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Post Failed and "Semi-Failed" States
Created by John Eipper on 03/25/16 9:50 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Failed and "Semi-Failed" States (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 03/25/16 9:50 am)

David Jorge's post (24 March) provided some extremely important points, all of which, if heeded, could make our foreign policy less disastrous in the future:

1. "We must [always analyze] the root causes of the current situation."

2. "We should not forget that [the US and] several European countries took active parts in the destabilization of the Middle East."

3. "Western interventions in that sensitive geographical area of the globe have proved [to be] catastrophic [as soon as the results became obvious to everyone]."

4. "There is no evidence... that the long-term picture can get any better."

5. Today's Middle East nightmare is but the latest example in a long list of disasters caused by a hidden (and/or totally incompetent from the American people's perspective) agenda for our foreign policy.

John Eipper asked, "what we should call nations that look like, say, Somalia--'dysfunctional members of the world family'? How about taking at least some responsibility and say Somalia is but another example of our disastrous foreign policy?

For the benefit of the American nation, there are three major practical conclusions that make any sense from the factual statements above:

1.  We better identify and block the hidden agendas of the special interests behind our long-term, increasingly disastrous foreign policy, proven to be so destructive to the welfare of our nation, lest we all become personally responsible for what is happening.

2.  Hillary Clinton and the other two presidential candidates' opinions, decisions and/or voting records have been supportive of our foreign relations policies for the last few years. They will continue the same disastrous policies into oblivion. Therefore I will not vote for any of them.

3.  Only the Jewish Democratic Capitalist Bernie Sanders offers any hope for the future; thus I will vote for him.

As Ángel Viñas stated on 23 March, and we all seem to agree, "Hysterical right-wing flag waving won't provide any kind of effective measure to solve this extremely complex situation."

JE comments: To attribute the blame for "failed states" exclusively to imperial meddling is another marginalizing or "othering" act. In the field of Cultural Studies, it means we are denying "agency" to those entities.

Some states are perfectly ordered and functional, and they've been intervened in, too.

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  • Imperial Meddling (John Heelan, -UK 03/26/16 5:30 AM)
    One must remember that there is indeed a history of Western "imperial meddling" in the Middle East for more than 100 years.

    It started with the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire with the post-WWI Sykes-Picot Agreement, which arbitrarily divided up the region. A recent MOOC on the negotiations surrounding the Versailles Agreement provided evidence of the bitter squabbling between Britain and France about where the boundaries should be established that enabled one or the other party access to the known (and suspected) oil reserves. From that point, the trail leads to Middle Eastern distrust of Britain and France, the ill-fated British Mandate in Palestine, Iraq War, ISIS, Syria, Iran and eventually to the running sore that characterises the strife in the region today.

    JE comments: A "MOOC" is a Massive Open Online Course. I believe John Heelan has taken several.

    I've often wondered about this huge hypothetical:  What would the last 100 years have looked like if the victorious Allies had followed the Wilsonian ideal of self-determination for non-European, as well as European, people?

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    • Wilsonian Self-Determination (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/28/16 1:44 PM)
      I invite John E to double-check his statement of March 26th. He will see that the Wilsonian ideal of self-determination of the peoples was not applied either in Europe or elsewhere.

      JE comments: David A. Westbrook also took me to task for my claim that Wilson's self-determination had worked out well for the Europeans. My focus with that statement was elsewhere: that self-determination had hypocritically not been applied outside of Europe. To cite one example, Versailles was the reason Ho Chi Minh turned to revolution.

      But returning to Europe, let's take an inventory: Poland, the Baltic States, Finland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia (really, Serbia) all benefited from Wilson.  Hungary not so much, even though it received its independence, because much of the Hungarian-speaking population was integrated into Romania. Those who came out on the short end of self-determination were Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Italy.

      This could become a productive discussion. Who were the Wilsonian winners and losers? I hope Hall Gardner will comment.

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      • Winners and Losers of Wilsonian Self-Determination (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/29/16 12:26 PM)
        Excellent comments by JE on my post of 28 March about Wilsonian Self-Determination.

        After WWI, the morally correct ideal of Wilsonian Self-Determination failed. National egotism, rivalries and the desire to secure/clear borders prevailed among the victors without any possibility for the defeated to protest.

        The three great European Empires--Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary plus the Ottoman Empire--were all divided. As an example Germany lost 70,000 square kilometers with a population of 6.5 million, of which 3.5 million were ethnic Germans.  The worst case (and very difficult to understand) was Danzig with a population of 331,000, of which 315,000 were German.

        It would take too long to go over the injustices against the populations in the drawing of the borders at Versailles, Saint Germain, Trianon (still resented by Hungarians against Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine), Neully and Sevres plus Lausanne (1923). These precisely were the injustices that created WWII.

        Italy had to complain about the non-recognition of the immediate annexation of Fiume and the loss of the islands of Arbe (Rab now) and Veglia (Krk), with an Italian ethnic majority. At the same time, Italy annexed the interior part of Istria, in order to have a border coinciding with the Alps watershed, therefore including also 362,909 Slovenians and Croats. But Italians remained also in Dalmatia without any protection against the arrogance of the local Balkan authorities; 50,000 became refugees in Italy, the second exodus from Dalmatia. The first was after 1869 and the third after 1945.

        Both Yugoslavia and Italy tried to assimilate their minorities until 1937, when with the Treaty of Friendship a protection was granted. See my WAIS posts on Italians of the Eastern Adriatic--10 and 12 February 2013.

        Italy also included ethnic Germans (267,265 at 1939 census) in Alto Adige/Sud Tyrol, again in order to have borders coinciding with the Alps watershed plus historical reasons. This inclusion caused (and still causes) some problems. However, with the 1939 Rome Treaty, Hitler agreed to accept into the Third Reich those who, by referendum, chose to be German and not Italian. Among them, 185,085 people, not all moved to the Third Reich and many of those who moved came back after the war.

        Surprisingly, some ethnic Italians were among the 185,085 who chose the Third Reich.

        I was friends with two sisters, one who wanted to remain Italian while the other chose to remain German by joining the Nazi party. They also had two brothers who became Germans and fought in the Wermacht, dying in the war.

        JE comments:  One wonders which factor at Versailles weighed more heavily in the advent of WWII:  redrawing the borders or the onerous reparations forced upon Germany.  I've always thought the latter.

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  • Imperial Meddling (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/26/16 7:49 AM)
    Commenting on the excellent post of Tor Guimaraes, 25 March, our moderator writes:

    "Some states are perfectly ordered and functional, and they have been intervened in, too."

    I may be wrong, but I assume that the reference is to France and UK.

    These two derelicts of old powerful empires intervened because their leaders were trying to recover some old glory, lost power and economic advantages following the wishes of the warmonger Empire.

    In the special case of Libya, France and UK with their intervention wanted to kick out the Italian ENI from its dominance there. ENI has been hated by the Western oil companies since 1953 for its special relationship with the countries where it operates. Now the EU would like to divide and privatize it. "Thanks." Losing its last efficient industry is what Italy really needs.

    The level of "understanding" of the Libyan general situation was indicated by a powerful government woman, who upon the terrible death of Gaddafi gloated, "We came, we saw, he died."

    The Western leaders should have studied history, starting with the old Sykes-Picot Accord of 1916, Arab requests at Paris in 1919, the Treaty of Sevres 1920, Lausanne 1923, as well as the forgotten Wilson Plans for Armenia and Kurdistan.

    They should also include Russia as a conditio sine qua non, as it has shown an excellent strategical decision and power. Yesterday the Russians had another casualty, an officer who in front of Palmyra was directing the aerial bombing of IS defences.

    But the West should also consider who is a friend and who is an enemy--i.e. Turkey, with its crazy president who dreams of a new Ottoman Empire from Bosnia, Kosovo, all the way to the so-called Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang), plus the South of Bulgaria (Burgas), and of course also Saudi Arabia. And why not Israel as well?

    An obscene news item: former president of Braziil Lula da Silva, who refused the extradition to Italy of a Marxist/Leninist murderer, is planning to ask Italy for political asylum. Our Ambassador, however, has just denied it.

    JE comments:  I was referring to states that had been intervened in, but are perfectly functional.  Nations such as--well, I'm not sure.  Finland?  Chile?  South Korea?

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  • Failed States and "Othering" (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/31/16 8:05 PM)
    John Eipper commented on my post of 25 March with "to attribute the blame for 'failed states' exclusively to imperial meddling is another marginalizing or 'othering' act. In the field of Cultural Studies, it means we are denying 'agency' to those entities. Some states are perfectly ordered and functional, and they've been intervened in, too."

    To me that is not very meaningful. If the US would experience a long period of raging inflation and the Fed did not raise rates and allowed the US economy to be destroyed, I would criticize the Fed for not doing its job. If the US Congress would go for a few years without passing legislation which would make the US a better and stronger nation, I would criticize Congress. Ditto for every organization which has a job to do and a mission to accomplish and has failed as miserably as our State Department, which is ultimately responsible for the results of our foreign policy.

    If someone calls my criticism of disastrous results from jobs poorly done a "marginalizing, othering act," or "denying agency to those entities," these words in this context are meaningless to me.

    Also meaningless to me in this context is the fact that "some states are perfectly ordered and functional, and they've been intervened in, too." That is true but the only logical conclusion is that some nations are socially, politically, and/or economically more robust in withstanding particular types of foreign intervention.

    Other nations are weak and quickly find themselves mired in completely devastating civil wars. And God knows that despite our great intentions we have a fast-increasing number of such wars going on today. Our nation is getting weaker, wasting critical resources and our enemies are growing. It is time to retrench and take care of our own internal problems before continuing our expensive and increasingly disastrous foreign policy.

    JE comments:  By "denying agency," I was trying to say that failed states should be held accountable, at least in part, for their dysfunction.  It is condescending to assume that some states or peoples are so impotent--childlike, if you will--that they are incapable of doing anything; things are only done to them.

    In his critique of US policy (second paragraph), Tor seems to be making the same point.  "Imperial meddling" is not the only factor.  A nation can screw things up on its own, too.

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    • Who Sets US Foreign Policy? (Timothy Brown, USA 04/03/16 5:08 AM)
      Tor Guimareas (2 April) stated categorically that "the State Department is ultimately responsible for the results of our foreign policy."

