The Guantanamization Of President Obama

It's official now: America has its mini-Gulag abroad.  Last week, President Obama signed an executive order formalizing the system of indefinite detention of terrorist suspects at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.  This formalization follows Obama's other executive order — issued more than two years ago — that promised to completely shut down the detention center by no later than Jan.22, 2010. 

According to the Washington Post, "[a]dministration officials said the president is still committed to closing the prison."  Really?  When?  The notorious Russian saying "когда рак на горе свистнет" ("when a crawfish will whistle on a hill") seems to be the most appropriate description of the timeline President Obama apparently has in mind.  

The new executive order makes it almost certain that at least 48 of the 172 detainees currently at Guantanamo will remain there for the rest of their lives without being tried in court.  The Post explains that the reason why they can't be prosecuted — neither in federal court nor even in the so-called military commissions ("troikas") — is "because evidentiary problems would hamper a trial."  In plain English, that means that evidence against these people either doesn't exist or was extracted from them by torture.  On the other hand, the detainees can't be released, either, because according to classified "intelligence assessments," they represent too serious a threat to U.S. national security to be let go home (or wherever the U.S. military grabbed them).   

How is this different from the original system established by the Bush administration?  Well, the brilliance of the recent executive order — and what supposedly makes the detention system "legal" now – is that the detainees will have periodic "reviews" of their cases.  What stunning progress!  Moreover, they will even have a right to hire private lawyers to represent themselves.  The government won't pay for that, though, and the executive order is mum on the subject of where the money to cover detainees' legal expenses will come from.

Presidential judicial blessing notwithstanding, Guantanamo still retains the major feature of the "classic" Gulag: being a place where people can be thrown in and kept forever without their captors facing any legal — or, for that matter, moral — consequences.  As the greatest Gulag builder of all times, Joseph Stalin, used to say: "Нет человека — нет проблемы" ("No person, no problem").

We are being told that "[t]he administration…has the legal authority to continue to hold all of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay under the laws of war."  That means that for as long as the United States considers itself as being at War on Terror — started and called this way by President Bush and then continued by President Obama under the euphemistic name "Overseas Contingency Operation" — we will be living under the laws of war.

The problem here is that we are always at war.  We Americans just love wars, and when facing a problem, we always frame a solution in military terms.  This is how we started the War on Poverty in 1964, and then declared two more wars, the War on Drugs and the War on Cancer, in 1971.  Some 40+ years later, these wars still supposedly continue, but their outcomes are far from being victorious:  approximately 14% (43.6 million) of Americans were living in poverty in 2009 and more than a half-million of our compatriots will die from cancer this year — and this number has not significantly decreased since the 1970s.  And if someone believes that we have won the War on Drugs, this person should consider spending vacation on the U.S.-Mexican border.

If the record of prior achievements does predict future results, what reason do we have to believe that the Bush-Obama War on Terror will be any more successful?  And yet, we are expected to live indefinitely under the laws of war.

The Guantanamization of President Obama (as part of further Bushenization of his national security policy) is actually good news for Russia.  The Russians must not be shy to invoke Guantanamo every time U.S. politicians and the media discuss alleged violations of human rights in Russia.  Don't like the fact that someone got 15 days in prison for repeated violations of public order?  What about people sitting in prison for years – on allegations no one bothered to even present?  Unhappy with the verdict in the second Khodorkovsky trial?  Well, at least Khodorkovsky had a trial.

It's time to set the record straight.   

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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36 Responses to The Guantanamization Of President Obama

  1. Mark says:

    I strongly agree with the opinion you offer. President Obama was elected on a promise of change, and in many ways he has done his best. He’s not even trying on this issue, however. Something appears to have fundamentally altered his beliefs regarding the justice of keeping Guantanamo open since his election, and it can’t be that periodic case review would satisfy all previous reservations.
    I don’t blame the government for believing those who remain constitute a direct threat to America, because if I had been confined in such conditions all this time and hadn’t done anything to deserve it, I would now hate America to the marrow of my bones and would stop at nothing to avenge the injustice done to me.
    That, however, is no excuse for keeping them locled up forever. You’d think if they had actually done something to deserve their confinement, the USA would want to get that out front in a fair trial – it’d deflect a lot of criticism.

