Why They Hate Us, Or We Hate Them?

Hello Counter Punch and Mr. Atwood:

Regarding the article by Paul Atwood on “why they hate us” in Libya, published in Counter Punch on September 21,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/21/so-really-why-do-they-hate-us/

how do you reconcile the following latest news reports (of September 21 and 22)?

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/09/21/libyans-storm-ansar-al-sharia-compound-in-backlash-attack-on-us-consulate/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/world/africa/pro-american-libyans-besiege-militant-group-in-benghazi.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.tripolipost.com/articledetail.asp?c=1&i=9192

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444620104578010750711899438.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-22/libyans-storm-militia-base-in-benghazi/4275308

(I’m sure you can find similar reports on the 22nd for other news services you may prefer.)

Isn’t it possible that the Libyan situation is as reported by the US State Department and the Libyan government (post Gaddafi), that a minority of Libyans in armed militias were responsible for the killing of the US Ambassador by taking advantage of public dissatisfaction with and demonstrations against the California-made insult-to-Islam movie, to incite riot and then attack the US consulate? A Libyan “black bloc” using the cover of the otherwise spirited but not violent initial public protest?

Naturally, I agree some fraction of the Libyan public will resent the NATO intervention (and certainly many Western anti-imperialists remain extremely angry about it), but do you really think most of the Libyan people feel that way? The very fact of the widespread demonstrations before the NATO intervention — the Libyan outbreak of the Arab Spring — would seem to cast doubt on the popularity of Gaddafi. For every person who puts their body on the line in a demonstration — and that was always extremely more dangerous in Libya than in the USA — there are at least two or three more (usually many more) who agree with the protest sentiment.

Dictatorship is superb at eliminating the appearance of protest, but it has never been successful at winning without coercion the love of the majority of its subjects. Isn’t it possible that the Gaddafi dictatorship was just another of the same old pattern, with a megalomaniac at the apex of a pyramid of corruption, living lushly off the work of the people and the resources of the nation? And, isn’t it equally possible that the revolution that overthrew Gaddafi succeeded precisely because it was a popular revolution with a naturally large pool of resentment all sourced from the hatred of the dictator, and that under the press of difficult and immediate circumstances this popular revolution sought and used the muscle of friendly-for-the-moment world powers always playing for their own gains (like the US colonists did with France in the 1770’s and 1780s), and after ousting the dictator (with 40,000 of their revolutionary fighters killed) they really did install a government with popular and democratic freedoms? And, just like the successful US revolutionists of the 1780’s, the new Libyan government is weak and not fully in control of all the men with guns who were probably of very good use a year or two earlier, when they all were united by the single goal of removing Gaddafi.

Now the new Libyan government, which enjoys the support of the majority of Libya’s people, has to develop its truly federal security forces and consolidate its power (the Libyans who demonstrated today/yesterday are demanding this from the streets), at least to the extent of controlling militias (to the same degree that the 1st US president, G. Washington, was able to federalize state militias in 1791 to respond to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, and demonstrate a popularly accepted degree of authority by the federal government as regards controlling armed insurrections).

What always emerges in the stories from Libya, since the beginning of its Arab Spring, is the persistence, breadth and depth of the popular support for the elimination of Gaddafi, and in favor of the new government. The government of Libya today is the people’s government: weak, imperfect, sure but it’s really theirs and they are very happy to have it. Is it so hard to see this as the real thread holding all the stories of Libya together? The Libyans will be grateful to the NATO countries for their help, but to simply make the “dumb natives” assumption about Libyans, who will childishly fall under the sway of US nannies directing the reconstruction of their state, is a complete mistake. Simply consider how useless the Americans were to the French from the 1790’s on, and who soon became their “natural ally” (even after 1812).

All the players of the international game are well aware of the apocryphal saying: “Nations do not have friends, only interests,” of which a modern version is Henry Kissinger’s “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The Obama Administration was not enthused about being roped in by Sarkozy to flex some muscle for the Libyan public, but it played along in a conservative way to build up some credits for the future. What other “interest” could any other power have? But, that impure superpower motivation did not obviate the good outcome of a national population (of happy and imperfect people for sure) released from dictatorship and now really their own masters politically. Political freedom is a human right. Let’s see what they do with it, and we can criticize them for misusing that opportunity if it comes to that. But no external population has the right to demand that another national public be denied the opportunity to seize its political freedom (in our case because we hate US imperialism so much some of us would have preferred Gaddafi continued as Libya’s dictator and pretender of opposition to that imperialism).