      Based on my 27 years personal experience as a Foreign Service Officer trying to implement foreign policies and 20 post-Foreign Service academic years researching international relations, that is not the case. The State Department does not make foreign policy. It implements policies made by the President and supervised by the President's National Security Staff.

      The State Department is, of course, officially the nation's major foreign policy agency. And State does advise the President and the national security staff. But neither is obligated to accept its advice. Also, State is far from the only major player in the foreign policy arena. The intelligence agencies, military and others also provide analyses and recommendations on foreign policy matters. But none has veto power over policy decisions made by the President.

      Not that I was always happy with the policies I was expected to implement. I was not. And I could, and on occasion did, recommend policy changes. And a few times, my recommendations were acted on. In one instance that has now been declassified and I intend to discuss in my next book, a controversial foreign policy was reversed. But that was a rare instance.

      JE comments: Don't want to play the spoiler here, but could you give us a sneak preview, Tim?

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    • Outside Intervention and Dysfunctional States: Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/03/16 7:57 AM)
      A very good post from Tor Guimaraes (2 April) and excellent, as usual, comments from JE.

      Let me say, however, that even if I concur on most of the points raised by Tor, I have some problems relating to the Italian experience.

      Italy in 1945 had emerged from two, maybe more accurately three, disastrous wars, a badly lost regular war of the Axis against almost the entire world, a horrible civil war, and the ridiculous shameful co-belligerent war.

      Italy has remained since 1945 under US occupation, with more than 100 military bases, some directly controlled.  Some examples are Aviano (Army and Air Forces with nuclear weapons), Camp Elderle-Vicenza (SETAF Command, Air Force with nuclear weapons), Camp Darby (Depot supply and weapons), Naples (Navy, Air Force, Army), Sigonella (Navy), Miscemi (MUOS), as well as facilities controlled through NATO.

      Such a situation originated from the Peace Treaty (Diktat) of 10 February 1947, confirmed by the unfair secret accords of 20 October 1954.

      It may be an unfortunate series of coincidences, but all Italian PMs who showed some independence from US directives pretty soon lost their jobs, falling in disgrace and any independence dream put down with them.

      Giuseppe Pella on 13 September 1953 made a speech in the defense of the Italianness of Trieste, then under British-US occupation, claiming a possible freedom of action and placing NATO in doubt.  This was the high point of modern Italian foreign policy.

      Bettino Craxi on 11 October 1985 blocked an armed Navy Seals invasion of a Sicilian airport under Italian jurisdiction to capture some Palestinian terrorists. 

      Massimo D'Alema, a former communist but a good lackey of the Empire during the wars against Yugoslavia (Serbia), fell in disgrace when, following the Cermis disaster, on 10 March 1999 he said that he wanted to remove the secrecy of the secret military "accords" (impositions) with US.

      Silvio Berlusconi on February 2011 was against attacking Gaddafi, in contrast to the wishes of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was involved in unleashing the wave of US-financed regime changes across the Arab Middle East.

      JE comments:  The Cermis disaster took place when a US Marine aircraft flew into a cable supporting a gondola on an aerial tramway.  Twenty people died in the 1998 incident, in what became one of the low points of recent Italo-American relations.  Cermis has largely been forgotten in the US, but certainly not in Italy.


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      • Palomares Incident, 1966 (John Heelan, -UK 04/04/16 3:12 AM)
        Regarding the Cermis incident (Eugenio Battaglia, 3 April), how many in the US remember the Palomares incident 50 years ago (17 Jan 1966)?

        "José María Herrera is a local journalist who's been investigating the accident since the 1980s. He stood recently on a ridge overlooking one of three fenced-off areas which is still contaminated, totaling some 100 acres (40 hectares).

        "'That crater there is where one of the bombs fell,' he says. 'You could extract at least half a pound of plutonium from the soil there today.'

        "Actually, just how much plutonium is still out there is hard to determine, because the US has never said how much the bombs were carrying to begin with. But Spanish investigator Carlos Sancho estimates that between 15 and 25 pounds (7 and 11kg) of the material ended up in the soil. Sancho, who runs the Palomares section of the Spanish Department of Energy, insists it does not pose health risks.

        "'The earth there can't be moved because the plutonium is latent in the soil,' he says. 'If we disturb the soil the plutonium could be dispersed.

        "'So Palomares is like a sleeping dragon.'"


        JE comments:  Two US Air Force planes collided over the Mediterranean, and four hydrogen bombs were lost, three of which ended up on land in Palomares.  The fourth device was recovered from the Mediterranean.

        Palomares was before my time, but plutonium has a very long memory.  My thanks to John Heelan for the refresher.

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        • Palomares Incident, 1966 (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/04/16 1:27 PM)
          I remember the Palomares accident very well.

          Two planes: one B-52G bomber and one tanker, a KC-135, collided. The bomber was coming from North Carolina, the tanker was based at Morón AFB, in Spain. All the personnel on the tanker and three from the bomber died.

          The bomber was carrying four Mk-28 hydrogen atomic bombs and, yes, three bombs fell on the ground contaminating about two acres of land, while the fourth went into the sea and was finally recovered intact after long exhausting work.

          A few days later, as a diplomatic concession, the US announced that it would no longer fly over Spain with nuclear weapons, and the Spanish government formally banned US flights over its territory that carried such weapons. This caused other nations hosting US forces to review their policies, starting with the Philippines, which called for a new treaty to restrict the operation of US military aircraft in Filipino airspace.

          Today in the town of Palomares, most people have forgotten the incident, however it is noted by a street named "17 January 1966" in that little town, although almost nobody knows what it is all about.

          As a final note, the empty casings of two of the bombs involved in this incident are now on display in the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

          JE comments:  I looked up the population of Palomares (Almería):  1780, of which 871 are men and 832 women (per Wikipedia).  This leaves 77 unaccounted for.  We have a number of military aviation experts in WAISworld, so here's a question:  are nuclear weapons still flown around on routine missions?

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          • Two New Books on Palomares Incident, 1966 (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/05/16 4:02 AM)
            Two new books have now been published in Spain on the 50th anniversary of the Palomares incident. Unfortunately I cannot give the relevant references, as I´m in New York City at the moment.

            The political and diplomatic environment subsequent to the incident was dealt with in my book En las garras del águila, published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1953 US-Spanish agreements.

            The two new books have explored the lengthy bilateral negotiations until a couple of years ago. I dealt with the hidden diplomatic response right after the incident, because the latter had some bearing on the negotiations of the 1980s, in which I acted as a kind of backroom boy. I may recall for what it's worth that I served as an advisor to two ministers of Foreign Affairs because of my knowledge of the history of the bilateral relationship in the security and political-military fields.

            If WAISers are interested in the subject, I can give the titles of the new books upon my return to Brussels.

            JE comments: Look forward to it.  Also, I know surprisingly little about Hispano-American relations in the decade or so after WWII.  Franco's transformation from international pariah into a reliable Cold Warrior must have involved some fascinating diplomatic machinations.  I need to read En las garras del águila [In the Eagle's Talons], certainly.

            (Ángel: what was the atmosphere at the Brussels airport when you left for NYC?)

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      • US Intervention in Yugoslavia; Response to Eugenio Battaglia (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/15/16 7:40 PM)
        I hope fellow WAISers will overlook the long and unavoidable delay in responding to Eugenio Battaglia's comments (3 April) regarding the Empire and especially the Empire in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. I have found many inaccuracies in his claims.

        1. It does seem a bit disingenuous to complain about "all" the US and NATO bases in Italy, as Italy lost the war and should get over it. Still, as with any country, if you want us to leave we will. Adiós and waivous rancherous (wave to the ranchers); we will leave, probably never to return. However, I will miss Camp Darby and Sigonella.

        2. Eugenio claims there were some strange efforts to remove Italy and ENI from Libya. No, the past and current factions in Libya invited Total and BP and others to Libya because they felt a) they could get a better deal, and b) so they could leverage ENI for a better deal. Yes, they are that business savvy.

        3. I am not so sure about the requests for Italian assistance with the current situation in Libya, given Italy's last foray into Libya and dealing with the clans.

        4. Eugenio disingenuously complains that Brazil would not extradite a Marxist/Leninist murderer (calling it "obscene"--and I agree that it is), but he celebrated Craxi (the unready) for standing up to the "Empire" (the US) to block Navy Seals from capturing a few "Palestinian Terrorists." I get it, Eugenio likes the Palestinians, but these brave Palestinians did murder Klinghoffer, an old crippled Jew in a wheelchair--and they also hijacked an Italian vessel the Achille Lauro, breaking the deal Craxi made with the PLO/Black September/ etc. for a fixed sum, in exchange for which they agreed not to attack Italian commercial aircraft. I guess they wanted more for ships. But it is a bit much, to say the least, to complain when it happens to you.

        5. As for my main contention, regarding Eugenio's total misrepresentation of events in Yugoslavia and the Empire. Having some direct experience with the situation, I would like to offer the opposite view.

        6. Few in the government of the Empire wanted anything to do with Yugoslavia and its breakup.  (I heard one State Department wag say they live in the Balkans and do what they always do--they "Balkanized.") But the EU could not stand by again and watch another genocide in Europe.  The problem was that neither EU nor the countries in EU could logistically support an extended stay by any of their armies or navies and certainly not their air forces. Thus, they literally begged the US to support and lead the operation through one of the worst chain of commands in history. The UN would lead and NATO would operate under the UN and somehow the EU was involved. (What could possibly go wrong--Srebrenica for one.)  First there was UNPROFOR (the UN Protection Force) and I was stationed out of Skopje traveling to and from there and and Sarajevo and places north, trying to provide security support to the various convoys. Eventually we became IFOR under the UN.

        For this bit of humanitarian relief we suffered under the worst rules of engagement I have ever seen under UN control. Worse, Eugenio may like his Serbs, but they were the lowest of the low. But everyone there was the lowest of the low. Serbs, Croats, Kosovars, Bosnians, Albanians, Gypsies, some people called Ahkali (I think that is the English spelling).. Most were broken down into clans, especially the Albanians and Gypsies. All were cheerfully murdering their neighbors and former friends, and all were involved in drugs, human trafficking, gun-running and all the usual crimes. As if this were not enough, there were the outside forces from Iran's IRGC, the Russian FSB, the Greek/Saudi/Qatari and other secret services cheering on everyone on trading arms and support to whom ever suited them "today."

