Pebbles dropped in the Brownpundits pond

a bumpy ride from the void, geographically and legally envisioned, via strategy to complexity and fiction, winding up in Rushdie territory with his Quichotte

Just a few odds and ends that spark, I suppose, evens and beginnings.

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The Mandarin, The rocky road to reconciliation in Australia

the British declare Australia terra nullius, a place belonging to no one. The land is most definitely not a ‘null’, but the doctrine of terra nullius is a convenient legal cover for theft on a colossal scale.

Terra nullius — is that the legal equivalent of a cartographer’s here there be dragons?

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Also a nullius matter?

Moot for real or mootness as gamesmanship?” the legendary Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse asked in The New York Times.

That’s from Garrett Epps, ‘The Supreme Court Is Not Well. And the People Know It.’ in the Atlantic.

A moot law is a null law, surely. But though both are fascinating, neither one addresses the viod plenum which so interests me. Still..

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Continuing my meander through one level of abstraction above regular reality..

WOTR, THE GREAT DUALITY AND THE FUTURE OF THE ARMY: DOES TECHNOLOGY FAVOR THE OFFENSIVE OR DEFENSIVE?

In war, firepower favors the defensive and maneuver favors the offensive.

Hm. Assuming this is common knowledge, having two doctrines is one thing — but how many generals have two mindsets, and can switch between them as appropriate. I’m hoping some of our strategy buffs will weigh in here. This is abstract enough to catch my eye, but war is gritty enough that even strategic thinking comes with trench mud and blood attached.

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A Brexit madman or master bluffer? What’s behind Boris Johnson’s suspension of UK Parliament

Game theory – the study of strategy and decision making – offers some clues. In the language of game theory, Johnson faces a serious “credibility” problem. He needs to convince the various players in the Brexit game – including the EU as a whole, Ireland, MPs in the House of Commons, the public and businesses – that he will indeed have the UK leave the EU, if need be, without a deal in place, on the October deadline.

Currently, many of these players do not truly believe that he would – perhaps informed by the inaction of the government of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, or the high stakes involved of leaving without a deal.

Hm, a governmental void as strategy.

That excerpt offers a neat illustration of why human decision-making is so complex and, by extension, fallible

It also illustrates the utility of a HipBone-variant game board for carrying the voices of multiple stakeholders in mind at once — a polyphony (multiple voices) in counterpoint (point counter point) —

Time, clipping the wings of possibility, increases tension at a decision fork where, as another Channel News Asia article also notes, Britain is in its “deepest crisis in living memory”.

Okay:

Complexity? the national and international interests, personal interests, thoughts, and feelings of all participants, as above. How good is Boris Johnson at evaluating all those influences?

After a long period of digestion, I’m willing to believe a novelist or TV showrunner might be able to capture the web of influences involved. But that’s after the fact, after the fork — after fatal decisions have been made. And we call them fatal both because they produce fatalities, and because the Fates, the Moirae spin them.

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For instance:

To face a people and catch its characteristics as if being confronted by just one person is practically impossible especially when the intention is to give an admonition… or suggest a way to govern it. It is much safer to rely on literature, on the way writers have represented her life, her way of being, the constant mobility of her reality and the variety present in the characters described.

That’s from an account of Sicily and its Mafia connections, but the novel offering access to the understanding of a people by means of the interplay of characters..?

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Meanwhile right here at Brownpundits..

Dr Hamid Hussain, An Extension for General Bajwa

:Bless the British who instilled a sense of professionalism in officer corps that has taken a big hit in successor Indian and Pakistani armies. The most scathing criticism came from Lieutenant General Nathu Singh of Indian army who said, “I have not known a British officer who placed his own interests before his country’s, and I have hardly known any Indian officer who did not”

That’s quite a tribute —

the master gamekeeper at the national park

Just for the phrasing..

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& finally:

somewhere between a pinball machine and a three-dimensional game of snakes and ladders

That’s not a description of goepolitical life in the Presidency of Trump, it’s praise for Salman Rushdie‘s upcoming novel
, upcoming my way at least, I hope, Quichotte

Enough!

