President Obama’s acceptance speech

From Facebook:

Subroto Roy found this an extraordinarily thoughtful and profound speech, which, apart from its reference to “climate change”, is likely to go down as historic — not least for its restoration of “just war” theory & the canons of international law in general. (His critics who questioned his religion might note the very Christian …thesis: “at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature.  We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil…”)… I hope his Republican critics will give the man a break….

Thoughts on Indian Governance

Subroto Roy believes the great optimism about the Indian Republic that he had felt as a 7-year old boy upon meeting Jawaharlal Nehru at Colombo Airport on Oct 13 1962 (the first days of the surprise Communist Chinese attack on India), has now dissipated, and apart from Nehru’s immediate successor (Lal Bahadur Shastri) all Indian Prime Ministers since then have been gravely, perhaps catastrophically, disappointing.

Subroto Roy thinks President Obama’s informed lawyerly academic approach to the Afghanistan decision, whether or not it has its intended good consequences, has a positive demonstration effect for other capital cities, e.g. New Delhi, where public policy decisions are too often made to appease special interest groups inside a cloud of meaningless rhetoric.

Subroto Roy says of India and China in summary discussion at Edward Hugh’s Wall: “Well, both have massive and energetic populations, each with relatively little capital per head; raising the capital per head with new production and exchange processes leads to growth. (But the nominal economies are weak, public finances are absymal and paper money is out of control.)”

Subroto Roy recalls again Pericles of Athens: “Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well; even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics- this is a peculiarity of ours:we do not say that a man who takes no inter…est in politics is a man who minds his own business;we say that he has no business here at all.”

Is the Obama Doctrine as simple as this?

From Facebook:

I wonder if the Obama Doctrine for US Foreign Policy is going to be as simple as this:

the United States has no permanent intrinsic (ideological) enemies or competitors — not in the Muslim world, not Communist Party China, not Russia, not in Latin America;

the United States has no specific best buddies among the nations of the world — not Britain, not Israel (well, Canada, yes, the exception to the rule);

the United States will be a cooperative partner in peace and progress with any country that seeks this;

the United States will define enemies by their adversarial behaviour, so, e.g. Somali pirates risk getting shot, and violent jihadists like Hasan, KSM get what’s due.

Postscript: I am not saying this is something I would have or have not approved if I had been an American voter, merely that this appears to be the doctrine that seems to be revealed from President Obama’s actions thus far.

Have I rightly discovered a connection between Barack Obama Senior and the Sidney Poitier character in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

Yesterday at Facebook, I posted this

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with the caption: “Guess who came to dinner? A thoughtful portrait of perhaps the most influential graduate student of the late 20th Century….”

Then today I made this more explicit posting the photograph a second time and saying

“Subroto Roy notes that when a 23 year old Barack Obama Sr came to the USA and met Ann Dunham to become the most influential graduate student of the late 20th Century, it was more than a half dozen years before the great Sidney Poitier acted in “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” — and those half dozen years were crucial in the Civil Rights Movement…”

And on the same lines I posted yet again, saying

“Subroto Roy  wonders if the meeting of Barack Obama Senior with Mr and Mrs Dunham was a bit like this portrayal in a famous film more than a half dozen years later”

attached to a photo of the Sidney Poitier character meeting with the Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn characters

poitier

and finally I have posted a fourth time a short while ago saying

“Subroto Roy notes, in reference to his analogy of the 1960 meeting between Barack Obama Sr and Ann Dunham and the characters in the 1967 movie “Guess who’s coming to dinner”, that in both cases the meeting occurred in Hawaii, and the parents of the girl were on the West Coast…. Hmmm…. coincidence? Or did the writer of the movie adapt from a real tit-bit of news?”

Perhaps I have discovered something here, perhaps not.  Either way, American popular culture and American politics have had a felicitous confluence.

Subroto Roy

Postscript 1:

I forget the details of the movie but seem to recall the Sidney Poitier character had to rush off to serve a good cause in….. Africa….

Postscript 2:

There were 17 American States which forbade inter-racial marriages at the time the movie was made in 1967; in 1960 there may have been more though Hawaii,  which became a state on Aug 21 1959, to its credit was not one of them. Thus there is a third possibility beyond coincidence and the writer of the movie hearing about real news, namely, the fact that Hawaii never had “anti-miscegenation” laws, a fact that could help explain both events.

From being a critic to becoming a fan of the Clintons

I got to Washington in the summer of 1992, just before the Clintons arrived, and lived there through all of 1993 and a bit of 1994.   It is fair to say I have been continually critical — right until Mrs Clinton’s brilliant speech at the Democratic convention last year.  Now I may have become a bit of a fan.  Could the successful North Korea visit be Bill Clinton’s most dignified and single most poignant political deed? And Hillary appears to have finally found her calling as Secretary of State.  She was an excellent diplomatist on her recent India-visit — and certainly put our rather dull political class into the shade.  President Obama gets some credit here for good managerial decisions behind the scenes.

