The Economic History of the American Empire

 

Every time I used to play a strategy video game, my mind was firstly on money. Creating an income stream as well as buildings and units to magnify that income stream was the primary priority of my gameplay. Only then could I exercise my will and wrath on the codes of computer programming that were my enemies. I think recent history has shown us this is a powerful stratagem, especially on this side of the Atlantic.

As colony became country, America would dedicate itself to capitalism. In 1790, the US was a paltry nation with a population of 3.9 million spread across a vast and wild land. Only 7 cities had a population of over 5000 while 12 tipped over 2500; the rest found home in the wilderness. The inheritor of the great city of Rome was essentially one huge countryside. Yet by 1885, the US was nearing 60 million people and accounted for the production of 28.9% of global manufactured goods. Fast forward to today, and we have become an economic superpower never before seen. Only recently has the Middle Kingdom of the East challenged the writ of Washington, and it is still some ways away from being able to engage in a full on confrontation.

To understand American might, you must understand American economics. To understand American economics, you must understand American history.

Let’s turn back the pages.

Continue reading The Economic History of the American Empire

Woke Islamism in Bangladesh

A lot of people want to know how this new global religion called wokism affects Muslim countries. Since most of them live outside Muslim countries, even the ones with some knowledge on this do not have the first hand experience of an ex Muslim like me who lives here. Bangladesh should be one of the most interesting case studies on the topic. Bangladesh is the 8th most populous country and 4th largest in the list of countries with most Muslims. Bangladesh is unlike the other Desi neighbors of India because it’s one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As Pakistan has lost its way not just in economy but also in cricket, India vs Bangladesh matches generates more intensity than India vs Pakistan matches these days.

Bangladeshis or East Bengalis are people who have been fighting for their soul since last century. They have changed their shirts thrice in the span of last 100 years. Most people don’t know that the first person to start Wahhabi movement in India was a Bengali named Titumir, born in a clerical family in Chandpur region of Bangladesh, who was initially influenced by Syed Ahmed Barelvi. He is someone who should be loathed not just by Hindus but also by moderate section of Bengali Muslims, right? But up until recently it was the opposite that happened. Titumir was revered not just by all sections of Muslims but also by urban educated Bengali Hindus of West Bengal! Anyone who wants a little proof of it should look up now deceased Maheshweta Debi, a female Bengali leftist intellectual who wrote a novella as a tribute to Titumir in 2000. In her novella, she called Titumir “a champion of the subaltern cause”. It was in Dhaka where All India Muslim League was formed in 1906. It was the Bengali Muslim League leader A.K. Fazlul Haq who presented Pakistan resolution in Lahore in 1940. It was Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy who instigated the Great Calcutta Killing in 1946, the riot that culminated in break up of India in 1947 into Hindu majority secular India and Muslim majority Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan, the very nation whose foundation was laid by Bengali Muslims, the East Bengalis despite being the majority population in then Pakistan (52%), found themselves in trouble when Pakistan government wanted to change the Indic writing script of Bengali into Perso-Arabic along with making Urdu the state lannguage of Pakistan. This incident led to language movement in 1952 and throughout 50s and 60s, Bengali Muslims experienced a great Bengali awakening. They started to feel being Bengali was just as important for them as being Muslim. This period is the reason why Ravindranath Tagore’s song was adopted as the national anthem of Bangladesh when they seperated from Pakistan in 1971. As due to global geopolitics, Pan-Islamism revived in this country after 1980s so to this date, it is fighting over what it truly is – whether being part of the global Muslim Ummat or being Indic/Bengali first.

Fast forward to 2015, a lot of atheist bloggers and free thinkers got killed in Bangladesh. The most renowned of those killed was Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American intellectual. After his death, some of the leading Bangladeshi intellectuals, academics and celebrities justified his murder. Among them the most prominent ones are Pinaki Bhattacharya (who lives in France now, the irony!), Salimullah Khan (an academic) and Mostafa Sarwar Farooqi  (This guy is one of the leading Bangladeshi film makers who also works in Kolkata’s industry and casted renowned Bollywood actor late Irrfan Khan in his movie “Doob”). Farooqi advised atheist bloggers not to satirize the life of Muhammad and instead cultivate vegetables to find meaning in life. You might wonder they are saying this because they are pious Muslims. But no they are not. They are either atheist or irreligious themselves. But they believe in the international identity politics and consider themselves part of the global liberal elite. So even though they themselves lead a Westernized lifestyle, they appease the Islamists in the country. So when they are rebuking atheist bloggers, they are not using conservative Islamist vocabulary. Instead they are using wokespeak or Liberal jargons like colonialism or structural racism. In their eyes, students of madrassas are the subaltern comrades and blasphemers are the agents of Western colonialism and Indian fascism. The same mistake that many Iranian communists made in 1979 and paid the price when Khomeni came to power. Most Bangladeshi so called leftists are the intellectual defenders of Pan-Islamism in this country.

