Friday, December 3, 2010

Today's News: Now What?!

Today's news is more of the same: only more so, in the case of Korea.

This is a somewhat rambling post. A point I'm trying to make is that not all countries are the same. I've said this before. (June 9, 2009)

That may seem obvious, but I've gotten the impression that folks with quite a few sorts of views sometimes think that all countries are pretty much like America - except that America is at fault for their problems; or that all countries should be like America. I don't mind living in a world where everybody isn't exactly like me - and that's another topic.


"South Korea's defense minister vows airstrikes if North Korea attacks"
CNN (December 3, 2010)

"South Korea's new defense minister said his country would respond with airstrikes if North Korea attacks it again, South Korean state media reported Friday. It is some of the strongest rhetoric since the conflict broke out late last month.

" 'We will definitely air raid North Korea, Kim Kwan-jin said at his confirmation hearing when asked how the South would respond if struck again, according to the official Yonhap News Agency.

"Kim was appointed defense minister last week amid growing tensions on the Korean peninsula following an exchange of gunfire between the two sides.

"His comments reflect a potential shift in South Korea's policy toward provocations from the North. Previously, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned of severe consequences if the North launched another attack, but declined to name specifics...."
I can't say that I'm happy about this development.

I'd prefer that North and South Korea get along. Better yet, that the country have one government. One run by sane people, who had some sort of checks and balances to keep them from being too irresponsible.

While I'm wishing, I'd prefer that America's checks and balances worked. And that's yet another topic, sort of.

This isn't a perfect world, so North Korea is run by Dear Leader, who seems to be arranging for his son to take over. South Korea is run by a President, a National Assembly, and a Supreme Court.

North Korea has a billion-dollar economy which produces armaments, textiles, and agricultural products, among other things.

South Korea has a trillion-dollar economy, making electronics, cars, and ships - also music videos and various consumer products. (CIA World Factbook, "Korea, South" (last updated November 17, 2010)"Korea, North" (last updated November 9, 2010))

I think the radical differences between the two halves of Korea are due mostly to the style of leadership on each side - but that's my opinion. Dear Leader's take is that the half of the country he doesn't control is the "South Korean puppet group." (November 23, 2010)
'I Predict' - Something Will Happen
As for 'what next?' That's a good question: but I really don't know.

The most recent attacks could be another case of bad behavior, followed by demands for concessions. If Dear Leader was younger, I'd probably think he probably just wanted more lobster, or maybe a special seat at the United Nations.

What troubles me is Kim Jong Il's age, and what appear to be his efforts at setting up his son to be the next warlord. When Kim Jong Il dies: well, the death of a warlord has sometimes set off quite a scramble among the folks who want the position. This lot has nuclear weapons, and missiles that can reach quite a few countries bordering the Pacific.

One of the wannabes might get the idea that incinerating, say, Tokyo, Vladivostok, or Seoul, was a good way to show determination. Or someone in North Korea might start believing their own propaganda. Again, my opinion.

On the other hand, the government in Seoul might get a telephone call tomorrow, from Pyongyang - collect - saying: 'sorry about that: it was all a big misunderstanding, it's a mess here, and we'd like you to take over now.'

I really don't think that'll happen.


"Obama in Afghanistan, U.S. to release war review soon"
Caren Bohan, Reuters Edition: U.S. (December 3, 2010)

"President Barack Obama visited Afghanistan on Friday but bad weather kept him on a U.S. military base and forced him to cancel a planned face-to-face meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Obama was due to speak with Karzai by phone from Bagram Air Base outside the capital, U.S. officials said. They previously hoped to set up a secure videophone line but weather and technical difficulties prevented that.

"The trip, the second to Afghanistan of Obama's presidency, comes as the White House prepares to release a review of the war strategy the week of December 13.

"It will assess and potentially recommend changes to the strategy Obama rolled out a year ago when he ordered 30,000 additional U.S. troops to that war zone.

"Obama is under pressure to show progress in the increasingly unpopular nine-year-old war and the visit is a chance for a first-hand assessment...."
I've said it before: 'It's different, when you're in charge.'

