Mittwoch, Februar 16, 2005

What goes wrong on the Korean Peninsula?

The answer is quite simple. The leftist South Korean government under President Roh Moh-hyun is continuing and even extending former President Kim Dae-jungs failed sunshine policy towards Pyongyang. After the first inter-korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000 many hoped for a reconciliation between the two sides. What actually happened was, that the South tried everything to appease the North, while the North continued it´s aggressive policy and lunatic rhetoric. The South kept providing more and more (aid, economic assistance) while the North only kept demanding more.

David Scofield wrote a great article about this phenomenon: South Korea's perilous historical revisionism

It shows how South Korean youth today is taught to think of the North more as a "misunderstood sibling", than a dangerous regime. The result is that more and more koreans tend to put the blame for the current situation on the United States alone. It seems as if views like the following one become ever more common among the South´s population:

"Prove there are people starving and being tortured, there is no proof ... it's all a campaign by the United States and Japan to demonize the North and weaken Korea."

So, once again it´s leftist ideology distorting the truth and helping to keep dictators in power.

Dienstag, Februar 15, 2005

Meinungshoheit

Here´s an interesting story found via Ace of Spades HQ.
After recent successes of the us-blogosphere in their fight against the biased mainstream-media (Rathergate, Easongate), some parts of the media seem to be fighting back using legal means.
The Newspaper "Tulsa World" is threatening a critical blogger with legal action, because he published excerpts from their articles and, which is even more disturbing, because he linked to their site. Read more here.

Samstag, Februar 12, 2005

"Art"

Found some disgusting anti-american cartoons by Gavin Coates, Cartoonist for the Asia Times. He´s got all the standard issues covered. Very original: Blood for Oil, Blood for Recunstrucion-Contracts, equalling Bush with the Terrorists; American "occupation" worse than Saddam, Bush incites terrorism, etc.

So, don´t miss it! Here´s the LINK!

Freitag, Februar 11, 2005

The decline of radical Islam

Ray Takeyh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev wrote an interesting article for last Decembers issue of "Middle East Policy": "Radical Islam: The Death of an Ideology?"

According to their assesment, political Islam has no real future as a dominant political force anywhere in the world. One of the most important reason being that radical Islamists, when given political power, are not able to provide the population with the promised political outcome. The best actual examples are probably Afghanistan and Iran.

"Fourth, even though Islamism appeals to those on the margins of power and wealth because of its stress upon "righteousness," Islamist parties can easily lose legitimacy when they cannot produce the just moral order that they have promised. For example, Palestinian refugees in Jordan, living in conditions of squalor and political disenfranchisement, may find Islamism’s slogan that "Islam is the solution" to be seductive. The rhetoric of a new order for Sudan, based upon Islamic principles, gave way to a corrupt military dictatorship, leading many to question whether such a regime could in fact deliver the justice it promised. In Iran, the Islamists created a command economy that suffered from numerous irreparable defects and was plagued by corruption at every level. Indeed, Iran’s hard-line clerics are among the most corrupt actors on the Iranian political scene, actively creating institutions to maintain their privileges at the expense of the collective good. The soldiers of faith in Algeria and Egypt, proclaiming their "vision of probity and justice," in practice behaved as a criminal gang, extorting funds from the local population to sustain their campaign of violence and terror. Disillusionment leads to the discrediting of Islamist claims that they alone can deliver a more perfect order – and can often lead to repression and violence, as Islamists seek to use force to retain power."

But they also acknowledge that brutal force applied by the state has in the past played a major roll in the marginalization of radical Islam, for example in Egypt and Algeria.
But the best weapon in the fight against radical Islam, according to the authors, would be an integration of the radical forces into a democratic process, because this would lead to their taming and bring up conflicts inside their movements.

"When these movements exist in "pure" opposition, it is easy to find common ground among diverse groups inacceptance of abstract principles. As an Islamist movement draws closer to attaining power (or after a successful seizure ofpower), however, fissures inevitably open up between those who maintain that strict adherence to ideology will produce results and those who are more pragmatic or willing to make compromises." [... ] Ultimately the most powerful antidote to radical Islam, beyond the immediate palliatives of state-sponsored controls, may be greater pluralism and competition of ideas."

At the same time they critizice the Bush-Adminstration for their war in Iraq, which, in my eyes, is a little contradictory.

