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Ecuador Iran

A number of readers have asked me about Ecuador and Iran.

You said a month ago you would address the subject outlined in the CNSNews.com article entitled “Iran, Ecuador Eye Military Ties As U.S. Prepares to Withdraw from Airbase.”

So when will you do it? We rely on you for information concerning Ecuador, so this is important in my future plans. Please give me your honest evaluation.

My reply was that I have stacked information to write about this  but have had so many other things that I consider of more usefulness that I have not been able to write about the subject of Ecuador and Iran yet.

I do not think it is very important at all which is why it is a low priority.

Here is why I am not overly concerned.

First, I am not sure that Ecuador Iran cooperation is bad news.

There were two articles the reader above was concerned with.

The first article began, QUITO – Iran will finance two new power plants in Ecuador and extend a 40-million-dollar loan for business development, officials from both countries said Thursday, three months after the first visit by an Ecuadoran president to Tehran.

The second:  Iran, Ecuador Eye Military Ties As U.S. Prepares to Withdraw from Airbase Friday, May 29, 2009, by Patrick Goodenough, (CNSNews.com) – As the United States military prepares to vacate an airbase in Ecuador in the fall, the leftist government responsible for its upcoming departure is looking to Iran as a future military partner.

While I do not feel that nuclear power or expanded military might are good things, I do believe completely in the global economy and in expanding the wealth of all.

One can argue about all the numerous conflicts in the world but if we boil it down to the few most important, one of the biggest tensions in today’s society is that there are a few very wealthy people and many, many poor.

For decades my belief is that most people, if given a choice, will spend their time doing positive things, like working at something they love for increased material wealth and great fulfillment.  A soldier’s life is generally not pleasant… just better than complete hopelessness and despair.

If Ecuador Iran cooperation can help make more poor Ecuadorians and Iranians rise out of poverty… I say…”go for it!

There are many potential and huge benefits of bringing Iranian business to the West. Maybe Iran being closer to the West will help it integrate?  As you will see below it is estimated that in every society there is usually 1 percent radicals and and 10 percent who support the radicals.  In a country like Iran (appx. 65 million population), that translates to 650,000 million extremists and 6.5 million supporters.

Current events in Iran suggest that many of the other 89% are not happy with the current political status quo in Iran.

The world may seem headed for ruin, especially if you read the local news, but what we call chaos is really the universal way.  Evolution works with three forces, the pressure of change (we call birth), the momentum of continuation (stability) and marvel of transformation (death).  These forces are always in play and in balance. When things appear imbalanced, the imbalance is only our misunderstanding, not an error in the universal way.

Those who understand this and adjust to reality have success.  Those who rigidly stick to the tyranny of traditional reason, fail.

Change is our only constant and it requires a flexible state of being to embrace change.   The forces of stability within each of us always reacts in horror to change!

The world seems to run on and on and desires adrenaline!  Bad news sells so we have to ignore all those who gain if we live our lives in fear.

Get on with life! Chances are we will scrape by without pain.  Big problems create big opportunity so look for the silver lining in the world as it unfolds.

Years ago, while living in the Andes with a group of yatchaks,  all the banks closed in Ecuador, wiping out most everyone’s savings.  On the evening of the bank shutdown, the yatchak staying with Merri and me discovered that he had lost every penny he possessed in the closure.

He asked for us to gather round and gave a prayer of thanks for the change that this misfortune would bring. He did not mourn for a moment over the loss, but looked immediately for the benefits this event would bring.

Second, I am not overly concerned because we cannot really know what such a change will bring.

The local news usually gets it wrong and our mindsets, created by the local news, our education and backgrounds are often wrong footed as well.

I learned this lesson many decades ago when Merri and I put on a seminar in London. One speaker we invited was a new member of Parliament Gordon Brown. (He has risen in the ranks a bit now!)   At that time he was just beginning his political career  and had been given the responsibility for looking after Mikhail Gorbachev who had just become Premier of the Soviet Union and was visiting England for the first time.

Brown spoke in horror at how smart Gorbachev was.

Our spirits sank because of our incorrect thinking.

The traditional, faulty mindset was “The Soviets are bad. Anything good in the Soviet union is bad for the West”.

Had we been in touch with reality we would have correctly thought, “If the Soviet Union is bad, a really smart man will change the system.”

Gorbachev did!

The first key to success, to adapting to an ever changing faster revolving world  is knowing that all is in order.

We cannot see or understand everything.

