US Foreign Policy: Isolationism or Strategy Change?

Introduction

Anyone who followed the three US Presidential debates (Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney) and the VP Debate (Ryan Paul Vs Joe Biden) may have noticed something I noticed in the last Presidential debate. While it was meant to be a debate on Foreign Policy, both Presidential Candidates  seemed more comfortable with ‘taking’ the debate back home to domestic discussions. This may seem unusual to those who expected to hear the candidates thrill viewers and the electorate with their policies for the next four years, but the reality is that it is far from being unusual given the recent state of US foreign policy.  Two things could be deduced from the debate

  • First, some of the US electorate are not interested in what the foreign policy of their presidents are, hence to convince the undecided voters, attention had to be drawn constantly to domestic policy.
  • Secondly, the candidates really had nothing to sell in terms of foreign policy.

In fact for the most part, both Obama and Romney were in agreement on almost every aspect of US Foreign policy – from Iraq, to Libya, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Iran. The only notable difference was that while Obama thought he was doing enough and needed to sustain that (something which Republican Former Secretary of State Colin Powell agrees with), Romney thought there was need to go much further. They differed therefore only on the intensity of sanctions, the time frame for troop-withdrawals and the manner of interventions. However, whether Romney is a ‘whopper’ or not, is really of no consequence but I daresay that for him to have tagged Obama’s Middle East visit an ‘Apology tour’ means he may not be realising the changing tide of US Foreign Policy. This should not be surprising since the current policy is largely due to lessons learned from the mistakes created by people who thought like Romney.

The lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even Syria are enough to make any US president think twice before talking as if declaring war on the first provocation, or carrying out an outright intervention, or even challenging China is fashionable. The laid-back attitude of the USA is one that therefore makes one wonder if they will soon be reconsidering isolationism or if they are simply adopting a new strategy.

Lessons From Afghanistan…

Upon the ousting of the USSR from Afghanistan in 1979, the USA thought they had scored a major victory and surely there would have been pats on backs when the USSR finally collapsed 10 years later. But just about 11 years after the collapse of the USSR, the biggest attack on American soil in recent memory took place and is largely acclaimed to have been hatched in Afghanistan. Some may therefore wonder if it would have been better if the USSR had stayed on in Afghanistan. Without thinking, Bush went on to declare war against the Taliban – a war that has not only consumed great numbers of US and NATO troops but one that has decimated large civilian populations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and keeps terrorising people through incessant drone attacks. Most significant to this is the fact that the 2014 deadline for withdrawal does not signal victory for the USA and her allies. A lesson must surely have been learned.

Iraq: Anything to Learn?

Iran is considered today to be a serious threat to the USA and Israel especially if they succeed in getting a nuclear weapon. In the 1980’s this same Iran was caught in a long-drawn war with Iraq, a war that ended in what can be termed an ‘uneasy understanding’ between the two countries. In 1990/91, Operation Desert Storm against Iraq weakened the country considerably, and in 2003, the invasion by George W. Bush, which led to the killing of Saddam Hussein threw the country in to complete chaos and created a power vacuum, one that is quickly being filled by Iran, especially given the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The US withdrew without achieving anything positive both for them and the Iraqis by the intervention. A lesson was surely learned.

Paying a New Price in Libya – Lesson for Syria?

The above two cases may have sent a warning note to the US about interfering too much, hence, when it got to Libya, they took a passive position initially and left France and the UK to take the lead. When it became very tough for NATO and the war was dragging on more than anticipated, the US had to come in, or fallout with her European allies. They did and killed Gaddafi and a puppet regime was installed. Less than a year later, on the anniversary of 9/11, the US again paid a big price. While the UK ambassador was earlier targeted, he was luckier than his US counterpart. Unfortunately, there is no one in Libya for the USA to go after directly, so the withdrawal attitude this time was to divert the cause of the attack to religious fundamentalism.

In the light of this, it is not surprising therefore that the USA has been taking a different attitude towards Syria. Though out-rightly seeking the overthrow of Al Assad, supporting rebel factions and admitting it will be a blow if Al Assad does not fall eventually, they  have been reluctant to push enough to get full scale Libya-style ‘humanitarian’ intervention. No matter how Syria plays out in the end therefore, the US will not be able to claim any direct role in its outcome. Hence, if it turns out sour, they will not be responsible, though that will mean Iran’s influence will extend to the Mediterranean. But if it turns out the way the US wants, their objective of isolating Iran will have been realised. The long and short of all this is that the USA is gradually slowing down on its role as the self-acclaimed policeman of the world.

Isolationism – Maybe Not

From George Washington’s farewell speech, to  the First World War, the USA showed great reluctance to becoming involved in European alliances and wars. Their policy of Isolationism is based on the view that America’s perspective on the world was different from that of European societies and that America could advance the cause of freedom and democracy by means other than war. This worked well until their brief involvement in WW I against the Central Powers. Their later rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and consequently never becoming a member of the League of Nations, meant that the interwar years was a quick return to isolationism. However, it is worthy of mention that US isolationism did not mean complete disengagement from the world stage. The United States continued to be a world player and to further its territorial, ideological and economic interests, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.

Coming into WW II in 1940 against Germany and Japan in 1941, seemed to have been the final blow to Isolationism, especially with the USA actively participating in the formation of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  The post war Marshal Plan and the onslaught of the Cold War meant the USA had reached the point of no return – at least until events of the last decade and most importantly, the last few years.

But is the USA again going to isolationism? I really think not. The reason is simple – while the US Presidential candidates discussed different aspects of Foreign Policy, there was no direct mention of their active role in Africa, (except the moments when Romney mentioned Mali and Libya as parts of happenings in the Middle East).

Africa – Integral Part of a New Strategy?

The non-mention of Africa is no ordinary omission given that just last year President Obama deployed 100 U.S. troops to Uganda to conduct a  search for Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in what I questioned whether it was a mission of Liberation or Reconolisation.  If that question seemed out of place then, it may not anymore given that the Army Times news service recently stated that the U.S. plans to deploy more than 3,000 soldiers to Africa in 2013.

It is therefore obvious that the US is not really thinking of Isolationism in the pre-1940 style, because, while they may have been taking a back seat attitude following recent losses and setbacks especially in the Middle East, their attitude in Africa has been one of active colonisation. This is especially when one thinks of operations such as “Cutlass Express”, the naval exercise that focused on fighting piracy in the Somali Basin region; “Africa Endeavor 2012” in Cameroon aimed at coordinating and training military communications and the Battalion Intervention Rapide in the same Cameroon (initially said to be aimed at fighting armed terrorism along the northern borders, but which has effectively become a force stationed in the Naval base of Limbe and was used to help Biya crackdown on protests in 2008 and change the constitution that helped him hold on to power)

Others such as the “Southern Accord 12” in Botswana aimed at establishing a military working relationship between southern African military forces and the U.S, and the “Western Accord 2012”  in Senegal that involved every type of military operation from fire exercises, intelligence gathering to combat marksmanship inter alia, really puts to rest any speculations that the USA is adopting any form of isolationism soon.

Since Africa was obviously the ‘elephant in the room’ during the debate, it therefore, makes one wonder what the new strategy is. Whatever it is, it is one that has this attitude of staying in the shadows and masquerading under the pretext of alliances. But if they are real strategic alliances that stand to benefit both the US and Africa, then would it  have been so conspicuously absent from a debate on Foreign Policy? Or was it – maybe not really, especially when one considers that statements like ‘I will go after China’ could only mean making Africa the battleground.

As the saying goes – ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’ hence AFRICOM if anything, signals danger for Africa because one cannot help but beg the question as to whose interest such a force stands to serve.

500 Years Later – Time For Africa to Forget… A Review!!!

INTRODUCTION

It is indeed a compelling Documentary and a must-watch for as I did, I came to realise that the scramble, partition, and colonization of Africa saw the continent divided among different competing powers which went to great lengths to sap the continent of its vast riches. While the British adopted the colonial policy of ‘Indirect Rule’, The Portuguese and the French adopted the policy of assimilation. This was informed by the fact that they portrayed nothing good in the African, and by their policy made Africans to despise their own cultural values and attempt to adopt western values at the expense of their rich African heritage. Hence, Africa was divided among European countries for the purpose of exploitation, suppression and domination for one obvious reason, and that was economic predisposition.

The Europeans petitioned African nations, repositioned themselves, and became ‘owners’ of everything in Africa that were of any value. African nations were subjected to foreign domination and exploitation. This situation was exacerbated when most of the academic and religious orientation of some of the first breed of Africans was aimed at continuing the legacy of slavery and colonialism in new forms – even in an era where there is so much talk about human rights, freedom and political self-determination.

<<< Crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment plagues people of African descent globally – Why? 500 years later from the onset of Slavery and subsequent Colonialism, Africans are still struggling for basic freedom-Why? Filmed in five continents, and over twenty countries, 500 Years Later engages the authentic retrospective voice, told from the African vantage-point of those whom history has sought to silence by examining the collective atrocities that uprooted Africans from their culture and homeland. 500 Years Later is a timeless compelling journey, infused with the spirit and music of liberation that chronicles the struggle of a people who have fought and continue to fight for the most essential human right – freedom.>>>

The 500 Years Later (2005) movie written by M. K. Asante, Jr. and directed by Owen ‘Alik Shahadah, with five international awards to its credit, is a penetrating documentary that looks at history from an African perspective. It depicts the problems people of African descent continue to encounter today and finding their roots in history. Filmed on location all over the world, this film covers issues ranging from slavery to the civil rights movement and from colonialism to poverty. The movie further depicts those who died due to famine, diseases, and social dislocation aboard ships that took them to Europe in order to build empires. It is now half a century since Ghana got its independence as the first African State after colonisation, but Africa is still bereft of any meaningful economic and technological development. It is a cause for concern for any well meaning African. This has led A.M. Babu when writing the postscript of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, to query;

…..What, we may ask, has gone wrong? Is it inherent in the very nature of underdevelopment that makes development an impossible task? Among the many prescriptions that have been offered, e.g., cultural, social, psychological, even economic-none has produced any encouraging result, in fact, nearly all of them have had negative results, and made bad situations worse.

