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Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2023

The New World (Dis)order: PART I: American Adventurism, Non-Interventionism, Trumpism and Afghan Chaos

Is America in Decline? Illustration by Barbara Kelley via Hoover InstituteIllustration by Barbara Kelley via Hoover Institute


NOTE: This is the first in a five part series.

PART I: American Adventurism, Non-Interventionism, Trumpism and Afghan Chaos
PART II: The Misunderstanding of Vladimir Putin
PART III (July): China Awakens Under Xi Jinping
PART IV (August) Crony Capitalism and the West’s Achilles Heel
PART V (September): The New World (Dis)order 


PART I: American Adventurism, Non-Interventionism, Trumpism and Afghan Chaos

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
-Mark Twain


Bush’s Adventurism

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a foregone conclusion in my mind. I said late in 2021 that Putin would invade no matter what the West did to try and deter him. 


Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was, in addition to his long-held territorial ambitions, meant to be a test to gauge the West’s unity and resolve, and to provide China with a litmus test for their impending invasion of Taiwan.


To understand how we got here, with Europe facing its largest invasion since WWII, we need to go back to the US invasion of Iraq, and also to events before and after the invasion. 


While I am not interested here in arguing about the justification for America’s invasion of Iraq, what is irrefutable is that every one of Cheney and Bush’s assertions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq turned out to be patently false. 


Leading up to the invasion, America failed to produce a single credible piece of evidence to back up their claims about Saddam’s ties to Al-Qaeda or his biological weapons stockpile. I stated categorically months before the invasion that the only way the US would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is if they planted them there.


Also, America was unable to convince a majority of allies to join their illegal invasion. In addition to America and British forces, the grand coalition consisted of Georgia, Australia and Poland, with the three countries sending 2,300, 2,000 and 194 troops, respectively.


Post-invasion, independent and US intelligence agency reviews of millions of documents seized in Iraq conclusively stated that “…there was nothing to substantiate a "partnership" between Hussein and Al-Qaeda.” The report added that there was no ‘smoking gun,’ and everyone knows how many weapons of mass destruction were found.


While the Bush administration sought and got approval from U.S. Congress in 2002 to use military force against “those responsible for the September 11 attacks”, there was and remains no basis in international law to justify America’s invasion of Iraq. 


The Bush administration tried to argue that the UN security council resolution which granted use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1990 applied. However, the UN declared that the Iraq invasion was in violation of its Charter. Secretary General Kofi Anan stated unequivocally in 2004, "From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal.”


Not only did America flagrantly violate international law by invading a sovereign nation without provocation, but the Bush administration broke every legal and democratic norm Americans have claimed to cherish and hold dear since WWII.


Ironically, former President Bush accidentally admitted it last year, when he repudiated Putin for invading Ukraine in a speech in May. He said, “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq—I mean of Ukraine.”


Under Bush, America embraced torture, set-up extra-judicial rendition sites in Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Tajikistan and other countries. They constructed a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay because it would be outside U.S. legal jurisdiction. There they illegally detained and tortured enemy combatants indefinitely and without charge, denying them Geneva Convention rights and refusing these men access to legal counsel.


Bush and Cheney’s actions damaged America’s moral standing and severely limited the US’s future ability to call out other nations for their transgressions. The unilateral way in which America invaded and occupied Iraq has not been lost on the leaders of China, Russia, Iran and other authoritarian regimes. These regimes watched the U.S. violate international law, trample on enshrined global conventions and use financial muscle, military might and UN Security Council veto power to bribe, blackmail and bully smaller nations into acquiescence or abstention. 


Not a single U.S. leader or architect of the Iraq invasion was criminally charged or faced consequences for war crimes. To this day, the U.S. remains a non-signatory to the International Court of Justice (ICC), along with China, Russia, Syria, Qatar and Libya.


In 2008, while America was embroiled in two failing and unpopular wars and in the midst of a financial crisis, Russia invaded Georgia. It was the first time since their 1979 invasion of Afghanistan that they launched a military attack on a neighboring country. While Russian-Georgian tensions had been simmering since the breakup of the USSR, it was Georgia’s tilt toward the West that drove Putin’s decision to invade. 


