Monday, April 17, 2017

Islam is Breaking the Back of the Liberal Democratic Consensus

The following post was sent in by Dr Abdul Majeed Abid in response to my recent blog post regarding Islam and liberal world order.  (I personally think that loyalty to country, even to an empire not our own, can be successfully created, but it takes an unusually dominant host culture or empire to carry it off for now; and in the future, who knows what shape loyalties and identities will eventually take, but that is a story for another day. Dr Abid's comments follow).

From Dr Abdul Majeed Abid:

Islam, it may be, really IS the the rock on which the Western Liberal Democratic Consensus is breaking..

Recent events in Turkey and the political situation in France are indicators of a future where the modern democratic project fails when an interaction with Islam is concerned. A Democratically elected (quibbles aside) government in Turkey used the tool of democracy to give up on democracy itself (it was not as simple as that but this is one of the easier inferences). Khaled Ahmed has written in one of his pieces that Muslims don't really 'get' Democracy. Turkey has seen a hundred-year long ‘struggle’ between Kemalist/Secularist forces (be they Mustafa Kemal’s party CHP or the military) and Islamist/Neo-Ottoman forces (starting from Nacmeddin Erbakan to Tayyip Erdogan) and the Islamists seem to have scored a decisive victory. With its Kurdish-majority south-eastern part up in arms, ISIS knocking on its doors and millions of refugees roaming the cities, Turkey can easily be branded the ‘New Pakistan’. Pakistan, lest we forget, was created to escape from a democracy where Muslims would remain as a permanent minority. It is worth noting that in Mohammad Iqbal's famous address to All India Muslim League in 1930, considered a roadmap to Pakistan, democracy was mentioned six times and every time with a negative connotation.  

In France, a nation proud of its unique national character, faltered when it came to dealing with Muslims. Starting in the 1970s, the principle of Laïcité, the bedrock of French society for the last century, has faced critical examination because of Muslims and their failure to completely integrate in a majority Christian nation.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pakistan: Managing the Coalition Business

Managing the Coalition Business

by Dr Hamid Hussain

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent; but it takes a touch of genius and lots of courage to move something in the opposite direction." Albert Einstein

Government of Pakistan announced that it has given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to recently retired Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General ® Raheel Sharif to head the Saudi led coalition. It just put to end the rumor mill swirling around for more than a year.  However, to date, neither Pakistan government nor General ® Raheel Sharif has put forward any clarification about the terms of agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on this subject, nature of the military organization, its objectives, role of its head and the compensation package associated with the job. There may be some good reasons that government of Pakistan thinks this is in Pakistan’s interest but it needs to present its case.  The lack of transparency in important policy decisions only increases the cynicism of general public.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Age of Anger. Pankaj Mishra

Postscript: Having been told this is a rant, not a review, I have decided to add this disclaimer: it IS a rant. And no, it is not personal. I have never met Pankaj and for all I know he is probably a very nice guy. This is not so much about him as about the postliberal Eurocentric elite in general. That he writes this for them and they love him for it makes me use him as a focus for my criticism. Someday, if i have the discipline and/or the time, I should write a long-form essay and not make it about him but about the worldview in general. Until then, he gets to stand in for the lot of them. But it is NOT personal. 

Pankaj Mishra is a British-Indian writer and public intellectual who currently lives between London and Mashobra and writes regularly for publications like the NY Times and the NYRB. He started his career as a promising literary critic (Naipaul was initially impressed) but soon switched to "native informant" mode, presenting and interpreting what he described as the angst, atomization, envy and ressentiment of newly emerging and fitfully modernizing India; a phenomenon that other elite commentators and foreign visitors were presumably failing to notice. He then expanded this theme to all of Asia and has finally graduated to interpreting the  Metropole to the metropolitans themselves. This could have been a somewhat risky move, since Western reviewers who received his reports about the darker nations relatively uncritically, might well know enough about their home turf to become critical. But by and large, that has not happened; reviews have generally been favorable.

This is not one of those favorable reviews.


I found the book  tendentious, shallow and repetitive, with quotes and facts cherry-picked from across his vast (but chronologically limited and highly Eurocentric) reading list, full of unfounded assumptions and opinions that are casually passed off with an "as everyone knows" air in practically every paragraph.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

From Dr Hamid Hussain. 

Recently came across a great book about an officer and gentleman of a bygone era.  Quite a timely reminder.  In the environment of general deteriorating standards of both Pakistani and Indian societies, armed forces cannot  be removed from their environment.  Many officers are simply foraging in the same pastures.  A pause and looking at the conduct of upright officers and gentlemen may provide a different set of role models for young officers.  Respect is earned by the character and not by the amount of brass on one’s shoulders. Enjoy the reading.

