The Turks are of Mongol origin, a people far from their original home. They are nomad warriors who adapted to Islam on their way through the Middle East. Having wandered too far to the west, and lost their connexion with the Islamic world, being now surrounded by hostile cultures, the Turks have a real need to make alliances. Since the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey has been a crisis-ridden country, always living on the brink of another military coup (Aydin 2005: 25–56), held together only through great compromises between the ruling classes, in fear of the alternatives.
Kemalism is an intellectually-enlightened form of despotism. But Islamist rule will mean an end to Turkey’s autonomy. It will mean an end to the secular State founded on Western ideals. To counter this movement, many Turks have become even more Kemalist, especially within the army.
Constantinople was for a while the capital of the Roman Empire, and later a centre for the Christian Church. For centuries this staging-post on the road to Jerusalem was held by Europeans. For centuries the city relied for its security on mercenaries, many of them Vikings. In the middle of the eleventh century a new tribe came in from the east, who the Vikings quickly saw that they could not hold back: the Seljuks. After the defeat at
Manzikert in 1071 it was only a matter of time before the Europeans would have to give up this land. Even though the Seljuks succeeded much better than the Byzantines in populating Anatolia, integration and unity remained and remains a major problem. In an attempt to hold it all together, the Seljuks moved their capital back to the old Celtic city of Angora (now “Ankara”), a place which reminds us of all the different people who have ruled this area since the Hittites (Indo-Europeans).
Surrounded by hostile Muslim cultures on all sides, the Seljuk secular elites have from time to time flirted with the idea of co-operation with the Jews in Israel, but this has never really worked out because the Israelis have never accepted them as equals. The Turkish army, which beat Winston Churchill162 but lost against Lawrence of Arabia, was trained and led by German officers. Otto Liman von Sanders turned Enver’s defeat into a victory. Enver Pasha (Ismail Enver) did not much like Liman but had to recognize his merits. It was Liman who promoted Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), against the will of Enver.
After the Allied victory of 18 March 1915, the Young Turks led by Enver turned in fury against the Armenian population, hoping to exterminate or deport all two million of them. They killed about 700,000 people. The Americans are the only people who really need Turkey as an ally, to keep an eye on Russia (via signals intelligence) and, now they realize that Israel is no longer a secure base in the region, as a military base for operations in the Middle East.
The American strategy is to create deeper divisions within the EU by advocating Turkish membership. They have almost achieved the same goal with Poland, making the Polish overconfident. Much of the military equipment used in the first Gulf War was afterwards given to Turkey. The US military industry never wants to see weapons brought back from a theatre of war. It is bad business for that industry. They would rather have the weapons sold to Third World countries or private-sector contractors, which is what often happens.
The Middle East
In the Middle East you find two types of thinking: irrational (Sunni) and rational (Shia). Those who adhere to the first kind will blow themselves up. The second group will lead wars and lead them well, but you can also reason with them. In the Middle East your enemy’s enemy is your friend. This is a world where there are no ideal solutions, and treachery lures round the next corner. Study the examples of deception in the Arabian Nights. They will prepare you well. In the 1930s the “Near East”, or Proche-Orient, only included Egypt and its fertile neighbouring countries: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. The term was associated with the great civilizations and the three Abrahamic religions (Defay 2003: 6). Later the term “Middle East” came to be used for the area from Libya (sometimes even from Morocco) to Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Turks arrived in the Arab world as mercenaries. Armenians bought Turk slaves and sold them to Arabs. The Turks have never enjoyed desert life. That is why they have always preferred the Balkans and Europe.
Armenians have always been skilled tradesmen, well placed on the route from East to West. “What would Madras be without the Armenians?” When the British, and later the Ottoman Sultan, started to rid themselves of their loyal middlemen, an Armenian diaspora appeared. Wherever they go they prosper.
The Arab world is divided into two: Arab Muslims and Arab Christians. Of the 22 million Christian Arabs, more than eighty per cent (18 million) used to live in the Lebanon. After the civil wars, sixteen million of them left the country, most of them moving to the USA where they integrated well into society.
We allow ourselves to be fascinated by Islam as an alien thing (“Orientalism”), the romantic image of Moorish culture and its aesthetics (hydraulic engineering – which they learned from the Romans; mosaics and gardens– which they had seen in Persia; the books they preserved – which we had written). Islam is a political religion.
Deep in its soul lies jihad, the good war. Society is controlled by sharia, the religious laws. How can you hope to integrate this? (That does not mean that our societies cannot absorb a number of moderate Muslims.)
After the fall of Marxism, Muslims have taken on the task of saving the world. They have inherited the doctrine of anti-Westernism. Question: What explains the increasing popularity of Islam? Answer: Islam offers a strong moral code which helps people in chaotic parts of the world to co-exist (cf. Barreau 1991).
Islam continues to grow even though the Moslems have been beaten on all fronts: in the west by the Europeans, in the south by the Hindus, in the east by China (in Xinjiang). Theirs is the fate of people living in the middle, at the crossroads. After a period of Islamic expansion there was an internal struggle about the future direction of the religion (700–1400), won by the more hawkish side. There was to be no more scientific progress. For a few Arab communities this was too much: for the Christian Arabs, the Syrian–Lebanese, and for those who emigrated to Egypt.
Islam’s new conquests include Malaysia, Indonesia, and the island of Mindanao. It is also gaining territory in Africa. The geopolitics of the Middle East is all about the logistics of oil. The major areas of interest follow the new pipeline projects leading from the Caspian Sea: from the Kashgavi and Tengiz fields in the north (Russia), from Baku (Azerbaijan), and from Chardzhou (Turkmenistan). The new pipeline from the northern Caspian area passes through the Balkans (from the port of Burgas in Bulgaria) via Macedonia to the port of Durres in Albania.
The largest American overseas military base built since Vietnam is Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, run by a private company, KBR Inc. (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root). It is financed and run by the Brown & Root Division of Halliburton, the world’s biggest oil service corporation, whose chief executive was Dick Cheney, former Vice-President of the USA.
Many analysts see US actions in this region mainly from the perspective of oil interests. They are convinced that the human-rights rhetoric conceals only pure self-interest. With Obama at the helm the analysts’ eyesight is becoming blurred, seduced by the new president’s charm.
The Western world has learned how dependent it is on stable oil prices from three major oil crises: in 1973, with the Yom Kippur war between Israel and Arab states; in 1979, with the Iranian revolution; and in 1990–2, with the Gulf War. The idea then was that the war on Iraq should lead to more reliable oil supplies. Instead the opposite occurred.
When the USA first invaded Iraq, it not only got its hands on the second-largest oil reserve in the world, after Saudi Arabia, but it also saw off two major competitors: France’s Total Fina Elf, and Russia’s LUKOIL. Now Russia and France are back again. The US won the “war of invasion”, but lost the “insurgency war”. Now they are losing the oil contracts too.
Natural gas, not oil, will be the fuel of the 21st century (cf. Doyle 2004: 36). As this change occurs, more power will shift from OPEC countries towards Russia, holder of the world’s largest gas reserves and newly elected to membership of the World Trade Organization. It is in our interest to move to alternative sources of energy as soon as possible, but we need a couple of decades to achieve this; we need the time to develop the new technology.
When the US leaves the Persian Gulf, Iran will fill the power vacuum.Iran is the true victor of the two wars America has fought in the Persian Gulf. Iran now controls the larger and more important parts of Iraq (Basra), and has consolidated its influence on Syrian and Lebanese politics. On top of that, Hezbollah has defeated the Israeli army in open battle (in 2006).
The best option for the USA is to get Israel and Iran to the negotiating table and to divide the Middle East into spheres of interest
between the three of them – but why should Iran agree? They are the true victors of these wars. In the meantime Israel may do something foolish.
Hezbollah are training Hamas. If they succeed, they will have Israel surrounded.
Only the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet stands between Iran and the oil resources in the Arab Gulf States. There will be no Arab Spring revolution there, because the poor migrant workers are non-citizens.
Iran is a police state, a paranoid and divided society run by a group of mullahs. The mullahs make the laws, control the military, and run the intelligence services. Their praetorian guard, the Revolutionary Guard, is a part-military part-commercial organization. The presidency is just a facade, like the post of prime minister in Russia.
Iranian students are held and tortured in secret prisons by the thousands. They can turn the revolution around, but they rely on support from people living in the countryside.
SAVAMA, the successor to the Shah’s SAVAK, is even larger than the former organization and just as brutal. Like its Israeli counterpart, Mossad, SAVAMA regularly engages in assassinations abroad. But unlike Mossad they mostly kill their own people.
Iran is a country actively seeking to acquire the same nuclear capability as Israel. They are doing this using ex-Soviet and Chinese expertise and Western equipment sold on by third-party companies, some of which are located in Pakistan.
Iran has a vast organizational structure for managing terrorist operations and spreading anti-Western propaganda. The country can mobilize all the world’s miseries against the West if it decides to do that. In just hours it could cut off all movement of oil out of the Persian Gulf. In days it could set off explosions across the planet. The USA does not even want to contemplate the thought of attack. … and as it is election year in the US Iran will not risk a provocation, only show their capabilities.