  2. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mark,
    As a side note, I don’t blame Obama for reversing his position: he tried but hit the wall. By the same token, I can’t blame Medvedev for not doing enough on his promises: he’s trying at least as strongly as Obama, but the wall he’s hitting is way-way higher.
    With regards to indefinite detention, its supporters often fret that even military tribunals don’t get enough convictions — and the assumption is that these convictions must always result in death penalty. I then have a suggestion for these people: why won’t you take all these 48 guys to the Guantanamo courtyard one night and just shot them to death? No person, no problem.
    I know, I know: I stand beind accused in advocating the KGB methods. But this is exactly what our concervative want deep down.
    Best,
    Eugene

  3. Mark says:

    “But this is exactly what our conservatives want deep down.”
    Not even that deep. Remember Ayad Allawi? That was his approach, too, and eyewitnesses testified he didn’t mind carrying out the sentence himself. Yet according to a well-known Conservative back in 2004, when it looked like conservative opinion was crystalizing around Allawi as new ruler-by-fiat in Iraq, “Administration officials smile when they talk about Allawi, then marvel at how aggressive he is. Allawi believes that his government has to establish its authority if it, or any future government, is to do its job.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/05/opinion/05brooks.html?n=Top%2FOpinion%2FEditorials%20and%20Op-Ed%2FOp-Ed%2FColumnists

  4. Eugene says:

    Mark,
    Hey, Allawi was an Oriental despot in the making, but we’re a civilized nation. So we may want “simple” decisions, but always chose complicated ones — most often, for “legal” reasons.
    Best,
    Eugene

  5. Igor says:

    Guantanamo, probably, means that US has not “friends” left – it would be far simpler to keep the people whom the government, for some reasons, wants to keep alive “indefinitely”, locked in some other country.
    In fact, the only “serious” reason for keeping prisoners in Guantanamo I can imagine are business interests of someone influential – otherwise, it is hard to believe that even if the current prisoners are simply released, they are capable of changing the fate of the world.

  6. Hi folks,
    Running on a different theme from Eugene’s article (he’s on a roll) is a recent Clifford Levy piece, which fits the preferences at The WaPo, NYT, RFE/RL and some others.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/weekinreview/27tyrants.html?_r=1
    Among other things, note the characterization of a lack of concern over a referenced instance in Russia. Specifically, what was and wasn’t said on that matter.
    This coming from The NYT with one journo who took a clearly biased position on former Yugoslavia while reasonable comments in disagreement to his online article were deleted – as comparatively more questionable ones favoring the journo were left up. Such manner realtes to why Levy and other NYT journos don’t seem so distraught when people are denied entry into Canada for heavy-handed political reasons.
    Not to be excused is RT for covering Luke Harding getting denied entry into Russia (for the reason of not following proper administrative guidelines), while not seeing a “propaganda” and earnest basis for covering actions the Canadian government has taken against Srdja Trifkovic and some others.
    I’m not sorry to bring this up again. On this matter, “sorry” pertains to a warped inconsistency out there.
    Best,
    Mike

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor,
    Obama tried hard to pursuade many countries to take a number of Guantanamo prisoners, but without much success. You can understand why: friends or not, who wants to deal with this shit?
    You might be right about business interests, I simply don’t know. However, what I know is that there is a panic fear among professionals here in the U.S. that a freed prisoner committs new crime. There is no worst case scenario for a judge, parole board members, prosecutors etc. to see someone they let go committing yet another crime. A scandal, end of career.
    I think for the same reason, no one in the Obama administration wants to let any of these guys go. If someone freed from Guantanamo returns home, join the jihad again and kill an American soldier, that would become a serious election issue for Obama. The other thing is that the very presence of Guantanamo has apparently created more jihadists than are already there. But you can’t come up with a number, so this is a “safer” option.
    Best,
    Eugene