The questions raised by Babu receive a cogent examination in 500 Years Later. While the movie deals with issues such as crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment among others, this critical review will focus on some of the broad themes that cuts across the different issues raised in the documentary to evaluate where the problems really lie. Is it justified that Africans should be perpetually held by the bondage of their past or should they forget it and move on?

IMPERIALISM/CAPITALISM

If there is one theme that runs through the movie 500 Years Later, it is the notion of a people who have been perennially exploited for the good of others. It captures on-screen what Walter Rodney captured in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. The importance of bringing such an issue to the limelight can be seen in the fact that the Occupy Protests that raged across many cities in the world  all aimed at fighting the excesses of Capitalism which is inherently exploitative.  This is what 500 Years Later captures so well. It shows clearly that the present day form of capitalism crept into Africa, in the 19th century with the arbitrary partition and colonisation of Africa. This was as a result of some weaknesses which Africa had. Rodney (2005) recognises some of them as “the concept of weakness, and inadequate economic capacity, as well as certain political weaknesses namely; the incompleteness of the establishment of nation states which left the continent divided and the low level of consciousness concerning the world at large which had already been transformed into a single system by the expansion of capitalist relations. (p. 174)

Of the two weaknesses, Africans were able the overcome the latter, as they gradually got opportunities to study and acquire more knowledge about the world at large. Most of the first breed of Africans who got fully educated strove to overcome the other weakness. These were the African Nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Julius Nyerere, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Marcel among others. But unlike Europe and America who had to determine their future with little or no external influence, the case of Africa was different. The gullibility of most Africans led to their being pitched against each other. The result was general political instability, coups and counter coups, civil wars, etc. Within such circumstances, there was little or no room to make any meaningful economic advancement.

NEO-COLONIALISM

500 Years later clearly addresses the main issues of slavery and colonialism, it does also explicitly address another question, which is, why the many prescriptions for the African problem seem to be making no headway even after 500 years. This is the question of neo-colonialism. For example, neo-colonialism played and still plays a major role in Africa’s post-independence economic stagnation. Neo-colonial relationships can be seen to be the product of the transfer of formal political power to a class created by, and dependent upon western capitalism. This relationship receives a cogent description from Hodgkin (1969) who says ”Neo-colonialism” tends to be regarded as something of a dirty word, to be used-if at all- in inverted commas, reflecting the shocking lack of gratitude of the formal colonial peoples for the benefits which they continue to receive from the former colonial powers and from the west in general. But in fact, it is an entirely necessary way of describing the situations arising out of false-decolonization”.

Cabral (1979) also describes the real character of decolonisation and the context in which it took place as an objective of the imperialist countries to prevent the spread of socialism in Africa through the liberation of reactionary forces which had hitherto been stifled by colonialism and allowing these to ally with the international bourgeoisie. The end result of this was the creation of a bourgeoisie class where one did not exist so as to strengthen the capitalist and imperialist camp. This done, the bourgeoisie in the new countries had a role which, “…far from being anything surprising should be considered absolutely normal; it is something that has to be faced by all those struggling against imperialism” (p. 442)

Cabral’s (1979) analysis ties in with that of 500 Years Later which depicts that social differentiation was initiated in Africa during the colonial period. Although it is a fact that antagonistic social differences had already emerged in Africa long before European contact, the impact of European trade, followed by colonial rule greatly transformed the fabric of the African society and produced a new and more accentuated social cleavages. As Amin (1979) confirms “the complete colonization of West Africa had two principal social effects: the acceleration of the decadence of the primitive community and the reinforcement of traditional class difference on the one hand, the introduction and development of a new class differences linked to the capitalist exploitation of the continent on the other hand” (p. 36)

Fanon (1963) who labels this new class the ‘national middle class’ or national bourgeoisie’ of the African countries blasts them for compromising the goals of the national liberation movements and permitting a ‘false decolonization’ to take place. Fanon clearly states that the mission of these national bourgeoisie “has nothing to do with transforming the nation” as it is content with playing “the role of the western bourgeoisie’s business agent” and serving as the local instrument of neo-colonialism (152-153).

Fanon (1963) further characterises  this strata of the society as an ‘underdeveloped’ middle class’, since it has little or no independent economic power and no capability or inclination to play the historical role performed by the bourgeoisie of the western society. Thus, he states that the national bourgeoisie: “is a bourgeoisie in spirit only….consequently, it remains at the beginning and for a long time afterwards a bourgeoisie of the civil service…..it will always reveal itself incapable of giving birth to an authentic bourgeoisie society with all the economic and industrial consequences which this entails.

Caught up in this relationship and without an economic power base, of its own, the bourgeoisie has no choice than to become the willing accomplice of neo-colonialism and rely upon an authoritarian dictatorship to maintain its domination and privileges, ready to do anything to stay rooted in this position. Having being established as a ruling class, the bourgeoisies generally enriched themselves at the public’s expense through public graft and corruption as well as deals with foreign capitalists.

As a consequence, there has been increasing obligation of the bourgeoisie to foreign interests who are only too glad to offer loans, grants, and credits which will keep the bourgeoisie in debt to them. Thus in a bid to finance this conspicuous consumption and at the same time service the debts incurred, the bourgeoisie have mortgaged both the local economy and the state to foreign capital, in some cases, in the name of “privatization” Hence, the operating budget of most of the African states are totally dependent upon loans and grants from one or more of the major Western Powers, while local entrepreneurs and business men depend upon loans and credits from foreign banks and firms to finance their investments. The end result is a neo-colonial society, tied in a multiplicity of ways to foreign capital. With this state of affairs, it is clear that Africa’s quest for independence began on the wrong footing. The Bretton Woods institutions have not really helped matters. The loans given to most African states by the International Monetary Fund, accompanied by Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP), did no more than sap the African states of the little they had, leaving them with huge national debts to service

EDUCATION

Another key theme running through 500 Years Later is the need for education or re-education of Africans with relation to their history. Rodney (2005) had made the point that “the educated Africans were the most alienated Africans on the continent. At each further stage of education, they were battered and succumbed to the white capitalist system, and after being given salaries, they could then afford to sustain a style of life imported from outside… That further transformed their mentality” (p.275) 500 Years Later affirms this by stating that “the kind of education that we have is to still enslave our minds, to make us believe we are inferior…” This is an issue that had already received cogent treatment from Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah (1959) acknowledged that the writings of Karl Marx and Lenin greatly impressed him; hence he felt that their philosophy was capable of solving the problem of imperialism and colonialism. Nkrumah (1962) felt that education was the key to the liberation from colonialism, which to him is “…White man’s burden which rest heavily upon the shoulders of the so-called “backward” people who have been subjugated, humiliated, robbed and degraded to the level of cattle (p.29)” Nkrumah saw in the policies of the colonial masters a lot of hypocrisy. In their crafty nature, they masked their real inhumane nature and evil intentions so well that it was very difficult for the people to notice. He describes what will pass today as neo-liberalism as being an attitude aimed at stifling the real independence of African nations. For Nkrumah (1962), “…the attitude of Britain, France, Spain, Italy and other colonial powers towards what they call “participation” by colonial peoples in colonial government and public affairs are half-way measures to keep them complacent and to throttle their aspiration  for complete independence (p. 27). In the light of this, Nkrumah saw the need to present a model theory for the liberation of Africa, partly motivated by the hope that the Socialist movement in the world at the time would overtake the capitalist – imperialism that exploited Africa. Hence, in line with the objective of the author of 500 Years Later he wrote that “We have read articles, papers, pamphlets, and books on the subject and we are weary of the platitudes of their authors and distortion of facts. We have written as we see the facts and are indebted to no one but our conscience quickened by the rich revolutionary heritage of historical epochs”.

The point here is that many Africans having deciphered the distortions and platitude of European colonialism and now see the importance of knowledge in the African crusade of decolonization against European colonialism, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the African liberation and development. Knowledge is necessary for power and for action as Nkrumah (1962) wrote that “…there are vast numbers of ordinary Africans, who animated by a lively national consciousness, sort knowledge as an instrument of national emancipation and integrity. This is not to say that these Africans overlooked the purely cultural value of their studies. But in order that their cultural acquisition should be valuable, they needed to be capable of appreciating it as free men (p.4).

The whole idea is therefore that there is a pressing need for Africans to get engaged in the de-colonial campaign as free historical beings, since, “the main purpose of the organization is to bring about a final death of colonialism and the discountenance of foreign imperialist domination” (Nkrumah, 1962, p.41). This is because it was glaring that “outside interference does not help to develop their country, for it impedes and stifles and crushes not only economic progress, but the spirit and indigenous enterprise of the peoples themselves”(Nkrumah 1962, p.42). Hence, decolonization should have been seen as a major indigenous enterprise. Since it was an African ideological response, a philosophical responsibility of Africans to existential challenges of European colonialism Africans should be able to think along with Nkrumah, that de-colonisation is a theory of “what must be done” in responsible response to this dangerous foreign ideology against Africa and its citizens, nature and cultures. The writings of Nkrumah, Fanon, Rodney and others are just a few examples to support the message of 500 Years Later that the oppressed African spirit was only scorched by slavery but not killed, it was not discouraged in to naivety or total resignation,  it was not wearied into inactivity, nor hoodwinked into self-annihilation.

NOT COVERED….

While the movie 500 Years Later can be commended for doing a great job in touching on sensitive issues that are at the core of Africa’s woes, it is worth mentioning that it fails in a way in its treatment of the issue of conflict. Following the independence of most African states, there have been many conflicts whose causes cannot be tied down simply to ideology, slavery and colonialism. Some have attributed this to being a ‘curse’ arising from the abundance of Natural resources (Collier, 2007). This is fuelled by earlier views that an abundance of resources generates corruption of political institutions (Lane and Tornell, 1999). The argument has therefore been that corruption and the failure of governance structures in an environment of abundant resources increases the risk of civil conflict (Collier and Hoeffler, 2005). It is therefore worth insisting that a huge problem with Africa today, her unfortunate past notwithstanding, is the problem of bad governance and leadership.

