Ukraine: The Realist View (15th Feb 2021)

This interview with John Mearsheimer was recorded on Tuesday 15th February at Kings College, Cambridge University, online forum, just before Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February. Mearsheimer is a renowned American political scientist and international relations scholar, of the realist school of thought. He presents a view that contradicts what we have been presented with by the mainstream, with regard to the underlying causes of the crisis (presented by Mearsheimer in a lecture from 2015), and goes on to define just what has he believes has precipitated the crisis that has so tragically and rapidly unfolded.

His central argument is that since the advent of the Trump administration, the USA and its allies have accelerated the arming and training of the Ukraine military, with a view to turning Ukraine into a de facto NATO. state. He stresses that, from his realist perspective, this must be unequivocally unacceptable to Russia. Further, he points to recent provocations to Russia carried out by way of territorial incursions made by the British and the Americans. Mearsheimer concludes this talk by saying that the crisis would go on for a long time. It seems that even though he is clear that the Russians had reached their ‘boiling point’, does not anticipate an imminent Russian invasion. In the course of answering the last question, which was about the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons in this crisis, he even says, “I don’t think they are going to invade.”

Ukraine: What is actually goin down?

Watch Freddy Sayers of Unherd and Konstantin Kisin, a well-known Russian-British comedian, podcaster, writer and social commentator, break down the coverage in the Western media, both mainstream and alternate, and
offer some soundbites of their own. Kisin outlines Putin’s imperial aims as set out in his signal claim that large swathes of Ukraine are, historically and ethnically speaking, Russian territories. He goes on to criticize the Western
media’s failure to understand what was being announced.. He discounts the theory that it is NATO’s sustained expansionism (ala Mearsheimer whose analysis is left unreferenced) that has provoked the Russian aggression and calls for an assertion of Western power in the face of a new Cold War II. This is of course very much a NATO perspective (There is nothing cold about the invasion from a Ukrainian perspective). Kisin does acknowledge the West’s broken promise to the former Soviet Union (Russia) not to expand NATO, and points to a reciprocal promise to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression, made in return for giving up nuclear weapons. 

I must say that, while I am generally enamoured of Freddy’s objectivity and interlocutive rigour, and while there is much food for thought in this discussion, it is at this point that the conversation reveals a striking lack of depth. I feel that Freddy might have pushed Kisin to elaborate on the dialectic of NATO expansionism and Putinesque imperialism, and or on the symetry of Western duplicity. Indeed, what follows their heavyweight opening is much less substantial. Kisin’s declares that his wife is Ukrainian and displays some a domestic repurcussions of the geopolitical crisis. He touches on the potential refugee crisis and its consequences for Britain, not very generously at that., one might  He then  deigns to speculate on the decline of Western leadership and declares that Freddie and he are ‘metropolitian liberals’ … Hear Hear!!

Ultimately, this conversation is a  striking example of a new genre of podcast intertainment (yes I think I have just coined that one!) – a kind of hyperbolic (despite Freddie’s signature restraint) intellectual soundbite … comedy? The irony of our times is that comedians are becoming better sources of facts, analysis and objectivity than the mainstream talking heads … it seems the make better natioinal leaders too!

Ukraine: A prescient analysis from 2015

Given the derth of intellect and integrity in the mainstream media here in Canada, I thought I would share a prescient analysis on the crisis (the 2014 crises) in the Ukraine by John Mearsheimer, who is an American political scientist and international relations scholar. There is no doubt that there are those in North American establishment who are, today, in the position to say to their political leaders, “I told you so!”

Have we reached that disastrous point of rupture – the balkanization of Ukraine, that Mearsheimer was hoping would be avoided?

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

4 Heterotopia

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

0 Performance
1 Keling Maya
2 Cyberspace
3 Model
5 Rajinikanth
6 Heroes|
7 Telinga Keling
8 Keling Babi
9 Duchamp
10 MGG Pillai
11 Pantun
12 Praxis
13 Dochakuka
14 Post-tradition
15 Philosophia Perennis

3 Model

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

CULTURE x MEDIA / PLACE = HETEROTOPIA

Foucault’s idea of heterotopia enables us to see, in spacialized terms, the relativity of norms within a given system of power. In my model, CULTURE (aspects that can be conceptualized) multiplied by MEDIA (modes of representation and communication) divided by PLACE (location or territory) equals HETEROTOPIA (plural).