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    Levy’s piece appeared in a Saturday issue of NYT. It thus seems to be targeted at sophisticated housewiwes who want to relax on weekend while reading “politics light” downing it with a Budlight.
    Best,
    Eugene

  9. Eugene,
    The NYT is also a good way of gauging the mindset of the American foreign policy establishment. That particular article was given a high profile placement.
    The NYT has several different print editions. I first came across that piece of his in the form of a lead front page NYT Sunday Week In Review article. I’m pretty sure that NYT section is standard unlike some others at “the paper of record.”
    On your last point, those kind of ladies appear more prone to white wine spritzers.
    Best,
    Mike

  10. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Oops! I meant no disrespect to anyone/anything mentioned: NYT, Levy, ladies (God forbid!) and, least of all, Budlight:)

  11. Often wonder about some of the mass produced ways of promoting culture and some other things in one form or another.
    http://rt.com/business/news/pepsi-battle-kvas-russian/
    Be curious to know how good is the above from the best of the home made?

  12. Then again, beer was once more typically brewed in a slower and less mass produced process – leading too many regional breweries which are no more.
    More things to do without any added time. Not like everything mass produced is of a bad quality.

  13. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    I haven’t tasted home-made kvas for years. But the stuff I can buy here in MA in “Russian” stores is actually very good. My son who doesn’t drink anything but Coke (well, beer now, too) suddenly became a huge fan of kvas.
    Best,
    Eugene

  14. Thanks for sharing Eugene.
    I’ve fond memories of the kvas made by a friend of my family.

  15. Mark says:

    Something I never learned to like, I’m afraid – kvas and holodets are filed under “Russian delicacies to never eat/drink unless it’s a choice between that and kukumaria, which is the most loathsome thing that will fit in the human mouth”.
    I did, however, become a fan of kefir. Once we sort out if my in-laws are going to be able to stay long-term (permanently, eventually), I’m going to send away for the crystals so we can make our own.

  16. Eugene says:

    Mark,
    I want to make sure that you know you can use kefir as an excellent natural remedy against hangover. In a bowl of kefir, chop some onions and add salt and pepper. Eat a couple of table spoons of this mix (however disgusted you might feel at the moment); in 15-20 min you are reborn.
    As for kholodets — we need agree to disagree. My only hope is that you might not tasted the best kholodets. It’s a tricky dish to prepare (long process, requires special pork, etc.), and only a few (Russian) people can do it right. My wife, for example, is very accomplished cook, but she wouldn’t even try.
    Best,
    Eugene

  17. Perfect timing, as I’m having a sliced kolbasa (my preferred spelling) sandwich, comprised of a toasted bagel, with each cut side having a slice of grilled swiss cheese, with chopped spinich and basa in between.
    I find Kolbasa acceptable unlike salo. There’re some others who claim these as theirs. To be filed under the charge of culinary imperialism.
    Like salami and baloney, an all beef or other non-pork (turkey and chicken) kolbasa doesn’t do it for my taste buds.
    This contrasts from hot dogs, which have good tasting all beef and all pork, as well as combined beef and pork varieties. Later with the hot dogs having any traces of chicken and/or turkey.
    Any mix of pork, beef and turkey can make for a good kolbasa. Among the mass produced, Hilshire Farm and Krakus are pretty good IMO.

  18. Mark says:

    Perhaps we’re not talking about the same thing – my wife’s paternal grandmother was the cook, and I imagine what she’s forgotten about Russian cuisine would fill a cookbook, never mind what she knows off the top of her head. The product she made was a kind of clear jelly with bits of meat in it, and Sveta said it was made by cooking down the bones and some other stuff to get the thickening agent. I guess I shouldn’t say it’s horrible, because to be truthful I never tasted it. Her sons seemed to love it, but cold jelly has never been my thing; something about the rubbery texture. That’s probably why I didn’t like kukumaria either – cold FISHY-TASTING jelly.
    Kefir is pretty much a natural wonder-product that is good for you in all kinds of circumstances. We can buy it here, it’s mostly made in Quebec, but it’s dead in the sense that there are no living crystals in it and you can’t use a portion of it to make more.

