New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 February 2016
Hezbollah Fears Its Captives
By Diana Moukalled
UAE, India Have the Power to Shape
By Najla Al Rostamani
Why Obama Fails the Leadership Test
in The Middle East
By Marwan Bishara
The UAE’s Ministry of Happiness
By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
Syrians Left To Suffer
By Osama Al Sharif
Moscow: Then And Now
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Can Sanders Spring A Surprise?
By Mahir Ali
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
9 February 2016
Last week, Hezbollah pressured local
Lebanese television station MTV to cut footage of its interviews with three
Hezbollah fighters who are held captive by al-Nusra Front. It’s therefore
useful to recall similar incidents which took place over the past few years.
In 2004, press ethics regarding captives
did not prevent Hezbollah from allowing its media to interview Israeli officer
Elhanan Tannenbaum, whom the party held captive at the time and who was later
released as part of a prisoner swap.
At the time, Hezbollah made an effort to
show that it treated its captives - who it says are affiliated with the
“Israeli enemy” - well. A few days ago, al-Nusra Front did the same exact thing
when it allowed Lebanese reporter Carol Maalouf to interview the Hezbollah
members it holds captive. This interview included efforts to imply that
al-Nusra is treating the hostages well.
In the first case, Hezbollah thought
allowing its Israeli captive to be interviewed as a propaganda strategy was
justified. In al-Nusra’s case, Hezbollah was confused and it pressured the
station to not broadcast the interview with the three captives.
MTV backed down following the intimidation
and only aired a few minutes of the pre-agreed upon footage.
It doesn’t matter whether the captive is a
fighter or a civilian, as balance between freedom of speech and hostages’
rights and protecting them is essential
However, these are not the only incidents
of this kind. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed many interviews carried
out with captives - whether military servicemen or civilians - in Syria and
Lebanon. Media outlets competed over a scoop without caring much about ethics,
which are essential when it comes to such interviews.
Reporters and media figures thus played the
role of the investigator and the political and moral reference.
For example, interviews with many captives
were held upon Hezbollah’s support and approval. I am referring to those held
with the Lebanese pilgrims who were abducted in the Syrian town of Azaz by a
Syrian opposition faction.
At the time, some Lebanese people responded
to this abduction by kidnapping Turks, Syrians and even other Lebanese
citizens. Members of the Lebanese al-Moqdad family, which is close to Hezbollah
and which seemed to be in control of security and media coverage, allowed
several reporters and journalists to meet their captives and interview them in
a very humiliating manner.
Back then, Hezbollah did not prevent any
station from broadcasting these interviews. On the contrary, it seemed to
approve these abductions and these interviews as well as the marginalization of
legal principles and human rights.
The professional problem related to
interviewing prisoners did not push Hezbollah to discuss the rights of captives
or to realize its sin of exploiting its cause for propaganda.
The moral and ethical content when it comes
to media outlets interviewing war prisoners is problematic. However, the major
standard here is the humanitarian interest of the captive themselves and the
extent of confusion which can be caused by information revealed at a time when
the abductor uses these interviews for propaganda purposes.
It doesn’t matter whether the captive is a
fighter or a civilian, as balance between freedom of speech and hostages’
rights and protecting them is essential. This is the general rule. However all
the aforementioned cases did not respect this principle?
Hezbollah was the first to violate these
ethical standards. The group’s fury over that MTV interview is not because it
wants to protect its kidnapped members or defend their rights and interests.
The problem is that this interview,
regardless of its content and whether the captives’ statements are sincere or
being made under pressure, enables Hezbollah to make its agenda tolerated on political,
security and moral fronts.
Ever since the party began fighting in
Syria alongside the Assad regime, it has imposed a media blackout on its
involvement in the war there. Hezbollah wants to keep this status quo, and it
even wants all the funerals for the fighters who died in Syria to remain quiet.
Hezbollah wants to continue preventing the
media from talking to these fighters’ families and wants the shattered homes to
settle with grieving and lamenting their loss without much fuss in the media.
Morally speaking, one cannot overcome the
circumstances of the interview with Hezbollah’s captives or settle with its
content; however, Hezbollah’s panic and pressure on the television station are
what actually require questioning and shedding light on.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television
and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel.
Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of
“Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world
and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She
currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for
Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and
documentaries for Reuters TV.
