Book Review: Terror and Consent
By Phillip Bobbit
Terror and Consent by Professor Phillip Bobbit is a 2008 account of the market states (post Westphalian borderless states led by seamless market economies offering more choices) preparing to fight the scourge of terrorism perpetuated by “Al Qaeda” (a name he choses to define Islamist terror networks). This dense book traverses the history of warfare since the treaty of Westphalia and flags the current phase as one in which the market states have to transcend the conventional means of war fighting and homeland security to meet the challenges of hybrid wars unleashed upon the world by non government terror net works as also state sponsored terror. These are enemy of this newly emerging market-based system, and the main focus of this book, are (naturally) terrorists. Terrorists, Bobbitt claims, fight us because they hate the choices provided to us by this emerging market-world.
The book is West focused and Bobbit, acknowledging the dangers of terror in a post 9/11 America, has strong prescriptions for a western alliance, complete with international laws to tackle this menace. He believes that the war against terror is real; that civil liberties assume a new dimension to win it; that it must all the same be fought within the rules of law; and that the United States cannot win it alone.
To refine his argument, Bobbitt introduces a distinction. Both the market-states and the nation-states of the West are democratic; they are “states of consent,” in which the rule of law exists to uphold individual liberty and rights. The “terror” modules (both state and non state) aim to replace this consent-based order with a “state of terror.” That is the main argument of the book as it seeks to find prescriptions for the market states to contest the “states of terror”.
As per Bobbit, today’s terror networks are largely considered “Islamist” – an idea which, through political Islam, aspires to fight the “kafirs” (infidels). The Arab Spring has revolutionised the idea of “Islamic Ascendency” where secular Arab and African muslim states are fighting the west towards establishment of an Islamic “Caliphate”. The fissures with in various forms of Islam such as Shia- Sunni divide and the various sects has accentuated the situation where violence to achieve political objectives has become the norm. The current struggle in Syria flags this issue. The Islamist ascendancy, as noted with rise of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is likely to change the muslim world. The war in Af Pak and the recent strangulation of Iran against a nuclear regime indicate the hardline taken by the state and non state Islamist organisations in their fight against the infidels.
The West has, though unwittingly, resulted in fueling the forces of political Islam, which lay dormant for centuries. If the war on Iraq was and is justified, so is the ideological war waged by Islamists against the west. It is this dichotomy which Bobbit fails to sense in its totality. The Iran and Syrian imbroglio with support of China and Russia enunciate a new world order where the West and the Rest have ganged up with various Islamist forces in a long drawn battle with terror being the ultimate tool of the weak.
When Bobbit prescribes strong laws to fight the amorphous terror modules including those aspiring weapons of mass destruction, the prescriptions falls into the realm of international relations and agencies such as United Nations taking stern steps against such initiatives. However, the current mechanism is weak and fragile as indicated by vetos on Syria and support to Iran. Building international consensus thus to formulate globally acceptable laws is not going to come around too soon. US re-balancing to Asia-Pacific and its proposed withdrawal from Af Pak shall further embolden the Middle East and Africa based “Al Qaeda” which see this as a political victory.
What Bobbit has not emphasised upon is that most of the Muslims of the world reside in South Asia. Pakistan, the “epicentre of terror” remains an uneasy partner of US in the so-called “war on terror”. The discovery of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan was a call to arms to take the state down for spreading terror globally. But the realities of fatigue in Af Pak have forced US to unilaterally withdraw leaving behind a world of chaos which would soon reach the American doorsteps. Bobbit did not have the insights, I have while writing this review, that American policy of “War on Terror” has in fact destabilised America more than any other country or people. It has helped these amorphous networks to strengthen their war against US. It has altered the definition of homeland security and brought about a new coinage “hybrid wars” – a strategy of the weak to bleed the conventionally superior foe.
Today, conflict is democratized, not in the sense of bicameral legislatures but strategic influence in the hands of non-state actors empowered by falling barriers to information acquisition, packaging and dissemination as well as easy access to the means of destruction and disruption, physical and virtual. Pakistan leads the world as master of such styles of warfare – using terrorists as strategic hedge to achieve their objectives. Pakistan has perfected the art over the years. Their cadres are in stiff competition with Hezbollah and they have given al Qaeda a boost in spreading terror from their territory.
