The debate in the episode is in many ways a small-scale projection of the overall U.S. policy debate on the current and prospective U.S. role in the Arab Spring. It focused on the issues of U.S. military help, danger of militancy, and the Arab Spring view towards Israel and the United States. This article will focus on three of the most under-studies aspects of the U.S. role in the Arab Spring: American policy and the academic debate, the paradigm of ‘doing’ in U.S. foreign policy and the question of overlap between American domestic and foreign policies.
The widespread policy and media narrative of the Arab Spring is that the movement has been a surprise; emerging completely out of the blue, catching every political player flatfooted. ‘Even the regimes and administrations that were targeted by the Arab Spring movements couldn’t see it coming’[iii] – or so it is argued.
While this shock is somewhat understandable among the regimes of the Middle East whose administrations never really established rigorous ‘academia-watch’ departments that follow the academic literature and debate, I can’t really contextualize the surprise in the American executive branch circles as almost every branch have one or more academia-watch programs staffed by quite capable analysts. My curiosity grows even further as it was Gary Fuller, a former CIA political analyst who wrote about the danger of the Middle East ‘youth bulge’ back in 1989 and its possible dangers to regime stability, as well as U.S. Middle East policy[iv]. The youth bulge literature grew in the 1990s, highlighting statistical correlations between nations with youth bulge demographics and the likelihood of socio-economic discontent. Further studies by political scientists like Jack Goldstone,[v] Gunnar Heinsohn[vi] and more recently Richard Cincotta – Christian Mesquida[vii] reinforced Fuller’s observations. But the most critical warning was given by perhaps one of the most read books of its genre, Roger Owen and Şevket Pamuk’s work on Middle East economics, whose concluding chapter argued that based on the MENA region population growth statistics in the 1990s, the region had to maintain a minimum of %7 economic growth. Otherwise, authors warned, the region would fall to youth bulge demonstrations by 2010.[viii]
Furthermore, the assumption that the Middle East youth bulge would create such a domino effect was one of the hypotheses behind the 2003 War in Iraq. Bernard Lewis for example[ix], was aware of the repeated warnings by Middle Eastern demographics experts and argued that it was the duty of the United States to knock the first domino by invading Iraq. In a romanticist Wilsonian spirit, it was argued that the presence of a large U.S. force intended to overthrow perhaps the most hated dictator in the region would inspire the Arabs to rise and overthrow their dictators as well and create a region-wide movement like the Third Wave democracy movements in Eastern Europe. However, due to the way in which the U.S. entered the war in Iraq and handled the conflict ended up delaying this domino effect, effectively causing people to rally around their dictators against a possible American invasion, strengthening the position of the very dictators the United States sought to remove.[x]
However, despite the existence of a substantial literature that warned American policy-makers about the Arab Spring as much as two decades ago (including forecasts commissioned by the intelligence service) Washington appeared unable to make sense of what was happening in the region or what to do about it. This raises serious questions over the executive branch’s handling of academic information and forecasts.
I recall from the International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference of 2010, that a group of senior analysts from various government agencies were boasting how closely foreign policy and intelligence programs were following ‘all that’s going on in the literature’, in response to an inquiry from the audience questioning the government’s rationale of ignoring the academia’s warnings before the war in Iraq. Just about a month after the conference Mohamed Bouazizi’s act of self-immolation started the Arab Spring. Ever since the American administration has been scrambling – with mixed results – to situate itself with regard to the movement, still not convincing those who think the government organs are following the academic literature – at best – preferentially.
Go to Google and search for the query: ‘What should the United States do?’ – you will end up with thousands of issues and agenda topics on which some expert is ‘urging’ the United States to do something about. Carry on with the search adding a random country each time; you’d probably be surprised to see that American decision-makers are called on to act in some way on almost every country in the world and every global issue.
Although many American foreign policy professionals don’t like ‘the E-word’, feeling an urge to act in a large volume of area, including literally the other side of the world, is one of the main characteristics of an imperial consciousness.[xi] I don’t necessarily say this in a pejorative way: projecting an imperial consciousness is not the same as being an empire. Yet cost-benefit calculations don’t travel far with ‘normal’ states; their security concerns are geographically close.[xii] The ability to make these calculations globally is the mark of imperial ambition and capabilities.
