Talking points 18th August

Goodmorning it’s Karnie today…

Thanks to Andrew in Australia and Abdi in Kenya for looking after the blank page over the weekend. I must admit I haven’t yet had time to look at your suggestions but will do so shortly. In the meantime here’s a story worth discussing..it’s just come through:

President Pervez Musharraf who’s faced threats of impeachment for over a week now AND pressure from senior politicians to resign has decided to do just that, he HAS stepped down as President of Pakistan. Has he made the right decision? Is this the best move for the future of the Pakistan?


Here’s one that won’t go away. We have spoken about it before BUT it doesn’t stop us from talking about it once again, afterall, it’s still out there:

Russia is certainly not “playing nice” or rather not playing into the hands of the United States OR the EU for that matter, when it comes to Georgia. Despite diplomatic pressure and the signing of a ceasefire agreement Russian troops remained in parts of Georgia over the weekend.

Both America and the EU, has said that Russia must accept Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that Russians must withdraw their forces quickly. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel said the world was waiting for Russia to live up to its promise. Despite a pledge by the Russian president, it’s unclear exactly when the pull-out will take place and how far troops will be pulled back.

Is the EU and the US doing enough to ensure Georgia’s sovereignty? OR is this the return of a very powerful Russia? Will Russia eventually decide the fate of Georgia? Here’s an interesting comment by columnist Graham Watson from the Guardian newspaper.

OR as Max Hastings from the same newspaper puts it: “Should America (or the west) stop pretending that Democracy is the answer to all the world’s ills?”


Would you do it?

Switching nationalities in order to compete at the Olympics has become more noticeable in Beijing than in previous Games. There are Brazilians playing beach volleyball for Georgia, a Syrian has been swimming for Germany, and an American is playing for Russia. It’s beginning to cause concern among international sports bodies.

But just how important is it? Should athletes be allowed to switch nationalities? As this article: What’s in a nationality when an Olympic medal is at stake?

28 Responses to “Talking points 18th August”

  1. 1 nelsoni
    August 18, 2008 at 10:02

    @ Karnie. Best of luck reading 500 + comments. Well about Musharaff, he found himself in between a rock and a hard place. So either way he was always going to leave office. Whether he has made the right move or has done what’s best for Pakistan, the days and months to come will decide that. He was a very useful ally to the West. If he is replaced by a moderate then things may not change too much but if a hard liner or an extremist replaces him then the whole complexion of things will change for certain especially with regards to the war on terror. I think it’s great for democracy that a duly elected military dictator can be kicked out of office. Through democratic means. 🙂

    August 18, 2008 at 10:23

    It is the people who have given the authority to any president to rule the country.They can withdraw this authority any time they feel the president is not performing satisfactorily.President Musharraf has made right decision to resign This will give chance to the people to choose the person who can perform better to their expectation.President Musharraf resignation is clear indication that he is not like most of the African presidents who like to die on power regardless of peoples’ demands for them to step down.Bravo President Musharraf .I wish our African presidents emulate your decision.

    August 18, 2008 at 11:12

    Each country has its freedom and this freedom must not be interfered by any other country.Russia must respect the soverignity of Georgia by withdrawing its troops unconditionally.Russia can not determine the fate of Georgia it is the Georgian to determine their own fate given their rights as the peoples of Georgia.

    The west must stop pretending that democracy can be the answer to the world’s iillness because in reality democracy is only relevant in a country but it does n’t work across two countries.The Eu and US should intervent miltarily to rescue Georgia from the hand of Russia,ohterwise they would be toothless Dog

    Democracy alone will not solve the world’s problem there is need to use both democracy and a bid of detactorship when it comes to solving world illness.

  4. 4 Jonathan
    August 18, 2008 at 11:12

    By all accounts I’ve heard or read, and in the nearly unanimous opinion of Pakistanis–something like 90%–Musharraf was right to resign, one step ahead of the sherriff, as it were. He may or may not have had a hand in the country’s remarkable economic improvements, but his open contempt for the judiciary meant he had overstepped his bounds. I’ve been impressed by the patience, courage, and earnestness of the people of Pakistan recently. The sight of thousands of lawyers demonstrating is an unfamiliar one to these American eyes.

    Musharraf was notorious for playing games with the US concerning the terrorists who find safe harbor there, helping just enough to keep the money flowing, but not enough to make a dent. By associating itself so closely and so long with an increasingly unpopular crypto-dictator, the US typically has not helped its popularity in Pakistan.

