Browncast: Shrikanth Krishnamachary, “Traditional Hindu”

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Another Brownpundits Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

In this episode Omar, Akshar and Mukunda talk to Srikanth Krishnamachary.  Krish is an active presence on Twitter at @shrikanth_krish and mostly tweets about Hinduism and Indian history, but has a variety of interests (his intro says he is   “a data scientist in financial services based out of New York City, whose interests include economics, political philosophy, Hinduism, American history, and cricket”). We asked him to define ImageHinduism and give us his opinion of what it was and what it is today. And of course, we asked him about caste. And we hope to have him come back in the future to touch on topics we did not get to today.

Krish also writes on various websites and some of his work can be seen at the following links:

swarajyamag.com/author/545613/ indiafacts.org/author/shrikan indictoday.com/author/shrikan firstpost.com/author/shrikan

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Covid Lockdown. Some Questions

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When the novel Coronavirus started its spread outside of China very little was known about it and it is no surprise that countries acted to slow or stop the pandemic by locking down their citizens to various extents. Some countries (most notably UK and Sweden) tried to “push through” to herd immunity but then had a LOT of cases and transitioned to various degrees of lockdown. Others like the US tried a “worst of both worlds” response, with the President being skeptical of lockdowns, but reluctantly going along with them for a while  before shifting back to passive-aggressive sabotage of whatever his science advisors were telling him (whether they were correct or not is a separate issue). Pakistan’s PM had Trump-like instincts in this matter and unlike the US, his lockdown did not last long and was never very effective. This led to an early surge of cases and deaths (after Ramadan, when lockdown first failed) but to the surprise of most observers (including me), this outbreak then seemed to slow down and now there are ongoing cases, but the health system is definitely NOT being overwhelmed and the worse seems behind us. Meanwhile India continues to have varying degrees of lockdown (and because Indian officialdom has relatively more ability to enforce such things, these  also seem to have been more real than any Pakistani lockdown ever was) and is seeing a major increase in cases. When people talk about this they frequently bring up the fact that testing and tracking are not necessarily at “first world” levels in either country, so real numbers may be very different from what is being reported. This is true, but we do see what is happening in hospitals, so the fact that the system has not been overwhelmed is still something we can say.  Beyond that, I have no special knowledge or data. So I thought I would put up a post and get some answers from the hive mind:

  1. Where can non-experts like us find the best data on Covid? There are many sites, which ones do commentators prefer and why?
  2. Why is Pakistan NOT experiencing a dramatic health emergency due to Covid in spite of having given up on lockdowns? Is there pre-existing immunity? something else? Or just fewer old people? is there more to come?
  3. IF Pakistan is not seeing a major increase in deaths, should India continue its current level of lockdown? Do we expect Indian immunity and spread characteristics to be very different from Pakistan?
  4. What is the expert consensus now on various details such as “doing X is cost-effective, but Y should be abandoned”.. I mean what is the best source (sources) for answering such questions? One assumes that the “authorities” spend a lot of time analyzing information to determine what worked and what was just a waste of effort? Are the detailed recommendations evidence-based? Should any of them be changed? (for example, why is my dentist open for cleanings, but my barber is not? things like that, are they evidence based? and what does the evidence say?)

I look forward to being enlightened. Meanwhile, stay safe and happy.

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Why Did the Indian and Pakistani Armies fail in 1965?

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This is a chapter from Major Amin’s history of the Pakistani army. It is a very long post and there is a lot of repetition (do keep in mind that he wrote it mainly for a Pakistani audience, who may need convincing on some of the points) but I wanted to post it as a historical document and as something  people who are interested in military history may want  to read at leisure. As with any such analysis, there will be no many different opinions.. feel free to add yours in the comments.. Major Amin’s book has some excellent maps and tables that I was unable to transfer successfully. My apologies for that, but the points are pretty clear even without those.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN ANALYSIS – 1965 WAR by Major Agha Humayun Amin

Havelock said that ; “In philosophy, it is not the attainment of the goal that matters, it is the things that are met with by the way”. So it is with war. The most important thing for the student of military history or the art of war is not whether a country lost or won the war but how it was fought, how units performed in action, how decisions were made in face of the stress and strain of battle, the difference between practice and precept in short all matters pertaining to strategy tactics leadership equipment etc. In other words to simply analyze the war to answer the questions like “Whence”? “Whither” ? “Why”? and “How”?