CONCLUSION

500 Years Later is a great step towards getting the African story right. It depicts that the preservation of the basic relationship of western dominance and African dependence by other means after the formal transfer of power is still a key element in the continent’s underdevelopment. This is evident not only in the field of economic relations but as has been manifested in the resent bombardment of Libya by NATO forces, in the military, diplomatic, cultural, and educational terrains.

While 500 Years Later may have done a great job, this review has been aimed at showing that what M. K. Asante, Jr. and Owen ‘Alik Shahadah sought to achieve by movie had been expressed at different times by scores of scholars of African descent. What is therefore new about the movie is not really the information but the manner in which it has been communicated. The use of a movie means that people can sit down, relax and as a group go through the same story that Rodney or Nkrumah had expressed in print.

This movie and its sequel MOTHERLAND are therefore must-watches not only for African students but for students, academicians and scholars everywhere. In this era of globalisation, ignorance of Africa’s real history will no more be an advantage to any foreigner given that Africans are seeking not only to know the history of other continents but also to set theirs right. The effectiveness of all these however, will be reliant heavily on the condition that Africans first of all undergo what Ngugi Wa Thiongo calls the ‘decolonisation of the African mind’. This has to be, the complete shaking off of the psychological traumas of slavery and colonialism. Unless this stage is attained, Africans will continue to see situations where African leaders keep clamouring for foreign investors, without ever thinking of investing in their own citizens; situations where World economic conferences will be organised only for African leaders to attend and sit at the receiving end of the table; situations where African nations continue to be dumping grounds for outdated and ill fitted technology and technological know-how.

REFERENCES

Amin, S. (1979) “The Class Struggle in Africa.”  Revolution, Vol. I, no. 9 The African Research Group

Babu; A.M. Postscript to Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,

Cabral, A. (1979) The Struggle In Guinea, The African Research Group

Collier, P. (2007). The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, P. and A. Hoeffler. (2005). Resource Rents, Governance, and Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4): 625-33.

Fanon, F. (1963) The wretched of the Earth, New York: Grove Press

Hodgkin, T. (1969) Foreword to Green and Seidman’s Unity or Poverty? The Economics of Pan-Africanism Baltimore: Penguin

Lane, P.R. and Aaron Tornell. 1999. .The Voracity Effect. American Economic Review, 28, 22-46.

Nkrumah, K. (1959) The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, London: Thomas Nelson Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1962) Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” London: Panaf Book Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1964) Consciencism, “Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution” London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1965) Neo-Colonialism, “The Last Stage of Imperialism” London: Panaf Books Ltd.

Rodney, W. (2005) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Abuja: Panaf Publishing Inc.

“RED GOLD” – ANOTHER RESOURCE CURSE?

In most African countries, the prices of basic commodies are greatly linked to the price of fuel. This could be attributed to the cost of transportation which increases with fuel price increases and the high elasticity of local demands which make it easier for the consumers to bear the biggest brunt of any increases. This no doubt makes one sees how the capitalist system is working harder than ever to increase the chasm between rich and poor. The removal of the fuel subsidy in Nigeria and the mayhem that followed seem to have been the test-drive by the IMF and World Bank. Since protests in Nigeria did not have much impact, there is now consideration of covering more grounds. Cameroon happens to be next in line – but unlike Nigeria that recieved so much attention, I will not be suprised if ‘France-dominated Cameroon’s removal goes unnoticed.

The thought of it has however made me go back to look at an article I wrote for FabAfrique Magazine  on the ‘Red Gold’. If the problem of black gold has been subsidies, what exactly is the problem of this resource?

Palm Fruits cut in half

Over the last few months I have not ceased to wonder if Africa would have been better-off without all the abundance of natural resources. What with all the appellations like Collier’s ‘Natural Resource Trap’, the ‘Natural Resource Curse’ or most strangely, the one that beats me most, the ‘Dutch Disease’[1]. The paradox of a blessing being a curse at the same time, is one too complex for my little head to fathom. But behold, the evidence is overwhelming and I cannot pretend not to see it – the conflict that seems to accompany natural resources and the widespread poverty in Africa – a land of affluence.

It is a fact that Africa is blessed with rich soil that permits it to grow almost everything needed for mankind’s existence. There’s cocoa for chocolate, and its related products, coffee for tea, timber for construction and the making of wooden instruments and paper, cotton for clothing, palm for palm oil, and many others.

Africa is also flooded with natural resources that the world largely depends on. Amongst these are gold, copper, bauxite, diamond, and the one that is usually called “black gold”, crude oil. Another form of “gold” has come up today, which I term “red gold”. This is crude palm oil that amounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Cameroon. And it is these countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm oil production in Africa.

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that diamonds are responsible for Sierra Leone’s worst nightmare, that Nigeria’s fuel subsidy crisis is a manifestation of the case of a country ‘living at the banks of a river and washing its hands with spittle’, that the civil war in the Congo and the Libyan crisis are cases where resources have made people wolf unto their brothers – just to name a few.

Am I deliberately leaving out Cameroon here? This should not have been surprising since World Bank Director Paul Collier in his award winning book The Bottom Billion deliberately leaves out Cameroon in most serious discussions and only mentions it briefly when referring to the depletion of resources in the Country.

I am not going to delve into questioning why Cameroon seems so much under the radar or where the depleted resources have gone to, but I am bound by conscience to wonder if Cameroon is free from the resource curse. I am going to take a look at just one resource here – what I call The ‘Red Gold’. This is crude palm oil that accounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. These are the countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm production in Africa.

The Republic of Cameroon which ranks fourth in crude palm oil production in Africa according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has crude palm oil as one of its main agricultural products. The country which is fondly called ‘Africa in miniature’ can boost of a yearly production of about 200,000 tons of palm oil. In 2011, production was 210,000 tons up from the previous 200,000 tons.

Crude palm oil which has always been a part of the

Local Palm Oil Processing

people of much of West Africa, and Cameroon in particular actually gained industrial prominence in 1910 when the Germans established industrial plantation units around Edea under the Société de Palmerais de la Ferme Suisse. Then, came the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), in the 1940s. And later on the PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd.

Palm oil production in Cameroon is highly favored by the tropical climate that consist of 4 to 5 months of dry season, and about 7 to 8 months of rainy season, coupled with the South West Monsoon wind that blows across the coast of the country where large agro industrial corporations like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) is situated, including the Palm Oil Corporation of Cameroon (PAMOIL), the Manyu Oil Palm Initiative. Independent farmers too, are involved in this highly lucrative business, and most of them have come under the Cameroon Association of Palm Oil Producers, headed by Claude Leonard Mpouma, and the Small Holders Scheme.

Large farms of palm nuts used in the production of palm oil which covers about 170,000 hectares can be seen mainly in the South West, South, Littoral, Centre and East.

This new form of “Red Gold” generates a yearly income of more 200 billion FCFA, about 400 million dollars, and provides about 65,000 indirect and direct jobs.

Because of the high quality of Cameroon’s crude red palm oil; which is cholesterol free and rich in vitamin E, there’s high demand for it at home and abroad. If it is not demanded for cooking, it is demanded for the making of soap and other cosmetic products found in the greatest shops around the world.

The exponential growth in demand has meant the supply is lagging as local production fails to grow simultaneously thanks to the poor state of farm-to-market roads, crude or rudimentary machines used by some small holders and the poor quality of some of the seedlings causing am almost 100% increase in the price of palm oil from the official 450frs CFA (almost a dollar) to about 750frs CFA in the black market. This poses a problem given that a majority of Cameroonians in the local areas live on less than a dollar a day. Much like Black Gold, this resource seems to be going down the road of becoming too expensive for the ordinary man.

The State of Most Cameroonian roads – Source: Cameroon Today Newspaper

While one could be optimistic enough to say that the future of palm oil in Cameroon is bright because of the ‘tarring’ of some farm-to-market roads, like the famous Kumba-Buea stretch of road, the widening of the Douala –Yaoundé road, and the provision of high yielding palm seedlings to farmers by structures like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd, Programme de Developémment de Palmerais Villageois(PDPV), which also coordinates the activities of small holders farmers, the question that remains unanswered is whether these modest achievements are worth commending in a country so richly blessed

Maybe I am not being reasonable here, given that the government has signed many agreements in favor of the farmers and in 2010, it jointly launched a project with the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Africa’s biggest producer of palm oil) aimed at generating income in the palm oil sector in four years time, supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Common Fund for Commodities.   Recently, Cameroon and UNIDO reached a deal in Vienna, Austria to promote the industrialization of palm oil production in Cameroon. Following this programme, four pilot centres were chosen; the Agro Industrial Unit in Bora in the East, Massoumbou Gardens in Littoral, the Agro Industrial Development Company in the South and the Manya Oil Palm Cooperative in the South West. This will certainly bridge the gap between demand and supply which requires the creation of about 20,000 hectares of palm tree farms yearly.

Modern Palm Oil Processing

These are wonderful efforts with great prospects but history and the reality of international trade dampen my hilarity. It is true that today, for the first time, most African countries have made the most impressive breakthrough into global markets for goods and services other than just primary products, it is also true that most of the firms established during the colonial era,[2] still continue to play a major role in the export-import trade of the now independent States which were their former colonial preserves. Most of these pay very low prices for the cash crops they export to Europe while they set very high prices for the finished products they import for sale in Africa. Also, the major share of their profits is sent back to their home countries rather than being invested in the African economies where the profits are made. This has the unfortunate effect that a structural imbalance is created in the African economies resulting from their over dependence on the export of one of few primary products and this makes their economies extremely vulnerable to external factors and seriously hinders their internal development.

This is my fear for the future of ‘Red Gold’.


[1] The Dutch disease is an economic concept that explains the apparent relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector.

[2] e.g. UAC which is now Unilever

PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD BANK: AMERICA’S BIRTH-RIGHT?

The sudden pulling out of Colombia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo from the race of the next president of the World Bank, seems to be the final signal  to the likelihood that an American would be chosen given that the US has the most votes at the Bank. To Ocampo”It is clear that this is not based on the merits of the candidates but is a political exercise”

This observation is akin to the reaction that the US attitude has provoked from  Mo Ibrahim (of the African governance index/ Celtel fame,) Following are his words:

‘This week sees the lobbying and deal-making ahead of the election of the President of the World Bank reach its peak.

