Thursday, November 12, 2009

US-KURDISH RELATIONS IN IRAQ: A CHECKERED HISTORY

Here is a brief chronology:
US backed the Kurds in 1972, possibly to destabilize the new government of Iraq under Gen Qasim which was nationalizing Iraq’s oil resources.
The US dropped support for the Kurds in 1975, possibly due to the Shatt Al Arab waterway dispute resolution in which Iran dropped its support for dissidents in Iraq.
The US didn’t come to the aid of the Kurds during the Anfal campaign, instead supported Saddam Hussein with money and weapons technology, during the Iran Iraq War 1980-1988.
The US gave verbal support in 1991 to the Kurds , encouraging them to rise against Iraq, but didn’t follow through. Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurdish revolt, millions of Kurdish refugees were left stranded on mountains on the Turkish border. The US did eventually provide an umbrella of protection (UNSC Res 688)
The US supported Kurdish autonomy leading up to and after the invasion in 2003, but in 2007 ‘turned a blind eye’ to the Turkish incursion into Kurdish territory in Turkey's pursuit of Kurdish militants. Turkey is a US ally.

PRESIDENT NASSER OF EGYPT: NEITHER A 'STRONGMAN' OR A WEAK RULER

WAS NASSER WAS A ‘STRONGMAN’ , OR A ‘WEAK RULER’? THIS IS A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION

President Gamal Abdar Nasser (1918-1970) was overwhelmingly elected as President of Egypt in a national referendum held in 1956, when he instituted a one party system. He was not a dictator a la Saddam Hussein, by any means.
Was he a weak ruler because he lost the 1967 war with Israel? Losing a war doesn’t necessarily indicate ‘weakness’ of a ruler. For example, Presidents in the US were not widely believed to be ‘weak’ because of defeat in the Vietnam War. You could argue that if a ruler can’t defend the country, he or she is ‘weak.’ The reality is more complex. In 1967, Egypt as a post-colonial state struggling to get on its feet after British rule, was not sufficiently financially sound to conduct a war, nor did it have military preparedness. Nasser was under pressure however by other Middle East powers to go to war against Israel, and with good cause, he was worried about an Israeli invasion of Egypt. Israel began hostilities by bombing the entire Egyptian Air Force as it sat on the tarmac. In the ensuing six day war, Israel went on to occupy the Sinai desert and the Gaza Strip. Nasser then went on television in Egypt and said
"I have taken a decision with which I need your help. I have decided to withdraw totally and for good from any official post or political role, and to return to the ranks of the masses, performing my duty in their midst, like any other citizen. This is a time for action, not grief.... My whole heart is with you, and let your hearts be with me. May God be with us—hope, light and guidance in our hearts."
The next day, demonstrations were organized in support of his Presidency, and he retracted his decision. Contrast this to the refusal of Rumsfeld et al to take responsibility for not defending the US when it was attacked on 9/11. To me, Nassar’s stance indicated strength and accountability. I disagree with his stance towards the Egyptian Communist Party, which he outlawed.
In 1970, Nasser at a landmark Arab League meeting, succeeded in ending the war between King Hussein of Jordan and the PLO. In my view, the ability to end hostilities is the mark of a responsible leader. He died a day after the end of the Arab League meeting.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do Democracy and Development Go Hand in Hand?

DEVELOPMENT VS DEMOCRACY?
Updated August 1, 2011

Who or what, is to blame for a world in which 40 million people a year die of hunger, disease and poverty, while an elite acquires massive amounts of wealth? Global income disparities are often viewed through the lens of traditional development theory. A developed country is conventionally defined as one with a high per capita income, largely as a result of a privatized, profit-driven market, industrialization, urbanization, and Western-style democracy. A developing country is referred to as one with a low per capita income, with aspirations for development, but hampered by ‘backward’ or ‘indigenous’ economic and political systems and a diversity of cultures. Developed countries helped Less Developed Countries (LDCs) with aid.
However, this model doesn’t hold.
India is an example of a country which has achieved many forms of democracy, yet has failed on the economic front, because of high rates of poverty. Can it therefore be said to be truly democratic? As Martin Luther King said, what is the point of being able to sit a lunch counter, if I can’t afford lunch? Put another way, what is the point of being able to vote if you can’t afford the bus fare to get to the polling booth? Since the 90s, India has followed a free market development policy, under pressure from the IMF and World Bank. But prosperity has not come from India’s combination of democracy and free market. Can one have democracy and not have more prosperity? Interesting conundrum. See this for the 'democracy versus development" argument:
http://www.usyd.edu.au/riap/documents/publications/papers/chua.htm

Aid to develop a country along free market lines, comes at a price that undermines national sovereignty. Student Lauren Precopia in INTL 5400 Summer 2011 writes 'As Ngaire Woods states in “Bretton Woods Institutions”, Elliot Page, a trade negotiator from East Caribbean States discusses what is at stake for developing countries if they fail to comply:
“YOU COULD BE A DEVELOPING COUNTRY, FOR INSTANCE, THAT HAS DECIDED TO BLOCK A POSITION EVERYONE ELSE HAS SUPPORTED…HOWEVER A TELEPHONE CALL WOULD BE CONDUCTED FROM LEADER TO LEADER…AND A PARTICULAR AID PROGRAM IN YOUR COUNTRY COULD BE JEOPARDIZED.”'

Development analysts choose to look at GNP figures, but these don’t tell us anything about disparity of income, child mortality and life expectancy rates.


US ranks 45th, Kryghyzstan ranks 30th, in income gap statistics.