Some years ago, the Iranian foreign intelligence carried out a number of bombings in Paris as a reprisal for not being allowed to kill their own nationals in France. So now when SAVAMA/VEVAK/MOIS want to kill their own people, the local intelligence services wait outside in their car. … There is a delicate balance in the dealings between the world’s leading intelligence services. When Mossad killed the wrong man in Norway in 1973, they had to give something in return: they revealed Israel’s nuclear plans (admitting that they had used Norwegian heavy water to build a bomb), a secret only leaked to the public thirteen years later by Mordechai Vanunu.
Iran does not like its neighbouring Arab States. Their Islamism is anti-Saudi. Iran does not even have an embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Iran is dominated by a hundred thousand rival mullahs belonging to the Shiite sect. Shiite ideology has many similarities with Communism. The Shiite minority fights to liberate all of humanity. It is in part to blame for the conflict in Afghanistan, the struggle for power in Syria, continual unrest and insecurity in Lebanon and in Saudi Arabia, the chaos in Pakistan, and opposition to secularism in Turkey. The list is long. Islam is a religion which aims to conquer new land. It is a powerful weapon that Iran cannot dispense with. One could imagine Iran returning to a more secular structure, combined with its Zoroastrian tradition, at some
time in the future, but not now. If it had, this would have made the relationship with the West less problematic. After the age of petroleum has passed we may consent to Iran setting the agenda for their neighbouring Arab states. After all, Iran is the only player which could bring real stability to the region. The Arab Spring has yet to deliver in this part of the world. Syria is not Iran.
Be aware, the Americans hawks are bent on revenge in the Middle East. They want to bomb Iran, and they will come up with reasons to do so.
A child who gets beaten does not turn against the idea of beating; he inflicts the same pain on his own children. So it is with the Jews. After centuries of persecution in Europe, they quickly became persecutors of their own neighbours, the Palestinians. The Israelis have two enemies, the Shiites and the Sunnis, or Persians-plus-Azeri-Turks and Arabs. The Arabs they can beat in battle any day, any time. The Shiites are now their superiors on the battlefield, and not just in numbers. Surfers and college kids are nothing to fervent religious warriors. The lesson has taken a long time to learn, but after eighteen years in Lebanon, ending with their withdrawal in 2000 and the defeat by Hezbollah in 2006, the point has become obvious to Israeli Intelligence. Their population is now too soft to fight a largescale war.
Instead Mossad has decided to go it alone, to take out key people in Hamas and in Iran. This will only make the journey to the negotiating table longer. It will make the eventual concessions larger. The USA will not go along with the Israeli wish to bomb Iran. If Israel decides to bomb Iran alone, that will be the beginning of the end of the State of Israel. Neither Europe nor the USA will come to its rescue, not unless there is a Tea Party politician at the helm.
In the Palestinian State of 1947, most Jewish colonies were in the coastal areas, from Jaffa and Tel Aviv northwards. The UN plan for a Jewish State in 1947 allotted to the Palestinians the West Bank, an area on the border with Lebanon, and another area including Gaza and along the Sinai border with Egypt. In 1949 the Israelis took the Sinai and Lebanon border regions from the Palestinians, leaving them with the small Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
In the 1967 war Israel not only occupied the West Bank, but took the Golan Heights from Syria and the whole of the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai was returned to Egypt in various intervals between wars over the years 1978 to 1982, but the other areas were never returned to their previous owners. And so long as Israel can rely on US support, there are no signs that they will give those areas back; however, when US influence in the region diminishes, they will have to reconsider.
To the USA, Israel is a liability, not an asset. Knowing this, the Israelis have established the world’s most powerful political interest group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has traditionally supported the right-wing Likud Party. … Only the House of Saud has a more direct line into the White House and the US Senate.
Through excessive violence by Israelis in the Gaza Strip, much of it directed at women and children, Israel has now lost its popular support in Europe. That has taken some fifty years.
If the current political direction in Israel prevails, the country is likely to weaken with the decline of the USA. … Its position will not improve when China is leading country. Like the Romans, the Chinese have no tolerance for fanatics of any kind, especially not the religious kind. Unlike the Americans and the Europeans, the Chinese will be unsentimental about Israel.
Iraq, the land of the two rivers, consists of Sunnis (about 32 per cent), Shias (about 48 per cent) and Kurds (non-Arabs, about 20 per cent). Kurdistan is already a quasi-independent state within the state, with its own government and militia. The Shias have become the de facto rulers through their majority. The previous rulers and allies of the Americans, the Sunnis, have been marginalized.
Shias represent only about 12.5 per cent of all Muslims worldwide. Remember that al-Qaeda is a Sunni movement. So, our best strategy in Afghanistan would have been to cooperate with Iran, but of course we did not do that. That is because the real enemy of America since the Shah
was ousted has always been Iran, not Iraq and not Afghanistan. Iraq was controlled by Turks for close to 900 years163 (the Baghdad Kiosk at the Topkapi Palace was built to commemorate the victory), and under British protection for only forty years. In 1920 an Arab socialist movement was founded in Paris by a Syrian and an Orthodox Christian. This historical relationship explains why both the left in France and the Christians supported Saddam Hussein.
Both Europe and the USA actively supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Now, since that war, Iran has won the struggle for the control of the Middle East. How ironic. Our strategy was highly short-sighted and irresponsible. Now it is time to mend the situation and make new alliances.
Saddam and Nasser were the political descendants of Kemal. The two major religious cities of the Shiites lie along the Euphrates: Karbala and Najaf. We are seeing the beginning of their reunification with the motherland. Turkey will not agree to the Kurds establishing an independent republic in Iraq, but they may be forced to accept it. When the last American forces have left, we may even see military conflict between Kurds and an alliance of Sunnis and Shias over the disputed oil fields. The US invasion of Iraq could be called the greatest strategic blunder of modern history (cf. Baer 2009): it served to strengthen the only real potential superpower in the region, Iran, America’s arch-rival.
Syria came into early contact with, and later assimilated, many of the Hittites, the first Indo-European tribe in the Mesopotamia region. That c ontact is still visible in the Syrian character. It produced one of the most advanced civilizations ever seen in the Middle East, that of the Assyrians.164 Syria is a country controlled by one man, Bashar al-Assad, as it was by his father Hafez before him. All significant business contracts pass though him and his entourage. Apart from that, business life is relatively open and free. Syrian society is composed of a number of cohesive groups recognizing a common heritage and exhibiting great solidarity. Both linguistic and religious characteristics define these groups; religious communities within the larger population sharing a language function as separate quasi-ethnic entities, and which have in many cases developed distinctive cultural traits.
About forty percent of the Sunnis in Syria are urban dwellers; of those, eighty percent live in the five largest towns. The Alawis, apart from those who constitute the ruling elites in Damascus, are generally poor and live in rural areas, especially along the coast north of Lebanon. About ninety percent of the inhabitants of the Jabal al-Arab are Druze; there are also Jews and Armenians, who are largely urban traders (see Mona Yacoubian in Collelo 1988).
The twenty-million-strong population of Syria is ruled by the Alawite section of the population, who number 2.5 million and provide the Head of State and the leaders of the armed forces and intelligence services. The Alawites are a distinctive sect of Shia Islam with secret rituals built on ideas of reincarnation. The Sunnis represent about seventy per cent of the population, and handle most civil administration. This is a difficult balance which is maintained only through oppression and control; the Sunnis hate the Alawites. Knowing that keeps the Alawites on constant alert.
The Islamic Brotherhood, also Sunnis, was at war with the Alawites in Syria for most of the twentieth century. In Syria this ended with the Alawites killing people variously numbered between seven and forty thousand in the city of Hama in 1982; many hundreds of Brotherhood members were slaughtered in Syrian prisons. Al-Assad wanted to make a point, as a warning to them. The Brotherhood had killed Sadat the previous year in Egypt.
This is the same Brotherhood that attacked America at the beginning of the 21st century. Al-Qaeda, the remainder of fundamentalist resistance fighters in the war in Afghanistan, were their brothers in arms against Russia.
Unlike al-Qaeda, the Brotherhood have always had a strong intellectual streak. Osama bin Laden’s teachers were members of the Brotherhood. There is a close relationship between the Islamic Brotherhood and the Wahhabites in Saudi Arabia.
Iran has helped the Alawites to rid Lebanon of Saudi influence. For the moment the Iranians control the south (Hezbollah) and the Syrians the remainder.
Now the US wants to join forces with the Islamic Brotherhood to oust Al-Assad, with the aim at the end to weaken the Shias in Iran. Most politicians of Europe play along, even France who once put the Alawites in power, without every asking what regime may come instead. In the meanwhile Al-Assad had open up for democratic election through constitutional reforms. We would then be ousting a democratic state with the help of some of the world’s worst dictatorships.
King Abdullah I of Jordan (ruled 1921–51) has been described by others as a British bellboy who agreed with Ben Gurion to share Palestine with the Israelis. It was put to him that he would come to rule much of Syria if he supported the Israeli attack. But when the 1948 war started, the Israeli officers paid no heed to that agreement. Now, in order to rebuild some trust, Jordan has had to house many of the Palestinian refugees (1.8 million out of 4.2 million).