Georgia joined the US-led coalition in Iraq, sending the third largest contingent of troops, which had earned Putin’s ire. Then in 2004 they elected a pro-West leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, who actively sought membership to NATO and wanted to move his country away from Russia’s sphere of influence. 


At the 2008 NATO Summit President Bush surprised everyone by lobbying to extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia. This crossed a red line for Putin, who was clear that he was not willing to lose control of former Soviet Union breakaway republics, because they provided a security buffer between Russia and the West. Putin’s invasion of Georgia began a few months after the summit.


France brokered the ceasefire agreement which stipulated the removal of Russian troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions at the center of the dispute. The agreement was hastily put together and tilted in favor of Russia, as a result of public divisions within the EU. Italy’s Foreign Minister at the time said “We cannot create an anti-Russia coalition in Europe…on this point we are close to Putin's position.”


Vice-President Cheney condemned Russia’s actions and declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered.” Yet, that is precisely what happened with a muted response from the US and Europe. There was no punishment when Russia violated the terms of ceasefire by declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia independent countries, and kept their occupying forces on Georgian soil; who remain to this day.


Russia’s aggression paid-off, without any costs to Putin. The Georgian President warned the US not to placate Putin, and prophetically said at the time that the Georgian invasion was the beginning of Putin’s ambitions, and not the limit of it.


Obama’s Non-Interventionism

The Obama years were a welcome change, and his administration attempted to repair the damage done by the previous one. On day one he declared he would shutter Guantanamo Bay, and later summed up his foreign policy doctrine as “Don’t do stupid shit”. 


Mr. Obama’s approach made sense, compared to his predecessor’s shoot from the hip style but it would come to be viewed as weakness, based on Mr. Obama’s repeated and dogmatic refusal to use force, in a world with rising authoritarianism.


In 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself alight to protest corruption and police brutality. This act set in motion a series of violent mass protests across the Middle East and North Africa, which came to be known as The Arab Spring


However, unlike in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen where ruling dictators were toppled, the uprising in Syria was met with a brutal crackdown. Bashar Al-Assad used his military to mercilessly kill peaceful protestors and stamp out the popular rebellion. 


At the time President Obama warned Assad saying that "This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now.” While the condemnation was strong, Mr. Obama resisted any US intervention in Syria. This despite his senior advisors, defense and national security teams urging him to take limited military action. 


Their recommendation was not to put US boots on the ground, but to train and equip the Syrian resistance, to set up safe zones and to launch targeted air strikes to degrade Assad’s air force. Their strategy was designed to force Assad to the negotiating table, rather than defeat him on the battlefield. However, Obama steadfastly refused and agreed only to provide humanitarian aid and light non-lethal equipment to the rebels.


Sensing Obama’s hesitation and unable to quell widespread and growing unrest across the country, in early 2012, Assad used chemical weapons and gassed his citizens. Meanwhile, the vacuum on the battlefield, created by Obama's refusal to arm the rebels, got filled by a loose and dangerous network of jihadis fighting for Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other affiliated terrorist groups. 


In late 2102, President Obama stated at a White House press briefing“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.  That would change my equation.“


The world, including his Secretaries of Defense and State saw the red-line as an ultimatum for the use of force. Vice-president Biden warned The President not to make a public declaration because he feared it would need to be acted on. He was right. Seeing America back-down after drawing a public red-line emboldened every dictator and authoritarian leader from China to Venezuela.


Ironically, it was Mr. Obama who said during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that“inaction tears at our conscienceand can lead to more costly interventions later…”. The U.S. President’s repeated refusal to act would have devastating consequences not just for the Syrian people but the world at large.


Even before the votes were cast in the 2016 US presidential election, a few things began to embolden Mr. Putin. First, the Obama administration’s strategic and costly error in downplaying the Russian state-sponsored hacking, which they uncovered in the summer of that year after DNC servers were found to be compromised. 