What does this mean? The western notion of “state of consent” (democracy) is messy and yet we continue to formulate, plan, and execute engagement using “regular” and “homogeneous” bureaucracies and budgets. Today’s threats are increasingly complex and rarely conforming to neat lines of authorities and responsibilities across, or within, government agencies, most of which were designed in and for previous eras. The security apparatus is archaic, inefficient and unresponsive to the changing needs within the context of “Whole of Government” approach to tackle these irregular threats.
Precisely because of the nature of the border less market-state, as well as the actions of rogue nation-states, the key components and knowledge are very close to being available to them — witness the nuclear Wal-Mart run in Pakistan by A. Q. Khan. With such weapons, the terrorists will be able to unleash a super-9/11, with scarcely imaginable human and psychological costs.
The task Bobbit has set himself here is to challenge nearly all our existing ideas about the so-called war(s) on terror , in the belief that only a root-and-branch rethinking will equip US to deal with the problems posed by “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, mass terrorist atrocities and humanitarian crises that bring about or are brought about by terror.”
The world of Bobbit in 2008 was a lot different from the one we are witnessing today. The events in the Islamic landscape of the world call for greater insights in dealing with the terror emanating out of the tunnels of Islamic against the market states. It definitely requires better international cooperation on laws, seamless and vibrant response mechanism and militaries capable of fighting hybrid wars.
Again, as a parting shot, Bobbit would have done better by not clubbing all terrorist organisations under the banner of “Al Qaeda” – it only gives them greater synergy in beating the market states of the west. Reviewers argue that terms like ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘Islamist terrorism,’ ‘Jihadism’ and ‘Islamofascism’ succeed only in conflating terrorism with mainstream Islam, thereby casting all Muslims as terrorists or potential terrorists.”
John Rubb, the author of Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, sums up this deficiency in the book when he argues that:
A more complex and realistic view of terrorism is to approach it as illegal warfare directed against civilians. This warfare also has more complex objectives that merely limiting choices through the production of terror. In many cases, it advances the groups that conduct it economically, socially, etc. (usually at the expense of state competitors). For example: Nigeria’s MEND, Brazil’s PCC, Mexico’s Cartels/Zetas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Colombia’s FARC, Peru’s Sendero Luminoso and most of the groups in Iraq/Afghanistan (who advance through smuggling/corruption/etc.). Unfortunately, Bobbitt didn’t deviate from the simplistic view of terrorism and his book suffers mightily from the result.
The book is a must read for all practitioners of state craft.
By Neil Sheehan,
In the prologue to Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book on the war in Afghanistan, a young Marine corporal approaches a State Department political adviser who is visiting his outpost. “Sir, I just hope this all adds up,” the corporal says, “All of my friends are getting hurt over here.” The corporal receives no answer, but by the conclusion of “Little America,” the reader does. The corporal’s friends will have been killed or wounded in vain.
Americans are a historyless people. We are constantly being told by wishfully thinking leaders that history does not apply to us, that we are its “exception.” Unfortunately, we are not, which is why it bears repeating that what the Obama administration is attempting to do in Afghanistan bears a striking resemblance to what the United States attempted in Vietnam. Nguyen Van Thieu, our man in Saigon, headed a coterie of fellow generals, politicians and their greedy wives who excelled at thievery and bequeathed us one of the fundamental lessons of the Vietnam War, that one cannot build upon the quicksand of corruption a sound government and army that will stand up to its opponent. When the moment of truth came in 1975, after the United States had pulled out its combat forces and the North Vietnamese army launched another offensive, the Saigon regime simply collapsed, its well-equipped troops abandoning their weapons and fleeing so fast that the opposition had difficulty catching up to them.
The United States made remarkable progress in part of southern Afghanistan with the deployment of thousands of Marines. But was it worth it?
Now it is the turn of our man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai. To keep him there 2,020 Americans and more than 1,000 British and NATO service membershave died, andthe cost of the war has exceeded $450 billion. Chandrasekaran, who is a senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post, draws vivid sketches of how Karzai and his family and their allies operate as a gang of looters, frustrating every attempt to create an honest government that could confront their Taliban enemy.
Alexander the Great built stone fortresses in Afghanistan, but he did not tame the Afghans. No one ever has. They are a fractious people, as riven by ethnic and clan rivalries as their land is by its mountains, as renowned for bravery in battle as they are for treachery in their dealings with one another and outsiders. They have never known a genuine central government. Chandrasekaran writes that the authority of the last Afghan king,Mohammed Zahir Shah, who was overthrown in 1973, did not extend in any meaningful way much beyond the environs of Kabul. And across the border lies an equally treacherous Pakistan, which has accepted about $1.5 billion annually in U.S. military aid and reimbursements since 2002 while giving sanctuary to the Taliban and shelter to the late and unlamented Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders.
