Reflections on the war in Georgia

Written By: - Date published: 10:21 am, August 19th, 2008 - 79 comments
Categories: International - Tags:

What can we learn from the war in Georgia? Without going into the rights and wrongs of the combatants, what I’m interested in is the geo-strategic implications, specifically the future of the democratisation project. And it’s not a pretty picture.

See, for a while everything seemed to be going well with democratisation. The two great counter-ideologies of modernity, fascism and communism, collapsed leaving the democratic powers ascendant and free to aid democratic forces within other countries. OK, so maybe this was/is a type of democratic imperialism but so what? We’re part of this project, we’re a liberal democracy and we like to see other countries become liberal democracies, and we give aid to help that happen. Democracy is better than any other form of government we have to choose from and it’s not a true imperialism because countries that are incorporated into the project are not directly controlled from the centre and are ultimately free to choose policies that run country to the interest of the democratic powers. We’ve seen this recently in the election of anti-American socialist governments in South America.

So, democracy spread through the 1990s and 2000s, and it was a good thing – more free people, more responsible governments. Fukuyama announced the end of history, but Fukuyama was a fool because he didn’t take into account two things – the rise of China and the end of cheap energy.

China now accounts for the lion’s share of economic growth, within a decade it will be the largest economy in the world. It is using the power that economic muscle brings to build alliances with other non-democratic countries. These are natural allies because of their similar governments and many are exporters of energy or other resources, fueling it’s ravenous industry. By propping up these governments, China bulwarks them and, ultimately, itself against the West’s democratisation programmes, builds trade networks for itself and a friendly voting bloc are international fora. China’s massive economic power and the West’s increased dependence on a growing China to underwrite our own growth gives the democratic powers little way of stopping this process at governmental level (and even at a hearts and minds level). We see this process in the Pacific as bad governments turn away from the West’s conditional aid to China and in Africa, where Chinese patronage is propping up governments in Angola, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere.

Add to the mix the end of cheap energy. Every time the price of oil goes up, and as long as it stays at high levels, a massive transfer of wealth from the energy-importing West to undemocratic Russia and the Middle East takes place. That wealth (and good relations with China) buys military hardware for those countries and makes them less dependent on the West to buy their resources, while the West grows ever more desperate to stay in the energy suppliers’ good books. Thus, we see Russia cutting gas supplies to countries that displease it and Iran hanging the Sword of Damocles over the Straits of Hormuz.

Coming back to Georgia, we see that energy-rich non-democratic Russia is able to waltz into a democratic country and elicit no real response from the democratic powers – no sanctions, no Western peacekeeping force, nothing. Why? Because a non-democratic bloc based around China can block action through the UN, because Russia can threaten to turn off the gas pipelines into Europe (Europe needs the gas more than Russia need the cash), and the bulk of Western military power is already tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan in what, depending on your point of view, are either the disastrous final overreach of democratic imperialism or a desperate bid to secure strategic dominance of the Middle East for the West before peak oil strikes. Now, we’ve seen that their economic power and the West’s energy dependency mean non-democratic powers like Russia and China can not only stymie democratisation, they are the ones with the freedom to act militarily.

If there’s a lesson from Georgia its that, while Russia and China remain undemocratic and the world economic remains dependent on oil, the waves of democratisation are over, and things are going to start going the other way. Geo-strategically speaking, we’re fucked.

79 comments on “Reflections on the war in Georgia”

  1. Oh you are so wrong. Do you really believe Russia is less democratic than the US??? And the spreading of democracy you talk about in the 1990’s? I hope you’re not talking Russia there. Because the effect of the reforms was democratic only in the fact all people without privilege had a democratic and equal right to freeze/starve/OD.

    As for your claim Georgia is being undemocratically split? Here’s a newsflash buddy – Georgia was the aggressor and Saakashvili is a domestic tyrant who is (perhaps “was” might be a better term – he’s probably a bit tied up with other things right now) suppressing his own people.

    I assume if Venezuala were to invade Mexico right up to the US border after being told they’d get support from Russia you’d consider the US anti-democratic for interfering in the business of Mexico when they sent the troops in?

    Read this: http://exiledonline.com/south-ossetia-the-war-we-dont-know/

    and this: http://exiledonline.com/war-nerd-south-ossetia-the-war-of-my-dreams/

    and this: http://exiledonline.com/the-cnn-effect-georgia-schools-russia-in-information-warfare/

    Oh and I’d say while we have late-capitalism in place democracy is fucked. The only really progressive democratic movement in the world is occurring in Venezuela.

    [‘sod. try reading the post. I made no value judgment on the war and I make no defence of Saakashvili – I think he’s a fool and a nationalist. This is about the geostrategic implications for the balance between democratic powers and non-democratic ones. SP]

  2. Ben R 2

    “If there’s a lesson from Georgia its that, while Russia and China remain undemocratic and the world economic remains dependent on oil, the waves of democratisation are over, and things are going to start going the other way.”

    Do you think though that as China develops an increasingly wealthy & educated middle class pressure for some form of democracy will grow?

  3. The only really progressive democratic movement in the world is occurring in Venezuela.

    Actually I’ll restate that: the only progressive democratic movement occurring in the world is the Bolivarian revolution.

    Edit: Ben R – don’t think the growing middle class in China lacks freedom. They are very well catered for and in no hurry to change the status quo. It’s the 3rd and the 4th world China that the regime fears revolution from.

  4. relic 4

    Democratic Imperialism? I don’t think so. The writer really needs to gain a grasp of classical political terminology.

    The Standard does a good job of examining NZ parliamentary politics within the parameters of a social democratic world view.

    A marxist class struggle based analysis however is required to make real sense of global politics. The joke will likely be over for the capitalists when Chinese and Russian workers get properly organised. There will be nowhere significant left for them to shift production to.

  5. Thank you Robinsod, for calling Young Steve to task on his scarily under informed post. He may have something of a grip on the Labour National divide in NZ but here he shows his age and his astonishing middle class Pakeha ignorance.

    For your information young Steve, the Russian population wanted to change the election laws of Russia to be able to vote for a fourth term and possibly longer for the most popular president they ever had. Putin.

    If Putin wanted to be the top dog for much much longer he had only to allow for that change to happen. He refused because he stated that in the end the Democratic process was more important than his popularity and that he would continue to serve his country but it was time for someone else to take over the top job. Under his governance he deprivatised many of the plundered privatised state assets, a move greatly appreciated by the general Russian public and the economy is stronger and the wealth better divided over the population then ever before. The population supported the military actions against Georgia.

    This contrary to the USA were the economy is in collapse, the infrastructure is crumbling, the rich have become obscenely rich and the rest of the population is losing everything they have build up.
    Over 400 FEMA camps armed and waiting for who ever will end up there and free speech relegated to barbed wire free speech zones. And while the America population majority want no war with either Afghanistan Iraq or Iran their government keeps pushing for more confrontation.
    Couple that to a corporate owned political elite who don’t give a toss about their own population and you have what Mussolini called Corporatism, also known as Fascism.

    I’m sorry Steve, but go back to the amazing library that is the internet and start learning before you venture into another post about Geopolitics. You are a promising young man willing to engage politically which I admire and I do like a lot of your posts but this is unacceptable. There is a big scary world out there and people like you should dare to step out of the save Kiwi paradigm and inform themselves better. You are our future and you need to know the realities of living in the real world.