"Unfortunately, many U.S. initiatives, including the military displacement of Saddam Hussein’s regime, have only helped to fill the reservoirs of Islamist radicalism and validate their spurious claims of Western hostility to the Islamic realm."

The Bush-Administrations attempt at bringing democracy to the middle-east should be welcomed by the authors, even though this may - in the short term - lead to a strenghtening of the appeal of radical islamists in the region. The democratic process that has been started in Iraq may - in a best case scenario - spread to other countries in the region, thereby bringing radical islamists into the political process and forcing them to deliver on their promises of better government (which they will probably not be able to do).

In general I would support the underlying assessment, that radical Islam will, in the end, inevitably fail. The conflict between radical Islam and western secularism is a struggle of ideas. As our western ideology of democracy, pluralism, human rights and capitalism is simply the better one and reflects human nature more accurately, we will win this fight.

Update: Victor Davis Hanson: "Why Democracy? Ten reasons to support democracy in the Middle East" .

Donnerstag, Februar 10, 2005

The germans and their past (and present)

To all who speak german I recommend reading the following article by Richard Herzinger in "Die Weltwoche":"Adolf Hitler,20. April 1889 - ?".

It´s a great sum up of the influence of gemany´s Nazi-past on today´s politics and society.

And another little link (also in german). This will lead you directly to Spiegel Online´s Forum, where people discuss the fact that North Korea admits to having nukes. For many it seems to be great opportunity to rant about ... right: The United States. Of course not about North Korea or Kim Jong-Il. Because they had no choice. After all, they had to do something to defend themselves against the threat posed by the US-Imperialists.

I have to translate one comment from the forum, because it´s so funny (or sad):

"On the other hand we may not forget that a maniac is ruling in the White House!!!
It could be, that he will really bomb "North Koreas atomic arsenal" thereby starting a war with China.
This, by the way, was also predicted by Nostradamus - A war of the USA against China, in which the USA will make the sea boil, which would have been the Tsunami".

Mittwoch, Februar 09, 2005

China´s Demise (before its actual ascendency)

I came across an article by Nicholas Eberstadt in the "Policy Review" today, that discusses demographic trends in Asia and Eurasia. The part about China is especially interesting:

According to Eberstadt the Chinese society is aging rapidly:

"Between 2000 and 2025 China’s median age is set to rise very substantially: from about 30 to around 39. According to unpd projections for 2025, in fact, China’s median age will be higher than America’s. The impending tempo of population aging in China is very nearly as rapid as anything history has yet seen. It will be far faster than what was recorded in the more developed regions over the past three decades and is exceeded only by Japan."

Moreover this trend will hit China at a time where it isn´t nearly as well prepared as other more developed societies which are experiencing rapid aging at the moment.

"To put the matter bluntly, Japan became rich before it became old; China will do things the other way around. When Japan had the same proportion of population 65 and older as does China today (2000), its level of per capita output was three times higher than China’s is now. In 2025, 13.4 percent of China’s population is projected to be 65-plus; when Japan crossed the 13.4 percent threshold, its per capita gdp was approaching $20,000 a year (constant 1990 ppp dollars). One need not be a “Sino-pessimist” to suggest that China will be nowhere near that same economic marker 22 years from now."

What makes matters worse is that China has yet to come up with an extensive social security system. So elderly people will mainly have to depend on their offspring.

"Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. One need not be a novelist to imagine the intense social tensions such conditions could engender (to say nothing of the personal and humanitarian tragedies)."

Furthermore, China´s older generation will probably be less healthy than older people in more developed countries, increasing the pressure on the health system and making them less likely to continue contributing to economic life.

"Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries: The employment structure is weighted toward categories more likely to require intense manual labor, and even ostensibly non-manual positions may require considerable physical stamina. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives."

This all seems to show that China´s often predicted rise as a world power will not be nearly as trouble-free as often imagined and is also not nearly as certain. As Eberstadt puts it, the problems caused by this demographic trend will probably result in "economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas."

Montag, Februar 07, 2005

Did Bush lie? (this time on North Korea)

According to this article in "Foreign Affairs" the Bush administration deliberatley "distorted and misrepresented" data on North Korea´s uranium enrichment program.

