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The USSR and the Arabs: A chance for Arab Unity thrown away

Today’s crisis in the Middle East is the result of the failure of secular Arab leaders like Nasser and Saddam Hussein during the period of the Cold War to make use of the opportunity provided by the support of the USSR to forge Arab Unity.

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The notion of a unified Arab state has been one of the defining political questions of the 20th century. It first arose during the First World War when T. E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia)’ famous assisted The Arab Revolt against their Ottoman Turk overlords on the basis that Britain would aid the Arabs to create a unified Arab state upon victory.

This promise was broken before it had the opportunity to be kept, as the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between France and Britain split the Arab lands into incongruous new states whose borders continue to cause problems to this day.

Shortly after the October Revolution, Russia’s new Bolshevik government became the first country to expose this secret deal to the world. This would not be the first time that the Soviets would expose Western betrayals in the Middle East.

After 1945, when young Arab states begun to assert their independence, the second great attempt at Arab unity came about in the form of Egyptian President Gamal Nasser programme of Arab nationalism.

Nasser had a cohesive, modern, secular and socialist model for reforming his native Egypt and for uniting the Arab world. Curiously Nasser was also responsible for the single biggest example of US/Soviet cooperation in the history of the Cold War as both superpowers instructed Britain, France and Israel to halt their invasion of Egypt in 1956.

This was in many ways an odd moment in Cold War history. Because of his diplomatic manoeuvring Nasser was able to bring the US and USSR together in a kind of bidding war for influence over Egypt. Nasser was no doubted aided by the fact that the US’s then Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was perhaps the most anti-British figure in any modern American government.

Yet this brief moment of US/Soviet cooperation in the Middle East did not last, and soon it became clear that the Middle East would be divided between monarchies loyal to the capitalist powers and secular Presidential republics which tended to ally themselves to the USSR.

From the 1960s until the end of the Cold War the story of Pan-Arab unity on a broadly Nasserist model is the story of Soviet loyalty to the Arabs, in spite of no Arab government ever adopting a Marxist-Leninist constitution, and in spite of Syrian chauvinism several times thwarting attempts to create Arab unity. 

It is also the story of the Arabs sabotaging themselves through petty infighting. It is a tale of a lost opportunity to create secular stability in a region now swamped by religious civil wars, mass murder, eroding women’s rights, and terrorism.    

Nasser’s move was to create the United Arab Republic uniting Egypt with Syria. After Iraq became a left-leaning republic in 1958, Iraq might well have jointed too. Yet Nasser’s vision was quashed first by Iraqi worries of submitting to Egypt and, more importantly, by the arrogance of Syrian officials who in spite of multiple concessions by Nasser believed that the union was too Cairo-centric.

During the Brezhnev years Syria remained a highly important Arab ally for the USSR.  The other key Arab allies of the USSR during this period were the socialist regime in South Yemen, which came to power there after driving out the British, and Iraq, arguably a more important ally than South Yemen because of its much greater size and its abundant resources.   

By the 1970s both Syria and Iraq had governments that followed what was nominally the same ideology: Ba’athism. Both Syria and Iraq were supported by the USSR.  However in 1966 there was a rancorous split between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Ba’ath party, causing the two countries to remain disunited and become increasingly hostile to each other.

In spite of this a plan took shape in 1978 to form a union between Iraq and Syria, which was agreed between the then Iraqi leader Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. However, the emergence of Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq thwarted this plan. 

Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac to be sure, and his volatile relationship with the Iraqi Communist Party may well have been enough to frighten off Soviet support. Yet as was the case with Egypt under Nasser and with Syria under Assad the USSR was nonetheless willing to work with non-communist, secular Arab governments such as Saddam Hussein’s.

Saddam Hussein, like Nasser before him and Gaddafi simultaneously with him, sought Arab unity.  However he lacked Nasser’s diplomatic genius.  He first proposed to create a distinct Iraqi identity, something arguably necessary to overcome the sectarian divisions of his arbitrarily created state.  Saddam Hussein’s idea was that after a properly united Iraqi state had been created it would form the basis for a united Arab state. 

