Many americans are (justifiably) convinced that their country is a force for the good. Indeed there are defenders of the empire who aver that the US Army should be the default awardee of the Nobel Peace prize (due to its role as globo-cop).
Of course when you are rich and powerful, the very people you wish to protect will want throw insults (and sticks) at you. People will accuse you of all sorts of crimes: betrayal of a trusted friend, vaccination masquerading as a sterilization program, twitter messaging to trigger a revolution….the list goes on.
Reihan Salam does not mind the ingratitude and would like to keep playing with a straight bat for the greater good of the world. And also because it is personal. However his argument about the Bangladesh war leaves us (a bit) confused. Richard Nixon never found the time (and the will) to tell the genocidal Pak Army to back off (despite being warned by his own diplomat of the innocent blood being spilled). As Reihan himself admits, all it required was for Nixon to lift his (little) finger- no invasions, no “moralistic crusades” were required.
The “neocon” in the Bangladesh war was Mrs Gandhi. Even though Reihan does not quite give her the full credit (that is due from one brother to the other), she withdrew her army once the battle was over and handed off power to the Bangladeshis. Perhaps America would have done good by following her example. Defeating Saddam was the easy part, it was winning the peace which proved bothersome for the USA in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
At a bare minimum, those of
us who favored the war might have hoped for a democratic Iraq in which
the rights of ethnic and religious minorities were respected and that
was more closely aligned with the United States than Iran. The new Iraq
fails on both of these counts.
Given all of this, why am I still a neocon? Why do I still believe
that the U.S. should maintain an overwhelming military edge over all
potential rivals, and that we as a country ought to be willing to use
our military power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests
narrowly defined? There are two reasons: The first is that American
strength is the linchpin of a peaceful, economically integrating world;
and the second is that we know what it looks like when America embraces
amoral realpolitik, and it’s not pretty.
nevertheless believe that the U.S. should avoid doing anything more than
narrowly fulfill its security commitments. Why insist on moralistic
crusades, as neocons are wont to do? I suppose I have a personal reason
for doing so.
It turns out that this week isn’t just the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. It is also the 43rd anniversary of a telegram
in which an American consul general, Archer Blood, took the unusual
step of condemning his own government.
As Gary Bass recounts in his
chilling book The Blood Telegram,
Richard Nixon and his chief foreign policy consigliere, Henry
Kissinger, enthusiastically backed Pakistan’s military junta in its
efforts to not only overturn the results of its country’s first free and
fair election, but to massacre hundreds of thousands of Bengalis in an
effort to teach what was then a rebellious province a lesson. One of the
men who died, as it happens, was my uncle.
Knowing fully well that he was endangering his career, Blood decried
the American failure to defend democracy or to denounce Pakistani
atrocities. He also knew that had President Nixon decided to lift a
finger, he could have forced Pakistan to stay its hand. Yet it seems
that humanitarian considerations never entered the picture for Nixon and
Kissinger. They were apparently too taken with treating the world as a
chessboard to bother reckoning with the monstrous crimes they were
aiding and abetting.
Though Pakistan was unable to prevent the emergence
of an independent Bangladesh, thanks in large part to India’s decision
to intervene, the country remains scarred by the bloodletting. Imagine
if a different president hadn’t cheered on Pakistan’s military rulers
but rather threatened to use U.S. power in defense of Bengali civilians.
India has a no-first use nuclear policy while Pakistan does not. That may change with a new BJP govt at the helm. While this may appear only to be of symbolic importance nevertheless symbols are important. There should have been out of the box thinking (whereby NaMo would sit down with NaSha and discuss ways and means to strengthen regional security) instead what we have is more macho posturing.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), widely tipped to form the next government,
pledged on Monday to revise India’s nuclear doctrine, whose central
principle is that New Delhi would not be first to use atomic weapons in a
Unveiling its election manifesto, the party gave no
details, but sources involved in drafting the document said the
“no-first-use” policy introduced after India conducted a series of
nuclear tests in 1998 would be reconsidered.
Arch-rival Pakistan, which responded within weeks that year by conducting tests of its own, does not profess “no first use”.
The BJP made no mention of reviewing nuclear policy in its manifesto for the previous elections in 2009.
India adopted a no-first-use policy at a
time when it was under pressure from punitive embargoes by western
nations for its nuclear tests, but since then it has been unofficially
accepted as a nuclear power. The no-first-use policy was based on a premise that India would
retaliate so massively against a nuclear strike that an enemy would not
contemplate such a move in the first place.
