Thursday, March 31, 2011

Libya for Dummies: the lipstick doctrine

The Lipstick Doctrine
In the Victorian age, the British once sang – “We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo if we do/ We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.” The Libyan intervention feels like a last reprise of that old tune, rather than a bold statement for a new age. Gideon Rachman - Financial Times

The president seemed to provide little guidance for what position he would take in other, more vital nations in the region now roiled by an “Arab Spring” of popular uprising. Nor did Mr. Obama’s speech on Monday shed light on whether the president would use force in other trouble spots. - New York Times
David Seaton's News Links
We now have an "Obama Doctrine", which after Guantanamo and Afghanistan, might be defined, paraphrasing Groucho Marx,  "This is my doctrine, if you don't like it, I've got others".

This "doctrine" has all the rigor of something that doctors in British emergency rooms call the "Dirt Index", which is arrived at by multiplying the number of the patient's tattoos by the number of the patient's missing teeth, which gives us the exact number of days since the patient last had a bath. This is just a way of making a joke of a bad smell that has to be dealt with.

What is happening in Libya is very simple, but it is connected to some things that are quite complicated.

The simple part is that if we ignore all the R2P (Responsibility to Protect) drivel -- Congo, Bahrain, Syria, Myanmar  etc, need not apply --  perhaps it may be noted that, a short hop away, just across the Mare Nostrum from the wealthy European Union, which houses NATO, America's only real allies; outside the troubled Middle East; this side of the Persian Gulf; this side of the Suez Canal; far from energy-rich Russia; in a country with very few people and unchallenging geography; controlled by a very awkward character with no friends left; a hair-challenged tyrant who is opposed by a ragtag group of desperate and poorly armed nobodies, people who can be bought for a song; just waiting to become a UN protectorate, while they develop "democratic institutions"... lies a huge amount of oil.

"Low hanging fruit", you might call it.

As an anonymous commentator on my previous post suggested:
"At present prices, Libyan oil production is about $185 million a day. Amortizing the development costs of weapons that are mostly exported at $100 million a day for a month is a bargain if it gets you hooked up with $200 million a day for the next 3 decades."
So at least if we remove all the gooey humanitarian intervention cant and as long as almost none of our people get hurt, this operation does make some sense. Nothing particularly brave and noble about it all, but it makes sense.

The rest of the situation, like they say on Facebook, is "complicated".

The American media is full of rejoicing about the shared democratic values of the "Arab Spring", the president speaks soaringly about being "on the right side of history"... talk about your putting lipstick on a pig.

What the "Arab Spring" -- the empowering of the "Arab street" -- means is that America's position in the Middle East, if not totally collapsed, has been made infinitely more complicated. The last thing the USA has ever wanted is for Middle Eastern governments to follow the opinion of their subjects (oops, citizens), as the people of that region tend to frown on "Zionists and crusaders". Supporting "security states" has been America's modus operandi  in the Middle East for many years. The people who own stuff in the region have built their lives around those policies... and they are being left out to dry.
People who had been mainstays of American policies for decades and did our dirty work for us without question are being abandoned without ceremony.  Remaining power elites in the area and beyond have seen that being a lockstep ally of the USA is of little survival value when push comes to shove. And the new power elites that may arise, no matter what ideology they may profess, will have taken note of how little value we had  for their predecessors in their hour of need, and plan accordingly. 

A disaster. Instability in the Persian Gulf is practically guaranteed for many years to come... Certainly the European Union's access to Middle Eastern oil has been made more problematic.

Since it never rains but what it pours, this has all happened precisely at the moment when Japan's catastrophe has taken nuclear power off the menu of solutions for the energy shortfall.

The winner in this situation, is of course Europe's eastern neighbor Russia, which has all the oil and gas that the EU might need. 

Bottom line, the United States can no longer guarantee Europe's energy supply. 

Russia can. 

Russia abstained on the Libyan resolution.

Ironies of history: the USSR has disappeared and Russia has just won the Cold War.

Which takes us to another abstainer: Germany.

The Germans have been taking a lot of harsh criticism for their abstention from the UN Libya resolution, however it may prove to have been a brilliant move.