Look at the sharp contrast with India. Unlike Bangladesh, most Indian academics or celebrities who call themselves leftists/postmodernists are against almost anything and everything Hindu. According to both the postmodernists from Kolkata and Dhaka, Ravindranath Tagore is a symbol of “Brahminical Patriarchy”. Some Bollywood celebrities see Hindu patriarchy everywhere but Hijab is feminism. Talking about that, very few Bengali Muslim girls used to wear Hijab back in 80s-90s even when the society was obviously more socially conservative back then. But today a lot of urban girls who get called “thots” by socially conservative zoomers put on the type of fashionable Hijab that gets promoted in the West. They are wearing this because even though it is a symbol of oppression, it gets promoted by the Western feminists. So they feel more comfortable with their Muslim identity than the Bengali one. The Indian Hindu on the other hand has to discard his/her culture to be fully accepted by the global woke. Don’t get me wrong. I am not speaking against people who leave Hinduism. I am speaking out against Western liberal hypocrisy. To the liberal woke global elite, Islam is the tool with which they deconstruct the white man’s world. A cultural Hindu immigrant on the other hand assimilates in Western societies, they have high academic and financial achievements and a lot of them support Republicans. So for them, Indian Hindus despite being brown have a white man problem that needs to be deconstructed and Muslims are model browns that can be used like pets.

Bangladesh today fights a form of Islamism that is not coming from Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan but the one that is coming from UK, USA and Canada.

2021 anti Modi protests against the government led by Woke Leftists and Hefazat Islam

Afghans march supporting the ANDSF against the Taliban across Afghanistan

Vast numbers of Afghan civilians in many cities across the country have been chanting “Allah Akbar” and other calls to support their beloved ANDSF (Afghan National Defense Security Forces) in the battle with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Daesh. The cheering started at night in Herat and spread throughout the country. People were chanting on the streets, on roof tops, in mosques, through mosque speakers. Men, woman and children. There are hundreds or more articles and videos about this. Including:

https://menafn.com/1102564159/Anti-Taliban-chants-thousands-including  -vice-President-Saleh-took-to-streets 

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/afghan-vice-president-amrullah-saleh-joins-civilian-protest-against-taliban-pakistan-in-kabul20210804110936/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/3/afghans-chant-allahu-akbar-in-defiant-protests-against-taliban

Anti-Taliban chants, thousands including vice-President Saleh took to streets

Mass popular cheering for the ANDSF synchronized across the country hasn’t  happened before in Afghanistan.

Among the first to publicly discuss that popular chants were beginning in Herat was one of Afghanistan’s greatest living intellectuals, Davood Moradian–founder and director-general, Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. (Is there interest in interviewing him for BP?)

I would recommend that everyone read Davood’s very fine article on how Britain has long supported violent extreme Islamists in Afghanistan and has been flirting with or even appearing to support the Taliban for over a dozen years. In former US defense secretary Robert Gates book, President Karzai famously asks Secretary Gates why Britain was de facto supporting the Taliban. Gates responded with silence. The British have repeatedly sabataged Afghans in many other ways too. Here are some highlights from Davood’s article about Britain’s negative role in Afghanistan:

Continue reading Afghans march supporting the ANDSF against the Taliban across Afghanistan

Open Thread – 08/04/2021 – Brown Pundits

I didn’t post an open thread last week because we haven’t been posting much content. But I’ll post this early.

A comment thread emerged on Twitter that “Indian American” culture is basically Punjabi culture. Thoughts? It was a fork on a comment that “German American” culture is a debased form of Bavarian culture.

I still post podcasts early from Unsupervised Learning on Patreon. Thanks to everyone who is a patron, since that keeps me paying for the podcast storage and software.

Electronic Surveillance; New Frontier

From Dr Hamid Hussain

New Frontierk
In God we trust, all others we monitor’.  Intercept Operator’s motto.  National Security Agency Study, Deadly Transmissions, December 1970

 Recent revelation about use of Pegasus software for surveillance of mobile phones by several governments surprised very few. It simply confirmed what most of us believe that surveillance is now part of modern life. This information is not new.  In 2013, details about National Security Agency (NSA) running an electronic surveillance program on massive scale named PRISM became public. In 2012, information became public that a joint United States and Israeli cyber operation code named ‘Operation Olympic Games’ using an offensive computer virus Stuxnet damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges at Natanz.  Later, Wikileaks and revelations by Edward Snowdon about large scale surveillance all over the globe only highlighted the omnipresence of surveillance in our daily lives.  United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and Israel use extensive surveillance with state of the start equipment.

