Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Policy

Henry Kissinger

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Henry Kissinger was the sole purveyor of American foreign policy, with the exception of presidents Nixon and Ford. While he was National Security Advisor, he essentially made the department of state irrelevant by taking over many of the tasks, like communicating with foreign officials and heading foreign policy task groups, typically reserved to the secretary of state. By Nixon’s second term, he was serving concurrently as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and had pushed out most other foreign policy advisors from the policymaking process.

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Kissinger was involved in Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War, the opening of China (essentially the establishment of relations with Mao was not a great triumph for human rights, but another triumph of realpolitik), the coup that brought Pinochet to power, etc. The human rights perspective of Kissinger’s detractors, everything Kissinger did was terrible. He was not bothered by this at all, as he was a firm member of the realist school of foreign policy, which holds that in the anarchic system of international relations, only power matters. Realists believe that international institutions such as the United Nations or international norms such as the concept of human rights are irrelevant. (In the Cold War, this became especially acute as Kissinger allied with brutal regimes, and conspired against democratic ones, in the name of anticommunism.)

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Take this quote from Kissinger:

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Remember that Kissinger is Jewish himself. That’s how much of a realist he is.

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While Kissinger was in office, the world was undergoing significant upheaval. There were various international crises originating in the Third World, and there was also domestic unrest in every region of the world. The most important aspect of Kissinger’s foreign policy outlook was his overriding concern of maintaining international stability, particularly by maintaining the Cold War’s bipolar global order. Wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and domestic protests in the U.S. and Europe all threatened to upend the bipolar order. Kissinger believed that wars in the Third World might drag the two superpowers into military conflict or nuclear war, and domestic unrest in Western Europe could open that continent up to greater Soviet influence. Simultaneously, domestic unrest in the U.S., particularly protests against the Vietnam War, had the potential of leading the U.S. away from the global interventionism necessary to maintain its superpower status.

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Furthermore, Kissinger was able to elevate himself to an unusual degree of celebrity in the 1973-1976 period because of Watergate and the elevation of the unelected Ford.

President Ford Discussing Progress with Henry Kissinger

Kissinger was the only major public figure of the Nixon Administration to escape Watergate unscathed (because he didn’t know about it, as it was a domestic election thing. To clarify, Kissinger had no connection to Watergate), and Ford, who had no constituency other than the existing Administration, heavily relied on Kissinger. [As Saigon fell, Kissinger’s polling dwarfed Ford’s.]

Then presidential adviser Dr. Henry Kissinger tells a White House news conference that "peace is at hand in Vietnam" on Oct. 26, 1972. (AP Photo)

Because of the unusual circumstances of this presidential term, Kissinger is now a symbol of everything realpolitik. (He’s a lightning rod for criticism from non-realists.) Many people adopted elements of this view of foreign policy, but none personified it like Kissinger.

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Reading Recommendations

There are four excellent biographies of Kissinger:

  • Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (This book provides a more favorable view of Kissinger than most other biographers).
  • Jussi Hahnimaki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
  • Mario del Pero, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy
  • Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power

The following are excellent studies of U.S. foreign policy during the Nixon-Ford administrations:

  • Daniel Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s
  • Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente
  • Barbara Zanchetta, The Transformation of American International Power in the 1970s
  • Paul Thomas Chamberlin, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War World
  • Gary Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide
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How did lobbying as we know it today get its start in the United States?

Lobbying had always existed in the United States, even before its independence, thriving in local governments. When crafting the constitution and the Federalist Papers, James Madison saw commerically motivated “factions” as threatening to the general will. He tried to neutralize that threat by making them compete against each other. Even though the First Amendment protects the right to petition, Madison hypothesized that special interest groups would often negate each others powers, thus preventing any possibility of tyranny. Since the federal government did not deal with many economic matters throughout most of the nineteenth century, lobbying occured only at a state level. However, the onset of the Gilded Age and increased federal intervention in fiscal matters also brought a heightened scale of lobbying as we know today.


Hitler’s Endgame.

