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Post Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the "Authoritarian-Socialist" System
Created by John Eipper on 09/04/18 3:49 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the "Authoritarian-Socialist" System (Timothy Brown, USA, 09/04/18 3:49 am)

The English-language US press has barely been covering the real events in Latin America, so Tor Guimaraes (3 September) may want to Google "Cuba in Venezuela" for a different perspective and, if he's interested, he light also want to Google Nicaragua.

Venezuelan and Nicaragua asylum-seekers are flooding into neighboring countries, Venezuelans by the millions, Nicaraguans by the thousands.

How things change! A few decades ago, Venezuela was one of the richest per capita countries in Latin America and Nicaragua's Sandinista government was proudly Marxist and as close to Moscow as they were far from Washington. Today both countries are disasters.  The oil that made Venezuela rich is still there, and to their surprise, a number of life-long, self-identified Marxist-Leninist Nicaraguan Sandinista friends of mine are bewildered by the way the liberal left and major Western publications have began calling them "authoritarian-socialists" (see, for example, The Economist), since they still consider themselves Marxists.

In my experience the biggest difference between Communism and Capitalism is that in capitalist countries the capitalists are rich while in Communist countries it's the communists who are rich.

JE comments:  A professor in my Dartmouth days had a similar way to put it:  "In Capitalism, Man exploits Man.  In Communism, it's the other way around."  (English was less gender-inclusive in the 1980s.)  A question about terminology:  isn't "authoritarian-socialist" a more accurate descriptor for Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua than "Marxist"?  Interestingly, Cold Warriors from both the left and right will resist:  for the former, Marxist connotes a virtuous ideological purity, while for the latter it's a catch-all for evil.

In the last two days, WAISers Tim Brown and Henry Levin have both noted the US public's present inattention towards Latin America, with the exceptions of Mexico and the threats from Central American gangs.  Latin America is the vague source of the immigration "problem," but the interest stops there.  As just one example, when was the last time you saw a mainstream article on the new leadership in Cuba?  Or much farther away, the present situation under Macri in Argentina, where the peso is plummeting as we speak?

Let's wake up WAISworld and see what's going on.

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  • Argentina, Yemen, Palestine: How Can WAISers Reduce the Suffering? (Henry Levin, USA 09/07/18 3:31 AM)
    I see much more attention to Argentina in the US (NY Times and Wall Street Journal) and UK Press (Economist). than Cuba and Nicaragua, because of the financial threats to Argentina in the heart of indebtedness and threats to present lenders and future investment opportunities in Argentina.

    But my appeal is to questions of what we can do in the light of these basket cases. Can we push the UN to create a capacity to address self-immolation of a country? What can we do about US weapons being used in the slaughter of Yemeni children?  What can we do about addressing the executive order in the US to cut the $200 million to assist the Palestinians or to restructure that funding so that it is more effective and less susceptible to corruption?

    My point is that WAISers are not working on potentially constructive ways to move forward and reduce the suffering. The repetitious blames on the "Empire" (Eugenio Battaglia) and glorification of Russian motives and actions seem to be mere posturing, rather than useful discussions on how we might "change" history. We should have a constructive role, even beyond memories and opinions and insights and posturing.

    JE comments:  Can WAIsers change history?  Or at least coax it in a less suicidal direction?  Is there a way to influence policy without the nasty work of lobbying?  One appeal for now:  please forward and re-post WAIS material liberally and often.  We need to expand our readership.  Remember, WAIS is the world's oldest online journal, and there's cachet in that.

    One of Hank Levin's questions intrigues me most:  "Can we push the UN to create a capacity to address self-immolation of a country?"  Or more modestly--can we prevent the (literal) immolation of a nation's patrimony, as we just saw in Rio de Janeiro?  Send your thoughts.

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    • How Can WAISers Reduce the World's Suffering? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/08/18 4:55 AM)
      I commend Henry Levin's call for "WAISers [to work] on potentially constructive ways to move forward and reduce the suffering" (September 7th).

      Basically it is a call for changing the world for the better, because we are clearly on the wrong path.

      On the other hand, reality is inescapable. How do we fight political and financial corruption? As someone pointed out, Argentina and many other nations have periodic financial crises. They are ingrained in their system as either a result from and/or the mechanism for the powerful to gain undue financial advantage. The same is going on in our beloved USA, but some of us just have not smelled the coffee yet. Our democracy is corrupted, our political leaders are mostly corrupted, and our financial system is corrupted also.

      Our Editor asked: "Can WAISers change history? Or at least coax it in a less suicidal direction? Is there a way to influence policy without the nasty work of lobbying?"

      Yes, anyone can change history if they are really committed to a greater or lesser extent. We can redouble our efforts making ourselves and our readers aware of the issues. We can educate to the best of our abilities. However, there is no guarantee anyone will listen and act on it.

      Last, while there is a lot of criminal behavior going unpunished, most people will follow the law. Therefore, any pervasive, sustainable change must be through legislation.  This can only be accomplished by electing the right legislators or by influencing them through lobbying. Needless to say, lobbying works only for the rich and powerful, or other special interests based on religion or ideology. The average citizen who just wants a living wage, to raise a family, does not stand a chance.

      JE comments:  Lobbying is like sausage-making without the delicious result.  We recently saw how Washington and Brussels swarm with thousands of them.  A question I've never before asked on the Forum:  does any WAISer have experience as a lobbyist?  Please tell:  I won't recruit you (promise), but I'd like to know more about the business.

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      • How Can WAISers Reduce the World's Suffering? Find the Pressure Points (Henry Levin, USA 09/09/18 9:03 AM)
        I appreciate Tor Guimaraes' recognition of what might be considered by many as tilting at windmills (8 September).

        But we are smart and analytical people of good will. We can focus on what are the pressure points in a place like Venezuela where we might gain leverage and provide a plan for joining with other groups to establish social movements to utilize the pressure points to make it costly for politicians to maintain the costly directions.

        For example, why is Venezuela still a member in good standing of major world organizations? I know that there has been opposition of the OAS and UN and other world bodies, but it clearly is not strategic (probably more symbolic for the pride of doing something by opposing nations). Even if it appears to be impractical, where are the pressure points? Can we develop strategies to utilize those pressure points? I simply haven't seen this discussion in WAIS. Even a movement towards transparency may make a difference.

        To what degree did the world media publicize the corruption and inflation of costs for such world events as the World Cup and the Olympics in Brazil? Remember that these were international events with international sponsors. What could be done about widespread publicizing of these excess contracts, who received the benefits, where are the international pressure points to penalize their international businesses and connections?

        This is also true for the Odebrecht scandal and the offshore petroleum claims and development plans, all robbing an important nation (full disclosure is that my daughter-in-law and grandson are Brazilian). We need to start thinking in these ways because the culprits are not just national parasites, but they all have international connections.

        JE comments:  Absolutely.  The latest from Venezuela:  Trump officials apparently met with some Venezuelan officers to discuss a coup.  This alone surprises me:  I though all the anti-Chávez/Maduro elements in the military had been purged:


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    • Why I Speak of the US "Empire" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/08/18 7:47 AM)
      Apparently I am the "bête noire" not only for Istvan Simon, but also for Henry Levin (September 7).

      Frankly, I lay blame on the Empire (not on the average American citizen) not as a form of posturing, but exactly for the reason Henry cites: to do something to change history and how we relate to history.

      Furthermore I have never glorified Russia. But as a citizen of a colony I try to show the difficulties coming from Italy's position of servitude. Advantages for my nation come from independence, even if within an alliance, because this allows commercial relations with nations outside the Empire.

      Consider, for example, the matter of sanctions. Historically if taken to the extremes, sanctions have brought only war. The US should know this very well.

      Regarding Russia, I do believe that Crimea is not part of Ukraine but historically and ethnically part of Russia.

      If Italy was correct to join the Allies in 1915 to free the Italian "Trento e Trieste" etc., then Putin is right to free Crimea. But be careful: if we follow this concept to the extreme, Hitler was right in wanting to free Danzig.

      Therefore something is wrong with how we discuss history. For similar cases we judge right or wrong only according to our conveniences.

      JE comments:  Yessiree, one person's revanchism is another's "freeing" or liberation. Still another person sees bald conquest.  But you can never liberate one people without unliberating another.

      Over the years, Eugenio Battaglia and I have established a strong virtual friendship.  However, I do not understand Eugenio's enthusiasm for Putin.  Even less:  I don't get Trump's enthusiasm for Putin.  (President Obama brought this up in yesterday's address.) 

      To be sure, I don't get Trump.

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      • Gary Moore on Betes Noires, Gunther's "Inside Latin America" (John Eipper, USA 09/10/18 1:21 PM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        As Eugenio Battaglia (September 8) feels bete-noired by Istvan Simon and Henry Levin
        (how did I ever become so diplomatic that I, too, am not so resented?), he might
        do a WAIS paraphrase of the apocryphal comment attributed by John Gunther
        to Roosevelt's Secretary of State, regarding Daddy Somoza in Nicaragua:
        "He may be a bete noire, but he's OUR bete noire."

        (John, Do you have Gunther's Inside Latin America, 1941?
        It's one of those gems whose insides seem unGooglable.)

        JE comments:  Yep, I have a copy of Inside Latin America.  Gunther was one of those confident mid-century types who could say what now would be unspeakable.  One example in his chapter on Bolivia (here I'm working from memory):  "Bolivia is not a country.  It is a problem."

        Prof. Hilton wrote on WAIS that he read Gunther when it first came out, in 1941.  RH judged it excellent but annoying to Latin Americans.  One can see why:


        I'm pretty sure I own Gunther's Inside Russia, too.

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        • "Bileful National Epithets": John Gunther and Chris Hedges (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 09/12/18 3:50 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:

          JE's quote from John Gunther in 1941 (September 10) pinpoints a genre,
          which might be called bileful national epithets. The quote from Gunther
          that John found is: "Bolivia is not a country, it's a problem."

          This becomes
          generic with comparison to another quote, from a turn-of-the-century
          malaria-eradication doctor who reportedly was fired for what he said
          when asked: "What is the remedy for Puerto Rico?" He replied,
          "Burn it all down and start over." These creep more than close to
          the poison of Earl Butz and the airplane joke, but who was the doctor?
          I wonder if John's enviable library on Latinoamérica has this pre-Internet
          answer, too?

          I can think of another addition to the genre aimed at the Big Northern Behemoth itself.  No, it's not from our own bete noire collection, but from, of all people, former gangbusters
          foreign conflict reporter for the New York Times and others, Chris Hedges, who has now
          become--will some psychologist help me figure this out?--a ranting propagandist for
          Russia, with a regular slot on RT. The quote is wildly unprintable (so don't coax me,
          absolutely not, please don't throw me in that briar patch...) 

