The Shifting Borders of Eastern Europe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2014

History 101

By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde took all of Kievan Rus

Vladimir Putin took Crimea from Ukraine.  Because he said the people there are more Russian than Ukrainian.  The people there wanted to be a part of Russia instead of Ukraine.  And that the land historically has belonged to Russia.  But that’s not true.  Yes, if you go back in time the land was Russian.  But if you go further back it wasn’t.  In fact the borders of Eastern Europe have changed so much that today’s borders bear little resemblance to what they have been over time.  You can watch 1,000 years of this change play out in a video on Loiter.co (see Watch as 1000 years of European borders change).  We’ll recap some of the changes in century intervals.

In the early 1100s the Western Roman Empire was gone.  In its place was the Holy Roman Empire stretching from central Italy to the North Sea.  Spain was mostly Muslim.  France was taking shape.  The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was still in modern day Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.  Going north there was Hungary.  Then Poland.  And Lithuania.  To the east of these countries was the large expanse of Kievan Rus.  Modern day Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.  And the Crimea was held by the Turkic Cumans.  But this land would change hands many times in the centuries to come.

By 1200 the Byzantine Empire moved further north into the Balkans.  While the Muslims moved into Byzantine territory from the south.  Hungary, Poland and Lithuania adjusted their borders slightly.  The Holy Roman Empire pushed further west in Europe.  The Cumans pushed into southern Kievan Rus.  While Kievan Rus moved south between the Black and Caspian seas.  By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde (northwest part of the Mongol Empire) took all of Kievan Rus.  Hungary pushed out her borders while Poland shrank hers.  With East Prussia taking her northern lands.  Lithuania reshaped her borders in part to East Prussia.  The Byzantine Empire was reduced to a small area of the southern Balkans.  The Mongols were in Crimea.

Russia, Prussia and Hungary reduced Poland to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by 1800

By 1400 the Ottoman Empire had replaced the Byzantines in the Balkans.  Hungary adjusted her borders a little.  East Prussia remained the same.  Poland and Lithuania had joined in a commonwealth and pushed their border south and east.  Into the lands that were once Kievan Rus.  Except for Crimea and the area just north of Crimea.  Pushing the Mongols east.  As the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy pushed down on the Mongols from the north.  By 1500 the Ottoman Empire pushed further into southern Europe.  Into Hungary.  Crimea.  And Poland-Lithuania.  Which pushed north into East Prussia.  While Russia replaced the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy and pushed south into Poland-Lithuania.

By 1600 the Ottoman Empire adjusted her northern borders a little.  Poland replaced the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth.  And pushed her border slightly east into Russia.  Russia pushed her southern border to the Caspian Sea.  Sweden was across the Baltic Sea into modern day Finland and Estonia.  On Russia’s most western border.  By 1700 Hungary had pushed the Ottoman Empire back into the Balkans.  Prussia formed on the Baltic Sea west of Poland.  With East Prussia to the east of Poland on the Baltic Sea.  The Russian Empire pushed west to the Baltic Sea.  Pushing the Swedes out of Estonia and part of Finland.  Russia had also pushed south through Lithuania and pushed deep into Poland.  The Ottoman Empire was still on the northern side of the Black Sea at Russia’s southern border.

By 1800 the Russian Empire had pushed their southern border all the way to the Black Sea.  Pushing the Ottoman Empire back.  The Russians also pushed their southern border further south between the Black and Caspian seas.  They pushed west through modern day Finland to the sea.  They pushed their western border through half of what was Poland.  Hungary pushed north into what was Poland.  Prussia and East Prussia joined together, taking land from Poland on the Baltic Sea.  Russia, Prussia and Hungary left little of Poland.   What was left of her lands became the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

Vladimir Putin has said one of the Greatest Catastrophes of the 20th Century was the Collapse of the Soviet Union

By 1900 the Ottoman Empire was pushed almost completely out of the Balkans.  Greece and Bulgaria were now on the lands the Ottomans once held.  Russia pushed their southern border between the Black and Caspian seas further into the Ottoman Empire.  Hungary pushed her southern border to Greece and Bulgaria.  And west into Austria (which would later form the Austria-Hungary Empire).  The Germanic states had formed into a greater Germany that stretched from France to Russia.  Absorbing the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  And even pushing into Russia’s western border.

Then came World War I.  And afterwards the borders of Europe were greatly changed.  The Austria-Hungary Empire was broken into Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  The eastern half (approximately) of the greater Germany was given to a reconstituted Poland.  With East Prussia bordering Poland on the north and separated from Germany (Hitler’s opening shots in World War II was to recover this lost territory).   To the north of Poland and East Prussia were Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  Russia was now the Soviet Union with her western border pushed slightly back from where it was before World War I.  Bordering Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania in the west.  And pushed back out of Finland.  The Soviet southern border between the Black and Caspian seas was pushed back a little.  And Turkey replaced what was left of the Ottoman Empire.

After World War II the Soviet Union pushed her border through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the Baltic Sea.  After the Soviet Union fell Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored their borders.  And the former lands of the Kievan Rus are now divided between Russia in the north and east.  Belarus between Poland and Russia.  And Ukraine bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west.  The Black Sea to the south.  And Russia to the east.  With Crimea a part of Ukraine.  Well, until recently, that is.  As Russia has recently annexed Crimea.  And may be looking further west.  For this former KGB officer—Vladimir Putin—has said one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Which he began to put back together with his annexation of Crimea.