Obama chose not to respond forcefully because he wanted to be seen as impartial and because everyone in his administration believed Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, so they decided that starting“a cyber war with Russia wasn’t worth it.”


Mr. Putin was also emboldened by candidate Trump’s open embrace of Russia. One that resulted in a bizzare public plea, at a press conference in Florida, where he said "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 


Third was the result of Putin’s high-risk disinformation gamble, which exceeded even his wildest expectations. Putin had succeeded in sowing mistrust amongst the US electorate and deepening existing divisions among Americans across the political spectrum. 


Through the Mueller investigation we learned that the Kremlin’s elaborate campaign had a $1.2 million monthly budget that was used for identity theft, which enabled Russian spies to enter the US under false pretenses. The Russian agents set up meetings with legitimate organisations for fact-finding and on-the-ground research in swing states. Information that was used to set up fake grass roots organisations, social media accounts, run anti-Clinton ads and even stage local events. The Russian’s even paid Americans to appear at Trump rallies dressed as Mrs. Clinton in a prison uniform.


Trumpism

Once Trump became president it was clear that he lacked cohesive vision and coherent strategy to guide his foreign policy. His decisions were instead driven by his whims. One minute he would contradict military commanders about troop withdrawals by tweet, and next make decisions that lined up with his personal business interests. Trump continued to publicly express his admiration for dictators and bragged about his great chemistry with them while showing disdain for NATO.


Mr. Trump’s first official trip abroad was to Saudi Arabia, a place where his love of dictatorship and personal business coincided. Upon arrival Trump’s first words were“We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.” Next came his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, followed in early 2018 with the termination of JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal. 


In 2017, after Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing them of supporting terrorism. Trump welcomed the move, even as his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense were publicly reenforcing America’s relationship with Qatar, a country that hosts a key US Air Base and is the regional headquarters of U.S. Central Command. 


At the G-20 Summit in Hamburg Trump had a second meeting with Putin which was not disclosed by the White House. This meeting broke protocol as Trump met with Putin for over an hour without any other US officials present and without his translator. It was just Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin and his translator. This was followed by a two-hour summit in Helsinki between the two leaders, again with no US officials except a translator.


Trumpism was defined by chaotic, contradictory and haphazard foreign policy, most often out of sync with his own administration. Trump broke with decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In agreeing to meet with Kim Jong Un, twice, he became the first sitting US President in history to do so and set foot in North Korea


Mr. Trump defended Saudi Arabia after they murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying on NBC’s Meet the Press"Iran's killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East; this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries,"


It is true that Trump administration agreed to send lethal aid to Ukraine, which Mr. Obama’s had refused, but Mr. Trump was also the one who held a gun to President Zelensky’s head. Mr. Trump put on hold on US military aid unless Ukraine agreed to investigate Joe Biden, which led to his first impeachment trial.


Throughout his presidency Mr. Trump made false claims about Ukraine, privately and publicly. A respected diplomat told lawmakers during the impeachment inquiry, that Trump had said to him “Ukraine was a corrupt country, full of 'terrible people.'"  The US President was the same man who praised Putin in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and said at the time that “the rest of Ukraine will fall … fairly quickly…” 


In 2014, Trump defended Russia despite evidence showing that a Russian missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane, killing all 208 passengers on board. It would not be an understatement to say that Mr. Putin believed he had an ally in the White House, and on the heels of his 2016 election disinformation campaign success, it left him feeling more emboldened for his future invasion of Ukraine.


Trump’s final act as president was to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, the third arms control agreement he withdrew the US from. His administration claimed they were doing so because the Russians had been violating the agreement, but the US too had placed their own restrictions on it. Mr. Trump went ahead despite NATO countries expressing “regret” over the US intention to withdraw, stating that despite its problems the treaty remained “functioning and useful”.


Biden’s Afghan Chaos

China, Iran and Russia made hay of the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Without question they saw both failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as evidence of declining US military power and influence. 


