Author Topic: Belarus  (Read 1647 times)

yossarian22c

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Belarus
« on: August 17, 2020, 10:57:33 AM »
Quote
There was no official count of the crowd size, though the sweeping demonstration appears to be the largest in the country's history. The Associated Press reported that as many as 200,000 people turned out in Minsk.
...
Speaking to his followers, Lukashenko likened his opponents to rats, said it was not his fault he needed to call on supporters for their help and warned that Belarus would perish "as a state" if it held new elections, contending the results could not have been falsified.

"They say elections results were forged. But how can 80% be forged? They want us to hold new elections. But how will we work in the fields if we must have new elections?" Lukashenko said.

I guess everyone who voted against him turned out to protest the election results.

What a mess. For the past decade and accelerating recently we are seeing the world move further from open societies and representative governments. 1990-2012ish I felt we were largely moving the other direction. Turkey, Poland, Belarus, Hong Kong, and others are all getting worse; along with countries that were never that open or representative to begin with (China and Russia). The US response is crippled by Trump's ineptness, combined with limited good options in most cases. The powers of the surveillance state in the technological age are vast and powerful.

We're at an important time in world history. I can see a real chance of real decline in free societies and/or even open war between major powers within the next 10 years. I don't see these things as inevitable but I feel the chances are much greater than at any point in my life post the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Fenring

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2020, 12:11:14 PM »
yossarian, I know you're not mainly talking about Trump, but in saying that his ineptness is crippling the response to authoritarian government, I think you're omitting a pertinent fact. When we're talking about the state of world democracy and 'freedom' we need to look at the trouble areas. Sure, there's Russia, China, and some others. Africa - hey, no one cares, right? And then there's the Mid-East. The Balkans have historically had tons of conflict, which did make it into Western affairs briefly during Clinton's term. But it seems to me that much of the socialist/dictator/democracy strife has been fueled not by some kind of local sentiment of 'feeling about' open societies, but rather has been dictated by the world superpowers. The Mid-East situation such as we now know it was essentially begun by the English in how they carved up the territories. It was perpetuated by the U.S. and Russia trying to divvy up who would collect what in that region, and most especially affecting Persia/Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria as far as large hegemony is concerned. It wasn't some trend towards open or authoritarian society affecting these changes, but rather buckling under pressure from big oil interests and CIA regime change plots. Trump may be seen by some as a buffoon, but he hasn't invaded anyone or toppled any governments that I know of. That's the first time I can say that of a President since...what, the 90's? So in weighing what Trump may be contributing to the situation, we must also look at what he didn't do, such as destroy Libya.

But to be honest I think there are technological issues in play that go beyond the current state of a country or two going towards authoritarianism. Part of it, as you say, is the fact of mass surveillance, and how once this technology exists you can't close Pandora's box. The same will be true of genetic engineering as some point, and of AI as well. That some governments become more paranoid and controlling is probably an inevitable result of communications technology developing as it has; they have more chaos to contend with now, but also have to contend with actual intelligence operations that use 'public' infrastructure. And of course the disinformation wars are at an all-time peak (and probably getting worse), where the capacity for a regular citizen to hear a piece of news and know whether it's true or not is quickly approaching zero. Once deep fakes becomes more advanced I doubt we'll be able to tell whether footage is legit or not.

And I mean, when talking about representative government, the main drive toward it would be that people see how attractive and functional it is, right? Except that the U.S. in particular demonstrates in many ways how ineffective it is, having more restrictions than the Chinese systems and yet potentially also fewer advantages. Leading by example would surely require doing something about the inherently corrupt money-politics system in place, which by comparison makes an autocratic dictatorship look good in some respects if at least they're doing all kinds of infrastructure improvements for their society.

yossarian22c

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2020, 01:56:33 PM »
Fenrig, absolutely this is way beyond Trump or any single president's ability to control. We can influence how countries operate internally to a small extent through peer pressure, trade negotiations, other soft power but short of going to war there is only so much we can accomplish if the internal power is bent on ruling by force. See North Korea for example, ruled by force for 60+ years now despite all the soft power we could bring to bear.

Trump's ineptness and general attitude just gives these guys a free reign to be more brazen about their power grabs and attacks on open society (things like a non-state run media). Trump's a catalyst for acceleration, not a cause, and a different president probably couldn't do much to reverse the direction but may slow the decline.

The cheapest option I can think of to get open up these societies is to quietly negotiate a deal with the strong man/dictator to implement some diplomatic reforms like a: fair independent judiciary, open media, and after a somewhat stable civil society begins to take place have them hold free and fair elections and pay the former leader a billion dollars and give them a small island somewhere and guarantee their safety from being called back into account by their former subjects. Its cheaper and less bloody than a revolution, uprising, or war. It's less chaotic than an assassination. The down side is it rewards "bad" behavior. So even if its a bargain for the good it does, handing a NBA franchise, a billion dollars, and a small island over to Kim in exchange for opening up and transitioning power peacefully in NK, its probably not a deal either side would ever sign on to. The rest of the world because of the optics of and actuality of rewarding the evil done in NK and the leaders themselves because they are probably as addicted to the power of it as much as anything else, so walking away to a life of luxury probably isn't as alluring as it may seem. So even the cleanest solution I can think of probably would fail miserably in the real world.

That leaves us with the maintaining the status quo or beginning to isolate the bad actors economically. Its a challenge, the world has become interconnected, lots of fundamental supply chain goods from China, oil and energy products from Russia, oil and energy products from the ME. And even economic isolation will do little do encourage regime change (see Cuba and North Korea). It just keeps them poor and isolated, instead of a growing power that challenges the world order (China).

