Friday, March 24, 2006

Belarus Crackdown!

Everybody expected Lukashenko to crack down sooner or later, and now he's done it.

Two questions remain: What (if anything) will the people of Belarus do now? What (if anything) will the West do now?

If the user comments to two posts on the Guardian site are any indication, there's a surprisingly strong -- or at least vocal -- constituency for the "Do Absolutely Nothing" position. My impression is that this notion is especially popular in the UK. I'm not sure why, exactly. It may be the simple desire to oppose anything it looks like Bush & Co. are for. A bit of dark muttering about "Bush... Blair... CIA..." and you're off the hook for anything, it seems. I'm genuinely curious, and I don't want to deal in cartoonish stereotypes here. I'm sure they mean well, and sincerely think they're doing the right thing. And I agree, not interfering in other countries' internal business is usually quite a fine thing. I wouldn't rank it the absolute highest goal, but in general it's a praiseworthy notion.

If you're really so disgusted at Bush and Blair, why do you keep giving them the power to determine what your own opinions will be? If Bush showed up in Minsk tomorrow and gave Lukashenko a big sloppy kiss, would that finally get your attention? Then will you suddenly start caring about Belarus? Is that really what it's going to take?

I also think I detect an undercurrent of Euroskepticism in the comments as well. During the ultimately successful protests in Ukraine, more than one commentator intimated that democracy in Ukraine inevitably meant another poor foundling on the EU's doorstep. Which is a rather venal and self-interested attitude, but one that's in some ways understandable. If you let Ukraine and Belarus in, you can't really keep Russia out permanently, and if you do that you've just expanded the EU's borders to China and the Pacific Ocean. Do all ex-Soviet republics have a seat waiting in Brussels? Is Tajikistan really a European country? And if you let all of them in, why not, say, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, or India?

But at the same time, it's hard to look at protesters in the squares of Minsk or Kiev and pretend they have nothing in common with their neighbors to the west. It's hard to look at them and not think of 1989, try as you might. It's hard to look at what Lukashenko's been up to the last 12 years and claim the protesters don't have a valid point. To argue for "noninterference" in this case is to argue that somehow the people of Belarus will somehow benefit if we just close our eyes, plug our ears, turn our backs, and let Lukashenko have at it.

A list of more Belarus links and info, in addition to those listed in my previous post:

  • This post at Gateway Pundit has pics and discussion about the crackdown.
  • Rush-Mush has numerous accounts from people on the ground in Minsk.
  • Tobias Ljunvall has a weekly blog about Belarus, posted every Sunday. A lot's happened since last Sunday, so the current post practically reads like ancient history.
  • This post at Babruisk (in Belarusian) has lots of pictures of the riot cops cracking down.
  • More news & discussion at Neeka's Backlog.
  • A post about a group of Belarusians' flashmob reaction to the state media.

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