        As a sidebar from one who was there (Sarajevo), Srebrenica happened because the UN refused to protect or allow protection of its own Safe Zone/Protected Zone (We had CAS aircraft ready to go full bomb loads and all troops on standby but as we came to believe, because Kofi Annan wanted to become Secretary General of the UN and replace the incompetent Butrous-Ghali, he wanted no problems with the various factions and thus the 7000-9000 Bosnians (Muslims) died for his reign as not only an incompetent but totally corrupt UN Secretary General. I always believed that making the Olympic stadium in Sarajevo a graveyard was the worst of ironies.

        What I am suggesting is that the whole operation was a farce in so many ways. Due to the rules of engagement, one had to guard the guards as the point personnel were all but begging to be taken hostage--much like the Dutch troops who were supposed to protect the people of Srebrenica and taken hostage by Serb forces. I was in charge of providing security to aid convoys with nothing but small arms.

        The place was a mess, and into this came the Greeks who proved that there is such a thing as reverse Darwinism. They acted quite possibly like the dumbest people in Europe if not the world by threatening war moving troops to the boarder--actual war--over Macedonia. Just the name Macedonia. As if Alexander were some sort of Athenian anchor baby. Over the name of a country? And to prove my argument, the Greeks still threatened war, backed by troops because the Macedonian flag had 16 rays. Now, therefore, we have the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (or FYR Macedonia) .

        The whole thing showed the utter moral bankruptcy and corruption of the UN and the depths of hell we can go to destroy the other. Eugenio is right the Bosnians were SS storm troopers siding with Hitler. But if memory serves, our friends the Italians did the same thing.

        Regarding Eugenio's complaints regarding Camp Bombsteel, it was built in the late 1990s (for no reason it seems, as times and things change) as a logistic base that we have been trying to close (on the BRACO list) for the last ten years. This goes against the cries of the locals, as it is a sizable part of the Provincial GDP. But again it is a log training base--I believe--of little value and used to train Army National Guard troops (about 600-800 at a time). A very boring base in a boring area. I also believe there are several thousand EU/Nato troops there.

        Overall, it was one of the most dissatisfying experiences in my life. It destroyed morale and caused many nice young men and women to temporarily lose their sanity--with permanent scars.

        I regret this possibly not-so-WAISly rant, but Eugenio knows not what he was talking about and though he may side with the Serbs. All in all, there were no good guys in the whole affair.

        JE comments:  Robert Gibbs's post is a bit polemical for my tastes, but I am very interested in his views on the horrors of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  Colonel Bob was there.  And we tend to forget how bad things were in the Balkans, given that the world's attention was later monopolized by Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

        I hope Bob's post will spark a fruitful discussion.

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        • The Ashkali (Edward Jajko, USA 04/16/16 2:59 AM)
          For the mysterious "Ahkali" of Robert Gibbs's post (15 April), see the thoroughly confusing Wikipedia article "Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians." I have no idea what the supposed Turkish root of the name is meant to be; it makes no sense to this philologist.

          JE comments: According to Wikipedia, the Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians, who self-identify as different but related groups, number some 40,000 in all.  They reside primarily in Kosovo and Macedonia, speak Albanian, and are Sunni Muslims.

          Yes:  it is a confusing article in need of a good edit.

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          • Etymology of Ashkali (Enrique Torner, USA 04/18/16 1:59 AM)
            The discussion on the Ashkali initiated by Robert Gibbs (15 April) and followed up by others really raised my attention. First, because I had never heard of them, and had no idea who they are, and that always triggers my curiosity. Second, because a philological question was raised by Ed Jajko about the etymology of the term, and, being a philologist who has always been fascinated by the etymology of words, I had to figure this one out!

            So, I did some research online, and found out that the Ashkali are the newest minority in Kosovo. They speak Albanian as their first language, and they are Sunni Muslim. They are usually linked with the Roma gypsies and the Balkan Egyptians; the majority of the people in Kosovo regard them all as gypsies, grouping them together with the acronym RAE (Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians). However, the Ashkali and the Egyptians distance themselves from the Roma, because the latter speak Romani, while they speak Albanian. These minorities were basically forced to create their own identity by the Kosovo crisis in 1999, having to come up with a pseudo-historical justification for their new identity.

            I will not delve any further into the history of the Ashkali, but will, instead, limit myself now to the main subject at hand: the etymology of the word "Ashkali" (also spelled "Ashkalie" and in other ways, but most scholars write it "Ashkali"). The Council of Europe offers a good and thorough explanation. There is not one single explanation. Some anthropologists and philologists believe that the word "Ashkali" comes from an Albanian word for charcoal, "eshke," which Ashkali blacksmiths used to build their fires. The process of making charcoal for blacksmiths is very difficult, so it is left to certain professionals; these professionals received the ethnonym "eshka/ashka-makers," hence "Ashkali." I find this thesis very credible, especially since it follows the universal tradition of naming people after their trades (Miller, Turner, etc.).

            It is interesting, however, that the Ashkali community leaders quickly created their own explanation of their origin and history, which, according to Rubin Zemon, are mostly superstition and folk stories. These leaders came up with different origins for their ethnic group: Persian, Italian, and Semitic. However, since history and folklore traditions have a special place in the life of the Balkan nations, their "history" is "not so much a science as part of the national mythology," states Zemon. Isn't that interesting? That is why these minorities are so confused about their own identity! Rubin Zemon exemplifies this very well by introducing a poem written by an Ashkali author (Selahedin Kryeziu) in 1993:

            WHO AM I? Ill. 2

            They ask me what I am. | I do not know what to say. | At home,

            I speak the language of the Albanians, | But I‘m not Albanian.

            Who I am, I also wonder. | My friends are mostly Roma, |

            But we are not Roma. | We have weddings like them, | And

            often with them, | But we do not know their language.

            My grandfather and the grandfather of my grandfather, |

            And all my ancestors | They do not know either. | I do not

            know what I am. | Maybe until I die | I will ignore who

            I am. | I think there is nobody in the world like us, ignoring

            who they are. | Everything, I ignore everything of my past, |

            I do not know where I am coming from, | I do not know what

            I am. | And why I do not know - even that I do not know.

            Taken from Dr Marcel Courthiade (Institut National des Langues et Civi-

            lisations Orientales - Université de Paris & Union Rromani Internationale

            History of Ashkali identity (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232803734_History_of_Ashkali_identity [accessed Apr 18, 2016].


            "History of Ashkali Identity", by Rubin Zemon, published by the Council of Europe (link right above)

            "Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo: New ethnic identifications as a result of exclusion during nationalist violence from 1990 till 2010," by Claudia Lichnofsky (this article is part of Lichnofsky's doctoral dissertation):


            JE comments:  Great to hear from our friend Enrique Torner, who like Yours Truly, has been swamped of late with work at the University.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, Enrique!

            It appears that the Ashkali category came into being primarily as a result of political upheaval.  They are distinct from the Roma people because they speak Albanian.  I have no intention of taking away any group's right to self-identify, but might the Ashkali be best understood as assimilated Roma?

            It would be instructive to go back a couple of generations, and see how the Ashkali were described (if at all) during the years of Yugoslavian stability.

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        • US Intervention in Yugoslavia; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/17/16 8:04 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:

          In response to Robert Gibbs (April 16), I was in Kosovo for the UN
          in 1999-2000, in a fantastic position (whose genesis is too
          complex for mere words) that allowed me to see, seemingly
          every single day, some new UN meltdown or absurdity that
          I kept telling myself nobody would believe.

          Robert Gibbs's impressions don't sound over-polemical to me.
          Certainly anything can be exaggerated or demonized, but
          there's so much wonderful hidden dross here (in what was then
          called the largest UN deployment in the world--Kosovo--though
          there were other competitors) that a few gusts are almost unavoidable
          to blow away the fog. For openers, Robert and I were both in
          Skopje at one point, and not too terribly far away was the Račak massacre
          that formed one of the provocations for US intervention.  What does Robert think of the ubiquitous charge in Europe that Račak was not really
          a massacre and William Walker rigged the appearances so the Empire
          could get in? This also speaks to the weird 10,000-dead-or-100,000-dead
          chimera in Kosovo. Robert also mentioned Greece, and Greece, among others,
          was a fount of rumors about US lies, while doubtless there were really
          military propaganda efforts and cover stories at the same time.

          So: Račak and William Walker. Can Robert shed some light on what
          the realities were, one way or the other? I was sent to investigate
          a post-Račak mystery, and morbidly still have a shell casing from the
          massacre site--certainly to remind me, but exactly of what?

          JE comments:  William Walker was the head of the KVM (Kosovo Verification Mission).  Latin Americanists better remember an earlier William Walker, the 1850s "filibuster" who took over and briefly became president of Nicaragua.  He was defeated by a coalition of Central American forces and executed.

          There something of a common thread here:  interventions and coalitions.

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          • What I Saw in Yugoslavia (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/29/16 8:48 AM)
            I truly appreciate Gary Moore's support (17 April) regarding my description of events and my experience in the Former Yugoslavian Republic.

            It is a situation and time that is so hard to believe, even if one witnessed it. For me it was truly like living in one of Dante's lower rings of Hell. The huge challenge was trying to convince my troops that what we were doing was worthwhile--this regardless of ridiculous Rules of Engagement and being almost defenseless. Everyone there knew what they could do to my troops, up to and including stealing our weapons (basic NATO rifles--M16 and A9, etc.).

            However, I was not "in country" when the Racka Massacres occurred. But I can say that the Serb claims sound almost insane. (OK, what is new here?) That the Albanians crossed over and into Serb-controlled Racka, at night, stripped the corpses of their Bosnian/KLA uniforms and dressed them in civilian clothes and departed unnoticed? I can believe Walker's reports because they were not new. These things were going on just about everywhere in the Former Yugoslav Republic. We would risk a lot to get food and/or medicine and treatment to people who only wanted to kill (murder) their neighbors and family (including children I might add--if they were mixed).

