New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 February 2016
Hezbollah Fears Its Captives
By Diana Moukalled
UAE, India Have the Power to Shape the Future
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
Hezbollah Fears Its Captives
By Diana Moukalled
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 Future
By Najla Al Rostamani
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 global landscape.
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 cultivated.
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 Middle East
By Marwan Bishara
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 personal.
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 paranoiac patriotism.
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 presidency.
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 United Nations.
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 repression.
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 determination."
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 motto.
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 can".
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.
The UAE’s Ministry of Happiness
By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
10 February 2016
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 Mohammed explained.
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 and entrepreneurship.
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 happier.
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 all sectors.
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.
Syrians Left To Suffer
By Osama Al Sharif
10 February 2016
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 2013.
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 air strikes.
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 Syrian crisis.
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
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
10 February 2016
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 exile.
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 them.”
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 crisis.”
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.
Can Sanders Spring A Surprise?
By Mahir Ali
10 February 2016
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 education.
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 Iowa caucus.
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 contenders.
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.