Subroto Roy

Waffle not institutional reform is what (I predict) the “G-20 summit” will produce

“Summits”  of global political leaders require competent “sherpas”  to do the preparations.  From what I gather about the London “G-20 summit” this has not happened adequately enough, so I expect only a lot of waffle to emerge.  (If they suddenly start talking about Global Warming or AIDS in Africa or whatever, we will know the actual talks have failed badly.)

Reforming the IMF?   Hmmm, let’s see, what happened to all that talk four years ago about reforming the Big Daddy of them all, the UN?   Oh yes,  I forget, India is now a permanent veto-wielding Security Council Member, NOT!

It has been said that academic syllabus reform at a university is like ‘”moving a graveyard”.  Reforming the world monetary system and its major institutions would be like moving thousands of graveyards.   And there is no one with the brains of a White or a Keynes to help things along.  But we should not be surprised if there were pronouncements  of this or that high-powered commission of pompous worthies  who will make recommendations for reform some time in the future.    In general, little more than waffle will emerge now — I cannot even see the UK Government following informal British  advice to stand down from its founding role at the IMF.

There is no clear path to solving the great (alleged) economic and financial crisis because no one wants to admit its roots were the overvaluation (over decades) of American real-estate, and hence American assets in general.

India’s PM shall be seen at least up and about after several months out of action, indeed he will be up and about for the  first time in months doing what he (like India’s nomenclatura in general) likes doing best, which is to travel outside India.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

Can President Obama resist the financial zombies (let alone slay them)? His economists need to consult Dr Anna J Schwartz

The wonders of the Internet continue to surprise (and yes Virginia, there was a world before SMS and before the Internet too).  In early January, in context of India’s Satyam fraud (of a size of perhaps 1 or perhaps 2 billion dollars),  I referred here  to what seemed to me the likelihood of Satyam becoming a zombie company and I said “we in India have many such zombies walking around in the organised business sector”.    I drew attention to Andrew Beattie’s astute  definition of zombies and other such ghoulish phenomena in the financial world, and also referred to John Stepek’s excellent if brief November 2008 analysis “How zombie companies suck the life from an economy”.  Today I find Ms Arianna Huffington has made reference to Mr Martin Wolf’s reference a couple of days ago to zombie companies and to his statement that President Obama needs to “Admit reality, restructure banks and, above all, slay zombie institutions at once.”  Ms Huffington has agreed, though of course all this slaying may be easier said than done.  (It is better that zombies not be created in the first place.)

Mr Wolf has pointedly asked a question that many around the world may have half-thought about but not articulated: “Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed?”   It would be  a grave and appalling  state of affairs if it has, within less than a month of entering office.   I am grateful to find in Ms Huffington’s article a reference to an October 2008  Wall Stret Journal interview of Dr Anna Jacobson Schwartz, perhaps the most respected voice in monetary economics today.  There have been numerous people claiming to have predicted America’s financial crisis but none may have as much credibility as Dr Schwartz.   Six years ago, in a National Bureau of Economic Research study dated November 2002, “Asset Price Inflation and Monetary Policy”,Working Paper 9321 she had said with utmost clarity: “It is crucial that central banks and regulatory authorities be aware of effects of asset price inflation on the stability of the financial system. Lending activity based on asset collateral during the boom is hazardous to the health of lenders when the boom collapses. One way that authorities can curb the distortion of lenders’ portfolios during asset price booms is to have in place capital requirements that increase with the growth of credit extensions collateralized by assets whose prices have escalated. If financial institutions avoid this pitfall, their soundness will not be impaired when assets backing loans fall in value. Rather than trying to gauge the effects of asset prices on core inflation, central banks may be better advised to be alert to the weakening of financial balance sheets in the aftermath of a fall in value of asset collateral backing loans….”

Most poignantly too, Dr Schwartz was present when Ben Bernanke said  in  a 2002 speech honouring the late Milton Friedman “I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”   Dr Schwartz told the Wall Street Journal ‘”This was [his] claim to be worthy of running the Fed”.  “He was ‘familiar with history. He knew what had been done.’ But perhaps this is actually Mr. Bernanke’s biggest problem. Today’s crisis isn’t a replay of the problem in the 1930s, but our central bankers have responded by using the tools they should have used then. They are fighting the last war. The result, she argues, has been failure. ‘I don’t see that they’ve achieved what they should have been trying to achieve. So my verdict on this present Fed leadership is that they have not really done their job.'”

