Friday, June 02, 2006

East Timor - thought...

John Roughan argues that we may have caused more harm than good in helping East Timor to independence. I/S and Neil M are outraged at his suggestion that "rouged" states like Indonesia are better than independence and given the evidence (all the 'unlawful deaths' and torturing) I'm likely to agree but he does raise some points worth discussing.

1) The fact that Indonesia didn’t work for the east Timorese doesn't change the fact that East Timor may not work for them either. Offering an independent state as a solution may be offering a "Claton’s solution" - the solution you offer when you are not really offering a solution.

If that is the case, one could level the same critique against the UN Australia and NZ that is leveled against the US - i.e. that the whole plan is poorly thought out in regard to the long term consequences. Including the suggestion that they are not prepared for the system we are offering them OR the one that is often used with hope by those opposing the US - that it requires a level of commitment that we just don’t have (i.e. a VERY long term "occupation"). This argument is often used by Chinese discussing china - "we are not ready for democracy" the idea being that fast transition doesn’t work well with democracy. Maybe this is a flawed idea and also rather patronizing but it is one possibility.

If that is the case in the end you are helping them to the top of a hill so that they can fall off the cliff on the other side. One should at least consider if this is the case. And there is a stronger test - is this the best place we could be spending our limited resources? Or is it a "money sink"?

2)In principle, I also agree with John that chopping up countries into little bits is a bad thing. East Timor is likely to be, approximately, the poorest country in the world, in a larger country there would be some potential for people to move location or government support - but in a small country probably not. So your independence actually limits your freedom in several of the most important ways.

Obviously in this case the bad things seem to outweigh the good if we consider a simple binary choice of "occupation and abuse by Indonesia and "independence" with an unstable government. But maybe another country could form a close relationship with Timor... Papua New Guinea? Maybe chop off Irian jaya and merge them? Maybe no other country in their right minds would want to take on such a poor area....

3) Are we "blinded by propoganda" into ignoring concequences in favour of feel good activities? Should we pay more atention to concequences? or would it set a bad precident to say "you are being abused - but you are not ready for democracy so I'm afraid I can't do anything" (quite possibly...).


Anonymous Mark said...

I suspect that if you asked the East Timorese people, all the alternatives to independance you posit would be laughed out of the room. It is the last bad of a number of bad options. It won't be easy, but Rome wasn't built in a day, etc. etc.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Genius said...

there is a question of whether people (particularly in this sort of context) make rational long term decisions. And in time the occupation of the country becomes like the term "fascism" it just means "everything bad" so not much chance of anyone changing their mind.
anyway good luck to east timor - yeah rome wasn't built in a day...

12:11 AM  

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