Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.


 
Friday, July 21, 2006

Politics of the Day


Whether or not you think Hezbollah had it coming, Israel overreacted, whatever - I think we can all agree: there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of basically innocent people paying a very, very steep price in Lebanon.

"..."They evacuate the foreigners, bring them to safety, and they leave us like dogs in the street," said Therese Khairallah, sitting with friends in an alley near the seashore. "A small mistake turned into this mountain of a disaster, and we're the victims."

I think it's morally bankrupt (not to mention absolutely, astoundingly bizarre) of the American left to pretend to have no opinion.

It is a microcosm of American politics. It tells us a great deal about just why and how the (far, far) right keeps "winning" - because the left is basically too wimpy to stand up for anything. And so it's no wonder no one really takes the American left seriously - what little spine they have is so easily broken.

But the real point is that there's no better way to breed fanaticism than to destroy the basic institutions of the state (while calling it "liberation" or "democracy building", etc).

Just look at Iraq, for example. More people are now killed in Iraq every month than Saddam killed an entire decade.

In fact, the daily or per capita murder/death rate in Iraq is in fact greater than in most of the civil wars in history. And the stage is being set for exactly the same dynamic in Lebanon.

So I can't help but point out what the the Lebanese PM said:

"..."Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of the citizens of other countries? Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by Israel is inflicted on us?

"Will you allow innocent civilians, churches, mosques, orphanages, medical supplies escorted by the Red Cross, people seeking shelter or fleeing their homes and villages to be the casualties of this ugly war?
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

"Is this what the international community calls self-defense?

"Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions? Is this the message to send to the country of diversity, freedom and tolerance?

"Only last year, the Lebanese filled the streets with hope and with red, green and white banners shouting out: Lebanon deserves life!

"What kind of life is being offered to us now?

"I will tell you what kind: a life of destruction, despair, displacement, dispossession, and death.

"What kind of future can stem from the rubble?

"A future of fear, frustration, despair, financial ruin and fanaticism."

-- umair // 11:55 AM // 12 comments


Comments:

More people are now killed in Iraq every month than Saddam killed an entire decade.

Is that true? Most reports I see indicate Saddam having killed tens of thousands of Iraquis.

Ex: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-04-13-saddam-secrets-usat_x.htm
// Anonymous Anonymous // 7:15 PM
 

Hey Anon,

FYI, the link you sent actually has no real numbers in it - just the illusion of numbers ("believed to have", etc).

But to be honest, it doesn't really matter whether it's a decade, year, month, or day.

The point is that by destroying Iraq's institutions, we have made the average Iraqi no better off, because they're still being killed at a rate that's >= than it's been for decades.
// Blogger umair // 11:28 AM
 

Good on you Umair, for putting yourself on the line on this issue. Too few of your countrymen have the same courage or insight.
// Blogger Simon Edhouse // 11:45 AM
 

Hey Simon,

Thx for the kind words. But am not sure I'm taking a stand as much as pointing out the obvious. There's no better way to breed "terrorism" than to create failed states - that's how this whole mess started, in fact; in the ultimate failed state (Saudi).

Thx for the comment.
// Blogger umair // 6:40 PM
 

There is a strong assumption in English speaking Governments and media that Israel's interests and the West's interests are the same.

This is simply not true. Israel has been a terrible ally for the West. It is has sucked us into a terrible maelstrom of violence and counter violence that is arguably of it�s own making and has clearly been a disaster for both Israel and the Arabs.

I think a lot of the blame for this disaster is due to the emotional, belief driven, value based thinking going on in the military and executive branches right now.

If you describe your opponents as evil terrorists then you have painted yourself into an intellectual corner. You can�t talk to terrorists, you can�t understand terrorists, you can�t negotiate with terrorists all you can do is kill them.

This thinking justifies the most terrible atrocities imaginable.

When you shell a family on a Gaza beach it's because they are suspected terrorists. When you blow up houses in the West Bank with women and children inside it is because they are potential Terrorist sniper points. When you abandon the Geneva Convention and hold men, women and children in prison for many years it is because they are terrorist suspects and sympathisers. When you blow up a power station, and government building in Gaza it is because you are destroying the infrastructure of terror.

Even worse, from a purely pragmatic point of view, this thinking closes down nearly all of your strategic options for developing peace and security with the Arab world.

The US needs to disengage from Israels war with the Arab community. Most of all US strategists need to disengage from Israeli language and thinking about the world.

What we need is a return to a rational, pragmatic, results oriented way of thinking about the world. This will dramatically increase our strategic options for peace and security.
// Anonymous Murray // 3:01 AM
 

Umair, your biz sensibilities are cutting-edge and I enjoy reading them from here in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

But you really don't know what you don't know about American politics.