"Much has been written about the North Korean nuclear danger, but one crucial issue has been ignored: just how much credible evidence is there to back up Washington's uranium accusation? Although it is now widely recognized that the Bush administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence data it used to justify the invasion of Iraq, most observers have accepted at face value the assessments the administration has used to reverse the previously established U.S. policy toward North Korea.
[...]
Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did on Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons.
"


And why should the US do that, even though they know that a military confrontation with North Korea is much too dangerous? (Even if North Korea didn´t have any nuclear weapons, Seoul would still be in range of North Korean Artillery and Japan would still be in range of North Korean Missiles.) According to the article, the reason is quite simple. The US is affraid of a rapprochement between North and South Korea as well as Japan.

"Kelly's confrontation with Kang seems to have been inspired by the growing alarm felt in Washington in the preceding five months over the ever more conciliatory approach that Seoul and Tokyo had been taking toward Pyongyang; by raising the uranium issue, the Bush administration hoped to scare Japan and South Korea into reversing their policies."

These are serious accusations. The author alludes that the US adminstration is deliberatley blocking any moves that could ease the tensions in the region in order to keep the status quo on the Korean Peninsula. I´m not going to dismiss this view right away. Without the danger North Korea poses there would be little rationale to keep american troops in South Korea (especially given the growing anti-americanism among the younger population) or to continue the theater missile defense program in cooperation with Japan. A strong military presence as well as a missile defence shield for US-allies can also be used as a means to contain Chinas growing power in the region, so the Bush-Administration would seem to have a reason to keep the situation in Korea unchanged.

But, as the author himself states, the North indeed "technically" violated the 1994 agreement. But in his view they only enriched uranium in order to use it at a later time for a purely civilian purpose in the Light Water Reactors, which were to be built by Japan, Korea and the US (as well as other nations) under the 1994 agreement.

"Did North Korea, then, cheat on the 1994 agreement with the United States, as the Bush administration has insisted? All of the operative provisions of the accord relate to freezing the North's plutonium program and make no reference to uranium enrichment. Pyongyang scrupulously observed these provisions until the Bush administration stopped the oil shipments in December 2002. The agreement does,however, reaffirm a 1991 agreement between North and South Korea that banned "uranium enrichment facilities," making no distinction between HEU and LEU. Pyongyang clearly did violate that accord by pursuing uranium-enrichment efforts (however limited they may turn out to have been) and thus, technically, violated the 1994 Agreed Framework as well."

There are some problems with the authors assesment:

1. If the North´s program of uranium enrichment was really for purely civilian purposes, why did they do it secretly? (The author speculates that maybe they didn´t know it was forbidden. But that is not plausible)

2. The idea of the US being interested in keeping the status quo sounds logical. But this status quo is not stable one. In fact the situation in North Korea is deteriorating rapidly since the early 1990s. Without help from South Korea and Japan this process will continue, maybe leading to a sudden collapse of the regime, which cannot be in US interest, because of its destabilizing effects for the whole region.

3. The US is probably right to distrust Pyongyang and work with a worst case scenario. North Korea has in the past proven that it cannot be trusted. To name just some of the worst examples of the North´s aggressive behaviour:

The unprovoked attack on South Korea in 1950 starting the 3 year long Korean war.
The abduction of Japanese citizens.
The attempted assassination of South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan in Myanmar in 1983 (killing 19 people, among them several South Korean ministers and high officials)
The bombing of a South Korean passenger plane in 1987 killing the 115 people on board, which is widely believed to have been conducted by North Korean agents.

Samstag, Februar 05, 2005

Please don´t harm the terrorists!

The New York times is running a piece today about a new tactic applied by the Iraqi police. They broadcast videotaped confessions of captured terrorists, in order to break to morale of the insurgents. You would think that this would generally be considered a good idea, because it might be a way to fight terrorism in Iraq that doesn´t involve any bloodshed. If it helps to diminish the morale of terrorists as well as their popular support, it might save hundreds or thousands of lives. But, of course, it can´t be left uncriticised by human rights activists.

The broadcast of such videos raises questions about whether they violate legal
or treaty obligations about the way opposing fighters are interrogated and how
their confessions are made public. [...] Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights
Watch said such tactics raised the issue of whether the people were tortured or
otherwise coerced into making the statement.


