Thursday, March 31


In October 2004 Paul Wolfowitz addressed an audience at Warsaw University. Pundita is haunted by one of his observations during the speech, as recounted by Peter J. Boyer:
"Poles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes," Wolfowitz said...[He] observed that some people—meaning the "realists" in the foreign policy community...believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, "Poland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as 'the stability of the graveyard.'"
Read Boyers's profile in the November 2004 New Yorker to learn about the man who will head the world's most powerful development bank. If you've read the profile before, you might want to read it again for insights about the American who now stands a fighting chance to profoundly affect the course of history.

Now is also a good time to read the Department of Defense biography of Wolfowitz, which contains links to his recent major speeches and articles.

Congratulations to the Deputy Secretary of Defense on his new appointment. As to how he might fare during his first year at the Bank, let us not forgot that Paul Dundes Wolfowitz was one of the few conservatives in the Bush administration to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state.

And remember he has a doctorate, a degree in mathematics, and taught at two major universities and was the dean of a school at one. These are very important distinctions to World Bank mandarins, who treat adults without a doctorate as if they're small children.

He'll do fine at the Bank.


Wednesday, March 30

Women keep out of politics, or why Soccer Moms need to be in charge of US foreign aid

Dear Pundita, I've started doing research on the issue you raised about the link between physical exhausting labor and low interest in political involvement. From what I've been reading, this issue falls hard on women in the poorest countries. I was shocked to learn that there's still considerable gender bias in Europe, in particular Eastern Europe. It seems to be a cultural attitude toward females. Do you know anything about this issue?
[Signed] Jan in Reston"

Dear Jan:

Pundita has not studied the subject as applied to East Europe; I doubt it's easy to get good data, for the same reason it's hard to get good data on racism in those regions. As soon as an American with check-writing power goes near such questions, the lobbies for those countries produce polls to demonstrate that racial and gender prejudice are not a problem and that their government enforces laws to prevent discrimination.

I do know there was a seminar that took place in 2000 in Dubrovnik, and which produced a book comprised of 10 papers presented by women from Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. The book, Women and Politics: Feminisms with an Eastern Touch was reviewed in 2001 by Olivera Jokic, who notes
...several of the articles try to recapitulate the changes within the last decade in eastern Europe as they affected women’s rights, and find that the benefits of ‘democracy’ were not necessarily meant to be enjoyed by women. Even in Slovenia...which is usually taken to be a token of successful decentralization and smooth transition of institutions, women are discouraged from political activism and exposed as intruders in a strictly male sphere.
But when you ask pointed questions of East Europeans you can get the same defensive replies, even from women, that you hear from Saudis who defend their practice of treating women like brain-damaged parakeets. They say America didn't have equality for women for much of its history, so have a little patience with their slow progress.

Who's talking about patience? We're talking about money. For the love of Larry, it's hard to blow trillions of US dollars. You have to really work at it. But now we have The Arab Problem to deal with. How could there be an Arab problem if Arabs have been rolling in oil money for half a century? The Saudis click their worry beads then reply, "Petroleum is Allah's curse. It made us crazy."

Well maybe ya'll would have been a little less crazy, if Saudi women had some say these past 50 years in the way their government was run. Same applies to endemic corruption in East European governments. They wail and throw clouds of ashes when you bring up the topic. But you can graph the fall of corruption in American government, the police forces and judicial systems with the rise of American women voters having their say and women in politics, business and law. That's because females tend to be skinflints if they don't think it's right to pay for something and they are rule oriented. Men will pay bribes just to get on with things and not disturb the ecosystem of 'codes.'

In 2000 Zbignew Breziznski told a bunch of Ukrainians, "Much of the money we [US government] have given to Russia has been misappropriated -- and we don't like to talk about this. The U.S. officials who worked closely on this are embarrassed about it."

Embarrassed? Every morning Bill Clinton gets out of bed and the first thing he does is look out the window: Whew; they're not there yet. Same ritual at the White House and in the parking garages at Foggy Bottom and Congress: "Anybody smell tar and see bales of feathers yet?"

US officials are not embarrassed. They live in fear that the American public will discover that zillions of US tax dollars were given to gangsters who had the Democracy Rap down pat. Of course Breziznski singled out Russia but that country stands in a long line. It's not just the amount of stolen money that would send the American public through the roof. It was the way the stolen money was used. Soccer Moms should be in charge of the US foreign aid checkbook. And East European women and Saudi women--and come to think of it, women all around the world--need to wake up and get serious about grabbing more power. The problems are so huge and complex these days that all countries need all the brain power they can get. It's not just a matter of equal rights. It's also a matter of two heads are better than one for solving tough problems.

Arab Muslims have been yammering for decades that the end of the world is coming. Darn tootin, if more women don't exercise more of their brain cells. Yet too many women are waiting for men to give them power. Men are not going to give them power because men are human and because that's not the way men get power. They don't sit around and say, "Where's my power? Somebody give it to me."

If you want power, ladies, step up to the plate.


Tuesday, March 29

Pundita replies to critics, Part II

(See March 29 for Part I.)

TM Lutas blogger wondered whether the kit I described in Democracy Stage Show Kit exists.

As I stressed there is no actual kit; however, the phenomenon I described can be considered a kit; i.e., a set of methods that have been abstracted by studying general principles and 'packaged' for use by virtually anyone. In this case, the basic kit was created by analyzing mass civil disobedience/nonviolent protests in democratic countries.

Of itself, the kit isn't a 'stage show' (phony) because genuine democracy movements seeking guidance on how to confront governments nonviolently can make use of the methods. However, just because anyone can use the kit, it can and has been be used by governments and factions wanting to put on an appearance--a stage show--of a genuine nonviolent mass protest. Thus, the Democracy Stage Show Kit.

An organization known for providing the basic kit is transnational (they advise groups anywhere in the world) and not connected with any government or political party. Here the reader might ask whether I can be entirely certain of both assertions; the answer is "no" because I don't know who funds the organization and in these days of shell corporations even knowing the names of the donors wouldn't necessarily provide a definitive answer to either question.

However--and this is very important to understand--even if the organization is a front for a government agency or special interest group, this would have no bearing on the points in my earlier essay. Such an organization, and the 'kit' they provide, is as inevitable in the modern era as K&R (kidnap and ransom) negotiation firms and contractors that provide private military assistance to governments. Although the organization is a nonprofit, it follows the same pattern as any type of consulting contractor. It is a group of specialists--in this case, academics and former government workers with scholarship and/or direct experience with nonviolent movements.

Because my essay was not chiefly concerned with examining this type of organization, I did not explain that the organization I had in mind does not limit their advice to pro-democracy groups in countries that have nondemocratic government. The organization will also advise groups in democratic countries. In other words, if your group or political party didn't get what they wanted through the voting process, or doesn't like the way the government they voted in decides on issues, this organization will advise you on how to use mass protests and civil disobedience in the attempt to pressure the government into doing what you want.

If the reader is suddenly at full attention--with hindsight, Pundita might have made it easier on the reader if I'd mentioned that point. The organization is not really about 'democracy training.' It's about training large numbers of people to confront a government via mass protests.

Of course, taking to the streets out of anger at a voting outcome or in the attempt to pressure a government on an issue is part and parcel of life in democratic countries. But it's not democratic countries and mature democracies that are under discussion in the Democracy Stage Show Kit essay.

Lutas remonstrated that Pundita neglected to mention that the DSSK is a "mirror" of the violent rent-a-mob protests organized by dictatorships such as the Soviet regime, then asked what harm the DSSK did in the Ukraine, given that the protests did not involve bloodshed.

Lutas answered the first part of his question for himself. Pundita did not mention the rent-a-mob because it's nothing like the DSSK, which doesn't deploy violence. It's the very model of a nonviolent "by the rules" civil protest, so the DSSK is not a mirror of the rent-a-mob. The only connection is that as with the rent-a-mobs organized by dictatorships/autocratic regimes, the DSSK can be organized and controlled by a government.

However, it is wrong to assume that the DSSK does not carry the threat of violence. All massed protests carry the threat of violence; in the case of Kiev, which Lutas mentioned, there was more than threat even though no blood was shed. This wasn't evident to first glance because the paid protestors who filled the streets of Kiev to demand another the election round did not come armed. And they had been coached on how to act with the cameras rolling. They sang and danced and threw orange carnations and waved orange streamers. To the camera eye, they were a well-behaved lot following the democratic model of nonviolent protest against an unresponsive/tyrannical government.

But slowly the whole well behaved singing, dancing, clapping lot moved in on the Supreme Court building in Kiev. Inside the justices were trying to decide how to judge on the matter before them, until they realized they were blocked from leaving the building by the protestors--and with the police clearly not willing to stand between the justices inside the building and the happy campers blocking the building entrance.

That is how it came to pass that in districts that showed balloting at 100% for Yushchenko, even with as many as 24 candidates in the running, the justices did not order another election round in those districts. They gave the Orange protestors exactly what they wanted. That's the only way those justices could get out of the building, and be assured they wouldn't be torn apart by the happy clapping Orange demonstrators.

