Why Trump Should Study Aung San Suu Kyi’s Speech – M K Bhadrakumar | Asia Times

Why Trump Should Study Aung San Suu Kyi’s Speech

M K Bhadrakumar | Asia Times

Aung San Suu Kyi

Two speeches by two leaders made headlines this week [Sept 2017] – one by USA President Donald Trump, the other by Myanmar’s head of government, Aung San Suu Kyi.

No two leaders could be so unlike each other. Trump is a widely ridiculed figure in the international community, which mocks him for being, variously, pompous, boorish and sometimes just plain ignorant.

Sui Kyi, a Nobel laureate, is a fallen angel caught up in the maelstrom of her silence over the attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, on August 25, and the ensuing military response, which has forced over 410,000 displaced people to flee to Bangladesh.   

Trump popped up on the global radar out of nowhere, and fairly recently. Other than being a successful real estate developer, he is a nobody in the country he leads. Suu Kyi was, on the other hand, long regarded as representing the conscience of the global community.

Suu Kyi probably faces the greater challenge insofar as – lately – she has been vilified for not being the Mother Teresa figure the world had come to expect. Trump is rather better placed, because he stands on ground zero: his reputation can only go up.

What impressions did their speeches leave behind?

Trump began his by boasting about the USA military being “the strongest it has ever been,” thanks to the US$700 billion he has added to its budget. He went on to assert the USA prerogative of imposing its values on other countries. Specifically, he threatened North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, and to blackmail the United Nations by warning that he may withhold funding unless the organization served American interests better.

Far from resenting the intrusive and highly provocative role of outsiders, Suu Kyi welcomed a constructive engagement with the international community in the period ahead

Trump spoke in Manichean terms, breaking everything down into “good” or “evil.” His signal message was that thanks to his “America First” strategy the USA has regenerated itself in economic and military terms and intends to reclaim global hegemony.

Trump must be delusional if he really believes the USA can attack North Korea – or Iran – and achieve anything more than a Pyrrhic victory. But Trump is a businessman and the paramountcy of deal-making is never lost on him.

A sure sign of this was the complete absence of any derogatory reference to Russia or China in his entire speech. Moscow and Beijing must be quietly chuckling to themselves that this clever fixer is counting on them to salvage his reputation. Welcome to the “multipolar” world.

Constructive Engagement

Suu Kyi’s speech, on the other hand, offered a study in moderation, restraint and reconciliation. She didn’t exude any “exceptionalism” but instead sought in all humility the understanding of the world community for her country’s deficiencies.

Sui Kyi’s purpose was not to apportion blame. She acknowledged the “allegations and counter-allegations” but pragmatically reserved judgment.

Security operations against the militants enjoy massive popular support within Myanmar, but a large section of the Rohingya community in Rakhine state has been unaffected by the violence.

Suu Kyi called attention to the pervasiveness of ethnic divides in her country. She could have taken the easy route by putting all the blame on the “foreign hand” or “Islamist extremism,” or struck a nationalist chord. But she chose to be introspective. She squarely placed recent developments within the context of Myanmar’s political economy and related them to three core challenges that her government faces – democratic transition, peace and stability, and development. And she candidly admitted that Myanmar is an “imperfect democracy.”

The salience of Suu Kyi’s speech hinged on three inter-related planes. First and foremost, she pledged to implement the recommendations made by a commission headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Secondly, she spoke of a strategy with a “definite timeline” for conducting “citizenship verification.” In particular, she called for a speeding up of the process of refugees returning from Bangladesh according to norms previously agreed between the two countries.

Thirdly, and importantly, far from resenting the intrusive and highly provocative role of outsiders, Suu Kyi welcomed a constructive engagement with the international community in the period ahead.

Repellent, Even to Well-Wishers

Trump should study Suu Kyi’s speech to get a better understanding of the realities of developing countries. The two speeches reveal contrasting visions of today’s world. Is shared self-interest the sole basis of cooperation, as Trump implied?  Can international life be reduced to threats to USA hegemony?

There is a whole world out there beyond America’s shores with myriad problems – stemming from poverty, disease, ignorance, terrorism, climate change, and so on. It takes an erudite mind to comprehend such problems, let alone prescribe solutions.