  19. Mark says:

    I’ve pretty much given up on Obama because of American participation in the intervention in Libya (not quite an invasion yet, but it’s headed in that direction). I’ve watched him reverse himself on one position after another, and there’s more or less nothing left from the platform on which he got elected. He was supposed to restore America’s image in the world, and starting another kingmaking, nation-building war is the polar opposite of the right way to go about it. He was such a good guy when he came to power, and the lesson the world draws from it is that not even a good guy can save America – might as well get a hardcore conservative Republican in there next, Palin would be perfect, to accelerate the destruction so we don’t have to watch the country suffer needlessly.

  20. Reminds me a bit of some (stress some) libertarian leaning desire to see an extreme and quick global economic meltdown, for the purpose of quickly changing things for the better, as that particular viewpoint sees as appropriate.
    The way things seem set in the US, Palin isn’t likely to get elected president. Instead, look for an ongoing flip-flop within the one party, sub-divided American political structure.

  21. Igor says:

    @Mark
    “He was supposed to restore America’s image in the world, and starting another kingmaking, nation-building war is the polar opposite of the right way to go about it…and the lesson the world draws from it is that not even a good guy can save America ”
    Precise observation & the sad truth. The world also might want to think about what can save the world itself. Maybe even rememeber the classic about what determines the consciousness of a nation🙂
    Cheers
    PS. and Mark – холодец is like communism – you cannot say whether it was good or bad unless you actually tried it. (and even if you did not like the taste, you should remember that it was just one local version of it.🙂 )

  22. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mark,
    As of today, I too feel that I’m done with Obama (not yet ready to vote for Palin, but moving in this direction:). Yet, I think you’re too hard on the guy. Who cares what he said when being a candidate? Remember George W Bush promise to never engage in nation-building?
    What does surprise me is that having a solid support of Gates (and, I suspect, of Biden) against military engagement, Obama still bent to liberal preaching of HRC and, as todays’s WP says, Rice and Power. This is not about his soul already; this is about his brain.
    Best,
    Eugene

  23. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor,
    Comparing kholodets and communism is a gross disservice to the former and an undue compliment to the latter.
    We can expect more terminological precision from a scientist:)
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  24. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    You famous disdain for liberal interventionalism got vindicated yet again — see my latest response to Mark.
    Thank you all guys for the great discussion. I think I’ll write something re: Russia & Libya later. But for tomorrow: Russia’s regional elections.
    Best,
    Eugene

  25. Futility says:

    Fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t. Doing nothing would’ve meant facing the criticism that they let a murderous dictator brutally put down a democratic movement. It does not seem to me that the West wanted this intervention, nor needed it (though conspiracy theories abound, ofc.) That said, US is still Satan in the region so they have to tread extremely carefully. (No occupational force, ever, mos’ def.)
    The cynicism witch which the move has been met is somewhat surprising to me, really. Does anyone seriously doubt that this was a popular uprising that was struck down using heavy firepower (the army) and foreign mercenaries? For once, the West is doing the popular thing in the region (though clearly the existing regimes will try to use this against them). Ask a random Egyptian what he thinks about it and you’ll be met with confusion and cautious optimism (as well as fears). It is that their motives may be questioned (not at all unreasonable, given history.) Don’t let the fears materialise (again, no garrison, ever), and you might have actually made the world a slightly better place.
    This might blow up in everyone’s faces, of course. The next few weeks (maybe even days) will show if any of this will work. It’ll depend on just how popular the rebels are and whether protests will resume. Fingers crossed and all that. Hell, even Russia wasn’t entirely critical of this whole thing (they had a chance to veto it, didn’t.)
    More than anything, I’m fascinated by Putin’s statements (calling the intervention a crusade) and the near-rebuke from Medvedev. I’ve always believed that any disagreement between the two would be discussed beforehand. Considering the history, it does not seem to me like Medvedev would go out of his way to step on any toes. The contrast in today’s statements was unusual, though (not the first time this happens ofc, recall Medvedev’s statements about the Khodorkovsky trial), but it’s never happened to this extent. Colour me surprised.