Pundita will not waste tears and Kleenex about the plight of the judges. There were voting irregularities on both sides and the country was virtually split down the middle about the candidates. Bottom line is that one oligarch clan wanted to replace another in the Ukraine government; the Orange side had EU and American backing. The Russians and their Blue candidate didn't have a handy-dandy DSSK. All they had was clunky Soviet style rent-a-mobs. When they learned the Orange side had the Full Monte DSSK, the TV cameras running and half the West's election observers parked in Ukraine, they realized they couldn't deploy the bone crackers. And Kuchma's government couldn't order the police to break heads because the police refused. So the slicker fools won. End of story.

The question is whether genuine democratic government can emerge from a putsch disguised as a peaceful revolt. The question has been discussed at great length in America since it was clear that the US was going to topple Saddam Hussein's regime and replace it with a democratic government, even though the DSSK was not deployed in that instance.

Thoughtful Americans asked, "What if the democratic government in Iraq throws out the US military and votes in a radical fundamentalist Muslim agenda? Is the US government prepared to live with that?"

The answer is that you need to be pretty darn clever, and very knowledgeable about democratic government, if you want to wiggle out of a Faustian bargain with the foreign powers that help you gain the palace. Because it's sure enough true that the powers did not help you gain the palace out of sheer love of democracy. Pundita's Democracy Stage Show Kit essay simply looks squarely at that reality.

Contrary to Zenpundit's observation, I am not skeptical about democratic rule. I am skeptical that the DSSK includes a companion guide to real democratic government. And I am realistic about the problems that the poorest emerging from dictatorial rule face, if they want to create workable democratic government.

Many people in certain countries (in Latin America, FSU) are exhausted with the constant turmoil and uncertainty that their experiment with democracy has brought them. And they are bitterly aware (as with the Ukrainians who wanted to throw out Kuchma's government) that no matter which platform/party they vote in, somehow the new administration is always the same old jazz: corrupt bureaucrats controlled by an elite that does no better at managing the country than the last bunch.

All this is despite the fact that the countries have received large ongoing infusions of aid from UN organizations, the EU and America, cheap loans from the World Bank and regional development banks, and numerous development projects concerned with creating and strengthening democratic institutions.

It's against this stark fact that the US government's use for the Democracy Stage Show Kit must be weighed. On paper the ends justify the means, as Lutas pointed out, if the regime in power is a brutal one. But the DSSK isn't a recipe for good government; it's simply a tool for wresting power. If the people carrying out the stage show aren't knowledgeable about good government they must try to invent the wheel--or allow themselves to be guided by an elite that is not necessarily a friend of true democracy. Neither option is pretty and given the problems of this era, unacceptable.


"Where is your Pundita is not Wonkette post??" Note to Reader

Pundita has a bad habit of treating her blog posts as if they were drafts, which means regular readers know to snap up a copy of a post they plan to return to before it vanishes or undergoes major revision.

I think we have finally learned our lesson; yesterday two blogs (The Glittering Eye and Zenpundit) linked to "Pundita is not Wonkette" essay and made interesting comments. However, their readers would have quickly discovered the essay was not at the published link. I'd decided that I'd stuffed too much into one writing and thus deleted it, unaware until hours later that I'd upset the blogosphere ecosystem. My apology for the confusion this caused.

The original essay is now split into two. The material Zenpundit and Glittering Eye discuss is now under the title How do you run a government when the voters are smarter than you? Material that refers to a critic's comments and Romania remains under the original title Pundita is not Wonkette.


Pundita replies to critics, Part I

Pundita's Democracy Stage Show Kit created a flurry of comments; three bloggers (see links below) published their critiques. The observations are mostly negative, which is not surprising because the essay presented two unfamiliar concepts then joined them to present an unsettling idea:

The connection between physically exhausting work and a willingness to accept autocratic government

This idea gave the critics the most trouble. That's understandable to some extent because (to my knowledge) no distinct study has been done on the subject—and if a few studies have been done they are buried in the vast body of literature on sustainable development that’s collected during the past 40 years on the specific problems of the world's very poorest. However, the subject is alluded to in countless papers on development, of the kind churned out by the World Bank.

Yet development banks generally look at the subject of physical exhaustion within the framework of development issues rather than political ones. They have not looked at the implications with regard to the impact of physical exhaustion on citizen involvement with their government and their tendency to favor leaders who promise to take decisionmaking off their hands. (I’d like to stand corrected on this point; if the reader knows of any such study, kindly pass along the information to Pundita.)

In any case, two of my critics (Schulman and Lutas) are clearly unaware that the problem of exhaustion has been (exhaustively) studied in relation to a range of situations in LDCs. But applying common sense overcomes the lack of scholarship in this instance. Here are the paragraphs from Democracy Stage Show Kit that caused the critics the greatest concern:
But freedom is not free. It's a tremendous responsibility, which imposes considerable discipline on the individual and takes up much time. That's just why dictators keep being returned to power. After the glow of a stage-managed democracy revolution wears off, the populace realizes how much work and responsibility it entails to make democracy work. Thus, many become willing to make a tradeoff between freedom and free time. They go looking for a hardworking fool to take on the burden of governing responsibility--preferably, a benevolent fool.

This impulse doesn't stem so much from laziness as from the need to conserve energy. Those who labor 12 hours a day in fields, coal mines and factories don't have much energy left over for the task of self-governance. But of course there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator when push comes to shove.
Schulman responds:
Unless I'm totally misinterpreting her, Pundita's argument is that freedom is a luxury item that is affordable only by the (relatively) affluent, who have the time and energy to govern themselves in addition to working, eating, and sleeping. But does this assertion correspond to historical reality?

I think not. Leaving aside ancient Athens, democracy was introduced into the world by the United States of America. And what was our country like at the end of the eighteenth century? It was predominantly a nation of family farmers and individual tradesman, who worked from dawn to dusk. They were tired, but they toiled in a democracy.

And what of present-day India? I'm not aware of anyone who refers to that country as anything other than a democracy, nor do I know of anyone who would describe the typical Indian as affluent.
Schulman's observations are echoed in Lutas's critique:
The idea that people have no time for political freedom is, frankly, just not credible. If the franchise could be exercised two centuries ago in the wilds of Kentucky and Ohio where agriculture was the main pursuit, time saving devices were nonexistent, and the wilderness or hostile indians could destroy all you had built in the blink of an eye, it is certainly practical for people in today's Ukraine, Romania, Georgia, or Iraq where the physical and economic challenges are generally less.
Yes, well, the people of Ukraine, Romania, Georgia and Iraq do not descend in the millions on a refugee camp, as happened in Tanzania with Rwandan refugees, and within nine months denude the region of forest and shrubs.

Two billion of the world's people still depend on wood for their cooking fuel. This has created the Human Locust phenomenon in many regions. The populations strip their region of firewood. Because the 'locust' populations are not chiefly nomadic, this means they have to keep walking further and further from their village every so many months to retrieve enough cooking fuel to sustain baseline survival. And then make the walk back--an exercise that can take up most of their waking hours.

The same situation is in effect with water supply, game and fish. With regard to the latter, many populations dependent on fishing have depleted fish in coastal waters, which means sailing further and further out each day, just to catch enough fish to feed their family and have enough left over to sell, in order to afford other baseline essentials.

Perhaps my essay should have used such examples instead of coal mining and farming; however, the history shows who made most of the political decisions during America's big coal mining days. And the grueling work of farming before modern equipment still had cycles--seasons when a break from planting and harvesting gave settler families time to attend community meetings about government, time to discuss and debate the issues connected with their fledgling democracy.

There is no seasonal cycle, no rest period, for people who must walk several miles every day just to collect and lug back enough fuel and water to keep themselves alive until the next long walk. The cycle of survival has been reduced to 24 hours--not for thousand or hundreds of thousands, but for hundreds of millions of humans. And the number threatens to leapfrog to billions.

Believe you me, such people are too exhausted to walk more miles to attend regional meetings on governance issues or even vote, if they live several miles from a voting booth. As to how they participate in government--the same way Indian villagers and villagers all over the world participate in government in the poorest regions.

The party representative drives up to the village with bags of rice and wheat in tow, gives them to the village chief for distribution and says, "Your village is voting for The Hand" or whatever pictograph the party uses for a symbol. (They use pictures because many villagers are illiterate.)

Before you snicker at this democracy stage show--how do you think things worked in this country during the late 19th Century and during early decades of the last century in the coal and steel mining towns, the poorest farming regions and ghettos? True, they didn't deliver bags of rice to the union bosses and ward heelers--they delivered promises of pork in Congress and threats to break heads if the union members and ward residents didn’t adopt the party ticket.

The difference is that America in those days was not suffering from overpopulation, AIDS, and a host of other situations faced by the world's poorest today. And it was not until the post-Depression era that the American federal government and state governments became so huge and complex that even the well-educated affluent with some time on their hands don't find it easy to follow what their government is up to.

Americans came to that realization the hard way, during the weeks that followed the 9/11 attack. The realization swelled the ranks of bloggers, brought thousands of citizen watchdog groups into existence, and made news junkies out of Americans who before had limited their newsgathering to the Sunday paper and the Seven O'clock news.