            The whole place was crazy. There were no--repeat--no good guys. I remember some of people whom I/we dealt with were "good," but the overwhelming numbers of cold-blooded murderers (with the UN just standing by and forcing us to ignore all of it). Eugenio Battaglia described in a recent post how there are currently Serb priests and monks and monasteries who need the protection of Italian troops (IFOR- KFOR), and how there ancient monasteries were destroyed by the KLA or someone. These were undoubtedly the same priests and monks who led and/or encouraged attacks on Muslim villages and blowing up their ancient mosques and Catholic churches, and directed massacres of Muslims, Croats, and anyone who wasn't a Serb. So that you will not think I am so biased here, Catholic priests and imams and mullahs--all of them did the same sorts of things.  As I said, it was insane and so easy to initially prevent.

            Further, many of these so-called holy men smuggled drugs, arms, information, and orders for their respective people. They were quite adept at smuggling cannabis, pistols and hand grenades, as well as communications, in their robes. Greeks, Iranian, Italian, Albanian (and others) official and criminal--drug people and gun runners would smuggle their goods and money using the mosques, monasteries and churches as conduits and safe havens (both Eastern and Western rite). Plus, they would offer shelter and support to their favorite fighters and trafficked in human beings.

            I regret I cannot add more than this to the conversation, but I can add that I believe that this massacre was one of the main reasons Camp Bondsell was built for the IFOR/NATO protection of the Kosovars. But I have no direct knowledge of this as fact.

            I will add this that Gary Moore's time and work in Yugoslavia deserves some recognition for the incredible difficulty of his job. I could escape some of the insanity by just going off and smoking a cigar at night with real soldiers. Gary had to work with the UN.

            JE comments: First of all, my apologies to Robert Gibbs for the delay in posting this. I sometimes get swamped by the "incomings," and a post or two can get misplaced.  This one was worth the wait.

            Bob gives us a clear idea of why "Balkanization" has become a generic term for fratricidal chaos.

            Bob: you really must write a book about your experience in Yugoslavia. I'll suggest this working title: No Heroes.

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            • What I Saw in Yugoslavia; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/30/16 3:02 AM)

              Gary Moore writes:

              Bob Gibbs (April 29) is gracious to speak of the difficulty of my UN job
              in post-war Kosovo, though we can see from his descriptions that he was
              on the real firing line; I was only in clean-up. But also, as he says too,
              it was a fascinatingly bizarre cleanup.

              Example One: I arrived at the United Nations Mission in Kosovo expecting
              an emphasis on rapport and local language learning, sort of like the Peace Corps--and instead found UN employees were actually forbidden to speak the local language,
              and had to travel with interpreters like British raj prefects in an elephant howdah.
              The atmosphere was not only one of ruins and chaos but such deep
              bureaucratic secrecy that it took me months to slowly tease out the reason
              behind the language prohibition.

              It was a Bulgarian guy from Queens.
              He had arrived as a UN employee just as the war was ending and the
              Albanian majority was still enraged by massacres committed by the former
              Serb rulers. Crowds on Mother Teresa Street (she was Albanian) would
              listen intently for any hint of Serb conversation, as they sought targets to mob.
              The Bulgarian guy ignored all this as he went with two female companions into the
              chandeliered restaurant of the Grand Hotel, showing off his facility in Bulgarian,
              which sounds a lot like Serbian, apparently. Somebody overheard. As they
              were leaving, a crowd gathered and somebody gave him a test. A passerby innocently
              said to him, "What time do you have?" in Serbian. The linguistic closeness was
              such that he answered unthinkingly by looking at his watch--which flunked the test.
              And they killed him. (This was as much as I could learn, with the usual grapevine
              caveats on strict accuracy--though I did see the victim's photo.)

              The UN, applying its wonderfully classic bureaucratic leveling to the manic peaks,
              responded by forbidding the speaking of any local language, not only Serbian but Albanian,
              the language of some 95 percent of the people left in Kosovo. It took me months more
              to squeeze past this deer-in-the-headlights blanket prohibition as I wrote the area manual
              --and simply included language lessons without asking for permission (Bureaucratic Rule One:
              If you don't ask they can't say no, and you can always finesse it toward a gray area afterward).
              One of my favorite language-learning phrases in the manual:
              "My vehicle is stuck in the mud. Do you have a mule?"

              Example Two is more panoramic, involving war crimes.
              But maybe it's time to ask Bob for some more detail on his time in the maze.

              JE comments:  What a sad story.  I always tell my students that speaking the local language will win you friends and influence.  But in the Balkans, you can be certain you'll find enemies no matter what language you speak.

              Could you ask for a mule in Albanian?  Gary Moore can.  We should combine the collective language base of WAISdom and assemble a list.

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              • More on Yugoslavia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/01/16 1:20 PM)

                I read with great interest the latest posts from Robert Gibbs and Gary Moore about the mess in the former Yugoslavia.

                Also the post, with attachments, from Robert Whealey about Nixon/Vietnam should be reflected upon with great care.

                What can I say? These are examples of the awful failure of the Empire's government with its poorly conceived meddling in other nations.

                One of Robert Gibbs's observations is emblematic. "As I said, [Yugoslavia] was insane and [would have been so] easy to initially prevent."

                But does "initially" refer to 1919, 1941, 1982, 1991 or 1999?

                In 1919, the Western Powers created that monstrosity that was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, with many persecuted ethnic minorities such as Italians, Germans, Albanians, Hungarians, Roma, etc. In Italy this geopolitical construct was perceived as a creation made for enmity and a violation of the 1915 Treaty of London, by which Italy entered WWI on the side of the Allies.

                In 1941 South Kosovo (Albanian) was united to Albania, while the North Kosovo (Serbian) remained within Serbia. But that division was made by the Axis and therefore was wrong.

                In 1945, it was evident to see that in Tito's army, "there were no--repeat no--good guys" as Robert Gibbs phrased it, but, at that time, and practically until his death in 1980, Tito was the darling of the Western Powers, in spite of the fact that he carried out terrible massacres, his concentration camps were considered worse than those of Auschwitz (see Borovnica, Isola Calva/Goli Otok, etc.), and horrible ethnic cleansing. He was nonetheless considered a useful "nice guy."

                In 1975 Italy was pushed by its Allies to sign the shameful Osimo Treaty, renouncing to the B Zone of the former Territorio Libero di Trieste in order to make Tito happy and not join the Warsaw Pact.

                In 1981, the fighting began for the independence of Kosovo, with the usual freedom fighters/terrorists mess.

                1990 saw the unilateral declaration of a Republic of Kosovo, with NATO intervention in 1999 that included criminal bombing using depleted uranium. The intervention gave satisfaction to the Albanians, but involved a "democratic" ethnic cleansing of the Serbs.

                Finally, the long attack on Nixon. Every word may be correct strictly speaking, but the Vietnam mess started much earlier that the Nixon Presidency.  It was a problem poorly handled by practically all US Presidents from the end of WWII.

                At that time I was with a group of youths contesting the Reds and their pro-Vietcong shows. In the end, however, I felt if the defeat was my own but also I had a faint feeling of betrayal, as the Allies ran away when things went rough.

                JE comments: Might it be instructive to take another look at Tito? History has been fairly generous with him, perhaps unfairly generous, because of the horrors that came after.

                Also, Eugenio, I'd like to learn more of your youthful anti-Red protests.

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                • With the MSI in the 1960s (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/03/16 4:48 AM)
                  In response to John E's questions about my participation in the Movimento Sociale Italiano, I could not do too much to counter the Reds in their pro-Vietcong shows, because most of the time I was at sea. The MSI party was founded by former members of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana.

                  At that time the MSI was still anti-capitalist but considered that the Reds were more dangerous and therefore the pre-eminent enemy to fight. The Americans were the enemies of our enemies. We liked, however, the South Vietnamese and the killing of Diem was a shock for us. About the position of the MSI there is a debate: some think that the MSI should have been both anti-communist and anti-capitalist at the same time and in the same manner, but probably if it had acted like that it would have been immediately dissolved by the Authorities as the Reds were demanding.

                  In my home town, the MSI was a small force and we could not do much save the usual political propaganda. When possible we gave spirited debates and also got some beatings because we were always outnumbered 100 to 1, but in other towns there were real fights and we lost many young fellows in the struggle against the Reds and their friends.

                  Just to see the movie The Green Berets, it was necessary to force the Red blockade.

                  JE comments:  The Green Berets came out in 1968, probably as an attempt to boost US morale about Vietnam.  Despite the efforts of John Wayne, it failed.

                  My thanks to Eugenio Battaglia for this tale of youthful militancy.  At the same time (or shortly thereafter), Eugenio's friend Luciano Dondero was active in the Trotskyist ranks.  I hope Luciano will tell us his memories from those days.

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    • Imperial Meddling in Iran and Iraq (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/04/16 4:02 AM)
      When commenting on my post of 2 April, John Eipper wrote: "Failed states should be held accountable, at least in part, for their dysfunction. It is condescending to assume that some states or peoples are so impotent--childlike, if you will--that they are incapable of doing anything; things are only done to them."

      I completely agree that ultimately every person and every nation should be responsible for their dysfunction, at least theoretically and in principle. Then we must deal with reality.

      Let's take for example Iran, whose oil reserves were coveted by the oil-hungry Western powers. Iranians democratically elected a President who apparently did not satisfy Western corporate interests close enough. So they killed the guy and replaced him with their puppet. After years of dictatorship by such puppet, the Iranian people engaged in a revolution that placed Islamic clerics in charge of Iran.  We created an enemy nation by interfering in their affairs.

      In reaction to our new enemy country, our brilliant foreign relations strategists decided that the smart thing to do was to cultivate a neighboring counterweight, a secular country with a nasty dictator who would be willing to engage Iran in a bloody war where the US would arm Iraq to the teeth (including chemical weapons) while our partner Israel would arm Iran, so they would destroy each other as much as possible. That "worked" for a while but evolved into today's nightmare.

      As we all know, Iran has become a major rival in the Middle East, supporting our enemies in many countries and on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. Our old partner Saddam Hussein also became a murderous enemy who we had to destroy, and we turned Iraq into a wasteland with an ongoing civil war (just like in Syria and many other countries) which has spawned ISIS and sucked trillions of dollars from US taxpayers which could have been used to improve the fast-deteriorating living conditions of the American people.