    You are willing to question the media about their partisanship were it regards to NZ politics what makes you think they are not equally partisan were it concerns Geopolitics. I think you are smarter than this.

    And by the way it is perfectly sound to pass judgements on parties engaging in Genocide provided you do so informed. Your opinions about the political state of Russia and China are after all also judgements albeit it woefully uninformed ones.

  6. TomS 6

    All that has happened in China and Russia is they’ve switched from one brand of totalitarianism to a more economically effective one. Anyone who believes they with inevitably morph into liberal democracies because thats the nice thing to do is dreaming.

  7. vto 7

    travellerev says of sp “his astonishing middle class Pakeha ignorance.”

    Sorry people to be such a bore on this topic (bigotry), but travellerev how does his ‘pakehaness’ and his ‘middle classness’ (if true) have ANYTHING to do with anything on this post?

    do non-pakehas have an inherent better understanding of the world?

    do lower class and upper class have the same?

  8. Ben R 8

    Travellerev,

    “astonishing middle class Pakeha ignorance.”

    At vto points out above, what exactly is the relevance of this comment?

    Surely if you’re trying to persuade people you should avoid coming across as an angry bigot?

    So everyone other than middle class pakeha are informed on this issue then?

  9. Tim Ellis 9

    I love it how travellerev denounces the American “corporate owned political elite who don’t give a toss about their own population”, yet blindingly ignores the Russian oligarchs, who systematically raided Russian state assets for personal enrichment.

    Yes, Putin has been a spectacularly popular President. He has ridden an oil, gas, and resources boom, presided over an unprecedented level of economic growth, ended conflict in Chechnya (principally by buying off the warlords), and rebuilt Russian pride with their place in the world. Putin is admired throughout the former Soviet bloc for resurrecting Russia as a significant power in the region. Difficult for many in the West to understand this, but he is affectionately compared to Stalin for being a strong leader.

    In turn he has allegedly hugely enriched himself and stamped out political opposition through a mix of cunning, genuine popularity, and economic success. He has also benefited from the inevitable economic bounce-back that followed the Russian economic collapse after the fall of communism. He remains the Russian popular dictator in all but name. He continues to prop up some pretty shoddy and corrupt-to-the-bone CIS regimes in Belarus and Chechnya, among others.

    Robinsod I disagree with your view of Saak’ashvili. He came to power to stamp out corruption in one of the most graft-ridden regimes in the world, and has been pretty successful at doing so. As with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, where Viktor Yushchenko hasn’t lived up to public expectations, Saak’ashvili hasn’t been as successful as the public hoped. It’s fair to say that nobody in the former Soviet bloc has succeeded in creating political and social stability, while eliminating a god-awful regime, without Putin’s support. But I wouldn’t pretend that Putin’s efforts have been motivated by human rights or democracy. His record in Russia and elsewhere show that they’re nowhere near Putin’s agenda.

  10. Aj 10

    Everything Robinsod said in the first response

  11. Added to that your opinion about Iran is truly shocking.

    Iran boasts a population of 70 million people and is a civilised and well educated country which has not attacked another nation in over a thousand years.
    the only time it had to engage in war was when Saddam armed by the US attacked Iran. Millions of Iranian soldiers died in gas attacks with US poison gas. If you want to educate yourself on the history of the middle east read: The great war by Robert Fisk.

    Ahmadinanjad contrary to the hype of the west has good relationships with many Jewish organisations, donated money to Jewish hospitals and has never said he wanted to wipe Israel of the map. The translation was flawed, he said” That the fascist Zionist regime (Government) would one day disappear from the pages of time.

    Yes they are muslim and they run their country different to us. I don’t agree with a lot of things that happen there. The treatment of women leave a lot to be desired and the stoning and lashing of people perceived to be different (gays for example) is something that riles me. But to threaten them with nuclear annihilation and economic blockades is beyond the pale.

    To suggest that they would use nuclear arms against Israel is ridiculous as Israel is well armed with Nukes enough to blow Iran to kingdom come and they are no a suicide Nation.

    With accepting the premise that Iran is a “bad country without asking critical questions in your post you show that like most Kiwi’s you have completely bought into the Arabs bad, Westeners good paradigm.

    It is called racism, Steve and that is a bad thing.

    In fact you could call it anti Semitism, Steve.

    All the people now attacked in the US wars are members of the Semitic language family and as such related to Hebrew, another Semitic language. They are Semites just like the Jews are. The only difference is that we now attack all Semites with one notable exclusion; the Jewish Semites.

    But it is the self same horrific emotion that is driving the genocides we are committing: The fear of the unknown and the opinion that we are better than them.

    An emotion used by our rulers in many occasions in Europe against the Jews culminating in the worst Holocaust until now. The Nazi lead genocide of the European Jews.

    Welcome to the real world Steve but while NZ soldiers may not be killing at this moment in time, with us being in “Rag head” country we are on the side of the bad guys in this.

    Don’t believe me do your own research.

  12. Tim Ellis 12

    LP I don’t know why my last comment is in moderation. It doesn’t have any links and the closest to a swear-word is “Putin”.

    [lprent: Stalin – it is in the troll trap.
    I got annoyed with its continual out of context overuse in comments. There are also a number of other names and words like that in the moderation to discourage their overuse by the occasional trolls. ]

  13. relic. democratic expansionism was the subject of my latter years at uni, I know my terminology. Yeah, if you can get a democratic China, you’ve gonna have a major shift in world affairs, but , while I beleive it will happen eventually,I don’t see that happening on current trends, do you?

    I disagree with anyone who says that Russia is democratic or the West isn’t democratic. Is liberal demcoracy perfect? No, and I’m not defending the patriot act or anything like that. But there are clearly demcoratic countries and undemocratic ones.

    trav. geopolitics is my actual area, domestic politics is something I got interested in later. I’ve worked in foreign affairs and studied it for years. So the haughty tone isn’t appreciated.
    Frankly, this is where you go wrong – you’ll damn the US for it’s undemocratic actions but then you praise Putin as a demcoratic leader.. it’s simply goddam stupid and it comes from a blind position (america bad, anti-america good). I’m anti the Bush administration, it’s militarism and opposition to dissent at home but for god’s sake look at Russia where journalists are murdered, the press is controlled and the opposition isn’t even allowed to stand – and we’re not talking about the oligarchs and their lackeys here – these are true democratics that are being suppressed.

    And ultimately, I’m not tlkaing about the morality of any of the governing systems… the fact of the matter is we are a liberal democracy, we cooperate in a world of liberal demcoracies and participate in a programme of trying to make other countries liberal democracies… that programme is now being snookered by non-democratic countries operating in a makeshift bloc and exploiting high energy prices. It’s materialism, it’s realpolitick, it’s not about the rights or wrongs of the ideologies in conflict.

  14. Well well,

    Young Steve does not like to be called to task with proper arguments and information I’m awaiting moderation.

    [I’m not in the mood trav. I don’t know why your comemnt went into mod and I took it straight out. feel free to apologise and drop the tone. SP]

  15. Not so liberal though Steve,

    Since one of my comments is in moderation.
    Even though it’s polite and my arguments sound and based on sound information.

    No not liberal at all [cut the bullshit. how dare you accuse me of not being liberal. we let you spout your conspiracy crap here all the time. SP]

  16. thank you Steve for letting it through

  17. Democracy eh? What a noble concept, just like when the media preaches about the the freedom of speech they abuse on a regular basis.

