In the Thunderous Sky of Greece a Thunderbolt of Creative Destruction is about to Strike the Country

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Greece, after its forced exile, four years ago, from the international financial markets, has returned, this week, back to them with aplomb to reap the confidence of the markets of its future economic development. In 2010, Greece, by numerous prominent economists and analysts and top economic journals, such as the Economist, was sentenced to death for its economic maladies that had brought the country into bankruptcy. This dire and calamitous situation however was overturned by the advent of Antonis Samaras as prime minister in June 2012, who, by selecting a constellation of bright stars as ministers, was able to accomplish by his strong and sagacious leadership, in the short space of two years, this reversal of misfortune that had engulfed the country as a result of the ill-fated fiscal policies of past governments. This achievement is unprecedented, as no country in the world was able to transform itself from the brink of economic ruin to economic recovery in such a short time. In the annals of economic history this illustrious outcome will be registered as the economic miracle of Greece.

The following paper was written on April 2012 and is republished for the readers of this blog.

By Con George-Kotzabasis December, 2012

The most respectable German newspaper Handelsblatt, proclaimed Antonis Samaras as the greatest European politician for the year 2012. At the same time the illustrious former Foreign Minister of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher, also praised Samaras in glowing terms as the politician, who after admitting his own mistakes and the disastrous economic policies of Greece that brought the latter to the brink of insolvency, brought the country with remarkable celerity and unsurpassable decisiveness on the right course that would rekindle the economy and lead the country toward economic development. Goldman Sachs is predicting that in the next 10 years Greek GDP will increase by 30%. The rating agency Moody’s increased the financial status of Greece by six points.

”Things grow at the right time, i.e. the right moment and the right perseverance. ‘For’, as [the German poet] Holderlin said, ‘the mindful God abhors untimely growth’ “

Martin Heidegger

History has shown that at critical moments, in countries of advanced and high culture, men of stupendous ability, imagination, foresight, and fortitude, sprang, like phoenixes from the ashes, to salvage their countries from mortal threats. Themistocles at the battle of Salamis that saved Greece from the barbarian Persian invasion, is one example, the other is Charles Martel, who at the battle of Poitiers stopped the barbarian Muslim invasion from conquering Europe. In our modern contemporaneous times, Greece, on the verge of being devoured and crashed by the ‘hungry fangs’ of default and economic poverty, is just as promptly to be saved by a modern-day Periclean statesman, Antonis Samaras.

In the early 1980’s, with the advent of Andreas Papandreou’s socialist government to power, which proved to be the destructive force that brought Greece to its present catastrophe, that immediately started implementing the serial economic crime of a policy of deficits, the country entered the vicious circle of government spending without economic development. By the early 90’s it was glaringly clear that the debt of the country was reaching astronomical heights that would lead it to the precipice of default and bankruptcy. In 1994, Constantinos Mitsotakis, the former prime minister of Greece, in a prophetic speech in Parliament, predicted that the economically crass and thoughtless policies of Pasok would send Greece as a mendicant to the International Monetary Fund to spare it from pauperism. Andreas Papandreou himself was shocked when at a sober moment glanced at the unfathomable debt that the country was in, as a result of his dirigisme economic policies. It was in his presence when his minister of finance Kostas Simitis remarked, in an accusatory and pungent phrase, that this was “the revenge of the economy.”

The false prosperity that had engulfed Greece turned a sizable part of its population to indulge in the charms and seductions of dolce vita at the expense of government largesse. A whole generation of Greeks had been spoiled and became kaloperasakides (the easy life of prodigally good-timers) under the perpetual munificence of the State. In such a social situation the New Democracy party, though imbued with the precepts of The Austrian School of economics versus Keynesianism, and realising, as its leader Constantinos Mitsotakis did, that the country was approaching in a rapid pace the edge of insolvency, had its hands politically manacled and could not implement decisively and with celerity, and with the necessary degree required, policies of economic restraint that would have prevented the transformation of Greece into a mendicant status, since there did not exist even a small constituency on the political landscape of Greece that would contemplate, least of all accept, policies of austerity. The Greeks had been ‘pathologically’ conditioned to the ‘benefits’ accruing from big government, introduced by Andreas Papandreou, and any attempt to small government by any party in power or any opposition propagating  such an idea, could neither hold or win government. Who would give up the ‘free tans’ in sunny Greece that so profusely and generously the State was providing? And who would give up the cushy and loafing jobs in the public sector that the party boys and girls of Pasok and New Democracy were enjoying and relishing? This is the point from which the economic tragedy of Greece had started and would continue to its tragic end.

