Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Global Affairs (Juan Cole affiliated blog) (1-1-08)
... The Bush administration has decided that in the "Muslim world" a battle is going on between pro-American "moderates" and anti-American "extremists." According to them, the "Muslim world" has a two-party system organized around how Muslims feel about America. In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf is a "pro-American moderate." Benazir Bhutto is a "pro-American moderate." Therefore it is only logical (and in U.S. interests!) for the U.S. to realign Pakistan politics so that the "moderates" work together against the "extremists."
This ignores a few problems. It is not just a random problem that the "pro-American moderate" institution headed by General Musharraf executed Benazir's father and held her for years in solitary confinement. Despite Musharraf's propagation of the PR slogan, "enlightened moderation," the institution that he headed, and which put him in power, supported the Taliban unstintingly for many years and failed to deliver any results against al-Qaida when it would really have counted. This is the same institution that massacred hundreds of thousands of its own countrymen in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
The administration's plan for Pakistan was based on a model of transition from authoritarianism that took place in several Latin American countries, which is known as a "pacted transition." (If you want to know more about it, Google "transitology.") The basic idea is that the "moderates" in the bureaucratic authoritarian regime and the "moderates" in the democratic opposition negotiate a peaceful process of extrication of the military from power through elections, which may initially be "guided" rather than "free and fair." Of course the administration seem to have neglected one of the research's main findings: pacted transitions give rise to "democracies with birth defects." Among those birth defects are continued control by the military over key areas of policy and the limited consolidation of democracy. Much depends on what the leaders of the military are actually trying to accomplish.
This already happened in Pakistan. In 1988 General Zia-ul-Haq's hand-picked Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, got in several conflicts with Zia over Afghanistan (the negotiation of the Geneva Accords and the explosion of weapons destined for the Afghan muijahidin at an ISI warehouse in Rawalpindi). After the as yet unsolved Case of the Exploding Mangoes, which killed General Zia, ISI Director General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, and U.S. Ambassador Arnie Raphel, the military dismissed Junejo and agreed to a reasonably free election, which was won by Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. After the death of General Zia, whom Bhutto and many Pakistanis held responsible for her father's death, she was able to return.
But her electoral victory did not settle the issue. Bhutto first had to negotiate with the military and agree not to remove military authority over security issues, notably Afghanistan, the nuclear program, Kashmir, and senior military appointments. After the failed attempt by the ISI with U.S. backing to orchestrate the conquest of the Afghan city of Jalalabad in March 1989 (using not only Afghan mujahidin but also al-Qaida), Bhutto sacked ISI director General Hamid Gul. Other conflicts with the military ensued. As a result, the military had President Ghulam Ishaq Khan remove her on corruption charges in August 1990. The military and bureaucracy rigged the elections in October 1990 so that she would be defeated by Nawaz Sharif.
I will come back to the election rigging, because the government used the same technique that it was apparently planning to employ this time as well, namely the establishment of "ghost polling places" to return fake ballots in key constituencies identified by the ISI's Electoral Cell. This method of rigging is not visible to foreign election observers.
When Nawaz Sharif in turn became too independent, it was his turn to be sacked. This was followed by two rounds of alternance determined by the military (Bhutto in 1994, Sharif in 1996). The final confrontation between Nawaz Sharif and General Musharraf was provoked again by a struggle over the military's prerogatives. Sharif charged that Musharraf organized the Kargil campaign in Kashmir on his own initiative, while Sharif was pursuing negotiations with the U.S. over Bin Laden behind Musharraf's back.
The leaders of the Pakistan military, of which Musharraf is a typical example, do not see themselves primarily as "pro-American moderates" battling with "anti-American extremists." They see themselves as responsible for building a powerful militarized state in Pakistan representing the heritage of Islamic empires in South and Central Asia against the threat from India and the selfish maneuvers of politicians (not necessarily in that order). In the course of doing so, they have enriched themselves and gained control of much of the economy and civilian administration. The military has always aspired to control the judiciary as well, and Musharraf has now restored to that institution the supine illegitimacy that it possessed under General Zia. This means of course that the use of institutional power for private gain by the military is legal (as the judiciary has no power over the military), while similar use of institutional power by civilians is "corruption."
The military allies with the U.S. because that is the only way to get the weapons and money for their national security project and to prevent the U.S. from aligning with India. It has nothing to do with "moderation." The "pro-American moderate" Pakistan military has used the "anti-American extremist" jihadis for its national security project. (By the way, the Afghan Taliban were not originally anti-American. In 1997, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, who later became foreign minister, told a meeting I was chairing at Columbia University that the Taliban would help the U.S. "in its struggle against international terrorism," and nobody wanted to build the Unocal pipeline more than they did.)
The goal of the Pakistan military has been neither moderation nor extremism as defined in Washington. Its goal has been to stay in power in order to pursue its national security project, which is also in its institutional interest and the private interest of its members. So why did Musharraf enter into negotiations with Bhutto? As Chief of Army Staff, Musharraf occupied a role similar to that of head of the ruling party in a one-party dominant system. His party, the military, unlike the other parties, is a disciplined cadre organization which, along with its fellow travelers (civilian allies of the military) controls all the key levers of power, including the civil administration and the judiciary. Such control is, it believes, required by the national interest. Musharraf added to this an economic policy under the guidance of his Prime Minister, former Citibank official Shaukat Aziz, that has indeed succeeded to some extent. In fact it helped create the middle class and new communications media that are leading the fight to oust Musharraf....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - 12:14
SOURCE: Deborah Lipstadt at her blog (1-1-08)
I had no intention of devoting so much time -- or any at all -- to Ron Paul but this guy says things and does things which almost demand comment.
