Category Archives: International

Swine Flu: An Epidemic Of Noise

Hard to conceal for TV journalists their salivation for a good international scare story with plenty of potential victims served over a bed of untold but well-suggested horrors…

The WHO seems to add to the worries, even if the number of attributed dead is minimal. And with symptoms almost identical to common flu’s, the risk of misdiagnosis and inflation in the number of swine flu victims is enormous.

What if instead the swine flu outbreak is being used to “test out” the capabilities of the international community, or even as a show-off to prevent an attempt of biological terrorism?

What Has President Nixon Ever Done To Us?

James Grant is right in pointing out that one root of today’s financial troubles lies in the Nixon administration’s decision, on Aug. 15, 1971, “that the dollar would henceforth be convertible into nothing except small change” (“The buck stopped then“, IHT, Sep 25).

Really, there’s lots of disasters that can be directly linked to the fewer-than-usual days of Richard M. Nixon as President.

Abroad: the bombing of neutral Cambodia and Laos, resulting in 4 students dead at Kent State in Ohio, and the establishment of the genocidal Pol Pot regime; the threat to India with nuclear-powered USS Enterprise in 1971, resulting in India’s and subsequently Pakistan’s nuclear (bomb) programs; the approval of Pinochet’s bloody coup in Chile in 1973, with a dwindling support for US interests by Latin American governments ever since.

Domestically: the end of all human voyages beyond Earth orbit; the ballooning-up of the Federal Government with the establishment of a long list of Government Agencies; the abuse of Presidential powers with their following corrosion for more than a quarter of a century; the “culture wars” between Republicans and Democrats, all trying to despise each other most; Donald Rumsfeld; and of course the original declaration of the “war on drugs” that surely must have been the most inefficient endeavor ever taken by humanity.

Nixon’s Presidency started a little less than forty years ago. Its legacy, who knows when it will end?

The Illusion of Foreign Policy Morality

It is disconcerting to read a knowledgeable and experienced person such as Thomas L Friedman fall in an old trap, claiming foreign policy morality for his own country (“Which world do you prefer?“, IHT, July 17).

Mr Friedman is apparently convinced that “America still has some moral backbone” because the USA “put forward a simple Security Council resolution” at the UN, calling for a series of sanctions against the quasi-dictatorial Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Such a move failed, however, due to “truly filthy” vetoes by Russia and China. For that matter, Mr Friedman throws in the “pure, rancid moral corruption” of South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki.

All hail the USA, then, because “there are travesties America will not tolerate“?

If only!

Doesn’t Mr Friedman know a thing about the US-backed regimes of Egypt and Pakistan, for example? Doesn’t he remember the scores of murderous dictatorships financed by successive US Administrations, on the horrendously immoral belief that it is ok to support a “bastard” as long as he was “our bastard“?

It is telling that a good response to Mr Friedman’s argument has been published in the very pages of the IHT, in the “Letter from China” by Howard W French of July 4, 2008 (“Behind the reluctance to criticize Mugabe“): where we learn for example how a mere twenty years ago, Washington (and London) were “running diplomatic interference for apartheid rule in Pretoria“, going as far as “backing South African guerrilla proxies in places like Angola, prolonging devastating wars there and elsewhere, and staving off independence for South African-occupied Namibia in the name of fighting communism“.

At this very moment, the USA and its “Western” allies are supporting dictators in Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. Is there a need to repeat here what everybody thinks, i.e. that such “travesties” are tolerated, whilst Mugabe’s is not, because Zimbabwe doesn’t have huge oil deposits?

That said, at the end of the day there is little point in starting a USA-bashing rhetorical exercize, just as there is little meaning in Mr Friedman’s clutching at moral straws regarding a particular vote at the Security Council.
This is the world we live in, and if we care for its morality the first step surely is not to delude ourselves into thinking that our side is “of course” the “good side”.

The Middle-Easternalization of Israel

A multiethnic, multireligious State, where:

  • An “ethnic group” dominates all others
  • The sense of belonging to one’s group vastly exceeds “civic loyalty”
  • Some political parties are defined by ethnicity and / or lack any interest in the plight of “the others”
  • Entire villages have been practically abandoned for decades without any State help, because “inconvenient” to the Government
  • Most if not all the national boundaries are completely artificial
  • The military are a little too important and their work a little too secret
  • There is no shortage of fundamentalists
  • A “State religion” controls many parts of life and death of all citizens, including those of another religion

That is the Israel described by Adam LeBor in commenting in the International Herald Tribune the new book “The Hebrew Republic” by Bernard Avishai.

In summary, after 60 years of existence Israel has sort of middle-easternalized itself, like its neighbors a society undermined by its own history. The “only” characteristics distinguishing the Jewish state from the States immediately nearby remain its independent judiciary, free and vocal press, and a robust civil society.

Would those characteristics survive an internal war like those afflicting Lebanon, or even a conflict between the hard-core settlers and the (jewish) rest of the country?

Iran and the Rationality of the First Nuclear War

Iran is right in trying to develop the Bomb: what else they should do, when violent foreign-sponsored political upheavals in Tehran appear in the news twice a month if not more often? (An example in Italian and another in English).

People like Michael Leeden are so preoccupied of the “Iran Bomb”, they are trying their best to make it explode.

What if they’d focus their minds not on the 1930’s and Hitler, rather on 1914, and on how a climate of distrust plus a longing for a resolutive war led many nations in a war with millions of dead (including European civilization).

How “enticing” (not!) will it be when Tehran or Tel Aviv will be pulverised, a few atom bombs will go off in other places, and then fifty or more years later flocks of scholars will be able to build their careers in the attempt of explaining how, even if all the “actors” in the crisis behaved rationally, the end result was the most gigantic idiocy in the history of the world, the First Nuclear War.

Tibet’s Unrest A Failure for the Dalai Lama and President Hu Jintao

The March 2008 “unrest” in Tibet has managed to net two big political victims: Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.

a. The Dalai Lama

Either the Dalai Lama is behind the rebellion, or he is not.

If he is, it’s a big failure for decades of his nonviolent struggle, some 49 years after leading one way or another the wrongly-timed, poorly opportunistic 1959 uprising that lead him into exile.