As far as France, Britain and reluctantly the United States is concerned this entire operation is predicated on the idea that as soon as his air force was destroyed Qaddafi would simply dry up and blow away, fly up his fundament and disappear. This doesn't seem to be happening. As I said in a previous post, Libya's "Brother Leader", is a very tough old bird and it very well may be that he cannot be defeated without the "coalition" putting "boots on the ground"... something they have repeatedly said they are not prepared to do and which the UN resolution doesn't provide cover for. If they do decide to use ground forces to bring down Qaddafi and control Libya the consequences could be dire for France and Britain...  As Max Hastings wrote in the Financial Times:
The Americans remain irritably aware that they have been bullied into participation in a speculative adventure, for which they are obliged to do the heavy lifting, because the British and French cheerleaders lack the firepower. For instance, of 112 cruise missiles fired at Libya on Sunday night when the offensive began, just three were British, and one of those got stuck in its launch tube.
It is obvious that to decisively defeat Qaddafi, bring the post-Qaddafi situation under control so that "free" Libya does not turn into a rest and recreation center cum cash cow for Al Qaeda, American military involvement will be needed indefinitely. Deeply indebted America cannot afford it and there is little or no public support for it. Horrible as he is, Qaddafi may still be the best option: he has been at the same time horrible and the best option for over forty years.

So, if Qaddafi wins his civil war, negotiations will have to take place in order to renew access to his oil (so near and yet so far). Guess which country is uniquely placed to lead those negotiations? The only European power that abstained... Germany, of course.

At this point Germany holds not only a possible key to the Libyan oil, its cooperation with Russia in the Nord Stream gas pipeline gives them a vital key to northern Europe's energy needs. This is added to the reality that as by far Europe's most powerful economy, Germany holds the keys to the survival of the euro and ultimately the European Union itself. So, without firing a shot, Germany has secured many of the objectives, certainly the "place in the sun", which it sought at the cost of ruin and devastation in World Wars One and Two.

As to NATO, if its founding mission objective was famously, to "keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down" as of this moment it has failed, and this Libyan operation is the dramatization of that failure.

Sometimes in modern history these small, "colonial" incidents like  the "Fashoda Incident" of 1898 can be seen, with 20/20 hindsight, to mark a turning point in international relations. It may be that in a few years this Libyan adventure will be seen as such a turning point, the end of one paradigm and the birth of a new one, whose shape we can only see imperfectly now. DS

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Neo-Imperialism of a Future Failed State

David Seaton's News Links
After World War Two, Europe's far-flung empires all collapsed within a few years. This was not because Britain, France and the Netherlands had suddenly lost their taste for their colonial possessions, far from it. Their empires collapsed because they could no longer afford to police them. The United States of America, drowning in debt, is looking at a similar dilemma today. 

The USA can simply not afford to continue in its role as "the world's policeman", if it does, there is a serious possibility that the country will go broke. The choice is between standing by watching helplessly as much of the the Third World runs amok or standing by watching helplessly as much of the USA itself runs amok.
The war to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan fashion plate wreck, is already running $100 million a day. (...) But what's $1 billion when we owe China $1.3 trillion -- and the national debt meter keeps running at the rate of $4.12 billion a day, for a current total of almost $15 trillion. Federal spending is up to $3.5 trillion this year with a deficit of $1.3 trillion.  Arnaud De Borchgrave

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home. Bob Herbert's last column in the New York Times

In short, for the first time since the end of World War II, no country or strong alliance of countries has the political will and economic leverage to secure its goals on the global stage.  Nouriel Roubini

It would be a serious blow to western credibility if, having set out to remove Col Gaddafi, the allies failed to do so. But even success in achieving this will represent only a starting point for a voyage into the unknown.  Max Hastings - Financial Times
In today's globalized world, individual states, even powerful and democratic ones, are losing the ability to control events within their borders. Their citizens find themselves helpless, just like the inhabitants of the impoverished, anarchist-hells called "failed states". The term "failed state" is thrown around a lot these days, but how might we define it?

My definition is quite broad.

First I would say that the "state" exists to protect the lives and property of its citizens and to foster their well-being, so any state -- to the degree that it fails to fulfill that assignment -- is a "failed state".

The Oscar winning documentary, "Inside Job" whose trailer tops this page, is a portrait of what appears to be a rich man's "Somalia".  One is surprised by the degree of corruption at the highest level of American government both past and present and even a surprising level (for me at least) of corruption in the intellectual elite of America's most prestigious universities.