Jordan also offers a home to members of the Islamic Brotherhood – Sunni terrorists expelled from Syria and Iraq. The Shia too have a presence here, with their Islamic Action Front. All groups are waiting for a chance to strike. The Hashemite Kingdom is the most reliable partner of the USA in the Middle East. When the US pulls out, this family will be the first to go into exile. Then there will probably be all-out civil war.
Egypt has a single-party electoral system, in which most votes get lost in the process of counting. Under Nasser, Egypt was considered Communist, and the Islamic Brotherhood was supported military and financially by the USA. Unlike Morocco, this is a country with a certain tradition of secularism. Now, Muslim fundamentalists are winning the hearts of the poor. If the wealth of the country wealth cannot be distributed more equally, they will revolt again. Not even the fear of ending up in the most horrible prisons in the world can deter this group. (One American official said in the aftermath of 9 11: “If you want to torture someone you send him to a Syrian prison, if you want to kill him you send him to Egypt”.) A Muslim fundamentalist city of some twenty million inhabitants165on the border of Europe would be a tremendous security risk. It is probably our worst nightmare with respect to the Mediterranean region. Hence we have always been willing to support a dictator and look the other way.
Mubarak will be replaced by other military figures. The Egyptian revolution was never won, or at any rate it has not been, so far. Those who advocate freedom are not the majority. Their long-awaited democracy may instead encounter a reverse.
Egypt faces much the same situation as Turkey: there is a balance between critics of the regime and the nonreligious elites. If one tourist is killed, all hell breaks loose. Both parties know and respect this unwritten agreement. It is the same agreement the Turks have with the Kurds in Istanbul: “a hundred eyes for half an eye”. If the military abandon their hold on power, the country will drift towards Islamism. Their best hope will be some sort of moderate Islamic republic as in Turkey, but they are still far from this goal.
Saudi Arabia is a young country, founded in 1932 on the remains of the Ottoman Empire. This is, as the name suggests, the al-Sauds’ Arabia, the country of one family; the biggest family business in the world. Some four thousand princes occupy most key positions in the State. The wider Saud family may number as many as forty thousand individuals, a figure which will double within a generation since the country has the world’s highest birth rate. The most powerful members are the direct descendants of King Abdul Aziz, about two hundred in
This work-shy Bedouin society can afford to hire foreigners to work for them, who comprise some seventy per cent of the total workforce.
The Sauds returned from exile in Kuwait to fight the Rashids, then the leading tribe, in 1901. The Saud family and the rulers of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar were originally all from the same tribe, the Aneyza. The country has been run by one man for more than a decade, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The Saud family is fundamentalist, believing in a return to the teachings of the Koran. That does not mean, of course, that they wanted to hand their kingdom over to bin Laden, the son of a construction worker. In 1740 Abdul Wahhab, the son of a qadi (religious judge), met a man called Mohammed, from the little-known house of Saud. These two made a pact to reform Islam by armed force. They succeeded, largely thanks to the British (who wanted to hinder Turkish dominance in the region). What seemed sensible at the time turned out to be a disaster, for the British too, who were soon replaced by the Americans.
The Bush and the Saud families are among the most powerful dynasties in the world, perfect partners in the same industry. It was the Saud family who wanted the Americans to collaborate with them in their oil fields, believing that this would bring greater stability to the region as a counterweight to British exploitation in Kuwait, Iraq, and Qatar. The British had a reputation for wanting to take charge. The Americans just wanted to make money. The deal was the invention of Kermit Roosevelt: the USA would support the Saud family politically and militarily in return for an oil price fixed in dollars. Both parties made financial commitments to the Carlyle Group, the largest private-equity firm in the world. So the Saudis took on Standard Oil of California, later Amoco, later fifty per cent owned by Texaco.
The deal was brokered with the help of St John Philby, a British agent and friend of Ibn Saud, better-known as the father of Kim Philby, the most harmful double agent in Western history. Amoco was later to develop something of a tradition of employing CIA agents.
The USA has been cooperating with the Bedouins in Saudi Arabia for as long as it could. This strategy has now run out of time. Possession of Iraq was thought to be an alternative source of oil for the USA, an insurance policy in case the Sauds should be overthrown. The Saudi–American investment company Carlyle Group is led by a group of men around George Bush senior. Even Colin Powell had his hand in these pockets. Much of the Washington establishment has been taking money from the Saudis for decades in return for support. This is not a matter of occasional bribes, but a system of corruption that has been institutionalized on Capitol Hill.
The chief executive of the Carlyle Group, Frank Carlucci, was national security adviser in the Reagan administration. The bin Laden family were part-owners, and had to be bought out when Osama suddenly turned against the USA. Not only was the bin Laden family an ally of the Americans against the Communists, but it also included members of Islamic fundamentalist groups (Wahhabites, Islamic Brotherhood, Taliban).
It is ironic, but probably no coincidence, that Osama bin Laden decided to lead his warriors of the Islamic Brotherhood in an attack against the USA on the very day that his brother Shafiq participated in a conference led by the Carlyle Group in Washington (see Pierre 2005: 280).
Saudi Arabia does not have one centre, but many. The country’s four thousand princes have different political ideals, and they finance Islamic movements more or less all over the planet, in places like Chechnya and Central Asia. (That is why Chechnian terrorist often carry the most expensive weapons) Oil is easy money. After the oil is gone, the Saudis will rapidly decline as a culture, and cease to be an international player. This nation will fall much faster than seventeenth-century Spain after it had spent all the gold that was stolen in the Americas. Spain at least built some impressive cathedrals for the money. All the Saudis have managed to buy is American weapons, since that has been what the USA most needed to sell, about $100bn worth since the 1970s.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE consists of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Dubai, Umm al Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah, and Fujairah. Together they have a population of about 4.1 million, of whom 3.2 million are servants and expatriate “guest workers”. The Emirates amount to nothing more than a high-end shopping precinct (cf. Baer 2009). Abu Dhabi sits on 94 per cent of the UAE’s oil reserves. While Abu Dhabi has all the money, Dubai has mostly debt, and needs to borrow to survive. It is a bubble-city on the brink of collapse, and was recently rescued by Abu Dhabi. Westerners flock here in hundreds of thousands, to make money. But few want to stay. There is nothing to see and it is too hot to live there. When the wealth is gone – which may take a while – it will be time to shut up shop.
Bahrain was part of Iran until 1783. In 1797 one family, the Al Khalifa family, seized the island. To protect themselves they first made an alliance with Britain, and later with the USA. The country’s large Shia population is a continual threat to its Sunni rulers.
“Qatar has the population of a large scale hotel. The life in the Arab states along the Persian Gulf all bears a strong resemblance to the situation in Havana in the years before Castro took over.” (Baer 2009) Fewer than 300,000 Qatari citizens are being served by 1.4 million foreigners. This is a family business where key posts are distributed to the Emir’s family (ministers) and that of his wife (army and security services). Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani owns 17 per cent of Volkswagen, 7 per cent of Barclays Bank, 25 per cent of Sainsbury’s (Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain), part of London’s Canary Wharf, and the famous Harrods of London. Where does the money come from? The country is the largest exporter of liquefied gas in the world. The Emir of Qatar runs one of the world’s most successful news organizations, AlJazeera. It has rapidly won market share not only in the Arab world, but in Europe too, being seen by many as a welcome counter-weight to the more biased American networks. Many Shias view Al Jazeera as a pro-Sunni weapon against Syrian and Iran influence in the region.
Oman owes its independence to the Rub’al Khali or Empty Quarter, a vast, virtually-uninhabited desert which few men would enter and none would consider fighting over. In this country, which is neither Sunni nor Shia, but has its own unique “Ibadi” form of Islam, the Sultan is absolute ruler.
Yemen comprises Shias of a ferocious warrior type, so it was never realistic for the Wahhabi Sauds to annexe the country. Even the Romans failed to conquer what they knew as Arabia Felix, home of the Queen of Sheba. North and South Yemen were reunited in 1990, after South Yemen had been Communist for two decades. Until recently the country’s northern borders were undefined, since the land here is practically uninhabitable (though remarkably beautiful). Today the country is divided into three areas with three distinct groups: Shias in the north (supported militarily by Iran, trained in Eritrea), rebels in the south, and the government in the middle. This is the new hideout for Islamic fundamentalists, and Somali pirates operate freely from its coast. For Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled North Yemen from 1978 just until recently when he became ill and the whole country since unification in 1990, al-Qaeda was always a minor problem relative to the secessionist movements in the north and south of the country. Now he has passed on power to his long-time friend and military leader, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi.
Russia and the Tartar world
No other country has felt the impact of the end of the Cold War as Russia has. All its boundaries have been redrawn. It has been a case of “quick come, quick go”. This has been the price for losing the Cold War. All Russia’s borders have been contested, from the Baltic countries in the north-west, right through Central Europe, to the Balkans, Ukraine, and the Caucasus, and by the Turkic-speaking countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). The power vacuum is being filled by Europe (along
the western borders) and by the USA (along the southern borders).
For four centuries the Russian State expanded, without ever reaching its goal, access to warm waters.
In the fifteenth century the Russian State was just a little region surrounding Moscow.
By the mid-eighteenth century it had expanded northwards to the Kola Peninsula.
Then between 1790 and 1914 came the big move eastwards.