Mr. Putin stated with glee on the anniversary of Washington’s twenty-year intervention in Afghanistan, “The result is zero, if not to say that it is negative”. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said of the chaotic scenes of people clinging and falling from aircraft wheels, “American myth down. More and more people are awakening.” 


The Afghan withdrawal made the Biden administration look incompetent and weak. Especially after the US president had publicly stated that there would be an orderly withdrawal and assured the world that US intelligence assessments made him confident that a Taliban takeover of the country was "highly unlikely” and would take at least six months to a one year - not the 10 days it actually took.


Within the backdrop of the disastrous Afghan exit, the Biden administration had also been working to forge closer ties with Ukraine. In July, 2021, under Mr. Trump, the US and Ukraine conducted joint naval exercises with 32 other countries from six continents participating. Operation Sea Breeze almost escalated into conflict after a British naval destroyer entered Russian territorial waters, and the Russians fired at it.


In January 2021, right after President Biden assumed office, Mr. Zelensky appealed to US President to let Ukraine join NATO. After receiving assurances of US support from Mr. Biden, President Zelensky signed a decree freezing the assets of Viktor Medvedchuk, a political heavyweight with close ties to the Kremlin and placed him under house arrest. 


Mr. Medvedchuk’s was Putin’s choice for replacing Mr. Zelensky and heading up a puppet government in Ukraine. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter. Soon after his arrest Russia began amassing troops on the Ukraine border, claiming they were conducting training exercises.


In November that year, as Russian troops continued to amass on Ukraine’s borders, Mr. Biden signed the “US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership” a document stating a commitmentto help Ukraine achieve “full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.” 


This was a red line for Putin, going back to the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, when according to his version of history, the West promised that they would never expand NATO into the former USSR’s backyard. However, diplomats engaged in those negotiations, scholars and even former President Gorbachov have acknowledged that no such promise was made.


By December 2021, around 100,000 Russian troops, tanks and heavy artillery had been deployed around Ukraine’s borders. Russia issued security demands which included NATO pulling back troops and weapons from eastern Europe and barring Ukraine from ever joining the alliance. 


While the West rebuffed their demands, they once again misjudged Mr. Putin. Ignoring history, they believed that the US President’s public and private warnings that an invasion would result in disaster for the Russian economy and for Mr. Putin personally would be deterrent enough to get the Russian President to act rationally.


Read next installment in June:

PART II: The Misunderstanding of Vladimir Putin

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trump Assisted Suicide of Liberalism



“If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.”
-Barack Obama 

November 7th 2016. 9pm EST
Obama won two terms and now Hillary is set to take the mantle from him. After electing the first black President, we are on the verge of making history with the first woman to occupy the Oval Office.

She will continue his legacy in this post-racial, post misogynist America. An America where success means “rethinking conventional ideas about masculinity.” And one where “men must resign themselves to working in “pink collar jobs”. An America where climate change is considered a far greater threat to life than Muslim terrorists mowing down nightclub revelers.

In this new America, we don’t take issue with the President circumventing Congress to pass far reaching legislation using executive power, or pushing it through the Senate without any bi-partisan support, because we know the President is a good man.

We justify these overreaches because the evil Republican Party has repeatedly dug in and refused to co-operate with him, simply because of the colour of his skin. And we have no concern with the Democratic Party's ignoring of long-held House and Senate conventions because they will always have a majority.

Who needs debate, discussion, diverse viewpoints and going through the hard work of consensus building to convince ardent and vocal opponents? These quaint and old-fashioned notions of democracy are no longer needed because it is clear to that the good people are in power and in their hands government must be trusted blindly.

We now trust our leaders with opaque domestic surveillance programs, increasingly frequent extra-judicial killings and the use of drones in Muslim majority and sovereign nations. The collateral damage caused by drone strikes is no longer reported or discussed in the media because the civilians being killed are being murdered in the name of good. Bush and Cheney’s drone operations were killing civilians in the name of evil.

We are laughing at the golden maned reality TV star who is upending the Republican Party. The media cannot get enough of Trump. They cover everything he says and does, every second of every minute, of every day - at the expense of all other news and world events.

