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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

‘government’

2 Presidents, 2 Crises

In the past I’ve doubted Barack Obama does 2nd Tier thinking – Obama a 2nd Tier Thinker? –  and wondered if maybe Vladimir Putin does – Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? The latest state of play in world crises seems only to confirm my view of Obama. As for Putin, he’s certainly had a few wobbles in the last month or so and it may be he’s not as in control of Russia as he is usually portrayed to be…but his denunciations of president Petro Poroshenko’s renewed assault on ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, as reported by the BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev, have made him seem reasonable and Poroshenko the aggressor. A 4-way teleconference on Monday (30 June) between Poroshenko, Putin, French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel had raised hopes the fragile truce of the previous week could be renewed – but Poroshenko’s ordering of fierce shelling of Kramatorsk dashed such hopes. Even in late Wednesday’s announcement that the foreign ministers of the 4 countries were working on steps for a new ceasefire, the Russians appeared more reasonable than the Ukrainians. As reported by BBC News (2014b), Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin, was all demands, including the release of hostages and security of its… Read More

Has Vlad played a Blinder?

Was the Russian takeover of Crimea daring RED opportunism that took advantage of ethnic tensions in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea exacerbated by the new Kiev government’s apparent willingness to discriminate against ethnic Russians…? Or was it 2nd Tier-level strategic thinking that had been working towards this potential outcome, while balancing a whole load of other issues, and was ready to move when the time was right…? Last Summer I speculated Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker? and was rebuffed by some complex thinkers who saw Vladimir Putin more as a ‘wily’ RED-driven opportunist who seized his moment. Yet it has stayed with me just how tactical and strategic Putin was. He rescued Barrack Obama from the corner he had painted himself into with his ‘red line’ announcements about Syria and became the hero of the Summer by levering Bashir al-Assad into agreeing to give up his chemical weapons. Yet Putin’s solution allowed Russia’s client, Assad, to continue his brutal and ruthless war with conventional weapons. Syria only makes the headlines occasionally these days but the daily slaughter grinds relentlessly on. The West remains directionless and indecisive about Syria but increasingly less inclined to support the rebels as they become increasingly more dominated… Read More

What Kind of Endgame? What Kind of Syria?

Of course, you can find a steady drip of news from Syria if you look for it; but there haven’t been that many front page headlines about the Syrian conflict since the US stepped back from the brink of a missile attack in the Summer. Under tentative Russian protection, the Syrian Government appears to have co-operated fully with the United Nations weapons inspectors who are reported to be making good progress (BBC News, 2013b) While no one should underestimate how dangerous the inspectors’ task is – and they haven’t yet been able to access some sites which are in highly-contested areas – their success has been without the kind of nightmare casualties I envisaged in Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker. (The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus (2013b) was just one expert who foresaw similar scenarios.) So far the weapons inspectors have done remarkably well, the Syrian Government is credited with meeting its obligations to the UN Security Council and Vladimir Putin with getting them to do that…and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Given the commercial media’s RED/ORANGE rapacious appetite for new and exciting events to draw in the audience, it’s not too surprising the media’s attention has largely gone elsewhere.… Read More

Could the Increased Islamist Presence provide a Way Out of the Syrian Impasse?

In the wake of the Russo-American agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons, the war rumbles on, with a daily litany of shelling of civilians, torture, rape, murder and summary executions beyond the normal carnage of government soldiers and rebels butchering each other on whatever street, field or town square is their latest battlefield. Especially given the short timeframe for the identification, acquisition and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United Nations’ weapons inspectors have a truly daunting task ahead of them. A task the diplomats and the politicians may not appreciate the difficulty of. Paradoxically, given the Americans’ apparent readiness to resume the threat of missile strikes, it may be ‘their side’ – the rebels – which most jeopardises the inspectors’ mission. As Bashar al-Assad’s military have pretty much held together as a disciplined military force, the Russians will be able to lean heavily on the Syrian Government to let the inspectors get on with their job. However, the rebels are said to have fragmented so much that there may be up to 1,000 different groups now ranged against Assad. How on earth is any kind of centralised control going to be exerted on them to stop them hindering the inspectors? Without sufficient… Read More

Cameron: “I get that!” (Or does He?)

  Look at David Cameron’s eyes in this BBC video extract from the conclusion of Thursday (29th) night’s debate in the House of Commons. They are full of cold fury when he says: “I get that and the Government will act accordingly.” Poor Dave had had a hard day, having been seriously mucked about by Ed Milliband . First Ed apparently indicated on Tuesday (27th) evening that he would support the principle of a missile attack on key Syrian military installations providing there could be no attack until a second vote approved it, following the weapons inspectors’ report due this weekend. Dave conceded that; but then Ed played a blinder Thursday morning: Labour would not support an attack until there was ‘compelling evidence’ that Bashar al-Assad’s government was indeed behind the appalling use of chemical weapons at Ghouta on Wednesday 21st. Since the weapons inspectors’ job was to ascertain unequivocally that a gas attack had taken place and what chemical agents had been used, rather than directly apportion blame, it was far from certain they would provide the ‘compelling evidence’ Ed demanded. Meanwhile, Associated Press was reporting that anonymous US intelligence agents were briefing that the evidence they had for Assad’s regime being… Read More

