Officials of the United Nations and the host South African government looking hard in the mirror this weekend will have to judge the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) a failure. The only remarkable step forward for human and environmental progress taken in the ultra-bourgeois Johannesburg suburb of Sandton was the widespread adoption of the idea of “global apartheid,” at President Thabo Mbeki’s suggestion.
Afghanistan is beginning to look like a quagmire rather than a victory, with echoes of the confusion and uncertainty and persistent bloodshedding of Vietnam. Compounding the complications of the U.S. goal of hunting down the Taliban and Al Qaeda while stabilizing a fragile government is the swirl of ethnic tensions in Afghanistan fueled by competing warlords.
Neither U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell nor any other observers expected the Secretary’s visit to South Asia to produce a breakthrough in the tense standoff between the region’s nuclear-armed rivals. Powell’s failure to obtain any assurances of further concessions by either side cannot therefore said to be a disappointment. Surprisingly, however, the Secretary of State did make news. In India he called for India to allow international observers when it holds elections in Jammu and Kashmir this fall, and reportedly declared that Kashmir is now “on the international agenda.” In Pakistan he expressed the hope that these elections in Indian Kashmir would open the way for peace. Taken together the statements indicated an evolving U.S. position that neither likes–one that essentially ignores Pakistani calls for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of Kashmiris, while questioning India’s right to determine unilaterally that Kashmiri aspirations had been met.
The current South Asian crisis seems to have ebbed, but the underlying dynamic remains. The next crisis will be even more dangerous if South Asia’s nuclear confrontation develops in the same direction as the U.S.-Russian standoff, with nuclear missiles on alert, aimed at each other and ready to launch on warning. As Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, has said, the U.S. and Soviet Union survived their crises, “no thanks to deterrence, but only by the grace of God.” Will South Asia be so fortunate?
“Be ready for sacrifice. Your goal should be victory. It’s time to fight a decisive battle.” Thus spoke India’s Prime Minister Vajpayee on May 23, 2002, four years to the month since India’s nuclear tests shook the world but excited dancing in New Delhi’s streets. So much for nuclear weapons as a deterrent against war. General Musharraf, for his part, said that Pakistan did not want war, but “if war is thrust upon us, we would respond with full might.” Full might, when there are nuclear weapons on both sides, could mean tens of millions of people dead and severely injured, with India devastated and Pakistan essentially wiped out. What, then, would be left of Kashmir to fight over?
After five months of waiting, Colombians received news last week that former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, was indeed alive, at least as of May 15. The news came through a televised video apparently recorded on that date at an undisclosed jungle location. The video featured an exhausted Betancourt still at the hands of the FARC, the largest rebel group in the country. Betancourt’s abduction and that of her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, took place on February 23 as they traveled by car to San Vicente de Caguan. Her purpose in San Vicente, newly returned to government control, was to meet with the mayor, a member of her reform-oriented “Oxygen” party, and hold a human rights rally to reassure frightened villagers in the region.
Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed an agreement on July 30, promising to put an end to the war that has raged in Congo since 1998. However, it is too soon to rejoice. The signatories are deeply suspicious of one another, and implementation of the agreement could break down.
As tensions between India and Pakistan began building late last year, high-level delegations from the United States and Britain flew in and out of New Delhi and Karachi lobbying for peace. That’s not all they were lobbying for. With the scent of blood in the air, the arms jackals have poured into South Asia, sometimes in the suits of leading government officials.
This policy report attempts to encourage popular debate by raising a number of concerns that challenge some of the key rationales and assumptions behind such a military action.
The Bush administration has been widely criticized worldwide for its go-it-alone foreign policy. But in one area the administration is enthusiastically embracing multilateralism, along with the Pentagon and U.S. defense corporations. All are working hard to get other countries to buy into their internationally unpopular missile defense program by giving their corporations a piece of the Star Wars action.