Can you blame them? It is Trump’s fault for making it so easy for us to stand on our liberal-utopian pedestals and look down mockingly at the ignorance and stupidity of his followers.

Every off-colour comment and misogynistic statement is covered, scrutinised and analysed by panels of pundits on every TV channel, and then made available on the internet for a lifetime of public display. What harm could come of this – we know that nobody will actually vote for this buffoon. The mainstream media can have their clicks and eat it too.

The media are reveling in the fact that they can garner reality TV ratings for “news”. There is no longer need to waste money and precious resources on fact checking, or even verify sources before publishing stories. The media’s singular focus on Trump means they cannot waste ink on less important issues, such as the Obama administration's statement about the Russian government hacking the Democratic National Committees’ email servers.

No, “grabbing pussy” is a far more serious and weighty issue - more important than Putin trying to circumvent American democracy. We all know that Russian hacking stories cannot deliver the same clicks that grabbing pussy does – c’mon!

There is no need to waste energy dispatching reporters to investigate allegations of wrongdoing within the Clinton foundation because we know that they are good people. Unlike Trump, they save lives and have championed women’s rights. As for Bill’s minor transgressions, all those years ago, does anyone even remember the names of the women whose lives were so publicly destroyed?

Turn on any TV channel and Trump is on 24 hours a day. He also graces the front page of every respected newspaper and magazine; why not make hay while the mane shines!

It is fun to see Trump make Republicans like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio squirm and get into uncivil shouting matches and arguments about their manhood on the debate stage. This will be doubly priceless because Trump will destroy what is left of the evil Republicans by the time he is done. Not even Hollywood could have scripted this election.

This is so easy that Hillary doesn’t even need to waste time and energy crafting a campaign platform or coherent message for the electorate. There is no need for her to traverse the country shaking sweaty palms and hugging working class folks. She can simply stand on her coastal pedestal and reach out to connect with Americans by just simply bashing Trump. He has made Hillary’s long overdue coronation all but certain. 

American liberals are on a righteous path, and we already know that population trends favour our enlightened way of life. We would be remiss not proclaim that we are within touching distance of the land John Lennon imagined, right before he was so violently murdered. As for the small, ignorant minority of Americans who reside in the heartlands and support Trump – well, once Hillary wins they will fall into line, be drowned out, or will naturally die out.

In any case, nobody wants to listen to uneducated and ignorant bigots; especially since erudite and intellectually endowed minds on both the coasts are now in charge of the mainstream media, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and are firmly leading the enlightened Americans to the Promised Land.

Just look at how well Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea have done by quashing all debate, discussion and alternate points of view. Just imagine an America without conservative viewpoints, religious backwardness or diverse and competing ideas.

We are on the brink of a golden age of liberalism. Tonight we shall sleep like babies and wake up on the morning of 8th November with a big smile on our faces.

Bill Clinton is a genius for having convinced Donald Trump to run…sleep tight.
 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I have never been more optimistic about the future of the world than I am today.




I understand that it is hard to fathom or comprehend my optimism based on what you see and hear in the news and on every TV channel in America and globally. Let me explain.

I do not see the world through rose-tinted glasses or suggest that things are hunky-dory. I see the same turmoil: civil wars, terrorist attacks and the potential descent of stable democracies into chaotic anarchy.

In fact, I see chaos growing and I also have absolutely no doubt that things are going to get much uglier, globally and here in America, in the short-term. I see all the same things you do but I also see something you may not - yet.

I have spent the last couple of years getting actively involved in a number of social issues in India, and as part of an organisation in America that brings together accomplished people from many fields, from journalism and marketing to banking and politics. Through this organisation and my personal efforts I have had the opportunity to listen to and engage with a broad spectrum of corporate, social and political leaders, behind closed doors. I have also spent time engaging with extreme right and left wing voices, on Twitter, both in India and America.

In these interactions and in-depth conversations, I have listened closely and learned much more than I could ever learn from watching the news or reading articles that increasingly tilt left or right, but are always filled with one-sided opinions.

