The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Noose

It's often difficult to make sense out of actions and events that at first look, appear to defy common sense. Over the past year, the West's actions with respect to Iran, lead by Barack Obama, defy common sense. The "deal" that Obama cut with Iran is a prime example. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, imprisons dissidents, kidnaps innocent journalists and other unfortunate visitors, murders gay people, is a regional hegemon, subjugates women, is wholly intolerant of other religions, and advocates the annihilation of Israel. It is a country that shouts "Death to America" regularly, and as if to show contempt after agreeing to Obama's deal, fired missiles across the bow of a US aircraft carrier and a week later, humiliated our sailors under mysterious circumstances off the Iranian coast.

But the leaders of the West look the other way, hoping against hope that making nicey-nice and returning billions to will change Iran's world view.

Richard Fernandez writes:
Tolerance of tyranny has been normalized, even in Western democracies. It is disturbing that president Obama is politically embracing Hillary Clinton just as she expressed delight at the prospect of appointing him to the Supreme Court. But they would understand such quid pro quo in Obama's home town, where according to Chicago Magazine, it has long been custom to buy off gangs in exchange for political support.
Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance ... In some parts of Chicago, violent street gangs and pols quietly trade money and favors for mutual gain. The thugs flourish, the elected officials thrive—and you lose. ...

During the meetings, the politicians were allotted a few minutes to make their pitches. The former gang chiefs then peppered them with questions: What would they do about jobs? School safety? Police harassment? Help for ex-cons? But in the end, as with most things political in Chicago, it all came down to one question, says Davis, the community activist who helped Baskin with some of the meetings. He recalls that the gang representatives asked, “What can you give me?” The politicians, most eager to please, replied, “What do you want?”
It is not therefore surprising that the [Obama] administration's Smart Diplomacy so closely resembles Chicago's gang policy. He's trying to buy the bad guys off -- and they don't come cheap. The trouble is, that like the Chicago gang policy, it only fertilizes the growth of gangs. Following Obama's grant of $150 billion to Iran, the Ayatollahs embarked upon a massive purge of moderates, banning thousands from politics. According to Reporters Without Borders Iran is now one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists. The administration's rapproachment toward the Castro regime has been similarly one sided. It has cozied up to the Castros while distancing itself from the dissidents. Just like in those gang meetings.
As a product of Chicago politics, Obama and his Team of 2s seem to be asking the ayatollahs, "What do you want?"

The problem here is that Obama's newly minted sycophant, Hillary Clinton, understands the inner working of quid pro quo even better than Obama. It's almost certain that while she was Secretary of State, Clinton was asked (probably in coded language) "What do you want?" in exchange for influence, favors, and regulations that might help the questioner. The question came from nation states, international corporations, and possibly, wealthy individuals who understand quid pro quo all too well. The resultant transfer of money flowed to the Clinton Foundation in the form of "contributions."

The West's gentle treatment of Iran stinks of quid pro quo. It assumes that payoffs and gentle language in the face of outrageous anti-Western actions will lead to better behavior on the part of a country that has no real incentive to better its behavior. After all, why should it? Iran acts as it wants, and Western leaders fawn.

Fernandez goes on the observe:
Ironically the result of normalizing corruption will not be greater stability, but less of it. Regimes that are built on crony economics, upon the dominance of special classes, whether they are called a nomenklatura or simply "the community" simply don't last very long. What stabilized the West after World War 2, what made the Long Peace possible, was the democracy, core Western values and borders that survived until the elites decided to kill it.

By abandoning these and tacitly embracing authoritarianism the modern elites have not bought themselves safety. On the contrary, they've unleashed all the perils from which they were formerly safe; they have mounted a scaffold from which it will now take every ounce of effort to escape. If at the last pinch of the vise a noose is tightened round their necks, they would do well to remember for edification at least, if for nothing else, a paraphrase of Leon Trotsky's. "You may not be interested in tyranny, but tyranny is interested in you."
As the noose tightens, the Democratic candidates for the presidency bemoan the "threat" of income equality, climate change, and Islamophobia.

As you listen to these candidates throughout the year, keep the image of the noose clear in your mind. It will have a way of concentrating your thinking as November approaches.