      Using this Iran/Iraq example, who should we blame for these social, political, economic, military disasters? The Western nations? The US government foreign policy/actions? The Iranian government? The Iraqi government?

      Who should have minded their own business, taken care of their own people, and not meddled in the business of other nations?

      JE comments: Good points, and one small correction:  Mosaddegh was not killed in the 1953 coup.  He survived until 1967.

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      • Mosaddegh (Istvan Simon, USA 04/05/16 2:13 PM)
        Tor Guimaraes has repeatedly stated on this Forum that Western powers killed the "President of Iran," without being challenged.

        Tor's statement is both inaccurate and untrue. Mosaddegh was a Prime Minister of Iran, not its President. More importantly, he was never killed by anyone, not by Western powers, nor the Shah. He died of cancer 13 years after being deposed.

        There are many other inaccuracies in Tor's oversimplified characterization of events. The Shah was in power when Mosaddegh was deposed. It was the Shah who named Mosaddegh, and later dismissed him as Prime Minister. Tor seems to think otherwise. Iran was never a true democracy, though it had certain democratic institutions both before and after Mosaddegh. Perhaps it would be also worthwhile mentioning that the unlike Britain, the US did not intervene in Iran because of commercial interests, but because of fear of the spread of Communism to Iran.

        Though Mosaddegh seems to have been a popular figure in Iran, his own democratic credentials and convictions are in some doubt, given that he was ruling with emergency powers, suspended elections and was ruling in a generally turbulent and chaotic political environment. See:


        JE comments: So happy to hear from our old friend Istvan Simon after a silence of over a year.  I would like to make two clarifications:  1)  I actually "challenged" Tor Guimaraes's claim about Mosaddegh dying in the 1953 coup, and 2) Tor (next) has written to acknowledge his error.

        I would like to know more about how Mosaddegh is remembered in Iran--both by the regime and the people as a whole.  He was an anti-imperialist voice, but also a secularizer.  Perhaps Istvan's colleague at Cal State East Bay, Massoud Malek, could weigh in.

        All the best to you, Istvan!

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        • How is Mosaddegh Remembered in Iran? (Massoud Malek, USA 04/07/16 3:48 AM)
          John E asked me to comment on how Mohammad Mosaddegh is remembered in Iran today.

          In April 1951, Mosaddegh, who was nominated by 90% of the members of the Parliament, was appointed Prime Minister of Iran by the Shah. Three days later, he nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In his first month in power, he introduced a wide range of social reforms. Paid sick-leave was mandated, unemployment compensation was introduced, and peasants were freed from forced labor on their landlords' estates.

          Mosaddegh's other popular moves were cutting the Shah's personal budget, forbidding him to communicate directly with foreign diplomats, and transferring royal lands back to the state.

          Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organized and carried out by the CIA. A few days before, CIA agents forced the Shah to issue a written decree dismissing Mosaddegh from office. But the Shah was terrified to attempt such a dangerously unpopular move. He finally agreed but fled the country

          The CIA's coup d'état in Iran cost American taxpayers only 1 million dollars. A general by the name of Zahedi became the new Prime Minister. Zahedi's new government soon reached an agreement with foreign oil companies to form a consortium and restore the flow of Iranian oil to world markets, giving the United States and Great Britain the lion's share of Iran's oil. In return, the US massively funded the Shah's secret police force, SAVAK.

          The Islamic Revolution of 1979 had nothing to do with Mosaddegh, who was betrayed by his previous ally, Ayatollah Kashani, the speaker of the Parliament. He was also opposed by several clerics, including the Great Ayatollah, for reasons such as the government proposal to reform election law by giving voting right to women.

          Before the Revolution of 1979, the longest street in Tehran was named Pahlavi, in honor of the monarchy. Following the Revolution, the street was renamed Mosaddegh. But several Ayatollahs objected to the name; so the street was divided into two--one named after Mosaddegh and the other after his rival and enemy, Ayatollah Kashani. However after several high-ranking clerics objected to Mosaddegh's name, the whole street was given a religious name, Valieh Asr.

          JE comments:  Candidate Bernie Sanders cited Mosaddegh as an example of the unintended consequences of US adventurism in the Middle East.  I wonder if Donald Trump knows who Mosaddegh was.


          (Mosaddegh or Mossadegh?  The Internet cannot agree, although Google and Wikipedia prefer the former.)

          How many of you knew that Mosaddegh was Time's Man of the Year in 1951?

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        • Mosaddegh, the Iranian George Washington (Massoud Malek, USA 04/10/16 5:36 AM)
          On 5 April, Istvan Simon wrote: "Unlike Britain, the US did not intervene in Iran because of commercial interests, but because of fear of the spread of Communism to Iran."

          According to The Guardian, President Harry Truman had rejected a 1952 British proposal for a joint coup plot in Iran, because he did not see any Soviet hand in what was happening in Iran.

          The threat of communism was used for the American public. Nationalism, not communism, proved to be the most serious threat to US power in Iran.


          In his private diary in October 1953, Eisenhower wrote: "Lord knows what we'd do without Iranian oil."

          Later referring to a Wikipedia article on Mosaddegh, Istvan wrote: "Though Mosaddegh seems to have been a popular figure in Iran, his own democratic credentials and convictions are in some doubt, given that he was ruling with emergency powers, suspended elections and was ruling in a generally turbulent and chaotic political environment."

          When I read the English version of the Wikipedia articles about Mosaddegh, I couldn't believe how inaccurate and biased those articles were. The Persian version of the same articles tell a different story.

          Two weeks before the coup, a referendum to dissolve parliament and give the prime minister power to make law was submitted to voters, and it passed with 99.9 percent approval. It was not rigged, as Wikipedia reported. Mosaddegh was not a dictator, he was a great hero who served 99.9 percent of Iranian people. The man whom Time magazine had called "The Iranian George Washington."

          On October 8, in his private diary which was declassified in 2009, Eisenhower wrote: "The things we did were ‘covert.' If knowledge of them became public, we would not only be embarrassed in that region, but our chances to do anything of like nature in the future would almost totally disappear... The Shah fled to Baghdad, and Mosaddegh seemed to be more firmly entrenched in power than ever before."

          British blockade of Iranian seaports that left Iran without access to markets where it could sell its oil, causing Iran to spiral into bankruptcy.

          In 1952, sensing the difficulties of a worsening political and economic climate, he announced that he would request the Shah grant him emergency powers. The Shah refused, and Mosaddegh announced his resignation. The Shah dismissed Mosaddegh, replacing him with a veteran prime minister who announced on his first day, his intention to resume negotiations with the British to end the oil dispute. This reversal of Mosaddegh's policy sparked a massive public outrage. Major strikes broke out in all of Iran's major towns. Ayatollah Kashani led the closure of the Bazaar and warned the Shah of a national jihad.

          Frightened by the unrest, the Shah immediately reinstating Mosaddegh. More popular than ever, The prime minister convinced the parliament to grant him emergency powers. He quickly implemented more social reforms. Unfortunately, after the coup, every single reform was reversed.

          In The Myth of the Great Satan, Abbas Milani, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, blames Mosaddegh for his own downfall. Milani plays down the CIA's role in the 1953 coup and accuses the Iranian middle class, the army and the clergies for the demise of Mosaddegh.

          Milani also wrote: "The Americans grew increasingly frustrated with the Shah's authoritarianism. President Kennedy focused on redoubling the Eisenhower efforts to reform the regime."

          See the article at: https://newrepublic.com/article/71731/the-great-satan-myth

          As someone who lived under the Shah's regime, I felt that life became more intolerable every day. In 1964, the Pentagon forced the Shah to sign an agreement to offer Americans in Iran diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

          Instead of exposing the hypocrisy of the American governments, Milani accuses the Iranian middle class, and the "Gandhi of Iran" for brutality committed indirectly by the American policy in Iran, before, during, and after the coup.

          On the 60th anniversary of the 1953 coup, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents. Despite the latest releases, a significant number of documents about the coup remain secret. The British government has never acknowledged its role.

          On 19 December 1953, defending himself against the treason charge, Dr. Mosaddegh said:

          "I fought this savage and dreadful system of international espionage and colonialism. I am well aware that my fate must serve as an example in the future throughout the Middle East in breaking the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests."

          On 21 December 1953, he was sentenced to death but his sentence was later commuted to three years of solitary confinement in a military prison. He was kept under house arrest at his home, until his death, on 5 March 1967.

          The main sources:




          Persian Wikipedia

          JE comments:  Can any "clean" vote pass with 99.9% of the electorate?  It would never happen in the US, even if the referendum were in praise of motherhood. 

          I am intrigued by the different editorial line in the English and Persian Wikipedia articles on Mosaddegh.  Perhaps Massoud Malek can tell us:  do the Persian entries primarily come from within Iran or from the Persian diaspora?  Is Wikipedia blocked within the IRI?  As I recall from a recent Time magazine report, Iran has one of the strictest Internet censorship policies in the world.

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          • Was Mosaddegh Truly a Democrat? (Istvan Simon, USA 04/11/16 5:35 AM)
            Massoud Malek (April 10) said that in October 1953 President Eisenhower wrote in his private diary: "Lord knows what we'd do without Iranian oil."

            This does not appear to be right. According to one of Masssoud's own sources,


            the October 8, 1953 entry in Eisenhower's diary reads in part:

            "Now if the British will be conciliatory and display some wisdom, if the Shah and his new premier, General Zahedi, will be only a little bit flexible, and the United States will stand by to help both financially and with wise counsel, we may really give a serious defeat to Russian intentions and plans in that area.

            "Of course, it will not be so easy for the Iranian economy to be restored, even if her refineries again begin to operate. This is due to the fact that during the long period of shut down of her oil fields (for, world buyers have gone to other sources of supply). These have been expanded to meet the need and now, literally, Iran really has no ready market for her vast oil production. However, this is a problem that we should be able to help solve."

            When Mosaddegh became prime minister in April 1951, and nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the British reacted by blocking Iranian oil exports. But by the time Mosaddegh was deposed, as the quote from President Eisenhower's diary entry clearly shows, the world had adjusted perfectly well to the loss of Iranian oil exports, and the President was not worried about what we would do without Iranian oil. By that time, the loss of oil revenue was hurting mostly Iran.