          JE comments:  Chris Hedges is a wellspring of quotes.  Click below for a few dozen.  I'm not sure which one Gary Moore refers to, but it's too early in the day to drag him through the briars:


          "Bileful national epithets":  this is the perfect descriptor for some of history's more memorable ones.  Sick Man of Europe, anyone?  Another that comes to mind:  the Poles say "Ale Meksyk" (What a Mexico!) for any situation of disorder or chaos.  How in the world did that one get all the way to Poland?

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      • Did Putin "Free" Crimea? Nonsense (Istvan Simon, USA 09/13/18 12:34 PM)
        Eugenio Battaglia (Sept 8th) said that Putin "freed" Crimea from Ukraine, and that he does not think Crimea should belong to Ukraine.

        I have a few comments about this. First, I find Eugenio's cavalier attitude about the dismemberment of other people's countries appalling. Second, clearly international borders are not determined by ethnicity, nor historical precedent. If this were so, Hungary could just retake Transylvania from Romania for example, or Mexico retake Texas, Arizona and California from the United States, and the Kurds would have had their country carved out from Iraq, Iran and Turkey long ago.

        The result of applying Eugenio's ideas would lead to total chaos in international relations and surely to World War III.

        JE comments:  Acting out on revanchism has been taboo since 1945--arguably since Westphalia.  The remarkable thing about Putin's action (unlike Saddam Hussein in Kuwait) is that he got away with it.

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        • Crimea: Russian or Ukrainian? (Nigel Jones, UK 09/14/18 2:08 PM)
          Just for the historical record, Crimea--as anyone who has ever been there will know--is now and always has been Russian. It was placed under the administrative control of Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev (who began his career running Ukraine for Stalin) in the early 1960s.

          In annexing it for Russia once more, Putin may well have broken international law--just as the West did in invading Iraq in 2003--but he was righting a wrong done to Russia. Significantly, there was no resistance to the annexation from the people of the Crimea themselves.

          JE comments:  The accepted date for the switch goes back further, to 1954.  If so, then how different is 1954 from 1945, when Breslau became Polish and Lwow Soviet?  Konigsberg is still Russian.  The Poles also believe Wilno (Vilnius) is historically theirs.  Go to any cemetery in Vilnius, as we did last year, and there are many more dead Poles than dead Lithuanians. 

          There is no end to the geographical "wrongs" that could be "righted."  Revanchism is a dangerous precedent, slippery slope, etc.

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        • Revanchism: What About Israel? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 09/15/18 4:34 AM)
          Istvan Simon (September 13th) is correct in saying that "other people's countries" cannot be dismembered.

          This is certainly true of Golan occupied by Israel, as well as Jerusalem, etc.

          JE comments: Is Israel the ultimate example of revanchism--removed by a few millennia?  "Next year in Jerusalem." 

          Greetings again to our long-silent colleague in Los Angeles, Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.  Soraya, when time permits send an update!

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          • Israeli Revanchism and Serbian Revanchism (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 09/16/18 6:53 AM)

            Gary Moore writes:

            In reply to JE and Soraya Sepapour-Ulich (September 15) on whether Israel is the ultimate in revanchism, on a claim ticket of 2,000 years:

            In the 1980s Slobodan Milosevic, busy trying to turn Yugoslavia into Greater Serbia, on a claim aged a mere half-millennium or so (back to Stefan Dušan), reached out enthusiastically to Israel,
            proposing they make common cause in the grand design of getting the land back for Chosen Peoples.
            Israel apparently made no reply.

            JE comments:  The Greater Serbia scheme has quite a track record, such as sparking the Great War.  Can we divide all peoples into two groups:  those who think of themselves as Chosen, and those who don't?

            A question for the worldwide WAISitudes:  is there any people that doesn't see itself as chosen?

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            • Revanchism and "Chosen" Peoples (Henry Levin, USA 09/17/18 3:47 AM)
              In response to Gary Moore and John E (September 16th), I am not convinced that the term "chosen" explains the revanchism of the Jews and the stubbornness of the State of Israel.

              The Jewish Diaspora of two thousand years ago was hardly a result of its "chosen status." And the experience in the Diaspora, no matter how accommodating or assimilating of the Jews with local populations, did not create acceptance of the "outsider," even after conversion to Christianity. Jews were simply not accepted by the countries of its diaspora, and we all know how the chosen became the victims of the Holocaust.

              So, perhaps you should say more about what you see as the link between the chosen and revanchism unless your remark was careless or flippant. Do you really take every scribble found in holy books as living testimony on the status of a population justifying its behavior?

              JE comments: I did not mean to offend, Hank, but apologize for doing so. In fact, I was specifically not singling out specific groups when I asked: "Is there any people that doesn't see itself as Chosen?" 

              Your question about the link between revanchism and "chosen" status is complex, and touches on the formation of identities and the texts that provide theoretical underpinnings.  "Foundational" texts do not define a people, but they are often cited to justify political actions, including revanchism.

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            • Israeli "Revanchism"? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 09/18/18 4:36 AM)
              Response to John E and Gary Moore (September 16th):

              I thank JE for his kind greetings, though I am no longer in Los Angeles and have lived in Orange County for many years now.

              As for revanchism, those were JE's comments. I did not in any shape or form imply that Israeli actions are revanchist. This would imply that the occupied land belonged to Israel at one point in time (here the marker has been placed at 2000 years, per JE to which Mr. Moore responded). I do not accept this.

              For over 5000 years, the ancient Land of Canaan has been conquered by various people who lived on this land. These included Egyptian, Turkish, Assyrian, Persian, and Jewish (David and Solomon and the Ten Tribes of Israel).

              In this long history of conquest and habitation, inarguably, the Canaanites were the first, which gave them priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and with the exception of the refugees chased out by Israel, they continue to live there. The Canaanites are the Palestinians or the Arab population of today. The Atlantic Charter--self-governing right--applies to the Palestinians.

              Moreover, according to some literature, on every Jewish festival, Jewish voices say: "Umipnay chatoenu golinu mayartsaynu"--"Because of our sins we were expelled from our land." It is believed that at a predestined time, God will send the Jews the Messiah and they will be able to return to the Promised Land. Jews are to accept exile and not attempt to force their way back. They stayed away from Jerusalem for over 2,000 years because their religion forbade them from returning, not because they could not return. Yet today, those who are violating the laws of man and lay claim to "Eretz Yisrael" as God's land promised to them, are the ones who are betraying the very God they pretend to worship.

              So whether it is the laws of man or the laws of God, I do not consider Israeli occupation as revanchism. And I certainly do not overlook the US role in the occupation.

              When we point a finger at Russia, we point four fingers at ourselves.

              JE comments: My understanding of revanchism is that it is foremost a political act, in which history is cited as justification for present-day agendas.  Revanchism relies on the assumption that one's ancestors, at a point in history that "works" for the argument, determine one's right to a parcel of territory.  Revanchism also requires an antagonist--occupier, usurper, conqueror, what have you.  Thus every revanchist claim has a counter-claim, which is why the situations often, perhaps inevitably, result in war.

              Is Zionism a revanchist ideology?  Yes.  Is the Palestinian resistance also revanchist?  Absolutely.

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              • Who Are Today's Canaanites? (Istvan Simon, USA 10/04/18 11:29 AM)
                Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, September 18, makes the allegation that Israel "occupied the land" 2000 years ago.

                I begin by pointing out that her statement is inaccurate by about two thousand years. The article


                ...sheds some light on the events that Soraya refers to.

                Soraya makes another claim, easily disproved by science. She says that the land "occupied by Israel" belonged to Canaanites and then says that the Canaanites' descendants are today's Palestinians or Arabs. This is simply wrong as proved by DNA analysis.

                The descendants of Canaanites are not Palestinians nor Arabs, but the people who today live in Lebanon.


                It is well known that there were no more than 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon in recent years, and that the 170,000 of them who still are in Lebanon are segregated there by the Lebanese, the descendants of Canaanites, in refugee camps. See:


                I strongly suggest Soraya start complaining to the descendants of Canaanites in Lebanon, instead of making false accusations against Israel.

                JE comments:  Permit me a naïve question:  where do you obtain "original" Canaanite DNA?  This recent article says a sample was extracted from 3700 year-old tombs in Lebanon.  The conclusion?  The present-day Lebanese have Canaanite roots.  (Or tautologically, the present-day Lebanese have Lebanese roots.)


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                • Who Are Today's Canaanites? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/10/18 2:59 AM)
                  Istvan Simon wrote on October 4th: "Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich...makes the allegation that Israel 'occupied the land' 2000 years ago.'"

                  I did?

                  I think that Istvan misread my post of September 18th, or misunderstood it. I suggest he re-read it. I stated: "As for Revanchism, those were JE's comments. I did not in any shape or form imply that Israeli actions are revanchism. This would imply that the occupied land belonged to Israel at one point in time (here the marker has been placed at 2000 years per JE to which Gary Moore responded). I do not."

                  I thank Istvan for his interesting link to the DNA testing. I had not read the report and appreciate receiving it. However, why is that a surprise? According to the article Istvan shared, "Canaanite ancestry is a mix of indigenous populations who settled the Levant (the region encompassing much of modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories) around 10,000 years ago, and migrants who arrived from the east between 6,600 and 3,550 years ago."

                  Moreover, according to various books and readily available online resources, Canaan was a large land which encompassing all of Palestine and modern-day Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Israelites occupied and conquered Palestine, or Canaan, beginning in the late 2nd millennium BC, or perhaps earlier; and the Bible justifies such occupation by identifying Canaan with the Promised Land, the land promised to the Israelites by God." https://www.britannica.com/place/Canaan-historical-region-Middle-East

                  So it is not surprising that there was Canaanite DNA found in Lebanon. Although I confess that with all the people that conquered the land and inhabited it at one time or another, I wonder if DNA for others was tested in their sample (such as Turkish, Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian). The current-day Lebanese are inhabitants of the land of Canaan.  As are the Syrians, Jordanians, and Palestinians. When I refer to Palestinians, I refer to all Palestinians, including Palestinian Jews and Christians.

                  What I wanted to emphasize was that according to the Atlantic Charter, the self-governing right is based on priority (being there prior to Israelites) and continuity.

                  Once again, when I refer to Palestinians, I refer to all Palestinians, including Palestinian Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and everything in between!).

                  JE comments:  According to Britannica, the original Canaan's father was Ham, the youngest son of Noah.  He was also the least loved by his father.  (Shame on Noah for playing favorites.)  We tend to associate the people of the Middle East with Sem, hence "Semitic."  What gives?  This is a question tailor-made for Ed Jajko.

