Saturday, December 06, 2008

Other nations and security

By Carol Gee

Since September's growing awareness that the planet was in financial trouble, it has become more and more clear that human beings are connected to each other. As global financial sectors cascaded downwards in value, all of us came to understand the reality* of globalization and interdependence. And as we watched terrorists attack Mumbai, India, we were reminded of our own vulnerability as the drama played out in real time or video clips broadcast over and over. We in the U.S. had a few 9/11 flashbacks. People in the United Kingdom and Spain probably flashed back to their own terrorism experiences.
In another era it would have taken people weeks, months or years to understand the gravity of the fiscal and national security situations. Fiber optics and satellites changed the way we perceive earth's realities, however, both in speed and in actuality of form. The past few months' meltdown and terror news got into our heads and our guts very rapidly as we watched TV, read the papers and surfed the Internet. Not long after that, it also got into our mailboxes as the consequences of the financial meltdown got more close and personal. And it entered our phones as friends and relatives learned of their losses in India.

We have no idea what it was actually like to the players on this global stage. But we got a lot of hints. In our guts, we pick up on clear signs of fear, anxiety, panic, anger, and confusion. The resultant clouded thinking was apparent in both the fiscal and security realms. And that still goes on to this day. We can see it all play out as our government and other governments try to get on top of their various crises. For Germany it meant fiscal hunkering down, for Canada it meant Parliament going home until the end of January. For India it meant dealing with their old Pakistani enemies without going nuclear. For the United States it has meant a leadership vacuum that has a lot of worried people watching it play out.

As with all crises, things eventually calm down. Crisis theory tells us that is usually about six weeks. Failure to exercise appropriate leadership happens when people in authority are still overly anxious and confused, or when they completely zone out. Successful leaders either get on top of their emotions and more rational thinking takes over, or they turn it over to someone who can exercise rational decision making. And in all Democracies the decisions must be taken under the rule of law.

India, Germany, Pakistan,* Canada# and the United States are all forms of democracy* at one level or another. Post-colonial India's long-standing democratic government is relatively weak as contrasted with the strength of their technology sector. Post-war Germany is a democracy fused from East and West Germany as well an an integral part of the emerging European Union. Pakistan is a brand new democracy born out of a military strong-man, a recent assassination, privation, tribalism and lawyer protest marches. Canada's parlimentary democracy emerged from British colonialism, and still struggles to keep its ethnic cohorts together and exercise power under Great Britain's Queen's Governor General. And, finally, the United States' constitutional and electoral processes dictate presidential lame-duck-dom for almost three months following the elections.

Yes, it always comes back to leadership within and between whatever forms the democratic governments take. We can only watch as foreign and domestic leaders react to the demands of the crises and of their own laws. It is messy and convoluted and frustrating to the citizens of all the nations mentioned. But the alternative is even messier. Leaders employ guns and bombs, threats, lies, rigidity and stubbornness, piracy, financial anarchy and partisanship. Those tactics or automatic reactions come out of real or perceived crisis, of failed dogma, of greed and contempt for the rule of law. Each gets in the way of leaders managing the crises. We are all left to chill and watch it play out, keeping our own feelings of fear, anxiety and helplessness under control.

What else helps? India must remain cooperative within the world community who stands ready to provide help and support. For example the U.S. diplomatic and national security initiatives appear to be working at the moment. Germany's Angela Merkel might regain rationality and a sense of the benefits of interdependence. Pakistan, with a few successes, may grow to see itself as more a part of the solution to terrorism than a willing safe haven for terrorists. Canada will sort out its leadership challenges, celebrate the holidays and take a breather. And we in the United States, through rational thinking and faith in the democratic process, messy as it is, will get through this recession and presidential transition. We must support our President-elect's leadership within the rule of law. And we must as a nation eventually hold the leaders who have not been rational officials operating within the rule of law accountable. We must stand back and be wise, trust the process and just chill. Have some eggnog, save some money, put up mistletoe, turn off the TV, and let your Senator or Congressperson know it would be OK to be decent and generous to blue collar as well as white collar American workers. Mark January 20th, 2009 on your calendars. We have 44 more days of this; then the grownups get to be in charge again.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are betmo* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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