Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hey Santy Ana

The first thing that comes to mind when recalling Tibet is Burma. Jotman, for example, is following the crisis with the same intensity, idealism and expectation as the now forgotten stand by the Burmese monks against its government.

In both cases the substantive villain of the piece is China. China was the ultimate guarantor of the Burmese tyranny. China is the ultimate occupier of Tibet. During the Burmese crisis I wrote that the Burmese resistants would have to the solve the problem for themselves, which some of my readers thought was a callous dismissal of the their heroism. I wrote:

You will be lonely, but there is no help for it. I would be dishonest if I said that the road to freedom was anything else but long, wearying and full of pain. But I know that is the road that you long to take. "Death and sorrow will be the companions of your journey, hardship your garment, constancy and valor your only shield." That is the path which you will embark upon, because as men you can do no other.

I have no strength of my own to give you and will only say this: may the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord Buddha guide you. And lead you to your home.

I think history now shows how right I was. Nobody wants a resistance to tyranny to fail. But it's dishonest to promise more help than you know is coming. Better that the resistants know the odds. Surprisingly they will face them anyway even though they know how it will end.

A hundred and eighty were challenged by Travis to die
By the line that he drew with his sword when the battle was nigh
Any man that will fight to the death cross over
But if you want to live you'd better fly
And over the line went a hundred and seventy nine.

The problem the word faces today isn't a shortage of Alamos. It's a shortage of San Jacintos. In every major city in the world one can read posters heroically calling for the end of Genocide to Darfur or for a Free Tibet. The most historically minded might even remember this Act signed into Law by William Jefferson Clinton which proclaimed most stirringly that:

the Congress urges the President to call upon the United Nations to establish an international criminal tribunal for the purpose of indicting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other criminal violations of international law. t is the sense of the Congress that once the Saddam Hussein regime is removed from power in Iraq, the United States should support Iraq's transition to democracy by providing immediate and substantial humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, by providing democracy transition assistance to Iraqi parties and movements with democratic goals, and by convening Iraq's foreign creditors to develop a multilateral response to Iraq's foreign debt incurred by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.

People of Tibet. You'll be better off relying on the Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ than on the help of people who were for it before they were against it.

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Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Great stuff, Wretchard -- beyond the thoughts on the large events in Burma and Tibet, thanks for the reminder of that song -- I've only heard the Kingston Trio version from many years ago but remember it well. Your The problem the word faces today isn't a shortage of Alamos. It's a shortage of San Jacintos. is a perfect thought.

3/16/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger said...


This one has resonance for me. The people who went up against Marcos were under for a long time. It was lonely. And the odds were you wouldn't win. And you know what, the guys went on anyway.

As it happened I visited at Ninoy Aquino's home in Boston the week before he went back to almost certain death. As I remember, there was also Jesuit visiting then.

Aquino was no saint. He played mah-jong and liked fast cars. I know, I saw him play it. But if you look at the footage of his face when they took him off the plane, he knew he was going to die. That's a lonely road to walk. And as the years go by, you can forget the mah-jong. But you'll never forget that receding figure going down the aircraft aisle to the only home a man ever has.

3/16/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Where does the Palestinian model fit in here? That's liberation! Let's see, they steal all the aid from Europe and demand more (threats help); Swindle the NGO's (with NGO's help); intimidate the journalists (the few who are not sycophants); strap bombs to children (ideally to blow up other children); launch rockets at school yards (hoping the catch recess). Most importantly force the people to live in squalor and blame it on everyone else -- to justify the whole stack of manure they built. Have I left anything out?

Oh, right. The most important thing: choose your enemies wisely. And whatever you do, don't let your comeuppance come up (for it'll be the bear when it does).

3/16/2008 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

W, I just read "Ninoy Aquino's Speech" (i had recalled there was a 'lost speech' he never had a chance to give, and on your comment above I looked for it; it's there).

He must've been working on it when you were with him.

It's something else--especially under the circumstances. In fact reading it makes that last flight as heroic as anything could ever be.

3/16/2008 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

You left out the part about cleansing the Christians and Jews.

3/16/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Hi Buddy,

Enjoying you back-and-forth with the big cat. I remember when Aquino was shot... Blood of the martyr's indeed.

Saw your greeting several weeks ago - the rug rats are well, as is Mrs Triton.

Hope all's the same with you and yours.


3/16/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger sammy small said...