  26. Eugene and company, some of the responses to the situation in Libya are interesting.
    The Medvedev-Putin difference of opinion as reported by RFE/RL:
    http://www.rferl.org/content/putin_medvedev_libya_unacceptable/2345335.html
    An out in the open difference of this kind was bound to happen. I’m awaiting a possible taken out of context follow-up claim.
    On occasion, this truthfully happens and in some instances without much fanfare.
    Look at Fred Weir as one of several examples:
    http://www.russiablog.org/2011/02/twice-lost-in-translation-mini-skirt-russian-orthodox-church-nicolai-petro.php
    Wouldn’t surprise to see him on RT again (unlike some others) with kid gloves treatment.
    Back to “Putvedev”: before this breaking sensation, it appeared that differences existed in some of their manner and concentration of interests. Putin being the older and from a security background perhaps relates to this dynamic. It’s probably best not to get too carried away over this recent news item about their reported difference. They’ve a good deal in common, with others looking for differences:
    http://russiaprofile.org/experts_panel/33773.html
    The reported difference in the linked RFE/RL piece (above) concerns an undiplomatically put commentary involving Russia’s stance on Libya.
    At the UN, Russia didn’t oppose the UN resolution that says: “a no-fly zone” and “all necessary measures” to stop the violence in Libya.
    In legalese and in conjunction with Sarkozy recognizing the Libyan rebels, as well as Obama and Cameron saying that Khadafy should step down, Russia shouldn’t be surprised by what has so far happened and might possibly expand.
    At issue for Russia is a basis to get stronger (hence taken more seriously) and whether to challenge a wiggle room UN resolution that can possibly contribute to a disagreeable scenario. Specifically, Khadafy getting overthrown and replaced by a government more neocon and neolib inclined, with human rights problems.
    Why didn’t China, Russia and some others take a firmer line at the UN?
    http://www.rferl.org/content/gates_in_russia/2344620.html
    In addition to maybe hoping for payback in one form or another, there’s some apprehension with Khadafy and uncertainty on how to best proceed.
    Then again, the value of a UN resolution has limits. The leading Western countries didn’t have a UN resolution to bomb Yugoslavia in 1999. That resolution would’ve been tougher to get due to the Libyan rebels appearing (so far) more ethical than the KLA, with the Yugoslav government in place at the time not having a record of participating in the international terrorism associated with Khadafy.
    Look forward to the follow-up.
    Best,
    Mike

  27. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Dear Futility,
    Thanks for your comments. I definitely agree with you that “fucked” is the most appropriate way to describe the whole situation: the cause, the reaction, the consequences, the players, etc.
    I’m not against humanitarian interventions. The problem is that in our overly politicized environment, there is no such a thing as “purely” humanitarian intervention. Everything is colored with economic (read oil, in this particular region) and political (including domestic one like the next year’s presidential elections in the US and France) interests. Besides, it’s hard to call “humanitarian” an intervention on behalf of one side in what is essentially a civil war.
    As for the Medvedev-Putin spat, it’s really interesting. Putin was in Udmurtia, so he didn’t coordinate his “private opinion” with Medvedev. I don’t want to get into this too far, but, in my opinion, rumors about Medvedev’s “weakness” are somewhat exaggerated. Hey, the guy has been in government for many years, including a stint as Gazprom chairman. Do you think he doesn’t know which toes when and how to step on?
    Do come back.
    Best,
    Eugene

  28. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    You’re making an excellent point: Russia objected to bombing Yugoslavia, but the NATO did it anyway — at high cost for Russia-NATO relations.
    What is at stake in Libya? Sure, Russia stands to lose money on arms sales. The arms lobby is understandable unhappy, complained to Putin (take a note where Putin was when offering his “private opinion” — at Votkinsk Zavod, the major producer of military equipment). But it’ll lose the money anyway, because Qaddafi will be gone sooner or later. Why is everyone expect Russia to be a lone warrior for the lost cause? Now, it’s in a good company of Germany, China, India and Brazil. Good for Medvedev!
    Best,
    Eugene