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DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

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It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

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It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

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That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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An Extension for General Bajwa

Commentary by Dr Hamid Hussain

30 August 2019
I fully understand limitations of retired senior officers.  We used to have some eccentric ones who would not care about consequences when advocating for the professionalism of their own institution.  Now, the silence is deafening.   Bless the British who instilled a sense of professionalism in officer corps that has taken a big hit in successor Indian and Pakistani armies. The most scathing criticism came from Lieutenant General Nathu Singh of Indian army who said, “I have not known a British officer who placed his own interests before his country’s, and I have hardly known any Indian officer who did not”.
It is left to some of us to bring mirror into the room; indeed, a heavy burden.  When I heard the announcement of General Bajwa’s extension, I recalled two couplets of Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz (for those who understand Urdu);
Ghurur-e-ja’an ko merey ya’ar baich detey hein​ (My friends sell the honor of their beloved)​
Qaba ki hirs mein dastar baich detey hein​ (​Just the way to get themselves a fancy dress, they wold sell their honor too)
Ye loog kiya hein, jo do cha’ar kwahishoon key liye​ 
Tama’am umar ka pindar baich detey hein
(After all who are these people​, who sell their life’s pride for a few crumbs)
Hamid

Extension Business

By Hamid Hussain

‘Power lies in the hands of those who control the means of violence.  It lies in the barrel of a gun, fired or silent’. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced three years extension of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.  This has nothing to do with national security.  Army Chief using the power of his institution to favor one political group to come to power and Imran Khan paying back the favor.  My view about extension has been very clear that it is very bad for the army as well as the country.  Maneuvers about extension usually start quite early and few months ago many interested in Pakistan army asked me this question.  I gave my view in the following paragraph written about two months ago:

“2019 looks more like 2007.  General Pervez Mussharraf had come under criticism from different quarters of society and in the process army’s reputation was sullied.  Change of command provided an exit.  General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani slowly consolidated his command by sidelining old guard and then convincing all players that army has turned a page.  The possible exit for army is change of command in November 2019.  However, personal interests of three key players; Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief General Bajwa and DGISI Faiz Hamid now converge where extension of General Bajwa is being seriously considered.  1-3 year extension will serve all three parties. Bajwa to enjoy few more years of private jet and being the master gamekeeper at the national park.  Imran Khan will be seriously thinking about giving him an extension to make sure that an unknown factor does not come into equation.  Imran is faced with enormous challenges.  However, he has not been able to put his house in order.  Rising economic woes and diverse opposition groups coming closer can cause many headaches.  Having army brass in his corner is important to weather any storm.  He would prefer to continue with known entity than venture into unchartered territory.  In case of three years extension, Faiz will be among top contenders in 2022.  After 18-24 months as DGISI, Bajwa can appoint him Corps Commander to make him eligible for the top slot.  I’m not in favor of any extension but especially in case of Bajwa, negative fallout for army is manifold.  Army is seen no more as a neutral body and extreme polarization of Pakistani polity is now directly affecting army as institution.” 

General Bajwa did not just walk into Prime Minister’s office to demand an extension of his tenure.  This is done in a way where circumstances are created and messages from briefings and body language are conveyed.  It is not a secret that army brass has made a strategic decision to give two terms to Imran Khan and General Bajwa is a fan of Imran Khan.  It was not in Imran Khan’s interest to inject an unknown factor in the game by appointing a new army chief.  General Bajwa had put his own ducks in a row for this outcome by using promotions and postings of senior officers.  In his interactions with British and American interlocuters, Bajwa conveyed the point that he is the man for the hour.  The buzz word was ‘continuity’.  The promise to British was continued quite along the Line of Control (LOC) and to Americans full support to Doha process for the snake pit of Afghanistan.  These are policies of the institution and the right course in current circumstances, but a Chief can present it in a way where he can carve out something for himself (General Kayani in his more than a dozen bonhomie meetings with American Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and General Raheel actively working on his own post-retirement lucrative package are two recent examples).  There was possibility that former army chief General (R) Raheel Sharif would complete his three years of assignment in Saudi Arabia and General Bajwa could follow him with a very lucrative post-retirement contract.  This door was closed when Prince Muhammad Bin Salman gave Raheel a three years extension as we are in extension season.  Now the only option for ‘indispensible’ officer was extension. Continue reading “An Extension for General Bajwa”

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Obituary: Brigadier Nisar Ahmed SJ

From Dr Hamid Hussain. Perhaps not of general interest on this site, but worth preserving in any case. See details of Col Nisar’s critical (and courageous) action in 1965 are added below this obituary.

Obituary – Brigadier ® Nisar Ahmad Khan (28 March 1920 – 30 July 2019)

Hamid Hussain

Brigadier ® Nisar Ahmad Khan passed away on 30 July 2019 in Michigan; United States.  He was nick named ‘Kaka Nisar’.  A fine officer and gentleman who was instrumental in a very important holding action of armor in 1965 Indo-Pakistan War faded away into the fog of history.  He was born on 28 March 1920 at Bassi Pathana near Sirhind in Patiala state.  This Muslim Pathan colony was established during Mughal era.  This small Muslim enclave in a Sikh state provided soldiers to the Maharaja of Patiala.  Several generations of Nisar’s ancestors proudly served Patiala state. According to Maharaja Patiala Captain ® Amarindar Singh, Kaka Nisar was sixth generation of the family to serve Patiala state.  He followed the family tradition, joined Ist Patiala (Rajindra) Lancers and commissioned on 21 March 1943. Continue reading “Obituary: Brigadier Nisar Ahmed SJ”

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U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement; Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain

U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement

Hamid Hussain

 ‘Being a friend of the United States was like living on the banks of a great river.  The soil is wonderfully fertile, but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert’.  General Muhammad Zia ul Haq to William Casey 1983 quoted in John E. Persico’s Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey: From the OSS to the CIA.