Texians got lucky finding Santa Anna at San Jacinto during a siesta. They got luckier still being accepted as a state nine years later. It was near impossible for the Texas Rangers to ensure security from both the raiding Mexicans and Apaches in the vast territory. Back in those days, what we now call atrocities were commonplace. Becoming a state provided both U.S. funding and federal troops.

3/16/2008 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Watching that slick premonition is that, as on 9/11, the people running into the inferno, may God forbid it, on the sad day(s) will not be the fatted and well-turned out we see there. Were that there were a way for those people to be made responsible for their folly and it's consequences.

Mostly, having lived through the Carter years, I have NO desire to do something even close to it again. Carter came in this same way; vaguely messianic, all happy feelin', and hard to know before the vote. Still, I consider it (Carter's election) to be the greatest single electoral mistake made in my lifetime (b. 1952).

3/16/2008 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Back in 6th grade, I had enough sense (my own, not my parents') to vote for Ford over Carter in our mock election :)

Without me overtly saying much to him until recently, my 4th grader somehow got by osmosis or eavesdropping that "we" didn't like Obama or Hillary.

I've reinforced the impression.

3/16/2008 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

3Case said:

"Mostly, having lived through the Carter years, I have NO desire to do something even close to it again. Carter came in this same way; vaguely messianic, all happy feelin', and hard to know before the vote. Still, I consider it (Carter's election) to be the greatest single electoral mistake made in my lifetime (b. 1952)."

I also voted for Carter (b. 1953). I still believe Carter is a moral man but now realize he was a terrible President (I won't make that mistake again). I also remember George McGovern (who I did NOT vote for). I remember the same rapturous stupidity shown towards McGovern that idiots now exhibit towards Barack Hussein.

History keeps repeating itself.

I guess if we could live long enough, we'd all eventually stop being stupid (Does this mean that all Barack Hussein supporters are under the age of 50?) .

3/16/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Wretchard -- what you describe, for it before they were against it, is the symptom of comfortable suburbia and pampered wealth. I see this every day.

Most of the pampered suburbanites believe every place in the world is like Melrose Ave or UCLA. Safe. Suburban. Filled with reasonable people policed by efficient, honest, police and courts and judges. Where the Press is always honest and non-partisan and independent.

I find it significant that those with the least always give the most. Sad but true.

Tibetans, Burmese, will be left without any help. It is to Reagan's credit that at least he was persuaded to STOP supporting Marcos. Or perhaps those around him. But you are right, it was those like Aquino who struggled and died who deserve all/most of the credit.

But ... with Marcos there were divisions in his regime and alternative power centers. I don't see that in Tibet/China or Burma.

3/16/2008 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Many revolutions fail, but people who sit on the fence or suddenly become brave as heck as exiles in a safe country demanding other nations "liberate them" are not worth dying for to liberate, and "rescues" fail more than Revolutions.

The people that get lasting liberty and maintain their respect and dignity are those that gain it themselves in painful war or long peaceful struggle. For they don't expect to be sitting around with their thumbs up their asses when the US or the vaunted UN or a Cuban proxy army dies to give them the freedom they hold less dear and who intuitively resent the liberator for doing what they lacked the power or courage to do.

We can encourage a nation, though, and support their struggle - but best from a background role. Burma needs less media darling martyrs and less people seeking ineffectual "declarations of deploration" from foreign diplomats. It needs people within Burma to make a case for national self-determination, avoidance of becoming China's bitch, and for joining the modern world.

We continue to learn. Don't ever trust exile groups, with their claims of Bay of Pigs and Iraqi "easy liberation cakewalks", Don't trust the "miracle cure of markets, capitalism, and globalism" pimps who think freedom and democracy comes with creation of more consumer goods and a richer Ruling Elite. And think long and hard about expensive rescue missions and then far more expensive decades spent in awful, demoralizing "Peacekeeper" duty when the best long term answer is to let the sides in a war or insurgency fight it out to the end.

3/16/2008 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger said...

No you can't trust any exile except the one who is willing to go back and duke it out -- without the US Army to protect him. Ninoy understood this. And while, as I said, he was no saint, in this one essential thing he was true. And no one can take that from him.

He had tactical problems other didn't. The first was his health; the second was his comparative age; and the third was the fact that he was too well known to operate clandestinely. So he went in the front door to Mordor. And in real life that is how things end: with a bullet in the back of the head.

Yet he was by no means the bravest of the bunch. There were lots of juniors who went the route. Most of them were Communists or Communist sympathizers. A few were not. They were divided in their belief, but united in their obstinacy. It's the typical story of an underground.