  18. for the love of god, can none of you read? This is not a values judgement, it’s not about whether we have prefect democracy or not. It’s about a group of countries that are democratic, including New Zealand, and their power, and the power of their ideology, relative to a non-democratic bloc. My argument is the non-democratic bloc is now in the ascendency, as witnessed by the geo politics around the war in Georgia.

  19. Steve,

    As I said, I like most of your posts and I think you are a stand up guy but I really think you just have a an inkling about geopolitics.

    It may be your main subject and you may have worked in foreign affairs but you have done so based on very limited information.

    I didn’t say Putin was a democratic leader and you haven’t got a clue about my opinions on Russia. I said that for the Russians he is a very popular leader and that most Russians don’t see him as a despot. That is very far from praising him. In fact they invited him to become their despot in trying to change the law and he refused. It seems to me that his relation with his voters is sounder that the relationship the US Government has with their voters.

    I don’t hate Americans as I said before but something truly exceptional is happening in the USA. The erosion of civil liberties in the US is truly staggering and very frightening.

    And yes I apologise.

  20. Daveski 20

    I never thought the day would happen but here it is – I’m coming to the defence of SP!!!

    And he hasn’t even blamed Key for the invasion 😉

    The same people blaming SP for his blinkered thinking or lack of thinking seem stuck in some ideological time warp.

    The issue – as Steve points out – is what will happen politically as countries like China and Russia grow economically.

  21. I disagree with anyone who says that Russia is democratic or the West isn’t democratic.

    Steve – the construction of Russia/The West is a bit odd. There are certainly more democratic nations than Russia in the West (such as us!) but also less democratic nations. As you know you need tens (and now apparently hundreds) of millions of dollars to stand as President in the US. The choice of one of two faces from the same tiny pool of corporate/political elite is hardly democratic choice.

    Like I said if you want true democracy you should check out the Bolivarian revolution. In Venezuela for example, democracy is being devolved down to the community level. At a realpolitik level Venezuela is using its oil reserves to further this democratic project. Ironically oil-dependence may help build a democratic model that is the real deal.

    Daveski – Are you talking about the invasion of South Ossetia?

  22. Billy 22

    Hey, ‘ev, maybe Steve is part of it. I mean, we don’t even know where he was on September 11 2001. Makes you think…

    Captcha: “are herrings”. I am not making this up.

  23. Billy – where were you when Big Norm died?

  24. Billy 24

    Tucked up in bed in my Granny’s house in Taupo. Unfortunately, she died in 2004 making my alibi a little shaky now.

  25. ‘sod. Yup, I’m all for the socialist democratisation of South America… whether it’s actually going to work out is another matter.. the temptation of power for Chavez and those around him must be very strong, but that’s the flaw in every revolution.

    The interesting thing is that the US actually spends roughly equal per person to what we do on its elections., its just got 70 times the population. Is the US the perfect democracy we should all aspire to? of course, not. I never said it was. But we all believe in democracy (in fact, people are only arguing it’s not democratic enough) and our ability to spread that ideology and even hold it’s recent gains is threatended by the rise of this non-democratic power bloc.

  26. SP – Of course it’s going to work! I’m not so sure your “equal (real) spending = equal level of democracy” argument is that sound. I’d also argue that if the democracy we have masks an actual dictatorship (in the US, and to a lessor extent here, the dictatorship of capital) then it is perhaps less desirable than a more transparently repressive regime.

  27. lukas 27

    my goodness… I agree with SP… I’m off to the shrink

  28. Steve regarding ‘perfect democracy’, in capitalism is there such a thing as democracy, it seems the only thing subscribed to is making money in anyway possible, perhaps democracy is a concept given to the plebs to make them think they can make difference.

    Ironically the champions of democracy, the United States, are guilty of many undemocratic practices abroad.

    Even in New Zealand theres no perfect democracy, the media are pretty much deciding the outcome of this election, and we know the media are in the pocket of big business, so whats fair about that?

    Democracy really needs to be beefed up, its far to fragile and easily manipulated. There’s no need for election fraud when you can easily manipulate the voters instead, its easier, cheaper and legal. But typically when any effort is made to beef it up (EFA) we get the ‘this is an attack on freedom of speech’.

  29. Ben R 29

    Travellev,

    “It seems to me that his relation with his voters is sounder that the relationship the US Government has with their voters.”

    What about voters who want to form an opposition party, or perhaps write a book criticising the administration?

  30. Jasper 30

    SP – China doesn’t have much more growing to do. Most of the world has been paying China to manufacture crap for the last 20 odd years. Financially speaking, China is now the second richest nation on earth, behind Russia. The US is no longer the “worlds only superpower” as an ill informed Telegraph reporter wrote.

    As the tide moves slowly westwards (UK >USA >China >Russia) previously developed 1st world nations will descend back to 2nd, and even 3rd world status.
    The USA’s 5 trillion dollar debt is not going away anytime soon, and is largely borrowed from China and Russia.
    Within the next 50 – 100 years, expect the USA to slowly crumble, with east and west America splitting into two separate governmental states (with the Californian side being run by the Terminator?)

    China and Russia are already outsourcing to African nations for their manufacturing needs, whilst continuing to manufacture for current 1st world nations.
    Africa will be the next wealthy nation, once they get their act together and unite all their states under one democratic roof – similar to the USA.
    The Rushina bloc, being communist at their heart will eventually combine forces, but wont go so far as to combine government. This will give them the dubious honour of being the biggest superpower in our relatively short (1880 – 20?) capitalist history. Capitalism will fall, and a mixture of socialist communism will prevail.

    Our FTA with China will stand us in good stead. It won’t be a visible effect for the first 5 years, but longer than that, and we’ll certainly be all the more richer for it.

    The entrails have spoken, as have the birds.

    Jasper the Auger.

  31. higherstandard 31

    Sounds like a cheap sci fi novel Jasper

  32. monkey-boy 32

    ‘For the love of God, cannone of you read?’
    Lol
    Welcome to my world, SP

  33. cha 33

    Is Jasper channeling this bloke?.

    captcha “nebraska bands”

  34. Ah, Steve,

    I was wondering about that. my conspiracy crap.

    Did you know that every major war in the last century was preceded by a false flag operation Steve? Including the golf of Tonkin incident that was the reason to go to war with Vietnam which cost many good and patriotic New Zealanders their lives? The war that is still costing veterans to die of Agent Orange?

    I have Kiwi veterans come to my site that thank me and tell me they have had their entire families come over to read what I write and thank me because now their whole live and what they went through falls into place and they can tell their families how they have felt their whole lives about that incident and how it made them feel towards America and they can finally get on with their lives in their new paradigm.

    I have veterans from that war come up to us in the street when we try to share information about false flag operations and thank us for what we are doing.

    Or perhaps operation Northwood a nice blue print for a false flag operation involving the crashing of planes from the CIA in 1962.

    And more recently Dick Cheney who proposed to paint a few race boats in Iranian colors, fill them with marines dressed in Iranian army what ya ma call it and shoot the crap out them pretending they’re the real thing presenting him with a casus belli to go to war with Iran.

    About the Block thing.

    Dividing the world into two blocks suggests a static unchangeable world view. Russia/China bad and the Western world good.

    However if you equate democracy with the protection of civil liberties, voting rights and the right to the pursuit of happiness I’ve got news for you.