 Pegasus is a commercial program sold by an Israeli company NSO. The name is derived from the first initials of company’s three founders; Niv Carmi, Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie. It was first bought by a US based private equity firm. In 2018, when concerns emerged about the program it was sold to a London based group. Israel recognized the importance electronic and communication revolution early.  The most authoritative account of Mossad was written by Gordon Thomas in 1999 titled Gideon’s Spies.  Director General of Mossad Danny Yatom (1996-1998) recognized early the defensive and offensive opportunities in the brave new world of computers.  He ordered research and development division to develop programs that could infiltrate computers for monitoring as well as electronic ‘microbes’ that could destroy the systems.  Today, we know these ‘microbes’ as computer ‘viruses’.

 Pegasus can infiltrate any mobile phone and gain access to contacts, phone calls, text messages and even take control of the microphone and camera for real time surveillance. The sales pitch for Pegasus was to fight crime and terrorism.  However, there were concerns about its abuse by governments and NSO launched a public relations campaign to assure human rights groups.  It sold Pegasus to governments of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India and Mexico. In addition to criminals and terrorists, this program was also used for surveillance of political rivals, dissidents, diplomats, journalists and human right activists and organizations. Contrary to popular belief, Pegasus is not a mass surveillance program but a targeted one.

 The company is based in Israel therefore a lot of negative fallout for Israel.  Government tried to distance itself from NSO, but no one believes that Israeli government would have allowed sale of such program to foreign governments without access to data.  Such technology sale is strictly controlled by Israeli government based on national security concerns.  It is used as a diplomatic tool to win potential allies.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used sale of such technology for improving relations with Saudi Arabia and Gulf sheikhdoms.  Any Israeli government allowing sale of programs like Pegasus without having a trap door to have access to surveillance done by the clients of Pegasus will be charged with dereliction of duty. It is no surprise that countries like Russia and China develop their own programs.  They may steal state of the art technology through industrial espionage but do not buy off the shelf products as it makes them vulnerable.

 Public revelations of sale of surveillance technology to foreign clients by private Israeli companies is making many Israelis uncomfortable.  They view such sales as damaging the Israeli brand.  Israeli government has formed a high powered committee of Knesset to review the whole process of sale of surveillance technology.  Now, many Israeli civil rights groups are also concerned about domestic surveillance. In Israel there are severe restrictions on surveillance of Jewish citizens of Israel but Arab citizens and Palestinians in occupied territories have no protection.  Israeli society in general accepted this situation as a protective umbrella against extremist threats.  Details of surveillance methods are not made public and elite Signal Intelligence (SIGINTEL) Unit 8200 is involved in this surveillance.  In 2014, thirty four veterans of Unit 8200, now on reservist duty stunned Israel by writing a letter to Prime Minister refusing to serve in occupied territories.  This letter highlighted the moral dilemma faced by those serving in this field.

 Government decisions are guided by circumstances and there is risk of a slippery slope. There is no guarantee that government that asked for acquiescence of citizens in the name of security will not invoke an emergency to drag everybody in the net. The scare happened during the early phase of Corona pandemic.  In March 2020, then Defence Minister Naftali Bennett proposed that Military Intelligence and NSO should be given the task of tracking Corona virus carriers.  This meant transferring highly classified personal data of Israeli citizens collected by internal security organization Shin Bet to NSO.  Knesset alarmed by this dangerous phenomenon vetoed the idea.

 Surveillance and defensive and offensive cyber capabilities are part of modern national security apparatus.  They are new weapons like fighter jets, tanks and missiles.  Innovation is part of human story and not new, however, the revolution of modern technology is democratization of these tools. A high school dropout sitting in a dingy room with a cheap computer can bring down a hundred year old bank or turn off the electric grid of a mega city with few clicks on his keyboard. Society needs protection against these threats but also needs to put in place laws to prevent abuse by the government. Only an informed citizenry equipped with investigative tools and ever vigilance can ensure that their legitimate rights are protected at the same time when they give government the authority to use tools to protect them.

 “There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They are spying on me through my phone’ anymore.  Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.  Philip K. Dick – Died 1982

 Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

25 July 2021

Afghan Snake Pit

From Dr Hamid Hussain

01 August 2021
An informed senior Pakistani officer asked me about current parlays in the context of Afghanistan and following was my response; It can be considered analysis by an armchair Subedar Major.
Hamid

Thanks Sir.   All is well here.  U.S-Pakistan relations in short-term (6-12 months) are focused on Afghanistan.  Washington’s short list includes Pakistan using its influence (in my view now limited as Taliban have developed independent relationships with all players) to prevent Taliban from outright military takeover, not to directly undermine Ghani’s tattering government and not to object to some role for India in Afghanistan (technical support to government).

