Sunday, 23 February 2014


The situation in Ukraine in the winter of 2013-2014 has many dimensions to it and it is hardly a case of "good pro-West rebels" fighting for democracy vs. "evil pro-Russian elements" represented by the Yanukovych regime (out of power as of 23/2/2014) that not even the Russians trust. A deeper and close look at both sides will reveal that corrupt and sinister elements are on both sides, that there are no angels vs. demons and the struggle is hardly about democracy vs. dictatorship, but rather about a pro-West integration model vs. a Russia-oriented one, both options with some good and many bad elements to them for the majority of the people. The media either in the West or in Russia has only contributed to the confusion, for it is not much more propaganda for one side or the other than it is informational with a sense of detachment.

Putting aside the Western NGO-funded media that sprang up overnight in the last few months to propagate against the regime, let us consider the very respectable BBC World News broadcast. One of its correspondents recently "reported" that the rebel movement is about "the people in the Western parts of the country wishing their country to become modernized, while on the Eastern side the Russians are laying claim to the region.  If only the situation were as simple as that, as dichotomous in a British-style 19th century imperialist sense, if only it were as clear cut as the East-West conflict of the early Cold War, of spheres of influence that the West wishes to carve out for itself, and if only "the people in the Western parts" really wanted Western integration while the people in the East had to contend with Russian imperialist designs.

There have been many articles written about the three-month uprising in the Ukraine, some contending that it represents a genuine popular desire to split from Russia and become a permanent member of the EU; others arguing that it is the resurgence of a new Cold War that the US and its junior partners instigated. There are also those who believe that to bring the conflict to an end for the duration, the country must split into two parts, East goes with Russia and West and the EU. There are those comparing the situation of Ukraine to that of Syria, while others see it as a repeat of Libya that so far has been nothing less than disaster despite the replacement of a dictator.  There are also some who insist that the US and EU have nothing to do with oligarchs and corrupt politicians, are working to promote democracy, have absolutely no interest in the natural resources or geopolitical advantages Ukraine offers, want to promote a Jeffersonian-style system with social justice and national sovereignty as goals.

From the New York Times, to other major Western news media, the reader is led to believe the uprising in the Ukraine is not much different than the French Revolution. On the Russian side, we see that the uprising is nothing less than a Western-staged coup d'etat intended to grab hold of the country by force. There is no shortage of propagandist opinions regarding what has been happening, especially massive propaganda intended to win the popular domestic backing as well as international sympathy. Which side is closer to the truth, if either one?

A nation of 50 million people, Ukraine is a country with enormous wealth in the primary sector of production, mining, agriculture, and forestry, as well as a substantial manufacturing sector. Moreover, the Ukraine is of enormous strategic importance because of the Crimea and because it borders Russia with its vast energy reserves on which the EU depends to fuel its economy.The struggle for Ukraine within the country is not necessarily just one of identity on the part of the diverse population, but also how the natural resources can best be developed to help the country become wealthy and strong in comparison with its Russian counterpart as well as Europe.

Two of the three main factions in the country have decided to support the uprising against President Yanukovich who declined closer EU integration owing to apparent pressure from Russia, backed with financial aid. Those groups are the neo-Nazis (SVOBODA = freedom) who make no apologies about their ideological and political agenda that is openly pro-Nazi under the leadership of Tyahbnybok, and enjoy roughly 10% of the citizens' backing. The neo-Nazis are at the core of the so-called Euromaiden movement that has been carrying out the well organized and Western-coordinated and financed demonstrations in the winter of 2013-2014. Ironically, the US, Germany and other Western supporters of Euromaiden have found themselves in the odd position of supporting the pro-democracy Ukrainian movement by supporting its elements that include neo-Nazis. This is no different that the US and its Western European counterparts supporting the 'pro-democracy' movements in Syria and before that in North Africa by supporting al-Qaeda elements fighting on the same side as the West.

Some questions here are:
1. Is the Ukrainian uprising spontaneous and grassroots or financed and directed by the West that has its target the natural resources of Ukraine and encircling Russia?
2. What has been the role of Western-funded NGOs operating inside the Ukraine in communications and training?
3. Once Yanukovych leaves will the replacement regime be one that is as democratic as that of Norway or closer to the Yanukovych model with a pro-West orientation?
4. Is the issue supporting the national interests of the Ukrainian people or diminishing their national sovereignty?