Now the country is experiencing a return to its pre-nineteenth-century borders in the south.
Modern history has taught us that you need an ideology to win the heart of a people and rule them.
For the French under Napoleon it was “liberty, equality, and fraternity”
for the Soviets it was “equality”
for the USA it is “freedom and the pursuit of happiness” (the right to stay rich).
Disintegration started with the Baltic States’ demands for independence.
It continued with the Ukraine in the south
then the peoples of the Caucasus followed
and now the process is continuing in the vast Islamic region between the Caspian and China. All that remains are the wide steppes, which were largely unpopulated before the Great Russian expansion.
“Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire” (Brzezinski 1997: 46). We would have liked to meddle in the affairs of White Russia (Belarus) too, but Lukashenko is blocking the doorway, literally.
Russia – the largest country in the world, more than twice the size of the second-largest – has no natural frontiers. It has an ocean that is icebound for most of the year, a climate without much variation, and poor, badly-watered soil.
Russia probably has one of the most adverse geographical situations of any country relative to its size, being composed of vast areas of difficult, infertile land, lacking direct year-round access to any ocean, and being surrounded by enemies. This Slavonic tribe has not had an easy journey from the Ukrainian steppes where they originated, to their current situation largely spread out thinly along the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok, via Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Khabarovsk.
From a geographical perspective Russia is related more closely to Asia than to Europe. Yet at the same time the cultural gap between Russia and China is an abyss. Russia has always been a political mess.
They first sought the help of the “Rus”167 (Swedish Vikings) to govern their own people in the tenth century,
then later were threatened by various Mongol tribes;
Mongols came to rule them with an iron fist for three centuries.
They were then governed in an atmosphere of terror by the Czars
and were seduced into believing in the European monarchical way of life,
only to end up as a test bed for Communist theories – our theories, not theirs.
It does not take a psychologist to understand that these events have imprinted violent traumas on the Russian character. In Russia there has never been any notion of rule by or for the people, only master–servant relationships, in the past and now. You serve someone, or you will not survive.
Average life expectancy for men in Russia has reduced by five years since the Cold War. Democracy is still not the order of the day. Two things have priority: security and bread. They also need something to believe in, so the Christian catechism has been obligatory in schools since 1992.
Western Europe is flooded with a nihilist Russian mafia. For these people there are no values, no right or wrong. “To meet them with our own laws and values is a waste of time.” For these, as for the Albanian mafia and certain other criminal groups, there must be special rules, or they will continue to flourish.
Most of the Russian elite emigrated to the USA and other Western countries immediately after the Cold War. Their second-rank scientists have found jobs in other countries around the world, e.g. in South America. The brain drain has been almost total, even though a few who have succeeded abroad are now returning home, wanting for instance to recreate that pre-Communist idyll of life in a dacha for their children. Russia has an important diaspora, but does not know how to use it.
The Americans, on the other hand, have once again shown that they are masters at attracting the best brains. But then, they need to be, since they have been incapable of producing a sufficient number of their own scientists to retain superpower status. (Harvard is the best university in the world because it has the most money and knows how to use it. Stanford and Berkeley are populated largely by Asian students with excellent marks.168) Russia has finally acquired its “dear father”, without whom, history has shown, they are lost. A decade of chaos
is coming to an end. Once again we have seen that the Russian elite is military. A leader from the private sector would have cost the country more blood. Medvedev is a puppet, a trick for the media: the civilian face. Putin would have liked to remove him if he could, but needed to create an image of a democratic, modern Russia.
The reform process which Russia has undergone has been like an operation without anaesthetic.
The Russians themselves had the courage to eliminate Communism, a political ideology which came from the West, created by a German and implemented in Russia with German help, supported by a non-Russian minority. The German aim was to destroy Tsarist Russia; the aim of the Bolsheviks was to sue for peace. But the German strategists had underestimated the danger of internationalizing Communism, which soon led to a coup attempt in Berlin.
168 Harvard has a dual strategy of 20) According to Hermann Rauschning’s biography (1939), Hitler was well aware how far his own movement was a parallel to Russian Bolshevism. They were both mob-led rebellions against conservative, non-ideological rule.
A number of the people who initiated the Russian Revolution were Russian inmates of German prisoner-of-war camps, liberated by the German government so that they could attack their own country. Ludendorff instructed the Prussian officer Walter Nicolai to facilitate the operation.169 There was no real “revolution” in the French sense; it was a halfhearted coup d’etat. Hardly any shots were fired; all that was necessary was to occupy a few post offices and block some roads. Afterwards, whatever Lenin said went.
No revolution has happened spontaneously. We know this from Cuba and China also.
There used to be three great intellectual centres where Communist ideals inspired leaders from all over the world, all found in Europe: Paris, where Messali Hadj of Algeria, Pol Pot, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping studied, Oxford, where Nehru studied and Cambridge which produced some of the best communist spies in history.
The history of the Soviet Union was the history of the largest planned social experiment in human history (cf. Dedijer 1989a: 6). You always need an ideology to rule, whether political or religious– preferably it should be both.
The Communist experiment in the Soviet Union cost the lives of more than sixty million people. In some parts of its territory, such as Kazakhstan, the population remains lower today than it was in 1913. This seventy-year political and social experiment was a historical catastrophe. Lenin and Stalin between them killed more people than Hitler. The Soviet and Nazi regimes were of the same nature, totalitarian, which means that they demanded absolute submission from their subjects. … Some argue that Stalin had converted de facto to Fascism by the late 1930s, out of disillusion with the industrial performance of his Marxist–Leninist society.
Stalin was Asian, not European. He said so himself. That meant that he did not mind the brutality. Officially Stalin claimed that his idol was Lenin. In reality it was probably Genghis Khan. We know that Stalin read everything he could find about the Mongol warrior.
Stalin, known for his inability to speak in public, his self-centredness, his need for admiration, and his excessive use of violence, killed or imprisoned everyone he so much as suspected of having ideas diverging from his own, even if they belonged to the inner circle or to his own family. If he died alone, that was because there was no-one left around him. They were all abandoned, deported (imprisoned) or killed.
Russia passed from one demagogue to another. After the fall of Communism, Marx yielded to IMF/US interests and Wild West market liberalism, resulting in a system of nepotism, corruption, and mafia capitalism. The new kleptocratic state was orchestrated by American economic experts, many from leading US institutions. All that changed when Putin took over.
Russia is ungovernable. It is vast, the population is large, and they have lots of time on their hands. There is no real urbanism.
Russia always has a religious mission. Russia remains turned towards the West, even though its most Westernized period now lies behind it. In Russia fear replaces and paralyses thought. The European solution is to win back the European part of the former Eastern Bloc. To co-operate, but not to integrate it. That is the lesson learned after two failed attempts to annexe Russia, by Napoleon and by Hitler. Russia is setting out to become an empire again. The Red Army is being built back up. Fortunately for us, they do not have the means to compete with the armies of the USA and NATO. To develop a European army that could stand its ground against Russia will take another decade yet, or longer.
A bureaucratic system cannot be reformed from outside once it has reached a critical mass. The Soviet Union was destroyed from within. It was an implosion which key Party members accelerated. In the 1980s several Communist countries began transferring money to the West, to Swiss bank accounts, in order to undermine their own regime. It was the only way; political systems like these are non-reformable. It was no surprise to the Soviets that their political system did not work. Their problem was that they could not change it. In 1975, Soviet analysts saw that they were falling behind. From 1972 onwards, the Soviet Union could only survive on oil and borrowed time. This is even true today, during the time Putin has been in power
oil prices have increased many folds Moscow has a profound sense of being the bulwark of Christianity. They see themselves as the third religious centre in Europe: Rome, Byzantium, and the Russo–Tartar (Russian Orthodox Church).
People of five different cultures are now heading in their separate directions:
Figure 12: Soviet ethnic diversity
The Russian geopolitician Alexander Dugin (Dougine 1997) dreams of Panslavism, opposed to the values of the West, which he sees as decadent. Vladimir Zhirinovsky goes even further, seeking a Grand Bargain with Germany, giving it Kaliningrad, Silesia, and all the areas claimed by the nineteenth-century Pan-Germanic League, in return for the Baltic States, Moldavia, White Russia, and a large part of the Ukraine (cf. Romer 1999). Tallinn and Kaunas would become free cities. There are two kinds of Russian leader: those who face Europe, and those who face inwards. Among the first are Peter the Great, Gorbachev, and Putin. Among the second were Catherine the Great, Stalin, and Yeltsin. – And there is always a key administrator in the middle, like Andropov.
Gorbachev may be feted in the Western world as a great hero, but in Russia he is a traitor who sold out the Russian Empire. He himself has told us (in a 2011 Der Spiegel interview) that he was given the presidency largely thanks to a half-hour conversation with Gromyko in the corridor just before an important Politburo meeting. Political power in Russia is passed down to friends. Stalin, together with Trotsky, were Lenin’s favourite killers. Gorbachev was a protege of Brezhnev’s; Khrushchev was Stalin’s favourite killer. Putin became a favourite of Yeltsin’s daughter and son-in-law largely by chance. It was they who decided it was time for her father to resign. Yeltsin had handed control of Russia over to the couple de facto because of his alcohol problem.