However, a source
who advises the BJP said there has been significant debate in recent
years about being bound to the policy given the advances of Pakistan’s
He said Pakistan’s nuclear inventory may
have already overtaken that of its neighbour, and it has claimed
progress in miniaturization of weapons for use on the battlefield. “Do we need tactical weapons? This issue was never raised and discussed
because at the time it was not a concern.” said another source involved
in drawing up the manifesto.
There was no immediate reaction from the Pakistan government or its military, which controls foreign and defence policy. A former Pakistani national security adviser, retired Major General
Mahmud Ali Durrani, said he would not be concerned if India revised the
central tenet of its nuclear doctrine. “I don’t think it will
be of great consequence,” he said. “The nuclear doctrine here is MAD
(mutually assured destruction). If one side does it, the other side has
enough to cause unacceptable damage in response.”
This topic comes up every once in a while on twitter and I always regret having lost my old post about it when the old Brownpundits crashed and burned. So I just looked up a cached copy and am reposting it (with slight editing) so that it is available whenever another young Pakistani officer announces that we were robbed of a great victory in Kashmir by Nawaz Sharif (I am not kidding).
First, some links with details about the operations:
1. http://www.nps.edu/Academics/Centers/CCC/Research/StudentTheses/Acosta03.pdf an excellent summary of the Kargil war by the US Naval postgraduate school.
2. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/kargil.pdf A more recent summary focused on airpower but with a good summary of the whole affair..
3. Role of the Pakistan air force: http://kaiser-aeronaut.blogspot.com/2009/01/kargil-conflict-and-pakistan-air-force.html
Back in 1999 I thought that Musharraf should have been dismissed and prosecuted for his role in the affair, but I also bought into the propaganda that the operation was a “great tactical success but a strategic blunder”. As time went on and more details came out, it became clear that the planning at the tactical level was as bad as the stupidities and mistaken assumptions that underlay the strategic vision of General Musharraf and inner coterie and in particular the commander of Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA), General Javed Hassan.
The men (primarily Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and Special Services Group (SSG) volunteers) who did the actual fighting from the Pakistani side performed with suicidal bravery, but once the Indian army learned from its early mistakes and brought all its resources to bear on the operation, these brave men were left to literally starve and bleed to death while Javed Hassan and his boss tried to bluster their way past their disastrous mistake. Musharraf’s coup protected the plotters from facing any consequences within Pakistan and a systematic disinformation campaign was used to crease (not just in Pakistan but also in some casual observers and Anatol Leiven level analysts abroad) an impression of tactical brilliance. The above reports provide a good corrective and one hopes that the day may still come when Musharraf and Javed Hassan will face the music for their role in this terrible disaster…a disaster that led to hundreds of needless deaths on both sides in an operation that civilian prime minister Benazir was able to see as “crazy” at first glance. Unfortunately, Nawaz Sharif was not that sharp…
Given how long it takes most armies to learn from their mistakes during the course of a battle, the Indian commanders on the spot deserve some credit for belying stereotypes and actually thinking and adapting while the battle was on. The British Indian army was a fine fighting force, but not one known for innovation and flexible thinking. Either India got lucky in a few officers on the spot (e.g. artillery commander Brigadier Lakhwinder Singh and GOC 8 mountain div General Puri http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/kargil-a-ringside-view/0/) or it really does have a better culture of officership than its mother army did.
Anyway, take a moment to read the above reports and links for details, but the main point is that it was not even a “tactical success”. It was poorly planned and once the Indian army found its feet, leaving those men out on the peaks to die was hardly a sign of brilliant tactical execution. The basic TACTICAL assumptions that proved wrong were:
1. The heights, once occupied, could be held by small groups for at least the entire summer.
2. Those men could be resupplied under fire for several months with food, water and ammunition, using mountain trails and helicopters.
3. The Indian army was incapable of attacking from any direction except straight up the front slopes, where they would be cut down like grass.
4. And behind it all, the firm conviction that while “our boys” will exhibit the required suicidal bravery, the other side will not.
All these assumptions proved wrong. After some early charges that failed with heavy casualties (but also showed that Indian troops were perfectly capable of suicidal bravery of their own) the Indian army figured out how to use its artillery to great effect and went up near vertical slopes at night under cover of accurate artillery fire and recaptured crucial heights. They also managed to interdict most of the resupply effort, leaving many freezing Pakistani troops exposed on the heights without food or water. There is no evidence that either Javed Hassan or Musharraf made any real effort to come up with new solutions once their original assumptions proved wrong. Musharraf seems to have focused mostly on making sure the blame could be pinned on Nawaz Sharif, and that some sort of domestic (or intra-army) propaganda victory could be salvaged from the disaster.
