Investment bankers salivate over North Africa
Chaos and strife create the revolutionary atmosphere in which opportunity abounds
Investment banking is usually thought of as a field that values stability. Yet the greatest rewards are often attained through destabilization.
North African regimes and leaders have their obvious faults and flaws. Autocracies have an inherent weakness in their tendency to ossification. This basic reality is reflected not just in the obvious lack of democratic institutions, but also in the economic structures of the North African states. Regimes which have persisted for many decades tend to retain many of the economic characteristics of the era in which they were formed.
In the developing economies, during the decades prior to the neo-liberal reforms of the 1990’s, state owned industries were fostered in order to provide basic services such as telecommunications, transport and public utilities. Local manufacturing industries were protected from offshore competition as a means of furthering development goals and enhancing balance of trade accounts. These well established practices have come to be seen by today’s promoters of ‘free trade’ and privatization as an impediment to maximizing profits. Once established, these industries are in many cases difficult to dislodge.
Therefore, a clean break is required for restructuring primary domestic industries in order for international investors to reap a greater share of locally generated profits. This process is referred to as ‘creative destruction’. To facilitate the emplacement of the new order, the old order must first be swept aside. This requirement of upending the existing order explains why Western neoconservatives have been promoting the revolutionary uprisings in North Africa. Neoconservative think tanks and publications are closely associated with the banking interests. Evidence of their designs on North Africa is abundant.
A 2010 Bertelsmann evaluation titled Transformation Tunisia reported:
Tunisia’s decision makers have once again advanced transformation too sluggishly. Despite the formal abolition of trade barriers for industrial goods with the European Union as of 1 January 2008, in practice, Tunisia has seen too little progress in terms of trade liberalization [emphasis added].
[The] Tunisian banking sector and capital market are regularly cited as one major hindrance to the country’s economic modernization. Although they have been formally brought up to international standards, financial supervision and regulation remain subject to political influence. This is partly due to direct state control over financial flows and partly to the state’s direct involvement therein. Although it sold its stakes in two banks in 2002 and 2005, respectively, the state remains the controlling shareholder in at least four other banks because it controls 50% of their assets. Under these conditions, top-rank bank executives are de facto appointed by the president through a controlling body.
On January 7, 2011, Elliott Abrams wrote for the Council on Foreign Relations:
“Tunisia, whose literacy rate has long been the highest in Africa at nearly 80% and whose per capita GDP is about $8,000, should have the ability to sustain a democratic government—once the Ben Ali regime collapses [emphasis added].
“Tunisians are clearly sick of looking at all the giant photos and paintings of Ben Ali that appear on walls, posters, and billboards all over the country. [...]
“If Tunisia can move toward democracy, Algerians and Egyptians and even Libyans will wonder why they cannot. This kind of thing may catch on [emphasis added]. In fact, in Algeria it may already be catching on.” (Elliott Abrams: Is Tunisia Next?)
On February 13, the New York Times described Robert Kagan as “a Brookings Institution scholar who long before the revolution helped assemble a nonpartisan group of policy experts to press for democratic change in Egypt.” [emphasis added]
Maidhc Ó Cathail has noted that:
Arianna Huffington … was prescient in a December 13, 2010 op-ed in Lebanon’s Daily Star titled “Social media will help fuel change in the Middle East.”
And also that:
Robert Kagan, who co-founded the Project for a New American Century with William Kristol in 1997, was joined on that “nonpartisan group” by PNAC founding member Elliott Abrams and PNAC deputy director Ellen Bork. Bork is currently “democracy and human rights” director at PNAC’s successor, Foreign Policy Initiative, where Kagan and Kristol are directors. Not surprisingly, Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard on January 29 that he was “in complete agreement” with his fellow PNACers’ Working Group on Egypt in its demands that the U.S. suspend aid to Mubarak. [...]
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Kagan looked positively sanguine about the prospects for a post-Mubarak Egypt. Like George Soros, he seems confident that Israel has “much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East.”
It should be recalled that many of these same individuals and institutions were principle actors in the promotion of the ‘color revolutions’ in many of the former Soviet Republics as well as in Iran’s failed ‘green revolution’ during the summer of 2010.
Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi points out that the direction that events take is not being left to local forces:
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was interviewed by Rachel Maddow several weeks ago and revealed that Washington has already begun meddling. Albright denounced Egyptian ex-president Mubarak … and then confirmed that the National Endowment for Democracy was already hard at work in Egypt, even though Mubarak had not yet stepped down, building up infrastructure and supporting party development. Recall for a moment that Albright believes that a heavy fist is an essential part of diplomacy and that US interests always trump whatever suffering local people have to endure. [...]