The Batkivshchyna (Fatherland Party) also supporting the uprising is closely linked to Germany's ruling Christian Democrat Party under Merkel who want nothing more than to have a major presence in the country that Germany tried to acquire but failed in the two world wars of the 20th century. Germany's heavy dependence on Russia for energy can be moderate if the Ukraine were to be divided into spheres of influence in the manner the Great Powers divided non-Western countries before the First World War.
Toward the goal of integrating Ukraine into a pro-German camp, the UDAR (Punch), is led by Vitali Klitschko who is clearly in Merkel's corner, although the US also has an influence here as well.

On the government side is president Viktor Yanukovych who is totally committed to capitalism (crony capitalism rooted in oligarch-politician clientist relations), but sees that Russia has a strong role to play and without its influence he and his political, bureaucratic and socioeconomic cronies cannot prevail. In short, the political and economic elites of the Yanukovych regime is made up of oligarchs and utterly corrupt officials who see their future with Russian nationalism, instead of Western integration that would also entail austerity and neoliberalism as it has for the full and associate members of the EU.

We have in essence a struggle between pro-Russian integration that entails greater economic nationalism supported by a small circle of people behind Yanukovych, on the one hand, and the pro-West elements that include neo-Nazis, elements of the clergy, businessmen linked to Western interests, and corrupt oligarchs who believe they will have more to gain by Western integration. Hardly the kind of struggle rooted in ideology of the Cold War, the Euromaiden movement is immersed in decadent political clientism of right wing forces domestically and international capitalism with US and Germany as its base.

To help drive Ukraine closer toward Western integration, the IMF has placed the country on its black list, which means that it cannot raise credit in financial markets, thus relying even more on Russia. However, even the West is hardly united behind the Ukrainian rebels, as we now know after the well-publicized telephone conversation between Assistant Sec/State Nuland and the US ambassador in Kiev. Clearly, the US reveals that it sees its EU partners as weak and inadequate to deal with the Ukraine in order to integrate it strategically, politically and economically into the Western zone of influence. The US is not interested about how much influence Germany would exercise in Ukraine, but about US geopolitical role to counterbalance Russian strategic and economic influence in the neighboring country.So, is there US-EU policy convergence on the Ukraine, or does it simply appear as such on the surface?

The aggressive unilateralist line of thinking, however, is bound to fail because US using Ukraine as a sphere of influence is like Russian trying to do the same with Mexico and Canada, later in the 21st century when the US will have declined economically and China would be number one power in the world. The logic of US foreign policy goals is absurd also because Russia's isolation by a strategy of Western encirclement would make it very dangerous from a military perspective, given its nuclear arsenal. Nor can the US or the EU expect Russia to give up access to the Black Sea, or even having a role in the regional balance of power, given how much inroads the US has made in the former USSR republics.

Therefore, if the goal is the continued weakening of Russia, whose goal is to revive the old empire in some fashion, then we can only expect Moscow's closer ties with Beijing where policy convergence makes sense as we have seen in the case of Syria and Iran. Is it in China's interests to see a very weak Russia to the degree that the US would have a dominant presence in the Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet republics? How is Moscow to respond when it sees that the West and the IMF immediately propose financial aid for Ukraine as soon as Yanukovych is voted out of power, and the US warns Moscow not to make any moves toward its neighbor?  There is the question of how far the US and its junior partners pursue the strange "new containment policy" before the Russian bear fights back. In case the West pushes too far, Russia could raise the price of gas, at least for the Ukraine and tighten the screws to the degree that the Ukraine becomes very expensive Western satellite to maintain.

I will not elaborate on the amounts of covert funding and other Western operations that have gone into the "staged uprising", which many people honestly see as a genuine democratic expression. History will show that like the uprisings in Islamic countries where the West had a major role, the end result today is not more than chaos under tyrannical regimes instead of freedom and democracy, instead of capitalist prosperity intended to create a middle class. Hardly a testing ground from Western democracy, any more than a champion of Russian-style nationalism, the Ukraine is actually both.

At the same time, this is a country in search of an identity and a path that it cannot find because its elites, from the former president Tymoshenko, served a prison term for corruption, to the corrupt president Yanukovych, to the neo-Nazi waiting in the winds for influence and ultimately seizing power. If only the reality in the Ukraine were as simple as all the angels lined up on one side of the rebels, and all the evildoers lined behind the current president that not even the Kremlin trusts; if only the struggle were about ideals of freedom and democracy and not about who would control the riches of the country and who outside the country would exert geopolitical influence.