Hamid

Book Review

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times by Brigadier ® Behram M. Panthaki and Zenobia Panthaki

This book by the husband and wife team provides a window to the personality of an officer and genetleman Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.  Brigadier ® Behram Panthaki served as ADC to Sam and Behram and Zanobia had a life long association with Sam and his family.  This gives authors a unique vantage point.  They have done an excellent job of introducing the readers to the human side of Sam.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Few Questions re Trumpistan..

Now that we are living in the age of Trump, I have a few random thoughts and questions and I hope some of you will answer with comments (here or on social media).

A. It seems to me that Trump (and his truly trusted advisers, Bannon, Coulter etc) were not just cynically using the "coming war with Islam", they really truly believe that the United States (the most powerful nation on earth) is in a fight to the death with "Islamdom" (the weakest and least coherent "civilization" on the planet; well, maybe stronger than Hindu Rashtra, but not by much) and that Putin is their great ally in this world war, which otherwise teeters on the edge of being lost. This is the most economical explanation for their obsession with Putin and their hatred of fellow NATO allies (well, as long as you discount the golden shower tape as being a fantasy; otherwise that too is a pretty economical explanation).
This whole notion is a joke to the intelligence establishment, the great capitalist corporations, the Western European powers and yes, also to China and Russia; though some of them (Putin, maybe even China) have good reasons to encourage Bannonists on this path. Long before conquering Islamdom, Putin has more important things to do in the Baltics, Ukraine, Belarus, even Poland...
I would add as an aside that there are probably Hindus and Middle Eastern Christians who DO face a real battle with Islamists and who may regard him (and/or Bannon) as potential saviors. I think they are wrong (not because they face no threat from Islamists, but because their faith in Trump will prove to be a mistake) but that is an argument for another day. For now we are talking about the United States and the threats it realistically faces (or does not face). Also, some commentators below have pointed out that Western Civ does face very serious problems and the Democrats (or mainstream Republicans for that matter) seem to want to paper over the problems and continue with business as usual and so on. True. But again, that you have problem X, does not mean Y is the solution. An incompetent conman is not the answer
Anyway, here is the thing, IF the Western elites all shared the Bannonist view (even if it was wrong), the US would remain their leader, but given how little this view is shared in the world, it can only be carried forward by undermining existing elites and alliances. Bannon is probably ready for whatever that leads to, but even Trump may not be up for it. The rest of the Western elite is even less likely to join in. Yet, here we are. So my questions:

1. Can Trump and company establish control over the existing resources of the Western powers AND then use them to prosecute this war to the finish (whatever that means in their minds) OR

2. Can the old elites (the so-called deep state, though I dont think that is a good term for this loosely organized elite and their even looser ideological meme-cluster) manage to get rid of Trump without too much damage being done? OR

3. Will the infighting, incompetence and confusion proceed apace and where will that lead to in four years?

Anticipating some objections, I would add that:

1. I think Islamist insurgencies are real and reflect widespread desire for an "Islamic civilization" that is a coherent and powerful presence on the planet. But I dont think they have much of a chance of getting anywhere. See my article here for some background.

2. I think Muslim migrants in Europe are and will remain a headache for the host populations, but not an unmanageable one. The high point of airy-fairy European multiculturalism has long passed. Without electing any Wilders or Le Pens, the European states will still reduce Muslim immigration and will force (with varying success) increasing degrees of assimilation. They will be troubled, but they will not be over-run. They may overshoot in the other direction, but they will not be over-run. 

3. The Islamicate world will see much anti-American sentiment and some anti-American actions but more important will be wars on the borders. Some of the borders (Nigeria? Sudan? India??) may even see non-Muslim populations being overrun. And non-Muslim populations within Islamic states will continue to face major threats and maybe extinction in some cases. None of that will be enough to conquer Europe or invade America. And in the midst of all this, all major Islamic countries will remain dependent on outside powers (USA, China, Russia) or will face internal and border problems (Turkey) that will overwhelm any dream of leading the new caliphate. Bannonism and Coulterism are still a joke.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The INA (Indian National Army)

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Forgotten Chapter of Indian Army: Indian National Army
Hamid Hussain

Indian National Army (INA) was formed during Second World War from Indian Prisoners of Wars (POWs) captured by Japanese. Later, it was re-named Free Indian Army (FIA) but it remained known by INA name.  Second World War saw rapid expansion of Indian Army to participate in another global conflict.  On the eve of Second World War, the strength of Indian army was 189’000.  During the war, it expanded to 2.3 million men. On the eve of Second World War, there were less than five hundred Indian commissioned officers and by the end of the war there were 9540 Indian officers. Nine thousand Indian officers were Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECOs) with only six months of training.

