As much as the American and Indian strategic thinkers emphasize the commonality of democracy in the United States and India to emphasize the prospect of a strong and “natural” alliance, the fledgling alliance itself, if it were to be called that at all, is an unruly and rambunctious one. From the US side, the chief reason for that is their old habit of attempting to dictate a “code of conduct” to its allies for them to live by. Needless to say, of all the countries in the world, India is the last country to be expected to behave like a supplicant, especially of a declining superpower. From India’s side, the chief reason is the very rambunctious nature of its democracy, which has a long tradition of being suspicious of the United States. In the heyday of the Cold War years, the United States made the mistake (from India’s vantage point) of siding with Pakistan in the long-standing “cold war” of South Asia. Consequently, aside from developing its own stout framework of dependence on a highly accommodative Soviet Union for its defense needs, India also found the leadership of the “non-aligned movement” (NAM) to constantly lecture the mandarins of the United States’ foreign policy about the “immorality” of the Cold War. That Indian role was music to the ears of every single Soviet dictator. India’s “payback” to the former Soviet Union for its strategic partnership was a sustained manifestation of affinity and friendship toward it, even the former Soviet Union committed the worst faux pas of its existence by invading and occupying Afghanistan in 1979. India was the only democratic state that was not critical of that action.
Published in Asia Times Online, 28 Jul 2014: http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-280714.html
Israel’s use of “made-in-the-USA” death machines over the skies and on the ground of Gaza are raining hellfire on its civilian population, especially its women, children, and elders. No Arab State has had the guts to denounce that brutality.
Only the newly elected Pharaoh of Egypt, Fattah al-Sisi, has spoken out on the issue, but only to manifest his utter contempt for the Islamic Brotherhood of Egypt by condemning Hamas for its brutal firing of rockets on Israel and to beseech it to arrange a ceasefire. However, Hamas was not interested in a ceasefire that did not also end the Israeli embargo. Egypt could have negotiated that concession from the Israelis, but it did not. It only wanted to play a symbolic role to appease its US paymaster’s crony, Israel. (more…)
Published in Asia Times Online – 28 July 2014: http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-03-280714.html
Pakistan’s Proclivity for War
For the past 15-plus years, Pakistan has been the unenviable focus of a variety of unflattering depictions of its state of affairs in scholarly and journalistic narratives. It appears as if various authors are in competition to select increasingly ominous phrases to describe that country and its cataclysmic state of affairs.
Some called it “the most dangerous place”, “a country that is descending into chaos”, a county that possesses a “Kalashnikov” culture, a “garrison state”, or a “hard country”.
As if following the same tradition, T V Paul’s book, The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, adds one more phrase, “warrior state”, to portray it as a country where the security state has outgrown all other institutions and activities and where radical Islamization and its attendant obscurantism have been the consequences of state policy.
If you thought that the American neoconservatives (aka “chicken hawks”) of the George W. Bush administration—persons who brought us the Iraqi invasion based on a mission to destroy the imaginary arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussain was hiding—you would be wrong. They are very much alive and are coming back through cyberspace and the airways trashing President Barack Obama’s handling of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. When they are reminded of the atrocious mess originally created in Afghanistan and Iraq by Bush and these very same neocons, they deny this linkage and then quickly proceed with their warmongering rhetoric. A factor to keep in mind about these neocons is that none has actually fought in a war. However, their palpable penchant for war—as long as someone else’s son or daughter is going to die in it—has rightly earned them the pejorative depiction “chicken hawks.” Their proclivities are very much alive; they are itching for another war.
Iran, an erstwhile member of the invented “axis of evil,” and the United States, or “the great Satan,” are faced with the difficult proposition of finding ways to snatch the regime of Nouri al-Maliki, and the integrated Iraq along with it, from the jaws of the murderous ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Sham). However, no one should kid him/herself that a meeting of the minds on that issue—if not a rapprochement—will happen anytime soon. There has been a yawning chasm of bad blood and ill-will in Tehran and Washington since 1979. The US bitterness toward Iran has oozed out in the past two days in Washington in a public disagreement between two top national security agencies of the United States: the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Defense (DOD). While Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed prospects for the consideration of all options involving Iran to save Iraq, a spokesman of the DOD categorically rejected such a possibility. That does not mean, however, that either the DOS or the DOD has final say over the matter. In the Obama presidency, it is Barak Obama himself who decides the modalities of the twists and turns of America’s foreign policy.
When George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, he supposedly had big plans to revamp the entire Middle East to kowtow to the strategic priorities of America and Israel. The highly touted “shock and awe” created by the superior US forces that initially crushed the rag-tag army of Saddam Hussein, later on met the Iraqi version of shock and awe—a quagmire created by Iraqi insurgents from which Washington almost did not get out with its dignity intact. But thanks to the Sahwa movement of the Iraqi Sunnis and General David Petraeus’ adroit implementation of the counterinsurgency doctrine in 2007, the United States was spared from experiencing another Vietnam-like defeat, something that Saddam Hussein always wanted to deliver to the American military.
The Financial Times of June 12, 2014 reported “rumors of an army takeover” in Pakistan. Reports of this nature have been periodically surfacing in different Western outlets. But when the Financial Times reports it, one has to sit up and pay attention.
