Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
<Previous Next>
Sat Mar 3 16:52:12 2007
Pondering Satellites

When I was younger, the history books used to teach us described East Germany as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, little different than the component SSRs in the USSR. Having come to an age where I understand that history books written in a state that was a major player in the cold war may distort facts (or blatantly lie), and being in contact with a few East Germans, some time ago I asked them if they thought of their former state as having been as such, and they thought the notion to be rubbish. At the very last, the notion of the DDR as a puppet state is disputable, but this may depend on what it means to be a puppet state. To explore the topic, we might imagine the modern United States as another potential puppetmaster and see if any interesting theoretical lines jump out which help us define the term. For starters, we might look at close, sometimes personal ties between leaders. I'm inclined to toss this out though, in that while it's rare between hostile states, it's not that rare in modern politics in general and it's hard to judge these things from the outside, even if the blood relations between Tony Blair and BushJr or the coordinated friendliness between Castro and Chávez suggest *something*. As evidence of the difficulty involved in judging these things, the historical friendliness between Saddam Hussein and many modern and past American political figures is hard to reconcile with the recent invasion. I'm next inclined to look at two things, first close bonds between political organisation and expected severe consequences for breaking over major issues. Are there close bonds between American political parties and other states where America might be accused of puppeteering (or being in bloc with)? Initially, I'd have to say no, because American politics is presently uniquely lassiez-faire with the vestiges of McCarthyism having sterilised the left leaving only a struggle between centre and right parties. Most other countries have active socialist and communist parties, and lassiez-faire capitalism isn't taken for granted. On further reflection, there have been many times where the United States has toppled or intervened in other states when they opposed American business interests (e.g. Iran, Cuba, and Hawai'i) - while proper unity has, as I understand, never been a goal, heavy business-friendliness has often been militarily enforced. (I might note that America seems to have been a splendid student and later partner to Britain. It's a pity that more Boxer rebellions haven't been forthcoming). I'm not sure then if the distinction between proper political unity and being willing to be the lesser partner in neocolonialism is a deep one. Looking at the latter matter, consequences for breaking over major issues, we find a number of similarities (and a few differences) between Soviet-bloc states and America's candidate puppets - the interests of the American business community (and to an extent, state/people interests) dominate a number of international institutions that typically demand compliance with their mandates, such as World Bank (which ties its loans to developing nations to their gutting social programmes and adopting a lassiez-faire stance) and WIPO (which, while getting its way typically through other supernational entities, demands strong IP protections be implemented everywhere). The degree to which states are vulnerable to pressures from these entities depends on how much trade they're already engaged in with the United States, but defiance would be very costly and potentially ruinous for most foreign states, and there's always the risk of invasion. Would East Germany have been much different? At the very least, East Germany would've had its military aid from the Soviet Union cut off if it acted too independently - Tito's Yugoslavia managed to do so, and East Germany was likely more wealthy so it might've managed without. The United States provides substantial military aide to various countries over the world, both in training and through sales of equipment/vehicles, with "favourable terms" having been bartered for policy friendliness for many years - military support is nothing new. There's a question as to how unified the East German military was with the Soviet military, as well as how likely an actual invasion would've been for various types of breaking step. One thing absent in both situations is frequent actual transfer of people between the ministries of each state - apart from possibly the military (where we'd probably never know), as I understand it's rare that the U.S. sends people directly to run parts of other state governments (although advisors are not rare), and I understand it also to have been rare that the Soviet Union did the same for East Germany. This stands in contrast to relations between member states of the Soviet Union, where it wasn't common but wasn't rare. I'm not convinced that there are easy lines to be drawn for what constitutes a puppet state, but for most of the criteria I considered, I don't think East Germany could easily be considered a clear example of such.

The cats, while continuing to be cute and wonderful, have made significant progress in destroying my remaining couch, bit-by-bit. It bothers me that I can't get decent furniture because they'll eventually destroy it, and that they show no signs of change to my yelling at them whenever they apply their claws to things they shouldn't. Ahh well. So it goes. I've been having a lot of dreams of iguanas recently, and I kind of miss them. Just as having Igs meant usually having scratch marks on my arms and my always smelling a bit like farm, keeping cats means that I'll always have a bit of cat fur on all my clothes, have a thin layer of fur coating my entire apartment, and having things moved around and occasionally clawed up. I can't expect them to be simply awesome on all accounts, I guess.

Tonight, I'm going to see the previously mentionedLittle Red Riding Hood play(s) in the Southside.