Let's remember that Afghanistan was run by the Taliban, 1996-2001, and had a series of civil wars before that. The country is not in great shape. (CIA World Factbook, "Afghanistan" (last updated November 22, 2010))

Whatever the president of the United States says, week after next, it's going to be criticized. I'm no great fan of the current president, but I'm waiting until I see what the man has to say, before commenting on it.

And, if there's an unfavorable fluff-to-content ratio, I may not comment at all. Moving on.

Ivory Coast, Africa

"Ivory Coast poll overturned: Gbagbo declared winner"
BBC News Africa (December 3, 2010)

"Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council has overturned earlier poll results and declared President Laurent Gbagbo the winner of Sunday's run-off.

"On Thursday the electoral commission head said opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara had defeated Mr Gbagbo.

"But the Constitutional Council chairman said results in seven regions in the north, where Mr Ouattara draws most of his support, had been annulled.

"The poll was intended to reunify the nation after a civil war in 2002.

"Paul Yao N'Dre, chairman of the Constitutional Council which validates election results, said Mr Gbagbo had won a little more than 51% of the vote.

"The head of the electoral commission had said Mr Gbagbo won 46% of ballots cast....

"...On Thursday evening, the military closed the country's borders and international news sources were suspended...."
Okay. This sounds familiar.
  • 'Elected' leader stages election
  • 'Wrong' candidate wins
  • Ballots for 'wrong' candidate declared invalid
  • 'Elected' leader's enforcers
    • Close borders
    • Shut down news
No bragging about how that could never happen in this country. I live in Minnesota. 'Nuff said. This isn't a 'political' blog.

If "Ivory Coast" doesn't sound familiar, you may know the country as Cote d'Ivoire. (CIA World Factbook) Cote d'Ivoire is in better shape than Somalia: but most countries are.

About the recent election, Laurent Gbagbo's folks may be right - there might be legitimate reasons for throwing out ballots from areas that supported the other fellow. A point in Gbagbo's favor, given my biases, is that the 'official' count is around 51% - not the 99%, give-or-take, that some folks presumably got. Officially.

So, what does this election SNAFU have to do with the war on terror?

Directly, not all that much.

Indirectly, Cote d'Ivoire is a pretty good example of how countries aren't all alike.

For example, part of Cote d'Ivoire's economy involves what's politely termed "trafficking in persons." Illegal immigrants occasionally show up on the domestic staff of American political leaders - and folks breaking into this country are a hot-button issue. But forced servitude isn't - really - a significant part of America's economy. The opinions of a few college professors and terribly earnest folks notwithstanding.

The idea that people are commodities that can be bought and sold is not a good fit with the ideals of personal freedom that quite a few folks in America and Western civilization at least pay lip-service to.

I've made the point before: Islam is at least as diverse as Protestant Christianity. Muslims seem to have an extremely wide range of beliefs, based in part on local and regional cultures. Islam is not some monolithic block of Osama bin Laden clones.

However, the local/regional flavors of Islam often tolerate quaint customs. Like forced servitude. It's not called that - not in polite society, anyway. But the folks whose leaders are sitting on the heart of Islam import "...workers from South and Southeast Asia who are subjected to conditions that constitute involuntary servitude including being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, confinement, and withholding of passports as a restriction on their movement...." (CIA World Factbook, "Saudi Arabia" (last updated November 9, 2010))

'The war on terror' isn't a war on Islam. But outfits like the Taliban and Al Qaeda have attitudes and beliefs that aren't all that unlike those of the Saudi upper crust. Those beliefs aren't a good fit - at all - with the way Americans, and folks in Western countries generally, have gotten used to living.

Folks living in Cote d'Ivoire, by the way, are about 1/3 Muslim, 1/3 Christian, and 1/3 something else. And I'm not trying to say that Islam causes slavery. Cultures that Islam appears in these days? That's yet again another topic.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

I thought it was pay lip service: "Western civilization at least play lip-service to."

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Brian H. Gill said...


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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.