But for all the rhetoric and campaigning, the outcome remains sadly predetermined.

It is high time the US foregoes its sense of entitlement at the World Bank and allows a merit-based and transparent contest for the presidency to allow non-American candidates a genuine chance of winning. But what we are drifting towards is a continuation of the status quo.

The world is changing. For more than a decade now, since the Asian financial crisis, developing nations and emerging powers have sought to reflect the evolution of the global economy and geo-strategic concerns in the structure and leadership of international institutions. It is an anachronism for the leadership of the World Bank, and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund, to remain the sole preserve of established powers. However, established powers seem determined to cling on desperately to these last bastions of twentieth century geopolitics.

The World Bank is an institution of critical importance for the global economy. It is vital that the President of the World Bank be the most competent and experienced candidate for the task. For the first time, this year, there are two credible candidates from the developing world.e of governments and corporate boards to execute their governance responsibilities still reverberate. Yet so soon afterwards, it is becoming clear that the appropriate lessons have not been learnt.

Many of my US and European friends, people who are outspoken on issues of development, governance and democracy, are conspicuously silent now. Some of my American friends cite the US election as a reason not to rock the boat. Others feel embarrassed about appearing disloyal. But these are not credible justifications.

No candidate for the Presidency of the United States will win or lose the forthcoming US election on the basis of how strongly Washington maintains its grip on the World Bank.

Moreover, while France’s quid pro quo support for the US can be taken for granted in the light of Christine Lagarde’s unchallenged ascendancy to IMF Director-General, the rest of Europe has little to gain from preserving the existing arrangement. Nations such as the UK and Germany have a chance to show the kind of leadership on this issue that they displayed during the last round of climate negotiations in Durban.

This is an issue of livelihoods for hundreds of millions of the world’s citizens. On this issue, the interests of US citizens are aligned with those of the citizens of all other nations – a properly-managed, efficient World Bank that promotes sustainable and equitable growth is to the benefit of everyone in our interdependent world.

While citizens across the world fight against cronyism, electoral malpractice and bad governance, we must ensure that our global public institutions set the right example. No-one can lecture developing countries on how to manage their processes, public and private sector, if they so brazenly do not conform to the same standards. Moreover, if this election process is not an open contest, it undermines the principle of fair competition that the US and the World Bank have traditionally exported to the rest of the world.

Having a transparent, open and merit-based process is of course the morally right thing to do. What is more important is that it is the smart thing to do. As the Bank engages in the delicate act of advising governments on best practice, its own leadership must have legitimacy. The Bank’s at times heavy handed approach in the developing world has created a well of bad feeling which already undermines its relevance. This election is a chance to restore the confidence of the Bank’s partners, and even its staff, in the institution.

When the Bank was created in 1944, the world looked very different. Today China is the second largest economy in the world, Brazil the sixth. European economies are struggling with austerity measures while African economies are growing faster than ever.

At this time of global political and economic upheaval, as developed countries watch new powers emerge, the Bank must move away from its post-Second World War origins and reposition itself for the new century. While 20th Century powers drag their feet over UN Security Council reform, here is a comparatively easy step along the path of reframing our global governance architecture.

There would be no better way to begin this process than by a merit-based election for World Bank President. This is a wonderful opportunity. The world is watching to see if it will be taken.”

So what do you think?

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

As I watched it on the news, I could hear whistles and shouts of “shame on you” as tents were thrown in to rubbish trucks. This happened when Occupy London Stock Exchange activists were evicted from outside St Paul’s Church in London after many months of occupation by people protesting the excesses of capitalism. This was not the first eviction and obviously not the first time that a government had crushed the voice of the oppressed – of course we heard stories of the Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy Oakland and Occupy Nigeria at the beginning of the year and many more sweeping across the globe, which have mainly dwindled into oblivion. What made this stand out in my mind was a question one of the protesters held high at the beginning of the camping at St. Paul’s – “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”


In my view, which I am sure, may be nuanced or even crass, all these people had not simply been after the downfall of capitalism and neoliberalism, rather, I saw their actions as acts of prayer – calling on those whom God had put in authority to do some introspection and change their attitude towards the less privileged. I therefore did not see these protests as simply one against capitalism or neoliberalism, but one that was aimed at eliciting a response from all people of God worldwide.

At this stage, I am sure you will be wondering exactly what I mean by prayer. My view is not much different from yours.

PRAYER: MY UNDERSTANDING

I understand prayer to be the practice of invoking the presence of God.  It is that place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made.  Prayer is that place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God.  Prayer is that needful practice of the Christian or the Moslem.  Prayer is that exercise of faith and hope.  Specifically, in Christendom, prayer is that privilege bequeathed to man, of touching the heart of the Father through the Son, Jesus.

Prayer is therefore, not a one-way traffic. It is an action that should elicit a response. Prayer is an action that is expected to provoke a soothing reaction that should equal or overwhelm the expectations of the interlocutor.

Another question that just crossed my mind, and I guess yours, is, who should do the reacting?

WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND HOW?

The answer to the WHO is obvious but I think the HOW is one that calls for closer analysis. From Old Testament times, God has answered prayers but I rarely can recall any time he did so without making use of an intermediary. Joseph was used to save his family from famine. Moses was used to liberate the Israelites from bondage and all the miracles that occurred throughout the process came as a direct result of an action by Moses on God’s directives. Different prophets played similar roles, culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ who is the Messiah! He is the liberator! His manifesto can be summed up in the words – “’The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”. How then did Jesus fulfil this mandate in his time? He did this by practically healing the sick and preaching to the people.

And oh! He did not only end there… he was always acting as an advocate for those who could not speak for themselves, the apogee and decisive moment being the driving from the Temple (which coincidentally happens to be the Gospel reading for this third Sunday of Lent). I will not want us to conclude that the people who did the different forms of businesses in the Temple were capitalists. What we can all agree on, however, is that they both represent a class or an ideology that is oppressive and exploitative. But has Christianity been living up to its expectation of being a voice for the oppressed? Can God still use us as instruments for answering prayers? Marx did not think so, and many secularists may agree… but I would not be too quick to concur because we can still use Jesus’ as the Way to direct our actions.

SO! WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

It is my opinion that had Jesus simply preached and healed the sick, he would still have been a thorn in the flesh of the Pharisees and Sadducees but he may not have been killed. The cleansing of the Temple, an episode described in all four Gospels: St. Matthew (21:12-13), St. Mark (11:15-18), St. Luke (19:45-46), St. John (2:14-17) was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The Chief Priest and his family were making a fortune from the sale of animals for sacrifices and for all the money-changing, which was the only means to obtain the currency to buy animals and birds for sacrifices. Outraged, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them out of the Temple.”… and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there. He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court. Then he began to teach them, and said, ‘Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a hideout for thieves.’ (Mark 11:15-17). This singular action was pivotal in Caiaphas’ doggedness that Christ should die, to save the source of the illegal wealth being amassed by his family.

I am sure at this stage it is already obvious what Christ would do in the wake of all the protests against oppression going on in the world. He will make a whip, go in and drive out the exploiters. That is to say, he will show solidarity towards those suffering, not just by speaking from a pulpit but actually confronting the suffering ad radice. This is the surest means of bringing liberation and prosperity to any people. Failure to be Christ-like in our attitude towards the poor and marginalised is to invite criticisms.

Little wonder Nkrumah accused Christianity of being an instrument of transferring the attention of the people from “inside” the universe to “outside” the universe. This is a contradiction to the liberating power of Christianity, which takes effects with the gaze of people fixed on things outside the world, and the things inside the world which conditions the existence of every human being suffering neglect. If Christianity is failing to have an impact in Africa, the problem rather than being too much religion, as secularists would want us to believe, lies with our failure to make credible use of its liberating power.

In conclusion, it is my belief that if our prayers are to be meaningful in bringing about solace in a scourged world, they should be matched by an equal measure of action. God will only answer prayers by relying on you and me to take the right action and condemn the wrong one without fear of retribution. To borrow from Wole Soyinka, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” and so Christ dies in all who do not proactively show solidarity with the oppressed.

EUSA vs Zimbabwe, Bailout vs But Out,and Other Fun Economy

The results of US and EU bailouts manifest in Mass Protests, the first Mass Strikes in the USA for Decades, a London Suburb where We The People gave a little taste of what is to come when they loose it, Mass Demonstrations and Clashes in Greece, Spain, Italy, and there is more to come in 2012. True, Occupy Wall Street and similar Manifestations in Europe are Trojan Horses, but they are an undeniable signal, indicating the fact that a large segment of otherwise well conditioned, placid populations have had so much of it that they are willing to get out into the streets and actually freeze and risk confronting the new Western Militarized Police Forces that would have left Orwell in astonishment.

The Western Bailout model had some other pretty consequences too. The Dow Jones finished 2011 at 12.217,5 which equaled a Dow/Gold ratio of 7.8, and during the first month of 2012 alone the Dow surged another 3 % DowNwards. The “real value” of the US Stock Market will most likely be ending 2012 with having lost some 85 % of it´s real value. So much to the BailOut Model of the EUSA.

I suggest that investment in Zimbabwe is a much more sound proposition than dealing in BailOut markets. Contrary to EUSAS bailouts that literally rip off entire populations, including medium and small investors who try to save for their family or otium, Zimbabwe seems to implement the model of Comply or BUT OUT.

Zimbabwe´s BUT OUT MODEL is among other manifesting in the fact that “undercapitalized banks” have been shown the boot that will be butting them out unless they comply with the regulations of Zimbabwe´s banking sector.

Yesterday the Governor of Zimbabwe´s Reserve Bank, Governor Dr. Gideon Gono informed journalists, and the banking sector, that there would be no other dead-line than the one already set at two weeks. By February 14 all undercapitalized banks should finalize their ongoing initiatives to meet minimum requirements, suggesting that some of the banks could merge, as he had advised before. In other incidents share holders would need to dilute their stake to inject fresh funds to save banks, instead of clinging to their shareholding.