Thirty years of frivolous public spending brought debt-to-GDP ratio of 120%. Since October 2009 when the son of Andreas Papandreou, George, became prime minister and implemented measures of severe austerity as directed from Brussels in the first memorandum, debt reached 168% of GDP. With the continued recession of the country for the fifth year, Greece lost 16%–18% of its GDP since 2009.

From early 2010 the Opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, few months after his election as leader of the New Democracy party, was warning the Papandreou government of the danger that the austerity measures without economic recovery would lead the country into recession. But his was a lone voice in the wilderness. And for his bold and insightful decision to oppose and vote against the first memorandum replete with the leaden heaviness of austerity that would sink the Greek economy as it did, he was vehemently reprimanded both from within and outside the country. The Economist magazine severely criticised him for his stand against the memorandum but only to lament its critique two years later and concede that Samaras was right. Likewise, Chancellor Merkel and many European ministers with whom Samaras had quarrelled and pointed out to them that austerity measures without rekindling the economy would not resolve Greece’s problem but would make it more abstruse and harder to crack. It took two years for the top brains of Europe to realize that the austerity pills that they were forcing into Greece’s mouth to remedy its ills would have the effect of poisoning its body. (In two years of the severe austerity of the Memorandum, as we indicated above, Greece increased its debt to GDP by a great amount and lost a substantial part of its Gross Domestic Product as enterprises closed and unemployment ravaged the country.) And in turn, like The Economist, admitting that Samaras had won the argument, as all Europeans now are calling for economic recovery and development, supplemented by austerity measures that are necessary, as the way to restore a country’s economic strength.

The May 6 Elections of Greece Crucial for the Future of the Country

The impending election that has been called by the interim government of Lucas Papademos for May 6 is of momentous significance for the future course of the country. Greeks will be called to be partisans of the hard climb to the peak of Mt Olympus from where the sun of hope will rise once again over Greece or be partisans to a free fall in a long twilight of despair. The first is the thunderous call of the New Democracy Party under the Gulliverian and imaginative political leadership of Antonis Samaras, and the second is the deathlike mute call of a congeries of small parties from the left and the right led by Lilliputian politicians. These politically ‘pigmy’ parties, among which is the Communist Party, have no policies of rescuing Greece from its woes, except policies that would lead to the exiting from the European Union and return to the drachma that would lead in turn to the absolute poverty of the country, deliberately drop the curtain on all hope on Greece as their sole aim is to sordidly profit politically by their investment in hopelessness.

The socialist party, Pasok, the main opponent of New Democracy, although on the side of hope, even under the new leadership of Evangelos Venizelos, is totally discredited, as it has been the party that led Greece to its present catastrophe by a bout of unbelievable and unprecedented economic and political mistakes, that Venizelos himself was involved in and responsible, during the last two years that was in government. Moreover, the latest decision of the High Court of Greece to apprehend and charge a former luminary of Pasok and right-hand man of Andreas Papandreou, the founding father of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Akes Tsohatzopoulos, his wife and daughter, and some of his relatives, with bribery and corruption and with being the receiver and beneficiary of millions of dollars as paid commissions, during his tenure as minister of defence, from German and Russian companies to which he had authorized major assignments and projects of his department, has indelibly marked Pasok as venally corrupt;  particularly when its present leader Venizelos, at the initial investigations of Tsohatzopoulos, with the stentorian voice of the lawyer, that he is, was defending and exculpating from any knave dealings, and with the usual catch-all alibi of the typical politician,  that the “accusation against Tsohatzopoulos was politically motivated.” Hence, inconceivable political incompetence and culpability, and unfathomable corruption on the part of Pasok, will be two major themes that will dominate the elections and which will ineluctably lead to new lows in the polls for the socialists.