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Things go from Bad to Worse in the Middle East as American Allies fall on Opposite Sides of the Egyptian Power Struggle

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2013

Week in Review

Some may think the Middle East is a homogenous region.  Where all Muslim people are the same and think alike.  But it’s not.  And they’re not.  There are huge divides between people in the Middle East.  There isn’t just tension between the United States and this region.  There’s tension between the different Muslim people.  Something President Obama apparently didn’t know with his ‘let’s make nice to Muslims so our former enemies don’t hate us’ foreign policy.  The geopolitical power struggles that exist everywhere else in the world exist, too, in the Middle East.  And you just can’t treat everyone the same (see Obama Caught Between Polarized Allies in Egypt Crisis by Terry Atlas posted 4-19-2013 on Bloomberg).

U.S. regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey are backing opposite sides in the violent power struggle in Egypt, complicating U.S. diplomacy as the most populous Arab nation is torn by conflict.

In pressing Egypt’s interim government — and the military leaders who hold the real power — for political reconciliation with Islamist protesters, President Barack Obama is finding that U.S. influence is being challenged by financial and political support from Middle East countries pursuing their own stakes in Egypt’s future…

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged billions of dollars in aid to the new Egyptian government. Qatar was a financial backer of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s administration, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced last week’s government crackdown on pro-Mursi protesters as a “massacre.”

“What Qatar and Turkey say is almost a 180-degree opposite of what the Emirates and the Saudis are saying publicly,” Katulis said.

There was a balance of power in the Middle East.  And because there was a balance of power there was peace in the Middle East.  And there was one man instrumental in keeping that peace.  Hosni Mubarak.  American friend and ally.  And friend of our other friends and allies in the region.  Those who want to maintain the balance of power.  And the peace.  And our friends were not happy when President Obama told Hosni Mubarak he had to go.  Especially Saudi Arabia.  Who is trying to check the spread of radical Islamism spreading in the region.  Something Mubarak did.  Because he and his allies and friends didn’t want radical Islamism spreading through the region.  And neither does the United States.

Yet President Obama threw the one man that was instrumental in suppressing Islamist revolution in the region, by suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, under the bus.  And did nothing as the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power.  Even recognizing the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood as the legitimate ruler of Egypt.  Despite warnings from every quarter.  As the Muslim Brotherhood inspired/spawned Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.  All anti-Western terrorist organizations.  All anti-Israeli terrorist organizations.  And all anti-American terrorist organizations.  These are the people that President Obama said the U.S. can work with.  Despite their credo being: “God is our objective, the Koran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.”  These are the people that President Obama wanted to make nice to so they would stop hating us.  Because he was naive and inexperienced.  And tended to believe a little too much of the myth-making the American media was spreading about him.

The balance of power and the peace it brought is now gone.  And the U.S. has allies falling on both sides of the Egyptian power struggle.  What a mess.  And it’s not isolated to Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood is spreading its tentacles throughout the region.  Making the Middle East a tinderbox.  Where it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.  Sadly.

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The Iraqis Support Capitalism while Hugo Chavez and Nancy Pelosi Support the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 8th, 2011

Iraq wants American Technology because neither Cuba nor Venezuela gave the World the iPhone

Some say we invade other countries militarily so we can conquer them with corporate imperialism.  Such as the Iraq War.  It was about getting Iraqi oil.  And letting Halliburton lose to rape and pillage at will.  Well, oil prices shot to their highest during the U.S. ‘occupation’.  And Iraq isn’t covered with McDonalds, KFCs and Wal-Marts yet.  In fact, their ain’t much American corporate imperialism going on in the least.  Much to the chagrin of many Iraqis (see If U.S. Leaves Vacuum in Iraq, Iran’s Deep Influence May Not Fill It by Tim Arango posted 10/8/2011 on The New York Times).

Mr. Sharba continued: “We wish that American companies would come here. I wish the American relationship was that, instead of troops, it would be companies.” Mr. Sharba is a cleric, and he spent 14 years in Iran in exile during Mr. Hussein’s government…

But the troublemaking does not extend to the more important arena of commerce, officials say. “Because of the political sensitivities of Iran, many people say Iran is controlling the economy of Iraq,” said Sami al-Askari, a member of Parliament and a close confidant to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. “No, the Turks are…”

Iran has also been trying to make inroads culturally, but it is bumping up against the same uneasiness that Iraqis have toward Iran’s business efforts. This year Iran negotiated a deal to refurbish several movie theaters in Baghdad that have been dark for years. Yet the renovations have yet to get under way, and officials say they wish it were the Americans — and their technology — involved in the project. “If a person asks me, who do I want to come help me? I wish that the Americans, by occupying Iraq, would support the culture and theater,” said Fuad Thanon, the head of Iraq’s national theater.

So it’s not the Americans reaping the spoils of war.  It’s the Turks.  And Turkey is doing this because America has chosen not to, apparently.  And the Iranians just plain suck at business.  Which one would expect in a theocracy.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors may hate corporate America and their remarkable technology.  But the Iraqis don’t.  They want it.  Because it’s the best.  I mean, they’re not clamoring for that good Cuban technology.  Or that good Venezuelan technology.  You know why?  Well, suffice it to say that neither Cuba nor Venezuela gave the world the iPhone.