The one senior figure in the Obama administration who perceived the futility of attempting to prevail with military forcein these circumstances, Chandrasekaran tells us, was the late Richard C. Holbrooke,who died of a torn aorta in December 2010. Holbrooke was the most talented and effective diplomat of his generation. His greatest accomplishment came in 1995, when he ended the bloodshed in Bosnia (where inter-communal strife had killed about 100,000 people) by browbeating Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and his Croatian and Muslim rivals into accepting theDayton Peace Agreement.
”Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan” by Ahmed Rashid
What are the possibilities-and hazards-facing America as it withdraws from Afghanistan and as it reviews its long engagement in Pakistan? Where is the Taliban now in both these countries? What does the immediate future hold and what are America’s choices as President Obama considers our complicated history and faces reelection?
These are some of the crucial questions that Ahmed Rashid- Pakistan’s preeminent journalist-takes on in this follow-up to his acclaimed Descent into Chaos. Rashid correctly predicted that the Iraq war would have to be refocused into Afghanistan and that Pakistan would emerge as the leading player through which American interests and actions would have to be directed. Now, as Washington and the rest of the West wrestle with negotiating with unreliable and unstable “allies” in Pakistan, there is no better guide to the dark future than Ahmed Rashid.
He focuses on the long-term problems-the changing casts of characters, the future of international terrorism, and the actual policies and strategies both within Pakistan and Afghanistan and among the Western allies-as the world tries to bring some stability to a fractured region saddled with a legacy of violence and corruption. The decisions made by America and the West will affect the security and safety of the world. And as he has done so well in the past, Rashid offers sensible solutions and provides a way forward for all three countries.
Review by Bruce Reidel as Published in WP
Much of the growing enmity between the two countries can be traced to the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden — and that’s where Rashid begins his tale. It did not enhance trust for the United States to discover that the al-Qaeda leader was hiding less than a mile from Pakistan’s premier military academy and had been there running his global terror network for at least five years. According to The Washington Post’s reporting on the material found in his hideout, he was in regular communication with other jihadists, including the Afghan Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. His hideout had been built by a contracting firm often used by the ISI.
Rashid argues that there is a complex syndicate of jihadi terrorists operating today in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda gets the most attention in the United States, but it is a relatively small organization in a much larger network. Lashkar-i-Taiba, the militant Islamist terror group that attacked Mumbai in 2008, for example, has a much bigger and very overt presence in Pakistan. It routinely holds large demonstrations in Pakistan’s cities that attract tens of thousands of supporters.
Its leader, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, openly mourned bin Laden’s death last May and called for revenge on America. He and bin Laden had been close partners in terror stretching back to the 1980s, when the Saudi helped fund the creation of Lashkar-i-Taiba. The two men were in communication until the SEALs killed bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad, according to the materials found there.
So while al-Qaeda may be on the defensive thanks to U.S. drones and Navy SEALs, Rashid writes that its much larger allies are thriving and widening the terrain for its operations.
Pakistan is the epicenter of this jihadist syndicate, and Rashid does a great job of describing how the Pakistani army and the ISI helped build this Frankenstein’s monster over the past four decades. As he notes, the obsession of Pakistani generals with India has been the driving force behind this creation, which is increasingly out of control. But as he establishes, the army has not changed its fundamental approach of supporting jihad. We now know that the Mumbai plot, for example, was led by Lashkar-i-Taiba but funded by the ISI and inspired by al-Qaeda. The Pakistani American who helped plan the attack,David Headley, has confessed in court to how this deadly cocktail was put together.
Rashid’s focus is on how the United States has tried to defeat jihadist extremists and work with Pakistan to build stability in South Asia. President Obama embarked on a strategic engagement with Pakistan when he entered the Oval Office just months after the Mumbai massacre. There was also a new elected civilian government in Islamabad led by Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in an al-Qaeda plot abetted by the ISI in 2007. Zardari promised to put an end to Pakistan’s policy of taking both sides in the war on terror and to go after the jihadists.As Rashid eloquently describes, it has not turned out that way. Zardari has never had any control of the ISI. He was clueless about bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad and out of the loop on Mumbai. The generals want to get rid of him, but he is holding on to his office in spite of their plots.