If he is not (and personally, I think that’s the case), it means he’s been sidelined (check his threat to resign against escalating violence). That is, the Tibetans are not all behind him: and so, as much as he is popular in the West, the World needs to identify more interlocutors to keep a meaningful contact with the people of Tibet.

b. President Hu Jintao

Even more than the Dalai Lama’s, the biggest failure of all is a personal one, and concerns Chinese President Hu Jintao’s.

First he was Party Secretary in Tibet for a while: however protected and privileged his lifestyle must have been at the time, and even if he came to distrust and despise the region and the people, as rumors have it, Hu must have learnt a thing of two about Tibet. Now, as Paramount Leader, President, General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Hu has been in charge of getting the whole country ready for the Olympics.

True, Hu even tried to prevent troubles by sending additional security personnel. But still: when the troubles happened (and they happened when most expected: on an anniversary, a few months before the Olympics), Hu’s only answer was to kill, brutalize, arrest, deport, in an incredibly bad P.R. move compounded by an unhealthy, improbable fixation for fantastic machinations by the Dalai Lama, a robed guy in Dharamsala pretending nonviolence for decades but now single-handedly capable of eliciting problems for the whole of China.

Under Hu’s (in-)capable hands, China has been lead into looking foolish, unable to prepare, unable to prevent civil unrest, violent, trigger-happy against “its own” people, unable to defend the ethnic Chinese Han apparently victims of the Tibetans’ anger, unable to prevent the news from leaking to the outside world, blood-splattered in front of hundreds of millions of its customers around the world a few weeks before the Olympics and ready to be criticized and ostracized by all those looking for an excuse for protectionism.

All of this, a few days after announcing a clampdown on Uighur’s terrorists that appears more and more either fiction or embellished reality.

Is this what Hu Jintao had in mind when presenting his political philosophy of “Harmonious Society” and “Peaceful Development“? Hopefully not…but unfortunately, his does look like “Fairweather Leadership“.

Unless something big happens during the next few months, one shouldn’t be surprised to find Hu in well-earned retirement quite soon.

Serbia: Trapped in the past…by the EU!

I find the IHT’s Feb 25 Editorial on Serbia and Kosovo rather disingenuous (“Trapped in the past“, IHT, Feb 25).

They state that “Every effort has been made by NATO, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to accommodate Serbian fears and sensitivities” but then undermine that very claim by decrying Serbia’s lack of “any willingness to negotiate the province’s independence” (as if this were a fait-accompli from the very beginning: so much for “accommodation“…).

They also accuse Belgrade of having “never demonstrated any remorse for the carnage unleashed by the former dictator Slobodan Milosevic“: thereby forgetting how young the Serbian democracy is, and its obvious innocence with respect to the crimes of a past dictatorship.

Serbia and the Serb may have a lot of soul-searching to do having lost pretty much everything and some in their misguided attempts to restore national pride by way of armed conflicts. But nothing, almost nothing has been done by the EU in primis, and by the USA, to help them out of that trap.

Actually, it is apparent that Kosovo has been recognized by some States, and not by others, only as part of a wider USA/Russia geopolitical game. What trust should Serbia put in such a process, is anybody’s guess.

If that can be the basis against “triggering wider conflict“, it’s very much doubtful.

Lessons to the World from Union of Otherwise Inconsequential Nations

I wrote a few months ago: “As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe“.

And there it is: “Emulating the EU, countries join forces to speak with power and focus” (Stephen Castle, IHT, January 22, 2008):

“Europe’s attempt to weld 27 disparate nations into one bloc is being imitated around the globe, from Asia to Africa, as countries experiment with new ways to maximize influence.

[…] the European experiment with integration is being copied most successfully by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, [aiming for] a single market by 2015.

The African Union, conceived in 1999, while bigger and more unwieldy with 53 members, also borrows from EU structures, including its most influential bureaucracy, modeled on the European Commission and known as the AU Commission. The Latin American dream is to have something like the EU. […]”

There are some comments in the article along the lines of having a more centralized EU structure to achieve the goal of continental thinking.

I do not see that as a must: what is important, is for all the EU (and AU, and ASEAN) members to realize each of them is too small to be of any consequence compared to the Powers called USA, Russia, China, India, maybe even Japan.

Co-operative behavior will then be a natural consequence of that realization, without any need for cohercion.

I still believe that is the main reason why the British are reluctant to fully enter the EU: because that will mean them accepting that the days of the Empire are really a thing of the past.

What Did They Kill One Another For?

The Croatian Parliament on Saturday backed the new government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader […]. Serb official Slobodan Uzelac [of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS)] was designated a deputy premier.”

During the wars that dissolved Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, more than 140,000 people died, and more than a million were displaced. And the Croatian War of Independence, fought mainly between Croatian and Serb ethnic nationals living in the present territory of Croatia, was “striking for its brutality and intensity“.

On Nuclear Hypocrisy

Letter published on the International Herald Tribune, Dec 14, 2007

Regarding “Get Tehran inside the tent” by Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh (Views, Dec. 7): The one underlying issue that the writers do not mention, and that does not appear in the article by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin (“In Tehran we trust?” Views, Dec. 7), is that Iran is alone in a sea of hostile neighbors.

Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb is as logical as Israel’s or Pakistan’s. For the current Iranian regime, and perhaps even for a hypothetical Iranian democracy, it would be extremely foolish to leave the fortunes of the state to the whims of the United States, Europe, Russia, or the Sunni Arab states, especially with troubled neighbors like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is obvious that the West needs a new policy for Iran. Perhaps once – just once – the powers that be will pay attention to the basic needs of Iran, starting by ruling out an invasion.

Isn’t it telling that Nasr and Takeyh repeat the old fairy tale that during the Cold War “confronting Communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy,” forgetting to mention an egregiously contrary example? In a most tragic decision 54 years ago, the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled and an autocratic monarch reintroduced, all in the name of fighting world Communism.

Maurizio Morabito, England

Iran: Security, Not Insults

Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh’s op-ed on the IHT (“Get Tehran inside the tent“, Dec 7) may be finally pointing to the obvious: provide stability to the Middle East by realizing that Iran is not going to move elsewhere any time soon.

But for that be achieved, a better vocabulary wouldn’t hurt. In fact, what would any Nation make if not insults of words such as “opportunistic“, “seeking predominance“, “to be contained“?

The one underlying issue that Nasr and Takeyh don’t mention, and does not even appear in Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin’s other op-ed in the same newspaper about Iranian nuclear activities (“In Tehran we trust?“) is that the former Persian state is alone in a sea of neighbours all of whom are hostile to various degrees.

