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Tuesday, 24 July 2012



As the world prepares to face another US presidential election, thoughts turn to the likely foreign and national security policies of America’s first ‘Mormon’ White House under Mitt Romney. Widely derided as either weird or a cult, a foreign policy ‘true’ to Mormon beliefs would likely see radical shifts – a massive rollback of American military forces from Afghanistan, reduction of the threatening attitude to Iran, a reversal of blanket support and aid to Israel, and slashed military spending. America would ‘come home’ and experience a real peace dividend that so patently failed to materialise after the end of the Cold War.
But there’s a difference between authentic Mormon beliefs and ex-Bishop Willard Mitt Romney, the Church of Latter Day Saints’ establishment and, it must be noted, the majority of American Mormons. So ‘Americanised’ are Romney, the LDS establishment, and lay Mormons that a Romney White House would differ little in practice from previous administrations – including JFK’s ‘Roman Catholic’ and Obama’s ‘African-American’ ones. And that is testimony to the almost overweening assimilating powers of the American Way of Life – the subordination, or hollowing out, of any beliefs that challenge free enterprise, limited government, American exceptionalism, and US proactive global leadership.  

A variety of dissenting voices – socialist, conservative, and others - are heard in the Mormon community which, at 14 million strong worldwide, is the fourth largest denomination in the United States. ‘Mormons for Ron Paul’ – a libertarian Republican contender for the GOP’s nomination who may have as much as 20% of all delegates at the upcoming national convention in Tampa, Florida - argue that Romney, the LDS hierarchy and fellow Christians have forgotten the fundamentals of Christian beliefs in peace, diplomacy and negotiation. But when Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, rejected US military intervention as a ‘silver bullet’ for global problems, he was met with derision from fellow Republicans and Christians. LDS ‘Liberty’ members, who also backed Ron Paul, suggested that US foreign policy be run according to the Bible’s ‘Golden Rule’ – the principle that “forbids interference by one with the rights of another. It is equally binding upon nations, associations, and individuals…” “Love your enemies,” they suggest, while deriding as “death and destruction” large swathes of American foreign and national security policy.

Meanwhile, the ‘Latter Day Conservatives’ website further underlines Mormons’ authentic belief in Christian values. They argue that Christians should ever lift “a standard of peace” rather than fight wars or exact “vengeance” even for the terror attacks on 9-11, rejecting “pre-emptive war” on Iraq, or a future war on Iran, as Romney threatens, if elected. Projecting back into American history to trace the rise of an interventionist mindset, LDS Conservatives criticise President Woodrow Wilson’s alleged support for a  “world safe for democracy” during World War I, suggesting that “There is one and only one legitimate goal of US foreign policy…: the preservation of our national independence. Nothing in the Constitution grants that the President shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader…. [nor] to influence the life of other countries, to ‘uplift’ their cultures, to bolster their economies….”

Yet, so reputedly integrated into the American Way are Mormons that the FBI and CIA regard mere LDS membership as de facto patriotic loyalty tests. And there is a logical reason: Mormons believe the American Constitution to be a sacred document received direct from God – not the work of mere mortals. They also believe fundamentally in America’s exceptional character and mission. And this aligns perfectly with the missionary character of Mormonism itself. Indeed, the teetotal Mitt Romney spent years in France – and in French bars – trying to win converts to the cause.

There are Mormons, however, who lament the uncritical acceptance among their community of the word from the White House in regard to the dangers to the republic from “monsters abroad”. To some, the broad mass of Mormons appear to be only faintly familiar with the Book of Mormon, the LDS’ earliest and most holy scripture, making them prey to “scheming leaders”. They reject the claims of the LDS establishment, which backed the preventive war on Iraq in 2003, on the basis that it was a war, in the words of LDS President, Gordon B. Hinckley, “not… for… power but… for [Americans’] homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.”
From the Left, The Mormon Worker website not only rejects Romney’s foreign policies on Israel and the Palestinians, among others, but also lambasts President Obama’s strategy - before and during the Arab spring – of supplying American arms to some of the most repressive and backward regimes in the region to put down popular revolts.

