Dec 3, 2008

Bare not thine ear

“Bare not thine ear to that terrestrial sun, nor kiss thy hand unto its servitude.” Sir Thomas Browne

Mr. Obama, president elect of the USA, is legally and by ‘due process’ captain of the ship of state from January 20, 2009. His campaign was very effectively run down to the smallest details, and no reason is visible for possible objections to his victory. Since the US spends more on “Defense,” i.e., the military, than all the rest of the world put together, his declared intention greatly to increase military spending is perhaps the most ominous of many indications of policy direction.

Airlines instruct their passengers that in the event of emergency, parents with children should ensure their own oxygen mask supply first, before seeing to that of the child. Odd as that sounds, its practical benefits are obvious. If the parent passes out, the child can not take charge and save the situation. Similarly, the future captain of the ship of state must safeguard his own survival first. Quite apart from the many threats of assassination openly expressed by attendees at opposition rallies, the survival of his administration, of the team, is also primary, and his strategy is equally direct and effective, to recruit as many of the potential opposition as possible into the team, where they enjoy some of the fruits of power, and have some effect on policy, (the carrot), but are always under direction and can be dismissed and replaced at any time (the stick.)

President Nixon, discovering that the liabilities and debts of the country exceeded its gold holdings by a large margin, rescinded the promise made to redeem all dollars for gold. He took the country off the gold standard, in spite of the constitution’s provision that all money shall only be of gold and silver.

No such animal exists in the United States as a federal election. All elections, including those for federal office such as presidential elections, are held by the separate states under the very different rules of each state. No matter how great the interest of federal authorities in the outcome, they have no place in the process. The decision of the Supreme Court, therefore, of 2000, to halt the Florida recount was entirely unconstitutional.

It may seem a very weak argument to point to the constitution, but without it any authority in the country is no greater than that of any other war lord in history, surrounded by wolves eager to take his place. “A piece of paper” President Bush contemptuously called it, but without that piece of paper, the captain has no map to steer by, no chart showing the reefs and shallows, the lighthouses and the wind directions, nor even where or why he sails. He rules by whim and by force, and any bo’sun’s mate who thinks he can do better is free to replace him if he can.

Since the 2000 election the USA has had the “unitary presidency,” (i.e., the president as effective dictator, the sole source of power in the state, able to legislate which laws he will not obey by presidential “signing statements”) foreshadowed by Nixon. Since that time the statement that the USA has a government not of men but of laws has been a visibly empty one, and men, moreover, such as “Scooter” Libby, “Duke” Cunningham, and Jack Abramov, to mention only a few.

In preparing to take the wheel, therefore, and take the vast ship into a long turn, it is a matter of basic prudence to have all hands continue, as much as possible, to carry out their familiar duties. Some selective replacements can be made later if needed, but nothing would be more disastrous than throwing the engine suddenly into reverse, or more certain to generate massive opposition than replacing the entire crew with sailors unfamiliar with the vessel.

That’s the theory, anyhow.

In foreign policy intelligence is irreplaceable. (Long live the retort to Bush’s “I had faulty intelligence” – “DNA is a bitch!”) Mr. Obama’s knowledge in this area is exceptional, indeed better than any American politician’s for hundreds of years, and also the source of the most intense opposition. Nevertheless, certain aspects of a red and angry boil, a swollen pustule on the verge of erupting, in an area unfamiliar to him, may not have been sufficiently considered.

Many countries have “tribal areas” which they leave severely alone, and some countries like Papua New Guinea are entirely composed of them. The largest tribal group on earth, some forty million in number, are the Pathans (Pashtuns) divided into roughly equal portions, twenty million on each side, by a line drawn by a nineteenth century British administrator in probably the toughest environment on earth, the mountains of the Hindu Kush. (See of February 2008, “Pathan.”)

The Pathans of Afghanistan have this in common with their fellow tribesmen living on the other side of the line in Pakistan, that most of them do not know about the line drawn by the British gentleman over a hundred years ago, and neither do they care. No Pakistani government has ever been able to do anything about them other than leave them severely alone, although it is true that the ISI, the Inter Services Intelligence agency, an “empire within an empire,” has successfully supported, indeed almost created, the Taliban movement. To the question whether the Musharraf government knew of the ISI involvement the reply was given “He is very careful not to know about it,” and that remains a necessary condition of any Pakistani government, no matter “How different, how very different, from the home life of our own dear queen” that situation may be.

This situation is not going to change no matter how many trillion dollars are borrowed and spent on the US military, nor is any war against them going to be successful.

Note: India has ignored for many years a UN resolution that a referendum should be held in Kashmir for the inhabitants to declare whether they wished to join India, join Pakistan, or perhaps opt for complete independence of both. India has always refused to hold this referendum for the very obvious reason that it has no chance of winning it; Kashmiris might vote for independence or union with Pakistan, but clearly they are highly unlikely to vote for joining India.

India is therefore justly hoist with its own petard. The suppurating pustule which is Kashmir is created by India’s refusal to hold a referendum. The Lashkar e Taiba (Army of the Righteous) from Kashmir which is apparently responsible for the attack on Mumbai is only one result of the increasing pressure; there are likely to be more. Similarly, the recent request by the Indian Defense Ministry to the United States to fast track its previous order of $375 million worth of cluster bombs is an ominous indicator of its possible intentions.

Next time the video turns up of the one captured terrorist, incidentally, take a look at his right wrist, with a red bracelet round it, definitely a Hindu, not a Moslem, habit. The nationalistic Hindutva movement is even more determined to cleanse India ethnically by any means necessary and make it a “pure” Hindu state than the Moslems of Kashmir are determined to get the Hindus out.

Seventy five per cent of supplies for US forces pass through the Hindu Kush and Napoleon’s dictum that an army marches on its stomach remains valid. The last time the Taliban tried to close the US supply route they only succeeded for a few hours. Their next attempt, as winter takes a grip, is likely to be longer.

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