Ukraine: A Path for Peace

Now that the Russian invasion has come to pass and fighting has deepened, the possibility for peace in Ukraine can not be premised on ideals but must be based on compromise. Anatol Lieven, Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar; visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London; and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC, suggests that such a compromise is necessary to save Ukraine from destruction and loss of life, as well as to preserve Ukrainian sovereignty. A prolongation of the war will likely mean that large areas will be permanently lost to Russia, particularly the land linking Crimea to Russia.

Lieven suggests the terms of a possible peace –

  1. Russian forces should withdraw from all the areas occupied since the invasion began.
  2. Ukraine should sign a treaty of neutrality
  3. Russia should guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
  4. Ukraine should be precluded from NATO membership.
  5. Ukraine must recognize the administrative integrity of the Donbas separatist republics.
  6. Ukraine must recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.
  7. The West should lift all the sanctions imposed on Russia.
  8. Ukraine should be allowed to emerge as a Western-style democracy.
  9. Ukraine should receive a very large Western aid package for reconstruction.

Now according to Calum Roche, Russia has expressed a willingness to end the war on the following terms –

  1. No NATO membership and a neutral position.
  2. Russian should be the second official language of Ukraine, with laws prohibiting it abolished.
  3. Recognise Crimea as Russian territory.
  4. Recognise the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk.
  5. Demilitarisation of Ukraine and abandonment of weapons that could be a threat to the Kremlin.
  6. Banning of ultra-nationalist parties and organisations in Ukraine.

While it has been underplayed by the mainstream media in the West, this Russian peace proposal is close to Lieven’s suggestion as outlined above. Russia’s terms seem to constitute a reasonable (in realpolitik terms, not in terms of what is fair or just) set of demands given Russia’s overwhelming might and the West’s proven unwillingness to engage Russia directly. Can Ukraine keep fighting the Russians alone? What can Ukraine gain by pursuing this asymmetrical fight? In their valiant resistance thus far, Ukrainians have amassed much capital with which to negotiate. The Russians may have bitten off more than they can handle and be ready to compromise. On the other hand, a long and continued resistance will likely mean that larger areas will fall to Russia, not to mention devastation and loss of life.

Peace is an urgent necessity for Ukraine and Ukrainians! It seems, however, that Russia’s condition 5. might mitigate against NATO and the USA’s ascendency, and condition 6. might threaten the powerful ultra-nationalist forces that are aligned with Ukrainian state. Will these realities diminish the Ukrainian leadership’s capacity to make the compromises needed to arrive at a speedy cessation of fighting?

Image: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/03/04/what-path-negotiated-peace-ukraine

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/putin-s-six-demands-to-end-russia-s-invasion-of-ukraine/ar-AAV5oMx?ocid=

Ukraine: George F. Kennan’s View

According to Davis Stockman, In 1998, at a time when NATO was extending into the former Warsaw Pact nations, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman asked George F. Kennan for his views. It is important to note that Kennan had been the US ambassador to Russia during the Stalinist era. He is known for having been influential in shaping the US policy of Soviet “containment” and in the creation of NATO. Here is some of what Kennan said 24 years ago concerning the US Senate debate on admitting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO,

“I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.”

. “It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course, there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are – but this is just wrong.”

Image: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/14/getting-real

https://original.antiwar.com/david_stockman/2022/02/23/george-kennan-warned-nato-expansion-would-lead-to-this/

Oh Canada! 5

SW 3rd Ave. Portland, Oregon, USA. 2019

The only possible justification for the invocation of emergency powers in the context of the Canadian Trucker’s protest and the occupation of Ottawa is the facticity of a fascist threat. Precisely, was the Freedom Convoy infiltrated by either domestic or foreign far-right elements. The Liberals have called for these extreme emergency measures and the NDP have supported them, but notably, the Conservative Party of Canada has been unequivically opposed.. The upshot of this bifurcation on the understanding of the facts or, at least on their interpretation, heralds the arrival of an unsightly and possibly irrevocable division in the political culture of the nation. We watched with incredulity as this happened to our neighbours in the USA. Their polity is now irreconcilably split between those who are ‘deplorable’ and those who want to ‘make America great again!’ Many thought it could not happen here in Canada, but the spread of such political decay in the liberal democracies of the West seems ubiquitious and inevitable.

