The Unknown Revolutionary

Today I was privileged to speak with the man who has inspired the revolutions that are sweeping the Middle East with his tracts, texts and tactics.  A quiet American, unlike Graeme Greene’s hapless hero, he is largely unknown and unheralded in this country, and instead of wrecking the world for the empire, he’s wrecking the empire to save the world and America too.

But to young revolutionaries around the world he is known as the Godfather of nonviolent revolution. He is also very well known to the dictators and the secret police of regimes around the world, from Putin’s Russia where his books are banned; to Iran’s State TV which portrays him as the CIA mastermind behind the Green Movement, now back on the streets of Iranian cities getting beaten up by theocratic thugs as we speak.

Today I was joined by Dr. Gene Sharp who is the founder of and Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution and the intellectual force behind the theory and practice of recent revolutions in Serbia, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain and others to come. He is also the inspiration for the Burmese in their struggle against one of the world’s most repressive regimes and his prolific work has been translated into Burmese, Karin and countless other languages.

While Gene Sharp arguably does more good for America and its reputation around the world than the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon combined, he receives no support from the U.S. Government. 

But he is making history while the U.S. Government fumbles in confusion on the sidelines, trapped in George W. Bush’s fabulous misadventures, repeating the folly that Shelley’s poem evokes, “I am Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!”

As Gene Sharp inspired young Arabs to topple their mummified regimes, we pour our treasure and most of our diplomatic, military and intelligence resources into the desert sands.

While we waste thousands of lives and uncounted billions on the lost war in Iraq and the losing war in Afghanistan, Gene Sharp operates on a shoestring and makes his work available for free on the Albert Einstein Institution’s website.  And countless young revolutionaries around the world are using his nonviolent methods to depose despots and dictators, theocrats and thugs, pretenders and potentates, colonels and criminals.  Toppling regimes like dominoes, many of which our government has long supported.

I hope you visit Gene Sharp’s website at aeinstein.org and offer your support and honor the work of this quiet American who is creating a storm abroad.  Get to know the contribution and legacy of this man who is unknown in his own country but is changing the world.  And who knows, maybe we can apply Gene Sharp’s strategies and tactics here at home and restore a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The Saint Valentine's Day language massacre

 

“And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no, not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now, because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.”

Why do I bother finding the best and brightest experts closest to the scene to analyze in depth what is going on in the world when we have Sarah Palin to do it for us? Clearly a handler wrote the sound bite line that was supposed to be “we need to know what America stands for so we know ‘whom’ America stands with” but she managed to massacre it along with the rest.

And you don’t think she’s qualified to be our next president? You don’t think our game show American Democracy would elect her over a smart and talented black man? You don’t think our bankrupt public education combined with the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs that are being replaced by low-paying jobs in service industries has created an ill-educated underclass? And when times get tough, as the smart black man said, people cling to their guns and their religion.

Maybe you believe that when more people vote our politics move to the Left? But I think the opposite is true and when you add the pain of the recession to the fear of the demographic marginalization of poor white America, you get President Palin, who is just like us.

With the neocons filling her empty head with talking points and the Koch brothers stuffing her purse with money, who will show up at the polls? 140 million voted in the 2008 election that Obama won. Only 75 million voted in the 2010 elections that the Republicans won by default. Will the young first time voters and pissed-off and petulant progressives show up in 2012? Will anger win over hope?

Back in the real world I was impressed by what NPR’s Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos had to say to me yesterday about the secular social network of young tech-savvy Arabs strategizing across the Middle East for political reform. The New York Times has a lead article about it today and it is something we need to dig into. In the meantime have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Democracy dawns in Egypt

Yesterday I was humbled talking by phone with a seventeen year old reporter (in the middle of the world's biggest breaking story) as I learned more from the vivid word pictures she portrayed than from watching days of TV. Bravo Jessica Elsayed and welcome to a better day as democracy dawns in your proud and plundered country.

Reality finally permeated the patriarch's delusions from decades of his mummified rule, when Mubarak's own military showed him the door. Now that he has been deposited in one of his many mansions in Sharm El Sheik, his successor and right hand man Omar Suleiman takes over, with Egypt now in the bloody hands of a torturer, and a hands-on torturer at that. 