In this analysis of war we have to go beyond probabilities and examine various facets of a particular situation and arrive at conclusions that will assist us in face of a similar crisis situation in future. War is the final audit of an army in which unit efficiency as well as higher and lower leadership is gauged and no book on an army is complete without analyzing in detail the qualitative efficiency of an army in actual War. Unfortunately most books written on both Pakistan and Indian Armies by foreigners and therefore meekly accepted by the subcontinentals who suffer from a subtle inferiority complex; as the final authority; do not discuss the qualitative efficiency of both the Pakistan and Indian Armies in any actual war; both as British Indian Army and as two different armies after 1947!

Instead these books beat round the bush discussing vague and largely irrelevant issues which their authors have decided to highlight, merely because they have decided to write a book and want to write their book without going into the subtleties of actual wars fought by the Indo Pak armies.

In the following paragraphs an attempt has been made to analyze the conduct of 1965 war and to answer certain questions about the qualitative efficiency of the Pakistan Army in a detached manner separating myth from reality and fact from fiction. This analysis is important because a considerable part of Pakistani military history has been deliberately or inadvertently distorted based on nationalistic parochial personal and inter arm prejudices and jealousies.

THE BRITISH COLONIAL LEGACY

We have already discussed in detail the impact of the British military tradition on the Indo Pak armies in our earlier chapters dealing with the armies of the English East India Company and the pre 1947 British Indian Army. This was not something confined to Indo- Pak subcontinent alone but an all Asia trend. From the late eighteenth century the “European Way of Warfare” was generally borrowed and follow as the gospel truth by many East European and Afro-Asian armies. The trend of “importing the European way of war” started around 1600 when the Ottoman Turks came into contact with the European powers in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Till 1500 the Europeans who had as a matter of fact military failed in the Crusades against Asia enjoyed no significant military advantage over Asia. Till the invention of gunpowder the cavalry remained the dominant arm in battle and the infantry was relegated to a secondary role. The ascendancy of European methods of warfare starts with the advent of Gustavus Adolphus(1496- 1560) of Sweden who introduced a renaissance in the art of warfare by “harnessing modern technology to a practical military philosophy” . (1)

Gustavus principal contribution was the introduction of a relatively superior conceptual framework of integrating military organization with weapons and tactics. He created an infantry organized in brigades of two to four regiments each of which had eight battalions of four companies etc. He introduced similar reforms in cavalry and artillery integrating artillery with infantry and cavalry in battle and restructured infantry formations in such a way that their firepower was enhanced. One of his most important reforms was employment of cavalry as a “shock weapon”.

Gustavus’s methods were copied by the French and the British. Gustavus ‘s tactics were improved by Turenne of France and Cromwell and Marlborough of England and were further improved by Napoleon who was able to benefit from the analytical studies of great military thinkers like Gribeauval Maurice de Saxe Bourcet Joseph Du Teil and Guibert. Formal military schools were organized in France where the art of war was studied while similar institutions were founded in Prussian and Sweden.

By 1600 Russia was the first country outside mainland Europe to realize that there was something conceptually and organizationally superior in the West European way of warfare which enabled them to defeat numerically superior but more primitively organized armies. lt may be noted that as late as 1592 the Russians were no match to the Muslim Tartars of the Golden Horde who sacked Moscow in 1571 and managed to penetrate into suburbs of Moscow as late as 1592. 1t may seem unbelievable to many but as late as 1660s the Crimean Muslim Tartars were one of Russia’s most feared enemies.(2)

A similar pattern of imitation was followed in the Ottoman Turk Army fromapproximately 1750 to 1914 when the Ottomans discovered that medieval tactics of cavalry assault were of little utility against relatively numerically superior or equal strength European armies with superior organization’.(3) Continue reading “Why Did the Indian and Pakistani Armies fail in 1965?”

