Saturday, October 29, 2005

Two Fronts of the War on Terror

Guess who did this:

At least 16 people were killed and over 60 injured when three blasts rocked crowded markets in Delhi in quick succession on Saturday evening.

The first explosion occurred in Paharganj market at 5:40 PM when it was crowded with people busy shopping for Diwali shopping, killing seven persons and injuring over 60 others.

("Three blasts rock New Delhi; 16 killed." 29 Oct. 2005. Rediff.com 29 Oct. 2005. <http://us.rediff.com/news/2005/oct/29delhi.htm?q=tp&file=.htm>)

Although the article says that India has many militant groups and does not conclude that it was an Islamic terrorist group that triggered the explosion, Islamic militants (terrorists) are by far the most likely people that set of the explosion.

I can just picture Paharganj now: Hindu ladies, draped in elegant saris, with their children and escorted by their husbands, shopping for new clothes; sweet makers, like magicians, producing big, curly orange jalebies; young men buying gold, diamons, and array upon rainbow array of glass bangles for their young wives; families standing around slurping hot and spicy pani-puri; hath-lorry (hand cart) vendors selling steaming, spicy samosas drizzled with tamarind chutney, and then BOOM--for some, the lights go out, their lives end. Others are crippled for life. For many, a warm and beautiful holiday is marred by death and injury. The question boiling underneath the stoic facade of Hindu tolerance is "why?"--WHY MUST THIS BE TOLERATED?

Although it is true that most Muslims don't blow people up, can we ask if it is true that most Muslims are appalled by this? Many are, for sure, yet to discredit a system or a community, it only takes small number of people. There will always be anti-social elements--all societies have them--but is only a fine line between the anti-socials being kept under control and them being out of control. In India, the Islamic anti-social elements are out of control.

Why they are out of control is that Muslim society largely considers itself separate and distinct from the other societies, be they Hindu, Sikh, or even Christian. What happens to them is not their concern, not much anyway. It is their problem, and so they "Hindus" have to do something about it, as long as they don't interfere in Muslim society. Yet the problem itself not only exists in Muslim society, it exists because of Muslim society.

Just consider why, in America, the chances of a criminal successfully escaping the law are slim. If a criminal breaks out of jail, or is identified by law enforcement and a manhunt ensues, it is usually only a matter of time before the criminal is brought to justice. Identification and incarceration happen rather quickly. It can happen because the criminal (or small group of them) are pitted against society itself. Everyone will be on the lookout for him. Justice is swift and almost certain because the scenario is an individual going against a society.

But in the case of Islamic terroism, it is a society against a society. Islamic religious leaders condone terrorism, or at least look the other way if pressed in public, and the body politic of Muslim society, reflecting the views of their social and religious leaders, are vaiously sympathetic toward those who would perform hienous acts against those outside of their community. Even if there are many Muslims who object to terrorism, there are enough social and religious elites who support it: Witness Iran's recent anti-Israeli demonstrations, lead by none-other than their elected president. Because Islamic terrorists have the support of their society, they can melt into it and take advantage of the money, the safe-houses, and sympathy of their fellow Muslims. One front of the war on terror is Muslim society and, especially, its societal elites.

The other front of the war on terror, and this is perhaps the more dangerous front, is the shield of political correctness lent to Muslim society by Western or Western educated intelligentsia. For them no society may be taken to task because acts of terrorism are ultimately individual acts. (There will always be exceptions, though: societies run by white, European males or overtly Hindu males.) Western intellectuals are overwhelmingly radical individualists, and because they are radical individualists, by instinct or by decision, they discount the role of society in shaping the opinions and in provoking the actions of individual members in society. If a moulvi preaches in his mosque that the infidels should be killed by any means, that is free speech. He can say anything he wants and it is not his fault if some of his followers actually go out and kill some infidels. The unwarranted presumption of individualism is that the leader and follower are coequals--it does not admit the power dynamic of the leader over the follower where no coercion is discernable.

But why should the Western intellectuals wield so much power at all over people who themselves are also individualists? The reason is knowledge is power, and intellectuals, as a class, by definition are the final arbiters of that power. They themselves possess power over their cultural and intellectual followers, and, in one sense, to admit that the leaders of Muslim society are largely responsbile for Islamic terrorism would also mean exposing, or admitting to, the responsibility of Western, Left-leaning intellectuals for much of what is wrong in their own society. (And, I might add, the refusal to admit this dynamic of power between leaders and willing, not coerced, followers is why the radically individualistic Left is perhaps among the greatest of threats to the idea of democracy itself.)

Just as there is a geopolitical alliance between China and Muslim countries like Pakistan, there is also a strange but nevertheless existing cultural alliance between the Western intellectual Left and fundamentalist Islam. The alliance, for sure, is one of convenience: destruction of the West. Because India and the West are becoming more alligned, India--Hindu India--is also slated for destruction by Islamic fundamentalists and destruction by Western intellectuals.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Poor, Defenseless Peasants: What are WE going to do about it?