With the primaries in the Republican Party well underway, the campaign season has finally gained momentum. The President’s recent State of the Union address left no doubt that Obama has shed his presidential “coolness” to re-gain the passion of the campaigner.
From now on, America will be increasingly absorbed by the process of choosing its next president. With each election comes a new level of spending, scrutiny of the candidates’ public record and private life, media coverage, and, no less important, drama and entertainment. The main networks such as Fox News and CNN have already set the stage for what they will broadcast once more as a “historical election” – with all the hammering insistence that 24-hour news channels are capable of. Nothing less than “America’s destiny”, commentators and presidential contenders like to repeat, will be decided on November 6, 2012.
An Introspective Campaign:
Yet, it is hard not to spot a growing sense of fatigue this year. At a time of crisis, parochialism is a great risk. These elections, in fact, may become remembered as the most inward looking the U.S. has had in decades. On the one hand, the battleground seems clearly delineated to the point of the obvious: how to put America back on track with employment and growth. An old Clintonian mantra has been recycled and updated for this electoral season: “It’s the economy, stupid 2.0”. On the other hand, the focus on domestic economic issues is mirrored by a deep concern with restoring American greatness. But so far responses to this challenge have been largely introspective. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich say they offer “no apology” for America’s actions in the world. They are fighting Obama not over a New America that can thrive in the world of the 21st century, but an original, purer America that is no longer and perhaps never was. Nor is Obama’s message necessarily more visionary and outward looking. That “decline is not a destiny” is declared by the Democratic President and its Republican rivals with the characteristic insistence of those who are struggling to convince themselves. Indeed calls for renewed American leadership appear imbued with a sense of real anxiety about the country’s future.
As the United States struggles to relaunch its economy and redefine its identity, the outside world has become the mirror in which America sees its weakness, not the place where it is reminded of its greatness. Republican contenders such as Ron Paul call for a total disengagement from the international sphere. Gingrich and Romney see the country besieged by foreign rivals and enemies, with only Israel standing tall as its sole true friend. The notion that a more globalized and interconnected world can be a positive force for peace and prosperity has disappeared in Obama’s latest strategy to “insource” jobs. In the State of the Union address, Obama moved a sharp critique to China’s unfair industrial and commercial policies. U.S. companies that were shipping jobs overseas were presented as almost guilty of treason and responsible for persistent high unemployment in the U.S. In public debates Mexican immigrants, Middle Eastern clerics, Indian students, Chinese workers and European socialists risk to be relentlessly and interchangeably portrayed as a danger to the American way of life.
The paradox is that America feels under siege by a globalizing and changing world that is largely, although clearly not exclusively, of its own making. The economic rise of China has been fuelled by the application of market-oriented principles extensively championed by the United States. The long hoped for reformist impulses sweeping across the Middle East should reassure Americans about the universality of democratic values rather than soliciting kneejerk suspicion. Rather than dwindling European socialism, it is rampant financial deregulation that should take the blame for America’s economic ailments. In the past, America largely believed it could remake the world in its own image. Now instead Americans seem to be turning their gaze away from the world, as if they were no longer comfortable with the image they saw.
Is Anybody Paying Attention Out There?
While the United States is increasingly introspective, the rest of the world appears simultaneously less interested in the direction America will take. Chinese officials greeted the Pacific pivot announced with great fanfare recently in Washington with remarkably underwhelming concern. In their minds, America has always had its eyes on the Pacific: since it intervened in the Philippines in the late XIX century, all the way to the Korean and Vietnam wars. Europeans also appear less emotionally attached to the current Presidential elections. Firstly, they are distressed and distracted by their own crisis. Secondly, they have no one to really loathe or love: Romney is no Texan cowboy, while Obama 2012 has lost much of the 2008 sparkle. The Middle East is going through its own revolutionary convulsions with notably little public interest in America bashing from the Arab street. In many quarters of the world the notion of American decline has taken hold. Hence, the implicit assumption seems among many, why bother paying attention to who will occupy the White House next?