President Obama’s economists need to urgently consult Anna J Schwartz.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

Postscript:  My own brief views on the subject are at “October 1929? Not!” dated September 18 2008, and “America’s divided economists” dated October 26 2008.  The latter article suggested that playing the demographic card and inducing a wave of immigration into the United States may be the surest way to move the housing demand-curve firmly upwards.

Didn’t Dr Obama (the new American President’s late father) once publish an article in Harvard’s Quarterly Journal of Economics? (Or did he?)

As an impecunious undergraduate working and paying my way through the London School of Economics in 1973-1976, I spent many long hours poring over academic journals in economics at what used to be the old British Library of Political and Economic Sciences.   If memory serves me rightly, I did come across at that time a new article published by a Barack Obama in, I think, Harvard’s Quarterly Journal of Economics, which used to be quite an eminent journal at the time.  (All academic economics journals  have since  that era tended to suffer from  dullness, corruption and unreadability of varying degrees, especially after the end of the Cold War.)

The Obama article may have been co-authored with one or more others but I feel quite sure I recall it because of the pleasure I received from the  novelty of the African name in a (stuffy) American journal.    Dr Obama’s affiliation may have been given as the University of Hawaii — where, ironically enough, I was to have much experience later, as has been told elsewhere here.

During President Obama’s electoral campaign, I had given this information to an American journalist with a request to follow it up as I am unable to do so myself, not having access to stacks of the QJE.

It would be interesting if my memory has served me rightly here after some 34-35 years, and a Barack Obama article was found in the QJE of the early 1970s.  A lot of negative things have been said about President Obama’s late father (amounting almost to defamation) and any good  he may have  accomplished may have become interred with his bones.  Of course if I am right, the new President would owe me one as he probably has not known of the existence of the article himself.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

Postscript:  It is possible the QJE article by Dr Obama, if it exists, was dated in the mid or late 1960s; if I came across it around 1974 as I think I did, it would still have been considered “new”.   So any intrepid young person who follows up on this by looking through a stack of QJE’s on my behalf may kindly include the mid or late 1960s.  Of course Dr Obama went from Manoa to Harvard so the likelihood that he published his economics research in the latter’s house journal is also high.

“Yes we might be able to do that. Perhaps we ought to. But again, perhaps we ought not to, let me think about it…. Most important is Cromwell’s advice: Think it possible we may be mistaken!”

President Barack Obama will be in all likelihood as worthy and competent a head of state and head of government as there has been anywhere, and, as he enters his high office, he deserves the good wishes of the world.

The beautiful  State of Hawaii can proudly call him its most famous native son.

South Beretania where he apparently lived some years is a short walk from Punahou Towers at  1621 Dole where I once owned a condo, from which could be seen the  school the new President attended for some time.   He happens to be the first  US President in my lifetime whom I find myself older than in age.

I expect President Obama may well find  governance  to be  much different from the campaign:  requiring more truth and less rhetoric,  more circumspection and  less dogmatism.

“Yes we can” will likely have to give way to something like “Yes we might be able to do that.  Perhaps we ought to.  But again, perhaps we ought not to.  I think I’ll have to think about this one more time.”

Most important might be the words of Oliver Cromwell: “Think it possible you may be mistaken”.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

January 20 2009

The “three-state solution” for the Middle East (and why has Tony Blair not resigned when Israel attacked Gaza?) 2009

A few thousand years ago, Moses (whom Freud identified as likely to have been a monotheistic Egyptian nobleman) led the Hebrews out of Egypt. A year ago, Hamas blew up the much-hated wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt with explosives, after secretly over months cutting heavy metal using oxyacetylene torches. Some three hundred and fifty thousand Gazans poured into Egypt’s Rafah town and market to buy food, medicine, cigarettes, petrol, cows, goats, sheep, camel, televisions, mobile phones etc. Israel’s wicked blockade of Gaza was broken. Hosni Mubarak apparently instructed Egyptian border guards not to resist the Palestinian crowds from entering Egypt, and stated that as long as they returned without weapons they were free to trade as they wished. Egypt could hardly have done anything else – Cairo had seen pro-Palestinian demonstrations and Mubarak’s police had arrested some 500 members of the  Muslim Brotherhood. The official Israeli response was “the free passage of Palestinians into Egypt and back, without any supervision, significantly increases the threat coming from the Strip”. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said “it is the responsibility of Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly, according to the signed agreements. We expect the Egyptians to solve the problem. Obviously we are worried about the situation. It could potentially allow anybody to enter.” But Egypt can hardly solve this problem other than by offering to extend Egyptian sovereignty to the whole of the Gaza Strip. Something similar would have to be done with the West Bank becoming absorbed officially into Jordan. The Palestinian people would then not have their own state after all but have been divided between the formal territories of Egypt, Jordan and of course Israel itself (is not Israel technically a secular country without a state religion?). Gaza and the West Bank could be autonomous regions within Egyptian and Jordanian sovereignty respectively. The Palestinians at least would be able to buy flour and have normal lives and not have been made to live in the open-air prison that they do now. The people of Gaza would have been spared the Israeli atrocity that has been going on in the last several weeks.

