RN: Friends? Enemies?


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance-Network,    

The recent posting on the East Asian crisis, and Malaysia in particular, has
sparked some debate (some of which I will share below). In the course of
this debate, Gomo K.S. argues that "we have to get beyond [assuming that]
the enemy of the enemy is our friend."

This point is echoed in the piece below about Galina Starovoitova:

Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 02:51:36 -0800
From: "Wendell W. Solomons" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: William Mandel on Lapidus re Starovoitova

From: •••@••.••• (William Mandel)
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998

Letters to the Editor
San Jose Mercury News

     May I, as one of the founding Hoover Institution fellows half a
century ago, comment on Gail Lapidus' article on the murder of Russian
Congresswoman Galina Starovoitova (Perspective, Nov.. 29). I should add that
my own perspective is enriched by having spent weeks in central Siberia this
summer, and a longer record of visits and stays in Russia - 68 years - than
anyone else in the history of writing on that country in either tsarist or
Communist times.
     Starovoitova's courage and devotion to her particular principles
were absolute. Her willingness to pay with her life for obtaining
documentary evidence of corruption in the St. Petersburg cemetery business
are characteristic. But Lapidus' unqualified endorsement of her principles
is another matter entirely.
     The version of reform which Starovoitova endorsed has thus far cost
the peoples of the countries that used to be the Soviet Union 5,000,000
lives. That is the number world health authorities accept for their decline
in population since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Had that occurred
under Communist rule, the term "genocide" would be applied to it has a
matter of course. When it occurs as a consequence of policies pressed by the
United States and enforced as a condition of loans by the International
Monetary Fund, to which Washington is the largest contributor, use of that
word is apparently indecent.
     I agree entirely that Starovoitova was not a feminist. Were she, it
would have been impossible for her to continue advocating policies that have
cused Russia to surpass the Phillipines as the world's leading source of
mail-order brides, and that have caused Ukrainian and Russian women to have
become prostitutes and outright sex slaves in Western Europe, Israel,
Thailand, and here, to mention only country for which I have made notes on
reports in our general press. To estimate their number at 100,000 is very
conservative in the light of emigration data on women under 30 and the low
visibility of ex-Soviet women abroad.
    That Starovoitova proposed that Russia join NATO was simply over the
top. NATO exists purely and simply as an anti-Russian alliance. That is what
it was established for, as a matter of public record, challenged by no one.
That is why countries that suffered Soviet dominance and have centuries-long
histories of enmity with Russia joined it. That is why Moscow, whose army
today is worthless and whose navy hardly exists, is seeking to maintain the
nuclear arsenal which provides its only unanswerable argument against ours.
Or would we rather not remember that the United States is the only country
ever to use that weapon?
    Absolute courage is a rare quality. The question is always to what
end it is put.

Now, here are items from the "East Asian Crisis" debate (RN posting of
Date: Wed, 02 Dec 1998 12:41:53 +0800
From: Jomo <•••@••.•••>
Organization: university of malaya
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••,
        •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••
Subject: Infantile leftism

I was shocked to read your confident judgements on the very complex
situation in Malaysia.  With friends like you, progressive forces in
Malaysia do not need enemies.  I do not know whether any of you are
seriously interested in understanding the situation here (if so, there
has been a voluminous discussion on all aspects which you so
confidently, but ignorantly pass judgement on), but would urge you to
take some pains to understand the situation before venturing forth
with unhelpful grand pronouncements which only serve to further
confuse your readers.  This is the height of irresponsibility.
Jomo K. S.
Date:   Wed, 2 Dec 1998 10:13:22 -0500
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
To: Jomo <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Infantile leftism

I got a similar response when I wrote an article about the situation in
Argentina in the 1970's, when the country suffered under the notorious
military-controlled fascist regime. Of course the situation everywhere
is far more complex than an outsider can understand.

Then as now I confess to having no first-hand experience of the situation
in Malaysia or Argentine,
we ALL have first-hand experience of lying hypocritical politicians like
Jean Chretien, who preaches respect for human rights to Asians when his
government has just cancelled a Commission investigating the police
brutality, in all probability following directives from the Prime
Minister's office, at the Vancouver APEC meeting; and Al Gore--but need 
I itemise the brutalisation of the USA under successive administrations
(see 1998 Amnesty International Report), and MANY genocidal wars from the
colonial wars against the Phillipines and innumerable Latin American
regimes to the present siege of Iraq that is killing 6000 children every
month--FOR 9 YEARS 

I apologise to Jomo if (s)he sees my remarks as hurting the progressive
forces in Malaysia. But you will do better with friends like me than with
Jean Chretien and Al Gore--who have the power to do immeasurable damage
to all of us in building the New World Order.