    America only a week after 911 started to systematically destroy those freedoms and rights. No more Habeas corpus, No more right to a fair and speedy trial, Everybody can be named an enemy combatant now and the US has black hole Gulags for torture all over the planet. In fact torture is now officially condoned policy. The right to protest in the vicinity of politicians is now limited to free speech zones and even though you can still write what you like, writers like Naomi Wolf are on no fly lists. If you assert your right to free speech as a University professor and it is not in line with the official “Arabs did it” you can rest assured your out on your ass in no time. even though you have been a well performing, productive and popular professor.

    Democracy is something we have to take and make ourselves. It is not a static “once given, always there” proposition. the Russian citizens are more empowered now than ever before and a huge proportion is politically engaged and active.

    In America on the contrary everybody I speak to and I speak with a lot of them through my blog and on Forums is scared. Scared of the police who is more and more aggressive, scared of Blackwater mercenaries appearing on their streets doing police duties, scared of the roadblocks, the identity checks, the laws against filming (more and more Americans will only do street actions with everybody armed with small video’s so there is a filmed and documented version in case the police decides to intervene so the police now wants to change the law so that only people with an expensive permit are allowed to carry a video camera to film in public spaces) in the streets and of more and more army performing civilian duties. Americans are leaving the States because they are scared. The fear is not limited to the leftie site either. Many of the people I hear and read are solid life long Republicans. In fact one of my absolute heroes is a former Colonel a man who volunteered for Vietnam, did a 100 sorties with Agent Orange (and now dying of cancer from it) and who went on to serve under Carter and Reagan as the head of the star war program.

    Not a man I would associate with someone who scares easily and neither someone I would have associated with before 911.
    He is scared shitless for his country and fights like hell to keep it from sliding into a full blown fascist martial law. If even people like him are scared than surly this is not a healthy state for a Democratic Nation to be in?

    So tell me Steve, how many American do you talk to on a daily base who are actually living in the States? If you are; are they telling you that the US is still part of the democratic Block you so ardently defend or do you simply parrot the NZH and all the other corporately owned News papers. I would find that in light of you other excellent activism extremely disappointing.

    Naomi Wolfs book: Letter to a young American is well worth reading.

  35. Ben R 35

    “Africa will be the next wealthy nation, once they get their act together and unite all their states under one democratic roof – similar to the USA.”

    What do you base this on? The average African women has 5 or more babies. There is little use of contraception. The African population is expected to double to reach a figure of 1.5 to 2 billion inhabitants by 2050. If anything poverty will get worse.

  36. Awaiting moderation again.

  37. Ben R 37

    “In America on the contrary everybody I speak to and I speak with a lot of them through my blog and on Forums is scared.”

    Travellev, I know a lot of people in America. I visited there recently. The only thing people were scared about was the effect of the sub-prime mortgage debacle with lots of places making staff redundant.

    It was hard to avoid books criticising the current administration. In fact about 200 metres from the White House there were badges being sold saying “Worst Presidency Ever”. Hardly evidence of people being scared.

    “the Russian citizens are more empowered now than ever before and a huge proportion is politically engaged and active.”

    As long as they don’t bag the Kremlin I bet they’re fine. Who killed that dissident KGB chap?

  38. randal 38

    they are full of testosterone and bullshit and big bank balances from selling oil to dependent westerners…let them go for it. and I mean all of them.

  39. I love it how travellerev denounces the American “corporate owned political elite who don’t give a toss about their own population’, yet blindingly ignores the Russian oligarchs, who systematically raided Russian state assets for personal enrichment.

    Actually I said that part of Putin’s popularity stems from his attacks on the Oligarchs who were for all intends and purposes a Mafioso bunch of thugs.

    There are rumours that Putin has had voices of opposition murdered or otherwise removed. The ex spy Litvitjenko was one of them but there are also traces to Berezowski one of those Oligarchs who lives in London and who is a real nasty piece of work with a virulent hate for Putin. A female Journalist who wanted to write about Putins role in Chetznia and she was killed too. I have not researched it but there are those that say that Putin was also involved in false flag operations to get the Russians consent to go to war in Chetznia (blowing up a couple of appartment blocks in Moskow claiming it was Chetznian terrorists) I have no doubt that Putin is a master manipulator and anybody who aspires to great power should be held under a microscope.

    the only point I tried to make is the fact that he is more popular and seems to have the consent of his voters while refusing to change the law so he can legally be the president for as long as he wants while the US Government and Congress have the lowest popularity ever (and that is saying something) and they don’t seem to care what their population wants or needs and there seems nothing the American people can do about it.

    Captcha: Regent entitled. LOL

  40. Ben R 40

    “while the US Government and Congress have the lowest popularity ever (and that is saying something) and they don’t seem to care what their population wants or needs and there seems nothing the American people can do about it.”

    Well, there is another US election in a few months…

    What can the Russians do if they are unhappy with their leaders?

  41. Matthew Pilott 41

    There seems to be a fundamental disconnect here. Trav, for example, talking about the US’ destruction of civil liberties. The countries Steve seems to be talking about have never had them to the same extent – I’m thinking of Sudan, DRC, Angola, And lately, Zimbabwe.

    Russia never made the necessary transition due to a wholesale transfer of assets from the state to ‘the oligarchs’. China still lacks many fundamental freedoms that we consider inalienable (whether they all see it thus is a different queston).

    So I think there’s a lot of talking over heads here, and a lot of accusations being fired out because of this. You’re not all right or wrong, you’re arguing different arguments (all of which are mighty interesting, by the way, thank you).

    The core idea (of the blog post, please correct me if I’ve missed it SP) seems to be that the ‘democracy-exporting’ nations – those that have a stated and vested interest in the expansion of stable democratic nations, are no longer on the ascendancy and are being further thwarted by their dependence on oil – oil from nations that do not share the same interests.

    Haven’t seen this refuted – whether the former are really interested in exporting democracy is a very different question.

    The big question I have is related to the interdependence of Capitalism and Democracy. Can the latter survive the former? If not, what are we left with? Incredibly weak states and incredibly powerful organisations beholden only to shareholders and the dollar?

    If the Western democratic experiment fails, can those filling the void (such as that which ‘Sod mentions, and the interests in non-Western democracies, autocracies and the various guises of totalitarianism, secular and otherwise) give enough stability? Especially when we’re facing sever energy and other resource shortages that may require unprecedented cooperation to manage.

    It doen’t paint a pretty picture in my book. Turnips anyone?

  42. ‘sod. I’m just saying the money issue in us elections may be overblown.

  43. Edosan 43

    Interesting post Steve but I’d like to comment on a few things if I may.

    “it’s not a true imperialism because countries that are incorporated into the project are not directly controlled from the centre and are ultimately free to choose policies that run country to the interest of the democratic powers.”

    This is not the case when it comes to tied aid, which is something the donor agencies use often (though not as often as in the 90’s) to achieve their ‘good governance’ objectives. You just have to look at the kind of policies espoused by the World Bank or the IMF that went into Structural Adjustment Policies or even now in the PRSP’s. Also, how much assistance does Venezuela get from “the Centre” now that they have chosen their own path?

    I also don’t think there is much point in talking about ‘democratic’ and ‘non-democratic’ blocs in such black and white terms. In Russia, which has gone down the road of liberal democracy only to renege on it to a large extent, there is an opinion that a foreign form of liberal democracy is too destabilising and that other things such as wealth creation and regaining Russia’s standing in the world (which obviously comes from quite straightfoward nationalism) are currently more important. Putin embodies this perfectly which explains his incredible popularity. Labelling Russia anti-democratic with a particular form of democracy in mind doesn’t help much in my opinion.

