Demo in Seoul, 30 December 2008.
Over at Frog in a Well Korea Jonathan Dresner has brought up George Bush’s recent analogy between the US involvement in present-day Iraq and the country’s historical involvement in Korea. This seems to have become quite a hot internet topic already and has been dealt with by Juan Cole at his blog and by Robert Koehler of Marmot’s Hole fame as well as Fred Kaplan at Slate. Here’s the comment I left at Juan Cole’s blog:
I think what Bush is saying is that in their fantasies he and Cheney would very much like Iraq to turn out like the South Korea of the, say, 1960s and 1970s. That is, ruled by a dictatorial military strongman; politically and economically subordinate to the US (and Japan maybe); and with a number of massive, strategically important US bases protecting US interests in the area and projecting power toward the big enemies (Russia/China). But of course fantasies are only fantasies.
(By the way, I’d advise against reading the comments at the Marmot’s Hole post on this - it’s like an asylum for professional wingnuts).
There, at the top of the slope, the basilica of Sacré Coeur de Jésus was slothfully nearing completion, in a sort of fake-Hindu, monumentally bourgeois style. Hard by the stone-yards here, young radical thinkers had put up a statue of the young Chavalier de la Barre who had been burnt by the inquisition. (Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p. 22)
A souvenir from my recent visit to France for the AKSE conference - the first time I actually made it into Paris (shameful really, being Londoner). Typically, my lovely digital camera decided to die on me and left me relying on my cameraphone. That would have been ok were it not for the fact that said camphone seems to have had a life-changing experience a few months ago and has been on acid ever since. Somehow though, Sacre Coeur just looks better this, maybe because it is a hallucinatory fantasy in the first place.
Strange that the BBC has started talking about ‘foreign forces’ in Afghanistan rather than British troops, NATO troops or US-led coalition troops. I don’t suppose it’s because they’re reporting yet another case where presumably British or US warplanes have bombed a village killing tens of civilians. If they carry on like this the ever-so-grateful Afghan people will turn against them.
(Just noticed that Lenin2 got there before me and in greater detail, as usual.)
I should have got around to linking to this a couple of weeks ago: Pak Noja was kind enough to post at his blog a rambling and not particularly coherent response I wrote to his series of articles on the early years of the Russian Revolution and the role of Trotsky in particular. The original pieces he wrote concern Trotsky and the problem of conscription, learning from the Russian Revolution and Shliapnikov and Trotsky and are all in Korean, so unfortunately unless you read Korean you won’t be able to understand what I’m on about in my response (in English). And Noja’s response to my response (in Korean) won’t be of much use to you either. But I thought I’d post this up anyway in case there are any bilingual readers out there with an interest in the debates surrounding the Russian Revolution and its aftermath.
A network has been formed to resist the coup in Thailand called 19 September Network. Strangely their website (www.19sep.org) is not accessible at the moment…
I’m clearly not the only one who is a mite sceptical about the committment of coup-plotting Thai generals to democracy.
More analysis from Lenin’s Tomb and some interesting stuff in the Asia Times (although one wonders about the author’s faith in the ultimately democratic credentials of the Thai monarchical-authoritarian system).
Two things strike me: first, if you really do want to have free elections, then why overthrow a caretaker PM when free elections are already planned for a few weeks time (October 15 I think)? Second, this whole life imitating ‘1984′ thing has got to stop. I mean, ’staging a coup to restore democracy’? It’s so perfect it’s almost corny.
South Korea is considering sending troops to Lebanon to form part of the expanded UN peacekeeping force there. I can’t think of any reason why any country would want to send troops to southern Lebanon and put soldiers in the firing line between trigger-happy Israeli generals and well-equipped Hizbollah fighters. Clearly France had second thoughts about it and then after much persuasion and assurances that it could kill people if need be it had third thoughts.
Korea already has troops participating in one occupation force, albeit hiding out in a quiet part of Kurdistan so as not to cause any controversy at home. Taking part in what will essentially be another occupation force and one that will be expected by Israel to do its dirty work sounds like a really bad plan. Unfortunately, there are people on the left in Korea who seem to think it is a good idea and might even give South Korea a good image in the Arab world. But the good news is that even before any decision has been made the anti-war movement in Korea is already gearing up to oppose the sending of troops to Lebanon and at least 60 percent of Koreans are opposed to the plan.
Kasian Tejapira’s recentish article on contemporary Thai politics is one of New Left Review’s free web articles, so if you don’t have a sub I’d advise you to print and read. It’s one of those articles that’s both incredibly informative and enjoyable to read. The writer has a crisp style, as you should be able to see from a small sampling:
The Thaksin government represented the first assumption of capitalist state power by the big capitalists themselves. It combined aggressive neo-liberalization with capitalist cronyism, and absolutist counter-reform politics with populist social policy, to radically transform the existing patterns of power relationships and elite resource allocation. But the destabilizing effects of Thaksin’s project have aroused extensive opposition, from the old elite—the Palace, bureaucracy and military top brass—to Southern separatists, urban middle classes, organized labour and grass-roots groups, as well as from disgruntled former cronies such as Sondhi. In what follows, I will argue that Thaksin’s five-year rule can best be understood within a longer historical perspective of the uneven development of Thai politics and economics. It was the joint conjuncture of the 1997 financial crash, outcome of a decade of delirious growth in the conditions of capitalist globalization, and the 1997 Reform Constitution, the attempt by a multi-stranded political movement at a major overhaul of Thai ‘electocracy’, that opened the way for the rise of Thaksin and his trt. Despite the denouement of April 4th, given the small circle of the Thai ruling elite and their deep business and political entanglements, it is unlikely that the Palace and the military will undo Thaksin’s elected capitalist-absolutist regime in toto. Nor will the man who liked to call himself Thailand’s ceo necessarily retire from power, as well as office.
Now, I wonder if there’s someone who’s written a comparably forensic, incisive and snappy article on the politics of South Korea in the last decade or two? Any suggestions?
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