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Thursday, October 18

No to mission drift

If I fiddled with the following letter to a friend I suppose it would read better and might even become a proper essay. But I'm still embroiled in a heated debate, which leaves me no time for polishing text:

Keep your eye on the ball. Whether in Burma or Iraq's Kurdish north, the US must walk a fine line when pushing the American model of democratization, else we stumble into the George Soros model for dealing with threats to globalization: balkanization, whereby the world is chopped into so many small antagonistic territories that transnational investors and companies don't have to deal with powerful national governments.

The Soros model leads the world straight back to tribalism. Yet the inevitable backlash, as we see in China and Burma and many other countries, is brutal repression of minorities and democracy. Of course Soros doesn't care because his objective is easily navigable national borders, not democracy.

That is why I shied away from the satellite imagery story in Burma. As soon as I saw that Soros's Open Society was involved in the satellite project, I asked, "Now what is that shark up to in Burma?"

Watch carefully, don't blink:
The Bush administration lists Burma as a country that has “failed demonstrably” to adhere to international counter-narcotics agreements.It is true that drug traffickers exert a powerful influence in favor of the relatively tolerant status quo [in Burma]. But the government claims emphatically that it is cracking down on drugs, and has even vowed to make the country opium-free by 2014. Opium poppy cultivation has dropped 83 percent since 1998, an achievement for which the military regime feels it has gotten no credit from the West.

Insurgent groups in the east have been responsible for much of the drug cultivation problem, the Burmese government points out. Indeed, more than 90 percent of opium poppy production in Burma takes place in Shan state, part of the “Golden Triangle” border area with Thailand and China, where insurgent groups have a bloody history of fighting for autonomy from the central government."(1) [emphasis mine]
In other words, it is devilishly hard to demonstrate that the junta is carrying out genocide, which unfortunately includes in its definition the INTENT to destroy a particular group -- something about the G term that many people don't know.

Burma's junta can argue quite effectively that their intent is not to slaughter the Shan but to halt a separatist insurgency and stop opium traffiking.

Indeed, that's why people who have dedicated their lives to halting government orchestrated mass murder of populations have begun shying away from the use of the word genocide as spelled out in the Genocide Convention; it's because intention is so very difficult to prove in many cases.

The Holocaust and Rwanda were very clearly genocide, but beyond that it can get fuzzy when hauled into a court of law. So the activists are falling back on "mass atrocities" and similar terms, even when they suspect genocide.

If you want to learn more about this very crucial issue from a leading expert, read the address by Gareth Evans titled Halting Genocide: Intervention and Legitimacy

To return to the main discussion, the Kurdish situation constantly threatens to derail the US mission in Iraq. No matter how good an ally the Kurds, they must remember that it was the US, not they, who toppled Saddam's regime. Iraq's Kurd government needs to sit hard on the PKK -- and on the Iranian version of the group, the acronym for which escapes me at the moment.

We cannot let go of our mission in Iraq or the democracy project. Iraq's Kurd government in Iraq needs to accept that they are Kurds second and Iraqis first. The US has no place pandering to tribalism anywhere in the world, but especially in Iraq.

I will grant that sometimes the choices involved in promoting democracy can be very hard indeed, but that is just why we need to keep to our mission statement for the democracy project.

Iran is constantly trying to undermine the US democracy project in Iraq -- and because of the separatist issue in Iraq's north, they have found an ally of sorts in Turkey. We cannot allow them to drag us into a war that threatens to derail the US mission in Iraq.

After much bloodshed and oceans of money, the US is finally making real headway in Iraq. The Iraqis are learning that it's better to fight on the political front than to descend into tribal warfare and civil war. We must focus on that lesson, build on it -- and remember Iran's true objective, which is to bury the hope for a vibrant democracy in Iraq.

And we must look to our supply lines in Turkey and Basra. The last thing we need at this moment is for a slowing of vital supplies due to a war breaking out between Iraq's Kurds and Turkey. Tehran would not hesitate to capitalize on the chaos by making a huge amount of trouble in Iraq's south, thereby catching the US military's supply lines in a pincer movement.

I know my view is very hard for you to entertain because your focus has always been Iran. I understand. You need to recall that the United States has sacrificed much in the effort to teach Iraqis that there is another way to settle their disputes -- a way that does not automatically bring forth another oppressive ruler. There is now a snowballing effect to all our years of struggle in Iraq. We must let nothing derail the progress.

As to the rest -- all in good time, but remember that a democratic Iraq is the best weapon we would have against the oppressive regime in Iran, just because the border between the two countries is so porous. Many Iranians are visiting Iraq and bringing back the news: There is another way.

1) Foreign Policy: The List: Burma's economic lifelines
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1:40 P.M. edt UPDATE
"Pundita, your comments about Soros's involvement with the Burma satellite imagery project give way too much meaning to the shark money angle in this context. The AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] is a ferocious organization. See their part in the Burma satellite imagery project.

The satellite photos demand investigation. This is a seam opened; the junta can run but they can't hide from the photos.

Granted, the term "genocide" is not needed right now, but there are lots of important questions to be asked about the satellite photos; for example, just what happened to the people and houses that disappeared when the villages disappeared?"

Dear Reader:
Your points are well taken, and I did not mean to disparage the AAAS effort. However, one must be very careful in using the images to build a case for genocide in Burma. One can easily fall into a wrangle over the meaning of "genocide" while Burma's junta gets off Scot free.

Better to cut the ground out from under their feet by arguing that democracy is the solution to the separatist problem. Remember: even the members of the Burma regime most sympathetic to the plight of the citizens are convinced that a military government is all that prevents Burma from falling into numerous warring territories. We must change their mind; at this moment in their history that is much more crucial than trying to drag them to the ICC.

There is something else we must not overlook. The Soros model converges perfectly with the model of government favored by al Qaeda. The latter envisions a collection of weak tribes and clans overseen by the Caliphate's army and all-powerful secret police.

It can be hard to remember in the heat and dust of war with Qaeda and our struggle with Iran, but the greatest enemy today is tribalism. Nationhood is a very imperfect solution to the problem of governing megapopulations, yet it's an infinitely greater step toward freedom and human rights than tribal government.
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