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>Asia’s grand old man is still as sharp as ever

>Lee Kuan Yew is one of the great figures in Asia. In this short interview with NPQ magazine he covers a range of topics that show he has lost none of the intellectual acuity that marked his prime ministership. What is particularly interesting is his reference to a Chinese-made TV series on the rise of the great powers – the Europeans, Russians and Japanese. It gives an insight into how China sees itself.

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding prime minister of Singapore and the “grand old man of Asia” at 84, is now minister mentor in Singapore. He talked recently with UCLA professor and columnist Tom Plate and Jeffrey Cole of the Annenberg Center of the University of Southern California.

NPQ – You said some years ago that America must get the relationship with China right, because that benefits everybody in Asia. And if it’s not gotten right, it’s going to create problems. Has the US more or less gotten the relationship right?

Lee Kuan Yew – I think it’s not bad. Congress is in a fractious mood, looking for excuses for what’s gone wrong, believing China’s exchange rate offers unfair advantage. Yes, the Chinese should up the value of their yuan — maybe 10 percent, 15 percent — but it’s not going to help. It’s not going to solve the problem. It might create problems for them if they do it so suddenly. But if they do it gradually, as I think they will, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Looking ahead a bit, the Chinese are scared of unemployment, they’re scared of what happened to Japan when the factories relocated. They need their low-end jobs, making shoes and garments. If these factories move out and there are people without jobs — that’s a real problem for them. Moving up-market to higher-value production is a new game for the Chinese, and they’re nervous. The legitimacy of the authorities depends upon solving the economic problems and not having riots in the cities even as their old state-owned enterprises retrench.

NPQ – Does America have to fall as China rises?

Lee – No, I do not see a win-lose, zero sum game here. It was the US that brought China into the (World Trade Organization). It was George H.W. Bush who opened the door, inviting China to start selling to America. That was carried on by President Clinton who helped bring the Chinese into the WTO.

American has two choices with China — to keep them out or let them in. If you keep them out, then you have them as a spoiler. They’re going to do reverse engineering and steal your patents. Where is the profit in that? If you slow down their transformation you are not going to benefit from that transformation.

Back in 1980s and early ’90s, America needed the Chinese market to grow,but never factored in the speed at which they would grow. That’s scary because it has created enormous problems — disparity within the cities, between the cities and the countryside. And now with cell phones and satellite TV, everyone sees everything. So they have to change track. Instead of just going helter-skelter for gold. Now they’re talking about achieving a harmonious society.

NPQ – Do you still see China continuing in the opening-up direction?

Lee – Their problem now is convincing the world that they’re serious about a “peaceful rise.” The leadership in China are thinking people. You’re not dealing with ideologues.

I was struck by the recent broadcast on Chinese TV of the series The Rise of Great Nations. In my view, it was a bold decision on the part of the Chinese leadership to suggest to the Chinese people the lessons from what made the Europeans, the Russians and Japanese great.

The episode on Britain is quite interesting. The theme was the importance of doing away with the divine right of kings, about how the monarchy was challenged by the barons who brought the king down. And it was about the Magna Carta. Suddenly, “divine right” is vested in the people through the parliament, an no longer in the monarchy, leading to the emergence of the middle class. When Charles I got uppity, he was beheaded.

Now,this series was produced in a communist state! It suggested that, if you want to be a great nation, you must behead the leader if he goes against the people!The key to becoming a great nation, this episode made clear,was growing confidence between the people and the leaders.

I gather that the whole point of this TV series was as a public lesson to support China’s gradual opening up without causing conflict — the “peaceful rise.” They have worked out this scheme, this theory, this doctrine to assure America and the world that they’re going to play by the rules.

NPQ – Will they be able to do that fast enough to accommodate the middle class who want clean air and so much else?

Lee – My guess is they’re going to move pragmatically one step at a time.

The policy will be “Let’s grow, let’s have more equality in the country and keep the country united. Let’s have no trouble abroad. Let’s make quite sure that Taiwan doesn’t do stupid things which will force the mainland to act. Let’s have a successful Olympics and then we are into a new age, one step at a time.”

On the environment, the first problem is blue skies for the Olympics. During the 50th anniversary of the founding of modern China in 1999, they cleaned up the air in Beijing by stopping all factories for two weeks. I think they’ll do that for four weeks before the Olympics, including cutting down the number of cars that can enter the city by half.

Of course, cleaning up properly, retrofitting coal mines, recycling water and the like, will take umpteen years. It will be a very costly and slow business. They are working with Singapore to create a sustainable, EcoCity. They want to learn. That’s important.

NPQ – Since you’ve been a friend of America over decades, what are two or three things that you worry about in America?

Lee – I think the next 10 years you have got to extricate yourself from these problems in the Middle East. It may take you five years to get it stabilized and then after that, you gradually have more time and energy to think about the other big problems in the world.This is sucking up too much of your resources.

To solve this, you have got to tackle the two-state problem in Israel. As long as that’s festering away, you’re giving your enemies in the Muslim world an endless provocation from which they can get new recruits for crazy adventures to try and knock you down by blowing themselves, or trying to blow the world up.

NPQ – What about inside America itself?

Lee – For the next 10 to 20 years you will keep going as the most enterprising, innovative economy with leading-edge technology, both in the civilian and military fields. You will lose that gradually unless you are able to keep on attracting talent. That’s the final contest. Because of the path you have blazed, the Chinese and other nations are going to successfully adopt parts of it to fit their circumstances.