Many Germans (even non-Nazis) accepted the idea of gaining Lebensraum as a historical inevitability. As early as the late 19th century, German writers such as Ernst Haeckel combined Darwinian notions of the survival of the fittest with romantic nationalism to create a deterministic ideology which argued that in order for the German people to thrive, they had to acquire more resources in a Darwinian struggle against other peoples.

The concept of Lebensraum was originally defined by Friedrich Ratzel who conceptualized it as a biological concept defined as the geographical area required to support a species according to its metabolism, and that human societies had to expand their Lebensraum through agrarian colonization or perish. These beliefs would be implemented by the Nazi government, who argued that war and conquest were necessary to gain new resources to sustain their race in a Darwinian understanding of international politics. German expansion was thus seen as inevitable by the Nazis because they perceived of history and politics as a deterministic struggle for resources between races.

The German experience in the occupied Russian Empire during WWI saw the establishment of a sort of colonial state called ‘Ober Ost’ which was informed in part by theories such as Ratzel’s. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’ book War Land on the Eastern Front argues that Germans involved in the occupation saw the east as barbaric and primordial, and they began to formulate notions that the native population should be removed. In 1917 the German High Command and Foreign Office even approved of a plan to establish colonies of German settler-soldiers in the occupied East.

Liulevicius states that this experience had an important role in shaping the Nazi perception of the east: “Ober Ost’s categories and practices were taken up again and radicalized [by the Nazis]: the gaze toward the East, cleansing violence, planning, subdivision and ‘intensification of control,’ forced labor. Chief among them was the lesson of Raum.” The Nazi dictatorship, inspired by Ober Ost, began to prepare its youth for a push towards the East: in schools, history and geography courses taught pupils that the historic German “Drive Towards the East” was a biological phenomenon and to look at land through the mystical doctrine of “Blut und Boden”, and Hitler Youth members were taught military skills and songs with lyrics such as “we will give [the East] a German face with sword and plow! To the East blows the wind!” The Nazi idea of widespread colonization of Eastern Europe was consequently inherited from theories and practices begun in Wilhelmine Germany.

Nazi Germany’s goal of exterminating Eastern Europe’s population and replacing it with German colonists had real economic goals. Although it might sound absurd to modern readers, early 20th century Germany faced serious land shortage. Germany was more densely populated and had a higher proportion of rural inhabitants than either France or the United Kingdom and lacked extraterritorial colonies where its excess population might emigrate to. Although it was a large country, the actual amount of arable land available for cultivation per farmer was comparable with countries such as Ireland, Romania or Poland, which was compounded by the fact that most of it was held by large estates; in 1933, 75% of Germany’s farms cultivated only 19% of its arable land. The majority of German farmers (88% of them, some 12 million people who made up 18% of Germany’s total population) consequently lived in poverty on economically unsustainable farms.

According to Adolf Hitler, the establishment of an international colonial empire was an unattractive solution because it meant spreading precious German blood over too great of an area; what Germany needed was a contiguous colonial empire carved out of Eastern and Central Europe. Arable land would have to be taken by conquest and its inhabitants driven out. Plans from the Reich-Fuhrer SS dictated that 85% of Poles, 75% of Byelorussians, 65% of Ukranians and 50% of Czechs would have to be deported from German-occupied territory to Western Siberia at the end of the war to make room for German colonists, with the remaining population being forcibly ‘Germanized’. These deportations may well have been a euphemism for a planned genocide, where the displaced Slavs might have been worked to death in Siberia.
Hitler viewed German expansion eastwards and the displacement of that region’s Slavs as a similar process to the expansion of European colonial states in the Americas, as evidenced by his statement made to Reich Minister Todt and Gauleiter Saukel on the 17th of October, 1941: “There’s only one duty: to Germanise this country [the occupied Soviet Union]… and to look upon the natives as Red-skins…I don’t see why a German who eats a piece of bread should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread has been won by the sword. When we eat wheat from Canada, we don’t think about the despoiled Indians.” The conquest of the Soviet Union and its colonization by Germans was seen by Hitler as Germany’s version of Manifest Destiny, where the Volga, as he declared, would become Germany’s Mississippi. Slavic place names would be replaced with Germanic ones, especially in places like the Crimea. During the war, the Crimean towns of Simferopol and Sevastopol were renamed Gotenburg and Theodorichhafen respectively. The Germans planned to construct an autobahn directly to Crimea (and likely others elsewhere in Russia), because the Black Sea was to become a German Mediterranean.