I find it very disheartening that the media, especially the self-serving and self-righteous Western media that claims to uphold very high journalist standards is nothing more than a propaganda machine reflecting and serving the interests of the political and sociaopolitical establishment. Not that we need the Ukrainian situation to prove this, but one would think that here is a country that is not Islamic, it is not Communist, it is not non-white, so where is the problem with the western media?

Friday, 14 February 2014

21st CENTURY US FOREIGN POLICY: Is Unilateralism Plausible in a Multipolar World?

1. Is American Unilateralism obsolete?
  Can the US pursue unilateral foreign policy - going at it alone without the consultation and cooperation of allies and other states - in a world so well integrated in every respect, in a global economy so interdependent, a world of international organizations utterly dependent on their member nations, and an ecosystem that belongs to the entire world and not a single nation? Can problems requiring multilateral approach be solved unilaterally?

Is there a contradiction between the persistence of ideological unilateralism and the realities of America's declining power in the world, as some argue, or is the abandonment of unilateralism a reflection of weakness and lack of resolve on the part of US leadership? Can the US as a superpower that experienced its zenith of power in the mid-20th century and has been declining slowly thereafter afford to pursue unilateralism when it can get away with it, while reverting to a multilateral approach when there is no choice?

It is one thing to go at it alone when every other nation in the world is weak, as was the case in 1945, and entirely another matter when the global power structure is so dispersed in the second decade of the 21st century. Yet, the recent comment of Victoria Nuland, State Department official, "F..k the EU" indicates the persistence of ideological unilateralism against the realities of American waning global influence. The optimists about high tech and science might ask if unilateralism makes sense in the age of cyber wars and information sharing, stealing, and hacking?

Finally, if unilateralism entails strength and multilateralism weakness, and if unilateralism is equated with or at least leaning toward military solutions, then is this the best course to serve the interests of the people in a democratic society? Hardliners would argue that unilateralism is best suited to serve national security interests, as they define them. Unilateralism advocates would argue that just as it is justified to spy electronically on US citizens in violation of the Constitution, it is justified to spy on friends and foes, of US law firms and foreign-based multinational corporations. While intelligence gathering is legitimate, only a desperate foreign policy pursues "blanketing" approach to spying globally, a policy concealing unilateralism. In this case, the next question is how effective is such a course when the entire world will become even more closely integrated and the fate of nations intertwined, thus unilateralism backfires and achieves the opposite of the desired goal?

2. Who benefits from Unilateralism?
The foreign policy of a country reflects its broader institutional structure, political economy, ideological and cultural heritage. Just as Nazi Germany pursued a foreign policy rooted in its domestic agenda, or the USSR during the early Cold War, similarly US foreign policy reflects its domestic agenda as well. Naturally, there is the issue of whether unilateralism best serves the broader interests of the majority of the American people, or it simply furthers narrow interests linked to the military industrial complex and the right wing ideologues who prefer isolationism and military solutions to diplomacy as a way of peaceful co-existence in the world. While there is a good argument to be made that multilateral foreign policy when practiced has best served broader interests, while unilateralism much narrower, in either case, US foreign policy will in the end promote the capitalist system and the consumerist values embodied therein.

3. The framework of US foreign policy
America's foreign policy framework is rooted in a European-based model, despite the doctrine of "American Exceptionalism" developed in the course of the 19th century and holding steady to this day. It is indeed within the broader confines of "American Exceptionalism" (= the US is different from other nations, the exception, so it can pursue a double standard of reserving pluralism at home but military solutions abroad to impose its will).  That the US continues to pursue "Exceptionalism" in its foreign affairs even in the early 21st century is an indication of adherence to an ideology linked to how the American elites perceive power. To understand how US policy has tried to balance itself owing to domestic and external pressures, one can examine the struggle between unilateralism the US pursued until the Wilson administration and a multilateral course pursued out of necessity during WWI, then abandoned in the interwar era, to be picked up again during WWII, sidelined during the early Cold War and occasionally revisited as the occasion required from the end of the Vietnam War to the present.

In the age when trading and/or currency blocs prevail, and countries try to strengthen bilateral relations as a means of strengthening their national position the US is in the unique position of using its superpower status to buttress its position in the world, something that no other nation is able to do at this point. Given that the US has a foreign policy framework that is much broader than any other country because it is the sole superpower, does unilateralism reflect strength or weakness, does it reflect forward-looking thinking or anachronism?