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            • "Chosen" Peoples (Istvan Simon, USA 09/21/18 4:00 AM)

              Regarding the Chosen People idea, I have to answer JE negatively.  (See John's reply to Gary Moore, September 16.)

              Most Jews are not religious and do not believe they are chosen in any way. But religious Jews take it seriously, because the Torah says so. Which reminds me of the joke in which a Jew, tired of relentless merciless persecution, a constant of Jewish life for thousands of years, looks up at the heavens and asks God, "Can't you choose someone else for a while?"

              There are so few Jews in the world precisely because Orthodox Jews take the "chosen people" seriously. Unlike Christians and Muslims, Jews do not proselytize. In fact, strictly speaking, it is impossible to convert to Judaism, though less Orthodox Rabbis do perform conversions.

              One of my best Jewish friends married an American Christian woman while working on his PhD. She converted to Judaism and became ultra-observant. My friend is an only child. His father had died when he was in his teens. Understandably, he and his mother grew very close to each other as she brought him up by herself.

              I have to say that she meddled in their marriage quite a bit, which she should not have, and often criticized my friend's wife. I had been her friend for many years, and always loved her wonderful sense of humor. Once I called her on the phone and she mentioned that her daughter-in-law had just reminded her about some minor Jewish holiday that she had ignored. She said: " You know, Betty is so religious because she has been Jewish for hardly a year. In thousands of years we had more time to forget."

              JE comments: Ah, the healing powers of forgetting!  However, no less an authority than Wikipedia (I'm teasing about the "authority") claims that 2/3 of Jewish Israelis believe they are chosen:


              I wasn't anticipating so many objections to my original remark.  My aim was to universalize the "chosen" concept.  To Old Testament teachings, we can add US Manifest Destiny or Japanese Co-Prosperity.  What about 19th-century British imperialism and the White Man's Burden?  Specifically in my earlier comments, I was wondering out loud if any of the world's people explicitly see themselves as inferior--"not chosen," if you will.

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              • Gary Moore on "Chosen" Peoples (John Eipper, USA 09/23/18 5:00 AM)

                Gary Moore writes:

                To add an unctuously conciliatory note to the "Chosen People" objections arising from John E's categorizing,
                it seems to me that the right here belongs to both JE and the objectors.

                But the devil is in the details:
                Maybe the "Chosen People" concept is one more of life's important categories that repels analysis in an
                unacknowledged way.  On the one hand, here is a dimension of human experience that implies obvious
                category, naturally catching the radar of an inquiring intellectual as a taxonomic niche, which, if analyzed,
                might yield useful insights into mechanism. But on the other hand, such sensitive issues are involved that
                small and even arcane distinctions loom large, painfully--so that quick generalization in passing, which is
                all most people have time for--may miss the distinctions and invite painful inaccuracies, rebuking the
                intruder sharply.

                Thus such important areas, however large, may remain largely avoided by the prudent,
                with the result of the elephant-in-the-living-room syndrome: Elephant? What elephant?
                If in the prolixity of these paragraphs anybody's eyes have glazed over with understandable boredom,
                then maybe there's your answer...

                JE comments:  Stereotypes both real and perceived used to be essential for human understanding, even survival.  Now they are offensive, so it's better to avoid that elephant.  Or at least not talk about it.  I believe this is Gary Moore's point in a nutshell.

                Gary, thank you for the conciliatory remarks.  So permit me another stereotype:  you peacemaker types are blessed.

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          • Crimea and Golan Heights: There is No Parallel (Istvan Simon, USA 09/24/18 4:37 AM)
            Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (September 15th) agrees with me that other people's countries should not be dismembered, but asks what about Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, as if it were an example of such a dismemberment. I will argue that in fact it is a poor example.

            Let me start by noting that there are certainly many cases in the world of changes in borders which resulted from war which happened during my lifetime, so I must conclude that Soraya's particular choice of the Golan Heights is not coincidental. To have a fair assessment of each such case of change of borders by force, one must examine the context in which it occurred.

            Israel had no interest in the Golan Heights prior to 1967. What explains the sudden interest of Israel in augmenting the territory under its control by occupying the Golan Heights? The question is not difficult to answer, and one needs to go back only to the everyday newspaper accounts of what happened in the months prior to June 6, 1967.

            In 1967, under the dictatorship of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt took a number of highly belligerent steps towards Israel. Nasser announced his intention of throwing the Jews into the sea. He unified Egypt and Syria, then under the dictatorship of Hafez Assad, the father of the current butcher in Syria. Assad was equally enthusiastic in the ignoble goal of throwing the Jews into the sea. The antecedents of the so-called United Arab Republic can be read in


            In further preparation for throwing the Jews into the sea, Nasser ordered the UN forces separating Egypt and Israel out of the Sinai. Finally he included Jordan in his plans, completing the military encirclement of Israel by hostile forces intent on destroying it. While all this was happening, Assad was so enthusiastic about the project, that he bombarded Israel every day for months with artillery shelling from the strategic high grounds of the Golan Heights. This all happened before the 6-Day War started. He killed many Israelis, including many children in the defenseless villages that received the fury of his artillery shelling. The final provocation was the closing of the Strait of Tiran by Nasser, making impossible Israel's use of Eilat, Israel's only access to the Red Sea. These events are accurately described for example in:


            This is the history that explains why Israel occupied the Golan Heights during the 6-Day War. Fair-minded people will readily see the enormous difference between this history and the military occupation and annexation of Crimea by Putin.

            The moral of this story for every country that wishes not to be dismembered is that frequent shelling of thy neighbor with artillery barrages is a bad idea, and may result in thy neighbor reacting to such aggression.

            JE comments:  What are the cases of post-WWII changes in borders by force?  I cannot think of many, with the exceptions of Israel, Vietnam, Russia (Crimea) and the successful separatist movements in Eritrea, Timor, Sudan, and a few other places.  The USSR divided up according to its Soviet-era borders (once again, with the exception of Crimea).

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            • Two Occupations Contrasted: Golan Heights and Crimea (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 09/25/18 4:41 AM)
              Istvan Simon wrote on September 24th:  "Fair-minded people will readily see the enormous difference between [Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights] and the military occupation and annexation of Crimea by Putin."

              Indeed, but coming out the opposite way from Istvan's position.

              The Golan Heights was a classical case of territory conquered by force in war for military purposes--to prevent them from being used by enemies for military purposes, as Istvan accurately described it. This is no different from thousands of similar cases of captured territory along borders between warring countries. I'm not expressing an opinion about the particular case of the Golan Heights.  Israel is in a particularly difficult strategic position, which continues, so parallels with other situations may not always be valid.  But since the beginning of the 20th century, territory conquered for military expediency is usually given back at the end of hostilities, by civilized nations.

              Crimea is an utterly different situation. Crimea has nothing to do with Ukraine, and never had anything to do with Ukraine historically, and ended up within the borders of independent Ukraine by pure administrative accident. We may condemn the crude way in which Putin took back Crimea--and I do condemn it--but it is pretty hard to deny the justice of Crimea's being returned to Russia. I don't think I've ever met a single European who saw that differently. I think one's mind would have to be firmly stuck half way around the world with no real feel for European history, to even imagine that there is any reason for Crimea to be connected with Ukraine.

              But one should not confuse the justice of the return of Crimea to Russia, with the question of whether or not the means were just. These are different questions! I say again, that however manifestly just it was, for Crimea to be returned to Russia, there is no justification for correcting borders, no matter how unjustly and how accidentally they were drawn, by force, and I don't condone that here or in any other case. I've said it before--Putin should have just bought Crimea back from Ukraine. The war with Ukraine cost Russia hundreds of billions of euros in foreign reserves and lost GDP, and the cost continues to mount. The price for transferring Crimea by mutual agreement would have been a small fraction of that. The entire GDP of Ukraine is only $119 billion--in 2014, Russia could have paid such a sum in cash.

              JE comments:  But it takes no bravado to buy stuff, and Putin has a he-man reputation to uphold.  And Putin's not alone--think of George W Bush in Iraq.  He could have "purchased" Saddam Hussein for a fraction of the cost of war.

              Or not?  Would Kiev have relinquished Crimea for a price?  It is political suicide to sell chunks of your nation.  Santa Anna sold 29,000 square miles of Mexico in 1854 (Gadsden Purchase), and he's been known as the "vendepatrias" (Fatherland-Seller) ever since.

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              • Could Putin Have Bought Crimea? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 09/27/18 4:20 AM)
                To my claim that Putin could have purchased Crimea, John E replied: "But it takes no bravado to buy stuff, and Putin has a he-man reputation to uphold. And Putin's not alone--think of George W Bush in Iraq. He could have 'purchased' Saddam Hussein for a fraction of the cost of war. Or not? Would Kiev have relinquished Crimea for a price? It is political suicide to sell chunks of your nation. Santa Anna sold 29,000 square miles of Mexico in 1854 (Gadsden Purchase), and he's been known as the 'vendepatrias' (Fatherland-Seller) ever since."

                Putin did nothing for any "he-man reputation" he might have, by annexing Crimea by sending in a military force out of uniform, which he denied. It was a cowardly, obviously dishonest approach which greatly weakened the legitimate foundation of Russia's claim to Crimea.

                Putin is not like the present US Commander-in-Chief.  He is not motivated by vanity, but rather, by the coldest of cold calculation. Only the calculation in this case was disastrously wrong.

                Selling Crimea to Russia would not have been like Santa Anna and the Gadsden Purchase. Ukraine was desperate for cash at the time, and hardly anyone in Ukraine cared about Crimea, where almost no Ukrainians even live (only 15% of the population according to the 2014 census). The main function of Crimea for Ukraine was as a source of rental income from the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Even today, only 42% of Ukrainians even consider the Russian annexation of Crimea to be an "illegal invasion"--see the Canadian government opinion poll at https://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/2017-may-survey-of-residents-of-ukraine_en.pdf , which is astonishing, considering that it clearly was an illegal invasion. Today, only 5% of Ukrainians consider the Russian presence in Ukraine to be among the top 3 issues facing the country. A deal could definitely have been made, and a deal which would have benefited all sides.

                Looking at the same slide of the Canadian government opinion poll (Slide 74), we see that the military conflict in the Donbass is, unlike the Russian presence in Crimea, the most important issue facing the country according to most Ukrainians. Indeed I think this is one of the most important issues facing Europe altogether. This disastrous situation should be resolved. And surely there is a deal to be made there, too. The Russians should offer to withdraw all forces from Eastern Ukraine and stop supporting separatists (and sending them!). They should offer full normalization of relations, and they should offer economic compensation for the destruction caused. They should resume economic assistance to Ukraine, so important for Ukrainian heavy industry, in the form of cheap natural gas and electrical power supplies. They should offer a firm guaranty of respect for Ukraine's borders.