Yet Lutas seems to assume that democratic government, once wound up and set in motion, is self-perpetuating:
Pundita complains that "The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect to have good government." The problem with this complaint is that it seems to be endorsing democracy over democratic republicanism. That's just stupid if its intentional and badly written if Pundita did it by accident. By definition democratic republicanism is the idea of voting to give somebody else the government for a time and not much worrying about it until next election day.
Pundita was not complaining, only stating a harsh reality. Representative democracy does not mean abrogating the citizen responsibility to carefully oversee those you elect to office. You vote 'em in and forget 'em until the next election at your gravest peril--and at the gravest peril to your democracy.

Renewed citizen oversight and pressure brought forth the 9/11 Commission and a host of long-overdue changes in Washington. Provided people have say in their government, provided they can closely monitor their government, intelligent and efficient government follows. But in virtually all the poorest countries, there is the Forbidden City phenomenon. The centralized government is far away from the regional outposts and even within the capital city, which can see large populations, there is a walled city aspect to the government. Technology can help break down the wall, and put people in the most outlying regions in touch with their government.

And technology can save the time and energy needed to participate in government. Everywhere in the world's poorest regions that interactive communications have come (as versus state-run television, newspapers) government services have improved.

Of course the governments are not happy with the people having such an impact on the Forbidden City, and for the same reason many in the US Congress have come to fear the blogosphere. The greater and richer network of connections between Americans brought about by improved communications threatens to unseat the elite. Ever thus, for all peoples everywhere. But now we really have no choice but to bring as many people as possible to bear on problems of governance, for the problems our vast numbers have wrought are staggering. One hour spent in Mexico City is enough to teach that.

TM Lutas

Marc Schulman

Mark Safranski


Monday, March 28

Rats, Lice, and the Relentless March of Political Correctness

"deer pUndiTa, I am riting to prostest your use of buzzard to insult KoFi Anan. I thogt you were diferrent pondita but, like all humans you are humansentric and look down on everykind else. Also now you take all the credit and never mension your team anymore. pondita you are getting puffy hed.
[Signed] Rugby the Rat"

So. He manages to hit the Caps key for Annan's name and of course always for his name but not for Pundita's. And he lectures Pundita about a puffy head. I haven't mentioned the team recently because this is the time of the year they desert their duties. Off doing things that creatures do in the early Spring. But then I suppose if one is born, raised and confined to a laboratory one wouldn't know much about the changing seasons.

Policy meetings are sparsely attended except when it's pouring rain and even then minds are not on the chores at hand. Input is usually confined to, "What do you think?" although Da and Nyet reported at the last meeting that they were chased from the Russian embassy grounds--an ominous sign that US-Russia relations are continuing to cool.

This said, it so happens it was pouring rain this morning, which brought the Peregrine falcon to drop in for a visit. After I read him Rugby's letter and explained the circumstances, the falcon asked archly, "What is wrong with buzzards?"

It is becoming quite difficult to come up with insults for one's fellow humans. One can't call them bastards without offending those born out of wedlock. One can't call them retarded, blind or deaf without bringing the wrath of the challenged down upon one's blogspot. Calling them snakes, rabbits, weasels or skunks brings forth threatening letters from PETA. And of course "rat" is now on the forbidden list.

All right, we're going to bump down a few species. Pundita will revise the offending sentence to read, "If that louse folds, Bill "Please Understand Me" Clinton will get the post..."

This is on the assumption that lab lice can't type computer passwords.


Pundita is not Wonkette

(3/29-Note to Reader: Some material included in original version, and which Zenpundit and Glittering Eye discuss on 3/28, is now under the title How do you run a government when voters are smarter than you?)

Pundita's Democracy Stage Show Kit touched off a flurry of published criticism from a small circle of bloggers who first learned about Pundita a short while ago from Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye. After the critiques were published Schuler wrote on his blog that he enjoyed the idea of the cross-blog discussion he set off.

If Pundita were two people with the patience of a border collie I don't think I'd mind getting involved in a cross-blog discussion of the kind the critical essays represent. However, the critics' points are so poorly informed that I'd have take time away from other writing to teach before the critics could comprehend my replies. As witness to my dilemma, this criticism by blogger TM Lutas:
Pundita complains that "The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect tohave good 0government."

The problem with this complaint is that it seems to be endorsing democracy over democratic republicanism. That's just stupid if its intentional and badly written if Pundita did it by accident. By definition democratic republicanism is the idea of voting to give somebody else the government for a time and not much worrying about it until next election day. It's possibly the most successful system of governance on the planet even if a little long...

Again, turning back to Romania, they voted in a neo-communist first government by wide margins, voted again to put them in by slimmer margins, voted in an opposition government that promptly betrayed its electoral platform, voted the neo-communist/social democrats back into power for another term and when that turned out to be a bad idea they put in a liberal government late last year. There were lots of corruption scandals, lots of bad choices along the way but nobody can seriously say that things are worse off than if Ceasescu the butcher or his rapist son were still in power. Nor is it credible to hold that the Romanian people haven't grown in sophistication and improved in their exercise of their sovereign power through the use of the franchise.
Pundita was not complaining; she was describing a stark reality. Now let's see what the blindfolded dartboard method of finding an adequate system of democratic government has wrought for the Romanian people. The dart throwing accompanied, I assume, by the attitude that democracy means voting in a government then "not much worrying about it until next election day." From a portion of the latest USAID report on Romania.*
Romania is one of the poorest European Union (EU) applicants. Government statistics indicate that almost one in three Romanians lives in poverty. The proportion is much higher in rural areas, where wages are far below Romania’s average of $140 per month....

Over 40% of the population is engaged in agriculture, most on small subsistence plots. Many young, educated workers continue to leave the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

Confidence in democracy is undercut by endemic corruption, low political accountability,and continued high levels of poverty.

Civil society remains weak, with little influence on public policy or public opinion. Partly a legacy of communism, the concept of citizenship, including the responsibility of constituent interest and involvement, has yet to take root among much of the population.

This is exacerbated by a "party list" system for parliamentary elections, eliminating any real tie between national level office holders and their constituent districts. In the 2000 elections, a large number of disaffected voters turned to an extremist and xenophobic party that offers no sustainable solutions for resolving the country's problems. The central government is transferring responsibility for many services to local governments without providing the necessary fiscal and management resources.

Unfunded central government mandates in utilities, education, social welfare, and health are a pressing problem.

On the whole, there appears to be no coherent plan for decentralization and no analysis of the impact of decentralization on local governments.

Too little attention has been given to the efficient use of local resources, the need to establish community priorities, and the means to enhance local service delivery.

The health and child welfare situation in Romania remains bleak. [Corruption in health care agencies is endemic.] Life expectancy at birth is 71 years, one of the lowest in Europe. Infant mortality, under-five mortality, and maternal mortality are among the highest in Europe. In 2000, maternal mortality rates were six times the EU average and pediatric AIDS cases are the highest in Europe...
So it's not just a matter of teaching; Pundita would have to figure a way to transmit the teachings to Pluto. Earth calling blogger Lutas: Democratic government of any kind is NOT "the idea of voting to give somebody else the government for a time and not much worrying about it until next election day."
I note Lutas wrote his critique as a first-time visitor to Pundita's blog and evidentially zipped through so fast he didn't notice the blog header, which clearly indicates that Pundita is a female. Or perhaps he noticed and decided that any female blogger who tackles weighty themes should be referred to as a male.

But we'll make an exception this one time, just for Dave Schuler, and dedicate the next two essays to an attempt to haul the critics into the 21st Century. If they don't get it after that, here is the link to Wonkette.

*USAID Report on Romania


How do you run a government when the voters are smarter than you?

Pundita's regular readers are 'ahead of the curve' people--those who see just a little farther and quicker than most. They know we're all students now, striving to comprehend massive shifts in civilization that took half a century to build and finally converged around the turn of this century.

One of the biggest shifts has gone almost unnoticed by the media, even though signs of it are everywhere. I first got wind of the shift 30 years ago, courtesy of a computer scientist who was known as the Guru to several in the computer industry. I wasn't involved with the computer field but one day I expressed my concern that the US government would eventually abuse computer technology to create a Big Brother society. The Guru looked at me as if I was a child and replied, "You don't understand. If they get too far out of line we'll shut them down."

I did not understand the import of his words until a week after 9/11. Then it hit me that for the first time in recorded history the pyramid of society is turned upside down. Except for a very few pockets around the world, the government does not represent the smartest and best-informed people in the society. This situation is crashing the Machiavellian School of government (exemplified by Henry Kissinger in modern times), which has been the linchpin of civilization going back to the ancient times.

The government and military in the United States are aware of the situation and at least some of its implications. They have no choice but to be aware. In a globalized, market-oriented society, only the saintly among the smartest are going to labor in the government for a fraction of the salary they could get from working in private enterprise. Indeed, only the war's appeal to patriotism is bringing in the kind of minds the government needs to fight this war effectively.

Something like this up-ended situation has arisen several times in history but it's always been nipped in the bud by military conquest. There have been eras when a knowledge explosion put a great deal of information within reach of many outside the ruling class. As long as the rulers had control of a military, they could simply enslave the burgeoning brainpower and keep it doing their bidding.