Chemical Weapons: escaping Obama’s Trap

Chemical weapons use in Syria is Barrack Obama’s trap – the trap he laid for himself ever since he laid down their use as a red line which, if crossed, would oblige the United States to act. However, chemical weapons may also be his way out of the trap. We may not know for months – possibly years…possibly never! – who was responsible for the dreadful gas attack in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday (21st). One argument, explored by the renowned philosopher Howard Bloom on Facebook, has it that, when the Syrian military is slowly but surely winning its vicious and dirty war and the “UN [chemical weapons] team had just entered Syria when the attack occurred. Would Assad really be so dumb?” The Syrian Government alleges that rebels used chemical weapons armaments stolen from military depots to try to stop the Syrian Army’s advance in Ghouta. Al-Arabiya, amongst others, has covered the Syrian TV networks’ reporting of the Army finding rebel tunnels in Ghouta stocked full of chemical weapon cannisters, gas masks, and other equipment for waging and surviving chemical warfare. Thus, the Syrian Government blames the rebels for the civilian deaths in Ghouta. A dark extension of this theory… Read More

Meanings in the Blood and Turmoil of Egypt

BBC journalist Tim Whewell has posted a brilliant and provocative analysis of the current crisis in Egypt entitled: Egypt Crisis: does Political Islam have a Future? In it Whewell characterises the conflicts which have erupted in Egypt as first the demand for the removal of Mohammed Morsi a month or so back by secularists and since then the demand for his reinstatement by Islamists. The desperate determination of the Egyptian secularists is summed up in Whewell’s piece by the Royal United Services Institute’s Shashank Joshi: “What we’re seeing is a coalition of liberal, secular, youth, revolutionary groups…who have decided that what they value is secularism at all cost, even if the cost is the shredding of every other liberal value that they hold.” While the brutality of the military in repressing the Cairo Islamists is shocking and has drawn condemnation from right around the world, there is ambivalence towards it from many Egyptian secularists. There is real distrust of the Islamists; and the fear meme has spread virally, as Whewell indicates when he says: “President Morsi was removed as much through fear of what he might do in the future as anger over what he had done already.” The Egyptian crisis… Read More

Margaret Thatcher: Saviour or Devil?

The responses to Margaret Thatcher’s death a fortnight ago (8 April), both at home and abroad, serve to remind us only too well what a divisive figure she was. As several tributes have been titled – eg: Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk – she was indeed ‘The Woman who changed Britain’. If you were one of those who saw the need unequivocally for those changes or indeed benefitted from them, then she may be a hero to you. My late father, Ted Rice, thought no less than that she had saved Britain. I once said to him: “You think the sun shines out of her arse!” – and he agreed totally. If you were one of those who lost out badly or were just deeply offended at the wholesale destruction of traditional working class communities as the result of her policies, then you may well view her as, to all intents and purposes, some spawn of the devil. My distant friend Chris Maguire would sometimes wear a t-shirt emblazoned with “I still hate Thatcher!” It wouldn’t surprise me entirely if Chris didn’t end up at one of those parties celebrating her death. As for the reports – eg: BBC News (2013a) – of… Read More

Have David Cameron and George Osborne ruined Britain?

Of course, the rot set in well before David Cameron and Nick Clegg formed the Coalition Government in May 2010. As the Public Sector Net Borrowing chart shows, it was during Gordon Brown’s ill-fated premiership that the deficit increased massively. (The Public Sector Deficit is the difference between what the Government spends and what it takes in via taxes to fund that spending – the difference being borrowed.) To give them some credit, as the chart shows, the Coalition did bring the deficit down quite markedly in their first couple of years primarily via swingeing cuts in the public sector. However, there are significant signs that the rate of decrease in borrowing may be slowing down. In December’s Autumn statement Chancellor George Osborne predicted that borrowing would be £108B this year, and £99B next year and just £31B in 2017-18. In his Budget last week, just 3 months later, Osborne revised those figures to £114B this year, £108B next year and £61B in 2017-18. Hand in hand with this, Osborne was forced to revise December’s estimate of growth this year from 1.2% to O.6%. While it looks like the UK may just about avoid a triple-dip recession, the outlook for growth in… Read More

Do Arabs need a New Awakening to win True Democracy?

by Gerald Butt annotated by Keith E Rice Gerald Butt wrote ‘Do Arabs need a New Awakening to win True Democracy?’ as the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. It was published on the BBC News web site on 16 August 2012. Reading it, I was mightily impressed that Gerald’s understanding of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ effectively provided a Spiral Dynamics analysis of the phenomenon – though without the jargon and the concepts. Accordingly, I contacted both Gerald and the BBC who gave me permission to republish his piece here, annotated with a Spiral Dynamics/Integrated SocioPsychology commentary. (The text of my commentary is in red.) Gerald’s piece is timeless in its analysis of conflict between different value systems and the sheer lack of other value systems – vMEMES – hindering the progress of peoples – in this case, the Arabs – in achieving Democracy as we in the Modern West understand the term.  I am deeply indebted to Gerald and the BBC for their permissions. ________________________________________________________________________  Arabs in several countries around the Middle East are relishing the prospect of a new era built on political reform and democratic rule. This craving for democracy was motivated by a desire to throw off the shackles of the past and finally… Read More