Those who are aware of the insidious activities of the National Endowment for Democracy or NED, an ostensibly private foundation that spreads “democracy” and is largely funded by the government, will not be surprised to learn that it is already active in North Africa because it is almost everywhere. NED, which has a Democratic Party half in its National Democratic Institute, and a Republican Party half in its International Republican Institute, was the driving force behind the series of pastel revolutions that created turmoil in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Remember when the Russians and others complained about the activities of NGOs interfering in their politics? NED was what they were referring to.
Albright is in charge of the NED Dems while John McCain leads the NED GOP. [...]
Neoconservative Ken Timmerman has identified the core NED activity overseas as “training political workers in modern communications and organizational techniques,” surely a polite way to describe interfering directly in other countries’ politics.
On February 27, John McCain and Joe Lieberman visited Cairo. As reported by Politico:
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who’s on a quick trip through the Middle East, said Sunday he found Cairo to be a “very exciting place.”
“We went to Tahrir Square today. Got a warm, enthusiastic welcome,” he said of his visit to Cairo with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Of course, to suggest that the uprisings have been orchestrated solely by these interests would ignore genuine grassroots concerns. Nothing here is meant to suggest that conditions for unrest were not present or that sacrifices for social change have not been made by the peoples of North Africa. This article is only meant to inform as to the activities of the interventionists. The real accomplishments of the uprisings may yet predominate.
Within a month after demanding cessation of military aid to Mubarak, the very same neocon cabal was demanding military intervention in the less pliable Libya. Jim Lobe reports for IPS:
In a distinct echo of the tactics they pursued to encourage U.S. intervention in the Balkans and Iraq, a familiar clutch of neo-conservatives appealed Friday for the United States and NATO to “immediately” prepare military action to help bring down the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and end the violence that is believed to have killed well over a thousand people in the past week.
The appeal, which came in the form of a letter signed by 40 policy analysts, including more than a dozen former senior officials who served under President George W. Bush, was organised and released by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a two-year-old neo-conservative group that is widely seen as the successor to the more-famous – or infamous – Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
Warning that Libya stood “on the threshold of a moral and humanitarian catastrophe”, the letter, which was addressed to President Barack Obama, called for specific immediate steps involving military action, in addition to the imposition of a number of diplomatic and economic sanctions to bring “an end to the murderous Libyan regime”.
In particular, it called for Washington to press NATO to “develop operational plans to urgently deploy warplanes to prevent the regime from using fighter jets and helicopter gunships against civilians and carry out other missions as required; (and) move naval assets into Libyan waters” to “aid evacuation efforts and prepare for possible contingencies;” as well as “(e)stablish the capability to disable Libyan naval vessels used to attack civilians.”
Among the letter’s signers were former Bush deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Bush’s top global democracy and Middle East adviser; Elliott Abrams; former Bush speechwriters Marc Thiessen and Peter Wehner; Vice President Dick Cheney’s former deputy national security adviser, John Hannah, as well as FPI’s four directors: Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; Brookings Institution fellow Robert Kagan; former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor; and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman.
It was Kagan and Kristol who co-founded and directed PNAC in its heyday from 1997 to the end of Bush’s term in 2005.
The letter comes amid growing pressure on Obama, including from liberal hawks, to take stronger action against Gaddafi.
Two prominent senators whose foreign policy views often reflect neo-conservative thinking, Republican John McCain and Independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman, called Friday in Tel Aviv for Washington to supply Libyan rebels with arms, among other steps, including establishing a no-fly zone over the country.
By March 6, Reuters was already reporting the hoped for results:
As entrenched monopolies and patronage give way in the Middle East and North Africa, governments in the region could open their markets further and divest some state assets.
Wealthy Gulf states such Kuwait and Qatar have little cause to sell, but post-revolutionary states such as Tunisia will likely lower protectionist barriers…
“… this crisis is going to reveal some opportunities as structures linked to old regimes will be unwound,” said Julian Mayo, investment director at Charlemagne Capital. [...]
“When you have an economy moving from socialist dictatorship to full-fledged free market, the spider in the web of that transformation will be the banks,” [emphasis added] said Bjorn Englund, who runs an investment fund focused on Iraq.
Related video post:
Update March 13, 2011:
Update March 15, 2011:
Zalmay Khalilzad | Washngton Post | March 15, 2011
… The Middle East uprisings that hold the greatest promise are in anti-American dictatorships. The immediate challenge is to ensure the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. [...]
… Gaddafi’s overthrow and the consolidation of a liberal, pro-American regime would bolster prospects for reform in Iran and Syria by countering Iranian propaganda that the current revolts are Islamist in character and directed only at partners of the United States.
We can follow up with a variety of steps to foment democratic revolutions against Tehran and Damascus, beginning with clarion calls for change. These include: training and support for opposition forces in and outside the countries; pressure directed against regime officials who attack their own people, including targeted sanctions and referrals in international tribunals; surrogate broadcasting and other pro-democracy messaging; funds for striking workers; and covert efforts to induce defections by regime and security officials. …
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