That solution to the problem of the masses getting above their station came crashing down on 9/11. Nineteen guys with box cutters outfoxed NORAD, bombed the flagship building of the most powerful military in history and destroyed the symbol of world trade.

Granted, the 19 had financing and planning behind them that trace back at least in part, and by many twists and turns, to a few governments. Yet that doesn't invalidate the fact that possession of a standing army no longer guarantees the ruling class a secure berth. Nowhere is that more evident than in the K&R (kidnap and ransom) industry, which is huge in certain countries.

Again, one may argue that the most successful gangs depend on their government, or at least corrupt factions or individuals in the government, to help them. But the elite in several countries must take very elaborate and very expensive precautions to prevent being hit by kidnappers.

Setting aside criminality and terrorism the question is how government can function effectively with so many smart people outside government putting in their two cents worth and demanding at every turn that the government keep up with their curve.

The flip side of the issue is that the problems now facing humanity are so huge that governments need all the brainpower they can get to assist them.

Last year I spoke with a guy in his 30s from India who spent a half hour blowing off steam about the problems in his country, his government's totally inadequate response, and the government's deaf ear to the recommendations made by people in his class -- young, smart and well educated professionals. I asked what ideas he had about getting New Delhi to listen.

He replied, "I will tell you how it is. We're waiting for the older generation to die off."

Given the current state of medicine that could be a long wait. And look at the age of the top leaders in China and Saudi Arabia. If you're not completely gaga, you can hang onto power well until the young ones have white hair.

So here we are. Trying to balance between anarchy and prodding slow governments to act more quickly and efficiently to deal with problems that the smart ones outside government clearly see and know how to solve.

Make no mistake; even the governments in the wealthiest, most powerful nations are very slow. Pundita has received letters asking why she never returned to discussing what she learned from Yossef Bodansky's seminar at the National Intelligence Conference. We're working up to it--trying to find a way to discuss what we learned without plunging the sensitive reader into a steep depression.

But without going into gory detail, you need to stop and think about the people you elect to represent you in Congress. Why do you elect them? For their ability to plow daily through 200 page reports with footnotes on geopolitical situations? For their ability to analyze and synthesize data in a flash? Or so they can sit on congressional foreign relations, defense and intel committees?

No. You elect them to represent your interests on a range of domestic issues. Yet realize the interests are now so complex that to understand them requires plowing through more 200 page reports with footnotes.

If you observe that surely they have aides to do all that reading and analysis and synthesis for them -- um, have you seen the aides? Most are kids straight out of college with virtually no real-world knowledge, and who weren't picked to be congressional aides for their brainpower. They were picked because they loyally served the party and the congressional's campaign.

That's enough scary campfire stories for today.

Friday, March 25

Candle Power

This essay summarizes Pundita's points, scattered through several essays, about US foreign aid and development policy as applied to helping the world's poorest. I saw the need for this exercise after reading a blogger's published thoughts on Pundita's Finger of Shame essay. The blogger, Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye blog, refers to Joseph Nye's 'hard-soft power'concept and places Pundita's outlook in the soft power category:
The notions of hard and soft power derive...from the work of Joseph Nye. Hard power—military and economic power—is making other people do what you want them to. Soft power is making them want what you want. You don't employ or deploy soft power. You either have it and it's working or you don't and it won't...Hard power and soft power can work together synergistically. In what is certainly the most lucid article on the World Bank (and development banks generally) that I have ever read, Pundita suggests foregoing our hard power(in this case economic) strategies in the developing world in favor of a soft power approach...
Clearly Dave was unaware that Pundita nominated Eliot Spitzer for World Bank president. Short of dropping a bomb on World Bank headquarters, my suggestion doesn't get more hard power than that. Schuler closes by observing:
It's pretty clear that we have not made an opening in attacking the problem of the poverty of the poorest of the poor. Can it be accomplished with a soft power strategy? Do we have the wit and skill (and faith) to exploit it?
Pundita's reply: Not unless the wits are considerably sharpened. Development policies for the world's poorest haven't made headway because the policies are on the moon. They're on the moon because they're thought up by people who live inside theoretical bubbles, which float high above the doings of mortals down here on earth.

Yet there are many good-hearted, brilliant and well educated people from all over the world laboring in sustainable development. These are people who eat, sleep, and breathe the problems of the world's downtrodden. So how is it that so many smart, concerned people ended up on the moon?

Part of the answer lies in the development 'system' and mechanisms by which development policy is actualized; e.g., the development loan model, which was not created to solve the most pressing problems of the world's poorest.

Part of the answer is that developed nations have used foreign aid/development banks not so much to help the poorest but to further strategic aims. There's nothing wrong with trying to further such aims. But when this impulse is mixed with development policy it sets up a mental screen, which makes it hard to see things simply as they are.

A famous example of this type of blindness is shown in a movie based on a Graham Greene novel set during the Cold War. The US delivered food aid to a Third World country as part of a strategic initiative. The food was delivered to the docks in crates stamped in English "A gift from the United States of America."

During the night Soviet operatives crept onto the docks and stamped on the crates "A gift from the Soviet Union" in the native language of the people who were to receive the aid.

The other part of the answer can be hard to grasp; as soon as one tries to explain people interrupt with, "Oh I see. It's prejudice, bigotry."

Then how come dogs put in charge of minding small children display the same attitude? Within a few weeks the dog starts treating the kid like an idiot. The dog's not a bigot. There is something deeply rooted in mammalian nature that you don't want to mess with, but which when poured into looking after people who are perpetually in a weak position manifests in behaviors that are something like benevolent paternalism.

Of course the paternalism can mix with bigotry, class-consciousness and the Enclave mentality. When you put all that together, you get the attitude famously associated with West European colonialism. Pundita terms this brew of traits Sahibism.

Now one would think that Sahibism is not found among aid and development bank workers who come from the very regions of the world that were under Colonial rule. But as any Indian or African who remembers the tail end of Empire can tell you, there you would be very wrong. The 'natives' elevated by the Colonialists to administrative positions eventually took on much the same attitude toward their fellow natives that the Colonials displayed.

That makes sense if you realize the attitude is not rooted in bigotry. It's rooted in human nature. But when the attitude is mixed with development policy or even charitable giving, it sets up another mental screen--one that also makes it hard to see facts on the ground.

That is why, for decades, the World Bank simply replaced valuable equipment that was repeatedly stolen from the same Bank project construction sites in 'third world' countries. That is why an otherwise intelligent Western Christian missionary defended the Africans who repeatedly stole from his hospital by saying it was their culture to steal.

How can you arrive at intelligent aid policy, if you hold in your mind the attitude that the people you're trying to lift out of abject poverty are overgrown children? Thus, President Bush's approach, which is remarkably free of Sahibism, is a breakthrough. That is why Pundita supports the general idea behind Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, which tags US aid to governments that make strides in adopting and strengthening democratic government.

To return to Nye's concept, the Millennium Challenge Account is hard power--bone-cracking economic clout. Bush doesn't want to hear the laundry list of excuses from national leaders who've learned to play US administrations and the World Bank like a fiddle. Bush's position is either get with the democracy program or forget getting more money. That's treating leaders from nondemocratic poor countries as if they're adults in full possession of their mental faculties.

The Millennium Challenge Account doesn't have much funding, which for the short run leaves US aid/development policy still dependent on the USAID agency and international organizations such as the World Bank. That means things are still not looking up for the world's poorest. However, Pundita can't give unqualified support to the MCA because I don't know exactly how the program works out in practice. Giving money to governments that have made strides in democratic reforms doesn't necessarily equate to strides with real transformative value.

To think intelligently about helping the world's poorest requires first a different way of categorizing the poor. If you look through the list of the 77 "poorest" countries that make up the G-77 (See Pundita's sidebar), you'll note that some of those countries have oil wealth and other valuable exportable resources. Other countries on the list are narco states or Money Laundering, Inc., which means they're rolling in dough.

In short, there are oceans of money sloshing around in several of the countries that the World Bank and other international organizations categorize as the poorest. So clearly there's something screwy with the criteria for determining poverty. A close inspection shows that many countries, including several in OPEC, are poor because their governments spent decades making a complete mess and blowing export revenues on the wrong projects.*

But I think the majority of poorest countries are poorest because the class that put the government in power doesn't like to cough up at tax time, and because crime syndicates don't file tax returns. Yet pouring development and aid money into countries that don't have an adequate tax base to develop and maintain infrastructure and basic social programs is pouring into a bottomless pit.

Intelligent development policy should be grounded in that observation. Here we come to a snag. Multilateral development lending agencies and US aid programs are not set up to go after tax cheats. Nor do they have the authority to strong-arm governments into hounding the richest in their country to pay up on back taxes and raise taxes on the rich from a pittance percentage.

That is why development policy is on the moon. It's like the fable of the man who searched under a street lamp for a lost object in his darkened house because the lamp threw more light on his search. So making headway in helping the world's poorest is not really a matter of hard or soft power. It's a matter of lighting a candle to guide thinking back to earth.

