Posts filed under ‘Security’
Ah yes, the contradictions. The police who are supposed to protect, torture. The politicians who are supposed to serve, rule. The doctors who are supposed to treat, harm. The corporations who are supposed to utilize, exploit. Finally, the people who are supposed to live, merely exist to drag yet another day without any hope towards a bleak future that is losing purpose with a unstable economy et al. I digress.
Disclaimer first. The above cartoon is a mesh of 2 cartoons by Laxman. I could have drawn it myself but as a blue-blood software engineer by training, re-use is the mantra here. Hope ToI does not mind and am sure Sir Laxman himself supports a liberal CC license. With that out of the way, everything that has India in the headline and a foriegn agent sullying the name or borders of this great country is what feeds our fat netas. I will be surprised if such a speech as depicted is not being made in some panchayat elections as we speak to ignorant babus and clueless villagers.
The cartoon (inspired by a classic stock trading madness one by Kal of Economist which also reflects the allusion of financial markets simile) tries to address 2 things at a high level. The ‘why’ and ‘other’ side of the coin. Allow me to elaborate –
1) For a paper that flaunts to be the mathematics or ecology of war (strike-1: make up your mind), the core question of ‘why’ remains unanswered other than the broad strokes of generalizing it to violent primal animalistic human behaviour in a conflict scenario viz. ganging up and acting out of reptilian-minded self-preservation and just silly attention-seeking, message-sending, authority-opposing, loathing-fired, territory-protecting, family-first, religion-tampered, son-of-gun, honour-killing, blood-thirsty, cult-following, brain-washed, nepotism-led, arms-dealing corporate interest driven, virgin-seeking, nation-gaurding, eye-for-an-eye revenge. Out of the 6 wise questions of who, when, where, what, why and how of anything, it is the ‘why’ that is always most important and difficult one to answer. Unsurprisingly, it is not always forthcoming and so is the case with the current research/paper/letter/talk/hype/site in question. My answer to ‘why’ is not my answer because it has been addressed before. In any conflict, the main reason for all the tomfoolery is primarily a result of ye-olde mis-communication and bad decision-making. People act irrationally (or whatever it is the paper insinuates) because for all the wisdom of the world, groups only serve the purpose of amplifying stupidity and at discrete time-steps under pressure with only incomplete information and shrouded judgment as a way of life and we don’t have to observe a conflict to come to that conclusion. It is kinda obvious from shopping to ordering pizza. Patterns. Patterns. Everywhere
2) The paper does not address the most important element to any conflict which is the ‘other’ side. It paints the terrorists (putting on my linguist hat ala Chomsky, this is a wrong word in itself because if it is used, it automatically implies the branded-as-such people as bad which is just one point-of-view) as villains from the word go and does not give due weight to the acts of the ‘other’ side, say the state police or occupying USA troops in Afghanistan. If you ask me, the patterns of behaviour of the ‘other’ side are just as irrational and fueled by internal politics (no matter how hierarchical they are organized) and media sound-bytes as the insurgents (again, a bad and violent word that should not have been used in interests of neutrality). We all know it takes two to tango or two hands to make a clap or no smoke without fire or every action has an opposite reaction or what goes round comes around and such idioms. Not considering/mentioning, let alone understanding the role of the ‘other’ side and how they influence/provoke behaviour of freedom-fighters (terrorists by other name), is like saying – well, I cannot think of a suitable analogy because there are so many of them that apply here – the insurgents are evil by birth and all that the paper is trying to do, in a fly-on-wall (when it really should be cat-on-wall) manner is quantify their evil-doings somewhat like an overbearing God who at the same time turns a blind eye at the misdemeanours of his chosen people. It’s just plain wrong. Besides, there are too many Gods already responsible for much mess that has/going/will in the world but discussing religion is slightly off-topic, no?
When seen with that lens of favouritism, it is of course obvious that patterns can be identified in the reactions (yes, not actions) of insurgents. Suffice to say that what we are seeing here is simply a human collective not showing the other cheek when slapped and that maybe, just maybe, we should perhaps be more concerned why did the slap happen and importantly, whose hand is it that was raised leading to harakiri? Again, there will be patterns to series of events that led to this situation. So, my question is this: Can we identify “that” pattern of circumstances that triggers insurgency? I believe we can (if one looks closely and long enough goes without saying). If so, that will be the right path to understand misunderstandings. To the best of my knowledge from private communication, Sean Gourley is already at work along these lines and I hope whatever comes out of that is not half as bad as the paper we are discussing, er, opiniating. Lest I forget, as for the errors in data and analysis, I informally tried applying their methods to Kashmir situation and I was disappointed and felt cheated. The first thing that came into my mind was that maybe my data was not clean or my interpretations of the paper and formulae. It takes a great and beautiful mind to accept mistakes. Mine is certainly not. So there.
