Thursday, September 6, 2007

Intervention in Fiji

As the military in Fiji have now managed to take over the judiciary and ban political commentry it should become obvious that there is no roadmap back to democracy. This regime has finally made permanent what previous coups-d'etat have only hinted at: The Pacific's first fascist state.

The big question is: is there anything the rest of the Pacific can or will do about it?

The Fijian economy is based on three main pillars: tourism; the mercenary remissions of its soldiers; and sugar. Fiji is not a rich country and the effect of the military coups is to worry direct inward investors. For the moment it is trying to operate on a business-as-usual basis but the assumption of martial law means this is now impossible. Martial law need not bother the tourists sunning themselves on the beach but it effectively means that the military now decide the justice of every commercial contract made on the Fiji Islands. Martial law must inevitably slide into the worst forms of corruption and abuse.

The impact of this on the economy will take some time to take hold but as in every other country where martial law is practiced the outcome is inevitable. Military leaders become patrons, patrons begin to "borrow" resources and before you know it Fiji will look not unlike Zimbabwe.

I raise Zimbabwe deliberately because Zimbabwe has one very important friend in the world. That friend is the People's Republic of China. The PRC has backed Mugabe from the outset and without their support he woud not be in power today. If we alienate the Fiji regime too much this is the direction we might expect them to head in search of assistance.

So what can the rest of the Pacific do which will not politically alienate ordinary Fijians and play into the hands of the Fijian military's high command?

My solution is perhaps rather underhand. Instead of trying to prevent the UN from using Fijian troops for Peacekeeping I would suggest encouraging it. In fact I would encourage that as many of the Fijian military's best soldiers be hired for duties in other parts of the world as possible. Then at the right moment I would trigger a democratic insurrection, and land an ANZAC "peacekeeping force" as fast as possible.

In the confusion that followed it should be possible to re-establish civilian rule with the minimum amount of bloodshed. One would then set about thoroughly restructuring the Fijian military so that it better reflected the needs of a remote island nation. Then you could start recalling the military commanders posted overseas to take part in the necessary trials etc.

Such an operation is, by necessity risky, but in terms of long term regional security into the 21st Century an ounce of early intervention could be worth a tonne of problems later.