The U.S. is the only power which must keep an eye on everything around the globe all the time. This is because our interests are truly world-wide. We are the only superpower, and if we are to stay as such, we must have an opinion on every topic. Sadly, in this 21st century parade of failed and failing states, the U.S. has failed to realize that you can’t be everywhere at once, and that often all sides in a conflict are partially or wholey at fault for political problems.
This is the case with Nepal. I’m sure those of you who are interested in politics in the eastern, central, kind-of south-eastern part of Asia will note that King GYANENDRA Bir Birkam Shah (formal name capitalized) has been suffering the predations of a large-scale Maoist rebellion since 1996. Added to his troubles with the Maoists, three weeks ago, the seven populist political parties of Nepal (ranging from Leftist to Far-Leftist) declared a nation-wide work stoppage and blockade of Katmandu, the capital of Nepal.
GYANENDRA folded. He offered to lift the state emergency he declared in early 2005 and entertain the choice of Prime Minister (PM) from the 7 Parties. He considered this a major consession. It was forced on him as much by international pressure from his major trading partners and aid donors, India, Japan, and the U.S. as by the chaos in the streets. His concession mollified the international community, but did nothing to stop the rioting. In his haste the King overlooked the two issues that the political elites and every day Nepalese wanted him to address -- free elections and the Maoist rebellion. Even had the 7 Parties accepted the King’s concession, the people would have continued rioting and the political future for mid-level party members would have been in jeopardy.
The Nepalese political problem is such -- there are three separate groups trying to cling to power in a political system rife with corruption (patronage) and violence.
The most powerful group consists of the King and his hand-selected Cabinet. They have been largely ineffectual in controlling the country and have flushed away the legitimacy the position once held. But if any one person can be blamed for destroying any chance of the success of constitutional monarchy, it would be Crown Prince DIPENDRA. In 2001, unhappy with his family’s disapproval of his choice of bride, and unwilling to wait until his father, King BIRENDRA passed away, DIPENDRA acted. In an alcohol and methampetamine-fueled rage DIPENDRA killed 10 members of the royal family. Then he turned the gun on himself. He went into a coma and didn’t die right away. So GYANENDRA, BIRENDRA’s brother, had DIPENDRA crowned. Wow. I killed mom and dad, and all I got was a lousy tshirt. This guy got a Kingdom. Luckily he died without coming out of the coma and GYANENDRA took over. So the monarchy has very little legitimacy.
The 7 Parties are a different story. They aren’t crazy, but they are corrupt. Under British rule Nepal was officially a Constitutional Monarchy. In the early 1900’s the RANA dynasty allied themselves with the Brits, and in a brilliant move upstaged the King and made the PM post hereditary. In the 1950’s a newly-independent India punished the RANA dynasty by restoring the power of the King. By that time pro-democracy movements saw the writing on the wall and backed India. To reward both the King and the Nepalese Congress Party, India allowed the democratic experiment in Nepal to flourish. By 1959, it failed due to political squabbling between a myriad of new parties. The King declared an end to parties and instituted a party-less system of panchayats (or professional classes). This was a thinly-veiled attempt to decrease political participation and it failed miserably. The parties went underground and populist pressure forced a multi-party election in 1991, with all the corruption inherent to such a system. The leader of the Nepalese Congress (the largest and most influential party) is former PM DEUBA. He is the former PM because he defied the King in 2002 and desolved Parliament (probably in response to the whole Prince-Kills-Everyone issue). Then he was tried and convicted on gross corruption charges, probably because he was grossly corrupt. Now he’s the best they’ve got.
By 1996 the Maoist rebellion begain in ernest. Led by DAHAL (aka “The Fierce One”), an unpopular leader who rules by fear, it is unable to lead anywhere, but it is powerful enough to create problems anywhere. To show how crazy DAHAL really is, he arrested his second-in-command, BHATTARI, and his wife, for being insufficiently loyal to DAHAL, and therefore the Maoist cause. A few weeks later he declared them rehabilitated, and reinstated their positions.. A BBC correspondent declared DAHAL has no charisma. If the Brits say you have no charisma, you might as well pack up your rifle and sleeping bag and come out of the mountains. Revolution is not for you. The only blessing in the current conflict is that the Maoists are sitting this one out. They are tainted because their war on the government has killed about 15,000 Nepalese and they regularly enforce “work-stoppages” by killing anyone who goes to work. Ironically, the government forces try to break the stoppages by killing anyone who doesn’t go to work, but that is another issue.
The most likely scenario goes thus -- the current unrest will continue until the 7 Parties win more consessions. Then, after a short honeymoon period of multi-party rule, the Maoists will be unsatisfied with the Parties’ insufficiently-Leftist orientation and will start their revolution anew. Que sera, sera.
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It's not my national anthem
When I applied for U.S. citizenship one of the things that I had to learn was the American national anthem. The words were printed on the citizenship application booklet and so of course I practiced, much to my friends' chagrin since I would make them sing it with me over and over. I thought it was a great privilege to get a citizenship in this country and the least I could do was learn the answers to a few history questions, know who the current president is, and be able to sing the national anthem just like every other American - or at least the 39% who know the words. And sing the whole thing in English, of course.
I had never paid much attention to the national anthem before my application process but when we all sang it after the citizenship ceremony, I cried a little. It was an emotional and proud moment, everyone sang the Star-Spangled Banner as a new citizen and became a part of this nation, a nation whose anthem doesn't include "these kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws ... let's not start a war with all these hard workers, they can't help where they were born."
I can only imagine the reaction in Greece if thousands of Albanians marched in the streets demanding citizenship and singing the Greek national anthem in Albanian and paraphrasing it to suit their agenda. There would be bloodshed, I'm sure.
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