They are also going around looking for talented people who can build up innovative, enterprising economies. After all, this is now an age where you will not have military contests between great nations because you will destroy each other. But you will have economic and technological contests between the great powers. I see that as the main arena of competition by 2040, 2050.

But long-term for America — projecting another 100 years — whether you stay on top depends upon the kind of society you will be. If the present trends continue, you’ll have a Hispanic element in your society that’s about 30, 40 percent. The question is whether you make the Hispanics Anglo-Saxons in culture, or whether they make you more Latin American in culture.

If they came in drips and drabs and are scaterred across America, then you will change their culture. But if they come in large numbers, like Miami or in California, then their culture will continue and they may well affect the Anglo-Saxon culture around them. That’s the real test.

The Chinese won’t have this problem. The number of Chinese Hans is so great they can absorb any number of new migrants. If they just stay with their “peaceful rise” and they just contest for first position economically and technologically, they cannot lose. If they are not number one, they will be number two. If they are not number two, they are number three. They have figured that out.

NPQ – China has not given up hope in terms of trying to control the content on the Internet. But is this new technology going to overwhelm efforts to control it?

Lee – Right, it is not possible (to control it). Look, if you are going to have a PDAthat is also running video you can have your servers blocked. But if you’ve got a 3G phone, you use another server, and so then you are through. It’s already happening. Otherwise, how did you get all these pictures of the monks in Myanmar or Yangon or Mandalay coming out? It’s all on cell phones.

NPQ – Is it plausible to ask China to work behind the scenes, as it did at the six-party talks involving North Korea, to help move Myanmar out of the Middle Ages and into the real world?

Lee – I’m not sure the Chinese have got that power. And in Myanmar, these are rather dumb generals when it comes to the economy.

How can they so mismanage the economy and reach this stage when the country has so many natural resources? It’s stupid.

I do not believe that the generals in Myanamar can survive indefinitely. Look, the day they decided to close down the government in Yangon and go into this new government zone called Pyinmana, where there’s nothing, and they are putting up expensive buildings for themselves and a golf course. And then, one of the top generals had a lavish wedding for his daughter, which was then posted on YouTube. The daughter looked like a Christmas tree! Flaunting these excesses must push a hungry and impoverished people to revolt.

What will happen, I don’t know because the army has got to be part of the solution. If the army is dissolved, the country has got nothing to govern itself with because they have dismantled all administrative instruments.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Asia

>India snubs nose at CO2 reductions

>It’s great, this Kyoto protocol thing, as it gives huge CO2 emitters like India and China a free pass while tying up the world’s major economies in climate controlled red tape.

That India has quite rightly placed economic development above reduction in greenhouse gases shows what a crock the science supporting AGW really is. Why is that? Imagine if the issue was mercury or lead or some demonstrably dangerous substance. Would India snub its nose at the world in the same way?

India will not reduce greenhouse gas emission at the cost of development and poverty alleviation, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Namo Narain Meena said Thursday.

‘India is struggling to bring millions of people out of poverty. We cannot accept binding commitments to cut down greenhouse gas emission,’ Meena said at a function to mark the World Environment Day.

Though India has no commitment to reduce the global warming gases under the Kyoto Protocol, in recent climate change conferences many developed countries have said India needs to reduce the greenhouse burden.

Meena, however, said climate change was becoming a crucial issue, and needed immediate action. He added that consumptive lifestyle was putting severe pressure on biological resources. ‘Each of us has to become a saviour of the environment.’

‘Each of us can help curb the adverse impact of climate change,’ he said adding that afforestation will go a long way in reducing the carbon level in the atmosphere as ‘forest is the natural sink for CO2’.

S. Regupathy, who is also the minister of state for environment and forests, has said the World Environment Day provides an opportunity every year to reaffirm the commitments to work towards the sustainable conservation of environment.

The major issue for the world is alleviating poverty and improving the standard of living in Third World countries. That the Climate Faithful care less about the world’s poor than bringing down capitalism shows exactly what sort of leftists they are.

What’s also worth considering is the impact of soot on any warming that we’re seeing:

Black carbon pollution, or soot, produced by burning wood, coal, cow dung and diesel fuel, may be a much greater contributor to global warming than previously suspected, according to a study released this week.

The report concludes that the atmospheric warming effect of black carbon pollution is as much as three to four times the consensus estimate released last year in a report by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The findings are of concern to areas such as the Indian subcontinent, where retreating glaciers in the Himalayas have the potential to flood densely populated areas and affect the drinking water of billions of people.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which traps solar energy radiating back from Earth’s surface, black carbon particles absorb solar radiation as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, increasing its heat. In addition, when they precipitate onto snowy areas, they increase heat absorption that leads to glacial melting.

The particles come from burning dung, wood, coal and other materials for household use, and travel in “brown clouds.”

“In Los Angeles, it’s what you see outside your door on the horizon,” said V. Ramanathan, an atmospheric scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Ramanathan performed the study with Greg Carmichael, a chemical engineer at the University of Iowa.

The paper concluded that black carbon’s warming effect in the atmosphere is about 0.9 watts per meter squared, compared with the climate change panel’s consensus estimate of 0.2 to 0.4 watts.

The report, titled “Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon,” confirms similar conclusions of three previous model studies released in 2002 and 2005.

