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Visiting countries with repressive regimes.

  • MADMAC

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    As everyone here knows, the governments of Burma, Laos and Vietnam are not representational governments and still jail people for political dissent. Should we visit these countries, given that our visits create revenue for those very regimes?

    Presonally I'm conflicted on the issue. It is true that the visa fees and any taxes on goods or services purchased while in the given state support these governments. It is also true, however, that the bulk of the money spent supports the local population providing the goods and services.

    In the case of Burma, the closest thing they have to a representational leader is Aung San suu Kyi, and she has asked tourists to stay away to help isolate the regime. So as long as the junta rules the country, I won't go there.

    The regimes of Vietnam and Laos are no longer as brutal as the Burmese one (they were 30 years ago - they were worse) and there is no major dissenting voice asking tourists to stay away. These two regimes appear to be in slow transition, and therefore I think foreign presence and influence is a positive there from a political standpoint.

    So I guess for me personally, I will go to Laos (if I have to) or vietnam but not Burma.

    #1 Posted: 19/6/2009 - 14:28

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  • somtam2000

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    When I reviewed the latest Lonely Planet guide to Laos I interviewed the main author Andrew Burke and asked him this very question.

    The interview is in three parts here: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/98 sorry but I don't remember off the top of my head which part has the Q&A on this, but in summary I asked, given some of the political stuff in Laos, is a boycott warranted in a similar manner to say Burma.

    He said no.

    Personally, I hold your same position re Burma - and while the current Lao and Vietnamese regimes have had their moments, I wouldn't put them in the same ballpark. Their historic situation (coming out of grand war) was/is quite different to Burma. Plus, as you say, what Aung San Suu Kyi said changes things as well.

    All that said , how about Thailand?
    Thousands killed in the "war on drugs"
    Atrocities in the far south (on both sides)
    Treatment of undocumented minorities
    etc

    Perhaps the above doesn't qualify it as a repressive regime (unless you happen to be a coke snorting Muslim Akha living in Yala) but it's not exactly a bright shining light of liberalism either....

    #2 Posted: 20/6/2009 - 14:51

  • Rufus

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    Agree with Somtam. Would you really want to travel to Thailand? -
    An unrepresentative government.
    Treatment of the Rohinyas.
    Treatment and brutality towards Hmong refugees.
    Police brutality in the South.

    By the way, now I notice that the Thais are trying yet again to steal Preah Vihear from the Cambodiands.

    #3 Posted: 20/6/2009 - 15:41

  • MADMAC

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    Rufus
    There's a fundamental difference - Thailand does have elections. Inthe last decade, both sides of the political spectrum have controlled the coountry. Is it perfect? No. But if perfection were a criteria for going somewhere, nobody would go anyplace.

    Thailand is a new democracy going through growing pains. But it is a democracy and I am confident it will become a more open and honest one as time goes on. The other states we reference are not open political states. People are jailed for political dissent, freedom of expression is not permitted. So there's really no comparison.

    As for the conflict in the south - anytime you have a level one insurgency you have government repression of the population. It is inevitable and I do not know of a single exception in history to this reaction. Not one.

    Some of the other issues, like repression of minorities, is less excuseable. But again, the Thai government in general is improving across the board in this area, although that it going to be a very slow process, tied to the culture as it is.

    #4 Posted: 20/6/2009 - 17:44

  • DLuek

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    Agreed on Burma... I won't go there until Aung San Suu Kyi says it's okay. I work with Karen (ethnic minority) refugees who were terrorized by Burma's military. It's an issue that doesn't find as much attention in the media as it ought to.

    The Hmong situation in Laos is pretty sad, and what's going on at the Hmong camps around Nong Khai is awful. I recently read that the last remaining non-profit medical aid group working there is throwing in the towell, saying they've been intimidated by the Thai guards, and that the guards make it difficult or impossible for the Hmong to receive medical care from them.

    In Thailand, what went on with the Rohynga is very messed up too.

    But, I interviewed the director of Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) a couple months ago in Bangkok, and he said that too much blame and responsibility is placed on Thailand and not enough on the governments of Burma and Laos, the roots of the problems. Refugees have literally been pouring into Thailand from all bordering countries (as well as Vietnam) except Malaysia since the '70s. Given all of that, the director of TBBC told me, "Thailand's human rights record is actually very good." I worry for Thailand's democracy though...since when do protesters decide who takes and leaves office? The court seems to be a puppet for the military, and the military gets its authority from its association with the King, who is obviously a compassionate and peaceful man. My worry is, what happens once he's gone?

    As for Vietnam and Laos, I see a lot of religious freedom in both places, so that certainly puts them a step above China.

    #5 Posted: 21/6/2009 - 12:53

  • Rufus

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    There are elections in Laos too, Mac, in case you don't know. You just have to be a member of the party to stand as a candidate. I would not call Thailand a democracy.

    #6 Posted: 21/6/2009 - 16:01

  • MADMAC

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    "There are elections in Laos too, Mac, in case you don't know. You just have to be a member of the party to stand as a candidate."

    There are elections in North Korea too. In both cases these "elections" are a joke. The soviet Union also had "elections". Come on, be real here.


    "I would not call Thailand a democracy."

    Maybe you would not, but it is.

    #7 Posted: 21/6/2009 - 20:10

  • Rufus

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    So Mac, your definition of a democracy is that you hold an election, one side wins with a considerable majority. If you don't like the result the army engineers a coup or you get some part of the population to organise a coup. In all cases Voldemort is the puppeteer.
    "Come on, be real here." Pot calling kettle....

    #8 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 07:50

  • exacto

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    i don't think it's fair or accurate to include laos in the same list as a place like burma (or north korea). like DLuek and Somtam, i've also decided to avoid burma until the situation improves. but laos is entirely different.

    i've travelled to laos perhaps a dozen times in the last decade. it is a fantastic place with some of the happiest people i've ever met. it's no surprise that travellers enjoy their experiences in laos so much.

    #9 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 09:44

  • MADMAC

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    Rufus
    That happened once this decade. Yes, Thailand is an emerging democracy, an imperfect one. But it is one. There are several major issues going on right now, the coup just being one of them. But there is movement in this process. There is vocal dissent without the dissenters being sent to the gulag - that's the difference. Thailand will slowly move forward and it's transparency will slowly improve as well. There ARE elections where everyone does have an opportunity to participate. Thaksin pushed things too far, got pummeled and now we are experiencing the backlash. But this is a temporary thing... the next election will be closer to normal.

    #10 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 14:26

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  • Rufus

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    "Rufus
    That happened once this decade." Twice. Isn't that enough?

    "But this is a temporary thing... the next election will be closer to normal." Doubt it. The whole thing will start again. By the way, you still haven't read any of Giles Ungaporn's work yet, have you?

    #11 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 14:57

  • somtam2000

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    While I agree one hopes the next election will be "better" the problem is that the precedent has been set that the populace doesn't have to agree with the result if they don't like it. Unless some solution to this is found, each election will be followed by a period of unrest.

