miércoles, 10 de junio de 2015

Golpes de ayer y de hoy


Este blog ha posteado varias notas relativas al papel de las "ONGs" "pro-democracia" en la realización de los golpes de estado conytemporáneos en diversas regiones del globo. La siguiente nota, aparecida estos días en el sitio web "Sic Semper Tyrannys" del ex funcionario del Pentágono Patrick Lang, es sencillamente luminosa. ¿Para cuando una lista de los beneficiarios locales de estas organizaciones?


Título: Soft Power, or Regime Change à l'américaine


Texto: One commenter on this comittee recently remarked the following: "Ukraine had an NGO driven bloodless coup (kind of). This coup was clearly the doing of the U.S. ... The CIA appears to have a record of incredible incompetence". That is not so, not quite, and that deserves some elaboration.


The CIA just doesn’t do coups anymore

Of course, Bush 43 authorised the CIA do do destabilisation missions in Iran to achieve regime change, so take that with a grain of salt. But today, regime change is largely run out of the State Department. In the 70s, the CIA's history of coups and regime change caught up with it and was met with a public backlash that culminated in the climatic Church comittee hearings.

The politicians who wanted to keep doing these things irrespective of that moved the programs out of sight, and shipped staff and shop over to other organisations and found new sources of funding.

Lest these programs be again interrupted through pesky "oversight" by elected representatives, the new venue needed to be outside the bodies of the executive branch. The solution was government funded NGOs in the mold of Germany's Parteinahe Stiftungen.


Regime change à l'américaine is a group effort now

Today, to the extent they concern 'soft power', such activities are run by the State Department through surrogates - semi official (USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS), contractors and public relations firms or (congenially) entirely private (Soros' Open Society Foundation) and professional activists (OTPOR veterans). This is being supported by sympathetic journalists (providing friendly coverage or joining the fight) and pundits, lobbies (especially the transatlantic ones - Marshal Fund, Atlantic Society etc.) and think tanks (think Freedom House etc).

The semi-independent 'NGO' character of USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS guarantees continuity in the democratising mission even with changes in government. The diverse ideological thrust of each organisation also addresses different different segments in the society of "to be developed" countries. It also provides plausible deniability. Also, these programs may be run by genuine idealists, who are not serving the US government, let alone the CIA, and will not think of themselves that way.

A lot of US support to Poland's Solidarity movement during the Cold war went trough the AFL-CIO linked ACILS, who apparently were far better connected than the CIA.

In a nutshell, these bodies run their various programs autonomosly in a decentralised fashion. In the absence of intervention, they do so on auto-pilot in accordance with the bipartisan consensus (on regime change in Russia, Cuba, Venezuela etc pp), much like on tram lines - and they may not get every memo.

A perfect example for that is the recent case of USAID vs. Cuba in which USAID sponsored a free twitter-ish program to organise resistance to overthrow the Castros - while the US administration at the same time pursued normalisation with Castro's Cuba.


Soft Power Projection at work

That is not to say that the efforts of these NGOs are entirely without merit. But it becomes problematic when they conflate legitimate political work with taking sides in another country's domestic politics.

It is interesting to read the narrative of someone sympathetic to such programs. The author concludes:

"While Vladimir Putin wants to see the dark hand of American spymasters manipulating protesters in Tahrir Square and the Maidan—and triumphalist American accounts of the end of the Cold War have promoted a similar narrative—a close review of the past shows that the U.S. government lacked mechanisms for any direct political control over revolutionary movements in Eastern Europe. The United States did not call the shots. Washington was actually quite chaos averse itself, choosing to promote stable, evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary clean sweep. Over the long term, if Putin wants to keep power he should worry about maintaining his domestic legitimacy, not the actions of outside powers."

The extent to which NGO activities are funded by or coordinate with the US government is a point the author doesn't see when he writes that Putin ought to just mind "maintaining his domestic legitimacy".


The fine line between meddling and legitimate NGO action

Point is, the US, and US semi-governmental NGOs, are not hesitant at all to decide who's legitimate and who isn't. This is where problems arise, after all the flipside of sovereignty is that other countries do not meddle in another country's internal affairs. In such cases, when NGO's support or directly fund groups that make that argument, these NGO's are seen taking sides.