Its pursuit of a nuclear bomb capability is as logical as Israel’s or Pakistan’s. For the current Iranian religious regime, and perhaps even for a hypothetical fully-fledged liberal Iranian democracy, it would be extremely foolish to leave the fortunes of the State to the whims of the USA, Europe or Russia, or of the Sunni Arab states, especially with troubled places like Iraq immediately to the West, and Afghanistan and Pakistan just to the East.

With the recent collapse of years of strong-armed American attempts at isolating Iran, it is obvious that there is a need for “a new policy now for going forward“, as one European official is quoted saying. Perhaps once, just once, the Powers will pay attention to the basic needs of Iran, starting from the elemental security of not risking any invasion, war, or foreign-concocted “regime change“.

Isn’t it telling that Nasr and Takeyh repeat the old fairy tale that during the Cold War, “confronting communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy“? Forgetting therefore to mention an egregiously contrary example.

In a most tragic decision 54 years ago by the CIA, the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled and an autocratic monarch reintroduced, all in the name of fighting world communism.

And where did that happen? Why, in Iran.

After Iraq – Six Points for a New Approach to International Military Interventions

-If President Bush had followed his “Mission Accomplished” message! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman

The situation in Zimbabwe appears so dire, even Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, is calling for an outside intervention to free the locals from the overpowering elite that has ruined the Nation.

Unfortunately, no outside intervention appears forthcoming.

For each Sierra Leone where foreign troops got rid of murderous rebels, there are innumerable counter-examples of places abandoned to the rule of unsavory characters: Afghanistan until 2001, the Kurdish villages in northern Iraq until 1991, Rwands in 1994 of course, and nowadays Darfur.

Despite the experience of the appeasers in the 1930’s, the temptation is always very high towards opting against direct intervention. Especially so now, with no end in sight for the military adventure in Iraq.

But think for a minute: if only President Bush had followed through the message bourne out of the “Mission Accomplished” May 1, 2003 banner on USS Abraham Lincon to its obvious consequence! He may have been celebrated to this day as an accomplished Statesman: having successfully completed the mission of toppling Saddam Hussein.

In other words: in case of a dire humanitarian crisis caused by egregiously unlawful behavior, there is a way to intervene: by setting ourselves to fight the criminals against humanity, and to accomplish the goal of defeating them: and then, to subsequently go back where we came from.

To understand how can this be done in practice, let’s imagine that there is a need to rapidly convince a State to change its tactics.

Sadly, that is not difficult: candidates abound, where humanitarian aid is not allowed to a wayward province, or wholesale killing is still considered an option, or otherwise part of the local population is criminally treated.

1-Start by establishing a clear measurable objective (eg “remove tyrant”…and that’s it!)

This is a basic principle of management so obvious, and yet betrayed at least as often as proven correct. How many targets can one hit with one shot? Hence the objective should be “Free the Zimbabweans from the rampant inflation”. Or “Remove the Iraqi individuals that will build a nuclear arms capability at the first occasion”. Vaporous stuff such as “exporting democracy”, etc should be forgotten altogether.

2- To avoid war, use a credible threat of war

If the counterpart is hell-bent in their devilish actions, scare them by showing seriously-ready-to-use violent means. Seriousness and readiness are imperative.
In truth, the actual start of the war is a sign of failure, because evidently the actions put in place were not scary or credible enough: just as good crowd control involves showing off truncheons to frighten, rather than actually beating people up.
On the other hand, if a war looms anyway, it has to be started. Otherwise, any threatening posturing will be even less effective next time around: and therefore the risk of future misbehaviors (and wars) much higher.

3-Get in quick, get out fast

Conduct the war by getting in, shocking, aweing and then leaving.
George HW Bush understood it in 1991. George W Bush declared just as much in that banner in 2003, but then carried on with the occupation regardless. And a never-ending occupation can only erode political support at home, while keeping the troops in danger of being attacked by ever-more-empowered insurgents.

4-Stand-by, ready to invade again very quickly

Once the enemy country has been left to its own devices, the usual cliques could simply regain power (see Iraq 1991). This can be prevented by keeping alive a credible, ready-to-strike threat.
Admittedly, that can evolve into a tragically ironic, revolving-door situation, with several rounds of invasions and retreats. But then, one hopes even the most recalcitrant political elite may opt for a different take, after suffering the umpteenth invasion.

5-Prevent civilian casualties

The death of any innocent “enemy” civilian is a fiasco akin to bombing one’s own cities.
Civilian deaths have boosted rather than weakened their Government since time immemorable (think the USA’s reaction on 9/12). This is contrary to the stated objective of changing a State’s criminal ways.
The absolute reduction of “collateral damage” to the utmost minimum is therefore not just an ethical goal, it makes good political and military strategy. And it will definitely help in preventing an organized insurgency to form.

6-Invade by land, avoid aerial bombings, and stay away from big equipment as much as possible

The threat and practice of repeated invasions is only feasible if the conflict can be carried out without the use of large, hard-to-position, hard-to-move, maintenance-hungry equipment, bombers included.
Apart from logistical considerations, in fact, if we want a quick conclusion with no “collateral damage”, i.e. precision and speed, bombing cannot be an option. In fact, whatever Air Force generals have been saying for the past hundred years, the effectiveness of bombing in preparation of a later invasion has been tragically debunked in the Flanders, in Normandy, and even in the first Iraq war.
After all, the objective is change the ways of a State, not to destroy it wantonly, the latter is the only thing bombing is good at in a modern war (if anybody believes in “precision targeting”, I’ve got a bridge to sell)

Will the above ever become reality? It is well known that we are always ready to fight the last war. And so there is some hope indeed, that will have to wait for the time when it will be possible to analyze the Iraq conflict with pragmatic-historical rather than political eyes.

Suicide Bombers Few and Far Between

There is something rather odd in the field of terrorism via suicide bombing.

Possibilities are aplenty, but few opportunities are being taken, strangely everywhere but in Iraq and possibly Palestine. Why would that be so?

If there really is a lot of people trained to explode themselves in the middle of innocent civilians, where are they? Anywhere in the world, what is preventing them to walk into a crowded market (as in Iraq), or a hotel’s lobby (as in Jordan), or an airport (as in Rome), and pop themselves (into Hell) and some luckless bystanders (into Heaven)?

