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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Democracies, in the Hour of the Wolf


It is not that vast of a stretch of the human imagination to arrive at the conclusion that the Nobel Committee -- whom Gore Vidal famously once called "those ironists of Outer Europe" for awarding one to Henry Kissinger -- may have been promoting democracy, however indirectly, when they awarded the true king of all knick-nacks to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

How else does one explain the timing? This is a moment of exigency in the West.

Perhaps the Swedish judges, after their own fashion, were doing their part in highlighting the glaring weaknesses within China’s statist model. In their statement they concluded that China needed to take more responsibility in its rise to top tier power status. Western democracies, of late, have not been doing so well in their quiet struggle against flourishing Statism. To wit:

Item 1: India, a rising power and American ally, has been criticized for its handling of the Commonwealth games, which has become something -- but not totally -- of an embarrassment ("APPARENTLY, Commonwealth Games organisers are 'working around the clock' to remove thousands of condoms clogging the plumbing at the athletes' village."). Some have gone so far as to suggest, acidly, that democracies -- as opposed to largely totalitarian and highly regimented regimes -- are temperamentally incapable of staging such large events (as China did so ... "seamlessly" with the Beijing Olympics).

Item 2: Japan, a strong democracy, was overtaken last quarter by China -- the new second largest economy. A monumentous event, vis-a-vis the Statist model versus democratic capitalism. This is the same Japan that just got its clock cleaned "diplomatically (Averted Gaze)" by non-democratic China over the Senkaku Islands. In that tense moment, China stopped shipping rare earths -- of which it has a monopoly -- to Japan (later denying it), whose high tech economy depends almost entirely upon them.

Item 3: The American Economy. Of which the less that is said the better. Paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan are on a negative tear, calling us "Food Stamp Nation." There are predictions that say the Chinese economy -- or as the papers like to call it "fast-growing China" -- will grow 10.5 percent this year. And somehow, as if by magic, they have even managed to out Green Obama -- the president who was going to get us Green jobs -- in the last couple of years (Again: is this symptomatic of a greater problem -- the unwieldiness of democracies in dealing with today's problems? A lack of totalitarian will?)

Item 4: Europe. Inertia, or at least the perception of inertia prevails from the perspective of America during the height of the Greek sovereign debt crisis. “You can’t overstate the fact that America, with increasing incredulity and anxiety, was watching Europe’s inability to act,” recalled Alistair Darling, the former UK chancellor, in early Spring according to FT. “The message was, ‘Why can’t you take action? You know you’ve got to do something.’” And the tension over fiscal measures to solve the financial crisis are growing between the US and the EU.

Item 5. Israel. The only democracy in the Middle East, Israel is regarded by the Arab League -- of course, not surprisingly -- as obstructionist in the Middle East peace process. As obvious as an anti-Israel bias appears from the arab league, it should be noted: that a) Sunni Arab regimes have nearly as much to fear from the rise of Shi'ite Iran as does Israel, and b) vis-a-vis this fact does not help the idea of the spread of democracy and open markets in the Middle East.

Considering all the choices for the Nobel Committee, the choice of a Chinese dissident may indeed be a signal that the West is holding the mirror up to China, making  claim that Statist policies are not necessarily all they appear to be.

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