In this critical economic and political setting that the country is in and the looming threat of the breaking of social cohesion, Samaras is asking the Greek people to give New Democracy the “auto-dynamism,” by a majority of votes in the elections, so he can have his hands untied to govern the country with decisiveness and clear uncompromised policies that would put Greece on the trajectory of economic recovery and development. He argues cogently, that in the present political situation of Greece when consensus about the necessary economic policies among parties of how to regenerate the economy of the country is absent, a coalition government–which is the designated position of Pasok and according to the polls at this moment the desire of a majority of the electorate–will be politically impracticable, and more importantly, would not drag out the country from its peril but would further engulf it into profounder depths; as one could not govern effectively a country in a crisis and gradually bring it out of it  by being compelled to make compromises to one’s political partners, but only by a well-defined plan and decisive and prompt action to implement it without compromises, by a leader who has a strong mandate from the electorate.

Samaras believes, and reasonably hopes with the confidence of a statesman, that during the electoral period and closer to election date, there will be a dramatic shift of voters toward polarized positions, once the crucial issues of the country are spelled out clearly and without lies to the people by New Democracy and by foreshadowing the practical economic policies backed by real numbers that would put Greece on the track of economic recovery, there is a great chance that the majority of Greeks will give New Democracy a strong mandate to govern on its own for the benefit of all Greeks and for the salvation of the country.

Samaras contended long ago, that only through a clear strong authorization given to him by a majority of the people he would be able to radically change Greece. For real economic development entails not only good policies and incentives but a transformation in the views and customs of people toward such development. He puts great emphasis on the value of human capital and entrepreneurship as the prerequisites for the economic recovery of the country. That is why he has promised to re-legitimize private enterprise and effort that for many years now has been delegitimized in the country by communist-led unions, to whom profit has been, as always, the devil-incarnate of the capitalist free market.

The present high unemployment of more than 20% Samaras contends, will not be reduced by mere lower labour costs which already have been decreased by 15% in the private sector while the tax burden on the latter has increased by 50% and energy costs by 450%. Even if Greeks worked for free no one would hire them with such high taxes and energy costs. Samaras in his Zappeio III speech few days ago declared that he would cut corporate tax to a flat rate of 15%, sharply cut pay-roll tax, lower personal income-tax to 32% maximum, and reduce taxes substantially on fuel and tourism. This would make harder rampant tax evasion and would unleash the creativity of the private sector and hence commence the gradual reduction in unemployment. He also announced, that he would increase the lowest pensions to 700 euros per month–that were reduced drastically by the second Memorandum under the austerity measures–and would increase the endowment of families with many children which would not only correct an injustice inflicted upon these two weak sections of society but would also have favourable economic consequence as they  would increase consumer demand, which is so important in rekindling the economy, as both recipients of this government assistance spend their money in consumer goods. He would do these two things without increasing public expenditure and hence worsening the deficit, but by cutting government wastage that is so massive and profligate in the State’s spending. Further, he will provide incentives to private enterprise in areas where Greece has almost unchallengeable comparative advantage, i.e., in the merchant marine sector, ship building, and tourism; and in the production and merchandise of olive oil and other agricultural goods by the local producers themselves, not by foreign ones as is the case presently, whose development in all the above sectors will vitally affect the resurgence of the economy. He also proposes to provide incentives to entrepreneurs to exploit the rich mineral resources of the country and to give priority to find and tap the vast natural gas deposits under the Aegean Sea, by declaring the Greek AOZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that could transform the export dynamic of Greece. He intends further, to reverse the present dryness of liquidity in the country by proffering amnesty from any legal penalties to those who withdrew their cash holdings from Greek banks during the height of the crisis and deposited them overseas once they bring them back to the country; and also by immediately paying back the 6.5 billion euros that the government owes to domestic enterprises; these two measures would increase the liquidity of the banks and hence their ability to provide loans to the private sector, especially to small businesses, that are the backbone of the country’s economy. Moreover, the re-capitalization of the banks, Samaras argues, will enable them to borrow funds at low interest rates from the European Central Bank, that were set up by it last December, which would be used to put Greece on the track of recovery and economic development.

It is by this method of supply-side economics, as that wunderkind Alders Borg the Swedish Finance Minister illustrated for his own country that Greece’s economy will rise again. The necessary austerity measures stipulated in the new Memorandum that Greece has to implement must be accompanied by the rejuvenated “animal spirits” of private enterprise. Samaras, consistently has been saying for the last two years that “we need a recovery to jump-start the economy,” and in conditions of recession austerity measures cannot stimulate the economy but on the contrary sink it deeper into stagnation.