The banks most likely to be confronted with Dr. Gono´s and Zimbabwe´s BUT OUT BOOT are Royal, ZABG and Genesis Investment Bank. Zimbabwe´s Finance Minister Tendai Biti advised that share holders should consider if it was wise to hold on to old ownership structures, and then to go under with a 100 % shareholding.

Comparing Zimbabwe´s sound BUT OUT MODEL, I would suggest that investing in Zimbabwe is a far more sound idea than investing at a drug and drug money dependent Wall Street, where the gamble is about whether one is lucky to invest in one of the crime cartels that are too big to fail – and even if one is lucky enough to win that gamble, one is assured that ones stock will be loosing 85 % of it´s real value during 2012 ?

Bailout ? Or But OUT !!! It´s Your Funeral so You decide for Yourselves. I know where I would be investing my money. Considering the Dow/Gold Ratio and the fact that we can expect the real value of EUSA´s stocks to loose 85 % in 2012, I´d invest in Gold, and keep a good part of it, safely at a Bank in Zimbabwe.

Source: Christof Lehmann (nsnbc Editor)

01.02.2012

Wider Middle-East and Global War Imminent?

Posted on January 8, 2012 on nsnbc

Russian Warnings against NATO´s War Plans.

When then Russian President, and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin stated at the International Security Conference in Munich, 2007, that the world had never been as close to a global war the international media barely took notice. With US and NATO troops amassing in the Middle East, from the Strait of Hormuz via Israel and Jordan, and Turkey, with Special Operations Teams deployed inside Syria and Iran, sanctions on Iran designed to provoke a naval confrontation as a pretext for full scale war, the words of Putin have become more imminent than ever.

The article on the ISC website on the speech of Vladimir Putin at the International Security Conference, 2007, in Munich called Putin´s speech inflammatory, a breeze of cold war, and rhetoric. (1) Before his speech the atmosphere was cheerful, business as usual, but the atmosphere changed when Putin instructed the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Mr. Telschick not to close for his microphone during his speech, announcing that he was going to make clear his real position on international security challenges without any “diplomatic inhibitions”. Putin condemned the US ambitions for global supremacy and global predominance through a system that had nothing to do with democracy, continuing that while everybody in the West seemed keen to teach Russia about democracy, Westerners did not seem to want to learn themselves.

Putin stated that the post-cold war period had produced far more casualties and armed conflicts than the cold war period, stating that the attempt to solve problems by unilateral actions caused human tragedies. “We are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations”. “The US had overstepped it´s national borders in almost all spheres “, adding that nobody could feel secure within this political landscape. Likewise, Putin warned against the now deployed deployment of the “anti-missile defense shield in Eastern Europe” comparing it to an arms race that was not beneficial for Europe, and stating “we have weapons at hand that can neutralize this shield”, adding, that the Charter of the United Nations would ultimately also give Russia the inherent right to defend itself in the case of an escalation of the situation. Putin continued by a massive critique of NATO´s expansion to the east, and reminded about NATO´s promise not to deploy troops to East Germany.(ibid)

Today NATO has troops in Eastern Germany, Poland, the Baltic Republics Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Ukraine, Georgia, supports Chechnyan armed insurgents, and wages covert wars in Syria and Iran.

Putin asked what had become of NATO´s guaranties not to deploy troops to any of the former Warsaw Treaty member states, calling the NATO expansion a provocation of Russia, warning against new dividing lines that will again cut through the European continent. Also warning about a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, and proclaiming a Russian comeback. (ibid.) What the official Munich Conference website and article fail to mention however, are the prolific words by Putin, that the world had never before been as close to a global conflict, but called it the harbinger of a serious crisis in Russio-transatlantic relations. (ibid.)

Besides the obvious violations of Russian-NATO contracts that created the preconditions for the so-called re-unification of Germany, the Neo-Conservative school of US-Politics began a systematic encirclement of geo-politically and strategically significant positions directed against an expanding Chinese economy and a Russia that was re-asserting it´s national interests with respect to economy, and more significantly with respect to defense against NATO aggressions and hegemony. The policy towards global, full spectrum dominance of the USA was developed by the Neo-Conservative think tank ” The Project for a New American Century, short PNAC, (3) and described in many of their policy papers. Most prominently in ” Rebuilding Americas Defences “. (4) Even though the USA currently has a “democratic” administration, the policy guidelines of PNAC are followed, with variations in the details of implementing it only.

To elicit a few examples of the systematic encirclement of and NATO aggression against Russia, one could take notice of a few examples. Al-Qaeda, a creature of the CIA, was established by among other Zbigniev Brzezinski, to fight against Soviet troops in the former Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has been, and still is one of NATO´s secret mercenary armies that depending on utility, can be used as respectively friend or foe. Both German the German Intelligence Service BND and the US American CIA massively supported Al-Qaeda mercenaries in former Yugoslavia. (5) CIA sponsored Al-Qaeda mercenaries and the so called war on terror were used as a pretext for a full scale invasion of Afghanistan, and besides the purported weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which failed to manifest, as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq. NATO troops came into direct confrontation with Russian troops when the new NATO partner, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, attacked Southern Ossetia, which is allied to Russia.(6) Not to mention the deployment of missiles that led Vladimir Putin in 2007 state that the world was as close to a third world war as it has ever been.

US and NATO troops are stationed on military bases in the former Soviet Republics along the Russian and Chinese borders, importing religious fanaticism, ethnic conflicts, Al-Qaeda brand terrorism, destabilizing the entire region, and creating considerable security risks for Russia and China. The US and NATO support of insurgents in Tibet in cooperation with “a” Dalai Lama, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose contributions to world peace are his former co-operation with Nazi-Germany and Imperial Japan, and in latter years with the CIA and NATO, are an attempt to destabilize Southern China, and an attempt to blackmail Chinese governments into accepting human rights organizations that are known to be Trojan Horses of NATO. Most importantly, the USA and NATO are systematically destabilizing vital Russian and Chinese energy supply routes, on a world wide scale, and systematically wage aggressions against a peaceful expansion of Chinese trade and commerce in Africa and Asia. The war on Libya is but one of the symptoms of NATO´s push for full spectrum global dominance. (7)(8)

Russian and Chinese Signal that NATO needs to back down.

The policy of both Russia and China was extremely cautious towards NATO with respect to the war on Libya. Well informed nsnbc contacts could inform that both Russia and China considered the US as a mad man with bombs, able to do anything. Russian outrage over NATO´s blatant abuse of UNSC Resolution 1973 – 2011 (9) however, became visible when then P.M. Putin met Danish P.M. Lars Løkke Rasmussen in Copenhagen, where he openly stated that NATO had overstepped it´s boundaries with respect to Libya. (10)

It is worth noticing that Vladimir Putin, who after all has his background in the KGB, most certainly must have been briefed of the fact that the Danish Prime Minister with whom he met, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has a long history of supporting the Afghani Taliban and demonstrating in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen.(11) Russian and Chinese policy changed too late with regards to Libya, but it became obvious that a repetition of a Libya Style abuse of a UNSC – Resolution on Syria would not be tolerated, (12) and that both Russia and China would have to assert their positions with regards to Syria and Iran. Both because of strategic alliances, interests of trade and commerce, and because a destabilization of Syria and Iran would have severe security implications for both Russia and China that are intolerable.

In November 2011 a unanimous Russian State Duma, or House of Parliament, demanded that Russian foreign and security policy demands that NATO significantly reduces it´s military footprint in the Caucasus. A demand that was very well in line with Putin´s 2007 speech at the ISC.  The affirmation of Russia´s late but new found confidence can be perceived as a direct threat to what is euphemistically called “The New World Order”. (13)

All the while, NATO stepped up it´s covert war on Syria, a long standing ally of Russia,(14) and increased pressure against Iran, (15) threatening crippling sanctions and military action based on the report of the IAEA on Iran (16) that was criticized by Iran as fictitious. (17) With a United Nations that has long lost credibility as impartial forum of sovereign nations, the IAEA report is in deed criticized by most other than NATO countries for being everything between false to fabricated to create a pretext for an aggression against Iran. (18) It is worth noticing that Iran had changed it´s oil sales from the US-Dollar to trading it´s oil in Euro in 2009. (19) Something Iran has in common with Iraq, before it was attacked by NATO.

Deconstruction of the Popular Protests in Syria.

Russia has relentlessly attempted to facilitate diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Syria, knowing that the word crisis is a euphemism for covert war waged by the USA and NATO. As relentless as Russia has attempted diplomacy, as relentless is the NATO onslaught against the people of Syria and it´s government. More precisely the so called protests can be deconstructed into the following basic elements:

A National Counsel of Syria, that was formally formed in Turkey, that demands recognition as the sole representative of the people of Syria, but whose central members are either heavily involved in subversive US-Networks radiating around Zbigniev Brzezinski, henry Kissinger and Associates, The National Endowment for Democracy, and other institutes, funds, fellowships and more that are notorious for armed subversion of nations that are not playing along with US- and NATO geopolitical ambitions. Other members belong to the armed wind of the MI6 creation called The Muslim Brotherhood. (20)

A Free Syrian Army, that has been operating from NATO bases in Turkey for months, and that is under supervision of NATO Special Forces, (21) From the onset it mainly consists of members of the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, (22) and a substantial amount of foreign fighters, or NATO mercenaries who are trained and under the command of the leadership of the Tripoli Military Counsel. (23)  The Tripoli Military Counsel is commanded by Abdelhakim Belhadj, and has formerly been known as the Al Qaeda associated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, (24) that according to a West Point Study was responsible for a significant amount of US casualties in Iraq. (25) Like it was the case in Libya, where the CIA imported Afghan fighters from Mazar e-Sharif, (26) it is very likely that a significant amount of the mercenaries, most likely between 1000 and 2000 are Afghani fighters, and the numbers are likely to increase as the US is striking prisoners release deals involving the Afghan government and the Taliban. This euphemistically called Free Syrian Army is a NATO Mercenary Army, under NATO General Command, and a joint command structure that includes an insignificant amount of so called defectors from the Syrian Armed Forces, needed to provide an apparent legitimacy.

