Friday, December 23, 2005

The Other Monkey

Last Sunday night President George W. Bush, addressed the nation regarding Iraq. You can find a transcript for that speech here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051218-2.html

Again, though I feel awkward saying so, I find myself supporting the President. I was against invading Iraq. However, the choice to engage and the choice on what to do once in Iraq are two very separate questions. We are in Iraq and to leave without establishing stability would be a greater offense than entering was in the first place. I agree with the President that there is no room for defeatist mentality or for an exit timeline. It takes a great effort to establish a democracy--government is difficult and government by the people is the most difficult. We need pragmatic solutions in Iraq not partisan politics.

Iraq currently faces a great difficulty in uniting Sunni, Shia, and Kurd into a national identity of Iraqi. The Sunni who have traditional held power in Iraq and have thought themselves to be the majority are now realizing that power will now lay with the true majority the Shia. Fearing that a Shia led government would be heavily influenced by Shia dominated Iran next door, Sunni's came out in full force in the election last week. This highlights the greatest fear surrounding democracy: Tyranny of the Majority over the Minority. (I would suggest that you will find sufficient evidence of this struggle in our own history.) This becomes especially cumbersome when attempting to unite groups with strong ethnic or religious identities that trump a national identity.

So here is my suggestion to Mr. Bush: read or hopefully re-read my favorite advocate of democracy, James Madison in the Federalist Papers. Skim past all the parts about large states vs. Small states; leap over the obvious that men are not angels hence the need for government; and land, Mr. Bush, on the need for a multitude of factions. In other words, for Iraq to function smoothly as a democracy we cannot have a government led by Shia's dominating over the Sunni and Kurdish minority's that certainly will, as we have all feared, lead to a civil war. No, we need to push a strong market economy within Iraq. This in turn will weaken ethnic identities as well as induce real one on one relations between groups. Further, as most importantly it will produce lobbies or factions. No longer will it be Kurd v. Sunni v. Shia but rather Oil Interest v. Religious v. Poor v. Small Business v. Academia. In otherwords create an environment where factions are developed and then protected. The multitude thus requires coalition building to gain power and finally the greatest word within government--moderation.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Monkey See Monkey Do

First of all, sorry it has been awhile since I have posted. Life has been crazy as we are now entering into the Holiday Season. Secondly, though its not often that I give praise to a member of the Bush cabinet, a big well done to Dr. Rice for her superb performance in peace talks last week. Her insight in pushing forward a plan giving Palestinians control over their own border in Gaza was a wise one and it is my hope that it will continue the progress seen over this past year.

And finally, I have some exciting information to share with you all. Or maybe this will just highlight my nerdyness. As of last week, I have been corresponding with a Professor out of Cambridge regarding work he has been doing with Capuchin monkeys in Brazil. Though anomalous of my typical studies, I find these little guys delightfully interesting. When faced with arid climates and food sources are scarce they engage in a peculiar activity. Climbing trees, they knock down nuts that shells are far too thick for them to break. Trying to access the nut they fail and throw them aside. Well only seemingly so; they place the nuts in piles and leave them out in the sun for several days to dry. They then bring rocks up from streambeds, sometimes miles away, that often have the same mass as the monkeys themselves. Placing the nut on a boulder Capuchins proceed to lift the rock over their heads and thrust it into the nut, thereby cracking its shell and gaining access to the nut inside. Ladies and Gentlemen, basic agrarian practice in a simple monkey and further the monkeys have to be taught how to do this by older members of the clan. Scarcity promotes innovation.