    Madness!

    At risk of severe generalisations, it's a genie the yellow shirts let out of the box, and it is going to be very difficult to put back in again.

    Meanwhile, the economy tanks, tourism stagnates, the foreign press keeps finding "Coaster mums" to whip Thailand with and nobody ends up ahead.

    I agree that Thailand is a "developing democracy" (since what, '35?) but today, Indonesia (of all places) looks more stable and progressive.

    The people that make these decisions have to sit down with a few beers and a few plates of bamboo worms and sort this out!

    #12 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 15:12

  • MADMAC

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    "The whole thing will start again. By the way, you still haven't read any of Giles Ungaporn's work yet, have you?"

    Yes, I have, and Jon's as well. The problem with these writers is they are politically somewhere to the left of Karl Marx. I am not in the least sympathetic with those who advocate class warfare, socialist ideology, or pander to same. Giles writes for the Guardian, which is not a bastion of honest journalism (the outright lies that paper published reference Somalia - an area I am VERY familiar with - were despicable).

    But for the sake of arguement, let's look at a few things he's written:

    "The urban and rural poor, who form the majority of the electorate, are the Red Shirts. They want the right to choose a democratically elected government. They started out as passive supporters of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai government, but have since formed a new citizens' movement they call Real Democracy."

    This is exactly wrong. Their political leadership wants power, first and foremost - like all other political leaders everywhere in the world. They are monied people and they make money out of political hay. Giles is fooling himself if he thinks otherwise.

    He also makes the mistake of attacking the monarchy. BIG MISTAKE here. I doubt he can he come back to Thailand now without being arrested.

    The root cause of the conflict is not between poor and rich Thais, and Giles would pretend it is, but between ETHNIC GROUPS. Non-Thais (which, contrary to most published data, constitute the majority of people in Thailand), who are largely poor and historically disenfranchised, are now insisting on their piece of the political pie. This conflict has been brewing hard since the 60s. But Thailand has made considerable progress in allowing them more and more say in the political process (or should I say their representatives - who are not poor). 40 years ago a government run by the likes of Thai Rak Thai would not have been tolerated for ten minutes. The Thais of central Thailand have always run Thailand, and it is going to be a major adjustment for them to accept Non-ethnic Thais running the country. How long did it take the USA to elect a black president? Things like this don't change overnight.

    So progress is being made, but this is a major tug of war in a country which is a newly emerging Democracy (and somtam - NOT since the 30s. Thailand didn't have meaningful democracy until the 90s).

    #13 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 23:23

  • Tilapia

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    I have to weigh-in on Burma ...

    The biggest reason why the Burmese junta exists as it does can be boiled down to one major player, and that is China. China provides the cash, the weapons, the political support, and lots and lots of Burma's tourism, and in return they are provided with access to Burma's seaports and natural resources (one of those "natural resources" being slavery.) I can't recall anyone suggesting a travel-boycott on China, or to Tibet because of this, or because of China's treatment of its citizens or ethnic minorities or disadvantaged. But we hear calls for not visiting Burma regularly.

    Burma is undergoing a lot of infrastructure development compliments of the Chinese. Many bridges, ports, and roads are being built, mostly with slave labour, and all of these roads lead to the Chinese border crossings. Thanks to Burma, the Chinese now have water access to one of the largest markets in the world, India. They have every reason to stay on the good side of that group of criminals.

    I've said this in another post - money going into the country and into the junta's coffers from backpacker visas and travel spending represents a very, very small drop in the proverbial bucket, to the point of it being insignificant. Of course, it can always be argued that every drop is significant, and I can't deny that. Significant tourism money, though, comes from group tours where government/military transport, hotels, etc. are utilized. But the serious financing and support coming into that country is from the not-so-democratic Chinese.

    I'm not even going to pretend that the junta doesn't get a cut from the non-military run businesses. The so-called "private" businesses. They do. Those businesses would not exist without military approval, and the military takes their cut or the business folds. So, despite the claims of many people who have traveled there, some of their money did go to the junta regardless of how hard they tried to make sure this did not happen.

    I see no reason for the junta to change its ways when it has such strong support from its master, China. And considering what China gets in return, I see no reason for China to treat the Burmese military any differently. Human rights and justice rarely get in the way of money and power when it comes to certain governments.

    I'm interested in opinions on why we don't hear the same arguments against places like China and Cuba.

    #14 Posted: 23/6/2009 - 02:32

  • MADMAC

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    "I'm interested in opinions on why we don't hear the same arguments against places like China and Cuba."

    Because China and Cuba do not have dissidents advocating such policy. Burma does.

    #15 Posted: 23/6/2009 - 13:38

  • DLuek

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    Tilapia makes an excellent point here. I did mention China in my post, in regard to how Laos and Vietnam are not as bad as China because, for one thing, Laos and Vietnam grant their citizens freedom of religion.

    And Madmac is right - Aung San Suu Kyi is so key in keeping backpackers away because she has specifically asked tourists not to go to Burma. The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, has said that outsiders should go into Tibet in order to see the oppression for themselves and then spread that awareness throughout the world.

    That said, I probably won't go to China any time soon. In regard to both Tibet and Burma, China is the root (or at least in Burma's case a large part) of the problem. And, in relation to tourism, the Dalai Lama has asked outsiders to be conscious of how they travel, such as by not using the trans-Himalayan railway that connects China to Tibet, which is becoming instrumental in increasing the Chinese cultural presence in Tibet and further undermining the Tibetans. Perhaps the NLD should take a similar approach, and start being more direct in pointing the finger not only at the junta, but also at their back drop of power - China.

    I'm involved with both the Tibet and Burma movements, and very few days go by where I don't find myself saying, "God damn China."

    #16 Posted: 23/6/2009 - 23:36

  • MADMAC

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    I'm not planning on going to China because the place just doesn't interest me. But DLuek makes some very good points here.

    #17 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 00:11

  • Tilapia

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    > Because China and Cuba do not have dissidents advocating such policy. Burma does. <

    Not true. The majority of Cuban exiles in Florida strongly advocate for people to not visit the island. They would like to see the island isolated and the regime changed. But this sentiment doesn't seem to exist anywhere outside of the US.

    #18 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 00:40

  • DLuek

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    True on the Cuban exiles in FLA. But here in the US there doesn't seem to be as much backing for that sentiment as there is for what Aung San Suu Kyi asks, perhaps because there is no Cuban exile who is such an iconic figure like Suu Kyi. Most of the people in the States that I know don't have much a problem with Cuba or Castro at this point (I should say that I live in the northeast where it's very liberal...I know a lot of conservatives are still very anti-Cuba). Case in point: the college I attended in the US offers a yearly "semester abroad" in Cuba, complete with Cuba based dormitories and faculty. I can't imagine them ever offering that in Burma.