Thanks to Dave Schuler's essay for galvanizing Pundita to summarize her writings to this point on aid/development policy.

* Seven of the 11 nations that make up the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are poorer (or no richer) today per capita than they were in 1974. For an overview on why OPEC nations are crying poor these days, see the Christian Science Monitor report at


Wednesday, March 23

Why Vicente Fox is going straight to Hell

In the wake of recent essays about poverty and the World Bank, Pundita has received a flurry of letters asking for ideas on how to improve US policy on helping the world's poorest. One writer asked, "If you could only do one thing to better the world, what would it be?"

Well, given that the United States is at war, I think it's more helpful to tell what the world's smartest terrorists want to do to better the world. They want to shoot all the government leaders who depend on diaspora remittances to keep the poorest in line.

Smart Islamofascists understand the connection between diaspora remittances, tax cheating by the richest in their countries, and the plight of the poorest. They're building coalitions with communists. The only thing that's holding them back is the communists' slowness to realize what century this is, which prevents them from modernizing communist doctrine. The rich per se are not the problem. The problem comes when the rich demand government-built infrastructures but don't want to pay their fair share in taxes to build and maintain the structures. They want the middle class and the poor to pay for them.

Western governments are studiously blind to the connection between diaspora remittances, narco states, terrorism, and the plight of the world's poorest. The US State Department (and the Bush administration) crowed about an initiative under the US-Mexico partnership, which makes it cheaper for poor Mexican immigrants working in this country to send remittances back home. Why don't they just line up Mexico's poor and shoot them? Oh but that's right, Pundita forgot! If you shoot them, you can't bleed them dry.

The US-Mexico initiative is small chips next to what China has done. They set up a program which 'encourages' Chinese working abroad to contribute a portion of their remittances to infrastructure projects in China. The Indian government wants to copy China's program (without the 'encouragements' of course) if they haven't done so already. So, the crime syndicates that have a big say in running those two countries will have even more heat taken off them when tax time comes around.

As to what would happen to Vicente Fox if he pushed to raise and enforce taxes on Mexico's richest--well, he'd have to take the same precautions that President Alvaro Uribe has had to take while standing up to Colombia's drug lords. So, okay, he'd have to live every moment as if it was his last. But this is not the chairmanship of Coca-Cola that Vicente Fox has got. He's supposed to be a national leader--a concept that implies moral and physical courage. And if he was on the level, he could get the Mexican people at this back. Once that happened, he could get the United States government squarely at this back.

But I don't wish to single out one national leader. Go down the list of governments that rely on remittances from their diaspora populations to keep their citizen unrest at bay. You see the same story again and again, whether it's Philippines, Burma, Algeria--you name it.

Education is a part of the solution; immigrants naturally want to send money back home. They need to learn in detail what their acts of generosity support, which is the very system of government that makes life in the old country Hell for their relatives. Yet the situation calls for more than palaver. It calls for Draconian measures on the part of nations that greatly profit from the cheap labor of diaspora populations.

To my knowledge there hasn't been much written recently about the issue of diaspora remittances--at least, not for the general public. That is why I recommend that Pundita readers look at two very short articles by Barbara Walker (links below). The articles are a few years old and look at remittances pretty much within the narrow context of Mexican workers in the US. But the articles are reader-friendly and a good if highly opinionated introduction to a complex subject.

The second Walker article I've listed provides a reading list for those who want to go deeper into the subject. However, I recommend that next you glance through the report from the UK Parliament House of Commons (third link below). If I recall the data is a few years old but the report is a primer on the subject of diaspora remittances. The bonus is that the report is well written and has cool charts, which at a glance can teach you a lot.

The caveat is that the Parliament report looks at everything upside down. The consensus in the development community (which the US-Mexico partnership follows) is to find ways to better use remittances to help poor countries. This is refusing to acknowledge that remittances are like methadone; they provide just enough of a cash flow fix so that corrupt/inefficient governments can avoid going after the biggest tax cheats in their country--the biggest being the crime bosses.

Once you realize what the avoidance has created for the poorest, you can see why the terrorists and radicals are building a broad platform that transcends cultural/religious boundaries. The platform is more sophisticated than the anti-globalist one because it's targeted, and more in tune with the fact that globalized business is here to stay.

Not to raise your blood pressure any more than it might rise after reading the Walker essays, but at the end of the following list is the link to a 2003 Time article on how Western Union got wildly rich off remittances. The data helps fill in some blanks.


"A bureaucrat's dream and a human being's nightmare"

Dear Reader, Pundita hopes you study the Belmont Club blogger's March 22 observations on Kofi Annan's plan to reform the United Nations. That's if you have a serious interest in helping the world's poorest and want to see the war on terror end in your lifetime. Wretchard observes in part:
In my own opinion Kofi Annan's proposals are a recipe for disaster for two reasons. His entire security model is philosophically founded on a kind of blackmail which recognizes that the only thing dysfunctional states have to export is trouble. He then sets up the United Nations as a gendarmarie with 'a human face' delivering payoffs to quell disturbances. This is the "bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries' security concerns."

Second, his model flies in the face of the recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire democratizing upheaval in the Middle East. It is by making countries functional that terrorism is quelled and not by any regime of international aid, inspections, nonproliferation treaties, declarations, protocols, conferences; nor by appointing special rapptorteurs, plenipotentiary envoys; nor constituting councils, consultative bodies or anything else in Annan's threadbare cupboard.


Monday, March 21

But Kuchma was our tyrant

Pundita! Would you stop fiddling with your sidebar! It’s driving me nuts! I went to click on the website for World Bank president and it was gone. And by the way, can we please take a vacation from talking about the World Bank? And Europe and China? We get the picture. We can’t trust the World Bank, Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine and China any further than we can throw them. Now can we please move the foreign policy discussion to someplace closer to home? What about Canada and Mexico? They’re our neighbors, you know. Also, we’ve never once discussed any country in Latin America, but now I suppose we’ll have to spend the next week discussing Kuchma’s sales of missiles to Tehran. [Signed] Not Born Yesterday in New York”

Dear NBY:

Canada and Latin American countries have not been selling weapons and weapons/dual use technology to terror sponsoring regimes. Nor to Pundita’s knowledge has any regional development bank connected with Latin America been writing loans/grants to such regimes. We’ve been prioritizing foreign policy discussion according to threats to US national security. However, Pundita takes your point. We will soon turn to discussion of our neighbors.

With regard to your comment about Kuchma, Pundita has not been doing her job properly if you automatically assume that it was Kuchma’s government that sold the missiles in question to Tehran. Yushchenko’s administration is busily working to blame everything from solar flares to male pattern baldness on Kuchma’s government.

You need to remember that at one time, Cold War warriors such as Breziznski viewed the mullacracy in Tehran as a ‘green belt’ against encroachment of the Soviets on Middle East oil. You might also want to bone up on the Iran-Contra affair. And recall the divide-and-conquer strategy favored by Washington and London, which saw the standoff between Baghdad and Tehran as very useful to keeping the rest of the Middle East in line.

Of course all that was before 9/11; US policy toward the Middle East has changed greatly since then. Yet you need to keep all the above history in mind, and keep a large salt shaker handy, when considering bombshell data that governments plop into the daily news these days.

This said, it wouldn’t surprise Pundita to learn that someone in Kuchma’s government sold some missiles. The surprise is hearing Americans sputter that Kuchma’s government was a democracy-hating tyranny of the most evil order. Then why did NATO admit Ukraine under Kuchma’s tyranny?

Kuchma was our boy; he did everything Washington wanted up to the point where he risked having Russia shut off energy supply to Ukraine. One look at US aid and World Bank loans to Ukraine during Kuchma’s years shows that he had instituted democracy reforms. He sought and gained entry for Ukraine into NATO. But one day Washington soured on Kuchma. We still don’t know why. We’ve discussed this issue before. Washington’s turn could have been due to a number of converging factors—which could include learning about the missile sales to Tehran. And there is still the accusation floating around that someone in Kuchma’s government sold weapons technology or whatever to Saddam Hussein. However, the French sold weapons to Saddam during the embargo and allegedly even after they knew the US was to invade Iraq. Doubtful that France was the only NATO ally engaged in such practice.

In any case, it's not a really a matter of trust. We can’t blame countries for acting in what they perceive is their best interest—although we can try to convince them to adopt a better set of priorities, if they’re doing weapons trade with US enemies. We need to save blame for the US Department of State, which gained far too much power during the Clinton era and combined this with dangerously uninformed views of post-Soviet Russia, oligarch clan politics in former Soviet regions, the European Community, and the Middle East entire.

With regard to your complaint, Pundita has not made changes to her sidebar for five days—a record, I believe.


Paul Wolfowitz and the Arab Problem

“Pundita, dear, the Japanese had signed off on Wolfy even before Bush formally nominated him [for World Bank president]. So what kind of president do you think he’ll make? [Signed] Boris in Jackson Heights”

Dear Boris:

At the moment of this writing it seems likely that Wolfowitz has the job but the Bank vote has not yet been cast. Unwise to underestimate Brussels in this matter because so much is at stake for them. Behind the polite response from Brussels to the Wolfowitz nomination is a battle to determine how to use the World Bank to work on the Arab Problem. The Arab Problem is not part of the US war on terror, although it intersects with it. The Arab Problem is the result of Arab migration patterns, demographics, widescale poverty, and a host of grave social problems connected with Arab culture.