 

 

There are and have been uncountable quasi-nationalities who have not had their own nation-states. Kurds are divided between Turkey, Iraq and Iran;  Baloch are divided between Iran and Pakistan; Pashtuns are divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan;  Kashmiris  (and for that matter Punjabis and Sindhis) are divided between Pakistan and India; Bengalis are divided between India and Bangladesh;  Tamils are divided between India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore; Tibetans are divided between India and China etc etc, and that is only in half of Asia. There are multitudinous cases all over Europe (and Britain), Africa and also the Americas and elsewhere. The Palestinians would have become one such. And like Poland being divided between Germany and Russia, or between Prussia, Austro-Hungary and Russia even earlier (on this see the inimitable Joseph Conrad Notes on Life and Letters), a people who have been divided without a separate identity can sometimes find themselves independent again as history progresses.

 

 

Islamic Iran has wished a “one-state” solution with the Palestinians and Israelis living together harmoniously, something that seems utopian at best, devious at worst — though recall too Martin Buber’s letter to Tagore.   British foreign policy invented the “two-state” solution ever since the Balfour declaration. It has proved infeasible. Tony Blair became the so-called “Quartet envoy” or whatever immediately after being UK prime minister and was supposed to herald in the two-state solution. He palpably failed and should have resigned when Israel attacked Gaza last month but that may have been too much to expect. Israel today seems to want to impose the “zero-state” solution by extinguishing Gaza (though at one time, pre-PLO and pre-Arafat perhaps, Israel may have proposed itself the annexation of Gaza and the West Bank by Egypt and Jordan respectively).

 

 

All things considered, the “three-state” solution may be the only practical and civilized alternative in the circumstances. Palestine would indeed be remembered, as a place and a culture and a people, and at least the Palestinians would be able to live and thrive and not be attacked.

 

 

Subroto Roy

Jews are massacred in Mumbai and now Jews commit a massacre in Gaza!

I was appalled and horrified by the massacre of Jews in Mumbai in November, the first time ever that Jews had been killed in India merely for being Jews.   And now I am equally appalled and horrified by the massacres being committed by the Israeli state in Gaza.

Given the timing of the Israeli attack on what has been the large ghetto known as  the Gaza Strip, it has to be surmised that the Bush Administration knew of this beforehand, and, if the transition has been as smooth as it is said to be, that President-elect Obama had known of it too.

Ironically enough, Hasidic Jews, like those who died in the Mumbai massacre, tend to be bitter critics of Israel, and so, probably of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Subroto Roy, Kolkata

Is my prediction about Caroline Kennedy becoming US Ambassador to Britain going to be correct?

Immediately after the US elections, I made a prediction on November 5 2008 that Ms Caroline Kennedy would become President Obama’s envoy to Britain.

How interesting that Mr Steve Clemons of

The Washington Note has now recommended precisely this at the most venerable, :), Huffington Post.

I am glad that although I left Washington in early 1994 and returned only momentarily in 1997 and 1998,  I am still able to read it a bit.

SR

Dr Rice finally gets it right (and maybe Mrs Clinton will too)

When, or perhaps if,  the full story of the George W Bush Presidency comes to be written, it may be found that Dr Condoleeza Rice’s political connections at Stanford contributed more to the chances of the Texas Governor winning the Republican nomination than has been widely known.   Dr Rice was without a doubt a Republican star at the time  but when she became National Security Adviser, she had the wrong expertise!  She was a USSR expert by training from Cold War days and knew next to nothing about the Middle East.  Now finally, as America’s foreign minister in the dying weeks of the Bush Presidency, she has come into her own as a world diplomat: her intervention following the Mumbai massacres may have yet staved off an Indian military retaliation against Pakistani targets and also induced Pakistan to move slightly towards governance and away from terrorist anarchy.   Learning-on-the-job has been productive for Dr Rice — she and Robert Gates also appear to have staved off a Bush-Cheney attack on Iran.

Would it not be interesting to see her on the top of the 2012 Republican ticket against Barack Obama?

Her successor, Hillary Clinton, may too become a competent American diplomat and have finally found her calling after all — assuming she is able to transcend domestic interest groups and ignore all politically correct nonsense like  “climate change”.