4. From Unilateralism to Multiletaralism in the 20th century
As unique as they appear, the foundations of US foreign policy are European-rooted in terms of ideology and ideals based on Liberalism and bourgeois democracy as expressed by the Founding Fathers who were profoundly influenced by the Age of Reason. In practical terms, US policy has emulated the imperial mother country, Great Britain, and supported Europe diplomatically and strategically owing to the reality that the US was created as an extension of Europe. The eminent diplomatic historian William Appleman Williams correctly argued that the US was an imperial power throughout its history based on its behavior in the Western Hemisphere and beyond, and there is no indication in the 21st century has changed the mindset of policymakers, despite the enormous changes in the world power structure, especially Asia’s rapidly rising economic, strategic and political importance.

Once the Cold War ended, the US needed to create a new framework to justify a global strategic presence and imperial policy that would perpetuate its economic and political influence. The answer came with the strategic decision to declare war on "terrorism", which of course is Islamic militancy and takes direct aim at the Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa. The new missionary diplomacy of the US, reminiscent of Wilsonian style foreign policy, cloaked under the war on terrorism holds the promise of delivering "freedom and democracy", albeit at gunpoint with overt and covert military operations, with or without the support of allies and other cooperating nations, in other words, unilateral or multilateral policy.

Considering that the US was the main force behind multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and its various sub-agencies, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, NATO, Organization of American States, to name just a few, it is ironic that Washington would strongly defend them when it serves its narrow interests and try its best to bypass if not undermine them when it sees them as obstacles to its policy. In short, the creator of multilateral organizations rebuffs them because the world has changed to the degree that other countries exercise influence in multilateral organizations the US cannot use as its sole foreign policy instruments as it did during the early Cold War. This refusal to accept rapid change in the world power structure reflects the gap between the reality of US real role in the world, vs. the imaginary role in the minds of unilateralist ideologues that range from advocates of drone warfare to spying on the European Parliament because of "terrorism concerns".

5. Unilateralism in Inter-American Affairs
"Unilateralism " (deciding alone without consultation of the allies, but expecting the allies to assist) in US foreign policy is a characteristic that can be traced to isolationism and in particular confined to inter-American affairs that goes back to the Monroe Doctrine. However, even the Western Hemisphere has changed drastically from the CIA-staged coup of Chilean president Salvador Allende to the present when Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia among other republics are defiant of US unilateralism and have forged new alliances and bilateral ties within the Hemisphere as well as with EU, Asia and Middle East to counterpoise the US role. One merely has to look at the trade direction both ways - imports-exports - to realize that the US patron-client integration model is not plausible in the early 21st century.

6. Unilateralism in the Middle East
Unilateralism is dangerous because the US is extraordinarily interdependent in today's world and no matter what foreign policy decision it takes, there are predictable and unpredictable consequences. Unilateral decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan and drone warfare have proved very costly in every respect. In my view they have only helped strengthen China, and to a lesser degree Russia and Iran. I defy anyone in the State Department or any apologist of US militarist adventures to explain how the US has benefited by the militarist adventures (Iraq, Afghanistan, direct and indirect intervention in Arab Spring countries from Libya to Syria) in any manner other than symbolically demonstrating its superpower status. Moreover, I defy anyone to prove that the US as a whole (not just a few defense contractors) is better off or worse off because it adopted military solutions in the last dozen years, instead of opting for "political solutions".

The US started the second decade of the 21st century with a publicly-stated multilateral foreign policy that on the surface aimed to replace the unilateralism and military-solution approach of the Bush administration in the first decade of the century. However, US foreign policy at the level of public diplomacy only is indeed multilateral and only when absolutely necessary because there is no better option has the US pursued a multilateral policy of working with other nations to solve conflicts instead of going at it alone. Based on the foreign policy record, the US under Obama has been pursuing a going at it alone policy when it can do it and get away with it, and multilateral policy when it needs to do so.

 The US was not pleased with the EU that refused to go along with US plans to become deeper involved in Syria in the summer of 2013, a situation that forced the Obama administration to accept a diplomatic solution with Syria by opening a dialogue with Moscow, while making parallel efforts to end the Cold War imposed on Iran. The futility of US military solution was obvious even to the most hawkish Americans, but they were still hoping that counterinsurgency operations among the heterogeneous Syrian rebels would work out in the end as they have across North Africa after the Spring Revolts in that region. In short, many advocates of American unilateralism, including those inside the government, were hoping Syria would be no different than Libya or Egypt, as though either of those countries has been a resounding success story by any one’s definition and by anyone’s standards.