Discussion of the problem has been muted in the Western press and officialdom even though it was Arabs who formally identified the problem with the publication of the first Arab survey for the United Nations. The survey was launched several months prior to 9/11 but by the time it was published, in July 2002, government leaders were loath to publicly discuss the topic because Arabs are of course Muslims.

However, President Bush did try to propose a solution to the Arab Problem, which he dubbed The Middle East Initiative. This was met with howls of “Helsinki Initiative!” from Brussels, Arab leaders egged on by Brussels, and the Cold War Warrior crowd in Washington, which wanted to keep US resources focused on making Russia into a corn patch on the map.

Amending the name to “Greater” Middle East Initiative didn’t mollify the critics. The Arab Street picked up the howls, charging that America was trying to pave over the Middle East with American culture. Thus, the Bush stab at working on the Arab Problem would have to proceed in piecemeal, tiptoe fashion instead of as a comprehensive, explicitly stated plan. That’s a shame because the Arab Problem went untended for so long and has so many facets that it’s best dealt with in coordinated fashion.

Wolfowitz understands at a deep level the Arab Problem and the Middle East. Thus, his name surfaced in Washington even before Bush’s reelection during discussion of possible candidates for next World Bank president. The question at that time was whether Bush would want to reshuffle leadership at the Department of Defense if he won reelection. And I think a lot rode on the Iraqi election. If the election process went reasonably well, then Bush could really push for Paul Wolfowitz as next World Bank president.

Official EU response to the Wolfowitz nomination has been muted, but Brussels is not happy with the nomination. As soon as the nomination was announced, a well organized ‘grassroots movement’ sprang into action in Europe to ‘pressure’ Brussels into making a strong protest to Washington about the nomination. Clearly the movement was ready to spring into action well in advance of the nomination but probably would have sprung no matter which candidate Bush announced.

The question is whether the movement, or elements of it, is concerned with promoting the Brussels view on how best to address the Arab Problem. The answer would be sheer guesswork because again Brussels has (to my knowledge) continued to avoid public discussion of the problem. But taking a shot in the dark, it might be that the plan for ending world poverty that Jeffrey Sachs outlined in his latest book indicates how Germany and France want the US to deal with the Arab Problem.

In any case, the Arab Problem is certainly worse in Arab regions that don’t have much or any petroleum resources. But it would be confusing distinct issues to apply that point to how the Bank can be used to work on the Arab Problem.

Contrary to popular perception, the Bank is not an aid organization. It’s a financial institution and a sound one. It has to remain sound if it wants Bank bonds to have a high rating because the Bank does not only finance projects through grants from member countries. To keep their credit rating high, the Bank has to get returns on their investments—in other words, they have to collect on loans they make to governments.

The worst-case countries really can’t afford to qualify for Bank loans—even with the softest repayment terms and zero interest. Those countries are best helped by outright aid. Yet it seems Brussels wants to remake the Bank into more of an aid organization. That trend got seriously underway during Wolfensohn’s tenure; the Bank has made outright grants. That’s like trying to make your electric blender into a bread toaster. The World Bank can raise big loan amounts just because it’s a financial institution with a good credit rating. If you mess with the formula, you undercut or even destroy the Bank’s capacity to make big-ticket loans.

Post-Ba’athist Iraq, which of course is situated in the Middle East proper, is a perfect candidate for the classic big-ticket IBRD model of development and reconstruction, which does best at helping countries that have fallen backward. Years of Ba’athist rule, which included a long war with Iran, left the country’s infrastructure in ruins even before the US bombing campaign. Yet because Iraq has large oil reserves, they can be expected to make timely repayments on big Bank loans. And because Iraq manifests all the problems that have been noted with other Arab countries, the World Bank could, in theory, make fast inroads on the Arab Problem by lavishing loans of all kinds on Iraq.

If you take the darkest view of Brussels, which is that they are bent on destroying US power in the world, it’s easy to read dark motives into what is surely their lukewarm support for rebuilding Iraq with Bank loans. However, the bottom line is that Brussels is trying to find money to build up the EU military and tend to the many administrative expenses of running the European Union. There might be no immediate payoff for Germany and France in supporting big loans to Iraq because the two Euro nations stood on the wrong side of history on the matter of Bush’ plan to deal with the Iraqi Ba’athist regime. The Iraqi government will remember that when it comes time to okay contractors for big Bank projects--unless Germany and France greatly extend themselves to be helpful to Iraq, which to my knowledge they haven’t yet done.

Does all this mean that Wolfy at the helm of the Bank would result chiefly in a flurry of loans to Iraq? His diplomatic stint in Indonesia, core beliefs, and understanding of the Arab Problem suggest otherwise. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. Because America is at war Brussels has cards to play. Washington’s priorities do not place the World Bank or the Arab Problem at the top of their To-do list. So now, we wait.


Still Waiting for Pasha

“I am writing to respond to your essay “The Emperor is Naked.” You should visit Iran. I assure you we have running water there. We even have modern cities just like those in America. Most Iranians love democracy and America. We don’t love the Western arrogance and condescension that your viewpoint represents. [Unsigned]”

Dear Unsigned:

Pundita’s regular readers know that she takes poetic license when steamed. But clearly Pundita is slipping if you mistook insults for condescension, so let me rephrase. You say you have modern cities like those in America. Show me the city in America where the residents gather 100,000 strong to watch the stoning death of children. Show me that city.

Pundita has met people in a remote region in Asia who live in caves and wear animal skins. They are just a few steps up from the Stone Age but they have more civilization in their social customs than the Iranians. So what does it matter if German engineers showed you how to make water run? You’d be just as well off drinking from a stream.

Iranians do not “love” democracy. They covet democracy, in the way a pasha covets an expensive bauble. Others have it, so why can’t you? You’re waiting for the whole package and if your leaders won’t give it to you, you’ll keep looking for a leader who will. That’s why Iranian students find nothing strange about prancing around in American jeans and discussing American cinema, then writing up a petition as their response to barbaric tribal customs including stoning deaths of children for the crime of nothing at all. They’re waiting for the democracy bauble to arrive, as if possession of this gem will purge them of tolerance for barbarism and restore conscience and dignity to their society.

You tell Pundita that most Iranians love Americans. Most Iranians don’t know Americans. Once you get to know us, I guarantee you’re not going to like us because we represent the inverse of the Pasha mindset, which is still entrenched in your part of the world.

Boiled down, the Pasha mindset is “Only slaves and women take out the garbage.”

In one sentence the American mindset is “Do it yourself.”

That’s the real reason the Persians had contempt for the Greeks, particularly by the time of Alexander’s era. They saw him running around taking soil samples and making notes and said to each other, “Only slaves and paid retainers work up a brain sweat. Real men write poetry and command others to do their bidding.”

Now in the old days, it wasn’t like that. Persian kings tilled their own field and busted their brains figuring out how to repair a plough. Then along came the 900 Lazy Bastards, who always appear on cue when a large group of humans show a spark of collective intelligence.

So it came down to a day in 1985, when Pundita met a German who earned money on his annual vacation by driving a German-made van from Germany to Nepal. His route took him through a part of Iran. He told me that the villagers were starving and praying for the return of the Shah’s son. Last year I recounted the story to an Iranian expat. He told me, “I’ve got news for you. The villagers are still starving and still praying for the return of the Shah’s son.”

Still waiting for pasha, after all those years.


Thursday, March 17

The Kaiser Soze model of democracy

Pundita is only halfway through embroidering a sampler of the following quotes for hanging above the fireplace. My apology to The Scotsman newspaper and Jim Cusak for breaking protocol by posting lengthy quotes from their piece . I hope they'll forgive me this one time, in honor of the day and the gravity of the article's implications.

The quotes speak volumes about where democracy is headed in small countries in these days of globalized crime syndicates, if citizens don't keep a very close watch. Supporters of 'managed' democracy revolution please take note of which century this is. The days are long past when only a handful of wealthy governments could afford to stage-manage the overthrow of governments in small countries.

It's a good thing the bank robbers overlooked that it's not possible to launder tens of millions of stolen bank notes in a small country, else the police might not have discovered the larger scheme.
Members of the Garda [Ireland's police] Special Branch, Fraud and Criminal Assets Bureau had just launched its biggest ever set of raids on the offices of accountants, solicitors and finance companies across the country, looking for documents linked to offshore accounts, property deals, business ownerships and money transactions estimated to run into hundreds of millions of euros.

Ostensibly linked to the search for the £26.5m [$39m] stolen recently in Belfast, in reality the raids were about something more. There is said to be a massive amount of financial activity, ranging from pubs to trading corporations, situated in countries outside the EU in order to avoid the scrutiny of EU financial regulations. And they all have one thing in common: they are linked to the IRA.