Here is the reason for my optimism. I have been heartened to see that many of the people I have met and worked with no longer see the world through a markedly liberal or conservative lens. Like me, they see a world filled with serious and pressing problems that no politician is willing to take on or solve in a manner that goes against their party base or donor interests.

Time and again we have found that it is politicians who have been the fundamental roadblock to solving issues because they invariably put pseudo-ideological and big money interests ahead of meaningful solutions. From the refugee crisis, to understanding the motivations of jihadists, to helping get young girls out of the sex trade - there are many brilliant solutions available that simply cannot be affected because our leaders lack the political will and integrity (and fear losing their popularity) to fight for them.

The people I have worked and engaged with are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent and come from virtually every political stripe, but not one of them is slave to party affiliation or ideology. They are slaves only to solutions that work, and they refuse to accept less effective solutions merely to placate some personal ideology or partisan bias.

I call us the post-partisans.

We often vehemently disagree with each other but always do so civilly and respectfully.

We have found that heated debate, one that features a multitude of diverse viewpoints, leads to the most innovative and breakthrough solutions. But we never take any of what is discussed to heart or personally.

We also choose never to take offense, even if sometimes in the heat of debate, it is intended. Not because we are without feelings, but because we remind ourselves that the problems we face are bigger and far more pressing than ego or hurt feelings.

We always come with an open mind. Our goal is also never to try and get others to see the world the way we do, but to find the brightest, most cost-efficient and lasting solutions to the problems that affect us all, irrespective of our politics.

Through our dealings, conversations and our work we have realised that political parties can no longer be relied on to lead us forward or solve the problems we face.

Over the last three decades political parties, left and right have deteriorated further into an ideological abyss. They have allowed the most hardened and extremist voices within their ranks to take the reins, and are no longer able to offer thoughtful or pragmatic solutions. Instead, their solutions are built for populist rabble rousing or designed to pander to some narrow interest group.

The post-partisan mentality is a growing movement across the world. It consists not of people who identify as liberal or conservative, but of a coalition of the willing (not like those who invaded Iraq in 2003!), who are passionate about a cause. They consist of people from vastly different backgrounds, upbringing, skill sets and political views who find each other because we are looking for apolitical and uncompromised solutions. Many of us will never become friends, but we will often find ourselves on the same side of a problem and remain together until we find and implement a robust solution.

I am not suggesting that all this will happen overnight or magically mitigate the pain and suffering in the world. I have realised that pain and suffering are part of the human condition, and while we must always strive to lessen each other’s, we also cannot function without them. Remember that there could be no courage if there is no adversity, and good cannot triumph without evil. Real societal change, that requires changing attitudes and mindsets, always takes a generation or more to affect and there is no way around that.

So the rise of populists, nationalist and narcissists do not scare us, but has been a great motivating factor for all post-partisans; we gladly accept the challenge. Their effect has been to end our complacency and serve as a necessary wake up call, one that reminded us that it is naïve to expect democracy to be safeguarded by coming out to vote once every few years or by entrusting it to a corrupt and ideologically bent political class intent on defending their power, at all costs.

It will not be easy but nothing worth doing ever is. The road ahead is arduous and the journey painful (and sometimes bloody) but one thing I know for sure is that we will overcome and our democracies will become stronger for it. The future is very bright and the number of post-partisans will only continue to grow.

My mother once told me something that I never fully appreciated or understood until now – she said, “the job of a parent is not to protect their child from the world but to prepare them for it.”

I am ready
 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Open Letter to America: To Defeat Trump We Need To Be Better Than He Is



Many young people say they want to carry on Dr. King’s legacy. They want to battle racism, hate, and intolerance to level the societal playing field and unify us. It is for these reasons they want to stop Donald Trump and his supporters, believing they stand for the opposite and try to divide us. Yet, it seems in Chicago the other night they forgot about the “how” that Dr. King used to fight ALL bigotry and hatred.

