Tag Archives: Myanmar

Politicizing the Military is Dangerous

New Orleans       The role of the military in governments of any stripe can be a powerful thing, though rarely is this good news.

In Asia, the military junta’s role in Myanmar has led to genocide and the disgrace of a Nobel prize symbol of democracy.   In Thailand, the military determines the winners and losers with impunity.  Ditto Pakistan.  Let’s leave Africa out of it, but certainly the military has triggered coup after coup there.  Latin America is closer at hand.  The thrust and parry in Venezuela earlier in the year was played on the stage of whether the military supported the existing government or those calling for coup.  Brazil, Chile, and Argentina during the Cold War furor were the steady sites of coups and the threat of coups.  In Turkey and the Middle East, the military has their hands on the scale in determining the sustainability of governments.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse to death, but an independent military that is under the control of a civilian government has been a prescription for functioning democratic governance for centuries.  Having watched President Trump’s efforts to politicize the judiciary and strip them of any neutrality, it’s worth worrying that the military could be his next project.  With judges now, every decision seems conditionalized by whether a Republican or a Democratic president appointed them for life.  We will all rue the day if we have to see generals, admirals and others through a partisan lens.

Is this crazy to worry about?  I think not.

First, we had Trump in the heyday of his early presidency talk constantly about “his generals.”  Then they were not just running the military, but also bouncing around between top posts running the National Security Council, the Defense Department, and serving as Chief of Staff at the White House, which is equivalent to running the government.  Of course, he fell out with all the ones who weren’t forced to resign because of ethical problems, which is part of what now drives his new found zeal and brings me to my worry beads.

Then we have his attack on the colonel on special assignment to the National Security Council as a Ukrainian expert and speaker, calling him a “never Trumper” and a partisan.  He made the mistake of thinking he was “doing his duty” as opposed to being a sycophant wearing a uniform.  I don’t even want to go into his MAGA hats and attempt to rally the soldiers over the last year politically, but it happened, so let’s keep it in mind.

Now we have Trump overruling the top Navy admiral and the Navy secretary for believing that someone accused of killing a civilian in Afghanistan, innocent or guilty in a trial, might not be a keeper for the better image of the SEALs or the Navy itself.  Heck, it might even be sending the wrong message.  Trump claims he’s trying to protect warriors, but does that mean killers or does it mean soldiers?

Trump trying to politicize the armed forces is not a good look.  Part of me thinks the culture of the military is deeply ingrained enough to resist being partisan and that they understand the difference, so they’ll stay neutral.  But, didn’t we hear that would be the case with judges too, but now look at the Supreme Court and how deeply Trump appointees are disrupting the judicial system.  It’s worth some worry.

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The Lust for Personal Power without Popular Support Is Not a Winning Strategy Forever

Amersfoort, Netherlands     In these days, perhaps in all days, when autocracy, as a strategy and set of tactics, seems so attractive to so many politicians and wannabe royals in their lust for power under any terms, there’s some small comfort in seeing such techniques come to wreck and ruin, even if the damage in the meantime is inestimable.

Poor Carrie Lam, the mayor of Hong Kong, is a fair example.  After almost thirteen weeks of escalating protests by pro-democracy adherents both in the streets and behind doors against her Beijing-concocted policy to extradite people to mainland China and its questionable judicial system, she was once again forced to withdraw the extradition proposal.  Of course, having refused to negotiate for weeks while protests went unabated, she has no credibility now, since even conceding seems unilateral, rather than part of a corrective process.  Protests are likely to continue.  Here is the irony.  Reportedly, Lam has been trying to resign in the face of her own impotence before the protests, but has said to associates that Beijing will not allow it.  They have not reported that Beijing told her, you make your bed, you sleep in it, but it’s possible.

Then there’s the tragic case of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar or Burma, as some still know it, who has gone from the Noble prize-winning ranks to Mandela, King and others to become the stone faced and silent apologist for genocide among the Rohingya people of her country who practice Islam, rather than Buddhism.  Once jailed and quarantined by the country’s military rulers, she has now become their face, rather than their critic, in the midst of unspeakable horrors and the displacement of almost a half-million people.  Is this the price of power?

Globally, British television is more known for its dark crime procedurals than the humor of its comedic farces, which seem tailored more to a local taste, but now we all can witness in real time that the British origin of “House of Cards” is also more likely farcical, than fictional, as we watch the ruthlessness of Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit, once seen as clown, now made the fool.  First, in pure Kevin Spacey fashion, he undermines Theresa May, not that any would really care, but he does so, as she did, heedless to the peril of Great Britain.  Then once he has the Prime Minister’s position, he suspends Parliament creating a constitutional crisis so he can try to ram through Brexit, the withdrawal from the European Union, without debate by running out the clock.  The opposition and some renegades from his own party, vote him down easily, since in his antics he seems to have forgotten that he had only had a one-seat majority.  He then ruthlessly throws twenty-eight nay voters out of his party to try and force an election.  But, like Mayor Lam, having no credibility, there’s no agreement to a snap election without forcing a vote to extend the Brexit deadline.

I flipped channels before collapsing in the Netherlands and got to watch one commentator after another excoriate Johnson in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.  The message was unmistakable in all languages.

How is bypassing the people in your lust for power working out for any politicians today?  Maybe possible in the short run, but perhaps not for long, giving all of us hope still.

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