politics, world

A Good Week For International Change

IrotzabalFidel Castro

If there are four big pieces of international news this week, it would be hard to make them anything but these. And if there were for big pieces of good international news this week, it would be hard to make them anything but these:

  1. The Kofi Annan-led mediation team seems to be getting close to a real resolution to the months-long violence in Kenya that has left over one thousand dead.
  2. Kosovo, a former province of Serbia under United Nations control for nearly a decade, declared independence. Little–though sadly not none–violence or meaningful disruption followed this long-feared move.
  3. In a largely symbolic but long anticipated move, Fidel Castro has announced that he will officially resign his posts of president and commander-in-chief of Cuba.
  4. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appear willing and able to accept the results of Monday’s election, preventing the type of chaos that was unleashed in Kenya when Mr. Mbeki refused to accept the legitimate results of the election in his country.

Surely this list isn’t all sunshine and daisies. There’s still a long road toward peace and stability that Kenya must travel before it regains some of the stability and sheen it had less than a year ago. Kosovo still has a large Serbian population in it which will likely continue to cause disruption. That will also be exacerbated by Serbia’s unwilling to accept the legality of the fracture. While Fidel’s Castro role in Cuba’s day-to-day activities has clearly diminished, it’s hard to see Cuba becoming a free and open country while he’s still alive and his brother retains power. Though Pakistan’s begun the transition back to civilian governance, it’s still a mess of country with large ungovernable portions. The legislative future is still far from smooth while the newly-elected parliment is to be checked by a president it doesn’t like but can’t impeach.

Indeed, too, there are large problems in many other places around the world. Civil wars still rage, the rule of law is still a dream in far too many countries, totalitarian leaders still have meaningful influence in far too much of the world.

But seen from a distance–the only way I know how to see international affairs–this has been a good week. Certainly we’d need many good weeks like this to see a meaningful trend toward openness, democracy, and prosperity sweeping over the world. Probably we’d really need something closer to many years like this week for us to reach something like satisfaction about the way the world is now.

But we should be glad for what we’ve gotten this week. Too rarely does so much good news come without a break of the bad, the terrible, or the catastrophic. Though I have no idea what tomorrow will bring these countries and all the others in desperate need of change, I’m thankful for what progress we’ve had so far.


The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Source: art_es_annaBenazir Bhutto

I saw it this morning, at about eight. I said, “Oh… my… God.” Benazir Bhutto, long–and probably accurately–seen as the best choice for prime minister of the troubled mess that is Pakistan, was assassinated.

For good or ill, it’s the most important political assassination I remember. I’m far too young to have experienced the deaths of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, or Robert Kennedy. Too young, too, to have seen the attempts to assassinate Ronald Reagan, or Pope John Paul II.

I faintly remember the death of Diana, but I didn’t understand and didn’t worry. Britain is a much more stable state than Pakistan has ever been.

Perhaps the best reference I have, and one I was coincidently reminded of as I wiled away some down time on the internet, is September 11, 2001. And surely the analogy fails in some ways–roughly 3000 Americans compared with about 20 Pakistanis.

But the 9/11 analogy succeeds in other ways. I am, as on that Tuesday in September, waiting desperately for a comfort that almost certainly won’t come. Vainly hoping that these deaths, like all those, will be corrected. That from somewhere the universe will say “Sorry, I screwed that up. Let me undo this terrible mistake.”

But despite my desires, there’s an almost unavoidable fact that neither God nor the universe believes in taking back ugly events. The Holocaust has still happened. The Crusades have still happened. Colonialism and slavery are still present in the history of the human race. Genocides and wars still happen today. Injustice, violence, and loss seem like house guests who don’t recognize how much everyone wishes they would just leave us in peace.

Perhaps I’ve been waiting for someone to explain to me the reason for all this. But The Economist, the crutch on which I depend to make sense of the world, didn’t do it any better than the AP. The calculations of a small group of determined souls makes no more sense than they did when I first heard the news. Or when I first heard about the World Trade Center.

Assassinations are perhaps the oldest form of terrorism. And I have little doubt that breaking Bhutto’s Pakistan’s People’s Party (the country’s largest), and Pakistan nascent hope for long-term stability were exactly the aim of the assassin.

It seems that all I can hope for on this December day, two days after Christmas, as I stare out into the swirling snow, is that someday this shock and despair will be unknown throughout the world. That peace and stability will be the only realities that anyone knows. A foolish hope perhaps, but one that I’m sure is worth having.