Tension has always existed between Obama’s engagement strategy and the unilateral U.S. strikes on the al-Qaeda infrastructure in Pakistan. U.S. drones that violate Pakistani sovereignty every day have created a backlash in the country, and Pakistani enmity reached a crescendo after American commandos found bin Laden. Polls show that three out of four Pakistanis opposed the raid. Pakistanis see the United States as an arrogant superpower that views their country as a killing field. Americans see Pakistan as duplicitous and dangerous. Both are right.
Rashid also highlights the strains within Obama’s camp and the infighting among his lieutenants. Dealing with Pakistan was always going to be tough, and internal bickering has made it all the harder. Rashid argues that Obama and his team bear the majority of blame for the deterioration in Pakistan because of their failure to work together, lack of clarity and contradictory statements. Much of the friction arose around the late envoyRichard Holbrooke, who Rashid says was “hated” and “snubbed” by the White House.But he overstates the impact of the inner White House tensions. Pakistan’s problems are mostly a result of Pakistani machinations and conspiracies. The United States has often made the situation worse by backing generals over civilians, but as long as Pakistanis blame someone else for their troubles, their country will only go further toward the brink.Obama was planning to visit Pakistan in 2011; instead, it was the year the U.S.-Pakistan relationship fell apart. The collapse occurred for many reasons, but the deadliest blow was the realization that high-value target No. 1, bin Laden, was not holed up in a cave but in a villa near a military academy, operating as the chief executive of a global terror empire. Until we know who was helping him hide in the heart of the Pakistani national security system, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship will only deteriorate further.
Bruce Riedel , who recently retired after 30 years with the CIA in South Asia and the Middle East, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad.”
Why Nations Fail
Published: March 31, 2012
I’M reading a fascinating new book called “Why Nations Fail.” The more you read it, the more you appreciate what a fool’s errand we’re on in Afghanistan and how much we need to totally revamp our whole foreign aid strategy. But most intriguing are the warning flares the authors put up about both America and China.
Co-authored by the M.I.T. economist Daron Acemoglu and the Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson, “Why Nations Fail” argues that the key differentiator between countries is “institutions.” Nations thrive when they develop “inclusive” political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.
“Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few,” they write.
“Inclusive economic institutions, are in turn supported by, and support, inclusive political institutions,” which “distribute political power widely in a pluralistic manner and are able to achieve some amount of political centralization so as to establish law and order, the foundations of secure property rights, and an inclusive market economy.” Conversely, extractive political institutions that concentrate power in the hands of a few reinforce extractive economic institutions to hold power.
Acemoglu explained in an interview that their core point is that countries thrive when they build political and economic institutions that “unleash,” empower and protect the full potential of each citizen to innovate, invest and develop. Compare how well Eastern Europe has done since the fall of communism with post-Soviet states like Georgia or Uzbekistan, or Israel versus the Arab states, or Kurdistan versus the rest of Iraq. It’s all in the institutions.
The lesson of history, the authors argue, is that you can’t get your economics right if you don’t get your politics right, which is why they don’t buy the notion that China has found the magic formula for combining political control and economic growth.
“Our analysis,” says Acemoglu, “is that China is experiencing growth under extractive institutions — under the authoritarian grip of the Communist Party, which has been able to monopolize power and mobilize resources at a scale that has allowed for a burst of economic growth starting from a very low base,” but it’s not sustainable because it doesn’t foster the degree of “creative destruction” that is so vital for innovation and higher incomes.
“Sustained economic growth requires innovation,” the authors write, “and innovation cannot be decoupled from creative destruction, which replaces the old with the new in the economic realm and also destabilizes established power relations in politics.”
“Unless China makes the transition to an economy based on creative destruction, its growth will not last,” argues Acemoglu. But can you imagine a 20-year-old college dropout in China being allowed to start a company that challenges a whole sector of state-owned Chinese companies funded by state-owned banks? he asks.
The post-9/11 view that what ailed the Arab world and Afghanistan was a lack of democracy was not wrong, said Acemoglu. What was wrong was thinking that we could easily export it. Democratic change, to be sustainable, has to emerge from grassroots movements, “but that does not mean there is nothing we can do,” he adds.
For instance, we should be transitioning away from military aid to regimes like Egypt and focusing instead on enabling more sectors of that society to have a say in politics. Right now, I’d argue, our foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan is really a ransom we pay their elites not to engage in bad behavior. We need to turn it into bait.