These comments are especially ridiculous considering that the example given in the article is one of a terrorists involved in a video-taped beheading of a supposed Iraqi "collaborator". And now they are worried about him being mistreated, because his confession is aired on TV.

Freitag, Februar 04, 2005

Politicians outraged: Deutsche Bank continues reforms

Unions and leftist politicians are outraged today. What has happend?
Basically, Deutsche Bank refuses to abolish its reform plans despite good economic data.
Part of these reform plans is to continue laying-off workers. According to Christine Scheel, so called "Finance Expert" of the Green Party, this is unethical.

Here you can clearly see the worldview of the german left. In their eyes companies´ main aim should be to provide people with jobs and social benefits. But companies should mainly be concerned with making profit. That is the reason they exist. That´s capitalism. Is that so hard to understand? Well, of course it is, if you have spent most of your life defying reality in favour of indulging yourself in the idea of some socialist utopia.

So, once again, we are blaming the usual scapegoats, the managers of big companies, for germany´s economic malaise (see last post). For politicians it seems to be a good way to get rid of their responsibility for germany´s over 5 million unemployed. Well, it might actually work considering the stupidity of the general puplic (see last post).

The same ideology stands behind another grotesque plan of the left, which has yet to be implemented. Because of the high jobless rate among youths, some politicians plan to punish firms, which refuse to hire and educate young workseekers. They don´t realize that even firms which are looking for new workers, often cannot hire them, because they lack basic knowledge and skills, which in turn is due to our failed education system (see last post).

Can´t they understand: If companies need workers, they will hire them. If they don´t need workers, how can one consider to force them to hire or keep workers they don´t need? Politicians only concern should be to provide companies with a free and secure environment in which they can prosper. Capitalism will do the rest, including the creation of new jobs. That is the only way germany can escape its economic downfall.

Some weeks ago, "The Economist" ran a survey about "Corporate Social Responsibility", which is quite interesting in this context. They criticise that the worldwide growing trend of demanding from companies to take over more "social responsibility" could in the end be very harmful to the companies and even the people those measures are meant to help.

Mittwoch, Februar 02, 2005

Germany´s Demise

So, finally germany´s unemployment rate has climbed above 5 million. Not that this would come as a surprise to anyone. But I want to use this opportunity to name some of the reasons why I think our economy is in such a bad shape.

1. We are lazy
Germany has developed a culture of demanding and not providing. If we want more money, and a secure job we don´t think about improving ourselves, learning more skills, working harder. No, we go to the streets and demand higher wages. If we loose our job, it´s the managers faults and we demand that the politicians help us by subsidizing our companies.
If something goes wrong, it´s always someone else´s fault. We don´t blame ourselves, but evil globalization or the managers and politicians.

2. We are badly educated
Germany´s school system (maybe except for bavarian schools) is dominated by leftist teachers propagating laissez-faire education. If children fail in tests it´s not because they maybe lazy or just stupid. No, we have demanded too much from them. So we lower our demands. We adapt to the weakest link in the chain, so no one gets left behind, thereby discriminating against those who can and want to achieve more. Teachers also often fail to provide basic knowledge because they are too occupied with preaching anti-americanism and anti-capitalism (we even have special classes for this purpose: e.g. "Social Science").

3. We despise Capitalism
I can´t count how often I end up in conversations with people who want to tell my why capitalism and globaliztion are bad. Capitalism, so they say, destroys our values (while actually it is socialism and leftist ideology that destroys any values in our society). Globalization and open markets lead to people loosing their jobs, they tell me. Instead they should be thinking about how they can use the opportunities provided by globalization for their benefit.
Then they tell me, that "Consuming" is generally bad. People should not be greedy for money and fancy products. For example, they should not buy a car, but just use a bike. (BTW: At the same time they often contradict themselves by telling me that a lack of domestic demand would be the biggest problem our economy faces).

4. We are stupid
After over 6 years of chancelor Schroeders Red-Green government and their many desastrous decisions, their often demonstrated incompetence, and their unwillingness to intransigently go through with badly needed reforms we are still willing to reelect them. Yes, according to a recent poll by the FORSA institute the Socialist/Green-Coalition would really be reelected.

What if someone ruins your country and destroys the relationship with your best ally? Right, you reelect him into office! At least that´s what we would do. That about says it all.