Suu Kyi didn’t use the word “global governance,” but she sought help from the UN to navigate issues arising from imperfect nationhood following five decades of authoritarian rule. It is inconceivable that Trump would seek help from the UN to address the deep-rooted disease of racial prejudice and violence that wracks American society.

Trump uses the language of threat and blackmail – “rocket man” (Kim Jong Un); “rogue nations”; “scourge of our planet”. He is unforgiving, essentially because countries such as Iran, Cuba and Venezuela do not follow America’s lead. He vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea.

Such self-righteousness doesn’t win friends. It repels even well-wishers, especially when coming from someone whose sole contribution in power for nine months has been to exacerbate uncertainties in the international situation through a steady stream of contradictory bombastic tweets.

Suu Kyi made a crucial pledge of reconciliation. The least Trump can do is to desist from tearing up more international accords, negotiated in a spirit of consensus, that jar against his megalomaniacal world-view.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On October 22, 2017 at 6:36 am

    White Men Asking Barack Obama to Lead the Resistance Need to Do the Work Themselves

    Michael Arceneaux | The Root

    In the final press conference of his presidency, then President Barack Obama reiterated that he would largely keep mum once his successor took office.

    “It is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values,” Obama explained. However, that statement did come with a bit of a caveat.

    For Obama, there would be “certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values are at stake” that might “merit me speaking out,” he said.

    Those issues included “systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion,” “explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote,” “institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press” and “efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them somewhere else.”

    Of course, all of these things have happened — yielding statements from Obama on issues relating to immigration, climate change and health care.

    Still, this has not been enough for many who are understandably drowning in the misery of this administration — one spearheaded by a terribly erratic aspiring tyrant whose only real consistency since taking office is to dismantle the accomplishments of his predecessor, the man whose citizenship he questioned to gain political legitimacy.

    In recent weeks, more men — notably white ones — have publicly called on former President Obama to play a larger role in the resistance of his successor.

    They want him to go further than he has — and forgo the tradition of former presidents taking a more apolitical stance after leaving public office — because citizens are suffering under the most atypical president in American history.

    Among such men are Charles Pierce, whose work I greatly admire and who just this month wrote for Esquire that while Obama has more than earned his time of leisure …

    … the country is burning down at the moment, literally and figuratively. A concerted effort being made to obliterate all the achievements of his eight years in office is one or two timorous votes away from succeeding. We’re lurching toward war on the Korean peninsula, and there’s one natural disaster after another being dropped on a government that is half-staffed at best, and being run by fools and lunatics in any case. Race and class and gender and all the other national wounds are being inflamed purposefully in the hopes that nobody will notice that the institutions of American democracy are unable to cope with the simple fact that the American people elected, yes, a fucking moron.

    Those institutions are not capable of withstanding these assaults much longer without cracking.

    And Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, who in a piece for the HuffPost titled, “Missing in Action: Barack Obama,” also published in October, claimed:

    But the part that especially attracts Trump’s hatred is anything that Obama accomplished.

    Some of these policy reversals are so unpopular even among Republicans that Trump has punted the issue of the Dreamers and the proposed Iran reversal to Congress. That way, Trump can signal his own hatred for anything Obama did but rely on Republican legislators to save sensible policy.

    So, where, you might ask, is Barack Obama, as his legacy and his most important accomplishments are being systematically dismantled? Well, at last report he was in Brazil, offering a totally unremarkable set of platitudes to a corporate audience.

    The common characteristic of those who heard it was that they could afford to pay upwards of a thousand bucks a ticket.

    And then there was another piece published this month at the HuffPost from former presidential candidate and election 2000 spoiler Ralph Nader, who in an essay titled, “Obama: Too Cool for Trump’s Crises,” had this to say:

    Obama could, for example, work to strengthen civic groups and help substantially to create new organizations to address urgent needs (such as averting wars); he could back opposition to Trump’s destructive policies that are running America into the ground while shielding Wall Street and the dictatorial corporate supremacists whose toadies Trump has put into high government positions.

