The Thai military coup is the 13th since 1932. The rich/poor split manifests itself in the desire of the poor to be governed by the sister of a crook. On the part of the rich, there seems to be excessive faith in “trickle-up economics” [sic]. Centrifugal forces in Thailand are a triptych of rich/poor, ethnic, and geography, with the thin Malay peninsula a barrier to mobility compared to a more convex geography. There is no mathematical formula for stability, but this is not it.
Egypt has a reasonable geography, a unique form of economic concentration based on the military which might be oligarchic if we could peer inside it, and a military with an Ergenekon myth. But it culturally coheres, with a shared vision of positive change, absent in Thailand, possibly nascent in Ukraine. Why? Is it the Nile, or 5K years of civilization?
Ukraine has a convex geography, an ethnic split, and a baronial economic landscape. However, this is different from Russia, where the oligarchs actually govern. Referring to the overt corruption of Ukraine’s recent elects, Putin has referred to the political system as “immature.” While we in the West might like to tar both with the same brush, the distinction is real. In Russia, corruption is rife. In Ukraine, it is rifer — until now.
Thailand and Egypt have military midwives, for whom we hope the best and fear the worst. Ukraine is potentially a modern miracle, though Putin still hopes for disintegration so he can grab a piece.
SInce the Boland Amendment, which took some momentum from revelations about the Allende assassination, and the following Iran-Contra Affair, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Section 508, has actually been followed more in substance than breech. It requires that aid be cut to any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”
The zeitgeist of the times is more important than the text, with the E.U. even more squeaky clean in protection of democracy than the U.S. Recently topical are the “Gas Queen” of the Ukraine, and Thaksin’s sister. Both are women, and both are dubious. Who says there’s a glass ceiling? (That was a joke. Please don’t jump on it.)
Now we come to the moral question. With a Cold War heritage of evil proxies, the U.S., with admirable intent, codified U.S. foreign policy on a higher moral plane. More recently, potential midwives to social evolution have emerged, along with the immediately condemnable. Is it possible to codify a more flexible, moral response than Section 508 ? Can we discriminate between the two? Could the legal approach be replaced by doctrine?
Two current events embody the dilemma:
The Thai issue bears strongly on the viability of Obama’s “tilt toward Asia”, although that is questionable for other reasons.