    Russia, China and other non-democratic countries do not form a monolithic ‘enemy’ to the west, but we do tend to view them in that way far too often. Just like in the 1960’s when the west largely didn’t even believe conflict was occurring between the two.

  44. Edosan, cheers. I would say though aid from the likes of china is arguably more condiitonal on political ‘good behaviour’ – the West worries about the human impact of withdrawing aid (and the prospect of countries turning to China makes the West reluctant to cancel aid). Yeah, West, anti-democratic are simplistic terms but we’re only looking at one way that these countries interact and it’s a blog post, obviously things are more complicated in the real world but the overall pattern is right.

  45. If the Western democratic experiment fails, can those filling the void (such as that which ‘Sod mentions, and the interests in non-Western democracies, autocracies and the various guises of totalitarianism, secular and otherwise) give enough stability?

    One of the little known Cold war facts is that in the USSR Russia was a net-exporter of wealth to satellite nations.

    The US, and before it the British, (liberal democratic) empire have always made a net gain out of their colonies and client states.

    How does “liberal democracy” ensure stability?

  46. roger nome 46

    Steve: Have you read ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI’S (probably the US’s most renowned 20th century foreign policy figure after Kissinger) book, THE GRAND CHESSBOARD: American Primacy and Its – Geostrategic Imperatives?

    You can read the whole thing
    here. It was written in 1997, so is a little dated, but its central tenants still stand.

    Its thesis:

    The Nato block is the premier global military, political and economic force, but to protect its hegemony it needs to prevent any coherent pan-Eurasian block from emerging. This means that it needs to get into the central-Asian “stan” states, and the Middle Eastern states, and bring them under the umbrella of western democratic influence.

    IMO, the Neo-Cons attempted to do this through raw power (and without the necessary international support in the case of Iraq), but it has backfired because, rather than “shocking and awing” the Central Asian and Middle Eastern states, it has pushed many of them into the arms of the Russians and the Chinese (something they aren’t necessarily overly comfortable with, given they’ve just escaped hundreds of years of Russian captivity). Thus, the West’s global democratisation project has lost its unity (the neo-cons alienated the big European powers) and has lost legitimacy in the eyes of potential new democracies.

    Basically the arrogance of the US’s religious right has fucked the geo-strategic position of the West, and the whole world will be paying for that for a long time to come.

    As you point out, the situation in Georgia, highlights the fact that the US has lost its ability to dictate proceedings in Central Asia (or in this case the caucuses).

  47. Matthew Pilott 47

    How does “liberal democracy’ ensure stability?

    Lack of warfare. Respect of international convention and agreements, to a certain extent. A plethora of things really. Hell, by no means is it perfect, I could rephrase with ‘whatever replaces/subsumes/converts what we have now, can it maintain the current level of stability among previously stable nations’.
    Of curse, there’s the tickler – does stability bring democracy or vice versa, but I was trying to keep things simple, a complex task in of itself!

    I did know that fact you stated, whuich raises an obvious question – if subsidising satellites doesn’t work and making a profit out of them hasn’t had glowing results, what does one do with one’s empire?

  48. Bill 48

    When I first realised there was a post on international politics I kind of sat up, then slumped as I read through it.

    Anyway. The question was posed “What can we learn from the war in Georgia”

    1. That the ‘free press’ happily and uncritically regurgitates official propaganda. (Russia = bad. Georgia = good)

    2. That the internet is does offer an avenue to understanding.

    3. That if you came to power on the back of CIA aid as Saakashvili did ( the so-called ‘Rose Revolution’)you can not rely on their unconditional support. (Think Saddam Hussein et al)

    4. That you should expect to be treated as an expendable pawn. (think Saddam Hussein et al again)

    5. That historical fact is a nasty inconvenience to Western attempts to manipulate the situation.

    6. That historical facts will be ignored by Western Governments and media

    7. The ‘democratic programme’ is a sham if your democratic aspirations get in the way of Western desires. (Kosovo – yes. S. Ossetia and Abkhazia? Certainly NOT!)

    8. The US has no desire to see stability in the Caucasus. Quite the opposite.

    9. The ‘Washington Consensus’ is dead.

    10. The ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’ ( Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.) is real.

    11. Oil from the Caspian may not be flowing west in the future (40% of all the EUs oil and gas flows through the Caucasus)

    12. Capitalism Sucks

  49. Edosan 49

    Steve:

    The west does worry about the human impact of withdrawing aid, that is true, but i guess i was referring more to their long term development assistance which is usually obtained through the channel of the world bank. It is very often tied to particular political objectives which is very often ideologically dictated from Washington.

    Matthew:

    Stability seems to be something that countries have to arrive at themselves, not much can be achieved by outside interference (except perhaps a well timed and executed humanitarian intervention which I’m sure you’ll agree is rather rare). One of the most destabilising thing in the last century has been democratic transition (whether it succeeded or ultimately failed). It’s a rather well documented cycle. In the first sputtering of democracy, groups who were previously undermined in some way (usually ethnic minorities) find they have some voice and begin to use it. Other democratic norms that we may take for granted (such as the rule of law, or being tolerant of dissent) are not so well grounded and the reaction that this provokes often leads to armed civil conflict.

    My point is i guess that the democracy exporting mentality, placed over the particular political contexts of the nation in question, hasn’t produced stability at all, and that perhaps more stability will only be gained when nations (especially liberal democratic ones) allow others the leverage to exist in a political space that is more appropriate for them at the time.

  50. Bill 50

    Forgot number 13. The US has miscalculated big time. Unlucky for some.

  51. lukas 51

    here is a site for Trav et al http://americaintheworld.typepad.com/ as recommended by DPF

  52. Roger Nome,

    Thanks for that link I’ve been wanting to read those for a long time.
    It is scary to find these guys here. in a country adjacent to Georgia.

    Bill, thanks for that list and yes, I agree with your no 13; They miss calculated big time. What scares me for Europe is the deal between Washington and Poland though.

    Ben R,
    And well they should be. It’s only just the beginning of the economic meltdown. The thing is; those friends of yours will blame the poor who should never have taken those mortgages and they will not realise that the banks who gave out these mortgages have long since earned that money back by selling them on to unsuspecting suckers.
    You should send your America friends these links

  53. Bill 53

    Linked to all this is the mounting suspicion that the US is heading a multi-national fleet to lay a blockade on Iran. Reported then denied. Now if Russia is all tied up on it’s own doorstep….

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9817

  54. KK 54

    I haven’t really followed this post all that closely but the siuation has next to nothing to do with demoocracy, forget Kant and any liberal democratic theory.

    Realism: Russia has played their cards right. The Russian operation was clealy planned. They capitalied upon an opportuity when Saakashvili miscalculated (and it was just a matter of time – o why not invade NO during the Olympics when no one will notice?), and now the West (esp the US) is wondering what the hell went wrong. It’s yet another exampe of the US’s decline in geopolitical influence.

    Good on Germany for its caution vis-a-vis Saakashvili

    This Poland-US agreement really is bad timing, but if the US is serious about confronting the Russians, go ahead with t

  55. Draco TB 55

    How does “liberal democracy’ ensure stability?