In Malayan theatre, British command quickly collapsed under Japanese assault.  More than 60’000 British and Indian officers and soldiers were captured by Japanese. British officers were separated from Indian officers and soldiers and kept in a separate camp.  A number of Indian officers and soldiers joined INA.  Some volunteered for INA while others were coerced to join it to avoid hardships of captivity. Japanese soldiers wrote new chapters of barbarity for inhumane torture and execution of thousands of POWs. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Major General Anant Singh Pathania MVC, MC

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Major General ® Syed Ali Hamid of Pakistan army wrote an excellent profile of MG Anant Singh Pathania.  Absolute delight for folks like me. My comments in red.
--------------------------------------------------

Great profile of an officer and gentleman. How could I resist as it opened so many windows of a bygone era. My few cents in red.  I’m circulating it to my list.
Hamid

FROM A FAMILY OF WARRIORS – 
MAJ GEN ANANT SINGH PATHANIA, MVC, MC.
By Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid (Retired)

The clan of Pathanias were originally Tomars from Rajasthan and for a while they ruled Delhi. They moved up north after being defeated by the Moguls and their name is an abbreviation of Prathishthana, the ancient name of Pathankot, which was the capital of the hill state of Nurpur. They have a proud record of service in the armies of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the State Forces of Jammu & Kashmir, the British India Army and the Indian Army. The clan boasts of one Vir Chakara and two Maha Vir Chakaras (the second highest gallantry award in India), and one of the recipients was Anant Singh Pathania who was twice decorated for bravery and retired as a major general.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Review of Crossed Swords; a History of the Pakistan Army

The following review was written by Major Amin in 2008. Things have changed since then and the Russians and Chinese are now said to be on board with Pakistan's Taliban plan. We will see. But as usual, an acerbic but well informed review from Major Amin..

17 March, 2012 Crossed Swords-Shuja Nawaz Reviewed by Major Agha H Amin (Retired) September 2008 

Crossed Swords , Pakistan,Its Army,and the Wars Within-Shuja Nawaz , Oxford University Press,Pakistan , 2008 700 pages; 13 black and white photographs, 6 maps; ISBN13: 978-0-19-547660-6ISBN10: 0-19-547660-3

Crossed Swords is the latest addition to the list of books dealing with Pakistan Army . Written with an eye on the Western audience by a Pakistani who has settled in USA the book is a welcome addition to books on Pakistan Army.It contains some new sources and some new information .Unfortunately most of the information is anecdotal and the narrators are extolling their own performance. 

The author's viewpoint is somewhat subjective as he is a brother of one of the ex chiefs of Pakistan Army General Asif Nawaz. The book contains some factual errors , some possibly typing errors,expected from Oxford University Press Pakistan which has a reputation of doing this.Some errors are however historical and factual and were entirely avoidable.On page 8 3rd Light Cavalry of Meerut fame is written as 3rd Light Infantry and on page 9 becomes 3rd Light Cavalry.On page 22 Ayub Khan is placed in Assam regiment though Ayub's battalion officer Joginder Singh specifically stated that Ayub Khan was in Chamar Regiment in WW Two.On page 426 Naseerullah Khan Babar is promoted to lieutenant general and similar fate befalls Major General Sarfaraz Khan on page 223. 13 Lancers becomes 13 Cavalry on page 305.On page 470 he changes the ethnicity of Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari a Baloch Seraiki by calling him a Punjabi , an honour that no Baloch would like to have. A far more serious error Shuja makes while discussing the ethnic composition of Pakistan Army on page 570.He states that Sindhis and Baluchis are 15 percent of Pakistan Army.This is a serious distortion of history.The term Muslim Sindhi and Baluchi abbreviated to MS&B was given to
Ranghar/Kaimkhani/Khanzada Rajput recruitment in Pakistan Army in 1950s.The aim was to rationalise the recruitment of Ranghars in Pakistan Army. Later the usuper Zia in order to appease the Sindhis created the Sindh Regiment but Sindhis as far as my research reveals are far less than Ranghars/Kaimkhanis/Khanzada Rajputs in the army.The Ranghars are a significant class in fightig arms, being at least 35 % of armour and distinct from Punjabis.The Baloch are hardly represented in the army.As a matter of fact the Pakistan Army has such a reputation in Balochistan that no Baloch would like to join it.All thanks to General Musharraf,Zia and ZA Bhuttos policies. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Martial Races Theory. Myths and Consequences