                Ukraine, for its part, should recognize the transfer of Crimea to Russia and should guaranty neutrality--no NATO. Some kind of free trade arrangement should be worked out which would not exclude any free trade arrangements with the EU, which Ukraine might be able to negotiate. This would be a win-win-win situation for all involved, including Western Europe, and the US.

                But there is one more piece to the puzzle, something which goes to the heart of the matter and to the origin of the present mess: interference in Ukraine's politics, practiced aggressively by both Russia and the West, most notably by the US in the months leading up to the violent coup which deposed Ukraine's legal government, the event which led to Russia's rash and miscalculated actions. There should be a firm agreement between the US, Western European powers, and Russia, to never again engage in the dirty tricks which created the present mess, which have destroyed the economy and social fabric of Ukraine without actually benefiting anyone.

                JE comments:  Santa Anna in 1853-54 was also desperate for cash, and sold a part of Mexico that few of its citizens cared about.  But turning to Ukraine:  how legal was the 2010 election that brought Yanukovych to power?  The "free and fair" window-dressing was largely the work of American PR wizard Paul Manafort, who later performed his magic to give us Trump.  Yanukovych then jailed his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko.  Trump wasn't able to achieve his goal to "lock her up."

                Cameron, do you believe the Ukrainian people should have continued to put up with Yanukovych?

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            • Post-WWII Border Changes, Continued (David Duggan, USA 09/25/18 6:03 AM)

              John E asked this question on September 24th:  "What are the cases of post-WWII changes in borders by force?  I cannot
              think of many, with the exceptions of Israel, Vietnam, Russia (Crimea)
              and the successful separatist movements in Eritrea, Timor, Sudan, and a
              few other places."

              How about the whole of Yugoslavia? India-Pakistan-Bangladesh?

              JE comments:  A few times during our discussion of revanchism, I've tried to make a distinction between separatism and redrawing borders per se.  All the newly hatched nations after WWII have subdivided an existing country.  Yugoslavia and Bangladesh are in this category, as are the former Soviet countries, South Sudan, Cyprus, etc.  None of the nations have carved out their territory from more than one "parent."  Am I wrong here?  Or does the distinction not really matter?

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              • Post-WWII Border Changes: Goa and the Sand War (Sasha Pack, USA 09/26/18 3:17 AM)
                On the subject of territories seized by force since 1945, JE has suggested that cases of violent border redrawing have usually been tied to the breakup of an existing state, not the hostile annexation of territory by a neighboring state, as occurred more frequently in prior eras. I think he is generally correct, but there are exceptions of course. I can add to the list of exceptions that seem to prove the rule:

                Goa, a Portuguese enclave on the Indian subcontinent since the early 16th century, was seized by India in 1961. The Portuguese had conquered it from the Delhi Sultanate in the 1520s around the time the rest of that polity was being devoured by the Mughal Empire. Goa remained in Portuguese hands throughout the period of the British Raj, and when the British departed in 1947 Portugal refused to cede Goa to the new Indian republic. In 1960, the International Court of Justice mainly upheld Portugal's claim. But as the Portuguese were committing their resources to fighting in Angola, Indian PM Nehru simply occupied Goa (with UN support) and forced the Portuguese to depart.

                Another, unforgettable example is the Sand War of 1963-64, fought over the patch of desert along the Algeria-Morocco border corresponding to portions of the Tindouf and Bechar districts just to the north of Mauritania. This waterless expanse had long functioned, like many other stretches of the Sahara, as an ocean-like crossing for nomadic tribes loosely affiliated with the Ottoman or Moroccan sultanates. When the French wrested Algeria from the Ottomans, the 1845 Treaty of Lalla-Maghnia defined a formal limit with Morocco in districts near the Mediterranean coast, but the domains further inland were regarded as uninhabitable, rendering superfluous the designation of boundaries. But by the 20th century, when the French held colonial claims on both Algeria and Morocco, the desert patch showed promise of oil and mineral wealth. In 1952, France annexed these domains from Morocco to Algeria, which it considered a fully sovereign territory. After withdrawing from Morocco in 1956, French forces occupied Tindouf-Bechar directly. The French departure from Algeria in 1962 precipitated a violent confrontation with Morocco over the boundary in 1963. A peace was brokered in 1964 in Algeria's favor, essentially upholding French-Algeria's annexation-by-force for its postcolonial successor republic.

                In the same neighborhood, Morocco has attempted to annex the Western Sahara by force, but its claim is controversial.

                JE comments:  Goa has always been on my Bucket List; the battlefields of the Sand War, not so much.  Within the Goa district lies Aldona, the "most beautiful village in the world" (Google it).  My Aldona should be able to get a deal on food and lodging.

                Great to hear from you, Sasha!  My best to Emilie and the twins.  And here's a coincidence:  Your city (Buffalo) came up in my Spanish III class on Monday.  While explaining that it's one of the handful of US cities that changes its spelling in Spanish (Búfalo), I was thinking of my visit to your home three years ago.  And then you wrote...the WAIS Effect!

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              • More Post-WWII Border Changes: Morocco, Somalia, Nauru (Brian Blodgett, USA 09/26/18 3:43 AM)
                More post-WWII border changes to add to our list:

                In 1956 Spanish Morocco gains independence from Spain, and French Morocco gains independence from France. They combine to form Morocco.

                In 1956 Sudan gains independence from Egypt and Britain.

                In 1960 British Somaliland gains independence from Britain. It merges with Italian Somaliland to form Somalia.

                In 1968 Nauru Island gains independence from the UN-sponsored trusteeship of Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

                JE comments:  Brian Blodgett's examples could go in the "patchwork nation" file--a new country formed of two or more former colonies.  The first of this group would probably be the United States.  Yugoslavia might be next, although the South Slav model didn't stick.

                In my early days as a geography buff, I was intrigued by tiny Nauru, which in the 1970s was one of the richest nations per capita in the world.  Its source of wealth: guano.  Now that the bird poop has all been scooped, leaving a moonscape of environmental destruction, it's one of the world's poorest.  Wikipedia reports there is 90% unemployment, and over 90% of the remaining 10% works for the government.  Nauru's budget is almost entirely bankrolled by Australia.

                Has anyone in WAISworld been to Nauru?

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            • Israel, Golan Heights, and Control of Water (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 09/27/18 4:52 PM)
              I thank Istvan Simon for his response of September 24th.

              Before replying, I would like to start by saying that not long ago, WAISers were looking for ways in which WAIS could have a positive impact in stopping global problems/crimes. I found this thread to be noble and doable. I was reminded of a quote by Horace Mann which is very close to my heart: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." We are all capable of this. This WAIS suggestion had a particular attraction for me and I decided to once again participate in the Forum.

              I do not want my presence to be contentious but to contribute, to share, and be a participant in making our world a more just and better place. That said, in my humble opinion, the biggest obstacle is the acceptance of facts versus ideology. Accepting a different perspective can often be painful. So even if we refuse to accept facts or some truths, we have to be ready to examine them without getting defensive, or attacking the messenger.

              Istvan wrote: "Let me start by noting that there are certainly many cases in the world of changes in borders which resulted from war which happened during my lifetime, so I must conclude that Soraya's particular choice of the Golan Heights is not coincidental."

              No, it is not coincidental--for good reason. I study US foreign policy, and the Middle East is of special interest to me. It is the focus of my readings. Furthermore, we are at war in the region. And it is important to note that in my post I mentioned both the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.

              So I start with the allegations against Nasser, I think the Forum would be more comfortable if I used Jewish and American sources. As such, I think that The Algemeiner Journal may stand the test, given that Joseph Lieberman and the Jacobson Foundation described it as "independent truth telling advocates for the Jewish people and Israel." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algemeiner_Journal

              So I would like to suggest reading this piece in the Journal with an open mind (and not with the heart) and decide: https://www.algemeiner.com/2014/02/20/did-arab-states-really-promise-to-push-jews-into-the-sea-yes/

              Regardless of what one concludes from the above article, it is completely false to state that "Israel had no interest in the Golan Heights prior to 1967."

              Since the 1948 war, Syria and Israel have been in a state of war (with brief periods of unsuccessful negotiations). Since the 1950s, conflict over water (and land) has been at the root of hostilities between the two. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower commissioned Eric Johnston to generate a regional water allocation agreement. The failure of the Johnston plan exacerbated the conflict. The published diaries of Israeli Foreign Minister Sharett help understand why the Johnston negotiations were unsuccessful. Sharett maintained: "[P]olitical decisions concerning the occupation of the rest of Eretz Israel were taken as early as 1954, although implemented in 1967." (Livia Rokach, "Israeli State Terrorism: An Analysis of the Sharett Diaries," Journal of Palestine Studies 9, no. 3 (Spring, 1980), 3-28.

              The goal of the early Zionist leadership became not only to secure all water resources, but control them at their sources. Saul Arlosoroff, Chairman of the Israel-Water Engineers Association explained it thus:

              "The whole philosophy of the Zionist movement was that you maintain control of the land, over your country, by working there and being there. There's no doubt that if they move out of the border with Lebanon, somebody else will be there, and that somebody is Arabs, not Jews, and the government of Israel doesn't want Arabs to be there on the border, because the border will move further and further south. The same is true in the Negev." (Selby, Jan. Water, Power & Politics in the Middle East: The Other Israel-Palestinian Conflict Palgrave & MacMillan, NY:2003 pp. 65-69).

              Years later, Haaretz newspaper published an article revealing the existence of a study (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel-Aviv university) under General Aaron Yariv, former intelligence services chief, which outlined a "zone of hydraulic security," in which it called for placing water resources in Syria and Lebanon under full Israeli control. (Zeev Shiff, "The Censored Report Revealed," Ha'aretz, 8 October 1993).

              Israel garners much of its water from the Golan. It has maintained that it is to defer enemies, but it is the water that is the prize.

              There is a plethora of literature on the occupation of Golan, and Israeli-Syria relations. One outstanding book called Rise Up and Kill First; The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations (Ronen Bergman, 2018) which got praise by former Israeli PM, Ehud Barak, explains the situation with regard to Syria very differently from what Istvan stated.

              Probably the most fascinating book I have read to date, Bergman gives a clear picture of the issues leading to the 1967 war and McNamara's green light to Israel for a pre-emptive strike. Of course, although this book reveals all the acts of terrorism, assassinations, letter bombs, water-boarding etc., the intention of the book is to justify these actions to ensure survival of the Jewish people and Israel.