7. Unilateralism in US-EU-Russia Relations
When Victoria Nuland, US top diplomat for EU affairs, said to the US Ambassador in Ukraine "F...k the EU", she was merely reflecting at attitude within the US government. One could argue that it was just a meaningless expression amid a heated conversation, while others maintain that she stated that obvious US continuation of unilateral policy that the Obama administration is continuing where Bush left off. The issue here transcends the colorful language that Nuland used, just as it transcends the current US-Russia and US-EU relations that seem strained because of a number of divisive matters.

 There are published reports that the US as well as Western Europe have been involved in the so-called "spontaneous revolt" for democracy and desire for a pro-West regime in Kiev. There are unconfirmed reports of millions of US dollars as well as US covert operations behind the Ukraine rebel movement, something that we have seen glimpses from the telephone conversation of Nuland the US ambassador in Kiev. There is no proof, other than the phone conversation and that the pro-West movement has enjoyed the backing of some of the most right wing elements including very wealthy Ukrainians.

However, even in the Ukrainian rebel movement where the US is basically following a pattern not much different than its involvement in "pro-freedom and democracy" movements in Islamic countries, what we discover is that the struggle for power, mainly economic penetration of Ukraine, is best preferred to be fought at the unilateral level first, and as Nuland said: "F..k the EU." Here we have a clear picture of the US cooperating formally with allies seeking the same goal as the US, namely to undermine Russia and its role in the Ukraine, but at a deeper covert level, the US is clearly out to undermine its own allies whose cooperation it has been seeking.

This situation is not very different that the broader pattern the US has been following in the Middle East, and it is just one of the reasons that Saudi Arabia has been so enraged over the matter of US diplomatic solution with both Syria and Iran, given they are intertwined in many respects. What are the EU allies to make of this, other than protest strongly behind the scenes and publicly about the hypocrisy of US foreign policy? Well, the EU would actually have a stronger case, if it paid a greater share for its own defense and if it did not to cut deals from behind the scenes on a bilateral basis, bypassing their partners including the US. In short, the EU countries are confronting American unilateralism accordingly.


Is the future of US policy toward greater unilateralism that many equate with strength and the glory of Pax American, or is the future with a multilateral approach that reflects the new realities with the global power structure as it has evolved? Clearly, the US is unable to stop the clock that is ticking increasingly louder in Asia and it will be centered there by the middle of the century. How it manages its foreign policy is crucial. Continuing with counterinsurgency operations that destabilize countries where the US wishes to exert influence at the economic, political and strategic level does not work in the early 21st century as it did in the middle of the 20th.

Nevertheless, there is a vast network of active foreign policy staff and consultants trying to make a dollar by offering cheap advice that the State Department wants to hear, but with a nuance or two. This is anachronistic and because history militates against it the only outcome is failure. There is no substitute for honest assessment and a realistic approach to foreign policy, an approach free of the heavy baggage of left-over Cold War ideologues.  In a world with problems ranging from climate change owing to pollution, from extreme imbalances in monetary policies that creates disequilibrium in the terms of trade globally, from regional conflicts where there are multiple players involved directly and indirectly, unilateralism is an obstacle and not a solution to complex problems.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Leading up to the Winter Olympic Games of 2014 in Russia, the single most important issue for the Western media was the gay rights issue. Those familiar with Russian society today and the history of the country know that this predominantly conservative male-dominated society has not been friendly to gay people. On the contrary, the anti-gay trend in the country has been associated with the hard-core nationalist-militarist mentality that President Vladimir Putin and other leaders have been projecting as a way of rejecting the pro-gay West. Gay people have suffered merely because they have tried to assert their rights or to expose the hypocrisy of the country that tries to present itself as a “democracy”.

As much as gay rights is a legitimate issue that the government needs to address seriously with anti-gay legislation and strong penalties for those violating the law, the question is the degree to which the media has seized upon the gay rights issue as though it is the sole defining one for Russia. Let us consider just some of the country’s problems and see how gay rights fits into the larger framework. 

