Friday, May 1, 2015

Trust and Accountability

Excellent advice from Faisal Naqvi

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-315585-Trust-and-accountability

"...But the soldiers of Pakistan serve the citizens of Pakistan. And it is not good for the citizens of Pakistan to fear their soldiers. Just like it is not good for Pakistanis to be riven with internal suspicions and divides. Just like it is not good if the citizens of Pakistan have no idea as to who is killing their own.

I have no reason to doubt the DG ISPR’s sincerity when he condemns the murder of Sabeen Mahmud. At a personal level, I very much doubt that our agencies had anything to do with her death. But in the absence of any independent accountability or trustworthy form of dispute resolution, all we are left with are his words. And words really don’t go that far."

This opaque system of "rule by agencies" is the army's most insidious and harmful gift to Pakistan. The fact that you never know who is in charge, and what they want, and why?

There are fringe conspiracy theorists in EVERY country. Even in the US there are intelligent people who think some secret cabal of trilateralists runs the country. But Pakistan is a good example of what happens when such opaque conspiracies become mainstream AND WITH GOOD CAUSE.

What is happening in Balochistan? who is responsible? in an normal country you would at least ask the CM or the governor or even the Prime Minister and expect an answer. They may lie (they probably lie) but they are the ones on top. People develop ways of interpreting what they are saying. And there really IS some transparency. Many things are exactly as they seem. But in this case, we don't even bother to ask Dr Malik (chief minister Balochistan) or the Prime Minister...and they are not held responsible in any serious way either. "Everyone" knows the army runs Balochistan. But do they? do they run everything or some things? who decides? It is all opaque and everyone has the freedom to cook up their favorite conspiracy theory. Some of them are probably true. But which ones?
We will never know.

 Btw, my own theory of what drove us mad in the first place: http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2013/03/pakistan-myths-and-consequences/


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Middle East Musings on New Pundits

I do more writing on New Pundits now but I thought I would point to three recent posts of mine dealing with the geopolitics in the region:

The Ghost of the Persian Empire will Own the Middle East: The ghost of geopolitics means that the only true counterweight to Iran is not Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Israel (The Sunni-Semitic axis Egypt doesn’t even figure, as it’s geopolitically so dependent on Israel post Aswan Dam) but Turkey. However Anatolia is ultimately a bridge to the West and Turkey’s highland configuration point towards Istanbul and that land bridge.

The “Iran deal” signals Persia’s return to Geopolitical Preeminence: The Iranians, like their closely related kin the Indians, are an Aryan people who settled on the hugely strategic Iranian plateau. Unlike the Indians upon conquest (or a few centuries after) the Iranians gave up their hugely influential native born faith, Zoroastrianism, to embrace Islam and consequently the hugely Iranian inflected Shi’ite faith. Of course Islam can properly be conceived of a fine line between the more orthodox (and less theologically innovative) Sunni practises, which adhere most closely to the original Arabian teachings, and the far more syncretic Ismaili cluster, in which 12ver Shi’ite Islam falls in the middle.

How Pakistan and Turkey must play the crisis in the Middle East: Now far more interesting, in that it is much contestable, about what is Pakistan. I would argue Pakistan is the Mughal Empire successor state reimagined (even if partially) on the Indus River Valley System. This linkage survived 1971’s breakup and to put it succinctly Pakistan looks to Akbar, its arch rival fratricidal twin India looks to Asoka.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Arab-Pakistani Security Cooperation

From Dr Hamid Hussain:


        Pakistan and Arab World:  Security Cooperation

Hamid Hussain

 The desire to gain an immediate selfish advantage always imperils their ultimate interests.  If they recognize this fact, they usually recognize it too late”.  Reinhold Niebuhr

 There is long history of security relations between Pakistan and several Arab countries.  In 1970s and 80s, many Arab countries flushed with oil money bought state of the art equipment but local population lacked technical skills.  A number of Pakistan army and air force personnel were deputed to several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.  A much smaller number of naval officers also served in UAE training local naval forces.  The numbers and duration of deployment varied from less than a dozen to few thousand and from few weeks to several years.  The main role of Pakistani officers was in training local security forces although they also manned complicated equipment such as radars. 

