Saturday, August 12, 2017

A World of Strongmen Gone Amok

"All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century -- rooted in the principles of democracy human rights and the rule of law -- will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom and prosperity."
"North Korea is a single-party state led by a dynastic totalitarian dictatorship." 
"Surveillance is pervasive, arbitrary arrests and detention are common, and punishments for political offences are severe. The state maintains a system of camps for political prisoners where torture, forced labour, starvation, and other atrocities take place."
Freedom House, (non-governmental U.S. agency researching democracy and human rights) 11th annual report

"[People in Europe and North America are now] more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives."
"Earlier generations have a real sense of what it means not to live in a democracy. They have fought against fascism or have experienced fascism or they have been alive at a time when communism was a real force in the world. When they assess liberal democracy, they assess it in relation to these other systems, and they recognize these other systems are bad."
"[Younger people] ... Look at the present reality and they find things in it which they have reason to be pissed off about, like the stagnation of living standards and other things. And so they say, 'Why not try something new? How bad can things get?"
"That doesn't mean they will like whatever system will emerge if we do lose liberal democracy, but I think it makes them much more willing to go down a path that might result in democracy's ultimate demise."
"There is a far right and a far left end of populism. Venezuela reminds us that the far left variant of populism can also have terrible effects."
Yascha Mounk, lecturer political theory, Harvard University

"While the West works out its own problems, despots and dictators have a lot more leverage and a lot longer leash to behave in totally undemocratic ways without any consequences"
"I think it's a perfect storm against democracy right now."
"He [Trump] might actually protect us from a much savvier authoritarian person who could come later, because all of the tests are strengthening our defences. His incompetence is effectively the saving grace of American democracy right now."
Brian Klaas, politics lecturer, London School of Economics
SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 06: Russian President Vladimir Putin speeches during his meeting with Russian IWAS 2015 Worlds Games medalists on October 6, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
(Jabin Botford/The Washington Post and Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

The world, it seems, is reeling in a grip of polarized political and social order and disorder; teetering from one to the other as conflicts rage in the Middle East and Africa with displaced persons spilling over borders as both refugees in search of haven and economic migrants in search of opportunities invade the West. Among them are those with a malevolent agenda; to cause upheaval and violence wherever they can manage to make an imprint.

If the ordered world of established democracies is facing dissent against the prevailing social and political order much of the impetus can be ascribed to the massive number of people fleeing violence, poverty and death in their countries of origin. In their flight they bring with them the culture, history, values they have been steeped in since childhood of tribalism and sectarian violence, along with a well-instilled revulsion of others unlike themselves. Little wonder people fleeing the atrocities and failures of the Middle East and North Africa where Islam prevails leave for a better life bringing with them the old, failed life.

In some instances, the countries in Europe facing a backlash from their right-wing demographics relate specifically to the threat seen to their own heritage, culture, laws and religious adherence. the dismay felt by people who see their indigenous culture, values and heritage drowned in a sea of introduced culture, values and heritage can scarcely be faulted. From Russia's Vladimir Putin inheriting a battle against Muslim Chechens rebelling against Soviet then Russian rule creating violent havoc and challenging Russian rule, the backlash helped to create the strongman image that promises security and stability that Putin has parlayed to his advantage.

The world surrounding the Middle East viewed Turkey, between the Middle East and Europe, as a bastion of subdued Islam reflecting the veneer of democracy patterned after European values and laws, a stable democracy where human rights were observed in the breach. With the ascendancy of Islamist ideology under Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, Erdogan prolongs his position as Turkey's grand emir by having emulated Putin who juggled national executive positions to remain in power.

From President to Prime Minister and back again, each gave themselves the opportunity to alter their country's Constitution to allow themselves to remain in power long after by law they were meant to retire. They both now are effectively their nation's ruler-for-life. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was on the same track when his plans went awry, so his groomed and chosen successor Nicolas Maduro is wrenching his country away from democracy for the same purpose, one which the Philippines' Duterte will not be long in bringing to his country; ruler-in-perpetuity.

In some instances these returns to tyranny have little impact on their neighbours' stability. In the instance of Vladimir Putin it obviously does since his plan encompasses a return to the glory days of the Soviet Union when neighbours were controlled satellites of the USSR, their personal pawns to be ordered into submission and looted at will. Though some similarities exist between these 'strongmen' who manipulate their way to overweening power and the present president of the United States of America, there democracy cannot be unseated.

The institutions of democracy are too firmly rooted, the people, even those who voted for celebrity business magnate Donald Trump to take over the White House would never allow the uprooting of the American Constitution, its justice system, its Congress comprised of elected representatives in the House and the Senate. Democracy is so well established that though both political parties are dismayed with the performance of their new president, they respect the democratic action that brought him to power.

And President Trump is a counterpart to the aforementioned strongmen all of whom with the exception of the leftist Maduro he admires, openly and vacuously. There are exceptions to everything, of course, and the major exception here is that of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea's threatening little popinjay whose mendacious control over that country appears absolute, partially ideological, partly religious; the issue of the Kim dynasty viewed as semi-gods.

The virulent threat represented by a man who like his father and his grandfather burnish their image as world leaders entitled to the respect owed to a super power battling the force of evil that enviously threatens their nation's security. The paranoid passion poured into the nation's success at building advanced ballistic missiles and achieving nuclear technology has both puzzled and paralyzed the West. Conciliatory bribes of billions of dollars in exchange for promises to neutralize the nuclear ambitions of North Korea have never worked.

What previous American presidents have undertaken in efforts to assure the North that it has no designs to dominate it, nor threaten it in any measure, complete with surrenders to its compensatory demands holding the U.S. and the rest of the world hostage to a demagogic little tyrant have been of no use whatever. That both China and Russia have finally agreed to support the latest sanctions against North Korea as it speeds toward accomplishment of a goal it threatens to use on the United States speaks volumes about the larger concern wracking the world at this juncture.

 

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