    But I do see your argument, and especially in the case of China I think you're right. If one won't' go to Burma over an issue of morality, they shouldn't go to China either. Of course, once this statement is made, it's like the floodgates open. It's pretty safe to say that virtually every country in the world is directly or, by supporting some corporate interests, indirectly involved in some type of human rights abuses. Where do you draw the line?

    #19 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 02:41

  • MADMAC

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    "But this sentiment doesn't seem to exist anywhere outside of the US."

    Germany. Because I am a salsa dancer, and lived in Germany for a very long time, I met many Cubans living there. I didn't meet one who expressed anything other than disgust for the Castro regime.

    #20 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 02:46

  • MADMAC

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    "But I do see your argument, and especially in the case of China I think you're right. If one won't' go to Burma over an issue of morality, they shouldn't go to China either. Of course, once this statement is made, it's like the floodgates open. It's pretty safe to say that virtually every country in the world is directly or, by supporting some corporate interests, indirectly involved in some type of human rights abuses. Where do you draw the line?"

    At the reasonable. Does the country basically allow freedom of expression, or is it routinely locking up political dissent? Does the country respect the fundamental rights of it's citizens to lead nomal lives, or is it routinely stomping all over them. It's really not rocket science. China is a tough call, because that's a state that too is in flux... but remains repressive. The regime is opening up slowly - Burma, on the other hand, like North Korea, is going nowhere.

    Each person has to decide for themselves. For me Suu Kyi is an icon, and given her legitimate and iconic status I am inclined to support her wishes.

    #21 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 02:55

  • DLuek

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    What about governments that preach freedom of expression, religion, etc. in their own countries, but actively support foreign governments that do the opposite? The US, for one, has done this many times. In Southern Vietnam, for example, when they propped up Diem who oppressed Buddhists and dissidents. There's many examples... Hell, the US even gave support to those in Afghanistan during the Soviet war there who eventually trained the likes of Osama Bin Laden.

    Not sure I have a real defined point here other than there's so much messed up stuff that goes on in the world and it's often much more interconnected that we may think. Continuing with what Tilapia was saying, we should be mindful of where we put all our blame.

    #22 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 04:28

  • MADMAC

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    "What about governments that preach freedom of expression, religion, etc. in their own countries, but actively support foreign governments that do the opposite?"

    I don't have problem with that if active support means doing business with.


    "The US, for one, has done this many times. In Southern Vietnam, for example, when they propped up Diem who oppressed Buddhists and dissidents. There's many examples... Hell, the US even gave support to those in Afghanistan during the Soviet war there who eventually trained the likes of Osama Bin Laden. "

    This has to be seen in the context of the cold war. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the great game, those are the rules. If the US had lost the cold war, it would have been a terrible thing for humanity and the effect on basic freedoms that you enjoy today would have been catastrophic. Sometimes you can't choose your friends. I was involved directly in one of these policy issues with Ethiopia. It is a very flawed regime, it practices brutality against it's own people, but the fact is to attack our active enemies in the region (Al Qaeda and it's Islamic sympathizers such as Al Itihad) we needed Ethiopia. So would could try and get them to behave, we could incorporate the laws of land warfare in our training (and we did), butat the end of the day the Meles regime was going to do what it was going to do, the way it wanted to do it, and we were not in a position to say "OK, screw you, we are pulling out." To have any influence at all, in Ethiopia and in the region, we had to stay engaged.

    So the criticism of US support to leaders like Batista or Diem has to be seen in that context. Did we blow some calls occassionally? Sure. That's inevitable. But was the US policy of containment the right thing to do? Absolutely.

    Not sure I have a real defined point here other than there's so much messed up stuff that goes on in the world and it's often much more interconnected that we may think. Continuing with what Tilapia was saying, we should be mindful of where we put all our blame.

    #23 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 13:45

  • MADMAC

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    "Not sure I have a real defined point here other than there's so much messed up stuff that goes on in the world and it's often much more interconnected that we may think. Continuing with what Tilapia was saying, we should be mindful of where we put all our blame."

    Put the blame with the people who are doing actively doing it - that's where it belongs. Are you going to blame the Obama administration because it does business with the repressive Saudi Regime? Hell, every regime in the Middle East is repressive... should we do no business at all with any Arabs? Or no business with any regime that's corrupt? That ruls out all of Africa and most of south and central America - plus Asia. Pretty soon we are doing no business with anyone outside of Europe and no one can travel anywhere except for Europe too.

    This is why I don't agree with the policy on Cuba. I think people should be allowed to travel and do business there. That regime will come apart in its own good time. The reason I agree with the travel embargo on Burma is to boost the credibility of Suu Kyi, not because I think it will have any meaningful effect.

    #24 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 13:51

  • Rufus

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    "But was the US policy of containment the right thing to do? Absolutely."

    Wrong! Absolutely not. Dulles policy of containment was based on a misconception: that Asian nation was agressive and expansionist. This was not the case in fact, and the US lost a classic opportunity to work with and build close realtionships with the SEA countries in the period of post colonialism.

    Dulles was a reasonably intelligent man, but totally failed to understand the nature and of and link between Nationalism and communism. This may have been partly due to domestic factors - you had nut cases like J. Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy running around on the domestic scene. You also had a series of very p[oor presidents. Despite the historical revisionism that has taken place about Kennedy, the fact is that he was domestically a strong president, but was very deficient in the area of foreign policy. Nixon, of course was a complete disaster, though he did go some way to redeeming himself by accepting rapprochement with China. This was, by the way, not his initiative, but rather that of Chou en Lai.

    US policy in SEA was a tragic failure

    #25 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 15:44

  • Rufus

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    Sorry that should read "Dulles policy of containment was based on a misconception: that Asian communism was agressive and expansionist."

    We really need an editing tool here.

    #26 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 15:46

  • MADMAC

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    Absoluttely need an editing tool!!!

    "Wrong! Absolutely not. Dulles policy of containment was based on a misconception: that Asian nation was agressive and expansionist. This was not the case in fact, and the US lost a classic opportunity to work with and build close realtionships with the SEA countries in the period of post colonialism."

    Perhaps - perhaps not. Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese Nationalist, he was also an ideologue. Fact: The Viet Minh were invading Laos long before we were involved in a meaningful way. Fact: The Dong were supporting the Communist Pathet Laos factions. FACT: The Dong were members of the Comintern. FACT: In secret docuement captured during the Vietnam war, Vietnamese intent to establish hegemony over Laos, Cambodia and Thailand were clear. It was established policy. FACT: The party changed it's name to the INDOCHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY at the direction of the COMINTERN. How would you interpret that?

    Could Ho Chi Minh have been placated in the late 40s? We'll never know. He never said, we never asked. But Dulles' and subsequent leaderships interpretation of Dong behavior was completely understandable in the context of world events.