Pakistan sometimes got into difficulties in view of squabbles among Arab countries as well as internal strife in some of these countries.  Pakistani troop presence in Saudi Arabia though very small put it at odds with Egypt.  Saudi Arabia and Egypt were supporting opposing parties in the civil war in Yemen.  This continued till Anwar Sadat got off the ship of Arab socialism and took a turn towards the right side of the curve.  In 1980s, in the context of Iran-Iraq war, presence of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia put Pakistan at odds with Tehran. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Slouching Towards Mecca?

Mark Lilla has a review of Michel Houellbecq's new book at the New York Review of Books.

Final paragraph:
"For all Houellebecq’s knowingness about contemporary culture—the way we love, the way we work, the way we die—the focus in his novels is always on the historical longue durée. He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever."

Michel Houellbecq's own interview about his book was good
Why did you do it?
For several reasons, I’d say. First of all, I think, it’s my job, though I don’t care for that word. I noticed some big changes when I moved back to France, though these changes are not specifically French, but rather Western. As an exile you don’t take much of an interest in anything, really, neither your society of origin nor the place you live—and besides, Ireland is a slightly odd case. I think the second reason is that my atheism hasn’t quite survived all the deaths I’ve had to deal with. In fact, it came to seem unsustainable to me.
 
Personally, I think it doesnt matter. In fact, I have a cheerfuly optimistic pessimistic alternative: Whatever happens, some people will understand the technology and use it better> They will be the ones on top (even if they themselves are consumed by loneliness and unhappiness)...precariously and viciously balanced on top of vast mountains of bodies and civil wars... and masses of unhappy struggling infighting desperately envious Muslims who have no clue they are the ones that are supposed to be so close to submission and true happiness.
So there...
 
Photo by Sylvain Bourmeau

Friday, March 20, 2015

Empower women; let them marry out of their clan & race

I have excerpted several paragraphs (after the jump) of this excellent article where black women need to follow the footsteps of Asian women and start intermarrying at much higher levels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Pundits- Asians can never be upper-class?

My friend, Shoaib, and I have started a new blog called New Pundits. The main advantage of NP is that it's WordPress, which I prefer much more to Blogger. At any rate NP is still very much in it's infancy. I believe we started BP around Christmas time 2010 so it's almost years on and still going strong. I'm a very big fan of the UNZ review, which is really becoming a staple of the alternative media scene and there is no reason in my mind why the fledgling Desi Diaspora shouldn't have something similar to that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This is a rape culture

I'm not a big fan of the latest and newest terminologies that are bandied about by "social justice warrior" types. The issue is not the terminology taken literally, but its context. In the United States a focus on college campuses strikes me as fixating on a population less at risk, but class privileged. Rather, the more economically and socially marginal women, not women as a whole, is probably where the cultural focus should be. But these people are generally not in the limelight, and are not able to fluently deploy the verbal tools which the more educated are familiar with and understand and unlock keys of media attention (this goes to the issue that when a sex or race are viewed as a class as a whole without distinction resources and attention often go to its more elite segments).*

These terms become even more freighted when viewed in a cross-cultural context. Consider what is occurring in India, as one of the Delhi rapists has now spoken in a film. Man Convicted of Rape in Delhi Blames Victim:
You can’t clap with one hand,” said Mr. Singh, who was convicted of rape and murder, though he denied taking part in the assault. “It takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good.”

As abhorrent as the views are, we can't look away. They reflect real sentiments which must be abolished.

