Category Archives: Geopolitics

The Information Dilemma

Interesting post by Richard Fernandez (aka Wretchard the Cat) regarding the problem increasingly sophisticated information technologies present to repressive regimes and existing media empires. Nothing particularly new for anyone who has taken the time to think about it, but interesting nonetheless.

Yes, Aziz, that Richard Fernandez.

How the Internet has changed the world

Brian’s got a cool new Infographic.

I see a great irony in that figure on how many American documents Wikileaks has put out. You know why it’s mostly American documents? Because in places like Russia, China, Saudia Arabia, North Korea, etc. someone who leaks a document doesn’t face a loss of career and possible jail time, they face being tortured and shot, and maybe not just themselves but their families. Thus my love/hate relationship with the whole Wikileaks thing in the first place.

Democracy on the brink in Romania

Although many people are cynical about it, an enormous amount of political science data shows that it’s in the US and the rest of the world’s best interests to see more democracies around the globe. Democracies tend to be more stable, less warlike, less violent, and more economically stable (yes, believe it or not, even what Greece has been through recently to pales compared to what’s happened under many dictatorships and autocracies). Thus it’s very disheartening from that perspective, as well as a human rights perspective, to see recent goings-on in Romania, which had been on a positive path toward developing a robust democracy. Vladimir Tismaneanu has an in-depth look at the incredible upheavals in Romania over the last year. This bodes poorly not just for Romania, but for the region as a whole.

US at fault for North Korean nuke program?

A tiresome tendency of many observers of world politics is to blame US policy for, well, practically anything that happens in the world, especially if it’s a bad thing that happens. A recent example of this is efforts by the Chinese government and others to blame US policy for North Korea’s continuing bellicose language and obstinate insistent on continuing nuclear weapons development. This is the fault of the US? I think not, and I’m not the only one who’s skeptical. So is Gordon G. Chang of the World Affairs Journal:

Anyone reflecting on the troubled history between the US and the DPRK would realize that Beijing’s blaming Washington does not stand up to scrutiny. Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first leader and the current supremo’s grandfather, sought nuclear weapons beginning in the 1950s.

The US, in fact, had little contact with his regime after the Korean War. After signing the 1953 armistice, Washington restrained Seoul and urged limited reconciliation with Pyongyang. Moreover, America had been restrained, some would say to a fault, in dealing with serial provocations. North Korea’s acts of war—the seizing of the Navy’s Pueblo and its crew in 1968 and the downing of the EC-121 reconnaissance plane the following year, for instance—went unpunished.

Furthermore:

Moreover, Kim Il Sung did not need nukes to keep Americans at bay. His odious regime was protected by the Soviet “nuclear umbrella” every minute of every day. Great Leader Kim had all the security he ever needed—and it was provided without cost. Soviet protection was in addition to North Korea’s conventional and chemical deterrent that was more than sufficient on its own.

In short, thoughout most of its history, even when it had no “need” of nukes to protect itself because it was under the nuclear umbrella of other Communist regimes, North Korea was working on nuclear weapons development anyway. The view that every bad thing in the world and all bad behavior by other regimes is the fault of American policy, and all good developments and good behavior happen almost despite US action is a kneejerk reaction that this observer is very weary of. But I encourage you to click here to read Gordon Chang’s entire piece.

There’s almost always something terrific appearing on World Affairs Journal, by the way.

This is Your Country on Socialism/ This is Your Country on Capitalism

Awesome pictures of East Berlin, before and after reunification.

Yeah, I know it’s not that cut and dried, but it’s not THAT far off.

I remember a lot of my German friends complaining about the burdens of absorbing the former East Germans into their more modern society. But eventually, they worked it out.

Now can they pull it off again with Greece and Spain and Portugal?

Via Vodkapundit.

Stunning Russian Election Shocker!

With everything so stacked against him, who could have possibly predicted this? Putin wins!

[sigh]

In the meantime, I struggle to think what to say about the mess of a phony election in Iran, except it’s good(?) that the illegitimately “elected” President Ahmabignutjob is getting spanked by the Ayatollahs. Um, yay? I guess?

