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  • Archive for the 'India' Category

    India Pollution

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th November 2012 (All posts by )

    In the US we hear frequently about the environment and how we are doing so much damage to our environment. It would be good for people to visit India to see actual pollution in action on a large scale.

    As we drove around Delhi, the smog was amazing, even with all the vehicles that converted to CNG from diesel (in this picture you can see a tuk tuk in “CNG” yellow and green colors). In this photo there are a couple of huge office buildings right off the road but you can’t even make them out in the smog. We asked our guide if the CNG over diesel made any difference and he said that in the days before the conversion “if you wore a white shirt outside it would be colored grey from all the soot in one day”.

    This photo shows a jet flying over a famous minaret in Delhi. You can see the smog there, too.

    I felt like one of those cartoon characters where when you cough “dust” flies out of your mouth. One of my close travel mates blew her nose and it just came out black. And we were in a tour bus much of the time that was just from being outside seeing the monuments (and then getting herded back in the bus).

    With the CNG and investments in public transport it seems that India is trying but the current state seems unimaginable to a Westerner. I really don’t think that I’d be able to survive in Delhi for an extended period of time since I have allergies unless I never left the house.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Environment, India | 16 Comments »

    India Driving

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th November 2012 (All posts by )

    I recently was in five major cities in India. I was struck by driving in India and how different it was than driving in the western countries.

    Photos And Observations

    They have vehicles in India that I haven’t seen before. This is a “tuk tuk” or auto rickshaw as they are formally called. They are 3 wheelers with a motorcycle in the front and a seat in the back for passengers. Note that the streets are empty because this is a secured area – the India Parliament is in the background – you cannot linger here – and this was about the only light traffic area I saw in India except on some of the major tollways (briefly).

    The tuk tuk is yellow and green because that is the color of vehicles that have been converted from regular fuel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). This was done in order to make the air cleaner in major Indian cities such as Delhi.

    One item that makes Indian driving so much more complex than in first world countries is the bewildering array of vehicles on the road from horse and camel drawn carts to bicycles to rickshaws to tuk tuks to scooters and everything else. There are vehicles barreling down the road as fast as they can and those that can’t move hardly at all, sharing the same space.

    Scooters and motorcycles were everywhere, mixed in with the cars. We saw a family of five on one scooter, with a child in front, the male driver (with a helmet), another child, his wife (sitting sideways), and then another child on the very back.

    In India they don’t use lanes, they just crowd together and cut each other off, honking their horns to signal all the while. To Westerners it looks like chaos but it obviously works in that an entire country is getting where they want to go. I heard of a campaign called “Lane Driving is Sane Driving” trying to change behavior but I could see no evidence of it at hand.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in India | 10 Comments »

    Stay Classy, India

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th November 2012 (All posts by )

    Only the finest in India. The author drinking a Miller High Life sold only in Haryana with a henna tattoo (a whale, I think). Note that the straw is in the other beer so that girls can drink while their tattoos on the inside of their hands dry.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Humor, India | 4 Comments »

    India Power Market Article Shows NY Times Doesn’t Understand Capitalism

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th September 2012 (All posts by )

    This post is an intersection of my research on the power industry around the world and a lack of understanding of the power of capitalism that I see reflected around me in Chicago and in many news outlets.

    India’s Power Industry

    The NY Times recently had an article titled “Scandal Posts a Question: Will India Ever Be Able to Tackle Corruption?“. The article described a scandal about India’s coal mining industry, a critical element of their power generation since India has heavy reliance on locally sourced coal.

    Coalgate, as the scandal is now known here, is centered on the opaque government allotment process that enabled well-connected businessmen and politicians to obtain rights to undeveloped coal fields.

    Why is this important? Per the article, 57% of India’s power is generated by coal. The industry is hobbled for lack of coal. 300 million Indians are without electricity, and a recent blackout effected huge areas of the country.

    The Indian government used a bureaucratic process to assign out rights to these coal fields, instead of an overt capitalistic auction process (a fact that the NY Times article fails to mention), and many politicians and their cronies of course received the rights, likely due to overt or covert bribery and connections.

    (the) $34 billion coal mining scandal that has exposed the ugly underside of Indian politics and economic life: a brazen style of crony capitalism that has enabled politicians and their friends to reap huge profits by gaining control of vast swaths of the country’s natural resources, often for nothing.

    Why does this matter? When property rights are doled out in this manner, the people who receive them aren’t the BEST POSITIONED to develop the assets. If a profit seeking company paid for an asset in a public auction, they would be paying cash from investors (or out of their own pocket) and would need to “monetize” the asset in order to achieve a proper return back to investors. You don’t go into the auction without a plan to develop the asset, since you would be bidding against actual competitors who were motivated to do so and they’d likely pay more than you would. Per the article on India, this is the type of behavior that you see, instead:

    Investigators now say that some of the favored applicants, having acquired the coal fields free, quickly sold them for tens of millions of dollars to steel or power companies. Others simply kept them as an asset and have not yet developed them, even as the country faces blackouts and coal shortages.

    The NY Times treats this as some sort of “scandal” rather than as a FEATURE of socialistic systems. Politicians in these systems are exactly like capitalists in a capitalist society, using their role to obtain power and riches rather than for some sort of utopian “betterment of mankind” which the NY Times would likely expect them to do. In fact, these sorts of behaviors are modeled as successful and drive out would-be capitalists since the politicians in socialist societies hold the cards in terms of laws and processes and will use them against those trying to open up the process to a fair and transparent capitalist alternative.

    India has no power for 300 million people, an unreliable system with rolling blackouts, and is crippling growth BECAUSE IT RUNS POWER AS A SOCIALIST SYSTEM RATHER THAN A CAPITALIST ONE. The answer is absolutely as simple as that. The scandal and the failures are product of a socialist system as doomed to fail as the USSR’s five year plans.

    The answers to this problem of inadequate power are simple and can be found in any text from Smith to Hayek.

