Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami: Geopolitical Implications

As the full scope of the disaster from the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean unfolds, I can't help but wonder what additional impacts of this event are not being discussed. News agencies around the world are just now coming to grips with the scope of this tragedy--one which they have been consistently underestimating. The latest figures of 80,000 (from deaths will probably change before noon. I have been struck by this underestimation if only because it seems so obviously apparent that the death toll will rise: until this morning I had head nothing reported about deaths on the Andaman and Nicobar islands... and now the first reports are streaming in that at least 10,000 people are missing on a single island in the Andamans. The death toll in this archipelago alone could top 100,000. And when will we hear from Myanmar? It will take longer for news to trickle in from this military dictatorship, but it will not likely be positive when it does finally arrive. There are hundreds of thousands of "sea-gypsies" that lived in floating villages among the Mergui archipelago alone--will we ever hear of the impact on such marginalized (and largely unrecorded) populations??

The inability of the news media to cope with this disaster raises several questions, none of which are being adequately addressed at present:

1. How will this disaster affect the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka? The worst-hit regions are Tamil territory. Will aid to the Sri Lankan government reach the Tamils? Will this incite new conflict? How did the tsunami impact the effectiveness of landmines in the border-areas (the second most heavily mined region in the world, after the Korean DMZ)?

2. How will this disaster affect the Acheh insurgency (ground zero for the tsunami) in Indonesia? Will the tragedy short-circuit the insurgency in favor of national unity following Yudhoyono's leadership under crisis? Will the government's inability to prevent starvation and disease further fracture an already fragmented nation, emboldening countless Islamic and ethnic splinter-groups?

3. To what extent will the devastated populations blame the US for lack of warning, followed by paltry aid donations? Following comments that US donations were "stingy", America upped its aid pledge to $35 million... approximately what is spent ever 3 and a half hours in Iraq. How will this missed opportunity to at least pretend to care about the fate of the third world affect the "Global War on Terror"??

4. Finally, as this crisis grips the world over the course of the next month, what actions will go unnoticed in the runup to the January 30th Iraq elections?


Bulldog said...

Jeff, I found your third comment particularly significant as yet another opportunity lost. Now, more than ever, we need to show the world that we are not the selfish bastards they think we are. A leader, no matter the ideology, as opposed to an idealogue, would have recognized this.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting commentary from Ralph Peters in last Thursday's (1/6/05) New York Post:

"Tsunami Ripples: A New Strategic Map"