The paper concludes that carbon pollution contributes to global warming at a level that is about 60% of carbon dioxide’s warming effect, which makes black carbon the second most important contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.

A mass of black carbon in the atmosphere causes about 300,000 times as much instantaneous warming as the same amount of carbon dioxide, said Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University who worked on the 2002 study. But whereas black carbon disappears within a couple of weeks, carbon dioxide continues to build up and can take centuries to completely dissipate from the atmosphere.

About 25% to 35% of black carbon in the atmosphere comes from South and East Asia.

In Europe and the U.S., diesel fuel, wood-burning fireplaces and barbecues are major sources of black carbon. Forest fires also are large sources of black carbon emissions.

Black carbon emissions in Western Europe and the U.S. have decreased about 300% in the last 30 years because of more-efficient coal combustion, a move away from wood-burning fireplaces, and cleaner, more efficient technology.

“The positive side of this discouraging story is we know how to cut down black carbon,” Ramanathan said. “We have reduced it. So this is something we can do now.”

Ramanathan said the new figure was higher than previous estimates because the study took into account the atmospheric range of black carbon, which can rise several miles into the atmosphere and is more effective at heating the higher it travels. It also explores the increased heating effect that occurs when black carbon particles mix with sulfates and other organic particles in the atmosphere. Because the other particles in the brown cloud reflect light, these reflections are bounced around and eventually absorbed by the black carbon particles, further magnifying their heating effect.

The report’s data was drawn from NASA satellites and ground stations and from field studies near the Indian Ocean and California coast. Those numbers were then extrapolated to create a global figure for the black carbon warming effect.

“There’s an uncertainty in the actual number, but what it does seem to confirm is really the main point,” Jacobson said. “Black carbon warming is much stronger than the IPCC consensus number had estimated.”

The study was funded by the California Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. It was published Sunday in the online edition of Nature Geoscience.

The report concluded that black carbon pollution, which scientists blame for the premature deaths of more than a million people, is one of the major contributors to the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers. Black carbon particles that land on snow absorb more solar radiation and accelerate the melting of ice, previous studies have said.

China is a massive source of atmospheric particulate matter.

By introducing cap and trade in the West, manufacturing is forced to jurisdictions that have no, or lax, environmental laws – such as China – that not only causes an increase in CO2 emissions but also increase the amount of crap in the atmosphere leading to a loss of ice cover.

Well done, Big Green. Well done. The Climate Faithful must be so proud of themselves.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Asia, Climate Change

>Rambling memories of a beautiful country – Burma

>The calamity that has unfolded in Burma over the last week was especially poignant to me, as my family spent three years there when I was a teenager and I have very fond memories of the place and, especially, the people who are without a doubt the friendliest folk on the face of the earth. That they endure life under a self-serving military dictatorship while the rest of the world looks the other way (as it is so often wont to do) is a tragedy that has lasted for more than forty years.

You can read about Burma at Wikipedia, which has a good article on the country. I don’t intend to go into the history of the place but this passage from the article is especially poignant in light of its subsequent history:

The country is one of the poorest nations in South Asia / Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Burma’s GDP grows at a rate of 2.9% annually – the lowest rate of economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Under British administration and in the early 1950s, Burma was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia. It was once the world’s largest exporter of rice. During British administration, Burma supplied oil through the Burmah Oil Company. Burma also had a wealth of natural and labor resources. It produced 75% of the world’s teak and had a highly literate population. The country was believed to be on the fast track to development.

Before Zimbabwe there was Burma…and Cuba…two prime examples of the destructive nature of socialism and its need for a repressive military to back it up, which has led to the miserable existence for the people of each of those countries.

Infrastructure

The first thing one notices upon arrival in Rangoon is how old the buildings are. I’m not talking old in the sense of the pyramids or the Canterbury Cathedral but instead old in that they belong in the 1940s and ’50s (except for the pagodas, which are quite old). One is left with the impression that, come 1960, time decided to stand still in Burma.


Central Rangoon – the land that time forgot

Rangoon used to be a transit point for aircraft throughout the region in much the same way as Singapore is today. Two things occurred that were to have negative consequences for the country. Firstly, a military coup in 1962 by General Ne Win introduced the Burmese Way To Socialism, which was a plan to nationalise industry and, of course, led to a large reduction in foreign investment. Secondly, the range of modern aircraft increased to the point that they could bypass Rangoon altogether as a refuelling stop and land in Singapore. From the mid-60s on, Burma became somewhat of a forgotten nation.

The lack of investment in infrastructure is plain to see not only in its old buildings but also in its transport. Buses are fifty years old and many date back to WW2. More modern cars are driven by foreign embassy representatives and the higher officials in the junta’s pecking order. Most cars are quite dilapidated, all of which is no surprise given its military socialist economy.

To get some idea of how backward the country is: in a country of 48 million there are just 500,000 phone lines, 200,000 mobile phones and just 30,000 Internet users; the health system is such that life expectancy is 62 years while next door neighbour Thailand’s is 72; and of the country’s 86 airports 70% of them are unpaved and of its 27,000km of roads only 3,200km are paved.

Outside of Rangoon

It’s when one gets outside of the capital that a sense of the beauty and history of the Burma can be truly appreciated. The country is littered with large and small pagodas – temples dedicated to the worship of Buddha.

Rice fields abound, especially in the delta region, and the country is home to large mountain ranges that present a particular danger to aircraft, many of which have ended up strewn across them due mainly to pilot error.