After all, to create terror one doesn’t have to kill 2,000 or even 200 people. Just a couple of deaths twice a week or more in wholly unrelated, preferably urban environments, such as train stations (as in Madrid) would be more than enough to establish one’s terror group strength and political importance.

The USA and the world economy suffered because of 9/11, but I am sure the collapse would have been far greater if instead of 4 planes in a day, there would have been 4 al-Qaeda attacks in the space of a month.

Such a tactic would also obviate at the second-most immediate downside of terrorism via suicide bombing, namely the need to hide, from police and other security forces, the procurement and management of explosive material and the bomb manufacturing.

And yet, all of that is not happening. Iraq aside, and Israel and 9/11 included the number of deaths by suicide bombing may add up worldwide to less than 5,000 in the past decade. In the meanwhile, tens of thousands have died in car accidents, by AIDS and other curable or incurable diseases, etc..

The best possible explanation for such a situation, is that in reality, very, very few people are willing to kill themselves.

After all, the topmost immediate downside of that kind of terrorism, is that it takes at least 20 years to replace any suicide bomber. Whatever the propaganda or the inspiration, numbers can only dwindle down to zero in the medium term (a fact explaining, alongside the Wall, the recent sudden mellowing of Palestinian terror groups, after the large rate of suicide bombings in Israel a few years ago).

That of course raises the question of how much propaganda we are getting about Iraq?

How many terrorist attacks over there have actually been committed by suicide bombers, rather than far-easier-to-manage remotely-controlled explosive devices?

It may take hours, not months and definitely not years to find and prepare a new car bomb.

Is anybody playing to us the dangerous game of showing suicide bombing as easy and common in Iraq, thereby increasing our fears and willingness to give up civil rights, but also inspiring a whole bunch of untrained idiots to cobble up the crudest of bombs, as in the Glasgow airport accident?

One day, even the idiots will manage to kill somebody, by chance or mistake.

NATO’s Historical Blunders

Sarah Chayes may be right in defending NATO’s contribution to the war in Afghanistan, and in pointing out the USA “snubbing” of its allies immediately after 9/11.

But one cannot blame the situation on a callous/gung-ho American administration.

NATO was in fact not snubbed at all during the Kosovo conflict. The USA did their utmost to present and conduct that campaign as part of the larger NATO umbrella.

Unfortunately, few if any of the other members of the alliance seemed to understand much about military strategy, and they all preferred to play their own form of national politics.

The result was a nightmare for the American commanders, evidently more at ease with fighting an enemy than having to accommodate all the quirky requests and vetos of their own allies.

Having then shown itself excessively argumentative to the point of being almost ineffectual, little wonder NATO was mistrusted by the USA at the beginning of the latest Afghan conflict.

The Darfur Conflict From a Different Perspective

The Dirty Political Underbelly of the Darfur Conflict by Ayesha Kajee – April 25, 2007, Pambazuka News

[…] Darfur possibly has undiscovered reserves of uranium, bauxite and copper. Geological surveys also imply that Darfur has unexploited oil reserves, which may go some way to explaining the intense and sustained global interest in Darfur over the past few years.

There is indubitably a massive humanitarian disaster in Darfur, and the mobilisation of civil society around the globe is warranted and welcome. But it is worth questioning why this tragedy receives concentrated attention from the world’s media and why advocacy for multilateral intervention in Darfur has managed to mobilise millions, including celebrities from every sphere, when similar situations in northern Uganda or Central African Republic get far less coverage […]

Given the complex internal and external political implications of the Darfur conflict, the biggest losers are the Darfuris who have been killed, maimed and driven from their homes and livelihoods.

They are the ‘dispensable’ pawns of political manipulators from within and outside Sudan.

There is a crying need for multilateral intervention in Darfur, and an enhanced peacekeeping force with a strong mandate to protect citizens would bring much needed stability to the region as a whole. But the potential ramifications of such an intervention merit careful consideration as to the composition of the deployed force and its mandate. […]

There are several things I never understood about Darfur, including why there would be several rebel movements none of which able to protect civilians, and why would the Sudan government embark into such an awful adventure immediately after freeing itself from decades-long war in the South Sudan…the above is a good start to understand the situation.

Losing The War for Hearts and Minds

Between Venezuela’s Chavez parodying the Devil (aka George W “Cowboy” Bush), and Iran’s Ahmadinejad undermining the legitimacy of the UN, B&B (GW and Tony Blair) are losing out big time on their war to conquer the hearts and minds of Humanity

And if Chavez and Ahmadinejad will learn to put aside their stupid rants doubting the existence of the Holocaust, or in favour of a curios form of populist communism, they’ll become much more marketable to the Western public

When is the XXI century finally going to start??

Idiotic, Suicidal Terrorism Is Bound To Destroy Itself

News come and go. What if Scotland Yard comes back in a few weeks’ time apologizing to everybody and anybody ever accused of masterminding a bogus terror plot

Much more important for most of us, what is the long-term perspective of present-day suicidal terrorism?

It’s that there isn’t much to fear about, because suicide-based terrorism is peculiarly idiotic, bound to destroy itself (unless we do anything egregiously wrong)

  • For the law of diminishing returns, either attacks get bigger and bigger, or the targeted population will feel habituation rather than increased fear. It’s like opening (the proverbial bonfire) with the stakes too high, and having to destroy one’s forest simply to keep up
  • There’s millions of potential victims, and one day they will surely come up with novel solutions to prevent the killings, making further attacks quite hard to organize: think the Israeli wall, think the changed tactics of the US Navy after the first round of Japanese Kamikaze pilots
  • Just like then, “the best and the brightest” in the terror organization are bound to blow themselves up. They can be substituted, but it does take around two decades to make another terrorist. In the meanwhile, ranks will be increasingly fuller of coward weasels that couldn’t stomach the suicide they themselves require of the others
  • Those people want to die whilst the rest of the world wants to live. Guess who’ll be sticking around the longest? On average, both aspirations are bound to be fulfilled
  • In the fight against relatively well-organized societies, for the terrorists the only way to victory is to get hold of weapons of mass destruction.  But even in that case, the only thing a suicidal terror organization will succeed in doing, is to eliminate itself

Instead of making the life of the many increasingly more difficult, the best thing we can do is first and foremost to get on with our lives (unless of course one is professionally involved in the prevention of terror attacks and other criminality)

Oil Prices are bound to fall soon

Oil Prices are bound to fall soon…and for reasons that will appear obvious in hindsight (so why not spell them out now?):

  • Behind the recent price hikes for crude oil there is a combination of transient causes such as the Iraq fiasco, and the herd mentality that has brought many people into the Commodities markets and convinced them to buy oil alongside everybody else. When those causes will deflate, so will the oil price
  • Higher prices stimulate more research into how to extract more oil. When the market will find again its sanity, higher supply will mean lower prices.
  • Higher prices stimulate also the construction of additional refineries. These take several years to come online, and will crash the price of oil when they’ll all do at the same time: just as those miles and miles of communications cable laid down during the Internet boom of the 1990’s are behind today’s cheap cybersurfing and free worldwide calls,
  • The possibility that oil is costlier because we have just reached a peak in production capabilities is remote. Why now? Why not 10 years ago, or 20 years in the future? Why would it happen so suspiciously close to 9/11 and the crises that have followed?

