Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cultural diplomacy tutorial and RANT

This is another in my series regarding how to understand and achieve successful cultural diplomacy. Here I will explain to you things you must understand about how resistance, subversive and even “terroristic” organizations arise and important characteristics to keep in mind to achieve peace. I have Hamas in the Gaza strip in my mind as the specific case study, but will reference the wide range of groups in history who have been in a revolutionary or uprising role. The only group I want to reserve for separate consideration because they are totally unique is Al Qaeda.

The main point of this tutorial and case study will be to refute the modern assumptions by many, especially those in the western world, that a resistance, subversive or terrorist organization is a separate entity from the civilian population. All resistance, subversive and terrorist organizations arise from the populace; they are not “imposed” on an unwilling population nor are they “side by side” with the populace. Thus Israel and the United States are being deliberately dishonest to imply that Hamas is an organization that can be “rooted out” of the populace, like weeds being pulled from among good corn. Think of Hamas as corn with guns. The same is true of Hezbollah in Lebanon and of course the PLO, now Fatah, the legitimate government, before Fatah lost credibility. One would be more accurate to understand such organizations, with the exception of Al Qaeda, as being violent political parties that non-violent people also support or they would not be on the “ballot” of public opinion.

Look at the two historical examples of the American Revolution and the overthrow of the Czars by the Communists. It’s not like a bunch of people in what would become the United States imposed their will to revolt against England on top of the citizen populace. The delegates to the Congress from the states and then the men who fought in the armies all were drawn from and empowered by the people. Imagine if England thought that the Revolutionaries were a distinct group that they could “kill off” and then the desire for freedom would just die out in America. That would have been a huge military error one that, obviously, they did not make. The English understood very well that the civilian populace fueled and supported the revolution and were part of it, not a separate entity. Those of the civilians who disagreed with the Revolution either remained in place silently and accepted the tide of change, or left for England or Canada. Likewise in the former USSR, one must understand that the populace was behind and part of the Communists who overthrew the monarchy. The problem is that they didn’t know what they were bargaining for, how ruinous Communism would be for body and soul. But the excesses of the monarchy and their ignoring of the extreme and dire poverty of the people allowed the Bolsheviks to arise from among the populace, not as a superimposed force.

Another example is “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the conflict between paramilitary Protestant Irish and paramilitary Catholic Irish. Again, right or wrong, it’s not like these groups fell out of the sky and imposed their will on the people. They were members of the populace who felt the need for resistance (Catholic minorities) and counter resistance (the ruling Protestants). That is why one simply could not “go in” and “jail or kill” every paramilitary IRA member, for example, without at the same time pursuing genuine diplomacy. Because these extremist organizations arise from and belong to the populace, one cannot EVER pursue a “sequential” process where “step one” is “stop the violence” and then step two as the “reward” is the diplomacy.

The United States is guilty of naïve and even stupid beliefs such as that. I cannot remember the last time we had “diplomats” who were actually even adequate in understanding the principles of diplomacy and the origins of revolutionary, subversive or terrorist movements. Israel knows darn well the difference but they have made a cultural decision to have a “backs against the wall” stance that insists on total “peace” before social injustice is addressed. Thus Israel is delighted at the naiveté of the past several generations of US “diplomats” who they view as public relations mouthpieces and “defensive” weapons suppliers. I mean, give me a break. Any diplomat worth his or her salt realizes that one cannot “wait” for a total “cease fire” before diplomacy while at the same time one side is turning up the heat of the social injustice that, genuine or perceived, is the result of the valid or invalid violence. It is like expecting a pit bull to stop biting while you are still hitting it with a stick. Israel knows full well that they have tightened the screws on the Palestinians to make their day to day economic life a misery and, in fact, a gulag and thus they continue to poke the pit bull while loudly screaming with feigned senses of grievance that “total peace” is needed before “diplomacy can begin.”

President Bush and his “expert on Russia,” Condoleezza Rice, have not earned one penny of their paychecks regarding the Middle East. What an embarrassment they have been.

Notice I have mixed examples of what people could say are “justifiable” revolution, subversion and while terrorism is never justified one must acknowledge that obviously someone thinks it is or they’d be home planting grape vines, with examples that obviously came to very unhappy fruition, such as the Bolshevik Revolution that brought Communism to power. You don’t “agree” with the people you are engaging in diplomacy with, for cripes sake. Golda Meir (the last Israeli leader that I think understood diplomacy) herself said that you negotiate with your enemies, not your friends. Diplomats should not be “step and fetch its” for one side in the diplomatic endeavor.

I mean, think about this slowly and carefully. In resolving a dispute, how reasonable and fair can that diplomat be if they are supplying one side with the weaponry? The idea of the USA being a diplomat in the Middle East problem is a joke and always has been. All the USA does is supply Israel with weapons and pats on the back. That’s fine if that is the foreign policy stance of the USA but what nerve they have to call themselves “partners in a peace process” and “diplomats.”

Europeans used to be very savvy about diplomacy, having centuries of genuine experience, and they used to laugh at Americans being clods and naïve. In turn, in fairness, Americans spotted the mote in the Europeans’ own diplomatic eye with their soft stance toward the grave and mortal dangers of Communism. But because the Americans were right about Communism, the Europeans shut up and just let it slide as the Americans make a mess of the Middle East. In turn the Americans think that they are foreign policy geniuses (for recognizing that Communism is bad, duh) and as a result have missed cultivating at least three generations of genuine diplomats.

There is another cultural problem with Americans. Because they have experienced over the past forty years the freakish forming of cults and criminal individuals or groups that are terrorists, they have done an unconscious and totally invalid pattern matching in their minds. Thus when America had domestic terrorists such as the SLA (the folks who kidnapped Patty Hearst back in the 60's) who are a few nuts who united for havoc, the lack of diplomatic savvy in the government resulted in Americans just assuming that all terrorists throughout the world are a loose coalition of "nuts" "imposing” terrorism on the populace. In other words, Americans have become so simplistic that they have only two models of understanding of armed resistance: a group of criminal nuts like the SLA from the 60's, or Al Qaeda from 2001. Americans seem to understand absolutely nothing in between which is where all the conflicts in the world actually reside, in that space in between.

Therefore, to summarize my points:

1) You cannot have a valid diplomatic role if you are supplying weaponry to one side, period. I mean, duh, how difficult is that to understand? Step aside and let real genuine neutral diplomats take over your "role."

2) We need genuine diplomats who understand cultural and historical contexts and who understand the actual diplomatic process and are not just “advocates with agendas for one side.”

3) All enduring organizations that are based on armed resistance are not separate from the populace and cannot be extracted from the populace.

4) There is no example of diplomacy where negotiation “waits” until “after” violence has “completely stopped,” particularly if the aggrieved side experiences continual pressure and provocation.

5) Do not say you are for “democracy” and “free elections” and then declare the winners “terrorists.” Hamas was elected into office, deal with it, not whine and try to kill them off while calling yourselves "pillars of democracy."

The diplomatic ignorance and willful collusion of the Americans in injustice in many forums around the world has been a source of excruciating embarrassment for me for decades now. We don’t have diplomats; we have empty suits with big egos who fly around like celebrities. It’s embarrassing.