The vision and plan of Samaras is to plant radical changes on the whole landscape of Greece. In his Zappeio speech he adumbrates constitutional changes that would separate the three branches of government the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary and thus prevent a member of parliament from being a minister, which has been in the past a malignant link of political corruption and has bestowed ‘asylum’ to members of parliament for their malfeasances. He pledges to bring changes to educational institutions that would reclaim the proud heritage of Greece that tragically has been eroded by the cultural relativists of a left coterie of pseudo-intellectuals and led to the disconnection of many young Greeks from their great cultural origins. He also promises to take drastic measures against illegal migrants, whom he calls “unarmed invaders” of Greece that under the soft immigration policies of Pasok they have occupied the main centres of cities, and remove them to provincial hostels until their eventual expulsion.  Another important commitment of Samaras is to transform the bon vivant ethos of many Greeks, which up till now its tab has been picked up by the government, into a creatively productive one. On the new green tree planted by New Democracy, the singing cicadas will be replaced by fecund working bees. As Samaras is fully aware that sustainable economic development cannot be accomplished without transformative changes in the thinking and the mores of the people, especially of the younger generation.

Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare. He is endowed charismatically both with a high intellect and remarkable moral strength along with the will and determination—all the stuff out of which statesmen are made–to change all things in Greece. But whether this lightning bolt of creative destruction will strike Greece or not depends on the strong mandate that he needs from the people. If Greeks do not fail, at this critical juncture, from fulfilling their historical duty to render to New Democracy a majority of seats in Parliament, then Antonis Samaras, in turn, will consummate the cultural, political, and economic Renaissance of Greece.

Hic Rhodus hic Salta

Statesmen Lead their People from Darkness to Enlightenment

•March 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’m republishing this short piece that was written on May 10, 2012, for the readers of this blog.

What actually decides is our character   Jose Ortega y Gasset

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 10, 2012

Surprisingly, you are profoundly pessimistic, not to say nihilistic, about Antonis Samaras, who is the greatest politician appearing on the political firmament of Greece since Eleftherios Venizelos. Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare, endowed with that rare combination of high intellect, imagination, stupendous moral strength, and economic insight, which he proved by his prediction of the disastrous policy of austerity, encapsulated in the first European Memorandum as a remedy to Greece’s dire economic peril, without economic resurgence.

Statesmen are not responsible for the ignorance and political immaturity of their people. They try to lead even in a vacuum of understanding among their people about the real dangers their country is facing. The tragedy of Samaras was that his clear and sagacious policies were not able to overcome and trump the ignorance of a large part of the electorate about the real dangers that were threatening Greece, especially in a state of akyvernisia (Lack of government).

As a physicist you must know the fate of Galileo and how difficult it is to nullify ignorance. And your quote of Christopher Hitchens in your blog gives me the sense that you are aware of this difficulty. To wish therefore for Samaras removal, seems to me not only unjust but also politically immoral. And to hope that the leader of Syriza, AlexisTsipras, a staunch votary of Hugo Chavez, that he will change his inveterate leftist populist position of anti-Europe led by Germany, is to indulge in wishful thinking.

In moments of a great crisis, statesmen have the obligation and responsibility to lead their people from darkness to enlightenment and imbue them with indispensable hope about their immediate future, so they can overcome the crisis. Samaras is doing just this.  

The Gravitational Force that Pulled European Nations into a Back Hole

•February 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As the superb and strong statesmanship of Antonis Samaras is presently pulling  Greece out of its economic crisis, I’m republishing this piece that was written on January,  2012, for the readers of this blog.

Government intervention always wills the good and works the bad.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The European Union’s sovereign debt crisis was neither an act of fate nor an act of a free self-dependent man but an act of deluded ideology whose sails were blown by the long-lasting winds of government dirigisme, i.e., intervention, and welfare dependency. Once again it was the work, the social engineering, of the bien pensants in the form of a state directory of planning that would put a floor of security for the masses and protect them from falling into abject economic privation that was always, according to their thinking, the omnipresent and inevitable result of the unjust, harsh, and unequal regime of the capitalist competitive free market. The trouble was that this floor was made out of straw and at the first jump of an economic crisis–whose seeds were planted by government intervention,  loose monetary policy and low interest rates–would open a gaping hole through which this security would disappear and drown in a massive pool of unemployment and poverty.