Acemoglu suggests that instead of giving Cairo another $1.3 billion in military aid that only reinforces part of the elite, we should insist that Egypt establish a committee representing all sectors of its society that would tell us which institutions — schools, hospitals — they want foreign aid to go to, and have to develop appropriate proposals.
If we’re going to give money, “let’s use it to force them to open up the table and to strengthen the grass-roots,” says Acemoglu.
We can only be a force multiplier. Where you have grass-roots movements that want to build inclusive institutions, we can enhance them. But we can’t create or substitute for them. Worse, in Afghanistan and many Arab states, our policies have often discouraged grass-roots from emerging by our siding with convenient strongmen. So there’s nothing to multiply. If you multiply zero by 100, you still get zero.
And America? Acemoglu worries that our huge growth in economic inequality is undermining the inclusiveness of America’s institutions, too. “The real problem is that economic inequality, when it becomes this large, translates into political inequality.” When one person can write a check to finance your whole campaign, how inclusive will you be as an elected official to listen to competing voices?
By IAN MORRIS Reviewed by ORVILLE SCHELL
A Stanford historian views the clash between East and West from a long perspective, and argues that we face an immediate choice – East-West cooperation or catastrophe.
If neither East nor West has had any innate developmental advantage, what then allowed the West to propel itself forward so successfully in the 18th century (answer: the discovery of fossil fuels), and what does that dominance portend for the future? “One of the reasons people care about why the West rules,” Morris explains, “is that they want to know whether, how long and in what ways this will continue — that is, what will happen next. . . . How long the West will stay on top is a burning question.”
But before you get to the answer, you must be ready to steel yourself for Morris’s early chapters, which nonspecialists will no doubt find arcane. His discussions of primitive man’s common African gene pool; of how the “Hilly Flanks” in the Middle East developed after the Ice Age; and of China’s ancient Zhou dynasty can seem awfully remote. And as he visits ancient places like Urartu, Erlitou, Tenochtitlán, Uluburun and Yue; introduces us to individuals like Hoshea, Tiglath-Pileser III, Khusrau II, Merneptah and Zhu Xi; or sets us down among the Ahhiyawans, Xiongnu, Kizzuwatnans, Hurrians and Jurchens, your head may begin to spin.
However, just as you begin to wobble beneath the breadth of such impressive research, Morris will pull back and give a brief coda of down-to-earth clarification, rescuing those readers with the will to soldier on through a few more millenniums. Or he will drop in a welcome wry aside to goad you down the trail of history. Commenting on the Ming dynasty explorer Zheng He, he notes that Zheng “was enlisted in the emperor’s service and castrated,” but nonetheless “seems to have taken all this in his enormous stride.” Or, on the discovery of the Americas, he observes, “Europe got a new continent and Native Americans got smallpox.”
But with the West’s power and confidence now declining, and China’s authoritarian form of capitalism ripsawing its way toward an ever more dominant position in the world, a reader may be forgiven for becoming somewhat impatient. Is Morris ever going to answer the “burning question”? Who will win the next phase of our East-West horse race, the United States or China?
Finally, Morris surprises us. He duly acknowledges that “patterns established in the past suggest that the shift of wealth and power from West to East is inexorable” and that we may even be moving from “bankrupt America to thriving China.” But what really concerns him, it turns out, is not whether the West may be bested by the East, but whether mankind’s Promethean collective developmental abilities may not end up being our common undoing.
The competition that East and West have been pursuing for so long, Morris warns, is about to be disrupted by some powerful forces. Nuclear proliferation, population growth, global epidemics and climate change are in the process of radically altering old historical patterns. “We are approaching the greatest discontinuity in history,” he says.
Sounding suddenly more like an admonishing preacher than the amiable sportscaster to whom we have grown accustomed, Morris counsels that we now need to concentrate not on the old competition between East and West, but on a choice. We must decide between what Morris, borrowing from the writer Ray Kurzweil, terms “the Singularity,” salvation through the expansion of our collective technological abilities, and “Nightfall,” an apocalypse from the old Five Horsemen aided by their new accomplices. He warns that this choice offers “no silver medal.” One alternative “will win and one will lose.” We are, he insists, “approaching a new hard ceiling” and are facing a completely new kind of collective historical turning point.
For the Singularity to win out, “everything has to go right,” Morris says. “For Nightfall to win only one thing needs to go wrong. The odds look bad.”