Last month, The Washington Post reported, in an article entitled A History Lesson, that Ron Paul had responded to criticism of him by John McCain. McCain had compared Paul's opposition to the Iraqi war to the 1930s appeasement movement in the US. [I don't agree with McCain's comments. But, as you will see, that is beside the point.]
The appeasement movement, as many readers clearly know, was vigorously opposed to any action against Nazi Germany. While it may have had many well-meaning members in its ranks, it also had many people who were sympathetic to Nazis Germany and who, while they may not have approved of all its policies, were clearly enthralled by much of what it was doing [and vehemently opposed to FDR's policies]. Think Charles Lindbergh and Ambassador Joseph Kennedy.
In response to McCain's criticism Paul said the senator was" confused historically." He went on to tell the Washington Post:
"People in the 1930s who didn't want war didn't cause World War II. I think Hitler caused the war, not the Americans who argued for a pro-American foreign policy...."To say the isolationists were arguing for a pro-American foreign policy is to also say that those who wanted vigorous action against Nazi Germany wanted an anti-American policy.
Paul may not be an historian and may not be a man of nuance but when you begin to put all these things together, you get a disturbing picture of a man who had won the hearts and opened the pockets of a surprisingly large number of Americans.
[The Washington Post article was also posted on the official Ron Paul for President site which is where Adam Holland, who alerted me to this, apparently first saw it.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 - 21:38
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (1-2-08)
Palestinians have a hidden history of appreciating Israel that contrasts with their better-known narrative of vilification and irredentism.
The former has been particularly evident of late, especially since Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, floated a trial balloon in October about transferring some Arab-dominated areas of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. As he rhetorically asked about Israeli actions in 1967,"Was it necessary to annex the Shuafat refugee camp, al-Sawahra, Walajeh, and other villages, and then to state that these are part of Jerusalem? One can ask, I admit, some legitimate questions about this."
In one swoop, this statement transformed pro-Israel statements by Palestinians (for a sampling, see my 2005 article,"The Hell of Israel Is Better than the Paradise of Arafat") from the mostly theoretical into the active and political.
Indeed, Olmert's musings prompted some belligerent responses. As the title of a Globe and Mail news item puts it,"Some Palestinians prefer life in Israel: In East Jerusalem, residents say they would fight a handover to Abbas regime." The article offers the example of Nabil Gheit, who, with two stints in Israeli prisons and posters of"the martyr Saddam Hussein" over the cash register in his store, would be expected to cheer the prospect of parts of eastern Jerusalem coming under PA control.
Not so. As mukhtar of Ras Khamis, near Shuafat, Gheit dreads the PA and says he and others would fight a handover."If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority. … There would be another intifada to defend ourselves from the PA."
Two polls released last week, from Keevoon Research, Strategy & Communications and the Arabic-language newspaper As-Sennara, survey representative samples of adult Israeli Arabs on the issue of joining the PA, and they corroborate what Gheit says. Asked,"Would you prefer to be a citizen of Israel or of a new Palestinian state?" 62 percent want to remain Israeli citizens and 14 percent want to join a future Palestinian state. Asked,"Do you support transferring the Triangle [an Arab-dominated area in northern Israel] to the Palestinian Authority?" 78 percent oppose the idea and 18 percent support it.
Ignoring the don't-knows/refused, the ratios of respondents are nearly identical preferring to stay within Israel – 82 percent and 81 percent, respectively. Gheit exaggerates that"no one" wants to live in the PA, but not by much. Thousands of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem who, fearful of the PA, have applied for Israeli citizenship since Olmert's statement further corroborate his point.
Why such affection for the state that Palestinians famously revile the media, in scholarship, classrooms, mosques, and international bodies, that they terrorize on a daily basis? Best to let them explain their motivations in direct quotations.
Financial considerations:"I don't want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here," says Ranya Mohammed."I'll go and live in Israel before I'll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport. I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I'm not ready to give up."
Law and order: Gazans, note Israeli-Arab journalists Faiz Abbas and Muhammad Awwad, now"miss the Israelis, since Israel is more merciful than [the Palestinian gunmen] who do not even know why they are fighting and killing one another. It's like organized crime."
Raising children:"I want to live in peace and to raise my children in an orderly school," says Jamil Sanduqa."I don't want to raise my child on throwing stones, or on Hamas."
A more predictable future:"I want to keep living here with my wife and child without having to worry about our future. That's why I want Israeli citizenship. I don't know what the future holds," says Samar Qassam, 33.
These earnest views do not repudiate the vicious anti-Zionism that reigns in the Middle East, but they reveal that four-fifths of those Palestinians who know Israel at first-hand understand the attractions of a decent life in a decent country, a fact with important and positive implications.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 - 21:33