The Nazi’s plans for the establishment of Eastern Lebensraum were concretely planned out as early as November 1940 when they proposed the establishment of 50 to 100 acre farms meant to support large families of ten or more, nucleated around massive farms of 300 acres. The east was supposed to be entirely rural; average German settlements were intended to be villages of some 300 to 400 inhabitants. The largest settlements in the east were planned to be large villages known as a ‘Hauptdorf’ (head village) which would contain economic and civic establishments intended to service the smaller settler communities surrounding it as well as rural power stations to remove their dependence on urban cities. Besides these communities of soldier-farmers, there would have been SS estates run by veterans of the war, and massive estates given to high ranking Nazis; the dictatorship even promised its generals huge tracts of land to make them more committed to winning the war in the east. There were two main competing theories for the pattern of settlement: waves of dispersed settlements spreading out gradually eastwards, or a “pearl string” pattern where settlements would be set up along roads and railways and spread into the hinterland over time. IIRC the pearl-string plan became the official pattern for colonization.

According to Hitler, urban areas and industry would not be tolerated in the east; in a private table talk in October 1941, he declared that “we shan’t settle in Russian towns, and we’ll let them fall to pieces without intervening.” Not only would Soviet towns be allowed to crumble, but its main urban centers of Kiev, Moscow and Leningrad would be destroyed. Furthermore, Hitler stated that those Slavs that remained in German colonial territory as slave laborers would only be given only the most rudimentary education; they would learn basic arithmetic and how to read signs but nothing else. The German East was meant to be entirely rural and agricultural, and would produce enough food and resources to make the Reich an autarkic economy, comparable to the internal markets of the United States of America. This establishment of a German autarkic economy would make it a world power capable of competing with the USA for global influence. The Nazis didn’t want to conquer the world; they wanted to compete for international influence without overseas colonies like the USA.

Sources:

Cameron, Norman & R.H. Stephens, trans., Hitler’s Table Talks. New York: Enigma Books, 2000

Kamenetsky, Ihor. “Lebensraum in Hitler’s War Plan: The Theory and the Eastern European Reality” in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 20 No. 3 (April 1961)

Kershaw, Ian. The Nazi Dictatorship, Problems & Perspectives of Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Liulevicius, Vejas Gabriel. War Land on the Eastern Front, Culture, National Identity and German Occupation in World War I. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Smith, Woodruff D. “Friedrich Ratzel and the Origins of Lebensraum” in German Studies Review, Vol. 3, No. 1 (February 1980)

Stein, George J. “Biological Science and the Roots of Nazism” in American Scientist, Vol. 76 No. 1 (January-February 1988). (Tooze, 2008)

Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.


Conservative Christianity and the Republican Party:

I read a really good history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a couple of years ago (sadly, I forget both author and title) that documented the conscious decision by which the national leadership of the SBC, during the Reconstruction, made a conscious decision to be the voice of moral authority on the Confederate revisionist side, to embrace and defend the religious and social complaints of the former slave-holding class in the old Confederacy. So by the time of the rise of the Religious Right as we know it, the Southern Baptist Church had already invested nearly 100 years in raising, training, and providing volunteers for pro-segregation candidates in both political parties. After Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, that put the Southern Baptist Church firmly on the Republican side.

Also in 1964, at the presidential nominating convention (per the speeches and writings of Goldwater delegate and best-sellling conspiracy theory author John Stormer), was the meeting of the Republican Anti-Communist Caucus at which the leader of the top fundamentalist seminary in America, Dallas Theological Seminary, committed to revising the curriculum to persuade all future fundamentalist ministers that fighting Communism was Christian cause number one, and to teach that it was therefore a religious duty of all Christians to support politicians from what they saw as the only reliable anti-socialist, anti-communist party, the Republicans.