The protestors who went to the Trump rally were well organized. They came armed with inflammatory t-shirts and signs with the intention of pressing buttons and inciting Trump supporters. They have admitted as much. “They got the job done, Vickie Deanda, 54, an accountant from Chicago, said of the demonstrators. “Someone has to object to this hatred" (Source: New York Times article). They went there not to protest peacefully, which is their right, but to shut it down and prevent it from taking place, infringing on Trump’s right.

When I got on Twitter the evening after the rally was cancelled, many young people, who claimed to have been at the venue and part of the anti-Trump crew were gloating about how they had won; by ‘shutting down’ hate.  They were openly proud of the fact that they had forced Donald Trump to send home his supporters, and cancel a legally organized and permitted event. The irony is that these so-called champions and defenders of free speech did not seem to care that they had just trampled on someone else's right to it.

I am not writing to defend Trump, but in Chicago the actions of the demonstrators made him seem the victim and brought people who despise him, like me, to his defense. This while also emboldening his supporters by proving both that they do not have a voice in this country and that they get shutdown when they try to express it. So I ask you, what was achieved?

Trump has shown that he lacks both the maturity and the temperament to lead. He openly tells lies, bullies people when confronted, and uses reckless, irresponsible rhetoric to prey on genuine fears. That is not leadership; it is cowardice. Anyone can use people’s insecurities, fear and anger to rally them. True leadership aims to help people rise above.

That is the point I want to make to the next generation of America. To beat Trump we need to unite and rise above the anger, fear and frustrations he uses to rally his base. This means we need to first acknowledge the very real fears of many Americans; people who have lost their jobs to foreign countries and immigrants like me. We need to acknowledge their realities and struggles to make ends meet without the proper education, skills or training necessary to compete in a technologically-driven and rapidly changing world. And we need to offer them an alternative narrative to his hate, bigotry and divisiveness. That is how we beat Trump and win, not by resorting to his bullying, bashing and shouting.

Some of the young people on Twitter told me that we are at war; they compared Trump to the rise of Hitler. To them I say first we are not at war, but yes, we need to fight back. However, it is imperative we do so by upholding our values, beliefs and principles, not by compromising them by fighting on Trump's terms. Even during WWII we did not gas every Nazi soldier we captured, though many of us could have justified it, nor did we execute those responsible for setting up and running the concentration camps; we tried and sentenced them. Our actions when fighting and punishing them were not based on an emotional reaction to the heinousness of their crimes, but on our values, humanity, intellect and sense of justice.

One young man on Twitter asked me how we beat Trump. To him and every other young person angered by his hate-filled rhetoric, I say we do it by uniting; that is the only way. This is a time to look beyond party lines; there are no republicans or democrats in this fight. We are all Americans and irrespective of our political differences, we share the same values. 

Only by standing together, united as one nation, can we show Trump that he will not hijack a nation by misleading and playing on the fears and emotions of a small group of angry people. We need to show him that we are better than that. That we can put aside our differences when something greater is at stake and defeat a common enemy.

Trump is appealing to humanity’s basest instincts; we must appeal to the noblest.

Remember, that while we should be willing to die for our cause, we should never be willing to kill for it. This is what differentiates us from the people who are filled with hate. If we are to lose that distinction, we become no different than people we disagree with, even if our cause claims to be the greater one.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Capitalism RIP…

(Image: Henley Design Studio via Unsplash)
 

"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."
Gordon Gekko

Don’t get me wrong, I am as much of a jingoistic money grubbing capitalist pig as the best of them, and believe me when I say that I don’t intend on ‘sharing my wealth’ anytime soon (well, what little is left of it, anyway!); but I am saying that American Capitalism, the ideology that has been the essence and core of the global capitalist engine, is dead. 

The one that has for the last thirty or so years been filling up on spurious petrol to keep it revving; and much like Detroit, it is too late for an overhaul or an oil change to keep this baby purring – it will need to be replaced with a new and more generationally friendly one.

My conclusion is based on a simple premise. It is not one steeped in financial foresight or wizardry or even based on an innate understanding of derivatives, credit default swaps or the global financial systems’ intricacies or lack of regulatory structure. To my simple and poorly read financial mind there were (and remain) a couple of warning signs that our system of Capitalism was on a path to failure. And I want to clarify that it is not the fundamentals of Capitalist theory, but the people applying them, that have failed; the end result, however, remains the same.