              Many other prominent individuals have written on the topic and the history of hostilities (and America's complicity), including former US diplomat George Ball.

              I will sign off by reminding us all that USS Liberty was attacked by Israel, American servicemen killed, and the incident was covered up by the United States to protect Israel in the war Istvan refers to here to justify Israel's occupation.

              JE comments:  Who said that if today's wars are over oil, tomorrow's will be over water?  Perhaps, if we accept Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's interpretation of Israel's presence in the Golan Heights, tomorrow has been going on for decades.

              Google "water wars" and you'll find many articles, particularly about the Middle East.  Front and center:  Turkey, Syria, Iraq.  See this:


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              • "Israel/Palestine": Is WAIS Guilty of Anti-Israel Bias? (Luciano Dondero, Italy 09/29/18 4:19 AM)
                When reading a recent WAIS article whose entire title reads: "[wais] Israel/Palestine -> Israel, Golan Heights, and Control of Water" (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, September 27th), I suddenly noticed a bias in WAIS which I find very disturbing.

                If you look at the list of topics on the WAIS web page, you can see that under the rubric "Nations" each country is a separate topic, eg. "Afghanistan, Africa, Albania, Algeria..." all the way down "to Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire" (i.e., including long-since dead countries).

                There are a few odds and sods here and there--mostly regional areas, although the classification is a bit of a hodge-podge: like "East Europe," "Europe," "European Union," and "West Europe," plus "Scandinavia"; I suppose "North America," "Central America," and "South America" are OK, as well as "Southeast Asia" and "Middle East."

                I don't know what to make of "The Pacific," presumably it means "The Pacific Rim," and here spelling it out would be helpful.

                Some things make sense to me, like "UK (United Kingdom)," "USA (America)," "USSR/Russia," and "Iran (Persia)"; one way or another they explain something and help our readers. Some could object to the "USSR/Russia," but they would have to be someone who is at the same time an inveterate nostalgic for the "good, old Soviet Union" and a nationalist from one of the lesser Republics... Uhm, I am doubtful.

                A bit funny is a thing called "Nations Compared"; I might understand the gist of it, but...then there is a weird "Polombia," a country I'd never heard about.

                And then we have a few non-countries, like "Chechnya" and "Palestine." And obviously it doesn't matter whether somebody wants these countries to exist.

                But strangely enough, once we go into the realm of "peoples/nations without a country," how come the largest and longest-established people without a country, the Kurds, are missing? Of course many other nations might have a claim to statehood, but they are not really discussed in WAIS, but Kurdistan is a frequent topic in these pages.

                The real problem, and I think it reflects a serious and worrisome bias is of course "Israel/Palestine." That country does not exist, and never existed. There is the State of Israel, and there are people who clamor for a country of their own but don't have one, the Palestinians.

                Wait, but in WAIS they do, is the topic "Palestine" that I have already mentioned.

                So what is "Israel/Palestine"? Perhaps a program for a single state for two peoples? Or is it the notion that Israel is not a legitimate state? Sort of a projection, think of "USSR/Russia" in this sense: out of one came the other.

                Please note that the article I mentioned, the latest under this rubric, talks about the Golan Heights, which is a disputed territory between Israel and Syria--no Palestinians involved there. Then, what gives?

                I suspect that this reflects an ancient anti-Israel bias in WAIS, which somehow continues, perhaps unnoticed, to these days.

                JE comments:  The Forum categories go back to WAIS antiquity, and we inherited "Israel/Palestine" from Prof. Hilton.  Might it be time for reorganizing?  Do we really need "Bestiary of Insults," "Yugoslavia" (instead of the successor states) or the one that always made me uncomfortable, "Jews"?  As for Polombia, well Luciano, did you miss the 2011 announcement that Colombia and Poland would be joining forces--economies of scale, "natural synergies," better soccer, and all that?


                Seriously now, is WAIS biased against Israel?  Some colleagues have argued the opposite.  Given that two peoples live in one homeland, I don't find "Israel/Palestine" offensive, but I understand how some might.  Here's the quandary:  Israel was Palestine before it was Israel, although it was also Israel before it was Palestine.

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              • Should a Jewish State Have Been Created in Postwar Germany? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/29/18 4:56 AM)
                Excellent post from Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (September 27th), and excellent comments by our esteemed moderator.

                However, due to their kindness and probably political correctness, the main point has been overlooked.

                The creation of the State of Israel was an enormous misfortune for the Middle East. It was well clear from the very beginning that the Zionist dream was not democratic but revanchist in the worst possible manner. The new state wanted to be a state for the Jews only. For this reason it is racist.

                The undercover policy of the deep state of Israel has always been the creation of the Greater Israel with a complete ethnic change of the population. This has been/is/will be possible due to the complicity of the Empire.

                In the late 1930s, Hitler did not want Jews but nobody was ready to receive them (save to a certain extent Italy). Germany lost the war and was punished by losing large parts of its territories with the ensuing ethnic cleansing. Poland was a "victor" but lost all its Eastern territories and the people were moved from East to West. This was one of the worst crimes against humanity. Instead of doing this, it would have been possible to punish Germany and create a Jewish state in Silesia or in Prussia. That would have created other problems but it would have been more understandable.

                JE comments: What is it that Luciano Dondero just said about WAISdom's anti-Israel bias? Eugenio Battaglia and Luciano are close friends, although not ideological bedfellows.  I expect they'll be having a spirited conversation over a cappuccino or grappa.  (And the drinks will be on Eugenio--that's an inside joke.)

                Alas, it's going to be a stressful day at WAIS HQ.  Next:  Istvan Simon responds to Soraya.

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                • Founding of Israel: A Political Event (Carmen Negrin, France 10/02/18 3:54 AM)
                  Eugenio Battaglia (September 29th) seems to make an abstraction of the main cause for the creation of Israel: survival because of racism, State racism. Not revanchism.

                  Certain very well-known Jewish families were more German than the Germans. For instance traces of their community have been found in Frankfurt going as far back as the 11th century. How many inhabitants of that city can brag about having roots going as far back as that? I suppose this can be said about most Ashkenazi in Europe. And if not the 11th century, the 15th for the Sefaradi.

                  Israel was a political solution, perhaps the wrong one, to a political problem. Racism is indeed mainly political and somewhat cultural. The decision to expel the Spanish Jews was taken to please the limitless ambitions of the Roman Catholic Church. The anti-Jewish laws enacted in Germany, Italy, and Spain were purely political decisions. There are no racial differences.  Just one symbolic example: we have recently found out that a blond blue-eyed Jewish girl was used as Hitler's propaganda model of the "pure" Aryan child.

                  As far as "ethnicity" is concerned, Jews and Palestinians descend from the same roots: Abraham. Sometimes brothers are their worst enemies.

                  I am not sure Israel was a good solution but since it exists, one should look at the real problems. And those are water, space, sharing, politics. Security is only a consequence and an excuse. Nobody criticizes the Muslim nations for being racist and yet they have expelled Jews and Christians who lived peacefully with them for centuries. All this is politics.

                  JE comments:  In the US, questioning whether Israel was a "good solution" is heresy.  Interestingly, in Europe there is no such taboo.  I say interestingly, because Zionism was born in Europe and Israel emerged from Europe's ashes.  Carmen Negrín makes a convincing argument that the real problems in Israel/Palestine are not "race" or even culture, but water, territory, and politics.  The first two are easy to understand.  Politics--well, who completely understands politics?

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                  • Racism, Zionism, and US Anti-Semitism (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/04/18 4:30 AM)
                    Carmen Negrin (October 2nd) writes that the main cause for the creation of Israel was "survival because of racism."

                    I completely agree that racism was a factor, though whether it was the main cause of not is a matter of opinion. One could argue by displacing Palestinians and giving their land to European Jews was a grave act of racism against the Palestinian inhabitants. In establishing Israel, the Palestinians were, and are, equal victims of racism. They were forcibly removed from a land they lived on, continuously, for thousands of years.

                    Irrefutably, there was no love lost for Jews in Europe and America. The prejudice against the Jews in Europe and here in America will forever remain a stain on history and humanity. But it would appear that racism against Palestinians is perfectly acceptable in these capitals.

                    There were other important factors involved in creating a homeland for the Jews such as the role of Christian Zionism, and colonialism of course.

                    In the 16th Century, Puritans were of the opinion that God's plan was to return the Jews to Israel. The ideology became so widespread that it affected politics. The trend found its way to the United States. The movement has grown very strong. The die-hard supporters of Israel in America are messianic, dangerous, and they follow the same anti-Jewish mindset that has existed for thousands of years. But Israel has co-opted this powerful group and uses it to promote its agenda, which includes taking over all the Palestinian land.

                    The land of Canaan became a colonial battleground, a satellite state in the heart of the Arab land. However, today's Israel is no longer a satellite state of colonial powers, and many believe it has more influence in American and European politics than the nationals of those countries.

                    Carmen wrote: "Just one symbolic example: we have recently found out that a blond blue-eyed Jewish girl was used as Hitler's propaganda model of the 'pure' Aryan child." Hitler may have used a blond blue-eyed Jewish girl as a propaganda model of a ‘"pure Aryan child," but long before Hitler's time and mention of the Aryan race, Teddy Roosevelt said: ""Democracy has justified itself by keeping for the white race the best portions of the earth's surface." A sentiment echoed by General Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglas, who he claimed: "America's wonderful thrust into Asia was the destiny of the magnificent Aryan people."

                    JE comments:  A sizable school of thought attributes Nazi racism to American (US) race theorists of the preceding two generations.  This belief has adherents on both the left and the right.  Remember this summer's "blockbuster" film, Dinesh D'Souza's Death of a Nation?  D'Souza's startling thesis, in a nutshell, was that US Democrats inspired the Holocaust (and that Trump is the modern-day Lincoln).  However, D'Souza would not have cited Republican Teddy Roosevelt to bolster his argument.


                    Istvan Simon (next) questions the connection of the Canaanites with modern-day Palestinians.  Stay tuned--after my dental appointment.

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              • Israel, Golan Heights, and Control of Water (Istvan Simon, USA 09/29/18 5:07 PM)
                Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's September 27 post is not a response to my September 24 contribution. She simply denied the truth of facts I wrote about by citing other "sources," and then changed the subject.

                I'd like to remind Soraya that though I provided documentation to each of my claims, I did not learn them from these particular sources. I learned about them from my own experience in 1967.

                I was in Brazil in 1967, and each one of my claims of the history that I related in my September 24 post I learned originally by simply reading contemporaneous newspaper accounts in Brazil. I also wish to point out that other WAISers have confirmed these facts, from their own personal experiences in WAIS posts.