A Saudi and Qatari backed Al Qaeda Assassination Experts Brigade. In October 2011nsnbc could report that the Russian and Syrian intelligence services attained information via inter-net chatter that confirmed that the Al-Qaeda assassination expert brigade called Omar Brigade had deployed to Syria. (27) The Omar Brigade is stationed in Saudi Arabia. It is financed by the Saudi Ministry of Internal Affairs, and it is likely that the Omar Brigade is responsible for the numerous assassination of key Syrian politicians, military officers, high profile reform activists who oppose the foreign intervention and war on Syria, and not least the recent high profile bomb blasts that shook Damascus. (28)

A Pro-Saudi Pro-US Anti-Pan Arab and Anti-Syrian Movement in Lebanon. The Lebanese “Movement for the Future”, is a political party led by Saad Hariri. Saad Hariri is a Saudi-Lebanese multi billionaire and the son of the late Lebanese P.M. Rafiq Hariri. The Hariri Family and associated political parties are traditional pro-NATO, pro-Saudi, and not least pro-Israeli agents in Lebanon. Saad Hariri has by virtue of a covertly recorded audio tape published on nsnbc been implicated in attempting to create false testimony at the ICC´s special prosecutor for Lebanon, and has been implicated in financing and arming terrorist gangs that take part in the armed insurgency and subversion of the Syrian government. (29)

Other elements of the euphemistically called Syrian Opposition include the London Based Syrian Human Rights Observatory and numerous other fringe organizations that are difficult to evaluate since very little is known about them and their members. nsnbc has send a letter and e-mail to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory asking for information about it´s goals, it´s policies, it´s funding, eventual contacts to foreign intelligence services, but has until today not received any reply. Finally, it should be recognized that Israel still occupies the Golan Highs, and that Israel has been waging an intelligence war against Syria for decades. It is unlikely that Mossad and IDF Special forces are not involved, but very little information is available.

A War Turning Hot.

On 24 October nsnbc published the article “NATO Prepares Global War – Russian and Chinese Military on Highest Alert“. (30) The message was alarming but in no way alarmist. On 3 October, few days before a meeting between Russian P.M. Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Huan Jintao, Putin announced Russian plans towards the establishment of a Eurasian Union. (31) On 12 October Putin and Jintao met in China discussing among other security and strengthened ties between the two countries, and off the official agenda gravest security concerns. Before Putin left China, the Russian Intelligence Service FSB (32) had received sobering reports from China´s Ministry of Security. (33) The reports were among other, not disclosed intelligence sources based on information from the former Blackwater Operative Brian Underwood who is currently held on charges for having passed on information to a foreign nation in the USA. (34) Though there are no details publicly available as to the details of the intelligence exchanged between Russia and China, the reaction was that both Chinese and Russian military forces were put on highest alert.

The situations that have aggravated concerns of US and NATO ambitions towards a global confrontation with Russia and China have since deteriorated significantly and rapidly. The comparison between the current developments and situation in the wider Middle East with a powder keg is not alarmist, but deeply disturbing and a situation that urgently needs to be confronted by international diplomacy and law.

Tartus Naval Base

The sole Russian Naval Base with access to the Mediterranean is situated in Tartus, Syria. November 2011 Russia has deployed reenforcement to Tartus, countering the deployment of NATO´s US-6th Carrier Group off the coast of Syria. (35) Though Russia has the capacity to counter the deployment of the 6th Carrier group, the fact that the Russian deployment was relatively modest in the light of the NATO threat against Syria was evidence of three factors. The first, that Russia is giving diplomacy all possible chances. The second is most likely that high ranking officials inside the Russian Ministry of Defence and Foreign Ministry perceive NATO, and particularly members in the highest echelons of the current US-Administration as virtually insane and able to cause a war that would be devastating for humanity.The third, and most disturbing, is that an analysis of the geo-strategic, regional and global developments have a strong propensity towards the development of a conflict with nuclear weapons.

The Rubicon of the developing situation may be Syria, but it is as likely to be Iran and the Strait of Hormuz. On 4 January the E.U. agreed to ban import of Iranian oil. (36) China criticized the USA for it´s sanctions against Iran, criticizing the USA for not using diplomacy and for it´s primacy of domestic legislation above international legislation in international affairs. (37) Syria and Iran are systematically encircled by US and NATO forces, in a systematic, step by step preparation of a wider Middle-East and global conflict. Neither Russia nor China can strategically, economically, or based on the security related to resources tolerate the destabilization of Syria and Iran without suffering the most serious long term consequences.

The recent Iranian naval and land military exercise provided ample evidence for the fact that an aggression against Iran won´t be a push over and that it has strong defense capabilities. The slow but massive NATO build up of military forces in the region alone should be sufficient to know that Iran is a force to be recogned with, and Syria is not the same easy push over as Libya, whose government had bought into the NATO deception that letting your defenses down and behave nicely will protect you from aggression. NATO troops are deployed in Turkey, many of them transfered from Iraq, in Jordan, along the Syrian border, in the eastern Mediterranean, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and encircle both Russia and China with anti ballistic missiles.

The situation that can bring the powder keg to explode is any incident that indicates, that NATO is attempting to deter Iran from safely exporting it´s oil through the Persian Gulf. In such case, it both promises, (38) and is perfectly capable of (39) to close the Strait of Hormuz for any maritime traffic, in that case, Russia and China will have the choice to stand with Iran and Syria, or to fall. What ever the outcome of such conflict, there will be millions of losers, and it it doubtful there will be a winner to enjoy a victory built on the carcass of civilization.

Given the possibility that the crisis will pass, the most urgent question for humanity, and for every single person is which action must be taken to once and for all outlaw and prosecute those who wage wars behind the veil of plausible deniability, the protection of diplomatic immunity, and the encouragement of brute force to co-opt, threaten, plunder and murder with immunity and impunity. The United Nations has utterly failed and is today a part of the problem, more than a possible path towards a solution.

Dr. Christof Lehmann on nsnbc

08.01.2012

Reference:

1) A breeze of cold war. ISC 2007. http://www.securityconference.de/Putin-s-speech.381+M52087573ab0.0.html

2) ibid. ..

3) Project For The New American Century, PNAC. http://www.newamericancentury.org/

4) Rebuilding Americas Defences. PNAC.  http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

5) German Intelligence and CIA supported Al-Qaeda sponsored Terrorists in Yugoslavia. Center for Research on Globalization. http://globalresearch.ca/articles/BEH502A.html

6) Georgia´s Invasion of South Ossetia, Two Years On. Center for Research on Globalization. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20500

7) Neo-Colonialism, Subversion in Africa, and Global Conflict. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/neo-colonialism-subversion-in-africa-and-global-conflict/

8) NATO´s war on Libya is directed against china.  http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/natos-war-on-libya-is-directed-against-china/

9) UNSC Resolution 1973 – 2011 on Libya. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sc10200.doc.htm#Resolution

10) Russia Draws Line in Syrian Sand. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/russia-draws-line-in-syrian-sand/

11) Libya Denmark and Dirty Double Dealings. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/libya-denmark-and-dirty-double-dealings/

12) China, Russia oppose another Libya-Type of US.-led NATO Military Intervention. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/china-russia-oppose-another-libya-type-of-us-led-nato-military-intervention/

13) The Eurasian Project: A Threat to the New World Order. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/the-eurasian-project-a-threat-to-the-new-world-order/

14) Syria, NATO, and the Modified Chechnyan Model. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/syria-nato-and-the-modified-chechnyan-model/

15) France threatens Iran with military action at U.N. .  http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/france-theatens-iran-with-military-action-at-u-n/

16) Implementation of the NTP Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Counsel resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. IAEA.  http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2011/gov2011-54.pdf

17) BBC – Iran Nuclear Issue. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11709428

18) IAEA Report on Iran exposed as BIG Fraud. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/iaea-report-on-iran-exposed-as-big-fraud/

19) Iran ends Oil Transactions in US-Dollars. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/30/business/main4057490.shtml

20) The National Counsel of Syria and US-Unconventional Warfare. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-national-counsel-of-syria-and-u-s-unconventional-warfare/

21) Arabian Summer or NATO´s Fall. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/arabian-summer-or-nato%C2%B4s-fall/

22) Syrian Info-War. Syrian Attorney General Adnan Muhammad Bakkur not defected but kidnapped by armed gang with helicopter gunships. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/syrian-info-war-syrian-attorney-general-adnan-muhammad-bakkur-not-defected-but-kidnapped-by-armed-gang-with-helicopter-gunships/

23) Qatar invaded Libya, now invades Syria. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/qatar-invaded-libya-now-invades-syria/

24) Abdelhakim Belhadj, The Mask behind the Many Men. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/abdelhakim-belhadj-the-mask-behind-the-many-men/

25) West Point – Combating Terrorism – Al Qaeda´s Foreign Fighters in Iraq. http://tarpley.net/docs/CTCForeignFighter.19.Dec07.pdf

26) CIA recruits 1500 men from Mazar e Sharif to fight in Libya.  http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/31-Aug-2011/CIA-recruits-1500-from-MazareSharif-to-fight-in-Libya

27) Syria and Integrity in International Diplomacy. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/syria-and-integrity-in-international-diplomacy/

28) Damascus Bomb Blasts – Merry Christmas for Syria, with Love from America. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/merry-christmas-for-syria-with-love-from-america/

29) Hariri implicated in arming insurgency in Syria.(continues also audio tape) http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/hariri-implicated-in-arming-nato-insurgency-in-syria/

30) NATO Prepares Global War – Russian and Chinese Military on Highest Alert. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/nato-prepares-global-war-russian-and-chinese-military-on-highest-alert/

31) Russia´s Putin promotes Eurasian Union in rare article. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h0KgpWReQEViJPRvovnJlzTvuK2w?docId=CNG.959cb8156142d070031486c72c2a0fb8.641

32) FSB – Home. http://www.fsb.ru/

33) China – Ministry of Security – Wikipedia. http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E5%8D%8E%E4%BA%BA%E6%B0%91%E5%85%B1%E5%92%8C%E5%9B%BD%E5%9B%BD%E5%AE%B6%E5%AE%89%E5%85%A8%E9%83%A8

* * *

34) US-Consulate guard accused on trying to pass secrets to China. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2043096/US-consulate-guard-Bryan-Underwood-accused-trying-pass-secrets-China.html

35) Russia deploys war ships to Syrian Base. http://www.nineoclock.ro/russia-deploys-war-ships-at-syrian-base/

36) EU agrees to ban Iranian Oil Imports. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2012/iran-120104-voa02.htm?_m=3n.002a.394.gc0ao02hky.crr

37) China criticizes US sanctions against Iran. http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2012/iran-120104-voa01.htm?_m=3n.002a.394.gc0ao02hky.crw

38) Iran says it will close Strait of Hormuz if crude export blocked.  http://rt.com/news/iran-ready-block-strait-hormuz-361/

39) The Geo-Politics of the Strait of Hormuz- Could the US Navy be defeated by Iran in the Persian Gulf.  http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/the-geo-politics-of-the-strait-of-hormuz-could-the-u-s-navy-be-defeated-by-iran-in-the-persian-gulf/

THE SUPERIORITY OF AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE:

When Socrates made the statement that ‘it is better to be unborn than to be untaught for ignorance is the root of all misfortune’, little did he realise how true this will apply in the 21st century. By many shades it has applied to the African and most third world countries where it is arguably a fact that the high levels of illiteracy could account for the backwardness and lack of development of the regions – resulting in the misfortunes of high infant mortalities, prevalence of diseases and famine etc. But is there is direct relationship between education and development? Are the most educated people the most developed?