  5. August 18, 2008 at 12:01

    Pervez Musharaf may be a good ally of the West in their crusade against terrorism but he is not a good advert for democracy. The winds of change are now blowing very strongly against him and the tide ha turned and it will be in his best interest to sway with the contingencies of the tide.

  6. 6 Muhammad Asim Munir
    August 18, 2008 at 12:05

    Hi WHYS!

    I hope you all are fine.

    You ask about Musharraf: Has he made the right decision? Is this the best move for the future of the Pakistan?

    ANS: First of all it can’t be said as General’s decision as he still wanted to enjoy presidency. He is FORCED to take this STEP not DECISION.

    Secondly, his resignation is not the solution of problems Pakistan is facing. However, i hope that now Pakistan will go in better direction without him. He was a self-loving arrogant person who never respected wishes of his nation.

    Muhammad Asim Munir
    Gujranwala, Pakistan.

  7. 7 Brett
    August 18, 2008 at 12:17

    “Should America (or the west) stop pretending that Democracy is the answer to all the world’s ills?”

    Good lord, what a well worded question. It is pathetic how Bush uses the excuse of “Democracy” in his explanation of many of the US’ poorly led international military ventures and economic/political pressures.
    Democracy is not the silver bullet to change everyones lives for the better; Nor is it good reasoning for picking and chosing allies or using it as the guise for military campaigns.

  8. August 18, 2008 at 12:58

    Hi WHYS,

    Olympic games should remain a competion between nations[strictly put, a group of athletes from a certain country]. Admiting participants from countries that accept mediocres who have failed to qualify in their countries of origin is diluting the standards of the games and is not in the spirit of the olympic movement.


  9. 9 Shirley
    August 18, 2008 at 13:10

    Perhaps there is hope for democracy in Pakistan? Iam so glad to hear this news; and just before heading off to sleep. Thank you, BBC, for being the messenger of good nes in this case.

  10. 10 gary
    August 18, 2008 at 13:27

    Democracy is not the answer to all the world’s ills. It would be well for the US to ackowledged this. However, it would be well for the rest of the world to acknowlegde that no, single governmental form is the answer, either. Impositions, even of order, are always unwelcome. In fact, the existence of free will precludes a universal answer. All human variables are well-plotted on the normal curve. Preference for governance is no exception. Thus, while the middle may be content, both “ends” will be pissed-off for exactly opposite reasons.
    Sorry if this sounds dark, it is just the ways thing are.

  11. 11 Shaun in Halifax
    August 18, 2008 at 13:37

    Unless I’m mistaken, Mr. Musharraf has played both ends over the last few years. He has, on the surface, given full support to the US and its crusade against emotion (terror), while at the same time allowing the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to be more porous than sandstone. The net result is (apparently) that Afghani Taliban/Al Quaeda have been free to come over the border to do attacks then run back into Pakistan where the coalition forces aren’t allowed. Plus apparently Bin Laden is there, too.

    I think Mr. Musharraf made an especially wise and notably rare decision for a dictator. He willingly gave up power before the courts and country exposed him and took the power away. It is similar to the political strategy of willingly disclosing any past affairs/drug habits before the media gets a whiff and blows it all out of proportion. Whereas Mr. Clinton said “I did not inhale,” Mr. Obama said “Of course I inhaled. That was the point.”

  12. 12 Bob in Queensland
    August 18, 2008 at 13:49

    Regarding your Olympic question about athletes changing country, I’d like to propose a slightly broader question which came to mind on a long drive today:

    “Is the modern pre-occupation with national medal counts perverting what is meant to be a competition between individual athletes?”

    I’ve noticed several times lately people who don’t normally bother about sports using phrases like “WE won another medal today” or “WE have more medals than country X even though they have twice our population”.

    On one hand, perhaps this can be taken as a healthy bonding exercise amongst citizens of each country. However, it could also be taken as an unhealthy level of extreme nationalism, even jingoism…and, whatever you think of the nationalistic aspects, this certainly doesn’t fit with the original Olympic ideals of individual competition.

    The TP question about athletes “changing flag” is but one aspect of this as countries and athletes bend the rules to try and gain an advantage–hardly what the Olympics were originally conceived as.

  13. August 18, 2008 at 13:55

    One looks forward to a trend of inept Presidents following this admirable example.