    "Dulles was a reasonably intelligent man, but totally failed to understand the nature and of and link between Nationalism and communism. This may have been partly due to domestic factors - you had nut cases like J. Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy running around on the domestic scene. You also had a series of very p[oor presidents. Despite the historical revisionism that has taken place about Kennedy, the fact is that he was domestically a strong president, but was very deficient in the area of foreign policy. Nixon, of course was a complete disaster, though he did go some way to redeeming himself by accepting rapprochement with China. This was, by the way, not his initiative, but rather that of Chou en Lai."

    Another blame America first. This is, frankly, BS. It assumes non-malicious intentions where, in fact, it is quite clear that the intentions of Mao, Stalin and subsequently Kruschev were very malevolent. The Vietnam war occured because of the STATED INTENT, and clear subsequent actions, of the communist block to dominate the world. That they were riding anti-colonial movements is without question. But that those anti-colonial movements were also being hijacked is also without question. Those movements were getting their weapons and funding from China and Russia. They were simply swapping one set of masters for another. AFTER the NVA won the war, they told the Chinese to piss off and decided that Cambodia and Laos were their private sandboxes. Hence the Chinese invasion of 78 (which didn't go so well for the Chinese). The pitbull they raised ended up being somewhat ungrateful. That's the risk you take when you breed pitbulls.

    "US policy in SEA was a tragic failure"

    Was it? Thailand remained free. It is wealthier and more free now than any of the other players in the conflict save Malaysia - which is also free because of that same policy of containment (remember the Malay communist insurgency was defeated, as was the Thai communist insurgency).

    I suggest the problem in your analysis is you don't recognize the fundamentally EVIL and insidious nature of communism.

    I was sitting at a bar here in Thailand last year with a senior Thai Army Officer (now retired) and the subject of the Vietnam war came up. I mentioned that in many circles the war was considered a defeat. He said it was nothing of the sort. It stopped communist expansion into southeast Asia at the Mekong, and if you look now, what is happening? The Vietnamese and Laotian governments are slowly loosening up, following the Aemrican models of economics and slowing allowing more political freedom.

    In my view the war was probably unwinnable, since all the NVA had to do was keep an Army in being to win. But the Vietnamese communist movement was oppressive and nasty, and whether or not it really intended to continue to press the communist movement into Thailand or not, we'll never know. Again, they did NOTHING to allay our fears in this area. But fundamentally the Vietnamese communist movement is not a movement that a thinking person can empahtize with, despite it's nationalist position.

    #27 Posted: 24/6/2009 - 16:14

  • Lother

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    This is a fascinating debate. But I can't help finding this remark

    "I suggest the problem in your analysis is you don't recognize the fundamentally EVIL and insidious nature of communism."

    a little on the silly side, Madmac :).

    Now, the word communism can be used mean a million different things, but properly understood as the ideal state of affairs which a nation (or the world) could reach if the control of its resources was given, fairly divided according to the needs of each individual, directly to the people, with the level of (political) control as close to the local communities as possible, it is a beautiful, deeply humane idea.

    At present, there are no actually, factually communist countries in the world, and many of the regimes calling themselves communist are just plain fascist. Cuba perhaps comes closest to actually trying to implement the ideal, and is an example of how socialist policies can, even in the face of terrible economic hardship, still provide people with a terrific level of basic healthcare and education. In other respects, of course, the current regime there is still quite repressive.

    #28 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 14:54

  • somtam2000

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    ok ok ok, I'll look at adding in the editing -- no promises though.

    Interesting debate, sort of skewing a little off the initial thread, but as I've heard before, that's a sign of a healthy conversation right?

    One point that comes to mind re the comment above about a retired Thai military staffer saying the war wasn't lost -- worth bearing in mind that "losing and winning" can mean many different things, and considerable fortunes were made in Thailand on the back of all three campaigns (Cambodia/Vietnam and Laos). Cambodia in particular, during the KR period, the Thai military (well, elements within) made a fortune out of smuggling lumber and gems out, and bombs and crap in.

    But ok, I'll get back to the edit function now.

    #29 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 15:09

  • Rufus

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    Thanks for that Somtam. I am not the greatest typist in the world. :-)
    You are certainly correct about many people making a fortune in SEA.
    I still hold to my views mac that if the US had not been so concerned about defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in '54 and had tried to implement something similar to the Marshal Plan, the world would be very different today, (for the better).
    Btw I garee with Lother abiout your comment re Communism. Thats a bit over the top, wouldn't you say? (You are not a John Bircher, are you? Just kidding :-) ).

    #30 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 17:45

  • MADMAC

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    First Rufus:

    "I still hold to my views mac that if the US had not been so concerned about defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in '54 and had tried to implement something similar to the Marshal Plan, the world would be very different today, (for the better)."

    The battle at Dien Bin Phu was the end point for support of French colonial ambitions in Southeast Asia, not the beginning. In 1946 and early 47, the US was very sympathetic with the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh and refused to supply the French with arms in their war in Vietnam. This was the chance for Uncle Ho to contact the US and inform it that he WAS NOT a client of Russia or China, that his movement was not part of the global communist movement but rather purely a nationalist one. He failed to do so - and I think he clearly failed to do so because he intended to be part of that movement. Hence he joined the COMINTERN and hence he invaded Laos. He also provided sanction for the nascent Khmer Rouge movement (which really was a CHICOM movement).

    Lothar (good German name)

    "I suggest the problem in your analysis is you don't recognize the fundamentally EVIL and insidious nature of communism."

    a little on the silly side, Madmac :)."

    I don't think it's silly at all. Communism is a failed and repressive doctrine. The only way you can achieve the collective cooperation required in the movement is through force. We now have plenty of historical examples with which to judge the ideology:

    China - disaster. Mass murder, oppression, corruption.
    Soviet Union - disaster. Mass murder, oppression, corruption.
    North Korea - enough said.
    Cambodia - Do I need to elaborate.
    Vietnam - Any of the "travellers" here sit down and talk with some of those sent to "re-education" camps after the war? I talked to one in Savankhet, and a sad story it was.
    Laos - More "re-education" camps, treatment of the Hmong is despicable.

    Communism means oligarchy or dictatorship in every case. It means loss of individual freedoms in every case.

    Communism is insidious and evil. No point in mincing words here. Just as fascism is insidious and evil. Governance is always a tricky thing, but with those two particularly ideologies I would say we have enough evidence on the table to draw clear cut conclusions.

    #31 Posted: 25/6/2009 - 23:51

  • somtam2000

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    Probably a bit early in the day for this, but I'll wade in anyway...

    While I don't agree that communism is insidious and evil, I will say that pretty much any political set-up is capable of being insidious and evil -- in fact it's all too common in today's world.

    Mass murder, oppression, corruption -- are hardly three qualities unique to communist regimes -- it's unfortunately all too common.

    I note though that Cuba isn't on the list -- it's amazing how long it has held out in the face of the US embargo -- perhaps it could have been a case in point if the embargo wasn't there.