The problem is exacerbated when the US government then im- or explicitly endorses that view. For instance, the US has explicitly called Yanukovych 'illegitimate' during the Maidan, urging the protesters to carry on.

When McFaul, the then fresh US ambassador to Russia, invited opposition to the embassy, iirc even before the first meeting with the Russian president (then Medvediev), what point does he make? Very much in line with that approach, Joe Biden apparently went to Russia before Putin ran for office after his break, informing him that the US felt he shouldn't run for office again. Not subtle.

In light of that general picture, Putin likely couldn't care less through what specific alphabet soup group the US choose to launder money for a given NGO or program, or whether privateer Soros is at it again. On the receiving end it is largely a distinction without a difference. The projection of soft power is power projection no less.

Our esteemed correspondent David Habbakkuk put it just perfectly when he wrote:

And it seems to me likely that in both places, and in others, it will be taken by those most hostile to the U.S. as proof that the 'conspiracy' rather than 'cock-up' view of American policy not just towards the Middle East but in other areas has been conclusively vindicated. Moreover, those with more sanguine views are likely to be, as it were, placed on the back foot.

In using USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS for 'soft power' projection and regime change the US is discrediting NGO activities in general by charging domestic political activity in foreign countries with foreign policy.


The president in full control of US policy?

All that makes me wonder about the extent of control the US president has on foreign policy in face of such actors, and in face of so many independent actors. Take the strange case of John McCain:

When John McCain ran his private foreign policy during the early Obama years, just as if he didn't notice having lost the US elections to Obama, he did so as president of IRI, the International Republican Institute. In that function he went to photo ops in Syria, on the Maidan, to Libya, where he egged the protesters on to keep going, because their government was 'illegitimate'.

As a private citizen heading an NGO, and as a mere US Senator and head of the Senate Armed Services Comitee he naturally does not represent the US administration and what he sais naturally does not reflect their views. Really?

Obama is facing in this permanent foreign policy establishment with its burrowed members in the bureaucracy (think Nuland) a force that needs to be reckoned with. To overcome them will require political will. Will he expend the political capital needed?


The ideological Cold War never ended

Not only did the US not reduce their forces after the end oft he first Cold War, they also didn’t reduce the accompanying ideological warfare establishment. Worse, the narrative that the US won the cold war has led to a general feeling of ideological vindication in the US.

USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS were formed to fight the ideological cold war. They still do that. The end of the Cold War and the democratisation of the East initially gave them plenty of work doing 'democratisation' that resulted in considerable influence and access in these countries, reinforced by these countries entering NATO. But then, there was no mission beyond that.

What would be closer than to expand on the achievements and 'enter new markets', closer to the Russian heartland? That is IMO what we are seeing today.


Freedom™ or bust!

Foreign policy in the US is today being run by ideologues of the neo-liberal, R2P or neocon persuasions. They are simply utterly tone deaf to the reality that Russia would predictably object to them spreading their influence at Russia's expense.

In Ukraine, the US offer was to choose between either the US or Russia. The aim was cearly prying loose Ukraine, irrespective of the sizeable ethnic Russian population in Ukraine, from Russian influence and draw it into the US orbit as a new satellite. And they thought Russia, distracted by Sochi, could be steamrolled if presented with a fait accompli in Kiev?

At the same time the US pursue their low key efforts to unseat Russia's elected government in favour of something different. What are the Russians to conclude from that?

What the US apparently think is that, if not for Putin, that devil, Russia would be pro-US, just as it was when everything was swell and Americans practically ran the Kremlin (and in the process ruthlessly betrayed Russia) under an incapacitated Jelzin.

No matter! There today is just one legitimate sphere of influence and that is that of the Free World, i.e. of those who share the Washington Consensus (with an emphasis on Washington) and are thus invited to the in-crowd's G-meetings.

This blind ambition for expansion coupled with vain self-righteousness just may get us all into an escalation towards war between NATO and Russian.


Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Agency_for_International_Development

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Endowment_for_Democracy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Democratic_Institute_for_International_Affairs

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Republican_Institute

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_International_Private_Enterprise

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solidarity_Center (American Center for International Labor Solidarity)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Society_Foundations




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