  29. Agree with your follow-up Eugene.
    On “humanitarian intervention,” and in retrospect to some past situations:
    – Russia had a basis to counterattack against the Georgian government strike into South Ossetia. All in all, that Rusisan military operation was pretty good at primarily hitting back at military assets.
    – There was a humanitarian reasoning for the Russian government to militarily respond to a couple of instances in 1990s era Chechnya. In these situations: doing so in a not so well thought out way against a brutal opposition within civilian areas compromised the humanitarian aspect of the Russian government’s military action. Yes, Russia should’ve a well trained and efficiently equipped armed forces for good use reasons.
    – Rather than provoke a hypocritically warped attack against Yugoslavia in 1999, the leading Western powers could’ve offered assistance to combat the KLA. The Western treatment of Turkish actions against the PKK highlights a definite hypocrisy. BTW, Milosevic years included, Albanians in Kosovo had greater rights than what the Kurds faced in Turkey, during the years of Turkish military operations against the PKK.
    The kind of “comparative politics”/”humanitarian intervention” analysis not encouraged at neocon/neolib leaning think tanks.
    Best,
    Mike

  30. Futility says:

    Eugene,
    Good points, all. Except that, considering the cost (at the very least), I’m not entirely sure this was the best move for Obama, politically.
    One has to distinguish between several issues here: is an intervention justified? If so, are coalition forces doing it for the right reasons? And if not, can it do some good anyway?
    It seems to me that there cannot be any serious disagreement about the first question (unless one believes that an intervention -cannot accomplish anything- which is a different matter). One would have to believe that the Lybian uprising was staged by the west, or somesuch (something I’ve seen insinuated several times now in other venues), and it seems to me very definitely not the case. Recall the first few days of the uprising: Lybia was a sure thing. An Arab friend (who was and is watching this whole thing more closely than I) was joking at the time: “Tunisia in 28 days; Egypt in 18. Lybia in 8?” (My numbers might be a little off, but you get the gist.) It was a -done deal-, and that -without- any real military support. The world had written Gaddafi off, and the powers were lining up to get behind whatever (democratic?) power was going to take over. Just look at the Russians: they designated the man a persona non grata at some point. This is not the thing to do if you believe he’s going to be around much longer.
    Only it did not quite happen that way, and Gaddafi did what Ben Ali and Mubarak did not, that is, he let loose the dogs of war. And not just the army either (some of whom defected, but far from all; he -is- a military dictator after all) but also foreign mercenaries (sub-Saharan at first, though now I hear rumours of Eastern Europeans as well; not sure how reliable that is). He does have some popular support to be sure, but though there are no numbers to be known, my sense of the situation (and I have to rely on people who’re watching the situation more closely and whose opinions I respect, but I’m willing to be shown otherwise) is that any real support comes from a small number of tribes only. This does not seem too hard to believe: recall just how much of Libya was under rebel control (and at the time they were not called -rebels-, they were -the people- in a fashion similar to Tunisia and Egypt) — and that without military might. He does still have the army though. And money. A whole lot of money.
    The sense in the Arab world too seems that he is a butcher, and that he needs to go. That his only goal is to continue his rule, even if there are no people left to lord over. For once, the West seems to be doing the -popular- thing in that region. Which is what, a first? So yes, it seems to me that an intervention is justified. Can it do anything besides make things worse? I’d think so. Gaddafi’s main source of strength is the army; take away the military hardware, and it evens out the playing field. More than that, in fact: I still believe that by far the majority of the country wants him gone.
    Now, let’s say that an intervention is in fact justified (and I would say that what is being done at the moment is as far as they should go; at no time can there be boots on the ground, unless they belong to say Egypt), is the West doing it for the right reasons? Who knows. The majority of the arguments against the Libyan ordeal seem to be of the type “the West is doing it, so it must be wrong” (doubly so since Sarkozy is on the forefront, a friend joked). I think the main reason for the coalition to go in is that they’ve already made their bet, and it would be impossible (or harder than a few hundred Tomahawks’ worth) to go back on it now. Gaddafi does not seem like the forgive-and-forget type. And so he has to go. Oil etc. plays a role of course, but only within this framework: I do not believe it to be the driving force (unlike in the case of Iraq, say).
    Can the intervention do some good in the region? With some luck (and a lot of restraint), yes. They have to -show- that this is in fact a humanitarian intervention, and that the goal is to give over the reins to “the people” (whether or not those quotation marks belong here will depend on a) your estimation of Gaddafi’s popular support and b) whether or not they show restraint in installing a puppet if the man is ever overthrown). They cannot under any circumstances make this appear to be an occupation. Luckily, I don’t think that they have the capacity for it: with two ongoing wars and budget deficits in just about every Western nation, they simply can’t afford to. Best case scenario? They pounce on the military infrastructure; keep civilian casualties low; give the rebels momentum; the rebels use it (and by that I mean the larger population more than the ragtag band of AK-wielding youngsters who’re on the teevee these days), until the Man is gone; show restraint, suppress their rapacious nature for once. With some luck, the Egyptians will want to get involved. With some luck, the West will have won one or two hearts and minds. With some luck, the current wave of uprisings will make the region a better place, and better places, I think, produce better people. A man can dream, I s’pose.
    Of course, it’s far more likely they’ll fuck it up from here to kingdom come. I just don’t think we’re there yet, and we might not need to be.
    A few closing remarks — re: your point about Putin’s location at the time is a v. good one. It does seem to me like it’d be more than pandering to a crowd, however; but then, Putin has a far more intimate relationship with Western “humanitarian” interventions than Medvedev. One would expect him to be a little jaded.
    You’re likely right about Medvedev’s weakness being overstated; ‘s just that the duumvirate is entirely nontransparent to me. Unlike a lot of the commentariat however, I cannot see them as working for or representing two camps. They are different people, yes, but working under a mutual understanding (nothing else would make any sense whatsoever). ’tis that they disagree so rarely in public that when it -does- happen, it’s rather jarring. At the end of the day, I cannot really estimate Medvedev’s strength or weakness; it’ll depend entirely on how and why he was chosen by Putin three years ago, and on what conditions. I’m afraid we won’t know much about that until the publication of Medvedev’s memoirs twenty-odd years from now (when the country is in a much better place, one hopes).
    Appy polly logies if I’m somewhat incoherent, it’s terribly late and this is more than I’ve written in a damnably long time.