PS: If you are wondering what happened to part-2 of series, well, keep wondering. I did not think it was worth my typing and am famously lazy. You are however free to think of it as a forced workshop on imagining or maybe, Quentin Tarantino stylism
Back to the study (must have been publicly funded paying for several academic gits for quite a few years) published in Nature magazine, the hypothesis developed IMHO is just old wine in a new bottle. One has to just look at much of the 3rd world to see that exposure to germs, bacteria, viruses and just about any snotty nosed cellular organisms are good in the long run to improve disease resistance and overall individual health. Consider poster woman for poverty and corruption, India for example. As people get poorer, their health seems to become more robust. I have never seen a poor guy who is bald to mention something that I suffer from. They just happen to die young and quick (with liver problems in the case of men and malnutrition and neglect in the case of women but let us not get into that). I have not heard any of the maids and drivers ever having a heart attack or inflicted with diabetes or down with cancer or taking sick leaves. Makes you wonder if there is a correlation but that should not be an excuse (as it is made out to be) for shabby living. As the little birdie, in this case, Jairam Ramesh says, “India cities are the dirtiest cities of the world. If there is a Nobel prize for dirt and filth, India will win it, no doubt”, maybe, uncleanliness might still have its benefits and bring pride to a country which after all beat its chest on poverty porn, er, “Slumdog Millionaire”. Onto the second article, here are some statistics and eye watering consolidations…
In slum areas, where more than half of Mumbai lives, an average 81 people share a single toilet. In some places it rises to an eye-watering 273 according to local municipal authority figures. Unsurprisingly, it is still common to see people squatting by roads and railway tracks or along the coast, openly defecating in where some of the world’s richest people live. The UN estimates 55% Indians or 600-million shameless undignified brownies still defecate outside, more than 60 years after the scrupulously clean independence leader Mahatma Gandhi first talked of the responsible disposal of human waste. India has to improve sanitation, to control the spread of diseases like diarrhoea, which UNICEF says kills 1,000 Indian children aged under five every day. Extrapolating it to the the entire 3rd world, the numbers are staggering and beyond belief. Lots of humans still live like animals.
Public toilet provision faces the same problem affecting housing, water and other basic services: supply cannot keep up with demand as India’s population explodes. A UN Human Development Report 2009, published earlier this month, points out that even where public toilets exist, most have no running water, drainage or electricity, making them unhygienic and unusable. Embarrassment means women and girls often wait all day until it is dark to go to the toilet, increasing their chances of infections and exposing them to violence or even snake bites as they seek out remote places. Poor sanitation and the illnesses it causes cost the Indian economy 12-billion rupees (255-million USD) a year, according to health ministry and according to the tourism industry, irrevocably tarnishes the image although some argues that does add charm and allure to India spun as open-air toilets.
Every year over a third of a million Indian kids below five die, all because of a lack of adequate disposal of human waste which is one of the most toxic in developing countries. Sanitation is a public good. The availability of public goods – just like private goods – depends on the supply as well as the demand. It can be argued that the demand for sanitation is low. People are content to just go along with the lack of sanitation. And then there is the problem of supply. Public funds are allocated based on what those who control the public purse consider to be high priority. Providing public toilets is not a priority. If the population valued a clean environment, they would have had it – both through private actions and through their voting for those who spend public money on public sanitation. The public does not demand it and the politicians don’t care to provide it. Perhaps they deserve to be living like this if at all a case has to be made for their existence, nay, mere survival.
Speaking of septic tanks and poops, some nut over at Acorn argues that “Fixing Drains will Help Counter Terrorism”. Finally, I dont know what makes Isaac Asimov an authority on human dignity, democracy and population growth when he was obsessed with replacing humans with robots but all the same, in conversation wth Bill Moyers (captured in “World of Ideas”, 1989), he says that over-crowding is not conducive to human dignity using a bathroom metaphor. The same way democracy cannot survive over-population, human dignity cannot survive it and convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. The more people, less the individuals.
