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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 20-Feb-08
Review of recent international stories

Web Log - February, 2008

Review of recent international stories

Pakistan, Kosovo and Cuba in the news

It's time again for a summary of all the important international stories that I've been neglecting while I've been focusing on the deteriorating financial situation.

Musharraf's party defeated in Pakistan elections

Pakistan election - provisional results <font size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Pakistan election - provisional results (Source: BBC)

Musharraf's party appears to have been routed in a low-turnout election on Monday.

Widely reported fears about election rigging and election day violence appear to be unfounded.

Provisional election results:

Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley (Source:

The radical Islamist parties did very poorly.

Since no party has a parliamentary majority, the choice of Prime Minister will depend on formation of coalitions. Ethnically, the two opposition parties, PML and PPP, are very far apart, and it's unclear whether they can be completed united by their common hatred of Musharraf.

It's possible that the PML will form a government with Musharraf's PML-Q party. These developments have yet to unfold.

Musharraf claims that he won't step down as President, but if the opposition parties unite against him, he may be forced to.

Conflict risk level for next 6-12 months as of: 6-Nov-2007
W. Europe 1 Arab Israeli 3
Russia Caucasus 2 Kashmir 3
China 2 North Korea 2
Financial 3 Bird flu 3
Key: 1=green 1=Low risk 2=yellow 2=Med 3=red 3=High 4=black 4=Active

Six weeks ago, I raised the "conflict risk level" for Kashmir from 2 (medium risk of war within 6 months) to 3 (high risk of war within six months), to reflect the increasing chances of war between Pakistan and India. The period of greatest danger is approaching now. A change in government could derail the détente reached between Musharraf and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, destabilizing the region.

Kosovo declares independence and roils international politics

Historically, there is no greater hatred between two civilizations than between Islam and Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity. There have been major wars between Western Christianity and Orthodox Christianity, but not as deeply penetrating as the wars between Orthodox Christianity and Islam. The three most common geographical regions for these wars have been the Caucusus, the Crimea, and the Balkans.

Yugoslavia was formed out of the Balkans after WW I, and it was controlled after WW II by bloody Communist dictator Marshall Josip Tito. Yugoslavia collapsed in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and split up into individual states along ethnic lines -- largely Catholic Croatia, largely Orthodox Christian Serbia, and largely Muslim Bosnia and Albania. A bloody war broke up, leading to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

History has identified the Serbs as the group guilty of genocide in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Because of that view, it has been felt by many that the Serbian province of Kosovo should be permitted to secede and become a separate country.

The Serbs are mostly Orthodox Christian, and the people of Kosovo are mostly Muslim Albanians, so this secession is politically correct.

Not everyone is happy about this, however.

China has several provinces -- Taiwan, and its western provinces of (Buddhist) Tibet and (Muslim) Xinjiang -- that would like to secede from China. China says that it's a mistake to let Kosovo secede from Serbia.

Georgia has two provinces -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- that would like to secede from Georgia and become part of Russia again. So Georgia is opposed to the secession of Kosovo.

You'd think that Russia would favor the secession, but quite the opposite. Like Serbia, Russia is an Orthodox country, and is closely aligned with Serbia. The Russians are saying that the Balkans will become unstable again if Kosovo secedes. I don't doubt that they're right -- they had to work with Tito all those decades, and they know how unstable Yugoslavia can be unless controlled by a murderous dictator.

Four major European Union nations -- Britain, France, Italy and Germany -- have endorsed the secession.

However, Spain, which has militant Basque separates, opposes the move. So do Romania, which has a significant Hungarian minority, and Cyprus, which is divided between Greek and Turkish populations.

This is really bizarre when you think about it. It's as if Kansas supported the secession, but California opposed it because it has a large Latino population. But the United States does speak with one voice when it comes to foreign policy.

But not so the European "Union," which has a different foreign policy for each nation.

Incidentally, President Bush has supported the independence of Kosovo from the beginning, because: "History will prove this to be a correct move, to bring peace to the Balkans. This strategy has been a long time coming ... The US supports this move because we believe it will bring peace. And now it is up to all of us to help the Kosovars to realise their peace."

And so, President Bush, does that now mean that we should have let the South secede after all?

That's a fantasy, of course. There'll never be peace in the Balkans, with or without Kosovo independence, because it's on the Orthdox-Muslim fault line.

Fidel Castro steps down as Cuba's President

Cuba's last crisis war was the Cuban Revolution, 1956-59, that brought Fidel Castro's Communish to power. The BBC, New York Times, and other élite mainstream media have always treated Castro as something of a hero, even though he's a butcher and anyone who opposes him is imprisoned. They treat life in Cuba as a Socialist Paradise, even though thousands of Cubans each year risk their lives to reach asylum in the United States.

In my opinion, the most interesting thing going on right now in Cuba is the sudden appearance of public student protests. We know this because some videos of student confrontations have been smuggled out of Cuba. Here's part of the CNN report on the confrontations:

"During a meeting between Ricardo Alarcon -- the president of the National Assembly -- and students at the University of Computer Science, the young people voiced some of the concerns many Cubans share in private, but don't often air publicly.

"It seems to us a revolution cannot advance without a plan," Eliecer Avila said, standing at a microphone. "I'm sure it exists, we just want to know what it is."

He asked about restrictions to Internet access and why workers are paid in Cuban pesos but have to buy many basic goods in another currency that is 25 times as expensive -- the "convertible peso" that foreign tourists are required to use.

"That means a worker has to work two or three days to buy a toothbrush," he said. ...

When asked why there are restrictions on Cubans traveling abroad, Alarcon said: "I wish all the Cubans could go out and get to know the world outside."

"I think it would be the end of the ideological battle in this country. When the people see how things really are, what's real, how other people live," he said.

Asked why Cubans aren't allowed to enter the island's tourist hotels freely, Alarcon told students about his times in New York, as Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations.

"How many times did they kick us out of a store?" he asked. "Because by the Latino accent and the color of our hair they realized we weren't Anglo-Saxons and shouldn't be in the store?"

Another video obtained by CNN shows a recent meeting held to explain a new tax on Cubans working for foreign companies.

The unpopular proposal drew open jeers and mocking laughter, something officials here aren't used to. While the questions and complaints on the video are nothing new, it is unusual to hear them voiced so openly."

With Cuba's crisis war ending in 1959, the Awakening era would have begun around 1975-1980. Normally such periods are characterized by a "generation gap," leading to strident student demonstrations objecting to austere rules laid down by the old heroes of the crisis war.

It would be an interesting social and historical student to determine exactly what form those protests took under Fidel's oppressive regime.

We know what's happened in Iran: Student leaders and a student newspaper editor who criticized Ahmadinejad's policies were jailed, even though Ahmadinejad has previously praised such students as symbols of Iran's freedom. These include students who led anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrations at Amir-Kabir University on December 7, 2006, where Ahmadinejad was speaking.

Comparatively speaking, Iran has more freedom than Cuba, and Iran has managed to suppress almost all dissent. Butcher Fidel has undoubtedly been even more effective.

Once the charismatic Fidel is off the stage, my expectation is that the protests will begin to grow, and Cuba will enter a politically chaotic period. We may see that soon. (20-Feb-08) Permanent Link
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