Most people will consider this a naive question – and indeed I deed think so myself. For example, Pope Paul VI in On The Development Of Peoples of 1967 held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” This view may seem a truism until one decides to question what we mean by education.

If I had been asked this question a few years before I started studying western philosophy, I would have thought the most educated persons were those who had reached the apogee of formal education – that is those with Doctors of Philosophy (PhD). However, after four years of rigorous studies, I came to the realisation that most of the theorists of antiquity were mere monuments of intellection – monuments because they were relevant to their particular periods but offered nothing of practical importance to our generation. Some like the most celebrated Hegel to me may not even pass as a monument given that his greatest writings had the assumption that the African had not reached the level of self-consciousness. As theories used to justify slavery, these views were classics at the time but when subjected to critical inquiry in this age, it becomes apparent how, for a great part, Hegel and many western thinkers were simply rhetoricians who triumphed in arm-chair philosophising.

Their ignorance did not constitute a problem as it did not affect them directly and in fact served a purpose at the time (justified slavery and the colonisation of Africa). The ignorance that calls for serious concern is that which exists in this century where there is so much talk about globalisation and technological evolutions. I know it is stale news that a great part of the world still thinks Africa is a single country. I was shocked to discover, I was not surprised, when, many times in India, intellectuals alluded to Africa as a single country and some asked me if Cameroon is in the West Indies. It is therefore not just a Sarah-Palin-problem. But is this really an issue? I guess not.

The real issue is the ignorance that I have observed being manifested during the last few months. I did not realise how severe it is till I got to Cameroon and was confronted with the fact that people were more informed, objective and critical about issues than I was. I thought I was more educated but to my chagrin I realised I was not as informed as my African counterparts who had lesser formal education.

Thomas Jefferson had made the point that “ the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers”, which I have extrapolated to include Robert Brault’s statement that “You don’t realize how little accuracy there is in network TV reporting until they cover a story in your hometown.” Hence while we were being deceived by the mainstream media and kept away from the truth about Libya for example, African media houses were feeding the people with the truth. Little wonder the African Union for the first time unanimously challenged a decision by western powers – they knew the truth which we in the west did not know. I have had time to reflect a little on the whole notion of what I know and what I do not know and hence I now can boast of the superiority of the African education.

In High School, I studied American History, British History, European History etc. alongside African and Cameroon History; I studied Agriculture in France, Fishing in Norway and Agriculture in Nigeria among others; I studied British economics; I studied western philosophy and an apologia of African philosophy though I have been having encounters with the rich flavour of African philosophy in folklores and rich African proverbs all through my life. I studied in Cameroon, (Africa in Miniature) and Nigeria (the giant of Africa) and then studied in a renowned western university. The point here is that I, like all African students studied all what western Education offers but western students do not study anything that African education offers. An African who has not travelled out of Africa therefore, ends up knowing more about the world after high school, than a PhD holder who studied all through, in western institutions.

Do you have any doubts, then tell me – who can better understand the problem of hunger – the African who has experience of it or the foreigner who read about it? I recall with a fit of mild irritation how a mate from South Africa got a fail in an exam that he wrote about the apartheid only got an ‘A’ after he openly challenged the lecturer with facts. He lived the experience and the lecturer had only read about apartheid from books. He had firsthand knowledge and what the lecturer knew was at least three times removed from reality. He had knowledge of apartheid but the lecturer had an opinion about apartheid.

It is in the light of this that I cannot understand how it is that many institutions in the West have departments dealing with African studies where Africans go to learn about Africa. What illogicality! The truth is that Africans go for the certificates and not the knowledge. Hence, all what these renowned centres of African studies do is merely celebrate retardation in intellectualism. It is high time we stop deceiving ourselves. No one can teach Africans about Africa.

Isn’t it all so glaring with the stories emanating from the recent invasion of Libya? Of course it is logical that a good reason has to be given to taxpayers for every invasion. Unfortunately these reasons blur the truth and hence knowledge. Ask many in the West today what Libya was in 2010 and all they know is that Gaddafi had stayed in power for 42 years and that Libyans wanted democracy. Ask an African and he will tell you that Libya was a poor Kingdom under King Idris when Gaddafi seized power in 1969, expelled the British and US military bases that ensured Idris’ stay in power, and that Libya according to the UNDP Human Development Index of 2010 had a life expectancy of 74 and that it had free education, and enviable healthcare system and that it was a welfare system with unemployment benefits. How many people in the West today know the real reasons why there have been tensions between Gaddafi and the West?

  • That Gaddafi resisted joining a US/NATO-sponsored military alliance in the region.
  • That Gaddafi also refused to join the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
  • That Gaddafi put $300 million of the $400 million to fund Africa’s first communications satellite in 2007. (A project that made western countries to loose a net income from Africa of over $500 million a year)
  • That Gaddafi maintained public ownership of Libya’s own central bank, and the authority to create its own national money
  • That Gaddafi worked assiduously to establish an African Monetary Fund, an African Central Bank, and an African Investment Bank, which will curb the high levels of capital flight from Africa, make African governments more responsible and unfortunately render the IMF and the World Bank visibly useless.
  • That Gaddafi refused the request of Western powers to be part of these projects, especially France and the UK.

Of course many will not know all these. I have read many articles discussion the Post-Gaddafi era. Unfortunately, they are so filled with misinformation that I pity the western generation that will know nothing but what these tell them.  I am in no way down-playing the high standards of western education in western institutions. When it comes to the empirical sciences and technological sciences, there is no doubt that these institutions are of the most premium quality. But talk about the social sciences, the bottom line then is that if anyone wants to be educated in the world today, let them do their primary to high school education in Africa and then go to the Western institutions for University education. That way they will be able to discern fact from fiction and will not end up living a life of deceit.

In the final analysis, it is clear that the era is long gone when a few individuals or countries will continue to present their ideologies and selfish interests as international creed, thereby eroding the powers of the African people. This is clearly a period for a philosophical re-articulation of the African reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of African continent. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. But most important one that can only be done by those most informed to do it – AFRICANS.

The Truth About the Situation in Libya

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition 

Aug 13 - Stop Bombing LibyaLibya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

In military terms, Libya’s resistance to NATO is of David and Goliath proportions. U.S. military spending alone is more than ten times greater than Libya’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was $74.2 billion in 2010, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

In recent weeks, the NATO military operations used surveillance-collecting drones, satellites, mounting aerial attacks and covert commando units to decapitate Libya’s military and political leadership and its command and control capabilities. Global economic sanctions meant that the country was suddenly deprived of income and secure access to goods and services needed to sustain a civilian economy over a long period.

“The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22.

A False Pretext

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy targeted the Libyan government for overthrow or “regime change” not because these governments were worried about protecting civilians or to bring about a more democratic form of governance in Libya.

If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Saudi monarchy is protected by U.S. imperialism because it is part of an undeclared but real U.S. sphere of influence and it is the largest producer of oil in the world. The U.S. attitude toward the Saudi monarchy was put succinctly by Ronald Reagan in 1981, when he said that the U.S. government “will not permit” revolution in Saudi Arabia such as the 1979 Iranian revolution that removed the U.S. client regime of the Shah. Reagan’s message was clear: the Pentagon and CIA’s military forces would be used decisively to destroy any democratic movement against the rule of the Saudi royal family.

Reagan’s explicit statement in 1981 has in fact been the policy of every successive U.S. administration, including the current one.

Libya and Imperialism

Libya, unlike Saudi Arabia, did have a revolution against its monarchy. As a result of the 1969 revolution led by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was no longer in the sphere of influence of any imperialist country.

Libya had once been an impoverished colony of Italy living under the boot heel of the fascist Mussolini. After the Allied victory in World War II, control of the country was formally transferred to the United Nations and Libya became independent in 1951 with authority vested in the monarch King Idris.

But in actuality, Libya was controlled by the United States and Britain until the 1969 revolution.

One of the first acts of the 1969 revolution was to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and foreign control. Not only were oil fields nationalized but Gaddafi eliminated foreign military bases inside the country.

In March of 1970, the Gaddafi government shut down two important British military bases in Tobruk and El Adem. He then became the Pentagon’s enemy when he evicted the U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli that had been operated by the United States since 1945. Before the British military took control in 1943, the facility was a base operated by the Italians under Mussolini.

Wheelus had been an important Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War, housing B-52 bombers and other front-line Pentagon aircrafts that targeted the Soviet Union.

Once under Libyan control, the Gaddafi government allowed Soviet military planes to access the airfield.

In 1986, the Pentagon heavily bombed the base at the same time it bombed downtown Tripoli in an effort to assassinate Gaddafi. That effort failed but his 2-year-old daughter died along with scores of other civilians.

