Why american prep-school diplomats fail against Putin and ISIS

This article appeared in the New York Post on March 15, 2015.

kerryputin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

It’s Brooks Brothers vs. barbarians. Photo: (Left) EPA, (right) Getty Images

Why do our “best and brightest” fail when faced with a man like Putin? Or with charismatic fanatics? Or Iranian negotiators? Why do they misread our enemies so consistently, from Hitler and Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph?

The answer is straightforward:

Social insularity: Our leaders know fellow insiders around the world; our enemies know everyone else.

The mandarin’s distaste for physicality: We are led through blood-smeared times by those who’ve never suffered a bloody nose.

And last but not least, bad educations in our very best schools: Our leadership has been educated in chaste political theory, while our enemies know, firsthand, the stuff of life.

Above all, there is arrogance based upon privilege. For revolving-door leaders in the U.S. and Europe, if you didn’t go to the right prep school and elite university, you couldn’t possibly be capable of comprehending, let alone changing, the world. It’s the old social “Not our kind, dahhhling…” attitude transferred to government.

That educational insularity is corrosive and potentially catastrophic: Our “best” universities prepare students to sustain the current system, instilling vague hopes of managing petty reforms.

People stand at the museum of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as they mark the 62th anniversary of his death.Photo: EPA

But dramatic, revolutionary change in geopolitics never comes from insiders. It’s the outsiders who change the world. In the 21st century, our government suffers from the sclerosis of insider thinking that constantly reinforces itself and rejects conflicting evidence. The result is that we are being whipped by savages.

Of course, the insiders can’t accept so abhorrent a prospect as their own fallibility. So when new blood does enter — through those same “elite” institutions — it’s channeled into the same old calcium-clogged arteries. And we get generals with Ivy League Ph.D.s writing military doctrine that adheres cringingly to politically correct truisms and leaves out the very factors, such as the power of religion or ethnic hatred, that prove decisive. Or a usually astute commentator on Eastern European affairs who dismisses Vladimir Putin as a mere chinovnik, a petty bureaucrat, since Putin was only a lieutenant colonel in the KGB when the Soviet Union collapsed and didn’t go to a Swiss prep school like John Kerry.

That analyst overlooked the fact that Hitler had been a mere lance corporal. Stalin was a failed seminarian. Lenin was a destitute syphilitic. Ho Chi Minh washed dishes in the basement of a Paris Hotel. And when the French Revolution erupted, Napoleon was a junior artillery officer.

And sophisticated Germans assumed they could use Hitler and then dismiss him, while other Europeans mocked him. Stalin’s fellow Bolsheviks underestimated him, until it was too late and their fates were sealed. The French didn’t notice Ho. And Napoleon shocked even his own lethargic family. The “man on horseback” is often the man from nowhere, and the members of the club ignore the torches in the streets until the club burns down around them.

Dramatic, revolutionary change in geopolitics never comes from insiders. It’s the outsiders who change the world.

Put another way: We are led by men and women educated to believe in the irresistible authority of their own words. When they encounter others who use words solely to deflect and defraud, or, worse, when their opposite numbers ignore words completely and revel in ferocious violence, our best and brightest go into an intellectual stall and keep repeating the same empty phrases (in increasingly tortured tones):

“Violence never solves anything.” “There’s no military solution.” “War is never the answer.” “Only a negotiated solution can resolve this crisis.” “It isn’t about religion.”

Or the latest and lamest: “We need to have strategic patience,” and “Terrorists need jobs.”

Every one of those statements is, demonstrably, nonsense most — or all — of the time. But the end result of very expensive educations is a Manchurian Candidate effect that kicks in whenever the core convictions of the old regime are questioned. So we find ourselves with leaders who would rather defend platitudes than defend their country.

And negotiations become the opium of the chattering classes.

Once-great universities have turned into political indoctrination centers worthy of the high Stalinist Era or the age of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Their aims may be more benign, but their unwillingness to consider alternative worldviews is every bit as rigid. Students in the social sciences at Harvard or Yale today are cadets being groomed to serve a soft-Socialist form of government conceived not in the streets, but in the very same classrooms. It’s a self-licking ice-cream cone. And graduates leave campus brilliantly prepared for everything except reality.