    1. Sell state owned coal fields to qualified bidders (have the capital and means to develop the fields) in an open and transparent auction process
    2. Protect the property rights of power developers by ensuring that they are able to build and site transmission lines and power stations appropriately
    3. Protect the property rights of power companies by ensuring that they are able to charge and collect from customers and eliminate illegal connections to their systems
    4. For areas that are a local monopoly (distribution), the state should ensure that performance and reliability are monitored via clear criteria and that entities that don’t comply should be fined or the franchise put up for auction to another qualified entity

    Since the NY Times fundamentally doesn’t understand how capitalism works and that it is a BETTER solution that top down central planning or socialistic bureaucratic “queuing” models” (of which this is a primitive variant) they don’t make any of these recommendations. Scandals aren’t a problem – they are a direct result of the SYSTEM and will always be present in these sorts of political environments.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, India | 8 Comments »

    Two New Articles at Pragati Magazine

    Posted by Zenpundit on 7th July 2012 (All posts by )

    My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:

    Adam Elkus – Confront, Conceal, Leak 

    David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.

    Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style…. 

    Mark Safranski –Drone invasions and cyber dystopias 

    ….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.

    Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft.  A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Internet, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Retail Diversion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd July 2012 (All posts by )

    Since Johnathan posted a picture of the Captin’s Market last week, I thought I may as well post a picture of my favorite corner gas-station and mini-mart. The exterior is … deceptive. The inside of it is very different from what you would expect, just driving past.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, India, Photos, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    Egypt’s new president.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th June 2012 (All posts by )

    The Muslim Brotherhood candidate has now been declared the winner of the Egyptian election. Some foolish things are being said, as a consequence.

    Morsi’s election is tempered by the army’s recent move to significantly limit the powers of the presidency regarding the national budget, military oversight and declaring war. Following a court ruling this month to dissolve the Islamist-controlled parliament, the military also seized legislative powers and is angling to cement its legal authority over the nation by guiding the drafting of a new constitution.

    The military will not be able to control the destiny of the country. The army in Turkey was much stronger with a 60 year history of secularism and a recognized right to displace governments that violated Ataturk’s intent. Since the election of Erdogan, the army has been neutered and half the senior officers are in prison, either with no charges or trumped up charges.

    Barry Rubin has a pessimistic view of the future for Egypt.

    Let me divide the discussion into two parts: What does this tell about “us” and what does this tell about Egypt and its future?

    First, what does it tell about the West? The answer is that there are things that can be learned and understood, leading to some predictive power, but unfortunately the current hegemonic elite and its worldview refuse to learn.

    What could be more revealing of that fact than the words off Jacqueline Stevens in the New York Times: “Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts”? Well, it depends on which experts. Martin Kramer, one of those who was right all along about Egypt, has a choice selection of quotes from a certain kind of Middle East expert who was dead wrong. A near-infinite number of such quotes can be gathered from the pages of America’s most august newspapers.

    These people all share the current left-wing ideology; the refusal to understand the menace of revolutionary Islamism; the general belief that President Barack Obama is doing a great job; and the tendency to blame either Israel or America for the region’s problems. So if a big mistake has been made, it is that approach that has proven to be in the chimp category.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, India, Iran, Middle East, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Dollar Denominated Debt

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th June 2012 (All posts by )

    Debt is traditionally thought of as a conservative financial instrument. You buy a bond, it pays you interest (tax exempt or taxable), and then you receive your principal back when the bond matures. The interest you receive depends on the duration (time until you get your money back), riskiness of the borrower (traditionally the US government has been the safest lender with the lowest rates, but it may not be that way forever), and the overall level of interest rates in the economy (either the prime rate or LIBOR).

    There are many, many variations on bonds, however, and this view of debt is out-dated. Convertible bonds allow the debt to be converted into shares of the company’s stock at certain price points, which allows the company to offer a lower interest rate on debt (because of this “upside”). Distressed debt is often bought by hedge funds and others as a way to take over companies in distress because post-reorganization the equity holders are generally wiped out and the debt-holders receive the new company’s shares.

    A risk with debt and all financial instruments is an implied currency risk. In the US we don’t directly “see” the impact of the falling dollar in our day to day activities, but it is immediately evident if you leave the country and go somewhere with a strong currency, as I found out when I traveled to Norway and spent $20 US to buy a drink and lunch for 2 in a decent cafe was over $100. More subtle signs of the dollar’s decline are the hordes of foreign tourists from countries that have a trade surplus with the US buying everything in sight – Dan and I saw an entire upscale mall full of them in San Francisco.

    Along with changes in currencies, there is a general hunger for “yield” meaning income that can be earned with relatively low risk (or at least according to models and rating agencies), meaning that borrowers are rushing to market to take advantage by issuing debt at historically low long term rates. Countries that may have had difficulty borrowing in the past or paid high rates like Mexico are now able to issue at interest rate levels that are very low by historical standards – Mexico is now able to borrow with a 10 year maturity at 5.85% (in local currency). These types of rates are at historical lows.

    In addition to governments (with decent credit ratings) going out to market for more debt, companies are also issuing debt to take advantage of these historically low rates. Even if the companies have no immediate use for the cash, they are taking advantage of the rates to build funding if the economy turns, for acquisitions, or even to buy back stock and take advantage of leverage to increase EPS. Per this article in the WSJ:

    Their timing could hardly be better. Average corporate bond yields finished Monday at 3.28%, just 0.01 percentage point from the all-time low going back to 1973, according to the Barclays U.S. investment-grade index. Industrial bond yields are even lower, at 3.07%.

    For private companies in foreign countries, often local banks provided financing. In the US corporations traditionally don’t rely on banks to the same degree and issue bonds to the general public (many of which are bought by pension funds and insurance companies, as well). As banks pull back around the world, foreign companies are now trying to take advantage of 1) historically low interest rates 2) hunger for yield by tapping into this demand for debt by buyers.

    Many of the issuers in other countries are now issuing “dollar denominated” bonds. Dollar denominated debt means that they agree to pay at the rate of the US dollar against their local currency, regardless of what happens to the local currency. This insulates the buyer (probably a foreigner from the US) from currency fluctuations in countries like India, Mexico and Chile – but on the other hand it makes the entire transaction much riskier from the seller’s perspective (assuming they don’t hedge this risk). There aren’t just US dollar denominated bonds – there are Euro denominated bonds, Yen denominated bonds, and likely more Chinese currency denominated bonds in the future.

    The interesting part for me is the long term “evolution” of debt from a relatively straight-forward low risk instrument (except for default risk, which supposedly could be “rated”) to a very complex instruments with myriad risks. One OBVIOUS risk on these dollar denominated bonds is – what happens when the country’s currency falls vs. the US dollar and these bonds have to be paid back in US dollars? What do you think happens?