    It keeps political and economic power in the hands of the oligarchs exactly as it was designed to do. The problem, of course, is that the people will always demand democracy and will eventually throw down “liberal democracy” as the illusion it is. This fact terrifies the oligarchs so they work to prevent the people from actually exercising democracy.

    …exporting democracies…

    The only way you can export democracy is via meme. Unfortunately, the Western democracies seem to think it can be exported at the point of a gun and then wonder why it didn’t work after killing a few million people.

    The two great counter-ideologies of modernity, fascism and communism, collapsed leaving the democratic powers ascendant…

    Pre-requisite for communism is participatory democracy and I don’t know of any society that has had that since the fall of Athens ~2500 years ago.

    I did know that fact you stated, whuich raises an obvious question – if subsidising satellites doesn’t work and making a profit out of them hasn’t had glowing results, what does one do with one’s empire?

    The best idea is not to have one but the powerful always seem to think that they need one.

  56. KK. I agree, my analysis is realist.

  57. Pascal's bookie 57

    “what does one do with one’s empire?”

    Rule it?

    Great comments from ‘sod, Bill, Matt P. and others.

    I think the ‘democratisation project’ is a wash. What hope there was for one died around the time GWB dragged all those B teamers from the cold war into the White House.

    Here’s Wolfowitz work from back in 92

    To perpetuate this role, the United States “must sufficiently account for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order,’ the document states.

    With its focus on this concept of benevolent domination by one power, the Pentagon document articulates the clearest rejection to date of collective internationalism, the strategy that emerged from World War II when the five victorious powers sought to form a United Nations that could mediate disputes and police outbreaks of violence.

    These clowns that have been wrong about everything since at least the late sixties, thought that with the Soviet Union gone, the path was clear for permanent US hegemony. (in the late eighties they were so damn scared of the mighty soviet threat that they were calling Reagan a traitor for talking to them, they claimed perestroika and all that was a ruse. they are teh st00p)

    It’s not worked out for them, because they are idiots. They thought they could do away with the international system set up after WWII and no one else would play by the new rules they set up for themselves. They thought that they could just keep poking Russia in the eye, whilst running up massive debts and breaking their own military in a sandbox. They thought that because Russia couldn’t stop East Germany and Poland turning west, that they couldn’t stop Georgia. They thought Russia would roll over and abandon the Crimea. Did I mention they are idiots yet?

    Russia is throwing it’s weight around in it’s own backyard, proving it’s point, and has no interest in any wider adventures. They need Europe’s cash just as Europe needs the gas. They’ve drawn a line in the sand, but we should remember that line used to go through Berlin.

  58. KK 58

    you just seemed to be wanking on about democracy a bit much there Ronny McRed. There is an argument there – east verses west, but the overall picture is wider.

    I love your mate Rice’s latest

    “We have to deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia’s democracy…”

  59. I’m talking about democracy as an ideology, that like any system will attempt to survive and expand. Now, it happens that i’m all for countries being democratic, as I’m sur you are, but my article doesn’t say that whatever a democracy does is right or whatever a nondemcoratic country does is wrong, nor does it pass any judgment on the combatants in Georgia, in act it specifically does not pass any judgment in that regard.

  60. Bill 60

    Steve.
    democracy does not exist anywhere that I am aware of. I think efforts to make it real are entirely laudable. (eg the Bolivarian Revolution mentioned further up)

    These countries you speak of which term themselves democratic are no more democratic than the Soviet Union was communist.

    And just as the USSR undermined communism at every opportunity, the US does likewise to democracy.

    The ‘democratisation programme’ you refer to was only ever a nice sounding label for imperial expansionism.

    End.

  61. Ag 61

    “But we all believe in democracy”

    Do we? How can you believe in it, in any general sense any more?

    Sure, countries like New Zealand, Canada and Sweden function more or less well as democracies both internally and as international actors because they don’t have any real power or desire to impose their will on others.

    But Britain and the US demonstrate that voters won’t punish governments that commit the supreme international crime. People care more about their mortgages and petrol prices than they do about the illegal bombing of foreign heathens. Moreover, one only has to read around the net to realize the sheer number of people of an authoritarian bent who approve of the massive application of military force and the commission of war crimes. Democratic countries can be plenty belligerent, and the only reason they haven’t attacked each other is the happenstance that they’ve all ended up in the same interest group. If either Russia or China became democratic it would make no difference, as they would still be competitors for natural resources and influence.

    Climate change will probably be the thing that demonstrates the hopelessness of democracy. As things stand people just won’t vote for what needs to be done, and are quite happy to take refuge in the propaganda of oil companies and pseudo-scientific cranks, because it means they can hold out hope that they won’t have to give up their lifestyle.

    Forms of political organization die all the time. Democracy is likely no different. History never ends.

  62. rave 62

    Bill. I sat up when I read your contribution. Thanks.
    I think point 13 may be a bit wrong. US miscalculation?
    You immediately contradict yourself in the next point anyway. The US is playing a strategic game on Russia’s several doorsteps, pissing in their postbox and shitting in their back yard.
    I reckon that they will be happy to let Russia look like a bully in parts of Georgia so long as they can pose as democratic humanitarians and turn the south of Georgia into a Kosovo type protectorate to keep the Baku-Ceylan oil pipeline open.
    Miscalculation? I don’t think so. They have satellite spies that could pick out the movements of Russian troops. So this was a provocation, designed to test the Russians response. It was obvious that Russia would defend SO even for its own geopolitical reasons.
    Winning another Kosovo and an oil route that bypasses Russia (Iran and Afghanistan are hardly options at the moment), with Poland now hosting NATO missiles, Ukraine rushing to join NATO, and the US fleet hovering off Iran, I would say that the Russia China bloc is the loser here.
    The only democracy that’s going to survive this period is the workers democracy. The Bolivarian revolution may yet turn into a workers revolution. The miners in Bolivia are the brightest hope right now.

  63. KK 63

    SP, you’ve totally spoken for democracy right or wrong – reread your blog. “Coming back to Georgia, we see that energy-rich non-democratic Russia is able to waltz into a democratic country.” – you sound a bit like Rice.

    Russia did not enter Georgia because of its system of government. Furthermore, Saakashvili’s a total nationalist crony – not to mention backed by the US.

    These latest comments extend the leftist argument. I agree that the West is very democratic at all and I refuse to believe that our form of liberal democracy is the be all end all, as your post pretty much puts it.

    But Rave, I wouldn’t call the Russia-China bloc (whatever that is btw) the loser here. Russia has clearly flexed itself and given the US quite a warning shot.

    WE need for graeater, more democratic, all inclusive global governance to deal with issues like these. At least Sarcozy (even though I normally dislike the guy) has given a shot at genuine mediation. Let’s hope that the Europeans can continue with this approach vis-a-vis Iran.

  64. KK. No such assertion that current democracy is the best ssytem we can hope for. Also, that quote, so what? Russia is nondemocratic, and it has effectively seized control of a country that is on the democratic side of the ledger (notwithstanding all Saakas’s faults), and the conuntries that regard themselves as the powers backing democratisation are not able to stop Russia acting as it choices in deciding the future of Georgia.

    Of course we need better global governance, but the global governance you and i want, one based on human rights etc etc, is a democratic project – China and Russia have no interest in subjecting themsevles to such power (and the US and EU, acting as powerful realist agents will not always find they want in either. So, it would be awesome but it’s not going to happen while you’e got rising power among the non-democratic powers.

    for the others who say ‘there is no democracy just as there was no communism’ – you can argue until the cows come home whether countries have ever met the definitions of these ideologies or whether they have met those difinitions as much as can be expected in the real world… but the fact is there are countries that call themselves democratic and are recognised by others as such – community recognition, that’s the only definition that matters in realpolitick.

