Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ho Chi Minh

Is the US starting the inevitable retreat from the Middle East? And Israel reaction…

THE murder of four Americans in Libya and mob assaults on the United States’ embassies across the Muslim world this month have reminded many of the year 1979, when radical Islamists seized the American mission in Tehran.
There, too, extremists running wild after the fall of a pro-American tyrant had found a cheap way of empowering themselves.

PANKAJ MISHRA published on September 23, 2012 under “America’s Inevitable Retreat From the Middle East”

“The obsession with radical Islam misses a more meaningful analogy for the current state of siege in the Middle East and Afghanistan: the helicopters hovering above the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon in 1975 as North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the city.

That hasty departure ended America’s long and costly involvement in Indochina, which, like the Middle East today, the United States had inherited from defunct European empires.

Southeast Asia had no natural resources to tempt the United States and no ally like Israel to defend. But it appeared to be at the front line of the worldwide battle against Communism, and American policy makers had unsuccessfully tried both proxy despots and military firepower to make the locals advance their strategic interests.

The violent protests provoked by the film “Innocence of Muslims” will soon subside, and American embassies will return to normal business. But the symbolic import of the violence, which included a Taliban assault on one of the most highly secured American bases in Afghanistan, is unmistakable.

The drama of waning American power is being re-enacted in the Middle East and South Asia after two futile wars and the collapse or weakening of pro-American regimes.

In Afghanistan, local soldiers and policemen have killed their Western trainers, and demonstrations have erupted there and also in Pakistan against American drone strikes and reported desecration of the Koran.

This surge in historically rooted hatred and distrust of powerful Western invaders, meddler and remote controllers has come yet again as a shock to many American policy makers and commentators, who have promptly retreated into a lazy “they hate our freedoms” narrative.

It is as though the United States, lulled by such ideological foils as Nazism and Communism into an exalted notion of its moral power and mission, missed the central event of the 20th century: the steady, and often violent, political awakening of people who had been exposed for decades to the sharp edges of Western power.

This strange oversight explains why American policy makers kept missing their chances for peaceful post-imperial settlements in Asia.

As early as 1919, Ho Chi Minh, dressed in a morning suit and armed with quotations from the Declaration of Independence, had tried to petition President Woodrow Wilson for an end to French rule over Indochina. Minh did not get anywhere with Wilson.

Indian, Egyptian, Iranian, Palestinian,  Syrian, and Turkish nationalists hoping for the liberal internationalist president Wilson to promulgate a new “morality” in global affairs were similarly disappointed.

None of these anti-imperialists would have bothered if they had known that Wilson, a Southerner fond of jokes about “darkies,” believed in maintaining “white civilization and its domination over the world.” Franklin D. Roosevelt was only slightly more conciliatory when, in 1940, he proposed to mollify the dispossessed Palestinian Arabs with a “little baksheesh.

Roosevelt changed his mind after meeting the Saudi leader Ibn Saud and learning of oil’s importance to the postwar American economy. But the cold war, and America’s obsession with the chimera of monolithic Communism, again obscured the unstoppable momentum of decolonization, which was fueled by an intense desire among humiliated people for equality and dignity in a world controlled by a small minority of white men.

Ho Chi Minh’s post-World War II appeals for assistance to another American president — Harry S. Truman — again went unanswered; and Ho, who had worked with American intelligence agents during the war, was ostracized as a dangerous Communist. But many people in Asia saw that it was only a matter of time before the Vietnamese ended foreign domination of their country.

For the world had entered a new “revolutionary age,” as the American critic Irving Howe wrote in 1954, in which the intense longing for change among millions of politicized people in Asia was the dominant force. Howe warned: “Whoever gains control of them, whether in legitimate or distorted forms, will triumph.”

This mass longing for political transformation was repressed longer by cold war despotism in the Arab world; it has now exploded, profoundly damaging America’s ability to dictate events there.