The real difference this time around is that all those predictions of future doom-and-gloom will be forever available on the Internet, perhaps for a good laugh when “experts” will try to recycle themselves in the future into the “oil is a practically inexhaustible resource” camp

The 2016 Middle Eastern terrorism recruitment campaign is in full swing

There’s been plenty of analysis of the current crises around Israel, both in the Gaza strip and Lebanon, surely many of them more meaningful than anything I can write myself

That said, in my not so humble opinion (also, as a student of International Relations) I can see multiple games being played, and multiple strategies on several fronts, including the international media and public opinion at local, regional and global level.

This is seldom if ever talked about on TV and in print. I find the vast majority of interviews misleading at best.

And any comment blaming the crisis on one or the other side is pea-brained, or misinformed, and even dishonest

I’ll simply list then a few ideas and issues I am mostly concerned about:

• It is apparent that nobody cares about civilian lives, especially Lebanese lives

• We have yet more confirmation that lives have different values. That looks like something everybody agrees on. During the 2000-2005 Intifada, one Israeli dead every 3.4 Palestinians. Nowadays it’s one Israeli dead every 10 Lebanese. This is supported by the fact that the freedom of one Israeli soldier has been bargained for the freedom of around 133 “Palestinian” prisoners

• We are a few lives away from the “Perfect XXI Century War”, with no military casualties at all (thus completing a trend started hundreds of years ago, when most of the dead and injured were instead military personnel)

In fact, classic military infrastructure is hardly being touched

• The phrase “disproportionate response” is disingenuous when pronounced by politicians and experts. Everybody’s response is perfectly rational and proportionate from their point of view.

The key to their “rationality” is lack of care for civilian casualties especially if Lebanese

• Israel had been preparing this for years. No major military intervention, especially when being fought on the second front, can be organised overnight. One may hazard the buildup started at least one year ago, as an alternative fighting front to keep “warm”.after the Gaza pullout

• Hizbullah had been preparing this for years too. Instead of the usual short-of-target missiles (the kind wasted around by Hamas nowadays) they have a truly impressive set of different rockets, with an underground transportation, collection and distribution network that does not care of the existence of roads and bridges. All wonders helped a lot by plenty of oil money from Iran

• Before the current crisis, Hamas was in a weak position: a failure as a Government, a failure economically, a failure politically with the Jul 26 referendum risking to delegitimise its very Charter, if the Palestinians had recognised Israel’s right to exist. Now that referendum is postponed indefinitely

• Israel was in a weak position too: blatantly unable to defend (and find) his own soldiers, sitting lamely watching Hizbullah arming itself perhaps for an invasion, and in danger of being outmaneuvered by the Jul 26 Palestinian referendum too.

The new Prime Minister, lacking military credentials, can only show himself ruthless and militaristic, giving free hand to the Generals. The difficult promise to get out of some West Bank settlements was quite risky to fulfill, so it is much easier now as it can be shelved for a long time.

The weakness of Israel’s position is confirmed every time an Israeli utters the overused words “Israel cannot do otherwise”. Hardly the stuff of a regional Power: why and when did it let itself get cornered like this?

• And Hizbullah was not in a strong position either: not yet ready for a full-scale war, with the threat of UN Resolution 1680 calling for its disarmament, always on the edge of being cancelled out by a political crisis in Tehran or Damascus, or even in a nuclear deal between Iran and the rest of the world

All in all, military and political commanders on all sides have no interest in ending the conflict in the short term. Or even medium

• Stock traders may think the same as the markets in Israel and Lebanon are not suffering as one would expect in a time of war

• Sadly this is not an intifada, fought to get oneself in best position for an upcoming permanent peace settlement. This is a war of political annihilation

• First to be annihilated is Lebanon as a State. There is no effort to defend its own citizens, for example. And Hizbullah, in theory part of Beirut’s Government, launched on a campaign on its own without agreeing or alerting anybody. In other times we could have called it a Hizbullah Protectorate, but as they have no intention to protect anything in Lebanon, the nearest similarity may be Germany during the Thirty Years’ War: a playground for somebody else’s wars

• Negotiations cannot go anywhere. There is nothing to negotiate between Hamas and Hizbullah., and Israel. One can only see them negotiating about the others’ embarking on a one-way trip to the moons of Saturn

• Anybody not directly touched by this war has little to worry about. Witness the US’s sluggish reaction: Condi Rice may go there as “early” as next week

• The fact that Iran is behind Hizbullah means not one of the states around Lebanon and Siria will want to be involved in any conflict. They would all have very little if anything to gain by intervening, and a lot to lose

• Much easier for the whole world to let the fighters pummel each other into stupidity, and get ready to make the most of whatever the outcome.

• It is hard to conceive any ending that will not see Israel getting the upper hand once again, as in every war from 1946 apart from 1956 and 1973 (perhaps!)

• On the other hand, just like the 1982 invasion helped create Hizbullah, the 2006 war will mean yet another terrorist recruitment campaign “supported” by Israel

The terrorists of 2016 that is.

In an alternate, happier reality, Israel is showing the strength of its democracy by actually caring at least a iota about civilian Lebanese (not just in words; but then, in this universe the UK and USA have taught the lesson, with their disregard for Iraqi lives). Hizbullah is showing the strength of its Islamic credentials by allowing compassion to all civilians, rather than none.