There are more Blacks in the Tea Party than in Nancy Pelosi’s Neighborhood

They say you can judge a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps.  So let’s apply that to the Occupy Wall Street protestors.  Who is the latest to throw her support behind this anti-capitalism mob?  None other than Nancy Pelosi.  One of the most liberal members in the House of Representatives (see Nancy Pelosi Backs Occupy Wall Street Message, Tells Eric Cantor To Shove It by Zeke Miller posted 10/8/2011 on Business Insider).

In an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour, House Minority Leader Nancy said she supports the message of the Occupy Wall Street protesters that “change has to happen.”

So it’s clear.  Nancy Pelosi is against capitalism.  This comes as no shock.  For she has been against capitalism for years.  She prefers the doling out of privilege.  Where liberal wealth can be confined to her and her liberal friends.  In one of the richest and most exclusive congressional districts in America.  And one of the whitest.  It’s rather ironic, isn’t it?  She calls the Tea Party racist.  Yet there are more blacks in the Tea Party than in her own neighborhood.

“I didn’t hear him say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol. And he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them. But let’s not get down to that.”

There have been a lot of Tea Party rallies.  A lot of film covering these rallies.  And yet they never captured this spitting incident.  Or any racial hate speech.  You know why?  Because there was no spitting.  And the percentage of racists in the Tea Party is probably less than the national average.  Why, I bet Pelosi’s neighborhood has a higher percentage of racists than the Tea Party has.  And it’s probably higher than the national average.  Because it’s sooo white.  At least that’s what Nancy Pelosi would be saying if it were a Republican district.

If both Pelosi and Chavez support these Wall Street Protestors they can’t be Good for America

Nancy Pelosi is no friend of laissez faire capitalism.  So it’s no surprise that she supports the anti-capitalist protest on Wall Street.  And it’s no surprise that this guy supports it, too (see Hugo Chavez condemns ‘horrible repression’ of Wall Street protests by Enrique Andres Pretel, Reuters, posted 10/8/2011 on The Globe and Mail).

Not surprisingly, Mr. Chavez expressed solidarity with American activists who have been staging rallies and marches against what they view as corporate greed by Wall Street…

Mr. Chavez, who runs for re-election in a year’s time and traditionally ramps up his anti-capitalist rhetoric to try and rally supporters before a vote, also let rip at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who referred to the “malign socialism” of Cuba and Venezuela in a speech on Friday.

That’s why the Iraqis aren’t asking for Venezuelan technology.  They want the best.  And the best comes where capitalism is freest.  Not constrained and maligned.  As in Venezuela.

So Nancy Pelosi and Hugo Chavez see eye to eye on the anti-capitalism protests on Wall Street.  They are simpatico.  They hate capitalism.  They both support the Occupy Wall Street people.  And Chavez hates America.  I’m not saying anything.  But people do judge you by the company you keep.

Since coming to power in 1999, Mr. Chavez has sought to project himself as a leader of a global “anti-imperialist” movement.

He and allies in the ruling Socialist Party have been gloating over economic and social problems in the United States and Europe as evidence of capitalism’s impending downfall.

“Poverty’s growing, the misery is getting worse,” he said, referring to the causes of the U.S. protests. “But that empire is still there, still a threat … (President Barack) Obama is on his way down, for lots of reasons. He was a big fraud.”

Hugo Chavez is no friend of the United States.  Even the Soviets didn’t take such glee in American economic unrest.  Sure, they wanted to win the Cold War.  But not if it imperiled their U.S. food imports.  Which they were dependent on to keep famine at bay.  And this in the country with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  What we call the breadbasket of Europe.  The Ukraine.  But communism just didn’t work.  So they had to import that capitalistic grain.  Despite that great soil.  And a great people.

You know, it just doesn’t look good when you are on the same side of an issue with someone who wants to destroy America.  And if both Pelosi and Chavez support these Wall Street protestors, these protestors can’t be good for America.

These Anti-American People either know Capitalism is the Best Economic System or are just Too Stupid to Know Better

So we didn’t invade Iraq to spread corporate imperialism.  Such as Hugo Chavez would believe.  Even though the Iraqis wouldn’t mind a little bit of it.  Just enough to give them some of the best technology in the world.  To help them back on their feet.  And help them get away from that Iranian crap.

Nancy Pelosi supports the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  As does Hugo Chavez.  Who hates everything American.  He is anti-American.  And anti-capitalist.  But he likes the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  So they can’t be either.  If Chavez likes them.  American.  Or capitalist.  Either that or Chavez is a closet capitalist.  And/or an American lover.

Truth be told these anti-American people are slinging their anti-capitalism BS just for personal gain.  They either know capitalism is the best economic system in the world.  Or they’re just too stupid to know better.