You know, if I had a few billion dollars to play with, here’s what I’d do:

Put about third of it toward trying to quietly undermine despotic regimes like these, another third toward building a private moon colony, and about another third toward trying to find ways to help individual entrepreneurs and innovators escape the clutches of Big Education, Big Business, and Big Government (the troika of power in this country). Anyone got a few billion lying around for me to play with? It’s not a very big agenda…

House of straw

During the really bad years after the fall of Saddam, the criticism of the Bush Administration’s actions focused on the sectarian bloodbath unleashed by the end of Hussein’s strict authoritarian dictatorship.  The argument was that while Saddam and his family had their peccadilloes – mass murder, pillage, rape, foreign aggression and thought control — at least people weren’t cutting each others’ throats and blowing each other up under Saddam.  That is, at least those who weren’t the ruling party weren’t.  The body count at least appeared to be lower that way.

So now its 2012, and, via the New York Timeshere’s Syria, its dictatorship imploding with no direct help from us:

The paradox, of [Iraqi] Shiites supporting a Baathist dictator next door, has laid bare a tenet of the old power structure that for so long helped preserve the Middle East’s strongmen. Minorities often remained loyal and pliant and in exchange were given room to carve out communities, even if they were more broadly discriminated against.

As dictators have fallen in neighboring countries, religious and ethnic identities and alliances have only hardened, while notions of citizenship remain slow to take hold. The fighting in Syria has exacerbated that, as Shiites worry that a takeover of Syria by its Sunni majority would herald not only a new sectarian war but actually the apocalypse.

People here say that is not hyperbole, but a perception based in faith. Some Shiites here see the burgeoning civil war in Syria as the ominous start to the fulfillment of a Shiite prophecy that presages the end of time. According to Shiite lore, Sufyani — a devil-like, apocryphal figure in Islam — gathers an army in Syria and after conquering that land turns his wrath on Iraq’s Shiites.

“Among these stories we get from the Prophet and his family is that Sufyani will come out and will start to kill the believers in Syria, and then come to Iraq, where there will be many killings and massacres,” Mr. Nujafi said.

All of which makes me think — and of course, I am not the first — that when the Arab nationalists threw off the yoke of both the imperialists and the old Arab dynasties after World War II, they made the mistake of retaining something from the foreign devils that seemed like not only a good idea, but the only idea, at the time:  Nations.  Nation-states, to be specific.  More from the Times story:

In Hilla, another Shiite town north of here, Mohammed Tawfiq al-Rubaie, the representative for Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most widely followed Shiite religious leader in Iraq, said, “We wish for the survival of Bashar al-Assad, but the prophecies of the Shiite books expect him to be killed.”

Mr. Rubaie explained what Shiites believe would happen if the Assad government were toppled by Sunnis: “We expect that the blood would run heavy in Iraq if they held power in Syria, because they think that Shiites are infidels and our lives, our money and our women are permissible for them to take, and that killing us is one of the requirements to enter paradise.”

So you read stuff like that and you think, wow, maybe a little authoritarianism here wouldn’t be so bad after all?

And you can’t say that, not only because “you can’t say that,” but because just as “anti-western protesters” almost all dress like westerners — because that’s the world today — you can’t go back to a pre-nation-state order today.  And yes, nation-states have to be firm against sectional conflict; but that doesn’t mean they have to be tyrannical.  And gosh, if by tyrannical you mean Abe Lincoln (who some folks did and do think was a tyrant, as he was called by his assassin after all), I guess we can live with that.  Abe Lincoln, yes.  Josef Stalin or Pol Pot, no.  Baathist dictatorships are a lot more like the former pair than the latter.  There’s no reason to tolerate any of that on this planet, in this age (unless, I guess, you’re selling them weapons).

And remember one more thing:  Tyrannical regimes inevitably threaten their neighbors.  There is no such thing as “internal matters” with cats like this.

No one said it would be easy.