1.      There is massive public and private sector corruption, to the degree that the country ranks among the top 10% worst in the world. Besides the billionaire and millionaire oligarchs that made their money overnight with government assets and contracts, there are the billions spent on the Olympic Games installations, which would become a major burden on the ordinary Russian taxpayer. The Western media occasionally touches on this, but rarely because it does mean embarrassing the capitalist West applauding Russia for giving up Communism to replace it with “Gangster Capitalism” that runs through the public and private sectors.
2.      Ethnic conflict, especially between the Russian Orthodox majority and the Muslims of the Caucasus region, is a chronic problem that periodically results in random acts of violence with casualties. This is not to blame the Russian majority for not having resolved the problem of the Muslim minority, but it is a historic matter with deep roots of identity and demands for autonomy rights without institutional and societal persecution. The Western media touches on this issue only from the perspective that Muslim terrorists are as much a problem for Russia as they are for the West, failing to see the history and current politics, economics and cultural biases behind the conflict.
3.      Women’s rights is still another matter that one would rarely see about Russian society, given that under the Communist regime women had actually some modicum of respect, while under “Gangster Capitalist” Russia the state, the Orthodox Church and the male-dominated private sector and institutions have relegated women to a lesser status. Women under this regime are commodities to be sold and traded; to sell narcotics or their bodies so they can survive because of high income concentration; to remain silent before an institutional structure that resembles pre-1917 Russia under the Czars. Where is the Western media to compare the status of women today under the dictatorship of the “Gangster Capitalists” with the status of women under the dictatorship of the Communist Party?
4.      Militarism, nationalism and chauvinism have become major trends with real consequences in society and the economy. That Russia has been relying heavily on energy exports to finance the rest of its economy is one thing, although this will catch up with the country that is failing to diversify rapidly enough to meet internal demand and compete globally. That Russia has been using assets from energy to pour into a defense sector that is corrupt and parasitic is a story worthy of journalistic investigation. Besides military buildup as part of a strong nationalist agenda, the government has been strengthening nationalist institutions in a style similar to what the Czars were doing before the Revolution, and what Stalin did when he replaced Lenin. Putin is pursuing militarism, nationalism and chauvinism that is on the rise and manifesting in various rightwing groups. In pursuing nationalism, chauvinism and militarism, Putin is reviving the cult of personality that Stalin and the Czars had cultivated. The question is the degree to which the Western media has bothered to conduct in depth investigative reporting on this issue and to expose this corrupt president as the dictatorial figure that he is. However, the Western media and governments it serves do not dare go as far because it would mean that they are critical of the non-Communist regime that has a market economy, even if it operates as “Gangster capitalism”. 

Let us assume that Russia was as liberal toward gay people as Holland and the Scandinavian countries. The question is whether this by itself would mean that Russia has absolutely no problem with social justice issues as the Western media tries to project to the world? Clearly, the gay rights issue is a larger matter falling in the domain of human rights and that is a test of any open society, but is it the only one, or the defining one as the hypocritical media has been trying to convince the public? Moreover, why has not the same Western media devoted any coverage to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of gays? Is it because the Saudi regime is pro-West, so no matter how it treats women and gays, no matter the human rights abuses, the Western media rarely covers the issues?

Why is not the Western media up in arms about the proposed legislation of Afghanistan, which under the pro-NATO forces, is bringing legislation that would essentially deprive women in court of their rights against male defendants accused of sexual assault. Is the absence of legal defense against sexual assault on women a non-issue for the Western media because Afghanistan has a Western puppet regime, while Russia is host to whistle blower Edward Snowden (former CIA analyst who revealed the US has been spying on its own citizens and around the world, including on corporations); and Russia has been supporting the Ukrainian regime that refuses full-blown integration with the West?     

These are very serious issues that editorial boards decide when they have their writers put together the news. Why does the BBC and the New York Times choose to focus on the Russian gay issue and not so many other social justice issues within the country as well as comparable issues in pro-West countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? Of course, I realize that the gay rights issue has the kind of celebrity glam-glitz appeal that ordinary run of the mill human rights in Afghanistan do not have. After all, gay rights is historically a Western bourgeois issue, while working class human rights issues like clean drinking water in sub-Sahara Africa simply does not appeal to the Western middle class. This is not to diminish the importance of those fighting for their rights and paying a price for it in the process, nor to criticize the gay activists in the West for their solidarity demonstrations. However, are gay rights the defining issue of for Russia in the early 21st century, at least as far as the commercial Western media is concerned? Are gay rights a “politically correct” issue serving the political agenda of Western governments and corporations that need a way to criticize Moscow but cannot do it any other way without sounding like they are nostalgic for Communism.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