Because distinctions of geography are becoming increasingly irrelevant, Morris views the old saw that “East is East and West is West” as a catastrophic way of looking at our present situation. Like it or not, East and West are now in a common mess, and “the next 40 years will be the most important in history.”
Although he implies it everywhere, Morris does not explicitly call for the United States and China to find new ways to collaborate. There may be no other solution. But will the leaders of these two unpredictable countries be able to rise to the unprecedented challenge they face? Not even Morris’s polymathic research abilities and pathbreaking analytic skills can help us answer that . . . for now.
Arvind Subramaniam says….
The one neglect of India and Indian history that did seem odd even to someone with only a superficial knowledge of Indian history related to Morris’ discussion of the so-called Axial Age. This term, used by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers, describes the centuries around 500 BCE, when a new and revolutionary view of man arose. This view advocated that men turn within, focusing on themselves rather than on gods or on despotic rulers (which was distinctive of the preceding times) as the means to salvation.
Now, Morris’ list of the key contributions of this Axial Age includes Confucian and Daoist texts from China, Greek Philosophy, the Hebrew Bible, and Buddhism and Jainism from India. The only real export from India that is said to have wider impact, according to Morris, is Buddhism. The obvious omission here seems to be some of the older Upanishads — the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya — which are thought to be clearly pre-Buddhist in origin and which represent no less radical a break with the past than those that feature on Morris’ list. Is Morris’ inattention to these texts justified? And was India’s economic development commensurate with such intellectual achievement at that point in time? Again, these are questions worthy of inputs from Indian scholars.
Why the West Rules will give pause for India in one important respect. There is a cottage industry of writings on the “will-it-be-China-or-India” question and I do not want to rehearse well-trodden arguments. But if Morris’ view that China was consistently ahead of India in the past is correct, it carries the implication that the economic future is better for China.
The reason relates to two historical correlations noted by him: regions that were relatively more developed in the past tend to industrialise and develop faster than those which were less developed; and countries that avoided European colonisation also tended to industrialise faster than the colonised. Japan was developed in the past (before 1800 or so) and not colonised; China was highly developed in the past and only partly and intermittently colonised; and India was both less developed and colonised. Looking ahead, therefore, India’s prospects may be bright but China’s are brighter still.
Now, there is nothing deterministic about any of the patterns identified by Morris. But it would be imprudent to ignore them altogether. India can no doubt rule in the future but that might require it to defy to some extent, rather than return to, the patterns of history. At least, it should guard against the complacency on India’s relative prospects that is reflected in three routine invocations: “India is a democracy”, “India has the demographic dividend going for it while China is ageing”, and “India has a better, more dynamic private sector”.
Economic growth might not be a zero-sum game so that there is enough room in the world to accommodate the rise of China and India. If so, discussions of the relative prospects of China and India are unnecessary and meaningless. But for India to keep its eyes fixed on China is no bad thing if not as a rival and threat, then as a partner for expanding mutual economic possibilities, as an inspiration, and not least, as setting a floor on India’s ambitions.
The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development
Tim Wu’s ambitious history of modern communications posits that information technologies move through a cycle from open to closed systems.
The story covers the history of phones, radio, television, movies and, finally, the Internet. All of these businesses are susceptible to the cycle because all depend on networks, whether they’re composed of cables in the ground or movie theaters around the country. Once a company starts building such a network or gaining control over one, it begins slouching toward monopoly. If the government is not already deeply involved in the business by then (and it usually is), it soon will be.
Wu argues that it has little choice. Not only are communications businesses particularly prone to consolidation, but the political effects are far greater than they would be in other industries. The book’s title comes from a line by Fred Friendly, the longtime CBS News executive, in which he distinguished between free-speech laws and “exclusive custody of the master switch.” They are two different things, but either has the ability to shape the flow of information. The same cannot be said, Wu notes, “of orange juice, heating oil, running shoes or dozens of other industries, no matter their size.”
Today may seem an odd time to be making this argument, given the online flowering of discourse, civil and otherwise. But Wu makes a good case that the Internet is vulnerable to the cycle. The world’s computer network is ultimately a physical entity, onto which other forms of communication — film, telephone, television, radio — are starting to migrate. This is what media executives mean by “convergence.” It seems likely to help big companies get even bigger, and arguably offers the potential for even tighter control of information than existed in the past.