The status quo is indeed in India’s favor by now. The critical period for India was the early nineties. Once they got past that, they were never going to be kicked out of Kashmir by force; and by using outside Jihadis and then the regular army and failing to dislodge them, Pakistan has already played all its cards. Another attempt could set the whole subcontinent aflame, but is not likely to change that outcome.
The fact that Kashmiri Muslims (or at least, Kashmiri Muslims in the Kashmir valley proper) remain thoroughly disaffected with India provides some people with the hope that human rights and democracy campaigners can win where brute force did not. But this too seems unlikely. The same Kashmiri Muslims are almost as disaffected with Pakistan as they are with India, so that the main demand seems now to be independence. But the demographics, geography, history and international situation of Kashmir all make any smooth passage to independence inconceivable. Inconceivable in the literal sense of the world; what I mean is, try to conceive or imagine in concrete detail what this independence would look like and the steps via which it would be achieved. Enuff said.
btw, General Shahid Aziz, who used to be Musharraf’s DGMO (director general military operations), CGS (chief of general staff) and then corps commander Lahore (and is now saying he repents siding with infidels against the Afghan Mujahideen; the timing of his decision to switch sides against the new Afghan regime remains in line with past GHQ strategic coups; see Afghan election coverage for details) has decided in his retirement to announce that kargil was a disaster caused by Musharraf.
He did back away a bit after other army officers accused him of washing the army’s dirty linen in public, but the damage was done.
By now, the cat is well out of the bag though. Here is Brigadier Javed Hussain from the Pakistan army making exactly the same points..
And now we have General Asad Durrani, former ISI chief (and the SOB who said on BBC TV that the thousands of Pakistani civilians, including school children, killed by the Taliban and other Jihadists are “collateral damage” and we have to accept this damage in the larger national interest, which he believes has been well served by our Jihadist policies) writing a book with a former RAW chief and saying most of the same things..
For many other interesting links and videos, see this excellent collection from researcher Aamir Mughal.
btw, there ARE jokers on the other side. We are, after all, one people:
Sam was representative of an earlier generation of Indian officers. Few historical tit bits about the documentary. If you look Sam in pictures, he is always wearing black PIFFER pips although usually senior officers do not wear regimental color pips. Lieutenant General ® S. K. Sinha gives his opinion about Sam in documentary. There is interesting story about Sinha. Sinha is originally from Jat regiment but in WWII, he spent about two weeks with a draft of 4/12 FFR (Sam and present Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif’s battalion) before his own battalion came to theatre. Later, he also went to Gorkha Rifles. In 1947, three young officers were serving together in Military Operations (MO) directorate in Delhi. Sam was GSO-1, Yahya Khan was GSO-2 and Sinha GSO 3. In 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sam was Indian army chief, Yahya Khan Pakistan army chief and Sinha was at GHQ heading pay commission. Sinha asked Sam to be given a chance to participate in war and stated, “The old G1 is going to war with the old G2 and the old G3 is being left out”. Sam owned a red motorcycle and in 1947 he sold it to Yahya for Rs.1000. In the upheaval of 1947 Yahya went to Pakistan and never paid the money. Sam used to joke about that Yahya never paid him for the motorcycle therefore he went ahead and got half of the country of Yahya. I did obituary of Sam attached below;
biggest election on Earth. In the world’s largest democracy, an
electorate of 815 million will troop up to 930,000 polling stations in
28 states in nine phases over five weeks, starting Monday and ending May
12. If vote counting goes as swiftly and accurately as has been the
norm in India, results will be announced May 16. Then would begin the
real tamasha (show, entertainment, drama) over who would form the next government.
Polls show the centrist Congress government would be wiped out.
During a recent trip to India, I found no party stalwart who doubted
that prospect, so palpably angry is the public at Congress misrule that
has been marked by corruption, dynastic rule (under the Gandhi family),
government gridlock and stalled economic growth coupled with nearly 9
per cent inflation.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win. Yet its leader,
Narendra Modi, is no shoo-in as the next prime minister for both prosaic
and profound reasons, the latter relating to the identity of India: is
it a secular nation of 1.3 billion with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and
other minorities totalling as many 200 million, or a Hindu nation with a
Hindu ethos that the minorities must acquiesce to and assimilate in, as
Modi’s most fervour supporters believe?