Cars and buses are infrequently seen outside of the major centres while ox carts make up the majority of the traffic along rickety, dusty roads.

If you do ever get the chance to visit Burma then a trip to the beach resort at Sandoway
should be high on your list. It is truly one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere in the world. The resort itself post dates my family’s time in the country and is an attempt by the junta to attract foreign investment. When we stayed there, which we did a few times, we were provided a house right on the beach. The house was quite OK though the western style toilet did present one challenge; above the toilet roll holder was a large hole about the size of a large fist. One could be doing one’s business and then become mightily distracted by the sudden appearance of a large rat in the hole. There are a lot of rats in Burma.

One day the local fisherman at Sandoway asked whether my brother and I would like to join them for a day’s fishing on the reef, which was about 2km offshore. Of course, we jumped at the chance. Early the next morning we set out in the fishermen’s outrigger canoe and enjoyed the ride while the two of them paddled strongly out to sea. I don’t remember how long it took to get to the reef but certainly remember getting there because it was quite a sight. The boat was tied up and we alighted onto a reef measuring something like a hundred feet by twenty feet that jutted a couple of feet out of the ocean. My brother and I had hand lines, which seemed to be normal fishing equipment, as the two Burmese had them also. We could see fish all over the place and fully expected to be able to simply throw a line in and drag them out. Reality was different, of course, but we snagged a few.

The highlight of the day was provided by the two fishermen. One had chosen to hang his line in an opening about three foot round in the middle of the reef. We couldn’t work out what he was fishing for and as they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Burmese we weren’t likely to find out until a catch was made. After at least an hour a huge commotion broke out at the hole. The fisherman had hooked his target – a massive moray eel – and was locked in a life or death (for the eel) struggle to extract it from its lair. The thing was a truly magnificent animal and immensely strong, as it was taking all of the strength of the fisherman to hold it with its head about two feet above the water and the rest probably still in its lair. The other fisherman was bashing the eel on the head as hard as he could with a mallet. Alas, after what seemed a long time but was probably only a couple of minutes, the line broke and the eel escaped. You’ve never seen such disappointed folk as those two. We later discovered that eel is a great delicacy and worth a lot of money. After fishing for some hours the tide had turned and it was time to return to the beach so we set off to the coast. The sea seemed to be much rougher than our morning journey and I became quite queasy, which was the only low point in a great day.

You don’t forget days like that.


The Moray Eel – a local delicacy

The People

As mentioned, the Burmese are the nicest people anywhere in the world. Generous to a fault, even though they have little to give.

To a first time visitor the sight of teenage boys walking around holding hands or young girls doing the same thing is mildly confronting, though it’s a sign of great friendship and doesn’t carry the same implication as it would in San Francisco or Sydney.

We used to have a couple of young lads from the local village come and be ball boys when we played tennis. They’d run around madly chasing the balls until the ball ended up in the shrubs at which time they would go very slowly, keeping an eye out for snakes. Burma has a lot of snakes. The only forms of communication we had with these kids were “ballo”, signalling our need for a ball, and the smile of appreciation at the end of our session when we paid them. Sometimes we’d give them a can of Coke each, a great prize to the locals, as it was only available on the black market at a very high price. Whether they drank the Coke or sold it we never found out.

A national pastime seemed to be one I’d never seen anywhere else in the world – rubber band shooting. A target would be set up, typically a cigarette butt placed upright, the contestants would aim their rubber bands (which were quite large) using both hands – sometimes with extravagant aiming actions – and release at the target. If you missed then you were eliminated. Contestants would then move further and further away from the target until there was a winner. My younger brother used to join in with the lads from the local village and became quite competitive with the best of them.

On one occasion we had a viewing of Ice Station Zebra, which about twenty kids from the local village came to watch. They didn’t understand a word, of course, but they loved it all the same. One of the attendees was a very famous Burmese, U Myint Thein, who was widely known as Uncle Monty. He became a close friend of our family and when he was visiting would regularly drop in and see how the ‘young monkeys’ (that was us kids) were going. He was Chief Justice of Burma from 1957 until the coup in 1962 and was awarded an OBE by the British government. Have a read of the link about him and then try to reconcile the fact that this wise, knowledgeable man when watching the scene towards the end of Ice Station Zebra in which a bloke (is it Rock Hudson or Ernest Borgnine? my memory is hazy) has a remote control device in his hand that will set off some explosives, the red button is pressed, the explosives go off then jumps up and exclaims, “Can they do that?!” He’d never seen a remote control device.

I recall taking a trip to the local zoo, which was remarkable in its unremarkableness. The main thing I remember was that there was a bigger crowd following us than they had animals in the place.

Burma’s best known feature is the Shwedagon Pagoda. It really is an amazing place and its spirituality was not lost on me, in spite of my by then well formed atheism, which still didn’t stop me lighting candles and banging the bell for luck.

Legend has it that the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2500 years old. Archaeologists believe the stupa was actually built sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries by the Mon, but this is a very controversial issue because according to the records by Buddhist monks it was built before Lord Buddha died in 486 BC. The story of Shwedagon Pagoda begins with two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, meeting the Lord Gautama Buddha and receiving eight of the Buddha’s hairs to be enshrined in Burma. The two brothers made their way to Burma and with the help of the local king, King Ukkalapa, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha had been enshrined.