During times of crisis, focusing on one’s own problems while ignoring others or treating them with contempt is a strong temptation. Yet it is also a dangerous one. After over a century of ascending American power and deepening institutional, economic, political and cultural interconnectedness, the United States’ destiny is ever more tied to that of peoples and countries across the globe. And vice versa. Public debates during this campaign season, however, have taken a risky turn. America’s economic interests and national identity are relentlessly defined in contrast with, or against, those of the rest of the world. Obama’s latest State of the Union address captured entirely this mood. This has left little space for constructive and pragmatic discussions about the challenges and opportunities posed by globalizing markets, the international consequences of Asia’s growth and rise, the effects of Europe’s economic and political woes, and the complexity of the new Middle Eastern dynamics that certainly cannot be reduced to a competition between the good reformists and bad Islamists.
Likewise non-Americans should be careful of falling pray to naïve cynicism and lofty dreams of decline. Indeed, whoever the next resident of the White House will be, what he will say and do will continue to be critical for international security, cooperation and prosperity. Europeans are worried about the U.S. “downgrading” of Europe. Yet, how the next President will lead America’s engagement in the Asia Pacific may turn out to matter more for Europe’s future than what Washington does across the Atlantic directly. Likewise, the way the U.S. will solve its economic troubles will undoubtedly have ripple effects for all. Failing to see the global stakes of the next Presidential elections will be at America’s and the world’s peril.
Emiliano Alessandri is Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. in Washington DC
Gregorio Bettiza is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a LSE IDEAS Transatlantic Relations Programme Research Associate.
This article first published at LSEIdeas.
The Resource Curse and its Challenge to Development
The idea of resource curse did not exist until the 1990s. The apparent paradox was that countries endowed with natural resources have performed worse than those with scarce or no resources at all (Auty 1993; Humphreys et al 2007; Ross 2001). In a simplistic comparison, the proponents compared East Asia’s success vis-à-vis Latin America and Africa’s resource-rich states. As economists focussed on the relationship between resource wealth and economic growth, what became evident was that “resources have led to worse economic performance” (Sachs & Warner 1997, 2001). As a way of affecting growth, a sudden increase in exports of minerals and hydrocarbons can shoot up exchange rates and negatively affect the competitiveness of the productive sectors – this is known as the Dutch disease effect. Political scientists, on the other hand, have been preoccupied with the ways resources – specifically oil – have influenced conflicts, patterns of decision making and democratic performance (Karl 1997; Ross 2001). At best, these arguments reflect rentier politics in the Middle East, which have been used to generalise the failures of achieving effective and inclusive governance in the midst of an oil boom.
However, what is evident is the shortcoming of development studies in understanding the opportunities and challenges brought about by the contemporary commodity boom. With the rise of neoliberal ideology, state led development – including state-managed extraction – has been discredited as a model of governing natural resources. Mining opening reforms have swept the developing world in the last three decades, in which the new geography of the bonanza has concentrated in resource-rich regions of Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Central, South and Southeast Asia. Economic restructuring enabled foreign firms (sometimes also domestic ones) to engage directly with state agencies in crafting laws to recognise private property rights in previously nationalised markets. In the context of low prices between 1980s and 1990s, states were relegated in the margins as regulators rather than direct participants in the global economy. As foreign loans pumping ambitious megaprojects dried up, foreign investment was the only source of fresh capital to resuscitate the minerals and hydrocarbons industries. Apart from the difficulty of securing support from international investors, the costs of building domestic capacity for extraction has made nationalist programme of extracting resources infeasible. In fact, many developing countries privatised their state enterprises and the only remaining publicly financed extraction is in host countries with state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Evidently, a new global context of development is shaping the politics of natural resources in the Global South. Since 2002, commodity prices took a steep rise, which has thus far changed very little despite the economic crisis hitting the core economies since 2008. The demand for oil, agriculture, and metal minerals are driven not by financial markets per se but by the insatiable need to secure access to resources by emerging powers, mainly Brazil, China and India. Equally, a fundamental shift in political economies has taken place across the developing world. This involves the simultaneous eclipse of state activism and the rise of private actors in governing resources at the global level – a trend that has not been reversed despite the opportunities for reforms offered by the commodity boom. The high prices have driven production upwards and a return to an age of resource dependency for these countries. While the salience of the resource curse hypothesis is incontestable, we still need more rigorous studies to understand the ways resources can offer opportunities for development in the Global South.
