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Archive for the ‘international’ Category

Books: Recent Acquistions

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I’m slowly acquiring all the books written by late Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. I have three of his brilliant books in my possession:

  • Another Day of Life
  • Shah of Shahs
  • Travels with Herodotus

I’ve only read Shah of Shahs. A brilliant piece of literary journalism about the fall of the Shah of Iran during the 1979 revolution. After I read it, I said to myself: I want to write like him. Even though these books are English translations (Kapuscinski only wrote in Polish), his genius shines through. Like many writers, his power is the economy and elegance of his prose.

I highly recommend him.

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Written by niraj

July 1st, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Never, Ever Forget

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It is hard to believe that eight years have passed since the attacks of 9/11. Like many anniversaries, it is a good time to take stock of what happened, what is happening, and what will happen.

I am dismayed by the fact that 9/11 has quickly become ancient history for many people, especially the pundits, bloggers and the rest of the commentariat. Many are complaining about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The war in Iraq, whatever its outcome, is a boondogle and never should have been undertaken. There was no al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction; so whatever its supporters say, it was a strategic failure. There is no arguing this point.

On the other hand, the war in Afghanistan is a “just” war, which has been treated like a neglected step-child, especially by the Bush Administration and their misguided “War on Terrorism”. Underfunded and undermanned, the war in Afghanistan has been floundering for awhile now. The Taliban, it seems, is getting stronger by the day. Osama bin Laden has yet to be found. And our chief ally in the region, Pakistan, has been wishy-washy at best.

The time has come to rethink this war and the war on terrorism.

We can quibble over how to go about it, but leaving Afghanistan is not an option. We need to fight smarter. After all, the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

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Written by niraj

September 11th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

China And Olympics: A PR Stunt

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I don’t know how the rest of the world feels about the Olympics, but it has no charm for me whatsoever. The Olympic spirit, so to speak, has been suborned by crass commercialism and political expediency.

China is using the Olympics strictly as a public relations gimmick: to propagandize its achievements; a sort of gaudy coming out party. They want the world to know that China has arrived. So it pains them to see their efforts sullied by silly protests over Tibet. So, in response, China has attacked the Dalai Lama, who has been nothing but supportive of China. China has also attacked the West, the usual standby, for its neocolonial mindset: they can’t stand the idea of China succeeding. That old chestnut.

China is on the verge of being a superpower (something it always aspired to be), it has the world’s second biggest economy, yet it is offended by harmless protests. It’s only going to get worse. China would to like the world to see China strictly on its own terms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. When you put yourself on display like China is doing, the whole world will see everything, good and bad. It’s the price of being a superpower. Deal with it.

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Written by niraj

April 17th, 2008 at 9:28 am

US Navy Battle Pirates: Soft Power At Work

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The U.S. Navy battling with pirates off the coast of Somalia is not getting the media attention it deserves. It’s an important new role for the U.S. Navy—the role of maritime policeman—and its implications are far reaching. By protecting trade routes from marauding pirates, the United States is doing a service that will earn it respect in the world community, something that has been quite fleeting of late. It’s an example of “soft power,” something the United States should use more of, not less.

Being a “policeman” requires retooling the U.S. Navy from top to bottom. Presently, the U.S. Navy is built to fight major wars, with its aircraft carrier battle groups central to its strategy, which is overkill for battling pirates, who tend to operate in small groups. No, what the Navy needs to be is more nimble, something akin to the U.S. Army, which increasingly uses small, highly mobile groups (company size or less) instead of large, lumbering groups (divisions). What the Navy needs are more patrol boats and attack submarines rather than aircraft carriers, cruiser and destroyers.

Robert D. Kaplan, who writes about defense matters for The Atlantic, has been talking about restructuring the U.S. Navy for quite some time now, echoes what I have written above:

In essence, this new maritime strategy represents a restrained, nuanced yearning for a bigger Navy, albeit one whose mission will be cooperation with other navies. That requires more than just new ships. “A key to fostering such relationships is development of sufficient cultural, historical, and linguistic expertise among our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to nurture effective interaction with diverse international partners.” Such training costs money and creates bureaucratic challenges, but it helps lay the groundwork for an exceedingly gradual, elegant decline of the Navy’s capabilities—a future in which it has fewer platforms but gets more out of the ones it does have by working more closely with others.

Another thing Kaplan writes about is the fact that the U.S. can’t go it alone. It will need the cooperation of many countries and, yes, including China, which, given its export-oriented economy, needs to keep trade routes secure.

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Written by niraj

November 2nd, 2007 at 1:54 pm