The famous Shwedagon Pagoda – I banged the bell there a few times

And now, alas, this wonderful country is beset by disaster and the junta’s lack of ability to help its people is now widely seen. What does seem strange is that they are refusing international aid in spite of the massive scale of what’s happened.

It is ironic that when there were protests in 2007 the military were on the streets in no time, rounding up protestors and cracking down in a harsh way. When they’re needed most, though, they are nowhere to be found.

I really hope to visit Burma again one day.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Asia

>Why support Palestine but ignore Tibet?

March 25, 2008 3 comments

>The great Dennis Prager makes a reasonable point. Why is it that Palestine attracts so much support from the UN, international media and leftist organisations when there’s a much more valid case for supporting Tibet against China?

The long-suffering Tibetans have been in the news. This happens perhaps once or twice a decade. In a more moral world, however, public opinion would be far more preoccupied with Tibetans than with Palestinians, would be as harsh on China as it is on Israel, and would be as fawning on Israel as it now is on China.

But, alas, the world is, as it has always been, a largely mean-spirited and morally insensitive place, where might is far more highly regarded than right.

Consider the facts: Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world’s oldest nations, has its own language, its own religion and even its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese, its culture has been systematically obliterated, 6,000 of its 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of its monks have been tortured, murdered or exiled.

Palestinians have none of these characteristics. There has never been a Palestinian country, never been a Palestinian language, never been a Palestinian ethnicity, never been a Palestinian religion in any way distinct from Islam elsewhere. Indeed, “Palestinian” had always meant any individual living in the geographic area called Palestine. For most of the first half of the 20th century, “Palestinian” and “Palestine” almost always referred to the Jews of Palestine. The United Jewish Appeal, the worldwide Jewish charity that provided the nascent Jewish state with much of its money, was actually known as the United Palestine Appeal. Compared to Tibetans, few Palestinians have been killed, its culture has not been destroyed nor its mosques looted or plundered, and Palestinians have received billions of dollars from the international community. Unlike the dying Tibetan nation, there are far more Palestinians today than when Israel was created.

None of this means that a distinct Palestinian national identity does not now exist. Since Israel’s creation such an identity has arisen and does indeed exist. Nor does any of this deny that many Palestinians suffered as a result of the creation of the third Jewish state in the area, known — since the Romans renamed Judea — as “Palestine.”

But it does mean that of all the causes the world could have adopted, the Palestinians’ deserved to be near the bottom and the Tibetans’ near the top. This is especially so since the Palestinians could have had a state of their own from 1947 on, and they have caused great suffering in the world, while the far more persecuted Tibetans have been characterized by a morally rigorous doctrine of nonviolence.

So, the question is, why? Why have the Palestinians received such undeserved attention and support, and the far more aggrieved and persecuted and moral Tibetans given virtually no support or attention?

The first reason is terror. Some time ago, the Palestinian leadership decided, with the overwhelming support of the Palestinian people, that murdering as many innocent people — first Jews, and then anyone else — was the fastest way to garner world attention. They were right. On the other hand, as The Economist notes in its March 28, 2008 issue, “Tibetan nationalists have hardly ever resorted to terrorist tactics…” It is interesting to speculate how the world would have reacted had Tibetans hijacked international flights, slaughtered Chinese citizens in Chinese restaurants and temples, on Chinese buses and trains, and massacred Chinese schoolchildren.

The second reason is oil and support from powerful fellow Arabs. The Palestinians have rich friends who control the world’s most needed commodity, oil. The Palestinians have the unqualified support of all Middle Eastern oil-producing nations and the support of the Muslim world beyond the Middle East. The Tibetans are poor and have the support of no nations, let alone oil-producing ones.

The third reason is Israel. To deny that pro-Palestinian activism in the world is sometimes related to hostility toward Jews is to deny the obvious. It is not possible that the unearned preoccupation with the Palestinians is unrelated to the fact that their enemy is the one Jewish state in the world. Israel’s Jewishness is a major part of the Muslim world’s hatred of Israel. It is also part of Europe’s hostility toward Israel: Portraying Israel as oppressors assuages some of Europe’s guilt about the Holocaust — “see, the Jews act no better than we did.” Hence the ubiquitous comparisons of Israel to Nazis.

A fourth reason is China. If Tibet had been crushed by a white European nation, the Tibetans would have elicited far more sympathy. But, alas, their near-genocidal oppressor is not white. And the world does not take mass murder committed by non-whites nearly as seriously as it takes anything done by Westerners against non-Westerners. Furthermore, China is far more powerful and frightening than Israel. Israel has a great army and nuclear weapons, but it is pro-West, it is a free and democratic society, and it has seven million people in a piece of land as small as Belize. China has nuclear weapons, has a trillion U.S. dollars, an increasingly mighty army and navy, is neither free nor democratic, is anti-Western, and has 1.2 billion people in a country that dominates the Asian continent.

A fifth reason is the world’s Left. As a general rule, the Left demonizes Israel and has loved China since it became Communist in 1948. And given the power of the Left in the world’s media, in the political life of so many nations, and in the universities and the arts, it is no wonder vicious China has been idolized and humane Israel demonized.

The sixth reason is the United Nations, where Israel has been condemned in more General Assembly and Security Council resolutions than any other country in the world. At the same time, the UN has voted China onto its Security Council and has never condemned it. China’s sponsoring of Sudan and its genocidal acts against its non-Arab black population, as in Darfur, goes largely unremarked on at the UN, let alone condemned, just as is the case with its cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing and military occupation of Tibet.