That puts the survivors in a strange emotional position. On the one hand many who fell "in the night" were objectively serving reprehensible causes. Yet their courage was undoubted. What you may deny their ideology you must grant them as men.

But here we come to dangerous ground. The same passage of time which highlights constance can sometimes obscure our memory of perfidy. Survivors tend to forget how much evil, guilt and betrayal they saw. It makes for poor stories.

One thing lasts though. A belief in the power of character. What really matters isn't how smart, rich or handsome a person is. What matters is whether the person you trust has character. Does he lie? Will he stand by you in a pinch? And will he do the right thing for no good reason than out of his own need for self-respect?

Sometimes I wonder which of the three Presidential candidates the average man would entrust his life or life savings to? In a way one does.

3/17/2008 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger gdude said...

wretchard said,

"Sometimes I wonder which of the three Presidential candidates the average man would entrust his life or life savings to?"

We're gonna find out about the latter sooner, 'cause it's evaporating before our very eyes. Time to read up on how people survived the last Depression since few living remember it first hand. The U.S. is well past sneezing. Will the rest of the world catch our cold? What will the shakeup in the world pecking order look like?

3/17/2008 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Any discussion on Asian regime change -- or revolution as it is normally called -- has to be based on the political philosophies of the three great social contract theorists; Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

All three based their ideas on very different conceptions of man’s State of Nature. Hobbes’ nightmarishly “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short“ natural condition led him to run into the reassuring arms of an absolutist state. Hobbes argued that any sovereign, even the most harsh, would be better than man’s state of nature. Any attempts to place limits on the sovereign’s power would be woolly-headed. And there was no question of man overthrowing his sovereign; the intolerable state of nature that loomed just over the horizon justified even the most ruthless of states. This worldview is the basis of fascism, Islamist states and many Asian authoritarian regimes. And so Hobbes’s advise to our current day Tibetans and Burmese would be to not fight but to obey and cherish their tyrants.

In sharp contrast, Locke saw man’s State of Nature as being tolerable, man being naturally rational and all. And since man had actually managed to invent language and currency (gold) without a state, he saw any possible fallback to the state of nature as sometimes preferable to living under a bad government. So if the state went beyond its mandate of ensuring “life, liberty, and estate”, or worse, if it failed to carry out these essential duties, then overthrowing the government, with its attendant risks of falling back into the state of nature, was preferable to living under a bad or incompetent government. This worldview is the basis of the American constitution. Locke would advise Tibetans and Burmese to make a careful analysis of whether their governments are doing their jobs properly before making any imprudent moves.

Rousseau saw man’s state of nature as imbued with a certain innocence, marked by insignificant disparities of wealth. Only once the evil of private property has been invented, and the race to accumulate wealth begins in earnest, does the logic of the State take hold. The rich find it harder and harder to protect their hoards of wealth and decide to socialize the costs of their elite status by creating laws, police forces, and taxes to not only cement their gains but to also ensure their continued accumulation for generations into the future. So considering the evil nature of the state, sending a society back to the more innocent state of nature is not a bug but is a feature. This is obviously the world view of revolutionaries. For instance Operation Iraqi Freedom was a case where the secular tyrant was overthrown and the society was naively handed to Islamists in what was foolishly expected to be a Rousseauian state of natural paradise but which unfortunately turned out to be a Hobbesian reality. So Rouseau would tell the Tibetans and Burmese to go for it, throw the bums out, you have nothing to lose but a corrupt political elite.

So in order to know whether Burma or Tibet, or even the Philippines would be better off overthrowing their governments one must take a stand on the Hobbes--Locke--Rousseau continuum. Some revolutions, like the Velvet Revolution in Central Europe after the Cold War do tend to confirm the Rousseauian view that there is nothing to fear in the state of nature, or that its risks are worth the attempt at a more just society. The invasion of Iraq, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Cultural Revolution tend to support the Hobbesian view of the disastrous consequences of destroying existing political institutions. And the American Revolution as well as the Glorious Revolution in England tend to support the Lockeian view.

But given the authoritarian nature of Asian culture, where the model of the family with an all-powerful father figure at its head is transferred directly to the political realm, speaks volumes to the possible Hobbesian nature of any revolution in Asia. On the other hand, the Western notion (derived from the Greeks) of a sharp distinction between the inequality of the private realm, where the father rules his household unilaterally, and the equality of the public realm, where the principle of consent reigns in the polis, means that in theory at least, a Western society risks a less harsh state of nature.

3/17/2008 03:48:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

This will be the PRC's template for all its client states.