Wu’s candidates for the AT&T of the future are Comcast (if its takeover of NBC-Universal succeeds), Google (if it decides to abandon its tradition of openness and instead tries to eliminate rivals) and some combination of AT&T itself and Apple. But he ponders this only briefly and acknowledges that it is too early to know. His most thought-provoking argument about the future may actually be the past.
Robert D. Kaplan examines the Indian Ocean, where the interests of America, China and India are starting to intersect.
Indian Ocean The New Tea Cup
Maps often reveal more about those who draw them than they do about the reality they purport to represent. The Mercator projections that typically hang on the walls of classrooms and Pentagon offices place the United States
in the middle, separated from Europe to the east by the Atlantic Ocean
and from Asia to the west by the vast expanse of the Pacific. Our preference for this perspective no doubt reflects a certain national egocentrism, but for the better part of the last two centuries it has also made a good deal of strategic sense.
Through much of the 19th century these oceanic moats made possible what the historian C. Vann Woodward called an era of “free security.” As it grew stronger and stepped onto the world stage, the United States projected its power primarily toward Europe and East Asia. Over the course of the 20th century, Americans waged wars, hot and cold, to prevent these vital regions from falling under the dominion of hostile forces.
Whatever purpose they may once have served, yesterday’s maps have now outlived their usefulness. Since the end of the cold war, and with increased speed and intensity since 9/11, our focus has shifted toward the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as toward the waters of the western Pacific. In “Monsoon,” Robert D. Kaplan argues that we need fresh ways of seeing the world, and especially these parts of it that, despite being split in two by the old projections, are actually integral elements in a single coherent whole.
Kaplan’s goal is to provide his countrymen with just such a map, one centered on what he calls “the Greater Indian Ocean.” This is a region that stretches “eastward from the Horn of Africa past the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau and the Indian subcontinent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond.” Thanks to monsoon winds that shift direction at regular six-month intervals the waters connecting these far-flung shores have long been readily navigable, even by relatively primitive sailing vessels. Linked first by Muslim merchants, the Greater Indian Ocean was later dominated by Portugal, then by the British and most recently by the United States.
Perhaps. What seems more plausible at this point is that the competitive impulses Kaplan so accurately assesses will grow stronger. If that is what happens, then the United States and India are very likely to find themselves working harder and more closely in the years ahead to balance China’s growing power.
Read this story for a perspective on India’s options and perspectives of the West. Biased but interesting – wish RAW could do what he says!
by Zachary Karabell, latimes.com:
Fuller never makes a convincing case that contemporary conflicts could have been just as acute had Islam never existed, and at times the precise point of his digressions is lost. The analysis of Islam in India and tensions between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs is informative about the degree to which culture and context shaped conflict, but it isn’t clear how that adds to his overall argument that Islam is incidental. The other main contribution is to illustrate the degree to which the legacy of Western control and empire shape contemporary attitudes toward religion and terrorism in the Muslim world.
The book says U.S. President Barack Obama‘s top advisers have had stronger disagreements on the Afghan war strategy than previously acknowledged. Some high-ranking officials are said to have questioned whether the plan will succeed.
Bob Woodward, an associate editor at the Washington Post, interviewed President Obama and his advisers about the process of deciding on a policy for the Afghan war.
Kaplan’s take on the book
Even more than his four-volume Bush at War series, Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, out this week, has so much inside detail, so many accounts of behind-closed-doors conversations (laced with quotation marks, as if they were verbatim), that one sometimes wonders if Woodward wired a source before he went into a Cabinet Room meeting and retrieved the tape afterward. But this time out, beneath the usual he-said-then-he-said (then-he-said), lurks a saga of tragedy: about the snares and illusions of the war in Afghanistan, the corruption of war generally, and the jangle of motives—the convergence and clash of bureaucratic interest, personal ambition, and earnest strategic analysis—that led Barack Obama to escalate an armed struggle that he didn’t begin and that he knew was fraught with great risk all along. Read his review here
The excerpts say Mr. Obama was calling for an exit strategy in Afghanistan, with no long-term nation-building. They say military leaders only offered plans for deploying larger numbers of U.S. troops.
The U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, was quoted as saying the strategy would not work.
The excerpted accounts also detail deep personal differences between some administration officials.
“I think that the book portrays a thoughtful, vigorous policy process that led us to a strategy to get the best chance of achieving our objectives and goals in Afghanistan,” said Robert Gibbs. ”I cannot imagine that any option that the president looked at would not have engendered some debate,” he said. “That is the nature of this process. The process was, over the course of 12 or 13 meetings, a pretty public one.”
