Sunday, March 31, 2013


It is March and everyone in this part of the world is waiting for the cold gray to withdraw and the earth to give way to green. As temperatures begin to warm and the mood begins to shift, there is hope that a desperately needed change in other aspects of life will also follow. To hope is but human, but in the current climate to expect, seems foolish. Someone once said, the measure of one's success is how well one deals with disappointments. It seems as though humanity has become accustomed to dealing with disappointments very well.

No matter where you turn, there seems to be a condition of stalemate. A recent report about the two year long civil war in Syria stated that the pace of killing there had surpassed Iraq. The conflict has claimed 70,000 lives in half the time. The world waits for "red lines" to be crossed for intervention, while the slaughter continues unabated. When all is set and done, the world will look back and wish it had intervened earlier to stop the killing. Much like Rawanda, the postmortem would be painful and unfortunately it is already much too late for many.

Stalemate in Washington D.C., seems to be the norm. Political bickering and partizan jockeying has resulted in a congress that has reached its highest level of dysfunction. Nothing gets done and the chances of anything concrete happening get more and more distant. The sequestration is taking its toll on essential services and the people in power don't seem to care. Decisions to reign in the out of control deficit are far from being reached. Its been barely three months since children were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut and any meaningful legislation on gun violence has all but withered away. A ban on assault weapons, the kind that was used in the horrific tragedy, which President Obama promised would be the cornerstone of his gun control reform, has all but vanished from the debate. More time and energy is being spent in hearing and rehashing the age old debate over same-sex marriage than on issues that really matter to the larger public.

North Korea seems to be using its bull horn again to rile up a giant. Angered by the punishing sanctions that prevent its elite from indulging in open debauchery while its citizens starve, Pyongyang has unleashed bellicose rhetoric threatening America and its regional partners with nuclear war. By shredding the Armistice agreement they have effectively returned the two Koreas to a state of war. In response America flew its nuclear bombers to the peninsula in mock drills to send a message that open threats will not be taken lightly. Whether this would just be another North Korean high wire act or a real cause for concern, only time will tell. The stalemate continues as the world has not found a meaningful way to engage this secluded nation that has taken its own people hostage for four generations now.

In Pakistan, it is election season once again. In May, for the first time in its history, Pakistan completes a full term of its democratically elected parliament and president. No one is rejoicing or celebrating this achievement. In the 66 years of its existence, Pakistan has seen extreme political upheaval. Assassinations, military coups, terrorism and sectarian wars have scarred the nation to despair. Pakistan as a result hinges on becoming a failed state with nuclear weapons, and therefore has become the most dangerous place on earth in the estimation of many security experts. The current party in power, like its predecessors, has enriched itself to the hilt. President Zardari, who once spent time in prison for corruption, recently built a bomb proof mansion for himself and his son on 25 acres of land outside Lahore. With sprawling lawns that can hold 10,000 people behind 13 foot reinforced concrete walls and a basement swimming pool, the mansion is his latest addition to a corrupt legacy. While most ordinary citizens deal with rampant inflation, acute power shortages and live in fear of sectarian violence and suicide bombers, the ruling class continues its record of profiteering and mismanagement of the state. As the much maligned previous president and dictator Parvez Musharraf returns to his homeland to take part in the elections, there is very little hope that much is going to change in Pakistan. The stalemate and status-quo is bound to continue.

In neighboring India things are better, but rampant corruption undermines everything that could be desirable. The dynastic politics at the top spearheaded by the Gandhi family, is the source of all corruption and dysfunction in the system. The family tightly controls the reigns of power by making despicable deals with nefarious factions to hold on to power. Making sure that Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi stay at the helm at any cost. Much like his father, Rahul Gandhi is being groomed to be Prime Minister, but has very little talent to show for it. His brother-in-law Robert Vadra, has become a political liability by being mired in one corruption scandal after another. Yet he continues to enjoy a close relationship with the family. As long as the political establishment in India revolves around this family, progress in India will be stunted. An alternative has not emerged, therefore the stalemate continues and the prospects do not look promising at all. In a recent study it was found that only 2.5% of Indian's pay income tax. And only 42,800 people declared an income over 10 million rupees ($184,000). The Indian finance minister finds these figures "laughable". Today, India buys more Rolls Royces, Mercedes Benzes and other luxury items than most nations. This is an indication of the corruption that is plaguing the country today. While indicators such as poverty and education show marginal improvement, India is poised to become the fourth largest military power in the world by the end of the decade. The private sector does what it can to move the country forward, but when the ruling class is made up of criminals, there is only so far a nation can progress.

President Obama visited Israel and Palestine this month. Grand speeches and hand shakes were on full display. With loud applause and some heckling, President Obama, like six presidents before him, talked about the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland as citizens and not a caged people. The two state solution was again reaffirmed and rebroadcasted as the final solution to a final problem. The reality on the ground clearly shows a different picture. The two state solution idea seems to have long left the station. The Israeli settlements have all but ravaged and raped Palestinian lands and show no signs of stopping. A wall that clearly imprisons a people continues to expand. The Palestinian people are divided into two states and the only solution they see is a one state one. Therefore the stalemate promises to continue and the plight of the Palestinian people grows even more uncertain and dire, and the moral character of a democratic nation called Israel sinks even lower.

In Kenya a new president was elected. After a heavily disputed election, Uhuru Kenyatta - a man who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity - was affirmed president by the Supreme Court. An election that was largely fought along sectarian lines and narrowly won by Uhuru Kenyatta proved that Kenya had not healed from its last ordeal. The last disputed election that took place in 2007 saw thousands of people murdered due to tribal animosity and allegiances. According to the ICC Uhuru Kenyatta was one of the men who orchestrated some of the bloodshed. Now that he is president, he is requesting the charges to be dropped. For the time being his opponent Raila Odinga has accepted defeat and agreed to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court. But a stalemate hangs over, and that could boil over into violence and carnage at any given time.

Another European nation had to be bailed out this month. Cyprus which had all but lost its banks, was rescued by the European Union and the IMF with a 10 billion euro hand out. Some think Cyprus was blackmailed into taking the hand out at the cost of some serious hardship to its citizens. Who's next is anyone's guess as the experiment known as the European Union continues to unravel at its seams.

As the new Pope called for global peace and reconciliation in his Easter message, some in the Vatican Square and else where looked up and applauded. In the real world, the idea of real peace hung in the balance as usual. Maintained by force, like in Northern Mali and by deterrence as in the Korean peninsula, peace in some places is a complicated entity to have. As the honeymoon with the new Pope is in full swing, there is an expectation of change. But not much is likely to change, as change disrupts order. Catholicism and the Vatican survive on conservative values, catering to a base that looks up to it for the continuation of those standards. How much it will swing to bring more people into its fold, is any ones guess.

So as the world turns and seasons change, there is hope that there will be a movement towards amend, away from a condition of stalemate to a resolution of consequence. For those who suffer as a result of no action or action that is not desirable, hope in the future or in some abstraction is the only place for solace. That is what it is.