Tidibits and Morsels (4)



Regardless of whether you are among those who are baffled about the economic problems that continue to ail the U.S. with no end in sight, or among those who are cheering the noisy fall of the mightiest among nations, here is one of the most cogent explanations that Nathan Gardels provides in the Fall 2008 issue of the New Perspectives Quarterly about the grim situation that the lone uberpower faces.  He writes:

In the space of a few short months, we have morphed from the citadel of free-market capitalism and freewheeling consumerism — from a land of high-flying hedge funds, Hummers and homes that doubled as ATMs — to a system in which the banks, insurance companies, mortgage industry and auto manufacturers are quasi-socialized

The tax-and-spend epithet that defined America’s partisan politics for decades has been replaced overnight with a bipartisan mantra calling for a nearly trillion-dollar fiscal stimulus. No sooner had Milton Friedman been laid to rest (he died in 2006) than John Maynard Keynes was resurrected. Amazingly, even the historical aversion to state-guided industrial policy in the United States has yielded to urgent demands for political oversight of private enterprise, starting with the Big Three automakers in Detroit.

The year 2008 is thus likely to go down in American history as an even more pivotal one than 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, because the life of the average American is going to be shaped far more by the consequences. We’re not talking about the inconvenience of lining up to go through metal detectors at the airport.

Notwithstanding these gloomy, albeit realist, annotations, there is no single power over the global horizon that is willing to or capable of replacing the uberpower.  However, the need for creating new approaches aimed at averting America’s decline has never before more urgent and imminent than now.


The NATO is popular and unpopular, and relevant and irrelevant at the same time.  How can it be?  The chief reason is that at the conclusion of the first decade of the 21st Century, NATO members seem to treat it like a social club where they want to be seen, but do not want to pay the membership dues in blood.  That is right.  That is the price of membership that the European members must pay.  The United States wants to continue its occupation of Afghanistan, but under the flags of NATO.  It wishes to Europeanize an American-preferred war, which promises to become more intense and bloodier under the presidency of Barack Obama than it has been under George W. Bush.

Obama’s biggest shock is awaiting him in Afghanistan.  He has stated that he will focus on seeking international cooperation in solving global problems.  However, as a recent Pew Research Center report notes, “he will have to navigate a world that has grown highly critical of the United States.”

The Islamist forces do not care about their loss of life in their battle in Afghanistan–indeed, they appear eager to die.  But the Europeans do care.  After all, Europe is a region where war is supposed to have become a thing of the past as a means of settling disputes.  But for the Islamist forces, conflict is the only way to defeat the West out of Afghanistan, as they did the communist superpower in the 1980s.

In view of these widely stark perspectives on settling a conflict, NATO is facing, from within, mounting pressure related to its relevance.  One option for its members is to get out of Afghanistan; another is to buy into the U.S. seriousness and commitment to winning in that country.  However, winning means by shedding the blood of European soldiers, while the public opinion in various countries of that region is least gung-ho on winning in Afghanistan at any cost.  More to the point, the same Pew Center report states, “Opposition to key elements of American foreign policy is widespread in Western Europe, and positive views of the U.S. have declined steeply among many of America’s longtime European allies.”

Stay tuned. 


Despite his often-repeated mantra of “Yes we can,” President Barack Obama is bound to face the reality of “No he can’t” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The asymmetric war launched by Hamas is not promising for that organization, since Israel is determined to make Hamas the object of its resolve to reestablish its invincibility.  That invincibility was seriously shattered in its war against the Hezbollah in July 2006.  But pacifying Gaza is not out of the question, especially when Egypt is doing Israel’s bidding by closing its borders.

In comes President Obama next week.  He has already established his partisanship by observing free minority report , “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” 

Granted, he made that statement as a presidential candidate who was vying for Jewish votes in the United States.  It will be interesting to see how he wiggles out of that position.  As Obama acquires experience in foreign policy, he will realize that making such observations without having an historical understanding of who is tormentor and who is tormentee will shatter his credibility as an honest broker, if he continues that practice as President.  Then, it will not be long before the Arab and the Muslim side will envision little difference between him and his immediate predecessor.  The time is fast approaching for Obama to spell out the specifics of “Yes we can” regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


It appears that an arrested “fighter,” Zarrar Shah, has confessed to Pakistani authorities that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), indeed, was involved in the Mumbai massacre in November.  

The first step for Pakistan is to ban the LeT, and not allow it to resurface by adopting another name.  That also means the end of an era when Pakistan used shady and murderous entities in the Indian-administered Kashmir.

The second measure should be to put the LeT’s leaders on trial and give them the stiffest possible sentence under the law.  The extradiction of any of them to India is out of the question, for legal as well as for political reasons.  Only the United States can make such demands from Pakistan and make it stick.  So, it behooves India to let the Paksitani legal process work this issue. 

Finally, if Pakistan were to go through the charade of trying the LeT and then put them under house arrest, then it ought to be brought to the international scrutiny.  The punishment for terrorizing India has to be the threat of labelling Pakistan a rogue nation.