Do President-elect Obama’s Pakistan specialists suppose Maulana Azad, Dr Zakir Hussain, Sheikh Abdullah were Pakistanis (or that Sheikh Mujib wanted to remain one)?

Once upon a time, half a century ago, the son of a Pakistani president married the daughter of an American ambassador to Pakistan and moved to Washington.  That might be as good a time as any from which to mark the start of the grip Pakistan’s military and political/bureaucratic elite have managed to have on the process of defining official American policy towards Pakistan and indeed the subcontinent as a whole.

Four young and   doubtless well-meaning Democratic Party “think tank” analysts have now produced a document Partnership for Progress: Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region (Center for American Progress November 2008) that is the latest edition emerging out of that process.

It is hard to find the most simplistic of the statements contained in the document.  My runner-up candidate would be the recommendations that what should happen in Pakistan now is

“Dismantle militant groups and reduce regional tensions;
Bolster civilian governance;
Strengthen Pakistan’s economy and advance development”.

Bravo!  What else to say?

My winning candidate for naiveté though must be this on page 16:

“Pakistan… sees itself as the political home for the subcontinent’s Muslim population and believes India’s continued control over the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and denial of a plebiscite for its inhabitants represent a lingering desire on India’s part to undo the legacy of partition, which divided the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan.”

Now someone really ought to explain to these soon-to-be-Obama-Administration-Pakistan-specialists that, once upon a  time, there were men named Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr Zakir Hussain and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and many others like them (let aside Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan) who were all not merely devout Muslims but also leaders who had no wish to have any truck with any idea of a “Pakistan”. And furthermore, that some years later there came to be another man named Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and many others like him, who were Pakistanis but who no longer wished to remain so.

How is it possible for  four young scholars from places like the Fletcher School to not know this and yet pretend to expertise on Pakistan or the subcontinent?   Pakistanis and Indians and Bangladeshis who actually live in Pakistan and India and Bangladesh all know this from mother’s knee.  But the powerful Potomac/CFR/Houston etc Pakistan lobby which has heavily influenced if not controlled the discussion of America’s Pakistan-India policy-thinking has hidden away such inconvenient facts, and may have thus misled our young authors entering these woods for the first time. The inevitable result of such repression has been the set of neuroses and psychoses that have beset the US-Pakistan relationship for decades on end and seem likely to continue now under President Obama.

(As for official New Delhi, its own infirmities, like allowing organized business lobbies to define and control India’s relationship with the United States, as well as its delusions of grandeur, causes it too to fail History 101 miserably, which explains the shallow depths that Indian diplomatic discussion manages to reach on the subject.)

What the Center for American Progress has to say expectedly contains contradictions that have been long seen before.  For example, the authors are unable to reconcile their own explicit statements (A) and (B), revealing what a clinical psychologist might follow Gregory Bateson to identify as a classic “double-bind” leading to schizophrenia in the Pakistan-US relationship:

(A) “The United States should continue supporting and working with the Pakistani military despite strains in the relationship. The stakes are too high to walk away from Pakistan’s military establishment. Not only does most of the materiel for the US war effort in Afghanistan go through Pakistan, but the ISI is almost the exclusive source of information about international terrorist attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan.”

(B) “Pakistan’s powerful military establishment has launched four outright coups d’etat in the country’s 60-year history. And through its control of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Pakistan’s premiere intelligence service, the military continues to carry out subtler manipulations of the political system during the periods when it has not held power directly…. The military establishment also has expanded far beyond its national security portfolio, entrenching itself in the Pakistani economy…. .The United States shares some of the blame for imbalance between military and civilian institutions in Pakistan. During the 1960s, 1980s, and since 9/11, the Pakistan military has been richly rewarded by the United States based on its status as a front-line state in the Cold War and then in the war against extremist terrorist networks. The United States has created perverse incentives by richly rewarding the Pakistani military in its promotion of unstable and insecure geopolitical situations on the other side of its borders, and then withdrawing our support if peace and stability return. The Pakistan military, meanwhile, uses the threat of India and the dispute over the Kashmir region to legitimize its leading role in Pakistan’s domestic politics and budget…. Ties between the Pakistani security establishment (or at a minimum individuals within it) and specific militant groups have not been severed. The militants that now form the core of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Army have long-standing connections and shared interests….”

What may be recommended by way of therapy?

For starters, a book created under immense adversity at an American university almost 20 years ago: Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy: Towards an Agenda for the 1990s, Edited and with an Introduction by one William E James and one Subroto Roy.  (Yes, I too once was as young as these authors are now but we   We may have produced a more substantial piece of work.)  A prominent Pakistani author in the book thanked me for creating it because, he said, it was the first time Pakistan had been treated seriously at a Western university, not merely seen as a source of real-estate or manpower for Anglo-American interests.

