“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."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Greece: 40 percent of children live in poverty, there is a 25 percent unemployment rate, for those between the ages of 15 and 24 nearly 50 percent. Now it will only get worse.


  1. Now the oligarchs will get to purchase €50 billion in Greek assets.

    1. Oh boy, fifty large in Greek government bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of Greek taxpayers (all eleven of them). That's gold, Deuce! Gold!

    2. Germany’s most inflammatory ideas – that Greece should take a five-year time-out from the euro and transfer 50 billion euros of assets to a fund based in Luxembourg – were dropped. There’s now no talk of Athens bringing back the drachma; and the new “privatisation” fund will be based in Greece.

  2. The destruction of Greece, like the destruction of America, by the big banks and financial firms is not, as the bankers claim, about austerity or imposing rational expenditures or balanced budgets. It is not about responsible or good government. It is a vicious form of class warfare. It is profoundly anti-democratic. It is about forming nations of impoverished, disempowered serfs and a rapacious elite of all-powerful corporate oligarchs, backed by the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history and a militarized police that shoots unarmed citizens with reckless abandon. The laws and rules it imposes on the poor are, as Barbara Ehrenreich has written, little more than “organized sadism.” - Chris Hedges

    1. What's undemocratic is Greece holding an election, the people voting by 61% not to accept a bailout on the terms of the Troika, then five minutes later they accept a bailout on worse terms from the Troika.

  3. Greece’s leaders face the challenge of pushing a massive austerity package through their parliament, agreed after 17 hours of negotiations in Brussels, amid angry talk of a German “coup” and the first signs of a popular backlash on the streets of Athens.

    Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, tried to cast the result of the often acrimonious talks in the best possible light for his country. “I think the vast majority of the Greek people will support this … because they understand that we have given our best to the bitter end,” he said.

    But his insistence that “we will keep fighting to regain our lost sovereignty” reflected widespread accusations that he had capitulated in the face of intimidation by Greece’s eurozone creditors, the other 18 nations whose leaders had spent the previous night battling to persuade him to bow to their demands.

    At dawn on Monday, the creditors unveiled an agreement to restart negotiations that will grant Athens a third bailout worth up to €86bn (£61bn) and prevent Greece becoming the first nation to crash out of the single currency.

    Although the deal prompted an initial sigh of relief from financial markets around the world, the stringent terms demanded by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for signing off on it, including a bold attempt to take control of €50bn of Greek sovereign assets, provoked widespread accusations of an attempted “coup” against the Athens government. Others expressed fears that Germany’s threats to expel Greece from the euro unless it capitulated meant Berlin had burnt through a disastrous amount of its political capital across the Continent in one night.

  4. .

    UN sanctions on Iranian missile technology. The last big hurdle to the Iran nuclear agreement?

    The Missile Impasse

    Last week, Tehran's missile program arose—seemingly suddenly—as an obstacle with the potential to derail the process altogether. In the days leading to the original July 30 deadline, the main obstacles to reaching a comprehensive deal on limiting Iran's nuclear program remained economic sanctions, the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, and technical details, such as those concerning Tehran's capacity for enriching uranium. But after that initial deadline passed, and leading up to a July 10 deadline relating to US congressional review, a new hurdle appeared on what had seemed a clear path a deal. The missile issue now seems to be the only key matter blocking the way to a deal. At base, the issue is simple: The West wants Tehran to limit its contentious missile program. Instead, Iran has tried to get the P5+1 to agree to lift existing limitations on its missile effort, including those included in the cornerstone of the international sanctions regime against Iran, UN Security Council Resolution 1929, adopted in 2010.

    The resolution—along with Resolution 1747 of 2007—heavily restricts Tehran's ability to procure missile-related technology. For the West, particularly the United States, elimination of these restrictions is unacceptable, because they fall within a broader arms embargo and sanctions regime against Tehran. The limits on Iran's missile program and conventional arms purchases extend far beyond the questions around its nuclear program. They also relate to the Islamic Republic's regional role and its support for terrorist organizations throughout and beyond the Middle East...


    The sanctions that limit Iran's acquisition of missile technology include both nuclear- and non-nuclear-related provisions. Now, as nuclear negotiations approach the point at which a deal will or will not be struck, the intertwined measures to restrict Iran are proving to be extremely complicated to unwind. Iran insists that the UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, especially 1929, have made that country into an exceptional state—one treated unfairly, and differently than others. This stance preconditions any deal that limits Iran's nuclear program on the normalization of the rest of its status in international affairs—a normalization that should allow the country to purchase conventional weaponry (including missile components), just as any other country can. Of course, the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program are in some ways premised on a notion, held by the United States and many of its Western allies, that Iran poses the sort of threat that requires exceptional treatment. Whether negotiators for countries that hold such diametrically opposed views of the Iranian missile program can reach a compromise is now the question of the hour.


  5. .

    “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly,” wrote T.E. Lawrence “of Arabia” nearly 100 years ago in his famous “Twenty Seven Articles.” “It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.”

    Missing in Action: Where Are the Arabs in the Fight against ISIS?


    Arab armies "lack the capacity for logistics, campaign planning, and all the supporting arms and assets needed to undertake an offensive campaign."
    James Jay Carafano

    July 13, 2015
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    Groups inside Iraq have shown willingness to fight back. But there are limits to what they can do. The Kurds are a case in point. Most of the military successes against ISIS in the field have been accomplished by the Kurds—with scant U.S. support. The Kurds are unquestionably willing to fight and die for Kurds. But even with the additional military assistance and support they deserve, there is little expectation they can thrash ISIS decisively. They have already taken losses that are proportionally higher than all the American combat deaths during the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, refugees have swelled their population by a third, and they must now be protected from ISIS.

    Even if the Kurds could go into other parts of Iraq and fight ISIS, it is far from clear that they would be welcome. The reality is that Kurds will defend Kurds. The Sunni tribes will fight for their tribes. Shia militias will fight for the Shia. That’s about all that can be expected. Meanwhile, the Iraqi military is a mess. As soon as President Obama pulled out U.S. troops, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began deconstructing the armed forces and turning them into his own political-military arm—loyal, but predictably useless as an instrument to defend the country.

    The only folks who want to dig deeper into the fight are the Iranians—and that’s no help at all. It’s unlikely that they can defeat ISIS. But their intervention can definitely irrevocably fracture Iraq. It also risks widening and complicating the conflict. Shia militia atrocities may simply substitute for ISIS atrocities.

    Even if the Arabs wanted to take the fight to ISIS, they lack the capacity for logistics, campaign planning, and all the supporting arms and assets needed to undertake an offensive campaign. European military forces couldn’t have undertaken military operations in Libya or Mali without heavy lifting from the U.S.—and the Arabs have nowhere near the “out of area” wherewithal of NATO militaries.

    Make no mistake: rooting out ISIS territorial control over Iraq will require conventional boots on the ground. We have tried the easy button. Airpower hasn’t driven ISIS from the field. Nor will flooding the country with special operations forces do the trick. When an enemy has territorial control, bombing and special operations are a great way to disrupt them. But it takes conventional ground forces to break an enemy’s territorial control and drive them out. Special operations, air power, and conventional attack work best when they are done in an integrated campaign (see Gulf War I).

    So there have to be boots. Some of them could and should be Arab, but there has to be a competent conventional force of appropriate size and capability to lead the way.

    Reason #'s 23-27 why the US shouldn't be in the ME.