Demos and Kratos...the rule of the people. The rule of passions, desires and emotions and not reason, when it is faced with mass illiteracy, widespread ignorance and ethnic divisions all nurtured by religious intolerance as is the case in Afghanistan and other Muslim dominated countries.
The high illiteracy make the people dependent on "leaders" to tell what to do and say. Passions, appetites/desires and emotions are the order of the day and outright lies and half-truths are the means of control. It is therefore very easy to influence behaviour, because nothing is questioned and everything is accepted as the truth. Relighion penetrates and absorbs society. No deviation is allowed and the slightest mis-step is quickly and severely punished. It feeds on the widespread ignorance, as a matter of fact ignorance is the chief weapon. The people are easily manipulated and used to destroy any who are perceived to be a threat.....women who want rights, children who want to go to school or even to fly a kite and anyone who dare to point out the fallacy foisted on the people.
Historical enmity between ethnic factions are fed and allowed to fester. The Pashtuns, the Hazarra, the Uzbek , the Tajik etc.are regionalised and marginalised by each other. There is little room for reconciliation, because it threatens the power of the "leaders". They control their fiefdom with iron fists, and they use all means to retain control. Corruption is the order of the day and they wallow in it. The idea of building a nation is anathema, and democracy must not succeed, and so elections must be hi-jacked in order to ensure that"natural order" remain intact.
The West must understand that equal rights, is a non-starter in a society where a man is free to marry many (4+) women at the same time and where he is the uinquestionable master ( even South African President, Jacob Zuma have three wives...a Zulu practice). Free, fair and regular elections threaten the hold on power of tribal chiefs, somethimg that they will not easily forego. Education for females is also a threat to these male-dominated societies, whether in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or eleswhere. Equality before the law, another western concept is taboo in authoritarian societies, where religious leaders and/or tribal chiefs mete out "justice" as they see fit. Thus attempts at nation-building ( Iraq is in violent chaos, with the Americans having signaled that they are leaving), if it is to be even mildly successful have to be done in concert with the values and practices of these societies. Time and patience and the willingness to respect a societies norms and values, together with loads of money for the building of infrastructure....roads, schools, electical grids, hospitals, job training etc. would be necessary and it must be done in partnership with the "leaders"of these societies ( you have to work with them no matter how distasteful this may be).
Turkey is an example of a Muslim but secular society, that has been able to achieve democracy ( somewhat tenuous, given the role of the military in defending the secular constitution). In Algeria, almost twenty years after elections, (that would have brought fundamentalists Muslims to power )were voided, there are many important democratic changes taking place, and chances of more are good. Indonesia, another Muslim state, has after decades of military dictatorship, been able to make democratic changes. Bangladesh has had its problems hanging on to its democracy, beset with spates of violence, In each of these cases, the democratic changes have come from within and Islam was not allowed to be the state religion. An uneasy truce exist. In Turkey it was the leadership of Kemal Attaturk. In Indonesia, the overthrow of the military dictatorship was only made possible by internal struggles in many of its far-flung (ethnic) provinces (East Timor, Ache etc) and the removal of American support for the Suharto regime. There is no democracy to speak of( Jordan's and Morocco's feeble attempts notwithstanding) in the Middle East. Iran is a theocracy( elections and its results are secondary to "Ayatollahs", led by the Supreme Leader. Saudi Arabia is religious monarchy, where women are flogged ( the King recently "saved" a female reporter from being flogged), for being raped and subject to all manner of other humiliations, including " honor killings" and eleswhere in the Arab/ Muslim world, it is not much better. In each of these cases, religion is the key. Education is the answer, but............
