Saturday, May 10, 2008


The Russian word troika means three of a kind. According to Wikipedia, It entered the vocabulary during the Stalinist era when troikas of judges replaced the normal legal system for quick persecution of dissidents. The word has also been used to describe a tight group of officials consisting of the party leader, head of government, and head of state, where the positions were held by three different people and the party leader was not viewed as sole dictator. The most famous troika was the one that ruled briefly after Stalin’s death in 1953: Malenkov, Beria and Molotov.
Now there is a new troika in Russia, consisting of the figurehead president, Dimitri Medveydev, who appointed his predecessor Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister, and the Russian people, who, through their elected representatives, acquiesced.The reasons are relatively benign: Putin brought order and prosperity, and the constitution forbids him occupying the position of president for more than two consecutive terms. He is widely expected to become president again in 2012.

Should the American election result in John McCain becoming the next president, continuing George Bush’s policies, the American electorate would, like their Russian counterparts, also be guilty of acquiescing, because they have 200 years of democratic practice behind them. It’s difficult to see what great difference there would be.

But what would the third party of the American troika be? It could be any number of entities, but for the sake of a newsworthy argument, let’s say it would be the National Security Council, to which John McCain would probably only make minor changes.

A National Security Council is a relatively recent addition to the organs of democratic government, starting in the United States in 1947. In 1999 Israel established a national security council, and the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas set up one in 2007.
Now the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. is calling for one. However, unlike the voters in the above three nations, Germans are protesting the idea. Since the horrifying behavior of the Nazi Third Reich in the second world war, Germans have massively supported the obligation put upon them when they were defeated not to have war-making capabilities. To quote this week’s Economist: ”The CDU (Merkel’s party) is saying, in essence, grow up.... New threats such as terrorism and climate change (...)have blurred the distinction between domestic and foreign security....” The CDU paper suggests the government should contribute troops to crises without waiting for parliamentary approval and that “a networked homeland security policy also demands that troops sometimes be deployed at home.” This is all but barred by the constitution, but such decisions would be part of a national security council writ.

National security councils, with their sinister connotations, are likely to soon become the norm, while our one available global institution for making military action less necessary, is as weak as are the aggregate many across the globe to control their national destinies.
The UN is only just realizing that its food organizations have to be revamped to cope with the global food crisis, which could have been foreseen; it has been unable to bring relief to the victims of the Myanmar cyclone because the military junta that has been in power since 1962 (almost as long as the Cuban regime, but with vastly different outcomes!) know that aid workers, transported in by the U.S., would becomes so many Trojan horses. Did not our President add to his offer of aid, the desire that the junta’s people also be allowed to choose their leaders?

Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton vows that if she were president she would “break up OPEC”, instead of telling voters that the oil consortium has to be integrated into the fledgling system of world governance.

Never was ‘the fierce urgency of now” more obvious.

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