talked to my friend Muazzam Gill, editor of the National Educator
magazine. He was born and raised as a Christian in Pakistan, held
responsible news posts but quietly (and legally) left the country
as it became increasingly obvious that the future for non-Muslims
in the country didn't look especially promising.
relatively recent seeds of the conflict were sown in 1947, when
predominantly Muslim Pakistan declared independence from India as
the British were relinquishing colonial rule. A bitter and bloody
war followed, which left Pakistan separate from India and Kashmir
as a disputed buffer between the two countries. Pakistan and India
have fought two wars since then and relations are perpetually tense.
"you have to remember," said Muazzam, "that most
Muslims on the subcontinent remember that Muslims ruled virtually
all of India for 800 years [these were the Mogul rulers] and still
think they did a better job than the current government does. Meantime,
most Hindi in India still bitterly resent the creation of Pakistan,
believe the subcontinent should be united and think many of the
current troubles can be blamed correctly or not, it's the perception
that matters on the division. So it doesn't take much for these
resentments to flare into conflict."
both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, developed at least
to the degree that they have been tested successfully. Will the
nuclear standoff remain a standoff, as was the case between the
United States and the Soviet Union and the doctrine of Mutual Assured
Destruction? (I still think the doctrine was morally and strategically
defective and was not the main reason the U.S. and the USSR never
had a nuclear exchange, but it's hard to attribute cause-and-effect
as neatly as we might like.) Or will something trigger a nuclear
notion that Bill Clinton or Madeleine Albright, neither of whom
has any particular special knowledge about or demonstrated interest
in the Indian subcontinent, are likely candidates to step in and
defuse these tensions, deftly negotiating the historical resentments
and soothing feathers all around strikes me as utterly unlikely.
(Some say we shouldn't personalize these things, that we should
remember there are institutions with access to specialized knowledge,
but it's Bill and Maddie who would ultimately decide how to use
whatever advice they got from experts and their track record is
I'm afraid it would be all to easy for the president and secretary,
helped along by courtiers in their office and flattering courtiers
in the press, to convince themselves that their special abilities
are indispensable to the resolution of this conflict.
REPUBLIC OR AN EMPIRE?
was fascinating to see the piece
from the Anchorage Daily News on Alaska
Sen. Ted Stevens's surprisingly candid and honest comments on the
bombing campaign in Kosovo. "We had 780 million people (in
alliance) attacking 20 million people, and they finally came to
knees after NATO forces bombed for four months. What's the precedent
out of that? There's no precedent out of that," said the good
Senator. "But defeating 20 million people the way we defeated
I don't think that's something we should go around holding our head
in the air about and saying we're superior."
comments are fascinating because Ted Stevens is not exactly anybody's
exemplar of a bold dissident in the Senate. To be fair, I knew somebody
who worked for him when I was in Washington in the 1970s, and he
said Stevens had a welcome streak of Alaskan cussed independence.
Well, he has shown some independence, but for the most part he's
been content to make a record of getting as much pork and as many
projects for Alaska and voting as a moderate to conservative Republican.
He's more an example of Mr. Get-Along-Go Along in the Senate than
a thorn in any leader's side.
yet he can make these remarkably candid comments. Maybe we shouldn't
write anybody off.
course, part of the context for the comments, was in the course
of making the case, as chairman of both the Senate Appropriations
Committee and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, for
a larger Army than 480,000, and to train at least a portion of it
specifically to be "peacekeepers." The U.S. trains people
in the Army, said Stevens, "to be warriors, and we end up putting
them at intersections at Haiti, the Balkans, Kuwait and now Kosovo.
Let's train some people to be peacekeepers in the sense of being
able to carry light arms and defend themselves on the streets."
Sen. Stevens is really advocating, albeit in somewhat different
words, is that the United States admit it is a world empire and
that some of its minions need to be trained not for conquest hardly
ever a real issue anymore but as imperial garrisons in remote
outposts, just as the Roman Empire used many of its legions more
in political and diplomatic work than in military activity per se.
there a chance that Sen. Stevens and others in Washington, if the
issue is put to them as starkly as that "you're fooling yourself
when you talk about peacekeeping, it's really imperial policing" would have a second thought or two as to whether they really want
to aid and abet in the establishment of a global American Empire?
Sen. Stevens has little doubt that the federal government is incompetent
to set and implement sane policies for Alaska. Could he be brought
to wonder whether it really ought to be trying to micro-manage Kosovo
don't know. The nice thing about living in a post-communist world
is that you can talk about an American Empire without being written
off as a crazed Leninist. But few people in the government or the
country yet think about our foreign policy in terms of empire-building.
They'd rather think in terms of being kind and humanitarian and
we could nudge them to viewing the matter in imperial terms, I think
fewer Americans would automatically support whatever adventure the
president has in mind at a given time. But it's uncomfortable to
think of our country, which we want to believe is the freest, most
wonderful country in the world, as an imperial power that pushes
less powerful folks around to maintain and demonstrate its power.
we can get most Americans thinking in and using the jargon of empire
rather than disinterested humanitarianism, I think we'll be a long
way toward winning the public opinion game. But it won't be easy
and it won't happen overnight.
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