  31. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Futility, I think it’s fair to say that every intervention has its cause (a trigger) and a root cause (a reason). In case of almost every Western intervention, no matter what the trigger is, the real reason is the presence of an anti-Western leader.
    Take, for example, Yugoslavia (Mike Averko is much better expert than me on the subject; so he’ll correct me if I go wrong). Milocevic wasn’t inventor or the first practitioner of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans; Franco Tudjman, president of Croatia was. But Tudjman was pro-Western, whereas Milocevic was anti. So the West quietly watched as 2 million Serbs had to flee Croatia and re-settle in Serbia. But when Milocevic attempted something similar in Kosovo, he was bombed. The West then patiently waited until Tudjman dies (he had a lung cancer) and then indicted Milocevic on war crimes.
    In the Middle East, the mode of action is the same: they go after anti-Western “despots” like Saddam. Of all despots in the area, including those in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the West unmistakably chooses anti-Western Gaddafi. Now, oil matters too – here I disagree with you. True, the Libyan oil doesn’t concern much the US, but for France and the UK it’s vital. Isn’t this a reason for our lukewarm participation in the mission. As Gates told yesterday, the US involvement there will decrease in the following days, and the lead will be taken apparently by Brits and French. And rightfully so: it’s their oil, let them fight for it.
    I don’t know what will happen with Libya – after all, I’m not an expert in the region. I have no idea whether Gaddafi is supported by the majority of the Libyan or minority. And who cares? My prediction is that the Brits and French will maintain the no-fly zone – and in the meantime will try to kill Gaddafi. There a few option they might try. First, find someone in the Gaddafi circle who would defect the Colonel and replace him. Second, they try helping the rebels to advance and to capture Tripoli. Third, my favorite, they will de facto split the country into two, install a friendly junta in the East and enjoy their oil.
    Briefly back to Russia. If there was one thing I’d love all foreigners to know about Russia that would be this: it’s ridiculous to discuss who – Putin or Medvedev – “runs” Russia. Like every “normal” country Russia is being run by SPECIAL INTERESTS, Putin and Medvedev being simply representatives of most powerful of them. OK, Putin THE MOST powerful. The tandem works for as long as these different interests are willing to at least coordinate their actions. Why Putin chose Medvedev? Because he felt that if left only to the interests he himself represents, Russia has no future.
    In November 2009, I wrote a piece on this subject:
    http://theivanovosti.typepad.com/the_ivanov_report/2009/11/the-tale-of-two-presidents-a-man-for-the-country-or-a-country-for-the-man.html#tp
    Remarkably enough, today I have almost nothing to add to it. Take a look if you’ve got a sec.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  32. I agree again with Eugene.
    For clarity sake, “Operation Storm” in 1995, saw at least 500,000 Krajina Serbs ethnic cleansed by Croat forces, which at the time included the repackaged unindicted KLA war criminal Agim Ceku. Earlier on, Croat nationalists intimidated ethnic Serbs within Croatia’s Communist drawn boundaries. Some ethnic cleansing occurred in that process. The English language mass media coverage of former Yugoslavia can get quite convoluted. One example concerns the shelling of Dubrovnik. Refer to this link and (among other things) note the eye witness follow-up by John Peter Maher on page 2 of the comments section:
    http://www.rferl.org/content/balkans_commentary_serbia_kosovo_bosnia/2339783.html
    Touching on another matter under discussion:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-22/putin-says-no-dispute-with-medvedev-on-russian-libyan-policy.html
    A “damage control” of sorts.
    Note Putin’s point about the Russian president having the final say on foreign policy issues.
    This doesn’t mean that there isn’t periodic disagreement at the top, which is typically covered up to look united out in the open. Western governments often carry on in the same way. As per his job title and its description, Medvedev is being given the opportunity to make foreign policy decisions.
    Off record and according to someone with claimed inside Russian government sources, Putin wasn’t so gung ho on recognizing Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence as Medvedev. That independence decision took a good number of Russian foreign policy establishment types by surprise – in a way suggesting that it might’ve been Medvedev’s call – since it was a diplomatically aggressive and somewhat surprising move (timing wise) made by someone not known to be so experienced on foreign policy.
    Best,
    Mike

