esmaspäev, märts 28, 2011

liibüa, liibüa

Liibüa, liibüa. There is something about the Estonian name for this North African country that reminds one of George Herbert Walker Bush vomiting on his Japanese counterpart.

It starts in the front of the mouth with an average-sounding "leeb" and then sort of sloppily falls off the lips at the end with a disgusted "boowaa." Leebboowaa. Leebewah. Leebooa.

How did they come up with such an unsavory rendering as Liibüa? If they cared to, they could easily have copied the British. Libya? How about Liibiia? Or Liibia? Or even Libja? But no. We have a country name that sounds like president throwing up.

Now it seems we all are suffering from an incurable case of Liibüa. NATO has assumed command of the no-fly zone, also known as the "mission to oust Gaddafi, or maybe not, let's just bomb his military and see what happens." I follow the news, quietly siding with the rebels. It's not that I really believe that they will pull off a liberal democracy in the end, it's just that Gaddafi is such a flamboyant dictator that any breathing human with a smidgen of humanism in his veins just can't resist the sight of him going down.

What comes next is just sand: limitless possibilities, more of the same. Who can really control or predict anything? And so we come to the point where seven Estonians were abducted in Liibanon last week, one of whom is the son of someone I know. They were cycling near the Bekaa Valley, having just crossed over from Süüria, at a time when the entire region is convulsing with political demonstrations, seething with unrest.

At first, I couldn't help but think they had fallen prey to their own innate Estonian naivety. Long freed from the bondage of a Soviet visa regime, nationals of this country have traveled to the most unlikely of places to take advantage of the liberties their parents longed to enjoy. Just as Estonians drive like they're in a video game, they travel like 19th century explorers. It's not uncommon to meet slight young Estonian girls who disappeared into the hills of Kashmir and not only emerged unscathed but with caravans of sherpas cheering them on and posing for their digital cameras in moments of global-a-go-go rapture.

The world is made up of the same elements. Rock, sand, stones, trees, bushes, wind, water, sun, and, of course, people. And, no matter where you go, people generally behave the same. The bizarre love triangles, the lust for material goods, the religious pontificating, the uneasy feeling that mankind has been cheated. You'll find it everywhere. As my continent-hopping wife once pointed out: "Do you really feel safe in lower Manhattan?" Or on the Tube in London? Or in coastal Japan? Point taken.

Robbed of all metrics with which to measure the distance between myself and the Libyans rebelling in Liibüa or the Estonians kidnapped in Liibanon, I sit and read the news, listening to The Jam sing "All Around the World," waiting. That's all most of us can do.

40 kommentaari:

plasma-jack ütles ...

any breathing human with a smidgen of humanism in his veins just can't resist the sight of him going down.

Libya is another example showing how much the parallel world views of Estonian residents differ - in short, Russians wouldn't agree with you at all, at least according to comments in ru.postimees.ee.

plasma-jack ütles ...

It's hard to see how they manage to fit their arguments on Ossetia, Kosovo and Libya into the same logical system, but they seem to have read their Orwell well. Although the same can be said about Europe and US...

Giustino ütles ...

Libya is another example showing how much the parallel world views of Estonian residents differ - in short, Russians wouldn't agree with you at all, at least according to comments in ru.postimees.ee.

Some people support dictatorships. Gaddafi was one of the autocrat jet set. Of course the others get nervous when they see one of their own go down.

Giustino ütles ...

Although the same can be said about Europe and US...

Sure. I'm not convinced that meddling in anyone's civil war is a good idea. The French meddled in the American revolution, and the Americans came out on top. A decade later the king of France was guillotined.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Some people support dictatorships.

Truth be told, I doubt that is the case. Rather they see colonel G as a champion of anti-imperalist resistance, an independent-minded leader. I.e. he's lovable not because he's a dictator (not that there's anything bad about it since there really are no democracies in the world, the argument goes) but because he's hated by the West.

Giustino ütles ...

Some Russians hate/envy America/the West because they were told at some point the myth that Russia and the West were fundamentally equal opponents, and so they are continuously baffled when, say, the US wins more Olympic medals than they do.

I think they favor flamboyant autocrats because they have been ruled by them for centuries. And, even more baffling, they believe the myth that dictatorships are stable.

I think that Russia is headed for a Middle East-like situation if they don't change course. Not this year, but in the future, unless Putin has the wisdom to get out of the way, the same things will happen to the elite.

Dean ütles ...

A split between Putin and Medvedev seems to have developed on the issue of Libya and perhaps others as well. While I don't think that Medvedev is a Jeffersonian democrat, I do think that he is beginning to understand that continued autocracy and hostility to the West will only bring more of the same for Russia -- corrupt civil institutions, deteriorating civil society, slow and distorted economic growth, and a lack of political maturation.

plasma-jack ütles ...