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LESSONS LEARNED #64: “National security can be a messy business. Especially when your enemies don’t play by the same rules.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2011

Stalin Contained in Europe and Asia

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Soviet communism filled the Nazi world conquest void.  The Soviets paid the highest price in blood in the war against Hitler.  And the way they looked at it, that gave them the deed to any land the Red Army found itself on after hostilities came to an end.  Those countries who once welcomed their Soviet liberators from Nazi oppression soon found themselves under Soviet oppression.  The Soviets weren’t going anywhere.  They stayed in Eastern Europe.  They tried to stay in Iran but the British and the Americans got them to pull out, thanks in large part to America’s nuclear status.  Communist guerillas in Greece that once harassed the Nazis were trying to ascend to power with the help of the Soviets.  The Truman Doctrine checked the Soviet influence and kept Greece independent and out of the Soviet camp.  Russia was once again trying to take Turkish lands to give them that elusive warm water port via the Bosporus and Dardanelles into the Mediterranean.  Again, the Truman Doctrine helped keep the Turks independent and out of the Soviet sphere.

The German capital, Berlin, was completely inside East Germany.  But it was partitioned between East and West.  This was a problem for the Soviets as the people in East Germany didn’t like them, the KGB or the East German Stasi (which formed in 1950).  East Berlin was a gateway to freedom via West Berlin.  The first attempt to shut this down was the Berlin Blockade.  Truman overcame the blockade with the Berlin Airlift.  Thwarted, the Soviets lifted their blockade.  But then built the Berlin Wall to keep the unhappy East Germans from fleeing Soviet oppression.  West Berlin remained free within un-free East Germany.  And was still the gateway to freedom.  Only attaining freedom was a lot more difficult, with many East Germans dying in the attempt.

Being rebuffed in Eastern Europe, Berlin, Greece, Turkey and Iran, Stalin looked next to the Korean peninsula.  President Truman had hastened the end of World War II with the atomic bombings in the Pacific for a couple of reasons.  One was to spare American lives resulting from an invasion of the Japanese homeland.  The body count had only increased as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Japan.  Another reason was to get the Japanese to surrender before the Soviet Union could get the Red Army on more territory in the Pacific.  Because Truman saw the writing on the wall.  The Soviets never willingly left land the Red Army occupied.  With the end of hostilities in the Pacific, and the Japanese out of the Korean peninsula, the Allies partitioned Korea into North and South.  The Soviets occupied the North.  The Americans the South.  The Soviet sponsored North Korea eventually invaded the American sponsored South Korea, inaugurating the first open conflict by proxy in the Cold War.  After three years of a seesaw war, North and South signed an armistice setting the border between the two where it was in the beginning.  At the 38th Parallel.  Though the Korean War was a draw, it was still another Soviet defeat.  Who began to realize this world domination was trickier than it looked.  Especially when there were do-gooders out their like the United States always mucking up the works.

Eisenhower to Kennedy, Regime Changes and near Nuclear Annihilation

So the Soviets changed gears.  No more wars of invasion and conquest.  They had a new idea.  Wars of liberation.  They would help foment dissent in countries under the boot of American Imperialism.  Or at least in countries closer to America than the Soviet Union.  With America being in the Western Hemisphere that, of course, led the Soviets to Central and South America.  With the close of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in 1953, the Americans were now suspect of any communist-like behavior, eager to avoid another bloody and costly proxy war with the Soviet Union.  And they saw some in 1954 Guatemala.  Where the newly elected Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán started seizing private property and instituted agrarian reforms.  Along communist lines.  With more public property.  And less private property.  The developments in Guatemala may not have been Soviet in origin.  But it looked enough like it for President Eisenhower to approve a CIA coup in Guatemala.

After going through World War II and the Korean War, Eisenhower wanted to fight future wars before they became wars.  Like in Guatemala.  And elsewhere.  As in Cuba.  Where Eisenhower approved planning for Regime change in this Caribbean nation following the Cuban Revolution that ousted Fulgencio Batista who had seized power in a coup.  Putting the revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in power.  Once in power, the new revolutionary government did some very ‘communist’ things.  Seized private property.  Nationalized public utilities.  Created a bit of a police state.  The usual things.  But it was worse than in Guatemala.  And closer.  So President Kennedy approved the Eisenhower plan of regime change.  And we call that CIA plan the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which, of course, failed.  Unlike Eisenhower, Kennedy did not support this black ops mission with the U.S. military to stave off defeat.  So Castro, his brother, Guevara, and others, defeated the CIA backed Cuban exiles.  Which empowered Castro.  And pushed him closer to the Soviet Union. 

You know what Nikita Khrushchev saw when he looked across the Black Sea?  American nuclear missiles in Turkey.  Figuratively, of course.  Not literally.  He couldn’t even see the Turkish coast let alone missile installations.  But he knew they were there.  And that really got in his craw.  And the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion with the young and apparently reluctant American president provided just the opportunity he needed.  He would install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.  And try this young and inexperienced president.  Castro was all for it, fearing another U.S. invasion (he apparently thought far more of Kennedy than the Soviets).  Guevara, too.  Because he was just reckless.  And crazy, as it turned out.  Well, the secret deployment was discovered by a U-2 spy plane.  Caught the Soviets with their pants down.  We threw up a naval blockade.  Came to the brink of nuclear war.  But Kennedy stood his ground.  The Soviets backed down and removed their missiles.  And then the Americans removed the missiles that had so bothered Khrushchev.  This last was part of a secret agreement to keep the young American president from looking bad.  But the Soviets were a little glad to remove their missiles from Cuba.  Because Guevara wanted to nuke the United States.  And probably would have if he had control of those missiles.