                My close friend Ed Jajko, truly a WAISer extraordinaire, was in Egypt in 1967. Ed Jajko speaks Arabic fluently, as well as Hebrew, which is one of the many reasons why I called him WAIser extraordinaire. Another reason is that Ed is a true scholar, who as the ex-librarian of the Hoover Institution at Stanford has an encylopedic knowledge. Indeed, I never met anyone in my entire life whose knowledge is as deep as Ed's is about the things that he is interested in. WAISers might recall that Ed gave an entire lecture on the first sentence of the Bible at a WAIS conference.

                Ed has confirmed the facts that I cited, in previous WAIS posts of his own on this subject, as well as in many personal conversations I had with him.

                I nominated Alain Bigio more than a year ago to be a member of WAIS. I am at a loss why he is not yet a WAIser, because if he were, he could confirm what I had written from his own personal experiences.

                That is because Alain Bigio was born in Cairo, Egypt. Nasser expelled his family from Egypt with just the shirt on their backs, confiscating without compensation his family's property, because they were Jews. Alain's family had lived for centuries in the area.

                Soraya must read Alain Bigio's book, which I have cited in WAIS previously:


                I know Alain personally, as well as many other Egyptian Jews who had similar stories, because they ended up in Brazil, and went to the same school I did.

                The unjust persecution of Jews by Nasser is a fact. Soraya is entitled to her own opinions, but not to her own facts.

                It is undeniable that Nasser said multiple times that he would throw the Jews into the sea. It is also an undeniable fact that Syria's Assad shelled Israeli villages with artillery from the Golan Heights for months prior to the 1967 war. I did not read about this on the Internet. I read it in newspaper accounts in Brazil in 1967, before the Internet even existed.

                Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich cites sources in her post that do not support her post. The very opposite is true. The title of the article she cited, which I pasted below, says it all:

                "Did Arab States Really Promise to Push Jews Into the Sea? Yes!"

                The expulsion of Jews from Egypt by Nasser that I alluded to above is one other indication of Nasser's rabid anti-Semitism which points in the same direction. So is the shelling of Israeli villages by Assad.

                The supposed interest of Israel about water sources in the Golan Heights is a case of "changing the subject," rather than a response to my post. So is her gratuitous completely unrelated mentioning of the USS Liberty incident.

                In any case once again she gives no facts to support her claims. Israel was not interested in the Golan Heights for water.

                Wikipedia has a very comprehensive article about the development and history of Israel's sources of water. It does not support Soraya's claim. On the contrary, it shows efforts by the Arab States to divert the headwaters of the Jordan river, which was one of the main sources of Israel's water supply in 1967.


                Here is the relevant part that covers the history of water sources and development prior to 1970:

                "Because the coastal plain of Judea and Samaria had few water resources, Theodor Herzl already envisioned the transfer of water from the Jordan River to the coast for irrigation and drinking water supply. In 1937 the national water company Mekorot was created, more than a decade before the creation of the state of Israel. Among its achievements was the Shiloach Pipeline along the Burma Road to Jerusalem, built during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and a first pipeline to the Negev in 1955. Between 1953 and 1955 the United States Special Representative for Water in the Middle East, Eric Johnston, had negotiated the Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan to jointly develop the water resources of the Jordan River Basin between Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The Johnston Plan was rejected by the Arab League, but Israel nevertheless abided by its water allocation under the plan. Mekorot began a Rain Enhancement program in 1961, increasing rainfall by 13-18%. A Brackish Water Pipeline to divert brackish ground water from the Sea of Galilee to the Lower Jordan was completed in 1965. The main water resources project at the time, however, was the transfer of water from the Sea of Galilee to the coast through the National Water Carrier in 1965. As a reaction to the construction of the pipeline, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan tried to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River. This was one of the events that increased tensions leading to the Six-Day War of 1967 during which Israel captured the West Bank and the Golan Heights."

                I should mention that Israel is world famous for the technology it developed to use water wisely. One of the marvels cited by many authors about this expertise is the transformation of desert into productive land in Israel. Brazil and many other countries benefited from the extraordinary science and technology and expertise of Israel in this area. It is a sad commentary on the Arab countries that they do not.

                JE comments:  My apologies to Istvan Simon; I promised to publish this post yesterday morning, but then I never managed to return to the computer.  It was a crisp and sunny early fall day in Adrian; hard to stay inside.  Today I'll be a more diligent editor.

                Israel/Palestine posts invariably bring controversy.  Passions aside, the central question in the Simon-Sepahpour polemic is this:  did Israel have designs on the Golan Heights prior to 1967?  And did Israeli occupy the Heights because of their tactical value, or because of their water?  The distinction matters, because the former justifies Israel's actions, and the latter suggests bald conquest.  Clearly, both water and artillery shells "flow" downhill.

                Next, we'll hear from Ed Jajko on Golan and 1967.

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              • Eli Cohen, Israeli Spy Extraordinaire (Edward Jajko, USA 09/30/18 4:41 AM)
                Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's post of 9/28 on Israeli control of the Golan Heights--Jawlaan in Arabic--calls to mind the short but brilliantly successful career of the Israeli spy Eliyahu Ben Sha'ul Kohen, better known here as Eli Cohen.

                He was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1924. His father had emigrated from Aleppo, Syria. His parents and he were ardent Zionists and Eli--Iilyaa in Arabic--was frequently in trouble with the Egyptian authorities. He emigrated to Israel in 1957 via Italy. There he entered the IDF and its military intelligence section (one of my first assistants in the Yale University Library was a Israeli whose fluency in Arabic allowed him to do his military service in Intelligence). Cohen volunteered for Mossad but was rejected and later resigned from the IDF and became some sort of clerk in civilian life. He married and he and his wife had three children. (By the way, it should be noted that at this point Cohen has mastered modern Israeli Hebrew; has modern standard Arabic, which he learned with an Egyptian pronunciation but is probably able to use with the pronunciation and vocabulary of a Levantine; speaks Egyptian colloquial Arabic, possibly with a distinctive Alexandrine accent, and has undoubtedly become fluent in Palestinian colloquial, and likely learned Syrian and Halabi colloquial from his father; and probably more.)

                Cohen was recruited into Mossad as a deep cover agent. After intense but brief training, he was given a new identity as an Argentine Syrian, Kamil Amin Thabit--a name that wavers between being identifiable as Muslim or Christian--and sent to Argentina to spend some time there and then to "repatriate" himself to Damascus. Presumably by then he also had Argentine Spanish.

                In Syria, Cohen/Thabit began working his way into the upper levels of the state. With a seemingly endless budget, he held lavish parties at which women were made available to the high-ranking men. He himself had more than a dozen lovers. As a result of his efforts, he was invited by his military friends to accompany them on inspections of Syrian defenses. Probably the most notable of these were his tours of the Golan Heights. I remember reading in one source many years ago that Cohen memorized the positions and weaponry of the Syrian emplacements, then later reported the information to Israel via his clandestine radio.

                I have also read that on one of his visits to the Golan Heights, Cohen noted that Syrian soldiers in open emplacements were suffering from the sun and heat and suggested some sort of shade for them--trees, perhaps. A Syrian military commander agreed and trees were planted at the various open positions. In the 1067 [that would be 1967; see below--JE] war, those trees were used by Israeli forces to target Syrian guns.

                Supposedly, Cohen worked his way high enough in politico-military Syria that he was on a track to be named deputy minister of defense. There was at least one in the Syrian military who didn't like or trust him. He got the government to secretly order total radio silence, then with the help of Russian equipment and advisors--hmmm--a single radio sound was detected and zeroed in on. Soldiers stormed Cohen's apartment. He was arrested, tried, and hanged in Marjah Square of Damascus.

                This ended Cohen's brief career, 1961-1965. But the intelligence he supplied was crucial to the Israeli conquest of Golan two years later, in the June 1967 war.

                There is a website sponsored by his family, elicohen.org. This and English-language materials I read long ago are adulatory, almost hagiographic. I have not looked into the Hebrew or Arabic materials.

                I can understand why Israel wanted to take and hold Golan. This posting is supportive of that just academically. But I can't help but admire this espionage operation.

                I recall that, many years ago, I had a paperback book about this matter, possibly Our Man in Damascus; I forget the title. Cohen was able to write to his wife before his execution, and the author of the book included a page or two of one of those Arabic letters (she was an Iraqi Jew). I recall reading what the reproduced photo of the letter allowed me to, and among other things, it said ‘I'm sorry I got into this.'

                JE comments:  Fascinating, Ed.  I'm surprised the Syrians didn't try a simpler counterespionage tactic:  find a trusted Argentine to check out Cohen's bona fides.

                Speaking of Israeli intelligence in Argentina, who in WAISworld has seen the new film about capturing Adolf Eichmann, Operation Finale?  I did earlier this month.  The film isn't blessed with the most compelling script, but the interaction between Eichmann and his captor is worth the admission price.  It's also intriguing that after playing the good guys in Gandhi and Schindler's List, Ben Kingsley could embrace a role of such consummate evil.

                (Gandhi came out 36 years ago.  Kingsley has had quite a career.)

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                • The Six-Day War was in WHAT Year? (David Duggan, USA 09/30/18 3:11 PM)
                  Until reading Ed Jajko's post of September 30th, I didn't know that the Israeli-Arab conflict was one year after the Norman conquest...

                  JE comments: I'll be darned, it does say 1067--nine centuries off. To Ed Jajko's credit, his scholarship focuses primarily on the ancient and medieval worlds.  So what is my excuse?

                  Nobody keeps WAIS more honest than David Duggan!  (I've made a note in the original post.)

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                  • 1067, 1967, 1387, 5737: What's In a Date? (Edward Jajko, USA 10/02/18 4:23 AM)
                    In response to David Duggan (September 30th), my post does say 1067 (and all that), the reason being that it went through numerous drafts, at least one of which included typographical errors. I seem to have neglected to save a corrected, near final version, and this frail and aging iPhone, reflecting its aging--aged?--owner, deleted the good version, perhaps out of spite or political disagreement. Or since I type on it with one finger, perhaps out of a misperception of insult.

                    I caught the error in dating too late. There are other infelicities in the text. As for the year, I concede to David Duggan. But in belated self-defense, let me say that instead of (June) 1967, I might have said "the waning days of the month of Safar and the first days of Rabi' al-Awwal, 1387 A.H.," or "the waning days of Iyyar and first days of Sivan, 5737," of the Jewish calendar. If I could find my book on calendars, I might be able to supply the Coptic year as well. Egyptian newspapers used to have the date of the current issue in all three systems, and perhaps still do. The Wikipedia article "Arabic names of calendar months" shows the possibilities for generating confusion and error. And there's an entirely different calendrical system and year in Iran.