    According to this article “Weak Rupee Hits India Bondholders“:

    The Indian rupee’s sharp depreciation has added to the woes of Indian companies scrambling to repay foreign currency bonds – and it is increasing the likelihood that foreign investors will be hurt… in 2005-2007… the rupee was strengthening, trading at a record of around 40 rupees to a dollar. The bonds were sold only to foreign investors, and companies used the money to fund their growth plans… Indian companies have to repay nearly $3.4 billion in foreign-currency bonds before the end of 2012.
    But now, many of these bonds are coming due when the rupee has lost nearly 40% from its high and is trading around all-time low levels.

    The article goes on to mention several companies who are having trouble making payments and asking for reprieves from lenders, which typically involves extending terms and / or changing the interest rates. And since these were sold to foreigners, good luck trying to take action within the Indian legal system unlike the US where debt can lead to an implied stake in the post-bankruptcy entity (this wasn’t mentioned in the article and I am not an expert on this so it is only my opinion).

    I don’t know how any investor looking for yield and wanting to avoid currency risk just assumed that these risks didn’t exist because they were being borne by the issuer and not them when they received their payment in US dollars. Now these chickens are coming home to roost, and it is pretty obvious in retrospect that these issues were very risky on the currency side and were much closer to a high risk investment than a vanilla boring interest bearing security. The hunger for yield and the fact that these were issued in US dollars made them appear to be much less risky than they apparently turned out to be.

    Cross posted at Trust Funds for Kids and LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance, India | 5 Comments »

    Random Letter From Treasure Trove

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th May 2012 (All posts by )

    As I mentioned in this post, I have inherited hundreds of letters that were written from my wife’s grandfather to her grandmother while they were courting. Most of the letters were written during the time while my wife’s grandfather was drafted into service during WW2. Many are from basic training and many are from his time served in India. I have not yet begun the formal process of scanning, dating and sorting the letters. This letter was floating around on top with no envelope – there is no date listed on it besides “1945”. All spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors have been left intact.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, History, India, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    Treasure Trove

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th May 2012 (All posts by )

    My wife took a recent visit to her grandmother and grandfather. They aren’t doing so well. We have had to have “the talk” with them about getting them out of their house and into some sort of assisted living facility. It isn’t pleasant, of course – it never is when dealing with situations such as this.

    While there, my wife was asked to go through some things and distribute them among the living family members. Most of these things hold only sentimental value. I ended up with a couple of guns, a sweet antique Marlin .22 and a beautiful bolt action Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun. I haven’t had time to research them as of yet.

    As we were cleaning up the van and getting some of the items ready for a garage sale to raise cash for them, my wife informed me she also got a box of letters. What’s that, I said? Well, here it is.

    I was told that these were letters from my wife’s grandfather to her grandmother. And they are. Hundreds and hundreds of them, neatly bundled and put away for nearly 70 years before my eyes gazed upon them. From an early look, the vast majority of them seem to be from when my wife’s grandfather was drafted to be in the big war – ww2, that is. They have that musty/old book smell.

    He was stationed in India and from what I can glean upon reading a letter or two is that he was a supply clerk of some sort. There are also a lot of letters that he wrote to her from basic training. Most of the addresses use grandma’s maiden name. They were still courting.

    Oh yea – I haven’t told my wife this yet – there are letters from other guys to grandma too. Well then.

    I plan on sharing some of these letters with our readers here. They are an invaluable source of information to a historian such as myself to get a feel what it was like back then – not only from a military history standpoint, but they will be a look into the social lives of folks back then as well.

    I shall change the names as these folks are still alive, but I will leave all of the language intact. I hope you enjoy these letters that I will publish as I find time to transcribe them. The first thing I need to do is figure out everything chronologically.

    I am absolutely giddy with anticipation.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, History, India, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    A Multipolar World

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )


    India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.

    Greg Scoblete, The Compass Blog (Real Clear World):

    I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:

    Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

    I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…


    “The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
    The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”

    Asia Times Online:

    Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.

    And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….

    It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….

    Speaking of energy:

    “Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »

    New Book Review up at PRAGATI: George F. Kennan: an American Life

    Posted by Zenpundit on 18th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at

    PRAGATI – the Indian National Interest Review has published my review of John Lewis Gaddis’ biography George F. Kennan: An American Life.

    The creative art of strategy 

    ….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.

    Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….

    Read the rest here.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, History, India, International Affairs, Media, National Security, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    An Interesting Man, President Reagan.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th January 2012 (All posts by )

    – Hebert E. Meyer memorandum, Nov. 30, 1983 (via National Review Online).

    (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.)

    Reagan and India: ‘Dialog of Discovery’ (News India Times).

    If his sunny disposition and easy manner charmed the original “Iron Lady” during their first encounter in Mexico, his administration’s ingenious framework to strengthen bilateral relations laid the foundation on which today’s U.S.-India strategic partnership rests.
    In a clear departure from the preceding administrations – including the sympathetic Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations and the nearly hostile Nixon White House – President Reagan decided to engage India on areas where there was agreement and mutual interest instead of trying to resolve outstanding issues that were intractable.
    The Reagan White House had to placate Islamabad – which was hell bent on gaining a military edge over India – without either weakening or hurting New Delhi, which was already furious at Washington’s move to arm Pakistan and cast a Nelson’s eye on its nuclear program.
    The Reagan administration accomplished this impossible balancing act by rejecting the notion that U.S. relations in South Asia were a zero-sum game. So, while it appeased Pakistan’s Zia-ul Haq with aid and arms, it upped the ante on political and business relations with India. The president went about it by establishing personal relations with Indian leaders, including lavishly hosting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and, later Rajiv Gandh, at the White House.
    Unlike his predecessors, who regarded Indira Gandhi to be somewhat recalcitrant and obstinate and approached her warily, Reagan respected her forthrightness and strength.

    A far thinking man, too. Unfortunately, post 9-11, someone within our National Security Complex thought replaying the Reagan Islamabad playbook might be a good idea. Unwise, given that the Pakistani-supported Taliban turned out to be a bit problematic for us in more ways than one (to put it mildly). I still don’t understand Rick “Musharraf” Santorum’s thinking or what I sometimes jokingly refer to as the “Musharraf corner” of National Review’s online Corner? You know, the pundits that turn up periodically to remind us how the secular Pakistani military is our best hope? Post-Abbottabad, I have to wonder about the ability of some analysts and pundits to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. The non-state actor/jihadi project is a long-standing and detailed design of the GHQ. You can’t just “hire” one General to go after a few assets and expect the whole thing to reform itself. That isn’t logical. And as far as the Al Q we supposedly did scoop up (to date)? I wonder just how much of that intelligence has been independently verified and just how much comes via our complicated CIA-ISI liaison relationship? Who knows?