UAE, India Have The Power To Shape The
February 10, 2016
Trade and history are no longer the binding
elements between the two countries
As the UAE grew in strength as an important
emerging power in the region, so did its outlook and horizon in terms of its
relations with other countries. It is from this position of strength that the
UAE is actively charting out - on a global scale - for a broad spectrum of
links, including those with regional and international powers. Constructing
such bridges comes as a natural progression for a country that has become more
proactive, vocal, and most importantly, aware of the shifting regional and
Steadfastly, confidently, and building on
openness and cooperation, the UAE's foreign policy today aims at a focused
strategy. Such an approach means that looking East has become as vital as it
has been historically in looking towards the West. Hence, it was only natural
that relations towards countries of power like China, Russia, and now India are
It is, therefore, within this context that
UAE-India relations should be viewed. As His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed
Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE
Armed Forces, commences one of the most significant foreign visits, it is
important to view UAE-India relations from a perspective of what it can achieve
in the future, rather than just be confined to the past.
Historically, even in the pre-oil era, the
Arabian Gulf and India established relations via travel and trade. This created
deep-rooted connections between the geographically distant regions - one that has
survived the march of time.
With the economic boom that was brought
about by oil discoveries, the relationship has been governed more so by the
commercial supply and demand economics. The Arabian Gulf countries have been a
destination for thousands of blue collar workers who had flooded the region to
join a labour force that was tasked, alongside others, in building massive
infrastructure - one that constituted a basis for a modern state. In return,
billions of earnings were repatriated back as India also became a recipient of
a predominantly regionally provided oil. The UAE, of course, was no exception
wherein trade relationships had strengthened over time as each side benefited
economically from each other.
But the circumstances today have vastly
changed, not just for the UAE, but also for India as well. What each country
has achieved over the decades has transformed its stance and status amongst
nations. Furthermore, the geopolitical environment both in the region and
globally has shifted on a variety of scales.
For one thing, the region has witnessed the
occasional syndrome of withdrawal by a major superpower. The US chose over the
past few years an approach of either non-interference or a remote control hands
off policy approach with regards to several burning issues in the Middle East.
What seemed like an 'on-off on-again' style created a vacuum that opened the
doors for other destructive forces to step in. The region no longer belongs to
a single hegemonic power; and the players are in abundance. At times, this was
a blessing, yet on several occasions a curse as well.
Hence, when it comes to relations between
the UAE and India, the simplistic trade exchange is no longer the only binding
element between the two countries. To confine the relationship to this decades
old structure underestimates as much as undermines how complex both the UAE and
India have evolved as nations of power.
It is within this context that India can
step in and strengthen its relations with the UAE and the rest of the Gulf
countries. This offers an opportunity for it to play a positive part - one that
goes beyond the limited historical role. It has a strong standing in Asia and
with several south Asian countries, in addition to a significant presence
within a wide range of international organisations. More importantly, no other
country is better poised than the UAE when it comes to explaining and
presenting the Arab stance and position on a plethora of issues and problems
that are facing the Arab world today. It has established over the past few
years, a solid external outreach - one that has enabled it to become a country
that can be counted upon in the region.
The UAE has set course on several ambitious
programs in the fields of space exploration, development of education, arts and
culture, technology, and renewable energy, to name a few. The areas of
cooperation between the UAE and India is, therefore, poised to be one of
strength for both nations as they have proficiencies that can be shared and
learnt from each other.
Najla Al Rostamani is a UAE-based columnist and media consultant with
interests in local and international socio-political affairs
Why Obama Fails the Leadership Test in the
08 Feb 2016
I'll be writing plenty about US foreign
policy in the next few weeks as there is a lot to say about Barack Obama's
two-term presidency, and there are various ways to scrutinise his approach to
the greater Middle East, be it strategic, political, ideological or even
For starters, I'd like to focus on what
struck me this past weekend listening to the Republican debate on leadership.
And by that I don't mean their bombastic bull***t about making the US
"great again" through more bombing of the Middle East, or their
Once you've gone beyond the scripted
speeches, sound bites and cliches, you'll notice how the debate about
leadership is primarily divided between the three governors and two senators,
the other two weasels, Donald Trump and Ben Carson notwithstanding.
All-Talk, No-Walk Senators
Governor Chris Christie was explicit about
the difference between being a governor and a senator candidate for the
During their heated exchange, the New
Jersey governor bashed Senator Marco Rubio as another Washington show horse
from the US Senate.
According to the Washington Post, Christie
"owned" the senator when he ridiculed his stump 25-second speeches
and contrasted Rubio's Senate speech-making with his own record as a governor who
had to solve real problems.
They might appear sharp and controversial,
even hostile on C-Span ... but in the hallways these back-slapping men are the
best of friends.
