his latest incisive critique of US foreign intervention, Texas Rep. Ron Paul takes aim
at a pseudo-governmental organization, one that's sinister insofar as
it appears benign the National Endowment
for Democracy. Charges Rep. Paul,
NED is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds
to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the
NED does in foreign countries, through its recipient organizations the
National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican
Institute (IRI), would be rightly illegal in the United States. The
NED injects 'soft money' into the domestic elections of foreign countries
in favor of one party or the other. Imagine what a couple of hundred
thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in
a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call
US manipulation of foreign elections 'promoting democracy.' How would
Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support
certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as
a democratic development?"
Oversees These Interventionist Institutions?
NED, of course, sees things otherwise. On its website, the NED publishes
a long-winded, self-congratulatory
history, and describes itself as being
by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration that can
be realized through the development of democratic institutions, procedures,
and values. Governed by an independent, nonpartisan board of directors,
the NED makes hundreds of grants each year to support pro-democracy
groups in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America,
and the Middle East."
"independence" of the board is quite extraordinary, considering that
it consists of powerful establishment figures like Republican "super-lobbyist"
Vin Weber, Bush fave Sen. Bill Frist,
neocon ideologues such as Francis Fukuyama and bellicose
religioso Michael Novak,
not to mention neophyte presidential candidate Wesley
Clark and that perennial
Balkan bore, Richard
like the NDI and IRI are similarly manned. The IRI directors' board is headed by Sen.
John McCain, and includes notables such as Brent Scowcroft, Lawrence
Eagleburger and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Representatives of heavy corporate
lobbyists are also represented, for example, the head of Lockheed Martin's
missile defense program,
Alison Fortier. Another one is Robert Kimmit, executive
VP of AOL
Time Warner which has, incidentally enough, given over
$32,000 since 1999 to that champion of "campaign finance reform,"
Sen. John McCain.
NDI's leadership is numerically greater but appears somewhat less
robust. Its board is a graveyard of failed presidential candidates,
including the likes of Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro, Michael Dukakis,
Bill Bradley and (though he'd be loath to admit it) Dick Gephardt. On
the other hand, the NDI does have one very formidable dark horse in
its chairman the terrifying Madeleine Albright.
What more need be said?
NED Mischief: Elections in the Caucasus
latest challenge for this bunch is policing the upcoming elections in
Azerbaijan and Georgia. For the last few weeks, the intervention-friendly
Eurasianet.org has had the words "Choice
2003" plastered on its home page. But whose choice is it?
the Azeri election, there've been some comic moments, for example a
breathy dispatch from the typically hysterical
Human Rights Watch, demanding that authorities investigate a catfight
between local and imported feminist groups and "voter educators." However,
that election is here (October 15th), and less interesting than the
one slated for two weeks later, in little Georgia.
fervent American love affair is waning. Last month, the US
cut financial aid to the government, following similar
actions by the IMF and World Bank, and is now training and cheering
on the opposition. Simultaneously, the crusading Transparency International has accused
the government of corruption.
a US delegation
sent by the NDI, which included IRI head McCain, former Joint Chiefs
of Staff head John Shalikashvili and former Deputy State Secretary Strobe
down on Georgia, pressuring opposition politicians, government incumbents
and election officials alike. Their message was dutifully
broadcast by the NDI, which promises that the upcoming election
will be big fun that is, "a critical test for the country's democratization."
the elections are held in a free and fair manner," Georgia will achieve
"…greater political stability and will more easily integrate into the
community of democracies." However, the NDI warns,
these elections fail to meet Georgia's domestic legal requirements and
its international commitments to hold genuinely democratic elections,
the country's representative institutions will face a crisis of confidence,
and Georgia will suffer a serious blow to its international standing."
Georgians dare protest? According to Eurasianet.org, the Georgian newspaper
Dilis Gazeti last week pondered:
McCain clearly wants to teach democracy to all the (former Soviet) republics
by using Georgia as a visual aid…
first glance we should take pride in this… but in effect it is quite
regrettable because, if we do not live up to US expectations, the full
force of the only superpower's righteous wrath will fall upon us."
Bottom Line: Hardball Tactics
the situation is this: the US has gotten tired of the Shevardnadze government.
It seems too Russia-friendly, especially after the August takeover of Georgia's
electric company by the Russian EES who purchased it for $150 million
from an American company (AES), which is generally fleeing the region
and may sell its assets in Kazakhstan and Ukraine to EES also.
a big chunk ($35 million) of the now-frozen aid package had been dedicated
to electricity sector work, and was supposed to be funneled back into
the managing American firm, PA Consulting. However, this company had
arguments with regional authorities and now claims it never received
aid to Georgia, and getting the IMF and World Bank to do the same, the
US has interrupted economic projects, wreaked havoc with budget-planning,
and in general helped the opposition to stir up unrest. Not that this
Bipolarity in a Unipolar World
of its own indisputable hegemony has led the US and its policy
makers to claim a unipolar destiny. Indeed, the belligerent neocons
have been demanding
this for years. Now, an unaccountable US holds other nations up
to impossible standards. This is a major reason why America is hated abroad.
while it may be dead, history can be resurrected. Wherever possible,
the US tries to impose models of bipolarity miniature versions of the
former US-USSR stalemate. This ensures that suppliant states remain
stuck in their own petty rivalries. Oftentimes, it also ensures that
they will need to purchase (from the US) heavy armaments to wage their
own Cold Wars.