Could America ever become a failed state or is that something that only happens to the backward and the primitive?

Many readers will automatically think of  pirate-ridden Somalia, when the words "failed state" flash upon the screen, but "Wiemar Germany", might be a more relevant example of the dangers America and others in the developed world, might be facing going forward.

When studying  the rise of Nazism in the Wiemar Republic, people often attribute it to some diabolic genius on Adolf Hitler's part, genius being by definition exceptional, unrepeatable and therefore inexplicable. On the contrary, I think that what makes studying the Nazi period useful and interesting is that Hitler was anything but a genius.

Qaddafi, the new "Hitler du Jour"
I think that instead of being a genius, Hitler was a fool. What other word than "fool" could be used to describe somebody who would declare war simultaneously on both the USSR and the USA, when even a drooling idiot would know that to defeat one of them you would have to be an ally of the other. No, Adolf Hitler was no genius and I would maintain that the world is crawling with people like him:  strutting narcissists, filled with delusions of grandeur, creeps, who if all it took was to simply press a button, would kill millions of their fellow men and women several times a day with intense pleasure.

So, when the drums are beating for war and  the drummers compare Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad, Qaddafi, or whomsoever it is this week, to Hitler, in a sense they are right, but the important thing is not in the similarities of their criminal bestiality to Hitler's or to a serial killer of prostitutes for that matter, but the dissimilarities between their tinpot countries and an intellectual, economic and cultural powerhouse like Germany.

The real question for me about Hitler's rise has always been: what objective social and economic conditions were required for a people who had produced Johann Sebastian Bach,  Dürer, Meister Ekhart, Goethe, Kant, Hegel and dozens of others of similar stature, to entrust their lives, fortunes and futures to a bizarre, chaplinesque, psychotic; a failed painter of watercolors: a foreigner from Vienna. In short, if it could happen in a country like that it could happen anywhere given similar conditions of collapse.

My view of this is that only some sort of  political Acute Immune Deficiency Syndrome could open the door to such a man as Hitler in such a country as Germany. It is that form of political AIDS that we have to worry about today, not the individuals who appear when the syndrome is rampant or even the precise ideology they profess when they appear. As I say, the streets are full of bizarre people with vicious fantasies, just as in the same way that our bodies are all infested with a myriad of exotic viruses and germs, which only our healthy immune systems manage to keep at bay. Even in the best of times America produces some very crazy people, so if the bottom ever falls out of the dollar... We are playing with fire.

The lesson of Nazi Germany is not the lesson of appeasement at Munich, but the lesson that every country, no matter how cultured or developed, nurtures its own "inner Somalia" and that when a state fails to protect and nurture its citizens any obscenity is possible. Protecting and nourishing its own citizens, so they don't do something crazy, could be America's fundamental contribution to world peace.

Does this mean that we can do nothing to stop violence around the world? No it doesn't.
There are two fundamental  and relatively economical things we could do that could help eliminate untold misery and violence.

Just as 19th century Britain outlawed the slave trade, we could outlaw the conventional military arms trade and just as they did, we could could use our power and influence to convince other countries to help enforce that ban around the world. That would be cheaper and simpler than firing cruise missiles to destroy those weapons later.

The next thing that America could do to make the world a safer, more law abiding place, would be to close all the tax shelters around the world, where the money from the drug and arm trades is laundered and where money goes to avoid the taxes to pay for public goods such as schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure. I have often thought that instead of invading Grenada or Iraq, the USA should have invaded the Cayman Islands.

I am sure that just these two measures would remove more threats to peace than all the money poured down the drain in military expense over the last twenty years. DS

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Iraq to Libya, from tragedy to farce?

MARCH 19, 2011
OBAMA: 'Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world'...

MARCH 19, 2003
BUSH: 'American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger'...(ht-Drudge)
David Seaton's News Links
Is anyone else as bored with this movie as I am?

The leader who has been making all the running in this fine little war is Nicholas Sarkozy and if there is one leader in the "international community" that I am more skeptical of than I was of George W. Bush it is Nicholas Sarkozy... Oh yes, and he is accompanied by British prime minister David Cameron, who is such a political dwarf that Tony Blair takes on Churchillian proportions when compared to him.

Compared to Iraq, this is like a remake of "Gone with the Wind" with Justin Bieber in the role of Rhett Butler.