            It is hard to find unbiased and objective information about the 1953 events in Iran. Most sources on the Web seem highly biased, and subscribe to a viewpoint which either pushes the idea that Mosaddegh was a great democrat and an angel, and the Shah the devil incarnate, or the exact opposite view. I do not believe either of these extremes. I do not think that either Mosaddegh or the Shah was an angel, and neither was the devil incarnate. And I am still not convinced that Mosaddegh was truly committed to democracy.

            People who are committed to democracy do not rule by decree and emergency powers, nor suspend elections. They do not win referendums by 99.9%, and when the people are asked to vote, they do so in elections in which the vote is secret. The referendum apparently had separate Yes and No polling stations, which violates the secrecy of the vote. And at the time, many prominent politicians were simply assassinated, some by the clerics and some by the Tudeh. Incredibly, sometimes the assassins were not even prosecuted, because of protection by the clerics in the parliament. There were unsuccessful attempts to assassinate both the Shah and Mosaddegh.


            Massoud had said in an earlier post that the CIA-organized coup cost only one million dollars. If so, one needs to ask how was it possible to depose someone who, according to Massoud, was supported by 99.9% of Iranians, with such a modest budget. Surely, the CIA could not have succeeded if there were not a very large number of Iranians who had turned against Mosaddegh. A similar conclusion with a different argument is made in


            Tor Guimaraes had called the Shah a puppet of the United States. The Shah was friendly towards the West, but he was also one of the main architects of the tremendous increase in oil prices after OPEC was formed. This can hardly be described as the actions of a puppet, and was definitely against our interests. The Shah also tried to modernize Iran at a fast pace, using the oil revenues for this purpose. When I was at Stanford, the largest number of foreign students were Iranians. Their tuition was being paid by the Shah, which did not prevent many of them from being strongly against the Shah.

            Nonetheless, the Shah was autocratic and I believe Massoud when he says that he found life under the Shah increasingly unbearable. It is too bad that the Iranian revolution replaced the Shah with Khomeini, who in my opinion was a far worse tyrant. The revolution soon degenerated into a grotesque bloodbath. Initially, anyone connected with the Shah was murdered, but soon the revolution turned on itself, and the purges killed many prominent former supporters of Khomeini as well, who had helped him come to power.

            JE comments:  Istvan Simon convinces me that it's extremely difficult to find objective information on Mosaddegh.  One might say the same thing about his counterpart in Chile, Salvador Allende.

            I'd like to learn more about the Iranian students whose educations abroad were financed by the Shah.  It's a classic story of biting the hand the feeds you--although this is no doubt common, and may have parallels with Saudi students presently being bankrolled by the Kingdom.

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            • Was...X Truly a Democrat? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/12/16 12:19 PM)

              Gary Moore writes:

              And, under Who-Really-Knows-How-Democratic? (Istvan Simon and Massoud Malek,
              April 10-11), and John Eipper's addition of Allende to Mosaddegh as puzzles,
              what about Arbenz in Guatemala, or all the way back to Sandino and Farabundo Martí?

              (Or that baseball pitcher and sniper whose fans insisted he was only forced away
              from democracy?)

              JE comments:  Where would we stop?  Perón certainly should join the club.  And how about my hero Lincoln, who among other non-democratic measures, suspended habeas corpus?

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        • Mosaddegh and the Events of 1953 (A. J. Cave, USA 04/13/16 2:01 PM)
          This is one of those "I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" pieces.

          Mohammad Mosaddegh (various spellings, pronounced: mo-sad-degh, 1882-1967) was a member of my sprawling Qajar clan, a contemporary of my grandfather, and my father and his generation practically grew up with him. I was born in the post-Mosaddegh period, so I see him through my father's eyes, just as (some of) the generation after me sees the Shah through the eyes of their parents. And, that's what complicates the Iranian side of the story, in the light of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

          The first time I wrote about Mosaddegh was around 2007 when I drafted a rough script for a movie roughly based on Operation Ajax--with the working title of "1953," sort of like "300." I should probably give it another go as a TV historical drama (with a better title--something like The Great Gamers). My sister calls it: "clash of pink pajamas," since both Churchill and Mosaddegh were accustomed to conducting official meetings in their sleepwear--not as a fashion trend-setter, but due to working around the clock, in sickness and in health. Churchill smoked a cigar and Mosaddegh smoked cigarettes with a cigarette holder. Churchill was like a British bulldog and Mosaddegh was like a Persian cat. Other than being eccentric and bitterly hating each other, the two actually had a lot in common: they were both contemporaries, born into wealthy aristocratic families, highly skilled orators, dyed-in-the-wool nationalists, stubborn-as-hell career politicians, both appointed prime ministers in 1951, and married once and for life--Churchill, 56 years, Mosaddegh, 64 years. Good, bad, or ugly, we are the inheritors of the world they fought over. Mosaddegh wanted to establish a parliamentary monarchy modeled after the British Monarchy, where the king "reigned" not "ruled." Churchill had a serious stroke in June of 1953, a couple of months before Mosaddegh was overthrown at his instigation, and both Churchill and Mosaddegh's wives died in 1965.

          Their bare-knuckle fight was over Iranian oil. Mosaddegh needed it to pull Iran out of the middle ages, and Churchill needed it to get Britain back online after the disastrous WWII. And its possession was a matter of national pride and international prestige.

          The history of oil in Iran is long and well known and I am condensing and over-simplifying here. That said, nationalization of Iranian oil industry didn't just happen overnight by a bunch of madmen.

          A fluid coalition of landed aristocracy, educated elite and radical reformers, bazaar merchants, and Muslim mullahs had been trying to get rid of foreign meddling in Iran's internal affairs since the start of the Great Game (or Tournament of Shadows, the geopolitical British-Russian dogfight over the control of Central Asia, roughly 1813-1907), and reel in the absolute royal power since the 1892 tobacco revolt.  The creation of the Persian Constitution and formation of the Majles (Arabic term, various spellings)--the Persian Parliament--was forced on Nasser-edin (or Naser al-Din) Shah Qajar (who had granted a tobacco monopoly to a British company in 1890), signed into law in 1906 by his royal son and heir, Mozzafar-edin Shah Qajar, and blown up by Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar in 1908 with British and Russian support. In 1909, he was forced to abdicate in favor of his 11-year old son, Ahmad Shah Qajar, by the Persian constitutionalists and nationalists. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Persia was a British battlefield.  The beleaguered Ahmad Shah signed the Anglo-Persian Treaty in 1920, effectively making Persia a British protectorate.

          The Persian Constitution (roughly based on the Belgian Constitution) spelled out the rights of the crown to command the royal army and the duties of the shah to appoint and dismiss ministers, among lesser duties. It also established Islam as the official religion of Iran and that all laws must be approved by the Shi'a clerics. The 24-year-old Mosaddegh was among the constitutionalists (like my grandfather) who were elected to the second parliament (the first one was blown up). The criteria for eligibility to vote and election to Majles disqualified women categorically and the majority of uneducated and illiterate Iranians (if not all), and who voted for whom and why is way too complicated. Setting aside electoral fraud, the faction of crown loyalists were somewhat balanced with the members of various parties and Muslim clerics (and eventually a few seats were allocated to religious minorities). The elected parliament could suggest a prime minister to the shah, but it was up to the monarch to accept the suggestion or not.

          In 1921, Reza Khan, the formidable Cossack Brigade commander, sent the 23-year old Ahmad Shah Qajar to France for an indefinite "vacation," and in 1925, he ordered the Persian Parliament to depose the absentee shah and dissolve the Qajar Dynasty in his favor, with the pragmatic backing of the British Crown. Mosaddegh, a European-educated lawyer from head to his wing-tipped toes, was one of the handful who objected on the grounds of subverting the Persian Constitution of 1906. It was the start of bad blood between Mosaddegh and the Pahlavis.

          When the Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, mentioned Mosaddegh in one of his televised debates, he probably didn't know that in 1941 (when Sanders was born), Mosaddegh was under house arrest by the order of Reza Shah and was saved by the bell, when the Allied Forces forced Reza Shah to abdicate in favor of his 22-year old son.

          In 1940s, Iranian oil-field workers were making the equivalent of about 50 cents a day. They all worked 6 long days a week in the miserable heat and humidity of southern Iran, with most working 7 days a week. They lived in shantytowns (more like mud villages) around the Abadan refinery--the largest and techiest refinery in the world at the time--without running water and sewer, when the British employees enjoyed lovely houses with swimming pools and afternoon high tea at their private clubs. In the original 60-year oil concession signed by Mozzafar-edin Shah Qajar in 1901, 16% of the profits was supposed to be handed over to the crown. Oil was discovered in Iran in 1908, and Churchill called it "a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams."  By 1914 the British government owned the controlling interest of APOC (Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company after 1935), and coal-burning British Navy vessels were turned into oil-burning warships and were fueled for free during WWI. After the war, Britain was rebuilt with revenues from Iranian oil. In 1933, Reza Shah Pahlavi, who had mocked the Qajars for signing the original oil gift certificate to the British Crown, signed a new 60-year oil concession for 4 British pounds for every ton of crude oil. It wasn't any more or less than the first free 16%, since the British cheated politely by never disclosing how much oil was exported and showing the books to the Iranians. During WWII, the allies shipped roughly $18 billion worth of military aid across Iran to Stalin (enemy, then ally, and back to enemy), and Churchill called Iran "the Bridge of Victory."

          In the (hi)story of Operation Ajax, everyone focuses on CIA's involvement in the secret plot to reinstate the (last) Shah, but that is taken out of context. The American role--from the US Presidents (Truman, then Eisenhower) to CEOs of oil companies--started with preventing a planned British military takeover of the oil fields, and trying to make the Britons and Iranians come to the table to renegotiate a win-win deal. They had their hands full with the Soviets, the Korean War, and other pressing matters, and a British refusal to negotiate terms with Iran was too colonial for their democratic tastes. Eisenhower was reportedly even inclined to approve a $100 million dollar loan to Iran at some point to stabilize Mosaddegh, instead of removing him.