Besides the book, I would, most immodestly, recommend any fraction of my subsequent publications in the field, listed alphabetically as below and all most easily available at this site.

America’s Pakistan-India Policy
History of Jammu & Kashmir
India and Her Neighbours
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Merchandise Exports
Iqbal & Jinnah vs Rehmat Ali in Pakistan’s Creation
Is Balochistan Doomed?
Justice & Afzal
Lal Masjid ≠ Golden Temple
Law, Justice and J&K
On Hindus and Muslims
Pakistan’s Allies
Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession
Racism New and Old
Saving Pakistan
Separation of Powers: India, the USA, Pakistan
Solving Kashmir: On an Application of Reason
The Greatest Pashtun: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Two cheers for Pakistan
Understanding Pakistan
What To Tell Musharraf

Etc

https://independentindian.com/2011/10/13/my-seventy-one-notes-at-facebook-etc-on-kashmir-pakistan-and-of-course-india-listed-thanks-to-jd/

In such matters, naiveté is too expensive a luxury to indulge in.

Subroto Roy

Postscript:  I had erroneously (and patronisingly) brushed all four authors as “young”; that has now been corrected; I hope it will not distract from the substance of the critique.

Thanks to Hillary for Harriet Tubman quote: “keep going”

I got to Washington from my Hawaii experience in the summer of 1992, and I remained there through 1993, the first year the Clinton couple came.  I am afraid I have never liked the Clinton couple much, for a mixture of objective and subjective reasons. I also think Mrs Clinton’s bid for the Presidency may have been constitutionally barred by the 22nd Amendment as she has been married to a two-term President and may have been considered the same legal person by the authors of the 22nd Amendment.   (Suppose Barack Obama becomes a two-term President; can his wife then run on her own and have him campaign for her?  Before his term ends or even after?)

But I did hear Mrs Clinton’s speech at the Denver convention the other day, and I was grateful to hear her quote the fine words of Harriet Tubman about slaves running to freedom:

“If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they’re shouting after you, keep going.
Don’t ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1913)

That is indeed what the individual must do in face of all tyrannies: keep going.

Subroto Roy

Postscript:  February 10 2009.  I think Mrs Clinton has been very sporting  since her loss to Barack Obama , and that she may become as good a foreign minister for the United States as there has been.  Hence the cancellation of the sentence above.

American Politics: Obama-Clinton Contest Affects the World

American Politics
Contest Between Obama And Clinton Affects The World

by Subroto Roy

First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page Special Article, http://www.thestatesman.net, March 11 2008

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War and protests about it, the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago was marked by bloodshed and rioting. The sitting (Democrat) President, Lyndon Johnson, had taken moral responsibility for the war and declined to run for re-election. His widely-respected Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, was chosen in traditional “smoke-filled rooms” by party elders during the Convention. But the public had witnessed the Convention’s violence, and Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon. In the next election in 1972, Democrats banned party elders from any role and allowed the nominee to emerge solely from state-by-state primary elections. The result was the anti-war candidate George McGovern, who lost 49 out of 50 States to the incumbent Nixon.

Denver Convention

This year’s Democratic Party Convention in Denver in August may be the first to return to “smoke-filled rooms” (figuratively of course, given the absence of public smoking in modern America especially among “politically correct” Democrats). Almost 800 party elders, consisting of senators, congressional representatives, party functionaries etc, known as “superdelegates” may have to break the near dead heat tie among “primary delegates” who have committed to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama after state-by-state elections.

It was not supposed to have been like this. A year ago Mrs Clinton had seemed an unstoppable favourite not only in the Democratic race but the overall Presidential race too, so much so that the incumbent Bush-Cheney Administration was dropping hints it would not mind seeing a new Clinton Administration taking over its foreign wars. (Mrs Clinton’s husband had become a friend of former President GHW Bush, President Bush’s father, in some relatively rare American nepotism at the top.)

Mrs Clinton had been so confident of being confirmed by now she spent her energy trying to show herself one of the boys, who could be Commander-in-Chief of the world’s largest military and who had voted in favour of Bush’s Iraq war. The idea seemed to be she would show herself just as tough as the Republicans and yet because she was female she would win in November 2008 by reminding women of her gender. Her support among middle-aged white women has remained solid and seems unshakeable but her strategy of being the presumptive anointed “pseudo-incumbent” has failed.

Mr Obama, attracting younger better-educated Democrats as well as the crucial set of cross-party independents and floating Republicans, besides African-Americans like himself, has taken ground Mrs Clinton left undefended; she has been painted by him as Republican-Lite, the archetypal Washington-insider, and a war-monger. Mrs Clinton has indeed recorded the largest contributions of any candidate from America’s “military industrial complex” of weapons’ manufacturers.