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting with government members at the Kremlin in Moscow

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with government members at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 28, 2014.Photo: Reuters

This is not an argument against education. Rather, it is an argument for education and against indoctrination, against the fantasy that the barbarian with the knife bashing in the door poses no danger to the career government official who has published a book on “the false construct of race and its deleterious impact upon climate change.”

Putin, that “petty bureaucrat,” has won every significant confrontation with the West, conquering foreign territory and humiliating presidents. Iran’s negotiators have outmaneuvered their Western interlocutors so spectacularly that they really don’t need Obama’s deal, having gotten most of what they needed: time and partial sanctions relief. And the Islamic State has confounded not only our elite’s prejudices about how the world should work, but demolished their platitudinous nonsense that “All men want peace.”

In fact, some men delight in inflicting grotesque forms of violence on others.

We face a new age of barbarism. And we’re led by those whose notion of violence is a rugby game at Princeton, who won’t let their children play unattended but deny the murderous impulses haunting humanity. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that the lack of a prep-school background and a Brooks Brothers charge account doesn’t mean that a thug with slovenly manners can’t change the world.

In 2014, The American Foreign Service Association asked the Obama administration to “raise the bar” on qualifications for diplomatic nominees, which shouldn’t be hard considering how low the bar has been set.

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U.S. President Barack Obama

 

The union representing America’s Foreign Service professionals has a novel idea — diplomatic nominees should have international experience and probably know a thing or two about the host country where they’re being assigned.

The recommendations were part of proposed diplomatic job qualifications put out Tuesday by the American Foreign Service Association, in a bid to increase pressure on the administration to raise the bar on the quality of its ambassadorial picks. The guidelines come after a string of rocky confirmation hearings for a few of President Obama’s diplomatic nominees, and amid heightened scrutiny of the time-honored presidential practice of selecting political donors and friends for these high-profile posts.

“It is essential … that ambassadors chosen to represent the president and lead our diplomatic missions possess the attributes, experience and skills to do so successfully,” the group said in its report published Tuesday.

Although the White House won’t confirm or deny whether big Obama campaign fundraisers are getting cushy diplomatic nominations, the evidence shows President Obama is paying his buddies back for their work to secure his re-election in 2012 (Obama also did the same after the 2008 election). At least three of President Obama’s latest ambassador nominees either know nothing about the country they are going to be working with or they’ve never visited the country they’ll be working with. A reminder of who Obama’s buddies are:

Throughout the course of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, we’ve seen major campaign donors coincidentally appointed to fill open ambassador seats, regardless of whether a donor has any knowledge or clue about the country they’re being tapped to work with.

Take for example George James Tsunis, a big Obama campaign bundler appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who knows nothing about Norway. American Foreign Service Association

Obama Donor Picked for Norwegian Ambassador Blows Basic Facts on Norway

 

 

Or how about Colleen Bell, who embarrassed herself during a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill after blowing basic questions about Hungary.

As Henri Barkey at the Washington Post relates, Bell – whose resume, aside from handling big wads of cash for Barack Obama’s political campaign, includes producing TV soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” – couldn’t answer basic questions about American strategic interests in Hungary, a NATO and EU member going through some troubling political crises at the moment.

Noah Mamet, who helped secure half a million dollars for Obama’s re-election, has been tapped to be the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Mamet has never been to Argentina.

The requirement of knowing basic facts about a country before becoming an ambassador seems like a joke, but in these cases the bar needs to be raised to that simple level of qualification because the bar isn’t even off the ground.

And no, this isn’t the first time the Foreign Service has expressed frustration with Obama’s political favors to friends through ambassadorships.

Despite promises to change how Washington works, Obama has actually perfected the game of giving political allies and donors key ambassadorships in countries like England, France, Japan, Spain, Finland, and Australia. And in the eyes of foreign service association, he’s become the worst abuser, putting political allies in 44 percent of the top 185 ambassadorial positions. By comparison, 30 percent of George W. Bush’s ambassadors were political appointees and 28 percent of Bill Clinton’s political allies and donors.

The American Foreign Service Association said in its new statement on ambassador appointments, “The appointment of non-career individuals, however accomplished in their own field, to lead America’s important diplomatic missions abroad should be exceptional and circumscribed, not the routine practice it has become over the last three decades. Over this period 85 percent of ambassadorial appointments to major European countries and Japan, and nearly 60 percent of appointments to a wider group of emerging global powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China, have been political.