1. Offer cash and other stuff to the leaders.
2. PRC helps local leaders consolidate power by putting in place the police state apparatus.
3. Elections will be rigged as the raw materials are stolen from the country.
4. Country descends into poverty as the best leave or are imprisoned.
5. When population rises up in revolt, internet will be cut off and troops sent in.

The problem is that the PRC offers nothing spiritual in return. It offers no moral justification.

3/17/2008 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...


"Texians got lucky finding Santa Anna at San Jacinto during a siesta. They got luckier still being accepted as a state nine years later. It was near impossible for the Texas Rangers to ensure security from both the raiding Mexicans and Apaches in the vast territory. Back in those days, what we now call atrocities were commonplace. Becoming a state provided both U.S. funding and federal troops."

The Mexicans brought in the Anglos to form a buffer between them and the High Plains tribes. It was a cynical ploy on the Mexican's part.

The Texas frontier continued to expand long before admission to the Union. While its true that it was hard to defend the frontier against small bands of Indians, its also true that the Texians killed a lot more Indians than the other way around. When the Indians did mass for larger raids, they were decisively defeated.

And all settlers realized that they were the FIRST line of defense and that is why they were heavily ARMED. They did not need the Rangers and permission to go hunting for Indians.

As for Santa Ana and San Jacinto, it was good recon not luck that found out that he liked to sleep in. It was also good leadership not luck to attack in the morning fog that is common in that area at that time of year.

Santa Ana was a moron to think that Texians would be a pushover like Mexican peasants were in Tampico.

3/17/2008 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/17/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

3/17/2008 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger some said...

"Or perhaps those around him."

Paul Wolfowitz, in fact, though none these days seem inclined to give him any praise.

3/17/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Rich Rostrom said...

To say "The problem [is] a shortage of San Jacintos" is to wish for miracles. San Jacinto happened because Santa Anna was exceptionally stupid that day even for him. (Compare San Jacinto to Buena Vista - where Mexicans under Santa Anna slugged it out with the U.S. army for 10 hours.)

The responsible nations of the world have more than enough power to put an end to such lesser horrors as Burma or Darfur; what is lacking is will.

Tibet, alas, is all but insoluble, because China is a genuinely strong state with nuclear weapons.

3/17/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

"Tibet, alas, is all but insoluble, because China is a genuinely strong state with nuclear weapons."

One wonders if we'll soon be able to make a similar statement substituting as follows:

"[small mideast oil state], alas, is all but insoluble, because Iran is a genuinely strong state with nuclear weapons."

Heaven help us.

3/17/2008 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

There isn't much that any outsider can do to free Tibet. For that matter, there are limits to what any Tibetan can do.

There is a route to Tibetan autonomy, if not outright independence. It requires nonviolence. Violence has the consequence of alienating Chinese people, and the utter lack of international sympathy for Xinjiang is what happens when one aligns oneself with terrorists and thus gets tarred with the terrorist label. Unlike the Kosovo War nine years ago, NATO isn't threatening to bomb China’s economic infrastructure unless it lets NATO troops into Tibet. (It was the Kosovo War combined with Milosevic’s lack of nuclear weapons that prompted India and Pakistan to openly test their nuclear weapons.)

So, the only possible route I see to Tibetan autonomy is for Tibetans to promote democracy in China, with the hope that a revolutionary movement that overthrows the Chinese Communist Party would be willing to make a more favorable deal with Tibet than the present government is willing to provide. Imagine if the Dalai Lama promoted free elections not only for Tibet but also for the people of China, and made contacts with various pro-democracy secret societies throughout China. Of course, it would be a nightmare for the Chinese government if Tibetan, Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese pro-democracy forces helped each other out; the Chinese government would be caught between demonizing dissidents (which only increases their profile) or finding some way of ignoring them.

As it is, the Chinese Communist Party is its own worst enemy, for all it would take is a catastrophic flaw in any of its engineering marvels to call into question the legitimacy of the regime.

3/17/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

The People's Respublik of China is committing environmental suicide, according to reports from visitors from other countries, of whom I know just a handful. The cities where the elite do not live, the ones where the manufacturing is going forward, are bedevilled with industrial fog like London in the 1940's, festering ooze bubbling in creekbeds, and all the nasty carbuncles and pimples on the landscape that follow from unrestricted use of coal.

Funny how the ruling elites in all the dying cultures isolate themselves so well from the conditions created by their distorted support system. They blind themselves to the growing danger that threatens them as much as anyone.

3/17/2008 09:02:00 PM  

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