* Can you imagine that the UVA rape story could be transferred into a public housing project, and still be published in a high profile journal such as Rolling Stone?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Islam, ISIS and the Dream of the Blue Flower

First published on 3quarksdaily.com

A few days ago, Graeme Wood wrote a piece in the Atlantic that has generated a lot of buzz (and controversy). In this article he noted that:
"The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam"
The article is well worth reading and it certainly does not label all Muslims as closet (or open) ISIS supporters, but it does emphasize that many of the actions of ISIS have support in classical Islamic texts (and not just in fringe Kharijite opinion). This has led to accusations of Islamophobia and critics have been quick to respond. A widely cited response in "Think Progress" quotes Graeme Wood's own primary source (Princeton scholar Bernard Hakykel) as saying:
“I think that ISIS is a product of very contingent, contextual, historical factors. There is nothing predetermined in Islam that would lead to ISIS.”
Indeed. Who could possibly disagree with that? I dont think Graeme Wood disagrees. In fact, he explicitly says he does not. But that statement is a beginning, not a conclusion. What contingent factors and what historical events are important and which ones are a complete distraction from the issue at hand? 
Every commentator has his or her (implicit, occasionally explicit) "priors" that determine what gets attention and from what angle;  and a lot of confusion clearly comes from a failure to explain (or to grasp) the background assumptions of each analyst. I thought I would put together a post that outlines some of my own background assumptions and arguments in as simple a form as possible and see where it leads. So here, in no particular order, are some random comments about Islam, terrorism and ISIS that I hope will, at a minimum, help me put my own thoughts in order. Without further ado:
1. The early history of Islam is, among other things, the history of a remarkably successful imperium. Like any empire, it was created by conquest. The immediate successors of the prophet launched a war of conquest whose extent and rapidity matched that of the Mongols and the Alexandrian Greeks, and whose successful consolidation, long historical life, and development of an Arabized culture, far outshone the achievements of the Mongols or the Manchus (both of whom adopted the existing deeper rooted religions and cultures of their conquered people rather than impose or develop their own).
2. Islam, the religion we know today (the classical Islam of the four Sunni schools, as well as the various Shia sects) developed in the womb of the Arab empire. It provided a unifying ideology and a theological justification for that empire (and in the case of various Shia sects, varying degrees of resistance or revolt against that empire) but, at the very least, Islam and the nascent Arab empire grew and developed togetherone was not the later product of the fully formed other. Being, in it's classical form, the religion of a (very successful and impressive) imperialist project, it is not surprising that its"official" Sunni version has a military and supremacist feel to it. Classical Islam is not intolerant of all other religions (though it is in principle almost completely intolerant of pagans) but the rules and regulations of the four classical schools all agree on the superior status of Muslims and impose certain restrictions, disabilities and taxes on the followers of the "religions of the book" that they do tolerate. By the standards of contemporary European "Christendom", many of these rules appear tolerant and broad-minded; and since Western intellectuals (leftists as much, or even more than rightists) are completely focused on European history and culture (and therefore,on the achievements and deficiencies of that culture), this relative tolerance is frequently remarked upon as a stellar feature of Islamicate civilization. But it should be noted that this degree of tolerance is quite intolerant compared to contemporary Chinese or Indian norms and is horrendously intolerant compared to post-enlightenment ideals and fashions. The imposition of Ottoman rules today would be most unwelcome even to post-Marxist intellectuals if they had to live under those rules. Of course, this does not mean they cannot speak highly of these norms as long as they themselves are a safe distance away from them, but such long-distance  approval is of academic interest (literally, academic) and not our concern for the purposes of this post.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sometimes the Bible just gets it right

I can't claim to have read the Bible, the only books I read are book club prescribed ones and Holy Books haven't yet come onto the selection.
But I always turn back to my favorite chapter

Another Angry Voice on Podemos

Why the EU is damned to doom


On facebook I follow the extreme left page, Another Angry Voice, and they have a small piece on Podemos, the new left-wing party that's virulently growing in Spain (even more worryingly the party wants to call a referendum on the Spanish monarchy).

Podemos and the appeal of Pablo Iglesias