The Eurozone’s one dimensional foundation of monetary union without banking and fiscal union could not sustain the European edifice in the long run with the differentiating regime of taxes, social benefits, and pensions that existed among its constituent states. The proliferation and prodigality of unsustainable Entitlement Economies, which have been the characteristics of the welfare states of Europe especially in the south, could not have been continued without cracking the economic underpinnings of the Eurozone. Also, the European Central Bank’s enabling of low risk premiums on interest rates of government debt, encouraged Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland to go on an orgy of borrowing and overspending. The inevitable outcome was a stampede of budget deficits that were unsustainable and the eventual loss of all credibility in the financial markets that the afflicted States would be able to pay back their debts and thus the shutting out of the latter from the global financial lending pool.

Since no private person would hazard to lend money to states lassoed in sovereign debt the only alternative left was for the richest countries in the Eurozone, such as Germany, to become the lenders and continue to finance the former for their economic survival. But such help would be given under very severe terms encapsulated in strict Memoranda to the receiving countries with the stipulation that the latter would adopt and implement stringent austerity measures that would decrease substantially government expenditure, would restructure and reform their economies making them more competitive, and privatizing public enterprises, whose inefficiency and lack of a diligent working ethos can only be sustained by a continuous expensive staple of government subsidies.

These austerity measures, however, whose formulators have been the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the so called Troika, are forcefully rejected by the people of those countries who for decades have been inured to the social and economic comforts and benefits engendered by the reckless spending of their governments, and are refusing to accept any cuts to these benefits even when some are aware that the latter can no longer be provided since the governments’ coffers are empty and the convenience of funding these benefits by borrowing, as they have done in the past, is no longer available due to their nation’s sovereign debt. Moreover, these austerity measures initially had not being complemented with policies of economic development and thus led to the worsening of the economic conditions of those countries that adopted them, such as Greece, leading to unprecedented massive unemployment by the closure of large and small business enterprises and to the smashing of the middle class which is the cornerstone of free societies.

This situation is dangerously engendering the fragmentation of social cohesion in those countries and giving rise to political parties of the extreme right and left, coming out of the foam of waves of violent demonstrations that imminently threaten democracy. A latest illustration of this danger are the attacks by petrol bombs and other incendiary devices by hooded youths of anarchists and extreme leftists in Greece against the homes of outspoken journalists, offices of the governing coalition of New Democracy, Pasok, and the Democratic Left, and the burning of Bank’s ATMs. And of particular significance are the attacks on journalists, which are a blatant violation of free speech and a sinister attempt to intimidate them from expressing their opinion about events and criticizing politicians of Syriza, the official opposition, of whom obviously the fire carrying mobs are its ardent supporters.

This will be the tragic legacy of European big government and its ill-considered, indeed, destructive intervention in the processes of the free market that for at least two centuries have delivered prosperity and an unprecedented increase in the standard of living of the masses; as the socialist politicians from Francois Mitterand to Jaques Delors–the architects and enforcers of the European Monetary Union that forced Germany to succumb and pay the price of the unity of west and east Germany as demanded by France–and their present disciples of  etatisme are in the process of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, i.e., the unimpeded free market, and by doing so unconsciously and unwillingly are generating and  unleashing the brutal forces of fascism and leftist directorates of totalitarianism on the landscape of Europe.

To avoid this slide to the hell of totalitarianism only the rise of statesmen who “can act beneath heaven as if they were placed above it” is consummated. The fiscal and balance of payments crisis can only be remedied by substantial cuts in government spending and the euthanasia of big government, and by the privatization of debt ridden public enterprises–that are the last strongholds of obtuse and doctrinaire unions– and by the freeing of private enterprise to pursue profit by competition and entrepreneurial creativity and dynamism, respectively. These ‘bitter’ remedies can only be administered by statesmen of the calibre of Lee Kuan Yeu and Antonis Samaras. The latter, indeed, might not only be the progenitor of the Greek Renaissance but also the paradigmatic leader of other European politicians to imitate for their own European Renaissance. The Newtonian apple that will stop the European ‘discord’ that currently threatens the demise of the EU will fall to the gravitational force of such statesmanship.

