Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq: No Chance Of Perpetual Peace?

In 1795, Immanuel Kant wrote an essay with a ‘charter’ detailing the steps that should be taken for perpetual peace:

1. "No Treaty of Peace Shall Be Held Valid in Which There Is Tacitly Reserved Matter for a Future War"
2. "No Independent States, Large or Small, Shall Come under the Dominion of Another State by Inheritance, Exchange, Purchase, or Donation"
3. "Standing Armies (fulltime professional soldiers) Shall in Time Be Totally Abolished"
4. "National Debts Shall Not Be Contracted with a View to the External Friction of States"
5. "No State Shall by Force Interfere with the Constitution or Government of Another State"
6. "No State Shall, during War, Permit Such Acts of Hostility Which Would Make Mutual Confidence in the Subsequent Peace Impossible: Such Are the Employment of Assassins (percussores), Poisoners (venefici), Breach of Capitulation, and Incitement to Treason (perduellio) in the Opposing State"

Three Definitive Articles would provide not merely a cessation of hostilities, but a foundation on which to build a peace.
1. "The Civil Constitution of Every State Should Be Republican"
2. "The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States"
3. "The Law of World Citizenship Shall Be Limited to Conditions of Universal Hospitality"

Kant’s general idea holds a close resemblance to modern democratic theory. In essence, his articles seem simple in theory yet they are certainly difficult to implement.

The case of Iraq, an alleged attempt by the US to proliferate democratic ideals within a dictatorial ridden society has probably invalidated every step of Kant’s charter to perpetual peace.

Steps 2, 3 and 6 of the aforementioned steps are relevant to the case of Iraq. All three have certainly been violated. Iraq is far from any chance of perpetual peace at this point. The recent events in Haditha have yet again brought the US in the ‘wrong’ spotlight. Along with the Abu Ghraib incident, the US should start to be careful with its seemingly endless effort to ‘eradicate’ human rights abuses around the world when the country itself has been a perpetrator itself.

The US administration is certainly not using Kant’s charter to perpetual peace as its guidance in Iraq. How long will it be? Does the US have a threshold? How will the international community react when the US continues to use its double standards in Iraq? In light of Abu Ghraib and Haditha, does the US really value human life the way they portray in the eyes of the public?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Diligent Decapitation Duty Destructively Done

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s insurgency leader in Iraq has been killed by US airstrikes.

Tips from Iraqi citizens coupled with a persistent effort from the US army have eventually led to his demise. Al-Zarqawi was responsible for a plethora of inhumane acts such as beheading American hostages and Iraqi citizens. He was also behind the horrific orchestrated attacks in Amman’s hotels last November.

The US army and Iraqi citizens should certainly rejoice as his elimination marks a new turning point in the formation of the Iraqi state and modern Iraqi history. His elusions have finally ceased to exist. Al-Zarqawi, a Sunni himself encouraged attacks against the Shia majority and was the culprit in instigating further sectarian violence which brought Iraq on the brink of civil war.

The consequences of al-Zarqawi’s death need to be carefully assessed.

His termination immediately alleviated pressures off of the US economy and drove oil prices down . This further indicates how dependent the US economy has become on political events in the Middle East. As I’ve argued in my previous post ‘The ‘True’ Power of Oil’ the US will take distant strides to secure sources of non-renewable energy and to continue to beef up its behemoth, consumer-hungry economy.

Al-Zarqawi’s death might spur an internal internecine struggle within al-Qaeda’s ranks. Osama Bin Laden and other top figures will need to carefully select an eligible candidate to replace him as the new leader of the insurgency in Iraq. According to American and Iraqi officials and experts, an internal struggle is a likelihood which will continue to bring more bloodshed within the country’s borders. Al-Zarqawi has done an incredible job at maintaining the stamina of the insurgency and his followers have a seemingly infinite concessionary threshold.

This threshold will prevail. According to Bruce Hoffman, a terrorist expert at the Rand Corporation in Washington:

“al-Zarqawi may be gone, but the conflagration that he set alight continues to burn. That is the reality. He has already set in motion powerful forces that won't necessarily stop just because he is dead.”

The US’ experience with decapitation attacks has not had a successful history. On numerous occasions during the start of the war in March 2003, the US attempted to use decapitation airstrikes to target important Iraqi figure heads and had failed. Even after the capture of Saddam Hussein, the situation exacerbated. For a moment, the world including some Iraqi citizens contemplated whether Saddam’s brutal, dictatorial and draconic methods keep the country ‘stable.’ Such a contemplation was vis-à-vis the current situation which had paved the way for the insurgency and had rendered the country’s internal and external borders porous.