It is not just extremist Salafis who think Americans always have malevolent intentions: the Egyptian anti-Islamist demonstrators who pelted Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade in Alexandria with rotten eggs in July were convinced that America was making shady deals with the Muslim Brotherhood.
And few people in the Muslim world have missed the Israeli prime minister’s blatant manipulation of American politics for the sake of a preemptive assault on Iran.

There is little doubt that years of disorder lie ahead in the Middle East as different factions try to gain control. The murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya, the one American success story of the Arab Spring, is an early sign of the chaos to come; it also points to the unpredictable consequences likely to follow any Western intervention in Syria — or Iran.

As in Southeast Asia in 1975, the limits of both American firepower and diplomacy have been exposed. Financial leverage, or baksheesh, can work only up to a point with leaders struggling to control the bewilderingly diverse and ferocious energies unleashed by the Arab Spring.

Although it’s politically unpalatable to mention it during an election campaign, the case for a strategic American retreat from the Middle East and Afghanistan has rarely been more compelling. It’s especially strong as growing energy independence reduces America’s burden for policing the region, and its supposed ally, Israel, shows alarming signs of turning into a loose cannon.

All will not be lost if America scales back its politically volatile presence in the Muslim world. It could one day return, as it has with its former enemy, Vietnam, to a relationship of mutually assured dignity. (Although the recent military buildup in the Pacific — part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” — hints at fresh overestimation of American power in that region.)

Republicans calling for President Obama to “grow” a “big stick” seem to think they live in the world of Teddy Roosevelt. Liberal internationalists arguing for even deeper American engagement with the Middle East inhabit a similar time warp; and both have an exaggerated idea of America’s financial clout after the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

It is the world’s newly ascendant nations and awakened people, which will increasingly shape events in the post-Western era, America’s retrenchment is inevitable. The only question is whether it will be as protracted and violent as Europe’s mid-20th century retreat from a newly assertive Asia and Africa.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 24, 2012, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: America’s Inevitable Retreat From the Middle-East

Note: I am convinced that all that aggressive fuss about Iran nuclear program by Israel is the realization that the US has started the disengagement process in this troubled and uncontrollable Middle-East region. Israel thinks that only the US deep involvement in this region will keep US yearly financial and economic support, updated weapons, subsidies, free grants, lavish donations…flowing into Israel to sustain the apartheid system.

Otherwise, Israel will have no choice but to consider policies as part of this region and deal with its people…

Oil is a commodity to be purchased  in the global market and there is no need to secure its flow by military means…


“Peace treaty”: Paris, 1919; (Nov. 14, 2009)

I watched a documentary on the French channel TV5 this Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. The documentary was relating and commenting on the 5 months that dragged on before the most lousy “peace treaty” was finally signed to end WWI.

The chiefs of the main 5 nations who won in the First World War sat around in Paris to discuss how to partition the world.  The government chiefs were: USA (Wilson), Britain (Lloyd George), France (Clemenceau), Italy, and Japan.  Germany had ceased fire; the Kaiser, “Emperor Guillaume“, is settled in the Netherlands.  Turkey is declared defeated as ally to Germany.

Every delegation from all over the world, when allowed, was given 10 minutes to expose his case and demands.  Ho Chi Minh (from Viet Nam) was refused an appointment; he will later defeat the French in 1954 and then the US forces in 1973.

Wilson wanted to discuss establishing a world organization of State of Nations to prevent further military escalations; the other four leaders were trying hard to convince Wilson that they are not against this idea but there are more urgent matters to resolve at this junction.

The four other leaders wanted to redraw world’s borders; cartographers spent 5 months redrawing borders.  Wilson wanted the people to decide and vote for their destiny; the other four leaders tried hard to educating Wilson on pragmatic procedures.

In the meantime, Communism was spreading everywhere in Europe and the USA.  The “Spanish flu” had decimated 20 millions in Europe and America (it was called the “Spanish flu” simply because it was the Spanish press that divulged this scourge that States were trying to keep under cover).