Mr Obama went into the recent Ohio and Texas primaries having narrowed large leads against him, and though he lost both has retained a lead in the delegate count. Last weekend he won Wyoming and is likely to win Mississippi — states normally remote in the political landscape but which have acquired significance to “momentum” now. It is expected that even after the major state Pennsylvania votes next month (likely in favour of Mrs Clinton) the contest will not end. A joint ticket could become unstoppable and has been hinted at by the Clintons. But Mr Obama has no reason to be an understudy because if he is not himself the Presidential candidate, it may be better to wait for the 2012 contest than be brushed by the Clinton negatives.

Republicans have surprisingly quickly agreed upon Arizona’s elderly senator John McCain as their candidate out of a raucous field. The single anti-war Republican candidate, Ron Paul, fizzled out. Mr McCain, like his main rivals Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, has been overtly jingoistic, strongly backed the Bush wars and has identified “radical Islamic extremism” as an American enemy. Mr McCain was a POW of the North Vietnamese decades ago and underwent torture, something he has not let anyone forget. His remark that America under him may fight “100 years” in Middle East wars, as well as President Bush’s endorsement of him, may put off a country that has been turning against war and is increasingly anxious about macroeconomics and international trade again.

Mr McCain may have to wait to see who emerges from among the Democrats before he announces his Vice-Presidential running-mate. Usual “ticket-balancing” considerations point to a young conservative or a senior woman or black political figure for obvious reasons.

Thus the Democratic Party leadership now unexpectedly finds itself in a crucial role in the next weeks and months. A raucous divisive Convention in August on the 1968 pattern will leave the Republicans gloating. Current controversy has to do with Michigan and Florida; both held unauthorized primaries ahead of time and were punished by the leadership in not being recognized. Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama both agreed not to campaign there. Will Michigan and Florida “delegates” be recognized and “seated” in Denver? Should they be split equally between the two candidates? Should there be a “do-over” primary via the mail in each now that the race has become heated, and if so, who will pay for it?

The crucial question for the Democratic Party is to decide who may defeat Mr McCain. Mr Obama’s youth, race and Muslim middle name Hussein, will undoubtedly be used by the Republicans to attack him. Mrs Clinton carries a lot of baggage from her husband’s time: there was an unpleasant air of sleaze and mendacity during the entire eight years of Bill’s rule in Washington DC and voters will be wary to allow a re-run of the same. (The 22nd Constitutional Amendment forbids more than eight years for any President, and the idea is novel and untested that a First Lady can run on her own to get around that.)

Israel policy
Mrs Clinton’s foreign and military policy will be quite close to Mr McCain’s in its aggressiveness. Mr Obama opposed the Iraq war and is certain to keep playing that trump-card against both. Mr Obama’s foreign policy “weakness” has to do with being perceived by the pro-Israeli lobby as not hardline enough. He has said clearly he is pro-Israel and strongly so and that he found Israel’s own debate “much more open” than the American one. Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain both pass the “Likud test” with flying colours; Mr Obama’s statement that being pro-Israel is not identical with being “pro-Likud” may mean he does not.

The Democratic Party will have to figure out in its decision between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama where America’s voters in November 2008 are swinging on the issue of fighting aggressive wars. The other vital issue will be protectionism in international trade ~ some “superdelegates” have already started to demand pledges about trade-policies to “save American jobs”. The world will be affected by who wins between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama along two important dimensions, viz., whether America will be more likely as a result to (a) launch new wars; (b) become more protectionist in trade.


Irresponsible Governance

Irresponsible Governance

Congress, BJP, Communists, BSP, Sena Etc Reveal Equally Bad Traits

By Subroto Roy

First published in The Statesman, March 4 2008, Editorial Page Special Article, http://www.thestatesman.net

A “black” American, born of a black Kenyan father and white American mother, and having a Muslim middle name Hussein though Christian by faith, may become the freely elected President of the USA in January 2009. He has stood up himself and anyone who knows Western cultures will know how hard it would have been to overcome workplace prejudices. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of America becoming a nation where people “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” might start to be fulfilled.

Can the same be said of modern India, ever? When will Muslims, Dalits, tribals and whomever become well enough integrated with mainstream Hindu societies ~ and vice versa ~ that we have army generals, fighter pilots, submarine commanders, nuclear scientists, media moghuls, top executives, and yes, freely elected Prime Ministers of India from any externally identifiable group without batting an eyelid? The policies followed by the Congress, BJP, Communists, BSP etc., exemplified by Mr Chidambaram’s pandering Budget-Speech last week, suggest that the answer will be never.

