The more totalitarian the regime, the worse the legacy. Take Iraq and Libya. During their many years in power, both Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi smashed all forms of dialogue between government and people, whether it be through political parties, trade unions, religious institutions or non-governmental organizations. In Iraq, the difficulty of establishing a new order was compounded by putting the Pentagon in charge of nation-building.
In Libya, the National Transitional Council is fully aware of that terrible precedent. Its leaders have urged rebel forces to avoid reprisals. In contrast to Iraq, the revolution is indigenous, which, despite the assistance given by NATO, will shield the NTC from accusations of being a neo-colonialist pawn. Thirdly, Libya lacks the deep sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia which still plagues Iraq.
It will need all those advantages to escape from the current chaos. Aside from the immediate humanitarian needs of Tripoli, the NTC faces the daunting task of disarming a country awash with guns and of integrating those militia members who want to continue bearing arms into a national army. Even if the Sunni-Shia factor is absent, there is no lack of other sources of tension .
Britain has played a leading role in NATO action over Libya. It is, therefore, reasonable that it should demand something in return from Gadhafi’s successors. Top of the list is that justice should be done over the killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher in St. James’s Square by a Libyan diplomat in 1984. Nothing better illustrates the banditry of Gadhafi’s misrule than her death. The extradition of the suspect, or suspects, to stand trial in Britain would be welcome proof that Libya is moving in a radically new direction.
The Telegraph, London (Aug. 31)
India fighting corruption
All is well that ends well. India’s Parliament has given in to the demands of Anna Hazare. In an unanimous resolution, the lawmakers have agreed to incorporate the three chief demands of the corruption crusader of bringing the prime minister, lawmakers and bureaucrats under the purview of the proposed anti-graft law.
This is without doubt a huge victory for Hazare, who has been eagerly embraced and lustily cheered on as the “second coming” of Gandhi by the media and middle classes.
But more than anyone, this victory belongs to India’s billion plus people and its vibrant, eclectic democracy. If the lawmakers have been forced to accede to the demands of Hazare and his team, it was chiefly because of the spontaneous groundswell of popular support his fast and cause visibly sparked.
But the Anna show raises several troubling questions. Even if the much debated anti-corruption law and the institution of Lokpal comes into being, is it really going to prove the magic wand that would rid India of the cancer of corruption gnawing at its vitals? We doubt it. Graft runs like blood in the system. One watchdog, however powerful, cannot cleanse the body politic.
What India needs, or for that matter any other country, is an all-out, long-term, effective and sustained national movement to fight the scourge. In a country where nothing moves or happens without a bribe, it’s naive to assume that populist antics demanding instant solutions and results would deliver the nation. What distinguishes India from many of its neighbors is its amazing democratic experience defying great odds and a million mutinies. The Indians mustn’t allow anything or anyone to undermine this extraordinary achievement.
Arab News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Aug. 31)
Confidence in China
Vice President Joe Biden concluded a brief three-country tour of Asia that took him to China, Mongolia and Japan. While there is always some trepidation when Biden travels — while he is a genuine foreign policy expert, he has a tendency to make off-the-cuff remarks that get him in trouble — the trip was a success. He achieved his key objectives: Working on building a relationship with his counterpart, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the man tapped to succeed President Hu Jintao next year, and reassuring China and other Asian nations, especially Japan, of the ongoing U.S. commitment to the region.
The U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important in the world. For better or for worse, the two countries need to cooperate to tackle key international problems; bad relations between them will undermine regional peace and security. Engagement is required across all levels of government and society, but leadership and direction from the very top is essential. Biden’s trip followed up on a visit to the U.S. in January by Hu, which set the tone for a cooperative and positive relationship.
All the challenges in the relationship will be magnified next year as the U.S. enters an election campaign and China prepares for its leadership succession. Both governments need to have confidence in each other as a partner as politics shifts into high gear.
The Japan Times, Tokyo (Aug. 31)