  33. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Mike,
    I’d only add that little attention is being paid to the fact that recently Medvedev has been doing a lot of decisions, including personnel, in the law enforcement area — the area, many say, “siloviki” rain without restrictions. In fact, in the last couple of months, Medvedev fired perhaps more police generals than Putin for all 8 years of his predidency.
    Recent foreign policy decisions only confirm my notion that Medvedev in general is more decisive.
    Best,
    Eugene

  34. Hi back Eugene,
    Great follow-up points.
    From a distance, perhaps the aforementioned recent moves by Medvedev reflect a growing on the job confidence on his part, plus the need to do a number of things which are overdue (whether arguably or definitely).
    I surmise that the “siloviki” are by no means monolithic, thereby making it possible for some of them to not be supportive of everyone in their category. Such a background serves to explain how Medvedev can (with apparent confidence) make personnel changes in law enforcement. That Medvedev is “allowed” to do so suggests that he’s accepted (at least for now) as an establishment reformer.
    In other every day life situations, firings are periodically done for the imagery sake of the top brass looking to improve things, by hopefully bringing in folks with a new and effective approach.
    In sports, the coach gets fired unlike the given star players under contract and team owner.
    Best,
    Mike

  35. Igor says:

    There is a worth-to-read article by Liz Sly in WP on how “bad” Gaddafi has been in reality
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/many-libyans-appear-to-back-gaddafi/2011/03/24/ABHShlRB_story.html

  36. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Igor,
    As they say, even broken clock shows correct time twice a day:)
    Cheers,
    Eugene

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