But we do know that light does begin at the darkest hour. Every bad thing does push the pendulum closer to change. Patience is a virtue.

This type of subject (Iran is a great enemy attacking us) is great for selling news but IF  Iran is to become more involved in the West and that’s a very big IF, I do not see it being any great deal. The only risk Iran poses is that many people give it a lot more concern then they deserve.

I do not claim in any way to be a great global military strategist so let’s look at the thinking one who I do think is good…Lee Kwan Yew.

I worked and spent a lot of time in Singapore during the late 1960s and early 1970s so I recall vividly the way it used to be.

Lee Kwan Yew had a lot to do with Singapore emerging from a form of colonialism that included a lot pf poverty to one of the wealthiest societies in the world.

Many wrote Singapore off when Britain released it as a colony.  They fretted over the then young new idealist leader named Lee Kwan Yew.  Many were frightened by the potential change this man wanted.  Those who hung around Asia as I did in the 70s made fortunes as the Tigers (Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore) emerged while the West sank into the 70s recession.

This means it is fitting to read some of Lee Kwan Yew’s thinking that could apply to Ecuador and Iran now.

Most of the press are writing about the world sliding into recession. Many articles in the Western press make it sound like there is little opportunity and great danger everywhere.

Good.
Their doom and gloom creates positive global investing opportunity for those of us who can see through the illusion.

Let the press frighten other business people and investors. That seems to be the local media’s  job or at least the goal. We can focus on reality instead.

Lee Kuan Yew outlines the risks of relying on the local press succinctly in a 2007 interview.

Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore to independence and served as its first prime minister. He was regularly re-elected from 1959 until he stepped down in 1990. Under his leadership, Singapore became a wealthy financial – industrial city state despite a lack of natural resources. He left office in 1990 but has remained as Singapore’s Minister Mentor.

Recently UPI’s editor at large, Arnaud de Borchgrave, interviewed him.

A link to the entire interview is at the end of this message. Here are excerpts:

Here is what Lee Kuan Yew had to say about the press when asked why democracies don’t produce great statesmen anymore.

Lee A: “You now have, and I don’t know how long this phase will last, mass media domination, owned by a group of media barons who want constant change for their balance sheets.”

This is the long and short of a very important global investing fundamental. The media want you worried. They want you tuned to the TV or your nose glued to the daily rag.

Q: So what is your recommendation about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

A: Is it now unstoppable. They are a very old civilization. Unlike the Arabs, apart from Mesopotamia valley, they rank with the Chinese, as history’s two principal civilizations worth talking about. And I think the mullahs and others want to go back to the days of empire.

Q: So should we be talking to them at the highest level, the way Henry Kissinger went to China?

A: (Chuckle) But you haven’t got a Kissinger or a Brzezinski to do that anymore. Where is the successor generation of geopoliticians?

Q: In fact, democracies don’t produce great statesmen anymore. Why?

A: You now have, and I don’t know how long this phase will last, mass media domination, owned by a group of media barons who want constant change for their balance sheets.

Q: So the power of mass media has made it impossible for a great statesman or woman to emerge and last any length of time?

A: I’m not sure. It depends on the nature of the crisis that must be faced. When a real crisis sets in, a matter of life and death, opinion formulators realize this is no time to be pontificating, but a time to stay the course with someone who understands what this is all about. Short of that, the media help put a leader on the pedestal and then start chopping away at the pedestal until he/she falls in disgrace. That’s part of the cycle of constant change. Watch Sarkozy in France. They hoisted him up to prominence and now they’re already attempting to bring him down through his personal life.

A: Well, yes. But it’s also the enormous pressure of media competition and the giant appetite for advertising revenue, what television program gets what viewership, or eyeballs, or clicks online. Never mind the consequences. If you get the advertising, you win.

Q: We have a whole new generation that doesn’t read newspapers, but get their news online. The average age of a newspaper reader in the United States today is 55.

A: So I’m a dinosaur (laughs).

Q: When I last interviewed you in May 2001, I asked you what concerned you most about the next 10 years, and you replied, “an Islamist bomb, and mark my words, it will travel.” Four months later, we had Sept. 11. Secondly you said, “China and India’s challenge to the global status quo.” Do you still have the same concerns about the next 10 years?