The first warning was a growing lack of accountability coupled with a management culture where captains of industry were no longer being chastised, but routinely rewarded, for failure. And we, society, were saying it was fine that these men take no responsibility for their actions as long as they did not screw us personally. Of course, it also seemed like looking the other way had become easy because we were all in some way feeling a part of the greater wealth creation, by pushing our credit limits beyond our means and deluding ourselves into believing that our first million was probably also just around the next corner.

It seemed that as long as these CEO’s had not broken any laws, all their sins were permissible and they could move to their next big job with a slap on the wrist and a golden parachute, instead of into management oblivion as should have been the case each time and with no exception.

Add to this Wall Street financial firms, hedge funds and Silicon Valley unicorns, creating generational wealth in a year and yet few were creating products or innovating, financial or otherwise (last time I checked CDO’s were not products). They were generating huge profits on a quarterly basis, which often turns out were based on false premises, grossly overstated sales figures or simply hiding big losses. These people were not only building the most dangerous and flimsy house of cards in the history of the world, but gambling recklessly and profiting from it and here’s the kicker – they were using your retirement money and mine to do it.

The second sign was one that was brewing in the world of academia. Colleges, whose critical role is to broaden minds beyond traditional spheres of influence and thinking, and to encourage future generations to discover and pursue dreams they never knew they had, were busy peddling sophisticated and fail proof financial models that would help companies evaluate ‘risk.’

You suddenly had professors everywhere becoming advisers to large corporations, showing up on company boards, and espousing ‘financial and economic’ expertise via regular columns in newspapers or appearances on television and basking under the bright lights of six and seven figure celebrity.

Something is astray in academia when the line between classroom and boardroom starts to disappear in such a relaxed and yet alarming way. There were numerous reports of how talk of becoming a doctor, public servant or teacher had long disappeared from the modern day dorm room. It was now all about how one could make his first million dollars before turning thirty. Dreams consisted of amassing Astor or Rockefeller-like wealth not over a few generations, but through a few bonuses.

The third is what I deem the deterioration in the moral fiber of society; big words, I know, but simple when thought about in the context of the lack of meaningful action in the world of business and life, today.

It is as if the fundamental human values and principles (not written laws or government regulation) that used to govern our inner consciences were being washed away in a tsunami of wealth creation.

It felt like people only cared about creating personal wealth and were no longer willing to give back in real and consequential ways, in terms of donating their time and energy to bettering future generations. As long as everyone was making money, everyone seemed happy. Average people were buying their dream homes, and even less average ones were managing to buy second and third homes, politicians were filling their campaign coffers to the point where some actually stopped accepting any more contributions and we were filling our shopping carts with the latest flat screen televisions and Blue Ray players with money we did not have, and of course India and China were growing at 10% a year; nobody bothered about serious accountability and most of us did not stop and think about personal responsibility.

We were happy to keep looking the other way as long as we and our own felt better off from one year to the next. And it is not altruism that I speak off. My mother always said it was easy to open your cheque book to appease your conscience, but it’s much harder to give up your Saturday to mentor new recruits or give up the tee time to take your children to an all day camp - the issue that I believe lies at the heart of our problems and the failure of Capitalism.

We were looking out for ourselves (in much, much larger numbers than in generations before us) and worried less and less about improving the future of our employees, companies, communities and our world.

So we can simply blame the Bernie Madoffs, the Dick S. Fulds, the
Mark Zuckerbergs for all our woes and push for stricter laws, more stringent financial regulation and more transparent regulators, but I don’t believe this will solve the deeper underlying problem for the far future.

I am all for bringing to book the leaders who misled companies, abused public office, refused to accept responsibility and engaged in criminal wrongdoing (and even have their bonuses and campaign contributions revoked) but I also believe that there is one more thing that we should all think about: ensuring that we set the example and bring up better people, in the generations that follow.