May 30th, 2002


India, Pakistan, and self-determination...

It looks like there are plans in the works for the US to evacuate approximately 60,000 US citizens from India and Pakistan, as the two countries are on the verge of war.
Indian and Pakistani troops are exchanging gun and artillery fire on the border between the two countries, and people are dying on both sides. Diplomats are still trying to work out a peace, but frankly, all of this could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, like the Israeli escalation of the Intifada, it appears to be, in part, a consequence of the US response to World Trade Center disaster. Here's why...

When the US declared war on terrorists, it opened the door for other countries to clean house on terrorists too... but as history has all too often shown us, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. In the case of the Israelis, they used the situation as an excuse to more aggressively go after Palestinian militants, and in the case of the Indians, they have used the situation as an excuse to more aggressively go after Kashmiri militants.

For those unaware of the Kashmir conflict, Kashmir is a region of India that neighbors Pakistan along their border. Like Pakistan itself, Kashmir is predominantly Muslim, whereas most of India is Hindu. The border betwen Kashmir and Pakistan is part of the Himalayan mountain range. This, unfortunately, makes it harder than average to patrol and gives Kashmiri rebels a convenient hiding place. They can raid into Kashmir, attack Indian interests, then retreat safely into the mountains in Pakistan.

There's the rub... because many Pakistanis support the Kashmiri rebels. Some even supply them with supplies and arms. The government of Pakistan, in particular, believes that the people of Kashmir should have the right to self-determination, so that they can vote on whether they want to become a seperate Kashmiri state or possibly become a part of Pakistan. There is even some evidence that either the Pakistani government itself or soldiers in the Pakistani military are aiding the Kashmiri rebels, providing them with military equipment and perhaps even volunteers.

In short, it's a messy, confusing situation where the Indians and the Pakistanis, both of who are nuclear powers, are at the brink of war. The Indians insist that the Pakistanis should cut off all support to and aggressively pursue the Kashmiri rebels, something that is not only very hard to do, but also a very unpopular thing to do. It's also something that is very hard to prove that they have effectively done, since the most that can be reasonably expected is that they can reduce the amount of support that goes to the Kashmiri militants.

Imagine something comparable... .for instance, if the US were on the verge of war with Mexico because drugs were being smuggled across the US border. The US could accuse the Mexican government of complicity, because there was evidence of Mexican police and government officials turning a blind eye or even assisting drug traffickers. However, what could the US really expect of Mexico, if they were to completely crack down on the drug trade... a 5% reduction in the amount of the cross border drug trade would be highly optimistic. The US government itself, despite having access to the best technology and hundreds of thousands of Border Patrol and DEA agents, has proven itself largely ineffective in preventing both illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the Mexican border. In that context, can we expect Pakistan to be any more effective in preventing support for Kashmiri militants?

That leads to the other issue -- that of self-determination. The truth of the matter is that despite its reputation as the bastion of democracy, the US has a less-than-stellar record when it comes to promoting self-determination -- The US Civil War pretty much undermined the rights of states to leave our own country, and the US has done plenty of things to overturn even democratically elected governments elsewhere in the world. The US also tends to turn its back when its allies repress minorities, whether it's the Kurds in Turkey, the Zapatistas in Mexico, the Palestinians in Israel, etc.

The same situation applies in India. So long as the Kashmiris are denied the right to self-determination, there will be those who will choose to support the Kashmiri militants. Attempts to interdict their support will only be marginally effective. The more that those who support statehood for Kashmir are repressed, the more underground and criminal they will become. In short, repression breeds rebellion.

This basically explains the root cause for most terrorism in a nutshell, it highlights the problem, and it suggests the solution.

In short, what this world needs is some kind of accepted international standard on how nations should provide for self-determination, along with standards to strengthen local governments as opposed to national governments.

Self-determination should be the right of everyone in the world. If you want to avoid the oppression of minorities that forms the root cause of terrorism, then make the minorities the majority, or at least see to it that they are given the rights that are essential for them to live as free (if not soveriegn) people. If that means that existing nations break up into smaller nations, sobeit. That's what democracy entails.

A shadow falls over Europe...

KPNQwest, the telecoms provider that handles a quarter of Europe's IP traffic, has filed for bankruptcy and is on the brink of shutdown. A last minute attempt to sell its assets to AT&T for $200M has failed, and millions of Europeans are on the verge of losing their connectivity. Meanwhile, the Dutch national carrier KPN is left paying the bills for keeping KPNQwest running... problem is, they are under no legal obligation to do so, and presumably have a duty to their investors to make (i.e. not lose) money.

This is a mirror of what we've seen happen with DSL providers like Northpoint and Rhythms. It's sad to see that there still isn't any kind of solution to pick up the pieces when these companies go under. The Internet is becoming an increasingly more necessary utility, but access to it is predicated upon actually having companies that are both willing to bring it to you and capable of staying in business. Meanwhile, consumers get stuck with a few days notice to see that they stay on the network, when the process of actually getting on the network can take weeks, if not months.

Good thing that people don't depend on the Internet for their livelihood or anything...

Odd noises out of left field

Kirsten and I were driving to get some dinner earlier, listening to the local NPR station do the traffic report, when these words hit me upside the head...

"Looks like that fish spill is finally cleaned up. The smell is just a fading memory."

Um... what fish spill? Don't say something like that without elaborating, or I'll have a brain seizure! We demand details!

I have a habit of making up funny songs in the car, so I started playing with the lyrics... making a song that sounded a bit Sinatra.

"That fish smell
is just a fading memory...
of yoooooooou!"

The future is scarier than you think...

I was looking at the journal of desertwolf, since he commented on a post of mine, and it mentioned iTrick, a piece of software designed for gay men to use as a "little black book", of sorts. Basically, it's software that allows people to keep track of other people's personal information and relative doability.

Then it hit me... this kind of program is practically ideal for a peer-to-peer application. Think of millions of people being able to submit queries as to the sexual performance or odd hangups of a given person, for instance. Would such an application lead to attention focusing on a new breed of sexual superstars at the expense of everyone else? What happens if you experience a nasty break up? Would your ex conspire to reduce your standing so greatly as to permanently damage your doability quotient?! ;->

Realistically, the fine details of your love life is probably not all that applications like this would touch upon. Imagine a piece of software designed to allow you to find the dirt on practically anyone in a completely anonymous, distributed manner. The ramifications are frightening and the potential for abuse is unlimited, but I know a lot of people who would use it, if only for sheer entertainment value.

Personally, I think it's inevitable that someone will make something like this one day -- enjoy what privacy you have left while it lasts. Despite all my hopes for a kinder, more decent breed of human being, it seems obvious to me that if there is one thing that technology will enable people to do in the future, it will be to make it possible for everyone you know to more efficiently laugh at you behind your back. ;->