A: Not quite. The Islamic bomb has traveled already (in Iran). I’m not sure how this will now play out. The U.S., the Europeans, even the Russians, will have to make up their minds whether to allow Iran to go nuclear. The Russians are playing a game, posing as the nice guys with Iran, supplying nuclear fuel, and making it look as if America is causing all this trouble. But if I were Russia today, I would be very worried about Iran acquiring the bomb, because Russia is more at risk than America. The risk Israel runs is another dimension. Russia is at risk because whether it’s the Chechens or Central Asian Muslim states that were former Soviet republics, none are friendly to Moscow. Next time there’s an explosion in Moscow, it may be a suicide bomber who isn’t wearing an explosive belt or jacket, but something a lot bigger. It would certainly be in Russia’s interest to say at some future point to Iran, “this far and no further.” It could also be that Russia no longer knows how to stop it, in which case the Russians will be opening the door to a very dangerous world of nuclear proliferation. You can be quite sure that if and when Iran gets the bomb, the Middle East will go nuclear.

Q: Which raises the question of the United States or Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

A: (long silent pause) … I can express no views on that.

Q: As I travel in moderate Muslim states in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, I ask heads of state and government how many extremists, or would-be jihadis, they estimate live in their midst, also how many fundamentalists who support openly or secretly the jihadi cause. The answer is usually 1 percent and 10 percent. In a country like Pakistan, that translates to 1.6 million extremists and 16 million supporters. On a global scale, that comes out to roughly 14 million extremists and 140 million sympathizers.

A: Yes, but I do not see them winning, and by that I mean able to impose their extremist system. I can see them inducing fear and insecurity, and causing fear, but they don’t have the technology and the organization to overwhelm any government.

Q: So how do you assess the global threat since Sept. 11? What are we doing that’s right and also that’s wrong?

A: Even if we can’t win, we mustn’t lose or tire. We cannot allow them to believe they have a winning strategy, and that more suicide bombers and WMD will advance their cause and give them a chance to take over.

A: No. Iraq was a mistake. I’ve said this before and I said this in the presence of Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the invasion, at an IISS conference two months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when someone asked me what will happen in Iraq. In October 2002, I was in Washington and became quite convinced an invasion would take place. On the way home, I stopped in London and asked Tony Blair to brief me. After 45 minutes, I said, “Look I accept the argument that with British and American military capabilities it would be a walk over, but then what do you do the day after? Blair replied, “That’s up to the Americans.” I then said to Blair, “If you were in charge, what would you do?” His political adviser then stepped in and said, “We would appoint the strongest pro-Western general and then get out quickly.” So I repeated all that at the IISS conference and explained this reflected the institutional memory of what the British had been through in Iraq in the early 1920s. Paul Wolfowitz stood up in high dudgeon. So to placate him, I said, “Of course the British don’t have the resources you have.”

Q: Did Wolfowitz ask anything of you?

A: Yes, he came to my office to ask that Singapore send police trainers to Iraq. I had known Paul since his days as an ambassador at the State Department. I said, “Paul, do you realize how long it takes to train a policeman in Singapore? And that’s only in one language, English, and it still takes two years. And you want me to teach Iraqis how to do it in three months in English? No, he replied, we’ll supply translators. This is an emergency, he said, and many nations are helping us. So I replied OK, but we’ll do it in Amman, Jordan, not Baghdad, where we would become the targets of suicide bombers. When he told me they had disbanded Saddam’s police force, I became very nervous. Because when the Japanese came down here in World War II, 20,000 of their troops captured 90,000 British, Indian and Australian troops. They sent them into captivity, but they left the local police in charge, and kept all the other positions of the British administration intact — from power management to the gas board — and simply put Japanese in charge of each British position. And 20,000 Japanese troops moved on to Java. But in Iraq, you disbanded everything, and tried to run things without the former Baath party officials who had been in charge of civil administration. You created an ungovernable vacuum.

A: From Day One, the idea of remaking Iraq, without the civil service in place and without recalling Saddam’s army to service, showed a frightening lack of understanding of local conditions and elementary facts of political and economic life in Iraq. In ancient days, those who invaded and conquered China on horseback got off their horses and applied themselves to the more difficult job of governing.

Q: Did Iraq have anything to do with al-Qaida?

A: Of course not, as became clear in the daily sessions the imprisoned Saddam spent with his Arabic-speaking FBI interrogator over several months before his execution. But U.S. authorities were convinced Saddam was secretly supporting al-Qaida with weapons and training and maybe even WMD. So therefore the imperative became the elimination of Saddam.