 In July 2019, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and President Donald Trump met at White House that generated some headlines and as expected from every Trump encounter some controversy.  As expected, this news lasted less than twelve hours in United States and 4-5 days in Pakistan.  Life has gone back to normal.  Positive signs should be acknowledged but Pakistan should not be carried away by euphoria.  The good part is that civilian and army leadership does not have trust deficit and not undermining each other.  This alone is a breath of fresh air for Pakistan. Continue reading “U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement; Hamid Hussain”

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Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

Last few years I have been working on horizontal and vertical spread of conflict in the Middle East.  This is first of the series looking at each player.  This one was the outcome of my own trips to Washington every few months to get some feel of beltway currents. I have no specific insight but want to provide some glimpses of the issues facing the region.

Hamid

Beltway Battles 

Hamid Hussain

“I have had lobbyists, and I have had some very good ones.  They could do anything.”  Donald Trump

In United States, domestic and foreign entities engage in lobbying at federal and state levels to promote their interests.  In the last few years, many Arab countries have increased their lobbying efforts in Washington to promote their interests.  In 2017, open conflict between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on the other has spilled over into international arenas. In Washington, these efforts are multi-faceted including marshalling support of large businesses, think tanks, universities, legislators and public policy influencers.  

The meteoric rise of a 30-year-old previously unknown royal family member to the dizzying height and sidelining of the old hands of Royal family in Saudi Arabia changed power dynamics inside the kingdom. This resulted in some competition even in Washington.  Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef hired a lobbying firm run by a Trump campaign advisor Robert Stryk.  The firm was paid $5.4 million to make inroads into new administration.  However, in June 2017 when Muhammad Bin Nayef was removed from his positions and Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) elevated as Crown Prince, the deal ended.  MBS alienated many royal family members but for international image, he used others.  Old hand and once a long-time ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar Bin Sultan quickly changed his direction and lined up behind MBS.  During MBS visit to United States, Bandar was at hand to bring in his old contacts.  Bandar’s daughter Princess Reema provided the soft and feminine face for the new regime on international circuit defending royal family in Washington and Davos.  Full brother and close confidant of MBS Prince Khalid Bin Salman was appointed ambassador to Washington.  Saudi embassy chose an American raised and educated Saudi-American Fatima Baeshen as its spokeswoman.  She had previously worked at a pro Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation run by a former banker Ali Shihabi.  (Bloomberg Businessweek, 26 April 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/saudi-arabia-reboots-its-washington-lobbying-blitz) Continue reading “Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain”

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In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.

From Dr Hamid Hussain. I would add that I interacted with Brigadier Munir on social media and found him always polite, inquisitive and open to many different points of view. We had talked about meeting the next time I was in Islamabad, but sadly that will not happen as Brig. Munir took his own life on March 15th (and blamed harassment by the National Accountability Bureau in a suicide note). Rest in peace. Very very sad news.

Brigadier ® Asad Munir

Hamid Hussain

 In early hours of March 15, 2019, Brigadier (R) Asad Munir committed suicide. In his suicide note, he mentioned harassment by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Thus, extinguished the flicker of light of a fine officer and gentleman.  I have known Asad for about ten years when in 2009 he contacted me.  Few years ago, I spent a whole day with him at his apartment in Islamabad where he committed suicide. We periodically interacted and discussed issues of regional security. On my last visit to Pakistan in 2018, due to my hectic schedule, I could not meet him. 

 Asad joined Ist Special Short Course (SSC) of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) and commissioned in 1972 in Baluch Regiment. He commanded an infantry Brigade where his division commander was General Pervez Musharraf.  The other brigade commander under Musharraf was late Major General Amir Faisal Alvi (Alvi was assassinated in Islamabad in November 2008).  Asad served as head of Military Intelligence (MI) of North West Frontier Province now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).  Asad was close to General Ehsan ul Haq then serving as Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI). In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there was a major shuffle of senior brass.  Ehsan was brought in as Director General Inter Service Intelligence (DGISI).  Ehsan then brought Asad as head of ISI detachment of KPK.  In this capacity, Asad was instrumental in coordinating with Americans to catch fleeing al-Qaeda leaders.  After retirement, he served as member of Capital Development Authority (CDA) Islamabad and deputy director National Accountability Bureau (NAB).  He continued his efforts about reforms in tribal areas.  In early 2018, army chief met with a dozen Pashtun retired officers including Asad for their input about reforms in tribal areas.