The seventh reason is television news, the primary source of news for much of mankind. Aside from its leftist tilt, television news reports only what it can video. And almost no country is televised as much as Israel, while video reports in Tibet are forbidden, as they are almost anywhere in China except where strictly monitored by the Chinese authorities. No video, no TV news. And no TV, no concern. So while grieving Palestinians and the accidental killings of Palestinians during morally necessary Israeli retaliations against terrorists are routinely televised, the slaughter of over a million Tibetans and the extinguishing of Tibetan Buddhism and culture are non-events as far as television news is concerned.

The world is unfair, unjust and morally twisted. And rarely more so than in its support for the Palestinians — no matter how many innocents they target for murder and no matter how much Nazi-like anti-Semitism permeates their media — and its neglect of the cruelly treated, humane Tibetans.

To those who think that the issues in Palestine are created by the Israelis you should seek the answer to a question. Why is it that if you live in Gaza or the West Bank then you cannot migrate to any other Arab country (with only a couple of exceptions)?


Here are some possible answers:

A) Hamas (Gaza) or Fatah (West Bank) do not allow it;
B) You are too poor to migrate; or
C) Other Arab countries do not allow you to migrate to them.

(Nothing Follows)


Categories: Asia, Middle East

>Pakistan Political Ponderings

February 20, 2008 Leave a comment

>A number of articles (introductions below) give a pretty nice overview of matters pertaining to Pakistan.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The results of Pakistan’s parliamentary vote are being billed as a repudiation not only of Pervez Musharraf, but also of President Bush, who has mostly supported the Pakistani strongman over the past seven years. We’re more inclined to see the elections as a vindication of both.

There is no doubt that the election was a significant blow to Mr. Musharraf’s political party, the so-called Muslim League-Q, which placed a distant third behind the Muslim League-N of former Islamist prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party of the late Benazir Bhutto. Mr. Musharraf certainly did little to endear himself to Pakistanis last year by suspending the chief justice of the Supreme Court and later firing him when it looked like the judge would not certify his election to a third term. Even worse was Mr. Musharraf’s November declaration of emergency rule, an ostensible move against Islamic radicals in which lawyers and civil-rights activists bore the brunt of the repression.

Under these circumstances, it would have been surprising — and suspicious — if Mr. Musharraf’s party had polled better than it did. But the Pakistani president nevertheless made good on his promise to resign his position as army chief of staff and hold parliamentary elections, despite a delay of six weeks following Ms. Bhutto’s assassination in late December.

Yesterday, an international observer group composed of members from the U.S., Europe and Australia certified that the election was “sufficiently transparent” and that “the will of the people was reasonably well expressed.” That is good news given predictions that Mr. Musharraf intended to rig the results, not to mention what might have been a bloody fallout if he had.

And again:

Pakistan’s election has been portrayed by the Western media as a defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. The real losers were the Islamist parties.

The latest analysis of the results shows that the parties linked, or at least sympathetic, to the Taliban and al Qaeda saw their share of the votes slashed to about 3% from almost 11% in the last general election a few years ago. The largest coalition of the Islamist parties, the United Assembly for Action (MMA), lost control of the Northwest Frontier Province — the only one of Pakistan’s four provinces it governed. The winner in the province is the avowedly secularist National Awami Party.

Despite vast sums of money spent by the Islamic Republic in Tehran and wealthy Arabs from the Persian Gulf states, the MMA failed to achieve the “approaching victory” (fatah al-qarib) that Islamist candidates, both Shiite and Sunni, had boasted was coming.

The Islamist defeat in Pakistani confirms a trend that’s been under way for years. Conventional wisdom had it that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lack of progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict, would provide radical Islamists with a springboard from which to seize power through elections.

From the Pakistan Times:

Eleven women candidates on the national assembly general seats have won the contest.

According to break-up, out of the winning women 5 belonged to PPP, two to PML-Q, 2 to PML-N, while one each from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and independent candidates, a private news channel reported.

And again:

Overseas Pakistanis remittances during the current fiscal year seven months jumped up by 22.44 percent.

SBP spokesman, Syed Wasimuddin told that the overseas Pakistanis remittances during July 2007 to January 2008 amounted to $3.62 billion, while $2.95 billion were received in the same period previous year.

Bulk of the remittances came from the Pakistanis residing in US, Saudi Arab, Arab Emirates and Gulf Cooperative Council countries.

Parsing all of that you come to the conclusion that the political system in Pakistan is robust and inclusive of women, that fundamentalism has been rejected by the majority and that the country is benefiting from a beshiverload of money coming back from overseas Pakistanis for whom increased access to employment markets in the US may be due to the country’s support for the War On Terror.

So, without going over the top, it seems reasonable to suggest that things in Pakistan will work out OK.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Asia

>Does the International Crisis Group understand Pakistan at all?

>I’ve commented before on the International Crisis Group’s inept policy positions on matters of global importance. For those not familiar with it, the ICG is a left-leaning, Brussels-based think tank headed up by Australia’s most over-rated foreign ministers of all time, Gareth Evans.

ICG analysts seem to have missed the change that has occurred in the world since 9/11, the associated rise of Islamic militancy and the lessons of history.

There are probably few better examples of US State Department incompetence than what they have tried to achieve in Pakistan. Like the ICG, the State Department is a 9/10 organisation that operates almost as an independent authority, particularly so if there’s a Republican in the White House.