          American oil companies were mainly interested in profits not politics, and initially had little interest in Iranian oil, thanks to the heavier crude and higher risk due to unstable political wrangling. They had already negotiated a 50-50 split with the Arabs and considered the same arrangement between Iran and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum) a fair deal. But they closed ranks and supported AIOC in blocking Iran's access to global channels of oil distribution. Iran had no way of selling her oil, and Iranians had no idea how to operate the state-of-the-art refinery in the first place. Iran was teetering on the edge of economic collapse, especially after the US declined Mosaddegh's request for a loan.

          Most of the official account of the joint CIA-SIS conspiracy (now collectively known as Operation Ajax) remains classified, or has been shredded and burned. But what good was a successful operation no one could brag about, since no one knew about it. So, the information was first leaked as romantic gossip by CIA agents, and has been pieced together ever since from various declassified materials: meeting notes, White House phone transcripts, diaries of various advisors, cables, policy briefs, memos from the CIA, the Defense Department, the State Department, the National Security Council, Federal Energy Commission, presidential personal correspondence with foreign heads of state, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and TV interviews, Soviet archives, and bazillion books and memoirs by the American and British agents involved in the events. It is nearly impossible to pick up a book about CIA, Iran, Islamic Republic, Middle East, oil, national security, foreign policy, and half a dozen other topics without reading about Mosaddegh and Operation Ajax. There is even a graphic novel. Naturally the mountain of materials can be conflicting.  However, the overarching historical outline is (sort of) known now, even though some details remain in the shade--especially the role of the Iranians themselves.

          Papers of Ardeshir Zahedi, son of Fazlollah Zahedi, the Iranian general recruited by CIA, who later arrested Mosaddegh in 1953 and replaced him as the prime minister, have been given to the Hoover Institute at Stanford recently. It is too early to know what, if any, real information can be extracted from them.

          The (back)story of 1953 is too long and complicated to rehash here, but here is a brief refresher:

          The idea to eliminate Mosaddegh was the brainchild of couple of British professors of Persian Studies in 1951: Ann "Nancy" Lambton of SOAS, University of London, and Robert (R. C.) Zaehner of Oxford University.  Both were fluent in Persian language and familiar with Iranian history and politics and had served in Iran as a part of the British intelligence office during WWII. It was not simply enough to remove Mosaddegh from power--dismiss him as the prime minister--but to destroy his broad base of support among the Iranians and eliminate his political supporters once and for all.

          With Winston Churchill's approval, the proposal was handed over to the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, later MI6-Military Intelligence, Section 6) to make it operational.

          Christopher "Monty" Woodhouse, SIS's station chief in Tehran, mobilized British agents in Iran, chief among them, the ultra-wealthy and hyper-connected Iranian Rashidian brothers, who used to hand out cash bribes stacked in cookie tin-boxes. But Mosaddegh found out and all the British agents were booted out in 1952. Before leaving, Woodhouse handed over the British assets to Roger Goiran, head of the CIA station in Tehran.

          The British team reassembled in Cyprus under Monty's assistant, Norman Darbyshire, while Woodhouse headed to Washington and presented a secret joint-operation plan code-named BOOT (actually for booting out Mosaddegh, but spinning it as an anti-communist spread measure) to the US State Department (Truman administration). They didn't bite, but the CIA team, Walter Bedell Smith, Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner, were hooked.

          In 1952, Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, and CIA's senior intelligence officer in the Middle East and a known Arabist, passing through London on his way back from Tehran SIS mop-up, met with the SIS boys and was sold on Operation BOOT.

          Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953 took the CIA by surprise, and the Dulles brothers--CIA's Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles--convinced President Eisenhower of the urgency of blocking (fictional) communist takeover of Iran (to pretend they had a handle on what was going on in Moscow). Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith, Eisenhower's former Chief of Staff and his Under Secretary of State and CIA insider, played the go-between the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

          In 1953, with Kim Roosevelt on board, SIS returned to Washington and proposed Roosevelt as the field commander of the "joint-operation." This time around, CIA dispatched agent Miles Copeland to Iran to make an independent assessment of operation's success. Years later, Copeland wrote a book about the immorality of politics and created a Monopoly-like board game named The Game of Nations, where political goal was not winning or losing, but surviving at any cost. Receiving a thumbs up from Copeland, Kim Roosevelt headed to Tehran and met with the (British assets) Rashidian brothers and General Zahedi--who had been identified as the best replacement for Mosaddegh.

          SIS's Norman Darbyshire and CIA's Donald Wilber met in Cyprus to work out the details of the operation, now called TP-AJAX, with TP short for Iranian communist/socialist Tudeh Party and AJAX for a brand of American household cleaner (for cleaning out the "Red" Mosaddegh).

          Reportedly, Operation TP-AJAX was approved by Churchill on July 1, and by Eisenhower on July 11 (exact dates uncertain).

          The CIA's Roger Goiran declined to carry out what he called an act of "Anglo-French Colonialism" and left Tehran and was replaced by Joseph Goodwin.

          Ashraf, the Shah's twin sister who was put in motion by the CIA and a mink coat, convinced her reluctant 34-year old brother to sign a routine decree dismissing the 71-year-old Mosaddegh in favor of Zahedi. The Shah had dismissed 19 prime ministers before, including Mosaddegh. Actually a couple were assassinated and Mosaddegh had resigned when the Shah had refused to let him pick a minister of war in 1951--after the nationalization of the oil industry.

          Operation AJAX failed during the first attempt on August 15 and the CIA aborted the mission. The Shah and his second wife, Queen Soraya, fled Iran for Italy via Baghdad.

          This was not uncharted territory and everyone knew what Mosaddegh had accomplished by forcing the Shah out of Iran voluntarily--he had laid the constitutional (and legal) groundwork for deposing the Shah, just as Reza Khan had done with the ill-fated Ahmad Shah Qajar and the Constitution had been amended to accommodate that. The Shah had voluntarily fled the country during a national crisis, putting his personal safety above the welfare of the country and the people (just as he repeated in 1979).

          But Kim Roosevelt, according to himself, heroically persevered and saved the "royal" day when the CIA bribes finally worked and the wild mobs created chaos and bloodshed on the streets of Tehran on August 19, pretending to be sent by Mosaddegh.

          CIA took the credit for a successful operation (and later the blame), and the rest is history.

          The real credit for the spectacular fall of Mosaddegh probably belonged to Ayatollah Kashani (teacher of Ayatollah Khomeini), who was a part of Mosaddegh's initial coalition. Clearly Mosaddegh never had any interest or intention of pushing Iran in the direction of Islamization. But why Kashani withdrew his support of Mosaddegh in favor of the Shah, whose decadent lifestyle was well known to the clergy, is not clear. Without Kashani, Mosaddegh lost the support of the mullahs and the direct pipeline to the ordinary mosque-going Iranians.

          After the dust of the 1953 coup settled, Eisenhower forced the creation of an oil cartel in Iran (collectively called "the Seven Sisters": British Petroleum, Standard Oil [Esso/Exxon], Gulf, Mobil, Shell, Standard Oil [Chevron], and Texas Oil [Texaco]). British Petroleum got a 40% stake, Royal Dutch Shell got 14%, reluctant American oil companies got 40%, and the rest was spread among other American companies, with Iran owning the oil in "principal." The oil revenue was split 50-50 between Iran (actually the Shah) and the western oil companies.

          That oil revenue didn't trickle down to those poor oil-field workers in shantytowns. One-third circulated back to US every year in form of arms deals, and the rest was divided among the royal family and their loyal friends ("besties"): prominent cabinet members, military commanders, politicians, businessmen, merchants, and even mullahs. Oil wealth magnified the gap between the rich and poor, and drew a line in the sand between the (pagan) filthy rich and the (pious) dirt poor.

          When it was all said and done, the British ended up with 40% of the 50% of Iranian oil revenue. They should have taken the 50-50 split Mosaddegh had offered them and skipped the cloak and dagger theatrics. Realistically, without the ability to run the refinery and sell the oil, or secure a hefty loan, the Iranian economy would have collapsed on its own and Iranian themselves might have booted out Mosaddegh themselves without any foreign helping hand.

          The Shah remembered the humiliation of (almost) being deposed and forgot the ones who prevented it. In 1955, General Zahedi was forced to retire in Switzerland, but as a reward, his son, Ardeshir married Princess Shahnaz, the Shah's daughter from his first marriage to the Egyptian Princess Fawzia Fuad, in 1957.

          CIA has been raked over the coals for their role in 1953 Iran coup(s). Once they had returned the Shah to power, they had to do whatever it took to keep him there. The Shah, who returned to a cheering crowd, was not the one who had left a week earlier. By all accounts, he had been given a second shot at being a king--a "get out of obscure history footnote" play card. Either he (or more likely his ruthless twin sister, Ashraf, according to court insiders) had made a vow to keep the peacock throne with bloody iron fists--a real iron throne, à la the popular Game of Thrones. It was the creation of SAVAK secret police and elimination of all that was seen as a threat to his throne that eventually turned the ghost of Mosaddegh into a symbol of resistance against foreign imperialism and domestic oppression. During the 3 years of martial law that followed, an estimated 5,000 supporters of Mosaddegh and their families and friends were rumored to have been tortured and killed. All the groups that were the pillars of a successful Iranian monarchy were alienated and eliminated: the landed aristocracy was destroyed, educated elite and intellectuals were bullied, reformers were jailed and tortured, press was gagged, bazaar merchants were marginalized, Muslim mullahs were mocked, and the parliament became a party of hand-picked loyal supporters. Women, however, were allowed to work and vote, and public education of children became mandatory. Cultural, educational and historical activities were promoted and patronized and technical universities were established. The Shah wanted to replace the old "backward" establishment with a new generation of educated technocrats beholden to him. It didn't work out as planned.

          During the forced march to modernity from 1953 to 1979, there wasn't even one US President who didn't praise the Shah in public and didn't reproach him in private to turn down the volume on brutal domestic oppression and was dismissively rebuffed and snubbed.

          By then, the Shah was too busy starring in his own epic importance than to remember the cast and crew that had gotten him there. 1953 coup was not a gift; it was a gift-exchange. CIA and US were the Shah's only safety nets and when he increased the price of oil, he broke the deal. And once the Americans pulled back, there was nothing that stood between the Shah and the hand of fate.