                    But the fault in my message lies not in these problems but in me. Mea culpa.

                    JE comments:  Edward Jajko's erudition is matched only by his modesty.  As for WAIS, many a splendid discussion has been spawned by a typo.  How is it that the four years mentioned here all end in 7?

                    Ed--you compose your virtuoso WAIS posts on an iPhone?  You're from Silicon Valley and all that, but where do you find the stamina?  If I don't have a full (and real, with buttons that "give") keyboard at my disposal, I limit my communications to LOLs, cat photos, and the occasional smiley-face.

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                • Eli Cohen, Israeli Spy Extraordinaire: YouTube Sources (Luciano Dondero, Italy 10/01/18 5:07 AM)
                  Very nice post from Edward Jajko (September 30th).

                  On YouTube I found two films about Israeli spy Eli Cohen. One is a shorter documentary thing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6LVU3yKzAk ), the other is a longer and dramatized version, while faithful to the known sources (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ9cUmvkgmg ).

                  JE comments:  Thank you, Luciano!  The first film is 28 minutes in length, and has a 1970s vibe to it.  I plan to watch.  A thought:  if Cohen was executed in 1965, wouldn't (shouldn't?) the Syrians have moved their Golan Heights artillery emplacements prior to the war against Israel?  Cohen, after all, was the guy who suggested they plant trees to give the gunners some shade.  They had two years to accomplish this.

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        • Changing Borders is NOT Taboo (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/15/18 4:56 AM)
          Following the typically forceful comments from Istvan Simon, 13 September, it may be a good idea to begin a discussion on ethnic problems.

          Democracy is the will of the people, and theoretically we always have to keep this in mind.

          Borders can move either due to imperialism or due to the will of the people that want to be reunited to their brethren. The first is criminal but the second is sacred.

          European borders were criminally drawn after WWI and even more so after WWII.  See the book by Giles MacDonogh After the Reich, From the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift, together with many others. Some 350,000 Italian citizens were kicked out of their homes (not 250,000 as I erroneously indicated).  This includes the former Yugoslavia plus many thousands from Africa and also some from the territory taken by France (this is almost never remembered).

          The changing of borders after 1945 is not taboo.  They have been changed many times in Europe.

          When such changes were profitable to the Empire they were considered very good: consider the reunification of Germany (our so-called great politician and PM Giulio Andreotti used to say: I love Germany so much that I prefer to have two of them), the separation of Czechoslovakia, the implosion of the USSR with so many new nations, and the creation of seven new states from Yugoslavia. But changing borders was bad when it did not favor the Empire--Transnitria, South Ossetia, Abkazia and Crimea.  Crimea is the worst example, as Sevastopol instead of remaining a Russian Navy base could have become a naval base for the Empire.

          Istvan is correct about Transylvania, as it it is inhabited by a Hungarian population of 6.1% or about 1,200,000, as per the criminal borders in 1918, which were corrected in 1941 and then returned to the 1918 borders in 1945.

          However, when the ethnic population is not a huge consolidated group, a change of borders may not be feasible.  In such cases, some type of special protection is imperative.

          Any empire prefers to neutralize the ethnic national states because they may be uncontrollable.  This explains the push to globalization, multiculturalism and other politically correct new strange civil rights like the recent one of New York where you may not be any more Male or Female but X.

          Unfortunately, on top of it, the Empire of our time is dominated by extreme capitalism, which pushes for greater immigration in order to have a mass of potential workers who in order to get a piece of bread will be ready to accept ever-lower wages.

          Of course European ethnic national problems could be far away from the overseas way of life, even if

          uncontrolled immigration seems to create problems there too.

          JE comments:  I don't follow Eugenio Battaglia's final point.  But his central question is interesting:  We all know about the fragmentation of Yugoslavia, the USSR, and the Czech-Slovak divorce.  Is this redrawing borders per se?  An interesting case study may be found in Macedonia.  Greece became nervous about revanchist claims on its own Macedonian region, and forced the new nation to take the clumsy name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Bizarre, but such is the Byzantine nature of geopolitics.

          Eugenio's use of "Empire" to refer to the United States is irritating to many in WAISworld.  My objection is different:  is this characterization accurate?  I think it gives way too much credit to an assumed US omnipotence.  A case in point:  were all the new nations of Europe after 1991 made possible through the "Imperial" blessing?  How, for instance, was the Empire to benefit from the Czech-Slovak split?  Or Yugoslavia's dismemberment, which caused massive human suffering and headaches to the Clinton administration?

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          • My Thoughts on Revanchism, Changing Borders, Crimea (Istvan Simon, USA 09/16/18 4:59 PM)
            Eugenio Battaglia (September 15) wants to discuss ethnic problems. I have no objection.

            WAISers who follow my posts know that I have frequently disagreed with of Eugenio's opinions. I note with some satisfaction what may come as a surprise for Eugenio: I largely agree with most of but not all he wrote in his September 15 post. Indeed, I do not consider borders unchangeable at all. I have just written so separately, in response to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich a few hours ago.

            However, Eugenio and I approach this question from completely different points of view. To begin with, generally speaking, I am predisposed against borders--they encourage division, nationalism and tribalism, all of which I am philosophically opposed to. Borders are in many ways artificial barriers between people, that separate and in many cases even enslave people into lives that they wish not to live. I am sympathetic to refugees, perhaps due to my own experience as one, and I view with sympathy those who want to escape the accident of their birth in some particular place.

            It is difficult to leave one's land of birth and venture into the unknown of living in a new country, with different customs, languages and norms. It requires courage and determination to adapt and succeed, traits which are to be admired in immigrants, legal or illegal. I am generally empathetic to people in that situation, I feel their pain and despair, and therefore from this point of view, borders are an obstacle to be overcome, sometimes truly abhorrent obstacles to easing human suffering. For instance, how can anyone be indifferent to the horrifying image of little 3-year-old Alain Kurdi dead on the beach in Turkey?  His cruel death is a powerful cry against borders and their callous inhumanity.

            Having said this, I recognize that a world completely without borders is a world that is not feasible or practical, a currently unattainable utopia. So I accept the need for borders on practical, pragmatic grounds, which impose at least a semblance of order and makes it possible to separate good government from bad, lands of law from lands that are lawless. Also, one can say that borders protect different cultures, which I consider to be a a good side-effect of their existence. Having accepted borders as a necessity, it follows that there should be some resistance to their arbitrary change, particularly their change by naked aggression and brute force as in my opinion occurred in the Crimea. I therefore strongly oppose the illegal annexation of the Crimea by Russia.

            It matters not if Russia could lose access to naval base or not, something that bothers Eugenio but not me. Russia does not have a God-given right to a naval base in Ukraine. It could try to negotiate with Ukraine access to their base in Sebastopol, and pay adequate monetary compensation to Ukraine for its use. Instead it stole this access from Ukraine. It should be condemned for it.

            It is a bogus false accusation by Eugenio that whether I approve or not of a change of borders has to do with whether it is favorable or not to the United States. This is pure nonsense. I would have no objection to the change in sovereignty in Crimea if it happened through truly democratic means, if Ukraine had agreed to the change, which it did not, and if it was done peacefully, according to the will of the peoples involved. But it did not happen so. It was done by naked aggression, brute force, by lying cheating, underhanded dishonorable and dishonest methods. It should be opposed in the strongest terms, by strong sanctions and even war if necessary. Russia's annexation of the Crimea was not done democratically, nor was it necessary, much less justifiable. Had Russia had a more reasonable modest approach, more respectful of the will of Ukrainians, it might have been a different story. It should be also noted that Russia promised all sorts of development in Crimea, which did not happen. According to numerous reports people in the Crimea have declared unambiguously post-annexation that conditions in the Crimea are now much worse than they were under Ukrainian administration.  The will of the people that Eugenio says is so sacred for him is simply not there.

            From my point of view, the most marvelous example of change of borders, a model lesson to the world of how to do it in a civilized way, is the example of the peaceful divorce between the Czech republic and Slovakia. I should note that when this was originally proposed I was against it, thinking that the two countries living in peace for decades would be weakened by this fragmentation. But I was proven wrong by events. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are viable countries, and both prospered after the break up. So who am I to be a nay-sayer?

            The breakup of Yugoslavia, is a completely different matter. Everyone who knows the region knew decades before it happened that Yugoslavia was an artificial and unnatural construct held together only by the iron fist dictatorship of Tito, and that it would fall apart as soon as Tito was dead. WAIS has quite a few experts on the conditions and tensions that existed in this area, and this has been discussed numerous times in this Forum. The falling apart of Yugoslavia happened exactly as predicted, and again contrary to the baseless accusations of Eugenio, Yugoslavia's demise had nothing at all to do with the United States.

            Similarly, Andrei Amalrik predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union like only a prophet could. He turned out to be right and far-seeing, where almost everyone else was wrong, never imagining that it could ever occur. Once again, the breakup of the Soviet Union happened not because of influence of the United States. It is certainly true that this breakup was in our interest and we were delighted with this development, but we did not cause it. If anything, it caught the United States completely by surprise, and created a number of thorny issues in which the United States was involved involved in the aftermath. For example the transfer of nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other Republics to Russia. All sorts of guarantees were given to Ukraine by both the United States and Russia for this transfer to take place, which in retrospect were not worth the toilet paper on which they were written. All the promises were shamelessly ignored.

            This has much to do with the discussion on the dismemberment of Ukraine, a major violation of the accords signed then that no one has mentioned yet in this discussion. If I were Ukraine, I would conclude bitterly that the country should have maintained control of its nukes, which might very well have avoided the disgraceful shameful acts of war and aggression that Russia committed against the sovereign territory of its neighbor and former Republic.

            Going back to ethnic origin, I reaffirm that ethnic background does not determine nor should necessarily determine borders. The United States is the most successful example of a multi-ethnic society in the world, but not the only one. Very successful multi-ethnic countries include also Brazil, Switzerland and Israel for example. It should be a reason of pride for our success in this area, a success that is being undermined by the president that we currently have, shame on him.

            JE comments:  Are the Crimean people (materially) better off under Russian control?  We've seen two conflicting answers today.  Luciano Dondero this morning said yes, and now Istvan Simon argues the opposite.  What gives?

            A related question:  By what scenario would Russian return the peninsula to Ukraine?  I cannot think of any.  Despite what Istvan says above, nobody has the stomach for war against Putin.