Selling illusions

Mr Chidambaram mentioned “Scheduled Caste” six times and “Minority” (meaning “Muslim”) five times in his speech~ if he or the Sonia-Manmohan Government genuinely felt any of the schemes mentioned were in the true interest of these groups, these schemes could have been simply and quietly implemented without fanfare or political advertisement. Making a big deal about them in Parliament during a Budget-Speech precisely reveals the actual underlying cynicism and hypocrisy. The fact may be it is not the schemes themselves that are important but the illusions created and sold about them, illusions that have electoral value because they deceive the purported beneficiaries into thinking that somebody powerful cares about them and controls their well-being.

A quarter-century ago in Pricing, Planning & Politics: A Study of Economic Distortions in India, I applied the arguments of the black American economist Thomas Sowell to the Indian case. I said: “the racial composition of contemporary American society is a complex mosaic, and no-one can say with certainty how it has come to be what it is today. In such circumstances, for the government to try to isolate a single contingent characteristic like “race”, partition society on the basis of census data according to this characteristic, and then construct public policies accordingly, is to introduce an enormous arbitrariness into economic life. By merely defining a group by reference to a single contingent characteristic, which all its members seem to possess, the intrinsic complexity of the individual person is lost or overlooked. Two members of the same race may be very different from each other in every relevant characteristic (income, education, political preference, and so on), and indeed resemble members of other races more closely in them. A policy which introduces a citizen’s race as a relevant factor in the assignment of jobs or college places partitions the citizenry into vague groups: members of groups who are very different from members of other groups in characteristics other than race rarely competing with each other anyway, while the burden and beneficence of the State’s policies fall on members of groups who are not very different from members of other groups in characteristics other than race”.

Sowell himself (in Knowledge and Decisions) put it like this: “costs are borne disproportionately by those members of the general population who meet standards with the least margin and are therefore most likely to be the ones displaced to make room for minority applicants. Those who meet the standards by the widest margin are not directly affected ~ that is, pay no costs. They are hired, admitted or promoted as if blacks did not exist. People from families with the most general ability to pay also have the most ability to pay for the kind of education and training that makes such performance possible. The costs of special standards are paid by those who do not. Among the black population, those most likely to benefit from the lower standards are those closest to meeting the normal standards. It is essentially an implicit transfer of wealth among people least different in non-racial characteristics. For the white population it is a regressively graduated tax in kind, imposed on those who are rising but not on those already on top.’”

What Sowell said about American blacks may well apply to India’s religious and caste minorities today. Problems of tribal India are more subtle requiring more technical sociological and anthropological study.

The Leftist idea common to the Congress, Communists, BSP etc has been to perpetuate dependency of Muslims, Dalits, OBCs etc upon the whims of State power (as wielded by such Leftists themselves). By contrast, the Rightist/Fascistic idea of the BJP, its RSS parent, the Sena etc has been to try to bludgeon Muslims, Dalits and everyone else into submission whereby they must adopt majority customs, habits or political beliefs or (in true Nazi fashion) come to be exiled or banned from mainstream society. Both Left and Right in India have also promoted new government-induced “Sex Wars” between males and females ~ passing laws drastically raising the risk and cost of maintaining marriages and family households, which then simply collapse as has happened elsewhere.

In general, the Congress, BJP, Communists, BSP etc have been united in being wholly incapable of seeing India’s people as individuals in their own right in all the diversity and complexity that entails ~ as free citizens who possess individual rights to belief, property, security, privacy etc. Instead the idea has been to politically categorize people as members of mass-groups that may be then manipulated as puppets using State power in one direction or another. The result has been a general failure in the country to develop the notion of responsible individual citizens (hundreds of millions in number) dealing with responsible public and civic institutions including the State.

Citizens and State

Even in nations that are heirs to a long history of democratic political development, the link often has not been made in the public mind between enjoyment or lack of enjoyment of public services, and costs upon individual citizens from whom resources must be ultimately raised. In a fiscal democracy “those who bear the costs of public services are also the beneficiaries” (JM Buchanan); conversely, those who demand public services must pay for them in real resources one way or another. If citizens feel they receive little or nothing of value from government, there is an obvious loss of incentive to be counted as responsible voting members of the same community, and instead reason to evade taxes or flee the country or cynically believe everything to be corrupt.

On the other hand, if citizens demand public services without expecting to contribute private resources for their production, this amounts to being no more than a wish to be free-riders on the general budget. While Indian citizens have been arbitrarilty partitioned by government according to religion, caste etc., widespread cynicism has prevailed about secular provision of public services by government at any level. At the same time the idea is far from understood that beneficiaries of public services must sooner or later expect to bear real resource-costs one way or another. Everyday politics thus becomes highly irresponsible. Political New Delhi has created such a state of affairs over decades and continues to contribute to it.