Hic Rhodus hic salta

 

Foolish to Argue with Muslim Fanatics

•January 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Who dares to correct the ‘correctors’, the self-righteous, and those who god-like can predict the future, “Time’s on our side,” and who can allot to  the state of Israel an “Israhell” status, the devotees of religious fanaticism who devoutly believe they are the instruments of Allah and anointed with His omniscience? And what mortal who is intellectually endowed by the “prodigality of nature” only with ratiocination would dare argue against the divinely anointed and expect to dent their omniscience? Pre-determinedly it is written on this stormed-laden sky that rationality must be deluged by this downpour of religious obscurantism. That is why for people who lack the luxury to pray seven times a day it is futile to waste time arguing with those who do.

And the inanity and ridiculousness of both Sham and A. Menaidy are illustrated by their own words. When in the case of the former he attributes “personal misfortune” (M.E.) to “Israhell,” as if for the devil incarnate it is a personal misfortune to be the devil, and in the case of the latter, whose silliness has no bounds, when he accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and attributes to the latter a rational component that could limit it for the purpose of Israel not to be labelled by the world a “no.1 pariah,” as if there was a difference between a number one pariah and a number eight one as he implies by his statement.

 

Pasok Jeopardizes Greek Government by Refusing to Pay Twenty-five Euros

•January 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The present politically negative stand of Pasok to the Samaras government introduction of the payment of twenty-five euros for medical treatment in public hospitals for those who can afford to pay it is utterly unwise and politically reprehensible and condemnable as it could destabilize the coalition government of New Democracy and Pasok. The latter must realize that its political fortune and éclat is tied up solely with the success of the Samaras government in pulling the country out of the crisis and by putting it on the trajectory of economic development and hence to the gradual reduction of unemployment, and not on any ephemeral gains on the polls. In the event which is most unlikely that the electorate will not render to Pasok the justified plaudits for the economic success of the government, history will pass the ultimate judgment and write in golden letters the prudent participation of Pasok in the formation of the Samaras government as its ultimate contribution toward saving Greece from economic and political catastrophe.

This stupendous success of the Coalition Government will erase all other parties, from Syriza to the Golden Dawn, from the electoral map and will be their Nemesis for their sinister and perfidious populist policies that shamelessly deceived a sizeable part of the people by their totally false promises and completely screwball inapplicable policies. Only New Democracy and Pasok will reap the fruits of this tremendous success that had prevented Greece from falling into the abyss of disaster. It is for this reason that Pasok must immediately cease its adverse stand toward the twenty-five euro payment whose raison d’etre is the restructuring of the medical system so it can render better services to its more indigent patients.

Serious economic analysts both within and outside Greece are forecasting that the country by the end of 2014 will be out of the economic crisis as a result of the painful but necessary austerity measures that the Samaras government had taken, by reducing the public sector that impeded economic growth, by privatizing public corporations, and by making the economy more competitive and entrepreneurial. Hence the prudent policies of the Samaras government would draw foreign investment into the country that in turn would lead to the resurgence of the economy and for the first time in six years 2014 would show, according to economic predictions, a fiscal surplus and a small growth of 0.5 in Gross Domestic Product.

Needless to say political stability is a prerequisite for starting a spree of investment. Pasok by foolishly shaking this stability for electoral interests apparently seems to be unaware that by doing so it hinders and discourages indigenous and international entrepreneurs from making any investments that are so vital for the economic recovery of the country.

It is this great achievement of the government in pulling Greece out of the crisis that Pasok in an unprecedented conduct of political frivolity could jeopardize by refusing to pay a twenty-five euro fee for treatment in a public hospital, which could bring about the collapse of the Samaras government.

Australians Are Proud of their Western Culture

•December 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’m republishing this short piece that was written on February 2008, as crypto Islamist radicals, wolves in sheep’s clothing, are continuing to deceive Australians.

A short reply by Con George-Kotzabasis

To conflate, as Yusuf does, the so called cultural ‘warriors’ of the West with the religiously fanatic suicidal jihadists of al Qaeda, does not only abuse reality but also one’s intellectual integrity and honesty. Yusuf writes “the vast majority of people …are quite happy to live with people who don’t share their culture or religion”. Indeed they do, but only in the tolerant societies of the West. However, that does not mean that they are indifferent or apathetic about the achievements of their culture. No people can survive without breathing daily the achievements of their culture. And no people can be proud of these achievements if they are depicted by revisionist historians, like Robert Manne, that they have been made by the “spilling of blood”.