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            • Yugoslavia as an Artificial State (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/17/18 2:19 PM)
              Our friend Istvan Simon on 17 September wrote: "Everyone who knows the region knew decades before it happened that Yugoslavia was an artificial and unnatural construction."

              In my opinion, Istvan never wrote more accurate words.

              However I did not expect that Istvan could implicitly condemn the silly actions of the US delegation at the peace table after WWI, which per instructions from President Wilson called for the creation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians against Italy. At the time, even the proposal to grant bilingual status to the Albanians of Kosovo was vetoed, stating that such act would have weakened the new state. At that time, Italy was acting as a protector of Albania.

              Furthermore it seems that Istvan approves of the same borders created by the Axis powers in 1941 and the creation of the Kingdom of Croatia, the kingdom of Montenegro, the republic of Serbia, the union of the Albanian part of Kosovo (not the Serbian part as so stupidly done now) and Macedonia to Albania, and very small territories of Dalmatia (formerly Venetian and still populated by Italians) to Italy. The Axis also transferred Hungarian Backa (Bascka) to Hungary, and the rest of Macedonia to Bulgaria, as the Macedonian language is a dialect of the Bulgarian language (or vice versa if you prefer).

              Slovenia was split between Italy and the Third Reich.  This was a great mistake. At the end of war, Tito killed 60,000 "white" Slovenian collaborators, including 14,000 Domobranci (Slovene Home Guard) who had surrendered to the British Forces with the hope of not being turned over to the Communists.  But the commander of the 8° British Army betrayed them, as he did with the 300,000 Ustasha.

              JE comments:  I've read a lot about the Croatian Ustashe and their terrifying reputation.  Their violence against the Jews and Orthodox Serbs is the stuff of horror films.   The Slovenian Domobranci were also allied with Nazi Germany, but less well known.  Were they equally bloodthirsty?  Wikipedia tells us the Domobranci numbered about 13,000.  Did they all face the murderous wrath of Tito?

              So, was the Yugoslavian experiment a "mistake"?  Remember the union's "happier" days, say the 1960s and '70s, when Yugoslavia had the reputation in the West as the most benign of the communist states?

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              • Arming the Sandinistas: A Secret Document (Timothy Brown, USA 09/18/18 9:23 AM)
                I'm piggy-backing on Eugenio Battaglia's latest post to slip into the narrative on Nicaragua some information on how well the other side of the Cold War is doing today.

                At the time the Iran-Contra scandal was being trumpeted in Congress, on university campuses and in the American press, many were demanding that Reagan be impeached for his immoral, illegal and unconstitutional "Iran-Contra" gambit in an effort to support the anti-Sandinista "Contras."

                All support for the Contras absolutely had to be stopped immediately in the name of humanity, by cutting off all US support for them. I find that a bit extreme since, simultaneously the Cold War was still underway and Iran (plus Yemen, Libya, Bulgaria, North Korea and Algeria) were providing military-grade arms to the Sandinistas in overwhelming quantities so they could defeat the Contras. (The data below is taken from an official secret Sandinista Army's inventory that was smuggled out by a defector some years ago.)

                I find the reasoning behind the anti-Contra hysteria of the day a bit odd since, after all the anti-Contra and pro-Sandinistas hullaballus of the 1980s and '90s in order to save the self-same Sandinista regime that's now openly authoritarian dictatorship far, far worse than the Somozas ever were. The activist Left is fully responsible for the existence of the "authoritarian socialist" (the word Marxist is currently anathema during any public discourse) dictatorship in today's Nicaragua--a dictatorship that's killing unarmed civilians by the hundreds.

                Or am I being too harsh on the well-intentioned Sandinista regime?

                JE comments:  See below.  (Scroll down a bit.)  Imagine the 257,000 "fusiles" (presumably AK-47s), and where they ended up in such a tiny country.

                Tim, what can you tell us about the provenance of the document?

                There's no denying that Nicaragua was a major "hot" theater of the Cold War.  But Tim, there's one troubling detail left out in your description of Iran-Contra:  the US Congress had outlawed funding the Contras.


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                • Funding the Nicaraguan Contras (Timothy Brown, USA 09/20/18 3:33 AM)
                  The source of the document from which I extracted data in my last post (September 18th) was brought out of Nicaragua by an aide to the Sandinista General Staff in November 1987.

                  Having published numerous articles and a few books, including my PhD dissertation, on the whole Contra mess, I had to leave out quite a few "details" in my post.  For example, according to now-declassified documents of several provenances, USG funds were expended prior to the inauguration of Reagan. In pages 86-97, chapter 4, in my When the AK-47s Fall Silent (Hoover, 2000) former Sandinista "Comandante Martínez," Alejandro Martínez Sáez describes how he and several other non-Marxist Comandantes had been pushed aside after the FSLN Nine took power in Nicaragua.

                  In December of 1980 Martínez was approached and asked to go to Washington, DC to discuss his possible assumption of command of a US irregular force being organized to fight against the Sandinistas. US Immigration authorized his entry into the US on January 16, 1981. Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981. A recently declassified CIA document lists three PDDs prior to Reagan's election.

                  In 1986 Congress authorized sufficient funds for Reagan to continue support for the Contras for almost two years. Congress defunded the Contra program during Bush's tenure.

                  From 1986 through most of 1990, I was Senior Liaison Officer (SLO) in Central America to the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance, both its civilian and military sides.

                  JE comments:  I had to look up PDD:  Presidential Decision Directive?  Tim, do I understand correctly that the Contras received their initial US sponsorship prior to Reagan--meaning under Carter?

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                • Is Ortega "Far Worse" than the Somozas? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 09/25/18 6:46 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:

                  Both Timothy Brown and JE have parsed the New Nicaragua, saying that Daniel Ortega has come
                  full circle from his guerrilla days and is the new Somoza, or as bad as Somoza, or words to that effect.
                  I don't disagree, but would they be willing to itemize?

                  The original Somoza (Tacho II, son of Tacho I of Sandino/Yanqui fame) was so draped in both demonizing
                  and dark deeds that I never did get a fix on how bad he really was. They said he owned everything and
                  Nicaragua was his plantation. Would the atrocities have been less had he not been facing a communist
                  guerrilla war?  (The old protestations that it was just democratic dissent are now beyond laughable.)  What were the details of his strangling of real democratic opposition, and how does this compare
                  to his arch-foe (and eventual bazooka-order assassin) Ortega, today?

                  Ortega as Somoza. Can we count the ways?

                  JE comments:  That Ortega is "far worse" than the Somozas is Tim Brown's view (https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&l=en&objectType=post&o=121416&objectTypeId=88742&topicId=88 ).

                  I'll withhold judgment, but Ortega to his credit did surrender power at least once.  (He's got quite the grip on power now.)  I would like to explore further Gary Moore's question about Somoza's treatment of the democratic opposition.  Was there ever such a thing?

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              • Ustashe or Tito: Who was Worse? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/20/18 4:03 AM)
                In response to John E's comment of September 17th, of course you can see horror films with the Ustashe as they lost the war. Otherwise you would have seen films of horror about Tito's communist partisans. The peoples of the Balkans of all political types can be very violent.

                In the West only the most gullible (and the bloodthirsty ex-partisan Socialist President of the Italian Republic Pertini, the bloody fool went to his funeral to kiss the coffin) thought that Tito was benign. After all, wasn't Stalin was considered the good old Uncle Joe?

                JE comments: I cannot accept the notion of historical relativism when it comes to the Croatian Ustashe. Their ghastly track record would have stood on its own, victor's justice or not. I've read that even the SS found Ustashe methods wantonly cruel, inspiring them (the SS) occasionally to intervene on behalf of victims.  To Mussolini's credit, the Italians were known as the gentlest occupiers of the Balkans.

                One detail of Ustashe ideology always puzzled me. They were fiercely Catholic and despised Orthodox Christians, but they embraced the Bosnian Muslims.  I assume it was a marriage of convenience:  both the Bosnian Muslims and the Catholic Croats loathed the Serbs.  There's nothing like the unifying power of...hatred.

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    • Can WAISers Change History? Some Suggestions (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 09/10/18 4:13 AM)
      In his comments on Henry Levin's post of September 7th, John E asked some very interesting questions: "Can WAISers change history?"  "Can we push the UN to create a capacity to address the self-immolation of a country?" "Or more modestly--can we prevent the (literal) immolation of a nation's patrimony, as we just saw in Rio de Janeiro?"

      These questions were related to Henry's appeal to WAISers to more actively participate through our Forum in a variety of relevant and important issues affecting societies today.

      I enthusiastically support Hank's concerns, but maybe John's questions are a little too ambitious.  To change history or push the UN in any matter would be very difficult to achieve with just a few reflections from a group of scholars, intellectuals, scientists and historians, with a limited broadcasting capacity, and whose writings are read pretty much by the same kinds of intellectual communities.

      Nevertheless, to help to build a "matrix of opinion" in societies, to support better individual understanding of ideas, situations and problems, any contribution to spreading the word about the possible causes of problems and situations, contrasting different perspectives, would surely help with eventual solutions.

      There are well-known communication processes for spreading news, realities, ideas, propagandistic concepts, as well as fake news, which are based on exponential person-to-person communication, and word of mouth. These are effective, and if the messages are clear and supported by the reputations of respected scholars or intellectuals, they might perhaps exert, individually or collectively, positive influences on other people's decisions. Surely the power of today's social media is an example of this social phenomenon. I believe this Forum has a great potential to communicate brilliant or clarifying opinions and ideas, as demonstrated many times by what I've read here. So the question might also be, what could be done to promote and broadcast this Forum to wider audiences?

      Of course, there are risks in these actions. Sometimes promoting or communicating ideas in politics, economics, ideology or religion, implies assuming intellectual or personal responsibility and possible consequences. This is my particular case for the environment in which I am involved, but should I choose silence, indifference, or unconcern when there is a chance to at least provide a small contribution?

      Would we not be somehow "silent accomplices" if we remain indifferent?

      JE comments:  If WAIS were to strive for more praxis and less theory, we face another problem:  the alienation of colleagues who don't agree.  Cases in point:  the EU, where we've seen passionate views from all over the (European) map, ranging from appeals for a single super-state with one army to total dismantlement.  Or look at José Ignacio Soler's Venezuela.  How to help?  Sanctions?  Direct intervention?  "Constructive engagement"?  Nothing at all?  And must Maduro go first, or could there be hope for reform within the present government?

      Prof. Hilton always envisioned our favorite organization as a wide tent.  He even enjoyed a good argument.  I've occasionally said that my job would be much easier if we were a single-topic, single-ideology Forum.  Yes indeed, but then WAIS wouldn't be WAIS.

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