Soldiers were returning from the war front at the pace of 100,000 each month; I see one-legged soldiers hoping around in a baseball game and their companions laughing and having good time. Soldiers were returning home to experience famine, miseries, and desolate institutions to take care of business.

The world’s “five leaders” are smoking cigars and pipes and looking mightily serious. Lloyd George wanted 300 billions in gold for war reparation from Germany; his financial counselor, the famous Keynes, is steadfastly suggesting agreeing on 10 billions for material damages on the ground that Germany could barely pay even that amount; Lloyd George had plenty of time to get practical at this stage.

Wilson does not want any reparations and the other four leaders are fuming because it was not the US that lost millions of dead and injured soldiers and civilians in the war.

Clemenceau wants

1. to recover the Alsace and Loraine in addition to

2.  La Sarre region, rich in coal production, in Germany, in order to exploit for 15 years as war reparation.

The Italian President just wants a port on the Adriatic Sea as an advanced post to check any resurgence of hostility but the other leaders adamantly refused his wish.

A Germany delegation of over 110 individuals arrives in Paris to deal a peace treaty.

The train is made to stop first in Verdun where 450,000 soldiers on both sides died. This delegation is typing reams of legal papers claiming that they are not the only culprit for starting the war.

The vanquishers have no time to read the German side of view: they want Germany to admit that it is the sole bad party and that it had lost the war. The Germans are upset: why discuss a peace treaty if the other party has already made his mind?

The German delegation refused the humiliating peace deal and the war was on the verge of resuming.  The German sank their merchant marine in order not to be captured by the allies.

Clemenceau is furious because he could not convince Lloyd George to jointly board these ships to avoid sabotage.

By now, Wilson is totally worn out and more hawkish than even Clemenceau. In the last 5 days before the refusal of Germany to sign the humiliating peace treaty Lloyd George had second thoughts: if Germany is completely humiliated then any demy-god would take power and start another war.

Lloyd George also needed to trade goods with a strong Germany. What Keynes suggested as reasonable reparation of 10 billions in gold is fine with Lloyd; Germany does not need to admit that it lost the war.

The problem was how to convince Wilson after manipulating him for five month on pragmatic politics. Wilson is adamant: Germany has to understand that it lost the war; period!  The German Chancellor resigned and another peace delegation arrived in Paris and signed the treaty in Versailles. Wilson could go home to face major downturns.

The Italian President lost the election and could not attend the peace signing ceremony: Mussolini was on the rise.

The American Congress refused the plan of Wilson for establishing the Society of Nations.

China and Japan were not satisfied; Japan will invade China in 1935 and capture Korea as a colony.

While the leaders in Paris were discussing dividing the world into mandated colonies, Wilson’s concept of people deciding on their future destiny by vote went down the drain as the months eroded his determination into “pragmatic” attitudes.

Clemenceau got just what he asked La Sarre. and Poland recaptured a region in Germany with the Danzig port.

The Middle East people want independence from Turkey that lost the war. No problems.

Turkey is to lose the eastern region for an independent Armenia, the western region for Greece, including the city of Izmir, and the southern region under French mandate. The army of Mustapha Kemal “Ataturk” will recapture all the lands taken out of Turkey, including the Syrian land of Antaquia and Iskandaroun.

Hussein of Mecca has many children. One of them by the named of Faissal is appointed King to Syria and Lebanon. Another by the name of Abdullah is appointed King to Jordan. A third is appointed King to Iraq, I think: I am confused.

Wilson sent a delegation to gather field intelligence on the wishes of the people. Clemenceau and Lloyd George had another plan: they partition the Middle East between them.

France is to have mandate on Syria, Lebanon, and “Antaquia” in Turkey that Syria claimed to be part of its lands.  England is to have mandate on Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. There were barely 5,000 immigrant Jews in Palestine at the time.

Clemenceau sent a French army to depose King Faissal and govern his “mandated people”.

Mount Lebanon is split from Syria and more lands are attached to Lebanon so that it might have the illusion of agricultural “self-sufficiency”.




February 2023

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