Saturday, October 17, 2009
The World Last Week
The most interesting story last week was of course about the boy who was thought to have gone up did not go up. I was just watching Arianna Huffington questioning the wisdom of the story, justifiably because it is a non-story which the major networks devoted an enormous amount of time on. Arianna was on the Ed Show on MSNBC to talk about her recent post why Joe Biden, a long time opponent of sending more troops to Afghanistan, should resign if the President decides to concede to General McChrystal and send more troops. Arianna's point was that American executives should sometimes resign in protest, and not go silently as Colin Powell did, after enduring two uncomfortable years of the war in Iraq and even choosing to become the public voice justifying it. That does not measure up as integrity. But she was visibly peeved when she was called to discuss this and this discussion turned to the boy in the hot air balloon. She pointed out that this is indeed the worst kind of tele-voyeurism - and a journalistic failure to check the story's credentials before publicizing it. The discussion was amusing - a prominent blogger accusing MSNBC for wasting people's time, and Ed Schultz defending it in the name of public concern and news. That seemed to be the media world in reverse, or possibly the way soon it is going to be.
The other big news is Obama's big question - to be or not to be. Almost everyone knows that sending more troops to Afghanistan is pointless - and, as Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, the United States is increasingly making the same mistake that Soviet Union did twenty years back. He says, Soviets walked into Afghanistan and believed that they can create a communist society with a handful of urban Afghan communists. When they realized that this is not going to be easy, they sought a military solution, with the objective of getting everyones compliance to the ideas of the few. US is making a similar mistake, he says. When the United States went in, it used only about 300 special Marine commandos, along with thousands of Afghans, who saw them as liberators, to throw the Taliban out. And, then, US lost the peace, by bungling the reconstruction, by relying too much on a few Westernized Afghans in the cities. And, then, it sought a military solution. Today, there are 60,000 US troops along with 40,000 NATO ones, and General McChrystal is saying that the Taliban is winning. He's got a point, indeed. In this context, the big question before the President Obama is whether to give in and send another 40,000 troops, which will, according to Dr Brzezinski, only help solidify the opposition and expand the Taliban ranks.
Of course, the people who believe more troops should be sent pointed towards Pakistan. This was a bad week for Pakistan. The news there almost read like the ones from Iraq in its worst years, suicide attacks every day, including one inside the Army HQ in Islamabad, the capital. It looked as unstable as ever. The apologists of troop surge talk about stabilizing Pakistan, because, with its nuclear arsenal, Pakistan is a far greater danger.
This is indeed a bit of convoluted logic, which made no sense at the outset. America has already won the war in Afghanistan. What it lost is the peace. But instead of trying to win the peace, it is getting into a seize mentality. Egged on by the Pakistani administration, surely, who wants to pass on the responsibility of governing their country to the Americans, without passing on their sovereignty. The Pakistani administration failed to take any action to restrain the terrorist ideologues who preached openly and directed people to attack Indian people; their excuse was religious freedom. They possibly can't see that the bombs that went off in their territory were made of the same religious staff.
And, Americans continue to lose the peace. It made depressing reading to know about the widespread corruption in the Afghan elections, designed to keep the incumbent President, Hamid Karzai. Peter Galbraith, the ex-Deputy Head of UN Mission in Afghanistan, was surely in a place to know. I shall recommend his article in TIME as a must read. The results of the election is still not announced - it has just been delayed by another day - but media reports indicate that at least a third of the vote in favour of Karzai is possibly fraudulent. Add this to sheer mindlessness of trying out an American style election in Afghanistan, and one gets the sense why the US is losing the war. They need some common sense, not 40,000 troops, to restore Afghanistan.
Indeed, the US indifference to the stolen election in Afghanistan is making their moral stand vis-a-vis the stolen election in Iran much less convincing. The news is that some of the democracy protesters have been given death sentence for inciting trouble. With its bloodied hand in Afghanistan, rest of the world will have to stand by and say nothing. Besides, Iran seems to be getting away with its nuclear programme, as both China and Russia failed to work with the US to impose any sanctions. So, Iran will go Scot-free, which will add to the nuclear threat in the region.
And, finally talking about the UN, the UN Human Rights Council accepted the Goldstone report, despite some attempts of blackmail from the Israelis, and some woolly-minded voting from United States. Justice Goldstone said human rights have been violated and civilians have been attacked, both by Israel and Hamas, during their war in Gaza. Something which we knew, and something that must stop. Yet, Israel linked this to their national self-defence, unbelievably, and wanted states to vote against the acceptance of the report. So, did United States. Britain and France could not make up their minds, so abstained without a formal declaration. But, almost everyone else accepted the report. Indeed, this will amount to nothing, because this will now be recommended to UN General Assembly, which is notoriously ineffective because the United States will block it. So will Britain and France, as they gain their composure and discover that doing the right thing is to let Israel do whatever it likes. But, then, that's another bit in losing the peace, in Middle East in particular and in the world at large.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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