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The Qualitative Destruction of Pakistan Army between 1955 and 1971

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From Major Amin. Originally written in 1999

Why Military Defeat in 1971-The Qualitative Destruction of Pakistan Army between 1955 and 1971 Major A.H Amin (Retired) https://www.militaryhistorycentre.com/blogs/news/pakistan-army-between-1965-and-1971
Why Military Defeat in 1971-The Qualitative Destruction of Pakistan Army between 1955 and 1971
• August 2020

Research teaching and writing were unproductive jobs in British India since they did not enable a man to be a deputy collector or barrister or doctor! It was a mad race made further mad by frequent outbursts of communal frenzy, which increased as population increased during the period 1890-1940. All this helped the Britishers who had been traumatically shaken by the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 when a largely Hindu majority army had rebelled under Muslim leaders! The British were thus happier playing the role of judges resolving Hindu Muslim disputes rather than performing the more unpleasant task of facing a combined political movement of all Indians regardless of race or religion as in 1857, 1919 or 1922! This is the basis of anti-intellectualism in the Indo-Pak Sub-continent. It is truer for Pakistan since the Muslims were educationally more backward and relatively less true, yet still true and applicable to India too! Pakistan and India have produced very few serious military writers. In Pakistan the situation is worse since an unofficial ban was imposed on military writing by various military usurpers who ruled the country for the greater part of its existence.

The finest summarizing of the incalculable qualitative harm inflicted on the Pakistan Army, by the self-promoted Field Marshal of peace, by a contemporary, was done by Major General Fazal I Muqeem, when he described the state of affairs of the Pakistan Army during the period 1958-71; in the following words: “We had been declining according to the degree of our involvement in making and unmaking of regimes. Gradually the officer corps, intensely proud of its professionalism was eroded at its apex into third class politicians and administrators. Due to the absence of a properly constituted political government, the selection and promotion of officers to the higher rank depended on one man’s will. Gradually, the welfare of institutions was sacrificed to the welfare of personalities. To take the example of the army, the higher command had been slowly weakened by retiring experienced officers at a disturbingly fine rate. Between 1955 and November 1971, in about 17 years 40 Generals had been retired, of whom only four had reached their superannuating age. Similar was the case with other senior ranks. Those in the higher ranks who showed some independence of outlook were invariably removed from service. Some left in sheer disgust in this atmosphere of insecurity and lack of the right of criticism, the two most important privileges of an Armed Forces officer. The extraordinary wastage of senior officers particularly of the army denied the services, of the experience and training vital to their efficiency and welfare. Some officers were placed in positions that they did not deserve or had no training for” 1.

Continue reading “The Qualitative Destruction of Pakistan Army between 1955 and 1971”

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Book Review: The Universal History of Numbers

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A review I wrote 20 years ago.

Georges Ifrah is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin who was an ordinary schoolteacher of mathematics before his students sparked one of the great intellectual quests of our time (or, indeed, of any time). His students asked him where numbers came from? Who invented them and why? How did they take their modern form? When he tried to answer these simple questions, he found that the information found in standard textbooks was highly unsatisfactory and frequently contradictory. Not content with passing on half-truths and conjectures, Mr. Ifrah abandoned his job and embarked on a ten-year quest to uncover the history of numbers. He traveled to the four corners of the world, read thousands of books, visited hundreds of libraries and museums and asked questions of countless scholars. All this research was supported by odd jobs as delivery boy, chauffer, waiter, night watchman and so on. The result was a book called FROM ONE TO ZERO A Universal History of Numbers, (published in English translation in 1985  ). The book was a hit and brought fame and fortune and the chance to do more research. This led to a much larger book, The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer, which was translated into English in 1998 (after initial publication in French in 1994) and is now available in either one or two volumes.