  65. r0b 65

    Climate change will probably be the thing that demonstrates the hopelessness of democracy. As things stand people just won’t vote for what needs to be done

    Ag – Agreed. And yet any proposal for an alternative to democracy is never going to fly. Which leads me to depressing conclusions. Goodnight…

  66. roger nome 66

    Steve:

    “for the others who say ‘there is no democracy just as there was no communism’ – you can argue until the cows come home whether countries have ever met the definitions of these ideologies or whether they have met those difinitions as much as can be expected in the real world”

    I would also put this question to them:

    Would you rather live under a Chinese communist system of governance, or the one we enjoy in NZ? No contest.

  67. Bloody hell, I can’t believe I actually agree with Pat Buchanan.

    Captcha: homeless Ironton?

  68. Jasper 68

    Cha – never heard of that bloke.

    Mark my words. Africa will be the next country to rise. Possibly after WWIII has happened in 2023.

  69. Pat Buchanan is a US talking head and writer and a once upon a time presidential candidate for the Republican party running on an extreme right wing program.

    Captcha: contains 11 what

  70. Ben R 70

    Travellerev,

    “The thing is; those friends of yours will blame the poor who should never have taken those mortgages”

    Who would blame people for accepting a loan? I think Joseph Stiglitz suggested that the massive financial cost of occupying Iraq meant the Federal Reserve flooded the economy with liquidity which contributed to the housing bubble & poor investments.

  71. Bill 71

    rave
    the assumption I am making is that the US thought it could piss all over Russia’s doorstep with impunity. That is their miscalculation.

    The nascent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and its overlapping military attendant can sensibly be seen as a reaction to US provocation in the region. Iran is on the wings of the SCO. India is (I believe) an observer. The US was refused observer status.

    Reasonable(?) rumours that the US fleet is heading to the Straits of Hormuz to lay down a blockade following their exercise of the scenario in the Atlantic (Operation Brimstone)would, if true, be an interesting exercise in the power of western propaganda vis a vis justification.

    A propaganda victory over Russia on Georgia would presumably weaken Russian’s hand in the UN in terms of opposing such a blockade.And if it is tied up in Georgia?

    Anyway. I don’t have a crystal ball but I suspect that the US has bitten off more than it can chew.

  72. Bill 72

    Jasper.
    since when was Africa a country?

  73. Bill 73

    This from the UK’s ‘Independent’…

    “They (the Russians)also commandeered four Humvees which were awaiting shipment back to the United States after being used in joint Georgia-US military exercises.”

    US have hand stuck in the cookie jar while shouting “Thief!, thief!”

  74. KK 74

    SP, the EU acting as a “powerful realist agent”?

    you meant liberal right?

  75. Ben R 75

    “Mark my words. Africa will be the next country to rise. Possibly after WWIII has happened in 2023.”

    You’re on – $5 says that won’t happen.

  76. Jasper 76

    Bill – Continent then. Will be a country when there is a government overlooking each state similar to the USA.

    Ben R – I’ll probably be dead in 2023 but you can leave the $5 to my estate.

  77. Ben R 77

    “Ben R – I’ll probably be dead in 2023 but you can leave the $5 to my estate.”

    You’d better not be, I’ll be wanting to claim my $5!

  78. rave 78

    Bill I don’t disagree that when it comes to Russia the US can’t act with complete impunity. It has got a response, probably much as it expected which it is using to blame Russia and cover its own tracks.
    The US is gradually unpicking the CIS, and this latest action has sped up that process.
    The US has plugged an oil pipeline right into the heart of the CIS and the SCO for which it will sacrifice some military hardware (its all money in the bank for the war industry) not to mention the collateral of the Georgian people (and the Ossetian and Abkhazi peoples.) All this diplomatic rhetoric is shadowboxing. We have the US dividing Europe over Russia, hardening the battlelines, and raising the stakes in Central Asia.
    US bitten off more than it can chew? Maybe, but how is that new?
    Hasnt that been said about Vietnam and Iraq? Its not as if its just a bad option taken by the neocons that can be corrected by Obama. This is a drive by the No 1 imperialist to grab vital raw materials for its own survival, and too bad who gets in the road.
    It bites, chews, and if necessary spits out and takes another bite.

  79. Draco TB 79

    I’m talking about democracy as an ideology,

    But is democracy an ideology in and of itself?
    It isn’t.
    Consider it rather as, part of an overall socio-economic paradigm and over the last century the two dominant ideologies have both required democracy. Capitalism required representative democracy so that the minority (white, male and propertied) could stay in power while the majority could be more accurately described as passive observers having little to no political power themselves. Communism[*], with its removal of private ownership of the means of production, required participatory democracy as the workers (single class so that includes everybody by default) themselves would have to make the political decisions that guided where their society and economy were going.

    It is.
    A rather interesting concept – democracy for the sake of democracy rather than as part of an over-riding socio-economic paradigm as it has been for the last 320 years. I’m reasonably sure that such an argument could be made as those democratic societies have certainly changed a great deal over the intervening time. Voter inclusion has gone from 3% to 5% in 1688 to 100% today. Society has changed from the capitalist-mercantalist economic paradigm through laissez faire, government control and now onto capitalist-free-market. On top of that we’ve brought about several social changes that have made society much better off. These changes would be the result of a evolutionary paradigm (democracy) rather than the fixed paradigm of either capitalism or communism[*].

    [*]
    Perhaps I’m being too academic here for those RealPolitikniks. I would argue that Marx himself would not have recognised either the USSR or Communist China as being communist and, as such, we are wrong to continue calling them communist (and is why I say that people who decry communism while pointing at both don’t actually know WTF they’re talking about). But, then, language does change and the word communism has come, over time, to be associated with the repressive and dictatorial regimes of the USSR and China. Perhaps, then, we need a new word that has as its meaning what Marx actually tried to describe and to disassociate it with what the USSR and China became – but I’m damned if I know what that word would be.