Here is how Martin Rowson draws it in The Guardian:

All this is happening while demonstrators are being shot down in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen, but why go on? We have seen this movie so many times by now that pointing out all this stone faced hypocrisy over and over again is a waste of breath.

And what few commentators seem to realize is that the possibility of this turning into yet another fiasco are enormous. I don't think many people understand Qaddafi's most elementary mechanisms

He is enjoying all this. He is having fun. 

He has been waiting and preparing for this moment his entire life.

He is as nutty as a fruitcake, but he is a tough old bird and without boots on the ground, which nobody seems to want to put, certainly not the French, he will not simply cave in and disappear.

And they better be quick because if you enjoyed Wikileaks, they'll be nothing compared to Qaddafileaks. This character knows where all the bodies are buried (literally).

And if he holds out defiantly against a combination of the classic imperialists: the US, French and British, for even a few weeks, he'll have the whole third world on his side.

We may end up making him the most popular leader in Africa.

Like I said at the top, I don't know if anybody else is bored by this movie, but I sure am. DS

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Er, President Obama sir.... is anybody home?

Jeez, what a month!!!... The only thing that hasn't happened yet is...
Forges - El País
In short, for the first time since the end of World War II, no country or strong alliance of countries has the political will and economic leverage to secure its goals on the global stage.  Nouriel Roubini

David Seaton's News Links
Even at the best of times, the Japanese apocalypse, something that insurance companies like to call an "act of God", would transfix the world with its reminder of how precarious life is, and how much pathetic optimism lies in the words, "see you later".  But now, in addition, the sinister and invisible, man-made horror of atomic radiation shows us more clearly still how fragile and vulnerable, how mysteriously complex our carefully constructed society is: we are living the terror of the sorcerer's apprentice.

And, of course, these are not the best of times.

The scale and terror of Japan's tragedy pushes things like the Saudi invasion of tiny Bahrain, the home base of the US Navy's 5th fleet, down to footnote size, but the potential of Saudi Arabia's actions to affect our lives could quickly become much greater than any tsunami imaginable. We might be looking at the "Sarajevo" of a war on the Persian Gulf that would paralyze the world economy at a moment when nuclear power is finished as an option. 

A Saudi led, Sunni crackdown on Bahrain's Shiites, could bring in Iran, Saudi Arabia's own Shiites, who are a majority in its oil provinces... and even Iraq to their defense. The situation that developed would no longer be about Iran's nuclear program, but about the rights of a persecuted majority... and where and how America could intervene in such a clusterfuck to any benefit is hard to see. There is a growing air, an odor, of powerlessness coming off of Washington.

Great power, the perception of that power, is there... and then it isn't.
American power was built around a large, healthy, well-fed population, great manufacturing capacity, cheap energy, good public education, solid money, a general national political consensus, a victorious military and a solid and growing middle class. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the USA has attempted to organize the affairs of the planet into a economic and military  "New World Order" based upon that power and in America's image... all of whose elements, except "large", are now, simultaneously, in crisis. 

And this is not just happening "out there somewhere".

What is happening in Michigan and Wisconsin, shows that in the US today, even middle-aged and middle-class Americans and not just the right-wingers or WTO "anarchists" appear ready to take their grievances "to the streets" in response to what is being called "financial martial law" and doing so in a manner nothing like the university-youth led anti-war protests of the prosperous, full employment 1960s. 

Whether in labor relations, or health or financial sector reform, or Guantanamo prison, or the wars in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or the Israeli settlement policies, or Egypt, or Libya, or Bahrain,  the White House appears frozen like a rabbit paralyzed in an oncoming car's headlights.

I suppose though that this ineffectual catatonia is to be preferred to the decisiveness and "moral clarity" of a fool like Obama's predecessor.

Let's face it, Barack Obama won his Nobel Peace Prize by simply not being George W. Bush... It is impossible to exaggerate how relieved the world, and most Americans with them, felt that the most powerful (or at least the most dangerous) country on earth was no longer governed by a murderous idiot.

Not being Bush is a wonderful thing, but it isn't really a solution to America's problem, because Bush wasn't the problem itself, only an outward sign, a symbol of that problem. The problem is still there... with bells on.

Obama is going to have to draw some clear red lines somewhere, sometime, but I think that is going to be difficult for him... it would be like Microsoft manufacturing airplanes... that is not how they got where they are.