To wit:


It tells us a great deal about just why and how the (far, far) right keeps "winning" - because the left is basically too wimpy to stand up for anything. And so it's no wonder no one really takes the American left seriously - what little spine they have is so easily broken.


Not quite.

The actual reason the left keeps losing-- and they do lose, every single time, save in municipal elections in aberrant U.S. locales like San Francisco-- is because we Americans are an optimistic lot.

We don't EVER vote for liberals-- remember, even Bill Clinton couldn't get 50% of the U.S. vote-- mainly because we aren't self-loathing like Europeans. On national security, we don't doubt that ours is the moral high ground when we're sparring with, say, the communists, Saddam Hussein or Islamofascist Hizbollah.

Accordingly, we don't take well to (liberal) U.S. politicians who effectively cheer against our military.

The same goes for self-righteous Europeans from countries (not yours) patently incapable of defending themselves, when they aren't conspiring with terrorists behind the West's back to make their cronies a little cheddar.

The bottom line?

Americans don't want megalomaniac leaders in Iran or Iraq to have nukes. So if they are trying to get them, we need to nip it in the bud. Once they have them, it is too late.

Sure, there may be some "global" debate about how "capable" a rogue state really is at some given moment. But we don't and shouldn't care. Not one bit. And-- here's the important point-- our politicians especially shouldn't care. Their obligation is to the folks who elected them, period.

So the benefit of the doubt goes to own safety. Our pols are elected to protect Peoria, not give a second chance to some tough-talking mullah in Tehran, as liberals are wont to do.

This is nothing new, of course. It's hardly a "post 9/11" sensibility. Even the anti-Vietnam candidate got slaughtered when he ran for President. With national security as an issue, Bush won-- handily-- and we elected a hawkish GOP Congress-- handily.

No "quotes" required.

As for your "basic insitutions of the state" fantasy, I have to wonder-- would you have set up shop in Baghdad ever-- pre-or-post Saddam?

Would you live in any non-democracy, for that matter?

I wouldn't. And I wouldn't suppose that the Iraqi or Iranian people deserve less from life than I do.

No, we wouldn't likely be solving their problem had their leaders not threatened the West. But we're doing it now-- and I'm not the only one who considers this a positive side effect
// Anonymous brian // 6:12 AM
 

Umair, your biz sensibilities are cutting-edge and I enjoy reading them from here in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

But you really don't know what you don't know about American politics.

To wit:


It tells us a great deal about just why and how the (far, far) right keeps "winning" - because the left is basically too wimpy to stand up for anything. And so it's no wonder no one really takes the American left seriously - what little spine they have is so easily broken.


Not quite.

The actual reason the left keeps losing-- and they do lose, every single time, save in municipal elections in aberrant U.S. locales like San Francisco-- is because we Americans are an optimistic lot.

We don't EVER vote for liberals-- remember, even Bill Clinton couldn't get 50% of the U.S. vote-- mainly because we aren't self-loathing like Europeans. On national security, we don't doubt that ours is the moral high ground when we're sparring with, say, the communists, Saddam Hussein or Islamofascist Hizbollah.

Accordingly, we don't take well to (liberal) U.S. politicians who effectively cheer against our military.

The same goes for self-righteous Europeans from countries (not yours) patently incapable of defending themselves, when they aren't conspiring with terrorists behind the West's back to make their cronies a little cheddar.

The bottom line?

Americans don't want megalomaniac leaders in Iran or Iraq to have nukes. So if they are trying to get them, we need to nip it in the bud. Once they have them, it is too late.

Sure, there may be some "global" debate about how "capable" a rogue state really is at some given moment. But we don't and shouldn't care. Not one bit. And-- here's the important point-- our politicians especially shouldn't care. Their obligation is to the folks who elected them, period.

So the benefit of the doubt goes to own safety. Our pols are elected to protect Peoria, not give a second chance to some tough-talking mullah in Tehran, as liberals are wont to do.

This is nothing new, of course. It's hardly a "post 9/11" sensibility. Even the anti-Vietnam candidate got slaughtered when he ran for President. With national security as an issue, Bush won-- handily-- and we elected a hawkish GOP Congress-- handily.

No "quotes" required.

As for your "basic insitutions of the state" fantasy, I have to wonder-- would you have set up shop in Baghdad ever-- pre-or-post Saddam?

Would you live in any non-democracy, for that matter?

I wouldn't. And I wouldn't suppose that the Iraqi or Iranian people deserve less from life than I do.