Hamas and Hizbullah have learnt that there is no point complaining if the lion living next door starts mauling your children, after you hurt him, poke him and finally woke him up. And at least one Leader of non-violent attitude is helping all the inhabitants of Historical Palestine to learn to live together.

In a different alternate reality, also happier than ours, the international community is going to stop the unstoppable war by drying up its financial resources. Nobody can shoot if they don’t have the money to buy the bullets. And enough people are thinking there, how idiotic is to pass one’s hate down to their innocent offsprings

But this is what we’ve got. As Steve Hackett wrote and Phil Collins sang for Genesis 30 years ago:

Let’s skip the news boy (I’ll make some tea)
Arabs and the Jews boy (too much for me)
They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep)
And the thing I hate – oh lord!
Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation’s fate.

Limits to Front-End Beneficiary Participation in the Development Process

Prepared for the course “Development in Practice”, Birkbeck College, London March 2006

Introduction

The global sustainability debates, a turn towards a deliberative/communicative academic approach to Development [15], disillusionment with traditional blue-print planning [9]: these are some of the reasons behind the ongoing popularity of Front-End Beneficiary Participation, i.e. the involvement in a project, long before its design stage, of the people that are going to benefit from it (the Beneficiaries, communities and individuals).

With a group approach, FEBP can in theory encourage self-reliance among Beneficiaries [3][16][9], guarantee wider reach and involvement, and achieve “higher production levels“, a “more equitable distribution of benefits” and a reduction in recurrent costs “by stressing decentralization […] and self-help” [16], apart of course from helping in the adoption of innovations and even supporting social peace [12].

However, to fulfill its potential, FEBP must allow Beneficiaries to move up the Ladder of Citizen Participation, beyond tokenism [2] to let them have an effective say in the definition, control and verification of what is done, and how. But who really has that “power“? For example, what are the consequences of internal power dynamics [9] among Beneficiaries? With the above in mind, FEBP’s limits are evaluated here with the help of published literature and an analysis of the experience of Concern.

A Development Organization: “Concern

Started by Irish priests after the Biafra famine of 1968, Concern is a “non-governmental, international, humanitarian organization dedicated to the reduction of suffering“, with as goal the “elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries” [8]. Its Beneficiaries are typically living in extreme poverty in States in the bottom forty of the UN Human Development Index; often in a rural setting, dependent on agriculture, lacking essential services in health and education and denied fundamental rights [1]. Emphasis is on lifestyle improvements sustainable without “ongoing support from Concern” [6], and on the promotion of gender equality [8].

Projects (covering Health, Basic Education, Livelihoods, HIV/AIDS and Emergency Response) focus more on matters of necessity than efficient use of resources [1]. The work is organized “directly with beneficiary groups or “a wide range of intermediate organizations” [5] in alliances such as FairTrade and MakePovertyHistory. Usually, research is carried out by answering questions such as ‘Does this [proposal] fit our mandate?’, ‘Can we intervene?’ (security, skills, funds, relationship with host government), ‘How much should we spend?’ and ‘How should we intervene?’ [4].

Results: The Limits of FEBP

FEBP at Concern – For Concern, FEBP is fundamental, “not only important but imperative” [1]. As stated in the Project Cycle Management System and several policy papers [1], any analysis “should include the involvement of those living in poverty” [4]. The actual implementation depends on targeting –scale, level and mechanism of involvement [6] – and is usually achieved through the following tools [1]:· Participatory Rural Appraisal, with local knowledge, analysis and plans [17]· Participatory Learning and Action, with local people learning their “needs, opportunities, and […] the actions required to address them” [14]· Community-Based Participatory Development, i.e. engaging existing structures

· Gender and Development (GAD), seeking the “participation of women and women’s groups at every stage of the process” [1]

· Goal Oriented Project Planning (ZOPP), with the involvement of all stakeholders

· Rapid Rural Appraisal, interdisciplinary teams with local involvement [11]

· Other tools of best practice depending on appropriateness and skills

Methodological Limits - Concern’s attention to GAD reveals how important issues of power are in the techniques of FEBP. In fact, Participation runs paradoxically the risk of disempowering people “already without a voice” [7], for example if the Development Organization approaches the Beneficiaries just as yet another “interest group” lobbying its way to being listened to and catered for [10]. Additional problems relate to on Development workers’ lack of awareness of participatory principles and methods [1], combined with a plethora of not-easy-to-select available tools. There are also the usual difficulties with “issue remoteness” (Beneficiaries don’t get involved unless policies/actions have an immediate impact in their lives) [9]; and “consultation fatigue” (projects ask too much and too often to and from their participants) [10]. Any implementation of FEBP is also bound to the particular Organization that is sponsoring it, to the Project that will be designed [9], to the Community whose participation is requested; and by the natural, human resistance to change of the Development workers, their cultural baggage and their linguistic abilities. FEBP may also suffer from uncertainties on “what is a group” and the “group’s” internal cohesion / homogeneity (the “myth of community”) [9].

Beneficiary-side LimitsThe outcomes of FEBP approaches are in fact greatly influenced by complex psychological group dynamics [9], such as exchanges (between the community, its members, the Development Organization and other “actors”) of their “relative power”, the capacity to control, influence, and decide. For example, as FEBP is done through groups, certain individuals may feel less prone to fully participate, if they don’t see that as part of their contribution to the society. The community itself could feel inclined to express its “needs” in terms of what the particular Development Organization is expected to deliver.

Poor, poorly educated, poorly skilled, subsistence-farming beneficiaries may also not have enough time or other resources, to become fully aware of participatory principles and methods, and to dedicate the appropriate amounts of time to FEBP. And on top of the usual cultural/linguistic barriers, Beneficiaries have to deal with the unfamiliar terminology of institutional language and the jargon of Development [9].

Mitigation The shortcomings of FEBP restrict its possibilities, leading at times to “formulaic”, “religious” [9] applications of “rigid” methodologies [1]. Participation could transmutate in political co-option: “talking” a previously-neglected community (often, its already overburdened female members), into providing cheap labor [9].Good Participation evidently depends on Good Governance of FEBP, starting from lessening the consequences of power dynamics: by giving due consideration to the “relative bargaining power” of the Participants, Beneficiaries included [9]; by delegating decision-making to a local level [1]; and by building close personal relationships with individuals, not only communities [9].