    Didn't HCM write a couple of letters to the US in the very early days, mentioning admiration for the US and looking for support? I don't remember the year - perhaps I will after a coffee.

    #32 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 05:55

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    Somtam,

    I think they have been able to hold out for so long because most of the world thinks of the US policy towards Cuba as nothing short of ridiculous, including most Americans. That's easy for me to say, but perhaps a Cuban exile might have a different opinion?

    #33 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 09:28

  • MADMAC

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    "While I don't agree that communism is insidious and evil, I will say that pretty much any political set-up is capable of being insidious and evil -- in fact it's all too common in today's world."

    Do you think fascism is insidious and evil? Because in terms of practical application they are one in the same.

    "Mass murder, oppression, corruption -- are hardly three qualities unique to communist regimes -- it's unfortunately all too common."

    It is axiomatic with communist regimes. One means the other, always. It always means dictatorship or Oligarchy - in every case.

    "I note though that Cuba isn't on the list -- it's amazing how long it has held out in the face of the US embargo -- perhaps it could have been a case in point if the embargo wasn't there."

    The list wasn't exhaustive, I didn't include that abortion that used to be called Yugoslavia either. Cuba is run by a dictator who transferred power to his yunger brother. Political dissent in Cuba means jail. You think that's OK? Castro was a little more benevolent than most, but at the end of the day his benevelonce ended, and his ruthlessness began, when threats to his running the country were concerned. Ask a Cuban to take a banner and walk down the street protesting any government policy - see if he does it. Offer to pay him 500 dollars. Now take that same Joe Six Pack, offer five hundred dollars to march with a protest flag in Europe or the United States. Man, he won't even bother to read it. Because he knows he won't be arrested for anti-government sloganeering, organizing, or whatever. I don't understand how you can't see the fundamental difference.

    "Didn't HCM write a couple of letters to the US in the very early days, mentioning admiration for the US and looking for support? I don't remember the year - perhaps I will after a coffee."

    Not to my knowledge. Hopefully you mean post WW II, prior to that he wasn't a figure the Americans would have been aware of. But Ho Chi Minh was an avowed communist early on, the Viet Minh were a ruthless force that committed the vilest sorts of human rights abuses. Ho became an icon of sorts because his demeanor was that of a soft, thoughtful, man of the people. But he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of men, women and children. He was a brutal man, make no mistake. A man with a plan. A man who knew how to garner popular support, but brutal none the less.

    #34 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 14:24

  • BruceMoon

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    To those contributing here, freedom is a state of mind. It is not, nor ever has been, the result of an electoral process, a structured administration or anything else in the way of social decision-making.

    Social decision-making is our academic way of describing all the possible ways that people allow a government to remain in office. In the US, it's optional voting (some 30% vote, and somehow that's 'democracy'), in Australia its compulsory voting (everyone must vote, even though they may not have a clue about what/who they are voting for). In other places, communities vote for representatives, who vote for nominees, etc., etc., etc..

    Marx was correct to note that peacefulness and oppression were two polarised opposites.

    It also is a truism that every generation re-writes history to suit its ideological interests (or anything else for that matter).

    The simple fact is that people will be compliant towards any government / ruling group / etc., where at least two conditional attributes are evident:

    1/. fear. People will be compliant toward dominant group as long as that group can maintain a fear of loss of life, or losing assets, etc., or

    2/. harmony. Where people (the populace) are in relative harmony (however achieved), the likelihood the populace will arise and protest is diminished (dare I say non-existent?).

    The idea of a 'repressive regime' takes hold in the mind when contrasted against societies with (relative) harmony.

    The fact that the US 'administration' has allowed that nation to plunge so far in debt, to reward the greedy with minimal taxes and punish the risk averse with massive taxes, suggests it is a regime and holds an element of repression.

    Myanmar is labelled a 'repressive regime', why not Japan? Take a visit to Japan and on observance of their customs ask yourself why Japanese people place so much importance towards serving the national interest in all domestic activities. In a sense, Japan is equally a 'repressive regime', but the judgemental criteria are just different.

    - - -

    MADMAC

    How did you manage to combine the time needed to pursue your work/love of dancing with the time needed to comment on Political Philosophy?

    Cheers

    #35 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 14:56

  • MADMAC

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    "To those contributing here, freedom is a state of mind. It is not, nor ever has been, the result of an electoral process, a structured administration or anything else in the way of social decision-making."

    Bruce
    Freedom of expression is not a state of mind. It's a legal state. In Nazi Germany freedom was severely oppressed - just ask the siblings Scholl. Well, you can't, because they paid a high price for expressing political opinion.

    "Social decision-making is our academic way of describing all the possible ways that people allow a government to remain in office. In the US, it's optional voting (some 30% vote, and somehow that's 'democracy'), in Australia its compulsory voting (everyone must vote, even though they may not have a clue about what/who they are voting for). In other places, communities vote for representatives, who vote for nominees, etc., etc., etc.."

    It's beyond social decision making and how one achieves representative government. It is about the right of people to express approval or disapproval of their governance. Selection is an important part of the process and is the ability to discourse on same. If people want to abbrogate that right, are not interested in the discourse or their right to select representative, that's fine. That's up to them. But if people want to participate, and are imprisoned and tortured for doing so, that's not fine. This is pretty clear cut in my mind.

    "It also is a truism that every generation re-writes history to suit its ideological interests (or anything else for that matter)."

    History requires interpretation. Chronology does not. Some facts speak for themselves and no amount of historical interpretation can change them.

    "The simple fact is that people will be compliant towards any government / ruling group / etc., where at least two conditional attributes are evident:

    1/. fear. People will be compliant toward dominant group as long as that group can maintain a fear of loss of life, or losing assets, etc., or

    2/. harmony. Where people (the populace) are in relative harmony (however achieved), the likelihood the populace will arise and protest is diminished (dare I say non-existent?)."

    Many people are not compliant in the atmosphere of fear. A majority are, but many are not. It's only when that fear is escalated beyond a fear of disapproval and moves into the bounds of physical fear that this begins to change. But even then, sometimes that is overcome in a society that is generally tolerant or in one that is generally fed up. I point to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990/1 and the American popular assault on racism in the 60s as examples of same.

    "The idea of a 'repressive regime' takes hold in the mind when contrasted against societies with (relative) harmony."

    Again, Nazi Germany had harmony...

    "The fact that the US 'administration' has allowed that nation to plunge so far in debt, to reward the greedy with minimal taxes and punish the risk averse with massive taxes, suggests it is a regime and holds an element of repression."

    People are free in the US to vote for whom they wish, disparage whom they wish, say what they want, protest against and and sundry... the US political system is not repressive. It can not be honestly compared with governance in Cuba or Laos or North Korea or any other police state.

    "Myanmar is labelled a 'repressive regime', why not Japan? Take a visit to Japan and on observance of their customs ask yourself why Japanese people place so much importance towards serving the national interest in all domestic activities. In a sense, Japan is equally a 'repressive regime', but the judgemental criteria are just different."