From Iranian Coup to Iranian Revolution

Oil underground is useless.  It only has value when someone brings it up where it can be refined into something useful.  And that’s what the British did in Iran.  The Iranians did not like the split of profits (they were only getting 16% of the net profits which was greater than the 0% they were receiving before the British pumped the oil out of the ground).  Anytime there is huge money involved, there’s going to be trouble.  And after the oil infrastructure was set up the Iranians nationalized the oil industry.  Which didn’t make the British happy.  So they pulled their expertise from the Iranian oil industry and blockaded their oil exports.  The Iranians were not as good as the British and their production fell.  And what little they did produce they could not sell.  This led to unemployment, hunger, etc.  All the right conditions for a coup.

Truman was not interested.  He had his hands full with the Korean War.  But Eisenhower saw things differently.  Especially when the British told him Iran may fall into the Soviet sphere.  And with her would go all of that oil.  Eisenhower believed this.  For there was nothing more the Soviets would have wanted.  They’d still be in Iran if the British and the U.S. (backed by the United States’ nuclear monopoly) didn’t persuade them to leave following World War II.  So Eisenhower joined the British in the coup that placed Mohammad Reza Shah (aka, the Shah of Iran) on the throne in 1953.  And placed Iran into the American sphere.  And everyone lived happily ever after.  The West got Iranian oil on more favorable terms.  And the Middle East got a burning white hatred for the United States and the West in general.  Who apparently would do anything to steal their oil.  So that ‘happily ever after’ was more tongue in cheek.  It ended well in terms of the Cold War.  But not in terms of the nationalism or geopolitics of the Middle East.  For it turns some people can hold a grudge for a real long time.

Shah-rule proved at times to be rather oppressive.  And highly Western.  Democratic, anti-Shah protests began in 1977.  First by Islamists.  Who didn’t really like Western influence.   Then eventually well-educated and unemployed college students (men and women).  Who wanted more freedoms.  And jobs.  Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in 1979.  As the democratic revolution grew in fervor, Khomeini consolidated his power behind the scenes.  There were no public statements about creating a theocracy.  Because the people didn’t want a theocracy.  Especially the women who had graduated from college with great hopes and dreams.  Because in a theocracy, women become second-class citizens with fewer rights.  And fewer hopes and dreams.

There was then a referendum asking if Iran should be an Islamic Republic.  It passed with near unanimity.  A draft constitution was put up to vote on.  It passed, too.  Some complained about voting irregularities.  Which became moot when Khomeini stated Iran would be based on Shari Law.  With no republic parts.  Then the Shah (now in exile) went to the United States for medical treatment.  Complications extended his stay, infuriating the Iranian protesters (who wanted him back to try and execute) and ratcheting up the American hate (who recalled the 1953 coup).  Young Islamists stormed the U.S. Embassy taking 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days.  Sunni Iraq then invaded Iran, fueling the Islamist furor.  The Islamists suppressed political opposition.  Shut down the free press.  Made women second-class citizens.  And, well, the rest is hardcore Islamist theocratic history.

Conquerors Lie and Exploit Political Instability

The world is a big place.  Sometimes events are interrelated.  Sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes we pay a price for acting too late.  And sometimes we pay a price for acting too soon.  Sometimes our actions prevent a bad situation from getting worse.  Sometimes our actions make a bad situation worse.  Or even makes a not necessarily bad situation a complete and utter disaster.  You never can be certain.  For one thing, everyone has some ulterior motive.  Sometimes those motives align with your national security interests.  Sometimes they don’t.  Unfortunately, we can never know for certain at the time we need to make a decision.  We can only base it on our current intelligence.  And history.

One thing we do know, though, is that there are people who want to conquer other people.  Hitler wanted to conquer the world and spread Nazi rule.  Stalin wanted to conquer the world and spread communist rule.  And now Islamist fundamentalists want to conquer the world and spread Islamist rule.  How do we know this?  They told us.  And demonstrated this by their actions.

Two other key points we can learn from history.  Those who want to conquer lie.  And they exploit political instability.  Hitler lied about his intentions in Czechoslovakia and took advantage of a war-weary Europe still recovering from the Great Depression.  Khrushchev lied about placing missiles in Cuba.  Which he placed in Cuba by taking advantage of the political instability following the failed Bay of Pig Invasion.  And Khomeini lied about his intentions in Iran knowing the people didn’t want a theocracy.  And he took advantage of the chaos of the democracy uprisings and other events to steer the nation where he wanted it to go.  Islamic theocracy.

The Nazi threat gave way to the Communist threat.  Which gave way to the Islamist threat.  So we should pay close attention to any country with political instability/democracy movements.  That has any Islamist elements.  Especially one that feels they’ve been wronged by the United States.  For that would be the perfect storm in the Islamic world.

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All Roads Lead to Israel in Middle East Unrest

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2011

Migrants are Fleeing Arab Democracy Movements

One of the reasons President Obama gave for bombing Libya was to prevent a wave of migrants from these countries in turmoil flooding neighboring/European countries.  Doesn’t look like the bombing worked (see France blocks Italian trains carrying migrants posted 4/17/2011 on the BBC).

Authorities in France have blocked trains from Italy in an attempt to stop north African migrants from entering the country.