Knowledge, effectiveness and flexibility can be improved via a “Lessons Learned” process: with FEBP appraisals and improvements as ongoing tasks; with their results pushed out to the whole Organization; and with the replication of successful participatory programmes [1]. “Lessons Learned” must also include the spreading of the awareness of the limitations of FEBP itself, and lead to the exploration/investigation of alternatives [9].

Conclusions

In the face of its many advantages Front-End Beneficiary Participation has specific limits and is no panacea for the efficient and effective development of communities:

· Limits of FEBP come both from the approach taken by the Development Organization; and from the conditions of the Beneficiaries themselves

· Issues include Power, Awareness/Information, Flexibility, and Culture

· When limitations are native to FEBP, improvements or alternative approaches should be considered

· A continuous re-evaluation of methodologies an increased attention to individuals may help overcome some of those constraints

Bibliography

[1] Deering, K. (UK Head of Partnership Development at Concern Worldwide UK) (2006) Personal correspondence with the author.

[2] Arnstein, S. (1969) A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 34: 216-225

[3] Chambers, R. (1984) Putting the last first. London: Longman

[4] Concern Worldwide (2000) How Concern Targets Countries for Poverty Elimination. Dublin

[5] Concern Worldwide (2001) Capacity Building Policy. Dublin

[6] Concern Worldwide (2002) Concern’s approach to emergencies. Dublin

[7] Concern Worldwide (2004) Programme Participant Protection Policy. Dublin

[8] Concern Worldwide (2005), Policy Statement. Dublin

[9] Cooke, B., Kothari, U. (2001) “Introduction”, in Cooke, B., Kothari, U. (Eds.) Participation: the New Tyranny. London: Zed Books Ltd.

[10] Croft, S. and Beresford, P. (1996) “The Politics Of Participation”, in Taylor, D. (Editor) Critical Social Policy: A reader, London: Sage, pp175-198 (cited in Cornwall, A., and Gaventa, J. (2000) From users and choosers to makers and shapers: Repositioning Participation in Social Policy. IDS Bulletin 31 (4): pp 50-62)

[11] Crawford, I.M. (1997) “Chapter 8: Rapid Rural Appraisal”, in Marketing Research and Information Systems. (Marketing and Agribusiness Texts – 4). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

[12] De Soto, H. (1989) The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism. New York: Basic Books

[13] Healey, P. (1997) Collaborative Planning: shaping places in fragments societies. Basingstoke: Macmillan

[14] International Institute for Environment and Development (2003) What is Participatory Learning and Action?. London: IIED

[15] Mbiba, B. (2006) Participation: The ladder of citizen participation and limits to participation. Lecture Notes

[16] Van Heck, B. (2003) “Why Participation and What are the Obstacles?”, in Participatory Development: Guidelines on Beneficiary Participation in Agricultural and Rural Development. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

[17] World Bank (1996) The World Bank Participation Sourcebook, Appendix I: Methods and Tools. Washington, D.C.

What’s wrong with David Irving

Writes Michael Shermer on the May 3rd, 2005 edition of the eSkeptic newsletter (titled “Enigma: The Faustian Bargain of David Irving”)

If you really want to silence David Irving, treat him with silence.

I agree with that, up to a point: because the matter with Irving could be interpreted as an issue of freedom of speech, and as such it deserves clarification.

Should people fighting for such a freedom organize what Christopher Hitchens called a Fair Play for Irving Committee?

Maybe not.

And I disagree with Mr Shermer, who in response to the Austrian authorities decision to imprison Irving, recommended to “let David Irving go” in the March 2nd, 2006 eSkeptic newsletter (“Giving the Devil His Due”)

Again to Shermer:

The enigma emerges from the fact that he is, at one and the same time, brilliant and bellicose, deviously clever and devilishly deceptive—a man who “coulda’ been a contenda” but instead morphed into a pretender…it is a great waste of a great talent. How and why did this happen?

In my opinion, Irving’s self-deception began when he entered the Magic Circle [i.e., the surviving former Hitler confidants]. […] Hitler, he explained, “had attracted a garniture of high-level educated people around him. The secretaries were top-flight secretaries. The adjutants were people who had gone through university or through staff college and had risen through their own abilities to the upper levels of the military service.” These Hitler confidants were well-educated and they spoke highly of their Führer. Who was Irving to argue?

As an example just look at the story Dr. Shermer himself reports at the bottom of that same newsletter “Post Script on Irving & the Eichmann Papers”: in which it is explained how Irving found a way to deny the existence of a direct order by Hitler for the Holocaust in face of a very clear phrase written by Adolf Eichmann in his memoirs: "The Führer has ordered the extermination of the Jews"

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to deceive

A great chance to get out of Iraq

…or at least start packing?

Having achieved a major propaganda coup by eliminating fabled enemy Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, shouldn't the USA and Britain take advantage of the situation to get out of Iraq?

It is apparent that both Governments would rather do without troops in that country, and gain a lot electorally even just by announcing the start of their withdrawal

But it is also said that they need some face-saving situation, not wanting to appear weak in the eyes of their enemies (in Iraq, and elsewhere)

That situation is happening right now. There is an apparent result achieved, and for quite some time no insurgency attack will be able to counterbalance it

============

With the American elections looming against an extremely unpopular President, and Blair unable to prevail in the polls even against vacuous David Cameron, we can only hope they will realise what a great opportunity they have to stop making being part of the problem in Iraq, and to stop sending their soldiers to un-necessary deaths

Petroski’s Cycle or Humanity’s Oblivion Spell

History will never teach us anything

This is a rather sad characteristic of Humanity, not just Engineering as identified by Henry Petroski in Success Through Failure (reviewed by Steven Cass in "Learning from Failure", IEEE's Spectrum, June 2006)

[…] a sequence of significant bridge failures […] have occurred at roughly 30-year intervals since 1847, when metal began replacing stone as the material of choice for crossing spans.

And it's not just bridges that exhibit cycles consisting of long periods of success punctuated by disaster: spacecraft, nuclear power plants, and other highly engineered artifacts have followed a similar pattern.

In his latest engaging and readable book, Success Through Failure, design guru Henry Petroski analyzes this cycle and other flaws in the things around us to show that the old truism "nothing succeeds like success" is in fact a recipe for doom.[…]

I do agree it’s a matter of memory. 30 years or so is less than a generation nowadays.

Look outside design and engineering, for example at the mostly manufactured Gulf of Tonkin Incident that escalated the Vietnam War in 1964 and the mostly manufactured evidence of WMDs in Iraq culminating in the invasion in 2003.