I think that Russia is headed for a Middle East-like situation if they don't change course.

I was going to say it's still very hard to imagine police using live ammo on protesters in Moscow or Piter, but then I remembered the 1993 crisis. Everything's imaginable, I guess.

A split between Putin and Medvedev seems to have developed on the issue of Libya and perhaps others as well.

Look at the two-headed eagle on Russia's coat of arms. One head to speak with the West and one to speak with Russian voters. Still the same bird.

Giustino ütles ...

I was going to say it's still very hard to imagine police using live ammo on protesters in Moscow or Piter, but then I remembered the 1993 crisis. Everything's imaginable, I guess.

Can you imagine a scenario where Putin peacefully relinquishes power and exits public life?

Lingüista ütles ...

Liibüa, liibüa. There is something about the Estonian name for this North African country that reminds one of George Herbert Walker Bush vomiting on his Japanese counterpart.

Blame the Greeks. They came up with the word in the form Λιβύα, which is very close in pronunciation to Estonian Liibüa (except the stress is on the second syllable: lee-BOOHAAH(vomit); Ancient Greek υ was already pronounced like German -- and Estonian -- ü). The Germans took the name with this pronunciation, changing only the ending and the stress to the initial syllabe: Libyen (the y in German is pronounced ü); but 'büen' doesn't seem like an improvement to me; it still has the same emetic power as büa. The Estonians probably simply took it over from the Germans.

So it's not their fault. It's (again) the Germans' fault. Or the Greeks. Or whoever they took that word from -- maybe some North African bedouin tribe. They're the ones with the funny mouths, not the Estonians. ;-)

Lingüista ütles ...

Look at the two-headed eagle on Russia's coat of arms. One head to speak with the West and one to speak with Russian voters. Still the same bird.

I've noticed the same reactions as plasma-jack. You don't even have to go to Postimees, even the ERR Russian site (rus.err.ee) will give you this kind of reactions from Russian-speaking Estonians...

To me it's a bit like soccer rivalries. In soccer, we Brazilians are supposed to hate the Argentinians. Nobody can even say that he likes Maradona, and everything the Argentinians say and do is by definition evil. But secretly we know the Argentinians do know how to play soccer well.

Likewise with Russia and the West. Because secretly they actually know the situation in the West is better than their country, but they are used to a big rivalry ('we should be the best, not they!'). So, to them, the West can do nothing right.

We're comparable powers, they think. (Don't you remember the minister -- I think it was a minister, I forget his name -- who compared the European Union to the Soviet Union as 'more or less the same kind of thing'?) We have as much right to claim leadership, nay domination, of the world as the 'Muricans. We are doing that. It's a game. We're fighting. A zero-sum game. If they win, we lose. If they get Libya, we lose it.

It's not a question of being consistent: it's a question of who's winning, who is stronger. Of course Kosovo, Ossetia and Libya must be judged differently: in some of these cases we win if the current regime wins, in others we lose. Hence the difference.

And they feel angry. It's funny to watch some of the Russians react to that (my father-in-law is a good example). If the Americans win something (whatever the definition of 'win' is), it feels like a personal offense. Ах. эти американцы!. Just like losing a match to Argentina feels like a personal offense to a self-respecting Brazilian.

Then again... are we sure Americans (Germans, Estonians...) wouldn't react like that if they suddenly felt threatened? I remember a certain degree of surprise at the American anti-French reaction before the Gulf War (freedom fries, anyone). Maybe, all in all, the Russians aren't so strange. They're just more obvious about it.

Lingüista ütles ...

Can you imagine a scenario where Putin peacefully relinquishes power and exits public life?

Only if someone stronger and/or more popular than him suddenly appears. Khodorkovsky could have become such a man, but he was dealt with.

It's really a pity, you know. As individuals, Russians are excellent people. Their culture and literature are really wonderful and available to anyone who wants to explore them. But their political culture... Sigh. Ah, why did Novgorod have to fall to Muscovy?...

plasma-jack ütles ...


Can you imagine a scenario where Putin peacefully relinquishes power and exits public life?


The chat here should really be about Libya (mea culpa), but short answer would be yes, even this scenario is not unthinkable. Just unlikely.

