Monday, May 26, 2008

American Strategy

(Left) In a clear demonstration of American strategy, Ambassador Nancy Powell and two well-dressed YCL cadres return to Tribhuvan Airport after a whirlwind shopping trip to New York City

What gives?

The Maoists appear to steal an election at gunpoint and the Yanks welcome them with open arms?

A few explanations are in order, says blogdai. American policy, as blundered by George Bush and Co., can be summed up briefly and simply:

Any process that calls itself "democratic" should be viewed as an American foreign policy victory.

Maybe, to a small extent, they're right. Regardless of whether they were forced at gunpoint; and regardless of the fact that they were coerced and manipulated into a polling process that almost no one understood, Nepali citizens turned out to vote. At the very least they learned that their choices, coerced or not, can influence Nepal's political climate. This bodes well for the future.

The value of elections is just now starting to sink in with Nepalis. It would have been worse if the Yanks, Indians, Girija or whomever stepped in and nullified the process. What faith in the system would the average rural Nepali be left with in that situation? Most world bodies did not care for the resulting Maoist victories yet the respect shown to the election process by letting the results stand leaves a permanent impression on the average voter. Remember, faith in the electoral process, and ultimately democracy, lies in how well we all tolerate decisions and choices we don't like. It's easy to be a winner, it's democratic to take your losses with dignity.

So, Nancy Powell and the various U.S. State Department underlings are all talking with the Maoists and dangling the carrot of removing them from the Yank list of terrorist organizations. Watch for the following strategies to take hold:

--Prachanda will be swept up in a tide of diplomacy and increased foreign aid to the point where he is ideologically neutered and becomes just another greedy Nepal politico. Assimilation through dilution.

--You'll see no "ideological support" during this time. The Maoists will be pushed into playing by the rules. To assist in this, no new arms will be sold, given or shipped to this Maoist regime. The Yanks, just today, grilled Prachanda on how he plains to contain his YCL thugs.

--The Maoists may just blow it in front of the world's eyes. This would confirm to Nepalis, in the most concrete of terms, that we all knew the Maoists were a bad choice yet we respect your right to elect whomever you please--further demonstrating the principle pillar of democracy: protect elections uber alles.

--Prachanda has served the purpose of cleaning the political house. Girija and his inept administration have been maddeningly frustrating to work with from a competence and capacity standpoint. The Maoists will be no better, but the Yanks can now hope for a better day.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

China Censors Writers

After launching tens of thousands of netizens to flood the blogs on Tibet issue all over the world to assert that Tibet was, is and will always be China's, Beijing exercised censorship on their own columnist who called out the government to "allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet" by firing a renowned Chinese columnist Zhang Ping.

I am reminded of all these angry netizens who cried foul about the news reports from CNN, BBC, and Fox News. Weren't they glad that there was actually someone, a Chinese with conscience, that they could fire? This renowned Chinese columnist Zhang Ping, I suspect, is not alone with such opinions that China should allow more media freedom and review its Tibet policy, among the Han Chinese, who mostly do not have the access like Zhang Ping's to voice such opinions.

It is ironic that those who accuse western media of being biased are doing exactly what they are denouncing: silencing the opposition by calling Zhang Ping a traitor and firing him. Those netizens' real agenda is to stop the western media from reporting the facts that they don't want the world to know. It is not the truth that the netizens care about. What frustrates the Chinese Communist Party hacks is the resistence of their propoganda, from conscientious reporters and columnists, like their very own Zhang Ping.

BEIJING (Reuters) - A renowned Chinese columnist has lost his job at a magazine over commentaries on unrest in Tibet which did not conform with the official line, a watchdog group and a source with knowledge of the dismissal said on Tuesday.

Zhang Ping, who writes under the pen name Chang Ping, was sacked as deputy chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

The group said in an e-mail Zhang's departure was "because of his editorials about Tibet", including the controversial piece "How to find the truth about Lhasa?"
"We deplore this unfair removal of a well-known member of the liberal press," the statement said.

Zhang declined to comment when reached by telephone. The source, requesting anonymity, confirmed the sacking but declined to provide further details.

Violent anti-Chinese riots broke out in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas in neighboring provinces in March, with mobs killing about 20 non-Tibetan civilians, the Chinese government says. The Tibetan government-in-exile puts the figure at more than 200, most victims of a subsequent crackdown.

The crackdown led to protests by exiled Tibetans around the world and a troubled international leg of the Olympic torch relay for the Beijing Games in August.

Zhang's articles were published mainly in his magazine's sister newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, and called on the government to allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet.

The commentaries drew an angry backlash from a large number of Internet users, who accused Zhang of being a traitor and downplaying the violence by Tibetans as well as the perceived anti-China bias of Western media.