On part of Pakistan, they are trying to convince Washington that Taliban will take over sooner or later and therefore do not waste political capital on retreating Afghan players.  They have a point and Washngton understands this but can not allow Taliban take over so soon after departure as it could be damaging both internally and internationally.  If it occurs after a year or two that is fine.  Americans have not forgotten the Pakistani double cross.  There is a lot of anger in the military and intelligence community and they will be satisfied to some extent if Pakistan suffers. Recent interview of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) leader by CNN is a sign towards that direction.  For the first time, I have sensed fear among senior Pakistani brass due to the vulnerability of Pakistan to unexpected events.  Personal interest of Faiz Hamid is also at play.  He wants to portray himself as the man who can continue the policy rather than dealing with a new and unknown army Chief in 2022 (he gave the same line to the Chinese). 
 If the coming US-China conflict is centered around this region, there is a clear and present danger for a lot of damage to Pakistan. The best hope for Pakistan is that the major center of this conflict is in the South China sea while this region is simply a side show. In that case Pakistan can manage the fallout. I’m not sure if this point has sunk in Pakistan’s strategic community.

With this background, it is easy to understand possible US moves in the next 12-18 months. Move all US personnel out of harm’s way and substantially reduce financial commitment. However, at the same time use deteriorating security to get limited involvement of regional players who have their own fears and interests. This also ties into other strategic objectives of curtailing the influence of China and Russia. Just before the presidential election, in October 2020, the U.S. State Department quietly removed Eastern Turkestan Movement (ETM) from its terror list.  We will likely see more visibility of the Uighur cause in Europe and North America and re-organization of Uighur militants in ungovernable spaces of Afghanistan moving more closely to Chinese borders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  This will be complemented by attacks on Chinese diplomatic and economic targets in these countries.  Russia will have a mix of cooperation and competition with China in this theatre.  If it is tilted more towards competition that suits Washington.  The U.S. wants to see India more allied with Washington and prop it up against China.  If India gets some role in the region, it helps Washington to keep its hands clean. The dirty work of dealing with TTP and Baloch militants can remain with India.
The wild card as always is Afghan players.  They have learned the art of survival by working and then double crossing multiple masters.  This is necessary in view of their geographical location.  Like other highlanders i.e. Kurds, they have mastered the art of cross and double cross to perfection. At present, it is wait and watch by all Afghan players as they want two major contenders; Washington and Taliban to show their hand.  When a military power is in full swing, it is like a torrent in the stream and no one wants to come in its path. Once it passes away and water is calm then the Afghan makes his move.  In my view, a little lifting of the curtain will occur if and when the Taliban decide to go after major cities.  They are waiting for American assets to move out of the game.  They have calculated that once major military and intelligence assets are out of theatre, it will be very difficult to re-introduce them by any American leader. This will give them leverage and they hope that Americnas will come to terms with the fait accompli.
Everyone is positioning for uncertainties in the near future and it is in this context that byzantine intrigues are at play.  Pakistan has increased intelligence surveillance of TTP and Baloch militants in Afghanistan and can use local assets to target their leaders and facilities. At the same time it is also dangling negotiation carrots to Baloch militants to cash in on their fear of losing the safe haven in Afghanistan. Russia and Iran are cooperating in the important city of Herat.  Russian and Iranian intelligence agents have set up listening and operational posts, reactivating old Afghan assets and pre-positioning arms and ammunition dumps.  Russia has also increased such cooperation with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (Turkmenistan is still holding out to its historical position of strict neutrality).
China has good relations with Pakistan in many sectors. However, in the context of Afghanistan, China has its concerns both in terms of Pakistan’s policy about the country as well as increased sympathy among Pakistani general population about Taliban as well as Islamic causes.  China is concerned about the safety of its personnel as well as infrastructure projects in Pakistan.  Despite the raising of two new light infantry divisions (34 and 44) by Pakistan for security of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects from the border with China at Khunjerab all the way to the port of Gwadar in Balochistan, CPEC infrastructure is vulnerable especially at both ends.  China has also increased cooperation with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and increased surveillance of the Wakhan corridor.
A new player is Turkey under neo-Ottoman dreams of Recep Erdogan. He sees himself as first leading Turkic speaking and then Sunni Muslims on a global scale. During earlier deployments of Turkish troops in Afghanistan under the flag of NATO, Turkish military and intelligence has expanded links with Abdul Rashid Dosttum.  Turkey trained a large number of Afghan Uzbeks and also positioned arms & ammunition in the region.
There are two models for the future.  One is cooperation where there is competition but still restraints that can be a win-win situation for all.  The other is perpetuation of conflict that not only keeps old wounds open but also inflicts new injuries.  Our hope is for the former but if history is a guide, our leaders always opt for the latter in our name.
“History tells us that it will get worse before it gets better’.  An Iraqi madrasa student during the height of Iraqi civil war.
Warm Regards,
Hamid
Brown Pundits