DEMOCRACY x INTERNET / BUMI= MALAYSIA

At the heart of this model is the notion that media amplifies culture in an inverse relation to place (size of territory) and that heterotopic complexity increases with proximity or spatial crush. In a more specific substitution, one could say, DEMOCRACY (a specific cultural form) multiplied by INTERNET (the dominant media) divided by BUMI (the earth, and entitlements to it) equals MALAYSIA (our contemporary socio-political space).

0 Performance
1 Keling Maya
2 Cyberspace
4 Heterotopia
5 Rajinikanth
7 Telinga Keling
8 Keling Babi
9 Duchamp
10 MGG Pillai
11 Pantun
12 Praxis
13 Dochakuka
14 Post-tradition
15 Philosophia Perennis

Politik Identiti (1996 -2020)

After cover of a book by Lat titled Dr.Who?!, 2020 from a thesis fragment found online.

1996 – Pop star M. Nasir gets boycotted by state owned media for being kurang ajar or kasar towards the sitting Prime Minister in asking, audaciously, “Siapa Mahathir?”

2004 – Esteemed Malaysian cartoonist Lat launches his 27th book titled titled Dr Who?!: Capturing the Life and Times of a Leader in Cartoons. Epitomizing the notion of halus, Lat was able to get Mahathir himself to launch the book. Surely, the latent reference to M. Nasir’s earlier question was heard by Malaysians even at the time!

2020 – M. Nasir’s alleged insult has now become a genuine question on every Malaysian’s mind! Who is he really? What does he stand for … does he stand for anything beyond Machiavellian self-interest?

Source Image: Click to access Pages_from_nor_amriah.TGB050030.part2(Chapter_4).pdf

https://www.malaysiakini.com/hiburan/405711

On Being Malaysian Tamil 4

The LTTE seems to be defunct as an operational entity. As I noted in the previous post, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the LTTE should be removed from the EU’s terrorism list. Nevertheless, the EU seems to have maintained that the LTTE on the said list. One might reasonably speculate that the reasoning behind this is that the fact that the organization is inert does not mean that it can not be revived. This is also probably why this defunct organization remains on terror list in 32 countries across the world including Malaysia where the LTTE was not even proscribed as a terrorist organization until 2014, a full 5 years after the end of the Elam war.

In connection with the possible LTTE revival, there seems to be a US State Department report in 2018 noted: “Despite its military defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan government in 2009, the LTTE’s international network of sympathizers and financial support has persisted.” Indeed, it is conceivable that when the LTTE went down in 2009, the organization had large sums of money dispersed across the world in the hands of unidentified operatives or trustees. It is possible that some such funds are still out there in the hands operatives faithful who, true to the LTTE cause, might be biding their time, waiting to reinvest in armed struggle.

In this light, I took the suggestion, made by the Malaysian Police, soon after the recent SOSMA arrests for LTTE related activities, that there were significant financial transactions in involved, very concerning indeed. It was the only aspect of the initially insinuated allegations against the detainees that I found worthy of serious consideration. Promotion of a proscribed organization that no longer exists seemed trivial and merely symbolic, compared in being involved in financial transactions aimed at actually reviving that organization. So far, however, no such charge has been laid against any of the 12 detainees and I wait anxiously to hear of further charges. Perhaps there will be something coming up that might justify the use of SOSMA and the hysteria generated around these developments, not least by the Police themselves in the manner of the arrests were made and shared with the media.. … More in On Being a Malaysian Tamil 5

SUPERSTAR CUTOUTS

dance12

As the May 8th polling date approaches in Malaysia, there has been an interesting turn of events with regard to the use of images. According to the Straits Times of Singapore, the Election Commission just issued new guidelines stipulating that, other than the photograph of the candidate standing for election in a given constituency,  the only other photographs can be used on campaign materials are photos of the candidate’s party president and deputy president. This effectively removes images of Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim from the iconography of the campaign. Reflecting on the power of images in the contemporary media, and the interdiction against images in Islam in this context might be quite enlightening ……. as might pondering on the Superstar Cutouts that populate the box-office and polling landscapes of Asia!

Image composite from : https://aliran.com/thinking-allowed-online/2011-ta-online/najibs-larger-than-life-thaipusam-appearance/ and https://malaysianaccess.com/batu-caves-12-metre-cutout-anwar-ibrahim-standing-tall-p5831/

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/new-rules-by-malaysia-election-body-seen-as-bid-to-block-mahathir-posters-from-wider