My basic reading of Barack Obama and his difficulties remains more or less the same: he got where he is by appearing to be all things to all men.  In this he is a genius... I have never ever seen such footwork before. Comparing Obama's powers of triangulation to Bill Clinton's or Tony Blair's is like comparing Einstein to your high school algebra teacher. But finally, he is going to have to play the ball where it lies. To do that, however, would be to betray his very nature, his strategy of life, which is ambiguity.

He may soon find himself in a great war, plus a great depression, without ever really understanding how it happened to him. DS

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eleonore Weil's Alphabet

David Seaton's News Links

I just ran up this video of my wife's art work. I hope all you newslinkers will enjoy it. DS

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Arab Spring is 1989? Whose 1989?

Barack Obamachev
In the last decade, America has tried applying our individualistic narrative to the Middle East. Now, as the people in multiple countries there struggle to take greater control for themselves, we want to see our story play out in their efforts, and we worry that it won't. Sheena Iyengar - CNN

Recognize that the last few generations of America's bipartisan leadership have ruined the domestic economy and brought us to war at every turn overseas.  Regarding what is to be done about the Muslim world, we should bend every effort to fix our oil problem and then adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy toward the Muslim world. What we want is Muslims killing Muslims, and Muslims killing Israelis. A pox on both their houses.  Michael Scheuer - Washington Post

"The Arab Spring is also a Western Winter." 

"Do we really want to adopt another Muslim country?"
Patrick J. Buchanan

“To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal”.
Henry Kissinger
David Seaton's News Links
Once, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was told that the execrable dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, was a S.O.B., he famously replied, "yes, but he is our S.O.B.".

I wonder if anyone but me has noticed that in the Middle East -- so well stocked with S.O.B.s of every type, size and condition -- it seems that only our S.O.B.s are losing their jobs. Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran are quiet and Qaddafi is showing little sign of going gracefully or even of going at all. No, it is the dictators called -- until the day before yesterday -- "moderates" whose thrones or whatever are seen to be shaky or up for grabs.... as Kissinger said, being an enemy of the USA can be dangerous for sure, but serving America's interests is worth bubkes when push comes to shove.

Quite a few commentators are comparing the "Arab Spring" with the collapse of the Soviet empire in eastern Europe in 1989... but they don't seem to realize whose empire is collapsing this time.

Americans live in such a media fog of self-referential "story telling", still envisioning themselves contrafactually as being universal paladins of democracy, that amidst all the gushing, twittering, stories of the "Arab Spring", this one awkward reality is being largely ignored: that those whose prestige consisted in great part of being identified with the USA are the ones going down, in trouble or already out, yet this may be the most significant element that ties all the disparate rebellions together, or at least as far as we are directly concerned. 

There appears a reluctance to see that the blood soaked but ineffectual interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq or America's inability to get even the most minor concessions from tiny Israel could be perceived as signs of weakness, of the loosening bonds of restraint among peoples repressed by dictators seen to be defending US interests in exchange for American protection.

And there also seems to be a reluctance to see that democracy is a path, not a goal, a means to self-realization not the end in itself, that different people will use democracy to express different things because their cultures and histories are different. In this respect I find the following paragraph from an article by former CIA al Qaeda specialist Michael Scheur  packed with common sense. 
Each new regime is likely to host a more open, religion-friendly environment for speech, assembly and press freedoms than did Mubarak and his ilk. So it will be easier for media-savvy Islamist groups - whether peaceful or militant - to proselytize, publish and foment without immediate threat of arrest and incarceration. Indeed, Washington and its Western allies will dogmatically urge the new governments to maintain such freedoms, even as the Islamists capitalize on them. 
Turkey offers a reassuring example here and at the same time a warning. The vast majority of Turkish people have always been pious Muslims and the American backed Turkish army kept the Islamists out of power for many years. However in order to apply for membership in the European Union, the army had to loosen their control and as soon as they were free to do so the Turkish people voted for the Islamists, who soon distanced themselves from American policies. Reassuring, because the Turkish Islamists show no sign of radicalism and at the same time a warning, because few of Turkey's ex-colonies in the Arab world have either the growing economy or the political stability that Turkey enjoys. Certainly it would be silly to think that Facebook and Twitter have had more of an influence on the Arab Spring than the example of Turkey's steady transition to democracy and prosperity and their sturdy refusal to follow US policy in Iraq or Iran or to bend their neck to Israel. Somehow few commentators see fit to pursue this obvious connection very far.