As per the conjecture that good bits can be buried in a matchbox (with apologies to Christopher Hitchens), here are a few selected quotes from the piece…
In 1947, India had great promise. It could have become at least a second world economy (per-capita $10,000) and – given its huge population of over a billion – it could have been a formidable economic force. As someone sadly noted, “of all sad words of tongue or pen, ‘it could have been’ are the saddest of all”. Where’s India actually? China and the US are the worlds “two leading powers,” wrote our favourite NYT columnist Thomas L Friedman. How much more blatantly obvious can it be that India does not bat in the big league when even Friedman figures it out. How irrelevant is India? The US president in a speech delivered recently in Tokyo on US relations in Asia did not even mention India. Sometime ago, Bill Clinton had wanted to make a quick stop in India on his way to visit China. The Chinese told him that he need not bother coming to China if he was going to stop however briefly in India. When you come to China, come to China only, they told him. Clinton said, yessiree. A little later came Clinton’s visit to India. He decided that he will stop by Pakistan on his way back from India. India begged him to not do so. India begged, not demanded. He told India to shove it and stopped in Pakistan. India has to suffer indignities because it is unbearably poor.
India is poor because its policies suck. India has bad policies because it got bad leaders right from the start. One cannot fault small countries such as say, Burundi or Zambia, for not being a world power. They just don’t have the population, the human capital, the size or the natural resources for that. No one expects small marginal countries to be of any consequence. But India had (almost) all the necessary components for becoming a nation of some consequence in a few decades after independence. What it did not have was enlightened leadership. Are those leaders alone to blame? Actually no. Leadership is largely endogenous and reflects the nature of the population. The ultimate cause of poverty of any large group is the group itself. India’s leaders are ensuring that it continues to be an irrelevant third-world country by keeping it poor and condemning hundreds of millions of Indians to lives of extreme deprivation and premature deaths.
India is so weak externally that even a failed tinpot Islamic dictatorship can cause immense harm to India. Another failed Islamic state – one which India saved from being butchered further by its Islamic brother and helped it gain independence – routinely sponsors terrorism in India and is engineering a demographic change in India’s eastern states. India responds with weak protests. India is so weak internally that its citizens die by the hundreds each year from Islamic terrorism and all it can do is to run to the US and complain that Pakistan is being bad to India. India whines and asks the US to declare Pakistan a state that supports terrorism. The US, in response, declares Pakistan to be a frontline ally of the USA “war on terror.” That’s not a slap on the face of India. That’s a steel-toed military boot shoved deep in the head. India has been reduced to a rather pathetic state that its prime minister feels grateful for the little attention that the US administration magnanimously throws his way. He, of all people, should know because the family he serves so loyally (the Nehrus) is the one that has reduced India to this reality.
Ever get that old feeling that you heard it all before? Well, that is what I feel. Adios.
Enough of my hackneyed analysis and silly doodling. Here are some juicy quotes…
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play. It is obvious that all the parties are just acting out the same old scenes, with the same old tired clichés – and that no one believes any of it anymore. There is no romance, no sex, no excitement, no urgency – not even a sense of importance anymore. The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit. Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has left the realm of diplomacy. It is now more of a calisthenic and yet, as much as we, the audience, know this to be true, we can never quite abandon hope for peace. It is our habit. Indeed, as I ranted about this to a Jordanian friend the other day, he said it all reminded him of an old story.
This peace process movie is not going to end differently just because we keep playing the same reel. It is time for a radically new approach. And I mean radical. I mean something no US administration has ever dared to do: Take down our “Peace-Processing-Is-Us” sign and just go home. Right now we want it more than the parties. They all have other priorities today. And by constantly injecting ourselves we’ve become their Novocain. We relieve all the political pain from the Arab and Israeli decision-makers by creating the impression in the minds of their publics that something serious is happening. “Look, the US secretary of state is here. Look, she’s standing by my side. Look, I’m doing something important! Take our picture. Put it on the news. We’re on the verge of something really big and I am indispensable to it”.
Indeed, it’s time for us to dust off James Baker’s line: “When you’re serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix”. The fact is, the only time America has been able to advance peace – post-Yom Kippur War, Camp David, post-Lebanon war, Madrid and Oslo – has been when the parties felt enough pain for different reasons that they invited our diplomacy, and we had statesmen – Mr Henry Kissinger, Mr Jimmy Carter, Mr George Shultz, Mr James Baker and Mr Bill Clinton – savvy enough to seize those moments. Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other — a mood best summed up by a phrase making the rounds at the state department: The Palestinian leadership “wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations” and Israel’s leadership likewise, “wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal”.
It seems to me that the conflict is there just for the sake of conflict and hog media columns, suck aid, abetting hatred and milking sympathy for both sides et al. The Israelis and Palestinians both seem to be happy with the status-quo and no one wants to budge a nano-micro-meter towards a resolution no matter how many leaders changed, farce elections, civiilians killed, bombs exploded, soldiers captured, elections rigged and what not. It is like watching the same film over and over again by a stupid world (that includes all of us) hoping idly, for different ending.