"When you're president of the US, when
you're a governor of a state, the memorised 30-second speech where you talk
about how great America is at the end of it doesn't solve one problem for one
person," said the hack-and-slash governor.
"Every morning when a US senator wakes
up, they think about what kind of speech can I give, or what kind of bill can I
drop?" the New Jersey governor lamented. "Every morning, when I wake
up, I think about what kind of problem do I need to solve for the people who
actually elected me. It's a different experience."
And in the previous debate, Christie joked
some more: "I agree with what Senator Rubio said himself. He said just two
weeks ago senators and congressmen can’t solve America's problems. I couldn't
agree with him more."
Joking aside, not all
senators-come-presidents can be judged solely on these grounds. The US has had
16 of them, including Richard Nixon, who was anything but indecisive and an
all-but-convicted war criminal. The same goes for governors, and I don't only
mean Christie's poor record. Look at George Bush. Need I say more?
So why is any of that relevant to US
foreign policy, notably in the Middle East, and more particularly, Syria, Iraq
and Palestine, for example?
Senators Obama and co.
With Christie's words about
"all-talk-no-action" in mind, notice that Obama and his two
secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, as well as his vice
president, Joe Biden, were all senators, the last two serving for two or three
decades, respectively. Not forgetting the ill-fated secretary of defence,
Senator Chuck Hagel.
Democratic US presidential candidate
Hillary Clinton [REUTERS]
Their capacity for talking so much and
saying so little is astonishing. Their verbosity is unpalatable.
Obama, a "commander-in-speech" in
his own right, can take on any crowd,
preferably with prompter with unmatched skill and wit, to deliver one sermon
after another, be it in Cairo, Istanbul, Jerusalem, or Oslo, Prague, and the
His inspirational speeches promised a new
world, but his policies, or lack thereof, deliver more or less the same old and
tired world, and more chaotic.
He might have ended the US war in Iraq in
one way and signed a nuclear deal with Iran, but his inaction in Iraq, Syria,
Egypt, etc, have made matters far worse than when he took office.
I don't mean he should have intervened
militarily on the ground to remove dictators. Rather, acted decisively, both
diplomatically and strategically, to prevent genocide in Syria, such as by
establishing a no-fly zone along with Turkey and others. Or by limiting the
Iranian intervention in Iraq and the rise of a sectarian regime in Baghdad
under Nouri al-Maliki.
Certainly by pressuring Israel to end its
occupation and punishing General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for his coup d'etat and
It's perhaps telling that after taking its
time to take a stand on Egypt's military coup, the Obama administration
concluded: "We have determined that we don't need to make a
To solve all these urgent crises and end
the bloodshed, some of which Washington helped to start, Kerry reckons all we
need to do to get things done is to talk the hell out of them. All you need to
do to get enemies to kiss and make up is to get the protagonists into a room
and talk them through it. That's what they do in the Senate.
The Kings Of Pork
Unfortunately, there's more to the Senate
political culture than just talk. Senators - or "the kings of pork",
as they have been called - always ask what's in it for them before delivering
any speech, taking any action or passing a law.
Senators ... always ask what's in it for
them before delivering any speech, take any action or pass a law.
To them, "special interests" come
first, constituency second, and the country a distant third. What's good for
the world beyond their borders counts very little, if at all.
And regardless of their differences, they
always act with such camaraderie and complicity among themselves.
They might appear sharp and controversial,
even hostile on C-Span, the network dedicated to their stump speeches, but in
the hallways these back-slapping men are the best of friends.
Take no risks; better to be safe than
sorry. And you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, should be the US Senate
This political culture goes a long way to
explaining the foreign policy mentality of the Obama administration, whose slogan
has long been "Don't do stupid sh*t".
This comes from the guy who wrote The
Audacity of Hope, and whose campaign was based on the slogan "Yes, we
Call me idealistic, but I think leaving
hundreds of thousands of Syrians to die in vain is stupid sh*t.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice
president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, surprised the World
Government Summit held in Dubai this week when he announced major structural
changes in the government. One of the most noteworthy was the creation of a
Ministry of Happiness.
Upon first hearing of it, the idea might
seem odd; however, it falls within the context of an existing idea in the UAE.
Many might be unaware that in 2014 Dubai
officially launched a “Happiness Index Application” for 14 governmental
entities. It provides government agencies with a smart tool to “measure
happiness” on websites, tablets and iPhones.
At the time, the initiative was unusual
since such indicators are usually linked to figures dealing with growth rates.