    Lest our progressive friends feel a bit “I told you so” about all of this: aid is fungible. Any money the US might spend on the civilian sector eventually gets into military hands one way or another so I wouldn’t feel too smug. Plus, the Taliban that the Obama administration is attempting to negotiate with have only to pretend to negotiate and then wait it out with Pakistani help (aided with our very own tax money).

    Anyway, regarding the original topic of this post, President Reagan had the absolute correct instincts and I think he got it right in terms of the big picture. He can’t be blamed for the decisions that came after the Soviet Union collapsed, and besides, if Steve Coll’s book “Ghost Wars” is correct, the danger of the jihad project was downplayed by CIA higher-ups and others in his administration – and administrations that came after his. A President can’t do everything by himself, after all. How does the CIA keep getting away with being so wrong, time and time again? Or am I being unfair?

    Ghost Wars II – if such a book is ever written – is going to be an interesting book….

    Update Aspects of Indira Gandhi’s tenure were, er, problematic (emergency rule, certain domestic policies) and I am not a fan of her governance. I am learning (being so poorly educated on these topics), however, that grand strategy and national statecraft are tough and you can’t afford to make an enemy out of every nation whose governance you don’t like. Note to self, really, as I think about optimal policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration wishes to “pivot” to Asia. How should we think about this in terms of American Strategy and what does pivoting mean?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Biography, Conservatism, History, Human Behavior, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Quotations | 9 Comments »

    Reading lots of books. Ignoring televised GOP debates. (Looking over the transcripts hurts enough.)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 14th December 2011 (All posts by )

    Strobe Talbott, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb (2004):

    Joe Ralston had the awkward assignment of making sure that he was with General Karamat during the launch of the Tomahawks. That way, if the low-flying missiles showed up on Pakistani radar screens, Joe would be able to assure Karamat that they were not the first wave of an Indian sneak attack. Toward the end of a dinner at the VIP lounge at Islamabad airport, Ralston checked his watch and told Karamat that about sixty Tomahawks had just passed through Pakistani airspace en route to their targets in Afghanistan. Shortly after, he thanked his host for dinner, shook hands, and departed.
    Karamat felt humiliated and betrayed. The next day his anger grew more intense when it was learned that one of the cruise missiles had gone astray and come down in Pakistan. Those that found their mark killed a number of Pakistani intelligence officers and trainees at the Afghan camps. These casualties were further cause for outrage in Pakistan, but they also confirmed Indian charges that Pakistan was officially supporting terrorism and the U.S. administration’s need to keep the operation secret.
    The attack missed bin Laden by hours. Suspicions lingered for years afterward that even though the Pakistanis did not know exactly when the attack was coming, they may have known enough to tip off bin Laden.

    (Emphasis mine).

    General (Ret.) Hugh Shelton, Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (2010):

    One might think that the obvious solution would have been to inform or coordinate with Pakistan up front and let them know the missiles would be ours. Under normal circumstances, that might have worked. In this case, Pakistan’s national intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), was so connected with al-Qaeda, there was no doubt that such a forewarning would go right back to UBL and his minions, and in ten minutes those camps would be more deserted than an old Western ghost town, leaving our missiles to pound sand on empty tents and vacant training facilities.

    At this point, what is there to say?

    PS: I deleted a bunch of stuff I wrote after “what is there to say,” because it was silly. I meant to save it and post it in the comments instead so as not to be accused of “scrubbing” this post but I didn’t. I’m sure it’s cached somewhere. It’s not really anything terrible, anyway. Here is what I wish I had posted instead:

    Lasch described the emergence of elites who “…control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning, manage the instruments of cultural production and thus set the terms of public debate.” These elites would undermine American democracy in order to fulfill their insatiable desire for wealth and power and to perpetuate their social and political advantages. Middle-class values, Lasch warned, would be hollowed out by a value-neutral educational system preaching multiculturalism. Their replacement would be narcissistic values based on self-gratification and worshipful of fame and celebrity as the ultimate values in a world devoid of deeper meaning.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, India, Military Affairs, Politics, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    On The Myth (and non-Myth) of Martial Races

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd November 2011 (All posts by )


    One point I haven’t mentioned before is that the British Raj propounded the ‘martial races’ concept, which had a big impact on the Indian subcontinent, and which Pakistan continued to accept after independence. Technically the concept was abandoned in the 1970s within the Pakistan military but until just a couple years ago Pakistani society held the military as the highest ideal — and (alongside cricket stars) the ideal for the male. The fiercest of military men as the model for manhood followed the British colonizer’s dictum, which was dryly summarized by Dr. Jeffrey Greenhut:
    The Martial Race theory had an elegant symmetry. Indians who were intelligent and educated were defined as cowards, while those defined as brave were uneducated and backward.
    The ‘high’ culture of the Bengalis in East Pakistan, which placed great emphasis on the arts and intellectual pursuits, was intolerable to West Pakistan’s military class — and this was partly the reason for the horrific atrocities they carried out against the Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim.

    Amardeep Singh:

    The damning parallel between the groups that were loyal during the Mutiny and those who would be designated as “Martial Races” later seems hard to escape. Though I generally try and avoid paranoid speculation, the idea of “divide and rule” also seems to be relevant here: by keeping the various ethnic regiments of the Indian army divided along linguistic or ethnic lines, they prevented them from congealing along racial (as in, brown vs. white) ones.
    For better or worse, groups once designated by the British as “martial races” still tend to carry that badge with pride. But it’s a dubious source of honor, and also an extremely dubious way of asserting one’s manhood & masculinity. (How much violence against women has been perpetrated in the service of the myth of Jat or Pathan/Pashtun martial masculinity?)