While communal and sectarian sentiments are present in all societes, they are generally innocuous, until they are exploited and exacerbated by politicians to populist ends.When the nation’s mainstream politicians either court extremist sentiments (lets call this populism) or deem it fit to cast such aspersions on significant sections of their fellows (and this the spectre of populism), they are indubitably heralding a clamitous eventuality for their polity. When populism presents itself as an inherent part of the electoral process, it threatens to usurp democracy itself. (see my series of posts ‘It is Time to be Clear 1-8) But returning to the events in Ottawa, this facticity remains in question – are there far-right elements behind the Truckers movement, and was there in fact a tangible threat to the security of the nation? If there are organized right wing groups funding and/ or running the movement with a view to toppling our democratically elected government, I too am in full support of the invocation of draconian emergency measures. If, however, these fringe elements are meerely incidental and opportunistic hangers on to this movement, and their role and import have been greatly exaggerated, then I must take a very different stance.

Will these matters be aired and debated for the consideration of all Canadians? This question holds oraclular import for the future of the nation. Is there fascism … and who are the fascists?

Oh Canada, how are thy Laurentian fathers (and sons) fallen!

Oh Canada! 4

A motion to approve the Emergencies Act was passed in the Candian Parliament by 185 to 151 votes on the 21st of Febuary, with members voting along party lines. While Trudeau had not officially designated it as a no confidence vote , he had compared the it to a vote on a throne speech, thereby putting pressure on his caucus.to toe the line, by implying implying that failure might lead to the minority Liberal government falling. Joel Lightbound, the Liberal MP who had unequivocally criticized the government over its handling of the crisis, also voted in favour of the motion. According to the North Shore News , he said that he would be inclined to vote against the measures if it were not a vote of confidence.

In the course of the debate preceeding the vote, the Liberals were accused, by Conservative MP Raquel Dancho of strongarming his backbench and making a power play against political dissidents.

Oh Canada, how are thy Laurentian fathers (and sons) fallen!

https://www.nsnews.com/national-news/emergencies-act-passes-commons-vote-and-ukraine-on-edge-in-the-news-for-feb-22-5087612

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/liberal-mp-politicization-pandemic-1.6343730

Oh Canada! 3

I have been very impresssed by Tom Marazzo throughout the Truckers protest and the ongoing crisis of Canadian democracy. Whatever your presumption and position on this matter, this man deserves to be herad – “I want to be very clear that our intent has always been and always will be to talk to the official government of Canada.”

Oh Canada, how are thy Laurentian fathers (and sons) fallen!

Oh Canada! 2

In a percepient article in the Wire that sets the Canadian Truckers protest within the emerging dialectic global of ‘Regressive Democracy” and ‘freedom populism’, Narenda Pachkede notes how, when the rational of the protest against Canadian vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the border was undernined by the institution of a reciprocal ban on unvaccinated truck drivers by USA, the organisers reoriented their action as a protest against government Covid-19 mandates in general. He notes how this message “got lost in the din created by the incessant blaring of the air horns of the parked trucks.” and that “Any biblical symbolism to the horns remained aspirational for the protest!” I am delighted by this density of reference and take great pleasure in unpacking its imagery and meaning.

As Mike Bennet explains in What Do Horns in the Bible Mean?, the horns of rams were used as shofars or trumpets (Joshua 6:5) that produced a sacred tones blared out during Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah (Leviticus 23:24). These horns were also sounded in warfare (Jeremiah 4:19) as well to herald other important events.

Bennet further elaborates – “when Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, shofars played a role in the battle of Jericho. Seven priests went before the Ark of the Covenant blowing trumpets of ram’s horns as the Israelite army marched around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times. The seventh time, when the priests blew a long blast with the ram’s horn, ‘the people shouted with a great shout’ and the wall of the city fell down flat, just as God had promised (Joshua 6:4-5, 20).

Applying this intense allegory to locate the Canadian action within global populism, Narendra sumises, “the Freedom Convoy is not a piffle. The seemingly innocuous pandemic protocols – social distancing measures, face mask requirements, vaccine mandates – impinge upon their personal freedom, claim the truckers. Marked by a deep conviction, anchored in an extreme right-wing libertarianism, it is blaring to the world that its freedom stands imperiled ubiquitously.” Powerful and portentous symbolism indeed!

Oh Canada, how are thy Laurentian fathers (and sons) fallen!

Image: https://thewire.in/world/with-canadas-truckers-standoff-a-global-journey-of-freedom-populism-has-just-begun

https://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/revelation/horns-in-the-bible/

Oh Canada!

I do not agree with Jordan Peterson or Rex Murphy on many things and, although I have paid attention to the important things they have had to say over the years, I have often found myself resisting many of their propositions. Having listened to their recent conversation about the ongoing national crisis however, I must acknowledge that my feeling is that their appraisal is worthy of serious consideration.

Oh Canada, how are thy Laurentian fathers (and sons) fallen!