bipolarity is fostered even within the countries in question. The NED
and similar outfits are keen to aid "opposition" parties, when it is
judged that they can eventually take power. As a power broker, the US
likes to buy influence. By helping opposition candidates against strong
incumbents, groups like the NDI and IRI basically purchase them.
for example, Macedonia. Its 2001 civil war was started
by Kosovo-trained Albanian insurrectionists allegedly fighting for ethnic
equality. While the US claimed
to be supporting the Macedonian government, overwhelming examples
of political, diplomatic and even covert military aid to the rebels indicated
otherwise. The US was playing both sides,
to ensure that neither
would win a satisfactory victory, as happened repeatedly during
Yugoslavia's wars. America thus became the vital "third party," the dispassionate
arbitrator who could, with deep feeling and magnanimity, lead the
country to ethnic harmony, human rights, and
even democracy by aiding specific political parties, babysitting
ethnic spats, and sponsoring insipid children's
happening now in Georgia, the 2002 elections saw the IMF freeze donations to Macedonia.
Political interference came from the NED and other groups such
as Transparency International. Their efforts helped elect the opposition
Social Democrats, and their multi-ethnic partners, the Albanian Democratic
Union for Integration (led by former terrorist leader Ali Ahmeti) a
coalition amenable to American interests.
it'd been widely predicted beforehand that the SDSM-DUI ticket would
win; they clearly didn't need Western help. Yet by donating to their
campaign, America could ensure that the new government would be in its
years after the war, relations between Albanians and Macedonians have
not improved. But you wouldn't know it from the bland whitewashing of
the US and other "international community" bodies in Macedonia. Claiming
to desire a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic future for Macedonia, they
are well aware that this country will always remain bipolar.
hasn't had any unrest from its numerous other minorities. In fact, they
aren't even included when important "arbitration" needs to be conducted;
the problem is always only with the Albanians. As recent protests from high
school students show, the Macedonian reality is one of a dualistic
ethnic divide that appears, to
delicate Western eyes, utterly barbaric, ugly and sub-human. Painting
the natives as unenlightened savages is especially useful, considering
so-called "confidence builders" can't, and frankly don't want to
NDI's Kosovo Whitewash
up this reality is done chiefly through whitewashing. Take, for example,
the testimony of former NDI Kosovo director Scott David Bates, in an
October 2002 interview carried out by imagine that! the US Government.
Bates paints a
rosy picture of democracy in Kosovo, that "fairly successful" international
mission to which KFOR troops have brought "order and stability."
interview, Bates discusses his 2001 work with Kosovo political parties
and the OSCE in the run-up to Kosovo's colonial elections. While there
were some headaches involving Serbs "left behind" in the province (i.e.,
those few who hadn't already been killed or expelled), it was, according
to Bates, "a truly successful election." Says Bates,
years after the war, they held free and fair elections, with Serbs and
Albanians voting together. And in December of last year, they went to
you know! However, as anyone with even a remote understanding of the
Kosovo situation knows, UNMIK has presided over 4 years of rampant ethnic cleansing, destruction of cultural treasures,
and the occasional
massacre of children.
Kosovo was the benchmark for failure in intervention. Until Afghanistan
and Iraq, that is. Compared to those disasters, it's suddenly become
"successful." However, the
body of literature on the black hole of Europe
is vast and growing
by the day. As the reader will
see, cheerful interventionists are deluded in the extreme if they
really believe what they say. Luckily for them, they don't.
All Too Human
the sweeping scale of world geopolitics, the enforced bipolarity model
holds. As an indicator of official US foreign policy, it's fairly reliable,
and there may even be a few loons in the State Department who believe
it has real democratic significance.
when we get down to the actual situation on the ground, other factors
take precedence chiefly, the tremendous mediocrity inherent to "democracy-building."
This is a mutant combination of two mentalities: the bureaucratic and
the high school.
conflict-prone countries such as Macedonia have become playgrounds for
the "international community." This term covers anyone working for an
embassy, NGO, political-education service like the NDI, mass media,
European Union the list goes on. It doesn't matter where one's from,
so long as one chooses the customs of Brussels or Washington over those
of one's own country.
card-carrying members of the "international community" stick together.
The benefits are many: access to reliable modern technology; air-conditioned
private transportation instead of rickety public buses; friendly relations
with important politicians and businessmen; many perks, and perky colleagues
too; as well as many, many social events.
last reason especially, members of the "international community" often
exhibit the group dynamics more common to high school students. The
petty jealousies, promiscuity and provincial gossip, the drinking games,
idleness and boredom a "global village" indeed!
exuberance of the self-appointed altruists abroad
is excessive, incestuous and utterly at variance with their stated mission.
And it has nothing to do, let me add, with high ideals. This is why
the day's workload processing forms, fostering bipolarities and installing
governments is accomplished with so much tedium, reticence and disinterest.
Nobody really cares, actually. At the end of the day, local employees
of embassies, foundations and groups like the NDI are, on an individual
level, only interested in avoiding controversy and upheaval. They don't
want to think. Above all, they don't want all hell to break loose on
their shift (this buck-passing proclivity is why Kosovo's final status
remains unresolved). Naturally enough, the internationals would rather
spend their time shopping, drinking, or having sexual encounters with
one another, or with government ministers.