What's apparent is that despite the lengthening of the human life, nobody seems to recall the mistakes of the past

And so avoidable calamities, wars, genocides are bound to stay with us

Nothing new under the sun, until we will free ourselves from this evil spell

Do services degenerate faster in an informal economy?

In conventional thinking, there are many advantages in living in a formal economy, where entrepreneurs and laborers work together according to established rules agreed by everybody through the involvement of the State.

This is supposed to guarantee fairness and more recently, a widespread care system centered around protecting the poorest, most vulnerable and the most elderly members of the society

On the other hand, a more or less completely informal economy is the day-to-day experience of hundreds of millions if not billions of fellow humans, especially (but by no means only) in so-called emerging and developing Countries.

In an informal economy, certain types of income and the means of their generation are “unregulated by the institutions of society, in a legal and social environment in which similar activities are regulated.”

It is usually a sign that the State is locally very weak. So income (including salaries) is received without paying taxes; work arrangements do or do not follow lawful standards, there is no apparent provision for old-age pension

And more often than not, one has to have cash at hand to guarantee speedy treatment of one’s issue for example in a state court: in what we call corruption

However scandalous to the average well-disposed thinker, this is a system that a) is very widespread and b) appears to be working more or less smoothly. In fact, there is an element of trust: however small or big the bribery, it would not get paid if the service would then not be provided

This obviously applies to specific cases. You can call it “salary informalisation”, where things get done quickly only when the “customer” pays directly into the pocket of the employee on the other side of the counter, rather than through the State for example via taxes.

Other circumstances are completely different: think of the police officer that threatens to impound the car unless offered money; the politician cutting 15% on a nation’s foreign contracts, “otherwise they won’t get signed”

These are two different kinds of corruption. The former is about asking additional money in order to provide a service. The latter is greedy intimidation into paying in order to avoid getting oneself into a dangerous position. This is far worse, as it sucks money away with very little to show in return

Corruption as parasitical intimidation is what stiff sentences and worldwide campaigns against corruption should concentrate on

What are the drawbacks then of the more benign kind of corruption, the “salary informalisation”? At first glance, it is quite tempting to accept it. If (and when) it works, it is much more efficient than having to deal with a far-away incorporeal entity called “the State”. Even fairness can be far superior than in the formal economy, as rules are ready to be renegotiated and can be bent to be just in every occasion, not only as described by the necessarily incomplete Law.

The problem is of course in those two words: IF and WHEN. An informal economy works well only as long as there is no excess of abuse on one side or the other: otherwise the requisite of fairness disappears, and we fall back in the “corruption as greed” trap.

And in fact, is not that what too easily happens when the Rules and the Laws are not enforced appropriately, exactly when the State is too weak to do so? Worse, the usual cures evolved the world over can be worse than the malady: as soon as “Groups of Mutual Help” arise to protect the members against unfair treatment, their intentions are hijacked turning them into Mafias, with further damage to the economy

This is not a necessity. But an informal economy is simply too fragile: its services may disappear at the whim of the providers, and organized crime can only thrive without a clear, enforced set of rules called the Law

An informal economy can never be considered a good, healthy economy

What’s wrong with Development Studies?

It is hard to think “Development Studies” (“DS”) as a proper “science” at the moment.

In fact, the one thing that comes out clearly of a rapid analysis of the evolution of DS thinking, is that most if not all “Development Breakthroughs” look much like a “flavour of the decade” list rather than solid processes valid most of the time

Here’s a quick review:

  • 1950s “Development” substituted colonialism as a way for Western countries to keep control and a presence, also against the Communist threat
  • 1960s “Rising income with own growth”. Huge investments in infrastructure. Large loans from private sources, but growth did not take into account distribution
  • 1970s Focus on poverty and “basic needs” with redistribution. Further borrowing
  • 1980s Switch to aid as poverty of people and States became entrenched. World Bank and IMF pushed for Structural Adjustment Programs. Start of NGOs
  • 1990s “Development” started to include non-financial indicators (Freedom, Democracy, Environment Damage). Focus on participatory programs.
  • 2000s Idea of the State back in focus. “Development” as power dynamics, considering also Women and Universities

What shall then we make of today’s mantras of DS such as Beneficiary Participation, Gender Issues, etc etc?

Obviously I am not suggesting they are not worthwhile and appropriate.

But what’s out there to indicate they will not simply be substituted by new fads, in a few years?

And of course the big counterpoint is that the one and only thing that has changed, ever, is the “Own Interest” of the most powerful countries, ready to defend it no matter what (and no matter what their stated intentions on getting people out of poverty)

This is doubly disturbing, if we consider that at the end of the day enormous resources will keep being wasted in following the latest fashion, rather than in making people get out of a life of poverty and high risk

A thorough rethinking of the whole field of Development and Development Studies is in order

Support Iran’s nuclear rights

or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb

By all means let Iran build their own nuclear bombs in the open

  1. To argue against that sounds very hypocritical when done by the USA or worse, the UK and France
  2. Nobody in Iran is going to use the Bomb against Israel or anybody else unless attacked. For three reasons: 1) Israel is too big to be brought down by a single nuclear bomb; 2) the missile will surely destroy a whole lot of Palestinians too, and perhaps the Dome of the Rock; and 3) immediate massive retaliation by the US would remove Iran from history
  3. There is a long history of attacks against Iran in the last 3 centuries or so, and no occasion at all of Iran being the attacker
  4. They are going to get it anyway. As a known Israeli intelligence expert recently remarked, they’d be fool not to
  5. Chances of a bomb falling into al-Qaeda hands are minimal. Again, any use of any bomb would cause massive US retaliation, obviously against the provider of the Bomb if it were Iran
  6. It is much better to get nuclear facilities “in the open” rather than hidden away
  7. Anybody trying to seriously damage the Iranian nuclear program now would have to kill lots of innocent bystanders in giant bombing campaign(s) (presumably a few H-bombs would do, but again, there is no attacking use for a nuclear bomb)
  8. Talks of sanctions by the UN should be set aside for decency reasons, after the terrible Iraq Embargo fiasco (and embezzlement)

If only everybody would stop threatening Iran, there could be some serious start of negotiations. But the present situation is simply too convenient for all sides. I guess it’s always dangerous when the “enemies” strongly agree on the fact that God is on their side