The Character of the Gaddafi Regime

The political, social and class orientation of the Libyan regime has gone through several stages in the last four decades. The government and ruling establishment reflected contradictory class, social, religious and regional antagonisms. The fact that the leadership of the NATO-led National Transition Council is comprised of top officials of the Gaddafi government, who broke with the regime and allied themselves with NATO, is emblematic of the decades-long instability within the Libyan establishment.

These inherent contradictions were exacerbated by pressures applied to Libya from the outside. The U.S. imposed far-reaching economic sanctions on Libya in the 1980s. The largest western corporations were barred from doing business with Libya and the country was denied access to credit from western banks.

In its foreign policy, Libya gave significant financial and military support to national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Southern Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.

Because of Libya’s economic policies, living standards for the population had jumped dramatically after 1969. Having a small population and substantial income from its oil production, augmented with the Gaddafi regime’s far-reaching policy of social benefits, created a huge advance in the social and economic status for the population. Libya was still a class society with rich and poor, and gaps between urban and rural living standards, but illiteracy was basically wiped out, while education and health care were free and extensively accessible. By 2010, the per capita income in Libya was near the highest in Africa at $14,000 and life expectancy rose to over 77 years, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

Gaddafi’s political orientation explicitly rejected communism and capitalism. He created an ideology called the “Third International Theory,” which was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Arab nationalist and socialist ideas and programs. In 1977, Libya was renamed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. A great deal of industry, including oil, was nationalized and the government provided an expansive social insurance program or what is called a welfare state policy akin to some features prevalent in the Soviet Union and some West European capitalist countries.

But Libya was not a workers’ state or a “socialist government” to use the popular if not scientific use of the term “socialist.” The revolution was not a workers and peasant rebellion against the capitalist class per se. Libya remained a class society although class differentiation may have been somewhat obscured beneath the existence of revolutionary committees and the radical, populist rhetoric that emanated from the regime.

As in many developing, formerly colonized countries, state ownership of property was not “socialist” but rather a necessary fortification of an under-developed capitalist class. State property in Iraq, Libya and other such post-colonial regimes was designed to facilitate the social and economic growth of a new capitalist ruling class that was initially too weak, too deprived of capital and too cut off from international credit to compete on its own terms with the dominant sectors of world monopoly capitalism. The nascent capitalist classes in such developing economies promoted state-owned property, under their control, in order to intersect with Western banks and transnational corporations and create more favorable terms for global trade and investment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc” governments of central and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 deprived Libya of an economic and military counter-weight to the United States, and the Libyan government’s domestic economic and foreign policy shifted towards accommodation with the West.

In the 1990s some sectors of the Libyan economic establishment and the Gaddafi-led government favored privatization, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and integration into western European markets.

The earlier populism of the regime incrementally gave way to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. This was, however, a long process.

In 2004, the George W. Bush administration ended sanctions on Libya. Western oil companies and banks and other corporations initiated huge direct investments in Libya and trade with Libyan enterprises.

There was also a growth of unemployment in Libya and in cutbacks in social spending, leading to further inequality between rich and poor and class polarization.

But Gaddafi himself was still considered a thorn in the side of the imperialist powers. They want absolute puppets, not simply partners, in their plans for exploitation. The Wikileaks release of State Department cables between 2007 and 2010 show that the United states and western oil companies were condemning Gaddafi for what they called “resource nationalism.” Gaddafi even threatened to re-nationalize western oil companies’ property unless Libya was granted a larger share of the revenue for their projects.

As an article in today’s New York Times Business section said honestly: “”Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for the international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”

Even the most recent CIA Fact Book publication on Libya, written before the armed revolt championed by NATO, complained of the measured tempo of pro-market reforms in Libya: “Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps— including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization—are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.” (CIA World Fact Book)

The beginning of the armed revolt on February 23 by disaffected members of the Libyan military and political establishment provided the opportunity for the U.S. imperialists, in league with their French and British counterparts, to militarily overthrow the Libyan government and replace it with a client or stooge regime.

Of course, in the revolt were workers and young people who had many legitimate grievances against the Libyan government. But what is critical in an armed struggle for state power is not the composition of the rank-and-file soldiers, but the class character and political orientation of the leadership.

Character of the National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (NTC) constituted itself as the leadership of the uprising in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. The central leader is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya’s Minister of Justice until his defection at the start of the uprising. He was one of a significant number of Western-oriented and neoliberal officials from Libya’s government, diplomatic corps and military ranks who joined the opposition in the days immediately after the start of the revolt.

As soon as it was established, the NTC began issuing calls for imperialist intervention. These appeals became increasing panicky as it became clear that, contrary to early predictions that the Gaddafi-led government would collapse in a matter of days, it was the “rebels” who faced imminent defeat in the civil war. In fact, it was only due to the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, initiated with great hurry on March 19 that the rebellion did not collapse.

The last five months of war have erased any doubt about the pro-imperialist character of the NTC. One striking episode took place on April 22, when Senator John McCain made a “surprise” trip to Benghazi. A huge banner was unveiled to greet him with an American flag printed on it and the words: “United States of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

Similar to the military relationship between the NATO and Libyan “rebel” armed forces, the NTC is entirely dependent on and subordinated to the U.S., French, British and Italian imperialist governments.

If the Pentagon, CIA, and Wall Street succeed in installing a client regime in Tripoli it will accelerate and embolden the imperialist threats and intervention against other independent governments such as Syria and Venezuela. In each case we will see a similar process unfold, including the demonization of the leadership of the targeted countries so as to silence or mute a militant anti-war response to the aggression of the war-makers.

We in the ANSWER Coalition invite all those who share this perspective to join with us, to mobilize, and to unmask the colonial agenda that hides under the slogan of “humanitarian intervention.”

RISING POWERS AND DEVELOPMENT POLITICS!

To say I expected this session to be emotional will be an understatement. For ten weeks we have had this stormy journey. Raising questions and attempting to answer them – only to realise the answers are questions in themselves. Many people had thrown in the towel and considered the question of ‘development’ one with a forgone conclusion – failure. Nothing seems to have changed since the so much talk about development. Was it worth all the trouble? This is surely what happens when a discipline spends so much time reflecting on itself rather than on the world. It happened with philosophy as it got caught in the ‘fly bottle of linguistic analysis’ so it is not surprising that it is happening to Development studies. Fortunately, IDD seems to have sensed this and places emphasis on linking theory and practice; the raison d’être for some of us who thought there was still something worth investigating. I can boldly affirm that these ten weeks have made me realise how lucky I am to have engaged in the quest.

I happened to have been at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office today for a POLSIS Study visit and in the few hours that we spent discussing with Alison Kemp (Joint Head, Policy Unit): FCO foreign policy priorities; Sara Everett (Deputy Head, Afghanistan Group): Afghanistan and  Greg Quinn (Head, UN Political Team, International Organisations Department): UN issues, several things we have discussed in the past few weeks took shape. I was able to put my questions to decision makers and hear their views about some of these issues. and was able to arrive at some conclusions…

First of all, the I came to the conclusion that the importance of understanding theory as a prelude to understanding the whole concept of development cannot be overemphasised. This understanding will leave little doubt that developments and politics are intricately interwoven.

Secondly, I was able to conclude that politics was indeed the most dominant variable in any discussion in development and that a talk on international politics could not go unsustained for long if it is not talking about issues of development. International Politics is inverted international development – was my ultimate conclusion. In the talk about foreign policy priorities – a talk which lasted about 20 minutes – Alison Kemp mentioned the term development (or sustainable development) about 8 times (once every 2.5 mins) a clear indication that issues of development were top on the priorities of the FCO.

Third any talk about ‘pro-poor’ politics is simply a charade. Any politics claiming to be aimed at the poor is simply a part of a bigger complex scheme. The endgame never benefit the poor – rather they suffer more when it goes wrong. The question I asked the Head of the UN political team was a simple one: why does the UN use economic sanctions on people like Mugabe and Abacha when they know very well that these people will not care a hoot if the country suffers, given that they will never go a day without their sumptuous meals no matter how harsh the sanction? Who suffers more from an economic sanction? If we can all answer that it is  THE POOR… then the soul-searching question will be if the UN in its politics is not pro-poor, where do we begin a discussion on pro-poor politics in an international forum?

Fourthly, the issue of ‘failed states’ is one that cannot be wished away easily. The fact that the concept is riddled with controversies, notwithstanding, the deputy head of the Afghan group used it several times in his description of Afghanistan. When he acknowledged the fact that 1979 arming of the Taliban was a great mistake, I could not help pointing to the fact that its result (Taliban support of Al Qaeda and the failure of the Afghan state) was being replicated in Libya.

Finally, the last conclusion I arrived at is that the nature of international politics was changing and it was going to take many by surprise.  The unprecedented rise of the Asian Tigers which challenged most of the conventional theories of development was simply the antiphon to a new era. Of course we should not have expected anything different if we recalled Marx stating in 1959 that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”

We have had the surprising rise of the BRICs but what should not surprise us is how China and India replay history in a refined manner. It was fascinating to see how Tom captured the concept of China’s trade relations to Africa… The many layered question is… Is it a dependency relationship or is it the flip side to modernisation? Difficult questions to answer but certainly thought-provoking.

One thing that stands out though is that China rose to power on the wings of communism and a ‘closed’ state and is now seeking to expand that power through Capitalist means. Maintaining communism at the home front and capitalism at the international level is a strategy that only time can tell its outcome. It however points to something… China is being flexible and to me that is ‘politics’ or better still ‘development politics’. Their recent neutrality in the resolution over Libya is yet another pointer of her cautious nature. China is avoiding any form of conflict while at the same time building an empire outside China.

In the final analysis, we can all begin anew by asking ourselves what actually is new in development. Is there something intrinsically new? Or are we simply filling new wine into old wineskins? Can they hold the new wine? Whatever the case it will do some good to remember Duncan’s words

… a focus on ‘what’s new’ runs the risk of ignoring ‘what isn’t new’, such as the bread and butter issues of development: reducing poverty; supporting active citizens and their efforts to build effective, accountable states; fighting for universal health care, education, access to water and food; and equal rights for all women and men.

The onus however lies in knowing the difference… and this I guess is what I have been able to learn from this module.