These books have earned Mr. Ifrah the title of “Indiana Jones of numbers” and worldwide celebrity. After reading the book, I can only add that he deserves every superlative that has been used, and more. To quote a reviewer from “The Guardian”: “Georges Ifrah is the man, and this book, quite simply, rules.” This is not just a history of numbers, it is universal history disguised as the history of numbers. Mr. Ifrah starts with the most basic questions; what kind of “counting sense” do animals possess? What do we know about the number sense of our pre-human ancestors? When we evolved into Homo sapiens sapiens, what kind of numerical ability was “hard-wired” into our brains? He presents fascinating information about the most primitive counting systems, using tally marks, fingers, body parts etc. from these simple beginnings, we move to the abstract concepts of number and its notations. The detail provided is astounding. We learn about the earliest systems of numbers used in the Middle East, India, china, and the ancient Maya etc.etc. And not only do we learn about the numbers, Mr. Ifrah slips in his humanistic, sensitive and very very detailed knowledge of history so smoothly that we hardly notice that we are learning, not just the history of numbers, but the history of mankind; told by a very fair, very balanced and deeply sympathetic observer. Continue reading “Book Review: The Universal History of Numbers”

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Browncast Episode 120: Gaurav Lele, Liberal from a soft Hindutva background

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Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

in this episode we talk to Gaurav Lele. Gaurav is a software engineer in Pune who identifies as an liberal Indian from a family with some RSS connections, so he is able to see “both sides” to some extent. He is also an impressive human being in that he seems to be willing to change his mind based on evidence.. Gaurav also writes on Medium and Culture Trip , including a very interesting long post on Pakistan.  Gaurav Lele

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Browncast episode 118: Tony, Indian Liberal

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Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

In this episode we talk to Tony, a self-identified liberal Indian. We talk about how liberal Indians feel about India’s current trajectory and future prospects..

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Browncast Episode 118: Professor Ahmet Kuru, Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment

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Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

In this episode we talk to Professor Ahmet Kuru. Professor Kuru teaches at San Diego State and is the author of (among others) “Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment”. We discuss his book and the causes of the (relative) decline of the Islamicate world in the last 800 or so years.

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Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

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From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

 Hamid Hussain

David Smith’s book The Quetta Experience is a groundbreaking and unique study of Pakistan army’s prestigious Command & Staff College that trains army officers for higher ranks. This book is based on interviews of American army officers who attended Command and Staff College at Quetta in Pakistan. Foreign Area Officers (FAO) of US army spent a year at Staff College.

Colonel David Smith is well qualified to embark on this kind of project.  He attended Staff College Quetta in 1982 and has remained in contact with large number of senior officers of Pakistan army.  In view of his extensive contacts in Pakistan army, he has been a Pakistan hand at Pentagon and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for over two decades. Continue reading “Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith”

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Book Review: Dominion, by Tom Holland

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Tom Holland started off writing vampire novels but moved on to non-fiction and has since written an excellent history of the Persian invasion of Greece, several books about the Romans, one about Islam and one about the slow rise of Christian Europe that started around 1000 AD ; in retrospect at least, all his non-fiction books have had a hint of Christian Western European apologetics (some of it is probably well deserved reaction to the excesses of contemporary wokeness) but this book makes it explicit. Dominion is well written and well researched and he does make a lot of effort to include the nasty bits of Christian history, but in the end it IS a work of Christian apologetics, albeit from a modern liberal angle. Tom Holland’s basic thesis is that almost the entire set of “humanist” values modern liberals take for granted (universal human equality and dignity, separation of church and state, care for the weaker sections of society, suspicion of power, privilege and wealth, condemnation of slavery, cruelty and oppression, valorization of the weak and downtrodden, etc) is purely Christian in origin. No other civilization or culture had these values (or at least, foregrounded them in quite the same way as Christianity). For example, while some thinkers have always been unhappy with slavery,  the abolition of slavery was a Christian effort through and through. True, the slave owners had their own Biblical justification for slavery, but those who opposed them did so on the basis of their Christian beliefs, and they won the argument.

Holland also insists that the most viciously anti-Christian progressive thinkers of the post-enlightenment era also turn out be using Christian values to attack Christianity. When Marx cries out against the oppression of the proletariat or Lennon sings “all you need is love”, they are really being more Christian than most Christians. Since Nietszche thought something similar (that liberalism is “Christianity without Christ”), he gets a lot of positive play in this book, which is a bit ironic, since he also regarded Christianity as something of a disease.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dominion, by Tom Holland”

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