In 1968, the Pope of the Catholic Church issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which, among other things, banned the practice of contraception or abortion. By 1968, feminism was already seen as a left-wing political cause for long enough that it was being paid lip-service by even center-left politicians in the Democratic Party, which fairly rapidly coalesced into the current situation where observant Catholics feel forced into supporting the only anti-feminist political party, the Republicans.

In the second volume of his auto-biography, Francis Schaeffer, Jr., the son of the famous evangelist (and founder of the modern fundamentalist movement) Francis Schaeffer, documents that it was his personal revulsion to the idea of legal abortion, after 1973 Roe v Wade, that persuaded him to argue his father into telling wealthy Protestant fundamentalists that opposition to abortion was the most important Christian cause, and that they needed to donate money that funded the founding of Moral Majority. Schaeffer Junior says that he approached politicians in both parties, offering them the support of Moral Majority if they would denounce legal abortion, making the argument to Democrats that the traditional Catholic origins of organized labor and their traditional embrace of government regulation made anti-abortion a Democratic cause, only to find himself out-maneuvered by feminists on the platform committees and organizing committees. So, he says, he had no choice but, as their lead fund-raiser, to encourage early Moral Majority leaders to embrace Republicans, and their embrace of traditional rural values (see neo-Confederacy, above), as the only hope of seeing legal abortion overturned. (A decision he now says he regrets, but feels that the feminists left him with no alternative.)

(*Post-1964, the Southern Baptist Church embraced the Republican Party for segregationist reasons; post-1973, Moral Majority and the Catholic bishops both embraced the Republican Party for anti-feminism reasons.)


Gun Laws Must be Rewritten

The United States Constitution is the very fabric of our law and our lives. It should not be lightly modified. If we make a case for the changing effect of time and culture, we open a can of worms that may be hard to close.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, written and polished by noble and fervent Americans living at a time when a new nation was coming into being, took measures to protect the rights of Americans to “keep and bear” arms. Courts subsequently ruled that the Second Amendment protected Americans’ right to possess firearms unconnected to a militia, although the need for a standing and present militia was then a real necessity, and the matter was discussed at length.

Some reports of these long-past events suggest that care was taken to avoid the unpleasantness of a “right of citizens to own arms provision” which might be used to provide armaments to those who would overrule a government, in a situation wherein that government no longer had the trust and support of the majority of people.

The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. Again, that’s December.  Of 1791.

We may take a moment to call to mind what life in these United States was like in that early time. While civilization was booming in the east, life in the interior and farther west was far from civil. As Americans in covered wagons sought to make homesteads, farms, areas to breed cattle, they encountered Indians native to the region. The history of the defeat of the Indians is a tragic page in American history. The early settlers had to deal as individuals with bad men and rustlers. Gun-wielding bloodthirsty thieves, lawless criminals ran unchecked, out to take everything available for themselves. These lawless riders of the plains were often vicious; they worked in union with others of that ilk. When settlements turned to towns, and later, towns turned to small cities, there was little or no law. Some brave men rose up to protect the community; in some areas sheriffs were elected. Still we can imagine the plight of a man with a wife and children in those trying times.

One early sheriff and fighter for the people was the famed Wyatt Earp, believed to have been born on March 19, 1848. Earp worked for the law and helped to tame the west. He is remembered for a famous historical gunfight at the OK corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Earp’s birth was nearly 60 years after the passage of the Bill of Rights.

William H. Bonney, “Billy the Kid” started a life of crime with theft and horse robbery. He killed a man at the age of 18. He was a gunslinger known for his wanton violence. Billy is thought to have been born on November 23, 1859. That was 70 years after the Constitution was written as the law of the land.

Son of a preacher, John Wesley Harding was possibly the most bloodthirsty of the infamous in the Old West. He killed at least 42 people, including former slaves and gunfighters. He was known for carrying two pistols in holsters strapped to his chest, which enabled a faster draw. He was arrested at the age of 17, but was able to get a gun, kill a guard, and escape. John Wesley Harding was born in Bonham, Fannin County, Texas, on 26th May, 1853.

