By Kumar David –
Apologies for the untidy title where I have coupled democracy with descriptors that convey different implications. Social-democracy underscores livelihood concerns and the circumstances of the underprivileged. Liberal-democracy is about freedom of expression, the rule-of-law, Hobbes, Locke and all that. The simplest minimum is Electoral Democracy which demands free and fair elections and change of government by universal suffrage. We must reject all contrivances that cramp freedom – fascisms, one party states, presidents who hang-on for decades like Stalins, Hitlers, Mobutus, Idi Amins, Pinochets and such like. I don’t want to get dragged into classifying Lenin and Chairman Mao – the issues are too complex.
To get on with my topic: The present is an excellent conjuncture in which to examine a dramatic shift in global events. The post-WW2 world order, dominated by the United States and its Western European allies plus Japan and a few Anglophone states is unravelling because of a catastrophe in the Middle East (Palestine/Israel) and defeat in the Ukraine. Nobody in his right senses including that blabbering dotard in the White House now see any possibility of a lasting solution in the Middle East except by the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel whose right to continued existence I do not contest. Obama went out of his way to issue a long statement a few days ago pressing for a ‘Two State’ solution. The Islamic world is aflame and even South American countries Chile, Columbia and Bolivia have cut diplomatic ties with Israel. My regular readers will legitimately expect me to devote an essay to this global transformation, so here goes.
Hamas’s attack was terrorist – those who perished were civilians and bystanders – but it scored a political victory by humiliating Israel’s military and its intelligence agencies. In its response Israel is guilty of war crimes in plain sight; it is genocide, and ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity. More than 10,000 have been killed, hospitals bombed, staff of UN Agencies decimated and a child is killed every ten minutes by Israel’s brave military. Israel seeks to drive about two million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank out their homes and livelihoods. Some Jews say in private that the Palestinians are a problem and should be removed to some other place. The whole of the Abrahamic expanse is the Holy Land promised by God in the Old Testament to his Chosen People, the Children of God, the land of Moses and the Prophets, the site of the Temple of Solomon and their home since return from Babylonian Captivity.
Some Jews do not see this as genocidal or a war crime but as the fulfillment of prophesy; such is the supremacy of religion in the human mind. In a televised nation-wide TV broadcast at the end of October Netanyahu called the Palestinians “Amalek”, a term unfamiliar to those who are not -Jews, so here is the relevant Biblical quotation from I–Samuel 15.3: “Now go and smite the Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”. Israel’s genocidal intentions could not be more vivid!
The Role of the United States
The USA is a Jekyll and Hyde split-personality if one contrasts its democratic internal polity and the global reach of its military and financial might. Despite obvious limitations internally, it is a democracy from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1863), a Dr Jekyll. Free elections, a free press, right to dissent and protest, an elected Congress, a constitutionally empowered Judiciary. But good heavens internationally its Mr Hyde persona is astounding. It has 170,000 troops and top of the range hardware (nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers and star-wars technology) stationed overseas. Its military dominates the world with mighty overreach. The number of coups that the CIA has engineered overseas, mostly in Central and South America, are legion, plus numerous attempts to assassinate Castro including at the instigation of President Kennedy and his brother Attorney General Robert with whom JFK also shared some spicy delicacies.
Wikipedia estimates that the US has overthrown 64 foreign governments. Right now it is hand in glove with the Netanyahu Government to carry out overt genocide of the Palestinians. Though it is obscene and oxymoronic to call Israel fascist, no sensible person, many Jews in the US included deny that it is a party to ethnic cleansing. But damn! Between the US and Israel who is the leader who the disciple? Israel does not count for a fart without American armaments, nuclear knowhow and advanced technology, not to mention trillions of dollars of congressionally approved financial grants. Israel is nothing without America, but the interesting question is whether it is an essential tool for the furtherance of the strategies of US imperialism in the global arena. Remember Goethe’s story of an arrogant “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, a novice who arrogates to himself tasks for which he is unfit while the master is otherwise busy? Yes, it seems oxymoronic to call Israel fascist but there is no denying that its actions in Palestine after the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7 is genocide, a war crime and a violation of human rights. See the attached map of how the homelands of the Palestinian people have shrunk (ethnic cleansing) from 1948 to today.