    A quick glance at the composition of Indian Army Regiments shows that the Indian Army is still run on the “martial races” concept — in particular, the post-1857 interpretation. This designation was based on British perceptions of which communities were best able to bear arms and loyally serve the crown, and is related to their cultural stances on climate (hill-folk favored over the plains dwellers) as well as occupation (favoring sturdy independent peasants). Ultimately however, the British favored groups which stuck with them in the 1857 mutiny (Jats, Sikhs, Gurkhas) over those groups perceived to be disloyal (upper-castes, Bengalis, Tamils).
    Over a third of the recruits in the Indian Army are recruited from the Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars, and Dogras of Haryana, Punjab, and Himanchal Pradesh — though these states comprise just over 5% of the national population (given the caste identities, the Army is really drawn from an even smaller subset of that group). That is, roughly as many infantry as fielded by the entire US Army are recruited from a group of castes among a cluster of states totalling 50 million in population. Many of the rest are similarly drawn on a narrow regional/caste basis.

    “Ray,” Small Wars Journal:

    The Pakistan Army has always been psyched to believe that “one Pakistani is equal to ten Indians”.
    This has been repeatedly debunked in all the wars fought between India and Pakistan.
    While the outcome of wars is debatable, 1971 and 1965’s Battle of Assal Uttar (the physical graveyard of Patton tanks which were superior to anything India had) gave Pakistan no leeway to cover up their inadequacy at combat unlike the fact wherein Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam is not discussed in history, military or otherwise or for that matter, any other debacle, not even the 1971 fiasco of their own making (except in general vague and defensive terms)!!
    That apart, Musharraf has a chip on his shoulder. He is a Mohajir and hence non martial as per the British classification. And yet he was the COAS. In addition, he pipped Khatak (a blue blooded Pathan and a martial race man) to the post of COAS. He also had a personal grievance to settle. Gen. Zia chose Gen. Musharraf (then a Brigadier) in 1987 to command a newly-raised Special Services Group (SSG) base at Khapalu in the Siachen area. To please Gen. Zia, Gen. Musharraf with his SSG commandos launched an attack on an Indian post at Bilfond La in September, 1987, and was beaten back.

    “Red Rat,” Small Wars Journal:

    Despite serving under the same basic TACOS as the Indian Battalions conditions of service were generally better in the British battalions and their take home pay was greater due to various allowances they received. Although poorly paid by British standards they were extremely well paid by Nepali standards.
    The various Gurkha welfare organisations launched a campaign, adopted by Joanna Lumley (UK media star) for parity in Gurkha TACOS with British soldiers and the right to abode in the UK. This campaign was successful and had the precise effect that the UK Army suspected it would have:
    Increased social problems in the UK as Gurkha families settle in the UK
    Lessening of the inflow of capital into Nepal as Gurkhas choose to bring families into the UK and retired Gurkhas move to the UK rather then take their pensions and settle in Nepal.
    Bringing Gurkha soldiers TACOS in line with UK soldiers has caused manning and career management issues leading to redundancies.
    At a time of a shrinking Army it is hard to justify maintaining Gurkha battalions when we are losing British battalions; Gurkhas are no longer the cheaper option.
    I have served with Gurkhas, they are great, but like all soldiers have their strengths and their weaknesses. I can amplify on any of the points above, but my feeling is that the change to the Gurkha system has severely threatened their long term viability in the British Army.

    I am largely an Anglophile, but I don’t romanticize the Raj. Or maybe I do. Who ever knows with me? One day I think one thing, the next day I think another. The oral history in my family regarding the time of the “britishers” is uncomfortable to recount. Half-whispered and half-remembered family mythology as oral history: “She never went into that town by herself, Madhu. No one knew why. She never wanted to be around them alone.” What does this mean? Is it true; is it exaggerated; was it a small incident or something too horrible to imagine? But no-one knows or dwells on it. It’s the past and the past is over. The general feeling is, “why think about it?”

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, History, India, Military Affairs | 6 Comments »

    I can’t believe you said that, Secretary Clinton.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 3rd October 2011 (All posts by )

    Now, I also think it’s important to take a little historical review. If you go on YouTube, you can see Sirajuddin Haqqani with President Reagan at the White House, because during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the United States Government, through the CIA, funded jihadis, funded groups like the Haqqanis to cross the border or to, within Afghanistan, be part of the fight to drive the Soviets out and bring down the Soviet Union.
    So when I meet for many hours, as I do, with Pakistani officials, they rightly say, “You’re the ones who told us to cooperate with these people. You’re the one who funded them. You’re the ones who equipped them. You’re the ones who used them to bring down the Soviet Union by driving them out of Afghanistan. And we are now both in a situation that is highly complex and difficult to extricate ourselves from.” That is how they see it.

    Remarks at the Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series: Audience Question and Answer Segment (Secretary Hillary Clinton)

    Uh huh. Well they “see it” wrong and you very well know that, Madam Secretary. Zia directed the monies and toward the end, we attempted to work around the Pakistanis. You know the history. And you’ve seen the intelligence. Didn’t your own State Department sign off on the certification for Kerry-Lugar-Berman after the bin Laden raid? What’s worse? Supporting an insurgency during the Cold War when officials couldn’t see into the future with a crystal ball, or signing off on an aid package after this?

    This New York Times report on the murder of a US soldier on May 14, 2007 by Pakistani troops in Teri Mangal is an absolute must read if you are interested in understanding the frustration and contempt for Pakistan that exists among those who have been warning of that nation’s duplicity and complicity in the murder of US, NATO, and Afghan troops.

    Long War Journal

    Let’s review some more, shall we?

    Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76:
    Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [“From the Shadows”], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
    Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
    Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
    Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

    excerpt via this Pundita blog post. Emphasis mine.

    In order to have a relationship with Pakistan during the Cold War – and subsequently the War on Terror – various American officials and institutions had to, er, well, invest themselves in particular narratives. Nice to see Secretary Clinton continuing the tradition:

    Back in January 2009, Secretary Clinton vowed to make development once again one of the pillars of America’s engagement as she said it would be an “equal partner” with diplomacy and defense. The so-called “3-Ds” would need AID to be “strengthened”, “adequately funded”, and ultimately given leadership after a decade of neglect and intentional weakening under the previous Secretary.

    Small Wars Journal

    I don’t know what to think anymore. (I originally had something harsher here and then deleted it. I remain flabbergasted at her comments. Particularly given the history of the Clinton Administration during the ’90s. Everyone got it wrong on this one. Darn near everyone. The Americans weren’t the only ones to get it wrong, either. The Pakistanis were the main supporters of the jihadists – and for their own purposes. It’s simply not true that the Generals and others were passive observers. Neither were any of the neighbors. Everyone’s always “played” in that neighborhood. The poor Afghans. The poor mothers and fathers of young people in Afghanistan just learning how far the foreign policy establishment in Washington is willing to go in order to preserve cherished ideological myths – and self-importance or institutional funding, a skeptic might say.)

