One of the nice things about democracy is that it frequently throws up surprises, and unwelcome surprises too for the planners of the international order. It’s something you frequently come up against where there is a foreign election and the Yanks are backing one party against another. Sometimes the local diplomatic staff will get directly involved. More often, you’ll come across outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy. For the uninitiated, the NED is a giant slush fund used by Washington to influence the internal affairs of foreign countries. Sometimes it funds parties directly; sometimes it will plough cash into a whole social layer of “pro-democracy” or “human rights” NGOs.
Now it happens from time to time that the Yanks will cover their bets by funding both sides. But it’s worth the spectacle when they really pull out all the stops to beat somebody. This isn’t, by the way, confined to officially defined “rogue states” like Venezuela or Serbia. I’ve seen it at first hand in Bulgaria. An even better example is Cambodia, where fulsome backing will be given to whoever looks most likely to oust the Hun Sen government. These days it’s Sam Rainsy, who’s learned to mouth the appropriate shibbolethim about “democracy” and “human rights” and “civil society”. Before him it was the clever but ultimately ineffectual Prince Ranariddh. And before him it was the Khmer Rouge-run “Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea”. Human rights, mar dhea!
But, getting away from the Empire’s caddies for the moment, let’s take a brief look at recent events in the two very different polities of Cyprus and Chinese Taipei. And I am firm in stating that the AKEL victory in Cyprus, with Christofias’ election as president, can only be seen as a Good Thing. AKEL’s programme these days is more Old Labour than Marxist-Leninist, but even Old Labour isn’t bad going by the standards of today’s Europe. More to the point is the increased possibility for reunification of Cyprus. Certainly, the cordial relations between AKEL and the CTP, the ruling leftwing party in the northern para-state, plus their common programme of federal reunification, are a hopeful sign.
What would be important about this is that it would be a solution reached among Cypriots. That alone would give it a better chance of survival than some baroque plan emanating from the UN or EU – look at the various Ruritanian protectorates in the Western Balkans for an idea of where that leads. There’s also the not unrelated factor that the Empire prefers to manage these problems than actually solve them. The running sore of a divided Cyprus has provided a handy excuse for intervention in the region – and Cyprus’ strategic position between Europe and the Middle East is highly relevant.
One positive thing that might come out of this – fingers crossed – is that foreign troops might have to get out of Cyprus. Not just the enormous Turkish garrison in the north, mind. The Brits, of course, retain those two great big bases at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, both hugely unpopular with Cypriots due to the antics of drunken squaddies. The French also have a listening post, although they’re sensible enough to keep a low profile. This doesn’t mean a great deal to the US military, who have the whole region ringed with bases, but it might be a blow to the Brits’ pretensions of projecting military power. We can but hope.
AKEL might be relatively unproblematic. The Kuomintang are another matter, especially if you’re aware of their grisly history.
Before I get accused of being a booster for the KMT, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m not endorsing the party nor claiming any anti-imperialist credentials for what is after all the Chinese equivalent of Fianna Fáil. But their victory did bring a little smile to my face.
The thing is that, while for decades the KMT may have been imperialism’s favoured Chinese proxy, things change. Imperial commentators – in particular the neocons and the liberal hawks who take their lead from the neocons – have more recently been aggressively boosting the Pan-Green coalition in Taipei, and banging the drum for Taiwanese independence (more loudly, in fact, than the more circumspect Pan-Green politicians in Taipei). We have been given to understand that plucky little Taiwan is being oppressed by mainland China. This impression has been helped along by sympathetic media coverage of politicos from the Democratic Progressive Party, who do the usual democracy ‘n’ human rights ‘n’ civil society spiel in a style that will be instantly familiar from the identikit “democracy activists” you come across in Belgrade or Minsk or Bratislava. The Kuomintang are unfashionable, for reasons that ostensibly have to do with their history but actually relate more to their pro-Chinese orientation.
And what do those pesky Taiwanese electors do? They give a landslide to the pro-Chinese coalition! You’d think they would have got the message…
Neither of these electoral outcomes, of course marks a mortal blow against the Empire. Washington and its regional satraps are skilled at making the best of these situations. But, just for a little while, things aren’t going as smoothly as the planners of “democratic geopolitics” would like.