  14. 14 Shaun in Halifax
    August 18, 2008 at 14:04

    @ Bob

    Good topic. Two additional cents to throw in. “WE won another medal today” or “WE have more medals than country X even though they have twice our population”. That has something to do with the national pride and just the depth of the gene pool. An example is the 1972 Summit Series in ice hockey between Canada and the Soviets. The USSR had a truly MASSIVE talent pool to choose from as compared to what Canada had at the time, yet it is STILL, to THIS DAY a point of pride for Canadians everywhere. Now there was dirty play and shennanigans aplenty, but it leads me nicely to the second point made by Orwell in his essay The Sporting Spirit that runs something like:

    “But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe–at any rate for short periods–that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.”

    And of course, my personal favorite and still surprisingly relevant decades later:

    “If you wanted to add to the vast fund of ill-will existing in the world at this moment, you could hardly do it better than by a series offootball matches between Jews and Arabs, Germans and Czechs, Indians and British, Russians and Poles, and Italians and Jugoslavs, each match to be watched by a mixed audience of 100,000 spectators.”

  15. 15 Robert Evans
    August 18, 2008 at 14:08

    I think that his departure should be welcomed by everyone because now the militaries can get on with defecting terrorist cells where ever they are around the world. This is because I suspect that Mr Musharraf was not pulling his significant countries weight. So this would mean the countries that are involved can be doing more now. If they charge him I would hope for swift result and then everyone can fight in the same direction.

  16. 16 Sheikh Kafumba Dukuly
    August 18, 2008 at 14:09

    Thanks to all the contributors of BP.20. 562+ comments? Fantastic! Musharaaf is out. Who will be the next western puppet?

  17. 17 Sheikh Kafumba Dukuly
    August 18, 2008 at 14:13

    Nelsoni, i must admit that i envy your energy. You are my nominee for any WHYSer Award. Thanks for always being there. Brazil women soccer team qualified for the final after thrashing Germany in the olympic semi final.

  18. 18 Sabs
    August 18, 2008 at 14:16

    Days ahead will tell whether Musharraf’s decision was the best for the future of Pakistan. He made a mistake of letting Benazir and Zardari back…he will suffer the consequence. By doing what he did, he has handed the country back to the crooks! As a Pakistani American, it’s sad to see the country going back in the wrong direction again.

  19. 19 Tom
    August 18, 2008 at 15:13

    @ Bob,

    Being Australian I understand very well your reference of jingoism in referencing the country’s achievement in world sports. We have a TV channel (Seven) that is dedicated in broadcasting almost exclusively events involving Australians. The problem with this is that the purpose of the broadcast is more nationalistic than to show pure good sports. Sport is a national obsession and is probably the only thing that Australia sees itself as a world leader. The country’s over-emphasis on the succcess of its national sporting teams, especially over the ‘pommies’, conveys a feeling of inferiority and insecurity about itself.

    Athletes who take up citizenship in other countries so that they could take part in the Olympics are, in my opinion, a better embodiment of the Olympic spirit. This is because their intention is on personal participation and achievement in their chosen discipline rather than on nationalistic pride. A number of retired Australian athletes have continued their contributions to sport by taking up coaching positions for other countries.

  20. 20 Bob in Queensland
    August 18, 2008 at 15:37

    @ Tom

    Actually, it’s not just Australia. Having been watching a lot of the Channel 7 covereage (my wife is an addict) I know what you mean but my question was prompted by another forum I visit (actually a fan site for an SF author). That site has members from quite a few countries and they all seem to be reacting the same way, somehow taking credit for the the accomplishments of their countries’ athletes.

    (My favourite memory of this was the way most of the UK became instant curling fans when the GB women’s team won a gold in this event a a Winter Olympics a few years back.)

  21. 21 Shirley
    August 18, 2008 at 16:44

    “Should America (or the west) stop pretending that Democracy is the answer to all the world’s ills?”

    This is a very interesting question. When democracy is treated as a religion in the same way that some evangelists treat religion, it becomes too easy to forget manners and ethics. As someone who lives in a democracy and has only known a democracy, it is hard for me to imagine being happy in some other system of government. However, if someone is happy with some other system of government, why force them to trade it in? There is also the question about whether it is indeed a kind thing to use military force to remove governents that are not democratic when at the same time one is violating all manner of international law and human rights. And when the newly imposed democratic government can’t een begin to hide the puppet strings holding it up, it just doesn’t feel like a democracy, either.