That is the real story of this election. What makes it
particularly Indian and deeply democratic is that the most passionate
defenders of secularism against Hindu communal forces are many Hindus
No party has won a
majority since 1986. Smaller parties routinely scoop up about a third of
the vote and a third of the seats, an apt reflection of the steady rise
of regionalism. The best projected scenario for the BJP is for 213
seats in the 543-member lower house of parliament. That would
necessitate enticing or outright bribing 59 others to get to the needed
272 seats to form a coalition government.
There is no strong
third party to forge an arrangement with. This may change with the rise
of the populist Aam Admi (common man) Party, “the Tea Party of the
left,” with its campaign against corruption and culture of entitlement.
But it has already said it won’t partner with BJP. Several regional
parties would come with about 20 seats or less, each wanting to exact
its price. But even some of those ready to back a BJP government may not
back Modi as leader of India, so polarizing a figure he has been.
Whereas the party has
held office before (1998-2004), its prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
was a moderate who was expected to and did keep the BJP zealots in
check. But Modi is seen as hopelessly divisive.
He is chief minister
of the western state of Gujarat where under his watch there was a
communal conflagration in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people were
shot, hacked or burnt to death, an overwhelming majority of them
For secular Indians,
that stain cannot be washed away by his explanations — he had nothing to
do with it; several inquiries were not able to pin any blame on him
directly; there have been no more sectarian riots since; the Muslims of
Gujarat have benefitted from the unquestionable economic boom that he
has brought by attracting Indian and foreign businesses.
His critics, however,
note that one of his caucus members was jailed for 28 years for being
what the court called “a kingpin” in the murder of 97 people. The
federal inquiry that did not find sufficient evidence to charge him did
not exactly exonerate him for his criminal negligence and moral
culpability in failing to stop the days-long riots, in which state
police and civilian authorities were accused of complicity.
Modi has refused to
recant. His supporters argue he has nothing to apologize for. He once
refused a Muslim kufi cap offered him at a public meeting, whereas he
routinely dons various regional headgears for photo ops. He continues to
cater to Hindu chauvinism. He has chosen a federal riding not in his
home state but rather in the Hindu holy city of Benares. He repeats the
BJP mantra of doing away with all the “special deals” for the disputed
(Muslim) state of Kashmir on the Pakistan border, constitutional and
other commitments given for historical and strategic reasons. He says
Muslim terrorism suspects should be prosecuted, not mollycoddled
(reacting to a federal minister who said that long detentions without
charge should be looked at).
“Modi represents everything that’s evil in Hinduism,” says Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Congress minister, a Hindu who calls himself a secular fundamentalist. Echoing Indian
secularists, he told me: “India is not, cannot be, Hindu India. It is a
constitutionally secular nation, with a long history of a composite
The real drama of the
election would unfold after the election, he said. “I am selling tickets
on my veranda to see the parade of politicians who’ll be horse trading —
and battling with their conscience.”
Normally this would be an unremarkable story, especially so as Mohd. Bashir’s wife is from Hyderabad (India) . Lots of Indians would also support Pakistan if the latter was playing (some “Indians” support Pakistan even when playing against India). But still as Dr Omar says, as long as the 2-nation theory lives out its zombie like life (and it will do so till Kashmir is normalized), these stories do make a few bright splashes against a perpetually cloudy sky that is SAsia.
he declared that the hostility associated with an India-Pakistan
encounter is long over, Dhoni meant it and his latest act has proved it.
The Indian captain on Saturday arranged a complimentary pass for a
die-hard Pakistani cricket fan Mohammed Bashir, who came all the way
from Chicago to support his team.
knocked out in the group stage, Bashir has stayed back to watch India
play the final and now has become a “die-hard Dhoni fan” having
interacted with the Indian captain.
training session yesterday but I didn’t have any tickets. Dhoni is
familiar with my face as he has seen me before the Champions Trophy’s
Indo-Pak game in Birmingham. I told him that I don’t have a ticket to
watch the finals.
Ramesh Mane or ‘Mane Kaka’) and told him to arrange for my ticket. Kaka
promptly gave me a complimentary pass. I am completely moved by his
gesture,” the new “Chacha Pakistani” said on Sunday.
“He (Dhoni) asked about me and I told him that I am settled in Chicago.
Since I was standing there for a long time, he told someone to give me
fruits. I am a Pakistan fan but for today, I am a Dhoni fan. Also I have
another India connection. I am Hyderabad’s son-in-law as my wife hails
from the region,” a proud Bashir said flaunting his final match pass.
could be seen wearing a giant sized kurta in the design of his national
flag. He has also been a big hit among the local fans after supporting
Bangladesh during one of their matches.