    Obama is a big draw and can raise hundreds of millions of dollars faster than most. Furthermore, he has the unique ability to fill the void the mass media is desperately looking to fill by serving as a counterweight to Trump. Hillary, hawking her latest book, doesn’t fit the bill here.

    Instead, Obama, besides raising funds for his presidential library (about $1 billion), is getting press primarily for being paid $400,000 or more per speech before Wall Street and other big-business audiences.

    The fact that Kuttner and Nader take issue with Obama’s doing what many modern presidents have done after leaving office is a curious critique, especially because they are essentially asking him to forgo amassing a fortune in order to clean up another mess made by white supremacy.

    And, yet, when Obama was treated to unprecedented amounts of hostility from the political right, neither Kuttner nor Nader came to his defense. I recall Nader claiming Obama was worse than former President George W. Bush and dubbing him a “war criminal.” Years before that, Nader called Obama an “Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.” But, suddenly, Nader now is repeatedly calling on Obama to be his hero.

    Kuttner may not have employed hyperbole and slurs to criticize Obama, but he certainly did criticize him on health care and on trade, and he wrote an entire book dismissing his presidency based on a failure to live up to progressive standards that – those who paid arguably closer attention to the campaign – never saw candidate Obama promise to live up to.

    Obama is not above criticism. I didn’t like his excessive use of drones, either. Nor did I care for his health care plan not including a public option. Obama had a lot of legislative accomplishments in the beginning of his term, but those who believe he squandered other opportunities or sometimes caved in to Republicans too easily — assuming they would behave in kind — have a point.

    Obama has a lot to do with the fact that the Democratic Party nationally was weak from an organizational front when it came time for the 2016 presidential election, which would have been the burden of any nominee. And he sure should have said a lot more about Russia’s role than he did.

    There are other complaints, but most of all, I loathed the way he talked to black people; a paternalistic, admonishing, and often condescending tone he never duplicated with white folks.

    That said, people like me spoke about the racism in which Obama’s administration was often entangled — while two of these exhausting, self-righteous, progressive white men feigning moral clarity did not.

    Charles Pierce did, however, his error mirrors others who want Obama to not only jump in with “the resistance,” but to lead it: Obama is NOT that guy.

    Obama is not “too cool” for the resistance, but he is incapable of delivering the sort of messaging required of it. Look no further than his return to the campaign trail in New Jersey for Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, and Sheila Oliver, who is running to be his lieutenant governor. Obama did not mention Sweet Potato Saddam by name, but he did speak on the tone on which his political ascension has been built upon.

    To the cheers of an adoring crowd, Obama claimed:

    Some of the politics we see now we thought we’d put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century not the 19th century.

    Fifty years? George W. Bush won in 2004 in part by fanning the flames of homophobia and then-majority anti-marriage-equality sentiments. Bush also won by an outside group pathetically distorting John Kerry’s service in Vietnam. Before that, he won in 2000 thanks to the Supreme Court and his brother — Jeb!— suppressing black votes in the state of Florida.

    Before that, his father won his presidential election due in part to a racist campaign ad crafted by Lee Atwater, the racist behind the inherently racist “Southern Strategy.” And before that, Papa Bush served with Racist Ronald Reagan, the “welfare queen” stigma slinger, who originally promised to “Make America Great Again.”

    Obama knows this, but as he illustrated in his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, he chooses to see America differently even when it rubs its racism directly in his face.

    That’s why it was frustrating to hear Obama also say in Newark:

    You cannot complain if you didn’t vote; you did not exercise the power the Constitution gives us that people fought for. This is entirely under your control. If you don’t like how things are going, you gotta vote.

    Many of us who are black are turned away from the polls. It is no coincidence that the first black president was succeeded by a demagogue who fanned long-stemming racial tensions in America in the first election to take place after the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

    Speaking about Obama’s appearance in New Jersey, a senior adviser to Obama told Time:

    “It’s in no one’s interest — including the former president’s, the Democratic Party’s, or the country’s — for President Obama to become the face of any resistance or the party. Instead, he is creating the space for leaders in the party to craft the best path forward that will make our country better.”