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, History, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security | 7 Comments »

    Old Mastery

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 7th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Wise words from two old masters…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, India, Japan, Music | Comments Off on Old Mastery

    The Queen in Ireland

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 18th May 2011 (All posts by )

    Victoria was greeted by adoring crowds in Ireland. The sun never set on the Empire, and the Irish blood that paid for much of it never dried. The Irish joined the army in mobs in 1914, both Catholic and Protestant. If the British had acted with decency or humanity, or even common sense, on many occasions, Ireland would have been part of a United Kingdom to this day, with far less suffering and bloodshed all around. They had their chance, and more than their chance. But that is all the past.

    Queen Elizabeth has presided over the piece by piece dissolution of a global empire, and these ceremonial occasions, which she is good at, are meant to heal wounds, close chapters, strengthen bonds, and move forward. Ireland’s wounds are the oldest and the worst, but even they can be closed and healed. Ireland and Britain should have a relationship like the USA and Canada, friendly neighbors, trading partners, allies when there is a shared cause, and that is the direction that both countries should move in.

    An Irish friend wrote to me about how moving the Queen’s visit has been. It seems that the trip has been a smashing success from the perspective of Irish Americans, from what I can tell, and it seems to be similarly effective back in the Ould Sod.

    This is the kind of thing which Elizabeth is perfect for. Only a monarch has the weirdly magical aura needed to pull off an event like this.

    Her opening lines to the Irish parliament, in Irish, were a clever stroke, reminiscent of Juan Carlos surprising the Catalonians by speaking in Catalan at the Olympics in Barcelona. These gestures of respect carry massive weight, they take away the offended pride that keeps conflicts going perpetually.

    There is a similar healing process going on among Indians whom I know. We all suffered, even the Americans, long, long ago, at the hands of the British. But we also all inherited much of value, including having all been made “cousins” in a globe-spanning network of English speaking people who can do great things for ourselves and the world. And we are mature enough to accept the good without forgetting the bad. An empire built on muskets and bayonets and opium and handcuffs and the lash has given way over a century to a valuable and peaceful and lawful community with a shared language and much shared law and many shared values. The British scattered our Irish ancestors across six continents, but we have risen above all that and succeeded beyond the dreams of those tough and suffering people, who got on with it and built something better for their children, wherever they landed. We can take the best from the past, learn its lessons, and give a great future to the people who come after us.

    Truly a great event, and a very important step forward for the Anglosphere.

    Victoria was able to travel in Dublin in an open carriage, in 1900, despite the prospect of Fenian bombs or revolvers. Elizabeth could not possibly mix with an Irish crowd without a very high risk of assassination. It has been 100 years ago that a British monarch last visited Ireland. Maybe another 50 years Queen Kate will be able to visit Ireland and go about with some normality, without expecting to be shot or blown to bits. There is still a lot of progress to be made.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe, History, India, International Affairs | 22 Comments »

    PAKISTAN EXPOSED – If Osama and Al-Qaeda are ISI, Then What?

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 5th May 2011 (All posts by )

    The discovery of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan’s most secure stronghold at Abbottabad, just 800 yards from Pakistan’s West Point is clear and convincing evidence that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism against America. There is no other reasonable explanation.

    We already knew Pakistan is what we feared a nuclear-armed Iran would be — a nuclear-armed, terrorist supporting, state. Just ask India about Mumbai and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Now we know that Pakistan is attacking us too. Al Qaeda is the operational arm of Pakistani intelligence (ISI) attacking us just as Lashkar-e-Taiba is its operational arm attacking India.

    There are no good options with Pakistan, just greater or lesser degrees of bad ones. Given its possession of nuclear weapons, there is little we can safely do to deter Pakistani terrorism against us. Nothing short of actually destroying the nuclear-armed Pakistani state, and the rapid, forcible, seizure of its nuclear weapons, will protect America from Pakistani terrorism – they’ll build more nukes if we allow the Pakistani state to survive.

    Destruction of the Pakistani state and prompt seizure of its nuclear weapons are well within America’s power, particularly if we ruthlessly use some of our own tactical nuclear weapons in the process of seizing Pakistan’s. Securing Pakistan’s nukes quickly — to keep them from being used on American cities by Pakistani agents aka terrorists funded by Pakistani intelligence — is an important enough objective to merit the use of our tactical nuclear weapons.

    Our second major problem here is that Pakistan’s people and culture are almost totally infected by Islamist Jihadist hatred of us, unlike Iraq and Iran. We liberated Iraq from tyranny, while the Iranian people loathe their Shiite Islamist tyranny. Pakistan is larger than Iraq and Iran combined, and far beyond our ability to subdue, let alone occupy. Our destruction of the Pakistani state would create a vast, hideously dangerous, and totally unrestrained failed state base for overt terrorism against us. The single thing they wouldn’t be able to use against us after we leave are nuclear weapons, which only an organized government can (so far) manufacture.

    The only way to keep Pakistan from subsequently becoming a far more dangerous terrorist base than Afghanistan ever was would require the physical destruction of its people with strategic nuclear weapons. We won’t have the will do so…until we are again hit at home with more biological weapons, or with nukes.

    Our world is now on the verge of Richard “Wretchard” Fernandez’s “Three Conjectures.”

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Americas, Anglosphere, History, India, International Affairs, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, North America, Terrorism, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 29 Comments »

    What should our “Afpak” policy be and how should we think about Afghanistan….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 4th May 2011 (All posts by )

    ….now that calls to leave will likely increase exponentially?

    (Update: I don’t think I was very clear in this post when I wrote, “there is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.” I did not mean complicity or duplicity or anything like that. The point I am trying to make is that the regular use of non-state actors as an instrument of internal power-politics or foreign policy is dangerous and should not be excused).

    Security analyst Rory Medcalf from the Lowy Institute says parts of Pakistan’s security establishment were either aware of his location or were harbouring him.
    Mr Medcalf says in continuing to support Pakistan, the international community risks more of the same treatment.
    He says Australia should consider withdrawing support for Pakistan’s military and instead build up its police force and civil society institutions.

    – from the news article, “Australia urged to rethink Pakistan military aid.”