As America, though tirelessly meddlesome, proves increasingly unable to control events in its client states, the heretofore more timorous opposition to America's policies will begin to stick their heads out over the wall in every corner of the world. Soon inconvenient people and groups will be coming out of the woodwork everywhere. Ding, dong the witch is dead.

At the top of this post I have pictured Barack Obama as Mikhail Gorbachev. This is not a criticism of Obama or Gorbachev: president Obama is not responsible for starting the two wars in Muslim lands or for creating America's supine relationship with Israel, just as Gorbachev was not responsible for the condition that USSR was in when he took charge of it. Gorbachev's fatal error was to think that an "evil empire" could ever open its hand and survive and perhaps that is the same error that Barack Obama is making right now. DS

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What the hell is Rupert Murdoch up to?

"Der Antisemitismus ist der Sozialismus der dummen Kerle"
"Antisemitism is the socialism of fools"

August Bebel

David Seaton's News Links
I am coming to the conclusion that something very strange is going on. 

I come to that conclusion merely starting from the simple premise that a central reason for the world's most powerful media lord being so rich and powerful is that employees of Rupert Murdoch's vast empire are not allowed to do anything that is not productive for Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch, who besides owning Fox, owns The Wall Street Journal,The Weekly Standard,and many other assorted media in America and abroad, is consciously permitting his employee, Glenn Beck to tread rather heavily upon the toes of Jewish feelings; allowing him to cross red lines of perceived antisemitism, to commit transgressions that today would be career breakers for anyone without Murdoch's powerful backing. Following my original premise, Glenn Beck is no more responsible for the harm he does than a pit-bull is for mauling a child... it is the pit-bull's owner's fault, for unmuzzling him.  Beck's master is Rupert Murdoch.  

An example of how powerful the taboos that Beck is breaking are could be the nearly instantaneous defenestration of the fashion designer, John Galliano

Galliano is considered one of the world's most talented designers, credited with singlehandedly saving the house of Dior from oblivion, but a private, drunken, antisemitic diatribe in a Paris nightclub was enough to send him packing. Here is how a commentator on a NYT article about Galliano compared the two cases:
Too bad that doesn't get Glenn Beck fired here, where he doesn't just say anti-semitic remarks in a bar, but broadcasts them via television and radio to millions of people. We tolerate hate speech when the network has a highly rated host who is a puppet for the views of his bosses. No matter that he is a hate-monger teetering on the edges of sanity. Dior is more responsible than Fox or the FCC. -  "Ground Control" (commenting in the NYT about John Galliano's firing)
The people lining up against Beck are not chopped liver, here is a sample:
Prominent US conservatives have begun to distance themselves from Glenn Beck, the radio and television host, after outbursts warning of a looming caliphate in the Middle East and likening Reform Judaism to “radicalised Islam”.(...)  Mr Beck, a broadcasting and publishing phenomenon with an annual income estimated at $32m, was dubbed “the most disturbing personality on cable television” last week by Peter Wehner, who served in the last three Republican administrations.(...) Jennifer Rubin, who writes a Washington Post column called Right Turn, urged conservative groups and candidates to disassociate themselves from Mr Beck. “If they host, appear with or defend him they should be prepared to have his extremist views affixed to them,” she wrote. The comments follow an article by Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of the Weekly Standard, warning that Mr Beck’s “hysteria” in seeking to link “caliphate-promoters” with figures on the left of US politics was unhealthy.(...) “He’s marginalising himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s,” Mr Kristol wrote. Mr Beck dismissed Mr Kristol’s remarks as evidence that a Republican “fiefdom” had lost touch with conservatives and was set on preserving its own power. - Financial Times
But Glenn Beck keeps pushing the envelope. Murdoch has got Beck's back and Beck is as cool as a cucumber. Why?

Off the top of my head I can think of two reasons for Murdoch's evident blessing of Beck's flirting with antisemitism and I would love to hear other opinions, but these are the first two that occur to me for the moment. 

One is "reductionist" and the other one is big and fat, but they are not mutually exclusive.