    Obama believes in America’s mythology too much to lead the resistance anyway. Obama, as Tressie McMillan Cottom brilliantly articulated in The Atlantic last December, has a misguided faith in white America.

    Funny enough, while Obama delivered the political equivalent of doing the same old two-step, former President George W. Bush also criticized the 45th president without saying his name.

    Bush, however did say something more direct:

    Our identity as a nation, unlike other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. … This means that people from every race, religion, ethnicity can be full and equally American. It means that bigotry and white supremacy, in any form, is blasphemy against the American creed.

    The son of a political dynasty that largely owes itself to white supremacy and bigotry condemning it now is a bit comically ironic, but ultimately, much of what is happening now is related to white supremacy and the desperate clinging to maintaining the status quo.

    White people are so desperate to protect whiteness and maintain the societal hierarchy, they voted for a ding-dong with the intellectual curiosity of roadkill.

    I wish Barack Obama would say that with his platform, but he won’t. He believes in the institutions despite the fact that 45 has gone above and beyond to show on what they were founded and on what they continue to thrive.

    Obama is performing within his capability. It’s time for people to measure their expectations accordingly, to set their projections aside, and to see him for the man he’s always been.

    He is not anyone’s mule. Obama remains the anomaly; it’s white men who have the monopoly on power.

    If white men see the country burning, they need to look inward regarding how to fix it. After all, this is all a mess of their making anyway.

    As it has always been.

  • Deen  On October 22, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Very good article. Donald Trump is sick man who desperately needs professional help. Such men are incapable of leadership and a danger to the progress of a country. He’s totally, totally unfit and need to resign and replaced with a more experienced and intelligent leader.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2017 at 1:25 pm

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    What Trump Did to Kelly Shows How Far We Have Fallen

    E.J. Dionne Jr | The Washington Post

    The United States of America is in the middle of a very unfortunate experiment in how disoriented a great nation can become before it loses its moorings entirely.

    At times, politics seems fairly conventional with Republicans and Democrats arguing about health care and tax cuts, as they long have done.

    But former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama reminded us last week that there is nothing normal about this moment. They issued searing, overlapping condemnations of Trumpism without naming President Trump.

    Former commanders in chief of opposing parties don’t do this sort of thing unless the country faces an emergency.

    Our disorientation is reflected further in the way honorable men and women allow themselves to be pushed into defending the indefensible and twisting noble concepts into cheap and ultimately shameful talking points.

    These are designed to get the president through one more news cycle or around some controversy he could easily quell if he had any familiarity with the words “I’m sorry.”

    In the realm of political commentary, the now-daily detonations set off by a man who sees the common good as the pursuit of suckers drown out any serious discussion of the problems his voters thought he might try to solve.

    True, there is a separate difficulty created by his own party’s failure to move beyond the politics of the 1980s and that era’s popular belief that tax cuts and reductions in government social spending will overcome any challenge, anytime, anywhere. A decrepit ideology crowds out new approaches to new circumstances.

    For all the talk about Trump being something other than a Republican, he always falls back on the party’s old ideas because he has none of his own beyond promising to build a big wall, stop NFL players from kneeling during the national anthem and fix bad trade deals while offering few details.

    But we can’t even have predictable, if necessary, partisan and ideological debates. These are blocked by self-involved spectacle and ruthless attacks against any who raise their voices to criticize the president.

    We can try to resist being drawn into this swamp of petty invective, knowing that we are being pulled away from the consequential questions. Yet doing so would mean overlooking the central fact of our political situation:

    That Trump is systematically sapping our democratic capacities through his routine behavior. As Bush put it, “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.”

    This is why all except the most blind Trump partisans had to be heartsick over the performance of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Thursday.

    The retired Marine Corps general, who devoted his life to service and suffered stoically when he lost a son in combat, stepped out as a hatchet man against Rep. Frederica S. Wilson.

    It was Wilson, a Florida Democrat, who revealed that the president told the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson that the slain soldier “knew what he signed up for.” Kelly could not back up Trump’s claim that Wilson had “totally fabricated” the president’s conversation. In fact, Kelly seemed indirectly to confirm her account.

    So he resorted to a vicious rebuke of the African American congresswoman.