Is there a technofix for society so that humans could live in harmony without blatant problems of inequality and injustice at all levels, from social to racial and gender? Some argue convincingly that there can be a technofix for malnutrition, if only governments worked more closely with scientists and businesses in speeding up genetically modified foods and cloning of animals. Is "techno-optimism" justified because nano-technology will solve all communications problems along with biotechnology and promote a happier and healthier population? Can we save the ecosystem while proceeding toward sustainable development, or is all of this just another public relations exercise about sustainable development that no longer has any meaning because the culprits of environmental degradation and absence sustainability are the ones making the most noise about the eco system and sustainability?

What if the so-called technofix is nothing more than a public relations scam on the part of governments, corporations, academia, the media and institutions that are only interested in tinkering with institutional problems without making the systemic changes that would result in greater social justice with less damage to the ecosystem? Why is it that governments, the UN and multinational agencies such as the World Bank, OECD, as well as corporations, the media and academia place such a heavy emphasis on technofix for society's problems that only become worse as we continue to make remarkable progress in science and technology? Why the blatant contradiction between the phenomenal progress in science and technology on the one hand, and the regression in social justice on the other?

Is it possible that techno-consultants offering advice that their clients want to hear lead to any constructive solution, or is it just another way to make money without changing the status quo? Can science and technology repair social injustice, can there be a technofix for unjust political systems, for grossly unequal economic systems, for decadent institutions? Without a doubt science and technology are inherently positive developments for civilization, assuming they serve human needs of all people and not used to retain oligarchic socioeconomic and political orders as is the case today around the world, including in countries that claim to be the defenders of freedom and democracy. Is society's problem of a technofix nature, or is the problem much deeper requiring going to the root of the nature of the social contract?

Certainly human beings have thought that the methodology applied to science and technology can just as easily lead to solutions for society. If we adopt the correct methodology to solve a technical problem in an engine, then why not society as well? From the Renaissance, and certainly by the 17th century during the Age of the Scientific Revolution, if not by the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century in England and 19th century in northwest Europe and US intellectuals have adopted the technofix approach in varying degrees under the assumption of rationalism. The technofix solution is well packaged by the media, private consultants, government and business that are only interested in placating the masses suffering the injustices of society, while projecting the image that the institutional structure is operating as "scientifically" as possible, and there is no other way.

It is true that there are many people who genuinely believe in techno solutions and do not have a problem going to the root of the problem, whether that is with regard to drinkable water and sufficient food for the malnourished or with regard to lessening the damage to the environment. However, the political and business elites co-opt  the technofixes of those genuinely interested in fixing a social problem, commercialize the nature of the solution and then sell it as a genuine social fix. This is exactly what happened with the so-called sustainable development movement, that today means very little and has changed very little in the world economy. The other related issue to the bogus technofix argument is the remarkable loyalty of the masses to authority and the ability of the mass media to convince the otherwise docile public to accept technofix solutions as a panacea.

If we consider that approximately 30 million people have died in wars between the end of WWII and 2000;  and if we consider that we live in a world of sociopolitical turmoil that political and socioeconomic elites in their pursuit of great control of the world's resources bring about greater social injustice, then we must necessarily conclude that the internet and biotech revolutions operating parallel to the growing inequality on a world scale have not helped to solve the basic problem of social justice. Science and technology in the hands of the strongest governments and corporations in the world benefit those who have the means to benefit from them. In short, technofix does have positive benefits, assuming the individual has the income to afford the best medical procedure, the best living environment, etc. For the vast majority of the planet's population, there has been no technofix even for fundamental things such as clean water because corporations, especially the large multinationals controlling the water resource make water unaffordable.  

Far from requiring a phony technofix, the solution to society's problems is political and it requires addressing systemic injustices that have resulted in disillusionment with the pluralistic society serving socioeconomic and political elites with technocrats offering technofixes as their well-paid servants. What good are all the advances in sciences and technology to the majority of the people in sub-Sahara Africa who have seen European, American, and now Chinese, Japanese and Indian businesses exploit labor and resources? What good are technofixes for the poor inner city neighborhoods of the US when the same poverty-related problems have lingered for decades? Technocrats of all types are doing their job making a living by catering to the political and socioeconomic elites wishing to deceive the public that government, businesses and academia are constantly working for society's welfare. Yet, there are no solutions and the problem of lack of social justice remains.