Passed unianimously, the international media hailed it as a victory for Obama because it strangles Iran. Stupid Indian gits welcomed it saying that it would somehow allow them to build nuclear weapons. What did NOT make the news rounds is that Israel was asked, rather nicely to join the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to inspection which USA and Europe tried to block assuring Israel that they would support Israel’s rejection of the resolution – reaffirming a secret understanding that has allowed Israel to maintain a nuclear arsenal closed to international inspections, according to officials familiar with the arrangements. This is perhaps the clearest evidence for the world to see the duplicity apparent in the treatment of countries and power of propaganda. Because the mainstream media are silent, here is me doing my bit. Now you are in the know. Go pollinate.
Right. With my job to make some noise about the 1887 resolution and exposing the blatant hypocrisy done, let us get back to the other topic that is the joke called Nobel Peace Prize 2009 to Barack Hussein Obama in the words of a rambling Chomsky. Some quotes, worth mentioning in my honest opinion (hey, ’tis my blog) are…
The hopes and prospects for peace aren’t well aligned – not even close. The task is to bring them nearer. Presumably that was the intent of the Nobel Peace Prize committee in choosing President Barack Obama. The prize “seemed a kind of prayer and encouragement by the Nobel committee for future endeavor and more consensual American leadership,” Erlanger and Stolberg wrote in NYT. The nature of Bush-Obama transition bears directly on the likelihood that the prayers and encouragement might lead to progress. The Nobel committee’s concerns were valid to an extent. They singled out Obama’s rhetoric on reducing nuclear weapons. Silence is often more eloquent than loud clamor, so let us attend to what is unspoken.
The day before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his inspiring commitment to peace, the Pentagon announced it was accelerating delivery of the most lethal non-nuclear weapons in the arsenal: 13-ton bombs for B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers, designed to destroy deeply hidden bunkers shielded by 10,000 pounds of reinforced concrete. It’s no secret the bunker busters could be deployed against Iran. Planning for these “massive ordnance penetrators” began in the Bush years but languished until Obama called for developing them rapidly when he came into office. The Nobel Peace Prize, of course, is not concerned solely with reducing the threat of terminal nuclear war, but rather with war generally, and the preparation for war. In this regard, the selection of Obama raised eyebrows all over the world, not least in Iran, surrounded by U.S. occupying armies.
Not for the first time, what is veiled in silence would receive front-page headlines in societies that valued their freedom and were concerned with the fate of the world. On Iran’s borders in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Obama has escalated Bush’s war and is likely to proceed on that course, perhaps sharply. Obama has made clear that the United States intends to retain a long-term major presence in the region. That much is signaled by the huge city-within-a city called “Baghdad Embassy,” unlike any embassy in the world. Obama has announced the construction of mega-embassies in Islamabad and Kabul, and huge consulates in Peshawar and elsewhere. He is on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since World War II. And that’s not counting the additional $130 billion the administration is requesting to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, with more war spending slated for future.
The Nobel Peace Prize committee might well have made truly worthy choices, prominent among them the remarkable Afghan activist Malalai Joya. This brave woman survived the Russians, and then the radical Islamists whose brutality was so extreme that the population welcomed the Taliban. Joya has withstood the Taliban and now the return of the warlords under the Karzai government. Throughout, Joya worked effectively for human rights, particularly for women; she was elected to parliament and then expelled when she continued to denounce warlord atrocities. She now lives underground under heavy protection, but she continues the struggle, in word and deed. By such actions, from unknown people, repeated everywhere as best we can, the prospects for peace edge closer to hopes.
That is all one has to say about Obama, Nobel Peace Prize and everything that followed. As for Iran, well, they have a fundamental right to explore all energy options for the benefit of their country. Maybe it has to do with crusades or maybe, a remnant of history earlier than that but there is a foreboding ill-will and fear of Iran, erstwhile Persia. Iran hasn’t invaded another country for hundreds of years – unlike the United States and Israel. In naval maneuvers in July, Israel sent its Dolphin class subs, capable of carrying nuclear missiles, through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea, sometimes accompanied by warships, to a position from which they could attack Iran – as they have a “sovereign right” to do, according to USA Vice President Joe Biden. No humane person wants Iran – or anyone else – to have nuclear weapons. But a little honesty would not hurt in addressing these problems. All the same, it is about free-will and choice. If Iran wants nuclear weapons, let them have it. No hypocrisy please. The threat from Iran is minuscule. If Iran had nuclear weapons and delivery systems and prepared to use them, the country would be vaporized. Sure the President and Mullahs are a wonky lot but they are not THAT crazy to see this eventuality. They definitely cannot hold a candle to the screw loose Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee in cocooned wintry dark cosy Oslo.