    Kelly didn’t even have the decency to use Wilson’s name, and he compared her to noisy “empty barrels.” It was hard to hear him and not think of Bush’s warnings about “dehumanization.”

    Kelly went on to give a FALSE account of gracious, bipartisan comments Wilson made at the dedication of a Florida FBI building.

    Thus is our world turned upside down:

    A genuine patriot is reduced to the role of propagandist for a boss whose idea of sacrifice, as Trump once explained on ABC News, is running a business from which he profited.

    We are numbed to the squalor we see daily. It’s common to hear the president called a “disrupter.” But unlike the tech-world heroes to whom the label is typically applied, he builds nothing, creates nothing and moves a majority of our fellow citizens only toward rage or a sense of helplessness.

    But helplessness is not an option, and rage alone will change nothing.

    By speaking up, Bush and Obama have sent a signal that we cannot sit by and allow our system of self-government to disintegrate before our eyes. The burden is especially great on those who hoped that by serving this man, they could serve their country.

    Alas, Kelly has shown us that this is simply not possible.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 24, 2017 at 4:13 pm

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    We’re Down to Mattis, I Suppose

    Jennifer Rubin | The Washington Post

    Republicans and Democrats alike have been deluding themselves for some time about White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

    They were certain that Kelly was a “grown-up” who understood that the president the American people elected was hobbled — temperamentally, intellectually, morally — and it was Kelly’s job to steer the ship of state away from the rocks.

    He wouldn’t lie to the American people as President Trump did, these Kelly fans believed.

    Recognition is now sinking in that Kelly is not so different than all the other politicians and officials who come in contact with Trump. To serve him requires suspension of integrity, and therefore those who serve become morally corrupted.

    The sole exception to this seems to be Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who from day one simply refused to act as Trump’s political flack.

    One can hear a palpable sense of sadness after last week’s events, a sense of disillusionment.

    Susan Glasser of Politico appearing on “Face the Nation” observed, “We saw that General Kelly, this week, shares more of Donald Trump’s agenda than we realized. … I found General Kelly’s comment to be surprising and even puzzling that he would have brought up in the same commentary about this incident with the Gold Star families this notion that in the good old days women were sacred.”

    Michael Duffy likewise related: “It was a classic damage-control operation by a White House chief of staff. And even though he seemed politically naïve with that comment, I thought, I agree with you, he was also — he’s fundamentally a political person.” – nothing more than a Trump enabler.

    Kelly’s fall from grace was swift and senseless. It was all so unnecessary; he need not have gone out to spin for the president.

    The verdict on Kelly was remarkably negative, whether it was retired Gen. David Petraeus musing that Kelly was no doubt trying to figure out how to turn down the volume, or long-time GOP political strategist Matthew Dowd.

    “The problem is – that I have is … does he know who he works for? He talks about the sacredness of Gold Star families and that we have lost that – when he works for a guy that attacked Gold Star families and attacked John McCain as a prisoner,” Dowd said. “He talks about the sacredness of women, and he has somebody that said certain things on tape, things that were at best predatory, and has been accused by 12 or 14 different women of such behavior. He says we lost the sacredness of religion, and he works for somebody that wanted to ban Muslims.”

    So from adult day-care shift supervisor to enabler in a short week, Kelly sacrificed a good deal of his utility to the president for nothing.

    In seeking to elevate the military above the rest of us, he ironically undercut his own stature as a guarantor of our democratic norms, as Trump critic Eliot Cohen wrote:

    He pointedly discriminated among those asking questions, suggesting that only those who were Gold Star relatives or knew a stricken family had the right to ask him questions.

    Indeed, the White House press secretary later declared that it is improper for anyone to question a Marine four-star — a statement worthy of Wilhelmine Germany at its worst. …

    The real sting came at the end. He told those in the audience that he did not look down on them for not having served; rather people like him — again, the 1 percent — merely feel sorry for civilians.

    But his final shot — “So just think of that” — undercut the previous sentence.

    The contempt was unmistakable.

    Those harboring unrealistic expectations about Kelly have learned once again:

    None of Trump’s advisers can make up for the deficits of this president; and with a lonely exception of Mattis, all of them look worse for having tried.

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