On topic: the rumor goes that the Libyan foreign minister has arrived in Tunesia with his family and lots of luggage... As for Gaddafi, I would still bet that he will stay in power in Tripoli as long as he pleases, provided that the rebels can't overthrow him, because the coalition simply won't. Although, since the rebels just got green light for selling Libya's oil (which they seem to control, more or less), they could eventually have the money to buy some mercenary fire power to do this power shift for them... But so far it seems that Luttwak was right and "humanitarian intervention" only serves to prolong the conflict. "We don't want to overthrow Gaddafi, we'll just bomb him until he starts behaving nicely" isn't exactly the kind of thinking that solves anything. It might be true that democracies do not wage war between each other, but more importantly, they shouldn't start wars at all if they don't know (and they usually don't) why they're doing it.
I mean, if they want to be tough guys, just get over with it and kill the bastard, God knows he deserves it. Or if they want to be the nice nonviolent guys, stay in character like Germans. Hiding themselves behind euphemisms like "no-fly zone" ("Yeah, we might be bombing a few targets on foreign soil, but surely that doesn't amount to WAR?! Because, well, our voters hate war") only makes this coalition appear weak and confused (which is true, of course, but they should TRY to hide it). There's few things more despisable than a pussy with big muscles. "I might fight this guy but are there any guarantees he won't hit me back? Because I have this face I have to keep clean for Mommy. Can't hurt him too much, either - see ref A (Mommy)."

plasma-jack ütles ...

Although maybe I'm too harsh on West and they're actually actively arming rebels via proxy states (there has already been talk of shiny new AK-s flowing in from Egypt, but you can't take out a tank with an AK) and making plans for assassinating Gaddafi. Or sending mr Tim Spicer and his jolly company of mercenaries in. Since the rebels are holding the oil one must wonder what is going on in HQ-s of large mercenary corporations like Xe...

Temesta ütles ...

@ Lingüista:

"(Don't you remember the minister -- I think it was a minister, I forget his name -- who compared the European Union to the Soviet Union as 'more or less the same kind of thing'?)"

Do you mean Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic? :)

Temesta ütles ...

@ Plasma-jack:

"It's hard to see how they manage to fit their arguments on Ossetia, Kosovo and Libya into the same logical system, but they seem to have read their Orwell well. Although the same can be said about Europe and US.."

It's not about consistency. It's about which actions best serve the perceived interests of the nation.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Yeah, Temesta, I understand. But they still say that attacking Libya is wrong BECAUSE "an agression against a sovereign state is unacceptable" and recognizing independent Kosovo is wrong because "territorial integrity is essential" while invading Georgia and recognizing Ossetia, even without the UN fig leaf, is perfectly justified by the need to "protect civilian population" (while bombing Chechnya is still definitely an internal matter of a sovereign state). I mean, they really seem to BELIEVE that reasoning, everything at once. It would be great if they said like Aaviksoo recently did, "we're right because we are us, those who are not us are, by definition, wrong", but they don't seem to have reached this conclusion consciously.

plasma-jack ütles ...

How did Orwell call the ability to genuinely believe in two opposing concepts at once? In Estonian translation, it was "kaksisoim".

plasma-jack ütles ...

"doublethink"

Temesta ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

"Yeah, Temesta, I understand. But they still say that attacking Libya is wrong BECAUSE "an agression against a sovereign state is unacceptable" and recognizing independent Kosovo is wrong because "territorial integrity is essential" while invading Georgia and recognizing Ossetia, even without the UN fig leaf, is perfectly justified by the need to "protect civilian population" (while bombing Chechnya is still definitely an internal matter of a sovereign state). I mean, they really seem to BELIEVE that reasoning, everything at once. It would be great if they said like Aaviksoo recently did, "we're right because we are us, those who are not us are, by definition, wrong", but they don't seem to have reached this conclusion "

What makes you think they actually believe what they say? Maybe they are just not bothered by making incoherent statements?
I think we always have to ad something to their statements that for them is self-evident but that we do not always grasp.
'Territorial integrity is essential' is valid in the case of Kosovo and 'protection of the civilian population' is valid in the case of Ossetia if we ad '... if it is in the interests of Russia'. :)

Lingüista ütles ...

@ Temesta,

No, it was someone else. Nice try, though. :-)

Indeed the point you make is the one I made: Russia will do anything that is good for Russia, to hell with 'rights' and 'wrongs' and 'idealisms' and 'freedoms'. In a certain sense, it's refreshing to see this Machiavellian side freely admitted (at least by the people, if not by the government: the presidents continue to claim to like "justice").

Lingüista ütles ...

Territorial integrity is essential' is valid in the case of Kosovo and 'protection of the civilian population' is valid in the case of Ossetia if we ad '... if it is in the interests of Russia'.

Precisely! Kaksisoim of the best kind.

And basically it does all boil down to emotions about 'territorial gains'. The Russians are cheering for their team; of course anything good the other side does is bad by definition. Just like a soccer match. :-)

plasma-jack ütles ...

What makes you think they actually believe what they say?

