Sunday, August 17, 2008

An American failure; Meaningful reform in Africa; Thaksin and Thailand

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An American failure

After nearly 30 years of the Reagan-Bush bravado of attacking small, easily defeated nations (remember Granada?), the United States blinked when faced with a real enemy in Georgia. Not since the U.S. abandoned Shiite Iraqis in the aftermath of the Gulf War has Washington so bungled an international challenge.

The Russians crushed the Georgian invasion and the Georgian Army evaporated in minutes. The Georgian rout was shameful and a black eye on the United States.

This debacle sends a chilling message to the world, especially to China. It is the Cuban missile crisis reversed: This time America backs down.

Niccolo Caldararo, San Francisco

Meaningful reform in Africa

The Views pages of Aug. 9 included articles about two of the world's most challenging places - Congo and Sierra Leone. Forgotten countries like these deserve more attention.

The conclusion of the article "Tracking Congo's misery" (Views, Aug. 9) by Tim Butcher is that the Congolese want the rule of law. The article "Sierra Leone's convalescence" by Donald Steinberg concludes that donors need to stay engaged.

Both conclusions hold for both countries. Sierra Leone is many times smaller than Congo, but the two countries have similar stories that call for a similar course of action. Both suffer from the "resource curse," a combination of abundant natural resources and bad governance, and the influence of unstable neighborhoods.

Donor countries must engage in both countries for years, if not decades, if they are to exit the vicious cycle of bad governance, war and worsening poverty. The donor community must focus on the essentials.

First, security, which brings back livelihoods, and reduces the opportunities and incentives to wage war. Second, building the local capacity and accountability to support development.

Juana de Catheu, Paris

Thaksin and Thailand

The editorial "Inoculating Thailand against one-man rule" (Aug. 14) is off the mark.

Thailand's ongoing political crisis is not at its core about one-man rule and equal justice. Rather it is about competing visions of Thailand's future.

One vision is restoration of the traditional system of governance shaped by an "iron triangle" made up of the army, the permanent bureaucracy and royalists. The other vision is of governance predicated on a democratic party system.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra embraces the latter vision and in doing so has transformed the country's political landscape. As a result, his political party has had great success at the polls. Majority rule is not one-man rule.

Like most transformational figures, Thaksin is disliked by the old establishment. His opponents are determined to destroy him any way they can. They are now trying to use the judiciary to that end.

Robert Jacobs, Bangkok

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