It’s Time to be Clear 7

Donald Trump must not be treated as the cause of the recent debacle of American democracy – its attempted usurpation by fascistic forces. He may have been the catalyst for this ugly scenario but it arose from conditions that are endemic and systemic. We have to remember and accept that 73 million Americans voted for him in the last election. As Nolan Higdon and Mickey Huff explain, it is in fact the relentless bipartisan entrenchment of neo-liberal economics by both Republicans and Democrats that has brought this demon seed to fruit. Donald Trump has simply, “peel[ed] back the gilded veneer of democracy in America. His presidency has revealed what neoliberalism has wrought: a post-democratic U.S. ripe for fascism.”

The decimation of America’s public sector and its national industries in cynical programmes of privatization and globalization, as well as the hollowing out of American society by the depletion of support and services for its most vulnerable, have reduced American democracy to being a lifeless shadow of its imagined self. As Peter Fairman shows, while the Reagan administration pushed privatization forward as an overt political ideology, Clinton sold the privatization as a politically neutral management reform. Neoliberal devastation his has been a bipartisan adventure.

As Higdon and Huff go on to say, “Democracy ceases to exist unless the citizenry participates in and respects the process, put its faith in and defends public institutions, accepts verifiable electoral results, and attains the critical thinking and media literacy skills necessary to make well informed and sophisticated decisions.” While the United States of America is our case-in-point, I believe that these criteria are not met in numerous other failing democracies across the world.

https://eand.co/how-many-american-idiots-are-there-73-million-bded995868cf

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/14/ripe-for-fascism-a-post-coup-dtrump-autopsy-of-american-democracy/

https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2994&context=dissertations_1

It’s Time to be Clear 6

Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia are the 7 regimes that Laurence W. Britt analyzed to develop his set of fascistic characteristics. Like Umberto Eco before him, he came up with 14 key characteristics, which he construed as fascist and proto-fascist means of obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. He presented this list in an Op-Ed titled Fascism Anyone? in Volume 23, No. 2 Spring 2003 of ‘Free Inquiry’ as follows –
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

While, as Daniel Malmer notes this list was not intended to be used to diagnose fascism in present governments, but rather characterize historical fascist governments, it is nevertheless interesting to see how many of these fascistic characteristic apply to the purported democracies of the world.

As a Malaysian, I find that the polity of my country seems to exhibit a good 11 of the Britt’s 14 traits. If this were not worrying enough for the long view, we have just joined a list of dysfunctional nations that have suspended parliamentary rule and instituted emergency powers in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is the first such declaration of emergency since the aftermath of the race riots of May 13th 1969.

According to Bloomberg, the state of emergency was declared soon after some key leaders in the ruling coalition’s largest partner, United Malays National Organisation had called for a fresh election. They also report that the Pakatan Harapan opposition has admonished the Prime Minister for burdening the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving himself. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs has described the emergency as “totally unnecessary” and that “If you’re not careful, we will slip from parliamentary democracy into a rule by diktat.”

https://secularhumanism.org/2003/03/fascism-anyone/

https://medium.com/@danielmalmer/the-long-complicated-history-of-the-14-defining-characteristics-of-fascism-e366412932f

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2021-01-12/malaysia-pm-says-it-s-not-a-coup-but-critics-see-a-power-grab

It’s Time to be Clear 5

In an essay titled Ur Fascism, Umberto Eco lists 14 Fascistic characteristics. This essay appeared in the June 22, 1995 issue of the New York Review. I have taken the liberty of encapsulating Eco’s explanation of these characteristics as follows –
1. A penchant for traditionalism
2. The rejection of modernism
3. The cult of action
4. A prohibition of disagreement
5. A fear of difference
6. An appeal to the middle class
7. A belief in conspiracy theories
8. A feeling of humiliation
9. The glorification of war
10. A contempt for weakness
11. The cult of heroism
12. The cult of machismo
13. A charismatic populism
14. A stupefaction of language

It is instructive to compare, contrast and combine this list with Robert Paxton’s List from his The Anatomy of Fascism which I present in my post titled It’s Time to be Clear 3. It is imperative, given the unprecedented storming of Capitol Hill by Trump supporters, that Americans and, indeed, people of all nations consider their national polity in these terms. As we move deeper into the 21st Century, many other exemplars of democracy, albeit of less consequence on the world stage than the USA, will fare just as badly, if measured against these criteria.

For Americans, I suggest that this means more than seeking retribution from the Donald. While I do not doubt that he is culpable, I feel that such simplistic scapegoating, belies the true nature of American exceptionalism, of the bipartisan dialectic of its military-industrial project: War on Crime – Globalization – War on Terror – Yes, we Can! – Make America Great Again! The Republican Party will want to purge the memory of their willing Trumpian engagement from the record and the Democrats will want to foreground this entanglement for political advantage, but all this will distract us from their reciprocal complicity in their nation descent from democracy into oligarchy and authoritarianism.

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/?lp_txn_id=1012119