Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Suicide Paq (World Roundup)

The headliner this weekend and early this week is quite obviously the Afghani success the recent election delivered. It was flawed, it was imperfect, but it was a giant leap forward for a country run by Islamofascists. That said, there are some warning signs and issues that Karzai is going to have to tackle stat. The politics of difference is of course a prime one. As C-Plus Augustus struts the stage and brags about how he's single-handedly brough the idea of democracy into the Arab World and is the only one capable of delivering its messianic panacea, he's ignoring important cultural issues. It's easy to see things from a Western perspective how democracy might want, but too often parties aren't even organized in the developing world and in the South (talking globally, not nationally) along the lines of issues and ideologies, but ethnic groupings, nationalisms, and tribal allegiances. This is an issue in these elections, and will continue to be for the Afghans. Controlling it and channeling it in constructive ways is a challenge. Another important one is the proposed NATO takeover. Not only is this important for Iraq, but for the future of the alliance. NATO has been peacekeeping in Afghanistan while the US rages in the combat missions, and the push is to integrate the two. That's not going to happen easily. If NATO was to come into Iraq, that dichotomy and integration issue would be repeated. Some hardcore diplomacy is needed, especially since Germany is the second largest player in Afghanistan and isn't easy to please.

Aside from the Afghanistan route, Japan is having problems with suicide pacts. The story and situation either sound like the plot of one of those new Japanese supernatural thrillers or lifted directly from anime. Some see it as a sign of crumbling society. It sure isn't a good one any way you look at it, especially when the internet is helping it to gain steam. Also, it's been finally publicized by the IAEA that Taiwan wanted nukes. Looks like the program ended in the 80s, but with that kind of nuclear proliferation program unknown for so long, it's a serious issue how many other countries might be cooking up the initial stages for WMDs that we're not paying attention to. It's easy for something like an Iran, Iraq, or North Korea to attract the IAEA's glare, but what about more peripheral players?

Iraqi health care is in a dismal state post-war. The strain put on it by this conflict is unbelievable, and the deaths resulting from inadequate care aren't helping the growing warzone there. Saudi women don't get the vote (shock), and of course because they're segregated it's unlikely such a thing will be contemplated any time soon. Bush also gets the failing grade from 650 foreign policy experts. That's a lot! You can claim about institutions and elites, but a number like that is staggering.

Land Reform is heating up in Nambia (The Namibian). President Nujoma has proposed expropriating lands from foreign "absentee landlords." While it may be needed to solve growing food problems and is a positive step to undoing legacies of colonialism, it could go the Zimbabwe route. That would be a disaster in discouraging foreign investment and retard some possible growth. Not like land reform is ever simple and conventional, though. As directly communist as the issue may seem in taking land and redistributing it, the titanic estates of colonial landlords left a huge legacy of inequality in Africa that has kept the markets in a problematic dynamic since. Then there's Nigerian oil and President Obasanjo (This Day). He avoided a civil war only to end up with one of the country's largest labor strikes. Out of the frying pan, into the magma! Corruption is being revealed already by the string of events in this labor strike, and more will probably come as a result. The government is hoping it can intimidate the workers into submission, but we'll see how long the rising world oil crisis keeps their "we don't negotiate with workers" tactic going.