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Let My People Grow

Krishna Gupta

Governments rise and fall, and their people go with them. It remains difficult to discern whether the West, particularly the United States, successfully influences the administration of other countries through its actions, or lack thereof. Although self-interest must play a role in the United States’ approach to effecting change in different countries, its primary focus should be the growth and development of the people.

Can there really be an overarching general principle of interference that works? Nobelist Amartya Sen writes of development as an increase in the freedoms and basic rights of people. With such an objective, let’s take a look at some recent developments that demonstrate the ability of U.S., through action or inaction, to influence other countries and the welfare of their people. We’ll look at action gone awry in the Middle East, inaction in the Himalayas, and Bush’s brainlessness in Bolivia.

The Palestinian Authority has never really been the apple of America’s eye. They’ve killed innocent civilians, embarked on an extremist route, claimed land that isn’t necessarily theirs, etc. Wait, that sounds so familiar. Hasn’t Israe — shh, you didn’t read that. We have always favored Israel in the Middle East, mainly because it has served our interests most wonderfully. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with favoritism – I, too, have best friends who contribute to my well-being. And, although apparently quail hunting is out of style these days, there are plenty of other instructive endeavors that emerge from partnerships. However, we should never allow favoritism to hurt people or entire countries.

Some weeks ago, the so-called terrorist outfit Hamas won the Palestinian elections, much to the shock of the entire world. The response to this relatively democratic victory has been stunningly disappointing. The U.S. and western Europe have turned on the electoral process and have insisted that Hamas give up its identity as a group that rejects the existence of Israel. It seems clear that the West aims to rid itself, with one blow, of the terrible, terrorist operation known as “opposition.” I call this an outrageous violation of human liberties and true democratic ideals – the people will have even less of a voice and fewer freedoms; they will suffer. The U.S. should interfere, but it should work with Hamas, much as Russia indicated it would during Hamas’ historic visit to Moscow last week. Only by justly allowing Hamas to rule its own constituency can we hope to effect change in its treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and thus naturally improve the freedoms of the people. As the expected Hamas prime minister declared, the West “must recognize the rights of our people and respect the rules of the democratic game.”

While the West has attempted to control proceedings in the Middle East, it has left the Nepalese to their lonely selves. Ever since a large-scale Maoist insurgency took root in 1996, the only real symbol of power left unscathed has been the great Mt. Everest, a towering testament to glorious days of the past. King Gyanendra abolished the government for the second time in three years in February 2005 and assumed full executive powers. Since then, he’s ruthlessly silenced the media and any opposition, and last October codified much of his imprisonment of the press into law.

The unrest has killed over 12,000 people, and last year alone, 1,500 were killed and a further 15,000 children were abducted and indoctrinated. The capital has been threatened, and election candidates are being attacked and killed. But what has the West done about this? Nothing. Very little pressure has been exerted on Gyanendra, and no action has been taken besides the occasional statement by U.S. Ambassador Moriarty, who lacks the wit and intimidation of his namesake, the famous Sherlock Holmes adversary. Is it fair to condemn the people to perpetual strife because the country offers little prospect of compensation, economic or otherwise, to potential saviors? Although the Nepalese monarchy has serious troubles, the Maoists must not be allowed to take complete control, for that would lead to a long-term loss of liberties. What good are communist ideals for the people when their implementation is so fragmented? To prevent catastrophe and to supplant shoddy leadership, we should prop up the current government and provide increased economic support. Although this is difficult to carry out directly, it is more realistic to pressure India to lend much more significant aid to Nepal, especially considering that the Maoists have caused serious trouble in several Indian states. Only through peace and economic growth will the lower classes have a chance at gaining more freedoms.

We should also consider the profound changes in Bolivia. During the Bush presidency, Latin America has markedly tilted towards the left, in defiance of free-market policies so strongly advocated by the currently conservative United States. How did we let this happen? Conscious laissez-faire? No. Lack of respect? Clearly. The Latin American leaders, given a new face by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, have clearly stated their supposed intent to serve their people first and foremost. What they really mean doesn’t matter at this point – the declaration itself is enough to establish some progress. So it went in Bolivia this past month, where the election of Evo Morales as president marks the first time since the Spanish conquest that an indigenous Indian has held the post. It is extremely refreshing to witness a block of countries conducting business in a manner unadulterated by supremely selfish American maneuvers. Morales’ words and actions signal a new direction for Bolivia, one in which his people can claim ownership of their country and their future. Taking into account these strong-willed visionaries, we should give Latin America more political autonomy and let the electorate decide its outlook.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had the right idea when he stated that “If we want to deal with complex global problems we only have to do this together … we should sit down together and listen to what others say …” Instead of adopting a blanket policy that serves only our interests, we must think of the people.