But these are relatively isolated voices in the Mormon community, while Romney swims with the tide. Romney has drawn his foreign policy advisors from among re-organised and renewed neoconservatives who backed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and other militaristic organisations – like Elliott Cohen, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, John Bolton- that called for an American war on Iraq as early as 1997. Not for Romney, a foreign affairs novice, the counsel of old time Republican internationalists like Brent Scowcroft or Richard Armitage, or Reagan-Bush I era former secretaries of state, James Baker III or George P. Shultz – who were aggressive enough in the pursuit of American power. Consequently, Romney has veered towards bellicose declarations – no negotiations with the Taliban (instead the US should “go anywhere they are and… kill them”), greater military and economic pressure on Iran, more arms to Taiwan, and declared Russia America’s main geopolitical enemy.

Romney has dozens of foreign and national security policy advisors but his inner circle are reputed to be similar to Bush’s ‘vulcans’ – neoconservative hardliners who appear to think that the Iraq War was a great American victory and that the military budget should be increased by $200 billion by 2016 ( the Obama administration had increased military spending by $200 billion over that of President Bush in 2008; Romney’s plans project spending to increase 38% higher than Obama’s current plans), including an increase of 100,000 soldiers in the military, from five to nine navy ships built annually, stationing two aircraft carriers off Iran’s coast (Obama has ramped up such pressure on Iran too), and installing a missile defence system in Europe. At the same time, Romney advocates cutting taxes by 20%; in 2010, Obama, it may be recalled, retained President Bush’s planned tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The Obama administration’s militarism has pushed Romney to even greater, politically less credible, extremes.

A truly Mormon White House? If only….

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Military Security Replaces Democracy As US Objective in Afghanistan

A glance at the White House document below on the post-2014 US commitment to Afghanistan is revealing: it is some way down the page that 'democracy' makes an appearance, long after 'security' and 'sovereignty' and 'stability'. It is unsurprising in some ways as security is a condition of a functioning democracy. However, democracy is also a source of security and stability, and by downgrading the significance of democracy, even the lip service level that is the usual fate for 'democracy promotion' in third world countries, the US reveals the utter failure of their mission in Afghanistan: defeating the Taliban and its allies, promoting democratic rights, and creating security. The Karzai regime is corrupt and mired in warlordism; its 'security' forces are among the most significant sources of violence against the Afghan people, and the US has just agreed to sell arms to Afghanistan after 2014, as well as to retain troops there for training and other purposes.


Key Facts on U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement

01 May 2012
Office of the Press Secretary
May 1, 2012
Fact Sheet: The U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement
In May 2010, in Washington, DC, President Obama and President Karzai committed our two countries to negotiate and conclude a strategic partnership that would provide a framework for our future relationship.  On May 1, 2012, President Obama and President Karzai signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) is a legally binding executive agreement, undertaken between two sovereign nations.  The President’s goal in negotiating such an agreement has been to define with the Afghan Government what's on the other side of Transition and the completed drawdown of U.S. forces. The agreement the President signed today will detail how the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan will be normalized as we look beyond a responsible end to the war. Through this Agreement, we seek to cement an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.
The Agreement signed today affirms that cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States is based on mutual respect and shared interests.  In this Agreement, we commit ourselves to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan.  The Agreement is not only a signal of the United States’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan, but it enshrines our commitments to one another and a common vision for our relationship and Afghanistan’s future.  U.S. commitments to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation are matched by Afghan commitments to strengthen accountability, transparency, oversight, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women.
In addition to recognizing the progress that has been made together over the past 10 years, the Strategic Partnership Agreement includes mutual commitments in the areas of:
• Protecting and Promoting Shared Democratic Values
• Advancing Long-Term Security
• Reinforcing Regional Security and Cooperation
• Social and Economic Development
• Strengthening Afghan Institutions and Governance
When it comes to an enduring U.S. presence, President Obama has been clear:  we do not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan.  Instead, the Strategic Partnership Agreement commits Afghanistan to provide U.S. personnel access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond.   The Agreement provides for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda, and commits the United States and Afghanistan to initiate negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement to supersede our current Status of Forces Agreement.  The United States will also designate Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” to provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation.
To be clear, the Strategic Partnership Agreement itself does not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or levels of funding in the future, as those are decisions will be made in consultation with the U.S. Congress.  It does, however, commit the United States to seek funding from Congress on an annual basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan National Security Forces, as well as for social and economic assistance.
Finally, the Strategic Partnership establishes implementing arrangements and mechanisms to ensure that we are effectively carrying out the commitments we’ve made to one another. To ensure the Strategic Partnership is effectively implemented, the Afghanistan-United States Bilateral Commission will be established, chaired by Foreign Ministers or their designees.