No, we wouldn't likely be solving their problem had their leaders not threatened the West. But we're doing it now-- and I'm not the only one who considers this a positive side effect
// Anonymous brian // 6:14 AM
 

Brian,

Political discussions can often be heated, so I'm going to attempt not to not be insulting in what I say. Having said that, based on what I'm about to say, that might be difficult, so take this with the best intentions...

To say Americans are optimistic is laughable...unless of course you define optimism as a political system driven by the fear of over-hyped enemies, a culture driven by distrust and an economy supported by the production of weapons and affiliated systems.

Regardless, it's always interesting to watch Americans accuse crazy mullah here or insane war monger dictator there of 'being a threat'. It's also instructive to note that Americans not only do not have a clue to the history of the regions about which they talk but also don't seem to care.

Take your Iran/Iraq examples:

I'm not sure how anybody can really consider Iran/Iraq a threat to the largest armed force history has ever seen. Regardless, the tyrant in Iraq and Islamo-fascists in Iran are a result of your country's direct involvement.

The democractically elected leader of Iran in the 1950s was removed through a coup lead by US and British intelligence. The result was typical, the Shah took over, backed by his buddies in the west, opening the Iranian oil fields to BP and Shell, and creating a corrupt and destabilizing government. Twenty years later the people of Iran revolted. As a side note, when these countries have revolutions, do you think they just randomly pick the US embassy as a target? It's interesting how Americans have a severe case of "why do they hate us?". Read history, you'll understand why they hate you.

So now the US has a crazy nut job in Iran...what to do, what do? The solution? Provide arms to the other crazy nut job next door in Iraq, so he can start a bloody 7yr war to try to teach those crazy Iranians a lesson about messing with US interests.

See a pattern here?

What's the point?

Your leaders are crazy megalomaniacs as well...unfortunately you already have nukes. This is the problem. You see most Americans are as brainwashed as the islamic fundamentalists who blow themselves up on the streets of Baghdad. The difference being, thanks to the ridiculous sums of money you spend on war machines as opposed to solving the world's problems, you can sit in your house, watch your tv, and let other people take care of 'problems'. The people in the middle east don't have this luxury, so they revert to more immediate means.

And a couple final points...

It's possible that Europeans are 'self-loathing' because they've seen first hand what uncontrolled imperialism can do to the world. It's a pitty Americans don't have the courage to see the same truths.

Bombing a country into the middle ages, based on the actions of some radicals operating in that country, is well, very American. Unfortunately, it's wrong and probably criminal. If the world was a fair and balanced place, GWB and whatever whack job is running the IDF would be defendants in a war crimes court.

Instead of seeing the real story here, you spend your time arguing about definitions. Liberal this, conservative that. But do you really think you're solving their problems???
// Blogger dhd // 7:05 PM
 

dhd-- on the subject of labels, I was addressing Umair's commentary on the failure of liberals in America. And I'm well aware of the "real story."

It's just that we're both reading from different history books.

In mine, after Europe appeases Hitler, the U.S. has to save the world from the Nazis (not even a thank you?), an aggressive Japan and then the Communists, the latter requiring a few unholy alliances in Middle Eastern states like Iran & Iraq.

Today, Nazism is only hot among unemployed Germans, the Japanese have stopped trying to conquer the Far East but make killer cars (I have one) and electronics, and best of all, Big Red is dead.

I think I speak for an overwhelming majority of Americans when I say that however we tubed Mohammad Mosaddeq and everyone else sucking up to the Soviets, it was well worth it.

As for "why they hate us"?

Well-- let's see. Our country is populated by the ex-have-nots of Europe and everywhere else and their crummy ancestors (I'm from that booming island of Sicily), yet thanks to the American Way, we outpace all those place we left behind in every measurable way.

America is richer and more powerful than the continent that seeded it, now an unavoidable force to even the most determined European, culturally and economically. But what really irks is that U.S. citizens don't care a lick about Europe, as it is a non-factor in their daily lives.

You know the adage-- the opposite of love isn't hate, it's ambivalence. That explains your issues.

As for the Arabs and Persians, I chalk it up to raw humiliation.

It's easy to understand, when one considers that we and the Brits discovered the oil they were goat herding atop and gave it to them (again, no thank you?). Yet now 300 million strong, they still cannot muster up a collective GDP bigger than Spain?

It suggests that something else might be amiss. Could it be nationalist socialism? Islamofascism? Or simply Islam itself?

Indeed, that prevailing faith-- Islam-- is fairly incongruent with democracy and freedom when accepted at face value. Muslim-majority nations aren't exactly burning up the patent queue or the Amazon best-seller list, which is something, considering that centuries ago, these folks were on top of the world and the West was in the Dark Ages.