The challenge of the resource curse is two-folds. Firstly, economists are wary of possible positive means of achieving sustainable growth through sound resource management. One way of gaining more from resource rents is through a conscious state strategy of economic diversification, industrial upgrading and prudent fiscal management. To date, only countries with large internal markets have successfully diversified economic production, namely Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mexico. Even Chile and South Africa – despite centuries of resource extraction – continue to be dependent on metal minerals for their income. Other countries with weaker institutional capacities, notably in Africa and Latin America, are far more susceptible to the resource curse. A downturn in prices may have far reaching consequences especially if extractive resources dominate the export earnings. Therefore, social spending to reverse the poverty legacies of the past is contingent on the economic fate of commodity production.
Secondly, the political aspect of resource management seeks to find ways of institutionalising political reforms to strengthen administrative capacities of governments in adequately responding to external shocks, rent-seeking, and from predatory behaviour of state agents. What we have learned from the past, in Terry Karl’s analysis of Venezuela, is that politicians fall short in making difficult political choices to reform bureaucracies in an attempt to insulate the state from organised interest groups and deploy economic policies more effectively. Equally, in contexts where governance is influenced by external actors, states must exalt political autonomy from the forces of globalisation; they also need independent powers (without being wholly authoritarian) to build economic and social programmes that would not depend on commodity production. These are clearly long-term challenges that are never easy to address.
Governing Extractive Industries
I wish to focus on the political effects of the resource curse. In this debate, the key aspect of resource governance is the extent to which states can exalt autonomy in deciding the management of scarce resources. By political autonomy, I do not simply mean the capacity of elites to obstruct organised rent-seeking groups to capture extractive rents for personal interests. A larger aspect of governance involves finding the appropriate balance between state-led and market-led mechanisms in facilitating the internationalisation of extractive sectors. Put simply, how can state elites maximise foreign investment in natural resource sector without alienating foreign and domestic capital? Since the 1980s, the precursor of economic reforms in mining was low commodity prices and failing state enterprises – both of which led to a decline in commodity production and near collapse of resource-based economies. With high commodity prices, economic development in the new decade is marked by an opportunity to rebuild the state by expanding its scope in economic management as well as achieve greater democratic legitimacy by using rents from export earnings towards poverty reduction and social inequality.
Evidently, the return of the state in managing resources is far from a linear process. While in Latin America there is an argument to make about the activist role of states, the African cases paint a completely opposite picture. For example, Brazil and Chile never relinquished state control over the management of natural resources, evidently shown by the presence of state enterprises in petroleum and mining sectors respectively despite pressures for privatisation and liberalisation of the economy (Massi & Nem Singh 2011; Nem Singh 2010). In Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the governments emerging after a crisis of citizenship have sought to re-negotiate state-society bargains to use natural resources through export taxes as a way of addressing the poverty legacies of the past. With a proffered commitment to social equality, all of these governments argued to move beyond a privatised model of economic management. One way of dealing with the crisis of neoliberalism is to adopt a heterodox economic strategy consisting of prudent macroeconomic policies, expansive social spending, and attempts at revitalising industrialisation and limited renationalisation (Grugel & Riggirozzi forthcoming, 2009). This, evidently, varies across the region depending on national circumstances, historical context, and coalitional dynamics. Argentina and Brazil have succeeded in re-introducing industrial policy in its economic planning while Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela seems to have been ‘locked in’ to a situation of resource dependency.
In contrast, there are only incipient moves towards this direction in some African countries. In Zambia, copper has served as a source of patronage. Reforms to privatize copper were responses to economic restructuring with IFIs binding aid disbursement to economic performance. Between 1998 and 2000, due to low prices, the government changed the tax and mining regulations towards a more liberal orientation, to which the copper sector then had the lowest tax burden in the economy. Whilst the copper sector is experiencing rapid expansion in investments and production, the government has yet to dismantle the low tax regime to attract investment undertaken in the 1990s (Fraser & Larmer 2010; Haglund 2008). Taking a different case, Tanzania is a relative newcomer in the mining industry but its gold exports now rank third in Africa. The industry has attracted more than US$2 billion out of the total US$ 3 billion FDI coming into the country since 2000. The scale of dependency is extraordinary: gold mining currently contributes over 3% of government revenues in taxes in 2008 and roughly US$ 750 million in export earnings (ICMM 2009). Despite endeavours to re-negotiate taxes and royalties through changes in mining laws in 2010, transnational companies are taking the lead in developing the extractive industries with the government chiefly reacting to demands of private capital and donor agencies.