 

Obama being worse than his predecessors when he promised he wouldn’t be? Nobody is surprised and it’s no wonder our foreign policy is such a disaster. President Obama wasn’t qualified to be the President of the United States and still made it, twice, why would he think his diplomatic nominees should be held to any different standard?

 

Judge Limits Evidence on Role of Main Perpetrator of Boston Marathon Bombings

 

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The federal trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Dzhokhar-Tsarnaev-yearbookTsarnaev got under way Wednesday amid extraordinary security surrounding the Boston courtroom, which was packed with reporters and victims of the April 15, 2013 bombings.

Boston police closed off streets that, even during major trials, are normally kept open. Barricades kept the public at a distance, while K-9 units guarded the building, a helicopter hovered overhead, and police boats stood by in Boston Harbor.

Even before the jurors were seated, Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. issued a ruling limiting the ability of lawyers for the 21-year-old defendant to discuss the role of his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in the planning and execution of the terrorist attack that killed three people and wounded another 264. The judge granted a prosecution motion to largely exclude evidence concerning the relationship between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar until the sentencing phase of the trial.

The ruling indicates the government’s intention to tightly control the information emerging from the proceedings so as to marginalize or exclude questions relating to extensive contacts over a period of years between the FBI and Tamerlan, who is believed to have organized the attack. The older Tsarnaev brother was killed in a shootout with police on April 19, 2013, four days after two pressure cooker bombs packed with nails and shrapnel were detonated near the downtown Boston finish line of the marathon.

In their opening statements to the jury, neither the prosecution nor defense lawyer referred to the still unexplained failure of federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department to prevent the bombings, even though the FBI and CIA had been warned multiple times by the Russian security service of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Islamist terrorist sympathies, the FBI had questioned the older brother and his parents, and Tamerlan had been placed on US terror watch lists.

Last year, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team filed papers with the court alleging that the FBI had attempted to recruit Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant. The defense has requested all information relating to the FBI’s investigation of the older brother, but the government has objected to the release of such documents.

The defendant is charged with more than 30 counts relating to the bombings, many of which carry the death penalty. The charges include the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman on the evening of April 18, three days after the bombings.

In 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In her opening statement, however, lead defense counsel Judy Clarke acknowledged that her client was involved in the terror attack. “It was him,” she told the jury. She called the bombings a “series of senseless, horribly misguided acts carried out by the two brothers,” and said Dzhokhar should be held accountable for his crime.

But she argued that her client had been lured and bullied into participating in the attack by his older brother, who was the author and chief protagonist of the crime. Clarke, who has represented defendants in a number of high-profile capital cases, is clearly seeking to convince the jury to spare her client’s life and instead sentence him to life imprisonment, the only alternative sentence if he is found guilty.

Prosecutor William Weinreb focused on the horror of the bombings and the terrible physical and emotional toll they took on innocent bystanders, including an eight-year-old child who was one of the three fatalities. He insisted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an independent actor, motivated by an Islamist extremist ideology and outrage over the US government’s treatment of Muslims around the world. His statement made clear that the government intends to seek the death penalty.

The Boston bombings became the occasion for the police-military lockdown of Boston and its environs, an area with over one million residents, on April 19, 2013, following the killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and escape of Dzhokhar. Boston and its surrounding communities were flooded with thousands of heavily armed police and National Guard troops. They occupied the streets, supported by machine-gun-mounted armored vehicles, Humvees and Black Hawk helicopters.

Residents were ordered to “shelter in place” while police, with automatic weapons drawn, carried out warrantless house-to-house searches. The mass transit system was shut down, passenger train service was halted, and businesses, schools, universities and other public facilities were closed.

It was an unprecedented police-state operation. As the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time, the scene resembled the American occupation of Baghdad. This massive mobilization of police power was deployed, supposedly, to track down one 19-year-old suspect.

Just as there was virtually no expression of opposition to this dry run for dictatorship by any section of the media or political establishment at the time, the lockdown of Boston has been omitted from current commentary on the opening of the trial. This makes all the more important the posing of some of the unanswered questions regarding the events of April 2013, which are likely to be excluded from the court proceedings as well as the media coverage of the trial.