Pakistan now is not the Pakistan of five years ago. It is under serious threat from Al Qaeda and Taliban-like forces that have taken over the northern part of the country in a deal done with Musharraf and turned it into an Afghanistan style state when the Taliban ruled that country.

It is surely true that Musharraf has played both sides of the game in his post-9/11 ‘support’ of the United States’ War On Terror and that the results have been less than effective. This, however, is now reason to throw him overboard.

The lesson of history that should be remembered by the ICG, US State and those wishing to see and end to Musharraf (or even military rule in Pakistan) is that of Iran, as the parallels are clear for all who wish to see them.

Through the mid-70s, the position of the Shah of Iran became less tenable in the eyes of its major ally, the United States, mainly due to the increasingly brutal activities of Iran’s security services in dealing with its opponents. We conveniently overlooked the fact that those opponents were not your brave, morally well attuned group like Solidarity in Poland but were mainly agents of the Islamic radicals who went on to gain power. The worst ever President, Jimmy Carter, chose to cast the Shah adrift, which led to the Iranian Revolution, the rise of Iran’s state-funded terror groups around the world (Hezbollah, Hamas and others) and the weakening of the economy not to mention a war with Iraq in which over a million soldiers perished.

Supporters of a plan to oust Musharraf point to the fact that the majority of the people support a secular democracy in Pakistan. They seem to forget that this is the same situation as in Iran before the revolution and that the Iranians were even more pro-Western and pro-democracy than the population of Pakistan is now.

The power vacuum and political mayhem that followed the Shah’s fall paved the way for the Ayatollah Khomeini who presented himself and his followers as moderates seeking to restore the state to the people. As Time wrote in its 100 most influential people of the 20th century comment, “…it is enough to say that Khomeini presided brilliantly over the overthrow of a wounded regime. He was merciless and cunning. His well-advertised piety complemented a prodigious skill in grasping and shaping Iran’s complex politics. Most important, he knew how to exploit the feelings of nationalist resentment that characterized his time.”

Resentment is a word that well describes the average Pakistani’s feeling about the political mess that afflicts the country and, given the poor quality and corrupt leadership of Pakistan’s established political parties it’s not at all clear that a move to democracy, as recommended by the ICG, is achievable in the current environment.

It’s very possible that the fall of Musharraf could see the rise of a radical Islamist party in Pakistan. With its nuclear arsenal in the hands of these people the much sought after stability in the region will be shattered.

The overview to the ICG’s analysis on Pakistan is as follows:

Gravely damaged by eight years of military rule, Pakistan’s fragile political system received a major blow on 27 December 2007, when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Her murder, days before the parliamentary elections scheduled for 8 January 2008 and now postponed to 18 February, put an end to a U.S. effort to broker a power-sharing deal with President Pervez Musharraf which the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader had already recognised was unrealistic. Her popularity and the belief Musharraf and his allies were responsible, directly or indirectly, have led to violent countrywide protests.

The fact that the ICG sees Bhutto has popular shows how much they’ve missed the changes on the ground in Pakistan. Opposition to her was palpable and it was clear that her opponents would not stop trying to kill her until they succeeded. The crowd numbers she pulled to her rallies were not that great for someone who was supposedly returning to popular adulation, as the Western media seemed to report it.

Stability in Pakistan and its contribution to wider anti-terror efforts now require rapid transition to legitimate civilian government. This must involve the departure of Musharraf, whose continued efforts to retain power at all costs are incompatible with national reconciliation; an interim consensus caretaker government and a neutral Election Commission; and brief postponement of the elections to allow conditions to be created – including the restoration of judicial independence – in which they can be conducted freely and fairly.

A legitimate civilian government is certainly the ideal for Pakistan. The ICG makes no comment on the possibility of a ‘legitimate’ government such as happened in Gaza with the election of Hamas. They need to make an assessment of this possibility given how high the states are.

Bhutto’s death has drawn the battle lines even more clearly between Musharraf’s military-backed regime and Pakistan’s moderate majority, which is now unlikely to settle for anything less than genuine parliamentary democracy. Many in Pakistan fear that the federation’s very survival could depend on the outcome of this struggle.

Belying his reiterated slogan of “Pakistan first”, Musharraf is placing regime survival and his personal political fortune first, just as he did in November. That month he imposed martial law, suspended the constitution, imprisoned thousands of lawyers and politicians and sacked the judiciary with the sole objective of preventing the Supreme Court from challenging the legitimacy of his re-election as president by a lame-duck and stacked Electoral College.

Musharraf gave up his position of Army Chief on 28 November under U.S. pressure, but the legitimacy of his presidential election remains contested. He withdrew martial law formally on 15 December, ending the emergency and reviving the constitution. At the same time, however, he not only did not restore the dismissed judges or void the repressive decrees he had issued but also unilaterally and without any legal basis proclaimed amendments to the constitution purporting to deny the courts and the parliament their constitutional prerogatives to challenge his changes.

Bhutto’s PPP and the centre-right Muslim League (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had reluctantly agreed to participate in the 8 January elections, motivated primarily by the desire to expose Musharraf’s intention to rig the vote. Stacked courts, partial caretaker governments, a subservient Election Commission, the gagging of the media, curbs on political party mobilisation and association and the actions of the security agencies all undermined the essential conditions for free and fair elections.