Similar to the case of Saddam, the capture/decapitation of al-Zarqawi will (unfortunately) serve as an ephemeral symbol of success. The insurgency will retaliate in utter wrath and will seek to maintain their impetus. The insurgency’s decentralized nature has flabbergasted the US army within Iraq’s borders. As I argued in my recent post ‘Enter Somalia’ al-Qaeda has been tantalizing America’s Achilles’ heel, carefully learning from the US’ gross failures in the past (such as Vietnam) and targeting their weaknesses with utter precision.

Iraqi authorities should take a pro-active measure in ensuring that the insurgency’s activities are not blown out of proportion. Moreover, both Iraqi and American authorities should cautiously observe the struggle for his replacement and locate holes which might lead them to cripple the insurgency further. Time is of the essence at this point.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Enter Somalia

On Monday June 5th 2006, an Islamic militia stated that it had seized Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after weeks of bloody fighting and 15 years of anarchy.

The anarchy has not ceased to exist, in fact the Islamic militants will aid in its renaissance. This has worried Western governments as Somalia could very well be the new breeding ground for al-Qaeda extremists.

The United States has supported the leaders of an opposing Somali secular alliance in the past and has in fact helped them flee the country. Moreover, the US had a solid reason to support the secularists since they claim that the militants have links to al-Qaeda.

If this is really the case, what is al-Qaeda trying to do?

Al-Qaeda’s forte centers on its intricate, clandestine and decentralized structure. It would seem counter-intuitive for the organization to centralize and run its own government in Mogadishu. Thus, Al-Qaeda will certainly seek to maintain their non-state actor status since it makes it harder for the US and its allies to ‘decapitate’ them.

Al-Qaeda is further spreading its power and influence. In the past, Somalia had been a potential safe-haven for Osama Bin Laden and it should come to no surprise that his organization has ties to Islamic militant group. Moreover, Bin Laden was responsible for the 1992/93 massacre of 18 US marines in Mogadishu who were merely offering humanitarian aid to the brutal famine in Somalia.

Bin Laden is strategically trying to spread thin the US’ military resources. Under the Bush Administration, the military’s focal point has been Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, Syria and Iran have also been under the prying eyes of the US. In other words, the US military has been 'actively' confined to the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

Historically, fighting a conventional war on two fronts has proven to be very difficult (i.e. Germany in WWII), let alone fighting a non-conventional war on multiple fronts. Al-Qaeda is spreading its virus to Mogadishu hoping to erect a Somali Taliban. This could potentially harm the US’ role in the war against terrorism as it seeks to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and cripple his organization. This is a strategic tactic since infiltrating other rogue countries and parasitically latching on to them will only further agitate the US.

The US has several Achilles heels, most notably their high dependence on oil to continue fueling their behemoth economy (see 'The ‘True’ Power Of Oil') Moreover, their track-record of battling insurgents has been appalling as was clearly seen during the 1970’s Vietnam war. This has not changed. President Bush was overly-confident that the US army would be able to fight any insurgency which would arise as a result of the US Iraqi occupation, he was proven wrong. The insurgency - under the leadership of al-Qaeda member Abu Masab al-Zarqawi - has done an incredible job of frustrating the Americans and causing formidable US and Shia causalities. If a similar structure is put in place in Somalia, the situation would not be any different.

The US has yet another obstacle in its fight against terrorism. The situation is exacerbating at an unprecedented speed on both a state-actor level (i.e. Iran and Syria) and on a non-state actor level (i.e. al-Qaeda and its insurgency in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Somalia). The US’ Achilles’ heel has been exposed and al-Qaeda has been targeting it precisely.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The ‘True’ Power Of Oil

The world has shown its citizens the phenomena of ‘equilibrium’ and its alter ego ‘disequilibrium.’ Scientists have argued that nature is in equilibrium and mathematically in balance. In essence, nature strives to achieve equilibrium with what is naked to the human eye as well as what can actually be seen.

On the other hand however man-made creations are not ‘in balance.’ Societies, institutions, governments and socio-political systems are far from being well poised, transparent and efficiently functioning. Whatever has been created by a mortal has failed to attain nature’s impeccable perfection.

This is the certainly philosophical and in order to fully convey its essence, a pragmatic approach must be taken and an example illustrated.

‘Power politics’ (a man-made creation) refers to the military or economic threat used by nation-states to further their own interests. History has shown an abundance of examples, most notably the Cold War.

Nevertheless, the irony of power politics is that contrary to the semantics of its name, there is an ‘implicit’ balance between the major powers of the world. The US has the world’s largest and strongest army and economy par none however its feebleness has recently came to the public sphere through its incredible reliance on a non-renewable energy source:


The world’s economy relies heavily on oil however the US has (more than other country) revealed that it would take massive strides to secure a sufficient supply for its own health. The oxymoron in ‘power politics’ is that the US might not be as powerful after all. If one closely examines the list of the top oil producers in the world, an obvious yet nonetheless peculiar observation is made.