So, what about the run-off elections in Afghanistan. Karzai will win. Abdullah Abdullah will be pressured to join an alliance and President Obama will send tens of thousands of troops but until and unless the Americans and NATO change their strategy, it will make little difference. From a military standpoint, they must focus on the large urban areas and satbilise them ( chasing the "enemies" all over the country is wasteful and futile). More infrastructure work has to be done...roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, water and alternatives to poppt-growing. Employment is the key ( many are recruited and paid by the Taliban, because that is their only means of employment). Reduce civilian casualties....whether from bombarding villages with insurgents using civilians as human shields or bombing targets from the air. Bring the "warlords" on board...the British in their centuries long attempt to rule Afghanistan learnt that "while you may not be able to buy an Afghan, you can certainly rent one". The Americans should do what they did in Iraq to make the "surge" successful. Spend a lot of money to "buy/ employ" the main players and hire local help. Isolate al Qaeda. This will mean that you have to identify( even as they did with the Sunnis in Iraq) elements of the Taliban to work with. They are Pashtuns like Karzai, ( many are fighting because they see Americans and NATO as occupiers and historically, as long ago as Alexander and Ghengis, they have banded together ( as against the British and more recently the Soviets also) to throw them out of their country. Can this be done? Yes. Will this be done? Only time will tell. One thing is certain, if it is not done, the cost to all will be extremely high. The longer this conflict lasts, the greater the threat to the rest of the world....from Pakistan to the Middle East to Indonesia and eleswhere, the "jihadis" will flock to the cause and mayhem will reign.
In 1947 Pakistan was created out of violence and widespread dislocation. Hundreds of thousands died and many more hundreds of thousands were displaced. It was the largest mass movement of people in history. The dream of its founder Ali Jinnah was a state where Muslims would be free to practice their religion and where the diversity in faith and regions and people would be moulded into a viable entity. The dream was early shattered, with the death of Jinnah and the seizing of power by wealthy " zamindars' and their friends in the military. This has resulted in widespread poverty, misery, corruption and poor governance. A facade of unity was maintained as long as India could be the bogeyman for all that was wrong. Kashmir has been the one significant issue which has been the glue that held the economic, religious, military. political an regional forces together. This no longer suffice, as the "war on terror" has forced the Pakistani military and political establishment from Bhutto to Sharif to Musharraf to Zardari to work closely with the Americans and NATO.
In its war with India, specifically over Kashmir, the Pakistanis trained and subsidized many militant religious groups. They operated under the aegis of the Pakistani military and especially the ISI....THE INTELLIGENCE UNIT. In the Punjab, the country's largest province, groups such as the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e- Jhangi (Sunnis) were allied with the government against India, the Shiite Muslims and also the United States ....... "These are all Punjabi groups with a link to South Waziristan" according to former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao. As the Pakistani government began working closer and closer with the Americans, these groups formed alliances with al Qaida, and as Pakistan started to attack their strongholds, South Waziristan and the Swat Valley, they decided to bring the fight directly to the government and its police, security and military forces. The result has been widespread guerilla/suicide attacks.
The boldness of these attacks has the Pakistani government and military reeling. The umbrella group for the Pakistani Taliban has been identified as Tehrik-e-Taliban....Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that " the banned Tehrik-e- Taliban, Jaish-e- Muhammad, al- Qaida and Lashkar-e- Jhangvi are operating jointly in Pakistan". He went on to say that " a syndicate" of militant groups wanted to see "Pakistan as a failed state". He knows whereof he speaks, but he and his government have to accept that they are responsible for creating this Frankenstein.
In Lahiore, the second largest city a police station and security forces building were attacked. In Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier, there were attacks on a police station and a residential complex. In Rawalpindi, the army headquarters was attacked and there were attacks eleswhere also. The attacks were sophisticated, well-planned and highly orchestrated and it is evident that it is the work of al Qaida. The Taliban is well-funded( between $70-$400 million, according to the New York Times) from a variety of sources, the drug trade, armed robbery and wealthy benefactors ( from Pakistan and Arab countries). They have the funds and the foot-soldiers ( paid between$200-$4and al Qaida provides the expertise.
The very existence of Pakistan is at stake. They nurtured these groups for their own purposes; they allowed "madrassahs" to be operated and to be a recruiting grounds for religious fanatics; they formed an alliance of convenience with these religious fanatics, encouraging, funding them and allowing them to roam freely and now "the fire" is consuming them.
The American government signed a $7.5 billion civilian aid package yesterday, for Pakistan. It called for greater civilian oversight of the military and demanded that support for militant groups be dropped. Immediately, there were protests from some military officers and politicians over what is seen by the Pakistanis as infringements of Pakistani sovereignty. Such is the gall/nerve and lack of appreciation. Reminds me of General/President Zia's outburst of "peanuts" to President Carter's offer of aid to Pakistan in the late 70's.
The attacks will intensify and the Pakistani military and security forces, have a task ahead, for which, tghey are ill-suited/ prepared. They lack the will, the competence and the stomach for this fight. It does not bode well for the security and "sovreignty" of the nation. It is on the verge of "failing"
"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal"......Martin Luther King Jr.