Now to the crux of the contradiction. Can the US be described as undemocratic? As I said a moment ago despite limitations it is a democracy – free elections, a free press, right to dissent and protest, an elected Congress, a constitutionally empowered Judiciary. My point is that despite limitations (gun-trotting cops, throttling of blacks, FBI overreach, Trump intoxicated MEGA-mania, insane gun violence and more), American society is in the final analysis is, internally, a capitalist liberal democracy. Another dichotomy is well illustrated by the fact that 89% of US Congressmen and women, including progressives like Bernie Sanders, hold dual US-Israeli citizenship. The first page of a list of dual citizens is reproduced with this article.
This essay has given much attention to strategic concerns which I will round off by commenting on six important additional matters.
a) The Hamas attack and Israel’s response have focused the attention of not just the Middle East and Muslims but the whole world on the Palestine-Israel tinder box. The US is in hot water at home and abroad, Russia is developing a not yet entirely clear game plan, Iran is threatening to intervene, China has backed the Palestinian cause, the Saudi-US relationship has soured with the former expressing dissatisfaction with America, and even China has condemned the US. Hamas could not have even in its wildest dreams imagined such a windfall!
b) Pro-ceasefire and pro-Palestinian rallies on the streets of London, Paris and Washington DC are large and growing. In the capitals of Muslim countries the demonstrations are huge.
c) Erdogan referred to “Israeli barbarity”. Turkey’s importance cannot be overstated. It has the second largest army after the US in NATO and the country is an industrial powerhouse whose economy is as large as the UK or France. . Its military exports are huge and varied and include tanks, artillery and drones. It is the world’s largest exporter of military drones whose quality is excellent. Pakistan has expressed its willingness to export nuclear weapons to Turkey. There is some talk of naval cooperation with Russia which is likely and speculation of Turkey providing a pathway for a million Russian troops to crossover into the Middle East which I think is a pipedream.
d) Hypersonic missiles: A new generation of missiles packed with on-board electronics have been developed. US technology is obviously the world leader but Russia and China are not far behind. The old ICBMs were “dumb”. Once launched they would follow a path fixed by gravity and the laws of physics and could be intercepted before reaching the target such as an “Iron Dome”, an aircraft carrier, or a population centre. (Some ICBMs split into multiple warheads and made interception more difficult). Hypersonic missiles however weave and twirl. Their on-board electronics makes them elusive and they travel at speeds above Mach 1. They come in many sizes and have had excellent success against tank columns, ships and all sorts of military and civilian targets.
e) Compact new fusion (hydrogen) bombs are now under development by the US military in an $8 billion programme to build a gravity bomb called the B61. It is a smallish slim device (about 5ft long and 10in in diameter) to be dropped from an airplane. There will be variants ranging in power from a Hiroshima-Nagasaki 20 kiloton size up to a powerful one megaton (1000 kiloton) device. Obviously they are not intended for full scale war against Russia or China but will be very useful in small theatres like the Middle East.
f) Some of my buddies’ muse that Armageddon is round the corner and the Third World War is on the way. I tell them to consult Nostradamus.
Such massive happening on the strategic side are no doubt accompanied by global financial transformations as well. I do not intend to say anything substantive on the topic. What is hard to miss when you are here (I am temporarily in California for medical reasons) is that ordinary people are finding it hard to get by, especially in the last six months. The most pressing concerns are increasing prices, inability to repay student loans, cutback in child-care support, alarming increase in single-parent families (usually mothers) and a breakdown of marriages. Maybe I will have time to write about this topic before I leave.