Nasser and Gaddafi ruled over states with fewer sectarian problems, making Saddam Hussein’s attempt to draw on ancient Mesopotamian history to unite Iraq a difficult task. Saddam Hussein – like most idealists – in the end proved a failed idealist. That said, Saddam Hussein’s idealism was based on an understanding of his people in contrast to post-Gulf War Western ideals for Iraq, which were based on a total misunderstanding of the population of Iraq.

Whilst Nasser began his political life courting both Soviet and America support, Saddam followed something of an inverse pattern. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war Saddam received steadfast Soviet support against Iran, a fact which complicated Soviet attempts at normalisation with Iran despite the USSR’s early recognition of the Islamic Republic. 

Yet Saddam also began to turn increasingly to the West, receiving support from the US, Britain and especially France. This of course led in the end to conflict and the eventual destruction of Iraq, the execution of Saddam Hussein, and a civil war out of which the ugly beast ISIS has emerged.

What are the lessons of this tragic story?

First of all, it demonstrates that the Western powers are unreliable allies for secular, independent Arab leaders. Whilst the Soviets never forced a Marxist-Leninist government on these leaders, the US and its allies have sought to impose their ideologies on them. Many Arab leaders who sought rapprochement with the West (Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali) have fallen, and chaos has emerged whether in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Without Russian assistance Bashar Al-Assad in Syria might have fallen too, spreading chaos there as well.

The other consequence is that the quest for secularism and Arab unity is succumbing throughout the Arab world to theocracy and Islamism. This has less to do with the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran than it has to do with the absence of a strong Soviet state to assist secular Arab leaders in the 1990s.

The fall of the USSR allowed the West freedom to weaken secular Arab leaders, allowing violent Islamism to fill this gap. Ironically Iran’s power has increased as a result. The silver lining to that is that the Iran of today is a vastly more moderate country than it was in 1979, so that it has remained one of secular Syria’s few allies in the region.

That being said, even if Syria defeats her Islamist enemies, the Middle East has become far less stable since the collapse of the USSR. It is tempting to blame exclusively NATO interventions in the region for this.  However the sad truth is that Arabs themselves must share the blame. By refusing to unite when they could have easily done so – under the assistance and with the protection of Soviet power – they let petty chauvinistic squabbling and personal egotism get in the way of their regional prosperity.

Ultimately Arab leaders forgot that one rarely gets to choose the timing of the occasion to which one must rise. In betraying their Soviet friends and the opportunities they presented, secular/socialist Arab leaders betrayed themselves, betrayed the Arabs, and – given the importance of the Middle East for world peace – betrayed the world.

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‘Meme-killing’ EU regulation could end YouTube as we know it, CEO warns

The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law.

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YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web.

The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies.

“It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote.

While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.”

She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

“RIP YOUTUBE..IT WAS FUN,” read one rather fatalistic reply to the post. Another comment worried that Article 13 would do “immense damage … particularly to smaller creators.”

The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year.

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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WSJ Op-Ed Cracks The Code: Why Liberal Intellectuals Hate Trump

WSJ: The Real Reason They Hate Trump

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Via Zerohedge


As pundits continue to scratch their heads over the disruptive phenomenon known as Donald Trump, Yale computer science professor and chief scientist at Dittach, David Gelernter, has penned a refreshingly straightforward and blunt Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining why Trump has been so successful at winning hearts and minds, and why the left – especially those snarky ivory-tower intellectuals, hate him.

Gelernter argues that Trump – despite being a filthy rich “parody of the average American,” is is a regular guy who has successfully resonated with America’s underpinnings.

Mr. Trump reminds us who the average American really is. Not the average male American, or the average white American,” writes Gelernter. “We know for sure that, come 2020, intellectuals will be dumbfounded at the number of women and blacks who will vote for Mr. Trump. He might be realigning the political map: plain average Americans of every type vs. fancy ones.”