A: (Laughs for several seconds) We should learn to live with it for a long time. My fear is Pakistan may well get worse. What is the choice? (President) Musharraf is the only general I know who is totally secular in his approach. But he’s got to maneuver between his extremists who are sympathetic to Taliban and al-Qaida and moderate elements with a Western outlook. We forget that right after Sept. 11 he was given a stark choice by President Bush: either you abandon your support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan or face the disintegration of Pakistan. There is an interesting study of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency that says 20 percent of the Pakistani army’s officer corps is fundamentalist.

A: There is very little, if anything, the U.S. can do to influence the course of events in Pakistan that wouldn’t make matters worse. Any U.S. interference in Pakistan would result in Pakistan’s four provinces becoming four failed states. And then what happens to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? It’s a horrendous festering problem. The Feb. 18 elections may bring a little clarity and hopefully democratic stability to Pakistan, but I am not holding my breath.

Q: So you do feel that NATO’s future is at stake in Afghanistan?

A: No doubt about it. But you should also realize Afghanistan cannot succeed as a democracy. You attempted too much. Let the warlords sort it out in such a way you don’t try to build a new state. The British tried it and failed. Just make clear if they commit aggression again and offer safe haven to Taliban, they will be punished.

Q: If NATO collapsed in the wake of a failed campaign in Afghanistan, would that be a major concern of yours in Singapore?

A: Not immediately, but overall the balance of power would be upset.

Q: In whose favor?

A: China and Russia. They would be faced with a much weakened West in the ongoing global contest. I can also see the danger if America loses heart and says to hell with it all because the Europeans are not helping and the Japanese are blocking this and that, and tokenism from all the others. Let’s not forget that what we’re all enjoying today is the result of Pax Britannica and Pax America over the past 100 years. So don’t give it up.

Q: In the next 12 months, China, in this New Year of the Rat (Feb. 7) that you are now celebrating, will mark its transformation in the past three decades from one of the poorest countries in the 20th century into the world’s third-largest economy, soon to displace Germany, as the globe’s new engine room of economic growth. Will China be to the 21st century what America was to the 20th?

Q: So you see China on the same glide path?

A: I think so. But they want to avoid building a pre-World War II Japan or a Germany. Territorial conquest is not necessary as it once was. You don’t have to be a genius to know that they are producing five times as many engineers and scientists as the Americans. What is it they need most now? Roads, railways, infrastructure. They are everywhere in Africa, in the Arab world, Latin America  China is everywhere today. Can you be everywhere while focused on Iraq? In the Caribbean you have one embassy in Barbados that serves six other tiny island countries. The Chinese have an embassy in each place. And that’s what you call your front yard.

Q: The nature of conflict is changing to an era of asymmetric warfare when one micro actor can neutralize or blunt a macro power. A few weeks ago, when five Iranian speedboats were darting in and out of three major U.S. warships steaming through the Strait of Hormuz, had they been loaded with super explosives, could have immobilized U.S. naval power the way al-Qaida attacked the USS Cole in Aden in October 2000.

A: But again, can the Chinese land troops in Taiwan and establish and hold and widen a beachhead? The answer is no. Can they conquer Taiwan militarily? Again, no. They can only inflict damage.

Q: But in the Gulf, if the U.S. and/or Israel bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities?

A: But let me repeat, they cannot conquer you. Hezbollah cannot conquer Lebanon. They can create trouble for the non-Hezbollah Lebanese. So micro actors can cause a lot of trouble for your friends, but they can’t eradicate them.

The bold above is mine to remind those who worry that they might lose in Ecuador because Iran somehow becomes involved… that such loss is highly unlikely.

The third reason I am not all that concerned with Ecuador Iran cooperation is that a strong negative cooperation is unlikely… Islam invading a 90% Catholic country?

As Lee Kwan Yew’s interview points out if there were a military concern in Latin America it would be China. Yet if you read the entire interview you’ll see why China is not likely to need or want military intervention. China will win through good business practices instead.

Finally I have had an opportunity to observe Correa and the people of Ecuador react for a couple of years now.  There have been worries about his friendship with Chavez. There are these worries of Correa with Iran. There have been worries about South America pulling away from the US dollar.

Yet so far none of these fears have affected life, happiness, opportunity, real estate values or  law and order in Ecuador.

In short anyone who never heard of or ignored all these fears and moved optimistically forward is better of than those who did not.

Regards,

Gary

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Read the full article about Ecuador and Iran at http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=48802

Read Lee Kwan yew’s full interview at http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2008/02/08/Interview-Lee-Kuan-Yew-Part-1/UPI-14751202483615/