The question is why are such rumors are circulating? Is there any truth to them, or is the army general headquarters busy conducting a strategic campaign to take a pulse of the Western reaction by leaking them? Alternatively, are such rumors created to send warnings to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to close his reported disagreements with the army over negotiating with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, the Pakistani Taliban) terrorists?
The much-ballyhooed “multipolar moment” underscoring America’s dominance of the global order that appeared when the Soviet Union imploded in December 1991 did not last more than 24 years before talk of an alleged US decline and emergence of a multipolar global arrangement started to escalate.
In the aforecited essay (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kishore-mahbubani/when-america-becomes-numb_b_4603125.html), Dean Kishore Mahbubani reiterates his favorite theme: the United States’ number one status in the global pecking order of nations is about to be taken over by the PRC. There is no doubt that America’s economic power is shrinking while that of China is on the rise. However, we have yet to see any evidence that the shrinkage of the American economy and its related much-ballyhooed decline is an irreversible global reality. (more…)
The US government’s intelligence services are either getting too imaginative or simply too paranoid about the “revival” of Usama Bin Laden, who, they know, is dead. Now they are imagining him coming back to life as a “virtual” Bin Laden or as a new “avatar” of Jihadism. In this ostensible flight of imagination, the American intelligence “experts on Islam appear eager to show their sheer ignorance and stupidity about the religion itself. Consider the following statement from the study that was commission by no less than the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the highest intelligence agency of the United States. It states:
Imagine that jihadist supporters create a detailed avatar of
Usama bin Laden and use his many voice recordings to
animate the avatar for up-close virtual reality experiences
that could be used to preach, convert, recruit, and propagate
dogma to the media. The Bin Laden avatar could preach
and issue new fatwas for hundreds of years to come, as
the fidelity of his likeness would be entirely believable
and animated in new ways to keep him current and fresh.
One cannot blame the intelligence agencies for being imaginative and proactive; however, those activities should be driven on the basis of their knowledge of Islam itself, since al-Qaida’s interpretation of that religion plays a crucial role in what they have been doing and what they will continue to aspire to.
There is no doubt that Bin Laden is held in high esteem among the self-styled Jihadists, and they would use his speeches and statements to make their points for the in-crowd. However, assigning the status of an avatar (a secular version of a saint) has no room in the Wahhabi ideology that drives all self-styled Jihadist organizations.
In order to fully grasp the entire background of this outlandish scenario one should realize that there are large numbers of people in the DOD, other intelligence agencies, and various defense contracting companies (which have mushroomed in and around Washington, Tampa, and other places with large military facilities inside the United States) who do nothing but develop such scenarios. However, almost all of those scenario developers have very-little-to-no knowledge of Islam, and a lot of them are unadulterated Islamophobes. When you pay enormous amounts of money to individuals
to develop imaginative (aka moronic) scenarios, one can expect nothing but those of low quality like the avatar scenario, which are substantially divorced from the realities of the streets of countries where the self-styled Jihadists are active.
After denigrating such scenarios, let me offer my own thinking on the subject of Bin Laden’s legacy. As much as he has been lionized by the United States’ national security community, even after his death, his real claim to fame was that he endorsed an audacious action plan of the magnitude of carrying out terrorist attacks on the United States’ homeland. Then, after dismantling the Taliban regime and cornering Bin Laden and his cohorts in Tora Bora in November 2001, he managed to escape into the chaotic area of Pakistan only as a result of the sheer Keystone-Cop-like thinking (and actions) of US officials like Donald Rumsfeld (George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense) and General Tommy Franks (Commander of the US forces that invaded Afghanistan). More than ten years after that incident, the United States failed to locate Bin Laden, even after spending billions of dollars and focusing the brunt of its electronic intelligences’ attention on Pak-Afghan borders, where he was expected to be hiding. He seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Those ten years were more crucial in making a legend out of Bin Laden by the US intelligence community.
After the assassination of Bin Laden in May 2011, a decision was made not to bury him anywhere. The Americans were fearful that his grave would become a gathering place of most, if not all, self-styled Jihadist groups. However, even if that were the case, how that potential would have become a constant source of the regeneration of Jihad is beyond me. Even without Bin Laden’s grave or without the benefit of his “fatwas,” which the aforementioned study gives great significance, the self-styled Jihadists are having a field day in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, etc., in their resolve to destabilize the existing regimes with the objective of eventually capturing power. However, they also know that the United States would not allow them to take control of the government anywhere. Syria seems to be an exception to that US rule, but the Obama administration has not taken any military action against them for two reasons. First, the self-styled Jihadists have the blessing and active support of the Saudis and the Qataris. The United States is not opposed to their objective of regime change in Syria, knowing full well that once the Assad regime is ousted, it (US) will swoop in to play an active role in the negotiations aimed at establishing a new regime in Syria, which is not hostile to the US and Israel.
By developing the “virtual Bin Laden” scenario, the US intelligence community is demonstrating a panicky state of mind. In the aftermath of the Arab Awakening, Washington appears to be less and less in charge of managing events in such countries as Libya, Egypt, and even Syria. That might be one reason why a new practice of “outsourcing” of US foreign policy to Riyadh and Doha has become a hallmark of the Obama administration. Now, we will have to wait and see what type of policies will emerge from the virtual Bin Laden scenario in the coming months. My best guess is that they are likely to be equally bizarre as the virtual Bin Laden scenario.