When Putin was selected as the new Head of State he was out of a job, looking for new opportunities, really for anything at all. He had been dismissed by the mayor of St Petersburg (his home town), and decided to try his luck in Moscow.
Once Putin was in power, which must have come as a surprise even to him, he took up the fight against the corrupt and privileged businessmen surrounding Yeltsin, the oligarchs. These were young, bright, and rich men, mostly of Jewish origin, who at the time when the Soviet Union came close to collapse had been allowed to buy its most valuable chunks of industry for next to nothing. Putin then put his own friends from the former KGB into the leading positions.
Putin respects the Germans more than any other people, and both his daughters speak fluent German. The former German federal chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on the board of the North European Gas Pipeline Company (NEGPC), responsible for the new gas pipeline from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany. It is 51 per cent owned by Gazprom, Russia’s largest oil and gas company. Ruhrgas is a board member of Gazprom.
In the 1980s Putin met the Stasi agent Matthias Warnig (code name “Arthur”) in Dresden. Warnig was working for Abteilung XV in its Science and Technology department, which had the main responsibility for industrial espionage in the West. After the Cold War, Warnig opened a branch of the Dresdner Bank in St Petersburg, where Putin was vice-mayor. After Putin was elected president, Warnig handled all Gazprom’s export business. Warnig’s Dresdner Kleinwort Finanzinstitut also handled the $13.1bn sale of Sibneft (owned by Roman Abramovich) to Gazprom. Warning is now chief executive of Nord Stream, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline fromVyborg in Russia to Greifswald in Germany, and he is credited with having recruited former chancellor Schroeder to the company board.
Putin is essentially just buying back what his predecessors carelessly gave away. According to the newspaper Kommersant (26 February 2007), Putin has given another KGB friend, Gennadi Timchenko, the handling of at least a quarter of the company’s overseas oil dealings through his Geneva-registered company. This former KGB officer’s wealth has risen from a hundred million to twenty-five billion dollars in just five years. Timchenko is also involved with Russia’s long-term ambition to gain gradual control of Estonia’s economic interests, through companies like the Russian deep-water freight company Severstaltrans.
Only two of the ten leading people around Putin are not ex-KGB, namely Dmitri Medvedev and Yuri Kovalchuk. Timchenko and Kovalchuk used to be responsible for the Kremlin’s “black accounts” in Switzerland in the old days.
Kaliningrad, possessing vast natural resources, for instance ninety per cent of the world’s amber, may retain its Russian name and political affiliation, but its economic reality will soon be German again. It might then develop into a Baltic Hong Kong. Berlin is 600 kilometres from Kaliningrad, half the distance from there to Moscow. Beginning a couple of years ago there is now a direct rail link, the airline KD Avia is offering cheap tickets, and there are current plans to revive the old scheme of building a Berlin–Konigsberg motorway – the Berlinka project, initiated in 1933.
These are the last people you want to fight, because:
they share a common set of strong values
mentally they are indomitable
they have always fought
they are not luxury-lovers; they are used to living on the floor in barrack-like, bombed-out and filthy flats
they are financed by the biggest bankers in the world, the Saud family.
Russian presence in the region is quite recent. The Chechens were never really under Russian or Soviet control, not even after the area was annexed in 1835–59. When it proclaimed independence in 1991, the Russians were slow to react. Three factors work against Russia in this region: the clan-based structure of the country;172 the strong religious sense (Sufi Islam); and Russian military morale.
Chechen soldiers have more and better weapons too – often American. Since they have money, they also attract numerous mercenaries.
As in the Balkans, the political problems in the Caucasus result from the political vacuum caused by thecollapse of the Soviet Union. In both regions this has created space for new players: in the case of the Caucasus the players include the locals (primarily Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia), Russia, and the West, led by the US. All are fighting over interests deriving from the region’s oil reserves.
The Caucasus, attractive for its vast natural resources, is not a new site for adventure. In 1914 Azerbaijan accounted for half the world’s total oil production (Thual 2004: 8). After the Russian Revolution, many Western businessmen lost everything they had there.
For thousands of years this narrow mountain region between the Black Sea and the Caspian has been a crossroads for people of all kinds. It is also an important border separating Christians and Muslims.
The Caucasus is home to three large ethnic groups: Caucasians, Indo-Europeans, and Turks, speaking about forty different languages and belonging to six different religions (Sunnis, Shiites, Orthodox Christians, Monophysite Christians, Jews, and Buddhists).
In fact the name “Caucasus” covers three quite separate territories, each of which was part of the Soviet Union:
the three independent States in the south
the four rebellious States in the north-east
the Russian territory in the north-west.
The rebellious region comprises four areas; from east to west, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia. The Russians gradually infiltrated the area after their two main rivals in the region, Turkey and Persia, had lost their strength in the eighteenth century. The annexation strategy was:
first the Russians sent their Cossacks
then they sent their farmers
finally they sent their factory workers.
Three parties are now racing to build new pipelines from the shores of the Caspian. Iran has plans to build on either side of the southern end of the sea. Russia and the West are in direct competition. Western companies want to route the pipes through allied territory, particularly Turkey, or through countries which have become hostile to Russia, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The most important piece in this oil-logistics jigsaw is Georgia. Many Georgian officials and business leaders draw their salary directly from organizations funded by American private-sector organizations. This type of political influence has panicked Russia. In response, Putin has banned all direct activities by foreign humanitarian organizations.
The motive for the Russian attack on Georgia was not to defend South Ossetia; that was just the excuse. In modern wars there is always a real motive and an excuse. The excuse is what lends the war legitimacy, it is what is propagated in the mass-media; the motive is often hidden. During the 2008 war, BP had to close the South Caucasus Pipeline. The South Caucasus Pipeline threatens Gazprom’s quasi-monopoly on gas deliveries to large parts of Europe.
The Armenians, a Christian people in a sea of Muslims, are as European as the Greeks. Having a population of only three million, this tightly-knit culture relies on its diaspora of eight million people. Like the Jews and the Kurds, the Armenians have always played an important economic role in their region through their skills as businessmen. Like the Jews and the Kurds they have found themselves shunned, and attempts have been made to exterminate them. During the Russian occupation of western Armenia about 1.5 million Armenians were killed. From 1895 onwards the Turks killed up to 1 – 1.5 million Armenians in their country (Armenian Genocide). Turkey claims these to have been legitimate acts of war, and it regards Orhan Pamuk (winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature) as a traitor for saying otherwise.
Fearing the Turks, the Armenians have turned to their old enemies, the Russians, for support.
There is no proven correlation between economic success and democracy. On the contrary, many Asian countries are demonstrating that they can compete more effectively as semi-totalitarian States. … What history does show is that the citizens of these countries will often demand greater liberty as their standard of living improves.
Thus increased democracy seems to be mainly a consequence, not a cause, of better economic performance.
There are no real democracies in Asia. There are no dependable or trustworthy systems, only dependable persons. 3) Asia is occupied with “projects”, Europe with politics and social problems.
Apart from Jewish–Christian civilization, only one other civilization is showing significant economic potential today, namely Confucian civilization. Most other civilizations are either in a state of economic limbo or are regressing, whether in Africa, in the Middle East, or in Asia. Africa is clinging to faith if not falling apart anymore, at least not after the Chinese moved in, India is hampered by inter-ethnic and religious conflicts. The Arab-Muslim world is even in some parts moving several steps backwards. For many there, utopia is the eleventh-century Islamic age. It is a retroutopian society. They are trying to revive a myth.
With tension growing between Western and Islamic cultures, the ideas of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington about a clash between civilizations have been revived,174 but the clash need not necessarily be bloody.
Huntington defines civilizations as adhering to a specific culture and religion. He lists eight civilizations:
Asian cultures are characterized by:
ease with ambiguity
preference for non-verbal communication
responsibility based on consensus, not on contract
all opinions sought, consensus within the group
feelings and emotions
To succeed in Asia you need patience, understanding, and commitment. By contrast to Western culture, Asian culture is based on collective decision-making, not on individualism. The focus is on understanding, not on contracts. Benefits are sought in the long term not the short term, but short-cuts are accepted.
We think of individualism as an ancient European tradition. It is not, it is an eighteenth-century European invention. In the Greek and Roman conception of freedom, a human being could not be conceived of apart from the community. The city comes first. (See e.g. Ortega y Gasset 1946: 31.) The Eight Asian Tigers are: the established Four Tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, plus Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the coastal regions of China. These already comprise 500 million people, more than the newly enlarged Europe. In their hinterland another billion people are ready to join in. 700 million of them will move into cities in the next two generations to come.
Asia is not dependent on us any longer, for either technology or investments. For a while they will want our special areas of expertise; later, all we shall have to offer is our consumer markets. Asian networks abroad include, for the Chinese, the Triads, and for the Japanese the “Black Dragon”. These organizations are required to operate by Asian rules abroad. The Pacific is an empty ocean three times the size of the Atlantic.
In Asia you have to travel by train or plane. Distances are larger than in Europe. It takes thirty minutes to travel from Calais to Dover; from Pusan (South Korea) to Japan takes twelve hours.