The amounts involved were evidently for a purpose far beyond personal enrichment. There is now a belief that the finance operation uncovered is intended to fund a massive campaign to subvert politics in the Republic of Ireland, undermining its political parties and institutions. Gardai now talk in apocalyptic terms. The scheme is, they say, the IRA’s banking system to be used to overthrow the government of Ireland.

A key part of the grandiose plan was the subverting of Sinn Fein’s political opposition. The IRA is in the process of building a black propaganda campaign to attack members of the Irish parliament and other elected representatives. Across the country, the IRA has been spying on members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Progressive Democrats. Units of IRA volunteers, under the guise of Sinn Fein "activists", have been building up dossiers on members of opposing political parties.

This information is to be used to destroy the careers of politicians and public figures at key points in the run-up to the next Irish general election, in which Sinn Fein hopes to establish itself as a major presence in the Dail.

Gardai and Irish army intelligence believe the leadership of the Provisionals has decided it has completed its strategic project in Northern Ireland, having overthrown the SDLP to become the biggest nationalist party, and has now turned its attention to its grand plan of taking power in the Republic. Within republican circles this project is referred to as the "re-conquest of the south".

This project requires hundreds of millions of euros to pay for the small army of activists of all shades, ranging from the local "community" workers to high-flying financiers handling the organisation’s money

The truth has finally dawned on Bertie Ahern’s government that, rather than be content with a political agreement that would have seen Sinn Fein in a Stormont Executive in the north, the Provisionals were intent on an altogether bigger prize.

-- 02/20/05 article, "IRA's dirty cash funds power grab," The Scotsman.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.

In case you missed the details of the heist:

How the money laundering scheme unraveled:

The Scotsman piece quoted above:


Wednesday, March 16

Kofi Annan and Jeffrey Sachs hissing mad

"If you can't have Eliot Spitzer as World Bank President, will Paul Wolfowitz do? Sachs went through the roof over Wolfy's nomination. Looks like Kofi Annan, Time magazine and Jeffrey Sachs failed to head off Bush at the pass. Maybe Bush got more than Bolton in exchange for sacrificing "two knights, a bishop and rook."
[Signed] Chicago Dan

Dear Dan:

Yes, this has been a bad month for the Mercantile School of foreign policy. But if what you're implying is true, think what that means. The World Bank and the United Nations were supposed to be US foreign policy instruments. While Americans were sound asleep, the Franco-German alliance in the European Union walked off with them. If Bush felt the need to agree to back the EU's offer of concessions to Tehran in exchange for muted resistance to the Bolton and Wolfowitz nominations, that would show how much ground the US lost during the past 15 years.

However, there shouldn't be too much resistance to Wolfowitz, if European and Japanese big-ticket contractors stop and think it through. Iraq needs a lot of reconstruction and development--and not penny-ante projects. They need to rebuild the entire country. With Wolfowitz at the Bank's helm, it's guaranteed that big-ticket Bank loans for infrastructure projects will flow in great number to Iraq.

That's the kind of work the World Bank loan model was created for. And because Iraq will soon be filthy rich from oil revenues, they can be expected not to default on the loan payments. So the Half a Bridge rule would not apply to Iraq. The Bank would lend enough money so that the projects would be top-quality.

Once the Iranians see what's going on in Iraq with Bank construction and development, they will be green with envy. In that event, all they have to do is get rid of their Taliban-syle government and give up the nuke program, and they can get in on the bonanza.

As for the hundreds of millions of the poorest in African countries--as Pundita has observed many times, the Bank was not set up to be an aid organization. Clean up the Bank and let it do what it was designed to do. The Bank can help, but rely primarily on other organizations, including USAID, to rescue the poorest.

As for Annan, that buzzard is lucky he's still got his job. He should chalk up the win to Bush over the matter of Wolfowitz.

As for the Merchantile School, Shaheen Fatemi of the American University in Paris has some choice words for the Brussels crowd in his essay Whose Side is Europe On?

Let's hope Secretary Rice sees Dr. Fatemi's essay and takes special note of the subtext in his observation:
In the collective memory of the Iranian people the images of European leaders happily and proudly posing in pictures with the criminal leaders of the Islamic Republic are bitter souvenirs for the future.
With an eye to the future, there should be fewer concessions to Brussels. It's not only the eyes of Iranians that are upon us. The whole world is watching to see if we will stand behind our fine words about democracy.


Courtiers and Indentured Servitude

Dear Pundita, May I ask why you omitted the Second Rule of Foreign Policy from the list of essays on development? The list you put up on your home page? You brought out very important points in the essay. I think it should be included in the list. Also, I suggest you talk a little about the realities for the expats who work at the World Bank. That would help people understand why there's so much waste and inefficiency connected with Bank projects and why the Bank resists an external audit.
[Signed] Kumar in Bethesda

Dear Kumar:

We didn't put that essay on the sidebar because we forgot to do it. Thank you for the reminder; Pundita has corrected the oversight. Yes it might be a help, if Americans outside the international organization 'community' based in Washington, DC learn what happens to non-American Bank employees if they get fired. I forget how many days or hours they have to leave the USA, but they don't have much time to take their children out of school, collect all their belongings, and return to their own country.

If that brings forth, "Aw too bad" from American readers--well, how would you like to live with the thought that if you get fired from your job in the USA that means having to put your child in school in some place such Pakistan? And not in an 'enclave' school reserved for American children of diplomats and other Americans working there.

I'm not trying to elicit your sympathy but to convey why "Don't rock the boat" is the operating philosophy for World Bank employees. Most of the employees are not American and many are from LDCs--less developed countries, or what used to be called the Third World. If they screw up in their work or get on the wrong side of a Bank higher-up, it's back to wherever they came from. That place is usually a far cry from the safety and freedom that Americans enjoy.

The Bank looks after their employees well--great health benefits, and so on. But working for the Bank is a form of indentured servitude; it's a Golden Cage. And if you work at Bank headquarters in the USA, you're not free to tell the boss to go to hell then quit your job--not unless you want to lose everything you've built up in America.

This reality has created a culture inside the Bank that evokes to remarkable degree the courts of ancient imperial dynasties. This extends to the highly ritualized labyrinthian Bank language used in memorandums and reports. It's courtier language. The idea is to ensure that what you say is so hard to pin down that the ax can't find your head.

That culture doesn't make for reflexive responses to problems, which doesn't mean the Bank can't be reflexive. The World Bank has so much power, wealth and expertise that when the will is there, the Bank can move against a problem with awesome speed and efficiency. The hard part is getting the will to that point.

Very few people get fired from the Bank just because of the situation I outlined. But that means supporting a lot of bad job performance, a bloated workforce, and it means a work culture built on fear. If you justifiably fear speaking up at your job when you see things that are really wrong, what kind of organization can you expect to see evolve from a culture of fear?


Democracy Stage Show Kit

The stage-managed Orange Revolution in Ukraine was a product of what could be called the Democracy Stage Show Kit. The kit comes complete with instructions on how to stage civil disobedience, how to use the media, and coaching on how to line up your talking points. The basic kit is not new. It's as old as big money buying mobs. In the modern era the kit was refined by Western governments and used to peel some former Soviet regions from the Kremlin's influence.

A problem with the kit (aside from the question of whether it's really a democratic revolution if a foreign government is behind it) is that it doesn't teach how democratic rule is administered. The problem is easily solved if the democracy revolution is stage managed by a powerful democratic foreign government. Such governments have the money and expertise to throw in after the revolution phase. They can teach the leaders how set up a real democratic government. When that situation is not the case, there's nothing more untidy than gaining the palace then having to ask each other, "Now what do we do?"

With that thought, it might be helpful if someone published, Democratic Government During the First Hundred Days for Dummies. To Pundita's knowledge, the Democracy Stage Show Kit is not yet available for sale on the Internet--not as a package for $294.95 plus shipping and handling. Yet things are approaching that point; there are now organizations (ostensibly) independent of any national government that will advise any movement worldwide calling themselves democracy advocates on how to confront their non-democratic government.

On paper, that's not such a bad idea--provided foreign government influence can be kept out of the confrontation process. Yet there is an insidious drawback to the packaging of democratic revolution, which works greatly against real democracy.

That people in a democracy have the right to stage mass protests is not the same as saying that mass protests are a demonstration of democratic government. They're demonstrating a benefit of such government. Yet many people who use the Democracy Stage Show Kit are not clear on the fact that democratic government requires the rule of law, not the rule of a crowd.--and that democracy demands increased personal responsibility on the part of the self-governed.

These two concepts--rule of law and personal responsibility--are strikingly absent in the sales pitch for the Democracy Stage Show Kit. What you hear most in the pitch is "freedom." People are encouraged to seek more freedom. But freedom is not free. It's a tremendous responsibility, which imposes considerable discipline on the individual and takes up much time.

That's just why dictators keep being returned to power. After the glow of a stage-managed democracy revolution wears off, the populace realizes how much work and responsibility it entails to make democracy work. Thus, many become willing to make a tradeoff between freedom and free time. They go looking for a hardworking fool to take on the burden of governing responsibility--preferably, a benevolent fool.

This impulse doesn't stem so much from laziness as from the need to conserve energy. Those who labor 12 hours a day in fields, coal mines and factories don't have much energy left over for the task of self-governance. But of course there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator when push comes to shove.