The argument I make here — which is really quite obvious — would apply in Syria, and it would apply in Palestine. It would also apply in North Korea and China and many other countries. So, as “interests” will always trump feelings of sympathy or moral ideals, the application of “foreign help” to the liberation of populations trapped under dictatorships (and oligarchies) will be rare. All governments are more frightened about showing their own public examples of assisted liberation than they care about who runs another country or how, so long as their “interests” remains stably satisfied. This is certainly why Russia and China and Iran so stoutly defend the sanctity of the Assad dictatorship to massacre its own people to remain dominant over them. And, no one else has expressed a “vital interest” in the human right of the Syrians to have a government representative of their (once again imperfect) interests and which also refrains from murdering them in response to public expressions for leadership changes.

Anti-imperialism is a wonderful and hopeful idea, deserving of much more acceptance in the now capitalist Washington-consensus bloc. However, no idea can be considered so sacrosanct that one accepts the massacre of defenseless populations in order to hew inflexibly to it. This is too extreme a reductio ad absurdum that one would hope any awake mind would realize and reject. One can understand the simple human nature behind an external nation’s acceptance of the facts of a bloody dictatorial repression, condemning it forthrightly, and then honestly stating its selfish preference to stay out of the fray, with a parting “good luck” to the outgunned. After all, nations have “interests,” or as they say in the Mafia: “nothing personal, it’s just business.” But to contort thinking in ways that blame the victims, to provide one with a moral justification for accepting and even supporting the dictators, in the defense of some supposedly higher principle, is beyond the pale of humanistic Enlightenment thought. It is basically Stalinist.

Fundamentally, my question to you about political matters in the world is this, which is more important to you: what you are for, or what you are against? If your highest political preferences are of a positive nature, does the political freedom of other national populations rank at the top or near the top of your list?

To be fair, I will state my preference: it is for political freedom because I think it is the best method of accommodating the entire spectrum of human personality, and because it creates the best environment in which to realize economic equity.

I would be happy to receive your response by e-mail or as your comments in my blog, where this letter will appear.

Voting Affirmatively

“If you are a believer in Ron Paul’s Libertarian ideology, then voting for him is an obvious right choice. Why would anyone else vote for Ron Paul? Because Ron Paul has been consistently opposed to America’s wars, most recently in Afghanistan (ongoing) and Iraq and Libya (both done), and because Ron Paul is against prohibitions on recreational drug use and its criminalization, many leftists and/or progressives and/or social democrats and liberal Democrats have stated they would consider voting for Ron Paul if he is a candidate for president in the November 2012 election. From a leftist perspective, this is a stupid idea because it will only set back the leftist agenda, however you choose to define it.” For more, see

Voting For Ron Paul Is Stupid For Leftists
12 February 2012 [203rd birthday of Charles Darwin]
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci40.html

Vote affirmatively, instead for the “lesser evil.” In either case you may not influence the political choices of the nation, but only with the former do you maintain your self-respect.

Equality – Freedom Mapping

Here is my equality-freedom mapping, or ethical-freedom mapping from 1994, which I described in an earlier post called Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’. The idea behind the mapping is to parametrize all types of political regimes (hierarchies, economies) on the basis of two parameters: equality and freedom.

Equality can be thought of as the magnanimity of the social contract (“welfare”) within a regime, and freedom can be thought of as the lack of restraint on individuals by government (“liberty”).

Equality (ethical) - Freedom Mapping

          equality (ethical) – freedom mapping                     (MG,Jr. 1994)

Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’

I began writing political essays during the 1992 US presidential campaign. My first readers were members of a small local 3rd party discussion group. Writing was my way of clarifying my understanding of what the group was showing me about the American public mind. I then recycled my own analysis of these currently popular political attitudes into newsletters for the group. This effort only lasted for about six weeks, after which I focused all of my political energy into the tasks of the unionization group (Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers) at my place of work.

Three of my political essays from 1993-1994 seemed worth saving: “Life Among the Entitled”, “Don’t Get Passed”, and “An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies”, and I’ve collected them into one document.

NAFTA-&-Anarchism-1994

“Life Among the Entitled” includes a comparison of Japanese industrial expansion onto mainland Asia during the 1970s and 1980s, to American de-industrialization — “outsourcing” — as facilitated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law in 1994. I repeated the essence of this discussion in my just posted article on the Occupy Wall Street movement, “From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street” (see Swans.com, 7 November 2011). A quip in 1994 was “afta’ NAFTA disasta'”, meaning an expected major loss of jobs in the United States, which Ross Perot predicted would be such a southward rush that it would create “a great sucking sound” in the American heartland. In 2011 we can see the fruition of US de-industrializaion: Occupy Wall Street.

“Don’t Get Passed” is a short meditation on the most popular goal of Americans when seated behind the steering wheels of their automobiles: don’t get passed!