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    The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2) had part of its committee stage yesterday. its a generally tedious bill about the nitty-gritty of local government reorganisation. But it includes a clause making the Local Government Commission subject to the Ombudsmen Act, and hence the OIA. Great! Except of ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • Ihumātao and Treaty settlements
    Yesterday Ihumātao's mana whenua reached a consensus that they would like their land back, and asked the government to negotiate with Fletcher's for its return. The government's response? Try and undermine that consensus, while talking about how doing anything would undermine existing Treaty settlements. The first is just more bad ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • Protecting our history
    Its Suffrage Day, the 126th anniversary of women winning the right to vote (but not stand in elections) in New Zealand. And to celebrate, the government has bought Kate Sheppard's house in Christchurch:The government has bought Kate Sheppard's former home in Christchurch for more than $4 million. The Ilam villa ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • Climate Change: Ostracising the coal-burners
    The UN climate summit is happening in new York next week, and unlike previous years, coal-burners and denier-states are not being invited to speak:Leading economies such as Japan and Australia will not be invited to speak at next week’s crunch UN climate change summit, as their continued support for coal ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • Jojo Tamihere Salutes Herr Goff.
    Get Back Jojo! The elation in Mayor Phil Goff’s camp may be easily imagined as they watched social media light up in indignation at challenger John Tamihere’s "Sieg Heil to that" quip. Just when JT’s notoriously right-wing, sexist and homophobic stains were beginning to fade back into his ‘colourful’ past, ...
    4 days ago
  • Hard News: A fun but flawed weed documentary
    Patrick Gower is good value when he's high. Not that I've ever, you know, got stoned with him. But in the second part of his documentary Patrick Gower on Weed, he does what you'd expect in a modern weed documentary and immerses himself – first with a doctor, then a ...
    4 days ago
  • Candidate Survey: Western Bay of Plenty – Local Body Elections 2019
    We surveyed candidates on their attitudes to issues facing the Western Bay Region, find out what they think: “Closing the Gap” Tauranga, one of the area groups of Income Equality Aotearoa NZ Inc., has surveyed all candidates in the three local body elections to discover attitudes to some basic issues ...
    Closing the GapBy Tracey Sharp
    5 days ago
  • Project Nettie calls on scientists to defend biology
    Please spread widely, and sign, to support science and rationalism over the new irrationalism sweeping universities and institutions.  PROJECT NETTIE Sexual reproduction, the generation of offspring by fusion of genetic material from two different individuals, evolved over 1 billion years ago. It is the reproductive strategy of all higher animals ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    5 days ago
  • I’m glad I don’t live in Auckland
    Just when I was thinking that Palmerston North's mayoral race (which includes a convicted child molester / public wanker and a convicted child beater) was the worst in the country, Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere opened his mouth:Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere is being slammed for using the words "sieg ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Index of Power Update, 2018-19: China #2
    We reprint below an article from the excellent website the Economics of Imperialism by Tony Norfield This is an update of the statistics for my Index of Power, using data for 2018-19 and discussing what a country’s ranking reflects. The major change is that China’s rank has shifted up and ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    5 days ago
  • Climate Change: A history lesson
    Why is New Zealand climate change policy so crap? The Herald this morning has a long article on the twists and turns of climate change policy in New Zealand [paywalled / depaywall script], which shows where we've been. The short version is that the government first began worrying about this ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • What the All Blacks Mean to Us
    The All Blacks have been, for more than a century, arguably the most successful International sports team in the world. But they are more than that; even for those Kiwis who are immune to the charms of rugby (and there are more than a few), the All Blacks are ambassadors ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    5 days ago
  • No one is born into the wrong body
    A short and incredibly powerful speech from a young lesbian woman. No one is born in the wrong body. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    6 days ago
  • Contempt
    Back in June, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that that country's continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. So you'd expect that the UK government stopped approving them, right?Of course not:The government has apologised for breaching a court ruling against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Covering up the cover-up
    Yesterday NZDF officials were put on the stand about the lies they had told over Operation Burnham, making implausible claims that it was all a big mistake. But along the way, we learned they had already been put on the spot about it by a previous Defence Minister, who had ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Not as important as they think they are
    Farmers have been whining a lot lately, about the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill, about Canterbury's proposed nitrogen limits, and about the government's new proposals to stop them from shitting in our lakes and rivers. These policies are "throwing farmers under the tractor", they will force farmers off ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Behind Every Good Woman Should Stand – Another Good Woman.
    Alone, Alone, All, All, Alone: To argue that the Prime Minister is the victim of her advisers’ failure to keep her informed may offer Jacinda some measure of exoneration – but only at the cost of casting her as a hopeless political ingénue. A star-dusted muppet, whose only purpose is to ...
    6 days ago
  • Poor quality, poorly educated kiddie ‘Journalists’ spreading fake news
    In times of hysteria about the “World coming to an end” and “rising sea levels” so-called ‘Journalists’ who can barely spell words longer than four letters are having a ball! Though the majority of the Public have worked out that manmade climate change is nothing short of pseudo-science, and the ...
    An average kiwiBy admin@averagekiwi.com
    6 days ago
  • Chris Trotter on the BFD
    I don't want to give pblicity to certain parts of the internet that are better left to fester in their own irrelevance (I know, a bit like this place) but the listing of Chris Trotter as a 'author' on Cameron Slater's spinoff website, the BFD requires some explanation.Now, I don't ...
    7 days ago
  • Sex is not a spectrum
    The text below is a Twitter thread by Heather Heying that explains the essence of sexual reproduction and it long evolutionary history. She is an evolutionary biologist and a “professor-in-exile” after she and her husband, Bret Weinstein, stood up to supporters of an enforced “Day of Absence” for white staff and teachers ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    7 days ago
  • Climate Change: Trees, aviation, and offsets
    With crunch time for new Zealand climate policy approaching, most of the New Zealand media have got on board with a global reporting effort to cover the issue. There's one strand of stories today about polling and what it shows about changing public attitudes to the crisis, but the strand ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Pissing-Off The Israelis Is A High-Risk Strategy.
    Dangerous Foes: For those readers of Bowalley Road who feel disposed to dismiss any prospect of an Israeli destabilisation of New Zealand politics, the example of the United Kingdom repays close attention. Ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party, the Israelis have sanctioned, funded and ...
    7 days ago
  • Something to go to in Wellington
    Make It 16, the youth-led campaign to lower New Zealand's voting age, is holding an official campaign launch at Parliament this Friday from 16:30. If you'd like to attend, you can register using EventBrite here. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • A founding member responds to Peace Action Wellington
    by Don Franks It was a lovely sunny Wellington afternoon with blue skies above  the beaches.  In Courtenay Place, political activists packed out a stuffy upstairs room for an important meeting. The assembled pacifists, anarchists, communists and independent young radicals of Peace Action Wellington felt the need for a mission ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    7 days ago
  • “Mistakes and errors”
    Current and former NZDF top brass are being publicly grilled this week by the hit and run inquiry over their public responses to allegations of civilian casualties. Previously, they've claimed there were no casualties, a position which led them to lie to Ministers and to the public. Now, they're saying ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • “Homosexuality is same-sex attraction and relationships, not heterosexuals with delusions of gende...
    by Rafael D. Quiles (gender-critical gay man from Puerto Rico) The writing on the wall is right in people’s faces and people just don’t see it or don’t want to. What could actually possess a heterosexual male to want to feminize himself and claim that he is a lesbian? Because ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Trump: “Where’s my favourite dictator?”
    From the Wall Street Journal:Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Mr. Trump looked over a gathering of American and Egyptian officials and called out in ...
    1 week ago
  • Magdalen Burns, 1983-2019, fighter for women’s liberation
    by the Redline blog collective At Redline we are very saddened to hear of the death of Magdalen Burns who passed away on the morning of Friday, September 13 (British time). Magdalen was a great fighter for the rights of women in general and lesbian women in particular, a defender ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Parliament and the Executive
    The Brexit issue has certainly brought with it a series of apparently difficult constitutional issues, many of them concerning the respective roles of the executive and parliament. Most of them arise because of the unwillingness of MPs, despite their professions to the contrary, to be bound by a constitutional rarity ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response
    . . This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues… Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    1 week ago
  • Police will have to wear silly Buckingham Palace hats from now on, says Police Minister
    Those close to the Police Minister believe the initiative may be the result of Nash “seeing a great deal” on AliExpress. In a move that comes seemingly out of nowhere, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced this afternoon that he expects all frontline staff to don bearskin hats, famously worn by ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • A sensible crackdown
    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    1 week ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago

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