While my discussion here has focussed on what states can do within the context of neoliberal hegemony in managing extractive industries, the international community clearly has a significant role to play in making resource wealth work for the poor. However, so far, we still need more critical studies on global governance institutions and the construction of normative standards of good governance in managing resources. For one, the debate has been narrowly confined around revenue management where even autocratic governments like Azerbaijan passes the evaluation of the EITI Board yet it continually ranks poorly in the transparency index. More crucially, sound revenue management does not in any way address issues of dependency and a return to primary commodities production. The driving force behind such uncritical debate of growth models is that the whole good governance agenda masks the ideological underpinning of the reforms. Notwithstanding a few cases, like Brazil and Malaysia, economic restructuring in extractive industries are plainly reflexive of the neoliberal ideology. The forces of globalisation are deemed as inexorably pushing states to open their markets to serve the needs of the global economy.
Jewellord (Jojo) Nem Singh is PhD Candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield, UK and also director of CESRAN-American Studies. His work has appeared in Third World Quarterly, Journal of Developing Societies, and Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies in addition to forthcoming book sections published by Palgrave and Zed Publications.
Auty, Richard M (1993) Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis. London & New York: Routledge.
Grugel, Jean & Pia Riggirozzi (forthcoming) ‘Post-Neoliberalism: Rebuilding and Reclaiming the State after the Crisis’, Development and Change.
Grugel, Jean & Pia Riggirozzi, editors (2009) Governance after Neoliberalism in Latin America. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Humphreys, Macartan, Jeffrey Sachs & Joseph Stiglitz, editors (2007) Escaping the Resource Curse. New York: Columbia University Press.
Karl, Terry Lynn (1997) The Paradox of the Plenty: Oil Booms and Petro-States. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Massi, Eliza & Jewellord Nem Singh. 2011. “The Politics of Natural Resources: A Critical Appraisal on the ‘Return of the State’ in Brazil.” Paper presented at the workshop Post-Neoliberalism: Towards a New Political Economy of Development for Latin America?, University of Sheffield, UK, October 07.
Nem Singh, Jewellord T. 2010. “Reconstituting the Neostructuralist State: Political Economy of Continuity and Change in Chilean Mining Policy.” Third World Quarterly 31, no. 8: 1413-1433.
Ross, Michael (2001) “Does oil hinder democracy?”, World Politics 53, 325-361.
Ross, Michael (1999) ‘The Political Economy of the Resource Curse’, World Politics 51: 297-322.
Sachs, Jeffrey & Andrew Warner (1997) Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth. Center for International Development & Harvard Institute for International Development.
Sachs, Jeffrey & Andrew Warner (2001) “The Curse of Natural Resources”, European Economic Review 45: 827-838.
This article first published at e-International Relations.
On February 12th the Venezuelan opposition is due to hold internal or primary elections to elect the candidate who will face President Chávez in the Venezuelan presidential elections on October 7, 2012.
BY ARTURO ROSALES | JANUARY 13, 2012
However, based on the mood – or absence of it – and the apparent lack of enthusiasm by opposition voters for this democratic contest, the entire hullabaloo of these elections dominating the opposition-run private media for the last year or more could come crashing down around their ears.
At least that is the bet being made by Mario Silva of the popular TV opinion program “La Hojilla" (The Razorblade) broadcast live every night at 11pm, until the small hours, and universally watched and loathed by the fanatics of the opposition here in Venezuela.
In 2006 the opposition cancelled their primaries and decided on Manuel Rosales as their single candidate "by consensus". Latest polls indicate that around one million or fewer people will bother to vote on February 12th to elect the candidate and this would be a political disaster for the opposition. In 2006 they were boasting about 6 million voters turning out and then cancelled the internal elections.