These include:

· Why did the FBI and CIA fail to respond to warnings from Russia’s security agency FSB in 2011 and 2012 concerning Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s support for Islamist separatist and terrorist organizations in Russia’s North Caucasian regions of Chechnya and Dagestan? Why did they ignore Russia’s request that Tsarnaev be prevented from traveling to these regions?

· Why did the FBI clear Tamerlan Tsarnaev of harboring terrorist sympathies in 2011 after supposedly carrying out an intensive investigation? Why did the agency claim there was no “derogatory” information against him, even though it suspected him of having participated in the Waltham, Massachusetts murder of three Jewish men, including a “best friend,” on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks?

· Why was he allowed to travel to Dagestan in January of 2012, without even being questioned at the airport? He remained there for six months and reportedly made contact with Islamist groups that have carried out terror attacks against Russian targets. Why was he allowed to return to the US without even being stopped at the airport and questioned on his return?

· Why did the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department fail to inform their state and local counterparts on the Boston joint terrorism task force of their contacts with Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the Boston Marathon?

These unanswered questions strongly suggest that US intelligence was seeking to use Tamerlan Tsarnaev to further its covert anti-Russian operations among Chechen and Dagestan separatists. These regions also supplied many of the foreign fighters recruited by the CIA for its proxy war for regime change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This connection is underscored by another critical fact ignored by the US media—the role of Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers. In the 1990s, Tsarni ran a US group called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, which helped supply anti-Russian insurgents in Chechnya with military equipment. The organization was registered at the home of his father-in-law, Graham Fuller.

Fuller had been vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA under President Reagan, and had worked for the agency in a number of countries, including serving as CIA station chief in Kabul.

The Charlie Hedbo Rally: Media Distortions and Hypocrisy in Paris

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paris-march-jan11-2a-955px-400x209Sunday headlines said huge crowds massed in Paris. Protected by “unparalleled” security, according to AP. 

Including thousands of police and military forces. Along the two-mile Boulevarde Voltaire route marchers took.

An “unprecedented tribute,” said Reuters. Showing “unity and defiance,” claimed The New York Times.

“(S)olidarity following three days of terrorist attacks that badly shook the nation,” said the Washington Post.

“Paris displays defiance with huge rally,” headlined the Wall Street Journal.

“Paris urged to ‘come in numbers’ to defy Islamist terror,” said the Los Angeles Times.

London’s Guardian said one million “expected for anti-terror rally.”

Al Jazeera headlined “Huge crowds attend Paris solidarity rally.”

BBC said “Vast Paris rally…Unity after 17 people were killed during three days of deadly attacks.”

Le Figaro said “(A)ll major (Parisian) streets are saturated” leading to “place de la Republique.”

Le Monde headlined “(H)uge crowds marched against terrorism in Paris and France.”

An invitation circulating on social media said: “Indignation. Resistance. Solidarity, I am Charlie.”

Organizers said Sunday’s rally expressed solidarity for “freedom of the press. (F)reedom of speech. France won’t be cowed by terrorists.”

Around 40 world leaders attended. Reuters said 44. Some reports said 50. Including around two dozen Western European ones.

Current French President Francois Hollande and former president Nicolas Sarkozy were accompanied by Germany’s Angela Merkel. Britain’s David Cameron.

Spain’s Mariano Rajoy. Italy’s Matteo Renzi. EU Council President Donald Tusk. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker.

Other European leaders. Eight African ones. Outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder and US ambassador to France Jane Hartley representing America.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney represents Canada. Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman represent Israel.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov represents Russia. Putschist/oligarch president Petro Poroshenko represents Ukraine.

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoletenberg is there. So is European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas arrived.

One source lists the following participating countries in alphabetical order:

Albania. Algeria. Austria. Belgium. Benin. Britain. Bulgaria. Canada. Croatia. Czech Republic. Denmark. Gabon. Egypt. Finland. Georgia.

Germany. Greece. Hungary. Israel. Jordan. Latvia. Niger. Mali. Palestine. Poland. Portugal. Romania. Russia. Spain. Sweden. Switzerland.

The Netherlands. Tunisia. Turkey. United Arab Emirates. Ukraine. United States.

To encourage turnout, public transport into and throughout Paris is free on Sunday. International train operator Thalys cut fares to the capital.

