Governance behaving badly

For the last couple of posts, Turkey has featured, and not favourably. However, we must not lose track of other examples of governance issues. My first example is Syria. The West seems to have two objectives that seem to be counter to each other. The first is to get rid of ISIS, but they need someone else’s ground troops to do it. The second is to get rid of Assad. Accordingly, they are supporting a variety of “moderate” opposition. Seemingly they think this “moderate” opposition will bring peace and good governance to Syria.

Some of these “moderate” opposition comprise branches of al Qaeda, which does not meet my definition of a desirable winning party, but let us look at the behaviour of yet another group that has no blatant connection with al Qaeda: the Army of Islam. It apparently has its own news agency, Shaam, and one piece of news this agency has released is to note that in Douma, a suburb outside Damascus, rebels have been launching rockets into civilian areas of Damascus. The Russians, or Syrians, have in turn bombed sites in Douma, and inevitably, civilians have been killed. The Army of Islam have responded by taking Alawite prisoners, some of whom they have held for at least three years, presumably for the crime of being Alawite, and putting them into cages that are driven around the town as human shields. Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that is not moderate; that is a war crime. The second is that the West has made no objection, at least none that I know of. No threat of withdrawing support, or anything like that. Moral responsibility is a bit thin here.

But wait, there’s more! Ukraine seems to have faded from interest, and maybe that is encouraging aberrant behaviour. In my fiction, I have created some very evil characters in positions of power, but always they try to give the public impression that they are behaving legally. Even Hitler’s mob did that. They may have been the most illegal ever, but they passed laws and fixed judges, and painted pictures of themselves as legally responsible, even if they could hardly be further from it. No such pretence from the Ukraine.

A decade ago, 24 art works were stolen from Westfries museum in Hoorn, which is north of Amsterdam. These are believed to be worth about 10 million euros. The museum alleges that it has been approached by right wing Ukrainian agents and high level politicians. A year ago, the museum noticed one of the stolen paintings posted on a Ukrainian website, following which the Dutch embassy in Kiev was approached by two men who offered to return the paintings, eventually for 50 million euros. According to the article I saw, the museum claimed that one of the men behind this was Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda party. Two other high level Ukrainians were also named. If this is true, then the Ukrainian government is supporting extortion and theft; if it is not true the Ukrainian government should be investigating the claims. After all, the website posting at least shows that one of the stolen paintings is there. So, what has happened? As far as we can tell, nothing.

So, what should happen? If the West had any moral fibre, they should tell Ukraine that the West will not tolerate a criminal government, and require the Ukrainian government to investigate this allegation and if it is true, return the paintings and arrest the miscreants. And what if the Ukrainian government ignores this? One option is inform the right wing government that they would tell Putin that the West would take no further action in the Ukraine. Provided Russia treated civilians fairly, they could have a free go. My guess is, the paintings would be returned rather promptly.

However, the paintings are not really the issue; they are merely a symptom. If the right wing government is criminal, and is prepared to steal and extort for the benefit of a few party members, then why would the Eastern Ukrainians want to be part of that? By definition, their property would likely to be that of first resort for further appropriation. For a minority to accept majority government, there has to be evidence that the majority will at least respect the rights of the minority.