This year, if the opposition decides to select a candidate "by consensus" this will blow the Democratic Unity Table (Mesa de Unidad Democrática or MUD) apart and show the opposition as being undemocratic whereas they always say that they are the "democratic opposition", despite participating in the 2002 coup d’état and the oil industry sabotage of the same year.
If they do hold the primary election and fewer than one million people turn out this is a political abyss for them. Mario Silva maintains that they are awaiting instructions from the US Embassy on what to do.
Since mid December, when it has become crystal clear that Chávez is riding high in the polls, there is waning interest and enthusiasm for the opposition media circus starring the “pre-candidates” for the primaries. Opposition spokespeople have now started scrabbling for excuses such as chavismo will sabotage the elections on February 12th (which is National Youth Day) by holding huge rallies to intimidate voters in Caracas and other major cities. Chavez has given instructions that the only celebrations to be held for National Youth Day will be in Aragua, in La Victoria, a town of around 180,000 inhabitants.
Despite having all that is needed to hold well-organized electronic voting there are still grave doubts that these primaries will even take place. Mario Silva reckons that this situation will be unwound and clarified by January 23rd latest so.......despite all the propaganda and lies spun by the local and international media about the importance of the primaries, the opposition has managed to paint itself into a corner once again. Wavering voters or even moderate opposition supporters will be reluctant to go and vote for one of the six candidates since not one of them has any cogent plan except for opposing Chavez which these days is simply not good enough.
There are various scenarios to be considered. Holding the primaries would be a political disaster for opposition credibility. So, somehow chavismo has to be blamed for cancelling the primaries and selecting the “unitary candidate” by consensus.
The consistent leader of the opposition candidates has been Henrique Capriles Radonski, Governor of Miranda state with well over 50% of voter intention. Second has been Pablo Pérez, Governor of Zulia state. It would seem logical based on the polls that Capriles will be the consensus candidate. However, Pérez’s main party supporting him is Acción Democrática (AD.) AD is by far the best organized and represented opposition party in the National Assembly as well as in terms of mayoralties up and down the country.
AD has the whip hand in this situation. It can bring out voters for the primaries and for the presidential elections on October 7th. On the other hand, Capriles party, First Justice Party (PJ) is very weak in this sense compared to AD nationally and in the real world of voting AD has far more supporters than PJ. In my opinion, if it comes down to a consensus battle, AD will have its man, Pérez, as the unitary candidate and probably destroy the already split PJ party in the process.
The other scenario could be that the MUD will implode and as a result there will be more than one candidate from the opposition side. This will hand the presidential election to Chávez on a silver platter ten months before voting even takes place as the opposition vote splits down the middle.
The implications of not holding the primaries goes even deeper than ruining any ray of hope the opposition had of getting back into power and getting their hands on the oil revenues. The primaries are also to select unitary candidates for mayoralties and state governorships. Now if all this comes down being decided by consensus, who is “playing at being democratic”? It will all become a question of money and trafficking influences as it always was in the IV Republic from 1958 – 1998 when the country was run by the US aligned bourgeoisie.
To conclude – the Venezuelan opposition is almost running Chávez’s campaigning for him. No ideas. No plans. No originality. Just the same tired bitching and criticism about anything and everything the government or the President does or says. Even the opposition flagship TV channel. Globovision is now trailing well behind the main state channel is terms of viewer ratings so it is clear that even anti-chavistas are fed up and bored with the opposition antics and tactics.
Finally, no-one has asked how the opposition candidates for the primaries were selected in the first place. Not one was selected by a vote from the party grass roots – except for maybe Leopoldo López of Voluntad Popular who won the presidency of his party in a national vote, organized by the CNE. It was a real pity that only 150,000 people voted.
It was a question of money. To participate in the opposition primaries each candidate had to put up Bs.F.1, 000,000 (US$232,558). This exemplifies the capitalist nature of their mentality which has certainly lost favor in Venezuela since Chavez declared himself a socialist in late 2006.
When it is all about NED and USAID dollars and the only policy you have is to criticize Chavez and his Ministers, offering no viable alternative except a return to Venezuela’s nefarious social past, then you have little hope of winning anything – not even the primaries which look odds on to be cancelled.
