Dresden, Budapest, Tbilisi, and Baku on 40 Barrels of Oil a Day

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Over at Antiwar.com, inveterate globe-trotting journalist Jon Basil Utley gives a brief but interesting account of a recent to Germany, Budapest, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. A snippet:

The Caucasus nations are evolving in a positive way. Competent and honest government is still a ways off, but there is growing recognition of what economic conditions are necessary for freedom and economic prosperity. Also, they have the advantage that the communists provided solid basic education and suppressed tribalism for nearly a century. Consequently, they have the possibility of becoming modern nations.

Whole thing here.

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  1. First Rachel Ray reference I’ve noticed on H&R.

    She’s nice to look at, the food is appetizing, but the whole show is much better if the “mute” button is one.

  2. Tribalism and cultures of corruption. They are the cause of every major problem on the international scene. They are the reason the third world spurns institutions of capitalism that have the greatest chance of elevating its people out of poverty.

    How do you get rid of them?

  3. “How do you get rid of them?”

    It’s human nature – see how the U.S. is splitting into “blue” and “red” in “culture wars”.

    There are only two solutions –

    1. Kill them. All of them. Genocide writ large. Other tribes are no problem when they are wiped from the face of the earth.

    2. Leave them be. Don’t try to impose your values, culture, etc., on them. Defend yourself from them, if they attack you, but don’t seek them out. Let them live with their tribe and its values and culture if they want to. Let them change it themselves if they so desire. But don’t get involved, unless you want to be seen as part of the problem by one side or the other (or both).

  4. There is nothing wrong in the Caucasus nationas that some EVOO couldn’t cure.

  5. I don’t get how “suppressing tribalism” helps. When you suppress something, you tend only to make it be expressed in other ways, often less healthy ways. If “suppressing tribalism” works, why didn’t it work in the Balkans, where everything looked hunky-dory for 50 years, and then they started slaughtering each other again?

  6. jf-

    If everybody in the Caucasus would just learn to enjoy the local scenery, shopping districts, and chef’s specials, they’d stop fighting immediately. And by asking the locals about good deals they’d save a lot of money.

  7. …and suppressed tribalism for nearly a century.

    Suppressed is sugar-coating it. Also, all the Soviets did was continue the policies of the Tsarist government before it.

  8. Don’t they mean “re-education”?

  9. I think it’s hard for an American to see the world and other countries objectively, because American culture always nourished their citizens in dividing all to things like bad or good guys, blacks or whites, good or evil (read – christian or nonchristian). The author gave us his free look at new for him nation from an American point of view certainly,which is good, but his excurse to Azerbaijan’s past or prediction of its future would be incorrect without deep knowledge of local processes.
    As a fact,I saw a steady negativism among many Americans in Baku who wanted to see Georgia and Armenia stronger in all aspects rather than Azerbaijan, only on ones perception that both are the “christian bastions”. I wonder the bastions against whom? First, all these nations lived in pease for centuries. Involvement of big “christian nations” will bring only destructions. We don’t see any Muslim nation that threatens any religious faith of this “bastions”. Quiet opposite, Armenia started and still continues occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory by demagogically appealing to it Christian roots. Georgia, with the new leader, abolished administrative autonomy for its Muslim citizens in Adjaria although they are the most loyal of all other autonomies in the country. New government there also deprived citizens of Azeri nationality of their legal rights of possesion of the farm lands cultivated by generations of their ancestors. A new flag was introduced with not one but FIVE crosses(old didn’t have any), symbolising, I guess,super-fivestar-Christianity in the country where 20 % of people are ethnic Muslims and the rest of the population hasn’t been going to churches for decades and where J. Stalin is strongly more popular than J.Christ. No wonder, because this new leader just came from the USA where he got his education and influenced by neoconcervatism of American right. And this is the USA government who’s paying payroll bills of Georgian police and other gov. structures. Secondly, as I mentioned on example of Georgia above, the religiosity of any of these nations virtualy absent and limited to the level of traditionism. Mentally and traditionaly the South Caucasian nations are very secullar. And let them be. Artificially instigated from ouside the region religious antagonism (either intentionally or not)will create and already creating a big catastrophy. Example of it we can observe in American policy toward the neighboring this region Middle Eastern countries.
    And about tribalism. Here in America they call it “clans”. So, lets get straight. If US has a Bush clan, Kennedy clan,etc., so what part of the world is the USA? Africa or Middle East?

  10. Nick, thanks for the heads up. I abandoned antiwar.com years ago as it got, to me, too fever swampish; but that was a good article.

  11. they have the advantage that the communists provided solid basic education and suppressed tribalism for nearly a century. Consequently, they have the possibility of becoming modern nations.

    There could almost be a sort of grain of truth here.

    Mao’s biggest problem in “re-educating” the Chinese was not due to anything the free world ever did. His biggest problem was superstition, a milleniums-old Chinese tradition.

    Suppose you come to a village where the people are deeply concerned about asking the spirits permission to move a sacred temple across town. Imagine what these people will say when you ask them if they’re for democracy or communism: who gives a rat’s ass.

    China, and most of SE Asia, were like that. No small part of it still is.

    Nonetheless, teaching people communism hardly enables “a modern state”.

  12. What one does see is progress and gradual Westernization in a positive sense. The Caucasus nations are evolving in a positive way. Competent and honest government is still a ways off, but there is growing recognition of what economic conditions are necessary for freedom and economic prosperity.

    I was glad to read at the end of Utley?s descriptive essay a short comment concerning an ?honest? government. Overall, as a Russian/Greek/Armenian who spent many summers traveling in this region?my Armenian relatives lived in beautiful Baku and Tbilisi until the advent of wars in this area?I find his descriptions quite accurate. However, one also gets a sense that he romanticizes recent changes in Georgia. The change of the government in Georgia was not pacted or negotiated. Rather, one side seized power, which was both bad and good. It was good because Saakashvilli could clean the house rather quickly without owing anyone any favors. It was bad because of the lack of constraints faced by a man who seized power in what was very like a coup. Later he ratified it by 96 percent of his country?s voters. This entire development makes many worried that one day he can turn to autocratic methods. In my conversation with Paata Sheshelidze (Georgia New Economic School) this spring, he expressed his reservations and concerns about the future of Georgia and Saakashvilli?s rule. At times, he does behave himself as an ?illiberal democrat.? Undoubtedly, Saakashvilli is still the force for the democratic consolidation, but, as with all emerging democracies in the postcommunist space, democracy in Georgia needs to withstand the test of time.

    I do agree with Azad that tribalism is not the right word to describe ?the family clan? system in Azerbaijan.

    And as a last note: a deep appreciation of freedom pervades John Utley?s piece about his recent travels in Europe and the Caucasus. To understand where this sense of liberty comes from, one should read his article ?Vorkuta to Perm: Russia?s Concentration-Camp Museums and My Father?s Story.? (http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/issue.asp?fid=350)

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