According to the Washington Post, the book also reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has a 3,000-member paramilitary army consisting mostly of Afghans. U.S. officials Wednesday confirmed the existence of that force.
The Associated Press quotes a spokesman for Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai as denying an allegation in another excerpt that the Afghan leader has been diagnosed with manic depression.
A review in NYT is here
A sequel to The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. A profound study of the intutive mind.
The law of attraction states that whatever you experience in life is a direct result of your thoughts. It really is that simple. If you think about being fat, you will get fatter. If you think about thin people, you will become thin yourself. If you think about your bills, you will get more bills, but if you think about checks instead, your mailbox will overflow with them. According to “The Secret” and “The Power,” your thoughts and feelings have magnetic properties and “frequencies.” They “vibrate” and resonate with the “universe,” somehow attracting events that share those frequencies back to their thinker.
Review by By Dr. Amy Zalman
The inside cover promise to “unveil the workings of a ‘storytelling machine’ more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell,” was incentive enough for me to pick up and start reading the recent English translation of French writer Christian Salmon’s Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind. Even more compelling for this reader: the ‘storytelling machine’ in question is one that I have been working in for the last five years, as a proponent of the use of narrative as a tool of influence in U.S. strategic communication.
Arming without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization
and , Brookings Institution Press 2010 c. 223pp.
India’s growing affluence has led experts to predict a major rearmament effort. The second-most populous nation in the world is beginning to wield the economic power expected of such a behemoth. Its border with Pakistan is a tinderbox, the subcontinent remains vulnerable to religious extremism, and a military rivalry between India and China could erupt in the future. India has long had the motivation for modernizing its military—it now has the resources as well. What should we expect to see in the future, and what will be the likely ramifications? In Arming without Aiming, Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta answer those crucial questions.India’s armed forces want new weapons worth more than $100 billion. But most of these weapons must come from foreign suppliers due to the failures of India’s indigenous research and development. Weapons suppliers from other nations are queuing up in New Delhi. A long relationship between India and Russian manufacturers goes back to the cold war. More recently, India and Israel have developed strong military trade ties. Now, a new military relationship with the United States has generated the greatest hope for military transformation in India.
Against this backdrop of new affluence and newfound access to foreign military technology, Cohen and Dasgupta investigate India’s military modernization to find haphazard military change that lacks political direction, suffers from balkanization of military organization and doctrine, remains limited by narrow prospective planning, and is driven by the pursuit of technology free from military-strategic objectives. The character of military change in India, especially the dysfunction in the political-military establishment with regard to procurement, is ultimately the result of a historical doctrine of strategic restraint in place since Nehru. In that context, its approach of arming without strategic purpose remains viable as India seeks great-power accommodation of its rise and does not want to look threatening. The danger lies in its modernization efforts precipitating a period of strategic assertion or contributing to misperception of India’s intentions by Pakistan and China, its two most immediate rivals.
Advance Praise for Arming without Aiming:
“Much has been made of the emergence of India on the global stage. In Arming without Aiming, Cohen and Dasgupta provide an expert assessment of what India’s rise means for its unevenly modernizing military, which is destined to become the third largest in the world. Anyone with an interest in the growing rivalry between India and China, or in the impact that a stronger, although still extraordinarily outdated, Indian military will mean for U.S.-India ties, should read this. This is an important book on an important subject, which is likely to remain unparalleled for many years.”
—Edward Luce, Washington bureau chief, Financial Times
“India’s rise to power will remain incomplete until it acquires, and develops, the capacity to effectively utilize the full panoply of military power. Although India has made impressive strides in this direction in recent years, Stephen Cohen’s and Sunil Dasgupta’s Arming without Aiming demonstrates how much still needs to be done. This cautionary tale will be required reading for all those concerned about Indian defense policy and military modernization.”
—Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“The book is an empathetic, objective, and comprehensive narration and analysis of the evolution of Indian defense policy and management. The Indian strategic establishment is groping to find ways and means of safeguarding its progress toward becoming a twenty-first-century knowledge power in an international community still dominated by strategic thought from the World War II era. Steve Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta have brought into bold relief this somewhat inchoate and as yet not fully formulated effort. This will be a required reading for all senior service officers, civil servants, politicians, and academics engaged in Indian security.”
—K. Subrahmanyam, Indian defense expert