As New Year’s resolutions go, “reclaiming” a cluster of islands you forgot to stick a flag in 180 years ago is certainly up there. Especially if you’ve been trying and failing miserably for 30 years. After you lost a war for it.
I’m writing from the alleged capital of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), Ushuaia on Argentina’s mainland, where it’s blatantly obvious that the Argentinians are like an obsessive ex-boyfriend who thinks an intervention order means there’s still hope.
This week, the Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner celebrated the 180 year anniversary of British rule with an open tirade at British Prime Minister David Cameron and advertisements in the British press, lobbying for the islands to be handed back to Argentina.
Sport and politics shouldn’t mix. But they do. And that is why the Socceroos, Australia’s national football team, shouldn’t play North Korea as planned on Wednesday night.
North Korea’s communist government has been brutalising its people for decades. Human Rights Watch reports that North Korea is virtually an open air prison where the people are forced to work for no remuneration of any sort, the state owns all property and freedom of expression is non-existent.
Dissenters are sent to forced labour camps called gwalliso where they are tortured and executed. The state controls food distribution and is currently in the process of starving its people with its “military first” policy.
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Today the world’s most powerful nation goes to the polls in a media-saturated celebration of democracy.
Meanwhile 60 million people in our region will wake up to another day of uncertainty, as their nation continues its slow emergence from the shadows of repression and isolation.
Burma is a long way from front page news. Apart from the stoic resistance of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi through years of house arrest, little has been heard in Australia about the nation’s struggle.
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It is Australia’s invisible northern neighbour. The Philippines are south-east Asia’s first democracy and only Christian nation. Most of us know at least one of the 230,000 Pinoys who live here in Australia, but that is about it. Virtually none of us learn their national language of Tagalog, trade is negligible and tourism is effectively non-existent.
This week, the Philippines hit our headlines for all the right reasons. After forty years of civil war in the south, uber-popular new President Noynoy Aquino struck a peace deal with Muslim separatist group MILF. The previous day, he had released details of a national audit of his predecessor President Arroyo’s regime, which found $3.2 billion dollars had vanished in potentially corrupt payments. Apparently, 744 officials could face prosecution.
But the veneer of good news is little more than skin deep. Aquino has devoted half his first term to fighting Arroyo appointments like the Chief Justice. Last week he had Arroyo herself re-arrested, a move that was foiled only by her dash to hospital for medical care. It all makes for great TV, but fabulously little impact on the ground in this nation of over a hundred million peace-loving people and seven thousand islands.
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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is dead. This means both many people watching the famous Team America “I’m So Ronery” clip, and potentially enormous global implications. For all the news see news.com.au’s coverage here. The Punch spoke to Associate Professor Felix Patrikeeff, who is Head of the Discipline of Politics and Master of Kathleen Lumley College at the University of Adelaide, where he is currently teaching the Comparative Politics of Leadership and Intelligence Studies (he is also the President of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs).
What do you think will happen now?
One of two things will happen. One is that the new leadership under Kim Jong Il’s youngest son (Kim Jong Un) will take shape fairly slowly behind the scenes until such a time as he can actually take power in his own right.
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Recently a colleague mockingly asked me why I bothered writing. I replied: because the quality of debate is appallingly bad.
Exactly, she said. Thus with a sense of light-hearted despair at the recent banter in the media, I weigh into Australia’s strategic policy apropos the on-rushing war with China.
It appears that the conservative minds that discuss strategic policy are aligning. China is growing, the world is changing, and power is being redistributed. According to those who subscribe to the various brands of “Realist” international relations theory, this situation necessarily entails armed conflict between states.
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The situation in Libya is constantly changing. For the latest updates see news.com.au.
It is hard to agree with the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on many things these days, but his efforts to effect a no-fly zone over Libya three weeks ago struck a controversial, but important, note. A pity, then, that the usual international politics surrounding the Western alliance and the United Nations bogged down the process to the point that the rebels in Libya were on their last legs when the UN Security Council vote was taken on the matter.
Centre after centre of opposition were lost to Gaddafi’s reorganised forces, and his family-led offensives bit into what seemed like a promising revolutionary movement late last month.
The Colonel is a seasoned campaigner both within Libya itself, and in global politics. Ronald Reagan tried to take him out by a surprise missile attack on his palace in 1986. The missiles didn’t harm him, but were said to have killed an adopted daughter and some other members of his extended household. He reportedly took to spending his nights in shifting tents from then on, blending traditional culture (he was born in a tent) with forms of security which have been most effective.
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