These people badly need an American-style 2nd Amendment:

On Friday night a family of 25 [in Kha, district Rajouri, Jammu and Kashmir] had a harrowing experience. A tremulous Kamla Devi recalls: ``Four militants came to my house and locked us up. Only when my son Ratan Singh loaded his rifle given to him as a Village Defence Committee member and challenged the militants did they leave. While leaving they threatened to come back and eliminate us." Soon after the incident frightened villagers started leaving.

Rajouri is a district in the South-West end of Jammu and Kashmir, 154 km from Jammu. According to the district's website, Rajouri varies in climate from semi-tropical in the southern areas to temperate in the north, with a temperature variation of 7.42 to 37.4 degrees Celcius. The site lists the population at approximately 478,000 people.

The militants, of course, are Islamic jihadis. Their behavior was like that of bullies, thugs, and other criminals found all over the world. Just as bullies flee when confronted, then they left, but not for long. It was as if they did not expect a confrontation. But they will be back, and they will return with plenty of weapons.

The militants had made an extortion demand of Rs. 50,000 in September. According to Neena Rajput: "We told them that we cannot pay such a huge sum, but they told us to arrange for the money in October." The villagers contacted the authorities who expressed their helplessness.

So the choice left for the villagers is to either flee or fight. The villagers, apparently, chose to flee, although some wanted to take a stand:

Security in remote hilly villages has often been a nightmare and protecting every hamlet is an almost impossible task. Officials came up with the idea of Village Defence Committees (VDCs) to give some semblance of security but militants have struck at will, taking advantage of the poor weaponry in the hands of the villagers.

Zakir Hussian, a VDC member who lost his father at the hands of militants says: ``You do not expect us to fight the militants with these archaic .303 rifles. If you cannot protect us, then give us better weapons to fight with.''

Unfortunately, Indian law is very restrictive of weapons, not unlike how Britain sees to it that its own populace is, more or less, disarmed. Of course, if a population has the potential for insurrection, then disarmament is generally a reasonable strategy, and India has more than its share of insurrections. Yet when the government cannot or will not protect its people, then abiding by laws that prevent people from protecting themselves is something like removing a cat's claws and teeth and then setting it out in the wild.

The oppressed villagers, who are mostly Hindus, need weapons, training, and the wherewithal to use them--even if the only means of doing it is through illegal gun running and turning them into militants. To be pacifist in the presence of murderers is to simply aid and abet murder.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

India and the World-Wide Baby Bust

In The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity, the author, Phillip Longman, asserts that very little of the world population is growing. Rather, it is depopulating. The potential bad news for India is that, according to Longman, it has also started to depopulate:
India's fertility rate dropped by roughly a fifth since the first half of the 1990s. [13] Residents of the major southern provinces of Kerala and Tamil Nadu already produce too few children to replace themselves, and this will be true for Indians as a whole by the end of the next decade. [14] Meanwhile, India's sudden drop in fertility means that its population will be aging at three times the rate of the U.S. population over the next half century. By 2050, the median age in India is expected to be 37.9, making its population older than that of the United States today. [15] These projections assume, however, that India does not experience an AIDS pandemic, as now seems increasingly likely. The U.S. National Intelligence Council predicts that 25 million Indians could be infected with HIV/AIDS by 2010. [16] (Longman 11)
However, from "World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision Population Database," cited by Longman in the above passage, India's urban population is still only 29 percent of the country whereas its rural population is 71%. Since high rates of population growth are strongly correlated with an agrarian economy, the declining birth rate Longman projects is more likely tied to urbanization. Longman in his analysis doesn't distinguish between urban and rural birth rates, and the World Population Prospects database indeed predicts that by 2050, 58.6% of India's population will be urbanized.

But India's progressive urbanization along these lines is not a foregone conclusion. India is notorious for remaining "backward" in terms of bureaucracy (read corruption) and hesitancy to implement new technology. Current land laws also discourage the accumulation of large tracts of land required for industrial farming, which in turn slows urbanziation.

The irony of this is if India remains backward like this for some time to come, the projected decline in fertility could be retarded and, even more ironically, contribute positively to India's wealth relative to parts of the world that are more rapidly depopulating. This is because wealth, despite advances in technology, is still mainly tied to population growth. Another source of Indian affluence will come from the Indian diaspora, the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), whose net worth is equal to if not greater than the GNP of India. A high rate of population growth at home in India and highly successful and affluent NRI's outside of India could fuel India's rise as a world power in a most unpredictable way.

India is truly an enigma.

Works Cited

Longman, Phillip. The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Indo-American Alliance: More than just a Strategic Partnership

When this web log started, I said the West and India are natural allies; now here is the incontrovertible proof: (Emphasis added.)
The global war on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq and the sonorous espousal of democracy for all have just been relegated to their subordinate place in the strategic priorities of the Bush administration. Its real legacy was announced last Friday, in a low-key briefing at the State Department that explained in some detail the historic decision that has been made.