In our case, Australia’s culture is the descendant of the great culture of Western civilization. But no culture, no matter how great, is a manifestation of Godly purity. However, the blemishes of Western culture are infinitesimal next to its “infinite” virtues, and hence Western culture is ”closer” to the “realm of God”.

Yusuf wrote his piece on On Line…under the rubric of political philosophy. But with his moral equation between the “loud-mouthed cultural ‘warriors’ ” and “the likes of al Qaida”, he bans himself from all philosophical discourse. As by such philosophical credentials no philosopher would ever allow him to enter his academy.

Your opinion on the issue…

Debate between American and Australian about the War against Fanatical Islam

•November 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’m republishing this debate as a result of Obama’s cravenly and strategically foolish action to withdraw from Afghanistan without securing the country from future attacks by the Taliban and preventing its fall into the net of radical Islam.

American says,

For those who think we need to redouble our efforts to “win” the war in Afghanistan, I take it they mean we need to do whatever it takes, militarily and financially, to build a stable Afghan state run and headed by a secure and US-friendly government. I have two problems with this idea. First, I tend to doubt that the US has the wherewithal to accomplish such a goal in such a rugged, decentralized and forbidding country – no matter how much our surge surges. The whole idea seems fantastical.

Second, I don’t see how even achieving this fantastical aim would really help with the Al Qaeda issue, since I find it hard to believe that any Afghan government that we can realistically imagine taking shape will have the capacity to prevent Al Qaeda elements from gathering in remote locations and forming bases. As a basis for comparison, can we realistically imagine an Afghan government with even half the capacity of a state like Pakistan? Hardly. And yet Pakistan itself is not in control of large swaths of its country. Pursuing the quixotic state-building plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is a distraction from the methods that actually work.

My understanding is that we have been engaged in a global campaign against jihadist terrorism for several years now, and the main practical method is to rely on intelligence to stay one step ahead of the folks who actually pose a threat, and then disrupt their efforts, kill their leaders and interdict their operations. We’re probably going to have to keep doing that sort of thing for quite some time, just as the effort against organized crime in the US never really ends. If Al Qaeda cadres build some kind of training base in Afghanistan, we go in and blow it up. If they build another one, we blow that one up too. We use predators and covert methods. The same is true of al Qaeda redoubts in Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, right? We are going to have to do this no matter what kind of government we get in Kabul.

I can’t believe that at this late date American political leaders and opinion leaders are still deluded by the theory that the chief enabling cause of terrorism is “state sponsorship”, and so that our aim is to manufacture strong states where none exist now. This seems wrong-headed to me. I’ve used this analogy before, but the militant jihadist movement seems something like the anarchist movement of a century ago. Parts of that movement were violent. Was the solution some sort of state-building process in Europe and the United States? No. There were already strong states in Europe and the US. But it is of the nature of terrorist groups to slip between the cracks in the sovereign power of states.

Anarchist terrorism was basically a law and order problem. The idea was just to stay ahead of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and outlast the movement as its ideological fervor gradually dissipated and it burned itself out.

We should never have gotten involved in state building in Afghanistan. Now we have a generation of American leaders who are invested in that project, and see their personal honor and the national honor as riding on its very unlikely success. They need to get real.

Australian says,

Ben Katcher’s intellectually malodorous, and disingenuous, argument has reached the other shores of the Pacific. While he claims that “pouring more troops…into Afghanistan means fewer resources to pursue our other national security objectives across the globe,” he does not mention any of them by name other than the economic crisis mentioned by Dennis Blair. Hence his statement that “strategy is about priorities and trade-offs,” while true in general, is a contrived fiction when he applies it to international terrorism since these other priorities remain nameless. The reason why he does not name them is that if he had identified these priorities and contrasted them with the priority of global terror he would embarrass himself for being ludicrous.

Dan Kervick’s paragraph that contains “we use predators and covert methods,” which incidentally is an idea that I suggested myself too eight years ago, is very interesting although he contradicts himself further down on his post when he contrasts present terror with anarchist terror in the past and says for the latter that it “was basically a law and order problem,” which he first ventilated in a riposte to me on TWN three years ago. Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall in the ambience of “law and order.”

American says,

Kotzabasis says:

“Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall within the ambience of “law and order.””