Migrants landed on the Italian shores, got their temporary resident permits and hit the train stations.  Now they’re traveling across Europe looking for a new, state-subsidized life.  At least, this is France’s beef.  Before they’ll let them cross their border they have to prove they can pay their own way.  Because history has shown that migrants fleeing war-torn nations often can’t.  While high domestic unemployment will make it difficult to absorb those who can into the workforce.

Italy and other European countries have been increasingly concerned about migration from north Africa following the political turmoil in the region.

Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

TunisiaEgypt?  Those ‘democracy’ movements were rather peaceful.  So it is puzzling that so many people are fleeing from these ‘democracy’ movements.  We can understand Libya.  We escalated that into civil war with our bombing campaign.  And people typically flee from nations in civil war.  But why Tunisia and Egypt?

Christian Governors not Welcomed in Qena

Perhaps these aren’t democracy movements.  Or perhaps they’re theocracy movements exploiting the unrest of these ‘democracy’ movements (see Christian governor named in south Egypt, protests flare by Dina Zayed, Mohamed Abdellah, Reuters, posted 4/17/2011 on The Daily Star).

“The experience of a Coptic governor has failed. There is no objection to his Coptic identity but the previous governor left a negative impression of Christian officials,” Youssef Ragab, a witness in Qena, told Reuters by telephone.

Residents say Ayoub was too weak in enforcing laws to quell rising tension between Muslims and Christians, fearing his background might imply sectarian allegiance.

The Christians and the Muslim got along with Mubarak in office.  There’s no reason for that to change now that Mubarak is out of office.

The protest took a more aggressive turn as some radical Salafi Islamists in the crowd demanded a Muslim official, saying “we want it Islamic.” Some even threatened to kill Mikhail if he came to his office.

Witnesses in the city said Egypt’s military, concerned that the demonstration would spark inter-faith violence, had moved to protect churches in the province.

See?  A simple way for sectarian peace.  Everyone converts to Islam.

The GCC Calls on the UN to take Action against Iran

So there’s trouble from within.  And trouble from without (see Gulf states call on UN to halt Iran ‘interference’ by AFP posted 4/17/2011 on Breitbart).

Gulf Arab states on Sunday called on the international community and UN Security Council to “make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations” in Gulf affairs cease after unrest in Bahrain.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, after a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, called in a statement for “necessary measures” against the Islamic republic to prevent it from sowing regional discord.

So it’s just not the West having problems with Iran.  It would appear that they are trying to export their Iranian Shiite revolution everywhere.

The six-nation GCC called on “the international community and the Security Council to take the necessary measures to make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations aimed at sowing discord and destruction” among GCC states.

It said the GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — “categorically rejects all foreign interference in its affairs… and invites the Iranian regime to stop its provocations.”

Will the international community step in to stop these Iranian provocations?  Forget about a flood of migrants.  What happens in these GCC countries is a huge national security interest.  If Iranian influence spreads unchecked here, we’ll wish we only had a migration problem.

Little is said about Israel in Lands that Hate Israel

In all these Arab ‘democracy’ movements, there is a strange omission.  You really don’t hear the anti-Israel rhetoric you normally hear in parts of this region.  Which is a little strange.  Israeli criticism has been quiet.  A little too quiet.  Which can only mean one thing.  Something’s up (see Stratfor.com: The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas by George Friedman posted 4/12/2011 on Bill O’Reilly).

We know of several leaders of the Egyptian rising, for example, who were close to Hamas yet deliberately chose to downplay their relations. They clearly were intensely anti-Israeli but didn’t want to make this a crucial issue. In the case of Egypt, they didn’t want to alienate the military or the West. They were sophisticated enough to take the matter step by step.

Hamas is a militant Palestinian Islamic movement.  They want to destroy Israel.  And they’re connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which also happens to be the largest organized opposition party in Egypt.

Egypt is key for Hamas. Linked to an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas Cairo, the Gaza Strip returns to its old status as a bayonet pointed at Tel Aviv. Certainly, it would be a base for operations and a significant alternative to Fatah. But a war would benefit Hamas more broadly. For example, Turkey’s view of Gaza has changed significantly since the 2010 flotilla incident in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish civilians on a ship headed for Gaza. Turkey’s relationship with Israel could be further weakened, and with Egypt and Turkey both becoming hostile to Israel, Hamas’ position would improve. If Hamas could cause Hezbollah to join the war from the north then Israel would be placed in a challenging military position perhaps with the United States, afraid of a complete breakdown of its regional alliance system, forcing Israel to accept an unfavorable settlement.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite Islamist organization.  They hate Israel, too.  And have close ties to Syria.  And Iran.

For the United States and Europe, the merger of Islamists and democrats is an explosive combination. Apart, they do little. Together, they could genuinely destabilize the region and even further undermine the U.S. effort against jihadists. The United States and Europe want Israel to restrain itself but cannot restrain Hamas. Another war, therefore, is not out of the question—and in the end, the decision to launch one rests with Hamas.

During the Gulf War, we pleaded with Israel to just take whatever Saddam Hussein threw at them.  And Israel showed incredible restraint after the Scud missile attacks began.  Try as Hussein did, he could not provoke Israel into the conflict to break up the Arab coalition.  And here we are again.  With a foreign policy that depends on Israeli suffering.  Will Hamas be able to provoke them into war?  Or will they not take the bait and absorb their attacks?  Will additional Israeli actions against Gaza further sour Turkey towards Israel?  Will Egypt fall to a Hamas/Iran friendly Muslim Brotherhood?  Will the Iranians continue to incite trouble in the GCC states?  All BIG questions in terms of our national security interests.  And the answers to them will have huge and lasting consequences.