By the way, what has this got to do with leftism? That's a tired concept,
but at least you didn't call me a communist!
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 12:33:38 +0800
From: Jomo <•••@••.•••>
Organization: university of malaya
Subject: Re: Infantile leftism

Dear Eric:  I do not have any problems with your basic sympathies, and
agree with all that you say below [above].  But we have to get beyond
'knee-jerk dialectics', i.e. the enemy of the enemy is our friend.
Neither Gore nor Chretien care for Mahathir, and Mahathir has stood
for some good things, but that does not make Mahathir's enemies the
bad guys; the same could be said for Iraq, or even to use your
example, the Argentinian military.  The fact that they opposed the US
or the UK does not make them the good guys.
While I care little for the likes of Gore or Chretien, I was
disapproving of the knee-jerk reactions to their perhaps self-serving
and hypocritical criticisms of Mahathir's human rights and democratic
We have good people in Malaysia who are in jail or suffering otherwise
because they oppose the Mahathir regime or support Anwar.  That's why
I said that with friends like you (second person plural), you don't
need enemies.
There is no obligation to pronounce on all and sundry, especially if
we have not done the necessary investigation to be confident in taking
public positions.
I am not insisting on 'first-hand experience'; in fact, we were
angrier with your correspondent with ostensible first-hand
experience.  I have spent more than six years in North America, but it
does not qualify me to comment on matters North American which i know
little about.
Simplifications, whether by regimes or their opponents, rarely help.
And let's not kid ourselves that we are building a new world order; at
best, we are sniping -with varying degrees of success - against those
who are!
As someone who sees oneself on the left, I thought (now I realize,
quite wrongly) that the shared moral-political position of those in
the discussion was on the left.  Mea culpa.
And, last but not least, another message from Malaysia. Please note: some of
the points in here are made in irony!

From: •••@••.•••
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 10:37:40 +0800
Subject: Re: You never insisted on facts before

I believe I may have been partially responsible for this in so far as
I forwarded the Fawcett/Copeland pieces to Jomo, having received them
via Richard's list.

I might comment in response to Jan Slakov's reply that in the
editorial remarks on Fawcett the following was written: "see also
REPLY below for a "reality check" by Daryl Copeland, who unlike the
media commentators at APEC know something about Malaysia"; and
Copeland himself wrote "Subtlety, nuance, and a knowledge of the
subject matter were notable mainly for their absence."

Precisely. And that was precisely what motivated me to post the
pieces to Jomo. Frankly, I had pretty much come to ignore most
commentaries on the Mahathir-Anwar politics or even 'left'
commentaries on Mahathir and Malaysia for what effectively boiled
down to "on the one hand, Mahathir the anti-globalization man, Anwar
the neo-liberal free marketeer", and "on the other hand, of course
the spat is politically motivated and we support Anwar's human rights
if they've been violated". Ironically, ignoring the 'political' in
'political economy'. To be mischievous about it, Soros does better
with his brand of political economy. And now that Soros says
unbridled capitalism is worse than socialism, not to mentioned that
he was a critic of the global financial system when Mahathir was
boasting about how the volume of trade on the KL Stock Exchange
exceeded that of Wall Street, are we going to approve of him as well?

As Jomo noted in his post to Fawcett, the 'first hand experience'
piece was perhaps the more objectionable for the posture of
authoritativeness -- give me post-modernist doubt any day -- based on
a history that dates from some short while pre-1995, the glibbest of
comments about the 1995 elections, and a framing that attributes to
Mahathir responsibility for the ethnic peace of the country,  almost
as if the people themselves had nothing to do with it, nor the
opposition, nor those governments that pre-date Mahathir's. And even
Anwar's silence on Arqam, against Mahathir's pursuit of them, would
be turned to Mahathir's advantage against Anwar? While the relatively
good health and education infrastructure which does pre-date Dr
Mahathir, but undoubtedly further developed in his time are also to
be turned to his advantage? Why not pay tribute to the man as well
for wanting to privatise, and for having partially privatised, one of
the best public health systems in the world?

Would we then reduce it to Mahathir vs Anwar, two personalities?
*That* would be progressive politics?

Please, while not a plea for Malaysian exceptionalism, Malaysia has
been in many ways the slightly awkward evidence for a series of pet
theories and positions, from dependency down to anti-globalization.
But do consider one thing: the discomfort of the East Asian crisis is
precisely because up to now East Asia has been the showcase of
capitalist advance on the basis of globalization. Simple fact:
Malaysia's exports as a percentage of GDP pre-crisis was 95%, and
exports and imports together amounted to about 185% of GDP!

Finally, in response to Jan Slakov's "In order for us to have a
useful discussion of the issue, we will need a posting which includes
some REASONS for your misgivings. the reasons must be backed up by
factual information" [in part of the exchange from which these messages are
taken]:  How does one begin when the originals are so
full of half-truths and half-baked understandings, leaving "Malaysia
is not Indonesia" as about the only unexceptionable statement? Need
one say more than to observe that Mr Copeland's confident
pronouncements of a 5% downturn this year followed by a 2% next is
even more optimistic than the Malaysian government's 1% for 1999, now
likely to be revised in the light of the recent third-quarter figures?

Incidentally, Mr Copeland should know better than to call Anwar, Mr
Ibrahim.  The naming system is such that referring to Anwar as Mr
Ibrahim is not to refer to Anwar but to his father. That's the kind
of mistake one expects from know-nothing fly-in journalists of the
mainstream press who don't even bother to beef up on things such as
naming systems.


KJ Khoo