If you took China out of Asia you would have no continent left; China is indeed the “Middle Kingdom”. We are wasting our resources with the Chinese, talking politics, when we should focus all our energy in one area; to get the communist party to open its markets to Western companies. Our companies need to go from outsourcing in China to living, learning and producing here. That is geoeconomics, the rest is just geopolitics, and not very smart either.
Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
The Caspian basin is the backup for the Persian Gulf. It probably contains one fifth of the world’s supply of oil. US intervention in the area started on 15 September 1997, when five hundred American paratroops of the 82nd Airborne Division entered southern Kazakhstan (operation “CENTRAZBAT 97”, see Klare 2001). China and Russia were quick to react to American interference. In 2001 they founded the Shanghai Co-operation
Organization (SCO), a security organization comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
azakhstan, the ninth-largest country in the world, is run by one man, Nazarbayev, who holds his post for life. In 1997 he built a new capital at Astana; Almaty was too full of Russians and therefore risky. The new national day happens to be his birthday.
Everyone seems to expect that India will be a superpower in the 21stcentury. But remember that this is a country where seventy per cent of inhabitants are poor and only a few percent can be reckoned middle-class, and where the infrastructure is so bad that it can take hours to get from the airport to the centre of a modern city like Bangalore. How can a country prosper where lorries travel at an average speed of eleven kilometres per hour, where transport between states is more cumbersome than travelling within insecure states, where customs and officialdom are corrupt and bureaucracy abundant? Think again, and do not bedazzled by talk about population size and language abilities.
Do not dream of another Silicon Valley. The IT industry feeds only a few million people here, and its companies sell almost all their output overseas. India represents a bet that services will do, that manufacturing is not necessary to build an economy. But the truth is that in service industries switching costs are low. The economic strength of India is based on two factors: English-language skills, which make them the world’s back office, and software-development skills. In ten years the Chinese will match those skills.
India has high-quality elites, many of whom work in the major capitals of the world and fill teaching and research positions in our best universities. It is an impressive diaspora, but it means little for the home economy.
After the Cold War, India suffered from the loss of Soviet support and from internal crises. In response, the population has turned more nationalistic. The 110 million Muslims who are not satisfied with the extent of their religious freedom broke out and formed Pakistan. With Bangladesh and Pakistan independent India became somewhat homogeneous and more united.
India is still characterized by refusal to acknowledge the end of the Cold War and to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
Far out in the Indian Ocean lies the small island of Diego Garcia, a British possession, manned by 3500 US troops. This is probably the best strategic military position on earth, with immediate access to East Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, and Indonesia.
Power and authority are concentrated at the top of Pakistani organizational structures, and hierarchical status is jealously maintained. Job titles carry a great deal of weight. The armed forces are respected and accorded great prestige (Islam 2004: 311–30).
All three branches of the military have created vast industrial empires in the form of holding companies called the Fauji (army), Bahria (navy), and Shaheen (air force, literally “eagle”) Foundations (ibid.).
Family- and kinship-based social structures have given rise to the culture of sifarish. This Urdu word literally means a recommendation or a connexion. Short of straight bribery, it has become the standard mean of getting things done by public officials. Those who do not play the sifarish game risk acquiring a “bad reputation” or even facing ostracism (ibid.).
Student: “We are not taught to draw a line between matters that are strictly our own and those which are not our concern. Brought up as we are in the system of beraadri (patrilineage) and mohallaydaari (street neighbourhood) (which still prevails alongside a modern lifestyle), everyone takes it as understood that whatever happens in the neighbourhood is the collective concern of the beraadri or the mohalla (street). No one calls it interference.”
Most armaments in Pakistan now come from China. This is a part of the Chinese strategy to weaken India.
By forcing India to engage its military resources on its western front, the Chinese will give itself an easier task gaining influence in the disputed areas in the north, especially along the “McMahon line”, in Arunachal Pradesh.
The USA has finally understood that Musharraf and the military were playing games with them all along. To get bin Laden they had to play the same game, and they won. Not surprisingly, he turned out to live close to a military base, where the ISI could keep an eye on him.
Musharraf has exchanged his position as Head of State for a life of ease in England. That still leaves the military in charge. Attention will always in the end turn towards the common enemy in the south, and the military will spot its chance to regain influence.
The Americans and the Europeans have learned little from the historical lessons of Afghanistan. Setting up a puppet ruler was tried before, when we replaced Amir Dost Mohammad with Shah Shuja. The price then was the lives of 16,000 British soldiers and their families. This time we chose a man from the minority population in the northern provinces, who has distributed privileges among his own people. We say that things are fine because girls now get to go to school. In the West, that is a strong argument to win support.
Afghanistan is a rocky crossroads; it is not a country you can hold. In this Godforsaken land political alliances between tribes shift as quickly as the wind.
None of the great powers (Russia, US/Europe, China) are currently willing to sacrifice what it would take to win the “Great Game” and gain control of Central Asia. Spontaneous, half-hearted actions like those of the Allied forces will not scare the Taliban.
The only military task left for the Allied forces in Afghanistan is to defend itself. When our troops look out over the desert from their safe havens (fortified military camps) they do not even know what they are looking at; and they are not willing to risk their lives to find out.
Taliban strategy is superior to our own: in winter they give themselves in, and apply for jobs in the police which give them money, weapons, and training. In summer they go over to the Taliban again. How can you expect our military leaders to maintain morale?
The USA has persuaded its allies in Afghanistan to pick up the bill for its own military adventures. They have filled the Afghan administration with Afghan refugees to the US who are not even respected in their home country.
So far we have spread money around, strengthened the Taliban, increased the production and sale of drugs, and fostered contempt for the West for our support of a corrupt leadership. If NATO left now, Karzai would be lucky to last a week before ending up hanged from a lamppost, like his Communist predecessor. This war is already lost. At best it offers our troops a training ground for future military interventions.
Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan
This region, not Afghanistan, is the geopolitical centre of Central Asia. The Mongols knew it, Stalin knew it, and the USA knows it. But it has no real economic significance.
Threatened by Turkey, Stalin wanted to divide up the Turkic people in Central Asia. So he created a number of multi-ethnic states with access to the fertile Fergana Valley, where there were previously no borders. After the American-inspired “Tulip Revolution” of 2005, the US attempt to create one permanent dominating military base in the region (Ganci Air Base, a strategic military installation at Bishkek’s Manas Airport) has failed. Instead Russia and the USA both now have bases in Kyrgyzstan. US ambitions have been checked by the joint interests of the SCO (Shanghai Co-operation Organization). In the meantime, the ousted Kyrgyz president is trying to foment civil war in the south.
The Chinese see themselves primarily as a civilization, not as a nation. China is the only of the world’s ancient civilizations to have retained its power. Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus River area (Pakistan) are all a social and economic mess today.
China is slowly moving back towards centre stage. Its decision in the sixteenth century to scrap its fleet and retreat into its shell was the beginning of its decline. Its decision in the late 1970s to open up its economy was the beginning of its resurrection. It has already become the factory of the world, more so than Japan was started to be at the end of the nineteenth century. Now it also wants to become a centre for science.
In Europe royalty built themselves castles, in China they built entire cities. What is Versailles compared to the imperial cities of Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Peking? What is Balmoral compared to the Summer Palace?
In the West we weep for the meritocracy we lost in the 1970s and 1980s, the society that never materialized. Ever since Plato we have supposed that the enlightened emperor is an impossibility, because it has never worked in Europe. China has had a system of meritocracy for more than two thousand years, all based on strict national exams. Look at the gardens in Suzhou: they were built by the best bureaucrats, by poets, not by businessmen or military leaders. They formed the most cultivated class of leaders that have ever ruled. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not a direct inheritor of this system, but far more meritocratic than most Western governments. They have not only reestablished the position of Confucius, as an alternative to Western values, but are also encouraging high-performing students to join the party.
No other country will achieve the transition from Communism to capitalism better than China. Unlike their old political counterpart, Russia, China has the advantage of a hard-working, disciplined population carrying as it were a capitalist gene. For the Chinese, the Russians are not a serious people.
The Chinese Communist experience cost the lives of about 100 million people, compared to about 60 million in Russia. Everything old was crushed, entire cities demolished, like Chengdu. There is hardly a stone left of the beauty that was then less than three generations ago. Aware of the great error, some efforts are now done to rebuild parts of it.
It takes two hours to form a company in Hong Kong. The Chinese economy is growing at a rate of one Spain a year. The fast growing cities grow by one Bilbao a year.
China is now the second-largest economic power in the world, behind only the USA. It is anticipated that by 2026 they will be the largest. (Two years ago the estimate was 2035.)
China is already the world leader in a number of industries. It is the world’s largest producer of rice, wheat, iron, aluminium, coal, and zinc. It is the second-largest producer of electricity after the USA. It has the largest financial reserves of any country, and is the USA’s largest creditor.
As the Chinese economy continuous to grow and new groups of workers demand more freedoms, the Chinese government will be confronted with a dilemma: just where should it set the limit to these freedoms to avoid losing power? It is already struggling. In 2009 in set up the Great Fire wall, banning a great number of social networking sites, employing thousands of bloggers to write positive things about the government (named “50 cents”, as they get 50 cent for each positing).