 
Transition is the operative word here because the generation of educated and frustrated young Egyptians who led this revolution, will not stand for it if their hard-won battle is stolen from them in back room deals brokered by the same kleptocrats, thugs and courtiers who have been stealing their future since they won independence from their colonial overseers. Obama has clearly been navigating between the call of history and desperate calls from Middle East potentates and demands from the Israeli Right to back stability over democracy. 
 
But Obama appears to understand that our tired Realpolitik calculus no longer applies because acting according to our ideals and not in our so-called "interests", is the only chance we have to hold on to any influence we might have left in the Middle East after a precipitous and catastrophic loss of American hegemony in the region since George W. Bush and the neocons misapplied American power in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Thank God for the American media, and more importantly, social media like Facebook and Google. The young Egyptians are thanking us for that, not our government's mixed signals, today's inspiring speech by President Obama notwithstanding.. 
 
There is also a lesson for us at home as our own conservative revolutionaries gather in Washington at CPAC and fulminate against the very government they represent. Their anti-environment and alternative energy tirades can't disguise their budget priorities that are driven by big oil and dirty coal. They could not be more hopelessly out of touch, as they increase our dependence on foreign oil and cut funding for foreign aid which is what was missing from the quick victories followed by slow defeats we are suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because we did not deliver on the "soft power" we have in abundance. 
 
Also conspicuously absent from the Egyptian revolution was the Tea Party's second amendment solutions. This was an unarmed non-violent people power revolution. And while "the tree of liberty was refreshed by the blood of patriots", the tyrant was eased out by his own well regulated militia. But not only have the American and Israeli Right been shown to be irrelevant as recent events unfolded, Al Qaeda is also sidelined by history. Our values and our interest are, for the moment, one in the same, and that is a win-win we can live with.      

Budget Sanity, Anyone?

Speaking with a veteran Pentagon watchdog yesterday, I was struck by the irony that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs' warning that we are jeopardizing our national security by spending too much on our national security, was not just being overlooked by the press, but is being wilfully ignored by those fired-up freshmen patriots in charge of our purse strings in the House.

I heard a very earnest and principled freshman Tea Partier on NPR explaining why he chose not to take advantage of the Congress's healthcare plan because it came from the evil government, but now he was being gouged by the health plan he's been forced to buy in the private market. His honest answer was we have to get government out of the healthcare business and the first way to reduce costs was tort reform. So it's the trial lawyers who are causing us to spend 16% of our GDP with the worst healthcare outcomes in the industrial world, not big pharma and big insurance? 

 
But today promises to be a beam-me-up day because we will be looking at the new Republican budget designed to address the national debt crisis that Admiral Mullen warned is a national security risk. So we cut a million dollar mohair subsidy, and red line every silly-sounding liberal indulgence as well as zeroing out that subversive underwriter of dangerous non-corporate speech, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and we're king of the hill.
 
Reality check!!! 
 
You're only playing games with 12% of the overall budget. Shrinking the incredibly shrinking prime cuts while leaving the rump of defense and entitlement spending alone. What kind of hollow shell-game is this when you ignore the startling fact that we are spending $707 billion on defense today, that is higher than any time since World War II, more than all of our possible enemies combined, and almost as much as the rest of the entire world?  When we had a real enemy the Soviet Union, who could have wiped us all out in 30 minutes, our Cold War spending averaged $440 billion and that includes the Korean and Vietnam wars. So here we are chasing a few hundred hopeless fanatics in some caves in Pakistan in an endless war against a tactic, not a real military adversary, and nobody asks why? 
 
Ideology is obviously a great comfort to our fearless freshmen, otherwise they would have to deal with the real world and that's hard work. So let the follies begin as more public money gets shovelled into a few private hands. That's the real shell-game on Capitol Hill that's being played in the name of shrinking government. 
 
And who is writing the hymnal that is being so faithfully followed by the freshmen? Chuck and Dave - those billionaire boys the Kochs. You're doin' a heck of a job boys, and once you've got rid of pensions, Social Security, Medicare and public broadcasting, you'll be able to get on with the real project of Americans for YOUR Prosperity, the return of slavery. After all, wages are a cost. And costs hurt profits. And that's not good for free enterprise.