The pity is that I actually think our constituency has a good
politician from the BJP. If he ever runs for Parliament, my opinion of
him, by itself, would tempt me to vote for him. Yet I cannot forget he
is from the BJP. Much as I’m also tempted by the logic that we must
sometimes look at the candidate and not the party, I know this like the
back of my hand: I will not vote for this party.
The pity is, too, that any party that presides over the plethora of
scams of the last few years deserves no less than to be flung out of
power. I mean the Congress, of course. And even so, I won’t vote BJP.
They have done too much to turn away too many people like me. Perhaps
they don’t care, but that’s the way it is.
To start, there’s the obsession with building a Ram temple in
Ayodhya. Every time we hear that times have changed and young Indians
aren’t interested in this tired old nag of an issue, somebody in the BJP
will announce that building that temple is on their agenda.
India is afflicted with scams, or still widespread poverty, or poor
primary education—whatever it is, the BJP returns, every time, to that
lazy way to ask for votes: champion the Ram temple. Sure enough, it
appears in their newest manifesto too. If you had to judge solely from
the several decades that the BJP has demanded it—luckily, you don’t—this
temple is this country’s highest priority. It must take singularly
warped minds to hold tight to this warped vision for India for so long.
On from there is the way the BJP and fans label anyone remotely
critical as “anti-Hindu”. A good example is a ‘List of Anti-Hindu
Personalities and Their Intricate Connections’ that has been doing the
rounds for some years now. (Full disclosure: I happen to be on that list.)
I know why these lists are made. “Anti-Hindu” is a surer way to get
people’s bile up, after all, than a mere “anti-BJP”. (Similar are the
labels “Pakistani agent”, “Italian origin” etc.) It’s also a lazy way to
argue, used when bereft of anything more substantial.
On from there…I could go on, with plenty more reasons not to vote
BJP. Among them, the party’s unwillingness to see justice done for
horrific crimes. Above all, though, I believe their politics demeans
I believe we have the people, the talent and the passion in this
country to take on the world. But the BJP chooses instead to
systematically turn Indian against Indian. This applies to the
“anti-Hindu” label it uses freely, it applies to the lies and suspicion
it directs at its critics, it applies to episodes of murderous violence
that have been left to fester. For me, all this is unforgivable.
And when you call them on it, the BJP’s supporters have only this
particularly brainless response: “But the Congress also does crappy
things.” Well yes, it does. In fact, crappiness from the Congress was
the reason this country grew repulsed by that party in the first place.
But when they came to power, the BJP turned out to be no different from
the Congress, and in many ways even worse.
(To my knowledge, not even
the Congress holds on to lists of ‘Anti-Hindu Personalities’.)
great dilemma is that on fundamental counts like these, our two major
political parties have failed us. I won’t shy away from the challenge
this dilemma poses when I head for the voting booth. But it does also
leave me with this certainty: I won’t vote for the BJP.
Afghanistan has voted. And wow, what a lot of voting there was! Millions of Afghans turned out and voted in an election where a vote for anyone was a vote against Mullah Umar and his backers. Now it may be that the results will not be accepted, that the winners will fight each other or that the good feeling will evaporate as some future Taliban offensive shakes the state. But if the results are credible and are accepted, then it may well be (to quote journalist Tahir Mehdi) that April 5th 2014 will be to strategic depth what December 16th 1971 was to the two-nation theory.
Of course, one may then point out that the Two Nation theory has had a very healthy Zombie existence since 1971. But even the healthiest Zombie is still a Zombie. Dying is forever.
One can always hope.
This question came up on twitter: was this election a success because Afghan security forces and ISAF did a fantastic job and the Afghan people rejected Mullah Umar? or because Pakistan was paid (and paid well) and agreed to permit a peaceful election? I suspect a bit of both. But either way, it does not alter the significance of the event. Whether Pakistan’s Taliban allies are just not strong enough to disrupt elections or whether Pakistan has sold them out for money. its all the same as far as strategic depth is concerned. Its over.
PS: I have already heard from people on twitter that this will not lead to milk and honey and a civil war is coming. But please note, I said nothing about those things. All that may be true. But strategic depth was a different story. The story was that Afghanistan is waiting for Americans to leave and then our boys walk in and eject the “mayor of Kabul”. That doesnt seem to be the story at all. “Our boys” didnt look as strong as advertised. And unless they are the dominant and strongest party, strategic depth is dead and strategic nightmare awaits.