“An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies” is a short discussion of ideal anarchism, and my presentation of a map, or graph, which displays the wide variety of political hierarchies that history has shown are possible, as characterized by two parameters: freedom and equality. In the article, equality is called “ethics” or the “ethical dimension”. This ethical dimension could also be taken as some indicator of the magnanimity of the social contract within the political entity being mapped. In an earlier post (about the Swans.com articles of 7 Nov 2011) I stated that political stability is a reflection of the balancing of political freedom and the social contract.

I should make a 3D map by adding a “political stability” axis out the the plane of the equality-freedom map. It may be that the peak of political stability is in the “parliamentary” and “populist” regions of the equality-freedom map, and falls off in every direction from there.

Dusting off these nearly 20-year-old essays, I am struck by how clearly my father foresaw the economic decline that would follow from NAFTA and American de-industrialization, and whose human face we see today as the Occupy Wall Street movement. I also notice how I always gravitate toward the socio-political dyad of “freedom and equality”, or equivalently “political freedom and the social contract”, to characterize and understand political fairness, which may be another name for political stability.

Political Freedom, the Social Contract, and Occupy Wall Street

On November 4, 2011, I put some thoughts about democracy into a short comment, which I posted at the web-site of Louis Proyect, a writer I respect.

The Unrepentant Marxist
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/

The thread into which I placed my comment was a heated discussion between Marxists about the pros and cons of one Marxist academic and media hound called Zizek, and his recent article “Is Democracy the Enemy?”
(http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/is-democracy-the-enemy-a-reply-to-zizek/)

My first reaction was: democracy is only the enemy if the people are your enemy.

Later, I was reminded of some important history (noted below), and from this, and also reflecting on my own biases that show up in my writing, arrived at a conclusion about what “democracy” really means, or at least what it really should mean.

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November 6 is the 20th anniversary of the end of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, which itself was declared dissolved on December 26, 1991.

Here is a discussion about this at RT TV:

http://youtu.be/IuNe1DA4gnE

Two quotes from the show that I particularly liked:

“There are more communists in Berkeley than in Poland” — by a Communist Party official in Poland in the 1980s.

“The social contract was broken…” hence the people lost faith in the Communist Party (from the 1970s) and finally the state (the USSR).

I view Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as a popular reaction to “the social contract was broken” (from 1981 on) in the USA (as with the similar popular protests in the Euro-zone these days).

The Communist Party had ceased to be the exclusive holder of power in the USSR after 1989; Gorbachev had introduced/allowed multiparty parliamentary politics, though the CP retained much control. So, the USSR was a multiparty democracy between 1989-1991.

An interesting conclusion of the panel in this show was that the end/”collapse” of the CP/USSR was a contingent event, not an inevitable one. Had Gorbachev acted differently, there might still be a multiparty democratic USSR.

I think the social contract, and political freedom are the two essentials for any ideology to enjoy enduring popular support. Democracy is a political form that can facilitate the operation of the first and the experience of the second. But a hollow democracy, as we are increasingly experiencing here in the USA, is a form without substance if “the social contract is broken” (government fails as the steward of popular social goals and benefits), and if popular (as opposed to elite/insider or corporate) “political freedom” is disconnected from political power, so the “general will” (Rousseau) does not affect the course of government. Democracy alone, as an empty formalism, is not the real issue, but “democracy” spoken of as a label for an integrated procedural complex that expresses the social contract and mediates real political freedom.

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I am pleased to announce the Internet publication of two articles, which connect history to current events (OWS) and also probe the connection of our interpretations of current events with our own self images (OWS and Libya). I took my time to include a good amount of historical data in these articles, and to write them so they unreel smoothly. Also, I aimed for informative works instead of polemical ones.

Political Belief and Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci31.html

From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci32.html

The article on political belief was inspired by my experiences arguing my case for support of the Libyan Revolution. I was led to do a great deal of reading, from early this year, and the incubated pondering on this topic was applied to describe how a personal self conception could express itself publicly as “political belief”, and how such subconscious extensions of personality can clash emotionally in what should be even-tempered discussions of political facts. I illustrate the general ideas with three examples: 1950s Cold War political argumentation among French intellectuals, the thinking of people in Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the arguments pro and con over the Libyan Revolution.

What is Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? In order to know that, one has to understand where OWS comes from, that is to say what is it about conditions today that have led so many people to manifest as OWS? Part of my research to answer these questions was to review the history that led to the economic conditions of today. My views on OWS are presented in both articles, the second article being an effort to show the details of the shift from the 1945 international consensus for social contracts, to the post 1970s dissension of neo-liberalism and widening income inequality.

My own article on OWS is an attempt to provide a “complete package” in the sense of including discussion of: “where did OWS come from?” and “what are OWS individuals thinking?” with “how is OWS affecting mainstream/corporate political opinion?” plus “what public policies would answer OWS grievances?”, with a listing of some Internet resources presenting pertinent economic data.

Enjoy