Wednesday, December 07, 2005
President Bush Showers Mongolian Reds With Praise, AidGood one, huh?
by William F. Jasper
December 3, 2005
President George Bush stopped in Mongolia on November 21 during his China trip to praise Mongolia's "democracy" and to drop off $11 million in U.S. aid, the first installment of a larger package still to come.
“You are an example of success for the region and for the world,” Bush said in a speech to Mongolia’s President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, military leaders, and legislators in the capital of Ulan Batur. “As you build a free society in the heart of Central Asia, the American people stand with you.” Referring to the 160 troops Mongolia has contributed to the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, Bush declared, “Mongolia and the United States are standing together as brothers in the cause of freedom.”
President Enkhbayar is a “former” communist and head of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which is the renamed and (supposedly) reformed Communist Party of Mongolia. Red China pretended to grant Mongolia full autonomy in 1990 — and the United Nations and the U.S. government (along with the rest of the world’s nations) pretend that Mongolia is now truly independent of Beijing’s communist control. Over the past five decades, Red China has carried out a systematic program of repression of the Mongols, including the forced transfer of Mongols from their ancestral lands, to be replaced by ethnic Chinese. As a result, ethnic Chinese now outnumber Mongolians in Mongolia by a ratio of five to one. Thousands of the nomadic Mongols who live off their herds of sheep and goats continue to be driven from their lands by the central authorities, who cite environmental excuses, such as the need to protect the grasslands from overgrazing.
(Okay, for those of you who are scratching your heads, Mr. Jasper confused Mongolia, the independent country, with Inner Mongolia, an "autonomous region" in northern China, and attributed many characteristics of the latter to the former.)
Update: Guido's got his hackles up, too, as has Mongolian Artist (rightmost column).
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Why Mongolia (5)
The president's just-concluded Asian trip bore signs that his devotion to democracy is beginning to shape American strategy beyond the "greater Middle East," calling into question the policy of economic engagement and the belief in the democratizing power of free trade that Washington has followed up until now. And military preparations are underway to give substance to the rhetoric of liberty.After summing up some of Bush's words in recent speeches in Asia, AEI continues:
All this would just be high-flying rhetoric were it not for the fact that the Bush administration is coupling it with a realignment of U.S. forces in Asia and in the western Pacific. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been something of a reluctant warrior in the Middle East, but he and his lieutenants in charge of Asia are deeply engaged in the transformation of U.S. posture along China's periphery.This sounds like a fair assessment to me. Bush has struck me as being a true believer when it comes to democracy. So the fact that he's strengthening democracy in places like Mongolia, while helping out America's own interests, seems entirely logical. And considering that democracy = relative stability, then democracy in Mongolia and elsewhere = American interests.
Wildlife in Peril
Mongolian Wildlife Face Extinction CrisisThere's an attention getter. But how accurate is it? I think my headline is better. Might not get as many views, though :)
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Wildlife Conservation Society scientists say they are deeply concerned about an alarming decrease in general wildlife populations in Mongolia.This stands to reason. Hunting is one of the things that draws folks to visit Mongolia. That hunters are bagging animals faster than they can replentish themselves comes, alas, as no surprise.
The New York-based organization blames overhunting and excessive trade in skins and other animal products for the problem, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
A WCS study of Mongolia's wildlife says by some estimates, the populations of endangered species -- marmots, argali sheep, antelope, red deer, bears, Asiatic wild asses -- have plummeted by 50 percent to 90 percent.What do other folks say the numbers are? Just wondering. It'd be nice to have some opposing views here. In the event that everyone agrees, it'd be nice to be told that, too.
Two exceptions are an apparent increase in the number of wolves and a gradual increase in the number of endangered Przewalski wild horses.
Again, though, more views on the numbers would be nice. Regardless, this stands to reason. When I was there last (January), wolves were wreaking havoc on nomads everywhere (or at least in the part of the country I was in). Wolves were once known to be a tad less populous, but they're becoming alarmingly common. Driving from UB to Erdenet one evening, I saw three wolves along the side of the road. When I asked the driver if there were wolves in those parts, he said that there were more wolves than anyone wanted, by far. Stories of missing children and all that. Granted, to a herder or a parent, one wolf is one wolf too many. Later that month, I was visiting relatives and they were constantly building fires in the mountains near their gers to keep the wolves away from the sheep and goats. The only dead wolf I saw was strapped to the hood of an SUV--blood still fresh (though frozen) from the recent kill outside of town.
"The country is facing a quite extraordinary and unnoticed extinction crisis, or at least the threat of one," Peter Zahler, assistant director for Asia at the New York-headquartered Wildlife Conservation Society, told the newspaper.
Well, a crisis and a threatened crisis are very different. Given the hands-in-the-air, the-end-is-coming nature of many eco groups, I'm not sure what to make of this kinds of claims. (But if I didn't think over-hunting were a problem at all, well then I wouldn't be posting this.)
The WCS said the nation's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 "was the undoing of Mongolia's century-long effort to control wildlife trade."
You know, the trains ran on time in Italy until Mussolini got hanged from that bridge. But that's not enough to make Italians get all misty-eyed about the early 1940s. I mean, come on. And you wonder why I take many eco groups claims (and the media that promulgates them) with a grain of salt.
The WCS says nearly all of Mongolia's annual $100 million in wildlife trade is illegal.I have no way of knowing if this last claim is true or not, the Mongolian hunting statues not being at my fintertips. But the rule of law being what it is in the far-flung parts of Mongolian wilderness, I wouldn't be surprised if the report is about right.
Anyway, over-hunting in Mongolia is a problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later. America nearly out-hunted its beavers, muskrat, bison, etc. I think that American wolves (the Gray Wolf?) were hunted clean out of existence (??) because they were thought to be so plentiful. Similar problems have been repeated the world over. So there's a lesson to be learned by up-and-coming countries not to make the same mistakes.
One thing getting in the way is the sense that Mongolians have of the spaciousness and inexhaustibility of their land. It's seemed eternally large for millennia now, and the thought that people can exhaust the land, the trees, the animals, seems absurd to many Mongolians. I was once talking with someone who said of logging ventures in Siberia. She, a Mongol, said, "Siberia will never run out of wood. I've been on the train from UB to Moscow. It's trees the whole way." Well, eventually even a great quantity of natural resources can be exhausted. So, it's an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the locals. Anyway, here's to the hope that Mongolia works on a sensible and enforced hunting code.
UPDATE: Here's the story from which the UPI story was evidently edited. This New York Times piece also has a very informative (and depressing) graphic. This fuller story is worth the visit should you be interested.