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Continue reading “In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.”

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Pakistan, India, Israel..

From Dr Hamid Hussain

There are some discrepancies in Indian and Pakistani narratives that give rise to many speculations.  I have also heard some rumors about an Israeli pilot in Pakistani custody but hard to confirm or make sense.  One Pakistani former senior diplomat has alluded to this.  If he is wrong then it is most irresponsible on his part. If true then in these days of Wikileaks and anointing of saints of modern day technology; St. Chelsey Manning and St. Julian Assange, it can not be kept secret for long.  In hyper-nationalist fervor, it is very easy for people to go ‘off the rails’ and modern technology running away with ‘fake news’.

It will be extremely irresponsible on part pf Israelis to jump into India-Pakistan fray directly by allowing its pilots to fly combat missions.  As India buys a lot of defense equipment therefore many Israeli technicians are likely helping Indian forces in training and maintenance of defense equipment which is different.  Israel is very good at ‘bridge technologies’ where advanced electronics of either American origin or indigenous made are retro-fitted in Russian products to improve their capability.  Indian inventory is predominantly Russian therefore it makes sense for Indian-Israeli cooperation in this arena.  India improves its defense capability although in my view only marginally and Israel finds a lucrative market for its defense industry.  Nothing wrong as it is in the interest of both parties. Continue reading “Pakistan, India, Israel..”

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Afghan Peace Process; Postscript

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Following was an exchange with an old Afghan hand of ISI.  It may be of interest to some.  His comments in normal font; mine in bold.

26 February 2019

 Thanks Sir for opening more windows;  My comments essentially of a wandering dervish in red in your main text;

Hamid

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Dear HH,

A very thought provoking analysis with indepth knowledge of situation in Afghanistan.  My take:

  1. No party can have total control over Afghanistan particularly psuedo democracy.(You are correct that no single party is strong enough to impose its will on the whole country.  In good old times, a chap like Amir Abdur Rahman put the fear of God by beheading a large number of tribal leaders and exiling others far away from their homeland.  In this way, he was able to impose a central state on reluctant Afghans. Times have changed.  It is time for a grand bargain and compromise although I’m not sure whether Afghans are ready for it.)
  2. Taliban will emerge as the largest group but will not be allowed total control by big powers. Fear CIS & Russians from fundamentalists will keep them supporting tajik and uzbek groups.(Correct.  Interests of many countries are divergent and each state will support its own proxy.  It is fine as long it is for political jockeying but all need to be mindful that one heated argument after endless cups of green tea can tempt one to reach for AK-47.  This urge needs to be controlled. If not then;

aur ja’am toteein gein; iss sharab khane mein)

3.hazaras & other shia gps having tasted part  powers will not easily succumb to Taliban rule. (Another reason for all Afghans to go for a bargain.  Like many highlanders, Afghans of all ethnicities have a distorted sense of honor.  They are willing to settle scores with gun for whatever perverted reason.  However, their grandmother is begging on the street, young son is molested in coal mines of Baluchistan (Shahrag mining town in Baluchistan is the most heinous place in this regard where boys as young as 8 or 9 from FATA and Afghanistan are being molested on daily basis) or daughters going into prostitution to put food on the table in Pakistan & Iran, and their honor is nowhere to be found. Reminds me the words of an American who had worked in Afghanistan.  He lived with his family among Afghans and worked in 1970s in Jalalabad for several years.  In mid 2000s, he went back for a trip to Jalalabad. He said that Afghans were poorer then but had honor.  Now they are richer but have lost their honor”. Hegel defined courage and bravery as “Courage among civilized peoples consists in a readiness to sacrifice oneself for the political community) Continue reading “Afghan Peace Process; Postscript”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent

Image result for kashmir crisisAnother BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at 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…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

In this episode Razib and Omar talk to Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Major Amin and Dr Hamid are familiar to our readers for their regular contributions on military history. In this episode we discuss the current India-Pakistan confrontation and what comes next. Events may have moved on even as this gets posted, but I am sure listeners will find it an interesting review of the military and political aspects of the crisis.

Postscript: I may have been too hasty in concluding that only one plane was lost that day. It seems that witness accounts and initial Pakistani claims all mention two aircraft. Pakistan says that was another Indian plane, Indians say it was a PAF F-16. Right now, all we can say is that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 crashed without a doubt.. what happened to the second plane and who was it? We don’t know yet for sure.

Note from Razib: I tried my best, but there were a few issues with the sound on this podcast. But since the substance is timely and hard to find elsewhere I think it’s worth it!

Image result for kashmir crisis

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