My first reaction to the news was "what? then "why?" but I was in bed and my brains was deactivated. Then, as I floated between sleep and awareness, I realised that the Nobel committee was more astute and perceptive. They had made a brilliant decision and for all the good reasons.
Eight years of toxic relations under Bush has given way to hope under Obama. He changed the tone and the thrust of the debate on war and peace. While placing his trust on diplomacy, he did not back away from robust actions when needed, like the drone attacks on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border or sending more troops to Afghanistan. In Cairo he delivered a strong message to the players in the Middle East. He faced off against Netanyahu and his settlements building and footdragging while making Abbas and the Palestinians aware of his concern for their shortcomings and their responsibilities. He sent a strong message to Ahmadinejad on Iran's nuclear programme but continued to pursue dialogue. The North Koreans were made to understand that they have to behave if they want to avoid sanctions and America's economic help. He scrapped the defense shield that Bush had promised to Eastern Europe and thus eaesd concerns in Russia, whose help will be needed with Iran and North Korea and Syria. He made Europe and Nato a full partner in Afghanistan and ended the frosty relaations with France and Germany, who had opposed Bush's unilateral actions in Iraq and in other areas of international relations. He ended the undermining of the American Constitution, decided to close Guantanamo and have prisoners brought to trial and his economic package, in concert with other countries, has resulted in the economic meltdown being reversed and some control being placed on rapacious corporations banks and investment houses. He will get a Health bill passed and millions of Americans will get the health care so long denied them.
The world is a safer place because of his approach and his policies. America's stature has been won back and gradually it is being trusted again.....no more 'cowboy" diplomacy. The Nobel will further enhance him and his position and it will also make him even more committed to pursue America's interests in conjunction with those, of other nations. We live in a very interconnected world, whether it is HINI, TERRORISM, NUCLEAR PROGRAMMES. MIDDLE EAST PEACE, CLIMATE CHANGE, TSUNAMI, FLOODING IN THE PHILLIPINES OR DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL OR ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION OR THE ECONOMIC CRISIS ETC.. Local and national have become international and even though America has lost some of its military and economic clout. it remains the major player and its leadership is needed.
Congratulations Mr. President Obama, the award is fully deserved. It will make your enemies choke on their vitriol and they will cast doubts on its merits, but that is so much sour grapes. Enjoy the moment and then back to work ....Medicare and al Qaaeda awaits.
George Papandreou and the Socialist party/PASOK are on the verge of winning. After five years of the centre-right government led by Kostas Karamanlis the Greek voters atre looking to return the Socialists to power, which had dominated Greek politics for more than a generation.
Voters have grown tired with the corruption, increasing violence, rising unemployment, failure to deal with the worst financial crisis in years and the soaring public debt .The blame is placed squarely on the New Democracy government.The Socialists have promised to restore trust in a government most Greeks see as corrupt and incompetent, and to increase meritocracy in a culture of patronage and nepotism. The Socialists were also guilty of this. One commentator referred to the economic crisis, the political crisis and the social crisis and said that the people are "fed up"
President Obama and Oprah were unable to deliver the Olympics to Chicago, but Lula and Pele were able to convince the IOC that Brazil should host the 2016 games. This is a great boost for Rio and Brazil and South America, which has never hosted the games. Now if Lula can influence change in Honduras, he will establish Brazil as a real player on the world stage and see a Brazil finally takes its place together with India and China among the big powers.
The biggest problem facing Brazil in holding the Games, is the high crime situation in Rio. Over 2,500 murders , many by the police, took place last year in Rio. Gang wars and poverty and corruption are the major reasons for the problems, and must be dealt with. It will be a most difficult task.
Oct,5, 2009 update...........Pasok has won an overwhelming victory.....the largest margin ever. New Democracy has suffered its worst defeat, since the end of military divctatorship in 1974. George Papandreou, campaigned on clean government, increased spending to revive the economy and to crack down on tax evasion, which is estimated to be about $17 billion. Tourism and shipping, the two pillars of the Greek economy have been hard hit by the economic crisis and must be revived. Greece will be looking for help from the E.U.. The win by the Socialist is a rarity in Europe, where the left has been losing ground, unable until now to capitalise on the financial crisis (last week the Center-right won in Germany and the Conservatives are way ahead in the polls in Britain).