The fact that they speak these things among themselves, too.

Giustino ütles ...

If the Russians love Gaddafi so much, they can offer him exile, either at home or in one of their client states.

plasma-jack ütles ...

'Territorial integrity is essential' is valid in the case of Kosovo and 'protection of the civilian population' is valid in the case of Ossetia if we ad '... if it is in the interests of Russia'.

I fail to see how opposing Kosovo's independence or invading Georgia helped directly protect Russia's interests, more correct ending to this sentence would be "if it makes us proud for no reason"...

Temesta ütles ...

"I fail to see how opposing Kosovo's independence or invading Georgia helped directly protect Russia's interests, more correct ending to this sentence would be "if it makes us proud for no reason"..."

You should no to try to project your idea about the interests of Russia on these cases. It will not help you to understand their actions or statements, on the contrary.
Kosovo's independence: It hurts a friend/ally and is some kind of triumph for the West.
Invading Georgia: it damages a state that they see as an enemy.

Temesta ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

"Indeed the point you make is the one I made: Russia will do anything that is good for Russia, to hell with 'rights' and 'wrongs' and 'idealisms' and 'freedoms'. In a certain sense, it's refreshing to see this Machiavellian side freely admitted (at least by the people, if not by the government: the presidents continue to claim to like "justice")."

Sometimes I long for the days of Bismarck when states would just pursue the foreign policy that best served their interests without having to hide their true intentions by reference to 'human rights'.

Temesta ütles ...

and other high ideals.

Giustino ütles ...

Indeed. France might have had boots on the ground by now. They could have moored one of those Mistral amphibious assault ships in Tripoli harbor.

P. ütles ...

West - South Ossetia and Kosovo are different.

Russia - Kosovo and South Ossetia are different.

Sounds logical and consistant to me.

P. ütles ...

"I think that Russia is headed for a Middle East-like situation if they don't change course. Not this year, but in the future, unless Putin has the wisdom to get out of the way, the same things will happen to the elite"

When? Russia doesn't have masses of young jobless men,in fact Russia imports labor, Uzbeks clean streets, Ukr. drive buses, etc. And Med. and Putin are seen as cool and young. Maybe if they stick around for next 20 years and Russia is economic disaster and than perhaps people will have enough. It is about economy, we couldn't care less about anything else.
I mean really do think Russians care about Gaddafi? Don't make me laugh.

Giustino ütles ...

When? Russia doesn't have masses of young jobless men,in fact Russia imports labor, Uzbeks clean streets, Ukr. drive buses, etc. And Med. and Putin are seen as cool and young. Maybe if they stick around for next 20 years and Russia is economic disaster and than perhaps people will have enough.

That's what I mean. Could be 20 years. Could be five. But if a change in leadership is needed and there is no agreed upon way for the leaders to exit, then you will have an Egyptian or Libyan situation. Remember, Gaddafi has been in power for 42 years.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Gotta admit that it is confusing to look at these people who drive like they are playing Grand Theft Auto or traveling through the 3rd world conflict zones like 19th century explorers.

Is it beign totally clueless OR having brass balls?

I would not be too surprised to read next Jaan Tätte dispatch from the coast of Japan telling us how cool it was to suntan next to the Fukushima nuclear reactor, watching the little funny Japaneses pointing at them and desperately shouting something ...

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The poltitical sience and media had reasoned why it can not happen what happens in Egypt, Tunuisa and Libya. And so it comes that many are sidelining peoples will in that region. This is the state of the West. Anyway others will take over in the future,I hope, and the West will be history in the way it has seen itself.
Germany did not vote for the military back up in the UN-Security Council. We are sidelining Russia and Russia somehow.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Russia and China of course

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

This makes me angry:

Al Jazeera Libya Live Blog April 1. Or is it for April fools.

"8:18am

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle says Libya's crisis cannot be resolved through military means and all sides must get to work on a political resolution.

Westerwelle said on a visit to China that a first step must be a cease-fire that is heeded by Gaddafi.

Speaking before Westerwelle at a Friday briefing, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also expressed Chinese support for a diplomatic solution. He says China is worried about reports of continuing clashes and civilian casualties.

Both China and Germany abstained in the UN Security Council vote that authorised the establishment of a no-fly zone and demanded that Libyan government forces pull back from population centers."

So let us wait until Gaddafi wishes a ceasefire.

Mads Michael ütles ...

If you look at comments posted in Estonian-language media you will find a lot of comments against interfering in Libya and even supporting Gaddafi, which initially surprised me. But in general I don't think that you can take the views expressed in comments on the internet as representative for the views of the public in general. I think those who comments generally have more extreme views than the population in general, and that goes not only on this specific topic.