I had the pleasure of attending a two-day conference on C4ISR. Even though the thrust of the conference was at the operational and tactical level, I enjoyed the glimpses of strategic issues when the discussion reached that level. Here is what I conveyed to one of the USAF retired senior military leaders at the end of the first day of that event:
The bloody execution of Muammar Qaddafi remains clouded in conflicting stories at the time of this writing, but it was to be expected. The gruesome nature of his death might have been watched with great fear by Bishara Assad of Syria, the remaining brutal dictator, and by Ali Bin Saleh, whose regimes are increasingly looking like that of Qaddafi’s in turning on its killing machine on the protestors. For forty two years, Qaddafi ruled Libya like a tyrant. No one really knows how many people he had killed in that duration, hundreds or even thousands. But the beginning of his era in 1969 was somewhat promising.
One of the chief differences between India and China is that the latter has institutionalized the process of change in its top leadership, while India still suffers from a small-village mentality of relying on a “wise” leader from a clan. In this instance, the focus is the Nehru clan, the family of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. The Nehru family, directly or indirectly, has played a leading role in governing India throughout its existence as an independent nation, with only a few periods of interruption. Sonia Gandhi â€“ wife of one of India’s Prime Ministers, Rajiv Gandhi, who was son of Indira Gandhi, another Prime Minister, and the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru â€“ is the real power behind the current Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Since she is suffering from an undisclosed ailment, which is unofficially described as some type of cancer, the talk is once again on about the succession to premiership of Rahul Gandhi. He is the son of Rajiv, grandson of Indira, and the great-grandson of Jawaharlal. From all public descriptions, it seems Rahul has not inherited the political talents of his grandmother or his mother, who is described by the Indian press as a talented and a wise politician. That fact was established when, in Sonia’s absence in August 2011, the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acted like a “keystone cop” in its handling of the hunger strike of Anna Hazare. Hazare is another savvy politician, whose meteoric rise on the Indian political horizon has befuddled even the most veteran observers of that country’s political scenes. In using hiscampaign to fight endemic corruption for which the Indian political system is notorious all over the world, Anna Hazare has been playing the Gandhian legacy like a fiddle. In the process, he is also building his own huge political following in India. Continue reading “India’s Unending Quest for a Mythical Hero”
China is not the only country that has been apprehensive about a possible eruption of the Arab Awakening-like social movement that could threaten its regime. Russia and the Central Asian states â€“ especially the latter â€“ are even more afraid of the birth of such a movement. They think that they can crush a social movement if or when it arises inside their respective borders, and they are taking a number of ostensibly proactive measures. The Central Asian states are afraid because of the commonality of a number of variables between them and the Arab countries, where the Arab Awakening continues to look inexorable.
As George Santayana reported to have said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.” Reading about the recent allegations of the Obama administration that Iran was allegedly behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, one has to be perplexed and suspicious. It is perplexing, because it makes absolutely no sense. What does Iran have to gain by assassinating the Saudi ambassador, who is pretty much a non-entity when one considers the larger geopolitical games between Iran and Saudi Arabia? The allegations sound suspicious because the United States has had a discreditable record of making up a story of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before invading that country. In that sense,
one has to hope that the Obama administration remembers the past shenanigans of the Bush administration prior to invading Iraq. Then again, why should the Obama administration not repeat the mistakes of the Bush administration on this issue, since it has been consistently developing the kind of hardline anti-Iranian attitude that is reminiscent of the Bush administration’s anti-Iraq posture before invading that country?
India and Pakistan are two strange countries in a number of ways. I will mention only one such trait here, to get the discussion going. Despite India’s denial to the contrary, Pakistan is its chief obsession. Pakistan feels similarly toward India, but it has many reasons to feel that way. First, on the scale of economic development, these two countries are really a world apart. Despite India’s intricacy as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, it is relatively trouble free, while Pakistan is a simmering cauldron of sectarian and ethnic hatred. The Takfiri extremism â€“ which was prevalent in Egypt, post-Saddam Iraq, and Saudi Arabia â€“ has found a home in Pakistan throughout the first decade of the 21st Century. India is envisaged worldwide as a secular democracy and an up-and-coming cradle of modern education and technological development, while Pakistan is a place where Islamist-driven obscurantism is running rampant. In view of these contrasting features, one should think that India should spend little or no time worrying about Pakistan. Such is not the case.
The death of Steve Jobs, the innovator and a brilliant technological mind of the times, brought the world closer as a bereaving community. Continue reading “Feeling the Loss of Steve Jobs”
The best metaphor to describe the resilience of al-Qaida is to compare it with a weed that is common in the American south â€“Kudzu. You can’t kill Kudzu, because it sends underground runners that keep it alive even when you cut off the above-groundportion of it. So, the killing of Usama Bin Laden in May of this year and that of Anwar al-Awlaki only a few days ago, like the eradication of Kudzu, is not likely to kill al-Qaida. What keeps it alive are the political and economic conditions of a number of countries depicted under the rubrics the “failed,” “near-failed,” or “failing” states. President George W. Bush never understood that fact. Now, President Barack Obama is treading the same path. Unfortunately, the nature of the American electoral politics is such that false (or, as in this instance, tactical) gains can be packaged as long-term solutions â€“ and politicians run for office on such mystifying platforms. Voters tend to buy it, as long as American casualties in far-off lands are not high at the time of the elections. Obama is counting on the recurrence of such a scenario since the American Special Forces and/or the high technology of the U.S. military succeeded in whacking the Kudzu versions of al-Qaida’s leadership. So, what is the alternative? It is certainly not about
just killing its leadership, even though no one can take the position that killing them is a wasteful or extraneous tactic. Continue reading “The Only Way to Eradicate al-Qaida is to Eliminate the Making of a Failed State”