So what is the US doing in all of this?  Getting involved in the one county that isn’t even in the Big Picture.  Libya.

The Real Enemy in the Middle East

There’s something going on here.  And it ain’t protecting our national security interests.  The best one can figure out is that we’re helping Europe keep their Libyan oil.  Sure, Qaddafi is a bad guy.  And, yes, he used deadly force on his people.  But that happens every day somewhere in the world.  Attacking Libya is like beating up a 90 year old ex-Nazi.  Yeah, there may be some justice in it.  But a 90 year old ex-Nazi isn’t a threat to world peace.  But Iran is.  And what are we doing about Iran?  Nothing.  Even though there are democracy movements there.  But we just stand by and do nothing.  Pity we didn’t do that in 1979. 

The Shah of Iran was horrible.  A monster.  In fact, Iran was such a horrible place that girls could get a college education.  Well, college students (i.e., young and educated) started a democracy movement.  Just like those today.  The Iranian Revolution.  And they got rid of the Shah.  But with the Shah went a lot of their liberties.  Girls don’t go to college anymore in Iran.  And regret the day he fell from power.

It’s just like that old saying.  You don’t know what you have until you lose it.  And that other old saying.  I used to bitch about being poor and unemployed until I found out what it meant to be a second-class citizen without any rights. 

Our allies in the Middle East know who the real enemy is.  We should start listening to them more.  And less to the people who sent us into Libya.  Before it’s too late.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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Libya Burns, Saudi Arabia Worries, Prosperous China Maintains Power and Prosperous Turkey offers way for Egypt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 21st, 2011

Turkey Provides a Democratic Model for Egypt

Can democracy work in the Middle East?  Well, it’s working in a nation with a predominately Muslim population.  That nation on the BosporusTurkey (see A Muslim democracy in action posted 2/17/2011 on The Economist).

In his eight years in power, Mr Erdogan has done more than any of his secular predecessors to move Turkey closer to its coveted goal of full membership of the European Union. Reforms that he rammed through during AK’s first term in office persuaded the EU to open membership negotiations with Turkey in 2005…

Turkey’s economy has survived the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. It is expected to grow by 5% this year, putting it only just behind China and India. Unemployment is down and the budget has begun the year with a surplus…

On the Arab street, Mr Erdogan’s salvoes against Israel over the Palestinians have made him a hero. Turkey’s high-profile diplomacy, its successful economy and its drive for new markets have made it the envy of many Arab leaders. It is little wonder that so many pundits have taken to talking up a “Turkish model” as a way forward for Egypt. It is also no surprise that Mr Erdogan is brimming with confidence.

Of course, Turkey isn’t a ‘Muslim democracy’ as the Economist wrote in its title.  It’s a secular democracy where nearly all of the people are Muslim.  People practice their religion in their private lives.  But not in government.  For in Turkey there is a wall between church and state.  Or mosque and state, as it were.

Turkey is doing well.  And it can serve as a model for countries where nearly all of their people are Muslim.  If they separate religion and government.  And herein lies the concern.  If the Muslim Brotherhood rises to prominence in Egypt, Islam will play a role in government.  And in nations where this happens there are concerted efforts to move away from Western influences.  Including Western business practices.  And prosperity.  The more extreme cases of this can be seen in Afghanistan.  And Iran.  But Turkey is looking to the West.  And economic prosperity by joining the European Union.  Still there are the critics.

Yet critics claim that Mr Erdogan’s confidence has curdled into the sort of authoritarianism that, if left unchecked, might transform Turkey into another Russia. Such claims are surely overwrought: Turkish elections are free and fair, and the press is largely unfettered. Yet there is also no question that Mr Erdogan is getting bossier and less tolerant by the day.

With a healthy economy, a budget surplus and jobs for the people, there is little reason for the people to rise up.  The political opposition may.  But not the people.  That’s why the democratic movements have been confined to countries with poor economies and high unemployment.  For working people have better things to do.  Such as enjoying life.

Discontent is Easier to Manage when you have a Booming Economy

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not pretty.  In the Soviet Union.  Or the Russian state following.  Crime.  Corruption.  Lawlessness.  And, worse, high unemployment.  People were unable to buy the bare necessities.  These were dark and dangerous times.  And had many pining for the good old days of Soviet Communism.  You may have been poor, oppressed and wanting for the basic necessities of life.  But you could walk the streets at night.  You just had to worry about the state busting down your door at night and taking you away to some Siberian gulag.  But other than that, life was at a leisurely pace.  And had routine.  And routine begets political stability.

China saw this trouble.  And they learned some valuable lessons from their northern neighbor.  Change too fast can be bad change.  Hence their crackdown at Tiananmen Square.  And now (see Discontent, but no revolt in China — yet by Charles Hutzler, Associated Press, posted 2/21/2011 on Salon).

“The current regime structure is very fragile. It’s not right for revolution at the moment, but that doesn’t mean mass political upheaval can’t take place in the future,” said Minxin Pei, a China politics expert at Claremont McKenna College in California.