Major Agha H Amin (retired)

About the Author: Agha H. Amin , Retired Tank corps major who served in five tank regiments and commanded an independent tank squadron and served in various staff , instructional and research assignments. In his Pakistan Army tenure he wrote three original tactical papers on Reconnaissance Troops Tactical handling, Reconnaissance support group , and RFS Concept. His writings were published in Pakistan Armys prime journals , Pakistan Army Journal and Citadel Journal of Command and Staff College Quetta. Wrote The Essential Clausewitz in 1993, Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59 in 1998 , Pakistan Army till 1965 in 1999 ,Development of Taliban Factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2010) ,Taliban War in Afghanistan (2009). Served as Assistant Editor of Defence Journal ,Executive Editor of globe and Founder Editor of Journal of Afghanistan Studies . An associate of the think tanks ORBAT and Alexandrian Defense group. Carried out various oil and gas and power transmission line surveys in West Asia. Editor in Chief of monthly Intelligence Review and monthly Military and Security Review. Heads the think tank Centre for study of Intelligence Operations established in early 2010.
Image result for major agha amin
Myths ,Distortions and Misconceptions of Indo Pak History-Part One
A Chapter of the book The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59 by Agha.H.Amin
(note: this post is from a transcript of the first chapter of the book. Formatting was an issue and if you want to see the whole thing, see here: http://www.slideshare.net/AAmin1/martial-races-theory )

The sepoy war of 1857 gave birth to a new theory in India. This theory was floated in the late nineteenth century: that the races living in the north west part of India i.e. present northern regions of Pakistan and parts of Indian Punjab were the “Martial Races of India”! This theory was partly (but as shown below, only partly) based on the “Punjab and Frontier” loyalty factor of 1857. Its most serious proponent was Lord Roberts, the British C-in-C in India (563).

When I joined the army in 1981 I observed that many of the officers and soldiers serving in Pakistan Army were convinced that the races or castes living in the area between Chenab and Indus Rivers were especially "martial". Some Pathans originating from the NWFP were also regarded as junior partners of these martial races! 
Most of the invasions of India took place originating from areas north of Khyber Pass or west of Quetta i.e. Persia etc. Then the Mughals after 1526 recruited from Hindu Rajputs, Muslim Pathans, Muslim Rajputs, some Muslim Punjabis and Muslim Baloch, but the preference was given to trans-Indus races, mostly Pathans or Persian speaking, or to Hindu Rajputs. The EEIC (English East India Company) since it made its entry from the east had no choice but to recruit from Oudh, parts of Bihar, North West Provinces Madras Bombay Central India etc. In the earlier part of this work we have seen that using a predominantly Hindu army recruited from the Gangetic plain and led by British officers, the pre-1857 Bengal Army defeated all races of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan etc. A small contingent of the Bombay Army (made up mostly of Hindu Marhattas) quickly made Persia behave! A couple of Bengal Army Regiments reinforced by an odd European regiment successfully defended Kandahar and Jallalabad against vastly superior forces. 
But the rebellion of 1857 changed British perceptions about Indian people and keeping in view the political reliability as well as the administrative convenience factor the British decided to recruit mostly from the north west i.e. Punjab and Frontier provinces of India plus the Gurkhas from Nepal. This change started from 1857 but became significant only around 1895. But loyalty and reliability were not the only factors, because the Madras and Bombay Armies had also stayed loyal. Partly based on the personal biases of Lord Roberts, and under his influence of some other British senior officers, the recruitment policy was changed.


Monday, January 2, 2017

General Raheel Sharif in Saudi Arabia

All The King’s Men 

Dr Hamid Hussain

“We don’t do operations.  We don’t know how.  All we know how to do is write checks”.  Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Turki al-Feisal to Mark Anderson, CIA Directorate of Operations, Near East Division  (1)

 Pakistani Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif retired on 29 November 2016 handing over command to General Qamar Javed Bajwa.   Four weeks later, Saudi Arabia sent a special plane to Lahore to bring Raheel for a meeting in Saudi Arabia.  Even before his retirement, rumors have been circulating that he will be given some role in ongoing conflict in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia has cobbled together a thirty nine Muslim (all Sunni) nation coalition.  This is mainly a paper organization with majority of member nations not even sleeping partners.  All major military operations are conducted by Saudi Forces with sprinkling from Emirati and Egyptian forces.