    Because in Burma the police can walk into your house, rape your daughter in front of you, and leave, and you have ZERO recourse. Not only can they do this, they do do this. In Japan, they can't, and they don't. The Japanese are voluntarily observing this cultural trait - and some do not. And if you ignore it you won't go to prison. You can oppose, publicly, the government of Japan in downtown Tokyo and there will be no repurcussions. You can write a letter to the editor of any publication complaining about government policy, and you are free to do so. Try doing this in Burma.

    Let keep it simple for you:

    Burmese governance = bad
    Japanese governance = OK
    North Korean governance = bad
    US governance = OK
    Laotian governance = bad
    Australian governance = OK

    When you try to intellectualize this and pretend that somehow there are equivelencies between oppressive government and free government you are not being intellectually honest in the process. Pretty soon you Kim Jong Il isn't really an evil despot, he's the equivelent of Barack Obama or Kevin Rudd. It's an outrageous arguement.

    - - -

    "MADMAC

    How did you manage to combine the time needed to pursue your work/love of dancing with the time needed to comment on Political Philosophy?

    Cheers"

    I don't have a real job anymore. Leaves time open for other pursuits.

    #36 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 17:11

  • BruceMoon

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    MADMAC, any wonder

    #37 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 17:58

  • BruceMoon

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    To others...

    Elsewhere I've noted that we westerners are quick to point out the ills of others (but only if they aren't economically powerful, ergo China), but very very slow to look at our own ills.

    Yes, its easy to suggest that 'they' are no good because...

    I'll start inwards looking...

    Australia has an oppressive regime against its own indigenous peoples. No, they don't go shooting them (but the Aborigine aren't seeking nationhood either). Instead, they deny them work, give them money to buy grog so that they themselves go around raping, beating, shooting, etc. And, what do the police do? They either merely turn a blind eye or go lock up the 'offenders'. And, if the 'offender' decides he can't handle the isolation and hangs himself, that wasn't an administrative 'problem' was it? Any comment on rectification of this 'problem' has always been undertaken as merely lip service.

    The US is one of only 4 countries in the world that has legalised the death penalty for minors. Is that really the way to deal with young people denied education because their parents were not given opportunities to work by a state more interested in monetary growth than basic human services (and needs)?

    Need I go on and cite Thailand's horrid way of dealing with political refugees... forcibly returning them to whence they came probably to their certain death rather than allow them life, or... ?????

    I am not justifying Myanmar, or other similarly autocratic places.

    Rather, I'm trying to indicate that oppression knows no bounds, that intolerance of basic human rights doesn't only occur 'there'. And, that whichever way 'we' define indecency (obscenity?), 'we' define the measures to suit our preferred perspectives.

    And, in the final wash up, we are all guilty of similar stains. The only difference is the degree between one and another.

    On topics like this - where we seek to criticise others (so as to justify ourselves) - there will always be passionate people like MADMAC. Passion does not make anything 'right'! Well informed and reasoned passion has a chance to influence. That is all.

    - - - -

    MADMAC, the experience (and hence the expression) of freedom does not, and never has, depended on the permission of others. For example, a yogi can be oppressed but still free: it's a state of mind.

    X

    #38 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 18:31

  • MADMAC

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    "To others...

    Elsewhere I've noted that we westerners are quick to point out the ills of others (but only if they aren't economically powerful, ergo China), but very very slow to look at our own ills."

    I would say the exact opposite is more acurrate. We tend to be highly self critical and ignore, or even romanticize, other cultures.

    "Yes, its easy to suggest that 'they' are no good because..."

    I don't see a lot of people doing this.

    "I'll start inwards looking..."

    A lot of people do this. It's in vogue.

    "Australia has an oppressive regime against its own indigenous peoples. No, they don't go shooting them (but the Aborigine aren't seeking nationhood either). Instead, they deny them work, give them money to buy grog so that they themselves go around raping, beating, shooting, etc. And, what do the police do? They either merely turn a blind eye or go lock up the 'offenders'. And, if the 'offender' decides he can't handle the isolation and hangs himself, that wasn't an administrative 'problem' was it? Any comment on rectification of this 'problem' has always been undertaken as merely lip service."

    There is no doubt that the aboriginal population of Australia got a raw deal, just as the Native American population did in America. But at some point, people have to take responsbility for themselves. Life is tough. It's tougher is you're a pathetic whiner. Barrack Obama wasn't born with a silver spoon up his ass. There are lots of examples of people who were born into poverty, people who were born into lousy families, and made good. God ain't going to come down from heaven and right every historical wrong. The current Australian government and legal system has opened the door for aboriginals. They can either take the opportunity or not.

    "The US is one of only 4 countries in the world that has legalised the death penalty for minors. Is that really the way to deal with young people denied education because their parents were not given opportunities to work by a state more interested in monetary growth than basic human services (and needs)?"

    That is a question for the US electorate. What I can tell you is that consistently when states do not have the death penalty they have more lenient - to the point of gross injustice - penalties across the board. When I lived in Augsburg, Germany, an 18 year old kid brutally murdered his 12 year old neighbor just for the thrill of it. Rang the doorbell, she opened and he stabbed her to death. His penalty: Five years because of his youth. What an outrage to the family. What a miscarriage of justice. Europe is loaded with these. I have mixed feelings about routinely using capital punishment for a host of reasons, but I am equally revolted when legal systems provide no justice for families who have been victimized.

    "Need I go on and cite Thailand's horrid way of dealing with political refugees... forcibly returning them to whence they came probably to their certain death rather than allow them life, or... ?????"

    I don't think this is a completely fair critique either. Thailand has had to deal with large numbers of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Cambodia. This is an economic and social strain. Why don't we place the blame squarely where it belongs - at the feet of the shithead governments in question who created the refugees in the first place.

    "I am not justifying Myanmar, or other similarly autocratic places.

    Rather, I'm trying to indicate that oppression knows no bounds, that intolerance of basic human rights doesn't only occur 'there'. And, that whichever way 'we' define indecency (obscenity?), 'we' define the measures to suit our preferred perspectives."

    This is not a reasonable arguement Bruce. It is trying to make a moral equivelency between "us" (those who behave more or less in a civilized way) and them (those who do not). When a specific government is doing something in the here and now that is wrong (say the US invasion of Iraq) pointing out why it is wrong and protesting the action is completely reasonable. On the other hand, when that gets extrapolated so that we start saying "Well, we really aren't in a position to talk about human rights in Burma because we persecuted native Americans 100 years ago" that is NOT completely reasonable.

    "And, in the final wash up, we are all guilty of similar stains. The only difference is the degree between one and another."

    Again, this arguement is basically saying that Nazi Germany and Canada are both guilty of "similar stains". The only difference is in "degree". I don't think so.

    "On topics like this - where we seek to criticise others (so as to justify ourselves) - there will always be passionate people like MADMAC. Passion does not make anything 'right'! Well informed and reasoned passion has a chance to influence. That is all."