He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton. –WSJ

Gelernter then suggests: “This all leads to an important question—one that will be dismissed indignantly today, but not by historians in the long run: Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American?“.

***

The Real Reason They Hate Trump via the Wall Street Journal.

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals.

Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared.

The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again.

For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful.

Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable. Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents.

Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

But my job as a voter is to choose the candidate who will do best for America. I am sorry about the coarseness of the unconstrained average American that Mr. Trump conveys. That coarseness is unpresidential and makes us look bad to other nations. On the other hand, many of his opponents worry too much about what other people think. I would love the esteem of France, Germany and Japan. But I don’t find myself losing sleep over it.

The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife. The leftist intellectuals I know say they dislike such people insofar as they tend to be conservative Republicans.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know their real sins. They know how appalling such people are, with their stupid guns and loathsome churches. They have no money or permanent grievances to make them interesting and no Twitter followers to speak of. They skip Davos every year and watch Fox News. Not even the very best has the dazzling brilliance of a Chuck Schumer, not to mention a Michelle Obama. In truth they are dumb as sheep.

Mr. Trump reminds us who the average American really is. Not the average male American, or the average white American. We know for sure that, come 2020, intellectuals will be dumbfounded at the number of women and blacks who will vote for Mr. Trump. He might be realigning the political map: plain average Americans of every type vs. fancy ones.

Many left-wing intellectuals are counting on technology to do away with the jobs that sustain all those old-fashioned truck-driver-type people, but they are laughably wide of the mark. It is impossible to transport food and clothing, or hug your wife or girl or child, or sit silently with your best friend, over the internet. Perhaps that’s obvious, but to be an intellectual means nothing is obvious. Mr. Trump is no genius, but if you have mastered the obvious and add common sense, you are nine-tenths of the way home. (Scholarship is fine, but the typical modern intellectual cheapens his learning with politics, and is proud to vary his teaching with broken-down left-wing junk.)

This all leads to an important question—one that will be dismissed indignantly today, but not by historians in the long run: Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American?

True, Mr. Trump is the unconstrained average citizen. Obviously you can hate some of his major characteristics—the infantile lack of self-control in his Twitter babble, his hitting back like a spiteful child bully—without hating the average American, who has no such tendencies. (Mr. Trump is improving in these two categories.) You might dislike the whole package. I wouldn’t choose him as a friend, nor would he choose me. But what I see on the left is often plain, unconditional hatred of which the hater—God forgive him—is proud. It’s discouraging, even disgusting. And it does mean, I believe, that the Trump-hater truly does hate the average American—male or female, black or white. Often he hates America, too.

Granted, Mr. Trump is a parody of the average American, not the thing itself. To turn away is fair. But to hate him from your heart is revealing. Many Americans were ashamed when Ronald Reagan was elected. A movie actor? But the new direction he chose for America was a big success on balance, and Reagan turned into a great president. Evidently this country was intended to be run by amateurs after all—by plain citizens, not only lawyers and bureaucrats.

Those who voted for Mr. Trump, and will vote for his candidates this November, worry about the nation, not its image. The president deserves our respect because Americans deserve it—not such fancy-pants extras as network commentators, socialist high-school teachers and eminent professors, but the basic human stuff that has made America great, and is making us greater all the time.

Mr. Gelernter is computer science professor at Yale and chief scientist at Dittach LLC. His most recent book is “Tides of Mind.”

Appeared in the October 22, 2018, print edition.

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The Trump Miracle and the Logical End of US Democracy: What Happened?

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I don’t wish to dine with a Clinton Snowflake.

And a Clinton Snowflake would rather see me off to San Quentin, the Deplorable that I am.

Something happened under Obama-Clinton rule that has never happened before, not even in the heat of passions culminating in the Civil War. The country polarized, splitting into two groupings. Forever.