Anyone who has followed Pakistani politics for any length of time would understand what a disaster it would be for Nawz Sharif to regain power…

The regime’s international backers, particularly the U.S., continue to give signs of wanting to retain Musharraf in the presidency in the belief that he and the military (his sole support base) are the only guarantors of stability in a crucial country. But after Bhutto’s murder, and with the extent of popular anger now evident, elections that are not seen as free and fair would have disastrous consequences. The person of Musharraf has become so unpopular that his continuation in a position of power guarantees increasing domestic turmoil. By continuing to back him, Western governments might not just lose the battle for Pakistani hearts and minds, but could also be faced with the nightmare prospect of a nuclear-armed, Muslim-majority country of 165 million descending into violent internal conflict from which only extremist forces would stand to gain.

Assassination is par for the course in Pakistan of which Bhutto’s own family in non-living proof. The country gets over these things quickly and sorts itself out. The ICG’s assessment of ‘popular anger’ wildly overstates the reality and is not a reason for uncontrolled change.

Bhutto’s party will survive her demise, and will, should her successors act wisely, remain a force for moderation and stability in Pakistan. Sharif’s party has vowed to work with the PPP to restore democracy, peace and stability in the country. The U.S. and its Western allies must recognise that Musharraf is not only not indispensable, but he is now a serious liability. Instead of backing a deeply unpopular authoritarian ruler who is seen as complicit in the death of Pakistan’s most popular politician, they must instead support democratic institutions and the people of Pakistan. It is time that the West acknowledges that only a legitimate elected government, led by one of the moderate parties, would have the authority and the popular backing to return Pakistan to its moderate democratic moorings.

Someone should remember that Bhutto’s party is hardly democratic with her 19 year old son now being appointed to head it up, with a co-head until he comes of age, which was a part of Bhutto’s will. The way Bhutto ran Pakistan when she was Prime Minister is not dissimilar to the way Putin now runs Russia – as a personal cookie jar for her and her cronies.

In summary, the policy outcomes that need to happen over the next two months, and which should be strongly and consistently supported by the international community, and particularly those like the U.S. most capable of influencing them, are:

– Musharraf’s resignation, with Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro taking over under the constitution as acting president and appointing neutral caretaker governments at the national and provincial levels with the consensus of the major political parties in all four federal units;
– postponement of the polls, accompanied with the announcement of an early new election date. The Election Commission announced on 2 January a postponement until 18 February. This is reasonable in and of itself but it said nothing about the other crucial changes discussed in this Briefing and which are needed if this step is to contribute to restoration of democracy in Pakistan;
– full restoration of the constitution, including an independent judiciary and constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly and association and safeguards against illegal arrest and detention;
– reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan, with the consensus of all major political parties; and
– the transfer of power and legitimate authority to elected civilian hands.

Everyone hopes for a good outcome in Pakistan. The ICG’s proposal creates more problems than it solves. Perhaps they’re looking to generate more crises and more work for themselves?

Categories: Asia, Politics

>Bhutto’s inevitable doom

December 27, 2007 Leave a comment

>The death overnight of Benazir Bhutto seemed to be ‘a horribly inevitability’, as Mark Steyn described it in his article at the National Review.

In her time as Pakistan’s Prime Minister she oversaw a hugely corrupt regime that ended with her being ousted by the military. It seems unlikely, given her past, that any government led by her would be much different. At this time, though, it seems charitable to give her the benefit of the doubt and suggest that her intentions in seeking a third term as PM were pure and driven by a resolve to see her country deal with its significant issues.

By murdering her at a time when she was so prominent on the world stage her enemies – our enemies, too – have almost guaranteed that opposition to them and their barbaric ways will be galvanised around the world.

In this way, Bhutto has finally united people from all political persuasions and religious faiths in a common cause to fight for decency against the violent, backward societies that Al Qaeda and the Taliban represent.

Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan had a mad recklessness about it which give today’s events a horrible inevitability. As I always say when I’m asked about her, she was my next-door neighbor for a while – which affects a kind of intimacy, though in fact I knew her only for sidewalk pleasantries. She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be – though in practice, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world’s most corrupt political classes.

Since her last spell in power, Pakistan has changed, profoundly. Its sovereignty is meaningless in increasingly significant chunks of its territory, and, within the portions Musharraf is just about holding together, to an ever more radicalized generation of young Muslim men Miss Bhutto was entirely unacceptable as the leader of their nation. “Everyone’s an expert on Pakistan, a faraway country of which we know everything,” I wrote last month. “It seems to me a certain humility is appropriate.” The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out. They’d arranged a shotgun marriage between the Bhutto and Sharif factions as a “united” “democratic” “movement” and were pushing Musharraf to reach a deal with them. That’s what diplomats do: They find guys in suits and get ’em round a table. But none of those representatives represents the rapidly evolving reality of Pakistan. Miss Bhutto could never have been a viable leader of a post-Musharraf settlement, and the delusion that she could have been sent her to her death. Earlier this year, I had an argument with an old (infidel) boyfriend of Benazir’s, who swatted my concerns aside with the sweeping claim that “the whole of the western world” was behind her. On the streets of Islamabad, that and a dime’ll get you a cup of coffee.

As I said, she was everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be. We should be modest enough to acknowledge when reality conflicts with our illusions. Rest in peace, Benazir.

From the UK’s Channel 4 comes the following report:

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Asia, Politics