Right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen urged her supporters to rally outside Paris. In retaliation for exclusion from event preparations.

French officials condemned Paris killings. The way US ones denounced the deaths of New York police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

“(M)ourning the loss of these brave souls,” said New York Governor  Andrew Cuomo. Vice President Biden joined him on site. Obama sent a message of condolence.

In response to last week’s Paris killings, he ludicrously called them “an attack on journalists…on our free press … underscor(ing) the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom.”

“(O)ur thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who’ve been lost in France, and with the people of Paris and the people of France.”

Obama’s comments are rife with hypocrisy. Other Western leaders voice similar Big Lies.

Israel’s Netanyayu is a serial liar. US-led NATO leaders and Netanyahu are war criminals multiple times over.

Who mourns for millions US-dominated NATO victims? Murdered in cold blood? Noncombatant men, women and children.

Lost Palestinian lives. Slaughtered by Israel. Others ruthlessly persecuted.

What about on average one defenseless Black youth per day killed by US cops?

Who holds solidarity marches for justice? Mourns victims. Supports surviving family members. Rallies for justice.

Demands state-sponsored terrorism end. The madness of one imperial war after another. Senseless slaughter and destruction.

Trillions of dollars down a black hole of war profiteering, waste, fraud and abuse. Wars are dirty. Merciless. Unjust. Lawless.

Good ones don’t exist. Poet Robert Burns said “(m)ore inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”

“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” Out of sight and mind worldwide. Every day of the year.

Who notices their suffering? Who explains their grief? Who televises it?

What world leaders express solidarity? Which ones demand no more wars?

George Santanyana said “(o)nly the dead have seen the end of war.”

Howard Zinn denounced the myth of good wars. Preventing peace. Perpetuating violence.

WW II was worst of all. WW III if waged will be the war to end all future ones. Today’s destructive WMDs can end life on earth.

Zinn said “(w)e need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children.”

No “flag (is) large enough to cover the shame of killing (millions) of innocent people.”

Over a century ago, Mark Twain expressed outrage about America slaughtering Filipinos. Things were like today on a smaller scale.

Imperial conquest is vicious. Having nothing to do with liberating oppressed people.

Or championing democracy. Free expression. A free press. Freedom of assembly, association, and religion.

The right of people to hold ruling authorities accountable. Receive redress for grievances. Institute governance of, by and for everyone. Equitably and just. A new dawn.

Mark Twain said “I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines.”

“We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.”

“And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

“We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields, burned their villages, turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors, (and) subjugated the remaining ten million by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket…”

He proposed a new American flag. Envisioning one “with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.”

Appalled that General Jacob Smith ordered his troops to “kill and burn.”

“(T)his is no time to take prisoners,” he said. (T)he more you kill and burn, the better.”

“Kill all above the age of ten. (T)urn (the Philippines into) a howling wilderness.”

Wars are lunatic acts. Resolving nothing. Preventing any hope for peace. Begetting endless violence.

Waging perpetual wars reflects official US policy. Crimes of war, against humanity and genocide follow. Millions of corpses attest to America’s barbarity.

Paris mourns 17 lost lives. Avoidable tragedies. Victims deserving to live. Get equitable and just treatment.

Who mourns for the daily victims of US-dominated NATO ruthlessness? From ongoing imperial direct and proxy wars.

Endless ones. Countless millions affected worldwide. The dead, dying, mutilated, suffering, deprived and exploited.

Who rallies on their behalf? Who demands lawless imperial slaughter end? Who accepts nothing less than peace, equity and justice?

Who puts their bodies on the line for them? Who resists growing tyranny in Western societies?

Who fights for democratic freedoms fast slipping away? Who demands responsible governments replace ill-serving ones? Who goes all out for what matters most?

Public rallies achieve nothing. Nor high-minded rhetoric. Committed grassroots activism for change alone works.

Sustained for the long haul. No matter the cost. The alternative is continued subjugation. Ruler/serf societies. Ones unfit to live in.

The kind Washington intends instituting worldwide. Unless mass public outrage stops it once and for all.

Rally for right over wrong daily. Support what matters most. Forget about Je suis Charlie.

Propaganda rubbish shoved down our throats. By Western oppressors vital to oppose. The fundamental issue of our time!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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