Arturo Rosales is a seasoned journalist who has worked in several Latin American countries. Since 1999 he has been writing on a voluntary basis to disseminate the truth about environmental and energy issues which are often obfuscated in the corporate media. With the advent of the Bolivarian revolution he turned his hand to more politically angled writing, especially when analyzing the effects and strategy of the Global Corporate Empire on the third world and Latin America in particular. Currently, Arturo is a staff writer for Axis of Logic.
This article first published at Axis of Logic.
According to Obama's "signing statement", the threat of Al Qaeda to the Security of the Homeland constitutes a justification for repealing fundamental rights and freedoms, with a stroke of the pen.
The controversial signing statement (see transcript below) is a smokscreen. Obama says he disagrees with the NDAA but he signs it into law.
"[I have] serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."
Obama implements "Police State USA", while acknowledging that certain provisions of the NDAA are unacceptable. If such is the case, he could have either vetoed the NDAA (H.R. 1540) or sent it back to Congress with his objections.
The “National Defense Authorization Act " (H.R. 1540) is Obama's New Year's "Gift" to the American People.
He justifies the signing of the NDAA as a means to combating terrorism, as part of a counter-terrorism agenda. But in substance, any American opposed to the policies of the US government can --under the provisions of the NDAA-- be labelled a "suspected terrorist" and arrested under military detention.
"Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."
Barack Obama is a lawyer (a graduate from Harvard Law School). He knows fair well that his signing statement --which parrots his commitment to democracy-- is purely cosmetic. It has no force of law.
The signing statement does not in any way invalidate or modify the actual signing by President Obama of NDAA (H.R. 1540) into law.
"Democratic Dictatorship" in America
The “National Defense Authorization Act " (H.R. 1540) repeals the US Constitution. While the facade of democracy prevails, supported by media propaganda, the American republic is fractured. The tendency is towards the establishment of a totalitarian State, a military government dressed in civilian clothes.
The passage of NDAA is intimately related to Washington's global military agenda. The military pursuit of Worldwide hegemony also requires the "Militarization of the Homeland", namely the demise of the American Republic.
In substance, the signing statement is intended to mislead Americans and provide a "democratic face" to the President as well as to the unfolding post-911 Military Police State apparatus.
The "most important traditions and values" in derogation of the US Constitution have indeed been repealed, effective on New Year's Day, January 1st 2012.
The NDAA authorises the arbitrary and indefinite military detention of American citizens.
The Lessons of History
This New Year's Eve December 31, 2011 signing of the NDAA will indelibly go down as a landmark in American history.
If we are to put this in a comparative historical context, the relevant provisions of the NDAA HR 1540 are, in many regards, comparable to those contained in the "Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State", commonly known as the "Reichstag Fire Decree" (Reichstagsbrandverordnung) enacted in Germany under the Weimar Republic on 27 February 1933 by President (Field Marshal) Paul von Hindenburg.
Implemented in the immediate wake of the Reichstag Fire (which served as a pretext), this February 1933 decree was used to repeal civil liberties including the right of Habeas Corpus.
Article 1 of the February 1933 "Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State" suspended civil liberties under the pretext of "protecting" democracy:
"Thus, restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of association and assembly, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations, as well as restrictions on property rights are permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed." (Art. 1, emphasis added)
Constitutional democracy was nullified in Germany through the signing of a presidential decree.
The Reichstag Fire decree was followed in March 1933 by "The Enabling Act" ( Ermächtigungsgesetz) which allowed (or enabled) the Nazi government of Chancellor Adolf Hitler to invoke de facto dictatorial powers. These two decrees enabled the Nazi regime to introduce legislation which was in overt contradiction with the 1919 Weimar Constitution.
The following year, upon the death of president Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler "declared the office of President vacant" and took over as Fuerer, the combined function's of Chancellor and Head of State.
Obama's New Year's Gift to the American People
To say that January 1st 2012 is "A Sad Day for America" is a gross understatement.
The signing of NDAA (HR 1540) into law is tantamount to the militarization of law enforcement, the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act and the Inauguration in 2012 of Police State USA.
As in Weimar Germany, fundamental rights and freedoms are repealed under the pretext that democracy is threatened and must be protected.
The NDAA is "Obama's New Year's Gift" to the American People. ...
Today, January 1st, 2012, our thoughts are with the American people.
This Article first published at GlobalResearch.ca
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