Obama’s, Grand Canyon divide was cemented, subsequently, by Clinton’s “Deplorables” gaff interpreted as disdain and disrespect for the working, one-half of the country. Millions of Americans will never accept her and her Snowflakes and vice versa. “Never say never,” it’s said, often enough. But, this time, “never,” is an unequivocal: “Never!”

Quite simply, the Obama-Clinton regime politicized that which should never be politicized, namely, core beliefs and values, starting with God.

Debate is one thing, but the regime followed up with direct and indirect actions, which some writers call rainbow fascism. “You won’t bake a wedding cake for two gays out of some fossilized belief in scripture? We’ll shut you down.”

The regime’s aggression against the Church, the family, and the infant in the womb is dynamite inserted into the foundation on which the country stands.

Along with compassion and sensitivity to opposing views, compromise used to help mend political wounds. It allowed the nation to move on after an election. However, when religious tenets are challenged by a political Party with executive order power, the door on possible compromise slams shut. Obama-Clinton politicized the sacred and the Holy, a big no-no considering that politics divide. It wasn’t done out of ignorance, disrespect, or plain arrogance. It was a conscience, systematic attack by the Godless against God-fearing Christians.

God either exists or He doesn’t – no compromise, here. That is, “He might exist,” placates neither the believer nor the atheist. The Bible is either the Word of God as delivered through His prophets or it isn’t. No compromise possible.

Abortion-on-demand is another issue without compromise considering the commandment: Thou shalt not kill (murder). There is also common sense compassion, which makes us human and says that abortion is wrong. You’re either for murder of the defenseless or against it.

A partial birth abortion, despite the insinuation of compromise in the term, is actually a viler variant of infanticide because it’s performed in the last trimester, at 5-7 months. The well-developed, living infant is pulled out of the womb, legs first. The medical executioner then plunges a probe with a catheter into the living brain in order to suction out a bloody slurry and collapse the skull. Is it murder of the defenseless or a “woman’s right” as Snowflakes call it?

Clinton claims: “Fetuses feel no pain and have no rights.” Curiously, Himmler leaned on a nearly identical contention to justify ghoulish, medical experiments on pregnant women in Konzentrationslager. Is there a difference? Indeed, there is. Clinton is a woman, making her serial murders more of a monstrosity.

The Holy Bible is either the Word of God or it isn’t. It’s not a book to be adapted to one’s whims or sexual lusts. Scripture strictly condemns male homosexuality in at least three passages and, implicitly, in some one-half dozen others. Nonetheless, Obama-Clinton attached the promotion of LBGTq-ism to the Democratic plank, overriding scripture. Clinton informed one audience that Christians would have to change their beliefs on some issues.

Hold on! “I’m getting my musket,” as more than one American has said.

I used to enjoy dialogue. But a sour aftertaste remains from the last time that I waded, innocently enough, into an after-dinner, back-and-forth. The topic was the upcoming primaries.

Dodging a flurry of leftism hooks from a New York Cityite at a Hamptons hideaway, I smiled through early-round attacks recalling how Mohammed Ali used to taunt opponents and cockroaches until they lost their cool. It worked. My opponent promptly tangled himself up in the ropes of his emotions.

It became apparent, in the ensuing minutes, that the Achilles heel of the Left was the absence of a viable candidate. That is, one who could be liked – a leader with charisma with a realistic chance winning.

Hillary was the only figure looming big on the horizon. After flying about on her crooked broom, peddling influence and laundering bloody cash from terrorism-sponsoring sheiks, wads of cash stuffed her Pampers. The Wicked Witch of the West, as victims of her foreign policy still address her, apparently, had it all. Except likeability. Or, something new to offer millions of working Americans beyond the scandals, a world in flames, and the same old corrupt things, starting with her foundation, which kept the cash but forgot Hattian children.