The first one is simply that the extensive market research, focus groups and private polling that Murdoch's organization must certainly do in order to stay in touch with their readers and viewers may have turned up a tolerance or even a "market" for antisemitism in the conspiracy sodden American public, addicted as they are to wild theories of every stripe. In short, this behavior is profitable. I don't think that Murdoch would ever back up Glenn Beck this way for very long if something like that wasn't already on his radar.

This brings me to something fatter and juicier: the immanent collapse of America's traditional foreign policy in the world's oil-patch, the Middle East.

Here is how Thomas Friedman describes the situation in the New York Times:
Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we’re just at the start of something huge. And it says that if we don’t have a more serious energy policy, the difference between a good day and bad day for America from here on will hinge on how the 86-year-old king of Saudi Arabia manages all this change. Thomas Friedman - NYT
Imagine if you will, that a long, hard fought, Libya-like, civil war, broke out in Saudi Arabia, and its oil fields were paralyzed like Libya's as the country imploded and then morphed from a friendly, medieval monarchy into the "Islamic Republic of Mecca and Medina". A US invasion to prevent that, with pork eating marines patrolling the Kaaba, would probably set the entire Muslim world in flames and the "cure" could be much worse than the disease.  Riots and countless acts of terrorism, all over the planet for starters, would probably just be the "good news".

Any version this scenario would send the price of crude oil into the stratosphere, cause a world economic depression, possibly set off World War Three and for sure cost Rupert Murdoch, and all those who sail in him, a lot, but a lot, of money. My feeling is that Murdoch is moving to prevent that outcome.

How might all this fit in with Glenn Beck's strange, paranoid, fantasy world and the millions of viewers who devoutly follow his every program? How might his craziness fit into the surely ice cold calculations of Rupert Murdoch?

This is what occurs to me:

It may be too late, but perhaps the only thing that could shore up the regional prestige of the Saudi monarchy save their throne (and skins) and maybe cool off and distract the Middle East right now would be if the United States could encourage the Israelis to accept the Saudi Peace Initiative. The plan is considered by most observers as the only serious blueprint for true peace in the Middle East. This the resolution that was unanimously approved by the Arab League on March 27th 2002 and re-endorsed in 2007consists of the following:
(a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194. (c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace. Wikipedia
Now it is easy to imagine how much enthusiasm the Israeli right, those who govern Israel, feel about a plan that would mean dismantling all the settlements, giving back East Jerusalem and permitting a fully sovereign Palestinian state to exist in Judea and Samaria... and making some sort of settlement with the refugees of 1948. Of course in theory the United States has the power to make the Israelis accept the Arab Peace Initiative, but you can easily imagine the sort of pressure that AIPAC would bring to bear on the president, the congress and opinion makers to keep the US government from ever applying anything like the pressure necessary. But, if Saudi Arabia is hanging in the balance and with it the entire world economy, this is getting really serious. America depends on cheap energy, is addicted to it. Anything like a dramatic and prolonged rise in oil prices could take us directly to Kunstler and Orlov scenarios. I don't think that some people, in whose number I include Rupert Murdoch, would stop at anything to keep that from happening.

How could Murdoch make AIPAC an offer it couldn't refuse?

At this point we should let the air out of the vicious antisemitic canard which accuses the Jews of controlling the news media. Australian born, of Scottish ancestry, Rupert Murdoch, the world's most powerful media lord, is about as Jewish as a shrimp cocktail. Any support he might have ever given the Jewish people and Israel or ever will give them in the future has been and will be entirely contingent on his interests.

In my opinion Murdoch is using his creature, Glenn Beck, to fire a shot across the Israel lobby's bow. I can think of no other reason for him to allow an employee of his to offend the Jewish people in such a gross manner with such impunity.

The deal is, again in my opinion, either they don't rock the boat in the US establishment's efforts to maintain America's position in the Middle East by keeping Saudi Arabia afloat or Murdoch will send out Glenn Beck to stand in front of millions of American rednecks and Tea Partiers and with his funny little "professorial" glasses on, chalk in hand, go to his huge blackboard and diagram "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" for the folks.  You don't think he is capable of that? Antisemitism is the easiest, cheapest, shot of all, like falling off a log. As the August Bebel quote that tops this page says, "antisemitism is the socialism of fools": Beck's audience would eat it up. Then, if it is convenient for him, Murdoch will bow his head and hang Beck out to dry... but the damage will be done. DS