    I don’t know about Australia, but the United States has had every possible type of diplomatic and military relationship with Pakistan – we’ve developed and trained parts of its military (and this from the beginning. The UK, too.), stuffed it to the gills with military aid, provided money intended for education of its civilian population which was then squandered and looted, prevented India from retaliating against terror attacks emanating from the region, attempted to cut aid during the time of the Pressler Amendment, and “walked away” from Pakistan during the 90s:

    Of course, Pakistan’s complaints are not entirely unfounded: the United States did abandon the region once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Pakistanis, however, never acknowledge the enormous benefits that the country derived from its partnership with the Americans during the 1980s. Between 1979 and 1989 Pakistan received $5.6 billion (in constant 2009 dollars) in total aid, of which $3.5 billion was military assistance.) During this period, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons program without penalty until 1990 while receiving enormous financial and military support from the U.S., which allowed Pakistan to improve its capabilities to fight India.
    Most frustrating is Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge its own role in undermining its security by backing various Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, including the Taliban. (Pakistanis often claim erroneously that the CIA created the Taliban.)

    C. Christine Fair in Foreign Policy

    So engagement hasn’t worked and disengagement hasn’t worked, either.

    My initial read is that the American political and policy community is utterly confused – and a bit terrified. Over the years it has lied to itself and to the American people over the true nature of the regime running Pakistan. There are no rogue elements, unless you want to count the true democracy activists and human rights activists. It is a state expressly set up for the benefit of the feudals and the military and to allow non-state actors to develop so-called asymmetric capabilities. And the West provided intellectual cover for many years, initially because of its existential war with the Soviets. This initial engagement morphed and mission-creeped in various ways: poking back at the Soviet-friendly Indians, opening up relations with China, attempting to leverage Pakistan within the context of the Saudis and Iran (and now, again, a “different” China), “help” with Afghanistan, and so on and so forth. One of the reasons solving Kashmir became a US State department hobby-horse – and a standard of the DC think tank community – is because we were trying to placate a NATO member (the UK) that has its own problems with radicalization and a large immigrant population from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

    The United States won’t cut aid even though aid has been misused and propped up the most corrupt elements of the state. Aid is fungible and it has traditionally made things worse, not better. Money spent on the civil sector (or to train the police) means more money for the military and ISI. We are afraid, however, of the very nuclear weapons that the West’s money – and Chinese and Saudi aid – has helped to purchase ending up in terrorist hands or being gifted to the Saudis. And we still need to hunt down more people in that region and will pay almost any bribe to do it.

    So here we are: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” – Sun Tzu.

    A theory: Our foreign policy community is confused within the context of “Afpak” because our traditional DC foreign policy mandarins never came to terms with the repercussions of fighting tyranny in one part of the globe by explicitly ignoring versions of it in another. I mean, in terms of what this does to your own institutions long-term, what it does to your military and State department bureaucracies, and to think tanks and a generation of South Asia analysts. In this, our attempts to nation-build in Afghanistan are highly laudable but unworkable (witness the recent furor over the allegations regarding Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” charity). Yes, yes, I know that sometimes you have to hold your nose and work with people you don’t want to for a greater good and that greater good is continuing some version of our counterterrorism or counterinsurgency work within the region. But you shouldn’t lie to yourself or lie to the people you are meant to serve. It’s time for Washington to face facts. There are no rogue elements. There is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.

    To those who say, “well, we never really supported the civil sector in Pakistan in the past”: How do you do that effectively when the military colonizes the economy? When it owns large tracts of land and businesses? Once again, aid is fungible and the State department and its Western development theories (building civilian governmental capacities; in other words, social engineering abroad) has a rocky track record, at best. So now what?

    What say you?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Britain, History, Human Behavior, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Political Philosophy, Politics, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    Duel in slow time

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 1st April 2011 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    In slomo –
    as in the slow rotating
    backseat of a hurtling flipping car –
    at that most divine of speeds at which
    concentration arrives and
    all is revealed –
    as when Krishna himself bears
    each arrow loosed from his
    left-handed archer Arjuna’s drawn bow
    to some fine warrior’s
    we see: all contest is
    each edged duel, a true duet…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, India, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Honor killings

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 7th March 2011 (All posts by )

    I had occasion today to give myself a quick refresher course on honor killings, one form of which is already present in the Torah as of Leviticus 21.9:

    And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

    and found myself once again noting that there is a substantial swathe of regions of the world where honor killings are found, and that where it is found (including in immigrant communities from those parts of the world) the practice is not confined to any one religious group.

    Hence this DoubleQuote:

    I think it is appropriate to consider honor killing a form of religious violence when the claim is made by those who do the killing that they are acting in the name of their religion — but that it is also important to distinguish such acts committed in a cultural context in which they are practiced across religions from acts that are the exclusive province of one religious tradition.

    There are examples of honor killings which are performed in the name of Islam, and/or advocated by Islamic scholars — and the same could no doubt be said of other religious traditions — but honor killing as a genre is fundamentally more cultural than religious.

    Sources: Brandeis studyBBCSydney Morning Herald

    The analytic point:

    From my point of view as an analyst, it is important to note and compare both religious and cultural drivers — neither avoiding mention of the one out of “correctness” — nor overlooking the other for lack of comparative data.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Britain, Christianity, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Religion, Society | 36 Comments »

    Assorted Links

    Posted by onparkstreet on 23rd February 2011 (All posts by )

    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be making a trans-continental trip to India in March to speak at the India Today 2011 conclave in New Delhi, Palin aide Rebecca Mansour tweeted Wednesday.

    The Daily Caller

    I first saw the news of Sarah Palin planning to visit India “tweeted” at an Indian think tank website – the Takshashila Institution.

    AMERICA’S MACROSTRATEGIC environment is chockablock with assets unavailable to any other country. If nothing else, the United States has an often-overlooked and oft-neglected bulwark of allies: the Anglosphere. This is Washington’s inner circle of defense ties, and it finds no equivalent in its competitor nations’ strategic arsenals. The Anglosphere is perennially—and incorrectly—declared dead or in decline by the media and politicians. Nevertheless, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States remain extremely close in their military and intelligence relations and exchange vast volumes of sensitive information daily, as they have for decades. On terrorism, virtually anything and everything is shared. The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been nearly inextricable since World War II. The same is largely true of the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The various English-speaking nations, in practical terms, even assign individual parts of the world to each other, and each worries about the others’ security equities.

