The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Will it degenerate into war?

Tuesday 18 July 2006 at 11:39 pm

Truth be told, I actually don’t know what to say about the current conflict(s) in the Middle East. Israel’s sudden military campaign against Hezbollah strikes me as slightly insane, the perfect way to stoke a war in a region that isn’t exactly the most stable in the world.

But I also recognise Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorists; the initial Hezbollah attack was pretty brazen (albeit poorly reported here). The response seems popular within Israel, probably because it makes the government appear strong — and given that, I can understand why Aussies in Lebanon are crying to our government for help as if it’s a superpower that can deploy navy ships to the region within two days. (Speaking of the Aussie government, little John’s visit to Timor-Leste today seems to have been little more than a meet-and-greet; I wonder if they talked about Timor Sea gas deals?)

The Israeli attacks also came as a shock to me because I’ve been busy writing (rather theoretically) about how the risk of traditional war between equally-matched states is lessened in the contemporary world because states are more interdependent than they used to be … and while that’s still true for Southeast Asia, I guess the Mid-East is always a bit exceptional.

At least I can say this with certainty: the Israeli campaign is doing a great job of drawing attention away from the Gaza Strip. And Iraq, for that matter …

no comments »

Some Timor links, take two

Saturday 27 May 2006 at 6:29 pm

While I procrastinate, here’s an extra post on Timor-Leste. Even more bloggers are discussing the need to help in nation-building and the power struggles that were created after 1999, so maybe a consensus is developing that the root of the problem is poor handling of just about everything since independence. One blog even ponders whether the Timorese would have been better off sticking with the Indonesians, though I think the answer is ‘no’.

There’s also quite a bit of flak being thrown at the UN, particularly from over America way, because of their involvement in getting several Timorese police officers killed (see yesterday’s rather gruesome West Australian cover). Although I’m generally a UN supporter, the last person I spoke to who’d been to Dili did agree that the UN didn’t seem to be achieving much.

Over in Kiwi-land, debate centres on just what their troops are doing in Timor. My guess is the Clark government wanted to answer the Timorese call for help, which went out to Australia and NZ because we’re the local ‘Westerners’, as it were. By contrast, check out this view from the Philippines which reckons that country isn’t taking enough interest in the situation.

Also, more blogging from the streets of Dili can be found at Tumbleweed, Lookingglass View, and Dili-Dallying.


The Timor story continues

Friday 26 May 2006 at 9:45 pm

Remaining actively seized of the matter, as the Security Council would say, some interesting info is popping up around the Web on the question of Timor-Leste. As always, the wiki is doing a superb job keeping track of things, while the BBC notes that most Australian papers are in favour of the troop deployment, and New Zealand joined in and sent some troops today.

There is some discussion emerging over just how things came to be this way, and it seems that I’m not the only one concerned about the lack of stable development in Timor-Leste. Some say the problem is too much intervention, while others suggest we aren’t doing enough for ‘soft’ issues like poverty and justice.

Political weakness and inexperience have also been mentioned, with several folks wondering if it was wise to have left freedom-fighters running a country. Meanwhile, a few more radical perspectives are also popping up, perhaps because of the socialist connections of PM Alkatiri.

Most interesting of all, though, is the word on the ground from Dili itself (though there is little other news from sources within Timor).

1 comment »

Troops in East Timor, again

Wednesday 24 May 2006 at 9:18 pm

It’s starting to be broadly reported that the government of Timor-Leste (or East Timor to our Anglicising media) has requested military and police assistance from Australia and New Zealand, the old colonial power Portugal, and interestingly, Malaysia.

About six years ago, as the original INTERFET military force started to wind up, I remember thinking with some optimism that there’d be a new beginning in Timor-Leste, one founded on peace and a real commitment to deal with the country’s insane level of poverty. The Timorese leadership certainly seemed willing to do what was needed for a sustainable future.

Fast-forward to today, and the current civil unrest strikes me as a sign of a horribly fractured and unstable government, not one that is working with the people to build a nation. Listening to Jose Ramos-Horta on the 7.30 Report, there are promising signs that the rebels involved are willing to seek a peaceful political settlement, so things mightn’t be as bad as they seem to be. But if that’s the case, why call for so many police (and troops!) from four countries?

I fear that Timor-Leste will suffer the same fate as so many of the countries to our immediate north — government that is too weak and mired in its own petty issues to deal with the real social problems faced by the country. I hope very much that I’m wrong in this assessment …

no comments »