, oppression, and survival facing humankind can only be solved, ultimately, by the elimination of the exploitative system of capitalism. Our survival depends on a transformation to socialism. The U.S. working class, with a long revolutionary history and many powerful mass movements and organizations, has the potential to make this transition happen. That means building unity for peace, for protecting and expanding democracy, for living-wage jobs, for universal health care, for real equality for all those who are nationally or racially oppressed and women, for an end to the political control of the ultra-right over our political institutions, and for an end to the economic rule of the transnational corporations. Building and strengthening organizations of and alliances between the working class and its allies, winning real unity in the course of struggle, is the path from our current struggles towards socialism.

    A Communist Party is essential for Marxists to test revolutionary theory through practice. We are not a debating society wrangling over obscure texts. We are a political movement, and we welcome all who accept our program. As Marx said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The Communist Party USA is about changing the world.

  17. Whit,

    Your Israel thread is down. If and when it comes up, think about this.

    Why worry about the Franco-American UNSC Resolution 1701? I linked to this during that little dust-up in Lebanon, as Dr. Rice was negotiating the breakthrough deal.

    France and the Rwanda genocide

    A man after C4’s own heart

    Links from the American Thinker

  18. Girlski in MotionII

    Speakers on..the song is hilarious

    Girlski II

  19. Allen,
    I think it is an abomination that Baker was put in charge of the commission in the first place but I fear for Israel.
    I am sure there's a contingent that believes (wrongly) that all the Islamofascist problems will go away if we cut Israel adrift and let her fall. It's total bull shit.

  20. Whit,

    Here's more for that missing Israeli thread.

    Wretchard has much the same thought as I on the Israeli effort to prove to the “international community that it is a good citizen.”
    Too little, too late

    My first post was here at the EB:
    Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War

  21. Israel can only win by losing. That's the crazy place the world's propaganda has finally come to. That's why the last few kassam attacks have gone unanswered. the less Israel fights back, the slower the pace of the encroaching madness--and that's what the world wants, now. A little more playstation3 time before the apocalypse. Eat, drink, and be buried.

  22. Eat, drink, and be buried.
    Great line Buddy.

  23. it wrote itself--had to rhyme with "be merry".

  24. Did you view and listen to Girlski II...funny song

  25. how do you load them avatars--i finally came acrost
    meself. --?

  26. i'll turn it up later, when the kiddo ain't running in & out--

  27. In fall 1990, as a euphoric Germany celebrated unity, a tragedy began to take shape in Moscow. Records of secret Politburo meetings...more>>

  28. Buddy, on your name. that will bring up a window that has a blue "edit your profile"
    scroll to add picture place
    copy/paste your choice ..can't exceed 50k or 68 characters in length.
    scroll to bottom
    hit finished button

  29. you're pasting the url ..if you right click on a pic etc and go to the bottom it will show
    click on that to get url and see the length..if it looks way probably won't fit

  30. Buddy,
    That is a neat site. i know I'll be looking at it more closely for many months to come. I enjoy those kind of sites.