Thus, the conundrum. One might characterize the 20th Century as the era in which democracy won the argument about which form of government is best. The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect to have good government.

This argument is not easy for the developed nations to make. The majority in advanced countries have labor-saving devices and disposable income, which allow them to conserve enough energy to spend on activities that go beyond eking out an existence. So they have enough energy for the task of participating in the work of government, which democracy demands. Large swaths of humanity still don't have much energy beyond tending to survival basics. That means it's easy for them to hope that a benevolent dictator is a bearable compromise between lack of freedom and physical exhaustion.

Humanity will work through the conundrum; we have no choice, given our current population and where the figure is headed. Democracy is not only the best form of government in terms of protecting human rights, it's also the only workable form of government in the era of huge human populations. We have simply passed the era when a small elite could be counted on to properly manage the problems of governing a populace. It takes large numbers of people to efficiently govern populations that run into the hundreds of millions.

But you can't have responsibility for governing without attendant authority. Thus, the authority of the elite must be shared with the majority of the citizenry. That's what democracy does: it confers authority on the people along with the responsibility for government.

Today, and in country after country, the elite running non-democratic governments are simply overwhelmed with the everyday problems of managing hundreds of millions of people. The other side of the coin is that those millions can be too exhausted to undertake the weighty, time-consuming responsibility of choosing good government representatives and overseeing them.

Technology is one part of the solution. Satellite-linked town halls, computerized voting, talk radio stations in rural areas, and other technologies can reduce the amount of physical labor it takes for citizens to participate in government. Yet the technology is wasted, if the people using it are not clear on the nature and operation of democratic government.

So another part of the solution is education. That's the problem with kits. They don't teach the fundamentals--they're not meant to be educational; they're meant to be used. The Democracy Stage Show Kit doesn't teach the principles of the democracy gizmo and how to put the gizmo together and keep it working. Chanting "Freedom!" and flashing the "V" sign is no help to understanding the system and operations of democratic governance.

Unless more people learn how the democracy gizmo works, they will continue in the counterproductive practice of relying on an elite to make democracy work for them. Hello, that practice is obsolete, given our population number. Today, when the elite screw up, they can climb into their helicopter and fly away. The millions left behind have to clean up the mess. Flashing the "V" sign at it generally doesn't work.


Tuesday, March 15

Finger of Shame

The author of The Glittering Eye website wrote Pundita to inform her that he'd added her thoughts to his roundup of blogosphere opinions about Jeffery Sachs's ideas for ending the worst poverty. The roundup is interesting because it shows quite a range of thoughtful opinion and provides some good source material for those wishing to go more deeply into the subject.

The Glittering Eye author also published praise for Pundita's blog, which will greatly please the team when I read it to them at our next policy meeting. Here we must take a moment to correct the author's guess that Pundita is an American female residing in the United Kingdom. Pundita is an American female who resides so close to Ground Zero that our commuting route was shut down by the 9/11 bombing of the Pentagon. We live a short Metro ride from downtown Washington, DC and the Pentagon. So as with all Washingtonians, Pundita is very heavily invested in the successful outcome of the war on terror.

I also note that the author indicated he had just begun to plumb the essays on Pundita's blogspot and thus could only give his readers his initial impression. He noted that Pundita's focus is "foreign affairs with a special concentration on international development."

Pundita's essays on development are in the manner of playing Dutch Aunt. The first time I heard about Barnett's Core & Non-integrating Gap thesis I blurted, "The Core is everyone who knows how the World Bank works. That leaves Americans and Arctic penguins to fill the Non-integrating Gap."

Amazon chieftains wearing nothing but feathers know more about the workings of the World Bank and the IMF than Americans. That's why I have written about development policy--not because I have a particular interest in the topic but because the system of development banks and what they've created is a piece of the puzzle that more Americans need. That's in order to gain a clear picture of today's world outside US shores and how US foreign policy intersects with it. The World Bank is not only a bank, it's also an instrument of US policy. But while nobody in America was paying close attention, some bright souls outside our shores said, "Wait a minute. If they can do it, we can do it."

So the situation today is akin to a favorite plot vehicle of horror movies. She wakes in the dark and nudges hubby: Dear, there's something in the room with us. Nah, it's just the house settling. Shhhsh; did you hear a floorboard creak? All right we can settle this by turning on a light.

African Development Bank
Asian Development Bank
Brazilian Development Bank
Caribbean Development Bank
Central American Bank for Economic Integration
Council of Europe Development Bank
Development Bank of Singapore
Economic Development Corp. of Goa
Eastern & South African Development Bank
European Bank for Reconstruction & Development
Hungarian Development Bank
Inter-American Development Bank
Islamic Development Bank
Korea Development Bank
National Development Bank of Sri Lanka
Nordic Development Bank
North American Development Bank
Russian Regional Development Bank
World Bank Group (IBRD, IDA & related)
I've gotten tired of adding to this list

For added scare effect I didn't separate the regional development banks from the multilaterals--the ones that lend to entire regions around the globe. And the mix helps illustrate the rise of regionalism and its challenge to the policies of the multilateral institutions.

So when critics talk about reforming the World Bank, they're treating the Bank as if it operates in a vacuum. And when they talk about reforming the International Monetary Fund, what about the Arab Monetary Fund? And what about Citibank and other commercial banks that follow in the wake of the development banks like sharks follow the wake of an ocean liner?

It's not only the development banks that lend to the poorest governments. If there's even a hint that a poor country can be mined for a valuable natural resource, the commercial banks throw loan money at the government. That's after they see that a MDB (multilateral development bank) is willing to risk writing loans to whatever dictator or junta controls the resource.

Regionalism has meant that the World Bank is not as effective a US policy instrument as it used to be. Governments have gotten good at playing one development bank against another to squeeze out more loans. And they've set up regional banks that resist multilateral policies.

Meanwhile, the development bank system set in motion conditions that at best treat only the symptoms of the worst poverty in the LDCs (less developed countries) and at worst, created horrors that almost defy description.

The tragic irony is that the horrors during more recent decades arose from well-thought projects. It's just that the planners overlooked a few factors that only emerged on their radar after the disaster struck.

Truly, if you want to play God, you need to consider an awful lot of factors when it comes to project planning and execution. That's what the Bank economist meant when he told me the Bank is proof that you can't fix anything in this world without breaking something, somewhere down the line. So you have to be really, really smart about how much breakage you'll allow and how to manage it.

It's possible that Jeffrey Sachs has the idea of circumventing the mechanism of development bank loans or least greatly supplementing them with outright aid. Without having read his book (or even the Time excerpt) I'm guessing he's envisioning a kind of global Manhattan Project to eradicate the worst poverty. But then the problem becomes, who runs the project?

This problem arose during US relief to the tsunami victims. The Indian government told the US, "Thanks but no thanks" because they saw the offer as an attempt by the US to gain more influence in India and make bereft Indians into poster children for American largesse.

Then an Indian Yogini who lives in a literal backwater peeled off 20 million dollars to throw into the relief pot for Indian victims. What she pulled out of her pocket is peanuts in India. There are temples in India that take in one million dollars a day. It's nothing for many Indians to blow a million bucks on a wedding. Stop and think how much money that translates to in rupees, and how far a rupee goes in India.

As for China--have you ever seen Shanghai? That's Bling Bling City. Last season an Amazing Race team had to beg on the streets in Shanghai as part of a game penalty. They made so much money so fast, one team member said she was returning to Shanghai to beg full time after the show ended. It's nothing for large numbers of Chinese to walk into car dealerships and plunk down the full price of an expensive imported car.

As for poor Africa--there's so much money sloshing around Africa you don't even want to think about it. So if you really want to know how to help the poorest of the world, Pundita will tell. The way is to stop making an industry out of helping the poorest. The way is to treat people as if they're people not much different from you.

What do you do, if you see someone in your neighborhood not lifting a finger to help with a much-needed community project? You point the finger of shame, isn't it so? You ask them, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you help?" And you don't take excuses.

As soon as poor Indian villagers hook up with talk radio, they start pointing the finger of shame right and left at greedy, corrupt officials in their village. That's how they get projects done--and without the money for the projects being ripped off.

Even 10 years ago, it was not possible to apply this time-honored method toward getting people in LDCs to show more heart toward each other. Today, with the Internet, satellite TV and talk radio, it's easy to point the finger of shame.

That's what Jeffrey Sachs is trying to do: point the finger of shame at America and the West about the horrible plight of Africa's poorest. But....what's wrong with the Africans? Do they lack a gene that renders the richest among them incapable of turning out their pockets to help their own poorest? Only when a World Bank official is around.

Now let's back up and take a closer look at the Amazing Race team begging in Bling Bling City. They were begging with a cameraman in tow. So of course Chinese lined up to be filmed giving money to begging Americans.

Human nature. Amazing thing about it is that it's the same for all. Time to stop treating peoples in the poorest countries as if they're a different species. That doesn't mean halting all development projects and aid. It means shifting much more responsibility for development and aid back to where the responsibility belongs. It also means ceasing to use aid as a foreign policy instrument.