Deep-down inside, my opponent knew that getting excited about Hillary would be a daunting task. It’s precisely Hillary’s inability to generate enthusiasm that eventually metamorphosed into, “What Happened?” It wasn’t Russia; it wasn’t the dog that ate her homework.

As Secretary of State, Clinton’s role in creating and sponsoring head-choppers, baby burners, and heart-eating fanatics in ISIS’s jumpsuits was already well-established for anyone who was interested in looking beyond the hyaluronic acid smile and the praise of her attendant, media handlers.

Propagandists led by CNN and MSNBC did their best to sequester her “Arab Spring” fiascos. Her ties and support of the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently, inspired by live-in aide and right-hand woman, Huma Abedin were off limits for the press. Lesbian lover or not, the real issue is the between-the sheets confidences of one woman, holding one of the highest positions in the US Government and another with connections to jihadist circles inspired by Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of al Qaeda. What would have been made of it by the press if Trump had a mistress whose grandfather was Osama bin Laden?

Clinton’s connivance, her intrigue, and her use of the sword to overthrow foreign governments constituted the essence of her foreign policy. Now, the rich, sweet thing is crying over supposed, Russian interference that she claims cost her the election! No proof of Russian involvement has been found, despite massive efforts and the wasteful expenditure of millions of dollars. Even so, in her warped sense of reality, it’s inconceivable that American voters chose a vulgar, thrice-married, casino operator who trash talks instead of her. Curiously, it was Christians, in particular – Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox – fearing a de facto Obama third term, who voted in droves for Trump.

Jonathon Van Maren writes: “…Christians are having conversations around the dinner table about what do if the government forces curricula on them that they cannot accept, because their own government is increasingly indicating that Christian parents are too homophobic and too hateful to teach their own children.”

Fear is setting in at both ends of the political spectrum. Meltdown, weep-in snowflakes fear Trump yet he and Christians are not forcing the LGBTq groupings etc., to make lifestyle changes. In contrast, Obama-Clinton’s Rainbow Fascism demands core value changes, or else! It’s already ruining the lives of those who cannot compromise religious tenets. What’s next? Obviously, children must be taken away from homophobic and irresponsible parents. It’s already happening in Norway and Sweden.

Curiously, WaPo’s entire editorial board endorsed her. Isn’t endorsement of Clinton’s terrorism by proxy tantamount to being a terrorist? Can WaPo be trusted, again? Another liberally slanted paper, the NY Times largely swept Clinton’s sordid past under the carpet, with about 90 percent of its articles casting her in a positive light. In contrast, it was open season on Republicans and, soon enough, on Trump.

“Considering her international war crimes record, if you vote for her, as I’m sure you’ll end up doing, you’re going to be an accomplice. Of terrorism,” I sighed. “So unfriend me now, please.”

Swinging, aimlessly – now, a bug in my web – my opponent’s accusations turned Archie-Bunker-personal – “You’re a SOB, M#*/!er. All you do is criticize but you haven’t done squat! Do something in the community instead of blaming everything on Obama and Clinton.

“Some time ago, I saw little, practical sense in it,” I replied. “That is, in wasting time to change the system.”

If it was ever possible to improve matters on a local level, those days are gone. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle did not consider the rule of money to be compatible with democracy. After three, consecutive, two-term geniuses steering the US Titanic – Clinton, Bush, Obama – the scraping sounds of hitting the iceberg are all-too-audible. The mass media orchestra plays on yet the waterline has reached the nation’s gunwales.

“Sorry, trends are apparent enough. Liberty, freedom of expression – all on the wane. Government as well as media controls are tightening! Prisons are full. Stalin has been outdone. His maximum Gulag stay was 15 years regardless of the charge. What’s ours? A life sentence for being in a romantic relationship with a drug smuggler? Common sense is being pushed aside by nonsense. Sorry, I find little sense building sandcastles at ebbtide.”

My opponent had had enough. Spilling whisky to get away from me, he spewed more venom and parted the room. Forever.

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