The old west is gone, and a militia has been replaced with a vast and well armed military. People don’t ride in covered wagons, and they are in most cases well protected. In the United States, major cities daily are forced to defend the force of the special interest groups who openly profit from gun sales. Children are shot. Young people anticipate a short and violent lifetime.

Can you imagine a drug-ridden US city, forced to accept the rights of individuals to carry hidden weapons? No self respecting gang member would go weaponless. Concealed arms would be the rule of the day, and gangbangers with guns, like children with toys, wouldn’t rest until they had heard the explosion and felt the recoil of the respect-granting weapon.

Today’s world is nothing like the time of our founding fathers, and they had no hope to envision the future, just as we today have no hope of previewing the world down the road. So it doesn’t make sense to continue gun laws that are clearly obsolete, and counterproductive. We hope that today’s awful violence in unique situations, and in every US city, will bring light to this night, and that sensible laws which don’t conform to the early constitution will be the rule of the day.


The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.

I play a little game, a variant of “where’s Waldo”, with pictures like this.
The challenge is to try and figure out everyone in the photo who will be dead or in jail by 1946. It’s quite gratifying.

Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.

Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.

In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.

There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.

It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.

(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)


Life in America isn’t too bad if you don’t mind drinking fracking fluid:

(RANT)

The fundamental issue many Americans fail to realise is the POLITICAL distinction between the United States as a sovereign nation on the world stage – and the United States as a domestic entity filled with Americans.

The US, to Americans, is all about the flag, freedom, cherry pie, democracy, patriotism, supporting the troops, democrats vs republicans, blah blah you get the message.

The United States to the rest of the world is a 100% corporate entity driven almost exclusively by the profit motive and power backed by a brutal military which acts almost solely in the interests of its commercial corporate interests and almost always against humanitarian interests, freedom etc and on the vast majority of cases if it is not the instigator of the crisis is backing the despotic regime behind the crisis.

The Republican Party is almost entirely driven by a corporate agenda – few would dispute this and none would HONESTLY dispute it.

The number one priority of corporations over the past 50 years has been to assume control of the public purse – it is by far, by FAR the greatest prize in financial history as well as the ultimate power grab – it is the absolute destination of all capitalism.

The surest, most definite, reliable pathway to usurping the public domain to private corporate control is by destroying the publics capacity to resist (making them stupid and poor) leaves them entirely reliant on the private sector, please see Victorian England – the dream time, and MOST IMPORTANTLY destroying the public finances of the state, preferably by transferring the wealth to the private sector, which allows them to point the finger at the state and claim it has failed – the only possible solution to this ongoing failure of the public system is to privatise it.

It absolutely BLOWS MY FUCKING BRAIN OUT that people do not realise that this is what is going on.

When people vote for Republicans, or advocate the private sector over the public social sector they are succumbing to a long term strategy to transfer the wealth, power and control of the public state to private hands.

Now lets be VERY, VERY clear about what this means – it is the ABSOLUTE NORM in history for the state to be owned and controlled by private interests instead of the public – remember that, its important. THE VAST majority well over 90% of historical state control has been in the hands of private individuals and companies and NOT public democracies. Public democracies and republics are very, very new and very very rare (despite their origins in Ancient Rome and Greece).

Almost every European state was a feudal principality controlled by a prince, a kingdom, feudal land holdings controlled by aristocracy with white slaves working the land, PRIVATE COMPANIES such as the West /East Virginia companies, the Dutch West Indies Company , the British East India Company, Emperors, Kings and Queens or even entire countries forged for private Individuals such as Rhodesia and Saudi Arabia.

So the destruction of the United States as a public democracy and the transfer of it into private hands would not be some OUTRAGEOUS extreme blip in history contrary to all norms, quite the opposite, it would be a RETURN to the normal, predominant methodology and ruling system of all of history – it would be an end to this extremely rare outlying occurrence of rule by democracy for the benefit of the greater society and populace and a return to the norm of history – private rule of all of society by private individuals with the public having no powers, no rights and no life.

That is what you are voting for when you vote for Republicans.

History does not lie – go read it.