The 2006 coup in Thailand has been described in terms of an ongoing struggle between the Thai military and the Thai citizenry. (See, for example, Chambers 2010.) According to this view, the military rose in power because of the coup, bringing with it various non-democratic changes to the political system. This model views the people of Thailand more-or-less as an amorphous whole. The divisions between Red Shirts and Yellow shirts are treated essentially as the transient political movements of the moment, and only passing attention is given to the predominant economic strata within these groups. I offer a different interpretation, one that introduces the concept of transcendent loci of political power. Political identities such as Pheu Thai or Yellow Shirts may come and go with the times, but immortal sociopolitical forces within Thai society have existed in some recognizable form or another for hundreds of years, and will survive all of Thailand’s modern-day political intrigues. When interpreted in terms of these transcendent loci, the Thaksin phenomenon and the political clashes that have continued are revealed to be aberrations, contrary to the ordinary structure and flow of Thai political life. The conflicts cannot last, because the opposing parties of today are, in the transcendent sense, natural allies; their reconciliation is inevitable. This interpretation suggests a profound stability to Thai political life, in spite of great bang and clatter at the surface. Continue reading
If our aid efforts in Afghanistan have largely gotten us nowhere, we would do well to consider that most of them are implemented in a way that amounts to Marxism: the central authority distributes goods according to people’s needs, with the expectation that those people will produce according to their abilities. Humanity spent the twentieth century proving that such a model does not work, so it is incongruous that we would attempt it in Afghanistan. At one point during the last three years, I was given control of an aid program operating in rural Dand District, south of Kandahar City, and I was free to employ my own market-based implementation strategy. I may report that we not only sparked booming economic growth in all our target villages, but we also wrested two villages from Taliban control and formally aligned them with the Afghan government. Think about that: an aid program seized ground from the enemy without a shot fired or a life lost. If we want to win in Afghanistan, I offer this program as a blueprint.