We mostly know the solutions to fixing the most oppressed or otherwise defective parts of the world; we just don't find it worthwhile to implement those solutions. I could solve 90% Equatorial Guinea's problems for <$10mm and a promise of immunity from prosecution or extradition by major world powers (i.e. places I'd actually be, afterward). Scaling that up for other countries is possible, too. For problems not requiring a ballistic solution, Bill Gates is doing a seriously effective job of solving the polio problem, and major headway into malaria.
The solutions to the most defective countries are all pretty straightforward and widely known; it's figuring out how to turn decent but not ideal countries like Pakistan into really stable first-world countries which would be hard, or figuring out how to stem the long-term decline in the US. (Yes, there are implementation difficulties in a place like Somalia, but it's because the benefit isn't worth the expense in blood/treasure. The cheap solution is to let the 1% of people who could make their lives a lot better by leaving do so.)
The skills required to solve the harder sociological problems don't really have much overlap with the skills to send people to Mars.
Bringing those places up to standard doesn't really give you anything new, although it does help those people. Putting humans on Mars is something we've never done before, and could lead to amazing technologies and opportunities for humanity. Just like I'd rather be a medical researcher than a family practice doctor, I'd rather push the limits of what's possible vs. contribute to more widespread adequacy, although both bring up the mean. I'm glad there exist both kinds of people, though.
Oh really? What's your plan? How do you intend on ensuring that culture is preserved while you implement this plan? Or do you believe that Western culture is superior because it has been more successful in the last 100 years (forgetting that segregation ended less than 50 years ago, if you must include the eradication of entire populations as "successes," we can call it 500 years)? Even Bill Gates will admit that his solutions are imperfect at times.
The tricky part is a sustainable solution. Sure, you can throw money at problems, but how is the solution going to last? Like you said, there is already a lot of money involved (e.g. Bill Gates) in philanthropy, yet the problems haven't been solved yet. This indicates that the solution is trickier than you think. And if there is someone smart enough to engineer a solution, I would like to think Bill Gates is very qualified for such a position.
EDIT: Mainly, if you don't account for the culture of a place, a solution will likely not be popular enough to work (HIV prevention and treatment suffers from this problem).
Shantanu - You're right. Simply throwing money cannot solve global issues and no single person including Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett combined have the monetary resources at their disposal to tackle even 5% of global issues. However, they're the right kind of people to take on sociological challenges and eradicating diseases because there's a lot more to the problem than that. For instance, bureaucracy, corruption, beliefs, natural causes, etc. I was really surprised (shouldn't have been) to learn that a significant portion of their funds are allocated for dealing with corrupt governments for our mission to globally eradicate diseases like Polio, Malaria, HIV, TB, etc. With my limited experience in that realm, I can state that the problem is definitely way more complex than it appears at the surface (and I think you get that as well).
The less violent solution would be a trade embargo of the country (at least, not allowing them to sell oil).
Also, how would a trade embargo "fix" a country? Perhaps it would force a dictator to lessen or hide civil rights violations, but it would not repair the economy or necessarily give people more confidence in their government.
Here's how I'd do it: pass laws specifically forbidding these actions by government officials, the punishment being death. And then when someone violates the law, you kill them. You wouldn't have to do this too many times before the problem magically disappeared.
I think this would both fix the corruption problem as well as restore faith in government.
All that would do is wind up killing a bunch of 3rd party candidates and anti-establishment types. You can't simply place a law and then expect it to be 100% accurate let alone the people determining guilt be 100% ethical. A corrupt judge could kill a whole lot of people with this type of law.
And maybe structurally changing how oil revenues are handled; not allowing any new leader to directly control them for personal benefit.
You are 95% right. The problem is, the third party always decides it might be a good idea to take something for themselves, and we're right back where we started.
But I don't buy the idea that it's not possible, it's just never been tried before.
"Oil for food" in Iraq in the 1990s was a horrible fiasco, but there have been cases where natural resource wealth hasn't been strictly a curse.
For ongoing security and government assistance, probably the only entity able to credibly do anything in EG is the AU, which has become a lot more credible in the past 5-10 years.
Look, EG is, I'm pretty certain, almost 90% Fang. That probably doesn't mean much to you but for Africans... tribal affinities matter. The idea that you would get rid of one government, and another would govern appreciably differently in EG is fanciful. Add to that Oil and then unexploited Gold and Zinc deposits, and anyone who is familiar with Africa, and especially EG, would laugh heartily at your assertions.