    Again, I stick to the basic, and I think obvious, observations. Burma, North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos... these countries do not allow freedom of political expression. It's as simple as that. They are dictatorships or oligarchy's in which their populations have no say in their legislative process or the political decision making system and may be imprisoned, tortured and even killed if it suits the state. Pretty simple really. I'm just calling a spade a spade here.

    - - - -

    MADMAC, the experience (and hence the expression) of freedom does not, and never has, depended on the permission of others. For example, a yogi can be oppressed but still free: it's a state of mind.

    X

    #39 Posted: 26/6/2009 - 23:33

  • BruceMoon

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    Hello to all...

    Some of the comments on this topic are, well, woaaaa!!!

    That John (MADMAC) reveals his US heritage and bags anything 'communist' as evil, shows that he has yet to look past his beloved US propoganda.

    Academically, it is without question that Marx advanced the idea of the 'communist state'. That his idea has yet to be implemented is also beyond question. So, what form of government did successive Russian administrations adopt? Well, it's called a centralist administration.

    I received some words recently, which I suggest are sobering given the discussion on this 'post':

    The author of this view is said to be Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well known and well respected psychiatrist.

    A German's View on Islam

    A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

    We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

    The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

    The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.

    Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communist administration were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

    China's huge population was peaceful as well, but the Chinese Communist administration managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

    The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, the Japan 'war machine' murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

    And, who can forget Rwanda , which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

    History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

    Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

    Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

    As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

    - - -

    This text talks of the impact of fanaticism. It is presented from the western perspective: a perspective that assumes the western ‘ideology’ is without criticism.

    When the US administration decides to condone rampant greed in the global financial markets, and when the inevitable occurs and people’s lives are ruined, is that not torture for them? Or, if ‘collateral damage’ results in loss of life, is that not justified by a fanatical pursuit of ‘objectives’ over peacefulness?

    Here, John (MADMAC) will go ape, and he will want to write volumes to try and say his US homeland is not the lesser of two evils, it is ‘honourable’ (or whatever).

    But, the point of the text (above) is that there is no such thing as an appropriate governing regime. Rather, it is up to all of us to identify the problem issues by reference to a universal standard - not in comparison to another (supposedly) better regime.

    Cheers

    #40 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 08:40

  • Rufus

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    An elucidationg and intelligent post, Bruce.

    #41 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 10:37

  • MADMAC

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    "That John (MADMAC) reveals his US heritage and bags anything 'communist' as evil, shows that he has yet to look past his beloved US propoganda."

    Bruce, again you are trying to manipulate the issues by first attacking the intellectual integrity of the oppossing opinion - as if you are capable of more objectivity on a subject because you are not American. Do you realize how condescending that is?

    "Academically, it is without question that Marx advanced the idea of the 'communist state'. That his idea has yet to be implemented is also beyond question. So, what form of government did successive Russian administrations adopt? Well, it's called a centralist administration."

    His idea could not be advanced without force. It is not possible to achieve his objectives of wealth redistribution without massive political coercion. Marx' disregarded the human element in his theories. To achieve the economic state that Marx advocated requires oligarchy or dictatorship. It is not an accident that his concepts always get perverted. And they always will.

    (I deleted Tanay's quote - which I have read before. It was discussed quite a bit when I was serving in the German Army. But I will reference it)

    "This text talks of the impact of fanaticism. It is presented from the western perspective: a perspective that assumes the western ‘ideology’ is without criticism."

    I disagree. It simply assumes a few basic facts. Evil and wrong doing are easy enough to identify. You don't need to be "culturally sensitive" to do it. A Nazi stormtrooper killing some poor bastard for not moving fast enough or for just being a Jew or Gypsy is wrong. A Militant Muslim sawing off someone's head because he's a Jew is wrong. A US soldier raping and killing a 12 year old girl in Kosovo is wrong. There is no context whatsoever that can make these things right.

    "When the US administration decides to condone rampant greed in the global financial markets, and when the inevitable occurs and people’s lives are ruined, is that not torture for them?"

    This is not a simple issue. But where obvious malfesance exists (such as the Madoff case) then I don't think anyone says that a court process isn't in the offing. But Bruce, where you are heading is to an assault on the free market in principal. You are sympathetic with the notions of wealth redistribution - it echoes in every post you make on the topic.

    "Or, if ‘collateral damage’ results in loss of life, is that not justified by a fanatical pursuit of ‘objectives’ over peacefulness?"

    Collateral damage is the inevitable result of warfare that is not taking place in a very austere environment. Was the allied involvement in WW II the "fanatical pursuit of objectives over peacefulness?" Think it through.

    "Here, John (MADMAC) will go ape, and he will want to write volumes to try and say his US homeland is not the lesser of two evils, it is ‘honourable’ (or whatever)."

    No, the US has some ugly stains in its history. The treatment of the Cherokee was a truly shameful episode. The annexation of California, New Mexico, part of Nevada and Arizona are pretty difficult to justify. Our slave hisory and the subsequent treatment of black Americans was despicable. I have no problem identifying these things and calling them what they are. BUT - having said that - I also recognize the world is a better place for the US being in it and a worse place for Nazi Germany and the Communist block for having been in it. I have no problem taking a stand on certain issues that says "in the aggragate, this is positive, and this is negative."

    "But, the point of the text (above) is that there is no such thing as an appropriate governing regime. Rather, it is up to all of us to identify the problem issues by reference to a universal standard - not in comparison to another (supposedly) better regime."

    I partially agree, and partially disagree. Fundamentally I think all people should have the right to express their opinions without fear of violence directed at them or their families. For example, I have a lot of Muslim friends with whom I disagree wholeheartedly on social issues and legal ones as well. I believe that homosexuals should be free to associate as they see fit - my Muslims friends don't. I believe that blasphemy directed against any religion is protected speech. My Muslim friends don't. And so on and so forth. I also believe that my Muslim friends should be free to express their opinions. When governments say, without reason other than self aggrandizement, that you are not free to express yourself, I believe that that makes said government illegitimate. When governments imprison, rape and kill citizens because of their opinions, I believe this makes those governments illegitimate.

    #42 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 14:56

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6266
    Total reviews: 10

    Oh, and on the subject of legitimacy, why do you think the Padilla case was such a big deal in the US? I mean, the guy was an Islamic militant, and he was facillitating the killing of his fellow citizens for militant Islam. Why the concern? Why the Supreme Court ruling against the Bush administration? Because he was a US citizen guaranteed under the US constitution the right to due process. When this right was ignored, the government put its legitimacy (such as it was at that juncture) into question.

    #43 Posted: 1/7/2009 - 15:16

  • Nywoman

    Joined Travelfish
    28th July, 2008
    Posts: 39

    Very interesting reading, and fascinating arguments.

    Since the original title was "Visiting countries with repressive regimes" I will put my 2 cents in.