    Something to chew on might be what the differences are between what are did in Japan and what we are doing in Iraq.

  22. 22 Shirley
    August 18, 2008 at 16:56

    Olympics & Can’t We All Just Get Along
    Shaun, are you certain that sports matches between opposing countries would heighten the animosity? (or let me know if I misunderstood you)

  23. 23 Brett
    August 18, 2008 at 17:44

    What ever happened to the drinking age topic? I thought that would make a rather interesting discussion seeing as how the laws and cultures vary greatly from country to country…

  24. 24 Shirley
    August 18, 2008 at 18:26

    Brett, I think that it was bad timing. The topic will probably make for a good conversation, but it might not get the traffic that it could get with the Olympics going on.

  25. August 18, 2008 at 19:13

    Message to Russia,

    All break away Republics need to amass their troops on their boarders with Russia. Dig in. Also when the Russian hear about this, they can start to worry.

    After they are on the boarder for several months, the troops ought to advance in a few hundred meters and dig in another set of foxholes.

    All troops in Georgia now need to break down into sniper teams and seek cover and targets. American humanitarian flights ought to carry in long range sniper rifles, and stinger missiles. If the Russians continure to dig in…..then the Georgians ought to start taking out all Russian Soldiers and leave the Russian tanks to be destroyed one by one.

    Cut off all supplies to deliver water and food to Russian Invaders. Starve them out and pick them off one by one. Any infantry moves pick them off with good snipers. Wound them don’t kill them, so that an enormous amount of energy and time has to be expended taking care of wounded soldiers.

    The word will quickly spread that the “GODLESS EVIL EMPIRE IS ATTEMPTING TO RETURN” The crazies can then try to earn virgins from Allah by launching a real serious Jihad against the big godless bear.

    The Americans can then announce that originally the defensive missiles in Polan were for the Iranians, but now that the Russians have figured to take back all their buffer states we are going to carefully consider delivering different weapons to handle ground armies intent on invading buffer states.

    troop in Oregon

  26. 26 Roberto
    August 18, 2008 at 19:13

    Here is a soundbite on an NPR news report.


    It seems the Harrold School District in West Texas is implementing a policy allowing teachers to carry licensed concealed handguns to school. This school district located off a busy hwy around approx 150 mile NW of Fort Worth.

    Been through the area many times recently. Lot’s of illegal immigrants working the fields and ranches. The towns are tiny and the district doesn’t have much money to operate especially with the flood of immigrants who are not a reliable tax base..

    School super said the teachers didn’t feel safe, and with the breakdown of law and order at the highest levels of government, locals are feeling pressured to take actions to protect themselves.

  27. 27 Tom
    August 19, 2008 at 01:00

    @ Bob,

    I was citing Australia as it’s the most glaring example that I’m exposed to everyday at every Olympic / Commonwealth Games / World Championship. No doubt this type of nationalistic expression is common to many other sporting countries. China is another example but that may be more so because they are the host country. The national pride displayed whenever a Chinese athlete takes the stage was overwhelming.

    In relation to your curling example, soccer/football in Australia has long been a schoolyard sport that many Australians see is a sport for migrants, wuss and p**fters. The Australian football chief said few years ago that if Australia made it to the World Cup finals, there would instantly be 20 million football fans. It turned out to be correct during the World Cup at Germany. This popularity has since continued with strong attendances to domestic A-League matches. This shows that a sport’s popular acceptance has to do to a large degree with the performance of the national team.

  28. 28 Marty Lee
    August 19, 2008 at 06:25

    Here we go again.

    The events occurring in Georgia is indeed worrying. Old cold war animosity is being ignited all over again. While politicians worry about their strategic influence and geo political interest, can’t they at least take a clue from the history that this is not the way forward.

    The consequences would not be felt immediately for now. But with NATO moving way too close for comfort, you would at least expect the Russians not to take it lying down. Now there is talk about cutting out Russia from the G7, G8 and there is the direct threat to Russia of wanting to cut her off from all contacts and reduce her presence in the International community.

    I hope I am wrong, but if this bickering accelerate, we could be ushered into another era of standoffs. A decade or two from now, if the current developments does are not improve, we can be certain that the present episode for Georgia is merely a prelude of what is coming our way.

    Everybody seems to have forgotten that the world have kept its previous cold war bliss with nuclear weapons. Are the current NATO nations forgetting something here ?

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