The internet is causing the leadership of the State severe headaches. How can China become a world leader in e-communications with a strictly-censored World Wide Web? How will it become a leader in IT? If it does not join a more open international community of researchers, it will never be a scientific leader. After all, when it comes to high tech, China is still far behind the West. How the Chinese government tackles these questions is highly significant for the country’s future competitive position.
The Chinese economic dilemmas – bottlenecks, resource allocation, lack of management skills, and differences of opinion about centralization and openness – are all being solved.
The real market in China for consumer goods like mobile telephones is not 1.3 billion, but at present probably more like 800 million (updated from 500 million only a few years ago175).
For close to two decades China has run at two speeds: one in the interior, another at the coasts. Now the interior provinces have been allowed to catch up. This is where the big opportunities are. Sichuan will be another Germany or some say Chicago at the turn of the 20thcentury (but only the city of Chongqing is growing more than 6 times as fast as Chicago did at its peak, in terms of infrastructure and industrialization).
Little verbal communication is needed in negotiations in China. The end result is going to be to everyone’s advantage. Consensus is often an illusion in the Western world. The Chinese say: “You ask your child where it wants to go on holiday, but you make the decision”. In China “freedom” is translated with “zi you”, which means “individual participation to the honesty of the group”. China, Singapore, and Malaysia do not agree with Western assumptions about human rights. Confucian ideas of human rights are based on what is good for the society, not for the individual. China does not accept the universality of Individual Human Rights, there are only Social Human Rights. This is a country with a middle class of about 130 million people (9.4 per cent of the population), including 300,000 dollar millionaires (remember that in addition you get between three and five times more for your money here). In the near future this country promises to be not only the factory of the world, but the world’s most important consumer market. Western companies have to have a presence here if only for the latter reason.
Pudong, a district across the river from the city of Shanghai, is the fastest-running economic engine in the world. About 1.5 million of the twenty-two million inhabitants of Shanghai live in Pudong, in four zones:
Lujiazui, home to the world’s fifth-largest stock exchange (after NYSE, Tokyo, NASDAQ, and London)
Waigaoqiao, China’s largest free trade zone
the Jinqiao export processing zone
the Zhangjiang high-tech park.
Twenty years ago there was nothing here but rice fields, swamps, and some storage buildings. Today it is a Chinese Manhattan, housing many of the tallest buildings in the world. The largest, at 492 metres, is the Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC) – just a few metres shorter than the second-tallest building in the world, in Taipei. This is a country which produces more than 40 per cent of all television sets (TLC is the world’s largest producer of televisions), 50 per cent of all air conditioners, 51 per cent of all microwaves, 50 per cent of digital cameras, 37 per cent of all mobile telephones, 70 per cent of all containers, 60 per cent of toys, 70 per cent of sewing machines; and the list goes on. Soon they will be making good cars, and they may very well take the lead in electric cars. Both Volvo and the old 95 series SAAB production line have now been sold to China. In only five years’ time Geely hopes to be producing ten times as many Volvo cars as today. The owner of Geely is 47-year-old Li Shufu, the son of poor farmers.
Container traffic: 78 per cent of all container traffic is in East Asia, versus only 2.5 per cent in Europe and 9 per cent in North America. China alone accounts for two-thirds of all container volume in the world.
Kong Qiu, or Kong Fuzi, transliterated in Latin as Confucius, was not a religious philosopher, but a practical, social thinker. The Confucian vision of the world: collectivity, collective hierarchy (recognition takes time), the middle road/stability, loyalty, sincerity, and humanity.
Daoism is the second spiritual influence in China. Lao Zi introduced “The Dao”, literally “way, road”, the extreme harmony. All moving things, including the earth, belong to two groups: yin and yang. The combination of these forces gives life to movement. Day is nothing in itself; you need night to understand it. A quick way to understand Daoism: “Everything that is not Confucianism or Buddhism is Daoism.” Chinese medicine is the practical application of yin and yang. Personal attacks are very rare in China. You do not make personal references or attacks, other than in small, closed environments, such as universities. How do we explain the difference in thinking between East and West? Consider the example of the stew. An Asian and a European are asked to see what is wrong with the stew. The European goes to the oven and lifts the lid of the pot. The Asian stands back and takes in the smell. These are two different approaches to solving the same problem. Either may lead to the right answer. Two thirds of the economy of all Asia is run by Chinese, with overseas Chinese playing a key role. There are an estimated 50.2 million overseas Chinese. Two million of them live in the USA, and 400,000 in Europe (half of those in France). They are doing so well in Africa that Africans are recruiting them as managers for their own factories. Chinese have emigrated throughout history, to practically all parts of the world, since the Mongol conquest in 1276. The Chinese diaspora is the biggest in the world and the most prosperous (Chaliand 1997: 142). … The Chinese of San Francisco once emigrated from the same small fishing village outside Macao. They have even kept their local dialect.
Ninety-five per cent of all Chinese citizens are ethnically Han. They share the same language, the same values, the same behaviour-patterns. Their culture is Confucian. Non-Hans are barbarians. Europeans are “new barbarians”. Chinese are not more racists than Westerners; they allow and welcome intermarriage, for instance with Thais. Half the population of Bangkok (2.5 million people) are of Chinese origin. In Taiwan the proportion of Chinese is 99 per cent, in Hong Kong 95 per cent, and in Singapore 76 per cent. Thais accept the Chinese, Malays do not. So, in Malaysia the Chinese feel more Chinese.
The Tian An Men incident was a real threat to the Communist Party. Hundreds of thousands of students and supporters demanded democracy and a change of government. They occupied the square for weeks, threatening to destabilize the country. After official talks with the students, shown on national television, and after sending in a tank, which was attacked with Molotov cocktails, the government decided to use force.
What turned the Tian An Men incident into world news was a matter of chance: CNN cameras happened to be in the area, because of an expected visit by Gorbachev. The footage of the lone protester facing a column of tanks was edited to achieve the best effect. The reportage did not show how students used violence, how they barricaded the streets and organized themselves in quasi-military structures communicating via walkie-talkies.
A spontaneous democratic movement in China at that time would probably have resulted in chaos, after which China might not have achieved its current degree of economic progress. … Nothing would have pleased the Western powers better than to see the democratic revolution succeed, and then to flood China with its experts and dismantle its industries. That was what brought Russia to its knees after the Cold War, the “Western recipe”.
Unlike in Europe, in China soldiers have no status. Since there are no natural boundaries in Europe, social order was based on the sword. In China the answer to foreign aggression was to build walls: no soldiers, no churches. Europe needed the Church to balance its power (the knight kneels before the priest). In its place, China invented the bureaucrat and the writing-brush. The brush, not weaponry, is the symbol of the Chinese State.
The USA has completed its encirclement of China, with new military bases on its western borders of China, in Kyrgyzstan (Manas), Uzbekistan (Karschi-Chanabad), Tajikistan, and several in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At an earlier stage they had already built military bases on the eastern borders, in South Korea, on Okinawa, Guam, in Singapore, and on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The US also hold frequent military exercise close to Chinese mainland, on the border to DPRK. One can’t help but wonder what would happen of the Chinese held similar maneuvers along the California coast.
There will be no military conflict between China and the USA over Taiwan; instead there will be a gradual absorption. This is already happening. Each time the leaders of the US and China meet, the US president will have to show a little more respect. For, each time the US Treasury wants to sell bonds to finance their deficit, they will be yielding influence. The Chinese are the only ones who can buy these Treasury bonds in the large quantities which the US needs to sell.
China is also the land of brainwashing: “you have to become sincere again”. Criminals are sometimes sentenced to death, regardless of your wealth or social status. Today, individual executions (by lethal injection, to avoid photography) have replaced the firing squad. This reminds the public of their shared morality. If you kill someone, you are killed. The Chinese are experts at sacrificing their own people: ask any American who participated in the Korean War. You could kill a few hundred Chinese with your machine-gun, but they would eventually overrun you. This realization was devastating for American military morale.
There is no need for police on the street because everyone is a policeman. A criminal is sent away somewhere to be monitored by the masses. Every now and then they report to the central government. It is a self-organizing organization. It has worked this way for three thousand years.
Shanghai and Hong Kong were created by foreigners. These cities are not trusted and will never be allowed any power. The Opium Wars: a study in the deviousness of Western imperialism. When the British came to South China, contacts with the West had existed for a long time (notably the Portuguese in Macao). The British wanted to sell the Chinese drugs (opium) which they could grow in India, because they really had nothing else the Chinese wanted. The mandarins, who had no tradition of using drugs themselves, at first banned the trade, but the British used firepower to impose it. The first Opium War ended in 1842 with the Nanking Treaty, which gave the British Hong Kong. After the second Opium War, in 1860, Kowloon was ceded to Britain. Western powers now had an official foothold in Mainland China. Fourteen towns were opened to Westerners for trade. These were the same coastal towns that were allowed to run ahead of the rest of China after the Cold War.
British and Allied forces burned down and plundered Peking with all its treasures, including the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. In Luoyang Westerners cut off the heads of Buddha figures to bring them home as souvenirs. They can still be seen in our museums today.
After the Second World War much of the Chinese gold stolen by the Japanese ended up in American banks.
More was found on the Philippines; and the Japanese did not manage to get some of it out of the country, and had to leave it in Shanghai. The gold in Japan and America has yet to be reclaimed by the Chinese.