TheDeamon

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2020, 02:10:34 PM »
Trump may be seen by some as a buffoon, but he hasn't invaded anyone or toppled any governments that I know of. That's the first time I can say that of a President since...what, the 90's? So in weighing what Trump may be contributing to the situation, we must also look at what he didn't do, such as destroy Libya.

He has arguably sustained invasions into Syria during his presidency, as the government of Syria didn't want them there. Although Obama started that one.

But beyond that, Bush 43 has Iraq and Afghanistan.
Clinton has the interventions in the former Yugoslavia, and Kosovo in particular.
Bush 41 has the invasion of Panama, which says nothing about the Operations Desert Storm or Desert Shield.
Reagan invaded Grenada in response to a coup, among other lesser activities.

Carter didn't actually topple any governments, but he did have that failed rescue attempt of the Embassy hostages in Iran in 1980, which did mean even he invaded a foreign country, but that seems to be the only major use of force under Carter.

Ford appears to have only used military forces to aid in evacuations from hot zones, and to rescue a merchant ship which had been seized by guerrilla fighters in international waters off of Cambodia.

So you basically have to go back to the 1970's to find the last administration prior to Trump that didn't start new invasions, or topple other governments by force of arms.

yossarian22c

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2020, 02:25:21 PM »
Trump may be seen by some as a buffoon, but he hasn't invaded anyone or toppled any governments that I know of. That's the first time I can say that of a President since...what, the 90's? So in weighing what Trump may be contributing to the situation, we must also look at what he didn't do, such as destroy Libya.

He has arguably sustained invasions into Syria during his presidency, as the government of Syria didn't want them there. Although Obama started that one.

Trump ordered a drone strike on an Iranian official/general/spy master traveling on a diplomatic passport in Iraq. He's continued to support Saudi Arabia's campaign in Yeman despite congress forbidding it. Trump's below average on military usage but not a clean slate either. Trump's way above average on threatening military action.

Trump's the opposite of T. Roosevelt, he talks loudly and carries a small stick.

TheDeamon

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2020, 02:37:55 PM »
What a mess. For the past decade and accelerating recently we are seeing the world move further from open societies and representative governments. 1990-2012ish I felt we were largely moving the other direction. Turkey, Poland, Belarus, Hong Kong, and others are all getting worse; along with countries that were never that open or representative to begin with (China and Russia). The US response is crippled by Trump's ineptness, combined with limited good options in most cases. The powers of the surveillance state in the technological age are vast and powerful.

Nope, the back-slide was well underway by the end of the Bush43 Administration, and Obama utterly failed to address the issue because he was all about America "being at the table as an equal" rather than as a leader. In a lot of respects, he made it worse, like pressuring Egypt to experiment with Democracy only to end up with the Muslim Brotherhood, and right back to another military coup. (And the Obama Admin also likely kept the Turkish military from acting to remove Erdogan while they still had the capability of doing so, it's not a possibility anymore, the Generals are his people now)

Erodgan was already known to be bad news long before Bush left office, as I can remember reading stuff that was very unflattering towards him prior to leaving active duty while I still enjoyed access to the "early bird news briefs" which gave a lot of selected articles from various (English language) news outlets from around the world.

What is happening in regards to Hong Kong specifically is not surprising, a LOT of people were warning about either comparable or worse outcomes as a result of the UK turning control over to China.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2020, 02:41:15 PM by TheDeamon »

Fenring

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2020, 02:54:43 PM »
Trump's ineptness and general attitude just gives these guys a free reign to be more brazen about their power grabs and attacks on open society (things like a non-state run media).
[...]
diplomatic reforms like a: fair independent judiciary, open media, and after a somewhat stable civil society begins to take place have them hold free and fair elections

Once again I know we're not zeroing in on Trump, but it seems to me you're throwing in a side point here that actually undermines your general point. The things you list would be nice, like having free and fair media coverage, free and fair elections, and other things. The problem is that the USA doesn't have these things, so it hardly seems appropriate to be talking about how to bribe a foreign strong man into adopting them. The American leadership and its power structure fundamentally do not believe in these things as important, so why should anyone else? They will hear the public message, understand the wink and the nod, and "agree" and they should "also" have free and open media like the U.S. does. As theatre it might work, but if you're talking about real reforms then we should be starting that at home before preaching. Everyone hates a hypocrite, more so even than a bad guy.

I quoted the part about Trump above not just because I don't really think it's on-topic, but it's actually anti-topic, since Trump literally ran on telling Americans that the media wasn't fair or honest. Maybe he uses that to his own advantage as well, but listing him as part of the accelerating problem of getting open media around the world is sort of funny, since the "open" media in the U.S. has been waging a political war since 2016.

yossarian22c

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Re: Belarus
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2020, 03:09:30 PM »
I quoted the part about Trump above not just because I don't really think it's on-topic, but it's actually anti-topic, since Trump literally ran on telling Americans that the media wasn't fair or honest. Maybe he uses that to his own advantage as well, but listing him as part of the accelerating problem of getting open media around the world is sort of funny, since the "open" media in the U.S. has been waging a political war since 2016.

Are you equating a media that has potential bias with a media that can only report what the state allows? Both political extremes are over represented in the media. Moderate pundits don't make for great ratings. By an open and free media, I mean media that is free to report without government interference. In that sense a media that is openly hostile to the leader of the country is "free". You can debate their honesty or bias but they aren't government mouth pieces like the media in China is.