    Robert D. Kaplan, Stephen S. Kaplan – The National Interest (via CNAS)

    Posted in Anglosphere, India | 4 Comments »

    The Super Sweet Strategery of Strategic Depth

    Posted by onparkstreet on 5th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Pakistan’s beliefs in the value of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan were influenced by two factors. The support it received from the U.S. in waging an armed response against the Soviet occupation triggered the belief. The success of that endeavour with no apparent costs to itself, gave Islamabad the illusion of being able to play a major role in the geo-politics of Central Asia. This more than anything else led to the belief that Afghanistan provided the strategic leverage Pakistan had long been seeking. The energy-rich Muslim states of Central Asia beckoned both Pakistan and the energy-seeking multi-nationals. Iran’s standing up to western pressures was proving an obstacle to long-term plans for energy extraction from the region. Afghanistan offered both shorter energy routing and political control through Pakistan.

    V. R. Raghavan (The Hindu, 2001)

    Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, “wants a reliable proxy that has territorial control of the P2K area,” Mr. Dressler adds. This desire is the result of Pakistan’s historic conflict with India. “If India comes across the border, Pakistan can fall back into Afghanistan and drive them out. It’s about strategic depth vis-à-vis India. As long as that continues to be a driving concern, Pakistan’s support for the Haqqani network will continue.”

    The Christian Science Monitor (via Small Wars Journal)

    A highly plausible future scenario indeed (regarding the second quoted item). In the event that the Indians decide on a massive ground invasion into Pakistan and march sturdily through the landscape of jihadi-networks and scattering Pakistani troops – with nary a nuke in sight and the US sitting idly by – it sounds like a winner of a strategy. The supply lines to the Indians will, of course, be Bollywood unicorns pooping ammunition and some sort of MREs.

    On the other hand, serious people seem to take Pakistani strategic depth worries seriously. The Indians are forever being told that they must take Pakistani fears of regional encroachment into account so that the United States (ISAF) may have a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan that is stable. Although….

    My basic point, lost in the midst of all of those excerpts, is that despite having “full” strategic depth in Afghanistan during the time period of the Kargil War, a conflict occurred between the two.

    – from a comment I made in this thread at Small Wars Journal (regarding the theory that strategic depth in Afghanistan may prevent conflict between India and Pakistan).

    I think a strategy that brings about the very thing you claim to be worried about (the Indians in Afghanistan with ISAF supporting a reasonably India-friendly government) seems like a loser to me. Want to see the math?

    1. Pakistan supports the Taliban in Afghanistan for purposes of “strategic depth.”
    2. The Taliban invites in Al Q.
    3. 9-11 happens and Americans and others are murdered.
    4. Americans invade Afghanistan.
    5. India follows with the rest of the development crowd….

    See? A loser of a strategy in terms of the vaunted s.d.

    What say you ChicagoBoyz commenters? Have I got it totally wrong? Am I a total paranoid? A partial paranoid? Leave a comment below if you must….

    PS: I always enjoy reading Max Boot at Contentions but, er….?

    The United States can influence the choice only at the margins, but we must do what we can to signal to the army leadership that we will stand behind them if they decide to do more to take on the radicals. In this connection, it is highly useful that President Obama has agreed to NATO’s timeline not to transition security responsibility in Afghanistan until 2014. That should put to rest some immediate concerns about America’s fickleness as an ally and reassure the Pakistani army that we will stand with the forces of moderation in Pakistan should they do more to battle the growing religious extremism that threatens the very survival of the state.

    Respectfully, the Army is not a force of moderation. They are following a long-cherished regional strategic plan that has nothing to do with our alleged “fickleness.” Given China’s monetary support of the regime, I wager the Pakistani Army/ISI will continue to think they can play various networks to their advantage. 2014 or no. Sorry to be so cynical. I hope I am wrong.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    Something New or Deja Vu?

    Posted by onparkstreet on 27th December 2010 (All posts by )


    Despite tensions, Turkish diplomats are keen to point out when they started their trilateral meetings the then leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan would not even talk to one another. On Thursday night the Afghan and Pakistan presidents dined together.

    “Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. ” – VOA (via Small Wars Journal)

    “Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

    I send you this personal message because I want you to know about my decision to extend military aid to Pakistan before it is public knowledge and also because I want you to know directly from me that this step does not in any way affect the friendship we feel for India. Quite the contrary. We will continually strive to strengthen the warm and enduring friendship between our two countries.

    Our two Governments have agreed that our desires for peace are in accord. It has also been understood that if our interpretation of existing circumstances and our belief in how to achieve our goals differ, it is the right and duty of sovereign nations to make their own decisions. Having studied long and carefully the problem of opposing possible aggression in the Middle East, I believe that consultation between Pakistan and Turkey about security problems will serve the interests not only of Pakistan and Turkey but also of the whole free world. Improvement in Pakistan’s defensive capability will also serve these interests and it is for this reason that our aid will be given. This Government’s views on this subject are elaborated in a public statement I will release, a copy of which Ambassador Allen will give you.

    What we are proposing to do, and what Pakistan is agreeing to, is not directed in any way against India. And I am confirming publicly that if our aid to any country, including Pakistan, is misused and directed against another in aggression I will undertake immediately, in accordance with my constitutional authority, appropriate action both within and without the UN to thwart such aggression. I believe that the Pakistan-Turkey collaboration agreement which is being discussed is sound evidence of the defensive purposes which both countries have in mind.

    I know that you and your Government are keenly aware of the need for economic progress as a prime requisite for stability and strength. This Government has extended assistance to India in recognition of this fact, and I am recommending to Congress a continuation of economic and technical aid for this reason. We also believe it in the interest of the free world that India have a strong military defense capability and have admired the effective way your Government has administered your military establishment. If your Government should conclude that circumstances require military aid of a type contemplated by our mutual security legislation, please be assured that your request would receive my most sympathetic consideration.

    I regret that there has been such widespread and unfounded speculation on this subject. Now that the facts are known, I hope that the real import of our decision will be understood.

    With best wishes,



    Letter to Prime Minister Nehru of India Concerning U.S. Military Aid to Pakistan. February 25, 1954

    Long term strategy-wise, the American foreign policy establishment appears to get “stuck” in habits and patterns and grooves and constituencies and conventional wisdoms and all of that. I suppose that’s life in a big old messy democracy, eh? Or is it possible to do better? (By the way, this is not “blame America” time here at ChicagoBoyz. India, Pakistan, America, Turkey – what have you – all have “agency” and are responsible for individual national actions.)

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Public Finance, War and Peace | 4 Comments »