The application was thus definitely out of the box.
Measuring happiness on an annual or
quarterly basis did not meet the requirements of a rapidly-changing world and
expectations indicated that happiness should be monitored daily, Sheikh
Since then, there has been a central
network that monitors the Happiness Index and sends daily reports to
decision-makers about the situation in specific geographical and governmental
areas. The aim is to provide desired services to boost people’s happiness. The
Happiness Index is a change since it focuses on people’s happiness and comfort.
It is true that even in countries with high
growth rates and healthy economies, citizens may be unhappy.
In 2012, the United Nations adopted
indicators for measuring people’s happiness. An annual guide was issued, which
ranked countries in order according to their rates of happiness. This was
carried out in cooperation with global research centers.
The indicators depend on education,
economy, public management, health, security, positive relationships, freedom
The measurement of happiness is essential
as happiness is obviously what people desire and strive for.
Frustrated people reflect negative views of
society; hence, there is a decline in innovation and productivity, which can
give room for the growth of extremism and terrorism.
A wealthy state does not necessarily mean
great happiness; in fact, the opposite may be the case.
According to the UN Happiness Guide, people
in Scandinavian countries are the happiest while other similar countries are
way down on the list.
In other words, rich people are not
necessarily the happiest; there are people who have lower incomes but are
Venezuela was first to introduce a Social
Happiness Ministry, but its primary focus is on old people and special social
programs for them.
The new ministry in the UAE is linked to
several indicators that measure people’s satisfaction and happiness regardless
of their jobs or nationalities.
It is vital for Arab countries to invest in
indicators of happiness and link them to the performance evaluation of
ministries. They must also promote cultures of happiness built on love, peace
and dialogue thus enabling citizens to live in happiness and dignity.
The World Government Summit brought
together a large number of officials, intellectuals and researchers who spoke
the language of the future.
They enumerated the challenges that face
governments. Not only did they offer solutions but they also talked about
creative ideas that will take societies to new and improved levels. A vital
decision was made to change the summit from a global event into a global
organization that works throughout the year and focuses on future prospects in
Mohammed Al-Gergawi, minister of Cabinet
Affairs and chairman of the World Government Summit’s organizing committee,
said that the aim of the event was to answer future questions and work on the
necessary knowledge to prepare governments to face challenges in the near and
distant future. This requires that governments let go of bureaucracy and
encourage innovation, development and competence.
The experience of the Ministry of Happiness
will be an important marker in the development of management and putting humans
as the main axis of developmental projects. If governments succeed in creating
happiness for their people, they will guarantee stability and growth and will
take governmental work to a whole new and much sought-after level.
The collapse of the preparatory round of
Geneva 3 talks last week was expected. The government delegation was not ready
to acquiesce to opposition demands that the humanitarian clauses of UN Security
Council resolution on Syria 2254 be implemented in order to create the right
conditions for serious talks. Nor was it ready to discuss cease-fire terms.
But what was especially shocking is the
fact that regime forces, supported by heavy aerial bombardment by Russian jets,
had intensified their offensives in the Aleppo region and in the southern
province of Darra while the UN special envoy, Staffan Di Mestura, was
attempting to launch the political process. Russia, which had pushed for the
convening of Geneva 3, had derailed that political process.
So what does Russia want? It is now clear
that Moscow’s only concern is to secure military victories for the Damascus
regime before serious negotiations can begin. Russia’s actions had embarrassed
parties that had insisted for years that there was no military solution to the
Syrian crises. In fact recent military victories in Aleppo and other areas had
tipped the balance of power in favor of the regime for the first time since
Since Russia’s direct military intervention
in Syria, at the end of last September, the rules of the game had changed.
Russian jets concentrated their attacks on opposition groups in northern
Latakia, Damascus countryside, Darra, Aleppo and Idlib, even when Russian
officials claimed they were targeting Daesh. The fact of the matter is that
since September Russian air strikes were mostly directed at opponents of the
regime of Bashar Assad. Now the fate of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and an
important base for the armed groups opposed to the regime, is about to change.
Its fall, which is predicted to happen in the coming few days, will mark a
major shift in the trajectory of the Syrian conflict.
Coinciding with Russia’s intensive
bombardment of anti-regime groups was America’s gradual but clear abandoning of
the Syrian opposition. These groups, including the western-backed Free Syrian
Army (FSA), have complained that the US has stopped or reduced shipments of
military supplies. US Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly rebuked the
opposition’s delegation for walking out of Geneva 3 talks in protest of Russian
The strategic shift in the balance of power
in Syria has alarmed key regional players such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Government forces are few kilometres from borders with Turkey and if their
advances go unchecked they will soon cut all supply routes to opposition
groups. Ankara is also worried about US support of Syrian Kurdish groups, whose
fighters are now engaging Daesh in north-eastern Syria.