We know that the US itself is not immune to election fraud (do a search on the 2000 US election and ‘fraud’). The US’ family income distribution is 45th in the world (the most equal is Sweden). Kryghyztan does better than the US re: income gaps. Russia does worse than any of the Central Asian countries but better than the US. But, Russia does worse than most in life expectancy rates. For ‘your’ country’s income gap, see this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

I like Maya Chadda (Building Democracy in South Asia) but…
Chadda contradicts herself. Earlier on in the book, she says that democracy in Europe rolled out quietly. Then later on, she says democracy took hold in conflict with the state. In any case, I would challenge the dichotomy between democracy and economic prosperity. The United Nations have reached consensus that you can’t have one without the other. This is expressed in its consensus that economic and political rights are indivisible. Economic rights=the responsibility of the state to ensure basic needs.

DEMOCRACY AND THE IMF , OIL FACTOR

How do the great powers affect development and democracy in peripheral countries? It was quite shocking to read that Chadda thinks the Benazir Bhutto was ushered out as a result of pressure from the IMF because she couldn’t pay back Pakistan’s loans to the IMF.
Clearly, there is great outside interest in the Central Asian region, because of its oil. But, it may have had an adverse affect on democratization. As another student writes ‘Many ‘western' democracies are weakening their stance on the protection of human rights in the country, in large measure due to Turkmenistan's vast hydrocarbons reserves.’ Another student remarks that ‘The high price of oil has fostered an environment in which the Azerbaijani government does not need to maintain a fa├žade of democracy.”
See this:
-- "Turkmenistan is the country nobody talks about. Its huge reserves of natural gas can only get to market through pipelines. Until 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union and its gas flowed only north through Soviet pipelines. Now the Russians plan a new pipeline north. The Chinese are building a new pipeline east. The U.S. is pushing for "multiple oil and gas export routes." High-level Russian, Chinese and American delegations visit Turkmenistan frequently to discuss energy. The U.S. even has a special envoy for Eurasian energy diplomacy.--John Foster, "Afghanistan and the new great game: Prized pipeline route could explain West's stubborn interest in poor, remote land," Toronto Star, August 12, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

No, European Capitalist Democracy Did Not Evolve Peacefully

No, European Capitalist Democracy Did Not Evolve Peacefully
By Philippa Winkler, PhD

Maya Chadda ‘s thesis is that European countries had ‘time’ to evolve a capitalist democracy over centuries, whereas India, Pakistan etc had to compress nation building, decolonization and the development of democratic institutions into a shorter time period (Chadda, Maya, Building Democracy in South Asia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers 2000).
She paints a rosy picture describing how European countries had a peaceful transition to capitalist democracy (“democracy flowered subsequently…gradual unfolding of a market economy…”p 2). She contrasts this with the supposedly more violent South Asian sequence of development.
In fact, bloodshed , war and suffering have accompanied the 300 year old evolution of capitalist democracy in Europe.
1) In the UK, civil war between merchant interests and the aristocracy in the middle of the 17th century, ending with the beheading of Charles I.
2) Forcible relocation of masses of peasants to make way for cash crops, all over Europe beginning in the 18th century. In the UK, the Enclosure Acts legislated the relocation. Millions of peasants became internal refugees, escaped to the cities, and became the nucleus for the emerging factory laboring class.
3) Luddism in the UK in the 18th century (when peasants and artisans smashed machines that were depriving them of their livelihood).
4) The 1789 French Revolution, beheading of Louis XVI and family, in France’s transition from a feudal type monarchy to a Republic, followed by the Terror (remember the guillotine?). Other revolutions followed, to establish a democracy, in 1848, and an unsuccessful one to establish a form of socialism, in 1872 (the Paris Commune).
5) In the 19th Century, nationalist revolutions all over Europe for countries like Italy to free themselves from the yoke of Austro Hungary Empire and establish capitalist constitutional monarchies with parliaments.
6) Exploitation of labor, child labor, 12 hour work weeks, demonstrations, protests, met by extensive governmental repression etc., litter the landscape of the European road to industrialization from the 18th century.
7)7) Colonization of Asia was key to the creation of the European market economies. Gold, silver and other vital resources were plundered by the Europeans, resulting in huge losses of life and subsistence lifestyles in non European countries. One could argue that the USSR colonized Central Asia. So the development of European capitalism and Russian communism came at the expense of pre-capitalist countries. Today, many of these countries supply cheap labor forces while building a professional and business middle class.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The State of Cognitive Dissonance

'The state of cognitive dissonance is so uncomfortable that the subject may deny that she/he is in a moral dilemma (Festinger 1968). Denial is a strategy therefore that expresses psychological moral unconsciousness. At this point, the subject falls into circularity and blind belief (an idea that cannot be explained by another idea). When I confronted the diplomats with the illogic of bargaining lives with someone they considered un-reedemable, the three diplomats essentially offered a circular logic not based on a set of data: ‘children must die when hard choices have to be made because sometimes it’s necessary for children to die when hard choices have to be made’.

When an individual is unconscious to this extent, he/she is acting on behalf of others, whether it is a cult, an organization, a government, or a President, he/she has given over her power of reasoning, indeed the conscious self, to what is viewed as a higher authority and a superior holder of knowledge. It is assumed that the higher power simultaneously collects the facts, makes judgments, metes out either praise or punishment, and gives orders. It is assumed that the higher authority has the right to make those working on behalf of the authority, to feel guilty or ashamed if they are doing something contrary to its wishes, or if they question or even think critically about directives that are leading to genocide." From blogger's PhD thesis,