(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Big Double Dynamic

The dust has settled on our election now. The votes are all, or mostly, counted and it looks like we can draw some conclusions beyond the obvious fact that the Maoists won a lot of seats. We can look at the dynamics of a successful grass-roots campaign, versus the inertia of the status quo as an opposing dynamic of its own. Both lead to a Maoist victory and both required each other’s presence to insure a Maoist victory.

The Maoist Dynamic

We’ve had a group that has coerced, preyed-upon, influenced and generally been seen on a day to day basis by villagers in all corners of Nepal during the last 10 years leading up to this recent election. Essentially, when one relates this 10 year siege to the state of mind of the average Nepali voter going to the polls for the first time, they have essentially survived, what rightly can be termed as the “Campaign from Hell.” Call it whatever you like, the Maoists were out in the villages for the last 10 years campaigning for eventual votes simply by their brutal presence. So, if we couple that with a populace that has no idea that voting is supposed to be a sacred, individual and private act; but instead lives in fear that a Maoist might be able to discern the voting choices of each individual, it is not hard to see how Prachanda and his goons triumphed. Even simpler, how would the Maoists retaliate towards villagers in the instance where an opposing candidate won, and wouldn’t such retaliation be on the mind of each voter as they entered the polling place? Simpler still, how does anyone win an election without a platform or set of initiatives? Go ask a Maoist. They seem to have figured it out: it seems to have a lot to do with satationing armed cadres at voting centers and beating up opposing candidates.

The Non-Dynamic Dynamic

Ego, hubris and just plain ineptitude categorized the second enabling dynamic in the Maoist’s victory. When, during the last decade, has Girija Koirala and his greedy congress given any serious attention, much less aid and governmental hope to rural citzens in Nepal? No, the government has focused, rather lazily, on maintaining its weak concensus among those in the Kathmandu valley. As evidenced by the polling numbers, the few UML and NC victories tallied came in districts either relatively close to Kathmandu or those whose “favorite son” politician came from the region. It is this ignorance of the needs of an entire country of voters that turned the populace away from Girija and the like. Would a rural voter, who may genuinely like, say, a UML candidate in his district risk voting for that candidate when there has probably been not one whimper of government attention—and more importantly—protection or even an adequate government presence to back up that vote? The Maoists have been out in the districts and the voter knows Maoists cadres can reward or make one pay for their choices on a daily basis.

A simple grasp of democracy would have told these government fools that one vote in Rukum carries the same weight as one vote in Kathmandu.

Compound this with the fact that Girija has avoided elections over the last decade, leaving voters confounded and open to manipulation due to their inexperience, and you have a government-created recipe for inaccurate voting and fraud. Crying after the deed is done about voter fraud and Maoist manipulation Mr. NC politician? Well, go cry in the mirror because you helped create this scenario through your ten years of arrogantly dismissing the electoral process.

Where does that leave us?

Maoists can’t govern. They don’t have a plan for governing. They only have an ideolgy—and a failed one at that. Prachanda is looking way past the actual significance of his victory and has his eyes on the prize of running the entire government as its Prime Minister. He and all Maoists still, unbashedly, proclaim Nepal will eventually become a Communist state. They’ll paint their shiny new car a nice Communist red and clean it every day. They’ll keep polishing this red finish and ignore the fact that the wheels are falling off. Excuse me, Mr. “Fierce One,” but can you describe your plan for national infrastructure repair and expansion over the next few years? You get my point.

This may just work in Nepal’s favor. Sometimes it takes a rat to remove a rat. Prachanda has done what no sane and rational political thinker has been able to do: Eliminate Girija’s grip on power and remove most of the festering, corrupt political minions from government. Ideally the Maoists are an interim step towards a healthy Nepal. They’ve done the dirty work. Next, when it becomes clear that the Maoists have no clear plan for governing, the will trip themselves up and be out of power. Blogdai gives them two years, at most, before they either dissolve or are forcefully removed . But, untortunately for now, we are stuck with them.

Liken it to a screaming child on a holiday road trip that cries so loudly for Mommy and Daddy to let it drive the car that they eventually give in. Naturally, having no skill, the child drives the car over a cliff and the entire world sees that this child has no business being anywhere near and automobile. Same thing will happen if Prachanda gets behind the wheel at Singha Durbar. With a child driving, foreign aid will be drastically curtailed (even now the Asian Development Bank is delaying their $60 million aid package until this new government proves itself), and big governments will seek to change the situation. Even India is nervous. Unless he builds a concensus and allows for dissenting, non-communist, ideas and planning Prachanda’s government will collapse in short order.

Add that to the fact that the Young Communist League thugs are becoming bolder with this victory, infuriating villagers to the breaking point, and you have all the ingredients for a popular revolution.

Only this time it will be a REAL Jana Andolan.