I do. When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system. Those latter tools have proven effective in many cases, including operations interdicted in the UK and Canada. But given the limits of applying these tools across borders and inside rugged countries, sometimes more aggressive means must be employed. What I mean is that terrorism is fundamentally a problem of a limited number of militant “outlaws”, and that the strategy for addressing it should focus on that fact, rather than be distracted by extravagant projects for state improvement and state overhaul.

What I am most skeptical of is the idea that the problem of terrorism is a conventional military problem that calls for the use of conventional military operations – in the form of armies, invasions and occupations – against either states or sub-national “armies”. And I am especially skeptical of the idea that the way to address the problem of terrorism is to launch massive – and generally very unrealistic – state-building operations in the hope that some day the dangerous backward parts of the world will be filled with well-functioning and capable states that will be able to suppress all of the militants operating inside their territories.

There are other means that need to be used as well, including denying the terrorists the ideological foothold that multiplies their influence and capability. That means not doing so many things that provide evidence of the very charges the terrorists make. To counter jihadist charges that the United States is hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims across the world the United States should stop behaving as if it is indeed universally hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims.

Australian says,

Kervick says:

“When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system.”

Your quote states the obvious. Of course one does not fight terrorism only with police methods but the question is out of all the methods which are the most effective by which one can defeat the jihadists. And while your paragraph in your previous post that mentions “predators” and all the other ‘hard things’ that one has perforce to do against the jihadists is full of strategic clarity, by reverting back to your old argument of three years ago that the present terrorists are similar to the anarchist terrorists of the past and can be interdicted by ‘police’ methods, you unconsciously downgrade the seriousness of your ‘hard things’ position.

Moreover, you are locked in the fallacy of a rational person who premises his actions that his enemies that ‘round’ him up are also rational and if he shows by his actions, in our case America, that he is not against Arabs and Muslims this will bring a definitive change in the attitudes of the jihadists. This is a ‘straightjacket’ delusion that has lost all contact with reality. Islamic fanaticism will not be influenced, soothed, abated, or defeated by moral examples or olive branches but only in the field of battle and that is why a military deployment against it is a prerequisite. In short, it’s just another but more effective method in defeating the jihadists in a shorter span of time.

American says,

C-G Kotzabasis,

I’m talking about the hearts and minds issue. There is a hard core of dyed-in-the-wool militant jihadists with an uncompromising Salafist ideology. They are not going to be swayed by US public diplomacy, or by forseeable changes in US policy. They can only be dealt with forcibly. They must either be captured or killed, and their plans must be disrupted.

But the hard core is surrounded by concentric circles of people who are associated with the hard core by various degrees of fellow-travelling or sympathizing or onlooking. The extent to which the jihadists are able to expand their movement to get material or moral assistance from people in the out rings depends on how well their message resonates.

In my view, the jihadists have been the beneficiaries in recent years of a number of wrong-headed US policies that help their message resonate strongly. If hundreds of innocent people in Gaza have their lives snuffed out in an over-the-top Israeli attack, some as a result of deliberate crimes, with nary a peep from the US Congress, then when your friendly neighborhood jihadist says, “Muslims lives mean nothing to the Americans,” that message is going to get much more play on the street than it would if the US Congress had stepped up and condemned the excessive use of force.

Australian says,

Dan Kervick,

Certainly the “hearts and minds issue” is a core issue. But the “concentric circles of people,” will not be influenced by US Congress pronouncements and condemnations, in this case of Israeli actions, if they perceive, which they will, that this change of American policy arises from the weakness of the latter and from the strength of the “hard core” “militant jihadists” in their war with the US. The concentric circles of support for the militants will only disappear by depriving the latter of the ‘aura’ of being seen as the victors (The ethos of Arab pride trumps all.) against the American hegemon. And that entails the imminent and decisive defeat of the militants in the field of battle, as it happened in Iraq to the Sadrist militias and al Qaeda.

Furthermore, your concentrated reasoning loses its force if your policy contains these two incongruous parts: The first one will destroy by predators and covert operations (Which will be seen in the Muslim world as American excesses) the incubators of “Salafist ideology”, which are the madrassas, while the second, will denounce American and Israeli excesses. Do you seriously believe that such denunciation will have greater influence upon fellow-travellers and sympathisers, than the destruction of the madrassas in which many civilians will be killed, and will win their hearts and minds?

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