Places like the MidEast and North Africa also have more issues than can be solved by changing governments. For instance, the reality in Somalia, or indeed even Egypt, is that there are hard Bio-Physical resource constraints that are not going away. Desertification and Soil Salination are mother nature's method of breathing. And she doesn't care about governmental edicts. Egypt's population is around 80M I think... and I'm pretty sure the arable land is right around 2% and it drops every year. Somalia is what... 10 maybe 15 million? With MORE diversity (ie - tribes) and even LESS arable land.
One of the first things I learned working at Halliburton was that if a nation is importing energy AND food... it's in trouble. Nation building is much more than Civil Affairs. If the requisite people and materials aren't there ... it doesn't work. Full Stop.
"Bad" governments, for a given definition of "bad", are symptoms of problems. Not the problems themselves. The Taliban and the NA are manifestations of the lack of resources in Afghan land and the lack of trust among Afghan people. These are difficult problems to solve. And certainly simply changing the government will not make them go away.
The "stratfor" "geography drives political destiny" thing isn't predictive for small oil-rich countries. I mean, look at the smaller Gulf states. The issues in small oil-rich countries are essentially down to leadership. A broad democratic government is probably not the achievable goal, but something like Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, most of the Emirates, or Kuwait is far superior to EG.
More importantly, decades of war have also essentially eliminated any societal reserves of trust, so corruption at all levels is the default. The only functional unit is the family or clan, and very minimal ties to higher units of a tribe -- not to the state. Individual governors, mayors, and police chiefs rule by personal charisma and graft, and bringing their pre-existing tribal relationships in. Organs of the state end up used to settle personal vendettas, too.
There's a lot of literature that national resources (extractive, with low local labor involvement) are a curse -- the "resource curse". Norway has done ok with its oil. Gulf societies have in some ways succeeded but in other ways oil has crippled them. African countries with mineral wealth usually end up relatively fucked compared to countries with productive agriculture or a vibrant commercial sector (Nigeria minus oil is actually pretty decent; Kenya is great. Ghana until recently had no resource based wealth and is basically the Chile of Africa).
It very rarely works out.
There are a few cases where US/NATO intervention has been sort of helpful. Panama is probably better now that we got rid of Noriega, although we put him there in the first place. The Balkans at least didn't turn into a pan-European or WW3. French intervention in Mali seems at least not to be making things worse, and while they went into Rwanda late, they did at least settle things down. Australian forces actually did a lot of good in PNG/ET from what I've read, although I don't know too much about it.
Somehow Balkan conficts never got critical review from journalists and rosy propaganda stayed even to this day.
For example in present day Croatia there is only 7% of people who would actually stay to live there if they could go and live somewhere else. Danke Deutschland indeed.
Would you mind saying which country you're from? I ask because I have recently met Serbians who seem like very good and reasonable people, but who have very different views on the conflict from the accepted view in the States and "Western" Europe. In particular, they are very nostalgic for Yugoslavia, and seem to think that yes, some bad things happened during the war, but that no one in particular was more genocidal than anyone else.
"For example in present day Croatia there is only 7% of people who would actually stay to live there if they could go and live somewhere else. Danke Deutschland indeed."
This is very surprising. I would love to see the source. Croatia is the only Balkan state now part of the EU… perhaps they'll find it rather easy to emigrate where they please.
My point is that those conflicts were stirred by industrial lobby's, not by genuine need to protect or save anyone.
How so? And why is immunity required?
But who will replace them? Didn't we try something like this during the Cold War multiple times and end up introducing even more totalitarian "democratic" governments?
I don't think the US really tried replacing with "democratic" governments, either -- just with US allied dictators. We supported a lot of really evil people because they brought stability and nominal pro-US interests. I'm not advocating that; I'm just saying get rid of some bad leadership with virtually anyone else, with no ongoing agenda. That is a far lower bar to cross.
I take issue with this. Technological advancement over the last few millenia has been driven by how many smart minds we have at the table thinking of new ideas and new solutions to old problems. To get more folks at the table, we need for them to stop worrying about how to avoid gulags, and get them start training in emerging fields. People in Vietnam studying computer science will bring more technological marvels to your world than sending a rocket and biodome to Mars, the problems of which could mostly be tackled by first building biodomes in harsh environments on Earth, or by finding ways to conquer disease and get fresh water to more of the world's poor.
Build me a sealab and irrigate the Sahara, you don't need Mars to start working on those problems, and those problems could probably help you learn really important skills for Martian exploration (and eventual terraforming) while providing more immediate technological benefits to humanity.
Maybe you really do know the best solutions to every country's problems. Or maybe you know enough "rules of thumb" to get each of these countries to start moving in the right direction. That is not my point.
However, one "meta" problem is that most people are convinced that they know the solutions to the world's problems, and if everybody else would let them execute their solution, the world would be fixed.