The following are the top world oil producers in 2004 ( OPEC members are in italic):

1) Saudi Arabia
2) Russia
3) United States
4) Iran
5) Mexico
6) China
7) Norway
8) Canada
9) Venezuela
10) United Arab Emirates
11) Kuwait
12) Nigeria
13) United Kingdom
14) Iraq

The following are the world’s top oil net exporters in 2004:

1) Saudi Arabia
2) Russia
3) Norway
4) Iran
5) Venezuela
6) United Arab Emirates
7) Kuwait
8) Nigeria
9) Mexico
10) Nigeria
11) Iraq
12) Libya
13) Kazakhstan
14) Qatar

The countries aforementioned are all in the ‘watch-eye’ of the United States because of their oil producing and exporting capabilities. Here is a quick and succinct summary of their relationship with the US:

Saudi Arabia: US ally
Russia: US ally with reservations and differences
Iran: US enemy and member of the ‘Axis of Evil’
Mexico: US ally
China: US pseudo-ally with reservations and differences
Norway: US ally
Canada: US ally
Venezuela: US enemy
United Arab Emirates: US ally
Kuwait: US ally
Nigeria: US ally
UK: US ally
Iraq: Occupied by the US, unclassified
Algeria: US ally
Libya: Recent US ally
Kazakhstan: US ally
Qatar: US ally

Here is a more detailed alliance analysis with a categorical numerical value (1 = staunch ally and 8 = staunch enemy).

Category 1: The UK, Norway and Canada can be categorized as staunch US allies. They are developed countries with economic and social systems similar to that of the US.

Category 2: Mexico can be categorized as a close ally. President Vicente Fox and President Bush have had their differences especially regarding the recent illegal immigration debacle and Mexico’s role in illegal cross-border immigration in California.

Category 3: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Nigeria and Kazakhstan can be categorized as allies. As much as Saudi Arabia has aided the US in the first and second Gulf wars, the majority of the 9/11 perpetrators were of Saudi origin. The extreme doctrine of Wahabism has bred Muslim militant extremists. Moreover, there have been numerous attacks on US property within Saudi borders and there continues to be extreme misunderstanding of both countries’ respective cultures. The Arab countries are in essence mini US strongholds in the Gulf. The US has struck business deals with all four countries and has troops stationed in all of them.

Category 4: Russia can be categorized as an ally on paper. A recent US News article about the G8 summit has revealed the many differences which continue to exist between both countries. Russia supports Hamas and has had diplomatic talks with Iran. In fact, Russia has offered to enrich uranium for Iran so that it could avoid any tensions and confrontations with the US. President Vladimir Putin is pro-democracy and anti-communist yet as Yuri Levada (Russia’s preeminent pollster) said, “we have democracy on paper. We hold elections and have a parliament, but there is no debate.”

Category 5: China is in civil and diplomatic relations with the US. China remains communist, the antithesis of democracy and of the principles of the US government. There exists an abundance of differences between the two countries and with the ever-growing Chinese population and burgeoning economy China is certainly more of a threat to the US than it is a friend.

Category 6: Libya and Algeria can be categorized as marginal allies. The US recently restored relations with Libya however the relationship is in its nascent stages. This was a strategic move by the US as the markets responded positively and oil prices decreased amid mediocre economic and inflation forecasts once Libya was removed off of the terrorist list.

Category 7: Venezuela can be placed as an outright US enemy. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has gone on numerous rants against the US and the US deeply criticizes his dictatorial methods of ruling his country. There continues to be tension but the US has not threatened to use force against the country however has placed numerous sanctions in the past.

Category 8: Iran is the prime US enemy at this point. Iran is a member of the ‘Axis of Evil’ (along with Iraq and North Korea) and continues to be a threat to the US because of its enrichment of uranium and its ‘alleged’ aspirations to develop nuclear weapons.

Category 9: Iraq will remain unclassified for now. The new government is obviously pro-US (since it has been approved and backed by the US) however it has been completely incompetent in dealing with the ever rising sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Moreover, the country is in complete social and political anarchy that it is too early to decide its ultimate outcome – i.e. its perspective on its US and its position.

Categories 3-9 are problematic in varying degrees. The implicit balance in power politics (and irony for that matter) is that over 90% of the top oil exporting countries in the world are either/and/or:

1) Developing/ nascent economies

2) Socialist/pseudo-dictatorial

3) Political enemies of the US

4) Arab (along with all the negative connotations it entails)

5) Corrupt

6) Represent the anti-Christ of democracy, civil liberties and freedom of rights

7) Harbor terrorists, terrorist cells and religious extremism

8) Large human rights perpetrators

The US has attempted to deal with one country so far: Iraq. So far it has failed miserably. Are all these other countries under its nose? What is the US cooking for Venezuela? Will the US continue to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s repressive regime and the incredible record of human rights abuses? How will it face Chinese opposition in the future?

How hypocritical is US foreign policy?

It seems that the word ‘Oil’ trumps everything.
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