Now they're relegated to cursing George Bush when they aren't gobbling Halal McDonalds and listening to Lionel Richie.

My dream is that someday, they'll all be a ten minute drive from Wal-Mart and an Applebee's. Like the Japanese and Jews who survived the Holocaust, they'll then thank our "War Machine" for giving them the opportunity to live in freedom.

And they'll express the same amazement about France, Germany and the others that we reserve today for Neville Chamberlain.
// Anonymous brian // 5:09 AM
 

It's educational how enshrined your vision of 'America the saviour' is. I assume you're educated in the US.

I'm not sure if a war that started well before the US even turned to look can be considered 'appeasement'. It took an attack from Japan to bring the US into the war. Is this lost on you? I can't even begin to follow the logic here, it's just typical propaganda you'd find in a texas textbook.

It's also pretty clear to most people who look at the difference between the US and Europe today that the US had it a little easier than Europe in WWII (possibly one of the greatest understatements ever). Europe was decimated. The US didn't see any hostility on its land, save for Pearl Harbour of course. Assume in some twisted way, you're right and America saved the world, the universe likely... it's too bad the US then promptly proceeded to fuck the world up. South America, the middle east, where does it stop?

Essentially it's free market fascism. Be like us or suffer! Open your markets so we can rape your lands, create substandard working conditions for your people, and bully/corrupt/bribe your governments into turning a blind eye.

I've also heard the 'what have they done for us lately' argument before. It seems you've been watching Fox. So our definition of who we should respect as human beings and who we should treat as animals ready for the slaughter is based on what they've contributed to the world. No, it's even more simple, what's their gross domestic product??? Well, I guess that sends Africa to shit. Bomb them next...I hear there are muslims over there and resources for the plundering.

It seems you alter the facts of history to fit your needs. For example, Mossadeq was in power in the early 50's. It's a little too early to be calling him a suck up to the evil USSR. In fact, Iran spent most of the late 40's and early 50's kicking the Russians out (this is why Azerbaijan exists today). What REALLY happened is Mossadeq nationalized Iran's oil industry (which wasn't discovered by the British and most definitely not the Americans). This lead to his downfall at the hands of the US and directly caused the lunacy that followed. The US can't allow a country to control it's own resources...that just doesn't make sense. People might start to prosper, other forms of government might take hold, muslims might have a say.

You're right, we have two history books. Mine is based on at least a basic form of reality. Yours is likely pasted together from such illuminated sources as American textbooks, Fox news, Official press releases from the White House, the local bigot at the pub, etc.

I'm not European by the way, don't assume I have to be. And no we don't thank you, the world would be a better place if Americans actually did take the time to care about Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter. The US has the potential for so much good but it's lost in a cloud of arrogant, self-serving, corrupt imperialism.
// Blogger dhd // 3:05 AM
 

There's no such thing as "free market fascism," anymore than there is Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

The world likes America's stuff. They like the quality, the innovation, and the price, so they pay up-- gladly.

All the same, Middle Eastern nations took Western $$ and know-how to build their oil industries because they needed it, not because we forced ourselves upon them. Without us, lots of goat-herding and hand-woven rugs, but no Aramco. No real cash.

The ex-socialist mullahs and sheiks themselves would, no doubt, be most broken up about this. Despite their rhetoric, they live the highest high-life and don't exactly share the wealth like Marx drew it up.

I understand that you feel personally guilty or envious about the success and unrivaled ingenuity of the U.S. economy, the strength of its military, and the overpowering allure of our culture.

But there's no doubt-- if we opened our borders and offered the world a ride, we'd be a two billion strong as fast as they could sail. Doesn't the world voting with its feet count for something?

We don't favor a religion (Iran/KSA) or a culture (France). We don't stop entrepreneurs from going for it (Italy) or muzzle those who disagree with the prevailing powers-that-be (China). This partially explains how a nation founded by "have-nots" is now stuffed with so many self-made "haves."

Call me a "bigot," arrogant and uninformed, but two generations removed from a hand-to-mouth olive farmer, I live in one of the most diverse and dynamic cities on earth, where the free market of opinion and ideas is as rigorous as anywhere.

The U.S. didn't "fuck up" the world-- dehumanizing collectivist ideology did.
// Anonymous brian // 5:38 AM
 

Brian, I agree, your cock is bigger. Btw, Iceland....yes yes...that little shithole up north, and it is a country, no, not the same as India, What? No, they dont ride on elephants and whales, lol. Ofcourse they dont deserve sharing the same ozone, they lack the rigour of choosing good names. I prove my intelligence by having the last word, press that goddamn red button already.
// Anonymous United Stats Of America // 3:08 PM
 
 

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