It is now the policy, or perhaps that should be rephrased as the Grand Strategy of the United States, "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century. We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

There is really no precedent for this in the 230 years of American diplomacy. This was never said to China, nor to Japan, nor to post-Soviet Russia. The Bush administration's National Security Strategy paper published in September, 2002, had said that the United States would not permit the emergence of any hostile strategic peer competitor, which means that India is now deemed in the White House to be fundamentally and permanently friendly, a status granted hitherto only to the British.

The implications of this are enormous. The first is that the United States now considers that the 21st century is going to be defined by the struggle for mastery in Asia, that China must not be allowed to win that status by default, and so India must be built up to provide an essential balance. (UPI)
India and America have long wanted to like each other but, on account of India's Cold War alliance with the former Soviet Union, couldn't. Both have much in common: they were formerly colonized by Britain; both threw off the yoke of Britain, their colonial master (even if India did so 170+ years later than the American colonies); the more educated members of each country speak English; and the people in both countries--to varying degrees--appreciate their British heritage. With the end of the Cold War, the adversarial relationship between America, leader of the West, and India, the cradle of Hindu civilization, has started to thaw.

With the U.S. State Department's declared policy of helping India become a world power, aid and cooperation between India and America--and thus aid and cooperation between Hindu Civilization and Western Civilization--is beginning to take place at levels which will alter the balance of power in the world. How this alliance will affect each country and each civilization will not be known for some time. What we should know is that the U.S. State Department's declaration of policy toward India is an important event that, in time, will affect the world.

Works Cited

UPI. "Walker's World: U.S. to make India a world power." 29 March 2005. United Press International, Washington Times. 5 Oct 2005. <http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20050329-084255-7465r.htm>

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Back in Action

Pardon me for being so tardy in posting, but I've had a very busy month. I thought I would be out of action for a week, but some important things in my personal life needed attention first.

The most important of them was my wife's being naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Here is a short essay I wrote on the occaision to my coworkers, with some pictures:



As I was out last Friday [September 23, 2005] on account of my wife becoming a U.S. citizen, those I told may likely ask how it went. As it was a wonderful event, I don't think I could do justice to it by saying "it went fine" and mentioning some scant details in the few minutes we sometimes have between projects and meetings. So here I'll just describe the event briefly and include a few pictures as well.

This was the first time I've attended a naturalization ceremony and swearing of an oath of citizenship. More than 220 people from 54 countries were naturalized, and this was just at one ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the ceremony, the Honorable Judith C. Herrera of the U.S. District Court presided. During the ceremony, as each country was called out, all the candidates from that country stood up. Among the candidates some were military personnel, in uniform. Soon after everyone was introduced by their respective countries, all the candidates took the Oath of Citizenship.

I am a natural born U.S. citizen, and this is my first time hearing the Oath of Citizenship. As someone who grew up in America, I kind of know all the obligations of being a U.S. citizen. If there is a war and you are required by law to fight, you must fight. If there is some national work that is required then it must be done. Yet I think it is also true that in the last forty years the sentiments for these commitments have been somewhat weakened, at least among us natural-born citizens. So to hear the Oath of Citizenship in the context of a solemn ceremony, keeping in mind what these candidates for U.S. citizenship are actually giving up and the staggering number of countries they come from, I was impelled to rethink the meaning and value of U.S. citizenship. Those of us born as U.S. citizens are more susceptible to think of citizenship as a right, but the ceremony and oath conveyed most eloquently that citizenship is really a privilege--even for those of us born as U.S. citizens.

The guest speaker was Dr. Lourdes Monserrat, an expert in Latin American studies, educator, and social activist. She came to America from Cuba through the CIA's Operation Pedro Pan (Peter Pan), which from 1960 to 1962 evacuated 14,000 children from Cuba. After her evacuation she was soon reunited with her brothers and sisters (also evacuated through Pedro Pan), and then later with her parents, who she says escaped on the last boat form Cuba. In an anecdote about her time in Honduras as a teacher, during the Watergate affair, she related how her Honduran students, colleagues, and friends were genuinely perplexed that the president of the United States of America could be asked to step down on account of lying. For them, such behavior was to be expected from politicians. Her response was that this was one of the things that made America great--in America no one is above the law, what to speak of above moral behavior. She ended her speech by telling all the candidates that America is very generous to those who work hard and those who seriously pursue education. She furthermore emphasized the need and importance of voting, and that as a citizen it is one's civic duty to dissent wherever wrongdoing is discovered.

For me the ceremony was a side of America I had never seen. I can't think of any time where I've been in the presence of so many people from so many different countries, and, embarrassingly enough for me, it was the first time I had heard the Oath of Citizenship--something many of us natural born citizens never hear. I am grateful I had the opportunity to attend, and I am personally pleased that my wife is now a U.S. citizen.

Here are a few pictures from the ceremony:

Little girl at Santa Fe Plaza. (I think her mother was getting naturalized.)



The Honorable Judith C. Herrera, U.S. District Court.



All the candidates taking the Oath of Citizenship.



These two Tibetan ladies became U.S. citizens. Both had been in the U.S. for the past 7 - 8 years.



This is my wife, Usha, with her certificate of naturalization.