Saudi Arabia, which has supported the
political process and helped unify the Syrian opposition, now sees Iranian
influence quickly expanding in Syria. Riyadh is also puzzled by the US position
and its apparent abandonment of Syrian rebel groups. Local analysts now believe
Washington has delivered Syria to the Russians and Iranians while claiming to
be focusing its attention on fighting Daesh in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Changing military and political realities
have encouraged the Saudis to declare that they are willing to participate in a
ground campaign to fight Daesh in Syria. The Saudi move, which has obviously
annoyed the Iranians and sent shock waves in Damascus, represents a critical
development in the course of the Syrian crisis.
Weakening and dividing the Syrian
opposition has always been a Russian objective. Securing Aleppo and other
strategic areas will strangulate Assad’s opponents and pave the way for a
humiliating concession once and if both sides meet at the negotiation table.
For both Washington and Moscow the fate of Assad is no longer part of the
political process. And sadly the objectives of the five-year-old Syrian
uprising, which had cost hundreds of thousands of lives, no longer matter to
most parties in the international community.
If a second round of Geneva 3 does take
place later this month the geopolitical conditions would be different. Assad’s
forces, backed by Iran, would have made major gains and the regime’s readiness
to yield to any conditions would be faint. That would seal the fate of the
political process and debunk the myth that there is no military solution to the
The Russians and the Iranians know that
saving the Assad regime would ensure their long-term interests in Syria and the
region. It is difficult to ascertain what benefits would be achieved by
Washington through this scenario. It is difficult to assume that the US has a
clear policy on Syria. These new realities are keeping regional powers on their
toes. What they decide next will determine the future of Syria.
Moscow: Then and Now
A recently published book by Syrian Vice
President Farouq Al-Sharaa, who has been out of sight since 2012, describes how
Russia agreed to receive Rifaat Assad, who had a dispute in 1984 with his
brother and late President Hafez over power when the latter suffered health
problems. This means it would not be strange if Moscow repeated such an act of
containing the Syrian crisis by granting President Bashar Assad safe passage or
Rifaat tried to assert control over
Damascus, but a split ensued due to a dispute among Alawites over power. The
situation continued until Hafez woke up from a coma just as forces loyal to him
and those loyal to Rifaat were on the verge of fighting.
The Soviets sent envoy Heydar Aliyev,
then-first deputy premier, to Syria. Aliyev demanded to meet with Rifaat to
know what was going on. According to the book, Hafez did not reject this
intervention and sent Sharaa to accompany Aliyev during his meeting with Rifaat
to know what they would talk about. Afterward, Hafez promoted Rifaat to vice
president but decreased his brother’s powers.
“I, upon the president’s request, found a
decent exit for Rifaat to keep him out of Syria,” Sharaa wrote. “I contacted
the French ambassador to arrange an official visit for Rifaat to France as vice
president so he can then stay in Paris, but the foreign ministry refused to
receive Rifaat. I later made the same request again, and we waited for a while
but France did not alter its stance and this caused tension between us and
Sharaa then turned to the Soviets, who
responded quickly. According to him, they “welcomed the request” and Hafez sent
Rifaat on an official visit as vice president along with a delegation of high-ranking
officials. This was Rifaat’s goodbye trip, along with around 70 of his officers
— a trip to live in exile until further notice.
Rifaat accepted to leave Syria to resolve
the problem, but Hafez wanted to control every detail so he sent Sharaa with
Rifaat to Moscow. He also sent security officials to accompany Rifaat’s
officers, who were being sent to Russia for “compulsory recreation.” Sharaa
said Moscow agreed to host them.
According to him, an argument erupted on
the plane mainly between Rifaat and Shafiq Fayad, then-commander of the 3rd
Division, which went as far as pulling out guns. The dispute did not calm down
until then chief of air force intelligence Mohammad Al-Khuli intervened.
The Kremlin received Rifaat according to
protocol, and they held official talks. Sharaa writes that Rifaat used to
inform Hafez of the details of his meetings, including statements he gave to
Russian TV that Sharaa says he helped formulate as “although Rifaat masters
talking properly, I feared the Russians would employ certain statements that
would suit them, or that Rifaat would reveal what’s inappropriate regarding the
Russia’s initiative saved the regime from
chaos and fighting. When we recall these events, we can see the difference
between Moscow then and today, and between yesterday’s Assad and today’s.
