Monday, November 26, 2007


Leadership is an elusive quality, but one which makes the world go round. Until a couple of days ago this post was supposed to be about personal leadership, and how not having practiced it for a while, I have done a poor job in a leadership position. I have learnt much from this experience, however, and expect nothing less than much better things from myself next time. However, like I said, this post will have to wait.

Last night I watched a documentary on the Genocide in Darfur. It exposed the ridiculous situation that has been unfolding in the Western part of Sudan, where the government has armed nomadic arabic tribes to kill and get rid of the native african people who were the original inhabitants of that place. And all for oil. However, more than the massive humanitarian crisis, what is even more galling is the absolute lack of leadership displayed by the world's leaders, if i can even call them that. The bloodshed began in 2003, and the UN was made aware of it not too much later. In 2004, the US after a fact-finding mission said that there was no word besides Genocide to describe what was taking place. Yet, until a few months ago, nothing was done about it. The reason? The UN's ridiculous veto system.

The system of veto that made the UN completely ineffective during the Cold War reared its ugly head again. Apparently, China has a major interest in Sudan, buying most of its newly found oil, and being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, vetoed any resolution for action that its buddy in Africa resented. Finally, it relented, and did not veto a resolution to allow UN troops to enter the country, however, it ensured that a clause was added that said that these troops would only go if they were 'invited' by the Sudanese government. Not surprisingly, this gold plated letter of invitation never made it to the UN's desks. I guess they lost it in the mail. However, things look far more upbeat now, with China finally allowing the UN to take actual steps towards resolving this situation, such as allowing a large contingent of African Union troops to enter the country. No small role was played by the efforts of the activists, and their campaign to brand the '08 Olympics in China as the "Genocide Olympics". If there is one thing China REALLY wants, it is to host an awesome olympics games, and they will do a lot to avoid any blemishes to these games. Unfortunately for China, telling a country it has a lot of sway on, to stop slaughtering its citizens by the thousands is indeed a lot.

My own country India is not without its own skeletons in this department. When the Myanmar government ran rough-shod over the peaceful protests by Buddhist monks, there was nary a whimper from our government. How can we claim to be a superpower, or on the way to superpowerdom, if we are not willing to take up the responsibilities that come up with this position? Even the cheesy writers of the Spiderman movies have this down better than us, saying "With great power, comes great responsibility".

However, this is not an article about these countries' failings, but rather an article of how despite the horror of 2 world wars, and a prolonged period of cold war, and thus realizing the necessity of having a powerful world body to help maintain peace, we have not done anything concrete towards attaining this goal. While the UN is easily 1st on the list of the 7 wonders of the bureaucratic world, as the situation in Darfur shows, it is completely toothless when even a small part of it disagrees with its actions. And what is the point of even having the UN if it only takes actions when EVERYONE agrees that action is to be taken? I mean, if everyone agrees, wouldn't they do it independent of the UN anyways? However, the UN has become a convenient "pass the buck" agent, with developed countries using the UN action (inaction?) as an excuse not to engage in humanitarian efforts. And then when they dont like what the UN says, they ignore it and go ahead and do what they wanted to anyways. (Iraq War aka "Daddy, I have bigger balls than you. Mommy, I pooped my diapers. Waaaahhhhhhh!", anyone?)

We have seen all this happen before in the Rwanda and Bosnian Genocides, after which, the UN apparently promised multiple times "never again", which they must have said in one of the 5 official languages besides English, because as past incidents have shown, it translates to "sure, why not". So, in the absence of an effective multinational body that can help prevent conflict, what are the chances that there will be a 3rd world war? Up until now this has been a remote possibility because there is only one indisputable power in the world, the USA. However, this is changing quickly, with China's growth (accompanied by a growing ambition whose rate is only second to its military growth), and America's boneheadedness, and rapidly diminishing international support. (Thanks once again, monsieur Bush). Without a clear top dog, many countries will be emboldened to fight for what they want. The grand democratic experiment of the last half century is breaking down rapidly (Pakistan/Iran/Venezuela and company) and we have enough religious fanaticism on every side to embarrass the Crusaders. Add to that a desire for nuclear weapons, and the impending water and environmental crises, and you have a potion for true apocalyptic mayhem.

In such a situation, will anyone step up to the mantle of world leader? And by world leader, I dont just mean the country with the largest arsenal of WMD's or the biggest collection of foot soldiers, but rather, a country which has the power, and the desire to affect change in the world, at a political/economic loss to its own self, to ensure fairness in the dealings of nations, and prevent man-made catastrophes that maim and kill humans for miniscule monetary gain, thereby reducing each and everyone of us to less than our weight in oil? Or will the 'superpowers' as defined in the mid 1940's let go of their ego's and massive persecution complexes, and actually let the UN function as a useful body by giving up their veto power? Will they accept the realities of the day, and recognize that France and the UK are nowhere near China in terms of importance in this world? Will they let smaller nations have a level playing field, or will continue bullying them through the deliberately unfair political bodies such as the UNSC and the WTO? Only time will tell, however, I am extremely doubtful that either scenario will play out effectively.

Hope I am wrong though!


Gourav said...

Hey dude...thought I should tell you that Im finally employed. Been trying to track you down but you always seem to busy when youre online. Heard from your mom that youre coming on the 17th. Will fill you in with details then.

OilPastel said...

If you look at contested lands all over the world, you will realize how every frikkin place in the world has vested interests of someone or the other. A recent read on the Gaza strip just freaked me out. So many people, it's like an entire state. All BPL. Something like the Somalia Ethiopia conflict before. It makes me sick and wish I was a tree.

G said...

Hey Buddy,

I loved reading your blog and appreciate your insight and also command over the language. I am adding you on to my blog.
God Bless You


G. Kennedi
Your Friendly Astrologer