          JE comments:  A. J. Cave's sweeping historical prose puts the Mosaddegh years in context.  I've learned a great deal from this post, especially about the CIA's initial reluctance to get involved in AJAX. 

          When A. J. has time, I hope she'll tell us more about the Shah's twin sister Ashraf--Iran's true éminence grise?  She died in January of this year, at the age of 96.

          Miles Copeland's son Stewart gained fame in his own right, as the drummer of one of the greatest rock bands of the late '70s and early '80s, The Police.

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          • Visiting Iran in the 1960s (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/14/16 6:15 PM)
            I was delighted and highly impressed by the excellent post of A. J. Cave on Persia (14 April). I wonder if she may be so kind as to answer some questions I've had for a long time.

            During my years at sea, I called many times at Iranian ports: Bandar Shapur (now Bandar Khomeini), which was an infernal place in August, especially if loading crude oil rich in H2SO which required the use of a gas mask. In 1965 an Italian tanker blew up there. On the other hand, I very much enjoyed Kharg Island, where my wife bought carpets at the seamen center. I spent time also at Lavan Island.

            I stayed a few hours in Tehran in 1966, and it seemed to me like a normal European town.

            I was always under the impression that for the Persian people were better off under the Shah than Khomeini, but am I wrong?

            In Italy, however, the actions of ENI in Iran are considered highly, but Ms. Cave does not mention it. I am afraid that the importance of ENI in Italy has been overblown. In fact, when calling at Lavan, here considered a great ENI place, I noticed that it was an ENI installation but it was very small. In fact, we loaded from the Iranian Oil Company which had a very huge installation.

            Can A. J. shed light on this?

            JE comments: Were/are the Iranian people better off under the Shah or Khomeini?  Yikes--this one could take up a lot of bandwidth.

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      • Mosaddegh (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/05/16 2:22 PM)
        On this beautiful day here in Tennessee, I have been eating a few morsels of crow for breakfast. My thanks to John Eipper, Eugenio Battaglia, and Timothy Brown for their reviews.

        John is correct that we merely overthrew Iran's democratically elected President Mosaddegh, we did not kill him outright.

        Timothy is also correct that the President and Congress have a lot to do with our foreign policy, just as any board of directors maybe ultimately responsible for the success and failure of most corporations.

        Eugenio stated that he might concur with most of the points I raised, but has some problems relating to the Italian experience, because some Italian leaders have had the integrity to stand up to Western powers on a few occasions. Indeed, this provides some evidence that all nations do not have to be passive victims of meddling foreign powers. But I did write earlier that "some nations are socially, politically, and/or economically more robust in withstanding particular types of foreign intervention." Nevertheless, Eugenio himself sees the Italian government as a puppet of the US government.

        Regardless of all these interesting thoughts, my original thesis remains strongly supported by evidence. In a world under foreign interference, many nations are weak and quickly find themselves mired in completely devastating civil wars. Despite the US government's great intentions over the decades, our foreign policy has helped produce a fast-increasing number of such wars. Many are still going on today.

        What is most important strategically, regardless of philosophy or operational details, is that because of our disastrous foreign policy, our nation is getting weaker, wasting critical resources and our potential and present enemies worldwide are growing. It is time to retrench and take care of our own internal problems before continuing our expensive and increasingly disastrous foreign policy.

        JE comments:  Is Tor Guimaraes advocating a neo-isolationist stance for the US?  This topic, especially with regards to the future of NATO, has inspired a number of incoming posts.  Stay tuned, today and tomorrow.

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        • Isolationism and Neo-Isolationism (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/14/16 5:51 PM)
          Back on April 5th, John Eipper asked me: "Is Tor Guimaraes advocating a neo-isolationist stance for the US?"

          There is a huge productive space between a nation's two possible negative behavioral opposites. The first is isolationism. In the second, the nation becomes the policeman of the world, with military bases all over the world at an enormous cost to its citizens, with a foreign policy which has led to the death of millions of innocent civilians. This enabled the creation of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, made enemies out of potential partners, and helped create perennial civil wars that produced millions of refugees.

          I deeply believe in free markets, free trade, democracy, and respect for the rule of law everywhere in the world. I also believe in having the strongest and smartest military absolutely capable of national self-defense against any perceived (but not imaginary) enemies. Above all, I believe that scientific knowledge is the bedrock necessary to build a strong thoughtful nation with a good standard of living for all our hard-working citizens. What does that have to do with foreign relations?

          To accomplish all of the above, the national innards must be functional, healthy, and strong. But, also essential is that the relationships with other nations must also be functional, healthy, and strong. Every nation in the world should have a US consulate/embassy with the required personnel to collect all sorts of knowledge, support trade and business activities and tourism, etc. We must promote business and cultural exchanges.

          What we don't need is to start wars, meddle in other countries' business by manipulating players as if they are our pawns. This view does not even remotely seems like neo-isolationism.

          JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes often resists my efforts at labeling, but I read his post (above) as a resounding endorsement of soft power.

          Should we revisit the topic?  We haven't discussed SP on WAIS in several years.

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          • Influence of Multinational Corporations (Carmen Negrin, -France 04/15/16 6:09 AM)
            It seems to me that we have promoted business to such an extent that we now have so-called multinationals with more power than any country in the world, and that are uncontrollable, since they are above national laws.

            I know that few wars that don't have economic backgrounds (and I am not just talking about civil wars), be it to "protect" maritime paths, acquire coal, petrol, trade roads, build railways, etc.

            A question for Tor Guimaraes (14 April): how can one "promote business" and not tend to destroy a competitor? Or have "a US consulate/embassy with the required personnel to collect all sorts of knowledge, support trade and business activities" while respecting the nation that is simply being spied upon by the consulate/embassy in question?

            JE comments: "Collecting knowledge" could be just a euphemism for espionage.  Carmen Negrín raises some difficult questions.  Anyone care to take a stab at an answer?  Tor?

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            • Is International Commerce a Zero-Sum Game? (Timothy Brown, USA 04/16/16 3:39 AM)
              Having myself been a full or part-time US economic/commercial officer in a few Embassies or Consulates in handful of countries (Mexico, Paraguay, El Salvador, The Netherlands, France) for 20+ years, I'm impressed that someone who appears never to have been involved in such work takes the time to tell me what I was actually doing. (See Carmen Negrín, 15 April.)

              And I thought I was simply facilitating trade between the US and the country or countries with which I was involved to the benefit of both sides of legal commercial exchanges. I wasn't aware that international trade commerce is a zero-sum game.

              JE comments:  I don't think Carmen Negrín was making the claim that trade is a zero-sum game, only that the competition for resources and markets has sparked many conflicts over the ages.

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              • Is International Commerce a Zero-Sum Game? (Carmen Negrin, -France 04/17/16 6:55 AM)
                In response to Timothy Brown (16 April), I don't think that diplomats and international trade commerce are a zero-sum game. On the contrary. In my post of 15 April I had questioned and quoted Tor Guimaraes, who described what I think is a very naïve, ideal, possible world.

                I have worked for 30 years in the UN diplomatic spheres. Tim probably remembers a specific programme on "Multinationals and their social consequences." It was a major project until the US diplomats decided to take a close look at it and managed to wipe it out. Now we are facing (and have been facing for some time) the consequences of the excessive power of these multinationals, often supported by their "original" governments. A perfect example is the supremacy of Monsanto with all its consequences. We also all know about the 1946, on-going although slightly modified, Blum-Byrnes agreements. Some think it was good for French film production; some say it wasn't. The fact is that it was good for Hollywood.

                NAFTA also was a major diplomatic deal. Now Mexico has to import GMO corn! Of course some good things also came with the deal, but if the trade became free, the movement of workers across borders certainly didn't. Diplomacy is the first step. War can follow when diplomacy fails, but certainly diplomacy is neither innocent nor disinterested.

                JE comments:  The Blum-Byrnes agreement removed the French quotas on foreign (chiefly Hollywood) films.  In exchange, France got forgiveness of some of its debt.  The Wikipedia article on Blum-Byrnes mentions an interesting detail I was unaware of:  the French cinema industry flourished during German occupation, due to the ban on all non-Axis films.

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            • Multinational Corporations and Meddling in Governments (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/18/16 4:03 PM)
              In response to Carmen Negrín (15 April), the problem of uncontrollable multinational corporations is a very serious one, because they actually actively control most host governments. They get all the benefits from having their local operations act as deeply committed agents (willing to do anything headquarters demands) as well as a global perspective which allows them to pit players in one nation against the others. They are above the law and very powerful indeed.

              Carmen asked, "how can one 'promote business' and not tend to destroy a competitor?" Contrary to Capitalist dogma, I have written many times that Capitalism without effective, enforced government regulations to ensure free markets will in time turn into tight industry sector cartels or well-disguised monopolies similar to what we have today. For my view to work, governments and corporations will have to cooperate and expand the international body of laws and organizations such as the WTO to ensure free markets and responsible behavior. Yes, I know "good luck with that," but we must not give up.

              Carmen also asked about the conflict between having a US consulate/embassy with the required personnel to collect all sorts of knowledge, support trade and business activities while respecting the nation, versus a scenario by which the nation is simply being spied upon by the consulate/embassy. In international business we have lived with legal Competitive Intelligence (a major factor for business innovation success in many sectors). Some companies and governments do cross the line often and attempt plausible deniability with varying degrees of success.

              Espionage is just a very small part of collecting useful knowledge, which is and always will be reality. But this conflict is a far cry from what we have today:  destroying existing governments, starting civil wars, creating millions of innocents' deaths and millions of refugees.

              PS: Under the expert foreign relations work of Secretary Hillary Clinton, we installed a puppet dictator in Honduras. It just came to my attention that local opposition leaders are holding Ms. Clinton responsible for the recent death of a Honduran environmentalist/opposition leader in the hands of our apparently very nasty dictator.

              JE comments:  Regarding Honduras, I am reminded of the United Fruit Company, which essentially controlled that country (and to a lesser extent, Guatemala) during the first half of the twentieth century.

              I'd like to know more about the recent spate of murders of environmentalists in Honduras, most recently Berta Cáceres and Nelson García.  The government has denied responsibility, but the killings have convinced a European development bank to stop financing a controversial dam project the two victims were fighting to block.

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