If the Russians had done today what they
did in 1984, and if they had supported calls for Bashar to step down, they
would have prevented a catastrophe. In the end, everyone will realize that he
cannot go on being in power because his regime is destroyed. If the Russians
play a positive role now and support removing him, they will be rebuilding
Syria and their image, and ending this tragedy.
Let us suppose for a moment that, by some
miracle, Bernie Sanders makes it into the White House. How much of his broadly
commendable agenda would he be able to translate into concrete policies?
Among other things, Sanders is keen to
double the minimum wage, institute universal health care and make higher
education free. These proposals are not exactly outlandish even within the
capitalist context. After all, among economies construed as fully developed,
the American variety is about the only one where the provision of medical care
is not guaranteed to more or less everyone. And several European countries have
thus far been disinclined to introduce a user-pays model for university
One can hardly overlook what happened,
though, when Barack Obama sought to somewhat broaden the health care safety
net. Deplorably, he even permitted stalwarts of the hugely profitable health
insurance industry to write the new rules. It was nonetheless lambasted as
socialistic by his mainly Republican opponents, some of whom dreamt up
fantasies about “death panels” deciding who deserved to live.
A death panel of sorts was operating in
yesterday’s first election-year primary in New Hampshire and the political
graveyard was expected to claim several of the contenders on the Republican
side. The confederacy of dunces will be whittled down, as of today, to a more
manageable number. That helps to explain why Marco Rubio was a particular
target in last week’s Republican presidential debate, after coming third in the
The broad impression is that neither the
utterly wacky Donald Trump, the front runner so far, nor Ted Cruz, the Tea
Party evangelist who defied opinion polls by trumping his chief adversary in
Iowa, will make it to the finish line. Hence, the third place that Rubio
claimed in Iowa is paramount. Anyone who fails to measure up in New Hampshire
will come under pressure to bow out. Several contenders are expected to comply.
Expect their identities to be revealed shortly.
Rubio is being hailed by some conservatives
as the man most likely to repeat Obama’s 2008 triumph after Trump and Cruz
magically drop away, even though neither of them is terribly far from him in
ideological terms. And, of course, they may not. But third place in New
Hampshire could count for a lot, which is why the likes of Chris Christie and
Jeb Bush have lately been focusing their fire on Rubio rather than the top two
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is
clearly shaken by the fact that Sanders came incredibly close to thwarting her
in Iowa, which surprised both of them. In her previous presidential run eight
years ago, Clinton shed a few tears after being upset in Iowa by an upstart
called Obama, and went on to score a win in New Hampshire. This time her aim in
what is already a two-horse race is to secure a less-than-double-digit defeat
in that state.
Despite her setbacks, Clinton remains the
favored contender for the Democratic crown, not least because the party
hierarchy and, more significantly, the other vested interests that play a
crucial role in deciding who runs America remain devoted to her candidacy,
especially if the alternative is Sanders — but quite possibly even in
opposition to Trump or Cruz.
And although she may indeed be construed as
a “progressive” in comparison with the latter two, in other respects it would
be just as viable to view the former first lady and secretary of state as a
neoconservative as well as a neoliberal. Citing a war criminal such as Henry
Kissinger as an approving mentor does not stand her in particularly good stead
as a safe pair of hands where foreign policy is concerned, particularly in view
of her enthusiastic approval for every disastrous American intervention abroad
in recent decades.
Sanders has been castigated for his
vagueness in respect of foreign policy, but his lack of abrasiveness on that
front would likely be an improvement even on Obama’s record — and it’s
certainly a far cry from the kind of policies and actions Trump or Cruz would
be inclined to undertake.
This year has been described as a dangerous
moment for America, not least because the consequences of the “insurgency”
represented by considerably more viable “mavericks” than Sarah Palin seem
uncertain to all manner of pundits.
A Sanders presidency holds out the hope of
representing a transformational moment of sorts, even though his worthy
principles would inevitably encounter monumental setbacks. Any of the
alternatives would, at best, reinforce the status quo or represent retrogression.
His remarkable popularity among younger
voters reflects enthusiasm for his refreshing tendency to speak his mind
instead of delivering spin-doctored sound bites, offering a vision sharply at
variance with the bitter and twisted views that emanate from the Republican
side as well as Clinton’s attachment to the status quo. He’s an unlikely
winner, but it may be unwise to completely write him off just yet.