    Last year I visited China, Vietnam and Cambodia, this year I will be going to Laos and Burma. I personally don't believe that staying away from a country benefits its citizens. In my travels in Burma I am planning on as much as is possible to avoid putting money in the juntas pockets. I hope that the more tourists that come and support the local population, return to their home countries and spread the word. There may be a shift in attitudes.

    I have always believed in a people to people interaction, and that boycotts don't work. The only ones that suffer are the general populace and usually the poorest.

    As I said my 2 cents worth

    #44 Posted: 2/8/2009 - 03:33

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
    Joined Travelfish
    21st April, 2006
    Location Canada
    Posts: 1425
    Total reviews: 15
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    Hi Nywoman,

    I wish it was the other way around, but it's not possible to not put money into the junta's pockets, even when dealing with so-called privately run operations like hotels, inns, trains, buses, etc. Nothing, absolutely nothing, operates there without the generals or their puppets, or both, getting a cut.

    You'll definitely get lots of people-to-people interaction there. Definitely. You're going to love it.

    #45 Posted: 2/8/2009 - 04:33

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Nywoman, you wrote "I have always believed in a people to people interaction, and that boycotts don't work. The only ones that suffer are the general populace and usually the poorest.

    I suggest the second sentence really sums up the situation.

    As Tilapia notes "it's not possible to not put money into the junta's pockets". I suggest this is true of every populace/state entity (or nation state) around the world.

    I suggest the most evocative example of the impact of economic boycotting was Iraq. There, after Bush (1), western economies sought to economically boycott the nation. The impact of that economic boycott was horrendous on the poor of Iraq (and especially those not religiously aligned with the dominant two Islamic factions).

    During that boycott period, states with Iraqi refugees were often graphically reminded of the outcome as refugees struggled to assist brethren back home. We in Australia were then periodically reminded by the actions of those Iraqi refugees here. What we were shown was sickening.

    As it transpired, the US found the Hussein regime failed to crumble. Perhaps it was because Iraqi oil was still allowed to flow as western (aligned but not puppet) states who valued the benefits from oil more than any negatives from the Hussein regime. As a consequence of the failure of the boycott, ordinary Iraqi citizens suffered immensely (while we fat western pigs got fatter) and then suffered even more when Bush Jnr succumbed to his ego (to show his dad he was better) and his oil company mates to invade the nation.

    Of course, the poor of Iraq are now better!!! They are either dead from war, or outside the focus of western media unable/unwilling to reveal the actual social and economic impact of that nations' poor.

    I suggest the same populace/state entity issue that was Hussein-led Iraq also applies to too many nations: not only 'strong man' nations.

    The issue is not whether the state is extortionist (every taxpayer will say their state is), nor whether there are masses of poor (and how does one define poverty - being a relative concept, there is no simple measure).

    Rather, the issue to me is whether the state is advancing the wellbeing of the populace towards achieving a reasonably equitable distributional receipt of the national wealth, and the achievement of Maslows' necessary social conditions (ie. the bottom 3, on this go here.

    John (MAC) made an observation above (post #36) of some good/bad u]populace/state entities...

    Burmese governance = bad
    Japanese governance = OK
    North Korean governance = bad
    US governance = OK
    Laotian governance = bad
    Australian governance = OK
    .

    While this was merely a subjective opinion, it tends to reflect the current western fashion of naming totalitarian regimes as bad where that state rejects the western love for trickle-down capitalist ideologies.

    Tilapia observed of Mynamar, "Nothing, absolutely nothing, operates there without the generals or their puppets, or both, getting a cut."

    In principle, I don't see why that is any different to the US, Australia, UK, etc. Of course, the major difference is that in these latter nations, the 'cut' taking is highly systematised: the administration of the 'cut' taking is such that the 'cut' goes into a slush-fund whereby politicians pay the administrators of the 'cut' taking receive a percentage (formularised as weekly pay) and the politicians divvy up the rest in a reasonably transparent manner (but generally towards their own political wellbeing).

    In SE Asia, the systematisation of the 'cut' taking process is far less entrenched than in the US/Australia/UK/etc. And, in the case of Myanmar, the systematisation process is hardly transparent.

    If I was to criticise Myanmar, it would not be according to the ideologies that the US/Australian/UK/etc want to highlight (so as to contrast and make the US/etc. look good). Rather, it would be whether the Myanmar military are achieving any semblance of equitable wealth (re)distribution, and whether the populace was (on average, and without natural disasters) gaining an upper hand in relation to Maslows necessary social conditions.

    While a visit to Myanmar is not on my immediate radar, I think that if my spending my money there does help the ordinary Myanmar person in some way, then I'd not be reticent to go visit.

    Cheers

    #46 Posted: 2/8/2009 - 06:08

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    To everyone (and especially some)...

    There has been a tendency lately, for (some) contributors to cite a sentence (or so) out of a whole view and criticise that sentence.

    Often, the person citing a sentence (or so) then goes off at a tangent.

    In principle, there is nothing wrong with going off at a tangent, rather, that in the process the person is failing to acknowledge the relevance of the whole point of view before identifying one part.

    So, if there is something in my above post that 'jumps out at you', please begin with something like "...within the overall comment by xxxxxxx, above, one issue struck me....." or words to that effect. This way, your contribution is not belittling the whole of the other.

    ps. I'm not suggesting belittling was necessarily intended, but the action I highlight has that effect.

    Cheers

    #47 Posted: 2/8/2009 - 06:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6266
    Total reviews: 10

    "While this was merely a subjective opinion, it tends to reflect the current western fashion of naming totalitarian regimes as bad where that state rejects the western love for trickle-down capitalist ideologies."

    Bruce I disagree here. This isn't an economic question, it's a political one. Sweden pretty much rejects trickle down capitalist ideology. It is about as socialist a place as one can realistically get. And we have excellent relations with Sweden nor would I advocate otherwise.

    My test is simple: Can I openly say my political leadership sucks and not find myself arrested? If the answer to that question is yes, then my government is not repressive. If the answer to that question is no, then my government is.

    #48 Posted: 3/8/2009 - 00:16

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    John

    You are part of the target audience of my post #47.

    By replying to one VERY small part, and neither acknowledging the whole, nor placing that sentence into context with the whole, the response is intellectually irrelevant.

    Cheers

    #49 Posted: 3/8/2009 - 04:54

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6266
    Total reviews: 10

    Bruce
    I was merely replying to that element of your previous post (46) which was directed at me.

    Again, I do not think seperating the wheat from the chaff here is very difficult.

    In some countries you can say what you want, be as politically active as you want, and there are no sanctioned repurcussions. In others you can't. It's that simple. There is no reason to try and complicate the obvious here. Sometimes nuance is needed to understand something (such as the nature of corruption, how and why it exists in certain localities and not in others). In other cases judgement is easy to pass.

    #50 Posted: 3/8/2009 - 11:57

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