The Chinese civil war between 1931 and 1949 cost the lives of sixty million people, compared to twenty million who died in the Russian Revolution. Stalin used to say “A few dead is horrible, many dead is statistics”.
When Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan, he brought with him all the wealth he could lay his hands on, so that many valuable artworks were moved to that island. This wealth helped Taiwan to finance its economic growth.
Make no mistake, Taiwan will be Chinese again. That is only a question of time. And then China will also take its place as a technological superpower, attracting many technologists to return home from places like Silicon Valley.
During its first decades of growth, China won market share through low prices. Now it will need to gain market share by producing high-value products, that is, products of higher quality. This was the way of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
Taiwan, like so many other countries (Israel, Panama, Norway, Saudi Arabia) and regions, is part of the US sphere of interest. Like Japan, Taiwan is built on conglomerates: Evergreen, Cathay, and so forth. Computex is quickly becoming the world’s most important and influential IT trade show, ahead of CES in Las Vegas and CeBIT in Hanover. Taiwanese firms produce more than 50 per cent of all silicon chips, nearly 70 per cent of computer displays, and more than 90 per cent of all portable computers.
Taiwan has abundant financial reserves: twice those of France, and more than those of Japan.
Taiwan is already a model for China. We have seen a “Taiwanization” of the coastal regions of China, home to about 500 million people.
When China entered the United Nations, Taiwan had to leave. It is only a matter of time before the two countries are reunited. As the Chinese say “China has two big island, two” (meaning Taiwan is one of them, besides Hainan).
The US strategy has been to keep Japan dependent. Dependent on the dollar, on military support, and on oil imports. In return they have had to pay different “administrative fees”.
Japan is a country torn between ideals of nationalism and of openness. In the nineteenth century its warrior elites understood the importance of creating a strong, unified, and modern state. This transition involved a minimum of violence.
Japan alone accounts for about twenty per cent of gross world production. Its main constraint is a home market of only 120 million. That explains why Japan needed to expand in the USA and in Europe. Japan is a world of ritual. The Japanese stem originally from Mongolia; their ancestors moved into Korea and from there onto the archipelago. Three thousand years ago the islands of Japan were linked culturally to Pusan and South Korea.
Only a third of Japanese territory is usable. The remainder is mountains and infertile land. Most Japanese live on the short axis between Tokyo and Hiroshima. Two thousand years of dense population has led to a highlydeveloped social consciousness. As a result, few crimes are committed in Tokyo.
Japanese strategy used to be to take control of the Trans-Siberian corridor as far as Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. This would have allowed them to explore for oil on Sakhalin, a second Indonesia, and exploit forestry and mining industries in Eastern Siberia. The rise of the new China blocked this plan. Now they will have to apologize for their imperialist atrocities.
The Japanese religion, Shinto (shamanism), is exclusive to this nation. It is a nature religion which holds that the Emperor is divine.
Japan has a strong sense of community. The group must achieve harmony. You are not Mr. So-and-so, but Soand- so’s superior and inferior to Such-and-such. You are part of the community.
In Japan the real rise to influence comes after fifteen to twenty years in the company.
There is a shared sense of status as members of a company whether you are an engineer or a cleaning lady. You are all part of the organization. Living an “independent life” is no goal for the individual.
Japanese values: harmony, feelings/face, patience, collective emotions, reciprocal obligations, step-by-step improvements, building of group consensus. It is not polite to say “no” in Japan. You risk losing face. In the Western world we speak with our mouths and listen with our ears. In Japan it is much more important to stand face-to-face and be polite (to keep face). Gift-giving is an important ritual in Japan. You have to assess the value of the gift and return something which has the same value. This is the same in China.
Reform in Japanese was largely triggered by the introduction of Western medicine to that country.
The Japanese model is as follows. The emperor at the top is the figurehead. Below him the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MITI, now METI) sets the strategy. Below them you find about half a dozen conglomerates (Mitsui and others), many of which were started by old samurai families. METI contains some thirty of the best strategic thinkers in Japan, well paid, financed by the conglomerates, but in practice part of the government. The 6+4 strategy: a typical Japanese company will take six years to settle into a new country, and four years to make a profit. Japan, a highly autonomous country, continues to account for almost half the total GNP of China. Japan has provided most of the humanitarian aid given by Asian countries, under considerable pressure from the USA, which frequently tells the Japanese they ought to finance operations by the “international community”. The foreign policy of Japan has been “each for himself ”. Japan is loved by none of its neighbours. By contrast, the South Koreans say “China, my grandmother”. That is due to Japanese colonial ambitions, leading to aggression in the coastal areas of China in 1931–2, in Korea in 1910, Manchuria in 1932, Hanoi in 1940, Saigon in 1941, Bangkok in 1941, and on Sakhalin (Russia) in 1905. Unlike Germany, Japan has never so far apologized for its atrocities.
Communism will be defeated when the two Koreas are reunited. This unified country will become another Germany on the other side of the world. For a few decades the high tech and the high competence of the South will combine with low wage levels in the north to create a unique window of opportunity. That is what both Koreas want, but Korean unity is blocked by American interests in the region.
This is a national corporate state, much like in China. Private companies in South Korea depend on the banks, which are State-owned. Samsung Electronics is now the world’s largest technology company, run by one man, Lee Kun-Hee. He also owns 64 other firms within the same conglomerate. The output of this group accounts for twenty per cent of the country’s GDP.
South Korea wants no confrontation with its future partner. They want a peaceful transition.
Unlike their warlike neighbours the Japanese, Koreans have been primarily farmers. Thirty per cent of them are Christians.
Brunei consists of only 200,000 inhabitants and oil reserves which have made its Sultan one of the richest men in the world. 2) The King of Sweden considered the Sultana “good friend”, until the Foreign Office told him to change his mind, at least outwards to the public.
Singapore is the achievement of one man, Lee Kwan Yew, an overseas Chinese. His People’s Action Party has been in power ever since independence from Malaysia. To be Singaporean means to have a double identity, hence they also welcome other ethnicities. Thus, the current president is a Tamil. Singapore is a Chinese spearhead. Its location, like that of Istanbul, exemplifies the very essence of geopolitics: at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, the main bottleneck for transport between the major markets in East Asia and the Western world by way of the Indian Ocean.
Thailand is a regional superpower. It has fertile soil, and is the only country in the region not to have been colonized. (The French had Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, Britain had Burma.)
Thais are known to be warm-hearted, open, and diplomatic. Not surprising then if their women have become the favourite choice of many a lonely European man.
Thailand wanted to keep the civil war in Cambodia quiet to avoid conflict with Vietnam. For the same reason they refrain from criticism of Myanmar (Burma).
The Royal Family is sacred, even when it supports the military which sometimes overthrows the government. Nothing can be achieved without the support of members of the Royal Family. One bad word about the king and you end up 7 . years in prison (most recent case from 2012).
The political system is known for chronic corruption. Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, is said to have milked the country for billions of dollars before he was ousted by the military. Still many Thais prefer him and his kind to military rule.
For ten centuries (until the tenth century AD) Vietnam was a Chinese province. There is no distinct Vietnamese culture or any significant independent history. In the tenth to eleventh centuries the ancestors of the Vietnamese moved south to the fertile Mekong Delta. They easily overcame the weak local population of Khmers. Only twenty per cent of the country is suitable for agriculture. Most of the terrain is mountainous. Vietnam is very small, geographically but also economically. “Don’t dream about it”, French businessmen say:
its GNP is only twelve per cent the size of Thailand’s. A single mid-sized city in China, say Chengdu, has a larger economy.
The Vietnamese infrastructure cannot handle large investment projects. In this area of the world there is only one good road, the old colonial road from Saigon to Hanoi.
The Taiwanese are making many small investments. European countries including France and the Netherlands have made various large investments which have failed. It is a country that needs more time.
One can only speculate what happened when the military regime got cold feet and decided to pave the way for democratic reforms. It was probably a clash with Chinese interest in the north, on the border to Yunnan. One thing is certain; it wasn’t out of good will or some sudden realization that they had been in the wrong.
Because of the mountain range bordering Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are closer to Thailand, culturally and economically. The Chinese are outsourcing much of their textile and footwear industry here, as labour prices have increased in China.
The military establishment is getting old, unable to keep their position much longer. They need a compromise before they retire
Traditionally Australia has made few friends in Asia. The country’s prosperity has been closely linked to that of the USA and its Western allies. For many of its neighbouring countries have seen it as an American listening post, a vast, under populated land (the population is twenty million), dependent on exporting raw materials to maintain its prosperity.As Asia becomes stronger the Australian political position in the region will become more vulnerable.
Once the largest land-based empire ever. The only battle the Mongols ever lost was at sea, against Japan.(The Japanese were helped by the weather; which further strengthened their Shinto piety.) Genghis Khan treated his soldiers better than most European leaders at the time. His bad reputation stems first and foremost from the fact that the history was written by us. Genghis Khan built up what we would call a meritocratic system, and gave his military units and generals a great deal of autonomy. He was also tolerant to different religions, and a good listener, but brutal of course.
The Mongols learned much of their strategy of war by watching attacks by wolves, going in and attacking in one second only to treat in the next. Their horses and their horsemanship made the necessary speed possible.