In the latest test, China’s authoritarian government seems to have dispatched the threat of public protests with great efficiency. In response to an Internet appeal of unknown origin for simultaneous protests in 13 cities Sunday, police detained known activists, disconnected some cell-phone text messaging services and blocked online searches for the phrase “Jasmine Revolution” — the name of both the protest call and the wave of Middle East democracy protests that started in Tunisia.

And the protests for now seem to have petered out.  Why?  Economics.

China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with economists predicting another year of better than 9 percent growth for 2011. While unemployment is surely higher than the nearly 5 percent urban joblessness rate, factory wages and conditions are improving for many. University graduates — a crucial group in Egypt’s uprising — are finding jobs in China, though they are poorly paid.

Life isn’t that bad when you have a job.  The protests in the Middle East and Northern Africa started over high unemployment.  The protesters were poor, oppressed and unemployed.  And when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.  The Chinese have something.  It may not be much.  But it is a lot more than they used to have.  And things aren’t bad enough yet to lose this new life of plenty.

The Asian Economy so Strong they’re Building Bigger Ships for Exports

And things are looking up for the Asian economy.  While the U.S. continues to struggle in the worst recession since the Great Depression, Maersk just received an order to build the world’s biggest container ship.  And guess who’s building those ships.  And what they’re going to carry (see Deal for biggest ever cargo ships sets sail by Tom Clarke posted 2/21/2011 on channel4.com).

A major shipping contract is a good barometer for the global economy – the industry at least seems to think trade between Asia and Europe will remain strong. However the European economy won’t benefit as much as Asia from the deal. All the jobs to build the new ships are in Korea and the vast majority of high value goods the ships will carry will be made in Asia to be sold here.

And sold in other parts of the world.  Including the United States.  So Asia is doing all right.  China, too.  The fact that they were able to shut down those protests so quickly indicates that the larger population is content.  For now.  Of course, that may change in the future.  The Chinese workers may demand more pay and better benefits.  Perhaps try to unionize.  If they do China may have to meet their demands.  Or risk further unrest.  Either way the economy will more than likely lose steam.  Either through higher labor costs.  Or political unrest.  And that could prod them more towards a Libyan fate.

Libyan Violence Escalates, Oil Supply Interrupted

And how are things going in Libya?  By all measure it appears to be going from bad to worse (see Oil soars on Libya violence, WTI shorts cover posted 2/21/2011 on Reuters).

In Libya, scores were killed in anti-government protests as one of the region’s bloodiest revolts hit Tripoli for the first time, while army units defected to the opposition and Gaddafi’s son vowed to fight to the last man standing.

And it gets worse.  Economically.

The focus was on deadly clashes in Libya, where one oil firm was shutting down some 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production and others evacuated staff. The leader of the Al-Zuwayya tribe threatened oil exports to the West would be cut off unless authorities stopped violence.

“The market is on edge about the potential for Middle East and North Africa supply disruptions,” said Mike Wittner, head of commodities research, Americas, at Societe Generale.

When oil prices go up economies go down.  Because oil is the engine of the modern economy.  We’ll probably first notice this supply interruption in higher prices at the gas pump.  Then in a slow but steady price inflation on everything we buy.  Those nations trying to get themselves out of bad recessions will then have to deal with this inflation problem.  And inflations are typically solved by recessions.  Economically, this is not a good outlook.  For if Europe and the United States fall back into deeper recessions, where will all those exports go from China and Turkey?  Nowhere.  And then these prosperous nations will see a rise in their unemployment numbers.  Giving strength to their opposition forces.  And perhaps extending the political unrest from the Middle East and North Africa to China and Turkey.  And beyond.

Things look like they may get worse before they get better.  Especially with what is happening in Bahrain.

A wave of popular unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has already toppled long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, and traders are watching events carefully in other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for signs of escalating tension.

While protests continued in Bahrain and Yemen, the greater fear was that discontent among majority Shi’ites in Bahrain who are protesting against the Sunni government might spread to Saudi Arabia’s own Shi’ite minority — who mostly live in the eastern province, the source of the kingdom’s oil wealth.

And this is the greatest danger.  That all of this political unrest may transform these revolutions from democratic struggles into theocratic ones.  Many of the countries rife in political unrest are Sunni countries.  Some have oppressed Shiite populations.  Or underrepresented Shiite populations.  And these populations have an organizing force.  The Muslim Brotherhood.  And inserting itself at the top of this Shiite power swell is the region’s largest Shiite population.  Iran.  The mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia.

It’s a Small World after All

Peace in the Middle East is not easy.  It’s mostly Islamic.  And in Islam, the Sunni hates the Shiite and the Shiite hates the Sunni.  Any government trying to rule over these disparate people rules on a powder keg.  They can maintain the peace most times if the people have jobs and can buy what they need.  During bad economic times, though, it’s quite a different story.  The rich kingdoms (often Sunni) will be attacked for being too Western.  And then economic issues become religious issues.

What will happen in Egypt?  Will it follow the Turkish model?  Or will it succumb to the radical elements like what happened in Iran following their 1979 revolution?  And what about Saudi Arabia?  Are they next?  If OPEC oil fails to flow at market prices, economies may crash throughout the world.  Including Turkey.  And China.  Because oil is the engine of a modern economy. 

It’s a small world after all.  What happens in the Middle East matters.  Everywhere.

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