Friday, March 14, 2014

Waiting for a deluge

With the US-led international troops set to leave in 2014, the country is once again at the crossroads in its search for peace and stability. Even after the ’s ouster from power and a decade-long war that followed, the spectre of the 1990s is staring at modern Afghanistan. The federal government is now weak, society is fragmented, different militia are rising, the Taliban is strong and international troops are leaving. Will Afghanistan fall back to post-Soviet days?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Deconstructing The War On Terror

Five days after the September 11 attack, the then US President, George W. Bush promised to rid the world of "evil doers". Before two weeks had passed, he said, "our war begins with al-Qaeda but it doesn't end there". Instead, "it will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated". Those words marked the beginning of the 9/11 wars, which saw the United States fighting a protracted battle against "evil" regimes and extremist groups in the Muslim world. Jason Burke, The Guardian's foreign correspondent, writes in his latest book, The 9/11 Wars, that all the major figures in the Bush administration had repeatedly stressed against going for a war against terror on a global scale. They warned that "this new conflict would last a long time". It did, even outliving Bush's presidency. - See more at: 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Winter of Arab discontent

Was it a coup? Some call it an "atypical" coup. Anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters who backed Egyptian military's intervention to remove elected President Mohamed Morsi from power on July 3 term it a "recolution" (a mix of revolution and a coup). Ask John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and he will say the "military did not take over". Call it a coup or some other term, but what happened in Egypt is that it has slipped under another military regime, at least for now. But the roots of the present crisis go back to the Brotherhood's government days. When the Freedom and Justice Party - the political wing of the Brothers - mistook its electoral victories for a mandate for Islamising Egypt even as the economic worries of the country remained unaddressed, it set the stage for the second phase of mass uprisings in the country.

The history and mystery of Pakistan

Pakistan is a nation of contradictions. It's a country created in the name of religion, where the father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wanted to build a liberal democratic state. It started as a democratic country, like India, but soon slipped into military dictatorship, which shaped Pakistan's ideology in the years that followed. It's both a victim and a promoter of religious terrorism. It's a country that proved many wrong in the past but remains the centre of global geopolitical risk assessments. It's not an easy country to understand. Apocalypse Pakistan: An Anatomy of 'the World's Most Dangerous Nation', written by two Italian journalists, Francesca Marino and Beniamino Natale, attempts to do the nearly impossible job of unravelling the mystery that is Pakistan.

Heading due South

"The  is convinced that the developed countries cannot play the role of the engine of Southern growth. The new locomotive forces have to be found within the South itself. South-South co-operation is therefore crucial." Manmohan Singh, then secretary general of the South Commission, said this to a symposium on development at Espoo, Finland, in May 1989.

Dr Singh's statement came at a time when the Atlantic powers, under the leadership of the Group of Seven (G7), were using the debt crisis of the 1980s to remake the global economic order in their favour. The "Third World project" was already in retreat. What was on offer was the structural adjustment programme of the Washington Consensus. "…Intellectuals like Manmohan Singh," writes  in his latest book, , "began to trumpet a new siren: Neoliberalism with Southern Characteristics for domestic policy and South-South Cooperation for international policy. It was not a capitulation to the North, but the creation of a new approach."

The West's sanction for global war

The George Bush administration's inflexibility on Iran was "bombastic diplomacy" that "wasted energy and hardened the lines". Under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran had "a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in the purpose". If you thought these words came from some left-leaning critics of the Bush foreign policy, think again. Senator John Kerry, now US secretary of state, expressed these views in 2009 when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If these views were to become the US policy propounded by Secretary of State Kerry in 2013, write  and  in their book, , "the prospects for a settlement with Iran on the nuclear issue would be excellent". If not, which is most likely, the authors have no doubt that "the outlook for the world is grim".

On a wing and a Predator

In Minority Report, the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie, the job of PreCrime, a specialised police department, is not to hunt down current criminals but to track down future criminals. The movie is set in the year 2054, apparently because the Spielberg crew might have thought such police operations were a distant reality. Perhaps the Academy Award-winning director could read journalist Jeremy Scahill's latest book,which says the pre-crime hunt is already here, though in the name of the war on terror.